Four years ago today, a bomb hit the ex-pat-frequented restaurant, Ethiopian Village, in the Kabalagala district of Kampala, Uganda, killing and wounding several people who had gathered to watch the World Cup final. Moments later, two bombs ripped through the Kyodondo Rugby Pitch, killing dozens of spectators and wounding dozens more. The bombings were carried out by al Shabaab, who had threatened Uganda ever since its intervention in their war in Somalia. Pretty much everyone called it an act of terror.
A month ago, gunmen blasted their way through hotels and a police station in Mpeketoni, Kenya, while some guests were watching the World Cup. They proceeded to split up the residents and killed the men. The U.S. State Department said that “there can be no place for horrific acts of violence such as this in any society.”
Yesterday, a cafe in Gaza was completely destroyed in the early morning by Israeli rockets, killing those who had gathered to break their fast and watch the World Cup match. Israel has been launching a huge operation into Gaza in response to rockets fired by Hamas. There’s less unanimity on the terrorism of blowing up spectators here, as Washington is pretty firm in its support of Israel.
If you’re an insurgent or you’re Muslim, bombs are condemned, but if you’re a state and a U.S. ally, it somehow becomes much murkier.
Today is the one year anniversary of the World Cup Bombings in Kampala which claimed over 70 lives. I wanted to put together some sort of post to mark the occasion, even if only to remember the incidents and the lives taken. Last year, I put up a blog post about it at the time, but was pretty bewildered.
For those who don’t recall, one year ago two sites in Kampala were bombed by Somali insurgent group al Shabaab. The attacks hit the Ethiopian Village, a restaurant frequented by Westerners and a place I planned on visiting. I drove by the restaurant a few weeks later and the compound was boarded up – haven’t heard if it ever opened. The attacks also hit the Kyadongo Rugby Club, a field that had been filled with seats and screens to house a viewing party. The attack was in response to Uganda’s involvement in the African Union’s military presence (AMISOM) in fighting for the transitional government in Somalia against al Shabaab.
So, how much have things changed since? In May, some groups reported worries that al Shabaab attacks loomed, but it led to some debate over whether the government had reliable evidence of attacks or if it was exploiting the attacks to dampen contemporary protests over fuel prices. Al Shabaab is still fighting against AMISOM, but there is some speculation that they’ve expanded outside of Somalia. The East African had a report on prospects of expansion due to several conflicts along the Somali-Kenyan border. It seems that al Shabaab is definitely pushing its weight around even though it’s still in the middle of fighting against the transitional government, but the question remains: are another series of bombings on the scale of the World Cup Bombings possible?