Recent reporting from multiple sources indicates an increase in financial fraud schemes, as scammers have seized upon the ever-growing demand for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)a to target healthcare providers and the general public. Many of the schemes attempt to capitalize on high demand, low supply PPE such as N95 (NIOSH)-approved respirator masks, which are among the required PPE for healthcare personnel responding to COVID-19.
When ordering PPE from online retailers, always verify the Uniform Resource Locator (URL) and confirm “https” in the web address, as a lack of a security certification (“https”) may be an indicator that the site is insecure or compromised
Consult the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) NIOSH website to view a list of all NIOSH approved manufacturers of N95 respirator masks and validate approval and certification numbers.
Confirm N95 respirator mask approval status and certification numbers using the NIOSH flyer (Figure 1), the NIOSH website, or the CDC website, which includes examples of identified counterfeit or unapproved N95 respirator masks.
As of 11 March 2020, many large U.S. retailers and suppliers have sold out of their N95 respirator mask inventories and are now warning consumers against the rise of counterfeit versions. A survey of safety masks and respirators on one U.S. e-commerce platform found at least one hundred product listings that were counterfeit or unapproved.
If you believe your organization has purchased counterfeit PPE or COVID-19 testing kits, or were the victim of a fraud or scam, please contact your local FBI Field Office and report details regarding this incident to the Internet Crimes Complaints Center at IC3.gov and/or the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center at IPRCenter.gov.
WASHINGTON—An innocuous encounter with a polite young man at a local movie theater was the unknown beginning step toward being sex trafficked for a young Virginian teen.
Susan Young said her daughter had just celebrated her 15th birthday when she met a boy who was “close in age, polite, and well-mannered” while at the movies with friends.
They swapped phone numbers and Facebook information.
“With this seemingly small exchange of information, Courtney had no way of knowing that her life and the life of her family would change forever,” Young said during a recent Justice Department (DOJ) anti-trafficking event.
“The boy was not who he appeared to be. Rather than a sweet, innocent young man, he was an MS-13 gang member. His job was to recruit young girls under the false pretense of friendship, luring them into the dark world of human trafficking.”
“One of the most disturbing but rapidly emerging trends is that of gang-controlled sex trafficking,” Woolf said during a congressional hearing on Dec. 11, 2019.
“Gangs have learned that sex trafficking, particularly of minors, is a low-risk, high-yield criminal enterprise that adequately funds their gang operations throughout the United States and around the world.”
Woolf said gangs, “glorified through Hollywood,” often use violence or threats of violence to control their victims.
Young said that once the MS-13 gang members, who attended her daughter’s high school, found out Courtney was trying to break away from them, they took her to a secluded part of the school’s property and gang-raped her.
“They videotaped that, and told her if she ever told anyone what was happening, they would share the video on social media, and with her friends and family,” Young told The Epoch Times.
“And that episode right there is really what started her whole trafficking. Following that, she was immediately trafficked every day after school. She would tell me that she was staying after school for homework club or yoga club. In fact, the gang was taking her to a nearby house and trafficking her, where eight to 10 gentlemen were waiting. And she had to pretend as if nothing had happened.”
As Courtney was being sex-trafficked by the gang, Young said she found out later that her three younger children— two boys, aged 12 and 11, and a girl who was almost 3 at the time—were also victimized.
On Saturday afternoons, Young and her husband would go for a bike ride at a local park for an hour or so. Little did they know that their house was under constant surveillance and, as they walked out the front door, gang members would enter through the back door.
“The boys were threatened at gunpoint. They both were raped at gunpoint, to keep them silent. They even injected our youngest daughter with drugs. They really used the kids very much against each other to make sure no one talked to the parents, or anyone,” Young said.
The gang members would force Courtney out of the house with them by pointing a gun at her younger sister and saying, “Come with us, or we’re going to shoot your sister right now.”
Young said she and her husband didn’t find out that their sons and younger daughter were abused until a year after Courtney’s situation came to light, “because they were still too scared to speak up and afraid that the gang members were going to come back and get them,” she said.
Young, now the director for Just Ask’s Parent Coalition to End Human Trafficking, said her family fell through the cracks.
She said Courtney tried to seek help 22 times with her school resource officer and school counselor. “They didn’t get back to her once.”
“She did not feel safe to talk to my husband and I—at that time, the gang was threatening her, ‘If you do speak with anybody, we’ll kill your parents, we’ll hurt your little brothers, your sister,’” Young said.
“No one knew how to help our family or how to navigate this delicate situation. The failsafes established to protect families and their children did little to nothing for ours—from the school system to law enforcement, court systems, therapists, doctors.”
Courtney went missing twice over a six-month period—the first time for four days and the second time for two weeks, said Young. Both times, Young said they notified law enforcement and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC).
“It wasn’t until she was recovered the second time by a law enforcement officer who was trained in the area of human trafficking that we began to fully understand the magnitude of our situation,” she said.
The family moved, and Courtney spent 4 1/2 years in inpatient residential therapy, trying to recover from the trauma, Young said.
“Oftentimes for victims, one of the hardest things for them to do is to reintegrate back into society. And we need to create programs that teach them to do so, how to live a normal life,” she said.
She said it can be daunting for survivors to carry out everyday tasks such as picking out a shirt or deciding what to eat.
“These traffickers have manipulated them and gained so much control over them that they actually lose the ability to think for themselves,” Young said.
Experts say the average lifespan for a child who is pulled into sex trafficking is seven years. Very few get out and even fewer stay out. Drug addiction and violence are par for the course and the trauma bond created by the trafficker can entice a victim back in, even after they’ve been rescued.
Foster Care, Homelessness, and Trafficking
The 2019 State Department trafficking report said children in the U.S. foster care system are at high risk of becoming trafficked.
“Recent reports have consistently indicated that a large number of victims of child sex trafficking were at one time in the foster care system,” the 2019 Trafficking In Persons report states.
In 2019, more than 437,000 children were in foster care, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
Bill Bedrossian is the CEO of Covenant House in California, which provides residential programs and services to children and youth facing homelessness in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Central America.
He said that 30 percent to 50 percent of the human trafficking victims that Convenant House works with come from the foster care system, and that traffickers deliberately target foster kids.
“We see traffickers get young victims to try to victimize others through group homes, through foster care networks,” he said.
Bedrossian stressed that child sex trafficking is predominantly a domestic issue. He said 90 percent of the young women who have been trafficked that come through Covenant House are from the United States.
Another group of vulnerable children who are targeted by traffickers are the homeless, including runaways.
Of the more than 23,500 endangered runaways reported to NCMEC in 2019, 1 in 6 were likely victims of child sex trafficking.
Bedrossian cited a recent study directed by Convenant House that showed that 20 percent of young people who experience homelessness also experienced human trafficking.
“And so, by default, we’ve been doing victim services for human trafficking victims over the last 50 years,” Bedrossian said. “But in the last five to 10 years, the victimology has become much different. The sophistication of the traffickers has become much different. The insidiousness of the course of this has become much different.”
Young homeless people are “relatively easy” to lure from the streets with promises of love, protection, food, and financial security, the Covenant House website states.
“For a lot of these young people, they literally have begun being trafficked at 8, 9 years old by their family members, by the gangs, by the street life that they’ve been exposed to,” Bedrossian said.
Convictions and New Challenges
The DOJ convicted 501 sex traffickers in fiscal 2018, up from 471 in fiscal 2017. It took down Backpage.com in 2018, the largest internet site that advertised the sex trafficking of minors and adults. But other sites have since sprung up, including those hosted overseas, which presents an extra challenge for law enforcement.
