While the International Court of Justice in The Hague takes up a dispute between Kenya and Somalia over maritime oil and gas reserves this week, Human Rights Watch alleges that Kenya's plan to close the Dadaab refugee camp complex, amidst protest from Somalia, violates the UN's 1951 Refugee Convention, which requires that repatriation of refugees must be voluntary. Earlier this year Kenya's Interior Ministry announced that the camp, covering 50 km² (20 mi²) and home to nearly 300,000 people, would be closed by November. Ground was broken to construct the earliest portions of Dadaab in October 1991 by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees as a temporary measure to aid Somalis fleeing from their country's civil war, but as the years passed the site became home to refugees from other conflicts and to refugees from drought and famine, at its height holding more than half a million people. [more inside]
The face of corporate exploitation in the third world is increasingly local, and thus even more invisible than usual. Most land in Africa is technically owned by "local chiefs," and bribery and collusion between chiefs, state and corporations are dispossessing huge numbers of rural families of their land, health and livelihoods.
In the Shadows. The healthcare and human rights challenges of the LGBT populations of Malawi -- where homosexuality is outlawed. Via
None On Record - Stories of Queer Africa. After the brutal 2004 murder of FannyAnn Eddy, founder of the Sierra Leone Lesbian and Gay Association, native South African Selly Thiam decided to start recording the stories of African GLBTs both on the continent and in the diaspora. The result is a growing oral document of "the hopes, struggles, challenges and joy of being a QLGBT African - in their own voices". [more inside]
Equatorial Guinea is more than your average headline-making, human rights-eschewing African nation. Likening the country’s uneasy street-silence to that of Pyongyang, deported journalist Peter Maass reveals an unparalleled culture of fear blanketed by an international media blackout. But for the Whitehouse, ExxonMobil and Teodoro Obiang—Equatorial Guinea’s torturous leader—the poverty, abuse and dead-quiet are business as usual.
You will be thoroughly beaten. Zimbabwe, in economic decline for years, may be accelerating towards collapse. Its inflation rate recently hit 1281%, the highest in the world, and a strike by public doctors that began six weeks ago has now spread to nurses, electrical workers and (today) teachers. Those that aren't allowed to strike, like police, are quitting. Last month, Zimbabwe's top judge warned that underfunding had (possibly intentionally) left its judiciary largely unable to function, the nation's electricity provider recently announced that it's broke, its sewage plants started breaking down and polluting urban water supplies, and international observers warned (based on satellite photos, since the government won't allow them in) that famine is looming. In the past, President Robert Mugabe's response to the growing destitution has been to forcibly evict poor urban slum residents into the countryside and bulldoze their homes, to prevent them from organizing politically and to make it difficult for rights organizations to monitor them. Now, he's canceling the 2008 presidential elections (for now, saying that they'll be held in 2010, in conjunction with parliamentary elections, to save money) and ordering security forces to jail and torture political activists. The situation may be approaching a breaking point.
Faith in Chaos. Photojournalist Pep Bonet (previously mentioned in this excellent post) has won the 2005 W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography, a $30,000 prize, to support his project on post-war Sierra Leone. The W. Eugene Smith Grant was founded in 1976 to provide financial freedom to photojournalists working on long-term projects in the humane tradition of W. Eugene Smith. Past winners have included Stanley Greene, Brenda Ann Kenneally, Sebastiao Salgado, Eli Reed, Eugene Richards and Gideon Mendel. More inside.
China's non-interventionist approach to Africa. They recently lifted 200 million of their own people out of poverty. Unlike the G8, they aren't concerned about corruption, aid, debt relief, social impact, human rights, the environment, or spreading democratic ideology. They build governments, hotels and industrial plants in Sierra Leone, export 60% of oil from the 'genocidal' Sudanese, sell weapons to both sides in war zones and deal arms to embargoed dictators like Mugabe. They'll be the third largest investor in Africa at the end of this year. The People's Republic of China: threatening - or Jeffersonian?
Fazal Sheikh's photographs have documented the plight of refugees in camps across Central and East Africa and the Middle East. However, his photographs are distinctly different from the images of refugees we commonly see in printed news articles. Sheikh's photographs implicitly assert that the individual refugees share humanity with their oppressive rulers. He does so by depicting the individuals in portraits rather than as victims of a social and political drama. Sheikh, an American citizen, was just awarded the Grand Prix International Henri Cartier-Bresson.
Murder, Mayhem & Disco Sierra Leone warlord Sam Bockarie - if indeed he is dead - will be remembered for allegedly advocating a particularly horrific tactic of war: the deliberate and widespread practice of hacking off the limbs, lips and ears of his victims. The Revolutionary United Front (RUF) - the rebel group of which Mr Bockarie was a general - also received world attention for its systematic rape of women and abduction of thousands of children who were forced to fight. Mr Bockarie who died aged 40 was wanted by the United Nations-backed war crimes tribunal for his alleged part in the atrocities In his time, he was also a disco dancing champion, diamond miner, hairdresser, electrician and waiter.