Sunday, December 25, 2011

Nigeria: Christmas Day attacks against Christians and religious freedom

It's unusual to find time to write on Christmas day given the busy and festive nature of the day. But silence is not an option following deadly events targeting Christians in Nigeria, as they celebrate Christmas in Africa's most populous nation. As we celebrate Christmas in freedom in free parts of the world, it's important to remember that many people around the world face persecution, discrimination and killings simply because of their religion. Many cannot practice their faith freely because it is either outlawed, threatened or not tolerated in the societies in which they live.

According to  news reports, bomb blasts, including one at a Catholic church, targeted Christians  in Nigeria on Christmas day - a Holy day on the Christian calender. This follows a recent spike in sectarian violence in the west African nation.

In 2010 Human Rights Watch urged the Nigerian government to investigate the massacre of at least 200 Christians in central Nigeria on 7 March 2010.

When talking about persecution, discrimination and killings because of religious views, the Coptic Christians in Egypt and the Ahmadis in Pakistan immediately come to mind, besides Nigeria's Christians who are increasingly being targeted by Islamists.

Non-Jewish Israelis, including Israeli Arabs, also come to mind. According to the U.S. Department of State, Israel's non-Jewish citizens (approximately 20% of the population) face "de facto discrimination." [Source].

Discrimination, persecution, killings and other forms of human rights abuses on grounds of religion or belief contravene Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and other international standards. Governments have a duty to protect freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

A radical Muslim group, Boko Haram, claimed responsibility for the Catholic church Christmas bombing. The group is reportedly in a campaign to impose Shariah law across Nigeria. It is worth mentioning that the same group claimed responsibility for Christmas eve bombings that targeted churches in 2010.

There is a growing need for the authorities in Nigeria to protect the nation's Christians.

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion in Nigeria and elsewhere.

*Photo source:

Friday, December 23, 2011

Who inspires you to care about human rights?

On 8 December 2011, I received an email from Amnesty International USA - an email sent to all supporters - with these words in the subject: who inspires you? It is interesting to mention that on 18 July 2010, I asked the same question: who inspires you?

The email from Amnesty International USA was about "human rights awakening." It was a call for action for human rights advocates and supporters to publicly recognize the person who inspired them to "rise up, speak out and defend basic rights."

The email stated that your human rights hero could be a human rights defender, a parent, a coworker, a Facebook friend, high school teacher, icons like Martin Luther King Jr., Aung San Suu Kyi, Desmond Tutu, just to name a few, or ANYONE who inspired you to care about human rights.

Readers of this blog probably already know who my hero is.

His name is Nelson Mandela.

I have previously written a few lines about this "last pure hero" and his extraordinary work to uphold human rights and a "free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities." Nelson Mandela championed the fight against apartheid in South Africa and went on to become South Africa's first democratically elected president. He paid a high price for freedom in South Africa.

After becoming president, Madiba, as he is fondly called, did not cling to power either through intimidation or rigged elections like most African leaders do, neither did he clamp down on those who mistreated and condemned him to 27 "dark years" in prison.

He received the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.

In 2009, the United Nations declared 18 July Nelson Mandela International Day - in honor of the icon.

A lot has already been written about this great man. There are many books that aptly tell his story, including the following:
  • Conversations with Myself, by Nelson Mandela (with foreword by Barack Obama) .
  • Mandela's Way: Lessons on Life, by Richard Stengel.
  • Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela, by Nelson Mandela.
Who inspires you?

It is your turn to name the person who inspired you to care about human rights. Enter the name of the person who inspires you as requested by Amnesty International USA. You could win a prize - if you live in the U.S. If you do not live in the U.S., I guess you could still participate and help build the hero wall.

It is interesting to look at the wall and see who inspires people to care about human rights.

*Photo of Nelson Mandela: jokeroo.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Mali: Child labor and poisoning in gold mines (video)

"They carry weights heavier than their own weight, climb into unstable shafts and touch and inhale mercury, one of the most toxic substances on earth." 
(Juliane Kippenberg, Senior Children's Rights Researcher, Human Rights Watch).

Children are a vulnerable group of individuals in need of protection, but more often than not, in many countries around the world, they fall prey to unspeakable violations, including economic exploitation through child labor and sexual abuse. Child labor, a violation of the rights of the child, happens in plain sight in many countries, especially in developing countries or so-called "emerging economies" where people make money by exploiting the services of children. A case in point is Mali - a west African country where child labor is common practice in gold mines.

According to Human Rights Watch, Mali's mines produce gold with child labor. Children in Mali, besides digging mining shafts and working underground, carry heavy weights of ore and work with toxic mercury, in a process aimed at separating gold from ore.

The report also reveals that many children involved in hazardous work in Mali do not go to school because education is inaccessible and unavailable for children. Health care is also limited (with one physician per 20,000 patients), despite the health problems that result from mining.

A video posted on the YouTube channel of Human Rights Watch better captures the plight of children in Mali.

The Republic of Mali is a member of the International Labor Organization (ILO) and party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) which it ratified on 20 September 1990. Despite the country's obligation under international law to protect children, guarantee the right to education and ensure "decent work" within its borders, children are continuously being exploited.

It's a shame that Mali is reportedly Africa's third largest gold producer (after South Africa and Ghana), yet the government is unable and/or unwilling to make education accessible and available to its children. This is typical in a continent where corruption is endemic and plays a major role in widespread poverty and desperation that has forced families to victimize children under hazardous conditions in the name of supplementing family income.

It remains to be seen whether someone with the power to change things in Mali would read Human Rights Watch's recently published report titled, "A Poisonous Mix: Child Labor, Mercury and Artisanal Gold Mining in Mali" (in pdf) and take action to restore the childhood and rights of Mali's exploited children. The report contains maps, disturbing pictures and recommendations which the government of Mali ought to take seriously.

According to Human Rights Watch, between 20,000 to 40,000 children work in Mali's artisanal gold mines. Many start working at about six years old.

Human Rights Watch acknowledges (page 6 of the report) that the government of Mali has taken some important steps to protect children's rights. However, a lot more needs to be done. A viable economy cannot be built on the backs of children.


