WTF Friday, 10/30/2015

You know how most flagrant violators of human rights try to cover up their abuses? Well, not this guy. Rodrigo Duterte, mayor of the city of Davao in the Philippines, is happy to take responsibility, on camera, for the extrajudicial killings of more than 700 people. He says he’s got no regrets about his use of vigilante death squads to crack down on crime. Brace yourself to hear more about him, because he may be running for president. (h/t Julien. Thanks, Julien!)

Speaking of people running for president against all reason, Rwanda’s Parliament just voted to allow Paul Kagame to seek a third term. And then three more after that. But once 2034 rolls around, he’s definitely got to move on.

And finally, another heartbreaker from the internet’s foremost supplier of Upsetting News About Ladies; Jina Moore reports that Germany has no system in place to deal with domestic violence in the refugee camps. Jina herself called several shelters to try to secure a spot for a woman in urgent need of protection from her abusive husband. Some incorrectly informed her that refugees were not eligible for shelter space (in fact, German law guarantees them access). Others told her to try calling back later – not a great option in a life-threatening situation.



WTF Friday, 1/31/2014

I remember going to a Model United Nations conference for the first time and thinking it was a shame people didn’t take it more seriously and act like REAL delegates. (Yup, that’s the kind of super-fun 16 year old I was.)

Then I went to work at the actual United Nations.

I was sitting in the General Assembly one Friday morning when a junior Tunisian diplomat surreptitiously passed me a note inviting me to a kegger at the Egyptian third secretary’s apartment, and I thought to myself, “huh, I guess Model UN was more accurate than I gave it credit for”.

Further evidence in Model UN’s defense arose yesterday after the Security Council session, when Rwanda’s ambassador accused the Congolese delegation of “crying like small babies”. I can only assume that the Congolese fired back that Rwanda are a bunch of asshats who can suck it, and then stomped off to do their math homework.

WTF Friday, 12/13/2013

Um, Scary Spice is going to Rwanda for Christmas?

There are so many reasons to WTF this, but I’m going to focus on just one: Mel B apparently expects to see tigers on her trip. Explaining her plan to the Daily Mirror, she said “I said to the kids do you want to go to Africa and see lions, tigers and bears, or stay at home and watch TV all day? It was a no brainer.”

Sorry dude, but bears and tigers don’t live in Africa, and lions are extinct in Rwanda. (Although I hear they might be bringing some new ones in from South Africa.) Maybe try Kenya?

WTF Friday, 8/27/10 and 9/3/10

I purposely withheld last week’s WTF Friday just to hit you guys with a double whammy this week.

Omar al-Bashir made a surprise appearance at the celebration for Kenya’s new constitution. The ICC has reported Kenya to the UN Security Council, but in the words of Kenya’s foreign affairs minister, “He is a state guest. You do not harm or embarrass your guest. That is not African.” Well thank you, Miss Manners.

Africa: Land of Rape and UN Condemnation of Rape

In non-African rape news, the rape of a transgender woman in the Vietnamese province of Quang Binh may not be prosecuted. The judicial authorities in Quang Bin province are apparently under the impression that rape law in Vietnam only covers the rape of women by men, and “the victim had not reclassified her legal gender from male to female.” According to the chief judge of the provincial People’s Court, “Even if the group raped her ten times, we would not be able to sentence them.” I sure hope the perpetrators haven’t seen that quote! (Vietnamese law actually says nothing about the gender of rape victims or perpetrators.)

Double secret reverse genocide in the DRC? Say it ain’t so, Pauly K.! (via FP Passport).

I don’t think it’s premature to name this photo the “Cutest/Saddest of the Pakistan Flood.” Disaster porn at its finest.

I find it kind of unfortunate that the Football Association elections in Sudan seem to have been run more fairly than the actual elections. And that the Sudanese government seems to take FIFA more seriously than the ICC. Just saying.

So Wyclef seems to be taking his disqualification from the Haitian Presidential Election well: “‘Do you intend to continue supporting people who have no respect for Haiti’s Constitution?’ read the message on his Twitter account, which was later translated into English. ‘Do you continue to support people violating the right of the person who [do] not believe in the value of mankind, that every man is a man, and everybody has to live decently?'” And of course, he’s dropped a protest song and video in record time. This whole thing is starting to make more sense to me now that I realized Wyclef is dropping a new album on December 4 (less than a week after the election) featuring two songs with “Haiti” or “Haitian” in the title, another called “Political Correctness,” and I believe an album cover in which the Haitian flag is wrapped around his head. In fact, and I am definitely delving into conspiracy theory here, his last 3 albums seem to be quite a bit more Haiti-centric than his earlier offerings. Has he been planning this since 2004? I think I need to find a new internship/use for my brain.

