vol. 3, no. 3
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CBD discussed in Moscow and Baltics
Profile: South Africa Program
Fein wins PIOOM award
Nonviolent movement in Cameroon
Nonviolent protest in Tibet
Civilian-Based Defense Discussed in Moscow and Baltics
Text and Photos by Bruce Jenkins
In light of the severe economic, social, and political upheavals in the territories of the former Soviet Union, there is obvious fear of future attempts to reassert authoritarian rule. Policy makers, scholars, and activists in Moscow and the Baltic states are examining civilian-based defense as a possible option to head off future hard-line coups or military takeovers. The improvised "people power" victory over the August 1991 putsch attempt serves as a powerful example of how civilians can protect their democratic structures.
From November 14 to December 7, 1991, Gene Sharp and Bruce Jenkins of the Albert Einstein Institution were invited to Moscow, Vilnius, Riga, and Tallinn to discuss the potential of organized civilian forms of resistance to block attempted coups and foreign invasions. Dr. Sharp’s writings on the subject have become well known among certain policy makers in these countries.
In Moscow, the "Living Ring," a popular organization borne out of the August 1991 anti-coup actions, invited Dr. Sharp to present his findings on civilian forms of anti-coup defense. One of the main goals of the Living Ring is to develop plans to block future coup attempts. In two papers translated into Russian for the visit (600 copies of which were distributed in Moscow and the Baltics), Dr. Sharp outlined the basic premises of civilian resistance to coups: through massive noncooperation and the denial of legitimacy, populations can deny putschists the social, economic, and political resources needed to consolidate rule. Coups, Dr. Sharp said, can be defeated through political starvation.
While in Moscow, Dr. Sharp and Mr. Jenkins also met with three members of the "Russian Parliamentary Commission on Investigations of the Circumstances of the Coup d’État." The Commission’s mandate is to investigate the attempted August 1991 putsch and to make legislative recommendations designed to help prevent future coups. In a meeting at the Russian "White House," a member of the Commission raised the idea of adopting a "noncooperation clause" in the Russian constitution, requiring citizens to refuse cooperation with putschists. He also considered recommending the insertion of a clause into the military induction oath forbidding cooperation with usurpers. Dr. Sharp discussed the main outlines of his anti-coup papers with the parliamentarians, emphasizing that strategy, planning, and preparation are just as important in civilian resistance as in military combat. The Commission members expressed great interest in Dr. Sharp’s book Civilian-Based Defense, which will be published in Russian later this year.
In formulating its defense policy, Lithuania has devoted much attention to civilian-based defense (see Nonviolent Sanctions, Spring 1991). The republic gained important experience with improvised forms of civilian defense during its independence struggle. In January 1991, for example, the government mobilized citizens to form human barricades around the parliament building when Soviet forces attacked and occupied the Vilnius TV and radio stations. In February 1991, the Supreme Council declared nonviolent resistance to be the primary means of struggle in the event of a Soviet occupation.
In a recent meeting in Vilnius, Defense Minister Audrius Butkevicius stated that Dr. Sharp’s book Civilian-Based Defense served as a basis for much of his planning of nonviolent resistance over the past year and a half. In mid-1990 Mr. Butkevicius had an early draft of the book translated into Lithuanian for use by government officials.
Lithuania is currently adopting a "mix" of military and civilian forms of defense. The republic has established a professional army. In a meeting with the Einstein Institution representatives, Deputy Defense Minister Stankovicius outlined three purposes of the army: 1) to counter terrorist attacks, 2) to engage an enemy, thus signalling to the international community that Lithuania had been attacked, and 3) to perform an unspecified role in some future European collective security system.
In the event of an attack by a well armed, clearly superior enemy, Mr. Stankovicius stated that Lithuania would rely on some form of civilian-based defense. "When we see our rival is well organized and prepared to use massive force, in this case we will use nonviolence," he stated. In separate meetings, Defense Minister Butkevicius and Lithuanian Vice-President Bronislovas Kusmickas also expressed this position.
A newly established non-governmental Nonviolent Action Center will be given important tasks in analyzing and implementing civilian-based defense in Lithuania. The Ministry of Defense plans to contract out various research and publication projects to the center. In addition, the Volunteers (National Guard) will perform vital roles in instituting civilian-based defense as a part of Lithuanian national defense policy.
