CAR & The War Against Humanity

6Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 1.03.20 AM.png000 killed.

450,00+ internally displaced.

2.7 million in need of help.

These are simply estimates based on the human rights atrocities and violence that began in Central African Republic in 2013.

CAR gained its independence from France in 1960, but rather than progressing, it was wretchedly followed with decades of instability. The Séléka, a primarily Muslim alliance of rebel militia factions in Sango, overthrew the government in March 2013.

The Séléka alliance was met with opposition. Anti-balaka forces, the Christian militias, sought revenge, not only on the Sélékas, but mostly all Muslim civilians displacing them to areas controlled by the rebel group.

But this wasn’t the end. Although Séléka forces were disbanded by the government, members were vengeful and committed counterattacks.

The ethnic tensions in CAR were great and the country was forced into a state of crisis. CAR was experiencing a war against humanity.

Two years ago in 2014, The United Nations Security Council established MINUSCA in an effort to tame the chaotic state that is CAR. The region, however, continues to destabilize.

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Read about the the CAR crisis in 2013 here.

As an individual, there is one significant thing we can be when it comes to global humanitarian atrocities such as this: aware. It is our responsibility as humans to help those who suffer from these crimes against humanity. To take on this responsibility, I encourage you to read more more here.

-Urvi Patel

The Price of a Diamond

How many of you have heard of the Central African Republic (CAR)? My guess is that very few have. It rarely makes the headlines on major news outlets.

Even so, CAR has been experiencing one of the worst humanitarian crises since 2013. Here, I want to give a brief overview of what is occurring in this country.

Historical Context

The Central African Republic, as its name would suggest, is located right in the center of Africa.

Map

In 1960, they gained independence from France, but they have been subject to authoritarian regimes ever since.

In 1993, the first elections were held. However, the country remained very unstable.

In 2003, Army General François Bozizé took over the government and was able to stabilize things a little.

In March 2013, Bozizé was overthrown and the country entered intense conflict.


 

The Major Players

Internally:

  • The Séléka
  • The Anti-Balaka
The Séléka

The Séléka

It was the Séléka that overthrew Bozizé in 2013. They are a Muslim-based rebel militia that placed Djotodia, the country’s first Muslim leader, in power. They led many violent and brutal attacks against civilians.

The Anti-Balaka

The Anti-Balaka

 

In retaliation, the Anti-Balaka formed–a Christian-based rebel militia that seeks violent revenge on Muslims for the attacks of the Séléka.

 

It is important to note that the cause of the fighting is not religious. But we’ll get to that a little later.

Externally:

  • France
  • Chad and Sudan
  • South Africa

As I mentioned, France originally controlled this region until 1960. More recently, France sent troops in to help stabilize the CAR when the Séléka began attacking civilians. This led to Djotodia resigning only 8 months after gaining power.

Chad and Sudan are important because they contribute to destabilization in many ways. Originally, they supported Bozizé and helped him gain power in 2003. When he was being overthrown by the Séléka in 2013, mercenaries from Chad and Sudan also backed this power shift.

South Africa sent troops to help Bozizé remain in power in 2013, but thirteen soldiers died.

All of these countries are interested in CAR, of course, for political and economic reasons.


 

Natural Resources

Now that we understand who is involved, we can start to consider why.

The CAR is rich in a number of natural resources that are quite valuable. Notably, diamonds, timber, uranium, and potential oil and gas deposits fill the country. Each group wants control of these resources.

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CAR was suspended from the Kimberly process, but Séléka forces people to mine and sell diamonds anyway, and the Anti-Balaka have taken control of many diamond-rich areas.


The Result

The result of such unstable government overrun by violent militias fighting for resources and backed by a number of different countries is staggering.

According to the UNHCR, hundreds of thousands have been forced from their homes.

About 500,000 refugees have fled to neighboring countries.

Malnutrition rates remain alarmingly high.

Mental health services are urgently needed.

They call it “a forgotten crisis,” and because of this humanitarian agencies have a huge lack of funding. Eight agencies have received less than 30% of the funding they need.


What we can do

All this killing, all of these people displaced from their homes, all because of some diamonds, some timber, and some oil.

The first step in helping these situations is to TALK ABOUT IT.

If this crisis was on the mainstream media, we might be able to come up with the necessary support.

If our representatives in government knew that we are serious about providing support to these people, they would act.

Share this blog, tell your friends about it, do your own research, write your representatives, but most of all: Help amplify the voices and needs of a people stuck in a deadly and perpetual conflict.

