Showing posts tagged as "Post Conflict Elections"

Showing posts tagged Post Conflict Elections

4 May
The New York Times | Bosnia Still Needs Fixing
IN the Bosnian city of Mostar, a beautiful Ottoman-era limestone bridge called the Stari Most arched over the Neretva River for 427 years, surviving earthquakes and two world wars. After a barrage of shelling in 1993, during the Bosnian civil war, the bridge collapsed. Citizens were stranded on opposite sides of the riverbank. Ethnic strain wasn’t the cause. It was the effect. Across the country, the war itself was dividing citizens into three ethno-nationalist clusters: Bosnian Serbs, Bosnian Croats and Bosnian Muslims (Bosniaks). Twenty years after the war began, and 17 years after the Dayton accords brought the fighting to an end, the bridge stands again, and a shallow peace prevails.
But now, the compromises we made to end the killing increasingly look inadequate, and it’s time to begin fixing them.
Mostar is still split: the west bank is primarily Croat, the east Bosniak. It is one city, but it has separate universities, postal services, health care systems and phone networks — and it can’t agree on how to elect a city council. Political institutions that were supposed to reconcile a divided society are ineffective; ethnic quotas at all levels of government breed nepotism; children study in classes divided according to their parentage; economic development has stagnated. And the populace feels angry and hopeless about the future.
Meanwhile, the international community has mostly turned its back on its own handiwork.
The 1995 Dayton agreement ended the worst bloodletting in Europe since World War II. The warring factions were brought together only with enormous pressures and incentives from the outside, including military strikes and the promise that other countries would continue to enforce the peace and extend economic assistance. The agreement provided for early elections and set up an unusual political structure, but it was imperfect. We knew that then.
Still, it was the best we could achieve, and, as the late Richard C. Holbrooke said at the time, the most important thing was to stop the killing.
In retrospect, we can see how some of Bosnia’s difficulties are our own fault. Early on, we had too simply labeled the violence as a clash of ethnic groups, roughly equal in their responsibilities to reconcile, when in fact they had been manipulated toward war primarily by Serbian nationalist leaders. We had ignored Bosnia’s experience before 1992, when its citizens from different ethnic groups were very often friends, colleagues, neighbors and spouses — and even during the war, when there were immeasurable acts of generosity across the ethnic divides. Had we outsiders realized that the violence was not inevitable, and had we been willing to name Serbs as the primary aggressors early in the war, NATOforces could have intervened much earlier and saved tens of thousands of lives.
But we came in late, and by the time we did, hatred and fighting had shaped the political and military balances we had to work with. That produced an agreement that institutionalized ethnicity as the deciding factor in political and social identity. It divided power and representation according to whether citizens were Bosniaks, Serbs or Croats, leaving little room to organize along other lines — for example, gender and level of urbanization.
Today, as set out at Dayton, Bosnia’s presidency is a triumvirate; each of the three members must be identified with one of the so-called constituent peoples. This slows down decision making and excludes minorities, as well as the large number of Bosnians who don’t identify with one of the major groups. In fact, two would-be presidential contenders, a Roma and a Jew, won a ruling in the European Court of Human Rights in 2009 that required constitutional revisions that would give neglected minorities equal opportunities to serve in government. Three years later, that reform is still being debated by Bosnian political leaders, who owe their positions to the status quo.
Dayton also divided the country itself into two separate statelets — a Bosniak-Croat federation and a Serb republic — governed by the same legislature and presidency. At the time, many Bosnian women’s groups, religious leaders, civil society activists and students warned that the arrangement wouldn’t work because the country historically had been integrated. But they weren’t at the negotiating table; only those with the power to fight or to lay down their weapons were invited.
In retrospect, perhaps we could have done better to engage politically unrepresented groups who craved stability, so that they could sit alongside those who knew how to fight.
The compromises at Dayton stopped the killing, but also helped perpetuate the ethnic chauvinism, fear and greed that had set it off. And now, the international community bears some responsibility to keep Bosnia from ever relapsing into violence. We also must help Bosnians fashion a better political system, one that promotes national unity, effective decision making and democratic participation.
Three moves would make a huge difference.
First, the American and European governments must help Bosnia change the Constitution we helped create.
Second, after the Constitution has been revised, the European Union should reward Bosnia by granting it membership. Serbia, after all, was given candidate status — a critical step toward full membership — in March, and Croatia is scheduled to become a full member next year. Europe should also extend more financial and technical assistance to implement the reforms needed to re-establish a pluralistic society and secure candidate status for Bosnia (which the European Union treats as a “potential candidate” for membership).
Third, NATO needs to offer the country a clear path for joining the alliance; it will have an opportunity to do so later this month when NATO holds a summit meeting in Chicago. Many Bosnians of all ethnicities look at membership in NATO as a guarantee of security, prosperity and stability. In addition, the military is the one Bosnian institution in which ethnic differences have mattered least; recently, when Serbian veterans’ benefits were cut, Bosniak veterans raised money to give to the people who once fought against them.
We also need to encourage and support the kind of moderate high-level and grass-roots leaders we overlooked during the negotiations 20 years ago. They are the real heroes of the war — and of the peace.
One such person is Kada Hotic, a leader of Bosnian Muslim survivors of the war. Only last June, she was finally able to bury three small bones — the only remains that could be identified of her son, who died in the infamous massacre of Muslims by Serbian fighters in 1995.
Yet Ms. Hotic offers: “Maybe one day we can close the story of war and move toward genuine reconciliation. Everyone has suffered. When those men killed my son, they killed themselves. I forgive them, and so I live.”
 Co-written by Wesley K. Clark, a retired Army general and former supreme allied commander of NATO in Europe, a board member at the International Crisis Group. 
ARTICLE (The New York Times) 
Photo: Mikhail Evstafiev/ Wikimedia Commons

