North Korea

North Korea
The always bombastic and unpredictable North Koreans go hysterical again. This time the country is prepared to "go to war" with South Korea because that country is playing loudspeakers directed at North Korean territory. A headline from a UK paper reads, "More than 50 North Korea submarines 'leave their bases' as war talks with South continue "

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Back to Africa - the divergent paths of Senegal and Mali

Since this continent is so big and varied, it never hurts to return, sort out where a few countries are, and what's going on. In the past several days, two arid land countries on the western edge of Africa have made the news. Mali endured a coup - so new rulers are in place, brought there by the use of arms; Senegal conducted an election, and lo, the incumbent President lost and acknowledged he did so and is stepping down. Giving up power without resort to violence, calls of voter fraud, etc! Now that is news, and world leaders noticed and applauded.

Senegal and Mali clear over on the Western edge of the African continent. Both are "Francophone" countries in the sense that much of the administrative language is French, and they were at one time French colonies.


Where to start - I know just one city in the country, not its capitol, rather Timbuktu. Anything else? Actually, I remember that during the world cup in South Africa, a Malian referee made a bad call and was dismissed early from further participation. But besides that, the internet search is on again, and from Wikipedia, and from a Mining Investor publication we begin to gather the following:

Mali has a population of 14.5 million. Its capital is Bamako. It's borders on the north reach deep into the middle of the Sahara desert, while the country's southern region, where the majority of inhabitants live, features the Niger and Sénégal rivers. The country's economic structure centers around agriculture and fishing. Some of Mali's natural resources are gold, uranium, livestock, and salt. Yet, about half the population live below the international poverty line of US$1.25 a day, while Mali is the third largest gold producer in Africa behind South Africa and West African neighbor, Ghana.

Industrial scale gold mines in Mali - wealth distribution from such resources lies simmering as one reason for unrest among the various ethnic groups in the country.

Mali had its first democratic election in 1992 and has been a relative model of peace and stability since. Current President Amadou Toumani Toure, whose whereabouts are unknown since the coup, had said he would not run in the country's next election, which is slated to take place at the end of April. Officials in France have stated they have at least had a phone conversation with the deposed leader who is in hiding.

Timbuktu, the relatively well known city in the north of the country - a green spot surrounded by desert, vaguely similar to the Tri-cities, Washington.

The striking Jenna mosque in Timbuktu

Why the coup? An uprising in the north of the country is apparently a major factor. As to the uprising, Touaregs launched a rebellion in 2009, and have captured several cities since then. The Tuareg have said in recent days they are close to capturing Kidal, a key town in the northern triangle of the bow-tie shaped nation which falls in the zone they call Azawad -- their tribal homeland. They are operating under the banner of the Azawad National Liberation Movement (the MLNA). According to other reports, the rebels receive a steady supply of weapons from fighters in Libya, which has made it difficult for Mali's military to quash the uprising. The basin is thought to contain oil and the Touaregs are seeking sovereignty over the area.

Back to the coup, the International Crisis Group (a respected think tank - said Monday that the anger among the army runs deeper than its losses, both human and military, in the north. "The end of President Toure's term has been marked by an inconsistent security policy in the north. High army commanders have also been regularly accused of nepotism, corruption, inefficiency and lack of accountability." In the end, some officers decided they had had enough - they themselves could do better. This was even though President Toure was due to step down after April 29 polls as he has served the constitutional limit of two terms.

The Toureg ethnic group in the north - challenged by the different religious heritage from other groups in the country, and now infected with some Islamist extremism

Traditional economy based on pastoralism and agriculture.

Combining a coup and an uprising does not make for a positive outcome. In addition to the military woes centered in the north, there is a growing humanitarian crisis as the region is facing severe food shortages after a drought. The coup has been called a disaster for both Mali and the surrounding region already battling Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb which is involved in trafficking drugs, weapons and Western hostages.

Along the Niger river, the capitol city Bamako is in the background while women do laundry ...

In summary, a coup brings to an end an increasingly corrupt government - democracy must start over (though one suspects it was on increasingly shaky grounds in any event). But the jockeying for control of gold and oil, and a vicious ideology in the form of Al-qaeda-of-the-Magreb, dim the prospects of this nation for the time being.


In contrast to Mali's troubles, a neighbor to the West and bordering the Atlantic Ocean, Senegal, can proudly point to an apparently peaceful transition of power following an election of its own in the past few days.

