Posts tagged ‘North Africa’

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.

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10/20/2011

Libya Liberated: Obama Gets A Grade

(Editor’s Note: I wrote this story when Tripoli was taken 8-24-11, and reprinted it today, upon the capture and execution of Col. Gaddafi)

After seven months of fighting, the 42-year regime of Col. Gaddafi has been overthrown, and the Libyan people are now free to establish a democratic form of government. While the rebels obviously deserve the lion’s share of the credit, as they risked their lives, others are also entitled to recognition, including the UN, NATO, France, Britain, the U.S. and President Obama, as the fall of Qaddafi would not have happened without their support.

President Obama, for his part, earned excellent grades throughout, as he made correct decisions at every critical stage of the uprising.

When the rebellion started in March, 2011, Obama correctly recognized the rebels as the authentic voice of the Libyan people, and viewed Gaddafi as lacking legitimacy, as he took office in 1969 via a military junta, and not through a free and fair election.

Obama’s next decision was to intervene in an internal uprising. Since Libya had not invaded another country, Obama could have said it would be wrong under international law to meddle in their internal affairs, but he did not. For humanitarian reasons, he got involved. If he had done nothing, Gaddafi certainly would have annihilated the rebels.

Obama correctly ruled out U.S. ground forces. Although weapons would have to be used to remove Gaddafi, for a variety of reasons, the President correctly realized the rebels themselves would have to wage the fight. U.S. troops would have only allowed Gaddafi to rally Libyan people against the great infidel.

Obama also refused to act like a crazy Texas cowboy and go it alone. As an early policy decision, Obama set up a coalition of willing NATO partners, before taking any military action.

Obama’s imposition of a No-Fly Zone with our European allies was a smart move, as it saved the rebellious populations in the east from air attacks by Gaddafi and his henchmen. Taking control of the sky was an essential early step towards victory.

Obama’s next policy move was to secure legal authorization from the UN Security Council. A UN Resolution gave NATO the right to use military force to protect the civilian people and authorized the bombings that followed. If the U.S. had not taken the lead in this regard, Europeans would not have followed, or acted at all.

The subsequent decision to covertly arm the rebels with rifles, trucks and other weapons, even though there was an uncertainly as to what they stood for, was also a correct move, as it allowed them to advance from Benghazi in the east, to Tripoli in the west.

Although Obama did not request or obtain a formal Declaration of War from Congress, and arguably violated the War Powers Act by using American air power for over 60 days, (since the U.S. had not been attacked), the Republican-controlled House did not object, or defund the operation, and tacitly approved of it.

No American lives were lost in the operation to remove the regime of Col. Gaddafi, and Obama deserves credit for standing with the rebels, intervening against a 42-year dictator, wisely holding back on the use of U.S. ground troops, refusing to go it alone, using NATO, obtaining UN authorizations, pushing the Europeans to stand up and fight, imposing a No-Fly Zone, and covertly aiding the rebels with arms and technical assistance.

Hopefully, the Libyans will now take it from there, and will create a political system that limits their leaders to relatively short terms in office. Obama did his part. The rest is up to the Libyans.

08/26/2011

North Africa/Mideast: More Rulers To Go

Now that Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, have thrown out their dictators, who is next? The answer is: any leader who has been in office for more than 10 years should be packing his bags, and the most senior among them should be getting on the bus first.

YEMEN: Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has ruled Yemen for 31 years, should get on board. He solidified control in 1978 by executing 30 military officers, who he believed conspired against him. He was “elected” in 1983, and every five years afterward, with such large margins, they were suspect. After the 1999 election, he extended his term from five to seven years. In 2005, he promised not run again in 2006, but did anyway, and claimed 77% of the vote. During the Arab Spring, he said he wouldn’t seek re-election in 2013, offered to resign, but then did not. After suffering wounds in a bomb blast in June 2011, he returned. Get on the bus Saleh!

SYRIA: Even though Bashar Assad has ruled Syria for only 11 years, his father controlled the country for 29 years, from 1971 through 2000, and the Assad family has had a grip over the Syrian people for 40 years. Although Bashar was “elected” in 2000 and 2007, no opposition was allowed, and his rule lacks legitimacy. The bus driver has a reserved seat with Bashar’s name on it.

