Peace accord brings hope to the Horn of Africa

July 21, 2018

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Poor economic prospects, repression and military conscription made Eritrea one of Africa’s biggest sources of refugees bound for Europe.

David Pilling, noted author and FT columnist reports a ‘diplomatic turnround’ which has taken place with far-reaching consequences for the region and beyond, commenting, “Yet no one outside the continent has paid much attention”. Abiy Ahmed, the recently elected young Ethiopian prime minister has transformed the atmosphere in a country that had been beset by years of civil strife.

The two men later met and signed a peace agreement that brings to an end a 20-year stand-off since the bloody conflict of 1998-2000. Pilling adds that the accord was made possible largely due to the forward thinking of Mr Abiy, at 41 Africa’s youngest leader, who offered to cede land in accordance with a peace deal that was never implemented.

The leaders of Ethiopia and Eritrea signed the accord and later marked the diplomatic thaw between their once-warring nations with hugs and warm words in front of an ecstatic crowd at a concert celebrating the end of one of Africa’s longest conflicts.

Jane Flanagan (the Times) describes a visibly moved Isaias Afwerki addressing thousands of jubilant well-wishers in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on his first visit to the country in 22 years. As he was welcomed by flag-waving Ethiopians chanting his name, he said: “Hate, discrimination and conspiracy is now over. No one can steal the love we have regained now. Now is the time to make up for the lost times.”

Mr Isaias’s visit followed one made to his capital by Abiy Ahmed, prime minister of Ethiopia, when the leaders signed a historic five-point declaration to end a border war that has claimed 100,000 lives. They used their second summit to commit to restoring trade and transport links and reopening embassies.

“The reconciliation we are forging now is an example to people across Africa and beyond,” Mr Abiy said.

In a speech at the weekend to welcome Mr Isaias, Mr Abiy said: “We have finally found our sister nation after many years of hiding.” The summit culminated in a celebration of music and dance last night at the Millennium Hall, attended by 25,000 ticket holders.

David Pilling noted some of the real and immediate practical implications of the deal:

  • Daily flights between the two capitals, operated by Ethiopian Airlines, will start next week.
  • The unblocking of telephone lines between the neighbouring states led to emotional reunions between families and friends who had been separated for decades, events compared to the fall of the Berlin Wall.
  • Eritrea’s economic outlook should improve.
  • Landlocked Ethiopia will get access to two Eritrean ports, giving it an alternative to shipping goods in and out of Djibouti.

Alongside developments in African countries including Zimbabwe and Angola, it will be another sign of potential political rejuvenation on the continent and if the peace deal holds, the international community should stand ready to engage.

Pilling adds that observers say if the peace deal holds it could help to stabilise neighbouring Somalia. The benefits could reach far north, because an end to conflict and repression in Eritrea could reduce the number of its citizens migrating to Europe.

 

 

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George Macpherson: “Can Britain convert its ‘fighting force’ into a ‘force for nonlethal defence and law enforcement’?”

July 13, 2018

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An extract from an article by George Macpherson

Our ‘national defence’ forces do a lot of good: let’s keep them.

We are not against men and women in uniform – simply against the violence that is a small part of their existence. There are so many ‘better things to do’ that, in the long term, are less expensive.

  • Our politicians, influenced strongly by arms manufacturers, allow war while, personally, keeping away from any battlefield.
  • Every missile, mine, lethal drone, bullet and bomb exported supports our treasury and pension funds.
  • Our children are brought up to admire military exploits and stories of valour.
  • We celebrate our assassins and condone distant killing by remote control.

Can Britain, also, convert its ‘fighting force’ into a ‘force for nonlethal defence and law enforcement’?

This is a suggestion as to how – by keeping: the command structure; the recruitment; the excellent training in so many artisan and technical skills; the great engineering ingenuity; the communications excellence; the medical expertise; the pomp and pageantry; awards for bravery; the camaraderie and team spirit; the career structure; the overseas bases to meet emergencies; the sporting teams and the rules of conduct.

In my experience, all these existing things are not to be much bettered –I served three years in the RAF in the 1950s. Since then I have worked for other large organisations, but the RAF was outstanding in its procedures, humanity and efficiency.

Let us redefine the role of our military services and leave out weapons of war, mass destruction and combat. Instead, let’s expand into the design and development of nonlethal defence equipment for emergency use against crazed violence, criminal acts and despotic rulers.

Let’s refine prevention nets, vehicle cripplers, darting, Tasers, anaesthetic gases and, of course, digital intelligence to predict future incidents and prevent them.

