July 21, 2017

Rule of Law and Development in Africa

This event was postponed: more as soon as we know when it will happen.

How can fighting corruption contribute to economic growth in Africa?  What legal problems do firms run into when investing in Africa’s booming economies, and what can be changed?Emily Strauss

Emily Strauss, Special Counsel, Lawyers Without Borders, will address these and other questions of development.

Emily Strauss is originally from Boulder, Colorado, and studied both English literature and economics at the College of William and Mary. She then joined the Peace Corps, and served as an education volunteer in northern Cameroon for two years. She subsequently worked in a law firm, and then left to teach for a year in Changsha, China. She received her J.D. and M.A. in International Relations from Boston University, and accepted a position with Ropes & Gray. She is currently doing a yearlong fellowship with Lawyers Without Borders before beginning work at the firm.

Refreshments served. To RSVP (optional), visit our Facebook page.

Front Row Seats at the Trial of Charles Taylor

Esther Brandon

Writing from the Brandeis in The Hague spring semester program

On April 26, 2012 Charles Taylor was convicted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone on 11 criminal counts. 

Charles Taylor was the President of Liberia, 1997 to 2003. He was convicted of aiding and abetting brutal rebel movements that committed mass atrocities in Sierra Leone during its civil war in the 90’s. The Trial Court found he had helped plan the capture of diamond mines and the invasion of the capital, Freetown. During the movement, over 50,000 people died, while countless others fled the country or took refuge in camps. Taylor is the first head of state to be convicted by an international court since the Nuremberg trials after World War II.

When I first laid eyes on Mr. Taylor, I was extremely surprised by his demeanor. He appeared in a blue pinstriped suit with a maroon tie. During the reading, he sat stoically, occasionally taking notes with a yellow ballpoint pen. I expected to see a man capable of great violence, a person who ordered the deaths of thousands for the sake of diamonds and personal gain. Instead, I saw a man looking a little sad, with no evil gleam in his eye as he was convicted of aiding & abetting with the planning of:

  • 5 counts of crimes against humanity: murder, rape, sexual slavery, other inhumane acts, and enslavement.
  • 5 counts of violations of Common Article 3 to the Geneva Conventions: acts of terrorism, violence to life, health and physical or mental well-being of persons, in particular murder; outrages upon personal dignity; violence to life, health and physical or mental well-being of persons, in particular cruel treatment; and pillage.
  • 1 count of conscripting or enlisting child soldiers under the age of 15 years.

His sentencing is scheduled for Wednesday May 30, 2012.

The Office of the Prosecutor used great innovation to prove Taylor’s connection to the crimes committed in Sierra Leone while he lived in Liberia. They referenced radio and telephone intercepts and brought in radio operators who had connected Mr. Taylor’s residence in Monrovia, the Liberian capital, to the rebels in Sierra Leone. Taylor’s head of security, bodyguards and other associates testified about arms and ammunition shipments for use by the rebel forces. Bank records proved tax payments entered into Taylor’s personal bank account that were used for the war effort. [Read more…]

Monumentality and the Individual

Ariana Hajmiragha

The Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca can be seen for miles in each direction when not blocked by buildings. Built on the coast, jutting into the ocean with views of the beach from each side, the clean lines and intricate designs of the tower starkly contrast with the surrounding dingy buildings of the industrial city. I visited on a gorgeous spring day, warm enough to take off my jacket, with droves of people visiting on their Sunday off from work. Entering from the street, two flanking buildings and fountains block the sheer scope of the mosque, but after passing into the courtyard the area feels like it belongs to a time and city apart.

Finished in 1993, the mosque does not belong to the distant past, but is designed to link the past with the present in aesthetics and function. The architecture is indelibly Islamic, but reminiscent of artistic visions of the future, with sweeping lines, slight curves, and the impeccable juxtaposition of intimate spaces in the covered walkways along the perimeter with the sweeping open space of the courtyard and the monumentality of the main mosque.

