Fresh faces in future of uncertainties

January 31, 2014 in Africa, The World Today

 

Photo from BBC News

By: Razanne Chatila

As many as 11 million young Africans are expected to join the labor market every year for the next decade, according to a new World Bank report making the future of Africa looking a lot more prosperous. During the 4th Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland from January 22-25, world leaders gathered together where the challenges faced by youth around the globe topped the agenda.  Africa, as the world’s youngest continent with 70 percent of the population under the age of 30, is making tremendous strides towards developing and transforming its sectors.

More than half of Sub-Saharan Africa’s population is now under the age of 25 and with more young individuals joining the work force, the report stated this will be vital to boost economic growth and significantly cut poverty. Although this growth has been beneficial to these areas, poverty remains a problem with poverty levels across the region remaining the same. Part of the reason is many of these countries rely on oil, gas and mineral extraction, which boots economic growth but does not provide too many opportunities for job creation especially to meet the growing workforce. This causes many of the youth to work on small farms and household businesses. According to a new comprehensive regional report, “Youth Employment in Sub-Saharan Africa,” it states that 80 percent of the workforce will continue to work these types of jobs in the future. World Bank Vice President for Africa, Makhtar Diop, said in an interview that it was critical to attract investment into large enterprises in order to create these wage jobs in the ‘mainstream economy’ as part of the solution in curbing Africa’s youth employment challenges.

“For the millions of young people who are just surviving in the hidden ‘informal’ sector, they will need greater access to land, skills training, and credit to thrive. This will be a game-changer for small farmers and entrepreneurs who will prosper as African economies grow, in close cooperation with the private sector.”

Photo from BBC News

Part of this as Diop said, is being able to increase high-quality science and technology education and make it more accessible to youth and to continue these type of courses in higher education in order to better prepare individuals to have the skills to be competitive in the workforce. Already China, India and Brazil are actively working with the World Bank as new development partners to help grow these skills for African Youth. The lure of promised salaries attracts youth to end up at the ranks of groups such as the Somali Islamist group, al-Shabab, due to the lack of opportunities. Some analysts see this growing youth population as more of a risk than an asset because there is a strong case to be made that when you have a young population without clear direction, it can just lead to instability and civil conflict. Nonetheless, with proper support and more stable governments, it can allow these young people to have aspirations without these social stresses that are steering them in the wrong direction. Youth in Africa need to be supported and given an opportunity to follow their passions and truly be the beacon of fresh hope to this continent. 

This post reflects the author’s personal opinions, not the opinions of Arizona Model United Nations.

Mali: a Background on the Conflict

November 8, 2013 in Africa, The World Today

Throughout history, the Republic of Mali’s position in the Sahel region of Africa has been seen as a strategic location, linking West Africa and the Maghreb. Cities such as Timbuktu served as trade hubsas well as centers of Islamic learning from the 13th to 17th centuries. A significant group of traders dating back to the early development of Malian commerce centers are the Tuareg, a population of nomadic Islamic berbers.  Tuareg people lived in the Sahara Desert and primarily traded salt. Later in Mali’s history, Tuareg fighters would prove to be instrumental in the outbreak of civil war in the early 1990s.

For decades following its 1960 independence from France, northern rebellions, drought, famine, and a generally corrupt government plagued Mali.

Autonomy for the Azawad territory, Mali’s northern half, was the source of the first phase of the Malian civil war. In 1990, Tuareg rebellions instigated by many different groups fought for cultural and land rights over Azawad. Despite efforts for peace, including a negotiation mediated by Algeria, France, and Mauritania, tensions remained high and conflict generally unresolved.

By 2007, the influence of the Al Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), had taken root and several Malian organizations engaged in minor conflict in the north, destabilizing the region. When the Libyan civil war broke out in 2011, arms began to flow readily into Mali and AQIM, along with several other Islamist groups, seized power over the Azawad in 2012. Islamic law was established, and Mali’s northern region was effectively cut off from the Malian government’s reach. In contrast to the conflict in the 1990s’ aim to achieve an autonomous Azawad, the goal of the Islamic groups was to unseat the Malian government and establish sharia law in Mali.

