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Venezuelan Crisis
For decades Venezuela’s government and economy have struggled significantly. Entering Venezuela into a search engine will generate links to a multitude of foundations attempting to relieve the Venezuelan Crisis. What is the Venezuelan Crisis and how is the U.S. reacting?

The South American country’s history is full of political and social inequity. Venezuelan leadership has been rocky at best since Simon Bolivar led the country to independence more than 200 years ago. Despite his original constitutional implementations of extremely strict rules such as capital punishment for any public officer guilty of stealing 10 pesos or more from the government, the country quickly fell into corruption.

History of Corruption

The disorder apparent in Venezuela’s contemporary governmental and social climates stems from centuries ago when inefficient leadership set the precedent. The country did not institute a democratic election until 1945. That is more than 130 years after its founding and establishment of the civilian government. Turmoil ensued as Marcos Perez Jimenez, a military figure, overthrew the first elected President Romulo Gallegos within eight months. Admiral Wolfgang Larrazabel, in turn, ousted Jiminez and leftist Romulo Betancourt subsequently took power. This period of rapid regime change defined by government instability and disorganization instilled a distrust that still resonates in the hearts of Venezuelans today.

The trend of unreliable leaders continued until the late 1960s and 1970s when a beacon of light emerged. This age saw much-needed transparency in public assets, contrasting with previous leaders who were heavily corrupt. During this time, other South American countries even began to restructure their governments after the Venezuelan model. However, Venezuela lived this era of tranquility for only a short time because of one man: President Jaime Lusinchi.

Lusinchi served as President from 1984 to 1994. Even in the era of Nicolas Maduro, he stands as the epitome of Venezuelan corruption. In his 10 years as the country’s leader, a corrupt security exchange program stole an alleged $36 billion from the government. Additionally, many accused Lusinchi of stealing from the National Horse Racing Institute to promote the campaign of his successor, Carlos Andres Perez.

Venezuela’s economy functions almost solely on oil exports. The volatility of international oil demands, a market characterized by consistent inconsistency, historically parallels with the state of the Venezuelan market. A booming oil stock in an oil-dependent country naturally creates extraordinary temptation, a temptation that Lusinchi gravely fell into.

Making the national situation worse, the money Lusinchi stole from the government came from a temporary oil surge. Therefore, when oil prices normalized, the economy faced a much more difficult catching up than it would have otherwise.

For many Venezuelans, Lusinchi reopened recent wounds concerning government distrust. This fueled a wave of anger that the famous populist Hugo Chavez harnessed. Lower-class Venezuelans blamed government corruption and greed of the elite for the country’s extreme economic and social issues. The support of this large base played an important role in electing Chavez as President in 1998.

Today’s Dictatorship

To understand the current state of affairs under Maduro, it is vital to understand Chavez’s impact on the Venezuelan Crisis. Chavez’s policies raised (and still raise) enormous controversy as he led using traditionally socialist policies. Under these policies, Venezuela saw a 50 percent reduction in poverty and a dramatic reduction in the unemployment rate.

These policies were only achievable because of a 2004 soar in oil prices in the middle of Chavez’s presidency. His excessive spending on categories like food subsidies, education and health care was only possible through this boom. To get the Venezuelan people to reelect him, Chavez did not scale back these programs to match declining oil prices and set up his country to fail.

In 2014 Venezuelan oil prices crashed, leaving the economy in shambles as Chavez’s programs quickly racked up an enormous deficit. This also started the massive inflation of the Venezuelan bolivar that the country still struggles with today. Following Chavez’s death, Nicolas Maduro gained power in 2014, taking on the responsibility for the economy and deficit. Maduro failed to diversify the oil-rigged economy. This caused the petrostate to fall back into extreme poverty, currently wielding a poverty rate of around 90 percent, double what it was in 2014.

The Council on Foreign Relations quotes Venezuela as “the archetype of a failed petrostate,” describing it as a sufferer of the infamous Dutch disease. The transition to this began back in 1976 when then-President, Carlos Andres Perez, nationalized the oil industry creating the state-owned ‘Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA). Chavez’s mismanagement of this company led it to render weak profits. Internal issues such as insider business practices and drug-trafficking also littered the business with corruption. Chavez then sanctioned a series of other national businesses and foreign-owned assets tilting the country towards extreme socialism.