Let’s redirect our spending towards, for example, disaster relief; housing and services; renewable energy; rapid response to pandemics; the United Nations and international law and order; and environmental conservation.

Read the complete article here: https://thefriend.org/magazine/issue/7600

 

Note that the Indian Border Security Force (BSF) has adopted a non-lethal strategy in along the border with Bangladesh. The force uses arms only for self-defence and fires weapons which are non-lethal.

 

 

 

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Air Commodore Alastair Mackie, CBE, DFC and Bar, RAF pilot and CND campaigner: an appreciation

June 26, 2018

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In the 1980s Alistair Mackie signed the Just Defence Charter and, after reaffirming support by email on 15/01/2009, agreed to be placed on the C3000 mailing list. The editor now regrets that his e-messages were not saved, most being a few appreciative words whenever CND’s work was mentioned.

Appointed acting pilot officer in 1941, he was staying at The Royal Empire Society, now the Royal Commonwealth Society, near St James’s Palace. Unable to sleep, he made his way to the roof, saw the capital ablaze from an air raid and vowed to hit back.

In June 1944, during the Normandy landings, Mackie dropped soldiers and supplies from his Dakota aircraft, avoiding intense anti-aircraft fire. Other incidents of bravery and initiative are described in the Telegraph obituary (paywall, see text in link to Bruce Kent’s post).

In the 1950s, when Alastair Mackie was commanding a Royal Air Force squadron of nuclear-armed Vulcan bombers, the Times obituary reports, he realised that the degree of target accuracy in the radar assisted Vulcan was irrelevant – with nuclear weapons the area of destruction would be vast.

After moving to a senior role at the Ministry of Defence and seeing political machinations at close quarters, Mackie became a staunch critic of the government’s nuclear policy and vice-president of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND). He felt that nuclear weapons were incompatible with his Christian faith and resigned from RAF at the age of 45, (see Bruce Kent’s CND post which includes the Telegraph obituary).

Mackie remained convinced that Britain’s nuclear strategy was ineffective, immoral and wasteful. In a 2009 letter to The Times he called Trident a “stick-on hairy chest virility symbol”.

His first book was Some of the People all the Time (Book Guild Publishing in 2006) and this post ends with a reflection in the memoirs of his service with the RAF, Flying Scot: An Airman’s Story.(2012):

“Man’s inhumanity to man has given place to man’s suicidal inhumanity to the planet . . . My shame at having been part of it as a Vulcan pilot is mitigated only by decades of membership of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.”

Alistair Mackie: born on August 3, 1922, died on May 19, 2018

 

 

 

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The two Korean leaders have declared there will be no more war on the Korean Peninsula

April 27, 2018

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A tentative hope was fostered after reading – on December 17th – about South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s meeting with China’s Xi Jinping. The trip — Mr Moon’s first state visit to Beijing — was used to mend bilateral ties, which disintegrated this year after China launched an economic boycott of South Korean companies and goods. In Beijing, Mr Moon urged Xi Jinping, China’s president, to step up efforts to solve the nuclear crisis with North Korea.

The earlier hope has been strengthened by the news in the Korea Times today

Read [FULL TEXT] Panmunjeon Declaration

President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un have now signed the “Panmunjeom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Unification of the Korean Peninsula,” in which they made it clear there would be no more war on the peninsula and that a new era of peace has begun.

President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un have announced that South and North Korea will seek to hold tripartite talks with the United States, or talks including China, with the goal of declaring an end to the Korean War (1950-53) this year and establishing permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula, Friday.

Kim Jae-chun, a professor at Sogang university, said: “South Korea believes there is a role to be played by China . . . China could become an arbiter between the US and North Korea. The Moon government will be turning to China to say you guys have to calm things down with North Korea. But China will also ask South Korea to try convince the US to lower its rhetoric.”

Kim Rahn (Korea Times) reports that, in a joint declaration they announced after the summit at the truce village of Panmunjeom, the two leaders reaffirmed the joint goal of making the Korean Peninsula nuclear-free through complete denuclearization. To attain this goal and for further discussions on the North Korea nuclear issue, Moon will visit Pyongyang this autumn. Points made in the declaration were summarised:

(1)  Two Koreas agree to declare the end of the Korean War that has been suspended since an armistice agreement in 1953.

(2)  Two Koreas agree to set denuclearization as a common goal and work together to make the Korean Peninsula nuclear free.

(3)  South Korean President Moon Jae-in will visit Pyongyang in autumn.

