TIME Crime

Man Charged in Oklahoma With Child Abuse in Kenya

The accused's attorney said on Tuesday the affidavit is riddled with inaccuracies and that his client is innocent

(OKLAHOMA CITY) — An Oklahoma man has been charged with sexually abusing boys and girls while volunteering at an organization in Kenya that assists neglected children.

Matthew Lane Durham, of Edmond, is accused of engaging in sex acts with as many as ten children aged from 4 to 10 years while volunteering at Upendo Children’s Home in Nairobi from April to June 2014.

The complaint filed in the U.S. District Court of Western Oklahoma last week says the 19-year-old Durham has volunteered with Upendo since June 2012.

Durham wrote and signed a confession that an Upendo official provided to the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, according to an affidavit filed by FBI agent Scott Lobb.

In it, he admitted to sexually abusing boys and girls in a bathroom at the children’s home. At least one of the victims is HIV positive, according to the affidavit.

During previous visits, Durham lived with sponsor families in Nairobi, but for his most recent trip he requested to stay at the children’s home in an “overflow bunk,” Lobb wrote.

A live-in caretaker at the children’s home became suspicious of Durham’s behavior and inquired with the children, who told her about the abuse, the affidavit states. The caretaker then reported the allegations to Upendo officials, who obtained a confession from Durham, confiscated his passport and notified local police, Lobb wrote.

Durham’s attorney Stephen Jones said Tuesday the affidavit is riddled with inaccuracies and that his client is innocent.

“The FBI affidavit is based upon second-hand, or in some cases third-hand, hearsay,” Jones said.

Jones said Durham’s “alleged confession” was elicited by Upendo employees through “a bizarre combination of Kenyan tribal actions, pseudo-psychology, law enforcement techniques and religious zealotry.”

Durham returned to the U.S. last month. He was arrested Thursday in Edmond and is currently being held at the Logan County jail, according to the U.S. Marshal’s Office. A preliminary hearing is set for Aug. 1.

A statement from Upendo Kids International Director Eunice Menja said the Edmond-based company is cooperating with authorities, but declined further comment.

Durham faces four counts: traveling to engage in illicit sexual conduct; engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places; attempt and conspiracy; and aggravated sexual abuse with children. If convicted, he faces up to life in prison.

TIME Uganda

U.S. Embassy Warns of Attack at Uganda’s International Airport

Airport Departure Lounge
Yongyuan Dai—Getty Images

"According to intelligence sources there is a specific threat to attack Entebbe International Airport by an unknown terrorist group today."

The U.S. Embassy in Uganda warned of a “specific threat to attack” the country’s only international airport Thursday evening.

The warning, posted to the Embassy website, says the Ugandan Police Force provided the embassy with information about a possible attack by an “unknown terrorist group” planned for between 9 and 11 p.m. local time at Entebbe International Airport, about 20 miles from the capital of Kampala.

“Individuals planning travel through the airport this evening may want to review their plans in light of this information,” the statement says.

Uganda is one of several countries, including neighboring Kenya, that have sent troops to bolster the government in Somalia. That’s put it in the sights of the Somali terrorist group al-Shabab, which opposes the military presence in Somalia. In 2010, an attack orchestrated by al-Shabab in Kampala killed at least 74 people. Last year, Shaaab militants stormed a shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, killing 67 people.

The statement from the Embassy also warned of the overarching terrorist threat in Uganda.

“U.S. Embassy Kampala wishes to remind U.S. citizens of the continued threat of potential terrorist attacks in the country,” the statement said. “The targets for these attacks could include hotels, restaurants, nightclubs, shopping malls, diplomatic missions, transportation hubs, religious institutions, government offices, or public transportation.”

TIME

Kenya Faces Homegrown Threat From Al-Shabab

Recent attacks have highlighted the growing internal threat from terrorists allied with the Somali militant group

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Kenya is under attack from within. Over the past two weeks, suspected al-Shabab militants have massacred 60 people in a Kenyan coastal town, marking the country’s worst terrorist violence since the Westgate mall siege that left at least 67 people dead last year. Eyewitnesses said the attackers stormed the town of Mpeketoni in minivans flying the black al-Shabab flag, shouting “Allahu Akbar” (God is the greatest). Speaking in Somali and Swahili, an official language in Kenya, the gunmen asked if the residents were Muslim. If not, they fired, according to reports.

