The Politics of Naming: Genocide, Civil War, Insurgency: By Mahmood Mamdani

The similarities between Iraq and Darfur are remarkable. The estimate of the number of civilians killed over the past three years is roughly similar. The killers are mostly paramilitaries, closely linked to the official military, which is said to be their main source of arms. The victims too are by and large identified as members of groups, rather than targeted as individuals. But the violence in the two places is named differently. In Iraq, it is said to be a cycle of insurgency and counter-insurgency; in Darfur, it is called genocide. Why the difference? Who does the naming? Who is being named? What difference does it make?

The most powerful mobilisation in New York City is in relation to Darfur, not Iraq. One would expect the reverse, for no other reason than that most New Yorkers are American citizens and so should feel directly responsible for the violence in occupied Iraq. But Iraq is a messy place in the American imagination, a place with messy politics. Americans worry about what their government should do in Iraq. Should it withdraw? What would happen if it did? In contrast, there is nothing messy about Darfur. It is a place without history and without politics; simply a site where perpetrators clearly identifiable as ‘Arabs’ confront victims clearly identifiable as ‘Africans’.

A full-page advertisement has appeared several times a week in the New York Times calling for intervention in Darfur now. It wants the intervening forces to be placed under ‘a chain of command allowing necessary and timely military action without approval from distant political or civilian personnel’. That intervention in Darfur should not be subject to ‘political or civilian’ considerations and that the intervening forces should have the right to shoot – to kill – without permission from distant places: these are said to be ‘humanitarian’ demands. In the same vein, a New Republic editorial on Darfur has called for ‘force as a first-resort response’. What makes the situation even more puzzling is that some of those who are calling for an end to intervention in Iraq are demanding an intervention in Darfur; as the slogan goes, ‘Out of Iraq and into Darfur.’

What would happen if we thought of Darfur as we do of Iraq, as a place with a history and politics – a messy politics of insurgency and counter-insurgency? Why should an intervention in Darfur not turn out to be a trigger that escalates rather than reduces the level of violence as intervention in Iraq has done? Why might it not create the actual possibility of genocide, not just rhetorically but in reality? Morally, there is no doubt about the horrific nature of the violence against civilians in Darfur. The ambiguity lies in the politics of the violence, whose sources include both a state-connected counter-insurgency and an organised insurgency, very much like the violence in Iraq.

The insurgency and counter-insurgency in Darfur began in 2003. Both were driven by an intermeshing of domestic tensions in the context of a peace-averse international environment defined by the War on Terror. On the one hand, there was a struggle for power within the political class in Sudan, with more marginal interests in the west (following those in the south and in the east) calling for reform at the centre. On the other, there was a community-level split inside Darfur, between nomads and settled farmers, who had earlier forged a way of sharing the use of semi-arid land in the dry season. With the drought that set in towards the late 1970s, co-operation turned into an intense struggle over diminishing resources.

As the insurgency took root among the prospering peasant tribes of Darfur, the government trained and armed the poorer nomads and formed a militia – the Janjawiid – that became the vanguard of the unfolding counter-insurgency. The worst violence came from the Janjawiid, but the insurgent movements were also accused of gross violations. Anyone wanting to end the spiralling violence would have to bring about power-sharing at the state level and resource-sharing at the community level, land being the key resource.

Since its onset, two official verdicts have been delivered on the violence, the first from the US, the second from the UN. The American verdict was unambiguous: Darfur was the site of an ongoing genocide. The chain of events leading to Washington’s proclamation began with ‘a genocide alert’ from the Management Committee of the Washington Holocaust Memorial Museum; according to the Jerusalem Post, the alert was ‘the first ever of its kind, issued by the US Holocaust Museum’. The House of Representatives followed unanimously on 24 June 2004. The last to join the chorus was Colin Powell.

The UN Commission on Darfur was created in the aftermath of the American verdict and in response to American pressure. It was more ambiguous. In September 2004, the Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo, then the chair of the African Union, visited UN headquarters in New York. Darfur had been the focal point of discussion in the African Union. All concerned were alert to the extreme political sensitivity of the issue. At a press conference at the UN on 23 September Obasanjo was asked to pronounce on the violence in Darfur: was it genocide or not? His response was very clear:

Before you can say that this is genocide or ethnic cleansing, we will have to have a definite decision and plan and programme of a government to wipe out a particular group of people, then we will be talking about genocide, ethnic cleansing. What we know is not that. What we know is that there was an uprising, rebellion, and the government armed another group of people to stop that rebellion. That’s what we know. That does not amount to genocide from our own reckoning. It amounts to of course conflict. It amounts to violence.

By October, the Security Council had established a five-person commission of inquiry on Darfur and asked it to report within three months on ‘violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law in Darfur by all parties’, and specifically to determine ‘whether or not acts of genocide have occurred’. Among the members of the commission was the chief prosecutor of South Africa’s TRC, Dumisa Ntsebeza. In its report, submitted on 25 January 2005, the commission concluded that ‘the Government of the Sudan has not pursued a policy of genocide … directly or through the militias under its control.’ But the commission did find that the government’s violence was ‘deliberately and indiscriminately directed against civilians’. Indeed, ‘even where rebels may have been present in villages, the impact of attacks on civilians shows that the use of military force was manifestly disproportionate to any threat posed by the rebels.’ These acts, the commission concluded, ‘were conducted on a widespread and systematic basis, and therefore may amount to crimes against humanity’ (my emphasis). Yet, the commission insisted, they did not amount to acts of genocide: ‘The crucial element of genocidal intent appears to be missing … it would seem that those who planned and organised attacks on villages pursued the intent to drive the victims from their homes, primarily for purposes of counter-insurgency warfare.’

At the same time, the commission assigned secondary responsibility to rebel forces – namely, members of the Sudan Liberation Army and the Justice and Equality Movement – which it held ‘responsible for serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law which may amount to war crimes’ (my emphasis). If the government stood accused of ‘crimes against humanity’, rebel movements were accused of ‘war crimes’. Finally, the commission identified individual perpetrators and presented the UN secretary-general with a sealed list that included ‘officials of the government of Sudan, members of militia forces, members of rebel groups and certain foreign army officers acting in their personal capacity’. The list named 51 individuals.

The commission’s findings highlighted three violations of international law: disproportionate response, conducted on a widespread and systematic basis, targeting entire groups (as opposed to identifiable individuals) but without the intention to eliminate them as groups. It is for this last reason that the commission ruled out the finding of genocide. Its less grave findings of ‘crimes against humanity’ and ‘war crimes’ are not unique to Darfur, but fit several other situations of extreme violence: in particular, the US occupation of Iraq, the Hema-Lendu violence in eastern Congo and the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. Among those in the counter-insurgency accused of war crimes were the ‘foreign army officers acting in their personal capacity’, i.e. mercenaries, presumably recruited from armed forces outside Sudan. The involvement of mercenaries in perpetrating gross violence also fits the occupation in Iraq, where some of them go by the name of ‘contractors’.

The journalist in the US most closely identified with consciousness-raising on Darfur is the New York Times op-ed columnist Nicholas Kristof, often identified as a lone crusader on the issue. To peruse Kristof’s Darfur columns over the past three years is to see the reduction of a complex political context to a morality tale unfolding in a world populated by villains and victims who never trade places and so can always and easily be told apart. It is a world where atrocities mount geometrically, the perpetrators so evil and the victims so helpless that the only possibility of relief is a rescue mission from the outside, preferably in the form of a military intervention.

Kristof made six highly publicised trips to Darfur, the first in March 2004 and the sixth two years later. He began by writing of it as a case of ‘ethnic cleansing’: ‘Sudan’s Arab rulers’ had ‘forced 700,000 black African Sudanese to flee their villages’ (24 March 2004). Only three days later, he upped the ante: this was no longer ethnic cleansing, but genocide. ‘Right now,’ he wrote on 27 March, ‘the government of Sudan is engaged in genocide against three large African tribes in its Darfur region.’ He continued: ‘The killings are being orchestrated by the Arab-dominated Sudanese government’ and ‘the victims are non-Arabs: blacks in the Zaghawa, Massalliet and Fur tribes.’ He estimated the death toll at a thousand a week. Two months later, on 29 May, he revised the estimates dramatically upwards, citing predictions from the US Agency for International Development to the effect that ‘at best, “only” 100,000 people will die in Darfur this year of malnutrition and disease’ but ‘if things go badly, half a million will die.’

The UN commission’s report was released on 25 February 2005. It confirmed ‘massive displacement’ of persons (‘more than a million’ internally displaced and ‘more than 200,000’ refugees in Chad) and the destruction of ‘several hundred’ villages and hamlets as ‘irrefutable facts’; but it gave no confirmed numbers for those killed. Instead, it noted rebel claims that government-allied forces had ‘allegedly killed over 70,000 persons’. Following the publication of the report, Kristof began to scale down his estimates. For the first time, on 23 February 2005, he admitted that ‘the numbers are fuzzy.’ Rather than the usual single total, he went on to give a range of figures, from a low of 70,000, which he dismissed as ‘a UN estimate’, to ‘independent estimates [that] exceed 220,000’. A warning followed: ‘and the number is rising by about ten thousand a month.’

The publication of the commission’s report had considerable effect. Internationally, it raised doubts about whether what was going on in Darfur could be termed genocide. Even US officials were unwilling to go along with the high estimates propagated by the broad alliance of organisations that subscribe to the Save Darfur campaign. The effect on American diplomacy was discernible. Three months later, on 3 May, Kristof noted with dismay that not only had ‘Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick pointedly refused to repeat the administration’s past judgment that the killings amount to genocide’: he had ‘also cited an absurdly low estimate of Darfur’s total death toll: 60,000 to 160,000’. As an alternative, Kristof cited the latest estimate of deaths from the Coalition for International Justice as ‘nearly 400,000, and rising by 500 a day’. In three months, Kristof’s estimates had gone up from 10,000 to 15,000 a month. Six months later, on 27 November, Kristof warned that ‘if aid groups pull out … the death toll could then rise to 100,000 a month.’ Anyone keeping a tally of the death toll in Darfur as reported in the Kristof columns would find the rise, fall and rise again very bewildering. First he projected the number of dead at 320,000 for 2004 (16 June 2004) but then gave a scaled down estimate of between 70,000 and 220,000 (23 February 2005). The number began once more to climb to ‘nearly 400,000’ (3 May 2005), only to come down yet again to 300,000 (23 April 2006). Each time figures were given with equal confidence but with no attempt to explain their basis. Did the numbers reflect an actual decline in the scale of killing in Darfur or was Kristof simply making an adjustment to the changing mood internationally?

