'Just World News' by Helena Cobban
Info, analysis, discussion-- to build a more just world.


April 29, 2003  

HAYAT COLUMN DEADLINE COMING UP: Oh my goodness, it's nearly the end of the month. Which means I need to get my head around doing my next column for Al-Hayat. There is so much going on in the Middle East. But probably people don't need me, from Africa, to tell them about it. My old nemesis Martin Indyk being quoted as saying that given the failure of Iraqis to come out and greet the US forces as liberators (duh!), then "There is nothing for it but the use of classic imperialist policies of divide and rule" -- or something very similar to that. So Martin, like, it worked for the imperialists did it? Kept their empires safe forever? Made them loved by all who knew them? But I don't feel any of my readers in Hayat really need me to point to the silliness of Martin, Ari Fleischer, or the rest of the US neo-imperialists flailing around in the mire of their own retrograde rhetoric. Have to think of something else to write about.

posted by helena at 4/29/2003 10:29:00 AM | link
 

FINDING FRELIMO: Yesterday morning (Monday), Leila and I had a really good discussion with Afiado Zunguza, the Mozambican head of a conflict-resolution capacity-building organization called Justapaz. In the afternoon, we had a good discussion with Raul Domingos, who had been over-all head of the Renamo delegation at the peace talks, having previously been the chief of Renamo's military staff. (Domingos was until recently the head of Renamo's bloc in the parliament;l but a few months ago he was expelled from the party. Now he's planning how to regroup.) So anyway, at that point I was two for two on the Renamo principals from the 1990-92 peace talks whom I wanted to interview for the project-- alongside the many grassroots interviewees. But I was zip for two on the Frelimo negotiators. Salomao assured me-- and I certainly believed him-- that he'd been trying hard to nail down appointments with Armando Guebuza, Aguilar Mazula, and Tobias Dai. But still nothing was happening. Recalling my years of experience of trying to get interviews with elusive people in different parts of the world, I readily endorsed S's suggestion that maybe we should just "go and sit on the doorsteps of their offices" till something happened. So this morning, we drove over to Frelimo party headquarters. It seemed strangely empty. And inscriptions on a whiteboard near the lobby confirmed our worst fears. Guebuza-- who had headed Frelimo's delegation to the talks and is now Secretary-General of Frelimo-- was indeed still on a visit to China. He's expected back May-- the day I'll be leaving here for Johannesburg. Bother. Mazula and Dai have been similarly out-of-town or impossible to find. A very nice woman at the entrance-desk of the Frelimo office building then helpfully suggested we go upstairs and talk instead to Marcelinho Dos Santos, another senior party member who happened to be in at the time. "Sure!" I said. Gotta get somebody to express a Frelimo point of view. So it turned out to be a gold mine, in fact. Sure, getting Guebuza's or Mazula's or Dai's recollections on how the issue of possible amnesty was handled in the peace negotiations could be excellent. But I do have good accounts of that now from Domingos, from Andrea Bartolli, and from some written sources like Cameron Hume's book. (Short version: the issue of possible prosecutions for atrocities was never brought up in the negotiations. It was always regarded as one of the tough issues that shd be left till the end of the talks. And at that point, the sides agreed to a blanket amnesty.) But what we started to get from Dos Santos were some wonderfully rich recollections from a party veteran of just about the entire history of Frelimo and of Mozambique... It was really a privilege to sit with this veteran freedom fighter and hear him talk. Greying hair, glasses, a baggy big striped daishiki, a lovely smile; a book-stuffed small office high up above the city. Dos Santos is a poet and writer. He reminded me of my late Egyptian friend Lotfi Kholi. (I bet they knew each other. Have to ask DS about that tomorrow.) When I started to ask him a bit about the "civil war", he corrected me quickly. "No, it was a war of foreign aggression," he said. Reminded me of some of my hometown neighbors in Virginia and the way they talk about what I would call the US "civil war".... Evidently, Dos Santos belongs to a conservative, old-school wing of the party. But he did make clear, just before he had to break the discussion off, that he thought the 1992 peace acord had been a good one... So when he suggested we could meet again tomorrow, I leaped at the chance to ask him a lot more about how he had come to terms with dealing with opponents whom, presumably, he had considered as somehow inauthenticly Mozambican, but as "agents" of a foreign power instead. Of course, in my interviews with Renamo people, they've made a point of referring ONLY to the "indigenous", authenticaly Mozambican aspects of their movement.... Tomorrow, we'll also be visiting one of the few memorial sites in the country. The project is going really well. I'm racking up the notebook pages. (Okay, mainly Leila's racking them up.) And I keep seeing really important big insights that can feed back into and inform other areas of my work, like my writing on Middle East issues, as well. "Ciao" from Maputo.

posted by helena at 4/29/2003 10:20:00 AM | link


April 27, 2003  

FORMER COMBATANTS WORKING TOGETHER, AND A CHURCH SERVICE: Yesterday, we had a really interesting meeting with General Herminio Morais, the former head of Special Forces for Renamo who led the Renamo military team that helped to finish up the peace negotiations that brought the Mozambican civil war to an end in 1992. Morais had been suggested as a good interview subject by the VAIL project's research associate here, Salomao Mungoi, who sat with us during our Saturday morning meeting and interpreted for Morais whom he described as a good friend. All the more remarkable because Salomao had been an officer in the government (Frelimo) forces during the civil war. The two man sat and talked easily together. Both are in their early forties. Each had spent many years in his youth and younger adulthod in military service-- and each is now making a serious effort to get the education that the travails of the civil war denied them. Salomao recently completed a B.A. in English; and Morais came to our meeting directly after having taken the latest exam in his law course at Edouardo Mondlane University. Morais had so many great stories! About his decision to join Renamo in the first place. About the gradually dawning realization that Renamo could not defeat the government forces on the battlefield, and therefore needed to negotiate the best deal it could. About how his views of the people on the other side became transformed from one of "Communists" to one of "fellow-country-men". I think two of his best stories were the following: Firstly, when he went to join the peace talks, in Rome, in June 1992, his counterpart on the Frelimo side turned out to be General Tobias Dai-- a man he had been good friends with in his youth. But Dai apparently did not know the identity of the man he would be negotiating with, who still operated always under the nom-de-guerre of "Bob"... "So when Dai saw me, he said, 'Herminio, its you!' He couldn't believe that I had been 'Bob' for all those years." The second story concerned the way the war ended in the field. He gave most weight, among the reasons the war ended when it did, to the factors of famine and sheer war-weariness. So in the end, the soldiers in the field saw that the negotiations were nearing completion, and many started either deserting their units or fraternizing, in large numbers, with the soldiers on the opposing front-lines. And that started happening on a broad scale even BEFORE the General Peace Accords were formally announced and signed on October 4, 1992. "It was strange," Morais said, "because before they had been fighting and then suddenly there was a complete change. It was actually quite dangerous for intermediate-level leaders in the military. They were afraid that their commanders would think they had been complicit in the fraternizing, and that maybe they had been Frelimo agents all along... But then, everyone could see it was happening all over the country, so it wasn't just a case of traitorous individual commanders." He also confirmed the commonly held view that it had been far easier for the military participants in the talks to deal with each other successfully than it had been for the political leaders. "The politicians took four years of talking before they reached the agreement. We did all our business in just four months!" he said... I can't tell you how moving it was for me to see these two men, Salomao and Morais, sitting and laughing easily about the old days, given the previous level of hatred between the forces of which they each been a part... Today, Sunday, was another good day. I started off by going to church with Afiado Zunguza, a cheerful and very welcoiming ordained minister who heads a Methodist peace-and-justice organization here called Justapaz. Zunguza was not officiating at the service, which was led instead by two African WOMEN ministers and a large group of women lay leaders. It seems the Methodist church here has some kind of a sepcial "order" of dedicated women lay activists that had been having a three-day conference at this church, culminating today. So about 120-plus members of this organization, all demurely dressed in black skirts, dark red buttoned tunics, and white hats, crowded into the front of the large church building. Some of them were formed into a great choir. Others just sat together in the front pews. Most of the service was conducted in Xitshwa, one of the country's sixeen or more local languages. Throughout the two-hour-20-minute service, Zunguza kept me updated with general explanations of what was going on. I, um, sang along by trying to read the words in the hymnal whenever I could. Pastor Joaquima Nhanala gave an animated, beautfully delivered sermon based on James chapter 3. When she was giving examples of the difference between true wisdom and mere "cleverness", one of the examples she gave was that it might seem "clever: to be able to stir people up one against the other, while true wisdom would be shown by talking and listening calmly to people and trying to find peaceful ways for everyone to get along.... I said a quiet "Amen" to that point! Interestingly-- espeically in view of my experience Friday with the traditional healers-- one of the most animated parts of the service ame at the Offertory. Offerings were organized acording to groups within the congregation-- first the children, then the youth, then the young adults, then the women, then the men-- and finally the visitors. As each group was called, two members of that group would lead its other members joyfully up the center aisle and then stand and hold broad baskets into which the others would place their donations then file back to their seats. There was much singing, some ululating, and a little bit of toyi-toying along the way... After church, I went running along Avenida Friedrich Engels, the broad esplanade perched over the Indian Ocean; and after that Leila and I had a pretty relaxed day. I'm getting ready for another 3.5 days of good work here before we leave for Johannesburg Thursday evening. But I've already started thinking that maybe I should try come back for a decent length of time some time in the not-distant future. I really believe that people in the USA (and probably elsewhere) need to learn a lot more about the incredible cultural and social resources for peacemaking that exist in this country, and I would love to find ways to help that happen.

