By Belachew Mekuria Fikre, Addis Ababa University Centre for Human Rights

It was very enlightening to read Terrence Lyons’ Article titled ‘Conflict-generated diaspora and transnational politics in Ethiopia.’ This is interesting partly because of the recent events in the country that have raised high levels of optimism and hope. These events, however, have been greeted with multiple feelings by the ‘locals’ and the ‘non-locals’, by those ‘fighting within’ and those ‘firing from afar.’ The scientific research findings suggest, as also alluded to by Terrence, that because of their traumatic past, the conflict-generated diaspora remain unflinching to compromise and usually demand for radical changes. This rigidity tends to protract conflicts, where they exist, or antagonise an already emboldened dictatorial regime. Read the rest of this entry »

By Belachew Mekuria Fikre, Addis Ababa University Centre for Human Rights

The transition to democracy in Libya is on-going. So far, the people have only succeeded to untie themselves from the dictator’s iron fist. Before they start to feel what it means to live in freedom, the ethnic and tribal divides are being drawn as the not so new fault lines for yet another chapter of conflict. What one could reasonably ask, therefore, is would it be a prudent move if a dual identity through the federal set up is at least discussed to be put in place for the new Libya? Read the rest of this entry »

The Western Media

October 29, 2012

By Belachew Mekuria Fikre, Addis Ababa University Centre for Human Rights

The Western media have an established role in their own home politics by tacitly or explicitly backing a particular party or candidate for higher political offices. So they take sides with unfulfilled efforts of pretence to be professional, i.e., they try to be engaged in neutral reporting. But everybody knows which side CNN, or SkyNews or NBS stand. From the inception of a campaign circus till the last night of an election day, and then beginning from the victory speech until the start of the next election they keep on digging holes to find a fact or something closer to it either to the credit or debt of the one they support or oppose without relenting. Read the rest of this entry »

By Belachew Mekuria Fikre, Addis Ababa University Centre for Human Rights

Much credit seems due to the NATO force in Libya’s eight months liberation movement which had lost not even a single life in the eight months fight of ousting the Libyan dictator. No doubt that the strict enforcement of the no-fly zone had significantly augmented the rebels’ strength in digging deep into the strong holds of the Libyan army. Countless Libyans have dearly sacrificed their lives and stood shoulder to shoulder until they scored that decisive victory on 12 Oct, 2011 by killing the 69 year old dictator Muammar Gaddafi. History is being written in the minds and hearts of the living, and future generation, of course by the blood of those who had lost their lives selflessly.

Truth must be told that the victory that the Libyan public is yet to cherish has come through the agency and sacrifices of the same Libyans. The acknowledgement of this fact is of paramount importance both for the past, the present and future fate of the country. The past must benefit from the true records of history so that the martyrs to be remembered for posterity; while the present must be permeated with that sense of victory and ownership so as to remain empowered for what is to happen right now; well the future, that is what all the sacrifices are meant for, to ripe the benefits of lasting peace, democratic governance and the rule of law.

This fact is all the more decisive in providing the required morale for those who are yet to write their own history by ousting their dictators single-handed. It must be acknowledged a united public motivated by the thirst for just social order would be stopped by no earthly force. And what the Libyans did was clearly opposing the ‘right of might by the might of right.’ This belief and achievement, I suspect, would largely be undermined where a higher credit is made to go to the external and aerial force that only operated from above in facilitating the road to Benghazi, Misrata, Sirte, Tripoli, etc. Underscoring the role of MI5 and MI6 agents, or the Canadian or French veterans’ role in whose name a celebration is to be held, celebrating the US secretary of state’s diplomatic calibre and her president’s exceling ability in discharging his role as commander in chief, only reveal the blind-folded rush to regard the victory solely to be that of the coalition force. We listen to the news that primarily discusses how the killing of Gaddafi would boost the polls of the presidential candidates in the upcoming elections in France and the US.

Acknowledging the super powers’ role

It is not my desire to usurp the credits that must duly go to the US that played the initial and defining role towards enforcing the no fly-zone resolution and the NATO force that took over full control of the mission a week after the start of the operation and oversaw it through till the end. That had significantly reduced the risks of civilian massacre that Gaddafi was dangerously disposed to carry out, and solidified the rebels’ determination to get rid of the regime.

They enabled the rebels to corner Gaddafi and put him within a bullet reach to finally watch the august autocrat plead for mercy from the very people whom he had defiantly called rats and infidels. And to his misfortune, those who had him captive emoted more than they reasoned under the circumstances as we saw his last moments on the global media outlets. That possibility would have hardly materialised in time if it were just the liberation forces that were left to face the mighty hands of Gaddafi’s military, mercenaries and those supporters who were highly intoxicated by hate against the liberation forces that Gaddafi managed to saw. Acknowledging that is important in many respects but above all for the symbolism it embodies for others to observe that the international community would not remain as an inactive on-looker in the face of impending genocide. For that no doubt the Libyan people must extend their effusive gratitude and recognition.