(4)  Two Koreas agree to stop a range of hostile acts on the ground, in the air and on the ocean.

(5)  Starting May 1, the two Koreas will stop broadcasting propaganda on the inter-Korean border.

(6)  Two Koreas will set up a jointly operated liaison office in Gaeseong, North Korea.

(7)  On Aug 15, the two Koreas will host reunions of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War.

(8)  Two Koreas agreed to reconnect an inter-Korean railroad on the East Coast.

(9)  Two Koreas will jointly participate in the 2018 Asian Games.

Moon said, “North Korea’s pre-emptive nuclear freeze will be a valuable beginning for complete denuclearization of the peninsula.” Kim said, “I’m making efforts so that the agreement we made today will not turn out like before, but produce a good outcome  . . . If the people of the two Koreas can pass on the road I passed today, if Panmunjeom becomes a symbol of peace, the people of the two Koreas will enjoy joint prosperity.”

Moon added: “Today I and Kim set a milestone, which will not be shaken, toward co-prosperity and unification”.

 

 

 

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The late John Roberts and Jeremy Corbyn: pragmatic idealists?

April 13, 2018

The late John Roberts would have welcomed the election of Jeremy Corbyn. Having recently revisited his work – ‘ahead of its time’ – the opening words in one essay come to mind:

“Since 7th August 1945 I have believed – and felt – that only by abolishing war would the sort of world that I wanted be possible. I have devoted more or less the whole of my life to pursuing ways that seemed to offer the possibility and hope of that being achieved or, at the least, of preventing a third world war”.

Greatly though I valued John Roberts as a person, at the time I thought his advocacy of World Citizenship, which will be published in due course on this site, was unrealistic, utopian. But it was visionary, in the positive sense of that word.

Now damage to the living, their infrastructure and above all, their environment, have deteriorated so much – and I see no other acceptable option offered by the great and the good.

Sienna Rodgers quotes Jeremy Corbyn:

“More bombing, more killing, more war will not save life, it will take lives and spawn the war elsewhere”.

He points out that even US defence secretary James Mattis – nicknamed ‘Mad Dog’ – has warned further military action could “escalate out of control”.

Sienna comments, “There appears to be an unspoken agreement, driven by a laddish culture, that those urging caution are being ‘soft’. But the Labour leader’s stance reflects the view held by the British public, 43% of which oppose missile strikes in Syria according to the latest YouGov research, though the majority of Britons (61%) believe that the Syrian government or their allies probably did carry out a chemical attack”.

 

Corbyn’s statement concludes: “The need to restart genuine negotiations for peace and an inclusive political settlement of the Syrian conflict, including the withdrawal of all foreign forces, could not be more urgent. We must do everything we can, no matter how challenging, to bring that about.”

 

 

 

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Pope Francis’ Easter message – summary and link to full text

April 3, 2018

On Easter Sunday, Pope Francis implored the world to seek out solutions to its geopolitical conflicts.

Excerpts from Ana Campoy’s summary:

He first addressed the “beloved and long-suffering land of Syria” in his traditional Urbi et Orbi (“to the City and the World”) address. “May the light of the risen Christ illumine the consciences of all political and military leaders, so that a swift end may be brought to the carnage in course”.

Then he asked that the warring parties respect humanitarian laws and open access to the country so aid could be delivered to the millions of Syrians whose lives have been ravaged by civil war.

The Pope cast a blessing on the rest of the Middle East, too, “so that dialogue and mutual respect may prevail over division and violence.”

In addition, he addressed conflict in South Sudan, pleading that the world “not forget the victims of that conflict, especially the children!”, and Venezuela, where he hoped for “a just, peaceful and humane way to surmount quickly the political and humanitarian crises that grip it.”

Francis also offered a blessing for those trying to ratchet down tensions in the Korean Peninsula. South and North Korea’s current leaders are set to meet at the end of April for the first time; US president Donald Trump has said he will sit down with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un by May, saying:

“May those who are directly responsible act with wisdom and discernment.”

We invoke on this day fruits of hope for those who yearn for a more dignified life, above all in those areas of the African continent deeply affected by hunger, endemic conflicts and terrorism. May the peace of the risen Lord heal wounds in South Sudan and open hearts to dialogue and mutual understanding. Let us not forget the victims of that conflict, especially the children! May there be no lack of solidarity with all those forced to abandon leave their native lands and lacking the bare essentials for living.

We implore fruits of dialogue for the Korean peninsula, that the discussions under way may advance harmony and peace within the region. May those who are directly responsible act with wisdom and discernment to promote the good of the Korean people and to build relationships of trust within the international community.

