Despite a Successful 2014 for Africa, Hundreds Continue to be Hacked to Death in DRC

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KINSHASA, DRC - In 2014, many African countries have seen long-awaited triumphs in the form of heightened foreign direct investment, peaceful political transitions and quickly expanding economies.

While there are undoubtedly many hurdles left to overcome, there are many pockets in Africa that are taking advantage of these opportunities, including Botswana who's per capita GDP is now $15,176 and Burkina Faso who has the most improved education in Africa with increased enrollment across all grades. (Source: Legatum Institute's 2014 Africa Prosperity Report)

These multifaceted expansions paint an encouraging picture of the Africa that investors and aid workers alike have been dreaming of for decades: plenty of jobs, youth engagement, financial stability, robust national security and an enhanced standard of living for all.

Despite this backdrop, however, there are still unimaginable, archaic and tragic atrocities going on in remote areas of the continent that should be front page news. The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has long been a disaster -- a country ravaged by decades of war, poverty and "big man" politics, but although many think the 1994 Rwandan Genocide is over, the DRC is still plagued by its side effects every single day.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report this week on December 16th, indicated that over 200 Eastern Congolese citizens have been murdered since October. Because President Joseph Kabila has no grasp on the country's army security processes, the rebel group called Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) continues to terrorize the countryside and murder civilians with machetes and axes, while their victims are unable to effectively seek help or protection. The group is a Ugandan-led Islamist faction that has been operational in the area since 1996, and their motive is to avenge the death of their comrades who have been counterattacked and pushed out by the DRC's army or the UN's mission, MONUSCO.

The group is also particularly brutal in the methods they've been using to evoke fear and desolation. For those that they kidnap instead of hacking to death immediately, captives are sometimes crucified, held in coffins lined with nails, or forced into being ADF soldiers' wives. But although these gruesome and horrific acts have been going on since October, the government and international community already on the ground have failed to stop or even curb the violence.

These "war crimes", as so deemed by HRW, deserve a swift and powerful response. There are already peacekeepers on the ground who can supplement the national army's battle to defeat and unravel rebel groups, and it is urgent that this is implemented before another attack happens, leaving dozens hacked into pieces and more displaced.

While many developing countries, especially in Africa, are reaping the benefits of globalization, world trade and improving standards of living -- there are still monstrosities happening every day that belong in a period centuries ago, before human rights and international justice were reality. In such a modern, civilized age, it's time we stick up for those who have to face unfathomable, barbaric dangers on a regular basis.

Follow Jessamy on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Africa Correspondent: @JessamyNichols

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Democratic Republic of Congo's Conflict Driven Mining Industry

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Jessamy Nichols, Africa CorrespondentLast Modified: 16:03 p.m. DST, 16 August 2013

DRC Child Soldier, Photo by Children and Armed Conflict DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO − The mining industry in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has a plethora of side effects for the country that destroy the standard of living and overall wellbeing of the country.  The most unbearable one is the way that the mining industry spurs violence and civil war within the country. Because rebel groups are continually fighting over control of the mines and natural resources, turmoil and chaos are incessantly being reproduced.

This system has gone on for decades in the DRC which has unfortunately made it an expected way of life where vast regions are based around a “war economy.”[1] This is a horrifying concept as it means Congolese citizens are actually dependent on the illegal and informal economy based around the exploitation of natural resources and arms trafficking, instead of moving towards a formal market economy based on peace and respect of property.

When the illegal economy becomes a way of life, the actors involved totally “lose interest in peace” because they have no concept of how to make a living without it.[2] Besides this being dangerous in itself, it is also unsustainable, as eventually these natural resources will run out and those associated with the mines will have no other skills to make a living off of.

With this lack of desire for peace, mass killings have been all too frequent when it comes to fighting over control of mining areas. Rebel groups have used deliberate killings and massacres as a tool of war to fight their way to mining towns, leaving thousands of affected and harmed citizens in their wake.[3] Alongside these massacres, rebel groups will burn down villages and force whole populations to flee from their homes in order to maintain their rough reputation and gain complete control over the territory.

Besides coping with tragic deaths, the civilians left behind then also have to handle being displaced and without refuge.[4] Despite this heart wrenching reality that still continues today, international citizens and organizations fail to acknowledge that these decades of killing and destruction from armed conflict or war related causes have amounted to the “world’s deadliest conflict since WWII,” having victimized over 5.4 million Congolese citizens.[5]

This widespread and colossal conflict has been implemented through rebel groups using atrocious tools of war like “ethnic slaughter, executions, torture, rape and arbitrary arrest,” which leave very few citizens untouched.[6] This harrowing statistic should not need any other words to prove the terror of this situation, yet there are still further consequences while the globe stands by whilst the conflict endures.