Senegal has a population of 13 million and its capitol is Dakar - vaguely familiar due to an internationally known car rally held each year through some of these Western African countries.

The Dakar rally landscape

From one newspaper article, "Senegal's president-elect Macky Sall prepared Tuesday to take power after defeating veteran leader Abdoulaye Wade at the polls, leading to a smooth handover hailed as a democratic example for Africa.

The 50-year-old former prime minister will assume office after his inauguration on April 3, leaving him a few days to form a new government which is expected to include members of the opposition who lent him crucial support during the election. He will then preside over independence celebrations on April 4 in his first role as president. "The president's men - Macky Sall's dream team" headlined L'Observateur newspaper, speculating on who would be part of the new regime. Sall's political party is the Republican Alliance but he was elected as part of a broad coalition called Benno Bokk Yakkar (meaning United with the same Hope).

Macky Sall, the Senegalese President-elect

As the Washington Post put it, "In a surprise move just hours after polls closed, President Abdoulaye Wade called his opponent Macky Sall to congratulate his one-time protege on the victory. Sall’s elated supporters already had begun celebrating in the streets after early results showed him with a commanding lead.

Outgoing president Abdoulaye Wade deserves some praise for peacefully stepping down

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan said the peaceful Senegalese vote was a hopeful sign, days after Mali’s longtime president was ousted in a coup launched by mutinous soldiers.

“If there was ever any doubt, this election has proved that the foundation of Senegalese democracy is rock solid,” he said. “This is good for the Senegalese people and also for our sub-region, especially at a time one of our brother countries is facing grave challenges to constitutional order.”

Jonathan also praised Wade “for graciously accepting defeat, showing great maturity and statesmanship.” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke by telephone Monday with Sall and Wade and congratulated them and the people of Senegal “for the exemplary manner in which both rounds of the presidential elections were conducted throughout the country,”

Senegal people live a familiar simple life with markets, small plot-grown foods, etc.

The baobob is Senegal's national tree.

This broad coalition called Benno Bokk Yakkar that elected Macky Sall, deserves further scrutiny...

best wishes to Senegal in the years to come

Friday, March 23, 2012

Two shootings from a number to choose from

In France, a killing spree that was at first attributed to neo-Nazis, ended as one of the country's first examples of a "lone wolf" Islamic extremist. One direction led to a large story of Nazi-ism, France's Vichy government in World War Two, and Europe's perpetual wariness of that doctrine raising its head again, even as an underlying level of anti-semitism remains. The other direction, which turned out to be correct, is of a young man raised in France, but subverted and indoctrinated in some manner from extremist websites to become a profoundly confused and destructive terrorist. The story remains confusing on a few levels, but was consuming enough in France to possibly have changed the direction of an election in one month's time for the Presidency.

Mohammed Merah, 23, first fatally shot three soldiers last week in two separate incidents, and four people at a Jewish school on Monday. After a massive manhunt, he was cornered in a second story apartment in Toulouse, the large French city where all but one of the shootings occurred. After 30 some hours of negotiations, Merah at some point attempted to escape, or at least came out of the residence, and was killed in a hail of police bullets.

Map showing location of Toulouse in southern France, and the incidents, all in or near that city of 800,000 which is home to a large North African concentration of about 75,000.


Merah first shot and killed a French soldier, Master Sergeant Imad Ibn-Ziaten, aged 30, outside a gym in Toulouse. Ibn-Ziaten was waiting to meet someone who had claimed to be interested in buying a motorcycle from him. The perpetrator was described as wearing a helmet and riding a motorcycle. Later that week, Merah killed two more paratroopers as they were withdrawing money from an ATM, Corporal Abel Chennouf, 24, and Private Mohamed Legouad, 23, both of North African origin. A third paratrooper, Corporal Loïc Liber, 28 was also shot which has left him in a coma. All three had recently returned from Afghanistan where France has 4,000 deployed. At that point investigators noted the connection between other paratroopers who had been dismissed from the army years before for their neo-Nazi beliefs. The three soldiers killed were all of North African descent which led to a theory that white supremacists went after people of color. It turned out later, however, that Merah was also born in Algeria ...

When the unknown gunman (Merah we know now) attacked a Jewish School in Toulouse on Monday this week, the possible anti-semitic motive and ties to neo-Nazism could still be in play. But the brutality of these killings, which included three small children, and one of those deliberately sought out and killed up close, repelled the nation, and the manhunt frenzy was on when police realized they had a serial killer on the loose.