The NCMEC CyberTipline received 1.1 million reports of child online sexual exploitation in 2014; in 2019, it received 16.9 million reports.
But the challenges with technology remain the most complex for law enforcement to contend with. Tech companies are providing users with more applications that have end-to-end encryption; cryptocurrency hides the money trail; and advertising sites are hosted overseas or on the dark web.
The DOJ has said end-to-end encryption without a backdoor for law enforcement stymies criminal investigations. Tech companies say a backdoor presents a security risk for users.
Victim Services and Moving Forward
While the Youngs slipped through the cracks years ago, more organizations have since sprung up to support survivors and their families.
The DOJ has also poured more funding into victim support services, which are becoming a more integral component of the law enforcement side of trafficking.
During fiscal 2018, the DOJ provided $31.2 million for 45 victim service providers—a significant increase from 18 providers receiving $16.2 million in fiscal 2017.
But, as Young said, gangs have also proliferated.
“It was really hard for us to find a safe place to go and kind of hide the family, so to speak, after our situation,” she said. She said they moved to an area that doesn’t have an MS-13 presence, to their knowledge. However, the surrounding areas do.
“We feel as safe as we can be from our situation,” she said. “We just try to stay in the shadows and not draw any attention to ourselves or to our family.”
Even now, she is learning more about what happened. Recently, she found out that her eldest son was also trafficked with Courtney.
“So he and Courtney, life will always be different for them, it will always move at a much slower pace. They will have to deal with complex PTSD and anxiety and depression—the fear that someone will always come back to get them or will be waiting for them—that will never leave them. I’m always looking for new therapies to try for PTSD and try to help them,” she said.
Courtney is now almost 24 and lives close by, while studying to be a veterinarian. The boys are 20 and 19; one is at college working toward a degree in cybersecurity and the other is about to start college. And the youngest daughter is nearly 12.
The traffickers haven’t faced justice.
Young wants people to understand that they shouldn’t wait until they know of a victim before they take notice of the problem.
“I really just want to empower the public, for them to understand and educate themselves that human trafficking is real. It’s happening every single day.”
Behind the deadly opioid epidemic ravaging communities across the United States lies a carefully planned strategy by a hostile foreign power that experts describe as a “form of chemical warfare.”
It involves the production and trafficking of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that caused the deaths of more than 32,000 Americans in 2018 alone, and fentanyl-related substances.
China is the “largest source” of illicit fentanyl in the United States, a November 2018 report by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission stated. That same commission said that since its 2017 report, they found no “substantive curtailment” of fentanyl flows from China to the United States. They also noted that in “large part, these flows persist due to weak regulations governing pharmaceutical and chemical production in China.”
President Donald Trump has continued to increase his crackdown on fentanyl—he recently ordered all U.S. carriers to “search for and refuse” international mail deliveries of the synthetic opioid pain reliever. Trump specifically named FedEx, Amazon, UPS, and the U.S. Postal Service (USPS).
Jeff Nyquist, an author and researcher of Chinese and Russian strategy, said China is using fentanyl as a “very effective tool.”
“You could call it a form of chemical warfare,” Nyquist told The Epoch Times. “It opens up a number of opportunities for the penetration of the country, both in terms of laundering money and in terms of blackmail against those who participate in the trade and become corrupt like law enforcement, intelligence, and government officials.”
China also uses the money generated by the importing of fentanyl to effectively “influence political parties,” according to Nyquist.
“It opens doors for Chinese influence operations, Chinese People’s Liberation Army, and intelligence services, so that they can get control of certain parts of the U.S.,” he said.
In August, Trump called out Chinese leader Xi Jinping, accusing him of not doing enough to stop the flow of fentanyl, which enters the United States mostly via international mail.
Liu Yuejin, vice commissioner of the China National Narcotics Control Commission, disputed Trump’s criticism, telling reporters on Sept. 3 that they had started going after illicit fentanyl production, according to state-controlled media. China also denies that most of the illicit fentanyl entering the United States originates in China.
Overdose deaths from synthetic opioids such as fentanyl surged from around 29,000 in 2017 to more than 32,000 in 2018, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Not all opioid-related deaths in the United States can be blamed on China’s fentanyl export policies, as some come from prescription overdoses, according to Dr. Robert J. Bunker, an adjunct research professor at the U.S. Army War College Strategic Studies Institute.
But Bunker told The Epoch Times that China is still “greatly contributing” to America’s opioid epidemic. Bunker described how Beijing is using the trafficking of dangerous drugs to achieve its greater Communist Party goals.
“Contributing to a major health crisis in the U.S., while simultaneously profiting from it would in my mind give long-term CCP plans to establish an authoritarian Chinese global system as a challenge to Western liberal democracy,” he said via email.
“[It’s] a win-win situation for the regime,” he continued. “In fact producing and sending fentanyl to the U.S., which could be considered a low-risk policy of ‘drug warfare,’ is very much in line with the means and methods advocated in the 1999 work ‘Unrestricted Warfare.’”
The book mentioned by Bunker is authored by two of China’s air force colonels, Qiao Liang, and Wang Xiangsui, and published by the People’s Liberation Army.
Recent cases of fentanyl-related overdose and deaths are linked to “illegally made fentanyl,” the CDC has said. Fentanyl is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine.
Fentanyl has been approved for treating severe pain for conditions such as late-stage cancer. It is prescribed by doctors typically through transdermal patches or lozenges. Fentanyl should only be prescribed by doctors who are experienced in treating pain in cancer patients, according to Medline Plus, an online site by the United States National Library of Medicine. It may become addictive, especially with prolonged use.
A USPS spokesman told The Epoch Times they are “aggressively working” to add in provisions from the STOP Act. The Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention legislation, signed in 2018 by Trump, aims to curb the flow of opioids sent through the mail while increasing coordination between USPS and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
USPS has notified China’s postal operations that if any of their shipments don’t contain Advance Electronic Data (AED), they “may be returned at any time,” the spokesman said via email. CBP is also notifying air and ocean carriers to confirm that 100 percent of their postal shipment containers have AED before loading them onto their conveyance.
In August, law enforcement seized 30 kilograms (around 66 pounds) of fentanyl, among other narcotics as part of a major arrest operation over the course of three days. As a result, officers arrested 35 suspects for “conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute large amounts of heroin, fentanyl, cocaine, and cocaine base.”
G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, said in a statement that the amount of fentanyl seized was enough to “kill over 14 million people.” One of the suspects in Virginia had ordered the fentanyl from a vendor in Shanghai and was receiving it at his residence through USPS, according to the indictment.
“The last thing we want is for the U.S. Postal Service to become the nation’s largest drug dealer, and there are people way above my pay grade working on that, but absolutely, it’s about putting pressure on the Chinese,” Terwilliger said.
CBP Enforcement Statistics reveal that fiscal year seizures of illicit fentanyl spiked from about one kilogram (2.2 pounds) in 2013 to nearly 1,000 kilograms (2,200 pounds) in 2018. The number of law enforcement fentanyl seizures in the United States also vaulted from about 1,000 in 2013 to more than 59,000 in 2017.
Also, in August, the Mexican navy found 52,000 pounds of fentanyl powder in a container from a Danish ship that was coming from Shanghai. The navy intercepted the unloaded 40-foot container on Aug. 24, at the Port of Cardenas.