This progression of increased nationalization slowly opened the doors for Maduro to initiate authoritative rule. He abused this power in multiple facets which had devastating consequences on the well-being of the country and its people.

Early in his rule, Maduro placed his supporters in the Venezuelan Supreme Court and replaced the National Assembly with his own Constituent Assembly. Through this cunning, undemocratic move, he essentially eliminated all political opposition and erased any check on his power. This allowed him to pass extremely contentious policy such as the abuse of food importation. Because of Maduro’s extremely poor operation of a socialist economy, hyperbolic inflation rates currently plague the country. While the political elites operate on a 10:1 rate, the rest of the country uses around a 12,000:1.

To make matters worse, Maduro delegated food commerce to the military which has access to the significantly decreased exchange rate. To make enormous profits, it buys food at the 10:1 rate and then sells it domestically at a 12:000:1 rate. The 2017 statistic shows that Venezuelans lost an average of 27 pounds, highlighting the horror of Maduro’s corruption.

What is the US’s position in all of this?

As expected, the U.S. with its long history of an anti-socialist stance disapproves greatly of the Maduro suppressive regime. There is historical friction between the two, which emerged again during Chavez’s time in a battle between capitalist and socialist ideals.

After Maduro’s reelection, the Trump administration grew furious and decided to use aid as a tool against the dictator. In an act of defiance against the U.S., Maduro rejected all supplies from the capitalist power. The U.S. decided to use this move to its advantage, pledging to send copious amounts of humanitarian aid and urging Venezuela’s officials to defy their President’s orders.

As Dylan Baddour states in his article for The Atlantic, “Those who support the mission say that soldiers will be motivated by the impact Venezuela’s crisis is having on their families to switch sides and affect a peaceful transfer of power.” However, not everyone supports this mission because of the U.S.’s bittersweet past regarding Latin American intervention.

Citizens in countries like Chile, Nicaragua and Panama certainly are in living memory of times when American involvement only made matters worse. But as Baddour writes, in a situation as dire as Venezuela’s during the Venezuelan Crisis, “the world’s most powerful country showing up at Venezuela’s border with truckloads of food and medicine is much better than what it has done in the past.”

There is, of course, a concern that Venezuela could transform into the next Syria — where the majority of the population suffers because of one belligerent leader. But if the U.S. takes a proper humanitarian route with its aid, unlike previous attempts, it could do more help than harm. Hopefully, Venezuela will accept aid and transfer power peacefully and efficiently to someone that does not endorse such heinous policies. Until then, the U.S. simply providing its current amount of humanitarian aid is a positive step in the right direction to relive some of the effects of the Venezuelan Crisis.

Liam Manion
Photo: Flickr

Food Insecurity in the Central African RepublicOn July 19, 2017, the United Nations World Food Programme announced that it would donate $11 million, which was contributed by the United States government, in order to help feed approximately 500,000 people in the Central African Republic. The country has experienced many hunger-related problems which makes this donation a positive first step to begin combatting food insecurity in the Central African Republic.

It was reported that the 500,000 people being assisted by the World Food Programme will include displaced people, refugees and students. These groups are considered to be the most disadvantaged groups in the country.

The donation will partly help fund meals in schools in order to help students achieve their educational goals more efficiently and effectively. The relationship between academic success and hunger has been widely studied, and it is often reported that students tend to perform worse in school when they are hungry.

For instance, according to the Global Citizen, it is important that students eat healthy meals in order to succeed, because the brain needs energy to understand information and solve problems. Thus, the World Food Programme’s donation to the Central African Republic will help students focus better on their studies in order to learn the skills that are necessary to thrive as adults.

Furthermore, the Central African Republic has experienced a lot of political instability throughout its history. According to the World Food Programme, “the Central African Republic has the second-to-lowest level of human development in the world.” Many of the people that have been displaced throughout the country have been affected by the violence that has been incited by various rebel groups. Furthermore, there are heightened religious tensions between such groups, which has caused approximately 600,000 people to be displaced.