posted by helena at 4/27/2003 02:15:00 PM | link


April 26, 2003  

MAPUTO AVENIDAS: (I posted this piece last Sunday, April 20, but it never made it into the week's archive, so this is a re-post.) Overcast today, so I was able to go for a nice long walk this morning after the going-to-church plans fell through. I walked over to the lovely broad esplanade that runs along the east (Indian Ocean) side of the old city center, suspended some 80 feet or so up a steep but verdant cliff above the beach-side road below. The esplanade is now called Avenida Friedrich Engels. I imagine it was once called Avenida Salazar or something like that-- back when the city itself was called Lourenco Marques. It was very quiet. I saw several people out walking, but only one jogger: male, black, in bike shorts. I wonder what people would think if tomorrow morning they saw a female, white jogger out there in regular running shorts. Maybe I could jog in long pants? Okay, call me a sentamentalist, but I think it's rather poignant to walk along streets named after the icons of Mozambique's liberation era. There are Avenidas named after Karl Marx and Mao Tse Tung, as well as Engels. So here's Mozambique, a country that is gamely trying to go along with all the World Bank and IMF plans for nassive "structural adjustment" that basically involves dismantling many social programs and the nationalized industries and opening the econ/IMF have NOT yet forced them to rename their streets after Milton Friedman or Friedrich Hayek. Thank goodness! (It may yet come.) And another thing. here in Maputo, as in Dar s-Salaam, I've noticed many main streets named after non-native heroes of the African liberation era. Julius Nyerere, Ahmed Sekou Toure, Albert Luthuli, etc etc. But how come you never seem to see that same relaxed but generous mak of inter-country respect being offered in Arab capital cities? I think the answer has to do with the inter-twined nature of Arab politics, and the still unformed, or at any rate potentially precarious, state of the Arab "state system". That's why, if the mayor of Damascus, say, chose to name a big street after Nasser or Gadhafi or Ibn Saud, this act would immediately be seen as having suspect political motives.... Better to stick to long-gone heroes of the Arab past! I think it's rather nice that so many African countries' elites feel able to celebrate each other's national heroes and (by inference) each other's liberation narratives. And talking about celebrating other people's narratives, when do you think we'll get a Nelson Mandela Street or an Olaf palme Street or whatever in Washington DC. The only streets I recall there named after furrners are Raoul Wallenberg Place (a small street that was was thus renamed mainly to annoy the Soviets whose embassy is right there), and of course L'Enfant Plaza. Neither of those really celebrates another country's national narrative... All we seem to be getting in DC and the rest of the USA these days, in the renaming of public spaces department, is endless Ronald reagan this's and thats. posted

posted by helena at 4/26/2003 03:05:00 PM | link
 

RELIGION AND ATROCITY: I know full well that many terrible actions have been undertaken in the past in the name of "religion", and that this tendency continues to this day. But still, as I have been pursuing my research project on how societies deal with legacies of violence, I have become increasingly aware that in the aftermath of universe-shattering atrocities, religion can in some cases play some really helpful roles. (I am writing these thoughts from Mozambqiue. More on that, below.) Religion can comfort the afflicted. It can help survivors to once again discern some worthwhile structure in the universe. It can provide help in healing wounded spirits, and some lessons on how to avoid iterations of violence and atrocity. It CAN do all these things-- which is not to say that it always does them... Last year, I noticed some religions doing these things in Rwanda-- a country that along with neighbors Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo cries out for help in a cruel, atrocity-laden world. Yes, I know that in 1994 some church leaders were deeply imlicated in the commission of the genocide. But it seemed to me that over the years since 1994, other church leaders-- especially in the evangelistic protestant churches-- were doing an incredible job of helping to heal the deep rifts inside Rwandan society. I worshiped with one of the numerous vibrant local Quaker communities. Their enthusiastically evangelical worship service-- like their social projects around the country-- united Hutus and Tutsis, survivors of the genocide along with family members of suspected perpetrators. I saw the same kind of unifying role being played by Moucecore, the evangelical Anglican mission were I stayed in Kigali. Here in Mozambique, I was at first mainly concerned with looking at the unique role some local church leaders played in facilitating the peace negotiations that in 1992 finally succeeded in bringing an end to-- by then-- some 16 years of internecine civil war. (I was sitting talking with a group of former civil war combatants in a small town here yesterday. And I mentioned-- based on my own personal experience in Lebanon as well as my study of other cases, that so-called "civil wars"-- i.e., those inside countries-- are actually often much nastier and more atrocious than big, formal, inter-state wars. My interlocutors there all nodded and smiled wryly in recognition of this sad truth.) But I have always also been really interested in the role that many religions-- indigenous religions, as well as formal Christian and Muslim denominations and syncretic religions that combine elements from more than one of these roots--played both during and after the war in helping those scarred by war to rebuild their universes and their selves. On Wednesday, we were talking to the leader of a nationwide group of disabled ex-combatants. He pegged into our meeting on his critches, one trouser-leg hanging empty as he walked. He talked very movingly about how, once the fact of his disablement came home to him-- he had been wounded by one of the millions of landmines planted throughout the country-- he had lost nearly all sense of his own worth. "The worst thing was seeing my family look at me and feel sad about me," he said. "That made me feel so guilty. I couldn't decide whether to leave the family and go someplace else, or just kill myself... But in the end, it was through going to church that I learned to deal with my disablement. It was the church that gave me a feeling of community, and the church that helped me see I must find a way to live the way I am now." Today, Salomao, Leila, and I had two really productive, wonderful meetings with religious leaders. The first was with (Anglican) Bishop Dinis Sengulane, who along with Cardinal Alexander Dos Santos (whom we saw Tuesday) and two other local church leaders had helped persuade President Chissano, back in 1988, that the Mozambique government needed to enter into direct talks with the leaders of the Renamo opposition if it wanted to find a way to end the war. He shared incredible numbers of deep insights with us-- all crammed into a 40-minute meeting. He summed up the principles that had enabled the church leaders' work of persuasion to to succeed; and described the campaign the churches waged in the community to help prepare Mozambicans for peace even while their leaders were still negotiating. Sengulane has written a short book about these experiences called "Victory without losers"-- in Portuguese only, I'm afraid. But we'll get hold of a copy. I think I'm pretty good at deciphering written Portuguese-- so who knows, maybe reading his book will bring me instant comprehension??? And after that, we drove to the headquarters of the Association of Mozambican Traditional Healers. This was my second visit there. Back in late August 2001, I made a whirlwind visit to them with my friend Breyette Lorntz (who speaks a little Portuguese) and Francisco Assis, an activist with the local Methodist peace organization, Justapaz. The first time, the meeting had been rushed, ragged, and very inconclusive. One problem was that Francisco Assis did not have a language in common with the Association spokesperson with whom we were meeting, so all items of dialogue had to go through two entire channels of interpretation between me and the spokesman. (Try discussing things like post-violence trauma in such a way: inclarity piled upon inclarity.) This time, at least Salomao was able to speak to the dozen or so traditional healers who took part in the meeting in a mutually understandable local language. Plus, he was already fairly familiar with the project, since he's been working with it for a little while already. So communication seemed much better. Until we came to the point that had embarrassed and confused me during the last meeting-- the one where the healers flat-out ask for a contribution. Maybe Salomao and I should have talked about this possibility before. But anyway, I kind of really understood the healers' point of view when the request came. I mean, here they are, people of incredible wisdom and knowledge. But neither they nor their wisdom gets much respect in the modern world. Plus hey, people are asking for money for their services ALL THE TIME in the world I come from: but they do so in complcated, ritualized ways like making grant proposals and jumping through all the requisite hoops to try to win those grants. (I know whereof I speak. Believe me.) So maybe there's something refreshing about a different tradition in which, as they told me, you should make an offering right at the very beginning in order to pave the way for the good spirits to come to the encounter. "Otherwise," one them told us, "if a person seeking help from a healer doesn't do this, he might even get dizzy and lose his way or not even be able to find his way out of the room!" "What do you think?" I asked Salomao. "Should I make a contribution?" "Maybe. Whatever you think." I dug into my purse for some meticais (the local currency) and handed them to S. He, Leila, the head of the Association and I were all sitting fairly formally behind a table on one side of the cavernous, nearly bare room where we were meeting. (Not much, if anything, had changed in it since I was there nearly two years ago. These guys are certainly operating on very low budgets.) The other side of the table, the ten-plus other healers were facing us on low benches. About half were wearing fairly snappy uniforms of blue pants (or skirt) and white shirt with Association insignia in their epaulettes. The words "Salvation Army" did pop into my mind. The rest of them were wearing "normal" Mozambican dress-- that is, informal Western-style dress for the guys; pretty African-style dresses for the women. One uniformed guy, a loquacious spokesman, held some kind of a carved stick in one hand and a cellphone in the other. Previously, I had dug out a copy of one of my Boston Review articles to give them-- an offering of some of my expertise in return for some of theirs. Now, Salomao placed the meticais ceremoniously on top of my article, telling our hosts that I wanted to help them preserve their traditions and perhaps help them buy some paint to re-paint their headquarters. The placing of this offering on the table was a cause for loud expressions of jubilation. (I think it was the money that caused this, not the article.) One of the women ululated briefly. Others clapped. Everyone broke into broad smiles. Salomao explained that they had said that the fact of my having made the donation-- I think everyone knew it was not a large one-- meant that I was respecting their way of doing things. We were, however, near the end of the meeting. Everyone was very friendly as S took a couple of photos and as we all made our farewells... I haven't actually written anything here yet about the CONTENT of what the healers had talked about. As with Sengulane-- or as with the traditional healer who was part of the group we met with in Bela Vista yesterday-- this group also had some really powerful insights. At one point, Marais (the loquacious one) explained that all black people here know well that if a person is coming home from war, then his father should consult a healer and make sure that the right ceremonies are performed on the returning one before he even comes into the house. These ceremonies involve speaking with the spirits of the ancestors to enlist their help in making sure the transition from warrior to peaceable person is a successful one... This certainly tracks with evrything else I have learned-- primarily from the excellent works by Alcinda Honwana and Carolyn Nordstrom-- about the attention that Mozambican traditional healers pay to this particularly sensitive transition in a person's life (as to many other transitions, too.) So how is American society going to be dealing with all the warriors who're going to be landing back on our shores from Iraq, over the months ahead? Do we even recognize that this transition from warrior to "regular" person is a significant one at all? Today, in Charlottesville, my friends Michele Mattioli, Chip Tucker, and Betsy Tucker, and their friends all had court hearings regarding the sit-in they staged at our local Congressman's office the day President Bush launched the war against Iraq. I remember that in JWN a couple of days after that, I put in some excrpts from the great statement that Michele had composed in order to explain her participation in (and leadership of) the action. One of the exact points she mentioned there was that the US combatants were all decent people who would be scarred by their participation in fighting and killing... Michele, how right you were.

posted by helena at 4/26/2003 12:29:00 AM | link


April 24, 2003  

EARTH TO ARI FLEISCHER: Fleischer, I just saw, was warning everyone that ├ľutsiders had better stay out of the process of building democracy in Iraq." How's that again?