The attacks underscore the increasing homegrown al-Shabab threat in Kenya, once seen as a stable ally of the United States in East Africa, a popular destination for American tourists to go on safari and sunbathe on the beach of the Indian Ocean. Yet Kenya, with its porous borders, political corruption, and high density of Western targets is now being described as a breeding ground for al-Shabab, a terrorist group with origins in Somalia and links to al-Qaeda, that is actively targeting U.S. citizens and businesses in Kenya and possibly abroad. The oppressive Kenyan response is not helping. Today, critics say Kenya’s latest anti-terror campaign, described by human rights groups as indiscriminate persecution of Somali refugees and Kenyan Muslims, is backfiring, with the anti-Muslim sentiment being used by al-Shabab to whip up support inside the country.

“Probably the greatest misunderstanding of al-Shabab is that people underestimate the degree that al-Shabab has become a Kenyan problem,” says Matt Bryden, the head of Sahan Research, a Nairobi-based Horn of Africa think-tank. al-Hijra, a Kenyan associate of al-Shabab, has mobilized its Kenyan followers through extremist Muslim preachers, targeting youth in mosques and through jihad propaganda; online videos featuring the organization’s leaders and an online magazine, Gaidi Mtaani. Al-Hijra members, estimated by Bryden to number over 700, have battlefield training, having crossed the border to fight in Somalia. Meanwhile, their charismatic leader, Kenyan Ahmed Iman Ali, is at large. “The tempo of attacks and the scale of attacks suggest that al-Shabab and al-Hijra have taken the initiative,” he says, “what observers are looking for is a sign that the Kenyan government has taken the initiative back.”

That sign has not come. The latest terrorist attacks were met with confusion. After first declaring al-Shabab responsible for the massacre, the Kenyan government later blamed the violence on longstanding ethnic devisions, putting the attack squarely on the opposition’s soldiers. The claim was met with skepticism.

Usually, Kenyan leaders cast terrorism as a foreign threat, a Somali problem. But in response to the quickening tempo of al-Shabab bombings, the Kenyan government announced “Operation Usalama Watch,” a crackdown on Somali immigrants and refugees in Kenya. Under the campaign, which means “Operation Safety Watch” in Swahili, over 4,000 Somalis and Muslim Kenyans were detained at the MOI International Sports Center in Kasarani, a suburb of Nairobi. The sports grounds were used as a mass jail, before people were either cleared and released by police, sent to impoverished refugee camps, or deported back to war-torn Somalia. In May, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, US Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of African Affairs, expressed “strong concerns” about the operation, questioning its rectitude after Human Rights Watch reported people dying during brutal round-ups, children becoming estranged from their parents, and police officers beating people and soliciting hundred-dollar bribes. “It’s a lazy, knee jerk response to a deeply serious problem of violent extremism that Kenyans are facing,” says Jonathan Horowitz, a legal officer at the Open Society Justice Initiative, a New York-based non-profit. “Abuses—extrajudicial killings, torture, disappearances—are propaganda and recruitment tools.”

For the United States, the potential radicalization of Kenyan youth is a worst-case scenario. “You’ve just rounded up a group of men, and you’ve set them in a place to get up to either mischief or find another avenue, which could be al-Shabab,” says Lauren Ploch Blanchard, African affairs specialist at the Congressional Research Service in Washington. Huge resources have been spent to prevent Kenyan radicalization. Kenya is the fourth largest recipient of U.S. aid for civilian counterterrorism operations, with $43 million earmarked over the past four years, and an additional $117 million for counterterrorism and border security programs. “Some of this is difficult and frustrating, yet we need to be there to help them so that we don’t have to come in and do it all ourselves,” says U.S. Congressman Mac Thornberry, speaking from his office in Washington. “There’s been a greater effort to gather information about what al-Shabab is doing, what they plan to do,” said Thornberry, who sits on the House Armed Services Committee, “but the primary responsibility within Kenya is obviously up to the Kenyan government.”

Beginning in April, the Kenyan government’s anti-terror campaign saw 6,000 Kenyan police descend on Eastleigh, a bustling, gritty suburb of Nairobi, home to thousands of Somali refugees and Kenyan Muslims. Visiting Eastleigh, I met Ahmed Mohamed, the secretary general of the Eastleigh Business Community, at the Nomad Palace Hotel, a hotel in luxury Mogadishu style with velvet sofas studded with fake diamonds and coffee cups decorated with golden camels. Over a lemon tea with honey, Mohamed described Operation Usalama Watch as a nightmare. “At first they came in and started knocking down doors and flushing out people, it was really, really terrible,” says the 36-year-old, “they were rounding up everyone and taking them to Kasarani stadium, which was later called a concentration camp.”

