South Sudanese women displaced by the fighting wait in line for personal hygiene kits in a camp for the displaced, inside the United Nations compound in Bor, March 15, 2014. Andreea Campeanu/Reuters/File

Nairobi, Kenya – Scores of civilians were killed Thursday and more than 100 were injured when an armed youth militia attacked a United Nations base in the South Sudan town of Bor, where some 5,000 civilians were sheltering from the civil war.

The attackers, claiming to be peaceful demonstrators, ignored peacekeepers’ warning shots and breached security fences to spray bullets at civilians inside before the “blue helmets,” as UN forces are often known, forced them out.

It was the deadliest incident at a UN base in the four-month conflict, which began in December when the Army split along ethnic lines in a political struggle between President Salva Kiir, a Dinka, and his rival Riek Machar, a Nuer. Thousands of people have been killed, and over a million have fled their homes, including 75,000 taking refuge in UN bases across the country.

Thursday’s killings mark a low point in South Sudan for the UN, which has faced continual accusations from the government of siding with the rebels. The Bor incident is also the first attack by a pro-government civilian militia, perhaps marking a new and dangerous phase of the fighting.  Read more…

Police check IDs of ethnic Somalis in Eastleigh.  Photo by Jason Patinkin

Eastleigh, a bustling business district in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, is home to thousands of ethnic Somalis—both Kenyan citizens as well as refugees from Somalia and Ethiopia. Every time I visit Eastleigh, I want to come back for the colorful street scene, the outdoor cafes, the late night shisha bars, and heaping plates of rice and camel meat. But ever since Kenya invaded Somalia in 2011 to fight Al Shabaab militants, Eastleigh has become synonymous with terror.  Read more…

‘I know there is a strong team this time around. But even last time it was strong. I trust myself. I trust my training.’ – Sharon Cherop (Brian Snyder/Reuters/File)

Sharon Cherop is part of the so-called elite field for the Boston Marathon. These runners, who will vie for the championship medals, hail from a dozen countries and numbered 46 as of March 3. Ms. Cherop, a Kenyan, won the women’s race in 2012.

Last year in Boston, she placed third. In fact, she crossed the finish line so far ahead of the bombings that she was already back at her hotel and in the shower when she found out what happened. “I heard something on the TV outside of the bathroom,” she says. “People were crying outside, and then we realized it was a bomb blast.”  Read more…

In 1994, Gloriose’s parents died in the Rwandan genocide. Now aged 25, Gloriose is a student at the University of Rwanda in Busogo. In March, 2014, Save the Children staff retraced Gloriose and her brothers, all of whom are now doing well. Colin Crowley/Save the Children

Nairobi, Kenya – Last December, the staff of the British charity Save the Children discovered ten gray metal crates sitting in an old shipping container in the Rwandan capital Kigali.

Inside was a historical treasure trove. Packed in hundreds of green manila folders were handwritten files documenting the experiences of thousands of children whose parents died in Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, when Hutu extremists slaughtered over 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in 100 days.

Each of the roughly 8,000 files contained the story of an orphaned child and a Polaroid photograph. Save the Children tracing teams created the files to help them to unite children with surviving relatives and, in the years after the genocide, traveled around Rwanda to search for adults who might recognize the children and take them in.

As Rwandans this month mark the genocide’s 20th anniversary, the newly unearthed files offer an invaluable archive of one of the darkest episodes of modern history. Save the Children decided to use the archive to track down some of the children who are now adults to show them their picture and to see what had become of them.  Read more…

'Living on borrowed time,' Muslim leader in Kenya told AP months before he was shot dead

In this Tuesday Oct. 29, 2013 file photo, Abubakar Shariff Ahmedsits in his office in Mombasa, Kenya. AP Photo/Jason Straziuso, File

Nairobi, KenyaKenya’s most prominent radical Muslim was gunned down Tuesday night near the coastal city of Mombasa amid escalating violence between government security forces and Muslim youths – raising fears of retaliation and further tension.

Abubaker Shariff Ahmed, an avowed jihadist known popularly as Makaburi, which means graveyard in Swahili, was shot dead at 6:30 p.m. outside a prison where he reported for a scheduled court appearance. Mr. Ahmed is the sixth and highest-profile Muslim cleric to be killed in suspicious circumstances on Kenya’s coast in the past few years. He was under sanctions from the UN Security Council that included a travel ban and an asset freeze for allegedly supporting terrorism.

The killing of Ahmed comes as the government has moved to curb or even preempt terrorism through round-ups and crackdowns. It adds to what seems a circular or “tit-for-tat” reaction in recent weeks between security forces and Muslims and ethnic Somalis.   Read more…

Nairobi (dpa) – While homophobia is on the rise across Africa, the gay community in Kenya has managed to win a small degree of acceptance despite homosexuality remaining illegal in the East African country.

Gay people have been able to stage small public protests to advocate equal rights. The community has even hosted its own film festivals, and social media has discreetly facilitated same-sex dating.

In 2013, David Kuria Mbote became the first openly gay person to run for public office in the country. In January, acclaimed author Binyavanga Wainaina declared his homosexuality in a heartfelt essay that received praise from many Kenyans.

Gay activists credit backstage lobbying with achieving better equality in public health. Kenya’s National AIDS Council, for example, provides gays with targeted treatment and disease prevention services.

Whilst in other countries in Africa, “people import lubricant under cover,” lubricants and condoms are easily available in Kenya, says Kevin Mwachiro, who works in Nairobi for the gay rights group Hivos Forum and wrote a book about homosexual and transgender Kenyans.

Kenya has become a safe haven for gays fleeing discrimination in Uganda, where President Yoweri Museveni signed a law in February that foresees lengthy prison sentences – in certain cases, even life sentences – for homosexuals.

Dozens of Ugandan gays and lesbians have travelled to Kenya as harassment and violence against them have increased in their home country. More than 20 have been registered as refugees with the United Nations.

Yet with anti-homosexual sentiment on the rise across Africa, Kenyan gay, lesbian and transgender people worry of a rollback on the modest but growing movement for equal rights in their country.  Read more…

Government soldiers in South Sudan. File photo. CHARLES LOMODONG / AFP

Juba, South Sudan — A long queue forms every morning in frontof a clinic in Tomping refugee camp  of South Sudanese capital Juba, where thousands have sought shelter for fear of being killed for their ethnicity.

Mothers bring children wrapped in blankets whom nurses place on scales to weigh for malnutrition. But one afternoon, the small bundle in the arms of one mother was silent and no longer moved.

“It’s a shame,” said Matthieu Ebel, coordinator of the clinic run by the aid organization Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), after he arranged for the tiny body to be collected for burial.

“People think of the fighting. But these are the consequences, too.” Disease and hunger are taking a toll across South Sudan, four months into the conflict between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar.

Thousands of people have been killed and more than 900,000 displaced in the power struggle.

An unknown number of civilians have perished from disease and malnutrition as armed groups have ransacked medical facilities and displaced people have missed the planting season.  Read more…

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