In the 23 April column, Kristof expanded the list of perpetrators to include an external power: ‘China is now underwriting its second genocide in three decades. The first was in Pol Pot’s Cambodia, and the second is in Darfur, Sudan. Chinese oil purchases have financed Sudan’s pillage of Darfur, Chinese-made AK-47s have been the main weapons used to slaughter several hundred thousand people in Darfur so far and China has protected Sudan in the UN Security Council.’ In the Kristof columns, there is one area of deafening silence, to do with the fact that what is happening in Darfur is a civil war. Hardly a word is said about the insurgency, about the civilian deaths insurgents mete out, about acts that the commission characterised as ‘war crimes’. Would the logic of his 23 April column not lead one to think that those with connections to the insurgency, some of them active in the international campaign to declare Darfur the site of genocide, were also guilty of ‘underwriting’ war crimes in Darfur?

Newspaper writing on Darfur has sketched a pornography of violence. It seems fascinated by and fixated on the gory details, describing the worst of the atrocities in gruesome detail and chronicling the rise in the number of them. The implication is that the motivation of the perpetrators lies in biology (‘race’) and, if not that, certainly in ‘culture’. This voyeuristic approach accompanies a moralistic discourse whose effect is both to obscure the politics of the violence and position the reader as a virtuous, not just a concerned observer.

Journalism gives us a simple moral world, where a group of perpetrators face a group of victims, but where neither history nor motivation is thinkable because both are outside history and context. Even when newspapers highlight violence as a social phenomenon, they fail to understand the forces that shape the agency of the perpetrator. Instead, they look for a clear and uncomplicated moral that describes the victim as untainted and the perpetrator as simply evil. Where yesterday’s victims are today’s perpetrators, where victims have turned perpetrators, this attempt to find an African replay of the Holocaust not only does not work but also has perverse consequences. Whatever its analytical weaknesses, the depoliticisation of violence has given its proponents distinct political advantages.

The conflict in Darfur is highly politicised, and so is the international campaign. One of the campaign’s constant refrains has been that the ongoing genocide is racial: ‘Arabs’ are trying to eliminate ‘Africans’. But both ‘Arab’ and ‘African’ have several meanings in Sudan. There have been at least three meanings of ‘Arab’. Locally, ‘Arab’ was a pejorative reference to the lifestyle of the nomad as uncouth; regionally, it referred to someone whose primary language was Arabic. In this sense, a group could become ‘Arab’ over time. This process, known as Arabisation, was not an anomaly in the region: there was Amharisation in Ethiopia and Swahilisation on the East African coast. The third meaning of ‘Arab’ was ‘privileged and exclusive’; it was the claim of the riverine political aristocracy who had ruled Sudan since independence, and who equated Arabisation with the spread of civilisation and being Arab with descent.

‘African’, in this context, was a subaltern identity that also had the potential of being either exclusive or inclusive. The two meanings were not only contradictory but came from the experience of two different insurgencies. The inclusive meaning was more political than racial or even cultural (linguistic), in the sense that an ‘African’ was anyone determined to make a future within Africa. It was pioneered by John Garang, the leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) in the south, as a way of holding together the New Sudan he hoped to see. In contrast, its exclusive meaning came in two versions, one hard (racial) and the other soft (linguistic) – ‘African’ as Bantu and ‘African’ as the identity of anyone who spoke a language indigenous to Africa. The racial meaning came to take a strong hold in both the counter-insurgency and the insurgency in Darfur. The Save Darfur campaign’s characterisation of the violence as ‘Arab’ against ‘African’ obscured both the fact that the violence was not one-sided and the contest over the meaning of ‘Arab’ and ‘African’: a contest that was critical precisely because it was ultimately about who belonged and who did not in the political community called Sudan. The depoliticisation, naturalisation and, ultimately, demonisation of the notion ‘Arab’, as against ‘African’, has been the deadliest effect, whether intended or not, of the Save Darfur campaign.

The depoliticisation of the conflict gave campaigners three advantages. First, they were able to occupy the moral high ground. The campaign presented itself as apolitical but moral, its concern limited only to saving lives. Second, only a single-issue campaign could bring together in a unified chorus forces that are otherwise ranged as adversaries on most important issues of the day: at one end, the Christian right and the Zionist lobby; at the other, a mainly school and university-based peace movement. Nat Hentoff of the Village Voice wrote of the Save Darfur Coalition as ‘an alliance of more than 515 faith-based, humanitarian and human rights organisations’; among the organisers of their Rally to Stop the Genocide in Washington last year were groups as diverse as the American Jewish World Service, the American Society for Muslim Advancement, the National Association of Evangelicals, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, the American Anti-Slavery Group, Amnesty International, Christian Solidarity International, Physicians for Human Rights and the National Black Church Initiative. Surely, such a wide coalition would cease to hold together if the issue shifted to, say, Iraq.

To understand the third advantage, we have to return to the question I asked earlier: how could it be that many of those calling for an end to the American and British intervention in Iraq are demanding an intervention in Darfur? It’s tempting to think that the advantage of Darfur lies in its being a small, faraway place where those who drive the War on Terror do not have a vested interest. That this is hardly the case is evident if one compares the American response to Darfur to its non-response to Congo, even though the dimensions of the conflict in Congo seem to give it a mega-Darfur quality: the numbers killed are estimated in the millions rather than the hundreds of thousands; the bulk of the killing, particularly in Kivu, is done by paramilitaries trained, organised and armed by neighbouring governments; and the victims on both sides – Hema and Lendu – are framed in collective rather than individual terms, to the point that one influential version defines both as racial identities and the conflict between the two as a replay of the Rwandan genocide. Given all this, how does one explain the fact that the focus of the most widespread and ambitious humanitarian movement in the US is on Darfur and not on Kivu?

Nicholas Kristof was asked this very question by a university audience: ‘When I spoke at Cornell University recently, a woman asked why I always harp on Darfur. It’s a fair question. The number of people killed in Darfur so far is modest in global terms: estimates range from 200,000 to more than 500,000. In contrast, four million people have died since 1998 as a result of the fighting in Congo, the most lethal conflict since World War Two.’ But instead of answering the question, Kristof – now writing his column rather than facing the questioner at Cornell – moved on: ‘And malaria annually kills one million to three million people – meaning that three years’ deaths in Darfur are within the margin of error of the annual global toll from malaria.’ And from there he went on to compare the deaths in Darfur to the deaths from malaria, rather than from the conflict in Congo: ‘We have a moral compass within us and its needle is moved not only by human suffering but also by human evil. That’s what makes genocide special – not just the number of deaths but the government policy behind them. And that in turn is why stopping genocide should be an even higher priority than saving lives from Aids or malaria.’ That did not explain the relative silence on Congo. Could the reason be that in the case of Congo, Hema and Lendu militias – many of them no more than child soldiers – were trained by America’s allies in the region, Rwanda and Uganda? Is that why the violence in Darfur – but not the violence in Kivu – is named as a genocide?

It seems that genocide has become a label to be stuck on your worst enemy, a perverse version of the Nobel Prize, part of a rhetorical arsenal that helps you vilify your adversaries while ensuring impunity for your allies. In Kristof’s words, the point is not so much ‘human suffering’ as ‘human evil’. Unlike Kivu, Darfur can be neatly integrated into the War on Terror, for Darfur gives the Warriors on Terror a valuable asset with which to demonise an enemy: a genocide perpetrated by Arabs. This was the third and most valuable advantage that Save Darfur gained from depoliticising the conflict. The more thoroughly Darfur was integrated into the War on Terror, the more the depoliticised violence in Darfur acquired a racial description, as a genocide of ‘Arabs’ killing ‘Africans’. Racial difference purportedly constituted the motive force behind the mass killings. The irony of Kristof’s columns is that they mirror the ideology of Arab supremacism in Sudan by demonising entire communities.[*]

Kristof chides Arab peoples and the Arab press for not having the moral fibre to respond to this Muslim-on-Muslim violence, presumably because it is a violence inflicted by Arab Muslims on African Muslims. In one of his early columns in 2004, he was outraged by the silence of Muslim leaders: ‘Do they care about dead Muslims only when the killers are Israelis or Americans?’ Two years later he asked: ‘And where is the Arab press? Isn’t the murder of 300,000 or more Muslims almost as offensive as a Danish cartoon?’ Six months later, Kristof pursued this line on NBC’s Today Show. Elaborating on the ‘real blind spot’ in the Muslim world, he said: ‘You are beginning to get some voices in the Muslim world … saying it’s appalling that you have evangelical Christians and American Jews leading an effort to protect Muslims in Sudan and in Chad.’

If many of the leading lights in the Darfur campaign are fired by moral indignation, this derives from two events: the Nazi Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide. After all, the seeds of the Save Darfur campaign lie in the tenth-anniversary commemoration of what happened in Rwanda. Darfur is today a metaphor for senseless violence in politics, as indeed Rwanda was a decade before. Most writing on the Rwandan genocide in the US was also done by journalists. In We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families, the most widely read book on the genocide, Philip Gourevitch envisaged Rwanda as a replay of the Holocaust, with Hutu cast as perpetrators and Tutsi as victims. Again, the encounter between the two seemed to take place outside any context, as part of an eternal encounter between evil and innocence. Many of the journalists who write about Darfur have Rwanda very much in the back of their minds. In December 2004, Kristof recalled the lessons of Rwanda: ‘Early in his presidency, Mr Bush read a report about Bill Clinton’s paralysis during the Rwandan genocide and scrawled in the margin: “Not on my watch.” But in fact the same thing is happening on his watch, and I find that heartbreaking and baffling.’

With very few exceptions, the Save Darfur campaign has drawn a single lesson from Rwanda: the problem was the US failure to intervene to stop the genocide. Rwanda is the guilt that America must expiate, and to do so it must be ready to intervene, for good and against evil, even globally. That lesson is inscribed at the heart of Samantha Power’s book, A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide. But it is the wrong lesson. The Rwandan genocide was born of a civil war which intensified when the settlement to contain it broke down. The settlement, reached at the Arusha Conference, broke down because neither the Hutu Power tendency nor the Tutsi-dominated Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) had any interest in observing the power-sharing arrangement at the core of the settlement: the former because it was excluded from the settlement and the latter because it was unwilling to share power in any meaningful way.

