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Africa, explained

Clooney and Russell upset the Africa experts

The activists disgruntle the academic Africa experts.
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Actor George Clooney leaves after he spoke to the media March 15, 2012 at the White House in Washington, DC. Clooney had meeting with President Barack Obama to discuss the current situations in Darfur, Sudan. Clooney was arrested on March 16 in front of the Sudanese embassy. (Alex Wong/AFP/Getty Images)

NAIROBI, Kenya — Jon Stewart nailed it in his Daily Show sketch about KONY 2012 last week where he pointed out the traditional media's jealousy of Jason Russell and his KONY 2012 video.

"Mainly the media just seems annoyed ... 'I mean we're handsome, we're on TV, why won't Rihanna re-tweet our Kony stories?'" Stewart joked, mimicking  aggrieved network anchors who don't understand why people pay attention to Invisible Children and Jason Russell rather than them.

The KONY 2012 video is not for experts who know the conflict — it is not for Africanists and academics, policy-makers, journalists, or even Ugandans — it is for the huge number of young mostly white, mostly Christian, wannabe-world-changers out there who don't know who Joseph Kony is, don't know where Uganda is and might even be a little hazy on whether Africa is a country or a continent.

Or we should say "didn't know" because over 100 million have watched the film now.


Uganda: US evangelist sued for inciting gay hate

US evangelist Scott Lively is being sued for inciting persecution of homosexuals in Uganda.
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Ugandan gays are frightened by the reintroduction of the anti-homosexuality bill in parliament. Here members of the Ugandan gay community mourn at the funeral of murdered gay activist David Kato near Mataba, on Jan. 28, 2011. Although the police claims it was most likely a petty crime, targeting Kato's money, many members of the gay and the human rights community hold the Ugandan government responsible for not battling the growing threats to homosexuals. (Marc Hofer/AFP/Getty Images)

NAIROBI, Kenya — Scott Lively, an evangelical Christian preacher and author of a book called "The Pink Swastika" about, yup, gay Nazis, is being sued by Ugandan gay rights activists who accuse him of inciting the persecution of homosexuals.

More from GlobalPost: Homophobia continues in Uganda

The case brought by Sexual Minorities Uganda, a gay rights organization with an unfortunate acronym, SM-UG, accuses Lively of encouraging local Christian groups and politicians who in 2009 tabled a bill proposing the death penalty for homosexuals.

"Lively has been the man with the plan in this enterprise,” said Pam Spees, senior staff attorney at the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights which filed the lawsuit on behalf of SM-UG.

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Lively is being sued under the "Alien Tort Statute" that enables foreigners to sue US citizens in US courts if they are accused of breaking international laws.

Tracked down by a reporter Lively said he had no knowledge of the lawsuit, telling the New York Times, "That’s about as ridiculous as it gets. I’ve never done anything in Uganda except preach the Gospel and speak my opinion about the homosexual issue."

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Sudan: Clooney charges war crimes committed in Nuba Mountains (PHOTOS)

Hollywood actor George Clooney advocates for Sudan's Nuba Mountains with the Enough Project.

NAIROBI, Kenya — The Nuba Mountains in Sudan is the new advocacy hotspot.

OK, not quite as hot as #KONY2012 but pretty hot nonetheless.

After all, Kristoff's been there and now Clooney.

More from GlobalPost: Clooney's satellites catch artillery barrage in Sudan

The New York Times' Nicholas Kristoff dodged Antonov bombers; Hollywood actor/director George Clooney went one better and dodged a rocket attack, as he told the Council on Foreign Relations in New York on Tuesday evening.

Here's a video of Clooney in the Nuba Mountains with John Prendergast of the Enough Project:

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Somalia: Al Shabaab suicide bomber strikes Mogadishu

The bombing in Villa Somalia shows just how shaky the Mogadishu's security really is.
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Al Qaeda-linked Al Shabaab recruits walk down a street on Mar. 5, 2012 in the Deniile district of the Somalian capital, Mogadishu, following their graduation. (Mohamed Abdiwahab/AFP/Getty Images)

NAIROBI, Kenya —  Villa Somalia is a hilltop quarter in Mogadishu. It is home to government ministries, the presidential palace, meeting halls and ministers' homes. It is guarded by African Union peacekeepers and Somali government soldiers.

