TIME South Africa

Brutal Murder Is Sparked by Anti-Immigrant Rage in South Africa

Mozambique national Emmanuel Sithole is attacked by men in Alexandra township during anti-immigrant violence in Johannesburg on April 18, 2015.
James Oatway—Sunday Times/Reuters Mozambique national Emmanuel Sithole is attacked by men in Alexandra township during anti-immigrant violence in Johannesburg on April 18, 2015.

High unemployment, frustration and nationalistic sloganeering by local leaders contributes to a spike in anti-foreigner violence not seen since the 2008 riots that killed more than 60

Early Saturday morning in the Alexandra Township just outside of Johannesburg, South Africa, a crowd watched as two men bludgeoned and stabbed to death a migrant from Mozambique. Emmanuel Sithole, a small-time vendor of loose cigarettes and an ardent fan of the South African football team, according to the plastic bracelets on his wrist, was the seventh person to die in a wave of anti-foreigner violence that recalls the horrors of 2008, when more than 60 were killed in xenophobic attacks that shocked the world with images of immigrants “necklaced” with gasoline-filled automobile tires and lit on fire. The night before Sithole’s death, mobs rampaged through the township, looting the businesses of migrants from other African countries and setting foreign-owned shops on fire.

Two journalists from South Africa’s Sunday Times newspaper captured the horrific scene of Sithole’s murder, shining a spotlight on the anti-immigrant violence that erupted across the country in the wake of a speech last month by Zulu King, and presidential ally, Goodwill Zwelithini in which he suggested foreigners were taking South Africans’ jobs and that they should “pack their belongings and go back to their countries.” When the journalists rushed the profusely bleeding Sithole to a nearby medical clinic, the staff could do nothing: the doctor scheduled to be on duty that day had not come into work. A migrant himself, he had been too afraid of becoming a victim of a xenophobic attack.

South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma cancelled a state visit to Indonesia on Saturday to deal with the issue, and swore that such attacks would not be tolerated. But as police started rounding up suspects in Sithole’s murder and arrested some 300 in connection with other attacks, South Africans are reeling with the realization that such violence can no longer be attributed to the legacy of Apartheid rule, but that there are fundamental problems within society that must be addressed. “And so we are back to what we were, a nation with unrest and flashpoints. A country where mobs sharpen their machetes and vow to kill in front of a wall of riot policemen poised to fire. That was the image of Apartheid South Africa. Now it is the image of post-democracy South Africa,” wrote Ranjeni Munusamy of the influential Daily Maverick news site. “South Africa is the shame of the continent and a deviant of the world, and will continue being so until it changes its culture and values.”

According to research by Jean Pierre Misago at the African Center for Migration and Society, more than 350 foreigners have been killed in xenophobic attacks in South Africa since 2008. As a result, South Africa’s reputation as a refuge for the continent’s dispossessed has been shaken, steadily eroding the regional goodwill that once cemented the country’s position as an economic giant, arbiter of African disputes and example for peaceful reconciliation. If South Africa can’t get its own house in order, it can hardly lead the continent, lamented South Africa’s Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu in a statement released by his foundation. “Our rainbow nation that so filled the world with hope is being reduced to a grubby shadow of itself more likely to make the news for gross displays of callousness than for the glory that defined our transition to democracy under Nelson Mandela.”

That transition saw an influx of new migrants from Africa and Asia: out of a population of 51 million, estimates for the number of migrants range from 2 million to 5 million. Now several thousand Congolese, Zimbabweans, Malawians and Ethiopians that long considered South Africa to be their home have gathered in ad-hoc transit camps awaiting repatriation to countries they have not seen for years. On Saturday, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, currently Chair of the African Union, expressed his “shock” and “disgust” over the attacks, which claimed two Zimbabwean lives. “Our own African people on the African continent must be treated with respect… If there is any issue arising from influx [of foreigners]… surely that can be discussed and measures can be taken to deal with and address the situation.”

In addition to inflammatory speeches by local and national leaders, the current outbreak of xenophobia has been linked to widespread dissatisfaction over the government’s inability, 21 years on, to reverse the poverty and income disparity that defined black lives under Apartheid. While the country has made significant progress in some areas, millions still live in shantytowns, and more than a quarter of the population is unemployed. Zulu King Zwelithini’s defenders claimed that portions of his speech had been taken out of context, but for a population already convinced that foreigners have taken advantage of a porous border and lax immigration laws to “steal” jobs, his complaints about “foreigners everywhere…. They dirty our streets… You find their unsightly goods hanging all over our shops” were ample tinder for a conflagration. Even though, according to research by fact clearing warehouse Africa Check, only four percent of the working population aged between 15 and 64 could be classed as “international migrants.”

President Zuma has pledged to halt the violence that is giving South Africa such a bad name. On Saturday, he told residents of one transit camp waiting for transport to their home countries, “Those who want to go home, when the violence stops you are welcome to return.” For many, it is already too late. “He says we will be safe, but it’s not safe for us,” Zimbabwean Ronald Dandavare told the Times newspaper as he waited to get on a bus destined for Zimbabwe. “People won’t listen. We will be killed one by one.” That’s exactly what the attacks were meant to achieve. Until the government can address the root causes of resentment, and the lawlessness that allows violence against foreigners to go unpunished, xenophobic attacks are likely to flare again.

TIME fly farming

How One South African Entrepreneur Hopes to Make Millions From Maggots

A worker holds up fly larvae waiting to be harvested at the AgriProtein project farm near Cape Town, in 2014.
Mike Hutchings—Reuters A worker holds up fly larvae waiting to be harvested at the AgriProtein project farm near Cape Town, in 2014.

