Open letter to H.E. President Thabo Mvuyelwa Mbeki,
Dear President Mbeki
“We want peace. If it is flying in the air, I am prepared to fly and catch it. If it is buried underground, I am prepared to dig to get it. If it is available in the market, I will find the money to buy it.”
Do you remember these words Mr. President?
Or possibly these Mr. President?
We are the children who suffered from the war
We are the children who did not come across playing
We are those who fed on fear and raids
We are the souls that covered the heart’s hopes
Our destiny was born in the time of injustices and fires
Our destiny is to lose tranquillity, the family, the home and friend
We had no hand in what happened, we do not side with any party
Our hope is for peace to come back to the area
We say to everybody carrying arms: “We beg you in Allah’s name to put down your arms if you care for us because the arms only brought destruction, we lost home and mother
If you side with the children, we are the children, let peace join us.”
As a fellow African, and as an African father who lost a son yourself and who suffered injustice, you cannot possibly forget. How stupid of us to ask! You were an eye witness and listener when the above quotes were said in Darfur in June 2009.
Has anything changed Mr. President? Not really. Darfurians are still looking for peace, but now even inside the camps. The miserable heaven they had as IDPs in camps has turned into hell. The 30 Guiding Principles that our friend Dr. Francis Deng has developed for the IDPs have lost their way to Darfur. The Political Process, where the political solution lies, is in limbo and is a melodrama. Justice is still shy and invisible. Justice that you have addressed very well in your report. Your 148 pages of the well researched, well documented and well developed report are still there as you presented them to the “stakeholders” in October 2009. Added to it are numerous missions of “Shuttle Diplomacy” and trial and error initiatives of many amateurs using Darfur as their guinea pig. But that is the fate of Darfur’s Peoples. Shuttle Diplomacy has become the tool for resolving their conflict and alleviating their misery. Every Tom Dick and Harry visits Darfur to “see for himself/herself” and then slips away into his/her own world of comfort. Added as well, Mr. President, are heaps and heaps of talks and words and reports and resolutions that are said in words of water at 100 degrees centigrade and reports that are written without permanent ink.
The PSC of the AU approved your Panel in July 2008. The Assembly of the AU ratified your Panel in Feb 2009, 7 months later while Darfur was waiting. You did an exemplary job in 8 months; while Darfur was waiting with some hope from your intervention. Between Oct 2009 and now it is one full year. That is a total of over 2 years or over 750 days; and Darfur is still waiting. You know how patient we Africans are! Even when we are dying, hungry, our women are raped and our future generations are lost to the war and our rulers put us “under their shoes”.
Of great interest to us Y.E. are the following sections of your Panel’s Report:
We felt that the Report of the African Union High‐Level Panel on Darfur (AUPD) has benefited immensely from your rich experience in dealing with conflict in Burundi, DRC, Ivory Coast and (in spite of the controversy) Zimbabwe. Being a freedom fighter from the age of 14 has also enabled you (at 68) to understand the aspirations of peoples and nations for justice and dignity.
We will be limiting our open letter to you on Darfur issues as South Sudan/rest of Sudan are another big issue and the internal and external stakeholders have very complex issues to deal with but their peoples are protected by armies and governance structures that Darfur Civilians do not seem to have.
1- Nature and dimensions of conflict: What happened to that in the past year? Has it increased, exacerbated? By who and what? What manifestations did the change have on the population of Darfur? Did anyone try (successfully or failed) to address the matrix of conflict areas that you researched?
2- Efforts to promote stability and settlement: The numbers of UNAMID are at over 90% of designed forces now. One Nigerian replaces one Nigerian. Any other change there? Death is still rampant in Darfur. Between tribes and between political belligerents. “Settlement” changes from camp to camp. The “level of effort” of UNAMID at one soldier for each 25 KM of Darfur added to their miserable inefficiency is not impacting on stabilization in Darfur.
