The Second Congo War

The Second Congo War (1998-2003), also know as the Great War of Africa, was the deadliest war in modern Africa History. Involving seven countries and around twenty armed groups, the origins of the war go back to the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. The genocide resulted in an estimated 2 million refugees, mostly Hutu, that poured over Rwanda’s western border into the Congo. A de facto army was created in the refugee camps who terrorised the Congolese Tutsi until an uprising in October 1996 that marked the beginning of the First Congo War (1996-1997). In 1998, while Eastern Congo was still an unstable war zone, the country was invaded again by Rwanda and Uganda. A five-year conflict started, opposing Congolese forces financed by Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe, against rebels supported by Uganda and Rwanda. 5.4 million people lost their lives and the Second Congo War was the worst humanitarian disaster since Second World War. In July 1999, the Lusaka Peace accords were signed and the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo was launched with 5000 UN peacekeepers.


The Lost Boys of Sudan

“We children of the Sudan, we were not lucky”, said a 14 year-old survivor of the Second Sudanese civil war (1993-2005). The Lost Boys of the Sudan is the name given to a group of 20,000 children, mostly boys, between 7 and 17 who were separated from their families. Fearing they would be targeted as potential combatants, these boys left their villages to find refugee in camps in Ethiopia. Yet, over a few months, the survivors who reached the camps had to flee back to camps in the Sudan. From there, after another fighting eruption, they were oblige to leave to Kenya. The Lost Boys walked thousand miles across three countries and more than half did not made it through the journey. Victims of starvation, disease and attack from enemies and wild animals, they are said to be the most badly war-traumatised children ever examined. Since UNICEF has managed to reunite nearly 1,200 boys with their families. Yet, approximately 17,000 remain in camps in the region.

Tuvalu Underwater Threat

In the 16th century, while traveling to discover what mysteries the Pacific Ocean concealed, Álvaro de Mendaña de Neira found a small group of nine islands. A British protectorate in the 19th century under the name of Ellice Islands, acquiring its independence in 1978, this small State is now known as Tuvalu. We have all heard the warnings of the environmental community, concerning global warming and the threat of the rise of the sea level. Well, this threat is a reality for many nations, and Tuvalu is one of them. Tuvalu has an average of 2 meters above the sea-level, having its highest point at 5 meters above it. With a population of around 10 000 people, a true rise of the sea level would mean a massive displacement of people who would loose their home. Environmentalists and the own government of Tuvalu, estimate that possibly in 30 to 50 years, Tuvalu could disappear from the map, literally. The government keeps warning the international community to reduce their levels of pollution, which not only endangers one of their main resources, corals and fish, but also their homes. Lets hope it is not too late… You can learn more about this matter here!

Bhopal Disaster

On the night from the 2nd to the 3rd of December 1984, Bhopal, an indian city of Madhya Pradesh, suffered a massive tragedy provoked by a chemical leak. Tons of Methyl isocyanate (MIC), a terribly toxic gas, escaped from the Union Carbide India Limited pesticides plant, which had cut funds for the maintaining of the security systems that should protect a disaster like this. The gas spread silently and incredibly fast, killing thousands of people in near neighborhoods directly in their beds, suffocating them. Other thousands tried to flee Bhopal, but the final death toll was of between 15 000 to 20 000 people. The half million survivors were affected by severe respiratory problems, some became blind, along with many other symptoms of exposure to the gas. In 2006, the indian government stated that there had been more than 550 000 injuries due to the leak. At the time of the disaster, Union Carbide Corporation, the mother firm of UCIL, paid around $470 million to the indian government. Some victims received compensations of a few hundred dollars. 25 years later, the industrial waste present in the site was still immense, and the soil and water contaminated, continuing to cause severe health issues. In 2010, eight men were convicted for what is considered as the worst industrial disaster in history. However,  today’s owner of former UCIL, Dow Chemical, UCC and Warren Anderson, CEO at the time of the tragedy, have so far escaped any trial. You can read more about it here!

Vivan Maier

In 2007, John Maloof, a Chicago historian and collector looking for old pictures of the city of Chicago, found a box of negatives which he bought in an auction for $400. The negatives presented an enormous historic relevance concerning that city in the 1960s. With a growing interest for the unknown author of these pictures, Vivian Maier, he acquired a collection of about 150 000 of her negatives, along with prints, films, and piles of paper she had gathered. Going into some research, he soon found out who she was. Born in New York in 1926, growing up in France, Vivian Maier returned to the United States where she worked in Chicago as a nanny for 40 years. She began photographing around the 1950s, up until the 1990s, without anyone ever knowing her as an artist. However, taking pictures of the daily life in the streets of Chicago, of the beach and her travels, the work she left behind is not only immense but also amazingly beautiful. Eventually she died in 2009, without almost being known, but she has not been forgotten, thanks to John Maloof’s archive which gathers almost 90% of her work, and has been exposed in recent years in many cities around the world. You can see her work and read more about her life here!

