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Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni signs a new anti-gay bill in Entebbe, Uganda, Feb. 24, 2014. On the same day, he approved another law that received far less international attention: the Anti-Pornography Act. (Rebecca Vassie/AP)

Along with gays, Uganda bans the miniskirt

By Brooke BocastGuest blogger / 03.07.14

This post appeared in Africa in Transition. The views expressed are the author's own. 

Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni on Feb. 24 signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act. On the same day, he approved another law that received far less international attention: the Anti-Pornography Act. The bulk of the this act lays out terms for regulating the producers and promoters of pornographic material, but response to the bill has picked up on the act’s definition of “pornography” – a definition that includes vague references to “indecent show” and, “representation of the sexual parts of a person for primarily sexual excitement.”

Ethics and Integrity Minister Simon Lokodo announced that the act prohibits certain forms of women’s dress, such as miniskirts. This interpretation garnered the act the shorthand nomenclature as the “miniskirt ban.”

At face value, one might see nothing wrong with sartorial regulation that reflects popular ideas about morality. Uganda is hardly alone in this effort. However, in order to understand the consequences of this law, one must first note the condition of Uganda’s police force and judicial apparatus. Prosecution of crimes according to the application of legal principles and procedures is, one might say, inconsistent. It is hard to imagine that the Anti-Pornography Act (and the Anti-Homosexuality Act) will usher in an era of formal arrests and evidence-based trials.

What they will do -- what they have already done -- is sanction violence against women and anyone suspected of “homosexuality.”

The day after the Anti-Pornography Act was signed into law, Ugandan newspapers began issuing reports of women being publicly stripped -- a powerful shaming gesture -- by mobs of men claiming to “help” the police. These attacks were carried out in rural villages and urban centers alike, prompting a demonstration on the grounds of Kampala’s National Theatre, in which women carried signs beseeching, “give us maternal healthcare, don’t undress us in the street.”

I was in a hair salon in Uganda recently when talk turned to this protest, and the law in general. Women spoke of plans to purchase pepper spray and otherwise prepare for the possibility of assault, in a country where violence against women is already endemic.

One woman wondered, half-jokingly, if she should stop dressing her young daughter in short pants. Does the law apply to children? What should we wear to swim? What about pajamas inside one’s own house? Women tossed around a number of questions that the law does not address.

The vagueness of the law suggests that it is not intended as a comprehensive statement about Uganda’s moral compass. Rather, Museveni’s actions this week serve as a distraction, a bone thrown to a public beleaguered by poor healthcare, faltering educational institutions, and increasing intolerance of political dissent.

In other words, the Anti-Pornography Act, together with the Anti-Homosexuality Act, placates a public desperate for any sign of leadership from their president. It is a shame that this sign empowers vigilantes by codifying discrimination against already vulnerable groups.

Brooke Bocast is a PhD candidate in anthropology at Temple University and a visiting predoctoral fellow at Northwestern University. 

South Sudanese government soldiers wait to board trucks and pickups, to head to the frontlines to reinforce other government forces already fighting rebel forces near the town of Bor, as they prepare to leave from the outskirts of Juba, South Sudan, Jan. 13, 2014. (Jake Simkin/AP/File)

South Sudan: Fatal gunfire in Army barracks where war started

By Lesley Anne WarnerGuest blogger / 03.05.14

A version of this post appeared in Lesley on Africa. The views expressed are the author's own. 

Since violence spread across parts of South Sudan in mid-December, it seemed like a relative calm had returned, at least to Juba, the capital.

(For background on the roots of the current crisis, see Radio Tamazuj’s Nine questions about the South Sudan crisis: A guide for confused observers and South Sudan crisis: A guide for confused observers (II).)

The gunfire that broke out Wednesday occurred at the same SPLA barracks in Juba where gunfights started on Dec. 15 that led to the current standoff in South Sudan.

The cause of this morning’s fighting at the Giada barracks, in which at least five soldiers were killed, appears to have been a dispute over pay, and may have involved some soldiers from Salva Kiir’s presidential guard, the Tiger Division. Brig. Gen. Malaak Ayuen, an SPLA spokeman, stated, “This is purely an issue of salaries. It is not political and will not spread… Soldiers have not been paid since January, why I don’t know, and went to the commander seeking answers."

