Aryn Baker reports: Despite longstanding family ties to Kenya, U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to Nairobi—the first by a serving U.S. President—has been largely an official affair, defined by bilateral meetings and entrepreneurship conferences.
That all changed on Sunday, when he addressed Kenyan youth at a sports stadium and spoke from the heart. As his convoy turned into Nairobi’s SafariCom Arena, he finally received the exuberant welcome that security precautions had all but denied him since his arrival two nights prior.
Crowds of men, women and children, some waving flags and banners welcoming him back to his father’s homeland, thronged the highway. Inside the arena, some 4,500 students, government officials and civil society leaders jumped to their feet as Obama’s half sister, Auma Obama, introduced a man who really had no need for introduction. By the time Obama took the podium, the crowd was ecstatic. “I love you!” shouted a member of the audience. “I love you too,” Obama said to the crowd.
Part state address, part commencement speech, Obama’s 40-minute talk started with a personal reminiscence of his first trip to Kenya in 1998, when he was a young law student seeking to learn more about his roots.
On that trip, he said, the airline lost his bags. “That doesn’t happen on Air Force One,” he joked. Read the rest of this entry »
70 147 Kenyan students were massacred Thursday when Somalia‘s Shebab Islamist group raided a university, the interior minister said, the country’s deadliest attack since US embassy bombings in 1998.
“Unfortunately, we lost… a number of lives, we have not confirmed fully…”
“We are mopping up the area,” Interior Minster Joseph Nkaiserry told reporters, saying that four gunmen had been killed after Kenyan troops launched an assault on the final building where the insurgents had holed up for over 12 hours.
“The terrorists, 90 percent of the threat has been eliminated… we have been able to confirm that four terrorists have been killed.”
“Unfortunately, we lost… a number of lives, we have not confirmed fully, but it is in the region of 70 students, and 79 have been injured, nine of them critically,” he added.
The masked gunmen began the assault before dawn, using grenades to blast open the gates of the university in the northeastern town of Garissa, near the lawless border with war-torn Somalia, before attacking students as they slept. Read the rest of this entry »
Police say Joan Kagezi, who was prosecuting the case of 13 men on trial for killing 76 people, was followed on a motorbike as she drove home
Joan Kagezi, acting assistant director of public prosecution, was murdered by men on a motorbike as she drove home in a suburb of the capital, Kampala police spokesman Patrick Onyango said. “They were trailing her on a motorcycle … They shot her dead.”
Her current cases included the trial of men allegedly linked to July 2010 suicide bombings targeting football fans watching the World Cup final at a restaurant and a rugby club in Kampala. Somalia’s al-Qaida-affiliated Shabaab militants claimed responsibility for the attack, the group’s first outside Somalia.
The trial of the accused – seven Kenyans, five Ugandans and one Tanzanian – began earlier this month at Uganda’s high court on a range of charges including terrorism, murder and membership of a terrorist organisation.
All but one have also been charged with belonging to the Shabaab. The case was due to resume on Tuesday.
Jane Kajuga, spokeswoman for the office of the director of public prosecution, confirmed the death of Kagezi, lead prosector in the bombing trial, and who also led the prosecution’s anti-terrorism and war crimes section.
How the Obama Administration Turned its Back on South Sudan – The Country George W. Bush Helped CreatePosted: February 26, 2015
Unmade in the USA
Less than three years after independence, South Sudan collapsed into bloody civil war. Could the United States, a crucial backer of the young African state, have prevented the violence?
To the outside world, the reference might have seemed cryptic. But in South Sudan, the message was crystal clear: 1991 was the year Machar broke away from the main southern guerilla movement, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), that was fighting against the Sudanese government in Khartoum. The move nearly brought about the SPLA’s demise. Now, Machar was again estranged from the flock and about to mount a new rebellion from the bush. By linking the two events, Kiir was invoking an old and powerful grudge. “It was not in the spirit of reconciliation,” Lam Akol, who led the breakaway SPLA faction with Machar in 1991 and later served as Sudan’s foreign minister, told me. “It was a declaration of war.”
“When South Sudan finally hoisted its own flag in Juba on July 9th, 2011, someone waved a sign that read ‘Thank you George Bush’.”
During and after Kiir’s press conference, forces loyal to the president rounded up and executed hundreds of male Nuers, the ethnic group to which Machar belongs. The soldiers reportedly identified the men by asking their names in Dinka, the language of Kiir’s ethnic group; inability to answer could be a death sentence. In one neighborhood, according to Human Rights Watch, between 200 and 300 men were detained in a building used by police and then murdered by gunmen, alleged to be members of the South Sudanese armed forces, who fired on the prisoners through windows.