3- The Search for Justice and Reconciliation: This is where you were innovative. You generated options. You suggested hybrid justice within an African template. But Africans are used to “reparative justice” or “restorative justice” and not “punitive justice”. We use cows, camels, goats and money to compensate for the loss of life. The Acholi of Uganda/Sudan are asking to use Tribal Modalities of Justice on Joseph Koni. The New GOS “Darfur, Towards a New Strategy for Achieving Comprehensive Peace, Security and Development” is now asking for the “domestication” of the resolution of conflict and for using a bundle of “hybrid” Sudanese Sharia Laws and Tribal Modalities of reparations that have not worked since 1971. We wonder: What happened to your proposal on Justice? We see no hybrid courts. We see no acceptance of GOS of your proposal on justice and hence the ICC lingers on.
4- The need for reconciliation: can we talk about that or is that Post Conflict Reconstruction (PCR)? Your own South Africa Mr. President did not (and could not have) addressed that before the conflict was resolved. Hence that remains a “need” and we cannot ask you about it. Max Neef identified 9 Human Identity Needs. Which of those are satisfied for Darfurians? But we would ask: What did you have in mind? Justice and Reconciliation? And what kind of “Justice”? Forgiveness and Reconciliation? Repentance and Reconciliation? Africans normally attribute all that happens to them to “God”. That bewildered the late John Paul II if you read his “Crossing the Threshold of Hope”.
5- Out of 5-bullets recommendations on “Seeking Peace” bullet (d) Quote” The search for peace should deal with the external dimensions of the conflict, and normalising relations between Sudan and its neighbours, particularly Chad, as well as the relations between Sudan and the international community as a whole, should be a high priority” unquote; CHAD was singled out and addressed. Within the context of your recommendations? No Sir. As a standalone activity undertaken by GOS/NCP to undermine JEM by neutralizing Chad. Hence “tactical” and not “strategic” as suggested in your recommendations. ALL your other recommendations are on hold.
6- Approaching the negotiations enjoyed 4 bullets in your report. We had reservations on all of them when we studied the report last year. This is one section of your recommendations that could have been better; but then you might have chosen what you saw “doable”. Those recom- mendations carried the catalyst for GOS to interpret them to their advantage and they did. Just visit their New Strategy to see how well they have inserted your recommendations in the strategy. Are you happy with that? Is that how you meant them? Look at Doha to see how your sequence of bullets was used but abused. Good faith was not there. “Process” was not there. Neutral and Competent Mediation were not there. An international committed and concerned forum as think tank was not there. Capacity of the Movements developed was not there. Track I as independent from Track II was not there. The result? Gross failure. Have you ever heard of a “Global Political Agreement” MADE by Mediation and imposed, and not negotiated by the parties? Is that what you meant by GPA? The term itself can be very misleading. Combatants never sign on someone else’s document; and the Peoples of Darfur are still waiting, but now dying because they participated in Doha! You see Mr. President what happens when you “recommend” but cannot “implement”?
7- Adopting a Justice and Reconciliation Response to Darfur. All your five bullets recommendations are on hold. None has been implemented. On the contrary, the Security Bill that was passed by the Federal Legislative Assembly has further institutionalized impunity. All the actors holding the file during the peak of the atrocities and beyond have been re-elected in April of this year. Except one who is dead! Officers have been promoted.
8- “The Panel observed that the people of Darfur have endured extreme violence and serious violations of human rights, and have seen the fabric of their society torn apart by the conflict. More than two million Darfurians live in conditions stripped of dignity, profoundly despairing that the Government of Sudan cares for them as citizens and human beings, fearful for their personal security, reliant on humanitarian assistance for day-to-day survival and with little hope for the future” Do you remember this quote Mr. President? It comes out of your Panel’s “Vision”. You omitted mentioning that 300,000 have been killed. That figure is not ours; it is the UN’s. Do you see any change? Has this foundational assumption for your vision seen any change? To the better? To the worse? What are you and the AU doing about it? Is the AU about a “Club of States and Presidents” or about African Peoples? Is the PSC set up for the “Peace and Security” of Presidents or of Peoples? Like Darfurians? Like women and children in the DRC? If the “fundamental assumption” of your vision seems to be invalid one year on, how can your “vision” prevail?