To get right inside you have to pass through at least three separate roadblocks with metal booms, staggered Hescos and armed sentries. It's the most fortified and protected place in Mogadishu, outside of the AU military base and airport, it's the closest thing the city has to a Green Zone.

But none of that stopped an Al Shabaab suicide bomber who blew himself up inside Villa Somalia on Wednesday. The death toll is unclear, ranging from five (if you believe the government) to 17 (if you believe Al Shabaab).

More from GlobalPost: Kenya's drive against Al Shabaab (PHOTOS)

The significance of this attack is not the number of dead, but the location of the bombing, at the supposedly secure heart of the Transitional Federal Government and at a time when Mogadishu is gradually regaining a sense of normality.

Although Villa Somalia is an obvious target — GlobalPost was there a couple of years ago when mortars rained down — it should not be a possible one.

The fact that a suicide bomber can slip past all the defenses and detonate his explosives shows once again just how shaky the capital's security really is and reminds everyone that Al Shabaab may be down but is certainly not out.

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Congo: Thomas Lubanga found guilty of using child soldiers

Thomas Lubanga's guilty verdict is a first step towards justice in Congo and elsewhere.
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Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga sits in the courtroom of the International Criminal Court in the Hague, on Aug. 25, 2011. (Michael Kooren/AFP/Getty Images)

NAIROBI, Kenya — It's taken a decade and more than a billion dollars but at last the International Criminal Court has handed down a verdict to an accused war criminal.

Thomas Lubanga, a Congolese warlord from the eastern Ituri region, was found guilty of recruiting and using child soldiers. Lubanga commanded an ethnic Hema milita which launched murderous attacks on Lendu communities in the early 2000s as neighboring Uganda and Rwanda backed rival proxies in the mineral-rich region.

More from GlobalPost: ICC finds Thomas Lubanga guilty of using child soldiers

Human Rights Watch, whose researchers have documented many of the atrocities committed by Lubanga and others over the years, greeted the verdict as "a victory for the thousands of children forced to fight in Congo’s brutal wars" and said it was "a warning to rights abusers" worldwide.

It is an important first step towards achieving some kind of justice for the years of fighting and horrific abuses in eastern Congo, a place where conflict continues in some parts even today. But there is much still to be done.

One man — Bosco Ntaganda — epitomizes the terrible pragmatism at play in Congo: he was Lubanga's deputy and is also wanted by the ICC but far from being in the dock he is a serving general in the Congolese army. He roams freely around the town of Goma and has even played a commanding role in joint military operations with the UN peacekeeping mission.

Wednesday's verdict will be a relief for outgoing Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo and is a vindication of the ICC which has faced criticism for failing to conclude trials, up to now. It must be hoped other verdicts will swiftly follow.

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Congo: Poachers now tracked by trained dogs (PHOTOS)

The trained dogs are part of a special "Congohounds" program.

NAIROBI, Kenya — The latest weapon in the fight against poachers in eastern Congo's Virunga National Park is four-legged and slobbering, but it works.

A team of five bloodhounds make up Virunga's newly formed "elite canine unit" brought in to help protect the mountain gorillas, chimpanzees, forest elephants, okapi and other animals that live in the 3,000 square mile park.

The "Congohounds" program as it has been dubbed began last year with the arrival and training of the dogs and earlier this month two of them carried out their first operation helping to track a gang of poachers thought to be responsible for the killing of a male elephant which had its tusks hacked from its face.

More from GlobalPost: South Africa: Kruger park rangers kill suspected rhino poacher

The two-day operation ended with a shoot-out between park rangers and the suspected poachers who were tracked by the dogs. Although the suspects escaped a cache of weapons was found and confiscated.

"We are extremely pleased with the outcome. After a year of intensive training, both the hounds and the rangers proved to be a very effective weapon against ivory poachers," said Emmanuel de Merode, Virunga's chief warden.

