November 20th, 2008
03:29 PM ET

Pirates take on the Navy

Pirates are hitting the headlines, but how are they grabbing ships? CNN's David McKenzie explains.
Pirates are hitting the headlines, but how are they grabbing ships? CNN's David McKenzie explains.

David McKenzie | BIO
CNN Correspondent

The whole world is talking about pirates, since they grabbed an Iranian ship and then a gigantic Saudi supertanker. Pirates operating off the coast of East Africa, have attacked more than 90 ships this year alone.

The U.S. has sent in ships to join a NATO-led international fleet, which has battled, fended off and sunk some pirate ships. But the pirates are still attacking, and still hold 17 ships and more than 300 prisoners.

It sounds like something you’d see in movies like Pirates of the Caribbean or Captain Hook, but the weapons are bigger and it's much more dramatic because it's real life.

And the human toll is painful, as Thumani Said can attest. I interviewed Thumani in the port city of Mombasa, Kenya.

He was captured by pirates on the cargo ship that he helped sail to Mogadishu, Somalia from Kenya. The company he works for has had three ships hijacked by the pirates.

One of the hijacking incidents occurred even when they were trying to transport humanitarian aide to suffering Somalis in that lawless, poverty-stricken country that has been without a central government since 1991, and where clashes among various groups vying for power often occur.

Thumani and his fellow crew members were held by the pirates for over 100 days! He sat under the barrel of an AK47 thinking about his new wife and family. At first, he was afraid to die, and then he just became resigned to his fate. The pirates didn't treat them too badly physically, and they had food stocks stored on the boat. But they were constantly badgered by the pirates who wanted to know why the ransom wasn't being paid.

Eventually his company paid a ransom and the ship returned home. Thumani was paid a measly ‘bonus’ of $80 dollars for his troubles. While he was held hostage, he was not paid his salary.

So, as we hear and read about pirates on the high seas, complete with tales of warships and ransoms, spare a thought for people like Thumani. The 300 hostages out there right now don’t know if they will ever return home.

Filed under: David McKenzie
November 4th, 2008
12:06 PM ET

If Obama wins, the bull gets slaughtered

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/11/04/art.kogelocow.jpg caption="The bull that is set to be slaughtered should Obama win"]

David McKenzie | BIO
CNN Correspondent

The entire village of Kogelo, in Western Kenya, is supporting Obama on election day. Well, almost. There is one supporter of Senator McCain here. And that's the bull that will be slaughtered should Barack Obama win.

Feasting on a bull is traditional in this part of Africa and in the world headquarters of Obamamania outside of the US, there will be a lot of nervous bovine tonight.

CNN's come here because this is the ancestral home of Barack Obama (as Kenyan's see it). And in a few hours this remote place could be part of history.

Barack Obama Senior, the senator's father, was born in this was born in the remote district of less than a thousand people. His grandmother lives in simple house now surrounded by a fence and Kenyan police.

But that's not the only family in Kogelo. The entire clan has descended onto the village. There are half-brothers and aunts, half sisters and uncles-the large extended family that is now famous in Kenya.

Malik Obama, Senator Obama's half brother.


Filed under: 2008 Election • Barack Obama • David McKenzie
September 29th, 2008
01:25 PM ET

Pirates hijack ship loaded with deadly cargo

A crew member taken hostage on a pirated ship off the coast of Somalia has died. CNN's David McKenzie reports
A crew member taken hostage on a pirated ship off the coast of Somalia has died. CNN's David McKenzie reports

David McKenzie | BIO
CNN Correspondent 

They have done it again, but perhaps they have bitten off more than they can chew.

Pirates have hijacked 25 vessels this year off the coast of Somalia, but it is 'number 25' that has brought the most international attention.

On Thursday they captured the 'MV Faina' as it was about to dock in Mombassa, Kenya.

Onboard? Soviet-era tanks and weapons.

According to the Ukrainian ministry, the ship is carrying a huge cache of arms including 33 Soviet built T-72 tanks, tank munitions, and an undisclosed amount of small arms.

