Thoughts on Refugees

Honestly, I am still not quite sure if I completely understand what a refugee is and the issues surrounding them. A refugee to me is someone who has felt persecuted and discriminated by a group in their home country causing them to feel the need to flee their home in an attempt to find safety and protection. I read recently that there are currently around 10 million people who are considered refugees in the world, which is an astonishing number to say the least. I never really thought of the issues of those who are refugees prior to this class. But what I have found in the slim amount of information I have read prior to this week of class opened my eyes to some of the issues these persecuted people have gone through.

I have realized that the persecution that these refugees go through may not always be due to their race or religion. People have been discriminated and persecuted by their gender, sexual orientation, mental capabilities, etc. These people fear the wrath of the hatred that the majority groups in their country cover over them. They would rather seek refuge in camps hosted away from their homes to protect their lives and family from certain death. And honestly those camps are not always the safest places for them even though those dangers may be safer than the perils in their home country.

Refugee camps are not the complete safe haven that I assumed they would be. People may be safe from the persecution yet they still don’t have certain essential amenities that would be usually offered. Food sources and healthcare are vacant in several camps especially in Africa as the midst of civil conflict is rampant. I feel that some refugee camps could be seen as corrupt but overall I feel the right idea is put into fruition and they are saving lives from dying from persecution. But these people need to be set free from their persecutions and should be able to go back to their home country without the fear of death lingering outside their house.

Honestly, I feel that my privileged life as a westerner has influenced the way I feel about refugees. I am a little ignorant about what truly these people are dealing with in these camps and in their countries, but I feel that a majority of American citizens could be in the same boat. I feel as one of the prominent world leaders the United States has quite an influence on how we deal with the issues of refugees. I feel that we have the ability to get something that isn’t as visible in the media and be able to promote the issues of refugees allowing more people to have the knowledge of their lives. We have the capabilities to fully help these people who are refugees with the many non-profit organizations dealing with helping in their struggle for freedom and destruction of these prejudice views of their home country. We just need to love on these people.

-Joshua

 

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Life as a Refugee

My understanding of a refugee is that they are a person who has left their country during a time of war. It also may happen due to natural disasters (earthquakes, volcanos, floods) that leave a person homeless and in need of a destination. Refugees can face all sorts of violence due to their race, religion, or political views. These people often struggle through the hard times without food, water, and shelter. Many die on their journey as the search for a new place to settle down. 

As privileged Westerners, I believe that there is something we can do this help these people. We can provide refugees with the essentials like food and water that they need to survive. We can set up camps or hospitals to bring refugees in and give them a place to stay. We can also be more proactive and try to prevent the outbreak of war and discrimination that usually forces them to leave their homes. Finally, we can educate each other on the current situations and struggles that refugees face, so that they may feel compelled to do something to help. 

-Ben

Corruption in Congo

 

As we progress further into this course, it is important that we learn from past genocides and apply the lessons learned to current issues going on today. Typical news coverage has shown the atrocities in the Rwanda genocide and current problems in Syria, but there is a war going on in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) that seems to get lost in the mix of violence in Africa. However, this is a situation that should not be taken lightly, for an estimated five million lives have been lost during the genocide. The two consecutive civil wars in the DRC between 1996 and 2003 are the world’s deadliest conflict since World War II.

 

In the aftermath of the Rwanda genocide, Hutu perpetrators fled the nation into the eastern provinces of the DRC and formed the Forces Democratique de Liberation du Rwanda (FDLR). This led to an invasion by Rwanda and Uganda, resulting in an overthrow of dictator Mobutu Sese Seko. A man named Laurant Desire Kabila, who led the rebellion against Mobutu, declared himself President in May of 2007. Kabila declared war against his former allies Rwanada and Uganda, which drew in many other African countries into the conflict, nicknamed “Africa’s World War.”

 

Despite many peace agreements following the end of the war in 2002, the violence in DRC is ongoing and civilians continue to be targeted. In the eastern provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu, and Orientale, both government and rebel forces have been launching attacks on civilians. The ongoing violence takes many forms and methods, including mass killings, rape, and torture.