The New York Times | Bosnia Still Needs Fixing

IN the Bosnian city of Mostar, a beautiful Ottoman-era limestone bridge called the Stari Most arched over the Neretva River for 427 years, surviving earthquakes and two world wars. After a barrage of shelling in 1993, during the Bosnian civil war, the bridge collapsed. Citizens were stranded on opposite sides of the riverbank. Ethnic strain wasn’t the cause. It was the effect. Across the country, the war itself was dividing citizens into three ethno-nationalist clusters: Bosnian Serbs, Bosnian Croats and Bosnian Muslims (Bosniaks). Twenty years after the war began, and 17 years after the Dayton accords brought the fighting to an end, the bridge stands again, and a shallow peace prevails.

But now, the compromises we made to end the killing increasingly look inadequate, and it’s time to begin fixing them.

Mostar is still split: the west bank is primarily Croat, the east Bosniak. It is one city, but it has separate universities, postal services, health care systems and phone networks — and it can’t agree on how to elect a city council. Political institutions that were supposed to reconcile a divided society are ineffective; ethnic quotas at all levels of government breed nepotism; children study in classes divided according to their parentage; economic development has stagnated. And the populace feels angry and hopeless about the future.

Meanwhile, the international community has mostly turned its back on its own handiwork.

The 1995 Dayton agreement ended the worst bloodletting in Europe since World War II. The warring factions were brought together only with enormous pressures and incentives from the outside, including military strikes and the promise that other countries would continue to enforce the peace and extend economic assistance. The agreement provided for early elections and set up an unusual political structure, but it was imperfect. We knew that then.

Still, it was the best we could achieve, and, as the late Richard C. Holbrooke said at the time, the most important thing was to stop the killing.

In retrospect, we can see how some of Bosnia’s difficulties are our own fault. Early on, we had too simply labeled the violence as a clash of ethnic groups, roughly equal in their responsibilities to reconcile, when in fact they had been manipulated toward war primarily by Serbian nationalist leaders. We had ignored Bosnia’s experience before 1992, when its citizens from different ethnic groups were very often friends, colleagues, neighbors and spouses — and even during the war, when there were immeasurable acts of generosity across the ethnic divides. Had we outsiders realized that the violence was not inevitable, and had we been willing to name Serbs as the primary aggressors early in the war, NATOforces could have intervened much earlier and saved tens of thousands of lives.

But we came in late, and by the time we did, hatred and fighting had shaped the political and military balances we had to work with. That produced an agreement that institutionalized ethnicity as the deciding factor in political and social identity. It divided power and representation according to whether citizens were Bosniaks, Serbs or Croats, leaving little room to organize along other lines — for example, gender and level of urbanization.

Today, as set out at Dayton, Bosnia’s presidency is a triumvirate; each of the three members must be identified with one of the so-called constituent peoples. This slows down decision making and excludes minorities, as well as the large number of Bosnians who don’t identify with one of the major groups. In fact, two would-be presidential contenders, a Roma and a Jew, won a ruling in the European Court of Human Rights in 2009 that required constitutional revisions that would give neglected minorities equal opportunities to serve in government. Three years later, that reform is still being debated by Bosnian political leaders, who owe their positions to the status quo.

Dayton also divided the country itself into two separate statelets — a Bosniak-Croat federation and a Serb republic — governed by the same legislature and presidency. At the time, many Bosnian women’s groups, religious leaders, civil society activists and students warned that the arrangement wouldn’t work because the country historically had been integrated. But they weren’t at the negotiating table; only those with the power to fight or to lay down their weapons were invited.

In retrospect, perhaps we could have done better to engage politically unrepresented groups who craved stability, so that they could sit alongside those who knew how to fight.

The compromises at Dayton stopped the killing, but also helped perpetuate the ethnic chauvinism, fear and greed that had set it off. And now, the international community bears some responsibility to keep Bosnia from ever relapsing into violence. We also must help Bosnians fashion a better political system, one that promotes national unity, effective decision making and democratic participation.

Three moves would make a huge difference.

First, the American and European governments must help Bosnia change the Constitution we helped create.

Second, after the Constitution has been revised, the European Union should reward Bosnia by granting it membership. Serbia, after all, was given candidate status — a critical step toward full membership — in March, and Croatia is scheduled to become a full member next year. Europe should also extend more financial and technical assistance to implement the reforms needed to re-establish a pluralistic society and secure candidate status for Bosnia (which the European Union treats as a “potential candidate” for membership).

Third, NATO needs to offer the country a clear path for joining the alliance; it will have an opportunity to do so later this month when NATO holds a summit meeting in Chicago. Many Bosnians of all ethnicities look at membership in NATO as a guarantee of security, prosperity and stability. In addition, the military is the one Bosnian institution in which ethnic differences have mattered least; recently, when Serbian veterans’ benefits were cut, Bosniak veterans raised money to give to the people who once fought against them.

We also need to encourage and support the kind of moderate high-level and grass-roots leaders we overlooked during the negotiations 20 years ago. They are the real heroes of the war — and of the peace.

One such person is Kada Hotic, a leader of Bosnian Muslim survivors of the war. Only last June, she was finally able to bury three small bones — the only remains that could be identified of her son, who died in the infamous massacre of Muslims by Serbian fighters in 1995.