Security experts tell CNN that if the arms found their way to Somalia they could help fuel the conflict their and even end up in the hands of terror groups.


Filed under: 360° Radar • David McKenzie • Global 360°
August 22nd, 2008
08:02 AM ET

Pirates strike again – no kidding

Pirates are running rampant off Somalia. This past June, CNN's David McKenzie embarked with the forces trying to stop them.
Pirates are running rampant off Somalia. This past June, CNN's David McKenzie embarked with the forces trying to stop them.

David McKenzie | BIO
CNN Correspondent

It's been called the worst spate of piracy in years.

Three ships were hijacked in one day off the coast of Somalia, in East Africa. The ships are flying German, Japanese and Iranian flags. They were targetted by pirates who now seem to be striking at will.

These are not your Jack Sparrow romantic pirates of yesteryear. They use speedboats that operate from mother ships to take on merchant vessels. The pirates are heavily armed with RPGs and heavy machine guns. Merchant vessels are defenseless.

The attacks today bring the number of vessels currently being held by pirates off Somalia to seven.

Capt. Pottengal Mukudan of the International Maritime Bureau told CNN that the Combined Task Force-150 - a multinational naval force that monitors the region - should "give piracy a much higher priority to bring this under control."

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/08/22/art.vert.somalia2.jpg width=292 height=320]
"Four attacks in two days, ships being hijacked and crews being taken, and large ransoms being demanded is completely unacceptable," Mukudan said.

I spent time with the CTF-150 warships off Somalia. The multinational force said they would do all they could to stop pirates but that their mandate only allowed them to work in international waters.

That mandate has since changed, allowing them to take on pirates more aggresively. Yet we haven't seen proactive tactics to meet the threat. FULL POST

Filed under: David McKenzie • Global 360°
August 7th, 2008
01:38 PM ET

Are scars a sign of healing?

Watch CNN's David McKenzie's report on the U.S. embassy bombing in East Africa, ten years later.
Watch CNN's David McKenzie's report on the U.S. embassy bombing in East Africa, ten years later.

David McKenzie
CNN Correspondent

It was the scars on his face and hands that I noticed first.

Douglas is blind - but that is not what struck me.

When I shook Douglas Sidialo's hand, it was lined with the memories of the event. Webbed with scars.

He tried to shield himself from the massive blast 10 years ago.

It is a decade since al Qaeda terrorists packed a truck with explosives and detonated it outside the U.S. embassy in downtown Nairobi.

Almost simultaneously, the US embassy in Tanzania was targeted.

In Nairobi the attack had devastating effects. Though the United States was the target, it was ordinary Kenyans who felt the full brunt.

Over 200 people were killed and 5,000 injured, the majority Kenyans going about their daily lives. And I was struck by the visceral anger many of them feel a decade later. FULL POST

Filed under: David McKenzie • Terrorism
July 18th, 2008
10:30 AM ET

Kenya’s epic migration under threat


All of those small dots represent Wildebeest. The annual Wildebeest migration is an event tourists flock to see... its also bringing out many more poachers. Watch our David McKenzie's report

David McKenzie | BIO
CNN Correspondent

It’s one of the natural wonders of the world.

Over a million animals trek annually across the African plains. They cross national boundaries, forge rivers thick with crocodiles, and find the greener pastures of Kenya’s Masai Mara.

And it’s happening right now. Just imagine it for a second: herds thousands strong streaming through the golden grass of the savanna. There is always a single file of Wildebeest in the lead with a deluge following behind. Some of the herds are so massive that their front is in Kenya and their back in Tanzania.

This annual migration is now under threat by poachers.

Filed under: David McKenzie • Global 360° • Planet in Peril • TV
June 27th, 2008
03:06 PM ET

Zimbabwe votes: Refugees react

CNN's David McKenzie speaks with Zimbabweans at a refugee camp in Johannesburg, South Africa; sharing why they fled, why its not safe to vote, and what should be done to fix the country... He filed this vlog:

Filed under: 360° Radar • David McKenzie
June 26th, 2008
11:58 AM ET

Afraid to vote...

