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What does China’s shock yaun devaluation mean for Africa

China’s development decisions are critically important for Africa. In Lagos, Addis and Johannesburg, China’s surprise yuan devaluation has African analysts scratching their heads.

Obviously Chinese goods will be cheaper in Africa, and African exports more expensive in China. So far, this decision is just a tremor, not a quake. Yet why did China devalue, and what is this likely to mean for Africa?

Deborah Brautigam
To understand China’s devaluation, we need to take a step back. Beijing has been trying to manage China’s enormous structural transformation ever since Chinese leaders made their historic decision to move out of poverty by turning to the market in the late 1970s. Their supercharged development model depended on low wages, high levels of foreign and public investment, and rapidly expanding, cheap exports.

Today, China is an upper middle income country with more expensive labor. Their economy is increasingly based on domestic innovation, consumption, and exports of high-tech products. Chinese firms have become significant foreign investors themselves with interests outside China’s borders.

This has been mainly good news for Africa. China’s growing reserves were recycled into large loans for infrastructure finance across Africa. Prices for African commodities rose with Chinese demand, helping underpin a long period of sustained — if unequal – African growth. Trade between Africa and China skyrocketed to $220 billion in 2014, nearly three times the U.S. level. Consumers benefited from low cost cell phones and other goods. On the down side, African manufacturing suffered from the competition with Chinese imports. Critics charge that China’s embrace — like that of other major powers — has not budged African economies away from high dependence on raw material exports.

The devaluation is a step backward in China’s strategy. Chinese authorities had pressing, but short-term political and economic reasons to devalue. Beijing’s policy-makers need to avoid rocking China’s political stability, while still pushing forward with measures that might cause temporary pain as they transform into a high income economy. Slower growth is now necessary, but this needs to be gradual, not dramatic.

What Africa can learn from China

What Africa can learn from China 06:18
In 2015, China’s economy began to slow a bit too rapidly. The Chinese had been using their foreign exchange reserves to prop up the yuan against the challenge of a strong dollar. This pushed their currency to appreciate by 14% over the past twelve months.

The stronger yuan led to a drop in Chinese exports: 8.3% in July alone. That month, China’s factory sector experienced its largest contraction in two years, leading to layoffs. Combined with the recent stock market crash, this was too much change, too quickly.

Last week’s decision allowed the market a greater role in setting the yuan’s value, and it promptly fell. This should lead to a modest export recovery but will do little for the long term goal of continued transformation.

Long-term view
So far, China’s devaluation has been fairly modest — about 4% — but how will this be felt in Africa?

– Prices for African commodities will worsen, then improve. In recent years, China’s slower growth has pushed down prices for gold, crude oil, copper, platinum and iron ore. South Africa’s mining sector was expected to lose over 10,000 jobs due to lower demand.[vi] In response to China’s devaluation, global prices for crude oil and some other African commodities fell further.

These goods have now become more expensive for Chinese buyers using yuan to buy inside China, leading to even lower demand. Yet over the medium term, if growth in China picks up as a result of the devaluation, demand for Africa’s commodities will increase, and prices should recover.

– Africa will import even more from China. Cheaper Chinese exports will please African consumers while putting Africa’s manufacturers at a further disadvantage. There will be more pressure for tariff protections.

South African wine, made for China

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Lower cost steel imported from China will hurt African steel producers, but will benefit other manufacturers who use steel in their products. Chinese tourists will be more likely to vacation at home as African safaris become relatively more expensive.

– China’s African investments will be helped — and hurt. The appreciation of the Chinese yuan had eroded the value of profits from Chinese investments abroad when transmitted back to China and exchanged into yuan. Now, Chinese investors will see their profits from African investments automatically rise (in yuan terms) and this could lead them to expand.

On the other hand, new investors will find that they have to pay more (in yuan) to buy dollars for overseas investments. Furthermore, low wages in Ethiopia and elsewhere had been attracting significant factory investment from China. With costs now relatively lower in China, the push to relocate factories overseas will slow. This will save Chinese jobs, but postpones Africa’s own structural transformation.

In the short term it is hard to see how this devaluation can help Africa, notably its productive and export sectors. But if this step backward works, China will bounce back and Africans will benefit.