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Human trafficking and organized Prostitution in Finland

Earlier this year, CNN joined the fight against modern-day slavery with the objective of  shining the spot light on the plight of victims of modern-day slavery and help "unravel the complicated tangle of criminal enterprises trading in human life." Through the CNN Freedom Project, the news network has done a good job so far bringing to light cases of modern-day slavery and human trafficking, such as the case of African girls held as modern-day slaves in Newark, New Jersey. There are about 10 to 20 million modern-day slaves worldwide. Cases of people held in slave-like conditions have been reported in Russia, China and even Sweden. Unfortunately, Finland, a small and relatively safe Nordic country, has added to the list - following news of women allegedly trafficked and held as prostitutes in Lahti.

According to news reports, police recently uncovered a case of organized prostitution and human trafficking in Lahti, a city located about 100 kilometers north-east of Helsinki, Finland's capital. The victims - women from Thailand, Africa, Russia and Estonia - were exploited by a young couple in the small town. The couple took home "hundreds of thousands of euros" from the illicit business. [Source].

An investigation is on-going.

It is worth mentioning that governments around the world are making noticeable efforts to take human traffickers and modern-day slave owners out of business. For example, in the Newark, New Jersey case, the perpetrators were tried and convicted; in Sweden, the Chinese migrant worker who was held in "slave-like" conditions received reparation, and in China, police recently busted a human trafficking ring and arrested hundreds of suspects.

These are commendable steps to unravel this criminal enterprise that thrives on human rights violations.

It remains to be seen whether those allegedly involved in human trafficking and organized prostitution in Lahti, Finland, would be brought to justice.

Side note: YLE reported that victims of trafficking in the case that is currently being investigated in Lahti come from Thailand, Russia, Estonia and Africa. This raises an important question: where in Africa are the victims from? Africa is not a country; it is a continent made up of 54 sovereign countries (as of time of this writing). It would be more helpful to identify the African countries from where victims originate so that human rights advocates and researchers would know where exactly to direct their efforts.

*Photo: A campaign by Amnesty International (German Section) designed to fight human trafficking - on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of human rights. The idea: a woman was put in a transparent suitcase and the case was place on the luggage belt at an airport in Munich, Germany. [Source].

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Laurent Gbagbo's first criminal court appearance (video)

Former president of Ivory Coast, Laurent Gbagbo, appeared for the first time before a panel of three international criminal court judges on 5.12.2011 - a historic day for the court. It was his first official public appearance since he was ousted on 11 April 2011.

Gbagbo refused to step down after he was declared loser of the November 2010 presidential election. His refusal to accept defeat and step aside plunged Ivory Coast into months of armed conflict during which more than 3000 people were reported dead.

Video footage posted on the YouTube channel of the International Criminal Court showed a "subdued" Laurent Gbagbo dressed in a dark suit, white shirt and blue tie. The former leader appeared humble and made an emotional presentation of himself: his name, place and date of birth. He also recounted the circumstances surrounding his arrest by French forces on 11 April 2011, his detention in Ivory Coast and subsequent transfer to the The Hague.

He waived his right to have the charges read out to him, and admitted that he had been informed of his rights.

The wheels of justice have started to turn.

Laurent Gbagbo had a choice to either denounce violence and step down in the interest of peace or face justice for crimes committed as a result of his decision to cling to power. He apparently chose the latter.

Gbagbo is the first former head of state to appear at the International Criminal Court (ICC) since its inception in 2002. He won't be the last - so long as people in authority around the world continue to disregard human rights and the will of the people. Laurent Gbagbo's appearance before the ICC sends a resounding message to those in power that there is no impunity for crimes against humanity and other rights abuses committed against civilians.

Images of Laurent Gbagbo in the dock and Hosni Mubarak in cage are reminders that no one is above the law, especially in this age of international justice.

Mr. Gbagbo is accused of crimes against humanity committed in Ivory Coast. He has the right to be presumed innocent of all charges until proven guilty. His next court hearing is scheduled of 18 June 2012.

*Photo: The Guardian.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Nigeria: Human Trafficking and Modern-day Slave Trade (video)

The Federal Republic of Nigeria, with a population of 158.2 million people, is Africa's most populous country and a great oil producing nation. [Source]. But corruption, bad governance and other social ills account for widespread poverty, desperation, crime and rights abuses in the west African country. In 2010, New York-based Human Rights Watch took Nigeria to task for institutionalized corruption in the police force that fuels human rights abuses. Rights violations in Nigeria include, human trafficking - resulting in modern-day slavery.

A video shared on Facebook puts human trafficking in Nigeria into perspective. The video, titled "The Nigerian Connection" shines the spot light on the plight of Nigerian girls trafficked to Italy and "trapped in a nightmare world of prostitution and exploitation".

The video report is difficult to watch. It was aired on "People and Power", a current affairs program on Al Jazeera English, and published on YouTube. The first part of the two-part series captures the dangerous and degrading situation faced by victims of trafficking in the country of destination - Italy.

The second part showcases the dire situation in Nigeria - the country of origin.

It's true that organized crime plays a direct role in human trafficking and modern-day enslavement of Nigerians, but poverty that results from bad governance also plays a role that cannot be overlooked.

Innocent girls are easily lured into modern-day slavery because opportunities to make a decent living in Nigeria are either limited or non-existent. Families are promised a "better life" and children are whisked away into slavery.

A "chosen few" individuals enjoy the wealth of the great oil-producing nation, to the detriment of the majority. This is true in Nigeria and it's also true in other  African countries where endemic corruption, including embezzlement of public funds fuels unspeakable human rights abuses.

Italy is the destination of more than 10,000 prostitutes trafficked from Benin City, southern Nigeria. [Source]. In 2009, I wrote about African girls trafficked to Russia - where they were reportedly held as prostitutes and modern-day slaves. People are held in modern-day slavery in many parts of the world, including the U.S. In 2010, the plight of West African girls held as modern-day slaves in the US was brought to light.

There is a growing need for concerted efforts by governments, civil society groups and individuals against human trafficking and modern-day slavery.

