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The Daily Beast

To Ambush and Kill American Green Berets, Al Shabaab Diverted a River

"The American soldier killed in Southern Somalia on Friday was part of a joint operation which had been in the works for years, The Daily Beast has learned. And by the time it began, the enemy was ready and waiting.

According to a U.S. Africa Command press release, combined force of Somalis, Kenyans, and Americans was conducting a multi-day operation to liberate villages in Lower Juba from Al Shabaab control and establish “a permanent combat outpost designed to increase the span of Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) security and governance.” Al Shabaab has been waging an insurgency to create an Islamic state in Somalia since 2006. In 2012, the group pledged its allegiance to Al Qaeda.

Late Saturday, the U.S. Army Special Operations Command confirmed the identity of the soldier killed as 26-year-old Staff Sgt. Alexander W. Conrad of Chandler, Arizona. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group. His specialty was gathering human intelligence.

African Union peacekeepers and American officials have told The Daily Beast that the mission’s objective was to establish a combat outpost intended to remedy problems American and partnered forces have had holding terrain retaken from Al Shabaab.

According to locals in the area, however, the increased presence of allied forces in recent weeks put Al Shabaab militants on high alert. The militants diverted water from the Jubba River to flood the area, compelling the joint force to build the combat outpost on a piece of higher ground where they were then ambushed on Friday." Read more here.

The Daily Beast

A ‘Firefight’ in Somalia Exposes Weaknesses of Pentagon Combat Rules in Africa

MOGADISHU, Somalia—Thursday afternoon, as the head of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) took center stage in a Pentagon press briefing room, Washington was buzzing with conflicting opinions about a controversial report. It was the culmination of a months-long AFRICOM-led investigation into the deaths of four U.S. Special Operators in October, but its findings raised as many questions as they answered.

As Gen. Thomas Waldhauser danced around tough questions from reporters, another AFRICOM controversy had already begun to unfold here in Somalia. Eighteen hours before the press conference began, his Special Operators had been in the midst of an “advise and assist” mission in the south of the country about which conflicting stories were beginning to emerge.

According to over a dozen locals in the village of Ma’alinka, and security officials in Mogadishu, Somali commandos had carried out an operation in the town on Thursday at around 1 in the morning here. Five locals were injured by the Somali commandos and at some point during a firefight with people whose identities no one could agree upon, five local people were killed." Read more here.

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Exclusive: Massive Military Base Build Up Suggests the U.S. Shadow War in Somalia is Only Getting Bigger

"MOGADISHU, Somalia — The U.S. military is dramatically expanding its operations at a former Soviet air strip in Somalia, constructing more than 800 beds at the Baledogle base, VICE News has learned. The construction at the secretive base marks the latest example of America’s growing and controversial shadow war in Africa.

Baledogle’s expansion is one part of what appears to be a massive U.S. military infrastructure development project in the Horn of Africa country that will see at least six new U.S. outposts built this year, according to multiple defense contractors who spoke to VICE News." Read More on VICE.

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The Daily Beast

Exclusive: A German Nurse with ICRC Kidnapped in Somalia, Security Officials Call It an Inside Job

"MOGADISHU, Somalia—A German nurse, Sonja Nientiet, from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Mogadishu was abducted on Wednesday night in what local security officials believe to be an inside job involving at least one of the personnel guarding the ICRC compound.

The Daily Beast has learned that a head security officer for Dhiblawe Security, the local private security company contracted to guard the ICRC compound and the adjacent Shamo Hotel. He is believed by security officials to have orchestrated the kidnapping, which took place at roughly 8 p.m. local time on Wednesday night. He is reported to have stolen three AK-47s and one PK machine gun from the ICRC’s security storeroom just prior to abducting the nurse.

“It is obvious to us that this was a well-planned, well-organized kidnapping,” Adbulaziz Ali Ibrahim, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Internal Security, told The Daily Beast. “I can confirm this was an inside job.” Read more here.

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The New York Times

Top Somali Politician Steps Down, Avoiding Showdown With President

"MOGADISHU, Somalia — The speaker of Somalia’s Parliament resigned on Monday ahead of a no-confidence vote, sparing the country a repeat of the armed standoff last week that threatened to descend into violence.

The decision by the speaker, Mohamed Osman Jawari, could mean a peaceful resolution to the power struggle between him and the president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed.

Last week, a no-confidence motion by Mr. Mohamed’s allies against Mr. Jawari led to a face-off between armed members of the security services — those loyal to the speaker inside the Parliament, and those loyal to the president outside. The deadlock lasted several hours and ended after mediation by the African Union." Read More here.

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Somalia's Climate Change Refugees

"MOGADISHU, Somalia - Displaced by drought and conflict, rural Somalis have been heading to Mogadishu in their tens of thousands. They get no safety or support and are increasingly targeted for forced evictions, but they are still coming." Read More here.

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The Daily Beast

Exclusive: U.S. Gen. Reins in Special Operations Forces in Africa

WASHINGTON, D.C.—With U.S. military interventions in Africa facing increased scrutiny, the commander of U.S. Special Operations Forces in Africa (SOCAFRICA) sent an internal letter to his forces this week urging greater caution in the field.

This comes after the deaths of four U.S. soldiers on a controversial mission in Niger in October, and three recent investigations by The Daily Beast that revealed details about other incidents: the death of a Navy SEAL in Somalia in May, the alleged murder of a U.S. Army Special Forces sergeant by two Navy SEALs in June, and strong evidence that American soldiers participated in the massacre of 10 civilians in Somalia in August.

Last week, the House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing into “counterterrorism efforts in Africa” that addressed some of these issues. And this week, following indications that the internal investigation of the August incident may have been inadequate, Marine Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, head of U.S. Africa Command, requested the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) open an independent inquiry.

