While at this year’s ASTMH meetings, I happened upon a fantastic poster featuring conflicts in the DRC as associated with malaria outcomes in children. While I won’t go into the specifics of that particular research (paper forthcoming I assume), I will present this map of conflicts in Africa from 1997-2010 that I created from the ACLED database. Conflict is ubiquitous in central Sub-Saharan Africa, bleeding like a festering cancer throughout Central Africa. Border violence upon civilians is unfortunately common. Over here, in the United States, we are too busy being distracted by idiots like Michelle Bachmann to be concerned about what happens halfway around the globe but make no mistake, our economic downturn likely has grave effects for civilians caught in the crossfire of these senseless conflicts, as aid money dries up, political will disintegrates and good governance and African growth fall to the wayside.
There has been a disturbing uptick in conflicts in the past 3 years after a considerable drop during our economic boom years. However, violence against civilians continues, fueled likely in part to oil and resource grabs by first world countries, and a wide availability of guns from around the world. In particular, billions of dollars of American weapons flowed into Africa during the 90’s under the Clinton admin. Africans will use whatever they have as long as they can. Weapons don’t just go away and US and European small arms manufacturers profit at the expense of kids in Africa, while the US government, in bed with the gun industry, turns a blind eye. Ironically, it has been suggested that guns and supplies which flow into Africa to fuel these stupid conflicts are manufactured in part using US prison labor through the US government’s sanctioned slave labor unit UNICOR for not more than $1.15 an hour, labor which largely consists of the descendants of African slaves.
While this post is rife with sweeping generalizations and unsupported conclusions, in my mind it is highly likely that American big business profits off chaos. As long as people argue and fight, markets for violence are created. As long as Americans are distracted with their own political chaos as encouraged by the American right, these companies will freely operate in the shadows. Citizens are easy to control when they feel that they are in danger and power for business easy to consolidate.