*Photo: Source.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Interracial Marriage Ban: Kentucky Church upholds practice akin to Apartheid

First Published in: Dunia Magazine

"... the Gulnare Freewill Baptist Church does not condone interracial marriage. Parties of such marriages will not be received as members, nor will they be used in worship services and other church functions..."

The world is yet to forget apartheid in South Africa and its devastating impact on black South Africans. Under the apartheid regime, "non-white" South Africans - the majority of the population - faced state-sponsored and institutional racism of untold proportions. Blatant racism was the order of the day in apartheid South Africa. Racism and racially motivated crimes were backed by immoral laws designed to completely destroy a group of people and hold them captive in their own country. Immoral apartheid laws in South Africa included the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act introduced in 1949 - a law that prohibited interracial marriages, and what was called the Immorality Act - which outlawed interracial sexual relations. [Source: Long Walk To Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela, page 98].

Apartheid, "a crazy concept born of prejudice and fear" - in the words of Jan Christiaan Smuts, collapsed in South Africa in 1994. However, 17 years later, practices akin to apartheid continue to be upheld in many communities around the world.

Recently in Kentucky, a church reportedly banned interracial marriage and denied a young couple the right to marry, as laid down in Article 23(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which the United States of America is party.

Members of the Gulnare Freewill Baptist Church, located in Pike County, according to news reports, voted to ban interracial marriages after a white member of the church engaged to a black African from Zimbabwe. Hell apparently broke loose after the engagement and a pastor, identified as Melvin Thompson, made a misguided recommendation against interracial marriage.

The congregation voted overwhelmingly in favor of the anti-interracial marriage proposal put forward by the pastor. [Source].

Some members of the church chose not to vote.

Those who abstained from voting are as guilty of racism as the architect of the proposal and those who voted in favor.

People of goodwill must always vote against racism - when it comes down to a vote.

It has been said that if you're neutral in a situation of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.

Ironically, the church is called Gulnare Freewill Baptist Church. A name-change ought to be considered.

A ban on interracial marriage strongly suggests that the word "freewill" should be erased from the name of the church, since the institution obviously does not respect the freewill of its members of marriageable age to marry - irrespective of race.

The right to marry should not be denied on grounds of race, color, descent or ethnicity.

It is worth mentioning that the Gulnare [Freewill] Baptist Church, which is now famous for all the wrong reasons, is not the only institution in the world that upholds practices akin to apartheid.

In November 2011, it was reported that a school is Norway racially segregated students. Bjerke Upper Secondary School in Oslo, capital of Norway, grouped students based on race, in a bid to retain ethnic Norwegians in the school. What a shame.

Racism is unconstitutional in the United States and other free countries, it is illegal under international law and should be stamped out in all its forms. Racism should be condemned in the strongest terms when and wherever it prevails.

A ban on interracial marriage has no place in a free and democratic society.


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Laurent Gbagbo in ICC custody at The Hague

Laurent Gbagbo, former president of Ivory Coast, was flown to The Hague on Tuesday, 29.11.2011 to stand trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC), for alleged crimes against humanity committed during the bloody post-election violence that erupted in the Ivory Coast in November 2010.

An Ivorian plane believed to be carrying the former leader landed at 4am on 30.11.2011 in Rotterdam, second largest city in the Netherlands. [Source].

Laurent Gbagbo's refusal to step down after a disputed presidential election plunged Ivory Coast into a six-month armed conflict that reportedly killed 3000 people and displaced many more. Horrific crimes allegedly committed by Gbagbo's forces include, extrajudicial killings, gang rapes, abductions and enforced disappearances.

There were loud calls for Laurent Gbagbo to stand aside in the interest of peace and human rights, but he refused to comply. Even the African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) urged Gbagbo to surrender power.

One month into the violence, the ICC warned all parties involved in the conflict that perpetrators of crimes under the jurisdiction of the court would be prosecuted.

In March 2011, president Obama urged Laurent Gbagbo in a video message to follow "the example of leaders who reject violence and abide by the will of the people."

Laurent Gbagbo ignored all these calls.

Then on Monday, 11 April 2011, the inevitable happened. Gbagbo was arrested by forces loyal to his rival, Alassane Ouattara, backed by French forces. He was humiliated and held under house arrest until he was transferred to The Hague.

He is now in the custody of the ICC, on charges of crimes against humanity.

In December 2010, I said power struggle endangers lives and perpetrators of crimes in Ivory Coast would eventually have their day in a national or international court. Hence, the decision to bring Laurent Gbagbo to justice is welcomed. However, he would have been tried in Ivory Coast. His transfer to The Hague reveals that the Ivorian justice system is flawed and unable to grant the former president a fair trial.

It is important to remember that not only Gbagbo is responsible for crimes during the violence. Both parties sides in the conflict allegedly committed crimes. Forces loyal to Alassane Ouattara, current president of Ivory Coast, also allegedly committed atrocious crimes, including killing across ethnic lines. The ICC should investigate these allegations and bring perpetrators to book. Selective justice would undermine national unity in Ivory Coast - a country that currently enjoys fragile stability. Accused individuals should be tried in national courts and should be flown abroad only when national courts are incapable of delivering justice for victims of atrocious crimes.

Gbagbo is the first head of state indicted by the ICC to arrive at The Hague to stand trial. [Source]. He has made history for the wrong reason.

The ouster of Gbagbo and Egypt's longtime despot, Hosni Mubarak, earlier this year sparked a debate with an unusual question: Laurent Gbagbo or Hosni Mubarak? Both men have unenviable records. Join the debate.

*Photo: Wikipedia.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Let's End Violence Against Women

Violence against women is endemic in the world today. Many women endure acts that result in "physical, sexual or psychological harm" perpetrated by strangers or individuals familiar to them. Violence against women includes acts of cruelty such as rape, torture, beatings, verbal abuse and many other indignities. Women are victims of violence both in armed conflict and peacetime; in public and in the privacy of their homes. In a bid to raise awareness about the plight of women around the world, the United Nations designated November 25 as International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. According to the UN, up to 70 per cent of women experience violence in their lifetime. November 25 was chosen because on this date, in 1960, three women were assassinated on the orders of Rafael Trujillo, autocratic ruler of Dominican Republic (1930-1961). The three women were sisters. Their names were:
  • Patria Mercedes Mirabal
  • Marja Argentina Minerva Mirabal
  • Antonia Maria Teresa Mirabal.
The "Mirabal sisters" are the face of "victimization of women" around the world, and their story is a constant reminder why there is an urgent need for a coordinated fight to end violence against women.

