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A woman reacts as members of the Kenya Defense Forces search for the bodies of missing people after flash floods wiped out several homes following heavy rains in Kamuchiri village of Mai Mahiu, Kenya, on May 1, 2024.

The World Meteorological Organization warns that Tropical Cyclone Hidaya, which is projected to make landfall in Tanzania and Kenya this weekend, threatens to worsen the humanitarian crisis triggered by torrential rains in these and other heavily flooded countries in East Africa.

“Hidaya is the first documented system to have reached tropical cyclone status in this part of the world. We are not talking about Sudan. We are talking about lower and East Africa,” WMO spokesperson Clare Nullis told journalists in Geneva on Friday.

“It is historically significant. It is also going to have a very big impact, and specifically on Tanzania, where the ground is already absolutely soddened. Tanzania, which has suffered flooding, is about to get hit with more heavy rains falling ... from this system.

“And the moisture in this tropical cyclone will also impact Kenya, where there is also very, very bad flooding,” she said, noting that “climate change was supercharging extreme weather.”

FILE - Children flee floodwaters that wreaked havoc at Mororo, at the border of Tana River and Garissa counties, Kenya, April 28, 2024.

What's behind the catastrophic rainfall in Kenya

El Nino, which sparked heavy rains and severe flooding sweeping East Africa, is waning. Despite this, the WMO says this weather event still carries a big punch and is leading to more heavy rainfall, devastating floods and landslides in the East African region.

While casualty figures continue to rise, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports this disaster so far has killed more than 400 people. This includes at least 210 in Kenya, more than 150 in Tanzania and others in Burundi, Rwanda and Somalia.

OCHA reports heavy rains and floods in these five countries have affected more than 637,000 people, including 234,000 who are displaced. It says governments and humanitarian agencies are still assessing the damage and destruction of infrastructure, which is extensive.

“In terms of economic losses, it is still too early to say. When you look at the images of bridges and roads being swept away, it is going to be immense,” said Nullis. “The loss of livestock, the disruption of agriculture. It is a huge, huge investment.”

In an address to his nation Friday, Kenyan President William Ruto outlined a series of measures to deal with this emergency, noting that no corner of the country “has been spared from this havoc.”

“Sadly, we have not seen the last of this perilous period, as this situation is expected to escalate,” he said. “Meteorological reports paint a dire picture. The rains will persist, increasing both in duration and intensity for the rest of this month and possibly after.”

A lodge is seen in the flooded Maasai Mara National Reserve, which left dozens of tourists stranded in Narok County, Kenya, May 1, 2024.

Kenya's weather outlook 'dire' as cyclone nears, president says

While all those caught in this disastrous event are suffering immense hardships, the U.N. refugee agency expresses particular concern about the welfare of thousands of refugees and other displaced people “being forced to escape once again for their lives after their homes were washed away.”

“In Kenya, nearly 20,000 people in the Dadaab refugee camps, which host over 380,000 refugees, have been displaced due to the rising water levels,” said Olga Sarrado Mur, UNHCR spokesperson.

“Many of them are among those who arrived in the past couple of years after severe drought in neighboring Somalia. Some 4,000 people are currently sheltering in six schools with facilities that have been extensively damaged,” she said.

She noted that many of the tens of thousands of refugees in Tanzania, Burundi, and other hard-hit countries in the region have had to relocate multiple times as water levels continue to rise. She said many people are struggling to find shelter, to pay the rent, to earn enough money to feed themselves and their families.

“Climate change is making many parts of the world, especially in fragile regions like East Africa and the Horn of Africa, increasingly uninhabitable,” said Sarrado Mur.

“Storms are more devastating. Wildfires have become commonplace. Floods and droughts are intensifying. Some of these impacts are irreversible and threaten to continue worsening, and displaced people are bearing the brunt of the impact,” she said.

The WMO reports early warning systems are critical in saving lives before natural disasters strike. It says these systems are more crucial than ever to protect people from the extreme weather conditions stemming from human-induced climate change.

“So, on tropical cyclones, we do have very, very good warnings these days in most parts of the world that enable evacuations to take place,” said Nullis, underscoring that early warning systems enable “what we call anticipatory action, which is sort of prepositioning by humanitarian agencies of relief supplies.”

“Thanks to such actions, we have prevented a great loss of life in many regions of the world,” she said.

