Documents on Democracy

Issue Date April 2012
Volume 23
Issue 2
Page Numbers 174-176
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Yemeni journalist and human-rights activist Tawakkol Karman was awarded the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize along with Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Leymah Gbowee (both of Liberia). Below are excerpts from Karman’s acceptance speech in Oslo on December 10. (For a full version of this text, see 

Peace within one country is no less important than peace between countries. War is not just a conflict between states. There is another type of war, which is far more bitter—that is the war of despotic leaders who oppress their own people. It is a war of those to whom people have entrusted their lives and destinies, but who have betrayed that trust. It is a war of those to whom people have entrusted their security, but who directed their weapons against their own people. It is the war which today people face in the Arab states.

At this moment, as I speak to you here, young Arab people, both women and men, march in peaceful demonstrations demanding freedom and dignity from their rulers. They go forward on this noble path armed not with weapons, but with faith in their right to freedom and dignity. . . .

Peace does not mean just to stop wars, but also to stop oppression and injustice. In our Arab region, there are brutal wars between governments and peoples. Human conscience cannot be at peace while it sees these young Arab people, who are in the age of blossoming, being harvested by the machine of death which is unleashed against them by the tyrants. The spirit of the Nobel Peace Prize is the spirit of peace, in which today we look forward in support of the aspiration of the Arab peoples for democracy, justice, and freedom. If we support this spirit, the spirit of the Nobel Peace Prize, then we will prove to the despots that the ethics of peaceful struggle are stronger than their powerful weapons of repression and war.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the revolutions of the Arab spring in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, and Syria, and the movement towards revolutions in other Arab countries such as Algeria, Morocco, Bahrain, Sudan, and others, in terms of motivation, driving power and objectives, didn’t take [End Page 174] place on isolated islands cut off from all the rapid and astonishing developments and changes which our world is witnessing. The Arab people have woken up just to see how poor a share of freedom, democracy, and dignity they have. . . .

Allow me to say that our oppressed people have revolted, declaring the emergence of a new dawn in which the sovereignty of the people, and their invincible will, will prevail. The people have decided to break free and walk in the footsteps of civilized free people of the world. . . .

Millions of Yemeni women and men, children, young and old took to the streets in eighteen provinces demanding their right to freedom, justice, and dignity, using nonviolent but effective means to achieve their demands. . . .

Our peaceful popular youth revolution has demonstrated that the values and objectives of freedom, democracy, human rights, freedom of expression and press, peace, human coexistence, the fight against corruption and organized crime, the war on terrorism, and resistance to violence, extremism, and dictatorship are values, ideals, demands, and objectives of common human interest, and are cherished by the whole international community. These are not subject to division, selectivity, or cancellation under the pretext of differences in human characteristics or the requirements of sovereignty in any way . . . I would like to emphasize that the Arab Spring revolutions have emerged with the purpose of meeting the needs of the people of the region for a state of citizenship and the rule of law. They have emerged as an expression of people’s dissatisfaction with the state of corruption, nepotism, and bribery. These revolutions were ignited by young men and women who are yearning for freedom and dignity. They know that their revolutions pass through four stages which can’t be bypassed: toppling the dictator and his family; toppling his security and military services and his nepotism networks; establishing the institutions of the transitional state; [and] moving towards constitutional legitimacy and establishing the modern civil and democratic state. . . .

The democratic world, which has told us a lot about the virtues of democracy and good governance, should not be indifferent to what is happening in Yemen and Syria, and happened before that in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, and happens in every Arab and non-Arab country aspiring for freedom. All of that is just hard labor during the birth of democracy which requires support and assistance, not fear and caution.

© 2011 The Nobel Foundation

Democratic Republic of the Congo

In the disputed November 28 presidential election, incumbent Joseph Kabila was declared the winner with 49 percent of the vote. On January 11, the Congo’s National Conference of Bishops (CENCO) issued a message on the election process, which is excerpted below: [End Page 175]

5. Today, it has come to light from the final report of CENCO’s election-observation mission and testimony gathered from various dioceses and other sources that in many localities the electoral process took place in a chaotic climate. Several failings were noted—cases of cheating that were proven and probably planned; many unfortunate incidents resulting in the loss of life; bungling; and in some places a climate of terror maintained and exploited by design for stuffing the ballot boxes. That is not all. What is happening now in the compilation of the results of the legislative elections is unacceptable. It is a disgrace for our country.

6. In view of the above, we believe that the electoral process was marred by serious irregularities that call into question the credibility of the published results. We ask the organizers to have the courage and honesty to draw the obvious conclusions. For acknowledging one’s errors is a sign of greatness. But if we take the risk of continuing to govern the country defiantly, internal tensions more or less under control in the short-term will culminate sooner or later in a serious crisis that would be difficult to resolve. This suggests that an inclusive approach should be taken, giving priority to the way of dialogue in the best interests of the Congolese nation. It is time for the courage of the truth.


On February 7, President Mohamed Nasheed resigned following violent protests by opposition demonstrators and defections by the army and police, and was succeeded by Vice-President Mohamed Waheed Hassan. Nasheed was elected in the country’s first multiparty presidential elections in October 2008. On February 22, the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) issued a statement on the Maldives. Excerpts appear below:

6. CMAG agreed that it was not possible, in the allotted time, to determine conclusively the constitutionality of the resignation of President Nasheed on 7 February 2012. The Group therefore agreed that an independent and impartial investigation of the events of 6-7 February should be completed in a transparent manner within a reasonable timeframe. It noted, in this context, the announcement by President Waheed, on 21 February, of a three-member commission of inquiry for this purpose. It strongly felt that there should be international participation in any investigative mechanism, as may be mutually agreed by political parties in Maldives.

7. CMAG recognised the need for healing in Maldives. It called on all concerned to show restraint and mutual respect in their statements and actions, and to take immediate steps in the national interest to seek an inclusive agreement on the way forward. To this end, the Group urged President Waheed and former President Nasheed to commence an immediate dialogue, without preconditions, to agree on a date for early elections, which should take place within this calendar year. [End Page 176]