What the humanitarian intervention lobby fails to see is that the US did intervene in Rwanda, through a proxy. That proxy was the RPF, backed up by entire units from the Uganda Army. The green light was given to the RPF, whose commanding officer, Paul Kagame, had recently returned from training in the US, just as it was lately given to the Ethiopian army in Somalia. Instead of using its resources and influence to bring about a political solution to the civil war, and then strengthen it, the US signalled to one of the parties that it could pursue victory with impunity. This unilateralism was part of what led to the disaster, and that is the real lesson of Rwanda. Applied to Darfur and Sudan, it is sobering. It means recognising that Darfur is not yet another Rwanda. Nurturing hopes of an external military intervention among those in the insurgency who aspire to victory and reinforcing the fears of those in the counter-insurgency who see it as a prelude to defeat are precisely the ways to ensure that it becomes a Rwanda. Strengthening those on both sides who stand for a political settlement to the civil war is the only realistic approach. Solidarity, not intervention, is what will bring peace to Darfur.

The dynamic of civil war in Sudan has fed on multiple sources: first, the post-independence monopoly of power enjoyed by a tiny ‘Arabised’ elite from the riverine north of Khartoum, a monopoly that has bred growing resistance among the majority, marginalised populations in the south, east and west of the country; second, the rebel movements which have in their turn bred ambitious leaders unwilling to enter into power-sharing arrangements as a prelude to peace; and, finally, external forces that continue to encourage those who are interested in retaining or obtaining a monopoly of power.

The dynamic of peace, by contrast, has fed on a series of power-sharing arrangements, first in the south and then in the east. This process has been intermittent in Darfur. African Union-organised negotiations have been successful in forging a power-sharing arrangement, but only for that arrangement to fall apart time and again. A large part of the explanation, as I suggested earlier, lies in the international context of the War on Terror, which favours parties who are averse to taking risks for peace. To reinforce the peace process must be the first commitment of all those interested in Darfur.

The camp of peace needs to come to a second realisation: that peace cannot be built on humanitarian intervention, which is the language of big powers. The history of colonialism should teach us that every major intervention has been justified as humanitarian, a ‘civilising mission’. Nor was it mere idiosyncrasy that inspired the devotion with which many colonial officers and archivists recorded the details of barbarity among the colonised – sati, the ban on widow marriage or the practice of child marriage in India, or slavery and female genital mutilation in Africa. I am not suggesting that this was all invention. I mean only to point out that the chronicling of atrocities had a practical purpose: it provided the moral pretext for intervention. Now, as then, imperial interventions claim to have a dual purpose: on the one hand, to rescue minority victims of ongoing barbarities and, on the other, to quarantine majority perpetrators with the stated aim of civilising them. Iraq should act as a warning on this score. The worst thing in Darfur would be an Iraq-style intervention. That would almost certainly spread the civil war to other parts of Sudan, unravelling the peace process in the east and south and dragging the whole country into the global War on Terror.


What is the single most important change that could be made to improve British politics?

Published: May 2010

The general election is upon us where voters will place a single X against the candidate they want to represent them for next 5 years. With the existing first-past-the-post system only the candidate with the most votes in each of the 646 constituency seats will be elected, even though the majority of those who become MPs not receiving at least 50 % of the vote from their constituents. As demonstrated by the 2005 general elections whereby only 34 % of MPs received 50 % of the votes, and Labour government elected with 35 % of votes cast (Kelly, 2010a, p.99). This means that the legitimacy of the current electoral system and the British democracy must be in questioned.

Any voting system that a nation adopts must deliver real choice, fairness, accountability, and above all democracy.  While there is no single system that can entirely improve British politics, reforming or changing the current electoral system could improve British politics. This essay is therefore, going to examine reasons why FPTP system should be changed and how this change could improve British politics. This essay does this by investigating the disadvantages and advantages of the system, and look at other options and their potential  role in improving British politics.

The electoral reform issue is not new; it has been ongoing for decades. Every enquiry held since 1910 has recommended some kind of change. For example, the Royal Commission in 1910, the speaker’s conference of 1971 and the Jenkins commission in 1998 recommended the Alternative Vote system (Butler, 2004) furthermore; the commission’s report further recommended that this system should be applied throughout United Kingdom (Jenkin, 1998, p.20).

The First-past-the-post voting system is an extremely unfair and undemocratic electoral system that ensures that only the winner takes all. It produces disproportionate result between votes cast and seats won for parties. Under the FPTP system, voters vote for a candidate they want like to be their local MP, and the candidate with the most votes wins. This means if a candidate gets 30 % of the votes cast and the second candidate gets 29 % of the votes cast, then the candidate who receives a plurality of votes, in this case 30 % becomes the MP. And the candidate in second gets nothing, either for himself or for his party. An example of this is the result of Brecon and Radnor constituency in 1992 elections which Conservatives won with 36.1% of the vote despite the fact that 63.9% of the constituents vote against them. “Turnout had been a meagre 61% partly caused it was argued by FPTP’s tendency to produce ‘safe’ seats where voting seemed pointless” (Kelly, 2010b, p.99). The outcome demonstrated that the winning candidate was rejected by the majority of the voters  (Pilkington, 1998, p.163). Thus, no government since 1935 has enjoyed the support of a majority of the electorates, according to the Electoral Reform Society (ERS). One way of solving this problem would be to introduce a system that allocates seats to parties in proportion to their share of votes nationwide, proportional representation, in which each party receives a share of the seats consistent with its share of votes would better reflect voter’s expectations, and therefore there would be no violation of the principal of ‘one person one vote’. Single transferable vote (STV) could achieve this, it uses multi-member constituencies, in which electorates are ask to rank candidates according to their preferences  (Johnston & Pattie, 1997, p.384)

Another key disadvantage of FPTP is that, the number of seats a party wins depends not only upon the number of votes it gets but upon the geographical allocation of its vote. Parties whose support is strong in one particular area, will gain more seats for a given vote, than parties whose support scattered across the country. In this scenario proportional representation removes the aspect of geographical unfairness (Bogdano, 2010). Moreover, the current system appears to be biased towards the Labour Party because the Labour party, which formed the government since 1997, actually have won fewer total votes compared to their nearest rival the Conservatives. As Ian Budget (2007) identified “Labour’s constituencies are smaller compared to those of Conservatives, therefore Labour, needs fewer votes to win a seat” (Budge et al., 2007, p.335). Therefore, in order to improve British electoral systems and to remove the unfairness and the inconsistency associated with it, the current system must be replaced with one that that forces Parties and candidates to campaign for every vote and that eliminates safe seats. The Single Transferable Vote (STV) is just that system. According to the Electoral reform society, “it breaks down party domination lets voters choose between parties and candidates and get the kind of representation they want” (Electoral reform society, 2010).

Furthermore, FPTP has discriminated against the Liberal Democrats and other small parties at national elections. For example, in 2005 general elections Liberal Democrats got 22% of the vote but only 9% of the seats. UK independent and the Green parties received 600,000 and 250,000 votes respectively and won no seats (Leach et al., 2006, pp.68-69). An argument suggested against FPTP is that it might discourage people from voting in an election for a minority party as they recognize that their vote will be wasted. This discriminates against minority parties who will lose out as a result. Only the Tories and Labour have any real expectation of forming a government. Therefore as Colin Pilkington (1998) identified the FPTP is so imperfect that it “only works within a two party system” (Pilkington 1998, p.163). On the other hand, proponents of this system argue that although the system creates exaggerated majorities and can be very hard on small parties, it produces clear cut results and a strong government. But, this strong government dominated by one party can lead to  a “divided parliament and a confrontational style of politics” (Pilkington, 1998, p.162) as well as a sudden change of policies as soon as another party takes over the government. For example, a tax increased implemented by a previous government might be reversed by the party that forms the next government. What is more, the system does results in “confrontational politics, the opposing parties tend to adopt extreme positions mainly because there is no need for consensus view required in the formation of coalition government” (Pilkington, 1998, p.164). Thus power should not be concentrated under the winner takes all system. Instead, power should be shared between parties, giving legitimacy to the government. PR system offers this because it is tried and tested in many countries and proved to be working well a good example is Germany. (Bawn, 1999).

The most fundamental weakness of FPTP is that a huge number of votes may play no part in determining the result of the elections. Because under this system most votes are in effect wasted. All votes for losing candidates and all excess votes for winning candidates may be considered wasted as they do not contribute to the election of legislative body. Furthermore, because most of the constituencies are considered to be safe seats, there is hardly any chance of change. Thus, marginal seats and a small group of swing voters decide who forms the next government (Leach et al., 2006, p.71).Therefore; an alternative electoral system must be introduced. A system that ensures that voter’s wishes are respected and almost all votes are effective in influencing the result and the number of wasted votes is minimised. “There is a great deal of research suggesting the PR system meets these conditions” (Budge et al., 2007, p.334). It is   now illogical for British Government to carry on using FPTP system, given that Scottish Parliament, European elections, and Welsh and Greater London Assemblies used alternative system.

In conclusion, FPTP can produce severely biased and unfair results between the two major parties, as well as discriminating systematically against smaller parties whose support is evenly spread across the country. Its massive weakness severely outweighs its advantage. Thus, the problem of unfairness can only be solved through electoral reform, which means getting rid of the current system for PR system. Power should not be concentrated under the winner takes all system instead, power should be extended amongst all parties, thus giving fair chance to small parties. PR system offers this. Under current system most of the MPs are elected without an overall majority of the votes cast. The majority of the electorates therefore, do not vote for those MPs they are voted for by minority voters or tactical voters in swing constituencies. Those wanting clear cut results and strong government will support a majority system. And those concerned with fairness and justness will favour a proportional system. No electoral systems are perfect but, British voters deserve a system that is democratic, proportionate, and one that does not violate   the principal of ‘one person one vote’.









Bawn, K., 1999. Voter Responses to Electoral Complexity. British Journal of Political Science, 29(3), p.489.

Bogdano, V., 2010. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 27 March 2010].

Budge, I., Mckay, D., Bartle, J. & Newton, K., 2007. The New British Politics. 4th ed. Harlow: Pearson Educations Ltd.

Butler, D., 2004. Electoral Reform. Parliamentary Affairs, 57(4), p.736.

Jenkin, R., 1998. Voting system: the Jenkin report. Research. London: House of Common House of Common.

Johnston, R.J. & Pattie, C.J., 1997. Electoral Reform. The Political Quarterly Publishing Co. Ltd, p.384.

Kelly, R., 2010a. The Worst of All Worlds? Electoral Reform and Britain’s 2009 European Elections. The Political Quarterly, 81(1), p.99.