Lastly, Fidel Castro has issued an apology and taken responsibility for the discrimination faced by homosexuals during his time as President. He claims to have been too busy with food, medicine, the CIA, traitors, etc, to worry about homosexuality, which wasn’t decriminalized until 1979. You gotta make time to worry about rights and stuff, dude. I take like a whole 45 minutes out of my schedule every week!

WTF Friday, 7/9/10

  • Wronging Rights reader Ari found this at an “anti-genocide and other egregious violations of human rights” fundraiser. Lol good spot, Ari!
  • When people describe vuvuzelas, this is not the kind of “buzz” they are talking about. (It took me a long time to decide if I was actually going to publish that terrible pun on the Internet. Really just a minute but thats forever in “Internet time.”)
  • Bill Clinton has committed the next three years to “rebuilding” Haiti, prompting Esquire to call him for better or worse, the “CEO of the leaderless nation.” I guess we can now add “CEO” to the list of outrageously patronizing descriptors that includes such mainstays as “savior” and “Bono.”

Meanwhile, in the Congo…

A military court in Katanga province (bottom right on the map over there) handed down a death sentence for Mai-Mai militia leader Kyungu “Commander Gedeon” Mutanga for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by his troops between 2003 and 2006. As Human Rights Watch points out, this is cool because it “has shown the important role that Congolese courts play in giving victims a voice and in making clear that attacks on civilians will have serious consequences.” But it’s also not cool, because they imposed the death penalty, and that’s not very human rightsy.

The court also held that the families of Mutanga’s victims were entitled to $17 million from the Congolese government for its role in supporting the Mai-Mai. (I’m thinking they’re probably not going to pay up.)

And the news you’ve all been waiting for: Laurent Nkunda is… still unaccounted for.

But that may change. A court in Kigali is considering papers filed by Nkunda’s wife (yeah, we’re all surprised to learn there’s someone other than Bettie the goat in his life) alleging that the authorities have violated the Rwandan constitution by holding Nkunda incommunicado with no access to counsel. Nkunda’s supporters are worried he will be extradited to the Congo, and are attempting to use the aforementioned existence of the death penalty there as a reason to keep him in Rwanda (where capital punishment was suspended in 2007). Perhaps it’s time to start placing bets on where he’ll turn up?

Congo-Rwanda Joint Operation Totally a Success, Everything’s Great, Nothing to See Here…

Rwandan troops are leaving the Congo after an allegedly successful joint effort (“Operation Umoja Wetu”) at finally digging the FDLR out of eastern Congo.

As Texas in Africa pointed out a couple of weeks ago, though, this assessment relies on a definition of success that includes a lot more rapes than the standard usage. (According to the Congolese government, Human Rights Watch is making it all up, probably because they’re jealous of the joint operation’s success.)

But even setting aside the “civilian protection: now with more sexual assault” issue, it’s not clear what the joint operation has accomplished. The Washington Post observes:

“The operation has merely scattered the 6,000 or so Hutu rebels belonging to the FDLR farther west. Only one rebel leader — a spokesman — has been captured, while two dozen others, including some wanted for participating in the genocide, remain in the bush or are in the Congolese capital of Kinshasa or Europe. The task of disarming the rebels is now up to the infamously inept Congolese army, which once collaborated with the Hutu rebels, and an overstretched U.N. peacekeeping force.”

The FDLR itself chimed in with a “not dead yet!” email, insisting that it is still operational.

Meanwhile, five leaders of the lower house of parliament were forced to resign over their failure to support Operation Umoja Wetu. National Assembly President Vital Kamerhe (a member of President Kabila’s party) has also criticized the decision to allow Rwandan troops in, but has so far refused to resign. I think a constitutional crisis would be a great addition to current events in the Congo, don’t you?

And where’s Nkunda, anyway? Anybody seen that guy?

Anyone Here Been Raped And Doesn’t Love Their Kids That Much?