A need for recording history

The Egyptians, after the forced resignation of Hosni Mubarak on 11 Feb 2011, instituted a Committee to Document the 25th January Revolution. The task of recording peoples’ power for posterity by the people themselves who have done the history is crucially needed for Libya and Libyans. The capture of Saif al-Islam (the sword of Islam) and Abdullah al-Senussi marks a significant leap forward to the end of the Libyan liberation struggle. Saif’s statement about his wounds on his hand as being inflicted by the NATO air strike a month ago explicates the card he wishes to play by blaming the West. He consistently defies acknowledging the ICC’s jurisdiction and showed now his preference to his home-based justice, or so it appears. The capture of these two prominent figures of the former regime some 19 days after NATO’s engagement officially came to an end discloses the salience of the NTC force and new Libya that started the revolution and also reveals its capability to sustain that victory.

It is now an opportune time to start piecing events together for the purpose of recording history that the Libyans have written, and the sacrifices that have been paid by the death of over 30,000 people. Unlike Egypt and Tunisia, in Libya there had been an external involvement of a new sort that only provided an aerial support to cripple Gaddafi’s military capabilities. That requires due recognition in writing the history of the Libyan revolution. History provides the groundwork that enables the present and future generation to march forward through a rightful path by avoiding the wrongful turns of the past. Accordingly, those recordings must establish a balanced account about the proper owner of the victory and the invaluable contributions made by the outside forces.

By Belachew Mekuria Fikre, Addis Ababa University Centre for Human Rights

The news of Muammar Gaddafi’s death has come as a surprise leaving quite many unanswered questions. The event clearly marks the end of a 42 year old dictatorship in Libya and indeed it could be considered as a national liberation day. Nonetheless, for the 6.7 million people Arab country it evokes issues that remain yet to be further interrogated.

Liberation movement denying justice to the unjust leader?

The eight months old liberation fight has been rationalised by the ideals of freeing the nation from decades of unjust rule by the Cornel and his entourage. Now that his power had been significantly eroded it was only a matter of not ‘whether’ rather ‘when’ he would be caught. After Sirte became increasingly exposed to the NTC’s fighters what most people, if not everyone, expected was the capture of the former Libyan leader and then after as it had been claimed, to bring him to the national judicial system for his trial.

What we have seen live in the pictures, however, turned out to be a very powerful man being dragged on the ground by angry and amateur fighters of the TNC. Could this, therefore, be regarded as denying justice to the dictator who ruled Libya for 42 years unjustly?

It is something to fight for the fall of a dictator but completely another thing to do justice to what the dictator did. Though the circumstances leading to his death are yet to be unveiled, it is certain that he was alive when captured. Thus, the fears for extra-judicial killing loom large unless the TNC comes up with convincing evidence to prove the contrary, which could be that in fact his death happened as a result of cross-fire gun shots, and not by ‘shot-to-kill’ type of measure. Even if it can be proved that he died in cross-fire that too would build a martyr’s reputation for the Cornel who ruled his nation as a soldier since his young age of 27 and also died as one. However, at the minimum that would spare the TNC’s profile from being tarnished by accusations of extra-judicial killing at these defining periods of transition.

We have witnessed in this same year the assassination of Osama bin Laden who was found unarmed in his Abbottabad house with his family and shot to death by the American Commandos. It is therefore interesting to ask if that measure is setting a new precedent in dealing with those individuals that otherwise should have been brought to justice for trial and conviction.

Now that Gaddafi is no more at large, members of his family, particularly the LSE educated son of Gaddafi-Saif Al Islam-could continue to pose a challenge to the TNC. On the other hand, they provide a second chance for the new Libya to exercise and taste the virtues of forgiveness, justice rendition and inter-communal reconciliation. One truth is however we may legitimately hope that Libya will not be any worse in governance without Gaddafi.

By Belachew Mekuria Fikre, Addis Ababa University Centre for Human Rights

The tasks ahead, apart from sealing the protracted success stories by apprehending Gaddafi who symbolises tyranny in Libya and the region, relates to state building, disarmament and inter-communal reconciliatory dialogues. The last days of Gaddafi’s rule amassed the nation with weapons so that supporters could hunt down the ‘rats’ and the ‘infidels’, who are, for the majority of the Libyan public, the liberators. The dictator also had made last minute attempts to instil hatred, animosity and tribal differences among the community.

On the other hand, the liberation force is staffed with voluntary youth soldiers without any prior experience and training on combat. Accordingly, it is all the more challenging to disarm and demobilise this group of fighters by the NTC.

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By Belachew Mekuria Fikre, Addis Ababa University Centre for Human Rights

Book Review; Mervyn Frost, ‘Constituting Human Rights: Global Civil Society and the Society of Democratic States’. London and New York: Routledge, 2002. 161 pp. ISBN: 0-415-27227-0

‘[H]ow are we to think about the clash between our civilian rights and our citizenship rights?’ This is the fundamental ethical question that Mervyn Frost’s book examines in light of a previously articulated ‘constitutive theory.’[i] Professor Frost argues for the centrality of human rights discourse in global politics in which ethical dilemmas of these types are unavoidable. The arguments are constructed based on the two fundamental practices that most of us are participants, as members of the global civil society and as members of democratic and democratising states. Then he takes on an extensive investigation of various ethical conundrums we found ourselves in because of our membership in these ‘apparently’ conflicting practices. The central problem that the book intends to address is the indifference within the practice of international relations to take human rights seriously. Accordingly, through the instrumentalities of constitutive theory, Frost propounds the urgency of bringing human rights back in to reconcile these conundrums.

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