Leach, R., Coxall, B. & Robins, L., 2006. British Politics. Basingsoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Pilkington, C., 1998. Issues in British Politics. London: Macmillan Press Ltd.

society, e.r., 2010. electoral reform society. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 29 March 2010].

In what ways might commitment to stopping acts of terrorism impact on the protection of human rights?


Since the US terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, terrorism has been the greatest concern of the international community, both with regard to its impact on human rights and its impacts on the protection of the fundamental human rights. Many nations states have therefore, introduced counter terrorism measures to counter acts of terrorism (Wilkinson, 2006, p.172). In practice these attempts by governments to stop acts of terrorism, has resulted in a mechanism that are designed to prevent, or minimize terrorism activities. These methods include new laws that are specifically adapted or created for this purpose. Such counter terrorism laws have made easier to arrest and detained terror suspects, gave new powers to the police, banned suspected terrorist individuals and organisations, and resulted new methods to control people’s movements and activities without criminal convictions. This essay is going to examine the negative and positive impacts of the counter terrorism laws on human rights. This essay does not focus on to one particular state or country but, it’s focal point is to highlight those countries which adopted counter terrorism measures. It does so by looking at how anti terrorism measures infringe some of the basic human rights, for example, how the right not to be subjected to torture is breached, and how some might support these human rights violations by arguing that this is necessary in order to protect lives and properties of their citizens.

There is no universally accepted definition of terrorism; hence, the term terrorism is a contested issue, because “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter”. One of the most important human rights aspect affected by counter terrorism measures adopted by many countries is the right to privacy. Privacy is a basic human right recognized in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and in many other international and regional treaties such as the European Convention on Human Rights. The counter terrorism measures created since September 11 have negatively affected the right to privacy in various parts of the world using the excuse of fighting terrorism. Example of these includes racial or ethnic profiling, telephone tapping, surveillance and the use of revealing body scanners at the Airports. These measures clearly violate the international covenant on civil and political rights (ICCPR) which states; that “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence…nor to his honour and reputation”(article 17, Universal declaration of Human rights,, 1976). On the other hand, these measures can be valuable tools for the authorities to combat terrorism and might be carried out for good grounds therefore, in a situation where terrorist activity is suspected, some methods such as stop and search on ethnic minorities or control orders which under normal circumstances may infringe human rights can be carried out in order to protect citizens. But, as Trevor Philips, the equality and human rights commissioner identified “without proper care, such course of action can end up being applied in ways which can discriminate against vulnerable groups or damage good community relations”. (BBC, 2010). Therefore, just as terrorism can have  impacts on human rights and other aspects of civil liberties, so too can measures adopted by States to fight acts terrorism.

Freedom of expression is about expressing one’s political affiliation this is a vital part of the process of choosing legitimate government and as John Stuart Mills noted that “it enables the discovery of truth and social progress”. It’s also a component of human dignity (Casper, 1972, p.17) without it; liberal democracy would soon be reduced into an authoritarian state. Such highly rated feature is negatively affected by the counter terrorism measures introduced by various countries in the world. For example, the detention of more than 600 people during the 2005 Labour Party conference in Brighton, and the subsequent use of anti terrorism legislation by the police against 82 year Walter Wolfgang, whose only crime was interrupting Jack Straw’s foreign policy speech, as reported in the daily telegraph (Johnston, 2005). It’s also inevitable that freedom of expression may be limited during an emergency in order to protect public order and national security as stated and permitted within article 4 of ICCPR which states that; in time of emergency… states..may take measures derogating from their obligation in condition that  such measures does not violate international law.

Although arbitrary arrest and torture existed and were used by various groups and regimes, September 11 and the so-called war on terror changed this and paved the way for a gross violation of human rights by the very liberal states that claimed to have upheld liberty and freedom. States like America and its alias’s reaction to the terror attacks on their soil had a major impact on the protection of human rights. For example, the USA wrongfully detained hundreds of terror suspects in Afghanistan   and Pakistan and sent them to Guantanamo Bay. Some of whom were later found to be an innocent (Worthington, 2007a, pp.76-77). Furthermore, the USA has built a prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, has caged hundreds of people without charge, trial, and access to legal representations and was subjected to  torture (Baylis et al., 2008). This clearly violates United Nations convention against torture which the USA is a signatory. The UN Security Council passed resolution 1373 in 2001 authorising member states to adopt measures to confront and fight terrorism. This resolution calls for tough criminal and financial measures aimed at individual and groups considered supportive of or involved in acts of terrorism. In contrast resolution 1456 passed in January 2003 stressed that “states must ensure that any measures taken to combat terrorism comply with all their obligation under international law, in particular international human rights” it is this obligation that is disregarded by some member states particularly United States and some of its allies that have impacted on the protection of human rights (Worthington, 2007b, p.xii). by restricting civil liberties and the basic human rights. Thus the main objective of any counter terrorism measures must be the protection and upholding the rights of victims as well as those suspected of terrorism activities.

Counter terrorism measures adopted after 9/11 has led to measures that had grave impact on human rights for example the USA’s “extraordinary rendition” allows suspects to be moved to countries with poor human rights records, or are known to use degrading torture  techniques. This is intended as Chris Brown (2008) noted to “allow for easier human rights violation” (Baylis et al., 2008, p 509b). It is further alleged that such regimes which include Egypt, Uzbekistan, Morocco, Pakistan and others have been purposely picked to receive captives for interrogation (Worthington, 2007b, pp.215-216). in addition, September 11 attacks on America paved the way for these states to become part of the America’s coalition of the willing, effectively   turning blind eye on their human rights records and subsequently adopting domestic laws and anti terrorism legislation which they claimed to protect their citizens from terrorist attacks. Furthermore, in a report by human rights watch in 2003 pointed out that a wide-spread abuse of human rights around the world in the name of global war on terrorism. The report contains detail analysis of countries that adopted counter terrorism measures and their impacts on human rights. “We have been concerned since September 11 that governments would use the war on terror to justify human rights abuses” said Roy Mungoven, global advocacy for Human Rights Watch (Human Rights Watch, 2003). The measures taken by these governments has adversely affected human rights for example, following the September 11 attacks the USA has arbitrarily arrested non citizens,  Uyghyurs and Tibetan have been arrested and put to death by Chinese authorities, The United Kingdom has derogated from its human rights obligations and passed measures which include indefinite detention, of foreign nationals. Similarly this gave Russia an excuse to crack down Chechen separatist and thus, labelling them terrorist (HRW, 2003).

In conclusion, terrorism poses a danger to the social and political values that are directly or indirectly connected to the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedom. Every nation has the right to protect its citizens from terrorist attacks, thus, safeguarding their human rights.  Whilst it is a right for states to adopt measures to protect their people, such measures must not be at the expenses of basic human rights, such as the right to privacy, freedom of expression and must not be used to degrade terror suspects for example, by arresting suspects indefinitely or by torturing them.  Terrorist victims as well as the suspected perpetrators also have rights. They have the right not to be subjected  to torture or other humiliating treatment, the right to be presumed innocent until they are deem guilty of the crime they are accused of, and the right to fair trial,  and above all the right to life. These are universally accepted rights, and must therefore be upheld.

Critical Bibliography

  • Baylis, J., Smith, S. & Owens, P., 2008. Human rights. In C. Brown, ed. The globaliztion of world politics, and Introduction to international relations. 4th ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p.509.

The best introduction to IR so far, this is an exceptional book. Bayliss and Smith deal with present and past international relation’s theme in a manner that is simple, clear and easy to understand. This edition is up to date it covers both new and old information. I recommend this book not only to my fellow undergraduate students but to anyone who is interested in learning the subject of IR. The language used in this book is simple but rich in knowledge; I believe that this book is first of its kind when it comes to International relations.

This article on the BBC website reports the effects of the Airport body scanners on human rights, especially personal privacy. The article does not analysed this directly but cites Equality and human rights conclusion that these scanners violate personal privacy and therefore, may be unlawful. I personally held the Liberal Democrats view express within this article, which states that, the introduction of these measure has no respect for the rule of the law. Because it violates the basic human rights of passengers particularly those who object to going through these scanners for religious reasons.

  • Casper, J.D., 1972. The Political of Civil Liberties. New York: Harper & Row.

In this book, Jonathan Casper examines freedom of expression in detail. Casper beliefs that freedom of expression is a fundamental for our existence and therefore, must be upheld at all cost. I found this section of the book helpful for my research without doubt this book is one of the best. The author presents his arguments very clearly and supports with an academic source, although this book is quite old, the information it contains seems to be relevant to this day and age. I totally recommend this book to those who want to explore freedom of expression and it is features in details.

  • HRW, 2003. U.N.: Counter-Terrorism Watchdog Needed. New York: Human Rights Watch Human Rights Watch.

Fairly good report which highlights the effects of counter terrorism measures on human rights. This report argues that, UN should set up a watchdog that oversees the human rights violations in countries that adopted such measures. This Human Rights Watch report specifically points fingers to usual suspects, countries such as China, Russia Egypt, Uzbekistan and others. Even though the US and UK governments was mentioned in this report, the report should have criticise these two states more, because  of their actions in violating international law thus, abusing human rights of Iraqis, Afghanis,  and the thousands of innocent people detained in their countries.

  • Worthington, A., 2007a. The Guantanamo Files, the story of the 774 detainees in America’s illigal prison. London: Pluto Press.
  • Worthington, A., 2007b. The Guantanamo files. London: Pluto Press.

An Excellent book, this book exposes in great detail about one of the biggest victims of George Bush’s war on terror, the Guantanamo Detainees.  In my opinion, this book is the first and the best of its kind to bring together the stories of the Guantanamo prisoners.  The author clearly narrates how these human beings were treated by their captors the US government. In humane treatment such as torture, sexual abuse and even death were used against these detainees.  Andy Worthington used various evidence including  some produced by the US government to support his arguments that most of the detainees were innocent people captured Afghanis  and Pakistanis and sold to the CIA. If you want to know the story about Guantanamo detainees, this is the book to read.

Human Rights

Human Rights – ‘Hot Topics’, press release

  •  Sudan: Abuses undermine impending election

Gross violations of human rights committed by the Sudanese security forces are deeply undermining any chance of … free, fair and credible … national elections (Human Rights watch: 2010). Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have condemned the Sudanese security force’s arbitrary arrests of opposition political party members and activists, and the beatings and violence used against innocent civilians, who have been victims of … tear gas, rubber bullets, batons and other weapons’ (ibid). Amnesty International has called for the ‘Sudanese government to bring the National Security Act in line with international human rights standards..’ (Amnesty International: 2010) to ensure the protection and safety of its civilians.