Yet Ms. Hotic offers: “Maybe one day we can close the story of war and move toward genuine reconciliation. Everyone has suffered. When those men killed my son, they killed themselves. I forgive them, and so I live.”

 Co-written by Wesley K. Clark, a retired Army general and former supreme allied commander of NATO in Europe, a board member at the International Crisis Group. 

ARTICLE (The New York Times) 

Photo: Mikhail Evstafiev/ Wikimedia Commons

The Democratic Voice of Burma | Suu Kyi embraces new role and compromise
For over two decades pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi defied Burma’s army rulers with steely resolve, but analysts say she has now embraced compromise, even if that means putting principles aside.
The Nobel laureate was sworn in Wednesday as a member of parliament, a week after initially refusing to take the oath of office over the wording of the army-drafted constitution.
She climbed down after President Thein Sein failed to offer concessions, indicating compromise may now be the order of the day as Burma creeps towards democracy in an astonishing reform process.
But the delay meant that on Monday when UN chief Ban Ki-moon became the first foreign leader to make a speech at the nation’s new parliament, Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy colleagues were conspicuously absent.
“The NLD has given the impression, once again, of having missed the train,” according to Renaud Egreteau, a Burmese expert at the University of Hong Kong.
Many of Suu Kyi’s supporters will welcome her historic debut in political office following the NLD’s sweep in April’s by-elections, held after an historic national vote in 2010.
But Egreteau says there are indications of a divide within the NLD between hardliners reluctant to work with the military, and a more pragmatic group that Suu Kyi is increasingly inclined to join.
FULL ARTICLE (AFP via The Democratic Voice of Burma) 
Photo: Htoo Tay Zar/ Wikimedia Commons

The Democratic Voice of Burma | Suu Kyi embraces new role and compromise

For over two decades pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi defied Burma’s army rulers with steely resolve, but analysts say she has now embraced compromise, even if that means putting principles aside.

The Nobel laureate was sworn in Wednesday as a member of parliament, a week after initially refusing to take the oath of office over the wording of the army-drafted constitution.

She climbed down after President Thein Sein failed to offer concessions, indicating compromise may now be the order of the day as Burma creeps towards democracy in an astonishing reform process.

But the delay meant that on Monday when UN chief Ban Ki-moon became the first foreign leader to make a speech at the nation’s new parliament, Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy colleagues were conspicuously absent.

“The NLD has given the impression, once again, of having missed the train,” according to Renaud Egreteau, a Burmese expert at the University of Hong Kong.

Many of Suu Kyi’s supporters will welcome her historic debut in political office following the NLD’s sweep in April’s by-elections, held after an historic national vote in 2010.

But Egreteau says there are indications of a divide within the NLD between hardliners reluctant to work with the military, and a more pragmatic group that Suu Kyi is increasingly inclined to join.

FULL ARTICLE (AFP via The Democratic Voice of Burma) 

Photo: Htoo Tay Zar/ Wikimedia Commons

The Christian Science Monitor | Indonesia’s Aceh struggles to integrate former rebels fairly
As Indonesia’s Aceh Province works to rebuild from decades of bloody battle - and a devastating tsunami - many analysts say feelings of injustice could wedge a new community divide.
The misty terrain of this long-troubled Indonesian province is dense and arresting and laced with contrasts. Eight years ago gunfire riddled lush paddy fields. But today small mansions stand out among clapboard villages.
Home to a decades-long separatist insurgency, Acehhas been mostly peaceful for the past seven years. Last month former rebel Zaini Abdullah was elected governor of the province in largely non-violent polls that international observers called a successful test of the peace process.
With his win, Gov. Zaini Abdullah, the former foreign minister of the separatist Free Aceh Movement, known as GAM, gained control of the resource-rich land for which he and his group of rag-tag supporters fought for more than 30 years. 
His entrance into politics, however, belies another fracture that has grown deeper recently, say analysts. Since the signing of a 2005 peace agreement in Helsinki that ended the fighting – in part by getting former combatants from GAM to lay down their arms and enter politics – the government has struggled to reintegrate ex-GAM members into society.
As this fragile province works to rebuild from decades of bloody battle – and a devastating tsunami in December 2004 – many analysts say feelings of injustice could deepen community divisions and spark violence from disgruntled ex-GAM who see the spoils of their struggle fall victim to nepotism and political corruption.
FULL ARTICLE (The Christian Science Monitor)

The Christian Science Monitor | Indonesia’s Aceh struggles to integrate former rebels fairly

As Indonesia’s Aceh Province works to rebuild from decades of bloody battle - and a devastating tsunami - many analysts say feelings of injustice could wedge a new community divide.

The misty terrain of this long-troubled Indonesian province is dense and arresting and laced with contrasts. Eight years ago gunfire riddled lush paddy fields. But today small mansions stand out among clapboard villages.

Home to a decades-long separatist insurgency, Acehhas been mostly peaceful for the past seven years. Last month former rebel Zaini Abdullah was elected governor of the province in largely non-violent polls that international observers called a successful test of the peace process.

With his win, Gov. Zaini Abdullah, the former foreign minister of the separatist Free Aceh Movement, known as GAM, gained control of the resource-rich land for which he and his group of rag-tag supporters fought for more than 30 years. 

His entrance into politics, however, belies another fracture that has grown deeper recently, say analysts. Since the signing of a 2005 peace agreement in Helsinki that ended the fighting – in part by getting former combatants from GAM to lay down their arms and enter politics – the government has struggled to reintegrate ex-GAM members into society.