posted by helena at 4/24/2003 10:57:00 AM | link
 

DISCUSSING ESCAPING FROM VIOLENCE, IN A SMALL TOWN IN MOZAMBIQUE: Today, Leila, Salmao, and I drove out of Maputo to a small town called Bellavista, about 50 km to the south. Salomao has colleagues there who work for the same organization of ex-combatant peace promoters that he does. They had agreed to set up a discussion for us there, for the research project. Getting there was itself quite an adventure. First, we rented a 4x4 car. Then, we drove down to the little ferry landing near Maputo city center where ferries leave to cross Maputo Bay to the south. The whole ferry experience was really interesting-- country people coming and going with their goods to seel in the city; someone yanking a live goat around on a string; etc etc. Many smaller ferries docked, unloaded, reloaded, and departed before the car ferry lumbered across the bay. It was only a short ride. Salomao says they keep talking of building abridge. But for now, it's just ferries, and the contrast between the two sides of the bay is striking. Once across, it was just a broad dirt road leading south, around 50 metres in from the coast. S. explained that during the civil war, that whole area was really dangerous. There were som Mozambique army positions there, but there was also a lot of Renamo activity. (South Africa is not far away.) So villagers there could not sleep in their villages at night. Now, slowly, the area is becoming developed. Parallel with the road were utility poles proudly bearing high-tension wires down to the south of the country. S. said the lines were only completed a couple of months ago, and there were still some disputes about the rights of the joint-venture electricity company to sling wire over some portions of the land where people have farmed etc for many years. His organization, ProPaz, is trying to help the parties resolve some of those disputes. But apart from that, it was very undeveloped. We passed one other vehicle on the whole trip to Bellavista. Mainly, we saw people walking, walking very long distances bearing heavy loads. Bellavista was probably a small Portuguese colonial center. Now, it is just a small town, and the administrative center for its district. Salomao's friends had arranged a really good discussion group-- we had two staff people from the local office of the Mozambican Human Rights League, three or four ex-combatants, and the head of the local chapter of the Association of Traditional healers. Mainly, I asked the friends about their views of violence: what was responsible for it; how could it be escaped from; how they accounted for what I am increasingly convinced is the "Mozambican miracle"of having successfully put the violence of their terrible civil war behind them. I also asked them what they thought of the idea that people who did bad things during war should be punished. "Then everyone in the country would be in the courts!" said one ex-combatant. They also talked about the real differences that the coming of peace had made so far in their lives. Once again, Leila took notes-- I am sure they are up to her usual standard! We had eight Mozambican interlocutors, including Salomao-- who was also doing the interpreting. The traditional healer (curandeiro) didn't speak Portuguese, so S found a common Mozambican language to talk with him in. So of course the eventual amount of material I'll get out of Leila's notes will be hugely more than I can write about here. Anyway, now I need to run. S is taking us to a performance of Mozambican dance and song.

posted by helena at 4/24/2003 10:55:00 AM | link


April 22, 2003  

EX-COMBATANT PEACE PROMOTERS, AND A CARDINAL: The first two substantive days of the research here in Mozambique have been going very well. Plus, my new research assistant (and elder daughter) Leila Rached joined me here on Sunday afternoon. It is a real blast having her here working with me! And in our hours off, the two of us are able to do various things around town that I alone, as a foreign woman, would be much more hesitant about doing. Yesterday morning, project research associate Salomao Mungoi took us along for a long discussion with his boss Jacinta Jorge, the head of an organization of ex-combatant peace promters called ProPaz. ProPaz is such an amazing and inspiring organization! It has more than 100 former combatants (from the civil-war era) who currently provide peacebuilding and conflict-resolution/transformation services in four of the country's provinces. It includes former fighters with the government (Frelimo) forces alongside former fighters from the insurgent (Renamo) side-- working together these days. ProPaz was founded by two of the main organizations of former combatants from Mozambique's punishing, 17-year civil war: AMODEG, a general veterans' group, and ADEMIMO, an organization of disabled former fighters. We (well actually, Leila) took pages and pages of notes from our discussion with Jacinta. She told us a little about her own personal journey through having been virtually "tricked" into serving in the country's armed forces when she was still a teenager, through her rise in responsibilities in the officer corps (including the stresses of trying to raise a child alone while her husband was at the front-line) -- to her eventual demobilization. She told us that AMODEG had started out as an organization only for former soldiers in the Frelimo (government) armed forces. But that even before the Frelimo and Renamo leaders had signed their nationwide peace accord in October 1992, AMODEG had decided to take in former fighters from Renamo as well, and had changed its name accordingly. I reflected a little on my recent experiences at ICTR, and with the Rwandan issue more broadly, and asked Jacinta whether she thought that the people who had committed the many atrocities that marked her country's civil war should also have been punished. Firstly, she responded by coming back to me with another question. "If they were punished, would that bring an end to the war, or prevent another war from happening?" she asked. Then, she said it was actually important not to judge people for what they had done during the war, since their participation in it was often obligatory, not voluntary. Finally she noted that no amount of reparations could replace the lives or limbs lost during the war. So I guess that adds up to a "no." But what a wise person she is. "During a war, both sides are blind to the dimensions of the violence they are inflicting on the other side," she said. "People may say at the political level that there is 'bad' war and 'good' war. But war is war, and it always results in the killing of people." In the afternoon (still on Monday), we went to the AMODEG heaquarters, which are located on a site that used to be a logistics headquarters for the army diring the civil war -- and that a long time before that had played a historic role in the pre-independence foundations of Frelimo. Now, the roof of the main building on the site, a lovely old Portuguese colonial mansion, has long since fallen in. AMODEG's office is in a squat, more recently built block of offices behind the old mansion. And behind the office was a playground, where during our conversation tw dozen high-spirited md-teens were having a rowdy and enjoyable game of soccer. That seemed appropriate, because one of the questions I was asking the four civil war veterans seated with us was how they talked about the events of the war with their own children. By and large, they said they didn't do so. "There are so many ugly things happen in war," one of them said, "that we really doin't want to alk about them with our families." One of the things I'm asking people during this phase of the research-- especially people who have had close-up experience of war and violence-- is what priorities they would establish for societies that are just emerging from recent episodes of atrocious violence. An AMODEG board member was the first to reply: "psycho-social rehabilitation should be the priority," he said. "Both for individuals, and collectively." When the Mozambican parties reached their peace acord in 1992, the UN invested significant amonts of money and attention in trying to help the process of demobilizing former combatants and then helping them reintegrate into society. (I say "significant", though of course the amounts of money involved in helping deal with more than 90,000 former combatants here absolutely paled in comparison with the billion-plus dollars invested thus far in trying just 50 or so people from rwanda in ICTR.) I asked the friends gathered at the AMODEG office whether they thought-- ten years after the fact-- that this UN program had been helpful. "The main gain we got from the whole event was the coming of peace itself," one AMODEG activist told me. "Because people were so tired of war!" Again, I asked them if they thought people should have been tried and punished for what they did during the war. "It wouldn't have made any sense in our situation," one said, "because everyone would have been in court!" This morning, we went to see Cardinal Alexander Dos Santos, the frail but ethereal leader of Mozambique's Catholic church. He had played a historic role, back in 1988-89, in finding a way for the leaders of both Frelimo and Renamo finally to sit down together and start negotiating a final peace. Dos Santos received us in an upstairs office in his leafy headquarters compound. It was a short meeting, but Leila and I both felt we were in the presence of serene, humorous, grandfatherly, and almost saint-like figure. He laughed as he recalled a visit he and Archbishop Tutu had paid to the US in 1988, when their mission had been to try to persuade the Reagan administration that the frelimo government was not nearly as "communistic" as it had been painted. recalling the overall process of peacemaking in Mozambique, he said all the churches had had a special role to play: "We had to work hard to create an image of all Mozambicans living together, rather than fighting," he said. But he immediately aded that actually the task had not proved so dificult. "When Frelimo came back from the bush-- well, they might know that this or that person might have killed someone-- but it's finished!" he said. ... All these conversations I'm having here seem to underscore the validity of the judgment that anthropologist Carolyn Nordstrom expressed in her fabulous book about Mozambique's civil war, "A Different Kind of War Story." "The citizens in Mozambique demonstrated the most sophisticated country-wide conflict resolution practices and ideologies I have observed anywhere in the world." (p.11) Of course, I'm trying not to go into these encounters with my mind already made up from my previous reading and my one very short earlier vsit to Mozambique. I'm going to continue to look for counter-evidence. But in the meantime, continuing to explore the various different dimensions of Mozambican people's "conflict resolution practices and ideologies" is something that I'm definitely committed to doing here.

posted by helena at 4/22/2003 02:34:00 PM | link


April 20, 2003  

MAPUTO AVENIDAS: Overcast today, so I was able to go for a nice long walk this morning after the going-to-church plans fell through. I walked over to the lovely broad esplanade that runs along the east (Indian Ocean) side of the old city center, suspended some 80 feet or so up a steep but verdant cliff above the beach-side road below. The esplanade is now called Avenida Friedrich Engels. I imagine it was once called Avenida Salazar or something like that-- back when the city itself was called Lourenco Marques. It was very quiet. I saw several people out walking, but only one jogger: male, black, in bike shorts. I wonder what people would think if tomorrow morning they saw a female, white jogger out there in regular running shorts. Maybe I could jog in long pants? Okay, call me a sentamentalist, but I think it's rather poignant to walk along streets named after the icons of Mozambique's liberation era. There are Avenidas named after Karl Marx and Mao Tse Tung, as well as Engels. So here's Mozambique, a country that is gamely trying to go along with all the World Bank and IMF plans for nassive "structural adjustment" that basically involves dismantling many social programs and the nationalized industries and opening the econ/IMF have NOT yet forced them to rename their streets after Milton Friedman or Friedrich Hayek. Thank goodness! (It may yet come.) And another thing. here in Maputo, as in Dar s-Salaam, I've noticed many main streets named after non-native heroes of the African liberation era. Julius Nyerere, Ahmed Sekou Toure, Albert Luthuli, etc etc. But how come you never seem to see that same relaxed but generous mak of inter-country respect being offered in Arab capital cities? I think the answer has to do with the inter-twined nature of Arab politics, and the still unformed, or at any rate potentially precarious, state of the Arab "state system". That's why, if the mayor of Damascus, say, chose to name a big street after Nasser or Gadhafi or Ibn Saud, this act would immediately be seen as having suspect political motives.... Better to stick to long-gone heroes of the Arab past! I think it's rather nice that so many African countries' elites feel able to celebrate each other's national heroes and (by inference) each other's liberation narratives. And talking about celebrating other people's narratives, when do you think we'll get a Nelson Mandela Street or an Olaf palme Street or whatever in Washington DC. The only streets I recall there named after furrners are Raoul Wallenberg Place (a small street that was was thus renamed mainly to annoy the Soviets whose embassy is right there), and of course L'Enfant Plaza. Neither of those really celebrates another country's national narrative... All we seem to be getting in DC and the rest of the USA these days, in the renaming of public spaces department, is endless Ronald reagan this's and thats.

