The Humanitarian Times

October 22, 1999


- PEACEMAKER & PAN-AFRICAN LEADER JULIUS NYERERE DIED LAST THURSDAY & was buried yesterday. Tanzania's first President, a Shakespearean scholar, & later a leader in brokering regional peace particularly within war-wracked Burundi, Nyerere invented the unique African communal principles of Ujamaa (village development) & allowed democratic secession of heads of state long before Mandela. Nyerere's army, by itself, eliminated the military dictator Idi Amin in 1979 (in Uganda). During Nyerere's era, Tanzania was known as the most asylum-granting (refugee friendly) nation in the world.

- HUMANITARIAN PROGRAMS IN BURUNDI THREATENED BY UN PULLOUT resulting from murder of 2 UN workers a week ago. Private non- governmental aid groups feel that intl. presence & aid can prevent or limit massacres, even as the Burundi army has lately forcibly displaced 300,000 in the last month.

- STORM FLOODING IN MEXICO HAS MADE 350,000 HOMELESS, 370 deaths, & at one point some 500,000 lost electricity. Yesterday, floodwaters began to rise again, endangering more Mexicans.

- OVER 250,000 EARTHQUAKE-HIT TURKS STILL LIVING IN TENTS as winter approaches, where the August earthquake death toll now exceeds 17,000, & damages $6.5 billion.

- EAST TIMOR FINALLY GAINED FORMAL INDEPENDENCE FROM INDONESIA this week when Indonesia's Parliament voted unanimously to approve its separation. Parliament also surprised many by not selecting the very popular majority party leader Megwati Sukarnoputri as new President, favoring instead aging Muslim leader Wahid. Last week Indonesian authorities granted the UN access to the large refugee camps recently created in western Timor. UNHCR has repatriated several thousand refugees, while tens of thousands of refugees have spontaneously returned on foot to E. Timor. The timing of repatriation may prove critical in the agric. planting season as E Timor's rain season begins next week.

- E TIMOR's TRANSITIONAL UN ADMIN. (UNTAET) WILL RESEMBLE KOSOVO's UN structure, with separate pillars for humanitarian aid, physical reconstruction, law, governance, administration. Current UN Under Sec for Humanitarian Affairs, Sergio Vieira de Mello, will be announced today to head up the UN operation for its first few months.

- CHECHEN REFUGEES HAVE BEEN CHANELLED THIS MONTH TOWARD INGUSHETIA & denied border crossings into Ossetia; 15 new refugee camps have been established in Ingushetia. Roughly one-third the population of Chechnya is now displaced from the Russian offensive. Meanwhile, Russian troops have expanded their reach, to within view of Chechen capital Grozny where over 110 persons were killed by 3 rocketblasts yesterday.

- NIGERIA, IN DEMOCRATIC REBIRTH, COULD RECEIVE LEAP IN FOREIGN AID; US Sec. State Albright, just in Nigeria, said US aid should be increased to roughly $100million/year. This summer, an Administration inter-agency assessment team toured Nigeria & concluded with the recommendation to increase US aid to Nigeria to $500million.


- MILITARY OVERTHROWS PAKISTAN'S DEMOCRATIC GOVT, leading some to fear a resumption of low-intensity conflict with India over Kashmir & perhaps more nuclear weapons testing.

- KOICHIRO MATSUURA WAS SELECTED HEAD OF UNESCO THIS WEEK. Now Japan's Ambassador to France, Matsuura will serve a 6 year term.

- CRITICISMS OF FOOD AID TO N KOREA BY GAO DRAWS FIRE AS BIASED. A Govt Accounting Office (GAO) report published last week claims that aid agencies such as WFP have not fully tracked food & fuel aid delivered to N Korea. But others, such as Congressman Tony Hall, called the findings biased & inadequately researched; Hall pointed out that the GAO team neither visited N Korea nor interviewed key experts who had spent time there.




- DECLASSIFICATION OF US CIA PAPERS NOW IMPLY US GOVT INVOLVEMENT in the murder in Santiago of US citizen & journalist Charles Horman, during the 1973 coup in Chile.


The Nobel Prize for Peace


- MEDICINS SANS FRONTIERES WAS AWARDED 1999 NOBEL PEACE PRIZE LAST WEEK for its aggressive life-saving action in emergencies as well as unique political advocacy. MSF is an alliance of independent relief agencies: MSF France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain & Switzerland are fully operational while Luxemburg, Australia, Canada, & US entities work more through support to other MSFs. Typically MSF is the first intl. relief agency to arrive in disaster scenes (& often among the first to leave).

