Connect to share and comment

Africa, explained

Sudan and South Sudan: Ever on the brink

The two Sudans remain precariously close to outright conflict with no resolution in sight.
Sudan south sudan hostilities 2012 4 2Enlarge
An image grab taken from footage obtained by AFP shows Sudanese troops celebrating next to a burned military vehicle on March 29, 2012, one day after recapturing Sudan's southern oil center of Heglig following fighting with South Sudanese forces along the border. Southern troops had taken the Heglig oil field, parts of which are claimed by both countries, but Sudanese forces later retook the field. Both sides vowed to step back from the brink of all out war after three days of border violence including air strikes and tank battles. (-/AFP/Getty Images)

NAIROBI, Kenya — The Sudans are the epitome of bad neighbors.

Recent military attacks, accusations, counter-accusations and heated rhetoric traded between the South Sudan capital of Juba and the Sudan capital Khartoum make Ethiopia-Eritrea relations look positively friendly.

And yet the forecast war never comes, not really.

South Sudan President Salva Kiir and Sudan President Omar al-Bashir were supposed to be meeting in the southern capital on Tuesday to discuss citizenship, oil, money and border issues but a flare up in fighting last week — with a couple of aerial bombardments from the north and a ground assault from the south —
scuppered that plan.

The recent hostilities have centered on oil fields on either side of the disputed border and are continuing, with each side blaming the other.

The diplomatic brinkmanship has been pushed to suicidal lengths with South Sudan cutting of oil to the north strangling both economies.

Neither can afford a full-blown war, nor do they want it.

Discussions between the two Sudans continue in Addis Ababa with negotiators standing in for the presidents themselves.

Expect no resolution, but don't expect war either.


New Ethiopia fossil expands understanding of human origins

Tiny fossil shows previously missing link between ape and man.
Ethiopia fossil human link 2012 3 29Enlarge
A tiny fossil found in Ethiopia links humans to a small species that probably lived in trees 3.4 million years ago, about the same time as "Lucy" (Australopithecus afarensis). Here is a sculptor's rendering of Lucy, whose fossilized remains are the most complete example of the species, at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, August 28, 2007 in Houston, Texas. (Dave Einsel/Getty Images)

NAIROBI, Kenya — A wonderful thing about paleontology — the study of fossil remains — is that every fragment of bone or tooth can rewrite what we think we know about our origins. And so it is with the latest fossil find in Ethiopia's remote Afar region where scientists announced in the journal Nature the discovery of a tiny piece of a tiny foot that proves that humankind's bipedal ancestors were not alone.

The pieces of bone dating back 3.4 million years makes its owner a contemporary of "Lucy" (aka Australopithecus afarensis) probably the most famous fossil ever and the first hominid to get up off all fours and begin walking like a human. She was also found in the Afar region in 1974.

This new fossil belonged to another hominid who could also walk on two legs but probably spent most of its time in trees judging by a sticking out big toe which places it somewhere between an ape and a human.

"This discovery was quite shocking,” said co-author and project co-leader Dr. Bruce Latimer of Case Western Reserve University. “These fossil elements represent bones we’ve never seen before. While the grasping big toe could move from side to side, there was no expansion on top of the joint that would allow for expanded range of movement required for pushing off the ground for upright walking. This individual would have likely had a somewhat awkward gait when on the ground.”



Clive Dennis, British man arrested at Mogadishu airport

Rambling rasta man headed for Al Shabaab center of Kismayo is detained but it's not clear what he was up to.
Somalia mogadishu british 2012 3 28Enlarge
A British man was arrested at Mogadishu airport after saying that he intended to travel to Kismayo. These African Union soldiers did not arrest the man, but are shown with Mogadishu’s Adan Ade international airport on December 20, 2011. (Mohamed Abdiwahab/AFP/Getty Images)

NAIROBI, Kenya — A British man has been arrested in Somalia at Mogadishu airport after telling officials he planned to travel to Kismayo, the southern port town that is a stronghold of Al Shabaab militants.

So is this another example of what US and British officials most fear: the foreign passport-holding wannabe jihadi who gets trained in Somalia and might return to wreak havoc at home?

Somali officials have accused him of "al-Qaeda links" and security sources have muttered darkly about his luggage containing knives, strange powders and, er, CDs.

It seems as if everyone might be getting a little overexcited. The man in question, 45-year old Clive Dennis, is British of Jamaican origin and in this video clip recorded by Mogadishu's RBC Radio he appears confused about what he's doing and where he's going. It could be a convincing bluff but he doesn't look much like a terrorist.


Kenya has fractious allies in southern Somalia

Kenyan forces in southern Somalia find it difficult to understand clan rivalries.
Somalia kenya southern somalia 2012 3 27Enlarge
Kenyan Defence Force soldiers on the outskirts of Tabda in southern Somalia on February 20, 2012. Since Kenya's decision to send troops into Somalia in October 2011, the fight against terrorist group Al Shabaab has escalated further with the UN Security Council voting to increase the African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia by more than 5,000 soldiers. (William Davies /AFP/Getty Images)

NAIROBI, Kenya — One reason why foreign military interventions founder in Somalia is that outsiders are incapable of understanding the overlapping and interlocking webs of clan and business allegiances on which Somali society rests. Back one group and you make yourself enemies of the others, pick the wrong allies and you're in serious trouble.

