The 411 On Child Soldiers (DETAILS)
Read more: http://globalgrind.com/news/411-child-soldiers-details#ixzz2Gph6PxAp
|“Many African leaders refuse to send their troops on peace keeping missions abroad because they probably need their armies to intimidate their own populations.”|
Why the continent's conflicts never end.
BY JEFFREY GETTLEMAN
What we are seeing is the decline of the classic African liberation movement and the proliferation of something else -- something wilder, messier, more violent, and harder to wrap our heads around. If you'd like to call this war, fine. But what is spreading across Africa like a viral pandemic is actually just opportunistic, heavily armed banditry. My job as the New York Times' East Africa bureau chief is to cover news and feature stories in 12 countries. But most of my time is spent immersed in these un-wars.
I've witnessed up close -- often way too close -- how combat has morphed from soldier vs. soldier (now a rarity in Africa) to soldier vs. civilian. Most of today's African fighters are not rebels with a cause; they're predators. That's why we see stunning atrocities like eastern Congo's rape epidemic, where armed groups in recent years have sexually assaulted hundreds of thousands of women, often so sadistically that the victims are left incontinent for life. What is the military or political objective of ramming an assault rifle inside a woman and pulling the trigger? Terror has become an end, not just a means.
Even if you could coax these men out of their jungle lairs and get them to the negotiating table, there is very little to offer them. They don't want ministries or tracts of land to govern. Their armies are often traumatized children, with experience and skills (if you can call them that) totally unsuited for civilian life. All they want is cash, guns, and a license to rampage. And they've already got all three. How do you negotiate with that?
The short answer is you don't. The only way to stop today's rebels for real is to capture or kill their leaders. Many are uniquely devious characters whose organizations would likely disappear as soon as they do. That's what happened in Angola when the diamond-smuggling rebel leader Jonas Savimbi was shot, bringing a sudden end to one of the Cold War's most intense conflicts. In Liberia, the moment that warlord-turned-president Charles Taylor was arrested in 2006 was the same moment that the curtain dropped on the gruesome circus of 10-year-old killers wearing Halloween masks. Countless dollars, hours, and lives have been wasted on fruitless rounds of talks that will never culminate in such clear-cut results. The same could be said of indictments of rebel leaders for crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court. With the prospect of prosecution looming, those fighting are sure never to give up.
How did we get here? Maybe it's pure nostalgia, but it seems that yesteryear's African rebels had a bit more class. They were fighting against colonialism, tyranny, or apartheid. The winning insurgencies often came with a charming, intelligent leader wielding persuasive rhetoric. These were men like John Garang, who led the rebellion in southern Sudan with his Sudan People's Liberation Army. He pulled off what few guerrilla leaders anywhere have done: winning his people their own country. Thanks in part to his tenacity, South Sudan will hold a referendum next year to secede from the North. Garang died in a 2005 helicopter crash, but people still talk about him like a god. Unfortunately, the region without him looks pretty godforsaken. I traveled to southern Sudan in November to report on how ethnic militias, formed in the new power vacuum, have taken to mowing down civilians by the thousands.
Zuma concerned about CAR
President Jacob Zuma has sent a minister to asses the situation in the Central African Republic (CAR), the international relations and co-operation department said on Wednesday.
The move was part of South Africa's contribution to efforts to bring about peace and stability in the CAR.
"South Africa condemns the continued attacks on several towns perpetrated by the coalition of armed groups, which undermine the Libreville comprehensive peace agreement and threaten the civilian population, as well as the stability of the Central African Republic."
He said South Africa demanded the armed groups immediately cease hostilities, stop advancing on Bangui, and withdraw from captured cities.
"We call on all parties to refrain from any acts of violence against civilians and to respect human rights."
South Africa called for constructive political dialogue and welcomed CAR President Francois Bozize's intention to achieve a negotiated solution, Monyela added.
South Africa supported efforts by the Economic Community of the Central African States to solve the crisis. South Africa would support sanctions and other measures against perpetrators of any unconstitutional change of government.
Nine of the raiders were also killed in what appeared to have been a revenge attack by settled Pokomo farmers against the semi-nomadic Orma pastoralists after a series of clashes in August in which more than 100 people were killed.
The two groups have fought for years over access to grazing, farmland and water, but human rights groups have blamed the latest violence on politicians seeking to drive away parts of the local population they believe will vote for their rivals in presidential and parliamentary elections in March.
If those charges are true, it further raises fears of a repeat of the ethnic violence that rocked Kenya after the disputed 2007 presidential election, in which more than 1,200 people were killed countrywide and many more thousands driven from their homes.
"About 150 Pokomo raiders attacked Kipao village which is inhabited by the Ormas early on Friday. The Ormas appeared to have been aware and were prepared," Robert Kitur, Coast Region deputy police chief, told reporters.
One survivor said the attackers struck at dawn.
"There were too many gunshots. They used also spears and machetes. I ran out of my house and left behind my wife and two children, and told them not to leave ... but the enemies reached my house, killed my family and burnt my house as I watched from where I was hiding," said Osman Amran, 63, of the Orma tribe, who lay on a hospital bed with deep cut wounds on both thighs.
President Mwai Kibaki instructed security forces to prevent further deaths. Kibaki imposed a curfew in September and sent extra security forces to the area to try to end the violence, intensified by an influx of weapons in the last few years.
Police sent an additional team of 200 paramilitary officers to the region to quell the fighting.
Police had already been deployed to the area in September after the attacks in August. It was unclear how the latest violence erupted while officers were on the ground, something which also baffling to the police.
"We are still trying to establish how these attacks escaped the knowledge of the officers on the ground. The officers responded after most of the damage had been done," Kitur said.
Police said six women and 13 children were among the dead and nine of the attackers were killed. Many bled to death from wounds inflicted with machetes. The village was deserted as the survivors fled for fear of further attacks.
Kenya Red Cross, which has a team on the ground treating the wounded, put the death toll at 32, including several children, with about 45 houses set on fire. Red Cross photographs posted on Twitter showed the injured being treated for serious cuts to the arms and head. One person had lost an arm.
"We have been administering first aid services to many with cuts, some very deep on various body parts especially the head and back. Others have burns and bullet wounds," said Mwanaisha Hamisi, the Coast regional Red Cross coordinator.
"It is almost overwhelming but we have mobilized our people from other areas of the province."
Prolonged trouble at the coast would cause jitters among some tourists and may affect Kenya's vital tourism industry, already damaged by the kidnappings of Western tourists from beach resorts by Somali gunmen and grenade attacks in the port city of Mombasa, at the height of the tourist season.
Dams along the Tana River, Kenya's longest, supply about two-thirds of the east African state's electricity, but the fighting has so far not threatened electricity generation