However, the government of the United States is making an important effort to assist the most disadvantaged groups through the World Food Programme so that food insecurity in the Central African Republic will be addressed and solved. Then, perhaps, other issues can be solved, too.

Emily Santora

Photo: Flickr

Why Are Palestinian Territories PoorIn recent years, the struggle of the Palestinian Territories has become increasingly publicized. The territories, located in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, are the center of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The increase in attention given to this conflict and related issues often raises the question “why are Palestinian territories poor?”

The Palestinian territory poverty rate is said to be 25 percent of the total population, with an unemployment rate of 27 percent. After the recession in 2014, the World Bank reported in 2015 that the region was becoming poorer for the third consecutive year. Currently, there are three main causes of poverty in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

The long-standing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian territories has created political instability and has been a cause of economic turmoil in the region. One example of this is the Gaza Blockade that Israel instated in the 1990s and intensified in 2007. This blockade severely reduced the mobility of Palestinians in the area and their ability to find work. The trickle-down effect of the blockade (as well as other results of the conflict) is that aid is less accessible for the impoverished in the community.

A secondary, but major, cause of poverty is an increasing unemployment rate, which also stems from the political and economic instability. The May 2017 issue of This Week in Palestine reports that over 400,000 people are unemployed in the two regions of the territory. Most of the unemployed are youths, many of whom are recent graduates. The Palestinian Ministry of Labor is unable to effectively create jobs to solve this unemployment crisis affecting the population.

Issues with infrastructure can be crippling. BBC reported in 2014 that issues with electricity and other infrastructure perpetuate the struggles those in the territories face and can lead to further hardships. A survey from the ADBI Institute, “The Impacts of Infrastructure on Development: A Selective Survey,” stated that “development economists have considered physical infrastructure to be a precondition for industrialization and economic development…” Therefore, with inconsistent electricity comes unreliable healthcare and water supply. The BBC report outlines this by stating “[electricity power cuts] will disturb electricity for the whole population of Gaza; almost two million people will suffer.”

The solution to the question at hand, “why are Palestinian territories poor?”, is not a simple one, nor is it one without political complications. However, the chief of the United Nations, António Guterres, believes that the solution to these causes of poverty in the Palestinian territories lies with the United Nations resolution 1860, which refers to the Security Council resolution from 2009 which called for an immediate end to the fighting between Israel and Hamas and lifting of blockades for food, fuel and medicines. He also believes that immediate and increased humanitarian aid can help uplift and stabilize the region, which in turn gives the people opportunities to create and fill jobs, especially reconstruction-based jobs. The solutions posed by the United Nations could eradicate these causes and alleviate poverty in the Palestinean territories.

Gabriella Paez

Photo: Flickr

Poverty Rate in LiberiaLiberia is a country in West Africa and is one of the poorest countries in the world. Although Liberia is the oldest republic in Africa and has a long running relationship with the U.S., the alarming poverty rate in Liberia cripples growth and exacerbates other issues.

The World Bank’s most recent information on the poverty rate in Liberia, collected in 2007, indicates that around 63 percent of the country lives on less than $1.90 per day (the daily income rate considered the threshold for extreme poverty). Also, as of 2009 the World Bank reported that a colossal 89.6 percent of the population lives on less than $3.10 a day.

These statistics show that a significant majority of Liberia suffers from the absolute worst poverty possible, and nearly everyone in the country struggles from slightly less severe yet punishing conditions of scarcity and desperation.

Unsurprisingly, the alarming poverty rate in Liberia stymies the country’s overall development. The country lacks the infrastructure to reliably provide water and electricity, and sorely lacks the resources or opportunities for widespread education or employment. Overall, these deficiencies stifle the creation of new institutions as well as human and economic development, contributing to other problems such as corruption and instability.

Like many other poverty-stricken countries in Africa, Liberia also contends with frequent political instability and violence. Following a military coup d’etat in 1980, the government of Liberia has been plagued by corruption, irresponsibility and political persecution. Two civil wars in Liberia claimed the lives of 250,000 people between 1989 and 2003.

