KENYA: Two gay brothers and their family are on the run

TakePart

Jake Naughton

“We have a bad, bad story,” begins Gloria Ibara, a refugee from Burundi and the mother of four. Sitting on a mattress in a simple Nairobi apartment, she tells me of her problem: “They want to kill our family.”

Gloria, whose bright smile accents her worn face, was born in rural Gitega province to a family of farmers. As her children grew, Gloria came to realize her son Eric was gay. (The names of the family members have been changed out of concern for their safety.)

At first “I told him to stop, that it’s not good,” Gloria says. But over time she decided that “that’s the way he was, and he couldn’t change it.” So she went on loving and caring for him just the same.

In many parts of East and Central Africa where homophobia is rife, parents react harshly on learning that a child is gay. Parents feel enormous pressure to either “fix” their gay kids or disown them. I’ve met dozens of LGBT refugees who have fled their home countries and escaped to Kenya, and only one—a woman, also from Burundi—wasn’t disowned by her family. So when Gloria learned that her son Eric was gay, it was extraordinary for her not to reject them. Stunned as she was when she later found out that her older son, Claude, then well into his teens, too was gay, she supported him too. It’s for that reason that they are now a family on the run.

Read their story at TakePart.

The Secret Lives of Nairobi’s LGBT Refugees

Newsweek

An HIV-positive, gay refugee from Uganda stands outside the house he shared with dozens of other LGBT refugees on the outskirts of Nairobi. JAKE NAUGHTON

For months, nearly two dozen gay, lesbian and transgender Ugandans had been living in a large house on the outskirts of Nairobi in an area called Rongai. Long after a court struck down Uganda’s infamous anti-gay law—dubbed the “Kill the Gays” bill for a death penalty provision in an early draft—LGBT people in Uganda were still being disowned by their families, hunted down by neighbors, jailed by police, even killed. Hundreds fled Uganda—mostly to Kenya, where they are faring little better.

Many of these refugees grew up in urban, middle-class families and loathe living in a hot, squalid refugee camp, as Kenyan law requires of all refugees. They are city people, accustomed to partying at secret gay clubs in Kampala.

One afternoon last December, a Kenyan man came to the gate of the Rongai house with a warning: Neighbors were plotting to attack the gay refugees that night and run them out of town. The refugees didn’t wait. They fled, scattering to different apartments across the city.

Read in the June 10, 2016 print edition of Newsweek

Leaving China in Pursuit of the African Dream

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In 2009, China surpassed the United States as the continent’s largest trading partner. By 2012, its trade with Africa was double the United States’.

Western media tend to inflate the rhetoric surrounding China’s rise in Africa. Headlines are often resentful and sometimes border on fear-mongering: China is “winning” Africa from the West. The United States must “catch up” to China if it hopes to maintain economic, security and cultural relevance in Africa. A monolithic “China” sees Africa as a place to get rich quick, and doesn’t care much about the consequences.

But behind these hyperbolic headlines there are people, actual Chinese moving to Africa — one million over the past 15 years according to the rough but generally accepted estimate.

“Big projects completed by big, government-owned companies dominate the headlines about the advancing Chinese agenda in Africa,” wrote Howard French, a longtime New York Times correspondent in both China and Africa, in China’s Second Continent. “But history teaches us that very often reality is more meaningfully shaped by the deeds of countless smaller actors, most of them for all intents and purposes anonymous.”

Read the full article at VICE, and watch the full documentary, Chinafication of Africa, which I helped produce, on VICE HBO on April 22nd, 2016.

Deported From Their Own Country

TakePart

Juliana Pierre at her home in the Dominican Republic. The denial of her attempt to get the national identity card to which she was legally entitled led to the mass exodus and deportation of Dominican citizens of Haitian descent. (Photo: Jacob Kushner)

The Dominican Republic built its economy on the backs of Haitian immigrants and their descendants. Now it wants them gone.

FOND BAYARD, Haiti—On April 28, 2009, Julia Antoine gave birth to a girl in a hospital in the town of Los Mina, in the Dominican Republic. Her husband, Fritz Charles, couldn’t be there—he was busy working his job at a chicken farm.