Self-described Eco-Capitalist Jason Drew of AgriProtein is farming flies to feed the world, clean up waste, and make a mint in the process

When Jason Drew plunges his hand into a seething mass of three-day old maggots, it is with the contentment of a farmer inspecting his thriving flock. His latest venture, AgriProtein, based in a sprawling, newly built factory farm on the edge of Cape Town’s international airport, is already showing signs of exponential growth. In just a few weeks, when the last of the cages have been installed, the feeding machines put in place and the processing equipment up and running, he expects to have 8.5 billion head of Hermetia Illucens on site on any given day. Translated into English, and dollars, that would be about 22 tons of Black Soldier Fly larvae a day, worth some ten thousand dollars once they are processed, pressed and dried into granules destined for chicken farms and aquaculture plants. But Drew isn’t just doing it for the money. He believes that flies will save the world. He is not alone.

By 2050, the world’s population will increase by two billion people. Demand for animal protein to feed that nine billion will increase even more quickly, as rising incomes from India to Africa mean a greater demand for beef, pork, fish and chicken. The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) calls that the “animal protein crunch.” Drew calls it an investment opportunity. The industrial farming of meat is an inefficient process that requires protein, often in the form of small fish harvested from increasingly depleted seas. It takes a minimum of 1.5 kilograms of fishmeal make one kilogram of farmed chicken meat, a scandalous plundering of the ocean’s limited resources that threatens the entire marine ecosystem. “We are fishing out the ocean to feed our pigs,” says Paul Vantomme of the FAO. “That not a wise long term solution.” Or, as Drew puts it, “if chickens were meant to eat fish, we would call them seagulls.” What chickens do eat, he says, is bugs and larvae. So why not feed them what they are meant to eat?

Seven years ago Drew came up with the deceptively simple idea of farming flies to supply a fishmeal alternative to chicken and fish farms. He was inspired, in part, by the sight of a vast pool of blood collecting behind an abattoir near his family farm. It was swarming with flies. Flies are nature’s housecleaners, feasting on organic waste that would otherwise become a breeding ground for disease. With the support of his brother and the help of an entomologist at South Africa’s Stellenbosch University who was working on the idea of fly-driven “bio-recycling,” he developed a program that would take food waste from Cape Town’s hotels, grocery stores, restaurants and abattoirs to feed and breed flies.

Jason Drew of AgriProtein in 2013.
Jenny Goldhawk—AFP/Getty ImagesJason Drew of AgriProtein in 2013.

He sold his family farm in South Africa’s lush wine country to invest $2.6 million in research and development. Once his idea started gaining traction (a 2011 TEDx talk helped), he attracted another $11 million in investment, enough to build his new factory farm — he expects to be cash flow positive within five months — and launch a global expansion. New branches are in the works in North America, Latin America and Europe as well. He estimates that there is a market for some 2,500 fly farming factories of his size around the world. Food experts agree. “From a practical point of view, farming insects appears to be one of the most interesting protein alternatives for getting food on the table of a growing global population,” says Vantomme of the FAO. “It is economically viable. The only thing missing is scale.” Vantomme says global need for animal protein — fishmeal or its alternatives — is in the “millions of tons per year.”

AgriProtein is ready for the challenge. One female Black Soldier Fly, the breed of choice for AgriProtein, lays about 1,500 eggs. One kilogram of fly eggs produces 380 kilograms of larval protein in just three days. In ten days nearly two thirds of those microscopic white eggs will have hatched and grown into a squirming mass of centimeter-long larvae. “The Black Soldier Fly maggots are incredible bio-converters, very efficient at converting food into maggot, which is fantastic for industry,” says AgriProtein’s head of Research and Development, entomologist Cameron Richards.

Once they reach the brown-shelled pupae stage — that’s the equivalent of a chrysalis for butterfly lovers — they are ready to be harvested, a process that involves pressing, crushing and drying. At that point the so called “mag-meal” is ready to be shipped around the world at about half the cost of traditional fish meal, which currently cost about $2,000 a metric ton on the global commodities index.

Workers push a container of recycled rotting vegetable matter used to feed larvae at the AgriProtein project farm near Cape Town, in 2014.
Mike Hutchings—ReutersWorkers push a container of recycled rotting vegetable matter used to feed larvae at the AgriProtein project farm near Cape Town, in 2014.

Not only is the food waste that goes to feed the flies free of cost, keeping it out of landfill, where it would otherwise create green-house-gas-increasing methane and pollute the water supply, it does a good turn for the environment. “We take it for granted that we need to recycle our paper glass and tin. It will be come increasingly evident that we also need to recycle waste nutrients, whether it be food waste from supermarkets or abattoir waste from industrial slaughterhouses,” Drew writes in his short book, “The Story of the Fly, and How it Could Save the World.” At full capacity, Drew expects his larvae to go through 100 tons of food waste a day. And unlike runoff from traditional fish, chicken or pork farms, fly feces makes for rich compost ready for agricultural use. Unlike common houseflies, which can spread disease, “Black Soldier Flies are not known as disease vectors, they do not bite nor do they carry pathogens like on their feet and mouthparts,” says Frederic Tripet, an expert on insect-spread diseases at Keele University’s Centre for Applied Entomology and Parasitology in the United Kingdom. Nor does fly farming create noxious gasses that might drive down property prices. The air in AgriProtein’s incubating rooms (where the doors have signs admonishing visitors against making noise: “This is a QUIET ZONE. Flies mating!) smells vaguely of rotting meat, but it’s not enough to want a gas mask.

