Wanderlust…

The International Reporting (and Life) Adventures of Vivian Salama

Archive for the ‘Africa’ Category

Letter from Kampala: Museveni’s Oil Bet

Posted by vmsalama on February 20, 2014

Letter from Kampala

Foreign Affairs
FEBRUARY 20, 2014

Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, January 30, 2014. (Tiksa Negeri / Courtesy Reuters)

Feeble and gaunt from the illness that has eaten away at his body, Fideli Donge wobbled onto the porch of his mud-and-straw home, which is hidden by short palm trees off an isolated, craterous dirt road used mostly by barefooted pedestrians and the occasional bodaboda, an East African motorbike taxi. He’s in his 60s, he thinks, but a lifetime of hard labor and poverty has left him looking closer to 90. A few months ago, as Donge lay bedridden, and as his children and grandchildren — he has 52 altogether — worked the 20-acre farm that his family has owned for nearly half a century, men from the local municipality in his western Uganda village knocked at his door. 

“They told me that all the residents here have to leave and that they will give me a house or money,” Donge said. He and his family will have to abandon the land that they rely on for their own food and livelihood; they make pennies from the sale of maize, sugar cane, and cassava, a staple crop across Africa. “We don’t know when we will go, or where,” he said. The municipality promised Donge a new home, one large enough to accommodate his family, with soil rich enough to farm, but he hasn’t heard anything since the officials came to his door. “Until now, we are just waiting.”

Since 2008, more than 7,100 residents in surrounding villages have been given similar offers as part of the Ugandan government’s grand scheme to build an 11-square-mile oil refinery in the Lake Albert basin, along the country’s disputed border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The government hopes that the project will transform the downtrodden and war-torn nation, which just barely cracks the top 20 African economies by GDP, into the continent’s fifth-largest oil producer. The Ugandan government, in partnership with London-based Tullow Oil, discovered commercial reserves eight years ago, but production has been slowed by technical challenges and, especially, bureaucratic hang-ups. In early February, after years of protracted talks, the Ministry of Energy finally announced that it had signed deals with China’s CNOOC, France’s Total, and Tullow to build the estimated $15 billion worth of infrastructure needed to develop the oil fields. If successful, the government estimates reserves of up to 3.5 billion barrels of crude oil — enough to finally make this nation of 36 million people self-reliant for its energy needs.

The Lake Albert refinery is an ambitious venture, particularly for a government plagued by corruption allegations and with a history of empty promises. (Last year, the government’s auditor reported $100 million missing from the national budget.) But, perhaps, this time is different. The refinery is a pet project of President Yoweri Museveni, who has ruled the country for 28 years; he has repeatedly gone on record calling the reserves “my oil.” Uprooting Ugandan farmers to make way for a refinery might seem like a surprising move for Museveni, who spends so much time out of the capital of Kampala, at his own cattle ranch in southern Uganda, that he earned the nickname the Gentleman Farmer (it’s one of many). But the refinery plan is, ultimately, the perfect way to shore up a presidency for life. (click here to read more)

Posted in Africa, Arab Spring, Central African Republic, Constitution, corruption, Coup, Debt, Democratic Republic of Congo, Development, dictatorship, Domestic Abuse, Economy, Education, Elections, Employment, Foreign Policy, Freedom of Speech, Human Rights, Invisible Children, Kampala, Kenya, Kony, Labor, Lake Albert, Lake Victoria, Media, military, Museveni, North Africa, Oil, Politics, Poverty, Protests, Refugees, Somalia, South Sudan, Stop Kony, Sudan, Terrorism, Uganda | Leave a Comment »

Journey to Lake Albert Basin, Western Uganda

Posted by vmsalama on February 8, 2014

Ibrahim Kassita prepares for a 90 kilometer boda boda ride/Photo by Vivian Salama

Ibrahim Kassita prepares for a 90 kilometer boda boda ride/Photo by Vivian Salama

First paved rode many residents have ever seen/By Vivian Salama

First paved rode many residents have ever seen/By Vivian Salama

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Following dust clouds to Lake Albert/Photo by Vivian Salama

I’m in Uganda as a fellow for the International Center for Journalists, learning about this incredible country and all of its successes and challenges. This week, along with my Ugandan colleague and New Vision journalist Ibrahim Kassita, embarked on a long and grueling journey to the Lake Albert Basin in Western Uganda to examine the plight of residents near a proposed oil refinery site. The paved road you see in picture two is brand new, paved especially to allow workers to access the refinery site. It is the first road many of the local residents have ever seen. When it was built, many residents who lived along the roads were offered either monetary compensation or a new house. We could not find any residents who had already received their new house, but we did find people who had received money.

