Not on my newsfeed, not my problem.

A crisis is going on in Nigeria. 

Recent news stories have included little, if any, information about the events taking place in Nigeria. Topics in news come in waves, and it seems as though we are saturated with information about some topics, yet others barely get any attention. I think we can easily adopt the mindset that if it’s not on my newsfeed, it’s not my problem. Just because it isn’t being covered frequently or flashed before us regularly doesn’t it’s not going on.  


Who are the Boko Haram?

The Boko Haram are an extremist group operating in Nigeria. Boko Haram literally means “western education is forbidden.” This group was formed in 2002 by a man named Mohammed Yusuf, who ironically recieved a western education. This movement was formed with the intent of resisting official corruption and pushing toward the formation of an Islamic state. He began recruiting young, unemployed individuals to join this movement. It wasn’t until 2009 that Boko Haram became a violent, military group after the arrest and execution of Yusuf. After this, Boko Haram became increasingly radical in their violent attacks against the people of Nigeria. There are currently between 7,000-10,000 active members of the Boko Haram. 

What do they do? 

While they state their mission is to restore righteousness and justice into the nation, they have been behind a significant number of extreme, violent attacks in Nigeria.   They have been responsible for the first suicide bombing in Nigeria, numerous shootings, destructive bombings, kidnappings, and other tragic attacks against the people living in Nigeria. The violence and atrocities committed by Boko Haram are horrendous; enlisting child soldiers and using young girls as suicide bombers. They have implemented a version of Sharia law so radically extreme, that has never been seen before. Boko Haram has now expanded their attacks to Niger, Chad, and Cameroon. 

Nigeria-Political-Violence-Map.png

Map of Boko Haram attacks.

Who is impacted?

Civilians of Nigeria and anyone who opposes the mission of Boko Haram is at risk for brutal treatment and violence. The presence of the Boko Haram in Nigeria has lead to thousands of people losing their lives, numerous individuals being displaced (especially in the Northern part of Nigeria), and the persistence of chronic poverty in Nigeria.

0,,18134135_303,00.jpg

Many families have been displaced from their homes because of the violent attacks by the Boko Haram. 

 

Bring-Back-Our-Girls-e1399554214476.jpg

One of the most extreme and tragic attack from the Boko Haram was the kidnapping of over 200 young girls. This event started the Bring Back Our Girls movement. 

What now?

Keep learning. Keep listening. Be proactive. Stay engaged. The headlines aren’t the only stories out there. As a member of the global community, we have an obligation to at least be aware of the things going on around the world. 

More Information about the Boko Haram and the crisis in Nigeria:

This video gives a comprehensive explanation of the development, events, and current state of the Boko Haram in Nigeria.

-H. Pellegrino

Finding a Home

If you scroll down on this page, you’ll read horrifying statistics of crimes from the crises in the CAR, DRC, and Nigeria. Specifically speaking of the crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo, you will learn that about five million lives have been claimed within a time span of seven years, making it the world’s deadliest conflict since World War II. You will read that over 1,000 women in the DRC are raped on a daily basis, which has earned the DRC the reputation of the rape capital of the world. You will gain an understanding of the role of the Lord’s Resistance Army and how these atrocities began and how they continue to occur even today. You will learn that people are willing to fight, rape, loot, abuse, and even kill another person of the same nationality because of their religion, political stance, or the material goods they have access to.

After reading these things, we can all agree that war is a terrible thing. The world has recognized this unacceptable injustice and has taken steps of action to bring about awareness and stop the violence. The UN Security Council has a huge presence in the DRC, confronting various armed groups in attempts to bring about peace. Campaigns like KONY 2012 and movies like Blood Diamond have successfully caught the attention of many Americans, turning their eyes onto the heated issue.  

Image:Internally displaced Congolese children shelter from the  rain .

Internally displaced Congolese children shelter from the rain under plastic sheets as they wait for aid to be distributed in Kibati, north of Goma, eastern Congo, Wednesday Aug. 8, 2012. Drenching rain punctuated by frightening bursts of thunder and forked lightning add to the misery of some of the 280,000 refugees from Congo’s eastern rebellion, whose plight is highlighted by a visit from the U.N. humanitarian chief Baroness Valerie Amos. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

However, what often goes ignored is what happens to the people who have survived or escaped these brutal acts of violence. Although the official end of the second Congo War occurred in 2003, violence broke out again in 2012 in the east and northeast regions of the country and resulted in more than 2.2 million displaced persons (Refugee Council USA). According to the Refugee Council USA, 70,000 more Congolese fled their homes to take refuge in neighboring countries like Uganda and Rwanda. In total, approximately 400,000 Congolese remain as refugees and have not returned home since they first fled. What’s the problem with this? These surrounding Sub-Saharan countries are not exactly stable enough to take in thousands of homeless refugees and care for them.

