GOINGS-ON

Former Timorese President Chosen as UN Envoy in Guinea-Bissau

Jose Ramos-Horta, new chief of the UN peace-building mission in Guinea-Bissau

José Ramos-Horta has been appointed the new United Nations envoy to Guinea-Bissau. The former Timorese president and Nobel Peace Prize winner is replacing Joseph Mutaboba, a diplomat from Rwanda, as the special representative and chief of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau. Mutaboba, 63, finishes his assignment, which lasted nearly four years, at the end … Read more

UN and US Congress Act to Curtail Female Cutting Globally

Young girls in Sierra Leone about to be circumcised

Only four days before Christmas, when many minds were fixated on the year-end holidays, two important steps were taken almost unnoticed to combat female genital mutilation globally, raising hopes that millions of girls might be spared the excruciatingly painful and harmful yet persistent practice. In what Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called “historic” UN action, the General … Read more

Avoiding a Mess in Guinea-Bissau Could Help the Rest of West Africa

A former colonial-era government building on the island of Bolama, Guinea-Bissau's first capital.

Guinea-Bissau’s woes never end. Now the United Nations, which has a peace-building support mission in the capital, Bissau, might need to restart its work there since the head of the office has left. Joseph Mutaboba, a 63-year-old Rwandan diplomat who has been the special envoy since February 2009, was tasked with preventing conflicts through the … Read more

GOINGS-ON

UN’s Special Envoy in Guinea-Bissau Quits His Post

Joseph Mutaboba, former UN peace-building chief in Guinea-Bissau

Since Guinea-Bissau’s military seized power in an April 12 coup d’état, the tiny West African country that relies on cashews as its main export hit an even rougher patch this fall, when armed gunmen struck an air force base in the capital, Bissau, on Oct. 21, killing six people. Soon after, the military did door-to-door … Read more

 

A Rerun of History in Eastern Congo Threatens Kinshasa Again

Monusco, UN peacekeepers in Congo

Less than two decades ago, this is what happened to a huge African country once known as Zaire: Rebels backed by Rwanda’s recently installed, ethnic Tutsi-led government moved out of their strongholds in the eastern flank of the country and advanced toward the Zairian national capital, Kinshasa, and overthrew the central government. To Rwandan Tutsi, … Read more

Sierra Leone’s Election, Proving the Nation’s Resilience

Sierra Leone polling station on Election Day, Nov. 17, 2012

Sierra Leone re-elected Ernest Bai Koroma president against eight other candidates in a calm, orderly vote held on Nov. 17 with results announced Nov. 23, after ballots were counted. The election marks an important step for the country to continue its healing after suffering an 11-year civil war. Koroma, who garnered 58.7 percent of the vote, is … Read more

BOOKS

From Wole Soyinka: A Manifesto for Africa

Wole Soyinka, author of "Of Africa"

The Nigerian playwright Wole Soyinka, winner of Africa’s first Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986, has published a new book calling for urgent action by Africans to save themselves from the threat of Islamic extremism, against which corrupt regimes seem unable protect the tolerance and spiritual strength of traditional cultures. “If Africa falls to the … Read more

Congo Miners See Hope While Rebels Sow Unrest

Congo miner

Important progress in controlling the mining of tin, tantalum and tungsten in the troubled eastern region of Democratic Republic of Congo has been achieved, says a report from the Enough Project, a Washington nonprofit group focused on Africa. Yet renewed fighting that began in the spring between regional militias and Congolese national troops, who are … Read more

 

The UN General Assembly Takes Up a Once-Taboo Topic

Nepali woman dancing

  A growing movement within the United Nations to ban female genital mutilation globally has led to the first resolution to be written on the issue in the General Assembly’s Third Committee, which will vote on the matter this month. Two Francophone countries in West Africa, Burkina Faso and Benin, have proposed the draft resolution … Read more

The Hunger Lines Just Keep Growing in the Sahel

Niger women at the Doctors Without Borders nutritional center in Guidan Roumdji, Niger.

