Buhari's First Challenge: Military Mass Killings

nigerian soldiers riding in lorry, photo courtesy of dammex1

nigerian soldiers riding in lorry, photo courtesy of dammex1

NIGERIA - Amongst the feeling of hope and a fresh start in the air from President Muhammadu Buhari's inauguration, Nigeria was slammed this week with a report from Amnesty International that claims the Nigerian military is tied to over 8,000 deaths in the country.

The research for the report has been conducted since 2009, in alignment with the rise of the Boko Haram insurgency. While the rise in violence by the military was driven by Boko Haram, the report finds that the majority of those 8,000 deaths have nothing to do with Boko Haram members.

This process was started through widespread rounding up of boys and young men, over 20,000 of them, based on often unreliable informants and poor intelligence. The report states that one could be arrested based on the word of a single unidentified informant. Upon arrest, the thousands of prisoners were placed in detention centers where they were commonly cramped into overcrowded cells in abysmal condition.

Many died from starvation, dehydration, suffocation and preventable diseases, as the prisoners were kept from adequate water, food and basic hygiene and sanitation. In one case, a detention center survivor told Amnesty, they were denied water for two days and 300 inmates died. In these dire situations, they were often forced to drink urine.

Those who were able to survive these terrifying living standards were still at risk of the brutal treatment by the military commanders, which included extrajudicial killings, torture, electrocution, and a myriad of other horrifying tactics. On March 14, 2014, after a Boko Haram attack on the Giwa barracks (and detention center), the military killed at least 640 men and boys who were imprisoned there. Satellite analysis has confirmed the presence of multiple mass graves in the area shortly after this date.

More worrisome is that this system of detainment and mass murder was widely known through all levels of the Nigerian military, including senior officials, Chief of Army staff and Chief of Defense Staff who regularly received reports of military activity in these regions of war-torn Northern Nigeria.

As stated in Amnesty's report, "A high ranking military officer...further said: '...people were not strong enough to stand...They keep them to die. They are deliberately starved. The effect is devastating. You have massive deaths. I believe close to 5,000 [in total] have died like that. It increased after the state of emergency.'" This behavior indicates that the Nigerian military's strategy to fight Boko Haram included murdering thousands of boys and young men without giving them fair trials or even the slightest confirmation that they were tied to the terrorist organization. Through this tactic, they managed to make the Boko Haram insurgency more detrimental to their country and its citizens.

Since the report has surfaced, the Nigerian military has rejected the findings as "concocted and biased," and even called Amnesty International an "irritant" in a Premium Times' article. Regardless of their response, the international community is up in arms over the findings and it is increasingly evident that new President Muhammadu Buhari must address these atrocities as soon as possible. If he wants to keep his promises of tackling human rights violations, it is imperative that he holds those who are guilty accountable and pave a new, morally upright pathway forward. The future of the country depends on it.

The entire report can be found here. 

Africa Correspondent: @JessamyNichols
LinkedIn: Jessamy Nichols

Al-Shabaab Prosecutor Murdered in Kampala

high court of uganda, kampala, photo by tom/Flickr

high court of uganda, kampala, photo by tom/Flickr

KAMPALA, Uganda - It's been almost five years since the perilous al-Shabaab bombings in Kampala, Uganda that left 79 dead during the World Cup Final. But the death toll from this terrorist group rose again after they followed and murdered Ms. Joan Kagezi, the country's chief prosecutor in this case, while she was in the car with her children. She was the head of Uganda's Public Prosecutions's Anti-Terrorism and War Crimes Division, and has been the lead on prosecuting the suspects in these bombings.

Prior to Joan Kagezi's murder, the U.S. Embassy in Kampala issued a warning of possible terrorist threats, and urged Westerners to stay away from spots that typically are known as Westerner epicenters. Depending on what intelligence they received to issue this warning, it is yet to be determined whether al-Shabaab was planning to solely seek out Ms. Joan Kagezi, or if they have other attacks planned that could also target Americans. Security forces in Kampala have now amped up measures in response.

The U.S. Embassy in Kampala issued a Facebook message stating, "[Joan] will be remembered as a brave and tireless promoter of justice, dedicated to ensuring peace and stability in her country...The United States reiterates its support for the Ugandan government’s efforts to combat international terrorism, in which Joan Kagezi played a leading role. We deplore this senseless act of violence and cowardice and join Ugandans in mourning the loss of this heroine in the forefront of the fight against crime and terrorism."

