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Colton Brydges

No longer invisible: Kony 2012

Social media clearly has the potential to reshape the world in which we live, and not long ago Invisible Children, a non-profit organization which attempts to bring an end to the crimes of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), took to the internet to harness this incredible tool. Numerous people have been inundated with invitations to the KONY 2012 Campaign, the Cover the Night event, and encouragement to watch a half-hour video on Youtube. Invisible Children is not a new organization; it began with a documentary which was filmed in Uganda in 2003, and since has drawn substantial attention to the plight of children in the North of country. The LRA itself is far older, existing in one form or another from the late 1980’s until today, claiming thousands of lives, displacing hundreds of thousands and, most chillingly, abducting countless thousands of children for use as sex slaves and child soldiers.The LRA was initially a rebel group bent on installing a Christian theocracy in Uganda; however, this initial aim has since been forgotten. What the Youtube video fails to mention is that, decades later, the LRA does not operate in Uganda, but rather can be found in the North-Eastern tip of the Democratic Republic of Congo, pockets of South Sudan, and the Central African Republic. It seems that Invisible Children has created the perfect viral storm; Facebook events are popping up in a number of major cities, and the Youtube video is swiftly gaining attention. It appears that the organization is attempting to emulate the success of Unwatchable, the big-budget viral video which depicted the sexual violence of Congo juxtaposed into a British home.  The organization is citing 2012 as the year that, once and for all, the LRA threat will be extinguished. Examining this new viral campaign provides us with a number… Read More

Can Aid be Tied to Human Rights?

At the end of January, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told a meeting of the African Union that African states must respect gay rights and end discrimination against homosexuals. Similar comments in recent months, most notably by representatives of the United States and the United Kingdom, have threatened to cut aid to African states that fail to fail to heed this warning. The response from African leaders has been to claim that homosexuality is un-African, and that they are under no obligation to change their human rights standards.With the West threatening to revoke aid if African states do not end discrimination, we are confronted by the question of whether or not donors have the right to attach conditions upon aid. Reaching an answer involves navigating a complex web of legal and moral obligations, and brings into the question the very rationale behind foreign aid.Many authors have questioned the effectiveness of foreign aid in recent years, but putting this argument aside, there is clearly a strong commitment by Western states to provide development assistance to poorer countries. Many advocates for increased aid point to the 0.7% of GDP target, which was first noted in a 1970 General Assembly resolution. This has since been reaffirmed in the Monterrey Consensus of 2002, the Summit on Sustainable Development and most recently the Millennium Development Goals.Beyond the legal obligations, many proponents of foreign aid point to the moral obligation to help countries which lack our level of affluence. Anyone who has walked by a homeless person on the street and felt concern for them can likely attest to the existence of a belief in a cosmopolitan human community.This belief is echoed in the numerous criticisms of the IMF and World Bank’s practice of granting loans requiring recipients to adopt fiscal and government reform measures. The… Read More

A tale of two cities: Cairo and Kinshasa

Cairo, a sprawling metropolis that was once part of one of the world’s greatest civilizations, can trace its history back to the early years of the Common Era. Yet for some who visit today, Cairo is a suffocating beast that bears the worst signs of urban sprawl, with pollution and garbage just as omnipresent as the fantastic sense of history that abounds in Egypt’s capital.Kinshasa is just over a hundred years old, and grew up from the trading post of Leopoldville that was established by Henry Morton Stanley in the late 1800’s. As the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kinshasa is the centre of power in the broken country, where diplomats and deal-makers drive through the bustling streets past thousands upon thousands of destitute street children and impoverished rural migrants.Cairo and Kinshasa are both megacities, boasting populations of over 10 million people, but struggle to supply adequate infrastructure and are plagued by numerous inefficiencies. Both cities suffered under the reign of their respective dictators, Hosni Mubarak and Joseph Mobutu. And this past week, residents of Congo and Kinshasa quietly, with varying levels of fear and trepidation, uttered that word so laden with hope and expectation: democracy.The level of citizen participation that for months captivated observers around the world finally bore fruit in Egypt as the polls opened in earnest last Monday. Claims of 80% voter turnout in the capital are indicative of the incredible desire amongst Egyptians to play a role in shaping their country’s future.Much to the concern of cautious observers in the West and Israel, early results show substantial gains for the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamic fundamentalist Nour Party, at the expense of the more liberal groups that drove last year’s protest movement. It is difficult to foresee how the Muslim Brotherhood would fare in… Read More