posted by helena at 4/20/2003 04:28:00 AM | link


April 19, 2003  

TO MAPUTO: Yesterday, I woke up in a city-center hotel in Dar es-Salaam (the capital of Tanzania); I took the promised walk to and along the waterfront; did a bit of email back at the hotel ($1.50/hour); went back to the airport. The Linhas Aereas de Mocambique flight to Maputo took off not just on time, but actually five minutes early. The first portion of the flight was more or less down the eastern coast of Africa. I could see some scattered towns and roads, a few airstrips, some areas with a lot of small cultivated plots-- and a LOT of forest. We had a half-hour stopover in Pemba, which is the capital of Mozambique's northern 'Cabo del Gado' province. It looked like a super place as we flew over the city-- perched out on a peninsula in the sparkling blue sea. And then on, and on, and on we flew, down the length of the country (which is a big one!), to Maputo. No hassles at the airport. I got a cab very easily, and came down to the Hotel Terminus. The hotel is quite a lot fancier than I had expected or, probably, needed. But they have free dial-up internet in the rooms and a really inviting-looking pool surrounded by--you guessed it-- waving palm-trees and riotously multi-colored bougainvillea. So I think Leila and I will have a great home-base here while we work on the research. This morning, my research associate, Salomao Mungoi, came by. We'd only communicated previously by email, so it was great to meet him. He's a program officer with an association of ex-combatants (from the civil war era) called ProPaz. He speaks fabulous English-- along with Portuguese, Spanish, his mother tongue, and probably a few more Mozambican indigenous languages. A few things Salomao told me during our time together this morning were really striking. The first, which struck me particularly because I have so recently been at the ICTR in Arusha, was that sometimes these days in Mozambique it's kind of hard to remember who was a displaced person, or a child soldier, or sometimes even which side people were fighting on, back during the civil war. This struck me precisely because of the strong contrast it presents with the situation in the ICTR, where people are delving and delving to try to dredge up and establish minor details of remembered fact-- not just about who did what to whom on a certain day in, say, June of 1994-- but also about what color car was he driving; did he turn left or right at the intersection; etc etc. (Well, those were the kinds of details I saw being discussed during my days in the courtroom. On other days, the details are much more disturbing: did the accused stand by while such-and-such a woman was being raped, or being penetrated sexually with a stick by the marauders... How could you tell it was that woman, or another... Etc., etc... day after mind-numbing day of questioning about-- and therefore, to a certain extent, the bringing-back-to-life of-- such details.) But here, "It's kind of hard to remember, sometimes," Salomao told me with a smile and a shrug. "People really don't dwell on it you know." The Mozambican civil war, which was marked by some truly terrible atrocities, was brought to an end with a peace agreement in October 1992. By and large, the policy approach at the time, as also the attitude of the vast majority of Mozambicans, was that it was then time to turn a new leaf; to get on with normal (= peaceable and productive) life; and by and large, after some necessary exorcizing of the spirit of violence that the war had brought into their communities, to then let bygones be bygones. A second thing he said that really struck me was that not long ago, ProPaz had organized a joint training, for something to do with small-arms control and reduction, with some colleagues from the KaZulu region of South Africa who were also ex-combatants. ProPaz was helping to organize the accommodation, in some kind of a Red Cross center here near Maupto... "And we naturally put many of the South Africans together into one of the little houses on the compound. But they were surprised. There were people from both Inkatha and the ANC there, and they'd been working together in these joint projects in KwaZulu for quite a long while already. But they'd never slept in the same house together before. They were sort of scared at first. But they got along just fine: they were sitting and eating, and smoking, and talking together like it was no bigt deal." Gosh, actually, I learned a lot from Salomao this morning, and I can't write it about it all here. Firstly, it would take a lot of time. Secondly--and more importantly-- he actually explained to me that when ProPaz staff members are doing trainings in conflict resolution or other things in some of the distant parts of the country, one of the things they have learned is that it is better NOT to use a pen and paper to take notes or minutes-- that the participants might often feel that "secret" notes are being taken, and just clam up or be hesitant about participating. "Flip charts are much better," he said. "Then, the ones who can read can see what records are being kept and reassure everyone else." So here's my question to myself. This blog: is it more like pen-and-paper (private) minutes, or more like a flipchart? I like to think it's more like a flipchart. A public mind, or whatever. But shouldn't I ask Salomao before I post more items about him; get his permission; maybe figure out a few ground-rules?? Well, I'm still feeling my way here. Suggestions from others in the blogger community would be great...

posted by helena at 4/19/2003 03:51:00 AM | link


April 17, 2003  

THOUGHTS ON THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL TRIBUNAL FOR RWANDA: I'll confess right here that I am still at only a very preliminary stage in trying to organize all the impressions I gained, all the interviews I undertook, all the great discussions I had, during my eight days of work at ICTR. Yesterday turned out to be another gala day in terms of interviews. I had really substantive interviews with two judges-- one of them Erik Mose, a Norwegian human-rights lawyer and international-law specialist who's the Deputy President of ICTR-- and with an intriguing prosecution lawyer called Simone Monasebian. I also had good discussions with a defense-team legal assistant who is a Rwandan national and with Tribunal spokesperson Roland Amoussouga. Judge Mose, I got into an extremely interesting discussion with. Then 90 minutes into it, I suddenly realized I might be late for my next discussion, so I had to pry myself out of his office. He was an ardent, hyper-articulate defender of the Tribunal's record. But still... Eleven cases completed in, effectively seven years of operation? (One of those was "completed" arlier this year when the defendant, an Anglican bishop, died before his trial had even opened.) And a tribunal with, in the present year's budget, 872 staff members and an annual budget of $177 million? Mose's argument was, in broad terms, that because the Rwandan genocidaires did not (unlike say the Nazis or the Khmers Rouges) leave extensive documentary records of their atrocities, therefore the cases against the leading genocidaires on trial in Arusha have to be painstakingly built up from witness testimony. And this necessarily takes time. Thus, for example, in the "media trial" of three accused leaders of Rwanda's hate media who are accused of incitement to genocide as well as conspiracy to commit genocide and some other charges, the prosecution has called no fewer than 47 witnesses. Mose said he considered such numbers of witnesses not excessive; rather, he saw these witnesses as supplementing and bolstering each other's testimony... Most witnesses testify in Kinyarwanda, a language that none of the judges or attorneys speaks. So all the statements, examinations, cross-examinations etc have to go through interpretation, which involves considerable time-lags. Thus, the "media trial" for which Mose is one of the three judges recently completed its 229th day of open-court hearings; and as far as I can gather, the defense has only just started to make its case. Or rather, since there are three defendants and each is entitled to mount his own defense, call his own witnesses, etc., I should say that the defense has only just started to make its cases. And those are not 229 consecutive work-days in the courtroom. Since each of ICTR's three chambers is conducting two major trials more or less concurrently-- or rather, sort of fortnight and fortnight about-- and what with other delays, etc-- the "media trial" has been running since, (I need to check this) around the summer of 2000. There are some defendants in the UN's special Detainment Facility near Arusha airport who have been in custody since 1998 or 1999 whose trials have not yet even started. Delay is definitely an issue in the quality of the justice provided by the Court. It is an issue that not only affects the rights of the detainees-- who may yet, of course, join the one defendant whom the court has thus far found "not guilty". But the delay also affects the quality of the trials themselves. It sort of feeds upon itself, compounding the problems of memory lapses and general administrative confusion at every turn. I sat in on one trial, the "Kajelijeli trial", of just one defendant, Mr. Kajelijeli, where at least two excuriciatingly lengthy trial days seemed to be devoted solely to resolving some question regarding what Mr. K had or had not told prosecution investigators on that day he was arrested, in Benin, in June 1998. So, while the folks involkved in that exchange couldn't fully remember who said what to whom in 1998, they hadn't even started getting to the issue of who did what to whom in 1994.... In that case, defense attorney Lennox Hinds pointed out that earlier, the prosecution had claimed in open court that there were no tapes of the 1998 questioning of Mr. K., but that later, the tapes in question had been found and produced. The prosecuting attorney noted that she had not been on the case at that point and did not have any recollection of what had happened rgarding the tapes. Everything seemed incredibly slapdash and complicated. At one point the defendant himself interjected with a suggestion as to how the presiding judge, Judge Sekule, could resolve a certain question.... As Sekule seemed to be completely losing his grip on the court's time, one of his colleagues on the bench, Judge Maqutu, seemed clearly to be asleep. Understandable, perhaps, given the extreme lengthiness and basic argumentative irrelevance of most of the proceedings at this point. But still, absolutely inexcusable. (One attorney told me it is not only the judges who sometimes seem to sleep, but that lead attorneys for both defense and prosecution teams have also been known to do so.) ICTR and its sister-tribunal for former Yugoslavia have been hailed as institutions that are blazing new trails in the development of international criminal law. If that's the case, it might be a good idea for more of us to examine whether these are trails that we necessarily want to be taking. The International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg heard, as far as I recall, 22 or 23 cases in ten months. The four principal judges spent a short time reaching and writing their judgments. There was then a hasty period of consultation (though notably NO appeals process), and then, less than one year after the trial had opened, the sentences were executed. (In around half the cases, that meant that the men themselves were executed. For the rest, there were lengthy prison sentences; but also three acquittals.) End of story. The Allies set about rebuilding Germany. The findings regarding "criminal organizations" that had been made by the IMT were used to administer administrative sanctions against the thousands of relevant members of those organizations, to help with a general program of de-Nazification. But basically, nine years after the end of WW2, the Nuremberg Trials were ancient history, and Germany was well on its way to achieiving the vaunted "economic miracle" of its post-war years. What Nuremberg by common consent lacked in terms of due-process protections for the defendants, it more than made up for by providing an expeditious judicial process. Now, nine years after the Rwandan genocide, the country is still held largely in the grip of the many cruel legacies of that event. Responsibility for this state of affairs should probably be shared in some proportion between the country's national government and an "international community" that in 1994 notably failed to intervene to stop the genocide (which all signatories of the 1948 Genocide Convention, including the United States, were contractually obligated to do), but which eagerly leapt onto the "international courts" bandwagon right after the genocide in an attempt to "use" this case in order to push forward the agenda of international criminal law. (As well as to assuage some guilt on behalf of citizens of northern nations that had done nothing to stop the genocide.) Whether ICTR has, in sum, helped or imposed additional harm on the Rwandans is one of the things I've been trying to find out with my research. Of all the people I talked to in Arusha-- prosecution attorneys, defense attorneys, Rwandans, "internationals", journalists, court officers-- only Judge Mose and ICTR/ICTY Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte definitely stated that they thought ICTR had been helpful to the Rwandans. Everyone else whom I asked about this specific issue ended up giving a far more guarded, nuanced, or even downright critical judgment. I even heard plenty of caveats expressed by a member of the prosecution team, who told me that early idealism about joining this ground-breaking project had now been supplemented by an interest in making a further move in the future, and going to work with Rwanda's "alternative justice" program, the gacaca courts... Well, there are plenty of other issues I want to write about, with regard to ICTR. I promised my editor at the Christian Science Monitor that I'd get something to her about the court "soon-ish". Trying to choose what to say in my regular 800-word column looks like a huge challenge. After that, I'll try to spin off a nice long think piece for Boston Review. I love writing for them. The editors there are totally sharp and on-the-ball. (I know that, because they always say they like my writing. I mean, isn't that the best criterion for "sharpness" that there is??) But I also somewhere along the way have to write all of my Rwandan-justice material up as a chapter of the book I'm supposed to be writing. That includes all the fabulous, thus far barely exploited material that I gathered during my rsearch visit to Rwanda, last year. As well as all this new material. And I need to put all that into one chapter???? Helena, you have to be kidding. Oh, and did I tell you that I am going to be plunging myself into Mozambique tomorrow?