The international reaction to this secession was swift—the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) led efforts to resolve the conflict; eventually, the French encouraged the implementation of an African-led, France-backed operation to take back the north. The town of Konna, as well as clashes between rebels and Malian forces just 680 kilometers from the capital Bamako, was captured by rebels. In response to this strong showing by the rebel extremists, France launched Operation Serval. French military presence in the area decreased violence considerably.

In April of 2013, the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously to undertake a UN-backed peacekeeping mission in Mali. This mission authorizes no more than 12,600 troops and police to replace the ECOWAS and French troops, who have are being phased out after deployment in January 2013.

Major roots of the cyclical conflict in Mali can be found in its economic situation and large population. About 68 percent of Mali’s population lives below the poverty line, and its population is growing at an unsustainable rate of about 2.7 to 3 percent per year. Time and again, poverty and large population have been major factors in the onset and lengthened duration of civil wars. Additionally, the environment of northern Mali is hostile and unfamiliar to international troops as well as troops deployed from Bamako, which is in the southern half of the country and has a markedly different climate. Tuareg fighters can seek refuge or trade arms with other members of the Islamic Maghreb in surrounding countries. Furthermore, the conflict has many groups of combatants, all of whom must be satisfied with the terms of peace before it can be realized.

A litany of peace accords have been negotiated, broken, and renegotiated throughout the duration of Mali’s civil war. After an election that was deemed free and fair in July, the government seeks to rebuild a nation that has known little but conflict. Peace with the Northern rebels is the first step towards achieving a more economically sound and safe Mali. Just days ago, a merger between three major Arab and Tuareg groups was agreed upon in a step towards a lasting peace process. However, the peace cannot be lasting until all players in the conflict agree to lay down arms—a process that could take years to achieve.

 

This post reflects the author’s personal opinions, not the opinions of Arizona Model United Nations.

Mali’s current state poses worrisome future

November 7, 2013 in Africa, The World Today

 

Courtesy of Al Jazeera

By: Razanne Chatila 

Three rebel groups in northern Mali have agreed to merge on Monday, which will take effect in 45 days, in an ongoing effort to create a peace process with the government. The three main groups, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), the High Council for the Unity of Azawad (HCUA) and the Arab Movement of Azawad (MAA) have signed a deal as part of this peace deal with government in Burkina Faso in June that the three groups said they would disarm.

Although this is a step-in-right-direction, the country still remains unstable.

Just this Sunday, two French journalists were found dead in the northern Mali region of Kidal. They had been “coldly assassinated” by militants. In response, France vowed to help up security measures. According to CNN, radio journalists Claude Verlon and Ghislaine Dupont were abducted on Saturday morning after interviewing a member of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad Tuareg separatist group in northern Mali. Their bodies were found on Saturday by a French patrol 12 km outside Kidal, the birthplace of a Tuareg uprising last year that plunged Mali into chaos, leading to a coup in the capital Bamako and the occupation of the northern half of the country by militants linked to al-Qaeda.

Arrests were made on Tuesday for at least 12 people. Although finding out who carried out the killings is still unclear, Al Jazeera reported that Malian government officials pointed the finger at MNLA, a Tuareg separatist movement that is in nominal control of much of the north of Mali. Northern Mali, since 2003, has also acted as a rear base for al-Qaeda’s North African branch, which has used the country’s vast deserts north of Kidal to train fighters, amass arms and prepare for war. They have also funded their operations by kidnapping Westerners, especially French nationals. Not only that, according to global intelligence unit Stratfor, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has carried out at least 18 successful kidnappings of foreigners in the past decade, netting at least $89 million in ransom payments.

This reflects a worrisome trend on how rebel groups are fighting in Mali. By using violence, kidnapping and killings to gain attention, the extent of their actions becomes a gamble in the security of not only their country but anyone in this area, citizens and foreigners alike. In a recent article by The Christian Science Monitor it stated that, “Criminal groups and jihadis operating in the Sahel (including northern Mali) have grown fat from the ransoms paid for the release of European kidnap victims. Hence the kidnapping of the two French journalists fits a pattern.” Many nations including the U.S. and Britain have policy and practices in place such as never paying the ransom that makes their citizens “less attractive to kidnappers.”

