By Andrea Lari, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Andrea Lari is the Director of Programs at Refugees International, a DC-based non-profit organization. The views expressed are the writer’s own.
The French military intervention in Mali is just a few days old, and there is plenty of uncertainty about the operation’s strategy and potential outcomes. But one thing is clear: as this campaign escalates, more civilians are being forced to flee their homes – exacerbating a humanitarian crisis that has plagued Mali for more than a year. Governments and aid agencies in the region must be prepared for the worst and take steps immediately to assist this new wave of displaced Malians.
First, Mali’s neighbors must help civilians in the conflict zone get out of harm’s way. Though there is a need to limit the mobility of jihadist groups, there is no excuse for keeping civilian families penned into dangerous areas. Algeria, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, and Niger all must keep their borders open, and they must help Malian refugees register and get the aid they need.
By Stephanie Pezard and Michael Shurkin, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Stephanie Pezard and Michael Shurkin are political scientists at the RAND Corporation. The views expressed are the authors’ own.
France’s unilateral ground and air offensive in Mali came not a moment too soon. The Islamists who had seized control of the north launched a brazen offensive last week into central Mali that demonstrated their own considerable capabilities and audacity as well as the Malian army’s continuing fecklessness. France had to act. Unless it creates a coalition of local allies, however, its intervention will probably, ultimately, add to Mali’s chaos.
The French intervention achieves little more than pull Mali back from the brink for the time being. To achieve anything beyond protecting southern Mali from future incursions requires pushing north and deploying a much larger force –some combination of French, Malian, and ECOWAS troops. This would need to happen much faster than any of the timetables for an ECOWAS deployment that had been discussed at the United Nations. Some ECOWAS contingents are already there.
By Daniel Williams, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Daniel Williams is a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch. The views expressed are his own.
Fadila Tia Kofi, 70, looked at her right foot where her toes used to be and remembered when the bombs hit near her home last September. “I heard the sound of the plane and I fell to the ground. A big piece of metal cut my toes,” she said. “I don’t know why the bombs come. I work. I farm. But now I crawl.”
Kofi belongs to the Nuba, a farming people from the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan state in far southern Sudan, and is a civilian victim of a festering war. The Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Army- North (SPLA-North) rebels are fighting the Sudanese government in an extension of a 22-year civil war that mostly ended with a 2005 peace agreement that provided for South Sudan’s independence in July 2011.
Many Nuba, who live just north of the new international border, nurse grievances of marginalization similar to those that fuelled the long civil war.
By Reed Brody, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Reed Brody, Counsel with Human Rights Watch, has worked with Habré’s victims for 14 years. The views expressed are the writer’s own.
The most brutal U.S.-backed dictator you’ve never heard of – Hissène Habré of Chad – is facing a trial before a unique court set up in his Senegalese exile. The court’s creation last week in Dakar, Senegal is a decisive breakthrough in a 22-year chess game pitting Habré against a group of prison survivors who never give up, as well as a hopeful sign that African courts can deliver justice for crimes committed in Africa.
Souleymane Guengueng, a modest civil servant, watched dozens of fellow cellmates die from torture and disease during three years in Habré’s prisons in the 1980s. Guengueng took an oath that if he ever got out of jail alive, he would bring his tormentors to justice. When Habré fell in 1990 and fled Chad for Senegal after emptying out his country’s treasury, Guengueng rallied wary survivors and widows to seek redress. In 2000, inspired by the London arrest of the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, they went to Senegal to press charges.
A Senegalese judge indicted Habré for political killings and torture. But the former Senegalese president, Abdoulaye Wade, found one pretext after another to delay Habré's reckoning. His tactics turned the victims’ saga into what Desmond Tutu, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, described as an “interminable political and legal soap opera.”
By Mustapha Tlili, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Mustapha Tlili is the founder and director of the Center for Dialogues: Islamic World – U.S. – The West at New York University, and a member of the advisory committee for Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa division. The views expressed are the writer’s own.
There is universal agreement that unemployment (in particular youth unemployment) and poverty played a significant, if not the most important, role in the Arab Spring. High levels of youth unemployment and economic problems prompted civil unrest and dissatisfaction with the government, and gave many young people the time to network and organize. Yet now, economic woes – initially a democratizing force – have turned into an obstacle for many young democracies. Solving youth unemployment will therefore be instrumental in determining the long-term success of the Arab Spring.
Tunisia, where it all started, is a good case study. No wonder that the revolution in Tunisia began in the central region of the country rather than coastal areas, where about 80 percent of the population live in much better economic conditions. These central lands are economically depressed, neglected for decades by various Tunisian governments.
By Tim Hanstad, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Tim Hanstad is President and CEO of Landesa, a global development non-profit that works to secure land rights for the world’s poor. Follow them @Landesa_Global. The views expressed are his own.
What do smoking, spanking, and drunk driving have in common?
Once upon a time they were perfectly acceptable behaviors.
Now they aren’t.
