Operation Linda Nchi – Kenya’s invasion of Somalia

Best wishes to all for a Happy and Prosperous 2012.
Kenya Department of Defence press brief Saturday, Dec, 31st, 2011.
Meeting began nearly an hour late @ 11 am.
Colonel Cyrus Oguna (a dead ringer for Eddie Murphy) from Kenya’s Dept of Defence delivered in dead pan fashion a speech that included description and # of successes (many) and # of KDF casualties (few) on the frontlines of “Operation LindaNchi” in Kenya’s war against Somalia.
When I first heard the name of the military operation – Linda’Nchi – I wondered…who is Linda? And Nchi sounds suspiciously Chinese. Hmmm. A Kenyan politician’s Chinese mistress. Figures.
I am proud of my handle on Swahili, but this Linda business stumped me.
I know “wananchi” means Kenyan citizens. “Wa” is the Swa prefix for People. “Na” roughly means “of”. So, Wana is people of the….
A Maasai Askari who protects me where I live in Kenya informed me that “Linda” is Swahili for “to protect”.
In the west Linda is associated with a woman’s name, but, of course, it’s a Spanish word meaning “beautiful”.
I didn’t know that “Nchi” meant country. LindaNchi then means to protect the country.
Since we are not referring to the other Swahili-speaking country, Tanzania, the phrase then means Operation Protect Kenya, the territory, that is, and, in this case, from Somalia.
Linda Nchi is an apt Swahili name that might easily define “sovereignty” and reminds me of the mantra that the US state Department invariably uses when, let’s say, Israel repeatedly attacks Palestine, “that every state has a right to decide for itself how best to defend itself”.
As with Palestine, the international community has yet to recognise Somalia as a sovereign state. A convenient truth?
Not recognising a country as a sovereign state is a handy way of rendering it illegal for any non-sovereign state to attack a sovereign state. In essence, Somalia has no right to defend itself.
The event that supposedly precipitated Kenya’s invasion into Somalia was the perception that Somalia had invaded Kenya by killing and snatching European tourists (David Tebbutt was shot dead, wife, Judith Tebbutt, and Marie Dedieu were kidnapped) while holidaying on Kenya’s north coast.
The group of thieves/bandits/Shabab/pirates had vanished with the two women (on two separate occasions) into Somalia as if into a bottomless long drop, never return until after paying a hefty ransom.
Tourism is one of Kenya’s largest revenue earners.
Reason alone, I suppose, for Kenya to invade Somalia.
Bottom line is that Kenya invaded Somalia to stop Somalia from further invading Kenya. Other incidents of this kind of perceived “invasion” began in the 70’s.
The upshot of last Saturday’s press briefing was to inform press of the existence of a list of insurgents thought to have already entered Kenya with knowledge of Al Shabab-related activities. Police spokesman, Eric Kiraithe, said these individuals may be able to provide police w critical information in hunting down Shabab insurgent bases “wherever they may be”.
Al Shabab is an insurgent group based mainly in Somalia with loyalties to its parent group, Al Qaeda.
The question remains, what evidence is there to suggest that Shabab had anything to do with the tourist kidnappings?
[Kenya police spokesman, Eric Kiraithe, with two among fifteen alleged insurgents; photos by Margot Kiser, copyright, Dec, 2011]



Authorities arrest Somalis near Lamu

 Somalis arrested in Lamu Nov 25, 2011 (photo; Abdullah Bargash)

November 25, 2011 (LAMU, KENYA)
Lamu police announced Friday that they had arrested five unarmed Somalis on Manda island. The Somalis are now being held in Lamu  jail.

Police and CID told a crowd of reporters at the police station that the men, mostly in their twenties, were being arrested as Shabab militants. It is not yet clear what evidence they have to support the charge. Being Somali?

Sources say a pilot had spotted a group of Somalis walking away from a skiff anchored in a mangrove channel near the Taqwa ruins on Manda Island. The Somalis had been asking locals directions to Manda Bay Resort.
The pilot immediately phoned Lamu police, who, along with the Kenya navy, arrived forty-five minutes later at the location where the Somalis were seen.
Lamu authorities told SomaliaReport that the men – Shabab militants – had been fleeing from the on-going war between Kenya forces and Shabab. Alternatively, presence of a skiff might suggest that the men were part of a “PAG” — pirate action group.
Senior Shabab or pirate commanders recruit young men desperate to escape a miserable existence in a war torn failed state.
As yet there is no evidence that they were carrying weapons, though they likely threw them over-board on seeing authorities approach.
The arrests occur in the wake of loss of tourist revenue and perceived “negative” publicity after Somalis ventured into Kenya on September 11 and kidnapped UK tourist, Judith Tebbutt, and Frenchwoman, Marie Dedieu, on Oct 1. Both vanished into Somalia.