The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women is followed by "16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence." [Source]. Hence 25 November to 10 December is dedicated to ending violence and other forms of human rights abuses against women. Activities designed to achieve this goal, such as workshops, press conferences, demonstrations, marches, vigils, sensitization campaigns, just to name a few, are encouraged during this period.

According to Amnesty International, the theme for the 16 days activism, 2011, is "from peace in the home to peace in the world: Lets Challenge Militarism and End Violence Against Women." This year, the organization's focus is on 5 countries, namely: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, Afghanistan, Japan and Ivory Coast (Cote d'Ivoire). Visit Amnesty International's website and find out how you can help end violence against women and girls in these countries.

If you're a blogger, dedicate some time and space on your blog during this period to shine the spot light on violence against women. A simple blog post could go a long way in promoting women's rights. Take action to end violence against women.

You could also show support for the cause on your Facebook page or on Twitter. Every action taken to advance the cause counts.

"Joining in the efforts to stop violence is everybody's responsibility. Governments, private enterprises, civil society groups, communities and individual citizens can all make essential contributions. Men and boys must be active in encouraging respect for women and zero tolerance for violence."
- Michelle Bachelet, Executive Director of UN Women.

UPDATE (1.12.2011): I came across the following compelling ad about the impact of domestic violence against women.

"Un homme qui frappe sa femme apprend la violence à ses enfants" means that a man who hits his wife teaches violence to his children.

*Photo of Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary-General. [Source].

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Norway: School groups students based on race

Racism has to do with treating, perceiving or differentiating people based on race, color, descent, nationality or ethnicity. It is commonly associated with other illegalities, such as discrimination, xenophobia, killings, segregation, just to name a few. Racism is a social ill that is internationally condemned and outlawed in many countries. On the international stage, governments are obligated under international law to eliminate racism and racial discrimination in all its forms. Norway is one of the many states with a legal obligation to eliminate racism and racial discrimination within its borders. Despite Norway's obligation, a school in the Scandinavian country reportedly groups students based on race.

According to The Local, ethnicity determined where students sat in one Norwegian high school. This has been the practice in the school until the principal was ordered to "re-do the arrangement" after the school became popular for the wrong reason.

As you would expect, the school attempted to justify this glaring case of institutionalized racism.

The Local reports that teachers said their grouping was due to the "flight" (running away) of "ethnic Norwegian" students to other schools.

This is of course a deeply flawed excuse.

It is the responsibility of schools in Norway to teach and encourage so-called ethnic Norwegian students to study in communion with children from other backgrounds. Schools should not facilitate racial segregation.

Norwegian parents on their part should prepare their children for a globalized world where civilized people work together, irrespective of race, color or ethnicity. Moving children to "white" schools makes them unprepared to face the realities of life.

Norway ratified the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination on 6 August 1970. This landmark convention defines racial discrimination as "any distinction, exclusion, restriction, or preference based on race, colour, descent, or nationality, or ethnic origin..."

It remains unclear whether the school in question made any "exclusion, restriction, or preference". Also unclear is the purpose of the grouping. The school clearly made a "distinction" based on race, colour, descent, nationality or ethnic origin.

Segregation could have damaging psychological and social effects on kids in minority groups.

The good news is that the school is to stop grouping students based on race [Source].

The grouping of students based on race should not have happened in the first place.

UPDATE - 29.11.2011: The school in question has been identified by Mail Online as Bjerke Upper Secondary School (Bjerke videregående skolein Oslo, Norway.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Racism Poll: Most Finns see Finland as racist

Since the True Finns (Perussuomalaiset) - a far-right anti-immigration political party with strong views on Islam and the eurozone - made shocking gains during the April 2011 parliamentary election in Finland, there have been concerns about growing racism and intolerance in the Nordic country. Some have argued that racism is not a problem in Finland, but a recent poll published by Helsingin Sanomat on 12.11.2011 debunks this argument and reveals that racism is in fact "bubbling up." Most Finns who participated in the poll said there is "much" or "fair amount" of racism in Finland.

According to the poll commissioned by Helsingin Sanomat, majority of Finns (two-thirds) see Finland as a racist country.

The results of the poll, as reported by Helsingin Sanomat, Finland's leading daily newspaper, reveal that supporters of the True Finns are "most willing to concede negative attitudes toward minorities".

Minority groups most affected by racism and intolerance in Finland are Somalians, Muslims in general and the Roma. The Roma, a minority group with a long history of discrimination in Europe, are "disliked" the most, according to the poll.

The April 2011 parliamentary election in which the True Finns made huge political gains was a signal that more and more people in Finland are hardening their views on immigration and Islam, as well as their attitudes toward people who look different. This eyeopening racism poll adds weight to this concern.

However, all hope is not lost.

There are many voices of reason and tolerance in Finland. Many Finns of goodwill have spoken out against racism and expressly condemned intolerance in all its forms. This includes President Tarja Holonen who has repeatedly condemned racism and urged Finns to defend victims of racism. Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen has also taken a stand against racism in the name of immigration policy. He has expressed concern that "fundamental values" are being called into question in Finland.

In the words of president Halonen, "our own everyday behaviour and everyday courage" are instrumental in the fight against racism.

Ordinary people should step up to the plate and say NO TO RACISM whenever it shows its ugly face - be it in a bus, bus stop, restaurant, school or workplace. Silence emboldens perpetrators.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Shell destroys livelihood and environment in Niger Delta, Nigeria

"I don't think anything will grow there in the next 20 years. Nothing planted will grow. The land is wasted. Oil kills everything."
[A resident in Bodo, Ogoniland, Niger Delter, told Amnesty International, May 2011].

