Category Archives: Kenya

Obama In Africa: Interview with Horace Campbell

Democracy Now! recently spoke with Horace Campbell, professor of African-American studies and political science at Syracuse University. He has written extensively on African politics. His new piece for CounterPunch is called “Obama in Kenya.” He is also the author of Global NATO and the Catastrophic Failure in Libya. (Democracy Now!)

Obama in Kenya: Why the Horn of Africa Matters to Geopolitics

Juan Cole writes for Informed Comment:

EastAfricaMapPresident Obama’s visit to Kenya is of course personal, though he has been there before both as a civilian and as a senator. But it does also have a geopolitical and economic dimension.

Kenya is a country of roughly 46 million people, about the same as Spain. But its nominal gross domestic product is only $70 billion a year (Spain’s is 1.4 trillion). But its economy has been growing impressively, with 6% growth expected this year despite a downturn in coastal tourism because of terrorist incidents and a drought that has hurt agriculture.

[…] Kenya’s strategic position derives in part from its abutting the Horn of Africa to the north, off the coast of which is one of the world’s most important trade routes, linking the Indian Ocean to the Red Sea and thence the Mediterranean and Europe through the Suez Canal.

[…] Africa is also increasingly an arena of competition between the United States and China. China invested $5 billion in infrastructure projects in Kenya, and has twice the volume of trade with Africa as the United States does.

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Oldest Stone Tools Yet Discovered Unearthed in Kenya

Helen Thompson reports for Smithsonian.com:

Approximately 3.3 million years ago someone began chipping away at a rock by the side of a river. Eventually, this chipping formed the rock into a tool used, perhaps, to prepare meat or crack nuts. And this technological feat occurred before humans even showed up on the evolutionary scene.

That’s the conclusion of an analysis published today in Nature of the oldest stone tools yet discovered. Unearthed in a dried-up riverbed in Kenya, the shards of scarred rock, including what appear to be early hammers and cutting instruments, predate the previous record holder by around 700,000 years. Though it’s unclear who made the tools, the find is the latest and most convincing in a string of evidence that toolmaking began before any members of the Homo genus walked the Earth.

“’This discovery challenges the idea that the main characters that make us human—making stone tools, eating more meat, maybe using language—all evolved at once in a punctuated way, near the origins of the genus Homo,’ says Jason Lewis, a paleoanthropologist at Rutgers University and co-author of the study.

Up until now, the earliest clear evidence of stone tools came from a 2.6-million-year-old site in Ethiopia. An early human ancestor called Homo habilis likely made them. Similar ‘Oldowan style‘ tools, known for choppers with one refined edge, have been discovered at several other sites in East and Southern Africa.’

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At Least 147 Killed in Al-Shabaab Attack at Kenyan University: Interview with HRW’s Leslie Lefkow

‘In Kenya, officials say at least 147 people, mostly students, were killed when al-Shabab militants stormed a university in Garissa, making it the worst attack on Kenyan soil since the 1998 bombing of the U.S. embassy. Al-Shabab militants reportedly went through the university dorms, separating Muslims from Christians, and killing the Christians. The Kenyan government said at least 79 people were wounded in the assault. The siege lasted about 15 hours before security forces killed four militants. Al-Shabab has carried out a series of attacks inside Kenya following Kenya’s 2011 invasion of Somalia. We speak to Leslie Lefkow, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Africa Division.’ (Democracy Now!)

ICC drops Uhuru Kenyatta charges for Kenya ethnic violence

BBC News reports:

‘Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague have withdrawn charges of crimes against humanity against Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta.

He had been indicted in connection with post-election ethnic violence in 2007-08, in which 1,200 people died.

Mr Kenyatta, who had denied the charges, said he felt “vindicated”.

The prosecutor’s office said the Kenyan government had refused to hand over evidence vital to the case.

[…] The BBC’s Anna Holligan in The Hague said the announcement was a huge blow to prosecutors.

Many observers had seen the case against Mr Kenyatta as the biggest test in the court’s history, she says.’

