BY EBENEZER NKUNDA
The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded to those who have done honorable efforts in four main areas: arms control and disarmament, peace negotiation, democracy and human rights, and work aimed at creating a better organized and more peaceful world. The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize to Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict. Both Mukwege and Murad have made meaningful contributions in their home countries and throughout the world to bring attention to these war crimes.
Dr. Denis Mukwege is a world-renowned gynecological surgeon who is the founder and medical director of Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of the Congo. He founded the Panzi Hospital in 1999 as a clinic for gynecological and obstetric care, and expected to be working on issues of maternal healthcare. However, when the Second Congo War began, which took the lives of almost 6 million Congolese lives, rape had continually been used as a weapon, and the amount of sexual violence towards women and children increased drastically. Since 1999, Dr. Mukwege and his staff have helped to care for more than 50,000 survivors of sexual violence. The hospital not only treats survivors with physical wounds, but also provides legal, and psycho-social services to its patients in a center called the City of Joy.
Dr. Nadia Murad herself is a survivor of sexual violence. In 2014 she was captured and endured months as a sex slave at the hands of Islamic State militants after they swept through the area of northern Iraq where she lived with her family and killed several hundred people. During her time in captivity, Murad was bought and sold several times and was subject to sexual and physical abuse, including threats that she would be killed if she did not convert to their hateful, oppressive version of Islam. The sexual abuses of the Islamic State army were systematic, a part of their military strategy, and therefore a weapon of war. After three months as a captive, Murad managed to flee—and she did not stay quiet.
Dr. Denis Mukwege and Dr. Nadia Murad have both risked their lives and the lives of their families by speaking their truth, calling out the perpetrators of war crimes, and seeking justice for the victims. They have continually used their platform to draw attention to the issue of rape as a weapon of war and to speak up for the voiceless in this inhuman human rights violation.
BY EBENEZER NKUNDA
Protests have a long history in France, from the French Revolution to the revolutions of 1830 and 1848, the Commune in 1871, the strike in 1944 (which helped liberate Paris from the Nazis), and the protests of students and workers in May 1968. No one does a protest like the French—it’s in their blood.
The Gilets Jaunes, or “The Yellow Vests”, is a movement that has sparked France and has become the biggest challenge to the presidency of the French President, Emmanuel Macron. The movement takes its name from the fluorescent yellow safety vests that French law requires all motorists to carry; protesters have adopted these yellow vests as a symbol. Anger sparked after French President Emmanuel Macron said that starting January 1st of the new year, taxes on fuel would rise again, even after it was raised 20% the past year. Macron claimed it was necessary to fight climate change and protect the environment. It was also a way for Macron to start an initiative on persuading French residents to drive more electric cars since it is less harmful to the environment. Analysts say most of those joining the yellow vest movement are workers on lower middle-class incomes. These citizens say they barely scrape by with current taxes and get scant public services in exchange for some of the highest tax bills in Europe—about 60% of their annual incomes.
Even though most of these protests across France have been peaceful, the one in Paris became the worst rioting the French capital has seen in years. Shops were looted and cars torched around the famed Champs Elysées, as four people were killed and hundreds injured in clashes or accidents stemming from the protest. Edouard Philippe, the Prime Minister of France, recently suspended the plans to raise the tax on fuels for at least six months, saying no tax increase is worth jeopardizing the country’s unity. While some French residents feel that this is nowhere near the changes needed, the French government at least shows some sign of appeasing the protestors.
BY EBENEZER NKUNDA
Since 1:30 pm on October 26, Bethel Church in The Hague (a Dutch church in the Netherlands) has been running a non-stop service to prevent a family’s deportation. It all began when an Armenian family granted conditional asylum in April of 2010 was denied further political asylum and was told to leave the country.
The Netherlands’ 2010 General Act of Entry states that police cannot enter a space intended for religious or reflective meetings of a philosophical nature during the worship or reflection meeting. The church that the Armenian family regularly attends decided to use that law to their advantage to save the family from deportation.
For over a month, the church has been holding a continuous service, now surpassing 800 hours, because of the law that permits officers from entering during service. One volunteer stated that the plan was made in secret, and the church prepared by compiling every sermon they delivered in the past ten years into one document. The church has succeeded in doing so thanks to outside support, especially the 400 pastors from around the country that came to keep the service running. Since the family’s plea for asylum has been denied, a legal advisor in the Netherlands informed CNN that the family could theoretically get a children’s pardon and that the parents could apply for a resident permit with that pardon, but it is unsure if the family has applied.
Even though the fate of the family is unsure, one of the pastors stated that the church service will continue until it is clear that the Armenian family can stay.