On 20 April 2010, what became widely known as the "BP oil spill" took the world by storm. It all started when the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico exploded, killing 11 people in what has been termed the "largest oil spill in US history." The role of the media, pressure from environmentalists and bold action by the Obama administration culminated in BP, the oil company involved, setting aside a huge sum of money - $20 billion - to compensate victims. One year after the disaster, BP had spent more than $13 billion on clean-up their mess. [Source]. Elsewhere, in a "forgotten" part of the world, thousands of people and businesses affected by oil spills are not that "lucky" to have wide media coverage of their plight and a government that protects them. In the Niger Delta, an oil-rich region in Nigeria, Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria, a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell, is getting away with oil spills that have reportedly harmed thousands of people and destroyed their livelihoods.

According to a report (in PDF format) by Amnesty International, there have been two "major" oil spills that have disrupted the lives of 69,000 people in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. Three years after the spills, Shell has failed to clean up the mess and compensate the victims. This is a far-cry from the situation in the Gulf of Mexico where BP was forced to setup a compensation fund and clean-up within months.

Amnesty International USA reports that the lives of thousands of poor Nigerians, including farmers, fishermen and people who trade fish, have been "directly affected" by the oil spills of August and December 2008. Oil pollution poses a health risk in the region.

Shell's failure to clean up the oil spill violates international standards, Nigerian law and the right to health and safety of thousands of Nigerians affected by the oil spill.

Shell has violated its corporate social responsibility in the Niger Delter. In the words of Amnesty International USA, the company should own up and pay up to clean up the Niger Delta.

The administration of President Goodluck Jonathan should emulate the bold and swift action taken by the Obama administration against BP, and restore the rights and livelihood of Nigerians in the affected region.

According to Amnesty International USA, "significant responsibility for the ongoing human rights abuses in the Niger Delta rests with the government of Nigeria" and "substantial responsibility also rests with Shell."

African leaders should do more to protect their people from violations perpetrated by big oil and mining corporations.

You are encouraged to take action to help restore the economic, social and cultural rights of victims of Shell oil spills in Nigeria. Tell Shell to "own up, pay up and clean up their mess." Sign a petition by Amnesty International USA addressed to the Chief Executive Officer of Royal Dutch Shell.

Side note: The next time you stop at a Shell gas/petrol station to buy fuel or lubricants for your car, remember that the company has contributed enormously to environmental damage and human suffering in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, and is reluctant to clean up and compensate victims. If you care about human rights and the environment, and dedicate time to read more about Shell and its operations in the Niger Delta, precisely in Ogoniland, you'd be so outraged that you'd reconsider fueling your car at Shell.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Libya: Asylum for Saadi Gaddafi by Niger points to a broken Rule of Law

First Published in: Dunia Magazine

Saadi Gaddafi, third son of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, the ousted and slained long-time leader of Libya, has reportedly been granted asylum on "humanitarian grounds" by one of Libya's neighbors - the Republic of Niger, a landlocked country in west Africa. Although one of the poorest countries in the world, Niger seems to know something about human rights and the international law principle of not returning asylum seekers to countries where they might be persecuted, tortured or killed. The country's decision to grant Saadi asylum points to a broken rule of law in a "liberated" Libya.

When opposition forces, backed by NATO, stormed Tripoli during the historic 2011 pro-democracy uprising, Muammar Gaddafi, members of his family and his close associates reportedly fled the city that fell without much resistance. As pressure mounted on the 42-year-old regime, some members of the Gaddafi family fled across Libya's borders into neighboring countries.

Some Gaddafis, including Aisha, the only daughter of the Muammar Gaddafi and his wife, fled to Algeria. Saadi Gaddafi, a businessman, former professional soccer player and third son of Muammar Gaddafi fled south to Niger.

The authorities in Niger decided to grant Saadi asylum - less than a month after his father and brother were illegally killed by opposition fighters in Sirte. (It is worthy to remember that the murdered Gaddafis were treated with dishonor even in death, as their bloodied bodies were displayed like trophies for a couple of days, in a meat store in Misrata - in violation of Islamic norms).

Saadi is wanted in Libya for alleged crimes committed during the infamous rule of his father, but it is unclear how he would be treated upon return to answer the charges. The world witnessed the treatment received by two members of his family last month, in the hands of opposition fighters.

States are expected to cooperate with each other to bring perpetrators of crimes to justice. In this vein, it is true that Niger was expected to cooperate with the National Transitional Council (NTC) of Libya - by returning Saadi to face justice for alleged crimes during the Gaddafi era.

However, events in Sirte, Libya, on 20 October 2011, following the capture of Muammar Gaddafi, put the spot light on a broken rule of law in Libya and the NTC's inability and/or unwillingness to guarantee safety and humane treatment of wanted Gaddafi children and Gaddafi supporters in post-Gaddafi Libya.

Disturbing images of the operation that ended an era in Libya, shocked human rights groups, rights advocates and several people across the world... including those with only an iota of respect for human life. Raw video footage from the scene revealed that Gaddafi was captured alive, beaten by an angry mob and killed without due process. Autopsy results later revealed that Gaddafi died as a result of a single gunshot to the head. It remains unclear who pulled the trigger. Even more disturbing is the fact that many Libyans are not interested in calls for the killer to be brought to justice for acting outside the law.

One of Muammar Gaddafi's sons, Muatassim Gaddafi, captured on the same day, was also killed in the custody of opposition forces.

According to human rights groups, many supporters of Gaddafi and black Africans accused of supporting the infamous regime faced persecution, torture and summary killings by anti-Gaddafi forces. The perpetrators of atrocious crimes committed against supporters and perceived supporters of Muammar Gaddafi walk free in a liberated Libya, yet there are loud calls for Gaddafi loyalists to face justice. This double standard undermines "national unity" what justice is all about.

Drawing from events that led to the death of Muammar Gaddafi, it is reasonable to conclude that if returned to Libya as requested by the NTC, Saadi Gaddafi could face "vigilante justice" like his father, brother and other supporters of the deposed regime.

International human rights law demands that individuals seeking asylum with "well-grounded" fear of persecution, torture or any other form of degrading treatment in their country of origin should not be returned. This law protects every asylum seeker, including children of the most ruthless dictators.

Every individual has the right to equal protection of the law.

