Spain announced May 28 it has arrested 16 suspected of recruiting Islamist fighters for Iraq and North Africa. The 14 Moroccans and two Algerians were alleged to have indoctrinated others with radical Islamic teachings and about “jihad.” Thirteen were arrested… Read moreSpain: more Salafist sweeps; 3-11 defendants end hunger strike
President Bush has announced an expanded regime of sanctions against Sudan, implementing what he called “Plan B” in his April speech at the Holocaust Museum, as an alternative to UN troops. Thirty companies owned or controlled by the Sudanese government… Read moreDarfur: Bush announces sanctions —against the resistance movement!
At least 16 were killed and 67 injured in two attacks in the eastern Ethiopia towns of Jijiga and Degah Abur May 28. Up to 11 were killed when a hand grenade was thrown as hundreds of people gathered at… Read moreEthiopia terror: ONLF guerillas or government provocation?
At least 13 people were killed and more than 32 wounded in Shiberghan, capital of Afghanistan’s northern Jowzjan province, when police opened fire to break up a protest against governor Juma Khan Hamdard on May 28. Provincial spokesmen said protesters… Read moreAfghanistan: police fire on protesters in northern province
Cindy Sheehan writes in her public diary on Daily Kos, May 28: I have endured a lot of smear and hatred since Casey was killed and especially since I became the so-called “Face” of the American anti-war movement. Especially since… Read moreCindy Sheehan resigns from anti-war movement
HOW DE BODY?
One Man’s Terrifying Journey Through an African War
by Teun Voeten St. Martins Press, 2002
by Bill Weinberg
Belgium-based Dutch photojournalist Teun Voeten was already a veteran of the bloodbaths in Bosnia, Rwanda, Chechnya, Afghanistan and Colombia when he arrived in the West African nation of Sierra Leone in February 1998. A particularly brutal guerilla army, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), had been terrorizing Sierra Leone since 1991, and Voeten was there to photograph demobilized child soldiers who had been abducted and forced to fight for the rebels. At first, he is almost cynical about the whole ghastly affair, as if jaded to the point of complacency—the cliché of the hardbitten war journalist.
But shortly after his arrival, a ceasefire ended as the country was invaded by a multi-national intervention force led by Nigeria. RUF and government troops alike went on a rampage of looting and senseless killing, plundering what they could before Nigerian forces seized the country. As a European journalist, Voeten was an obvious target. He was forced to flee into the bush before he finally escaped across the border to Guinea weeks later. Voeten quickly loses his swagger after a few brushes with death. He was humbled by the selflessness of locals who put their lives on the line to help him survive, hiding him from the rebels, feeding and housing him. Voeten certainly wouldn’t have made it without the bravery and savvy of his colleague, local BBC correspondent Eddie Smith. When Voeten was safely back home in Brussels, Smith would be killed in a rebel ambush.
Reckoning with the experience sent Voeten back to Sierra Leone a year later—partly to deliver funds to a friend’s school project. It also drove him to dissect and understand the conflict, and how it has frayed Sierra Leone’s social fabric. “How de body?” is the common greeting in Krio, Sierra Leone’s creole tongue—which takes on a hideous irony in light of the rebels’ habit of ritual amputation of their victims. “Jamba” (marijuana) didn’t seem to mellow out these killers, who were also hootched up on amphetamines, heroin and worse stuff—the better to brainwash press-ganged pre-adolescents. As numerous war victims bitterly complained to Voeten, the Sierra Leone violence was even worse than that of Bosnia and Kosovo—yet the world paid little attention.
For all his vivid depictions of on-the-ground brutality, Voeten doesn’t overlook the international context for a near-forgotten war in a paradoxically impoverished but resource-rich part of Africa. His investigations also took him back to Belgium, where he interviewed sleazy Antwerp diamond merchants who funded the rebels and laundered their “conflict diamonds.” He documents how the British, meanwhile, snuck around an official embargo to sell arms to the government forces, who were hardly less brutal than the rebels. As in so many countries in Africa and the global south, Sierra Leone’s people were caught between hostile forces backed by foreign powers for their own ends.
How de Body?, illustrated with Voeten’s own photos, is a testament to the heroism of ordinary people around the world who struggle to keep alive a sense of simple humanity in wars that grind on outside the global media spotlight—portrayed only as decontextualized atrocity pornography, if at all. Voeten’s journeys through Sierra Leone’s nightmares shed light where too many other journalists have only seen hearts of darkness.Continue ReadingHOPE AND HORROR IN SIERRA LEONE
From AP, May 28: A suicide car bomber struck a busy Baghdad commercial district Monday, killing at least 21 people, setting vehicles on fire and damaging a nearby Sunni shrine, police and hospital officials said. The blast went off at… Read moreWho is behind relentless Baghdad terror?
From Reporters Without Borders via AllAfrica, May 25: Reporters Without Borders has called for the immediate release of Abdel Fettah Ould Ebeidna, managing editor of the daily newspaper “Al-Aqsa”, who was sent to prison in Nouakchott on 24 May 2007… Read moreMauritania: editor imprisoned
US and Iranian diplomats met in Baghdad for their first formal direct talks in more than a quarter of a century May 28, to discuss the security situation in Iraq. Washington’s ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker called the proceedings “businesslike.”… Read moreIran protests US spy networks to Swiss ambassador
Egyptian police arrested three Muslim Brotherhood candidates to the upper house of parliament as they campaigned in the Nile Delta province of Dakahlia May 27, bringing to 63 the number of Brotherhood members detained in the province since Egypt’s largest… Read moreEgypt: more arrests of Muslim Brotherhood