Tag Archives: Kenya

Africa and the ‘War on Terror’: Back to the Future.


The epicentre of the US-led ‘war on terror’ could be shifting to Africa; what with the steady augmentation in counter-terrorism training and funding, US military presence predictably in a bid to bolster counter-terrorism operations, over and above an increase in US-designated terrorist organizations and their activities . France too apparently, has set out to ‘fight terrorism’ in the Sahel.A point is made, validly at that, of the transnational if not global nature of terrorism. Terrorism herein should be understood as ‘the use of violence by sub-state groups to inspire fear, by attacking civilians and/or symbolic targets, for purposes such as drawing widespread attention to a grievance, provoking a severe response, or wearing down their opponent’s moral resolve, to effect political change’. It should be noted that this post lays emphasis on terrorism as an existential threat. Terrorism as an imminent threat receives a mention en passant but would be addressed in depth  in a later post.

The continued terrorist attacks by the Shabaab in Nairobi and other parts of the country  since Kenya’s incursion into Somalia indisputably calls for some hard questions . Moreover, it proves the inefficiency of the bureaucratic model of  the delivery of intelligence information and supports the calls for the National Intelligence Service to be empowered to hit targets after the intelligence collection process. The  existential threat that the group poses  has had the UN Department of Safety and Security in Kenya for instance publish a booklet for its personnel in the country-a guide on ‘’How to Prepare for and Respond to a Terrorist Attack’. This goes to show the level of the threat that is terrorism, not just in Kenya but in a number of what pundits have labelled as ‘front line states’ in the so-called war on terror in Africa.

The continent’s supposed front line states war on terror, markedly bears the hallmarks of US Cold War epoch strategies. It would be vital to take into account that regardless of the remarkable differences between the Cold War and the ‘’War on Terror’’, certain parallels could be drawn. Just like the epicentre of the Cold War shifted from Southeast Asia to (southern) Africa, so is the war on terror, in light of the aforementioned developments, moving from the Middle East to Africa. After ISIS/ISIL happened,  this could be viewed in different  light. That said, it still is significant that the emergence of a number of African countries as “front line states” in the so-called war on terror  has arguably  underpinned the continent’s ”strategic relevance” . This was most recently underscored by Obama’s call on Congress to support a $5-billion Counter-terrorism Partnerships Fund  which will enable the US to ‘’facilitate partner countries on the front lines’’.

U.S. Marine Sergeant explains weapons handling tactics to a group of the Uganda People's Defence Force (UPDF) soldiers during ongoing counter-terrorism combat engineering training, March 2012.

A U.S. Marine Sergeant explains weapons-handling tactics to a group of the Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) soldiers during an ongoing counter-terrorism combat engineering training in March 2012. Photo Credit: US Africa Command (http://www.africom.mil/)

The most conspicuous tactic in regard to back to the future point in the war on terror is the increasing use of proxies by the US. Kenya’s and Uganda’s  involvement  in Somalia, however much in the spirit of Pax Africana isn’t entirely the respective two countries’ war. The war on terror it seems is rapidly Americanizing Pax Africana. In his speech  to graduating cadets recently at West Point, Obama notes that “for the foreseeable future, the most direct threat to America at home and abroad remains terrorism.” That “we have to develop a strategy that matches this diffuse threat; one that expands our reach without sending forces that stretch our military too thin, or stirs up local resentments.” “We need partners to fight terrorists alongside us,” said he.

Kagwanja has it that America’s blanket definition of terrorism within Africa has led to counter-terrorism being one of the weakest links of Africa’s peace and security agenda. In reference to the definition problem, nowhere is this evident than the use of the terms ‘insurgency’ and ‘terrorism’ interchangeably knowingly or unknowingly to refer to the same situation within the discourse of terrorism. Noteworthy, is that terrorism differs from criminal violence in its level of political legitimacy. Of course the immediate victims of terrorism can hardly see any legitimacy of terror unleashed to send a message to a target audience beyond them. Nonetheless, the fundamental nature of war- the use of violence in the pursuit of political ends is unassailable, regardless of its changed subjective characteristics (tactics, means, and theatre).

