Video from worldfocus.org
Throughout time, issues among one’s own occupancy, and that of a global standpoint have occurred, reoccurred, and in some instances, have never been resolved. All resolutions in history are the result of like-minded individuals, who as a whole, come together in support of an activist approach towards an issue in which passion is brought forth to. In many unfortunate circumstances, the lack of an uprising or citizen support, due to the absence of local, state, or even global knowledge, has prevented many issues to go unsolved. As mass media grows, one must question the morality of the hierarchy that controls what one is able to be shown. For example, the issues of human rights crimes that take place in continental Africa, whether in war, or due to government scare tactics, have occurred for hundreds of years on end. While further examining this issue, it is hard to believe the lack of knowledge and support that is given to educating, as well as ending human rights crimes, such as the most prevalent crimes, child soldiering, rape as a weapon in war, and mass genocides.
|Image from The Enough Moment: Fighting to End Africa's Worst Human Rights Crimes|
|Image taken from the Christian Science Monitor|
With many unaware of the extent of the crimes against humanity. Background information on this subject is necessary to inform and educate, while also relaying the message of support for the people of Africa. One of the most prevalent human rights crimes being committed can be seen through the use of child soldiering in war. According to the Child Solider International, a child solider is a child associated with an armed force or armed group referring to any person below 18 years of age who is, or who has been, recruited or used by an armed force or armed group in any capacity, including but not limited to children, boys and girls, used as fighters, cooks, porters, and spies or for sexual purposes. It does not only refer to a child who is taking, or has taken, a direct part in hostilities. While child soldiering can be seen in many other parts of the world, an estimated 300,000 child soldiers, some as young as seven, are currently fighting in more than 41 countries, with more than 120,000 children soldiers occupying Africa. As these numbers account for a rough estimate, it is truly impossible to give an exact number from a global figure. This is due to reasons consisting of concealment of children from outside observers, combat in inaccessible war zones, the recruitment methods, both formally and informally, the fluctuation of children from group to group, and the death of children during war, making up the largest portion of the reasons. In the words of the United Nations, child recruitments can offer, “Children [that] are cheap, expendable and easier to condition into fearless killing and unthinking obedience.” In the case of Sierra Leone born, Ishmael Beah, a child soldier turned civilian, the process and personal account of child solider to civilian is gruesomely followed in his personal memoir, A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Solider. Through the story, one learns first-hand the unthinkable brutality of life as a child solider, along with Beah’s rehabilitation process through the work of UNICEF, a global humanitarian relief organization that provides children with relief work through fundraising, advocacy, and education. In one account of the story, Ishmael Beah says, “My squad was my family, my gun was my provider and protector, and my rule was to kill or be killed. . . . and it seemed as if my heart had frozen ” (Beah 126). Throughout Ishmeal Beah’s memoir, a vivid realization of life for a child soldier is painted through the illustrated descriptions of a childhood filled with death and violence. In a study conducted by Ilse Derluyn, Eric Broekaert, Gilberte Schuyten, Els De Temmerman, it is stated..
"We interviewed 301 former child soldiers who had been abducted by the northern Ugandan rebellion movement Lord’s Resistance Army. All the children were abducted at a young age (mean 12·9 years) and for a long time (mean 744 days). Almost all the children experienced several traumatic events (mean six events); 233 (77%) saw someone being killed, and 118 (39%) had to kill someone themselves. 71 children also filled in the impact of event scale—revised to assess their post-trauma stress reactions. 69 (97%) reported post-traumatic stress reactions of clinical importance. The death of a parent, especially of the mother, led to an important increase in score for avoidance symptoms (mother alive 16·4, mother not alive 21·6; p=0·04), with a high increase for girls (from 15·1 to 25·8), but almost no change for boys (from 17·7 to 17·4; p=0·02). Our findings shed light on the nature of severe trauma experienced by this group of children, and show a high rate of post-traumatic stress reactions."