In the coming days, the couple named the girl Kimberly. When the family went home, Antoine was given a document from the hospital noting the birth, the date, and the word hembra, or female. They didn’t bother trying to get Kimberly an official birth certificate. Although Antoine and Charles had spent many years living and working in the Dominican Republic, they were Haitian citizens, and it was well known that Dominican officials routinely denied birth certificates to children born to Haitian parents if, like Antoine and Charles, the parents couldn’t furnish passports or other legal documents.

Still, Kimberly was, by law, entitled to Dominican citizenship. Yet in 2015, she was deported along with her mother.

Kimberly and her mother now live in a lean-to hut made of sticks in a refugee camp on borrowed land in Haiti. Their predicament offers a glimpse into what happens when a nation that bestowed citizenship on people born within its territory decides to take that citizenship away.

Read the full longform feature at TakePartReporting for this article was funded by a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and through a Daniel Pearl Investigative Journalism Initiative Fellowship from Moment Magazine.

Nairobi’s immigrant cookbook

Al Jazeera

Sandra Zhao inspects a wooden vat filled with spices at Cedar’s, a Lebanese restaurant in Nairobi [Jacob Kushner/Al Jazeera]

Two foodies team up to explore the Kenyan city’s diverse foreign cuisine, and the entrepreneurs who brought it here.

Nairobi, Kenya – On a drizzly afternoon in Nairobi, Sandra Zhao sits at a hand-crafted wooden table sipping green tea from a ceramic Japanese cup. Across from her, the man who built the table and the restaurant that houses it describes the different Japanese delicacies as they arrive.

First there is pink-coloured tamago, a Japanese appetiser made of egg and dashi, and a light miso soup. Then comes a plate of salmon maki. Next is the main affair: Tantanmen (spicy noodle), a rich brown broth made of fish stock with home-made noodles that the restaurant’s owner, Yuki Kashiwagi, says is a favourite Japanese late-night food. And last, a plate of Japanese pancakes, or Okonomiyaki, topped with flakes of dried tuna that are so thin they wiggle in the afternoon breeze. “I love that!,” Zhao exclaims. “I know – that’s why I ordered it,” says Kashiwagi.

Zhao, after all, has been frequenting Kashiwagi’s restaurant since the day it opened. Creator of the Nairobi specialty cupcake startup SugarPie, she is teaming up with another American foodie – cupcake collaborator and founder of Nairobi’s Open Table Cooking School April Dodd – to publish a cookbook that will feature recipes from 30 Nairobi immigrant restaurant owners and the stories of what brought them here. Called Im/migrant Nairobi: A Cookbook, the project will feature Kashiwagi’s restaurant.

A continental hub for all manner of tech start-ups, NGOs, UN agencies and more, Nairobi is one of the most diverse cities in Africa. Indians, who began immigrating to Kenya’s coast more than a century ago, introduced spices, chai and chapatti that have found their way into mainstream Kenyan fare. Ethiopians who escaped the rule of Haile Selassie operate restaurants that adhere closely to traditional Ethiopian recipes and ceremonies. Recently, Chinese, Korean, Japanese and other Asian immigrants are reigniting the trend. If Kenya is East Africa’s country for foreigners, then Nairobi is the Mecca for their culinary traditions.

Read the full story at Al Jazeera.

Why Being ‘Haitian’ Made Them Stateless

Columbia Global Reports

Juliana Deguis Pierre sits outside her home in the Dominican Republic. / JACOB KUSHNER

Haitians today face all manner of stigma—for perennially being “the poorest nation in the western hemisphere,” for devolving into political chaos every few years. Much of that prejudice takes root just next door, in the country with which it shares the island of Hispaniola.

In January of last year I met Felix Callo Marcel, a 22-year-old born in the Dominican Republic but who was refused a Dominican identity card and even had his school enrollment certificate confiscated by the Dominican government. His parents were immigrants from Haiti. Marcel is one of an estimated 200,000 people who have had their nationality officially stripped away from them. Now, tens of thousands of people of Haitian heritage are being deported or fleeing for their own safety to Haiti, where many live in refugee camps akin to those that popped up after Haiti’s devastating 2010 earthquake.

