Sudanese Sanctions Lifted

By Javan Latson

For much of the nineties Sudan was very much an international pariah. The regime of President Omar Al-Bashir and the National Islamic Front tested the patience of its neighbors and the global community. The Islamist party was connected to various terror groups such as Hamas, Hezbollah, and Jamaat al- Islamiyya. Sanctions were imposed by the UN Security Council after the Sudanese government provided refuge for individuals who tried to assassinate Egyptian President Mubarak. This action, in addition to the regime’s support for armed rebels in Eritrea, Uganda, and Ethiopia, made other African states loathe any engagement with the Sudanese state. However, the action that sealed Sudan’s isolation was granting Osama Bin Laden refuge in 1991 following his expulsion from Saudi Arabia. Bin Laden and his Al Qaeda associates were ideologically similar to the government in  Khartoum which had recently imposed Islamic law upon the citizens. Under the protection of President Al-Bashir, Al Qaeda flourished as it conducted bombings against US troops in Yemen as well as embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.This led to the Clinton Administration placing Sudan on the list of state sponsors of terror in 1993 and a trade embargo being created in 1997.

Twenty years after the creation of economic sanctions, the Sudanese government has reason to celebrate. President Trump officially terminated the embargo on October 12th marking the final stage in a diplomatic thaw that began during the Obama Administration. The gradual normalization of relations between the two states can be seen even further in the revised travel ban which no longer features Sudan. Proponents of this course of action argue that the sanctions have failed to drive any significant change and that the government has made significant strides in combatting terrorism in the region. However, this does not consider the possibility that ending the embargo will simply embolden a regime that frequently violates human rights.

Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir is president in name only, and has ruled the country since he took power in 1989. He is not the only autocrat in the region nor is the only government leader that imposes authoritarian rule. The thing that differentiates Al-Bashir from the others is the fact that he is the only head of state in the world that is wanted for genocide. A warrant for his arrest was issued by the International Criminal Court back in 2009. In addition to genocide, he is charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes. These allegations stem from the role President Bashir played in the tragic Darfur Conflict which killed over 300,000 and displaced over a million. The situation was so dire that then Secretary of State Colin Powell referred to it as genocide back in 2004, marking the first time the US Government has used this term in reference to a conflict. With Al-Bashir’s permission and support an Arab militia known as the Janjaweed engaged in a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Sudan’s black Christian and Animist tribes. Torture, subjection of women to rape, indiscriminate bombing of civilians, and the intentional contamination of water supplies in non-Arab villages, are all crimes that fill President Al-Bashir’s resume. Human rights doesn’t seem to be a part of the African leader’s vocabulary as he frequently violates international norms without any fear of repercussion. Most recently Amnesty International published a report documenting the use of chemical  weapons by the government throughout 2016 that killed more than 200 people. More concerning should be the revival of the Janjaweed, which was rebranded as the Rapid Support Forces. An act of total defiance, this revival goes directly against a 2004 UN Security Council resolution that called for the militia to be disbanded. Instead, the name of the group was changed and it was incorporated into the state apparatus to personally serve the president.

It would be inaccurate to describe Al-Bashir as the only one responsible. Other prominent regime officials such as former minister of the interior Abdel Hussein and current governor Ahmad Harun currently face charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for their support and funding of the Janjaweed during their time in office. Without international sanctions in place there is a new opportunity for Al-Bashir and his cronies inflict more damage unless certain regulations are reinstated. The Office of Foreign Assets Control, a part of the Treasury Department, has a list of individuals and companies referred to as Specially Designated Nationals (SDNs) . Under US law companies are prohibited from conducting business with anyone on the list making this an effective mechanism for targeting the wallets of key officials without negatively harming the populace. Some of the more notable names on the SDN list include Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. However if one were to search for President Al-Bashir they would not find his name listed on the sanctions list nor would they find Abdel Hussein. Two international criminals that are charged with crimes against humanities are somehow not listed. The removal of the embargo allows US companies to export goods to Sudan and make investments in the nation’s economy. On the surface it is hard to see how this is could have negative effects. Ironically, Sudan still remains on the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terror, which makes it hard for the regime to obtain foreign aid, blocks arms imports and exports, and restricts the importation of goods that could be used for military purposes. Though these measures are in place, the ability for the Sudanese government to earn revenue and reclaim frozen assets will likely just put money into the hands of the regime. Afterall Sudan was ranked the 6th most corrupt nation on earth out of 176 in the 2016 by the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index. Unless the aforementioned individuals are included on the SDN list they will likely receive a financial windfall that tightens their grip on society.

Sudan may not be exporting extremism as much as it did during the nineties, but the government is certainly creating an atmosphere of terror domestically especially in Darfur and the southern regions. Though the flames of the Darfur conflict have fanned out a bit Sudan is far from a pluralistic society. Freedom house has declared the African nation not free and Open Doors ranks Sudan as the fifth worst place in the world for Christians due to the Arab supremacist policies enforced by the government. The winners of this deal are not the people of Sudan but the government and companies that stand to benefit from the removal of restrictions. There’s a reason why Khartoum hired D.C. law firm Squire Patton Boggs LLP to lobby the government for $40,000 a month. No one seems to care that millions of dollars will be pumped into the hands of a genocidal authoritarian regime. The Trump Administration is happy Sudan has cut off ties with North Korea, the CIA is content with new partners in the counterterrorism efforts, and businesses are excited with potential profits to be made in oil possessing nation. Yet the plea of the oppressed falls on deaf ears.

The Looming Crisis in the Heart of Africa

By Thomas Bell

Africa as a continent has a complicated history, but its modern past has been unstable and violent.  African countries, unable to cope with the ethnic, political, and economic constraints imposed by European imperialism, have proven largely unable to industrialize and modernize since independence.  Civil wars, genocide, and massive poverty are all traits commonly associated with Africa, for good reason.  The Democratic Republic of the Congo, or the DRC, and formerly Zaïre, is one of the better examples of this reality.

The Congolese saga began with colonialism.  Much of the first contacts with Europeans involved trading, eventually for slaves.  Belgian colonial control later spread, leaving the nation subjugated under the weight of direct imperial rule from 1908 to 1960.  Since independence, the DRC has not enjoyed a single peaceful transfer of power, with assassination, civil war, and even invasion being the catalysts for political change.

The current Congolese President, Joseph Kabila, has been in power since January of 2001, with his second and final term under the constitution having expired in December last year.  Under the constitution of the DRC, Kabila is limited to two terms and should have stepped down.  This, however, did not happen; Congo’s electoral authority announced that the election would be postponed to allow time for a census to take place, an invalid reason under the country’s laws.  Predictably, that decision plunged the DRC into chaos.

