Kanye West Declares School Year ‘Lost’, Classes Back In 2021

Kenya on Tuesday declared that its school year was considered lost because of the coronavirus pandemic, and primary and secondary pupils would return to class next January.

Continue reading “Kanye West Declares School Year ‘Lost’, Classes Back In 2021”

Predators targeting Kenyan children studying online

Kenya’s police has warned of a rise in cases of online sex predators who are targeting children who are studying online after schools were closed because of coronavirus outbreak.

The directorate of criminal investigations said the predators were luring children by complimenting them through inbox messages, before asking them for nude photos.

The agency said it was investigating several cases and asked parents to share information if a perpetrator contacts their children.

It also urged them to track the online activities of their children and always know their whereabouts as some perpetrators were organising for physical meetings.

Students with access to internet in the country have been attending online classes after schools were closed down in March to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Many refugees living in Nairobi struggle to survive because of COVID-19

A woman walks past a police armed vehicle in Eastleigh – Nairobi’s “little Mogadishu”
Photo by Billy Mutai/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Naohiko Omata, University of Oxford

The economic impact of COVID-19 is being felt across the world. This also applies to refugees.

For about eight years a team of researchers in the Refugee Economies Programme at the Oxford Refugee Studies Centre has been carrying out studies in East Africa. We work closely with refugees as our research assistants.

Since the global pandemic began, we have been speaking with these research assistants to understand better the impact that COVID-19 is having on refugees living in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital. The assistants – primarily from Congolese and Somali refugee communities – are people who are well-networked with fellow refugees. They include community leaders, staff members of aid organisations, pastors and representatives of community-based organisations.

All of the assistants reported primarily on the acute economic challenges that the crisis has caused for Nairobi’s refugees.

Nairobi hosts about 81,000 refugees. Despite Kenya’s encampment policy which prohibits refugees from
leaving camps, Nairobi has been a home for refugees for many years. By moving to the city, refugees largely give up their access to humanitarian assistance. However, they choose to live in Nairobi to gain better access to economic opportunities and social services, such as education and health.

In order to work in the formal sector, refugees must obtain a work permit. But these are rarely issued. This means refugees are largely excluded from formal labour markets and are heavily reliant on informal urban economies.

To curb the spread of COVID-19, Kenya has implemented a dusk to dawn curfew and lockdowns which restrict people’s movements in and out of certain counties, and parts of Nairobi. These severely constrain mobility. As a result many urban refugees are unable to pursue their livelihoods in the same ways as before.

They have few savings and depend on the day-to-day cash they generate from street vending. They now face a struggle to buy food every day. And they have the added challenge of being excluded from other channels of support.

Refugee livelihoods

Hawking, though prohibited by the Nairobi City Council, is the most common way they earn a living. A considerable number of Congolese refugees sell bitenge (African textiles) or mobile phone credit on the busy streets of Nairobi. They often venture out of the capital to other cities to explore less competitive markets.

Somali refugees typically sell clothing, tea and snacks in Eastleigh – Nairobi’s so-called “little Mogadishu” – because of the large number of Somalis who live and do business here.

Alongside informal businesses, mutual assistance between refugees is crucial for survival. When they run out of cash or food, they visit friends, neighbours, churches or mosques to get help. Some fortunate refugees also benefit from remittances sent by friends or relatives living abroad. As these examples show, for self-settled refugees in Nairobi, both mobility and various networks are key for their day-to-day survival.

Over the last several weeks, I have been communicating with our research assistants through phone, Skype, emails or WhatsApp to gather information.

From these reports we have learnt that hawkers in particular are suffering from movement restrictions and far fewer customers. Many hawkers used to take advantage of the evening hours – between 5pm and 8pm – when city council patrols would disappear. But the curfew starts at 7pm and most people on the streets now vanish at around 5pm to 6pm.

In addition, remittance pipelines appear to be dwindling. According to our research in 2017, 43% of Somali refugees received remittances. The annual median amount of remittances sent was Ksh252,000 (about US$2,500). But one Somali research assistant reported that Hawala – a money transfer system – has become “empty”. Although some remittance recipients are still getting regular support from abroad, many others have lost financial support as the pandemic-induced economic crisis also hits their remitters abroad.

Finally, our research assistants note that collective economic activities have also been disturbed by the COVID-19 lockdown. For instance, Somali refugee business people often organise ayuto – credit groups that would regularly put money together for mutual financial assistance. Now, due to business closures and restricted movements, many of these communal finance mechanisms aren’t working.

Our refugee research assistants also reported that although the Kenyan government has started to assist some vulnerable Kenyan families with food and a small cash stipend via Mpesa – the mobile money network in Kenya – refugees are excluded from government support by their legal status. One assistant reported that a group of refugees who enquired were explicitly told by government officials: “UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) is responsible for refugees, so go to UNHCR.”

Coping

To cope, refugees rely on solidarity. Among Somali refugees, those who are less affected are trying to help vulnerable community members. In the Congolese community, pastors collect food and cash donations and redistribute them to the most vulnerable refugees with the help of community-based organisations. Pastors are also providing counselling.

But all the research assistants we spoke to are concerned about how long they can sustain these informal support mechanisms. Ad hoc refugee-led initiatives are almost entirely reliant on benevolent donations from refugees themselves.

After the health risks of COVID-19 are finally mitigated, the question of how to best assist refugees’ economic recovery should be a primary concern for refugee-assisting agencies. Needs-based aid, such as giving food and non-food items, is definitely necessary and important. But reconstruction of livelihood strategies after COVID-19 needs a long-term vision and different approaches.

Naohiko Omata, Senior Research Officer, University of Oxford

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

194 dead in Kenya floods in the past month

Residents wade through the waters after their home was flooded after the River Nzoia burst its banks and due to heavy rainfall and the backflow from Lake Victoria CREDIT: Thomas Mukoya/Reuters

Heavy rains in Kenya have caused floods and landslides that have left 194 dead and destroyed crops since the deluge began last month, complicating the fight against the coronavirus, the government said Wednesday.

The heavy flooding comes after similarly deadly rainfall at the end of last year, and brings with it a second wave of locusts with massive swarms forming in Kenya and elsewhere in East Africa.

A statement from the presidency said that people were being evacuated from flood-prone areas in several counties, with major dams having reached their maximum capacity.

“So far, 194 people have been killed by floods and related hazards, especially in Western Kenya, Central, and Coastal regions,” said the statement.

“Crops running into 8,000 acres (3,240 hectares) have also been swept away” while water supply infrastructure to the capital Nairobi, central Nyeri, western Kisumu and Nakuru, has been destroyed by floodwaters.

The health ministry will meanwhile send masks and essential hygiene supplies to camps of those displaced by the flooding, to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Kenya has so far recorded more than 500 COVID-19 cases and 24 deaths.

Observers fear that the flooding, and a new, more devastating locust invasion on top of the economic blow dealt by the virus could spark a massive hunger crisis in the region.

Widow cooking stones for children in Kenya fuels anger

Peninah Bahati Kitsao says the help she has received is “a miracle”

Kenyans have rallied to the aid of a widow filmed cooking stones for her eight children to make them believe she was preparing food for them.

Peninah Bahati Kitsao, who lives in Mombasa, hoped they would fall asleep while they waited for their meal.

She used to wash laundry locally but such work is hard to come by now as people have restricted their interactions because of coronavirus.

A shocked neighbour, Prisca Momanyi, alerted the media to her plight.

After being interviewed by Kenya’s NTV, the widow has received money via mobile phone and through a bank account that was opened for her by Ms Momanyi, as the mother of eight does not know how to read and write.

Ms Kitsao, who lives in a two-bedroomed house without running water or electricity, has described the generosity as a “miracle”.

“I didn’t believe that Kenyans can be so loving after I received phone calls from all over the country asking how they might be of help,” she told Tuko news website.

Cooking pots belonging to Peninah Bahati Kitsao in Mombasa, Kenya
Image captionPeninah Bahati Kitsao put the stones in these cooking pots

She had told NTV that her hungry children had not been deceived for long by her delaying stone-cooking tactics.

“They started telling me that they knew I was lying to them, but I could do nothing because I had nothing.”

Her neighbour had come around to see if the family was OK after hearing the children crying, NTV reports.

As part of measures to cushion the most vulnerable from the coronavirus crisis, the government has launched a feeding programme.

But it had yet to reach Ms Kitsao, who was widowed last year when her husband was killed by a gang.

Her neighbour has also thanked the county authorities and the Kenya Red Cross, who have also come to help Ms Kitsao.

Many more households in that neighbourhood of the coastal city are now going to benefit from the relief food scheme too, the authorities say.


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Like many low-income Kenyans, Ms Kitsao has been struggling to earn money for the last month since the government put in place measures to limit the spread of coronavirus, including a ban on travel in and out of major cities, reports the BBC’s Basillioh Mutahi from the capital, Nairobi.

Many companies have reduced their operations or have suspended them altogether, meaning that workers who depend on short contracts or menial jobs have no alternative means to earn their livelihoods.

Those who run small businesses have also been affected by the nationwide dusk-to-dawn curfew.

Ms Kitsao’s story of desperation has coincided with the revelation that the health ministry has spent huge sums of money, donated by the World Bank to respond to the pandemic, on tea, snacks and mobile phone airtime for its staff.

Details about how many people were provided for are unclear, nonetheless there has been outrage on social media that the government is spending such amounts at a time many Kenyans continue to suffer, our reporter says.

The East African nation has recorded 395 cases of Covid-19 and 17 deaths.

Outrage as Kenya spends virus funds on tea and snacks

Poor Kenyans have had to rely on food donations during the pandemic

Kenyans online are outraged after the ministry of health spent huge sums on tea, snacks and mobile phone airtime for its staff in the battle against coronavirus pandemic.

Some 4m Kenyan shillings ($37,000; £30,000) has been spent on tea and snacks, while 2m Kenyan shillings has been used on airtime for staff, according to the ministry’s budget that has been made public.

This is part of a budget of 10m Kenyan shillings for tea and snacks for an unspecified period and 6m Kenyan shillings for airtime for three months.

Other items in the budget include leasing of ambulances, stationary and fuel.

The money was part of the $9.3m donated by the World Bank to Kenya for emergency response during the pandemic.

Kenyan newspapers on Thursday headlined with a rebuke of the expenditure.

On social media citizens pointed out how poor Kenyans had nothing to eat and doctors do not have adequate protective equipment:

“You are charging Kenyans for mandatory quarantine and subsequent treatment in time of a global pandemic while shamelessly telling us you spent tens of millions of ksh on printing and tea!” Njau Muchira tweeted.

“How you spend millions on tea and snacks while people don’t even have face masks is obnoxious and cantankerous,” Walter Nyauma tweeted.

“A certain ministry allocates itself 4 millions just on tea and snacks in 1 month while a woman in Mombasa resorts to boiling stones just to convince her children that there is food cooking,” Denzin tweeted.

Coronavirus poses ethical concerns: a view on the choices being made in Kenya

Artisans work at their shops at Gikomba Market, Nairobi, in January 2019.
Simon Maina/AFP via GettyImages

By David Nderitu, Egerton University

Many countries in the world are taking measures to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic, including maintaining social distance and observing personal hygiene.

Many people are now working remotely to avoid interaction with colleagues. Educational and religious institutions have been closed down in order to avoid large gatherings of people.

In Kenya, individuals who return from abroad have been required to self-quarantine for at least 14 days before they can go on with their normal life. This has now become mandatory and people are being taken to facilities identified by the government at their own expense.

The Kenyan government has also enforced a dusk-to-dawn curfew. In addition, residents of Nairobi, Mombasa, Kwale and Kilifi have been advised not to leave their counties.

When read together, these measures raise certain existential and ethical concerns. Restricting movement and forcing people to stay home might minimise the risk of spreading the virus. But these measures pose serious economic challenges for those in the informal sector. Their livelihoods depend on daily incomes. The inability to look for work will worsen poverty and suffering.

The reality of extreme poverty versus disease control in Kenya and elsewhere presents a real dilemma. Uncontrolled movement of people increases the risk of spreading the virus. But if people cannot move freely to make a living there is a heightened risk of hunger and starvation. Either way, there seems to be an unpleasant choice to be made by both the government and the people.

As the government of Kenya strives to resolve this dilemma there must be a balanced consideration of decisions. This must prioritise measures that will maximise benefit and minimise harm for the majority of citizens. The voice of the poor majority in Kenya has to carry more weight in the negotiation.

Meeting basic needs

Governments and other policy makers have an obligation to ensure that the spread of the virus is minimised. However, in resource limited settings like Kenya, the balance preventing more COVID-19 infections, and the underlying reality of poverty, lack of employment, and poor health care systems presents a big challenge.

Developed countries can afford to cushion public services and individuals from the effects of the coronavirus. And similar efforts are being made in other countries in Europe, Asia and Australia. In Africa, where many economies are struggling, stimulus packages may be a tall order. Much of the continent still depends on development aid and loans, especially in crisis situations.

For example, Kenya recently received a $50 million loan from the World Bank to support the country’s emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The primary beneficiaries will be infected people, at-risk populations, medical and emergency personnel, medical and testing facilities, and national health agencies.

It may take several weeks for people at the grassroots to benefit from the funding. Yet their needs are too immediate to be subjected to any delays. It is true that President Uhuru Kenyatta announced a stimulus plan to buoy Kenya’s sagging economy, but some have argued that the tax driven effort will benefit the rich more than the poor.

According to the Chronic Poverty Advisory Network’s 2018 report, almost 80% of Kenyans are either income poor or near the poverty line. As at December 2019, Kenya had an unemployment rate of 9.31%. Data from the Institute of Economic Affairs indicates that the informal sector – which employs over 80% of Kenya’s working population – is usually associated with low and irregular pay. Thus, the majority of those employed in the sector are poor.

So, when the government of Kenya encouraged people to stay and work at home, many people in informal employment did it reluctantly. The main worry in many homesteads is that if their breadwinners do not work for even a single day, it will lead to starvation. Indeed, thousands of residents of the Kibra slum in Nairobi caused a stampede while scrambling for food aid despite the risk of mass congregation.

This reflects the fears of millions of people across Africa where lockdowns and curfews have been imposed. Some Kenyans have indicated that they would rather die of a pandemic than of hunger.

Best interests

The government can either allow people to continue with their normal life and risk the spread of the virus, or force people to stay at home where those in informal jobs would miss the opportunity to provide the basic needs of their families. Of course if it had the capacity – or is it the good will? – to implement stimulus measures like the US, Europe and elsewhere, there would be no dilemma to speak of.

Kenya ignored calls to restrict international flights into the country when the new coronavirus was declared a pandemic. The government went ahead and allowed a flight from China to land at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport with 239 passengers on board. Such acts of negligence were committed despite the moral responsibility of the government to protect citizens from harm.

The government must now ensure that it fulfils this primary obligation by cushioning Kenyans from the effects of extreme poverty. From a utilitarian perspective, the government is charged with the moral responsibility to promote the greatest good for the greatest number of people.