SUDAN: Omar al-Bashir seized control of Sudan in a military coup in 1989. After disbanding his revolutionary council, he made himself president in 1993. He received only 75% of the vote in 1996, even though he was the only candidate on the ballot. In 2000, he won 86%, another suspicious tally. Bashir has been known to imprison political opponents. After 22 years without change, it’s time for Omar to take his bags to the bus station.

CHAD: While in Chad’s military in 1990, Idriss Deby toppled the government and made himself president in 1991. He claimed 69% of the vote in 1996, and 63% in 2001, but the electoral process was criticized by international observers. Worse yet, Deby removed a constitutional two-term limit in 2005, which allowed him to be re-elected in 2006. He took 64% of the vote in a boycotted contest. After 21 years, Deby should get on board.

While other long-term leaders in other parts of the world must also go, there is a momentum in North Africa and the Mideast that  should continue. Let’s do what we can to remove these dictators.

05/27/2011

Constitutional Power To Declare War

Is President Obama breaking the law by engaging in a military conflict in Libya, without first having a formal Declaration of War from Congress? Although the U.S., as a member of NATO, has been using military force in Libya since March 20, 2011, the Congress has not voted to approve or disapprove of the campaign.

The U.S. Constitution clearly gives Congress the power to declare war (Art. I Sec. 8). The President has only the power to act as Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces (Art II, Sec. 2).

Congress last passed a formal Declaration of War in WWII, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor (1941). During the Vietnam War, the issue was hotly debated, because, young men were dying in a far away land, but Congress had not declared war. They instead passed a Gulf of Tonkin Resolution on Aug. 6, 1964, which gave President Johnson authority to use all necessary force.

When President Nixon expanded the war into Cambodia and Senators learned he had conducted a secret bombing campaign, the Congress passed the War Powers Act (1973), to stop the Executive Branch from engaging in unauthorized conflict. Under the law, the President is allowed to engage in military conflict without Congressional authority, only where there is an attack against the U.S., and only for a limited period of 60 days.

With respect to Libya, there was no attack on the U.S. and since the 60 days expired on May 20th, the Commander-in-Chief is violating the War Powers Act and Art I Sec. 8 of the Constitution.

The remedy lies in the Republican-controlled House. They clearly have the power to pass a law saying the President shall not engage in military action in Libya. If the President vetoed it, they could override, with a 66% vote. Since the House also controls all revenue bills (Art I, Sec. 7), and no money can be taken from the Treasury, except by appropriation made by law (Art I, Sec 9), the Congress clearly has the authority to defund the Libyan conflict.

As the North African war continues, and we move closer to the 2012 election, it should be remembered House Republicans tacitly approved of the Libyan fight. If the war goes bad and Republicans complain, they should be asked why they did not end it.

05/09/2011

Morocco: Sultans, Sahara & Insurgents

The news reported a bomb blast at a café in Marrakech, Morocco that killed 14, and wounded 23. Although the perpetrators are not known, the bombing could be in protest of the monarchy, linked to the Western Sahara, or part of the Insurgency in the Maghreb.

A monarchy has ruled Morocco since independence (1956). Sultan Mohammed V held the throne (1957), followed by his son, King Hassan (1961). After he survived two assassination attempts (1971-72), his son, Mohammed VI, took over (1999-now).

During the recent Arab Spring (2011), Mohammed VI pledged reform, but refused to step down, or install a republic. Whether or not the recent bombing was specifically directed at the king, he should now abdicate in favor of a republican form of government.

The recent bombing could also be related to Western Sahara, a territory south of Morocco, previously governed by colonial Spain. After the UN called upon Spain to allow a vote on self-determination (1966), the Spanish instead set the area free (1975). After both Morocco and Mauritania seized Western Sahara, Mauritania gave it up, and Morocco gained sole control (1979).

The International Court of Justice gave an advisory opinion as to Western Sahara (1975), saying the people there favored independence, and though there was a historic legal tie to Morocco, they had an overriding right to self-determination.

