Latest News & Current Events

Political ineptitude - Africa’s women and girls pay the price

As social media around the world lights up with hashtags like #bringbackourgirls the kidnapping of over 200 Nigerian girls by Boko Haram has sparked outrage worldwide.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan made some well scripted statements to delegates at the World Economic Forum for Africa being held in his countries capital, Abuja thanking them for attending "especially at this time that as a nation we are facing attacks of terrorists" and said their presence was a "major blow for the terrorists". Comments in the past three weeks by President Jonathan promising to rescue the girls, as well as allegations that his wife First Lady Patience Jonathan ordered the arrest of woman leading protests over the abductions, have been far from articulate and demonstrate the challenges that many African nations face as political elite appear to be far removed from the hardships and pain facing their citizens.

Boko Haram, whose name means "Western education is forbidden" in the local Hausa language, began its insurgency in Nigeria's north-eastern Borno state in 2009. At least 1,200 people are estimated to have died in the violence and security crackdown this year alone.

The schoolgirls were kidnapped from their boarding school on the night of 14 April from the town of Chibok in Borno state. In a video released earlier this week, Boko Haram's leader threatened to "sell" the students, saying they should not have been in school in the first place, but rather should get married.

It is believed the girls are being held somewhere in the forested areas which stretch from near Chibok into neighboring Cameroon. The northern region of Nigeria has been plagued with ongoing violence

South Sudan, which became the world's newest state after seceding from Sudan in 2011, may have had a democratic election, but the path thereafter has been extremely problematic. A newly released report by the UN mission in South Sudan is a hard-hitting catalogue of atrocities, based on interviews with 900 people. It describes how, when the conflict erupted, security forces in Juba went from house to house rounding up and killing men from a particular ethnic group. Tit-for-tat revenge attacks then spread across the country, the report says. There is page after page outlining mass killings, rapes and gang-rapes and the targeting of civilians on ethnic grounds.

As so often happens in these cases women and girls bear the brunt of the atrocious violence of mass killings, sexual slavery and gang-rape.

In South Africa, often described as an example for African democracy, crime and corruption were highlighted in the run up to the May 7th election. However in the face of unbelievably grim statistics, South Africa too seems numb to its dismal record of crime against females in the country.

Almost 60,000 rapes are reported to the South Africa police each year - more than double the number in India, in a far smaller country. Experts believe the true figure is at least 10 times that - 600,000 attacks

It is not that the issue is ignored - far from it. South African newspapers regularly carry gruesome stories of what is described as a new trend- the rape of elderly grandmothers and baby’s, mostly in rural communities. According to businesswoman and activist Andy Kawa, “Rape is in our culture. It's part of the whole patriarchal culture”. Despite this and often absurd comments made by incumbent politicians, all indication is that the ruling ANC party will again win a landslide victory.

There is a lot of history that has impacted Africa’s past and colonial powers continue to bear responsibility for power bases and unrealistically drawn borders. But many African nations do hold regular democratic elections, all be it that corruption and “free and Fair” may be rubber stamped by international observers and many leaders amend their constitutions to ensure that they remain in power for years.

While calls around the globe go out to western nations to step in and help find the kidnapped schoolgirls and do something to address the cycle of violence against females occurring in so many nations in Africa, the question has to be asked - Why do those in the semblance of democratic African nations not show commitment to their own self-preservation by demonstration their frustration on mass at the ballot box?

President Goodluck Jonathan visiting victims at Asokoro Hospital, 14 April 2014 President Goodluck Jonathan has been accused of not doing enough to end the conflict

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