Category Archives: East Africa

Gambia joins Burundi and SAouth Africa in opting to leave the ICC


President Yahya Jammeh of Gambia attends the 44th summit of the 15-nation west African bloc ECOWAS at the Felix Houphouet-Boigny Foundation in Yamoussoukro on March 28, 2014AFP President Yahya Jammeh has ruled Gambia since 1994

The Gambia says it will pull of the International Criminal Court (ICC) after accusing the tribunal of persecuting and humiliating Africans.

The small West African nation joins South Africa and Burundi in withdrawing from the court.

The ICC was set up to try the world’s worst crimes but has been accused of unfairly targeting African leaders.

Gambian Information Minister Sheriff Bojang said the court had ignored Western war crimes.

He said the ICC, for example, had failed to indict former British Prime Minister Tony Blair over the Iraq war.

Speaking on state television, he said the ICC was “an International Caucasian Court for the persecution and humiliation of people of colour, especially Africans”.

The ICC’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, is a former Gambian justice minister.

President Yahya Jammeh has ruled The Gambia since taking power in a coup in 1994.

Elections are due in December, but opposition leader Ousainou Darboe and 18 others were jailed for three years earlier this year over an unauthorised protest.

The country has been unsuccessfully trying to have the European Union indicted by the court over the deaths of thousands of African migrants trying to reach the continent by boat.

The ICC and global justice:

  • Came into force in 2002
  • The Rome Statute that set it up has been ratified by 123 countries, but the US is a notable absence
  • It aims to prosecute and bring to justice those responsible for the worst crimes – genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes
  • In the court’s 14-year history it has only brought charges against Africans.

What is the International Criminal Court?

South Africa said last week that it had formally begun the process of withdrawing from the ICC because it did not want to execute arrest warrants which would lead to “regime change”.

Last year, a South African court criticised the government for refusing to arrest Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the court.

Burundi has also said it will leave the court, while other Africa countries like Kenya and Namibia have said they might.

All but one of the ICC’s 10 investigations have been Africa-based.

Kenya and Somalia – Al Shabaab launch three attacks


African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) peacekeepers assess the scene of an explosion after members of the al Shabaab Islamist group rammed a suicide truck bomb into their military base in the area of Beledweyne town, north of the capital Mogadishu, October 25, 2016. REUTERS/Stringer
By Abdi Sheikh and Feisal Omar | MOGADISHU

Somalia’s al Shabaab Islamist group rammed a military base with a suicide truck bomb, shot dead an intelligence officer and killed 12 people in a Kenyan border town in a series of strikes over 24 hours, the militants said on Tuesday.

The group, which once ruled much of Somalia, wants to topple the Western-backed government in Mogadishu and drive out African AMISOM peacekeepers made up of soldiers from Kenya, Djibouti, Uganda, Ethiopia and other African nations.

The attacks mark the build up to elections in coming weeks for the Somali parliament, which will in turn pick a new president to continue slow reconstruction efforts in a nation racked by more than two decades of conflict.

Al Shabaab spokesman Abdiasis Abu Musab said the group was behind a truck bomb that rammed into an AMISOM base in the Somali town of Beledweyne, north of Mogadishu. He said 17 soldiers from Djibouti were killed in the attack.

There was no immediate comment from AMISOM and police said they did not have access to the base to offer any figures. Al Shabaab’s numbers are often much larger than officials figures.

Al Shabaab’s usual tactic is to ram the entrance to a target site so that its fighters can storm inside, but a police officer in Beledweyne said no such assault took place on Tuesday.

AMISOM has been battling the rebels in support of the Somali government.

The al Shabaab spokesman also said the group shot senior intelligence officer Colonel Abdiasis Araye as he walked to a mosque late on Monday in Mogadishu.

He also said al Shabaab was behind Tuesday’s early morning attack on a hotel in Kenya’s northeastern Mandera town, killing at least 12 people according to police and 15 people according to al Shabaab’s account.

Al Shabaab has often launched attacks in neighbouring Kenya, saying it will continue until Kenyan forces were withdrawn.

Kenya’s government has repeatedly said it would not be forced out of Somalia by al Shabaab, saying it sees the mission as a matter of national security.

(Additional reporting by George Obulutsa in Nairobi; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

Swaziland’s rhino horn trade bid defeated at CITES – but what are the alternatives?

Talking Humanities


In the last of his series on the rhino horn trade debate, Professor Keith Somerville calls for a new and effective solution to protect these endangered animals. He says the ban on all trade, which has been in effect for 39 years, has not worked and maybe the answer is a more realistic mix that includes biting the bullet of adopting regulated trade that brings in funds to make conservation self-sustaining.

Swaziland’s proposal to trade in rhino horn has been decisively defeated by member states of CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).