As this fragile province works to rebuild from decades of bloody battle – and a devastating tsunami in December 2004 – many analysts say feelings of injustice could deepen community divisions and spark violence from disgruntled ex-GAM who see the spoils of their struggle fall victim to nepotism and political corruption.

FULL ARTICLE (The Christian Science Monitor)

30 Apr
Reuters | Mali junta rejects West African troop deployment
Mali’s junta said on Friday it would resist any deployment of West African soldiers in the country and treat foreign forces sent there under a regional plan as “the enemy”.
The comments came a day after regional bloc ECOWAS said it would send troops to Mali and Guinea-Bissau to tackle the aftermath of coups that, in the case of Mali, has left more than half the country in rebel hands.
"We will not accept any ECOWAS soldiers on our territory. This is non-negotiable. Any soldier who comes will be seen as the enemy," Bakary Mariko, a spokesman for Mali’s CNRDRE junta, told Reuters by telephone.
FULL ARTICLE (Reuters) 
Photo: Magharebia/Flickr

Reuters | Mali junta rejects West African troop deployment

Mali’s junta said on Friday it would resist any deployment of West African soldiers in the country and treat foreign forces sent there under a regional plan as “the enemy”.

The comments came a day after regional bloc ECOWAS said it would send troops to Mali and Guinea-Bissau to tackle the aftermath of coups that, in the case of Mali, has left more than half the country in rebel hands.

"We will not accept any ECOWAS soldiers on our territory. This is non-negotiable. Any soldier who comes will be seen as the enemy," Bakary Mariko, a spokesman for Mali’s CNRDRE junta, told Reuters by telephone.

FULL ARTICLE (Reuters) 

Photo: Magharebia/Flickr

24 Apr
Lost in Transition: The World According to Egypt’s SCAF
Middle East/North Africa Report N°12124 Apr 2012
Since it assumed power after Hosni Mubarak’s ouster, the performance of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has been, at times, head-scratching. Extolled in the wake of the uprising as the revolution’s protector, many have come to view it as an agent of the counter-revo­lu­tion. It often has been obstinate, before abruptly yielding to pressure. It values its long ties with Washington, from which it receives much assistance, but seemed willing to jeopardise them by targeting U.S.-funded NGOs. Suspected by Islamists of seeking to deprive them of opportunity to govern and by non-Islamists of entering a secret pact with the Muslim Brotherhood, it finds itself in the worst of both worlds: an angry tug-of-war with liberal protesters and a high-wire contest with Islamists. It displays little interest in governing, wishing instead to protect privileges, but erratic behaviour threatens even that. On the eve of presidential elections that have become a high-stakes free-for-all, the SCAF should take a step back and, with the full range of political actors, agree on principles for a genuine and safe political transition.
What has the SCAF been thinking? Understanding the Egyptian military’s mindset is difficult and requires modesty in reaching conclusions. At the core of the SCAF’s outlook is the conviction that its principal complaints against the Mubarak regime – the slide toward hereditary government; the excesses of neoliberal policies; ostentatious corruption by networks associated with the president’s family – faithfully reflected the public’s. Once it had ousted the president, it follows, it felt it had accomplished the revolution’s goals. As a corollary, the SCAF was and is inclined to view any who continued to protest after Mubarak’s fall as serving either their own narrow self-interests or, worse, those of foreign powers (read: the U.S.) aiming to weaken and fragment a proud Arab nation. No doubt, the latter notion has been a tool used by the SCAF to discredit its critics; but it would be a mistake to see it as that alone, for it is also a deeply-held belief within the military.
As a corollary to the corollary, the SCAF considers itself the sole actor possessing the experience, maturity and wisdom necessary to protect the country from domestic and external threats. In contrast, virtually all political parties are regarded with scorn, self-centred in their demands, narrow-minded in their behaviour. The Muslim Brotherhood stands as an exception of sorts, treated by the military with guarded respect. But it is a respect born of the long-term, hard-fought battle waged against an outlawed organisation that faced decades of persecution. Because the Brotherhood represents the only organised political force with which it must contend, the SCAF has treated it seriously – which does not mean sympathetically.
The interests the SCAF wishes to defend are a mix of the national and more parochial, but insofar as the military is persuaded it alone can protect Egypt, it has a tendency to conflate its well-being with that of the country. With the spread of internal insecurity, volatility in the Sinai and uncertainty in Libya and Sudan, it hardly sees this as a time to trust untested civilians. But it also hardly sees this as a time for others to challenge its privileged status – such as a secret budget sheltered from civilian oversight; de facto immunity from prosecution; and vast business ventures that affect key sectors of the economy. It almost certainly has no wish to remain in the political spotlight, governing the nation and thus blamed for what inevitably will be a taxing period of social and economic distress. But nor does it intend to be sidelined, lose its self-ascribed role as guarantor of constitutional legitimacy, be stripped of its economic privileges or see political institutions in the hands of a single (Islamist) party. Its objective is to stay in the background yet remain an arbitrator; and shun the limelight even as it retains decisive influence.
The trouble is that virtually all the SCAF has been doing and that has occurred since it took power has placed that objective further out of reach. Playing secularists against Islamists and Islamists against secularists alienated both. After a period of at least implicit understanding, the two leading forces – the SCAF and the Muslim Brotherhood – appear locked in a zero-sum game. The degree of uncertainty is striking. Egyptians elected a parliament and are scheduled to choose a president without enjoying either well-defined or commonly accepted powers. The committee due to oversee the drafting of a new constitution, which already had lost much of its credibility, has been suspended by court order. The issue of civil-military relations, at the centre of controversy both before and after the uprising, remains open. Of greatest concern, perhaps, is the risk the transitional process, despite having checked all the boxes (parliamentary and presidential elections and a new constitution), will end up doing so in ways that undermine the new institutions’ legitimacy, yield an unstable political system and fail to resolve any of Egypt’s many questions.
From the SCAF’s perspective, this cannot be welcome news. Its goal, from the outset, was to preserve what it could from the previous system for the sake of continuity, restore normalcy, marginalise a protest movement it viewed with considerable suspicion as well as both work with and contain the Islamists. Not only are the odds for success declining by the day; in the process, it also increasingly is alienating a range of political forces while diminishing its leverage and capacity to pursue its goals.
Given growing political polarisation, the presidential election has become pivotal. Fearing that the military would impose a strong presidential system, void parliament of real influence and thus rob it of its historical opportunity to govern, the Muslim Brotherhood has thrown its weight into this race, reneging on its repeated pledge not to do so. Remnants of the old regime sought to respond in kind. The presidential electoral commission has thrown out some of the highest-profile candidates – from the former regime; from the Brotherhood; and from the Salafi movement – but that has done little to mollify passions, as both Islamists and non-Islamists, suspecting a regime attempt to shape the electoral outcome, are renewing their protests.
The election may well be the SCAF’s last chance to peacefully produce a “balanced” political system, reflecting the Muslim Brotherhood’s parliamentary supremacy, yet also protecting interests critical to the military. Should Egyptians elect an Islamist without a prior understanding between the political forces and the military, the SCAF could well find itself at once powerful and helpless, unable to influence the process save by unconstitutional – and highly risky – moves. The prospect of renewed, widespread confrontation and an abrupt halt to the transitional process, once remote, no longer is unthinkable. The end result could be a presidential election that further inflames the situation, gives rise to institutional and extra-insti­tu­tional challenges, jeopardises the transition and settles nothing.
Neither the SCAF nor the Muslim Brotherhood wanted it to come to this. For the two, the clash is premature. Both would have benefited from a compromise agreement, safeguarding essential military prerogatives while setting the country on a clear path toward full civilian rule, allowing the Islamists to govern but ensuring it happens gradually and inclusively, consistent with the Brotherhood’s own fear of grabbing too much too soon. But, because the transition increasingly has taken on a winner-take-all quality, neither appears to feel it has a choice.
It is not too late. What is urgently needed is what the SCAF was either unwilling or unable to do from the outset: consult broadly and seriously with representatives from the entire political class and reach agreement on key parameters of a future political system – the powers of the presidency, the constitutional committee’s make-up and the basis of civil-military relations. By clarifying what precisely is at stake in the presidential elections, defining checks and balances and ensuring that fundamental guarantees can protect various interests at play, such a deal would de-dramatise the contest. It would make it less of an uncontrollable existential exercise – and more of a manageable political one.
CRISIS GROUP

