Want to help save African wildlife? Visit Africa.

Want to help save African wildlife? Visit Africa.

Nairobi — Standing in the pop-out of a Land Rover just a few yards from Fatu and Najin, the last two northern white rhinos in the world, at Ol Pejeta in central Kenya, was one of the most powerful experiences I’ve ever had.

The last two massive members of this subspecies live under armed guard 24 hours a day in a 700-acre enclosure here. Ol Pejeta is the largest rhino sanctuary in East Africa.

In an era when purpose-driven, transformative experiences are the ultimate travel luxury, a visit to Africa should be at the top of any traveler’s list.

Americans are often inspired by African wildlife: there was outrage two years ago when Cecil the lion was shot by a hunter in Zimbabwe; the Trump administration took heat last year when it said it would overturn a ban on the sale of elephant trophy imports from Africa; and in March, when the last male northern white rhino, Sudan, died here at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, the severity of rhino poaching got international attention.

For those who really want to help save African wildlife, I offer the same advice that Elodie Sampere, Ol Pejeta’s head of conservation marketing, gave to the group of journalists I was traveling with: “The best way to help is to visit, not donate.”

One of the most exciting parts of being here is seeing what the locals are doing to help conserve and protect the continent’s iconic species. Donating to causes from afar helps, but spending money in person shows the local communities that the animals are more valuable alive than dead. And in a selfie-driven era, visitors spread the word far more effectively about the importance of saving these delicate ecosystems.

Beyond that, experiences here can be life-changing, as mine were at Ol Pejeta. More than 85,000 visitors come here annually, taking game drives through Ol Pejeta’s plains, where I encountered elephants, lions and chimpanzees. The high amount of rainfall in this region compared with other parts of Africa means more vegetation, and Kenya’s highest density of wildlife outside of the Maasai Mara. The reserve uses advanced fencing techniques to facilitate the movement of wildlife while, as much as possible, keeping poachers out.

Visitors can either stay at a number of lodges on the conservancy or nearby, as we did, at the Fairmont Mount Kenya. Tour operators like Intrepid Travel offer trips that focus on visiting the last two northern white rhinos and donate part of their profits to protecting them.

Guests at the Fairmont Mount Kenya don’t even have to leave the property to get a taste of animal conservancy. The resort’s founder, 1950s film star William Holden, was a hunter turned conservationist who also founded the onsite Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy, which raises and rehabilitates orphaned and injured wildlife with the goal of releasing them back into the wild.

You can get far more up close and personal with cheetahs at the conservancy’s orphanage than you would in the wild. And cyclists setting off from the resort through the conservancy can see the rare white zebras, which are being bred and hopefully released back to the wild, as well as the mountain bongo, one of the most endangered animals in the world.

By Johanna Jainchill

African debt, Afghan voter violence, and post-Brexit Britain: The Cheat Sheet

African debt, Afghan voter violence, and post-Brexit Britain: The Cheat Sheet

Mixed messages on FGM

Female Genital Mutilation, which involves the partial or total removal of the external genitalia, is a ritual in many societies, particularly in the Middle East and Africa. It can lead to chronic pain, menstrual problems, cysts and some potentially life-threatening infections, among other complications. FGM rates among African children have shown “huge and significant decline” over the last two decades, a study by BMJ Global Health announced this week. East Africa has seen the biggest drop, from 71 percent in 1995 to eight percent in 2016. In North Africa, prevalence fell from nearly 60 percent in 1990 to 14 percent in 2015, and in West Africa rates dropped from 74 percent in 1996 to about 25 percent in 2017. But while campaigners welcomed the news, some advised caution saying FGM also affects teenagers and women not analysed in the study, meaning the overall numbers could still be far higher. And In February, the UN warned that the number of women predicted to be mutilated each year could rise from here to 4.6 million by 2030.



Conflict  South Sudan peace deal: ‘Whose power are they sharing anyway?’

Conflict South Sudan peace deal: ‘Whose power are they sharing anyway?’

More than four million South Sudanese, a third of the country’s population, have been forced to flee their homes during the last five years. Without an effort to include their views – not just those of the country’s political elite – lasting peace will be difficult to achieve.

The signing in September of a new peace agreement between the government of President Salva Kiir, the main rebel leader Riek Machar, and other opposition forces has been called a milestone.

