Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Rebuilding Lives in the DRC

A military court in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has sentenced a Lieutenant Colonel to 20 years in prison for crimes against humanity. Lieutenant Colonel Kibibi Mutware is the first commanding officer to be found guilty of rape in the Eastern DRC after more than fifty women came forward to testify against him.

On New Year’s Day, he sent his troops into the town of Fizi in the Kivu province. At his command they raped, looted and beat the inhabitants. More than 60 women were raped.

Although Government agencies frequently cite Government troops as the most widespread perpetrators of sexual violence in the DRC, many victims are too afraid, and too ashamed, to speak out, so the rapists are not brought to book. Rape is systematically used as a weapon of war, and the violence is not simply restricted to women. Men are violated too, as are children, some as young as six months. In 2010, the UN recorded 11,000 rapes in the country, but many estimate the true figure could be much higher.

The consequences of rape are legion. As well as the increased risk of HIV/AIDS and other devastating infections, victims are left with broken bodies and deep emotional scars. Babies are born to mothers who are no more than children themselves, restricting the future chances of those parents and condemning another generation to a life of poverty.

The shame felt, both by victims and their families, who may see themselves as failures for not having protected their loved ones, can drive families apart as can attitudes in this deeply moralistic society, where a rape victim may be seen as soiled and ruined. At a time when they need support and understanding, many are isolated and abandoned.

World In Need works in the DRC, helping to rebuild lives and provide hopeful futures for those torn apart by these dreadful crimes. We sponsor children and enable them to come back to school, often with their babies beside them. We provide access to medical and psychological care and we have made it possible for those who speak out against their attackers to start new lives away from the threat of reprisals. By empowering the victims, we aid the healing for the whole nation.

To learn more about our work in the DRC, contact us on info@worldinneed.co.uk or phone 01892 669834.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Uganda - a land with a future

On Friday the people of Uganda go to the polls to elect both their President and a National Assembly. The winners take power for five years.

For the last twenty five years the winner of the Presidential race has been Yoweri Museveni. He is tipped to win again this time, although by a greatly reduced majority.

Questions have been raised over the fairness of the elections. Allegations of vote rigging and voter intimidation have been made, and in 2006, the main challenger to President Museveni, Dr Kizza Besigye, was prevented from campaigning effectively when he was charged with both rape and treason. Subsequently cleared of all charges, Dr Besigye is standing for election again.

Uganda has faced many problems. Until recently, people in the north were terrorised by the Lord’s Resistance Army, who waged a guerrilla campaign, killing, looting, maiming and disfiguring all who opposed them, as well as kidnapping children and forcing them to be soldiers and sex slaves. A generation has grown up fearful and scarred.

Poverty is widespread too. According to the International Monetary Fund, Uganda is the 102nd country when ranked according to wealth, and the average annual wage is just $514 (£318). Life for many is a constant struggle; this is highlighted by tales of people willing to give their votes for a bar of soap or a kilo of sugar.

Such poverty does not cause corruption but it can, and does, provide the yeast which allows corruption to rise. The power elite grow stronger and the rich grow richer, and the poor still have nothing. Health centres lack basic drugs and personnel and the quality of primary education is woeful. Unless the standards of these services are raised, the people of Uganda will never be free to improve their lives.

World In Need is doing what it can to help. We sponsor children, enabling them to go regularly to decent schools. The education they receive gives them a chance of a brighter future and benefits the whole community as teachers, engineers, doctors and others come forth. Sponsored children have good clothes and nutritious meals, and access to health care they might otherwise not have been able to find.

We are endeavouring to help the nation heal too, by helping former child soldiers return to a normal life; a long, slow and painful progress for children who have been taught to kill without mercy. Our representative, George Amoli, has personally adopted eight former child soldiers into his own family. With love, kindness and patience, he is giving them a new future.

We believe every child makes a difference. Each child we sponsor brings a little more hope to the whole community and as such, they will become the building blocks of Uganda’s future.

Whoever wins this Friday’s election.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Middle East unrest

Tunisian president Zine Ben Ali was the first one to go. Following weeks of unrest over corruption and unemployment the 74 year old leader left Tunisia for Saudi Arabia, which granted him and his family asylum. He fled his country after 23 years in power.

Egypt was next in line. The whole world was glued to the news, waiting for what would happen next in the now-famous Tahrir sqaure in Cairo. Finally the 82 year old president decided to step down as the leader of his country after 29 years in power.

Today BBC reported that similar protests are taking place in Algeria, Libya, Yemen, Iran and Bahrain.

A wave of anti-government unrest is sweeping through the Middle East.

Poverty, inequality, a poor social sector and corruption are the main reason why citizens in the Middle East are going to the streets demanding changes. According to the World Bank, since the mid-1980s there has been little progress in poverty reduction in the Middle East and North Africa, although human development indicators have continued to improve (http://bit.ly/fTjA4b). 

The latest Corruption Perception Index study done by Transparency International shows that, except for a few gulf countries, corruption is on the higher end in the Middle East and North Africa (http://bit.ly/cNpOT7). But with the internet and instant communications which allows people to see what life is like elsewhere, Arabs are beginning to see freedom from corruption as a basic human right. 

World In Need works in Middle East helping with veterinary projects, gender development and education. The people we work with are mostly poor nomads and refugees.