Getting from the theoretical to the practical of farming flies was an arduous process of trial and error, says AgriProtein’s entomologist Richards. Flies are picky about how they breed and lay eggs, and the AgriProtein team had to figure out how to get flies, who prefer to breed in the summer and lay eggs only at specific times, to adapt to the needs of a 24-hour, 365-day-a year industrial process. “As with any biological process, the problem is up scaling,” says Richards. “In nature things work on a small scale. As soon as you want to increase that to industrial size, unforeseen problems come to the fore” — like the fact that maggots overheat when there are too many feeding at once. The solutions to those problems are a tightly-held secret. AgriProtein may be a pioneer in the field of industrial fly farming, but competitors in China and Europe are already catching on. Drew isn’t the only one to see money in maggots.

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TIME Nigeria

Boko Haram Has Fled but No One Knows the Fate of the Chibok Girls One Year On

“It would have been better to see the dead body of my daughter than to let them carry her away”

Some days, the Rev. Enoch Mark wishes his 20-year-old daughter Monica were dead. One year ago she was kidnapped, and not a day goes by that he doesn’t think about her fate. “Sometimes I think knowing she is dead would be better than knowing nothing at all,” he says. Today, the private agony of a father lamenting his missing daughter is amplified 219 times, as Nigeria observes the one-year anniversary of a kidnapping that stunned a country and woke the world to the threat of Boko Haram.

On the night of April 14, 2014, the calm of Chibok, a rural town in northeastern Nigeria, was shattered as militants stormed the dormitory of a government boarding school for girls just before midnight. Gunmen rampaged through the compound, shooting guns and setting fire to buildings while others, disguised as military personnel on a rescue operation, bundled the students into waiting trucks. The girls’ screams could be heard half a mile away. Itinerant preacher Mark, who had only just enrolled his daughter Monica at the school, ran toward campus. By the time he arrived it was too late: the militants had already rounded up 276 girls and disappeared into the nearby Sambisa forest. “It would have been better to see the dead body of my daughter than to let them carry her away,” he says of that night. “But I didn’t see anyone left, dead or alive.”

The abduction drew international condemnation, with celebrities from Michelle Obama to Madonna and Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai calling for their release. Boko Haram, a long-running localized Islamist insurgency determined to bring its radical interpretation of Islamic law to the region, entered the lexicon of global terrorist groups and Chibok, which didn’t even have a Google Maps entry, became a household name. Fifty-seven of the girls managed to escape in the first few days, leaping from the transport trucks where they had been packed like cattle, or dashing into the forest when their captors’ backs were turned. But one year on, 219 girls remain missing, a black eye for the Nigerian military that has done little to locate them, and a rebuke to the international community that joined the Twitter campaign to #BringBackOurGirls, but has achieved little else, despite three regional conferences and international pledges of support. “We keep on telling the girl child that she is important, that she should dare to be educated. Yet we have left 219 of her sisters with terrorists,” says Aisha Yesufu, a mother of three in the Nigerian capital of Abuja who is spearheading the campaign to keep the issue alive. “So everywhere in the world, the girl child, she has realized that she doesn’t matter, not to the world. Nobody cares. Because if her sisters can be left with their abductors for so long, then there is something wrong with us as humans.”

On Tuesday Nigeria’s President-elect Muhammadu Buhari said his government would do everything in its power to bring the Chibok girls home, but he injected a note of caution. “We do not know if the Chibok girls can be rescued. Their whereabouts remain unknown. As much as I wish to, I cannot promise that we can find them.” The Nigerian military, with assistance from mercenary groups as well as neighbors Chad, Niger and Cameroon, has managed to force Boko Haram out of much of the Belgium-size territory it once held, but the group, including leader Abubakar Shekau, is thought to have taken refuge in the trackless Sambisa forest, where it is protected by dense foliage and difficult terrain.

Boko Haram, which loosely translated means “Western education is forbidden,” started in 2002 as a rejectionist religious group that sought salvation in a fundamentalist reading of Islamic law. It turned violent in 2009, when clashes with Nigerian security forces resulted in the extrajudicial killing of founder Muhammad Yusuf. Since then the group has killed around 13,000 people in a violent campaign of bombings, suicide attacks, massacres and guerilla warfare. An estimated 1.5 million people have been forced from their homes by the insurgency, including some 800,000 children, according to the U.N. Children’s Fund.

According to a newly released report by Amnesty International, the Chibok girls are but a small fraction of the 2,000 women and children who have been abducted by Boko Haram since the beginning of 2014. The testimonies of those who escaped makes for grim reading: repeatedly raped, married against their will and forced to fight. It is likely the Chibok girls share similar fates, if they are alive at all — when Gwoza, the capital of Boko Haram’s self-declared caliphate, was recaptured in late March, residents reported that the fleeing militants killed their wives and stuffed the bodies into wells rather than let them be captured by “infidels.” But residents, speaking to the BBC, said they had seen about 50 of the Chibok girls under Boko Haram guard in the weeks before the city fell. “I don’t believe they are dead,” says Yesufu, the activist, by telephone from Abuja. “They are alive, somewhere. Boko Haram understands the importance of these girls, and will want to keep them as bargaining chips.” Shekau has declared in several video broadcasts that the girls, many of whom were Christian, had either converted to Islam and been married off, or refused to convert and sold as slaves.

