The Middle East, perhaps the most alluring and volatile region has long dominated news in the West. And the blockbuster conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Israel and Libya have a ubiquitous presence in Western media for a reason.
However grisly conflicts in the dark tropical depths of South Asia, the scorching coasts of East-Africa and the dust-bowl towns of Central America form only an extraneous background noise in world affairs. Yet these sidelined conflicts are just as deadly, just as destructive and just as newsworthy as those that occupy front pages.
Named after the March 23rd treaty (not the motorway in Surrey) is one of the most recent, grisly and poorly covered conflicts on this list. Raging in the North Kivu province in the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) since 2012, the conflict has displaced 100,000 in the past year.
Fought between the UN backed Congolese Government and State mutineers originally from the CNDP movement; the ghastliness of this conflict is hidden. Under rainforest canopies and away from the camera phones of the developed world, gang rape, arbitrary executions and forced recruitment are commonplace according to Human Rights Watch.
8 months after the peaceful retreat of the rebels from the provincial capital, Goma in December intense fighting resumed and the M23 overpowered. The defeated M23 were forced back into uneasy peace talks which are scheduled despite continuing fighting.
Internal Conflict in Myanmar (Burma):
The mystical pariah of colonial poetry and drug trafficking has been arguably the most multifarious conflict zone on the map since independence from the British Empire in 1948. A murky pool of warring religions, ethnicities and institutions, conflict blights this ancient nation so eager to impress a wide range of powerful investors.
The State’s enormous, autonomous military, “the Tatmadaw” has struggled to suppress dozens of militant factions operating in virtually every part of the country with armies numbering between 100 and 8000 each. The Tatmadaw is persistently heavy-handed in its dealings with minority group being more than complicit in what Human Rights Watch called the “ethnic cleansing” of the minority Rohingya population.
An ultimately fractured country, it is difficult to how any kind of functioning consensus would be created. Whilst Aung San Suu Kyi, the iconic pro-democracy leader has a potentially unifying Mandela-esque authority in Myanmar she may be too controversial to broker peace. She has been accused regularly of failing to stand up for ethnic minorities in Burma and she has expressed her “fondness” for the military her father once led..
The War on Drugs:
Beyond the serene Mayan ruins and the collegial revelry of Cancun a nation stands ravaged by a war that pervades deep into the heart of Mexico. Former President Felipe Calderon’s War On Drugs was a wholehearted and comprehensive attempt to rid the nation of the all-powerful cartels that ruled separately without hindrance.
Calderon, with US support stationed 50,000 troops and police officers on Mexican streets in 2006 to forcibly rid the country of the deeply entrenched corruption that crippled the nation. However the resulting violence was all-consuming resulting in the deaths of over 60,000 and an unknown number of missing; the destruction has displaced around 1.6 million.
The victor of the 2012 election Calderon’s successor Pena Nieto, eager to relieve himself of his predecessor’s problem, engineered a stalemate, which has hastened a decline in violence since 2012. However the country is still blighted by undiminished cartels and an atrocious homicide rate. Death tolling the conflict has been derided as “guesswork” as distinguishing the motivations behind 27,000 separate violent deaths a year is futile.
The 55-year-old conflict between the Government and peasant guerrillas famously headed by FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces) has resulted in 220,000 casualties, 80% of which were civilian. The conflict, fuelled by a drug industry worth $300bn, arose from dissatisfaction at the deep socioeconomic inequality at the heart of the Colombian economy.
Violence in Colombia has been on multiple fronts as the feeble state has struggled to maintain any sense of order as rebel groups and right wing paramilitaries have extorted, kidnapped and massacred.
The Colombian Government, supported predictably by the USA has like it’s Mexican neighbour adopted a less aggressive stance towards those opposing it after nearly a decade of severe military effort. Recent peace talks whilst failing to reach the ultimate goal of national reconciliation marked progress and signs of convergence and demobilisation between two warring sides.
Somali Civil War:
Ravaged by famine, clan warfare and an Islamist insurgency Somalia is often used as the archetypal failed state or as the best example of Hobbesian dystopia that the world has to offer.
Somalia has been characterized by Black Hawk Down disorder and brutality since the ousting of communist dictator Siad Barre. The subsequent power vacuum engendered the perfect humanitarian storm resulting directly in the near complete destruction of the state by hyper-violent Jihadist groups. Eternal anarchy has nullified humanitarian responses to famines and floods allowing them to tear through the country without obstacle killing 260,000.
After more than two decades without a formal parliament, the newly installed technocratic government is weak relying on international backers to maintain any level of stability. The patently vicious Al Shabaab group has despite losses maintained an intimidating presence in the country attacking eight times since March.