A quick and cursory view of the history of War Resisters International (WRI) – an organization responsible for many wonderful small actions but rarely credited for its inspiration of big and effective movements – had hardly any connection to Africa at all. But that initial impression would be incorrect. Though often behind-the-scenes and without fanfare or spotlight, key members of WRI have played significant roles in significant aspects of the continents anti-colonial and anti-war moments over the past 90-plus years since WRI’s 1921 founding. The July 2014 international conference in Cape Town, South Africa is simply the most public – and perhaps the most ambitious – of these endeavors.
War Resisters' International joins the world in mourning the passing of Nelson Mandela – a statesman and an activist, a lawyer and a political prisoner, an advocate of direct action and reconciliation. Mandela’s life symbolizes, as few others have ever done, the long road to freedom, peace, and justice which can nevertheless be won (at least in part) through determined commitment and struggle. He lived his convictions, spending 27 years behind bars without wavering from his core convictions, ready still to play a crucial role upon release to ensure a transition away from formal apartheid through compromise and negotiation. That the transition which ended white minority rule took place with a minimum of bloodshed is one of the great victories of modern times, a victory Mandela helped lead by example.
Mining is one of the most important economic activities in South Africa. With the inequalities that Apartheid perpetuated, the distribution of mineral wealth and the unrest within the labour force have increased. The Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act of 2002(1) was an attempt
Embrace Dignity is a South African human rights organization advocating for legal and social reform. We campaign for reforms recognising prostitution as violence and aim to reduce demand for commercial sex. Recognising the harms of prostitution, we offer support to women seeking exit through a self-led system. We look forward to welcoming and collaborating with international and local nonviolent activists embodying the conference’s theme: “small actions can contribute to building big movements for change”.
A Pastor reported (in a follow up meeting) “Since I attended the nonviolence workshop, I stopped hating Muslims. They burnt our Churches in Khartoum and since that time, I lost respect to Muslims and hate them. Now we are in a new Country, I don’t want Muslims to suffer the way Christians suffered under Islamic regime in Sudan. Its painful to forgive but my Bible tells me to forgive as God has forgiven us”. Since 2011 the pastor, a few other Christians and group of Muslims are working together. They organize outreach workshops to both Christians and Muslims in Juba.
The Free Online Dictionary defines trauma as “an event or situation that causes great distress and disruption”. In Burundi, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic Congo (DRC), the violent inter-group conflicts and civil wars that have ravaged these countries of the African Great Lakes region for the past 50 years constitute traumatic events. The International Community cites the number of casualties to highlight the impact of such conflicts and wars on the countries and the people. These events have been traumatic; the casualties from Burundi, Rwanda, and DRC are estimated at about 7 million.
Over 65 percent of Africa’s population is below the age of 35. This makes Africa a youthful continent with huge potential: for an active labor force, immense human energies and reservoirs of creativity for economic, social and political transformation. The potential for young people to transform their communities and their nations could be enormous.
The popular unarmed uprisings in the Arab World early in 2011 took the world by surprise, both because most observers did not expect demands for human rights and democratic choice to become central in Arab states, and because they did not expect mass protest to be predominantly unarmed. However, in retrospect there are many reasons why initially the 'Arab Spring' took the forms it did in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Syria, Libya and other states. Moreover, as scholars of nonviolent civil resistance pointed out, in the first months the most significant movements displayed some of the classic characteristics of such resistance. In the longer term, however, many of the movements have failed to fulfill their initial promise, overtaken by armed civil war (as happened quickly in Libya and more gradually in Syria), or failing to achieve their initial democratic promise - most notably in Egypt. The impressive protests at the 'Pearl Roundabout' in Bahrain were quite quickly crushed, and preemptive offers by rulers of Morocco and Jordan to make reforms to meet public demands have so far only diluted royal power. This article briefly elaborates on the points made above, and then raises some questions about the future.
1st December is Prisoners for Peace Day. For over 60 years, War Resisters' International have, on this day, made known the names and stories of those imprisoned for actions for peace. Many are conscientious objectors, in gaol for refusing to join the military. Others have taken nonviolent actions to disrupt preparation for war.