Pick of the year 2010

Here is a selection of our best stories of the past year from central and eastern Africa, chosen to reflect the diversity of humanitarian issues affecting the vast region. They range from coverage of historical landmarks with global repercussions, such as Southern Sudan’s imminent referendum, to a project that makes a big difference to just a few people in a Kenyan slum. (This list does not include stories from Somalia, which, because of the extent of our coverage of that country, has its own list.)



In January 2011, the long-held desire by the people of Southern Sudan to determine how and by whom they are governed comes to fruition in a referendum that will likely lead to the territory’s secession. This topic has generated such a volume of coverage by IRIN we have created a special page for it. This article examines the challenges involved in ensuring a peaceful divorce.



The referendum has led to a surge in population movements from North to South, as civilians displaced by civil war return home. But for many it is turning out to be a difficult transition.



The devastating prevalence of sexual violence in the conflict-ridden east of the Democratic Republic of Congo may have received considerable international attention, but it is uncommon to hear from the actual perpetrators of such crimes. In July, however, IRIN gained rare access to some convicts in Goma prison.



Farther north in DRC, one of the main threats to civilian security is posed by groups of the Ugandan rebel Lord’s Resistance Army. The fear generated by the LRA’s brutality is highlighted by this article from the town of Niangara, and this personal tale of flight and of how the sound of a whistle can spread terror.



On a more positive note from the same country, one entrepreneur is helping to combat climate change by setting up central Africa’s first carbon sink project.



And another, albeit smaller-scale, example of an agricultural project that makes a big difference, in this case to residents of a Nairobi slum.



Long-term residence in a refugee camp is challenging at the best of times, but life for many Rwandans living in neighbouring Uganda, where camp medical care is often woefully lacking became even tougher when they found themselves prohibited from tilling the soil.



Resilience is also a hallmark of pastoralists who live in arid areas across East Africa and the Horn. While often dismissed by governments and left out of development programmes, pastoralists are able to make the most of marginal land and adapt to new circumstances, as this story from Ethiopia demonstrates.



As recent events in Cote d'Ivoire have once again highlighted, how elections are handled sometimes threatens, rather than strengthens, democratic progress and peace-building in post-conflict states. And a spate of polls this year in Burundi, while billed as a key step in turning the page on years of civil war, exposed and heightened tensions between the government and the opposition. A similar dynamic emerged in the run-up to Rwanda’s presidential election.



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