Photos: A Beautiful Autumn Day in Algonquin Park

Its beyond fall colours! This park has so much of the natural world to offer, and should be in everyone’s bucket list. My daughter and I had limited time and made the most effective use of the 15 hours we had which included around 6 hours of driving time from and back to Ottawa. With time management, and inspiration from youth anything is possible! If you are in Ontario and close to the Park, make it this week — even for a day!

ALGONQUIN PARK: Our Photos and Suggestions

Algonquin Park
Please click on image for photos.

Date posted: October 13, 2019.

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The lonely death of 20th century Qur’an translator A. Yusuf Ali; assessing Qur’an translations; and interview with music artist Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens)

Yusuf Ali, Quran translator
Abdullah Yusuf Ali. Photo: Wikipedia.

“On a frigid December morning in 1953, a policeman found a half-conscious old man slumped on a street bench in the Westminster area of London. That man was Abdullah Yusuf Ali, the famous 20th-century translator of the Quran. He died alone, homeless, and with no one by his side…Generations of Muslims in English-speaking countries have grown up reading Yusuf Ali’s interpretation of the Quran…Read Saad Hasan’s piece in TRTWORLD. 

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Assessing Qur'an translations
Please click on image for article.

Multiple translations of the Qur’an line shelves at book stores. Because of the growing Muslim communities in English-speaking countries, as well as greater academic interest in Islam, there has been a blossoming in recent years of English translation. Since fewer than 20 percent of Muslims speak Arabic, this means that most Muslims study the text only in translation. So how accurate are the Qur’an’s renderings into English? The record is mixed…Read more of this informative piece in Simerg (includes a note on Abdullah Yusuf Ali’s translation).

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TRT World Showcase Special with Yusuf Islam, formerly Cat Stevens – Why he picked up the guitar again.

“…When the people have nothing, that’s the moment when you have to sing…” — Yusuf Islam

Video: Yusuf Islam

Considered a legend in the music world, Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens opens up to TRT World about his spiritual journey, and shares his thoughts about the world. Please watch the interview, above.

Date posted: October 5, 2019.

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Photos of Prince Hussain and Princess Fareen and Joyful Expressions from Canada

PLEASE CLICK: Ismailis in Canada and around the world rejoice with Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, as Prince Hussain and Princess Fareen are married in Geneva, Switzerland

Please click on photo for marriage photos and celebrations in Montreal and other Jamatkhanas in Canada.

Date posted: September 30, 2019.

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New African Interview with the Aga Khan: A Life Devoted to the Service of Others – A Man for All Seasons

We invite our readers to read the complete interview on Simerg’s sister website Barakah, which is dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan. The interview was conducted by Anver Versi, Editor-in-chief of New African, the highly influential magazine on African affairs published in the UK. We are delighted to bring the interview with the editor’s permission. Please start reading the article HERE or click on the image below.

HIS HIGHNESS THE AGA KHAN IN CONVERSATION WITH ANVER VERSI

Aga Khan interview with New African editorr Anver Versi; A Bridge of Hope published on Barakah
Please click on image to read interview.

Date posted: September 23, 2019.

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@Barakah: Two fantastic posts of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s visit to Tatarstan

Aga Khan tours Kazan Kremlin
His Highness the Aga Khan at Kazan Kremlin. Please click for complete coverage of visit to Tatarstan.

A note from Publisher/Editor Malik Merchant

Simerg’s sister website Barakah is dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam — His Highness the Aga Khan — members of his family, and the Ismaili Imamat. It currently contains more than 170 interesting visual and textual pieces on the subject. There are 2 posts you should see about his visit to Tatarstan last week. Please click on:

Aga Khan at Award Ceremony Kazan, Tatarstan
His Highness the Aga Khan at the Award Ceremony. Please click for thematic speech, 5 high quality videos and wonderful photos

We also take this oppotunity to invite you to visit Barakah’s Facebook Page, as well as join our Facebook group Simerg/Barakah: All Things Ismaili + His Highness the Aga Khan.

Date posted: September 12, 2019.
Last updated: September 17, 2019.

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Imam Hussein (A.S.) was martyred 1339 years ago

Imam Hussein Mosque Karbala, Library of Congress Photo
General view of the Imam Hussein Mosque in Karbala, Iraq. The photo was taken between September 26 and October 12, 1932. Photo: Matson (G. Eric and Edith) Photograph Collection / Library of Congress, Washingon D.C.

Imam Hussein (A.S.)