However, UNHCRs Sarrado Mur observed that “many of the preparations resulting from early warnings often do not reach the most vulnerable communities, including refugees or other displaced communities, which often are in areas that are more exposed to these climate hazards.”

She emphasized the importance of providing funding to vulnerable peoples and the communities hosting them, “so they can be equipped and be prepared, and so they can adapt to this new situation which is unfortunately the new reality.” By Lisa Schlein, VOA

Kindiki has mandated National Government Administration Officers (NGAO), supervised by respective County Security Committees(CSC), to establish more temporary shelter points to accommodate the rising number of affected persons.

The government has established 138 temporary shelters across eighteen counties to cater for displaced persons amid flood-related emergencies.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki made the announcement on Saturday in an update on ongoing heavy rains that have caused floods and landslides in parts of the country.

“The camps are hosting 62,061 persons from 14,771 households who are being supported with food and non-food essentials until the floods subside,” he stated.

He highlighted that the camps’ locations had been publicly displayed in government offices including those of; Assistant Chiefs, Chiefs, Assistant County Commissioners, Deputy County Commissioners and County Commissioners.

Kindiki also mandated National Government Administration Officers (NGAO), supervised by respective County Security Committees(CSC), to establish more temporary shelter points to accommodate the rising number of affected persons.

Additionally, he directed security committees across the country to ensure the maintenance of public safety to avoid more casualties.

“CSCs are directed to continuously monitor other dams or water reservoirs within their respective jurisdictions which may not be presenting public safety issues but could do so in the event of rains,” he stated

The committees are required to conduct outreach programs to sensitize the public on disaster preparedness, publicize temporary shelter camps and collaborate with the counties for a coordinated response to emergencies.

The government has directed security agencies to ensure relocation and evacuation of affected persons is done in good time and with respect to the dignity of the affected persons.

Kenya had as of Friday reported 210 deaths as a result of floods and landslides. By Minah Mahero. Capital News

Policemen on patrol keep their eyes on traffic during a stop at a police check point in Tabarre, near the U.S. Embassy in Haiti. Jose A. Iglesias This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Civilian contractors have started to arrive in Haiti to help prepare for the arrival of Kenyan forces, whose deployment is currently in the works, a top Biden official confirmed to the Miami Herald on Friday. Todd D. Robinson, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, said an initial deployment of Kenyan police officers is being planned to coincide with the arrival of President William Ruto in Washington later this month.

The White House has confirmed that President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden will host Ruto and his wife, First Lady Racheo Ruto, for a state visit on May 23 to mark the 60th anniversary of U.S.-Kenya diplomatic relations. “The initial deployment will happen sometime around his State visit,” said Robinson, declining to give an exact date or the number of officers who will be deployed as part of the long-awaited Multinational Security Support mission.

On Friday, a day after U.S. helicopters were seen flying through Port-au-Prince’s dark skies, the U.S. Southern Command landed another aircraft at Toussaint Louverture International Airport. The plane transported civilian contractors who will be providing support to the Pentagon to build out the area where the Kenyan support mission is supposed to be staying while in Haiti.

The Pentagon, which has pledged $200 million to assist in the mission, is responsible for making a base ready for the forces. Congressional aides have said that requires 45 days. Officials with the Department of Defense declined to provide details on their housing plans. The base’s construction, however, is crucial. “We don’t want to send them into a situation where they’re not securely housed and have a place to sleep, plan and do all of that,” said Robinson. Ruto first pledged 1,000 of his police officers in July 2023 to lead an international force to assist Haiti’s national police, pending his government’s security assessment and a mandate from the U.N. Security Council, which was given in October.

Since then, however, the initiative has faced one obstacle after another, from court challenges and judicial blocks in Nairobi to funding holds in Congress to the March 11 forced resignation of Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry amid a gang insurgency. Though the court challenges appear to have been cleared, the initiative still lacks the proper funding. Republican lawmakers in Congress have ignored a request by the State Department to release $40 million of the $100 million it has pledged to support the mission.

Aides to Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas and Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho have criticized the plan, while accusing the administration of not providing clear details about the force. Administration officials, meanwhile, have said they have provided more than 60 briefings and answered dozens of questions from GOP offices. Amid the delay, thousands of Haitians have either lost their lives or been injured, and Haiti teeters on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe as millions of people are unable to find enough food to eat.