posted by helena at 4/17/2003 12:46:00 PM | link
 

DAR ES-SALAAM: When my travel agent, Alaina, told me that various flight schedules had been changed and I could not any longer fly from Arusha, Tanzania to Maputo, Mozambique in a single day, at first I felt really frustrated. I mean! For goodness sake! This would cut a whole workday off my valuable schedule! Etc.! Then I got a grip and thought, wow, it's amazing I can do this whole four-location research trip with as much amazing convenience as I still have. I should stop whingeing. Besides, I've never been to Dar Es-Salaam before, so maybe an overnight here would be fun? Well, I'm here. I'm not sure about fun, yet-- I've been holed up in a hotel room writing a slightly overdue column for Al-Hayat. (Hey, wouldn't you just know that while I'm really getting into this Africa project, Syria suddenly becomes a big subject? The Lehrer Newshour on the phone; my editor at the CSM graciously asking me if I want to write about Syria for her; etc etc? If you, my devoted reader, want to see the most recent thing I wrote about Syria, check out the link I have in the column to the right, to my recent Boston Review piece on the subject.) Anyway, tomorrow I'll go out and look for the seafront or something. Basically, so far, all the travel arrangements have been working amazingly well. This morning, my last in Arusha, I had a really good meeting with Martin Ngoga, who's the Rwandan government's "representative" to the ICTR. (Also, a Rwandan diplomat accredited to the Govt of Tanzania.) I said some sad farewells to two of the people who helped me find my way around ICTR: Gabi Gabiroz, of Hirondelle, and ICTR public-affairs officer Straton Musonera. Then I went back to the dear old Impala Hotel to await the shuttle bus to Kilimanjaro that had been promised when I went by the Air Tanzania office last week. What with the worries Gabi and others had expressed about whether Air Tanzania still existed this week, etc, plus a lot of pessimism-- expressed by, guess who, the Impala taxi drivers-- over whether the AT shuttle would ever come, I was determined not to be too worried about possible glitches, but... Well, the shuttle arrived just fine. And the flight occurred just fine (in a South African-liveried plane). So here I am. Plus, it's kind of nice to be able to catch my breath here before plunging into Mozambique, which is another whole part of my project; another, entirely different story to get myself immersed in; and another topic that really, really fascinates me. So Jambo, tonight, from the House of Peace: Dar es-Salaam. Can't tell you much about it yet except that it looks like I'm in the middle of a very big African city.

posted by helena at 4/17/2003 11:30:00 AM | link


April 16, 2003  

RICHARD PERLE, VIEWED FROM AFRICA: Sitting around waiting in the the ICTR press office earlier this week, I pisked up a copy of The East African. UN Public Affairs Officer Straton Musonera, who hails from Rwanda, saw what I was looking at. "Did you see that?" he asked, outraged. It was a syndicated article by Richard Perle titled something like, "The UN has no place in the New World Order." Well yes, I had scanned through the piece, and had been disgusted by some of the Prince of Darkness's more aggressive arguments against the UN. "Richard Perle!" I said. "What can you expect?" "You know him?" Straton asked. "So who is he?" I pointed to the tagline at the bottom of the piece. "Look, it says here: 'a member of the Pentagon's defense Policy Board.' Well, of course till a couple of weeks ago he was the Chairman of the DPB. But he's still very influential." "You mean, he's actually an official? I thought he was just some journalist. My God!" Oh yes, Straton. And he's not just some low-ranking paper-pusher, either. He is part of the small group of policy advisors who are driving the administration's present policies.... Honestly, how can we, as Americans, defend having such a malevolent figure as Perle enjoy such influence over our government's policy? Okay, okay, I know I should probably describe him as "misguided" rather than "malevolent"... But still, my general point stands. Note in this regard, too, that if any group of people should feel abandoned or betrayed by the UN, it should be survivors of the Rwandan genocide, like Straton and his friends. Their "case" against the UN has even in recent weeks been vociferously articulated by several high-ranking members of the US administration. But even though the Rwandan genocide survivors have a huge and quite understandable criticism to make regarding the UN's failure to stop the genocide in 1994, still, most of them are quite realistic enough to see that the UN plays a vital role in the world today: one that their nation, like all other small nations, relies on. So Richard Perle's arguments against the UN may play well to that part of the US electorate that has long distrusted the organization, and that feels that the US can get along quite well without it. But I think it would very hard to sell his arguments in most other parts of the world. And that even includes, as far as I can see, in Rwanda.

posted by helena at 4/16/2003 01:14:00 PM | link
 

A NIGHT ON THE TOWN IN ARUSHA: Tonight is my last evening in Arusha. Gabi Gabiro, who works for Hirondelle Press Agency here, a couple of his friends, and I were going out to dinner. I'd been kind of looking forward to this, since I've eaten dinner in my hotel, the Impala, every night since I got here. So Gabi picks a place, we go there straight from a late-ish evening working at the ICTR-- and as restaurants go, this place was a huge disappointment. Food very, very late and individual dishes ranging from the passable to the atrocious. (I don't think I'm dissing Gabi to mention this, since we all mentioned it and commented on it at length over the dinner itself.) It made me wish I'd invited them all here. I've now sampled three of the Impala's four restaurants-- the Chinese, the Italian, and the Indian. And the Indian food here is excellent! Last night I had a chicken and spinach curry that had a lot of ginger in it-- and I ordered it on what they call Kashmiri rice. They always bring pappadums and an array of chutneys "on the house" at the beginning. Also a small salad. And after the curry, I had a marsala tea. Fabulous. Oh dear, makes me sad just to think I could have had that again, tonight. Still, the conversation we had tonight was fun and relaxing and made the outing worthwhile. Another good feature of Impala food is the home-baked breads they serve at breakfast. What with breads, curries, and no running, maybe it's time I leave town before I put on lots of weight. Of course, at dinner tonight, Gabi and his friends all laughed when I said I was leaving on Air Tanzania tomorrow, since apparently AT got taken over not long ago by South African Airways, and SA companies seem generally renowned around here for aggressive asset-stripping.

posted by helena at 4/16/2003 12:42:00 PM | link


April 14, 2003  

EDITORIAL NOTE: I've been filing recently from Arusha, Tanzania. There follow some fairly lengthy posts. To read about my "cultural tourism" experience in a Masai village, just scroll down to the very next post.. If you want to read my thoughts about last week's "fall" of Baghdad, click here. To read my detailed description of 'AN INTERNATIONAL COURTROOM IN AFRICA', click here. I'm planning to post a lot of material as my travels continue for the month ahead. Many of the posts will be lengthy. Some might not seem as riveting to you as they are to me. Some may still be on war-in-Iraq issues. But I should imagine that an increasing number will be on what I'm discovering on my 5-week research trip in Africa. (For more details on the project of which this trip is a part, click here.) Hey, I might even post on something completely different! I am not yet certain whether I can keep the JWN Index up-to-date while I'm traveling. But bear with me. I'll try to find ways to make useful internal links, like the ones above. And I'll also work on having the Index be up-to-date and helpful. Jambo from Tanzania!