Protests in December left dozens dead, resulting in an increased police presence and the blockage of social media.  The government has delayed the elections until at least December 2018, though in principle that could stretch further.  In the meantime, mediation by the Catholic Church has proven moderately successful at quelling the immediate threat of violence, while the appointment of an opposition leader as Prime Minister is a step in the right direction.

However, the risks in Congo are horrifyingly apparent.  Past power shifts have not only been violent, but often catastrophically so.  In 1996, the overthrow of Mobutu Sese Seko’s government by Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and rebel groups left up to a million dead and led to an even more cataclysmic conflict only two years later.  The Second Congo War, linked directly to the 1996 overthrow, killed more people in any conflict since the Second World War.   It brought nine African national armies into conflict in Congo, plus over twenty rebel groups.  It also led to the political involvement of nearly half a dozen other African nations.  It has been appropriately dubbed by historians and journalists as “Africa’s World War”.

Simply put, the Congo is a volatile, dangerous place, where continental warfare was waged barely over a decade ago.  Rebel groups still roam Eastern Congo, killing and raping countless people.  Political instability could lead to the growth of these groups, and perhaps even the involvement of national governments again.  The DRC is a place where widespread, tumultuous violence is commonplace both now and in the recent past.

This is why Kabila’s actions could be so disastrous for Congo.  The lack of a successful transition of power in national history sets a poor blueprint to follow, especially for a leader in power for so long.  Since Mobutu, Congo’s leaders have proven autocratic and unwilling to relinquish control.  Tales of Mobutu’s “Versailles of the jungle”, a spectacular marble palace, is just one example of the corruption that made Congo famous.  If Kabila is seeking a long reign such as that, it could similarly dissolve into disarray and war, just as Mobutu’s did.

But many feel that not enough is being done to stop Kabila.  Belgium and France, two of the most important influencers in Congolese policy, both merely stated that they would review their respective relationships with the DRC.  The United States and the United Kingdom both offered similar statements, if a bit more strongly worded.  The point is, none of the countries most able to hurt the government, both politically and economically, have bothered to take steps in that direction.  A fairly widespread lack of media and public interest among western populations in African affairs likely has something to do with it.  The aforementioned Second Congo War, though being the deadliest conflict since World War II, is seldom discussed in academic settings, let alone the public square.  A history of American inaction in Africa dates back to the Clinton presidency when the administration knew about the Rwandan genocide yet chose to ignore it.  The sad reality is that not enough people in the west care and intentional ignorance could again be the policy of the west.

All the while, Joseph Kabila sits in his massive Kinshasa palace, reportedly playing video games and collecting motorcycles.  Outside those walls, millions live in abject poverty, violence plagues the streets, and an oblivious world looks the other way.  As Congo descends further and further towards chaos, it is anyone’s guess how the crisis will play out.  A country with such a dark history, however, cannot afford to allow that history to repeat itself.

Corruption in the Rainbow Nation

By James Raubenheimer

The idealism, optimism, and hope that spurred from post-apartheid South Africa brought the country ahead and away from its recent dark past. Such a trend can be seen across many countries and history such as global idealism following World War I and the Cold War. In recent years, forces of corruption have risen in the ranks of the South African government. The corruption that exists is only a symptom of several underlying problems. The main issues identified are lack of education, widespread economic inequality, and a lack of government infrastructure. The Rainbow Nation has focused on integrating those damaged by the apartheid regime and uniting the country after the racial divide.  However, post-apartheid South Africa has yet to fully develop a new era of governance, and this change needs to happen in order to secure a stable and successful future for South Africa.

South Africa is a fledgling democracy currently ruled by the African National Conference. The party has won all of the post-1994(post-apartheid) elections. The one-party state nature of the South African government and the people’s historical support for the ANC has led to the numerous elections where the ANC nominated candidate cruises to a victory. South Africa’s current president, Jacob Zuma, is infamous for laughing off all questions as seen in the above comic. As President Zuma states “my laughing’s not hurtful, it’s healthy” even when this laughter is in response to serious issues ranging from South Africa’s drought to unemployment to mob murders.  Most notoriously though President Zuma has received 783 payments worth more than 4 million rand from his financial advisor and his associate companies. Zuma’s financial advisor has also been convicted of two corruption charges relating to the cover-up of an investigation into a previous arms deal. Surprisingly, corruption charges have yet to be brought up against Zuma amidst years of an alternating between corruption and cover-up.

The most current political scandal in South African revolves around the wealthy and elite Gupta family. SAP, the German software corporation, has leaked emails showing that the company is involved in paying the Gupta family to gain key business positions. Four executives in the company have been fired as it has launched further investigation into the scandal. The chief executive of Bell Pottinger, a British relations firm, stepped down and four workers were fired amidst an investigation into the firm’s connection with the Gupta family.  The Guptas have been accused of using their ties to Jacob Zuma and the South African government to secure contracts for the Gupta’s mining empire. The Gupta’s business is thriving due to special government assistance, and there exists a great tone of secrecy regarding this issue.

The South African government has a history of addressing complex issues with simple solutions, which inevitably results in many unintended consequences. If people are poor, the government prints more money. If people are not getting educated, the government makes education free.  If the employment rate is low, the government makes government jobs. In some countries, such solutions can be implemented very successfully, but South Africa lacks the infrastructure to ensure such solutions are implemented properly. This leads to a lack of successfully implemented solutions and a government, which refuses to hold accountability for failure. A government, which refuses to hold accountability will inevitability abuse its power and stretch the boundaries of what is considered honest and just. A non-transparent government lacks trust and the South African government lacks transparency.

The African Union is tasked with promoting unity, solidarity, and creating a prosperous Africa. In order to fix the widespread corruption prevalent not only in South Africa but existent in many African states, the leaders of African nations need to be held accountable for their actions. The African Union can serve as a body, which governs and supports the mission in order to help African nations prosper. A government in which officials are not held accountable for their actions cannot possibly prosper even with widespread support and a commitment to succeed.

In a speech in 2013 at a memorial for South African soldiers, President Zuma stated: “The problem in South Africa is that everybody wants to run the country. The government must be given the space to do its work of running the country to implement the policies of the ruling party that was voted into office by millions of our people.” This mindset in governance results in an excess of power given to those government officials ruling the country and an increase in power taken away from the citizens of the country. A cloak is placed over the inner workings of a government, which results in secrecy and allows for the abuse of power. In order for South Africa to reach its full potential, the issue of corruption must be addressed first in order to ensure other solutions to prevalent problems can be implemented.

