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Long Goodbye – How Obama Glossed Over Africa’s Troubles – The Daily Beast

Long Goodbye

LONG GOODBYE   07.27.15  2:20 PM ET

How Obama Glossed Over Africa’s Troubles

By MARGOT KISER

To keep his visit to Kenya and Ethiopia upbeat, Obama declined to address some of the really big problems in both countries.

NAIROBI — In what may give the term “birther” new meaning, it’s rumored that in Kogelo, President Barack Hussein Obama’s father’s hometown on the shore of Lake Victoria, boy babies born over the weekend were named “Air Force One” and “POTUS.”

All part of the long kwaheri, Swahili for “good-bye,” as Obama leaves Africa.

In Kenya, when he walked onstage at the Kasarani stadium to deliver his final speech, the crowd of 5,000 cheered the president as if he were a rock star. As the helicopter known as Marine One delivered the president to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport for his departure to Ethiopia, photos appeared on Facebook of grown Kenyan men in tears.

While in Nairobi, the President got and gave a lot of love—some of it of the tough variety delivered to his Kenyan counterpart, Uhuru Kenyatta. Obama pressed the Kenyan leader on such sensitive issues as gay rights, which Kenyatta called a “non-issue,” and corruption, about which he made no comment.

The top item on their agenda was Kenya’s fight against Al Shabaab, the Somali-bred Islamist group that has, in recent years, come of age with attacks inside Kenya. After warming up with the kidnapping and murder of tourists, al-Shabaab advanced to devastating acts of violence at malls and universities. Since Kenya invaded Somalia, in 2011, the Somali faction’s retaliation against soft targets on Kenyan soil has left more than 600 dead. And that figure doesn’t include those hundreds who perished when al Qaeda bombed the U.S. Embassy in 1998.

Saturday, in a joint press conference held at the statehouse here, Obama announced that the United States is providing Kenyan security forces additional funding and assistance to deal with terrorism and to make sure that the efforts made to root out terrorist threats do not create more problems than they solve.

The question left unspoken, however, is one that’s been weighing heavily on the minds of analysts, policy makers, and rights groups: What to do with Somali refugees at the Dadaab camp in Kenya’s northeast province, near the Somali border, which allegedly is used as a prime staging ground for al-Shabaab’s attacks.

Dadaab refugee camp, now in operation 23 years, has grown from a tented village to become a small city that houses over 300,000 stateless people.
Kenya’s refugee problems are not new, dating from the ’90s when Somalis fleeing the brutal dictatorship of Muhammad Siad-Barre put down roots in an area of Nairobi now called Eastleigh. It is home to over 50,000 refugees and asylum seekers, yet over time has become an important East African trade hub for the Somali diaspora in Nairobi.

Dadaab, now in operation 23 years, has grown from a tented village to become a small city that houses over 300,000 stateless people. According to Human Rights Watch, Kenyan security forces deployed to Dadaab since the 2011 invasion of Somalia have committed abuses and human-rights violations against refugees.

Shortly after April’s al-Shabaab assault on Garissa University, which left at least 147 dead, Médecins Sans Frontières took the precautionary measure of evacuating 42 members of its staff from Dadaab. The withdrawal had an immediate impact on MSF’s ability to provide medical care to the camp’s mainly Somali residents.

Kenya has since demanded that the UN move the camp’s population back to Somalia, and given a three-month deadline to do it. Human-rights groups pointed out that the move is, under the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention, illegal.

Kenya’s Christians and Muslims have historically coexisted peacefully. Since counter-terror efforts were ramped up under George W. Bush’s Global War on Terror, Muslim communities along the country’s Swahili coast see themselves as having been marginalized and made victims of state-sponsored terror.

In May, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visited Kenya and mediated talks between President Kenyatta and the UN on the issue of Dadaab. Afterwards, Kerry said that the refugee camp would remain open, pledging $45 million to the UN High Commission for Refugees and continued efforts for voluntary repatriation.
Obama’s final speech at Kasarani stadium amounted to his welcoming acceptance of the country’s embrace, as a son of Kenya. It was probably not lost on the American president, however, that last year police had rounded up thousands of Muslims—mainly women and children—and detained them for three weeks on a soccer pitch a few hundred meters from the stadium where Obama was speaking. The mass detention came in reaction to a series of explosions in Eastleigh that killed six and injured more than 20 people.

Rights groups reported that police extorted money from men in Eastleigh and sexually harassed female detainees. Kenyan Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Ole Lenku said in a press conference in Nairobi at the time that all undocumented Somali refugees in Eastleigh would be deported back to Somalia.

Over the weekend of Obama’s visit, the two countries’ leaders spoke of “deepening of ties” on the matter of counter-terror.

Kenyatta declared that the war on terror is an “existential fight” of a kind Kenya has not previously experienced. The Kenyan president’s point was that Nairobi must have partners like Washington.

In the absence of an efficient judicial system, a major question in Kenya remains whether security forces will continue to use the hard-line, abusive approach in dealing with terror threats. Since 9/11, the U.S. has applied at least $200 million in aid money, disbursed through various agencies, to East Africa’s counter-terror efforts. During his visit in May, Secretary Kerry committed an additional $100 million to Kenya, an increase from $38 million the previous year.

Over the weekend Obama and Kenyatta came up with a plan that will further increase financial aid for the military, police, and judiciary under the Peacekeeping Operations program through the Partnership for Regional East Africa Counterterrorism. It’s still unclear the amount of funding that Obama has promised to Kenya and what strategies will be promoted.