Dominicans take pride in their recent emergence as a middle-income nation. And yet, there’s no denying that Dominicans built their modern economy on the backs of their other half. Now it is the kids and grandkids of those Haitian immigrants whom the government says no longer belong.

Read the full article at Columbia Global Reports.

Guns, knives and rape: The plight of a gay Ethiopian refugee in Kenya

GlobalPost/GroundTruth

Jake NaughtonGroundTruth Project

Chased away from his home country by gun-wielding homophobic men only to be raped in Kenya and abused by police there, Ibrahim, a 33-year-old gay refugee from Ethiopia, tells his story.

Read the full article and see photos by Jake Naughton at GroundTruth.

Inside the nightmares of Africa’s LGBT refugees

GlobalPost/GroundTruth

Raj, a gay Ugandan who arrived in Kenya on his 20th birthday, sits in a park in downtown Nairobi. Jake Naughton/The GroundTruth Project

NAIROBI, Kenya — Cynthia, an LGBT activist in Burundi, was thrown in jail and beaten up by police after she gave a radio interview defending the rights of gays and lesbians. Upon her release she fled to Kenya.

Raj, a gay teenager from Kampala, Uganda, was found kissing a boy in his high school locker room and the principal called an all-school assembly to shame him. The principal then ordered teachers to beat him. Afterward Raj’s father drove him to jail and asked police there to further punish him. After several days of beatings, the police released Raj, and he too fled to Kenya.

Mbonimpa, a gay man who fled Congo’s civil wars for Kenya as a boy, was reported to police at Kakuma refugee camp by his own mother. Ineligible for asylum, he’s living in Nairobi where he hopes no one will learn of his sexual identity.

Gay Ugandans fleeing a wave of homophobia have been covered widely in the international media. But LGBT people are fleeing countries across East and Central Africa, where religious crusaders are pushing forward anti-gay laws.

Over the course of four months, GroundTruth interviewed and stayed in touch with LGBT refugees from Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Congo and Ethiopia — all countries where anti-gay ideology is on the rise.

Read the full story at GroundTruth or the Huffington Post. 

China’s Second Continent

OZY.com

Sia Kambou/AFP/Corbis

The million Chinese who’ve landed in Africa are plucky, hugely ambitious and have an eye for opportunity. They’re also helping make China a big player on a continent once dominated by the West. 

You’ve seen the headlines: China is taking over Africa, and the United States and Africa’s former colonizers in Europe have lost sway.

Mostly, it’s true. Throughout Angola, Ghana and the Congo, some of China’s largest companies are building roads and railways. They’re backed by Chinese banks, and they’ll pay off their loans in kind through mining and oil deals. All the while, small-scale Chinese entrepreneurs are moving to Africa, opening pharmacies, trading furniture or buying land to farm, much as earlier generations did in Southeast Asia and North America. African governments are welcoming them with open arms, and for the most part, so are Africans themselves.

Earlier literature on China’s rise in Africa pushed us past the easy — and flawed — paradigm of China as Africa’s latest ”colonizer.” But in his forthcoming book, China’s Second Continent, Howard French argues the Chinese who migrate to Africa do so as individuals motivated by simple, familiar dreams of opportunity.
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A former China bureau chief for The New York Times and veteran Africa correspondent, French traveled the African continent, speaking Mandarin with Chinese men and women who had grown weary of the daily grind in their homeland. The characters French encounters are risk-takers: sometimes foulmouthed, often lucky and universally ambitious.

Read the full Q&A: Howard French on ‘China’s Second Continent’ | C-Notes | OZY

RADIO: BBC World Service on “China’s Congo Plan”

BBC

China’s economic rise in Africa has brought a whole army of managers and engineers to the continent. Many of them have come with state-owned companies to extract minerals and build infrastructure. One example where this is happening is the Democratic Republic of Congo. Newsday has spoken to journalist Jacob Kushner who travelled around the country meeting different communities of Chinese immigrants for his book “China’s Congo Plan”

 

Listen to the interview at BBC World Service Newsday.

As Africa welcomes more Chinese migrants, a new wariness sets in

Christian Science Monitor

Robein Wei in Lubumbashi, Congo. / Jacob Kushner

In Congo, Chinese are settling in with businesses and bargains that locals love. At one copper smelting plant, Chinese and locals work together but live apart.

