Violence in Africa

Recently upwards of 200 people were slaughtered in a Nigerian village. Muslims were seeking revenge for killings Christians in the community had carried out against Muslims back in January. This was just a recent event in an increasing slew of violence in Africa targeting civilians and not military targets. Jeffrey Gettleman recently suggested that this is the path forward in African violence since armed groups have lost their direction and de-focused their aims and goals.

I agree that this has happened in some parts, but it is a radical blanket statement that doesn’t apply to numerous battles in Africa. Possibly the most famous ongoing conflict is Somalia. There were six feuding clans and it’s a pretty safe statement to say they were and often continue fighting for a purpose. Yes, pirating has resulted from the ongoing conflict, but it is a farce to claim that the widespread violence is just a sham to continue black-market illegal activities. Different tribes are fighting for control over the current central government. Al-Shabab, possibly the most famous insurgent group in Africa, wants to establish a fundamentalist Islamic state in Somalia. Sounds like the main groups doing the fighting have a linear focus that they continue to adhere to, but those who have been marginalized by the fighting have turned to illegal activities.

Rebel groups in the Niger Delta continue to fight for their rights as human beings. They live on the oil and resource rich delta region, yet continue not to see the benefits of mining and exporting these resources. The tribal groups have been forced to the fringes of society and often have their human rights violated. Their continuous rebellion was brought to a cease-fire by President Umaru Yar’Adua, but even before he fell ill, Yar’Adua fell through on his promises and economic development projects that had been agreed upon in return for a halt in violence so the Niger Delta rebels called off the cease-fire.

Unfortunately, many of the conflicts in Africa have shifted from traditional war to ethnic conflicts and thus have resulted in rape becoming a common weapon. Rape has become an acceptable tactic because it not only demoralizes the opposing tribes and groups, it also ensures the supposed elimination of the “other” and continues the bloodline of the rapist. It is a sick and brutal tactic and one that should not exist and should be punished to the harshest degree, but it is not what Gettleman suggests – just a brutal violation of a woman’s rights and an act of crime. Yes, sometimes it is simply an act of crime, but it is primarily a sick and gruesome war tactic.

Maybe if the US government and other Western powers publicly addressed the conflicts in Africa or had reacted appropriately to Rwanda and Darfur, the devolution of traditional battle would not be the increasing issue it is today.

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