Like its neighbor to the south, Latvia too has experience in improvised nonviolent resistance for defense. For example, in mid-December 1990, the Latvian Popular Front issued an "Appeal for the Hour X." In the event of a large-scale attack by the Soviet Army, the document called for total noncooperation of the civilian population with the attackers. Among other things, it advised citizens to comply only with the laws of the Supreme Council of Latvia, to ignore the attackers’ orders, not to participate in any elections or referendums, and to document all crimes perpetrated by the attackers. At the same time plans were devised by members of the Supreme Council’s Commission on Defense and Home Affairs to protect important public buildings by chains of unarmed people.
In January 1991, aspects of this plan went into effect. Radio appeals drew people to protect the parliament building after the attack in Vilnius. Barricades were set up around the parliament, volunteers were organized to feed people and provide medical services. On January 20, five people were killed and 14 were wounded by Soviet "Black Beret" troops. But Latvians maintained their vigil to protect their independent government.
While Latvia is still in a process of formulating a national defense policy, the republic has established a two-part military system: a professional conscription-based "Border Guard" and a volunteer "Home Guard." In a meeting in the Latvian parliament, Defense Minister Talavs Jundzis outlined the main purposes of these forces: 1) to protect Latvia’s borders, and 2) to counter terrorist acts and renegade military units (over 50,000 foreign troops are still stationed in Latvia).
Mr. Jundzis and other members of the Supreme Council’s Commission on Defense and Home Affairs affirmed Latvia’s intention to employ organized civilian resistance in the event of a large-scale attack. As Mr. Jundzis stated, "an important component of our defense policy will be nonviolent resistance. Obviously we have no way to win militarily over large invaders."
The task now facing Latvian defense planners, a member of the Defense Commission said, is defining the proportion civilian-based defense will play in the overall defense system.
In June 1991, the Latvian Supreme Council voted to establish a Center for Nonviolent Resistance. The concept paper for the center states:
"Civilian-based defense in Latvia ought to be a constant supplement to its military defenses, in order to compensate for its comparative military weakness, to enhance self-esteem of its citizens and serve as a possible deterrent in case of a possible aggression...
"Civilian-based defense in Latvia ought to be used in such cases: 1) as a basic means of defense in case the aggressor’s military might largely surpasses that of Latvian military units, as straight military defense is useless and can even serve as a pretext for violent repressions against civilians; 2) as an additional means of defense—if Latvia is endangered by an aggressor whose forces are approximately equal to the Latvian army; 3) as additional means of defense in case of a coup."1
Prior to the August 1991 coup attempt, the center prepared and published instruction pamphlets on noncooperation. Printed under the center’s name — one each for government bodies, social institutions, and individuals — the pamphlets outlined certain rules of behavior for denying cooperation and legitimacy to attackers. The pamphlets’ authors stated that their instructions for noncooperation were largely derived from Dr. Sharp’s book Civilian-Based Defense. As in Lithuania, a quick Latvian translation had been prepared for governmental use.
After the August coup attempt and subsequent independence of Latvia, certain legislators dropped their initial support for the center. To date, no funds have been allocated. It remains to be seen what role civilian-based defense will be ascribed in Latvia’s national defense policy.
Like the other Baltic states, Estonia has also improvised "people power" to defend its independent government. On May 15, 1990, Prime Minister Savisaar appealed to the population to defend the parliament against a hostile demonstration by the pro-Moscow Interfront organization. Estonians formed a human barrier and overwhelmed the demonstrators by sheer number. Just prior to the January 13, 1991, attack in Vilnius, Estonian government officials and Popular Front members devised a resistance plan entitled "Civilian Disobedience." In the event of a Soviet attack, the plan advised people "to treat all commands contradicting Estonian law as illegitimate; to carry out strict disobedience to and noncooperation with all Soviet attempts to strengthen control; to refuse to supply vital information to Soviet authorities and when appropriate to remove street names, traffic signs, house numbers, etc.; to not be provoked into imprudent action; to document through writing and film Soviet activities and use all possible channels to preserve and internationally distribute such documentation; to preserve the functioning of Estonia’s political and social organizations, e.g. by creating backup organizations and hiding essential equipment; to implement mass action when appropriate; and to undertake creative communication with potentially hostile forces."2
In a series of meetings with Estonian defense officials, it became apparent that an intense debate is underway over the future role and structure of Estonian military forces. Whereas most officials want to retain Estonia’s current system of "Border Guards" and "Home Guards" (National Guard), several defense planners are calling for the establishment of a professional army as well.