Introduced by Malik Merchant
(Publisher-Editor, Simerg, Barakah and Simergphotos)

Mawlana Hazar Imam Shah Karim al Hussaini, His Highness the Aga Khan, is the 49th Hereditary Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims, and directly descended from Hazrat Ali (A.S.) and Imam Hussein (A.S.).

Imam Hussein began his reign as the 2nd Ismaili Imam* on the death of his father, Hazrat Ali (A.S.), on January 27, 661 CE who, 29 years earlier in 632 CE, had been publicly proclaimed by the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.S.) to be his successor at the famous event that took place at Ghadir Khumm.

The succession ended the cycle of the Divine Institution of Nubuwwah and ushered the world into a new era of the Divine Institution of Imamat. Thus, the Imams directly descended from the Prophet Muhammad, from Hazrat Ali to Mawlana Shah Karim, have continued to guide their murids (followers) in the ta’wil (interpretation) and talim (teaching) of the Holy Qur’an for the last 1387 years.

Imam Hussein was martyred in the Battle of Karbala on the 10th day of the Muslim month of Muharram, or October 10, 680, at the age of 54, and was succeeded to the Hereditary throne of Imamat by Imam Zainul Abideen (A.S.).

The Islamic calendar is based on the lunar cycle, and thus shorter than the 365 day solar calendar by roughly 11 days. This year (2019), the 10th day of Muharram falls on or around September 9/10, almost 1339 years since the Imam’s tragic death at the hands of Yazid’s army. Please click to read more about Imam Hussein and Karbala from Muslim and non-Muslim historians and scholars.

Date posted: September 9, 2019.

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*Note: In the Shia Imami Nizari Ismaili tradition Imam Hussein’s brother, Hazrat Hassan (A.S.), is not counted as an Imam, whereas in other Shia Muslims he is considered as the second Imam which then makes Imam Hussein the 3rd Imam.

Brushing off the “Weeping Walls” of the Historic Bagamoyo Ismaili Jamatkhana

…Now no one cares, no paint on the walls. Who can save this lovely heritage? So sad to see the weeping walls — Shariffa Keshavjee in a piece for Simerg

Bagamoyo Jamatkhana
A view of the Indian Ocean from the balcony of the Jamatkhana, overlooking the building’s rooftop. Photo: Shariffa Keshavjee, Nairobi, Kenya.

Taking Example of Pakistan’s Baltit Fort, the Bagamoyo Jamatkhana Can be Converted to a Museum Chronicling Ismaili Settlement in Tanzania

By MALIK MERCHANT
(Publisher-Editor, Simerg, Barakah and Simergphotos)

In the wake of the partial collapse of the roof the historic Darkhana Jamatkhana in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on Tuesday September 3, 2019, we felt it important to highlight an incredible photo story that Shariffa Keshavjee of Nairobi contributed to Simerg some seven years ago. She had then lamented the sorry state of the historic Bagamoyo Jamatkhana through prose, pictures and thoughtful poetry in a highly acclaimed must read piece. Another very interesting piece on Bagamoyo was by Zahir Dhalla with photos of the Bagamoyo beach area where Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah set foot on East African soil for the first time in 1899 when he arrived in a yacht from Zanzibar. Zahir’s exterior photos of the Jamatkhana highlighted the building’s poor state.

A passage from the Bagamoyo Jamatkhana leading upto the sea front. Photo: © Shariffa Keshavjee, Nairobi, Kenya.
Bagamoyo Jamatkhana interior
The tejori (left) and the flag of the Ismaili Imamat resting against one of Bagamoyo Jamatkhana’s “weeping walls.” Photo: © Shariffa Keshavjee, Nairobi, Kenya.

The questions we would now ask of Ismaili residents of Dar es Salaam, Bagamoyo or anyone who has visited Bagamoyo recently as well as our Tanzanian Jamati institutions are: How are the “weeping walls” of the Jamatkhana doing today? What about the passageway leading to the ocean? How about the tejori (chest) in the Jamatkhana, and what is the state of the Ismaili Flag and sadri (floor mats)? And, finally, how is the Jamatkhana being utilized today, and can the Ismaili community feel proud about its current state and usage?

