August 30, 2012

A brief history of the Congo and its conflict

I'm very happy today, as I finally created a page on Facebook in relation to my initiative; which is to bring all forms of support necessary to the women of Eastern DRC who are falling victim to sexual abuse due to the civil war. It's called Miss AfriCanada 2012 in Support of the Female Victims of Abuse in the DRC. And here's some quick facts about the country and its present conflict situation:

  • The Democratic Republic of Congo gained its independence from Belgium in 1960, and the late Patrice Lumumba (a national hero who faught for our independence) was appointed as the first Prime Minister
  • Lumumba's reign was ended quickly after, when he was kidnapped and assassinated  by the joined forces of the Belgians, the Americans, and the Congolese opposition
  • Afterwards, Mobutu Sese Seko took over leadership of the Congo,reigning in a dictatorial regime for 32 years, and renaming the country Zaire
  • By 1996, tensions from the neighbouring Rwandan Genocide had spilled over to Zaire, leading Rwandan Hutus to flee their country following the ascension of a Tutsi-led government
  • In turn, a coalition of Rwandan and Ugandan armies invaded Zaire under the cover of a small group of Tutsi militia to fight the Hutu militia, overthrow the government of Mobutu, and ultimately control the mineral resources of Zaire (including diamonds, copper, zinc, and coltan), led by Laurent-Désiré Kabila (a Congolese rebel)
  • In May 1997, Mobutu fled the country and Kabila marched into Kinshasa, naming himself president and reverting the name of the country to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This was the end of the first war
  • Once President, Kabila asked his foreign forces to return to their countries
  • The troops refused to leave and only retreated to Goma, in the Eastern part of the country, to further rebel against Kabila's government; in an attempt to maintain their power and influence
  • As a result, Kabila was assassinated in 2001, and was succeeded by his adoptive son Joseph Kabila
  • In February 2001 a peace deal was brokered between various rebel forces, leading to the apparent withdrawal of foreign troops
  • However, the conflict was reignited in January 2002 where Uganda and Rwanda halted their withdrawal and sent in more troops 
  • Although peace deals have continued to surge between Kabila and the rebels, and the war is "officially" proclaimed over, it evidently continues today...
As a result of this continuing war in the country, civilians are being severely exploited, with women and children suffering some of the worst atrocities imaginable. Women's bodies are being objectified and tortured by gangs of soldiers, through things like mutilation, gang-rape, the insertion of sticks, objects and guns into the vaginas, and the transmission of STDs among other things. As a result, the victims of sexual violence who come forward are rejected by their families and communities, by being held responsible for the inevitable acts of violence that were committed against them. Meanwhile, communities get torn apart, as the women are the backbones that hold them together. Therefore, the DRC remains in a state of crisis, wherein unequal power relations are perpetuating economic disparities and human rights abuses leading to the continual looting of its resources; perpetuating a cycle of poverty and limited social mobility among civilian populations.

So, in an attempt to provide support to the female victims of this war, as Ms AfriCanada 2012 I'll be holding events and activities in their favour, leading up to one big fundraiser with the funds being put towards carrying out the initiative on-site, in the Congo. So, keep up-to-date with the Facebook page, and remember to "Like" it!

August 27, 2012

Another pageant night

Left to right: Chantelle (1st runner-up), Monique (Ms BBC), Deronke (2nd runner-up)
Last Saturday, we went to the first ever Miss Black Beauty Canada (MBBC) pageant, in downtown Toronto. And I was looking forward to it, so I could see how the contestants had individually prepared for their performances. I must say, the girls were very talented, and quite a few of them impressed and excited the audience. My favorite moment of the show was hands down the talent section, because I find that your presentation in this area can really make or break your chances of having the crown. And surely, some of the girls brought their A game. I (and I think the audience in general) really liked the following talent performances: Monique's ballet dancing, Aziza's interpretation of Maya Angelou's Phenomenal Woman (very thoughtful), Deronke's monologue on her body image and the development of her self-esteem, Chantelle's singing, and Anamika's dancing (which was also to bring awareness on Sickle-cell Disease, and looked very pretty and sparkly :). Unfortunately, my phone decided to shutdown near the end this performance category due to low battery, so I didn't get a chance to snap shots of the final moments (i.e. evening wear, top 5, and the ultimate winner), but the pic above shows you who the top 3 finalists were regardless. All in all, I enjoyed watching all the girls perform because from what I saw on stage I think that they're all very bright and beautiful ladies; full of potential. Congrats, all of you! - And side note, I got to go on stage to present the Best Evening Gown Award. :)