Tag Archives: human rights

Rape stands out starkly in S. Sudan war known for brutality

Many people are forced to sleep outside due to over crowding in Bentiu IDP camp, South Sudan Friday, July 4, 2014. Photo:  Matthew Abbot/AP

Every day, hundreds of women living at the United Nations base in Bentiu risk rape so they can feed their children.

Some 40,000 people shelter here from South Sudan‘s civil war, and there is not enough food or charcoal. The women of this camp have taken on the job of foraging for firewood and vegetables outside the perimeter – since men in the camp have been shot on sight by lurking local soldiers who suspect them of being militants.

But leaving the compound means the women walk into the same zone of conflict. While some UN workers are pushing to get simple food and firewood delivered, they also point out that donor aid is lagging.

“They can rape me or kill me,” says ‘Anne,’ who sells home-brewed alcohol to the soldiers outside, earning about $5 each time that she uses to buy milk and soup packets for her three children.  “But my children don’t have good food to eat so I have to go out.”  Read more…

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From Sudan to South Sudan, crusading editor refuses to stay quiet

Alfred Taban, editor of the Juba Monitor, in his office in Juba, South Sudan, July 8, 2014. Photo by Jason Patinkin

On Wednesday July 3 South Sudanese security forces confiscated the entire print run of South Sudan‘s leading independent English language daily newspaper, the Juba Monitor.

The reason? Its editor Alfred Taban defied an order not to report on local government demands to be given more authority.

But Mr. Taban, whose career in the inky journalistic trenches of both Sudan and South Sudan has spanned decades – was not fazed.

“It didn’t surprise me,” he says, leaning back in his office chair next to towering stacks of papers lit by the glow of a computer screen.  “I knew they would react negatively.”

Having endured years of harsh censorship in Khartoum under successive dictators, Taban, from the south, hoped that independence for South Sudan would bring change.

But three years later, Taban says the press climate in Juba the capital is nearly as bad as his years in Khartoum, in Sudan.

Taban’s story is similar to many South Sudanese who fought and labored for their country’s freedom, only to feel let down by leaders now embroiled in a bitter and ugly civil war.

“They are doing the same things they were doing in Khartoum,” he says of South Sudan’s current rulers, whose disagreements in December brought a brutal war that remains unresolved.   Read more…

US sanctions tread lightly on Uganda’s ‘odious’ anti-gay laws

 

Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni gestures after signing a new anti-gay bill in Entebbe, Uganda, Feb. 24, 2014. Rebecca Vassie/AP/File

A loud cry rose from the West early this year when Uganda passed an anti-homosexuality law that would put “repeat offenders” in prison for life.

European countries slashed aid to Uganda and gay rights activists loudly condemned the legislation, which came at the same time that Nigeria also cracked down on homosexuals with similarly draconian laws.

The “odious law,” as US President Barack Obama called Uganda’s initiative, would “complicate” the US partnership with Kampala. He ordered a review of the largely military US-Uganda relationship, with the intent of imposing sanctions.

Those sanctions got announced last week. They are the toughest actions taken against anti-gay laws overseas by the Obama administration, and include the redirecting of US aid to Uganda to its NGOs, the cancelling of a planned hospital, the cancelling of a military exercise, and the dropping of some police funding.

In the US, Vice President Joseph Biden and US Secretary of State John Kerry touted the sanctions as significant during June Pride Month.

But the sanctions also represent a conundrum for the US as it tries to affirm some of its own values and viewpoints abroad at a time when its leverage is lower.

Many human rights activists say the Uganda sanctions are too little, too late – even as some foreign affairs specialists say a US single-issue focus on gay rights actually strengthens a new “anti-West” narrative in parts of Africa and an attendant crackdown on civil society.  Read more…

How Kenya’s ‘war on terror’ disrupts a thriving Nairobi district

 

Shoppers stroll First Avenue in Eastleigh, a neighborhood in Nairobi, Kenya, also known as ‘Little Mogadishu’ because it is home to immigrants from Somalia. Jason Patinkin

Eastleigh, a mass of crowds and color in the heart of Kenya’s capital, is like no other neighborhood in Nairobi.

Nicknamed “Little Mogadishu,” it has bloomed in the past decade into one of East Africa’s most vibrant commercial centers, built mostly by refugees from Somalia who came here after that country collapsed in the 1990s.

While Eastleigh is jammed with refugees from the Horn of Africa, it is no Nairobi ghetto: Bulk imports of textiles, car parts, electronics, and veterinary supplies – often tax free – come here from Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, and are sold to merchants who trek in from all over East and Central Africa.
Moreover, at the muezzin’s dusk call to prayer, people don’t retreat to homes behind razor-wire-topped walls, the way much of Nairobi’s population does each evening.

Instead, the place bustles. Eastleigh residents shop at night markets or sip camel-milk tea in sidewalk cafes, where one is more likely to hear Somali or Arabic than Swahili or English, Kenya’s national languages.

Yet in recent months, this sometime paradise for refugees has become hostile to outsiders. As Kenya cracks down on Al Shabab terrorists from Somalia following a devastating attack on the posh Nairobi Westgate mall last fall, Eastleigh residents are caught in the middle. Just as Little Mogadishu and its new glass-and-concrete high-rises are gaining a reputation as a story of progress and success, a cosmopolitan haven on the Horn, many refugees and immigrants are suddenly leaving.  Read more…

Forgotten among the forgotten: Foreign refugees in South Sudan’s civil strife

At this camp in Juba, more than 10,000 people are sheltering, including hundreds of Eritreans who are afraid to go back to their country. Photo by Jason Patinkin

Juba, South Sudan — Two years ago when Peter moved here from nearby Eritrea, things looked pretty good: South Sudan was a new country getting international help. The city of Bor, where Peter opened a general store, was along a major corridor of emerging oil wealth and prosperity.

South Sudan was in fact a refuge, politically and religiously freer and less repressive than Eritrea. Peter, who will not give his real name for fear of reprisal, could escape what has become Eritrea’s notorious forced conscription policy, where the government is grabbing men up to the age of 50 for indefinite Army service. Plus, getting across the South Sudan border was not too difficult.

But now he finds himself caught in South Sudan’s brutal civil strife. A slight man with a short, shaggy Afro, he is living in a refugee camp of 10,000 people in the capitol of Juba. And at this point he just wants to leave this place and find some safer haven.  Read more…

Will Kenya mosque assault radicalize Muslim youths?

A boy, who was with fellow Muslims detained by police from a raid at the Musa mosque, climb in a cell as the men wait to be arraigned at a court in Shanzu, a coastal town of Mombasa February 3, 2014.  Joseph Okanga/Reuter

Early this month more than 100 young Muslims in this port city gathered at the Musa Mosque for what was billed as a regional Islamic conference. The meeting had been banned by police, who say the mosque has ties to the Somali militant group Al Shabab. But the organizers went ahead anyway.

By early afternoon on Feb. 2, Musa was full of people, including dozens of neighborhood children drawn by a free lunch.

What followed next is unclear:  Police say they tried to arrest mosque leaders and came under gunfire.  Muslim activists say the police stormed the mosque unprovoked.

However it started, police stormed the religious structure with boots on and began firing tear gas and live bullets at youth, some of whom fought back with knives. After a melee that captured national attention, police arrested 129 people, including 21 minors, some only 12 years old.  Dozens were injured, and rioting continued for days as wounded succumbed to injuries.  By Feb. 6, seven Muslims and one police officer lay dead.  Read more…