Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Ethiopian Ambassador to Japan and Third Secretary in Tokyo speak openly about Somalia

Ethiopian Ambassador to Japan and Third Secretary in Tokyo speak openly about Somalia

I was kindly invited by the Ethiopian Ambassador to Japan, Abdirashid Dulane, in Tokyo, and the Third Secretary, Dawit Yirga, on October 14th. At all times, both Ambassador Abdirashid Dulane and Dawit Yirga, spoke openly about many diverse issues. Therefore, I will touch on these issues, while protecting their privacy with regards to topics not related to Ethiopia.

Before I start, these two fine representatives of Ethiopia offered the best of this ancient nation. For both representatives came from different ethnic groups and different faiths. Yet this did not matter, for both were proud to be Ethiopian and race and religion did not enter the equation. Therefore, all the positives of Ethiopia was mirrored in this one room and this is what Ethiopia is famous for.

Therefore, the land of Orthodox Christianity and Islam, and other minor faiths within Ethiopia, including Judaism and Traditional Beliefs, could be seen in the rich mosaic of this nation by their genuine care for both Ethiopia and the international community. It should be remembered that Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity is one of the oldest branches of Christianity. Also, Ethiopia is famous in Islam because Muslims were given protection when they were being persecuted in the 7th century. Therefore, the Prophet Mohammed said that Ethiopia was "a land of righteousness where no one was wronged."

Moving back to my meeting with both Ambassador Abdirashid Dulane and Dawit Yirga, our conversation, in the late evening, was soon to focus on Somalia, the international community, and many other issues. At once, I could tell that both representatives felt a tinge of sadness and bewilderment, about the one-sided nature of a lot of media coverage surrounding Ethiopia and the Somalian issue. This bewilderment, from my perspective, is fully justified because many journalists are not looking at the bigger picture, or easy statements are being made without any real substance.

Therefore, both Ambassador Abdirashid Dulane and Dawit Yirga, spoke passionately about Somalia and the surrounding region. They also made it clear that Ethiopia was acting in good faith and that dangerous forces, for example terrorists, criminals via piracy, and Islamic radicals, had threatened to attack Ethiopia and other nations via radicalism and criminality. It must also be stressed, that recent events clearly vindicate Ethiopia because radical Islamists last week threatened to attack Kenya and of course piracy is a growing problem.

Also, international terrorism and criminality is working together via the financial mechanism of piracy and the international war against terrorism must include Somalia. After all, Al-Qaeda, and other terrorist organizations, desire to use Somalia for their own negative means. If radical Islamists took power then we would have another Taliban and Al-Qaeda conundrum, where women would be killed for adultery and radical Islamists could plot more international terrorist attacks.

If we concentrate on piracy first, then it is clear that a stable Somalia is in the interest of all nations. The German Defense Minister, Franz Josef Jung, stated that "We have to first push back the pirates, restore security on the high seas and make free maritime trade possible again." Currently eight European nations who are members of the European Union (EU) will deploy additional warships and other members may also get involved. The French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, also called for a major concerted effort to tackle this growing menace.

Therefore, Ethiopia is only interested in stabilizing Somalia and defeating forces which seek to cause deadly mayhem. Given this, it in the interest of all nations that a stable and viable Somalia can emerge. Yet this can only happen if proper funding and support is given to Ethiopia, Somalia, the African Union via their peacekeeping mission, and other major institutions, who desire to bring peace to this part of Africa.

Peter Bergen, who is a member of the important think-tank, New America Foundation, is a specialist on al-Qaeda and its network, counter insurgency methods and counter-terrorist policies, and he frequently writes about Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq. On April 9, 2008, Peter Bergen commented that "..... al-Qaeda and its affiliates have targeted the ungovernable regions within Gaza, Lebanon, Sudan, Somalia to establish safe havens, and they may be achieving success in certain areas. Areas such as these should be regularly monitored, al-Qaeda and affiliate activities should be disrupted and al-Qaeda should not be permitted to establish safe havens within these territories. As many African nations face the greatest threats from ungovernable regions, the U.S. should increase its annual funding for the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership."