Whatever the outcome of this debate, there are strong indications that Estonia would employ nonviolent resistance in the event of a large-scale attack. In a meeting in Toompea Castle, then Minister of State Raivo Vare (deputy prime minister and acting defense minister) expressed his view of nonviolent resistance as a part of a "total defense" system and as a "second stage" in a defense struggle. The Estonian military Chief of Staff, Mr. Ants Laaneots, agreed that nonviolent resistance was necessary in the event of a massive attack, but felt that it should be combined with types of guerrilla warfare.
During the August 1991 coup attempt, Minister Vare issued verbal instructions to government bodies on the national and regional levels to use any "peaceful means" to resist the putschists. He also indicated that printed instructions for nonviolent resistance were prepared and distributed in various regions of the country. Minister Vare was familiar with Dr. Sharp’s book Civilian-Based Defense, stating that certain recommendations had been derived from that source.
At this time, it is unclear what role civilian-based defense will play in the future Estonian defense system. As of December 1991, the Estonian Defense Commission has not included any provisions for civilian-based defense in its draft defense policy "white paper." While there appears to be a consensus that nonviolent resistance would play a role in the event of massive foreign aggression, there has been little organizational development along these lines.
There are significant problems in implementing civilian-based defense in the Baltic states. First, over 100,000 foreign troops remain stationed within Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Recent negotiations indicate that Russia is willing to withdraw these troops. However, until the last troops are pulled out, Baltic defense officials must prepare for possible attacks by renegade army units. The fear of terrorist-like attacks is quite high. Second, within Estonia and Latvia, the large Russian populations are sometimes viewed as potential collaborators should there be another attempt to reimpose authoritarian rule. Defense officials in these countries may feel reluctant to train these sectors of the population in civilian forms of resistance. Third, in all three states, civilian-based defense is unlikely to prove successful against terrorism, small-scale attacks, and crime. A tepid response to these types of security problems may undermine the legitimacy of the independent governments.
Amongst officials in all three Baltic states, there exists an understanding of the concepts behind civilian-based defense. The main question now being posed by these officials is how best to combine military and civilian forms of defense. For example, should civilian-based defense be the main line of defense against foreign attacks, a fall-back position, or solely a response to coups?
Given the geopolitical situation in the Baltics, these countries have no real military options in the event of a large-scale attack. The Baltic states may be the first to test civilian-based defense, and this possibility presents both opportunities and dangers. If the first cases of civilian-based defense are not well prepared and resistance is tried and fails, the concept may be discredited. On the other hand, there have never been three countries side by side with the opportunity to plan a national defense policy starting from scratch. In that, the exploration of civilian-based defense in the Baltic states carries historic importance.
1 As translated by Olgerts Eglitis, letter, November 1991.
2 As outlined by Steve Huxley, "‘Civilian Disobedience’ and the Defense of Estonia," unpublished article (February 21, 1991), p. 3.
The Einstein Institution South Africa Program
The South Africa Program was established in September 1990 as the first area program of the Albert Einstein Institution. The purpose of the program is to advance knowledge about the strategic uses of nonviolent direct action in South Africa.
Recent events in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, China, and South Africa have demonstrated the great potential of "people power" for waging political struggle. Understanding the full potential of this technique requires careful study of several key questions. How do leadership and decision-making structures evolve? What resources can a movement bring to bear? What means can be used for mobilizing people and how are strategies and tactics developed? The answers to these and other questions lie, in part, in an examination of the past. South Africa offers a rich field of inquiry, having given rise to a great variety of both nonviolent and violent methods of struggle. The South Africa Program will investigate these issues, which are of critical concern not only to scholars but also to activists engaging in future political conflicts.