Have I missed something? Is there some reason why this is okay, instead of creepy and exploitative?

“Intended Consequences” is a book of portraits of Rwandan women who were raped during the genocide, and the children who resulted from the rapes. Most include a small caption describing the rape, and often the mother’s feelings towards the child that resulted. The book is packaged with a DVD of “interviews,” which play still photos of each woman as a voice-over narrates the story of her rape in harrowing detail.

Apparently I’m wrong to be utterly skeeved out by it, because everyone else seems certain that this project is a Good Thing. The Aperture Foundation, together with Amnesty and the Open Society Institute, will launch an international traveling exhibition of the photos later this spring. Several of the portraits and stories were published in the Spring issue of Amnesty International Magazine. And the book even has a foreword by a real, live aid worker: Marie Consolee Mukagendo who, the website announces proudly, “has worked with UNICEF for over five years” and “specializes in working with children affected by armed conflict.”

Oh, well, there we go. Over five years of experience with UNICEF, and a specialization in children affected by armed conflict. I don’t have any of those things, and am neither Amnesty International nor the Soros Foundation, so that’s probably the cause of my hopelessly bourgeois discomfort with the project, non?

I’m not an expert on children affected by armed conflict (though I am occasionally a lawyer for them), so that’s probably why I didn’t know that one of the things that’s healthy for the aforementioned children is to be singled out as the product of the brutal rape of their mothers, in an international exhibition, by name and face. Or that their mothers’ snappy quotes about how it’s impossible to love a child conceived in rape are actually really good for their future development. Probably it’s just my lack of expertise that makes me thing that would actually be quite upsetting for them.

And probably, if I specialized in children affected by armed conflict, or was Amnesty bloody International, I would understand why it was a good idea to single women out as rape victims, without presenting anything more about their lives or identities. (Sad that you still live in poverty? Depressed because your whole family was murdered? Sorry, this exhibition is vaginas-only!)

Those five years of experience with UNICEF would probably have given me the information I need to differentiate between the lurid details described so carefully in each video, and the lurid details described in, say, rape-fantasy porn. Because right now, I see basically the same thing: women whose presentation to me starts and ends with the sexual trauma inflicted on them.

I know, I know. It will “raise awareness.” And that’s important, because the Rwandan genocide is totally a secret.

Oh, and it will raise more than that: it will lead to donations for Foundation Rwanda, an NGO devoted solely to providing school funding for children who were born from rape during the 1994 genocide and their mothers.

Yeah, probably I would also need expertise to understand why it would be a good idea to single people out for services on the basis of a characteristic so inherently divisive and potentially damaging as being the child of genocidal rape. As a non-expert in such things, it seems to me that such a program could have devastating effects on families. (“Sorry, only your brother gets his secondary school fees paid. Bummer that your father was married to your mom and not a brutal rapist!”) Or communities. (“Oh, the rest of your children were killed by the militias and then you managed to put your life back together and have a new baby, but now you can’t afford his schooling and are deeply depressed? Go away while we help your neighbors”) Or rape victims themselves. (“Actually, our assistance is only for those who bore a child from their rape. The non-fecund should look elsewhere.”)

But that’s just me. If you need me, I’ll be the one sitting over there, all skeeved out.

HT: Andrew Sullivan. For meditations on the difficulties and responsibilities of being a photojournalist, see this and this and this and this, from Glenna Gordon.

Recommended Reading

Slate has a beautiful obituary of Alison Des Forges by journalist Michael J. Kavanagh.

It is a moving tribute to someone who was truly passionate about and effective in her work- as Kavanagh points out, Des Forges was the “most important Anglophone chronicler” of the Rwandan genocide and was a ceaseless advocate for human rights in the broader Great Lakes region. The piece also touches upon a broader point about the role of the human rights activist, as exemplified by Des Forges:

“The job of a human rights worker is not the same as that of a politician who needs to make unenviable compromises between security and justice. A human rights worker is in the business of giving voice to the voiceless, uncovering injustice, and advocating for its redress.”

Kavanagh concludes by noting that the efforts of journalists, activists, and researchers continue in the region, but that following the loss of Alison Des Forges, “our work will be done with significantly less joy.” A fitting testimonial to someone who was not only an example and inspiration, but also a friend and mentor to a generation of activists.