Tunisia’s Struggling Democracy: An Unlikely Source of Hope

By Sarah Taylor

Tunisia is quite possibly the last hope for the success of the Arab Spring that brought a possible Fourth Wave of democratization; though it is currently struggling to maintain this title. Imed Trabelsi, a prominent Tunisian businessman who was imprisoned for 108 years in May for embezzlement and corruption, taped a video testimony speaking to the level of corruption in Tunisia. In his statement, he said “There has been a revolution but nothing has changed. According to what I hear, the same system is still operational.” This sentiment is echoed through the country as it struggles to maintain the democracy established after the Jasmine Revolution. Rampant corruption, weak economic growth, high unemployment, and wide protesting entice the country to backslide into another authoritarian regime, which would thus diminish the perceived success of the Arab Spring in general.

Though Tunisia is making strides in the right direction to provide a democratic setting that fosters participation and accountability, the system still struggles to qualm the political infighting and tension between parties that defines the country’s politics. Prime Minister Chahed replaced thirteen ministers in his cabinet recently, six from the Nidaa Tounes party, a secular party that some argue is anti-Islamist. The Ennahda party, the Islamic and religious conservative party, managed to keep three seats in Chahed’s overhaul. Three were given to ministers who were in office during the regime of past authoritarian leader Zine el Abidine Ben Ali. The Nidaa Tounes party, of which Chahed is a member, has been trying to get more representation with the hopes of quelling the religious Ennahda party. The changes by Chahed in the composition of the cabinet have tried to reduce the tension by granting the Nidaa Tounes party the representation they desired. Due to the Ennahda party’s close ties with religious conservatism, the tension between the two goes past pure political competition. The religious suppression that some say underlies the Nidaa Tounes party’s contention with the Ennahda party is a threat to the democracy the country wishes to foster. While healthy competition between political parties is vital to free and fair elections (and thus the integrity of democracy), this battling between parties has caused instability in the government system. Youssef Chahed’s cabinet changes were part of a larger program to reduce corruption in Tunisia. He has made extensive strides toward prosecuting corrupt officials and limiting the influence of mafia bosses, calling for a “war on corruption”. The fight against corruption has been so intensive that Chahed has called a state of emergency surrounding his investigations, justifying his use of military tribunals to try those implicated in corruption scandals, specifically mafia bosses. These tribunals have been a source of controversy intra and internationally, as to many they seem too harsh and simply a way to skirt the court system in place.

The graph below from the Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) website shows the scores among many dimensions of democracy that Tunisia falls on between 2008 (under the previous authoritarian regime) and 2016 (after the Arab Spring revolution). Though the country is definitely performing much better on these dimensions than it was under the authoritarian rule of Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, the consistency that helps new democracies grow and be deemed as a success is lacking in the dimensions of party competition and state ownership of the economy. The latter dimension’s lower level is likely what is leading to the instability within the country associated with the poor economic growth.

tunisia democracy chart (1)

The tirade against corruption is harming the economy as well, as it costs money to go after and put to trial such individuals. The economic conditions of Tunisia have exposed many of the existing strains on democracy, some as a result of the cornerstone revolution. The conditions after the Arab Spring made the system vulnerable to terrorist attacks, leading to economic difficulty, and political and civil tension. After the revolution, there was a relaxation of state control and freedom of religion sharply increased due to the new democratic system in place. However, this gave Islamic extremism a space to grow and join forces with the extremist political prisoners who were released after the fall of the dictatorship. Multiple attacks on U.S. embassies and tourist destinations by extremist groups such as the Islamic State have left the country unstable and with increased economic pressure.

Although the country is thought to be in a weak state, it still must be interpreted in the context of a democracy rather than authoritarian rule. The people of Tunisia are still widely and immensely supportive of democracy in general and maintaining the relative freedom that was gained in 2011. This makes it unlikely that the government will actually backslide into authoritarianism from democracy, and helps it maintain its status as the last hope for a country that successfully came out of the Arab Spring with a somewhat successful democracy. Despite clear growing pains, the country is still strong in its pursuit of democratic ideals, unlike many of the countries that experienced the “Arab Winter” counter-revolution. This wave of democratic backslide in the region led to another rise in authoritarianism and wartime conditions in countries such as Egypt, Libya, Syria, and Yemen in 2014. Though Tunisia did experience some effects of this second movement, including a change of government and acts of violence, they managed to emerge with a sustained democracy. Tunisia serves as a hopeful precedent for a rare case of democratization in the Middle East, North Africa region gone right, as Chahed makes positive strides toward maintaining this status.

Nigeria: An African Giant Divided

Southern regions along with Abuja (FCT) have long been the economic hub while the north is generally viewed as being backward. (Credit GeoCurrents / CGIDD)
Southern regions along with Abuja (FCT) have long been the economic hub of the country. (Credit GeoCurrents / CGIDD)

By Aalok Joshi

On January 17th the Nigerian air force moved forward with operations in the northeastern Nigerian state of Borno, bombing what they thought was a Boko Haram hideout. However, this supposed hideout turned out to be a refugee camp hosting families who have been displaced by the radical Islamist group, Boko Haram, ravaging their country. Additionally, the refugee camp was also the temporary base of operations for members of the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders working in the area. Borno state officials have put the death toll from this horrible miscue by the Nigerian armed forces at 100. Meanwhile the Red Cross has reported that 6 of their personnel were killed in the bombing.

This most recent blunder by the Nigerian armed forces has come at a time in which Boko Haram continues to be a festering sore for the African giant. Nigeria is the wealthiest African nation by GDP and has been blessed by ample natural resources in the oil rich southern region of the Niger delta. This combined with the fact that Nigeria has an expanding middle class gives  Nigeria the potential to be one of the world’s leading economies. Additionally, Nigeria has the largest population of any African nation. This puts Nigeria in the unique position of being the largest market on the continent and thus being able to dictate African demand for a variety of products. However, because of its exploitive colonial legacy and the influx of large multinational oil conglomerates into the southern half of Nigeria, the northern section of the country is relatively underdeveloped. Most of the wealth in the nation is centered around the capital of Abuja, the commercial hub of Lagos, and the petrodollar region of the Niger delta. All of these regions, relatively speaking, are in the southern half of the nation. This leaves much of the north poor, underdeveloped, and cut off from the center. The north has less educational facilities and almost completely lacks any foreign investment. While much of the north relies on subsistence farming and other agricultural pursuits, the south has a long history of foreign trade and bustling economic activity.

