Why do women in war suffer so much?

Women make up roughly 75% of all forcibly displaced people globally; no where is this statement true other than in Africa. Women rights to life, health, education and dignity is almost non-existent as they endure gross human rights abuses in conflict: sexual violence, discrimination, torture, forced labor, racism and death. Why do women suffer so much? How can their human rights be restored?

Thursday, April 11, 2013


On 5 April 2013, I attended a postgraduate event at my university here in Australia. It was a UN Women presentation on a “white women” empowerment scheme for poor, dirty, inferior women from the “developing world” (whatever that means). As usual, there is nothing new, albeit my initial impression when I walked into the room. I thought to myself, “this lady is so young, how did she get this position?” As a matter of fact, I am enamoured with this question because I am always confused by the fact that, regardless of our/my unique lived experiences and extremely successful backgrounds, white women (and/or man) with a “deep passion” (or guilt) to “help poor Africa” is preferred for scholarship, research, empowerment and development projects. It’s so pervasive that it seems stupid and fruitless (to me) most of the time. But I guess, as William Easterly said in the White Man’s Burden, “[t]he West spent $2.3 trillion and still had not managed to get $3 to each new mother to prevent five million child deaths.” Why is it that even uppity Dambisa Moyo can see this squander but not the so-called makers of difference (who would do well to read this)? There is certainly an undercurrent at play, an introspection each “development zombie” should mull over before taking that two-week volunteer trip to "help Africa"...continue

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Deaths of Statesmen: The Case of Gaddafi and Doe

I have been asking myself, why has it taken me so long to write this blog? Well, the simple answer is, because I just haven't been able to. The most realistic response is - the topic is contentious and I've been mulling over the idea of not what to say to but how to translate my thoughts into tolerable words and language, especially for those who are directly impacted by the situation. Before I even begin to share my thoughts, let me reinforce my disclaimer. I DO NOT in any way condone violence or human rights abuses. But I do subscribe to critical analysis and self-reflection which involve forcing my thinking faculty out of subjective worldview toward unfamiliar and uncomfortable zones.

For a moment, try to suppress the fact that the issues of women and children caught up in war and violent conflict fall short of daily media attention. If the media do manage to come up with anything at all, it will usually be centred around women as the "spoils and helpless of war" - sexual and gender abuse (e.g., rape), starvation, displacement, medical care an other basic needs. Except for extremely few, such as Benazir Bhutto (with much respect and honour may her soul rest in peace); Daw Aung San Suu Kyi; and Tawakkul Karman who have proven beyond reasonable doubt that women are fully capable of fronting the stage of non-violent struggle for peace, equality, justice and human rights. So, why aren't women and children's voices heard, especially when their statesmen husbands, fathers, brothers, uncles, and sons are dehumanized in public display? Two cases in point are those of: 1) Master Sergeant Samuel Kanyon Doe, and 2) Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. These two men came to power around the same time when I was relatively young - tho' Gaddaffi did when I wasn't born yet). But as I grew older, I begun to study their philosophies, power dynamics and leadership struggles. For this, I write an introspective piece not just about my relatively short journey with their "rise and fall" but also about the role/positioning of the women and children who stood beside them.

Master Sergeant Samuel Kanyon Doe took control of Liberia in the early 1980. As the first indigenous to skyrocket to such height, it must have felt glorious. Having endured over a century of mono-party system, I guess Liberians were ready to rewrite history. But they forgot an important point. That when the elite exclude, subjugate and oppress the marginalized they are only reaping perpetual injustice when the marginalized do manage to gain some control. The fact that the oppressed has never being given opportunity to learn, engage and interact with the learned, it is only natural that (mostly) they will continue to oppress. There are so many real-life examples that I can't even begin to enumerate. 