The letter to the U.S. Special Operations Forces of SOCAFRICA from their commander, Maj. Gen. Mark Hicks, was sent out earlier this week. A copy was shown to The Daily Beast by a Pentagon official in Washington who prefers to remain anonymous.

The letter read: “To reinforce and clarify guidance going forward I would like to emphasize that we must reduce our risk exposure and build trust in our ability to exercise sound judgment and disciplined planning and execution.”

The letter urged Special Operations Forces to employ “an increased margin of safety” and lessen the likelihood of U.S. operators putting themselves in the line of fire." Read More here.

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The Daily Beast

Exclusive: New Evidence About Alleged U.S. Massacre in Somalia

"MOGADISHU, Somalia—New evidence in The Daily Beast investigation of a U.S.-led ground operation in Somalia last August further implicates U.S. Special Operations Forces directly in the death of 10 civilians. Among the new elements is an interview with a Somali National Army soldier who says he saw the Americans firing on unarmed victims. The Pentagon has said all those killed were “armed enemy combatants.”

The operation was one of three major incidents involving U.S. forces in Africa this year that have raised questions surrounding U.S. military engagement across the continent and prompted the House Committee on Foreign Affairs to hold a hearing, scheduled for Thursday morning, to discuss U.S. counterterrorism efforts in Africa. According to the Somali National Army (SNA) soldier who was with the American special operators during the incident, the team approached the farm where the incident occurred with eight U.S. soldiers in front of the 20 Somali National Army soldiers and four U.S. operators behind them.

The Americans in the lead then fired on two unarmed people who were preparing tea, after which Somali National Army soldiers rushed forward and fired on three farmers in a nearby shed. The U.S. soldiers began firing at others in the farming village who came out of their homes.

The account by the SNA soldier, who spoke on condition that his name not be used, corroborated earlier Daily Beast reporting and contradicts a U.S. Africa Command press release issued 30 minutes after The Daily Beast published its months-long investigation into the incident.

The Daily Beast had chronicled in considerable detail the way in which a team of U.S. Special Operations fighters carried out a ground operation acting on human intelligence that came from local rivals of those killed on the farm, and against the advice of the commander of the African Union Peacekeeping contingent in this region in Somalia." Read more here.

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The Daily Beast

Exclusive: Strong Evidence that U.S. Special Operations Forces Massacred Civilians in Somalia

"MOGADISHU, Somalia—It was around five in the morning when Abdullahi Elmi heard the gunfire. Sitting in his small home in Bariire, in southern Somalia, the farm administrator had been recording the names of the laborers who had worked the day before. Stacks of accounting books sprawled on the floor around him. Across the room, his wife sat with their 3-year-old son who dozed as his mother rocked him back and forth in her arms.

When the sound of gunshots began, Abdullahi thought they were too far away to be heading toward his farm. But within seconds they seemed to grow louder, and closer, sending Abdullahi and his wife, carrying their young son, sprinting through the nearby forest of banana trees in search of safety.

Sheltering beneath the long leaves, Abdullahi came across his neighbor, Goomey Hassan, who had also sprinted into the banana grove with his wife when he heard the barrage of gunfire. The two families waited for 20 minutes before they decided it was safe to return, and began walking cautiously back to their homes, both Abdullahi and Goomey careful to walk in front of their wives in case the gunfire returned.

As the women entered their houses, the two men stood outside to see what had happened, eventually spotting Somali National Army soldiers walking in the distance. At first Abdullahi was relieved, the national army must have come to stop their rival clan from attacking their farm, he thought. But as the soldiers saw the men, they raised their weapons, ordering Hassan and Elmi to get down on the ground.

“I put my hands up and they told us you are under arrest, then I heard the noise from their big cars and I knew this was more than just a clan fight,” Elmi said. “They told my wife to go back in our home and then they went inside to search. I was pleading with them not to take anything.”

When the soldiers finished their search, they ordered the men to move with them toward the scene of the shooting. There Abdullahi and Goomey saw their fellow farmers’ bodies sprawled across the ground. The small pot that one of them had been using to make tea still stood upright near the corpses. And they also saw what they later estimated to be around 20 American soldiers standing around the bodies. A Somali National Army soldier who was at the scene estimated 10 to 12 Americans were there. Abdullahi felt his chest tighten as he heard his friend, Ali-waay, calling for help, blood from a gunshot wound pouring into the earth around him.

One of the Somali soldiers ordered Abdullahi to put his head on the ground. The bottom of a boot belonging to an American soldier kept it there. Read more here.

The Daily Beast

Exclusive: Inside the Secret Mission That Got a Navy SEAL Killed in Africa

"MOGADISHU, Somalia—If it weren’t for the shot that killed Navy SEAL Kyle Milliken, villagers in Daarasalaam, Somalia, might not have noticed anything amiss that night in May. For hours earlier, Milliken and his team had moved silently through the town, leaving boot prints that sank into the wet gray clay, and at least five dead bodies in their wake. Only when an Al Shabaab militant, concealed beneath the low-hanging branch of a mango tree, spotted Milliken standing over the bodies of two fellow fighters and fired did the silence that evening finally break.

The militant’s shots fatally wounded Milliken and led to a messy, hours-long evacuation that ended as the sun started to climb over the horizon that morning. The team left syringes, bandages, and muddy footprints that hardened in the blazing heat the following day, and the villagers of Daarasalaam retraced the team’s steps, piecing together a narrative of the raid that had resulted in the first U.S. combat death in Somalia since the infamous Black Hawk Down incident in 1993.