Following the big roundup that led to lengthy detention at Kasarani, The Daily Beast established contact in Eastleigh with Lul Isack, chair of Umma, a community organization that had created a safe house for dozens of female detainees who reported being sexually assaulted and abused by police. In Somali societies women who’ve been raped are typically unable to find a husband, and married women are abandoned. Umma provided victims psychological counseling and surgical care.

sked now whether she is worried about how the Kenyan government plans to use monies donated by the United States to Kenya for counter-terror operations, Lul said she was pleased that Obama had announced that the U.S. pledges $1 billion to support women and youth entrepreneurs worldwide and increase technical and financial support for young women entrepreneurs in sub-Saharan Africa. “I believe this is where we as a civil society organization come in, and we women now have a platform and our voices will be heard,” she says. “Kenya has challenges, but Obama is president of the most powerful country in the world and we believe the Kenya government will listen to him.”

Kenyan police continue to extort money from Somali businesspeople, says Lul, but the women she cared for managed to return to Somalia via voluntary repatriation—towns and cities like Mogadishu, Kismayo, and Hargeisa in Somaliland—and have succeeded in opening businesses, such as beauty salons.

After departing Kenya, Obama made his first trip ever to Ethiopia. There, he met with officials of the government, the African Union (AU) and the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), to discuss trade, the political crisis in South Sudan and the ongoing battle against Al-Shabaab.

The new mantra in Kenya, as elsewhere, is “trade, not aid.” Obama’s visit to East Africa is said to demonstrate the U.S. government’s firm commitment to the battle against terrorism in the region, and to help Ethiopia develop from an aid-recipient nation to a partner in a mutually beneficial trade relationship.

The president drew fiery criticism over the astronomical costs of his traveling to a conflict zone, but throughout his African journey he has appeared to be his usual cool, unflappable self, and already he is talking about returning to Kenya as a private citizen, when he can have more freedom to connect with his extended family and have hands-on engagement with poor communities.

“I can guarantee you I will be back,” the president said. “And the next time I am back, I may not be wearing a suit.” He won’t be on Air Force One, either.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/07/27/how-obama-glossed-over-africa-s-troubles.html

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Obama Lands to Controversy in Kenya – The Daily Beast

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U.S. President Barack Obama arrives aboard Air Force One at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi July 24, 2015. U.S. President Barack Obama flew into Kenya late on Friday for his first presidential visit to his father’s homeland, aiming to boost trade and security ties in east Africa. Obama’s Air Force One plane landed in the evening in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, where he will co-host a conference on boosting entrepreneurs on the African continent before traveling on to Ethiopia. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst – RTX1LP61

By Margot Kiser     07.24.15   4:40 PM ET

Obama Lands to Controversy in Kenya
Before he was president, Obama would come to Kenya to see family. Now, his trip looks to be all business.

NAIROBI — Air Force One landed in Nairobi this evening, bringing Barack Obama back to his father’s homeland. This will be Obama’s fourth visit to Kenya, but his first as President of the United States. He made his last as a senator in 2006.

Rumors have been swirling about POTUS’s schedule, his lodgings, and the “real agenda” of his three-day stay.

“We fear Obama is coming to teach our children to be gay,” the owner of a beauty salon in a Christian town on the coast told me. In reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court decision last month to recognize a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, one anti-gay-rights fringe group reportedly plans to protest in Nairobi—and, for reasons as yet unclear, to do so in the nude.

Such signs of unrest notwithstanding, Kenya’s capital is in the throes of a full-on Obama-rama. Weeks ago, in efforts to beautify the bustling city, the government deployed members of the National Youth Service to patch the potholed route of the president’s motorcade, to relocate street urchins, and to clean sewers near the State House, where President Obama and Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta are expected to have a closed-door meeting.

“Look! They’re even forcing the trees to grow,” a taxi driver exclaimed, noting the mature palms planted on the boulevard leading toward the UN compound.

This VIP visit is also a prime opportunity for otherwise impoverished citizens to make some fast money selling Obama souvenirs.

Much to the glee of “birthers” in the U.S., Kenya is proud to claim President Barack Obama as one its own.

Past Kenya trips by Obama focused on his ancestral home on the shore of Lake Victoria. This time, however, U.S. Ambassador Robert Godec dispelled such expectations when he Tweeted that the President will not be visiting Kogelo, where his father was born and died. Instead, the full three-day itinerary keeps Obama in and around Nairobi.

If the President’s restricted itinerary is any indication, the emphasis is on creating job opportunities and easing business relations between the countries. The U.S. and Kenyan governments are co-hosting the 6th annual Global Entrepreneurs Summit Youth and Women’s Group (GES Y+W). But above all there will be talk about security cooperation: international, national, and local.

President Obama is expected to lay a wreath at the site of the old U.S. embassy, destroyed in 1998 by Al Qaeda bomb blasts that killed hundreds of people before most of the world had ever heard of that terror organizaion.

Obama’s last stop, on his third day in the country, will be t the indoor arena of the Moi International Sports Complex, also known as Safaricom Stadium Kasarani. There, he’ll address a crowd including members of Kenya’s parliament, leaders of the country’s women and young people, tribal elders, and select citizens carefully vetted by the U.S. embassy.

The vehicles for the presidential motorcade—a flotilla of Chevy Suburbans, including the president’s personal armored vehicle, “The Beast”—were flown in two weeks ago, along with security personnel. Helicopters that saw service with Blackwater in Iraq are part of the force as well.

In all, over 5,000 Americans, from 200 U.S. Marines to diplomats and conference attendees, have descended on Nairobi, taking up all the first-class accommodations in town. The luxury Sankara Hotel has become communications command center. Attack helicopters patrol the skies. Police have compelled journalists to delete photos taken of the Kasarani Stadium.

It strikes some as odd that Obama’s first presidential trip to Kenya will likely be his last. It strikes others as odd that he’s coming at all to a country that has over the last few years been rocked by Islamist militant attacks, the worst being those at the university town of Garissa and Nairobi’s Westgate Mall. A visit to Kenya is, in multiple ways, a visit to a conflict zone.