Therefore, clearly Peter Bergen clarifies the danger of Somalia and other failed regions where terrorism can grow. Added to this, Somali Islamic fighters stated that they would take their war to Kenya via terrorist attacks and other measures. This threat is real because Sheikh Muktar Robow, on October 17, 2008, stated that "We will order all our holy warriors to start the jihadi war inside Kenya."

Also, in the past radical Islamists like Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, who is wanted in connection with U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania respectively; used Somalia, alongside other Al-Qaeda operatives, in order to spread international terrorism and radical Islam. Therefore, the linkage between failed states, Islamic terrorism, harsh and draconian implementations of Sharia Islamic law, piracy, and other forms of major criminality, including the drug trade, is clearly linked. So because of this, and other factors, Ethiopia felt obliged to support the international community and the people of Somalia.

Also, I will mention again that Ethiopia is not the richest nation in the world, however, despite this, Ethiopian soldiers and the government of Ethiopia is trying to help the nation of Somalia.
Yet Ethiopia needs the international community to help both financially and via a major peacekeeping force. If the international community becomes fully involved then everybody will gain because forces of chaos will be defeated and the world will be a much safer place.Yet, in general, most nations are not pulling their weight and the burden on Ethiopia is severe but this neighbouring state is doing its best to help Somalia. Also, it is clear that Ethiopia desires to leave Somalia but only when the people of Somalia have hope. So if the international community becomes more robust on this issue, then Ethiopia can hand over the full reigns of power to both the Somalian people and the international community.

To conclude, this article was written after listening to the wise words of the Ethiopian Ambassador to Japan, Abdirashid Dulane, in Tokyo, and the Third Secretary, Dawit Yirga, on October 14th. However, I must state that this article, and my ideas, belong to myself and Ambassador Abdirashid Dulane and the Third Secretary, Dawit Yirga, may disagree with parts of my article? Yet, I would like to thank both Ambassador Abdirashid Dulane and Dawit Yirga for being great hosts, talking openly, and giving me the chance to discuss a major international topic.

Lee Jay Walker


Sunday, October 19, 2008

EGYPT - Coptic Christians are still marginalized

EGYPT - Coptic Christians are still marginalized

Egypt is viewed to be a moderate nation, however, if you scratch under the surface and study the laws of this land, and how Coptic Christians are treated, then your opinion may change? So when will the Christians of Egypt be given genuine equality? Also, are Coptic Christians best served by the estranged democracy of President Hosni Mubarak or open democracy which may unleash Islamic forces? This issue is very complex because if we look at the crisis in Iraq, then change can sometimes usher in an even more dangerous period. So what are the best options available to the minority Christian community?

Before focusing on this it must be stated that the Coptic Christians of Egypt resided in this land a long time before the Arabs invaded their nation and colonized Egypt in the distant past. Also, despite massive past historical persecution, colonialization, jizya tax, massive inequality, pogroms, massacres, and dhimmitude; many still remained loyal to their Christian faith because of the strength of the Coptic Christian church which was extremely tenacious. Of course many Muslim leaders were very moderate and many Christians were protected providing they paid jizya tax.

Therefore, the plight of Christianity often relied on the respective Muslim leader and the moderation of leading Islamic clerics. However, it only took one major spark or crisis of confidence within the Muslim community to cause havoc. Therefore, Coptics understood that being passive was their only option when we focus on past history and the same applied to accepting dhimmitude for many centuries. More recently, Coptic Christians have been divided because many in the diaspora are outspoken but many Christians in Egypt feel that "a quiet approach" is best.

Again if we look at past history it doesn`t look good. After all, when Camp David was signed between America, Israel, and Egypt, all three nations were happy; however, the same Anwar Sadat persecuted the Christian community via anti-Christian laws. Therefore, just like the Christian community in Iraq which doesn`t count and which isn`t protected, it is clear that Western nations have different interests. This fact alone should worry the Coptic Christian community because America supported the introduction of Sharia Islamic Law in Sudan in 1983, and they of course did the same in Iraq and Afghanistan.

