Afghans Deserve Peace and Security

Human rights organisations urge President Hamed Karzai to meet public demand for faster disarmament of militias.

Afghans Deserve Peace and Security

Human rights organisations urge President Hamed Karzai to meet public demand for faster disarmament of militias.

Monday, 15 February, 2010

With preparations under way for President Hamed Karzai’s inauguration as his country’s first democratically-elected leader and his naming of a cabinet, the Human Rights Research and Advocacy Consortium, a group of 13 Afghan and international organisations, is reminding him of the high expectations the Afghan people have of him.

In a report published in September , “Take the Guns Away: Afghan Voices on Security and Elections", the Consortium found that Afghans expect to see positive changes in security under the new government. They are calling for accelerated and effective disarmament of militias, and reform within the Afghan National Police and the Afghan National Army.

They want the central government to take a strong stance in dealing with these security issues.

They are highly concerned about the slow pace of Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration DDR, the UN-sponsored programme whose primary aim is to decommission the militia forces and retrain their members for civilian jobs or national army jobs.

Eighty-eight per cent of Afghans interviewed for the report said they want the central government to do more to reduce the power of local commanders “We are shouting for disarmament,” said one man from the northern town of Faizabad. “Why is it not happening?”

Approximately 65 per cent of those interviewed believe that disarmament is the best solution for ensuring long-term peace and security. “The central government has to realise that this is a crisis,” said a man in the eastern city of Jalalabad. “They alone can act. They can interfere with the commanders’ power base. They should move on the gunmen.”

Our report also found that women still do not feel secure enough to walk out of their homes because they live in the shadow of fear of gunmen. “The gunmen have taken people’s land, their houses, their sons, and forced their daughters to marry them,” said one woman in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif. “This is the nation’s blood.”

Afghans also fear that without real and meaningful disarmament commanders are likely to influence the outcome of parliamentary, provincial and district elections by pressuring local voters. “The parliamentary poll will be dangerous,” said one man in Mazar-e-Sharif. “Professional and normal people will not be able to take part. The candidates will be commanders and they will use force to get elected.”

People want the central government to expand its power. Although President Karzai knows this means that many Afghans want to see fewer warlords in the national and regional governments, he has yet to show his commitment to this expectation.

The Consortium believes that now is the time for the incoming government to take action and begin responding to the wishes of the people.

Peace without security has no meaning for Afghans. They want a peace that will endure in the country and that will, in turn, provide and protect individual and collective freedoms.

Afghans are calling on President Karzai to ensure that the DDR process, scheduled to be completed in June 2005, is verifiably concluded by this date through a process of accelerated disarmament.

Afghans also want effective security measures, including a strong national police and a unified national army free of militias runby warlords,in place well before the parliamentary elections. Our report found many people complained that police, often former mujahedin, are untrained as police officers and more interested in helping the gunmen than the people. “If you go to the police station, the police will tell you to go and talk to the commanders,” said a woman in Herat.

Afghans know the time to act is now. It is time for the president to live up to their expectations.

Horia Mosadiq is Deputy Director of HRRAC, the Kabul-based Human Rights Research and Advocacy Consortium ( HRRAC members are: the Afghan Development Association, Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit, Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief, Agency for Rehabilitation and Energy-conservation in Afghanistan, Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance, Cooperation for Peace and Unity, CARE International, Mercy Corps, Oxfam International, Ockenden International, Save the Children Federation, and Rights and Democracy.

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