Posts tagged ‘French Colonialism’

03/24/2012

Mali Struggle Against the Tuareg

As the nomadic Tuareg of northwest Africa initiated another rebellion, the Mali military started to respond, but soon turned on their own president, and removed him in a coup, claiming he was failing to give them the materiel they needed to succeed.

The important question arising from all this is not about the deposed president, or the military officers who conducted the coup, but rather the Tuareg. Just who are they, and what do they want?

The Tuareg of northern Mali have resisted authority on and off for nearly 100 years. In the colonial era, when France ruled Mali from Dakar, the French quashed an anti-colonial Tuareg uprising in 1916.

As the winds of change swept French colonial rule from Africa, Mali gained independence in 1960, and soon the new nation confronted what became known as the First Tuareg Rebellion (1962-64). As Tuareg, Berber, and Arab peoples in the Saharan region in the north demanded a separate state, Mali’s first president, Modibo Keita (1960-68), defeated them in a two-year struggle.

Following a 1968 junta, Keita was removed, and replaced by Lt. Moussa Traore, a dictator who kept the Tuareg under control for the next 22 years, until a Second Tuareg Rebellion (1990-95) erupted, triggering a second coup in 1991, that took out Traore.

Upon returning to free and fair elections in 1992, the people chose President Alpha Konare (1992-02), who ended the Second Tuareg uprising in 1995, and gained re-election in 1997 for another five-year term.

The 2002 elections were interesting, because Amadou Toumani Toure was selected, even though he had led the 1990 Tuareg Rebellion. After his re-election in 2007, he proved himself as an able leader of all of Mali, as his forces successfully subdued a Third Tuareg Rebellion (2007-09).

This year, however, as a Fourth Tuareg Rebellion (2012-) arose, the military lacked confidence in Toure, and took him out on the allegation he had denied them the supplies they needed to win.

In the short run, Toure should not be reinstated, even though he was removed by a coup, because he already served two terms over a 10-year period, and term limits should be applied in every democracy. Open elections for a successor should be conducted promptly.

In the long-run, the recurrent problem as to the Tuareg cannot be ignored, and their demand for a separate state must be resolved. Legally, they do not have a right to self-determination, as they would have had under external colonial rule. Their situation is like the attempted secession of South Carolina in 1861, when the U.S. government had every right to preserve the union. Since complete independence may not be granted, perhaps some kind of virtual self-rule may be the answer, through the creation of an autonomous government in the northwest. After roughly 100 years of resistance, it is certainly time to try something new.

05/05/2011

Thailand’s Claim to Ancient Cambodia

Fighting broke out again last month along the frontier between Thailand (Siam) and Cambodia, over which country has the right to control certain ancient sites along their mutual border

The ancient areas were historically within the Kingdom of Siam. When Colonial France arrived, they took Cambodia (1863), and made it part of French-Indochina. As the French moved further inland, they pressured Siam to give up what is now western Cambodia, under the Franco-Thai Treaty (1904). A Boundary Commission set the border between Siam and Indochina (1904-07), and a Frenchman prepared a map that put the ancient sites in Cambodia, which they agreed to under a treaty protocol (1907). Cambodia thereafter owned the temples, pyramids and stone figures at Angkor Wat, the Preah Vihear Temple, and other sites.

When France surrendered in WWII (1940), Siam (now Thailand) invaded Cambodia in the Franco-Thai War (1940-41), and seized the ancient lands, but they had to give them back five years later, as France threatened to veto Thailand’s UN membership (1946).

After France surrendered in Vietnam (1954), they withdrew from Indochina, and Cambodia became independent. Thailand filled the void by sending troops to seize the ancient sites (1954), causing Cambodia to sue in the International Court of Justice (1959).

In Cambodia v Thailand (1962), the issue was whether the Preah Vihear Temple was inside of Thailand or Cambodia. Even though the French border map contained mistakes, and the Preah Vihear Temple should have been located on the Thai side of the border, the court found Thailand accepted the old map 50 years earlier, and ruled they were now barred from arguing otherwise.

International law has ruled upon the border, and even though Siam had the famous temples before the colonial French arrived, the world has lived by an international rule-of-law since WWII, and Thailand must now make every effort to keep the peace with Cambodia, by staying on their own side of the fence.

04/06/2011

China Will Not Apply Western Law

The news reported yet another crackdown against dissidents and rights advocates in China. While we may and should criticize human rights abuses, we also need to understand why the Chinese distrust of the western approach to law.

China never set out to colonize the world. They instead built a Great Wall to keep people out. From the arrival of the colonial Portuguese (1517) through the 20th Century, western European powers imposed their will on China. At the point of a gun, Britain seized Hong Kong (1842), and later the Kowloon Peninsula. They forced China to surrender their seaports to nine western states, under unfair treaties (1860). China was required, for example, to give Britain a lease to Hong Kong, rent free, for 99 years (1898). The west ultimately controlled 60 Chinese ports.

The unfair treaties led to anti-Western sentiments and the Boxer Rebellion (1898-00). Troops from England, France, Germany, Italy, Austria, Russia and the U.S. were sent to suppress it. Following WWII, Mao Tse Tung’s troops won the Chinese Civil War (1949) and ushered in a People’s Republic, which ousted the Europeans from the mainland, for the first time in 432 years.

As the American War in Vietnam (1965-73) escalated, Mao feared the infiltrating power of the U.S. and started a Cultural Revolution to purge China of all western influence (1966-68). A Red Guard of 22 million teens moved all persons educated in the West to the rice fields. They carried Mao’s little Red Book and quoted his works, as they closed schools and universities, to restructure the curriculums. They attacked those who resisted, such as journalists and intellectuals. Some were forced to wear dunce caps, and were given manual work to get their minds right.

When Mao died, his anti-western policies were reversed (1976) and the Gang of Four (including Mao’s wife) were put on trial for Cultural Revolution excesses (1978). President Carter established diplomatic ties, ending decades of strained relations (1979). China reopened their law schools and resumed trade with the west, as they moved from a controlled to a market economy (1979). The law schools started graduating attorneys again in 1983, following a 17-year hiatus. President Reagan traveled to China and signed trade deals, which allowed U.S. businesses to conduct trade (1984).

I personally witnessed the Chinese legal system that year. I toured a prison in Beijing in 1984, which housed 1,900 prisoners, of whom 50 were counter-revolutionaries. As I walked through the facility, the inmates were making bicycles. They could not look at me. Their inability to even glance away, for just a split second, was chilling. I had been in U.S. jailhouses, as a lawyer, but the strict atmosphere in this prison, made a lasting impression.

I also visited the People’s Court in Shanghai, where I noticed no trials in progress, even though the city had millions of residents. I asked how many lawyers there were in Shanghai and was told there were only 850. Individual rights were at great risk in China, given the shortage of lawyers, caused by the Cultural Revolution.

While China subsequently increased their number of attorneys, they still give the state more respect than the individual. When students rallied for democracy in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square and demanded a free press in 1989, the army fired upon them.

While China today is now willing to conduct trade with the west, they still distrust the Anglo-American western legal system, which was so unfair to them for hundreds of years during the colonial era. This is why it is difficult to convince China to accept our approach to law. The Chinese politely reject westerners who lecture them regarding law, particularly when the preachers are from one of the countries that historically abused their rights.