Sunday, 18 May 2014

In Conversation with Sally Armstrong

Filed under: Africa files,children and youth,gender,Human Rights,Media and Conflict,South Asia — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 13:55 PDT

Canadian journalist and human rights activist Sally Armstrong often says that in her 25 years of reporting on women and girls in zones of conflict, she hasn’t had a good-news story to tell.

Indeed, the gender-based discrimination and violence she regularly reports on is horrifying. Girls being denied the right to go to school. Girls and women suffering acid attacks. Girls and women having their genitals mutilated. Girls and women being systematically raped as a weapon of war. Girls and women being murdered in so-called honour killings. Girls and women disappearing.

But Armstrong is telling more good-news stories these days. She says there’s reason to be optimistic: Girls and women all over the world are rallying. Her most recent book, 2013′s The Ascent of Women, tells the stories of the remarkable, courageous and tenacious women worldwide who are fighting for their rights — and emerging victorious.


Tuesday, 8 April 2014

CAR’s archbishop and imam in peace drive

Filed under: Africa files,Religion and peacebuilding — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 17:27 PDT

The conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR) is often described as being between Muslims and Christians but two religious leaders are working together to end the bloodshed that has displaced about 20% of the population. The BBC’s Tim Whewell joined them on one of their trips to promote peace.

The archbishop finishes tying luggage to the roof of the 4×4, and climbs into the driver’s seat. “The task is hard,” he says. “But for God, nothing is impossible.”

The chief imam, beside him, smiles in agreement. And with that, they’re off – on a dangerous journey into the interior of their country, to try to reconcile two communities divided by hatred.


Monday, 7 April 2014

Why coexistence doesn’t equal reconciliation in Rwanda

Filed under: Human Rights,International Law: War,Rwanda,Transitional Justice — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 10:58 PDT

… fragments from a series of first-person accounts … collected to mark the 20th anniversary of Rwanda’s 100 days of slaughter. Taken together, they give extraordinary insight into the psychology of atrocity: how so many ordinary people – friends, neighbours, doctors, teachers, priests – could take part in the bloodletting.

They also hint at the moral complexity underlying Rwanda’s efforts to balance truth and reconciliation, justice and forgiveness…

Twenty years later, old resentments fester alongside new.


Rwanda: Portraits of Reconciliation

Filed under: Human Rights,International Law: War,Rwanda — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 10:15 PDT

Last month, the photographer Pieter Hugo went to southern Rwanda, two decades after nearly a million people were killed during the country’s genocide, and captured a series of unlikely, almost unthinkable tableaus. In one, a woman rests her hand on the shoulder of the man who killed her father and brothers. In another, a woman poses with a casually reclining man who looted her property and whose father helped murder her husband and children. In many of these photos, there is little evident warmth between the pairs, and yet there they are, together. In each, the perpetrator is a Hutu who was granted pardon by the Tutsi survivor of his crime.


The Rise of Rwanda’s Women: Rebuilding and Reuniting a Nation

Filed under: gender,Human Rights,Rwanda — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 10:14 PDT

Twenty years ago, in 100 days of slaughter between April and July 1994, an estimated one million Rwandan men, women, and children were killed by their fellow citizens. It was one of the worst genocides in history, and its effects still ripple through Rwanda, central and eastern Africa, and the world at large.

It would be obscene to say that such a catastrophe has had even the thinnest silver lining. But it did create a natural — or unnatural — experiment, as the country’s social, economic, and political institutions were wiped out by the genocide. And in important respects, the reconstructed Rwanda that emerged over the next two decades is a dramatically different country.

One major improvement has come in the leadership of Rwandan women, who have made history with their newly vital role in politics and civil society.


Sunday, 6 April 2014

From Fear to Freedom: Shedding light on a lesser known chapter of the Rwanda genocide

Filed under: Africa files,Human Rights,International Law: War,Rwanda — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 10:03 PDT

Beatha Kayitesi’s story, From Fear to Freedom, on Global’s 16×9, sheds light on a lesser-known chapter of that nation’s tragedy. It is a living account of the years before the genocide and the attempts to which one person will go to achieve peace.


