Category Archives: Peace


the universe seems so at peace with itself

yet it’s not necessarily tranquil;

great suns a’roiling set metal to boiling,

you’ll melt just as sure as your tank will;

in the grip of a hole, unfathomed and black

is everything stripped to its neutrons;

with masses colliding! — and big bangs subsiding…

but it’s all just like G-d clipping coupons


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Stratfor: Ukraine Turns From Revolution to Recovery

By George Friedman
Stratfor Global Intelligence

The uprising in Kiev has apparently reached its conclusion. President Viktor Yanukovich and the opposition reached an agreement, negotiated by the Polish, German and French foreign ministers. The parliament is now effectively in charge, deciding who will be ministers and when elections will be held, whether to dismiss judges and so on. It isn’t clear whether the parliament can fire the sitting president without impeachment and trial, but all of this is now moot. What is interesting is that the Polish, French and German foreign ministers negotiated an outcome that, for practical purposes, ignored the Constitution of Ukraine. It sets an interesting precedent. But for Ukraine, the constitution didn’t have the patina of tradition that a true constitution requires, and few will miss Yanukovich.

The question now is whether all of this makes any real difference in Ukraine or the world. There is a new temporary leadership, although it is still factionalized and the leaders of the factions have not fully emerged. The effect of hostile gunfire will forge unity in Kiev for a while, but in due course, ideology, ambition and animosity will re-emerge. That will make governing Ukraine as difficult as in the past, particularly because the differences among the neo-Nazis, the liberals and groups in between — all of which manned the barricades — are profound. A government of national unity will be difficult to form.

Another issue is what will happen the next time crowds storm government buildings. The precedent has been set — or rather, it was set during the 2004 Orange Revolution — that governments and regimes can be changed by a legalistic sleight of hand. At some point a large crowd will gather and occupy buildings. If the government opens fire, it is run by monsters. I don’t mean that ironically; I mean it literally. But if the government allows itself to be paralyzed by demonstrators, then how can it carry out its constitutional responsibilities? I don’t mean that ironically either. The Ukrainian Constitution, new or old, is meaningless because Ukrainians will not endure the pain of following it — and because foreign powers will pressure them to deviate from constitutional democracy in order to create a new one.

There should be no mistake. The Yanukovich government was rotten to the core, and he will not be missed. But most governments of Ukraine will be rotten to the core, partly because there is no tradition of respect for the law and because of the way property was privatized. How could there be a tradition of law in a country that was reduced to a province of another state and that numbered among its rulers Josef Stalin? Privatization, following the fall of the Soviet Union, occurred suddenly with vague rules that gave the advantage to the fast and ruthless. These people now own Ukraine, and however much the crowd despises them, it can’t unseat them. The oligarchs, as rich people in the former Soviet Union are called, are free; they can eliminate their critics or bribe them into silence. The only thing that is more powerful than money is a gun. But guns cost money and lives.

The idea that what will follow the Ukrainian revolution will be the birth of a liberal democracy reminds me of the Arab Spring. In the West, there is a tradition of seeing a passionate crowd massed in a square as the voice of the people. Reporters interview demonstrators and hear that they want an end to a corrupt and evil regime and subliminally recall the storming of the Bastille, the founding myth of the revolutionary tradition. A large crowd and a building anger at government evil points to the millennium.

In the Arab Spring the hope was great and the results disappointing. There was genuine hope for change, and observers assumed that the change was for liberal democracy. Perhaps it will yet be. Sometimes it was a change to a very different type of regime. What is portrayed and seen in this situation are the corrupt leaders commanding brutal soldiers. If the regime and the soldiers are wicked, it follows by this storyboard logic of good and evil that then their victims must be virtuous. It is rarely that easy. It is not only that the crowd is usually divided into many factions and bound together only by anger at the regime and the passionate moment. It is also that unexpected consequences lead them far from what they intended.

How Long Will Unity Last?

The deepest symbolism of revolution, and the most problematic, is that the people in the square speak for the people as a whole. The assumption made by the three foreign ministers was that in the negotiation between the three leaders of the demonstrators and the president, the protests’ leaders were more faithful representatives of the people than the elected president. They may have been in this case, but it is not certain.

