Divide and Rule in Africa

Map of Africa

Map of Africa

The Perils of Western “Democracy” From Ethiopia to Mali
by THOMAS C. MOUNTAIN

Divide and rule is a law of imperialism and western style “democracy” is how imperialism implements this law in neocolonial Africa. It’s called “elections” and with it’s winner take all diktats division, conflict, ethnic cleansing, mass murder and civil war are the results.

Traditionally in Africa’s villages decisions and conflict resolution takes place using a consensus system with no absolute winners and losers, with all parties agreeing to the final decision and honor bound to carry it out. Just the opposite of what happens after “elections” in “democratic Africa”.

The dishonor roll of “African Democracy” a.k.a. bought, rigged or stolen elections must begin with Ethiopia, where the ethnic minority regime declared themselves victors 12 hours after the polls closed with 99.6% of the seats in parliament.

Second place could go to Liberia, where the capital Monrovia has not had running water or electricity for the entire term of Eleanor Johnson’s Presidency, she who ran unopposed the last “election”, and won a Nobel Prize to boot.

In third place, maybe second place really, stands Somalia, where there simply was no voting done by the Somali people, the entire parliament which “elected” the President was hand picked by the previous President.

Fourth place? Maybe Libya where Al Queda militias run rampant and it doesn’t really matter who won the latest “election”, it is all about tribe and family and ties to the local warlords, sort of like Somalia really.

Fifth place is being reserved for the “victor” of the Malian “election”, scheduled to be held in the midst of an ongoing counterinsurgency with thousands of French troops still occupying the country.

Sixth place goes to Cote D’Ivoire where under the international communities supervision hundreds of thousands of non-Ivorians were allowed to vote (never mind the Ivorian Constitution) and then declared the World Banks local rep as the winner (again, never mind the Ivorian Constitutional Court who declared the incumbent President the winner). And when the incumbent wouldn’t cede power as demanded, rocket his Presidential residence courtesy of the French military and UN “peacekeepers” until shellshocked into surrender.

Nigeria, Chad, Niger, Burundi, Congo, Central African Republic…insurgencies and rebellions everywhere and the foremost demand of Pax Americana and its western vassals is “elections”.

Of course there is one country in Africa that doesn’t have elections. It is also the African country with the smallest debt to the IMF and World Bank and one of if not the fastest growing economies on the continent.

According to a nearly opaque World Bank report this country has tripled its GDP since expelling western aid organizations in 2004 and the UN “peacekeepers” in 2005. Can one even name another country in the world that expelled an entire UN “peacekeeping” army?

I am talking about Eritrea, 22 years independent and no elections. And you know what? When I raise the question of “elections” with my Eritrean family and friends, both at home and abroad, (I am the only one who raises this, I cant remember the last time an Eritrean I knew did so) they have little or no interest in the subject.

If I persist, the Eritreans will tell you that the thought of “elections” only brings with it visions of divisions and conflict. Most everyone here in Eritrea supports the President and the feeling is pretty clear we don’t need westerners telling us what’s best.

In other words the only people calling for “elections” in Eritrea are not Eritrean.

Democracy is supposed to mean that the leaders of a nation do what their people want.

Most Africans will tell you what we most want is food, water, shelter, medical care and education for our children.

If a country’s leaders are providing these basic human rights to their people they are doing what their people want and practicing democracy. If they are not, if their people are hungry, cold, sick and illiterate then these leaders are not democratic no matter how many times they hold “elections”.

Democracy vs elections is how matters stand in Africa today, and it all boils down to who is cold, sick, hungry and illiterate and who has leaders taking care of their people, first and foremost, those most in need.

Elections in Africa means divide and rule, followed by crisis management, managing the western created crisis to better loot and plunder Africa’s resources, everyday more critical in a world ever more rapidly devouring such.

Thomas C. Mountain is the most widely distributed independent journalist in Africa, living and reporting from Eritrea since 2006. He can be reached at thomascmountain_at_yahoo_dot_com.