Nonetheless, the lure of using kidnapping as a segway into negotiations is a disturbing reality. Not only does there need to be global support, but also regional help in coming together to help neighboring states. More action and awareness on this nation is needed to find a lasting solution to Mali’s turbulent state. 

This post reflects the author’s personal opinions, not the opinions of Arizona Model United Nations.

France Rejoices: Captives Returned

October 31, 2013 in Africa, Europe, The World Today

by Emily Michael

While delivering a speech during his visit to Slovakia on Tuesday, President Hollande of France announced, “I have some good news. I just learned from Niger’s president that our four hostages in the Sahel, the Arlit hostages, have been released.” The president was referring to the four men- Thierry Dol, Daniel Larribe, Pierre Legrand and Marc Feret- who were taken as hostages during raids on September 16, 2010. An extremist group known as Abou Zaid, an affiliate Al-Qaeda in Mali, took responsibility for the attacks on the French controlled uranium mine in Arlit, northern Niger. The country is the 6th largest producer of uranium in the world, so the attack was believed to try and hinder the mining and therefore cripple the Nigerian government and economy. A French delegation attempted negotiations for the hostages following the attacks, but Al-Qaeda made no demands and has simply kept the four employees during the last three years.

That all, however, changed on Tuesday, October 29, 2013 when President Hollande received word from the Nigerian president that the hostages had been released, saying, “I want to express all my gratitude to the President of Niger who obtained the release of our compatriots.” The circumstances of this release remain unknown, though it is possible their employer, Areva may have had a hand in ransoming their freedom, as the French government is vehemently against such action. Since these and recent attacks in May,2013, Areva’s Arlit operation has increased and improved its security measures, hoping to better protect its employees. The May attack resulted in one death and 14 injuries, a staggering number for a region that had just taken a heavy blow from the French. Early this year, French troops pushed Islamists out of Northern Mali in the hopes that this would help the prisoners, not lead to their demise. Obviously this lent to their release, bringing much joy and excitement to anyone who was a part of the effort.

This excitement and gratitude is shared by the many families who await their loved one’s return. Family members have been running a vocal campaign in support of their release, hoping that something could be done to bring these four men home. Now, they all wait as their family members are checked for health conditions and cleared of any life threatening issues. It will truly be a memorable moment when these hostages return home.

This post reflects the author’s personal opinions, not the opinions of Arizona Model United Nations.

“Silicon Savannah”

March 1, 2013 in Africa, The World Today

Photo from Newsweek Magazine

By: Razanne Chatila

A new industry has hit Africa. The mobile phone market in Africa is the fastest-growing in the world and for many industries it is being considered as the “last frontier with the potential for unlocked riches and luring global interest.” However, this is not a sure golden ticket to success but rather many industry leaders and analysts stated there are two important challenges they face. These include lowering prices for handsets and services and boosting a patchy network.

Nonetheless, the use of this technology is booming across the continent especially as landline networks are poorly developed and many individuals rely on mobile phones for financial transactions or to link to the Internet. Global consultants PwC said the number of mobile telephone subscriptions in Africa exploded from 16 million in 2000 to 246 million in 2008 and is more than 500 million now, with estimates of 600 million subscribers by 2016. To profit from cheaper calls many Africans have two SIM cards, which can change the data on the estimates of who actually has a mobile telephone.

Getting more mobile phones to individuals is what Chinese manufacturer Huawei did. Just this month they launched a new smartphone adapted for Africa called the 4Africka that runs on Microsoft’s Windows phone operating system with a four-inch screen.  The phone is expected to sell for less than $200 and is going to be launched in Angola, Egypt, the Ivory Coast, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, and South Africa within the next month. The total investment in fixed and mobile networks in Africa according to PwC  is expected to rise from $78.8 billion in 2008 to $145.9 billion by 2015.

It is beyond just having a means of communication but in many rural areas it has become a tool. In Uganda, banana plant farmers use their mobile devices to track crop disease and communicate the latest scientific facts to other farmers. New companies are also developing applications specifically geared to the needs of that region such as agriculture focused apps. Although, Africans have never been avid telephone users and with most Africans living on $2 a day or less, many corporate investments in cellular networks far outside the more prosperous cities and towns saw this region as too poor. But the lack of resources is not stopping many citizens or companies from capitalizing on this new opportunity.

