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
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.
♦ 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
♦ 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.”