Along with this economic divide, Nigeria faces a cultural and religious divide within the nation. The north is largely Muslim while the south is mostly Christian. However, the Christian and Muslim populations are relatively equal, and there are enclaves of both Christians and Muslims in the north and south. This means that though the regions are culturally different Muslims and Christians generally get along with each other. The northern states practice sharia law while the southern states do not. This north-south tension has also taken on political undertones. Many national elections, issues, and geopolitical stances in Nigeria pit north against south because the two regions have completely different priorities and interests. While the North wants more economic investment and integration with the booming South, the South insists that it must pay attention to its own expanding economic aspirations before focusing on the North. Additionally, the rise of radical Islamic terror groups, specifically Boko Haram, in the North, has made Southern businesses and firms even more hesitant to invest in the area.

Boko Haram was founded in 2010 in the city of Maiduguri in the state of Borno. Borno, in the northeastern corner of the country, is bordered by the Sambisa forest near the country of Chad. This thick forest cover provides a base from which Boko Haram conducts its attacks on the surrounding towns, cities, and states. In the past seven years of the insurgency, Boko Haram has conducted attacks not only throughout the northern periphery, around Yobe, Kano, and Borno, but also as far south as the Niger state and the federal capital territory of Abuja. In fact, the capital of Abuja has been terrorized by multiple bombings and shootings throughout the city. Boko Haram’s attacks have killed and wounded both Muslims and Christians, and though Boko Haram claims an Islamic affiliation they seem to have no mercy toward any religion. Some of Boko Haram’s most infamous attacks include the 2011 attack on the U.N. building in Abuja, the Bauchi Prison break, and the abduction of almost 300 schoolgirls from the northeastern town of Chibok.

The Nigerian government, however, has been severely criticized for not taking the Boko Haram threat seriously enough. Most infamously, Nigerian president Buhari claimed that Boko Haram was “technically defeated” in late 2015 when in fact Boko Haram still regularly carries out attacks. Because of increasing international pressure, especially following the kidnapping of the Chibok girls, former Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian from the south, and current Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari, a Muslim from the north, have ordered an offensive deep into Boko Haram controlled territory. In the past two years the Nigerian military has stepped up their military operations and have managed to contain Boko Haram within its northeastern core. However, this means that cities like Maiduguri still face attacks on a weekly basis. Many of these attacks are concentrated on public squares and markets where people – including women and children, gather daily. Such attacks have meant that businesses don’t feel safe and accessing basic commodities has become hard for many residents of Boko Haram’s northeastern core. The World Food Programme feeds around 4.4 million people in and around Boko Haram’s home state of Borno, and WFP estimates suggest as many as 1.8 million people are at risk of starvation because of food aid being disrupted by Boko Haram attacks.

Looking at Nigeria from the outside it seems odd for an insurgency like Boko Haram to exist in this burgeoning African power. The McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) predicts that Nigeria is on pace to grow at a rate of 6% annually until 2030 and have a GDP of $1.6 trillion, putting it in the top twenty economies worldwide. Moreover, MGI estimates suggest that by 2030 Nigerian consumption could rise from $388 billion annually to $1.4 trillion. However, a cultural and socioeconomic divide between the increasingly unequal northern and southern regions of Nigeria has created a rift in this nation. The future of Nigeria will be decided by whether Abuja and the coastal economic hub will be able to address the lack of economic opportunity and upward mobility for the northern half of the country. Simultaneously, Nigeria will succeed if Muhammadu Buhari’s government can firmly stamp out Boko Haram and make northeast Nigeria suitable for business and development projects. It is very much within reach for Nigeria to have economic success relatively soon, however, if the festering sore that is Boko Haram is not handled soon it is unlikely that the economic wealth will be shared by all of Nigeria.

Zimbabwe – A Future Resurrection?

By Jackie Olson

About 20 miners a year die from the desperate efforts to find gold within the caverns in Johannesburg, South Africa. Called “Zama Zama” from the Zulu tribal phrase: ‘men who try to get something from nothing’ this group of Zimbabwe men travel to South Africa in a desperate attempt to find gold and to provide for their struggling families back in Zimbabwe. While the activity is illegal, the seriousness of their ‘illegal’ activity is certainly unequitable to the illegal activity of Zimbabwe’s 92-year-old president, Robert Mugabe.

Robert Mugabe took office in 1980 after a brutal civil war and was at first proclaimed as a leader who could positively impact Zimbabwe. Yet after nearing the end of his seventh-term in office, he is considered by the west as a leader of a regime that has invoked economic and political oppression on its people.

In 2009, Zimbabwe was infamously known for their massive hyper-inflated currency, which at one time hit over 231 million percent from a combination of a 50% shrinking economy, poor crops and public corruption in the midst of a political rebellion against Mugabe. In order to save Zimbabwe from utter economic destruction, Zimbabwe changed currencies and adapted the U.S. dollar for greater protection from internal insecurities.

Since 2016, rough estimates have placed Zimbabwe’s unemployment rate at 90%. With a failing agriculture and industry economy, Zimbabwe has had to increasingly rely on imports for products. As the economy is beginning to look similar to the one in 2008, the government has taken extra precautions in preserving the quantity of U.S. dollars in the treasury. This has resulted in the freezing of payments to many government workers such as teachers and civil servants and has also caused an increased amount of public demonstrations of unrest.

Yet, in order to combat activism on the streets, a local NGO has estimated that over 654 cases of political violence has come from government security officials, including police, military, and a secret service unit just from 2016 alone.  Reports have found that detainees have had to face sexual violence, were injected with mysterious substances and were hung over large pots of sulphuric acid to discourage them from more activism.

These troubling reports have certainly not helped Mr.Mugabe’s case in pressing the IMF for economic relief as the IMF has been reluctant in even providing support without any change in Zimbabwe’s governmental structure, especially the fact that 97% of all government spending is used to pay the governmental workforce. Zimbabwe has refused to make any spending cuts.

As a desperate-last ditch effort, President Mugabe on November 28 ordered to print a new currency, a Zimbabwean currency that looks almost identical to the note used during Zimbabwe’s hyper-inflated period in 2008-2009. Orders were then given to stock ATMs in millions of the new $2 and $5 note with the hopes that only larger bulk import purchases would need US Dollars for a transaction. The switch to Zimbabwean currency has caused civil anxiety and many people have rushed to banks to withdraw as many US dollars as possible resulting in long lines and unrest.

Many economists worry that Zimbabwe’s turn to an insulating currency will be highly detrimental to Zimbabwe’s economic health as foreign demand for the currency will be next to nothing.