In recent weeks, the death of four U.S. Special Forces soldiers in Niger on Oct. 4 has lead some in the United States to question the presence and activities of U.S. soldiers in Africa. The secrecy of U.S. Africa Command or AFRICOM and of American Special Operations Forces has exacerbated suspicions about the dangers they face in roles often described only as “advisors,” and the U.S. government’s findings about that incident may never be made public in their entirety.

But an extensive investigation by The Daily Beast has given us some important details about the equally secretive mission in which Milliken was killed. And while that incident occurred five months prior to the American deaths in Niger, and on the other side of the continent, it provides important insight into the nature of AFRICOM’s operations and the actual risks involved for U.S. troops, their allies, and local populations." Read more here.

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The Daily Beast

The American Found in the Rubble of the Mogadishu Terrorist Blast

"MOGADISHU, Somalia—It was 2 in the morning when Abdinasir finally found his friend’s body.

Badly burned and wedged between concrete blocks, Ahmed Abdikarim Eyow’s remains were barely recognizable. The rescue team Abdinasir had recruited to search for the friend, with whom he was reunited only days before after a decade apart, hadn’t seen his remains in the wreckage. Only when Abdinasir turned on the light from his phone and began searching himself did the finality of his friend’s death at the hand of Somalia’s unrelenting extremists hit home.

Ahmed was one of over 250 people who were killed in Mogadishu on Saturday when a truck loaded with explosives detonated at a busy intersection outside the popular Safari Hotel in Mogadishu Kilometer Five district. It was the biggest terrorist attack in the history of a city that has long and terrible experience with explosions orchestrated by the al Qaeda-linked terrorist organization Al Shabaab.

Shock waves from the blast could be felt even in the city’s Mogadishu International Airport compound, long considered the most secure area in the city. As diesel from the vehicle-born IED burned in the explosion’s aftermath, the initial white smoke from the blast turned into plumes of thick, black fog reaching as high as the city’s tallest buildings. Firefighters raced to put out the fire as it engulfed the Safari Hotel and spread to neighboring buildings. Somali armed forces and African Union Peacekeepers scrambled to close checkpoints and control mobs of people both running from the site of the explosion and clambering to get to it.

The scene felt like a horrific flashback to times past, people thought, not something that would happen here and now." Read more now.

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US ramps up military strikes in Somalia

"When Ali Osman Diblawe arrived in Bariire he was barefoot and winded. He had sprinted the 2.5 kilometres from his farm to the southern Somali town after hearing a barrage of gunfire tear through his small village soon after the early morning prayer.

That was on 25 August. In the days prior, he and at least two others on the farm had seen what they thought was an odd-looking black bird in the sky.

“There was something small and dark that was flying high over the town in the morning when we went to our farms and in the evening when we came home,” Diblawe told IRIN over a phone. “It was far away, but I thought that’s a drone, that looks like a drone.” Read more here.

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The Daily Beast

Mugabe Resigns at Last, Opening the Door to New Tyrants

"MOGADISHU, Somalia—At the end of a remarkable week for Zimbabwe—and for the African continent—President Robert Mugabe finally agreed, after 37 years in power, to resign on Tuesday night. Once an icon of the anti-colonial struggles in Africa as he fought to oust the white government of what was then called Rhodesia, he had become over the decades a geriatric symbol of caprice and tyranny.

In a short letter to parliament speaker Jacob Mudenda, Mugabe wrote that his resignation was a voluntary decision, and that he made it to allow a smooth transition of power. The President’s resignation came a week after a military coup and two days after ZANU-PF, Zimbabwe’s ruling party—Mugabe’s party—voted to expel its leader, giving him until 10:00 a.m. Monday morning local time to tender his resignation or face impeachment through a parliamentary process.

Then, on Monday, Mugabe gave a much-anticipated address to the nation on state-run ZBC television—and shocked Zimbabweans by refusing to give up the presidency, an act of defiance which did indeed trigger the parliamentary impeachment process. Thus his letter Tuesday evening brought an end to a week of uncertainty—and brought ecstatic crowds into the streets.

According to the Zimbabwean constitution, the current vice president, Phelekezela Mphoko should now take office. But the more likely successor is Emmerson Mnangagwa, the former vice president Mugabe dismissed three weeks ago. His record or ruthless violence, along with the military role ushering in a new ruling regime, suggest that the end of one dictatorial regime in Zimbabwe may mark little more than the beginning of a new one." Read more here.

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The Daily Beast

Mugabe Hangs Tough, But Zimbabwe’s Army is Tightening the Noose

"In the wake of a military coup, President Robert Mugabe appears to be resisting calls to resign as negotiations between the army and the aging president are underway. And the military appears to be giving him some room to leave with dignity—if indeed he retires at all.

On Friday, Mugabe attended a university graduation ceremony in his first public appearance since the army placed him under de-facto house arrest. Mugabe holds the title of chancellor at Zimbabwe’s Open University and his presence at its graduation is an annual tradition.

Few expected he would be allowed to go under the current circumstances, but the army is going to great lengths to maintain a façade of normalcy as its leaders continue to deny that a coup is underway, allowing Mugabe to stride down the university graduation’s red carpet singing the national anthem before opening the ceremony.

The country’s influential National Liberation War Veterans Association is not as patient as the army. Its current leader, Christopher Mutsvangwa, urged people to take to the streets to protest on Saturday if Mugabe did not step down immediately. “We can finish the job which the army started,” he told journalists in Harare. “There is no going back about Mugabe. He must leave.”

Since Wednesday morning, when the army took control of the state radio and television airwaves, Zimbabweans have waited anxiously to see what would become of the 93-year-old head of state and his 52-year-old wife, Grace Mugabe, who was a likely candidate to succeed him." Read more here.