9- We will not talk about Land, Rule of Law, proliferation of small arms, the humanitarian envelope and other issues so that we do not overwhelm you.
Why there is no change to the better in one year and why is your report not implemented? It is not the time for words or justification Mr. President. It is the time for addressing “Measureable Indicators” and “Positive Change”. Why ALL the actors who failed their mandates are still there (Including Gambari and Bassole) and there is no change in Darfur? The only people who seem to “disappear” are Darfurians when killed. Over 1200 of them this year to now.
Can you possibly “take stock” of progress in the implementation of your recommendations, or lack of it? Can you address the “power to enforce” in your mandate if there is any? Even in the AU? We ask you to take stock NOT to the UN or the AU where life seems to go on and where the “Status Quo” is an option, but to clear your conscience and so that you can face the peoples of Darfur and stare them in the face and say “I have accomplished this for you”. If there is nothing to write home about; why? Who failed the Peoples of Darfur and blocked the implementation of your report? Or has the dust not settled yet from the conflicting “pressure zones” dealing with the file?
Some thoughts and recommendations:
1- Do you see that the herd of external actors and complex but shallow structures dealing with Darfur are part of the recipe for failure? Do we need some streamlining? Do we need a paradigm shift in strategy and approach? Some form of ONE structure with interlinked activities? Can your report be of any use if Mediation and Negotiation are not working? Is that a priority now and UN/AU need to retake stock?
2- Time and timing are of the essence Mr. President. While we see the need for change for effectiveness of “Processes” the “how” and the “when” can make or break that change.
3- The mandate must have more teeth and hence you may need to start with the AU before coming public and revisiting the report’s implemen- tation. You need “levers” for “leverage”. It is important that both the AU and Khartoum know that at one point you can “Bang the table”.
4- Do you have solid and adequate institutional capacity in a professional team to address issues of implementation of the report’s recom- mendations or do you need to build that capacity? Do you have a team of competent advisors on the main fibre of the files of Darfur? Are they acceptable to all the stakeholders?
5- Are the engaged countries within the Region aware of your efforts? Supporting them? Willing to listen to you and constructively consult with you?
6- Do you have credible entry points to GOS? To the Noteworthy Armed Movements?
7- How do you see the New Strategy of GOS/NCP towards Darfur? On August 26th 2010 you went on record in a press conference and supported the new GOS Strategy. Do you feel that GOS are genuine in their endeavours? Are they only using or abusing the Panel’s recom- mendations? May be a careful halt to your statement would have been more prudent after you see how the Strategy would be implemented on the ground? See the devil in the details? They mentioned your Panel’s recommendations, but within their own tailored agenda. Can you possibly have dialogue with them? Do the Panel’s recommendations really fit into the new Strategy? Can that question be answered now whence the Strategy is still a “set of words” and not a reality on the ground? Do you need to tread waters carefully where they quoted your Panel’s report? When the Panel developed the report, did the Panel see GOS as the “Implementers” or you had in mind a different modality for implemen- tation? What strategies and mechanisms do you need to steer events your Panel’s way?
8- How do the Troika and other Engaged Western countries feel about the recommendations? How far are they willing to go to support them/you? In solid terms and not lip-service? What about your own country South Africa? One sees very little visible support for your efforts. What is the level of your support in the UN and AU and how can that be enhanced?
9- How do you deal with Media that is generally bent on sensational- ization of whatever they get to know regardless of the collateral damage it may cause?
10- How can you balance Track II of Darfur Consultations Convention and Darfur-Darfur Dialogue and Consultations of the Panel’s report with GOS Strategy’s Darfur Consultation Forum as outlined in Section “Reorienting the Peace Process”? Do these half-hearted initiatives add up to the inclusive and participatory negotiations you had in mind for the Darfur political process? Work in and with Darfur Society is far more complex and problematic than working with Movements. Your drawing board needs to be a mile long.
What if Bassolé decides to swallow his pride and make an exit or his term is over with limited or no success? Are we going to reinvent the wheel and start from zero or do we need to develop options now?
Hope this is useful and
And Happy First Anniversary of the Report