5 ways drones are making the world a better place (without killing anyone)

GlobalPost
Nairobi, Kenya

Drones are deadly. They kill people, lots of people, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which tracks drone deaths. They buzz about the skies over Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, watching and waiting for the moment when a soldier in a simulator somewhere far, far away presses a button to end a life.

But that’s not all drones do. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are taking on a whole host of eye-catching, often frivolous but also serious new roles — none of which involve killing people and some of which might just make the world a better place. Continue reading 5 ways drones are making the world a better place (without killing anyone)

The claim that illegal ivory is funding a major terror group in Africa may not be true

GlobalPost
Nairobi, Kenya

A pyre on which over a thousand kilos of elephant tusks will be incinerated (Marco Longari/AFP)
A pyre on which over a thousand kilos of elephant tusks will be incinerated (Marco Longari/AFP)

Hollywood director Kathryn Bigelow has made a 3-minute animated short called “Last Days,” telling the story of ivory poaching and the threat it poses to elephants. The film begins in the markets of Beijing and New York, then rewinds to Africa, where elephants are being hunted and killed at an astonishing rate.

It is mostly a 2-D animation but also features footage from last year’s Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi because, according to Bigelow’s film, Al Shabaab, the Somalia-based Al Qaeda group responsible for the attack, earns money from poaching elephants.

Terrorists killing elephants to fund their atrocities is a powerful, troubling story that deftly taps two hot-button issues linking them in one awful, unified narrative. No wonder it grabs attention.

But is it true? Continue reading The claim that illegal ivory is funding a major terror group in Africa may not be true

Some people would rather die of Ebola than stop hugging sick loved ones

GlobalPost
Nairobi, Kenya

A woman grieves as Ebola burial team members arrive to take away the body of a loved one. (John Moore, AFP/Getty Images)
A woman grieves as Ebola burial team members arrive to take away the body of a loved one.
(John Moore, AFP/Getty Images)

Medical workers in Monrovia have noticed an unsettling disconnect: while evidence points to the accelerating spread of the deadly Ebola virus in West Africa, the number of bodies being collected is dwindling.

Every day the corpses of people who’ve died from the hemorrhagic disease are collected from treatment centers and hospitals around the Liberian capital. They are stored at the morgue, then taken to a crematorium for burning in the evening.

But the number of bodies being collected from beyond the medical facilities — of those who died at home — is falling.

Continue reading Some people would rather die of Ebola than stop hugging sick loved ones

From Bosnia to South Sudan: How one man survived a massacre and helped prevent another

GlobalPost
Juba, South Sudan

Nedzad Handzic in Juba (Tristan McConnell)
Nedzad Handzic in Juba (Tristan McConnell)

In July 1995, Nedzad Handzic survived the Srebrenica massacre. More than 100 of his relatives, friends, and neighbors did not.

When Serbian troops descended on the Bosnian city, United Nations peacekeepers who had declared it a safe haven stood by as 8,000 people were killed. It was a dark, shameful episode in peacekeeping’s short history, and one the UN has endeavored not to repeat.

But in December 2013, 40-year-old Handzic felt like it was happening all over — in another conflict in another city on another continent.

Continue reading From Bosnia to South Sudan: How one man survived a massacre and helped prevent another

South Sudan has reached the lowest point in its entire history

GlobalPost
Leer, South Sudan

Nyaway Kuony Thiec cradles her son Both, who is being treated for severe acute malnutrition at a hospital run by MSF in Leer, South Sudan (Tristan McConnell/GlobalPost)
Nyaway Kuony Thiec cradles her son Both, who is being treated for severe acute malnutrition at a hospital run by MSF in Leer, South Sudan (Tristan McConnell/GlobalPost)

Eight months old and weighing less than half what he should, Ruot Diang died in his mother’s arms on a Tuesday night earlier this month.

Doctors at the hospital where he was being treated in rural South Sudan thought it was tuberculosis that finally killed him, after malnutrition severely weakened his body. But they can’t say for sure because the hospital’s lab — like its operating theater, emergency room and pharmacy — had been looted and burned when the country’s latest civil war reached the town of Leer in January.