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The Daily Beast

Behind the Zimbabwe Coup That Won’t Speak Its Name

"Gunshots and at least one explosion could be heard in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, early Wednesday morning, as what appears to be a military putsch continues to unfold.

Military spokesman Major General S.B. Moyo addressed the nation early Wednesday after the army took control of the country’s airwaves, telling Zimbabweans that President Robert Mugabe and his family “are safe and sound and their security is guaranteed.” The target of the military’s action is very likely Grace Mugabe, the 52-year-old wife of the 93-year-old president, who has been positioning herself to succeed him. This seems to be confirmed with reports of the military detaining Finance Minister Ignatius Chombo, a leader in the faction of the ruling party loyal to Mrs. Mugabe.

Moyo, insisting that the army’s actions were not a military coup, claimed that army is “only targeting criminals around [Mugabe] who are committing crimes,” although he cautioned that the situation in Zimbabwe “has moved to another level.”

Moyo warned that “any provocation will be met with an appropriate response.”

Civilians have reported gunfire near Mugabe’s private residence in Harare’s Borrowdale neighborhood, and an explosion was heard near the University of Zimbabwe early this morning. The situation in the capital now seems calm, with a handful of soldiers outside the presidential palace the only visible sign of change." Read more here.

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The Economist

A bomb blast in Somalia’s capital exposes the government’s failures

"IN HIS ten years driving an ambulance in Mogadishu, Ahmed Said Hassan had never seen anything like it. Arriving at the scene of Saturday’s explosion, what he remembered as a bustling intersection crowded with street hawkers, vegetable sellers, and hotel guests had been transformed into a post-apocalyptic scene: the carbonised bodies of those killed in the explosion were strewn across the street, the Safari Hotel was rubble, and heat from the fire raging in the explosion’s aftermath could be felt 100 metres from the scene.

“There aren’t words to describe that kind of devastation,” Hassan says. “Everyone looked like they were dead or dying, everyone had massive injuries and we didn’t have enough space to transport them all.”

The attack was the deadliest in the already turbulent history of Somalia’s capital. It was particularly devastating because a truck loaded with a mixture of homemade and military explosives detonated next to a fuel tanker on a busy intersection of the city’s Kilometre Five district. Firefighters, Somali security forces and African Union peacekeepers rushed to the site, where a fire engulfed nearby buildings sending plumes of thick, dark smoke into the sky. Roughly 30 minutes later, another car bomb exploded less than 300 metres from the site of the first blast, sending more victims to the six hospitals nearby that were already jammed with casualties.

At least 300 people were killed and hundreds more injured, according to the Somali government. The number of fatalities will probably increase as more bodies are found in the debris. Most have been burned beyond recognition." Read more here.

The Wall Street Journal

Questions Mount After Deadly Bombing in Somali Capital

"Emergency personnel and volunteers in Mogadishu spent a third day sifting through the rubble of one of the deadliest vehicle bombings ever, as the scale of the attack raised questions over the effectiveness of U.S. and international efforts to crush al Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabaab militants.

Officials said more than 300 people died when a truck exploded at a busy intersection in Somalia’s capital Saturday evening. Smoke still lingered over the war-hardened coastal city on Monday, as relatives and friends gathered for mass funerals, laying to rest loved ones that in many cases had been burned beyond recognition.

The attack poses tough questions for Somali leaders as well as the U.S. and other international actors that have spent years fighting an Islamist insurgency that at one point controlled the capital and much of Somalia. Although no one has claimed responsibility for the bombing, experts said it bore the hallmarks of al-Shabaab militants, who are trying to grab power from the internationally recognized government in Mogadishu." Read more here.

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USA Today

Somalia bomb survivor: 'I have never seen anything like this in my life'

"MOGADISHU, Somalia — Volunteer emergency workers, security forces and African Union peacekeepers dug through rubble Monday searching for more victims in a horrific weekend bombing that killed more than 300 people, injured nearly 400 and leveled an entire block in this capital city.

“I have never seen anything like this in my life,” said Istar Mohamed, 24, a mother of three who was hit with shrapnel in her arm, hip and leg. “You can’t imagine the devastation that happened there. After a few moments I fell unconscious from the impact of it all.”

Abdikadir Abdhirahman, director of Mogadishu’s only ambulance service, confirmed the rising death toll, which makes it one of the deadliest terror attacks since 9/11. The government suspected the bombing was the work of al-Shabab, the insurgent group linked to the al-Qaeda terrorist network, though no one has claimed responsibility yet." Read more here.

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Somalis fear the war against Al Shabaab will never end

MOGADISHU, Somalia — They found hands and legs, some blackened bodies, and one business card. Wearing white shirts printed with the phrase “We never get tired of our country,” nearly 200 young Somalis gathered Tuesday at the site of this weekend’s historic terror attack to collect the remains of victims still buried among the rubble.

Mogadishu is no stranger to terrorism: Since al Shabaab lost control of the capital in 2011, the city has experienced a car bomb or an assassination every few weeks. But the attack on Saturday, caused when a truck loaded with explosives detonated beside a fuel tanker in Mogadishu’s bustling Kilometer Five intersection, was unlike anything the city had experienced.

“It’s so painful. It’s unimaginable to see your city like this,” said 29-year-old Muna Hassan, who helped organize the city’s youth response in the aftermath of the attack.