Security on the national and regional levels, along with efforts to contain the Islamist militant group Al Shabaab—and the pattern of human-rights abuses resulting—are of course major topics on the minds of Kenyans, and East Africa observers.

Obama will give his big speech on his final day in the country a few hundred meters from the football field where, last year, police detained nearly 4,000 Somalis, mostly women and children. Operation Usalama, as it was called, began on April 1, 2014, with mass roundups in reaction to deadly grenade and gun attacks, carried out by unknown forces, in Mombasa and Nairobi. Detainees were reportedly held at this locale near Kasarani for more than three weeks, and much of that time denied food and water.

The detainees were from the predominantly Somali Nairobi suburb of Eastleigh, whose residents told Human Rights Watch they paid bribes to avoid arrest or to be released.

Kenya security forces place the blame for current security problems squarely on Somalis, and have announced that all urban refugees will be relocated to Kenya’s refugee camps. But that may only make matters worse. The April attack in Garissa, which left hundreds dead, was said to be carried out by Al Shabaab militants hiding out in the nearby Dadaab camp, a sprawling site that is home at present to 500,000 refugees. Kenya ordered the UN to move the camp within three months.

Security at Dadaab was high on the list of topics that Secretary of Defense John Kerry discussed with the Kenyan and Somali governments when he visited in April, and Obama’s visit coincides with African Mission in Somalia’s [AMISOM] latest offensives, as well as Ethiopia’s cross-border surge and Operation Jubba Valley.

Matt Bryden, director of Sahan Research, told The Daily Beast, “Al Shabaab has emerged as one of the top Jihadist priorities in American and Western security.” Bryden adds that Al Shabaab cannot be contained by launching all-out offenses within Kenya. “Al Shabaab is killing as many people as before, and its operational tempo remains the same. Obama’s trip is in part a reaffirmation and further upping the ante in saying that we [the West] have to do more and we have to stand by the regions that are doing more.”

“The challenge in Kenya, is going to be addressing the grievances [of Kenyans, mainly do to with land and religious discrimination] that Al Shabaab is exploiting,” Bryden concludes. “The Kenya government has to be seen as taking action and to seriously address these issues in order to deny Al Shabaab opportunity to present itself as the only or best solution for people who share those grievances.”

Obaba is to depart Kenya soon after delivering his speech on Sunday. Next stop, Ethiopia, which has for the last decade been Kenya’s ally in the fight against religious extremism. “All part of an amplified effort in attempt to push back Al Shabaab,” concludes Bryden.

July 24th 2015 Obama Lands to Controversy in Kenya

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/07/24/obama-lands-to-controversy-in-kenya.html

Sad About Cecil? These African Animals Are Slaughtered By The Thousands – The Daily Beast

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BIG GAME 08.01.15  12:03 AM ET

South Sudan’s civil war has been a disaster for humans and animals alike. Soldiers on both sides have turned the slaughter of giraffes and other animals into an industry.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/08/01/war-is-hell-for-these-wild-animals.html

By MARGOT KISER

JUBA, South Sudan — A hopeful myth persists in this region that “wildlife refugees”—fauna in flight from war-ravaged habitats—will return one day when the conflict is over. Would that it were so. But in South Sudan, no end of the conflict appears in sight, and amid vast human suffering, nature is being ravaged as well.

The great icons of the wild—the elephants, the rhinos, the leopards and lions (so beloved of trophy hunting dentists and the heedless offspring of the outrageously rich) are gone or going fast. Conservationists say the “charismatic megafauna” are nearly wiped out here. No northern white rhino has been spotted in the region since 1981; only 2,500 elephant remain in all of South Sudan.

But in a saga reminiscent of the novel and film The Roots of Heaven 60 years ago, environmentalists nevertheless go on fighting the good fight. “Anyone who’s seen the great herds on the march across the last free spaces of the earth knows they’re something the world can’t afford to lose!” says a defender of the elephants in the movie. “But no… We have to capture, kill, destroy. All that’s beautiful has got to go. All that’s free! Soon we’ll be alone on this earth with nothing to destroy but ourselves!”

Welcome to South Sudan.

I am in a Cessna 206 flying over Bandingilo National Park—which has been passing below us for almost two hours. The savannah is orange and green in the hues of camouflage cloth. Except for a few pairs of ostrich and a couple of giraffes standing in the shade of spindly acacias, we’ve seen precious little animate life.

“Gazelle, giraffe and zebra are getting hammered,” says Dr. Paul Elkan, who’s at the plane’s controls. They’re being killed for food. “The bushmeat trade is fueling the civil war,” he says.

“With a giraffe you get more bang for your bullet,” says Elkan, an American who serves as the South Sudan director for the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). A single giraffe provides up to 600 pounds of meat. Slow-moving and high profile, giraffe are especially vulnerable to poaching, and their dwindling numbers in the park reflect that. These days, Elkan adds, it’s almost as rare to see a zebra or a buffalo as it is to see a rhino.

Elkan and his colleague, WCS Deputy Director Michael Lopidia, are conducting an aerial-recon survey of wildlife, and even as they take a census of the dwindling animal population they keep watch for poachers and their camps.

Overwhelmed by the civil war, the South Sudanese government has outsourced the country’s conservation efforts much as it has outsourced exploitation of its mineral resources. WCS took over management of South Sudan’s six national parks after the 2005 peace agreement that led to the country’s independence from Khartoum in 2011 after decades of civil war, and the job was daunting, given that the country is as vast as Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda combined. Bandingilo alone is 3,900 square miles.

The WCS doesn’t employ rangers of its own, but takes rangers from the government’s forces and trains them in wildlife-crime law enforcement. Its staff has made inroads providing technical and operational support. The organization works with the United Nations to clear land mines in parks, build ranger posts, and run anti-poaching and intelligence operations in partnership with the government.

