At the start of every dry season fires creep southwards across the Central African Republic (CAR). Kasper Agger, a Dane who works for African Parks, a South Africa-based conservation group, can see them on his laptop thanks to a piece of NASA-made software that plots benign-looking flame symbols like boy scouts’ campfires onto a Google Earth map. Through December and January the fires edge close to Chinko, a vast nature reserve in the CAR. When the fires reach the park boundary, a light aircraft is dispatched to shower leaflets over the smoulder. Below, herders who come from hundreds of miles away receive illustrated messages in Sango (a local language), Arabic and French, warning them not to chop down trees, carry guns, hunt game or poach elephants within the park. Continue reading Cash, cows and conflict: African herders have been pushed into destitution and crime
The district of Hodan, in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, exemplifies the city’s transformation in recent years. Visitors can find open-air pizza restaurants, ice-cream parlors and shisha bars, hotels and restaurants, barrow boys hawking bananas and mangoes, and taxis and cars honking their way through the throng. Pretty much every day is busy, but Saturdays are especially so. This past Saturday, a massive truck bomb detonated in Hodan, killing more than three hundred people, an unprecedented death toll in Somalia which may rise as bodies are hauled from the wreckage. Continue reading After years of progress, a deadly setback in Somalia
An elephant marched hundreds of kilometres and briefly crossed into Somalia this month marking the first time the animal has been seen in the country in 20 years, conservationists said Wednesday.
Morgan, a male bull in his 30s, was fitted with a tracking collar in December in Kenya’s coastal Tana River Delta, but in mid-February began an unexpected march northwards to Somalia, reaching the border nearly three weeks later. His march has excited conservationists who say it shows the elephant remembered ancient routes after decades of absence due to war.
On a Sunday afternoon in late February a car exploded outside a crowded restaurant in Baidoa, Somalia, and moments later a suicide bomber blew himself up among fleeing survivors. At least 30 people died in the attack, the latest by the Shabaab, a Somali-led Al-Qaeda group in East Africa that continues to defy repeated predictions of its demise. Continue reading East Africa’s Shabaab ‘can survive for 30 years’
Chronic insecurity, regional conflict, tough terrain and isolation make Africa’s Garamba park perhaps the most difficult place on the continent to practice conservation. North-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, where the park is situated, is a bad neighbourhood: South Sudan to the north collapsed in civil war in 2013, as did nearby Central African Republic a year earlier, while Congo itself is still plagued by armed groups including rebels, horseback raiders and renegade soldiers. Continue reading Saving the wildlife ‘miracle’ of Congo’s Garamba park
In a remote part of Garamba, a vast national park in Democratic Republic of Congo, a team of rangers loads assault rifles and backpacks into a helicopter as they begin their hunt for elephant poachers. During their nine-day patrol to protect the park’s precious beasts the rangers risk coming into conflict with the heavily armed poachers that prey on them. Continue reading Armed groups line up to kill Congo’s elephants
André Migifuloyo and Djuma Uweko lived together, worked together and last October died together fighting to protect Congo’s elephants from voracious ivory-seeking poachers. In the continental war to protect Africa’s elephants, the rangers of Garamba National Park in north-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo are manning the frontline.
The two men grew up in the same small town of Dungu and joined the park service in their early twenties, a good job that pays a decent monthly wage of around $200 (180 euros). Migifuloyo became a ranger in 2011 and two years later Uweko followed. Both were quick to make friends with others and lived with their young families in Nagero, the park village by the Dungu River with its little red brick church and thatched homes. Continue reading In Congo, a war for Africa’s elephants
There were no wounds on Nyachan’s body. She demonstrated how she was tied up – arms pulled back, elbows bent sharply towards her spine – but the rope marks had faded. Government soldiers had abducted Nyachan from her village in Unity State in South Sudan in mid-April and marched her to a military camp. For two months she was held captive: forced to work by day, bound and raped by night. Eventually Nyachan (not her real name) escaped on foot to a UN base outside the state capital, Bentiu, where she was reunited with her five children, and where we met a couple of months later. Continue reading Casualties of war in the world’s newest country
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.
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