Notwithstanding, Doe's alleged 4th grade education, which further incapacitated his leadership ability, in my opinion, could still be credited as a somewhat "productive" leader. With help from his "partner in crime" he erected Ibrahim B. Banbagida Graduate School of International Studies at the University of Liberia; and the one and only Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex in Liberia. He also paved the long-time dusted/mudded road on Duport Road, Paynesville - the outskirt of Monrovia, where I grew up before the inception of the civil war in Liberia. Now, when you read about Doe, you will notice numerous poor governance attributes during his regime; some of which I accept. Irrespective, (BE FOREWARNED THIS VIDEO IS VERY GRAPHIC AND TRAUMATIZINGno leader or human being for that matter deserves to die this way. To add injury to insult, Prince Johnson - the Brigadier General who tortured and executed former president Doe is now an elected senior senator in current President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's government.

I do have a lot of respect for Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, despite his challenges and alleged history of human rights abuses against his own people. Why? One may ask. Primarily because he reignited Kwame Nkrumah's vision of establishing the United States of Africa. Call me pan-Africanist or Afro-centric but thanks the phenomenon called education where one can use his/her brain to separate media junk from objectivity. What I am talking about? You may have already guessed - how Western media always use propaganda to destroy Africa. But who's to blame? If you ask me, I will securely say, our oppressed leaders who end up being the oppressors. 

Regardless, Gaddafi was bold and brave especially when it came to challenging Western/America's dominance, power and control over resource poor countries. I am not a Libyan and I do not claim to have the slightest idea of what it meant to be a Libyan living in Libya during Gaddafi's regime. Albeit, from a very narrow point of view, it appears to me that, Libya was always far better economically than many other African/Arab countries. For my three something decades of existence, I have never seen Libyans forcibly displaced or seeking mass refugee asylum due to violence or conflict until the recent uprising. So, I imagined Gaddafi was a good leader to his people. Of course not, seeing the kind of  (BE FOREWARNED THIS VIDEO IS VERY GRAPHIC AND TRAUMATIZING) dehumanizing showcase of his death experience. Fully backed by NATO, Libyans once again proved to the world that Africans are "sub-humans"and unless the White NATO Neoliberalists are involved we (particularly the African Union) are incapable of using our brains. 

Maybe I'm the only outsider here, but how can it be so impossible to clearly see that only African leaders undergo heinous deaths that are such eyesores on the Internet? Mind you, George Bush, Tony BlairNicolas Sarkozy and their cronies will almost never receive similar treatment? Where is the social justice and human rights we claim to aspire for in this our so-called civil society?

These two men have a some things in common even as relationships between Libya and Liberia waxed and waned:

1. The two countries are always mixed up - I'm almost always mistakenly referred to as a Libyan rather than a Liberian.

2. There were both African Presidents who came to power by military coup d'etat (even though Doe's was bloody and Gaddafi's was nots).

3. Despite Libya and Liberia dwindled friendship at the time, after Doe's visit to Tripoli in 1988, Liberia-US relationship soured. It during this period that Libya invested in Liberia including construction of the tallest building in Liberia - the Pan-African Plaza, which is not home to the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL).

So! After all my rants, this is the essence of this piece - the positioning of women in the deaths of their statement. While on my usual research visit to Liberia, heard Gaddafi's death announced on the radio in a taxi. I screamed! And then took a moment to absorb the idea. And then I started tearing up. Before I left for Liberia, I read about how NATO strike killed his son and grandchildren. But actually, it wasn't until I returned to Canada in November 2011 that was able to see the actual video of his death.  For Samuel Doe, once I was able to access the Internet, I was also able to view his torture and death. But it has been so many years. As a born and bred Liberian, who survived the war, these are not images or footages you desire to pack your mind. They are dehumanizing, demeaning and traumatizing. Yet, I had always wondered what happened to Doe's wife (Nancy Doe) and his children, one of whom I share my first name with (Veronica Doe). 