At Ozar Hatorah, the school where three children and a Rabbi were killed, a father and daughter stand ...

Once cornered, Merah apparently held several conversations with the police negotiators, and word began to spread that he was a French national of Algerian origin who spent considerable time in Afghanistan and Pakistan two years ago. At one point, France's Interior Minister, who was by then on the scene where Merah was surrounded, told reporters, "He claims to be a jihadist and says he belongs to al Qaeda. He wanted to avenge the Palestinian children and take revenge on the French army because of its foreign interventions."

Over 300 French security personnel from various branches converged and deployed on the apartment when Merah was cornered.

In the aftermath, an investigation was begun into the situation, as Merah it turns out had been monitored at some level by French intelligence for some time, and was already on a US no-fly list. Was he acting alone (the story of a home-grown lone wolf extremist is chilling as a threat difficult to counter and one that invokes the horrific Norwegian violence last year when Anders Brevik shot and killed over 70 individuals, mainly teenagers at a youth camp). At the same time, reports were that Merah belonged to a group called Forsane Alizza, or Knights of Glory, according to the Interior Minister. Gueant said that the French government banned the group in January for trying to recruit people to fight in Afghanistan. Before it was banned earlier this year, the group issued a "chilling warning" on its Facebook page , calling on supporters to attack Americans, Jews and French soldiers ... So competing and incomplete narratives are out there, and will still need to be sorted through.

The four Jewish victims were flown to Israel for burial

Meanwhile, the contest for the French Presidency, which was suspended for several days, continues, with current President, Nicolas Zarkosy, suddenly propelled back into a dead heat with Socialist candidate, Francois Hollande. According to one political observer, "Three years of economic gloom, and a personal style many see as brash and impulsive, have made Sarkozy highly unpopular in France, but his proven strong hand in a crisis gives him an edge over a rival who has no ministerial experience." Mr. Sarkozy announced a crackdown on people following extremist websites. "From now on, any person who habitually consults websites that advocate terrorism or that call for hate and violence will be punished," he said in a statement. "France will not tolerate ideological indoctrination on its soil."

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French 17th Parachute Engineer Regiment paratroopers carry the coffin of their comrade Abel Chennouf during his funeral near his pregnant companion Caroline Monet. She will be allowed to marry him posthumously.

A Different Shooting.

In contrast to the worldwide attention to the Toulouse shooting spree (as well as the tragic shooting of 17 Afghanis by an American soldier, and the killing a month ago of a 17-year old African American youth in Florida that was not investigated until just the past few days) reports of another that occurred this week is likely to pass with little text. Al-Qaeda's Yemen branch said Thursday that it killed an American teacher because he was trying to spread Christianity in the mainly Muslim Arab nation. Joel Shrum, a 29-year-old native of Mount Joy, Pennsylvania, was gunned down on Sunday in the central city of Taiz, where he had been living with his wife and two sons. He was studying Arabic and teaching English at a language institute.

Joel Shrum - a 29 year old.

As related in a USA Today story, "It was God's gift for the mujahedeen to kill the American Joel Shrum who was actively proselytizing under the cover of teaching in Taiz," said the statement by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, as the terror network's Yemen branch is formally known.

A text message that circulated by mobile phone in Yemen after his killing said "holy warriors" had killed "a senior missionary" in Taiz, the country's second most populous city after the capital Sanaa. The slain teacher had worked at the International Training and Development Center, which was established in the 1970s and is one of the oldest foreign language institutes in Yemen.

Yemen in the throes of factional fighting, a result of an un-responsive and corrupt government over the years, and threatened by an opportunistic branch of Al-qaeda.

Shrum's parents, who reside in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, say he went to Yemen in 2009 to learn Arabic, not to proselytize, and became passionate about teaching business skills to Yemenis. A colleague at the language center, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal, said Shrum used to encourage Yemenis to stay true to their Islamic faith and did not try to convert people to Christianity. He said Shrum not only taught Yemenis English, but would often buy students books and assist them in learning computer skills.

Hundreds of youth activists and other protesters marched Tuesday through Taiz demanding justice for the Shrum. They carried photos of Shrum as they marched through the city's streets, chanting, "Yemen is not a place for terrorism. We love you Joel!"

In contrast to the emotional support for Joel Shrum from Yemen's youth, a typical picture of malevolent Islamists and their guns.