However, in more recent times many parts of Africa are in transition because in the early 19th century Islam dominated over Christianity in this part of Africa, apart from Ethiopia and Eritrea (new nation state) where the Christian and Muslin population was well established. However, by the middle of the twentieth century times had changed because Christianity grew rapidly in parts of Chad, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. Therefore, the religious map of this part of Africa and the surrounding region was radically altered. Also, by the end of the twentieth century Christianity was around 13% to 17% in Sudan and the mainly Christian elite of the south fought back against radical Islam.

Therefore, the embattled Coptic Christians of Egypt are no longer isolated within the dynamics of the surrounding geography of Africa and churches are now being planted in parts of northern Sudan. Given this, it is hoped that greater Christian unity will lead to more pressure on Islamic states which discriminate against Christians in this part of Africa. So now it may be time for the Coptics to reach out and strengthen their cause in Egypt and Eastern Africa?

Unlike Africa, the future of the Christian community in the Middle East looks rather bleak because they face dhimmitude, terrorism, persecution, inequality via the legal system, a demographic time bomb, marginalization, and so much more. Also, history tells us that they do not count in the eyes of major Western powers and of course most Western governments are pro-Saudi Arabia, despite this nation not allowing one single Christian church. Given this, the Christians of the Middle East must unite and they must gain strength from their longevity in order to stop this onslaught.

Turning back to Egypt, then it is clear that organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood desire to create an Islamic state and the central government often panders to the Muslim majority. Therefore, Coptic Christians suffer dhimmitude via radical Islam and suffer discrimination at the hands of the Egyptian government. Given this, Christians are in a no-win situation and while many want "true democracy" others do not because they fear that radical Islam may come to power in the long run. Given this, the Christians of Egypt are in a major dilemma. Do they fight back against the central government which discriminates against them? Or do they remain quiet because of the fear of radical Islam? In truth, whatever they do could backfire and this is the problem.

Before concluding, it is important to state that many Christians and Muslims have great relations in Egypt. Also, in the past some local Muslims have also tried to protect Christians from radical Islamists. So persecution in Egypt is much more moderate rather than the direct persecution which happens in nations like Saudi Arabia. Also, some Muslim writers have been outspoken and they have supported the Christian community during times of persecution. Yet despite this, negative aspects of Egypt must not be ignored and many Christians have suffered within Egypt because of discrimination via the state system or they have suffered at the hands of radical Islamists.

Therefore, recent flashpoints will continue and Coptics will suffer more religious persecution, educational inequality, inequality in law, discrimination in the workplace, discrimination in national government, and they will be limited by land laws which will hinder them from building new churches or monasteries. So, overall, their situation looks negative but the changing religious map could be a future lifeline? For now, however, the Christian community must remain firm and strong, and to unite against their enemies within Egyptian society. Yet if any community can survive against all the odds, then this certainly applies to the Coptic Christians of Egypt who have remained strong in faith despite many negatives being stacked against them.

Lee Jay Walker Dip BA MA


Monday, October 13, 2008

Ethiopia needs international support to contain dangerous forces in Somalia

Ethiopia needs international support to contain dangerous forces in Somalia

The Ethiopian government was faced with a stark choice, either enter Somalia and try to stabilize this nation or do nothing and allow radical Islam to destabilize the region. Obviously, the government of Ethiopia is a very responsible government, therefore, the armed forces of Ethiopia entered Somalia in December 2006. This much needed intervention dislodged the Islamists from power but it was clear that Ethiopia had hoped for greater international support. After all, Al Qaeda had entered this nation in the past and the war against terror was not meant to be limited to only a few nations. However, to the dismay of Ethiopia, the majority of world powers have mainly turned a blind eye and left Ethiopia to solve this major problem by themselves. Yet why was Ethiopia abandoned by the major powers?