We look forward to an update on the state of the Jamatkhana with the sincere hope that what was once an eyesore, both outside and inside, has been restored to its former glory. If that has not been done yet, which is what we suspect, and the building is simply languishing and not used as a Jamatkhana anymore, we humbly bring forward the idea to convert the historic building to a museum that will hold important relics as well as portray the history of early Ismaili settlement in Bagamoyo and other parts of Tanzania (then Tanganyika). Many little towns that I have visited during my drives across North America have small museums housed in heritage buildings that wonderfully tell stories about their origins and the people who first occupied them. Of course, the Bagamoyo Jamatkhana building has to be be properly restored for any such project to develop, and this should quickly become a work in progress.

As a Jamat, we have to be mindful of historical buildings and places of worship like the Bagamoyo Jamatkhana, and do everything possible to revive and revitalize our cultural and spiritual heritage before they are forgotten or lost forever due to neglect, lack of interest or apathy.

Ismaili Jamat Khana and Cemetery, as seen from the Bagamoyo beach. Photo: © Copyright Zahir K. Dhalla 2017.

Time and Knowledge Nazrana: A Major Resource for Creative Projects

Institutions must lead and inspire the Jamat, and the Jamat must in turn respond with zeal and interest. It is a 2-way effort. Perhaps, there is an opportunity for hundreds of Ismaili architects, artists, planners and engineers who pledged their Time and Knowledge Nazrana (TKN) to Mawlana Hazar Imam to take a lead to improve the condition of our historic buildings that are in disarray for good and purposeful use.

Bagamoyo Jamatkhana
Ismaili Cemetery, at the Beach and the Indian Ocean, seen from the balacony of the Bagamoyo Jamatkhana.  Photo: © Copyright Zahir K. Dhalla 2017.

That can be properly and effectively facilitated by the TKN leadership team that is based in Toronto, in consultation with Ismaili institutions and local TKN bodies around the world. The transformation of the Baltit Fort in Pakistan that was undertaken by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture is an example of what can be accomplished with the Bagamoyo Jamatkhana and other heritage buildings of historical importance. There is immense talent and creativity in the Jamat as well as material resources that can be utilized for well planned little museum projects that would not only enrich local history, but also help boost the tourism industry. After all Bagamoyo, with its world class historical sites, has been proposed as a World Heritage Site.

Date posted: September 5, 2019.

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Section of Dar es Salaam Darkhana Jamatkhana’s roof collapses; timing of incident averts major tragedy – 3 are treated for minor injuries

Report compiled by MALIK MERCHANT
(Publisher-Editor, Simerg, Barakah and Simergphotos)
Note: Photos were received from numerous sources in Dar es Salaam

Ismaili Darkhana Jamatkhana roof collapse September 3 2019
Aerial photograph of Dar es Salaam’s Darkhana Jamatkhana following collapse of a large section of the roof on Tuesday, September 3, 2019. Major tragedy was averted as the incident occured late in the morning, and not between 4-6 AM when several would have been present inside the Jamatkhana for morning prayers.

A major tragedy was averted on Tuesday, September 3, 2019, at the historic Darkhana Jamatkhana in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, when a large segment of the roof collapsed late in the morning. An aerial view of the Jamatkhana along with several other photos we have received shows the extent of the damage on the roof as well as the interior of the Jamatkhana. Luckily, the incident occured at around 10:45 AM and not between 4:00-6:00 AM when several Jamati members would have been in attendance in Jamatkhana for the early morning prayers.

Our sources inform us that three workers who were present on site at the time of incident were immediately treated for minor injuries at the Aga Khan Health Centre located near the Jamatkhana entrance. Two workers escaped with minor bruises on the leg, and the third, after receiving a few stiches for cuts on her head, was kept in the hospital for overnight observation. She was said to be doing well.

Interior damage following roof collapse of Dar es Salaam's Ismaili Darkhana Jamatkhana
A scary view of the damage caused to the interior of Dar es Salaam’s historic Ismaili Darkhana Jamatkhana following the collapse of the roof (see photo above) on Tuesday, September 3, 2019.

We have learnt from reliable sources that the ceiling was renovated during the Golden Jubilee Year of Mawlana Hazar Imam. However, we do not know whether that involved the structural inspection of the roof.

The Jamatkhana will remain closed until repairs are completed. In the interim, the Jamatkhana ceremonies will take place at the adjacent social hall.

Dar es Salaam Ismaili Darkhana Jamatkhana rooftop collapse
A view of the damage caused to the interior of Dar es Salaam’s historic Ismaili Darkhana Jamatkhana following the collapse of the roof (see photo above) on Tuesday, September 3, 2019.
Dar es Salaam Ismaili Darkhana Jamatkhana rooftop collapse
A view of the damage caused to the interior of Dar es Salaam’s historic Ismaili Darkhana Jamatkhana following the collapse of the roof (see photo above) on Tuesday, September 3, 2019.