Just a few months after the Chibok kidnapping, Boko Haram launched a series of devastating suicide attacks by women, leading some to speculate that the girls could have been brainwashed, or otherwise forced into detonating explosive vests and backpacks in crowded markets. “When Kano saw four explosions in the space of a week in July, all apparently involving young women or teenagers, the first thought was: Is this the Chibok girls?” says Elizabeth Pearson, a doctoral researcher in gender and radicalization at King’s College London and a member of the Nigeria Security Network. As a tactic, it is extremely effective: male security guards are loath to pat down female shoppers, and few suspect women to be suicide bombers. With female bombers, “the shock and fear value is greater. With young women being used particularly, this guarantees greater publicity and media coverage.” But the evidence is inconclusive, notes Pearson. There has been no DNA testing, and the damage wrought by the bombs makes visual identification all but impossible.

For Mark, the idea that his daughter might be living as a captive, abused, enslaved and terrified, is worse than the idea of her being dead. He was told, early on, that one of the kidnapped girls had refused to convert to Islam. As punishment, she was stoned to death. “If that really happened,” he told TIME in January, “it might be my daughter, because she holds her Christian faith so strong. If my daughter was stoned to death for Christ’s sake, I will be grateful.” For some, a martyr’s brutal death gives more comfort than knowing nothing at all.

TIME Nigeria

Here Are 4 Challenges Nigeria’s New Leader Must Overcome

Nigeria Election
Sunday Alamba—AP President-elect Muhammadu Buhari speaks moments after he was presented with a certificate to show he won the election in Abuja, Nigeria on April 1, 2015.

For President-elect Buhari, winning Nigeria's tight election race is the easy part. Keeping Africa's biggest country afloat will be harder

When he defeated President Goodluck Jonathan at the polls on March 28, Muhammadu Buhari made history as the first opposition candidate in Nigeria to unseat a president through the ballot box. But the president-elect faces far greater challenges when, on May 29, he takes office and must confront Nigeria’s multiple problems, from an economy that has been hit by the falling price of oil, a government paralysed by corruption, and a security sector beset by one insurgency and threatened by another. If Buhari, 72, is to leave a legacy equal to his history-making victory, he will have to take on these challenges:

Cutting out corruption

Buhari’s All Progressives Congress [APC] party emblem is a broom, symbolizing his commitment to sweeping out the corruption that has plagued Nigeria for decades. He has a proven track record, too. Unlike most of his predecessors and successors, he did not use his time in power, as military president from 1983 to 1985, to enrich himself, and still lives in the modest home of a retired general. But even if he manages to resist the temptations of office, he will have to work with the political elites in his party who brought him to power, largely through Nigeria’s deeply entrenched system of political patronage and its attendant promises of favors and kickbacks. “The APC line is that there will be no corrupt individuals in Buhari’s cabinet, but there will have to be some wiggle room,” says Elizabeth Donnelley, assistant head of the Africa program at London’s Chatham House foreign policy institute. “Deals have been made, and things are owed.” Buhari may not be able to sweep away graft in the short term, but if he immediately strengthens existing anti-corruption institutions that had been intentionally weakened under previous administrations, such as Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, and oversees the prosecution of standout cases, he will set the right tone. A good place to start would be an investigation into the country’s petroleum ministry, where an estimated $20 billion in oil revenue is thought to have gone missing, according to a 2014 report by Nigeria’s Central Bank.

Taming Boko Haram

In tackling the Islamist insurgency that has killed more than 13,000 over the past six years, Buhari faces a three-fold problem. With significant help from neighbors Chad and Niger, along with an estimated 100 foreign mercenaries, Nigeria’s army has managed to push Boko Haram out of all but three local districts, liberating territory roughly the size of Belgium. But in order to keep Boko Haram from re-grouping, Buhari will have to oversee a complete restructuring of an army hollowed out by years of neglect and corruption. He will also need to ramp up security and intelligence services as the insurgents, denied territory, resort increasingly to terror attacks. Two assaults in the country’s northeast over the weekend took several dozen lives, underscoring the urgency. Buhari will also need to strengthen the relationship with those countries assisting in the fight, whose leadership feels that they are doing the bulk of the work with little recognition.

The insurgency has devastated parts of Nigeria. The United Nation’s Deputy emergency relief coordinator, Kyung-wha Kang, says that some 1.5 million people have been displaced by the fighting, creating one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world today. More than 300 schools have been severely damaged or destroyed, and less than 40% of health facilities, in a historically underserved area, remain operational. Farmers have fled fighting in the country’s agricultural heartland, leading to rising food costs and the risk of widespread malnutrition.

It’s the economy, stupid

Nigeria may have surged past South Africa to become the continent’s biggest economy last year, but that growth has slowed. The International Monetary Fund estimates that economic growth will slow to 4.8% this year, down from 6.1% in 2014, and the Naira is down 17% against the dollar. Inflation is on the rise, and foreign reserves are at a historic low, largely due to the decline in oil and gas prices, which provide nearly 70% of government income. The oil and gas sector only accounts for about 16% of GDP, which means that if Buhari can help the government diversify its revenue base to better incorporate Nigeria’s booming entertainment and telecoms sector, he could oversee a return to better growth. The problem is that when it comes to economics, he is largely inexperienced, and will have select cabinet members with strong economic and business backgrounds. “I believe that Buhari is going to choose a very strong, good team in various departments, but most especially in economy,” Nigeria’s Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka told Bloomberg TV. “I think, like me, he’s an economic illiterate.”

