Tag Archives: Al-Shabaab

In Kenya, islanders on heritage site count cost of $25 billion mega-project

Lamu Island on Kenya’s northeast coast was established some 700 years ago as part of a thriving Indian Ocean trade network that eventually stretched to Oman, India, Portugal, and China.

The mixing of those cultures produced the Swahili people and language, as well as an Islamic renaissance of architecture, poetry, and cuisine.

Lamu is regarded as the best preserved Swahili settlement in existence. The history, the remote white beaches, the carved wooden doorways, and the winding alleys, all make it a top Kenya tourist destination.

But change is coming – more drastic than any in Lamu’s history – that could irreversibly transform this ancient place. Read more…

Photo: Ben Curtis/AP

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Lamu after dark

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It was near nine o’clock in Shela, the sleepy village on the northeast beach of Lamu Island, when we ran out of soda for our brandies. Continue reading Lamu after dark

Nairobi ‘Saba Saba’ rally reveals sharp ethnic, political divides

Supporters of the opposition Coalition for Reforms and Democracy or Cord attend a rally at Uhuru Park in Nairobi Monday July 7, 2014. Sayyid Azim/AP

A highly emotive rally of more than 10,000 people in Nairobi today capped a month of antigovernment protests led by longtime opposition figure Raila Odinga, who is calling for a “national dialogue” with President Uhuru Kenyatta as ethnic tensions reach a fever pitch.

The two political leaders were also on different sides in post-election violence in 2007 that led to a charge of crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court at The Hague. That violence killed more than 1,000 people.

Kenya’s opposition today said it would pursue a national referendum to deal with deepening insecurity and economic woes that the Kenyatta government has struggled to solve.  Read more…

US sanctions tread lightly on Uganda’s ‘odious’ anti-gay laws

 

Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni gestures after signing a new anti-gay bill in Entebbe, Uganda, Feb. 24, 2014. Rebecca Vassie/AP/File

A loud cry rose from the West early this year when Uganda passed an anti-homosexuality law that would put “repeat offenders” in prison for life.

European countries slashed aid to Uganda and gay rights activists loudly condemned the legislation, which came at the same time that Nigeria also cracked down on homosexuals with similarly draconian laws.

The “odious law,” as US President Barack Obama called Uganda’s initiative, would “complicate” the US partnership with Kampala. He ordered a review of the largely military US-Uganda relationship, with the intent of imposing sanctions.

Those sanctions got announced last week. They are the toughest actions taken against anti-gay laws overseas by the Obama administration, and include the redirecting of US aid to Uganda to its NGOs, the cancelling of a planned hospital, the cancelling of a military exercise, and the dropping of some police funding.

In the US, Vice President Joseph Biden and US Secretary of State John Kerry touted the sanctions as significant during June Pride Month.

But the sanctions also represent a conundrum for the US as it tries to affirm some of its own values and viewpoints abroad at a time when its leverage is lower.

Many human rights activists say the Uganda sanctions are too little, too late – even as some foreign affairs specialists say a US single-issue focus on gay rights actually strengthens a new “anti-West” narrative in parts of Africa and an attendant crackdown on civil society.  Read more…

East Africa’s elegant antelope on the verge of bowing out

 

Antelope conservationist Abdullahi Ali, left, and an assistant, track radio collared hirola using a radio receiver at sunset near Masalani, Ijara District in northeastern Kenya. Jason Patinkin

Africa’s most endangered large mammal species isn’t the majestic mountain gorilla or the stately black rhino.

It’s the hirola, pronounced “hee-ROH-la,” a tawny brown antelope with spiraled, curved horns and a long, skinny snout whose facial markings make it look like it wears eyeglasses.

With just over 400 individual creatures living in a small section of northeastern Kenya, the hirola is not only more threatened than Africa’s most famous species, it is also the world’s most endangered antelope species.

But outside the narrow strip of sandy, thorny wilderness along Kenya’s volatile border with Somalia, few know the hirola exist at all – or of the need to conserve them.  Read more…

How Kenya’s ‘war on terror’ disrupts a thriving Nairobi district

 

Shoppers stroll First Avenue in Eastleigh, a neighborhood in Nairobi, Kenya, also known as ‘Little Mogadishu’ because it is home to immigrants from Somalia. Jason Patinkin

Eastleigh, a mass of crowds and color in the heart of Kenya’s capital, is like no other neighborhood in Nairobi.

Nicknamed “Little Mogadishu,” it has bloomed in the past decade into one of East Africa’s most vibrant commercial centers, built mostly by refugees from Somalia who came here after that country collapsed in the 1990s.

While Eastleigh is jammed with refugees from the Horn of Africa, it is no Nairobi ghetto: Bulk imports of textiles, car parts, electronics, and veterinary supplies – often tax free – come here from Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, and are sold to merchants who trek in from all over East and Central Africa.
Moreover, at the muezzin’s dusk call to prayer, people don’t retreat to homes behind razor-wire-topped walls, the way much of Nairobi’s population does each evening.

Instead, the place bustles. Eastleigh residents shop at night markets or sip camel-milk tea in sidewalk cafes, where one is more likely to hear Somali or Arabic than Swahili or English, Kenya’s national languages.

Yet in recent months, this sometime paradise for refugees has become hostile to outsiders. As Kenya cracks down on Al Shabab terrorists from Somalia following a devastating attack on the posh Nairobi Westgate mall last fall, Eastleigh residents are caught in the middle. Just as Little Mogadishu and its new glass-and-concrete high-rises are gaining a reputation as a story of progress and success, a cosmopolitan haven on the Horn, many refugees and immigrants are suddenly leaving.  Read more…

Kenya’s president: massacres aren’t Al Shabab but political opponents

President Uhuru Kenyatta today told surprised Kenyans that the grisly murders of 60 people in recent days – some while watching the World Cup – were not carried out by the terror group Al Shabab, but by local “networks” organized by his political opponents.

Al Shabab claimed credit for a massacre on Sunday of 49 people in the coastal town of Mpeketoni, and for killing at least 10 people on Monday in a small town nearby. Those incidents, in an area hit recently by Al Shabab, bore the hallmarks of the Somalia-based, self-described Islamist group, with masked attackers shouting “Alahu Akbar” and executing civilians who failed to recite Koranic verses.

Yet Mr. Kenyatta, in a televised address, blamed “reckless leaders” for inciting violence against a specific ethnic group, the Kikuyu, who are reportedly the victims of the coastal attacks.  Read more…