In a secret ballot on 3 October 100 members voted to reject the country’s request to sell its stocks of rhino horn and small annual quantities resulting from natural morality. Twenty-six voted for and 17 abstained. It is believed that Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe (which have the majority of Africa’s black and white rhinos) supported the Swazi bid, while states like Kenya, which has a small and threatened population, voted against.

According to Ted Reilly, who heads the country’s parks, Swaziland would have used the funds from the sale to increase protection and conservation measures and provide incentives for local people to support their efforts.

In an emotional speech to the conference in Johannesburg, he appealed for a vote in favour of the trade, reminding delegates of the financial and human and costs of protecting rhinos, notably the number of wildlife rangers killed by poachers. He said the ban wasn’t working and a regulated trade was the only answer.

Swaziland’s official bid claimed ‘proceeds from the sale of stocks will raise approximately $9.9 million at a wholesale price of $30,000 per kg. That amount will be placed in an endowment fund to yield approximately $600,000 annually’, which would make a huge difference to resources available for protection, development of wider conservation programmes in protected areas and benefit staff and local communities. Private rhino owners is South Africa are currentlyfighting their own government in the courts to get a moratorium on domestic trade in horn lifted. Their success would enable trade within South Africa but not legal exports of horn.


Ted Reilly (left) on top of a 60 foot ranger watchtower in Mkhaya Royal National park, Swaziland

NGO’s welcome continued ban
Western conservation and animal welfare NGO’s were jubilant about the vote against Swaziland’s proposals. Kelvin Alie, director of wildlife trade at the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), said ‘At a time when rhinoceros are more under threat than ever from poachers due to rapidly increasing black market prices in their horn, this decision by parties to deny Swaziland’s request to trade in white rhino horn is to be applauded.’ He didn’t, however, say how the fight to conserve rhinos could be sustainably financed without a legal trade.

The IFAW view and that of other NGOs is best summed up by a speech by Will Travers, head of the Born Free Foundation based in London. Debating the issue at London’s Royal Institution, he made it clear that he and many other NGO activists in the conservation field would never support a legal trade – even in natural mortality horn or horn removed without injury to the rhino to deter poachers from killing the animals (see The Conversation).

He believes Western governments and NGOs should finance conservation and enhanced anti-poaching in Africa range states – something which disempowers those states and hands power over their wildlife resources to NGOs and foreign governments. But this would add to local populations’ sense of alienation from wildlife. In addition, it may increase the likelihood that they will help poachers as they feel that have no power over their own wildlife and receive no benefit from it. Voicing the concern for a lack of sustainable income for conservation Tom Milken, the veteran monitor of international wildlife trade and its effects, said after the vote, ‘The underlying issue is, who pays for it?’

The answer is the NGOs that support a ban on all rhino horn trade. They are a major source of funds for conservation and use the funding, or the denial of it, to persuade countries to adopt anti-trade policies and move away from community-based, sustainable use approaches to wildlife. As the former head of the Natal Parks Board, David Cook and veteran South African conservationist John Hanks, told me recently, this approach denies countries like Swaziland, Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa, greater influence over rhino conservation policy and the chance for self-funding conservation and rural development.

What next?
The CITES vote against legal trade comes at a time when a brief period of optimism that the rate of poaching was being reduced by anti-poaching operations is being replaced by evidence of a sharp rise in poaching in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN). Just before the CITES meeting opened Edna Molewa,  South Africa’s minister of environmental affairs, confirmed 702 rhinos had been killed in the country as a whole this year, compared with 796 in the same period last year. She said between January and August 458 poached rhino carcasses were found in Kruger compared with 557 in 2015. But there is growing evidence that poaching has not been halted. It has been diverted from Kruger to other areas – particularly the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park in KZN.

On 23 September (Wold Rhino Day) the Hluhluwe Park reported that six rhinos had been found dead that day with their horns removed. This brought the number poached there to 113 this year – up 20 per cent on 2015. Twenty were killed in September alone. When I visited the park in early September, the head of rhino protection, Cedric Coetzee, said poaching gangs were switching to the park because of the tightening of security in Kruger National park and because, as I saw when I toured the park, the rhinos are easy to find. He said that whereas a poacher in Kruger might take two to three days to kill rhinos, in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi they could be in and out of the park in two to three hours having killed and removed the horns of several of the animals.

The KZN wildlife authorities are fighting back. Last month they announced that three poachers had been shot dead there. A spokesman for KZN Ezemvelo Wildlife (which runs the park) said in addition, so far this year rangers and the police had arrested 91 poachers, compared with 49 for the whole of 2015.