The attack killed 302 people and injured 429 more, according to local ambulance services, making it one of the world’s deadliest terror attacks since 9/11. In recent years, small-scale explosions have been followed by quick cleanups: Debris is removed, blood swept aside, and tables reset for serving tea hours later. But fours days after this one, while emergency personnel struggle to remove bodies from the rubble, Mogadishu’s residents are wondering how the city they thought was on the road to stability could experience such gruesome violence and how the influx of international security support, particularly from the United States, has seemingly done so little." Read more here.

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Foreign Policy Magazine

Meet the Tank Girls Taking on al-Shabab

"ARABISKA FORWARD OPERATING BASE, Somalia — It was 9:30 a.m., in a desolate corner of Somalia, and Lt. Cpl. Juliet Uwimana was taking her tank for a test drive. She and the rest of Uganda’s Battle Group 18 had been in the war-torn Lower Shabelle region for only a week, but already the battle group was on high alert.

Al-Shabab militants had overrun three similar forward-operating bases in the last year, killing more than 100 soldiers. They had also attacked dozens of other bases, including one just six miles from their post in Arabiska. But this morning was a quiet one — hence Uwimana’s test drive in the T-55 tank. She stood on a metal seat as the machine jerked forward, spewing smoke from its massive treads and rolling through sand so deep it threatened to swallow the vehicle whole.

Uwimana is one of roughly 500 women in the Ugandan contingent of AMISOM, the 17,000-strong African Union force tasked with battling al-Shabab and securing the troubled Horn of Africa nation so that a political process can take root. They serve as drivers, gunners, and technicians in the motorized infantry division — roles that women were barred from in the U.S. military until as recently as last year. But in Somalia, female peacekeepers have been serving in these positions for years.

This is remarkable not only because al-Shabab is among the region’s most dangerous terror groups, but because Somalia is generally one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a woman, according to various rankings and polls. Somalia has the highest prevalence of female genital mutilation in the world at 95 percent, among the highest maternal mortality rates at 1,600 deaths per 100,000 live births, and, though official statistics are unreliable, anecdotal evidence suggests that sexual assault remains an inescapable threat for most women across the country.

But the fact that AMISOM features so many women in combat roles is neither a matter of oversight, nor desperation. It’s a strategic gambit. The female peacekeepers have an unspoken but very clear mandate: to prevent their male colleagues from perpetrating sexual violence against civilians and to help nurture faint stirrings of gender equality in Somalia.

After a bumpy swing around the base’s green Hesco barriers, Uwimana’s tank gunner, Lt. Cpl. Lehi Chebet, calls down for the tank’s driver to cut the engine, her voice nearly drowned out by its roar. The vehicle lurches to a halt and the fresh-faced tank gunner nimbly maneuvers her way out of its small opening, giving a short nod. The machine is ready." Read more here.

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USA Today

15,000 Somalis 'heartbroken' by Trump refugee ban

"NAIROBI, Kenya — Nearly 15,000 Somalis who fled their war-torn country to Kenya and planned to resettle in the United States are now stuck in the world's largest refugee camp because President Trump suspended the U.S. asylum program.

They include 137 refugees who just days ago thought they would be boarding flights to the U.S. Now they are gripped with “fear, devastation, worry, panic and heartbrokenness,” said Yvonne Ndege, a spokeswoman for the United Nations refugee agency.

Hardly anyone in the world is more desperate than Somalis who had hoped to escape brutal warfare and crippling poverty in their chaotic nation. Now those hopes are on hold after Trump signed an executive order Friday that suspended entry of refugees into the U.S. for 120 days to ensure that terrorists don't sneak into the country posing as asylum seekers.

Ahmed Ismail Shafat, 25, who was born and raised in the Dadaab refugee camp on the Kenya-Somalia border, was supposed to leave Monday for London, then on to Chicago and finally Kansas City, Mo., to be resettled.

Instead, he was part of the group attending a town hall meeting Tuesday with U.N. and U.S. officials at a transit center." Read more here.

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News Deeply

With a Game of Basketball, Girls Dribble Round Extremism in Somalia

"MOGADISHU, SOMALIA – Her name is Mulki Noor Mudey, but she introduces herself simply as Coach. Standing at the side of Mogadishu’s dilapidated basketball and handball stadium, her bright blue “Hagen” team jersey shimmering under the unrelenting Somali sun, it’s hard to imagine her as anything but an athlete.

Only a few months ago, Mudey had stood in that same spot, teeming with nerves. It was the Somali women’s handball championship game. With only four minutes to go and the stadium’s seats packed with spectators, the score was tied.

“When the game is happening, you’re so nervous and so anxious,” she says. “And as a coach, there’s only so much you can do.”

A slow 60 seconds passed. Then another. With two minutes left, a Hagen player scored, winning the championship game.

Thirty years ago, women playing sports at the Wiish Stadium was nothing remarkable. But over the past 26 years, Somalia has experienced a brutal civil war and the emergence of an extremist Islamic insurgency, both of which reversed women’s rights across the country. Today, as relative peace returns to the capital, the resurgence of female athletes is itself a symbol of defiance." Read more here.

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News Deeply

Female Peacekeepers Fight Militants and Prejudice in Somalia

"AFGOYE, SOMALIA – Arabiska Forward Operating Base in south-central Somalia is unlike any battleground Captain Agnes Anywar had experienced. Here, the landscape is dotted with Ali Garob trees, a drought-resistant shrub that invaded Somalia in the 1980s and has claimed more of the country than any living organism, and the sun glares down so strongly the officer in charge doesn’t just offer visitors a glass of juice, but the entire box.

Originally from northern Uganda, Anywar had been through war first as a child whose family members were targeted by the violent Lord’s Resistance Army guerrilla group, and later as an internally displaced person. In that time, Anywar heard her mother being raped inside their home, squatted for months inside a police compound and commuted to school at night for over a year for fear of being abducted. When she finished school, she decided she was done being a victim.

