The Legacy of Apartheid: Continuing Racial Inequality in South Africa

In 1953, the White controlled government of South Africa introduced the Bantu Education Act, enforcing the segregation of education throughout the country.  The aim of the legislation was clear: black and non-white youth should look to the unskilled labor market for work, rather than seeking academic advancement.  Hendrik Verwoerd, known as the “Architect of Apartheid,” stated that, “There is no place for [the Bantu] in the European community above the level of certain forms of labour … What is the use of teaching the Bantu child mathematics when it cannot use it in practice?”  The disparity between school reserved for whites and their non-white counterparts grew exponentially as time progressed.  White schools were up to western standards, while 25% of black schools lacked running water, 30% electricity, and more than half plumbing.

Many South African School located in majority black provinces continue to lack basic necessities, like certified teachers. (Source ENCA)

In the 1970’s, the per capita governmental spending on black education was one-tenth of the spending on white.  While the policies of Apartheid Era South Africa have since been purged, the echoes of these procedures continue to affect the equality in education in the country.  The disparity between the success of black students compared to their white counterparts continues to be a major issue in South Africa, and studies have shown that it is a wide range of issues that can cause this inequality.  Mmusi Maimane, leader of the political opposition party, has addressed the legacy of the system while making a speech aimed to address racism in the country, saying, “”We are entitled to ask why a black child is 100 times more likely than a white child to grow up in poverty.  We are entitled to ask why a white learner is six times more likely to get into university than a black learner.”

Mmusi Maimane presents the racial inequality of Apartheid Era South Africa
Mmusi Maimane presents the racial inequality of Apartheid Era South Africa (Source BBC)

In the last academic year, some 213,000 children failed their end of school examination for the academic year, out of a total of nearly 800,000.  However, this benchmark does not include students who dropped out of class, out of the 1.2 million seven-year-olds who enrolled in Grade 1 in 2002, slightly less than half went on to pass their school-leaving exam, 11 years later.  This is not about a lack of funding. In fact, South Africa spends more on education, some 6% of GDP, than any other African country.

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - SEPTEMBER 01: A group of students shout slogans and hold banners during an anti-xenophobia demonstration against the alleged racist attitude of the administration of the Stellenbosch University in Cape Town, South Africa on September 01, 2015. (Photo by Ashraf Hendricks/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A group of students demonstrate against the alleged racist attitude of the administration of the Stellenbosch University in Cape Town, South Africa (Source The South African Newspaper)

            So what issues are holding South African schools back?  One of the most easily seen problems are those related to the many languages of South Africa.  In 2010, 400 12-year-old students were asked to work out the answer for 7 x 17.  130 of the 400 were able to work out the problem.  However, when the same problem was asked in English in word form, none of the 400 students were able to answer.  There are 11 official languages in South Africa but most teaching is in English, especially for subjects such as math and science.

Standardized tests are presented in English throughout South Africa, where many students speak the “language of education” only as a second language. (Source BBC)

Nationally representative household surveys from 2002 to 2009 in post-apartheid South Africa demonstrate that substantial educational inequality still exists. This inequality may not evident at ages when children begin school but increasingly manifests itself as students become older. This pattern suggests that black and coloured students either drop out or repeat grades to the extent that by age 18 they have a two-year education disadvantage compared with white and Asian (mostly Indian) children. A substantial share of this disadvantage is because of family background, while other factors, like school characteristics play a role as well. There is some indication that the trend may be narrowing, but not enough to eliminate inequality in the near future. South Africa requires a more effective education policy that can address both issues of racial inequality and disadvantaged family background.

Tensions remain high as allegations of institutional racism persist in many schools across the country. (Source ENCA)



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Is De-Horning Rhinos a Feasible Option for Combatting Poaching in South Africa?

The poaching of rhinos in South Africa for their valuable horns has long been an issue. These horns can be worth $60,000 per kilogram on the black market, due to their high demand in countries like Vietnam. People in these countries mistakenly believe rhino horn powder has many health benefits, such as preventing hangovers and curing cancer. Though horns can be retrieved from rhinos without killing the animal, because these animals can be quite dangerous, they are often killed. The government has taken action against poachers, but the rhino population in South Africa is still severely threatened. De-horning rhinos in South Africa may be a possible method of combatting this threat.
The number of rhino poachings in South Africa, though slightly declining, is still dangerously high in recent years, as shown below. 5,424 rhinos have been poached in South Africa since 2006. Head Ranger Simon Naylor at the Phinda Game Reserve in South Africa said, “I think in the last few years we’ve reached that tipping point in Africa, and certainly in South Africa. There are more deaths now than births. And so it’s a species heading towards extinction if we don’t do something drastic.”