The Dar es Salaam Darkhana was built in 1930 and is considered one of several heritage buildings of architectural interest.

The last known tragedy in an Ismaili Jamatkhana was in Yeotmal, India, in 1963, when 112 Ismailis died when the Jamatkhana building collapsed. In 1967, during his visit to the new Yeotmal Jamatkhana Mawlana Hazar Imam declared the dead as “shahids” (martyrs in the cause of faith) and gave blessings for the peace and rest of their souls.

The damage shown in the photos is staggering and we humbly submit our shukrana that the incident took place without loss of lives. The timing was critical.

As of the last update to this story, we have not been made aware of any special announcement by the Aga Khan Council for Tanzania on this incident. A text message that was circulated on the day the incident occurred simply stated, “Due to unavoidable circumstances today’s congregational prayers at Darkhana Jamatkhana will be held in the Darkhana Hall.”

Date posted: September 3, 2019.
Date updated: September 4, 2019, (6:55 PM, Toronto).

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Are you in Dar es Salaam? How is the Jamat coping with this tragic incident? There must be a sigh of great relief that the incident occurred later in the morning and not during the early morning Jamatkhana ceremonies. Our readers’ thoughts from around the world are welcome. Please click Leave a comment

[Before leaving this page, please take a moment to visit Simerg’s Table of Contents  for links to a vast and rich collection of articles published on this blog as well as its two sister blogs Barakah and Simergphotos.]

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Aly Verjee’s Oslo Forum Peacewriter Prize Essay on Ceasefire Monitoring

Awarded by the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, the Oslo Forum Peacewriter Prize is an essay competition seeking bold and innovative responses to today’s peacemaking challenges. The following paper by Aly Verjee is the second winner of the Peacewriter Prize.

Ceasefie monitoring in Western Sahara
Antonio Achille, working with the Military Liaison Office of the U.N. Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara, looks through binoculars during a cease-fire monitoring patrol in Oum Dreyga, Western Sahara. (United Nations Photo).

Monitoring Ceasefires is Getting Harder: Greater Innovation is Required

By ALY VERJEE

Far from helping resolve conflict, flawed ceasefires and ceasefire monitoring may well contribute to significantly increased mistrust between the parties to that conflict. The consequences may be even more damaging; as ceasefires are often one of the first objectives a mediator attempts to achieve, in the eyes of the combatants, early failure may more broadly damage the viability, or the perception of viability, of external action to effectively resolve the conflict.

This may reinforce the thinking of some belligerents that the only solution is military. Still, as I saw firsthand during my involvement in the peace process in South Sudan, the mediator may spend much time, energy and political capital in attempting to achieve an operable ceasefire with little promise of return.

Rather than a milestone on the road to conflict resolution, in complex conflicts that seem apparently irresolvable through peaceful means (e.g. Syria, Yemen, Ukraine), ceasefires and ceasefire monitoring often appear to be, at best, a form of conflict management. As Oliver Richmond notes, such efforts may “not even aim at a [durable] ceasefire but instead mediate . . . the continuation of violence in order to avoid further escalation.” [1]

Several recent such attempts at ceasefires have either collapsed quickly (Syria) or had a very limited geographic and political scope (Yemen), or may likely ‘freeze’ the conflict for years to come (Ukraine).

As the nature of conflict evolves and is increasingly fragmented, incrementally tinkering with conventional ceasefire monitoring may be insufficiently transformative to address its current limitations. While, for example, working to better specify the parameters of a ceasefire agreement, improving the training of international monitors prior to deployment, and improving their performance once deployed may still help in some cases, in many contemporary conflicts, peacemakers may need to consider more unorthodox and radical solutions.

At the outset, mediators who design ceasefire monitoring mechanisms should question the three core normative assumptions of conventional ceasefire monitoring. The first of these is that viable information about truce violations can be reported both accurately and in a timely manner. Second, such information can be used to deter violations and/or to incentivise agreement compliance. Third, the potential political and reputational cost of non-compliance is higher than any benefits of continuing the conflict. In a fragmented conflict, such normative logic may not fully apply, calling for other solutions to be considered.

The fragmentation of conflict has been accompanied by other discernible trends in ceasefire monitoring practice. For example, while UN peacekeeping itself began with the monitoring of ceasefire arrangements, today a regional organisation (such as the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in Ukraine or the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in South Sudan) is as likely as the UN to be overseeing an agreement. There are obvious, possibly negative implications of near-neighbours being involved in monitoring conflicts on their immediate borders.