After watching the gruesome treatment of his father and brother in Sirte on 20 October 2011, Saadi Gaddafi has "well-founded" fears to return home and is entitled to protection by Niger.

Asylum for Saadi on "humanitarian grounds" is therefore in the interest of human rights and in line with international law.

The killing of Muammar Gaddafi did not represent justice and the rule of law. It would have been great to see Gaddafi face his victims in a court of law.

The NTC should focus of building a legal system that works. Investigation and trial of those responsible for the unlawful killing of Muammar Gaddafi and Muatassim Gaddafi is a good place to start. Other crimes, well-documented by organizations like Human Rights Watch (HRW), committed during the 8-month-long conflict, by forces loyal to Gaddafi and anti-Gaddafi fighters should also be impartially investigated. Perpetrators from both sides should bear the full weight of the law. Failure to show that a liberated Libya respects the rule of law would lead to asylum for many more individuals wanted for crimes committed during the dark years of the Gaddafi regime.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Devastating impact of torture on victims (Video)

The UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment  defines torture in Article 1 as:
"any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third party has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination or any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity."
The impact of torture on victims is devastating and far-reaching, with both short term and long term physical and psychological consequences. The impact of torture is aptly captured in a short video sponsored by the European Union.

Watch the 46-second-long compelling video designed to raise awareness about the damaging impact of torture.

International law prohibits torture in all its forms under every circumstance whatsoever. In other words, freedom from torture is a non-derogable right, as laid down in article 2(2) of the Convention Against Torture.

Despite this strong prohibition, state-sponsored torture, or torture authorized by public officials prevails in many countries.

When talking about torture, the U.S, a free country with a shameful record of torture abroad, comes to mind.

It is known that many people have been tortured with the "consent or acquiescence" of top U.S. officials, including former President George W. Bush, former Vice President Dick Cheney and former Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld.

The US is party to the Convention Against Torture and therefore has an obligation to prevent acts of torture and punish perpetrators. Despite this obligation, the U.S. perpetrated untold acts of torture, with impunity, against  some of its citizens and citizens of other countries under its custody. The evidence against the state officials who authorized acts of torture is overwhelming but there has been lack of will to bring them to justice in a national or international court. This has weakened the voice of the U.S. in international human rights discourse.

The books have not closed on the role played by George Bush and other members of his administration in so-called "enhance interrogation techniques" against detainees in U.S. custody. In October 2011, Amnesty International urged Canada to arrest and prosecute George W. Bush. The fight against torture and its perpetrators continues.

George W. Bush is arguably the "official" face of torture, especially after he admitted authorizing torture and attempted to justify the immoral and illegal practice in his first interview after leaving the White House.

Torture and other cruel and inhuman treatment has devastating consequences on victims. It should be eradicated and the dignity of survivors should be restored.

June 26 is International Day in Support of Torture Victims.

*Photo: The New York Times.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Let's Fight Racism campaign

Racism is a social ill that preys on millions of individuals, including unsuspecting children, around the world in both "free" and "not free" societies. It's one of the many indignities suffered by innocent individuals struggling to make a decent living in many countries, both "democratic" and "undemocratic". Victims of racism are uncountable, the perpetrators are within reach, but somehow the internationally recognized violation continues unabated. In a bid to combat and eradicate racism, xenophobia and intolerance, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is promoting a campaign titled "Let's Fight Racism!"

According to information posted on the campaign website, "each and everyone of us plays a role in either contributing to or breaking down racial prejudice and intolerant attitudes." It's impossible to disagree with this assertion.

The website showcases a couple of compelling images and encourages supporters to share the images with their friends and ask the latter what they see.

In response to the call for action, I chose the following image:

Looking at the above image, what do you see? Do you see an economist, trafficking victim or immigrant? Is there more than meets the eye?

People should not be judged by the color of their skin, origin, nationality, ethnicity or religion. This has been said and written numerous times, but it's worth reiterating because the simple message has not been understood in many societies.

Many people are constantly being disrespected, abused, and subjected to other forms of unspeakable degrading treatment simply because they look different or have a different culture or religion.

There is more than meets the eye.

Visit Let's Fight Racism campaign website and find out what you can do to fight racism in your community.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Chinese-run companies abuse workers' rights in Zambia

"We are working in very bad conditions, horrible conditions."
[ A worker in one of Zambia's Chinese-run copper mines told Human Rights Watch].

It has been said that China is "taking over" Africa, in terms of business and exploitation of natural resources, including timber, copper, coal, just to name a few. Many Africans, including Zambian government officials, welcome China's increasing presence in Africa on grounds that China's investments have created jobs and other benefits in the region. Many have ignored the fact that "jobs" and "benefits" created by a country that has little regard for human rights and freedoms, come at a high price. Chinese-run businesses and companies routinely abuse workers' rights in Africa, in violation of national and international labor standards. A recent report published by Human Rights Watch on 3 November 2011 reveals that Chinese-run copper mining companies in Zambia violate workers' rights and Zambian national laws and regulations.

According to Human Rights Watch, abuses perpetrated by Chinese-run mining companies in Zambia include:
  • Poor health and safety conditions.
  • "Brutally long Shifts" of "arduous labor."
  • Violation of workers' right to organize
Anyone interested in "human rights" must have heard that rights are commonly muzzled in China. Chinese companies have exported not only their expertise and goods to Africa - they have also exported rights violations.

Daniel Bekele, Africa Director at Human Rights watch points out that "many of the poor health and safety practices we found in Zambia's Chinese-run mines look strikingly similar to abuses we see in China."

Allegations of "brutally long" working hours and "slave wages" paid by Chinese-run corporations are disturbing; but even more disturbing are reports that employers terminate work contracts or threaten to fire workers who stand up for their rights and demand better working conditions. This is "coercion" - intended to intimidate and silence abused workers struggling to make a decent living for themselves and their families.

In October 2010, two managers in Chinese-run Collum coal mine in southern Zambia used shotguns to shoot at unarmed workers who were protesting poor labor conditions. The government of Zambia later dropped all charges against the mine shooting perpetrators.

The government of Zambia has failed to protect Zambian workers from abuse and exploitation.