One major factor could be the memory of America`s failure in Somalia and the lingering memories of American bodies being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu. After all, the American led invasion in the 1990s failed to stabilize Somalia and after encountering fierce fighting they soon pulled their armed forces out of this nation. Yet the images of a lawless Somalia in this period remains and America`s failure in Somalia was costly because it boosted both the warlords and Islamists.

Therefore, when the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) unleashed a bid for power in 2006 the Ethiopian government was faced with a serious dilemma. After all, the options they faced were daunting by any standards. Either the government of Ethiopia had to shore up their borders andinternal security because of the genuine threat of contamination; or they could just allow a failed state to be taken over by radical Islamists and face future dire consequences; or Ethiopia could try and stem the tide of this chaos and be a true neighbour. Ethiopia believed that the latter was in the interest of both the Somalian people and the international community at large.

The global threat was genuine because leading international Islamists could sense a new battleground, whereby they could spread their radical version of Islam within Somalia and then use this nation to launch attacks against the international community. Also, with Yemen facing serious internal problems, then funding, manpower, and other negative factors, could easily link the Middle East with this part of Africa. Therefore, Ethiopia believed rightly that they were trying to stem the tide of an ideology which was dangerous to the people of Somalia, could threaten Ethiopia internally, and could spread terrorism and a dangerous ideology to other parts of the world.

Eliza Griswold, New America Foundation, who writes for this important think-tank, clearly links global terrorism with Somalia. After all, Eliza Griswold, in her article which was written in The New Republic (August 6, 2007), states that "The head of the UIC's shura council, Sheik Hassan Aweys, was the military leader of Al Ittihad Al Islami, which launched several attacks against Ethiopia in the 1990s and had links to Al Qaeda. Also, in the second half of 2006, hundreds of foreign fighters reportedly arrived in Somalia to fight alongside the shebab. The UIC harboured several members of Al Qaeda, including Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, the elusive mastermind reportedly behind the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in neighbouring Kenya and Tanzania, which killed 225 people."

So if Fazul Abdullah Mohammed was involved in the conflict in Somalia, then it is clear that a failed nation state would have been used in order to create further mayhem. Also, other members of Al Qaeda were implicated with the chaos that engulfed Somalia in 2006 and clearly the UIC was obtaining financial and military support via international Islamic jihadist organizations. It must be remembered that Fazul Abdullah Mohammed is wanted in connection with U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania respectively.

Therefore, the threat of international terrorism was too much for Ethiopia and the same applied to a failed state because the UIC was going to impose a harsh version of Sharia Islamic law on the people of Somalia. This applies to killing all converts from Islam to Christianity, stoning women to death for adultery, and other draconian measures. More important, when looking at the bigger picture, a Somalia under the UIC could have been used to launch attacks against Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Sudan, Tanzania, and then further afield. This policy may not have been a direct UIC policy, but just like Afghanistan under the Taliban, the UIC would not be able to contain the international jihadist movement and Ethiopia fully understood this.

Given this, Ethiopia bravely entered Somalia in order to prevent a radical Islamic state from causing mayhem within Africa and the international community at large. Also, you have major ethnic and religious faultlines within East Africa and this applies to all regional nations. But clearly Ethiopia faced serious threats from the UIC and Kenya would have been the next target for these Islamists. So the regional diverse mixture of Animism, Christianity, Islam, and Traditional Beliefs, alongside ethnicity, means that East Africa could easily become even more destabilized by radical Sunni Islam.

Yet it is clear that Ethiopia feels abandoned by the international community because economic support and a major multi-national peacekeeping force is still not in place. Also, the perception that Ethiopia is fighting a proxy war for America is not valid. Instead, Ethiopia is trying to stabilize the Horn of Africa and this nation is showing important international qualities.

