U.N. Commission of Inquiry on the Central African Republic: Um Whut?

On Friday morning, the AP ran a story about a leaked report from the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on the Central African Republic, which had concluded that it was “too early to speak of genocide or ethnic cleansing” in CAR, but that other crimes against humanity had taken place.

The first part of that conclusion surprised me. In February, Antonio Guterres, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, testified before the Security Council that his agency had “effectively witnessed a ‘cleansing’ of the majority of the Muslim population in western CAR.” Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have both also reported that Muslims are being driven from the country en masse. What had the Commission uncovered that led it to decide otherwise?

I’ve now read the leaked report, and I still haven’t the foggiest idea.

The section analyzing the allegations of genocide and ethnic cleansing is exceptionally brief – less than a page long, much of which is taken up with a bullet-pointed list of the names of different genocidal crimes. It then dismisses the allegations of genocide and ethnic cleansing in a single paragraph, without citing any law or specific sources:

“As has been stated above, the origins of the present armed conflict in CAR is rooted in the struggle for political power. The actions of the parties to the dispute as of present demonstrate the fact that the conflict is still in reality a political conflict. SELEKA a mainly Muslim movement on the 8th of May declared a de facto partition of CAR, setting up a military Council and claiming the right to administer exclusively three regions of CAR. The main parties to the conflict remain SELEKA and anti-BALAKA. The fact that there is an anti-Muslim propaganda from certain non-Muslim quarters does not mean that genocide is being planned or that there is any conspiracy to commit genocide or even a specific intent to commit genocide. The displacement of Muslims affected by whatever party so far is a matter of protection and the preservation of human life not a matter of ethnic cleansing.”

Quoi?

Let’s break this down. First, it should go without saying that it is thoroughly possible for genocide and ethnic cleansing to take place within the context of a “struggle for political power,” or during a “political conflict.” Indeed, it would be unusual for them not to. And second, while “the fact that there is an anti-Muslim propaganda” is of course not in and of itself enough to prove genocide or genocide-adjacent crimes, it’s not particularly comforting, either. Those facts are not a basis on which to conclude that genocide is not taking place, they are reasons to investigate whether it is taking place. (If only there could be some sort of U.N. Commission of Inquiry tasked with finding out what’s really going on. Someone should really get on that.)

And has the Commission mistaken “ethnic cleansing” for some sort of laundry-related procedure? How else can we explain a line that dismisses claims of ethnic cleansing … by basically describing ethnic cleansing? Forcibly clearing a target population from an area by threatening the lives and safety of its members is pretty much the first chapter from the ethnic cleanser’s handbook.

This conclusion also seems to be contradicted by facts contained elsewhere in the report. For instance, in describing the difficulties faced by foreign peacekeeping forces in CAR, the Commission notes that “the MISCA and SANGARIS forces have been subject of attacks especially from the anti-Balaka militia, the majority of whom seem keen to carry out an ethnic cleansing in CAR by driving out the population or worse by killing them which would amount to genocide.” If the anti-Balaka fighters expressed their intent to commit ethnic cleansing by “driving out the population,” and then proceeded to do just that, what does the Commission need to see in order to conclude that ethnic cleansing is taking place? Engraved invitations? (“Your local anti-Balaka cordially invites you and your family to be ethnically cleansed on Saturday, June the twenty-first, two thousand fourteen. Plus-ones encouraged. RSVP.”)

Is it possible that the Commission, after a thorough investigation, determined that the anti-Balaka were all talk, and the civilians who have been displaced were merely caught up in generalized violence that was not targeted towards specific groups? Yes. But if that’s what happened, the Commission should have explained as much in the report, so that observers – and the Security Council – could weigh the credibility of the report’s conclusions. That didn’t happen.

And is now a good moment to point out that the Commission limited its investigation to Bangui, and is thus not really in a position to make pronouncements about ethnic cleansings and genocides that may or may not be going on in the rest of the country? I understand that the security situation made it difficult for the investigators to travel to other parts of CAR, but am quite confused as to why they did not at least interview refugees in neighboring countries.