It appears that a new procedure for distributing salaries was the cause of this morning’s dispute.

The government of South Sudan had created a new payment system to prevent the payment of SPLA salaries to “ghost soldiers,” thereby requiring soldiers to collect their payments in person.

Cabinet affairs minister Martin Elia Lomoru stated ““The whole intention was for the good of the country. It was not meant to deny anybody their rightful dues…the intention was to build confidence in our financial systems so that the issue of transparency and accountability is not ignored.”

From the few media reports of the events surrounding this brief outbreak of violence, it appears that miscommunications about this procedure prompted the gunfight as soldiers were queued waiting for their payments.

Like the mid-December gunfights in Juba, it’s very difficult to piece together what exactly happened. But the three most helpful news sources I’ve seen thus far have been:

I’m not an expert on military compensation. But when you have segments of the military that, as one security consultant previously described it to me, are being paid not to fight the government, it’s probably best to make sure they’re paid within a reasonable period of time. Especially when you might need them to (re)establish the government’s monopoly on the use of force and retake territory held by anti-government rebels. Just a thought…

A herd of adult and baby elephants walk in the dawn light as the highest mountain in Africa Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania is seen in the background, in Amboseli National Park, southern Kenya, Dec. 17, 2012. (Ben Curtis/AP/File)

World's illegal wildlife trade supply chain needs exposing

By Emily MellgardGuest blogger / 03.05.14

A version of this post appeared on the Africa in Transition site. The views expressed are the author's own. 

Over the past year the plight of Africa’s elephants and rhinos has captured international imagination. In December 2013, the UN proclaimed March 3 to be World Wildlife Day. Moving beyond the headlines, countering wildlife slaughter and trade requires a better understanding the illicit wildlife supply chain and what, beyond poverty and greed, motivates its participants.

We know that elephants and rhinos are being killed at unprecedented rates. We know that demand for ivory and horn is increasing rapidly in Asia, particularly China and Vietnam. We know that poachers increasingly have sophisticated weaponry and equipment, a likely indication of the involvement of politically connected individuals. We know that rebel and terrorist groups often fund themselves from the trade. We know that ivory and horn has been seized at ports in both source and consumer countries with increasing frequency.

Credible estimates are that wildlife crime is a $10 billion a year trade; its existence and prevalence undermines government authority and institutions; its survival threatens valuable national assets and revenue opportunities for countries that desperately need them.

A recent, excellent report from Chatham House lays out what we do not know.

Looking at the beginning of the supply chain, Chatham House asks what draws armed actors into poaching -- and also poaching on such a large and well organized scale that it has the capacity to supply a mass consumer market.

If an international effort were to succeed in removing the current armed actors from the business of poaching, who would replace them, given the seeming insatiable market demand for ivory and horn? Who benefits politically from the poaching business, how and where?

Regarding the middle of the supply chain, when ivory and horn is seized at ports, by what route and means has it been transported from Africa’s forests and savannahs? Who acts as middleman, and what compensation do they receive for their services?

Without answers to such questions, policy makers and activists are limited in their capacity to counter the rise in poaching.

The Chatham House report is, among other things, a literature review. Yet the existing literature has little on what motivates participants in the illegal wildlife trade beyond poverty and greed, or what impact their removal from the trade would have. We also need a better understanding of the historic trends of wildlife parts demand.

The short term efforts to halt the massive scale of wildlife slaughter must continue in both source and consumer nations. Simultaneously however, there needs to be a deeper search to understand the intricacies of the trade and supply chain so that it can be better countered in the medium and long term. Countering poaching is a local, national, regional, and international responsibility. The political will to undertake it is rising, but it still has a long way to go.

Emily Mellgard is research associate for the Council on Foreign Relations Africa Studies program.

A soldier examines a wall riddled with bullets, from an attack by Boko Haram fighters, in front of a house in Bama, Borno State, February 20, 2014. (Reuters)

Slaughter-crazy: Why is Nigeria's Boko Haram so successful?