Thankfully, there is also good news to this story, which I believe is just as important as sharing as the harsh realities and depressing statistics we hear of. In 2015, The United Nations refugee agency set out to find homes for at least 50,000 Congolese refugees over the next few years, and many of these refugees will be taken to the US (Here & Now). Although this only makes up about 12% of all Congolese refugees and only .001% of the total number of internally displaced people worldwide, this is still progress–progress that’s worth celebrating. In addition to this, people like 20 year-old refugee Sandra Uwiringiyimana are determined to continue rescuing and protecting the most vulnerable refugees. The beginning of Sandra’s testimony represents many of the Congolese population. It is a story of grieving for lost family members, running from gunshots, hiding from perpetrators, and constantly living in fear. However, her story is also of hope and change. Eight years ago, Sandra was brought to the US as a refugee and now is actively fighting to help others experience a happy ending. Last year she spoke before the U.N. Security council and is the co-founder and executive director of RefugeePoint. (Watch: Sandra Uwiringiyimana speak before the UN Security Council)
Instead of feeling defeated and crippled by the enormous problem in the DRC, we need more people like Sandra Uwiringiyimana, who will step up to be the voice of the hurting and displace and enact change. Along with this, we need people who will listen, care, and come alongside efforts like that of Sandra. America will decide to extend a helping hand to refugees when the people of America decide that they care. And the only way our government will hear that we care is if we speak. So, I will end this post with a simple challenge–a challenge to no longer be silent. But to listen, learn, and retell the stories of refugees from the Congo and all around the world.

-Rebekah Broughton

Diamonds and Timber and Oil, oh my!

CAR MAP

Spanning over 600,000 square kilometers, is the Central African Republic, located in central Africa. To put in perspective, the CAR is slightly smaller than Texas, has a population of about 5,400,000 people, and is home to one of the most violent conflicts in the world. 

CAR

So what’s really happening in this country?

Since gaining independence from France in 1960, this nation has had a long struggle with stability and security. Numerous leaders, foreign countries, and militant groups have been involved in the CAR’s history, only to lead to ongoing conflict. 

1960– Central African Republic gains independence from France.

1993– In a multiparty election, Ange-Félix Patassé becomes president, but is unable to meet the financial needs of the military and civil servants. Add some corruption, and there is instability in the CAR.

2003– Leader Francois Bozize seizes the government in Bangui. Although there was some stability under Bozize, many people viewed him poorly. This led to rebel groups that already existed, to have a heavier presence in CAR.

2007– A peace treaty is signed but the conflict doesn’t end here.

2012– Several groups form an alliance, Séléka, meaning “union”. This loose alliance consists of mostly muslim members (about 15%). Séléka takes over towns throughout CAR and eventually attacks the capital, Bangui.

2013– Group leader, Michael Djotodia becomes president. This is the first time that a Muslim president holds power in CAR (a predominantly Christian country). 

Next, another group known as, as Anti‐Balaka, consisting of Christians, begins to have a presence in CAR. Their main goal is to fight against Séléka and to seek revenge for any acts committed by them. It is important to note that this religious conflict is an outcome and not a cause. 

anti balaka.jpg

In addition to these conflicts, CAR is a country full of natural resources. Diamonds, uranium, timber, oil, and gas are all sought after by rebel groups and foreign countries as well. It is because of these resources that rebel groups are able to fund their weapons and activities. 

Currently, there is still ongoing conflict in the Central African Republic, and it is starting to be recognized as a genocide. Mostly all muslims have left the country and been displaced. The violent acts of the rebel groups continue to impact innocent people each and everyday. There have been efforts to establish aid and assistance but there has been little success due to the ongoing instability and violence. 

Although there is a tremendous amount of violence and conflict in the Central African Republic, we must be hopeful and optimistic. It is important to educate ourselves on issues like this, talk about it, and listen. Knowledge is power and through proper advocacy, awareness, and activism we can help bring light to problems like the conflict in CAR.

advocate

Don’t forget to look through other posts and to share this blog with your family and friends!

-Kimia

——–

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-13150044

https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ct.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2XhAmRXRzRk

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.

central_african_republic_protest_16x9.jpg

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.

diamond

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.

child_soldiers_in_the_congo

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.

a-long-way-gone1

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.

mcentafr

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.

central_african_republic_112013.jpg

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