Politics in Somalia | Reluctant to admit another failure

The Economist
Mogadishu, Somalia

When the British and Swedish ambassadors to Somalia recently queued up to meet a new member of the government appointed by the third prime minister in 18 months, the man they met was so new to Somali politics that a government adviser was unsure of his name. But it was not long before Mohamed Omar Arte, the incoming deputy prime minister, found himself in the midst of the bloody turmoil that remains a grim hallmark of politics in Somalia. On February 20th, two days after he met the Western envoys, he narrowly escaped with his life when suicide-bombers from the Shabab, Somalia’s extreme Islamist group linked to al-Qaeda, attacked a hotel in Mogadishu, the capital, during Friday prayers, killing 25 people (plus both bombers). On March 27th gunmen hit another Mogadishu hotel popular with politicians, killing at least 17 people. Continue reading Politics in Somalia | Reluctant to admit another failure

Terror in Kenya | A nightmare on campus

The Economist
Nairobi, Kenya

Before dawn on Thursday masked gunmen attacked a university on the outskirts of Garissa, a town in northeastern Kenya, and a way-station on the road to Somalia. The target, Garissa University, has more than 800 students, most of whom live in a series of three-storey residential blocks on the sprawling campus. The gunmen separated students according to religion: some Muslim students were allowed to leave and an unknown number of Christian students—possibly several hundred—were taken hostage and remain unaccounted for. Others were shot dead. According to the latest report, at least 147 people have been killed, including four attackers, and 79 injured. A spokesman for the Shabab, a Somalia-based al-Qaeda-aligned Islamic militant group, claimed responsibility for the attack. Continue reading Terror in Kenya | A nightmare on campus

Hearts and Mines

Delayed Gratification
Voi, Kenya

Campbell Bridges’ Scorpion Mine in southern Kenya (Tugela Ridley)
Campbell Bridges’ Scorpion Mine in southern Kenya (Tugela Ridley)

On a cool Tuesday morning in August 2009 Campbell Bridges awoke to shafts of dawn light falling across his plank-walled bedroom high in the boughs of a white flowering mwarange tree. At seventy-one years old Bridges was still a fit, strong, bear of a man. He shuffled out onto the rickety balcony to stand in the brisk morning air.

From his treehouse Bridges gazed out across a sweeping landscape of red earth and thorny acacia trees. The sun rising behind the three thousand foot high face of Mount Kasigau disolved the chill of another cloudless, silent star-bright night.

When Bridges first made his home in southern Kenya in 1971 the treehouse protected him and his wife Judith from army ants, huge tusked elephants, black rhinos and ferocious maneless lions but decades of poaching had decimated the local wildlife.

Decades later Bridges was facing a new threat, this time from human predators.

Continue reading Hearts and Mines