Is Egypt’s Stance on the Blue Nile Dam Legally Justified?

Nile dam project a hydropower hope, but regional sore point

Nile dam project a hydropower hope, but regional sore point

Egypt and Ethiopia are in a war of words concerning the damming of the Blue Nile. Ethiopia intends, and has already completed twenty-one percent of the construction of the dam, to generate 6000 megawatts of electricity, which is equivalent to six nuclear power plants, in order to support and improve its sustainable development standing, thereby increasing the living standards of millions of its citizens.

Egypt opposes the project, fearing that the dam will reduce the flow of the water. Interestingly, Sudan sees the dam as beneficial to all downstream and upstream Nile Basin countries. Egypt has declared that “all options are open” to stop a reduction of “even one drop of Nile water” as a result of the construction of the dam, including involving the military, arming opposition groups and sabotaging the dam, although it says that it does not want to go to war with Ethiopia. This controversy poses several critical legal issues.

The first concerns the legal basis of both sides for using Nile waters and resources. Egypt argues on the basis of “inherent” or “historic” title, as enacted in colonial treaties, including in the 1929 and 1959 Nile Water Treaties between Egypt and Sudan. The latter treaty entitles Egypt to use eighty-seven percent of the Nile which amounts to 55 billion cubic meters of water per annum, while Sudan is entitled only to eighteen and a half percent. The rest evaporates into the air. Ethiopia and other upstream riparian counties including Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi, Uganda, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo rely on the principle of “equitable and reasonable use and utilization” of the Nile River waters and resources. This principle has been codified in Article 5 [PDF] of the 1997 Convention on the Law of Non-Navigational Uses of International Water Courses, which is considered a codification of customary principles. In the River Oder Case of 1929 [PDF], the Permanent Court of International Justice (PCIJ) explicitly proclaimed that the “community of interest of riparian States” forms the “basis of a common legal right…of all riparian States…” It must be noted that Ethiopia had opposed the colonial treaties on the Nile since their inception, and all upstream countries are oppose relying on colonial treaties, considering them unfair and discriminatory.

Egypt might argue, however, that colonial treaties must be honored, which includes those agreements entered into between the British colony and most upstream countries not to use or “arrest” the Nile waters without receiving permission from Egypt and Sudan. This argument is rather weak, as Ethiopia had persistently objected to the treaties, and all upstream (and downstream) countries were under colonial rule and thus not legally bound by such treaties as newly independent countries. The “clean state” doctrine, as codified under Article 16 [PDF] of the Vienna Convention on Succession of States in Respect of Treaties of 1978, submits that countries that gain independence are not obliged to succeed to colonial treaties excepting boundary issues.

The exception of “special regimes” such as Article 13 of Rome Statute of the ICC, which imposes obligations on non-party states, is less likely to apply to these colonial treaties which were created to pursue self-interest rather than common values and shared interest among the Nile Basin states. This is why most Nile riparian countries have entered in to the Nile Basin Cooperative Framework Agreement in 2010 which is based upon equality, and cooperation, rather than the status quo ante; it will also establish a joint Commission to oversee the River’s management. From this, it can fairly be argued that contemporary international law does not recognize the “inherent” or “historic” use “principle” to exclusively utilize a water course without ensuring the fair share of other riparian states. For that matter the 1997 UN Convention expressly rejects the “inherent” use claim as a bar to the equitable and reasonable use of international waters.

However, as a second legal issue, upstream countries must not inflict a significant harm upon downstream states in their use of an international river like the Nile as stated in Article 7 of the UN Convention 1997 and Article 12 of the Berlin Rules [PDF]. For example, the “minimum individual water requirements” of the people in downstream countries must not be jeopardized by a dam or other projects in upstream countries. Ethiopia insists that its Blue Nile mega dam project will not affect the flow of the water, and thus not only that it will not significantly affect Egypt or Sudanese interests but also that will be beneficial to most riparian countries, including Sudan and Egypt. The electricity generated will be exported to neighboring countries and the project will increase the flow of water to both countries. Conversely, Egypt argues that Ethiopia has not done enough studies on the impact of the dam on downstream nations, especially on fishing, crops and developing new and major hydro-electric power plants in Egypt.

