When the already opaque language of diplomacy turns to allegories, you know you are on even thornier ground than usual.
In this case, it is the UK trying desperately to convince Kenya they are after all the greatest of friends – if mistrusting, sparring ones.
Addressing a crowd in a televised speech, Christian Turner, the UK High Commissioner to Kenya, likened the pair – once former colony and colonial power – to a lion and buffalo “locked in combat”.
He went on: “On stopping to gather their strength for a final assault, they saw some vultures circling up above. They at once stopped their quarrel, saying: ‘It is better for us to work together than to become a meal for vultures.’” Read more
The Kenyan military says it. The African Union says it. Even al-Shabaab says it. But President Uhuru Kenyatta not only refuses to say it; he actively denies it.
In a speech televised to the nation more than 40 hours after 49 of his countrymen were massacred in a terrorist attack on a coastal town, Mr Kenyatta has blamed not Islamist jihadis from al-Shabaab, the al-Qaeda-linked Somali militancy who claimed responsibility for the raid, but “local political networks”.
“The attack in Lamu was well-planned, orchestrated, and politically motivated ethnic violence against a Kenyan community, with the intention of profiling and evicting them for political reasons,” he said in the speech on Tuesday afternoon. “This therefore, was not an al-Shabaab terrorist attack.”
Few corroborate his view. Eyewitnesses, who say gunmen targeted men who could not recite the Islamic creed, are among those convinced it was indeed a terrorist attack. Western diplomats and security experts – who have heavily criticised the Kenyan government’s response to insecurity in recent months – say it is appalling the government is politicising the latest massacre rather than addressing the rising security crisis. Read more
“If you’re not with them they threaten to kill you”. Sheikh Idris Mohamed, a leading anti-jihadi imam in Kenya’s second city of Mombasa, was not afraid to speak out.
Two and a half weeks ago, I met him when he gave an interview to the Financial Times in his dishevelled home to talk about the radicalisation of Mombasa. It turned out to be one of his last. On Tuesday, Sheikh Mohamed was killed in a drive-by shooting on leaving his home for morning prayers. He died on his way to hospital.
The sexagenarian preacher, who was the chairman of the Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya, was one of the most outspoken critics of radical Islam in the country. Last year he was ousted by young worshippers from his mosque in Mombasa, where he had given sermons for more than 30 years. The young congregation later renamed it Mujahideen – those who fight jihad – Mosque. Read more
Four days away from potentially her biggest election victory, Marine Le Pen (above) has had a sharp reminder of the biggest threat to her assiduous efforts to detoxify the far-right National Front (FN) in the eyes of French voters: her father.
Jean-Marie Le Pen, the FN founder who handed over the party reins to his youngest daughter in 2010, remains its honorary chairman and is a candidate in Sunday’s election for the European parliament.
Before joining his daughter on the podium for the closing rally of the FN’s election campaign in Marseille on Tuesday evening, the party’s 85-year-old patriarch was heard discussing the issue of population growth and immigration with an FN mayor by two journalists from AFP, the French news agency.
The agency reported him as saying that France “risked submersion” from immigration and a low birthrate, complaining that the issue was being ignored.
In response to the suggestion that it was never to late to act, the agency said Mr Le Pen replied: “It is never too late, but still is it very late,” before adding: “Monseigneur Ebola could take care of it in three months.” Read more
Onlookers at an explosion in Nairobi (Getty)
Join the dots from this week’s news stories and you get a picture of an African continent that is increasingly troubled by Islamist terrorism. On Friday, the British government started evacuating hundreds of tourists from the Kenyan coast, in response to a terrorist threat. Confirming the danger, two bombs went off in Nairobi, killing ten people. Meanwhile in west Africa, the horrifying abduction of hundreds of schoolgirls by Boko Haram remains unresolved – but has highlighted the extent to which large swathes of Africa’s most populous nation are now destabilised by extremist fighters.
One western country that is clearly concerned by a pan-African Islamist threat is France. Over the weekend, the French hosted an international conference – bringing together leaders from African nations, including Cameroon and Nigeria, as well as representatives from the US, UK and EU. Read more
How should Nigeria tackle the militant threat of Boko Haram?
Nigeria’s status as the new economic powerhouse of Africa was supposed to be the talking point of a meeting of African leaders and top executives in Abuja this week. Instead, the world is in uproar over the government’s slow response to the abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls by the Boko Haram terrorist group last month.
In this week’s podcast, Ben Hall, world news editor, is joined by William Wallace, the FT’s Africa affairs writer and Javier Blas, Africa editor, to discuss western governments’ increasing concern at the upsurge in attacks and the Nigerian state’s apparent inability to deal with the militant threat.
• Twenty years ago Rwanda descended into the madness of genocide. UN peacekeepers were stretched to breaking point, but one man stood out, taking huge risks to save hundreds of lives.
• Beijing’s military build-up is generating a new Asian arms race as China’s neighbours seek to counter its growing might. Read more
On catching sight of Sudan president Omar al-Bashir, I was so intent on my head-down enterprise to keep pace with him and his heavies in an effort to secure an interview that I followed him into the bathroom.
Rather shocked on looking up, I immediately found myself ousted. But within an hour, his foreign minister Ali Karti spoke to me instead.
For this was the African Union summit in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa – the high-level talking shop for the continent’s heads of state, the Davos, and then some, of Africa. It is both extraordinary and perplexing. Read more
In our Reporting Back series, we ask FT foreign correspondents to tell us about a recent trip. Javier Blas, the FT’s Africa editor, tells us about the difficulties reporting from Malabo, the capital of Equatorial Guinea.
Why now? Read more
In our Reporting Back series, we ask FT foreign correspondents to tell us about a recent trip. Katrina Manson, the FT’s east Africa correspondent, tells us about her visit to Khartoum, Sudan.
Things take time with Sudan’s bureaucracy. I put in for a journalist visa during the late-September protests. They were triggered when the cash-strapped 24-year-old regime run by president Omar al-Bashir reduced subsidies and increased customs duties at the same time, doubling the cost of some staples overnight. Activists say at least 212 were shot dead on the streets (the state admits to fewer than 70) in the worst state violence against Khartoum under the present regime. The visa arrived in time to visit in December and I was keen to see how people in Khartoum assessed the fragility and future of both the economy and the regime.
What impression did you take away about the situation on the ground? Read more