For months the imminent disaster has led many Zimbabwean people to turn to plastic payment, either from debit card machines or services on a mobile phone. Services such as gambling, supermarket purchases and even donations to churches has been adapted to a plastic transaction as money has been so scarce. In rural villages where technology is not as prevalent, transactions have been left to bartering.

This vacuum of money has provided a perfect opportunity for a growth in inequality as only the wealthy has been able to open debit accounts. The poor are left to struggle without the basic tool to trade, money, and are forced to buy cell phones for access to a mobile banking service from individuals who realize the opportunity to make massive profits out of people’s desperations.

For example, take village trader, Fambai Mudzaniri who has been consistently making 500 dollars a month from the shortage. He goes into the town and buys $13 dollar phones and resells them to poor villagers for a goat or a few chickens. He then takes the livestock and sells them to restaurants for $50 dollars each.

Unfortunately, the troubling economic conditions and corrupt government will be unable to provide for the eventual widening of the inequity of Zimbabwe and the increased amount of civil unrest from droughts, a lack of food and opportunity. Fortunately, though, Robert Mugube is currently the world’s oldest leader and even though he is looking for ‘re-election’ in 2018, he has even acknowledged his own death in 2016 with the public statement: “Yes, I was dead-I resurrected.” Hopefully within the next decade Zimbabwe will resurrect too.

Eritrean Exodus

By Javan Latson

Nestled along the coast of the Red Sea lies the small, secluded state of Eritrea. Often called the “North Korea” of Africa, few outsiders have ever been to the nation due to the strict censorship and control that the government enforces. However, the tiny African nation is a major contributor to the greatest refugee crisis since World War Two with about 5,000 people leaving each month.

The story of Eritrea is one of conflict and a desire for freedom. Africa’s second newest state has been constantly subjugated by larger powers. Following 52 years of Italian Colonialism, the British took over in 1941 beginning an eleven-year occupation. Partial freedom was granted in 1952 when Eritrea was declared an autonomous province of Ethiopia by the United Nations, but only ten years later the small nation was annexed by Haile Selassie, the emperor of Ethiopia. This sparked a vicious 30-year war, which claimed thousands of lives and displaced many. The result was Eritrean independence in 1993 that placed the victorious PFDJ party in control of the nation, and a deep distrust of Ethiopia for fear of a future invasion. This concern would eventually become a reality in 1998 when a border skirmish led to a two-year war that led to the death of 80,000 people. Peace was established only after an agreement was signed in Algeria giving an international organization the right to clarify the borders of the neighboring states. Although peace was secured, it has been more of an uneasy stalemate between the two nations.

The Eritrean government has seized on this paranoia to obtain a strong grip on its citizens. Much like Cuba and China, Eritrea is a single party state that can’t in any sense be called a democracy. For the last 23 years the nation has been under the leadership of “president” Isaias Afewerki and his PFDJ (ironically stands for: People’s Front for Democracy and Justice) party. During this time, the regime has strengthened its power and has greatly limited the freedoms of the people, and as a result of its policies 5000 people flee the country each month. This mass exodus places Eritrea second to Syria in terms of refugee production, in what is the greatest migration crisis in 70 years.

Many of the freedoms taken for granted in the west are non-existent in the East African nation. Although a proposal for democratic reforms was presented in 1997, it was never adopted. President Afwerki has announced that elections would be postponed for 30 to 40 years or even longer because they “polarize” society. Freedom of expression is virtually nonexistent as there is a great deal of government censorship. The regime controls all media outlets, and all publications must receive approval before being released. An overwhelming amount of the people lack access to the Internet with less than 1% of the population being able to get online, and websites such as YouTube and those run by exiles are blocked. Emails are also monitored, and due to the poor infrastructure and lack of outside information, the nation is very insular and uniformed about events outside of their country. Foreign journalists are not allowed to freely enter the country and those that are permitted entry are closely monitored and pressured into portraying the government in a favorable way. The conditions are not conducive to free reporting and there are currently 16 journalists in prison. The government’s tight leash on the media has caused them to be ranked last for eight consecutive years in the World Press Freedom Index.

Individual rights are also frequently violated, especially religious freedom.  To be
“legitimate,” religious denominations must register with the government, and as of now there are currently four legal religions (Sunni Islam, Orthodox Christianity, Catholicism, and Lutheranism).  Members of unrecognized religions, mainly Evangelical Christians, Pentecostals and Jehovah’s Witnesses, face severe persecution. They can be thrown in prison, tortured, or pressured to forsake their beliefs. The government especially targets Jehovah’s Witnesses, barring them from obtaining government employment and stripping of them of citizenship. There are 3,000 people are currently in prison because of their religious beliefs, where they are kept in abysmal conditions. Arbitrary arrests are common and prisoners do not have to be informed as to the reason for their incarceration. Those in custody are held indefinitely and without the guarantee of a trial, in overcrowded, underground cells or in shipping containers. Torture of prisoners is common and water and food are not regularly supplied. Juveniles and adults serve time together and according to most estimates there are 10,000 political prisoners in the country.

Perhaps the most egregious policy of them all is the national service requirement. Established in 1995, citizens between the ages of 18-40 are required to serve 18 months in the military, but in reality the program lasts for decades. Military training is mandatory for all children prior to their completion of school and many of the conscripts are used to work on construction sites and government farms. Females often face sexual abuse and harassment from their commanding officers and the salary of $43 dollars a month (before deductions) is not enough to support most families. Human rights groups have slammed this practice as forced labor on a national scale and some have compared it to slavery. The government meanwhile defends their policy, stating that it is necessary in order to defend the nation against Ethiopia.

The gross violations of human rights and the dire economic situation have caused thousands to flee. Since 2004, more than 200,000 Eritreans have escaped to refugee camps in neighboring Sudan and Ethiopia. This has prompted the government to enact a “shoot to kill” policy for anyone that attempts to cross the border without permission. The two primary destinations for Eritreans are Israel and the European Union. Ten percent of migrants to the EU hail from Eritrea and, as of 2014, there were 80,000 Eritrean citizens residing in the EU. The EU grants ninety percent of Eritrean asylum requests, with Germany, Sweden, and Switzerland being the top destinations. Those that decide to make the dangerous trip must trek through the Sahara Desert to Libya, where they board poorly made boats and cross the Mediterranean to Europe. This is a perilous journey that has resulted in many deaths. During the first half of 2015 alone, 2,703 migrants died attempting to cross the sea from North Africa, many of whom were Eritrean. In addition to this, there are dangers from terrorist groups like ISIS; in 2015, ISIS in Libya kidnapped 88 Eritrean Christians from a smuggling caravan.