Parts of Ukraine are bitterly angry about the outcome in Kiev. A Russian flag was raised over the city hall of Sevastopol, located in Crimea in the south, over the weekend. Crimea has historically belonged to Russia. In 1954, Nikita Khrushchev took it away from Russia and gave it to Ukraine. The Russians in Crimea have never really liked being part of Ukraine and the demonstrators didn’t represent them. Nor did they represent all those who live in the eastern part of the country, where Russian is commonly spoken and where being close to Russia is both an economic and cultural desire.

Thus there are two questions. The first is whether there is enough unity in the Ukrainian parliament to do what they must now do: create a government. The excitement of the moment has hidden the factions, which will soon re-emerge along with new ones. Yanukovich was not without support, for good reasons or bad. His supporters are bitter at this outcome and they are biding their time. In addition, the oligarchs are weaving their webs, save that many of the lawmakers are already caught in their web, some happily and some not. The underlying constraints that created the Yanukovich government are still there and can create a new Yanukovich out of the most enlightened Ukrainian leader.

The second question is whether Ukraine can remain united. The distinctions between the region oriented toward the West and that oriented toward Russia have been there from the beginning. In the past, governments have tried to balance between these two camps. Our three foreign ministers and the leaders of the demonstration have signaled that the days of taking Crimea and the east into account are over. At the very least their interests weren’t represented at the talks. Those interests could be rebalanced in the parliament, or they could be dismissed. If the latter were to happen, will Ukraine split in two? And if it does, what will be the economic and social consequences? If parliament takes to accommodating the two sides and their respective oligarchs, then how does it avoid winding up with a more photogenic and sympathetic Yanukovich?

The Motives of Outsiders

What happened to Ukraine mattered deeply to the Germans, French, Poles and Americans, all of whom had a deep involvement and sympathy for the demonstrators and hostility toward Yanukovich. Certainly it matters to the Russians, for whom maintaining at least a neutral Ukraine is essential to the national interest. This entire crisis began when Yanukovich decided to reject closer ties to the European Union. It was that decision that triggered the demonstrations, which, after violent repression, evolved from desiring closer EU ties to desiring regime change and blood.

The Ukrainian government has $13 billion in debt, owed mostly to Western institutions. The Russian government has agreed to provide Ukraine with $15 billion in aid doled out in tranches to cover it, since Ukraine can’t. Russia is now withholding additional aid until it can be confident the emerging government in Kiev is one with which it can work. It has also given Ukraine discounted natural gas. Without this assistance Ukraine would be in an even worse situation.

In turning toward Europe, parliament has to address refinancing its debt and ensure that the Russians will continue to discount natural gas. The Europeans are in no position politically to underwrite the Ukrainian debt. Given the economic situation and austerity in many EU countries, there would be an uproar if Brussels diverted scarce resources to a non-member. And regardless of what might be believed, the idea that Ukraine will become a member of the European Union under current circumstances is dismal. The bloc has enough sick economies on its hands.

The Germans have suggested that the International Monetary Fund handle Ukraine’s economic problem. The IMF’s approach to such problems is best compared to surgery without anesthesia. The patient may survive and be better for it, but the agony will be intense. In return for any bailout, the IMF will demand a restructuring of Ukraine’s finances. Given Ukraine’s finances, that restructuring would be dramatic. And the consequences could well lead to yet another round of protests.

The Russians have agreed to this, likely chuckling. Either parliament will reject the IMF plan and ask Russia to assume the burden immediately, or it will turn to Russia after experiencing the pain. There is a reason the Russians have been so relaxed about events in Ukraine. They understand that between the debt, natural gas and tariffs on Ukrainian exports to Russia, Ukraine has extremely powerful constraints. Under the worst circumstances Ukraine would move into the Western camp an economic cripple. Under the best, Ukraine would recognize its fate and turn to Russia.

What the Europeans and Americans were doing in Ukraine is less clear. They had the triumphant moment and they have eliminated a corrupt leader. But they certainly are not ready to take on the burden of Ukraine’s economic problems. And with those economic problems, the ability to form a government that does not suffer from the ills of Yanukovich is slim. Good intentions notwithstanding, the Ukrainians will not like the IMF deal.