–R. Chase Dunn

Whistleblowing for Peace

67.5 million individuals. 250+ ethnic groups. 700+ local languages and dialects… 400,000+ refugees fleeing, 2 million+ displaced people. 48 women raped per hour. 30,000 child soldiers. The site of conflict mineral mining, an industry led mostly by armed groups that makes $140-$225 million a year in exchange for the exploitation of human beings.

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Straddling the equator, these demographics belong to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), situated in the middle of Africa. The DRC has faced years of brutality, cruelty, and civil war between 1996 and 2003. These consecutive civil wars have claimed an “estimated five million lives, making it the world’s deadliest conflict since World War II” (United to End Genocide, DRC).

If you’ve heard this before, keep reading anyway. If this is new to you, I’m glad you’re here!

Unfortunately, the DRC is just one of many countries familiar to civil war, corruption, and child soldiering. Here’s some background information to help paint the picture a little better:

the Rwandan genocide between the Hutus and Tutsis finally came to a close in 1994 when the Hutu perpetrators fled to the eastern part of the Congo where they created the Forces Democratique de Liberation du Rwanda (FDLR). Their presence prompted an invasion from neighboring countries Rwanda and Uganda, eventually leading to the overthrow of the at-the-time dictator Mobutu Sese Seko. Heading the rebellion was Laurant Désiré Kabila, who declared himself President May of 1997. Previously allies, Kabila declared war on Rwanda and Uganda in 1998 which saw major devastation, having been nicknamed “Africa’s World War” until its end in 2002.

Various peace agreements have been settled and attempted to be implemented, however ongoing conflict continues to disturb the many countries involved. A common misconception is that combatants are the ones who get caught in the crossfire of war, but in reality it is the civilians who suffer the most. In the DRC, Orientale, and North and South Kivu (all in more of the northeast region) primarily are experiencing many harsh side effects. The violence culminates itself into mass killings or genocide, rape as a weapon of war, torture, child soldiering, the list goes on.

Does this poster look familiar to you?

Kony_poster.jpgMost likely, if you had access to social media in 2012. Invisible Children is an organization created in 2004 to increase awareness of what’s happening in the DRC. They launched a campaign against Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) who is notorious for kidnapping, abusing, and torturing children he recruited for his rebel army. **Side note** CHECK OUT THEIR WEBSITE http://invisiblechildren.com/. Invisible Children is incredible, not only because they wanted to raise awareness about the issues, but because they became activists! They have built partnerships, become involved in policy, and truly opened eyes to the horrors behind child soldiering specifically. The LRA is responsible for mass killings of Congolese inhabitants and displacing hundreds of thousands of civilians.

Amidst Kony’s reign of terror, the DRC has experienced corrupt and violent political elections, the launch of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF – a rebel group/terrorist organization in opposition to the Ugandan government based in Uganda and the DRC) and the formation of the March 23 (M23) rebel movement. M23 is a rebel group in conflict with Kinshasa (the capital city in wide support of one of the Presidential candidates Etienne Tshisekedi who rejected Kabila’s re-election, declaring himself the rightful President). M23’s conflict was instigated when Kinshasa in 2009 agreed to integrate the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP), comprised mostly of ethnic Tutsi rebels, and other armed groups into the national army which later was not upheld. The ongoing conflict between M23 and the Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo (FARDC – the DRC official military) has allowed opportunities for FDLR and Mayi-Mayi militias (any kind of community-based militia groups) to launch new campaign attacks, targeting civilians.

On a hopeful note, the government and the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) have been working together for some time to counteract the various rebel groups at large. MONUSCO is an international peace-keeping force comprised of 19,000+ personnel, making it a priority to protect civilians. In addition to this, they encourage militias to participate in Disarmament, Demobilization, Repatriation, Reintegration and Resettlement (DDRRR) programs and have held many summits/conferences to disarm the rebel groups. The government was able to successfully defeat M23 in November of 2013 and continues to work with MONUSCO in developing strategy to combat the groups still reigning.

Phew. That was a lot of back story.

But it was essential for this next part! A campaign that is dear to my heart in its efforts to establish peace and raise awareness of child soldering is the Falling Whistles campaign. **you know this was coming, CHECK OUT THE WEBSITE!** http://www.fallingwhistles.com/. Here’s a quick 2 minute video on their website that gives you a great introduction into what this campaign is all about. https://vimeo.com/7351545

There’s a beautiful story behind Falling Whistles’ creation which I would love for you to check out on their page. Some of you who know me, know that I carry a whistle around my neck pretty much 24/7. It’s a replicated whistle that’s given to children when they are recruited as child soldiers in the Congo’s national army. The creator found that their weapon could be our voice. It serves as a symbol of protest and promotion of global peace.

