Category Archives: Ethnicity

With peace talks dead, S. Sudan’s president emerges defiant

In a defiant and much-anticipated speech on Wednesday, South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir laid out his plans to end his country’s 15-month civil war — but they have little to do with reconciling and reaching a political settlement. Read more…

Photo by Jok Solomun/Reuters

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In South Sudan, a renewed bid to pull child soldiers out of conflict

Some 300 boys in army fatigues sit under a grove of spindly trees in Pibor, a remote outpost in east South Sudan that —until last year— was the heart of a bloody rebellion that killed thousands. The boys are underage members of the Cobra Faction, a militia of the Murle ethnic group led by local general David Yau Yau. Read more…

Photo by Jason Patinkin

Should South Sudan really hold an election this year?

South Sudan‘s government has announced that it will hold elections in June. But a hasty vote in this young and fragile nation – already mired in civil war – could cause more instability. Read more…

Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015, South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir, left, shakes hands with rebel leader and former vice president Riek Machar, right, after signing an agreement at the end of talks in Arusha, Tanzania. (AP)

In S. Sudan, churches struggle to keep role as trusted peacemakers

Wearing an immaculate white cassock, Catholic Bishop Paride Taban strides through the mud and tents of the Jebel displaced persons camp in South Sudan’s capital Juba on a recent Sunday.

The camp is hardly sacred ground: thousands of ethnic Nuer live here under United Nations peacekeeper protection in fear of Dinka soldiers outside. But Bishop Taban is here to conduct mass anyway.

“The church is to be with the suffering people, wherever in the world,” the 78-year-old bishop says. Read more…

Photo: Catholic Archbishop Bishop Paride Taban leads mass on November 9 in an airplane hangar at the UN’s Jebel displaced person’s camp outside Juba where thousands of ethnic Nuer have taken shelter from the war. By Jason Patinkin

As S. Sudan’s rainy season ends, more aid for the displaced – but more fighting

For the past six months, South Sudan’s rainy season brought misery to the nearly 2 million civilians displaced by the 10-month civil war. In crowded United Nations camps, tens of thousands lived ankle-deep in latrine overflow; and for those in the countryside, survival meant eating water lilies and drinking from rivers as the land transformed into marshy islands.

The rains are petering out, and should cease this month. But the change in weather hardly means respite: The end of the wet season means the start of the fighting season. Read more…

Photo: A rebel soldier patrols through a flooded area near the town of Bentiu, South Sudan on Sept. 20, 2014. Matthew Abbot/AP

Lamu after dark

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It was near nine o’clock in Shela, the sleepy village on the northeast beach of Lamu Island, when we ran out of soda for our brandies. Continue reading Lamu after dark

Kenya conundrum: Kick out Maasai herders to develop geothermal energy?

Maasai sheep graze in front of geothermal wells at Olkaria, Africa’s largest geothermal complex, near Naivasha, Kenya. Photo by Jason Patinkin.

Sitting by his dung hut at sunrise, Daudi Maisiodo, a Maasai herdsman, praises Mt. Suswa, a smoldering volcano on Kenya’s Great Rift Valley where he lives.

“It’s the best land,” Mr. Maisiodo says of the mountain slopes. “There’s firewood. There’s plains with enough space for pasture. You can grow maize….There’s red and white ochre … for rituals.”

The mountain is rich in another way as well. Hot springs and fumaroles, the cracks in the earth’s crust that belch steam, indicate that magma-heated rocks are only a mile below, close enough to be tapped for lucrative geothermal energy.

Suswa holds part of Kenya’s vast undeveloped reserves of geothermal energy, which the government wants to exploit in order to help propel the East African nation to industrialized, middle income status.

Already, Kenya is Africa’s largest producer of geothermal and the ninth-largest worldwide. But the 424 megawatts currently generated represent less than 1/20th of the energy locked beneath a string of volcanic fields in the Rift Valley. Suswa alone has an estimated 600 untapped megawatts.

Realizing Kenya’s geothermal potential would cut energy costs and power economic expansion. But it could come at a high price: displacing thousands of indigenous Maasai people who, after a century of losing land rights, are upset at being moved again.

“We don’t like it,” says Maisiodo of the budding geothermal exploration at Suswa. “We fear many people will come and take our land.” Read more…