World View: Ethnic Tensions Grow in Kenya

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 “missionaccomplished,” after French troops regained control of several citiesfrom the jihadists and rebels, with barely any casualties. Manyreports suggested that the rebels had simply fled to their bases toregroup for a counterattack, and on Sunday a counterattack began inGao, the largest city in northern Mali. Black-robed Islamicextremists armed with AK-47 automatic rifles invaded Gao in woodenboats Sunday to launch a surprise attack that included two suicidebombings. Gunfights are continuing into Sunday night. Many of therebels have combat experience from the war in Libya, and arewell-armed, thanks to the stores of weapons stolen from Libya. By theend of March, France wants to hand over responsibility to the Malianarmy, supported by troops donated by neighboring countries. Whetherthat actually happens will depend on how successful the counterattacksare. AP

Iran and Hizbollah build militia networks in Syria

An unnamed Obama administration intelligence official says that Iranis backing as many as 50,000 militiamen in Syria, supplying them withmoney and weapons. Syria is an important client of Iran, and theLebanon-based terror group Hizbollah is also an important client.Iran and Hizbollah are setting up the militias to provide contingencyplans in case Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad has to step down.Right now, the militias are fighting alongside al-Assad’s army, but ifhe’s forced to step down, then the plan is to create an enclave innorthwest Syria under control of Iran and Hizbollah. This wouldprovide an Iran-controlled supply route from the sea into Lebanon, sothat 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 ofethnic violence killed than 1,200 people, and many thousands weredriven from their homes. (See “Post-election massacre in Kenya raises concerns of tribal war”.) Now many Kenyans are dreading a new presidentialelection on March 4, because there may be a new outbreak of ethnicviolence. There’s already been one recent bloody ethnic massacre( “22-Dec-12 World View — Ethnic revenge massacre in Kenya kills 41”.) Even business isaffected, as Ugandan traders are shifting from Kenya’s sea port toTanzania’s more distant sea port.

There’s a really bizarre overlay to the election: One of thepresidential candidates, Uhuru Kenyatta, has been charged with crimesagainst humanity, and is due to face trial in the InternationalCriminal Court (ICC) in the Hague in April. With this trialapproaching, it suddenly seems that dozens of Kenyan witnesses whowere expected to testify at the trial have been disappearing and arepresumed dead. These disappearances are only adding to the ethnictensions that already exist throughout the country. Kenya’s lastgenerational crisis war was the Mau-Mau rebellion that climaxed in1956, 57 years ago. It’s fairly common for a new crisis war to beginaround the 58-year point following the climax of the preceding crisiswar, as that’s the point where the survivors of the preceding crisiswar almost completely lose their influence. BBC and Independent (Uganda)

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