South Sudan village overwhelmed by thousands fleeing war

The Times
Pathai, South Sudan

A crowd gathers to be registered for emergency food rations and immunisations in Pathai (Tristan McConnell)
A crowd gathers to be registered for emergency food rations and immunisations in Pathai (Tristan McConnell)

The village of Pathai in Jonglei State is no more than a few tin-roofed cinderblock buildings among thatched mud huts, a metal shipping container used as a prison and a jumble of broken-down vehicles. It is, however, home to thousands upon thousands of people who have arrived looking for help.

They began streaming in last week, walking for days across swamps and plains in the hope of food and medical care delivered by a small team of aid workers from the United Nations World Food Programme. The settlement has neither roads nor an airstrip, leaving it isolated from the rest of the country. Continue reading South Sudan village overwhelmed by thousands fleeing war

Solitary hospital struggles to treat Sudan’s civilian victims

The Times
Nuba Mountains, Sudan

Hawatif Dalamia is recovering from her wounds, but does not know what happened to her husband and children (Marc Hofer)
Hawatif Dalamia is recovering from her wounds, but does not know what happened to her husband and children (Marc Hofer)

A grimy plaster cast covers Taqueen’s left leg from toe to hip and a bandage is wrapped around his right ankle. The slight 16-year-old has been in the male ward of a simple hospital in Sudan’s rebel-held Nuba Mountains for the past month, another victim of an indiscriminate aerial bombing campaign by Khartoum against rebel villages. Continue reading Solitary hospital struggles to treat Sudan’s civilian victims

Contemporary art in modern Africa

The Times
Nairobi, Kenya

Michael Soi at work in his Nairobi studio
Michael Soi at work in his Nairobi studio

Michael Soi is flecked with paint when I meet him at his studio, a high, rough-walled room in a converted warehouse in Nairobi’s industrial area. Stacked against walls and tables are his large acrylic on canvas paintings in flat, bright colours: buxom women with towering Afros, leering men in uniforms and suits, corrupt coppers, fat-cat politicians, pickpockets preying on bus queues.

Continue reading Contemporary art in modern Africa

Townsfolk tell of brutality and death under the Islamists’ yoke

The Times of London
Bamako, Mali

For seven months Ibadassane Walet hardly left her parents’ house. She feared the armed Islamic militants who patrolled the sand-blown streets and narrow alleys of Timbuktu, enforcing the strict Islamic laws imposed on the town when they took over last April.

Like any 20-year-old woman, she missed her friends and her school, nightclubs and dancing. Most of all, she said, she missed the music. “Before the Islamists came life was so good. We had fun. But now there is a complete lack of freedom,” she said. Continue reading Townsfolk tell of brutality and death under the Islamists’ yoke

Armed wardens even the odds in war zone of gorillas v guerillas

The Times of London
Virunga National Park, DR Congo

Gorilla
Ten gorillas were shot dead in 2007 (Jerome Delay/AP)

The mountain gorillas of Virunga National Park have been fighting their way back from the verge of extinction after being targeted by hunters seeking bushmeat, trophies or exotic pets. Now they are being defended against a new danger: the rebel army that has seized the nearby city of Goma.

The diversity of this nature reserve in eastern Congo is startling: glaciers, rivers and lakes, moorland, alpine forest, jungle and savannah, lava fields and active volcanoes, but its 3,000 square miles are also a hotbed of rebellions, militias and insecurity. Continue reading Armed wardens even the odds in war zone of gorillas v guerillas

Misery of Congo’s refugees caught in a cycle of relentless violence

The Times of London
Sake, DR Congo

Congo's displaced
A displaced Congolese family stands at the top of a hill overlooking Sake and Lake Kivu (Phil Moore/AFP/Getty Images)

The dead soldier lay on a dirt road cut into the steep hillside outside Sake, a bloody bullet hole in his neck. Empty ammunition crates lay abandoned nearby. In the town were other corpses, still wet with blood.

The battle on Thursday between government soldiers and M23 rebels was the first time that the army has fought back since being chased from Goma, the regional capital, two days earlier. Continue reading Misery of Congo’s refugees caught in a cycle of relentless violence

Al-Shabaab militants banished from town after years of terror leave legacy of fear

The Times of London
Kismayo, Somalia

In the centre of Kismayo, beside a police station that served as a militant headquarters, is the tree-lined Liberty Square, where a tall column celebrating Somalia’s national heroes lies on the ground in dismembered chunks.

The square was a place for people to relax but al-Shabaab, the al-Qaeda-aligned extremists who controlled this city before being chased out a few weeks ago, saw it as a symbol of un-Islamic idolatry and a government they opposed. During al-Shabaab’s four-year rule, it was turned into a public punishment and execution ground. Continue reading Al-Shabaab militants banished from town after years of terror leave legacy of fear

Somalia’s city of war reopens for business

The Times of London
Mogadishu, Somalia

Mogadishu business
A soldier guards the catch at the fish market (Times photographer, Kate Holt)

The bombed carcass of an Ilyushin IL76 cargo plane which crashed next to the runway has welcomed visitors to Mogadishu since 2007, when insurgents shot it down with a missile. Last week, work teams began slicing it up and carting away the scrap. Continue reading Somalia’s city of war reopens for business

Hopes of recovery still burn in Somali town choaking on charcoal

The Times of London
Buur Gaabo, Somalia

Buur Gaabo elder
Clan elders say that most of their capital is tied up in charcoal (Times photography, Tristan McConnell)

Beached fishing boats and house-sized stacks of charcoal mark the front line at Buur Gaabo. Hundreds of thousands of sacks of charcoal languish here, worth millions of pounds in Somalia and tens of millions to the Dubai-based traders who once visited.

The charcoal trade ceased when the Ras Kamboni Brigades (RKB), a powerful Islamist militia backed by Kenya’s army, took control in October and pushed al-Qaeda linked al-Shabaab militants across the channel and out of the area for the first time in years. Continue reading Hopes of recovery still burn in Somali town choaking on charcoal

Clinic offers the sick a healing hand after Islamic militants flee

The Times of London
Hudur, Somalia

Hudur Idris
Idris, 7, was injured when he fell from a cart (Times Photographer, Tristan McConnell)

When Idris was thrown from his donkey cart on Sunday, blood from a nasty gash clotted in his hair and stained his threadbare shirt. The best he could have hoped for until that day was a dirty needle to stitch the cut and painkillers, as likely as not counterfeit. But his accident coincided with the opening of a health clinic in the Somali town of Hudur, two months after it was liberated from militants linked to al-Qaeda. Continue reading Clinic offers the sick a healing hand after Islamic militants flee