For four years Eunice Owiny had been employed by Makerere University’s Refugee Law Project (RLP) to help displaced people from all over Africa work through their traumas. This particular case, though, was a puzzle. A female client was having marital difficulties. “My husband can’t have sex,” she complained. “He feels very bad about this. I’m sure there’s something he’s keeping from me.”
Owiny invited the husband in. For a while they got nowhere. Then Owiny asked the wife to leave. The man then murmured cryptically: “It happened to me.” Owiny frowned. He reached into his pocket and pulled out an old sanitary pad. “Mama Eunice,” he said. “I am in pain. I have to use this.”
Laying the pus-covered pad on the desk in front of him, he gave up his secret. During his escape from the civil war in neighbouring Congo, he had been separated from his wife and taken by rebels. His captors raped him, three times a day, every day for three years. And he wasn’t the only one. He watched as man after man was taken and raped. The wounds of one were so grievous that he died in the cell in front of him.
“That was hard for me to take,” Owiny tells me today. “There are certain things you just don’t believe can happen to a man, you get me? But I know now that sexual violence against men is a huge problem. Everybody has heard the women’s stories. But nobody has heard the men’s.”
It’s not just in East Africa that these stories remain unheard. One of the few academics to have looked into the issue in any detail is Lara Stemple, of the University of California’s Health and Human Rights Law Project. Her study Male Rape and Human Rights notes incidents of male sexual violence as a weapon of wartime or political aggression in countries such as Chile, Greece, Croatia, Iran, Kuwait, the former Soviet Union and the former Yugoslavia. Twenty-one per cent of Sri Lankan males who were seen at a London torture treatment centre reported sexual abuse while in detention. In El Salvador, 76% of male political prisoners surveyed in the 1980s described at least one incidence of sexual torture. A study of 6,000 concentration-camp inmates in Sarajevo found that 80% of men reported having been raped. [read more]
[Above: A Congolese rape victim, currently resident in Uganda. This man’s wife has left him, as she was unable to accept what happened. He attempted suicide at the end of last year. Credit: Will Storr for the Observer]
The slow-motion disaster of the food crisis in the Horn of Africa is truly horrifying. Last Wednesday the United Nations declared a famine in two large regions of Somalia; 3.7 million people, nearly half the country’s population, are affected. The crisis is larger than just Somalia. Right now the devastating drought in the region means that more than 11 million people need food aid across Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia.
With East Africa facing its worst drought in 60 years, affecting more than 11 million people, the United Nations has declared a famine in the region for the first time in a generation. Overcrowded refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia are receiving some 3,000 new refugees every day, as families flee from famine-stricken and war-torn areas. The meager food and water that used to support millions in the Horn of Africa is disappearing rapidly, and families strong enough to flee for survival must travel up to a hundred miles, often on foot, hoping to make it to a refugee center, seeking food and aid. Many do not survive the trip. Officials warn that 800,000 children could die of malnutrition across the East African nations of Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Kenya. Aid agencies are frustrated by many crippling situations: the slow response of Western governments, local governments and terrorist groups blocking access, terrorist and bandit attacks, and anti-terrorism laws that restrict who the aid groups can deal with — not to mention the massive scale of the current crisis.
Above: Somali refugees who recently crossed the border from Somalia into southern Ethiopia cluster between two food tents as they wait to be called to collect food aid at the Kobe refugee camp, on July 19, 2011. Ethiopian authorities and non-governmental organizations have accommodated almost 25,000 refugees at the camp since it was set up less then three weeks ago. (Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images)
See more heartbreaking photos at In Focus. One immediate way to help is to text “FOOD” to UNICEF (864233) to donate $10, enough to feed a child for 10 days, more ways to help listed here.
This international tour, organized by the Rwandan Cycling Federation, is the first of its kind in East Africa. It represents a new interest for competitors and the international press, takes a closer look at rapidly developing Rwandan cycling as well as associating sport with the past and with tourism: visiting the gorillas, Akagera Park, Lake Kivu and the memorials to the memory of Genocide victims.
Yann Gross, went to Kitintale, a suburb of Kampala in Uganda, in 2008 and 2009 to document the only Skatepark in East Africa. The skatepark was build by the youngsters themselves, without support from the government or NGO’s.
In sending troops into Somalia, the Ugandan president is doing Washington’s bidding and endangering his country.
The dangers of turning Africa into a front in the “war on terror” – much as it was a front in two world wars and a cold war that were not of its making – have been starkly revealed in Uganda following the 11 July bombings that killed 76 people watching the World Cup final in popular nightspots. That atrocity was attributed to Somali al-Shabaab extremists seeking to carry out retribution for the presence in Somalia of Ugandan “peacekeeping” troops.
But there is no peace to keep in Somalia, where a transitional federal government (TFG), established under UN auspices in 2002, controls only a few blocks of the capital city and would have collapsed altogether but for a US-backed invasion by Ethiopia in 2006. Why did Uganda’s veteran leader, Yoweri Museveni, rush in with military support for Somalia’s decrepit regime where other African countries, barring Ethiopia and Burundi, had feared to tread?
One factor is that Museveni needs to project Uganda as a “responsible member of the international community” to deflect criticism of its own army’s alleged pillaging in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo. The Ugandan People’s Defence Forces, built out of the guerrilla army that brought Museveni to power 24 years ago, are accused of human rights abuses while crushing rebellion in Uganda’s northern region.
More generally, western aid still supplies around a third of Uganda’s government budget, but donor countries were becoming uncomfortable with the corruption that has increasingly marred Museveni’s long rule. Alignment with US-backed efforts to see Somalia pacified – so as to prevent the incubation and export of terror – serves both to smooth relations and to attract US logistical and training support for the Ugandan army.
Yet Ugandans, who have paid in blood for their country’s part in the botched counter-insurgency efforts in Somalia, are now paying again in a clampdown on their civic freedoms. In a new round of security measures, the citizens of Kampala will need police clearance for all gatherings, including private parties and wedding receptions. “No gathering of more than five people, even if it is in your compound, should be held without clearance from the inspector general of police,” the Kampala metropolitan police commander, Andrew Sorowen, told the press last week.