Another catastrophic consequence of the DRC’s mining industry is the political and institutional instability that has come with the tumultuous control of the mines. Since the industry is fueled by armed conflict and rebel power, it has been indicatively hard for the central government to consolidate sovereignty and security. As rebel groups emerge and flex their persistent desire to take over mines and political control, the central government has been unable for years to maintain stability and fully oppress secessionist factions.

This hurts every citizen in the country, as years of political erosion have halted democratic reforms and institutional growth. During Joseph Kabila’s reign, this has destroyed his credibility, as shown by his ban on the mineral trade in September 2010 that he had to call off by March 2011 due to not being able to sever the ties between militia groups and mineral traders.[7] Whether this resulted from a lack of resolve, competence, or both, is up for debate, but regardless, the central government is incapable of fulfilling its goals.

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Outside of human rights atrocities, which top the list of negative consequences from the DRC’s mining industry, there are also the environmental consequences to consider as they additionally affect the state’s future. Soil erosion has been a major concern for outside observers, as those running the mines are not adhering to safe or sustainable standards, but are mainly thinking about making a profit in the present.[8] This creates a negative feedback loop where each year where environmental standards are not acknowledged for mining, the environmental deterioration builds on top of itself and becomes worse and worse, until it may become irreversible.

Additionally, one of the main areas where coltan is mined is Kahuzi-Biega National Park, which is home to the endangered mountain gorillas. The mining of coltan has greatly hurt the animal’s numbers as they are killed for bush meat and are indirectly killed through the clearing of the rainforest. Despite the DRC being an unlikely tourist spot currently, destroying the gorilla population also rids them of a profitable tourism opportunity in the future.[9]

The Congolese mining industry has also had extensive economic implications for the country, as every mineral illegally exploited and traded is another source of income that could be used to build and fix the weak country. Unfortunately, Congolese mining code is the third best in Africa in terms of giving advantages to investors, which means the country has an insignificant role in the mining agreement and then receives very much in turn for its national budget.[10]

This is indescribably regrettable because the wealth of natural resources within their territory is slipping through their fingers everyday, whereas if the central government and its international partners stepped up, they could pool at least portions of these riches for national benefit and development that could improve the lives of all Congolese citizens. For example, in Katanga, DRC, mineral tagging has been moderately put in place and the development trend has thus been very different because business flourishes while also giving a modern boost to development through local investments.

In other areas though, where tagging has not been introduced, international buyers only buy illegally through Uganda and Rwanda, instead of directing funds to the DRC. [11] While not perfect, tagging is a great starting point for moving towards a balance of industrial profit and developmental growth for the average citizen. Additionally, executing a minor taxation on mineral exports would also bring increases to the DRC’s GDP. When the actors involved let the minerals cross the border illegally and through rebel hands, they are losing the chance to tax the goods and turn that into investments in “basic infrastructure and social provisions.”

When they do not do this, they are allowing the immense wealth to be sacrificed to neighbors. For example, Rwanda made 250 million USD from coltan alone in eighteen months despite having no coltan within their borders![12] Another way to ensure taxation would be to invest in smelting and manufacturing facilities on their own soil so they could more diligently track the trade process and make a profit off of it[13], as shortened trading chains leaves less space for conflict minerals. When viewed in summary in this manner, it is evident that the mining industry is creating massive impediments for the DRC, and that these wide-ranging consequences must be tackled sooner rather than later.

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Follow Jessamy on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Africa Correspondent: @JessamyNichols

[1] Grespin, Whitney. "Blood Coltan?" Journal of International Peace Operations 6, no. 3 (December 2010): 27-30. pg 28. [2] Ibid, pg 28. [3] Human Rights Watch. "The Curse of Gold." hrw.org. June 1, 2005. http://www.hrw.org/reports/2005/06/01/curse-gold. pg 32, 34. [4] Ibid, pg 29. [5] Grespin, pg 27. [6] HRW, pg 9. [7] International Crisis Group. Conflict Minerals in DRC. January 18, 2012. http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/publication-type/key-issues/country/conflict-minerals-in-drc.aspx. [8] Grespin, pg 29. [9] Nisa. COLTAN MINING IN THE CONGO: WE ALL HAVE BLOOD IN OUR HANDS. September 10, 2011. http://www.cookiesound.com/2011/09/coltan-we-all-have-blood-in-our-hands/. ; Grespin, pg 29. [10] Abadie, Delphine. "Canada and the geopolitics of mining interests: a case study of the Democratic Republic of Congo." Review of African Political Economy (Routledge) 38, no. 128 (June 2011): 289-302., pg 295. [11] Group of Experts on the DRC. "Letter to the Chairman of the Security Council." United Nations, 2012, 1-44., pg 40. [12] Grespin, pg 27. [13] Group of Experts on DRC, pg 37.