The Kenyan company Safaricom introduced M-KOPA, which is program that offers simple solar lighting equipment and a pay-as-you-go SIM card. Customers have one year to pay for the package, and after that they have free solar electricity. This allows over 80 percent of Kenyans to be able to charge their phones and still be able to afford lighting their homes. These innovate approaches are what is needed for this region. It is not a matter of not having the means to be technologically advanced, but rather it is about adapting this to the capabilities and resources of Africa. Communication is essential for development and these new technologies could be the pathway to a more prosperous future for many. 

 

This post reflects the author’s personal opinions, not the opinions of Arizona Model United Nations.

Numbers illustrate a brewing problem in Africa

February 22, 2013 in Africa, The World Today

Photo from Deutsche Welle News

By: Razanne Chatila

Africa has taken second place in the worldwide trafficking and consumption of illicit drugs. Drugs take a heavy toll on Africans. According to UN statistics,  37,000 people in Africa die annually from drug-related causes, with estimates of over 28 million drug users. Chief of drug prevention and health branch at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Gilberto Gerra, said the reason for this rise of illegal drug consumption is the result of political instability and loose borders.

To address this problem a two-day, international conference in Kampa took place this week.  At the conference, young people in consumption countries were identified as the most vulnerable population falling victim to drugs with the lure of fitting in or having a better a life with each drug they take.

Just last month, the West Africa Commission on the Impact of Drugs on Governance, Security and Development was launched by the former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the Kofi Annan Peacekeeping Center in Accra, Ghana. Former President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, was appointed to serve as its chair. Some of the goals of this commission include: developing evidence,  based policy recommendations,  public awareness and political commitment, and promoting local and regional solutions to deal with drug trafficking.

In regards to this new commission, Obasanjo said,  “The trade in illegal drugs has already caused devastation in other regions of the world. We must all work together to prevent West Africa from experiencing the same fate. The Commission looks forward to its urgent and important work.”

Although globally, illicit drug use has remained stable in five years according to the World Drug report, the problem still remains large. Governments in countries all over Africa voiced their concern for this issue and protecting their most vulnerable, the youth.

With West Africa’s weak borders, according to Gerra, drug cartels from Colombia and Latin America have chosen to use these locations as gateways to reach Europe, which has increased significantly in recent years. In an article by All Africa news, it was reported that since 2008 the volume of cocaine transiting through West Africa was about 50 tons a year, an estimated $2 billion annually. They also stated that nearly 50 percent of cocaine, or about 13 percent of all global flows, is now believed to be smuggled through West Africa. The reason for this is due to West Africa’s geographical proximity to European markets that make it strategically well-located for drug-smuggling purposes and with the lack of strong government control of its borders, this area has quickly flourished to a drug transit hotspot.

With 70 percent of the sub-region’s population under the age of 35, the vast majority has limited access to education and large portions are unemployed. The lack of opportunities or reliable income put most individuals in a risky situation. Drugs offer a means of escaping difficult and desperate circumstances and a ticket for securing an income. However, not only do alternate livelihoods need to be provided for these populations, but more drug education needs to be taught in schools to educate the younger population of what these “golden tickets” really mean and what effects it can truly have on their lives. 

 

This post reflects the author’s personal opinions, not the opinions of Arizona Model United Nations.

Discussion needs to expand to more action

February 15, 2013 in Africa, The World Today

Photo from Toronto Star

By Razanne Chatila

It took one horrible crime to be the tipping point to spark a national controversy in South Africa on what actions are being taken to prevent and prosecute sexual crimes against women and children.

When news earlier this month of the gang-rape and murder of 17-year-old Anene Booysen, who was badly mutilated and left for dead on a building site in the town of Bredasdorp, 80 miles east of Cape Town, broke out, it sparked outrage by the South Africans and politicians alike. Boosyne who was found barely alive by a security guard the following day, was taken to the hospital where she managed to identify one of her rapists before dying of her injuries It seems to be an echo of another recent case, being compared to the gang-rape and murder of a 23-year-old student on a New Delhi bus that triggered huge demonstrations in India against endemic gender violence.