The leader of Ethiopia, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, stated that "Ethiopian forces did not enter Somalia to control the country, but to make sure that extremist forces will not be in power in that country," he said. "The Islamic Courts Union in Somalia declared jihad against Ethiopia twice, along with all sorts of anti-peace forces ... It was our responsibility to resolve the huge wave of jihadists." This comment was reported in The Guardian (UK) newspaper on May 22, 2008 and this statement is valid because it is clear that Ethiopia merely wants to stabilize Somalia and then for the international community to take charge.

However, it appears that the international community is not playing their part and only Uganda and some other nations are willing to consider sending troops. At the moment you have 1,800 Ugandan troops in Somalia and they represent the bulk of the African Union forces in Somalia. Therefore, the leader of Ethiopia is clearly dismayed by this and he stated "We didn't anticipate that the international community would be happy riding the Ethiopian horse and flogging it at the same time for so long."

So what does the international community want? Does the international community want an unstable Somalia where radical Islam takes power and global jihadists cause mayhem to other parts of the world? Or does the international community want a nation which is free from radical jihadists and a nation which becomes a nation state, instead of being a failed nation state? If the international community supports progress and a solution to a very complex issue, then they must support Ethiopia. Once this happens, then Ethiopia will glady leave Somalia and hand over the reigns of power to the Somali people and the international community which can help to stabilize this nation.

Lee Jay Walker Dip BA MA

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Armenia and Azerbaijan are still in dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh

Armenia and Azerbaijan are still in dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh?

The collapse of the Soviet Union led to many tensions within the former Soviet Union and since then you have had many frozen conflicts. This certainly applies to the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan. The outcome of this brutal civil war meant many deaths on both sides, however, Christian Armenians overcame their numerical weakness and managed to control this region. However, today, with increasing energy wealth, the nation of Azerbaijan may be thinking about starting a fresh war with Armenia in order to re-take Nagorno-Karabakh?

Before concentrating on this, it is important to look at the regional balance and possible dangers for Azerbaijan. Therefore, if we look at the region we see many frozen conflicts or current tensions in Abkhazia (Georgia), South Ossetia (Georgia), Chechnya (Russian Federation), Daghestan (Russian Federation), Ingushetia (Russian Federation), and the Kurdish issue in eastern Turkey. Some of these fault-lines are based on religion or ethnicity, or over the control of resources. However, with a heavy mix of ethnicity and two major faiths, Orthodox Christianity and Islam, then this region is a real melting pot.

Another dimension is the Russian Federation supporting Armenia while Turkey, a member of NATO, is pro-Azerbaijan. Also, the American angle is complex and sadly based on energy issues and self interests. After all, the Armenian lobby is very strong and potent within parts of America and the government is sympathetic. But geopolitics and realism still controls, therefore, the USA is using Azerbaijan in order to counter the influence of both the Russian Federation and Iran. This applies to energy routes which bypass both the Russian Federation and Iran.

Also, if we look back into history, then we must remember the 1915 Armenian Christian genocide (other minority Christian groups were killed, including the Assyrians) by Turkish nationalists. So past history haunts this region and this certainly applies to Nagorno-Karabakh. However, I must point out that Turkey refutes this genocide because this nation claims that most Christians died because of the war, famine, and other consequences of World War One.

If we now focus on modern times, then clearly it would appear that the economic gap between potential military spending is vastly different and this certainly favours Azerbaijan. The one main comfort at the moment for Armenia is the support they get from the Russian Federation and Iran. For Iran the situation is complex because most Azeri people are Shia Muslim, like Iran, however, Iran fears a greater Azerbaijan because of the sizeable Azeri community in northern Iran. So outwardly, Iran talks about Islamic unity, but covertly, they do not want to see Armenia weakened.

Before concluding, it is important to mention that in recent times the government of Turkey is now reaching out to Armenia. Also, Iran promised to mediate between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Therefore, rays of hope do remain and both sides need to talk openly and frankly because both communities suffered during the war. Also, the EU and Commonwealth of Independent States could also help with regards to this delicate issue.