Lost in Transition: The World According to Egypt’s SCAF

Middle East/North Africa Report N°12124 Apr 2012

Since it assumed power after Hosni Mubarak’s ouster, the performance of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has been, at times, head-scratching. Extolled in the wake of the uprising as the revolution’s protector, many have come to view it as an agent of the counter-revo­lu­tion. It often has been obstinate, before abruptly yielding to pressure. It values its long ties with Washington, from which it receives much assistance, but seemed willing to jeopardise them by targeting U.S.-funded NGOs. Suspected by Islamists of seeking to deprive them of opportunity to govern and by non-Islamists of entering a secret pact with the Muslim Brotherhood, it finds itself in the worst of both worlds: an angry tug-of-war with liberal protesters and a high-wire contest with Islamists. It displays little interest in governing, wishing instead to protect privileges, but erratic behaviour threatens even that. On the eve of presidential elections that have become a high-stakes free-for-all, the SCAF should take a step back and, with the full range of political actors, agree on principles for a genuine and safe political transition.

What has the SCAF been thinking? Understanding the Egyptian military’s mindset is difficult and requires modesty in reaching conclusions. At the core of the SCAF’s outlook is the conviction that its principal complaints against the Mubarak regime – the slide toward hereditary government; the excesses of neoliberal policies; ostentatious corruption by networks associated with the president’s family – faithfully reflected the public’s. Once it had ousted the president, it follows, it felt it had accomplished the revolution’s goals. As a corollary, the SCAF was and is inclined to view any who continued to protest after Mubarak’s fall as serving either their own narrow self-interests or, worse, those of foreign powers (read: the U.S.) aiming to weaken and fragment a proud Arab nation. No doubt, the latter notion has been a tool used by the SCAF to discredit its critics; but it would be a mistake to see it as that alone, for it is also a deeply-held belief within the military.

As a corollary to the corollary, the SCAF considers itself the sole actor possessing the experience, maturity and wisdom necessary to protect the country from domestic and external threats. In contrast, virtually all political parties are regarded with scorn, self-centred in their demands, narrow-minded in their behaviour. The Muslim Brotherhood stands as an exception of sorts, treated by the military with guarded respect. But it is a respect born of the long-term, hard-fought battle waged against an outlawed organisation that faced decades of persecution. Because the Brotherhood represents the only organised political force with which it must contend, the SCAF has treated it seriously – which does not mean sympathetically.