The U.N., which has joined the U.S. in calling for assistance for the multinational force and humanitarian response, has said that Kenyan-led mission need to be deployed quickly to assist the Haiti National Police take on ruthless gangs that continue to force people out of their homes and hold millions of people in Port-au-Prince hostage. Robinson declined to go into details about the operations. But he conceded that the goal with the initial deployment is to begin to bring relief to Haitians — who this week endured a fresh round of attacks by armed gangs — and to convince U.S. lawmakers and donors to provide the necessary funding. “We’re doing the best we can within our constraints and our authorities,” he said.

Robinson said while there is currently enough money to pay for Kenya’s personnel expenses and the initial deployment, more money is needed. The goal is to deploy the forces in phases. “I don’t think personnel is going to be our problem. I think resources, financial resources are going to be our problem,” he conceded. “And we are on a daily basis, on an hourly basis, going out to our friends in the international community, asking them to step up.”

The U.S., he said, has seen a number of countries volunteer personnel. But the challenge is funding. Earlier this week, the U.N. said a trust fund for the mission currently has only $18 million. “The funds were provided by Canada, by France and the United States,” said Stéphane Dujarric, spokesperson for U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Dujarric said that The Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Benin, Chad, Jamaica and Kenya have officially notified Guterres in writing, as requested by the U.N. Security Council, of their intent to contribute personnel to the mission.

In late February, while Henry was in Nairobi to sign the the necessary accords for the deployment of the Kenya forces, armed gangs in Port-au-Prince united and launched a broad assault on key government institutions while demanding his ouster. Police stations, the airport and seaport were all targeted. Gangs also orchestrated the release of more than 4,000 inmates from the country’s two largest prisons.

The attacks deepened concerns that the mission would be too dangerous for international forces and, with Henry forced to resign, Ruto’s government put the mission on hold. He has since said his police are ready to deploy, welcoming the installment of a new transitional presidential council in Haiti, which will be tasked with readying the country for the mission. “Our intention is to have the international community support the Haitian national police in doing their job, and also to allow them to get a rest,” he said.

“These guys have been going for a long time at 110% and they’ve been getting the job done.” Outgunned and outnumbered, Haiti police have struggled to push gangs back. In some cases, they’ve been unable to stop invasions of neighborhoods and the takeover of police stations as the gangs tightened their grip on Port-au-Prince and parts of the Artibonite Valley. In others, they’ve succeeded in fighting back attempts to take over the National Palace, the Central Bank and the international airport, which they’ve protected with help from members of the small Haitian Army. Frantz Elbé, the director general of the Haiti National Police, said since the attacks began on Feb. 29, his officers have not only fought back the gangs, they’ve also created a buffer zone around the airport. Elbé‘s own home was set ablaze by gangs during the mayhem. “We’ve reinforced the security perimeter inside and outside of the airport,” he said.

“The police have carried out a lot of operations that have allowed for improvements in the security at the airport. We’ve also demolished a lot of houses.” The destruction of about 200 houses around the airport by the Haitian government, which has spent thousands of dolalrs compensating residents, has not only led to better visibility of the runway but also blocked gangs from being able to perch themselves on structures and shoot at the runways.

The government has constructed security towers around the perimeter. “This has already allowed for the landing of five U.S. flights that have transported cargo and personnel ,” Elbé said about the flights coordinated by U.S. Southern Command. “And there are other security measures being taken.” Currently, he said, members of the army and the police are providing security for the airport. While police officers are outside, both soldiers and cops are inside.

Ultimately, Elbé said, the goal is to build the confidence needed for U.S. airlines to resume their commercial flights to Haiti, which have been suspended since March 4. “The second phase of our strategy is to dismantle the gangs and create a space where the government can provide services to neighborhoods once occupied by gangs,” he said. That is where the foreign forces, led by Kenya, will help, Elbé said. “They can help us in the operations that we are going to do to dismantle the gangs.”

The motivation of Haiti’s police officers isn’t lost on U.S. officials, who say they have shown that they can carry out complex and dangerous operations over the last two months. “This is what the training that we’ve been doing has gotten us,” Robinson said. “There has not been a total collapse. They have been able to clear the airport and maintain the airport and no one thought they would be able to do this.... And we know how hard this has been.”

Robinson declined to go into details on how many Kenya officers would be initially deployed, and how they would carry out operations, saying only that the plan is to get Haitians to a place where the country, which last held general elections in 2016, can head to the ballot box. “The idea for this is to get them to elections.

