Tag Archives: Congo

One of the Great Negotiators

Negotiate – Word of the Day

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Dag Hammarskjold (1905 – 1961) a Swedish Diplomat, economist and from 1953 – 1961 he was the UN Secretary General. He was also a deeply spiritual person, a contemplative who loved the medieval mystics. His book ‘Markings’ a journal of his spiritual struggles was posthumously published with a foreword by his friend, the poet W.H. Auden. He called his diary – negotiations with himself and with God.

Hammarskjold was propopsed by the British Foreign Secertary Anthony Eden who was impressed with Hammarskjold’s work in diplomacy and economics. The vote was almost unanimous in the Security Council and Hammarskjold was announced as the next Secretary General. The American and Soviet delegates thought Hammarskjold was harmless. He was reelected in 1957.

Hammarskjold was unaware of the nomination, and in fact thought the media report was a joke, and because it was announced on April 1st, he quipped that it was a bad April Fools joke. But it was indeed true.

Hammarskjold believed that relationships were important and that example was one of the best forms of leadership. He tried to meet as many employees at the UN as possible, he ate regularly in the staff cafe, he refused to use his private lift and opened it for general use, he established the meditation room (which he helped to design) which was to be for withdrawal and reflection, a place for silence, and a multi-faith space. He prevented FBI intervention at the UN that his predecessor had allowed at the height of McCarthyism. And he brought order and regulatory process to an organisation in crisis.

He was an able negotiator. He made some impact on relations between Israel and the Arab states. In 1955 he successfully negotiated the release of eleven US airmen who were prisoners from the Korean War. In 1956 he played a major role in ending the Suez Crisis, There are many other negotiations that he was involved in, and which demonstrate his capacity to work hard and achieve a positive outcome. Not everything was plain sailing though, the Congo was unresolved, interrupted by his death, and the Soviet interference and then occupation of Hungary was frustrating for Hammaskjold as there was little he could do to bring a resolution forward.

His role in the Congo Crisis was cut short by his death as the result of a plane crash travelling to Congo. There are those who still believe that Congolese rebels associated with mining interests were responsible for the plane crash, but no substantive proofs have come to light, including a UN 2015 investigation into the matter. Hammarskjold made four visits to the Congo. It was, as history has shown, a tangled web of politics and power plays. The USSR and the Americans had their own people on the ground and were manipulating much of the power play. The Congo had become factionalised on independence, and the popularly elected Prime-minister Patrice Lumumba was murdered. It was utter chaos.

J.F. Kennedy said of Hammarskjold: “I realise now that in comparison to him, I am a small man. He was the greatest statesman of our century.” Kennedy was reflecting on Hammarskjold’s death and on his own resistance to Hammarskjold’s policy in the Congo.

Extreme left and right views are critical of Hammarskjold, and in the main these revolve around the immpossible situation in Hungary, and the seemingly intractable problem in the Congo. But for me they are the proof, by comparison, of the majority of successes he was part of and integral to. His record stands as testimony to his great ability to network, form key relationships, to maintain a consistent approach, and to believe the best in people. His commitment was to keeping peace and finding better ways for nations to negotiate their differences. He formed the UN Emergency Response Group, and initiated the first Peace Keeping force. He was posthumously awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 1961.

His strength came from his contemplative stance, especially meditation, and his sheer passion for peace in the world. His personal belief was that selfless service to humanity was crucial. Whatever you may think of him, he was one of the great negotiators of the 20th century.

Paul,

pvcann.com

 

 

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Core Values

via Daily Prompt: Core

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Are there any angels in Politics? Gandhi, but so few others. No one is perfect, as the saying goes, and perception is probably 9/10 of the problem.

There are a number of political biographies that I read in my teens and twenties, and which have haunted me ever since. Martin Luther King Jnr., Sukarno, Aung San Suu Kyi, Nelson Mandella, Steve Biko, And Patrice Lumumba (photo above). My blood still boils at the injustices they have suffered.