This problem seems to be related to the first legal controversy; Egypt is not willing to risk a reduction of “a drop of water” from the Nile as that is contrary to its “inherent” or “historic” title to fully use and utilize the Nile waters. However, the duty not to inflict a significant harm is founded on the principle of “equitable and reasonable use” of a trans-boundary river and thus does not rely on the prior will or permission of one concerned party. It does not allow one party to expand its projects while denying others to use the water for their sustainable development and poverty reduction endeavors. Of course, establishing “a significant harm” is a technical matter, but what seems to be clear is that Ethiopia is vindicated by the Tripartite Commission’s findings in that its project will not harm Egypt and Sudan significantly.

However, this poses a third legal issue. Egypt appears to call upon Ethiopia to halt its project, without providing a legal ground. It may well be justified to urge halting a significantly harmful project based upon evidence and reason but not based on a threat of violence and intervention. Even if the project will significantly harm Egypt, according to the 1997 UN Convention, Ethiopia might only be required to: “take all appropriate measures…, in consultation with the affected State, to eliminate or mitigate such harm and, where appropriate, to discuss the question of compensation.”

Finally but most importantly, Egypt vows to use all available options including military force, intervention, sabotage, etc. As the country’s economy and livelihood is dependent on the Nile, it may argue, even if remotely, that the Blue Nile dam is a threat to its survival and thus entitled to defend itself under Article 51 of the UN Charter. In light of Article 2 of the UN Charter, however, states can only use force to defend themselves if and when they are militarily attacked. Moreover, using force as a means of national policy including to secure water interests is totally banned under current international law.

However, whether Egypt has violated its Charter (or African Union) legal duties is not entirely clear. It may be said that Egypt threatened to use military force in violation of Article 2 of the Charter and Article 4 [PDF] of the AU Constitutive Act, and thus responsible for such persistent military threats against Ethiopia, in accordance with Articles 1, 40, 41, and 42 of the International Law Commission Draft Articles on the Responsibility of States 2001 [PDF].

The opposing, and may be a more sound argument, is that what (some) Egyptian politicians have done, and are doing, is a sheer propaganda to intimidate and frightened Ethiopia, and thus no concrete breach is committed by Egypt of its duty owed to Ethiopia and the International Community at large. In fact, The Egyptian Nobel Peace Laureate Mohamed ElBaradei called upon the President to make an apology to Ethiopia and Sudan for “the irresponsible utterances” made against them. It cannot be concluded at this point therefore that Egypt has, or has not, violated international law, as this will depend on how the situation progresses.

As the African Union and the USA rightly urged, and as codified in Article 13 of the 1997 UN Convention and related rules, the way forward is to settle all problems peacefully, and to work together to maximize the benefits to all and minimize any possible harm of the dam on downstream nations and peoples. The solution lies on Egypt accepting the rights and entitlements of riparian countries in accordance with twenty first century international law, while Ethiopia making sure that its dam does not significantly impact Egypt and Sudan; if diplomacy fails both parties must opt for judicial or arbitral settlement.

Zeray Yihdego is a Senior Lecturer In Public International Law at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland where he teaches various postgraduate and undergraduate courses of public international law. He is the author of The Arms Trade and International Law (Hart; Oxford, 2007) and other peer-reviewed journal articles on peace and security, humanitarian law, arms control law and democratic governance and sustainable development issues. He serves as a member of the UN Expert Group on global firearms control and as a Consultant to the United Nations in his area of legal expertise.