The country’s political instability may seem surprising considering that Liberia was founded by freed American and Caribbean slaves and has a democratic system of government modeled after the U.S. Unfortunately, the relationship between poverty and corruption creates a seemingly endless cycle that prevents the Liberian government from functioning effectively when the deprived people need it most.

Fortunately, Liberia’s current president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, seems determined to rid the government of corruption and truly help the country. With a long history of opposing unethical behavior and experience working for the World Bank and U.N. President Sirleaf is particularly well qualified to pull Liberia out of hopelessness.

President Sirleaf possesses the strong negotiation skills and political and financial knowledge to tackle the alarming poverty rate in Liberia as well as the corruption it feeds. If President Sirleaf succeeds in revamping Liberia’s economy and rooting out government-level corruption, Liberia may one day live up to the principles of liberty and opportunity that its founders originally sought.

Isidro Rafael Santa Maria

Why Is the Democratic Republic of Congo Poor
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is one of the richest countries in the world in terms of natural resources. It sits on an estimated $24 trillion worth of natural resources, including 3.2 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, large deposits of iron ore, platinum, diamonds, gold and uranium, as well as 106270 square kilometers of arable land. Despite all this, its citizens make, on average, only $800 per year, and 63 percent live under the poverty line. Given its vast mineral wealth and natural resources, why is the Democratic Republic of Congo poor?

 

Colonization, Political Instability, and the Resource Curse: Why is the Democratic Republic of Congo Poor?

 

Due to the DRC’s great wealth of natural resources, it has consistently been exploited by imperial European powers throughout its history. When first discovered by the Western world in the sixteenth century, millions of Congolese men and women were stolen from their homeland and shipped around the globe to act as slaves for European industry.

Later, when slavery was eventually abolished throughout most of the developed world, the Congo was still not safe from pillage. When tires became a staple due to the rise of cars and bicycles, the rubber was taken from the Congo. When World War I was fought, 75 percent of the copper used in bullet casings were mined in the Congo. And when the United States dropped two nuclear bombs on Japan in World War II, you can bet the uranium came from the Congo too.

During this period, which lasted from 1879 to 1959, the Congo region was controlled by the Belgian empire. However, colonial exploitation alone cannot be the only answer to the question “why is the Democratic Republic of the Congo poor?” Due to the abundance of uranium in the region, the Soviet Union and the United States carried out proxy wars in the Congo by supporting vying factions during the Cold War.

Since then, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been subject to a slew of dictatorial rulers, often with foreign support. After the Rwandan genocide of 1994, over a million Hutu took refuge in the Congo (then called Zaire), bringing with them both disease and rebellion.

After more than a decade of war, the Democratic Republic of the Congo gained enough stability to attempt a democratic government, though the election itself was rife with violence and conflict. There still remains a large faction of Rwandan rebels, and more than 800,000 people were displaced from their homes because of military operations meant to stop the rebel groups.

Another answer to the question “why is the Democratic Republic of the Congo poor?” can be found in current president, Joseph Kabila. Not only is he suspected of stealing large portions of foreign aid, he also provides those who do give aid access to the mineral resources of the DRC, at great expense to his own people, a repetition of the history of the country, which has been exploited by powers both foreign and domestic for centuries. These powers have worked hard to make sure the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo remain poor, unhealthy and disenfranchised; unable to take control of their own country and the incredible resources it possesses.

Connor Keowen
Photo: Flickr


Guinea-Bissau is a country in West Africa with an estimated population of 1.8 million. The country gained independence from Portugal in 1974 and has since been marred by high levels of political unrest with repeated changes in government. No elected president in the country’s history has successfully served a full five-year term. The political instability and poverty in Guinea-Bissau has resulted in a lack of development throughout the country.

Guinea-Bissau is one of the poorest countries in the world with a gross domestic product (GDP) based on purchasing-power-parity (PPP) per capita of 1,568 dollars. The country’s economy is highly reliant on subsistence farming, foreign assistance and the export of cashew nuts. International aid to the country has been suspended on several occasions due to concern over governance and the rule of law. Guinea-Bissau has become a way station for drugs bound for Europe due to lack of strong governance, poor economy and its geographical location.  There are fears that Guinea-Bissau is becoming the first narco-state in Africa.