Language let me say, is not a neutral transmitter of meaning and in this instance the language that is the ‘’war on terror’’ is clearly anything but.  This is why: with specific reference to politicians and other actors in world politics, language is critical because they have to legitimate their foreign policies to audiences at home and abroad. The choice of the term ‘’the war on terror’’ over ‘’counter-terrorism’’ it follows, would definitely have political implications. It is easier to delegitimize grievances, genuine or otherwise preposterous using the former simply because it is a ‘war’. The language that is the ‘’war on terror’’ erroneously presupposes that we can defeat terrorism per se through war.  If anything, observers reckon that ‘Americans are losing the war on terror’ .The military posture of the approach to counter-terrorism is bereft of the fact that terrorism is not a war situation but a tactic employed in times of (relative) peace instead.  This language clouds the real issues by delegitimizing grievances, from the onset. Moreover, the association of terrorism with war has its inadequacy in the sense that the former is asymmetric in nature and expressly constitutes a tactic.

It can hardly be belaboured that there is a hard-to-miss nexus (breeding ground) between terrorism and failed states-which Franklyne Ogbunwezeh describes as ‘’economic backwaters, social apologies and political ruins,’’ or those bearing failed states characteristics. The military option is a quick fix and inadequate response, some would say, to terrorism which in the case of a number of African states is compounded with the already existing instability. Furthermore, the unconventional nature of terrorism as a tactic makes it a ‘’multi-headed snake’’. A terrorist may be an extremist but an extremist is not a terrorist and neither are terrorists criminals to be flushed out from whatever hole/cave they’re in. Mamdani and Mbeki opine that ‘’unlike criminal violence, political violence has a constituency and is driven by issues, not just perpetrators.’’ Force is thus inadequate as a means to counter terrorism. Reportedly, since 2007, the ‘war on terror’ or the peace enforcement mission (as some would describe it) in Somalia for instance has of September 2013 incurred casualties almost equivalent to that of the UN peacekeeping missions since 1948-up to 3000. The statement by the UN Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson quoting these statistics was nevertheless retracted a day later. The figures on the number of troops sustained by AMISOM are conflicting. The long and short of it is that counter-terrorism has overly been militarized in a world in which states do not wield the monopoly of violence and therein, lies many an African state’s chance to redefine this ‘war’.

Instead, African states have taken to the established Bush narrative of  ‘waging war against terrorists’ as well as America’s  non-negotiation policy stance with terrorists. We have  got to ‘’politically address the issues in which terrorists “wrap themselves up,” without addressing the issues, there is no way of shifting the terrain of conflict from the military to the political, and drying up support for political terror,’’ contends  Mamdani.

Preventive measures have to be given attention as well. The emphasis ought to be on the eventual goal of development which is to eradicate what Amartya Sen calls the sources of development ‘unfreedom’ like poverty. For African states in the ‘front line’, the counter-terrorism strategies should underscore the non-military aspects. An unrelenting war should be waged on abject poverty- a bottom-top approach preferably, official corruption and de-radicalization programmes instituted. Moreover, the consequences of the US-led war on terrorism in many of these critical states should serve as a cue to redefine counter-terrorism strategies.  Not that a one-size-fits-all strategy is implausible. For the Horn of Africa in particular, Professor Kagwanja rightly proposes ‘’nothing short of a holistic and well-coordinated counter-terrorism policy that ties together poverty eradication, conflict resolution and peace-building strategies.’’

At the end of the day though, a pertinent question prompted by  Adekeye Adebajo  in John Davis’ 2007 Africa and the War on Terrorism remains: Will Washington be dismissive of its strategic partners when the war on terror ‘concludes’, à la Cold War?

Sustainable Development Goals:Raising The Water Security Profile.


Human beings have for years consumed water as if it were an inexhaustible natural resource. Indeed, the vast oceans and rivers as well as recently discovered aquifers have led us to believe that water is inexhaustible. However,the fact is, 97% of all the water on the earth is salt water- unsuitable for drinking or growing crops and technologies to desalinize are expensive and beyond the reach of most of the countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Of the freshwater resources, 70% is in the form of ice and permanent snow cover. Furthermore,available estimates,put freshwater lakes and rivers as constituting only 0.3% of the total freshwater useable for the entire human and animal population of the world (Vajpeyi, 2012:1).

