Amid ongoing fighting in South Sudan, the Wall Street Journal on Jan. 7 notes that two of the regional powers supposedly attempting to head off further escalation through a "diplomatic effort" are Kenya and Uganda—whcih were "recruiting investors to back an oil pipeline in South Sudan in December when a rebellion upended the world's newest nation." Most reportage reads as if the "upending" came out of nowhere, but when a precursor rebellion broke out in Jonglei state last March, we noted widespread theories that Sudan was quietly backing it to interrupt plans for alternative pipeline routes through Kenya or Ethiopia, which would break South Sudan's reliance on old enemy Khartoum for getting its crude to market. So we may now be looking at a proxy war for South Sudan, pitting US client states Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia against Sudan. On the ground, the Dinka (the group most closely linked to the ruling faction) are pitted against the Nuer (whose legitimate grievances may be exploited by Khartoum). Of course the model of a ruling clique controlling oil wealth and distributing it in clientelist manner to build a power base is what is really at root of the conflict—and neither side has any interest in challenging that.
Foreign forces launched a night raid on a rebel-held town in Somalia's southern Lower Shabelle region from the sea Oct. 4. "Westerners in boats attacked our base at Barawe beach and one was martyred from our side," Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, al-Shabaab's spokesman for military operations, told Reuters by telephone. Sources indicated that the target of the raid may have been Shabaab leader Mukhtar Abu Zubeyr AKA Ahmed Godane—but he was apparently not killed or captured. It is unclear whether any Shabaab leaders were killed in the operation. Pentagon spokesman George Little told NBC the next day: "I can confirm that yesterday, Oct. 4, US military personnel were involved in a counterterrorism operation against a known al-Shabaab terrorist. We are not prepared to provide additional detail at this time." (BBC News, NBC, Garowe Online, Oct. 5)
We've pointed out that some "anti-war" commentators are glibly calling for an International Criminal Court case as a "solution" for Syria—despite the fact that six years after the ICC issued a warrant for Sudan's Omar Bashir, he remains in power and carrying out mass murder (most recently against the Nuba people of South Kordofan, although the Darfur conflict continues even now). So while there may be much to recommend an ICC warrant for Syria's Bashar Assad, there is no reason to believe it will save a single Syrian life. And now Joshua Keating on Slate's The World blog succinctly explains why this pseudo-solution, in fact, isn't even possible...
At least 10 Shabaab rebel fighters were reportedly killed in heavy clashes with Kenyan security forces Aug. 21 after the Somali rebels crossed the border and attacked a military patrol. Local authorities in the town of Garissa, North Eastern state, said Shabaab fighters attacked a Kenyan border patrol with grenades, mortars and small arms, sparking a battle that lasted for nearly an hour, residents said. There was a similar incident last week, when Shabaab fighters raided a police post at Galmagala, in Garissa county's Fafi district, some 10 kilometers from Somalia's border, killing four officers and seizing weapons. (Garowe Online via AllAfrica, Aug. 22)
The UK government on June 5 reached a settlement agreement with thousands of Kenyans tortured by British colonial forces during the 1950s. Negotiations began last October after the Queen's Bench Division on the High Court of England and Wales ruled that three elderly Kenyans could sue the British government for torture they suffered while in detention under the British Colonial Administration. The victims alleged they had been tortured and sexually assaulted by their captors during the Mau Mau uprising. A formal announcement on the exact number of victims and amount of compensation included in the settlement is expected later this week. The agreement marks the culmination of a legal struggle that began in 2009.
At least 163 were reported dead March 28 in clashes at Okello, in Pibor county of South Sudan's Jonglei state, pitting government troops against a rebel force whose commander David Yau Yau is said to be among the slain. (See map.) South Sudan accuses Khartoum of supporting the rebels, with military spokesman Col. Philip Aguer saying a seized airstrip was used for arms drops. He suggested Sudan is arming the rebellion in a bid to block the South's plans to build an oil pipeline through Ethiopia to a port in Djibouti. Aguer said the South's military, the SPLA, would continue to "deal with the militia group." (The Guardian, March 28) A Kenyan route for the pipeline has also been broached, with the aim of freeing the South from having to export oil through Khartoum's territory.
Local musicians in conjunction with the Kenyan Red Cross held a concert for peace in Nairobi Feb. 28, ahead of presidential elections next week. Dubbed Chagua Amani, Kiswahili for "Choose Peace," the concert marked the fifth anniversary of the accord that ended post-election violence that claimed more than 1,000 lives in early 2008. A few thousand people attended the show at the city's Uhuru Park—but no presidential candidates showed.
Hundreds of people have fled as Kenya mobilized military forces to hunt for cattle rusters after the bandits killed over 30 local police officers in Samburu district, Rift Valley province. (See map). Members of the Turkana people near Baragoi town have fled into the bush fearing reprisals after a heavily armed gang that stole cattle from the rival Samburu tribe launched an ambush against a police patrol over the weekend, using machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades—described as the worst attack on police in Kenya's history. Villagers started fleeing after trucks arrived with hundreds of troops from the Kenya Defence Forces, backing up paramilitary and regular police forces. The military issued a blunt warning ahead of the deployment, saying cattle raiders should be prepared "to die because it is easy for the government to compensate their loss of life." The Kenyan Human Rights Commission's Samuel Tororei condemned the remarks, saying: "The police should have issued a warning, urging the rustlers to stop their criminal acts, but threatening them with death is against human rights principles." (DW, Reuters, Capital FM, Nairobi, Nov. 14)