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Foreign Policy


The Kenyatta Affair

FOREIGN POLICY

March 20, 2013

By James Verini

kenyatta_0 For now, Uhuru Kenyatta is the president-elect of Kenya. On Saturday, March 9, after a week of suspense following voting, he bested his main rival and former boss, Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who’s challenging the results in court (and now claims, without furnishing much evidence, that he won). This is causing a lot of handwringing among allies of Kenya’s who make human rights a centerpiece of their foreign policies, because Kenyatta is facing trial in the International Criminal Court (ICC). In the violent wake of the last election, in 2007, ICC prosecutors allege, Kenyatta helped organize death squads. See Full Story


The Fall and Rise of Raila Odinga

FOREIGN POLICY

March 2, 2013

By James Verini

odinga_1 A third generation of leadership is emerging in post-colonial Africa, and with it a trend of sons being made to answer for their fathers. During Kenya’s first-ever presidential debate, held three weeks ago in Nairobi, the moderator accused the two leading candidates of subjecting Kenya to a family rivalry that their fathers started a half-century ago and that the country needs to get past. The leading candidates are Raila Odinga, the prime minister, and Uhuru Kenyatta, the deputy prime minister. Their fathers were Jomo Kenyatta, the first president, and Oginga Odinga, his aide de camp and vice president — before they came to detest one another. See Full Story


Vote M For Murder

FOREIGN POLICY

February 26, 2013

By James Verini

mathare78677542 On Monday, March 4, Kenya will elect a new president, its first in a decade. The last time it held a presidential election, five years ago, the country tore itself apart with an atavistic ferocity that still shocks and embarrasses people here. When discussing the episode with outsiders, Kenyans, normally unafraid to meet a gaze, will look off to the side. “Other countries in Africa act like that,” one hears a lot. “Not us.” They don’t try to deflect blame (no one mentions the CIA), but they do disagree about the causes of the violence. Tribalism is a given. Landlordism, too, some insist. Or corruption. Or inequality, alcoholism, and idleness (the local euphemism for unemployment, which has hovered stubbornly near 40 percent for years; nearly half the country lives at or below the poverty line). See Full Story


The Battle for South Kordofan

FOREIGN POLICY

January 22, 2013

By James Verini

nuba_rs NUBA MOUNTAINS, Sudan — When Gen. Jagod Mukwar joined the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), soon after it formed, in the mid 1980s, he was a young man, and Sudan’s civil war was already many years older than he was. Factions from the north and south of the country had been fighting since before Sudan won its independence, in 1956. Still, the SPLA’s cause — independence for the south — remained internationally obscure. Sudan had not yet become a pariah state, while a famine in Ethiopia and apartheid in South Africa used up the world’s limited bandwidth for African tragedy. Mukwar’s cause-within-a-cause — the plight of the people of the Nuba Mountains, his home, in Sudan’s South Kordofan province — was unheard of. Today, nearly 30 years after Mukwar took up arms, the bloodshed continues. See Full Story


The Last Stand of Somalia’s Jihad

FOREIGN POLICY

December 17, 2012

By James Verini


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KISMAYO, Somalia — Incredibly, this small port city, a study in ruin in a country that is a parable of ruin, boasts two airports. There is the new airport, as it’s known, laughably to all who touch down there, which lies 10 miles inland and consists of a couple of mostly tarmacked runways and the carcass of a terminal. Kismayo International Airport, in blue block letters, is just barely visible above the building’s sun-bleached cornice. Stencil-painted on the wall below that, and more legible, is the flag of the Islamist insurgent movement that until recently controlled Kismayo, Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen, or al-Shabab — a black rectangle over white classical Somali script that reads “There Is No God But God.” See Full Story


In Rebel Country

FOREIGN POLICY

November 27, 2012

By James Verini

GOMA, Democratic Republic of the Congo — After three days of sporadic fighting in and around Goma, the capital of North Kivu province in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the city fell to the M23 rebel movement last Monday night, November 19. The following Thursday morning, the military spokesman of the M23, Col. Vianney Kazarama, was standing at an intersection in central Goma, addressing a group of young men. Government troops were said to be in the hills planning a counteroffensive, and United Nations peacekeepers, who had attacked the M23 forces with helicopter gunships before fleeing, were nearby, awaiting new orders. Kazarama didn’t care, he said. He was thinking ahead. The M23 was going to create a better future not just for Goma but for all of Congo, he told the young men, and it needed their help. See Full Story


The Cult of Massoud

FOREIGN POLICY

November 23, 2012

By James Verini

KABUL — The first sign of officialdom you see when you drive from the Kabul airport parking lot is a government billboard looming above a traffic jam. It’s the size of a highway billboard in the United States, but closer to the ground, so that you can make out every nuance of the faces on it. Those faces belong to, on the right of the coat of arms of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai, and on the left, slain Northern Alliance leader Ahmad Shah Massoud, dead some 11 years. With Karzai, you note those tired eyes and that child’s chin, unaided by a trimmed gray beard. Massoud comes off vastly more dashing. He appears to be in conference with the heavens: The eyes smolder from within, the strong chin and bushy goatee angle out like a divining rod. A pakol, the traditional hat of the Hindu Kush, sits like a column capital on his head. See Full Story


Prisoners Rule

FOREIGN POLICY

November, 2012

By James Verini

SAN PEDRO SULA, HONDURAS — A real estate broker might describe the state penitentiary here as centrally located. From the prison, it’s a quick ride to the barrios, where many of the inmates and guards live when they’re not inside its crumbling concrete walls — and also to the fortified residential compounds at the foot of the lush green hills that surround this city, the second largest in Honduras. When there’s a riot at the prison, the sirens can be heard in the mansions and the slums alike. See Full Story


The Fast and the Ridiculous

FOREIGN POLICY

June 27, 2012

By James Verini

The majority members of the U.S. House Oversight Committee have been granted their fondest wish — their investigation into Operation Fast and Furious has caused the biggest proto-scandal in Washington, thanks to Attorney General Eric Holder’s refusal to hand over documents and a House panel’s vote last week to recommend the chamber cite him with contempt. No longer the private obsession of the right-wing media, Fast and Furious is on front pages and leading news broadcasts around the United States.

At issue now are two questions. First, what was the exact intent and oversight of the operation, run out of the Phoenix office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF)? The agency says it was meant to track illicit guns going over the border into Mexico, as part of an effort to build cases against major smugglers. Where cross-border gunrunning is concerned, ATF is usually confined to interdicting low-level purchasers, thanks to crippling investigative limits put on it by Congress. See Full Story


U.N.convenient Truth

FOREIGN POLICY

September 22, 2011

By James Verini

In 1988, Abba Eban, perhaps the finest diplomat and one of the sharpest minds Israel has ever produced, got up before a distinguished crowd in London to give an address with the predictable and yet absurd title, “Prospects for Peace in the Middle East.” Predictable not just in itself, but because Eban and other Israeli leaders had delivered countless such addresses in the 40 unpeaceful years since the country’s creation; absurd because his remarks, which concerned Palestine, came a year into the First Intifada. See Full Story


Mexican Roulette

FOREIGN POLICY

August 30, 2011

By James Verini

Until this year, the worst episode in the history of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives came in 1993, when the ATF raided cult leader David Koresh’s Branch Davidian compound. That raid led to a 50-day standoff that ended with the deaths of 83 Davidians and provided endless fodder for anti-government types (Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh among them), the gun lobby, and Republican lawmakers, who overtook Congress the next year on a wave of anti-Washington resentment. Although it was the FBI that oversaw the final siege of the compound, and although four of its agents were killed in the shootout, the ATF took most of the blame. See Full Story