The Great Lakes

From Desmond Tutu’s NYT op-ed piece “In Africa, Seeking a License to Kill” yesterday:

Without this court [the International Criminal Court], there would be no brake on the worst excesses of these criminals [like Thomas Lubanga of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Laurent Gbagbo of the Ivory Coast]. And these violent leaders continue to plague Africa: the Great Lakes, Mali, northern Nigeria and Egypt all give reason for concern. Perpetrators of violence must not be allowed to wriggle free.

What caught my eye was the Great Lakes, which was new to me in connection with Africa, but obviously was familiar to Tutu.

From Wikipedia:

The African Great Lakes are a series of lakes constituting the part of the Rift Valley lakes in and around the East African Rift. They include Lake Victoria, the second largest fresh water lake in the world in terms of surface area; and Lake Tanganyika, the world’s second largest in volume as well as the second deepest.

… Some call only Lake Victoria, Lake Albert, and Lake Edward the Great Lakes, as they are the only three that empty into the White Nile. Lake Kyoga is part of Great Lakes system, but is not itself considered a Great Lake, based on size alone. Lake Tanganyika and Lake Kivu both empty into the Congo River system, while Lake Malawi is drained by the Shire River into the Zambezi. Lake Turkana has no outlet.

… Because the term is a loose one, it is often preferable to use other categorizations such as African Rift Valley Lakes or East African Lakes.


Unlike the North American Great Lakes, which form a connected system of bodies of water, the African Great Lakes are a collection of lakes in a relatively circumscribed area (roughly like the Finger Lakes  in upstate New York).

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