Today the controversial operation is still going. At the Kasarani stadium, where a billboard proudly displays a champion long distance runner with the slogan “Home of Heroes,” troops in fatigues and maroon berets patrol the grounds with guns slung over their shoulder. Four men were walking from the stadium, just released after four days inside. “I’ve never understood the objective of these police operations, was it to take out illegal immigrants or was it to fight terrorism? Because if it was to fight terrorism they’re going about it the wrong way,” says Mohamed, a Kenyan Muslim. “When you knock down a door at 2 am in the morning, and wake up the elderly grandmother, with her children, what do you expect a teenager to think at that very moment? It will only create animosity in him.”

To the young, al-Shabab promises not only revenge, but fortune and adventure. “Al-Shabab, they even recruit our youth, they tell them we’ll pay you money,” says Benson Sekwa, a burly 38-year-old taxi driver in Nairobi who says a 22-year-old friend of his was recruited by the group. Sekwa’s friend went to Somalia to train and was arrested upon his return to Kenya. “You could tell him don’t do that, but he can’t hear you,” says Sekwa, “he’s after the money.”

As long as the Kenyan government is heavy-handed, observers say al-Shabab and al-Hijra will continue to capitalize on the anti-Muslim sentiment to rally Kenyan youngsters to wage jihad. “The worst case scenario is if the government continues to rely on the hammer, on the security sector, exclusively, to deal with the threat,” says Bryden. “For the moment, we haven’t seen a sign of the government using soft power as a way of undermining jihadist groups,” he says. “If they rely solely on military policing then I’m afraid the threat will endure.”

TIME Kenya

Kenya Says Security Forces Killed 5 Mpeketoni Suspects

Another Kenyan attack has the country shaken.

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With locals terrified after a brutal attack earlier this week, Kenyan officials say they found and killed several suspects. The attacks that killed at least 60 people happened as the town of Mpeketoni held a World Cup viewing party Sunday. This marks the deadliest attack in Kenya since the Nairobi mall attack attacks in September.

About 50 armed gunman attacked a police station this past Sunday, taking the town by surprise. The gunman then went door to door, pulling individuals from their homes, and demanding to know who was Muslim, before executing countless people.

TIME Kenya

A Militant Group Rears Its Head in Kenya Again

A member of the Kenyan security forces observes the remains of vehicles destroyed by militants, in the village of Kibaoni just outside the town of Mpeketoni, about 60 miles from the Somali border on the coast of Kenya, June 16, 2014.
A member of the Kenyan security forces observes the remains of vehicles destroyed by al-Shabab militants in the coastal town of Mpeketoni, about 100 km (60 miles) from the Somali border, on June 16, 2014 AP

The country becoming breeding ground for al-Shabab

While the Kenyan government deliberates, al-Shabab has claimed responsibility for attacks on a coastal town that killed 48 people Sunday evening. Al-Shabab, a Somali militant group with links to al-Qaeda, said on Twitter on Monday afternoon that the Mpeketoni attack was “retaliation for Muslim clerics killed in Mombasa,” indicating a growing terrorism threat in Kenya as Western governments are warning their citizens to stay away.

The attack was brutal in its familiarity. In 2010 in Kampala, Uganda, al-Shabab detonated two bombs that killed 74 people watching the World Cup final. Four years later, two minibuses stormed into Mpeketoni carrying gunman who began shooting, aiming at spectators watching the World Cup. Sunday’s battle continued through the night, marking Kenya’s worst violence since al-Shabab gunmen stormed the luxurious Westgate Mall in Nairobi last year, killing 67 people.

Kenya, next door to war-torn Somalia, is being described by the U.S. government as a breeding ground for al-Shabab, an organization actively targeting U.S. citizens, buildings and businesses in Kenya — and possibly on American soil.

“The extremist presence in Kenya is very, very worrying because of the concentration of potential targets,” says Lauren Ploch Blanchard, specialist in African affairs at the Congressional Research Service, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington, D.C. She points out that Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, is home to many U.S. diplomats, aid organizations and companies, including Google and IBM. “The worst case scenario is another Westgate or worse, a 1998 embassy bombing or an attack on a Western plane, you’ve got no end of Western targets there,” she says.

Despite ramping up security, Kenya has seen a string of al-Shabab-related bombings and shootings in the past year, some connected to interchurch rivalries. Six days ago, gunmen killed Sheik Mohamed Idris, a popular moderate Muslim cleric who spoke out against the radical preachings of al-Shabab. Idris’ death followed that of a handful of high-profile preachers aligned with al-Shabab, whose deaths sparked deadly riots in the coastal town of Mombasa.