I will guess at two motives for European and American actions. One is to repay the Russians for their more aggressive stance in the world and to remind them of how vulnerable Russia is. The second is as a low-risk human rights intervention to satisfy internal political demand without risking much. The pure geopolitical explanation — that they did this in order to gain a platform from which to threaten Russia and increase its caution — is hard to believe. None of these powers were in a position to protect Ukraine from Russian economic or military retaliation. None of them have any appetite for threatening Russia’s fundamental interests.

As stated above, the question now is two fold. Will the Ukrainian parliament, once the adrenaline of revolution stops flowing, be able to govern, or will it fall into the factional gridlock that a presidential system was supposed to solve? Further, will the east and Crimea decide they don’t want to cast their lot with the new regime and proceed to secede, either becoming independent or joining Russia? In large part the second question will be determined by the first. If the parliament is gridlocked, or it adopts measures hostile to the east and Crimea, secession is possible. Of course, if it decides to accommodate these regions, it is not clear how the government will differ from Yanukovich’s.

Revolutions are much easier to make than to recover from. This was not such a vast uprising that it takes much recovery. But to the extent that Ukraine had a constitutional democracy, that is now broken by people who said their intention was to create one. The issue is whether good intentions align with reality. It is never a bad idea to be pessimistic about Ukraine. Perhaps this time will be different.
Ukraine Turns From Revolution to Recovery is republished with permission of Stratfor.”

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Midwifing Peace in Sudan

By Lee A. McKenna
Reprinted from Peace Magazine (,
Vol.28, No.4, Oct-Dec 2012
Weeks of rolling, youth-led demonstrations on the streets of Khartoum are said by some to be the Sudanese echo of the Arab Spring or Occupy. Or it could be Otpor, the non-violent movement that overthrew Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic. It is also, more importantly, an echo of its own remarkable and largely forgotten past of nonviolent insurrection.

It is just past noon, the 29th of June; the moist southwesterlies occasionally provide some respite from the heat, but not today. Keeping to a plan designed not to provoke large contingents of military forces with smaller, localized protests in many neighborhoods of the capital, a group of fewer than 200 students is shouting in the cadences familiar to those attuned to street protest. Signs and banners disperse any doubt about their demands:

“We are fed up!” “No more!”

“We are here; we are not going away!”

“An end to violence! An end to brutal price rises!”

“An end to militarization! An end to dictatorship!”

Though the spark for the protests was provided by the government’s imposition of austerity measures, including the elimination of fuel subsidies and increases in taxes and the price of staple items, the message of the protestors has been distilled to a single demand: the end to the régime of Omar al-Bashir. A group of students has gathered in Hijra Square, not far from the headquarters of the opposition National Umma Party. The day before, protestors were dispersed with rubber bullets and tear gas; stragglers were beaten, scores were arrested, bringing the total of those arrested over the 2,000 mark. Family members of the detainees have joined the protesters on the street, preparing for a weekend escalation that will mark the 23rd anniversary of Bashir’s rise to power through a military coup.

Among those arrested are Widad Derwish and Rudwan Daoud, founders of the youth movement known as “Girifna” (meaning “Enough! We are fed up!”) as well as a number of those trained in non-violence and third-party nonviolent intervention. Widad and the others are part of an eight-year-long project co-sponsored by the Swedish Fellowship of Reconciliation, the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America and a local Sudanese NGO.

The square is a vacant expanse of red sand, the students on one side and heavily armed riot police on the other. The police are ranged behind several cement-filled pylons, mostly unmoving, watching. The students are talking, restless, but calm. The banners still wave, while the pickets have been stuck into the hard soil forming a phalanx of silent opposition.

A song begins somewhere in the middle of the throng, picked up quickly by the others. Its words are an Arabic African echo of something like, “We shall overcome…” Among the lyrics are words about water, a precious commodity of profound symbolic value in the lands dominated by the Sahara: Life, well-being, wealth, hospitality.