WCS, as a result, is none too popular. At present, the organization cannot access and survey the northern third of the country due to the civil war.

Bandingilo, just outside South Sudan’s capital, Juba, is the site of Earth’s second-largest wild migration, behind the Serengeti in Kenya and Tanzania. Its savannahs, marshlands, and wooded areas are still home to key species of antelope—including reedbuck, tiang and white-eared Kob antelope as well as giraffe. But the herds’ migratory corridors pass through combat zones.

We are heading toward a road cutting through the middle of the park. Elkan banks the plane and holds a tight circle over a stand of acacia, under which sit two white trucks. Hunting is banned in the country so it’s pretty easy to identify such a configuration as a poacher’s camp.

“They’re armed,” says Lopidia from the back seat. He holds up a pair of binoculars. “Bandingilo is a strategic base for the bad guys,” he adds, “not too far from Juba.”

The bad guys are from both sides of the country’s civil war. It’s unclear, so far, whether this crew are government soldiers or rebels.

“Looks like an SPLA camp,” Lopidia says, now snapping photos.

***

Internecine conflict has plagued the world’s youngest nation since 2013. Leaders of the two rival ethnic groups, Dinka and Nuer, have always agreed on the point that wildlife is a valuable resource. But human lives are, understandably, the priority.

So of course, is trying to win the war, which erupted when President Salva Kiir, a Dinka, accused his former vice president, Riek Machar, a Nuer, of being behind a failed coup attempt. The Dinka turned on the Nuer, killing thousands in Juba alone. Tens of thousands more have been killed throughout the country, and well over a million internally displaced. Even the government’s minister of wildlife and tourism left his job—to join the rebels.

The Salva Kiir forces are those of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army, the SPLA—whom Elkan suspects we’ve spotted under the acacia trees. Although they have Juba’s backing, SPLA troops are not being paid, and their food rations consist of meat from poached animals. Sudan-watchers say the ruling elite are investing oil revenues— oil being the country’s only source of hard currency—in armored Hummers and in real estate outside the country, chiefly in Kenya. Little trickles down to the government’s troops.

As the war began to drag on, soldiers from both sides—the SPLA and the rebel Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement-in-Opposition (SPLM-IO)—resorted to subsistence hunting. Bushmeat was sold in villages, with proceeds going to fund weapons purchases, and the troops’ snaring and shooting of animals evolved rapidly from a basic hunter-gatherer economy into a commercial enterprise. Gazelle, “the French fries of the plains” for traditional predators, once were plentiful. Today, the lion must compete with soldiers for gazelle.

A wildlife survey, a difficult undertaking anywhere, is especially hard to pull off in a war zone. One technique is, figuratively,“to dive-bomb an elephant carcass,” says Elkan, taking a quick close look then getting away fast. “With armed men, who are always suspicious, you take lots of photos with a powerful camera and look at them later, to determine the types of weapons.”

***

We circle back to Juba, and Elkan gets us into position to land. When air-traffic control puts the Cessna in a holding pattern, Elkan is clearly annoyed.

If the number and size of aircraft contracted by various operators reflect a nation’s priorities, then in South Sudan, the humanitarian-aid industry wins hands down. According to South Sudan NGO Forum, there are 160 national and 142 international NGOs that facilitate humanitarian and development needs in the country.

“UN aircraft are taking off and landing every ten minutes,” Elkan notes. “Juba is the busiest airport in East Africa and yet there’s only one radio frequency. This is an accident waiting to happen.”

Indeed, the tarmac below us is blanketed with aircraft: a Russian-made attack helicopter, commercial aircraft, but most of the equipment we see belongs to the UN. This field is home to the largest helicopter in the world. In most corners of Juba the relentless, strained whine of jet engines is audible all day.

At the spot where Elkan parks the Cessna, now that we’re cleared and on the ground, a member of his team retrieves a bullet from the asphalt.

I remark that Juba reminds me of the Wild West.

“Juba used to be crazy,” Elkan answers. “Now, it’s just fucked up.”

With its mix of Kenyan, American, and South African cowboys running private logistics companies, aging alcoholic missionaries, Ukrainian and Chinese UN peace keepers, RayBan- and cowboy-hat-sporting MPs, armed police at the capital’s bars, Juba is part Mad Max and part Graham Greene.

***
South Sudan’s conflicts are not restricted to military and paramilitary combatants. Environmentalists and developers are also clashing. Supply routes and roads were cut off between Khartoum and Juba after South Sudan won independence, making it difficult for villagers to get basic foods and supplies.

While roads are lifelines for humans, they can be death sentences for wildlife. And oil concessions granted by the South Sudan government—to the French oil giant Total, for example—may expose the park to surveying and drilling.

Bandingilo is a vast reserve, but there are long-established villages, as well as promising potential oil fields, that are within the region enclosed by its boundaries. Both require overland access by heavy vehicles.

Bandingilo falls within Jongelei state, bordering Ethiopia to the east. After President Kiir reached a peace deal with a local rebel group, a new administrative area was carved out of Jongelei. But the region remains isolated. During the rains large humanitarian aid aircraft cannot land on muddy airstrips. Helicopters are too expensive to use with any frequency. Health and education are lacking. So is clean water, and for that matter bore holes are few.

Recently, a 30-kilometer stretch of road was cleared. But the government halted construction because the road passes through a national park.

Villagers at Pibor, a outpost reminiscent of the British colonial era, complain they are running out of food, and blame the government resolution suspending construction of the road for their enforced fast. Peter Guzulu, spokesman for the administrative area, denounces this road closure as unconstitutional, and accuses the director-general of South Sudan’s Wildlife Service, Maj. Gen. Philip Chol Majak, a Dinka, of leading the charge to cut off this vital conduit for food and other goods. Guzulu told a local reporter that animals should not, at such a critical time for the country, be favored over human beings.