Couples, families, friends, and individuals roamed the grounds, and sat along the edges with a view of the rocky coast and beach. The mosque is not only unique due to its incredible architecture, but also is one of the few mosques open in Morocco to non-Muslims, at certain appointed tour times. I was unable to take one of such tours, because I arrived just prior to the noon prayers and so the mosque was open only to practitioners. At about 12:30pm, the call to prayer rang out from the tower. Immediately people began moving from the sidelines to the enormous main gate to pray. Not all went to pray, and many remained outside in the sun, sitting, walking, and talking. [Read more…]

Y’en a marre (Enough is Enough)

Grace Killian

Y’en a marre or ‘Enough is enough’ are words written on walls all across the capital city of Dakar, Senegal.  But these are notjust words. Y’en a marre is a youth movement led by rappers and journalists.  As I took my hour-long walk down a main road to school every day, these words were put in context when I passed beggars and groups of lean-tos built on the side of the road.  These images would reappear in my consciousness when there was a power cut again, as there was everyday for several hours. The sight of my neighborhood darkened by a power cut was particularly striking against the backdrop of the African Renaissance Monument in the distance. This 164ft monument was meant to symbolize Africa rising from a history of oppression yet its construction was estimated at $27 million while the majority of the population constantly struggled with poverty.  The frustration towards these contradictions and life in Senegal was palpable as well.  I could see it when my host mother would sigh, “What kind of country is this?!” or when we would meet a demonstration in the streets and be forced to find a different route.

This movement and these frustrations were also coming at a critical time in Senegalese history: a highly contested election. Then president, Abdoulaye Wade, was running for a third term despite the fact that he had passed a law restricting presidents to serving only two terms earlier in his presidency. Wade also faced widespread criticism and accusations of corruption. In many ways, Y’en a marre and the people of Senegal seemed to be dissatisfied with Wade and his presidency and considered this to be the cause for most problems. The preparations of the coming election were everywhere: walls were also graffitied with names of candidates and expressions of hope for 2012 and there were nightly debates on TV discussing the legality of Wade’s bid for candidacy. [Read more…]

Rain in South Africa

Alexandra Dalrymple 

Amidst the bucket “showers”, episodes of South African soap operas, and discussing politics with my mama, the culture shock of the lightning storm that transpired on February 16th was the most memorable. I was walking with my sister and my friend Ariana when we first noticed the sky getting darker. My sister, Sanele, told us that she was scared and thought that we ought to go back to our house before it started raining. Sanele is probably the most fearless and outgoing 14 year old I have ever met so hearing her mutter any sounds of vulnerability was something highly unusual. When we finally reached our house, it had already started raining.

There was an odd quiet and calmness to the house. When all of my siblings and mother were home, the television was kept on, house music blasted out of the stereo and my brother, Simphiwe was always laughing and text messaging his friends. Sanele was usually outside singing and dancing with her friends or neighbors. Now, however, everyone was seated in the couches and lounge chairs in the living room area. My mama started preparing the house for the thunderstorm. She covered the mirror with a blanket, turned off the radio and television and covered the windows with the shades. As the rain started to pour, the house became increasingly quieter. Whenever I attempted to peer outside of the windows by pulling back a curtain, my mama shot me a subtle glance of disapproval. My mother sat on couch and covered her head with her hands and slowly rocked back and forth. My brothers also became eerily silent and looked at the floor. Kuhlekan, my 20-year old brother, had a newspaper over his face. [Read more…]

Snapshots from Abroad

Ben Rifkin, Madagascar 

A Malagasy man naps on top of a Taxi-Brousse in the capital, Antananarivo, before he embarks on a long journey across the country. I was about to embark on my own 24 hour non-stop cross-country journey in a similar Taxi-Brousse.

 

Jesse Appell, China

Da Shu Hua: A traditional festival I went to in Hebei Province, where a man hurls molten iron against a wall and it explodes as it falls back towards the ground. The festival is called “Da Shu Hua,” or, “To beat down the flowers from the trees.”

 

Madeline Stix, Bolivia

This photograph is taken during my village stay in the town of Tocoli (population 200), on the edge of Lake Titicaca, the lake with the second highest altitude in the world (at 14,000 feet). Two women from the village scuttling down the hill to prepare for our welcome “almuerzo” (lunch), which took place by the sacred waters of the lake.

 

Melissa Donze, India

“Smiles”: Sharing smiles at the community meeting on the Right to Food Campaign in Ullaluapanagar, Bangalore, India.

Video of the Crown Center’s Forum on the Middle East Uprising

If you missed the Crown Center’s excellent panel on events in Tunisia, Egypt and beyond, you can now see it here.

An Inner Perspective

By Khalil Azouz

On the morning of the 14th, people started pouring into Bourguiba avenue in Tunis. Most of them were in front of the Ministry of Interior, the authority that presides over the country’s police. Here’s one of the key moments during the protest, a video that still gives me chills:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sEY8CK_K9VU

They are saying “Dégage” in unison. Dégage is a French word for “get lost.” They even used this word in Egypt even though they are not French speakers. A few hours after this, it was announced that the president stepped down.

