Tag Archives: violence

Mass Rape in Sudan

Special Prosecutor for Crimes in Darfur Mohamed and his team talk to women during an investigation into allegations of mass rape in the village of Tabit, in North DarfurIn October of last year, Sudanese army forces invaded the small town of Tabit in Darfur. Over approximately a 36 hour period, the army systematically raped and tortured over 200 women and girls, and beat and detained countless men. On February 11, 2015, Human Rights Watch released an official report, Mass Rape in Darfur, outlining the atrocities. While the government of Sudan has denied that any such events took place, scores of witnesses have since come forward detailing the events of this time.

This was taken from the report:

Witnesses told Human Rights Watch that during each of these attacks, government soldiers went house-to-house in Tabit, searching houses, looting property, severely beating residents, and raping women and girls. On the two nights, soldiers forced many of the men to outdoor locations on the outskirts of the town, leaving the women and children especially vulnerable. The soldiers detained the men en masse, and threatened and physically abused them throughout the night.

A woman in her 40s described the attack on her and her three daughters, two of whom were under the age of 11. “Immediately after they entered the room they said: ‘You killed our man. We are going to show you true hell,’” she said. “Then they started beating us. They raped my three daughters and me. Some of them were holding the girl down while another one was raping her. They did it one by one.”

Another woman said that soldiers beat her severely and dragged her out of her house. When she returned, she found that they had raped three of her daughters, all under 15. The soldiers “beat the young children and they raped my older daughters.… They put clothes in [my daughters’] mouths so that you could not hear the screaming,” she said. 

Since the attacks, the Sudanese government has blocked UN investigators from entering the town to try to prevent victims and witnesses from sharing information about the crimes. Multiple victims and witnesses reported that government officials threatened to imprison or kill anyone who spoke out about the attacks.

For more information read: http://www.hrw.org/news/2015/02/11/sudan-mass-rape-army-darfur 

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Rwanda: The Untold Story

This week, the Rwandan government under Paul Kagame passed a measure suspending all BBC radio broadcasts in the most common language, Kinyarwanda, to protest the news organization’s recent documentary about Rwanda’s genocide. You can read more on the story at The Huffington Post.

The documentary in question, “Rwanda: The Untold Story” relies on recently uncovered evidence, detailed fieldwork and research, and the firsthand accounts from many in Kagame’s inner circle to debunk a myth central to the entire genocide story in Rwanda. All the evidence points clearly to the fact that, while hundreds of thousands of Tutsis were killed at the hands of Hutus, hundreds of thousands of Hutus were also killed. To make this claim in Rwanda is illegal because the official genocide story, designed and controlled by a powerful Tutsi government, portrays only the Tutsis as victims of the genocide. To say Hutus were targeted by Tutsis (and other Hutus) is to be a “genocide denier”.

The most serious claim made by the documentary is that President Kagame not only had intimate knowledge of the planned attack on the plane carrying the former presidents of Rwanda and Burundi, he orchestrated it. The attack on Juvenal Habyarimana’s plane is frequently cited as the spark that ignited the genocide.

Kagame has accused the BBC of bringing together genocide revisionists in order to distort the facts about the mass killings and the Rwanda government has called for the BBC to apologize.

I watched this documentary several weeks ago and my immediate thought about the producers and crew and everyone interviewed was: “Well, they just got blacklisted from Rwanda.” In my PhD program I am concentrating on comparative politics in Africa and my main region of study is the Great Lakes. For a while I considered focusing my work in Rwanda, but the more I see how limiting the freedom of speech is in the country under Kagame, the more I worry about my academic future were I to become a Rwanda specialist. So many great researchers with a deep love and respect of Rwanda and its people have been blacklisted form the country, meaning they can no longer enter, because of the type of research they conducted and the conclusions they came to. As a scholar of political science and peace, I am naturally drawn to exploring contentious political topics. This is very difficult in a country where the government is so powerful and so protective of their image.

I applaud the makers of this documentary and all those who dared to be interviewed, particularly the native Rwandans, and hope that they remain safe while BBC deals with the fallout from the Kagame government.

You can watch the full documentary “Rwanda: The Untold Story” here: 

Since posting this, a response by Davenport and Stam, the two US scholars interviewed for the documentary, was brought to my attention. In their response, Davenport and Stam address the three main criticisms leveled against them and their research: 1) playing down the number of Tutsi victims, 2) accusing the RPF of shooting down the plane, and 3) playing down the crimes of the Hutu militia. Davenport and Stam tackle each criticism. You can read their response on their website, GenoDynamics.