Eritrea: United Nations Human Rights Council Renews and Strengthens Special Rapporteur’s Mandate

The United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) today adopted a resolution on Eritrea, increasing the scope of the mandate for the UN Special Rapporteur, who will now also present her groundbreaking report on the human rights situation in Eritrea to the UN General Assembly in New York.

The tough new resolution, spearheaded by Somalia, Nigeria and Djibouti and supported by dozens of other states, was adopted by consensus at the 23rd session of the HRC.

The resolution condemned “the continued widespread and systematic violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms committed by the Eritrean authorities, including cases of arbitrary and extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, the use of torture, arbitrary and incommunicado detention without recourse to justice, and detention in inhumane and degrading conditions; [and] the forced conscription of citizens for indefinite periods of national service, a system that amounts to forced labour, the compulsory practice of all children undertaking the final year of schooling in a military training camp as well as the intimidation and detention of family members of those suspected of evading national service in Eritrea.”

The resolution also highlighted “the severe restrictions on freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of information, freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and freedom of peaceful assembly and association, including the detention of journalists, human rights defenders, political actors, religious leaders and practitioners in Eritrea”.

Elsa Chyrum, Director of Human Rights Concern Eritrea, said, “We are glad that we have come this far in raising the dire human rights situation in Eritrea. We welcome the Special Rapporteur’s report which has confirmed what has been reported by Eritrean and international human rights organisations for years. We are also pleased with the adoption of the new resolution to extend the mandate, and the opportunity given to the Special Rapporteur to present her report in New York at the General Assembly, and therefore to put more pressure on the Eritrean government.

“We thank all the delegations that played a positive role in ensuring that this resolution was adopted by the HRC and that the Eritrean people’s suffering is highlighted.”

Matthew Jones, Senior Advocate at Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), said, “Continued campaigning at the UN is resulting in far greater exposure of Eritrea’s appalling domestic human rights situation.  It is to the Human Rights Council’s credit that it is not only growing in its understanding of the situation in Eritrea, but is also increasing its subsequent action. Our biggest hope is that such action will encourage the Eritrean government itself to take action to relieve the suffering of the Eritrean people.”

Ethiopia admits to fielding ineligible player

Ethiopia's Menyahel Teshome (front) is challenged by Burkina Faso's Mohamed Koffi during their African Nations Cup (AFCON 2013) Group C soccer match in Nelspruit, January 25, 2013. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya (SOUTH AFRICA - Tags: SPORT SOCCER)

Ethiopia’s Menyahel Teshome (front) is challenged by Burkina Faso’s Mohamed Koffi during their African Nations Cup (AFCON 2013) Group C soccer match in Nelspruit, January 25, 2013. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya (SOUTH AFRICA – Tags: SPORT SOCCER)

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — Ethiopia has admitted to fielding an ineligible player in World Cup qualifying, meaning it is likely to be stripped of three points and that its celebration of a place in Africa’s final playoffs may have been premature.

The Ethiopia Football Federation said Tuesday that Minyahile Beyene should not have played in the 2-1 win in Botswana on June 8 because he picked up two yellow cards in previous games.

FIFA opened an investigation on Sunday.

If the game is awarded to Botswana by FIFA, the regular punishment for ineligible players, Ethiopia would be just two points ahead of Group A rival South Africa before the final round of group matches in September.

Ethiopia beat South Africa 2-1 this weekend and celebrated what it thought was its progression to the playoffs.

Nigeria Is Caught Between Military Abuses and Islamist Rebels

Nigerian police

Nigerian police

A month after President Goodluck Jonathan imposed a state of emergency on northern Nigeria, the first eyewitness accounts are only now emerging about the Nigerian military’s brutality. The state of emergency, accompanied by a troop surge, is the centerpiece of a government effort to quash Boko Haram, the northern based Islamist insurgency. Accompanying this offensive is a cell phone and media blackout. Humanitarian organizations have been denied access to areas of military operation and local politicians have largely fled in fear. Government spokesmen claim unverified success after success, especially in border areas adjoining Niger and Cameroon, where the military is arresting Boko Haram members.