Further, the cautionary story of Norway’s experience in Sri Lanka has largely gone unheeded: today’s mediators are also often ceasefire monitors, or vice versa. Recall that in 2002, Norway agreed to oversee the ceasefire reached between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tigers, despite “reservations about becoming both the mediator and the implementer of the ceasefire.” [2] As a result, ceasefire violators were not ‘named and shamed’, in order to avoid the risk of undermining Norway’s role as a mediator. [3]

Today, almost two decades later, there are numerous examples of the mediator also serving as monitor. In Yemen, the UN is both mediating between the government and the Houthis and monitoring the ceasefire arrangements in the vicinity of Hodeidah. In Ukraine, the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission is mandated “to observe and report in an impartial and objective way on the situation in Ukraine . . . and to facilitate dialogue among all parties to the crisis.” [4] In South Sudan, the regionally led Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring and Verification Mechanism (CTSAMVM) is controlled and led by the same regional body that leads the peace process, IGAD. Repeated interruptions to the disclosure of ceasefire monitoring data have resulted when IGAD leaders deemed disclosure to be inopportune.

In such multi-party, fragmented conflicts, conflating the roles of mediator and monitor may make attempts to address such conflicts even more difficult. Trying to encourage the coalescing of rival forces that may be fighting each other as well as the government may affect the mediator’s ability and enthusiasm to report on ceasefire violations, particularly in an asymmetric conflict.

Historically, the idealised, neutral third-party monitor was theoretically conceived of as a desirable aide to the exchange of credible information between former combatants, and whose monitoring presence would help reduce uncertainty. The monitor was also traditionally intended to serve as a trusted intermediary between mistrustful parties. [5]

But in many of today’s civil-war conflicts, the belligerent parties may well hold more information about the intentions and capacities of their adversaries (with whom they may have once been aligned) than any third parties. Syrian, Yemeni or South Sudanese fighters understand the topography and geography of their countries better than any external actors could ever hope to do, despite the advantage international monitors may now derive from access to satellite imagery or other technologies.

While these trends underline the sometimes problematic investing of agency in outsiders to the conflict, such as the drafters, monitors and enforcers of ceasefire arrangements, is the lower ambition of documenting, and perhaps occasionally deterring, the worst of the violence, the best to which a ceasefire process in an apparently intractable conflict can aspire? My answer is that, while there are no easy solutions, conflict mediators can do better by learning from past experience. And while no single novel approach will overcome all of the problems inherent in ceasefire arrangements, and, more particularly, in the monitoring of such arrangements, monitors can do more to innovate and adapt their practice, so that ceasefire monitoring is fit for purpose in this new era of conflict.

This essay proposes three practical possibilities, relevant to consider at both design and negotiation phases of a peace process, and during its implementation, to reshape, complement and strengthen, existing practice. These are:

  • to apply lessons from the evolution of election observation to ceasefire monitoring;
  • to widen the focus of ceasefire monitoring to other forms of violations; and,
  • to better specify options for corrective or remedial action within a ceasefire framework.

Learn from the evolution of election observation

Much like ceasefire monitoring, election observation began as a largely internationally led, externally directed process. Increasingly, however, the most effective election observers today are found in domestic networks (e.g. the Church-based coalitions formed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or Kenya, or the alliances fostered by secular groups in Nigeria, Afghanistan or Mexico). Domestic observer networks have the scale, personnel and motivation to report comprehensively and deeply on electoral processes, well before and beyond election day. Aided by crowd-sourcing, geolocation technology, quantitative rigour and greater consistency in methodology, domestic election observers cover more ground, and offer findings more statistically authoritative than those of international counterparts, whose sample is comparatively limited.

While there are some examples of broad-based, citizen-led ceasefire monitoring over the years (a recent report cites, as examples, Guatemala and Sierra Leone in 1996 and the Philippines in 2001), the paucity of recent examples suggests the practice has been largely piecemeal, and far from widespread and systematically practised. [6] Except in the most geographically modest of contexts, scale matters: more than a few plucky, courageous observers or forward-thinking local NGOs are needed for a domestic ceasefire monitoring effort to be transformative. Nor has domestic ceasefire monitoring to date usually attained sufficient sophistication, nor applied consistently robust methods (areas in which election observers have developed their methodology considerably) to make a sizeable difference in most conflicts. Often, domestic monitoring efforts have been subsumed into the more generic monitoring of peace agreement accords, as civil society actors attempt to balance multiple priorities and objectives. While the latter may seem a complementary task, the thematic areas are substantially different, and the particularities of security arrangements may necessitate more tailored methodologies.