Continued enforcement of the curfew and restriction of cross-country movement only adds to the suffering of the poor in Kenya. Without sufficient mitigating measurements it would only be a matter of weeks before families began to lack for the basics. The slightest disruption to the normal chain of events in Africa, even for a brief period, can spell disaster.

David Nderitu, Assistant Lecturer of Philosophy, Egerton University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Women’s stories of breaking the mould as Muslim preachers in Kenya

An Imam addresses a Kenyan Muslim Youth Alliance meeting flanked by community leaders.
(Photo by Neil Thomas/Corbis via Getty Images)

By Hassan Juma Ndzovu, Moi University

Ramadan is a period during which Muslims across the world are deeply immersed in worship and are particularly attuned to exhortations by religious scholars.

In Kenya, Islamic public sermonising has traditionally been the domain of male clerics. However, according to my recent study, there is an emerging clique of female preachers engaging in this form of public participation through Muslim radio stations.

What explains this development? First, due to media liberalisation in the 1990s, numerous local FM radio stations were allowed to operate. These include those inclined to religious content. Second, this process of democratisation promoted a pluralism that embraced female articulations of religious doctrines and texts.

Whether espoused in a Salafi-Wahabi or Sufi framework, the emerging group of female preachers is using their advanced religious knowledge to deliver sermons through the radio stations.

My study sought to examine this phenomenon, given that radio religious sermons are easily accessible to people lacking strong literacy and religious training. This has the potential of being the most attractive religious commodity to consume.

The study also explored the controversial status of the female voice as a medium of transmitting religious knowledge to the Muslim public. Here, I was interested in interrogating the role of the female voice as a means of expression and debates over authoritative public speech. The data led me to conclude that in spite of the limitations imposed by some conservative Islamic religious scholars, new forms of female religious authorities represent a significant development among Kenyan Muslims.

Though the Kenyan Muslim communities are generally biased towards women, there is increased public presence of women in radio programmes as a religious authority. This has raised their social reputation in society.

Why women have been excluded

Female Islamic authority in Kenya is restricted by the traditional gender customs also evident in other Muslim societies. Notwithstanding their level of Islamic knowledge, the general instructional role of women is restricted to the traditional Qur’anic school to teach to read and memorise the Qur’an. This explains why, historically, Muslim women were denied opportunities to pursue higher Islamic learning beyond the “essential” basics.

Even reputable early Muslim scholars in Kenya, like Sheikh Al-Amin Ali Mazrui and Sheikh Sayyid Ali Badawi did not make efforts to recruit and encourage women to advance their knowledge in Islamic education. What could have attributed to this scenario?

Historically, the male members of the society have occupied all the institutions of Islamic authority. These range from caliph, scholar, mufti, kadhi, Sufi Sheikh and mosque preacher. The male religious scholars regarded women to be unfit to qualify for these public positions because of their supposed ability to distract the attention of the males in their company.

These conservative restrictions led Azara Mudira, a leading female scholar who sought to feminise Islamic education in Kenya, to establish an advanced Islamic theological school for Muslim women in Kenya in 1987. Established in Nairobi, its mission is

to challenge the exclusionary male-centered tradition of advanced education in Islamic studies and

to create an alternative space for authoritative intervention by Muslim women Islamic scholars in the religious realm.

A few female preachers in Kenya have made their mark. One illustrious contemporary example is that of Nafisa Khitamy Badawi, who emerged as one of the highly respected female religious authorities in Kenya (and maybe the East African region).

Despite their advanced education, Muslim women are not mandated to speak in public. They must also not engage in a public disputation of religious matters. However, this notion is being put into question with the appearance of female preachers who offer lectures – mawaidha in Kiswahili – to the Muslim public in coastal Kenya.

Women’s voices

Regardless of their exceptional position as female preachers, these women are confronted with the challenge of justifying their activities. They have to convince the male religious scholars that they are knowledgeable. They also have to plead the case that – in spite of being women – their voice is deep and less feminine. And not soft and seductive.

This is because female preachers are confronted with the prevailing belief that classifies their voices as nakedness (aura). One of the female preachers argued that,

“For me being at the radio station is similar to being behind a curtain, a strategy that Aisha used to conceal herself while addressing her male students.”

According to Islamic history, Aisha – the wife of Prophet Muhammad – was very knowledgeable on Islamic matters. Several companions of Prophet Muhammad went to her to seek religious knowledge, but behind a curtain. In equating a radio station to a curtain, the female preachers emphasized that it is

“possible to interact with the public without people [read men] seeing me.”

Female preachers in coastal Kenya are compelled to talk with a “manly” voice in order for them to be accepted and provided with a platform to articulate issues concerning their faith. As a result, the female preachers can only exist with the consent of the male religious authorities in the Muslim communities.

But female preachers are reluctant to challenge the existing behavioural norms. This out of fear of losing the preaching platforms availed to them at the Muslim radio stations. Their adherence to the “acceptable” religious and social norms guarantees their participation in the Muslim public sphere.

Hassan Juma Ndzovu, Senior Lecturer of Religious Studies, Moi University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

How the COVID-19 pandemic will affect informal workers. Insights from Kenya

By Njeri Kinyanjui, University of Nairobi

COVID-19 is going to have a devastating impact on economies. Africa has a particular vulnerability because so many people work in the informal sector. In an interview with Moina Spooner from The Conversation Africa, Njeri Kinyanjui explains how this could unfold for Kenya’s informal labourers and whether there’s anything that can be done to support them.

How many people in Kenya’s work force are informal workers and what type of work do they do?

The informal sector thrives in Kenyan rural and urban centres. According to 2015 estimates there were 11.8 million people employed in the informal economy, against 2.4 million working in the formal sector. By 2018 the informal sector accounted for 83.6% of total employment.

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But we can’t be sure of these numbers. There are no accurate statistics on how many people work in the informal economy. The figures are estimates which governments and international development organisations reach by excluding workers employed in the modern formal sector and those in small-scale farming. The methodology is in line with what multilateral agencies such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund recommend.

There are many different categories of workers in the informal sector. And, worryingly, despite the huge number of people in this labour force, the earnings differentials between the formal and informal sectors are significant. Entry level staff in the formal sector earn between KES 10,001 and KES 50,000 (US$100-$500) a month. Those in the informal sector typically earn a monthly income of between KES 5,000 and KES 25,000 (US$50-$250).

There are those who are self-employed and work for themselves. These people – for instance tailors or welders – then hire others on weekly or monthly contracts.


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Then there are those who will take up any job that may arise. For instance, house cleaners or porters.

Some informal workers are trainees who are learning on the job or family members who are helping a family business by overseeing accounts or running errands.

The informal sector is typically viewed as a stopgap measure where people subsist while they wait for jobs in the formal sector. For these reasons, the sector is neglected by government policies at the local level and by development financiers at the global level.

But, aside from job creation, it’s hugely important to the country’s economy and many households depend on the informal sector. For instance, a lot of vehicle repair and metal work takes place in the informal sector. And the fresh vegetable trade in Kenya is largely informal and unregulated.

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What are the main challenges they face because of this pandemic?

Like any other businesses, informal sector business will end up with a reduction in customers because of the pandemic. The government is forced to implement quarantines and stay-at-home orders which will have negative consequences for spending in shopping malls, markets and restaurants.

For instance, customers will avoid crowded markets like Gikomba, Kariakoor and Wakulima – the biggest informal markets in Nairobi. The demand for their goods will decline and stocked goods may go to waste. Those making school boxes, suitcases that children use for school, or school uniforms may be affected by the closure of schools.

The businesses that supply the informal sector could, depending how long the measures last, run out of supplies. That will increase the cost of goods. This will affect the cash flow that businesses have.

Travel time to and from work will be affected if public transport is disrupted during the pandemic. This may also mean increased transport costs or delays in getting to work.

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Those with children will be affected by school closure because there will be nobody to supervise their children at home. During my field work studies and visits to markets I observed that young market women usually take their children to informal daycare centres. If these close due to the pandemic, it means they cannot go to the market every day. Those who take their children with them to their workplaces may now be too concerned for their children’s safety.


Adriana Mahdalova/Shutterstock

Informal workers will also not be able to take many of the precautions that health authorities suggest, such as social distancing, hand washing or self isolation.

Social distancing between workers in informal markets may be difficult because of crowding. For instance in markets people work close to each other and don’t have walls separating them. The same can be found in other informal sectors like in public “matatu” transport, vehicle repair and metal work.

Maintaining hygiene by hand washing with soap and water may also be a problem because there aren’t any facilities. For example in my research, I’ve not seen any water points in Githurai and Ruiru markets. I think this will apply to most of the other markets.

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Working from home is also difficult. Most informal workers live in informal settlements in single rooms or bedsitters. They do not have enough space to work from. For others, their jobs require them to be on-site, where they’re in contact with their customers. The informal economy operates in agglomerations in different parts of the city. In Kenya these are known as jua kali (hot sun) sites.

Is there anything that can be done to support them?

There is a lot that can be done to support informal workers.

In light of this pandemic, because many informal workers are in contact with large numbers of people, they should be provided with masks to protect themselves and others. Water points should also be set up in markets and other informal sector clusters.

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Longer term, the pandemic highlights the need for government and urban planners to plan cities with building designs that cater for traders, artisans and peasants. These facilities should include adequate room size for work, storage and display. There should also be a good supply of clean water, electricity and garbage collection. And there should be facilities that allow traders to access the internet.

Njeri Kinyanjui, Senior Research Fellow, University of Nairobi

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

COVER PHOTO: Vendors in a market. Billy Miaron/Shutterstock

Elimination of malaria needs much greater involvement of women

Women are often primary caregivers in their communities. Shutterstock

By Damaris Matoke-Muhia, Kenya Medical Research Institute

I was born and bred in the western part of Kenya, an area endemic of malaria. I have been sick from malaria not once, not twice, but more times than I can count. In my village, outbreaks were normal – the entire village would get sick, especially after the rains. I watched many people die, including classmates, relatives and even my own family members.

As a child, I watched mothers in my village work frantically to make sure their families were protected from the disease. They dressed the kids up to protect them from mosquito bites and cold weather. If someone contracted malaria, they would boil concoctions from traditional plants, cook finger millet (wimbi) porridge and ensure the patient would frequently shower to control fever. Sometimes they even carried the patient on their back to the hospital. When a family member was sick, the mother would practically be held hostage.

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Unfortunately, the situation in my Kenyan village is not unique on this continent. Sub-Saharan Africa continues to carry an unreasonably high global burden of disease. In 2018, the region was home to 93% of the world’s malaria cases. Most of the deaths (94%) were recorded in sub-Saharan Africa. Women bear the brunt of the disease, with children and pregnant women carrying the highest risk.

I am now a scientific researcher focused on malaria – partly because of my childhood experiences almost 30 years ago. I trap mosquitoes to monitor their behaviour, and how they develop insecticide resistance. I investigate new insecticides we could use to counter mosquito resistance to the current chemicals. In villages across Kenya, I participate in the distribution of bed nets, spraying of houses with insecticides, conduct health education and screen for malaria infections.

I also participate in high-level meetings about controlling malaria and other vector-borne diseases in Kenya and beyond. Unfortunately, the number of women present in such meetings is low. This is a problem because women are primary caregivers and the key implementers of community-level interventions. But they are missing from top leadership or managerial positions.

If we’re serious about malaria elimination in Africa, women must be included at decision making levels to advise on development, designing, delivery and implementation of tools that target health issues that affect them – especially malaria.


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The role of women

Women are clearly in charge in the villages I travel to for field work. They implement the plans the men create in their faraway high-level meetings.

A 2016 report by the Pan-African Mosquito Control Association showed that very few women were part of workforces dealing with vector control. Last year the association convened a meeting in Cameroon of 29 women from 20 African countries to identify the gaps and challenges of addressing malaria and vector-borne diseases. Overall, there was an outcry that women were not considered for leadership positions, mostly due to African cultural norms in which they were viewed as the weaker sex. Even if they tried to step up, women reported being mostly ignored.

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This is in direct contrast from my personal observations as a researcher. In communities, women ensure that high-quality bed nets are available and that everyone sleeps under them. If houses are sprayed with insecticides, women are the ones who ensure that the walls are not smeared or painted until the end of the shelf life of the chemical. Women also ensure that their children are treated in case of malaria infection and that they complete their doses.

Controlling malaria and other vector-borne diseases is complex. It needs integrated approaches and a range of voices.

Way forward

To harness its full potential, Africa must dismantle gender stereotypes. Incorporating women in the design, delivery and adoption of malaria interventions will enhance acceptance and compliance because women are the key implementers at community levels. And there should be concerted efforts to ensure they are part of policy making because they’re better equipped to build programmes with women in mind.

Excluding women -— particularly when making decisions on health issues that affect them, their children and the entire family — will continue to delay the realisation of malaria elimination on the continent. It will also be an impediment to economic development.

Damaris Matoke-Muhia, Senior Research scientist, Kenya Medical Research Institute

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Kenyan beauty parlour serving female heroin users

Naima Said stands back and studies her handiwork. “Not quite,” the self-taught beauty therapist mumbles, her forehead furrowed in frustration. Then she delicately dabs her client’s eyelid with a squishy makeup sponge. She’s not finished yet.

Several years ago Said, 31, used YouTube videos to train herself in everything from dying hair to pedicures. Now she runs the Beauty Corner – a small but perfectly formed parlour in Mombasa on the Kenyan coast. Every weekday at 8am, she lays out her equipment and waits for women to walk through the door. Like Said, those who seek out her services are addicted to heroin, or in recovery.

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Housed in the Reachout Centre Trust, a Kenyan organisation that helps Mombasa residents to fight drug addiction, the parlour opened last year with the aim of attracting more female users to its services, which include HIV testing, counselling, methadone treatment and cervical cancer screening.

Said was a heroin user for 10 years. After her father ran out of money to pay for private school, she was at a loose end, she says. Aged 17, she started smoking marijuana with her friends. By 21, she was a “full=blown” heroin addict.

“I was half-dead, half-alive,” she says. “I started selling sex to pay for my next hit. On the streets, you need to look beautiful but I looked dirty. I was a junkie. People would see me and get scared.”

Until recently, hard drugs – especially heroin – were rare in Africa. Since 2010, however, heroin use has increased faster across the continent than anywhere else in the world, according to the 2017 report of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

There are two reasons. First, despite the billions of pounds spent by the US and its allies to curb the production of opium poppies in Afghanistan, the amount grown has seen an “almost continuous rise”, says Simone Haysom of the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime (GIATO).

In 2017, opium cultivation reached a record high (jumping 87% in one year). It has since fallen by 20% but Afghanistan still produces 82% of the world’s heroin.

Second, Africa has become an attractive drug transit route. Historically, most of the heroin trafficked to the west from Afghanistan came overland via the “Balkan route”. But after conflict and increased security made this path trickier to navigate, according to a report by the GIATO, smugglers took to the seas.


