Posted: 04 May 2011 07:23 AM PDT
DAKAR (Reuters) - As Ivory Coast becomes the latest African country to subject itself to a truth and reconciliation commission, the lesson it can learn from past efforts is two-fold: it is going to hurt, and it could take years.
Experience from post-apartheid South Africa to post-war Sierra Leone shows such exercises can help a country draw a line under the past, even when many victims are left dissatisfied.
But Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara must ensure all sides are heard and must avoid rushing the pace for the sake of political expediency if he is to heal wounds ripped open for the second time in a decade.
"Although the truth side of it is very important, very often what actually happened is known by many people," said Yasmin Jusu-Sheriff, first executive secretary of Sierra Leone's 2002-2004 Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).
"It's how you deal with it, and how you live with it after it happens ... While it can't go on for ever, it shouldn't be too much of a time-bound process," she told Reuters.
Yet Ouattara seems to be in a hurry to get things going after the April 11 ousting from power of rival Laurent Gbagbo, whose refusal to accept defeat in a November election triggered a fourth-month power struggle in which thousands died.
He has pledged to set up a South African-style TRC within two weeks and has already filled the key post of chairman.
"It is positive that the President has announced plans for a commission, but we urge him not to rush," Desmond Tutu, who chaired South Africa's TRC in the 1990s, warned after talks with Ouattara in Ivory Coast this week.
CURING IVORIAN ILLS
The mandate, structure and aims of Ivory Coast's TRC process will all help determine whether it can succeed in rooting out an ill which may prove harder to diagnose and cure than the trauma of apartheid inflicted on millions of South Africans.
Although Ivorians rubbed along for years following independence from France in 1960, a debate over nationality exploded in 1999, culminating in a 2002-2003 civil war marked by ethnic bloodshed and which split the country between north and south.
The Nov. 28 election was hoped to seal reunification but the southerner Gbagbo's refusal to accept the victory of Ouattara, a northerner, only made matters worse. When pro-Ouattara troops headed south to Abidjan in late-March, hundreds died in an orgy of ethnically-motivated violence still not fully explained.
Ouattara's choice for TRC chairman of ex-premier Charles Konan Banny appears designed to show neutrality. Ex-banker Banny is an uncontroversial figure from the central Baoule ethnicity and will be flanked by one Christian and one Muslim deputy.
But the TRC's mandate has not yet been publicly defined. It is not clear whether Banny will have the right to subpoena alleged wrongdoers to give testimony, nor what will happen to them afterwards -- forgiveness or criminal proceedings.
Such details are crucial. Policemen suspected of causing the death of South African anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko sought amnesty in return for testimony but the TRC turned down their request to the relief of Biko's family, who argued that justice would have been cheated.
"There must be no amnesty for serious crimes," said Corinne Dufka, West Africa director of Human Rights Watch. "It is not a substitute for the very serious crimes that have characterised the Ivorian conflict."
TELL THE STORY
Whether Gbagbo should be heard is a moot point. Arguably the process would appear incomplete without an appearance by the man at the centre of the storm, but if he testifies it could complicate or even undermine legal proceedings against him.
The end goal of Ivory Coast's TRC remains open. Sierra Leone's TRC led to actions aimed at bolstering adherence to international treaties and seeking to counter discrimination of women and other ills seen contributing to its conflict.
One recommendation of the Ivorian process could be a system of compensation for victims of land disputes, which for years have fuelled northerners' bitterness at what they see as their discrimination at the hands of a southern elite.
Yet as neighbouring Liberia has seen, TRC recommendations can complicate matters. In 2009 its TRC banned President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf from politics for 30 years for backing former warlord Charles Taylor.
Sirleaf admits she funded Taylor but she said she was misled and is seeking re-election this year regardless. Yet that has also allowed Prince Johnson, a former warlord which the report says should face prosecution, to stand for election against her.
Ivory Coast's TRC will take place against the backdrop of equally tough challenges such as the need to restore security, kickstart the economy and foster genuinely inclusive politics.
Ultimately its most powerful contribution could be to create a narrative about past woes which the country can live with.
