Saturday, October 29, 2011



America's War in the Horn of Africa: “Drone Alley” – a Harbinger of Western Power across the African Continent
US Military Confirms Washington’s Secret New War in Somalia Despite Official Denials

Global Research, October 29, 2011
US military sources have confirmed that the Obama administration is engaged in a new war in the famine-hit Horn of Africa region.

The disclosure in the Washington Post [1] comes only days after other prominent Western media outlets, including the New York Times and the Financial Times, carried denials from the US government that it was involved in directly supporting Kenyan forces that invaded Somalia on 16 October. 

Global Research first reported on 19 October [2] the lethal use of US drones in attacks on various locations across southern Somalia in a coordinated air campaign to assist the advance of Kenyan ground troops deep into Somali territory held by Islamic insurgents. We reported that US drones began attacking Somali targets days before the Kenyan army began its incursion, and have continued in a pattern that indicates American air power is being used to pave the way for ground forces as they advance towards the southern port city of Kismayu – the main stronghold of the Al Shabab insurgents, which the US government accuses of having links with Al Qaeda.

It is believed that scores of Somali fighters and civilians have been killed over the past two weeks by US unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that have attacked several cities and towns, including Qoqani, Afmadow and Kismayu. Global Research also reported on 26 October [3] that French naval forces had joined the bombing campaign – again despite official French denials carried in Western media – and that the conclusion from these military developments was clear: Washington and Paris are now engaging in a secret new war in East Africa ¬– a region where up to 12 million people are at risk of starvation from years of drought and Western-induced conflict. 

On 27 October, the Washington Post cited US military officials confirming the deployment of attack and surveillance drones in “a rapidly expanding US-led proxy war against an al Qaeda affiliate in East Africa”. The UAVs – also known as Reapers or Hunter Killers – are believed to be operated from a site in southern Ethiopia, Arba Minch, as well as from US bases in Djibouti and the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean.

The WP report states: “The [US] Air Force has invested millions of dollars to upgrade an airfield in Arba Minch, Ethiopia, where it has built a small annex to house a fleet of drones that can be equipped with Hellfire missiles and satellite-guided bombs. The Reapers began flying missions earlier this year over neighboring Somalia… The location of the Ethiopian base and the fact that it became operational this year, however, have not been previously disclosed.”

This disclosure of US military operations in Somalia amounts to an admission that Washington is at war.  However, the Washington Post, while stating “rapidly expanding US-led proxy war”, does not highlight the legal implications of that startling admission, concentrating its reportage on technical and logistical issues that are providing “support for [US] security assistance programs”.

Iranian news channel Press TV – citing civilian eyewitnesses and Kenyan and Somali military officials – has been one of the few media outlets that has consistently reported the almost daily lethal US drone attacks in southern Somalia since the Kenyan invasion. However, even Press TV has not drawn the explicit conclusion that this amounts to war.

While the other Western news media, including the BBC, Reuters and the New York Times, had earlier reported increased US drone activity in Somalia between June and September, these outlets appeared to have dropped coverage of the deadly attacks being reported since and just before 16 October.

Following the disclosure in the Washington Post, the BBC on 28 October seemed to resume its coverage, with the headline: “US flies drones from Ethiopia to fight Somali militants”.  The BBC, as with the WP, does not view this as an act of war, and stressed that the “remotely-piloted drones were being used only for surveillance” – contrary to evidence on the ground.

As well as playing down the fact of US-led war in Somalia, the mainstream media now seem to be crafting a new narrative for the military offensive. The initial pretext for the Kenyan ground invasion faithfully repeated in the Western media was the “hot pursuit” of kidnap gangs allegedly belonging to Al Shabab. It is true that there has been a spate of kidnappings of Western holidaymakers and aid workers from Kenyan territory by gangs suspected to originate inside Somalia. However, there is no proof that Al Shabab has been involved and indeed the militant group has denied any involvement.

Now it seems that the rationale being given for the Kenyan invasion and Western “technical support” has subtly morphed into an extension of the “war on terror”.  Al Shabab has been waging an insurgency against the Transitional Federal Government in Mogadishu, which was installed in 2009 with the support of US and other Western governments as a bulwark against the Islamists. The TFG has only managed to maintain a tenuous grip on power thanks in part to Washington’s military and economic support and to the presence of thousands of African Union troops from Uganda and Burundi.

Al Shabab is on Washington’s terror list and is accused of having links to Al Qaeda. However, many Western analysts do not consider Al Shabab to be a regional threat. The Council on Foreign Relations, the Washington-aligned think-tank, estimates that the group has only a few hundred hardcore combatants and that its alleged links to Al Qaeda may be no more than rhetorical. Nevertheless, the militants have prevented the pro-Western TFG from gaining control of the country. In that way, the group has thwarted Washington and Western geopolitical dominance of the strategically important East African maritime territory.

