A ques­tion­able de­ci­sion

SHEP­PAR­TON MAN CON­DEMNS AP­POINT­MENT OF THE DEMO­CRATIC REPUB­LIC OF CONGO TO UN COUN­CIL

Shepparton News - - NEWS - By Rhi­an­non Tuffield

Shep­par­ton Con­golese man Rashidi Sumaili stands with an in­creas­ing num­ber of world lead­ers who have con­demned the ap­point­ment of the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo to an in­ter­na­tional hu­man rights coun­cil, de­spite its decades of proven hu­man rights abuse.

The DRC was among 15 coun­tries elected to the United Na­tions Hu­man Rights Coun­cil for a three-year term last week, along­side Aus­tralia.

Bri­tish UN am­bas­sador Matthew Ry­croft and United States am­bas­sador Nikki Ha­ley spoke out about the move, brand­ing the elec­tion as dis­ap­point­ing and po­ten­tially harm­ful to the cred­i­bil­ity of the body.

The coun­try will take its seat on Jan­uary 1 and is an elec­tion Mr Sumaili can­not un­der­stand.

The DRC-born Shep­par­ton man spent nine years in refugee camps with his fam­ily be­fore he moved to Aus­tralia in 2005.

As a re­cip­i­ent of a Univer­sal Peace Fed­er­a­tion Award and now a mem­ber of the Global Net­work of Peace Build­ing, Mr Sumaili said the ac­cep­tance of the DRC in such a po­si­tion would ‘‘cre­ate a lack of trust and un­der­mine the cred­i­bil­ity and abil­ity to pro­mote hu­man rights’’.

Mr Sumaili said po­lit­i­cal vi­o­lence and gov­ern­ment re­pres­sion had in­ten­si­fied un­der pres­i­dent Joseph Ka­bila.

Vi­o­lence in eastern and cen­tral Congo dis­placed 1.5 mil­lion in the past year and re-opened fears of civil war.

Conf lict be­tween 1996 and 2003 re­sulted in mil­lions of deaths and cre­ated an in­sur­gence of dozens of armed groups.

‘‘The Congo it­self, when you look at the his­tory, does not por­tray a good stan­dard with its treat­ment of peo­ple,’’ Mr Sumaili said.

‘‘There’s no chance for the gov­ern­ment to change un­til the UN and west­ern coun­tries who un­der­stand the value of democ­racy push the gov­ern­ment to change its agenda.’’

While Bri­tain and the US crit­i­cised the ap­point­ment, For­eign Min­is­ter Julie Bishop told the ABC she be­lieved it was ben­e­fi­cial for coun­tries with records that were ‘‘ques­tion­able’’ to face the scru­tiny of mem­ber­ship.

‘‘It is bet­ter for coun­tries to be on the coun­cil, to be sub­ject to scru­tiny, to be ac­count­able and more trans­par­ent,’’ Ms Bishop said.

THERE’S NO CHANCE FOR THE GOV­ERN­MENT TO CHANGE UN­TIL THE UN AND WEST­ERN COUN­TRIES WHO UN­DER­STAND THE VALUE OF DEMOC­RACY PUSH THE GOV­ERN­MENT TO CHANGE ITS AGENDA. —RASHIDI SUMAILI

Pic­ture: Ray Sizer

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