But while it is a welcome development, many among South Sudan’s 2.5 million refugees and 1.8 million internally displaced are deeply frustrated about the process and feel increasingly left behind.

Displaced people are among those most affected by the ongoing crisis, yet, very often, they feel the least included in the decisions that impact their lives.

Through distinct but similar research, our organizations, the International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI) and the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), interviewed more than 200 South Sudanese civilians over the past 10 months, most of them displaced in South Sudan, Uganda, and Ethiopia.

Many of those we met blamed their leaders for prioritising rent-seeking over peace, and for digging in rather than seeking compromises.

“Our leaders are not after peace, but after positions,” said one displaced woman in Wau in northwestern South Sudan.

One of the most commonly voiced contentions was that the leadership was more focused on power-sharing and self-enrichment than on addressing the root causes of violence, like local tensions, governance failures, and corruption.

Many people, for example, said they resented the plan for five vice-presidents. As a refugee in Uganda asked: “whose power are they sharing anyway?”

‘They have interests’

While the new Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCSS) had not yet been signed at the time of our research (between September 2017 and July 2018), respondents were highly critical of the peace process. That effort was led first by the East African regional bloc, Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), and then by member states Sudan and Uganda.

Many people expressed frustration with both the mediation process and the South Sudanese political leadership participating in the talks.

“Our leaders are not after peace, but after positions.”

Refugees in Ethiopia, for example, strongly accused IGAD of bias, pointing to the exclusion of Machar in the first phase of the talks. Respondents elsewhere blamed IGAD for the collapse of the original deal signed in 2015, saying it had failed to follow through on implementation and punish those hindering the process.

Regional interests were seen as trumping conflict resolution initiatives; questions were raised about Uganda’s dual role as both peace mediator and party to the conflict when it sent troops to South Sudan after the outbreak of violence in 2013.

One refugee in Uganda commented: “IGAD has issues with neutrality and confidence among actors. Some IGAD countries are involved in the war in South Sudan. They have interests.”

Those we interviewed also complained about a lack of access to information and an inability to voice their views. Many felt disconnected from the elite-driven peace process, which they said lacked significant citizen participation.

A small number of refugee representatives were invited to attend portions of the High-Level Revitalization Forum, in which the new deal was brokered, but they were limited to observer status.

Some felt represented through civil society organisations or politicians – refugees in Ethiopia, for example, expressed strong support for former – and future – vice-president Machar – but others noted the shortcomings in the legitimacy or leverage of these delegates.

Because so little information filtered down to ordinary South Sudanese, rumours dominated local discussions, people told us, filling the information vacuum with unverified, word-of-mouth accounts that further muddied the picture.

Many of the people we interviewed called for a wider dialogue but said this should ideally take place after the security situation had improved and with more inclusive conditions than the existing National Dialogue.

The National Dialogue was announced by President Kiir in December 2016 and consisted of a series of consultations in South Sudan and – to a limited extent – neighbouring countries. The process was controversial from the start, seen both as a tool of the Kiir government and a competitor to the IGAD-led peace efforts.

Going home

While some displaced South Sudanese said they might try to go home if and when a peace deal was signed, the majority were apprehensive and wanted to see more concrete signs of progress before making risky returns.

Respondents mentioned several failed peace agreements and their lack of implementation. Many said the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement – which ushered in South Sudan’s independence in 2011 – was the only accord implemented successfully.

“This time round, IGAD must learn from experience,” one IDP recommended. “They should try to put in place everything it takes to protect the agreement, and those who try to go against it must be punished.”

The current peace agreement, however, has no built-in sanction mechanisms and keeps several provisions that were problematic in the past, including the oft-criticised monitoring bodies from the 2015 deal.

The signing of the new agreement may be a milestone event, but what does it really mean for the millions of people still displaced?

The clear outcome of our research is that the only way people will feel confident about the peace process is if those in charge commit to implementing all the provisions of the new agreement, including those on security, government reform, and accountability.

Displaced citizens must be properly informed about the peace deal and more closely connected to its implementation and monitoring.

This starts with better communication – disseminating the provisions of the peace agreement to people who are vulnerable and displaced – but should ultimately lead to a new nationwide dialogue that includes all ordinary citizens in planning South Sudan’s future.

Only the feeling of being involved will end the sense of alienation and allow those most affected by the war to start imagining a more positive future, which is the surest way to engage them in the political process and in turn reduce the risk of renewed conflict.