posted by helena at 4/14/2003 11:18:00 AM | link
 

VISITING WITH THE MASAI: Since I'm here in Arusha alone, I was looking for a good day-hike I could sign up with for yesterday, Sunday. Luckily, in the Tanzania Tourism Board office in town I found something much better: a "cultural tourism program" in the nearby Masai (Wa-arusha) village of Ilkiding'a.. What's more, on the brochure it said there was an option to walk to the starting point from the city. So I signed up. The TTB person said my guide would come and pick me up from the hotel. I was waiting to see if someone in full-scale red-and-blue Masai robes--perhaps with the elaborately braided and decorated hair that I had seen on several Masai men around town-- would walk into the hotel lobby. But no. Jeremiah, when he came, was wearing jeans, tee-shirt, and sneakers. The main thing that stood out about him was his loping, loose-limbed walk. I should have realised: these people really know how to walk. They do it, after all, nearly all the time: up and down the foothills of Mount Meru where their villages lie, and where wheeled vehicles only rarely penetrate. So Jeremiah and I set off at a brisk clip from the hotel, through some peri-urban areas around Arusha. Then, from the main Nairobi-Moshi highway, we took what looked like an insignificant back alley which took us to the main track leading up to the group of villages of which Ilkiding'a is a part. Nearly all the other traffic on this precipitously rutted track was pedestrians. Sometimes a bicycle would come by, or we would see a car painstakingly navigating a dusty way between the potholes. But a LOT of people were walking to and fro. It being Sunday, many of them were dressed in some form of best clothing, carrying well-worn Bibles as they made their way to or from church. Three or four times, as we walked along, we passed tiny churches that seemed uplifted by the multi-part singing that came forth from within. Jeremiah seemed to know a lot of people. I was really glad he was with me. If people shouted over some comment about the "muzungU" (that was me, the only white woman anywhere in sight), he would goodnaturedly shout back something about "m'africa" (an African person). And to the many calls of "how are you?" or "good morning?" that came-- mainly from small children-- he would often take turns with me in shouting back an appropriate English-language response. As we loped along, I had also been trying to get him to teach me some words in his mother-tongue(which is wa-arusha, not Swahili; English is his third language.) However, I proved myself a truly really lousy learner. My ear was definitely NOT in tune. He taught me two ways to say "How are you?" in wa-arusha, and told me that they were gendered. But whether gendered according to the speaker or the addressee I couldn't entirely fathom. So when someone said "takweniya" ("How are you?") to me, I was generally supposed to say "Ee-ko" back to them. But I often couldn't even hear when they "takweniya", along with everything else they might be saying. So then Jeremiah had to prompt me on the "ee-ko" bit, which always caused great merriment all round. Two of the people who seemed to get the most laughter out of this performance were two fully regalia-ed Masai men who walked a little but of the way up to Ilkiding'a with us. The track took us slowly up above the town and through a couple of villages. The terrain here was all intensely cultivated. Coffee bushes I saw for the first time ever. There were maize fields, cabbage fields, beans, tomatoes and other crops. Generally, though, the track was shielded (and shaded) with high hedges of woven thorns, and many different kinds of trees. At a certain point, Jeremiah announced that we had crossed into his village. It would now be possible-- after asking permission each time-- to take photos. "People worried about camera," J. had explained earlier. But from here on, people had been exposed to the "cultural tourism program". Not only had their worries about cameras been somewhat allayed. But also, as it would turn out later, the parents of all the kids in Ilkiding'a were on alert to teach the kids not to harrass the muzungi. (Given the way whitefolks have, in the not-too-distant past, treated the indigenous people of this part of the world, I would say a certain amount of residual resentment would be more than understandable. That was why I was really happy that the CTP allowed me to have this lightly-mediated experience with some Wa-arusha in their own environment.) There was still a bit more walking till we reached the starting point, however. Ilkiding'a is not a compact village. Far from it. The people of the village live in a number of hamlets scattered over the foothills here: In each, there are from around six to more than 20 boma's, with a boma being a fenced household compound belonging usually to a man, and housing however many wives he has, and their children. Jeremiah, who is 29, told me that his late father had had, I think, six wives. He himself has only one. The main form of shelter within the boma is a sturdy round hut with a heavy thatch of straw. The hut, around 20 feet in diameter, is built from thick wood staves planted close together in the ground, and plastered with a pink-brown mud plaster. Each wife has her own hut for herself, her children and animals. There are separate, smaller huts for cooking. We walked quickly past Jeremiah's boma. His wife wasn't there, but his 5-year-old daughter Lucy waved from the door. Jeremiah's two cows lowed at us from behind the hut. They are a legacy from the life-plan he had had a lot earlier, of sticking with the traditional Masai men's heavy focus on livestock-raising. He had followed that life-plan until he was about 15. But then his dad died, and at that point an elder brother who had been put into a school by an uncle intervened, and put Jeremiah himself into a school. So he started doing book-learning only at that point. And he never thereafter pursued the traditional Masai men's (and women's) forms of personal beautification such as splitting the ear-lobes and letting the lower loop dangle down to hold heavy pieces of beaded finery; or various forms of scarification on the face and arms that I saw; or putting the long, intricate braids and metal decorations into their hair... He said he'd tried to put piercings through the top-back of his ear-lobes, such as many Masai people have. (This allows them to have pretty beaded ear-decorations that dangle down the back of their ears quite fetchingly.) But he'd even given up on that after a while. Now, the only apparently non-'western' thing about his looks and grooming was a bead-covered belt such as I've seen several urban Africans wear-- as a sort of 'legacy' thing, I guess. Soon we came to his mother's boma; and shortly after that to the CTP "starting point", which was a little thatched shelter looking out over the next hill. His mother had laid out some beadwork here, and I bought a couple of items. Then, after about 3 minutes sitting down, we started the "real" program.... For the next four hours we walked practically nonstop up and down hills that seemed to get steepr each time. Mainly, we were walking along narrow paths that cut across beautifully cultivated fields-- of cabbage, maize, beans, or tomatoes-- or where the land was steeper, across lush green pastures. All the cultivating that I saw being done-- and this was tough, back-breaking work-- was being done by women and girls. With their checkered Masai cloths knotted over one shoulder and tied around their waists, they would hoist those hoes over their shoulders and over and over again-- thwack, thwack, thwack-- and tilll that dark-covered, well-irrigated soil. The herding was being done by young boys. I have to say I didn't see any adult men actually DOING any work unless you count Jeremiah's guiding (which can't have been easy for him), or the handful of men we saw on the track who were leading cows to or from the market. Well, there were men selling in the market, too. I'll come to that later. One of the main things I was looking forward to on the tour was the promised meeting with the traditional healer. I'm actually very interested in learning about all non-western views on the question of violence. So I had imagined myself having a wonderfully revealing discussion on the cosmology and ontology of violence with a wise Masai elder... until it slowly dawned on me that what with Jeremiah's very limited English and my far, far more limited ability to communicate in either wa-arusha or Swahili, this conversation would probably have many of the same bizarre qualities as the (twice-interpreted) discussion on the same topic that I'd attempted with a Mozambican traditional healer, in Maputo, two years ago. Anyway, once we had climbed the enormous hill to the boma of the Ilkiding'a traditional healer, he was out. Darn it. I should note that I found the visit to the "traditional" knife-maker a little disappointing, too. Masai men like to walk around with a specifically-shaped kind of knife, carried in a particular kind of pink-stained scabbard, hanging form their belts. The brochure promised a visit to the knifemaker. Turns out the knifemaker in question buys regular-style, Chinese-made agricultural machetes (pangas) from someplace, and then essentially cuts them down to the dimensions favored by the Masai; then he makes the scabbard. Somehow it didn't seem like the "timeless handicraft" passed down from "many generations" that I had been expecting. (I guess that's the problem with my naive, essentialist view of culture. Oh well.) But those disappointments were tiny, compared with the exhilaration-- I can only call it that-- of having this great new hiking-plus-cultural adventure with my new friend, Jeremiah. It really did feel great to be able to walk with him around his home environs, and to have him pay such close attention to trying to help me understand everything I saw. The inside of the huts that I visited, and how the space there is used. The "maize stores" high up in the trees. (Someone climbs the tree and sits on a likely branch. A colleague on the ground tosses up each corn-cob with its streamer-like wrapping; and then the streamers are somehow tied over the branch, one and then the next, till hundreds of corn-cobs are tied up there in a huge clump, secure from any animal predators.... And we're talking sometimes maybe 40 or more feet high.) So many things to learn about! Along the way, Jeremiah and I decide that, since we have no traditional healer visit, we'll have time to go to the "Masai market" late in the afternoon. He promises that it'll be interesting. But it seems he's also fairly eager to go there himself. At one point, as the afternoon hours wear on, we walk along an extremely steep-sided ravine to see the waterfall at the end of it. The streams and rivers here generally gush plentifully down from deep inside Mount Meru. Jeremiah does explain one ritual the traditional helaer leads, at a specific tree, to beg the power-that-be for rain in times of drought. As he explains, it involves four calabashes being reverently placed by the tree, each containing various things; and then the name of Jesus being invoked. "Jesus?" I ask. "What is his role in all this?" "Well, they just say 'Jesus'," Jeremiah explains. "They don't say the word Christ. That would not be right." But that explanation came later. We were there, at the bottom of the ravine. It was nearly 2 p.m. We'd been walking nearly nonstop for five-and-a-half hours. "Up here," said Jeremiah. And he led me just about vertically up the mud-covered, many-hundred-feet-high bank of the ravine. I knew if I missed my footing even once, I would slip back straight to the bottom. Amazingly-- I don't know how-- I made it. "We reach!" Jeremiah told me exultantly as we emerged into the pasture above. And indeed we had: we'd reached exactly back to the "starting point." "You hungry," he said matter-of-factly. And yes, by then it was a burningly evident matter of fact. His mother brought four covered pots of food and I wolfed down a huge plateful. There was a traditional dish (I think) of beans and maize. There were rice, potatoes boiled in a tasty broth, and some cooked greens. I was beyond ethnography and failed to ask the name of a single dish. Eating seemed more ways important at that point. We sat, ate, and visited for about an hour. But then it was time to leave if we wanted to catch the market. Jeremiah, his CTP "coordinator" Eliakim, and I had a short discussion of how much it would cost for J & I to get a "transport" to the market, and then back to Arusha. So then J and I walked the 20 minutes or so to the "stand" for the "transport". There were no vehicles there, and seemed little prospect of any coming; so we decided to walk down to the market instead. It was a good experience. (1) It's the way that most of the Masai people get around. So as we walked along those tracks, there was a constant stream of other folks walking to and from the market. (2) It was mainly downhill. Do I need to note the observation that when there were things to be carried, it was nearly always the women and girls who did that? A girl skipping along with a hoe balanced on her head; a Masai woman with a baby tied on her back and a huge woven basket on her head; teenage girls elegantly carrying huge, heavy heads of bananas on their heads... The main time that I saw men and boys helping withe conveying goods was where there was either a bicycle, or some kind of a hand-barow involved. I'm not saying those jobs weren't hard, too. They were. But a lot more sheer weight of stuff was getting carried by women and girls than ended up being pushed along by guys. Jeremiah's estimate that it would take "about 40 minutes more" to get to the market proved remarkably accurate. When we got there it was vast! It spread out all over the creekside settlement of Ngarantoni. It was all open-air; and most of it was quite unshaded. Jeremiah led me through various sections: the used-clothing section; the used-shoe section; along a little back-alley to the fabric section-- many red-and-blue Masai wraps, but many batik-style wraps in other bright hues as well; the basket section; the fresh-produce section; a row of women selling baked goods; the meat section; the beans section... on and on and on. Buyers and sellers tiumbling over each other in the dust. A man improbably trying to drive five cows through the crush in the middle of the market-- one with viciously long horns. People yelling their wares. Friends greeting other. Buyers haggling. Sellers pleading for custom... A dizzying maelstrom. And not another mazungu to be seen anywhere. We emerged breathless on the other side. Jeremiah had said I should NOT take pictures here-- we were no longer in "the program" here. I hadn't bought anything either. I wouldn't have minded looking at the baskets, or some of the baked goods. But there was no leisurely buying and enjoying the atmosphere here: these people, who hold the market here twice a week, were all here strictly for business. My main achievement as we emerged was not to have lost Jeremiah. His was, I think, to have said hi to around three dozen of his friends, and as far as I could figure to have repaid a few of his financial debts along the way. We emerged onto a paved road. Actually, according to my map it looks like the Nairobi Road, just several miles further along it by now. "You want the livestock market?" Jeremiah asked. Another whole market?? "Where?" I asked, weakly. He pointed to a cloud of dust somewhere over near the horizon. "There!" "I think not. Perhaps we go back to my hotel?" Haha! Easier said than done... What I got included in my "extra" of the trip to the market was my first two rides in Tanzanian dalla-dallas -- the ones that took us back to the Impala Hotel. A dalla-dalla, as I was to learn from the inside, is a totally overstuffed Japanese passenger van that is plied at breakneck speed along a fixed route by a team of at least two people: one to drive it, and the other one or two to hang out of the sliding door on the pasenger side and drum up business along the route. In the first of the two dalla-dallas that we rode, J and I ended up scrunched backwards onto a four-inch bench placed in right behind the front seat. (That one lost all power for a worrying ten minutes too, somewhere along the road, until on about the eighth attempt it got pushed back into life.) The second dalla-dalla was remarkable for the fact that once the seats had all filled up, the passenger side jockey pushed up a huge section of the roof on double hinges and then proceeded to cram in additional passengers who traveled standing, with their heads and shoulders stuck out the top of the van... So I certainly ended up getting more than I'd bargained for, cultural-experience-wise, with the Ilkiding'a Cultural Tourism Program. I am totally grateful to Jeremiah, his mom, Eliakim, and all the other people who make such a great set of experiences available to a total stranger who happen to walk into the Tanzania Tourism Board office looking for an interesting day-hike. Sure, the Ilkiding'a folks could work out some of those small wrinkles in the program. (I want my traditional healer!!!) But all-in-all it seemed like a fabulous program that helped this ignorant muzungu to see beyond the mere "exoticism" of the Masai people and to initiate a respectful interaction with some actual Masai persons. The TTB actually has a number of different cultural tourism programs that they offer. I have some brochures for this one. But the brochure says you can get more info from www.tourismtanzania.org . Ashinali! Amani!