De-horning is a practice which has been taken up by many South African ranchers to protect their rhinos from poachers. Through this process, they safely remove the horn from the rhino so as to get rid of any incentive for poachers to kill them.
First, the rhino is darted with a carefully calculated amount of sedative so as to calm the rhino. A vet then checks the vital signs of the animal to ensure the sedative did not harm it, and then the dehorning team begins their work. They make measurements to determine how much of the horn should be removed so that no permanent damage is done to the rhino horn, as removing too much of the horn can prevent regrowth.


Once these measurements have been made, then a battery-driven saw is used to cut off the horn at the line drawn. Cold water is sprayed on the horn during this process to prevent any over-heating of the horn or any burns.

Once removed, the horns are measured, weighed, and labeled, and any shavings of the horn are gathered and saved. These horns, because of their value, will be stored in a safe for security. The question many governments in Africa are now facing with the implementation of this practice, is whether or not to legalize trade of horns that are removed in this humane way, and therefore to gain profit which can further fund the conservation and protection of rhinos. South Africa has indicated that it intends to explore this option as a way to ensure the viability of rhino protection.


After this process, the sedative wears off and the rhinos will walk away unharmed. However, this does not mean that there are no concerns regarding de-horning. There are many concerns that the loss of their horns will affect a rhino’s ability to protect its young and to defend its territory from other rhinos. In wildlife reserves where all rhinos have been dehorned, this is not a threat, but this concern makes de-horning rhinos in the wild an unrealistic option. Another reason de-horning is not as effective as desired is that poachers often shoot on sight, and therefore will kill rhinos even when their horns have been removed. Even if they are aware that the rhinos have been de-horned, poachers will sometimes kill a rhino just for the small stump remaining. To combat this, those who de-horn rhinos have started publicity campaigns to make poachers aware that their rhinos are de-horned. Another option some have pursued is poisoning rhino horns and marking them as poisoned to make them inedible and therefore unprofitable.


The poaching of animals in Africa has become a worldwide concern, and governments of African countries such as South Africa are pursuing any option that may help them protect their endangered animals. De-horning is one such method by which many are attempting to control poaching, and in small-scale wildlife reserves, it has been fairly successful, though there are concerns. For wider-scale use in the wild, however, it is not exactly feasible. If a substitute for the rhino horn which is without value could be discovered and used to replace the horn, perhaps this method could be instituted. There is much work to be done before the process of de-horning can be used as a wide-scale poaching countermeasure, but it has proven fairly effective in the time it has been implemented on a smaller scale. De-horning and other measures taken to protect rhinos against poaching provide a ray of hope for the future safety of dwindling rhino populations.

The Siblings Spreading Out Through Sub-Saharan Africa

In November 2015, Pope Francis visited Africa; more specifically, he visited the countries of Uganda, Kenya, and the Central African Republic, which have large Catholic populations (42% of Ugandans, 22% of Kenyans, and 29% of Central Africans are Catholic).

Global shares of Catholics, 1910 and 2010 comparison (Pew Research)
Global shares of Catholics, 1910 and 2010 comparison (Pew Research)

These countries reflect the growing trend in global Catholicism – while it has been declining, remaining steady or growing very slowly in places such as Europe and North America, it has been skyrocketing in places like Africa and Asia. (It has of course been growing steadily in the Latin America-Caribbean region, making up a third of global Catholicism as of 2010.) As of 2015, 16% of people in the sub-Saharan are Catholic, and the number is expected to increase. While other sects of Christianity are also increasing fast, Catholicism is the biggest group of them all.

During his visit to Africa, the Pope spoke about corruption, people who lack education and work, and visited slums; he offered a Mass at a shrine for Anglican and Catholic martyrs, and finally, he visited a war zone.

Pope Francis visiting the mosque in PK-5, Bangui, Central African Republic, in a show of interfaith cooperation (The New York Times)
Pope Francis visiting the mosque in PK-5, Bangui, Central African Republic, in a show of interfaith cooperation (The New York Times)

Pope Francis visited an area known as PK-5, where Muslims and Christians have been fighting for some time. He went to the mosque there, and addressed about 200 Muslims, speaking about the need for peace in the name of God and inter-faith cooperation.

This is important, because not only is the Catholic population in Africa skyrocketing, but the Muslim population is as well. Over the last century, Catholics in sub-Saharan Africa have increased from about 7 million in 1900 to over 222 million. Vocations in Africa are also doing much better than those in the West, resulting in an increase in more African clergy, leading to them being sent out to fill in for the decrease in vocations in regions like Europe and North America. By 2050, according to the World Christian Database, Africa will have over 450 million Catholics, and become the world’s largest Catholic continent.