Nevertheless, witnesses are now reporting massive civilian casualties as people are caught between Boko Haram and the Nigerian military. On May 31, Al Jazeera reported unverified accounts that far more civilians, including women and children, have been killed than Boko Haram members. The Nigerian government denied this report. Then on June 6, the New York Times, interviewing Nigerian refugees who fled to neighboring Niger, reported a general climate of terror, including stories of young men being rounded up, disappearances in the night, and indiscriminate killing.

These accounts come on the heels of a massive assault on the northern town of Baga by the Multi National Joint Task Force, which includes Chadian, Nigerien, and Nigerian troops and is headquartered in the town. The assault left over 200 people dead and nearly a third of the town scorched. The Nigerian government attempted to downplay the deadly extent of this operation, but numerous eye witnesses and satellite images contradicted government accounts. There are credible rumours that the destruction began as revenge for a murdered soldier.

Growing concerns about Islamist terrorism in the Sahel region of Africa have made Nigeria a priority for the Obama administration. But persistent security service human rights abuses are likely what kept President Obama from including Nigeria on his June Africa trip. In an apparent effort to balance U.S. equities, Secretary of State John Kerry, in a public statement, has denounced both “Boko Haram” terrorism and security service abuses.

Some Nigerians fear that their country is on the road to becoming another Afghanistan. The state has already clearly failed in the northeastern part of the country where security services have been unable to contain Boko Haram’s destructive presence. But confidence in government in its current form is eroding nearly everywhere outside of President Jonathan’s core ethnic and regional constituency in the south.

In the Niger Delta, Nigeria’s oil producing region, production is down to about 1.7 million barrels of crude oil per day, not the 2.2 million often cited by the government. Oil continues to provide more than 90 percent of Nigeria’s foreign exchange and about 80 percent of the government’s revenue, which is then distributed to federal, state, and local government. Access to oil revenues remains a highly divisive debate in Nigerian politics.

In the central part of the country, where ethnic and religious boundaries coincide, the government has also been unable to tackle the rising communal violence. The Council on Foreign Relations Nigeria Security Tracker finds that in the last two years, nearly 2,400 people have been killed. This bloodshed is largely ignored by the Western media, in part because they have only an ephemeral presence in the region. In the south, there is credible evidence that wealthy Christians are forming and funding militias parallel to the Islamic militias in the north in a tit-for-tat pattern recalling Lebanon. While this is a powder keg in the making, thus far religious revenge killings have been few in the southern half of the country.

In Lagos, the heart of Nigeria’s non-oil economy, the seventeen million plus population is increasingly terrified by a wave of kidnappings-for-profit that the local authorities are powerless to stop. That Lagos continues to boom (and has surpassed Kenya’s national GDP) is an indication that state failure in Nigeria will look different from that in Somalia or the Democratic Republic of the Congo — or Afghanistan, where deterioration was coupled with economic distress.

The country is entering a new political season, with national and presidential elections to take place in late 2014, with the presidential inauguration in May 2015. But, politicking is focused on personal and patronage rivalries with little or no attention to the country’s challenges and no accountability to the Nigerian people. No new generation of political leaders has emerged to change the dynamics. The 2011 pattern of appeals to ethnic and religious identities is about to be repeated with the potential resumption of the killings that followed those elections, themselves the worst since the 1967-70 civil war. There is an effort to establish a new, genuine opposition party by long-established political figures now alienated from the Jonathan administration. But the smart money is on the president’s re-election because of the power of the incumbency and his access to oil revenue. In face of this chaotic violence in all areas, formal politics recalls the rearranging of deck chairs on the Titanic.

John Campbell, a former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, is a Senior Fellow for Africa policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. He served as political counselor at the U.S. embassy in Pretoria during the end of apartheid. He blogs at Africa in Transition.