We came across these women at a well station and decided to discuss the project with them. Not only did they share some interesting insights on how the compensation scheme stands to leave women and children out, since the men receive the money and often squander it. They also informed us that this well is the only clean water source within 10 kilometers. The women gather every few days, often bringing their children along, to fill several yellow containers full of water. They then have to lug them back on foot. Many of the wells in the area have stopped working and some are set to be destroyed once building begins on the refinery site.

DSC02188

DSC02196

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a few hours of travel, we met Fideli Donge and his family, who together total about 60 people. They have been promised a home as part of the compensation plan — they live within a kilometer of the refinery site. However, they are still waiting for word from the government and have been given no indication of when or where they will go. They have a 20 acre farm on the land Donge has lived on for 50 years. They will likely lose their crops — the sole source of income and food for his large family. He is extremely sick and frail, and told us that he wants to die knowing that his family has a roof over its head.

Fideli Donge and family/Photo by Vivian Salama

Fideli Donge and family/Photo by Vivian Salama

Posted in Africa, Development, Economy, Education, Employment, Environment, Oil, Poverty, Uganda | Leave a Comment »

What’s Behind the Wave of Terror in the Sinai

Posted by vmsalama on November 22, 2013

In just five months, Egypt has suffered more than 200 attacks.
By Vivian Salama
sinai

Writing to a network of followers and potential followers around the world, the Mauritanian-born cleric Sheikh Abu al-Mundhir al-Shinqiti, one of the world’s most prominent jihadi ideologues, described a religious obligation for Muslims to take up arms against the Egyptian army. “The goal of the security campaign that the tyrannical army in Egypt is directing in the Sinai is to protect Israel and its borders after jihadi groups in the Sinai became a real threat to it,” the letter, dated October 17, said. “Jihad in the Sinai is a great opportunity for you to gather and unite under a pure flag, unsullied by ignorant slogans.”

Hundreds of miles from Tahrir Square, the epicenter of Egypt’s tumultuous revolution, the long-neglected Sinai Peninsula has become the frontline for the military’s fight against extremism. Having operated in a quasi-lawless state there for decades, jihadi groups are now finding an opportunity to ride on the coattails of discontent following the July 3 military-backed coup that ousted President Mohammed Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the interim government’s subsequent neutering of the organization.

Many militant groups see the Islamists’ fall from grace as justification for their claims that the creation of an Islamic state can only be achieved through violence, and not through the moderate political campaign waged by the Muslim Brotherhood following the fall of former President Hosni Mubarak in 2011. In response, the military has launched an unapologetic crackdown in the Sinai in an effort to crush any group or individual that might challenge its authority or uphold the legitimacy of the now-defunct Morsi regime.

While the military declared an end to a three-month state of emergency earlier this month, a strictly enforced curfew remains in effect in Sinai from 6 P.M. to 4 A.M., with military checkpoints commonplace across the peninsula. And while Egyptian tanks were barred from certain areas of the Sinai following the 1978 Camp David Accords, Israel authorized Egypt to deploy two additional infantry battalions to the region after Morsi’s ouster to counter terrorist threats. It did not end there. In September, the military stepped up its campaign to rid northern Sinai of militants, with Army Spokesman Ahmed Ali saying it would be “taking action against terrorists, instead of merely reacting to terrorist attacks.” That same month, dozens of homes were bulldozed and trees removed along the roads from the northern town of Al-Arish to Rafah, the border city with Gaza, according to witnesses and media reports, as the military prepared to create a 1,640-foot-wide, six-mile-long buffer zone around the Rafah border crossing. Schools in northern Sinai began the 2013-14 academic year five weeks later than scheduled amid fears that children would be at risk.

The military’s “heavy-handedness is more out of lack of experience than anything,” said Mokhtar Awad, an Egypt researcher at the Center for American Progress. “If the [militants'] goal is to make the military look weak then they can do that. I always compared [militancy] to a virus—that if it does spread to [the Nile] Delta and Upper Egypt, they won’t be able to control it.” (more…)

HERE ARE SOME OF MY OWN PHOTOS FROM THE 2004 TERRORIST ATTACK IN TABA, SINAI:

Israeli Search and Rescue Crews on the scene after an attack on the Taba Hilton in Sinai, Egypt (2004)//Photo by Vivian Salama

Israeli Search and Rescue Crews on the scene after an attack on the Taba Hilton in Sinai, Egypt (2004)//Photo by Vivian Salama

Israeli Search and Rescue Crews on the scene after an attack on the Taba Hilton in Sinai, Egypt (2004)//Photo by Vivian Salama

Israeli Search and Rescue Crews on the scene after an attack on the Taba Hilton in Sinai, Egypt (2004)//Photo by Vivian Salama

