How do you write about “Africa” without reducing this rich, complicated, messy continent to a series of one-dimensional sob stories? (You know the ones I’m talking about: Africa is poor. Africa is war torn. Africa is full of scary diseases and famines and dying babies). This is a question I think about a lot as a reporter based in sub-Saharan Africa, but it’s something I’ve been considering particularly this week while reporting in South Sudan, a place that on its face seems seems at times to have jumped straight out of central casting for “the Western idea of Africa.” (It has a civil war. It recently suffered famine. Two-thirds of its population needs humanitarian assistance and its basic quality of life indicators are among the worst in the world. And on and on and on).
But something you realize when you report from a place like this is that wherever in the world you find bad things happening, you also find people working to stop them. That may seem obvious, but it’s also easy to overlook.
Case in point: I went out on patrol yesterday with Aja Ndeye, a Gambian policewoman who heads up the UN Police’s gender based violence unit in Juba’s IDP camps. She spends her days wandering the streets and tiny alleys of these camps, meeting women and reminding them that they have rights that no one is allowed to take away. I feel like I’ve met a lot of Ajas this week in Juba, tough and thoughtful and determined people peering around the edges of a difficult situation, trying to see beyond it into a different future.
– Ryan Brown