LUBUMBASHI, CONGO — Some 6,000 miles away from his home in China, Robin Wei awakes on a cot beneath a white mosquito net. He gets dressed, opens the door of his bunker, and walks out into the rainy season toward the factory where he works.

Four years ago, Mr. Wei bade goodbye to his wife and daughter in Shanghai and boarded a flight to the heart of Congo’s mineral belt. He lives and works at a Chinese-owned smelting plant that extracts copper from the rich ore, which is then sold for wire and pipes that go into building skyscrapers and cargo ships.

Congo also holds nearly half the world’s known reserves of cobalt. It has vast reserves of high-grade copper, tantalum, and tin. Just 10 years ago, a ton of copper could fetch $1,700 on the world market. Today it goes for about $8,000.

Wei is one of hundreds of thousands of Chinese men and women – as many as 1 million by some estimates – who, at least for now, call Africa home. (Wei goes home to visit his wife and daughter once a year.) China has been investing heavily in Africa for more than a decade, and both China and its migrants are in what could be called a settling-in period as the story of a fast-growing Africa and a rising China unfolds.

Read the full story as it appeared at the Christian Science Monitor. This story was adapted from the new e-book China’s Congo Plan.

China’s Congo Plan

Books

“Kushner is fair-minded and has invested much time and effort in figuring out the interplay between the new superpower and a poor but strategically important African country.”

-Ian Johnson, The New York Review of Books

What does China see in the world’s poorest nation? An opportunity for big business. Congo is known for poverty and conflict, but it is home to an enormous wealth of buried minerals such as copper, whose value is rising on the world market. Already, tens of thousands of Chinese men and women have left their families behind to live in Africa to dig and process ore.

Now, two Chinese state-owned companies are opening the biggest mine Congo has ever seen. In exchange, they’re spending billions of dollars to build new roads and modernize Congo’s infrastructure.

But will Chinese mines and roads help transform Congo in a way Western aid and business have not? Or will Chinese businessmen and Congolese officials get rich while the people continue to live in poverty?

In “China’s Congo Plan”, Jacob Kushner takes us street-side to a grand, Chinese-constructed boulevard in Congo’s capital Kinshasa, to a mountain range where Congolese men, women and children dig for minerals with picks and shovels, and to a factory where Chinese immigrants melt aqua-blue rocks into molten copper lava. Two years after China overtook the United States as Africa’s largest trading partner, Kushner brings us inside the world of China’s rise in the continent.

Kushner’s reporting was supported by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, and his research was advised by faculty at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. “China’s Congo Plan” was awarded the Grand Prize in the Atavist Digital Storymakers Award for Graduate Longform, sponsored by the Pearson Foundation.

Buy the book:

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Haitians Face Persecution Across Dominican Border

NACLA

When a 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck Port-au-Prince, in January 2010, the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, responded immediately by sending doctors, rescue teams, and over $34 million worth of emergency aid. Since then, the Dominican government has constructed a state-of-the-art university in northern Haiti and worked with Haiti’s new government to improve conditions across the border.

But neither the Dominican state nor the majority of its citizens have shown any such mercy to the estimated 500,000 to 1 million Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent living in their midst.

Access the article through NACLA subscription services

Read the accompanying sidebar story, Life in a Border Town Marred by Tension (no subscription necessary).

U.S. Deportees to Haiti, Jailed Without Cause, Face Severe Health Risks

California Watch, Center for Public Integrity, Florida Center for Investigative Reporting, Huffington Post, Miami Herald, The Nation & The Nation Institute Investigative Fund, Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — The United States has deported more than 250 Haitians since January knowing that one in two will be jailed without charges in facilities so filthy they pose life-threatening health risks.

An investigation by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting found that the Obama administration has not followed its own policy of seeking alternatives to deportation when there are serious medical and humanitarian concerns.

Click HERE to read the full investigation at FCIR. Versions of this story were published by California Watch, the Center for Public IntegrityHuffington PostMiami Herald, the Nation Institue Investigative Fund, and the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, among other outlets.