Wednesday, October 29, 2008

October 29, 2008 - Trouble in the Region

You have probably heard on or read in the news that today has been a tough day in East Africa. First, fighting has intensified and the humanitarian situation is worsening drastically in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Non-essential UN staff are being evacuated, I believe, and the UN troops in the country are spread very thin. We are not close to DRC and will not be affected by this crisis, although the situation is extremely sad and scary. The western part of Uganda will receive refugees from DRC and will have to deal with the humanitarian consequences of this war.

Next, a UN compound in Somalia was bombed this morning, along with the presidential palace and the Ethiopian Embassy. There were 5 distinct car bombs which were detonated by suicide bombers within 10 minutes or so of one another. The bombs were in northern Somalia - called Somaliland - which is typically more secure than southern Somalia. Northern Somalia is not close to Kenya, it is above Ethiopia and next to Djibouti (a small country on the horn of Africa). It is believed that the bombings happened today because regional African leaders were meeting here in Nairobi regarding peace efforts in Somalia. One militant Islamic group, which was not invited to the talks in Nairobi, is believed to be responsible for the bombs (although they have not claimed responsibility yet) because they have been pushing for the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops from Somalia and the Ethiopian Embassy was clearly targeted. The UN compound that was targeted housed the UN's Development Programme offices for Somalia, and the official number of deaths and casualties have not been reported as yet. UN staff and other aid workers were evacuated to Djibouti immediately.

Again, we are not close to where the bombings happened today, but you can be sure that both military and UN security in Kenya have been increased significantly since this morning. There have been no threats against Kenya to our knowledge, but tomorrow I will work from home just to be extra safe until Kristoffer comes home from Uganda tomorrow night. I am sure things will calm down in the next few days. I am comforted that security on our UN compound reacted so quickly today to ensure our safety. We are well taken care of!

My thoughts and prayers go out to all of those in Somalia and DRC struggling with violence, loss, displacement, and general insecurity.

LMW

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