Guinea-Bissau has a Human Development Index (HDI) value of 0.42, which puts the country in the low human development category, ranking 178 out of 188 countries. Life expectancy in the country has increased somewhat but is still around 55 years. The adult literacy rate is 56 percent. In addition, the average number of years that people go to school in Guinea is only 2.8 years. Nearly 70 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.

A major contributing factor to poverty in Guinea-Bissau is the fact that almost 85 percent of the population depends on agriculture as the main source of income. This is not a stable form of income due to several factors, such as political instability, irregular rainfall and volatile prices of imports and exports. As a result, 11 percent of households in Guinea-Bissau are classified as food insecure and in some regions, this figure is as high as 51 percent.

While Guinea-Bissau has one of the slowest growing economies in Africa, there is potential for growth in several untapped sectors. This includes adding value to raw exports like cashew nuts and timber, as well as exploring untapped mineral deposits of bauxite and phosphates.

However, effectively addressing poverty in Guinea-Bissau and reaching sustainable economic growth will require long-term political stability.

Helena Kamper

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Chad
Through its history, the African country of Chad has fallen victim to instability, corruption and devastating climatic variation.

Since the country gained its independence from France in 1960, it has struggled with controversial elections and an allegedly corrupt president, Idriss Denby Itno. Tensions between religious groups and ethnic factions have furthered instability despite several peace agreements that have been reached.

Equally as damaging as Chad’s instability is its unpredictable climate. The country relies heavily on oil and agricultural exports, yet soil erosion, drought and plague locust can destroy crops and make it impossible to collect oil and other natural resources.

Factors like political and social instability, as well as an unforgiving climate, make poverty in Chad very real and very challenging to fight.

According to the World Bank over 45 percent of Chad’s population lives at or below the national poverty line. The poverty line is the amount of income needed to afford the necessities of life like food, water and shelter. Living at or below a poverty line can put immense pressure on people and often causes children to miss school. Unfortunately, uneducated communities often lack the skills and knowledge to help lift themselves out of poverty and in turn become even more impoverished.

Exemplifying what can come with living under the national poverty line is Chad’s slum population. As of 2014, nearly 90 percent of the Chadian population resided in slum housing. A slum is defined as housing that lacks access to clean water, sanitation, proper living space or structural durability. These living conditions can lead to higher rates of illness and crime within the community.

Overall, poverty in Chad has a devastating effect on the country. By looking at how long a country’s population lives, how educated they are and what standards of living they endure, one can determine how developed the country is. Every year the U.N. collects this data to look at each country’s development progress. The result is  the Human Development Index (HDI) which uses life expectancy, an education index and Gross National Income as key dimensions of human development.

In 2015, the U.N. ranked Chad 185 out of 188 countries measured in terms of HDI. This low score means that on average, Chad is not only less developed than most other countries, but it’s people live shorter lives, are undereducated and are relatively unproductive in terms of GNI.

This statistic is undoubtedly linked with high rates of poverty in Chad. And, though investments in Chad are risky, there are organizations reaching out to Chad.

One organization, Aid for Africa empowers especially vulnerable populations like women and children in hopes that they may one day escape poverty. This is done through community-based self-help programs, education programs, business help and ecological protection.

Weston Northrop

Photo: Flickr

what causes global poverty
As governments, aid workers and activists search for solutions to the urgent problem of widespread poverty and seek to combat its many negative effects, there is a need to identify the causes of poverty in order to create sustainable change. Understanding what causes global poverty is a crucial part of the process of devising and implementing effective solutions.

Most analysts would agree that there is no single root cause of all poverty everywhere throughout human history. However, even taking into account the individual histories and circumstances of particular countries and regions, there are significant trends in the causes of poverty.