Mahmoud Cherif Bassiouni

Mahmoud Cherif Bassiouni has done it all. Known as the ‘Godfather of International Criminal Law’, Bassiouni dedicated his life to develop international justice. Born and raised in Egypt, he was sent to law school in France and later Switzerland where he became an activist in the student anti-colonial movement. In 1956, after helping training Algerian the troops who struggled for their independence against the French, he was expelled from France and returned to Egypt. In Cairo, while working for the presidential staff, he started denouncing the practice of torture in his country. Ironically, he was arrested and a victim of torture himself. His fight to criminal law officially started from this point. He left Egypt to come to the US and drafted amongst the most important human rights treaties as the Convention Against Torture and the Apartheid Convention. He worked for Amnesty International, for the United Nations, and is considered one of the founders of the International Criminal Court. In 1999 he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, which he did not win, as Médecin Sans Frontières received the award.

Mohamed Bouazizi, the spark of a revolution . by Manuel Paisana

On December 17th 2010, Mohamed Bouazizi (1984 – 2011), a street vendor in the city of Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia, saw his wheelbarrow of fruit be confiscated once again. Powerless against these continuous harassments by the corrupt authorities and after being publicly humiliated, Mohamed set himself on fire as a final protest against the living conditions imposed on him and the Tunisian lower class. His last act of desperation galvanized what became known as the Arab Spring, a series of mass demonstrations and revolts by the frustrated populations of Arabic countries. Government abolitions and protests turned Mohamed and his act into a martyr and an idol of long lost ideals.

The resulting revolution and overturn of the Tunisian government led many copycats to repeat this self-immolation act in other neighbor countries. These fatidic demonstrations of despair reflected how badly these countries were in need of change. As the monk Thich Quang Duc in Ho Chi Minh, Mohamed’s act now remains a mark in the history of the fight for freedom and equality.


MANUEL PAISANA is a Master Student in Finance at the Nova School of Business and Economics and he comes from Lisbon, Portugal.

The Irish Travelers . by Delia Toja

The Irish travelers are a nomad group set in Ireland, not to be confused with Romani people. They share a common background with Irish people, such as the Gaelic language, which some speak instead of English. They are also extremely catholic. Nowadays, we can find them in Ireland, the UK, and, due to the general Irish immigration of the XIX century, in the United States. Even though there is much debate around them, it is said that they do have an ethnic Irish origin different from the vast majority. Various theories exist about them: some say they became nomads during the middle Ages, as they were followers of an aristocratic nomad clan, others say they hit the road when Oliver Cromwell started his military campaign in 1640. As they do not have a writing tradition, we cannot know.

Nowadays, the European Commission on Xenophobia considers them as the most discriminate and attacked ethnic group in Ireland. Other issues are their lack of education and access to health, giving them one of the lowest life expectancy in Europe. You can learn more details here or here or here!!

DELIA TOJA is a Master Student in European Studies at Sciences Po Paris, she is super cool and she comes from Barcelona, Spain.

E(-EL)T: A whole new brave world? . by Ana Sampaio

They say ours is a golden era. For astronomy, that is, and much thanks to old Europe and its European Southern Observatory (ESO) in partnership with Chile.

ALMA (the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array) is still an infant and already its baby brother E-ELT, the European Extremely Large Telescope, is about to be born 20km off, at Cerro Armazones. Extremely large but also extremely flexible, this bright new eye, 15 times sharper than good old Hubble Space Telescope, will have a 39-meter mirror made up of 800 hexagonal segments, like the eye of an insect, and it will stand 100m tall. It will also be the first project with ESO’s newest member, Brazil. Expected to start operating at the beginning of the next decade, the E-ELT will try to answer big questions about extrasolar Earth-like planets or the nature of dark matter and dark energy.

500 years after Magalhães’s circumnavigation, 400 years after Galileo’s first telescope, broad vision and state-of-the-art technology come together once again to give mankind its “biggest eye on the sky”. Check it out!


ANA SAMPAIO is a translator, and astronomy lover and she comes from Lisbon, Portugal.