Article by by Deborah Brautigam, Special to CNN

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Homeland Series: Ghana

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On Friday, June 26th, Solomon Adufah will be showcasing his Homeland Series Ghana Collection in Chicago, IL at Nych Gallery. In addition to exhibiting his most recent works, Solomon will also be raising funds for his philanthropic efforts in Ghana. In February, Solomon traveled to Ghana to teach art and mentor children in the orphanages and villages of Koforidua, located in the Eastern Region. His trip was coordinated through the International Volunteer Headquarters, which is an organization that serves local communities and orphanages through volunteer work. Though he is originally from Ghana, this was his first trip back since moving to the United States. He was stationed in the village of Asempanaye, which is a small village with a population of about 300 people. Reflecting on his experience, Solomon remembers how warmly he was embraced by the local people. Because of their shared language and culture, communication was easy, and he quickly became part of the community.

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During his three weeks in Asempanaye, Solomon woke up every morning by 6am his primary responsibility was to teach and mentor the kids in the school, and help design the curriculum. Because there weren’t enough teachers for all subjects, he became heavily involved in many aspects of the school, and heavily involved with the children. Much of the art in this series is inspired by the children he worked with, who were always kind, and helpful. In addition to teaching and mentoring, Solomon was also able to donate art materials to the kids. Since he did not have such resources growing up in Ghana, he wanted to make sure that he could provide them for the children there, and give the children a way to channel their joy.

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Although his intention was to teach art, and help the less privileged children, the experience gave him more than he could have anticipated. The experience has led him to be inspired to continue helping the children in Asempanaye, and raise money for additional supplies for the children. The proceeds raised from the June 26th event will go to Solomon’s next trip to Ghana to enrich the lives of the children. To RSVP for a great night of art, music, and philanthropy, email info@afrikafifty6.com. You can also contribute to Solomon’s journey and the lives of the children in need using Solomon’s GoFundMe page.

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Nigeria’s Hope

 

Over the past week, the Nigerian military has rescued over 700 captives in its advances against Boko Haram.   Although there are many captives yet to be rescued, many hope that the recent efforts are indicators of future victories. As Nigeria and the world celebrate this victory, it is also imperative to honor the bravery and resilience of the captives rescued, and those who continue to fight for their freedom.

On May 29, 2015, president-elect, Muhammadu Buhari will be taking power as Nigeria’s president.  His election was a historical moment for Nigerian democracy, and a monumental indicator for Nigeria’s future. To get a better idea of the implications of this election, and what Nigeria’s future may hold, we interviewed Chime Asonye, a recent graduate of Northwestern University School of Law, and a leader within the Nigerian diaspora. He gave valuable insight into the implications of Buhari’s election for Nigeria’s future diplomacy, economy, and security.

In your opinion, what are some common misconceptions people have about Nigeria?

When people think about Nigeria, they don’t think about the fact that it is the largest economy in Africa. They don’t understand that it is a MINT economy. Also, people do not think about the amazing youth population in terms of demographics that is within the country. There is an amazing mix of opportunities in the country that people should explore. With that said, there are also huge issues with how federal structure works, and issues with people being in poverty. In countries where there was the most democratic resistance, there was the economic power to do so. It is not a question of people not wanting to change, but rather having to survive. And a lot of people are just surviving. The people who need to get involved can help the entire population grow. When people have a certain baseline of security, they will be able to revolt. Nigeria revolted at the ballot box and will continue to do so.  Nigeria was thought to be on the brink of annihilation. Nigeria proved to the whole world that we understand the promise of democracy, and we are willing to do what it takes to hold politicians, accountable, and we did that. Nigeria is not the stereotype, and you should not just think about bombings, Boko Haram, and killings. It is a nation of promise, new democracy. Nigeria is continuing on path of excellence and just demonstrated that to the world.

What is most important to understand about the past election, and Nigeria’s future?