However, increasing Azeri purchases of military equipment is alarming many Armenians. Also, you have many divisions within Armenia with regards to politics. Therefore, the current leaders of Azerbaijan may try to re-start this frozen conflict which erupts from time to time? If so, we could see a real clash of titans because the Russian Federation and Turkey have major self interests and NATO would be in a flux. So will the leaders of Azerbaijan or Armenia re-start a fresh war over Nagorno-Karabakh? Or can a deal be made over Nagorno-Karabakh based on genuine autonomy?

Lee Jay Walker Dip BA MA


Saturday, October 4, 2008

KOSOVO and the crisis of ignoring international law and global opinions

KOSOVO and the crisis of ignoring international law and global opinions

Kosovo obtained part independence when America and many European nations gave the go ahead for the creation of this new nation. However, it is clear that things are not plain sailing because many other nations did not support this elitist adventure, therefore, the wider international community was ignored. So today we have a situation where some nations support this new state (47 nations currently support this nation), however, the majority of nations in Africa, Asia, and South America, have not given their consent. Also, the Russian Federation, Spain, and some other European nations, refuse to accept this American led adventure. So what does the future hold for Kosovo and international law?

Firstly, the current status of limbo is a shock to America and many European nations because they believed that the majority of other nations would follow suit, however, at the moment this isn`t happening. Therefore, the influence of the Russian Federation, China, India, and other nations who are against the independence of Kosovo, is much deeper than America imagined. Also, many nations are aghast by the elitism of this new venture and of course many nations worry that the same may happen to them.

Another negative side effect is the fact that Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia have clear justifications to claim the same rights, with regards to the American model of bypassing international law and the United Nations. So if America can violate international law so easily, then America should expect other nations to follow suit. Therefore, many other would be nations in other parts of the world also claim to have the same natural rights. Of course the United States, the United Kingdom, and others, are claiming that Kosovo is unique, but this is not based on reality because you have too many conflicts all over the world. So a "can of worms" is the real cause and effect of this naive policy.

Nations which are against this American led venture have stated clearly that they are very unhappy with the blatant attitude of elitist Western nations. The Foreign Minister of Argentina, Jorge Taiana, stated "if we were to recognise Kosovo, which has declared its independence unilaterally, without an agreement with Serbia, we would set a dangerous precedent that would seriously threaten our chances of a political settlement in the case of the Falkland Islands".

The newly elected President of Cyprus, Dimitris Christofias, was even more outspoken because he stated "The one thing that Kosovo and Cyprus have in common, as far as the situation in these regions is concerned, is that in both cases, the basic principles of international law and legality, as well as UN decisions, are constantly being violated". A similar comment was made by Miguel Angel Moratinos, the Spanish Foreign Minister, because he made it clear that "the Government of Spain will not recognise the unilateral act proclaimed by the assembly of Kosovo [...] We will not recognise because we consider [...] this does not respect international law".

Therefore, this issue is very important and complex and it is not about denying either the majority Kosovo Albanians independence or supporting minorities like the Serbians, Roma, and other minorities in Kosovo. It is about a deeper issue and this applies to international law. So if America and her supporters can justify Kosovo then what about creating new independent nations for the Abkhazians and South Ossetians in Georgia, Palestinians, Karen in Myanmar, Tamils in Sri Lanka, West Papuans in Indonesia, Basques in Spain, Balochis in Pakistan, and the list can go on and on; so do these ethnic groups deserve independence?

This is the problem because you can not seriously claim that Kosovo is special or unique. After all, you have countless conflicts in the world and many ethnic groups face terrible persecution. Therefore, many other ethnic groups are aghast by events and Yasser Abed Rabbo, a Palestinian politician, stated "Kosovo is not better than us. We deserve independence even before Kosovo, and we ask for the backing of the United States and the European Union for our independence. If things are not going in the direction of continuous and serious negotiations, then we should take the step and announce our independence unilaterally".