Machar denied the coup allegation, but as Juba descended deeper into violence, he quickly took up arms against the government. Soon, blood was flowing across the northeastern portion of the country: in Bor, the capital of restive Jonglei state, and then in Bentiu and Malakal, two major cities in the heart of South Sudan’s oil country. Reports of war crimes committed by both sides followed.
Over the next year, somewhere between 10,000 and 50,000 people would be killed and another 2 million forced to flee their homes. Farmers missed their planting season, and aid agencies warned of an impending famine. According to the United Nations, the humanitarian crisis created by South Sudan’s civil war is now on par with those in Syria, Iraq, and the Central African Republic. “I never thought I’d see the day when people would be fleeing to Darfur,” Toby Lanzer, the top U.N. aid official in South Sudan, told me in August. “But that’s the situation we’re in.”
“These tensions have come to the fore in the Obama era. Unlike Bush, who one senior White House official told me ‘could have been the desk officer’ because he was so engaged on southern Sudan, Obama has preferred to leave details to his staffers, who have not always seen eye to eye with one another.”
A few days after my meeting with Lanzer, I boarded a U.N. plane in Juba packed with peacekeepers and other humanitarians and flew several hundred miles north over swampland and jungle to Malakal, roughly tracing the path of the violence that had exploded across the country. Control of the city had changed hands between the government and Machar’s rebels six times in nine months, and some of the worst atrocities of the civil war had been committed there. The last time rebels overran the city, they burned so much of it that satellite imagery revealed charcoal smudges where whole neighborhoods once stood. Now, the government was back in charge, and it was flooding troops and equipment in ahead of the dry season, when fighting in South Sudan has historically taken place. Rumors abounded of an impending rebel attack.
After a brief stop at the U.N. base near Malakal, where roughly 20,000 civilians were waiting out the violence in overcrowded displacement camps, I caught a ride with UNICEF employees down the rutted dirt track to what used to be South Sudan’s second-largest city. The closer we got, the fewer civilians there were. In the center of town, where abandoned market stalls sat bleakly on patches of scorched earth, the only humans in evidence were government soldiers, most of them carrying AK-47s. When we passed the sagging bungalow that used to serve as UNICEF’s living quarters, half a dozen armed men grinned out at us. Like most structures that hadn’t been destroyed, the building was occupied by the South Sudanese army.
We drove past looted warehouses, shelled government buildings, and rows of thatched huts that had been put to the torch. Not far from the obliterated central market, the ruins of a teaching hospital spilled out into the street: smashed vials, soiled bandages, and now-useless medical equipment. In February 2014, at least 14 people were murdered there when rebels swept into Malakal. The day before our arrival, I was told, staff members discovered a body rotting on the roof of one of the hospital’s annex buildings. While we toured a gutted pediatric complex across the street, I nearly stepped on a skull that was hidden in the grass.
Slogging through what was left of Malakal, it was difficult to imagine that South Sudan was once considered a major U.S. foreign-policy success. Over a span of nearly two decades, three different U.S. administrations worked to bring the new nation into being. Bill Clinton was the first to signal support for the southern separatists battling Khartoum in the Second Sudanese Civil War, which lasted more than 20 years and left an estimated 2 million people dead; his administration unlocked military support for neighboring countries that was then funneled covertly across borders. George W. Bush later made Southern Sudan a centerpiece of his foreign policy, helping broker a landmark north-south peace deal in 2005 that ended the civil war and paved the way for southern independence. The Obama administration carried the ball across the goal line, ensuring that an independence referendum went ahead as planned in early 2011 and pouring hundreds of millions of dollars in development aid into the new country.
When South Sudan finally hoisted its own flag in Juba on July 9, 2011, a delegation of Bush and Obama administration officials was in attendance. In the crowd, the New York Times reported, someone waved a sign that read, “Thank You George Bush.”
Now that South Sudan has imploded in spectacular fashion, however, it offers a case study in the limits of American power: Not only have its tremendous state-building efforts failed to bear fruit, but the U.S. government now finds itself with virtually no ability to shape events on the ground. “We’re at an all-time low in terms of influence,” said Cameron Hudson, who worked on South Sudan policy in both the Bush and Obama administrations.
“There are those who feel that Obama saw little benefit from engaging with the young and troubled nation. Certainly, they say, he did not share the same political incentives as Bush, whose evangelical base championed the southern cause.”