Dedieu died in Burgavo in southern Somalia four days into her captivity. According to the French Embassy, her captors refused to receive and/or administer her cancer and diabetes medication. On Sept 11, Somali gunmen shot dead Judith Tebutt’s husband, David, in the couple’s beach hut at an upscale hotel near Somali border before abducting Mrs. Tebbutt. Judith Tebbutt is still alive in Xaradheere in north/central Somalia, the same pirate’s nest where British couple, Paul and Rachel Chandler, were held hostage for over a year.

The Lamu Cultural Festival continued with much fanfare and unprecedented armed security (administrative police).

Video of relocation of a female northern White rhino in Kenya

Ol Pejeta Conservancy (NANYUKI, KENYA) –

While working on a story about the recent spate of rhino poaching in the Laikipia area, the conservators of Ol Pejeta, East Africa‘s largest rhino sanctuary, had invited me to watch the relocation of a female northern white rhino. A truck designed specifically to transport animals would take the 30-year old northern white rhino, Najim, from the wild to an enclosure where she and a younger male will hopefully mate.

The northern white rhino are even larger than the white rhino of South Africa. Their habitat once included the Congo, Uganda, and southern Sudan. Only seven northern white rhino remain in the world; two are in a zoo in San Diego, one in a zoo Czech Republic and four here at Ol Pejeta Conservancy, a 90,000 acre conservation area. The Ol Pejeta Conservancy transported by plane Najim and her daughter from the zoo in Czech Republic. The pair in San Deigo zoo aren’t able to reproduce and one of the pair in Czech zoo died.

The only chance of ensuring the survival of this species of rhino lies in hopes that Najim and her young mate reproduce.

The distance of the relocation was short as was the process of darting, drugging her. By the time I got there the vet had already darted her by hand. They didn’t need a gun since she’s quite tame. But they had to belly crawl in the grass and dart when they were within reach of her.

In the video you see Ol Pejeta rangers and reserve police helping the tall, lanky South African zoologist and vet, Dr. Pete Morkel, try to prod Najim inside the crate that a crane lifts onto the 16-ton flat bed truck.

What proved most labor intensive was coaxing her to take one small step from the ground into the crate — a giant leap for a half-drugged beast with short legs.

Morkel stuffed cotton in Najim’s ears and draped a towel over her eyes to mitigate sounds and stimulus that would otherwise add to an already traumatic experience for the beast.

Before loading her, Morkel took the opportunity to clip her hooves, a difficult thing to do when a rhino is awake.

Najim was sedated enough to be relaxed but perhaps too much to find the will or balance to take that one tiny step.

While a truck and a few men in front of the crate pulled the rhino from outside the front end of the crate, the vet’s wife, Diane, nudged her from behind with her four-wheel drive safari rig.

Nothing seemed to work. When Diane said a wooden ramp would have been ideal, a couple of rangers began digging dirt to build one. Of course, that would have taken ages.

Morkel shook his head flummoxed that the job was proving to be so difficult when he knew Najim as a “sweetie”.

Once someone turned off the engine to the massive truck and everyone stood still trying to figure out what to do, Najim lifted one leg onto the crate. Clearly, without so much noise and confusion, she relaxed, felt safe, and knew what to do.

Still with one leg up she didn’t quite have the confidence and balance to lift the other leg. The rangers began rocking her gently from side to side to give her opportunity to find her balance. Soon after she lifted the other leg onto the crate.

The rest of the job was all downhill. The next uphill battle is getting the two to mate — you can’t hurry love.

1,000 ways to skim the qhat

WILSON AIRPORT (NAIROBI) – The inevitable lull between writing gigs makes a good opportunity to catch up on the blog.
8:42 AM – Dormans coffee shop waiting for my flight to Nanyuki.
Several tons of miraa or qhat (“organic” herbal stimulant) are flown out of this airport to Somalia every day. Two 30 seater planes take off one after the other at 6 am for the short flight to Mogadishu. I’m told that Somalis own quite a number of private planes – Caravans, mostly – which, most ironically, ferry aid workers (like the kidnapped American, Jessica Buchanan) to remote parts of Somalia.
Lloyd’s of London insures most of these planes as they do commercial ships that pirates hijack. Pirates and insurance companies make a killing. Whatever insurance companies lose in ransom monies, they make up for with clients.
Nanyuki is several hundred miles upcountry from Nairobi. I’ll be visiting Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Kenya’s largest rhino sanctuary. I’m writing about country’s most recent spate of rhino poaching most likely linked to Chinese demand for horns and tusks. A young female rhino with a calf was slaughtered there a few weeks ago.
The poachers removed all the female reproductive organs — even the nipples.
TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine)? Juju (black magic)?
No one knows for sure — it’s a first.