The [police] and their collaboration with the Haitian army has shown that when push comes to shove, when they have to get something done, they can get it done,” Robinson said. “We think with the introduction of this international force, we will be able to get them to elections. That’s what success looks like. Are there other things we have to do after that? Yes. But if we can get them to elections, that’s a strong start.” By This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Miami Herald

Image source: courtesy

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed stated on October 13, 2023, that his landlocked country has the right to demand maritime access to a Red Sea port from its neighbors through diplomatic efforts or in force.

After the 2018 internal political reform, Ethiopia has been facing political disorder. From 2020 to 2022, the federal government of Ethiopia was at war with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) after announcing the TPLF’s militant attack on the federal military base in the north. In the National Regional State of Oromia, the Federal Government of Ethiopia has been also at war with the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). 

Since 2018, members of the OLF and Oromo irredentists have been committing ethnic cleansing and genocide on the Amhara ethnic group and fellow Orthodox Christians who have been considered settlers and members of the colonial ruling elites. Since August 2023, the Federal Government of Ethiopia has been at war with an unorganized but paramilitary group, Fano, in Amhara National Regional State. In this condition, the country has been in economic complication. There has been corruption, overgrowing poverty, unemployment, and a high inflation rate.

However, without prioritizing solving the country’s complex problem as part of his main political agenda, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed stated on October 13, 2023, that his landlocked country has the right to demand maritime access to a Red Sea port from its neighbors through diplomatic efforts or in force.

In fact, this essay argues that Abiy brought up the port issue owing to the following cases:

  1. Abiy dealt with port politics as a result of agenda-setting to deflect attention from domestic political squabbling. He was interested in regaining public support, which he has been missing since his failed future promise of creating a safe political landscape in the country. In addition, Abiy saw the port politics as sabotage for rebel groups  since the port politics were seen as a means to mobilize people on the side of Abiy’s administration against the rebel groups. 
  2. The UAE has been ambitious to establish a foothold in ports along the Red Sea and push Abiy to make a deal with Somaliland.
  3. Once Abiy’s administration acknowledges that the government cannot manage Eurobond issues, it could bring up the port’s agenda topic. Hence, obtaining a port can help Abiy Ahmed’s administration support its financial position and reduce the currency cost of importing products.

Accordingly, to forth the port agenda, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed attempted to use a carrot strategy to persuade President Isayas Afeworki to put forward an interest in port, which boosted Eritrea’s level of anxiety and spurred Isayas to escalate his campaign against Ethiopia by coordinating other Horn countries, which eventually prompted Abiy to look for alternative routes to reach port.

As the best alternative, Abiy focused on Somaliland. Abiy’s ambition has been given precedence over the de facto state of Somaliland, although Somalia views Somaliland as a part of its territory. During a civil conflict in the south of the country in 1991, Somaliland declared its autonomy from Somalia and has governed autonomously ever since. However, neither the AU nor the UN recognizes Somaliland as a separate political entity.

Knowing this, Abiy made a landmark pact with Muse Bihi Abdi, president of Somaliland, on January 1, 2024, to lease 20 km around the port of Berbera, with access to the Red Sea, for 50 years for its navy after recognizing Somaliland as an independent nation-state. After this, backers of Abiy Ahmed hailed it as a significant diplomatic achievement; Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed even posted on X that “all that can be said is thank God” without realizing the agreement’s diplomatic shortcomings. 

Thereby, this agreement has drawn strong criticism  from around the world and enraged Somalia, which has referred to the action as an act of hostility. Several countries, notably the United States of America, have denounced Ethiopia’s action by citing the African Charter and the 1960 territories of the sovereign state of the Republic of Somalia. 

Somaliland is a vital element of Somalia’s territory. Any action that could lead to an agreement with any country without Mogadishu’s consent is an infringement on sovereignty and might hamper peace and stability. Subsequently, Somalia—which considers Somaliland to be a part of its territory—called in its envoy to Ethiopia to discuss the deal.  

Somalia’s president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, signed a bill on January 7, 2024, nullifying a preliminary agreement for Somaliland that would have allowed landlocked Ethiopia port access to Somaliland’s coast, considering the agreement a serious threat to the sovereignty of Somalia. In addition, on April 4, 2024, Somalia was expelling Ethiopia’s ambassador, closing two Ethiopian consulates, and recalling its own ambassador to Addis Ababa. On March 5, 2024, Somalia’s government rejected an offer by Kenya’s President William Ruto to mediate with Ethiopia over a sea access deal. 

