In early December, Pulitzer Center journalist, Jina Moore visited university and high school programs in North Carolina, Chicago, and Arlington, Virginia. Moore shared her latest reporting on the efforts of the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission to maintain and protect peace in the countries of Burundi, Sierra Leone, Guinea Bissau, and Central African Republic.
Imani Rucker, a tenth grade student at New Directions Alternative Program in Arlington, Virginia submitted this response to Jina's visit, her reporting, and elaborates on why this issue should receive more attention in the mainstream media.
Africa: Peace Building, War, and Conflict
By: Imani Rucker
On December 16th, 2010, Jina Moore visited us at New Directions. She currently lives in Rwanda and has done so for the past eighteen months. She works with the Pulitzer Center and focuses primarily on Crisis Reporting, which means that she travels a lot. The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting funds international travel costs associated with reporting projects on topics and regions of global importance with an emphasis on issues that have gone under-reported or even unreported in the mainstream American media. So far, Jina has traveled to six countries within Africa, including Liberia, Burundi, Guinea Bissau, Sierra Leon, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and speaks three languages, including English, French, and Kinyarwanda.
Jina has closely studied the United Nations and the United Nations Peace Building Commission. The Peace Building Commission’s purpose is self- explanatory: members of the organization enter towns that have been devastated by war and conflict and advise the people on what they should be doing within the entire country to ensure stability, peace, et cetera. They offer a new idea on how to deal with the transition from war to peace. However, not everyone is open to these suggestions. When Jina entered Sierra Leon, several gentlemen asked her why she was there. She responded that she reporting on the Peace Building Commission. Before she could explain this further, the gentlemen scoffed and rolled their eyes. All they felt they needed was food and water, shelter, jobs, money, and economic structure, not “peace”. They wanted to become a developed country, like Rwanda, Botswana, and Mozambique. In their terms, development included building schools, training nurses, et cetera. In order to get everyone to be happy, the Peace Building Organization- and everyone else- needs to figure out what “peace” means for each individual country. So, there is still a lot of work to do.
A huge problem that has gone severely under-reported is Blood Diamonds. Also known as Conflict Diamonds, they come from war-torn regions of Africa and are mined under horrible circumstances. Since diamonds are so valuable, they can be used to fund illegal and unethical practices, such as rebel movements. Blood Diamonds are mined is sections of Africa that are controlled by rebel forces. With the money they obtain from selling the diamonds, they purchase guns and ammunition, or use the money to fund the conflict. Rebels may sell minerals that Africa is known for, such as gold, copper, coltan, and tin, or may use the money as a bribe for officials. These rebel groups employ slave labor- including children- to mine the diamonds. They are a huge threat and many are terrified of them; they have been known to cut limbs off innocent citizens and even children as a fear tactic.
“Once blood diamonds are smuggled out of their nation of origin, they can be integrated into the legitimate diamond trade and sold without anyone knowing. Without clear transparency in the process of diamond buying and selling as well as careful records noting where the diamonds came from, blood diamond traders cannot be held accountable for the atrocities at the core of their business.” (Vaux.)
As a matter of fact, a rebel army may be forming in Burundi right now. This may be so because an election that took place in Burundi alienated many important politicians, one of whom is a former rebel leader. Many suspect that he may be raising a rebel army because the peace building didn’t work as well as they had hoped. There are currently twenty-six recognized rebel groups in the central African region alone.
The United Nations and the United Nations Peace Building Commission have tried several things to create peace in a country. Peace treaties or peace accords have been attempted, which usually just consists of getting a bunch of important people in a room, having them agree on something, and then them signing a paper that authorizes all of it. However, that doesn’t always work. There has also been what is called Truth and Reconciliation. Truth and Reconciliation is an idea or group of people that are supposed to help citizens of a country “move on” from the past by telling them what had really happened during a war, election, conference, et cetera. There has been controversy and tension; however, because citizens want to know what really happened, but violence leaders fear prosecution and detainment. There was supposed to be a Truth and Reconciliation in Burundi, but now there won’t be, which has caused a lot of controversy. There is a Truth and Reconciliation Commission currently taking place in Kenya because of an election that occurred a while ago- the same election that raised suspicions that a politician is training a rebel army.
Several other conflicts that Jina Moore discussed with us are the conflict taking in place in Darfur and the conflict taking place in Sudan. Part of the reason for the conflict in Darfur is because the Sahara desert is spreading.
The conflict in Sudan is a serious problem. Sudan held their first election in twenty- four years in April. The president, “Omar al-Bashir, is an internationally- indicted war criminal and was re-elected, amid allegations of fraud. Bashir is based in the north and accused of leading a genocide in the south, which has become semi- independent and has held separate elections. Bashir's hold on power and the South's growing outrage against him could hasten a split”, meaning there may be a North Sudan and a South Sudan. (Fisher.)
Jina Moore’s visit was not only educational but interesting, and has inspired students at New Directions to help out. Cezanne, a student, says she wants “to help refugees from Africa and work with the United Nations” when she’s older. Personally, I am very glad Jina came to visit us, because it gave me insight on what is actually happening in the world. I hope that eventually some more of these events will reach mainstream American media, because it is very important. Even more than that, I hope that all the conflicts and wars in Africa settle down once and for all, but until then, we’ll need all the help we can get.