In the interest of fairness, I should note here that the report has not officially been released yet, so it is possible that the version I saw was merely a partially-completed draft, and not yet in its final form. That would certainly explain why it is a mere 26 pages long, 13 of which are taken up with a history of the conflict and a description of the difficulties the Commission faced in conducting its investigation. (Turns out there’s a war on!) However, the fact that the document was accompanied by a letter from Ban Ki Moon submitting it to the Security Council on May 27th suggests that it was the final version.

If that is the case, then I am tremendously disappointed. The Commission had a mandate to:

“investigate reports of violations of international humanitarian law, international human rights law and abuses of human rights in the Central African Republic, by all parties since 1 January 2013 and to compile information, to help identify the perpetrators of such violations and abuses, point to their possible criminal responsibility and to help ensure that those responsible are held accountable.”

And yet, after six months of work from a team of six full-time investigators, the Commission appears to have produced a report that details little in the way of investigation, identifies perpetrators only in generalities, contains almost no documentation of specific violations or abuses, and provides no useful analysis that would ensure future accountability.

Not good enough, Commission of Inquiry. Do better.

WTF Friday, 2/7/2014

How did I miss the fact that the Austrian government has appointed a 27 year old as Foreign Minister?

At an age when a quarter of Americans are apparently still living with their parents, this dude is a Cabinet-level official. And I bet he has his own apartment, too.

By way of comparison, my proudest accomplishments at 27 were the following:

  1. Finally getting in the habit of flossing regularly;
  2. Leaning how to work my voicemail;
  3. Drinking whisky without making a squinchy face;
  4. Writing this blog.

You’ll note that nowhere on this list does “designing and executing the foreign policy of an entire nation” appear. Admittedly, it’s only Austria, but it still overshadows even the most exemplary dental hygiene.

WTF Friday, 1/17/2014

OMG you guys, stop the presses. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has FIGURED OUT WHAT CAUSES GAYNESS.

M7Yes, that’s right. One of the great mysteries of our time has been solved by the same scientific genius who brought us tear gas as sedative.

Per M7, “random breeding” in degenerate Western societies has produced the “abnormality” of homosexuality. For men, anyway. Lesbianism is obviously explained by “sexual starvation”. (Vitamin D deficiency, amirite?)

Somehow, this breathtaking exercise of logic led him to refuse to sign the draconian anti-gay law. So… yay?

 

*Photo of the man himself, probably hard at work developing cold fusion, from the Wiki.

WTF Friday, 12/13/2013

Um, Scary Spice is going to Rwanda for Christmas?

There are so many reasons to WTF this, but I’m going to focus on just one: Mel B apparently expects to see tigers on her trip. Explaining her plan to the Daily Mirror, she said “I said to the kids do you want to go to Africa and see lions, tigers and bears, or stay at home and watch TV all day? It was a no brainer.”

Sorry dude, but bears and tigers don’t live in Africa, and lions are extinct in Rwanda. (Although I hear they might be bringing some new ones in from South Africa.) Maybe try Kenya?

WTF Friday, 12/6/2013

This week’s double helping of WTF comes to you from South Africa, which in addition to suffering the loss of its iconic leader and moral lodestar, Nelson Mandela, also has to put up with this crap:

This Kerala Tourism Board Video is Going to Haunt My Nightmares

The Kerala Tourism Board has an important message for everyone, which is that Kerala is a good vacation destination because of the high prevalence of demonic possession, some of which occurs during spa treatments.

Another good activity to do in Kerala, apparently, is to get cloned, dress your clone in an outfit that matches yours, and sit in a daze in the middle of a lake as your doppelganger gets paddled around you in a canoe.

Or, if you would prefer, you can have a psychotic breakdown in the woods, during which a group of silent men and boys will dress you in burlap, tie your hands together, and watch silently as you writhe in agony. This will make your hair really, really messy.

(The elephant at the end clearly regrets his decision to appear in this ad. You can tell from his face that he is counting down the seconds until the shot is over so that he can call his agent and berate him for sending him out on this terrible job.

He is going to be all “Bernie! What the hell? I trained with the Paris Opera. I want to do La Bayadere, not La What-the-hell-is-this-lady-doing-to-my-trunk-adere.)

h/t The Daily Dish

Mysteries Abound

I love the internet (bringer of light and knowledge), but sometimes I don’t understand it.