[[semi-tangent that is very applicable]]

Sierra-Leone, like the DRC, is involved with conflict minerals (diamonds especially). I watched a movie recently called Blood Diamond (starring Leonardo DiCaprio) that visually aids the conflict that is going on both with the mining and child soldiering. I would HIGHLY recommend it. Here’s the trailer for your convenience (it’ll give you chills): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yknIZsvQjG4

In addition to conflict minerals, I read a autobiography a few years back called A Long Way Home, that chronicles Ishmael Beah (a child soldier)’s story and survival in Sierra-Leone’s civil war (1991-2002). I would highly recommend checking this one out too.

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As you can see, there are countries that are experiencing similarly horrific things within their borders. I don’t know about you, but I get ANGRY when I think of the atrocities that children specifically are faced with. In a place where there is so much destruction and brutality, when I discovered Falling Whistle’s campaign, I discovered a part of me that was driven by a desire to start discussion about this topic. I’d love for you to join me.

Whatever it means to you… [be a whistleblower for peace].

Ashleigh Stratton

In Need of CARe

Embarrassed to admit, prior to this post, I had no idea the Central African Republic existed, let alone struggles with a reoccurring presence of violence.

Location and Resources: 

For those geographically ignorant like me, CAR is located between Chad, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. CAR contains large amounts of diamonds, timber, uranium, and natural oil and gas deposits; causing both neighboring and distant countries to attempt to gain control of these resources.

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An incredibly brief summary of the conflict:

CAR has been under the rule of six authoritarian leaders and the presence of foreign troops since 1960 after gaining its independence from France. In 1993, following years of coups and civil wars, CAR held its first, but unsuccessful elections. Rebel group, Séléka terrorized the region after overthrowing the leader and putting the first Muslim leader in power in the predominately Christian country. Brutalization continued. Under direction of the UN, France deployed troops to CAR to help stabilize the country. A transitional government took over and thousands of Muslims fled in fear of attacks from Anti-Balaka, a Christian militia group retaliating for acts committed by Séléka. An estimated 6,000 people have been killed and vastly more have fled or been internally displaced.

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What’s being done: 

Just today, the UN Security Council increased the number of corrections officers for its current mission in CAR. The mission will contain 10,750 military personnel made up of military observers, military staff officers, police personnel, and corrections officers (increased from 40-108). africa_2740709b

 

Why it matters:

This country has been rocked by violence since gaining its independence. It blows my mind that occurrences like these can go on daily for years upon years with little light at the end of the tunnel. Not to mention, people like me don’t even know that these things are happening! This is incredibly alarming and concerning. Before any action can be taken, understanding must take place. It requires stepping out of our local, state, and even national bubble and realizing we are part of a world where in some parts atrocities are commonplace and violence is the norm. All of these things impact the world we live in, and as humans fortunate enough to not wake up everyday in the midst of conflict, we shouldn’t stand for that to be a reality for anyone.

Educate so you can advocate.

-Kelli Anne Louthan

More Than a Movie Plot

Every awards season, there is always buzz about a particular film that highlights a tragedy. This year, the buzz was about the movie Beasts of No Nation, starring Idris Elba as a West African warlord during a civil war. Elba garnered tremendous praise for his harrowing depiction of his role as The Commandant. But soon, awards season will pass and Beasts of No Nation will simply be remembered as a raw and moving portrait of an unthinkable situation.

Beasts_of_No_Nation_poster

And yet, the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have been dealing with this unthinkable situation for years. Consecutive civil wars in the DRC have claimed about five million lives between 1996 and 2003, leading it to become the world’s deadliest conflict since World War II. Hutu genocidaires (or perpetuators of genocide) entered the eastern provinces of the DRC shortly after the end of the Rwandan genocide in 1994, and were quickly invaded by other Rwandan and Ugandan forces and drew in several other surrounding countries as well.