In May, the U.S. government joined the U.K. in issuing travel advisories to Kenya, warning of increased risks of a terrorist attack. On Monday, American Marines were reportedly stationed on the roof of the U.S. embassy in Nairobi.

Less than 24 hours after the attack took place, questions remain about the motive. Al-Shabab, usually the first to broadcast news of their attacks over radio or Twitter, did not take responsibility for the attack at first, prompting speculation the shooting was caused by an ethnic-based territorial dispute.

In its latest news conference, the Kenyan government did not say al-Shabab was directly to blame, referring to the attackers as an “unknown number of armed militia.” At an emergency briefing convened in Nairobi on Monday afternoon, Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku said armed men fled into the forest after a “fierce exchange of fire” with Kenyan security forces. “The red line has been crossed,” he said, adding the government is committed to dealing with “political incitement” and “ethnic profiling.”

Kenyans are frustrated their government is unable to identify the perpetrators and protect them from attacks. “We are so shocked and traumatized, of course we are in fear, we are scared to go into malls,” says Classin Omulo, 21-year-old student at the Kenya Polytechnic University College, in Nairobi. “You know, our President of our Republic, he was the one talking about security on the television, and the next thing in the morning we wake up to an attack,” says Omulo’s friend, 24-year-old Victor Kutswa. “It makes us think our security is not yet good.”

But the terror is unlikely to go away anytime soon, says Blanchard. “I think we were sort of all expecting some sort of attacks around the World Cup,” she said, “I don’t know if this will be the last.”

TIME Internet

The Internet As a Human Right

An audacious idea whose time has come

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Kosta Grammatis likes to think big.

In 2011, around the time of the Arab Spring, Grammatis grew frustrated at the ways governments can pull the plug on people’s Internet access as a form of social and political control. He wanted to figure out how to circumvent political and physical obstacles and bring digital media to anywhere it was otherwise unavailable. He and some colleagues set out to buy a satellite from a bankrupt company and use it to beam connectivity to places like Tunisia. That plan turned out to be harder to realize than to it was to imagine.

But Grammatis, a web evangelist, is a true believer in the good things that can happen in a more interconnected world. He recalibrated his thinking to rely less on expensive orbital technology and more on working with established communications and financial institutions.

But the idea remains big. His new startup, Oluvus — i.e., “all of us” — remains focused on wiring the entire planet and bringing free Internet to the five billion people who do not have access.

In the video above, Grammatis tells the story of how he got where he is now and why this time, the odds of success look good.

 

TIME Kenya

Kenyan Red Cross: Nairobi Blasts Injure At Least 10

The explosions occurred near a popular market in the country's capital as British vacationers were being evacuated due to high terror threat from Al Shabaab extremist group

Explosions in Nairobi injured as many as 10 people on Friday, the Kenya Red Cross said, as European tourists were being evacuated from Kenya due to a high terror threat. At least four people were killed in the twin blasts, the Associated Press reports.

The Kenyan National Disaster Operations Center tweeted that the explosions occurred near a popular Nairobi market.

No group has yet taken responsibility for the bombings, although Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta issued a vague statement about “terrorism” after the blasts.

“Many countries are faced with this particular problem (terrorism). All of us must be united to ensure that we fight it,” reads the statement, posted by the International Business Times. “We will do what we can as a government. We in Kenya, are committed to this fight and we urge Kenyans to work with us.”

Friday’s attack happened as British tourists in the country were being urged to leave due to a high terror threat from Somali extremist group al-Shabab, particularly along the Kenya-Somali border and in areas in Nairobi.

TIME Kenya

Kenyan President Signs Polygamy Law

BELGIUM-EU-AFRICA-SUMMIT
Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta arrives for the 4th EU-Africa summit on April 2, 2014 AFP/Getty Images

The bill, which allows men to marry a second or third woman without their first wife's consent, has received backlash from various women's groups

Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta signed a bill into law Tuesday that makes it legal for men to marry multiple women, even if it is without their wife’s consent.

“Marriage is the voluntary union of a man and a woman, whether in a monogamous or polygamous union,” Kenyatta said in a statement, the AFP reports.

The bill, which amended previous marriage legislation, was passed by the Kenyan parliament in late March following heated late-night debates that inspired female members of parliament to storm out of the room. While the original bill allowed women to have veto power over their husband’s additional spouses, male members of parliament moved to have that clause removed.

