Central African Republic's Tragic Conditions

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Jessamy Nichols, Africa CorrespondentLast Modified: 21:41 p.m. DST, 12 September 2013

CAR Malaria Victim Helped by Aid Victim, Photo by Merlin-Frédéric Courbet-PanosCENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC, Africa - A few United Nations agencies have released new reports that disclose the dire statistics of the current status of the Central African Republic (CAR). Although a peace agreement was reached in January between the national government and the Séléka rebel coalition, the rebels soon reclaimed the capital of Bangui and have since repeatedly stirred up violence and lawlessness through the volatile country.

The newest UN reports reveal that villages are still being burned to the ground by armed militants which has forced thousands to flee their homes and seek basic human necessities. It is has been calculated that over a third of the country's population of 4.6 million people are in desperate need of food, shelter, healthcare, water, protection and sanitation.

This is clearly a huge humanitarian crisis, and poses a threat to the ever-increasing unstable region. The DRC to the south has its own civil conflict raging on, and refugees from the CAR are fleeing into neighboring Chad and Cameroon daily.

As torture, looting, kidnapping, assaults and extortion continue through the country, UN agencies are trying to provide all of the assistance they can, but it is imperative that the central government regain control of the country and put an end to the rebels' stronghold on power. As long as the rebels have unchecked power, they will continue to ravage the countryside for food, supplies, and potential human capital.

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

Thomas Lubanga, Congolese War Lord Convicted

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 17:10 PM EDT, 10 July 2012

Thomas Lubanga, Congolese Warlord, Photo by ICC-CPITHE HAGUE, Netherlands – Six years after the government of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) handed Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, over to The Hague for trial, and three years after the start of his trial, Lubanga has finally been received a verdict of 14 years in prison.

He now holds the dubious honor of being the first person to be taken into custody by the International Criminal Court (ICC), which was created a decade ago to address war crimes in places where local courts are unable or unwilling to act.

Fellow warlord, Charles Taylor, 64, former Liberian President was also convicted earlier this year by The Special Court for Sierra Leone, in The Hague. He was found guilty of 11 counts of war crimes, including murder, rape, and sexual slavery. In the court of public opinion, Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony, Taylor, Lubanga, and Bosco Ntaganda all stand accused of conscripting children into his marauding armies. However, to date only Taylor and Lubanga have been captured and sentenced for conscripting children under the age of 15 to fight in their armies.

In the conflict torn countries – Uganda, DRC, Liberia and Sierra Leone, these children were more than just child soldiers, they were victims of extreme child abuse, who were brutalized and forced to torture and kill innocent citizens, as well as participate in the rape of women who could have been their mothers and grandmothers. Dissent was not an option as failure to participate resulted in their immediate execution.

In the Lubanga’s six year absence, the civil war that has utterly decimated the country continues to rage across the central African nation. Thousands of civilians have been raped and butchered at the hands of his co-accused, Bosco Ntaganda, another militia leader who is now a general in the Congolese army in the North Kivu area of eastern Congo.

In the video below Luis Moreno-Ocampo of Argentina, was criticizing for his handling of the case, for not including the sexual violence charges as part of the case, and for omitting numerous other war crimes allegedly committed by Lubanga and his compatriots.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dYLZKPkjO40]                                                                                                                                                     Prosecutors had sought 30 years in prison for Lubanga but given the diluted charges which did not adequately demonstrate “any aggravating circumstances” plus his cooperation with the court, resulted in a sentence which will only require him to serve 8 years in jail because of time served.  Lubanga who is 51 will be freed before his 60th birthday.

Lubanga's case this year has brought increasing pressure for the arrest of his much more infamous partner in crime, renegade Congolese army Gen. Bosco Ntaganda. Ntaganda had moved on from being a militia leader in Ituri to being the No. 2 leader in a tribal-based rebellion in 2006, when the ICC indicted both men for war crimes involving child soldiers.

Ntaganda and others have accused the court of racism in pursuing Africans, and especially Congolese. Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir remains on the court's agenda along with Ntaganda and two other Congolese warlords. Congo's back-to-back civil wars that drew in soldiers from a half dozen nations killed an estimated 5 million people — more lives than any conflict since World War II. (Source: Associated Press)

Initially, the March verdict was hailed by human rights group as a victory, but today’s news was greeted with disappointment. Though other tribunals have been created throughout history to punish atrocities from specific conflicts, such as the Nuremberg trial in 1946 of Karl Doenitz, Lubanga's case may have set a precedent of leniency since he is the first person to be convicted and sentenced directly by the ICC.

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Ugandans Leverage Viral Activism

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 23:54 PM EDT,  23 April 2012

Evelyn, she was one of LRA leader Joseph Kony's child brides, Photo by Sean SpragueKAMPALA, Uganda - The Joseph Kony video that revealed gross human rights abuses in Uganda, particularly with regard to the kidnapping of children who were subsequently pressed into war as child soldiers, is not without its critics. Many Ugandans feel that their involvement in fighting against the ills that plague their war-torn country were portrayed peripherally if at all.

In the video below, the Ugandan people want the world to remember that they are like other people living in conflict areas around the world - they are inherently resilient, dedicated to conflict resolution, and involved in creating solutions to the problems which afflict their country and society.

This does not mean that The Kony 2012 video which went viral was not positive, only that it didn't go as far as it could from the perspective of the Ugandan people. There are many Ugandan activists on the ground making a difference, in fact, we recently featured a post on 'Victoria Seeds | Josephine Okot,' who is working to reeducate and train women to become successful farmers and businesswomen.

Africans are no different from most people engaged in life or death struggles. They are people of great courage fighting for the right of self-determination like groups in countries across the Middle East, fighting for the right to live in a conflict free society as are people in other countries across Africa, and for economic or religious equality as do people in Asia, Europe and the United States.

The difference usually lies in how the media portrays Africans versus these other cultures. Unfortunately, Africans are often portrayed as victims instead of victorious survivors, capable of effecting positive, lasting change in their societies and communities without external intervention. Though the Kony 2012 video is not guilty of this bias, many Africans through force of habit and historical experiences, reacted to the video with lukewarm response.

Thus, the first video features Ugandans telling their stories in their voices about their lives and the many challenges they face in their country including Kony. They share with us how this conflict has affected them, but also how they are persevering, thriving, and succeeding.

The second video is a response by the producers of the Kony 2012 video to its many critics, and documents the genesis of the project, the original objectives, and the utter surprise that this video project would garner so much attention and support.

Whatever side of the discussion you find yourself on, this video has done more than most in bringing the genocide that is occurring across the Continent front and center to the global consciousness. It is both inspirational and instructive because it demonstrates that each one of us is capable of making a profoundly positive difference, and if we just have the courage of conviction to follow-through on our dreams, we may be surprised at the global impact our vision coupled with action can have.

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