Certainly, domestic observation of ceasefires is no panacea. The concept presents its own risks and limitations of observer credibility, consistency and investigative methodology. But, as with election observation, a domestic approach boasts the potential for greater reach, both within complex geographies, across conflict lines, and between combatants and non-combatants. The possibility of a response that may be more timely than international monitors can ever hope to achieve is also alluring. Perhaps of equal importance, at scale, there is the possibility for greater innovation in monitoring, which also offers the potential for mobilising a coalition for peace from below.

Effectively widen the focus of ceasefire monitoring to other forms of violations

Increasingly, ceasefire monitoring mandates have moved beyond mere determinations of who fired at whom, with what weapons, to broader concerns about international humanitarian law, the protection of civilians, and sexual and gender-based violence. But the core of monitoring work remains concerned with what are perceived as first-order violations. Even when other issues are explicitly outlined in a ceasefire agreement, they are often felt to be the purview of human rights investigators, not ceasefire monitors.

While some see dedicating more time, personnel and resources to other ceasefire monitoring priorities as a distraction, such monitoring may not necessarily require more money, equipment and personnel but, more specifically, monitors with more diverse backgrounds, experiences and skills. This is more than a play to political correctness; it could help unlock new paths to conflict resolution. This is because, in some contexts, there may be an opportunity to use a broader understanding of the violation environment to improve relations with the belligerents in a conflict. Conducting an investigation, or building rapport with communities, may not require a sophisticated appreciation of the different forms of arms and ammunition, as important as that knowledge may be. But these are skills that might strengthen the credibility of the mission more broadly.

The point is not to overburden ceasefire monitors with an over-ambitious mandate. Instead, it is to see these additional aspects of the monitoring mandate as both opportunities for confidence-building between the parties and as an additional means to bolster the authority and credibility of monitoring efforts.

Both the parties to an agreement and its monitors must conceptualise that the spectrum of violations is broad. It does not consist only of extremes: at one end, inconsequential technical violations (e.g. 31 rounds of ammunition held by a party instead of the prescribed 30), and, at the other, the most egregious violence and mass atrocities imaginable. In between, there is much space for manoeuvre (in all senses of that word), and therefore opportunity. While it may be impossible for the drafter of an agreement to consider every possible violation at the outset, further elaborating other forms of prohibitive behaviour might reduce the space for future ambiguity.

Beyond punitive measures, better specify options for corrective or remedial action within a ceasefire framework

The international community’s options for coercive action in support of a ceasefire agreement are limited. While both unilateral and multilateral sanctions and arms embargoes remain commonly contemplated measures, the likelihood, efficacy and effect of such measures is debatable. In some cases, such measures may be merely symbolic, even when political consensus exists amongst the great powers to impose them. At the same time, most ceasefire agreements leave the messy tasks of corrective and/or disciplinary actions to the parties to the agreement, without much specificity.

Instead, ceasefire brokers could use their formulation and facilitation functions to improve the spectrum of self-enforcement and internal disciplinary mechanisms within the framework of a ceasefire agreement itself. Further, such agreements could better link the activities of monitoring mechanisms with the power to offer appropriate recommendations.

For example, a ceasefire agreement could provide monitors with the power to recommend that identified offenders, whether as units or individuals, be rotated or removed from the theatre of operations, or from command responsibility. Or, that they be restricted to non-combat duties, or be required to perform public works (e.g. road-building or repairs) as reparation for violations. [7]

Such measures would not supersede the conventionally classical punitive measures of trials, courtsmartial and/or dismissal or suspension from the armed party that remain within the internal purview of most armed groups. But they might give a wider menu of more proportionate options to ceasefire supporters and enforcers, to bridge the extremes of total inaction and comprehensive sanctions. Such measures may also help in fragmented conflicts, where outright condemnation or the imposition of heavily punitive measures may well risk further fragmentation of the conflict. [8]

Further, in an environment where participation in a ceasefire agreement is itself a demonstration of signalling a desire to cooperate, creative specificity could identify a window for further positive signalling. A recommendation that suggests Unit A should be redeployed from Province B is a more tangible area for focus than the more conventional refrain of monitors that “it is recommended that the appropriate action be taken”. In such boilerplate formulations, the who, how, when and why of the recommended action is often left unsaid, with predictable consequences for follow-up.