I visited Major Chol at his office in Juba. It was festooned with ribbons and trophies from matches he won as captain of weekend soccer teams. Noting the half-dozen heavily armed police outside his building, I asked whether he felt threatened. Chol told me he continues to condemn the SPLA for poaching, and stands by the government’s decision to stop construction of the road in order to protect wildlife.

***

Given that wildlife in parks in Angola and Mozambique were wiped out during civil wars during the 80s, when the South Sudanese fight for independence was under way conservationists didn’t hold out much hope its wildlife could survive. Pilots and aid workers returning from relief missions told grim stories that the wildlife was all but eliminated. But after the peace deal in 2005, when the WCS and the new government conducted the first aerial survey of the region in 25 years, astonishingly, they discovered vast migrating herds. The those began to be decimated.

How, now, to save what’s left? Elkan advocates a version of the private-game-ranch model deployed in Kenya. There “the government realized what a pain in the ass it is to manage wildlife in parks,” he says, pulling his baseball cap down tight on his head. “Especially during war.”

Private ranches, he explains, have taken a huge burden off the government in efforts to manage South Sudan’s remaining rhino in the forested western parts of the country. His vision is to lead management away from the government-anchored model and decentralize wildlife management.

On July 9, South Sudan marked its fourth year of independence, and rebel leader Machar reportedly vowed to carry on the fight until President Kiir is overthrown. Wildlife may be returning, due to the arrival of seasonal rains, but remain vulnerable.

Africa’s national parks are like states, and only as strong as their security apparatus.

***

I caught up with Elkan recently by phone. He told me he recently flew over herds of migrating tiang and Kop antelope following the long rains in May and June. He said a second radio frequency has been added for pilots navigating Juba International Airport. “I’m happy about this, because a C-130 Hercules military transport plane nearly crashed into my parked Cessna the other day.”

And in Boma National park, he told me, a WCS-trained deputy game warden and former SPLA commander arrested a group of SPLA soldiers in possession of 150 kilos of bushmeat—and burned it.

Finally the OCS war to save wild animals from war is paying off.

I asked Elkan and Lopedia if I could call them the Blackwater of wildlife. They cracked up. They didn’t say no. “But non-profit,” they said.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/08/01/war-is-hell-for-these-wild-animals.html

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Christians Warned, Then Killed in Kenyan University Massacre – The Daily Beast 

 

MONSTERS

CHRISTIANS WARNED, THEN KILLED IN KENYAN UNIVERSITY MASSACRE

04.02.15

Around 5:30 Thursday morning, when Hassan Osman, a 35-year-old newlywed and an employee with Kenya’s Ministry of Health in Garissa, was in the mosque praying, he heard the sharp report of rapid gunfire rip through the still morning air. 

The noise came from the direction of nearby Garissa University College. There, gunmen had forced their way into the campus, shooting guards standing sentry at the main entrance and opening fire indiscriminately.

 Osman ran out of the mosque to see 30 or 40 students fleeing from dorms, some clearly rousted out of bed, he reported, and running naked.

Eyewitnesses on the scene earlier report that “seven to 10 heavily armed attackers masked from head to toe” stormed the college in this moderate-sized city in northeast Kenya, two-thirds of the way from Nairobi to the border with Somalia.

Al Shabaab has claimed responsibility for this latest attack inside Kenyan territory—one of scores the Somali militant organization has launched since Kenya’s 2011 incursion into Somalia, including the bloodbath unleashed on September 21, 2013 at Nairobi’s Westgate shopping mall.

Shabaab’s spokesman, Sheikh Mohamed Ali Rage, gave no specific numbers on fatalities and injuries but said to the BBC, “We’ve killed many people; Kenyans will be shocked when they go inside.”

 According to Reuters’ most recent report, Kenyan Interior Minister Joseph Nkaissery has confirmed at least 70 were killed and 79 had been wounded in the attack. Four suspected attackers have been killed.

And Kenyan security forces told reporters they’d “only just begun” to “mop up.” 

Osman and other residents never imagined an attack in Garissa town. The majority of its 120,000 inhabitants are Muslims of Somali origin. But if the attack comes as a surprise to locals, it didn’t come as such to the residents of Kenya’s capital, who’d been warned last week of impending attacks on institutions of higher education. 

According to a VOA report, the University of Nairobi warned its students last week that Al Shabaab was planning attacks on a “major university.”

Kampalans received similar warnings before the public prosecutor in the trial of suspects in the 2010 Al Shabaab World Cup bombings in Uganda was shot dead last week.

Residents never imagined an attack in Garissa town. But if the attack comesas a surprise to locals, it didn’t come as such to the residents of Kenya’s capital, who’d been warned last week of impending attacks on institutions of higher education.

Easter weekend is coming up. The attack comes one day after the one-year anniversary of the assassination by Kenya death squads of Sheikh Shariff Makaburi in Mombasa. Makaburi was an avowed recruiter for Al Shabaab.

Security forces responded to the Westgate attack by unleashing their own fury at Kenya’s Muslim communities. Retaliation has taken the form of raids on mosques, mass arrests, crippling curfews and targeted assassinations like that of Makaburi’s predecessor Aboud Rogo and dozens more. 

In further retaliation, Al Shabaab then carried out the Mpekatoni attack, killing more than 60 in that Kenyan coastal town last June. 

While security analysts say Al Shabaab is being weakened in Somalia, others insist that the militant group is gaining ground in Kenya.

“With Garissa, Al Shabaab outsmarted intelligence services again,” says Professor Paul Goldsmith, an American security and conflict analyst at Kenya’s Coast International University. “And they chose a target that’s significant on impactable terms—to polarize Christians and Muslims while exacerbating longstanding tensions between the regions Somali communities and the Kenya government.”