Growth of Islam in sub-Saharan Africa, from 2010 to projected numbers in 2030 (Pew Research)
Growth of Islam in sub-Saharan Africa, from 2010 to projected numbers in 2030 (Pew Research)

Over the last century, Muslims in sub-Saharan Africa have increased from 11 million to about 234 million. As of 2010, Africa held about 15% of the total Muslim population. By 2050, there will supposedly be 670 million Muslims in sub-Saharan Africa. By 2050, Muslims and Catholics will be the two biggest religions in the world.

Partially, this increase is due to the fact that both Catholics and Muslims in Africa have higher fertility rates and are younger than most other adherents of other religions, in both Africa and elsewhere. Religious switching and migration also play factors. For Catholicism, in addition, its willingness to incorporate traditional African traditions and its key role in things like health care and education also help the increase.

The kinds of Catholicism/Christianity and Islam that are growing in Africa are important too – they tend to be the more conservative, traditional kind. As you might imagine, this can lead to conflicts.

Nigerian Catholics affected by Boko Haram (Catholic Herald)
Nigerian Catholics affected by Boko Haram (Catholic Herald)

In the Central African Republic, a Muslim rebel coalition overthrew the Christian president, leading to clashes between Muslim and Christian militias. In Kenya, an extremist Islamic group from Somalia, al-Shabab, attacked a shopping mall and later a university, leaving over 200 people dead, most of them Christians. In Nigeria, 70% of which is Catholic, 5,000 Catholics have been killed by Boko Haram, with 100,000 left homeless and over 350 churches destroyed.

In 2010, a median of 23 percent of Muslims and 28 percent of Christians[1] in sub-Saharan Africa saw members of the other religion as hostile to their own religion. A significant portion of people said that they saw religious conflict as a very big problem in their country. And while most sub-Saharan Africans, regardless of their faith, say that democracy is a good thing and that people being able to practice their religion freely is also a good thing, 60% of Christians and 63% of Muslims say that they would like the government to be based on the Bible or sharia law. Religious tension and conflicts are certainly a problem for both the present and the future in sub-Saharan Africa.

Islam and Christianity will be the two biggest religions in 2050, Pew Research says (Pew Research)
Islam and Christianity will be the two biggest religions in 2050, Pew Research says (Pew Research)

But this isn’t just a sub-Saharan African issue, or even just an African issue. It’s a global issue. Remember how, by 2050, Africa will be home to large portions of each religion (in Catholicism’s case, the largest)? Globally, Africa will have a huge influence over each religion in the years to come. And if each religion is the more conservative, traditional kind, which tends to lead to conflicts or hostility, then their effect upon each religion might be negative in a global context. As the number of atheists and unaffiliated decrease globally, the people who are religious increase. Religion – and the divides between them – are likely to play a bigger role in problems and solutions in the future around the world.

But there is hope.

People in Africa have been talking about the Catholic (and Christian)/Muslim divide, and whether there is a way to improve relations. Bishop Matthew Kukah of Sokoto, Nigeria, a place that has been a stronghold for the radical Boko Haram, says that the religious divide among among ordinary people is highly overrated, and that the problems that exist (not necessarily caused by religious problems) can be fixed with more democracy. Kukah himself is “one of the most trusted and admired religious leaders in the country,” and promotes as well as exemplifies many interfaith interactions. He represents a growing number of people and organizations dedicated to interfaith cooperation.

Pope Francis in Bangui (Premium Times)
Pope Francis in Bangui (Premium Times)

Pope Francis, at his speech in the mosque in the Central African Republic, said, “Together, we must say no to hatred, to revenge and to violence, particularly that violence which is perpetrated in the name of a religion or of God Himself. God is peace. Salaam.[2]

[1] Often in surveys, Catholicism is lumped into the grouping of Christianity as a whole, so it can be difficult to find data specific to the religion. But keep in mind that Catholicism is the largest Christian group anywhere, compared to Protestants orOrthodox members, so Catholics are a significant portion of the people answering these surveys, especially in Africa. The same problem applies for Muslims in surveys – Shia and Sunni sects are not taken into account.

[2] Salaam is the Arabic word for peace.

Title is a reference to Pope Francis’ words, “Christians and Muslims are brothers and sisters,” from his speech in Bangui, Central African Republic.


Egypt’s Diminishing Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Media

Egypt has undergone a change in its approach to human rights. The current president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, came to power after the previous president, Mohamed Morsi, was removed from office in 2013 by the Egyptian military. This new president does not try to hide his critical view of human rights. Since al-Sisi came into power, his government has jailed tens of thousands of political opponents and taken steps to criminalize the work of human rights organizations and cripple independent civil society groups. The new government is continuously increasing repression until the basic freedoms of the people are almost nonexistent.