By John CampbellGuest blogger / 03.05.14

A version of this post appeared in Africa in Transition. The views expressed are the author's own. 

Boko Haram, the diffuse, apparently grass roots insurrection, has undertaken a current wave of carnage in Nigeria’s northeast.

Several of the most recent incidents involve government security forces unaccountably not at their posts, allowing Boko Haram freedom of movement. The governor of Borno state publicly said that Boko Haram fighters outgun government forces. 

Over the past few weeks I have been hearing from a number of credible interlocutors that Boko Haram fighters are indeed better than government forces. They suggest that Boko Haram has not crumbled to the Nigerian military because:

  • Boko Haram fighters often are, indeed, better armed and equipped than the government’s forces. Boko Haram acquires its weapons and equipment from attacks on government armories as well as, presumably, other sources (Nigeria is awash with weapons).
  •  Boko Haram never leaves behind its dead, or its weapons. It also stages high-profile jailbreaks to free its captive operatives.
  •  Boko Haram provides payments for widows and children of its fighters.
  •  Boko Haram fighters are regularly paid.
  • Finally, at least some Boko Haram fighters believe in their “cause;” the achievement of justice for the poor through Sharia.

These factors can also be identified among other successful fighters in various parts of the world.

As for Boko Haram funding, the amounts distributed by them presumably are quite small. Boko Haram has been involved in bank robberies and kidnappings for ransom. Many of the latter incidents go unreported, so it is difficult to judge what the magnitude might be, but they are a valuable domestic source of revenue. I have seen little to no credible evidence that a significant source of funding comes from abroad, except for various cross-border criminal activities, including smuggling.

The same is true of the weaponry that Boko Haram employs. I have seen little evidence that weapons stockpiles from Libya have a transformative presence in Nigeria. Boko Haram attacks certainly employ a quantity of weapons, but their sophistication does not appear to give them a noticeable advantage.

On the other hand, government forces are allegedly poorly equipped, do not receive their pay on time, and do not receive regular medical services. Pensions paid to widows can be erratic.

There were also complaints about inadequate equipment and pay during the campaign in Mali last year when Nigerian soldiers were reportedly forced to ask for food from local Malian communities. They were also restricted to manning checkpoints in the capital region because they lacked equipment to deploy further afield.

Muslim Rights Concern raised such shortcomings in northern Nigeria, as I cited in a blog post on February 27, 2014.

Some observers suggest that government forces simply run away when Boko Haram approaches, and that is ostensibly why the security check points are not manned. Their motivation is fear:-- and it is a well placed fear given that Boko Haram has a long tradition of killing any person in the security services that it can.

Traditionally, the policy of the Nigerian government has been to not assign soldiers or police to service in their native regions. Some of my interlocutors suggest this remains true for officers deployed to the regions under the state of emergency; but over-stretched operational requirements and personnel shortages have meant modification to this policy with respect to foot soldiers.

Now, it was suggested, many soldiers in the north are from the north. As such, they are particularly fearful of Boko Haram, both from first-hand knowledge and, presumably, fear for their families.

Such points about the strengths of Boko Haram fighters and the weaknesses of the government’s security forces are credible. I would caution that the factors of Boko Haram strength most likely apply to the most ideologically or religiously committed of Islamist fighters, not to the criminal or other score-settling elements, or the political factions that are likely part of the general insurgency.

Similarly, the northeast of Nigeria is geographically expansive. Conditions among the government’s security personnel likely vary from place to place.

'Peace must come soon' -- dispatch from South Sudan

By Katrien HinderdaelGuest blogger / 02.21.14

A version of this post originally appeared on the Enough Said blog. The views expressed are the author's own. 

As South Sudan’s January 23 cessation of hostilities agreement falters, and a second round of peace talks is stalled in Addis Ababa, a new Enough Project field dispatch reflects on the causes and impacts of the conflict between the government and opposition forces and outlines core issues to be discussed in the ongoing negotiations.