“When a very similar incident occurred in India recently, there was a massive outbreak of protest and mass demonstrations in the streets; it was a big story around the world,” said Patrick Craven, spokesman for the Congress of South African Trade Unions in a recent interview. “We must show the world that South Africans are no less angry at such crimes and make an equally loud statement of disgust and protest in the streets.”

Many rights groups complain that the reason rape crimes are still occurring is because it has been normalized in society and has lost the power to shock, especially in South Africa, and the statistics definitely emphasize this. In 2010-11, there were 56,272 rapes recorded in South Africa, which is an average of 154 a day. This is more than double the rate in India. According to a study in 2009, one in four South African men has admitted to having raped a woman. The last significant public outcry was a year ago when a 17-year-old mentally disabled girl from Soweto was gang raped by young men who videotaped her anguish and offered her the equivalent of 25 cents to keep quiet.

This time, however, it has garnered the attention of the South African president who called on the courts to “impose the harshest crimes, as part of a concerted campaign to end this scourge in our country.”

He further stated, “The whole nation is outraged at this extreme violation and destruction of a young human life. This act is shocking, cruel and most inhumane. It has no place in our country. We must never allow ourselves to get used to these acts of base criminality to our women and children.”

Many criticize the lack of action taken by the government and have accused the government of neglecting the issue of rape and violence against women. This lack of initiative has also raised international concern as the top human rights official at the United Nations, Navi Pillay, says the scourge of rape in South Africa must be addressed in a “macro fashion in order to find the root causes.” She emphasized the U.N. stance that the primary responsibility of protecting civilians, including from rape, lies in the hands of the state. As such, she commented on South Africa’s approach and praised the law but objected on the lack of implementation, connecting it to the endemic societal patriarchy. Also noting the need to open up the discussion to all citizens, women and men alike should pick up ideas and share solutions in order to change a culture where discrimination and violence against women is condemned, and where punishment is duly given.

 

This post reflects the author’s personal opinions, not the opinions of Arizona Model United Nations.

Increased violence, little help

January 18, 2013 in Africa

Photo From CNN

By Razanne Chatila

Radical Islamists have surged in Mali and with the struggling Malian army trying to fight back the advancing Islamist fighters, and the French stepped in to help with ground forces landing this past Friday.  The sudden deployment was announced to the surprise of many by French President Francois Hollande, who said that French participation and fighting would last as long as needed in order to guarantee that Mali’s government could maintain control.

“The terrorists have regrouped in recent days along the line that artificially separates Mali’s north and south,” said Hollande in his speech on Friday. “They have even advanced. And they are seeking to deal a fatal blow to the very existence of Mali. France, as is the case with its African partners and all the international community, cannot accept this.”

French troops and warplanes have been helping Malian government forces stop Islamists from advancing on the capital, Bamako, an effort they’re calling Operation Serval. This decision to intervene came from increased European and U.S. concerns over recent rapid military gains by the half-dozen Islamist and Tuareg militias that have controlled the northern two-thirds of the country for more than seven months now. They control more than 250,000 square miles, have Malian soldiers on the run southward and have imposed strict Sharia laws on civilian populations. Not only that, but they have also created a vast new haven for North African terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

Photo From Washington Post

Concern has grown garnering international worry after the attacks in neighboring Algeria on Wednesday where Algerian Islamists are holding up to 41 foreign nationals, which includes seven Americans, in a standoff at a southern Algerian natural gas field, where the death toll now is unclear.  These attacks urged Europe’s largest powers to unite in the goal of removing al-Qaeda linked militants. A quarter-million people have fled Mali, which is twice the numbers who have fled fighting in Syria. Mali was one of the most successful democracies in Africa until the insurgents began taking it over.