The other route to freedom for these refugees requires going through Egypt and the Sinai Peninsula. Those that make this trip are exposed to torture, rape, and extortion at the hands of smugglers or even local law enforcement. Upon arrival to Israel (which is home to 37,000 Eritreans) they face some very harsh treatment from Israeli authorities. Israeli policy towards East Africans is not lenient as the government rejects 99.97% of asylum claims on the grounds that Eritreans are not refugees but rather economic migrants. Israel has been accused of seeking to coerce migrants to leave the country and it gives them three options. They can either be given a sum of money and sent to a third country in Africa, go back to where they came from, or be detained indefinitely in Israel. Many of those that go back to Eritrea are branded as traitors and are put to death or sent to prison.

With the number of refugees in Europe increasing and given the recent history of terror attacks, some European nations have begun taking a stronger stance against immigration. The UK has begun declining Eritrean asylum seekers on the grounds that the UN has drastically overblown the human rights situation in the country. Meanwhile, the US policy under the Obama administration prioritizes Eritreans fleeing because of religious persecution and 1,488 Eritreans entered the United States during the 2015 fiscal year. Many EU countries have attempted to stem the flow of people from Eritrea by attempting to normalize relations between the regime and neighboring Ethiopia, with the hope that this will help reduce tension in the area. There have also been financial deals created in order to increase economic development in Eritrea in an attempt to improve standards of living. However, they have also been condemned by human rights advocates as solidifying the government’s control over the people. It is hard to tell what the effects of these policies will be, but until the situation in Eritrea changes, the exodus will continue.

Liberia’s Post-Ebola Health Crisis

By Dustin Cai

Even though Liberia has been declared Ebola-free since May of 2015 with the last known case to occur in that November, it is no time to relax for Liberia and its healthcare system. In the wake of the Ebola virus that ravaged the country in all sectors, Liberia is left with the remains of a nation that was already in a poor place pre-Ebola. After killing over 11,000 people in West Africa since 2013, 4,800 of which were in Liberia, Ebola also destroyed much of the little healthcare infrastructure that was in place prior to the outbreak.

 

Prior to the outbreak, Liberia had a limited healthcare system. Armed with only 117 doctors and a handful of other workers such as nurses, Liberia mainly relied on international non profit organizations such as USAID and Doctors Without Borders. But, with much of this international aid withdrawing with the end of the outbreak, Liberia is left vulnerable to other acute diseases and, in the face of another outbreak, possible collapse. After Ebola killed over 8% of Liberia’s healthcare workforce with many other medical workers fleeing the country, the citizens of Liberia are now facing the full frontal force of other medical issues such as Malaria, Tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS that will be left untreated due to physician shortages. Many regular vaccinations that occurred before Ebola saw significant decreases of nearly 30% for diseases such as tetanus, hepatitis B, and measles. With such devastating effects, the entire healthcare system is faced with the very real threat of collapse.

 

So how did it get this way?

 

One of the major problems that Liberia faced was poor governance under President Ellen Sirleaf, the first female president of Liberia. The corruption of the government under Sirleaf led a lot of the Liberian citizens to distrust the government and ignore the warnings that Sirleaf gave. In a report of citizens’ reactions to the news of Ebola, one village chief explained that they believed Sirleaf had created this disease to kill people and to get free international aid, causing many villages and families to ignore the safety recommendations for Ebola. Because of Sirleaf’s many scam projects in the past, it set up a system of distrust between the people and their government, making the Ebola outbreak in Liberia worse than other countries and previous outbreaks. We will have to wait until 2017 to see if the Liberian election cycle is to bring in a better president and an improved system of government and trust. Otherwise, poor governance and distrust of government announcements will allow for the continuation of Liberia’s healthcare issues.

 

In addition, the lack of resources in Liberia set the system up for failure when the major outbreak of Ebola hit. With only one medical school in all of Liberia and the extremely low compensation for being a doctor of just $85 a month when you start, home grown doctors are hard to come by in Liberia. Because Liberia cannot keep relying on international doctors to help sustain its own health system, more funds will be needed to address this issue.

 

So what can Liberia do?

 

Well, more funds are exactly what Liberia needs. Liberia and two other countries impacted the most by Ebola, Guinea and Sierra Leone, have asked for $8 billion combined, $1.5 billion of which is dedicated to revamping their healthcare systems and building more hospitals and medical schools. While Liberia needs international funding to kick start its program, Liberia cannot simply rely on international aid to become a self-sustaining country. Already, 65% of Liberia’s spending budget comes from external donors. To start building independence, Liberia is currently looking at many different options to fund their expenditures, including sin taxes on goods such as alcohol and tobacco and also begin charging citizens for health services.

 

On top of gathering funds, Liberia might need to rebuild its entire healthcare system from scratch to remove all of the inefficiencies, build a system of medical training, and become self sustaining. For this, we can look to Afghanistan as the model for rebuilding healthcare systems. After their structural systems were wrecked by war and the Taliban regime in 2001, their healthcare system resembled that of modern day Liberia. By focusing on building hospitals, care centers, and a system of primary care, Afghanistan was able to expand its primary care coverage from 9% of the population in 2003 to 85% in 2009.
In order to achieve the similar results that Afghanistan was able to accomplish, there are many pressing issues that Liberia will need to fix. First, unclean water and food insecurity plague the nation with 68% of the nation drinking from contaminated sources. Second, the lack of physical infrastructure such as unpaved roads, lack of modern day technology, and the poor condition of many buildings and facilities threaten the failure of any healthcare system developments. Finally, Liberia as a whole will need to restructure, which encompasses the training of more physicians, the building of better schools, the stabilization of their economy, and improving communications between government agencies and the people of Liberia. While these issues do not cover the entire range of concerns in Liberia, they provide a strong starting place in the rebuilding of a health system.

Burundi- The Next Rwanda?

By Adithya Sivakumar

        In 1994, the world stood by in shock as a purported 800,000 members of the Rwandan nation were killed in the span of two months as the result of ethnic tensions between the majority Hutu and minority Tutsi populations; the majority of those killed were Tutsis and moderate Hutus. This slaughter provoked not only civil war and an eventual Tutsi-led government, but also conflict in neighboring nations, such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo. As Rwanda recovered from the brutal state-sponsored massacre, the international community at-large appeared to be resolved to prevent another large-scale tragedy, one that saw United Nations soldiers become useless in face of the massacre.

        In neighboring Burundi, however, recent events are harkening to those that occurred more than twenty years ago, provoking fresh fears of an ethnic conflict and possible genocide.

