Perspectives on the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), Tanzania’s forthcoming election and a new report accusing British banks of complicity in Nigerian corruption are among the topics in this week’s round-up of the African blogosphere, by Dibussi Tande.
The Rising Continent assesses the performance of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and UN peacekeepers’ forces in DR Congo (MONUSCO), and concludes that both failed to live up to their mandate:
‘ [In"> November 2010 it will be sixteen years that ICTR will have been put in place. The budget spent on its operations will be almost 1.5 billion $ by the end of 2010. The Tribunal has so far investigated and sentenced only one side to the Rwandan genocide...
‘The first invasion of DR Congo by the coalition of Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and Laurent-Desire Kabila’s AFDL in 1996 was made partially possible by the fact that US and Britain through their agents in UN structures disregarded the Gersony report, which was produced in October 94. The document shows evidence of records of between 30,000 and 40,000 mainly Hutus that Paul Kagame and his forces killed from April to September 94 in Rwanda. Can we hypothetically imagine what would’ve happened if ICTR had straightforwardly and seriously started investigating those crimes at the same time it pursued perpetrators of the genocide against Tutsis? DRC’s invasion would’ve surely taken a different path…
‘MONUC was set up in 1999 to facilitate peace [in the Congo">. It became MONUSCO in May 2010 with a mandate of stabilizing DR Congo. Despite UN forces’ presence, illegal mining and trafficking of minerals have continued as if peacekeepers were there to protect these operations. In addition, serial rapes have endlessly been committed nearly in the vicinity of the UN mission in Eastern Congo. This UN structure is the biggest peacekeeping mission ever set up. Its military and civil personnel stand at 22,000 men and women and its approved budget only for July 2010 to June 2011 is $1.4 billion.
Lost lives that these UN institutions didn’t protect are today nearly 8 millions so far. The count is far from ending.’
Scribbles from the Den
After visiting the ICTR and sitting through proceedings of ‘Case No. ICTR-98-44, The Prosecutor v Édouard Karemera, Matthieu Ngirumpatse & Joseph Nzirorera’, Dibussi Tande provides a different perspective about the work of the tribunal:
‘Since its creation, the ICTR has faced many challenges, including the ambivalence of the Rwandan government and large segments of the Rwandan public towards the tribunal due to contentious issues such as “the failure to locate the tribunal within Rwanda, the lack of a provision for capital punishment... the over one billion dollars spent on the ICTR while Rwanda's domestic system struggles to try thousands of suspects.” Add to this the prevailing feeling that ICTR is dishing out victor’s justice and one can begin to understand growing concerns about the tribunal's legacy.
‘True, the ICTR has promised more than it delivered, but it was a necessary legal instrument, given the need to bring the architects of the Rwandan genocide to justice, and to establish the jurisprudence required to deal with similar events in future...
‘The chilling details of the Karemera et al case clearly demonstrate how the quest for political power and/or ethnic hegemony, particularly in Africa, can easily slide into crimes against humanity and genocide. The accused in this case were probably fairly regular folks who, in their quest for power, allowed themselves to be swept away by an ethno-political maelstrom, which transformed them into architects of one of the most barbaric events of the 20th century. What is so frightening about it all is that this could be the story of any African country... Since this can happen anywhere, the ICTR by its mere existence, and in spite of its imperfections, serves as a warning that perpetrators of such inhumanity will be brought to book.
‘Even Human Rights Watch, which has been one of the staunchest critics of the ICTR’s one-sided system of justice, concedes that “The tribunal's jurisprudence has been immensely important in defining the indescribably horrific crimes committed in Rwanda and creating a solid body of jurisprudence.” In my opinion, this alone makes the ICTR worth all the trouble.’
The Mikocheni Report complains about the lopsided nature of the October 31, 2010 multiparty parliamentary and presidential elections in Tanzania:
‘I seem to have lost my excitement about the coming elections. I am not sure why, but I know it'll be back on the 31st. In the meantime I am trying not to voodoo-curse the campaign trucks that meander around Mikocheni everyday polluting my soundspace. I used to hear kids playing on the street, now it's all vuvuzelas and invitations to last-minute rallies…
‘At present it seems that only CCM has the requisite number of warm bodies to cover our vast land with candy-dates wrapped in green and gold packaging. It doesn't matter how many helicopters, rallies or policy quips the opposition throws at people living in the rural areas, numbers are their Achilles heel. Except for Zanzibar, which exists in its own political bubble and has no desire to explain itself to Mainlanders, Foreigners and Other Aliens. So sure, CCM has reason to feel complacent...but not entitled.
