Continued Rejection of the ICC in West and East Africa

It is not new to read of African governments ignoring or rejecting the International Criminal Court (ICC)’s claims to jurisdictional authority. But two stories this week reinforce the idea that many key players on the continent are willing to cross the Court.

First is Sudanese President Omar al Bashir’s attendance at an African Union summit in Abuja, Nigeria. The ICC issued a warrant for Bashir’s arrest in March 2009, in connection with war crimes in Darfur. His travel itinerary since then charts a map of ICC rejection across Africa and beyond. While Nigeria is the first West African nation to host Bashir, it joins a trend that includes several other countries and the African Union itself. From the BBC:

Mr Bashir has visited numerous African countries since the arrest warrant was issued – including Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti.

Only Botswana and Malawi have threatened to arrest him.

In May, the AU called on the ICC to drop war crimes charges against Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta after accusing it of “hunting” Africans because of their race.

Mention of Kenya brings us to the second news item from this week: Yesterday, the ICC rejected another request from Kenyan Vice President William Ruto, who like Kenyatta faces charges at the Court, to hold his trial in Africa.

The election, in March of this year, of Kenyatta and Ruto seemed a rebuke to the Court. Both men have been under indictment since March 2011 in connection with election/post-election violence in 2007-2008. David Bosco, writing shortly before Kenya’s most recent election, spelled out some potential consequences that a Kenyatta victory might have for the Court. One of these is particularly noteworthy in light of the Court’s decision on Ruto’s request for a trial location change:

That a freshly elected African head of state will bear the burden of ICC indictment would likely worsen already poor relations between the court and African officialdom. Many African leaders have argued that the ICC, which to this point has indicted only Africans, systematically ignores crimes committed in other parts of the world. At various points, African leaders have discussed withdrawing en masse from the treaty that created the court or, more likely, empowering a regional court to investigate atrocities, thereby displacing the ICC.

The ICC’s decision to keep Ruto’s trial in The Hague may strengthen such sentiments among some African leaders.

From both Nigeria and Kenya, then, I see fresh examples of the difficulty the Court is having in achieving legitimacy and recognition in Africa.

Kenyan Elections Open Thread

Kenyans are voting today in much-anticipated presidential elections. The BBC has profiles of the eight candidates, including front-runners Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga. The BBC also has a Q&A on the elections. Reuters has an interactive timeline covering the period from the 2007 elections to February 2013. IRIN has a page for the elections as well. International Crisis Group’s report on the elections is here (.pdf). Finally, VOA is providing live updates here.

Please consider this an open thread for Kenya-related news. What are you hearing/reading/seeing? Let us know.

Roundup: Kenya’s Presidential Debate

Kenya will hold presidential (and general) elections on March 4. For background on the elections, see herehere (.pdf), here, and here. For Ken Opalo’s forecast that Uhuru Kenyatta will win the first round, though not by enough to avoid a run-off, see here.

Yesterday, eight presidential aspirants met for the country’s first-ever presidential debate. The debate garnered massive attention – as the BBC tweeted, it was the “top trending topic on Twitter”  at one point yesterday.

Here is my roundup of coverage and reactions:

  • Daily Nation has a transcript. There was a livestream of the debate on YouTube, but I was unable to find a video of the event afterwards.
  • BBC: “[Frontrunners Uhuru] Kenyatta and [Raila] Odinga in First Kenya Presidential Debate.” From the article: “It is doubtful that the two-hour debate will significantly influence many voters as most Kenyans vote along ethnic lines.”
  • Standard Media focuses on the candidates’ remarks about ethnicity.
  • The Guardian: “Kenya Tunes in as Uhuru Kenyatta and Rail Odinga Promise Peaceful Elections.”
  • Reuters: “Raila Odinga, the frontrunner in Kenya’s presidential election, taunted his rival Uhuru Kenyatta in a debate on Monday, asking how he would be able to rule from the Hague, where Kenyatta goes on trial shortly on charges of crimes against humanity.”
  • AP: “Kenyatta insisted that he will be able to manage the task. ‘If the people of Kenya do decide to vote for me as their president, I will be able to handle the issue of clearing my name while ensuring the business of government continues and our manifesto and agenda for Kenya is implemented,’ Kenyatta said.”
  • Daily Nation: “Candidates Face Off Over Education, Health and Security.”
  • Nairobi Star: “Raila Dwells on Jobs, Shies Away from Land.”

