The Ivory-Funded Terrorism Myth

International New York Times, Op-Ed
Nairobi, Kenya

Late last year, the Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow produced a powerful short called “Last Days,” about the dangers and depredations of “ivory-funded terrorism.” Viewers — and Ms. Bigelow’s celebrity friends — were encouraged to share #LastDays on social media, which many duly did. Their efforts gave yet another boost to the widely accepted belief that terrorists across Africa are killing elephants and selling the ivory to finance their attacks. But like her full-length feature film “Zero Dark Thirty,” Ms. Bigelow is offering a beguiling story divorced from reality. Continue reading The Ivory-Funded Terrorism Myth

South Sudan: Into the long grass

BBC From Our Own Correspondent
Bentiu, South Sudan

The last time I was in Bentiu it was also because of war.

It was April 2012 and newly independent South Sudan – not yet a year old – was fighting with Sudan over an oil field along the disputed border that both nations claimed. The conflict didn’t last long and the few casualties were mostly soldiers.

I stayed at an Ethiopian-run hotel in town. The owners provided good meals and cold beer making their place popular with the handful of foreign correspondents who’d made their way to Bentiu. Continue reading South Sudan: Into the long grass

South Sudan | That elusive peace

The Economist
Bentiu, South Sudan

Holding court beneath a neem tree in a walled compound next to a mud hut with a satellite dish, Stephen Taker Riak Dong, the acting governor of Unity State, cheerfully dismisses talk of economic collapse. Bentiu, his state’s administrative capital, is a wreck after 21 months of war. It looks as if a cyclone has scattered its shack-like dwellings. Abandoned vehicles rust in the grass. Herds of looted cattle are guarded by men with AK-47s. Unity once accounted for much of the country’s oil but now produces none. Yet Mr Taker is unperturbed. “We never depend on oilfields. If there are no dollars we don’t mind.” Peace, he says, will solve everything. Continue reading South Sudan | That elusive peace

The rape camps of South Sudan

AFP Correspondent blog
Bentiu, South Sudan

A young woman carries firewood at a UN base outside Bentiu (AFP/Tristan McConnell)
A young woman carries firewood at a UN base outside Bentiu (AFP/Tristan McConnell)

I went to South Sudan looking for war crimes, and found them.

One woman I spoke to was called Nyamai, a 38-year-old mother of five. She was taken from her village in Unity State in April during the latest government offensive in a nearly two-year-old civil war. Like hundreds of other women, she was abducted by armed men, marched for days, guarded constantly and tied up frequently. At night, as many as 10 soldiers would queue up for their turn to rape her.

“Please, let one guy deal with me, don’t come all of you,” she pleaded. In response, she was beaten with a stick. Continue reading The rape camps of South Sudan

South Sudan’s city of the dispossessed

Agence France-Presse (AFP)
Bentiu, South Sudan

Boys play in and around a tree next to the perimeter fortifications of a UN base in Bentiu (AFP Photo/Tristan McConnell)
Boys play in and around a tree next to the perimeter fortifications of a UN base in Bentiu (AFP Photo/Tristan McConnell)

An earth bank, topped in some places with a coil of razor wire, surrounds the United Nations peacekeeping base outside Bentiu in South Sudan. There are also watchtowers and armed peacekeepers.

Inside the 6.5 kilometre (four mile) perimeter fortifications live 118,000 people, some of the 2.2 million uprooted by civil war since December 2013.

Around 195,000 people live inside six UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) bases after the unusual step of allowing civilians refuge alongside peacekeepers was taken when fighting broke out, first in the capital Juba, and then in other parts of the country. Continue reading South Sudan’s city of the dispossessed