For instance, why has this year old story of a Nigerian businessman, who died after allegedly being raped by 5 of his 6 wives, jealous over his preference for the sixth, suddenly gone viral this week?

Does it capture the zeitgeist in some manner I can’t quite follow? Is it a metaphor for our trying times? For Syria, maybe? Like, the businessman is Art. 2(4) and the first five wives are prohibitions on the use of chemical weapons and targeting of civilians. And the sixth wife is… Sergei Lavrov? No?

Somebody please enlighten me. And in the meantime, someone get cracking on a follow-up story clarifying whether the wives were charged or convicted. Inquiring minds want to know.

Gulu’s Girls Gone Wild

According to this op-ed in The Observer, a new scourge has replaced LRA raiding parties in northern Uganda: horny teenage girls.

Sam Agona, “ICT and social behavioural expert,” reports that once the young women around Gulu no longer had to worry about being forcibly recruited by rebels, they decided to celebrate by getting busy. And they’ve kept it up ever since:

Young girls have continued to come to town in the night, not only to look for money through sexual acts but also to seek plain sexual satisfaction through actively involving themselves in the practice.

Agona gets impressively hand-wringy about the fact that “in Gulu, females have desire for intensive sex just for enjoyment” which he describes as “a situation I accept is human but very bizarre.” (Apparently, no female has ever desired “intensive sex” with Agona.) He also swallows whole a rumor that “at a place called Olego, near the Uganda-South Sudan border, women there detain men who do not heed to their sexual demands.”

Then, like any good op-ed writer, he turns to his cab driver for answers.

Per the driver, “it is very hard to control girls,” particularly in light of their annoying habit of conducting their sexual relations in private, where concerned (ahem) men can’t observe them. And, of course, “the existence of the concept of ‘human rights’ made it more difficult to apprehend the girls.” Human rights, man, always getting in the way of right-thinking men’s ability to control the women around them.

I look forward to the inevitable follow-up in which Agona unveils an ingenious plan to settle these ladies down by removing their clitorises. Ugh.

H/T Ledio Cakaj

WTF Friday, 8/2/13

This week’s WTF Friday traveled to the blog via Metro-North from New Haven. Yale University has released its latest Sexual Misconduct Report, which manages to avoid using the terms “rape” or “sexual assault” one single time, even when discussing, well, rape.

You see, when such things happen in the rarified gardens of Yale, they’re not crimes, just “nonconsensual sex.” Observe:

“A YC student brought a formal complaint charging that a male YC student had nonconsensual sex with her.

Update: The UWC found sufficient evidence that the respondent engaged in certain conduct of a sexual nature that was nonconsensual. In addition, the UWC found that the respondent violated the Yale College Code of General Conduct. The respondent was given a two semester suspension, was placed on probation for the remainder of his time at the University, was restricted from contacting the complainant, and was encouraged to continue counseling for alcohol abuse, appropriate sexual behavior and the respectful treatment of others.”

Let’s break that statement down, shall we? The quoted text refers to a complaint by a female Yale student against a male Yale student. The “update” sets forth the resolution of the complaint.

Yale’s University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct, or UWC (there’s something amazing about the fact that Yale didn’t even keep the “sexual misconduct” part when choosing an acronym for its committee on sexual misconduct) investigated the allegations, and found that the perpetrator had, in fact, assaulted the victim.

That sexual assault was a crime, and most likely a felony, but there’s no mention of that in the report. (It does, however, make a point of noting that the perpetrator violated the College Code of Conduct, which I think we can all agree is the real problem here.)

Isn’t the term “nonconsensual sex” amazing? The way that it somehow implies a gulf between a situation in which someone has sex with another person without consent, and a totally different situation in which that person commits a rape or sexual assault? Yale apparently thinks there’s a distinction between the two, because the most severe punishment it meted out to any of the perpetrators described in the report was a suspension.

What’s a person got to do to get expelled from Yale? Non-consensual cannibalism?

I don’t know if that counseling for “appropriate sexual behavior and the respectful treatment of others” is available to universities. But it sure seems like Yale could use it.

h/t Texasinafrica.