This would seem to be a more plausible explanation for the US/French/Kenyan war in Somalia. Namely, the assertion of Western geopolitical control, rather than “war on terror” and certainly not the hot pursuit of kidnap gangs. That gives the real meaning behind the “constellation of US drone bases” being operated in the region – to strike any African country when and where required. Currently, Somalia (and Yemen) is in the firing line. But the entire region appears being turned into a “drone alley”. It is perhaps only a matter of time before reports emerge of drone activity in Sudan, Eritrea, Uganda and elsewhere. The recent deployment of US Special Forces in Uganda and other Central African countries is also a harbinger of this strategic force projection.

The bigger picture to this is, as John Pilger noted previously in Global Research, a “modern scramble for African resources” by Western powers, which have in recent years watched enviously the growing influence of China in the region. This neo-imperialist scramble for Africa is consistent with NATO’s conquest of Libya. The close collaboration between the US and France in the bombing of North Africa is now being rolled out in East Africa.

It also marks a new era of lawlessness by Western powers. Not only can President Barack Obama personally order the assassination of individuals with his penchant for “hunter killer” drones. Evidently from developments in Somalia, Commander-in-Chief Obama is no longer obliged to notify the US Congress or the American people of their country’s engagement in new wars. Nor is he obliged to even seek a phony UN mandate. Not so long ago such abuse of power would be sure grounds for impeachment.

Finian Cunningham is Global Research’s Middle East and East Africa correspondent



By Milodred Ngesa

This article was written on the eve of August 2010 Referendum

I do not want to feel cold after August 4th 2010. 

Infact, I am hoping that Kenya’s winter will be over with the last vote that is cast in the referendum polls, who knows? Maybe on August 5th, the sun will shine so bright in the hearts of Kenyans to remind them that not an ounce of loyalty to the “reds” or “greens” is worth any spill of blood. How I wish my colleagues in the media would prioritize coverage of Kenya’s referendum campaigns 2010 as if the entire sunshine of the nation depends on it! 

It is hard to speak of sunshine when the referendum campaigns are doing a perfect job of chilling scenarios across the country.

These days, before you step out of the house, you think twice about donning that red or green blouse….in case your wardrobe choice is misinterpreted to reflect your bias in the referendum vote. 

This by the way, is the kind of contemplation I wish our media houses would reflect on before choosing to go to town with the splash of the day.

This debate is engaging; “Should Media houses be allowed to take sided in the referendum debate? Should they be allowed to take sides in any coverage at all?”.
Many years ago, while still in Journalism school, this question would have elicited defiance from many a journalist wannabes because it is a question that almost boarders on the absurd - one that makes a mockery of objectivity. Objectivity we were taught is the backbone of good journalism practice or is it not? 

Long since earning my right as a qualified journalist (tried and tested in several newsrooms) I now appreciate the fact that lessons learnt in a classroom and realities in a newsroom are as different as night is from day. When the good don drums it in your head that balance is the guiding stick for every credible media house worth the name, he conveniently forgets to feed you the bitter pill that is the reality of media practice. This stinking reality is the very bane to professional ethics as exemplified in coverage of the referendum campaigns.

With pursuit for professional excellence comes the pressure for commercial superiority, an aspect that throttles professionalism holding it hostage to the pens that sign big cheques. Any successful media house will tell you that messing-up with giant advertisers amounts to strangling the whole enterprise, so if advertisers cough in red or green buckets then that is exactly the colour of the day the media house will slant towards. 

The same goes for control and ownership of media houses where the money-bags rape editorial policies and craftily invade editorial content. Of course there is the other thorn,that of allegiance to tribal chieftains and loyalties to political party affiliations by media managers, but then, this is generally a Kenyan weakness or is it not?
Today as I flip through Newspaper pages and hop across various news channels in the country, I get this nagging realization that something is ailing our media. 

Behind the desks of Peace Pen Communications where I am filling copy, I can hear the hum and buzz of colleagues on the other side of the room debating this very same question as they go about monitoring coverage of the day. It is a routine we have mastered over the last couple of weeks – a routine that is bringing daily disheartening verdicts of why and how media ethics in Kenya is taking a nose-dive in the face of external interference in the campaigns. 

Will the media survive this freezing onslaught on the profession in this referendum period? Will the sun ever shine in media houses after the last referendum vote is cast? Stay with me and get answers.

Mildred Ngesa is the founder and director of Peace pen Communications 



By Mildred Ngesa

I am searching for a very important memento - a t-shirt of the felled renowned Burkina Faso revolutionary leader Captain Thomas Sankara. 

He is claimed as Africa’s own Che Guevara. I eulogize Che many times with precious jungle green t-shirt embodied with his piercing eyes on a feted photo of his youth. When I wear it I feel vindicated - my soul is re-born in the hope that upright ideals never really wither with time. 

But it is Sankara’s T-shirt that I crave the most - especially now. 

Today, the continent is blotted with corruption; plunder of natural resources, nauseating Kleptocracy and pillage of public funds and utilities. It is a sad tale of a destitute continent impoverished further by stark-rotten governance, mismanagement and the audacious deceit by Western implored Breton-woods institutions on a continent in disarray.
Sankara should have lived longer. Maybe then, his ideals would have been too glaring to ignore. Maybe Africa’s leadership would have assumed a different tone. 

