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
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
By Gideon Rachman
Should political leaders who have promoted or tolerated mass killings be brought to justice? Many in the west would instinctively answer Yes. The idea that leaders can kill their way to power – and not face punishment – seems morally wrong and politically dangerous. In recent years, an apparatus of international justice has been set up to ensure that mass murder can no longer go unpunished – with the International Criminal Court at its apex.
A resurgence of global terrorism?
The terrible attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi has refocused the world’s attention on the threat of urban terrorism. Gideon Rachman is joined in the studio by defence and diplomatic editor James Blitz, and down the line from Nairobi by Katrina Manson, east Africa correspondent to discuss whether we are facing a resurgence of global terror.
♦ Michela Wrong thinks the events at Westgate mall jeopardise international justice because the west has realised that it needs Kenyatta and Ruto.
♦ On paper, Ted Cruz looks like a country club establishment Republican, but with every sentence he uttered in his 21-hour “filibuster” against Obamacare, he made clear that his primary mission in Washington was to rid his party of any lingering remnants of compromise.
♦ Xan Rice speaks to Ahmed Jama, the owner of a successful restaurant in London and a naturalised Briton, who decided to return to Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital, and open a restaurant there, even while Somalia was at war.
♦ As conventional oil reserves diminish, the Kremlin is pinning its hopes on Siberian shale to maintain the nation’s standing, but stern geological and commercial challenges lie ahead.
♦ Dozens of Nepalese migrant labourers have died and thousands more are enduring appalling labour abuses in Qatar. A Guardian investigation reveals how Nepalese workers died at a rate of almost one a day this summer labouring in preparation for the World Cup.
♦ Richard Gowan, associate director of the Centre for International Cooperation at New York University, asks how much the UN’s moral voice is worth as a peacekeeping tool. Read more
♦ China’s political elite at the Central Party School are beginning to consider the unthinkable: the collapse of Chinese communism.
♦ Since Kenya sent troops into Somalia to fight al-Qaeda-linked jihadists in 2011, the risk of reprisal has been growing.
♦ Janet Yellen, the frontrunner to replace Ben Bernanke, is “motivated by genuine fascination with the questions she deals in” and seems to be unusually well-adjusted.
♦ Secret recordings have revealed Hosni Mubarak’s belief in far-fetched conspiracy theories and his worry that Washington was trying to oust him as president.
♦ The veteran foreign correspondent who lent credibility to a claim that Syrian rebels had admitted responsibility for the August chemical attack has denied writing the article.
♦ Vienna has adopted “gender mainstreaming” in its urban planning, to take account of how women move about within the city. Read more
President Barack Obama ended his three-nation African tour in Tanzania (Getty)
On his three-nation tour of Africa, US president Barack Obama has made a big play for business with the US. “We are looking at a new model that’s based not just on aid and assistance but on trade and partnership,” he told reporters beside Tanzania president Jakaya Kikwete outside State House on Monday. “Ultimately the goal here is for Africans to build Africa for Africans.”
But he has run into detractors in east Africa’s biggest economy, Kenya, alongside those who deride him for playing painfully late catch-up to China. Read more
♦ We love our multilateral organisations here at the FT, so we’ve taken a close look at how Roberto Azevêdo managed to win the WTO DG nomination – visiting a mere 47 countries along the way. Mr Azevêdo struck a pragmatic note in an in interview with the FT, saying a year-end Bali meeting would focus on the “do-able”: “It’s… about instilling confidence that we can still negotiate, that we can still deliver multilaterally.”
♦ After David Cameron welcomed Uhuru Kenyatta to London this week, Richard Dowden considers the diplomatic earthquake that could occur when Kenyatta is expected to report to the ICC. Will Britain “abandon the ICC or isolate their closest political and security ally in East and the Horn of Africa”? Will Kenyatta run the country from a Dutch prison using Skype?
♦ Israel has warned the US about an imminent Russian deal to sell ground-to-air missile systems to Syria.
♦ US military camouflage has developed from two types to 10, just one example of inefficient duplication between different government agencies.
