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Blogs by Ambassador Ray

State-sponsored violence is just another form of terrorism

June 1, 2010

With its control over the instruments of power; the army, police and intelligence services; the government has a distinct advantage over the population which has mere numbers.  It is an obligation of the state, therefore, to use those instruments of power wisely.

When government uses this power advantage, either through employment of the official instruments or other means such as militias, youth groups and the like, it is an abrogation of a most sacred obligation. This is not only a violation of universally recognized human rights, but is terrorism against the population.

The use of violence and intimidation to maintain political control is also an admission that he who commits the violent act has no legitimate claim to power.  Legitimate governments rule with the consent of the people – governments that attempt to beat the population into submission are little better than criminal gangs. The government that hides behind the statement that it does not ‘condone violence’ is just as complicit as the perpetrators of the violence – in fact, in many ways, more so, since it has the responsibility and power to do more than make statements.

There are other negative consequences of state sponsored violence that are often overlooked.  On the one hand, the government that uses violence as a way of maintaining its control, in effect legitimizes violence as a means of power transfer, and often must continue to escalate levels of violence to stay in power.  Another tragic consequence is that state violence tends also to create a culture of violence within the general population, breeding a lack of mutual respect and an atmosphere of fear and distrust that negatively impacts on social and economic development.

Charles A. Ray is U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe

June 1, 2010