A U.N Security Council resolution backed by Western nations, promised to set up a 3,000 strong-intervention with soldiers from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). They were to be trained by French and other European officers, and the United States would contribute heavy air-transport planes and intelligence from satellites and drones. Also a team of about 400 European Union officers was scheduled to arrive in    Bamako late this month to train 3,000 Malian soldiers in the hope that they could be redeployed in northern Mali, the officials said. American soldiers have been barred under U.S. law from training Malian forces because of the March coup d’état.

However, the troops are still not ready, and militias have advanced within 250 miles of Bamaku. The situation is dire, and the future is unclear. The international community is hesitant to lend a hand in fear of more debacles and mishaps. Mali is on the verge of being taken over by the militia group which would be stark changes not only for this country, but the entire region.

 

 

 

This post reflects the author’s personal opinions, not the opinions of Arizona Model United Nations.

Lion populations decreasing at worrisome rate

December 7, 2012 in Africa, The World Today

 

Photo from ZME Science

By: Razanne Chatila

We have all seen the Disney classic, The Lion King, which depicts the story of a young lion prince, Simba, in the savannahs of Africa. Now imagine Simba’s grandchildren. Are they going to be able to roam around the great savannahs like their parents or grandparents? The reality is probably not especially that bright for 75 percent of their habitat in the last 50 years has been lost or destroyed according to a recent study, as humans overtake their land and the lion population dwindles.

Researchers at Duke University,  including Stuart Pimm-prominent conservationist and Professor of Conservation Ecology at Duke University,  warn that the number of lions across the continent have dropped to as few as 32,000 from 100,000 . Populations in West Africa are under incredible pressure according to the study published this week in the journal Biodiversity and Conservation.

“The word savannah conjures up visions of vast open plains teeming with wildlife. But the reality is that massive land-use change and deforestation, driven by rapid human population growth, has fragmented or degraded much of the original savannah. Only 25 percent remains of an ecosystem that once was a third larger than the continental United States,” said Pimm, “Given that many now live in small, isolated populations, this trend will continue. The situation in West Africa is particularly dire, with no large population remaining and lions now absent from many of the region’s national parks.

In the new studyfunded by National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative long-term effort to halt the decline of big cats in the wild through assessment efforts, on-the-ground conservation projects, education and a global public-awareness campaign; Pimm and his colleagues used high-resolution satellite imagery from Google Earth, alongside human population density data and estimates of local lion population to map areas still favorable to the lions’ survival. They were able to identify 67 isolated areas of savannah that are still suitable with low man impacts and densities. A good sign for the big cats. However, only 10 of these spots were estimated to be strongholds where lions have an excellent chance of survival. Many of these are located within national parks and none are located in West Africa, especially due  to the rapid doubling in the human populations in the last 30 years.

“Giving these lions something of a fighting chance will require substantial increases in effort. The next 10 years are decisive for this region, not just for lions but for biodiversity, since lions are indicators of ecosystem health,” said Andrew Jacobson, a member of Pimm’s lab.

Five countries in Africa have likely lost their lions since a 2002 study was run, the report said. Only nine countries contain at least 1,000 lions, while Tanzania alone has more than 40 per cent of the continent’s lions. International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) also state “the causes of this reduction are not well understood, are unlikely to have ceased, and may not be reversible.” Nevertheless, The African Lion & Environmental Research Trust (ALERT), founded by Andrew Conolly in Zimbabwe in 2005, believes there are viable solutions to help save the lions. The answer, he says, is the reintroduction of wild borne cubs from rehabilitated captive bred lions. Although there are many complications and potential dangers that come with reintroduction of lions into the wild, The African Lion Rehabilitation & Release into the Wild Program operated by ALERT is a four stage program designed to elimate these past problems.

Photo from Wildlife Extra

The first stage is where young cubs are taken on walks to build their confidence in the African bush, allowing them to practice their natural hunting instincts. In stage two, the lions have the chance to develop a “natural pride social system” in a minimum 500 acre enclosure. There is plenty of game for them to hunt and all human contact is removed. To advance past this stage the lions must meet two criteria: that of being socially stable and self-sustaining. Once they complete this, they move to stage three, which is a minimum 10,000-acre managed ecosystem with the same conditions as stage two with plenty of prey plus competitive species such as hyena. Stage four comes with the cubs born in stage three being  raised by the pride within a natural environment and with their natural avoidance behavior of humans intact, can then be released to repopulate Africa’s national parks and conservancies. So far the program has only reached stage two, with the first release at the Dollar Block reserve in Zimbabwe. The released lions have successfully hunted a range of species from impala to adult giraffe, a remarkable achievement for the captive lions.