With the ages of most child soldiers varying between ages as low as nine to seventeen years of age, the adolescent childhood becomes unfortunately lost to many. As most would assume or picture a boy when hearing the words “child soldier,” this is a misconceived view although the child solider population is predominantly male, many females make up the population as well, with roles including anything from sexual fulfillments to combat fighting. While many children are forced into the military through abduction, like in the case of many child soldiers in the Lord's Resistance Army, others join in means of survival. With most parts of Africa still remaining unstable today, economic, social, community, as well as family instability, are driving forces that impell the voluntary enlistment of children. Factors among these help in the role government stability can play in the recruitment and voluntary enlistment of child soldiers. Through understanding the implications that need to be provided for a stable, non-dictatorial government, we as a people movement can enforce the steps in which can help mend the instability of the African countries most affected by government insecurity. If a democracy style government is implicated and practiced, one that allows for the government to be run by the people, with the supreme power remaining vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system, a ream of hope can be built upon the stability of government which protects the human rights of citizens in African countries affected by child soldiering.
The next predominant human rights crime that must be brought attention upon is the use of rape as a weapon of war in conflict filled areas, along with the focus of rape in non-conflict areas. In Africa, specifically South Africa, rape has become almost accepting. With the idea being somewhat commonplace among women and citizens. According to the documentary Dispatches: The Lost Girls of South Africa, “The country has the world's highest incidence of rape; a girl born there today has a one in three chance of finishing school, and a one in two chance of being raped.” While again, the estimate of total amount of rapes yearly is unable to be determined, it is thought that only one in 35 are actually reported to authorities. Unfortunately, most rape cases involving women are actually by family members. This is due part to the culturally-specific belief system, one in which has misbelief in the term deemed the “Virgin Cure.” As the name sounds, a wide-spread belief aroused in the midst of 16th century Europe, as well as 19th century Victorian England. Today, many South Africans believe that sexual intercourse with a virgin will relieve or cure sexually transmitted diseases, as well as cure and prevent HIV and AIDs. In other instances, it is thought that rape is brought about through the idea of entitlement. According to Joan van Niekerk, a manager for Childline South Africa, “For many men, sex is an entitlement, they've de-linked it from love and pro-creation; it has become about one's own gratification." With the epidemic of rape in Africa, child rape tends to be the most disturbing. Many are unaware of the unfortunate circumstances many children of South Africa face, Childline South Africa, a non-profit organization with the common goal consisting of protection for children against all forms of violence, while also creating a standard of children’s rights in South Africa, is an example of advocacy and prevention of child rape and abuse in South Africa. While examining organizations like Childline South Africa, it is important to understand that they believe in prevention through education and advocacy. In other parts of Africa, such as eastern DR Congo, rape has become a societal norm, an act against men, women, or children that has become socially acceptable for occupants that call the eastern DR Congo home. With war-torn eastern Congo’s desensitization towards violence, many people grow up in an environment where abnormal to most, seems normal. Award-winning filmmaker Fiona Lloyd-Davies shares her experiences in the eastern Congo while writing for CNN as part of a special coverage on the Democratic Republic of Congo as the country headed to the poll’s. She said while describing her experience in Shabunda, “Women told me of their daily choice -- to stay at home and face starvation. Or, go out to the fields for food and be raped. Most women chose the latter. It had become the norm.” Unfortunately, government instability in areas where rape rates tend to be highest, results in the injustice for many victims. Until some type of justice is recognized, rape will occur in war, along with out of war, because of the ultimate power of demoralization it can behold over a civilian or enemy in war (Prendergast and Cheadle 180).
|Image taken from the United States Holocaust Museum|
|Image taken from news.change.org|
The final human rights crimes that focus must be brought attention to is hindering the enablement of genocide as a weapon of war. As genocide is predominantly thought of as occurring in history, such as Hitler’s extermination of the Jews or even the United States invasion of Vietnam, attention placed on the Darfur genocide seems misplaced between news stories involving the divorce of Kris Humphries and Kim Kardashian or Lindsay Lohan’s consecutive failed attempts at rehab. Today, the Darfur genocide has left more than 300,000 dead, along with 3 million more people victims of displacement across Darfur. While following the history of genocide on an international basis, a trend can be unfortunately seen. A trend in which the international community has yet acted out in an opportunity to end them, and as stated in The Enough Moment: Fighting to End Africa’s Worst Human Rights Crimes, “and to end the suffering of the people who are targeted” (57). According to the United Nations, the Genocide Convention defines genocide as containing a mental element, meaning the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group. To be considered genocide, a crime must contain a simultaneous physical element as well, which consists of killing members of the group, causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group, deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part, imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group, and forcibly transferring children of the group to another group. Sudan, the largest country in Africa, has endured conflict since gaining independence in 1956. Many past and present conflicts can be deemed risen from the hoarding of wealth and power by ruling elites in the capital, Khartoum (Prendergast and Cheadle 58). President of the Sudanese government, Omar al-Bashir, has used brutal methods of targeting particular ethnic groups since his 1989 office reign. Through militia attacks, food containment, sexual violence, and slave raiding as weapons of war, militias have destroyed and burnt more than 2,000 villages from 2003 to 2005. With the United States, as well as many other countries, containing a “melting-pot” of varied ethnicities, races, and religions, most can sympathize with the discrimination placed on a particular group of people, and hopefully in time, join the call of action to finally stop genocide in Darfur, and on an international level, put an end to the reoccurrence of genocide for once and for all.
