Press reactions to Kenya's latest terror attack

The Kenyan papers on Wednesday are all about the deadly attack by al-Shabab jihadists in Nairobi in which 14 people were killed, and President Uhuru Kenyatta’s pledge to hold those responsible to account.

Kenyan security forces help people to escape after bomb blast at dusitD2 hotel in Nairobi on 15 January 2019.
Kenyan security forces help people to escape after bomb blast at dusitD2 hotel in Nairobi on 15 January 2019. Photo: Kabir Dhanji/AFP

Daily Nation says that in the televised early morning message, Kenyatta praised the armed forces for the swift manner in which they dealt with the attack during the 20-hour siege on the upmarket DusitD2 Hotel.

Chaotic scenes

“Terror in the City”, headlines Standard, which reports that five gunmen were involved in the attack, claimed by Somali al-Shebab rebels. The newspaper says that Kenyan police were widely praised for evacuating some 700 civilians during the attack.

In South Africa, City Press has a dramatic account of the chaotic scenes that broke out in Nairobi as sustained gunfire sent workers fleeing for their lives at the upscale hotel and office complex.

Johannesburg Times publishes CCTV footage showing four black-clad heavily armed Shabab militants walking calmly into the Nairobi hotel before blasting their way through the complex.

Uganda’s Daily Monitor describes the attack as a stark reminder that Kenya's security challenges are far from over, citing the last major attack in the country – in 2015 – when al-Shabab killed 148 people at a university in Garissa, eastern Kenya.

Mistaken identity

The Kenyan Star recounts the ordeal of a man arrested at the site in a case of mistaken identity. Bryson Mwamburi, an IT student at Jomo Kenyatta University, attracted police attention when he posted a message on his twitter handle urging Kenyans to call the police and pray for him as the terrorists went shooting at Riverside Drive.

As the Star reports it was again thanks to social media that Mwamburi was set free, after the video of him being apprehended and escorted to a police van went viral, sparking a hashtag twitter campaign by classmates and others calling for his release.

Graphic photos

In related news Daily Nation also reports that a Twitter storm has broken out in Kenya over the publication by the New York Times of photographs of bodies of the victims of the Dusit attack strewn inside a cafe.

@wgkantai asks what value the paper adds by publishing pictures of dead bodies. “You wouldn’t do this for an attack in New York, would you? Shame on you”.

Several social media users in Kenya also took to Twitter asking the American newspaper to remove the photos, describing them “absolutely distasteful, disgusting, deplorable and an utter disgrace”.

Laurent Gbagbo acquitted

The shock acquittal of Côte d’Ivoire's former President Laurent Gbagbo by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity during the 2010 post-election violence generated a flurry of reactions in the African press.

First in Côte d’Ivoire where La Dépêche d’Abidjan rolls out a front-page splash titled “Gbagbo’s freedom day”. The paper publishes the full version of the judgment as delivered during Tuesday’s hearing at The Hague.

Burden of proof

Ivoire Matin welcomes the ruling by a majority decision of two judges to one, that prosecutors "failed to satisfy the burden of proof to the requisite standard".

The newspaper said it expected ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to be the last obstacle Gbagbo needed to scale before his return home.

Bensouda’s office today filed an urgent request to appeal against the release of Gbagbo and his right-hand man Charles Blé Goudé, citing a "concrete risk" that he would not come back if its appeal was successful and the trial was to continue.

Ivoire Matin rubbishes the claims in a fact check about the case file showing why the prosecution’s case against the ousted President collapsed. The paper recalls that Gbagbo has already been in detention since 2011, adding that the ICC has not been able to prove his guilt since the trial started in 2016.


Fraternité Matin relays what it describes as Amnesty International’s great disappointment, with the verdict.

The state-owned daily, which carries the full statement issued by Amnesty’s director for West and Central Africa, Marie-Evelyne Petrus Barry, says her frustrations are bound to be shared by the victims of the post-election violence which claimed over 3,000 lives, according to the government of President Alassane Ouattara.

Le Progrès for its part streams a video of former President Henri Konan Bédié in which he welcomes Gbagbo’s acquittal and expresses his fervent wish for his quick return to the country.

Bedié, whose support was crucial in Ouattara’s accession to power in the post-election crisis, has since walked away from the ruling alliance and has announced plans to work with the opposition for regime change come the 2020 Presidential elections.

Neo-colonial justice

The Ghanaian Times holds that this will not be the first time the ICC has seen its cases collapse.

It cites the abortive trial of former DR Congo Vice-President Jean-Pierre Bemba, and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.

The publication however upholds the view that the ruling demonstrates the judges’ independence and impartiality and makes it harder to push the narrative, popular among those who fear the long arm of the ICC, that the court is a biased weapon of neo-colonial justice used purely to convict African leaders.

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