His ghost nudges my conscience especially now when the list of Who Owns Kenya, as exemplified weekly in a local TV station grows unbelievably ridiculous with a minority segment’s impudence to amass obscene yards of wealth in the face of retching poverty of the masses. 

The gluttonous bourgeoisie’s latest squander has touched on the core vulnerability of the poor in Kenya; Education and food. Where free primary education would have liberated masses from the bondage of poverty to empowerment and economic freedom, the wealthy leading class have sunk their grip and yanked out billions! Where maize for the poor would have bridged a great starvation gap and restored some sense of sustainable hope, the sticky fingers of politicians entrusted with a country’s well being have gained root. 

Were Thomas Sankara the president of Kenya today, his options would have been simple; fire all the ministers involved and their subordinates on the spot, re-direct the management of food provision and management directly to the people and reigned in on the free primary education to actually ensure that it works. 

No, he would not have been implicated in any of the scams either. That, I am absolutely sure! For a president who died with four bicycles, an old Mazda salon, a broken down fridge and a freezer to his name, such acts of political irresponsibility would have been sacrilegious! 

This is why my mind has been dancing with Sankara’s ghost in these recent days.
I must have been a restless nonchalant teenager when he was assassinated for his ideals 22 years ago. Today, he fills my imaginations with nostalgic fantasies of what political accountability ought to be; what true Africa leadership should have been long before the big fat cats strode into town. 

Well, I have a simple question to the same big cats (read, the president, prime minister, ministers, permanent secretaries and members of parliament) who seem to have conveniently forgotten to whom they ought to be accountable; how many of you ride bicycles to the office every ? How many of you drive an old Renault? 

The minister of finance Uhuru Kenyatta must have thought he was making history when his ministry ordered the sale of all fuel guzzlers used by public servants and replace them with supposedly low-maintenance VW Passatts in the name of cost-cutting on government expenditure 

Thomas Sankara had beaten him to it in 1983 when he came into power in Burkina Faso. He sold most of the government fleet of Mercedes cars and made the Renault 5, the cheapest car sold at Burkina Faso at the time the official service car of the ministers.
Sankara himself used his four bicycles to ride to most of his official functions, his most echoed sentiments then being, “we cannot be the rich ruling class of a poor country!” He led by meticulous example. Now on a good day with a sunlit streak, I would wish to see, say the minister for Tourism Hon. Najib Balala ride to his Utalii House office on a black mamba bicycle or the honourable President arrive at a state function in a Renault 5 or a broken down Mazda! 

Sankara’s legacy today looms larger and even more alive than his brief 37 years on earth. Scholars, critics and admirer’s alike continue to eulogize him in awe paying tribute to a simple man from whom Burkinabe’s owe their identity for it is when he assumed power that he changed the country’s name from Upper Volta to Burkina Faso, “land of the upright people”. His visionary calling for transparency and accountability, justice and equality of all Burkinabes must have guided his instincts even for a choice of name! The guy’s humility to serve his people was so deep that he even refused to have his portrait embedded across his country’s official sites or any other shelves by simply responding; “They are seven million Burkinabes!”, why focus on him alone!

It is not humanly possible to bring back the Sankara years and replicate them in our corridors of maize mugging, education-plundering corridors of Kenya’s fat-cats or other communities of fat-cats spread across Africa’s capitals. 

Sankara remains a nostalgic memory of Africa’s history whose selfless contribution to his people is insulted with every measure of corruption that purports to put individual profits before the people’s well-being. His was not merely a political gimmick meant to upsurge public support and present himself as a flawless leader of the Burkinabes. His was a true lifestyle because Sankara lived the way he died – a poor servant of the Burkinabe people.
And that is why I am dying for his t-shirt. None of Kenya’s political leadership so far has inspired me enough to want to have their faces embodied across my bosom..none but Thomas Sankara of Burkina Faso!

Mildred Ngesa is the founder and director of Peace pen Communications

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Mildred Ngesa twits on; @mildredngesa



By Mildred Ngesa

You know it is not about the money when you do the story and walk away without bothering with the pay cheque. You know it ceased to be just a job when that one story bugged you so much you could hardly sleep at night. You realized your adrenaline was hooked to championing the voices of the voiceless when social injustice and police brutality made you so bl**dy mad you could have punched the legislature on the face! 

It must have been that time when I was 17. Watching the news, chewing away a lazy afternoon I bolted on my sit at the headlines; Four Journalists killed in Somalia! I still remember what my mum said when I followed her to the kitchen and told her I know exactly what I want to do with myself after A-level; “Why do you want to go and get yourself killed in a battle-field instead of getting a nice quiet office Job and live your life in Peace? You can’t be the savior of the world you know!”

I repeated this lesson learnt over the years to a younger colleague this week – almost twenty years after those words were said to me; I said Edith? You may not change the whole world as a journalist but you can change the whole world for that one person whose story you fight for to the end. 