Keeping the oil-rich delta area onside

To secure Nigeria’s economic growth, Buhari will have to prioritize his government’s relationship with the militants that upended the oil industry for much of the early 2000s. In 2009, then Vice President Jonathan negotiated a temporary amnesty deal with the militants that saw an end to the attacks on oil pipelines and kidnappings of foreign oil workers that made the region a no-go area and drove the price of oil to record highs. In exchange the militants, who claimed that they had long been denied the oil riches from their native lands, received generous payouts. The deal, which includes education stipends for some 30,000 residents, is set to expire at the end of 2015. If Buhari is not prepared to extend multi-million dollar contracts with local powerbrokers that make up a large portion of the amnesty agreement, the militants could respond with violence, igniting an uprising in the south even as he tackles the Boko Haram insurgency in the north. Buhari could extend the agreement, but better still would be to address the underlying issues: that the Delta’s oil wealth funds the nation with little in return for locals but environmental degradation and a few low-wage, low-skill jobs.

TIME Kenya

Christians Hunted Down as al-Shabab Kill 147 in Kenya

Students evacuated from Garissa University listen to an address by Interior Minister for Security Joseph Ole Nkaissery before they are transported to their home regions from a holding area on April 3, 2015.
Carl de Souza—AFP/Getty Images Students evacuated from Garissa University College listen to an address by Interior Minister for Security Joseph Ole Nkaissery before they are transported to their home regions from a holding area on April 3, 2015.

“If you were a Christian you were shot on the spot. With each blast of the gun I thought I was going to die”

At least 147 people have been killed and 79 wounded in the Thursday’s attack on a Kenya university, according to the Kenya National Disaster Operation Centre. The centre says security forces have rescued more than 500 students from the Garissa University College campus but fighting is still going on.

For the past two weeks intelligence agencies in both Uganda and Kenya have issued warnings of possible terrorist attacks by the Islamist group al-Shabaab. The alerts urged caution about going to venues popular with westerners in Kampala, and vigilance around major infrastructure projects or universities in Kenya. Those warnings bore fruit just before dawn on Thursday as masked militants stormed a university dormitory complex in the Kenyan town of Garissa, launching grenades and firing guns.

President Uhuru Kenyatta released a statement urging Kenyans to “stay calm as we resolve this matter,” and extended his condolences “to the families of those who have perished.” He begged Kenyans to “provide the authorities with any information they may have in connection with any threats to our security” while announcing that the government had commenced the “appropriate deployment” of security forces. Reports from Garissa show that Kenyan tanks are heading to the sealed off university area, and that the militants have gathered on the roof, preparing for a violent showdown even as hostages huddle inside.

Earlier on Thursday, student Collins Wetangula told the Associated Press that when the militants stormed his dorm, he could hear them demanding if residents were Muslim or Christian. “If you were a Christian you were shot on the spot. With each blast of the gun I thought I was going to die.”

“All I could hear were footsteps and gunshots nobody was screaming because they thought this would lead the gunmen to know where they are,” he said. “The gunmen were saying sisi ni al-Shabab (Swaihi for we are al-Shabaab).”

Al-Shabaab, which means “the Youth,” got its start in Somalia as the militant youth wing of an Islamist government that was defeated in 2006. With fighters numbering around 8,000, including several foreign recruits, it soon regained territory in southern Somalia. Al-Shabaab even held the capital, Mogadishu, until a U.N. backed national government forced it out in 2011 with the help of African Union forces. Reeling from a loss of terrain and resources, the group started launching raids and kidnappings across the border in Kenya in search of income. Kenya responded by sending troops, which engendered more retaliatory attacks. In 2012, al-Shabaab pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda, and the effectiveness of its attacks increased as a result.

Al Shabaab, which brutally enforces a strict interpretation of fundamentalist Islam, still controls large swaths in the rural south of Somalia where it promises security in exchange for protection from the lawlessness that has afflicted the country for more than two decades. But as African Union forces and U.N. peacekeepers squeeze al-Shabaab from territory it once claimed, the group has lashed out with increasingly sophisticated terror attacks. Neighbors Uganda and Kenya, whose governments contribute troops to the U.N. and African Union military missions in Somalia, have borne the brunt of their anger. The Garissa raid is but the latest in a string of devastating terror attacks that have rocked Kenya since the 2013 assault on Nairobi’s Westgate shopping mall, which killed 67. Uganda, too, has been targeted: on Tuesday suspected al-Shabaab gunmen on a motorbike shot and killed the Ugandan prosecutor presiding over the trial of 13 men implicated in a 2010 twin suicide bombing claimed by al-Shabaab. After each major attack claimed by the group, a spokesman invariably states that the assaults are revenge for that country’s military adventures in Somalia. The Garissa attacks are unlikely to be any different.

TIME Kenya

Gunmen Hold Christian Hostages After Killing 15 in University Attack

Students of the Garissa University College take shelter in a vehicle after fleeing from an attack by gunmen in Garissa, Kenya, April 2, 2015.
AP Students of the Garissa University College take shelter in a vehicle after fleeing from an attack by gunmen in Garissa, Kenya, April 2, 2015.

Somali Islamist group al-Shabaab believed to be responsible

With a spray of gunfire, masked gunmen stormed a university campus in Northern Kenya early Thursday morning, launching a round of grenades as they battled with campus guards and security forces for several hours. At least 15 have been killed, including two police officers, and police believe that several students are being held hostage in a building on the Garissa University College campus, say local media reports. According to the Kenya National Disaster Operation Centre, at least 65 are being treated in Garissa hospital.

