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Africans debate impact of Osama bin Laden killing

Kenya greeted Osama bin Laden's death as "justice." Other countries worry that America's battle against terrorism masks an attempt to expand military influence in Africa.

By Scott BaldaufStaff writer / May 2, 2011

Kenyans watch US president Barrack Obama, on television in Nairobi, Kenya, on Monday, May 2, announcing the death of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.

Sayyid Azim/AP

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Johannesburg, South Africa

For many Africans, the war against terrorism began on African soil.

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It started with the dual car bombings of the US embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania on Aug. 7, 1998, three years before the 9/11 attack in the United States. Suicide bombers killed 213 people in Nairobi and 11 people in Dar-es-Salaam, almost simultaneously.

Small wonder, then, that Kenya's leaders were among those to congratulate the United States for its reported killing of Al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden on May 1 in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

“Kenyans are happy and thank the US people, the Pakistani people, and everybody else who managed to kill Osama," Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga told Reuters. President Mwai Kibaki called it “an act of justice” for the people of Kenya who lost loved ones in the 1998 attack.

IN PICTURES: Osama bin Laden death: reaction

But elsewhere on the African continent, the news of Mr. Bin Laden’s death was met with a mixture of skepticism, joy, and alarm. For some chatting over social media forums like Twitter, it was a sign that America was finally learning the art of slow, patient intelligence work. For others, and particularly those jaded by years of muscular us-versus-them propaganda, the US operation was a demonstration of its overreaching military power and contempt for rules of sovereignty.

Typical is this exchange that occurred on Twitter this morning: "well done to the US for sorting out bin Laden," tweeted South African radio talk show host Kieno Kammies, prompting the reply from Twitter user ORapscallion, "Ja but was it necessary to kill a few 100k innocents in the process?"

Little connection to Africa's militant threats

The death of one man will have little practical impact on a continent where small local groups are capable of doing damage far beyond their numbers.

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