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Racially Charged Murder in Kenya; A Look at Artisans of Benin

Aired September 30, 2006 - 12:30:00   ET


FEMI OKE, HOST: Hello, I'm Femi Oke, and this is INSIDE AFRICA, your weekly look at life and news on the continent.
Now, this week, we take you from a racially charged murder trial in Kenya to Sierra-Leone's political hot topics, and finally, to Benin, to visit the famous bronze artisans.

But we begin in Somalia, where a power struggle between the government and a group of Islamic leaders is raising fears of an all-out war. After 15 years of near anarchy, with various factions and warlords ruling the country, Somalia once again faces potential disaster.

The forces of the Islamic Courts Union are expanding areas of control, bringing some level of order, but also some level of anxiety. Meantime, concerns about fundamentalists links with al-Qaeda are bringing in foreign interests. It's a complicated scenario that is forcing alarming rates of civilians from their homes. Chandrika Narayan has more.


CHANDRIKA NARAYAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hundreds of Somalia refugees arrive at a dusty camp in Kenya every day. The lucky ones travel on open trucks. Others walk for weeks, relying on villages along the way for food and water.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I came from Kismayo with my granddaughter by a road. We were robbed of all our belongings by bandits. We faced a lot of problems trying to get here.

NARAYAN: They join thousands of other Somalis who have set up home in flimsy huts in Kenya's camps. The United Nations Refugee Agency says more than 25,000 have arrived this year alone.

EDDIE GEDALOT, DIRECTOR, UNHCR KENYA: We're definitely in an emergency mode. This influx is stretching our capacities to the limit, and we're seeking additional funds from donors because of this emergency situation.

NARAYAN: Somalia's present day problems are routed in the country's troubled past. These camps in Kenya date from 1991, when Somali warlords ousted dictator Siad Barre, and ushered in a period of anarchy.

Fast forward to 2004. After 15 years of lawlessness, the main clans, armed groups and politicians set up a transitional government with the help of the United Nations. The African Union and Ethiopia are among its supporters. But it struggles to exert its authority.

In June this year, another major player entered Somali political landscape. A group calling itself the Union of Islamic Courts seized the capital Mogadishu after fierce battles with an alliance of warlords, widely believed to be backed by the United States. Eritrea is among those who support the Islamic Courts, but it denies flouting the U.N. arms embargo on Somalia.

The U.S. accuses the Islamic Courts of having links with al-Qaeda, a charge it denies. And critics describe the group as the Taliban of East Africa.

But some say they're providing what Somalis crave most: Security.

Despite a cease-fire agreement with the government, the Islamic Courts is expanding its grip over south-central Somalia. The port city of Kismayo was the latest one to fall. Its swift advance and military strength pose a deep challenge to the government's slim authority. An exasperated prime minister said he remains focused on peace.

ALI MOHAMMED GHEDI, SOMALIA'S PRIME MINISTER: We're committed as a government for dialogue and negotiation, but somebody who is fighting you on one hand and on the other hand is telling you that he is ready to have dialogue and negotiation with you is not - is not manageable. But we will never stop, or we will never avoid negotiation and dialogue, peaceful dialogue, because this has been need of the Somali people.

NARAYAN: Another round of talks are scheduled for October. Meanwhile, the fear of an all-out conflict between Somalia's fragile interim government and the Islamic Courts sends more desperate Somalis fleeing across the border.

GEDALOT: Some are fleeing violence that they're facing. Others are pretty fearful that it's about to break out in a more serious way and they're fleeing before - before things get worse.

NARAYAN: Chandrika Narayan, CNN, Atlanta.


OKE: Somalia's Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Ghedi has made repeated calls for help. I spoke with him earlier, and asked him if there had been enough international support.


GHEDI: Absolutely no. Otherwise, if we could have been supported by the international community efficiently and effectively, the pacification and the reconciliation, reconstruction of Somalia could have been started earlier.

And again, I would like through this opportunity to appeal to the international community to give due consideration to the Somali people. I don't know why there is a punishment of Somali people. Sometimes, I feel that governments of Somalia is not helpful for some international organizations, because they have adapted a system of no government, and they would like maybe to continue with this system of no government, and they cannot adapt - adapt it with the system of government. So I hope they should not look into their interests at the expenses of the Somali people. They should look at the interests of the Somali people.