What a pleasant surprise, as I stumbled upon a Grand Gedeh Association in the America's news to see Celue Doe (the late president's daughter) preaching peace. I was inspired! I was hopeful! And of course emotional.  For Gaddafi, I started off by searching for his wife and children. The only resourceful information I came across was the Gaddafi Family Tree on BBC. Well, it is not hard to notice the  over-representation of men. Then, I solemnly thought: I cannot imagine how it must feel to grow up with such an experience to the point of constant bombardment of your father's trauma, torture and death. For me, I don't have much to go on when it comes to father-daughter or husband-wife relationship as I have little or none of such experiences. I think the bottom line for me is being human and seeking for justice. Not just in the warriors' eyes of men but in the emotional strength of women and children.

Related News Link

Death of rebel who caught Gaddafi stokes Libya tensions
Libyan President says attack that killed U. S. Ambassador Chris Stevens was planned Terrorism

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Ivory Coast, Tunisia & Egypt In One Month? Where are the Women and Girls?

Does it surprise me that even after six decades of "liberation" from colonial rule the continent is still awash in violent conflicts? When is it ever going to stop? Who are these "grand-father" autocrats who find it difficult to relinquish power or at least accept freedom of expression and peaceful demonstration? And, what are their sexes? You bet - you guessed right, they are all MASCULINE - MALES (with emphasis).

Pause for a moment, when you switch on your live TV or search the internet for news on Ivory Coast, Tunisia and Egypt, what do you see? Who has the spotlight? Well, ...it's mostly men. Does it cross your mind when you think about it? Where are the women and children? Are they equal stakeholders in this so-called race for freedom and justice? Are they impacted by such violent conflicts? If so, are their rights being protected? Let's see if I can muster any motivation from you to consider questioning about the state of women and children in Ivory Coast, Tunisia and Egypt amidst these conflicts.

Without any direct connection, rulers in La Cote d'Ivoire, Tunisia, and Egypt have clung unto power for so long, so much so that the breakout of violent conflicts have become inevitable. What's the consequences of this preventable mayhem? Violent attacks, bruises, forced movement and deaths. "Preventable "because, if only these rulers will recognize the "rule of law" (by virtue of their constitution which allows limited terms for presidency) then they will know that, good leaders lead do not yang-away forever.

Ivory Coast, as it is popularly known, was considered a haven for peace and economic stability in Africa having gained independence from France on 7 August 1960. Looking back on its history, one can see that, Cote d'Ivoire's long standing stability was more or less a facade considering that President Felix Houphouet-Boigny clung to the head of state position from 1960 until his death in 1993. The Global Security summarizes his reign as a

cultivation of close political ties with the West that insulated the Ivory Coast from the turmoil associated with the military uprisings and Marxist experimentation that characterized the region. By maintaining an environment of stability, the Ivory Coast was able to develop its economy, attracting foreign investment and becoming the world’s largest producer of cocoa.

This "insulation" was certainly seasonal, as it lasted for the duration of Houphouet-Boigny's three decades and three years rule. All hell broke lose immediately after his death on 7 December 1993. Henri Konan Bedie, his successor, soon witnessed boycotting and protests as a result of election restrictions on opposition parties by his government in 1995. During the election in 2000, Alassane Ouattara, a Muslim who was previously Prime Minister during Houphouet-Boigny's regime, intention to run re-sparked religious and ethnic divide amongst the masses.

On 25 December 1999, General Robert Guei (16 March 1941 – 19 September 2002) ousted President Bedie marking the inception of Ivory Coast first (bloodless) military coup. As tension mounted with General Guei "troublesome" policies which ended up barring Ouattara from running as an elected candidate, forced the Rassemblement des Republicaines (RDR) (his party) to boycott. the election. Preempting low elections outcome on his part, General Guei halted the elections process and declared himself a winner. This was the "straw that broke the camel's back" - the beginning of Cote d'Ivoire on-going bloody violence. In just a matter of hours, women and children were plunged into blood baths, rape and all other forms of abuse, before Ouattara recognized Laurent Gbagbo's presidency.