This map shows where journalists are imprisoned; as the colors darken the number of journalist prisoners increase. In 2015 there were approximately 11-25 journalists imprisoned in Egypt. As indicated by this map, Egypt is one of the worst countries in regards to arbitrarily arresting its citizens.Picture 1

Rights groups have documented the crackdown on freedom of the media in Egypt since Morsi’s overthrow in 2013. After the military took over the country the state closed news organizations and arrested a growing number of journalists. In 2016 Egypt’s prisoner count increased from the previous year. In 2016 a court sentenced three journalists to three years in prison, which sends a dangerous message in Egypt today. This ruling shows that journalists can be locked up just for doing their job: telling the truth and reporting news to the public. It also shows that there are judges in Egypt who permit their courtrooms to become instrumental in the increasing repression of politics and propaganda. The number of journalists imprisoned in 2016 is the highest it has ever been since 1990.

Picture 2

From July 2013 – January 2014 there were a total of 3,143 deaths in Egypt. An Interior Ministry official reported in July 2014 that authorities arrested 22,000 people over the last year, but the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights claimed the number of people arrested was closer to 41,000. At least 90 of those arrested in Cairo and Giza died from inhumane conditions – lack of reasonable health care and torture – in the first 11 months of 2014. The majority of these deaths resulted from protests where civilians and authorities clashed. The police have used a new law, Law 107, which is heavily repressive on the Right to Public Meetings, Processions ad Peaceful Demonstrations to arrest political activists because they didn’t seek advanced permission to do so from authorities. Under the international human rights law, the Egyptian government has the right to regulate how a public space is used for demonstrations by requiring reasonable advance notification. This does not mean, however, that if the organizers of the demonstration fail to give advance notification, they should be subjected to criminal sanctions that would result in fines or jail time. The Egyptian government has made it clear that it will not stand for dissent through the numerous attacks on civil rights groups and the arrests and prosecutions of group leaders. Almost three years after nationwide protests that brought down Hosni Mubarak, security agencies feel more empowered than ever and are still focused on crushing the rights of Egyptian citizens to protest their government’s actions.

Picture 3

Since Mohamed Morsi was overthrown, there have been 60 or more journalists assaulted, 70 journalists arrested, 11 journalists imprisoned and 7 journalists killed. These statistics only make up a portion of the total number of prisoners today. Sometimes there are signs of President al-Sisi softening his stance on freedom of expression and freedom of the press; but for every positive decision he makes, there is an opposite reaction.

Picture 4

The Egyptian Social Solidarity Ministry made a public announcement saying all non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) must register with the government or else their operations in Egypt would be considered illegal. By have the NGO’s register with them, the government gains power to freeze their assets and shut them down if they feel it necessary. This new policy takes away these organizations’ independence and ability to remain critical. The government then amended Article 78 of Egypt’s penal code, which allowed them to punish any groups – NGO’s included – who accept foreign aid to carry out acts that went against the interest of the state with life imprisonment. Considering how the new Egyptian government increasingly interprets any criticisms as attacking the country, it’s clear the amended Article 78 may be used against human rights groups, civil society activists, etc.

Picture 5

Angolan Government

Angola was a Portuguese colony until 1975. Upon receiving their independence, the Angolans fought a twenty-seven years long civil war. The two parties were the Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA). The MPLA was funded by crude oil revenues and received Soviet and Cuban aid and UNITA was funded by black market diamond sales and was supported by South Africa, China, and (secretly) the CIA. The stakes were raised in 1990 when new oil was found off the coast of Angola. Peace only came to the country after the leader of UNITA died and they surrendered to the MPLA.
The Angolan government functions like a gang because its members consolidate power and money and control the people through a combination of extreme poverty and fear. Angola is technically a multiparty presidential republic which has been led by President Jose Eduardo dos Santos of the MPLA party for the past thirty-eight years.

The other political party is UNITA, but only 17% of voters identify with this party because it is very dangerous to disagree with the MPLA. Angola is not a police state, but critics and protestors of MPLA have been jailed, beaten, tortured, and executed. People are afraid to talk on the phone because the government may be listening. Although the Angolan constitution promises many of the same freedoms given to Americans, very few of these freedoms are actually awarded and the planes of government opponents go down, people disappear, and activists are ambushed. In 2012, two activists disappeared after an anti-government protest and after a year the attorney general admitted that they had been kidnapped and probably killed.
When it was founded, the MPLA was a communist party, but they adopted a form of “crony capitalism” in the 1990s. The generals, well-placed officials, and the president and his family took personal ownership of the country’s riches, creating a huge income gap between government workers and the general Angolans. Approximately 43% of Angolans live on $1.25 per day or less, but living in the capital of Angola, Luanda is more expensive than living in Tokyo or Singapore. Despite the millions of starving people, the country does not accept any foreign aid. This means that the government is completely self-sufficient and isn’t obligated to conform to the international community’s human rights standards.