        The crisis was instigated by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s desire to seek a third term for office, which caused massive protests and clashes, along with a failed coup-d’état that provoked an even larger crackdown on the people of Burundi. In total, at least 439 have died, with more than 240,000 people fleeing the country, a crisis that has largely been overshadowed by crises and political instability elsewhere in the world. However, world leaders are keeping a close eye on the situation in Burundi, especially as government leaders throw terms that allude to rhetoric used during the Rwandan Genocide, such as telling security forces to go “work,” an euphemism that was used to describe the massacre of civilians in Rwanda.

Reasons for Concern

        Burundi is no stranger to ethnic and political conflict, as a twelve-year civil war between rebel Hutus and a Tutsi-led army killed about 300,000 people years ago. Additionally, Burundi and Rwanda have approximately the same ethnic makeup, which hovers around 85% in the Hutu majority and 15% in the Tutsi minority, causing further concern among international observers. The violence in Burundi appears to systematically target Tutsi individuals, which has led to even further worries due to parallels with the Rwandan Genocide.

        The roots of this ethnic conflict can be traced back to historical differences between Tutsi and Hutu populations, but these differences were exacerbated in the Belgian colonial period. Believing to Tutsi to be superior to the Hutu, the Belgians produced identity cards to distinguish the two groups, causing resentment from the Hutu who saw Tutsi generally be granted higher positions in government. This resentment fed the overthrow of the Tutsi-led Rwandan government at the end of Belgian rule, and laid the basis for Hutu-Tutsi tensions to this day.

        Another interesting aspect of the crisis is the level of international involvement in procuring a peace deal. As mentioned before, the community may be atoning for its large amount of inaction surrounding the Rwandan genocide, which is largely deemed a failure by the international community. Despite informants detailing to international bodies that genocide was about to occur, various governments and the United Nations ignored these warnings and were quite unprepared to handle the ensuing massacre. The United States, particularly, was especially wary of contributing forces to an international peacekeeping force due to the killing of American forces assigned to a humanitarian mission in Somalia just a year previously. Foreign governments focused on evacuating their own citizens and largely ignored the crisis afterwards, causing the plight of Rwandans to be ignored and the reduction of UNAMIR (UN Assistance Mission of Rwanda) peacekeeping force to drastically small numbers, making intervention nearly impossible.

The Plan for the Future

        In order to prevent another large-scale international debacle, governments around the world as well as the UN have made significant strides in Burundi to attempt to find a peace agreement. The UN Security Council has even made the trip twice to Burundi in the last ten months in order to foment a peace agreement. In stark contrast to the situation in Rwanda two decades prior, there is large agreement, even though the United States, that peacekeeping forces need to be sent to Burundi, even with the opposition of the incumbent government.

        With all eyes on Burundi, the good news appears to be that international action is likely in the face of future genocidal actions perpetrated by Nkurunziza’s government. Despite assurances that law-and-order may resurface, there are many that are very skeptical of a peaceful resolution, especially given the region’s turbulent history. The failed coup may have given Nkurunziza a blank check to commit atrocities in the lieu of capturing traitors, a frightening parallel to the shooting down of a plane that killed the Rwandan and Burundian presidents and gave the Rwandan government a loose justification on which to base their genocide. It is extremely essential that international bodies, such as the UN and African Union, and foreign governments to broker peace in a volatile setting fostered by colonialism and international inaction.

Burundi- The Next Rwanda?

        In 1994, the world stood by in shock as a purported 800,000 members of the Rwandan nation were killed in the span of two months as the result of ethnic tensions between the majority Hutu and minority Tutsi populations; the majority of those killed were Tutsis and moderate Hutus. This slaughter provoked not only civil war and an eventual Tutsi-led government, but also conflict in neighboring nations, such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo. As Rwanda recovered from the brutal state-sponsored massacre, the international community at-large appeared to be resolved to prevent another large-scale tragedy, one that saw United Nations soldiers become useless in face of the massacre.

        In neighboring Burundi, however, recent events are harkening to those that occurred more than twenty years ago, provoking fresh fears of an ethnic conflict and possible genocide.

        The crisis was instigated by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s desire to seek a third term for office, which caused massive protests and clashes, along with a failed coup-d’état that provoked an even larger crackdown on the people of Burundi. In total, at least 439 have died, with more than 240,000 people fleeing the country, a crisis that has largely been overshadowed by crises and political instability elsewhere in the world. However, world leaders are keeping a close eye on the situation in Burundi, especially as government leaders throw terms that allude to rhetoric used during the Rwandan Genocide, such as telling security forces to go “work,” an euphemism that was used to describe the massacre of civilians in Rwanda.

Reasons for Concern

        Burundi is no stranger to ethnic and political conflict, as a twelve-year civil war between rebel Hutus and a Tutsi-led army killed about 300,000 people. Additionally, Burundi and Rwanda have approximately the same ethnic makeup, which hovers around 85% in the Hutu majority and 15% in the Tutsi minority, causing further concern among international observers. The violence in Burundi appears to systematically target Tutsi individuals, which has led to even further worries due to parallels with the Rwandan Genocide.

        The roots of this ethnic conflict can be traced back to historical differences between Tutsi and Hutu populations, but these differences were exacerbated in the Belgian colonial period. Believing to Tutsi to be superior to the Hutu, the Belgians produced identity cards to distinguish the two groups, causing resentment from the Hutu who saw Tutsi generally be granted higher positions in government. This resentment fed the overthrow of the Tutsi-led Rwandan government at the end of Belgian rule, and laid the basis for Hutu-Tutsi tensions to this day.

        Another interesting aspect of the crisis is the level of international involvement in procuring a peace deal. As mentioned before, the community may be atoning for its large amount of inaction surrounding the Rwandan genocide, which is largely deemed a failure by the international community. Despite informants detailing to international bodies that genocide was about to occur, various governments and the United Nations ignored these warnings and were quite unprepared to handle the ensuing massacre. The United States, particularly, was especially wary of contributing forces to an international peacekeeping force due to the killing of American forces assigned to a humanitarian mission in Somalia just a year previously. Foreign governments focused on evacuating their own citizens and largely ignored the crisis afterwards, causing the plight of Rwandans to be ignored and the reduction of UNAMIR (UN Assistance Mission of Rwanda) peacekeeping force to drastically small numbers, making intervention nearly impossible. With a history of inaction that seems to be replaying in the current situation, many international observers have expressed concern.