Four students, three men and one woman, then begin to slowly roll one of the large, ubiquitous public water jugs that punctuate the streets of desert towns. They roll it across the square toward the row of cement pylons. The riot police, whose position in the square has put them out of reach, shuffle their feet, shift their guns, wary. Within a few metres of the pylons, the students come to a halt, setting the jug in place. Reaching into it, they pull out a couple of gourd cups, serving one another refreshing draughts. They then bow to the uniformed police, gesturing towards the jug, inviting them to assuage their thirst. The woman’s brilliant yellow hijab is caught in the early afternoon breeze as the four return to join the students, who have gone silent.


My role in war zones is to train people in nonviolent direct action, conflict transformation and the tricky work of third-party nonviolent intervention—and sometimes to do it, alongside them. The methods are popular, experiential, elicitive. We are training for disobedience, weaponless waging of peace. And, in the playing out of it, I am rarely, if ever, among those who pay a price.

Over the course of a month, participants come to a deep knowledge of the other, dismantling multiple falsely promoted “causes” of their daily violence, in particular, religion and tribe. The economic roots of violence are brought to the surface as participants come to recognize themselves as both part of a global story of economic domination and subjugation, and as agents of change.

A safe space is created for them to interrogate the landscape of a warrior culture and a violence-stained history, to celebrate historical out-breakings of nonviolent resistance, leaving unexamined no aspect of civics, history, gender, culture, religion, politics or economics, asking: What drives violence? What makes for peace? At what point and by what means do I resist, withdraw my consent, or break the rules?

We spend a lot of time talking about Paulo Freire, a Brazilian priest whose work fundamentally altered notions of education and power. He noticed, in his work with poor people, their reluctance to learn, to probe, to ask questions. He diagnosed oppression as the heart of this reluctance and began to map out the mechanisms of oppressive power that creates a population acquiescent in its own oppression. He began to map out the contours of oppression: What forms does it take? By what mechanisms does it function? Poverty, illiteracy, repression, terror, discrimination, violence, cultural rules.

Freire then looked for those means and methods of normalization that convert the oppressive into the normal: those ways by which we become inured to instruments of our own oppression—walls that we no longer see, rules that we no longer challenge, ideals that we have come to regard as reserved for others, violences so pervasive, sounds so constant, scars upon scars—they blend into the landscape of domination, made invisible, no worse than bad wallpaper, making no cry, no challenge from the bought and sold; only resignation, compliance. Too much work is required to re-imagine ourselves as maîtres chez nous —when “facts on the ground,” “new normals” obliterate the past, suppress dissent, and kill the vision of the possible.

Over the weeks together, having worked through Freire’s cyclical stages into “problematization” and “conscientization” to the “breakout” that is “action for change”—we begin to walk out our fears. Men walk out their fear of loss and chaos as they prepare to go home to put into practice their experientially changed understanding of women: What will people think? Women walk out their fear of taking their place in the commons: What will be the price? Nuer and Murle, Acholi and Dinka, Misseriya and Rizeigat walk out their fear of dissenting from history’s mandate for revenge. Today, we will take our fear for a walk in the streets of Ombdurman.


We are working through the design of an action meant to protest police brutality and an impenetrable wall of impunity. Over our days together, we have listened to one another’s stories: Abdul a Abdulrahman’s imprisonment and torture, Fathiya’s exile, Abdul’s son’s killing, Rhaman Adam a Adam Ishaq’s wife’s rape and murder by the Janjawiid. We have come up with what we want to say and how we want to say it. The closer we get to our imagined destination, the quieter the room becomes. People are gathered in little knots painting slogans on cardboard nailed to roof slats. A group of women are concentrating their efforts on a banner, modest in size, not so modest in sentiment. If this were Latin America, it would say, ¡Basta ya! But it’s Arabic, flowing like streams of water across the white canvas: قبالة!كفاية We’ve had enough!

Gradually, the signs and banner are completed and we begin to choreograph the march; we practise some refrains and mantras. Though the route past the police station is short and the fragile safety of the compound not far, it will be provocative, to say the least.