This demonstrates that with rhino horn fetching $65,000 a kilo in Vietnam and China, the illegal trade will persist. Poor rural dwellers, former professional hunters, corrupt ex-staff of wildlife parks and even some current wildlife personnel are part of a complex mix of people who work with criminal syndicates to poach rhinos and smuggle their horn. Anti-poaching patrols can kill or catch poachers but have had little success in smashing the syndicates, as Kruger Park’s chief ranger Nicholus Funda told me recently.


Black rhino in Mkhaya Royal National Park, Swaziland

A more realistic mix, biting the bullet of adopting regulated trade that brings in funds to make conservation self-sustaining seems to me the only answer in the long run. The rejection of the Swazi bid will not end attempts to find solutions involving the reintroduction of legal and regulated trade, despite the emotively-expressed opposition of wildlife NGOs. Rhinos are in danger and new methods are needed, as the 39 years of a ban on all trade has not improved protection of the rhino. It has only created a continuing demand, hiked prices and encouraged poaching. Something new and effective is needed – fast!

Kenya – Al Shabab attack on theatre group in Mandera kills 12


Aftermath of the attack
Those killed were staying in this guest house

At least 12 people have been killed in an attack in Kenya carried out by Somalia-based militant Islamist group al-Shabab.

Police in the Kenyan border town of Mandera said the attackers used explosives during the overnight attack.

The target was a guesthouse hosting members of a theatre group who were in the town for performances in schools.

It is the latest in a spate of deadly attacks targeting Christians in the mainly Muslim region.

Reports say that the theatre group was composed of university students who had travelled to the north-eastern town to perform plays in local schools.

At least six of the members are yet to be accounted for, while four are in hospital.

The militants have claimed the attack in an affiliated radio station saying that it launched an attack in Mandera killing “15 Kenyans”.

Earlier this month, al-Shabab militants killed six people in an attack the group said was aimed at forcing Christians out of the area.

Analysis: Abdullahi Abdi, BBC Somali service, Kenya

Mandera borders Somalia, making it vulnerable to attacks from militants based there. The militants usually cross the porous border, carrying out deadly attacks on civilians and security agents before fleeing back.

Muslims in the north east increasingly see al-Shabab as a threat to their own interests and are making a concerted effort to improve relations with Christians living there.

Many of the Christians are skilled workers from other parts of Kenya, making a vital contribution to hospitals and schools. The north east is one of Kenya’s poorest areas and, if they are driven out, public services will worsen.

Al-Shabab, based in Somalia, is affiliated to al-Qaeda.

The group has been at war with Kenya ever since Kenyan forces entered Somalia in October 2011 in an effort to crush them.

Kenyan troops are now part of the African Union mission in Somalia.

The militants have lost control of most Somali towns and cities in recent years but still control rural areas in southern and central Somalia.

Kenya – 12 killed in suspected Al Shabaab attack in Mandera

Daily Nation


Twelve people have been killed in an overnight attack at Bishaaro Hotel lodge in Mandera Town by suspected Al-Shabaab gunmen, police confirmed on Tuesday.

Mandera East police boss (OCPD) Ezekiel Singoe said the 12 included ten who were visiting for set book performances at schools in the county.

He said the 10 had arrived in Mandera on Monday to stage plays for Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) exam candidates.

The police boss said they were still identifying the bodies.

The attackers used improvised explosive devices to break the metallic doors at the lodge before shooting the 12 dead in their rooms.

Each of room accommodated four to six people.

Earlier, there were reports of a heavy gun battle overnight.

Mandera County Police Commander Job Boronjo Tuesday morning then confirmed the attack but said they were yet to get details of death or injuries as it was still dark in the area.
“We are monitoring the situation. My officers are on the ground. We will give the details when the day breaks” Mr Boronjo said from Garissa where he is attending an official meeting.

Asked on exact place of the attack Mr Boronjo said on phone “Lets not go into details for now please. Lets wait for update as the day breaks.”



Twelve people were killed in an attack in Mandera in northeast Kenya on Tuesday by suspected Islamist militants from the Somalia’s al Shabaab group, Kenyan media quoted police as saying, the latest strike in an area by the militants.

Privately-owned television stations Citizen and NTV said 12 people were killed in the attack on a guest house. The privately-owned Daily Nation newspaper also gave the same death toll, quoting the head of police for Mandera East.

(Reporting by George Obulutsa; Editing by Michael Perry)


Somalia – seven soldiers killed in fighting between Puntland and Galmadug


By Abdiqani Hassan and Abdi Sheikh | MOGADISHU

At least seven people were killed in weekend fighting between soldiers from two semi-autonomous regions of Somalia, officials from both sides said on Sunday, sparking fears of wider conflict.

The clashes which broke out on Saturday pitted forces from Puntland with those of Galmudug, the latest flare-up over a disputed area straddling their border.

The two sides are fighting in the town of Galkayo, which is divided between clan militias loyal to the different regions.