Students that had been evacuated from three of the four dormitories — some still in pajamas, others only partially dressed — gathered to watch as security forces battled the militants cornered in the remaining building.

In a statement sent to the BBC, a spokesman for the Somalia-based al Shabaab militant group claimed responsibility for the attack, claiming that “dozens” had been killed. The attack started around 5 AM, as students were preparing for dawn prayers. Some twitter reports said that the militants attempted to separate the Muslims from the Christians. Ali Mohamud Rage, the al Shabaab spokesman, said in his statement that some Muslims had been released.

The commando-style raid has become a signature move for the al-Qaeda-linked militant group, which rose to international prominence in the wake of its 2013 attack on Nairobi’s upscale Westgate shopping mall, which killed 67. Al-Shabab has been battling to implement its strict interpretation of Islamic law in Somalia since 2006, and has repeatedly vowed to punish Kenya for sending peacekeeping troops into Somalia. Though there are some reports of a faction within the militant group that supports the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, its leadership has stayed loyal to al Qaeda.

Over the past week intelligence and security agencies in both Uganda and Kenya have warned of a possible al-Shabaab attack; on March 25 the University of Nairobi security department warned of a possible attack on major infrastructure projects or a Kenyan university in an internal memo seen by the BBC:

It is not yet clear if the attack will have any impact on the recently announced visit of U.S. President Barack Obama, who was due to attend a global entrepreneur’s summit in the capital, Nairobi, in July.

The United Kingdom’s foreign office immediately updated its Kenya travel advisories, warning against non-essential travel to the port city of Mombasa as well as three resort towns on the coast popular with holidaymakers. The warning is likely to be the death knell for the coast’s already suffering tourism sector, which had yet to recover from a string of terror attacks over the past three years that targeted the white-sand and blue sea paradise of Kenya’s northern beaches. Stringent American travel advisories had previously forbidden U.S. diplomatic personnel from going to the coast without clearances, and warned against tourism. Local tourism industry representatives complained that the warnings caused a major loss of jobs in an area with little economic alternatives, and may in fact result in encouraging more youth to join local militant groups or even al Shabaab, which is based in neighboring Somalia but has made significant inroads in Kenya.

TIME Nigeria

Twitter Courtesy Has Been a Factor in Reducing Post-Election Violence in Nigeria

NIGERIA-ELECTIONS-RESULTS
Nichole Sobecki—AFP/Getty Images Nigerians celebrate the victory of main opposition presidential candidate Mohammadu Buhar, in Kaduna on March 31, 2015.

Nigeria's election defied predictions for widespread violence and fraud. A concerted social media campaign may have played a part

For an election considered too close to call as Nigerians went to the polls en mass on Saturday morning, nothing was more surprising than the fact that for the first time in the country’s post-colonial history an opposition challenger succeeded in pushing out a sitting president via the ballot box. That and the fact that for all the dire predictions of doom and violence, the final results were accompanied by cheers and groans, not gloating and gunshots. Some of that just may be attributable to winning candidate Muhammadu Buhari’s remarkable Twitter feed, rife with positive thoughts and cheerful goodwill throughout.

Winning candidate Muhammadu Buhari, who will be sworn in as President on May 29, praised his rival President Goodluck Jonathan for peacefully relinquishing power. “President Jonathan was a worthy opponent and I extend the hand of fellowship to him,” Buhari told a gathering at his campaign headquarters on Wednesday. For his part, Jonathan, a former Vice-President turned two-time President who many had assumed would never willingly give up power, was gracious in his defeat, saying in a statement, “I promised the country free and fair elections. I have kept my word.” He went on to encourage his supporters to stay calm and accept the results, no matter how disappointed. “Nobody’s ambition is worth the blood of any Nigerian. The unity, stability and progress of our dear country is more important than anything else.”

While there was no shortage of rancor through out the campaign period — at one point Jonathan supporters spread the rumor that a long-planned speaking engagement for Buhari, 72, in the United States was in fact an emergency medical consultation for suspected prostate cancer — both candidates repeatedly professed a desire for a peaceful election and a mature, responsible electorate. By and large they got it, with minimal damage from protestors and a relatively low death toll of just a few dozen, compared to the slaughter of the 2011 election, which saw more than 800 die in widespread rioting. For most of the run up to the election, Buhari supporters and campaign activists hinted at dark conspiracies by Jonathan’s People’s Democratic Party to rig the vote, prevent Buhari supporters from going to the polls, or manipulate the final count.

But throughout it all Buhari’s Twitter feed focused on the positive, rarely betraying the acrimony splashed across Nigeria’s partisan papers. Buhari came late to Twitter, signing on only on the last day of January with the verified handle @ThisIsBuhari, compared to early adopter Jonathan. Buhari demonstrated few of Jonathan’s grievous faux pas, among them the ill conceived #BringBackJonathan hashtag campaign for re-election, a tasteless imitation of the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag slogan to recover the 257 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram last year. From earnest shoutouts to female candidates for state governor:

To exhortations for Nigerians to stay calm in the wake of terror attacks:

His final twitter missive to Nigerians, spelled out over 50 successive posts, qualifies as one of the more novel campaign uses of a medium designed to be brief.

Even when U.S and European officials expressed concern that there might be military and government manipulation in the final counting of the votes on Monday, Buhari urged his supporters to stay calm:

Most endearing of all was a tweet not scripted by Buhari himself, but retweeted in honor of his wife:

But after the celebrations come thorny issues such as taking on the Islamist militants Boko Haram. In a speech on Wednesday, Buhari said: “Boko Haram will soon know the strength of our collective will. We should spare no effort until we defeat terrorism.”