Teatree comment:
Background for my offhand reference to "competing narratives" in regards to how the Merah killings will eventually be framed. Here is a haunting example of another narrative, taken from a 1946 documentary on World War Two. A British army officer recounted a conversation with a German woman amid the ruins of her bombed and blasted German city as Allied Forces swept through on their way towards Berlin as the war's end was nearing. Pointing to the destruction around her, she said, "If only you had given up in 1940, none of this would have happened."

Monday, March 19, 2012

Celebrating spring - St Paddys to Cheese Rolling

Spring celebrations emphasize that the global framework of news and population still heavily favors the northern hemisphere. So while much of South America, one third of Africa, all of Australia, New Zealand, and surroundings are beginning to think about hunkering down for shorter days and longer nights, the rest of us are gearing up to meet the sun.

Condolences to those comparatively few who live south of the equator - good folks, but forever consigned to playing second fiddle to those living in northern half of the globe. Enjoy the cold and snow, though we will acknowledge that you enjoy a spectacular night sky.

Meanwhile, spring is on its way ...

Somewhere in the many celebrations of a quickly lengthening day, St Paddy's day March 17 is probably one of the largest world wide festivals. It really doesn't have anything to do with spring though. According to Wikipedia, "Saint Patrick's Day or the Feast of Saint Patrick (Irish: Lá Fhéile Pádraig, "the Day of the Festival of Patrick") is a cultural and religious holiday celebrated on 17 March. It commemorates Saint Patrick (c. AD 387–461), the most commonly recognized of the patron saints of Ireland, and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland." However, it has morphed far beyond the Saint, as we all know, and even the Irish Government is first in line to state it is also a celebration of Irish culture.

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What longing does this reflect? A human response to camaraderie, humor, and song?

In fact, according to Wiki, Christian leaders in Ireland have expressed concern about the secularization of St Patrick's Day. In The Word magazine's March 2007 issue, Fr. Vincent Twomey wrote, "It is time to reclaim St Patrick's Day as a church festival." He questioned the need for "mindless alcohol-fueled revelry" and concluded that "it is time to bring the piety and the fun together."

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Dubliner's once again emphasizing that music (and drinking and laughter) usually triumphs over reflection ...

Finally, not being sure of what the possibly dour Fr Twomey had in mind with "bringing piety and fun together," I'll note that the shortest St Patrick's Day parade in the world takes place in Dripsey, Cork County. The parade lasts just 100 yards and travels between the village's two pubs.

Cheese Wheel racing

On the opposite end of large scale hoisting and wearing green, we find a cheese-rolling contest in Gloucestershire, U.K. Here people roll down a hill chasing a wheel of cheese. Being British, the typical sprains, strains and broken limbs that accompany the event are taken as proof that the Island race is still superior to all others.

The official "chase-the-cheese" race to the bottom of Cooper’s Hill.

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Though in this case, a young Maori lady seems to have successfully participated

Las Fallas, Valencia, Spain
Another religious holiday that has taken on a life of its own. Lots of paella to eat, and firecrackers to let off seems to encompass most of what we need to know. From Wiki, "The five days and nights of Fallas are a continuous party. There are a multitude of processions: historical processions, religious processions, and comedic processions. Crowds in the restaurants spill out into the streets. Explosions can be heard all day long and sporadically through the night. Foreigners may be surprised to see everyone from small children to elderly gentlemen throwing fireworks and noisemakers in the streets, which are littered with pyrotechnical debris."

I did not know where Valencia was until I read up on "Las Fallas"

From another website, Las Fallas literally means "the fires" in Valencian. "The focus of the fiesta is the creation and destruction of ninots (“puppets” or “dolls”), which are huge cardboard, wood, paper-machè and plaster statues. The ninots are extremely lifelike and usually depict bawdy, satirical scenes and current events."

I get the attraction of paella

I'm less sure about all the burning ...

...and the debris left over.

Happy spring!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Japanese recovery one year later

One year ago, March 11, 2011, Japan suffered a strong earthquake, followed by a massive tsunami that in a matter of minutes, killed 15,854 people. A year later, 3,271 are listed as missing, and 478 bodies have still not been identified.

The vast majority of the dead were in the three hardest-hit prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima, where the bodies of 15,308 people have been recovered.

Since that most horrific natural disaster ever recorded for that country, this past year can be characterized as a year of cleanup. So massive the amount of debris, there has been relatively little rebuilding compared to clearing the land and razing buildings destroyed. It is likely that the coming year will be the one where rebuilding takes the lead.

