Who shot Kuki Gallmann?

The Observer Magazine
Nairobi, Kenya

Darknes and light: Kuki Gallmann poses for a portrait inside her Nairobi home about a month after being shot by armed men on her ranch in Laikipia County, in Kenya.
Photograph: Pete Muller for the Observer

There is thunder and the equatorial rain falls perfectly straight, drenching the lawn and a pair of towering candelabra trees that frame the driveway which leads to a two-storey, colonial-era house. Inside, logs burn in the grey stone fireplace, worn kilims are spread on the parquet floor and Kuki Gallmann – 74 years old and recovering from two bullet wounds in her abdomen – sits regally upon a chair of wrought iron and stained glass shaped like a resting bird. Continue reading Who shot Kuki Gallmann?

Rights groups question Kenyan police account of ‘terror attack’

Agence France-Presse (AFP)
Nairobi, Kenya

Nairobi has been battling the Shabaab, an al-Qaeda linked militant group headquartered in Somalia, that carries out regular deadly attacks in Kenya (AFP Photo)
Nairobi has been battling the Shabaab, an al-Qaeda linked militant group headquartered in Somalia, that carries out regular deadly attacks in Kenya (AFP Photo)

On a Sunday morning in September three young women were killed by officers at the main police station in Kenya’s second city — but that’s the only fact beyond doubt in a case that activists say is further evidence of a police force gone rogue.

In the official version of events, police thwarted an attempted terrorist attack on September 11 when the women — who they say recently pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group — entered Mombasa Central Police Station armed with a knife, a petrol bomb and a suicide vest. Continue reading Rights groups question Kenyan police account of ‘terror attack’

Islamic State makes inroads into Kenya

Agence France-Presse (AFP)
Nairobi, Kenya

A Kenyan police officer folds up a flag inscribed with the logo of the Islamic State group following a raid on two mosques in the coastal city of Mombasa (AFP Photo)
A Kenyan police officer folds up a flag inscribed with the logo of the Islamic State group following a raid on two mosques in the coastal city of Mombasa (AFP Photo)

Recent arrests show the Islamic State’s growing presence in East Africa, where they are recruiting young Kenyans for jihad abroad and raising fears some of them will return to threaten the country.

Kenyan intelligence agencies estimate that around 100 men and women may have gone to join the IS in Libya and Syria, triggering concern that some may come back to stage attacks on Kenyan and foreign targets in a country already victim to regular, deadly terrorism.

“There is now a real threat that Kenya faces from IS and the danger will continue to increase,” said Rashid Abdi, senior analyst at the International Crisis Group think tank in Nairobi. Continue reading Islamic State makes inroads into Kenya

Corruption, politics, murder: anatomy of a Kenyan killing

The funeral of Kenyan businessman Jacob Juma (AFP Photo)
The funeral of Kenyan businessman Jacob Juma (AFP Photo)

Agence France-Presse (AFP)
Nairobi, Kenya

On a wet Thursday night in early May, a well-known businessman and government critic was found dead in his armoured blue Mercedes by a busy road on the outskirts of Nairobi, five bullet holes in his chest, neck and arm.

Kenya’s long history of state violence meant the murder of Jacob Juma, who was in his mid-forties, was quickly viewed as a political assassination. Continue reading Corruption, politics, murder: anatomy of a Kenyan killing

The downfall of Yang Fenglan, the “Ivory Queen”

New Statesman
Nairobi, Kenya

2016_22_ellieLate last year, a car chase through the streets of Dar es Salaam ended outside a blue art deco hotel when police officers rammed their car into another belonging to their suspect: a small, bespectacled Chinese woman in her mid-sixties. Continue reading The downfall of Yang Fenglan, the “Ivory Queen”

Saving the wildlife ‘miracle’ of Congo’s Garamba park

Agence France-Presse (AFP)
Garamba National Park, DR Congo

A young female elephant lies sedated as Garamba National Park rangers attach a GPS collar to track her movements (AFP Photo/Tony Karumba)
A young female elephant lies sedated as Garamba National Park rangers attach a GPS collar to track her movements (AFP Photo/Tony Karumba)