This election marked a number of firsts. Nigeria has never had ruling party lose since Nigeria’s return to democracy. Furthermore, a sitting President had never been voted out of power through the ballot box. We’ve never had a sitting President concede defeat.  There are a number of historic firsts that are the subtexts for the election. The major implication is that now there is an opposition party that is going to have the helm of government. Because of the way of democracy and federal system, a lot of power is centralized. Nigeria is going to have an opposition party control the majority of power.This trend has also been noted in several other countries on the continent. For example, 2012 in Senegal, the president was looking at taking 3rd term, people took to the streets and defeated him in the poll. In Burkina Faso the leader also tried to amend constitution to extend his rule, and citizens took to the streets. Nigeria is extending the legacy of rulers not being able to extend their power, and citizens coming out and voting for change. From now to 2017 there will be elections in several countries, which will continue the Africa rising story. The culture of true democracy is grabbing hold and beginning to spread.

What does Buhari’s election mean for Nigeria’s young adults and at-risk groups?

In 2011, a lot of people considered that election the election of the youth.  A lot of young people got involved in the electoral cycle after the instability in the country. Young people became interested in what was going on and got involved in the elections. People got involved by monitoring and protecting votes, because 2003 & 2007 were historically poor elections. Building on that progress, young people were more proactive about current election. Now that we’ve monitored this, we need to start holding people accountable, getting invested in the electoral cycle. A lot of young people were involved in the campaign, and moderated debates during the campaign. During the election, the opposition raised several core issues, including corruption, and the economy. In regard to Nigeria’s young population, the issue of the economy is huge because of unemployment rates. Buhari’s claims about potential progress in economy pulled young people’s votes in his favor. Additionally, his promise of security: bring back our girls – pulled young people in. Getting young people feeling safer in their country, and promising access to basic things such as social services was important as we think about what we want in our country.

How confident are you in Buhari’s ability to address Boko Haram?

During Obama’s election in 2008, he ran on platform of change. In Nigeria’s recent election, the opposition’s slogan of change was significant. The slogan was so embedded in minds of populus, that as the current President’s first lady was talking, she said “anyone who is voting for change, you should stone them.” Subsequently, the ICC began investigating this and other hate statements.  In some sense, not everyone who was voting because they liked the opposition, but they were voting against the president’s administration. People began exercising their civil right to address what was going on.  A sovereign nation had territory size of Belgium taken over by group. Suicide bombings were increasing, and suicide bombings involving young people, and girls were on the uprise. When the opposition said change, that was what many were thinking about. Additionally, many people decried was corruption in the military sector. Buhari talked about adequately supplying military to carry out their duties. Being a former officer, he knew how to operate security apparatus. Many believed that his past military experience would be valuable in advancing country forward, and combating Boko Haram.

What are the implications of this election for public diplomacy in Nigeria?

In terms of bordering countries, Chad & Niger have gotten most involved in the fight against Boko Haram. Chadian president was vocal about how Nigerian forces were not doing that much to fight. He called out the government publicly for lack of involvement in addressing Boko Haram. A dysfunctional military, corruption-led security lapses, and lack of collaboration with neighbors resulted in mistrust of the Nigerian military.  Consequently, many did not trust the Nigerian government to allocate military funds appropriately. For example, during the bring Bring Back our Girls movement, the US was doing sweeps of where girls were suspected to be, but could not tell Nigerian security personnel because of lack the of trust. In an effort to improve diplomatic relations with other countries, and to address issues within Nigeria, Buhari has proposed the following:

  1.       Nigerian soldiers should handle Nigerian problems, and fewer foreign mercenaries should be in Nigeria. For example, during postponement of election, regional security forces made advances on Boko Haram. Nigerian forces were  partially involved, but not to the extent that they should have been. The African Union wants to send multinational force to region to combat Boko Haram. However, Buhari is not in support of the use of multinational forces because he would want to train Nigerian military and combat Boko Haram with the nation’s own troops. Regional forces (from bordering nations) would want that too. Although Chad has re-occupied towns in Borno State, they want to be able to leave conflict areas and have those towns held by Nigerian troops.
  2.       To rid security forces of corruption, and improve relationships with western world. In doing so, his hope is that western allies would be more willing to work  with Nigerian government.

How do you think Buhari will fare against the oil pirates in Nigeria?

A lot of the groundwork has been done before the election. A lot of piracy in the Niger Delta happened with an organization called MEND. Right after the election, MEND released a statement congratulating Buhari on electoral victory. One of the main leaders of MEND is leading peace efforts in the Niger Delta. There is piracy and there has been piracy, but the election has positive implications. Main Niger Delta leaders are working to promote peace. All stakeholders realize that this is important and people don’t want to go back to a life of piracy. Because Buhari has the motif of being anti-corruption leader, all levels of corruption are likely to decrease. Niger Delta militants have been supporting president-elect, and the accepted amnesty they were given. The President elect’s anti-corruption promise is going to work to check abuses in the oil sector.

