I am donkey, hear me bray

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta may be off the hook at the International Criminal Court, but back home a lot of people still think he’s been pretty incompetent at handling rising terrorism spilling over from Somalia (in retaliation for Kenyan participation in counterterrorism campaigns there). The latest manifestation of discontent has come in the form of a mysterious donkey protest on Thursday:

A herd of [22] donkeys has been dumped in Nairobi’s central business district in an apparent political protest, it’s been reported.

Each of the animals was spray-painted with the word “tumechoka”, which is Swahili for “we’re fed up”, The Standard news website reports. A lorry was seen depositing the herd in the centre of the Kenyan capital, with the driver saying he’d been paid to drop them off. It’s thought the protest was against rising insecurity in the country, as the website notes the “tumechoka” slogan was used in a street protest against a brutal bus attack in northern Kenya in November. As the donkeys were unloaded from the lorry, one activist was heard shouting “we are tired of this leadership,” The Standard says. The scene attracted a large crowd, according to the BBC’s Robert Kiptoo in Nairobi. “Police had a hectic time trying to control the crowd, which had gathered in one of the streets to take a glimpse of the graffiti and take photographs,” he says. The animals are now being looked after by an animal welfare organisation. “We have taken the donkeys to our Moroto offices and arrested some people who are suspected to be involved in the evil act,” a police officer tells The Star newspaper.

Yes, how evil. So dastardly.

President Kenyatta recently fired a number of high-ranking interior and security officials, including some with so little background in the relevant portfolios that they almost make a commissioner of the Arabian Horse Association look qualified to manage a US federal response to Hurricane Katrina.

However, many saw it as too little too late, coming over a year after the horrific Westgate mall siege and the wildly incompetent response there.

ICC drops charges against first sitting head of state ever tried

The International Criminal Court (ICC) trial of Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta was a huge development. It marked the first time an incumbent head of state had ever turned himself into the ICC to stand trial (in his case for crimes against humanity committed in post-election disorder several years ago). And of course he had had to hand off power temporarily to his vice president, who is also facing ICC charges from the same situation, but is from a different political party. Such a transfer has never occurred in Kenya before, and Kenya is already facing a mounting security crisis from al-Shabab terrorist attacks coming from neighboring Somalia.

The ICC’s historic bid for justice, unfortunately, has now fallen apart before the trial could be completed:

International Criminal Court prosecutors on Friday withdrew crimes against humanity charges against Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta but said fresh charges could be brought if new evidence is found of his involvement in post-election violence.

This is very embarrassing for the ICC. They can’t really blame their failure on Kenya failing to provide evidence when the whole point of the ICC is to be able to make prosecutions successfully without the cooperation of national governments. Below is an analysis, in that vein, from France24:

Kenyan sentence an urgent reminder of the need for legal abortion

A nurse has been sentenced to death in Kenya after being held responsible for the death of a young woman or girl who tried to get an abortion, back in 2009. He maintained that she had first tried to get one from unsafe source and then sought help from him as she developed complications but died anyway. The last death sentence in the country was applied in 1987.

Judge Nicholas Ombija said the court had established “that the accused caused the death of the deceased” and convicted him of murder.´╗┐

Abortions are only legal in the country to save the life of the mother, and 120,000 women are treated annually for complications from failed attempts to obtain one illegally. The defendant is to be hanged for his role in the young woman’s death. Due to pressure by religious leaders, the law that really killed her is not expected to be changed.

South Sudan: The world should be watching

south-sudan-flagSouth Sudan is Africa’s newest country and is a significant oil-producer (mostly selling to China) and fledgling democracy. At the beginning of the week we got scattered reports that there had been an attempted coup d’├ętat by the former Vice President of South Sudan and troops loyal to him.

He is of a different ethnic group than the President, a U.S. ally. While the takeover failed in the capital, it seems the rebelling units quickly moved outside the city. The ex-VP now says his troops have control of the oil fields.

The United Nations mission on the ground — continuing to oversee the transition process from 2005 to independence in 2011 and then to present — soon reported 500 deaths in the clashes between loyalists and renegade troops in the capital. These figures have been rising quickly as casualties mount in the countryside and other towns.

Within a couple days, 20,000 civilians had crowded onto UN peacekeeping bases, seeking refuge from the fighting within the Army. That number is now up to 35,000 according to the UN. There are fewer than 7,000 UN peacekeeping troops in the country, and two soldiers from India have already been reported dead as approximately 2,000 child soldiers aligned with the renegades overran one of the bases and began massacring civilians of a the President’s (majority) ethnic group.

Troops from neighboring Uganda and Kenya have already arrived to “intervene” in the crisis as “stabilize” the government. It is fairly standard practice for the African Union — both countries are key members in AU military operations — to officially back the incumbent governments during leadership struggles and rebellions, mostly out of self-interest but also to promote legitimacy/sovereignty of existing governments. But it’s also common for East African nations to interfere military in each other’s conflicts, sometimes on the side of rebels.

The United States has hundreds of staff in the country, most of which have been evacuated from non-rebel-held areas. But BBC Africa and the New York Times reported earlier today that a U.S. emergency evacuation military mission of three planes to South Sudan was fired upon while en route from Uganda.

It turned back without completing an evacuation and landed safely in Uganda, but there were injuries on board to four U.S. service personnel. They are all in stable condition now. The Ugandan Army (a U.S. military ally in the region) said that, based on the location of the attack, that renegade troops siding with the attempted coup initiated it. The U.S. military has officially backed this hypothesis. It’s unclear when the U.S. will be able to rescue its people on the ground in the rebel zone.

President Obama announced that he has already put 45 troops on the ground — potentially from existing Ugandan or Kenyan deployments or the offshore anti-piracy patrol deployments — to protect U.S. civilians stationed in the country as part of the transition to democracy. He also announced that he would end U.S. and Western support for South Sudan for the first time, if the government falls to the rebels through force.

So to summarize: We’ve got U.S. troops on the ground now in a significant oil producing nation with close ties to China (I argued earlier this week that they should step up and intervene), the oil seems to have fallen to rebel control, UN peacekeepers have already been killed trying to protect some of the 35,000 civilian refugees hiding on their bases, and we’ve now had U.S. casualties. Oh and it’s a democracy the U.S. carefully guided into existence in just the last decade. This is about to be a way bigger global concern — unfortunately — than the nearby Central African Republic chaos.