Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Hope For Africa?

"With the exception of Syria, African countries currently get the worst rep when it comes to violence and conflict. Virtually every story coming out of the continent seems to showcase one atrocity or another.
This narrative is both true and false. In 2014, Africa experienced more than half of worldwide conflict incidents, despite having only about 16 percent of the world population. This is a slightly larger share of the world’s conflicts than even during the chaotic years of the post-Cold War 1990s."

Peter Dörrie, The National Interest, January 22, 2016 
The author of the above is quick to point out, however, that context is vital in the interpretation of his statement, in that world conflicts have abated in the past several decades, difficult though that is to credit, given the scope and the brutality of current conflicts in places like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, and the threats to world stability emanating from the Middle East. But it is to Africa that we look in dismay and puzzlement; how long will those countries place the blame for their inability to become responsible, non-conflict states capable of full security for their populations, on their colonial pasts?

Yes, they did suffer unspeakable humiliation from the conquest and occupation of European nations eager to expand their influence and their capacity to exploit the vast natural resources of countries too weak to defend themselves against a foreign invader whose technology in producing military equipment was just too far superior to their own. But those same African countries have received a good measure of reparation and support to prepare them for full sovereignty and normalcy.

What hope is there for Africa? Despite billions poured into the Continent through investment and humanitarian aid, Africa languishes behind other continents and their nations in the indexes of conflict, privation and social cohesion. This is a reflection of primitive tribalism and its stark animosities toward others and the effect of clan loyalties, where compassion for others and a willingness to make peace with one another is simply not carried over from an ancient tradition of viewing the 'other' as a competitor for scarce resources.

It is to Nigeria that attention is given often now in the news. News that highlights that this most populous of all African countries, the one with the greatest wealth and energy resources, fully independent and on fairly good terms with its neighbours, is incapable of defending its population against the deadly depredations of Boko Haram, the jihadist Islamist terrorist group wreaking vengeance on those who aspire a Western-style education for their offspring.

Like most African countries the government and society in general is rife with corruption; money waylaid and sidelined to line the pockets of the grasping who have power over the ordinary people who see no hope for their futures. Nigeria is 50% Muslim, 40% Christian and the rest is comprised of a variety of likely nativist religions. The former Christian president was incapable of providing security to Nigerians, and the current Muslim president has somewhat targeted corruption in the military so that the country's armed forces are now provided with weaponry at least the equal of that of the jihadists.

But Muhammadu Buhari crowed too quickly that his forces had succeeded in putting Boko Haram on the run, as more recent atrocities against villages close to the area where the jihadists have their capital attest. One can only experience feelings of sadness and great compassion for the people of Nigeria when time and again they have been lethally targeted by a maniacal group of religious murderers, satisfied that the mass slaughter they commit is pleasing to their god.

On the other hand, when reading in one's local newspaper of the lack of common sense, compassion and humanity expressed by many of those same villagers against the most vulnerable among them, it is difficult not to believe that the people of Nigeria and by extension much of Africa as well, given its situation of many militias as well as regime militaries, abduct young children for training in the conflicts they engage in, experience any measure of concern for the trajectory of their own humanity.
"When we heard that the child was only 2 to 3 years old, we did not hesitate. A child that young cannot survive a long time alone on the streets. We immediately prepared a rescue mission."
“Thousands of children are being accused of being witches and we’ve both seen torture of children, dead children and frightened children. This footage shows why I fight."
"With all the money we can [collect] besides giving hope the very best treatment now also [is to] build a doctor clinic on the new land and save many more children out of torture! It's just so great!"
"Hope is getting so much better. Already gaining a lot of weight and looking so much more healthy. Now we only need him to talk. But that will come naturally when he is out of the hospital and starting his life among all our children."
Anja Ringgren Lovén, founder, African Children's Aid Education and Development Foundation
"Hope," on the day of his rescue. (Anja Ringgren Lovén)
"Hope" was the name given to a toddler whom villagers identified as a "witch" and who was abandoned by his family. He was found emaciated and starving, close to death, and was given immediate blood transfusions and loving care by the founder of the African Children's Aid Eduction and Development Foundation, Anja Ringgren Loven.  Whose group is attempting to rescue the estimated 15,000 -- in one Nigerian state alone -- children named as "witches" and abandoned to their lonely, morbid fates.
"[Boys who displayed a] solitary temperament, physical deformities or conditions such as autism [are most likely to be identified as 'witches'."
"Many social and economic pressures, including conflict, poverty, urbanization and the weakening of communities, or HIV/AIDS, seem to have contributed to the recent increase in witchcraft accusations against children. Child witchcraft accusations are part of a rising tide of child abuse, violence and neglect, and they are manifestations of deeper social problems affecting society."
UNICEF Regional Child Protection Adviser Joachim Theis  
So there is hope that "Hope" will survive his dreadful ordeal of rejection, isolation and privation which would have led inexorably to death had he not been rescued. He is reported to be able now to sit up and smile, and he is eating well. Will he remember how desolate he felt at such a young age, wandering the dusty streets of his village, trying to sustain life on his own? Will he be capable of trusting people in his future? While there is hope for this little fellow, what hope is there for Africa, where many of its countries have a tradition of rejecting children they name as "witches"?

Anja Ringgren Lovén and "Hope," a Nigerian toddler who was accused of being a witch. (Anja Ringgren Lovén)

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