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WAR CORRESPONDENT, GENOCIDE EXPERT
AT UNIVERSITY OF VERMONT
(Published by the UVM Cynic Newspaper, 15 March 2005)
On Wednesday, March 16, 2005, keith harmon snow will share stories and images of his work in Africa at 7 pm in Lafayette Hall (Room 108).
Putting a twist on the intrigue of travel and extreme adventure, photojournalist keith harmon snow often gains access to rural populations in Africa by mountain bike. An award-winning war correspondent, Snow is also a genocide and war crimes investigator. "I love my job," Snow says, "it's taken me to some of the most extreme environments in the world, but it can be difficult at times."
In 2004, Snow worked for Genocide Watch and Survivor's Rights International documenting crimes against humanity and genocide in Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). His reports have influenced the World Organization Against Torture, Human Rights Watch, the United Nations and the US Government.
"You hear nothing about the genocide against the Anuak people in Ethiopia," Snow says. "Its another story about oil and soldiers and international intrigue. The US is partnered with Ethiopia in the 'war on terror'."
[United Nations troops hunkered down in Ituri, DRC.
Photo c. 2004 by keith harmon snow.]
In 2000 Snow spent seven months researching war in Central Africa. He cycled through northern Zambia and floated down the Zambezi river, and he interviewed refuges from Angola and DRC. He explored the military and mining interests of Zimbabwe and Uganda, and ended the trip documenting famine and drought in Kenya. "I cycled from Nairobi to Lake Turkana, through the Chalbi desert. It's 120 degrees at midday, and there's not a tree or rock to hide under, and the Samburu and Turkana people were starving. There's oil and soldiers there too."
Snow has a lot to say about war and genocide in Darfur, and the new film Hotel Rwanda. He attended the international Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda in Arusha, Tanzania in 2000, and traveled to Rwanda soon after. After returning to the states he won two awards from Project Censored for his Central Africa reportage. On April 6, 2004, he presented expert testimony before a special U.S. House panel on genocide and covert operations in Africa. "That Hotel Rwanda film is a piece of work," he says.
Snow launched his recent trip in September, from Massachusetts, where he works as an organic farmer. Investigating international rainforest conservation programs and the Congo Basin Forest Partnership (CBFP) took him to Gabon, where some cutting edge environmentalism is competing with military and mining interests. US Secretary of State Colin Powell negotiated the CBFP with leaders of six central African nations in 2003, and Gabon was catapulted onto the world stage after National Geographic ran the story "Saving Africa's Eden." In December Snow was photographing elephants on the beach. "It was fantastic, but I really wanted to see those now infamous surfing hippos."
"The big story is Congo," Snow says, "where some six million people have died since 1998. And the war started in 1996, and before that there was Mobutu Sese Seko, the dictator of thirty some years. Thousands and thousands of women and girls have been raped in Congo, but it's pretty much kept quiet in the news. There's a lot of powerful mining interests in Congo, and you won't believe who's involved."
In October Snow traveled the Congo river basin by dugout canoe, and cycled into the rainforest to interview victims trapped in the rural interior. "Life and death in the rainforest. It's brutal. It's raining a lot, and the roads have disappeared into the bush, and the mud is like nothing you've ever seen. You can't have a lot of fun cycling here."
Snow had dysentery and was detained by soldiers twice in DRC, but he left in January after contracting malaria and pneumonia. "You've got rogue soldiers and corrupt officials who want everything you have, and there are tens of thousands of children with guns. After all these obstacles you find a young woman like Bebiche (20), barely surviving, and she tells you how soldiers came and looted everything -- they even ate the dogs and cats in her village. Bebiche doesn't want to talk about being raped, but she's a marked woman in her community, and she wants to help stop the violence, so she tells you everything -- tears running down her face. She's got two children of rape, and she doesn't know how she's going to survive."
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© keith is an INDEPENDENT freelance journalist and investigator entirely dependent on individual donations and voluntary contributions. He has lived under the poverty line for over a decade, and he has continues to work as a volunteer for three non-profit humanitarian organizations. Without your support, he cannot continue to do this important and insightful work.
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