Time for partition in Nigeria?

Stability has been a fleeting concept for Nigeria since its independence in 1960. Numerous military coups, a civil war, and various forms of internal unrest have rocked this post-colonial behemoth. The latest major threat, the militant Islamist group Boko Haram, has moved from drive-by shootings into more sinister bombings, culminating in a Christmas Day attack on several churches and police stations. This latest round of violence has raised the question for some of whether or not the state of Nigeria, as it currently exists, is governable.The emergence of Boko Haram as a legitimate threat to Nigeria’s stability is perhaps indicative of an increased polarization between the primarily Christian South and the Muslim North. Boko Haram, whose stated intention is to rid the country of their Western style education system inherited from Britain, has moved toward full-scale religious purification. They have set about this task by carrying out numerous drive-by shootings, and has now graduating to coordinated bombing attacks. In addition to a number of bombings by Boko Haram in the capital of Abuja, including President Goodluck Jonathan’s inauguration ceremony, Nigeria has seen numerous instances of religious violence between Christians and Muslims in the Plateau State of Jos. Nigeria has never been particularly cohesive, with distrust and animosity between the majority Yoruba South-West, the Igbo South-East and the Hausa Muslim North a longstanding trend. But recent events seem to indicate a more intense North-South fissure along religious lines, leading to recurring grumblings that a partition is the only way to rescue a country that, despite its oil wealth, remains heavily impoverished, and now seems stricken with sectarian violence. The idea of partitioning Nigeria was notably raised by ex-African Union chief and now deceased Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi in response to the 2010 killings in Jos. Many proponents would likely point to a partition as… Read More

What’s next for the African Union?

With Europe wracked by financial turmoil, proponents of continental integration are on the defensive. But few analysts have given much consideration to the future that is facing the African Union (AU), a fledgling continental body which perhaps holds the key to the development aspirations of the struggling continent.The recent death of Libyan ex-President Muammar Gaddafi has placed the African Union at a turning point in their development. Gaddafi was perhaps the most notable proponent of African integration, so much so that Libya supplied approximately 15% of the AU’s budget. In the wake of Gaddafi’s death, it seems unlikely that the new Libyan regime will continue such generous support; worrying reprisal attacks against alleged “African mercenaries” speak perhaps to an intense rejection of Gaddafi’s pan-Africanism and a move towards pan-Arabism in the wake of the Arab Spring.Gaddafi was undeniably a deplorable dictator and a staunch pan-Africanist. He regularly advocated for integrating the continent into a single state. Critics uphold that such assertions were based upon a desire for Gaddafi himself to head the “United States of Africa,” but the fact remains: African integration has lost its most vocal supporter.The African Union was established in 2002 to replace the Organization of African Unity (OAS). Unfortunately, African bodies have gained a deserved reputation as clubs for dictators. A brief glance at the list of past OAS chairs over its history includes some familiar names: Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, deposed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarek, infamous Ethiopian Marxist-dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam, Uganda’s “Last King of Scotland” Idi Amin, and Congolese kleptocrat Joseph-Désiré Mobutu. Though the AU chairmanship has not been filled by as many infamous dictators, the influence of Gaddafi and Mugabe has been ever present. Furthermore, the AU has in many cases failed to take substantive action to halt human rights abuses amongst its member… Read More
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