The interests the SCAF wishes to defend are a mix of the national and more parochial, but insofar as the military is persuaded it alone can protect Egypt, it has a tendency to conflate its well-being with that of the country. With the spread of internal insecurity, volatility in the Sinai and uncertainty in Libya and Sudan, it hardly sees this as a time to trust untested civilians. But it also hardly sees this as a time for others to challenge its privileged status – such as a secret budget sheltered from civilian oversight; de facto immunity from prosecution; and vast business ventures that affect key sectors of the economy. It almost certainly has no wish to remain in the political spotlight, governing the nation and thus blamed for what inevitably will be a taxing period of social and economic distress. But nor does it intend to be sidelined, lose its self-ascribed role as guarantor of constitutional legitimacy, be stripped of its economic privileges or see political institutions in the hands of a single (Islamist) party. Its objective is to stay in the background yet remain an arbitrator; and shun the limelight even as it retains decisive influence.

The trouble is that virtually all the SCAF has been doing and that has occurred since it took power has placed that objective further out of reach. Playing secularists against Islamists and Islamists against secularists alienated both. After a period of at least implicit understanding, the two leading forces – the SCAF and the Muslim Brotherhood – appear locked in a zero-sum game. The degree of uncertainty is striking. Egyptians elected a parliament and are scheduled to choose a president without enjoying either well-defined or commonly accepted powers. The committee due to oversee the drafting of a new constitution, which already had lost much of its credibility, has been suspended by court order. The issue of civil-military relations, at the centre of controversy both before and after the uprising, remains open. Of greatest concern, perhaps, is the risk the transitional process, despite having checked all the boxes (parliamentary and presidential elections and a new constitution), will end up doing so in ways that undermine the new institutions’ legitimacy, yield an unstable political system and fail to resolve any of Egypt’s many questions.

From the SCAF’s perspective, this cannot be welcome news. Its goal, from the outset, was to preserve what it could from the previous system for the sake of continuity, restore normalcy, marginalise a protest movement it viewed with considerable suspicion as well as both work with and contain the Islamists. Not only are the odds for success declining by the day; in the process, it also increasingly is alienating a range of political forces while diminishing its leverage and capacity to pursue its goals.

Given growing political polarisation, the presidential election has become pivotal. Fearing that the military would impose a strong presidential system, void parliament of real influence and thus rob it of its historical opportunity to govern, the Muslim Brotherhood has thrown its weight into this race, reneging on its repeated pledge not to do so. Remnants of the old regime sought to respond in kind. The presidential electoral commission has thrown out some of the highest-profile candidates – from the former regime; from the Brotherhood; and from the Salafi movement – but that has done little to mollify passions, as both Islamists and non-Islamists, suspecting a regime attempt to shape the electoral outcome, are renewing their protests.

The election may well be the SCAF’s last chance to peacefully produce a “balanced” political system, reflecting the Muslim Brotherhood’s parliamentary supremacy, yet also protecting interests critical to the military. Should Egyptians elect an Islamist without a prior understanding between the political forces and the military, the SCAF could well find itself at once powerful and helpless, unable to influence the process save by unconstitutional – and highly risky – moves. The prospect of renewed, widespread confrontation and an abrupt halt to the transitional process, once remote, no longer is unthinkable. The end result could be a presidential election that further inflames the situation, gives rise to institutional and extra-insti­tu­tional challenges, jeopardises the transition and settles nothing.

Neither the SCAF nor the Muslim Brotherhood wanted it to come to this. For the two, the clash is premature. Both would have benefited from a compromise agreement, safeguarding essential military prerogatives while setting the country on a clear path toward full civilian rule, allowing the Islamists to govern but ensuring it happens gradually and inclusively, consistent with the Brotherhood’s own fear of grabbing too much too soon. But, because the transition increasingly has taken on a winner-take-all quality, neither appears to feel it has a choice.

It is not too late. What is urgently needed is what the SCAF was either unwilling or unable to do from the outset: consult broadly and seriously with representatives from the entire political class and reach agreement on key parameters of a future political system – the powers of the presidency, the constitutional committee’s make-up and the basis of civil-military relations. By clarifying what precisely is at stake in the presidential elections, defining checks and balances and ensuring that fundamental guarantees can protect various interests at play, such a deal would de-dramatise the contest. It would make it less of an uncontrollable existential exercise – and more of a manageable political one.