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Since 2010 the “southern route” – also known as the “smack track” – has grown in popularity; heroin is trafficked from Afghanistan via the Indian Ocean into east and South Africa. From there it makes its way to Europe, Asia and North America. As more heroin has washed into east Africa, more people have become hooked.

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“Instead of the drug just moving through the region, the region itself is now a destination,” says Haysom.

In 2017, the UNODC said heroin addiction appeared to be on the rise in Kenya, particularly along the coast. As east Africa’s largest port, Mombasa has borne the brunt of this increase, but usage has spread to other areas, including Nairobi and Kiambu county. Data is patchy, but it is estimated that between 18,000 and 55,000 Kenyans use heroin.

 Heroin users prepare their fix in Lamu, Kenya. Photograph: Goran Tomašević/Reuters

While help is available at more than 50 registered treatment and rehabilitation centres across the country, rehabilitation is rarely free. Women are falling through the cracks.

“Female drug users have very specific needs,” says Faiza Hamid, Reachout’s programme manager, “and their needs aren’t being met.”

A key problem is stigma: many participate in sex work to fund their drug habit (a single heroin dose costs between 150-200 Kenyan shillings, roughly £1.50) and this prevents them from accessing treatment. Concerns about childcare, hard-to-reach treatment centres and relationship issues – the women often live with a partner with their own substance problem – also stop many coming forward for help.

Lipsticks, nail varnish and hair-rollers on display at the Beauty Corner. Photograph: Louise Donovan

If women do seek out treatment, they are likely to drop out faster, and experience higher risks of HIV infection. Women constitute the minority of users, but experts say that the numbers on female drug use are underreported and likely to be much higher.

At the same time, there is a clear lack of services tailored to women’s needs and the majority of rehabilitation centres are aimed at men. While research on female drug addicts in Kenya is limited, studies have indicated that women enrolled in gender-specific treatment programmes have better outcomes and improvement than those who are not, according to the UNODC.

That is where the Beauty Corner comes in. “I talk to these girls,” says Said, Reachout’s first female methadone patient, who was chosen by the clinic’s director to manage the parlour after attending counselling sessions. She has been clean for five years.


“I say to them: ‘What you see on the outside is drug addiction, and self-loathing. You are beautiful. You’re a mother, a daughter, a sister.’ As I paint their nails, I say, ‘why don’t you start methadone? Why don’t you check your [HIV] status?’ When it works, it’s like magic.”

The interior of the Beauty Corner. Photograph: Louise Donovan

For years few female users showed up for Reachout’s services – they simply didn’t see the point of coming. “The women told me they felt everything at the drop-in centre was designed for male addicts,” says Hamid. “They already knew their HIV status, what more did they need?”

So she came up with the idea of the Beauty Corner. The aim was to get women through the door and to make them feel special – even for a short while – before bringing up other, more difficult issues.

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It seems to be working. In under a year, 453 women have come to the parlour, and there has been a “big uptake” of women using the clinical services, says Hamid. Cervical cancer screenings, for example, have risen by 34%. Said now sees on average 15 women every day.

As the parlour fills up, a sticky midday heat settles in. Three women sit side-by-side, chatting quietly. One of them is 34-year-old Elizabeth Yieko, her hair a tangle of brightly coloured rollers. A former addict, she was introduced to the Beauty Corner by a friend.

“I could not believe it,” she says, after seeing her friend. “She was so clean, had makeup on, nicely done hair with red lipstick. I saw how women who have sold their lives to drugs can still have a life. I felt transformed.”

Yieko had already stopped smoking heroin. Today she visits hotspots frequented by female users to spread the word about the Beauty Corner. So far she has brought 10 women to the parlour.

 Naima Said at home with her child, four-year-old Munira. Photograph: Tom Fondo

Said would like to do more. “I’m happy I’m helping people,” she says, “but it’s not good enough for me. I think about the future. What about life after the methadone? Where are we going to go? For people born and raised in the drug dens, their home is the drug den.

“We need to find a place for women.”

• Louise Donovan is a Nairobi-based correspondent with the Fuller Project, a journalism nonprofit that partners with leading media to report on global issues impacting women. Angela Oketch is a health journalist with Kenya’s Daily Nation

This story was produced in partnership with the Guardian, the Fuller Project and the Daily Nation.

COVER PHOTO:  Elizabeth Yieko, 34, a former addict, gets her hair done. Today she helps find other customers for the beauty parlour. Photograph: Louise Donovan

Coronavirus: Africa impose strict restrictions

Kenya has ordered all schools to close

Several African states have imposed far-reaching restrictions in a bid to curb the spread of coronavirus.

South Africa has declared a national disaster and announced a ban on travel from the worst-affected countries, while Kenya has also imposed sweeping travel restrictions.

The measures are an attempt to prevent a major outbreak on a continent with poor health services.

At least 27 African states have so far been affected by the virus.

Liberia, Somalia and Tanzania are the latest African countries to report cases.

In total, nearly 350 people have been diagnosed with the virus across Africa. Seven people have died while 42 have recovered, the World Health Organization (WHO) said.

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Most of the cases involve people arriving from Europe and North America.

What happened in South Africa?

South Africa has imposed the most severe restrictions on its citizens since the end of white-minority rule after reporting its first local transmission, increasing the number of cases to 62.

In an address to the nation on Sunday, President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a national disaster.

“Initially, it was people who had travelled out of the country, especially from Italy, who had positively tested for the virus,” he said.

“It is concerning that we are now dealing with internal transmission of the virus,” Mr Ramaphosa said.

Mr Ramaphosa said he would chair a government command council that would “coordinate all aspects of our extraordinary emergency response”.


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Among the measures he announced are:

  • The closure of nearly half – 35 out of 72 – of South Africa’s land border crossings from Monday, along with two of its eight sea ports
  • Banning foreign nationals from eight countries – including the UK and US – from entering South Africa from Wednesday
  • Advising people to avoid domestic travel
  • Shutting all schools with immediate effect until the end of the Easter holidays
  • Banning all public gatherings of more than 100 with immediate effect. This would affect the biggest annual event in South Africa – an Easter religious service attended by several million followers of the Zion Christian Church at its headquarters in northern Limpopo province.
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President ends ‘dithering’

Analysis box by Pumza Fihlani, southern Africa reporter

South Africans have been waiting for this moment – of transparency, decisiveness and leadership. President Ramaphosa’s strict measures are seen as a clear message that his government is finally taking the coronavirus crisis seriously. There were concerns that it had been dithering since the first case was detected 10 days ago.

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To be fair to the government, South Africa, like much of Africa, has not been severely affected so far. But the mood has changed, with health officials reporting that the number of cases is rising at an alarming rate.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has called on South Africans to take responsibility for their health and safety, and that of fellow citizens. And with good reason – the public health sector, which caters for about 80% of the country’s mainly poor population, is overstretched. It will not be able to cope with a huge outbreak.

The steps being taken now are aimed at containing the outbreak and protecting vulnerable people. If the crisis worsens it will require building a bridge of compassion between those who have access to good quality private health care and those who do not.

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What about Kenya?

In an address to the nation, President Uhuru Kenyatta announced:

  • A ban on travel from any country that is known to have the virus
  • Any Kenyan or foreigner residing in Kenya would have to go into quarantine if they arrive from an affected country
  • The closure of all education institutions.

But Kenya’s efforts to tackle the global pandemic have been hampered by nurses who have started a go-slow at a coronavirus isolation ward at the Mbagathi Hospital in the capital, Nairobi.

The nurses say there is a shortage of protective gear and they have not received adequate training on how to deal with patients.

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The hospital has admitted 22 people who came into contact with the first confirmed case in Kenya.

Meanwhile, a 23-year-old man has been arrested in the eastern town of Mwingi for publishing “false information”, Kenya’s Directorate of Criminal Investigations said in a tweet:

The man would be charged under cybercrime legislation, and risked a fine of up to $50,000 (£40,000) or a maximum prison sentence of 10 years.

Kenyans back tough measures

By Ferdinand Omondi, BBC News, Nairobi

Normally it takes me an hour to get to work, but on Monday morning it took barely 15 minutes. Kenya is slowly shutting down. Schools have closed, and people are starting to work from home.

A mother tweeted that she was suspending the leave of her house help as her children were unexpectedly at home. A relative sent me a financial SOS – she needed transport money to get her children back from boarding school.

School children pack their books to take home, following a directive by the Kenyan government to suspended learning in all institutions of learning as a preventive measure against the spreading of the COVID-19 coronavirus, on March 16, 2020, in Nairobi
Image captionAll schools and universities have been ordered to close

Some county governments have imposed stricter restrictions than those announced by the president by banning public gatherings.

This has forced the closure of nightclubs in the popular coastal city of Mombasa, and open-air markets and athletics training camps in Nandi, where foreign athletes live for high-altitude training.

DJs in affected areas are wondering how they can work from home, and a musician has lamented the cancellation of shows all through to May.

With many restaurants shutting down because of a lack of customers, waitresses and cleaners – who are casual workers on low pay – may lose their jobs.

There are genuine concerns about the well-being of those who live hand-to-mouth, but overall Kenyans seem willing to cooperate with the authorities in the bid to stem the spread of coronavirus.

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A bishop who disregarded restrictions on public gatherings by calling for a “Miracle Service” was criticised so heavily on Twitter that she deleted the post.

Some supermarkets were unusually full on Sunday, as people piled up with goods. The Competition Authority of Kenya has called out a supermarket for raising the price of hand sanitizers by $2 (£1.60). The supermarket swiftly blamed an employee at the branch for the “unauthorised” increase and promised full refunds.

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What’s happening in other African countries?

Other African states that have announced measures to curb the spread of the virus include:

  • Ethiopia – the closure of all schools and a ban on all public gatherings and sporting activities
  • Ghana – a ban on all public gatherings and travel from countries with more than 200 cases of coronavirus. As a result, all football matches in the country have been suspended.
  • Tunisia – the closure of all borders and the suspension of prayers in mosques
  • Algeria – a ban on all travel to and from Europe
  • Mozambique – a ban on all gatherings of more than 300 people
  • Morocco and Djibouti – the suspension of all international flights.

Kenya probes smuggling of blood to Somalia

Kenya’s health ministry has said an investigation is underway into allegations that blood donated by Kenyans is being smuggled to Somalia.

The ongoing investigation has linked a government agency to the illegal sale of blood.

Officials working in the Kenya National Blood Transfusion Service (KNBTS) are being investigated.

Health Minister Mutahi Kagwe said a number of arrests were expected.

Kenya has faced problems of blood shortages for a long time but this announcement has shocked people throughout the country.

It’s also the first time that Kenya’s government has openly admitted that the country’s system of collecting and screening blood is insufficient.

KNBTS had been fully funded by the US government for the last 15 years – but this funding came to an end last year.

The country has struggled to keep its blood stocks at a sufficient level, partly blamed on with withdrawal of this funding, but also due to Kenya not having a strong blood-donating culture.

Last year the country had the target of collecting 500,000 units of blood but less than a quarter of this figure was donated.

Mr Kagwe said a bill that is yet to be passed in parliament will help in giving the Kenya National Blood Transfusion Service autonomy in handling matters related to the collection and screening of blood as there is no legislation currently in place.

Kenya suspends all public gatherings over coronavirus

The Kenyan government has suspended all public gatherings following the confirmation of the country’s first case of coronavirus.

The minister of health, Mutahi Kagwe, said church services will continue but churches must provide hand-sanitisers.

Mr Kagwe said schools will remain open but there will be no inter-school activities.

He added there should be “no cause for alarm” but urged for “serious citizen responsibility”.

The health minister said rapid-response units will be dispatched to respond to any suspected cases in the country.

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He urged member of the public to observe personal hygiene, and transport operators to regularly clean their vehicles.

Kenya’s NTV tweeted a video of part of the minister’s statement:

Understanding rural aspirations is key to Kenya’s future

Most households didn’t want their future generations to become farmers.
DIVatUSAID/Flickr

By Kai Mausch, World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and David Harris, Bangor University

About 8.3 million people living in Kenya’s rural areas farm to feed themselves. They typically have just a few acres of land and depend on rain to grow their crops. This makes them extremely vulnerable to changes in the weather. Many already struggle.

As with other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, rural communities in Kenya are characterised by higher rates of poverty, illiteracy and child mortality. They also have poor access to basic services, such as electricity and sanitation.

As a result, governments and development organisations consider improving farmers’ agricultural performance a priority to solve poverty and hunger.

Yet, after decades of agriculture-centred rural development approaches, progress has been limited. Food insecurity is still widespread and crop yields in farmer fields remain much lower than their potential. Many agricultural technologies – such as improved crop varieties or the use of fertiliser – fail to scale beyond pilot phase.

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One overlooked reason why these technologies aren’t being used at scale could be people’s relative interest in farming and their aspirations beyond farming. There’s evidence in this given that rural incomes are increasingly diversifying.

We argue in our paper that a better understanding of households’ aspirations is key to design successful technologies that will be adopted more widely.

In our research, we interviewed 624 households to explore the aspirations of people living in Kenya’s rural areas. We asked them about their current income sources, investment plans and what they would like their children to do in the future.

We found that only a few households specialised in farming and yet, many self-identified as farmers and said they aspired to increase their agricultural income. This was surprising as the majority of their income often came from sources other than farming. We also found that few aspired for their children to become farmers.

Our findings show that rural Kenyan households can’t just be classified as farmers: there are many different income portfolios and aspirations. And it’s important to listen to people we call “farmers” so policies can be developed that offer innovations that meet their realities, such as training and financial services adapted to a more diversified livelihood portfolio.


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Avoiding the trap of calling all households with farm activity “farmers”, and assuming they have no other interests, may also increase the match between demands and technology adoption.

Not only farmers

The rural economy is not only about agriculture. While many rural Kenyan families have their shamba (plot) and have a strong attachment to the land, not all households are farmers in the traditional understanding.

Our results showed that only a quarter of the families in rural Kenya are full-time farmers. The majority (60%) of farm labourers and households derived most of their income from activities outside farming.

Yet, they still identified as farmers.

When asked about their future, two-thirds aspired to increasing their farm incomes through irrigation access, small livestock or high-value crops like fruits and vegetables. Just a third looked outside the farming sector with suggestions of transport, hair salons, shops or other rural business ventures. But this doesn’t mean these other diverse activities aren’t important – and likely becoming more so all the time.

Income diversification isn’t surprising. Several agriculture experts question the potential of rain-fed smallholder farming, as practised by millions of rural families in sub-Saharan Africa, as a pathway out of poverty.

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Even though much of sub-Saharan Africa is experiencing changes in farm size distribution, the share of small farms under under five hectares is still dominant – as it is in Kenya. Although adopting new technologies generally has positive economic returns per hectare
and could improve the resilience of these farmers, the small size of most farms limits smallholders’ agricultural earning potential. This means that escaping poverty purely based on farming is not possible.

A well thought out rural investment strategy should provide a more diverse portfolio to the rural population.

