Last spring, when I was head of the U.S. embassy’s political section in the East African nation of Burundi, we did what we could to encourage a free, fair and inclusive election. It was, and continues to be, one of the primary objectives of U.S. foreign policy in Africa, as in other parts of the world. I was hopeful that the country’s election last May — given Burundi’s turbulent history as a democracy — would be relatively uneventful. If successful, it would be the first time the country would experience two consecutive peaceful transfers of power.

Burundi was still under…


Officials in Madagascar’s capital, Antananarivo, addressed a growing urban homelessness problem by forcibly removing families from improvised shelters and setting most of their possessions ablaze.

Following a stern August 8, 2017, warning on the city’s Facebook page, police arrived at 8:30 pm the next evening to implement the city’s plan to “clean up” one of its poorest communities by forcing out its residents. Indiscriminately kicking makeshift shelters to rouse sleeping inhabitants, dumping filthy canal water on those who moved too slowly, police began systematically torching shelters as distraught residents struggled to save as many of their belongings as they could…


Exhausted and soaked, our packs were heavy on our backs. An 18-hour hike through pristine rainforest — picking our way along winding, slippery, redclay muck trails, fording a dozen or more rivers and creeks, climbing and descending more than two miles in total — had us nearing our destination, but we weren’t sure what we’d find.

As we crested the final 500-foot climb, we saw a scene of utter devastation, like Saruman’s army toiling underground in The Lord of the Rings. Below us spread a maze of muddy trails, honeycombed with deep holes, pits, and puddles, as far as the…

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