A relatively short-lived peace was broken when on 7 January 2001 another coup erupted plunging the "Elephants" into a fragile state until November 2009 partly resulting in repeated postponement of election date. All efforts on the part of ECOWAS, AU and mediator Thabo Mbeki proved futile as Ivorians (mainly women and children) seek refuge in neighboring Liberia.

According to Tourism Tunisia, the original inhabitants of this north African desert star were the Berbers, who were later followed by settlers and tradesmen from throughout the Mediterranean basin. For hundreds of years, the Phoenician, Roman, Byzantine, Visigoth settlers, colonizers and traders did not only interacted with the Berbers they managed to remain thereby constructing a beautiful cultural mosaic adorned in language, traditions and shades of complexion most attributed to the domination of Arabs.

Arab Muslims, who arrived in the 7th century, exerted the most influence and established themselves permanently in Tunisia. Like any other original people, the Berbers resisted Muslim's language and religion, but their ability to exercise full control was overcome by the arrivals of the Bedouin tribes from the east which added more strength to Muslim influences.

After transitioning through medieval times as well as surviving Italian and French invasion in 1881 - fast-forward to 1920, the creation of the Destour Party - a nationalist movement led by Habib Bourguiba - fueled a series of tension in Tunisia, one of which resulted in Bourguiba's arrest in 1952 after Tunisia fell under Vichy's rule during World War II. Three years after Bourguiba's arrest, a wave of violence between the French and Tunisians ensued. France later granted Tunisia independence on 20 March 1956 "crowning" Habib Bourguiba as the first prime ministers.

Worth noting, is how interestingly similar African leaders are. Regardless their geographical location, background or race, they somehow manage to exhibit similar leadership qualifications as is seen with Bourguiba and Ben Ali. After 31 years of domination, in November 1987 Bourguiba was "removed" by Zine el Abidine Ben Ali who has become the center of attraction today (for repeating the exact same thing Bourguiba did) having served five consecutive terms - a total of 23 years.

Today Tunisians as rural farmers, mountaineers, city dwellers and human rights activists refused to remain passive. As they mount the streets to protest Ben Ali's "undemocratic" endless repression, corruption and economic malaise, the Jasmine Revolutionists are exposed to serious injuries and death. Although Ben Ali has fled the country, one big question remains, will his departure bring lasting solution to Tunisia's leaders (men) propensity to abuse power?


Same ole, same ole! Almost the same story retold three times, except that the locations are different. Egypt proudly known as the birth of civilization, culture and history is at its worse state now. President Hosni Mubarak who succeeded Anwar Sadat after he was assassinated in 1981, have clung unto "sweet power" for three decades. He is infamous for paying diplomatic visits to four US presidents - Ronald Regan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama. At this point, these visits tell it all with regard to the sheer length of time an African male leader can grip power without conscience or empathy. But that's not the end of the story.

The most important concern for this blog is the "backseat" row women and children inherently assume amidst faulty leadership characterized by long-term oppression and then sudden outburst of violence in Africa. From Cote d'Ivoire, to Tunisia and now Egypt all we see in the media is men fighting for "freedom" or ...? With that much focus on the next male power-abuser, women and children are ignored, shut-out and pushed into the background as if they have no part to play in restoring justice and peace-building. I am very much interested in disseminating and education the WWW about media coverage that highlight the impact of Ivory Coast, Tunisia and Egypt violent conflicts on women and children. If you have a thought, please share it with me.




Thursday, November 11, 2010

Does Restrepo Provide Some Evidence for Filing War Crime Charges to the ICJ?

When I was asked to comment on Restrepo several thoughts ran through my mind. Rather than recount “annoying” scenes as critics usually do, I decided to reflect not only on the implications of my initial reaction to intermittent outburst of laughter in the room during the viewing of the documentary on Thursday, September 30, 2010 at the George Washington University but to also scan the internet to explore what others are saying about the film. Even though, the Sundance 2010 Award winning documentary appears to receive “thumbs up” from supposedly American populace, below are few random quotations I stumbled upon whilst doing a mini-research:-

“The film provides insight into the soldiers and their environment, but it is its own paradox: The more it reveals, the more mysterious and puzzling the war becomes.” August 20, 2010; Rotten Tomatoes.

