Conflict and Peace Building

Nearly 30 years after the Rwandan genocide, thousands of maimed amputees remind us of the war that took 500,000 lives in 100 days. War leaves marks that cannot be erased—not only in Rwanda, but on every continent.

Reporting from Conflict and Peacebuilding examines the roots of conflict, whether it be religious hatred, sectarian rivalry, a security vacuum, the struggle for natural resources, or the desperation that results from poverty.

Pulitzer Center journalists also cover war’s aftermath: the transitional governments that result in chaos, diplomacy that goes awry, peace talks that never end, and the people who suffer the consequences, young and old. We see the children who go hungry, lose their homes, leave school, become combatants, or join the jihad.

Often the end to conflict leaves turmoil in its wake while the road to peace seems circuitous: In South Sudan, rebel-commanders-turned politicians plunge the country into civil war. In the U.S., troops return home from one war only to be re-deployed to another. But everywhere, in every conflict, there are also voices crying out for peace, determined to heal the divide.


Conflict and Peace Building

Mahdi Army Bides its Time

Ali approaches me at a Friday prayer service in Sadr City. He wants to talk. A U.S. missile, he says, hit his house in May and killed his two sisters and badly wounded his mother. He is a member of the Mahdi militia and can no longer return home for fear the Iraqi army will arrest him. He is careful not to be seen talking to me, since unauthorized contact between us could get him in serious trouble with the militia. We quickly arrange to meet a few hours later at my hotel, and then he shakes my hand and walks away, disappearing again in the crowd of thousands of worshippers.

New Model Army

The al Aimmah bridge has been closed since 2005, and the Iraqi army guards both sides to prevent anyone crossing from Khadamiya to Adhamiya – two Baghdad neighbourhoods that are essentially polar opposites. Khadamiya is named for the shrine of the seventh Shiite imam, Musa al Khadim, while Adhamiya is home to the Abu Hanifa Mosque, where the 8th century Sunni Imam Abu Hanifa an Numan is buried. On August 31, 2005, nearly a thousand Shiite pilgrims headed to Khadamiya were killed in a panicked stampede on the bridge after shouts went out warning of an imminent suicide attack.

Iraqi Detainees' Reviews Mixed

The three hotels in this suburb of Basra, the largest city in southern Iraq, are always full. "We don't have tourism here," says Jabbar Mubarak, the clerk at the Bourj al-Babil, Zubair's largest hotel. "Everyone who comes to our hotel comes to visit their sons."

The "sons" are in Camp Bucca. A half-hour's drive from Zubair toward the Kuwaiti border, Bucca is the U.S. military's largest detention center in Iraq. It currently holds about 18,000 Iraqis, the majority of those in U.S. custody. An additional 3,000 are at Camp Cropper at Baghdad Airport.

Leaving by land

This wasn't the best trip for blogging, since it was much easier to work than it was last year. (Less time locked in hotel means less time for blogging.) On the bright side, we have about 50 hours of video to sort through and edit.

Tomorrow morning Rick and I will take the land route out of Iraq, rather than risk being grounded at the airport by the dust storms that have marked much of our trip. It will be the first time I've driven out since 2003.

Bourj Babel Hotel

All the rooms are full at the Bourj Babel Hotel outside of Basra. Every guest is there to visit a family member inside of the US detention facility at Bucca.

At 3:30 AM minivans take them out into the the desert where they wait at the first gate until it opens at 7 AM.