Kenya is learning all this on-the-hoof in southern Somalia which it invaded in mid-October.

On Monday at least three Somali army officers, part of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) forces, were arrested by the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF), according to the Somalia Report website.

The arrests reportedly followed a dispute between the TFG officers and warlord Ahmed Madobe, who commands the Ras Kamboni militia, over who would administer the nearby town of Afmadow once Al Shabaab is pushed out.

More from GlobalPost: Somalia has 2 parliaments, no unity

Arresting the TFG officers means Kenya is taking sides and choosing Ras Kamboni which is the more powerful fighting force on the ground right now. It's a pragmatic choice but one that could backfire. During a visit to the town of Dhobley in January GlobalPost saw these tensions firsthand:

"Ras Kamboni is not the only militia aspiring to run the place. Wearing camouflage uniforms with Somalia flags on the sleeves are members of the Azania militia. For now the two are working side-by-side with each other and the Kenyan army but there is neither love nor trust lost between either the Azania and Ras Kamboni
footsoldiers or leaders.

After speaking to Ras Kamboni fighters, the Azania militiamen drag me aside to complain bitterly that they are being neglected by Kenya and pushed around by Madobe’s men.

Both militias are allied with the TFG but among the sidelong glances and bitter words spat across this bullet-riddled town it’s easy to see how, when the Kenyans move on, the militias might turn on one another, plunging this part of Somalia into yet another round of conflict."

More from GlobalPost: Somalia's national theater reopens after 20 years.


Sudan clashes with South Sudan

No longer a proxy fight, the North and South armies fight each other.
Sudan south sudan fighting 2012 3 27Enlarge
Sudanese soldiers stand to attention during President Omar al-Bashir's visit to the Popular Defence Forces in Khartoum on March 3, 2012. (Ebrahim Hamid /AFP/Getty Images)

NAIROBI, Kenya — The two Sudans have been accusing each other of backing rebels on either side of the disputed oil-rich border that since July has separated north from south, but on Monday their armies clashed directly.

The South accused the northern army, the SAF, of carrying out aerial bombardments of two areas, Jau and Pan Akuach, and launching a ground attack on a third, Teshwin.

The North accused the southern army, the SPLA, of occupying the Heglig oil field which both Juba and Khartoum claim. The SPLA said its occupation of Heglig was "a self-defence measure."

This week's direct clashes immediately worsened the already poisonous relations between North and South who are gridlocked over a series of issues including border demarcation and the sharing of oil revenues.

Sudan President Omar al-Bashir cancelled a planned visit to Juba next week to attend a summit meeting with South Sudan President Salva Kiir.

The renewed fighting has the international community worried. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was "deeply concerned."

More from GlobalPost: Ethnic killings in South Sudan take hundreds of lives


Kenya's new oil problem

Kenya has "struck oil" in its impoverished Turkana region, so what does this mean?
Lake TurkanaEnlarge
Fishermen in Lake Turkana head out for their daily catch on August 10, 2011. (Simon Maina/AFP/Getty Images)

Kenya has "struck oil" so what does this mean? Well, in the short term it means there will be plenty of trotting out of the tired, imponderable question of whether the windfall will be a blessing or a curse.

Given Kenya's long and ignoble history of deeply ingrained official corruption it's hard to be optimistic on this front, but perhaps in the 10 years or so before any oil is actually pumped out of Kenya's northern wastelands, the Turkana region, the country will turn over a new leaf. Or not. Or maybe oil prices will fall and the cost of drilling deep into the desert and then building pipelines over hundreds of miles of hostile land will make the extraction unviable.

More from GlobalPost: Oil found in Kenya by Anglo-Irish firm, Tullow Oil

The only clear winner in all this is the company that discovered the oil. The Anglo-American exploration company, Tullow Oil, saw its share price rise on Monday's announcement. The Turkana discovery will bolster Tullow's growing reputation as the most jackpot-lucky oil prospector in Africa. In recent years they've found huge new oil fields off Ghana and in Uganda, places previously written off by bigger operators but where high world prices have made risky exploration a worthwhile investment.


Protests and the meaning of clothes in Mali

Focusing on Mali's newly installed leader and his clothes.
Captain Amadou Sanogo, 3.22.12Enlarge
Mali junta leader Captain Amadou Sanogo speaks at the Kati Military camp, in a suburb of Bamako, on March 22, 2012. The coup leader said he is the head of the National Committee for the Establishment of Democracy, said his move was prompted by government's "inability" to put down a Tuareg-led insurrection in the north. (Habibou Kouyate/AFP/Getty Images)

Not shooting anyone is a good start if you've recently carried out a coup and installed yourself as leader of the country and are now facing the first-ever protest of your rule just days later. In that respect then Captain Amadou Sanogo is doing well. In every other aspect, less so.