“Still, my guess is that anyone who sees Restrepo with an open mind will come out saying, I learned something I didn’t know. Reminding us how much we don’t know, how much our beliefs are based on assumptions and leaps of faith — isn’t that what docs should do? It may even be worth going to the theater to see some unchoreographed, unfun violence that really happened.” Margaret Harrison, September 8, 2010.

“The old men are skeptical of both Kearney’s pledge and the presence of his troops in their lives… But Kearney insists that everybody focus on the task at hand… The Americans need cooperation. The villagers need the Americans to understand that the price for cooperation is likely to be Taliban reprisals. The picture that emerges is of war that, if not unwinnable, is a Sisyphean battle in a country made almost entirely of hills and boulders.” Wesley Morris, July 2, 2010.

Collectively, these reviews highlight the unadulterated aspects of the footages, the strong camaraderie exhibited by young immature boy soldiers, likability of heroic American redeemers of uncivilized Afghani villagers versus the devilish not-deserving-life enemies – the Talibans. Nevertheless, what is missing is Afghanis’ perspective with regards to how Americans audaciously invade their country, branding locals as insurgents. At this juncture the meaning of “insurgent” is noteworthy. According to Dictionary.com in international law, insurgent is “a person or group that rises in revolt against an established government or authority but whose conduct does not amount to belligerency.” Thus, considering this definition, Americans are the insurgents making the reverse invalid and unfounded.

Whilst most Americans usually display either a strong sense of patriotism, hypocrisy or shear ignorance with regards to their government’s insurgency against Afghanistan; the crux of the matter lies only with the hope inherent with time. This "hope-with-time analogy" will potentially confirm the conventional belief that society is progressing towards global justice and that tolerance for human rights is flaunted in our so-called new world order. But the reality that injustice and inequality is at the hands of “international human rights gate-keepers” is clearly observed in the statement below:-

“By any reasonable measure, Mugabe has committed crimes against humanity justifying an international response. The United States should propose that the UN Security Council use its authority under the Rome Statute to authorise International Criminal Court claims of crimes against humanity (A case for intervention).” John Kraemer and Larry Gostin, January 5, 2009 - Guardian. Though the above statement is written in a completely different context, by analogy it can be compared with similar analysis drawn from Restropo. In that, it is mind boggling to process thoughts on how anyone could turn blind eyes to their own “sins” but yet have the audacity to accuse another of similar “offences”?

In summary, I emphasize that among the numerous other emotions and thoughts I had gathered whilst sitting in Room 213 of the Elliot School of International Affairs, issues of restoring justice to innocent victims of invasion, cultural disrespect and gross human rights abuse by America overwhelmed me. I asked whether American citizens as well as local human rights organizations could seek and access appropriate avenues (e.g. Court systems in American) and/or regional institutions (Inter-American Human Rights Commission) to file complaints on behalf of innocent civilians of Afghanistan who perceive that their rights have been violated due to America’s occupation? Due to the United States conscientious refusal to sign on to the Rome Statue, it is almost impossible for anyone to bring a case of war crimes against them to the International Court of Justice, certainly not women and children as they are completely absent both from the “war front” and amongst local community members, yet they implicitly disproportionately bear the adverse effects associated with war and conflict. Your thoughts are welcome.


The US v. Omar Khadr

George Galloway

Evan Mark Films

Omar Khadr


Friday, January 22, 2010

Africa's Last Colony - Sahrawis/Western Saharans in Exile

Contrary to conventional knowledge, Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) - popularly known as Western Sahara - is not just a territory. It is Africa’s last colony even though, Wikipedia confirms that there are some 81 countries around the world including all member states of the African Union (except Morocco), have recognized SADR as a sovereign nation.