OKE: As Mr. Ghedi noted, there is no shortage of foreign interest in Somalia, but their concern is primarily aimed at a potential resurgence of terrorist elements that could come with a fundamentalist agenda. Earlier, we spoke to John Prendergast from the International Crisis Group about that and the situation in Somalia.


JOHN PRENDERGAST, INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP: The capacity, the potential for Somalia to descend again into the horrors that we saw in 1991, in '92, when a third of a million people died in - in intrastate fighting that occurred in southern Somalia that precipitated the American and U.N. intervention, and that potential still exists, for a major descend into a humanitarian and human rights crisis.

But I think that the larger external interest is driven by the counterterrorism issues that the penetration by al-Qaeda have presented over the last decade, and that has brought a whole different host of actors to become interested in what's going on in Somalia today.

OKE: John, let's take a scenario. The Union of Islamic Courts are doing very well in Somalia. Is it to do with their military prowess, or is it to do with popular support?

PRENDERGAST: I think that - that Somalis in general - Somali people in general were absolutely sickened by these last 15 years of warlordism and anarchy in Somalia. The Islamic Courts have offered an alternative in the areas that they controlled, up until recently. They imposed order. There was a series of laws - they were draconian, but nevertheless there was - there was a sense of rule of law, and some social services were provided, which is in stark contrast to the areas controlled by the various warlords operating throughout southern Somalia.

So, when the Islamic Courts made their move and - and escalated and began to consolidate control over Mogadishu and then moved beyond that, there was widespread popular support for seeing that kind of authority be exercised.

Now, so they're - it's a combination, I think, of the two things you're asking about. There is a superior of military - superiority in military power. There is no one else in Somalia that has remotely the kind of fire power that the Islamists have. But there is also a lot of public support, which isn't really so much supporting the agenda of the Islamists, the political, religious agenda of the Islamists, but rather just appreciating some semblance of order for the time being, and to take a breather to figure out where Somalia is going next.

OKE: What about if the UIC end up controlling the whole of Somalia, how will the U.S., Kenya, Ethiopia react to that?

PRENDERGAST: Well, the big factor here, external factor is really Ethiopia. The Islamic Courts are looking to start a fight with Ethiopia. Islamic Courts are full - populated by leaders - leaders who are jihadis, who want to mobilize on the basis of their extreme political religious view of how to expand - governing, how to expand control and power. And the jihadis would get their jihad if Ethiopia invades to defeat them, and the civil conflict is really what some of these extremists want.

Ethiopians fear the expansionist agenda of the - of the Islamists in Mogadishu - in Somalia, and so the showdown is coming. And if it does come, we're going to go back to, I think, conditions we saw - we talked about earlier in '91 and '92, mass famine, civil conflict, inter-clan conflict. This is - this would truly be the worst case scenario, not only for Somalia, but for the surrounding region.


OKE: Now, you can get more details on the conflict in Somalia on our Web site at CNN.COM/INSIDEAFRICA. That's CNN.COM/INSIDEAFRICA.

Up next, a brutal killing dredges up memories of Kenya's colonial past.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So it doesn't value a human - human life more than he values the animals.


OKE: Just ahead on INSIDE AFRICA: The heir to one of Kenya's wealthiest families goes on trial for murder. See you on the other side.


OKE: Good to see you again, you're watching INSIDE AFRICA. We turn to Kenya now, where a murder trial is opening painful old colonial wounds. A descendant of the country's most famous white settlers has pleaded not guilty to charges he killed a black poacher on his land. Now that, and anger over who owns the large Kenyan highlands, once known as Happy Valley, has reached boiling point. Nick Patton Walsh has the story.


NICK PATTON WALSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's the case of the have-nots versus the have-it-alls. On trial is (inaudible) Thomas Cholmondeley, he is the one in a linen suit, for shooting dead Robert Njoya, a stone mason he says was poaching on his land. Cholmondeley is after this man, Kenya's biggest landowner, and head of a dynasty as infamous in the country's colonial past as gin and tonic.

LORD DELAMERE, CHOLMONDELEY'S FATHER: I can't answer questions, I'm sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just who you are? Are you (inaudible).

