Outside the Bubble 4/9/15

Somali Terrorists Attack University in Kenya

Early on the morning of Thursday, Apr. 2, a group of Somali militants stormed Garissa University College in Kenya and killed 147 students. The militant group, al-Shabaab, claimed responsibility immediately after the attack and called it an “operation against the infidels.” (The New York Times, “Somali militants kill 147 at Kenyan University,” 04.02.15) The group reportedly separated Muslim and Christian students while storming the dormitories, only killing the Christians as a clear representation of Islamist extremism.

Al-Shabaab was formed in 2004 as an Islamic military group with intentions to create an Islamic state in Somalia. The group is the militant wing of a bigger network of Islamic militant tribes, the Islamic Courts Union (ICU). The ICU had taken control of most of southern Somalia in 2006, using guerrilla warfare against the Somali Federal Government. (“Al-Shabab,” National Counterterrorism Group)

This attack, however, is not al-Shabaab’s first attack in Kenya. While there has been an extended history of conflict, the frequency of al-Shabaab’s attacks in Kenya increased in 2008, pushing the Kenya Defense Forces to invade Somalia in 2011. This invasion in turn caused al-Shabaab to retaliate with more killings, creating a vicious cycle. In September 2014, the group attacked the Westgate mall, a luxury shopping center in Nairobi, killing at least 61 civilians.

In November 2014, members of al-Shabaab stopped a bus and forced passengers to recite verses from the Quran on threat of death, ultimately killing 28 people. In December 2014, the group massacred 36 non-Muslims and dumped the bodies of the victims into a local quarry. (CNN, “Al-Shabaab’s long, bloody history with Kenya,” 04.03.15)

Soon after the attack at Garissa University, an al-Shabaab spokesperson, Ali Mohamoud Raghe, released an audio statement saying they chose to attack the school because of its Christian attendence: “The school was educating many Christian students in a Muslim land under colony,” Raghe remarked. “[They] plan to spread their Christianity and infidelity.” (The Washington Post, “Al-Shabab attacks Kenyan university, killing at least 147,” 04.02.15)

It was later revealed that one of the four gunmen from the recent university attack was the son of a Kenyan government official. Abdirahim Mohammed Abdullahi was a law-school graduate, whom his father reported to be missing one year earlier and feared he had gone to Somalia to join the terrorist group. The news that one of the gunmen that is responsible for this attack was, in fact, himself a Kenyan came to many as an indicator of the difficulty of preventing future attacks. Many of the militants in al-Shabaab still report to be Kenyan citizens. (The Daily News, “One of the gunmen in Kenya university massacre that killed 148 identified as son of government official,” 04.05.15)

In response to the attack, Kenya sent warplanes to bomb al-Shabaab campsites in Somalia. However, al-Shabaab claimed that the bombs missed their camp, instead hitting neighboring farmland. Many of the perpetrators of the attacks, however, have yet to be found.


California Governor Presents Mandatory Water Restrictions

On Apr. 1, California Governor Jerry Brown ordered state water usage restrictions in California in response to the serious drought the state has been facing for the past four years. This is the first time in history that a water restriction has been placed in this state.

Brown ordered a mandatory 25 percent cut in water consumption, after the voluntary 25 percent cut made last year failed to make any changes in water consumption. The State Water Resources Control Board is responsible for imposing this change in the 400 water supply agencies that supply water to 90 percent of California residents. The individual water agencies need to come up with restrictions and following through to make sure the cut is being respected by residents, including penalties for not complying. (The New York Times, “California imposes first mandatory water restrictions to deal with drought,” 01.01.15)

Brown declared a State of Emergency last January due to severe drought conditions, and ordered the restrictions over a year later. Last week’s executive order stated that the restriction will be put into practice on Feb. 28, 2016. Part of the order states that the Department of Water Resources will closely work with local agencies to ameliorate the state’s current water situation. “50 million square feet of lawns and ornamental turf with drought tolerant landscapes [will be replaced],” reported the California Executive Department. (Executive Department, State of California, “Executive Order B-29-15”) In addition, the California Energy Commission will implement a statewide appliance rebate program where families will be given reimbursements for replacing inefficient household devices.

Due to rapid population growth, an increase in motor vehicles on California roads and a thriving economy, water usage has surged beyond its sustainable limits, particularly in areas like Palm Springs, where daily water usage is 201 gallons– double the state average. (USA Today, “Facing drought in an oasis of golf courses and lakes,” 04.06.15)

Besides increase in use of water in residential life, most of the water in California goes to agriculture, a sector that consumes 80 percent of state water. Currently many California farms have “senior water rights,” which are applied to old farms that received their land permits before 1914 and allow them to buy water at a fraction of the price. Gov. Brown addressed this system, calling it archaic and asserting that it will be up to further examination if the drought continues. (ABC News, “Califonia Gov. Jerry Brown defends farms’ water use, warns changes may come,” 04.05.15)

The Sierra Snowpack, which supplies nearly one-third of the state’s water supplies, hit a record low level this year, meeting only 5 percent of normal measurements. The snowpack levels have been decreasing every year for the past four years, at 171 percent of normal in 2011, 52 percent in 2012, 42 percent in 2013, and 25 percent of 2014. (The Wall Street Journal, “5 things to know about California’s drought,” 01.01.15) Because of the past year’s low snowpack levels, reservoirs, which catch the melted snow each spring, are now about half empty. Problematically, however, water usage usually goes up during summertime, and the next rainy season will be in the fall.

At the moment, the Water Resources Control Board is still in the process of translating the order into applicable regulations for California residents to follow. Because the 25 percent reduction is the total for all 400 water supply agencies, it is not necessary for each of the agencies to reduce use by 25 percent as long as the collected reduction is met by the beginning of next year.


– Shelia Hu, Guest Reporter

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