“Peace Must Come Soon,” written by Enough Project Co-Founder John Prendergast, advocates for a broader, more inclusive peace process that addresses governance, accountability and reconciliation, security sector reform, and regional interests.

Since December, fighting has displaced approximately 716,100 people within South Sudan and sent another 156,800 refugees into neighboring states. Both sides have violated the cessation of hostilities agreement, and the Satellite Sentinel Project has documented heavy recent destruction in Malakal and Leer.

In addition, opposition leader Riek Machar continues to mobilize recruits in northern Jonglei, and the government has initiated a recruitment drive throughout South Sudan. Both sides have been accused of heavily recruiting child soldiers into their ranks.

In Bor, a pastor told Prendergast, “Peace must come soon. If not, the divisions will become devastating to all of us.”

The current conflict in South Sudan developed from political disputes in the highest levels of the government, however, politicians have mobilized ethnic divisions in order to generate recruitment and maintain the violence. As a result, the South Sudanese people have suffered ethnically targeted killings, including against Nuer in Juba and Dinka in Bor.

Prendergast witnessed the disturbing aftermath of such attacks in Bor with streets lined with body bags, mass graves, and signs of widespread looting. Ethnically driven violence has deepened sensitive ethnic schisms from previous conflicts and spurred revenge attacks.

Prendergast writes: “Social cohesion and peace messaging emphasizing the political rather than ethnic nature of the conflict remain essential. With each passing day, polarized attitudes grow increasingly calcified.”

A military victory for either side is unlikely; the South Sudanese people need a true cessation of hostilities that is respected by both sides and a peace process based upon inclusion, transparency, and accountability.

The current negotiations should allow the South Sudanese detainees to become a third element at the negotiation table, along with civil society groups and other political parties. With all groups participating, these and future talks must address a range of issues including a comprehensive national dialogue about governance issues, security sector reform to create a cohesive military with central control, and a strong demobilization, disarmament, and reintegration program with alternative livelihoods and educational opportunities.

Talks should also address accountability questions and the possibility of a mixed chamber or hybrid court with international support to bring justice for crimes committed since December. National reconciliation plans that build upon early church-led efforts to heal the social fabric of South Sudan should be reconsidered. Taking steps toward these goals could end the suffering of the South Sudanese people and put the world’s youngest nation back on a path towards a democratic and unified state.

In his dispatch Prendergast argues that, “The opportunity certainly presents itself for President Kiir to rebuild that legacy of reconciliation in the way he approaches the peace process, the constitution, and national dialogue. Through grand gestures and inclusive initiatives, President Kiir can reset the post-independence clock and create opportunities to address governance shortcomings and conflict drivers in a transparent, inclusive manner.”

Read or download the report.

Displaced people do their daily chores such as bathing, washing clothes, cooking, and fetching water at a United Nations compound which has become home to thousands of people displaced by the recent fighting, in the capital Juba, South Sudan, Dec. 29, 2013. (Ben Curtis/AP/File)

Aid to Africa: Better to bypass NGOs and give directly?

By Tom MurphyGuest blogger / 02.13.14

A version of this post originally appeared on the View from the Cave and the Brookings site. The views expressed are the author's own.

 A results-oriented aid agenda for Africa has picked up steam in the past few years.

Last year closed with excitement about cash transfers. Researchers in Western Kenya found that just giving people money was an effective form of assistance. As the MIT report notes, GiveDirectly recipients increased household asset holdings by 58 percent compared to the mean control group, and did not increase spending on tobacco or alcohol.

Thus, the once cast-aside form of aid is making a comeback on the strength of evidence and research. GiveDirectly is only the tipping point for a new way of thinking about aid in Africa and elsewhere.

An era of evidence-based aid is here. GiveDirectly is a new standard because it has proof that evidence-based aid works and what it can actually accomplish. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have often talked about the potential of a given intervention and tell the stories of the people who benefited. Now they will have to talk about evidence. Donors want to know whether a project works and what is actually achieved.

The charity evaluator, GiveWell, gives charity recommendations based on cost-effectiveness and whether there is proof that what is being done has an impact. It has analyzed 136 charities and has recommended only four: GiveDirectly, Deworm the World, the Against Malaria Foundation and the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative.