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Ignoring the numerous peace agreements, violence in the DRC continues to be an everyday occurence. Civilians in the eastern provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu, and Orientale continue to be raped, killed and tortured by both government and rebel forces. In fact, rape is so prevalent as a weapon of war in the DRC that it has become known as the “rape capital of the world”, with 1,000 women being raped daily, at the horrifying rate of 48 women per hour. The conflict is perpetuated by the presence of Joseph Kony and the LRA, and revenue made from the sale of mined materials has allowed armed groups to fund their devastating military campaigns. A failed presidential election in 2011 has led to another surge of violence in the DRC.

The United Nations has tried to intervene for years, and peace deals have been continued to be brokered to no avail. Military and government reform is needed to save the 2.7 million internally displaced people inside the DRC; to save the 43,000 children working in mineral mines; to save the 4,000 that have been forced to be child soldiers.

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The civilian fight in the DRC is far from over. It’s time to stop looking at these struggles as simply ideas for a movie plot. It’s time to get educated, get involved and get these people the assistance they so desperately need.

– Lauren Antilety

 

An International Crisis at Hand

Nigeria, a place of violence, that some may not even be completely aware of.  Nigeria, a country where villages and borders are burnt to the ground.  Nigeria, a country where there are mass killings of innocent people.  Nigeria, a country that is silently pleading for international assistance.

The violence and corruption in Nigeria is caused by the Islamic Extremist group Boko Haram.  This extremist group has captured and held many numerous territories in Nigeria since the summer of 2014; specifically 20 towns in the northeastern part of the country. 

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Many innocent civilians are trapped in areas controlled by Boko Haram, where sadly, they are completely cut off from humanitarian aid.

Since 2009, Boko Haram have been attacking innocent civilians and have been committed to overthrowing Nigeria’s government and implementing an Islamic state.  The leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, has expressed his plans to kill all Muslims who plan to continue living in a democratic state.  In addition, the extremist group mentioned being at war “against Christians and democracy”.

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Boko Haram has escalated its attacks by killing 10,000 Nigerian people in 2014, alone.  According to the National Emergency Management Agency, 1.5 million people have been displaced; while about 200,000 Nigerians have fled to countries surrounding the state.

The Nigerian security forces deserve to be aided in protecting the innocent people of their country against the Islamic Extremist group.  Unfortunately, the Nigerian government is incapable of meeting the imperative humanitarian needs of the displaced persons of the northeast part of Nigeria. International assistance is needed to defeat the extremist group.  International aid is necessary in order to reform the army and police in order to save the lives of millions.  

Help Nigeria by:

  • raising awareness
  • speaking up
  • becoming more educated

Nigeria, a country where villages and borders are burnt to the ground. 

Nigeria, a country where there are mass killings of innocent civilians. 

Nigeria, a country that is silently pleading for international aid.

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-Hayley Fox

 

 

 

 

 

#BringBackOurAwareness

Our world is in a vicious cycle. Crises plague our planet, but our attention mainly gravitates towards the most publicized and current event. People raise awareness while an issue is hot with purest intentions, yet as soon as coverage ceases, so does our concern. Widely broadcasted or not, horrific genocides are still occurring worldwide. I hope this creates feelings of discomfort for you, as it does for me.

Today I want to remember Nigeria: a disintegrating nation that has taken the back burner to much of our attention.  Many of us were aware of this Nigeria’s state of emergency when the abduction of the Chibok schoolgirls by Boko Haram was covered approximately one year ago. Significant awareness was raised through the hash-tag #BringBackOurGirls. I prayed for these girls often when they were in the media, but I admit as soon as their story faded from the news, so did my engagement. As paralyzing as this conviction can be, I refuse to ruminate in it. It is not too late. I want to encourage us all to #BringBackOurAwareness. What spurred this conflict in Nigeria? What is happening now? What can we do? View this brief overview of Nigeria’s conflict.

What spurred this conflict in Nigeria?
Terrorist group Boko Haram arose originally as a non-violent alternative to the Nigerian government. They began to stage attacks and declared war against Christians and democracy in an effort to overthrow Nigeria’s secular government and establish and Islamic State.

What is happening now?
Many civilians are currently captive in Boko Haram territory; unable to reach humanitarian services. Nigerian security forces continue to fail to provide adequate support and are even participating in human rights violations. Northern Nigeria has been “rendered ungovernable” due to violence. “Boko Haram attacks exacerbate existing social, ethnic and religious tensions, heightening the possibility of renewed inter-communal violence.”  Civilians are seriously at risk.  (http://www.globalr2p.org/regions/nigeria)

What can we do?
Engage the issues persistently. Raise your voice. #BringBackOurAwareness

Nicole Clanton