Guerillas in Western Sahara, formed a Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), which has since been recognized by 81 UN states, and the African Union. SADR fought Morocco, in the Western Sahara War (1975-91), until a ceasefire was monitored by a UN Mission for a Referendum in Western Sahara (1991).

Although the vote as to whether Western Sahara would become independent, or be integrated with Morocco, was set for 1992, Morocco never permitted it. Morocco should now finally allow a vote and eliminate this possible cause for domestic violence.

The third source of the recent bombing could be the Islamist Insurgency in the Maghreb (northwest Africa), which started in 2002. It includes a Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group. Since the insurgency started, there were a series of suicide bombings in Casablanca (2003), a second set of Casablanca bombings (2007), and now a deadly bombing in Marrakech (2011).

Morocco needs to work on all three issues. First, it should deal with the things it can control, and then tackle the more difficult issues. Morocco should: 1) eliminate the monarchy and replace it with a republic; 2) solve the lingering issues regarding Western Sahara, by allowing a self-determination vote; and 3) deal with Islamic groups who have been barred from the political process.

04/21/2011

Nigeria: On The Muslim-Christian Divide

Nigeria held a presidential election in which incumbent Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian from the South, sought to continue in office as the replacement for the previous president, who was a Muslim from the North. The issue now is whether the Africans along the Christian-Muslim divide in Nigeria can live in peace?

Africa is divided along the Sahara, between Arabs Muslims and Christian Blacks. Along the north and west side of the divide, 13 nations have large percentages of Muslims: Morocco (99%), Algeria (99%), Tunisia (98%), Libya (97%), Egypt (90%), Somalia (99%), Djibouti (94%), Mauritania (99%), Mali (90%), Niger (80%), Senegal (94%), Gambia (90%) and Guinea (85%).

West Africa also has 3 states where the Muslim percentage is only about half, but they greatly outnumber the Christians: Sierra Leone (60%), Burkina Faso (50%) and Guinea-Bissau (40%).

On the south and east side of the divide, 20 states have few Muslims: South Africa, Lesotho, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Angola, Rwanda, Congo-Brazzaville, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Sao Tome, Zambia (5%), Kenya (10%), Swaziland (10%), Burundi (10%), Congo-Kinshasa (10%), Uganda (12%), Malawi (13%), Central African Rep. (15%) and Mozambique (18%).

There are also 2 West African states where Christians greatly outnumber Muslims: Cape Verde and Ghana.

This leaves 11 African Muslim-Christian battleground states, along the sub-Saharan front line, listed below, from west to east:

Country               Muslim            Christian
Liberia                     20%                     40%
Ivory Coast            39%                     33%
Togo                         20%                     29%
Benin                        24%                     43%
Nigeria                     50%                    40%
Cameroon              20%                     35%
Chad                         53%                     34%
Sudan                   Muslim (N)      Christ (S)
Eritrea                      50%                   50%
Ethiopia                   33%                   61%
Tanzania                  35%                   30%

Many battleground states have already had conflicts. Ivory Coast had a 5-year civil war, between Southern Christians and Northern Muslims. Chad had two civil wars of 14 and 10 years, between Northern Muslims and Southern Christians. Eritrea historically was a battleground between the two faiths, and Ethiopia recently had a Holy War against Islamic forces from neighboring Somalia.

Sudan was perhaps the biggest battleground of all, where the Arab Muslims in the North, fought the black Southern Christians for 16 years, and then tried to force them to use the Arabic language and Islamic religion. After another 18 years of war, the Muslims expelled Christian missionaries and imposed Islamic Sharia law, as part of an Arabization policy. Sudan’s ultimate solution was for the Christian South to secede and become an independent state.

What about Nigeria? Will it become a battleground like Sudan, or remain united? It is the largest state in Africa, with 149 million people, and it is evenly split, as to religion and tribal heritage. 50% are Muslims from the northern Hausa Tribe; 40% are Christians from the southern and western Igbo and Yoruba Tribes.

The Nigerian Muslim-Christian conflict has flared on and off for 30 years. Islamic law was imposed in several Northern provinces in 2000, causing Igbo Christians to clash with Hausa Muslims. An Islamic leader from the northeast was assassinated in 2009. Muslims and Christians battled again last year, in the City of Jos.