Hirsi Yusuf Barre, the mayor of Galkayo south, accused soldiers from Puntland of launching attacks first on Saturday.

“We lost three soldiers and 11 others were injured. We burned three vehicles belonging to Puntland,” he told Reuters on Sunday.

Major Mohamed Ibrahim, a military officer in Puntland, said four soldiers were killed on their side and seven others were injured.

“We have repulsed them,” he said.

Residents in the area said Galkayo was calm on Sunday but soldiers from both factions were seen reorganizing themselves for more clashes.

Earlier this month, the United Nations said the conflict could worsen and clashes had already displaced around 50,000 people.

Somalia has been at civil war for 25 years and clashes between the clan-based militias who control much of the country are common. In the south, forces loyal to the weak U.N.-backed government are also battling Islamist insurgents.

(Writing by Aaron Maasho Editing by Ruth Pitchford)

Kenya – Jubilee pushing for Kenyan withdrawal from ICC

Star (Kenya)

Oct. 24, 2016, 5:00 am
Former Police Commissioner Hussein Ali, former radio journalist Joshua Sang, Deputy President William Ruto, Senator Kipchumba Murkomen and other leaders celebrate the collapse of the ICC cases at the DP’s Karen offi ce on April 6 /CHARLES KIMANI /DPPS
Former Police Commissioner Hussein Ali, former radio journalist Joshua Sang, Deputy President William Ruto, Senator Kipchumba Murkomen and other leaders celebrate the collapse of the ICC cases at the DP’s Karen offi ce on April 6 /CHARLES KIMANI /DPPS

The Jubilee administration will this week renew its push to have Kenya withdraw from the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

Though the Executive is yet to act on two resolutions previously passed by Parliament, the National Assembly will seek to complete debate on a Bill to repeal the International Crimes Act.

State House yesterday said the Cabinet will consider the previous resolutions but did not give any time-frame. This comes only days after Burundi and South Africa formally informed the United Nations they are withdrawing from the ICC.

National Assembly majority leader Aden Duale said the Bill to repeal the International Crimes Act will be considered during tomorrow’s House Business Committee meeting.

“I will ask the House Business Committee to consider this Bill for debate in the coming week. Ultimately, our decision to leave the ICC is there. The spirit is there and I’m one of those who believe we have no business being in the ICC,” he said.

Parliament will now seek to repeal the Act, which incorporates the Rome Statute in the Kenyan Constitution and obligates the government to cooperate with the ICC.

A repeal would force the Cabinet to come up with a resolution, which will then be transformed into the withdrawal instruments.

Filing such instruments with the UN Security Council will mean Kenya will effectively have left the ICC after the end of a one-year period.

Yesterday, State House spokesman Manoah Esipisu said the Executive is yet to make any decision on the matter, hence the issue is pending.

The Bill by Bumula MP Boniface Otsiula was published on October 23 last year but is yet to come up for the second reading.

“The principal object of the Bill is to repeal the International Crimes Act 2008 in its entirety,” the memorandum of objects and reasons in the International Crimes (Repeal) Bill 2015 states.

“The International Crimes Act 2008 is hereby repealed,” the Bill states in the single clause.

If the Bill is passed and assented to by the President, Kenya will become the third African country to withdraw from the ICC. Burundi was the first to do so last week after President Pierre Nkurunziza signed into law a Bill formalising the exit.

Two day’s later, South Africa notified the UN Security Council. It said the court is not in line with its efforts for peaceful conflict resolution.

This is not the first time MPs have set out on a motion to have Kenya withdraw from the ICC.

A similar move was made in 2013, when the court demanded President Uhuru Kenyatta appear before it in person.

After four hours of debate, the MPs passed a motion allowing Kenya to withdraw from the ICC, though the opposition walked out of the debate.

In January this year, the African Union backed Kenya’s agenda for a mass walkout from the ICC during a Heads of State Summit in Addis Ababa.

Uhuru said Africa should make a powerful statement that reflects its refusal to be carried along in a system that has no regard for the sovereignty of nations and tramples on the security and dignity of Africans.

He said the court had subjected him and Deputy President William Ruto to “cases built on weak investigations and pursued with politicised zeal”.

Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has since withdrawn the charges against Uhuru, while ICC judges ruled that Ruto and his co-accused Joshua Sang had no case to answer due to insufficient evidence.

On Saturday, the ICC urged Burundi and South Africa to reconsider their decisions. “Although withdrawing from a treaty is a sovereign act, I regret these decisions and invite South Africa and Burundi to reconsider their positions,” Assembly of States Parties President Sidiki Kaba said in a statement.

“I urge them to work together with other states in the fight against impunity, which often causes massive violations of human rights.”

Kaba said the assembly is concerned that this disturbing signal would open the way to other African states to follow suit.