CRISIS GROUP

19 Apr
How Will Partai Aceh Govern?
Sidney Jones, Tempo  |   19 Apr 2012
The extraordinary victory of Partai Aceh (Aceh Party) raises questions about how Aceh will develop in the next five years. Will it grow into an authoritarian one-party enclave in the middle of democratic Indonesia or become a model for the transformation of a guerrilla movement into a responsible political force?
It is worth looking at why Partai Aceh won by such huge margins: close to 55 per cent overall and more than 70 per cent in the populous districts along the east coast. Intimidation, while significant, cannot explain these numbers.
Acehnese told us repeatedly last week that the election was about peace and security – avoiding any return to conflict and ensuring a sense of personal safety. Partai Aceh leaders successfully portrayed themselves as both the leaders of the guerrilla struggle and the architects of the 2005 peace. They also suggested vaguely, however, that if they weren’t elected, there could be trouble.
Some gave other reasons for choosing the party. Several young intellectuals argued that GAM’s transition from guerrilla group to party was incomplete, and it needed more time to finish the process. If the former rebels lost this time, they might opt out of the political process in a way that would have long-term negative implications for Aceh. 
The most important factor in the vote, however, was almost certainly the party’s ability to mobilise the populace through the Komite Peralihan Aceh or KPA, the post-conflict name for the old guerrilla structure — and here is where some of the problems lie.  The KPA is led down to the village level by former commanders, and in many areas it is indistinguishable from the party. 
The KPA has no legal status, but its senior members are often powerful local warlords, grown rich through securing construction contracts and other concessions. As former combatants, they are used to obeying orders from above and securing obedience from below. When a political party is superimposed on this structure, the result has been an often autocratic organisation with little tolerance for dissent.  
In Langsa, we were sitting with a group of NGO leaders discussing the election, when suddenly one lowered his voice and whispered, “Careful, it’s not sterile here.” In the Soeharto days, that used to be the reaction when a suspected military or intelligence agent appeared. This time, it was a local Partai Aceh man who had entered, and our friends were afraid of being overheard; the party is widely believed to have its own network of informers. Several local offices of the election oversight body, Panwas, said it was difficult to follow up reports of Partai Aceh violations because witnesses were afraid to come forward.
If the party is to lead Aceh in a positive direction it needs to disassociate itself from and/or dissolve the KPA, gradually rid itself of military attributes (the party’s paramilitary task force or satgas wears red berets and camouflage uniforms) and recruit new blood on college campuses.  A younger, better educated faction of the party says it is trying to open the party up and make it less exclusive, but it won’t happen overnight.
This raises the question of what Partai Aceh’s political agenda will be going forward, now that it controls both the executive and legislative branches of the provincial government.  While the campaign was devoid of specifics, the party has a detailed platform for preserving the peace, improving government, reducing poverty, and strengthening Achenese culture and values. If the party uses it as a guideline for policies, it could win over some sceptics, although the track record of the party’s legislators is poor.
One party worker said the top legislative priority was the draft regulation on the Wali Nanggroe, an institution agreed on in Helsinki as a ceremonial position for the late Hasan di Tiro. Malek Mahmud, GAM’s former “prime minister” and Partai Aceh’s founder, has since assumed the title and role that some in the party’s old guard see as a kind of constitutional monarch. How the final version of this regulation emerges will send important signals about the party’s willingness to let go of some of its feudal tendencies. 

Aceh’s development will also depend on Jakarta and the willingness of national institutions to confront the party if it challenges the constitution or acts outside the law. Local police have shown a distinct reluctance to move against the KPA. When several members were implicated in the killings of Javanese workers in December and January, it took the elite Detachment 88 from Jakarta to make the arrests, and many Acehnese doubt that there is much interest in probing the case further. 
Likewise when the party last year refused to accept a Constitutional Court ruling, Home Affairs seemed to take its side, on the grounds that the largest party in Aceh had to be “accommodated” – and it was. The lesson may be that defiance of national institutions carries no costs, particularly as 2014 draws closer.
Many Acehnese we met assume that if its elected officials don’t deliver, they will be thrown out in five years. But with an absence of checks and balances, combined with an ability to direct significant resources to members, the party may be difficult to dislodge.
Whatever happens, Aceh’s experiment in post-conflict governance will be closely watched.
Sidney Jones is senior adviser to the Asia Program of International Crisis Group
Crisis Group
Photo: CpILL/ Flickr

How Will Partai Aceh Govern?

Sidney Jones, Tempo  |   19 Apr 2012

The extraordinary victory of Partai Aceh (Aceh Party) raises questions about how Aceh will develop in the next five years. Will it grow into an authoritarian one-party enclave in the middle of democratic Indonesia or become a model for the transformation of a guerrilla movement into a responsible political force?

It is worth looking at why Partai Aceh won by such huge margins: close to 55 per cent overall and more than 70 per cent in the populous districts along the east coast. Intimidation, while significant, cannot explain these numbers.

Acehnese told us repeatedly last week that the election was about peace and security – avoiding any return to conflict and ensuring a sense of personal safety. Partai Aceh leaders successfully portrayed themselves as both the leaders of the guerrilla struggle and the architects of the 2005 peace. They also suggested vaguely, however, that if they weren’t elected, there could be trouble.

Some gave other reasons for choosing the party. Several young intellectuals argued that GAM’s transition from guerrilla group to party was incomplete, and it needed more time to finish the process. If the former rebels lost this time, they might opt out of the political process in a way that would have long-term negative implications for Aceh. 

The most important factor in the vote, however, was almost certainly the party’s ability to mobilise the populace through the Komite Peralihan Aceh or KPA, the post-conflict name for the old guerrilla structure — and here is where some of the problems lie.  The KPA is led down to the village level by former commanders, and in many areas it is indistinguishable from the party. 

The KPA has no legal status, but its senior members are often powerful local warlords, grown rich through securing construction contracts and other concessions. As former combatants, they are used to obeying orders from above and securing obedience from below. When a political party is superimposed on this structure, the result has been an often autocratic organisation with little tolerance for dissent.  

In Langsa, we were sitting with a group of NGO leaders discussing the election, when suddenly one lowered his voice and whispered, “Careful, it’s not sterile here.” In the Soeharto days, that used to be the reaction when a suspected military or intelligence agent appeared. This time, it was a local Partai Aceh man who had entered, and our friends were afraid of being overheard; the party is widely believed to have its own network of informers. Several local offices of the election oversight body, Panwas, said it was difficult to follow up reports of Partai Aceh violations because witnesses were afraid to come forward.

