Gaddafi mural. Photo: Internews Network/flickr.
Libyans do not want revenge; they want justice to be done, former prisoner Ali Elakermi tells the BCC in a moving interview as he walks through the prison in Libya where he was held during the regime of former leader Muammar Gaddafi. He shows journalist Jeremy Bowen the corner of a cell where he spent 11 years of his life. ‘Revenge engenders revenge,’ says Elakermi, close to tears in a report screened last week.
As Libya lurches from one crisis to the next, with increasing uncertainty about who is in charge in Tripoli following Gaddafi’s toppling in 2011, many feel the need for a reminder of the horrors of the Gaddafi regime. Because it was horrible. The former ‘Guide of the Revolution’, as Gaddafi liked to be called, sponsored terrorism worldwide; in Africa and as far away as Indonesia. There are consistent reports that he financed and supported warlords like Charles Taylor in Liberia and rebel movements in Chad and elsewhere in the Sahel. Political opponents like Elakermi were summarily thrown into jail, often tortured and sometimes killed. » More
Poppy field in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province. Photo: U.S. Marines via ISAFmedia/Wikimedia Commons.
Administrations at local, national and international level are busy reforming laws, strategies and programmes for controlling psychoactive drugs such as cannabis, cocaine and heroin. Many are challenging the principles of a set of international treaties developed and agreed upon during the 20th century, that had as their central principle the absolute prohibition of the production, distribution and consumption of a wide range of psychoactive substances for recreational (as opposed to medical or scientific) use.
While many authorities (most notably in the Netherlands) have turned a blind eye to aspects of the recreational drug market, or just did not have the resources to react, recent developments have been notable in that they are openly challenging the validity of the global drug control system. The Bolivian government has refused to continue complying with the global prohibition on coca leaf; two US states (Washington and Colorado) are in the process of setting up a legally regulated market for cannabis (and seem sure to be followed by others in the next few years); and Uruguay looks destined to become the first country to implement a national regime for the legal production and consumption of cannabis. » More
Nigerian DSS operatives. Photo: Beeg Eagle/Wikimedia Commons.
During the 43rd ordinary session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on 18 July 2013 in Abuja, Nigeria, the Chairman, President Alassane Ouattara of Côte d’Ivoire, announced that the Nigerian government had requested the withdrawal of its troop battalion deployed in Mali as part of the United Nations (UN) peacekeeping operation. According to Ouattara, the decision was based on the unstable security situation in Nigeria’s north.
However, the Nigerian government’s sudden decision to pull out of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) came shortly after the Rwandan Major General Jean Bosco Kazura was appointed by the UN Secretary General as commander of the mission. Kazura’s appointment sparked controversy, leading to speculation that Nigeria withdrew its troops in protest at the UN appointment. » More
Barack Obama. Photo: Steve Jurvetson/flickr.
In international relations, there exists diplomatic theater and diplomatic facts. A recent example of theater is the agreement between China and the United States to expand their military exchanges and bilateral scientific contacts. The reality, however, is something quite different. The US Department of Defense, for example, continues to comply with the National Defense Authorization Act of 2000, which forbids any contact with People’s Liberation Army (PLA) staff members that might result in the “inappropriate exposure” of key US operational plans, dispositions or activities. China’s astronauts, in turn, remain banned from the International Space Station and, more recently, its scientists were prohibited from attending an academic conference at NASA’s Ames Research Center.
At the heart of these prohibitions is the US Congress. Over the past few years it has thwarted the funding for joint Sino-American projects; it has voiced concerns about the potential theft of US space technology; and it played a key role in terminating an exchange program that helped facilitate Sino-America dialogue on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Unsurprisingly, leading American scientists are upset about the missed opportunities that these restrictions represent. Yes, they include missed chances for collaborative research, but they also represent a lost opportunity for each country to gain deeper insights into the long-term strategic interests of each other. » More
Clash between protesters and police in Belize, 21 January 2005. Photo: Belizian/Wikimedia Commons.
For a fleeting moment during the final decade of the twentieth century, the general trajectory of conflict across the world seemed clear. With the Cold War over, the number of interstate wars was in free-fall and the dominant form of violence was internal, within fragmenting states no longer propped up by their superpower sponsors. The age of ‘total war’ between states had thus been largely superseded by a wave of civil conflicts, often characterised as ‘new wars’, fought for the most part in rural hinterlands and widely considered as limited in scope and scale.
Over a decade into the new millennium, however, the trajectory now looks far from straightforward. Like international wars, civil wars too have been steadily declining in number. Yet from Colombia to Cairo, Brazil to Baghdad and Kenya to Kandahar, each month brings new manifestations of what Arjun Appadurai (in)famously termed the ‘implosion of global and national politics into the urban world’. Although riots, gang crime, and terrorist attacks have afflicted cities for hundreds, if not thousands, of years, the increasing ubiquity of such events – even if not ‘wars’ in any conventional sense – suggest that the hallmark of the contemporary period is one of rising ‘urban conflict’ rather than ‘peace’. » More