Did you watch? What was your take?

Kenya: Police Crack Down on the Mombasa Republican Council

The Mombasa Republican Council (MRC), a secessionist group in Kenya’s Coast Province, has made headlines several times in recent months for their tense relations with Kenyan authorities and what some see as their potential to disrupt the country’s presidential elections, scheduled for March 2013. In the spring of this year, the Council staged several protest actions in Mombasa, drawing condemnation from President Mwai Kibaki and other senior politicians. In July, the High Court of Mombasa (the capital of the province) overturned a ban on the organization that had been in place since 2010 – see Lesley Anne Warner for more on that story, as well as an explanation of the Council’s grievances against the government, which the MRC accuses of marginalizing the Coast.

This month, the Council is back in the news as police crack down on its leaders. Authorities have accused the MRC of organizing a recent assassination attempt on Fisheries Minister Amason Kingi on October 4. On October 8, authorities arrested MRC spokesman Rashid Mraja, apparently on charges of using hate speech. On October 15, police raided the home of the MRC’s chairman:

Kenyan police arrested the leader of the separatist Mombasa Republican Council (MRC) and shot dead two supporters in a house raid on Monday, intensifying a crackdown on the movement seeking independence for the country’s coastal region.

Dozens of youths, some armed with machetes and clubs, who tried to prevent officers from detaining Omar Mwamnuadzi were also detained and a number of crude weapons seized, Coast province police chief Aggrey Adoli said.

The MRC is campaigning for the secession of the Indian Ocean coastal strip – a tourist hotspot and trade hub – and threatens to disrupt next March’s general election if its demand is not met, raising fears of violence.

The raid occurred in Kwale, near Mombasa. A photograph of Mwamnuadzi shows him badly beaten. VOA writes that “tension is high” in Mombasa.

Some politicians have come to the MRC’s defense, such as Sheikh Dor, a nominated member of parliament. Presidential candidate William Ruto, without offering any support to the movement, has promised to address the grievances that underlie it. If elected, he says, he will create a special economic development fund for the Coast.

Finally, other politicians are working to create new political vehicles for residents of the Coast. The Nairobi Star reports that “Muslim clerics” launched the Unity Party of Kenya this weekend in Mombasa. Sheikh Dor (the same as above) “said the party will liberate the Coast people from the chains of marginalisation and oppression.” The Kenya Muslim National Advisory Council warned in June against the creation of this party, fearing it would cause political division among the country’s Muslims.

Kenya’s presidential elections are still some five months away. It seems a lot may happen in the interval.

For more background on the MRC, see here and here.

Kenya Prepares for March 2013 Elections

Kenyan officials have recently made two significant statements regarding the security and integrity of presidential elections next March. Kenya’s last presidential elections, in 2007, were marred by violence.

On the security of the March 2013 elections:

Kenya has been hit by several explosions since it sent troops into Somalia to crush al Shabaab militants in October.

A separatist group [the Mombasa Republican Council] has threatened to boycott and disrupt voting if the government does not give in to their demand for secession for Kenya’s Indian Ocean coastal strip, centred on the tourist centre and port city of Mombasa.

President Mwai Kibaki has rejected their demand.

“Voting centres are naturally crowded and could be an easy target if our security is not alert. That already is a scare factor to anyone wishing to leave their house to vote,” said Ahmed Isaack Hassan, chairman of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), which will oversee the vote.

View the IEBC’s website here.

On the integrity (and security) of the elections:

The chairman of Kenya’s National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) said a two-day nationwide discussion on ensuring next year’s elections are free, fair and transparent begins Monday.
Mzalendo Kibunja said there is also need to bolster security ahead of the vote following recent attacks often blamed on the Somali-based Islamist group al-Shabab.
“One of the things that is going to happen to those forums today and tomorrow is where members of each of the counties will come together and say these are the requirements to make sure there is [a] free and fair and peaceful general election,” continued Mzalendo.”
“Those resolutions will then come to the national conference on [the] 30th and 31st in [the capital] Nairobi and from there we would now develop a national strategy to make sure that we have free, fair and peaceful general election.”