Igad to discuss South Sudan peace in Ethiopia

Igad to discuss South Sudan peace in Ethiopia

The Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (Igad) will meet in Addis Ababa on Friday to discuss the peace progress in South Sudan.

A brief email extended to the media on Wednesday afternoon indicated that the regional bloc’s Council of Ministers would meet in the Ethiopian capital.

“The 66th Extraordinary Session of the Igad Council of Ministers will convene on Friday, November 16, 2018 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. On the agenda are the implementation of the Revitalised Agreement of the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS) and progress in Somalia,” Igad Programme Manager Abdullahi Busuri said.

Igad is keen to push the South Sudan signatories on their commitment to meet the implementation timelines.

The guarantors

The latest South Sudan peace deal was signed following a breakthrough in Khartoum by the Sudanese President Omar Bashir after months of negotiations.

President Salva Kiir and main opposition leader Riek Machar inked the deal on September 12 in Addis Ababa.
The entire peace agreement is under the Igad supervision.
The regional bloc authorised Sudan, Uganda, Djibouti and Somalia to be the guarantors of the South Sudan peace.


Travel Truths: what really happens when you flush a plane loo?

Travel Truths: what really happens when you flush a plane loo?

For millions of people, summer means an opportunity to hop on a plane and experience new and exciting sights, cultures, and food. It also means getting packed into a giant commercial aircraft and then wondering if you can make it to your next layover without submitting to the anxiety of using the onboard bathroom.

Roughly the size of an apartment pantry, these narrow facilities barely accommodate your outstretched knees; turbulence can make expelling waste a harrowing nightmare. Once you’ve successfully managed to complete the task and flush, what happens next?

Unlike our home toilets, planes can’t rely on water tanks to create passive suction to draw waste from the bowl. In addition to the expense of hauling hundreds of gallons of water, it’s impractical to leave standing water in an environment that shakes its contents like a snow globe. Originally, planes used an electronic pump system that moved waste along with a deodorizing liquid called Anotec. That method worked, but carrying the Anotec was undesirable for the same reasons as storing water: It raised fuel costs and added weight to the aircraft that could have been allocated for passengers. (Not surprisingly, airlines prefer to transport paying customers over blobs of poop.)

Beginning in the 1980s, planes used a pneumatic vacuum to suck liquids and solids down and away from the fixture. Once you hit the flush button, a valve at the bottom of the toilet opens, allowing the vacuum to siphon the contents out. (A nonstick coating similar to Teflon reduces the odds of any residue.) It travels to a storage tank near the back of the plane at high speeds, ready for ground crews to drain it once the airplane lands. The tank is then flushed out using a disinfectant.

If you’re also curious about timing your bathroom visit to avoid people waiting in line while you void, flight attendants say the best time to go is right after the captain turns off the seat belt sign and before drink service begins.

Empowering and Powering Women

Empowering and Powering Women

Advancing the full participation of women and girls in the political, economic, and social realms of their countries is a key goal of U.S. foreign policy[i]. As such, promoting gender equality and female empowerment is a critical component of Power Africa. Power Africa seeks to support projects, programs and policies that intentionally strive to reduce gender inequalities and promote effective engagement of both men and women in sub-Saharan Africa.

A Gender Integrated Approach

The discourse around gender and energy often focuses on women as underserved end-users. Power Africa strives to look beyond this vision, seeing women as vital actors within the energy sector at large. It is Power Africa’s expectation that women be represented as policy makers within national and regional governments, as executives of private sector partners, as managers within power sector utilities, as employees of generation plants and transmission and distribution systems, as entrepreneurism within nascent renewable energy enterprises, and finally as customers of electricity services. By taking a sector-wide approach to gender integration, Power Africa aims to meet the energy needs of the underserved, while creating opportunities for women throughout the energy value chain.

Women in African Power

Launched by Power Africa, Women in African Power is a network aimed at promoting the participation and elevating the presence of women in Africa’s energy sector. Women in African Power is made up of a diverse group of women leaders and emerging leaders, representing government, private sector, civil society, and academia. The network provides a regional platform for networking, information exchange, mentorship, and exposure to new business opportunities.