The major activities of the program involve research and public education on the technique of nonviolent action. Research focuses on case studies of nonviolent action employed in political conflicts in South Africa. Issues of leadership, movement resources, methods of mobilization, strategies and tactics are among the primary areas of inquiry. The program also provides a forum for public education and exchange on the technique. It offers experts in the field of nonviolent direct action, scholars, and activists opportunities to come together in workshops and conferences where both theoretical and practical issues are examined.
Through its unique focus, the South Africa Program will establish a body of scholarly studies, a series of data bases, and a forum for exchange on the technique of nonviolent direct action that will provide a valuable resource for scholars of and activists in political struggle both in South Africa and elsewhere in the world.
The initial phase of the South Africa Program is designed to initiate and encourage research, create data collections for future analysis, and establish forums for public education and exchange between scholars, activists, and experts on the role of nonviolent direct action in South Africa.
The program’s first projects will focus on three themes:
- the role of nonviolent action in defense of civil society;
- the relationship between strategic nonviolent conflict and conflict resolution; and
- the relationship between democratization and nonviolent direct action.
Projects will include:
- a case study of the role of the black trade union movement in re-establishing the tradition of nonviolent direct action in South Africa during the 1980s.
- a case study of the methods used by civic and other organizations in political struggle during the 1980s to illuminate issues of leadership style, mobilization, organization under increasing repression, strategic objectives and tactics.
- oral histories of nonviolent activists, beginning with the women and men who participated in the struggles of the 1950s.
- workshops and conferences, both within South Africa and in Cambridge, Massachusetts where the Albert Einstein Institution is situated.
The director of the South Africa Program is Barbara Harmel.
Researchers Find Common Ground
at Peace Studies Association Meeting
"Conflict and Change in the 1990s: Redefining Power, Democracy, and Development" was the theme of the Fourth Annual Meeting of the Peace Studies Association (PSA) held February 27-March 1 at the University of Colorado at Boulder. The meeting drew 160 participants from peace studies programs and research institutions across the country.
At the meeting, Doug Bond, who directs the Program on Nonviolent Sanctions at Harvard University’s Center for International Affairs, outlined the theoretical framework he is developing for a systematic, empirical study that will test propositions about how nonviolent direct action "works." Bill Vogele, a post-doctoral fellow at the Program, presented a paper on "Deterrence by Non-Military Defense." Roger Powers, coordinator of publications and special projects at the Einstein Institution, also attended the meeting.
The PSA meeting provided the opportunity for scholars with similar research interests to present and discuss their current projects. On the subject of nonviolent action, there were two papers in addition to those by Bond and Vogele that were of special interest. Guy and Heidi Burgess of the University of Colorado at Boulder delivered a paper entitled "Attaining Justice Without Violence in Intractable Conflicts." And Lester R. Kurtz and Nancy Bell of the University of Texas at Austin delivered a paper on "Social Theory and Nonviolent Revolutions: Rethinking Domination and Rebellion."
Like Doug Bond at the Program on Nonviolent Sanctions, these scholars are conducting research that may one day provide answers to the question: Under what conditions does nonviolent action succeed and under what conditions does it fail?
While they all are interested in the same research question, they are approaching it in different, but complementary, ways. Bond is emphasizing a deductive approach, first developing theoretical propositions and then testing them against data collected from a large number of cases of direct action. Guy and Heidi Burgess are taking an inductive approach, comparing a number of case studies of nonviolent action in an attempt to derive from them general propositions. Lester Kurtz is approaching the question from yet another perspective, analyzing biographical narratives of nonviolent movement leaders and participants.
Recognizing the complementarity of these three research projects, Bond, Kurtz, and the Burgesses hope to work more closely in the future.
The Peace Studies Association is an organization of college and university academic programs for the study of peace, conflict, justice, and global security. For more information, contact: Robin J. Crews, Executive Director, The Peace Studies Association, c/o Conflict & Peace Studies, Campus Box 471, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309-0471, Phone: (303) 492-7718.
