Precarious Journalism in Africa

Godffrey-MWampemba-GadoEye on Africa has often talked about atrocities unfolding, or likely to unfold, in different African states. Most of this information is never collected by myself and is gleaned from news organizations within and outside of Africa. Journalists are perhaps the one group of people that I owe a deep gratitude to. Even when working under tough circumstances they still believe in telling the story, and telling it right. The reason I point this out is because the past year has been a fraught one for African journalists in several countries. From outright assassinations in South Sudan, to the erasure of press freedoms in Rwanda and Kenya, African journalists are quickly becoming an endangered group. So this month’s contribution will focus on the plight faced by journalists working in Africa, for without them, this column would not exist.

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Will we only care about Burundi if it is called a genocide?

A few things have been happening in Burundi this year. The president, Pierre Nkuruzinza circumvented the constitution and ran for a third term. The result of this has been on-going conflict from April. Burundi was not a surprise though. Journalists I spoke to earlier this year all stated that regional coverage of Burundi had pointed to something being afoot as early as last year. None-the-less, here we are, with yet another unfolding atrocity, several deaths, an ever growing numbers of displaced and plenty of hand-wringing by the international community.

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9f7eda0b-6d1f-45eb-a042-092293fcc167On the 2nd of April my home country, Kenya, suffered its bloodiest terrorist attack in recent history. The attack by Al-Shabaab was at a university in the town of Garissa, close to the Kenya-Somali border. While it would be tempting to rant and rave about the causes of the attack, the lapse in Kenya’s security forces, or even the almost non-existence of an official government response — not only to the attack but the victims’ and their families’ plight and suffering — I will not. Instead this month’s article is on the 147 students that died, the almost equal number of students considered missing, and the hundreds more that survived and will always have these scars.

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What have you done for Darfur lately?

Talking to a journalist in Nairobi this weekend, he mentioned something that I thought was as unnerving as it was interesting. The journalist lamented at the fact that it seemed the world had gotten so tired of Darfur that the news of soldiers raping at least 221 women and girls in the village of Tabit last October hardly caused a ripple. The first allegations of the 36-hour rape ordeal came in November when Radio Dabanga (The Hague) initially reported on the crimes. In December, the ICC prosecutor decided to shelve the war crimes probe after almost five years of stagnation by the world court, stating she needed more support to address Sudan’s lack of cooperation, and that the rape of the 200 women and girls in the village “should shock [the] council into action.” Sudanese security forces killed approximately 200 protesters in 2014 and the Sudanese state has been so confident that nothing would happen to it, it created a new force, the Rapid Support Forces, which was accused of having burned 3,000 villages in 2014.

We have come a long way from events that sought to raise awareness such as ‘Rock for Darfur’ (which according to Voice of America had 22 concert in 2006 alone), a long way from buying, and proudly donning, t-shirts 6086ed3a-bbed-40b0-b5c3-bc404feae1dbwith ‘Save Darfur’ emblazoned on them. Syria, Iraq, Liberia, South Sudan, and Central Africa Republic have overtaken Darfur in the attention sweepstakes in the news. In previous posts I have talked about Compassion Fatigue and the four horsemen of the apocalypse whenever atrocities were covered in the media. However, when is it ok to say enough is enough? When do we, as global citizens, stop shaking our heads and going “tsk tsk, it is so sad what is happening in that country”?  These are questions I have asked myself over the past few years. As a graduate student, I have often wondered if my keeping an eye on Darfur is influenced by the fact that my research is in the region. Would it matter as much if my research was on, say, farming practices in Africa?  I would like to think it would, if for no reason other than the fact that my country (Kenya) shares a border with South Sudan. I would like to think that whenever I opened the local daily at a coffee shop, or on my way to work in the morning, I would read the news about Darfur and seek out like-minded individuals to try and help in some way, shape or form. What form of help this would be I’m not sure as of yet. So to the question, what have I done for Darfur lately? My honest answer is not as much as I would have liked to do. As Darfur has morphed into a conflict occurring in the shadows (a dreadful prospect) my sense of hopelessness has also increased. What will your answer be?

Wahutu Siguru is the 2013 Badzin Fellow in Holocaust and Genocide Studies and PhD candidate in the Sociology department at the University of Minnesota. Siguru’s research interests are in the Sociology of Media, Genocide, Mass Violence and Atrocities (specifically on issues of representation of conflicts in Africa such as Darfur and Rwanda), Collective Memory, and perhaps somewhat tangentially Democracy and Development in Africa. 

Of Humanitarians and African Conflicts

One of the lasting effects of the genocide in Rwanda is that all African conflicts are always compared to Rwanda. The metric always seems to be whether or not they will be as bad as Rwanda if intervention does not occur. Rwanda has become a sign of guilt, a reminder that we as humanity did nothing to stop one of the more atrocious and rapid killings of peoples in an African country. Of course this ignores that the Democratic Republic of Congo has been embroiled in some variation of the same conflict for as almost as long as I’ve been alive (and I’m somewhat old enough to remember images of the late Mandela walking free from Robben Island holding Winnie Madikizela’s hand).

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Compassion Fatigue and the Ride of the African Horsemen of the Apocalypse

As a student studying genocide and mass atrocity in the media, I often wonder whether we as consumers of the news can only take one atrocity at a time or if the media only thinks we can handle one at a time?  Over the past year, I have watched as reporting on the atrocities in the Central Africa Republic, South Sudan and the campaign #BringBackOurGirls gain momentum only to lose it as quickly as it was gained. Continue reading “Compassion Fatigue and the Ride of the African Horsemen of the Apocalypse”

The girls shall not be brought back by Twitter…

As an African studying in this country, it often heartens me how much regular people in the U.S. generally care about issues on my home continent. From issues in South Sudan, to Central Africa Republic to Darfur and now Nigeria, there has always been heart-warming concern shown. It is for this reason that this month’s post has been rather challenging to write as it seeks to interrogate some of the ways this concern has largely played out.

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Perpetrators sentenced in Europe

As we approach the 20th anniversary of the Genocide in Rwanda questions surrounding justice, commemorating the victims, and lessons learned take center stage. With regards to justice, events in Germany and in France in the past two months demonstrate that persistence and international cooperation often work to ensure justice is served to those affected by genocide and mass violence. Two trials have just ended in these two countries that will certainly put Hutu fugitives living in Europe on edge.    Continue reading “Perpetrators sentenced in Europe”