 

Top 5 Causes of Poverty

 

  1. History
    Many of the poorest nations in the world were former colonies from which slaves and resources had been systematically extracted for the benefit of colonizing countries. Although there are notable exceptions (Australia, Canada and the U.S. being perhaps the most prominent), for most of these former colonies, colonialism and its legacies have helped create the conditions that prevent many people from accessing land, capital, education and other resources that allow people to support themselves adequately. In these nations, poverty is one legacy of a troubled history involving conquest.
  2. War & political instability
    Whatever the causes of war and political upheaval, it is clear that safety, stability and security are essential for subsistence and, beyond that, economic prosperity and growth. Without these basics, natural resources cannot be harnessed individually or collectively, and no amount of education, talent or technological know-how will allow people to work and reap the benefits of their labor. Laws are needed to protect rights, property and investments, and without legal protections, farmers, would-be entrepreneurs and business owners cannot safely invest in a country’s economy. It is a telling sign that the poorest countries in the world have all experienced civil war and serious political upheaval at some point in the 20th century, and many of them have weak governments that cannot or do not protect people against violence.
  3. National Debt
    Many poor countries carry significant debt due to loans from wealthier nations and international financial institutions. Poorer nations owe an average of $2.30 in debt for every $1 received in grant aid. In addition, structural adjustment policies by organizations like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund often require poorer nations to open their markets to outside business and investors, thereby increasing competition with local businesses and, many argue, undermining the potential development of local economies. In recent years, calls for debt reduction and forgiveness have been increasing, as activists see this as a key means of reducing poverty. The United Nations has also made it a priority to examine how economic structural adjustment policies can be designed to place less pressure on vulnerable populations.
  4. Discrimination and social inequality
    Poverty and inequality are two different things, but inequality can feed widespread poverty by barring groups with lower social status from accessing the tools and resources to support themselves. According to the United Nations Social Policy and Development Division, “inequalities in income distribution and access to productive resources, basic social services, opportunities, markets, and information have been on the rise worldwide, often causing and exacerbating poverty.” The U.N. and many aid groups also point out that gender discrimination has been a significant factor in holding many women and children around the world in poverty.
  5. Vulnerability to natural disasters
    In regions of the world that are already less wealthy, recurrent or occasional catastrophic natural disasters can pose a significant obstacle to eradicating poverty. The effects of flooding in Bangladesh, drought in the Horn of Africa and the 2005 earthquake in Haiti are examples of the ways in which vulnerability to natural disasters can be devastating to affected countries. In each of these cases, already impoverished people became refugees within their own countries, losing whatever little they had, being forced out of their living spaces and becoming almost completely dependent on others for survival. According to the World Bank, two years after Cyclone Nargis hit Myanmar in 2008, the debt burden of local fishermen had doubled. The Solomon Islands experienced an earthquake and tsunami in 2007 and the losses from that disaster equaled 95 percent of the national budget. Without foreign aid, governments in these countries would have been unable to meet the needs of their people.

These are only five causes of poverty. They are both external and internal causes; both man-made and natural. Just as there is no single cause of poverty, there is no single solution. Nevertheless, understanding the ways in which complex forces like these interact to create and sustain the conditions of widespread global poverty is a vital step toward combating poverty around the world.

– Délice Williams

Source: Global Issues, USCCB, World Bank

 

 

main libyan airport
After an attempted ceasefire recently failed, rival militias escalated clashes over the main Libyan airport in the capital city of Tripoli. This renewal of fighting has already caused at least five deaths since fighting resumed on July 20. There have been reports that at least two of these were civilian deaths, as fighting moved from the airport to the neighboring residential area. While only five deaths have been confirmed, the intensity of the fighting and the limited area have prevented government officials from accurately declaring the number of deaths that have occurred. There has not been any official count of casualties released by the government since the start of this conflict.

The fighting over the Tripoli airport started on July 11, causing the airport to shut down indefinitely. The most recent skirmishes have been the most intense since the conflict started, and there have already been reports of missiles, rockets and tanks being used. This is the first time fighting has moved outside the airport into surrounding residential areas. Even if the fighting were to end now, it would take months for the airport to become functional again.