Meanwhile, in Eastleigh, a Nairobi suburb where thousands—mostly women and children—were detained last April in a police sweep, many are glued to television sets, wondering how police will respond next. 

At last count, 12 hours after the attack at Garissa University, the total number of fatalities had risen to 147.

If security forces, foreign and domestic, have the final say, pulling Kenya’s troops out of Somalia is not an option.

“The best place to stop Al Shabaab is on our border,” says Andrew Franklin, former U.S. Marine, now a security consultant. “We need to prioritize controlling the border with Somalia.”

After the Mandera attack in December, it’s increasingly held that constructing a wall is the answer, as Israel, Egypt, Morocco, the U.S., and most recently Saudi Arabia (in sealing itself off from Yemen) have tried. 

“We are in an awkward situation,” said Osman. “Ethnically we are Somali, religiously we are Muslim. But the sentiments we share with the Kenyans are that Al Shabaab should not be killing innocent Garissa residents. Garissa is happy to be a part of Kenya.”

Al-Shabab’s Anti-Christian Slaughter – Why Kenya’s Punitive Counter-Terror Measures aren’t Working – The Daily Beast

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Killing Spree

12.03.14

MARGOT KISER
NAIROBI – The Somali group’s killing of 36 non-Muslim quarry workers is just the latest retaliation, it says, for Kenya’s repression of Muslims. Why Nairobi’s punitive measures aren’t working.
NAIROBI, Kenya—Just after midnight on Dec. 2, about 20 gunmen from the Somali militant group Al-Shabab rousted awake miners sleeping in a tented camp at a quarry near the border town of Mandera. According to witnesses, the attackers separated the Muslims from the non-Muslims. Those unable to recite a passage from the Quran were made to lie face down and then shot at close range, and at least two were reportedly beheaded.The quarry raid came 10 days after Al-Shabab attackers killed 48 passengers on a bus in the same town, and a day after gunmen opened fire and hurled grenades into a bar frequented by non-Muslims in a neighboring district, killing one and injuring 12. AnAl-Shababspokesman said the latest attack was a response to “Kenya’s occupation of Muslim lands… airstrikes on Muslims in Somalia… continued suffering of Muslims in Mombasa.”While the African Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) have mounted successful offenses against Al-Shabab since Kenya’s 2011 invasion of Somalia, weakening the group’s leadership, militants have passed unimpeded through porous borders, often recruiting fighters within Kenya. (Ethnic Somalis, who fled to Kenya from Somalia’s civil war, make up about 8 percent of Kenya’s population of 40 million.) At first fighterswere taken to Somalia; nowAl-Shabab has brought the war to Kenyan territory.That war seized the world’s attention when the group went on killing spree at Nairobi’s Westgate Mall in 2013, leaving at least 68 dead in apparent retaliation for Kenya’s military presence in Somalia. Kenya’s government has been widely criticized for its weak security apparatus and failure to act on security warnings preceding the Westgate attack. Rather than trying to figure out how to prevent future terrorist attacks through beefing up security at the borders and strengthening the judicial system, the country’s armed forces and police have relied chiefly on measures that seem strictly punitive.Poor intelligence and evidence gathering, and a weak judicial process, have resulted in reliance on dirty-war tactics such as mass arbitrary arrests, forced disappearances, rape, and extrajudicial killings. Muslim leadership has been particularly targeted; in the last 19 months, at least 15 imams have either been forcefully disappeared or assassinated.In response to the Westgate attack, security forces subjected mosque worshippers to arbitrary arrests, storming Mombasa’s Musa mosque and arresting more than 100 youths. In May, Kenyan authorities launched Operation Usalama, rounding up thousands of ethnic Somalis, mainly women and children, and detaining them in a stadium for days without adequate food and water or legal representation.

“To say you’ll find terrorists in a mosque is just ridiculous,” says Al Amin Kimathi, a human-rights monitor and activist specializing in counterterrorism who was himself subject to rendition to Uganda in 2010. “Real terrorists—trained operatives who plan attacks like Westgate—are on standby and stay away from mosques because they’re too high on the radar. These youths, the mosque worshippers, are just easy targets for the police.”

“This is a war against Kenya and Kenyans. The time has come for each and every one of us to decide and choose—are you on the side of an open, free, democratic Kenya… or do you stand with repressive, intolerant extremists?”

After Al-Shabab slaughtered up to 100 non-Muslims in June in Mpekatoni, a town in northeast Kenya populated by the ruling Kikuyu tribe, Kenya’s national police chief, Gen. David Kimaiyo, responded harshly. There as well, Al-Shabab said it launched the attack in retaliation not only for the assassination of Muslim clerics but for Kikuyus’ settling on land Al-Shabab claims was settled by Arab Swahilis centuries ago. Kimaiyo answered by jailing the Muslim governor of Lamu County and slapping an open-ended curfew on the county, including islands off the coast whose economies rely heavily on tourism.

Adding insult to injury, police last week raided and closed down four mosques they said were linked to violent jihad and arrested more than 376 worshippers. Mombasa County police commander Robert Kitur told reporters that the authorities had seized gasoline bombs, detonators, grenades, and radical jihad literature in the mosques. Human-rights groups, however, said most of those arrested were released for lack of evidence.

Raids, police say, are a part of Kenya’s ongoing security sweep, ostensibly to prevent political violence, root out radicals, and tame would-be terrorists. But residents and rights groups wonder whether the measures are more punitive than protective and have singled out the police’s Anti-Terror Unit (ATPU) for carrying out summary executions.