The Pastor, The Witch, & The Children

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 23:41 PM EDT, 7 June 2012

A medicine man or witch doctor, working on a fetish in Mopti, Mali 1993, Photo by Peter GaulBRITAIN -- The ugly specter of witch hunting has once again found purchase in the United Kingdom. When Americans or Europeans think of witch hunts they recall a period in European history that lasted from the early 16th Century until the early 18th Century and sporadically thereafter.

The countries with the most notable and bloodthirsty trials and the highest number of victims, in descending order are Germany, Sweden, Scotland, America, and England. (Source: Hanover College, Department of History)

Historians and sociologist remain divided on the exact reasons why the citizens of these countries embarked on campaigns to eradicate ‘witches,’ who were primarily identified as women, though men and children were also victims.

Some have suggested that witchcraft was used as a means of subjugating the population to force them to accept Christianity. While others believe that it was a combination of misogyny and Gendercide, however, both agree that it was a combination of factors including mass hysteria and a desire to explain sociological problems such as poverty, plagues, and unexplained deaths.

400 years later witch hunts have once again returned to the U.K. through an unlikely conduit. On 4 March 2012 in London, Kirsty Bamu, a young, Central African Republic (CAR) native was brutally murdered by family members after being accused of being a witch. He was beaten over a period of several days as part of a 'exorcism,' before finally succumbing to death by drowning. There are thousands of African children who are suffering similar fates throughout Britain.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kRqrGHA-Azs&feature=related]  "A phenomenon which was eradicated in Europe in the early 18th century is now raging across Africa, where according to UNICEF children between ages 4 and 14 are increasingly accused of practicing witchcraft. With the exception of Liberia and Sierra Leone, the urban phenomenon of child witches occurs principally in the Congo Basin, more precisely, in areas of Kongo culture (Yengo, 2008).

It is no coincidence that these countries, Angola, the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, have also suffered from political instability, endless conflicts and civil wars, and the recruitment of child soldiers. The phenomenon appears to be gaining ground in countries that are geographically close (Cameroon, CAR, Gabon and Nigeria; Liberia and Sierra Leone).

The last decades of the twentieth century were particularly hard for the majority of sub‐Saharan African countries, which have suffered an acute and multiform crisis (social, economic, political and cultural). While a small number of individuals gained wealth rapidly, most people sank into a quagmire of poverty. Furthermore, the social changes that followed the rise of capitalism, urbanization and school attendance had a profound effect on the family, kinship relations and inter‐generational relations. In these circumstances, it is obvious that there were strong tensions between the elderly and the youth, brothers and sisters (in the widest sense), and also one’s cousins." (Source: UNICEF Report Pg. 19 -24)

Although, it is a complex issue, the prevailing belief which seems to be confirmed by news coverage, is that cases of adults in Africa being accused of witchcraft are usually the result of a dispute over inheritance or someone's desire to get that person out of the way. In fact, in the Central African Republic the government legalized the hunt for witches by instituting laws which allow the police to arrest, charge and prosecute women who have been accused of practicing witchcraft. Many of these women languish in prison for years simply because they angered a male.

In the case of ‘child witches,’ in addition to the sociological stresses outlined in the UNICEF report, much of the violence seems to be instigated by ‘ministers’ who preach a Prosperity Theology. A branch of Word of Faith movement, it is sometimes referred to as the prosperity gospel or the health and wealth gospel, and is a Christian religious doctrine which claims the Bible teaches that financial blessing is the will of God for Christians. The doctrine teaches that faith, positive speech, and donations to Christian ministries will always increase one's material wealth. (Source: Wikipedia)

Since children are unable to defend themselves, it is easy for church 'pastors' to level charges against them while simultaneously extorting money from their families who are desperate to remove the perceived evil in their midst. These religious leaders are able to enslave people with their perfidious assertions that these curses can potentially be removed through a large donation.

Once accused, the children do not stand a chance and are subsequently subjected to inconceivable methods of child abuse which are euphemistically labeled as ‘exorcisms.’ Subsequently, when these religious leader proclaim that the inhuman measures have failed to cast out the evil from the child, these precious victims are then thrown out into the street and left to die, or are tortured and killed.