  •  Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill 

If the proposed Bahati’s Bill will became law there will be  a legalized human right crisis in Uganda. The Bahati’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill introduced by Hon. David Bahati last October 2009 supposed to protect and safeguard the tradional family  and the integrity of Ugandans themselves ( Bahati  2009 ). This bill approved  as a law will result in limiting freedom of expression, freedom of though and freedom of association for state and non state actors  (Pambazuka News 2009) , as the penalties involve not only who is responsible for a homosexual act but also institutions who defend the rights of sexual minorities. Death penalty for HIV positive people engaging in same gender sex and up to 10 years imprisonment for a single homosexual act are two examples of practical application of this bill which if approved will violate the right to privacy and equality, legalise the censorship of media,and criminalise organisations providing health information.

  •  MI5 COMPLICIT IN TORTURE OF Binyam Mohamed.

Binyamin Mohamed a British resident claimed that he has been tortured whilst in hands of American custody since his arrest in Pakistan in 2004. Mr. Mohamed claimed that he has been tortured whilst in hands of American custody. Mohamed an Ethiopian national lived in the UK sine 2004 was a part those suspects linked to a plot to detonate a “dirty bomb” in United States (BBC, 2009).  But despite the fact that it became clear that the plot never existed, he still spent seven years in custody without charge. Furthermore, it was also reported that the British government knew about Binyam Mohamed’s torture and  MI5 “colluded his torture” (Dailymail, 2010). It was also reported that memebers of the Labour cabinet attempted to cover it up.(BBC 2010)



  •   The Arbitrary Arrest of the Sri Lankan Opposition Leader

Sri Lanka held their first post war election on the 26th of January 2010. The elections were between the already existing government headed by President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Former Army General, Sarath Fonseka. General Sarath Fonseka played a crucial role in bringing a military victory to a 26 year civil war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The elections held on the 26th of January 2010 resulted in President Mahinda Rajapaksa winning. However, the General refused to accept this result stating that the votes were rigged by the government and later said that he would challenge the result in Supreme Court. However, on February 8th 2010 while addressing a meeting with opposition leaders, the building was surrounded by 150 army troops who took General Sarath Fonseka in to custody. Many opposition leaders describe this “arrest” as an “abduction” due to the manner in which it was carried out. Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Director Sam Zarifi later said “Sarath Fonseka’s arrest continues the Rajapaksa government’s post election crackdown on political opposition”. Amnesty International (2010) Furthermore, Times Online reported that “President Rajapaksa is now facing mounting criticism – internationally and domestically – over the arrest of the country’s only four-star general, and its implications for South Asia’s oldest democracy”. Times Online (2010)


Aljazeera (2010) reported that Nigerian police and military units carried out extra-judicial killings in the aftermath of clashes with members of a Muslim group in the north of the country. An estimated 1,000 people were killed as Nigerian government forces fought Boko Haram in the Northern part of Nigeria in July and August of 2009. Amnesty (2009) exposed the shocking level of unlawful police killings in Nigeria in a new report released, “The Nigerian police are responsible for hundreds of unlawful killings every year,” said Erwin van der Borght, Director of Amnesty International’s Africa Programme. Police don’t only kill people by shooting them; they also torture them to death, often while they are in detention.” “The majority of the cases go un-investigated and the police officers responsible go unpunished. The families of the victims usually get no justice or redress. Most never even find out what happened to their loved ones.”



The Uyghur Human Rights Project is primarily a research and documentation entity founded and established in 2004 by the Uyghur American Association. Their mission is to research and expose human rights abuses committed against the Uyghur people in East Turkistan, and by doing so promote human rights and democracy for all Uyghur people (UHRP, 2009). The Uyghur Human Rights Project views their role in the promotion of human rights for the Uyghur people of East Turkistan as pivotal, as it has been agreed by many human rights organisations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International that without the aid and support from Uyghur-run organisations, accurate information of the situations surrounding the Uyghur people would be extremely difficult to acquire due to the Chinese government’s strict regulation of any information on the developments in East Turkistan (ibid). The reports made by the Uyghur Human Rights Project have exposed many human rights abuses inflicted on the Uyghur people by the Chinese government, ranging from nuclear testing on Uyghur land, forced labour in camps, to religious, economical and cultural discrimination, to political imprisonment. The Uyghur Human Rights Project along with Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch expressed serious concern over the safety of Uyghur detainees in Guantanamo Bay, whom are thought to have never posed any form of security threat to the USA (UHRP, 2009). It is the hope of the Uyghur Human Rights Project that their continuing research and documentation of the developments in East Turkistan will raise awareness on the human rights abuses faced by the Uyghur people.






The issue we have chosen to campaign for is the abuse of the Indigenous rights of the Uyghur people in East Turkistan, also known as the Xinjiang Province.  Since the forceful occupation of their land by Communist China more than 60 years ago. The Uyghur’s basic human rights and the freedoms including civil, political, economic, social, religious and cultural rights continue to be violated and abused, despite the fact that in September 2007 China voted to adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Chinese communist regime instead of ensuring that Uyghur people’s rights are upheld instead) implemented a policy of mass immigration designed to move large section of the dominant Han ethnic group to the Uyghur land making this community minority in their own land. (UHRP, 2009c)

Furthermore, the Uyghurs do not have the right to justice or rule of the law. The People ’s Republic of China’s government has violated the rights this community to such extent that They have become a minority in their own land due to the occupation of the Chinese which has also led to further acts of abuse like arbitrary arrests and the taking of political prisoners. The Uyghur people also face a violation of their fundamental rights as they are not allowed to used their own language, practice their religious beliefs and culture as they wish. (UHRP, 2009d). Their right to protest or gathering has been denied, leaving them vulnerable to arbitrary arrest, detention and imprisonment without trial.

The PRC government have succeeded in creating fear and reign of terror among the Uyghurs which makes it impossible for anyone to speak out about the injustice that is being perpetuated  in the region.


The Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) are an organisation that researches, documents and exposes human rights abuses against the Uyghur people of East Turkistan, in order  to promote human rights and democracy for all Uyghurs (The Uyghur Human Rights Project 2004). Therefore, The Uyghur Human Rights Project would undertake this campaign for the Indigenous Rights of the Uyghur people, as indigenous rights entail the right to freely determine one’s political status, and pursue one’s social, economic and cultural development, as well as the fundamental right of self determination, (The Uyghur Human Rights Project 2004b) all which coincide with a human being’s fundamental human rights, and thus it falls under the Uyghur Human Rights Project’s mandate and goal to expose the Chinese government’s abuse and disregard of these rights, so that they can be recognised and implemented for the benefit of all Uyghur people.


  1. Aljazeera (2010) Aljazeera – Video Shows Nigeria Execution.Available at: (Accessed: 18 February 2010).
    1. Amnesty International. 2010.  Arrest of Sri Lankan opposition leader escalates post-election repression (Updated 8th February 2010) Available at: (Accessed 18th February 2010).
    2. Amnesty (2010) Amnesty – Nigerian Police ‘Kill at Will’. Available at: Accessed: 18 February 2010).
  1. Amnesty International (2010) African Union: Address human rights violations in conflicts [online] (Updated 08 January 2010) Available at:[Accessed;18/02/2010)
    1. BBC (2009, 02 23). Retrieved 02 18, 2010, from bbcnews:
    2. Daily Mail (2010, 02 11). Daily mail. Retrieved 02 17, 2010, from
    3. UHRP. (2009a). Retrieved 03 08, 2010, from
  1. UHRP. (2009b). Retrieved 03 08, 2010, from
  2. UHRP. (2009c). Retrieved 03 08, 2010, from http
  3. UHRP. (2009d). Retrieved 03 08, 2010, from http
  1. Human Rights Watch (2010) Sudan Abuses Undermine Impending Elections [online] (Updated 08 January 2010) Available at:  [Accessed: 18/02/2010]
  2. Nakaweesi-Kimbugwe S. and Mugisha F. (2009) ‘ Bahati’s bill: A convenient distraction for Uganda’s government ‘ Pambazuka News, 16 October [Online]. Available at: 18 February 2010).
  3. Tash Lumu, D. (2009) ‘ Homosexuality is not human rights ‘ The Observer, 1 November [Online].Available at:  ( Accessed: 18 February 2010 ).
  1. Times Online. 2010. Sarath Fonseka asks court to overturn election result (Updated 17th February 2010) Available at: (Accessed 18th February 2010).

Other contributers

First Name Last Name Student Number Email
Chamila Mapalagamage K0825697
Suliaman Awodeji K0730256
Sultana Begum K0908558
Elf Gurbuzer K0949895
Aneshka Alles K0938637

The use of labour and machinery in production

The use of Labour and machinery in production is the heart of economic performance of the modern industrialised world, during pre-capitalist in Europe there was no organised system to mass produce goods and other services, food and clothing were the basic thing they were able to produce but not in a great amount. But with the emergence of capitalism everything changed it transformed Europe and made it the most important continent in the world. This essay is going to argue and try to answer how Capitalist economy was different from the previous forms in terms of labour and machinery and how some of the great thinkers of past would have examined.

Labour in pre-capitalist economy

Unlike a capitalist economy medieval economy was largely an agricultural economy manned by forced labour such as serfs and slaves. In medieval societies serfs were form of property owned by a lord or guild master. Serfs were tied to their land by custom they could not move or leave without the permission of a lord if the land on which they work is sold the serf goes with it. Serfs were obliged to work on the lord’s fields and to contribute some of what they produce, in return the lord provided protection (Heilbroner & Milberg, 2002). During antiquity production of large scale which can sustain all the people was limited for example, an antiquity labourer although “self-sufficient” did not had the capability to support none agricultural population nor the capacity to mass produced as pointed out by Heilbroner & Milberg ( 2002:16) “by and large the ability of medieval economy  to maintain none agricultural society was limited compared to capitalist economy”.

The second form of labour that existed was slavery like capitalist slavery on large magnitude was important to pre-capitalist economy unlike serfs though who were relatively free, slaves were not. In ancient Rome for example slavery was important for the growth and the economy of the Empire, similarly slavery was also fundamental to the growth of the capitalism a good example of this is the sugar and cotton plantation in America (Beaud, 2001). In fourth century in ancient Athens  at least one third of its inhabitants were slaves (Heilbroner & Milberg, 2002). This shows how important slavery was to capitalist and pre capitalist economies. During antiquity or feudalism serfs owned what they produced whereas in contrast, a worker under capitalist lost the right of ownership to what he produced instead he became a wage earner (Heilbroner & Milberg, 2002).