With many activist organizations such as, the Enough Project and Invisible Children set up in order to help better inform, along with update individuals on current African news, one must question the true global concern, as well as American concern in order to inform and end the human rights violations occurring in Africa with the lack of education through mass media. In the case of the Enough Project, the slogan is, “The project to end genocide and crimes against humanity.” While intentions like these help bring education to this subject, it is civil rights movements in which controls all change to occur. Examples supporting this statement include the most prominent civil rights movements in American history, including, the Civil Rights Movement, which then went on to birth Affirmative Action, the Women’s Rights Movement, and the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement . As one examines each case listed above, a common theme can be seen through all, the word “movement.” The definition of movement portrays the activities or actions of a body of persons with a common ideology. This represents, as well as supports, the manner in which issues among debate can be resolved, or bring about resolution through the acts of people with a common idea or goal. History has proven through a movement of people, change can occur. Today, a common issue which represents and supports the idea in which a movement of people with common ideology is needed for change to occur is the Gay Rights Movement. Examining the Gay Rights Movement, specifically the topic of same-sex marriage, one is able to see that the eradication has only occurred in six states, along with Washington D.C. This can portray that the inability to accept same-sex marriage between the citizens of the United States, allows for the illegality to occur. Until more support, it can be rightfully justified that eradication of same-sex marriage in other states will not occur. Knowing this, it is helpful in the way at which we tackle the issue of human rights crimes occurring in Africa. This issue is important to me because my second-cousin, John Prendergast, is the co-founder of The Enough Project, along with being a published author and expert regarding the topic of Africa. After learning more and more about his role and leadership in the advocacy to stop human rights crimes in Africa, along with world-wide, and also reading Ishmael Beah's mentioned memoir above, I was very intrigued about the lack of awareness of human rights crimes brought to attention to Americans and international citizens. While just finishing my cousin's newer book, The Enough Moment: Fighting to End Africa's Worst Human Rights Crimes, the timing of this assignment allowed me to focus on the specific topics mentioned heavily in his book, the use of child soldiers in war, rape as a weapon of war, and genocide. I feel if awareness can be reached to citizens of young, as well as old, the human virtue of sympathy will allow for justice to rightfully bring an end to the crimes against humanity in Africa. With the framework of steps clearly laid out, all that is needed is the support of activists and citizens to employ the awareness and concern for the fight of liberation for the land that children, men, and women of Africa call their home. As rightfully stated in the Enough Moment, the call to action must include the steps of peace, protection, punishment, and education. Peace among a country, protection for civilians, punishment for the committed crimes, and education for the onlooker on the subject. With these steps properly employed, action and support will allow for sympathy to build between the onlooker and victim, resulting in the action to bring justice against African crimes against humanity.
Beah, Ishmael. A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier: New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007. Print.
Cheadle, Don, and John Prendergast. Not On Our Watch: The Mission to End Genocide in Darfur and Beyond. New York, NY: Hyperion, 2007. Print.
Els De Temmerman, et al. "Post-Traumatic Stress In Former Ugandan Child Soldiers." Lancet 363.9412 (2004): 861-863. Africa-Wide Information. Web. 20 Feb. 2012.
Omona, G, and K E Matheson. "Uganda: Stolen Children, Stolen Lives." Lancet 351.9100 (1998): 442. Africa-Wide Information. Web. 20 Feb. 2012.
Prendergast, John, and Don Cheadle. The Enough Moment: Fighting to End Africa's Worst Human Rights Crimes. New York: Three Rivers, 2010. Print.