Tag Archives: violence

Young men and guns: Why South Sudan’s war flamed so fast and brightly

Rebels sit in the now-emptied hospital in Malakal, South Sudan, in February. Photo by Ilya Gridneff/AP

Juba, South Sudan — Gabriel Mabior left South Sudan’s army for the same reason he joined it: he wanted an education.

Mr. Mabior signed up to be a child soldier in 1987 after being assured that a pledge to fight would give him a seat in school.

But like thousands of other boys, he was quickly yanked out of school and ended up fighting for years for the Sudan People’s Liberation Army against the government of Sudan.

Mabior, now a soft-spoken and thoughtful businessman with a proclivity for button-down shirts, feels proud of his contribution to the liberation struggle that led to South Sudan’s independence in 2011. Freedom allowed him to earn a university degree, he says, which is why he chose to fight in the first place – and achieving a degree was unlikely under the old Sudan regime in Khartoum.

But Mabior, who lives in the capitol Juba, is now frustrated that South Sudanese are fighting again instead of pursuing what he describes as the fruits of liberation and peace, like study and individual growth.

“What are you fighting for?” the former child soldier asks. “This is the time for young people to live. This is the time for peace. This is the time for education.”  Read more…

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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…

Kevin Omwenga was stabbed to death while putting up campaign posters

Alexander Owino, 22, holds pictures of his friend Kevin, who was killed while putting up campaign posters.  Kevin is dressed in the black suit. Photo by Jason Patinkin
Alexander Owino, 22, holds pictures of his friend Kevin, who was killed while putting up campaign posters. Kevin is dressed in the black suit. Photo by Jason Patinkin

Kevin Omwenga was stabbed to death on January 17 near Nairobi’s Kibera slum.  He was putting up campaign posters for a local candidate in Kenya’s primary elections, which began the same day.  Kevin was a college student and another casualty of the pre-election violence that continues across Kenya as the country heads toward national polls in March.

Continue reading Kevin Omwenga was stabbed to death while putting up campaign posters

High stakes for Sudan and Mali at the African Union Summit

South Sudan’s chief negotiator Pagan Amum speaks during a press conference in Khartoum on December 2, 2012. EBRAHIM HAMID/AFP/Getty Images
South Sudan’s chief negotiator Pagan Amum speaks during a press conference in Khartoum on December 2, 2012. EBRAHIM HAMID/AFP/Getty Images

Addis Ababa – African leaders gather this week in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for the annual African Union Summit, marking the 50th anniversary of the Pan-African body. AU commission chairperson Nklosazana Dlamini Zuma of South Africa opened the week-long event Monday with a speech focusing on development challenges, but major conflicts in the Sudans and Mali are sure to dominate the agenda as heads of state begin to arrive tomorrow.  Read more…

Kenya: Ethnic and Economic Grievances Underlie Violence in Eastleigh

Muslims in Eastleigh pray outside a mosque. Photograph by Jason Patinkin.

Published in ThinkAfricaPress:  Last Sunday, a bomb blast on a public minibus left seven dead and scores wounded in Nairobi’s Eastleigh neighbourhood. The attack, blamed on the Islamist Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab, triggered conflict between Eastleigh’s Somali immigrants and their Kenyan neighbours.

For two days, rioting youths from nearby slums targeted ethnic Somalis, looting homes and fighting running street battles with police. After the tear gas settled, enterprising locals patched their broken windows with cardboard and sold shoes and leather jackets by the shells of shattered cars, but tensions continued to simmer.  Read more…

Darkness on the Delta

Blood stains the floor of a classroom in Kilelengwani village in the Tana river Delta on September 12, 2012.(CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images)

New piece for GlobalPost‘s Ground Truth blog:

NAIROBI, Kenya – Three days after the massacre, I finally convinced someone to take me to the scene. I only knew his first name—Robert. He was in his twenties, lived a few miles from the site of the attack, and eked out a living by driving a rented motorcycle for hire. We wound our way through the dense coastal jungle for about 20 minutes until we reached a clearing. In the distance, buzzards circled dozens of fire-blackened huts. As we approached, a hot breeze carried the smell of burnt flesh.  Read on…

A Church Attack in Nairobi’s “Little Mogadishu”

A policeman stands guard next to the site where a blast ripped through a church in Nairobi on September 30, 2012. ( SIMON MAINA/AFP/Getty Images)

New piece in GlobalPost‘s Ground Truth blog.

“It came time to pray for the children and we heard a bang,” said Paris Gikonyo, who was attending services at St. Polycarp Church in Nairobi’s Eastleigh neighborhood when a bomb exploded in the adjacent Sunday school. “I had two grandchildren in there, so I rushed over. Everyone ran over to save the children.”  Read more…