According to BBC Country Profile, SADR came under Spanish rule in 1884 and later became a Spanish province in 1934. Though a former Spanish colony, SADR is currently occupied by Morocco even after Morocco (and Mauratania) were rejected claims to sovereignty of SADR by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 1975. This was the beginning of Sahwaris on-going struggle for self-determination and independence sparking the formation of the Polisario Front, a national liberation movement set up in May 10, 1973. In protest to the ICJ's decision, King Hassan II ordered a "Green March" of over 300,000 Moroccans in November 1975. Though Spain and Mauritania eventually backed down, Mororocco will continue to claim complete control over Sahrawi people.

Between 1978 until now, the Polisario Front have engaged in both low and high-grade war against Morocco. Ongoing conflicts between Polisario and Morocco have resulted in some 100,000 refugees along the Algerian/Mauritanian borders. In part, lack of recognition of SADR from the UN and other politically charged relationships between Morocco and the United States, research information as well as media attention on SADR are almost non-existent. SADR is not included in the United Nations High Commission for Refugee reports, neither does the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre document anything on the status of refugees and displaced Sahrawis. Moreover, most internet sources pertinent to SADR/Western Sahara, rather than focusing on the grave human right violation of this group of people with respect to modern day colonization; emphasis is put on the UN failed missions in convincing Morocco to leave SADR.

According to Freedom for All, there are about 95,000 Sahrawis refugees residing in Tindouf Refugee camp in South-West Algeria. Union de l'action feminine (UAF) asserts that "women and children in the camps are deprived of their most fundamental rights...[they are] compelled to work beyond their capacities and a great number of them have been tortured and beaten... women lost their husbands, killed in the Polisario jails...children are manipulated for political purposes and are used to ask for humanitarian aid that is embezzled by the Polisario separatists..." Many are denied access to health as the camp one hospital facility with minimum supplies are under staffed and incapaciated. Access to education beyond grade school is difficult but for few scholarships program (e.g., he Cuban government). Even with these setbacks, Peace Women confirms that Sahrawi women are not only in charge of their lives but are the champions of propagating high quality education to the rest of their community. Since the war between Morocco and Polisario (1975) a Sahrawis born then have been forced to grow up in barbed wire refugee camps. Many who ran from Morocco to Polisario camps for refuge, have been separated from families they left in Morocco for well over 30 years.

Whilst some argue that Polisario is responsible for these human rights abuses of women and children, others purports that the Moroccan government is to be blamed for denying Sahrawis their right to self-determination and independence. Yet others argue that, the reason for encaging such nomadic group of people by Morocco has to do with SADR's richness in phosphate oil, fish and other minerals. If Polisario truly did not want some closure to this ordeal then they would not have signalled their readiness to accept UN plans to resolve the issue in 2004. Morocco's rejection of this plan forced James Baker, former UN Special Envoy, to resign in June 2004 making the UN process a deadlock.

No progress have been made since talks resumed between Morocco and the Polisario Front in March 2008 in New York, with Mauritania and Algeria in attendance. In January 2009 UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon appointed US diplomat Christopher Ross as his new special envoy to deal with Western Sahara. On April 20, 2009, the Security Council extended the mandate for the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) for another year. The unanimously backed Resolution 1871 calls for continued negotiations surrounding a lasting political solution, including self-determination for the people of Western Sahara.

Today, very little is known of the plight of the Sahrawi people partly due to elfishness, greed, discrimination and double standards in the international legal order. It is important that, as a global community, we maintain consistency in advocating for everyone's rights as enshrined by international law. I hope the media and other humanitarian advocacy groups will see the need to include the people of Sahrawi in their campaigns and awareness projects globally.