Also, the international community, on a whole, is saying that this colonial attitude is really not warrented and of course major institutions, like the United Nations, have been violated and the same applies to international law. So we have a genuine dilemma over this issue and again if the United Nations and international law can be violated, then why have either? Sadly, nations like the United States believe that they are above the international community because they also bypassed international law when they attacked Iraq and bombed the former Yugoslavia.

You also have problems within Kosovo itself and major divisions still exist. This especially applies to northern Kosovo because the Serbian community is relatively sizeable throughout this region. Therefore, you still have major flashpoints and Serbians, the Roma, and other minorities, feel isolated or abandoned. Also, the international community must still guard and protect Serbians, the Roma, and other minorities, throughout the whole of Kosovo. This in itself is evidence that the institutions of Kosovo are weak.

Therefore, the longer this situation remains in limbo the worse it will get because we have already seen convulsions in Georgia based on the Kosovo model. Whereby nations can now clearly state that America, the United Kingdom, France, and others, violated international law, therefore, other nations can follow suit and support their own self interests. So what does the future hold for Kosovo, countless other conflicts throughout the world, the United Nations, and international law?

Lee Jay Walker Dip BA MA

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The UN is undemocratic and manipulated, so what is the point?

The UN is undemocratic and manipulated, so what is the point?

The United Nations (UN) often likes to see itself in noble terms and it espouses high and lofty ideals. Therefore, the image of the UN is very positive because this organization talks about equality, human rights, collective respect, and other admirable things. However, how true is this and can the UN claim to be democratic? Also, is the United Nations a mere talking shop and an organization which is open to big power manipulation?

Firstly, it is clear that democracy was never a goal of the United Nations despite all the hype because past history and current history tells us that many despotic nations have both power within the UN or they have rights within the UN. For example during the Cold War both the Soviet Union and China were undemocratic, and China is still a one party state, however, both nations had special veto rights. Therefore, all major powers during the Cold War abused their power. So clearly the role of democracy, rule of law, social justice, and other ideals, were not met from the outset and this continues today.

Nations which are democratic also violate the United Nations because self interest is deemed to be more important? For example, the USA often violates the UN charter because you have had countless wars involving America, and in all these conflicts it did not matter either way if the UN supported America or was against this nation. Given this stark reality, the USA, and other nations, could easily bypass this organization and do what they desired and this reality clearly undermines the United Nations.

For some people who support the UN deeply the demise of the Cold War was "a window of opportunity." However, this opportunity did not materialize. After all, America ignored the United Nations when they bombed both Yugoslavia and Iraq. More alarming, democracy still does not matter and nations like China still have veto powers. Also, other nations like Saudi Arabia, for example, clearly violate the rights of many citizens and all non-Muslim communities suffer from religious discrimination in this nation. While on the other extreme, Israel, a democratic nation, ignores many resolutions which have been held against this country and clearly Israel is not too concerned about violating the UN.

It also must be stated that UN forces have also been involved in many scandals. These scandals apply to raping women, abusing children, selling military equipment for diamonds, and other terrible acts of depravity. From Bosnia to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo), and in other nations, these same scandals keep on emerging. Nile Gardiner during his lecture at The Heritage Foundation, an American think-tank organization, stated "In the Congo acts of great evil and barbarism have been perpetrated by United Nations peacekeepers and civilian personnel....." Similar statements have been made about other conflicts where UN workers and peacekeepers have been abusing people who needed support and guidance.

So why continue with this flawed organization in the 21st century? Well for some people it is the only hope despite its many flaws and it is better than nothing. Also, for optimists they believe that it can be reformed via gradual powers which enshrine democracy and religious freedom. However, surely this idealistic organization will always be tainted by power politics and self interest?

Therefore, why not either make complete and transparent reforms based on real power or just eradicate this moribund organization? Either way, the current status quo is not good enough because this organization is still being held to ransom by major powers and of course this organization is blighted by its own behaviour. Lee Jay Walker Dip BA MA