Currently,Kenya and Hungary heads a group of 30 member states tasked with drafting the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals- a set of mid-term global objectives to succeed the UN’s Millennium Development Goals. More importantly however is that experts of water security are seeking  the adoption of ”universal water security” as one of the Sustainable Development Goals. Gledistch  defines water security as the availability of, and access to water in sufficient quantity and quality to meet the livelihood needs of all households throughout the year without prejudicing the needs of other users. The recommended international standard of water per person is  1,000 cubic metres  per year. UN-Water’s working definition, regards water security as ”the capacity of a population to safeguard sustainable access to adequate quantities of and acceptable quality water for sustaining livelihoods, human well-being, and socio-economic development, for ensuring protection against water-borne pollution and water-related disasters, and for preserving ecosystems in a climate of peace and political stability.”Between 1991 and 2000 over 665,000 people died in 2,557 natural disasters of which 90% were water related (World Water Development Report 2012).Global demand for water is forecast to outstrip supply by 40% come 2030 due to factors such as population growth and climate change. About 340 million people on the continent lack access to safe drinking water (239 million ‘are hungry’), while almost 500 million lack access to improved sanitation facilities (AU at 50, 2013).One in 6 people worldwide – 783 million -don’t have access to improved drinking water sources.Globally,of the seven billion people, six billion have mobile phones. However, only 4.5 billion have access to toilets or latrines (UN News Centre). In other words, people have more access to mobile phones than to toilets or latrines.The result is that human stool in open sewers sometimes cross open water lines or empty into water sources such as rivers, lakes, and streams that people depend on for drinking water (Sinei, 2010). According to the AU, the sanitation and water crisis across the continent is costing countries up to five per cent of their gross domestic product each year.

It’s argued that the issue of food security is the most significant element of the non-physical threats in the context of climate change.The UNDP’s Human Development Report of 1994 defines food security as ensuring that all people at all times have both physical and economic access to basic food.The 1996 World Food Summit gives a more complex definition:“Food security, at the individual, household, national, regional and global levels [is achieved] when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life” (FAO. 1996).

An acquaintance observes that the water versus food security debate is akin to the egg and hen debate as illustrated particularly by the water-food-energy nexus. Water is needed to grow food;food transports (virtual) water. Water is needed to generate energy; energy is needed to supply water. Food can be used to produce energy; energy is needed to produce food.

The discussion that follows draws the nexus between water security and food security,effectively illustrating which one’s  the ‘first among equals’. (Energy security inevitably comes into play).In 2011, the UN Security Council recognized the serious implications of climate change, with water being the medium through which climate change will have the most effects. See United Nations University: “Water Security”: Experts Propose a UN Definition on Which Much Depend. Kent-Brown asserts that ”the most important natural resource on the planet, and certainly in Africa, is fresh water; and water  is perceived as the most vulnerable casualty of the impact of climate change.

The severity of the water crisis has prompted the United Nations (UNDP, 2007) in concluding that it is water scarcity, not a lack of arable land, that will be the major constraint to increased food production over the next few decades (Hanjira & Qureshi, 2010).

UN Water Fact Sheet on Water for Food.

Water is a key resource for sustaining life and society through agricultural production (Water for Food factsheet -PDF ),industry and hydro power, as well as health and human development at large. No community and economy will prevail without water of sufficient quality and quantity (Ndaruzaniye & Volkmann). Africa as a whole is considered to be among the most vulnerable regions to climate variability and change (New African June 2011). The continent is the world’s most populous after Asia and the figure is expected to double to nearly two billion in 2050. Subsequently, the demand for water will rise not just because of the population increase but also because of economic development, urbanization and changes in consumption rates. It is estimated that by 2025, 21 countries- nearly half the continent will experience stress (Bates et al: 2008), and two-thirds globally (Water and Agriculture in the Green Economy, Information Brief) ”Unless we increase our capacity to use water wisely in agriculture, we will fail to end hunger and we will open the door to a range of other ills, including drought, famine and political instability.”-UNSG World Water 2012 statement. The development prospects of Africa are intrinsically linked to the performance of the agricultural sector, writes Ankomah for the New African, May 2012. Agricultural labour comprises 59% of the total labour force in Africa (FAO, 2011) and 13% of value added to GDP in 2009 (World Bank Report 2009). Around the globe, 2.6 billion people work in the food and agriculture sector. This is 40% of today’s global population. It thus underscores the vital role of water as a prerequisite for food security. 95% of sub-Saharan Africa’s farmland relies on rain-fed agriculture and agriculture is the biggest user of water on the globe. Irrigation claims 70% of all freshwater appropriated for human use (Can Kenya Tap Its Water to Double Its Maize? ).Rain-fed agriculture is practiced on about 80% of world’s physical agricultural area and generates about 60% of the world’s staple food (FAO, 2008). Irrigated agriculture covers only 279 million hectares or 19% of cropland (Thenkabail et al., 2010).Worth noting too is that by 2050, food production will require twice as much water as it does today i.e an additional 3,300 cubic kilometres. In as much as in April 2012, there was  the revelation that at least 45 transboundary aquifers exist under Africa’s often-arid surface,underground aquifers are non-renewable (Invest in Africa 2013, AU Publication). Indeed, in the long run, climate change threatens to alter the rate of aquifer recharge, making availability even less predictable (World Bank). Over 64% of Africa’s population is rural, with much of that number living on small subsistence farming. Access to food in the rural areas of many developing countries depends heavily on access to water. Kaberuka,he of the AfDB writes thus:”We estimate that it will cost us another $50 billion a year for the next 20 years to meet Africa’s water needs, and – if that figure seems beyond our means – some perspective might help: it is less than the world spends on bottled water every year.” Unlike oil, there  is no substitute for water.In the longer term, other solutions to water shortage could be considered. For example, water tankers might well become more numerous than oil tankers as they traverse the southern oceans carrying water from Antarctica, natural reservoir of 70% of the world’s fresh water, to arid destinations in the north (Kent-Brown,2012).Conflicts around water can arise between and within countries.Inter-state water conflicts can occur between riparian groups—that is when water sources (rivers,lakes, ground water aquifers) cross borders. READWater wars that dog Africa.