I stand by my statement – I will continue standing by these lines for as long as the profession is alive – Journalism can change the world for one person at a time – one story at a time. 

Many years have gone by and pulling out crumpled old newspaper- cuttings speak of the tears we shed through the lines we wrote on heart-breaking stories of the voiceless.
Time has passed but still once in a while, your name and face is familiar to someone whose story goes back in time – a story you brought to life – a story that changed their world! You pause in sheer amazement. You reflect. You marvel about this undeniable truth. It was never in vain. 

It is the inspiration I wish I could instill in the freshly baked journalists who are dazzled by the life of the glittering celebrity-studded red-carpets and pencil thin glasses of champagne in stone-cold high-end hotels. I wish I could pull their heads away from the clouds of fantasizing on fame and fortune while riding on the back of a profession that really goes so much deeper than scratching the surfaces of mere make-believe It is a profession that needs one to be angry enough to want to do something about what is wrong in the society you live in. 

Man, I miss those days of immense anger – days when journalists in news-rooms competed for credible bylines carved from their bleeding hearts triggered by the reality of life. Reality is harsh. Reality is tough. Reality is tougher in a story presented with hard facts, quotable quotes, painful truths and sometimes sad sad photos to attest. Reality is never pleasant, never nice to look at or read about but it is when we (journalists) turn our faces away from that reality and instead get lost in high-end cocktails that we stop to live in reality! 

To those who call themselves journalists, my take is simple; quit the armchair corner of your comfort, roll up your sleeves, hit the road and speak to real people and get real stories. Sitting back on your lap-top and hitting the “search” button for a “how-to-do” kind of story then you copy & paste and append your byline for publication is the highest ridicule to a noble profession, paahleez get-off it!! 

These days, critics say we are lazy. They say internet has rendered the profession obsolete, I say gobbledygook!! The profession can never die – it should never die because stories and experiences live on from the lines we weave together and the clicks we make to record history and events. 

That is why I urge rookies in the newsrooms to get their finger on the pulse of the essence of this job. With my two-cents-worth of experience and knowledge, I need them to know that there is much better accolades in the job than the extra zeroes on the pays-lip. Infarct, the job may not even be paying so well but how about going to bed knowing you changed the world for one person and turned them into believers of the beauty of journalism? Think about it.



By Mildred Ngesa

This is a battle we can win without a doubt. 

If only the pens of journalism could focus on water and sanitation as a basic and most fundamental human right – if journalism could anchor its cameras towards nothing but the priceless flow of clean drinking water then the battle will most definitely be won and by far.

Five years to hitting the targets of the MDGs and availability of clean, safe drinking water still remains a mirage to millions across the world. Only five years and communities are still choked by challenges of sanitation that threaten to reduce the planet we live in into a massive sea of sheer garbage. 

Thus declares MDG 7: To halve by 2015 the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation. A very bold declaration indeed but sadly shy and notably lacking in sustainable gains compared to other MDGs. 

Water and sanitation ought not to be “invisible” anymore; why should it when the Media across the globe can make the necessary noise to ensure that this basic human right is provided for and achieved? 

Peace Pen Communications calls for the media across the region to rise up to the responsibility of making access to clean water and sanitation a priority to all nations and governments especially in sub-Saharan Africa where availability and accessibility to these basic rights are almost none-existent. 

Statistics are glaring and disturbing. The urban poor settlements in major towns in the country agonize under severe shortages of water – in some places; access to clean drinking water is completely unheard of. It is in this area where sanitation issues are as remotely important as the need for an ostrich feather on a hat – nobody really gives a damn! 

Flowing raw sewages, mountains of stinking garbage and the unavailability of toilets and waste-disposal systems have become synonymous with the wretched poor of urban towns. 

But the urbanite is not the only victim to the intricacies of water and sanitation. Rural settlements have for eons decried the existence of dying water points made uninhabitable because of pollution. In other areas mainly inhabited by pastoralists and animal-headers perennial conflicts and raids have resulted to deaths and constant displacement of communities – all in the name of fighting for water points and water sources for animals. 
The situation is much worse than illustrated. This is why the media like any other stakeholder in this issue must act and act fast. 

Articulating water and sanitation needs amidst the realm of persistent poverty calls for a complete paradigm shift of how media recollects, digests and reports issues on water and sanitation. It calls for strategy and redefinition of what the role of the media is in advocating positive change especially in areas such as water and sanitation where critical masses are so in need. 

True, water & sanitation may not be as “sexy” a subject as the vibrant politics of the day. The media docket in an ordinary newsroom may not even consider water as a lucrative enough subject to invest in so unless the story-angle is scandalous or controversial mere reportage may never see the light of day. 

But media is wrong in this presumption. Just the mere fact that nations and governments fail to guarantee clean water and sanitation to its citizen as a basic human rights requirement as stipulated under the law is in itself a major anomaly. By denying citizens clean flowing water from the taps is by all means breaking the law! The new Constitution of Kenya for instance guarantees this right in no uncertain terms; Article 43 (1) b & d; - Every person has the right to clean and safe water in adequate quantities…and a right to reasonable standards of sanitation. 

