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National Geographic


Dr. Machar, I Presume

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

October 1, 2014

By James Verini

84038_990x742-cb1411500585 When she was a girl, in the 1960s, Sarah Kier’s parents fled southern Sudan with her. The Sudanese civil war, in which black-African inhabitants from the country’s south were fighting for autonomy against an oppressive Arab-dominated government in the north, had been going on, without respite, for more than a decade. Kier’s family moved to the hills of western Ethiopia. When she grew older, Kier became aware of the south’s struggle. She joined the southern rebel militia, the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), and became a battlefield medic. She spent much of her early life around violence and death.

On a hazy afternoon this past April, Kier was in the passenger seat of an old Land Cruiser, moving through those same hills, thinking about what it was like to not have a childhood. “You know, like for a young person somewhere else, you go for disco,” she told me. “We don’t know that. We [Sudanese] have ever lived with guns, from the word go.” See Full Story


Reconciliation Is Hard Won

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

April 2, 2014

By James Verini

78231_990x742-cb1396290099The Tutsi residents of the village of Jabiro, which occupies the spine of a hill in the Muhanga District in Rwanda’s southwest, had heard rumors about bands of men coming from the capital, Kigali. They’d known of the Hutu-only rallies held in the district. But they didn’t grasp the reality of what was happening until the third week of April 1994, when they began hearing screams coming from the villages on neighboring hills. Black smoke rose into the sky above nearby farms. Then the screams grew louder, the smoke thicker. See Full Story


Should the U.N. Shoot First?

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

March 27, 2014

By James Verini

77968-cb1395691531 If volcanologists invent an instrument that can measure the interplay of beauty and menace, Nyiragongo, on the eastern edge of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in the province of North Kivu, will send its needle into spasms. Twenty thousand years after it formed, Nyiragongo is still terribly Pleistocene in appearance: Its cone curves gently through montane forest and then thrusts two miles into the sky, where its rim is only occasionally visible through the wooly mists above Goma, the city it watches over and periodically destroys. The crater’s emissions give the mists green, amber, and crimson tones. The people who once lived around the volcano believed the souls of evildoers were cast into the crater. When the souls fought, the Earth shook. See Full Story


The War for Nigeria

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

November 2013

By James Verini

northern-nigeria-scarred-church-bombing-victim-303x455 The ticket taker, who worked at Kano’s bus station, had his back to the blast. Before he heard it, it knocked him to the ground, and flame licked his head. He lay facedown, dazed, his ears ringing, blood streaming from a shrapnel wound in his leg, but still he knew instinctively what had happened: There was a bomb in the car.

The driver of the Volkswagen had acted strangely. After pulling into the dirt lot of the station, he and the man in the passenger seat had been approached by touts—ticket salesmen who compete for fares—and had told them, “We don’t know where we’re going.” But when the ticket taker went up to the car, the driver said, “We already bought tickets.” Not thinking much of it, the ticket taker walked away.

And then—boom. See Full Story


After Westgate

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

October 4, 2013

By James Verini

72241_990x742-cb1380836440 Bushan Vidyarthi is the kind of Kenyan one used to see often at ArtCaffe. He has the cordial and casual air of someone who’s done well for himself, but also watchful eyes that suggest that in a lifetime in a young and turbulent country he’s seen things he might have wished not to. When I met him in a living room in his home on a leafy road in Nairobi earlier this week, Vidyarthi, who is 76, was wearing a pressed shirt and sandals with socks. He invited me to sit down on a leather sofa across an immense coffee table from him. “Please have some tea,” he said, as a domestic hurried off to make it. See Full Story


The Tunnels of Gaza

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

December, 2012

By James Verini

For as long as they worked in the smuggling tunnels beneath the Gaza Strip, Samir and his brother Yussef suspected they might one day die in them. When Yussef did die, on a cold night in 2011, his end came much as they’d imagined it might, under a crushing hail of earth. It was about 9 p.m., and the brothers were on a night shift doing maintenance on the tunnel, which, like many of its kind—and there are hundreds stretching between Gaza and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula—was lethally shoddy in its construction. Nearly a hundred feet below Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost city, Samir was working close to the entrance, while Yussef and two co-workers, Kareem and Khamis, were near the middle of the tunnel. They were trying to wedge a piece of plywood into the wall to shore it up when it began collapsing. Kareem pulled Khamis out of the way, as Yussef leaped in the other direction. For a moment the surge of soil and rocks stopped, and seeing that his friends were safe, Yussef yelled out to them, “Alhamdulillah!—Thank Allah!” See Full Story