Angola is Africa’s second largest oil producer after Nigeria, and they rely on oil for about 98% of their exports and about 75% of their total income. The state’s oil company is called Sonangol and is led by Isabel dos Santos, the daughter of the president. Sonangol’s profits rival those of Coca Cola and Amazon and it is involved in nearly all sectors of the Angolan economy including property, healthcare, banking, aviation, and even football. The oil company often acts like a finance ministry or national bank because it can invest public funds and it regulates the entire Angolan oil sector.
In early July, 2016 Angola entered into discussions with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) because dropping oil prices had severely impacted the economy. The IMF visited Angola and made an offer of $4.5 billion in aid, but Angola decided to cut off talks at the end of the month. Many economists are criticizing Angola because they rely very heavily on their oil revenues. Inflation was nearly 30% in May, the highest level since 2005 and the kwanza has lost about 35% of its value against the dollar. The government needs to find a bail out soon, either from China or the IMF, or they will face grave economic consequences.

Corruption is widespread in Angola. Deals and contracts are often awarded to the friends and family of government officials rather than the most efficient or effective company. The government is ostensibly working with the World Bank to face corruption, but this effort does not extend to Sonangol or the president despite about $32 billion disappearing between 2007 and 2010 only to be found in secret Sonangol spending. Angola has frequently acknowledged their corruption problem, but they seem uninterested in making the economy and government fair and accessible to all their citizens.
The Angolan government functions like a gang because they keep all of the money and power within a small circle of officials. Oil drives the economy and only those connected to it can survive in Angola’s fierce capitalistic society. There are extreme rates of corruption and critics of the status quo are brutally punished. The consolidation of power in Angola has pushed the general people to the periphery of society, but the government’s attitude may change as oil prices drop and the economy needs to develop and rely on other sectors.

Mugabe’s Military Might

The southern African country of Zimbabwe is home to one of the world’s longest-serving elected leaders, Robert Mugabe. At 92 and quickly approaching the end of his “president for life” term, Mugabe was elected prime minister in 1980 and has managed to hold on to power to this day. Such a long tenure, however, does not come without some figurative bumps in the road. Mugabe has used Zimbabwe’s military as a means of enforcing his rule since his first bloody years as head of state, and he has found use for them as recently as last year. Such extreme use of a military group with an aim to preserve and embellish the existing government seems gang-like, and the main reason that Mugabe has maintained power for so long.

When the British colony of Rhodesia declared its independence in 1970, the party in power represented the country’s white minority, a minuscule fraction of the 98% black African population. Two major opposition parties came to the fore, one (the Zimbabwe African National Union) led by Robert Mugabe. Mugabe won in an overall landslide, but was still concerned with his party’s natural rivalry with the other opposition party, the Zimbabwe African People’s Union. Much of Mugabe’s support had come from his own Shona-speaking north, while ZAPU’s leader, Joshua Nkomo, hailed from the Ndebele-speaking south. To stifle any possible dissent, Mugabe dispatched an elite, North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade which massacred as many as 20,000 members of the Ndebele community and viciously fought any resistance that cropped up in the region from 1983 to 1987. This large-scale atrocity occurred in order to enforce Mugabe’s new power and ensure that nothing stood in his way of government control. The Fifth Brigade, which answered directly to Mugabe, served as a personal military group—much like a gang—to ruthlessly ensure superiority.

In more recent times, the military’s presence in government affairs indicates how heavily Mugabe relies on it for his personal gain. In 2008, due to Zimbabwe’s disastrous economic situation, analysts estimated that Mugabe would face great difficulty in securing himself another term. His opponent, Morgan Tsvangirai, won the first round of voting, 49% to 42%. After these statistics were released to the public, things got violent. Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party threatened to kill supporters of Tsvangirai and viciously beat thousands through the use of Zimbabwe’s military, forcing Tsvangirai to step out of the second round of voting. Further, during the time when it seemed that Tsvangirai could possibly have been the new president, a small group of military officers loyal to Mugabe briefly took control over the country. The message Mugabe sent to his country’s citizens was clear: vote ZANU-PF or die. This brutality, which led to thousands being forcibly removed from their homes, is further evidence of behavior common in gangs. In the 2008 elections, Mugabe used violence and incited fear to force the common people to do his bidding.

Since Robert Mugabe was first elected, he has exercised his power in Zimbabwe with an iron fist through its military. His first years in office, defined by the massacre of a rival ethnic group, served as prime example of what a leader can  do given enough control over the military. He becomes a sort of gang leader, ordering an organized group of violent cronies to do his bidding and to ensure the stability of his power. The 92 year old Mugabe’s reign finally nears its an end, as his health continues to decline and more and more individuals voice their opposition to him and their hope for a bright future of Zimbabwe. At this point, Mugabe’s iron grip seems to be loosening, as military officials are starting to join with his opponents. This can only come with knowledge of his approaching death, however, and does not detract from the fact that Mugabe has ruthlessly ruled Zimbabwe with a gang that has served its leader well.