Let’s take note of transboundary waters now, shall we? Stats from UN Water has it that approximately 40 per cent of the world’s population lives in river and lake basins that comprise two or more countries, and perhaps even more significantly, over 90 per cent lives in countries that share basins.The existing 276 transboundary lake and river basins cover nearly one half of the Earth’s land surface and account for an estimated 60 per cent of global freshwater flow (Transboundary Waters ).The Nile basin covers almost 10% of Africa’s landmass (3.1 million square kilometres) and supports over 200 million people, more than half living below the poverty line and dependent on rain-fed agriculture for their survival.The twin pressures of energy and food security—through hydroelectric generation and irrigation schemes—are placing ever-greater demands on the Nile.Climate change, population growth,economic growth amongst other factors therefore only serve to exacerbate water insecurity.

In an increasingly liberalizing (globalizing) world, Transnational Corporations (TNCs) have increased their control over the supply of water, especially in the South. In many cases, private sector participation in water services has been one of the “aid conditionalities” of the so-called “donor assistance” (ODAs) from donor countries and the IMF and the World Bank. Just three companies, Veolia Environnement (formerly Vivendi Environnement), Suez Lyonnaise des Eaux and Bechtel (USA), control a majority of private water concessions globally.(Tendon, 2008).The biofuels industry is inherently predatory on land and resources, especially if it is generated out of food such as maize and Soya beans. It is estimated that to produce 50 litres of biofuels to run a car for one day’s long trip or three days city-run, it would consume about 200 kg of maize -this is enough to feed one person for one year. This does not even take into account the cost of energy, water and other resources that go into biofuels production. In five years, rich countries have acquired about 80 million hectares of land in Africa and other continents with developing countries. Behind the land grabs lies the anticipated rise in consumption rates and market demand for food (projected to increase by 60% by 2050), water (19% increase of agricultural water consumption by 2050) and bio-fuels as an alternative to fossil fuels.

Water-Food-Energy Nexus

Water-Food-Energy Nexus
Source: http://permaculturenews.org

The EU for instance requires that 10% of all transport fuel should come from plant based bio-fuels.This ‘second scramble’ for Africa by top investment banks (Emergent Asset Management) as well as other American, Asian and Middle East companies which have leased millions of acres in developing  countries not only poses significant ramifications for food but also water security.At the same time, economic growth and individual wealth are shifting diets from predominantly starch-based to meat and dairy, which require more water.Water, energy and food are strategic resources sharing many comparable attributes: there are billions of people without access to them; there is rapidly growing global demand for each of them; each faces resource constraints; each depends upon healthy ecosystems; each is a global good with trade implications;each has different regional availability and variations in supply and demand; and each operates in heavily regulated markets (Bazilian et al., 2011).

Critics  holdthat a crisis for some is an opportunity for others and as such ”for decades it is has been the work of capitalist inspired international organizations to reveal a different narrative, that of water scarcity and water shortages in Africa. Whether it has been the World Bank project to sell the idea of ‘water shortage’ to promote the marketing of water in Africa or the United Nations Environmental Programs (UNEP) that produced the Africa Water Atlas, the fiction of water shortage in Africa has been a multi-million dollar business.” It’s argued that the pertinent question therefore is the accessibility and not the scarcity.