Future generations

More questions were raised when we looked at household aspirations for future generations.

Very few parents hope for a future in farming for their children. This is in stark contrast to their personal aspirations and investment plans, which mostly involve expansion or intensification of farming.

This finding raises several pertinent questions that should be explored in future research. For example, what is the implication for agricultural innovations now and in the future? If most households foresee their children stepping out, does this mean that they are focused on short-term investments with quick wins?

Though all poor households are probably looking for quick wins, this may mean that even wealthier households might not have the long-term horizons needed to consider investments in practices with delayed benefits such as agroforestry or soil fertility management.

There are also implications for changes in land use patterns, currently characterised by high levels of land fragmentation in densely populated areas.


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If households increasingly step out of farming, would this reverse the trend and enable consolidation of land for the next generation, for example, through people selling or renting out their land? Or is land still perceived as a necessary insurance or for retirement?

These are all important questions for the country’s future that require data and evidence for policymakers to base decisions on.

Capturing what drives the decision-making and aspirations of rural households will help design more effective policies and development initiatives that trigger positive, lasting change within the community.

Kai Mausch, Senior Economist, World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and David Harris, Honorary Lecturer, Bangor University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Schools close in north-east Kenya after al-Shabaab targets teachers

Authorities face criticism for withdrawing teaching staff from an already marginalised region where education is badly needed.

Al-Shabaab attacked Kamuthe, Garissa county, in January killing three teachers and destroying a communications mast. Photograph: AP

A series of targeted killings of schoolteachers by a militia group in Kenya has seen an exodus of staff and the closure of hundreds of schools across the north-east of the country.

Thousands of teachers have left their posts in the past two months following several suspected al-Shabaab attacks in the region.

Schools in rural areas near the Somali border have been badly hit. On 13 January, suspected members of the Somalia-based terrorist group al-Shabaab attacked the village of Kamuthe in Garissa county and killed three non-local teachers and destroyed a communication mast.

A few days earlier, a boarding school in another remote village in the Dadaab area of Garissa was targeted by al-Shabaab attackers, according to the Kenyan police. They killed three students and a teacher.

Predominantly inhabited by ethnic Somalis, north-eastern Kenya shares a long, porous border with Somalia and it is one of the country’s most marginalised areas. It is inhabited mostly by nomadic pastoralists whose access to education has been limited.

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The local community had already lost hope, it would be difficult to win them back even if we get new teachersAhmed Abdi Mohamed, headteacher

“When the teachers leave, the students go back to their nomadic lifestyle,” said Ahmed Abdi Mohamed, headteacher of Balambala boarding school, Garissa county, where seven non-local teachers have left in recent weeks.

“I see my students looking after animals every day in the village, it pains me but there is nothing I can do. When I ask the parents they tell me why waste their children’s time in an empty school when they can utilise them to look after their livestock.

“The local community had already lost hope, it would be difficult to win them back even if we get new teachers because of the nomadic lifestyle. Many of them would have gone to far places with their livestock in search of pasture.”


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Local leaders and members of parliament argue the mass transfer of teachers by the government is an indication of the continued marginalisation of the region’s people.

“We have non-locals in various other sectors who are still working in their respective areas, why [are] only public teachers being transferred in one move?” said Abdullahi Hassan Maalim, a Wajir county official, where 100 primary schools are closing. “The Teachers Service Commission (TSC) should have done a thorough consultation with the local authorities to find ways of protecting the teachers instead of acting on their own. This is unacceptable, the rights of a whole generation have been denied.

“The insecurity problem has been going on for many years, but the national government did not take the matter seriously,” he said.

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“The national government forced us to keep the schools open symbolically because shutting them down means al-Shabaab would win,” said Mohamed. “But they are not doing anything practical on the ground to help with the continuity of learning.”

Leaders have criticised the TSC, the national body responsible for teachers’ employment, for creating an “education crisis” in the region by pulling non-local staff out of schools in the area.

The TSC has insisted that teachers will not be posted to the north-eastern region until their safety is assured.

“We appreciate the security challenges we are facing but the decision to transfer all non-local teachers from public schools was reckless,” said Maalim. “This jeopardises the future of children in north-eastern Kenya, who have long struggled to meet the national average standards in exams.”

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Abdinoor Alimahadi, an education technologist who comes from the region, has been campaigning with local governors to adopt available technology to fill the gap.

“The need for technology has never been greater,” he said. “Digital learning can not only resolve the issue of [the] teacher shortage but would also improve the performance of students. I have been presenting affordable e-learning technologies to the local leadership which they all welcomed. It is time we scaled it to the whole region.”

Why Kenya banned the commercial slaughter of donkeys

Donkey carries water for pastoralists in Marsabit, Kenya.
Kandukuru Nagarjun/Flickr

By Monicah Maichomo, Kenya Agricultural & Livestock Research Organisation

Kenya has banned the commercial slaughter of donkeys. The trade in donkey meat and hide was legalised in 2012, but a report last year warned that the rise of donkey slaughterhouses in Kenya could wipe out all the animals in the country by 2023. Moina Spooner from The Conversation Africa asked Monicah Maichomo to shed more light on the impact of the trade.

What is driving the sudden rise in demand for donkey meat and skins?

The global demand for donkey skins and meat is mostly driven by Chinese markets. In China donkey meat and skins are used to produce snacks, beauty products, sex stimulants, anti-ageing products and traditional medicine known as ejiao.

Ejiao is what’s driving demand the most. It consists of gelatin that is extracted from boiled donkey hides. It’s claimed to strengthen blood and generally boost health and vitality. Ejiao has a long tradition in traditional Chinese medicine but previously only the elite in society could afford it. Over the past 30 years, a much larger section of the Chinese population has been able to afford it, driving demand.

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Local markets in China can’t keep up, so Chinese businesses turned to other sources. Kenya was a good source of donkeys – it had about 1.8 million in 2010. And under law they are considered a food animal like pigs and cows.

To meet the demand, four export slaughterhouses were licensed and started operating in 2016. These abattoirs had the capacity to slaughter 1,260 donkeys a day. Donkeys are sourced from donkey keepers, others are stolen and some are even brought in (legally and illegally) from Ethiopia to meet the demand.

There are currently no donkey farms in Kenya that have the capacity to supply the slaughterhouses.

What impact is this having and where is it being felt?

The high demand for donkeys has significantly increased their prices, made them hard to find and led to many incidents of donkey theft. The average price of an adult donkey has, in two years, gone up from Ksh4,000 to Ksh13,000.

Donkeys are also at risk of going extinct in the country. My colleagues and I recently conducted a survey which found that donkeys were being slaughtered at five times the natural reproduction rate. A total of 301,977 donkeys, representing 15% of the donkey population, were slaughtered in four export slaughterhouses between April 2016 and December 2018. Holding all factors constant, we projected that by 2023 there wouldn’t be any donkeys left.


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This would be a huge blow to many households in Kenya. Poor households depend a lot on working donkeys and have suffered as a result of their scarcity. The households most affected are found in rural Kenya and earn their living from farming.

Donkeys offer crucial services for families that can’t afford motorised transport. They procide transport to markets, particularly in remote areas with poor infrastructure. They carry farm produce, people and fodder for other livestock. On a daily basis they’re used to fetch water and firewood.

Losing a donkey could mean a child has to help with household chores and can’t go to school. If a household doesn’t own a donkey, it needs to hire one or people have to take on the tasks. It costs more in terms of both time and money.

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Kenya has banned the commercial slaughter of donkeys, for now. What can be done to ensure the system is more sustainable if it’s reintroduced in the future?

The ban will allow donkey numbers to grow again. If it were reintroduced in the future – to ensure a steady, sustainable supply – abattoirs should enter into contracts with donkey farmers. Pregnant donkeys should also be excluded from slaughter. At the moment about 27% of females slaughtered are pregnant, disrupting the reproduction rate.

There should also be a focus on donkey breeding research to increase the number and size of donkeys produced. The predominant breeds are descendants and crosses of the Nubian wild ass and the Somali wild ass. Larger breeds could provide more skin and meat.

Kenya could regulate the trade more carefully. Other countries in Africa have managed to do this successfully. Ethiopia, for instance, banned the country’s first donkey abattoir from operating, after a public outcry. The government is now looking at more sustainable ways of farming donkeys.


Monicah Maichomo, Director – Veterinary Sciences Research Institute, Kenya Agricultural & Livestock Research Organisation

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Six-month-old girl 'teargassed and beaten by Kenyan police' dies

Coronavirus: ‘Kenya has abandoned its citizens

A Kenyan student stuck in Wuhan, China, has accused the government of abandoning its citizens in the virus-hit city that is under lockdown.

Six-month-old girl 'teargassed and beaten by Kenyan police' dies
File photo

Jeffrey Okundi told Kenya’s privately-owned Citizen TV that he was disheartened to see other countries repatriate their students while he was ignored by his government.

Kenya has walked back on a promise made two weeks ago to repatriate students from Wuhan once the lockdown ends. Its Ambassador to China, Sarah Serem, on Monday said the students would remain there and offered a prayer for their safety.

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Mr Okundi decried the lack of communication from the government, saying he received one call from the ambassador a few weeks ago.

He said he only saw on social media an announcement that the government would not repatriate them from Wuhan.

Mr Okundi added:

In all honesty I feel like an adopted child of Kenya or a situation where a father has decided to leave his child to be taken care of by another dad.”

Kenya’s longest-serving ruler continues to the country even in Death

Daniel arap Moi, Kenya’s second and longest-serving president, will be buried on Wednesday.

The funeral procession for Daniel arap Moi, Kenya’s second and longest-serving president, in Nairobi on Monday.Credit…Daniel Iringu/EPA, via Shutterstock

NAIROBI, Kenya — Thousands of mourners bade farewell on Tuesday to Daniel arap Moi, Kenya’s longest-serving president, under whose rule the country was haunted by corruption and gross violations of human rights even as it became a stable nation in a turbulent region blighted with wars and crises.

Mr. Moi, the country’s second president, died last week at age 95. As choirs sang and flags flew at half-mast, the reaction to his death was a reflection of this mixed legacy.

Some remembered him as a “wonderful father” and a “great leader” who played a critical role in fighting for Kenya’s liberation and shaping its post-independence future.

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“We should all learn from his inspiring journey and the chronicles of his life,” President Uhuru Kenyatta said in a speech at Nyayo Stadium in Nairobi, where Mr. Moi’s coffin arrived draped in the Kenyan flag. But other Kenyans, particularly on social media platforms, wrote about how Mr. Moi presided over an administration that stoked ethnic violence and committed gross violations of human rights, including massacres, unlawful detention, torture, and assassinations.

Mr. Moi, his critics said, oversaw a kleptocracy that skimmed hundreds of millions of dollars from the treasury, sabotaging economic growth and widening inequality.

From 1978 to 2002, Mr. Moi, who passed away of an unspecified illness at a private hospital in the capital, permeated every aspect of Kenyan life.

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Images of his dour face were omnipresent in all public spaces. Decked in sleek suits and waving an ivory baton, he would make a round of daily activities that headlined the evening news. Children recited loyalty pledges to him at school, and lined up on the streets to greet him and sing his praise, waving miniature Kenyan flags.

Under his stewardship, the East African nation remained an important Western ally, both during the Cold War era and the United States-led war on terror.

Several heads of states and dozens of ambassadors attended Mr. Moi’s state funeral on Tuesday. He will be buried on Wednesday in his home area of Kabarak, located about 120 miles northwest of Nairobi.

Mr. Moi was sworn in as Kenya’s president in October 1978.Credit…Jean Claude Francolon/Gamma-Rapho, via Getty Images

Yet as his funeral service was underway in Nairobi, Mr. Moi’s checkered rule and the different Kenya he could have shaped came into sharp focus.

“There’s a way death is perceived as something that automatically erases who a person was when they were alive,” Scheaffer Okore, a development adviser and vice chairwoman of the youth-led Ukweli Party, said.

Growing up in the southwestern region of Nyanza in the 1980s, Ms. Okore said police officers tear-gassed her school, shut down businesses and stoked a culture of fear and silence. Conversations about the president and his regime, she said, were “whispered,” less you risked jail or death.

“To ignore these experiences is to remind those whose lives were violently affected by Moi that they didn’t matter then neither do they matter now,” she said.

Mr. Moi has elicited a mixed response from Kenyans who view him as either a strongman or a leader who maintained stability.Credit…Suleiman Mbatiah/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Mr. Moi ascended to power in August 1978, after the sudden death of President Jomo Kenyatta, father of current president Uhuru. In the early days, he released political prisoners and preached unity — pushing many to think that he would change course from the ways of his predecessor by eliminating tribal cronyism and tackling rampant graft.

Instead, what emerged was a one-party state with Mr. Moi at its center who demanded blind loyalty from government officials by asking them “to sing like parrots” after his own tune.


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During his reign, freedom of speech was curtailed, ethnic violence proliferated and dissent was crushed, with many opposition figures detained and tortured in the much-dreaded Nyayo House torture chambers.

Mr. Moi’s body laid in state for three days less than a kilometer away from that building.

Mukoma Wa Ngugi, son of the prominent Kenyan author Ngugi wa Thiong’o, said there’s no reason Kenya shouldn’t have become a nation “where resources work for the citizenry, and reserves of wealth invested for future generations.”

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Mr. Ngugi, the author, was among thousands who ran afoul of Mr. Moi for criticizing his government. He was imprisoned and then forced into exile. But for years, before leaving Kenya, the family received death threats, said his son, Mr. Mukoma. Their home was raided, and his siblings couldn’t find jobs or get passports to leave the country. Effigies of his father were burned on television, he said.

Even though the author and his family have since traveled freely back to Kenya, “I deeply miss the me, the Mukoma that would have grown up in Kenya,” said Mr. Mukoma, who is now an associate professor of English at Cornell University, writing in an email. “In a way now, we are always absent from that other life.”

For some, Mr. Moi’s passing brought back the roiling emotions linked to growing up under his rule.

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A 2013 report from Kenya’s Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission noted that, under Mr. Moi’s rule, security forces killed hundreds of people — possibly thousands — in various massacres in the region with the stated goal of disarming the population and combating cattle rustling.

Abdikader Ore Ahmed, a former lawmaker, said he and his family were affected during the 1984 Wagalla Massacre, which targeted ethnic Somalis in northeastern Kenya.

Police chasing protesters during an opposition rally in Nairobi in May 1997.Credit…George Mulala/Reuters

“I have not eulogized Moi or condoled him,” Mr. Ahmed said, adding the atrocities committed by security agents against his family and relatives remained “traumatizing and emotional.”

Others did eulogize him. In the wake of his death, Mr. Moi has been described as compassionate, a jovial leader and a “disciplinarian” with an aptitude for problem-solving.

Raila Odinga, a former prime minister who was detained by Mr. Moi for campaigning for multiparty democracy, both praised and forgave him, calling him a “great leader” who made “great contributions” to the nation.