♦ Arguably the most haunting photograph of the collapse of the garment factory in Bangladesh. Read more
♦ Kenya’s new leader Uhuru Kenyatta is proving deft at politics even with a charge for crimes against humanity hanging over his head.
♦ Jonathan Soble looks at the dilemma that Haruhiko Kuroda faces over the next two years – “How do you convince markets and consumers that you are serious about raising prices, without being so dogmatic that you risk the central bank’s credibility – and your job – if you fail?”
♦ Margaret Thatcher’s death has prompted a wave of nostalgia among US conservatives.
♦ Sarah Neville, the FT’s public policy editor, thinks welfare reforms in the UK are likely to test the resolve of the middle class. (You can find out more about the reforms in today’s additions to the FT Austerity Audit.)
♦ Nicolás Maduro summons the ghost of Hugo Chávez in the final days of his campaign, a move he is counting on to propel him to victory at Sunday’s presidential elections.
♦ Jack Goldstone at Foreign Policy thinks there “is a real risk that the Korean Peninsula will follow Syria’s descent into war”. (Although you might not have to worry. The military’s planned missile test has been “put on hold because of “problems with Windows 8”, according to the Borowitz Report.) Read more
Kenyan police officers outside a polling station in Nairobi (Getty)
Foreign election observers have yet to pronounce on the overall credibility of Kenya’s tense elections. But there are already strong indications that they will go along with almost any outcome if it means preserving the Kenyan peace.
“Monday was a great day for Kenyan democracy. They undertook a lot of things to ensure things went in a smooth way,” Alojz Peterle, head of the European Union observer team, said on Friday.
His stance was in marked contrast to his predecessor’s proclamations on fraud at Kenya’s last elections in 2007, which reinforced Raila Odinga’s claims to have been robbed of the presidency. Read more
The last time Kenyans voted in a general election, more than a thousand people died in the ensuing violence and hundreds of thousands were displaced. It’s hardly surprising that emotions are running high ahead of this year’s vote on Monday March 4. The election will also be the country’s first under its new constitution, which was introduced in 2010 with the aim of devolving more power to the regions. Adding to the tension is the fact that Uhuru Kenyatta – one of the two men considered most likely to win this year – has been indicted by the International Criminal Court in the Hague for crimes against humanity, along with his running mate, for their alleged role in the 2008 violence.
In the FT
- What happened last time? After trailing in the polls, the incumbent President – Mwai Kibaki, a member of Kenya’s largest tribe, the Kikuyus – was narrowly re-elected in a vote that many international observers said was flawed. He was sworn in on December 30 2007, but supporters of his opponent – Raila Odinga, a member of the Luo tribe – said the election had been rigged. William Wallis recounted how anger grew: “Text messages circulated stating simply: 41 on 1. This was a reference to Mr Kibaki’s Kikuyus, who comprise close to a quarter of the population, and the 41 (or so) other tribes who make up the rest. It was an ominous reminder of the perils of a system that has encouraged Kenya’s leaders, since the British colonial days of divide-and-rule, to abuse tribal allegiance for economic and political gain.”
Mo Ibrahim at a 2011 press conference to announce the winner of that year's prize (Ben Stanstall/AFP/Getty Images)
There has been something of a hullabaloo each time the Mo Ibrahim Foundation has failed to find a worthy laureate for its $5m annual prize for excellence in African leadership.
One year it even prompted speculation that the Sudanese-born philanthropist and pioneer of African telecoms had run out of money. He had not. Rather, the criteria for the award had to be stiff if it was to have any credibility on a continent with a long history of tyranny and mismanagement. The intent was not just to encourage personal integrity and conformity to democratic principles among African heads of state but to reward transformational leadership. So, it should be no surprise that there have been some fallow years like this one.
Moreover, when it comes to leadership there is a global deficit. If a similar prize had been on offer in Europe in the same period, it would been a struggle to find an irreproachable candidate. In three out of the six years since the Mo Ibrahim prize was launched there have been winners. For the most part, African leaders are more accountable now than they were. In some cases they have been instrumental in turning their countries around. Read more
We had plenty to chat about today on the world desk, with these articles: