Archive for September 24th, 2008
From the Institute of War and Peace Reporting.
Someone defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.
It’s an accurate description of the continuing situation with Joseph Kony, the leader of the Ugandan rebel Lord’s Resistance Army, LRA, currently holed up in the northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC.
As he has in the past, Kony continues to play humiliating games with negotiators seeking a final end to northern Uganda’s brutal 20-year war with the LRA.
He, or his so-called spokesman David Matsanga, repeatedly announce that Kony plans to sign a permanent peace agreement, and even go so far as to set dates. Negotiators scramble to an agreed rendezvous point in the jungle – but Kony never shows.
This is followed by public grumblings from the negotiators, who vow never again to be fooled.
But that “never again” lasts only a few weeks. Kony then calls someone like United Nations Special Envoy Joachim Chissano or talks mediator Riek Machar, the vice president of South Sudan, or dials up Mega FM in Gulu or Radio France International, and rambles on about how much he wants peace.
This inevitably draws yet another delegation to the jungles and which again is left sitting alone and waiting.
Kony undoubtedly enjoys this because of the ease with which he can get away with it. He clearly does not want peace.
In the article I recently wrote for the New Statesman, I argued that: “Bogus scepticism does not centre on an impartial search for the truth, but on a no-holds-barred defence of a preconceived ideological position.”
I’ve long felt that the UK asylum system perfectly instantiates this phenomenon, pursuing a policy of institutionalised “atrocity denial”. An investigation by Amnesty International in 2004 revealed “Home Office asylum decisions based on inaccurate and out-of-date country information, unreasoned decisions about people’s credibility and a failure to properly consider complex torture cases”.
Amnesty International’s UK Director, Kate Allen, noted that:
“Getting an asylum decision wrong is not like a clerical error on a tax bill or parking fine. Wrongly refusing someone’s claim could mean returning them to face torture or execution. These are life-or-death decisions and the Home Office is getting one in five of them wrong.
“Our study of Home Office refusal letters to asylum seekers shows a staggering lack of accurate information about the situations asylum seekers are fleeing from. This is compounded by a negative culture that means many claims simply aren’t taken seriously.”
One very good illustration of this, in my view, was the “bogus refusal” given to the Uzbek dissident Jahongir Sidikov, the circumstances of which are described here. Following a vigorous campaign by Craig Murray and others, the decision was overturned.
Another very blatant example hangs in the balance right now. Annociate Nimpagaritse is currently being held in Colnbrook detention centre, awaiting deportation to her home country of Burundi. According to her supporters:
“Annociate is from the minority Tutsi ethnic group in Burundi, and was born in Bujumbura, the capital city. Hutus killed various family members in 1993. Then, in 2004, armed men who she believes to have been from the FNL (Forces nationals de liberation), a Hutu rebel group, shot and killed her parents at the family home. Annociate and her siblings managed to escape from the house and fled to a refugee camp, but she became separated from them and does not know their whereabouts. In the camp she was constantly in fear of discovery by FNL Hutus, and in 2005 was helped to escape to the UK where she claimed asylum. This was refused as was her fresh claim made in April 2007. She suffers from posttraumatic stress disorder and is still receiving counselling.”
Over the years I have spoken to many Burundians who have suffered at the hands of the FNL. Threats are commonplace – particularly against those who have lost loved ones in the group’s many attacks – which are predominantly targetted against Tutsis. Some years ago, I myself was threatened by an FNL member based in the Netherlands – the man in question, Charles Nzeyimana, took exception to my campaigning tactics in trying to ensure justice over the December 2000 massacre in which my sister Charlotte was killed. Luckily I live a long way from Burundi.
The FNL leader Agathon Rwasa shows no mercy even to those within his own group who dissent from his activities. To return a secondary victim of an FNL double murder to Burundi, at a time when the group is continuing to kill – and to recruit new combatants, amid a situation of near-total impunity for the crimes they have so far committed, seems, to me, akin to deporting Darfuri torture victims back to Sudan. But of course, the UK government has a track record of doing just that, too…
Atrocity denial seems insidious in whatever guise it comes, but never more so than when life or death decisions hang in the balance.
For more information about the campaign, click here.