DELAMERE: No, I'm King George II.

WALSH: But there will be no royal pardon as Kenyans wait to see if this 6-foot-6 giant (inaudible) is also above the law. He doesn't appear that forward, although technically he faces a death sentence. Kenya has never hung anyone for decades, and has never hung a white man.

PHILIP MBUGUA, BROTHER OF VICTIM: You cannot compare a human being, whatsoever with an animal. Because he say that he killed my brother because of maybe securing or making sure that animals are safe. So he doesn't value a human - human life more than he values the animals.

WALSH: Cholmondeley says he shot Njoya in self-defense, here, on the 55,000 acres of his Soisando (ph) estate after being confronted by Njoya and four other trespasses who had machetes and dogs. Prosecutors say that he shot Njoya with a hunting rifle, allegedly as he fled.

EVEREST WASINGE, RIFT VALLEY PROVINCIAL POLICE: Evidence they have as of now is that two dogs were shot; later on, a person, who allegedly was advancing with a knife, was also shot (inaudible).

WALSH: But with a controversy comes a little deja vu. Barely a year ago, Cholmondeley was arrested for shooting another man, this time an undercover gaming ranger, on exactly the same estate, with five shots from a Luger pistol. The case collapsed over a lack of evidence, and the prosecutor was fired as the political furor grew.

Cholmondeley's neighbors, Masai warriors, protested. The press was alive with claims the Kenya elite had been pulling strings again, that justice could be swayed. Cholmondeley was dubbed trigger-happy.

To kill one poacher might seem unfortunate, dear boy, to kill two seems like carelessness.

It smacked too vividly of Kenya's exploits of the past, the days of the Happy Valley, a decadent country club sanctuary for rich Westerners. While the world was at war with Nazism, they were in and out of each other's beds and liquor cabinets. But murder also came to this paradise. Dashing Charles Dance was in real life the Earl of Erroll, and enough of a hit with the ladies to get himself killed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome to paradise.

WALSH: Erroll's murderer got off. And Greta Scaachi, well, she ended up marrying Cholmondeley's grandfather. But after the cravats, canapes and incriminations, Mr. Cholmondeley sits in a box this week. Kenya's progress since independence is on trial as well.


OKE: And that was Nick Patton Walsh reporting.

From East Africa, we head west to Sierra-Leone, where the campaign for next year's presidential election is already gearing up. July's election will be the first since the United Nations peacekeepers elect last year. It's seen by many as a test of the country's ability to keep a lasting peace. The former British colony emerged from a decade of civil war in 2002, but the country is still facing problems of poverty, tribal rivalry and allegations of government corruption. So, we spoke to two of the top presidential candidates. We'll hear from Vice President Solomon Ekuma Berewa in just a moment, but first Jim Clancy caught up with opposition leader Ernest Bai Koroma of the All People's Congress earlier this year. Jim Clancy asked him what topped his agenda.


ERNEST BAI KOROMA, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The number one issue, I believe, will be corruption. And the people of Sierra-Leone are looking forward to a government that will put up a strong fight against corruption, a government that will be more accountable to the people, and a government that will open up and allow Sierra-Leonians to have equal opportunities irrespective of your political convention.

JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRRESPONDENT: That's a very general assignment. Dissatisfaction with the government of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. At the same time, what are you offering the people? Their concerns are education, their concerns are jobs, their concerns are putting food on their tables and having a roof over their heads.

KOROMA: What I believe I will offer to the people of Sierra-Leone is, in the first place, I will come with a real policy of zero tolerance against corruption. If this message goes out and clearly to the Sierra- Leonians, that this is the government that is going to put up a serious fight against corruption, I'm sure the leakages that are responsible for the poor delivery services in the social sector, like education, health and employment situation will be turned around.


OKE: And that was Sierra-Leone's opposition leader Ernest Bai Koroma speaking there.

Now, I caught up with his opponent earlier this week. Here is what the vice president of Sierra-Leone and presidential candidate Solomon Ekuma Berewa had to say to Koroma's allegations of corruption.