Literal mountains of debris gathered and then removed...

This series of three pictures show the immense effort over the past year to clear the valley landscapes from the tsunami's destruction

What else might be noted?

A new Prime Minister.

Yoshihiko Noda

Yoshihiko Noda is now prime minister of Japan, ascending to the office in September, 2011. The previous PM Naoto Kan intentionally resigned once two major bills – to finance post-disaster reconstruction and promote renewable energy – had been approved by the opposition-controlled upper house in the Japanese equivalent of our Senate.

New energy direction.

After the immediate fears subsided of an uncontrolled nuclear meltdown at the crippled Fukushima plant, the previous Prime Minister had propelled Japan towards a new national energy policy that turns its back on nuclear power, aiming instead at "the pillars" of solar, wind, biomass and conservation. However, with Japan utilizing 54 nuclear reactors, it is more likely that successive governments will be satisfied to reduce the dependence on nuclear power, rather than replacing it. Still this is a country where earthquakes are the norm rather than the exception ...

Fukushima quarantine zone

Map showing estimated concentration of radioactive fallout and exclusion zones from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant (now in a safe cold shutdown)

While no deaths related to the Fukushima radiation leaks have been recorded in the past year, there remains a 20 kilometer (12 mile) no-go zone. Some 78,000 people lived in this area before the tsunami and subsequent spread of nuclear radiation. As a November report from a Japanese newspaper relates, "only a handful have been allowed to return. Cobwebs spread across storefronts. Mushrooms sprout from living room floors. Weeds swallow train tracks. A few roads, shaken by the earthquake, are cantilevered like rice paddies. Near the coastline, boats swept inland by the tsunami still lie beached on main roads. Only the animals were left behind, and the picture is not pretty. Starving pigs have eaten their own. Cats and dogs scavenge for food. On one farm, the skulls of 20 cows dangle from their milking tethers.

Police have sealed off the no-go zone

Thousands of pets left behind in the no go zone have created a year long debate in Japan. Euthanization programs have been proposed, but no real answers or clear directions have emerged. Meanwhile the remaining dogs and cats have gone feral.

If the dormant Chernobyl plant in Ukraine provides any guide, the land surrounding the Fukushima facility will one day grow wild, with contaminated villages eventually bulldozed and buried. Maybe decades from now, Japan will tailor the area to adventure-seeking tourists, or use the region as a wildlife preserve."

Personal recovery and remembrance

Perhaps the biggest challenge, yet which also contains Japan's greatest potential, is struggling through the grief and remembrance of families and individuals impacted by the event. For many it is the loss of loved ones, children, parents, extended family members, friends. For some, it is the guilt and haunting question of whether they could have helped others escape, even as they were able to. One such story is from a volunteer fireman who ended up fleeing for his life, but unable to forget the images of children who he saw as he ran, that he knows did not survivie...

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Graveyards are full ...

One man's shrine to the family he lost

One town has embarked on a project to retrieve and preserve thousands of photos found in the debris. Over 350,000 have been preserved (cleaned, treated to stop mold, and dried)in an effort to link survivors with these treasures.

From a CBS news article, "More than 1,500 children lost one or both parents in the disaster - and they're still struggling to come to grips with what happened that awful day. ... What we see of the tsunami's effects is horrific. What we can't see can be just as devastating.After the tsunami, in relief shelters, you couldn't help but notice all the children. Some 20,000 are still homeless. "Lots of children were displaced very rapidly and under very frightening circumstances," points out Irwin Redlener, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University. He studies the effects of disasters on children.

"There's a myth that the disaster's over when the rains stop, or the earthquake finally settles down," he said. "But the fact is, for children ... the consequences of disaster can last for many, many years, and possibly never go away." UCLA pediatrician Kozue Shimabukuro raced back to her native Japan after the tsunami, to help the children. "The patients I encountered during that time were just so heartbreaking," she recalls. "They just hold onto me and say, 'Don't go, don't go,' like they can't endure to lose another person in my life." Doctors from Israel still are here helping children with PTSD. U.S.-based World Vision set up seven Child-Friendly Spaces. Some children escaped their school just before the tsunami washed through."

Other children did not escape their school setting. A remembrance set up in honor of one school particularly hard hit. 10 teachers and 74 children were lost together after they had dutifully ducked under their desks during the earthquake and gone to the schoolyard afterwards to get away from the risk of a collapsing building, only to be swept away by the tsunami that followed.