Hence, regarding the portal agreement with Somaliland, the Ethiopian government has not issued any official statements of regret after Somalia shows its complaints in various ways. Following this, the elites in Somalia have begun to take this kind of action seriously. Elites in Somalia have been pressuring the Ethiopian government to issue a formal declaration, arguing that the agreement on the port was unlawful and that it threatened Somalia’s sovereignty.

Nevertheless, the Ethiopian government has been preferring silence and has been inviting the de facto states of Somaliland and Somalia Puntland to visit Ethiopia. It has also been engaging in hidden diplomatic negotiations with Somaliland and Somalia Puntland leaders.

Political tension arises between Ethiopia and Somalia as a result. Somalia, the OLF, and the Fano Force will have the chance to set up a military network throughout the Horn of Africa if the matter cannot be closed here. Other Horn of Africa countries, which are irritated by Abiy Ahmed’s obstinate diplomatic maneuvers, will favor Somalia and supply military supplies to OLF and Fano. Conflicts in the Horn of Africa will then intensify as a result.

Elites in Somalia intend to promote the ethnic conflict between Ethiopian Somalis and Oromo. Given that a significant portion of Ethiopia’s population speaks Somali, Somalia’s elites will spread the notion that all Somali speakers should unite in solidarity with the establishment of a great Somalia by merging Ethiopian-Somali with great Somalia and expanding the country’s borders all the way to Oromia, Ethiopia. This will spark a protracted clash between the Oromo and Somali ethnic groups.

In conclusion, Ethiopia’s landlocked agreement with Somaliland could negatively impact regional security dynamics and cannot pave the way for sea access. Ethiopia’s relations with other countries in the Horn of Africa, particularly with Somalia, will be affected by the port deal with Somaliland.  

Ways out

Ethiopia and Somalia are two weak states that have been struggling with their home politics and economic crises. Ethiopia has been facing fragility. Somalia remains on the list of states that have failed. In this situation, the conflict—or proxy conflict—that they will experience will be detrimental to them both.

Therefore, Ethiopia should first issue an official repentance to open the political tensions for discussion. After then, there must be talks, negotiations, and dialogue between the two countries. As usual, agreements on joint security, commercial ties, and Ethiopia’s right to utilize ports in accordance with international law must be reached between Somalia and Ethiopia. By Agenagn Kebede, Modern Democracy

British Authorities have commenced the detaining of illegal migrants in preparation to deporting them to Rwanda according to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s new immigration policy.

According to Reuters, The UK Parliament last month approved a law that allows the sending of asylum seekers without permission in the UK to Rwanda.

The Prime minister is expected to call an election later this year with illegal migration expected to be one of the front burner issues. Mr. Sunak wants the first batch of asylum seekers to be sent to Rwanda by July.

According to official figures over 7500 people have arrived on the shores of Britain on small boats from France this year. The UK government hopes the new immigration law will deter and discourage people from making the trip across to the UK.

Britain’s interior minister released photos of illegal migrants being arrested and taken into custody.

  • “Our dedicated enforcement teams are working at pace to swiftly detain those who have no right to be here so we can get flights off the ground,” Interior Minister James Cleverly said in a statement on Wednesday.

Unions and human rights charities opposed the policy and are preparing to launch challenges to prevent the flights from taking off to Rwanda.

The UK Supreme Court declared the policy unlawful last year fueling opposition to the policy by unions and human rights groups.

Care4Calais, a refugee charity, said the detentions had started on Monday and they have received calls from concerned people who are uncertain about their fate and when the flights will take off.

Natasha Tsangarides, Associate Director of Advocacy at the charity Freedom from Torture stated that the new policy is frightening people and could leave asylum seekers going underground and dissociating from their Support System.

What To Know 

  • The Rwanda deportation bill was birthed when the UK led by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak struck a deal with Rwanda in April 2022 to deport UK asylum seekers to Rwanda.
  • The Bill was approved last month by the UK Parliament and is now a law despite increased opposition from Human rights groups and unions.
  • Earlier this week, The UK sent its first Asylum seeker to Rwanda under a voluntary scheme. By Holly Bancroft, The Independent

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