Continue reading South Sudan has reached the lowest point in its entire history

Inside the fight for Somalia’s future

GlobalPost
Qoryooley, Somalia

Somali National Army troops are trained by European Union soldiers in Jazeera, Mogadishu (Tristan McConnell/GlobalPost)
Somali National Army troops are trained by European Union soldiers in Jazeera, Mogadishu (Tristan McConnell/GlobalPost)

In the end, it wasn’t clan militias or Islamic militants but a government soldier who killed Dr. Osman.

Over his 54 years, the pharmacist had earned a reputation for fair dealing in business, kindness among friends, and piety in the mosque. A family man, he had survived Somalia’s clan wars and then kept his head down when the Islamic militants known as Al Shabaab overran his hometown in southern Somalia five years ago. A follower of a softer, mystical branch of Islam, he obeyed the ultraconservative occupiers’ harsh new rules — don’t smoke, don’t chew khat, pay the Islamic tax, go to the mosque five times a day without fail — and carried on.

Continue reading Inside the fight for Somalia’s future

How Kenya took on the International Criminal Court

GlobalPost
Nairobi, Kenya

The International Criminal Court’s crimes-against-humanity case against Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta is on the verge of collapse. Regardless of the merits of the case, the lack of a full trial is bad news for both the ICC and the thousands of victims who have been waiting for justice. But it’s a big victory for Kenya’s current government, which both prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s office and foreign analysts have accused of working actively to undermine justice.

It’s good news for other nations’ governments looking to beat charges, as well, because inadvertently or not, the Kenyan government appears to have just written the playbook for beating the ICC.

Continue reading How Kenya took on the International Criminal Court

From Ben Affleck and George Clooney to Madonna and Bono: A scorecard for celebrities in Africa

GlobalPost
Nairobi, Kenya

This Wednesday, Ben Affleck testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as an expert on Africa. Yes, Ben Affleck: actor-director Ben Affleck, Argo Ben Affleck and, lest we forget, J-Lo Ben Affleck. Ben Affleck, whose tuxedo stands a decent chance of being analyzed on live television during the Oscars this Sunday. He was invited to guide American lawmakers on their policy toward the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Ridiculous, right? Actually, no. Affleck has been involved in eastern Congo for years now. In 2010, he set up an organization called the Eastern Congo Initiative after making repeated visits to the region. It raises money and funnels it to local civil society organizations. Affleck’s commitment and sustained engagement means that if you’re looking for an advocate who has some clue about what’s actually going on and doesn’t need to take his lines from a teleprompter, you could do a whole lot worse. Continue reading From Ben Affleck and George Clooney to Madonna and Bono: A scorecard for celebrities in Africa

Why Peter Greste’s imprisonment is everyone’s problem

GlobalPost
Nairobi, Kenya

Processed with VSCOcam with b1 presetJournalist Peter Greste, along with several of his colleagues, has been detained in Egypt since Dec. 29. He was arrested for being a journalist. He is accused of terrorism. And he has been held in solitary confinement at Cairo’s Tora Prison for over a month, allowed out for just four hours a day.

Greste is East Africa correspondent for Al Jazeera. He lives and works in Nairobi, which is why we held a protest here Tuesday: He is a friend, a colleague and daunting competition to many of us. Continue reading Why Peter Greste’s imprisonment is everyone’s problem

Amid increasing persecution of gays in Africa, author Binyavanga Wainaina comes out

GlobalPost
Nairobi, Kenya

Binyavanga Wainaina has a hangover. Last night friends gathered for his birthday party, which turned into a coming out party, because Wainaina, one of Africa’s most powerful modern literary voices, had just published an article entitled, “I am a homosexual, Mum.”

On a continent where secrecy defines the gay experience and where a majority of countries outlaw homosexuality, coming out is a rare step for a public figure. Wainana’s piece, first published on Saturday, is being shared widely across social networks. “My dear @BinyavangaW writes a piece that springs open the prison doors of the heart,” tweeted Nigerian-born writer Teju Cole. Continue reading Amid increasing persecution of gays in Africa, author Binyavanga Wainaina comes out