Situation in Somalia improving: Kjell Magne Bondevik
Former Prime Minister of Norway and the President of the Oslo Centre for Peace and Human Rights, Kjell Magne Bondevik, in a short and exclusive interview with the Oslo Times International News Network’s Editor-in-Chief,Hatef Mokhtar, spilt the beans on the Centre’s work in various parts of the world and discussed his views on the state of Human Rights across the globe.
The Excerpts below are an edited version of the conversation that took place during the short rendezvous:
Thank You very much Sir for this short interview with The Oslo Times International News Network. At The Oslo Times we work for Human Rights, Freedom of Speech and Democracy, so we would like to talk to you a little about these pertaining issues today.
Firstly, Could you tell us a little about the Oslo Centre for Peace and Human Rights and the kind of work the centre is involved with?
As the name suggests we work for peace and reconciliation and we started eight years ago. When, we first began working, we picked up various assignments related to Human Rights, peace building and so forth, to build a portfolio. Therefore, we have had the opportunity to work with a few international projects as well as human rights and democracy assistance projects. However, over the past few years we have been focusing on democracy assistance because of the competence level of our staff, and also because some of us have direct political experience. A few of our staff members come from big international development organizations like National Democratic Institute, International Idea and others.
So what we are primarily doing now is that on request and very often in partnership with international organizations. We go into countries where democracy is evolving, where we try to assist, develop and stabilize democracies by helping political institutions and processes.
We are working in Kenya, with the political parties there. We work with various parties, tribunals and party legislations. for the moment, our biggest project is in Somalia, where we are the only organization, working on ground. We have an office in Mogadishu and there we are assisting the speaker of the parliament and all his sixteen leaders of the standing committee in their parliamentary work at a daily basis.
We are now also helping upcoming political parties, there are also some leaders who want to establish political parties also across ethnic borders, we are also assisting them in forming laws that govern political parties in Somalia.
In South Sudan, we have a project for dialogue among young people from different ethnic groups and political leaders, the same as in Myanmar, Burma. So this is the work of the Oslo Center of Peace and Human Rights, we are now becoming more focused on democracy assisting projects, because in my view respect for human rights and democracy is a precondition for a lasting peace. So, in fact we are a conflict prevention peace center.
Haven’t you faced problems with the extremist group in Somalia?
There are of course challenges and threats from the Al Shebab, the extreme Islamic group in Somalia, which is linked to the Al-Qaieda. They were strong before because some years ago they had thousands of young soldiers and weapons, now that has been reduced and they have been weakened, because of that they have now resorted to suicide bombings, car bombings and so on. However, they are still a threat and yes there is still violence in Somalia, but things are improving and they have an ambition of establishing a true democracy. The next election is in 2016, which we hope to base on political parties.
Do you have a project in Afghanistan?
No we don’t really have a project there but we have been there twice with delegations to assist them before the elections.
Do you have a message for all our readers, and especially Human Right activists working across the globe?
Well my message is, Fortunately democracy has gained grounds over the years, there are more democracies today than there were 25 years ago, In Africa, Asia, Latin America and of course in Europe after the fall of communism. So I would like to encourage everyone working for democracy and also everyone working for Human Rights to keep up the good work. Because, today there is more respect for Human Rights than 25 years ago and this is a reason for optimism, despite the critical situations we have in countries like Iraq,Syria,Ukraine and Afghanistan and so on, we still have a reason to be optimistic.