 

One of the most shocking and disturbing facts about the Congo genocide is the pervasive sexual violence. DRC is rapidly becoming known as the rape capital of the world, as hundreds of thousands of women have been raped by armed militia. A 2011 study released by the American Journal of Public Health reported that over 1,000 women are raped daily; a rate of 48 women per hour. In some cases, rape is used as a weapon of war when armed soldiers infiltrate a village for food and loot, destroying entire communities. Militia groups and soldiers target all ages – including babies and elderly women. They are gang raped, raped with bayonets, and have guns shot into their vaginas, destroying their reproductive and digestive systems.

 

The conflict in the DRC is partly fueled by the desire for lucrative minerals in the country. Combatants used the revenue obtained from the mined materials to purchase weapons and ammunition, further enhancing military campaigns and enriching political warlords. Many groups have terrorized and captured local civilians, forcing them to work in the mines as slave labor. The precious minerals in the DRC end up in cell phones, computers, and other electronics we use daily. In 2010, Amnesty International reported that 43,000 children are working in mineral mines and around 4,000 children have been abducted by armed groups to fight as soldiers.

 

The recent wave of violence in the DRC was brought on by The Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FDRC) and its leader Bosco Ntaganda. Nicknamed “The Terminator,” Ntanganda launched a mutiny after the government increased calls for his arrest for alleged war crimes. In April 2012, hundreds of soldiers loyal to Ntaganda abandoned their posts, sparking bloody clashes with loyalist troops. Mutinous soldiers later formed the March 23 (M23) rebel movement, a rebel group accusing Kinshasa for failing to uphold the 2009 agreement that integrated the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP), a group mainly comprised of ethnic Tutsi rebels, and other armed groups into the national army. “The Terminator” is facing numerous charges at the International Criminal Court. It is the longest list of charges anyone has faced at the ICC, and includes murder, rape, sexual slavery, pillaging and conscripting child soldiers.

 

Although violence is prevalent throughout the eastern provinces of the DRC, what is most troublesome about the situation is the lack of media coverage and attention it receives. It is important that people are informed of the desolation and crimes that are currently occurring in the DRC. Strengthening government structures in DRC plays a crucial role in preventing atrocities and protecting civilians from violence. The Congolese government and its regional neighbors need to ensure the protection of civilians as they address the threat posed by M23 and other armed groups. International donors and support can also play a huge role in making sure that the Congolese government implements critical reforms in its security sector to increase its ability to protect civilians from rape, slavery, and violence.

 

In conjunction with improved government reforms, similar military reforms need to be done to improve the credibility of the Congolese government. It is also important that military perpetrators are captured and charged for their inhumane crimes. Furthermore, neighboring countries should stop providing armed groups operating in DRC with shelter or support. If all of the following conditions are met, then there is a chance for the DRC regain peace and end the violence and terror that has damaged the country for the past decades.

 

-Ben 

 

Sources used :

Genocide in the Congo: Regional Politics, Natural Resources, and the Role of the US

http://endgenocide.org/conflict-areas/dr-congo/dr-congo-backgrounder/

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-28015959

http://www.voanews.com/content/drc-government-says-fdlr-rebels-disarming-/1937407.html

http://www.trust.org/spotlight/Congo-DR-conflict/?tab=background

Motivation and Scarcity in Genocide

Our reading for today discussed the role that scarcity plays in the genocide, as well as many other motivations and methods for this senseless violence. There are different kinds of scarcity, with the most obvious being the lack of resources, land, and materials needed to survive. This can lead to competition between groups in order to allocate resources to survive. Resources can also be scarce due to a large growth in the population, leaving less material to go around. The solution to this problem is to increase the material resources or to decrease the population. This is when conflicts become troublesome and violence occurs, because in poor countries they lack the means to supply themselves and resort to killing each other to survive.