GUIDAN ROUMDJI, Niger — Her food reserves have almost run out, but Tini Kane, 50 years old and widowed three times, must feed all 23 members of her family. Like many other Nigerien farmers, she sold her precious goats to cope with the bad harvests of this year and last, even though she still goes … Read more

WORLDVIEWS

‘Songs of the Village’

Fatherless children in eastern Congo

The eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo has been experiencing cyclical wars since 1996, when the so-called war of liberation began. The fighting started in South Kivu Province and spread throughout the whole country, then called Zaire, until Mobutu Sese Seko, the Congolese dictator, was toppled less than a year later. Since then, … Read more

BOOKS

The Ethics of Chocolate

Cocoa farmer pruning a tree in Ivory Coast.

Given longstanding reports of slavery, economic exploitation and corruption in the West African cocoa trade, how guilty should you feel about eating a chocolate bar? How about one made with cocoa marketed under the fair-trade umbrella – a loose international system aimed at providing growers with fair prices while also imposing fair labor standards and … Read more

 

In Rural Senegal, Oyster Fishing Is Not a Hobby

Casamance women fishing for oysters.

BOUYOUYE, Senegal – I’m submerged waist-deep in brown water, trying my best to catch up with two fast-moving Senegalese women ahead of me. Jeannette Diatta, 40, thin-framed, and her curvier friend, Therese Diatta, 27, are wielding machetes like butter knives. Both women have protected their heads from the sun with colorful scarves. Bang! Yet another … Read more

GOINGS-ON

A German to Manage UN Mission in Western Sahara

Weisbrod-Weber

Wolfgang Weisbrod-Weber, a German diplomat, is the new special envoy to head the United Nations referendum mission in Western Sahara, known as Minurso. The mission was set up in 1991, after a cease-fire was brokered between Morocco and a longtime rebel group, Frente Popular para la Liberación de Saguia el-Hamra y de Río de Oro … Read more

WORLDVIEWS

A Sobering Conflict in an Unforgiving Desert

Interim president Dioncounda Traore of Mali

BAMAKO, Mali — At the bus station here in the capital this spring, tales of trepidation from besieged northern towns like Gao and Timbuktu, where Tuareg and Islamist rebels took power after a coup d’état in late March, were commonplace. “There’s no life there because there is no law,” one man said after arriving from … Read more

Thomas Lubanga, Congolese Warlord, Sentenced to 14 Years

Thomas Lubanga was sentenced to 14 years of imprisonment.

    Thomas Lubanga, the 52-year-old Congolese militant convicted by the International Criminal Court in March for the war crimes of conscripting and enlisting child soldiers under age 15 and using them in hostilities, was sentenced today to 14 years’ imprisonment. The children were forced to fight a conflict in northeastern Congo from Sept. 1, … Read more

 

Schools Fail the Youngest Where Population Grows the Fastest

Congolese children in an unfinished classroom at a primary school near the Kahe refugee camp in Goma, North Kivu Province.

Optimists in many developing countries are convinced that their expanding youth populations will be engines of economic growth in coming decades. They call this the “demographic dividend.” Social scientists and demographers in those same nations, however, are usually more wary of the future, as they focus on how those children, on whom so much hope … Read more

A New Leader, Defying the African Union, Bans Bashir of Sudan

Malawi president

The African Union, whose members decided three years ago not to honor an arrest warrant for Sudan’s president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, has been forced to find a new site for its regional summit in July after the small southern African nation of Malawi said it would refuse entry to the Sudanese leader. Bashir is wanted … Read more

A Tenuous Life for Malian Refugees in the Desert

UN refugee camp Mauritania

MBERA REFUGEE CAMP, Mauritania — One major fallout from the eruptions that began between Tuareg rebels in northern Mali and government troops last winter— spurred by NATO’s war in Libya, which sent thousands of Tuaregs back home to Mali with Libyan military weapons — was not only a coup d’état but also an influx of … Read more

Charles Taylor, 64, Receives 50-Year Sentence for War Crimes

Charles Taylor

Charles Taylor, the former Liberian president who was convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity in April for acts committed during a civil war in the 1990s in the West African country of Sierra Leone, was sentenced today to 50 years’ imprisonment. Taylor, 64, was found guilty of all 11 counts against him, including … Read more

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