‘Africa is Bleeding’ : FIU’s State of The World Conference

Emiliana Fawley-Puello / Contributing Writer

As political turmoil, civil unrest, and protests are seen in Africa, FIU professors and human rights experts discussed the country’s effort to move towards a democratic system, at the annual State of The World Conference. 

The panel titled a ‘Struggle For Democracy’ featured moderator John Tomaszewski, U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations staff guest speakers Fred Bauma and Mantate Mlotshwa, Congolese and Zimbabwean civil liberties activists and Christopher Fomunyoh, Senior Associate for Africa and Regional Director at the National Democratic Institute For International Affairs.

Killings of reporters in Africa were brought up in the discussion, highlighting the civil unrest existing within the country.

Last year, The Committee to Protect Journalists reported over thirty-five incidents where journalists were attacked, harassed or threatened in thirteen different countries like Ghana, Liberia and Cameroon since the beginning of the pandemic.

“We have more attacks on journalists and the civil society leaders,” said Bauma. 

The panelists also brought up how nations such as Nigeria, Zimbabwe, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia and South Sudan find themselves in a worse political climate today than they have been in decades. 

Each panelist discussed current events in Zimbabwe and The Democratic Republic of the Congo. Fomunyoh, who oversees African foregin affairs had described the governments in Africa as “the negative side where we’re seeing an autocratic regime led by people, some of whom were democratically elected, who once got into office, started to change the rules and steal elections”. 

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has been the center of many political debates between the Zimbabwean government and its people. 

Mlotshwa spoke on how social media outlets in Africa have led to an ongoing debate on the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. She explained how the Anadolu News Agency, a news media outlet in Zimbabwe, has led citizens to protest towards their government on who should receive the vaccine.

“The COVID-19, itself, offered the stage and opportunity to actually repress. They will put a lockdown that restricts our movement,” said Mlotshwa who was born in Zimbabwe, also is the founder of ‘Good News’, a Facebook live segment highlighting positive news in Zimbabwe.

Panelist and Congolese activist Bauma explained how Congolese citizens are expecting nothing more than an honest and reformed political system. 

He explained how the country is seeing more intolerance and push back from the majority leaders of the government when it comes to social protest. 

The Democratic Republic of Congo who, despite having ‘democratic’ in its name, has fallen short on demonstrating what an ideal democracy should look like. 

“In 2021 we expect more action and we expect more free and fair elections in 2023” said Bauma. 

In January 2021, The Human Rights Watch reported a case where eight pro-democratic activists were arrested and detained for participating in a protest calling for peace.

African civil society organizations bound together to form ‘Africa is Bleeding’ a campaign aimed to stop the unlawful financial flows which is money that is illegally earned, transferred or used. 

According to the official campaign website, Africa has seen an outflow of $1.4 trillion in the past three decades rooted in bribery of state officials, drug and human trafficking.

 The campaign was named after a phrase used to describe how Africa is being exploited in terms of resources.

The bloodshed has been a direct result of the killings of social activists and immense political corruption over media censorship.

The African government continues to fight for a pro-democratic system as mentioned by the panelists.

Fomunyoh fears that Africa is “almost back to the one party days” where only one politcal party has the right to form the government, creating a unitary state where the government is ultimately supreme.

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