The Role of People of Conscience in Cultivating Peace and Preventing Human Rights Abuse
by Abukar Arman
This is the full text of a message delivered at the 5th Annual Martin Luther King Human Rights Forum held on Jan 17th, 2008 at the MLK Center in Atlanta, Georgia by Abukar Arman.
Greetings of peace, Salaam.
The MLK Human Rights Committee, distinguished guests, brothers and sisters:
Senseless wars are raging across the globe, the appetite for exploitation and oppression is in an all-time high, extremism in all its forms - economic, social, political, and indeed religious - is on the rise, at a time when justice became an orphaned child; when many of its great champions such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., El-Hajj Malik Shabbaz, and Gandhi are no longer with us.
But, people of conscience cannot and should not find comfort through the path of the least resistance neither for CONVENIENCE nor for FEAR.
Why? Because, they are the voice of the voiceless; they aspire to cultivate state of equilibrium within humanity; they provide the balance essential for humanity to sustain its moral integrity; they breakdown the barriers of prejudice such as race, class, ethnicity, religion, and geographical regions.
These endangered species stand up for the rights of individual political prisoner, as well as for those targeted groups abused through the so-called extraordinary rendition programs, as well as those innocent civilians suffering the brutality of occupation.
It is in that context and in the spirit of Martin Luther King’s vision that transcended US-oriented civil rights and embraced global-oriented human rights that I would like to bring to your attention what is now officially recognized as Africa’s worst humanitarian crisis- Somalia.
While the political factors that led to the current situation are many and are mainly self-inflicted, it is the predatory foreign intervention that fueled it and indeed perpetuated it. Ethiopia has been funding Somali warlords against one another overtly and covertly. Ethiopia has micromanaged all 14 so-called Somali reconciliation conferences except one.
Then came Christmas 2006—the very day that the Christian world prays for “peace on earth”—when Ethiopia troops marched into Mogadishu. This day engraved one of the most dreadful facts on the wall of infamy: For the first in the history of Africa an African nation invaded another African nation, and a year later it still occupies it with a brutality that created the continent’s worst humanitarian crisis.
The brutal occupation has created close to 1 million internally displaced persons (almost half of the total Mogadishu residents) who are by and large denied receiving food and medical care as the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the Ethiopian occupation accuse them of being “the families of the insurgents,” thus compounding the number of Somalis at the risk of utter starvation to 1.5 million.
These victims who are mostly women and children are dying slow death as the propaganda machine, the Meles Zenawi regime and its Washington-based Ethiopian lobby, continues to veil these killing fields between the capital Mogadishu and the town of Afgoye with denials and disinformation; This regime’s well-documented record of domestic cruelty and human rights violations notwithstanding.
That said, the initial invasion and the subsequent brutal occupation was not without a pretext: Meles Zenawi has packaged his invasion as a national security issue, an extension of the global war on terrorism, a preemptive war of some sort- something that easily resonated with Washington who was after “three international terrorists” on the run.
Today, Ethiopia finds itself in a predicament similar to that faced by Washington vis a vis Iraq. Each additional day of the occupation plants more seeds of anger and hatred that further radicalizes insurgents and could set the stage for perpetual violence and chaos that could, as many analysts warned, set the entire Horn on political fire.
Unilateral predatory intervention defies the international rule of law, more particularly, that of the United Nations and the African Union and it indeed flies in the face of the people of conscience, the peace-loving people of the world.
In the spirit of the vision of Martin Luther King, Jr., we must collaborate to end this brutality and occupation. But, as this humanitarian and political crisis has not been making headlines, we would not be able to make a difference until each one of us seriously learns about the core political issues, actors, and factors adding fuel to the fire burning in Somalia; until we start educating others; until we start writing to influential stakeholders and policy-makers and urge them to provide leadership; until we flood the media, phone calls, letters, and Op-Eds.
The responsibility rests on us. Let us not become only the hearers who find comfort in inaction, but the carriers and the doers- those who, against all odds, translate the message into action. And, let us keep reminding the world that profound testimonies are amply found in the pages of history, that no peace is ever attained by keeping people under the boots of oppression and the cruelty of occupation.
Visit Abukar Arman’s site FrogScorpia