Helen Fein Wins PIOOM Award
Helen Fein, a visiting scholar at the Harvard Program on Nonviolent Sanctions from 1989 to 1991, has won the first international award of Amsterdam’s PIOOM Foundation, a nonpartisan Dutch g roup based at the University of Leiden’s Center for the Study of Social Conflicts.
The award, which goes to the best book or monograph on the root causes of gross human rights violations, honors Fein’s review essay "Genocide: A Sociological Perspective" (Current Sociology, Spring 1990).
She has written seven books and monographs on genocide, human rights, collective violence, collective altruism, and anti-Semitism. Her latest book, Genocide Watch, an edited collection of papers on how to detect and deter genocide, was published by Yale University Press in December.
Fein is a visiting fellow at the Harvard Law School’s Human Rights Program, a visiting scholar in sociology at Boston College, and the executive director of New York’s Institute for the Study of Genocide.
Nonviolent Movement for
Democracy in Cameroon
Simon Kuissu of the Union des Populations du Cameroun is one of the leaders of the democracy movement in Cameroon. The following interview comes from the French magazine, Non-Violence Actualité. Translated by Yves del Monaco. Distributed by the Peace Media Service.
How did the movement for democracy begin in Cameroon?
It all started in February 1990 when some of the leaders of the opposition—Matre Yondo Black, Anicet Ekan and the writer Albert Mukong—decided to launch a new party. With Cameroon being a one-party state since 1966, they were arrested before the project could succeed. Their arrest caused huge protest throughout the country, so that they were finally released. After that another party was created, soon followed by others. In July 1990, the Parliament gave in to popular pressure and drafted a law allowing for multi-partisme but on very restrictive terms.
The opposition parties and human rights organizations, who have gathered around a common platform (and who are preparing for a National Conference), are asking for changes in the legislation. As yet, the laws were ready-made for the government. But today, the opposition parties believe it is no longer for the government alone to make decisions, but for the other participants in public life including the intellectuals and the churches. In order to stifle its opponents, the government is now calling for general elections to be held February 16, 1992. In a bid to prevent the National Conference to be held, the government has also resorted to violence against protesters.
What forces make up the opposition?
Mainly the parties associated with the [common] platform, but there are other elements that count, in particular the churches and—in the first place—the Roman Catholic Church. The Catholic Church has, for the majority of its clergy, clearly opted for democracy. The second force is made up of intellectuals. They are not organized as such, but they are active in speech and in writing. The best known outside the country is Mongo Beti, but there are several others such as Father Sindsoum Pokam, Ren Philombe and others. Another rising force is the independent press, which until last year did not exist. The press has become a powerful tool, but it has to struggle hard against censorship.
Have the opposition forces devised a common strategy?
It is one of the main problems. Our platform is composed of a conglomerate of more than 40 political parties, who, except for the National Conference, have quite different goals. As for street protests, after 30 years of one-party rule, people are not really used to working together. But with time our bond is getting closer.
What are your means of action?
In June the opposition launched an operation "dead city-dead country" which is meant to last till the government agrees to our National Conference. The objective—which has been reached in full—is to stop all economical activity, so factories and shops remain closed all week long and public transport does not operate. In this way we deprive the government of revenues. It is hard for people, but we have seen that the strike is followed in seven of the ten provinces of Cameroon. Only with civil servants has it been breached for fear of repression. Economists have estimated the loss at French francs 80 million per day. Although the strike affects them, people remain determined. It is a country that has suffered much. Unemployment is high and so is misery and hunger. For years the country has been ripped off by corrupt politicians. Today they are ready for anything in order to get rid of them.
How have those in power reacted?
I do not want to be offensive, but I consider the president a psychopath. I cannot imagine a mentally sane president, caring for his country, who would remain untouched by so much human misery. He still hasn’t met with opposition leaders and, instead, has appointed colonels to carry out the repression in several towns. Today we fear civil war. While the population is determined, the army is divided because of tribal strife. This means that only a fierce minority, at the beck and call of the president, is carrying out the dirty work of repression. If the government gives in to the opposition, this minority could attempt to stop the process through a coup. Anything seems possible, including a coup by the democratic forces within the army. But let it be clear that the opposition platform has definitely opted for peaceful and nonviolent means.
What is the program of the Union des Populations du Cameroun?