Statistically, Africa receives enough rainfall per year to feed 9 billion people (New African July 2012).However, only about 4% of Africa’s annual renewable water resources have been developed for irrigation, water supply and hydro-power use. Per capita water storage is less than 100 cubic metres, appallingly low compared to other regions. There is more than enough water in Africa and the immediate task is to source it, says Donald Kaberuka. Let’s not be in a haste to heave the collective sigh of relief though. This is why: 70% of freshwater resources is in the form of ice and permanent snow cover and these too are under threat. For instance more than 80% of the glaciers on East Africa’s highest peaks are no more, putting the lives hundreds of millions of people who rely on these natural reservoirs at risk.Glaciers are an important source of the planet’s fresh water; they store and release it seasonally, replenishing the rivers and ground waters that provide people and ecosystems with life-sustaining produce all year round (DN2, Tuesday, August 20, 2013).

According to UN Water,’there is enough water available for our global future needs, but this world picture hides large areas of absolute water scarcity which affects billions of people, many of whom are poor and disadvantaged. Major changes in policy and management, across the entire agricultural production chain, are needed to ensure best use of available water resources in meeting growing demands for food and other agricultural products.’ .(World Water Development Report 2012).

However much the continent has achieved with regards to access to water,opines Kaberuka, the water resources still face an existential threat, and an existential challenge.The existential threat is climate change.The existential challenge is the costly and complex task of unlocking the vast potential of Africa’s untapped water reserves,only a fraction of which are yet on stream.


Climate change in EA: Food scarcity, diseases floods within 30 years

Biggest GHGs Emitters;The Politics of Climate Change

Sorry, But Africa’s Rise Is Real.


Sorry, but Africa’s Rise Is Real – By Charles Robertson and Michael Moran | Foreign Policy.

Voters register in rural Kenya.


”For years,whenever economic or financial news from Africa managed to wangle its way through the tales of genocide,famine,and catastrophe spun by western correspondents,the response of pessimists has been to write off all growth on the continent as a crude commodity play.” In a retort(Click on the link provided above) to Rick Rowden’s article –The Myth of Africa’s Rise, apparently exploring why the rumours of Africa’s explosive growth have been exaggerated, Renaissance Capital’s Charles Robertson  and Michael Moran reckon that Rowden makes miscalculations in discounting Africa’s rise.That dismissing Africa’s prospects for growth and comparing it with East Asia today is tantamount to comparing Germany in 1840 with Victorian England at it’s height and saying Germany will never amount to anything.Personally,I opine and indeed as development pundits have it that,development is a problematic concept to define and as such Rowden’s view (development is essentially industrial growth) is just but one of the many takes on development.”Africa Rising”,”Africa’s Century’‘ and many other headlines on Africa’s development prospects  are not mere narratives as some intellectual pessimists and cautious optimists claim.Using adult literacy data provided on 51 African country profiles in the December 2012 – January 2013 issue of The Africa Report (http://www.theafricareport.com ),save for Djibouti,Somalia and the Republic of Congo,Africa’s percentage adult literacy averages 66%.  IMF predicts a 5.3% continued economic growth for Africa.This, experts say will continue to attract investment and particularly so if the US and the euro zone continue to face economic woes.

Eight Elections That Could Change The World In 2013.


The Global Races to Watch Next Year – By Ty McCormick | Foreign Policy.(Link).

Getty Images

Ty McCormick December 31.

In 2012,the world witnessed an unusual number of high-profile elections.Between the battle royale pitting

incumbent Barrack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney,Vladimir Putin’s return to the Kremlin,and the once-in-

a-decade leadership change in China,it seemed like the entire world was in flux.But don’t be fooled bu this

year’s quieter tempo:Everything from the stability of Africa,European debt crisis,to Tehran’s nuclear program will

be influenced by voters at the ballot box in 2013.Click on the link provided above to find out just which these

eight of the most consequential elections coming up this year are.(Paraphrased).

Ty McCormick is an assistant editor at FP.( http://www.foreignpolicy.com ).

Opinion:Why Kenya owes Africa peaceful elections


Why Kenya owes Africa peaceful elections.(Link)

Click on the link provided above and find out just why Dr.Fredrick Ogenga reckons Kenya owes Africa peaceful elections.



The author of the article,one Dr.Ogenga,is the director of Tazama Media Consultants and a Visiting Scholar at

the Institute of the Advancement of Social Sciences’ Sociology Department,Boston University,USA.