Redemption Songs

A girl forced into sex slavery becomes a young woman learning to fix cars. Her dream was simply to drive. Unobtrusive and quietly brave, a young boy returns from a life as a spy in a rebel camp and learns to be a carpenter. How does a child survive war and enter the civilian world?

Check out this blog post from Medium, exploring the post-conflict lives of 12 Congolese children: https://medium.com/p/594b85beaf64.

Homophobia in Uganda

I am so glad that the homophobia-inspired violence and hatred that is currently spreading through Uganda like a wildfire is finally catching the attention of the West. It should, since we are the ones responsible for creating such an environment of hate, fear, and mistrust. Western evangelicals have gone into Uganda and spread truly malicious hate, couched in ridiculous lies and blatantly false accusations about the LGBT community and lifestyle. They are instigating violence, discrimination, and mob violence and it is despicable.

Take a look at a recent conversation John Oliver had with Ugandan LGBT rights activist Pepe Julian Onziema to see just how dangerous the situation on the ground is for LGBT people in Uganda:

And don’t forget to watch the extended interview in Part II:

Grassroots Mediation: Cattle Rustling in Northwestern Kenya

turkana cowherderThis morning I read a fascinating article published by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) on the continuing problem of cattle rustling endemic of the nomadic pastoralist tribes in rural northwestern Kenya. Violent conflicts over water and grazing rights between the Pokot and Turkana peoples have resulted in countless raids between West Pokot and Turkana counties. For example, in February of this year, one raid in Turkana South resulted in a village being pillaged and destroyed. A number of villagers were killed—including three women and two children—and over 1,200 cattle pilfered.

This violence has continued unabated for years. In the past, the Kenyan government’s response to this ethnic violence focused mainly on disarmament and taking the offenders to court, but these methods have not stopped the attacks.

However, in response to these more recent attacks, the Kenyan government has partnered with NGOs and the local communities to establish local tribunals where village elders and tribal leaders can mediate this ongoing ethnic dispute. Through the mediation process, led by representatives of the Council of Elders, the Pokot and Turkana people have developed a community-based solution that seems to already enjoy initial successes.

According to IWPR, the tribal leaders force the culprits to confront their victims, compensate them for the killings, and give back stolen livestock. The tribal leaders mete out punishments to the offenders and set the level of compensation they must pay to the families of victims. Furthermore, civic awareness programs are being conducted in the two communities aimed at encouraging a lasting peace.

John Muok, the Chairman of the Pokot Council of Elders, told IWPR:

We needed such a local system, because over the years it has been difficult to implement other strategies aimed at dealing with cattle rustling. Both the government and non-governmental organizations have tried disarmament or introducing alternative means of livelihood for our people, but all that has not worked.

Benjamin Ebenyo, Muok’s Turkana counterpart continued:

Once the communities own the process, then it’s easy to implement, and this mechanism is succeeding because we have so far handled more than 100 cases on both the Pokot and Turkana side with positive results.

news_163755_0However, as IWPR is quick to argue, mediation alone is not a solution. Human rights advocates like Ken Wafula believe that these localized mediation processes must work in tandem with the Kenyan governments overall disarmament scheme. The proliferation and use of firearms in these attacks has resulted in countless needless deaths as gangs of thugs enter villages and spray bullets in all directions. Even elders are killed in the attacks. Therefore, it seems like the optimal solution is to link government sanctioned disarmament programs with the new local mediation initiative. Time is needed to see how these two approaches work together to bring a positive end to cattle rustling.

People Were Not Made to Live in Cages

ROHINGYA-MT-7-622x414The Rohingya are a small Muslim minority forced to live in modern day concentration camps in Myanmar (Burma) along the Thai-Burmese border. Locked within the camps, the Rohingya are deprived of jobs, schools, and basic access to food, water, proper sanitation, and healthcare. This reporter found a young pregnant woman laboring for over 20 hours with a breached baby. There were no hospitals and no doctors to aid her. Driving her across the camp to a small clinic, the only nurse in residence said she could do nothing to help. When asked the nurse said plainly, “Yes, she will die.”

It’s like we are being in jail. Like birds in the cage. Like in the ghetto.

How did this happen? The current ethnic violence plaguging the country can be traced back to the 2012 Rakhine State Riots in northern Rakhine State. Tihs was a series of ethnically charged conflicts between the Rakhine Buddhists and the Rohingya Muslims. Since June of 2012 there have been more than 200 deaths and at least 100,000 people ahve been displaced.