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Another round of killings in South Sudan claims hundreds of lives

The death toll from the latest bout of ethnic violence in South Sudan has reached more than 200 people.
A woman and her 18-month old baby, who fled to escape ethnic clashes, wait for the UN's World Food Programme distribution in Pibor, South Sudan's Jonglei state, on January 12, 2012. (Hannah Mcneish/AFP/Getty Images)

NAIROBI, Kenya — The death toll from the latest bout of cattle-rustling ethnic violence in South Sudan has reached more than 200 people.

Once again the dead are mostly women and children, after warriors with guns and spears attacked villages in Upper Nile state. This time it was the Murle who killed the Lou Nuer. In August last year it was the same. In January it was the Lou Neur killing the Murle.


Kenya News: Al Shabaab denies Nairobi bombing

Islamic extremist group states they do not engage in such "low-scale attacks."
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Kenyan policemen secure the blast area after explosions on March 10, 2012 at a bus station in downtown Nairobi that killed at least three people and wounded more than 20 others. Al Shabaab forwarded a press release to journalists on Monday, in which it denied having a role in the attack. (Simon Maina/AFP/Getty Images)

NAIROBI, Kenya — Kenya's internal security minister blamed Al Shabaab for a deadly grenade attack on a bus station in Nairobi, but in a press statement emailed to journalists on Monday from the Somali militants denied having anything to do with, "the turbulence that reigns over the country."


Ethiopia: Human rights are "crippled," says Amnesty International

A new Amnesty International report says Ethiopian law cripples human rights.
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Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia Meles Zenawi speaks at the opening plenary session of the High Level Segment of the during the COP 17 conference held at the International Convention Centre in Durban on Dec. 6, 2011. (Rajesh Jantilal/AFP/Getty Images)

NAIROBI, Kenya — There is no love lost between Amnesty International and the leadership of Ethiopia, and this latest report titled "Stifling human rights work: The impact of civil society legislation in Ethiopia" is not going to patch up the relationship.

"Rather than creating an enabling environment for human rights defenders to work in, the government has implemented a law which has crippled human rights work in Ethiopia. The space to make legitimate criticism is more restricted than ever," said Amnesty's Deputy Africa Director Michelle Kagari.

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It's not news, really, as the report looks at the impact of a piece of legislation from 2009 but a few years down the line it's now possible to see the impact of the "Charities and Societies Proclamation" that was brought in ahead of the last round of elections.

It was a smart law on the part of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's government because it doesn't outright ban human rights groups — that would trigger outrage and might even force the hand of supportive foreign donors like the US — it just makes life really hard for them.

The law has "changed the face of civil society in Ethiopia," according to Amnesty. "Human rights organizations have shrunk in number and in size, having to cut programs, close offices and lay off staff. The law has been used by the government to freeze financial assets of more than US$1 million belonging to the country’s two leading human rights organizations," the group says.

If you believe that governments should be accountable to their people, however vulnerable, downtrodden or marginalized, then this is bad news. But don't expect any change in Ethiopia.

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Kenya News: Police make arrests after deadly Nairobi attack

Kenyan police have arrested four suspects in an Al Shabaab-linked grenade attack in Nairobi.
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A man is assisted into the hospital on Mar. 10, 2012 after a bomb attack at a bus station in Nairobi that killed at least three people and wounded more than 20 others. (Simon Maina/AFP/Getty Images)

NAIROBI, Kenya — Reports say Kenyan police have arrested four people in connection with Saturday night's multiple grenade attack on a busy bus terminal in the capital that killed at least 7 people and injured scores more.

On Monday morning the Kenya Red Cross said one of the 42 casualties admitted to hospital had died bringing the death toll to seven.

Kenyan authorities have blamed Somalia's Al Shabaab for the attack and although there has been no claim of responsibility it certainly bears strong similarities to two previous attacks in October when grenades were flung into a dingy bar and a busy bus stop killing one person and injuring dozens of others.

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Those bombings were blamed on Al Shabaab which threatened terrorist attacks after Kenya sent its army into southern Somalia in mid-October.

On Monday local newspapers reported that four people had been arrested. It remains to be seen whether Kenya's notoriously corrupt and ineffectual police force has got their men or whether they have simply rounded up the usual suspects, seizing whichever Muslims and Somalis were closest at hand.

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