 

 

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Recap: Art Class

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On March 25th, Afrika Fifty6 hosted “Art Class” at Mars Gallery in Chicago, Illinois. The event was designed to raise awareness and funds for Afrika Fifty6’s continuation of Project Tanzania, and to showcase talented artists around Chicago.  The fundraiser was extremely successful, with over 200 people in attendance. All the proceeds raised from Art Class will go to purchase beds, mosquito nets, and kitchen essentials for the Ijango Zaidia Orphanage. In April, Sam Desalu will be returning to Dar es Salaam to distribute these and other essential items to the children at the orphanage.

Afrika Fifty6 would like to thank everyone who worked to make this event a success. First, thank you to Mars Gallery for the wonderful space. Next, thank you to the following artists who showcased their talent:  Solomon Adufah, Mike Winn, Ashley Dowdy, Ron Bass, Hugo Garcia,  Nina Palumbo, Michael Nauert, Barrett Keezy, Maxwell Dickson , John Bambino , Ahmad Lee, and Femiola. Furthermore, the event would not have been possible without the generosity of these wonderful sponsors:  du’sse, Bombay Sapphire , Mastermind Management, Mars Gallery, Urban Fetes, and Angie Grozdic. Lastly, and most importantly, thank you to the faithful supporters of Afrika Fifty6 and Project Tanzania who have supported through donations, raising awareness, and attendance at events like Art Class. Your generosity is working to improve the lives of children in need, and to allow Afrika Fifty6 to take on more projects in the future.

Maxwell Dickson x Sam Desalu: Princess Rashidat

Maxwell Dickson x Sam Desalu: Princess Rashidat

Ron Bass x Sam Desalu: We are Royal

Ron Bass x Sam Desalu: We are Royal

Ahmad Lee

Ahmad Lee

Ron Bass x Sam Desalu: We are Royal

Ron Bass x Sam Desalu: We are Royal

Femolart: O.Y.O.

Femiolart: O.Y.O.

Femiolart: Orisha Series

Ron Bass x Sam Desalu: We are Royal

Ron Bass x Sam Desalu: We are Royal

Solomon Adufah: Homeland Series

Solomon Adufah: Homeland Series

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Art Class: Meet The Artists

On March 25th, 2015  Afrika Fifty6 will be hosting an art show entitled “Art Class.” This event will be held at Mars Gallery, located at 1139 W. Fulton market, and will begin at 7pm. The aim of this event is to showcase talented artists within Chicago, and to further Afrika Fifty6’s latest philanthropic effort, Project Tanzania. This project benefits the Ijango Zaidia Orphanage Center located in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. Over the last year, many artists have donated their talent to raise funds for Project Tanzania.  This February, Sam Desalu conducted a successful mission trip to the orphanage and with the help of generous donations, provided essential materials, and sustainable methods of income generation. However, there is still a lot of work to be done. The children are in need of beds, mosquito nets, and kitchen essentials. In April, Sam will be returning to Dar es Salaam to bring the orphanage a step closer to meeting their needs, and realizing their full potential. Proceeds raised from the Art Class event and Afrika Fifty6’s GoFundMe Campaign will go to meet the orphanage’s critical needs.

Art Class will feature the works of many talented artists. Ron Bass, a visual artist originally from Brooklyn, will be showcasing his talents. Ron draws inspiration from Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Mark McNairy and Jeremy Scott. His works are noted to be incredibly vibrant, using mixed media to recreate familiar scenes. In addition to artwork, Ron Bass also expresses his art through clothing design. His unique design resulted in the Ron Bass Collection, which is in collaboration with Forever 21. Below are some of his creations:

Art Class will also feature the works of Maxwell Dickson’s Bart Cooper. Cooper, who is a co-founder of Maxwell Dickson, is originally from Liberia. His works are extremely variant, and include abstract, figurative, portrait, and lifestyle. Staying true to Maxwell Dickson’s motto, “art-driven lifestyle,” his works are also available in many forms, including throw pillows, coasters, phone cases, wall clocks, and more. His works are also incredibly vibrant. Check them out below:

Femiolart is a Chicago-based artist originally from Ghana. His influences include.  His works include portraits, abstracts, and digital art. This past summer, he showcased a series entitled “African Horror Story: The Orishas.” This series was centered on the gods and goddesses of Yoruba religion, and their existence within the diaspora. The corresponding exhibit raised funds to promote art within disadvantaged communities in Acrra, Ghana. His works are incredibly versatile, and feature a wide variety of subjects. See them below:

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Solomon Adufah is a self-taught artist originally from Ghana, and now based in Chicago. His works are mostly portraits, and noted for its vibrant colors. His Homeland Series includes several representations of culture across the African continent.  He recently completed a service trip to Ghana, in which he volunteered at a school, and helped teach art. Below are just a few of his beautiful works:

 

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This will be a great night of fundraising and networking. For entry, please email info@afrikafifty6.com

 

 

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Designer: Loza Maléombho

Loza Maléombho, who was recently featured on Saint Heron’s Black Designer Spotlight, is a Cote-d’Ivoire-based designer who draws on the fusion of cultures, sub-cultures and contemporary fashion. She describes her AW/15 collection as the merging of the “contemporary streets of New York and the traditional culture of Cote-d’Ivoire.” Loza, who was born Brazil and grew up in the United States, relocated her production to Cote-d’Ivoire in an effort to empower women. According to her website, she hires young women from disadvantaged backgrounds, and works closely with local artisans in her production of fabric, jewelry, shoes and accessories. The beauty of her work is only surpassed by the generous architecture of her production. It is incredibly inspiring to see a designer using their craft to promote economic opportunity for people in poverty. Below are some of her pieces from the most recent collection:

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Photos by Daniel Sery

In addition to her clothing design, Loza is also engaging in a social movement  on Instagram she’s entitled #alienedits. In her interview with Africa is a Country, she describes how “alien edits are socially conscious selfies expressed through style, pride, grace, and cultural awareness and against racial, class, cultural, religious and sexuality stereotypes, all of which cause a state of alienation on its victims.” She also shares how the influence for this series came from a series of injustices, ranging from the Darren Wilson verdict in the United States to Boko Haram in Nigeria. She goes on to describe how the feelings that followed these events were those of alienation, and of self-devaluation. #Alienedits became a means through which she found pride, self-validation, and a way to respond to current events and celebrate cultural diversity.

The beauty of this series lies in the simultaneous simplicity and complexity of her pictures. On  Instagram, each picture is accompanied by a simple caption, giving brief insight into the thought process behind the picture, but leaving much of the interpretation up to the viewer.On occasion,  she does provide an explanation of her artistic process. For example,  in her interview she with Africa is a Country she explained how the first picture below, entitled “Helmet of Grace” is meant to represent the version of herself she aspires to be: someone who is led by grace. From her pictures, to her designs everything about Loza Maleombho is an exquisite piece of art. Her activism and intentionality make her work exciting to digest.The growth of this series, as well as her artistic commentary on current events, will definitely be something to look forward to.

 

Below are a few of the pictures from the #alienedits series:

 

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Project Tanzania’s Success

Over the last week, Afrika Fifty6’s founder, Sam Desalu has been in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania at the Ijango Zaidia Orphanage Center. During his time there, he met with the children and staff at the orphanage, while providing extremely necessary items for sustenance and cultivating great relationships.  On the first day, Sam met the children, all of whom were extremely welcoming and excited to meet him.

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Over the next few days, Sam distributed much-needed school supplies to the children. including pencils, pens, erasers, notebooks, folders, etc. The supplies were collected over the last year through generous donations to Afrika Fifty6. The children were extremely excited to receive their supplies, and will have enough not only for this year, but also for several years going forward.  These donations will greatly impact the children’s organization. This would not be possible without the generosity of those who support Afrika Fifty6, and have supported Project Tanzania over the last year.