Compiled by Veronica Fynn


Sahrawi Demonstration Against Norwegian Oil Hunt
Sahrawi Protest Norwegian Fisheries
Western Saharan Refugees Reach Out to the World
Refugees Return to the Sahara After Cuban Education

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Outbreak of Violence in Guinea Creates Opportunity for Sexual Abuse

As if men were impatiently waiting for a "chaotic opportunity," as soon as the conflict broke out in Guinea, sexual violence including public rape of women hiked unprecedentedly. The Republic of Guinea, estimated population of 10 million people, is located on the West coast of Africa. The only French colony, to reject de Gaulle's new community, gained its independence in 1958 with elected president Sekou Toure. Former president Toure, like many other leaders in Africa, remained in power until his death in1984, giving way to military coup leader Lasanna Conteh; who was later elected democratically as president in 1993 which marked the beginning of civilian rule in Guinea.

According to the CIA Factbook Guinea has always had a history of authoritarian rule since its independence from France. As stated earlier, President Conte came to power through military means. Though there were reports of fraudulent elections, President Conte was re-elected in 1998 and again in 2003. Similar to Toure's, Conte's death in 2008, resulted in another "bloodless" military coup, this time with Captain Moussa Dadis Camara as military leader. Capt. Camara suspended the constitution as well as political and union activity in order to lead the country by military rule.

Despite, regional instabilities surrounding Guinea, it has managed to maintain some level of general peace, yet has fallen short of its own internal vulnerability of subtle political and economic crisis. The CIA Factbook suggests, "declining economic conditions and popular dissatisfaction with corruption and bad governance prompted two massive strikes in 2006, and a third nationwide strike in early 2007" and now even more evident in the most recent violent outbreak on September 28, 2009.

Al Jazeera News reports that Captain Camara's military government crackdown on 50,000 opposition leaders gathered at the Conakry Sports Stadium to protest ruling military power recommendation to enter into a national unity government, resulted in the deaths of at least 157 people with reports of widespread brutality and sexual violence against women. Within the space of 3-4 weeks (i.e., October 30, 2009), the African Union (AU) imposed sanctions on military rulers in Guinea mainly because of the intensity of violence and human rights abuses.

According to France 24 in the midst of "blood bath and harrowing tales" an estimated 30 women have allegedly being brutally raped by soldiers. Stories from eyewitnesses, survivors and others:

"They raped me. I went out of the stadium naked, naked, naked," a political activist said (quoted from France 24)

"I went back behind the gate, I found another soldier there. He took his gun (…) and he forced it into the vagina of a girl,” an eyewitness said (quoted from France 24)

"Group rape, rape in broad daylight on a pitch…really that is unusual in Guinea… and that is worrying. They are afraid to come and even we are not very comfortable talking about these rapes because we worry about the consequences of speaking out," a doctor said, (quoted from France 24)

“I can’t sleep at night, after what I saw, and I am afraid. I saw lots of women raped, and lots of dead.” said one middle-aged woman (quoted from New York Times)

"I saw a women who was stripped naked...They tore off tore off her clothes. They surrounded her. They made her lie down. They lifted up her feet, and one of the soldiers advanced. They took turns." (quoted from Politics Daily)

"I affirm, in categorical fashion, that women were raped, not just one woman," said Mamadou Mouctar Diallo, 34, an opposition leader (quoted from Feministing)

" They especially tore into the women. They were seeking to humiliate them" said former opposition prime minister, François Lonsény Fall (quoted from Feministing)

So, rape as a weapon of war appears to be endemic, premeditated, systematic, and unending. What do you think should be done to protect women and girls from sexual violence during violent conflicts in Africa?

Compiled by Veronica P. Fynn

Amid the Blood Bath, Harrowing Tales of Rape
Outcry as Dozens are Killed at Conakry Protest
The Coup Seen from "Baghdad"
Mon Pay Va Mal
Scores Killed at Guinea Protest
Guinee, Conakry

Guinee Conakry
Afrique Index
Guinea News
Al Jazeera
Guinea News
CIA Factbook
History World
Politics Daily
New York Times
France 24

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The War in Sri Lanka

The reporter on Dateline opened with a heart breaking statement which reflect yet another failure of humanity "it's a terrible thing to contemplate but for more than 25 long and bloody years, Sri Lankans have been killing themselves in a vicious civil war." It is estimated that over 150,000 civilians have been killed during this war mainly by indiscriminate shelling and human shielding with majority of such deaths being women and children.