GiveWell is not alone. AidGrade is employing meta-analyses of existing research to learn what different programs actually accomplish. Users can see how effective interventions are at achieving a given target (i.e., increasing school attendance, eliminating stunting, or creating business profit) and donate to an organization that is effective at creating such impacts.

GiveWell's recommended charities are listed there, as well as the microfinance organization Kiva and the clean energy organization the Global Village Energy Partnership.

The organization Giving What We Can encourages young people to give 10 percent of their annual income to effective charities. Its list of recommended charities is nearly identical to that of GiveWell.

Giving What We Can was founded by Toby Ord who was influenced by Princeton philosopher Peter Singer. Known best for his case for the moral obligation to help a person no matter where he or she may be in the world, Mr. Singer champions what he calls “effective altruism.”

“[Effective altruism] is important because it combines both the heart and the head. The heart, of course, you felt. You felt the empathy for that child. But it's really important to use the head as well to make sure that what you do is effective and well-directed,” explained Singer in a TED talk about effective altruism.

Effective aid is growing in importance because, aside from the UK, major donors are decreasing their foreign assistance. At the same time, just about every advocate for a social issue -- whether AIDS, education, or child marriage -- says that more money is needed.

Given the financial constraints, effectiveness is paramount. The aid buzz word “sustainable” has been casually tossed about for years with little actual meaning. That is changing thanks to a budding movement to figure out whether or not an intervention works.

Building a well in the middle of a village and claiming that thousands of people were helped is not enough. How does that well improve the health of the community? Are children going to school more often because they are healthier? Is digging a well the best solution to the problem? 

Research in Kenya for example, has shown that installing a chlorine dispenser near a water point helped reduce the incidence of diarrhea by 40 percent. Costing only $0.50 per person per year, it is a cheap and effective way to ensure people in rural areas get clean water.

New research methods and monitoring technologies are answering some of these questions. The rise of the randomized control trial (RCT) to analyze development, along with advanced monitoring tools that utilize the proliferation of mobile technologies, and an increased scrutiny on impacts -- are converging for the international donor community.

Yet the RCT is not the be-all-end-all form of evaluation. Organizations concerned with cost or ethics can employ a multitude of tools to measure effectiveness. What is no longer acceptable, however, is relying on merely creative metrics and slick campaigns.

In the water sector, NGOs like SplashWater for People and charity: water are using new technologies to track water sources. When a pump breaks down in Ethiopia, the Splash team in Seattle knows immediately, as do its donors.

Elsewhere, pilots are underway to test “Cash on Delivery Aid.” This mechanism proposed by the Center for Global Development is designed to reward countries for achieving specific outcomes, rather than simply accounting for how money is spent and the number of beneficiaries.

Above all else, accountability, rightly, is in greater demand. Even if it is hard to precisely prove impact, organizations must be more transparent with what they are doing and accomplishing.

An impact-minded approach disrupts long-held ideas about aid. NGOs have to show that what they are doing is better than the private and public sectors. Ultimately, it will help them target the areas where gaps exist and where they can have the greatest impact.

In this March 9, 2013 file photo, Kenyan president-elect Uhuru Kenyatta waves at supporters after winning the election in Nairobi, Kenya. (Jerome Delay/AP/File)

Kenya slides toward authoritarianism

By Robert HermanGuest blogger / 02.10.14

A version of this post originally appeared on the Freedom at Issue blog. The views expressed are the author's own. 

Recent pressure on civil society and independent media in Kenya is not only a significant threat to democracy in a geopolitically important country. It is also the predictable outcome of the international community’s failure to punish earlier, comparable state-driven repression in Ethiopia -- another African nation that is viewed in Western capitals as a strategic partner.

There is nothing terribly surprising about the attempt by newly elected Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta to create a more hostile environment for advocates of democracy and human rights. 

