Rwanda's Parliamentary Elections: Democratic or Not?

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Jessamy Nichols, Africa CorrespondentLast Modified: 11:54 a.m. DST, 24 December 2013

President Paul Kagame, Rwanda, Photo by David Shankbone

Rwanda, unlike many African countries has held democratic elections for its government with its people by and large in support of its current and past leader President Paul Kagame. The Parliament in which the governing party, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), won a vast majority of the seats. The RPF, lead by President Paul Kagame, has been in power ever since the 1994 genocide and has yet to face a serious political opponent.

The world witnessed the horrors of the 1994 genocide, which were also brought to the attention of American movie viewers in the real life drama portrayed in the movie Hotel Rwanda. The movie explored the genocide, political corruption, and the repercussions of violence as a result of this conflict.

So, despite peaceful election, it seems incongruous that a populace subjected to such brutality would in the final tally of votes, grant the RPF 76% percent of the votes, which allowed it to keep the vast majority of the Parliamentary seats, winning 40 out of a total of 53, and essentially solidify Kagame's reign of the country.

Although, the elections went smoothly without reports of fraud, the election brings renewed attention to the dominance of Kagame's party for nearly two decades.

The small country has made an immense turnaround ever since the horrendous genocide, but Kagame and his party have held a tight grip on power ever since. The international community praises Kagame for the economic growth and general stability of his country, but there are still periodic reports of political oppression, freedom of speech restrictions, and meddling in the DRC's affairs.

For now, the Rwandan population seems content with the Parliamentary results and continued RPF domination, but it remains to be seen how many elections the citizens will endure before they yearn for political change and competition.

Follow Jessamy on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Africa Correspondent: @JessamyNichols

Steve McCurry | Through His Eyes

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 01:48 a.m. DST, 23 December 2013

McCurry took his most recognized portrait, "Afghan Girl", in a refugee camp near Peshawar, Pakistan. The image itself was named as "the most recognized photograph" in the history of the National Geographic magazine and her face became famous as the cover photograph on the June 1985 issue. . The identity of the "Afghan Girl" remained unknown for over 17 years until McCurry and a National Geographic team located the woman, Sharbat Gula, in 2002.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EC6b6X-Tf_E] McCurry continued to cover armed conflicts, including the Iran-Iraq War, Lebanon Civil War, the Cambodian Civil War, the Islamic insurgency in the Philippines, the Gulf War and the Afghan Civil War. His work has been featured worldwide in magazines and he is a frequent contributor to National Geographic. He has been a member of Magnum Photos since 1986.

McCurry focuses on the human consequences of war, not only showing what war impresses on the landscape, but rather, on the human face. “Most of my images are grounded in people. I look for the unguarded moment, the essential soul peeking out, experience etched on a person’s face. I try to convey what it is like to be that person, a person caught in a broader landscape, that you could call the human condition.” (Source: Wikipedia)

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Anti-Gay, Racist, Duck Dynasty Patriarch

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Patrice Ellerbe, Staff WriterLast Modified: 23:41 p.m. DST, 21 December 2013

Phil Robertson, Duck Dynasty, Photo Courtesy of Best Movies Ever News

LOUISIANA, United States - Controversy began to stir this week when “Duck Dynasty” star, Phil Robertson made anti-gay remarks during a GQ interview. Another statement has been released from the controversial interview; this time, the star addresses the black community during the pre-civil rights era.

On the show, Phil Robertson, 67, is portrayed as the “Duck Dynasty” patriarch. Over the years he’s beat substance abuse, devoted his like the God, and has become a small-screen celebrity from the backwoods of Louisiana.

During a GQ interview with Drew Magary, the star stated “…the pre-civil rights era was not bad for black people”.

GQ quoted Robertson, stating “I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person… Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them.

I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field… They’re singing happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say ‘I’ll tell you what: These doggone white people’- not a word!... Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”

According to Robertson, the African-American’s he witnessed before the civil rights movements of the 1950’s appeared happier than they do today. The Huffington Post states, “Jim Crow laws enforced a system of subjugating African-Americans in the South but upholding racial barriers for years after the Emancipation Proclamation”. During this time, the Southern states were known for segregation and the many forms of oppression, which often included “race-inspired violence”, according to History.com notes.

Concern over Robertson’s remarks has been brought to A&E, the broadcast channel for “Duck Dynasty”. The Human Rights Campaign and the NAACP collaborated in a letter sent to the president of A&E:

“We want to be clear why Phil Robertson’s remarks are not just dangerous but also inaccurate. Mr. Robertson claims that, from what he saw, African-Americans were happier under Jim Crow. What he didn’t see were lynching and beatings of black men and women for attempting to vote or simply walking down the street. And his offensive claims about gay people fly in the face of science. In fact, it’s important to note that every single leading medical organization in the country has said that there is absolutely nothing wrong with being [lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender] -- it’s not a choice, and to suggest otherwise is dangerous.”

During the GQ interview, Robertson referred to homosexuality as a sin and continued to speak about the sexuality right in a negative light. After making headlines, A&E announced Robertson would be suspended from the show indefinitely. According to the Huffington Post, “The network emphasized that his beliefs are in contrast to those of the network”.

Although times were very different during the pre-civil rights era, it is hard to believe Robertson thought blacks were happy, and he never witnessed the mistreatment of an African-American, whether verbal or physical. Louisiana, a Southern state known for many violent act during this time, still faces race issues today; even hosting several active Ku Klux Klan groups throughout the state of Alabama.