It is true that China's hugh investment in Zambia has created jobs, but it is also true that many workers employed in Chinese-owned companies have been denied their rights as laid down in national and international law.

By failing to end abuse in Chinese-run mines, the Republic of Zambia, a member of the International Labor Organization (ILO), has picked business over "decent work" and human rights. The new government of President Michael Sata, elected in September 2011, should move quickly to restore the dignity of miners and bring abusive employers to justice.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

'Slave-like' conditions for Chinese migrant worker in Sweden

The word "slave" evokes memories of one of the lowest points in human history; an era when millions of unsuspecting human beings were stripped of all rights, bought, sold, transported across continents and forced to work against their will under deplorable and inhuman conditions - without pay or appropriate compensation. This dehumanizing practice is now illegal in every country on the planet, but continues to manifest itself in what has been aptly termed "modern-day slavery." Practices reminiscent of slavery have been recently reported in countries such as the United States, Russia, and other countries in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia and Lebanon - just to name a few. The case of a Chinese migrant worker in Sweden who was forced to work under "slave-like" conditions in a restaurant, adds Sweden to the list of countries where modern-day slavery remains a reality.

A 37-year-old Chinese chef, identified as Jiang Zhaloin, collapsed from exhaustion on the streets of Gothenburg, Sweden's second city. The migrant worker collapsed after being forced to work long hours without appropriate compensation. He migrated to Sweden in May 2010 to work as a chef in a restaurant and ended up working 80 hours a week - from 9am till late at night - without overtime pay, sick leave benefits or vacation allowance. He was paid 14,000-15,000 kronor ($2,127-$2,280) a month, but paid almost half of his salary back to the employer - as rent for a "cramped two room apartment" arranged by his employer. The apartment was shared with four other workers employed by the same employer. [Source].

The exploitative conditions under which the Chinese migrant worker worked came to light when he collapsed on the streets. He was reportedly diagnosed with stress-related psoriasis.

The victim's migration to Sweden was arranged by a Chinese agency. He paid the employment agency 70,000 kronor ($10,500).

The Swedish Hotel and Restaurant Workers' Union (HRF) condemned the actions of the restaurant and asked the unscrupulous employer to pay the victim a sum of 391,000 kronor ($59,400) in compensation. The employer agreed to pay. The victim is expected to have received compensation by 15 October 2011.

International human rights standards expressly prohibit slavery or servitude. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) states in Article 4 that: "No one shall be held in slavery or servitude...".

Jiang Zhaloin was held in servitude in modern Sweden.

The steps taken by HRF to secure indemnity for the victim should be applauded. Employers and employment agencies should not be allowed to operate with impunity.

The story of Jiang Zhaloin should encourage other migrant workers forced to work under unacceptable  and illegal conditions to seek help.

Sweden, a respected member of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and party to key international human rights treaties that prohibit slavery and promote decent work, has a legal obligation under international law to protect victims of practices akin to slavery within its borders.

*Photo: Wikipedia.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Ugly face of racism at bus stop in Finland

A lot has been said and written about racism in Finland, a social ill boosted by anti-immigration sentiments and what far-right populists have termed the "Islamization" of Europe. Speaking on the 50th anniversary of Amnesty International, a renown human rights organization, the president of Finland acknowledged the rise of racism and xenophobia in the Nordic country. This presidential statement came after a member of parliament used racist and derogatory language on his first day in parliament against Muslims and immigrants of African descent. Racism in Finland shows its face in many ways, including racist graffiti in public places and through what could be termed "drive-by racism" - a form of racial harassment in which racial slurs are shouted from a moving vehicle. More recently, the ugly face of racism was seen at a bus stop around Hertoniemi, Helsinki, Finland.

Someone of questionable moral standing used what appears to be a sharp object to write a hateful and racist message on the glass at a bus stop. The disturbing message is there for everyone using the bus stop to see. It reads:

"All N*****s Must Die."

It is worth mentioning that "N*****" stands for what is commonly known as the N-word. The word is spelled out in full on the bus stop. It is not legible in photographs but if you stand at the bus stop (pictured) you cannot miss it.

The disturbing message is accompanied by a hastily drawn swastika - symbol of the Nazi Party of Germany.

The ugly face of racism at this bus stop speaks volumes about the current state of affairs in Finland. Such a message in a public place undermines the reputation of Finland as a free, civilized, tolerant and democratic country.

The hateful message is very disturbing; even more disturbing is the fact that no one seems to be alarmed by such a message at a bus stop that is used daily by many people, including immigrants studying in a nearby adult learning centre (Edupoli).

The message was first seen at the bus stop more than a month ago. At the time of this writing, it has not been removed.

Racism in Finland and its devastating impact on people of African descent and immigrants from other parts of the world is further compounded by reports that some law enforcement officers in the country said racist harassment should not be reported to the police. A police officer from Pieksämäki reportedly told Migrant Tales that victims of racist harassment should "just walk away."

This goes to show that racists and those who harass individuals because of skin color, nationality, religion or ethnicity have been given a blank check by law enforcement.

Law enforcement in Finland should take racially motivated crimes, including harassment in public places, more seriously. Ordinary people of goodwill on their part should speak out against racism and stand with victims wherever this social ill shows its ugly face. Simply looking the other way emboldens aggressors.

The authorities have a responsibility to remove racist and hateful messages from public places, including bus stops, and perhaps run educational programs and campaigns to educate the public about the ills of racism and hate.

Monday, October 24, 2011

No impunity for arbitrary killing of Muammar Gaddafi

There is reason to believe that Muammar Gaddafi, former leader of Libya, was summarily executed on 20 October 2011 in custody of rebel forces in Sirte - in violation of the rule of law and laws of war. There should be no impunity for such a high profile arbitrary killing in a "liberated" Libya.

News of the capture of Muammar Gaddafi took the world by storm and there was great expectation that the strongman would face justice in a national or international court for crimes allegedly committed during his 42-year tyrannic rule and more recently during a brutal crackdown on popular protests that broke out in February.