Unless Nigeria is willing to splinter in two, like North and South Sudan, they will have to allow all Christians and Muslims to enjoy the free exercise of religion, and stop the provinces from establishing official religions. If they wish to remain at peace and united, they will need to respect the viewpoints of all.

03/30/2011

Iraq War Is Not Same As Libyan Revolt

Some have asked why the left protested against George W. Bush when he invaded and occupied Iraq, but they have not criticized President Obama for using air power, as part of an international coalition, to protect the Libyan people. The answer is the situations are entirely different.

In Iraq, the people were not revolting against Saddam Hussein when President George W. Bush invaded. In Libya, the opposite was true. A popular revolt was in progress, as President Barack Obama joined an international coalition to provide air support.

In Iraq, Bush lied to the American people to get the U.S. involved. Obama, on the other hand, did not make any false or fabricated claims to promote the Libyan mission. Bush used fear tactics in a State of the Union address to scare uninformed Americans into believing Iraq had nuclear weapons and that they were going to be used against the U.S. Bush made his comments while his own CIA was telling him: “Iraq does not have a nuclear weapon or sufficient material to make one.”

While the Iraq War had no approval from the UN, the mission in Libya has received Security Council authorization. Bush tried but could not obtain UN approval for his proposed Iraqi invasion. He sent Sec. of State Colin Powell to convince a skeptical UN that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction that were an imminent threat to the U.S. The Bush people warned of a mushroom cloud, but the UN didn’t buy it. Bush invaded Iraq anyway, and violated the UN Charter, which requires states to refrain from the unilateral use of force. Of course, as it turned out, Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction.

In the Iraq War, Bush sent over 100,000 soldiers and Marines to occupy a foreign country. In Libya, Obama made it clear he will not put any boots on the ground. The military occupation of Iraq triggered a bloody guerilla war against U.S. forces. Although most American troops were finally withdrawn, after years of fighting, the U.S. is still paying the price for Bush’s invasion, as there continue to be 50,000 troops on the ground in Iraq.

To sum it up, there was no rebellion in Iraq, but there was one in Libya. Bush lied to get into Iraq, Obama made no false claims. Libya has UN authorization; Bush’s War in Iraq had none. Bush sent ground troops to occupy a foreign country, Obama has not.

03/25/2011

Term-Limit Treaty Is A Global Need

Recently, the world witnessed several uprisings in North Africa and the Mideast. The common denominator in many of them was a leader who had been in power for decades. Ben Ali was driven from Tunisia after 24 years. Hosni Mubarak governed Egypt for 30 years. Rebels in Yemen are fighting Ali Saleh, who has served for 32 years, and Col. Qaddafi in Libya, is trying to hold on after 42years.

While long-term service does necessarily make a leader ineffective, history has had its fill of tyrants. For 45 years in North Korea, Kim prohibited dissent. Gen. Suharto of Indonesia brutally suppressed opponents for 31 years. Joseph Stalin killed millions in the USSR, during his 30 years. Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, who started out on the right track, lost his way after 31 years.

The U.S. should introduce a Term-Limit Treaty in the UN, which could be co-sponsored by Tunisia and Egypt. People should no longer be subjected to the rule of men who refuse to leave office. The treaty should establish a fundamental right to live in a political system that limits a leader to no more than 10 years in office. The International Criminal Court in the Netherlands should make it a crime to remain more than 10 years, or to suspend a constitution that limits terms. Obtaining office through a coup or military junta, and not through normal electoral means, should also become criminal.

Currently a majority of countries have some term-limits. Some limit their leaders to one term of 4, 5, 6 or 7 years. Others allow two 4-year terms, like the U.S. The most common however is a limit of two 5-year terms. Those that currently have no limit would need to adopt one. Those whose limits in excess of 10 years would need to amend their constitutions to conform to the new international standard. While absolute monarchs and some constitutional monarchies like Britain would most likely resist, this is no reason not to get started with the majority of countries who would probably sign on.

03/23/2011

Egypt: Libyan Rebels Need Your Tanks

A recent UN Resolution authorized intervention in Libya to protect the civilian population from Qaddafi. Since Qaddafi is an ongoing threat to those in the civilian population who oppose him, the only way to protect the people is to remove Qaddafi.

