HASHTAG’ CAMPAIGN FOR KIDNAPPED GIRLS SPARKS DISPUTE
Jun. 9 (GIN) – Is the social media campaign to bring back the abducted Nigerian schoolgirls an effective tool to win their freedom or just trending until the next big thing comes along?
That’s the question heating up the news wires with rescue efforts at an apparent standstill and new dramas coming on the media stage.
Staff writer Joshua Keating in Slate.com was among the questioners. He compared #BringBackOurGirls to the #StopKony campaign of 2012. “Stop Kony was the most successful viral video in history and succeeded in making Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army internationally famous,” he wrote.
But the video had flaws. “It not only fudged basic facts of geography and chronology, but failed to provide viewers with any social, political or economic context for Kony’s violence,” Keating said.
Kony, a notorious Ugandan warlord, abducted over 60,000 children from 1986 to 2009, making them into child soldiers or sex slaves. Still at large, Kony is the target of a manhunt by a small U.S.-led force. Most of the thousands of young Americans in that hashtag campaign have moved on.
Researchers who studied #StopKony, linked its success to the simplicity of its message – which was oversimplified.
A second Stop Kony video presented a more nuanced picture of Kony’s Africa. It failed to catch fire with the original hashtag followers.
“Defenders of campaigns like these claim they can be gateways toward greater understanding of complex global issues,” Keating said, but the opposite may be true.
“People are outraged when they hear about evil monsters like Kony or Boko Haram that just need to be stopped. When they learn more about the issue and find out that, lo and behold, killing the monster won’t be so easy and there are larger issues in play beyond the monster itself, they lose interest.”
Marissa Jackson, a blogger writing for The Guardian, disagreed. “I am not Nigerian and I have not known the pain of having a child abducted. Neither am I familiar with the group trauma experienced by the Chibok community, or the thousands of other Nigerians who have been devastated by Boko Haram’s unspeakable actions and further victimized by their government’s indefensible inaction.
“Yet I clicked and shared updates about the Chibok girls and the abusive antics of the president's wife, Patience Jonathan, and I even used the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls a couple of times, feeling self-conscious about it.
“All too often, we protest too much and accomplish too little. But that’s not what’s been happening here.
“Rather, the movement to #BringBackOurGirls, which actually originated in Nigeria, has thus far demonstrated the virtues of solidarity and grassroots international cooperation, within and beyond the African diaspora. It has shed much meaningful light on how to make visibility and voice to the invisible and voiceless.
“As a black woman in the United States, this movement has become as meaningfully encouraging as it is frustrating because for the first time ever, I am witnessing men and women come together to notice when a group of black girls goes missing, and demand decisive action.
“Equally significant has been the pan-African unity on the issue. That people of West Indian and Caribbean, North American, Afro-European, and African descent have rallied in support of the Chibok girls, their families, and indeed, all of Nigeria, is no small feat.” w/pix of protestors at European headquarters of U.N. in Geneva
CABLES REVEAL U.S.-BACKED EXIT PLAN LEFT RWANDA ‘KNEE-DEEP IN BODIES’
Jun. 9 (GIN) – Six days before Rwanda would explode in a genocidal bloodbath, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations saw the storm clouds on the horizon and pushed to send all peacekeepers home, despite signs of an imminent disaster.
In a recently declassified cable, Ambassador Madeleine K. Albright advised the Dept. of State that a “window of opportunity” was available to withdraw the bulk of the force of U.N. peacekeepers. A “skeletal staff” could be left behind to negotiate a cease-fire and any future negotiations, she wrote in the cable of April 12, 1994.
At the National Security Council, Richard A. Clarke, a counterterrorism adviser to President Bill Clinton, was also trying to scale back American involvement in U.N. peacekeeping operations, in part to fend off lawmakers who wanted to end them altogether, according to a newly-published report.
The genocide was set off by the downing of the plane carrying Rwandan president Juvénal Habyarimana and Burundian president Cyprien Ntaryamira on Apr. 6, 1994.
“Most of the U.N. force was withdrawn shortly after the cable, leaving the violence almost completely unchecked. The crisis rapidly escalated into one of history’s most grimly efficient genocides, with some 800,000 people killed in less than 100 days,” Mark Landler wrote in an explosive piece in the June 3 edition of the NY Times.
On April 21, after a week in which 10,000 Rwandans were killed in Kigali alone, wrote Landler, the Security Council cut the size of the force to 270 troops from 2,100. The remaining peacekeepers found themselves “standing knee-deep in mutilated bodies,” said Roméo Dallaire, the Canadian general who commanded the U.N. Nations force.
Some 300 secret cables from the U.S., Britain, New Zealand and other members of the U.N. Security Council have just been published online on the websites of the National Security Archive and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Twenty years since the genocide, the posted material provides a damning timeline of the top secret debates among diplomats who voted to pull out most of the peacekeepers at the very moment they could have curbed the killing.