He had telegraphed his intention in the run-up to the March 2013 presidential vote, all but vowing retribution against such activists because of their support for the International Criminal Court (ICC) indictment of those (including Mr. Kenyatta and his now vice president, William Ruto) accused of directing ethnic and political violence following the 2007 presidential election. That violence left more than 1,200 Kenyans dead and some 600,000 displaced. Many victims remain quartered in internally displaced persons (IDP) camps, too fearful to return to their home communities.

When the retribution came, it followed a sadly well-worn script developed by authoritarian states, which are more inclined and better equipped than ever to export “worst practices” when it comes to repressing civil society and silencing dissent.

The new administration first attempted to close the space for independent political activity by proposing an amendment to the Public Benefit Organizations Act that would severely restrict Kenyan groups from receiving funding from international sources.

This would have been akin to a death sentence for local democracy and human rights organizations, which face major obstacles in securing contributions domestically. The amendment would also have established a regulatory authority with wide-reaching powers to block registration. The executive branch would have had considerable influence over the proposed body, increasing the likelihood of politicized decisions.

Fortunately, a combination of diplomatic pressure from donor governments and stepped-up advocacy efforts by leading NGOs convinced the Kenyatta administration to back down, at least temporarily.

But this reversal did not deter the president from moving swiftly to enact a new media law designed to muzzle what has been a vibrant, if not always terribly professional, press corps. The Kenya Information and Communication (Amendment) Act, signed into law last month, empowers the executive branch to appoint the leadership of the Communications Authority of Kenya as well as the board of the Communications and Multimedia Appeals Tribunal. It also allows the Authority to set limits on the percentage of foreign content in the media.

Finally, the new law imposes debilitating fines of more than $200,000 on media houses, more than $5,500 on individual journalists -- for violations of a code of conduct that is created by legislators.

Last September’s deadly terrorist assault on a Nairobi shopping mall has raised the possibility of another common repressive tactic: anti-terrorism legislation with such vaguely defined offenses, that it can be used to crush political opposition and imprison civil society activists at the government’s discretion.

No new law of this kind has been enacted in Kenya so far; but it would fit a pattern established by leading authoritarian states around the world.

The broader phenomenon illustrated by Kenyatta’s actions is not just a matter of coincidence or independent imitation. Whether they are selling sophisticated technology to track down dissidents online or sharing legislative approaches that provide a patina of legitimacy for their crackdowns on political opponents, repressive governments are actively working together to push back against nonviolent movements for democratic change.

Indeed, such authoritarian solidarity has arguably outpaced collaboration among the world’s democratic states, which are often feckless in mobilizing to defend their own values and assist like minded activists under duress.

In East Africa, evidence of authoritarian contagion is growing. The governments of Uganda, once seen as a great hope for democracy, and South Sudan, the world’s youngest country and a recipient of hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign assistance, are contemplating restrictive legislation targeting NGOs.

However, the true regional pioneer of this approach has been Ethiopia. Under longtime prime minister Meles Zenawi, who died in 2012, the Ethiopian government issued laws on NGOs, the media, and terrorism that have collectively devastated the country’s political opposition and civil society. The most prominent democracy and human rights groups have been forced to abandon or radically scale back their work, and many of the leading activists have fled into exile.

Other leaders in East Africa and beyond no doubt observed with interest as the international community failed to mount any serious challenge to the Ethiopian government’s repressive actions. Donor countries declined to use their extensive development aid as leverage. Instead they meekly promised to monitor how the new laws were implemented.

Whether out of consideration for Ethiopia’s role in combating terrorism in Somalia, or fear that the country would turn to China as an alternative patron -- the world’s wealthy democracies declined to challenge the Meles regime even after its legislation’s ruinous effects became apparent.

The citizens of Kenya, particularly those who opposed Kenyatta’s presidential candidacy or documented his role in fueling past ethnic violence, may now be paying the price for the international community’s hesitation to act on Ethiopia. It is certainly possible that Kenyatta -- facing ICC indictment -- would have taken the same steps in the absence of a successful model for repression in the region. But his political allies might well have deserted him if they had reason to believe that Kenya would pay some meaningful price for anti-democratic initiatives.