It was the early 1960s, African nationalist movements were in full swing, independence was coming. The Cold War was the context, and African minerals were the agenda, especially uranium, and the West would do anything to preserve their access. If you then place a leader who is a strong nationalist in power and who then pursues independence and who rails against the old colonial powers, you have the risk of losing those minerals. What to do? Kill that leader of course. But first make sure that his country, and then the world, see that leader as deeply flawed, incompetent, corrupt, a communist, an extremist, anti-western, and so on. Then shoot them.

Lumumba was a Pan-African, he wanted to see an interdependent cooperative Africa, and to be free of colonial control. He believed that african nations could be great nations under their own people. He was intensely critical of the colonial powers, in particular, Belgium, who had ruled his own country Congo and had a murky record in governance of Congo. He was for nonalignment – the stance of not choosing sides between the US and the Soviet Union. His main principle of governance was “National Unity.”

No sooner had independence been grudgingly and conditionally granted to Congo by Belgium, that Lumumba had won government with his party Mouvemnet National Congolais (MNC). But then a crisis developed over political direction and dependence on Belgium. Lumumba began to extract Congo from colonial trade and patterns, this caused anxiety in the US, UK, and Belgium, all who were worried that this young primeminister would turn to the Soviet Union for trade and support. The western nations are implicated in wanting to remove Lumumba, but none have been directly connected to the firing squad that murdered him.

Lumumba was deposed, arrested and imprisoned by the military, tortured and later shot. The man who was behind this was Colonel Mobutu Sese Seko (with western suport), who installed a government under his own control, and later in 1965, he overturned that government and became direct military ruler of the Congo until 1997. The only real winners in all of this were the western powers, notably, Congo has never thrived, it has given western nations its minerals at great cost to itself.

Patrice Lumumba had strong core vlaues, his was a selfless desire to lead Congo into a strong independent nation, he wanted his people to have access to health and education, he had hopes to provide modernization, and decolonialisation. He wanted Congo to benefit from its own natural wealth. He talked of an egalitarian community where everyone was valued. For this he was painted as a communist and as a dangerous leader. For these values he was murdered.

In his famous speech before independence, a speech highly criticized by western leaders, Lumumba said: “The colonialists care nothing for Africa for her own sake. They are attracted by African riches and their actions are guided by the desire to preserve their interests in Africa against the wishes of the African people. For the colonialists all means are good if they help them to possess these riches.”

How prophetic! He was absolutely right. He is still right.

Patrice Lumumba’s life ended in tragedy, but it wasn’t completely in vain. He inspired his people to seek the best for Congo. Many of his political ideals have been picked up across Africa, and in the Democratic Republic of Congo, his thinking has been embraced on a number of fronts.

For me, Lumumba’s story is a reminder that there is a cost for integrity in political leadership.  For Lumumba there was no other way, there would have been a cost for him personally had he caved in to Mobutu and the West. He was true to his vision and core values. He was far from perfect, but he died for his vision for the future of Congo, and that vision lives on.

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Seeking Asylum: Why Do They Come? (Part Three)

There are many reasons why people seek asylum, but following the previous post on the U.N. Convention (see below), the reasons enshrined in the Convention and International Law (and following Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) are: political and non-political persecution (persecution over sexuality, race), religious persecution, economic persecution, war (conflict), torture, barbarous acts, oppression, tyranny.

In the majority of cases people do not take risks to leave their family, community, nation and take further risks leaving savings and worldly goods to others, take the risk of unsafe travel, risk discovery and return, in order to just enjoy a western lifestyle. The reasons for someone to actually take these risks are substantive.

Self reflection here might be helpful. When communities are faced with bushfire or earthquake there is an understanding that one might need to leave home and belongings to escape danger. It is not easy to do that even when faced with danger, and people have recounted how they have left late, or have even stayed and risked death, rather than leave and face something new, no matter how temporary. For many, leaving what they know and control and make sense of is not an easy or simple matter. There are whole sets of relationships, opportunities, cultural connections, identity, and world view, that are so much a part of each person they cannot easily be junked at the drop of a hat or on a whim.