posted by helena at 4/14/2003 11:11:00 AM | link


April 12, 2003  

AN INTERNATIONAL COURTROOM IN AFRICA: The Arusha International Conference Center is a sprawling concatenation of three or four large, 1960s-style white concrete buildings netsled into the northeast side of the city of Arusha. The vegetation here is lush. Splendidly blossomed jacaranda trees, dense palm trees, and lots of other Africa varieties that I'm incapable of naming, form a lush canopy over many of the packed-earth sidewalks around town. Market women in gaily colored wraps stand at the street corners with lush baskets of mangos, pineapples, and tiny sweet bananas. It rained this morning: a swift, dense drencher that swept down from Mount Mero, the massive volcanic mountain, slightly shorter sister of nearby Kilimanjaro, that guards the city to the north. Then, shortly after the drencher, I heard cocks crowing and a distant Muslim call to prayer before I drifted back to sleep. The Conference Center was built to be the headquarters of an attempt at an East African Union that failed. Now, some of its wings house offices for the follow-on Commission for East African Cooperation (between Tanzania, where we are, and Kenya and Uganda which both lie close to Arusha to the north.) Given its pleasant and well placed location, the Arusha Conference Center has also been used to host several significant inter-African peace negotiations over the decades. Most recently, a South-African-brokered peace agreement for Burundi has been negotiated here. In 1993, Arusha was the site of the signing of the famous "Arusha Accord", which aimed at bringing internal peace to Rwanda-- a country that neighbors Tanzania to the east. But that agreement failed, destroyed in the maelstrom of genocidal violence that swept Rwanda in 1994. Later that year, a UN Security Council driven largely by guilt over its failure to prevent or bring an end to the genocide, decided considerably after the event that it would at least establish an international court to try leading perpetrators of the genocide. And it decided to locate the court in-- Arusha. To be precise, in some unused portions of the Arusha International Conference Center. Blue-uniformed UN guards now control one gate into the Conference Center. The first day I was here, I got myself a "Researcher" pass from the court's security division. Today, I swipe it like an old-timer and walk into the dimly cavernous lobby. I poke my head into the untidy-as-usual press center and say hi to Gabi Gabiro, a friend-of-a-friend who's worked here for three years as a correspondent fotr the Hirondelle News Agency. I walk up some concrete stairs to a walkway that takes me across to another building. Waiting at the elevator are other people coming, as I am, to one of the three courtrooms run by the UN's International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). But others awaiting the elevator are going up to other floors where the East African Commission or other bodies work. It seems a fairly chaotic situation. I'm headed for the fourth floor, where in ICTR Courtroom 1 three defendants are now in Day 229 (I kid you not-- that's two-twenty-nine!) of what is called the "media trial". These are people accused of having masterminded some of the hate-filled, anti-Tutsi speech that filled, in particular, one radio station and one magazine before and during the genocide, and therefore of having helped to incite the genocide, as well as to have conspired in its organization. (Under the Genocide Convention of 1948, inciting or conspiring with others to commit genocide is as much punishable as actually committing it.) This is a most amazing courtroom. Whoever figured out how to fit a courtroom into this available space took a long, low-ceilinged room and sliced it into half lengthways, with disconcerting result that the "public gallery" runs nearly right along the length of the space, with three very long rows of chairs facing toward the "action". And the "action" itself is similarly strung out along the other side of the room, behind bullet-proof glass-- about 50 or more feet from left to right as I peer in. From our side of the glass, the different, and visually segmented portions of the courtroom look like exhibits in an indoor zoo. Tucked in at the extreme left-hand end in there we have the three defendants, three men in shirtsleeves or somber western-style garb sitting generally bored behind their desk in the "back" of this side of the courtroom, with UN guards on each side of them. (The public, I note, can barely see the defendants at all; and I'm not sure whether the judges can see them either. I believe, along with the British philosopher of punishment Tony Duff, that a criminal court proceeding should centrally be an authoritative communication between the Bench--on behalf of society-- and the defendant. Hard to see how that can happen here.) In front of the defendants (reading this scene from left to right) are two rows of desks for their attorneys-- six or eight places in all. All those people are facing to the right (as I look at it.) Then, we come to the two rows of people who are facing "forward", that is, toward the public gallery. Furthest from us, and raised maybe eight inches higher than the rest of the courtroom, is, in central position, the Bench. Three judges-- a Norwegian man, a South-African Indian woman (the Presiding Judge here, and also President of the entire ICTR venture), and a Sri Lankan man. All are resplendent in the red-satin-faced judges' robes that someone back in 1994 or so designed for the judges in ICTR's more famous sister court, the court for former-Yugoslavia that's located in the Hague. Behind the judges hangs a UN flag. They are flanked by court reporters and clerks. The general decor in the courtroom is Scandinavian/functional: light-colored wood furnishings, white walls, blue chair-seats and carpet. In front of the judges, officers of the court's central administration, the Registry, sit at another row of desks, also facing us. The Registry officials, like all the attorneys for both defense and prosecution, all wear big ballooning black robes elaborately tailored with pin-tucks and little buttons, over which they wear the apparently mandatory French-style white tucked jabots. (Sort of an eight-inch-long white thing that hangs out over the robe at the throat, and is secured--sometimes haphazardly-- with velcro at the back of the neck. This whole get-up is another cultural import from the Hague.) One of the defense lawyers, the British QC Diana Ellis, wears atop her dark-brown hair the small-size powdered wig that is a mark of her exalted judicial status back home. Talk about rituals and regalia! And then, between the Registry officials and us is the present witness. With her back to us. We actually look at the Bench "over the witness's shoulder", so to speak. Many of the witnesses who come here are "protected", which means that their true identity is a closely guarded secret of the court. They are referred to in public only by randomly assigned letters; and inside the courtroom their identity is hidden from the public gallery by heavy curtains which can be drawn around the witness's desk. Today's witness, however, is a defense witness-- an interesting woman who is herself a defendant in the Rwandan court system where since she's accused of the highest category of genocide-related crimes she almost certainly faces the prospect of a death penalty. Death penalties are not allowed here, in this genteel, European-style court. Her name is Valerie Bemeriki. She was, Gabi tells me, a "real celebrity" in Rwanda during the genocide era, when she was a much-listened-to announcer on Radio/Tele Libre des Milles Collines (RTLM, the main hate radio). Now, she appears like a dumpy, slightly physically disabled older woman whose bright-colored clothing and generally defiant mien cannot make up for the fact that she looks scared and frequently slightly confused. (I can tell you what her facial expressions convey because her face, like those of all others who speak in the court-- but notably NOT those of the defendants unless they're speaking-- is shown to us on a closed-circuit video system whose operation is, I imagine, supposed to compensate for the lack of direct lines-of-sight inside the courtroom. Each of the main participants in the drama in front of us has a 15- or 17-inch video screen in front of her or him. Though these screens are fairly thin, still, they contribute along with many other factors, to blocking our ability to watch the actions and interactions of the participants directly. We in the public gallery have three high screens placed along gallery that show us the simultaneous feed. But still, that's no substitute for being able to see for ourselves what's going on, since on the screens we can only see the one view that someone--who?-- has chosen to show us. On occasion, this is a shot of a written document, which means that we don't get to see people's faces at all.) Bemeriki and the chief defense lawyer who had called her, Jean-Marie Biju-Duval from France, are the only two actors today whose main language is French. Actually, to be fair, French is probably Bemeriki's second language, with Kinyarwanda being her first. But she has chosen to speak here and to interact with the court in French, though Kinyarwanda would also-- like English-- have been a option in this trilingual court. I should have mentioned earlier that everything that goes on inside this courtroom is pursued with and through simultaneous interpretation. So in addition to wearing funny European-style robes, all the participants (including us, the "representatives" of the public!) also wear headsets for the interpretation. We get a fairly intimate direct view of the back of the witness's legs swinging down from her chair . Over to the left of her is a row of desks that now stand empty. But on a shelf above them are placed a number of large box files whose main effect is further to block our ability to see anything. Our lines of sight are, in general, abysmal. The floor level of our gallery is about six inches lower than the floor of the courtroom. Bunched around Witness Bemeriki are the drawn-back curtains that-- for a "protected" witness-- would have blocked her identity from our view. Now, hanging there, all they do is further obstruct our view. And to the right of the witness's desk is a huge cart laden with two layers of additional bulky and quite opaque box-files and--to add insult to injury for the long-suffering "public"-- the back of a water cooler that, inside the "active" part of the courtroom, has been pushed up against the glass to yet further obstruct our view. It's as though the designers and users of this courtroom basically have contempt for the "public" that comes to view its proceedings. As though they didn't care much at all about justice "being seen to be done" here... (Sorry about that. It was the carelessly positioned water-cooler that really broke the camel's back on this issue for me.) And, moving right along further to the right, we have the two rows of the prosecuting attorneys' desks, now facing inward to the left. Up to bat today from one of these desks is Simone Monasebian, a US lawyer who seems to be practicing here all the tricks of an aggressive district attorney in some jurisdiction in the US. She is cross-examining Witness Bemeriki, and thus is allowed to ask leading questions. She's a physically impressive woman whose shoulder-length dark hair straggles out untidily from under her headset. "Isn't it true that... " she presses the witnesses. Or she'll make a lengthy statement and then pounce forward at the end with a defiant "What say you, Mme. Bemeriki?" Of course, the fact that all these theatrics have to go through interpretation means that there is always a slight time-lag between question and answer. In addition, several times throughout the morning the interpreter's weary voice comes onto everyone's headsets pleading with Monasebian to please slow down. The whole interaction has a slightly spaced-out, unreal, one might even say doped-up quality. The distance between the two banks of attorneys must be about 30 or 40 feet. When a defesne lawyer stands up to challenge something the prosecutor is saying, the two of them face each across this distance (rather than both of them facing the judge), and the poor judges have to swing their heads from side to side like a person watching tennis. I guess I'll just finish the physical description here by recording the presence, furthest to the right, and also behind glass, of the three interpreters' booths. We cannot see their faces directly. Every so often, when the video feed gives us a full-face shot of Monasebian strutting her New-York-courtroom stuff ("Enough already!" she says with theatrically produced exasperation at one point), we can see the blurred face of the interpreter in the booth behind her. Oh, and another of the strange effects of the whole interpretation thing-- in addition to the time lag -- is that when Bemeriki is interpreted into English for the Anglophones among us, the voice that does this is a definitely gruff male voice. As I sit here, I switch my headset between the French-language and the English-language feeds. In addition to what's coming in on everyone's headsets, there is also a simple loudspeaker in our gallery--as presumably inside the accoustically-challenged courtroom itself-- that gives the verbatim version of what's being said, whether it's in English, French, or-- presumably--Kinyarwanda. So it's quite possible to listen with one ear to what's being said in, say, English, on the loudspeaker, and also to what the interpreter is saying, in French, on the headset. Or vice versa. I can tell you that though the interpreters seem to be doing a generally good job--and under grueling, day-after-day circumstances!--the interpretation is still far from perfect. An oral interpretation is NOT a word-for-word translation. I know that. But it is supposed to be a faithful interpretation of what is heard. And what I heard during the four or more hours I was in the courtroom so far was that the interpretation on several occasions seemed to present an utterance of very different meaning--sometimes, almost directly contradictory meaning-- to that of the original. This seemed to be particularly the case with the extremely long, convoluted, and rapidly-spoken questions being asked by Monasebian, which the English-to-French interpreter frequently seemed to have enormous--and quite understandable-- difficulty rendering for the witness. Small wonder that the witness so often responded to these questions with blank looks of confusion. On numerous occasions, the increasingly frustrated Chief Judge, Navanethem Pillay, would intervene and re-ask the witness her own version of an extremely lengthy, convoluted Monasebian question. And on those occasions, the witness generally very quickly gave a simple and direct answer.... Well, I don't have time, here, to go any further with my critique of the whole mis-en-scene of ICTR Courtroom Number 1. I note that I have only so far seen a few hours of what is an extremely long-running production. This trial of three accused inciters and organizers of the genocide opened here in Arusha in October 2000. It might be worth trying to figure out how much this trial alone has cost, so far-- these attorneys aren't cheap, I can tell you, and neither is the rest of this entire complex court system. So far, ICTR's nine judges have pronounced judgments on eleven accused men (one acquittal and ten convictions). The amount of money the UN and other, supplementary donors have spent on establishing and then running this court over the past eight years clearly exceeds a billion dollars, most likely by some hundreds of millions of bucks. As to whether the effort has been worth it-- that's what I'm still here to find out. Meantime, tomorrow, Sunday, I'm going to take me a hike to some Masai (Wa-arusha) villages up the slopes of Mount Meru, and get myself more thoroughly back to Africa.