In Sierra Leone, the final TRC report on the 1991-2002 conflict runs to 5,000 pages. Few, even among the country's educated minority, claim to have read it in full.
A "child-friendly" version was published with the help of UNICEF in 2004. It begins: "There was a very big war in the country of Sierra Leone ... Everywhere there was grief, and children were crying."
(Additional reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly and Ange Aboa in Abidjan and Korhogo; Simon Akam in Freetown; Marius Bosch in Johannesburg; Alphonso Toweh in Monrovia; Editing by Giles Elgood)
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Posted: 04 May 2011 07:23 AM PDT
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - It is saddled with a feckless government, dogged by poverty and corruption and now, with the revelation that the world's most-wanted man was holed up in its backyard, Pakistan looks more like a failed state than ever.
Pressed into an alliance with the United States in its "war on terror" days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, nuclear-armed Pakistan has never been able to shake off doubts about its commitment to the battle against Islamist militancy.
When U.S. Special Forces killed Osama bin Laden in a dramatic helicopter raid on Monday, it turned out that -- contrary to popular imagination -- the al Qaeda leader had not been hiding in a mountain cave along the violence-plagued border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, an area U.S. President Barack Obama once described as "the most dangerous place in the world".
He had in fact been living in a respectable townhouse a two-hour drive up the road from Islamabad and a short walk from a military academy that counts among its alumni the army chief.
The government denies it knew where bin Laden was, but for many the discovery will only confirms Pakistan's reputation as "al Qaeda central".
"Pakistan is truly at the epicenter of global terrorism," Lisa Curtis, senior researcher on South Asia at the Heritage Foundation, wrote in a paper on bin Laden's killing.
The suspicion that Pakistani security agents might have been playing a double game, shielding bin Laden from the world's biggest manhunt have led to calls for punishment.
"Perhaps the time has come to declare it a terrorist state and expel it from the comity of nations," British-Indian author Salman Rushdie wrote of Pakistan in a column this week.
PROBLEMS FROM BIRTH OF THE NATION
Pakistan is beset by a host of problems, some of which have bedevilled it since the bloody partition of British-ruled India and its independence in 1947 as a home for South Asia's Muslims.
Its economy is propped up with an International Monetary Fund loan and about a third of its people live in poverty.
Levels of literacy and education are dire, especially for women. So-called ghost schools, with no teachers or children and corrupt officials pocketing the budget, are rife.
Violent religious conservatism is becoming more mainstream: this year alone two senior officials have been assassinated for challenging a law the stipulates death for insulting Islam.
Pakistan's population -- at 170 million the world's sixth-largest -- is growing at more than 2 percent a year. The threat of environmental catastrophe such as water shortages, especially in the longer term when glaciers melt in the Himalayas and rivers run dry, raise a nightmare scenario of deprivation.
All the while, a venal elite defends its privileges, squabbling politicians enrich themselves and the army, which has ruled for more than half of the country's 64-year history, looms over public life with the prospect of intervention a constant.
But it is the cocktail of Islamist militants and nuclear weapons that raises the biggest fears around the world.
Pakistan tested nuclear weapons in 1998, days after arch-rival India conducted tests, and it now has what experts believe is the world's fastest-growing nuclear arsenal with about 80 bombs, material for scores more, and a range of missiles to deliver them.
Former CIA official Bruce Riedel wrote in a piece in the Wall Street Journal last month that Pakistan's arsenal of nuclear warheads is on track to become the fourth-largest in the world by the end of the decade, behind only the United States, Russia and China.
Compounding fears of what its enemies see as a loose-cannon nuclear power, the father of the Pakistani bomb, Abdul Qadeer Khan, confessed in 2004 to selling nuclear secrets to Iran, North Korea and Libya.
Khan was pardoned by the government, although placed under house arrest for five years, leading to suspicions of official complicity in the world's most serious proliferation scandal.
The government and military denied any involvement in the proliferation ring and they regularly reject concern over the security of the country's nuclear weapons programme.
