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The East African : June 23rd 2014
The EastAfrican 18 OPINION JUNE 21-27,2014 PUBLISHED WEEKLY BY THE NATION MEDIA GROUP Kenya must step back f≥om the b≥ink The attack on Mpeketoni last week has plugged into the political tensions in Kenya, particularly the longstanding issues of land rights as well as the real or perceived sense among many of injustice, disenchantment and disenfranchisement. Rather than rally and unite the country in or- der to have an honest and sober debate on the underlying issues, however, Mpeketoni has panicked and polarised the political space, pushing the government and the opposition to the extremes. Both sides must climb down from their high horses. The Kenya government has laid the blame on local political actors and suggested it had intelligence information on the attack before it happened. It must hold responsible those it believes planned the attack and those in the security establishment who allowed it to happen. Otherwise, it should de-escalate and depoliticise the incident. The government must also go beyond pointing the finger of blame. It simply must provide better security to the country and its citizens. That is a fundamental minimum. In response to the attack, the opposition has called off two rallies it had scheduled in a bid to force the government to conduct dialogue with it over a range of issues. This is a welcome tentative first step. But the opposition must take a giant leap of faith and allow the elected government room to govern, while articulate alternative apptoaches to domestic security and regional policy, for instance, to allow Kenyans to make informed decisions at the next election. Terrorism, by its nature, seeks to sow fear, ha- tred and division. The best antidote is courage, patriotism and unity. Both sides must show more of these in these trying times. They owe it to the dead. They owe it to themselves. A≥e sanctions a good idea? The US government has finally imposed travel sanctions on certain Ugandan officials involved in what Washington referred to as serious human-rights abuses against sexual minorities. Of course, it needs no belabouring, that the regime in Kampala is no saint when it comes to respect for human rights, governance and rule of law. It tortures its own citizens, steals resources meant for social services and denies nationals the right to assemble, among others. On top of that, passing the Anti Homosexuality Bill into law is not the smartest thing Uganda’s parliament will be remembered for. But it should be remembered that the same parliament gave the mandate for Ugandan troops to go on peacekeeping missions, on behalf of the international community, including the US. The best option for the Obama administration is not to impose sanctions, but to engage Ugandan law makers and civil society to have these laws reviewed, and reach consensus. A PUBLICATION OF THE NATION MEDIA GROUP LINUS GITAHI: Chief Executive Officer JOSEPH ODINDO: Editorial Director PAMELLA SITTONI: Managing Editor Nation Centre, Kimathi Street, P.O. Box 49010-00100 G.P.O. Nairobi. Tel. 3288000, 2221222, 337710, Fax 214531, 213946. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org © Nation Media Group Watching football in a public viewing place is now stuff for the brave.” Cha≥les Onyango-Obbo T his World Cup season is changing East African, and indeed, African politics. You could say it all started in the Uganda capital Kampala in July 2010. Bombs went off at a sports pub where Kampalans were watching the World Cup final match between the Netherlands and Spain. Nearly 80 people were killed and hundreds wounded. Football is the only mass sport in East Africa that overcomes tribal, re- The extremists see terrible things in football: It is sinful idolatry; it is a Jewish conspiracy... All baloney. ligious, and all sorts of political rivalries, so many were truly puzzled that the Somali militant group Al Shabaab, which claimed responsibility for the attack, would kill fans watching a football game. It was the sports equivalent of desecrating a holy temple. That was then. The age of innocence is long over. Last weekend, terrorists (Kenyans are still arguing about their Mu≥de≥ing football fans is no longe≥ an own goal? identity) went on the rampage in the coastal town of Mpeketoni. In a spree of killing and burning, they left 60 people dead. Many of the dead were at various entertainment spots watching World Cup 2014. On Tuesday, an explosion ripped through a football-viewing centre in Damaturu, northern Nigeria, where fans had gathered to watch Brazil face off with Mexico. About 30 people were killed, and dozens wounded. Public screening of the World Cup at “viewing centres” in northeast Nigeria had already been banned in the face of heightened terror threats by Boko Haram. In May, three people were killed in a blast in the city of Jos in central Nigeria as they watched the Champions League final between Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid. That was only one of several deadly attacks on sports venues and football fans. I am always prepared for Africa to surprise, but I never thought it would deliver us football