This heinous practice that is spreading across Africa is unfortunately motivated by Christian extremists who are intent upon lining their pockets versus tending to the spiritual needs of their flock. We encourage you to watch the video reports at the links below to learn more about this horrific phenomenon, as well as familiarize yourself with the history of witch hunts and witch trials in Renaissance Europe.

Follow Nahmias Cipher Report on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Editor-in-Chief: @ayannanahmias

'Heart of Darkness' | DRC Holocaust

Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 20:42 p.m. EDT, 12 February 2012

Heart of Darkness by Joseph ConradDEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO, Africa - We have written several posts about the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the war crimes that are occurring in a country also known as the heart of Africa.

Previously, we have focused on the human rights abuse of rape to control and terrorize a populace that has been severely victimized by internal and external players.

In the DRC, this heinous act has been defined by human rights group as 'weaponized rape,' because it is used like a gun to maim and kill its victims.

The DRC is the most egregious example of Neo-Colonialism on the Continent today.  Large multinationals encourage and promote destabilization to enable them to freely extract the natural resources of this mineral rich nation.

The rape of the Congo has been a long-running play first documented in the fictional story Heart of Darkness. Written by Joseph Conrad and published in 1903, the exploitation of this country and the subjugation of its people has changed little over the last 100 years.

'Heart of Darkness exposes the dark side of European colonization while exploring the three levels of darkness that the protagonist, Marlow, encounters: the darkness of the Congo wilderness, the darkness of the Europeans' cruel treatment of the African natives, and the unfathomable darkness within every human being for committing heinous acts of evil.[2]

Although Conrad does not give the name of the river, at the time of writing the Congo Free State, the location of the large and important Congo River, was a private colony of Belgium's King Leopold II.' (Source: Wikipedia)

When I was in school this book was required reading, but since we live in an increasingly digital era, I encourage readers to download a free copy of the book here.  Many consider this book racist, but within the context of its time, the prevailing view of black people and Africans, the language is consistent with that era.

Unfortunately, it is also consistent with how some people continue to think of African's today. The twenty-six minute video below provides an in-depth and informative background on the conflict in the DRC, the egregious human rights violations that occur as a consequence, and the massive collateral damage that is tantamount to an unacknowledged Holocaust.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLV9szEu9Ag&feature=player_embedded]

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Sexual Warfare in DRC | First Lady Leads Battle (Video)

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 17:23 p.m. EDT, 18 October 2010

First Lady Marie Olive Kabila - Democratic Republic of Congo

BUKAVU, Democratic Republic of Congo - First Lady Olive Lembe Kabila, the wife of President Joseph Kabila led approximately 17,000 women on Sunday in a march against sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The term 'weaponized rape,' has come to define the practice of raping women as a means of subjugating and decimating the enemy.

Most of the mass rapes which have occurred in the conflict ridden DRC, were perpetrated in the eastern region of the country where fighting is the heaviest.

Victims range in age from girls as young as 2-years to women as old as 90.

Defying the stigma associated with rape, throngs of Congo’s rape survivors filled the streets in Bukavu. CNN reports. “They have had enough, enough, enough, enough,“ said Nita Vielle, a Congelese activist. “Enough of the war, of the rape, of nobody paying attention to what’s happening to them.”

A U.N. report stated that 15,000 women were raped in eastern Congo last year, in regions where rebel groups move in and attack civilian populations they consider to be government sympathizers, employing systemic rape as a tool of warfare.

Methodical mass rape has plagued eastern Congo for years, but the situation has only gotten worse. In one particularly vicious spate, at least 303 rapes occurred between July 30 and August 2 in the Walikale region of North Kivu province alone.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-vGanZopQHg]

Read more about the problem of rape and war in the Congo via BBC News coverage here.

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Twitter: @nahmias_report Editor: @ayannanahmias
 

Blood Diamonds | Naomi Campbell

Blood Diamonds | Naomi Campbell

In the ongoing trial at The Hague of war criminal Charles Taylor, a cadre of international elites have been called upon to testify. Among them, the famed or rather infamous supermodel Naomi Campbell. She testified that she did not know that the diamonds Mr. Taylor gave her at a lavish party were 'blood diamonds,' a statement which has been contradicted by several witness including Ms. Campbell's former agent who has "described how the supermodel 'flirted' with the African warlord over dinner but was then disappointed that his gift of uncut 'blood diamonds' were not 'shiny enough.'"

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