TIME Nigeria

Muhammadu Buhari Wins Nigeria’s Presidency in Stunning Upset

Nigerian Presidential Elections
Anadolu Agency—Getty Images Mohammadu Buhari, the presidential candidate of the main opposition party All Progressives Congress, speaks to the press as he arrives for registration at Gidan Niyam Sakin Yara polling station in Daura district of Katsina, Nigeria, on March 28, 2015

Winning may be just the easy part in a country plagued by insurgency, corruption and economic malaise

In a radical reversal of fortune, presidential candidate Muhammadu Buhari has proved that the fourth run is the charm when it comes to being elected President of Nigeria. In an election plagued by technical mishaps, Buhari has sealed victory over incumbent Goodluck Jonathan by little more than 2 million votes in the tightest race the country has seen since the end of military rule in 1999.

Jonathan called Buhari to concede victory on Tuesday evening and if the transition goes smoothly — not a given considering Nigeria’s dark legacy of postelection violence — the onetime military dictator, 72, will be making history as the first opposition candidate to unseat an incumbent since the country gained independence from Britain in 1960.

These hard-won successes will be nothing compared with what is in store for the President-elect, however, from the falling price of oil, economic stagnation, entrenched corruption, a radical Islamist insurgency in the north and the possible resurrection of a southern rebellion. But his biggest challenge yet may be one familiar to any presidential challenger who unexpectedly finds himself a victor in a brutal campaign for change: managing expectations.

“Nigeria is in a situation where we have to get it right, right away,” says banker Henry Farotade by phone from Lagos. “We can’t afford to waste time. We are hoping Buhari will do like Obama when he came in after Bush, and turn things around.”

The spokesman for Buhari’s All Progressives Congress party, Lai Mohammad, says that the President-to-be is more than ready for the charge. Speaking by phone from the Nigerian capital, Abuja, as the final vote tallies rolled in, Mohammad could barely contain his joy. With precision he listed the next steps, from an acceptance speech to how Buhari would deal with ethnic and religious rifts brought on by the grueling campaign. “We are ready. We are going to take Nigeria in a new direction, and we are going to start by healing old wounds. This is no time for a honeymoon, this is a time for nation building.”

Buhari’s success at the polls on Tuesday comes 30 years after he was knocked from his post as military head of state in a 1985 coup. A born-again democrat who has pursued the presidency in every election since 2003, Buhari campaigned on a platform of zero tolerance for corruption and a commitment to wiping out the Boko Haram insurgent group that has killed and kidnapped thousands in the past year.

But for all the international attention Boko Haram has garnered, the threat of a renewed insurgency in the oil-rich south may prove far more devastating for Nigeria’s economic stability, and a far greater challenge for a Muslim from the north who represents everything that the southern insurgents fought against throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, as they sought a greater share of the country’s oil wealth. A temporary truce agreement is up for renewal later this year, and it is not certain that the southern insurrectionists will be willing to work with Buhari.

“There has been a lot of muttering in the south that they will not tolerate a Buhari victory, that they would suspend oil supplies and would kick out northern-owned businesses,” says Ryan Cummings, chief Africa analyst for the Johannesburg-based Red24 risk consultancy. “So the core issue facing Buhari is that he could have an insurgency in the northeast, and in the south as well.” For Elizabeth Donnelly, assistant head of the Africa program at the London-based policy institute Chatham House, the first step for Buhari will have to be “a real charm offensive” in the south, to ensure that southerners know he will be protecting their interests as much as those of his traditional northern constituents.

Nigeria can expect in Buhari a radically different leader from Jonathan, says Donnelly. Given his military background, Buhari is likely to maintain the regional alliance against Boko Haram and keep up a strong military campaign. But he may have troubles on economic issues, where he has little demonstrable experience. “What it really comes down to is whether or not Buhari can devolve economic decisionmaking to the right people.”

For Farotade, the banker in Lagos, what matters most is that Nigerians have proved that they can actually kick a sitting President out of power. “It’s an ecstatic feeling. It means we are gradually coming of age as a real democracy. This is the accountability we have been waiting for.” Though he has high hopes for Buhari, he is confident that if Buhari fails, there will be repercussions. “If Buhari doesn’t deliver, all we have to do is wait till 2019, and we will vote him out.”

TIME Middle East

Saudi Arabia Fears Iran’s Meddling in Arab States as Much as its Nuclear Ambitions

A deal in Lausanne might not reduce regional tensions between Arabs and Persians

It should come as no surprise that Saudi Arabia is closely watching the Iran nuclear negotiations. No country, other than perhaps Israel, has as much invested in keeping Iran not only nuclear free, but economically and geopolitically tied down.

Saudis, whether they speak for the government or independently, regard Iran with deep-seated suspicion that extends into the nuclear deal under discussion. The overall consensus is that they would rather see no deal, than a bad deal. As to the definition of a ‘bad’ deal, the general response goes along the lines of ‘we’ll know it when we see it.’ To Awadh AlBadi, a scholar at Riyadh’s King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, a bad deal is one that “does not answer to all concerns and does not guarantee the peaceful nature of the remaining Iranian nuclear capabilities.”