For a dedicated and critical media surely the glaring gaps in this regard should be fodder enough for ground-breaking meaningful stories on water and sanitation all year round! If media is keen to act as the agitators for rights of disgruntled citizenry then reportage of the flying toilets of Kibera and other slums would not cease until all slum areas are provided with decent toilet and waste management facilities regardless of the circumstances!
Fodder to keep the media interested in water & sanitation stories is in plenty. 

Children walk for unbelievable kilometers every day in search of water on their way to school and back, women are attacked and raped at night when they venture out of their houses, especially in the slum areas to go to the only toilets available, communities kill each other in the name of water in cattle rustling battles that have mistakenly gained roots and become the norm, while contaminated water is sold to unsuspecting desperate consumers at exuberant rates as governments turn a blind eye. Such are stories that should and must keep the media busy enough to ensure governments are kept on toes to deliver vital services. 

It takes the pooling together of all stakeholders in the water & sanitation field for this towering reality of MDG 7 to be realized especially in Africa. It means that policy makers, financial strategists, technical and resource services, governments, the donor community and the media should re-think and re-define the path towards achieving this goal. 

It is only through a well-coordinated consistent and holistic approach to the water & sanitation crisis that tangible results can be achieved and celebrated. This will include a steady collaboration and partnership with the media to articulate and drive advocacy and implementation matters making them newsworthy enough to elicit reaction from responsible quarters charged with turning things around where gaps in terms of provision and services looms high. 
It is the media that can put a face, a name, a voice and much credibility to the debate on access to clean drinking water and sanitation – it is the media that has the ability through proper packaging of issues on water & sanitation and articulating them to the various selected publics that the two issues can gain prominence and importance. 
It is only when water persistently and continuously flows from the pen that the real impact of MDG 7 will be realized. 

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By Mildred Ngesa
By Mildred ngesaTHURSDAY, OCTOBER 27, 2011
We have not gone to war yet. 

We think we are already at war but we are fooling ourselves. Yes, our soldiers are out there in the frontline, heaving away precious years under the slippery jaunts of a faceless enemy, but before we claim victory over this battle then we must look down and see that we still have the guns in our hands – uncorked, unused.
No, we haven’t gone to war. 

Journalists know when they go to war because when they do, something happens, the earth moves and the terrain is never the same again. They know very well that war comes deep, passionate and unrelenting to journalists who believe in a just cause – war comes with a somber warning to unpack the looming gaps and loop-holes within a system that has knowingly or unknowingly let down its people. 

Let me explain. 

Kenya is at war with Somalia. We all saw it coming. All journalists saw it coming, infarct we knew it so well that to paraphrase the words of poet/author Toni Kan in Don’t go home, he knows, we flirted with the idea of war for a long time. We were like a woman teasing a bad tooth with her tongue, waiting for when it would sire real pain. Well, the pain is here and suddenly we are bewildered by just what a little flirting can do! 

Kenya is at war with Somali. Words with such gloomy finality it almost makes the opposite of war seem like something we dreamt up. Just how did we get here? How did we replace the regular first news items with jungle fatigue, tankers, guns, rifles and a people bewildered by the uncertainty of when or where grenades will explode next? 

Let me tell you how we did it. If journalists had fought the “journalistic war” the moment we let in the first Somali refugee past the Kenya border-line many years ago then maybe this current war need not have happened. But we were not smart enough then to read between the fine prints to know that as a nation, we had sold ourselves to the devil by inviting him to our backyard. 

The Refugee is and always will be a big story anywhere in the world. However, the story dies just as soon as the paper rolls out of the press. The Refugee story is the one story that a good (Kenyan) journalist ear-marks as one of the must-do’s before she takes the final bow. Like the urge to scratch an irritating itch before swiftly moving on with life, we hurriedly scratched the surface of the refugee story over the years and hoped that we could move on without a hitch. But that hope has dumped us. Today we are in the middle of a war and as journalists, we stand bewildered, stupefied like a man who has woken up on a strange bed, wondering how we got here in the first place. 

We got here when we were too busy to dig deeper into unraveling the implications of the expanding refugee camps in Dadaab and elsewhere. We were busy invoking international laws and treaties to justify the humanitarian character of the government of Kenya showering its neighbors with compassion. 

When pockets of bad news started emerging that arms and armed militia were invading camps, we hurriedly reported the News aspect of the invasions and moved on to the next story in the docket. Then we got excited with the political spin into the whole Somalia question that poised Kenya as the don of conflict mitigation and peace-maker..we even gave them ‘permanent residency’ to lay their heads and chew khat while sorting out their squabbles! Now, pray tell me why are we stunned by this war even when as journalists we are yet to grab our fighting gear and hit the battle fields? Why do we wonder just when this neighboring community became such a substantial part of the Kenya population when we stood aside and watched them troop in? 