While the western states appear to willing to use air power to protect Libyan civilians, this alone will not work. The conflict will not end, until Qaddafi is removed, and that will not occur, until a well-equipped land force closes in on Tripoli.

We must start with the reality that Qaddafi will not step down peacefully. He has nowhere to go. He has the ability to remain, because he has oil money. He can purchase military materiel and keep his troops well paid. They will fight the rebels as long and as hard as they can, as their futures are tied to Qaddafi’s.

Force must be used. While targets have already been destroyed from the air, Qaddafi is one step ahead of the attacks. He has been through this before. U.S. planes bombed his residence in 1986 in a failed attempt to assassinate him. For over 25 years, Qaddafi has been looking over his shoulder. He has had time to think about the next bombing campaign. He will not be taken out by air.

The removal of Qaddafi must come on the ground. But who will use troops? The rebels themselves obviously must take the lead, but they are ill-equipped. Who will provide military hardware?

Qatar offered troops to fight Qaddafi, but this was not out of a desire to support democracy. It was instead because they have a monarchy and Qaddafi came to power in 1969 by overthrowing a king. Qatar’s motives are suspect. Their offer should be rejected.

France has a history of fighting Qaddafi. In Libya’s war against the former French colony of Chad (1980s), they sent in troops and planes. Qaddafi would however accuse France of neo-colonialism and the French should not put their boots on the ground.

Italy, Germany and Britain also have military experience in Libya, dating back to World War II. While U.S. troops advanced eastward from Morocco through Algeria into Tunisia, the English 8th Army won the battle at El Alamein in Egypt in 1942 and drove Irwin Rommel, the Desert Fox, and his German and Italian forces, westward through Libya also into Tunisia.

Italy and Germany will not get involved now. Italy has a colonial history in Libya, and if they used troops, Libyans would unite against them. Germany will also stay out. They abstained from the UN Res. and oppose even air strikes, let alone ground forces. With regards to Britain, they have a colonial history in Egypt and would be unable to mount an offensive from Egyptian soil.

This leads us to Egypt. The Egyptian people should identify with the Libyan rebels, as they just got rid of Hosni Mubarak, who ruled for 30 years. Egypt does not have a monarch. They forced their king to abdicate in 1952. Egypt shares the same Sunni Muslim religion with Libya. They could not be accused of conducting a Crusade. They have 79 million people, as compared to only 6.3 million Libyans, and could assemble a volunteer army large enough to help the rebels.

Egypt has military hardware, including tanks, as they are the largest recipient of U.S. aid (after Israel). The Egyptians should drive their tanks to the Libyan border and allow the Libyan rebels to reflag them, using the traditional Libyan symbol. They should then slowly drive the tanks from east to west, along 1,000 miles of Mediterranean coast, past Benghazi, where they would be greeted with support, and on to the shores of Tripoli, for a showdown with Qaddafi. With the barrel of an Egyptian tank pointed at his front door, my guess is Qaddafi would finally step down.

03/15/2011

Libya: Impose A No Fly Zone

As the news reported on the rebellion in Libya, some have suggested the imposition of a no-fly zone to bring Qaddafi down.

America should support the Libyan rebels in their effort to remove Qaddafi. He has been in power 42 years and has ruled long enough. Qaddafi replaced a king who had no term limit and ironically, Qaddafi has now served longer than most monarchs. He has held power for 10½ U.S. presidential terms. He needs to go.

The problem is it is illegal under international law for one nation to intervene in the affairs of another, unless acting in self-defense, invited by the host country, or under UN approval.

The UN properly used force in the Gulf War (1990), since it was illegal for Iraq to invade Kuwait. It was also lawful to impose a subsequent no-fly zone to keep the peace.

Here, Libya has not invaded another country, and as it stands, it would be illegal for the U.S. to unilaterally take military action.

One solution is to recognize the rebels as the legitimate Libyan government. Qaddafi has no real legitimacy, as he came to power in 1969 in a military junta, and not through a lawful electoral process. Let’s recognize the rebels as the true government of Libya and ask them if they want military help. I am sure they would say yes.