Scarcity can also contain a psychological component that explains why genocide occurs. It involves a situation in which desire is confused with need. When this type of society is created, it drives the developmental projects that have destroyed the lives of the indigenous people. Sometimes people will go to extreme measures when they desire to have more control over something, which can lead to destruction and violence. Difficult life conditions can increase the needs and demands for satisfaction, and pose a threat to an individual’s self-concept. Individual motives to defend one’s physical self (life and security) and one’s psychological self (self-concept and values) arise during times of poverty and squalor. People then begin to focus on fulfilling their own needs and compete with others for material goods, leading to harm and hostility.

Another type of scarcity is political scarcity, which includes both material and political deprivation. This is a situation where there are sufficient resources to meet everyone’s needs, but the allocation of resources favors certain groups. It often occurs in countries that are politically unstable and ethnically divided. When the legitimacy of the ruling group in a plural society is challenged, it is likely that the old regime will rise and resort to an authoritarian solution to gain power. This creates a “politics of identity,” which during scarce times a government can increase hardship, discrimination, and destitution. Often times the struggle for power in these nations that could be resolved by sharing responsibility, protecting basic human rights, and treating others equally.

Our reading for today also discussed the motivations and actions that lead to a genocide. It introduced the personal goal theory in order to describe how individuals and cultures select goals to actively pursue and suggests ways to determine when it is likely that they will act to fulfill them. According to the theory, the lower a motive is in an individual’s or culture’s hierarchy, the more extreme the life conditions needed to make it active and dominant. As previously mentioned, motivations for genocide can arise from difficult living conditions and a perceived threat to life, safety, and well-being. Other motivations include adopting an ideology to elevate the dominant group’s social identity while diminishing and scapegoating the other group.

There are also certain cultural and political preconditions that make a society susceptible to genocide. One is a society that is monolithic, meaning that there is limited variation in values and perspectives on life. This type of society has a strong authority or a totalitarian rule that has the power to shape people’s perceptions of the victims. It is also typical for a monolithic society to have a strong respect for authority and an inclination to be obedient to that authority. This explains why even though both Germany and France expressed Anti-Semitic ideals, only Germany persecuted Jews in an especially intense and cruel manner. Germany had a long standing authoritarian tradition, which was opposed to France’s pluralistic society that celebrated individual freedom and right.

It is important to environmental circumstances and psychological motivations that lead to a nation to genocide. If we can understand and identify the societies that exemplify these

characteristics, then we can try to prevent genocide early on before plans are mobilized.

-Ben

The Struggles of South Sudan

South Sudan is the world’s newest country, gaining its independence from Sudan in 2011, yet there has been telltale signs within the country that a genocide is in the midst. The internal conflict between the two majority groups, the Dinka and the Nuer has created friction resulting in wanting to destroy one another (Lustig, 2014). And to make matters worse, a heavy famine has struck in South Sudan, leaving hundreds of thousand of adults and children without food and water resulting in many deaths (Lustig, 2014; Wire Services, 2014c). I feel that all of this tension and brutality and the role of scarcity inside the South Sudan have really opened up the country to a destructive genocide. As humans, I feel it is our right to attempt to put an end to this genocide by reinforcing the notions that the Genocide Convention put into place. I know that countries such as the United Kingdom, and the United States might not want to call it genocide, but innocent people are being brutally murdered and starved and they need our help!

The South Sudan genocide is seen to have had several visible indicators that could have potentially sparked the event (Maya, 2014).  As I wrote in the previous paragraph, there was already tension between the governance and the people. President Salva Kiir, a Dinka, butted heads with the former vice president now turned rebel leader Riek Machar, a Nuer (Lustig, 2014). The two groups had been fighting since December and with the entire world fearful of the outbreak of genocide, the US and UN created a cease-fire agreement to welcome peace between the two (Wire Services, 2014a). Alas both ethnic majority leaders destroyed the agreement not even two days after they had agreed with both accusing each other (Wire Services, 2014b). Although both sides have seen deaths, most news articles have shown the genocide to be favored towards the Dinkas attempt to destroy the Nuer (CHUOL Puoch, 2014; Puoch Riek Deng, 2014). Kiir and his Dinka militia are seen as cruel, fueled with power and anger resulting in their plans of an “ethnic cleanse”: destroying all other groups in South Sudan (Puoch Riek Deng, 2014).

