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A Grammar of Vision 2: For Mohamed Amiin

Behind me are stacks of cardboard boxes. Their sides are printed with the name of a local mineral water company. Scotch tape holds their flaps from opening. Inside each one are the remnants of a person, though with their permanent marker notes and blushes of dust it is as if they are the forgotten miscellany from a residential move.

After DNA tests are run on these bones, the commissioner tells me, the War Crimes Investigation Commission will contact the family members that are still alive and give them the bones for burial. A final burial. I am shown photos of the most recent one. A crowd of people in a badland, centered by a coffin wrapped in white cloth, and the women’s faces frozen in anguish as if the death had just occurred, or had been accumulating within them for more than two decades.

How do you reflect or comment on a conflict that has no relation or significance to your life? This is the first question that arose. Can we say that there is a conflict that has no relation or significance to our lives? I remember coming home from class in 7th grade to find my entire family on the couch. Like all others in America – and many throughout the world, I’ve learned from traveling – they were watching TV. I was worried we would go to war. Why would this worry me, at 12 years old? Why would I not be worried about the smoking towers and the people like me inside them? Like an animal, my heart beat violently and I was ready to hide but I did not understand. Like all other living things – maybe even the trees, and maybe even the carrots and heads of lettuce in the fields – I knew war was the great absurdity. If it came, even if I never saw it, I knew I would never again live a life like I had been living up to then.

Read the rest over at A Grammar of Vision.

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Yemeni refugees fleeing Saudi air strikes find peace but little else in Somaliland

It was just after midnight when the livestock ship carrying nearly 200 people fleeing Yemen’s civil war docked at the port in the Somaliland city of Berbera.

As aid workers set up registration tables in the light of Red Crescent ambulance headlights, the migrants slowly filed on to land across a plank the size of a door. Families sat in circles on the gravel, attending to crying children or staring blankly at the stacks of cargo containers surrounding them. They looked dazed and exhausted, but they were happy to be alive.

This was the fourth – and most crowded – shipload of refugees fleeing Yemen to reach Berbera since late March, when a Saudi Arabia-led coalition began a bombing campaign against Shia Houthi rebels who forced President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi into exile.

It is an exodus that seems unlikely to end any time soon, despite Saudi Arabia’s announcement on Tuesday night that it had ended its bombing campaign. Saudi warplanes launched new air strikes against rebel positions in Aden and Taez on Wednesday and aid workers have warned that the humanitarian situation in Yemen remains “catastrophic” after months of fighting.

Read the rest over at The Guardian.

Photo © Johnny Magdaleno 2015.

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Ethiopians Call for Revenge on the Islamic State at Violent Protest Over Mass Killing Video

Roads around Meskel Square, an open stadium at the center of Addis Ababa’s rapidly modernizing metropolitan area, were closed to traffic during the demonstration, giving the city a solemn quiet during what normally would have been morning rush hour.

There was a heavy police presence in the streets, and officers formed security checkpoints to monitor the crowds trekking across the Kazanchis district to participate in the demonstration.

Around 8am, people began to fill the stadium’s vast stretches of rock seating. Orthodox Christians paraded quietly across the aisles with traditional crosses as Muslim men in skullcaps thumbed prayer beads and held signs written in Amharic, which stressed that IS does not represent Islam.

Yonas, 30, wearing a Rastafari beanie and holding a handwritten sign in misspelled English that read “ISSI is the Symbole of 666!!!,” supported a hard response against the group, which is also known as ISIS.

“We Ethiopians have never been colonized,” he said. “We are heroes, and we are not afraid of anything. Not even ISIS.”

Read the rest over at VICE News.

Photos © Johnny Magdaleno 2015.

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As gold fuels Darfur conflict, activists push for more Sudan sanctions

Taj el-Bisary, an independent researcher for aid groups, visits the Darfur region in western Sudan, where he was born, at least three times a year. He observes that the situation there is mostly unchanged. The Sudanese government first contracted militias to combat rebel groups there more than a decade ago, yet the terrible violence gripping the region never really stopped.

Despite the ongoing conflict, one new group of people has flocked to Darfur in recent years: gold miners. From all over Africa, they have left their families, homes and countries, heading to a largely forgotten war zone to dig for gold.

When a group of nomadic miners entered the Jebel Amer region in North Darfur state three years ago, they discovered a wealth of gold deposits just beneath the surface. The shallow depth of the gold precluded the need for sophisticated and expensive mining machinery; bare hands and basic tools were sufficient. By the end of 2012, there were nearly 4,000 independent mining sites in the territory.

“The mining is good,” Bisary added. “But the local people are definitely not the beneficiaries.”

Read the rest over at Al Jazeera America.

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Introducing A Grammar of Vision

A Grammar of Vision is a place for patient, beautiful writing on the disappearance of facts.