The loss of this just and influential leader through a profoundly immoral act of violence is entirely unacceptable, and Uganda, along with its international allies with relevant intelligence, must work together to bring those responsible to justice. Beyond that, it must be ensured that these acts will not be tolerated ever again.

Africa Correspondent: @JessamyNichols
LinkedIn: Jessamy Nichols

Rwanda's Leading Murderer | Paul Kagame

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KIGALI, Rwanda - Ever since the 1994 Rwandan genocide, the international community has been slow to criticize Rwanda's new government and slow to intervene in matters there. This hesitancy to get involved is rooted back to their fear of being to blame for another outbreak of civil war, or worse, genocide. Despite having dirty hands from not stepping in to prevent or stop the genocide, they're fearful of further worsening their guilt by interposing in Rwandan affairs and having a role in any resurgence of violence.

This pattern in the past two decades has created the perfect scenario for Rwanda's president, Paul Kagame. By the end of the genocide, he was viewed as an international hero for easing the chaos and in essence, helping to end the genocide. For his role in restoring stability in Rwanda, the international community paid him back by turning a blind eye to his illegal, murderous and scary actions that would continue to this day. His role in the First and Second Congo War are undeniable, as his political and military decisions were directly tied to thousands of deaths and continued war and violence that spread into neighboring countries.

Twenty years after the Rwandan genocide, Kagame is still in power and still continuing to enforce his intense and total grip on power across the country. Opposition leaders and journalists are commonly jailed, silenced, exiled, or worse, killed. In the past several months, over 40 bodies have turned up in Lake Wreru on the border of Rwanda and Burundi. Rwanda's government conveniently claims that since they were found in Burundi, they are Burundi's responsibility. However, the lake is fed by Akagera River that flows in from Rwanda. To add to the suspicion, many of the bodies were wrapped in plastic bags, indicating that the disappearances were planned and not accidental.

To add to Kagame's list of crimes, there have been a string of mysterious murders in South Africa where former Rwandan government officials that were exiled have been murdered in their hotel rooms and the like. Adding all of these occurrences up, it is evident that these events are not coincidences but are a part of a larger plan to remove dissent and criticism from the country. And without the international community stepping in to hold Kagame and his team accountable, how far will he go? After two decades of overlooking their wrongdoings, when it will it become too much?

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

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Korean 'Comfort Women' Still Protesting Decades Later

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Olivia Elswick, Asia CorrespondentLast Modified: 12:36 p.m. DST, 25 June 2014

Photo by: Melissa Wall "Unveiling of Comfort Women Memorial"SEOUL, South Korea -- Elderly Korean women (euphemistically referred to as “comfort women”) who were forced into prostitution as teenagers during WWII, have gathered every Wednesday since 8 January, 1992, outside the Japanese embassy in Seoul to protest the atrocities they faced. These demonstrations are now lauded by guidebooks and travel websites as a must-see for tourists to Seoul.

Though groups of Japanese tourists come to apologize to these determined women, the Japanese government has refused to apologize. The women are hoping the Japanese government will issue an official apology and provide reparations to those forced into sexual slavery. Japan’s response is that this compensation was settled with the 1994 “Asian Women’s Fund.” South Korea rejected the fund because it is a semi-private organization run by volunteers, and not under the authority of the government.

In 2007 the U.S. House of Representatives, passed a non-binding resolution that called on Japan to apologize for forcing these women into prostitution. In April, President Obama called on Japan to acknowledge their past wrong-doings, saying, "This was a terrible, egregious violation of human rights. Those women were violated in ways that, even in the midst of war, were shocking.” Obama also called on Seoul to look to the future and be more flexible in its relations with Japan to ensure better cooperation between the two countries.

Japan responded that the issue of wartime sex slavery is not a political or diplomatic subject. The issue is a hindrance to Tokyo’s relations with East Asia, and South Korea in particular.

Despite their dwindling numbers, with fewer than 100 Korean comfort women still alive, one survivor, Hwang Geum-joo says, ”Our numbers are dwindling every year, but we are still full of anger and they should apologize for what they did to us!” Around 200,000 women, mainly from Korea, but also from China, Taiwan, and Indonesia, were forced into brothels to serve Japanese imperial troops. Many were abducted from their homes or duped into forced prostitution after responding to calls to work as nurses and factory workers. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and other members of the political right continue to doubt these women, instead, claiming professional prostitutes staffed the brothels.