View the NCIC’s website here.

Ethiopia: Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s Illness and Potential Political Changes in the Greater Horn

When Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi missed an African Union summit this past weekend, rumors spread that he was ill. News agencies reported yesterday that Meles was in “critical condition” in Brussels. By late in the day the Ethiopian government had announced that Meles was “in good condition.” Under Article 75 of the 1994 Ethiopian constitution (.pdf), Deputy Prime Minister (and Minister of Foreign Affairs) Haile-Mariam Desalegne will act on the Prime Minister’s behalf in his absence.

Meles, a former rebel leader who took power in 1991, has previously stated his desire to step down when his current term ends in 2015. If Meles leaves office, the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front will almost certainly retain power, but Meles’ absence would represent a significant political change for Ethiopia.

Indeed, Meles’ illness potentially foreshadows a coming period of political change (specifically the installation of new heads of state) for several countries in the greater Horn of Africa. Change could occur in several ways.

First, there is retirement. Meles is not the only leader in the region who has said he will step down in 2015 – Sudanese President Omar al Bashir made the same promise during a small wave of protests in early 2011, and Djibouti’s President Ismael Guellah has stated that he will step down in 2016. Some observers have doubted the sincerity of these pledges, but Meles in particular sometimes seems fatigued and ready to give up the job, an appearance that this illness underscores.

Elections will bring changes in leadership elsewhere in the region. Many observers expect Somalia’s ongoing political transition, which includes presidential elections next month, to produce a government fairly similar in personnel to the current Transitional Federal Government. But in Kenya, presidential elections set to take place in 2013 must produce a new head of state. President Mwai Kibaki, who has reached the limit of two five-year terms, cannot run again, leaving the field open to a number of major politicians, including current Prime Minister Raila Odinga and current Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta.

Other transitions, as Meles’ case reminds us, could come about because of sudden illness or death, a grim possibility but one that must be mentioned. These leaders are not old: indeed, all of them (not counting Kibaki) are short of seventy – Meles was born in 1955, Bashir in 1944, South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir in 1951, Somalia’s President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed in 1964, Eritrea’s President Isaias Afewerki in 1946, Djibouti’s President Ismail Guellah in 1947, and Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni around 1944. Yet four of them have been in power for over nineteen years (Museveni came to power in 1986, Bashir in 1989, Meles in 1991, and Isaias in 1993). The high stress of being head of state seems to accelerate aging in some leaders. There remain only six African leaders who have been in office longer than Museveni.

Finally, no leader in the region has faced a monumental threat from mass protests, but significant anti-regime protests have occurred in the last two years in Sudan, Uganda, and Djibouti. If nothing else, such protests add to the pressures these heads of state face in other areas.

It is possible, of course, that in three or four years only Kenya, out of all the countries in the greater Horn, will have new leadership. But a combination of factors could produce transitions in Ethiopia, Sudan, Djibouti, and elsewhere, potentially shaking up, within a relatively short period of time, what has long been a fairly stable roster of leaders.

Kenya: Amid Terrorist Attacks, Offensive Against al Shabab Will Continue

On Sunday, “masked assailants launched simultaneous gun and grenade raids on two churches in…Garissa, the north Kenya town which has been used as a base for operations against al Qaeda-linked insurgents in Somalia.”

IRIN, meanwhile, reports on how Mombasa, Kenya is grappling with a recent spate of terrorist attacks:

Following three grenade attacks in recent months and a US “terror” alert, residents of the coastal Kenyan city of Mombasa are bracing themselves for the possibility of yet more violence; local leaders are working towards better disaster preparedness and improvements in the emergency services.

Three people lost their lives after a grenade attack on a bar in the Mshomoroni area of Mombasa on the night of 24 June, a day after the US issued a warning of an imminent attack. One person was killed and several injured in a suspected grenade attack on 15 May at a Mombasa sports bar; two grenade attacks in the city on 31 March left at least 15 injured. There have also been a spate of attacks in the capital, Nairobi, and northeastern areas of the country since Kenya crossed into southern Somalia in October 2011 to help stamp out the radical Islamist group, Al Shabab.

