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Jerome Starkey

The Times
Jerome Starkey and Adam Sage

A passenger plane that crashed as it crossed the Sahara yesterday — apparently killing all 116 people on board — had asked to change course because of a storm moments before it disappeared from radar. (Read more…)

SSUDAN-0146 on Flickr.

The Times
Jerome Starkey and Tristan McConnell

A public relations company led by the former foreign minister Mark Malloch-Brown was involved in a state-sponsored “cover-up”, to hide massive corruption in the Somali President’s office, according to a leaked investigation by the United Nations.

The report, seen by The Times, accused FTI Consulting of working with President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud to cover-up, rebut and discredit allegations of “corruption and mismanagement of Central Bank Funds”.

The allegations had threatened to derail international support for President Mohamud and his embattled, aid-dependent government.

The former university professor, who worked for the Department for International Development as a consultant, was widely seen a white knight of Somali politics, before he was mired in financial scandals last year.

The latest findings are likely to embarrass David Cameron, who had pinned his hopes on President Mohamud to lead Somalia’s recovery.

According to the leaked report, which was sent to the Security Council earlier this month, President Mohamud conspired with a US law firm, Schulman Rogers, “to divert the recovery of overseas assets,” through a web of secret contracts which blurred the lines between the his office and the Central Bank, and created opportunities for “pie-cutting” and misappropriation of public money.

FTI Consulting was hired as part of a $1million “counter-investigation,” in the wake of a report by the United Nations Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group, which claimed millions of dollars had gone missing from Mogadishu port, and the Central Bank. (Read more…)

The Times
Jerome Starkey, Africa Correspondent

Police have arrested eight staff at a medical college after they found 85 bin bags stuffed with human body parts in a residential area in Dar es Salaam. (Read more…)

The Times
Philip Willan in Rome and Jerome Starkey, Africa Correspondent

A Sudanese Christian who gave birth in chains after being sentenced to death for refusing to renounce her faith met the Pope today, hours after arriving in Italy at the end of a year-long ordeal.

The Pope thanked Meriam Ibrahim, 27, for her “faith and courage” the Vatican said, while she thanked him for his prayers and solidarity in a “very affectionate meeting”. (Read more…)

The Times
Jerome Starkey, Africa Correspondent

A gun attack in Kenya’s second city of Mombasa has left at least three people dead and six others seriously injured, police said yesterday. (Read more…)

Lamu-8690 on Flickr.

The Times
Jerome Starkey, Lamu

There is a turbaned ex-con from Harlem sipping rosé in the hotel bar. A Kenyan-born Danish fisherman smokes cherry pipe tobacco, while a doting bull terrier sleeps at his feet.

Between them, on a barstool, a painter from Bermuda faces out towards the Lamu channel, which is lapping at the seawall. Her suntanned neck is covered with bright red beads. There is a retired smuggler and an opera singer, a soldier turned yoga instructor and an Australian designer who has transformed a ruined mosque into an artist’s studio and coffee shop.

While tourist numbers may have plummeted following a spate of attacks along Kenya’s coast, Lamu’s hardcore seem unperturbed. These are the drifters, hippies and adventurers, an eclectic yet enchanting group of expatriates who have made the archipelago their home.

“I have been to 33 different countries. I find this place to be as close to paradise as I can think of,” said Lee Harvin, 74, who spent 17 years in prison for killing two people in 1958 and 1963, in “stick-ups” that went wrong.

He first visited Lamu in 1983 and settled five years ago, when he worked as a counsellor to help the island’s small community of drug addicts. “If I was scared, I’d leave. If I thought there was any chance of anyone coming here to hurt me, I’d leave. I’m not stupid,” he said. Instead, he is encouraging his son to visit. “People here ask me about Paris and New York,” he added. “I say to them, you think these people who have all that money, do you think they would come here if there was something else better? You have got it made. This is paradise.” (Read more…)

The Times
Jerome Starkey, Africa Correspondent

An inked print Nelson Mandela made of his hand a few years before his death has been auctioned for more than £13,000 to raise money for a foundation set up by Ndileka, his granddaughter. (Read more…)

The Times
Jerome Starkey, Africa Correspondent

Oscar Pistorius went binge drinking and got into a bar fight on Saturday, because he feels lonely, alienated, and he struggling to cope with “an extreme level of emotional pain,” after shooting dead his girlfriend, his family said today. (Read more…)

The Times
Jerome StarkeyAfrica Correspondent

Oscar Pistorius’s attempt to resurrect his social life backfired spectacularly this weekend after the athlete got into a fight at a nightclub.

It was the first time the sprinter, who is accused of murdering his girlfriend, had been seen relaxing out in public after four months of a trial that included 30 days in a mental hospital and non-stop, round-the-clock global media scrutiny. (Read more…)

Lamu-3162.jpg on Flickr.

The Times
Jerome Starkey, Manda

The violence and unrest that has caused tourist numbers to plummet on Kenya’s idyllic Lamu archipelago crept significantly closer to the country’s trendiest beach resort yesterday as two holiday homes and an abandoned hotel were set ablaze.

Issa Timamy, the governor of Lamu county, said that the fires on Manda island were economic sabotage designed to spread “fear and despondency,” among communities that rely on tourism for income.

He said that while al-Shabaab, the feared Islamist extremist militia, had kidnapped a Frenchwoman from Manda in 2011, they were unlikely to have burnt three empty buildings. “This is not an attack against tourists, this is an attack on the economy of Lamu,” said Mr Timamy, who was accused of orchestrating attacks on the mainland last month to force people off their land.

He denied the charges and was released after four days in custody by a judge who said that the police had failed to produce evidence. (Read more…)

The Times
Jerome Starkey, in Lamu

Kenya’s government has urged its citizens not to visit Heathrow because of the “substantial threat” of a terrorist attack, in a tit-for-tat travel advisory note after the foreign office put large parts of the African country off limits to British tourists.

While foreign office travel advisories are not binding, they often render insurance void if travellers disregard them. Sir Richard Branson, who owns a safari camp in Kenya, said they were “effectively a ban” which stopped tourists making up their own minds. (Read more…)

Lamu-2945 on Flickr.