Accidents can be healed

  • Hundreds of child soldiers have been demobilised in the past years in Pibor, South Sudan. But the effects remain.
  • A former child soldier is pictured in his shelter in Pibor, South Sudan. © Albert González Farran / FAO

    A former child soldier is pictured in his shelter in Pibor, South Sudan. Photo by Albert González Farran / FAO

    Richard (fictional name) killed several soldiers when he was just 13 years old and was part of an armed group in Pibor, South Sudan. After he killed them, along with some other mates, stripped the dead bodies and ran away. Richard says that it was an accident. “I defended my life,” he remembers. “It was just me or them, and I had to make a quick decision.” He insists that he is not a killer, because they attacked him and he had to survive. “It was an accident,” he repeats.
    Charles (another fictional name) had to do the same when he was just 14. “We were in the bush and some soldiers attacked our positions,” Charles recalls, “and I had to shoot the gun to save my life.” Right after he came back home and gave up his weapon, his family hired a traditional healer who burned some leaves and made him inhale its smoke. “After this, I am clean.” He believes his crime has just vanished with that smoke.
    Many former child soldiers show aggressive behaviours and have many difficulties to resume their civilian life. Most of them don’t want to go back to the front-line but they certainly have great challenges to forget the hell they went through.

    Life after suicide

  • Photographer Patricia Esteve opened an exhibition about suicide in Nairobi, Kenya, where it’s considered a crime
  • © Patricia Esteve

    Msingizi, a young Kenyan with confessed suicidal tendencies. Photo by © Patricia Esteve

    Out of This Life is a conceptual and very personal photo-project about suicide. Catalan photographer Patricia Esteve is exhibiting this work at The Kenya Cultural Centre in Nairobi, in a country where suicide is forbidden. According to the Kenyan Penal Code, “any person who attempts to kill himself is guilty of a misdemeanour,” punishable up to two years in prison! On top of that, there is also the social stigma for those who tried or their relatives, normally mistreated and disgraced by the community. Many people think suicidal tendencies are contagious.
    Patricia’s courage is not only for exhibiting such taboo in Kenya and inviting the society to openly “talk about suicide”. It’s also brave to develop visuals out of such a difficult topic. As many characters prefer to keep concealed and some others are no longer alive, conceptual and creative shots help to show Patricia’s perspective (and sensitivity) on this matter: a starry sky, a set of newspapers clippings, a tree, farewell notes, a paper boat. A collection of beautiful images that adds some hope and poetry, such the loneliness of the gay activist George Barassa, laying on the mattress of a safe house. Brilliant shot!

    © Patricia Esteve

    The land of abandoned wonders

  • Liberia shows a range of abandoned buildings and ships with historical legacy and tourist potential
  • An old wrecked ship on the shore of Robertsport, Liberia. Photo by Albert Gonzalez Farran

    An old wrecked ship on the shore of Robertsport, Liberia. Photo by Albert Gonzalez Farran

    More than six years ago, on my first and only trip to Doha, Qatar, I experienced negative impressions of a city with huge skyscrapers, brand new buildings without any personality. And that’s what I remember now that I’m about to leave Liberia, where I have good feelings for being a country with fantastic hidden places and surprises. And among them, the hundreds of monumental elements that, due to the civil war or the slow path of development, have been abandoned. Hotels, ships, factories and many houses are deteriorating, deforming and blackening while time passes. Each one has its story: tragic, curious or even funny. They are part of the Liberian landscape. Some of them are inhabited by squatters. In others, some people get profits after charging fees to tourists. And all are public and visible, joining the slow rebirth of a punished country, hoping that one day the government or a private companies will rebuild or collapse forever. But meanwhile, probably for a long time, they will continue to give us an attractive visual.

    Knowing nothing about nobody

  • International operations in Africa often show the lack of mutual understanding.
  • The local guard of a former UN base in Tubmanburg, Liberia. Photo by Albert Gonzalez Farran – UNMIL

    Joseph (fictional name) lives at the former UN base in Tubmanburg, in Liberia. This is a small town that the peacekeeping mission (UNMIL) left a year ago, as part of its withdrawal. Joseph and his family work as security guards of this camp, which does not seem to have any particular use since it belongs to the local government.
    One day, a convoy of peacekeepers arrives and stops to rest in this old base. After doing an inspection, the peacekeepers find an orchard and decide to harvest some vegetables and eat them. But they did not know that they belonged to Joseph and his family. Very angry, the old man goes to the peacekeepers and explain them, with some language barriers, that these were his.
    – You have not even asked for permission! -exclaims.
    Shortly after, the peacekeepers come back with olive oil, juice, medicines… everything for him. They apologize and leave ashamed. And when the troops finally leave the compound, Joseph gets upset again.
    – Very good. You gave me back what you took from me. But now you are leaving without giving me anything for real?
    Too late. The convoy is already departing and the peacekeepers look at him from their vehicles with disconcerted faces. Joseph has no more words and waves to them without understanding anything.
    The situation is a good representation of what happens when the international community operates in territories where most of the people know nothing about nobody. And neither side seems to make any effort.

    Fresh Air

  • Liberia opens a new political era, far from the fratricidal war of 15 years ago
  • Younth celebrate the inauguration of George Weah as president of Liberia at the Monrovia stadium on January 22. Photo by Albert González Farran for UNMIL

    After two years covering the nonsense of war and hunger in South Sudan, where there is little room for optimism and a discouraging repetition of humanitarian misfortunes, I landed a month ago in Liberia where the context is completely different and, although not ideal, it seems a real breath of fresh air. George Weah, known as a former soccer star, is now the president of his country. For the first time, the inauguration ceremony on the 22nd was hold in the largest stadium in Monrovia. A gesture for more than 30,000 people who could witness, and mostly celebrate, the beginning of a new political stage. In a country where corruption and inequalities are still constant, I find that hope and the desire to move forward change the way to look at Africa. I really needed it.

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