Under capitalist economy, labour became a free “commodity” to be sold in the markets for the highest possible price if the wages offered were not enough the worker was free to go to sell his labour to another employer. (Heilbroner & Milberg, 2002). Therefore labour could move to its most productive use for example, instead of being tied on the land when they are not needed any more they could cause more growth by working mines, textile, mills or factories. Paradoxically, under capitalist labour was not free at all like previous economies capitalist continued to practice a force labour as demonstrated during the slave trade in Africa. Millions of African slaves were forcibly removed from their homes and exported to a distant land far away from theirs to be exploited by the capitalist. Therefore slave labour considerably helped the development of capitalist in Europe (Beaud, 2001). Furthermore as Braveman (1974) suggested, Marx argued that, capitalist has adopted three principles first, “the dissociation of labour process from the skill workers” second the “separation of conception from execution” and third the “managerial use of this monopoly over knowledge to control each step of the labour process”. Thus the separation of hand and brain of labour is most decisive single step in division of labour taken by the capitalist mode of production (Braverman, 1974, pp.113,114,119).

One other thing that differentiated pre-capitalist from capitalist is use of guilds; these were institutions that controlled the tools and other materials needed to produce a product a worker had to stay with guild master for number of years with little or no pay. One could not run a business without being belong to or being a member of guild (Heilbroner & Milberg, 2002) therefore guilds were another form of obstacle to the progress of the labour.


In terms of machinery the big change between these economies is that under capitalist machinery was continually improved,  and new steam powered machines was invented for example John Lombe (1693-1722) stole  the secrets of spinning from Italy and built  a mill in England in 1717(Beaud, 2001). Furthermore, the steam powered machines was used to drain water from the mines (Beaud, 2001). The introduction of powerful machinery was a major turning point in human history and had a big impact on workers because the use of machinery multiplied labour’s productive energy (Heilbroner , 2000). Furthermore many workers felt that machines are taking away their work and as result some resorted to violence against this form of production for example, in 1733 John Kay (1704–1780) invented the “flying shuttle” which made easier textile production in larger numbers and as result his house was destroyed by angry works and skilled craftsmen (Beaud, 2001).

Marx and labour

Marx argued that the capitalist exploited the worker by separating the worker from what he produced, and by alienating the worker from the labour process as well as his fellow workers therefore as Marx put it, “the worker sank to the level of a commodity and became the most miserable commodity” (, 2009). Furthermore he developed “labour theory of value” which stated that the “exchange value” of any goods or services is really made up of “congealed” human labour. He argued that capitalists paid workers significantly less than the true value of what they produced. He called the difference between what workers produced and what they were paid “surplus value” (Singer, 2000 p59-70 ). What we commonly call profit is the surplus value extracted from labour and taken by capitalist (Singer, 2000).  Thus Marx argued that capitalism was motivated by the accumulation of surplus value. “The worker does not necessarily gain when the capitalist gains, but he necessarily loses with him Marx argued”  (, 2009).

Smith and labour

Smith also talked about labour his main focus was increasing “division of labour” through the “specialization” of the labour force into specific roles basically breaking down big tasks into many small tasks, under this system each worker focuses his or her attention on one small part of the production process therefore, a worker becomes specialist in one specific area of production thus increasing his effectiveness (Smith, 2008, p.12)



Marx and Machinery

On machinery Marx argued that although machinery produces larger scale production  than the worker, it displaces trained workers by untrained workers it also replaces “men by women, and adult by children” (, 2009).Marx further believed that machines enslaved man so much so that man becomes part of the machines  (, 2009). And whenever a new machine is introduced it leads mass unemployment and therefore, more machines will result less workers. Marx further argued that the more the capitalist develops the more it widens the application of machinery which further reduces the skills and wages of the worker. (, 2009). This is a similar view that was held by David Ricardo when he said that “the use of machinery could harm wages and reduce the demand for labour which further reduces productivity” (Samuelson, 1988) Furthermore Marx believed the machines are another form of alienation because the introduction of powerful machines reduced the role of the worker this leads what Wendling (2009, pp2-10) called “technology alienation” this means as Wending further explained the worker is not only controlled by the commodities he or she produces the very tools or machines with which those labours work dominate them. (Wendling, 2009, pp2-10)

In conclusion pre-capitalist economies were largely based on agriculture their ability to sustain none agricultural population was limited. Forced labour such as serfs and slaves were the backbone of this economy. Whereas serfs were relatively free, slaves were not. During feudalism serfs owned what they produced however, under capitalism labour lost the right to own his or her produce but unlike previous economies labour became free commodity to be sold freely and was able to move around freely without any restrictions.

During pre-capitalist economy there was little or no machinery. The emergence of capitalism led the introduction of new powerful machinery such machines had positive and negative impact on society for example machinery greatly  increase the production thus benefiting the capitalist and on the other hand, poor workers felt that machines decreased the demand for labour. Karl Max argued that capitalist exploited the worker and alienated from his produce. On the other hand Smith focused increasing division of labour into specific roles so that each worker dedicates himself on a specific area of the production.

Marx acknowledged that machinery helped and made possible large scale production but, he was also very critical to the use of machines in production. Marx believed that machines replaced skilled worker by unskilled worker he further believed that the use of machines could result unemployment, this was further supported by David Ricardo by agreeing with Marx and saying that machines could harm wages and reduced the demand for labour. Indeed, the emergence of capitalism transformed the way the modern society conducts its day to day economic and social activities, the question is how long will capitalism last and what type of economy will replace it?

Compare and contrast liberalism, conservatism, and socialism

Liberalism conservatism and socialism are social and political doctrines. Their views on society and how it is governed have evolved over the years although they have differences their main objective of leading  society for the better remains the same, but they differ how to implement this. This essay is going to compare and contrast these ideologies in their various political and socials views, for example this essay will look at how these ideologies view the individual, the state, equality,  the economic  and private property.

Liberalism claims to give high priority to the freedom and supremacy of the individual it strongly declares that humans are good by nature as Harrison & Boyd (2003) stated; the superiority of the individual is the most important aspect of liberal ideology. Liberals regard pluralism in which people with diverse beliefs and ethics “compete” as good. This is in contrast to conservatives who are uneasy with pluralism (Harrison & Boyd, 2003). Similarly socialism shares the aspect of goodness with liberalism but they emphasise that the goodness is shaped by the environment the individual lives rather than nature (Harrison & Boyd, 2003).

On the other hand conservatism held the belief that that societies are imperfect and faulty by nature and therefore cannot be regarded as good. They argue as Heywood (2007) stated that human being are psychologically and emotionally weak therefore they need the help of each other in other words they are “dependent creatures” Heywood (2007:71) Tthis was further supported by  Baradat, ( 1979) by suggesting that liberals held the belief that human beings are naturally good and they can be responsible and behave well when left alone, While on the other hand conservatives “mistrust” the individual, therefore conservatism  tends to advocate authoritarian command  over the individual (Baradat, 1979)

Liberalism, specially classical liberalism’s view of the state is distinguishes from the other two ideologies. They advocate the concept of “minimal state” one that is limited to the protection of the individual although later liberals’s view is significantly different from that of their predecessors because they no longer subscribe to the view of “minimal state” in contrast as Heywood suggested modern liberals came to acknowledged the state’s assistance is unavoidable (Heywood, 2007,p64). Conservatism on the other hand, favour strong state whose task is to maintain law and order and unlike liberalsism and socialism it is against the “redistribution” of wealth from the rich to the poor (Gale, Gale, 2001). On the other hand  socialism’s view on state varies, if one examines the writings of Marx and Engels one concludes that socialist share slightly similar view as those of classical liberals. For example, as Vincent (1992) argued, “the writings of Marx’s socialist contains negative  analysis of the state”. Furthermore Vincent continue to argued that it is clear in the communist manifesto that socialism see the state as an “expression or instrument of class rule” (Vincent, 1992, p.105) therefore it must be brought down through uprising. If one analyses this one can understand the negative view that socialist held over the state, thus Marxist socialisms shares slightly similar view with the classical liberalism because they both emphasise the negativity of the state. While on the other hand, social democracy view the state as a means for “progressive change” (Haywood 200.p.130)

Equality in the  conservatism’s view is significantly different from that of liberalism and socialism, for conservatism it is not only common for society to be unequal but it is natural. As Andrew Vincent (1992) pointed out conservatives firmly believe that society has two parts, those “born to lead and those born to be led” (Vincent, 1992, p.69), they further argue that there is nothing wrong to with this concept, and thus cannot be changed because it is natural phenomenon (Vincent 1992). This is clearly in contrast to the liberal’s view on equality. Liberals see equality as a right rather than privilege, unlike conservatism they argue that human are born equal. Furthermore as Heywood (2007) stated this equality must not be limited to a particular section of the society it must be for all irrespective of class, creed, or race. On the hand the socialist view of equality is similar to that of liberalism in some respect, such as the belief that all human beings are equal. But unlike liberalism, socialism held the idea that the source of the social inequalities is as Harrison & Boyd (2003 ) suggested the ownership of “private property” (Harrison & Boyd 2003, p.222).  Thus socialisms say the unequal outcomes in educations, wealth, and health is because of inequalities in “starting point” (Harrison & Boyd, 2003, p.222).

Socialist’s economic view especially that of Marx and Engels is fundamentally deferent from that of both liberalism and conservatism. However, not all socialist share same economic view for example, Marx and Engels argued that industrialisations and the advent of the mass factories destroyed the livelihood of the workers and created more poverty because of the many hours the worker has to work in the factories and law wages he is paid (Adams, 2001). Thus Marx and Engels advocated collective economy where by the “means of production” is owned or controlled by the people. On the hand social democracy shares the same economic views as those of liberalism and conservatism which is an economic system that is based on private enterprise, therefore as Heywood (2007) suggested socialism accepted capitalism as a reliable method of creating wealth, thus economically, social democracy is not “different” from liberalism and conservatism as they all adhere to the capitalist economic concept.

In conclusion liberalism believes in the supremacy of the individual and the goodness of the human nature, this view is shared by socialism ideology; in contrast, conservatism regards humans as defective and flawed. Conservative’s approach of the state is what distinguishes from the other two ideologies, furthermore, conservativatism  do not share the equality aspect of the humans with the other two ideologies, finally on the economic point of view, liberals, conservatism and social democracy adhere to the capitalism’s economic concept because they both held fast to capitalist ideology, Marxist though strongly reject this concept as they see capitalist as exploitative and divisive. Although they have differences their main objective of leading the society for the better remains the same.