The combatants include a militia from the town Misirata and an Islamist led militia group known as the Libyan Revolutionaries Operations Room. Prior to this conflict, the airport was under the control of a militia from Zintan, a city in the western mountains of Libya.

The recent escalation of fighting indicates an entrenched conflict, and some have called this the worst fighting to take place in Libya since the Arab Spring Revolution in 2011. As Tarek Mitri, head of the U.N. Security Council mission in Libya, said, “As the number of military actors mobilizing and consolidating their presence within the capital continues to grow, there is a mounting sense of a probable imminent and significant escalation in the conflict. The stakes are high for all sides.”

Since Muammar Qaddafi was deposed and killed in 2011, Libya has struggled to maintain control of warring factions and militias. This one battle for control of the Tripoli airport is only one of many, albeit smaller, conflicts taking place all over the lawless country. Multiple governments that have been in power have struggled to keep these militias in check. Tensions are high across the country, considering the serious potential for both sides further entrenching their position and escalating attacks. For now, many inside and outside the country are nervously waiting to see how the conflict will continue to unfold.

– Andre Gobbo

Sources: BBC, Al Jazeera, CNN
Photo: BBC

nigeria
On April 14 approximately 276 girls were abducted from a boarding school in Chibok, Nigeria, by the militant group Boko Haram. The international attention and social media activism that have followed since have all been indicators of universal outrage. But most importantly they have underscored the instability which has crippled Nigeria in recent years.

With a $6 billion national annual budget for security forces, Nigeria’s recent mass kidnapping might seem surprising, but it is indicative of a broader spectrum of disarray. Nigeria is the most populous state in Africa and its leading economy, laying claim to the 26th largest economy in the world. However, its citizens are often bound by dire living constraints.

In Nigeria’s Borno state, home to capital city Maiduguri, the birthplace of Boko Haram, the per capita income is $1,631 compared to $4,000 in political capital Abuja. It is evident that poverty has planted the seeds for violent extremism. Since 2009 Boko Haram, in their quest to create an Islamic state in Nigeria, has been implicated in the deaths of over 12,000 Nigerian citizens. In 2013 they were officially declared a terrorist group by the United States government.

Despite Nigeria’s trouble with internal uprisings, it has become clear that its government has been troubled by its own internal issues. Recent Nigerian media reports have revealed that 10 generals and five other senior officers have been court martialed and found guilty of supplying info and ammunition to Boko Haram. This level of extremist sympathizing, while detestable, is not altogether shocking given Nigeria’s current state of affairs.

Corruption on the level of high-ranking government officials has long been linked to poverty throughout Africa. Nigeria has been operating at annual levels of around seven percent economic growth over the past few years but its correlation between national economic growth and increasing living standards has become tenuous at best.

Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan has framed his country’s growing poverty problems as a problem of wealth distribution. Considering the highly concentrated nature of wealth and political capital amongst the country’s oil barons, this assessment is worth considering. With oil reserves of upwards of 37 billion barrels, only second to Libya in all of Africa, Nigeria is surely not pressed for revenue generating natural resources. However, its influx of oil revenue has not made it a wealthy state.

By 2030 Nigeria’s population size is expected to increase from its 2010 level by upwards of 60 percent, making it the world’s eventual fifth largest population. There are currently over 160 million people living in Nigeria, 42.8 percent of whom are age 14 or younger. However, of the school age children who actually begin formal education, only two-thirds complete primary school. Like the rest of the world, lack of education coupled with the presence of poverty makes for a corrosive pair. It will surely take increasing levels of stability and government accountability to fend the two off.

On June 9, 20 more girls were kidnapped by Boko Haram in the northeastern town of Garkin Fulani, Nigeria. The abductions took place only a few miles from where the 200-plus girls were kidnapped in Chibok in mid-April. This most recent example of Nigeria’s internal security woes comes after President Goodluck vowed to protect this vulnerable and embattled area of Nigeria. Instead, another instance of atrocity has once again marred a Nigerian community still reeling from the effects of the past five years.

 — Taylor Dow

Sources: CNN, BBC, Global Public Square, Tribune, Business Day
Photo: The Indian Express