About Adotei Akwei

Adotei Akwei is Managing Director, Government Relations for Amnesty International USA. He rejoined AIUSA in September 2010 after serving as the Senior Policy Advisor for CARE USA. In this capacity, Adotei helped develop and implement advocacy on CARE USA's priority issues towards the US government. Prior to joining the Government Relations team in Washington DC, he served as the Regional Advocacy Advisor for CARE's Asia Regional Management Unit. As an RAA, Adotei supported CARE Country Offices in Asia in the development and implementation of national level advocacy strategies as well as with regional advocacy priorities. Before joining CARE, Adotei worked with Amnesty International USA for 11 years, first as the senior Advocacy Director for Africa and then later as Director of Campaigns. From 1992 to 1994 Adotei served as Africa Director for the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, now Human Rights First. Prior to that he served as the Research and Human Rights Director for the American Committee on Africa and the Africa Fund. Adotei received his Master's degree in International Relations from the College of William and Mary and his Bachelor's degree from the State University of New York College at Purchase. He is born in Ghana, is married and has two sons.
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Ending the Use of Child Soldiers: One Step Forward

child soldiers DRC congo

Child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo. © Amnesty International

In a victory for children in war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo, the DRC government recentlysigned a plan of action with the UN to eliminate the recruitment and use of child soldiers in their military forces, including a first-of-its-kind plan for protecting children from sexual violence.

This historic step comes after several years in which the Government of the DRC had part of its US military aid withheld under the landmark Child Soldier Prevention Act (CSPA). Moving forward, it is imperative that the world and the United States keep a close watch to ensure there is a robust implementation of the national action plan including, for example thorough screening processes to prevent child soldiers recruited into the M23 rebel forces from joining the DRC military. It is arguable that given the links between M23 and the government of Rwanda restrictions on US aid should also considered for Kigali.  Whether there is effective pressure on Rwanda and M23 or not, the decision to grant the DRC a partial waiver, allowing some military assistance to go forward must be leveraged to keep the government of President Kabila on track with further incentives tied to specific benchmarks.

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2012 Elections: Will The Candidates Bother To Address Human Rights?

It is debatable whether the term human rights has been heard more the 5 times in the course of the 2012 elections. When it has been uttered, the candidates who said it quickly moved on to other issues or submerged it in a list of foreign policy crises. One is left to wonder if human rights are still a priority, let alone a pillar of U.S. foreign or domestic policy.

The 2012 elections are taking place against the backdrop of unprecedented turmoil and challenges to the respect and promotion of human rights and arguably a vacuum of leadership in support of those principles domestically and internationally.

One need only look at the headlines in the news to see examples of where the human rights analysis is missing.

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Another Strongman for Ethiopia?

Ethiopia human rights protest

Meles Zenawi, Ethiopia’s taciturn, ironfisted ruler, passed away after 21 years of increasingly autocratic rule, leaving the country and its global allies at an interesting and rare crossroads: Will the country continue along its current path of political authoritarianism and its extensive machinery of suppression, or will we see the rights of Ethiopian people restored in an more transparent, accountable political system?

Zenawi’s passing marks a major transition point in terms of political leadership and governance in sub Saharan Africa, as he was part of a third generation of  post-colonial leadership that succeeded in  establishing themselves on the global stage while creating governments that systematically  stripped individuals of their rights and then of their freedom.

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Fact vs Fiction: Arms Trade Treaty and Gun Ownership in the US

child soldier in liberia

Countries in several parts of the world grapple with the horrific problem of the use of child soldiers exacerbated by the unregulated flow of weapons. © AFP/Getty Images

As world leaders meet in New York this month to negotiate the first ever global arms trade treaty, the Internet has been buzzing with conspiracy theories that such a treaty would infringe on Second Amendment rights in the US.

This is a fallacy, driven at best by misinformation and at worst by a deliberate effort to undermine the treaty. Given the incredibly lucrative arms trade estimated to exceed $60 billion annually (with the US exporting 34% of all weapons) it’s not a surprise that such a misinformation campaign has taken the Internet by storm.

Here let me break down fact from fiction.

Will the ATT stop the sale of handguns in the US?

NO it will not.

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Historic Arms Trade Treaty in the Balance

times square bananas action

Amnesty activists descended on Times Square the week before Arms Trade Treaty talks began in New York. © Bob Scott

Earlier this week, world leaders officially opened the negotiations at the UN to forge an historic global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) to regulate the international arms trade.

The negotiations cap a 10-year effort led by organizations, including Amnesty International, and a small group of progressive governments that have been fighting for the treaty despite skepticism of those countries involved with the incredibly lucrative arms trade estimated to exceed $60 billion annually.

The outright opposition from the largest producer of small arms, the United States, has been a critical point of contention is moving the Treaty forward. The administration of G.W. Bush rejected the idea of regulating arms, in effect removing the US’ 34% share of global arms market from inclusion in any global deal.

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US Intervention in Somalia Compounds Dire Humanitarian Crisis

Somali refugees wait in line for water.

Slowly but surely, the U.S. intervention in Somalia has reverted to a military-security focus, abandoning the Somali people to a dreadful fate.

Back in February 2010, reports indicated that Washington was imposing “impossible” conditions on aid deliveries for Somalia and holding up tens of millions of dollars of desperately needed food based on accusations that it would be diverted to terrorists.  However, according to the UN official in charge of humanitarian efforts in Somalia, the accusations of aid diversions to terrorists were “ungrounded.’

And a few month later in June, even after reports of the Somali government employing children as young as thirteen in the military, the United States authorized arms sales to Somalia for some 40 tons of arms and ammunition.

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