Critical Bibliography

Adams, I., 2001. Political ideology today. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Adams examines in detail the view and belief of major ideologies, this addition specially looks at the newer ideologies such as the religious fundamentalism, the feminism and sexual politics and the green politics. Although useful, this source is not easy to extract information compared to other similar books.


Baradat, L.P., 1979. The spectrum of Political Attitudes. In Political Ideologies their origin and Impact. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall Inc. p.13.

This book covers most important political ideologies of our time; it’s mainly intended to those with some kind of prior knowledge of politics, the book further covers international politics, it explains the development of political ideas way back to their origins. Its weakness is that, it’s not easy to extract information easily especially for those new to politics like myself.

Gale, Gale, 2001. credoreference. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 12 November 2009].

A very knowledgeable article about the views and beliefs conservatism, this author summarises all aspect of conservatism in one short article, the author seems to be neither critical nor supportive for conservatism.

Harrison, K. & Boyd, T., 2003. Understanding political ideas and movements. Manchester: Manchester University press.

Well written book, easy to understand and reader friendly form. This book focuses on western political thought and its backgrounds; the Authors urge readers to get involve politics as it will most likely affect them.

Heywood, A., 2007. Political Ideologies, an introduction. 4th ed. Basingstoke and New York: PALGRAVE MACMILLAN.

A simple introduction to the world’s major ideologies, very simple, and easy to understand, Heywood’s book is the best place to start for those who to understand the basic definition of political ideologies, this edition is up to date and contained new information such as multiculturalism, his weakness is his lack of knowledge about Muslim politics which led him to compare political Islam fascist with the could have presented this important information in a different way.


Vincent, A., 1992. Modern Political Ideologies. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Blackwell.

This book is so easy to use, each political ideology has its own chapter, and it is designed or intended for all levels of students. The text highlights and demonstrates, compares and contrasts ideas that exist both within and between political ideologies

In what ways did the Cold War affect international relations between 1945 and 1990?

Nassir Hassan: 

The Cold War was a period of confrontation that took place between 1945 and 1990 although some International scholars held the idea that the Cold War started in 1917 Russian revelation nevertheless,  it was  between the USA and its allies mainly the Western countries and the Eastern bloc spearheaded by the USSR however, the two powers did not fight or used weapons against each other, it was fought through Nuclear Arms race, proxy wars, ideological influence and propaganda war and therefore had a great impact on the world. This essay will examine ways in which the Cold War affected international relation between 1945 up to its end. This essay is going to explore its impacts  and how those impacts affected the world.

The Cold War has affected international relations in different ways first and for most the Cold War divided the world in to three distinct camps, the NATO camp, the Warsaw camp, and the nonaligned the first two camps were armed with nuclear weapons.  The rivalry between the two super powers quickly spread to the rest of the world. The USA encourage other friendly regions in the world to form their own alliance such as CENTO in the Middle East and SEATO in the South East Asia the aim as suggested by Murphy (2003) was to surround the USSR with military alliance and as result increased tensions. Furthermore both super powers possessed nuclear missiles that can reach Moscow and Washington respectively. Thus, the Cold War become global and directly affected international stability (Murphy, 2003).  In addition both superpowers resorted to confrontation and propaganda and this in turn was played out in the rest of the world.

The Cold War led the division of Europe in general and Germany in particular it also as pointed by Cornwell (2001) made possible the modernization and “reintegration” of the defeated powers of Germany Italy and Japan (Cornwell, 2003) Its impact was felt especially in Africa where as further stated by Painter ( 2001) made possible the emergence and creation of new nation states, as the colonial masters no longer able to sustain those colonies. The Cold War considerably affected Europe where it originated as well as internationally. It led the Berlin Blockade, created the divisions of Vietnam and Korea, resulted the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 which furthers exacerbated the relationship of the West and the Soviet Union it further exacerbated and fuelled other conflicts and wars in the middle East (Painter, 2001).

Another aspect of Cold War that had an impact on international relations was protecting sphere of interest by both sides “truly at global level” for example 1956 Hungarian uprising and the subsequent intervention by the Soviet troops because the soviet did not like the Hungarian’s intention to leave the Warsaw Pact, (Bell, 2001) Similarly the USA was also maintaining sphere of interest in other parts of the world especially in Latin America. During the Cold War fear of the spread of communism has resulted US military involvement in Latin America in various ways for example, the US helped train and provided arms and other assistance to anti-communist in Nicaragua and El-Salvador and by using force to further safeguard its interest in the region a  good example of this was the armed intervention by United States in the Dominican Republic in 1965, here the US aim was as suggested by Young & Kent, (2004) to stop the spread of  communism in the region in other words this was a pre-emptive attack against communism. Another example was the overthrow of Jacobo Arbenz of Guatemala and the failed attempt to overthrow Castro’s government in Cuba because America regarded Castro as an unfriendly and enemy (Bell, 2001).

Furthermore super power rivalry was played out in parts of the world for example,  in sub Saharan Africa particularly Angola which became a battle ground for the super powers.  On the one hand the USSR and Cuba were supporting and arming Angolan government while on the other hand the USA and South Africa supported the UNITA rebels. In many other cases the super powers’s support economically and militarily to various government and rebels in Africa exacerbated the civil war that engulfed the continent (Wayne et al., 2005).

Due to the super power rivalry played out in the third world, millions of people died as result of the Cold War because of civil war and other conflict that affected many parts of Africa, Latin America, and Asia. Indeed as Painter ( 2001) pointed out most of the millions who perished during the cold war died in the third world thus,  the cold war had a  profoundly effect on those parts of the world.

The Cold War increased tensions within international community because of the actions of the two super powers; they pursued political and ideological goals some of which were ever more opposing with the objectives of the other for example, the Soviet believed that America is an imperialist power and therefore committed in spreading capitalist ideology with the intention of dominating the rest of world, on the other hand the USA saw the Soviet as an ideologically motivated and “antagonistically” expansionist evil empire that is committed to the spread of communism (Painter, 2001). Thus as Bell (2001) pointed out both superpowers advocated that their system of belief was the only way forward for a better world.

However, another bad effect of the Cold War was the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 that internationally created fears of an imminent nuclear war between the US and the USSR this clearly further increased  tension between the two super powers and their allies and as Baylis et al. (2008) suggested this was the “most dangerous moment” the world have ever seen since the end of the second world war (Baylis et al 2008, p.62). furthermore, in November 1983, NATO carried out operation “Able Archer” exercise which “simulated a coordinated” Nuclear attack against the Soviet this further led the Soviets to believe that America is preparing to attack them and they in turn took steps to prepare their Nuclear forces this further exacerbated tension in the region as the tension developed a possible war between them meant that the entire world might be destroyed in an all out nuclear war (Murphy, 2003).

Indeed the Cold War divided the world into three camps; some of those camps were armed with conventional and nuclear missiles that can reach each other’s cities  both super powers were ready to protect their sphere of interests using whatever means necessary  thus,  their actions caused tensions within the international community. Although the Cold War caused and exacerbated conflict in some parts of the world, it also maintained order and peace that existed (Mearsheimer, 1990) and made possible the reconstruction and assimilation of defeated powers of Germany, Italy

and the “transformation” of Japan from a war-torn country to the second most powerful economy in the world (McWilliams & Piotrowski, 2005). But this positive aspect  cannot be compared with  the negative impact it had on the Third Word specially that of Africa where the Cold War fuelled the civil war and caused many deaths and destructions through proxy wars and civil wars. Decolonisation and the emergence of new nations-states attracted the attention of the super powers, arms and other support poured into continent and the result was disastrous (Mcmahon, 2003).

The Cold War led to major impact to International order; because the post Cold War order of bipolarity and the balance of power has ended making the US the only super power in the world and therefore can take whatever actions she desires with impunity this change ended an era of peace in the world this view is held by Mearsheimer (1994) as cited by (Baylis et al., 2008) Mearsheimer held the idea that, the Cold War era was a period of peace and stability.

Furthermore, towards the end of the Cold War in the 1990s, the Soviet Union suffered considerable economic decline as a direct result of the Cold War because of huge military spending. (Young & Kent, 2004)  thus the effects of the Cold War are far-reaching and they added to the ultimate fall down of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the end of bipolarity, which left the United States as the only hegemony power in the world.

In conclusion, the cold war divided the world into two nuclear armed camps and one neutral one, it maintained the status quo that existed in Germany, and it also paved the way the emergence of new nation states, the rise of those newly born states attracted the intention of the two powers, and super rivalry was played out in order to keep and maintain sphere of interest. With end of bipolarity a period of peace and stability and balance of power has ended, and left the US the only hegemony power in the world. The question is, will United States respect the fragile peace that the world has now; or because of the absence of another super power will it keep invading other countries?



Baylis, J., Smith, S. & Owens, P, (2008.) International and Global Security. In J. Baylis, ed. The Globalization of World Politics. 4th ed. Oxford and Newyork: Oxford University Press. p.231.

Baylis, J., Smith, S. & Owens, P, (2008) International History 1900-90. In L. Scott, ed. The Globalzation of World Politics, An introduction to international relations. 4th ed. Oxford and Newyork: Oxford University Press. p.62.

Bell, P.M.H., (2001). The world since 1945, and international history. New York: Oxford University Press Inc.

Cornwell, R. (2003). [Online] Available at: [Accessed 22 December 2009].

Mcmahon, R.J., (2003) The cold war, a very short introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

McWilliams, W.C. & Piotrowski, H. ( 2005) Transition to New Era. In The World Since 1945 a History of International Relations. London: Lynne Rienner Publishers Inc. pp.407,408.

Mearsheimer, J.J. (1990) Why We Will Soon Miss The Cold War. The Atlantic Monthly, 266(2), pp.35-50.

Murphy, D, (2003) The Cold War 1945-1991. London: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.

Painter, D.S. (2001) The Oxford Companion to United States History. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 23 November 2009].

Wayne, C., McWilliams & Piotrowski, H.( 2005) Africa. In The World Since 1945, A history of International Relations. London: Lynne Rienner Publishers, Inc. p.277.

Young, J.W. & Kent, J. (2004) In International Relations since 1945. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Pres.

Is Nelson Mandela a hero or a villain?

Author: Nassir hassan

What will one call a person who spent 27 years in prison,  not for a murder or an act of genocide he or she might  committed but for standing up his or her political beliefs and for fighting for the rights of his or her own people, a hero or a villain?  This essay is going to look whether Nelson Mandela is considered a hero or a villain and by whom. This essay will also “historically” position his actions which led him being called a hero by some and villain by others, and whether he was safeguarding human rights or breaking them.