Broadcast stations are constantly faced with the embarrassment of their stars speaking out about their offensive experiences with African-Americans. Paula Deen, southern celebrity chef, was booted from the Food Network earlier this year, due to her use of the “N” word. CBS fired Don Imus, host of Imus in the Morning, in 2007, for his racial remarks toward the Rutgers women’s basketball team; calling them “nappy headed hoes”.

Although the Dynasty star was brought up during a time where homosexuality was not accepted, especial living in the South, it is imperative for these networks to make it clear to the small-screen stars, that these types of situations and statements are unaccepted and intolerable.

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The Central African Republic Crisis Rages On

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Jessamy Nichols, Africa Correspondent
Last Modified: 23:16 p.m. DST, 18 December 2013

CAR Rebel Exercising, Photo by hdptcarCENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC, Africa - I first wrote about the Central African Republic’s deplorable conditions in September, and the situation has worsened since. Luckily, the international community has recently made much larger efforts to step in, intervene, and restore stability but there is still immense and lofty work to be done.

From December 5th through 7th, UNICEF reported that within those 72 hours alone, 60,000 citizens were displaced and 394 were killed. At this point a week ago, the internally displaced persons count had risen to half a million people.

After this extremely deadly period of three days, France finally decided to send in troops to this area and militarily push to end the conflict.

Although international presence may help resolve this conflict in the main hotspots, the destruction and horrors are continuing across the country in small villages and areas isolated from help.

IDP camps are popping up across the country, and as they do, these displaced persons also lack access to adequate shelter, sanitation, food and water. These problems are thus mounting and exponentially piling on top of one another, so more must be done before the damage is irreversible and before more innocent people die.

This international intervention also follows the successful work by the UN and MONUSCO to shut down the M23 rebels in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, so this could hopefully be a precedent for how to end the rebellious conflict in the Central African Republic. If the UN and its diverse troops were able to tackle several conflicts such as these, this may set a much needed tone for African states that murderous rebels will not be tolerated.

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Carrying on Nelson Mandela's Legacy

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Jessamy Nichols, Africa CorrespondentLast Modified:03:02 a.m. DST, 17 December 2013

Nelson Mandela

QUNU, South Africa - Last week, the beloved Nelson Mandela passed away at the age of 95, leaving behind hundreds of thousands of mourners across the globe.

Mandela spent his entire life inspiring others and trying to make the world a better place, which made him more than deserving of an entire world grieving his absence.

Although he will be greatly missed, it is very important for those who respected and adored Mandela to carry on his legacy.

He advocated for equality for all of mankind, regardless of race, nationality, income level, or gender and this is an enormous struggle that most of the world still struggles with.

Racism and discrimination is evident across the world, and unnecessary war and strife continue to result because of it. In Mandela's eyes, most invasions and warmongering across the globe were unnecessary and imperialistic.

For example, he criticized the US invasion of Iraq as an act of "wanting to plunge the world into a holocaust." In many ways, he was right, evident in the recurring violence currently in Iraq despite us attempting to install a new, more democratic regime. If more leaders felt this way about international relations, there could potentially be a lot less tension and destruction.

Mandela also firmly believed that freedom from poverty is a "fundamental human right," which is an especially paramount point. He pointed out that in today's incredible advances in science, technology, medicine, and economics, there is the widest income inequality gap that there has ever been.

While the rich get richer, the poor become even poorer and more entrenched in this cycle. To anyone who wishes to honor Mandela's legacy, consider that Mandela called ending poverty a basic human duty. In today's world of excess and gluttony, there is no reason for more to not be done to end poverty.

“Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life. While poverty persists, there is no true freedom.” ~ Nelson Mandela

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Toto

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Chrycka Harper, Poet & Literary CriticLast Modified: 02:10 a.m. DST, 17 December 2013

TotoToto, Toto Where am I? I don't think we're in Kansas anymore. My footsteps lead us here: But what is here? I heard we are at the Mecca But our leader is leaving and creativity has gone missing.

I heard we are in the Nation's capital, but the government is shut down, Obamacare is supposedly around, and everything seems upside down. It's all a rhythm that I am not familiar with.

Toto, Toto I don't know what to think. We never saw so many shades of brown adorned with different expressions of what it means to be brown. Yet verses of ghetto anecdotes flow from boys' mouths like scriptures.

Versace, Versace, Versace, they can click their heels three times and they still can't afford it or even spell it. But when I quote the Lord is my shepherd and everlasting collective love, they act like they can't even see the picture.

Women waddling around, bobbing heads arms tied behind their backs only to get so far. Multicolored lips, hair, and shoes yet their minds still live in black and white.

It's like they forgot about Lauryen Hill's doo wop doo wop That thing in which we cannot speak But their tongues are so familiar with. Children running in circles But missing out on the circle of life. One down then its on to the next one. I thought that we would give our soldiers the best weapons for war, But instead they get guns.

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No child left behind But they fly under radar All the time Success after success of missing land mines and traps until when? Until they reach enemy territory then what?

Battles exchange, victories are won Then our children come home But they still don't know how to wade in the water. Help can barely exit their mouths so they try to wade and do what society says.

We tell them to disregard their fantasy, but we continue to imagine our reality. The true reality is that these souls try to operate in the zone in which they are comfortable at dawn, but it still remains at twilight. To the point where event the doctors, lawyers, and police can't save lives But rather push the waves to their demise.

A demise that so happened to be at Columbine. Newton. The Navy Yard. Miles away from where my footsteps leave off...

Toto, Toto I know we're not in Kansas anymore. Kansas had yellow green grass and rolling flatlands going nowhere. We never fit in and never would.

But I know when my true home Have been removed from its village. Now the only thing I see is A sky without a sun. This is what happens when people Don't listen to history. Instead They play the same songs.

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