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20 Jan, 2009 07:51

Africa’s forgotten wars shame the media

The world is holding its breath that the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas holds. However, the casualties in Gaza pale in comparison to the numbers killed in Africa’s many wars – many of which go unreported.

The UN Secretary-General is to travel to Gaza later this week as Israel completes the pull-out of its troops. Ban Ki-Moon will be the highest-ranking visitor to the region since 22 days of fighting ended on Sunday with separately declared ceasefires by Israel and Hamas.

Leaving with the soldiers is an army of journalists – about 1,500 have been reporting on Israel’s war in Gaza, mostly from the same spot on the Israeli-Gaza border. The question is: where are they heading next?

Not to Africa, for sure. Although in the same 22 days when a thousand cameras focused on the Israel-Gaza border, human tragedies were unfolding on another continent.

Many thousands were killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo as rebel fighting continues. In Darfur, 3,461 people died in the civil war; while in Zimbabwe, 1,500 died from cholera. However, very few cameras were recording these tragedies.

Yossi Meuller, an NBC producer, has covered news around the world. He has filmed Palestinian intifadas, the Yugoslavian civil war and has spent a few weeks in Africa. He says that Africa remains of little interest.

“Most of the time it was really a small story. Somalia was a story just because there was starvation and the interests of the USA were at stake. Nobody cares about what happened there,” he said. “In Rwanda, we arrived after 30,000 or 60,000 people were killed. And we didn’t care, nobody cared. It was a story for a few days, not more than that.”

Genocide in Africa rarely makes breaking news headlines.

Some say the decision from where to report and what to report has nothing to do with the journalists but about money and politics.

“Nobody wants to touch Africa. People just want to make money in Africa, that’s it. No country wants to be there. France ran away, Italy ran away, everybody ran away from Africa,” said Meuller.

On Tuesday the world’s cameras are all turned on Washington to record for the first time in history a black man becoming the leader of a superpower

It remains to be seen whether Barack Obama’s policies can alter the media's agenda – turning cameras onto Africa and keeping them there.

Ongoing wars and conflicts around the world

Democratic Republic Of Congo

Kivu Conflict
2004 – Present

An armed conflict between the Military of the DR Congo and rebel forces of the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), led by Laurent Nkunda. Despite a peace deal signed in January 2008, the rebel forces have restarted the conflict. Nkunda says he is fighting to protect his Tutsi community from attack by Rwandan Hutu rebels in DR Congo. All sides are accused of committing atrocities against civilians, including mass rape. Since the fighting started officials state 5.4 million people have been killed, and some 45,000 continue to die each month. Children account for almost half of the deaths, many dying from disease and malnutrition as a result of the conflict.


War in Dafur
2003 – Present
An ethnic and tribal conflict in the Dafur region of western Sudan. On the one side is the Sudanese Military and the militia group the Janjaweed. On the other side are rebel groups such as the Sudan Liberation Movement and the Justice and Equality Movement. An accurate death toll has been difficult to state due to the government's attempts to cover up the conflict, but estimates state 450,000 deaths and 2.5 million people displaced. The UN Mission has accused Sudan's government of orchestrating “gross violations” and taking part in war crimes against the people in Dafur.


Civil War in Chad
2005 – Present
Ongoing conflict involving the Chadian government and rebel groups such as the United Front for Democratic Change. Because of the rebel group's affiliation with Janjaweed militias, the Chad War has largely become an extension of the conflict in Dafur. Sudan has been accused of involvement but denies allegations. Estimates of deaths and
casualties: over 400 Chadian forces and almost 700 rebel forces.


Somali Civil War
1988 – Present
It began with an insurgency against the repressive regime of dictator Siad Barre, who was ousted from power in 1991. The situation soon spread to a humanitarian crisis and a state of anarchy. The conflict has since led to a number of self-declared autonomous states within Somalia and order has still not been restored. According to human rights groups the Islamist-led insurgency that began in early 2007 has killed almost 9,000.