Since its 1971 founding, MSF has steadily made itself into among the most professional of relief agencies, with specialization in medical care, epidemic control, nutrition, logistics & water supply. To improve current knowledge about relief work, MSF established a network of affiliate agencies (Epicentre in Paris, HealthNet in Amsterdam; AEDES in Brussels) that scientifically analyze patterns of health risk in emergencies. Within the humanitarian aid community, MSF has been a leader in publishing manuals of relief standards (used by many agencies) on essential drugs, obstetrics, nutrition, env. health & clinical practice.

MSF is also unique in its articulate public positions that spotlight human rights violations, even where in so doing MSF's own operations are then curtailed. Example: in the 1984-86 Ethiopia famine MSF alone among aid groups publicly exposed the Ethiopian govt's brutal practice of forced resettlement of civilians from N to S Ethiopia, for which MSF was forced to close down its country operations. MSF also took a hard stand against the perpetrators of genocide in Rwanda & against ethnic cleansing in Kosovo.

- BOOK: "TOUCHED BY FIRE: DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS IN 3RD WORLD CRISIS" by E Leyton & G Locke (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart Inc) shows dozens of photos from Rwanda & of MSF field work, interviews many staff working in African countries, & describes the varying motivations of individual MSF workers -- physicians, an agronomist, press officer, logistician. The authors paint the camaraderie & enthusiasm that come with being on an MSF team: "When they arrive into the throat of a flood in Somalia, an epidemic in Cambodia, a plague in Sudan.. they become part of a self-confident elite... they lose all sense of alienation." The authors write "the name Medecins Sans Frontieres (and the anglicized Doctors Without Borders) is an unfortunate linguistic capitulation to the prestige of physicians in the modern world. for reasons of public relations... In fact, MSF is much more: it is nurses, not doctors, who do much of the actual hands-on medical work; it is water & sanitation specialists, nutritionists & epidemiologists who make the largest contribution to public health; & it is the logisticians & administrators, plumbers & radio operators, lawyers, mechanics & accounts who ensure the essential medicines, food, petrol, personnel, vehicles, water bladders, & tools are delivered in the heart of the emergency...But the demands of working for MSF -- inevitably splintered romantic relationships, limited money, uncertain career prospects.. dangerous conditions - take their toll. With few exceptions, MSFers are overwhelmingly young; their careers measured in months or years." Based on MSF staff perspectives, tradeoffs in relief work are presented, including the crisis inflation & debasement that comes from chasing after donations.

- also see the "Populations in Danger" books by MSF that analyze global crisis, published each year from 1993 - 1997.




- HISTORY -"ETHNIC CLEANSING" (1999) BY ANDREW BELL-FIALKOFF (NY: St. Martin's Griffin) provides intriguing historical explanations of enmity in a range of regions: Transylvania (Hungarians vs. Romanians), Ulster (Catholic vs. Protestant), Israel & adjacent territories (Palestinian), Kosovo, Karabakh, Cyprus, Bosnia & Sri Lanka. After reviewing spasms of nation-reconfigurations (after WWI, WWI, & fall of communism), the author looks to the future & finds that the "centrifugal tendencies will continue unabated; many of the ethnic problems cannot be resolved through self-determination & border rectifications, because an ethny is located in the heart of another state, because the territory it resides has sacred monuments of another ethnic group, or for a combination of reasons" but suggests that in many cases a "well-organized population exchange or transfer can solve irreconcilable conflicts, diffuse hatreds & prevent wars & massacres." He proceeds to propose an index for measuring the success of resettlement programs based on historical precedence, victimization, & external threat.

- "CENTURY OF GENOCIDE: EYEWITNESS ACCOUNTS & CRITICAL VIEWS" ed. by S Totten (1977, NY: Garland Publ., 488 pp.) is among the best case study compendiums of various mass exterminations or mass deportations, including the plight of the SW African Hereros (1904), Armenians (1915-23), Gypsies, Jews, Cambodia & Rwanda. Of special interest may be separate chapters on E Timor, & on Indonesia where 200,000 leftists were massacred 1965-66.

- "FINAL SOLUTION: NAZI POPULATION POLICY & MURDER OF EUROPEAN JEWS" by Gotz Aly (1999 London: Hodder Headline Group) consolidates information on the many small evolving, often ad hoc, pieces of Nazi programs to remove Jews, often where Germans used euphemisms When referring to genocide, & "aseptic terminology to make mass murder easier to administer... possible for each person to avoid any individual responsibility."



The Humanitarian Times