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Carbon Colonialism: How the Fight Against Climate Change Is Displacing Africans

Nafeez Ahmed writes for Motherboard:

global-land-grabCarbon trading—one of the biggest weapons touted by governments and business in the global fight against climate change—could end up killing the planet. In Africa, human rights campaigners say, it is already killing people.

Since the launch of a World Bank sponsored conservation programme in west Kenya eights years ago, the Bank-funded Kenya Forest Service (FKS) has conducted a relentless scorched earth campaign to evict the 15,000 strong indigenous Sengwer community from their ancestral homes in the Embobut forest and the Cherangany Hills. The pretext? The Sengwer are ‘squatters’ accelerating the degradation of the forest.

This October, with violence escalating, pressure from campaigners finally elicited a public response from World Bank president Jim Yon​g Kim, who promised to help facilitate “a lasting, peaceful resolution to this long, unfinished business of land rights in Kenya.”

But according to British film-maker Dean Puckett, who is currently on the ground in Embobut forest in west Kenya capturing extraordinary footage of recent events, the plight of the Sengwer has only worsened dramatically since Kim’s intervention.’

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Kenyan president’s Hague trial halted in blow to war crimes court

Thomas Escritt reports for Reuters:

‘The International Criminal Court case against Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta collapsed on Friday as prosecutors admitted they lacked evidence, casting doubt on whether the decade-old court can hold the powerful to account. In a court filing, prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said Kenya had not handed over the bank and telephone records that the decade-old court was demanding, leaving them without a case ahead of the scheduled October 7 start date.

The case against Kenyatta, accused of stoking lethal inter-ethnic violence after Kenya’s 2007 presidential elections in which 1,200 died, had been postponed several times as prosecutors tried to gather evidence against him. The collapse of the case is a severe blow for the Hague-based court, the first permanent war crimes tribunal, which was set up with the aim of ensuring that people accused of the most serious international crimes face justice.’

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African leaders seek fund to fight militant groups

Drazen Jorgic and Edith Honan report for Reuters:

‘African leaders proposed on Tuesday creating a special fund to combat Islamist militant groups growing in strength from Kenya to Nigeria. African Union (AU) states announced the idea after Nairobi talks on a problem highlighted on Tuesday by capture of a town in north-eastern Nigeria by Boko Haram militants. Fighting killed scores of people, according to security forces, and sent at least 5,000 fleeing.

A senior European Union official also told the summit that Islamic State’s gains in Iraq and Syria, where it controls vast swathes of territory, could help set off a competition between it and al Qaeda to become the leading Islamist militant group in Africa. President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, where al Shabaab gunmen last September killed 67 people in a raid on a shopping mall, said African countries should stand together against the threat of Boko Haram and al Shabaab.’

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Death Squads Galore: U.S.-Backed Assassinations Wreak Global Havoc

Alex Kane writes for Alternet:

…The U.S. has denied that it has anything to do with the death squads, claiming it has trained Kenyan security to operate in line with human rights. But those claims are dubious. America’s involvement with Kenya’s anti-terror forces is deep. Since 2003, the U.S. has given Kenya $50 million to fight terrorism; the country is one of the five recipients of U.S. anti-terror financing. And the U.S. and the U.K. provide training for Kenya’s fight against al-Shabaab.

The claims of no U.S. involvement are all the more dubious since the U.S. has partnered with Somali militias to hunt down al-Shabaab members, and because of the extensive record of U.S. support for death squads in other countries. Whether in the context of the Cold War or the war on terror, America’s support for death squads has allowed the U.S. to stand back while proxy forces achieve its goals by engaging in the most unsavory of activities: extrajudicial assassinations.

Here are five other countries where the U.S. has supported death squads…

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Public sector wages drain Kenya’s economy

Africa Union urges united stand against ICC trials

From AP:

The African Union urged its members to “speak with one voice” to prevent criminal proceedings at the International Criminal court against sitting presidents, according to a statement Saturday.

The 54-nation organization said it was disappointed that a request to the U.N. Security Council to defer the trials of Kenya’s leaders “has not yielded the positive result expected.” The African Union also has sought the deferral of criminal proceedings against Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir, who has been charged with genocide in Darfur.