Fears that a deal might lead to a regional nuclear arms race are real, says AlBadi. While he says that Saudi Arabia is committed to the ideal of a nuclear-weapons free Middle East, he notes that “continued failure in achieving this may lead many nations in the region, including Saudi Arabia, to pursue such an option.” Saudi Arabia does not have a nuclear program at the moment but if Iran is allowed to continue with its program, he says Saudi will do the same. “Any nuclear rights or leverages given to Iran in any deal would make [Saudi Arabia] feel that it has the same leverages or rights,” should it choose to take that path.

But when it comes to the flip side of the argument, that bringing Iran in from the cold through a nuclear deal might improve stability and trade relations throughout the Middle East, AlBadi is pretty clear that the nuclear issue is the least of the region’s problems with Iran. Sectarianism, he says, is as destructive as nuclear weapons. “Iranian interference in Arab States’ internal affairs on a sectarian basis is destroying the social fabric of Arab societies in certain countries,” like Bahrain, Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. Even if Iran never resorts to using nuclear weapons, he says, “Iran’s sectarian weapon has already been deployed. This has created a deep mistrust of Iranian intentions and policies.

The only real way to calm regional tensions, he says, is by Iran “abandoning its destructive policies and adapting new ones that seeks peace, security and cooperation in the region.”

In terms of a potential deal’s impact on current regional conflicts in which the two countries have rival interests (Iraq, Yemen, Bahrain, Syria), much depends, again, on whether it’s a “good” deal or a “bad” deal, says AlBadi. If Iran sees that a deal comes with leniency on other issues — like its role in Syria and Iraq — it would be encouraged to continue meddling. But “if Iran sees the deal as an opportunity to be a normal member of the international community, acting with responsibility for the interests of Iranian people and their well-being and for the stability and security of the region, peaceful solutions can be found for regional conflicts.”

Tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran flared in the wake of the 1979 Iranian revolution, and sparked again most recently in 2011, as disenfranchised groups rose up against their rulers in the Arab Spring, says Toby Matthiesen, a research fellow at the University of Cambridge and author of a recent book on Shi’ites in Saudi Arabia: The Other Saudis; Shiism, Dissent and Sectarianism. This latest round of tensions, however has more to do with Saudi Arabia’s own insecurities as a nation governed by an absolute ruler in an era of popular uprising than Iranian adventurism. He cautions that focusing on the Saudi point of view distorts the reality of the Iranian role in uprisings from Yemen to Bahrain. “Basically the Saudis are trying to blame Iran for everything that goes wrong in the region.” He says the Saudis believe that there is an Iranian hand at play, and it impacts their decision making, but it is not necessarily a realistic view. The Houthis and the Shi’ites in Bahrain “don’t need Iran to revolt — the causes are always local, and in the case of the Houthis in Yemen or Bahrain and eastern Saudi Arabia [where there has been a long-simmering Shi’ite uprising that the Saudis like to blame on Iran] it has a lot to do with longstanding marginalization by the states in question, partially justified on religious grounds.” Iran may have some influence over some of the revolting groups, but “it’s still fundamentally a local problem,” says Matthiesen. “It is unrealistic to say that Iran is behind all of these revolts singlehandedly, without strong local backing.”

The Saudi-Iran rivalry has become shorthand for a complicated evolution in the region in which the Gulf states use Iranian influence in local uprisings to justify the enhancement of local militaries and the creation of a regional defense block that has more to do with defending autocratic regimes than defeating the constructed enemy that is Iran, says Matthiesen. “It is the culmination of a several years-long attempt to form a Sunni block that can on the one hand defend the old regimes against popular uprisings, while on the other hand justify its existence by projecting an Iranian hand on local frustrations.”

Matthiesen’s view is that the Saudi airstrikes on Houthi targets in Yemen are a far more dangerous situation than the successful conclusion of a nuclear deal with Iran. Whether or not Saudi will respond to a deal with nuclear weapons of their own is hard to say, he says, though he notes that the Saudi officials have purposely let leak that they do have some nuclear agreement with Pakistan. A deal alone is not likely to accelerate a regional arms race though, he says. Iran coming out with a bomb would be a different situation. “Senior Saudi royals have said they will get the bomb off the shelf from Pakistan as soon as Iran has the bomb, not necessarily when the agreement is reached.”

Still, the timing of the Yemen airstrikes seems particularly designed to influence the deal making, says Matthiesen. Just as a breakthrough nears, Iran has been thrust back into the international spotlight as a regional bad-boy fomenting rebellion in a one-time US ally. “We shouldn’t forget that this Yemen war comes at the same time of the most intensive, last weeks of the negotiations. I don’t think this is an accident.” The Saudis may have achieved their media objective, but he doesn’t see a real impact on the Western powers at the negotiation table. “

I think the Saudis were maybe hoping that the Iranians would intervene militarily [in Yemen] in response to the airstrikes, and undermine the nuclear deal, and that hasn’t happened.” If, however, a deal is not reached by the deadline, there is a possibility that Yemen could escalate, and the conspiracy becomes reality.

As much as the Saudis might resist, a nuclear deal, says Matthiesen, benefits the entire region. In the short term there may be economic loss as Iran reenters the global economy, but lifting the threat of war in the gulf will bring long-term stability and economic gain. “The perpetual threat of war in the Gulf, with the US or Israel targeting Iran, is not good for anyone, says Matthiesen. “A region where there are less hostilities is good for everyone. Good for trade. Good for development and good for progress. Having an agreement in place for 10 years, with close monitoring, and communication between Iran and the U.S. so that any problems can be discussed and not over blown, significantly reduces the specter of war in the gulf and the attendant social, political and economic upheaval. Unfortunately I don’t think many leaders in the Gulf see it that way.”

 

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