One of the biggest problems is that the Myanmar government has done nothing to stop the violence perpetrated by the Rakhine Buddhist monks who spread hate and fear of the Rohingya. In fact, a number of government officials actively support the violence and internment of the Rohingya. One official explained:

To me, the situation isn’t so bad. Don’t worry…. The first thing I want to say is that when you are here in [our] state, don’t use the word ‘Rohingya.’ There’s no such thing as the Rohingya ethnicity in our country.

Wirathu-Time-225x300As NYT reporter Nicholas Kristof argues, “How can there be progress for the Rohingya when the officials deny their very existance?” One of the worst perpetrators of hate speech is the Buddhist monk Wirathu. Speaking with Nicholas Kristof, he explained:

Muslims are like African catfish. They breed rapidly. They have violent behavior. And they eat their own kind, and other fish.

You can see how far his ideology has spread throughout the Buddhist monastic order. The abbot of a remote rural temple told Kristof, “When there are a lot of Muslims, they start waging jihad. It happens everywhere.” When asked about his responsibility as a religion leader to stem this violence, the abbot said, “Buddhism is not a violent religion. But if someone attacks us, we can’t just lie down and take it.”

Until prominent government and religious leaders in Myanmar recognize the Rohingya as a people and stop spreading violence and discord, the desperate situation for this country’s nearly one million Muslims who are living in the squalid camps will remain a major concern for peace and stability.

 

Boko Haram and the Abducted School Girls in Nigeria

untitledNews is continuing to pour out of Nigeria regarding the abduction of roughly 230 girls from the Chibok government school in Borno State. Since the story first broke over a week ago, reports on the number of girls taken have varied from 77 to 130 students. While the Nigerian government and military have at various times claimed credit for rescuing a number of the girls, the school administrators and parents are adamant that the recovered girls escaped on their own. This has called into question the effectiveness of the Nigerian military in securing the Northeast region of the country against the growing threat of Islamist extremism. The latest reports by news outlets like the BBC and CNN claim that roughly 187 girls are still missing.

The culprit behind these abductions in assumed to be the Islamist group Boko Haram (watch this 60 second BBC special), which has targeted Western educational establishments in the past. The name Boko Haram in Hausa translates roughly to “Western education is forbidden.” The group is dedicated to establishing Islamic law in Nigeria and fights to rid the Nigerian people of Western influences, which begins with abolishing the Western education system.

abubakarIn an online video posted by Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, he exclaimed: “Everyone that calls himself a Muslim must stop obeying the constitution, must abandon democracy, must stay away from Western Education.” While in the video Shekau claims that Boko Haram was responsible for the Abuja car bombing which killed at least 75 people and left nearly 150 wounded, he said nothing about the abducted girls.

The abducted girls were taken from their school dormitories late in the night and loaded onto trucks. A number of girls made their escape by jumping from the trucks and hiding in the cover of darkness. However, those still in captivity are now believed to be trekking on foot through  the Sambisa Forest in Borno State, which is a known hiding place for Boko Haram fighters. A number of locals in the area claim they saw the girls unloaded from the truck and forced into the dense forest.

Confidence in the military and in the government is eroding as desperate parents wait for any news about their abducted children.  As J. Peter Pham, director of the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center explains, “The failure of the government to even get a clear count further reinforces a perception of systemic governmental failure that plays into the narrative not only of Boko Haram, but also other dissident groups opposing Nigeria’s constitutional order.” This analysis is supported by the former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell (2004-2007), who said that these kidnappings show that Boko Haram’s strength “appears to be increasing. The government’s ability to provide security to its citizens appears to be decreasing.”

While the growing strength of Boko Haram is worrisome to say the least, it is important to note that Nigeria is not a predominately Muslim state. The country is actually split almost equally on a North-South divide between Muslims and Christians. That’s what makes this massive abduction so interesting. Boko Haram blatantly opposes the education of girls and has kidnapped a number of girls in the past and targeted schools…but never on this scale. As Oren Dorell for the USA TODAY writes, “…the massive kidnapping by militants who want to create an Islamic state in this oil-rich country that is half Christian and half Muslim is unprecedented.”

As this story continues to unfold it will be important to see to what degree the Nigerian government is able to regain control of Boko Haram-controlled areas. Looking to the region, we already have an example of what it means to have a powerful Muslim North in control of a weaker Christian South–this is the century-long story of Sudan. It would be devastating to say the least to see Nigeria repeat Sudan’s long and bloody history.