The real dilemma concerns what must be excised from international genocide and mass atrocities agendas in order to produce the kind of lessons learned that are palatable to powerful international actors. When truth telling aligns with the interests of power, it invariably softens its demands. If you bring together people from key international decision-making institutions to discuss a historical event that can only be deemed a colossal failure, the lessons will inevitably be focused on how the different actors did not coordinate their efforts behind a single, guiding ethos or policy. This is invariably true and it evenly distributes blame. It is also invariably true of many international failures, mistakes and faux-pas: it may even describe the “international community” rather than a problem within it.
There is a longstanding joke about Sudanese statistics: 87.7% of official figures are made up on the spot. Morten Jerven’s fabulous short book is a vindication of such skepticism, continent-wide and covering the last 25 years of economic analysis and policymaking. His aim is ambitious: nothing less than claiming that economists—specifically econometricians, who apply statistics […]
President Bashir’s narrow escape from South Africa has shown that an executive decision by the African Union’s leaders, including the South African president, to refuse cooperation with the ICC, does not have legal force to override domestic law. It has shown that the ICC has no recourse if a government decides to ignore its obligations under the Rome Statute—only the domestic courts and authorities can enforce its decisions. It has embarrassed the African Union, which looks to be re-inventing itself as, in the words of the late Tanzanian leader Julius Nyerere describing its predecessor the Organisation of African Unity, a “trade union of dictators”. Most international sympathies will lie with the ICC: it has scored a moral point. But only the former and current staff of the office of the prosecutor, and others who followed the Bashir case closely, will be aware that the Sudanese president’s unseemly escape from South Africa also saved the ICC itself from what could have been severe embarrassment.Continue Reading →
Under the Obama Administration, foreign policy has been driven by national security and concern over domestic opinion polls. Humanitarian issues, democratization, development, and resolving armed conflicts get on the agenda only when the Pentagon and CIA have had their say. That is glaringly obvious in Africa and the Middle East. You more than anyone should know that a security policy that relies overwhelmingly on military and intelligence instruments and has no wider economic and political strategy is doomed to fail, and to wreak havoc in doing so.Continue Reading →
The adversaries of African lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex people are diverse and they collude in unexpected ways. African nationalist leaders, fossilized into autocrats, say nasty things about them before embarking on austerity programmes or land-grabs. These nasty things are echoed by clergy from the United States wanting to ‘teach’ Africans about the family […]Continue Reading →
But in the circumstance of deaths at sea, too often the “perpetrator” is able to masquerade as natural phenomenon–it is storms, waves and rocks that cause death. Mass atrocities, we assume, require intent, focused violence, and usually a gun. When the seas become mass graves, the trail back to a source of violence or outrageous inequity is frequently an abstraction. “Traffickers” or “immigration policies” are to blame–a “perpetrator” as nameless as its victims.Continue Reading →
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