Chronic insecurity, regional conflict, tough terrain and isolation make Africa’s Garamba park perhaps the most difficult place on the continent to practice conservation. North-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, where the park is situated, is a bad neighbourhood: South Sudan to the north collapsed in civil war in 2013, as did nearby Central African Republic a year earlier, while Congo itself is still plagued by armed groups including rebels, horseback raiders and renegade soldiers. Continue reading Saving the wildlife ‘miracle’ of Congo’s Garamba park

Armed groups line up to kill Congo’s elephants

Agence France-Presse (AFP)
Garamba National Park, DR Congo

Rangers set out on the hunt for elephant poachers in Garamba National Park (AFP Photo/Tony Karumba)
Rangers set out on the hunt for elephant poachers in Garamba National Park (AFP Photo/Tony Karumba)

In a remote part of Garamba, a vast national park in Democratic Republic of Congo, a team of rangers loads assault rifles and backpacks into a helicopter as they begin their hunt for elephant poachers. During their nine-day patrol to protect the park’s precious beasts the rangers risk coming into conflict with the heavily armed poachers that prey on them. Continue reading Armed groups line up to kill Congo’s elephants

In Congo, a war for Africa’s elephants

Agence France-Presse (AFP)
Garamba National Park, DR Congo

Elephants stand in tall grass in the Garamba National Park (AFP Photo/Tony Karumba)
Elephants stand in tall grass in the Garamba National Park (AFP Photo/Tony Karumba)

André Migifuloyo and Djuma Uweko lived together, worked together and last October died together fighting to protect Congo’s elephants from voracious ivory-seeking poachers. In the continental war to protect Africa’s elephants, the rangers of Garamba National Park in north-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo are manning the frontline.

The two men grew up in the same small town of Dungu and joined the park service in their early twenties, a good job that pays a decent monthly wage of around $200 (180 euros). Migifuloyo became a ranger in 2011 and two years later Uweko followed. Both were quick to make friends with others and lived with their young families in Nagero, the park village by the Dungu River with its little red brick church and thatched homes. Continue reading In Congo, a war for Africa’s elephants

The Ivory-Funded Terrorism Myth

International New York Times, Op-Ed
Nairobi, Kenya

Late last year, the Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow produced a powerful short called “Last Days,” about the dangers and depredations of “ivory-funded terrorism.” Viewers — and Ms. Bigelow’s celebrity friends — were encouraged to share #LastDays on social media, which many duly did. Their efforts gave yet another boost to the widely accepted belief that terrorists across Africa are killing elephants and selling the ivory to finance their attacks. But like her full-length feature film “Zero Dark Thirty,” Ms. Bigelow is offering a beguiling story divorced from reality. Continue reading The Ivory-Funded Terrorism Myth

The Kenyan Connection: drug bust exposes new heroin route

Agence France-Presse (AFP)
Nairobi, Kenya

(L-R) Baktash Akasha, Vijaygiri 'Vicki' Goswami, Gulam 'Old Man' Hussein and Ibrahim Akasha in court (AFP)
(L-R) Baktash Akasha, Vijaygiri ‘Vicki’ Goswami, Gulam ‘Old Man’ Hussein and Ibrahim Akasha in court in Mombasa (AFP)

When a crack unit of Kenyan narco cops raided a Mombasa villa in November, after an eight-month undercover US investigation, it marked a step change in Africa’s fight against drug trafficking.

The drugs sting was a first in East Africa. Four men were arrested: two sons of a murdered Kenyan drug lord, a convicted Indian trafficker with a faded Bollywood star wife and a bigtime Indian Ocean transporter from Pakistan known as “Old Man”.

The next day, on November 10, a New York indictment was unsealed and a US extradition request lodged. Nearly seven months later the groundbreaking operation is in jeopardy as efforts to extradite the suspects founder, casting doubt on international efforts to block a new “southern route” funnelling heroin from Afghan poppy fields to European and American streets, via Africa’s poorly policed eastern coastline. Continue reading The Kenyan Connection: drug bust exposes new heroin route