The Plan for the Future

        In order to prevent another large-scale international debacle, governments around the world as well as the UN have made significant strides in Burundi to attempt to find a peace agreement. The UN Security Council has even made the trip twice to Burundi in the last ten months in order to foment a peace agreement. In stark contrast to the situation in Rwanda two decades prior, there is large agreement, even through the United States, that peacekeeping forces need to be sent to Burundi, even with the opposition of the incumbent government.

        With all eyes on Burundi, the good news appears to be that international action is likely in the face of future genocidal actions perpetrated by Nkurunziza’s government. Despite assurances that law-and-order may resurface, there are many that are very skeptical of a peaceful resolution, especially given the region’s turbulent history. The failed coup may have given Nkurunziza a blank check to commit atrocities in the lieu of capturing traitors, a frightening parallel to the shooting down of a plane that killed the Rwandan and Burundian presidents and gave the Rwandan government a loose justification on which to base their genocide. It is extremely essential that international bodies, such as the UN and African Union, and foreign governments to broker peace in a volatile setting fostered by colonialism and international inaction.

 

The Battle for Burundi

By Javan Latson

 

Twenty-one years ago, the world watched in horror as hundreds of thousands of Rwandans died over the span of about 100 days. This tremendous event showed the world what could happen when the international community waits too late to act. Now, years after the events of Rwanda we see another potentially gruesome conflict brewing in the neighboring nation of Rwanda. Will the international community not intervene as they did back then, or will they act now in order to stop a political uprising from becoming a destructive civil war?

Even with today’s heavy media attention on the Middle East, the conflict in Burundi is relatively uncovered. This landlocked East African nation is one of the poorest countries on earth, with a population of around 11 million, and a per capita GDP of $900. After a 12-year civil war, which resulted in the deaths of 300,000 people, the country has enjoyed a relative sense of peace. This is not the case now, as this small nation is on the verge of another civil war.

Tensions arose in April when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced that he was running for a third term. This caused the citizens of Burundi to protest what they viewed as unconstitutional and a violation of democracy that was guaranteed in the Arusha Agreement, which only allows two terms in office. Despite opposition from the people, members of the Burundian Constitutional Court were coerced by the government to rule that Nkurunziza could indeed run for reelection under the fear of death. Dissatisfied with the ruling, more than 500 protesters rallied in the suburb of Musaga to voice their opinions regarding the presidential campaign. In the month of May, following protests and demonstrations calling for Nkurunziza’s resignation, a group of military officers attempted a coup in order to depose the president, which failed miserably.

 Despite a lack of popular support, and calls by foreign leaders to concede power, President Nkurunziza won a third term in office with a whopping 73 percent of the vote. US Secretary of State John Kerry called the elections, “a deeply flawed electoral process marked by violence and a disregard for the civil and human rights of the citizens of Burundi”.  In spite of the added foreign pressure, the President shows no signs of budging, and the harsh words of the international community have not been enough to sway him into respecting the Arusha Agreement.

The country has descended into lawlessness as renegade groups such as the Imbonerakure terrorize civilians. The Imbonerakure is a non-governmental youth militia that operates under the implicit approval of Nkurunziza’s CNDD-FDD (National Council for the Defense of Democracy—Forces for the Defense of Democracy) party. They act as an extension of governmental power, to force people to accept the president’s third term and to quell opposition. The group, which is predominantly Hutu, (the majority ethnic group in Burundi) has been accused of surrounding a Tutsi (a minority ethnic group) refugee camp on May 15th and threatening to kill refugees. They also face accusations of making unlawful arrests, handing people over to intelligence agents, torture, and beating civilians. The increasing hostility towards the country’s minorities from Imbonerakure has caused many to flee the country.

Over the past few weeks, police and military crackdowns against protesters and opposition groups have expanded. On December 11th 87 rebels were killed in the capital city of Bujumbura during an attack against military bases in the area. Col. Gaspard Baratuza of the Burundian military said that the attack was an attempt to stock up on weapons and ammunition and that “The army has defeated them seriously”. Following the attack there were reports of bodies (mainly of young civilians) found on the streets of residential neighborhoods in what appeared to be an act of retaliation against areas suspected of harboring rebels. Many of the bodies had bullet wounds in the head, and one was found tied up with eyewitnesses saying that the victims were pulled out their homes and executed by police.  The crackdown has created a state of tension in the country and has been condemned by international human rights watches.

Fed up with the abuse of power by the government, extrajudicial killings, and human rights violations, citizens have formed an organization to topple President Nkurunziza.  These rebels united to form a resistance called Forebu (Les Forces Republicaines du Burundi). The group’s goal, as stated by colonel turned rebel Edward Nshimirimana, is to “drive out Nkurunziza by force and restore the Arusha accord and democracy”. The government can no longer deny the existence of uniformed rebellion or even widespread dissatisfaction in the country.  During this period of civil unrest, the government claimed the constant firefights were the results of individual criminals and insurgents. Forebu is a physical manifestation of the sentiments of the Burundian people and refutes the government’s idea that there is not a unified uprising-taking place in the country. With a public face, the rebel movement has a greater chance at a full-blown war than as a political uprising.

The ongoing violence in Burundi has concerned many nations including the US. The State Department issued a travel warning in December 2015 recommending that all US citizens evacuate the country.  The African Union even offered to send in peacekeepers to quell the violence, but the Burundian government refused, claiming that they will attack any AU troop that sets foot in the country without permission. Burundi is a sovereign nation and has the right to determine whether or not foreign soldiers are allowed within its borders, leaving the African community in a quagmire. Following Nkrunziza’s decision to seek a third term in April, more than 200,000 people have fled the country with more than half of them being 17 years old or younger. Many of these refugees have fled to Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, which are developing nations faced with significant internal problems of their own.  Some of these refugee camps, like Nyargusu in Tanzania, which has 150,000 people, are extremely overcrowded and lack the resources to take care of such a large population as a result. There are reports of Burundians in Rwandan refugee camps being forcibly recruited by military groups such as the National Forces of Liberation rebels and the Imbograburundi. These groups train them, and send them back to Burundi via the Democratic Republic of Congo to fight against the government in a blatant violation of UNHCR regulations.  

The possibility of another devastating war, along with an escalating refugee crisis cannot continue go unnoticed. However, many of the big players at the UN such as Russia, the UK, and the US seem uninterested in the plight of the small African nation. While this may not be genocide per se such as Rwanda or Darfur, the likelihood that this can become a war where thousands are killed and more are displaced is quite high. While some express optimism about the experience that the international community had in ending East African conflicts such as the recent Kivu Conflict in the Congo, others are justifiably pessimistic about the international response, given the world’s history of inaction towards African genocides.