Monday, June 23, 2014, South Korea protested an appearance by Japan’s ambassador, condemning Tokyo’s review of a noteworthy 1993 apology for the wartime sex slavery. The review made the claim that there was no evidence to confirm the forced sexual misconduct.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying is also urging Japan to address the problematic history of sexual exploitation. Japan invaded China in 1937 and held an authoritarian rule for eight years.

In 2011 on the occasion of the 1,000th demonstration, the organizers erected the Pyeonghwa-bu Peace Monument, a statue of a barefooted-teenage Korean girl, with her hands in her lap, and a small bird on her left shoulder representing peace and freedom. The women offer monthly tours of the 'House of Sharing,' a benefit center for survivors of Japanese sex slavery, where many of the ladies now live.

Follow Olivia on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Asia Correspondent: @OCELswick

Cannibalism, Child Mutilations in Central African Republic

Central african child peers through wall, photo by pierre holtz

Central african child peers through wall, photo by pierre holtz

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC, Africa -- Violence among Christian and Muslim militias in the Central African Republic (CAR) remains alarmingly high.

Despite intervention efforts, death and displacement continue. In this troubled environment, there have been reports of cannibalism as well as revenge-killings targeting children.

Ouandja “Mad Dog” Magloire, a Christian, has admitted to beating and stabbing a Muslim man before dousing him with petrol, setting him on fire, and eating parts of his body.

Magloire claims revenge as his motive, saying that Muslims had killed his pregnant wife, his sister-in-law and her baby.

The victim of cannibalism, who was attacked in broad daylight by Magloire and approximately 20 other men, was not personally connected to Magloire’s losses.

Other revenge crimes involve children who are mutilated or beheaded. Over 130 children have been killed or maimed since January, usually in machete or knife attacks. These are clearly crimes against humanity, but there is no justice system currently stable enough to hold anyone responsible for their actions.

Not only are children preyed upon in retaliation attacks, they are also often recruited into armed groups. During the evacuation and displacement of over 500,000 individuals, already-vulnerable children are more likely to be unattended and harder to protect.

Hope may come in the form of Catherine Samba-Panza. She was elected in January to serve a one-year term of interim president while the CAR, hopefully, gains stability. She has no connection to either Muslim or Christian groups and urges both sides to lay down their arms. So far, nobody seems to be listening.

Libya Declares Gaddafi Rapes as War Crimes, Paving Way for Victim Compensation

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Jessamy Nichols, Africa CorrespondentLast Modified: 00:02 a.m. DST, 25 February 2014

Eman al-Obeidy, Libyan Woman Gang Raped by 15 Gaddafi Soldiers, Photo Courtesy of Libyan Rebel

When discussing tools of warfare, one tends to think of guns, tanks, espionage and bombs. Unfortunately though, the damaging and lasting elements of war go far beyond this list and are seldom given the attention they deserve.

For instance, rape has been utilized in war for hundreds, even thousands, of years, but since it's harder to monitor than death tolls, it commonly gets overlooked and goes unpunished.

Armies and rebel groups use it as a weapon to exert dominance, spread anarchy, and disturb the mentality of their opponents. This sad reality still happens across the globe during conflicts, especially in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where HearCongo.org says 40% of the DRC's female population has experienced rape.

In a huge stride to fight impunity for rape, Libya's cabinet has determined that rape victims from the 2011 uprising against Muammar Gaddafi should be recognized as war victims that are entitled to the same compensation. The legislation still needs congressional approval before it will be institutionalized and thus officially recognize rape victims as equals to wounded ex-fighters.

If passed, the women like Eman al-Obeidy who was raped over the course of 72-hours by 15-soldiers loyal to Gaddafi, will have access to measures that include financial assistance, and physical and psychological care. (Anderson Cooper 360 Interview with Obeidy)

This piece of legislation is especially impressive and groundbreaking because of Libya's staunch conservatism that causes rape to be a taboo topic. Setting an example in postwar recovery will not only allow hundreds of women to come forward, but will also exemplify to other countries that rape is a war crime worth discussing, confronting, and reconciling.

Women have deserved this recognition and solace for centuries, and its long overdue for civil society stakeholders and governments to ensure this respect for human dignity is carried out. After all, investing in a healthy and safe population provides for more stable and prosperous future.

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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Twitter: @nahmias_report Editor: @ayannanahmias