Kenya declared Tuesday a public holiday to celebrate Mr. Moi. Boniface Mwangi, a Kenyan photojournalist and activist, said this was “sanitizing” Mr. Moi. “It’s a deliberate attempt to photoshop the past,” he said.

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Kenya, he said, is still led by some of Mr. Moi’s closest allies and cronies. Both President Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto are protégés of Mr. Moi. The country continues to be mired in widespread corruption and abuse of office.

To build a truly democratic nature and reverse the entrenchment of the Moi legacy, Mr. Mwangi said Kenyans needed to study their history closely.

Six children ‘suffocated to death’ in Kenya stampede

Post-mortem results show that six of the 14 schoolchildren who died in a stampede on Monday evening in western Kenya had suffocated.

This narrow staircase is said to have aggravated the crush

Pathologist Dickson Mchana says his team is still investigating the cause of death for the other eight children who died in the crush at Kakamega Primary School.

“We are racing against time to finalise the post-mortems and prepare the bodies for collection by the families for a requiem mass to be held at Bukhungu Stadium in Kakamega,” Dr Mchana said.

Police officers are still investigating the incident in which 14 pupils died and 39 others were injured.

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They have recorded statements from teachers, pupils and other witnesses to establish what triggered the commotion.

Two of the pupils are still receiving medical treatment at the Kakamega Referral Hospital.


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Education Minister George Magoha closed the school until Tuesday next week, which has since been declared a national holiday to mourn the death of former President Daniel arap Moi.

Daniel arap Moi obituary

Kenya’s longest serving president, whose near quarter-century rule was marred by ruthlessness and corruption.

Daniel arap Moi delivering his inaugural speech after being sworn in for his final five-year term in Nairobi in January 1998. Photograph: Alexander Joe/AFP via Getty

Daniel arap Moi, who has died aged 95, was born into a poor peasant family in the Rift Valley in British colonial Kenya, and rose to become one of post-independence Africa’s longest surviving leaders. But his ignominious departure from power at the end of 2002, after 24 years as president, when the candidate he groomed to succeed him was roundly defeated, told the real story of his years in power.

It was a story of stability maintained by ruthless manipulation of the ethnic card and of his opponents’ weaknesses, and by the refinement of a culture of corruption and impunity inherited from his predecessor, Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya’s first president.

Moi, whose given name at birth was Toroitich, spent his early years in Kurieng’wo village, in Baringo, western Kenya, with his brother, tending the few sheep and goats left by his father, Kimoi arap Chebii, a herdsman, who died when Moi was four. His paternal uncle sent him to a Protestant missionary primary school where he took the Christian name of Daniel. He went on to another missionary school for his secondary education, before joining the government school at Kapsabet, 100 miles from home. Every term he would walk to and from school.

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Moi became a successful teacher, and then assistant principal of a teacher training college, before moving into colonial politics. In October 1955 he became a member of the Legislative Council of Kenya (Legco) – one of five Africans nominated by the British colonial government.

At independence in 1963 he became minister of home affairs, and three years later also vice president to Kenyatta. Moi, as a member of the small Kalenjin ethnic group, was a convenient outsider – and one who owed everything to the president – for Kenyatta to rely on, as his own group of Kikuyu politicians feuded for dominance in his administration.

Those were years of stability for the country, and Kenya prospered with investment and loans – the fruit of Kenyatta’s unwavering pro-western policies that included allowing British troops to be stationed in Kenya. The international community turned a blind eye to the flagrant corruption at the top of Kenyan politics and the political murders that removed the less pliant opposition figures.

Daniel arap Moi, surrounded by heavy security, campaigning in Nairobi during the December 1997 elections. Photograph: Corinne Dufka/Reuters

When Kenyatta died in August 1978, Moi as vice president became constitutionally president for an interim period of 90 days. All eyes were on the bitter fight for the succession between two competing groups of Kikuyu political heavyweights within the ruling political party, the Kenya African National Union (Kanu). Moi, seen as colourless, and lacking an ethnic base of any importance, was not considered as even a possible contender for the top job.

Even when Moi was elected, as a unifier, his presidency was not expected to last, so dominant were the other competing candidates. But they self-destructed in power struggles with each other, and Moi, with his philosophy of “Nyayo” (peace, love and unity), was initially accepted by Kenyans. They believed he could give the country a chance of overcoming the tribalism that had so marked the corruption and influence-peddling of the previous administration.

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However, intolerance and exclusion soon became the hallmarks of Moi’s regime, and in June 1982 the constitution was amended to make Kanu the only legal political party. A coup attempt led by the air force followed in August, and was put down with extreme brutality. Intellectuals, lawyers and some military officers fled into exile.

Moi weathered this challenge with more repression, and went on to consolidate his power base by allowing corruption to take on ever more extravagant dimensions. Highly personalised executive power became his recipe for governing, and imperceptibly he had become an unchallengeable leader, barely recognisable as the invisible non-contestant of earlier years.

In the early 1990s persecution of ethnic groups associated with opposition or potential opposition led to hundreds of thousands of people being displaced in the Rift Valley, hundreds of deaths in so-called tribal clashes, and the detention of many political activists. Major scandals of misappropriation of government funds erupted, but were always hushed up. Such scandals – and ethnic cleansing – continued to the end of Moi’s regime. Ministers, politicians and senior civil servants also seized great tracts of public land, depriving thousands of poor agrarian people of their livelihoods.

Daniel arap Moi is installed as president in 1978. Photograph: Jean-Claude Francolon/Gamma-Rapho via Getty

In mid 1995 the first major political challenge came, with the founding of a new party, Safina (Noah’s Ark). It was led by Richard Leakey, the white Kenyan conservationist with a distinguished record of work for the country, and some well-known lawyers and old politicians disgusted with the decline in the country’s prestige and the isolation of Kanu from the increasingly impoverished population. The new party encountered violent opposition engineered by Kanu.

Reformist rallies for constitutional change held two years later were so violently attacked that 22 foreign embassies protested and the IMF threatened to hold back a $36m loan – the first of what became major sanctions by donors and the international financial institutions. By 2002, the IMF had withheld $350m.

Moi was too wily a politician to attempt to change the constitution to give himself another term in power, but in 2001 he began to prepare his departure and ensure his own future. He appointed to parliament Uhuru Kenyatta, the businessman son of the first president, quickly promoted him to minister for local government, and groomed him to lead Kanu. Moi, it was clear, would mentor the inexperienced young man.

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Not only did this enrage the old party barons of Kanu, who were awaiting their moment of supreme power, but Kenya’s opposition parties managed to unite after a decade of squabbling. Together they produced an upset victory in the 2002 election that humiliated both Kenyatta and his promoter. Moi was forced to hand over power to Mwai Kibaki, formerly a key member of Kanu but for 10 years an implacable critic of all the Moi regime had come to represent.

However, by 2007, in the tough world of Kenyan politics, Kibaki found he needed Kenyatta – and made him deputy prime minister. Kenyatta was charged by the international criminal court with being one of those who perpetrated the deadly electoral violence that year. But this did not end his career and by 2013 politics in Kenya came full circle with the election of Uhuru Kenyatta as president.


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By 2015 the ICC charges were dropped and Kenyatta was re-elected in 2017. With the election of Moi’s youngest son, Gideon, as the powerful chairman of Kanu as well as senator for Baringo from 2013, Moi in his old age saw his political legacy consolidated just as he had long planned.

In 1950 Moi married Lena Bommet, and they had five sons and three daughters. They divorced in 1979 and Lena died in 2004; his eldest son, Jonathan, died last year. Moi is survived by his other children.

  • Daniel Toroitich arap Moi, politician, born 2 September 1924; died 4 February 2020

14 children killed in crush at Kenya primary school

Police investigate causes of tragedy in Kakamega amid reports that pupils fell from third floor as they ran downstairs at home time.

Parents and teachers gather at Kakamega primary school after the tragedy in which 14 children died. Photograph: STRINGER/Reuters

At least 14 children have died and dozens of others have been injured in a crush at a primary school in Kenya, officials said.

The police have launched an inquiry into what caused the crowd of students to panic as they were leaving the school in the western town of Kakamega to go home at around 5pm local time on Monday.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, the police cordoned off the school and took statements from the teaching staff.

Images broadcast by local media showed parents gathered in front of the emergency ward of a hospital in the town, waiting for news of their children.

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Education minister George Magoha told Citizen TV that 14 children, believed to be mostly in grade five, aged between 10 and 12, had died. “One life (lost) is a life too many,” he said.

ne of the children’s mothers blamed the teachers.

“Those who survived said they were running because there were teachers who were beating them, and that is why they were escaping and fell on each other,” the mother said in an interview with local media.

Corporal punishment is banned in Kenya.

The Daily Nation newspaper said that some of the children fell from the third floor of the school building as they ran.

“As kids were going home from school there was a stampede as they were going down the stairs,” said Peter Abwao, a spokesman for Red Cross Kenya. “It’s a three-storey building, it’s a classroom block.”

The Kakamega primary school did not immediately comment on the incident.

“We are devastated by the tragedy that has hit Kakamega primary school this evening,” said Kenyas vice president William Ruto in a post on Twitter.

“Our prayers, love and thoughts to the families and relatives of the victims of the misfortune.”

Red Cross said that it was setting up psychological support services, as well as a “tracing desk” to help relatives locate potentially affected students.

The Red Cross said 39 students had been admitted to hospital.

St John’s Ambulance said at least 14 students had been killed and more than 50 injured, including two who were in an intensive care unit. Some 37 had been treated and discharged from hospital.

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The tragedy comes two days after 20 people were killed in a crush at an open-air evangelical Christian church service over the border in Tanzania.

Agence France-Presse and Reuters contributed to this report.

Kenyan women can now urinate like men

A Kenyan woman is providing a solution for those battling with infections after using unhygienic public toilets.

The device enables a woman to urinate while standing

Njeri Muthaka sells peeing cups that help women urinate while standing, consequently preventing them from sitting on public toilet bowls.

Ms Muthaka said that she imported a peeing cup after suffering from urinary tract infections many times.

After using it and seeing a reduction in recurrence of infections, she decided to start selling the cup locally.

Doctors agree that the peeing cup can reduce infections.

“If you are not squatting to pee then it means you are not getting in contact to the toilet, then it reduces risk of infection. You can prevent a lot by using it,” said Dr Chris Obwaka.

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Kenyan men are however saying that the cups go against the cultural set-up.

“This would be against the culture because we know that women should not pee while standing,” Simon Baraza told the programme.

The peeing cup sells for two dollars and Ms Muthaka says she has sold over 400 across East Africa.

‘Police forced me to go naked to prove I was a woman’

A Kenyan female bus conductor who has a beard has shared how she was stripped naked in a police cell to confirm her gender.

Theresia Mumbi was diagnosed with a hormonal imbalance that resulted in her having a beard

Theresia Mumbi told BBC Swahili that traffic police in the capital, Nairobi, arrested her and held her in a cell with other women.

“Two officers came and told me to take off my clothes. They then examined me. I’m not sure what they saw but they told me to return to my cell,” she said.

She says that the July 2018 arrest over identification documents is still fresh in her mind. She presented her documents and was let go.

Ms Mumbi’s experience has made her an advocate for women with unusual features and now she tells her story to create awareness and encourage others to speak out when harassed.

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Ms Mumbi was diagnosed with a hormonal imbalance that resulted to her having a beard.

As a young woman she had to shave her beard often until her skin became irritated by the frequent shaving.

“Some years back I had to suspend shaving at some point because my skin was becoming irritable and the stubborn sores were a problem,” she said.

The beard grew and she started hiding from people, opting to shop at night.

Pushed by the hard economic times she became a bus conductor to earn a living.


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While at work she meets women with unique conditions and encourages them.

She is part of an association of bearded women in Kenya and during their meetings she speaks to the younger women.

Kenyan top athlete flees anti-doping testers

A top Kenyan athlete has run away from a training camp in order to evade anti-doping officials who had come to do a test.

Around around 60 Kenyan athletes have been sanctioned for anti-doping violations over the last five years

The case highlights the challenge the authorities face cleaning up the sport.

The anti-doping team turned up unannounced at the training camp in Kapsabet in the west of Kenya.

After realising who the visitors were, the athlete jumped through a window and vaulted over a fence – presumably faster than any officials could have managed if they’d tried.

Barnaba Korir of Athletics Kenya confirmed the incident but did not give the runner’s name.

He or she is still likely to be punished.

Over the last five years around 60 Kenyan athletes have been sanctioned for anti-doping violations.

Mr Korir said athletes who know they are guilty feel they have no choice than fleeing from the testers.

Over the last week two athletes including Alfred Kipketer – the world under-20, 800 metre champion – have been suspended for doping violations.

Al-Shabaab kills three Americans in attack on US military base in Kenya

Al-Shabaab extremists have overrun a key military base in Kenya, killing three American Department of Defense personnel and destroying several US aircraft and vehicles before they were repelled.

Al-Shabaab militia has conducted an attack against US military base Camp Simba in Kenya. Photograph: Staff Sgt. LEXIE WEST HANDOUT/EPA

The attack on the Manda Bay airfield early on Sunday was the al-Qaida-linked group’s first attack against US forces in the East African country, and the military called the security situation “fluid” several hours after the assault.

Five attackers were killed, Kenyan military spokesman Paul Njuguna said.

Al-Shabaab, based in neighboring Somalia, claimed responsibility for the assault.

One US serviceman and two contractors with the US Department of Defense were killed in the fighting, according to a statement from the US Africa Command, or Africom.

Al-Shabaab claimed that there were 17 US casualties, nine Kenyan soldiers killed and seven aircraft destroyed.

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Kenya is a key base for fighting al-Shabaab, one of the world’s most resilient extremist organizations. A large plume of black smoke rose above the airfield Sunday and residents said a car bomb had exploded. Lamu county commissioner Irungu Macharia told the Associated Press that five suspects were arrested and were being interrogated.

An internal Kenyan police report seen by the AP said two fixed-wing aircraft, a US Cessna and a Kenyan one, were destroyed along with two US helicopters and multiple US vehicles at the Manda Bay military airstrip. The report said explosions were heard at around 5.30am from the direction of the airstrip. The scene, now secured, indicated that al-Shabaab likely entered “to conduct targeted attacks”, the report said.

The military’s Camp Simba has under 100 US personnel, according to Pentagon figures. US forces at the adjoining Manda Bay airfield train and give counterterror support to East African partners.

Al-Shabaab has launched a number of attacks inside Kenya, including against civilian targets such as buses, schools and shopping malls. The group has been the target of a growing number of US airstrikes inside Somalia during Donald Trump’s administration.

The latest attack comes just over a week after an al-Shabaab truck bomb in Somalia’s capital killed at least 79 people and US airstrikes killed seven al-Shabaab fighters in response.

Last year, al-Shabaab attacked a US military base inside Somalia, Baledogle, that is used to launch drone strikes but reportedly failed to make their way inside. The extremist group also has carried out multiple attacks against Kenyan troops in the past in retaliation for Kenya sending troops to Somalia to fight it.