UN chief urges CAR govt to prevent genocide

Filed under: Africa files,Human Rights,International Law: War,Rwanda — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 09:53 PDT

BANGUI (Central African Republic): UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Saturday urged the leaders of the strife-torn Central African Republic to prevent a new genocide on the continent, 20 years after Rwanda.

“It is your responsibility as leaders to ensure that there are no such anniversaries in this country,” said Ban, in Bangui for a brief visit.

The UN secretary general will meet transitional president Catherine Samba Panza to discuss ways to end the deadly cycle of intercommunal violence that has laid waste to the country for a year and led senior UN figures to raise the spectre of genocide. Ban, who will spend just a few hours in Bangui before heading to Rwanda for the 20th anniversary of that country’s genocide, said ahead of his visit he was “deeply troubled by the appalling atrocities” against civilians in the Central African Republic.


Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Millions at risk in S. Sudan unless urgent action taken to end conflict – UN

Filed under: Africa files,children and youth,Humanitarian work — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 16:35 PDT

LONDON – Millions of lives will be threatened in South Sudan unless urgent action is taken to end fighting between government forces and rebels and increase international financial support to help civilians, the heads of two of the biggest United Nations agencies said on Tuesday.

At the end of a two-day visit to South Sudan, U.N. refugee chief Antonio Guterres and Ertharin Cousin, head of the World Food Programme, said many people risked being cut off from help due to lack of safety for aid workers.

“Women we met in Nyal (town in Unity State) who have been affected by the conflict asked us to convey three messages to the world: they need peace, assistance to relieve their suffering, and the chance for their children to return to school,” Cousin said in a joint statement with Guterres.


Sunday, 23 March 2014

A Canadian genocide?

Filed under: Human Rights,Indigenous Peoples,International Law: War,Middle East,Rwanda — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 09:44 PDT

There is something inherently perverse about the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, the as-yet-unfinished landmark rising from the plain between a parking lot and a baseball stadium at Winnipeg’s Forks. When you get right down to it, this $351-million dream of the late media mogul Izzy Asper is being built to document evil…

The museum, which opens in September and is one of only two national museums located outside Ottawa-Hull, has been taking shape for more than a decade. In that time, disputes have almost constantly overshadowed what its promoters would prefer to highlight…

The Ukrainian community, for example, lamented that exhibits on the Holodomor (the 1932-33 starvation engineered by Soviet Union leader Joseph Stalin) were going to be too close to the washrooms; Palestinians objected to being left out entirely; even Jews — whom Asper envisioned as central to the museum — were reportedly upset that the founding of the state of Israel was not going to be commemorated.

But the nascent museum’s most heated controversy is the growing insistence that exhibits depicting the story of First Nations peoples carry the word “genocide” in their titles. So far, the museum has resisted doing that…


Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Central African Republic: Ethnic cleansing and sectarian killings

Filed under: Africa files,children and youth,Human Rights,International Law: War,Religion and peacebuilding — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 12:30 PDT

International peacekeepers have failed to prevent the ethnic cleansing of Muslim civilians in the western part of the Central African Republic, Amnesty International said in a report issued today.

To protect the country’s remaining Muslim communities, international peacekeeping forces must break the control of anti-balaka militias and station sufficient troops in towns where Muslims are threatened.

“Anti-balaka militias are carrying out violent attacks in an effort to ethnically cleanse Muslims in the Central African Republic,” said Joanne Mariner, senior crisis response adviser at Amnesty International.

“The result is a Muslim exodus of historic proportions.”

Amnesty International criticized the international community’s tepid response to the crisis, noting that international peacekeeping troops have been reluctant to challenge anti-balaka militias, and slow to protect the threatened Muslim minority.


Monday, 3 February 2014

Uganda: President’s NRA apology late, says Bigombe

President Yoweri Museveni should have long rendered his apology for the spate of abuses committed during the anti-insurgency campaign in the north and north-eastern part of the country by some reprobate elements in NRA/UPDF, state minister for water resources, Betty Bigombe has said.