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In addition to school supplies, Afrika Fifty6 was also able to  provide the orphanage with opportunities for sustainable growth. This began with a luxury they have not had in a while: meat. Because the price of meat is often high, eating meat is a luxury the orphanage cannot afford to provide to its children. Sam provided enough meat to last the orphanage a month, and also provided the orphanage with goats to breed to provide a sustainable means of having meat over time. This is to ensure that once the month’s supply runs out, the children and staff at the orphanage will still have a way of enjoying meat in the future. In addition to the goats, Sam also built at chicken coop for the orphanage and equipped it with three hens and a rooster to generate income in the future. Because eggs are often pricey in Dar Es Salaam, selling eggs can be a profitable business for the orphanage. The plan is to breed the chickens, and sell eggs to local stores in the area.

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In addition to sustenance items and school supplies, Afrika Fifty6 also received valuable donations to provide the children at the orphanage with even more to enjoy. First, MyVice Sweats clothing line donated t-shirts and more to the children at the orphanage. Furthermore, talented artist John Born donated paintings to the orphanage that will be hung in the orphanage’s common area, where the children do their homework and play.  Last but not least, The Praduc Group generously donated speakers, which the energetic children greatly enjoyed, as they love to dance. These donations were immeasurably appreciated by the orphanage, and brought smiles to the children’s faces.

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The success of Project Tanzania would not have been possible without all of those who support Afrika Fifty6. Thank you to all who attended the Project Tanzania Fundraiser last year, those who donated items for the children, and all those who sent kind words and encouragement. Is is through your support that Afrika Fifty6 is able to assist organizations in great need, raise awareness, and conduct service trips.  Afrika Fifty6 also sends a huge thank you to the children and the staff at the Ijango Zaidia Orphanage Center for their hospitality, positivity, and beautiful spirits.

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What’s Going on in the DRC?

 

 

Last week, protests erupted in the Democratic Republic of Congo in response to a controversial census bill that would postpone the country’s next elections. The current president, Joseph Kabila who has been in power since 2001, proposed to postpone the 2016 elections in order to conduct a nationwide census (projected to take three years) and conduct the elections after the census.  Those opposed to the term extension are suspicious that this is Joseph Kabila’s ploy to remain in power, as the constitution of the DRC does not allow him to run another term. In the ensuing protests across the country, several people have been killed. After four days, protesters were victorious as the bill was amended to remove the requirement to hold the census before the next election.  Following the people’s victory  in Burkina Faso late last year, this is yet another promising illustration of the power of demonstration against corrupt government. Earlier this month, however, Panzi Hospital in Bukavu had a little-known victory that has major implications for a population in the DRC that is systematically overlooked:  women who have been affected by gender-based violence.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo has an extremely intricate history, much of which is unfortunately characterized by violence. From a violent colonial history with Belgium, to the first and second Congo War, millions of lives have been lost in a turbulent quest for political power and control of mineral-rich regions.  Although the Second Congo War has long been over, mass violence and exploitation continues in the mineral-rich areas of Eastern Congo as several insurgent groups fight to control sale and export of valuable resources. Throughout the civil war, and the quest for power or control of resources, one thing remains relatively constant: the bodies of women and girls are the silent casualties of war. The use of rape as a weapon of war in the DRC has been particularly atrocious. In addition to the emotional trauma of sexual assault, tens of thousands of women are also coping with extreme physical trauma. Women have been brutalized in extremely heinous ways, including but not limited to, gang rape, and rape with various objects, such as machetes, gunshots, and hot items. For those that do survive, the medical complications are further exacerbated by the lack of infrastructure and resources in the area.

The Panzi Hospital of Bukavu, founded in 1996 by Dr. Denis Mukwege, has been working tirelessly to treat survivors of sexual violence in the Eastern DRC. The hospital treats over 3,000 women per year, and has treated over 30,000 survivors of sexual assault. In addition to medical attention, the hospital also provides survivors opportunities for new beginnings through therapeutic counseling, job training, education, outreach, and microcredit business loans. Shortly after having received the Freedom of Thought Award in October 2014, the Congolese government ordered the seizure of the hospital’s assets, accusing the hospital of tax evasion. Many believe that this was because Dr. Mukwege, whose outspokenness once made him the target of an assassination attempt, has been extremely critical of how little Congolese leaders have done to address gender-based violence. Subsequently, Dr. Mukwege filed several lawsuits, citing discriminatory action and violation of the DRC’s constitution, and was able to prove that Panzi Hospital is in fact up to date with its taxes, and that the hospital was being unfairly targeted. If it were not for the Panzi Foundation’s emergency fund (and donations from all over the world), many survivors with much-needed medical attention would have been in extremely precarious condition, and hospital employees would not have been paid.  Panzi Hospital was able to resume normal operations on January 7, 2015.