According to the CIA - World Factbook, as the first Sinhalese arrived in Sri Lanka (an island in the Indian Ocean of southern Asia), from northern India in the late 6th century B.C. Buddhism was introduced into the culture. Tamil Kingdom in northern Sri Lanka was established in the 14th century. Most of Sri Lanka's coast was controlled by the Portuguese and Dutch around the 16th and 17th centuries until the island was ceded to the British in 1796. In 1802, Sri Lanka became a crown colony and gained its independence in 1948, changing its name from Ceylon to Sri Lanka in 1972.

Some have argued that the root of Sri Lanka's conflict is linked to British colonial rule. That is, after the British granted political independence to Ceylon by way of pressure from Sinhalese nationalist, subsequent disagreements between the Sinhalese and Tamil ethnic communities rose up during construction of the country's first constitution after British rule. Formation of the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) resulted in unfriendly behavior. Anton Balasingham who was employed by the British High Commission in Colombo, later immigrated to Britain and started the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelem (a separatist group) around the early 1960's. By 1972 several Tamil youths, including Velupillai Prabhakaran, joined forces to establish the Tamil New Tigers, later transformed into the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) argued to have been formed around a racist ideology.

The war in Sri Lanka as noted above dates back to the early 1980's as tensions between the Sinhalese majority and Tamil separatists mounted into a brutal civil war that has lasted this long. Though several efforts have been made to cease-fire (2002), fighting between the LTTE and government forces intensified in 2006. By May 2009, the government announced the death of LTTE leader Velupillai PRABHAKARAN and assures the world of an end to Sri Lanka's war.

With the "ending of the islands decades-old civil war" came "illegal hostages" of Tamil civilians by the government. On September 11, 2009, amidst international concern for over 300,000 Tamil civilians, the Government of Sri Lanka sent home 9,920 villagers that were being held for "screening." The Associated Press writer, Bharatha Mallawarachi reports that "these displaced ethnic Tamils were confined to overcrowded, military-run camps with poor sanitation and restricted movements."

Apart from creating hundreds of thousands of refugees, and internally displaced persons, Sri Lanka's war has attracted criticism from human rights groups because of their abductions and recruitment of children under 18 years of age as child soldiers - a blatant violations of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child - Optional Protocol. Human Rights Watch reports that "despite promises to investigate abductions of children by the pro-government Karuna group, Sri Lankan authorities have taken no effective action and abductions continue...the armed opposition Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) also continue to recruit children in Sri Lanka and use them as soldiers." From 2003 to 2008 UNICEF recorded over 6,000 cases of child recruitment by rebel groups in Sri Lanka, the Economist Reports on July 16, 2009.

In spite of the above terror, danger to human life, and grave humanitarian concerns Medicine Sans Frontieres (MSF) reported that Sri Lanka is among the top 10 countries around the world that receive very little international media attention. As the health situation for many Sri Lankan women and children worsen, MSF writes "the war in Sri Lanka has ended but the suffering continues."For example, MSF distributes high energy porridge to 23,000 children under five, pregnant and lactating women and people over 60 in 11 of the camps everyday, some doctors see close to 300 patients a day and people in the camps are challenged on a day-to-day basis with dealing with the trauma experienced in the conflict.

As caring citizens of the world, the least we can do is at least inform ourselves about the plethora of injustices and inequalities existing in such a disparate world. To sit supinely and do nothing is a moral offense!

Written by: Veronica Fynn


November 10, 2009: Landmines, Unexploed Ordnance a Barrier to Return

Video Links
Official Website of the Sri Lankan Government

Life as a Sri Lankan War Refugee
Sri Lanka War
"Sri Lanka War on Tamil" - Hunting the Tigers
Sri Lanka Photo Gallery by National Geography