Kiir to meditate Sudan Peace Talks

Kiir to meditate Sudan Peace Talks

The President of the Republic of South Sudan, Salva Kiir Mayardit, is resolved to mediate the political conflict between the Nuba Mountains, South Blue Nile, and Darfur on one hand, and Government of Khartoum, led by President Omer Ahmed Hassan Al Bashir, on the other hand. After the January 2011 referendum of Southern Sudan and eventual declaration of independence on 9 July 2011, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) of January 2005, ended. Thus rendering the CPA protocols on the borders of South Sudan and Sudan, Abyei region, the Nuba Mountains, South Blue Nile, in limbo. From there on, the regions of the Nuba Mountains, South Blue Nile, and Darfur formed a unified front and staged a new war against the Sudan Government, from 2010. Sudan accused President Salva Kiir of linking his Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) with the remanents of the SPLM-North faction. This new situation, after the division of Sudan and division of the SPLM, triggered a “cold war” and a “war in a proxy,” between South Sudan and Sudan.

Since 2011 South Sudan has been and still is, in cold and proxy wars. Thus the intervention of President Al Bashir, behind the curtains of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), had come at the right time when South Sudanese were extremely tired of war and needed peace. President Al Bashir’s acceptance to mediate peace among South Sudan warring parties (SPLM, SPLM IO, and SSOA), successfully concluded the “Revitalized Agreement on Resolution of Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCSS), which was signed on 12 September 2018, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia by the parties. This R-ARCSS effectively paved the way for the resumption and return to square one: “The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA)” of 9 January 2005 between the SPLM and the Government of Sudan, Signed by Dr. John Garang de Mabior and President Omer Ahmed Hassan Al Bashir respectively. This peace, by necessity, should prevail equally, in two Sudan.

In these interlinked political conflicts and civil wars, there are chains of roles and obligations that need full involvements of two governments, South Sudan and Sudan. Although the mediation of President Salva Kiir Mayardit could be said to have come late, yet political analysts favor this time since comprehensive peace and security could be achieved in two countries. President Salva Kiir Mayardit is the right person to mediate peace between the group (SPLM-North) and Sudan. This group, by names: Malik Agar. Abdel Aziz Al Hilu, Yasir Arman, and many others worked with President Salva during the Interim Government, under Al Bashir, from 2005 to 2011.

In my opinion, the two Presidents of Sudan, Salva, and Al Bashir should simply restore and reactivate CPA protocols for the Nuba Mountains, South Blue along with Abyei and the borders between the two countries. This scenario shall fully open the spirit of the CPA to end all sorts of political anarchies, violence, and wars in South Sudan and Sudan for the benefit of Sudanese in two countries and one people.

Ilhan Omar, a candidate for State Representative for Minnesota

Ilhan Omar, a candidate for State Representative for Minnesota

Although the U.S. did not elect its first female president Tuesday night, one woman still made history.

Former refugee Ilhan Omar, who proudly wears the hijab, became America’s first Somali-American Muslim woman legislator after she claimed a strong victory in the Minnesota House race.

The 34-year-old moved to the U.S. at the age of 12, after four years living in a Kenyan refugee camp following her escape from the Somali civil war, the Star Tribune reports. As well as her political duties, she is director of policy at Women Organizing Women Network—a group that aims to empower all women, particularly first and second generation immigrants, to become engaged citizens and community leaders.

Trumpism comes to Brazil

Trumpism comes to Brazil

Bolsonaro, the new Brazilian President, seems to declare that he is a “Trumpist” in all aspects of ideologies and diplomacy: personality, white racism, politics and racial divide in the United States of America (the USA). Externally, the conduct of diplomatic relations in arms control, peace and security, world trade, climatic change, and humanitarian movement to save heaven, seeking safety and livelihood is frustrating.

The policies of Trumpism, sloganeering “America first” could and will not be compatible with the world order that emerged after the cold war and the collapsed of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in 1991. The anti-world peace and security being promoted by Trump Republicanism and populism should not be allowed to flow out of the USA. Dangers that could be caused by Trump’s rhetorics could backfire, not only to the USA but could affect the whole world. Already the mini-world war is taking place in the Middle East between Saudi Arabia and Iran, with the USA and Russia backing the two war consortium respectively. Can such a war be allowed without the nuclear arms control?

Bolsonaro is naive by saluting the ghost of the USA flag in an attempt to lure Brazil into politics of the USA growing isolationism.