Widening the spectrum of possible measures might help in fostering parties’ compliance. From the point of view of the parties, implementing a specific recommendation emanating from a neutral body may be more politically palatable, if the optics of the burden of the political costs can be partially shifted to the monitoring institution. Given their internal dynamics, the parties may be unable or unwilling to enforce consequences against their own forces on their own initiative.

However, if the parties are more willing to act at ceasefire monitors’ behest, the disadvantages of monitors being painted as the bad guys may be less consequential, even if some monitors might fear being too prescriptive would risk their neutrality, or see such innovation as moving their mandate from ‘technical’ to ‘political’. Providing the party in non-compliance with the political cover to take corrective action it might not otherwise imagine or devise itself could help in future efforts to resolve the underlying conflict.

Conclusion

The suggestions offered here are not exhaustive. They are intended to demonstrate that, even though the templates of ceasefires and ceasefire monitoring remain at the mercy of a given conflict’s internal and external political realities, creative additions to the mediator’s arsenal can be made, and could be developed further. Central to these ideas is to look to the citizens beyond the signatories to an agreement to shift the paradigm of conflict. For this to be effective, citizen-led efforts will need support beyond the conventional models. Perhaps paradoxically, the lack of active examples in the practice of many of these ideas suggests there is much latitude for innovation and creative application. Fundamentally, such strategies should be seen as more than just desirable additions to classical practice; the increasingly complicated nature of conflict demands equally meaningful innovation in response.

Date posted: August 26, 2019.

Last updated: August 28, 2019.

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We are indebted to the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue for giving us the permission to reproduce Aly Verjee’s essay on this website. The original PDF version may be read by clicking on Monitoring ceasefires is getting harder.

Verjee’s profile with photo, below, is taken from the website of the United States Institute of Peace ( https://www.usip.org ). 

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Aly Verjee is a researcher specializing in the politics of eastern Africa. He is a visiting expert at the U.S Institute of Peace and a fellow of the Rift Valley Institute. From 2015-2016, he was deputy and then acting chief of staff of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission, overseeing the implementation of the 2015 peace agreement in South Sudan. From 2014-2015, he was senior advisor to the chief mediator of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD)-led peace process for South Sudan.

He lived and worked in Sudan from 2005-2010, and returned in 2011 as chief political analyst for the European Union (EU) observation of the South Sudan independence referendum. He was chief political analyst for the EU election observation missions to Zambia (2016) and Tanzania (2015); directed Free Press Unlimited’s media development initiatives in Pakistan and Afghanistan (2011-12); directed Democracy International’s election observation mission to Djibouti (2011); was deputy director of the Carter Center’s political and electoral observation mission to Sudan (2008-10); helped manage the first-ever election observer network established in the DR Congo (2006), comprising some 7,000 Congolese observers, and managed international election observation missions in Somaliland (2005, 2010 and 2012).  

Mr. Verjee has provided expert testimony before the High Court of Justice of England and Wales, the British Parliament and the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He is the author of The Economics of Elections in Somaliland (2015); New North, Old North: The Republic of Sudan after the split (chapter) in Sudan after Separation: New Approaches to a New Region (2012); Disputed Votes, Deficient Observation: the May 2011 Election in South Kordofan, Sudan (2011) and Race Against Time: Countdown to the Referenda in Southern Sudan and Abyei (2010). 

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EXCERPT FROM STATEMENT ISSUED ON ALY VERJEE BY U.S. INSTITUTE OF PEACE

The U.S. Institute of Peace congratulates our Aly Verjee on being awarded the 2019 Oslo Forum Peacewriter Prize, which recognizes “bold and innovative responses to today’s peacemaking challenges,” for his essay on addressing the increasing challenges of cease-fire monitoring.

“USIP is delighted to see Aly Verjee receive well-deserved recognition for his innovative ideas and approaches to conflict de-escalation,” said Mike Yaffe, the Institute’s vice president for the Middle East and Africa. “Aly is tireless in applying his ample knowledge of peace mediation together with incisive analysis about the situation on the ground to come up with creative and thoughtful solutions to some of the toughest conflicts in Africa.”

“So much effort is put into reaching an agreement to end violence. But then the hard work begins to ensure that those who are fighting will keep their commitments,” said USIP Director for Africa Programs Susan Stigant. “Aly draws on his rich experience in peace mediation and on elections to offer some new ways to make sure that guns remain silent and citizens remain safe. Most importantly, he challenges all of us to bring evidence, creativity and our best minds to finding solutions.”