‘The second consequence is more entertaining if a little sinister. Our fledgling competitive electoral democracy is riddled with one-horse races. A number of CCM candidates are languishing for want of a worthy adversary. And that's a damn shame. Aside from disappointed bloodlust - the competitive bit is what makes democracy interesting- I don't think this situation is necessarily healthy for the candidates or for the electorate. Someone running unopposed will likely suffer from an acute inflation of the ego…
‘This no-opposition business has been a major factor in our Bigmanism disease: the over-worship of patriarchs in power and the excessively fawning submission that accompanies it. Hopefully 2015's electorate will have a more varied buffet of candidates to graze from, even in Simanjiro.’
Tax Justice Network publishes the introduction of a recent report by the UK-based group Global Witness which accuses British banks of being complicit in Nigerian corruption:
‘British banks have accepted millions of pounds from corrupt Nigerian politicians, raising serious questions about their commitment to tackling financial crime. Our high street banks are quick to penalise everyday customers who become overdrawn, or to block credit cards at any hint of unusual activity. But Global Witness’s research suggests that the same banks are much less concerned about large amounts of corrupt money passing through their accounts.
‘Without access to the international financial system it would be much harder for corrupt politicians from the developing world to loot their national treasuries or accept bribes. By taking money from such customers, British banks are fuelling corruption, entrenching poverty and undermining international development assistance.
‘Global Witness has found that Barclays, HSBC, RBS, NatWest and UBS held accounts for two former Nigerian state governors, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha of Bayelsa State and Joshua Dariye of Plateau State. These men funnelled dirty money into the UK, spending their ill-gotten gains on sustaining a luxury lifestyle, in stark contrast to the poverty of ordinary Nigerians…
‘A particularly disturbing aspect of this story is that Barclays, NatWest, UBS, and HSBC reportedly took money from the former Nigerian dictator, Sani Abacha, during the late 1990s. They are supposed to have tightened up their procedures since then but our investigation suggests they have not done enough.’
The African Timer writes about the way people access water in Uganda, n commemoration of this year’s Blog Action day:
‘I have noticed that many rural areas have hardships in accessing water sources – they often have to walk more than one kilometer to find the nearest water source. Often these are swamps, lakes, rivers, streams, or even mere trickles of water. A few rural communities have access to boreholes while others have managed to dig up water wells to enable free access to water.
‘During my travels to several parts of Uganda, I have noticed that women and children are the ones in charge of fetching water in their homes. Often, I would see women, girls and boys in both small and big groups carrying jerrycans of water on their heads and sometimes on a bicycle.
‘Even though many of these communities will not complain openly, they often face hardships. Hardships range from the long-inconveniencing distances that people have to walk to access water to threats of infections from water born diseases like typhoid, dysentery and bilharzia that people are prone to due to dirty and unsafe water. Rural people live with and suffer from, but know little about these threats because they are not informed but cases of typhoid, dysentery and bilharzia are very common in rural areas and the biggest cause is drinking dirty water.
‘I believe our communities need more information on improved water access, their rights and health information.’
Mogadishu Man describes a typical scene at a Quat market in Somalia, and wonders what the future holds for the multi-million dollar trade in this illegal stimulant following the closure of the KM 50 airport, the largest Qat depot in Somalia, by the Islamist Al-Shabab:
‘It is a busy day here at the Qat stalls located just on the outskirts of the Bakara market. Hundreds of sandalled feet scuttle towards the stalls, in tumultuous excitement, and frantically rummage through the tightly bundled leaves in the hand-woven Qat baskets in order to pick out the moist, tender shoots. Scores of young men and women visit these stalls on a regular basis to purchase Qat – a mild stimulant with a bitter taste that a large number of the Somali population – in Somalia or abroad – is highly addicted to. Under the commotion and the emotional frenzy, tensions often rise and agitated customers as well as vendors seem to always be in a combative mood. But perspiring under the heat, the wide-eyed, and almost anaemic, Qat-sellers appear to be relishing this kind of atmosphere.
‘“Hurry up Waryaa! hurry up! this is the cheapest you can get. Hurry up! Qat is almost out of stock!” screams one seller, as he wipes away the trickles of green saliva dripping down his chin with a grubby handkerchief. Behind him, dozens of young men sit on the concrete slabs, or squat on the floor, unmindful of the staccato rounds of gunfire in the distant neighbourhoods, and gnaw away at the leaves in a surrounding far less salubrious than can be appreciated. This is a very loud and unforgiving place. Bestrewn with dry twigs, discarded leaves and plastic bags, these squalid stalls, adjacent to the old Cigarettes and Match Factory, receive hundreds of customers a day, but they have now become even increasingly populated since Al-Shabab’s closure of KM 50 airport yesterday.’
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