Saving the king of beasts is not going to be an easy one-time solution. It is going to need a    multi-facet, multinational approach. Their population is dwindling at an alarming rate and if measures are not taken, the king will roam no more.

 

This post reflects the author’s personal opinions, not the opinions of Arizona Model United Nations.

Increased turmoil in DRC leaves future uncertain

November 30, 2012 in Africa, The World Today

Photo from CNN

By: Razanne Chatila

With an estimated 4 million people killed and 2.5 million forced to flee their homes, The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC) ongoing civil strife in the ease  between rebel group M23 and government soldiers has left many fearing-of a potential split of the country.

The DRC, the fourth largest nation in Africa, hosts the largest and most expensive UN peacekeeping mission in history, MONUC (United Nations Mission DR Congo) . The Congo hosts a $1.4 billion a year, 20,000-strong UN force. The eastern region of the DRC has been embroiled in war for the last decade and a half with rebels and government soldier’s alike going on murderous rampages through the forested hills of the North Kivu and South Kivu provinces. The conflicts have been partly triggered by the hostility between the Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups and partly by competition over land, natural resources, mines and large sums of money. The ongoing struggle for power in this region recently seem to have taken a turn.

Many analysis state that this time many things seem different. For one, the M23 rebels are trying to gain the support of the local population by portraying themselves as a peacekeeping power that will finally bring calm and security to the region. For them, the important eastern city of Goma, located near the border of Rwanda, is the bridgehead from which they intended to capture the entire country, and they were partially successful. On Nov. 20, troops walked into the regional capital, home to 1 million people.  The fears of a bloodbath were deterred when the national army abandoned the city after four days of skirmishes in the surrounding areas. UN peacekeepers, left over from previous civil wars in the region, were also very limited preventative options. Goma had been taken over by the rebels.

This past Wednesday,  Nov. 28, the U.N. Security Council extended an arms embargo against armed groups in Congo in which they strongly condemned  the rebel group for attacking civilians  believed to be backed by Rwanda. In a resolution adopted unanimously, the council extended sanctions against armed groups in  the DRC until Feb. 1, 2014 and said it will consider additional measures against leaders of the M23 rebel group and those providing support to them.With the sudden immense pressure, M23 rebels soon after agreed to a regional peace plan that requires them to withdraw from the strategic eastern towns of Goma and Sake.

Rene Abandi, M23 head of external relations said in an interview in Uganda that the decision had been reached after the rebel’s commander Sultani Makenga met with Uganda’s Chief of Defense Staff, Gen. Aronda Nyakairim this past week. This meeting,, attended by other top military officials ended with agreement of withdrawal within two days.

Abandi then went on to say, “While we plan to withdraw, there is no ceasefire in place…The government is making troop reinforcements in areas close to our current lines; we want a ceasefire. On our part, we are committed to respecting whatever the presidents asked of us,” said Abandi.He continued, “We are withdrawing to a place of tactical importance which we are yet to determine. Certainly we can’t relocate to a river or road.”

In hopes of reaching a ceasefire and subduing the increasing violence, a summit was held last week in the latest in a series of high-level regional meetings, including five extraordinary Heads of State and Government summits in less than four months, designed to help find a lasting solution to the recurrent conflicts in eastern DRC. Tanzania pledged to contribute to a proposed 4,000-strong African neutral force to help disarm the various armed groups in  the eastern DRC, while South Africa has offered to provide logistics to the envisioned force.

Seeing an end to the intense violence and ending the thousands of deaths, is surprisingly not garnering much international attention considering how severe the situation really is. In order for the DRC  to completely move away from this era of conflict into unity and peace, the international community alongside the people of the DRC needs to come together in order to bring a new horizon that isn’t mangled with politics or racial and ethnic identity.

 

This post reflects the author’s personal opinions, not the opinions of Arizona Model United Nations.