The passengers waiting to board at Kenya’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport include a bunch of UN staffers, a couple of British diplomats and security contractors spottable by their shaved heads and tactical backpacks. The US ambassador to Somalia is also in the line, as are aid workers from a host of charities that are busy trying to alleviate Somalia’s latest drought. They’re all waiting for the morning flight to Somalia’s capital Mogadishu, operated by the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS). This three-times-a-week service is a lifeline to one of the world’s most dangerous cities. With 70 aircraft in 17 countries and an operating budget of €205m this year, UNHAS is the biggest airline you’ve never heard of, and its rugged fleet ferries aid workers in and out of humanitarian crises all over the world.
Later this year, a drought in Somalia will likely become a famine. Hundreds of thousands of people are at risk. International aid agencies will scramble to deliver food and medical care. As usual, most of those who may die will be children.
Mariam Ibrahim, her seven children and two neighbouring families were the last to leave their village in southwestern Somalia.
They loaded their combined belongings — blankets, cooking pots, sleeping mats, jerry cans, clothes — onto a hired donkey cart and walked beside it for 20 kilometres (12 miles) to Baidoa, the closest city.
“There is nobody left now,” said the 28-year-old. She joined thousands of others who are arriving in Baidoa each day, staggering from the parched countryside into the garrison city, cloaked in rags and dust.
With its security-sealed plastic boxes and cardboard polling booths, Somalia’s election –- under way since last month and still ongoing –- has the trappings of democracy, but few of the functions.
Last week in the western city of Baidoa, 51 handpicked representatives of the Reer Aw Hassan clan took an hour to vote unanimously for Abdiweli Ibrahim Ali Sheikh Mudey, a current minister and the only candidate to show up on the day.
For a presidential candidate just weeks ahead of the vote, Fadumo Dayib is remarkably resigned to losing. Like many of her fellow aspirants Dayib is a dual passport-holding member of Somalia’s far-flung diaspora, an elite group whose privileges over those left behind frequently foster resentment. But, unlike any of her competitors, she is a woman and in a patriarchal society such as Somalia that makes her shoe-string run for the presidency both impossible and impossibly significant. Continue reading Big Interview: Fadumo Dayib, Presidential candidate, Somalia
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.
On a Sunday afternoon in late February a car exploded outside a crowded restaurant in Baidoa, Somalia, and moments later a suicide bomber blew himself up among fleeing survivors. At least 30 people died in the attack, the latest by the Shabaab, a Somali-led Al-Qaeda group in East Africa that continues to defy repeated predictions of its demise. Continue reading East Africa’s Shabaab ‘can survive for 30 years’
Dadaab is a confounding place, a low-slung conurbation of wind-swept, sun-beaten shelters adrift in Kenya’s wild northeast. The wind is unrelenting, the heat unbearable, yet it is home to 350,000 people, refugees who escaped war and famine only to find themselves trapped here.
They depend on food handouts yet the markets are also stuffed with fresh mangos and Samsung smartphones. There are few jobs yet some are spectacularly wealthy. It is a place of hopelessness and opportunity. Dadaab is temporary, but has existed for 25 years and is the focus of Ben Rawlence’s book.
12:55 p.m. Simon Belcher lay on his front beneath a black Range Rover, breathing deeply, wanting to unsee the pile of mangled bodies a few yards in front of him. He turned his head toward his wife, Amanda, who was hiding beneath a white 4×4 to his right. “I love you,” he mouthed silently before resting his head on the pavement.
The bullet that had struck Simon a few moments earlier passed through his torso and right arm while shrapnel from an exploding gas canister had torn into his abdomen. An unexploded hand grenade lay nearby. The masked gunmen, two of them, with military webbing slung around their bony shoulders and AK-47 assault rifles in their hands, had disappeared. Inside the mall, Simon guessed.
The first time I went to Mogadishu there were soldiers on the roof of the airport terminal and a crashed cargo plane on the apron with a rocket-sized hole in its fuselage. I wore body armour pretty much all the time, was woken by explosions at night and ducked rifle fire by day.