Kenyan leaders, however, say that the offensive in Somalia will continue. Speaking in Garissa,

Prime Minister Raila Odinga…ruled out pulling Kenyan troops from Somalia, saying it will be tantamount to surrendering to terrorism.
He made it clear that Kenyan troops will not leave Somalia until the country is liberated and pacified, noting Kenya will not be at peace until Somalia which has not known peace for two decades realizes peace.
“We want Somalia to be peaceful so that the 500,000 Somali refugees being hosted in Dadaab refugee camp can go back to their country to relieve Kenya of the burden of hosting them,” he said.
“Surrender is therefore not an option for us because if we leave Somalia, anarchy will set in which will spill over the borders.”

Kenyan forces’ next target in Somalia is the port city and al Shabab stronghold Kismayo, which they hope to take by August.

Kenya: What Future for Dadaab?

Dadaab, Kenya (map, photos) is often said to be the largest refugee camp in the world. The camp faces severe challenges concerning health, insecurity (including kidnappings of aid workers), violence (including sexual violence), police abuse of refugees, and logistical issues (such as processing new arrivals). Yesterday a panel convened to discuss the way forward for Dadaab. IRIN reports:

Key stakeholders meeting on 14 June to discuss the future of Dadaab refugee camp in eastern Kenya acknowledge that there are tough choices ahead, but no agreed way forward.

The panel discussion, entitled “Dadaab 20 years on: what next?”, was organized by NGO Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in Nairobi, and included government officials, UN agencies, NGOs and representatives from Dadaab’s refugee community.

Dadaab, originally built to house 90,000 refugees, currently hosts close to 500,000; management of the camp was handed over to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in the early 1990s. Stakeholders say with more refugees arriving daily, it is becoming increasingly difficult to run: It now has a bigger population than Nakuru, Kenya’s fourth largest city, and is the biggest refugee camp in the world.

The panel discussed possible alternatives to Dadaab, including persuading the international community to allow more refugees to resettle abroad, relocating refugees to safer areas in smaller camps, and creating ways for the refugees to become more self-reliant.

MSF’s statement on Dadaab, “The Camps Cannot Go On,” is here. It begins:

It is only a matter of time before the next emergency hits the Dadaab refugee camp, says a briefing paper, Dadaab: Shadows of Lives, released today by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) ahead of World Refugee DayIn this paper, MSF describes the plight of half a million refugees living in increasingly insecure conditions with nowhere else to go, and argues that there is an urgent need to explore alternatives.

One year after the humanitarian crisis of 2011, malnutrition and mortality rates have dropped to pre-emergency levels, says MSF. But the situation in the camps remains unacceptable, and – without significant change – this pattern of health crises followed by periods of relative calm will continue indefinitely, with medical workers constantly on their guard for the next emergency.

MSF does not advocate a single solution, but rather (as in the IRIN report above) offers a range of potential alternatives to the status quo. For more from MSF on Dadaab, see here.

For more about Dadaab, see the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Q&A on the camps from March, ominously titled “The Dadaab Refugee Complex: A Powder Keg and It’s Giving Off Sparks,” and Think Africa Press‘s November 2011 article on the camps.

What solutions do you think would help alleviate Dadaab’s problems?

Kenya’s Oil and the Turkana People

Tullow Oil discovered oil in Turkana county in Kenya this March. In early May, Tullow announced that its Kenyan project had so far contained “more than double [the oil] encountered in any of our East African exploration wells to date.” The Kenyan government has greeted the discovery enthusiastically, but a new report from IRIN highlights the complex ramifications of the project for people in Turkana. According to IRIN, many residents barely consider themselves Kenyan. Most are desperately poor, and cycles of drought and conflict have damaged the livelihoods of pastoralists. Reactions to the prospect of an oil boom are mixed:

