Clair MacDougall is an independent journalist and writer, currently based in West Africa and covering the elections in Mali. Her recent work has focused on Liberia’s post-war construction and imperfect attempts to reconcile with its brutal past. Clair has reported on the Ebola outbreak and its aftermath for the past two years, contributing to the New York Times’ Pulitzer Prize winning coverage and earning her the Kurt Schork Memorial Fund Award. She has written about mercenaries, former warlords, justice for war crimes, government corruption, drug abuse, former female child soldiers, rebel combatants, women’s rights and social justice issues. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Vogue, Newsweek, Time, Smithsonian Magazine, Stern, Al Jazeera America and Foreign Policy and she has reported from West Africa, Uganda, India, rural Australia and the United States. She holds an honors degree in political theory and is a graduate of Columbia’s journalism school. She is a recent Great Lakes Reporting Fellow with the International Women's Media Foundation. She is available for assignments in West Africa and Africa. Her work can be seen at www.ckmacdougall.com
With a sweat slicked forearm, Bacchus Wilson Panyonnoh hacks away the vines that snake over a young oil palm tree. He knows the rhythm of a whipping cutlass, the oppressive tropical heat that clings like a second skin and the dull sting of calloused hands well. The 35-year-old comes from a long line of farmers and hunters from the remote forests of south-eastern Liberia. But instead of cutting back relentless jungle in search of farmland or bushmeat, Panyonnoh moves between rows of stout trees on what is set to become the largest palm plantation in Liberia.
In June 2015, Ugandan IT worker Robert Shaka was arrested after being accused of mocking his government on Facebook. He claims it wasn’t him – but does this system care? Wired Reports on a continent getting to grips with online dissent.
A Newsweek cover story about gang violence, a fight over fruit and a suspected murder that nearly through the city into crisis at the end of the epidemic. "In shock, Norman watched as the police quickly cordoned off the shed. Two days later, a Red Cross burial team arrived dressed in hazmat suits; a neighbor had called them, concerned that Logan may have had Ebola. The burial team took a swab of his mouth and later determined he indeed had been infected. Yet because it wasn’t clear what had ultimately killed him, Ebola or his wounds, the Red Cross allowed the police to take pictures of Logan’s corpse, since they would be investigating a possible murder. When they were done, the burial workers placed his body in a white bag, heaved it into the back of a pickup truck and drove to a special cemetery, where in recent months Ebola victims had been buried to prevent the disease from spreading."
An investigation into how one of Liberia's last Ebola cases slipped through the cracks. "It was like a story from the early days of the Ebola epidemic. Fifteen-year-old Nathan Gbotoe was weak and bleeding from the mouth, traveling with his father and four other people in a neighbor’s car from a crowded clinic, seeking treatment. Finally Gbotoe ended up at John F. Kennedy Medical Center, Liberia’s largest public hospital, located in the heart of the capital, Monrovia. His father claimed his son had been cut during an accident. His temperature was checked and he didn’t have a fever — none of the health workers responsible for triaging patients suspected him of being infected with the virus."
An article on the mounting violence in the lead up to Uganda's elections. "Ugandan police in the capital city of Kampala fired weapons and tear gas Monday at supporters of opposition presidential candidate Kizza Besigye, who is running in the upcoming election against President Yoweri Museveni, a former rebel leader and ally of the U.S. who has been president for the past 30 years. Besigye supporters threw rocks, burned furniture and set up roadblocks before the red berets, a senior military police force, stormed through the streets with AK-47s and armored police vehicles."
An article on the ongoing struggles of West Point, Liberia's largest slum. "In August 2014, the neighborhood began its fight against the Ebola virus, after being cordoned off by the police and the military in an attempt to stop the spread of the disease. The epidemic drew attention to the living conditions in West Point, where most people have limited access to water and use wooden toilets that hang on stilts over the river. Electricity is intermittent, in part because of power theft. Since West Point registered its last Ebola case in December 2014, small improvements in infrastructure have occurred."
An article for Newsweek magazine challenging the notion of "Ebola free" in the aftermath the world's worst Ebola epidemic. "On March 17, the WHO announced “the end of the recent flare-up of Ebola virus” in Sierra Leone but urged the nation, along with Guinea and Liberia, to “remain on high alert (...) While Sierra Leone was not declared Ebola-free this time around, the WHO has not explained its past decisions to state that these countries are rid of the virus when some experts think the disease has been in circulation for decades and could become endemic."
Feature for Smithsonian Magazine on Liberia's complicated history and the legacy of slavery in the American south: "The short iron fence that surrounds the regal mansion, known locally as “the palace,” bears a monogram—“WVST,” for William Vacanarat Shadrach Tubman, Liberia’s longest-serving president, known for his 27 years of autocratic rule beginning in 1944. But the home of the man called “the father of modern Liberia” because he opened the nation to foreign investment and industry is now in ruins and occupied by squatters, a symbol of how decades of political turmoil have shaken up the old order established by freed American slaves."
An essay Uganda's controversial 2016 elections for Harper's Magazine: "Dressed in a charcoal suit and a yellow tie that hung several inches too long, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, Uganda’s president of thirty years, sat two chairs away from his longtime political rival Kizza Besigye in the auditorium of the Kampala Serena Hotel. “Democracy means the people support you. If they don’t support you, you don’t win. That’s all, thank you very much,” said Museveni, as if the seventy-one-year-old showman were attempting to call the curtains down on the country’s second-ever presidential debate."