“When I finished secondary school, I immediately enlisted in the Ugandan Military Academy,” she says, brow dotted with droplets of sweat. “I wanted to go back to northern Uganda and fight for my people suffering during the war.”

Though often depicted as the victims of violent conflict, women across Africa are increasingly making up military ranks, by some estimates comprising 30 percent of soldiers across the continent. In Somalia, women have taken up arms both in the nascent Somali National Army and as part of the 17,000-strong African Union Peacekeeping Force, AMISOM, where Anywar is one of 500 women in the Ugandan contingent. Unlike most peacekeeping forces, where the majority of women serve in support positions, in AMISOM women are tank engineers, drivers, and gunners fighting on the front lines in the battle against the al-Qaida-linked terrorist organization al-Shabab." Read more here.

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OZY Magazine

How to fight an African despot

One bullet tore through his neck, damaging his vocal cords. Others sprayed the car, sending metal and glass flying. Within seconds, the gunman on a motorcycle was gone; despite the bloody scene, Pierre-Claver Mbonimpa, Burundi’s most prominent human rights activist, was alive.

A week later, Mbonimpa would be evacuated from Burundi’s capital, Bujumbura, to Brussels, where he made a full recovery. But the minute that shot was fired on Aug. 3, 2015, Burundi changed. “The message was clear,” says Clementine de Montjoye, advocacy and research officer at the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project. “If an assassination attempt could occur on Pierre-Claver’s life” — the man who received the 2007 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders, commonly considered the human rights equivalent of the Nobel Prize — “then no one is safe.”

Since Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza, whose administration did not respond to requests for comment, decided to run for a third, controversial term last year, the country has become an increasingly despotic state: in the spring of 2015, mass protests against Nkurunziza’s candidacy were met with tear gas and live bullets. After elections in July, the bodies of those believed loyal to the opposition began turning up in the streets. Journalists and human rights advocates fled to neighboring Tanzania, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. But Mbonimpa, or “Mutama” (“the Wise One”) as he is locally known, remained in Bujumbura, denouncing Nkurunziza’s presidential bid and the government’s brutal response to peaceful protests. When I first met him, a month before the presidential election, the gray-haired, soft-spoken advocate was arranging for protesters to arm themselves with plastic whistles to warn each other of police movements in opposition-heavy neighborhoods." Read more here.

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OZY Magazine


"On April 2, as I waited in a doctor’s office near Nairobi, the anchor of Kenya’s morning news broadcast began reporting what would prove to be a horrific attack on Garissa University by the Somali terrorist group al-Shabab. As the early news trickled in, some people around me looked at the television screen, and others just checked their phones. Most, however, just stared impatiently at the doctor’s door.

In Kenya, another terror attack wasn’t shocking news. Indeed, the number of attacks in Kenya has more than doubled since 2013, and the assault on Garissa, which killed 148, was just the latest in a growing list of al-Shabab attacks outside Somalia. In 2010, a suicide bombing in Uganda killed 74 people; last year, militants carried out the first suicide bombing in Djibouti’s history; and in April, Tanzanian authorities arrested 10 people carrying explosives, bomb detonators and an al-Shabab flag. Meanwhile, in Ethiopia, a country with a longer history of military involvement in Somalia and a much longer border with the country than Kenya, the number of al-Shabab attacks in recent years is … well, zero. The last attempted attack in the country happened two years ago and ended when two would-be suicide bombers blew themselves up in their safe house in the capital of Addis Ababa.

Ethiopia’s success at evading attacks might not seem so remarkable, except that even the most developed countries, including the United States, have generally floundered in their counterterrorism efforts. Yet the blueprint Ethiopia is following to thwart al-Shabab attacks — and ultimately to help stall the Islamic State’s inroads into Africa — has its own set of civil rights issues. Indeed, the country sparked its own form of an ends-justify-the-means debate, with critics saying it relies on security and intelligence gathering that is too heavy-handed." Read more here.

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USA Today

Somalia lurches from chaos to first democratic rule in decades

"MOGADISHU, Somalia — Africa's most chaotic country is struggling to elect its first democratic government in a half-century.

Given its recent history for war and turmoil it's not surprising that Somalia's fledging effort at democracy has been marred by delays, corruption and allegations of vote-buying.

Since October, people have gone to polling stations across the country to cast ballots as part of a complex process to choose members of parliament who will then vote for a new president and prime minister. The goal is to install the Horn of Africa nation's first representative leadership since dictator Mohamed Siad Barre ousted a popularly elected government in a 1969 military coup.

He was overthrown in 1991, engulfing Somalia in a bloody civil war — first between clan militias and then by the al-Shabab terrorist group, which continues to control swaths of territory.

“The last 25 years have been particularly bad with ... the state destroyed,” said Michael Keating, the U.N. special representative for Somalia. This is "the first time since 1969 that the Somalis are attempting to put together a rules-based process involving quite a large number of people to bring about a peaceful transfer of power.” Read more here.

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The Christian Science Monitor

In Burundi election, Catholic Church could be swing vote

"BUJUMBURA, BURUNDI — They spilled out the wooden doors of the Regina Mundi Catholic Cathedral: Mothers and fathers, Hutus and Tutsis, government supporters and opposition members, all celebrating mass on a recent Sunday, one of the few quiet days left in Burundi’s capital.

Since President Pierre Nkurunziza announced he would run for a third term on April 25, Bujumbura has suffered violent protests and a failed coup that has sent opposition leaders, activists, and journalists into hiding or exile

“Burundi is full of fear,” says Priest Ignance Nkurunziza (no relation to the president), preaching to the roughly 500-strong congregation at the cathedral. “We make our brothers our enemies and they become animals to us,” he continues, “but it is the body of Christ that will bring peace.”