At the heart of many of Pakistan's woes, and its support over three decades for Islamist militants, is its rivalry with India. The two countries have gone to war three times since their partition after World War Two.
Pakistan, along with the United States and Saudi Arabia, nurtured the Islamist fighters, including bin Laden, who drove Soviet forces out of Afghanistan in the 1980s.
Since its creation, Pakistan has seen a friendly Afghanistan -- into which its forces could withdraw in the event of an invasion by a much bigger Indian army -- as a central plank of national security.
That, too, was the reason for its support of the Afghan Taliban in the 1990s: the perceived necessity of a friendly, ethnic Pashtun-dominated Taliban government in Kabul rather than one led by pro-Indian north Afghan factions.
Even today, nearly 10 years after signing up to the U.S. campaign against militancy, Pakistan is refusing to move against Taliban factions based on its side of the border because of its fear of an Indian-dominated Afghanistan.
Similarly, Pakistan for years nurtured militants fighting Indian forces in its part of the Kashmir region, the source of most bitterness between the neighbours since their independence.
It is conceivable that bin Laden was protected by Pakistan's security service, not because of any support for his vision of global holy war, but because bin Laden might have been seen as a valuable asset, like an ace to play, in the event of a show-down with India.
All this does not necessarily mean the country is failing, said Pakistani security analyst Hasan Askari Rizvi.
"Pakistan can't be described as a terrorist state. The problem is that there are people who are sympathetic to militants," he said.
"The state of mind that has been created in Pakistan is a problem and the military has a role in it but Pakistan has the capacity to overcome this."
Pakistan's role in bin Laden's killing remains murky.
The United States has hinted at Pakistani help in tracking bin Laden down, but said the country's security agencies were kept in the dark about the operation to kill him because of fear the al Qaeda leader would have been tipped off.
Pakistan has given similar mixed signals, denying knowledge of the raid but saying Pakistan's main security agency had been passing on information to the CIA about the bin Laden compound since 2009.
Pakistani political analyst Mosharraf Zaidi said both Islamabad and Washington appeared to be making a coordinated effort to create the impression Pakistan was kept in the dark.
That would provide Pakistan with "plausible deniability" in the event of a public backlash over bin Laden's killing.
"That bin Laden was alive and well till May 1 because the Pakistanis were helping him, and that he is dead and buried, because the Pakistanis helped kill him - both can be simultaneously true. And they probably are," Zaidi wrote in an commentary this week.
The full truth may never be known but, for now at least, the United States needs Pakistan's help to bring the Afghan war to some sort of conclusion as it heads towards the start of a troop drawdown this summer.
Let alone its influence over the Taliban, Pakistan is the conduit for a large volume of supplies going to U.S. forces in landlocked Afghanistan -- from drinking water to food and fuel.
In the event of a complete breakdown in relations with the United States over bin Laden, which looks unlikely, Pakistan can always count on fair-weather ally China for support.
And despite the predictions of its imminent implosion, Pakistan will probably muddle through this crisis, as it has every other crisis since its formation.
There's even cause for some hope after the dust settles from bin Laden's killing.
Talks with India are back on, though no breakthroughs are expected, and a government that has been in power since 2008 has bolstered its position with a new coalition partner and could become Pakistan's first-ever civilian government to complete a full term.
Despite signs of growing intolerance in society, there is at least some hope that the security agencies, locked in a bloody struggle with Pakistani Taliban militants, are beginning to realise the danger of courting extremism.
"It will take some doing to dismantle it," Zaidi said of Pakistan's militant infrastructure, or "second-line of defence" against India.
"Religious zeal was easy to inject into the Pakistani bloodstream, it will be difficult to extract. The process cannot and must not be rushed."
Rizvi said the security establishment had to decide whether militants would be given free rein or suppressed.
"The future of Pakistan, honestly speaking, is to me uncertain. But in my opinion, Pakistan will neither be declared a failed state or a terrorist state. It is a state mired in difficulties and problems."
(Writing by Rob Birsel; Editing by John Chalmers)
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Wednesday, 04 May 2011 17:59:28
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