*Please note that this post may contain disturbing information about violence and death. Iím not posting this for shock value, but to highlight that
those of us who are lucky enough to live in the West are very fortunate. America and Britain both have crime and violence but nothing on the scale of
whatís happening in Africa.
Iíve just watched a program on UK Channel 4, called Unreported World. Tonightís episode was about the rebel revolt in Liberia, West Africa. The
reporters were in serious danger more than once whilst filming this documentary. The streets were full of anarchy, burnt out shops, petrol stations
and road blocks. Because of desperate poverty, thousands of young Liberian men were flocking to join the army to earn a living. There was a near
riot because many were turned away from a recruitment rally, until their unofficial leader came along and led them, but even then the army had
difficulty coping with the number of men wanting to join.
It brought to mind another program Iíd seen a few months ago about the war in Liberia and the Ivory Coast. It had the usual local villagers running
around with AK-47s looking to engage government troops. But what really took me aback was after a rebel was brought back dead ñ the locals turned on
the single government soldier that had been captured ñ cut out his heart, and ate it! Some of the participants were only about 14 ñ 16 years old and
were shown walking away from the soldiersí corpse with blood on their hands and shirts. Iím not including that information for shock value, but to
put the intense violence into perspective.
The BBC has obtained the first independently verified information about the widespread nature of the rebel war in northern Liberia. Independent
medical sources say that in the last few months of fighting hundreds of Liberian Government soldiers have been wounded. It is likely that a similar
number of combatants were wounded or killed on the rebel side as fighting has raged between rebel forces reportedly backed by neighbouring Guinea and
Liberian Government troops. The war in northern Liberia is the latest flare up in one of the world's most unstable regions, where most of the battles
are for control of diamonds.
Liberian War Links:
Consider the following two excerpts from articles:
ìApproaching the Johannesburg airport, the South African Airways pilot announces, "You are now completing the safest part of your journey. Drive
carefully and lock your car doors He might have been particularly mindful of the recent rash of vehicle hijackings, but it appeared to be generally
accepted by locals and visitors alike that Johannesburg is now the crime capital of the world.î
In the city centre of Johannesburg, crime and decay are reaching new depths, with churches now being forced to hire security guards to protect their
flock. Sally Sara reports from Johannesburg's St Mary's Cathedral, the former home of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, which can no longer operate after
dark and has guards stationed at its doors.
VANESSA McKENZIE: We've actually had some of our parishioners physically attacked and who've stopped coming. When you walk around here you are
hoping that God will give you an extra two eyes behind your head so that you can see who or what is around you. It happens so quickly.
Parked waiting for her daughter outside a school in Northcliff, a few kilometers from Johannesburg, a young housewife named Cheryl Cronje, four months
pregnant, finds a gun pointed at her head. She is robbed of her handbag, watch, jewelry and cell phone. Then the gunman forces her from her car and
steals that too. Pat Rousseau, visiting president of the West Indies Cricket Board, gets the same treatment while driving in Soweto with his wife
Hester and a Jamaican journalist. A cops-and-robbers shoot-out outside a bank in Sea Point, Cape Town, leaves two men dead and a bystander critically
wounded. In KwaZulu-Natal the widow of Alan Paton, author of Cry, the Beloved Country, is planning to emigrate after being hijacked, mugged and
terrorized by armed robbers. "Flee the Beloved Country," says a headline.
It's just another day in the life of South Africa, where the institutional violence of apartheid has given way to an onslaught of crime that
threatens both the fledgling democracy of the country and its crucial inward investment. In a year-end speech, Deputy President Thabo Mbeki railed
against those abusing South Africa's hard-won liberty: "There are people who think that freedom means raping women. Others think liberation means
they must go out and steal... Something is amiss here."
Below are my personal experiences:
Last July, I spent some time in Johannesburg, South Africa. Even though my female friend had warned me that it is a very violent and dangerous place,
I was still not prepared for what I saw. Besides having the highest rate of AIDS in the world, South Africa is a land of desperate and impoverished
people, guns are everywhere and the police and almost invisible. There are squatter camps in Johannesburg, that are so dangerous for whites that even
the police wonít respond to a call or go in there. A middle-aged couple were murdered in broad daylight just two blocks from the home where I was
staying. The murderers ran back into the squatter camp and the police refused to even respond, until the third emergency call ñ and then did nothing.
In South Africa, many cars are equipped with dual flame throwers mounted onto the chassis. That is a deterrent to the carjackers who rush up to cars
stopped for a light or opening their drive gate, and at gun point rob the people and steal their car.
Many stores have their own armed security guards who dress in plain clothes and openly display guns strapped to their waist. I was in a market and
saw four men in plain clothes with guns strapped on, I assumed they were undercover police and was told they were store security. When parking on the
street, men will run up and offer to watch over your car, while youíre inside shopping ñ for a fee of course.
I was shocked whilst there when a gang took four men hostage at a 24 hour Shell petrol station in Cape Town, and murdered all of them them ñ all for
about $100! I quickly saw that life is considered very cheap in South Africa.
Johannesburg Crime Related Links:
Thoughts and comments are welcomed,