UK court allows Kenya ex-prisoners to sue for colonial-era torture

The Queen's Bench Division on the High Court of England and Wales ruled Oct. 5 that three elderly Kenyans can sue the British government for torture they suffered while in detention under the British colonial administration in the 1950s. Judge Richard McCombe ruled that the three Kenyans could claim damages against the British government for the harm they sustained at the hands of their captors during the Mau Mau uprising. The three claimants, who were not in court to hear the ruling, seek apologies from Britain and reparations in the form of welfare benefit funding for other Kenyan victims of colonial torture.

Somalia: who controls Kismayo?

A string of bombings rocked Somalia's port of Kismayo Oct. 3, killing two civilians and injuring many more—five days after the city was taken from al-Shabaab rebels by a combined force of African Union and Somali government troops. The taking of the city followed a two-month siege, culminating in a Kenyan-led amphibious assault, dubbed Operation Sledgehammer. Al-Shabaab leader Abdiaziz Abu Musab stated that his agents had carried out the bombings, boasting that they would continue their fight "until doomsday." He called the withdrawal from Kismayo a "tactical retreat." Kismayo was the last city controlled by al-Shaabaab, but the group and allied Islamist militias still control a broad swath of Somalia's south. The official government has achieved a shaky control over Mogadishu, but the rest of the country (outside the autonomous Somaliland and Puntland regions in the north) is controlled by local militia—some backed by Kenyan or Ethiopian forces, some nominally loyal to the government, and more aligned with al-Shabaab. (Mareeg, Garowe Online, Oct. 3; PRI, Sept. 26)

Kenya ethnic violence: jihad? Well, no....

The African Union is calling for a speedy investigation into the ethnic violence in southeast Kenya's Tana River District (Coast province) that has so far claimed 50 lives. The outbreak began Aug. 22, when some 100 members of the Pokomo people raided Reketa village, inhabited by members of the Orma group. Among those hacked to death were 31 women, 11 children and eight men. The attack was apparently prompted when members of the pastoral Orma strayed into lands claimed by Pokomo farmers. While Pokomo accuse the Orma of allowing livestock to encroach onto their farms and destroy their crops, the Orma complain that Pokomo farmlands encroach on their traditional grazing lands on the banks of the Tana River, and prevent herders from using the river to water their cattle. (Xinhua, Capital FM, Nairobi, via AllAfrica, The Star, Nairobi, Aug. 23; CBC, IRIN, Aug. 22)

Somalia: next stop Kismayo

Even as a measure of stability at last comes to Mogadishu, a push by UN-backed African Union troops on the last bastion of Somalia's al-Shabab insurgency has already added to the country's civilian casualties, and there are fears that more may lie ahead as air, ground and naval operations in the strategic city escalate. The latest, and most senior, person to raise the alarm over the actions of the Kenyan Defence Forces (KDF), which officially operate under the banner of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), was UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Mark Bowden. "I am deeply concerned by recent reports of civilian casualties in Kismayo caused by naval gunfire and airstrikes," Bowden said in a statement issued on Aug. 14. "As fighting for control of the town appears imminent, I reiterate my call for all parties to the conflict to make every effort to minimize the impact of conflict on civilians and to allow full humanitarian access to all people in need," he said.

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