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This attack marks a significant escalation of al-Shabaab’s campaign of attacks inside Kenya, said analyst Andrew Franklin, a former US Marine and longtime Kenya resident.Advertisement

“Launching a deliberate assault of this type against a well-defended permanent base occupied by (Kenya Defence Forces), contractors and US military personnel required a great deal of planning, rehearsals, logistics and operational capability,” he said. Previous attacks against security forces have mainly been ambushes on Kenyan army or police patrols.

The early Sunday attack comes days after a US airstrike killed Iran’s top military commander and Iran vowed retaliation, but al-Shabaab is a Sunni Muslim group and there is no sign of links to Shiite Iran or proxies.

The deadly consequences of curbing reproductive girls’ rights

It’s a hot mid-August morning, and Lydia Wambui’s bright green overalls are soaked. She’s standing knee-deep in Nairobi River, using a metal rod to catch rubbish lazily flowing down its murky waters.

The Komb Green Solutions volunteers discovered nine foetuses and newborns in just one 350-metre section of the Nairobi River as they cleared rubbish from the water CREDIT: EVANS HABIL/THE DAILY NATION

‘More babies will be dumped in gutters, and that is to say the least’

By  Louise Donovan & Nasibo Kabale, in nairobi


“Sewage, bottle-tops, needles – people chuck everything in here,” she says, wiping sweat off her forehead before adding: “We also keep finding babies.” 

Two months earlier, the 37-year-old volunteer spotted a blue plastic bag amongst the garbage. She immediately felt anxious: “You have to open it even though you fear what you’ll find.”

Inside was what she believed to be a recently aborted foetus, several syringes and blood-stained cotton wool. “I’m a mum, I have two kids,” she explains. “It hurts.”

In one 350-metre section, nine foetuses and newborns have been found this year by Wambui’s clean-up team, Komb Green Solutions. After police said the parents could not be identified, the team buried the babies – including two sets of twins – in a makeshift grave.

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Clean-up volunteer Lydia Wambui says she is often anxious about what she will find in the river CREDIT: EVANS HABIL/THE DAILY NATION

This week more than 6,000 people are in Nairobi for the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), a global summit on sexual and reproductive health

The original event, 25 years ago, kick-started the global movement to recognise reproductive rights as human rights. And today speakers touted huge gains in global access to contraception, health services and a reduction in maternal deaths. 

Yet the Nairobi riverbanks tell a story of unfinished business. On Tuesday, the first morning of the summit, the Komb Green Solutions team found their ninth body: a baby boy floating down Nairobi river. 

“Progress is slow,” explains Angela Nguku, Executive Director at the White Ribbon Alliance, when asked about the impact of the ICPD’s goals on Kenyan women. “The government makes a lot of promises but doesn’t deliver.”

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Abortions are illegal in Kenya, unless a woman’s life or health is in danger. Safe procedures at clinics cost roughly 20,000 Kenyan shillings (£150, one third of the average monthly salary), whereas unsafe abortions are roughly a tenth of that price. If you can pay, you often risk your life on a concoction of chemicals. If you can’t, you can quickly become desperate.

Komb Green Solutions volunteers undertaking prepare to clean up the Nairobi River near the Korogocho slums CREDIT: EVANS HABIL/THE DAILY NATION

Every day, 320 women are hospitalised – and seven die – as a result of dangerous ‘quack’ abortions in Kenya, says Marie Stopes, the international family planning charity. More than half of girls between 15-19 who want contraception say they can’t get it, according to a data study by the Guttmacher Institute

“Women and children are still dying,” says Nguku. “Why do we bury our heads in the sand?”

This year, Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko asked police chiefs and county officials to investigate the “worrying trend” of bodies found in the river. He has accused hospitals of illegally dumping foetuses and babies. Yet little has changed, says Fredrick Okinda, Komb Green’s chairman, and the issue isn’t exactly new. It’s not just the city’s rivers: babies are also found tucked into dustbins, dropped down pit latrines (long drops) or discarded by roadsides. 

“If you live in Kenya, you’ll have heard many stories about abandoned babies,” explains Nelly Bosire, a Nairobi-based obstetrician-gynaecologist. “But the problem is bigger than it should be – and bigger than we are talking about.”

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Young women from the poorest communities are most impacted, says Bosire. Cases frequently occur around informal settlements, where contraception is difficult to access. In Africa’s biggest slum, Kibra (formerly referred to as Kibera), 50 per cent of 15-to 25-year-old women are pregnant at any one time.

Dorothy, a 27-year-old pastor, spends much of her free time wandering the streets of Nairobi’s sprawling shanty-towns. By August of this year, she had stumbled on 12 abandoned infants. Some were just several hours old, clenched fists revealing them struggling between life and death. Of those she rescued this year, eight died; four lived.

“Blood is the one consistent thing,” she says. “It’s almost like the mum is still around, like she’s not quite left yet.”

Dorothy, who requested that her name be changed to protect her identity, used to keep a tally of the total but gave up several years ago. “It was demoralising,” she says, shaking her head. “Now I just count per year. When the year ends, I peel off the paper, throw it away and move on.”

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Nationally, there is no centralised data system to keep track of the total, and official data is difficult to source.

“For police located near the river, [an abandoned infant] is so common it’s not an incident to report,” says Muteru Njama, the Managing Trustee of Change Trust, an organisation that deals with adoption and children’s rights in Kenya. He estimates roughly 7 to ten are discovered each week. “But it doesn’t even make the news.”

Five years ago, 23-year-old Mercy Atieno almost died from a botched abortion. Now, she helps other women with family planning advice CREDIT: EVANS HABIL/THE DAILY NATION

Pamela Dochieng, a Marie Stopes midwife, says she receives an abandoned newborn every three to four days in their Kibra clinic. Dorothy, meanwhile, believes the number of abandoned babies is rising. 

“No one really knows the true scale of what’s happening,” adds Njama. 

Five years ago, 23-year-old Mercy Atieno dropped out of school. Her family was in financial trouble, so she turned to ‘survival sex’ with local men in exchange for money. After receiving the wrong abortion medicine from a local quack doctor in Kibra, she became seriously ill. 

“I bled so much,” she says, tears filling her eyes. “I felt like my stomach was being cut into pieces. I got better but everyone knew – my neighbours, my family – and I felt like dying. I wanted people to know me for something impressive, not the lady who nearly died from an abortion.”

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This was Atieno’s fifth abortion in two years. Yet she’s not alone: almost half a million abortions were conducted in Kenya in 2012 – the most recent data available – with one in four women and girls suffering complications.

Contraceptive use is lowest in Africa

Proportion of women aged 15 to 49 using modern contraceptive methods, 2018

Women are petrified, says Tabitha Tsaoyo of Kelin, a legal NGO in Kenya. “Firstly, contraception is often scarce. Young girls are then being forced to carry pregnancies to term because they’re scared of going through an unsafe abortion and dying. Desperation leads to dumping,” she says, before sighing heavily. “We’re giving them no other choice.”

What’s more, confusion around the law has led to uncertainty over when the procedure is allowed. Police use this grey area to frequently target both women and health providers in slums. 

“Police want money,” explains Tsaoyo. “They will put you on a bond for about 50,000KES (£375). Then they’ll say: ‘we can drop this case if you pay us.’”

According to the Annual Crime Report, between 2010 and 2018 there were 348 cases reported to police for ‘procuring abortion’ – the offence that both women seeking abortions and medics are typically charged with. Abandoning your baby can fall under two categories – ‘infanticide’ or ‘concealing birth’ – of which 108 cases were recorded last year. 

The Family Care Medical Centre in the Kibera slum CREDIT: EVANS HABIL/THE DAILY NATION

Just 40-minutes north of Nairobi lies The Nest children’s home. Away from the city’s hectic hustle, a quiet calm washes over the lush green trees. Edna Ouma, a 29-year-old social worker, shows us around their ‘Baby Village’ – an airy, red-bricked building dedicated to caring for abandoned infants. Twenty-one babies currently lie fast asleep inside. It’s nap time. 

Their capacity is 25, but sometimes they take in more. Today, half the children belong to imprisoned mothers (this is home’s main focus), while the other half were dropped off by the police, a ‘Good Samaritan’ or simply left outside their large green gates. 

In some respects, these babies are the lucky ones. Or luckier. If no family has been traced after six months, The Nest receives a letter from the police and they can begin contacting adoption agencies. Kenya’s Children’s Department also makes a provision for mothers to give their babies up for adoption if they so wish. The system, however, is not widely publicised. 



Similarly, Nairobi-based gynaecologist Dr Jean Kagia set up rescue centres – known as ‘kiotas’ or ‘nests’ in Swahili – for young pregnant girls. She describes herself as pro-life, viewing abortion as a social not medical problem and, according to Bosire, is “plugging the gap” for vulnerable women. 

“It’s tricky,” begins Ouma. “The reasons vary, but the mothers I’ve spoken to often say they didn’t want to do it. They needed to work to feed their family. Maybe they dropped their baby off in daycare, but didn’t make enough money that day and they were afraid to come back. Women find they’re left with no other option.”

Each case is different, says Ouma, but The Nest is keen on counselling women and helps with employment opportunities so “they do not need to repeat the same thing again.”

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The issue is undoubtedly an economic one. As Sofia Rajab-Leteipan, a human rights lawyer based in Nairobi puts it: “poor women are being targeted.” But she, and many experts believe the problem is much bigger than that. “Looking at abortion in isolation isn’t going to help anyone. The entire system is failing women.”

Access to health services is key, she says, but it’s more than just the range of services available. Cost, a women’s knowledge of contraception and her ability to make decisions about accessing it all need to be addressed. “If there are barriers on all these things, women will become pregnant, they will have unwanted and unplanned pregnancies, which will result in unsafe abortion and dumped babies,” she explains. “It’s a chain.”

What’s more, the US has dramatically reduced funding for maternal health and family planning in Kenya under President Trump’s administration. The total dropped from £32 ($41m) in 2017 to £6.8 ($8.8m) just one year later.  

Lydia and the rest of the volunteers say the trauma of discovering dumped babies is taking a toll on their mental health CREDIT: EVANS HABIL/THE DAILY NATION 

Family Health Options Kenya (FHOK), the country’s first and largest reproductive health organisation, lost roughly $2.2 million in response to the Trump administration’s passing of the “global gag” rule in 2017. FHOK has now closed two clinics, eliminated all free outreach services, and laid off 18 staff members. 

Only 2 per cent of their services were abortion-related, according to FHOK’s Amos Simpano. 

“Dumped babies are just the tip of the iceberg,” says Elizabeth A. Bukusi, a Kenyan doctor who is also a research professor at the University of Washington in Obstetrics, Gynaecology and Global Health. “Do these young women even have enough bus fair to get to a healthcare facility?”

Back at the river, life has been disrupted once again. In what’s fast becoming a disturbing routine, the Komb Green Solutions team are preparing to take this week’s body, swaddled in a paper bag, and bury him with the others. The deaths are, unsurprisingly, beginning to take a toll.

Lydia was off that day, but she heard what happened. “It’s so sad,” she says quietly. “We really can’t go on.”

  • This story was a collaboration between The Bloomgist, The Telegraph, The Fuller Project for International Reporting, And Kenya’s The Daily Nation.

Civil servants ordered to wear ‘made in Kenya outfits’

Kenya’s government has ordered civil servants to wear locally tailored clothes to work on Fridays and during public holidays.

The order is meant to boost the local manufacturing industry, a key plank in President Uhuru’s Kenyatta so-called Big 4 Agenda.

The order was communicated in a circular signed by Solicitor-General Kennedy Ogeto, who has confirmed its authenticity to Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper.

It reads:Quote Message: Pursuant to the achievement of the Big 4 Agenda and specifically the expansion of manufacturing by producing better goods and creating local employment, I direct that all members of staff shall on all Fridays be dressed in decent, smart casual Kenyan-produced and tailored attire.”

Pursuant to the achievement of the Big 4 Agenda and specifically the expansion of manufacturing by producing better goods and creating local employment, I direct that all members of staff shall on all Fridays be dressed in decent, smart casual Kenyan-produced and tailored attire.”

It is unclear whether there will be disciplinary measures against those who don’t comply.

President Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto led by example during Sunday’s Heroes’ Day celebrations in the coastal city of Mombasa, wearing Kenyan-made attires.

Cabinet ministers and other state officials also wore similar outfits.

Bad habits drive health risks among Kenya’s urban poor

There’s a rise of cardiovascular diseases in developing countries which is linked to changes in diet, physical activity and obesity.

The Kenyan urban population, including low-income settlements, are part of this trend. Like residents in other low-income settlements, the rise in diseases can be linked to their surroundings. Poverty and stress is prevalent in Kenya’s low-income settings which increases the behavioural risk factors for cardiovascular diseases – like smoking and drinking. In addition, many residents have a diet which doesn’t include the amount of fruits and vegetables they need as they’re too expensive.

Cardiovascular diseases affect the heart (cardio) and blood vessels (vascular). People are more prone to them if they are overweight or obese, have high blood pressure, smoke, drink large amounts of alcohol, don’t do enough exercise and have a poor diet.

My colleagues and I wanted to know what people living in informal settlements in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital city, knew about cardiovascular disease, the risks and how this affected the medical treatment they sought.

We found that there’s a real lack of knowledge about the disease risks and even when the risks are known, societal pressures make it hard for them to change their ways.

As Nairobi grows and develops, more people will move into low-income areas and the number of people that need healthcare support for these diseases will get bigger. We hope that our findings inform strategies for and enhance the effectiveness of prevention and treatment programmes.

Poor knowledge

To carry out our research we held nine focus group discussions with healthy people aged 20  years and above in Korogocho and Viwandani slums. A total of 65 people were involved.

During the interviews, cardiovascular diseases were defined as disorders of the heart and blood vessels, namely heart disease (angina), heart attack and heart failure and stroke. Risk factors were listed as hypertension and raised blood pressure, diabetes and raised blood sugar, overweight and obesity, physical inactivity, smoking and harmful alcohol consumption.

Generally, there was poor knowledge of cardiovascular diseases and the risk factors involved.

A small number of respondents said that some of their family members discovered “only by chance” that they suffered from conditions, such as diabetes and hypertension, which mostly happened when they had a stroke or heart attack and were hospitalised. In most instances, it was too late to treat the conditions.

The magnitude of the cardiovascular disease burden in the community was not obvious among many of the study respondents, because in their own opinion, “these conditions were discrete and considered private”.

Most respondents couldn’t identify people who were likely to suffer from cardiovascular diseases or relate common risk factors – like smoking and excessive alcohol consumption – with increased risk of developing a heart attack and/or stroke.

There were views, based on “observed trends” in the community, that “anyone” could be at risk. This opinion was formed because of situations where “even children” were diagnosed with diabetes and hypertension.

According to a few of the study respondents, independent of their age, people who harboured worry and suffered stress were more likely to develop cardiovascular diseases. Women were especially singled out in this.