SOLOMON EKUMA BEREWA, SIERRA LEONE VICE PRESIDENT: When the APC or APC leader talks of corruption, it's very ridiculous. Because they institutionalized corruption. It was they who made corruption a way of life. (inaudible) were granted (inaudible), because they were very corrupt, and nobody was allowed to talk about it, nobody was allowed to say anything, because they were corrupt. It is (inaudible). Let us come and show them that corruption is not the right way to run the government.

OKE: Mr. Vice President, what is the greatest challenge facing Sierra-Leone today?

BEREWA: Well, the greatest challenge is this: Now that we've tried to bring stability to the country, peace, we thank God for that, we thank the international community for that. The next thing we are now going for is to find ways to improve the lot for the average Sierra-Leonian, to reduce the level of poverty that (inaudible) country. It will take a lot of measures to achieve that. You don't have the time now for me to go through that.

The next challenge we have is to restore the dignity of the Sierra-Leonian, which was really impaired over the 27 years of misrule and mismanagement by an undemocratic, autocratic government. These are the challenges we have.


OKE: And that was the vice president of Sierra-Leone speaking to me earlier on this week.

There is more to come on INSIDE AFRICA. Just ahead, before the art of photography was invented, there was another way to capture a special occasion. We'll take you to the ancient city of Benin to introduce you to this ancient practice. Stay with us.


OKE: Hello again. Beginning in the 15th century, they were created to honor and extol the power of the king. Today the kings of Benin are no more, but traditional artisans are still crafting extraordinary bronzes. Christian Purefoy has that story.


CHRISTIAN PUREFOY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In the ancient city of Benin, southeast Nigeria, artisans practice the tradition of bronze casting, as it was done hundreds of years ago.

Here, the art has always been a family affair.

MARK HOHAMA, BRONZE CASTER: Any member of this family is born with the job. So (inaudible) you are born at the age of six, you start doing anything (ph) bronze.

PUREFOY: Inspiration for the designs can come from anywhere. The most popular choices are sculptures. The art itself originates from a time before cameras, when the guild of bronze casters was traditionally requested by Benin's king or Oba (ph) to mark special ceremonies.

HOHAMA: These days, there was no photograph. People used to bring their father's picture. Especially the - the dead - the dead ones, just for them, for them to remember their past heroes.

PUREFOY: Some models can be strictly complex.

HOHAMA: There are some bigger objects of about four or five feet height, that takes us almost three months to complete that. The little ones you have just seen, those ones can take you about two weeks, or a week and a half.

PUREFOY: Using a technique known as lost wax (ph), artisans make molds from the red clay found out inside their workshops. Wax is then melted and sculpted around the clay. Artisans build up several layers, then bake it in a log fire oven for several hours, which melt the wax, but the clay remains intact, creating the mold.

Bronze collected from scrap merchants is then melted down using perhaps the most modern aspect of this procedure -- a battery powered fan that heats charcoal to high temperatures quickly. After three or so hours, the clay mold is removed from the fire and then melted metal poured in.

Once cooled, artisans chip away the mud. And with their own shrine, the traditions of the casters extend even to the spiritual realm.

HOHAMA: That's what protects all from dangers. (inaudible). Annually, we'll have some sacrificial items that we use every year to avoid danger. So somebody's working inside (ph) the fire now, he's bound to have some injuries and that kind of thing, so we have that belief that it gives us protection.

PUREFOY: Perhaps the most famous castings of the Benin bronzes: A collection of about 700 plaques seized by the British in 1897. Many are now kept in the British Museum, a testaments to the artistic appreciation of this centuries old tradition.

Christian Purefoy, CNN, Benin, Nigeria.


OKE: Christian, thank you very much. I love that story. Testament to artistic appreciation, or art theft. (inaudible) for another day, perhaps.

The INSIDE AFRICA team wants to hear from you. Please send us your pictures, videos or e-mail and tell us about your Africa. Whether you've visited the continent or whether you call it your home, we want to share your impressions of Africa with the world. You can send them to INSIDE AFRICA@CNN.COM. That's INSIDEAFRICA@CNN.COM. Look forward to getting them. Thank you for watching.

That's it for this week's program, but there is much more to come next week. So please let INSIDE AFRICA be your window to the continent.

Until the next time, I'm Femi Oke. Take care.



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