The Lord’s Resistance Army: A Small, Volatile Guerrilla Group Desperate for Survival

Joseph Kony has evaded the spotlight of international governments for decades: sometimes literally hiding in the dense forests of Central Africa, other times skirting around African leaders’ radars of what constitutes a “threat.” His guerrilla group, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), may be a small, dwindling force at the present, but their sporadic tactics demonstrate that they should not be underestimated.

The LRA originated in northern Uganda in 1986 as a result of a conflict against the Ugandan government headed by President Yoweri Museveni. At the time, Kony had high hopes of seizing the territory of northern Uganda and creating a Christian theocracy, supposedly instructed by the Holy Spirit. His interpretation of Christianity would be the rule of the land. Kony’s initial political aspirations, however, were cut short when the Ugandan armed forces finally managed to stamp the LRA out of their country by 2006.

Perhaps the glare of publicity from the proceeding Juba peace talks between the LRA and the Ugandan government incited volatility in Kony: after a two-year peace process, he turned down the final agreement. Some think Kony used this time to allow his forces to recuperate in secrecy, while others believe the International Criminal Court (ICC) warrants placed on top LRA leaders (including Kony himself) thwarted any prospect of surrender by the erratic guerrilla.

Since the start of the Juba peace talks, the LRA has no longer operated in Uganda. Instead, they have been scattered throughout the border regions of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Central African Republic (CAR), and present-day South Sudan. In doing so, the LRA split up into smaller groups, originally still under the strict command of Kony, as they pillaged and terrorized villages to survive and assert their dominance. After being forced out of Uganda, the LRA—rather than suffering—thrived in the power vacuum of the forested areas comprising the border regions of these three Central African nations. In this sense, the LRA was able to fulfill its role as a guerrilla group, taking over remote places with poor governmental security.

While the international community, including the US and the UN, worked to create effective armed forces to eradicate the LRA (such as through “Operation Lightning Thunder”), Uganda’s President Museveni stopped seeing the now-peripatetic guerrilla group as a threat and pulled out a large portion of his LRA search force in mid-2010. The Ugandan Foreign Minister, Oryem Henry Okello, even claimed that the guerrillas are “not a force to be reckoned with, they are very far away… and they are no longer a threat to the people of Uganda.” Similarly, the CAR, the DRC, and South Sudan saw the LRA as a distant, isolated danger. Moreover, the DRC, due to unfavorable relations with Uganda after troops crossed into the DRC earlier in the fight against the LRA, is more concerned about the “hazard” of Ugandan forces in Congo than the risks posed by the LRA. In 2011, the DRC decided to forbid Ugandan forces from operating on their soil. Ultimately, separate political issues and a lack of worry and urgency among some of the LRA-afflicted countries have impeded cooperation to finally oust the group.

Even with some of these intergovernmental issues, the LRA’s forces, spread out over large areas, declined. Internal cohesion became difficult for Kony to uphold, especially under pressure—both military action and defection persuasion—from international forces and agencies. Uganda, for example, put forth an Amnesty Act in 2000 and renewed it in 2015, and upwards of 27,000 former LRA rebels have left the group via this option. This is just one example of the successful effort to encourage LRA combatants to defect: US forces, NGOs, and a UN team have actively broadcast announcements urging Ugandan members of the LRA to “Come Home.”


The external pressure is a backdrop to severe internal strife within Kony’s ranks. In order to maintain control over the LRA, Kony has had to resort to punishment of disobedient officers. In 2013 alone, Kony likely prescribed the execution of five leading members whom he deemed unruly. Out of disagreement with Kony’s tactics, numerous LRA leaders have severed ties with the group’s founder within the past couple of years. In this recent declining phase, the LRA takes on some qualities of a predatory gang with corrupt infighting, no political goal, and a focus on survival. They are still alive, however: they continue to ravage villages and abduct civilians, and Uganda recently withdrew troops from CAR due to a perceived lack of commitment from the international community to finish off the group. The splintered factions that remain are but a shadow of the strong guerrilla group that once was; their demise, nonetheless, is waiting to materialize.

Boko Haram – A Force to be Reckoned With?