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/06/26/art.zimbabwe.southafrica.jpg caption="Zimbabweans and South Africans demonstrate against election related violence in Zimbabwe on Nelson Mandela Bridge in downtown Johannesburg, South Africa"]

Program Note: Zimbabwe's opposition party warned Thursday of growing political genocide at the hands of government supporters, urging the world to intervene immediately before the situation gets worse. Watch full report tonight on 360°

David McKenzie | BIO
CNN Correspondent

It is the eve of a vote here in Southern Africa.

It’s the eve of a vote with one candidate. A ‘sham’ of democracy.

Despite the calls from regional leaders, international heads of state and even Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, Robert Mugabe is determined to go to the polls.

I had to get out of our studio where I am on live duty and see what ordinary Zimbabweans are thinking.

The Refugees I talked to in downtown Johannesburg are fed up. After years of economic meltdown and weeks of political violence, they have had enough.

In March, at the first vote, these refugees headed home to vote, many of them for the opposition. Now they see no point.

“There is no reason to go and vote since they are beating us like this,” said one man at the Park station, “It doesn¹t make sense.” Another agreed, I can't use any of their names, they are afraid that Mugabe’s government might monitor CNN’s broadcasts and website, “Even if we go back and vote, Mugabe would not accept it. It is better for us to stay here, we are free here.”

Free yes, but safe? Not always.

Foreigners in South Africa, many of them from Zimbabwe, were ruthlessly targeted in xenophobic attacks here. This is a country with rampant inflation and the foreigners are often seen as taking jobs and space from locals. Scores were killed.

But still they are forced to live outside of their homeland. At the station they pack big sacks of goods for their families. They take rice and sugar and warm blackest for their families suffering through the brutal winter months. Commodities are impossible to find in Zimbabwe. They take their simple gifts to their families and then come back to South Africa to toil at jobs often way below their station.

As the politicians bicker and the leaders join in to try and condemn Mugabe the loudest, it is these ordinary Zimbabweans who will suffer in silence

Filed under: 360° Radar • David McKenzie • T1 • Zimbabwe
April 10th, 2008
07:21 PM ET

African Warriors in the heart of London

Maasai warriors sit on the 'tube' in London, on their first trip outside of Tanzania. They are in London to run the world famous marathon.


Six Maasai warriors chanting their traditional songs and jumping in their sandals made of car tires, a sight I am used to seeing in Kenya.
But in London?!
It turns out they are here to run the London Marathon, competing in the 26-mile race in their traditional Shuka robes and heavy buffalo hide Elongo shields. Because I've spent time with the tribe in East Africa, I was invited to spend some 'training' time with them.

We first met at Trafalgar Square. Under Nelson's column with the giant lions at its base, their 24-year-old leader, Isaya, directed the chanting that they frequently use to scare off real lions in Northeast Tanzania. I greeted Isaya in his native Kiswahili language, and he was pleased to meet someone based in his homeland.
Since they arrived, the Maasai have become the toast of the town. Fleet Street's reporters have clamored to spend time with them; TV crews have followed their every move. And they seemed tired of the attention. Remember, none had even left their country before, let alone taken a train or a plane or eaten an English breakfast – something the press here absolutely 'ate up'. All a bit overwhelming.



For all the attention, their purpose is to raise money for their tiny village called Eluai, where two out of three children die because of dirty water. They hope to bring in 60,000 pounds (around $120,000) to achieve a permanent water source for their village.

We went with them on their first rides on the subway – called "the tube" here. We admired the tall buildings of the gleaming Canary Warf business area together – they had never seen a building taller than a story or two before their trip.
But all they really wanted to talk about was how they were on a mission. As warriors, or Moran, they have the ultimate responsibility for safety and health in their village. And they are using a pretty spectacular method to secure it.
I asked Isaya though if there's anything else he wanted to do here. Yes, he said, "to see the Queen of England." Perhaps with all the attention they will.
– David McKenzie, CNN Correspondent

UPDATE: Many of you have asked how to help: http://www.maasaimarathon.org/


Filed under: David McKenzie • Maasai
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