“We are happy with the oil find,” Lokichar resident Lokapel Katilu told IRIN. “We pray that the find is real. We are just idle, there is no work. We just walk around. Before, we would rely on grazing, but the herds have been stolen.”
[...]
But according to oil industry analyst Antony Goldman, no major jobs bonanza is on the horizon.
“Typically oil is capital- rather than labour-intensive: unlike mining, it does not yield many unskilled or semi-skilled jobs,” he told IRIN.
[...]
Katilu said that to date he knew of only a few people who had found oil-related work, “to control traffic and to prevent people from accessing the rig site”.
Lokichar resident Kamaro said there was a widespread fear that lack of local skills would “lead to people from Kenya coming in” to the area.
People here “are afraid of an influx of foreigners, that there will be congestion, that the foreigners will bring diseases, that their culture will be polluted,” said Kamaro.

If an oil boom comes but does not employ many local people, there could be a political backlash that would create problems for Tullow and the Kenyan government.

More hopeful for the Turkana people could be a recent discovery of water:

Turkana county in which oil deposits were recently discovered, has huge amounts of underground water. To tap the resource, the government has launched a Sh131 million water survey in the area. “The survey of the groundwater in the drought affected Turkana county using radar technologies will go a long way in enhancing our understanding of ground water in this area,” said director of waters resources in Kenya John Rao Nyaoro.

The project, launched in Nairobi yesterday, is supported by Unesco and financed by the Japanese government. Nyaoro said past satellite surveys have shown that Kenya has 60 billion cubic metres of renewable underground water compared to 20 billion cubic metres of surface water. This is the first time the government has embarked on large-scale mining of ground water. Nyaoro said a satellite technology called Watex System will map water wells in Turkana to help drillers reduce cost.

The project will benefit thousands of drought-hit pastoralists, who currently walk for many kilometres looking for water. Somalia and Ethiopia are also involved in the project because most ground water straddles between different countries. Director of Unesco in Nairobi Joseph Massaquoi said the water will be exploited in a sustainable way. “Nine months following the onset of the 2011 drought and famine crisis in the region, some nine million people still face food and water shortages in Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia,” he said.

For more on the Turkana people and the problems pastoralists face, see here.

Kenya: Secessionist Protests in Mombasa

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki addressed the nation yesterday, promising “a smooth transition” after the March 2013 presidential elections, in which Kibaki will not compete. Kibaki also spoke out yesterday against the secessionist group the Mombasa Republican Council (MRC), saying, “The Coast region has been part of, is part of and will remain part of the Republic of Kenya.” Earlier in the day, the MRC had staged a protest in Mombasa, during which a protester died in a clash with police. The MRC (founded 1996) is currently outlawed, but members have gone to court to challenge that ruling.

The MRC has undertaken a number of protest actions recently. Top Kenyan leaders say they will not engage in dialogue with the group.

The illegal group has also threatened to evict people from other communities who live and work in the Coast unless their secession demands are met.

They have also threatened to boycott the next General Election and have increasingly intimidated coastal residents.

Recently, the group disrupted mock elections in Malindi conducted by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, injured its officials and security agents.

On Monday, Prime Minister Raila Odinga told the illegal group that it must denounce its separatist claims before the government can engage it in dialogue.

Kenyan MPs are reportedly “divided” on the issue of the MRC, with some favoring Kibaki’s stance and others urging dialogue with the group.

A Facebook page on the MRC details their position:

The MRC says the coastal strip is not in need of any protection by the Kenya Government that was inherited from Colonial Britain. It says that it has in place a structured system, complete with a constitution, so it is ready to govern. The MRC officials also add that it is funded by top businessmen and politicians in the region (Mombasa).

The MRC is adamantly pushing for the partitioning of Kenya’s territory, raising issues of marginalization, discrimination and neglect of the coast people. The MRC says it does not support the use of violence. The officials add that the members should not be considered rebels as they are only fighting for what they perceive to be their country – Mombasa. The MRC also say that theirs is an inter religious affair, because it affected all coast people, an assertion that was proven recently when the Pwani Church released a statement in support of what the MRC was doing.

The MRC states that despite the coast being a major contributor to the national economy (through the Port of Mombasa and Tourism in general), the coast people are yet to benefit from its resources and so they are under developed as a result.

For more information on the MRC and the historical background of coastal secessionism in Kenya, see Think Africa Press.