Museveni made the apology at the NRA/NRM 28th Liberation Day anniversary in Mayuge district headquarters, expressing shock at the “shameful” atrocities that sullied the reputation of an army whose near impeccable disciplinary record had been integral in its successful guerrilla war…

When asked what the apology meant given her role in various peace initiatives, Bigombe said the move is a good gesture because those affected by the atrocities “always demand for justice to be done”.


Thursday, 23 January 2014

The Inside Story Of How The U.S. Acted To Prevent Another Rwanda

Filed under: Africa files — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 16:37 PDT

The Central African Republic had finally exploded. After months of signs that the country was a powder keg, with dire warnings of impending doom from the United Nations and human rights observers, outright clashes ignited the capital, Bangui, in early December. Hundreds were killed. Thousands more fled their homes, those who had not already done so in the eight months since the crisis first began. For a period, it looked as though the world was preparing to sit idly by yet again as another mass atrocity was perpetrated on the continent of Africa.

Two days later, it was like a switch had been thrown. The president of the United States asked for the people of the CAR for calm, speaking to them directly through the Internet and radio. The president shook $100 million loose from the federal budget, to purchase much-needed supplies to the African peacekeepers struggling to stem the killing and airlift in reinforcements. And on Thursday, Samantha Power, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, announced yet another $15 million in humanitarian aid and the pending presence of U.S. military advisers to assist the African Union’s forces in restoring peace.

Activists and U.S. officials alike say that the speed at which the United States has responded is unprecedented and part of it is due to a little heralded document and the bureaucratic tool it created.


Thursday, 9 January 2014

Review: Mandela — 4 corrections for a teachable moment

Filed under: Africa files,Nonviolence — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 15:29 PDT

Given the ongoing and important discussions this past month on how best to commemorate the legacy of Nelson Mandela, it seems necessary to separate fact from fiction in the recently-released Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. While the film contains some wonderful acting — on the part of Idris Elba, Naomie Harris and others — it also has some serious misdirection from a political point of view. Here are four vital corrections which must be clearly understood – especially if one wants to emulate Mandela and help build movements like the one he led.


Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Sport as a peacebuilding tool: Experiences from Nigeria

Filed under: Africa files,children and youth — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 16:51 PDT

Nigeria is an extremely heterogeneous society, comprising peoples of different ethnic, linguistic and cultural backgrounds. Likewise, the eruptions of violent conflicts have had diverse causes and characteristics. Ours is a country that has had its fair share of violent conflicts with over one hundred documented conflicts of varying magnitudes occurring since independence on October 1, 1960.

In recent times conflicts have arisen in several cities, most recently the bombings across the Northern states of Borno, Yobe, Kano, Kaduna, Plateau, Niger, Bauchi, and Abuja, which prompted President Goodluck Jonathan to declare a state of emergency in Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe States in May 2013. Members of different communities live in fear of conflicts, leading to violence, loss of lives and properties. Many Nigerians have come to question whether the country is on the brink of a civil war.

How can sport bring Nigerians together?


Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Nigeria: Youths Give Ingredients for Peace, Development

Filed under: Africa files,Religion and peacebuilding — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 11:08 PDT

This is an experiment. The Interreligious Dialogue and Peace Network (IDPN) based in Nigeria felt that it is high time to give a novel approach to search for peace in Nigeria. This resulted in a youth summit.

For Nigeria to enjoy peaceful and harmonious living, adherents of diverse faiths in the country particularly Islam and Christianity must learn to appreciate one another’s religious teachings and practices and show love. These issues reverberated in nearly all speeches made last Thursday at the IDPN summit held in Abuja. IDPN in conjunction with Dan Etete Foundation, all non government organisations brought youths across diverse religious divides from across the country to talk on the theme Religion as an Instrument for Youth Empowerment and Constructive Change.

What was interesting about this gathering was it went beyond the common way–every religious group was invited. Prior to this time, whenever there was interreligious or interfaith meeting, it was always for Christianity and Islam.


Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Human rights lawyers look for silver lining in Kiobel black cloud

Filed under: Africa files,Business, Human Rights, Environment,Environment,Human Rights — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 16:09 PDT

When the U.S. Chamber of Commerce rushes out a statement hailing a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, you can be sure that opinion is a defeat for plaintiffs’ lawyers. So it is with the court’s long-awaited ruling Wednesday in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum. All nine justices agreed with Shell’s counsel at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan that claims by a group of Nigerian nationals suing under the Alien Tort Statute for Shell’s alleged abetting of state-sponsored torture and murder in their country should be dismissed, though they split on precisely why. The majority, in an opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts, held that the presumption against extraterritoriality, most recently articulated by the court in Morrison v. National Australia Bank, applies to the Alien Tort Statute even though the ATS, unlike laws regulating conduct, is strictly a jurisdictional statute. Roberts’ opinion rejected (among other things) arguments that because the ATS was enacted to address piracy on the high seas, it extends to atrocities committed on foreign soil.

Corporations like Shell, which are based outside of the United States, can now rest assured that they cannot be sued under the ATS by non-U.S. nationals who claim to have suffered harm from the corporation’s activities abroad – an outcome greeted warmly by pro-business interests. But in a call with reporters on Wednesday afternoon, human rights lawyers tried to look on the bright side, pointing to indications throughout the court’s majority opinion and three concurrences that all is not lost for victims who want their day in a U.S. courtroom.

Those indications begin with Roberts’ concluding words in the majority holding. Yes, he said, the presumption must be against extraterritorial application of the ATS, but that presumption is not inviolable when there’s a strong connection between the United States and the allegations asserted. “Where the claims touch and concern the territory of the United States, they must do so with sufficient force to displace the presumption against extraterritorial application,” Roberts wrote.


Human Rights Will Survive Kiobel

Filed under: Africa files,Business, Human Rights, Environment,Human Rights — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 16:04 PDT

This is a tough loss for the human rights advocacy community, ending an era that began with the Second Circuit’s rediscovery of the Alien Tort Statute in its 1980 decision in Filartiga v. Pena. As Julian highlights below, Justice Kennedy may have left the door ajar to future claims, but only barely. Even Breyer’s concurrence — the rejection of the claim was unanimous, which must make it hurt a little more — sets a bar of a “distinctly American interest”, which may translate in the days of compartmentalized multinationals to the presence of US citizen victims. Lots of claims are going to get thrown out in Kiobel’s wake.

Does this mean that corporations can turn a blind eye to human rights? Not a chance.



Tuesday, 9 April 2013

U.N. warns of risk of Mali war spillover in Western Sahara

Filed under: Africa files,Human Rights,International Law: War — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 06:02 PDT

The conflict in Mali threatens to spill over into the disputed territory of Western Sahara and the Polisario Front independence movement has warned the United Nations of the possibility of “terrorist infiltrations,” the U.N. chief said in a new report.


Monday, 1 April 2013

Mapping hate speech to predict ethnic violence

Filed under: Human Rights,International Law: War,Media and Conflict,Rwanda,Transitional Justice — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 12:46 PDT

In the months leading up to the Rwandan genocide of 1994, the radio station Radio Television Libre des Mille Collines blanketed the country with anti-Tutsi propaganda, inciting its Hutu listeners to “exterminate the cockroaches.” During the genocide, the station took on an even more active role, reading out lists of people to be killed and their locations.

The role played by the station only became widely understood outside of Rwanda after the violence was over. Three of its former executives were eventually indicted by a U.N. tribunal for their part in the genocide, but what if the world had been monitoring Milles Collines before the killing started?

That’s the idea behind Hatebase, a new initiative from the Sentinel Project, a Canadian group that aims to use social media and other technology to identify early warning signals for ethnic conflict.


Monday, 4 February 2013

Sudan: Human Rights Expert Pledges Support for Reconciliation in Darfur

Filed under: Africa files,Transitional Justice — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 20:25 PDT

Khartoum — UN Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Sudan, Mashood Baderin, vowed to support Darfur Regional Authority (DRA) in its efforts to achieve reconciliation in the western Sudan region.

The expert started Sunday a 7-day visit to Khartoum and Darfur region where he is expected to meet national and regional officials and civil society groups as well as foreign diplomats and UN representatives.

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