Monday's protest in front of the Bamako stock exchange was small and ineffectual but proves that not everyone is willing to let the coup slide into normality. 

More from GlobalPost: Mali coup: country slowly returns to ordinary life

The March was held on a national holiday, ironically the one to celebrate the 1991 coup that brought ousted President Amadou Toumani Toure to power. His whereabouts are still unclear.

A portrait of Mali's new leader is gradually coming into focus and he has been giving interviews to journalists insisting that he really is in charge after what looked a lot like an accidental coup. One report describes him as "a ladies man with several children who likes a good party, football and sports."

Embarrassingly for Washington, Cpt. Sanogo has received training from US forces (on Monday the US suspended up to $70 million in aid to Mali). He has also, it seems, taken to donning traditional garb beneath his soldier's uniform to broadcast his power and ward off would-be attackers, mystical or corporeal, according to anthropologist Bruce Whitehouse.


Senegalese speak, and their beleaguered president listens

Former Senegal President Abdoulaye Wade has agreed to step down after running for an unconstitutional third term, and bringing elections into a second round of run-off voting.
Senegal newspaperEnlarge
A street vendor sells Senegalese newspapers commenting March 25's presidential elections on March 26, 2012 in Dakar. The African Union today praised the peaceful handover of power following presidential elections in Senegal, after incumbent Abdoulaye Wade's acceptance of defeat. (Issouf Sanogo/AFP/Getty Images)

The people spoke and President Abdoulaye Wade listened, conceding defeat in an after-dark phone call to his rival Macky Sall. In the second round run-off vote Sall's share rocketed and Wade's dropped off a touch giving the challenger a resounding victory.

That Senegal has conducted a proper election in which the results were respected is great news for the Senegalese and an important counterweight to the military coup in neighbouring Mali. Not that elections in Senegal directly affect what happens anywhere else in Africa, nor do they change anything that's happening in Mali, but they do challenge the dominant narrative that has been confirmed by the dangerous shams of democracy carried out in Ivory Coast and Congo recently.

More from GlobalPost: Senegal Elections: Abdoulaye Wade concedes defeat to Macky Sall (PHOTOS)

For a while, as Wade insisted on running for an unconstitutional third term, and with security forces attacking opposition supporters, it seemed that Wade was determined to lead Senegal down the same path. However he blinked and the results went overwhelmingly against him. If only more of Africa's obstinate incumbents followed his lead and step down rather than fight on when their time is up.


Everyone's hunting Kony now

The African Union joins the hunt for Joseph Kony.
Us konyEnlarge
US soldiers assist Ugandan Air Force personnel package food supplies at a military airbase in Entebbbe, Uganda on Dec. 6, 2011. The food supplies were destined for Ugandan troops hunting The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) and its chief Joseph Kony. (Michele Sibiloni/AFP/Getty Images)

NAIROBI, Kenya —The tens of millions, mostly young, white Americans who watched "KONY 2012" aren't the only ones out to get Joseph Kony. Uganda's been after him for years. South Sudan, Congo and the UN have all had a pop.

More from GlobalPost: Kony 2012: Joseph Kony speaks (VIDEO)

Last year Obama sent 100 military "advisors" to Central Africa and an eccentric former Hells Angel turned preacher, Sam Childers, is eager to end Kony's days on this earth, too.

The latest to join the manhunt is the African Union, which says it wants to "coordinate" a 5,000 strong regional army in its fight against Kony and his Lord's Resistance Army renegades.

"The new taskforce will have its headquarters in South Sudan's western town of Yambio — near the border with the Central African Republic and DR Congo — and be led by a Ugandan commander, while a Congolese commander will oversee intelligence coordination," according to reports

The announcement is more important for its symbolic value, representing the increased attention being paid to the LRA, rather than its potential impact on the ground. It is more a re-packaging of an existing arrangement than any new force, or new funds.


What Maasai cricket looks like

Kenya's Masaai warriors take to the cricket pitch in unconventional attire.
Maasai cricketersEnlarge
Players in the Maasai Warriors cricket team take part in a practice session at the beach in Mombassa on March 6, 2012. The team is made up of Maasai warriors from the Laikipia region of Kenya. The players are aiming to be role models in their communities where they are actively campaigning against Female Genital Mutilation, early childhood marriages and are fighting for the rights of women. The team have been invited to play in the Last Man Stands Twenty20 Championship in Cape Town, South Africa. (Carl de Souza/AFP/Getty Images)

NAIROBI, Kenya — As reported by GlobalPost Kenya's unlikely Maasai cricketers are having a row over whether to wear the traditional red garb of the noble warrior, or the traditional white of the English gentleman.

But what does Maasai cricket look like in its current state?

Here's a lovely bit of video from AFP that is in itself an argument in favor of keeping their own uniforms.