Firing squads, blast walls and dangerous diplomacy in Somalia

Agence France-Presse (AFP)
Mogadishu, Somalia

Britain's ambassador to Somalia, Neil Wigan, wears a flak jacket as he drives through Mogadishu in an armoured car (AFP Photo/TRISTAN MCCONNELL)
Britain’s ambassador to Somalia, Neil Wigan, wears a flak jacket as he drives through Mogadishu in an armoured car (AFP Photo/TRISTAN MCCONNELL)

A navy flak jacket over his sky-blue shirt, Neil Wigan peered through the bulletproof glass window at six uneven wooden poles in front of a sand dune.

“There are more of them now,” the British ambassador to Somalia said, driving past the execution posts that convicts are tied to before being shot by firing squad. “It isn’t a particularly reassuring sign of progress.”

Violence is routine in Somalia, whether perpetrated by suicide bombers, jihadists, assassins, soldiers or the judiciary. Chronic insecurity makes the country a study in diplomacy at its most difficult. Continue reading Firing squads, blast walls and dangerous diplomacy in Somalia

Kenya’s ‘Little Italy’

Beacon
Malindi, Kenya

Late afternoon football in Malindi (Tristan McConnell)
Late afternoon football in Malindi (Tristan McConnell)

At 8.30 every morning chef Luca Rossi goes looking for fish. He steers his 100cc motorbike out of the gated compound and along a potholed, sand-fringed ribbon of tarmac towards the Malindi seafront.

The first stop is a rough single-room building. Outside, a fishmonger chops a small hammerhead shark into thick slices. Inside lobster, red snapper and grouper fill two chest fridges. What Rossi wants are jumbo prawns: hard to find and expensive now.

He pays 2,200 Kenya shillings ($24) for the only kilo the fishmonger has. Cleaned, split and grilled it will be enough for just three portions at the upmarket restaurant where Rossi is head chef. Continue reading Kenya’s ‘Little Italy’

In Kenya, the end is nigh for northern white rhinos

Agence France-Presse (AFP)
Ol Pejeta, Kenya

A park ranger at Ol Pejeta Conservancy walks ahead of a northern white rhinoceros (AFP)
A park ranger at Ol Pejeta Conservancy walks ahead of a northern white rhinoceros (AFP)

This is what extinction looks like.

No meteor from outer space, no unstoppable pandemic, no heroic, ultimately futile last stand. Instead poor sperm, weak knees and ovarian cysts mark the end of a lifeline cut short by human greed, ignorance and indifference.

With just five northern white rhinos left on earth, the animal’s end is inevitable. Continue reading In Kenya, the end is nigh for northern white rhinos

All talk but no peace: South Sudan’s stumbling talks

Agence France-Presse (AFP)
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

South Sudan President Salva Kiir (L) exchanges signed documents with rebel leader Riek Machar (AFP)
South Sudan President Salva Kiir (L) exchanges signed documents with rebel leader Riek Machar (AFP)

After 13 months of fighting and six failed ceasefires, diplomats are being forced to accept that any deal to end the war in South Sudan will, at best, result in a return to the status quo that precipitated the carnage in the first place.

 The latest peace proposal drafted this week in Addis Ababa by regional bloc IGAD and seen by AFP leaves Salva Kiir as president and re-installs rebel leader Riek Machar as his deputy, a position he held until July 2013 when his sacking planted the seed of a war that erupted five months later.

Hopes of formulating a comprehensive peace deal that addresses South Sudan’s underlying problems and tribal divisions have faded. “That moment has passed,” a European diplomat involved in the talks said. Continue reading All talk but no peace: South Sudan’s stumbling talks