“There is clear evidence that fentanyl or fentanyl precursors, chemicals used to make fentanyl is coming from China,” Dr. Andrew Kolodny, co-director of Opioid Policy Research at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management, told The Epoch Times.
Two commonly used fentanyl precursors are chemicals called NPP and 4-ANPP. In early 2017, journalist Ben Westhoff started researching the chemicals, finding many advertisements for them all over the internet from different companies. He later determined a majority of those companies were under a Chinese chemical company called Yuancheng, according to an excerpt from his upcoming book “Fentanyl, Inc.: How Rogue Chemists Are Creating the Deadliest Wave of the Opioid Epidemic,” an excerpt of which was published in The Atlantic.
One of the concerns related to the production of illicit opioids is the creation of fentanyl analogs, products that are similar to fentanyl and also simple to make.
“You can very easily manipulate the molecule and create a new fentanyl-like product that hasn’t been banned, that’s not technically illegal,” Kolodny told The Epoch Times. “Some of the manufacturers, the folks creating the drugs, are aware of that.”
“We saw this with other synthetic drugs that are abused in the U.S., when law enforcement make the drug illegal or when they ban the molecule,” he said. “In some cases, fentanyl analogs are even stronger than fentanyl. There’s an analog called carfentanil, which is even more potent than fentanyl.”
Just one microgram is needed for carfentanil to affect a human. The drug is “one of the most potent opioids known” and is marketed under the trade name Wildnil “as a general anesthetic agent for large animals.”
“Sometimes, it’s hard for law enforcement to keep up with the chemist,” Kolodny added.
A bill dubbed the SOFA Act or the “Stopping Overdoses of Fentanyl Analogues Act,” has yet to pass Congress. The act was introduced in May by Republican senators and would give law enforcement “enhanced tools to combat the opioid epidemic and close a loophole in current law that makes it difficult to prosecute crimes involving some synthetic opioids.”
Kolodny said pharmaceutical industries have been lobbying to stop any legislation meant to restrict fentanyl analogs “because these are products they are trying to bring to market.”
In August, an Oklahoma judge ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $572.1 million to the state for deceitfully marketing addictive opioids. The sum was less than what investors had expected, according to Reuters, which resulted in shares of the multinational corporation rising in value.
“We should be doing everything we can to keep fentanyl out of the country,” Kolodny said. “We should be doing everything we can to ban fentanyl analogs.”
As part of the Trump administration’s latest efforts to combat the opioid crisis, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Sept. 4 announced nearly $2 billion in funding to states.
The funding would expand access to treatment and also support near-real-time data on the drug overdose crisis, according to a release.
In announcing the move, White House counsel Kellyanne Conway told reporters in a conference call that their administration is trying to interject the word “fentanyl” into the “everyday lexicon” as part of their efforts to increase awareness.
Data suggests that of the approximately 2 million Americans suffering from opioid use disorder, approximately 1.27 million of them are now receiving medication-assisted treatment, according to the HHS.
“Central to our effort to stop the flood of fentanyl and other illicit drugs is our unprecedented support for law enforcement and their interdiction efforts,” she said.
Conway then brought up the DHS seizures of fentanyl in 2018, which totaled an equivalent of 1.2 billion lethal doses.
“Ladies and gentlemen, that is enough to have killed every American four times,” she told reporters.
In March 2018, the Interior Department created a task force aimed to specifically combat the crisis on tribal lands. Since then, the department has arrested more than 422 individuals and seized 4,000 pounds of illegal drugs worth $12 million on the street, including more than 35,000 fentanyl pills.
Conway, on the conference call, described the epidemic of pain relievers as an “opioid and fentanyl crisis.”
The latest call to action from some criminal-justice activists: “Abolish the police.”
From the streets of Chicago to the city council of Seattle, and in the pages of academic journals ranging from the Cardozo Law Review to the Harvard Law Review and of mainstream publications from the Boston Review to Rolling Stone, advocates and activists are building a case not just to reform policing — viewed as an oppressive, violent and racist institution — but to do away with it altogether. When I first heard this slogan, I assumed that it was a figure of speech, used to legitimize more expansive criminal-justice reform. But after reading the academic and activist literature, I realized that “abolish the police” is a concrete policy goal. The abolitionists want to dismantle municipal police departments and see “police officers disappearing from the streets.”
One might dismiss such proclamations as part of a fringe movement, but advocates of these radical views are gaining political momentum in numerous cities. In Seattle, socialist city council candidate Shaun Scott, who ran on a “police abolition” platform, came within 1,386 votes of winning elected office. During his campaign, he argued that the city must “[disinvest] from the police state” and “build towards a world where nobody is criminalized for being poor.” At a debate hosted by the Seattle Police Officers Guild, Scott blasted “so-called officers” for their “deep and entrenched institutional ties to racism” that produced an “apparatus of overaggressive and racist policing that has emerged to steer many black and brown bodies back into, in essence, a form of slavery.” Another Seattle police abolitionist, Kirsten Harris-Talley, served briefly as an appointed city councilwoman. Both Scott and Harris-Talley enjoy broad support from the city’s progressive establishment.
What would abolishing police mean as a practical policy matter? Nothing very practical. In The Nation, Mychal Denzel Smith argues that police should be replaced by “full social, economic, and political equality.” Harris-Talley, meantime, has traced policing’s origins back to slavery. “How do you reform an institution that from its inception was made to control, maim, condemn and kill people?” she asks. “Reform it back to what?” If cities can eliminate poverty through affordable housing and “investing in community,” she believes, the police will become unnecessary. Others argue that cities must simply “help people resolve conflicts through peace circles and restorative justice programs.”
Police abolitionists believe that they stand at the vanguard of a new idea, but this strain of thought dates to the 18th century philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who believed that stripping away the corruptions of civilization would liberate the goodness of man. What police abolitionists fail to acknowledge is the problem of evil. No matter how many “restorative” programs it administers, even a benevolent centralized state cannot extinguish the risks of illness, violence and disorder. Contrary to the utopian vision of Rousseau and his intellectual descendants, chaos is not freedom; order is not slavery. In the modern world, civilization cannot be rolled back without dire consequences.
If anything like police abolition ever occurred, it’s easy to predict what would happen next. In the subsequent vacuum of physical power, wealthy neighborhoods would deploy private police forces, and poor neighborhoods would organize around criminal gangs — deepening structural inequalities and harming the very people that the police abolitionists say they want to help. Even Scott, when pressed by a local journalist about how he would respond to a shooting in his district, conceded that “we live in a world where it’s not possible to turn anywhere for help on big questions like this but to the police force.”
Reform the police? Sure. Abolish them? Never.
Christopher F. Rufo is a contributing editor of City Journal, documentary filmmaker, and research fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Wealth & Poverty. He’s directed four films for PBS, including his new film, “America Lost,” which tells the story of three “forgotten American cities.” This piece originally appeared in City Journal.
A slow-motion war is under way in Africa’s most populous country. It’s a massacre of Christians, massive in scale and horrific in brutality. And the world has hardly noticed.
A Nigerian Pentecostal Christian, director of a nongovernmental organization that works for mutual understanding between Nigeria’s Christians and Muslims, alerted me to it. “Have you heard of the Fulani?” he asked at our first meeting, in Paris, speaking the flawless, melodious English of the Nigerian elite. The Fulani are an ethnic group, generally described as shepherds from mostly Muslim Northern Nigeria, forced by climate change to move with their herds toward the more temperate Christian South. They number 14 million to 15 million in a nation of 191 million.