The Dinkas have used news alerts on radio stations to help influence other Sudanese citizens to go along with the slaughter (Lustig, 2014). No one was safe in Juba, the capital and largest city of South Sudan. Hundreds of Nuer are seen to being tortured and kidnapped with many of the women being raped and killed (Lustig, 2014). People began fleeing to other countries to refugee camps trying to become safe from a life that has already been filled with exile and discrimination (Maya, 2014).

With the fighting that has happened, the South Sudanese people are experiencing a deadly famine with a side of disease. Being unable to find proper medication as well as nourishment due to being driven out of their homes, over seven million South Sudanese are at risk of diseases such as cholera and malaria, and starvation (Wire Services, 2014c). The heavy rains and war has disenabled these people to obtain the health care that they need to survive. I feel that the scarcities found in South Sudan have been able to predict the signs of the makings of genocide. The power struggle between the two majorities affected the entire country, plunging it into a civil war and generating the starvation of their country (Wire Services, 2014c). These people could all perish if they do not get the proper health care, sanitation, food, and water in the next few weeks! Countries need to check themselves and understand the damages they are doing to their people by destroying themselves through war and genocide.

I feel that South Sudan has been plagued with relatively bad luck ever since their introduction as a country. With two hostile ethnic groups fighting over a power struggle, there was no way this situation would end up nicely and peacefully. As things in South Sudan have begun to show more signs of genocide ever since the breaking of cease-fire agreement, I feel that other countries need to continue to relay information and begin to aggressively push for the fighting in the nation to stop in an attempt to save the South Sudanese from starvation and disease. The world does not and should not take the use of genocide lightly so I feel that having more people become aware of what is happening in South Sudan can hopefully help put a stop to the destruction and save a country from certain annihilation.

-Joshua

References below: Continue reading

The Happenings and Scarcities of Genocide

Genocide does not just happen on a whim. There are several motivators and methods that influence a group of people to put into their minds thoughts of persecution and discrimination that flourishes into genocide. With the use of motivation, the perpetrators believe that the persecuted group has something that they want, which helps them develop a plan into getting what they want by attempting to destroy those that have it. I feel that in some cases, the perpetrators’ view of the situation and motivation can influence the bystanders of their country that aren’t affected by either group, which helps form a stronger bond between the perpetrators and their citizens in the majority. In the reading, I found that leadership was a critical area that affected how a genocide would happen. For example, Hitler was a great speaker and commander with good charisma, which helped him control Germany with an authoritative rule, which then resulted in the mass extermination of the Jews. He was a horrible man, but had great leadership skills. Being able to influence the vast majority of a country as well as having the motivation to getting what they want (with Hitler’s case: exterminating all the Jews, homosexuals, handicapped, etc. to create an Aryan race) is an effective way of how genocide unfolds into a country.

I feel the issue of scarcity is an important topic in terms of genocide in the third world. I feel that the perpetrators of the genocide don’t always look at the big picture and do not understand how much they can be affected by the scarcities that will be found following the genocide. Scarcities include political and economical problems that result in social chaos in the affected country. I feel that these problems really are the tipping point to destruction and poverty of these countries within genocide. Scarcity is a big deal that I feel is hard to control and get rid of. With degradation and the destruction of natural resources during the genocide, these countries are unable to produce products resulting in economic drops and loss of profits. Scarcities play the role of leading lady in the genocidal opera.

When I think of the violence and poverty held in third world countries such as Rwanda and Ethiopia, I think of what I see in media, like the commercials where you can save a child or give them fresh water for a week. They give off a very one-dimensional aspect to the many dimensional life these people are actually going through. This reading went against the idea that these countries are struggling with more than just material issues. The role of scarcity goes further into the process of dismantling political groups resulting in attempting to maintain the power over the country. This, in return continues to keep the division of the majority and minority farther away from one another. Overall, I feel that my understanding of the role of scarcity has changed in response to genocide.