One hopes that the US and other democratic donor governments will draw their own lessons from these experiences, finally recognizing that the prioritization of security and macroeconomic concerns over democratic performance is a self-defeating strategy.

In the long run, repressive states are less stable, less prosperous, and less friendly to democratic partners than open societies, and the spread of authoritarian practices can only damage the interests of Washington and its allies.

S. Sudanese find song amid war and hate

By Rebecca SimpsonGuest blogger / 02.09.14

A version of this post originally appeared on the Enough Said blog. The views expressed are the author's own. 

A group of South Sudanese artists have emerged as conflict broils in the world’s youngest country. These young artists are spreading messages about peace and reconciliation using their most powerful tool – their voice.

Music plays a large role in South Sudanese society and these artists are using their talent to express their sentiments and opinions about their home country through song.

Just as the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, or SPLA, has used song in order to boost the morale of its soldiers, these artists are using music to encourage peace and understanding. Moreover, the songs celebrate unity, and emphasize the importance of national identity as South Sudanese.

One of these artists, Meen Mabior Meen, fled to Kampala when fighting broke out in December. In Kampala, he collaborated with South Sudanese musicians, who were also refugees in Uganda, to discuss the ways they could contribute to a healing process amid war.

Ugandan artists, such as Michael Kazibwe, also contributed to create the song, highlighting how the conflict has affected the eastern Africa region.

 Their song “No More War” calls for an end to the violence, and the simple adage reflected in the title pervades the lyrics.

The group hopes to promote the song on social media so that those in South Sudan can also listen to it.

Joan Atieno, a female artist on the song, discussed the importance of female voices in the song and in her country, "Maybe if me, a woman, I raise my voice, it may be helping other women out there who cannot fight for themselves.”

The idea that these songs and messages can inspire citizens to act and “restore happiness," as Meen puts it, can be relevant to a peace processes. These cultural songs reveal South Sudanese’ hope for peace, forgiveness, and ultimately, a united South Sudan.

Lual D’Awol is another artist using his music to make political and social statements about events in South Sudan. Finding a love for hip-hop while growing up in Maryland, L-U-A-L (Lual’s stage name) or Lyrically Untouchable African Legend, brought the musical influence when he moved back to South Sudan to expose social issues there.

In his song, Give Peace a Try, featuring Nancy Chan, L.U.A.L. poignantly raps that “we need a common meeting ground instead of groups in certain crowds,” and stresses the need for an “objective vision” when looking at the future of South Sudan.

The music video for another one of L.U.A.L’s songs, “I’m the King around Here,” was shot in a cattle camp in South Sudan. Problems with cattle rustling and theft have been on the rise and become extremely violent in recent years.

By choosing both sites for music videos and insightful lyrics, L.U.A.L. is able to craft a dialogue and picture of some of the issues facing South Sudan.

Mer Ayang also hits home with the poignant message in her song,“I’m Southern Sudanese,” with a message to the leadership from the younger generation. Her father was a freedom fighter who died a year before independence and she spreads her message in song to honor him.

These artists’ songs come from their own personal experiences and put their own thoughts and dreams into their music. They have found innovative ways to call for peace and contribute their talents to the dialogue about the future of South Sudan.

Artists like Lual, Joan, Meen, Michael and Mer have found their voice, and they refuse to be silenced.

Internally displaced children look at an African Union - United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) peacekeeper standing guard near the vicinity of a UNAMID base near Labado, South Darfur December 9, 2013. (Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/Reuters/File)

South Sudan crisis hides 'forgotten wars' in East Africa

By Rebecca SimpsonGuest blogger / 02.06.14

A version of this post originally appeared on the Enough Said blog. The views expressed are the author's own. 

Since December, international attention and focus has shifted to South Sudan as violence and a rising humanitarian crisis intensifies in the world’s newest nation.

Yet in the north, in Sudan itself, escalating violence, displacement, and new political developments in the areas along the nation's periphery -- Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile -- are going largely unnoticed.

The numbers of casualties and displacements in these areas are at their highest levels in years and continue to grow.

A new Enough Project report analyzes the impact of recent developments and urges policymakers to remain attuned to developments on multiple fronts in Sudan and South Sudan.