Or, perspectives on the way myth, legend, language and culture hold influence over history, politics, life and death.”

A new, online-only, slow-cooker of a publication. One or two new writings every month, though I’m hoping to increase that frequency with the help of writers I love and respect. The first piece is a spin-off from a journal entry I wrote while struggling with a rare form of paralysis in Thailand.

Thank you for reading, which you can do here.

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Kenyans Search for Loved Ones and Answers on Government’s Poor Security After University Attack

Anindo has been looking for Daisy ever since the two tried to flee Garissa University early on Thursday morning. They were jarred awake by the sound of gunshots.

“I still haven’t heard any news,” he said. “I went to the hospital in Garissa. The names of those who were killed were registered in a book, but her name wasn’t there.”

After spending Wednesday evening together, Daisy spent the night in Anindo’s dormroom. They escaped when the attack began. He passed beyond the compound walls, where he then watched on, along with other students and gathering citizens, in the direction of the gunfire. But Daisy had disappeared.

“Even the calls I make to her won’t go through,” he told VICE News.

He is one of the many confused and devastated Kenyans currently searching for names and answers in the wake of East African terrorist group al Shabaab’s attack on Garissa University, which left at least 147 dead. Incoming reports suggest the actual number is expected to be higher.

Read the rest over at VICE News.

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LEAD STORY: Threat of Post-Election Violence Looms in Nigeria — But Not Necessarily From Boko Haram

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has been accused of giving more than $40 million to local militias to fan election violence. Politicians have demanded that their supporters “kill” and “crush” competitors like “cockroaches.” Police chiefs have threatened to shoot 20 people for any one police officer’s death during voting season.

These are just a few examples of the alarming vitriol present in the run-up to Nigeria’s hotly contested 2015 elections, where Jonathan is competing for a second term against ex-military commander Muhammadu Buhari, who is pursuing his fourth presidential bid. Voting was extended to Sunday after polling difficulties in some areas, and the two candidates are apparently locked in a dead heat.

Recurring hate speech, reports of small arms circulation among politically backed militias, and gangs and government officials attempting to influence the police have made human rights groups monitoring the elections worry that political violence will once again shatter Nigeria’s promise of a peaceful democratic result.

According to the Nigerian Human Rights Commission, every election since 1922 in the West African country has been beset by politically motivated violence. This year is shaping up to be no different.

Read the rest over at VICE News.
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Egypt signs Nile dam deal with Ethiopia after years of dispute. What changed?

Egypt has viewed the dam as a security threat that could reduce its annual water share as the dam’s 63 billion cubic meter reservoir is filled. The dam and the power plant are expected to be operational by 2017. According to Egypt’s current Foreign Minister Hisham Qandil, the old treaty water amount –set under British colonial rule and that gave Egypt the largest share of the Nile –was incrementally less able to satisfy Egypt’s needs. The country, he said, had recently entered “hydraulic poverty.”

Experts believe Egypt likely softened its position after reaching a crossroads where it had to choose between joining its riparian neighbors, or casting itself as a lone aggressor. Most of the Nile countries had signed into a 2010 Nile-based treaty with Ethiopia called the Entebbe Agreement that gave them greater Nile bargaining rights.

“Now Egypt is alone. What can they do?” says Dr. Shafiqul Islam, director of the Water Diplomacy Program at Tufts University, adding that Ethiopia has promised not to affect water flow to Egypt. “Does Egypt believe it? Perhaps not. But they do not have much option.”

Read the rest over at Christian Science Monitor.

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Sierra Leone’s President Fired His Vice President and Now All Hell Is Breaking Loose

A political crisis that has been unfolding in Sierra Leone took a dramatic turn Friday when police stormed the headquarters of the country’s bar association in the capital of Freetown, breaking up a meeting of lawyers who had convened to discuss whether President Ernest Bai Koroma’s decision to fire his vice president without parliamentary approval last Wednesday was unconstitutional.

Police reportedly disrupted the meeting at the request of 10 bar association members affiliated with the incumbent All People’s Congress (APC) political party. The lawyers in attendance were preparing to cast votes in support of a document demanding that Koroma rescind his actions.

A lawyer who witnessed the raid reported on social media that 150 bar members fled outside, where they staged a protest by holding up signs and singing Sierra Leone’s national anthem. Police reportedly responded by “violently” tearing signs from the hands of some lawyers. One lawyer was “brutally manhandled, bundled, and thrown into a police van,” before being transported to a central police station, where he was held for at least an hour.

“It was a touching sight to see several dozen lawyers, several of whom were very senior practitioners, peacefully process behind the police van to the police station,” Andrew Johnson, a legal counsel at the Law Reform Commission of Sierra Leone, wrote in a Facebook post. “At the station, lawyers vowed never to leave the station until their colleague was released.”

Read the rest over at VICE News.

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