Unfortunately, in the days leading up to this event and during the week following it, a sense of insecurity was prevalent throughout the country. Indeed, The Family ordered the release of thousands of prisoners who were instructed to loot and terrorize. Add to that the 3,000 strong presidential police force, some of whom were caught with sniper rifles. Presumably, they were hoping to cause chaos and possibly return to “save” the country. We never stopped to be reminded the extent of these people’s inhumanity. The army played a huge role in reinsuring security. People also formed neighborhood protection committees against these looters. A lot of the arrests were actually made by normal people who handed the thugs over to the army or what is left of the police. After about a week of insecurity, during which very few deaths were reported – most of the casualties occurred during the weeks leading to the 14th (over 200 deaths, 72 in prison riots) – things started to feel more normal. [Read more…]

Egypt and Global Freedom

By: Siddharth Joshi

[Edit: After a struggle much longer than Tunisia’s, the Egyptian people were finally rewarded as Hosni Mubarak stepped down, leaving the Army in charge until democratic elections can take place. The place to be on the 11th of February was definitely Tahrir Square, so fittingly named. Tahrir translates to ‘Liberation’ and I think this so beautifully captures the essence of what transpired on that day. The future is still uncertain, and by no means is the Egyptian revolution successfully complete, but it has taken a step that was unimaginable a year ago. Even though Tahrir Square is in Cairo, this feeling of liberation has spread far beyond the borders of Tunisia and Egypt. I had previously mentioned Jordan and Yemen, but the biggest protests of the day were seen in Tehran and Bahrain. Apparently, the internet has been shut down in Algeria, but we have learned from Egypt that it is no simple task to stop this call for freedom and liberty.]

Whether we are concerned with suffering born of poverty, with denial of freedom, with armed conflict, or with a reckless attitude to the natural environment everywhere, we should not view these events in isolation. Eventually their repercussions are felt by all of us. We, therefore, need effective international action to address these global issues from the perspective of the oneness of humanity, and from a profound understanding of the deeply interconnected nature of today’s world.

– His Holiness the Dalai Lama

It has been well known for some time now that world we live in is shrinking, I am sure that each and every one of us has experienced the effect of the unstoppable force of globalization. The IGS major, unique to Brandeis, is an acknowledgment of this force; we describe it as “an interdisciplinary program that provides students with an opportunity to understand the complex processes of globalization that have so profoundly affected politics, economics, culture, society, the environment, and many other facets of our lives.”

It is no longer important but simply necessary to take into account the changes that our world has undergone, and understand that we face the future together. It is important that our generation grows up as global citizens and deals with the many issues that will need to be contended with. We can act, in our own capacities, but at the same time we must take advantage of the opportunity of being at a place of learning as prestigious and full of potential knowledge as Brandeis is. It is important to fully understand this process before we leave for the real world to find our way and to the best of our ability, improve the world we enter.

This blog is an attempt to help comprehend globalization through reflection, conversation and insight from people who are closer to situations around the world, providing us with, hopefully, an array of perspectives with which to better understand events that will shape our future. [Read more…]

Keystroke Revolution Updates

by Mark Grinberg

Some updates on Egypt + Tunisia:

  1. Ha’aretz reports: One of the many kidnapped by the Mubarak regime was Google employee Wael Ghonim. He has been released and now claims responsibility for the original Facebook page that ignited all of the protests.
  2. Newsweek reports: The Open Technology Initiative is working to “dictator-proof” the internet by providing radio stations and other groups in the Arab world with technology to prevent total communication collapse in the event of a nationwide internet shutoff. Amongst the strategies: Mesh networking a-la-One Laptop Per Child – a type of networking that allows many computers to wireless daisy chain to each other, thereby restoring communication within the country. If one machine on the network has an internet connection, it is possible to share that connection via the mesh network. (though speeds would probably get incredibly slow) Other US-based groups plan to send satellite link hardware to get the internet via satellite.

Moral of the story? Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc. don’t topple regimes – people do. And when the people are made stronger through improved communication, their ability to cause change is also strengthened. “Keystroke Revolution” does not mean a revolution from a computer, but with a computer.

Protected by Akismet
Blog with WordPress

Welcome Guest | Login (Brandeis Members Only)