“Parts of the Kenyan public may think that police should deal with terror suspects in any way necessary, but police extrajudicial killings, torture, and brutality are never justified. These abuses are not only illegal and can target innocent people, they anger and radicalize communities, undermine the rule of law, and weaken serious efforts to deal with insecurity,” Leslie Lefkow, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Africa Division told The Daily Beast.

Muslim leaders have accused the ruling elite of carrying out what they see as religious persecution.

Interior Minister Joseph ole Lenku decried such accusations, tweeting: “The Mombasa operation is not targeted at any religion, tribe or gender and will continue until security objectives are achieved.”

Such explanations notwithstanding, it is not clear what the government’s security objectives are.

So far government officials have refused to come to the table to discuss grievances with Muslim communities, either in Nairobi or on the coast. Suspicions and tensions are running high. Hardline clerics and youths suspect moderates of collaborating with the security forces.

Hussein Khalid, director of the Mombasa-based rights group Haki Africa, told The Daily Beast that last spring he had been making progress dealing with inter-religious fighting by getting a vocal hardline cleric, Abubakar Shariff Athmed aka Makaburi, to meet with moderate leaders.

Haki Africa’s master plan has been to reach out to Kenyan government leaders at the national level. In April, representatives of the group were in the United States to present reported abuses to Linda Thomas-Greenfield, assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of African Affairs, when Makaburi was gunned down after leaving a mosque in Mombasa.

“The murder of modern religious leaders was unheard of before Makaburi,” Khalid told The Daily Beast. “Since his assassination we don’t know where to start. We don’t know where the youths are or if their networks have been dismantled.”

“We just want peace,” he added. “The two words ‘let’s talk’ can move mountains.”

The two new assaults in Mandera, a predominately Somali-Kenyan town in northeastern Kenya, brings the number of unarmed civilians slain in terror-related incidents since early 2013 to at least 200.

In the wake of the latest attacks, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta fired ole Lenku, the interior minister, and accepted the resignation of Kimaiyo, the national police chief. Kenya’s national intelligence chief stepped down after the Mpekatoni attacks.

Kenyatta made a Bush-like vow to continue the war on Al-Shabab, saying, “We will not flinch.” He added: “This is a war against Kenya and Kenyans. The time has come for each and every one of us to decide and choose—are you on the side of an open, free, democratic Kenya… or do you stand with repressive, intolerant extremists?”

In a press release, Al-Shabab’s spokesman said that “Kenya must change policy of animosity towards Muslims… withdraw from Muslim lands.”

Beleaguered Kenyans talking about the war between Al-Shabab and the Kenyan security forces, meanwhile, can often be heard reciting a Swahili saying: “Wale ndovu wawili wakipigana nyasi ndio huumia.” When the bull elephants fight, it’s usually the grass underneath that gets crushed.

Kenya tourism tanks amid increasing violence | Al Jazeera 

Kenya tourism tanks amid increasing violence 
Margot Kiser

Attacks on tourists has contributed to a steep decline in tourism in Kenya.

http://m.aljazeera.com/story/201481093454546196

Mombasa, Kenya – In July, a Russian visitor was shot dead near Fort Jesus, a UNESCO World Heritage site in Mombasa’s Old Town. Police ruled the killing a robbery. Three weeks later, assailants shot a German tourist at point-blank range, while she and her Ugandan travel companion were visiting Old Town’s open market. The woman died instantly. Her friend sustained a bullet wound in the leg and survived.
Last September, the attack on Nairobi’s upmarket Westgate Mall killed more than 70 and injured scores. Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the Westgate attack via Twitter, vowing to continue wreaking destruction until Kenya withdraws its troops from Somalia.
Violence in Kenya has been escalating. Since the attack, northern Kenya, from the Somali border to Mombasa, has suffered from a string of bomb and grenade attacks, killing dozens. Most incidents have targeted public venues such as churches, nightclubs, and bus stations.
‘High threats’
As a result of the violence and subsequent travel advisories, tourism on Kenya’s coast has dropped by four percent since January, according to the Kenya Tourism Board. Between January and May – the high season – there were 381,000 arrivals in 2014 compared to 398,000 over the same period last year.
The UK Foreign Office issued a travel advisory, warning at that time of “high threats” of terror attacks and called for the evacuation of hundreds of UK nationals holidaying on the coast. The US, Australia, and France also issued travel warnings, advising against all but essential travel to coastal areas, including within 60km of the Kenyan-Somali border.
The US embassy in Nairobi meanwhile reduced its staff. The UK went so far as to close its consulate in Mombasa.
President Uhuru Kenyatta’s reaction has been largely political, labelling the travel warnings “unfriendly” and added that the designation would increase panic among the populace. Draconian travel restrictions, he explained, only serve to embolden the extremists.
After massacres in Lamu County, in June and July, which chiefly targeted peasants belonging to Kenya’s ruling ethnic group, the president was quick to point his finger at the political opposition party, Coalition for Reform and Democracy. Al-Shabab, however, announced on its Somali radio station that it had carried out the attack.
Al-Shabab’s motives are economic as well as political – to weaken and punish Kenya; up to 226,000 locals are directly or indirectly employed in the country’s tourist industry during the high season, providing 4.1 percent of total employment.
Interviewed by Al Jazeera in his apartment at the Tamarind Village, Mombasa’s Governor Hassan Ali Joho was relaxed in a white Tommy Hilfiger T-shirt and madras Bermuda shorts. “I won’t lie to you; Mombasa is a small town and there are several families we know whose children have gone to al-Shabab,” said the governor, who has four children of his own.
“These are kids with no jobs, no hope, and some are drug addicts. Al-Shabab gives them $1,000, tells them to fight jihad and delivers them to the gates of Somalia.”
However, the heavy-handed response by Kenya’s security forces, who have conducted widespread arrests and have been accusedof abusing those detained, has a negative impact in establishing security, according to Joho.
“Tourism and security require planning. Preventing violence requires careful breakdown of intelligence collection information. The culprits would have been caught by now if intelligence had been shared between Kenya’s various armed forces. Now we have a situation where [the police] generalise everthing and arrest the whole world,” he told Al Jazeera.
‘Safety is relative’
Tour operators and hoteliers have blamed the media for magnifying what they say are isolated crimes that can happen anywhere in the world these days. “Terrorism is a global phenomenon” is the latest political-commercial mantra heard here.
Locals in Mombasa suggest that some of the violence is not political, in its aims or origins. “Suppliers like the pig and chicken farmers, the fishermen, are all affected by lapses in security,” said Sam Ikwaye, spokesman for the Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers. “If you don’t have jobs then they may engage in criminal activities.”
Mohammed Hersi, chairman of the Mombasa and Coast Tourist Association (MCTA) and CEO of Heritage Hotels, had just returned from a trade fair in South Africa whengrenades were hurled into a Mombasa church in the suburb of Likoni and at the Reef Hotel, in the Nyali suburb. The attack drove off tourists brought in by Mombasa’s main UK tour operator and air charter services.
“At the moment we have no British tour operators,” said Hersi. He spends most of his time managing Mombasa’s Voyager Beach Hotel, owned by the Kenyatta family.
Despite the lapses in security, there are “die-hard [British] tourists who have been coming here for decades and know Mombasa well”.
Instead of waiting for the UK to rescind travel advisories, the MCTA announced last week that it is offering British citizens – and tourists of any nationality – “inbound insurance”, covering them in Mombasa and up the coast to Lamu. The insurance “covers any terror-related attack”, Hersi explained.
“Safety is relative. Kenyans know the value of tourism. By and large, Mombasa is a safe and peaceful place,” Hersi said.
Governor Joho faces the daunting task of reviving the town’s tanked tourist industry. The 41-year-old newcomer to office presided over the peaceful Eid al-Fitr Baraza celebration at Treasury Square in Old Town. Like his colleagues – senators, MPs, chiefs – Joho wore a crisp white kanzu and kofia hat, and was last to address the crowd consisting of several hundred men and women seated under tents. The topic was security.
Before his election in March, Joho reportedly promised that by summer 2014, Mombasa would be a free port, where imported goods are exempt from customs duties.
When asked how he’d make Mombasa more secure, the governor, stretching out on the couch, replied: “My dream is to make it like Dubai.”