Among them is a violent element. “They are Islamic extremists of a new stripe,” the NGO director said, “more or less linked with Boko Haram,” the sect that became infamous for the 2014 kidnapping of 276 Christian girls in the state of Borno. “I beg you,” he said, “come and see for yourself.” Knowing of Boko Haram but nothing of the Fulani, I accept.
The 2019 Global Terrorism Index estimates that Fulani extremists have become deadlier than Boko Haram and accounted for the majority of the country’s 2,040 documented terrorist fatalities in 2018. To learn more about them, I travel to Godogodo, in the center of the country, where I meet a beautiful woman named Jumai Victor, 28. On July 15, she says, Fulani extremists stormed into her village on long-saddle motorcycles, three to a bike, shouting “Allahu Akbar!” They torched houses and killed her four children before her eyes.
When her turn came and they noticed she was pregnant, a discussion ensued. Some didn’t want to see her belly slit, so they compromised by cutting up and amputating her left arm with a machete. She speaks quickly and emotionlessly, staring into space as if she lost her face along with her arm. The village chief, translating for her, chokes up. Tears stream down his cheeks when she finishes her account.
I venture north to Adnan, where Lyndia David, 34, tells her story of survival. On the morning of March 15, rumors reached her village that Fulani raiders were nearby. She was dressing for church as her husband prepared to join a group of men who’d stand watch. He urged her to take refuge at her sister’s home in another village.
Her first night there, sentinels woke her with a whistle. She left the house to find flames spreading around her. Fulani surrounded her. Then she heard a voice: “Come this way, you can get through!” She did, and her putative savior leapt out of the underbrush, cut three fingers off her right hand, carved the nape of her neck with his machete, shot her, doused her body with gasoline, and lit it. She somehow survived. A few weeks later she returned to her village and learned that the raiders had leveled it the same night. Her husband was among the 72 they murdered.
The Christian Middle Belt is a land of blooming prairies that once delighted English colonizers. On the outskirts of Jos, capital of Plateau state, I visit the ruins of a burned-down church. I spot another, intact. A man emerges to yell at me in English that I don’t belong there. Stalling, I learn that he is Turkish, a member of a “religious mutual assistance group” that is opening madrassas for the daughters of Fulani.
That day I crisscross the Middle Belt. Roads are crumbled, bridges collapsed; destroyed houses cast broken shadows over tree stumps and trails of black ash and blood. Maize rots in the abandoned fields. The local Christians have been killed or are too terrorized to come out and harvest it. In the distance are clusters of white smudges—the Fulani herds grazing on the lush grass. When we approach, the armed shepherds wave us off.
The Anglican bishop of Jos, Benjamin Kwashi, has had his livestock stolen three times. During the third raid he was dragged into his room, a gun to his head. He dropped to his knees and prayed at the top of his voice until the thrumming of a helicopter drove his assailants off.
Bishop Kwashi describes the Fulani extremists’ pattern: They usually arrive at night. They are barefoot, so you can’t hear them coming unless they’re on motorcycle. Sometimes a dog sounds the alert, sometimes a sentinel. Then a terrifying stampede, whirling clouds of dust, cries of encouragement from the invaders. Before villagers can take shelter or flee, the invaders are upon them in their houses, swinging machetes, burning, pillaging, raping. They don’t kill everyone. At some point they stop, recite a verse from the Quran, round up the livestock and retreat. They need survivors to spread fear from village to village, to bear witness that the Fulani raiders fear nothing but Allah and are capable of anything.
The heads of 17 Christian communities have come to the outskirts of Abuja, Nigeria’s federal capital, to meet me in a nondescript compound. Some have traveled for days in packed buses or minivans. Each arrives accompanied by a victim or two.
Here they are, an exhausted yet earnestly hopeful group of some 40 women and men, keenly aware of the moment’s gravity. One carries a USB key, another a handwritten account, a third a folder full of photos, captioned and dated. I accept these records, overwhelmed by the weight of the bearers’ hope that the world will recognize the horrors they experienced.
Taking the floor in turn, the survivors confirm the modus operandi Bishop Kwashi described, each adding an awful detail. The mutilated cadavers of women. A mute man commanded to deny his faith, then cut up with a machete until he screams. A girl strangled with the chain of her crucifix.
Westerners here depict the Fulani extremists as an extended, rampant Boko Haram. An American humanitarian says the Fulani recruit volunteers to serve internships in Borno State, where Boko Haram is active. Another says Boko Haram “instructors” have been spotted in Bauchi, another northeastern state, where they are teaching elite Fulani militants to handle more-sophisticated weapons that will replace their machetes. Yet whereas Boko Haram are confined to perhaps 5% of Nigerian territory, the Fulani terrorists operate across the country.
Villagers west of Jos show the weapons they use to defend themselves: bows, slings, daggers, sticks, leather whips, spears. Even these meager arms have to be concealed. When the army comes through after the attacks, soldiers tell the villagers their paltry weapons are illegal and confiscate them.
Several times I note the proximity of a military base that might have been expected to protect civilians. But the soldiers didn’t come; or, if they did, it was only after the battle; or they claimed not to have received the texted SOS calls in time, or not to have had orders to respond, or to have been delayed on an impassable road.
“What do you expect?” our driver asks as we take off in a convoy for his burned-down church. “The army is in league with the Fulani. They go hand in hand.” After one attack, “we even found a dog tag and a uniform.”
“It’s hardly surprising,” says Dalyop Salomon Mwantiri, one of the few lawyers in the region who dare to represent victims. “The general staff of the Nigerian army is a Fulani. The whole bureaucracy is Fulani.”
So is President Muhammadu Buhari. In April 2016 Mr. Buhari ordered security forces to “secure all communities under attack by herdsmen.” In July 2019 a spokesman for the president said in a statement: “No one has the right to ask anyone or group to depart from any part of the country, whether North, South, East or West.”
Most Christians I meet express disgust at the vague language suggesting culpability on both sides. Their stories tend to validate claims of the government’s complicity. In Riyom district, three displaced Nigerians and a soldier were gunned down this June as they attempted to return home. The villagers know the assailants. Police identified them. Everyone knows they took refuge in a nearby village. But there they are under the protection of the ardos, a local emir. No arrests occurred.
Village chief Sunday Abdu recounts another example, a 2017 attack on Nkiedonwhro. This time the military came to warn villagers of a threat. They ordered the women and children to take shelter in a school. But after the civilians complied, a soldier fired a shot in the air. A second shot sounded in the distance, seemingly in response. Minutes later, after the soldiers had departed, the assailants appeared, went directly to the classroom, and fired into the cowering group, killing 27.
I also meet some Fulani—the first time by chance. Traveling by road near a river bed, we come on a checkpoint consisting of a rope stretched across the road, a hut and two armed men. “No passage,” says one, wearing a jacket on which are sewn badges in Arabic and Turkish. “This is Fulani land, the holy land of Usman dan Fodio, our king—and you whites can’t come in.” The conquests of dan Fodio (1754-1817) led to the establishment of the Sokoto Caliphate over the Fula and Hausa lands.
The second encounter is on the outskirts of Abuja. Driving toward the countryside, we reach a village unlike the others we’ve seen in the Christian zone. There’s a ditch, and behind it a hedge of bushes and pilings. The place seems closed off from the world. From huts emerge a swarm of children and their mothers, the women covered from head to foot.
It’s a village of Fulani nomads who carried out a tiny, localized Fulanization after the Christians cleared out. “What are you doing here?” demands an adolescent boy wearing a T-shirt adorned with a swastika. “Are you taking advantage of the fact that it’s Friday, and we’re in the mosque, to come spy on our women? The Quran forbids that!” When I ask if wearing a swastika isn’t also contrary to the Quran, he looks puzzled, then launches into a feverish tirade. He says he knows he’s wearing “a German insignia,” but he believes that “all men are brothers,” except for the “bad souls” who “hate Muslims.”
Later I encounter Fulani near Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city, which is in the south on the Gulf of Guinea. North of the city is an open-air market where Fulani sell their livestock. I am with three young Christians, survivors of a Middle Belt massacre who live in a camp for displaced persons. They pretend to be cousins buying an animal for a family feast. As they negotiate over a white-horned pygmy goat, I look for Fulani willing to talk.
Most have come from Jigawa state, on the border with Niger, crossing the country south in trucks to bring their stock here. Although I learn little about their trip, they eagerly express their joy in being here, on the border of this contemptible promised land, where they expect to “dip the Quran in the sea.”
There are “too many Christians in Lagos,” says Abadallah, who looks to be in his 40s. “The Christians are dogs and children of dogs. You say Christians. To us they are traitors. They adopted the religion of the whites. There is no place here for friends of the whites, who are impure.” A postcard vendor joins the group and offers me portraits of Osama bin Laden and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He agrees the Christians will eventually leave and Nigeria will be “free.”
Some professional disinformers will try to reduce the violence here to one of the “interethnic wars” that inflame Africa. They’ll likely find, here and there, acts of reprisal against the Fula and Hausa. But as my trip concludes, I have the terrible feeling of being carried back to Rwanda in the 1990s, to Darfur and South Sudan in the 2000s.
Will the West let history repeat itself in Nigeria? Will we wait, as usual, until the disaster is done before taking notice? Will we stand by as international Islamic extremism opens a new front across this vast land, where the children of Abraham have coexisted for so long?
Mr. Lévy is author of “The Empire and the Five Kings: America’s Abdication and the Fate of the World” (Henry Holt, 2019). This article was translated from French by Steven B. Kennedy.
Between 2007 and 2017, the suicide rate among individuals aged 15 to 24 rose by 50 percent. While the causes for this dramatic rise are being widely debated in the media, many media outlets are focusing specifically on the rise in minority and female suicides, as well as the elevated risk that LGBTQ-plus teens face.
The suicide rate for women aged 15 to 24 during this period rose 87 percent, to 5.8 per 100,000 people in 2017 from 3.1 in 2007. The suicide rate for African Americans of the same age group rose by 75 percent, to 10.7 in 2017 from 6.1 in 2007. These numbers demonstrate a crisis among American youth, yet most of the reporting on the issue has glossed over an even larger crisis: the suicide rate for men, primarily non-Hispanic white men, and American Indian and Alaskan Native men.
Nationally, men commit suicide at a rate of almost four times that of women. Across every ethnic and age range, men commit significantly more suicides per 100,000. From 2007 to 2017, the suicide rate for 15- to 24-year-old white men jumped by 46 percent. Though a smaller increase than other groups, the per-100,000 number reached an astonishing 27.2, compared to 5.8 for all women nationally.
Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for white males between the ages of 5 and 34. The rate at which white men commit suicide continues to increase until briefly leveling off at 39.5 per 100,000 at 45 to 54 years old, before spiking to 58.8 over the age of 85.
In an equally depressing contrast, American Indian and Alaskan Native males have the highest suicide rate at 5 to 44 years old, peaking at 62.9 suicides per 100,000. While the suicide rate for white males remains high and even increases in later years, American Indian and Alaskan Native men see a steep decline as they age.
Even in comparison to groups that have widely been reported on for their disturbingly high rates of suicide, white and Native American men have significantly higher levels.
Active duty military personnel commit suicides at a rate of 24.8 per 100,000, while veterans take their own lives at a rate of 30 per 100,000. Both of these figures receive coverage from media outlets and politicians across the country for having a rate of suicide considerably higher than the national average of 14.5.
In the Annual Suicide Report released by the Department of Defense, the Pentagon states that these figures are misleading. According to the report: “On the surface, suicide in the military appears to be markedly higher than the U.S. population. … Nevertheless, the direct comparison of military suicide rates and the U.S. military population is misleading. It is well established that males have a nearly four times higher risk of suicide death than females.”
What the report fails to expand upon, beyond a brief acknowledgment, is that more than 70 percent of suicides in the military are committed specifically by white males.
The vast discrepancy between male and female suicides exists across the globe. In almost every country, from Ireland to Japan, from Russia to Bahrain, men kill themselves 3 to 5 times more often than women. The reasons for this are complex, widely debated, and further muddled by what is known as the Gender Paradox of Suicide.
Women across the globe attempt suicide at a rate of three to five times more than men, despite men successfully committing the majority of suicides. Men are less likely to seek mental health treatment than women, less likely to ask friends and family for help, face different societal pressures, and are more likely to use methods of suicide that have a greater chance of success, such as firearms.
Irrespective of the exact causes for the disparity in gender and race, more needs to be done to address this endemic issue. In the current political climate, proposing policies specifically aimed at white and male Americans is a nonstarter. Even acknowledging issues specific to “privileged” groups can lead to a caustic backlash. The rate of suicide is growing at an alarming rate across almost every demographic in the United States, all of whom deserve to be acknowledged and helped.
In 2017, more than 47,000 Americans intentionally took their own lives: 37,000 were men, and 30,000 of them were non-Hispanic white men. The increased rate of suicide among minorities and women is a burgeoning crisis, but the suicide rate among men, particularly white men, American Indians, and Alaskan Natives, is already a crisis, one that has been ignored for decades.
After graduating from the University of Florida in 2014 and from Florida State University in 2017, David Brown spent several years working at the Government Accountability Institute, where he researched corruption in politics. Brown specializes in health care, economics, and foreign policy.
And now comes news that “the science behind the breathalyzer is bogus,” leading to tens of thousands of cases “being thrown out around the country.”
A New York Times investigation, he notes, found: “The company that makes the machines for the police stations won’t share its technology or submit to a serious scientific review of its technology” while “tests of the tests” show them to be wildly inaccurate.
He sums up: “As it turns out, the only scientific way to determine blood-alcohol content is with blood tests. There are too many variables to make the breath alone reliable,” so we need to “seriously rethink the entire machinery of drunk-driving enforcement.”
NOTE: In the late 1980s I did business in sub Saharan Africa including work with Mugabe’s cousin in Zimbabwe. At the time the economy there was remarkable.
I too believed that he was a good man with good intentions but soon realized that he was evil, and I don’t use that word lightly. The good people of Zimbabwe suffered unspeakable crimes by this man. Dale Yeager
Robert Gabriel Mugabe was a man who divided global public opinion like few others. To some, he was an evil dictator who should have ended his days in jail for crimes against humanity.
To others, he was a revolutionary hero, who fought racial oppression and stood up to Western imperialism and neo-colonialism.
On his own terms, he was an undoubted success.
First, he delivered independence for Zimbabwe after decades of white-minority rule.
He then remained in power for 37 years – outlasting his greatest enemies and rivals such as Tony Blair, George W Bush, Joshua Nkomo, Morgan Tsvangirai and Nelson Mandela.
And he destroyed the economic power of Zimbabwe’s white community, which was based on their hold over the country’s most fertile land.