Posted in Africa, Al-Qaeda, al-Sisi, Algeria, Arab, Arab Spring, Arabic, Coup, dictatorship, discrimination, Economy, Education, Egypt, Elections, Employment, Environment, Foreign Policy, Freedom of Speech, Gaza, Hamas, Hosni Mubarak, Human Rights, Insurgency, Intervention, Islam, Israel, Jihad, Journalism, Libya, Media, Middle East, military, Mohamed Morsi, Mubarak, Muslim Brotherhood, Palestinians, Politics, Protests, Sahara Desert, Sinai, State of Emergency, Suez, Terrorism | Leave a Comment »

Greetings from Algeria

Posted by vmsalama on May 19, 2012

I’ve had a fascinating week in Algeria, learning about the culture and political climate. Many saw Algeria as an inevitable candidate for an “Arab Spring,” but on the ground, I found the people to be experiencing major war fatigue and would prefer a diplomatic approach to their issues. I will post some photos in the coming days, but here is one of my articles:

Why Algeria’s Grievances Don’t Spark a Revolution

By Vivian Salama

Time.com (Click here for original link)

Earlier this month, a policeman offering no explanation simply confiscated the cigarettes that Rachak Hamza, 25, had been vending in a desperate effort to make ends meet. Local papers in the easter Algerian port city of Jijel, say Hamza erupted in a “fit of rage,” returning to the scene with a tank of gas which he used to drench his body before lighting a match. But unlike the similar act of outrage by vegetable vendor Mohammed Bouazizi that triggered last year’s revolution in neighboring Tunisia, Hamza’s story was quickly forgotten. Indeed, it was just one of at least 50 acts of self-immolation as protest reported across Algeria since January last year, according to local health authorities. None of them has, thus far, inspired a revolt.

"We want freedom" -- in Ain Taya, Algeria/Photo by Vivian Salama

“We want freedom” — in Ain Taya, Algeria/Photo by Vivian Salama

Closer to the capital, the words “we want freedom” are spray-painted in Arabic alongside mobile homes in the suburb of Ain Taya. Down the road, in French, the words “On Vuet Vivre” — we want to live — decorate another building.

Algeria’s ruling party took nearly half the seats in parliamentary elections last week, a stunning deviation from previous votes that saw significant opposition victories, particularly among Islamist parties. The ruling National Liberation Front said Wednesday the vote confirmed the electorate’s desire “to safeguard national stability,” but opposition groups have cried fraud. If the wave of religious conservatism sweeping this North African country is any indication, Islamists are far more influential in Algeria than its election results reflect.

On the street, beleaguered citizens believe change is beyond reach. Unemployment is too high; youth activism is too low; and memories are still seared by the decade-long bloodbath that followed the military’s overturning of the 1991 election that looked set to bring the Islamists to power. Corruption is rampant, draining the country of much of the wealth generated by its oil exports. “The issue here, very simple, is democracy,” says Makri Abderrazak, a former member of parliament and vice president of the Movement for the Society of Peace, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, which swept elections in Tunisia and Egypt. “People want jobs, people want basic rights, people want to benefit from the country’s resources, but this government is not giving them the chance and this fraudulent election means things will only get worse.”  (more…)

Centre Ville Algiers/By Vivian Salama

Centre Ville Algiers/By Vivian Salama

Posted in Africa, Arab, Arab Spring, Arabic, Bloggers, Economy, Education, Elections, Employment, Europe, France, Internet, Islam, Middle East, Muslim Brotherhood | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

STOP KONY…. and all the other bad guys doing bad things!

Posted by vmsalama on March 9, 2012

I don’t often write about Africa although it is a region near to my heart. I visited Uganda in 2004 — it is a beautiful country and anyone who visits will not soon forget the ear-to-ear smiles they receive from the people they meet. Invisible Children is a global campaign to arrest Joseph Kony and stop him from kidnapping, arming and killing children to fight his war via a militia he calls the Lord’s Resistance Army. This video is thought provoking (and stirring up a lot of controversy and debate as a result). There are bad people doing bad things around the world. Palestinian children in Gaza are dying every day. Families in Syria cannot leave their homes in Homs and Hama without fear of being killed by government contracted snipers, and hundreds continue to fall victim to attacks by the Sudanese government in the Nuba Mountains every month. Across Africa children are being used as foot soldiers in senseless wars. I wish more people would take initiative like film maker Jason Russell to bring crimes of humanity like those of Joseph Kony to light (Also, check out Ryan Boyette’s brave efforts in Sudan). I hope with all of my heart that they are successful.

Please take 30 minutes to watch this video to learn about this cause.

 

Posted in Africa, American, Arab Spring, Child Soldiers, Clinton, Darfur, Gaza, Invisible Children, Israel, Jason Russell, Kony, Nuba Mountains, Palestinians, Ryan Boyette, Stop Kony, Sudan, Syria, Uganda, United Nations, United States, Viral Video, YouTube | 1 Comment »

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.