Urgent situation in Cote d’Ivoire

My close friend and colleague David Paltiel sends this important missive from public health colleagues who have worked in Cote d’Ivoire on HIV efforts. They have direct contacts in country who can provide further information for those who would like to help.

Friends & Colleagues,

We are writing to enlist your help in spreading the word about the deteriorating situation in Côte d’Ivoire and in pressing the United Nations to fulfill its mandate to protect civilians from imminent harm.

We collaborate closely with a team of doctors and researchers based in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. This team provides medical care to over 10,000 HIV-infected individuals in that city, many through PEPfAR-related programs. Their excellent treatment services have improved the health of thousands; their pioneering research has saved the lives of even greater numbers throughout the developing world. These are brave men and women who have witnessed desperate humanitarian emergencies first-hand, who function with little support, and who are not the least bit prone to exaggeration.

Over the last few days, we have received increasingly dire reports from our colleagues. They describe the situation in Abidjan as “pre-genocidal.” Several neighborhoods of the capital and outlying areas that are loyal to President-Elect Alassane Ouattara have now been fenced in by troops supporting ex-President Laurent Gbagbo. Civilians attempting to cross checkpoints have been robbed and killed. Gangs of militiamen conduct regular sweeps through neighborhood houses, ostensibly to maintain order but, in reality, to intimidate. Civilians in these neighborhoods are trapped, threatened in their own homes, terrified to leave, and not knowing where to turn for safety. For people with chronic conditions like HIV – dependent on access to medications for their own health –an already life-threatening situation is made even worse by the growing national drug shortage and the real danger of leaving one’s home just to fill a prescription or to keep a medical appointment.

The political-military situation in Côte d’Ivoire was front-and-center in people’s minds a few short weeks ago. But events in Egypt, in Libya, and in Japan have overtaken the headlines. Gbagbo has capitalized on our collective inattention to secure his illegal position and to terrorize the people. The UN needs to fulfill its mandate to protect civilians in Côte d’Ivoire. More than 400 people have been killed and some 400,000 persons displaced while UN troops have been on the ground. Specific steps that can be taken immediately include: opening UN and French military bases to civilian refugees; establishing a humanitarian corridor to permit civilians to escape the violence and reach these bases; and jamming the state broadcasting system so that it can no longer incite violence.

Please help to bring this emergency back to the front burner. If it would help you – or anyone you think might be influential – to obtain direct, eyewitness testimony, we would be happy to help you to make contact with our colleagues in Abidjan.

A. David Paltiel, PhD
Professor, Yale School of Medicine/Yale School of Management

Kenneth A. Freedberg, MD, MSc
Professor , Harvard Medical School

Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, MPH
Associate Professor, Harvard Medical School

The Sudanese Government is unhappy and afraid…

… at the prospect of an Obama Administration. Yes, it’s a complicated situation, but whatever makes Bashir afraid can’t be all bad, can it?

about the prospect of Barack Obama as President. With all due respect to the complexities, anything that makes Omar Hassan al-Bashir nervous can’t be all bad. Perhaps his fear can be leveraged into some useful movement.

Precedent George H.W. Bush

Obama is now channeling Bush 41? Come again?

As I’m assuming Clinton has, Obama commented on Kosovo’s declaration of independence:

Kosovo’s independence is a unique situation resulting from the irreparable rupture Slobodan Milosevic’s actions caused; it is in no way a precedent for anyone else in the region or around the world.

That Kosovo is unique, sui generis, of no precedential value—however you wish to phrase it—is the position of the State Department, the EU, and just about anyone else who supports its independence. Bizarrely—so much so that I had to read it three times to make sure I understood—a New York Sun editorial says:

Among the lessons we’ve gained from a life of foreign corresponding are that wars have consequences —and that history has its ironies. As Kosovars danced in the streets in joy and kissed the nearest Americans and the United Nations wrung its hands, the son of the president who delivered the Chicken Kiev speech embraced change in the Balkans. And the echoes of the words of the 41st president against independence for the so-called Soviet so-called Socialist so-called Republics are coming from a Democratic presidential candidate aquiver at the prospect that some other downtrodden countries might take hope from Kosovo’s example and seek to follow suit.

Ok, I shouldn’t be reading the Sun, but “Kosovo” and “precedent” in the same paragraph makes it required reading for me, as nine times out of ten it’s in reference to Georgia’s Russian-backed separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. However amusing it is for an op-ed writer to pull obscure secessionist movements off the UNPO website (free Vermont, dude!), the only active threat of acting on a putative precedent has been from these regimes (and, even less plausibly, from Transnistria). And they can’t be too happy to see Russia backing down from its defiant posture.

How Obama’s bog-standard caveat makes him the third avatar of Bush 41 is beyond puzzling.

[I don’t know whether it’s influenced any policymakers’ thinking on the matter, but the Centre for European Policy Studies has been thinking carefully about the putative Kosovo precedent and the principles of just secession.]

The (pleasant) surprise of a lifetime

What’s on the mind of Dick Durbin, Senate insider and ace political mechanic? Preventing genocide in Darfur.

I’m still mulling over yesterday’s blogger breakfast with Sen. Dick Durbin. I can’t get used to the idea that meeting with eight mid-level bloggers is considered a good use of an hour of the Senate Majority Whip’s time, and too much was said too quickly for me to fully wrap my head around it by now.

But here’s my sharpest impression, one I expect to remember forever. There we are, sitting around a table, mostly talking Senate inside baseball, which Durbin talks very cogently and entertainingly indeed. A lull falls in the flow of questions, so Durbin is able to bring up a topic on his own initiative.

What he wants to talk about is &#8212 no, I wouldn’t have gotten it in three guesses, or thirty for that matter &#8212 Darfur.

Continue reading “The (pleasant) surprise of a lifetime”

Atatürk’s genocide?

No it wasn’t.

In an op-ed in the Boston Globe, reprinted in the IHT, Charles Fried describes the mass murder of the Armenians in 1915-1916 as “Ataturk’s genocide”.

Since the official position of the Turkish government, followed by most Turks, is that the genocide never happened, they can’t defend Kemal Atatürk against this slur. But I know of no evidence he was directly responsible. During WWI he was a (very good) fighting general. According to this Armenian genocide website – hardly a pro-Turk source – he “stayed out of politics until 1919”.

Atatürk, a member of the Young Turk movement, was a commander in Diyarbekir in 1916 and the Caucasus front in 1917, so he must have known what his bosses – Enver and Talat – were doing, It’s conceivable he contributed as executant, though he wasn’t SFIK charged in the postwar Turkish and British trials. The same site does accuse him of war crimes against Armenians in the battles of 1920-1922, when he had risen to power. Atatürk must also carry responsibility for the institutional denial by the Republic he created, so he’s hardly a total innocent. It is still a grotesque distortion to pin his name to the genocide as prime mover. Should we call the extermination of the Sephardic Jews of Salonika in 1943 Waldheim’s genocide ?