“Where history is made and myths are forged Mandela is a hero” (TIME, 1990). Nelson Mandela is undoubtedly a hero to millions of people around the world and in particularly the black people of South Africa.  For them he is more than a hero. He is the man credited with the demise of the apartheid system; He helped end it through peaceful and none peaceful means. Mandela is exceptional among heroes because he is a living icon of black liberation (TIME, 1990). He is a man whose integrity is regarded highly even by the whites. In South Africa a statement of Eddie Daniels who was a member of then disbanded South African Liberal Party clearly reveals this: this is what he said about him “Mr Mandela is a good man, he can walk with kings and he can walk with beggars” Mr. Daniels continue to say “I want to tell P. W. Botha (then president of South Africa) if he speaks to Nelson Mandela he speaks to a reasonable man not a violent man… peace loving man…” (Benson, 1994.1986, p.13). A report commissioned by the prison authorities in 1981 described Mandela as self discipline, “racially embittered” individual, who never doubted his cause and certain about his ultimate triumph (Lodge, 2007, p.150)
On the other hand the authorities regarded and portrayed Nelson Mandela as terrorist and Villain, as he was accused of plotting to overthrow the white government through violence activities carried out by the armed wing of the ANC thus, the than minister of justice François Erasmus describe Mandela and ANC’s actions as “reign of terror” (Meredith, 1997. p.176) thus Mandela is a hero for some mainly blacks and was a villain for the whites and the authorities.
During the apartheid black people were subjected to the worst form of discrimination by the white minority that invaded their land. Blacks were restricted and force to live in townships, whereas whites were allowed to enjoy unlimited freedom blacks as the natives of the land were not even seen as equal citizens (O’Byrne, 2003). Mandela reacted this inhumane social condition imposed to them unwillingly, he was committed and determined to restore the basic human rights for his oppressed people for which as result he went to prison. At this point the international community did not show any interest about the plight of the black people of South Africa, as O’Byrne, ( 2003) stated: “ The response of the international community… was muted… the United Nations only discussed apartheid in respect of discrimination against Asians” , (O’Byrne 2003, p.245). Thus for the Black South Africans Nelson Mandela was therefore their hero because whereas international community failed to speak for them on their behalf Mandela and ANC did they all together sacrificed their lives and wealth for their people thus, Mandela is a hero for the black people of South Africa.
Mandela and the ANC fought for and advocated for freedom, democracy and equal rights for all. The white populations and the regime knew this concept of equality is a threat to what they possessed and therefore, as Mandela put it “equal political rights for all means black majority will win any election thus, the white man was reluctant to accept this” (ANC, 2009) therefore, the whites regarded the ANC in general and Mandela in particular as a villains because Mandela stood up against white domination as admitted by a South African government minister who stated that “the aim of Mandela and ANC is to topple the white government which stands for white supremacy” (Meredith, 1997, p.176). Thus whereas the black people viewed Mandela as a hero, the whites viewed him as villain.
Mandela begun to resist peacefully against these apartheid laws, he helped organise series of strikes and defiance campaigns against the state as result in 1953 Mandela was arrested and was given nine months suspended sentence. This was followed by the treason trials when Mandela and 156 mostly ANC activist were arrested and charged with high treason (Mandela, 1956). Unlike the white regime which restricted the rights and entitlement to the whites only, Mandela believed in equal rights for all as demonstrated in freedom charter “All shall be equal before the law” (ANC, 2009).
What distinguishes Mandela from other black advocates is that, whereas other actives such as Steve Biko campaigned for the rights of the blacks, Mandela clearly campaigned for the rights of the blacks as well as none blacks, as Mandela believed that the whites are also legitimate citizen of the South Africa. He further believed that South Africa belongs to all South Africans irrespective of their race and belief (Mandela, 1978)
Despite government crackdown, Mandela continued advocating none violence resistance in the form of strikes and disobedience however, this form of resistance did not give the result he wanted and therefore Mandela resorted to violence methods as Mandela explained in his trail “It was only when all else had failed, when all channels of peaceful protest had been barred to us, that the decision was made to embark on violent forms” (ANC, 2009). Mandela further justified his acts violence for the lack of government response to his demands of equal rights for all.
Mandela clearly wanted finding solutions for the problems faced by the blacks through peaceful means. But this did not materialized it even became worst as clearly demonstrated in the massacre of Sharpeville in March 1960 when a large crowd of black protestors gathered in front of a police station in defiance of the pass laws, were shot by police, killing 69 of them (Benson, 1994,1986).
After the killings of those black South Africans by the police and successive ban of the ANC and other African movements, Mandela and his comrade Oliver Tambo, Walter Sisulu as well as other ANC leaders decided to change the struggle against the apartheid to more radical form of resistance. The first step was the creation in 1961 of Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation) the military wing of the ANC, which begun to carry out act of sabotage against the authority planting bombs and other illegal activities (Meredith, 1997).
Fighting against the apartheid regime by violence means and the imprisonment of Mandela as well as pressure from the international community in the form of embargo and sanctions and the subsequent negotiations between Mandela and the authority that followed which resulted the release of Mandela and the unbanning of the ANC and other political parties made his actions possible. But crucial event that made Mandela actions possible was, the bold steps taken by the South African president De Klerk which resulted a peaceful settlement that changed South Africa for ever (Meredith, 1997).
What made Mandela Human rights hero is that he spent most of his life fighting for the basic human rights of his people which was denied by the ruling white minority. Mandela dedicated his entire life to the struggle against white supremacy as well as black domination and thus, advocated equal rights for all (ANC, 2009). He sacrificed his entire life for the sake of his people and as result spent 27 years in prison. When Mandela was finally released he did what only few people could do, he for gave his former enemies and oppressors, through this bold decision he led his country to move from the despair of apartheid system to a multicultural rainbow nation (Robarts, 2008). Upon his release from prison in 1990 Mandela led a multi party election held in1994 which gave him what he was fighting for, a suffrage for all.
Both ANC and the white regime violated human rights but human rights violation committed by the white regime was far greater than that of the ANC. The white government did not openly uphold human rights whereas on the other hand the ANC’s freedom charter has met with worldwide praise as a wonderful human rights document (Benson, 1994,1986). Above all Mandela helped the establishment of multiracial, multi-party democracy firmly based on a Constitution that defends fundamental human rights (Annan, 2003) Therefore Mandela was upholding human rights.
In conclusion Nelson Mandela is undoubtedly a hero to his people; his integrity is highly regarded by his followers and enemies respectively. Whereas some regarded him as a hero and a freedom fighter, others described him as villain and terrorist. He sacrificed his entire life not only fighting against white supremacy but also against black domination, this is what distinguishes him from other human rights actives in his country. Today, due to the heroism led by Nelson Mandela, Apartheid has been dismantled. All South Africans now enjoy equal opportunity to vote and to live wherever they want to live without restrictions. Undoubtedly Nelson Mandela is one of the world’s true heroes his life and personal achievement will be remembered for ever.

1. ANC, (2009). ANC. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 30 October 2009].
This website contains huge information about ANC and its leaders past and present, and this of course includes Mandela, there is a large section that is dedicated to Mandela, but it’s not easily accessible, as one expected this website is not a critical to the actions of Mandela it rather condones his violent actions, it concentrates his good actions, and therefore regards him as a human rights hero and a freedom fighter.
2. Annan, K. ( 2003). [Online] Available at: [Accessed 23 December 2009].
In this article available at the above website, Kofi Annan the former head of United Nations is describes Nelson Mandela as a man who made huge differences to the struggle against human rights violations in South Africa. Mr Annan remind the reader Mandela’s steadfastness and acknowledges Mandela’s refusal to compromise his political beliefs even when at some stage was offered to be release from prison in return for him to renounce his beliefs. The article further tells the reader how Mandela forgave his oppressors despite being jailed for such a long time, and above all, his contribution to a constitution that upholds basic human rights of his people. Finally, Mr Annan suggests that the only way to one can express his gratitude for Mandela’s achievement is one to follow his example.
3. Benson, M. (1994,1986). Nelson Mandela, the Man, and the Movement. New York-London: W.W.NORTON.
In this book by Mary Benson, a white South African activist draws a moving account of Nelson Mandela describing mainly on accounts by his family, statements from his colleagues and comrades, other interviews and above all Mandela’s moving court testimony in which he clearly articulates his political beliefs, and his pursuit for freedom, respect for human rights and same equal rights for all, irrespective of one’s skin colour, this book does not in any way portray Mandela as villain, or a terrorist as regarded by some and therefore this book is not impartial about the account of Mandela life and his actions.
4. Lodge, T. (2007). Mandela, a critical life. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
This books seems to be different from other books I have read so far about Mandela, although not perfect the author seems to be less unbiased about the life and actions of Mandela in comparison to other books that have been written about Mandela. This books is not for readers with no or little knowledge about South Africa or Mandela, it’s for readers who have prior knowledge of Mandela and South Africa. This books also talks about the private life of the man, the author examines the conditions that led to Nelson and Winnie Mandela’s divorce, a subject that other books rarely mention. The author looks this issue carefully without damaging Mandela’s integrity.

5. Mandela, N. (1978). The struggle is my life. London: International Defence and Aid Fund.
The book reveals the personality and tolerance of Nelson Mandela it also reveals how he sacrificed his life and that of his family for the sake of his people. This book contains speeches and other documents prepared by Nelson Mandela and other freedom fighters during the struggle against the apartheid regime in South Africa; the book also contains the freedom Charter that became the core document of the ANC. The book is so moving because it gives you a picture of Mandela’s stages from student leader 1940, to the leader of ANC, and the president of South Africa.
The speeches and document in the book highlights the conduct of the apartheid regime, the inequalities and discrimination that existed in South Africa during the apartheid , it also gives accounts of how black people were treated in all aspect of life, how their lives was affected by the law and special acts adopted solely to dehumanise them.

6. Meredith, M. (1997). Nelson Mandela A biography. Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Books Ltd.

All though I have not read the entire book, due to its size, I felt Martin Meredith’s books is well written and well presented, it covers Mandela’s life accounts from his early days as student in a mission school to him becoming the president of South Africa. I also felt the author was at same stages critical of Mandela’s actions therefore to some degree distinguishing himself from other authors of the same subject

7. O’Byrne, D.J. ( 2003). Human Rights. Harlow: Pearson Education Limited. P,249
8. Roberts, A. (2008). The Guardian. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 17 November 2009].
9. TIME, (1990). TIME. [Online] Available at:,9171,970495,00.html [Accessed 16 November 2009].