Tag Archives: Uganda

For S. Sudan aid workers, bad weather is as much a worry as violence

 

People trudged along the main passageway through the United Nations’ Malakal Camp for Internally Displaced People in South Sudan in late July. The wet season makes life for hundreds of thousands of refugees very challenging, as bad weather can make roads and paths impassable, exacerbate the difficulties of distributing aid. Matthew Abbot/AP

It’s been a grim week for aid workers in South Sudan.

On Monday, a pro-government militia in the contested oil-producing state of Upper Nile shot dead an employee of the humanitarian group Norwegian People’s Aid. That murder was followed by the killings of five aid workers on Tuesday in the same region. Hundreds of others then evacuated the area, leaving behind 127,000 refugees who had depended on their assistance.

The killings underscore the immense difficulties humanitarians face in trying to save tens of thousands of lives. South Sudan’s civil war is pushing the country toward famine, intensifying the need for outside aid. Yet violence against aid workers has been a striking component of the seven-month war, now considered one of the world’s worst conflicts.

The United Nations warns that 3.9 million people need to be fed by year’s end or 230,000 children will suffer acute malnutrition and 50,000 could die. Farmers have missed the planting season because of fighting, and militiamen have looted food stocks meant for hundreds of thousands of civilians.

A massive aid machine – currently the world’s largest, according to the UN – is mobilizing to prevent that disaster scenario. But the barriers are high: Roads are nearly nonexistent here and are clogged by rainy season mud. Those needing food are dispersed across one of the world’s largest grass swamps. Agencies are a billion dollars short of funds, and fighting prevents workers from reaching the worst hit places. Read more…

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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…

Kenya: a safe haven for persecuted gays?

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…

South Sudan talks resume Monday despite hostilities, recrimination

Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) government soldiers wear UNICEF backpacks as they walk along a road in Mathiang near Bor on January 31, 2014. The armed government troops had stolen the UNICEF supplies intended for schoolchildren.  Carl De Souza/AFP/Getty Images

In South Sudan, a cease-fire is supposed to be in force. But rebels are openly claiming to still be fighting, while independent satellite images of the torching of rebel leader Riek Machar‘s hometown of Leer confirm that government forces are also engaged in battle.  Read more…

Quick peace eludes S. Sudan leaders, despite Army victories

Women and children stand next to their tented shelters in the grounds of a church where thousands have sought refuge during the recent fighting in Malakal, Upper Nile State, in South Sudan Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014. Mackenzie Knowles-Coursin/AP

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and Nairobi, Kenya

The month-old civil conflict in South Sudan has claimed some 10,000 lives, with major towns razed to the ground and half a million people displaced. Amid the fighting, negotiators have been holding peace talks in neighboring Ethiopia.

In recent days government forces, supported by Ugandan troops, apparently wrested two key towns, Bor and Malakal (both important to the oil industry) from the control of rebels. Yet despite initial hopes, there are signs that a quick peace may be further away, not closer, in the world’s newest nation. One reason is a lack of command and control over an ill-disciplined military that may be reverting to its roots as a militia.  Read more…

S. Sudan factions agree to talk, while guns still bark

Nairobi, Kenya  South Sudanese rebel leader Riek Machar and the nation’s president Salva Kiir have agreed to negotiate after two weeks of bitter fighting that has brought the world’s newest nation to the brink of an extended civil war.

Yet fighting is apparently continuing as government forces under Mr. Kiir were engaged at least up to a deadline designed to trigger military intervention by neighboring African states, backed by the international community.

Forces loyal to Mr. Machar, the former vice-president, have been trying to take the town of Bor, a regional capitol and lucrative center of oil production, as strategic leverage.  Read more…