The militant Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram has gained infamy throughout the world after its atrocious kidnapping of over 200 schoolgirls in Chibok in 2014. Of course, this wasn’t the first of the group’s crimes. Founded in 2002 by Muhammed Yusuf, the original purpose of Boko Haram was to abolish the spread of Western education; not necessarily through violence and aggression. After several years of spreading its beliefs, the group eventually began committing terrorist acts to try and further its cause. Its first large attacks were in 2009, mainly directed toward police stations and government buildings in Maiduguri, a city in northeastern Nigeria. The Nigerian army was able to fight back against the militants rather successfully. Many believed the group would dissolve after the death of Yusuf and many of his supporters with this defeat. However, this was not the case. Abubakar Shekau rose as the new leader of Boko Haram, and ever since has spawned multiple increasingly violent attacks against Nigeria and countries surrounding it, causing the deaths of over 6,000 people. This represents a casualty figure even higher than that of ISIS.

Boko Haram began appearing in the news more and more frequently after its notorious kidnapping of the Chibok girls. The incident spawned anger internationally, and allowed the group to recruit more supporters into its ranks with the publicity. Many of the kidnapped girls were converted to Islam and married off to members of the group, in addition to being used as bargaining chips to exchange for imprisoned fighters. There have been many successful counter-attacks aimed toward the militant group by the Nigerian military. Boko Haram had grown extremely powerful and almost unstoppable as it expanded its authority into other countries besides Nigeria, but the Nigerian government began launching its own counter-attacks to weaken the group in January of 2015, sending over 8,700 troops to fight against the group. Most of these measures proved useful and after several months, Boko Haram was driven into the Sambisa Nature Reserve. In the spring of 2015, almost 700 people were freed by the Nigerian army from capture inside the forest. In October of 2016, 21 of the girls were released from imprisonment in the Sambisa forest. According to those girls who were freed, many Boko Haram members were lacking in guns, ammunition, and transportation. They also were allegedly speaking about abandoning the group and their distaste for the current leader Shekau, according to a statement made by one of the freed girls, Amina Ali Nkeki.

Boko Haram allegedly pledged its allegiance to the Islamic State in early 2015. The pledge was accepted by Nigerian ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. It was believed that the allegiance to the Islamic State would provide more legitimacy for Boko Haram and allow its message to be spread. They looked to gain more supporters who would be unable to join the fighting in Syria or Iraq and make use of social medias to help mesh with other Jihadi groups. These things did prove to work for Boko Haram for a time, but the new leader of the Nigerian ISIS faction,  Abu Musab Al-Barnawi and Shekau became rivals. Shekau also began to be known for indiscreetly making decisions and not making use of the internet and social media to spread Boko Haram’s message. Shekau’s authority is still a mystery, allegedly Al-Barnawi broke off from Boko Haram and took some of Shekau’s followers with him. This caused Boko Haram to split into two separate groups, one led by Al-Barnawi and the other by Shekau. Shekau still has command over those kidnapped in the Sambisa forest and his remaining followers, but it is believed that his group is growing steadily weaker. Boko Haram, which was once believed to be a rising threat among other terrorist groups, has now been reduced to only a small area of Nigeria. Its command no longer is as menacing as it once was.

Is Tourism Helping South Africa?

I love to travel. I have been to countries across the world, but I have never been to Africa. I hear, however, the scenery and the animals are to die for. Whenever I go to another country or another state, I always think about the effects I generate by traveling there. I look at the luxurious resorts on tropical islands and think about the surrounding community and how these titanic buildings affect them. I’ve always been curious if tourism can be used to help the local community instead of taking away from it.

Tourism may have major affects on newly developing countries. It can bring quick economic success but also cause the reliance on that industry to become too high. The countries that thrive the best in this industry most likely have apathetically pleasing views whether they are in the mountains, on a beach or in the forest. Many people debate whether or not tourism helps or hurts a country. Tourism can have positive and negative effects on a country economically, socially and environmentally.

Recent statistics shows that the tourism industry has positively impacted South Africa’s economy. Tourism in South Africa is growing rapidly. According to the Statistics of South ( Africa there has been a 10.4% ( increase in visitors from 2012-2013. International travelers visiting South Africa grew at an annual rate of 7.4% from 2011-2014 ( This number is well above the global average of 4.5% ( Marthinus Van Schalkwyk, South Africa’s outgoing tourism minister claims that “South Africa’s tourism industry continues to show good growth, and we remain confident in the ongoing performance and sustainability of the sector.” Tourism contributed 3% to the country’s GDP in 2012, which equates to R93.3 billion ($6,751,085,384). In 2011, tourism created 4.6% of the total employment.

Many tourism companies in South Africa allow visitors to interact and work with the local community, which seems to have a positive effect on the locals and especially the children. South Africa has a lot to offer its tourists in the form of traditional tourism but also volunteer opportunities. There are a lot of national and international organizations that offer volunteer possibilities to tourists. There is even a lodge on the Eastern Cape ( that sits near one of the poorest communities in South Africa. This lodge allows its occupants to have access to this area and interact with the local South Africans. In this community visitors will be able to help make bricks, brew beer, or stamp corn. and learn about the life of a member of this community. There is another opportunity where visitors may interact with students in a classroom (, which allows them to get a taste of the education system. If time allows, the tourists may be able to introduce a little bit of their profession to the small community. A lot of the volunteer work offered involves working directly with younger children, who are able to benefit from attention from older role models, especially if they do not receive loving attention at home. Through these interactions, tourists will have a new appreciation of the South African culture and vise versa.

