Helen Epstein is Visiting Professor of Human Rights and Global Public Health at Bard. She is the author of Another Fine Mess: America, Uganda, and the War on Terror and The Invisible Cure: Why We Are Losing the Fight Against AIDS in Africa. (March 2020)
We’re Still Here: Pain and Politics in the Heart of America
by Jennifer M. Silva
In 2015 life expectancy began falling for the first time since the height of the AIDS crisis in 1993. The causes—mainly suicides, alcohol-related deaths, and drug overdoses—claim roughly 190,000 lives each year. While poverty in America is all too real, it’s not the only reason for the epidemic of deaths of despair.
Too Many People: Contact, Disorder, Change in an Inuit Society, 1822–2015
by Willem Rasing, with a foreword by George Wenzel
The Return of the Sun: Suicide and Reclamation Among Inuit of Arctic Canada
by Michael J. Kral
If Nunavut, the semi-autonomous Canadian territory that is home to roughly 28,000 indigenous Inuit people, were an independent country, it would have the highest suicide rate in the world. The suicide rate is ten times higher than the rest of Canada and seven times higher than the US. When I visited Nunavut’s capital, Iqaluit, in July, virtually every Inuit I met had lost at least one relative to suicide, and some recounted as many as five or six family suicides, plus those of friends, coworkers, and other acquaintances. Three people in my small circle of contacts lost someone close to them to suicide during my nine-day visit. Acquaintances would direct my attention to passers-by on the street: “his older brother too,” “his son.” Almost one third of Nunavut Inuit have attempted suicide, and most Inuit I met confided, without my asking, that they had done so at least once.
In Praise of Blood: The Crimes of the Rwandan Patriotic Front
by Judi Rever
The UN’s definition of genocide is not restricted to attempts to eradicate a particular ethnic group. It includes “killings…with the intent to destroy, in whole, or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group” (my emphasis). Part One of this article explored the evidence presented in Judi Rever’s In Praise of Blood that before, during, and after the 1994 Rwandan genocide, Paul Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) killed tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of innocent Hutus. The claim that these killings constituted a “parallel genocide” has long been dismissed by many academics and journalists, including myself, as overstatement, and even as Hutu propaganda. But Rever makes a plausible case for it. Even if these massacres didn’t constitute genocide, it’s worth asking why the fiction has persisted that Kagame’s RPF rescued Rwanda from further genocide when much evidence suggests that it actually helped provoke it by needlessly invading the country in 1990, massacring Hutus, probably shooting down the plane of President Juvénal Habyarimana in 1994, and failing to move swiftly to stop the genocide of the Tutsis.
Beneath Congo’s soil lies an estimated $24 trillion in natural resources, but this wealth is also the source of untold suffering. Today, more Congolese are displaced from their homes than Syrians, Iraqis, Yemenis, or Rohingyas, yet their miseries are all but invisible, in part because the identities and aims of Congo’s myriad combatants are mystified by layers of rumor and misinformation, which serve the interests of those who profit from the mayhem. But pieces of the puzzle sometimes emerge.
Two weeks ago, Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga pulled out of the election rerun scheduled for October 26, claiming that nothing had been done to remedy the problems that marred the first one, which was nullified September 1. Why isn’t the US doing more to pressure President Uhuru Kenyatta to address the blatant election issues? America may not be as neutral in Kenya’s electoral contest as it claims to be.
Another rigged election in Africa is not news. But that US election observers were so quick to endorse it is shocking. Perhaps they believed that wrapping the election up quickly would prevent violence. A far more troubling possibility is that the US wants Kenyatta to remain in power, at the expense of democracy.