Numbers do not lie. The Somali population is humongous here. Ask a monstrous jungle named Eastleigh Estate. This is where journalists should have created their combat base and sustained the battle of duty until change came. This is where they should have pitched tent long before our men and women in green crossed the borders under the shattering of machine guns and droves. Eastleigh is where we should have fought with all our journalistic might to ensure the enemy does not gain root and flourish. But just as that tiny space in the North where we allowed the first bunch of refugees to trot in, so did the snake that is Eastleigh grab a life-line from our very own hospitality. Before we could blink, Eastleigh was “small Somali”.

And so we specialized on feeding this snake that is Eastleigh. We sporadically spoke of an influx of small arms and foreign exchange scams there then hurriedly moved on to the next story. We weakly lamented the lawlessness of foreigners who had invaded our sovereign space but secretly pocketed the wads of dirty cash pinched into our palms to keep us quiet. And the Eastleigh snake continued to thrive. 

When international terror lists pointed directly at Eastleigh, we rushed to clean up our image lest the allegations damaged our reputation and messed up our precious tourism industry. But then, you cannot hide a bulging live snake under your shirt, can you? So here we are – journalists shocked to the war frontline, covering each gun-shot and still wondering how we got here in the first place. 

Wonder no more comrades for we got here long before this ‘here’ was conceived.
We got here when we refused to pick up the fight with our mighty pens and microphones to report the enemy back to hell the very first time it reared its head.
And still, we are yet to go to war!



By Jerry Okungu
Nairobi, Kenya
October 29, 2011

The war against the Al Shabaab is beginning to take its toll on us in more ways than one both inside Somalia and here at home. We are beginning to see and hear some strange and baffling utterances coming from government officials from both sides.
If for some strange reason, President Sheikh Sheif Ahmed is opposed to Kenyan military fighting Al Shabaab terrorists on Somali soil, Kenya’s Assistant Minister is admitting the unbelievable that  the Kenya Government has all along welcomed Al Shabaabs to live in Kenya, invest and do business here in return for sparing Kenya in their attacks.
Whereas the Somali President’s opposition to the Kenyan military could pass for misplaced patriotism for his country, Onyonka’s admission that Kenya indeed has all along housed these terrorists is equivalent to a family accepting to give shelter, food and a place to sleep over night as long as the snake promises not to bite any member of his family. It sounds like a betrayal of the Kenyan people by its elected government for indeed Onyonka spoke for the Government of Kenya.
When I wrote last week that the Al Shabaab war has its beneficiaries and supporters in high places in Kenya and Somalia, I could have been branded a rumour monger. However, now that Onyonka has spoken on behalf of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs so soon after Minister Wetangula had visited Mogadishu; one wonders if indeed some deals were reached between Wetangula and Sheikh Ahmed over dealing with Al Shabaab. But even more baffling is why it had to be Richard Onyonka to tell Kenyans that indeed we have always welcomed the Al Shabaabs and engaged them in talks over Somalia! Did he really consult Moses Wetangula before he picked the microphone or is this government where any junior officer can wake up one morning, call a press conference and begin spilling the beans without a thought as to the consequences of such utterances?
And even if the government has had secret deals with these terrorists in the past, was this the time to confess knowing that our soldiers are dying in the frontline?
According to the Daily Nation of October 28, 2011, Foreign Affairs assistant minister Richard Onyonka appeared to have thrown a cat among pigeons when he declared that the government was ready to negotiate with the Al-Shabaab for an end to the current military operation if the group renounced violence and stopped its actions in Kenya. He claimed Al-Shabaab has frequently been in touch with the government and that the Al-Shabaab was frequently and constantly in touch with the Kenyan government adding that if the Al-Shabaab would like to discuss and engage with the Kenyan government, government channels were very open
This statement has one fundamental significance; It implies that Kenya is ready to go against the principle of non-negotiation with terrorists if we negotiate with terrorists whose links with AL Qeida are known then we will have handed terrorists worldwide a psychological war. One more thing; all terrorist organizations worldwide will know that they have finally acquired another safe haven for their operations in addition to Somalia in the Horn of Africa.
Whereas Sheikh Ahmed’s utterances against Kenyan troops drew immediate protests from ordinary Somalis and the Transitional Armed Forces culminating in the burning of Sheikh Ahmed’s pictures, there has been very little public response here at home against Richard Onyonka’s utterances save for one MP from the North Eastern who urged Raila Odinga to sack Onyonka from his assistant ministerial post.
But perhaps the indifference to Onyonka’s statement could have been due to his position in the government- not being a high ranking government official and more importantly being a typical Kenyan politician who loves to speak carelessly before weighing his words.
Moving away from these side shows, all Kenyans must remember that they are at war with a terrorist group in a foreign land. As such we must at home streamline our behavior. We have to understand that our men out there expect maximum moral and material support to defeat the enemy. We cannot afford to let them hear conflicting information that while their lives are on the line on the frontline, some opportunistic politicians are cutting deals with the enemy back home. That would be akin to stabbing our military on the back.
At this point in time, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials have no business meddling in a military operation. The Defense Minister is there to handle political issues. The military spokesman can brief us on progress in the field. And if there is need to be told that we are changing cause or negotiating with any groups in Somalia, let it come from the Head of State or the Prime Minister but not any Tom Dick and Harry including Assistant ministers and Permanent Secretaries. Allowing such a scenario will only muddle waters more.
Let this country remain focused and on cause. Our mission is to exterminate the Al Shabaabs in their bases, cut their supplies and stop them from recruiting local youths to cause mayhem in Kenya. That means that we must conclusively win the war on Al Shabaabs inside Somalia, the Somali president’s protests notwithstanding. It is the only logical thing to do if this country is to remain safe and peaceful. Short of that, we shall have allowed a terrorist culture to take route in Kenya and very soon Nairobi will be like Mogadishu, Beirut and other war-torn cities of the world. I do not think this is what the Kenyan people want and Richard Onyonka and anybody else in government who shares his views should know this.