To be sure, the new nation faced long odds. At independence, it had virtually no civil institutions, about 120 doctors for a population of roughly 9 million, and a total of 35 miles of paved roads spanning a territory the size of France. It was also landlocked, ethnically diverse, and entirely dependent on oil revenue. In other words, it faced every major challenge identified by social scientists as a predictor of state failure.
Yet there are American officials who have worked closely on Sudan and South Sudan policy who still feel the situation could have played out differently, and that brutal war could have been avoided. The story of how the South Sudan project came unhinged — pieced together over six months from more than two dozen interviews with current and former U.S., U.N., and South Sudanese officials — is one of extraordinary challenges faced down and enormous errors made by leaders in Juba. It is also the story of how tensions between and within U.S. administrations alienated the South Sudanese government, reduced American leverage, and blinded U.S. officials to warning signs that the new nation’s ruling party was breaking apart.
“The cumulative effect of all these factors was that the United States began to distance itself from South Sudan at a time when the young nation, long supported by Washington, was arguably at its most vulnerable.”
These tensions have come to the fore in the Obama era. Unlike Bush, who one senior White House official told me “could have been the desk officer” because he was so engaged on southern Sudan, Obama has preferred to leave details to his staffers, who have not always seen eye to eye with one another. Key administration posts, including the special envoy to Sudan and South Sudan, ambassador to South Sudan, and assistant secretary of state for African affairs, have remained vacant for extended periods during his presidency. “Through the crucial part of the time that the relationship between [South Sudanese] factions deteriorated, the U.S. had nobody in office,” said John Prendergast, a former Clinton administration official who co-founded the Washington-based Enough Project, a group that works to end genocide around the world.
There are those who feel that Obama saw little benefit from engaging with the young and troubled nation. Certainly, they say, he did not share the same political incentives as Bush, whose evangelical base championed the southern cause. (The people in the north — present-day Sudan — are generally Arab and Muslim, while the southern population is mostly African and either Christian or animist.) But if ideology and politics mattered, so did personality: Due to a fateful meeting at the United Nations in 2011, at which Kiir reportedly lied to the U.S. president about military action along his country’s northern border, Obama’s relationship with the South Sudanese president was “poisoned from the start,” according to Princeton Lyman, who served as the special envoy to Sudan and South Sudan from 2011 to 2012.
“This is definitely a game changer for al-Shabaab and probably a turning point for the organization.”
The group said it had named Ahmed Omar Abu Ubeyd to succeed Ahmed Abdi Godane, who died of wounds sustained in the drone strike Monday in Somalia’s remote Lower Shabelle region, said the group’s spokesman, Abdiasis abu Mus’ab.
“This leader, Ahmed Godane, built the organization around himself for the past three years.”
— Abdi Aynte, head of The Heritage Institute, a Mogadishu-based think tank
“We will not sit alone,” he said, vowing revenge for a strike that appears to have killed not only Mr. Godane but several of his top aides.
Analysts said it was too soon to tell if al-Shabaab was indeed still unified or attempting to forestall its fragmentation after the death of a charismatic leader, who had sidelined or eliminated other powerful figures in the group since taking over in 2008. Read the rest of this entry »
Law enforcement recognizes that gun-free zones leave shooting victims defenseless
But before he continues pushing his typical gun-control agenda, he should consider what law enforcement in Europe and the United States advise. It might surprise him.
In November, Interpol’s secretary general, Ron Noble, noted there are two ways to protect people from such mass shootings: “One is to say we want an armed citizenry; you can see the reason for that. Another is to say the enclaves [should be] so secure that in order to get into the soft target you’re going to have to pass through extraordinary security.”
Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble said today the U.S. and the rest of the democratic world is at a security crossroads in the wake of last month’s deadly al-Shabab attack at a shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya – and suggested an answer could be in arming civilians.
In an exclusive interview with ABC News, Noble said there are really only two choices for protecting open societies from attacks like the one on Westgate mall where so-called “soft targets” are hit: either create secure perimeters around the locations or allow civilians to carry their own guns to protect themselves. Read the rest of this entry »
Sophie Brown reports: Bodies recovered from the Westgate shopping center on Thursday are probably those of two attackers, according to a Kenyan official. Ndung’u Gethenji, who heads the committee investigating the Sept. 21 attack, said AK47 rifles were found next to the bodies, ruling out the possibility that they were soldiers since the army does not use those weapons.