Behaviour

When looking at the link between behaviour and risk factors in Nairobi’s slums, there were worrying signs.

Despite participants understanding that food rich in fat led to the blockage of blood vessels, and therefore stroke and heart attacks, they argued that it was difficult to avoid fat when cooking.

Women “whose role was to prepare food for the family” were said to be under pressure to satisfy the tastes of their family members, especially their husbands – and fats were key.

Also, although sugary drinks were mentioned as a cause of cardiovascular, respondents that were involved in heavy manual labour said that it was okay for them to consume a lot of sugar (sometimes up to five teaspoons in a cup of tea) because of their high energy requirements.

Very few respondents knew or understood how harmful smoking or excessive alcohol consumption was. The participants linked alcohol consumption to stress, but not necessarily disease.

Most participants thought that slum residents had become less physically active. They attributed this to new and cheap forms of transportation, like the boda boda (motorcycle taxi). They also said that widespread crime meant there weren’t enough safe spaces for children and adults to play.

What can be done

A major issue is that there are few specialised health facilities and care providers that can help residents. But there are ways to help residents from home.

Mobile health interventions (specifically text-messaging) have been shown to work in high income countries. Based on this, the African Population and Health Research Center is currently rolling out interventions that provide blood pressure monitors and meters to measure glucose levels to patients. Text message reminders are then sent on days when people are meant to take their medication or go to a clinic.

Community health volunteers will help by spreading information on risk factors for cardiovascular diseases, how to prevent them, the benefits of early screening and detection and treatment for diabetes, obesity, high blood cholesterol and high blood pressure.

Civilians run for safety as police provide cover during the suicide bombing and mass shooting attack on the 14 Riverside complex. Wikimedia

Kenya’s terror survivors need more trauma support

The Dusit hotel, which was part of the complex attacked by terrorists in Nairobi in January 2019, has reopened. 21 people died in the attack, bringing the number killed in terror attacks in Kenya to at least300 in the past five years. These attacks have been traumatic for many of those affected. Stephen Asatsa tells The Conversation Africa’s Moina Spooner what needs to be done to support them.

Civilians run for safety as police provide cover during the suicide bombing and mass shooting attack on the 14 Riverside complex. Wikimedia
Civilians run for safety as police provide cover during the suicide bombing and mass shooting attack on the 14 Riverside complex. Wikimedia

How does trauma affect people who are directly or indirectly involved in a terror attack?

When a person feels like they’re in a crisis, the hindbrain (lower back of the brain) is activated while the forebrain is switched off. The hindbrain deals with survival functions: fight, flight or freeze. The forebrain deals with higher functions like logical reasoning, language and imagination. The forebrain isn’t helpful in times of crisis because it’s slow to make decisions.

This means that initial interventions must target the hindbrain to normalise the body from its state of emergency. Meditation, breathing exercises, massage and physical activities – like dance and games – can all help to relax the hindbrain. Later it can process the traumatic event during long term counselling.

Once the body returns to normal, it is important to track unprocessed emotions and help the survivors to express them. Social support is one of survivors’ greatest resources for survivors. This can be offered by strengthening family and friend ties to promote long term recovery, even after counselling stops. Family members should also be actively involved in crisis interventions.

Untreated trauma is dangerous. It may develop into other mental health issues that lead to drug abuse, depression, anger and hatred.

What does research show about the type of trauma people experience and the effectiveness of counselling at overcoming it?

Threatening events lead to direct or secondary trauma. Direct trauma involves physically experiencing or witnessing the event – people who survive the threatening event, as well as those who may not have faced the threat but saw others being attacked. It would also apply to rescue staff like the police, fire fighters and doctors.

Secondary trauma involves people who were not physically present during the event but learn about it through others or through the mass media.

Symptoms are similar in both types of trauma. Traumatised people tend to be hyper vigilant, agitated, suffer from negative mood swings and avoid reminders of the crisis. But often, those who experience secondary trauma are neglected.

Yet research shows that from a single traumatic event, there are instances where more people have secondary trauma. For example a survey on the effects of terrorism in Pakistan reported 3.9% physical effects (direct trauma – meaning they were present at the location of the crisis), while 79.2% reported mental health effects (secondary trauma).

How prevalent has counselling been for those affected by terror attacks in Kenya?

The use of counselling services in Kenya is very low. During the crisis intervention that followed the 1998 terror attack on the US embassy in Nairobi, just 15% of survivors sought counselling services.

Recently there’s been an improvement, possibly because of increased awareness and moretrained psychologists.

In my study on the Garissa University terror attack survivors – in which 148 people were killed – I found that most survivors received counselling services. Only 16.5% didn’t. But a large number only had “critical incident debriefing”, which usually involves fewer than three counselling sessions. Survivors may need longer forms of intervention to give the healing process enough time.

I also found that women were more likely to attend long-term counselling. This could be attributed to cultural reasons: men are socialised not to ask for help even when they need it.

What type of counselling works best in these situations?

Many different approaches can be used to help terror survivors.

Psychological first aid focuses on initial emotional support offered to victims of trauma in a bid to reduce distress and prevent further trauma. This is not necessarily offered by mental health practitioners, but by any available helper.

Critical incident debriefing is offered to trauma victims with the aim of preventing the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a severe condition that could drastically affect a person’s normal functioning by keeping them withdrawn, highly agitated, restless, and sometimes suicidal.

These trauma interventions are the most prevalent forms of psychological support in times of crises. But they are short-term. Missing out on long-term counselling poses a threat to survivors’ mental health. Survivors of the Garissa terrorist attack, for instance, pinpointed a few painful experiences that slowed their recovery. These included the short term nature of counselling, counselling being stopped too soon and relatives being excluded from crisis intervention.

There needs to be a shift to long-term counselling which targets the survivors, their family members, rescue workers, counsellors, news reporters and the general public.

Are there lessons from other countries on how best to support victims?

There’s a lack of awareness in Kenya about the importance of mental health. This may be partly why people don’t seek out counselling. In some developed countries, by contrast, mental health is fully entrenched in public health institutions.

In Kenya, the mental health sector is not well regulated, compromising the quality of services. Legal frameworks – like the Counsellors and Psychologists Act of 2014 – haven’t been implemented because of competing professional bodies that make it hard to monitor the profession. The ministry of health also seems reluctant to register and license counsellors and psychologists, which could be the reason why humanitarian organisations often take the lead in coordinating psychologists during a crisis.

If the government allocated funds to mental health, and took it seriously, there would be better services for survivors of traumatic events, like terrorism, who would receive proper psychological help.

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Ethiopian Airlines crash: all you need to know as 30 nations grieve for victims

The crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 from Addis Ababa to Nairobi is a tragedy that threatens to leave fresh questions hanging over the aircraft manufacturer Boeing.

Few details about the crash are yet available, but according to Ethiopian Airlines the pilot, who was experienced with an excellent flying record, reported difficulties and asked to turn back.

Africa’s aviation safety record has never been good, though Ethiopian has been regarded as an exception. Technical experts from Boeing are standing by for an international investigation into a crash that involved passengers from at least 32 countries.

Here are all we know so far

Carriers ground Boeing 737 Max 8 jets in wake of disaster

Ethiopian Airlines joins China and Cayman Islands in suspending use of the new jets following second tragedy in four months

A man carries a piece of debris on his head at the crash site of a Nairobi-bound Ethiopian Airlines flight near Bishoftu Photograph: Michael Tewelde/AFP/Getty Images

Ethiopian Airlines has joined carriers in China and the Cayman Islands in suspending the use of Boeing 737 Max 8 jets in the wake of a crash that killed all 157 people on board on Sunday.

Ethiopian Airlines flight ET 302, on its way to Nairobi from Addis Ababa, crashed six minutes after take-off, ploughing into a field near Tulu Fara village outside the town of Bishoftu, 40 miles south-east of the Ethiopian capital.

The disaster was the second involving the new aircraft in the last four months. In October, a Lion Air plane crashed into the sea off the Indonesian capital of Jakarta, killing all 189 onboard.

“Following the tragic accident of ET 302 … Ethiopian Airlines has decided to ground all B-737-8 MAX fleet effective yesterday, March 10, until further notice,” the state-owned carrier said in a statement released on Twitter on Monday.

“Although we don’t yet know the cause of the accident, we have to decide to ground the particular fleet as an extra safety precaution,” said the airline, which is Africa’s largest.

The move came after China’s aviation authorities ordered the country’s airlines to ground their Boeing 737 Max 8 jets.

The cause of the crash is unknown, but Cayman Airlines also suspended operations of its two Boeing 737 Max 8 planes while investigations continued.

The civil aviation administration of China (CAAC) issued a notice on Monday at 9am local time ordering domestic airlines to suspend the commercial operation of the Boeing 737- Max 8 aircraft before 6pm.

Referring to the Boeing 737 Max 8 as a Boeing 737-8, the CAAC said it made the decision “in view of the fact that the two air crashes were newly delivered Boeing 737-8 aircraft” and had “certain similarities.” 

The regulator said the grounding of the planes was “in line with our principle of zero tolerance for safety hazards and strict control of safety risks”. The CAAC said it would be contacting US aviation authorities and Boeing before restoring flights of the aircraft.

Roughly 60 of the Boeing 737 Max 8 planes have been delivered to about a dozen Chinese airlines since the new craft was released. Chinese carriers make up about 20% of deliveries of the model through January, according to Bloomberg. On Monday, two Chinese airlines told the Guardian they had begun using Boeing 737-800 aircraft instead of the Max 8.

Cayman Airways, which also flies the Boeing 737 Max 8 craft, also announced it would ground the planes while the investigation into the crash was ongoing. Cayman Airways president and chief executive Fabian Whorms said the airline was “putting the safety of our passengers and crew first”.

More than 300 Boeing 737-MAX planes are in operation and more than 5,000 have been ordered worldwide since 2017.

In Britain, the holiday operator Tui Airways ordered 32 Max aircraft as part of a major fleet overhaul and took delivery of its first Max 8 in December. Tui was the first UK-registered airline to receive one of the new Boeing aircraft and plans to roll out its orders over the next five years.

Based at Manchester Airport, the planes are due to ferry passengers to a range of holiday destinations from the north-west. The carrier’s German parent company is reported to have bought 54 Max 8s.

Several airlines told the Guardian they did not intend to ground their flights, including Fiji Airways, which said it had “full confidence in the airworthiness of our fleet.”

BOC Aviation, an aircraft leasing company based in Singapore, which has five Boeing Max 8, 9 and 10 aircraft in service with lessees and another 90 on order said they had “no intention of grounding aircraft at this stage or changing our aircraft orders. The data available is limited and we can’t speculate on [what] might have been the cause of the crash.”

30 nations grieve for victims of Ethiopian Airlines crash

UN a ‘house in mourning’ as 19 staff members die along with 32 Kenyan citizens, 18 from Canada and seven Britons

Joanna Toole was the first British victim of the plane crash to be named. Photograph: Facebook

Three young Austrian doctors, an environmental campaigner from Devon, a former Nigerian ambassador and the wife and children of a Slovak legislator, have been named among the 157 people killed after Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 from Addis Ababa to Nairobi crashed shortly after takeoff.

The plane contained passengers from more than 30 nationalities including 32 Kenyan citizens, 18 from Canada, nine from Ethiopia, eight from Italy, China and the US and seven from the UK and France.

Many of the passengers were en route to the United Nations environment assembly in Nairobi, which starts on Monday. At least 19 people affiliated with the organisation were killed. Not all of the victims have been named so far but stories about those onboard were starting to emerge on Monday.

‘In deep grief’

A lawmaker from Slovakia said his wife, daughter and son were killed in the crash. Anton Hrnko, a legislator for the ultra-nationalist Slovak National Party, said he was “in deep grief” over the deaths of his wife, Blanka, son, Martin, and daughter, Michala. Their ages were not immediately available. President Andrej Kiska offered his condolences to Hrnko.

Kenya had the largest number of victims, including Hussein Swaleh, the former secretary general of the Football Kenya Federation who was due to return home on the flight after working as the match commissioner in an African Champions League game in Egypt on Friday.

Another Kenyan on the flight was Cedric Asiavugwa, a law student at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. Asiavugwa, who was born and raised in Mombassa, was on his way to Nairobi after the death of his fiancee’s mother. Before he came to Georgetown, he worked with groups helping refugees in Zimbabwe, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, the university said.

At least seven Britons were on the flight, the British Foreign Office has confirmed.

The first British victim to be named was Joanna Toole, a 36-year-old environmental campaigner from Exmouth, Devon, who worked for the fisheries and aquaculture department of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

The department’s director, Manuel Barange, tweeted that he was “profoundly sad and lost for words” over the death of his colleague. He said she had been travelling to Nairobi to represent the FAO at the UN environment assembly.

Barange said Toole was “a wonderful human being who loved her work with a passion. Our love to her family and loved ones.”

Toole’s Facebook profile states that she lived in Rome, where the FAO is based.

Her father, Adrian, told Devon Live: “Joanna’s work was not a job, it was her vocation. She had never really wanted to do anything else but work in animal welfare since she was a child. Everybody was very proud of her and the work she did; we’re still in a state of shock.”

The family of Joseph Waithaka, a Kenyan and British dual national, said the 55-year-old had died in the crash.

His son Ben Kuria told the BBC his father, who had lived in Hull for more than a decade before moving back to Kenya, was a “generous” man who “loved justice”.

Waithaka, who had worked for the Humberside Probation Trust, saw his son on Saturday in Croydon, London, before flying to Kenya via Addis Ababa.

“I gave him a hug and shook his hand, because in my culture it’s more about the handshake than it is about the hug,” Kuria told BBC News. “I said we’ll probably see you at some point soon. We usually spend a bit more time saying goodbye, but yesterday it kind of just felt routine.”

Abiodun Oluremi Bashu, an ambassador from Nigeria, was also killed in the crash. The Nigerian ministry of foreign affairs said it received the news of his death “with great shock”.

After joining the Nigerian foreign service in 1976, Bashu served in embassies around the world including Vienna, Austria, Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire and Tehran, Iran. He also served as secretary to the Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. At the time of his death, Bashu was on contract with the United Nations Economic Commission of Africa.

Michael Ryan. Photograph: World Food Programme/PA

One Irish national was killed; Michael Ryan, a father of two who worked for the UN’s World Food Programme. Ryan, who was based in Rome, was global deputy chief engineer for the aid agency and had been on a work trip in Ethiopia.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar paid tribute to Ryan on Twitter, saying: “Our thoughts tonight are with families of all those lost in the Ethiopian Airlines crash, including Irish engineer Michael Ryan.

“Michael was doing life-changing work in Africa with the World Food Programme. Deepest sympathies to family, colleagues & friends.”

Pius Adesanmi, a Nigerian professor with Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, also died on the flight.

The author of “Naija No Dey Carry Last,” a collection of satirical essays, Adesanmi was described as a “towering figure in African and post-colonial scholarship” by Benoit-Antoine Bacon, Carleton’s president and vice chancellor.