However, his compatriots – except for a small, well-connected elite – paid the price, with the destruction of what had once been one of Africa’s most diversified economies.
In the end, this came back to haunt him.
The outpouring of joy on the streets of Harare which greeted his forced resignation in November 2017 echoed the jubilation in the same city 37 years earlier when it was announced he was the new leader of independent Zimbabwe.
Although he was allowed to see out his days in peace in his Harare mansion, it was not the end he wanted, having famously boasted: “Only God, who appointed me, will remove me.”
Many Zimbabweans trace the reversal of his – and their – fortunes to his 1996 wedding to his secretary Grace Marufu, 41 years his junior, following the death of his widely respected first wife, Sally, in 1992.
“He changed the moment Sally died, when he married a young gold-digger,” according to Wilf Mbanga, editor of The Zimbabwean newspaper, who used to be close personal friends with Mr Mugabe.
That sentiment was common long before anyone dreamed she might one day harbour presidential ambitions, which were the trigger for his close allies in the military and the ruling Zanu-PF party to oust Mr Mugabe from power.
Mugabe the man
While he was sometimes portrayed as a madman, this was far from the truth. He was extremely intelligent and those who underestimated him usually discovered this to their cost.
Stephen Chan, a professor at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, noted Mr Mugabe had repeatedly embarrassed the West with his “adroit diplomacy”.
Mugabe in his own words:
“Cricket civilises people and creates good gentlemen. I want everyone to play cricket in Zimbabwe; I want ours to be a nation of gentlemen” – undated
“Let the MDC and its leadership be warned that those who play with fire will not only be burnt, but consumed by that fire” – 2003 election rally
“We are not hungry… Why foist this food upon us? We don’t want to be choked. We have enough” – interview with Sky TV in 2004, amid widespread food shortages
“Only God, who appointed me, will remove me – not the MDC, not the British. Only God will remove me.” Robert Mugabe During election rally, 2008
“Don’t drink at all, don’t smoke, you must exercise and eat vegetables and fruit” – interview on his 88th birthday in 2012
“[Nelson] Mandela [South Africa’s first black president] has gone a bit too far in doing good to the non-black communities, really in some cases at the expense of [blacks]… That’s being too saintly, too good, too much of a saint” – 2013 state TV interview
As a former political rival of Mr Mugabe, who went on to serve as his home affairs minister, Dumiso Dabengwa witnessed the different sides of Zimbabwe’s founding father.
“Under normal circumstances, he would be very charming but when he got angry, he was something else – if you crossed him, he could certainly be ruthless,” he told the BBC before his death in May 2019.
Mr Dabengwa said the president would often let him win an argument over policy during the decade they worked together, or they would agree to compromise – not the behaviour of a dictator.
But something, he added, changed after 2000 and Mr Mugabe resorted to threats to ensure he got his way.
“He held compromising material over several of his colleagues and they knew they would face criminal charges if they opposed him.”
This is not a picture recognised by Chen Chimutengwende, who worked alongside Mr Mugabe in both the Zanu-PF party and government for 30 years.
“In all the time I have worked with him, I have never seen him be vindictive or ill-treat anyone,” he said.
Wilf Mbanga, editor, The Zimbabwean:
“He went from trying to convince you with his arguments to a man who would send his thugs to beat you up if you disagreed with him”
Mr Chimutengwende felt Zimbabwe’s leader had been unfairly demonised in the Western media because of his policy of seizing land from white farmers whom he suspects of having influential supporters, especially in the UK, where many trace their roots.
Mugabe the teacher
The year 2000 marked a watershed both in the history of Zimbabwe and the career of Mr Mugabe.
Until then, he was generally feted for reaching out towards the white community following independence, while Zimbabwe’s economy was still faring pretty well.
After coming to power in 1980, Mr Mugabe greatly expanded education and healthcare for black Zimbabweans and the country enjoyed living standards far higher than its neighbours.
In 1995, a World Bank report praised Zimbabwe’s rapid progress in the fields of health and literacy. Run by a former teacher, the country had the highest literacy rates in Africa.
In her book, Dinner With Mugabe, Heidi Hollande said Mr Mugabe used to personally coach illiterate State House workers to help them pass exams.
Mr Mbanga recalls listening to the songs of US country singer Jim Reeves together.
“He could be very affectionate, he was an intellectual. He liked explaining things, like a teacher,” said Mr Mbanga, but then saw a huge change in his former friend.
“He went from trying to convince you with his arguments to a man who would send his thugs to beat you up if you disagreed with him.”
In fact, the warning signs were already there – the massacre of thousands of ethnic Ndebeles seen as supporters of Mr Mugabe’s rival, Joshua Nkomo, in the 1980s and the start of the economic decline – but these were usually overlooked.
“Some say he had us all fooled, I am convinced he himself changed,” Mr Mbanga said.
The journalist says that in his early years as president, Mr Mugabe genuinely believed in trying to improve the lives of his people, and introduced a “leadership code” which barred ministers from owning too much property.
“Look at him today, he is fabulously wealthy. He is not the person I knew,” Mr Mbanga said in May 2014.
In February 2000, the government lost a referendum on a draft constitution.
With parliamentary elections looming four months later and a newly formed opposition party with close links to the “No” campaign posing a serious threat, Mr Mugabe unleashed his personal militia.
Some were genuine veterans of the 1970s war of independence but others were far younger.
TV footage of white farmers queuing up to make donations to the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) meant Mr Mugabe was able to portray the opposition as stooges of the white community, and by extension the UK.
The invasion of white-owned farms achieved several goals for Mr Mugabe and his allies:
Punish the white community for their “betrayal”
Remove a source of funding from the opposition
Allow the “war veterans” to intimidate the many thousands of black farmworkers, largely seen as opposition supporters
Ensure that the opposition could not campaign in rural areas
Re-energise his supporters, some of whom had been losing faith in his ability to redistribute land – one of the grievances behind the 1970s war of independence
Attract new supporters with the promise of land handouts.
There was certainly a strong moral argument that land reform was needed in Zimbabwe but the way it was carried out was undoubtedly with political motivations uppermost.
Despite the widespread violence, intimidation and electoral fraud, the MDC gained almost as many elected seats as Zanu-PF in 2000.
Had it not been for the intimidation in rural areas, Zanu-PF may well have lost its majority.
Lovemore Madhuku, one of the leaders of the “No” campaign in 2000, described Mr Mugabe as an “an excellent political calculator”, who adapted his tactics to the situation.
“There are moments when he chooses to be ruthless, others when he chooses to be magnanimous… He considers what is best – for him – in every situation and reacts accordingly,” Mr Madhuku told the BBC.
He said Mr Mugabe might not have realised the damage the seizure of white-owned land would do to Zimbabwe’s economy but in any case, he would not have cared, as long as he remained president.
Mr Chan agreed that, “in terms of Mr Mugabe’s value-set, the ownership of the land is more important than the smooth running of the economy”.
And the economy continued to decline until 2008.
After 28 years of Mr Mugabe’s rule, the resourceful, largely self-sufficient country lay in ruins. The inflation rate had reached an unfathomable 231 million per cent and young Zimbabweans were voting with their feet, fleeing the country he had fought to liberate.
And yet, from this low point, he once more managed to outmanoeuvre his rivals and remain in power for another nine years.
‘Mummy’s Boy’ to African liberator
The key to understanding Robert Mugabe is the fight against white-minority rule.