If the party is to lead Aceh in a positive direction it needs to disassociate itself from and/or dissolve the KPA, gradually rid itself of military attributes (the party’s paramilitary task force or satgas wears red berets and camouflage uniforms) and recruit new blood on college campuses.  A younger, better educated faction of the party says it is trying to open the party up and make it less exclusive, but it won’t happen overnight.

This raises the question of what Partai Aceh’s political agenda will be going forward, now that it controls both the executive and legislative branches of the provincial government.  While the campaign was devoid of specifics, the party has a detailed platform for preserving the peace, improving government, reducing poverty, and strengthening Achenese culture and values. If the party uses it as a guideline for policies, it could win over some sceptics, although the track record of the party’s legislators is poor.

One party worker said the top legislative priority was the draft regulation on the Wali Nanggroe, an institution agreed on in Helsinki as a ceremonial position for the late Hasan di Tiro. Malek Mahmud, GAM’s former “prime minister” and Partai Aceh’s founder, has since assumed the title and role that some in the party’s old guard see as a kind of constitutional monarch. How the final version of this regulation emerges will send important signals about the party’s willingness to let go of some of its feudal tendencies. 

Aceh’s development will also depend on Jakarta and the willingness of national institutions to confront the party if it challenges the constitution or acts outside the law. Local police have shown a distinct reluctance to move against the KPA. When several members were implicated in the killings of Javanese workers in December and January, it took the elite Detachment 88 from Jakarta to make the arrests, and many Acehnese doubt that there is much interest in probing the case further. 

Likewise when the party last year refused to accept a Constitutional Court ruling, Home Affairs seemed to take its side, on the grounds that the largest party in Aceh had to be “accommodated” – and it was. The lesson may be that defiance of national institutions carries no costs, particularly as 2014 draws closer.

Many Acehnese we met assume that if its elected officials don’t deliver, they will be thrown out in five years. But with an absence of checks and balances, combined with an ability to direct significant resources to members, the party may be difficult to dislodge.

Whatever happens, Aceh’s experiment in post-conflict governance will be closely watched.

Sidney Jones is senior adviser to the Asia Program of International Crisis Group

Crisis Group

Photo: CpILL/ Flickr


9 Apr
The Christian Science Monitor: Indonesia’s Aceh Province votes in test for peace process
Voters in Indonesia’s Aceh Province, which until recently was wracked by a separatist insurgency, cast ballots for governor today. For most, the pressing issue is stability.
With mountains that once harbored separatist guerrillas looming in the background, voters shrugged off worries of violence Monday to cast their ballots in the birthplace of a bloody separatist insurgency that wracked Indonesia’s westernmost province for three decades.
All across Aceh, former combatants and women in colorful head scarves lined up to choose a new governor and one of 17 district heads in the second such election since the signing of a 2005 peace agreement.
In Tiro, a stronghold of the rebel group the Free Aceh Movement, known locally as GAM, voters said they were not afraid, despite concerns that recent violence could flare up during the polls. Some said they were voting for change, but for many, the more pressing issue was stability. The hotly contested election is seen as a test of the peace process in a province many view as a model of how former combatants can be brought out of the jungle and into politics.
“We cannot go back to where we’ve been,” says Yeti, a rice farmer who has spent most of her life moving to avoid the conflict. “We don’t want any more problems for Aceh.”
But the transition to civilian government has created bitter rivalries among the resistance-hardened rebels who now control the government.
Polls initially scheduled for last October were delayed several times due to a dispute over election laws and a spate of violence that has seen nine people killed, execution style, in the months since.
Observers say that violence was politically motivated and is not a sign of a return to conflict. What it does reveal, however, is the type of rule taking hold in this long-troubled province.
“Are we going to have a peace that’s moving forward and generally supportive of the democratic process, or are we going to have a peace categorized by fear and thuggery?” says Sidney Jones, a senior adviser at the International Crisis Group consultancy.
FULL ARTICLE (The Christian Science Monitor)

The Christian Science Monitor: Indonesia’s Aceh Province votes in test for peace process

Voters in Indonesia’s Aceh Province, which until recently was wracked by a separatist insurgency, cast ballots for governor today. For most, the pressing issue is stability.

With mountains that once harbored separatist guerrillas looming in the background, voters shrugged off worries of violence Monday to cast their ballots in the birthplace of a bloody separatist insurgency that wracked Indonesia’s westernmost province for three decades.

All across Aceh, former combatants and women in colorful head scarves lined up to choose a new governor and one of 17 district heads in the second such election since the signing of a 2005 peace agreement.

In Tiro, a stronghold of the rebel group the Free Aceh Movement, known locally as GAM, voters said they were not afraid, despite concerns that recent violence could flare up during the polls. Some said they were voting for change, but for many, the more pressing issue was stability. The hotly contested election is seen as a test of the peace process in a province many view as a model of how former combatants can be brought out of the jungle and into politics.

“We cannot go back to where we’ve been,” says Yeti, a rice farmer who has spent most of her life moving to avoid the conflict. “We don’t want any more problems for Aceh.”

But the transition to civilian government has created bitter rivalries among the resistance-hardened rebels who now control the government.

Polls initially scheduled for last October were delayed several times due to a dispute over election laws and a spate of violence that has seen nine people killed, execution style, in the months since.

Observers say that violence was politically motivated and is not a sign of a return to conflict. What it does reveal, however, is the type of rule taking hold in this long-troubled province.

“Are we going to have a peace that’s moving forward and generally supportive of the democratic process, or are we going to have a peace categorized by fear and thuggery?” says Sidney Jones, a senior adviser at the International Crisis Group consultancy.

FULL ARTICLE (The Christian Science Monitor)