“When you marry an African woman, she must know the second one is on the way, and a third wife,” MP Junet Mohammed told the house during the debates, adding, “This is Africa.”

Capital FM reported that female MP Sopian Tuya responded, “We know that men are afraid of women’s tongues more than anything else, but at the end of the day if you are the man of the house, and you choose to bring on another party (and they may be two or three) I think it behooves you to be man enough to agree that your wife and family should know.”

Although proponents of the bill say that this formalizes an already common practice throughout Kenya, many women’s groups have objected to the bill and Kenya’s Federation of Women Lawyers says that it will challenge the law.

Women can not marry more than one man.

[AFP]

 

TIME Environment

It’s Hard Out There for a Honeybee

Honeybees
Honeybees still face a variety of health threats Photographer's Choice RF via Getty Images

Honeybees in Kenya are infested with parasites, but they still thrive — unlike their American cousins. Are there lessons for U.S. beekeepers?

Commercial honeybees might be America’s unluckiest laborers. They’re infested with pests like the Varroa destructor mite and the Nosema ceranae parasite; infected with diseases like the Israeli paralytic virus and the tobacco ringspot virus; dosed with pesticides like clothianidin and imidacloprid; starved of nutrition thanks to crop monocultures; shipped around the country to be worked half to death in almond fields and apple orchards; and victimized by a still mysterious malady called colony-collapse disorder (CCD). It’s little surprise that U.S. beekeepers lost about a third of their colonies over the winter of 2012–13, and if early reports from states like Ohio are any indication, this year could be even worse.

But there’s a place where honeybees are apparently doing much better: East Africa. In a study that came out recently in the journal PLOS One, researchers from Kenya and the U.S. surveyed honeybee populations at 24 locations throughout the African country. And the scientists found that while honeybees in Kenya suffered from some of the same problems as their Western counterparts, the African bees remained much more robust. “I was amazed by the lack of manifestation of ill health in the bees,” Elliud Muli, lead author on the paper, told National Geographic.

What’s protected the Kenyan honeybees? African honeybees rarely encounter the sorts of pesticides that are in heavy use on American farms — and which pose a clear danger to American bees. The African bees also generally stay in one place, while the biggest honeybee keepers in the U.S. will move their colonies thousands of miles for major events like the California almond-tree pollination, which requires an astounding 60% of all hives in the U.S. Without those additional stressors, the Kenyan honeybees seem capable of thriving even in the presence of dangerous pests.

That doesn’t mean that pesticides alone are causing CCD — but they sure aren’t helping, as even the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has begun to realize. Last year the EPA ordered changes in the labeling of neonicotinoid pesticides, which have been linked to high rates of honeybee deaths and which have been banned in Europe. American honeybees also suffer from a lack of nutrition, as bee-friendly wild spaces are converted into corn or soybean fields that offer them little forage.

A Department of Agriculture program announced this winter will put $3 million toward encouraging farmers and ranchers in the Midwest to plant bee-friendly plants on the edges of their fields. That will help, but far more must be done. As I wrote in our TIME cover story on the subject last year, it’s as if the modern American environment itself is hostile to the health of honeybees. Even the hardest-working members of the animal kingdom can only take so much.

TIME Kenya

Four Killed in Kenya Car Bomb

A general view shows the scene of an explosion outside the Pangani police station in the capital Nairobi
A car exploded outside the Pangani police station in Kenya's capital Nairobi on April 23, 2014, killing four people. © Thomas Mukoya—Reuters

Chief of Kenya's police vows war on terrorism after car bomb explodes in a northeastern suburb of the capital Nairobi

Four people, including two police officers, were killed when a car bomb exploded in Kenya’s capital Nairobi Wednesday night, the Interior Ministry said on its Twitter account.

The two officers stopped a car for a traffic violation and escorted the vehicle to a police station in the Pangani district of Nairobi where it exploded, killing the two occupants and the police officers.

“I mourn the loss of the the two gallant officers who’ve died in their line of duty as they were defending and protecting our beloved country,” David Kimayo, the Inspector General of Kenya’s national police, wrote on his Twitter account.

He stressed that the vehicle could have caused “huge damage” had it exploded somewhere else.

Kimayo suggested that terrorists were responsible and said “I fully declare war” on terrorism.

In recent years Kenya has been the target of terrorist attacks conducted by the Somalian terrorist group al-Shabab in retaliation for Kenya’s involvement in Somalia. Last September, al-Shabab claimed responsibility for an attack on a Nairobi shopping mall that resulted in 67 deaths, with dozens wounded.

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