That shift in behavior and thinking was hard won and offers great lessons in the battle to improve women’s rights around the world, and my own organization’s mission to improve women’s land rights in particular.
By Joel D. Barkan & Sarah Margon, Special to CNN
Joel D. Barkan is a senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Sarah Margon is deputy Washington director at Human Rights Watch. They co-chair the Kenya Working Group, a nonpartisan forum for policy experts that seeks to encourage a robust U.S. policy toward Kenya. The views expressed are their own.
As Kenya’s presidential election looms, the Senate nomination hearing this week for Robert Godec to be U.S. ambassador to Kenya is an important step toward furthering the vital role the United States can play in helping to avert another election-related meltdown. Kenya remains an important partner for the United States. Washington and Nairobi have long shared mutual goals – although not always in the same order – to achieve regional peace, stability, democracy, and prosperity. With Kenya the anchor state of eastern Africa, it is important for the United States to actively engage its historical partner.
Kenya’s 2007 hotly contested elections were marked by controversy and violence, resulting in more than 1,100 deaths countrywide and causing more than 600,000 people to flee their homes. In part, the violence was due to flaws in the integrity of the electoral process, which undermined confidence in the results. But much of it also due to deep rifts within Kenyan society, including longstanding political exploitation of ethnic tensions and the profoundly corrupt and abusive nature of the security forces.
By Kent Campbell, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Kent Campbell is the director of PATH’s Malaria Control Program, and was recently awarded the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene’s LePrince Medal. The views expressed are his own.
When I began working on malaria in the late 1970s, the disease was rampant. Working for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, I was stationed at a hospital in the Western Kenya district of Siaya. In the pediatric ward there were often two children to a bed, with more than half succumbing to malaria-related anemia.
Kenya didn’t have a strategy to protect children from malaria – at that time no African country did. In fact, bed nets, a cornerstone of today’s prevention efforts, were not being used. They hadn’t yet been proven to be an effective tool for fighting malaria. Instead, the focus was on providing treatment for the sick and trying to delay death that was often unavoidable.
For more Last Look watch "Fareed Zakaria GPS" this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET.
Ethiopia has one of the highest illiteracy rates in the world, and the village of Wonchi is no exception. Nobody there can read or write. That’s why I was astonished when I saw what Nicholas Negroponte’s One Laptop per Child organization did there.
They dropped 20 Motorola tablets, preloaded with mostly literacy apps in the village with no instructions. Within four minutes, one boy had found the on/off switch – an unknown entity in these parts – and he then taught the others. In a few days, they were each using about 50 apps each.
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Barack Obama has won reelection as America’s president. But while the economy – and avoiding the so-called fiscal cliff – will inevitably take up much of his time, there are numerous foreign policy challenges facing the next administration. GPS asked 10 leading foreign policy analysts to name 10 things that Obama should focus on next. The views expressed are, of course, the authors' own.
Keep Arab Spring on track
By Kenneth Roth
Kenneth Roth is executive director of Human Rights Watch.
The biggest human rights challenge facing President Obama in his second term is finding ways to help keep on track the reform agenda that launched the Arab Spring. Most important is ending the horrible slaughter of civilians in Syria. Obama should stop pretending that Russia’s and China’s obstructionism absolves the U.S. of responsibility to continue ratcheting up pressure to stop the atrocities.
In Egypt, the regional trendsetter, Obama has properly said he respects the election that brought the Muslim Brotherhood to power, but now he should press the government, like all others, to respect basic rights, including of women and minorities. In Libya, Obama should stop treating the country as a “mission accomplished” and actively help elected authorities build the rule of law. And Obama should keep his promise to “promote reform across the region” and stop the discrediting double standard of making exceptions for U.S. allies, whether friendly monarchs or Israel.
By Olusegun Obasanjo, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Olusegun Obasanjo is a former president of Nigeria and a member of the Africa Progress Panel, chaired by Kofi Annan. The views expressed are the author’s own.
Images of starving children, epitomised in news coverage from Ethiopia in the 1980s, have given Africa a reputation for famine that does an injustice to the continent’s potential.
It’s true that a recent report by three U.N. agencies said nearly 239 million in Africa are hungry, a figure some 20 million higher than four years ago. And recent crises in the Horn of Africa and Sahel certainly highlight the desperate uncertainties of food supply for millions – malnutrition still cuts deep scars into progress on health and education.
But the Africa Progress Panel and many others believe that Africa has the potential not only to feed itself, but also to become a major food supplier for the rest of the world
By Jason Warner, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Jason Warner is a Ph.D. student in African Studies and Government at Harvard University. The views expressed are his own.
Last week’s final U.S. presidential debate, on foreign policy, included only passing reference to two sub-Saharan African countries – Somalia and Mali. But while the outcome of Tuesday’s poll will more likely hinge on the performance of the American economy than on any foreign policy issue, many with an interest in the continent are still wondering: what would a Mitt Romney presidency mean for Africa?
Given the paucity of insight offered up by the two candidates in the debates, it’s probably wise to start with Romney’s stated goals on his campaign website.