The report, “Forgotten Wars: Sudan’s Periphery Smolders as Focus Turns to South Sudan,” documents the continued violence and critical humanitarian needs of those displaced from and within these peripheral areas.

In November 2013, the Sudanese government launched a large-scale military campaign on Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile that has included both aerial bombardment and ground attacks. Some 400,000 people were displaced in Darfur in 2013 alone, with heavy air strikes in the East Jebel Marra region and the villages south of Nyala in South Darfur displacing thousands.

The return of Musa Hilal, an influential Darfuri leader, also signals the potential for renewed and greater violence in Darfur.

South Kordofan is seeing the largest number of bombings and civilian causalities in two years. Some reports indicate that more than 25,000 more people have fled their homes with new attacks.

The Sudanese government has targeted Blue Nile state with deadly new tactics and weapons that have increased casualties and caused thousands to flee into South Sudan and Ethiopia, where many struggle to receive adequate humanitarian assistance.

Additionally, 200,000 Sudanese refugees in South Sudan are trapped between violence in South Kordofan and violence in South Sudan that has limited the capacity of humanitarian organizations to provide aid, leaving these communities especially vulnerable.

The report recommends a robust effort to pursue comprehensive peace processes in both countries that include all stakeholders and addresses the core drivers of violence. It warns: "A disconnected perspective on one country, one area, and one group—to the exclusion of others—cannot work.The unions, disunions, and shifting alliances reverberate through conflict areas throughout both countries and directly shape the struggle for control of the state on both sides."

An endangered east African black rhinoceros and her young one walk in Tanzania's Serengeti park in this 2010 file photo. (Tom Kirkwood/REUTERS/File)

Should rhinos be 'farmed' for their horns?

By Emily MellgardGuest blogger / 02.06.14

A version of this post originally appeared on the Africa in Transition blog. The views expressed are the author's own. 

This year has had a bad beginning with respect to the preservation of Africa’s remaining rhino populations.

The South African government announced that by Jan. 17, some 37 rhinos had been killed in South Africa. According to the Jan. 31 Washington Post, over 1,600 have been killed worldwide in the past two years. There could be fewer than 25,000 rhino left worldwide.

Conservationists, activists, governments, and many others are putting forward resources, manpower, and strategies to combat this slaughter for profit.

The South African government made a public call for conservation and anti-poaching strategy submissions. One strategy that is receiving increasing attention is the possibility of legalizing the trade in rhino horn – of farming rhinos – to feed the growing demand in Asia.

The debate is necessary, but so is caution. Should the door of legal trade be opened, it could prove impossible to close; even if it backfires on conservation efforts.

A recent report, commissioned by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and published in November 2013, will fuel debate over the pros and cons, and the known and unknown consequences of legalizing the trade in rhino horn. Already the proposal has proponents and critics.

The fundamental argument of the report is that there are too many unknowns about legalizing the trade; more research is necessary. Legalizing could flood the market with legal horn and at the same time facilitate the continued (or increased) trade in illegal horn.

Or, it could work as advocates intend and undercut illegal horn prices, driving poachers and traders out of business; we just don’t know.

Given the outrage over the recent auction held in Texas for a black rhino hunt in Namibia, and the continued anger over Spanish king Juan CarlosBotswana elephant hunt -- popular opinion, in the West at least, is firmly against legalization.

There are strong arguments that the legal sales of 102 tons of elephant ivory to Chinese and Japanese traders in 2008 fueled the explosive expansion of the ivory trade in Asia, a trade which currently feeds the serious escalation of elephant poaching in Africa. The legal ivory provided the very smoke screen for illegal ivory it was intended to undercut.

Given the currently numerous and growing initiatives against poaching, for conservation, and for exposing Asian consumers of rhino horn to information on its lack of medicinal properties and the horror of its trade -- perhaps the strongest arguments against legalization are its unpredictable consequences.

And then there is the unfortunate precedent of the bad consequences of the legal sale of ivory.

Emily Mellgard is a research associate for the Council on Foreign Relations Africa Studies program.

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