The Roman Catholic Church has enormous clout here, maintaining the support of more than two-thirds of Burundians, who see it as a moral pillar. The church criticized coup leader Jean-Baptiste Bagaza during his tenure as president in the 1980s and denounced the 1993 coup against the country’s first elected president. That opposition has come at a significant price, with two archbishops assassinated in the past.

So when the Catholic Bishops of Burundi announced two weeks ago that the church was withdrawing its priests from the electoral commissions tasked with organizing the election, saying it “cannot support elections that are full of shortcomings," people listened." Read more here.

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OZY Magazine


"A flurry of flashes and clicks erupted from the pool of press photographers while whispers of a new Cold War flooded the hallway outside. It was the 2007 Munich Security Conference, and after years of trying to court the West, Russian President Vladimir Putin had finally had enough. “We are seeing a greater and greater disdain for the basic principles of international law,” he said, in a speech that would become a defining moment of his presidency. “The United States has overstepped its national borders in every way.”

But while Putin’s declaration sent political analysts scrambling to figure out what all this meant for Russian-American relations, it turned out that Moscow was quietly in the middle of a equally important shift, courting a new and unlikely international partner: Africa. Indeed, in recent years, this unusual relationship has strengthened to a new level as Russian investments across Africa have grown at an astounding rate. Overall trade has increased more than tenfold over the past decade or so, with exports jumping from under $950 million to $4 billion, and imports from Africa rising from $350 million to $1.6 billion. For Russia to reclaim its role as a global power after long being seen as a “junior partner” by the West, “it needed to be present in all geographies — and, of course, Africa is an increasingly important one,” says Elizabeth Sidiropoulos, chief executive of the South African Institute of International Affairs, a research organization.

Indeed, for most developed countries Africa’s growing economic importance is now impossible to overlook. In the next five years, the continent will be home to eight of the 10 fastest-growing economies, and in the next 15 years its GDP is expected to reach that of Eastern Europe. But there’s also plenty of allure today: It’s already home to some of the largest untapped reserves for minerals, oil and gas in the world." Read more here.

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OZY Magazine


"Wearing a brown leather jacket and newsboy cap, Tabu Osusa looks like a relic from times past. And so he is: With Kenyan funk musician Sal Davies crooning in Swahili from his silver boom box, Osusa nods with the beat, reminiscing about the 1970s, when the rhythmic groove of East African funk, and smoke from Barack Obama Sr.’s pipe, filled the Starlight Club, the most popular bar in Nairobi. “For anybody who loved African music, it was the place to be,” he says. But Western record labels pulled up stakes in the 1980s, and Kenya’s vibrant music scene disappeared with them.

Now, for the first time in nearly four decades, East African artists are making their way back onto the continent’s music stage and beyond, and traditional beats from the region’s musical heyday are coming with them. Dormant after the Starlight’s closing, Nairobi’s live music scene is back in full force, with gigs nearly every night of the week. It’s not exactly time to call the folks at the Grammys, yet, but the region was home to a record number of music festivals this year, and, for the first time ever, an East African band, Kenya’s Sauti Sol, was nominated for the Black Entertainment Television Awards in Los Angeles.

Leading the charge is an eclectic group of musicians, producers and a DJ project called Santuri — “vinyl” in Swahili. The group, founded in 2013, aims to put East Africa back on the continent’s musical map. The team has helped organize 10 music festivals where they have recorded samples of traditional instruments. Using those samples, Santuri DJs have infused the region’s musical heritage into dance-floor-ready songs that, for the first time in decades, sound uniquely East African. “We didn’t have DJs on the floor promoting the cultural dimension of music,” says Gregg Mwendwa, co-founder of Santuri. “There was a lot of pop stuff coming from Nigeria or the U.S. or elsewhere, but not coming out of East Africa.” Read more here.

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'It's Total Chaos and Madness': Video of Police Brutally Beating Protester Shocks Kenya

"A day after violent protests rocked Nairobi's city center, many in Kenya are concerned about what the brutality means for the future of the country.

A protest on Monday was the third such clash in the last three weeks, and a number of demonstrators — who are demanding that allegedly partisan election officials step down — were hospitalized with severe injuries after a brutal response by police.

"It's total chaos and madness, people are being injured, really injured," says Ezekiel Kenyanya, a taxi driver in downtown Nairobi. "Just look at the pictures. They are bleeding. Kenya is bleeding."

Protests took place in five cities throughout the country and in the capital, Nairobi, riot police responded by launching tear gas and beating protesters with batons. According to local newspapers, police also fired live rounds, though authorities deny this claim.

Raila Odinga, head of the country's main opposition party, wrote on Twitter that his supporters have taken to the streets because they are tired of the "incompetence and corruption" exhibited by the country's Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). Odinga also wrote that the protests will continue every week until the electoral commission is "reformed." Read more here.

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Burundi’s journalists are using SoundCloud to get around a government shutdown of independent radio

"Half-past noon in Burundi once looked the same each day. From the paved streets of the capital city Bujumbura to the countryside’s dusty roads, everyone stopped what they were doing, pulled out their phone, and tuned into the Radio Publique Africaine’s news program.

But since political unrest broke out in April, a government crackdown on independent press has left the country in a media blackout. Independent radio studios have been attacked, roughly 50 reporters have fled the country, and Radio Nationale–a government-run station which has denied protests are even taking place–is the only radio left broadcasting.

Until now.

A group of brave journalists–dubbed “SOS Medias”–has gone underground to broadcast the only independent news available in the country. And with military officers physically keeping them from their studios, they are turning to a new platform to broadcast the news: SoundCloud." Read more here.