A few minutes after news of the capture, it was reported that the "big fish" had been killed in a "cross fire" between fighters loyal to him and opposition fighters. This was confirmed by the Chairman of the National Transitional Council (NTC). However, shocking video footage of the capture revealed that Gaddafi was captured alive, beaten, wounded and possibly executed by the rebels.

Graphic video clips of a bloodied and inhumanely treated Gaddafi posted on the internet attracted condemnation from rights groups. New York-based Human Rights Watch reported that there is evidence that suggest that Gaddafi might have been summarily executed in the custody of opposition fighters from Misrata. The rights group urged the NTC to investigate the deaths of Gaddafi and his son.

According to Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa Director at Human Rights Watch, "there is ample evidence" to launch an investigation into the unexpected deaths of Muammar Gaddafi and his son Muatassim Gaddafi - captured alive on the same day.

Peter Bouckaert, Emmergencies Director at Human Rights Watch, was in Sirte to investigate the circumstances surrounding the deaths of Muammar Gaddafi and his son. Peter Bouckaert visited the scene of the battle that culminated in the capture of the Gaddafis and reported his findings in a video that was shared on Twitter by Kenneth Roth, Executive Director, Human Rights Watch.

There should be no impunity for arbitrary killing.

On 23 October 2011, doctors conducted an autopsy on the body of Muammar Gaddafi at a hospital in Misrata and confirmed that the toppled leader died of a gunshot wound to the head. It remains unclear who fired the fatal shot. This should be impartially investigated.

All Libyans are entitled to equal protection of the law. This includes all those accused of serious crimes, including captured supporters of Muammar Gaddafi.

*Photo source: The Guardian.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Killing of Colonel Gaddafi is not justice

Disturbing images of a wounded, roughed-up and reportedly dead embattled Muammar Gaddafi - once the strongest man in Libya for more than 40 years - being dragged on the ground in his hometown of Sirte earlier today did not represent justice (in the true sense of the word) for the numerous victims of his brutal 42-year reign in Libya. The images depict man's inhumanity to man and a total disregard for human life by the National Transitional Council (NTC) fighters involved in the historic operation.

Gaddafi was increasingly unpopular both at home and abroad. He was accused of serious human rights abuses and was wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for his role in the brutal crackdown of pro-democracy demonstrations that erupted in Libya in February.

Images of a bloodied Gaddafi, in what appeared to be mob justice on the streets of Sirte, have evoked sympathy for the dictator and put into question the NTC's commitment to uphold the rule of law in Libya.

The gruesome killing of accused persons, including those accused of the most heinous crimes, without due process of law must be condemned.

Colonel Gaddafi was no doubt a brutal ruler and scenes of celebrations in Libya - even in the strongman's hometown - add weight to this assertion.

However, it is worthy to note that Gaddafi was denied the right to due process and protection of the law. His basic rights as a human being were violated in the same manner in which he was accused of violating the rights of Libyans. This does not make those involved in the killing any better than the controversial colonel.

Surprisingly, world leaders, including UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon have termed the killing a "major step" for Libya and the beginning of a democratic transition. No world leader, as of the time of this writing, has expressed concern about the lawless matter in which the toppled leader was killed.

Muammar Gaddafi was "arbitrarily deprived of his life" today, 20 October 2011 by NTC forces. The NTC failed to guarantee the rights of the accused as prescribed by law. Gaddafi should have been taken alive and brought to justice. It would have been a victory for the rule of law to see him in the dock in a well-constituted national or international criminal court. This would have been justice for victims of his tyrannic rule.

The killing of Gaddafi marks the end of an era in Libya, but it does no represent justice. As Libyans celebrate their new-found freedom, it is important to remember that the right to life in non-derogable under international law.

This is in no way in defense of Colonel Gaddafi and his firm grip on power; it is in defense of the rule of law.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

"Dear Obama" responds to calls for help from LRA victims

The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) is a notorious armed Ugandan rebel group that continues to terrorize civilians in Northern Uganda, Central African Republic, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The LRA is reportedly responsible for unspeakable violations committed against civilians in central African region. These atrocities include mass rape, mutilations, mass killings, torture, kidnappings and the recruitment of child soldiers. The infamous leader of the rebel group - Joseph Kony - is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes and crimes against humanity. For decades, right groups have demanded tougher action against the LRA. Finally, the Obama administration has responded to calls for help and taken noticeable steps to protect LRA victims.

In 2010, Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch urged President Obama to "get tough on human rights" and argued in favor of the "humanitarian use of force" against the LRA .

Human Rights Watch launched an aggressive campaign to inspire action against the LRA . The organization produced a compelling video titled "Dear Obama" - in which victims of LRA abuse, including men, women, girls and boys, make direct appeals to President Obama - literally begging for help.

The video was nominated for the 2011 Webby Awards.

To many skeptics, this was a long shot.

However, "dear Obama" responded to loud calls echoed by Human Rights Watch. He ordered the deployment of about 100 U.S. military personnel with "appropriate combat equipment" to Uganda to work together with forces in the region to remove Joseph Kony and his commanders from the region. According to a letter from President Obama to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, U.S forces will provide "information, advise and assistance" to regional partners. They "will not themselves engage LRA forces unless necessary for self defense."

According to Human Rights Watch, Obama signed a bill on 24 May 2010 that committed the U.S. to help arrest Joseph Kony and protect civilians in the region. More than 200 civilians have been killed and 3000 abducted during LRA operations since 2008.

Obama's decision to deploy forces to Uganda to help stop atrocities committed by the LRA has attracted blind criticism from opponents of his administration, some of whom have arguably never heard about the LRA prior to the president's bold move in the interest of human rights. According to Rush Limbaugh, a conservative American radio talk show host, Obama has sent troops to "wipe out Christians" in Africa. This is a laughable case of misinformation. The talk show host clearly failed do his homework on the subject.

On the other hand, rights advocates who are well-informed about atrocities committed by the LRA and understand the concept of "responsibility to protect", welcome Obama's decision to join efforts to bring Joseph Kony and his cronies to justice.

N.B: See photo of one victim of LRA brutality above. In February 2002, he was kidnapped, deformed and amputated by Kony's men. His ears, lips, nose and hands were chopped off. [Source]. Thousands more have suffered atrocities of varying proportions committed by the LRA .

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