Tom Blanton, director of the National Security Archive at George Washington University, told the Times: “It’s clear, in hindsight, that the pullout of peacekeeping was the green light for genocide.”
Cameron Hudson, acting director of the Holocaust Museum’s Center for the Prevention of Genocide, said, “It looks very cold and doesn’t paint any of the big countries in a good light.”
Blanton’s organization, along with the Holocaust Museum and The Hague Institute for Global Justice, were sponsors of a conference this past weekend on how the world handled the Rwanda crisis.
The conference focused on three themes: Failure to prevent, failure to protect and lessons learned.
Still classified are some 100 internal White House emails on Rwanda, held by the Clinton presidential library, which could shed light on the marching orders Ms. Albright was getting from the White House.
A request for declassification has been stalled by the Library for the past nine months.
SOUTH AFRICAN MINERS IN HISTORIC STRIKE STAND FIRM ON PAY DEMAND
Jun. 9 (GIN) - South African miners are holding out for a living wage in the longest strike against mining companies in the country’s history.
A Monday deadline set by the government was reached without progress and the talks collapsed. The two sides are far apart on the wage issue with the Association of Miners and Construction Union (AMCU) seeking $1,200 a month - double their current wage – while the companies are offering a 10% raise, reaching $1,200 by July 2017. Out of this increase, deductions would be taken for housing and other basic essentials.
Some 80,000 union-member workers are honoring the strike which affects AMCU members at Lonmin, Impala Platinum and Anglo American Platinum – holding 45% of the world’s platinum supply.
South African mining companies rank in the world’s top 40 and their earnings have been in the billions. This week, they were stung by a report that claimed they hadn’t done enough to share profits during the boom years before the economic recession in 2008.
In “Demanding the impossible? Platinum Mining Profits and Wage Demands in Context”, researchers Andrew Bowman and Gilad Isaacs, working out of South Africa’s Wits University, examined whether the companies can afford to pay miners a “living wage” or whether the companies are in a period of financial difficulty as they claim.
“Platinum shareholders have done extremely well over the last 14 years in comparison to labor,” they said in the report. “Poor living conditions in the platinum mines, anger over low wages and large pay differentials between workers and management have acted as a catalyst for increased labor militancy.”
Between 1999 and 2008 platinum prices rose from $350 to $2,100, with the companies’ operating profit margins doubling the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) top 40 average and tripling the median rate. The return on investment was up to 10 times higher than the rate of 15% that the ANC considered “fair” in a policy document.
According to the report, the companies prioritized shareholder profits at the cost of both labor and long-term investment strategies. After 2008, they said, results weren’t as impressive for the platinum producers yet they are still strong.
The study criticized the previous union for not seeking raises during a profitable period. The National Union of Miners during the boom time was best positioned to fight for meaningful wage increases, they wrote, “but for the most part it adopted a compliant approach to relations with management.”
Miners now represented by the AMCU were slapped with charges this week by the ruling African National Congress, of being lead by “white foreign nationals” trying to destabilize South Africa’s economy, along with the Economic Freedom Fighters of Julius Malema.
WAR RESISTERS GROUP HOLDS FIRST AFRICAN CONFAB IN CAPE TOWN
Jun. 9 (GIN) - War Resisters’ International, founded in 1921 by conscientious objectors to the First World War, will hold their first conference in South Africa from July 4 to 8.
Conference organizers plan to draw attention to the great cost to Africa of the global arms trade which prompted a report by Oxfam International titled “Africa’s Missing Billions.”
“Since 1990, around $300 billion has been lost by Algeria, Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Republic of Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan and Uganda,” the report asserted.
“The sum is equivalent to international aid from major donors in the same period. If this money was not lost due to armed conflict, it could solve the problems of HIV and AIDS in Africa, or it could address Africa’s needs in education, clean water and sanitation, and prevent tuberculosis and malaria,” the report concluded.
Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, writing in the foreword to Missing Billions, noted:, “This report highlights the global nature of the problem of one of the key drivers of armed conflict – the proliferation of weapons. As nearly all of the weapons used in African conflicts are not made in Africa, the need for global action to control the trade in weapons and prevent weapons, especially small arms, reaching Africa’s conflict zones is brought into stark relief.”
A snapshot presented in the report by a Kenyan doctor shows the true cost of one bullet after rebels shot and shattered the jaw of a young Congolese boy, the son of a diamond prospector. It took a year for the 17-year-old boy to save enough money to have a steel plate inserted into his jaw during a nine-hour operation that cost US $6,000.
“The cost of the operation is the equivalent of a year of primary school education for 100 children, or full immunization of 250 children, or 1.5 years of education for a medical student,” the Missing Billions report pointed out.
War Resisters’ International has more than 80 affiliates in 40 countries. WRI provided support for the End Conscription Campaign in South Africa the early 1980s and the organization says the decision to hold its 2014 conference in Cape Town was made “in recognition of the 20th anniversary of South Africa’s transition from Apartheid to constitutional democracy”.
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