In the Rhodesia where he grew up, power was reserved for some 270,000 white people at the expense of about six millions Africans.
A host of other laws discriminated against the black majority, largely subsistence farmers.
They were forced to leave their ancestral land and pushed into the country’s peripheral regions, with dry soil and low rainfall, while the most fertile areas were reserved for white farmers.
Reclaiming the land was one of the main drivers behind the 1970s war which brought Mr Mugabe to power.
The son of a carpenter who abandoned his family, as a child Mr Mugabe was said to have been a loner, who spent much of his time reading.
Ms Hollande wrote that after his elder brother died of poisoning when Mr Mugabe was just 10, his mother became depressed and the young Mugabe would do everything he could for her, to the extent he was teased as a “mummy’s boy” at school.
He eventually qualified as a teacher and in 1958 went to work in Ghana, which had just become the first African country south of the Sahara to end colonial rule.
Encouraged by his Ghanaian wife, Sally, and the pan-Africanist speeches of Ghana’s leader Kwame Nkrumah, Mr Mugabe became determined to achieve the same back home.
On his return in 1960, he started to campaign for an end to discrimination and was jailed for a decade after being convicted of sedition.
While in prison, his supporters wrested control of Zanu, the biggest party fighting white rule, and installed him as leader.
On his release, he was supposed to remain in the country but with the help of a white nun, he was smuggled over the border into Mozambique and the Zanu guerrilla camps.
‘He loves power’
After Mr Mugabe won the 1980 elections which led to independence, he pursued a policy of reconciliation with the white community despite the bitterness built up during the war.
In a national address after becoming prime minister, he declared: “If you were my enemy, you are now my friend. If you hated me, you cannot avoid the love that binds me to you and you to me.”
Four faces of Mugabe:
“He was a very nice guy. At that stage, he was not too sure of himself. There were very strong people in Zanu who were not afraid to oppose him. He would never take a decision on his own” – Dumiso Dabengwa
“He did everything he could to improve the lives of his people. He wanted education for all. He wanted health for all. He introduced a leadership code limiting Zanu-PF cadres to 50 acres of land” – Wilf Mbanga
“I worked very harmoniously with him and discussed issues. He would let me have my way or we would reach a compromise” – Dumiso Dabengwa
2000 – 2017:
“After 2000, he started flexing his muscles. He brought in people who he could influence. Several people were compromised – he held something over them” – Dumiso Dabengwa.
“He has become fabulously wealthy. He is not the person I knew. He changed the moment Sally died [in 1992], when he married a young gold-digger [Grace Mugabe]” – Wilf Mbanga
He allowed Ian Smith, the Rhodesian prime minister who had once declared that black people would not rule the country for 1,000 years and who reportedly personally refused to let Mr Mugabe leave prison for the funeral of his then only son, to remain both an MP and on his farm.
At this point, according to Mr Madhuku, Mr Mugabe’s hold on power was relatively weak, so he realised he had to reach out to his former enemies.
Former home affairs minister Mr Dabengwa said Mr Mugabe was even less self-confident earlier on in his political career.
“When I first met him in the 1960s, he was not sure of himself, of his position in Zanu,” Mr Dabengwa recalled.
“There were very strong people in Zanu who were not afraid to oppose him. He would never take a decision on his own but would always check with them first.”
But slowly, he consolidated control – first over the party which led the war against white-minority rule and later the country as a whole – until the point where his was the only voice that counted.
“He loves power, it’s in his DNA,” said Mr Madhuku.
Bonds forged in war
Throughout his time as president, his closest allies were always those with whom he had endured the hardships of life during the guerrilla war of independence.
When they felt their grip on power, and its trappings, were threatened, they reverted wholeheartedly to the conflict mentality.
“We are in a war to defend our rights and the interests of our people. The British have decided to take us on through the MDC,” he told a 2002 election rally.
This meant opposition supporters were denounced as traitors – a label which could mean an immediate death sentence.
Mr Chimutengwende argued that the scale of the violence was exaggerated and in any case sought to distance it from Mr Mugabe: “It is not the leader who throws a stone, or asks his followers to throw a stone.”
But Mr Dabengwa, the minister in charge of the police in 2000, said Mr Mugabe’s Zanu party had been using such methods since the 1980 election.
He said that fighters from Zanu’s armed wing had been sent out into rural areas to ensure villagers voted the “right” way, partly through all-night indoctrination sessions, known as “pungwes”.
“People were told there were magic binoculars which could tell which way they voted and there were no-go areas for other parties,” said Mr Dabengwa, whose Zapu party came a distant second in 1980.
“But the British declared those elections free and fair and so Zanu learnt that that was how to win an election.”
Although he won those elections in 1980, and formed a coalition government with Zapu, the underlying tensions burst into open violence just two years later.
Zapu leader Joshua Nkomo was accused of plotting a coup and the army’s North Korea-trained Fifth Brigade was sent to his home region of Matabeleland.
More than 20,000 people were killed in Operation Gukurahundi, which means “the early rain which washes away the chaff”.
At the time, South African double-agent Kevin Woods was making daily reports in person to then Prime Minister Mugabe for the internal security force, the Central Intelligence Organisation.
“He obviously wanted to know exactly what Fifth Brigade was doing,” he wrote in his autobiography.
In the end, a subdued Mr Nkomo once more agreed to share power with his enemy in order to end the violence in his home region – a forerunner of what later happened to the MDC.
21 February 1924: Born
1964: Jailed after being convicted of sedition
1973: Becomes Zanu leader
1980: Becomes prime minister of Zimbabwe
1987: Becomes president under new constitution agreed under deal to end Matabeleland massacres
1992: Wife Sally dies
1996: Marries Grace Marufu
2000: Loses referendum, land invasions begin
2002: Wins presidential election amid widespread violence and fraud allegations
2005: Launches Operation Murambatsvina (Drive Out Rubbish), which forces 700,000 urban residents from their homes – seen as punishment for opposition supporters
2008: Comes second in election, violence leads his opponent Morgan Tsvangirai to withdraw from run-off
2009: Forms coalition government
2013: Resoundingly re-elected, Tsvangirai returns to opposition
2017: Forced to resign after army seizes power
6 September 2019: Dies in Singapore, which he visits for hospital treatment
Before he was finally ousted, his political low point was in 2008, when MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai beat him in a presidential election, although not by enough for outright victory, according to the official results.
There were numerous reports Mr Mugabe was on the verge of resigning, although Mr Madhuku said he did not believe them, as the president subsequently demonstrated his determination to remain in power.
Again, a setback led to a sustained campaign of violence against his “enemies”.
The army and Zanu-PF militias attacked MDC supporters around the country, killing more than 100 and forcing thousands from their homes.
It became obvious that Zanu-PF would not relinquish its grip on power and Mr Tsvangirai withdrew from the second round, saying it was the only way to save lives.
Zimbabwe’s economy continued its freefall, reaching its nadir when people were dying from cholera in Harare because the country did not have the foreign currency to import the necessary chemicals to treat the water.
Under intense pressure, Mr Mugabe agreed to a coalition government with his long-time rival and, under MDC stewardship, the economy recovered.
But Prime Minister Tsvangirai was severely tarnished by working with Mr Mugabe – the president always managed to keep real power for himself and his allies.
By the time of the 2013 election, Mr Mugabe did not need to resort to extreme violence to win easily. He had once more demonstrated his remarkable skills of political survival and he remained in power until he was forced out in 2017.