http://m.aljazeera.com/story/201481093454546196

Tom Mcnamee’s ‘The Killing of Wolf Number Ten’ – a review

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About a Wolf – gripping poignant narrative about the politics of environmental conservation
By Margot Kiser – foreign correspondent on June 25, 2014
Format: Paperback
Tom McNamee’s latest book, The Killing of Wolf Number Ten, is a gripping political narrative that takes us into the not-too-distant- past when, in 1996, environmentalists released gray wolves into the Yellowstone National Park. Decades of poaching, hunting and killings by park rangers contributed to the wolf’s rapid declining numbers. By 1926 scientists confirmed that sustainable wolf populations had been extirpated.“The restoration of the wolf to Yellowstone was the bravest and finest event in Yellowstone’s history, but it was much more,” writes McNamee, a former president of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. “It was an act of immense symbolic significance, an example of how powerful doing the right thing can be.”But the journey to restore wolf populations was – and still is – not without its pitfalls.The irony and tragedy of Wolf Number Ten’s long journey is in having successfully habituated to its new environs only to stray outside the park, where it meets its fate.In today’s “Age of Extinction” the battle continues to wage between conservation scientists and “wolf haters”, who still regard the creatures as vermin to be eradicated. McNamee paints lively portraits of the players – the conservationists, the scientists, the wolves and, of course, the wolf-haters.

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http://www.amazon.com/The-Killing-Wolf-Number-Ten/dp/163226000X
A killer. A manhunt. The triumph of justice and of the wolf.The greatest event in Yellowstone history.

Greater Yellowstone was the last great truly intact ecosystem in the temperate zones of the earth—until, in the 1920s, U.S. government agents exterminated its top predator, the gray wolf. With traps and rifles, even torching pups in their dens, the killing campaign was entirely successful. The howl of the “evil” wolf was heard no more. The “good” animals—elk, deer, bison—proliferated, until they too had to be “managed.”
Two decades later, recognizing that ecosystems lacking their keystone predators tend to unravel, the visionary naturalist Aldo Leopold called for the return of the wolf to Yellowstone. It would take another fifty years for his vision to come true.
In the early 1990s, as the movement for Yellowstone wolf restoration gained momentum, rage against it grew apace. When at last, in February 1995, fifteen wolves were trapped in Alberta and brought to acclimation pens in Yellowstone, even then legal and political challenges continued. There was also a lot of talk in the bars about “shoot, shovel, and shut up.”
While the wolves’ enemies worked to return them to Canada, the biologists in charge of the project feared that the wolves might well return on their own. Once they were released, two packs remained in the national park, but one bore only one pup and the other none. The other, comprising Wolves Nine and Ten and Nine’s yearling daughter, disappeared.
They were in fact heading home. As they emerged from protected federal land, an unemployed ne’er-do-well from Red Lodge, Montana, trained a high-powered rifle on Wolf Number Ten and shot him through the chest.
Number Nine dug a den next to the body of her mate, and gave birth to eight pups. The story of their rescue and the manhunt for the killer is the heart of The Killing of Wolf Number Ten.
Read this book, and if you are ever fortunate enough to hear the howling of Yellowstone wolves, you will always think of Wolves Nine and Ten. If you ever see a Yellowstone wolf, chance are it will be carrying their DNA.
The restoration of the wolf to Yellowstone is now recognized as one of conservation’s greatest achievements, and Wolves Nine and Ten will always be known as its emblematic heroes.