Only Botswana has opposed the stand taken by the African Union, made in a statement received Saturday after a summit in Ethiopia attended by 34 leaders.

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Kenyan press up in arms over ‘draconian’ media bill

File picture shows a newspaper vendor in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, where media reacted with shock and outrage Friday after parliament voted through a bill that could see journalists and outlets slapped with huge finesFile picture shows a newspaper vendor in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, where media reacted with shock and outrage Friday after parliament voted through a bill that could see journalists and outlets slapped with huge finesTOPSHOTS-KENYA-VOTE-REFERENDUMFrom AFP:

Kenya’s media reacted with shock and outrage Friday after parliament voted through a bill that could see journalists and outlets slapped with huge fines for violating a code of conduct.

In a late-night sitting Thursday, MPs voted to set up a government-appointed Communications and Multimedia Appeals Tribunal with the teeth to impose penalties of up to 20 million Kenyan shillings (173,000 euros, $234,000) on offenders and even bar journalists from working.

The bill, which is pending approval by President Uhuru Kenyatta, would also herald strict controls on radio and television broadcasts, with stations obliged to ensure that 45 percent of programmes and advertising is locally-made content.

In a furious attack on the bill, The Daily Nation newspaper said the bill “puts the country in the same ranks with Zimbabwe, Cuba, Ethiopia and Kuwait” and would take Kenya “back to the dark age”.

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US Increasingly Supporting Government Repression in Africa

U.S. Army Spc. Tyler Meehan observes Kenyan traineesFrom Antiwar:

Ever since the onset of the Arab Spring, it has become increasingly difficult for the U.S. to maintain its decades-long policy of support for dictatorial Middle Eastern regimes that obediently conform to U.S. interests, as I wrote more than two years ago. While U.S. support for these regimes hasn’t shifted, cracks have begun to form, as was seen with the Obama administration’s decision this month to withhold some military aid to Egypt.

But as long-standing U.S. towards brutal Middle Eastern regimes begins to adjust due largely to increased awareness, America’s penchant for supporting dictatorship is shifting to Africa. Newly strengthened U.S. allies are sharply intensified domestic repression.

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Report Finds Police Worldwide Criminalize Dissent, Assert New Powers in Crackdown on Protests

In a major new report, the International Network of Civil Liberties Organizations details a global crackdown on peaceful protests through excessive police force and the criminalization of dissent. The report, “Take Back The Streets: Repression and Criminalization of Protest Around the World,” warns of a growing tendency to perceive individuals exercising a fundamental democratic right — the right to protest — as a threat requiring a forceful government response. The case studies detailed in this report show how governments have reacted to peaceful protests in the United States, Israel, Canada, Argentina, Egypt, Hungary, Kenya, South Africa and Britain. The report’s name comes from a police report filed in June 2010 when hundreds of thousands of Canadians took to the streets of Toronto to nonviolently protest the G20 Summit. A senior Toronto Police Commander responded to the protests by issuing an order to “take back the streets.” Within a span of 36 hours, more than 1,000 people — peaceful protesters, journalists, human rights monitors and downtown residents — were arrested and placed in detention. We are joined by three guests: the report’s co-editor, Abby Deskman, a lawyer and program director with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association; Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union; and Hossam Bahgat, an Egyptian human rights activist and the founder and executive director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. (Democracy NOW!)

Jeremy Scahill: Al Shabab’s Nairobi Mall Rampage Tied to ‘Disastrous’ U.S. Meddling in Somalia (and other related news)

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Kenya: Predicting Africa’s Next Oil Insurgency – the Precarious Case of Kenya’s Turkana County

From Think Africa Press:

Political scientists remain divided on the link between natural resources and armed conflict in Africa. One school of thought suggests that competition over the control of resources is itself a motivation for the development of armed insurgencies. Others – opponents of this greed-based theory – suggest that control over resources serves as a mechanism to correct economic and political inequalities. But all agree on one thing: there is a positive relationship between the availability of lootable resources and armed insurrection, and this is particularly the case where populations have been marginalised.

Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger Delta follows this pattern – the Delta experienced a protracted insurgency against the region’s hydrocarbon industry due to the negative impacts of oil exploration and the question of profit distribution. The conflict occurred in a context of ethnically-motivated violence and a burgeoning small arms trade, leading to the rapid militarisation of the region.

A 2009 amnesty agreement formally brought an end to the Niger Delta conflict and, although the peace remains tenuous, the frequency of violence, kidnappings and terrorism has decreased. As a consequence, the world’s attention has shifted towards the impending East African oil boom. Most vested stakeholders have focused on the potential geopolitical benefits of the boom, but fail to address the potential impact these resource discoveries could bring to areas already experiencing acute socio-political and economic marginalisation.

A case in point in Kenya’s Turkana County. Located at the meeting of Kenya’s blurred borders with Ethiopia, Uganda and South Sudan, Turkana County is an arid region, long neglected by successive Kenyan administrations. However, in recent months, Turkana County has become a key area of interest for the Kenyan government and investors alike following reports that British-owned oil exploration company, Tullow Oil PLC, discovered an estimated 250 million barrels of crude oil there.

While resource extraction is not expected to begin for several years, the Turkana oil finds have been celebrated. Oil revenue is seen as a solution to poverty in the region, where nine out of ten people live below the breadline. But behind the optimistic rhetoric, the prevailing political and security environment in Turkana County is looking conspicuously similar to that which sparked insurgency in the Niger Delta. If left unaddressed, we could potentially see the region become a theatre for oil conflict.

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Kenya Attack Points to Shabaab Hardliners Gaining Influence

From Antiwar:

The weekend attack on the Westgate mall in Nairobi, Kenya has left at least 68 people dead and raised a new round of alarms about the resilience of the al-Shabaab faction despite several predictions of their imminent collapse.

It also suggests that the faction split that was supposed to signal the end of al-Shabaab as a major player in the region is increasingly falling on the side of the hardliners led by Ahmed Godane, who had sought to be more aggressive in retaliating abroad for military offensives against their territory inside Somalia.

That’s in keeping with the trend for Somalia, as repeated foreign military interventions since 2006 have transformed a relatively moderate Islamic court system into a hardcore Islamist fighting force with regional aspirations.

Those interventions have not only given the hardliners in the group renewed credibility, but also a long list of foreign enemies across the region and indeed the world. The attack in Nairobi may indeed be the tip of the iceberg, and other nations involved in the African Union interventions are likely risking similar blow-back.

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MSM Fearmongering: Are America’s Shopping Malls Soft Targets For Terrorists?

Somali Group Al-Shabaab Claims Responsibility for Nairobi Mall Attack

From Al Jazeera:

The armed group al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for an attack on a shopping mall in Nairobi, Saturday, which killed at least 39 people and more than 150 injured, according to Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.

The Somali group confirmed to Al Jazeera that it was behind the deadly attack, which began shortly after noon local time, after posting a series of ominous statements on Twitter.

[…] Kenya — which sent troops into Somalia in late 2011  to pursue al-Qaeda-linked fighters — has suffered a string of retaliatory gun and grenade attacks claimed by the armed group al-Shabaab.

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Discovery: Huge Water Reserve in Kenya Brings Hope to Most Vulnerable

From Alternet:

The discovery of a large water reserve in the country has been hailed as a potential solution to help Kenya’s most vulnerable in the drought-stricken region and may pave the way for a more prosperous future for the country, reported ITV.

The water source which is 25 times the size of Loch Ness was found more than 3000 meters underground.

The discovery has the potential to turn Kenyan’s vast, dry plains into fertile grounds as well as meet the country’s water needs for more than a century.  Professor Judi Wakhungu, Environment, Water and Natural Sciences Secretary explained:

“This wealth of water could boost the country’s share of available water by 8.5% and probably double the amount of water that is available for consumption today.  The significance of this survey and its findings cannot be overstated … Accessibility to water and improved social and economic life is destined for improvement (sic), especially for the most vulnerable of the population in Kenya,” she told ITV.

UNESCO scientist Abou Amani, who was part of the team who discovered the water through satellite imagery, radar and geological surveys, said UNESCO is exploring possible new water sources in other African countries as well.

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