The UPC was founded in 1948 on the basis of a national and revolutionary program. It fought, including by military means, for independence. Independence was obtained in 1960. As the movement had been almost wiped out by French colonial power, it did not share power after the independence but kept the struggle against what used to be called "neo-colonialism." In 1982, during a secret congress, we opted for socialism. Today, however, things are moving fast as hundreds of activists are returning from exile. A Congress is scheduled to take place on December 19. The new party will be very different from today, I guess. It will be a party of progress, with democratic and nationalist ideas.
How do you evaluate the whole movement for democracy which is sweeping Africa today?
While today all Africans can live in their own countries, it is not easy because some regimes have retained repressive practices. The populations want freedom of speech but many forces are against democracy. Even in Western countries, there are lobbies that only consider their own economic interests. In my opinion, this is bad business in the long run. I find it difficult to understand why France is so reluctant in giving full support to democratic movements in Africa. President Mitterand’s speech at La Baule [a summit where presidents of French-speaking African countries met with Mitterand] was nice, but in practice I do not see France openly supporting democracy in Cameroon, and I am aware that some unofficial [French] lobbies are trying to slow down the process. In Africa itself, the people who were profiting from the old regime do not want things to change.
It is difficult to foresee the outcome of the present situation in Africa. I am not rejoicing as much as some are because so many forces seem to be against democracy. But there is undoubtedly a lot of enthusiasm now. This is new.
Tibet: The Crime of Nonviolent Protest
In a report released February 17, Asia Watch and the Tibet Information Network charged that nearly twice as many political prisoners are in custody in Tibet as Chinese authorities have admitted. The information suggests that the vast majority of political prisoners in Tibet are nonviolent protesters, detained for exercising internationally recognized rights to freedom of expression and association. Activities which led to arrest included displaying the banned Tibetan flag, publishing leaflets, or compiling lists of those imprisoned.
The report, Political Prisoners in Tibet, released as the issue of human rights violations in Tibet was under discussion at the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva, documents the cases of 360 Tibetans detained for political offenses since 1987, 240 of whom were still in custody as of September 1991. The information comes in the form of three prisoner lists, compiled between August and November 1991 by inmates and former inmates, some of whom had access to official records.
One of those listed, Yulo Dawa Tsering, a 62-year-old monk from one of Tibet’s largest monasteries, was arrested for speaking with an Italian tourist about repression in Tibet.
Champa Ngodrup received a 13-year sentence for copying the names of those arrested and injured in demonstrations.
Konchok Drolma, a 29-year-old Tibetan nun, was sentenced without trial in 1989 to three years’ "re-education through labor" for shouting pro-independence slogans.
Ama Phurbu-la, a 57-year-old Lhasa business woman received a three-year term for organizing memorial prayers for those killed in a demonstration.
Dawa Drolma, a teacher at the Lhasa Cement Plant School, was sentenced for teaching a "reactionary song" to her class.
Analysis of the lists confirms that dissident activity in Tibet, although centered in monasteries and nunneries, has involved substantial numbers of ordinary citizens as well. It provides evidence of the significant role played by women, who represent one-third of the listed detainees, and it attests to the youth of those named—two-thirds are under the age of 25. Two 14-year-old girls and a 13-year-old boy are among 36 teenagers held in adult facilities.
Many prisoners are serving administrative sentences imposed without trial.
On August 23, 1991, the UN Subcommission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities adopted a resolution expressing concern at "continuing reports of violations of fundamental human rights and freedoms in Tibet." It was the first formal statement by the UN on Tibet since 1965. The resolution called for further discussion of the issue at the meeting of the full 53-member Commission in Geneva, which convened on January 27 and will meet until March 6.
Asia Watch is a human rights monitoring organization based in New York. The Tibet Information Network, based in London, monitors developments in Tibet including human rights, the economy, politics, religion, the arts, social services, and the environment. [Asia Watch, 485 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10017 USA; tel 212-972-8400, fax 212-972-0905; Tibet Information Network, 7 Beck Road, London E8 4RE, England; tel 44-81-533-5458, fax 44-81-985-4751.]
Distributed by the Peace Media Service.
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