America’s Covert War in East Africa

Surveillance, Rendition, Assassination

Clara Usiskin

A tough-minded investigation of how legal process and human rights have been ignored in the search for often non-existent terrorists in Africa.

Bibliographic Details
America’s Covert War in East Africa Paperback
April 2019£17.99
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Clara Usiskin has spent eight years investigating the ‘War on Terror’ and its effects in the East and Horn of Africa, documenting hundreds of cases of rendition, secret detention and targeted killings. As a result of her work exposing abuses carried out by regional governments and their international partners, Clara was deported from Kenya and Uganda and is currently persona non grata in both countries.

Her book sets out the historical background to today’s covert war, including the early Somali jihads and British repression in colonial Kenya, through to the 1998 US Embassy Bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, and President Clinton’s early rendition programme. America’s Covert War in East Africa then looks at the US Military’s new Africa Command, with its emphasis on counterterrorism, alongside increasing use of targeted killings by security forces in the region, and continued renditions and secret detention.

Finally, Usiskin investigates the shorter and longer term consequences of such intensive militarisation, and the proliferation of surveillance and other technologies of control in East Africa and its surrounding waters, focussing in particular on their impact on vulnerable ethnic and religious groups in a highly volatile region.


Clara Usiskin is a human rights investigator who documents national security-related abuses around the world, with a particular focus on the East and Horn of Africa. She was formerly a national security fellow at the Open Society Justice Initiative and Deputy Director of the Secret Prisons team at Reprieve.


‘A harrowing first-hand account of the US war on terror. Usiskin goes deep into the belly of the beast to bring us some of the most heart-wrenching accounts of torture against detainees accused of masterminding acts of terror against America and its allies in East Africa. This book is unique in several ways, particularly in its combination of a refined legal investigation and extremely cautious investigative journalism.’ — Jok Madut Jok, co-founder of the Sudd Institute

A highly disturbing but essential book. Usiskin’s kaleidoscopic accounts of renditions, secret detentions and extrajudicial killings highlight the incredible reach of American and British power into African polities, as well as the eagerness of east African governments to use the ‘War on Terror’ to justify increased surveillance of everyday citizens, torture of political opponents, attacks on national judiciaries and violence against minority populations.’ — Phil Clark, Reader in Comparative and International Politics, SOAS

‘If you want to understand how US renditions and secret detentions work in Africa and how allies of Washington such as the UK have supported these Counter-Terrorism efforts — buy this book. A really sobering and important book to read.’ — Alex Vines, Head of the Africa Programme, Chatham House

‘Clara Usiskin takes the reader on a journey through Britain’s colonial past and Al Qaeda’s attacks in the 1990s to the modern cyber confrontation in the region.  A book full of fascinating insight and episodes, revealing the troubling and enduring nature of terrorism in the region.’ —Michael Goodman, Professor in Intelligence and International Affairs, King’s College London