Friday, October 28, 2011



By Sokari Ekine
27 October 2011

Sokari Ekine takes a look at what 'African bloggers had to say about Gaddafi's demise and Libya's freedom celebrations.'
'All evils including Gaddafi have vanished from our beloved country!' - Mahmoud Jibril, Prime Minister of Libya.
In thinking about writing this piece the thought crossed my mind 'The tyrant is dead, Long live the tyrants!' We all agree - well almost - that there is cause for celebration now that Muammar Gaddafi has passed to the beyond, so what else is there to say?

We can talk about the imperialists role in facilitating his demise and their future role in Libya - Firoze Manji describes his death as symbolic of 'the final re-colonisation and occupation of Libya' and reminds us of the importance of the huge water resources in Libya. What about the various Libyan militias for whom extrajudicial punishment has become part and parcel of the 'revolution'? Is the TNC really in control - and the question which has bothered me for months: Who are they really? Reactionaries, monarchists, Islamists or a mix of all three? I've also wondered about Gaddafi himself and how despicable he was or was not, and what his death means for other dictators and tyrannical leaders.

Horrified at the manner of his death and that of his son, particularly the abuse beyond death, I was tempted to go down the self-righteous route because I am weary of actions of hatred, weary of killings, militarism and scenes of young men wielding automatic weapons as third arm extensions of their masculinities in the name of liberation and freedom - a word which means different things to different people. To the Libyan people, maybe freedom means the end of Gaddafi. But the notion that one will be free in an environment awash with weapons and blood lust now that he has gone escapes me.

On the verge of ambivalence I read Spiked editor Brenden O'Neill's excellent critique of two sides of the Libyan coin - 'The leeches and legalists squabbling over Gaddafi'. O'Neill asks who comes out worst: Is it western leaders trying to make 'moral momentum' and attempting to boost their failing 'political existences'? Or is it the UN and liberal press who complain about the illegalities of his killings, forcing us all to witness the ensuing debate for the next '500 years'. His conclusion - that 'it's a close thing':

Recent Gaddafi cartoon made for Cartoon Movement.
'We may never decide upon a winner in this competition of degraded responses to Gaddafi's demise. But one thing is certain: the post-Gaddafi debate has exposed some serious rot at the heart of the Western political class. On one side, we have prime ministers and presidents leeching off the killing of a tinpot tyrant in the hope that it will secure them a paragraph or two, maybe even a mugshot, in future books on world history. And on the other side, we have an army of naysayers, risk-averse pen-pushers dolled up as men of principle, for whom no earthly event can be allowed to pass without becoming the subject of an interminable inquiry.'

Perhaps Gaddafi preferred the 'literal lynch mob' to the judicial one which surely awaited him, thinking that the former would be less humiliating. Perhaps he preferred to die at the hands of his own people in his own country, thus depriving the imperialists and self-righteous from 'advertising their moral pre-eminence by interrogating him for years and writing endless articles about his evilness'.

I am not sure where this leaves me but I am thankful that across the world the 'Occupy' movement is spreading, as thousands and thousands of people engage in an awakening through peaceful but determined protests for change. At the same time there is much hypocrisy as Syria, Bahrain and Yemen remain under the rule of tyrants and murderers - yet the imperialists remain silent.

Here is what a few African bloggers had to say about Gaddafi's demise and Libya's freedom celebration:
From Cameroon, Innocent Chia of the Chia Report argues that when African leaders begin to respect limited terms in office, then they and Africans will earn the respect of peers in the world:

'As Libya disposes of the remains of the Libyan autocrat, Muammar Kaddafi, and Cameroon ironically crowns dictator Biya in the days ahead, it cannot, nor must it, be lost on any right thinking person that it is easier to figure out one person than it is figuring a number of people.

'Paul Biya has been representing (selling) Cameroon interests for 29 years! The upside of it is that he should be great at it because experience "is the best teacher". Or is it not? Before we consider the question of whether experience/longevity is not the best teacher, it must be said of it that nurtures stability and continuity.

'But stability and continuity, in business like in politics, are double edged swords. Opponents get to know very well who you are - including the strengths and weaknesses of the leader or regime. Such knowledge, in the hands of the enemy, becomes extremely important during negotiation.'