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Endnotes

[1] Oliver Richmond, “A genealogy of mediation in international relations: from ‘analogue’ to ‘digital’ forms of global justice or managed war?”, Cooperation and Conflict, January 2018, p.13.

[2] Luc Chounet-Cambas, “Negotiating ceasefires: dilemmas & options for mediators”, Mediation Practice Series 3, Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, March 2011, p.10.

[3] Ibid., p.10.

[4] ‘Special monitoring mission to Ukraine’, OSCE, available at: https://www.osce.org/special-monitoring-mission-to-ukraine.

[5] Virginia Page Fortna, “Peacetime: ceasefire agreements and the durability of peace”, Princeton University Press, March 2004.

[6] Nick Ross, “Civil society’s role in monitoring and verifying peace agreements: seven lessons from international experiences”, Inclusive Peace & Transition Initiative, January 2017, pp.11–12.

[7] Aly Verjee, “South Sudan: four steps to a truce that works”, USIP, January 2018, available at: https://www.usip.org/ blog/2018/01/south-sudan-four-steps-truce-works.

[8] Kathleen Gallagher Cunningham, “Understanding fragmentation in conflict and its impacts on prospects for peace”, Oslo Forum Background Paper, Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, June 2016, pp.9–10.

Sultan Jessa: Noble Ismaili Muslim, Great Journalist and Recipient of Order of Canada Passes Away

Veteran journalist Sultan Jesssa receiving Canada's Highest Honour
Sultan Jessa with Her Excellency Adrianne Clarkson, the former Governor General of Canada, at the event in 2005 marking the presentation to him of Canada’s highest honour, the Order of Canada. Photo: Sultan Jessa Collection, Montreal.

Sultan Jessa: A Model Canadian Citizen

By MALIK MERCHANT
(Publisher-Editor, Simerg, Barakah and Simergphotos)

On August 15, 2019 at 1:15 PM, I received an article for publication from my beloved friend Sultan Jessa with a kind note that said:

Dear Malik, Feel free to use it if you find this appropriate. Sultan.

I simply replied,

Sultan: Will review.

Little did I know that exactly a week later, on August 22, he would pass away! I was having lunch at Fairview Mall in Toronto, when a note was sent to me that said, “Sultan just passed away this morning.” The email simply would not open on my Iphone, and I learnt about the sad news a few hours later on my notebook.

His funeral ceremonies will be held today, Saturday August 24, at 10 AM at Montreal’s Headquarters Jamatkhana. Samar and ziarat prayers in his remembrance will follow in the evening at the Jamatkhana.

Sultan Jessa of Montreal with his wife and daughters
Flashback to 1990: Sultan and Rosila with daughters Yasmin (left) and Anaar. Photo: Sultan Jessa Collection, Montreal.

Four years ago, in 2015, I spent an entire day with Sultan and his wife Rosila at their home in Montreal. I learnt a lot about Sultan’s extraordinary life as well as his dedication to his family. I was fortunate to interview him and I published it under a special piece entitled The Sultan of Hard Work and Sacrifice: Veteran Ismaili Journalist Sultan Jessa, Order of Canada, is a Model Canadian Citizen For All to Emulate.

Their warmth and affection when I visited their home was incredible, and I cannot forget Sultan’s generosity when he unconditionally presented me a carefully preserved envelope containing memorable photos of His Highness the Aga Khan that had been taken by his former colleague at Kenya’s Daily Nation, Azhar Choudry. I was deeply touched.

Sultan Jessa with Mawlana Hazar Imam and Begum Salimah
His Highness the Aga Khan and Begum Salimah with Sultan Jessa at the bungalow of the late Diwan Sir Eboo Pirbhai during their 1972 visit to Kenya. Photo: Azhar Chaudary. Sultan Jessa Collection, Montreal.

At this painful time of bereavement, we convey our heartfelt condolences to his wife Rosila, their two daughters Anaar and Yasmin, and all the members of Sultan’s family, and pray for their strength and courage. We also pray that Allah may rest Sultan’s soul in eternal peace.

We invite our readers to record their condolences and tributes honouring Sultan Jessa’s memorable life at Leave a comment.

Date posted: August 23, 2019.
Last updated: August 24, 2019.

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To read tributes that readers have left for Sultan Jessa or to post one please click Leave a comment.

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