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It's been a summer of influential African hashtags

"Africa is not a country, but here’s what it would look like if it were a bar:

South Africa would insist she’s too good for the place, Zimbabwe and Burundi would stay too late, China would stuff his pockets from all the alcohol sales, and the VIP section would be filled with foreigners instead of Africans.

The hashtag #IfAfricaWasABar started trending earlier this week, as people across the continent took to Twitter with diverse—and often funny—characterizations of African countries. Alone, the storm of tweets offers some comic moments and fleeting political commentary. But #IfAfricaWasABar is just the latest in a series of organic social-media driven efforts with a much larger ambition: diversify the African narrative.

“For a long time the narrative was dominated by the West, so Africans were seeing themselves as the West reflected them,” says Brenda Wambui (@brendawambui), editor of popular Kenyan blog Brainstorm ( “When the Internet came, when Twitter came, it became a town hall of sorts. People were able to tell whatever they wanted to tell, they could determine a narrative for themselves.” Read more here.


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Watch how drones keep elephants away from danger in Tanzania

"It looks just like video game.

The scene: Tanzania’s savanna.

Your avatar: A ranger in Tarangire National Park.

The objective: Use a small helicopter to chase a group of hungry elephants off a farm and into the park, all before angry farmers kill the animals, raptors attack the helicopter, or the chopper’s fuel runs out.

It might sound like fun but for conservationists in Tanzania, this isn’t just a game.

The Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI) and the conservation organization Resolve have begun deploying small drones to chase elephants out of farms and into protected areas. The goal is to stop farmers killing elephants that have destroyed crops–one driver of the country’s drastic elephant population decline." Read more here.

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OZY Magazine


"When Jama Muse first heard about the prehistoric cave paintings at Laas Geel some 20 or 30 years ago, he didn’t think anything of it. Old rock art is cool, of course, but nothing to get out of bed for. Then a group of French archaeologists trucked in, looking for … old rock art. Suddenly those paintings started to seem like a bigger deal. Muse is now a tour guide for the heritage site. “There are a lot of people visiting here from different countries,” he says.

Tell your honey to pack a bag with comfy shoes and some SPF 50. Your next big vacation is on! And it’s in … Somaliland?

Either you don’t know where that is or you know very well where that is and think we’re nuts. The small democratic nation is located on the rough-and-tumble Horn of Africa, having essentially seceded from war-torn Somalia in 1991. Lately it’s made some headlines for welcoming Syrian refugees. But Somaliland is becoming known for something other than disputed borders and severe drought: tourism.

In the past five years, the self-declared nation has seen a marked increase in tourists. Though the exact number is difficult to verify, Ibrahim Mohamed Shide, director of Somaliland’s Office of Tourism, estimates that at least 700 tourists visited this year, more than double the number of tourists they received in 2010. Granted, those are teensy numbers, but the increase is promising for other small heritage tourism sites, particularly since Laas Geel is drawing cave-painting enthusiasts from as far as Europe and the United States." Read more here.

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Africa Times

Solving Africa's Democratic Conundrum

"They sat around four wobbly, wooden tables. Around them old books, their pages yellow with age, were scattered throughout the room, some piles stacked two feet high. Two of them glanced over students’ essays, one peered through his thin-framed glasses into a computer screen, and the other flipped through an old notebook, scribbling notes in the margins.

All were professors at Burundi University. All were nervous, very nervous.

“If he wins the election that’s it,” said one, the heat of the June sun striking his back through a window. “There is war, we’ll have to leave. We’ll join everyone in Rwanda.”

“Yes, but you know if there’s insecurity in Burundi, there’s insecurity in Rwanda,” said his colleague, still staring at the computer screen.

“And in the Congo,” said another.

“Well then what?” the first said, laughing. “No democracy here, no democracy in Rwanda, no democracy in Congo. All because of these stubborn guys.”

Over a month has passed since the professors casual meeting, and with it a contested parliamentary and presidential election in Burundi. President Pierre Nkurunziza won the election last week, making him the latest in a string of African presidents to manipulate his country’s constitution to extend his time in office. Over the last decade, a dozen African leaders have tried to change their country’s constitution to lengthen their tenure, in what experts are now considering a worrying trend. And while certain “third termers,” as they are now referred to in the region, have failed in their attempts, leaders in Namibia, Gabon, Guinea, Togo, Chad and Uganda have succeeded, setting a worrying example for other presidents in a region with a number of elections scheduled in the coming years." Read more here.

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Africa Geographic

Where Poachers Aren't the Biggest Threat

"It happens in seconds. Tusks turn towards the sky and the roughly 27,000lb, 13 foot tall elephant stops, scuttles backwards, flaps its ears, turns around… and runs in the opposite direction.

The reason? A white, four-propeller drone no bigger than a frisbee.

People think the drones work because they sound like bees,” says conservation biologist David Olson, noting that bees are a nuisance to elephants. “And the drones are like the mother of all Tsetse flies.”

Olson and his team at the conservation organisation RESOLVE and the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute have been experimenting with the ability of small drones to herd elephants out of farms and into protected areas in Tanzania. The goal is to reduce human-elephant conflict (HEC), the decade old struggle between farmers trying to grow crops and elephants scavenging for a meal. Unable to effectively discourage the elephants, farmers have begun resorting to extreme measures, including killing the animals with poisoned watermelons and arrows to save their crops." Read more here.


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In Justice: The Individual Effect of Mass Incarceration

For six months, Christina Goldbaum reported inside the street crews and gangs of Providence, Rhode Island to produce this story. Read the story here