Lord's Resistance Army insurgency
1987 – Present
A Guerilla campaign by the Lord's Resistance Army waged against the Ugandan government. This is one of Africa's longest-running conflicts and has led to a severe humanitarian crisis, with the LRA accused of widespread human rights violations such as torture, rape, abduction of civilians, use of child soldiers and massacres. The estimated death toll is 12,000, with many more dying from disease and malnutrition as a direct result of the conflict.


Conflict in the Niger Delta
2004 – Present
Ongoing ethnic and political unrest. Nigeria's Delta region is home to vast oil reserves, making the country one of the world's largest oil exporters. Competition for oil wealth has fueled violence between a number of ethnic groups. Armed militia groups, such as the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, are dedicated to the struggle against what they see as exploitation of the region. The favoured tactics of armed rebels are sabotaging oil production and kidnapping foreign workers for ransom. The death toll is unknown.

Algeria, Mauritania and Morocco

Insurgency in the Maghreb
2002 – Present
Conflict waged against the government by the Islamist militia group the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, which has allied itself with the Al Qaeda Organisation in the Islamic Maghreb. Insurgency is marked by terrorist attacks such as suicide bombings. Death toll 6,000 on both sides.

Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan Civil War
1983 – Present
Between the government and the Tamil Tigers, an armed separatist organisation which is fighting for the creation of an independent state named Tamil Eelam. It's one of the world's deadliest ongoing armed conflicts, killing 70,000 people since it began. 200,000 people have been displaced within the country.


The War in North-West Pakistan
2004 – Present
An armed conflict between the Pakistani Army and local Islamist militants the Taliban, as well as foreign extremists. The tensions stem from the Pakistani Army's search for members of Al Qaeda in the mountainous Waziristan area, which was met by armed resistance from local tribesmen. The death toll: 5,000 militants, over 5,500 civilians and 1,500 Pakistani soldiers.


Mexican Drug War
2006 – Present
An ongoing armed conflict between rival drug cartels and government forces. Mexico is the main supply route of Colombian cocaine entering the United States. As a result of government crackdowns, many cartels have been left without leaders, but this has led to violent power struggles between potential new leaders. Around 14,000 have been killed on both sides.


The Colombian Armed Conflict
1964 – Present
Ongoing guerrilla insurgency campaigns against successive Colombian governments ever since the organizations the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and the National Liberation Army were founded in the 60's. Estimates suggest that the conflict has claimed the lives of over 34,000 combatants and over 18,000 civilians.


Insurgency in the Philippines
1969 – Present
Double-sided insurgency against the government by both Islamist and Communist armed groups who carry out bombings, assassinations and abductions. The conflict has caused the deaths of over 160,000 since the start. Many of the militant groups are deemed “foreign terrorist organisations” by the US. Since the US launched Operation Enduring Freedom in 2002 (aimed at advising the Filipino army in combating
terrorism) just over 400 Filipino soldiers and almost 1,000 militants have been killed.


The Turkey-Kurdistan Workers Party Conflict 1970s – Present A conflict between the Republic of Turkey and armed ethnic separatist group the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which says Turkey is denying Kurdish identity. Both the PKK and the Turkish army have been accused of committing human rights abuses throughout the conflict. According to the Turkish military, the conflict has resulted in the death of 32,000 PKK members, 6,482 soldiers, and 5,560 civilians.


Insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir
1989 – Present
Ongoing violence mainly on the Indian side of the disputed territory of Kashmir, caused by confrontation between Kashmiri separatists.
Human rights groups have labeled Kashmir as the most volatile region in the world, with an average of 2,500 incidents of militancy every year. The death toll is estimated to be over 60,000 since the conflict began.


South Thailand Insurgency
2004 – Present
A separatist campaign by Islamist rebels in Thailand's Southern provinces. There is almost daily violence including shootings and bombings, despite a massive military presence in the region. The true identity of the insurgents remains a mystery. Death toll: 3,500, including over 1,600 civilians.


Internal Conflict in Burma
1948 – Present
Low intensity armed conflict between the government and various ethnic groups who are against the military regime that has ruled the country since 1962. The uprisings began as soon as Burma gained independence from Great Britain in 1948. This is the oldest current conflict in the world. Over 7,000 people have been killed during anti-government uprisings.

Information on other conflicts will appear here shortly.