The Story of ‘Gus’ is familiar to a certain generation. His family fled Austria after Hitler’s Anschluss. The family didn’t rush into it but eventually they fled in 1939, to arrive in Australia and safety. Gus’ father was Jewish, but this meant that even his mother wasn’t safe even though she was not Jewish. (see this and other stories at http://www.ras.unimelb.edu.au/refugees_australian_stories/). There is the story of Maimun who fled the civil war and utter chaos of Somalia for a UNHCR camp in Kenya and in 1999 came to Australia. There is the story of Pierre who escaped certain death in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Zaire) and who came to Australia in 2006. The story of Ayuel from Sudan whose family fled persecution and certain death, moving around camps in Ethiopia, Uganda (where the Sundanese militias pursued the refugees) and Kenya before being brought to Australia and safety. These are just some of a small collection of stories from refugees who have settled in Australia through the UNHCR program.

My own interaction has included working with “C” from Sudan (and “J” “J2” and “J3”, “D”). “C” was sent out of his village in south Sudan by his mother as the rebels entered shooting. “C” escaped the hail of bullets and wandered for days in the bush until entering Kenya. The story of “A” and his family is amazing, he escaped academic, religious, and political persecution and death in Iraq, he gave up a career, security, parents, and money to get here. 

Najeeba from Afghanistan reflects that for her to leave her friends and family and culture was the hardest thing she has ever done, but escaping the Taliban and oppression, abuse even death was a must that finally pushed her parents to come by boat to Australia.

Three years ago Ashane escaped by boat from Sri Lanka as a young man who the Tamils or even the government were attempting to press-gang into fighting in the guerrilla war (and please note that although the war is over, the government has continued its persecution of Tamils). (see http://www.rethinkrefugees.com.au/real_stories/).

From Europe in the 1930s to Afghanistan and Syria currently, there are substantive threats to the security and safety of ordinary people. The threat of death, persecution, oppression, torture, religious persecution, and the loss of human rights in general is real.

Why do they come? Because in many cases the people would die if they did not try. They are willing to die trying rather than remain and be killed by others. I would do that too! They clearly struggle to come to the conclusion that they should leave, but leave they must if they wish to live or even have rights.

My contention is that we have fallen into the trap of tribalism whereby we harp on about border protection and population control without really looking to see that we are a global people. We are all human and we all have inalienable rights. we need to educate ourselves more on why they come and what it is like to live in the shoes of refugees and reflect on how we might react and respond through hearing those stories.

For further reflection I would recommend the book and film “Kite Runner” which tells the story of how Russian intervention brought the collapse of the Royal family and enabled the rise of the Taliban (with U.S. help) and how the Hazara are persecuted by other groups in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. I would also recommend Angelina Jolie’s directorial debut “In The Land of Blood and Honey” a romantic (sic) story set in the midst of the Serb-Bosnian war and tells of ethnic cleansing, murder, rape, concentration camps and love. “The Killing Fields” and “Schindler’s List” are also valuable in alerting us to ‘why.’

And very confronting is the 2011 short film “Unwatchable” which was commissioned by charities to shock western audiences into action over the human price of gold for mobile phones and the destruction of lives to obtain that gold. The story uses a fictional English family who are raped and murdered to tell the true story of a Congolese family who went through this (interestingly the Guardian journalist Jane Martinson whinged about its brutality saying it made her faint and others sick – but that was the point, this was real for someone who couldn’t just wander down to the video store and choose a Disney film or go to Maccas for lunch!) The official site is now closed but the video is available on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=flePzz_CEuQ or engine search for “Unwatchable” within Youtube. It is six minutes long but a hard six minutes!

Why do people come? Because they live in fear and face death for many different reasons.

The U.N. Convention is a commitment by all countries to honour the rights of those who come to us as asylum seekers. But I have also already suggested that we shouldn’t hide behind the convention, we should respond humanely without recourse to laws. 

Paul

 

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