And yet there are happy endings. One year ago, this picture of a Japanese woman, Yuko Sugimoto, captured world attention. At the time, she was missing her only child, Raito who had been at a nursery school, which had been inundated by the tsunami.

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Three days later however, after walking from one emergency shelter to another, she and her husband finally found their son.

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Yuko and Raito today standing in the same spot of the street where she once stoood dazed in a blanket

And so the second year of rebuilding is about to begin.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Pipelines and Roads in East Africa

Leaving behind the many scenes of conflict, and the important but seemingly endless stream of elections among the 190 some countries of the world, let's look at an infrastructure project.

In East Africa, we read that South Sudan, Ethopia and Kenya have agreed on a pipeline venture which would transport oil from South Sudan's current oil fields and Ethiopia's potential finds across Kenya's arid lands to a port - to be built - in Lamu. If that sounds complicated and full of risks, it is.

The big picture, South Sudan wants an alternative route to export its oil. Landlocked Ethiopia is exploring for oil in its southern regions and also wants a route out for any successful oil fields.

On the other hand, a new oil route would give South Sudan leverage in dealing with The Republic of Sudan, which holds the current set of pipelines through which South Sudan exports oil for badly needed funds. Such a partnership could foster closer ties between Kenya and its neighbors, and in general terms, any regional cooperative infrastructure project between nations could be considered a stitch for improving the well being of its citizens and honest governance.

But of course, this is oil.

In so many developing countries, exporting oil has not improved the lot of the ordinary wananchi but has certainly enriched elites, and furthered corruption. Then there are the environmental risks. Lamu, the intended port, has until now existed as a quiet fishing village with a bit of a tourist market. Anything becoming a boom town tends to lose some of its quieter qualities, along with oil as a commodity that can leak, spill, and otherwise degrade a local environment. On the other hand, quiet poverty has its own issues.

Lamu's fishing economy is about to change ...

That all depends on the integrity and carefulness of project design and implementation - from the pipeline specs to transparent and wise handling of new wealth. Rather than deliver judgements on the outcome based on troubles elsewhere, let's hope that the East African leaders have gathered lessons from those experiences and avoid the same results. (Think Norway for a small country that has handled its oil wealth in a responsible manner)

Here's a few details from various news accounts:

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and South Sudan's President Salva Kiir witnessed Friday, March 2, the launch of Lamu project which will give landlocked Ethiopia and South Sudan maritime access to export products and import others. The $24.5 billion project in Kenya's port on the Ocean Indian includes a pipeline, oil refinery and road network as well as railways line to Juba.

Ethiopia is eager to partner with this project regardless of the probability of new oil finds. While we've focused on the oil component which is a driver for South Sudan, Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi expressed interest in a new modern road and rail connection to the Indian Ocean port that could bolster imports and exports of trade goods. The project certainly looks good ... in color and on paper.

Kenya's President Mwai Kibaki (R) and Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi arrive for the signing of bilateral agreements between the two countries at the State House in Nairobi, March 1, 2012.

For South Sudan, the project presents an opportunity to end dependency on oil pipelines and infrastructure of neighboring Sudan. South Sudan's government suspended oil production after accusing Khartoum of stealing the oil as talks on the transit fees failed to reach an agreement.

South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayadrit and his trademark black cowboy hat

Speaking at the launch ceremony, Mayadrit said "for South Sudan, it is a vision to long-term security. The backbone of our infrastructure that will allow us to end our reliance on oil extraction. It is a vision whereby in the future you will be able to board people and freight cargo in the morning in Juba and be in Lamu that same afternoon," he added enthusiastically.

What some pipelines look like elsewhere on the continent

One spokesperson said the cost of the construction would be shared among Kenya, South Sudan and Ethiopia, however, Kenyan president, Kibaki, in his speech thanked international and regional financial establishments like the World Bank, African Development Bank for their participation in the funding of the project. He further said that China is very supportive for the project. ...


Let's keep in mind the late 2011 incursion by Kenyan forces into Somalia. With a famine in progress, Al-Shabaab presiding over an anarchic situation, and one of the world's largest refugee camps growing on Kenyan soil, there were legitimate arguments for Kenya saying "enough." But we might consider that a proposed pipeline project and its security needs may also have played into the decision.

Military adventures do not come cheap or easy; here Kenyan forces move, slowly, into Southern Somalia