Saving the wildlife ‘miracle’ of Congo’s Garamba park

Agence France-Presse (AFP)
Garamba National Park, DR Congo

A young female elephant lies sedated as Garamba National Park rangers attach a GPS collar to track her movements (AFP Photo/Tony Karumba)
A young female elephant lies sedated as Garamba National Park rangers attach a GPS collar to track her movements (AFP Photo/Tony Karumba)

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

Armed groups line up to kill Congo’s elephants

Agence France-Presse (AFP)
Garamba National Park, DR Congo

Rangers set out on the hunt for elephant poachers in Garamba National Park (AFP Photo/Tony Karumba)
Rangers set out on the hunt for elephant poachers in Garamba National Park (AFP Photo/Tony Karumba)

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

In Congo, a war for Africa’s elephants

Agence France-Presse (AFP)
Garamba National Park, DR Congo

Elephants stand in tall grass in the Garamba National Park (AFP Photo/Tony Karumba)
Elephants stand in tall grass in the Garamba National Park (AFP Photo/Tony Karumba)

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

‘Close Your Eyes and Pretend to be Dead’: What really happened two years ago in the bloody attack on Nairobi’s Westgate mall

Foreign Policy
Nairobi, Kenya
Published 21st September, 2015

Adults and children run through the mall to escape the gunmen (Goran Tomasevic/Reuters)
Adults and children run through the mall to escape the gunmen (Goran Tomasevic/Reuters)

12:55 p.m. Simon Belcher lay on his front beneath a black Range Rover, breathing deeply, wanting to unsee the pile of mangled bodies a few yards in front of him. He turned his head toward his wife, Amanda, who was hiding beneath a white 4×4 to his right. “I love you,” he mouthed silently before resting his head on the pavement.

The bullet that had struck Simon a few moments earlier passed through his torso and right arm while shrapnel from an exploding gas canister had torn into his abdomen. An unexploded hand grenade lay nearby. The masked gunmen, two of them, with military webbing slung around their bony shoulders and AK-47 assault rifles in their hands, had disappeared. Inside the mall, Simon guessed.

The blood from his wounds began to pool around him until it reached his ear, forming a seal. Suddenly, the muffled noises from within the five-story building were amplified, as if he had put a glass to a wall. Over the birdsong, car alarms, and ringing of the unanswered mobile phones of the dead and wounded, Simon could now hear gunshots, explosions, and screaming. Continue reading ‘Close Your Eyes and Pretend to be Dead’: What really happened two years ago in the bloody attack on Nairobi’s Westgate mall

Casualties of war in the world’s newest country

New Statesman
Bentiu, South Sudan

Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty
Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images

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

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

Kenyans Couldn’t Be More Excited for the President’s Visit. The Elaborate Preparations Are Being Called ‘Obamacare.’

New York
Nairobi, Kenya

24-kenya-obama-banner.w529.h352I had not spoken to George Obama in years, not since co-writing a story on the far-flung Obama diaspora for this magazine in 2009. But last week, President Barack Obama’s youngest half-brother called. By coincidence, I was in Kisumu, the western Kenyan city closest to Obama’s ancestral village, waiting to meet another of Obama’s relatives, his half-uncle Said, for an interview.

After a few pleasantries, George asked me when I was coming to see him. Then the conversation took a familiar turn as he asked whether I would buy him lunch, a well-known Kenyan euphemism for slipping someone some cash. I declined, we chatted a bit more, then hung up. Continue reading Kenyans Couldn’t Be More Excited for the President’s Visit. The Elaborate Preparations Are Being Called ‘Obamacare.’