Forever Wars

Some wars in Africa never seem to end. This is because they are not really wars in the traditional sense. The people fighting do not have an overwhelming ideology or a clear list of goals. They do not care about taking over capitals or cities. In fact they prefer the bush, where it’s easier to commit crime. These rebels do not need to win converts because to them stealing other people’s children to put an ax, gun or other weapon in their hands is just as good. You will find this if you examine any major conflict in the area.

First world countries have their share of issues, but people in America have no idea what life is like in these African countries. How can some one whose job is to procure janitorial supplies including paper towels, toilet paper, hand soaps, cleaning products for floors, garbage bags, trash cans to even finding the proper for sanitary napkin disposal dispenser for the company they work for really comprehend the every day horrors Africans in the bush live with? I say this because my brother does order janitorial supplies from an online company every month and I have discussed the “Forever Wars” with him. He’s sympathetic, but then goes on with his life, his problems at work, situations with his neighbors, issues with his teenage kids etc. Mundane stuff, but more important to him. And as I sit at my desk writing this article, even I can’t comprehend the reality of what life must be like for many people in Africa..

The classic African liberation movement is in decline and what we are seeing is the proliferation of something much wider, messier and more violent.

What we see spreading across Africa is actually just opportunistic, heavily armed banditry. Combat has morphed from soldier vs. soldier (rare in Africa now) to soldier vs. civilian. Today African fighters are predators not rebels with a cause. All across the country we see atrocities like eastern Congo’s rape epidemic. In recent years armed groups have sexually assaulted hundreds of thousands of women, often so sadistically that the victims are left incontinent for life. Terror has become the only way of life.

Nearly half the continent’s 53 countries are now home to an active conflict or a recently ended one. Even tourist friendly Kenya blew up in 2008. More than 5 million have died in the Congo alone since 1998, the International Rescue Committee has estimated. There is a death toll of tens of thousands of civilians each year.

If you could coax these men out of the jungle lairs and get them to sit down for negotiations, there’s not much to offer. They only seem to want money, soldiers, guns and license to rampage. They have everything they want right now. How do you negotiate anything with that?

You must address this problem at the root. To stop these atrocities action must be taken to capture or kill the people leading in this slaughter. Many of these organizations would likely disappear as soon as the person leading is gone. In Liberia, the moment that warlord-turned-president Charles Taylor was arrested in 2006 was the same moment that the curtain dropped on the gruesome circus of 10-year-old killers wearing Halloween masks. As was the case in Angola. Diamond-smuggling rebel leader Jonas Savimbi was shot, bringing a sudden end to one of the Cold War’s most intense conflicts.

Countless dollars, hours, and lives were wasted on rounds of talks that will culminated in such clear cut & immediate results. Even with the threat of indictments of rebel leaders for crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court those fighting are sure never to give up. Unfortunately, the region looks pretty godforsaken.

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