Around the Horn: “Fake News” In Kenya Elections, AMISOM Challenges, and Al-Shabaab Tax on Refugees

Here is a brief overview of some of the inter-related stories in Kenya and Somalia the last week:


AMISOM CHALLENGES IN SOMALIA

Somalia’s Traffic Police Commissioner General Ali Hersi blamed AMISOM for being involved in approximately 500 traffic accidents and civilian shootings in the last four years. He also claimed the mission resolved less than 20 of the cases and often did not compensate victims. AMISOM’s mechanism for addressing civilian casualties, known as CCTARC, has historically underperformed.

VOA also reported Somali farmers claimed AMISOM troops were de facto “occupying” farms, which turned their land into a “warzone” and reduced their potential harvest.

Interestingly, the same week, AMISOM signed a land lease agreement with the Hirshabelle regional administration to ostensibly provide clear guidelines about its deployment in the region.

Is the solution to the “occupation” complaint right in front of AMISOM’s eyes — or is the Hirshabelle agreement a quiet acknowledgement that AMISOM already recognizes it must formalize its presence in both rural and urban areas of Somalia in order to avoid the “occupation” narrative that al-Shabaab so often amplifies?


BATTLE FOR RELIABLE KENYAN ELECTIONS

Relaying reliable information to the Kenyan public is emerging as a challenging dimension of a national election on August 8 where observers are also worried about the integrity of the vote and tribal-political violence.

Fake News“, a term which recently gained popularity after comprising a part of Russia and then-U.S. republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s campaign, has become a part of Kenya’s electoral lexicon. A survey of 2,000 Kenyans by GeoPoll and Portland consultancy revealed 90 percent of Kenyans believe that have seen or heard false news.”

In addition, both government and the opposition coalition are fighting to control how the election data is released in order to avoid a repeat of 2007-08 election violence over contested results.

An important question is what role will the Internet play in providing transparency to Kenyans . The Kenyan government stated, “We do not see Internet shutdown happening,” and, “We hope we will not get there, unless it gets out of hand.”

In the case Kenya does decide to censor social media or shut down the Internet (like Uganda, Burundi, Ethiopia, and DRC did during elections), Google and technology incubator Jigsaw are developing tools to allow organizations to use a VPN to at least partially outmaneuver those efforts.

INSECURITY IN KENYA’S LAMU COUNTY

Operation Linda Boni, the security campaign aimed at degrading al-Shabaab on the Kenya-Somalia border since September 2015, has achieved only modest gains in the last two years: There have been at least 50 attacks in Lamu county since that time and thirty security forces killed in the last month, many in al-Shabaab raids or IED attacks. Below are some of the recent dynamics at play:

An APC that hit an IED in Lamu killing 7 policemen and a civilian on May 31, 2017. PHOTO | KALUME KAZUNGU | NATION MEDIA GROUP


AL-SHABAB TAX DADAAB RETURNEES

Somali refugees that have returned to Somalia from Kenya continue to endure significant humanitarian hardship such as drought, as well as taxation and exploitation by al-Shabaab, according to a recent Amnesty International report. The report highlights how returnees find it difficult to escape the very reasons that led to their initial displacement. Below is a typical anecdote from returning refugees:

According to July 2017 data from UNHCR: “Since the commencement of voluntary repatriation in 2014, a total of 66,979 Somalis have voluntarily repatriated from Dadaab camps, of which 27,665 returned in 2017.” There are approximately 244,400, refugees remaining in Dadaab refugee camp, as of this month.

Graph: As of 14 July 2017, via UNHCR.



Categories: Around the Horn

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