 
The attempts to postpone elections and to discredit and constrain an institution like Panzi Hospital are indicative of the fragmented state of DRC’s current leadership. The continued violence against women in Eastern Congo has been largely ignored by leadership, and those who speak out on this disregard are unjustly punished. The successful protests indicate that citizens across the nation have had enough of leadership that is complicit in the perpetuation of violence, promotion of disunity, and exploitation of resources. As Panzi Hospital fights to keep its doors open, and advocates work to raise awareness about the continued violence,we can only hope that the 2016 election brings forth  a generation of leaders that is  ready to put an end to and  prioritize the eradication of violence against women. In the meantime, let’s support and celebrate the brave men and women who are working against all odds to become a part of the solution.

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Boko Haram & Global Indifference

This past week, Boko Haram carried out the most deadly attack in Nigeria thus far. Upon seizing the military in the town of Baga in northeastern Nigeria, reports indicate that Boko Haram may have  killed up to 2,000 people.  Apart from a few news outlets, coverage of this massacre has been extremely limited, and leaders on the continent across the globe have been relatively silent on the matter.  Although the #bringbackourgirls movement garnered a lot of attention, subsequent tragedies in northeastern Nigeria have been largely overlooked. In the months following the mass kidnapping, several more people have been kidnapped by Boko Haram, and explosions in various towns have killed several others. Young children have been robbed of their innocence and recruited to carry out violence.

In addition to the lack of media coverage, the silence across the globe indicates a sense of indifference, and in some cases, numbness. The most deafening silence is that from leaders on the continent, particularly in Nigeria. As Nigeria prepares for an election on February 14, the two front runners of the election (incumbent President Jonathan Goodluck & challenger Muhammadu Buhari) have not had much to say about the violence in the northeast. Furthermore, little has been done to address the uncertainty and danger that many in the northeast face now, and the danger they will likely face should they choose to go to the polls. Update: many leaders on the continent, including in Nigeria, had much to say about the tragedy in France, but nothing to say about the massacre in Baga.

For a quick moment, let’s look at what took place following the recent terrorist attacks in France. Around the world, people demonstrated their solidarity with the hashtag #jesuischarlie. Around France, more than 700,000 people marched in commemoration of the victims of the terrorist attacks. Seven hundred thousand people. Yes, the nature of the attacks were completely different from what continues to take place in Nigeria. But what is to say that people on the continent and across the globe, can’t demonstrate the same level of solidarity with victims? Such illustrations of solidarity draw the type of global attention that have the potential to  shake leaders out of their complacency and into action.

So what should we do? What can we do?  We can talk. We can demonstrate solidarity. We can demand action. We cannot allow victims of Boko Haram to become afterthoughts, or worse, completely invisible. The #bringbackourgirls movement had global attention because people chose to create constructive dialogue that demanded action. Nigerian citizens used their voices, and amplified their message through social media to ensure that the world heard them. The strength and origination of the #bringbackourgirls movement demonstrated that Nigerians were not only able to create their own dialogue, but also to direct the conversation. The ability to direct the conversation is especially important when the media does finally pick up the story. We must also remember that the media’s attention is not the ultimate goal. Although it has power to initiate action, the attention is often fleeting. The world hears, the world reacts, and the world soon forgets. For such a movement to maintain long-term traction across the continent & the globe, local leaders must be fully engaged. With regard to Boko Haram, leaders within Nigeria and elsewhere on the continent, must be intentional about promoting unity, justice, and enforcing the protection and visibility of ALL citizens. But our leaders cannot remain fully engaged unless we are. We have to press, insist, and keep the people in northeastern Nigeria (& eastern Congo, Central African Republic, Somalia), at the forefront of our thoughts and of our conversation.  As elections take place, we must demand that leaders outline their plans to combat groups like Boko Haram, and follow through with said plans. And lastly, we must do all of this with the same fervor as those who promote violence & divisiveness. We cannot win otherwise.

 

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