martyrs. Watching football in a public viewing place is now stuff for the brave. Because fans are being killed for watching football, the game has also become a cause to die for. The extremists see terrible things in football: It is sinful idolatry; it distracts the faithful from the godly path Mpeketoni: Get on with finding out who and why Mpeketoni on the mainland just south of Lamu. An estimated 50 armed men began by attacking the police station. They moved on to shooting at men in restaurants, hotels and on the streets. By the time they left, after 2 am, cars, homes, the petrol station and government offices had been burnt down. On top of the 49 now known to have been killed in Mpeketoni, others were killed in its vicinity as well. It didn’t end there. The following W day, armed men returned, called out by name 15 men (including two police officers) from their houses, lined them up and shot them dead too. Who was responsible and what their motivations were is slowly clarifying too. Witnesses, including from the pro- vincial administration and the media, spoke of seeing the Al Shabaab flag. Of armed men speaking in Somali and Kiswahili, chanting Allahu Akbar. Of their asking men they confronted whether they were Muslim or not and demanding proof of the same. Of having the audacity to pause the attacks to enter a mosque and pray. There is also the fact that Al Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attacks, attributing them to the oppression of Muslims by the government of Kenya, evidenced by the ongoing so-called screening operation and the murders hat happened is slowly clarifying. Last Sunday evening, from about 8 pm, three minivans arrived in of Muslim clerics and scholars in Mombasa. What is also clarifying is where offi- cial blame should best be placed — not for blame’s sake, but for avoidance of such attacks in future. The National Intelligence Service was quick to point out that it had issued a warning of an impending attack three days before. This warning was, we are told, received by relevant security services and structures on the ground, who were asked to prepare for quick deployment. But the warning wasn’t heeded. Witnesses point to the fact that, while police The question should be whether the warning was as specific as NIS has made it out to be. officers on duty tried to defend the police station, they did not come to the residents’ aid, let alone repel the armed men. The descent of security services, high and low, did not happen until all was over. The question should be whether the warning was as specific as NIS has made it out to be. Whether it was received. If so, why it was not acted upon. Lack of capacity? Laxity? The inadequacy of steps taken in the aftermath is also clarifying. The residents of Mpeketoni and its surrounding townships and villages and worship; it is a Jewish conspiracy, name it. All baloney. The really striking thing, though, is how much terrorist attacks on football are challenging fundamental values. At the start of the 2000s, Uganda and Rwanda’s allied forces fell out in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, and fought a series of deadly short battles. Though hostilities had been build- ing up and the generals in Kampala and Kigali had been involved in a war of words for weeks, the soldiers on the ground still played cards and football together in the city of Kisangani. In the first major clash between the two sides, soldiers who had been playing together were called to arms, abandoned their games, and minutes later were killing each other. In Liberia and Sierra Leone, rebels and government troops would pause from killing other for a bit of football. Here is the thing. If you can play football with someone, then you can live with or make peace with them if you are in conflict. Killing them for watching football is to say you can never live together, that one can only live when the other is dead. Cha≥les Onyango-Obbo is is the edito≥ of Mail & Gua≥dian Af≥ica (mgaf≥ica.com). Twitte≥:cobbo3 What is also clarifying is where official blame should best be placed...” L. Muthoni Wanyeki are angry — and terrified. Some want public assistance to leave. Others want support from the security services in reporting their losses so as to begin making insurance claims. Reporting should be easy and straightforward. But no. There is, apparently, an odd reluctance among the police to help them with their abstracts. Why, we must ask? Because they will have to document in these abstracts what they witnessed? Because what they witnessed goes against the Jubilant and public narrative? Or? We do reap what we sow. Not a sin- gle Kenyan political party does not have among its prominent members those alleged in public and official reports to have aided, abetted and facilitated political violence in going as far back as 1992. It is the duty of the state to get on with addressing not just who did this but why — with its own acts of commission and omission that provoke grievance, with its continual allowance of impunity. L. Muthoni Wanyeki is Amnesty Inte≥national’s ≥egional di≥ecto≥ fo≥ East Af≥ica. This column is w≥itten in he≥ pe≥sonal capacity.
June 16th 2014
June 30th 2014