Beneath all of the activity, there is an unspoken question: Are we actually going to do this? Or is this just another role play? The pulse of fear in the room thrums, yet it is contained within a web of trust and mutual confidence; the participation of the Sudanese translator/ co-trainers in the preparations sends powerful signals to both trainers and trainees. We have spent many days together, imagining and then practicing risky things; the distance and difference that marked them on their arrival is more opaque now as they move as one, working out what they want to say, how they want to say it, in what colors on what materials. The rules that divide women from men, Christians from Muslims, Southerners from Northerners, the narratives of strangers, have dissolved into that of friends and companions in a common cause.

The marchers begin to form in rows of three, moving out into the red, sandy grounds of the compound. As they approach the gate to the street, the trainers relieve them of their banners and signs, some emitting audible groans of relief. The twenty women and men, Christians and Muslims, mostly young, walk through the gate and out into the busy thoroughfare. People turn and stare as they walk, carrying high their unseen signs of protest, stretching out a virtual banner of dissent, walking to the rhythm of provocative, if unspoken, chants. The careful ranks of threes slip and adjust to the market-day crowds, weaving their way along the planned route.

On the approach to the police detachment, there is a stiffening in limbs and faces as their courage falters ever so slightly. But the march continues; they turn to acknowledge the police, whose attention is caught by the suspicious-looking parade. Some in uniforms of blue, some khaki, some lolling in the mid-day heat, they shift their machine guns like peacocks with their feathers. The marchers, signs and banner pass, their wordless chorus parting the market-day throngs.

As the marchers return to the compound, some stumble to the safety of the ground; some gather in pairs and groups to embrace, heads on shoulders. The coils of fear on their faces ebb, replaced by exhilaration.

“I didn“t know I could do that!” says one.

“I thought I was going to throw up!” says another.

“It was like living a nightmare—and surviving!”

“We did it!”

The group gathers to talk, all at once, the translators struggling to keep up—about how they are feeling, retracing their steps in their walk of fear, how the fear shifted and changed and moved within them as they walked; its eventual defeat.

“So what does it mean? So what?”

“I took my fear for a walk—and I lived! It changes everything. I will never forget this. It will be with me, this story, right here”—gesturing with her fist under her breast—“something to hold onto as I do this for real.”

It’s the sixth of July. Tensions are high with the announcement two days ago that the mainstream opposition parties, led by the Umma, have joined ranks in a nonviolent campaign to overthrow the Bashir government. In recent months, since uprisings in neighboring Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere, the President and his inner circle have repeatedly bragged that the movement will not touch Sudan: Régime-change here is as likely as people suddenly being able to lick their elbows. Impossible! The students have cheekily turned the president’s boast into a nonviolent piece of street theatre: “Yes we can! Just watch us!” What does elbow-licking look like? This is what elbow-licking looks like!


But there is a price to pay. Many have been arrested following severe batterings by security forces, the women sent to the women’s prison in Ombdurman, with the men dispersed, some of them to “ghost houses,” prisons known for torture and disappearance located in unmarked buildings inaccessible to families in search of loved ones. Among them are Widad and Rudwan, and a dozen other “graduates,” part of an exponential growth in trained-trainers training more trainers. More than 27,000 people in almost 70 tribes having been drawn into this school of peace-making and dissent from the way things are. They are at the forefront of nonviolent change, offering hope for a country at war with itself for much of the last 60 years.

And what do we have to say about all of this? What is the response of the community of nations? Will Sudan take its place on the list of countries slated for régime change from without, to become yet one more vortex of violence, armed rebel factions, civilian bloodshed and political mayhem? Or will we find ways to honor and strengthen the spirit of nonviolence that animates those in the street who are risking their lives for a new Sudan?


At the time of writing, most of the young people have now been released; some have fled the country—with plans to return. People from around the world have responded, writing letters, mounting their own protests in solidarity, calling on the international community to implement sanctions that target repressive leadership and élites, circumscribing their movements and their capacity to fund repression, that contain, isolate and divest, while mitigating the impact on civilians. Violence only begets more violence; violent solutions are the resort of those without imagination and of those intent on replacing one yoke for another.

Though we like to think we care about everyone equally, that seems to be impossible. I have been drawn into the narrative of the last two months because I know so many of those on the streets, in prison or in exile. I trained them, urged them into trouble-making. Mixed emotions have driven my own activism from afar: a lot of pride, moments of regret. And then I get a note on Facebook, the message defying the medium: “Lee, I don’t want to be raped; I don’t want to be imprisoned, I don’t want to be tortured. I am not ready to die. Please help me.”

I write back: “I am doing everything I can from here—but I feel so powerless!” Ping! The response comes: “You have already done so much. You have given us the tools of nonviolence.”

Yes; that is so. But it is they who have responded, disproportionately, contrary to all the laws of probability, nurturing a pregnancy of hope into birth.

Lee McKenna is a nonviolence trainer based in Toronto.

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Canucks, Danes agree Arctic maritime border

Canada and Kingdom of Denmark Reach Tentative Agreement on Lincoln Sea Boundary

November 28, 2012 – Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of Health, Minister of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency and Minister of the Arctic Council for Canada, and Villy Søvndal, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Denmark, met today in Ottawa to discuss a range of issues of common interest and, in particular, engagement in Arctic matters.

The ministers announced that negotiators have reached a tentative agreement on where to establish the maritime boundary in the Lincoln Sea, the body of water north of Ellesmere Island and Greenland. This will resolve an issue between the two countries that arose in the 1970s. Once ratified, the agreement will also provide an opportunity to modernize provisions of the 1973 treaty that established the current boundary south of the Lincoln Sea.

“Our government is pleased with the progress made on the Lincoln Sea boundary,” said Baird. “Today’s tentative agreement lessens uncertainty and strengthens Canada’s sovereignty over the Arctic.”

“Canada’s vision for the Arctic includes clearly defined boundaries,” said Minister Aglukkaq. “This brings us toward that vision and demonstrates our mutual commitment to seeing the North realize its true potential as a healthy, prosperous and secure region.”

“Seeking to resolve boundary issues is a priority for both our countries and is articulated in our respective Arctic strategies,” said Minister Søvndal. “This significant step forward exemplifies the cooperative approach endorsed by Arctic Ocean coastal states in the Ilulissat Declaration of May 28, 2008.”

The tentative agreement does not address the issue of sovereignty over Hans Island. That issue is the subject of continuing discussion intended to arrive at a mutually satisfactory solution.

Negotiators will now work to transform this technical agreement into a treaty text for ratification by their respective governments. Once the treaty is ratified, Canada and the Kingdom of Denmark will share a boundary that is more than 1,600 nautical miles long.

– 30 –


The above release plus backgrounder and contact info
available at Canada’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs site.

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APoJi 2012 – Special Notice

(UPDATE: December 12, 2013 Obviously, many more changes have taken place over the course of this past year. The link given in the letter below shows the state of the document as posted on February 4, 2013, after which the primary document location was shifted to its own page. The latest edit can be found here: — Ed.
(UPDATE: January 29, 2013 A number of revisions to the document have taken place since the start of the year and are expected to continue sporadically for the next month or two. Last minute ideas? Better late than never. — Ed.)
Dear Reader,

We will soon suspend editing of the document A Peace of Jerusalem, possibly for the last time, so it seems fitting to restate the objectives declared for this initiative more than three years ago…

In late 2009, we set out on a simple mission:

1) to collect Mideast Peace ideas from anyone willing to offer them;
2) to integrate these notions into a contradiction-free proposal; and
3) to limit the evolving document to no more than 2,000 words.

We had (and still have) no illusions about our prospects for defining a perfect peace; reality and perfection suffer each other none too well — except perhaps in art and existentialism. Our broader aim was (and still is) to foster constructive dialogue about peace in the Middle East, and to create a modest document that would, in theory, become a little ‘less imperfect’ with each iteration.

On behalf of myself, the other Editors, and the Composing Group, I would like to thank everyone who has participated in this collaborative venture. To those who kicked in a few bucks to defray mailing, hosting and advertising expenses, much appreciation is due. And to those hundreds of souls who came bearing nothing but dreams, a very special thank you for sharing them with us.

If you’re reading this after December 21, 2012, you can explore the final document at, where it has resided in various forms since its first posting on November 5, 2009.

For a shorter URL, try

May peace be upon us all.


Editor S.

A Peace of Jerusalem initiative (APoJi)   email:


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