West Africa Democracy Radio (WADR) interviewed Cameroonian political scientist, Guy Parfait Songue who believes Gaddafi was a great leader. If you can bear it listen to the full interview here.
'Gaddafi spent most of his time, energy and money to unify Africa.
'He says for some on the African continent, Gaddafi's legacy is his struggle to create the United States of Africa, but to no avail.

'Unfriendly to the word globalization and not fully convinced democracy is key to economic and social development, Cameroonian Political Science lecturer at the 'Douala University, Songue argues that Africa has slipped 50 years backward in its decolonization process, with the death of Gaddafi.'
Zainul Mzige of Dewjiblog is also not happy to see the end of Gaddafi and complains that the media has failed to 'show the kind giving Gaddafi we never heard'. A similar view to some depressingly misguided African Americans who took to the streets to mourn the man!
'Gaddafi unlike most dictators I will refrain from naming them [why?] has shown his humane side, the very side we dream of seeing in other dictators who just talk and talk...'

Mzige then goes on to list 'unknown facts' such as no interest loans, homes for all, gifts to newly-weds, education and medical treatment and cheap oil. This is like saying I should be grateful if a rich person throws me a few dollars for food everyday while at the same time choking me with their foot!
The Moor Next Door (The 'Brother Leader' is dead. Let us not say 'Long live the Brother Leader) quotes from the Economist:

'He ruled unsparingly. In his Libya, dissent was punishable by death. A private press was forbidden, and political parties banned. Several dozen deaths a year of political opponents were attributed to his secret police, acting on tip-offs from the surveillance committees to which around 10% of Libyans belonged. In Abu Salim prison, on one night in 1996, 1,200 political prisoners died. If his enemies fled abroad, his hired assassins found these "scum" and killed them. The colonel's writ, as recorded in his Green Book" of rambling political philosophy, replaced the rule of law.'

Egyptian Chronicles is unsympathetic to those non-Libyans complaining about the manner of his death or worse those who feel his provision of free health and housing somehow compensated for the violence he unleashed against his people.
'Please nobody teaches the Libyans about POWs rights. The NTC told Qaddafi's tribe that they can bury him as they want.

'The debate of the scenes of Qaddafi's capture and corpse is still on. The UN is having a probe in his death. The Libyan people are now branded as barbaric, of course nobody likes to remember what the Italians did to Benito Mussolini.

'The Libyans have kept Seif Al Islam alive because unlike his mental sick father knows everything. The NTC is officially demanding the rest of the clan from Algeria and Niger.
'Of course those who did not live under the rule of Qaddafi , who were not tortured or raped by Qaddafi's troops , who were not forced in to exile or who did not see their beloved ones executed or killed by the Qaddafi's regime in those bloody 42 years that sent Libya in to the dark ages , can say whatever they want. It is up to the Libyans not to anyone of us. Already I remember in my coverage for the Libyan revolution since February 2011, Libyans made it clear that he would not make it alive.

'Already I am glad that it is finished like that because we do not anyone to have sympathy with him if he was put in a cage and faced a trial like Mubarak. Speaking about sympathy, Mustafa Bakry yesterday was mourning Qaddafi in his TV show just like a good orphan.'
Moving away from Libya and Gaddafi, Belinda Otis published a refreshing and inspiring interview with Sada Mire, the only Somaliland archaeologist whose task is to report on 'Africa's forgotten stories':
'Many people have an image of Africa or parts of Africa being very much the way they see it today, and that image is projected into the past. Slavery is projected into the past, colonialism and inferiority mentality is projected into the past.

Poverty, drought and the problems we are aware of in the last two centuries are projected into the very far past. My research into heritage in Somaliland, Egypt and Kenya is about showing that this continent and the people living in the different regions may have not always been that way, good or bad. What I want people to know for example is that research is now showing that Africa was, if not the first place, one of the first places in the world to melt iron and be involved in iron production. We never had bronze, in other parts of the word, the typology is that first, you have Stone Age culture, then you have bronze and then iron.

But inAfrica, we moved from Stone Age to iron at the same time others were using bronze before they knew about iron. So, I want people to know that Africa was at the forefront of technological development in the world and contributed not only slaves but technology and knowledge to other cultures. It was not just always the recipient that we know it as today.'

Finally Black Looks has a short report on the highly disturbing plans by Japan to export food from the Fukushima region to countries in the global south under the guise of development aid:

Sokari Ekine blogs at Black Looks.
'NHK [Japan National Broadcasting] reported that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is proposing to purchase industrial and canned fish products from disaster hit areas, Fukushima, Miyagi, Iwate as "a means to tackle harmful rumor against their products". The Ministry applied for a budget $65 million for this purpose under overseas development aid [ODA]. These products have a high risk of being contaminated yet the Japanese government are intending to send them to countries in the global south! Not done with killing their own people they now want to spread their nuclear death under the disguise of aid - in other words kill and make even more people really sick!'