AROUND AFRICA: Obama’s African Trip; Terrorized Nairobi Mall Reopens; Burundi Vote

July 21, 2015 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

Obama African Visit No. 4.

Kenya in Africa. Map from CIA World Factbook

Kenya in Africa. Map from CIA World Factbook

President Barack Obama heads to East Africa this week for his fourth visit to the continent where his father was born.

Travel to Kenya, his father’s homeland, is on the president’s schedule. He will be attending the 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) in Kenya. It marks the first time the gathering of entrepreneurs and leaders from business, international organizations and governments will take place in sub-Saharan Africa.

In addition to co-hosting the GES along with Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, the two will hold bilateral meetings. Relations between the two countries have been strained due to International . Criminal Court charges against Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto, for their alleged roles in orchestrating the violence that followed the 2007 election, the Voice of America website reported. Charges against Kenyatta have been dropped, while Ruto and another defendant continue to face trial.

Obama is expected to attend the summit during the weekend and to deliver a public address before traveling to Ethiopia. The Ethiopian visit to the headquarters of the African Union, has drawn criticism from human rights groups because  the authoritarian regime in Addis Ababa has cracked down on political dissent, the Washington Post reports.

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Westgate Mall Reopens.

Nairobi Westgate Mall (2007 photo by Rotsee via Wikipedia)

Nairobi Westgate Mall
(2007 photo by Rotsee via Wikipedia)

Security will be high on the agenda of Obama-Kenyatta talks, according to the BBC.. The East African nation is one of the top recipients of U.S. military aid and in the region and recent years have seen a spate of attacks from Somalia’s al-Shabab extremists.

One of the deadliest of those attacks took place two years ago in Nairobi when gunmen terrorized the upscale Westgate Shopping Mall — killing 67 and injuring scores more.

The mall reopened Saturday, for the first time since the attack. The mall has installed x-ray machines, explosive detectors and bullet-proof guard towers, Al Jazeera reported.

Gunmen from the Somalia-based armed group al-Shabab stormed the popular mall on September 21, 2013, in a brazen attack that the group said was in retaliation for Kenya’s military operations in Somalia. The siege lasted three days before Kenyan authorities retook the shopping center.

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Burundi “Votes”

Burundi's location in Africa. (Map: CIA World Factbook

Burundi’s location in Africa.
(Map: CIA World Factbook

Polls have closed in Burundi’s presidential election, and votes are being counter.

But incumbent Pierre Nkurunziza is certain to win after running unopposed, the VoA reported. Voter turnout was low in neighborhoods rocked by weeks of violent protests. Many in the tiny Central African nation said Burundi’s constitution bars Nkurunziza from seeking a third term.

At least 70 people have been killed in protests since he announced in April that he was running for re-election, the BBC reported.  About 1,000 people are fleeing into Tanzania each day to escape the violence, according to medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF).

The U.S. State Department has joined critics saying the disputed presidential election lacks credibility and will discredit the government. But the Nkurunziza government accuses the opposition of provoking violent protests.

The African Union (AU) did not send observers – the first time it has taken such a stance against a member state, BBC reported. The AU said the security climate did not allow for free and fair elections. The European Union took a similar view, and has cut some aid to Burundi to show its displeasure with Nkurunziza.

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Entry filed under: Africa, Counter Insurgency, Counter Terrorism. Tags: , , , , , , , , , .

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