We pray for the fruits of new life for those children, who as a result of wars and hunger, grow up without hope, lacking education and health care; and to those elderly persons who are cast off by a selfish culture that ostracizes those who are not “productive”.

We also implore fruits of wisdom for those who have political responsibilities in our world, that they may always respect human dignity, devote themselves actively to the pursuit of the common good, and ensure the development and security of their own citizens.

The love of God “dispels wickedness, washes faults away, restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to mourners, drives out hatred, fosters concord and brings down the mighty” (Easter Proclamation).

Happy Easter to all!

 

 

The full text of the pope’s 2018 Sunday Easter address: https://qz.com/1242396/on-easter-sunday-pope-francis-doled-out-blessings-to-syria-and-other-geopolitical-hotspots/

 

 

 

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FT reader suggests ‘NATO – just STOP’!

February 4, 2018

 Anti-Russian propaganda escalates

Just one example: there were warnings about “huge” Russian wargames in September, raising alarm among the credulous. A briefing by Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, warned that Russia “has used big military exercises as a disguise or a precursor for aggressive military actions against their neighbours”, citing Georgia in 2008 and Crimea in 2014.  The British Defence Secretary, Sir Michael Fallon, said the exercise was “designed to provoke us” and appeared to accept the estimate of 100,000 troops.

But Zapad-17 offered nothing more alarming than footage of Vladimir Putin observing the exercises through binoculars and a report that three people had been injured when a Russian helicopter accidentally fired on spectators.

The numbers forecast as 100,000 were put by all observers at between 10,000 and 17,000. Russia pointed out that their given numbers had been accurate and international borders had been respected.

Is this briefing done to strengthen the case for NATO expenditure and expansion?

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was created in 1949 by the United States, Canada and several Western European nations to provide collective security against the Soviet Union. When that was dissolved in 1991, NATO decided to expand eastwards, though newly declassified documents confirm that – as Rodric Braithwaite, former British Ambassador to the Soviet Union, recounted in March 5, 1991 – British foreign minister Douglas Hurd and British PM John Major assured the Soviet leader that NATO would not expand eastwards.

Despite this assurance, expansion continued, with Albania, Croatia, Montenegro as the latest recruits. Roger Boyes, Berlin correspondent to The Times, warns that NATO’s expansion eastward needlessly provokes Russia and must stop growing if it wants to survive. Sardonically, Small People Against Big Government published this map:

He sees Turkey’s plans to buy a Russian-made S-400 missile defence system that cannot be integrated into NATO’s radar network – and the consequent training of Turks by Russia – as a serious problem for the alliance. Boyes believes that the Turkish president should observe its membership conditions or leave the alliance, losing nuclear weapons from the Incirlik base, new F-35 jets, training of Turkish soldiers and intelligence sharing.

Take seriously Putin’s fear of encirclement and end the process of NATO enlargement

Boyes concludes: “The correct response to Putin, then, is a paradoxical one. It doesn’t mean shelving rigorous sanctions policies against Putin, and it doesn’t mean we should recognise his illegal annexation of Crimea.  It is to take seriously his fear of encirclement and end the process of Nato enlargement . . . to stay credible a defence alliance has to live within its means, stay alert and regain the will to act. That has to be better than the present enfeebled ambiguity”.

Dr Harlan Ullman, described as the principal creator of “shock and awe”, fears that Vladimir Putin is turning this concept against NATO and “understands well how to rattle us” but adds that “Mr Putin has no intent of starting a war or invading any NATO member”.

In the Financial Times he deplores “relatively tiny deployments of military forces to central and eastern Europe that will still not be complete for months” adding that “While these token forces may reassure Nato allies, it is unlikely that Mr Putin is impressed”.

He prescribes a variant of shock and awe to defend ”the easternmost allies”: providing large numbers of anti-aircraft and anti-armoured-vehicle shoulder-fired missiles and local forces that would make any incursion very costly. Ullman also believes that assigning a US or UK Trident or French ballistic missile submarine to NATO would be a significant signal, as Russia has a ‘shorter-range nuclear numerical advantage’.

Though both conclude that Russia has no aggressive intentions towards NATO they could go further and heed the advice of an FT reader to STOP:How about just stopping to provoke the Russians? Stop your ‘colour’ revolutions in Russia’s backyard, stop trying to roll NATO’s (Washington’s occupation forces for Europe) tanks on Russia’s doorstep and stop any economic warfare”.

 

 

 

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