Meanwhile, one of the suspected gunmen has been identified as Norwegian Hassan Abdi Dhuhulow, 23, who was born in Somalia, the BBC reports.
More than three weeks on, it remains unclear how many gunmen were involved in the attack and whether any escaped. Authorities initially reported that 10 to 15 militants were at the mall but surveillance video appears to show only four men.
DEVELOPING: US Navy SEALS have conducted a raid of the Al Shabaab militant group in Somalia, killing at least one militant, Fox News confirms.
The group is linked to last month’s Kenya mall attack that killed more than 60 people.
In Somalia, officials say international military forces carried out a pre-dawn strike Saturday against foreign fighters in the town of Barawe. Officials say the strike was aimed at “high-profile” targets.
The strike comes two weeks after Al Shabaab militants attacked Nairobi’s Westgate Mall.
The strike was carried out in the hours before morning prayers in Barawe, the same town where Navy SEALs four years ago killed a most-wanted Al Qaeda operative, the officials said. Read the rest of this entry »
An off-duty member of the SAS emerged as a hero of the Nairobi siege yesterday, after he was credited with saving up to 100 lives. The soldier was having coffee at the Westgate mall when it was attacked by Islamists on Saturday. With a gun tucked into his waistband, he was pictured helping two women from the complex.
He is said to have returned to the building on a dozen occasions, despite intense gunfire. A friend in Nairobi said: ‘What he did was so heroic. He was having coffee with friends when it happened.
‘He went back in 12 times and saved 100 people. Imagine going back in when you knew what was going on inside.’ Read the rest of this entry »
Nairobi mall attack fits with Al-Shabaab’s motives
(CNN) — Peter Bergen reports: Al-Shabaab, al-Qaeda’s brutal Somali affiliate, has claimed credit for the attack by multiple gunmen at an upscale shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya that has already killed at least 59 people.
This should not be a surprise. For Al-Shabaab, the mall was an attractive target because Westerners, including Americans, frequented it. The mall is also in the capital of Kenya, a country that Al-Shabaab has good reason to dislike, as the Kenyan military played a major role in handing their forces a defeat last year when they liberated the key Somali port of Kismayo from their control.
Bridget Johnson writes: Al-Shabaab is claiming that there are American gunmen among those still holed up in the Westgate mall in a standoff with Kenyan and Israeli special forces.
The Somali al-Qaeda affiliate tweeted a series of names on its latest account before Twitter against suspended the group. Al-Shabaab has been creating new accounts each time they get shut down but a movement of pro-Kenyan tweeters has been tracking down the new accounts and complaining to Twitter.
“We received permission to disclose the names of our mujahideen inside #Westgate,” their latest account tweeted.
They proceeded to tweet the names one by one, including Ahmed Mohamed Isse, 22, “native” of St. Paul, Minn., Abdifatah Osman Keenadiid, 24, of Minneapolis, and Gen Mustafe Noorudiin, 27, of Kansas City, Mo.
A recap of key events:
— Saturday, Sept. 21, through Sunday, Sept. 22: Nairobi, Kenya — Islamic extremist gunmen lobbing grenades and firing assault rifles inside an upscale mall in Nairobi kill at least 68 people, wound more than 175 others and hold an unknown number of others hostage.
— Saturday, Sept. 21: Baghdad — A wave of attacks, mainly on a Shiite funeral in Baghdad, kill 104 people and wound more than 140 others.
— Sunday, Sept. 22: Peshawar, Pakistan — A pair of suicide bombers blow themselves up amid hundreds of worshippers at a church in northwestern Pakistan, killing at least 78 and wounding more than 140 others..
— Sunday, Sept. 22, Baghdad — Iraqi authorities say a suicide attacker killed at least 16 people and wounded at least 35 others at a Sunni funeral.
Here’s a gallery of photos from the last 48 hours of violence in Kenya, Pakistan and Iraq:
Americans among injured in deadly Kenya mall attack as Al Qaeda-linked Somali militant group claims responsibilityPosted: September 21, 2013
A statement from al-Shabab on its official Twitter feed Saturday says the attacks, which killed at least 39 and wounded 150, including American citizens, are retribution for military action by Kenya inside Somalia. The group said it was now shifting the battlefield to Kenya. Police say they are treating the assault as a “terrorist attack.”
Witnesses say the gunmen asked victims they had cornered if they were Muslim: If the answer was yes, several witnesses said, those people were free to go. The non-Muslims were not. Read the rest of this entry »