Love-hate relationship with the UK
Mr Mugabe justified the 2000 land invasions by saying the UK’s Labour government, in power since 1997, had reneged on a British promise to fund peaceful land reform.
While it might be expected that an avowedly Marxist liberation fighter would have more in common with the Labour Party than the Conservatives, the opposite turned out to be true.
“Mrs Thatcher, you could trust her. But of course what happened later was a different story with the Labour Party and Blair, who you could never trust”
Under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the UK accepted that as the former colonial power, it had the moral duty to help finance the process of buying white-owned land and redistributing it to black farmers.
But after a report found the process had been tainted by cronyism, British funding was put on hold.
The new Labour government took matters further and declared: “We do not accept that Britain has a special responsibility to meet the costs of land purchase in Zimbabwe.”
In 2013, Mr Mugabe observed: “Mrs Thatcher, you could trust her. But of course what happened later was a different story with the Labour Party and [former Prime Minister Tony] Blair, who you could never trust.
“Who can ever believe what Mr Blair says? Here we call him Bliar.”
Despite the vitriol directed at the UK from 2000 onwards, Mr Mugabe was in some ways the epitome of an English gentleman.
He was usually turned out in immaculate, dark, three-piece suits and ties – until he was given a makeover in 2000 and advised to campaign in brightly coloured cloth emblazoned with his own face, like many other African leaders.
Visitors to State House were always offered tea to drink and he was a huge fan of cricket.
“Cricket civilises people and creates good gentlemen. I want everyone to play cricket in Zimbabwe; I want ours to be a nation of gentlemen,” he once said.
He was educated by Jesuits in the Katuma mission near his birthplace in Zvimba, north-west of Salisbury (now Harare), where he was taken under the wing of an Irish priest, Jerome O’Hea.
This is presumably where he developed his abstemious nature – he did not drink alcohol or coffee and was largely vegetarian.
“If he had died after 10 years in power, he would have been my hero forever”
His second wife Grace said he used to wake up at 05:00 for his exercises, including yoga.
This healthy lifestyle was no doubt one reason why he lived until the age of 95.
For many years, his health was a constant source of speculation.
This prognosis turned out to be false, and on his 88th birthday Mr Mugabe joked he had “beaten Christ” because he had died and been resurrected so many times.
While he was vilified in the West, his anti-colonial rhetoric did strike a chord across Africa, even among many who condemned his human rights record.
At the 2013 memorial service in Soweto for Nelson Mandela – who replaced Mr Mugabe as Africa’s most admired anti-colonial fighter – Zimbabwe’s president was wildly cheered by the young South African crowd, even as they booed their own then leader, Jacob Zuma.
“A lot of people think that pan-Africanism is a thing of the past but that is not true,” said Mr Mugabe’s staunch ally, Chen Chimutengwende.
“While imperialism and racism exist, pan-Africanism is still needed,” he told the BBC.
But Zimbabwean journalist Wilf Mbanga said that in his latter years, Mr Mugabe had far more support outside his home country than within.
“Those young South Africans who praise him do not have to live under his rule,” he said, pointing out that many Ghanaians had less than fond memories of life under pan-African hero Kwame Nkrumah, who had inspired Mr Mugabe.
So how will Mr Mugabe be remembered?
Mr Chan said that until 2000, Mr Mugabe had a “good report card”, although the verdict later turned to “disastrous”.
“If he had died after 10 years in power, he would have been my hero forever,” said Mr Mbanga.
“But look at the schools and hospitals now.
“He has spoilt his legacy. Now, people will remember him for driving people out of Harare, Gukurahundi, election violence and everything else.”
Government says FARC members who refused to disarm after the peace deal behind murder of mayoral candidate, others
OGOTA, Colombia—A candidate who aspired to become the first female mayor of a municipality in southwestern Colombia, a candidate running for city council, and four others were brutally killed by former members of the Marxist guerrilla group FARC, who refused to disarm during the country’s 2016 peace process, the government has said.
The bodies of mayoral candidate Karina Garcia and the others were found in a car incinerated on the side of the road in the Cauca region on Sept. 1. The assassination, which follows the alarming announcement by two former FARC leaders last week that they would return to war, is the first killing of a candidate during the campaign season for local and regional elections in October.
Experts monitoring an uptick in electoral violence across the country expect more to follow.
Garcia, who was 32, sensed that she was in danger from criminal groups eight days earlier, when four armed men threatened members of campaign and ordered them to take down all electoral banners and posters. Posters touting the candidate had been previously defaced by unknown actors with black spray paint.
But rather than backing down, Garcia continued to campaign for bringing political change to the municipality, requested assurances from the town’s mayor, and pleaded with rival candidates not to spread rumors that she said were putting her life in peril.
“Please, for God’s sake, don’t act so irresponsibly,” Garcia pleaded in a video she shared online on Aug. 24, refuting claims that she would bring paramilitaries or multinationals to the area. “This can bring fatal consequences for me.”
Eight days later, despite her pleas, Garcia’s charred body was discovered alongside five others in a burned-out car on the side of the road.
The charred remains of the car in which mayoral candidate Karina Garcia and five others were shot and killed, in a rural area of Suarez, Colombia, on Sept. 2, 2019.
The vehicle was hit by two grenades before coming under fire from another SUV and was then torched, a bodyguard who escaped the attack told local media.
Killed along with Garcia were a man and four other women, including local activists, a candidate for the city council, and Garcia’s mother.
Local residents held a candlelit vigil on Sept. 2 for the young politician, who leaves a husband and a 3-yearold daughter behind.
“They didn’t take the reports seriously,” the victim’s father told local press, denouncing the authorities for not protecting his daughter. He said his daughter “felt the need to help her community, in her veins.”
A peace agreement reached with Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels in 2016 that formally ended a half-decade of conflict was supposed to open a new peaceful chapter in the country’s history. But while many areas witnessed a decrease in violence as 7,000 guerrillas put down their guns, in some regions, the violence continues, and targeted killings of human rights defenders and community leaders are surging.
“After 2016, the statistics on lethal and non-lethal violence have skyrocketed, and the situation is critical, not only for political actors but also for social leaders and human rights defenders that have been constantly attacked and murdered by these groups,’’ said Giorgio Londoño, researcher for the Peace, Conflict, and Postconflict department at the Bogotá- based research institute PARES.
Violence in the Cauca region is driven by rampant drug production and its strategic proximity to the Pacific coast, from where drugs are shipped abroad. Its volatile security panorama is complicated by strong social movements from indigenous groups that criminal bands aim to silence with intimidation and violence.
Among the bands warring for control of the territory are guerrillas, paramilitaries, and several new fronts formed by FARC rebels who refused to disarm. All, which were previously minor actors, have strengthened since the FARC left its power vacuum, analysts say.
The government has blamed the latest incident on FARC dissident rebels of the Sixth Front and offered a $45,000 reward for information that could lead to the capture of the alleged perpetrator, alias ‘Mayimbu’—a FARC dissident known for dominating illegal marijuana production in the region.
As local and regional elections approach, violence committed by such groups is likely to spike in the coming months, experts say.
Since nominations for departmental and municipal elections were submitted over a month ago, five applicants have already been killed, according to Colombia’s Electoral Observation Mission.
PARES reports eight threats, two killings, and three attempted murders to electoral candidates in Cauca since late October last year.
“Our research on electoral violence leads us to think that there could be more actions of this kind,” Londoño predicted, calling on the government to implement promises made in the peace agreement and offer better protection to those who report threats against them.