Unlike the other two sectors, however, tourism requires a lot of high-end maintenance that may have a detrimental effect the local communities. In many areas, lavish resorts are constructed to attract wealthy travelers who want the luxury of viewing the picturesque country with the comfort of hot water, expensive food and soft beds. There are very few individuals who would choose to live like the lower class in South Africa. Development in tourism puts strain on countries with limited natural recourses. Land must be cleared in order to construct these large buildings to house travelers, which in turn leads to loss of habitat and overall degradation of the ecosystems. The biodiversity that is lost during the clearing of land threatens food supplies, decreases opportunity for tourism and reduces accessibility to natural resources. There are efforts to bring awareness to this issue in various countries but it’s not a main focus of this growing industry.

Tourism in South Africa has proven to be a current success. This industry has created more job opportunities for a country that has a very high unemployment rate and has contributed greatly to the country’s GDP. A friend of mine has just returned from spending her past summer in South Africa and has gushed about the great impact it has had on her. She often reflects on the South African children she spent time with and tells us of her new insight into their culture. I have come to the conclusion from my research that most of the accommodations are modest relative to other more extravagant resorts in the world and do not strain the natural resources as much. At this stage, tourism does not pose a threat to South Africa. However, once it is the main source for the country’s GDP it will create a reliance on this industry to keep the country functioning and will begin to pose a threat.

Poaching in Africa

Poaching is one of the world’s most prevalent issues in relation to certain animal species. In Africa where poaching is the most problematic, the economy also suffers because of the increasing amount of poaching over the last decade. Poaching has mainly affected the black rhino, the African elephant, the lion, the mountain gorilla, and the gravy’s zebra, and all are now very close to extinction because poaching and its effects on the environment. Now fewer than 900 mountain gorillas remain, 85% of the lion’s historic range has been lost, approximately 2,000 zebras are left, up to 35,000 elephants were killed last year and the black rhino’s population has dropped 97.6% since 1960. Though the zebras, gorillas, and lions are an extremely serious case, what’s currently a rising problem is the poaching of elephants and rhinos for their ivory horns or tusks.
The reason for this rising demand for rhino horn and elephant tusks is because the wealthy of certain countries have somehow created the belief that consuming these things will cure hangovers, cancer, fevers, and impotence. None of these “cures” have been scientifically proved, but even so, poachers continue their trade. Being able to buy these items also demonstrates status because the price is extremely high. A pound of rhino horn costs $30,000, which is $8,000 more than a pound of gold. The ivory taken from these animals can also be used for jewelry, utensils, trinkets, and religious figurines.
Because of this rising demand for ivory, environmental groups, animal rights groups, government agencies, and even the Duke of Cambridge are calling for an end to wildlife poaching. Other groups such as The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), The World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF), and the International Anti-Poaching Foundation (IAPF) are leading international efforts to end wildlife poaching. Since their collaboration in this effort, eight people have been sentenced to jail between 2010 and 2012 for trying to smuggle over three tons of ivory over the border. Every bit of help in this effort to end the cruel poaching of the animals is vital, but unfortunately stopping poaching altogether is a very difficult task that will take many years to accomplish.
When approaching the issue to end poaching, officials cannot just target the African poachers, they must also target the countries receiving those valuables. The officials must find a way to create more security in areas where valuables are commonly received. Though there is international help, Africa must also provide help in their realm as well. In Africa, there are few troops in the wildlife parks, so there’s little to no one monitoring the animals or the activity tat goes on around the area all the time. One of the main factors in ending poaching is to have the full cooperation from those in Africa and international authorities.
The approach to ending poaching goes even farther than just having cooperation on all sides. Africa has a failing economy with many people earing less than $1.50 a day. Finding the money to hire, train, and pay people to protect the wildlife, is another difficult task. In the past, Africa’s economy relied on its wildlife and animals to bring in tourists and business. Some animals that weren’t intended to be targeted by poachers become caught in the traps and are killed in the process. These animals are often ones that the poorer citizens catch and live off of. By losing much of the wildlife and animals, Africa is suffering about $20 million in economic losses each year. About 9 million of that loss is from the tourists’ direct spending, which includes hotels and souvenirs. If trends continue this way, the economy will continue to drop and the people will continue to suffer, not just the animals. Poaching is not only an international problem but it’s also the reason for the suffering of many people in Africa.