 -Joshua 

Which Face Should I Take?

After reading today’s article about white privilege, the topic definitely resonated with me. As a white male, I am aware that the way our society is designed provides me with certain advantages over others in the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness. The sad truth is that our society is designed for some groups to succeed and for others to struggle. White people are taught that our way of thinking is ideal, and that when we work towards benefiting other races, it seems to assimilate “them” into our culture and become more like “us”. The article says that white privilege in the United States “serves to keep power in the hands of those who already have it, and to maintain the myth of meritocracy that democratic choice is equally available to all.”

The article points out the belief that the feeling of belonging within humanity should not be a

privilege for few, yet in our country not everyone is granted this unearned advantage. I am aware

that my race and gender entitle me to certain privileges and advantages that other groups I might

be advocating for in this class. There are some things that I must learn to accept that I will never

be able to understand about life for a refugee. I will never know what its like to go without food

or water for a few days. I will never know what its like to not have a home or a comfortable bed

to sleep in each night. There are many privileges that I take for granted, because its hard to

imagine what life would be like without them. It is hard for me to imagine a situation in which

my race would be the targets of a mass genocide. White privilege has protected me from

different kinds of violence, distress and suffering that people from other races have to endure.

Even though it might be hard for me to know how it feels to be a refugee or a victim of genocide,

I can still play a role in this issue. I can make use of the tools and skills I have acquired

throughout my coursework in Communication studies and apply them to this situation. In a way,

I can become the voice of the voiceless and speak for those victims who cannot eloquently speak

for themselves. If I can educate my peers about the horrors genocide victims face and offer my

ideas on how to stop this violence, then I am doing my part to have a positive impact on solving

this problem.

The faces of whiteness that our reading highlights refers to the way we engage and view certain

situations and contexts. The four faces are the torpefied, the missionary, the intellectualizer, and

the cynic. When it comes to learning about genocide and refugee issues, I am most like an

intellectualizer. This is someone enjoys researching, studying, and talking openly about issues

like they are any other academic subject. I think it is important that we understand and learn

about the causes of genocide and derive a way to suppress its violence.

However, the intellectualizer fails to apply their own life experiences into their analysis of the

situation. This is where I would prefer to separate from this way of thinking, because I believe its

important to apply knowledge gained from experience in order to solve problems. For example, I

had the chance to attend a very diverse high school in Columbia, Md. This gave me an

opportunity to communicate and connect with people from a variety of different ethnicities on a

daily basis. I became friends with people from Nigeria and Ghana which enabled me to get a

taste of their culture and view things from their perspective. I began to see them as my brothers

instead of two distant strangers, and this experience has served to benefit me as I transition into

the real world.

The face of whiteness that I would most like to become when talking about genocide issues is

the Critical Democrat. This is someone who balances their examinations of their own role in

racism while simultaneously examining the role of others. They balance their egos and

knowledge gained from literature in order to promote democracy and hope for a solution. Plenty

of times at college I have heard openly racist remarks made by my roommates or other strangers

and had to decide whether or not to combat their ignorance and voice my opinion.

The Critical Democrat uses cautious action and careful reflection when it comes to racism. They

hope to achieve a balance academic examination of racism and practical demand for changing

the ways people live their lives. Most importantly, a critical democrat assumes the role of an

active and engaged listener. They engage in dialogue by consciously attempting to understand to

messages of others before they offer their own perspectives. It is also important that a critical

democrat understands his or her race’s history and culture in relation to others.

If I can approach genocide issues using the face of a critical democrat, then I will benefit the

most from this course. It is important that I understand the context and messages surrounding

genocide and refugees to gain insight from other perspectives. I must step outside of my own

thinking and view each situation as a separate piece of a larger puzzle. Once I truly understand

the issue and have listened to testimonials, I will be better suited to act on finding a solution and

enticing others to join me.

-Ben