posted by helena at 4/12/2003 05:59:00 AM | link
 

THOUGHTS ON THE FALL OF BAGHDAD: The war is not yet finished. Securing the peace has still even to begin. I think we can attribute the tragic mayhem we presently see in Baghdad and the other Iraqi cities to two main factors: (1) The legacy of 30-plus years of Baathist authoritarianism, that resulted in the total repression of Iraqi civil society and a serious, longterm degradation of public and even personal morals throughout the country. In a place where children are routinely encouraged by the regime to spy on and report on any suspect political tendencies amongst their teachers, parents, and neighbors-- and this has been the case there for nearly two generations now-- basic social trust, and the ability to sustain it, are the real casualties; and (2) Bombs Away Don Rumsfeld's brilliant "strategy" of moving extremely fast to take out the power-center of the regime, with little thought given to how to consolidate public safety in the rear of the advancing forces. With regard to the second of these factors, there is a clear and evident contrast with, for example, the situation during the advance of the (Western) Allied armies during WW2. My father, James Cobban, was a Major in British Military Intelligence during that war. In June 1944, he crossed into Normandy a few days after D-Day. He and a colleague then undertook a detailed evaluation of the effectiveness of the "beach organization" that their unit had been planning, for the British sector of the Normandy beach, throughout the previous months. Their clear thought was that Allied forces continuing to island-hop in the Pacific toward the heart of Japan could benefit from this evaluation. But then, he and his British colleagues, and the Americans with whom they were then--as now--working so closely, immediately turned their attention forward: to how to rule post-victory Germany. Governance of France and Belgium, where the Allied front-line was advancing slowly eastward throughout the rest of 1944, were, I think, left mainly to their own respective national anti-Nazi organizations to plan for. But clearly, ruling post-Nazi Germany would be a task for the major Allied forces. And luckily-- as it turned out-- they had time to make some fairly solid plans. The approach the US and Britain adopted, which was informed by the visionary wisdom of US Secretary of War Henry Stimson, was basically that of rehabilitating German society on a tolerant, democratic basis. (It stood in stark contrast to the strongly punitive approach the Allies had tried at the end of WW1, which, as many of them understood, had later helped to incubate Hitlerism.) And the Americans committed themselves to providing the long-term investment of men and finances needed to bring that project to fruition. Thank God they did--in West Germany, and in post-victory Japan. On Europe's eastern front, things were far more chaotic. As the Russians advanced westward, racing to get to Berlin before the Americans, they left in their wake vast areas of absolutely untamed chaos. Plus, the Russians themselves had suffered so hugely during earlier stages of the war-- with some ten million Russians killed during the Nazis' earlier advance into Russia-- that they were little inclined to "tame" any of the forces of anti-German vengefulness that were loosed in their wake... It is worth remembering that in the months after the Russian advance, some eight million ethnic Germans were summarily ethnically cleansed from Eastern Europe. (That was the number of the ethnic-German refugees who survived that violent upheaval and made it, somehow, to the relative safety of the US-British zone. One can surmise that further hundreds of thousands of ethnic Germans-- perhaps millions of them-- never made it that far but were slaughtered along the way. It was an ugly, vengeful process. Yes, those families had lived a life of some privilege in Eastern Europe during the years of the Nazi occupation there. But no, they did not deserve to be driven out of their homes like cattle and summarily stripped of all their possessions along the way.) Now, who knows what is going to happen in Iraq? The fact of the present mayhem behind US-UK lines cannot be wished away, however much Bombs-Away Don desires to do so. It will have lasting as well as immediate political consequences. Based on my experience of having lived in Lebanon during the first six years of the civil war there, I would say that whoever inside Iraq can manage to sustain the kinds of effective social organizations that are capable of providing public order there will de-facto end up in control of those areas where they are able to do this. People cannot live without personal safety, and this requires some form--whatever form it may be!-- of public order. The Americans are not so far providing it. They seem to have made little provision for doing so. ("Eeeegh! Nation-building! Not for us!") And the Americans' non-reponsiveness to the urgent and urgently-expressed need of Iraqis for public order will certainly not go un-noticed. And that includes Bombs-Away Don's public attitude of condoning--almost celebrating!--the looters at their work. In the north-- and I mean that term in a fairly expansive sense-- the Kurdish forces look poised, perhaps, to provide public order. But if they do so, we cannot tell yet what the reaction of the Turks and other neighboring powers will be. And it's not even certain that inter-Kurdish rivalries may not break out again. The same rivalries that crippled the Kurdish areas 1991-96... So, still some big uncertainties there. In the rest of the country, I would place a strong bet on some of the Shi-ite religious organizations being well-placed to provide the public order that the people need. Under Saddam, the Shi-ite religious hierarchy was subject to all the same kinds of repression and control as, say, the Russian orthodox church under Stalin. But still, the outline of Shi-ite religious hierarchies remained. So has some form of strong Shi-ite self-identification of the 60-plus-percent of Iraqis who are Shi-ites. Plus, they have exile-based organizations just across the border in Iran, and an Iranian government that will be very supportive of them, even if in an extremely manipulative way. I saw on CNN Friday that a Shi-ite cleric filmed in Baghdad gave a sermon that seemed to echo very closely some recent statements made by Iranian President Khamanei. To the effect that, while they were glad that Saddam had been toppled, still they knew the US forces had only come in on a pretext of searching for weapons of mass destruction, but that their real motives remained suspect and their plans should be resisted.... So my conclusion is that because the peace in Iraq is still far from being won-- or even, yet, pursued-- by the dominant US part of the US-UK coalition, the war itself is still far from being over. There will be huge challenges, alignments, and realignments of different locally based powers ahead; and many of these shifts of power may be accompanied by further recourse to violence. ( The Iraqi exile politicans are like a froth that dances on the top of this beer. They may have an impact-- but only insasmuch as they have or quickly find a real base among the locally-rooted forces.) We in the global anti-war movement need, I think, to keep our focus clear. We can quickly rejoice that Saddam is no longer in power. But in a real sense, now, Saddam is not the issue. (I can even unite with Bombs-Away Don on that.) The issue is the wellbeing of and longterm prospects for Iraq's 24 million people. How on earth can they be saved from falling into chronic, extremely atrocious and destabilizing, Lebanon-like disorder?? It is clear to me that the further use of aggressive violence is not going to bring this about. As we have already seen, the massive violence applied to Iraq by the US-UK forces has already brought forth torrents of follow-on violence from within that deeply-scarred society. Our emphasis has to be on continuing to urge everyone involved to use the many nonviolent means that remain in order to resolve the remaining issues of serious disagreement. Thank God we still have the UN! For all its flaws, and for all the battering it took at the hands of US arrogance last month, it is still there as an institution that we or any of the parties involved inside Iraq can call on to help to negotiate an exit out of the present, extremely anti-humane state of chaos inside Iraq. People living, like Bombs-Away Don Rumsfeld, in tidy, secure western countries where by and large the maintenance of public order is not even an issue really do not, in my humble opinion, understand how central that one, socially-generated "commodity" is to the wellbeing of actual humans. Can the presence of the US forces inside Iraq contribute to the provision of public order? Certainly, it is their responsibility to do so, under the 4th Geneva Convention. (And the fact that, in their "race" toward Baghdad, they apparently failed to make any effective plans at all to secure public order in the areas behind their lines could possibly even be described as a "grave breach" of Geneva-4; that is, a war crime.) By the same token, if they cannot provide public order then they should just get out of the country, rather than staying, possibly compounding the problem of insecurity by their presence, and by their continuing presence preventing anyone else from doing the job. Can we see a democratic, tolerant, and self-governing Iraq emerge from all this? No, this goal still, sadly, sadly, seems far away. I guess we need to continue to hope, pray, and work hard for it to come about. But the central message remains: Violence still cannot solve problems successfully, in Iraq or anywhere else.

posted by helena at 4/12/2003 05:35:00 AM | link
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