World View: Ethnic Tensions Grow in Kenya

This morning's key headlines from

  • Surprise rebel attack in Gao signals resurgence of Mali violence
  • Iran and Hizbollah build militia networks in Syria
  • Ethnic tensions grow in Kenya as March 4 elections approach

Surprise rebel attack in Gao signals resurgence of Mali violence

War-ravaged helicopter in Gao on Sunday (AFP)
War-ravaged helicopter in Gao on Sunday (AFP)

Two weeks ago, France's president François Hollande declared "mission accomplished," after French troops regained control of several cities from the jihadists and rebels, with barely any casualties. Many reports suggested that the rebels had simply fled to their bases to regroup for a counterattack, and on Sunday a counterattack began in Gao, the largest city in northern Mali. Black-robed Islamic extremists armed with AK-47 automatic rifles invaded Gao in wooden boats Sunday to launch a surprise attack that included two suicide bombings. Gunfights are continuing into Sunday night. Many of the rebels have combat experience from the war in Libya, and are well-armed, thanks to the stores of weapons stolen from Libya. By the end of March, France wants to hand over responsibility to the Malian army, supported by troops donated by neighboring countries. Whether that actually happens will depend on how successful the counterattacks are. AP

Iran and Hizbollah build militia networks in Syria

An unnamed Obama administration intelligence official says that Iran is backing as many as 50,000 militiamen in Syria, supplying them with money and weapons. Syria is an important client of Iran, and the Lebanon-based terror group Hizbollah is also an important client. Iran and Hizbollah are setting up the militias to provide contingency plans in case Syria's president Bashar al-Assad has to step down. Right now, the militias are fighting alongside al-Assad's army, but if he's forced to step down, then the plan is to create an enclave in northwest Syria under control of Iran and Hizbollah. This would provide an Iran-controlled supply route from the sea into Lebanon, so that Hizbollah could continue to control Lebanon politics. Washington Post

Ethnic tensions grow in Kenya as March 4 elections approach

After Kenya's last presidential election, in 2007, an outbreak of ethnic violence killed than 1,200 people, and many thousands were driven from their homes. (See "Post-election massacre in Kenya raises concerns of tribal war".) Now many Kenyans are dreading a new presidential election on March 4, because there may be a new outbreak of ethnic violence. There's already been one recent bloody ethnic massacre ( "22-Dec-12 World View -- Ethnic revenge massacre in Kenya kills 41".) Even business is affected, as Ugandan traders are shifting from Kenya's sea port to Tanzania's more distant sea port.

There's a really bizarre overlay to the election: One of the presidential candidates, Uhuru Kenyatta, has been charged with crimes against humanity, and is due to face trial in the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague in April. With this trial approaching, it suddenly seems that dozens of Kenyan witnesses who were expected to testify at the trial have been disappearing and are presumed dead. These disappearances are only adding to the ethnic tensions that already exist throughout the country. Kenya's last generational crisis war was the Mau-Mau rebellion that climaxed in 1956, 57 years ago. It's fairly common for a new crisis war to begin around the 58-year point following the climax of the preceding crisis war, as that's the point where the survivors of the preceding crisis war almost completely lose their influence. BBC and Independent (Uganda)

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