Pius Adesanmi, a Nigerian professor with Carleton University in Ottowa, Canada, was the winner of the inaugural Penguin Prize for African non-fiction writing in 2010. Photograph: Josh Hotz/AP

Sebastiano Tusa, 66, a renowned Italian underwater archaeologist, was another killed, the Italian government said. He had been flying to Kenya for a project with Unesco.

In a tweet, Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte said: “We are united with the relatives of the victims and offer them our heartfelt thoughts.”

‘This is a house in mourning’

Austrian foreign ministry spokesman Peter Guschelbauer confirmed that three doctors in their early 30s were on board the flight. The men were on their way to Zanzibar, he said, but he could not confirm the purpose of their trip.

The Boeing 737 Max 8 plane was believed to be carrying 149 passengers and eight crew members en route to Nairobi when it hit the ground six minutes after departing Addis Ababa on Sunday morning.

Theresa May said she was “deeply saddened to hear of the devastating loss of life following the plane crash in Ethiopia”.

In a statement posted to Twitter, the prime minister said: “At this very difficult time my thoughts are with the families and friends of the British citizens on board and all those affected by this tragic incident.”

The spokesman for the UN secretary general, António Guterres, said he was “deeply saddened at the tragic loss of lives”.

“He conveys his heartfelt sympathies and solidarity to the victims’ families and loved ones, including those of United Nations staff members, as well as sincere condolences to the government and people of Ethiopia,” the spokesman said. “The United Nations is in contact with the Ethiopian authorities and working closely with them to establish the details of United Nations personnel who lost their lives in this tragedy.”

Inger Andersen, the incoming head of UN environment, told the Guardian the organisation was “devastated”.

“This is a house in mourning but a house that doesn’t yet know all the facts.”

Justin Trudeau, the Canadian prime minister, said in a statement he joins the international community in mourning the lives of so many. He says the Canadian government is providing consular assistance and working with local authorities to gather further information.

UK investigators from the Air Accidents Investigation Branch are likely to be communicating with their counterparts in Ethiopia to keep next of kin informed.

How ‘excellent’ pilot was unable to avert disaster

The scene of the crash near the town of Bishoftu, south-east of Addis Ababa. Photograph: Tiksa Negeri/Reuters

Aviation authorities have begun investigating how a new Boeing plane with an experienced pilot crashed minutes after takeoff from Addis Ababa on Sunday, killing all 157 people on board.

The destruction of Ethiopian Airlines flight ET 302, which was on its way to Nairobi, is the second calamity involving a Boeing 737 Max 8, a new model that experienced a similar accident in Indonesia in October.

The largest number of the victims were Kenyans. At least seven Britons were on the flight, which left Bole airport at 8.38am local time (5.38am GMT).

At least 19 people affiliated with the United Nations were among those killed, according to the UN migration agency chief. Many were delegates on their way to the UN environment assembly, which starts in Nairobi on Monday. Eighteen Canadians also died.

The pilot said he was experiencing technical problems and asked to return to the airport. The control tower lost contact with the aircraft at 8.44am. Wreckage was later discovered near the town of Bishoftu, 39 miles (62km) south-east of the Ethiopian capital.

The flight tracking website Flightradar24 tweeted that the plane had unstable vertical speed after takeoff.

The cause of the accident is not yet known. The Ethiopian Airlines chief executive, Tewolde GebreMariam, said routine maintenance had revealed no problems with the plane, and the captain Yared Getachew had flown more than 8,000 hours with an “excellent flying record”. The airline took delivery of the plane in November.

“As I said, it is a brand new airplane with no technical remarks, flown by a senior pilot and there is no cause that we can attribute at this time,” he told reporters.

Questions have been raised about the safety of the Boeing 737 Max 8, which has been in commercial operation since 2016. The same model was involved in the Lion Air crash, where a jet plunged into the Java Sea soon after takeoff last year, killing 189 people.

More than 300 of these planes are in operation with different airlines. Ethiopian has six more. Asked whether they would be grounded, GebreMariam said no because “we don’t know the cause of the accident”.

Several airlines around the world fly the 737 Max 8. On Sunday night reports said China had asked its local airlines to temporarily ground the planes.

In a statement, the airline said it would conduct a forensic investigation in conjunction with officials from Boeing, the Ethiopian civil aviation authority, the Ethiopian transport authority other international bodies.

The plane contained passengers from more than 30 nationalities. According to the airline, Kenya had 32, Canada 18, Ethiopia nine, Italy, China and the US eight each, the UK and France seven each, Egypt six, the Netherlands five, India and Slovakia four each, Sweden and Russia three each and other countries one or two.

Sebastiano Tusa, 66, a renowned Italian archaeologist, was among those killed, the Italian government said. He had been flying to Kenya for a project with Unesco.

A Slovakian MP, Anton Hrnko, wrote on Facebook that his wife, son and daughter had all been killed in the crash. “It is with deep sorrow that I announce that my dear wife, Blanka, son Martin and daughter Michala, died in the air disaster in Addis Ababa this morning.”

Kenyan authorities offered support to families and friends waiting at Nairobi airport. The transport secretary, James Macharia, said they would be transported to an emergency centre at a nearby hotel. “It is a very sensitive emotional matter,” he said.

Earlier many people had been waiting at the arrival gate with no information.

“We’re just waiting for my mum. We’re just hoping she took a different flight or was delayed. She’s not picking up her phone,” said Wendy Otieno.

Robert Mudanta, 46, was waiting for his brother-in-law coming from Canada. “We haven’t seen anyone from the airline or the airport,” he told Reuters more than three hours after the flight was lost. “Nobody has told us anything. We are just standing here hoping for the best.”

Four of those on board were travelling on UN passports. . “Early indications are that 19 staff members of UN affiliated organizations perished,” said International Organization for Migration head Antonio Vitorino.

“Numerous other staff members from at least five UN and affiliated organizations are understood to have also perished,” he said.

Inger Anderson, the incoming head of UN environment, told the Guardian: “We’re devastated by what transpired. Obviously many of our partners and colleagues are deeply impacted. This is a house in mourning but a house that doesn’t yet know all the facts.” The assembly’s organisers have shared details of emergency hotlines with delegates.

Several prominent humanitarian workers were among the victims, including International Committee for the Development of Peoples founder Paolo Dieci; three members of Italian humanitarian organisation Africa Tremila, including the president Carlo Spini, his wife, and treasurer Matteo Ravasio; and Save the Children child protection in emergencies adviser Tamirat Mulu Demessie.

The Ethiopian prime minister’s office sent condolences via Twitter to the families of those lost in the crash.

Justin Trudeau, the Canadian prime minister, said the crash was “devastating”.

Under international rules, responsibility for leading the crash investigation lies with Ethiopia but the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will also participate because the plane was designed and built in the United States.

Representatives of Boeing and Cincinnati-based engine-maker CFM, a joint venture between General Electric and the French company Safran, will advise the NTSB.

The aircraft had shattered into many pieces and was severely burnt, a Reuters reporter at the scene of the crash said. Clothing and personal effects were scattered widely over the field where the plane came down.

An eyewitness told AFP the plane came down in flames. “The plane was already on fire when it crashed to the ground. The crash caused a big explosion,” Tegegn Dechasa recounted at the site. “I was near the river near the crash site. Shortly after the crash police and a fire crew from a nearby air force camp came and extinguished the plane’s flames on the ground.”

He added: “The plane was in flames in its rear side shortly before the crash. The plane was swerving erratically before the crash.”

The cause of the earlier crash involving a Boeing 737 Max 8 in Indonesia is still under investigation. A preliminary report focused on airline maintenance and training, as well as the response of a Boeing anti-stall system to a recently replaced sensor, but did not give a reason for the crash. Since then, the cockpit voice recorder was recovered and a final report is due later this year.

State-owned Ethiopian is one of the biggest carriers in Africa by fleet size. It said previously that it expected to carry 10.6 million passengers last year. Its last major crash was in January 2010, when a flight from Beirut went down shortly after takeoff.

The airline is in the middle of an expansion, aiming to double its fleet to 120 and become Africa’s biggest airline by 2025. It has tripled its passenger numbers over the past decade. A new terminal recently opened at Bole, tripling the airport’s size.

Additional reporting by Lorenzo Tondo

Second new Boeing 737 to crash in four months

Confidence that a newer plane inevitably means a safer plane in danger of being shaken

An Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8. Photograph: EPA

The crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 from Addis Ababa to Nairobi is a tragedy that threatens to leave fresh questions hanging over the aircraft manufacturer Boeing.

Few details about the crash are yet available, but according to Ethiopian Airlines the pilot, who was experienced with an excellent flying record, reported difficulties and asked to turn back.

Africa’s aviation safety record has never been good, though Ethiopian has been regarded as an exception. Technical experts from Boeing are standing by for an international investigation into a crash that involved passengers from at least 32 countries.

The Boeing 737 MAX 8, a brand new plane only registered in November, disappeared from the radar six minutes into the flight. Immediate comparisons have been drawn with Lion Air flight 610, which crashed just over four months ago, killing 189 people. Flight data showed erratic climbs and descents before the plane, also a MAX 8, came down 12 minutes after takeoff from Jakarta.

More than 300 Boeing 737-MAX planes are in operation and more than 5,000 have been ordered worldwide since 2017. It is the latest iteration of the 737, the world’s bestselling plane, ever more capable of flying autonomously.

Autonomy, however, can bring problems. It is notable that insurers considering driverless cars worry most about the period when highly autonomous vehicles will coexist with human drivers, the uncertain interface between human and artificial intelligence.

Pilots worldwide were angered after the Lion Air crash that subtle software modifications to the MAX 8’s autopilot had not been fully communicated. Nor were they made the subject of mandatory pilot retraining.

The new plane automatically compensates if it believes its angle puts it at a risk of stalling, a safety feature that worked in a slightly different way to that which 737 pilots were used to. Lion Air’s black box suggested the pilots of flight 610 had been wrestling with this issue.

Boeing argued that if pilots followed existing procedures, there should be no danger. Past crashes, however, and most famously the AirFrance flight 447 disaster in the south Atlantic, have shown that the sensors on which aircraft computer systems rely can malfunction, and that pilots who have grown to trust the technology can become rapidly bewildered when things go wrong. All too human reactions led to disaster.

The aviation industry has boasted that it is safer than ever in recent years, and the International Air Transport Association reported no accidents involving a modern commercial passenger jet over several years this decade. Turboprops and old cargo planes might fail, but the worst disasters were ascribed to deliberate acts – terrorist attacks, pilot suicide, Russian missiles – or, in the case of MH370, left unexplained.

Emerging details from Ethiopia may quickly show a specific cause that is completely unrelated to any issues at Lion Air or to the new 737. Boeing and the Federal Aviation Authority, which regulates the company, will hope so. Confidence that a newer plane automatically means a safer plane is in danger of being shaken.

SOURCE: The Guardian, UK/NYT/Sky News/Al Jazeera

Nairobi attack: latests and all you need to know

Here is the latest on the terror attack on Nairobi hotel.

‘Two suspects arrested’

Two suspects have been arrested in connection with the 14 Riverside Drive attack in Nairobi on Tuesday, local Daily Nation reports quoting George Kinoti, Director of Criminal Investigations.


One of the suspects, a woman only identified as Kemunto, was arrested in Kiambu county in a house where one of the attackers is believed to have lived,according to Citizen TV.

A male suspect was arrested in Eastleigh area in the capital.

Islamist militant group al-Shabab have claimed responsibility for the attack which lasted 19 hours and claimed the lives of at least 14 people.

‘Fifty unaccounted for’

Kenya’s Red Cross says 50 people are still unaccounted for following the end of the hotel siege.

The official death toll currently stands at 14.

Police say five militants were killed during the security operation.

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta said over 700 peoiple were rescued.

He said the country remains a safe place for foreign visitors, and that those involved in planning this attack will be hunted down.

Read the Kenya Red Cross statement below:

‘Five attackers involved’

Kenya’s police boss Joseph Boinnet has said five attackers took part in Tuesday’s attack at a Nairobi complex, news agency AFP reports.

Security camera footage showed at least four heavily armed men walking in the compound and opening fire.

Kenyan security officers praised

Kenyan security officers are being praised for their work in ending the attack at the Dusit complex.

Government officials, opposition leaders and ordinary Kenyans have hailed them as “heroes”.

Islamist militants from the al-Shabab group attacked the complex on Tuesday afternoon killing at least 14 people.

President Uhuru Kenyatta told a press briefing earlier today that all the militants had been killed and over 700 people rescued.

Security camera footage showed at least four heavily armed men walking in and opening fire.

Kenyans donating blood in Mombasa

Kenyans have been donating blood to help those injured in Tuesday’s attack at the luxury DusitD2 complex in the capital, Nairobi.

Concerned citizens as far away as the coastal city of Mombasa have gone to different centres to donate blood.

Twitter users, including a local MP, have been sharing pictures about the exercise.

Kenyan Muslim leaders condemn ‘barbaric attack’

Leaders from 10 Muslim organisations in Kenya have released a joint statement condemning Tuesday’s attack at the DusitD2 hotel in Riverside area in the capital, Nairobi.

Islamist militant group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack.

In the joint statement, the leaders condemn “in the strongest terms possible the barbaric attack on 14 Riverside Drive”.

The organisations have jointly set up a counselling and blood donation centre in Chiromo, a suburb in Nairobi.

Jamia Mosque, where the press conference was held, has recently been a target of online threats.

Some call for an attack on the mosque, which is frequented predominantly by Somalis.

Kenya siege map

The siege in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, on the complex, which houses the luxury DusitD2 hotel, began at about 15:00 local time (12:00 GMT) on Tuesday.

Gunmen threw bombs at vehicles in the car park before entering the lobby, where one blew himself up, police say.

The BBC has put together this map and timeline of the siege:

Nairobi attack: gunmen in armed standoff with police

Anti-terrorist forces trying to regain control of complex seized amid explosions.

Police and anti-terrorist forces were battling to regain control of a Nairobi hotel and office complex as night fell, hours after it was attacked by Islamist extremist gunmen.

People flee the scene of the explosions. Photograph: Thomas Mukoya/Reuters

The assault on the dusitD2 compound in the Kenyan capital, which includes a luxury hotel, restaurants, a spa and several office buildings housing international companies, was the most spectacular by terrorists in the country for many years.

Sustained automatic gunfire and grenade explosions were heard as the gunmen rushed in and scores of people fled the scene.

There were reports that at least seven people had been killed and one suspect detained. At least 10 more were wounded, with local hospitals asking for blood donations. The death toll was expected to rise.

 

The attack was claimed by al-Shabaab, the militant Islamist organisation based in neighbouring Somalia, on its in-house radio network and online. Al-Shabaab was responsible for an attack on Nairobi’s Westgate Mall in 2013 that left at least 67 people dead.

People run for cover after being rescued from the Dusit Hotel on Jan. 15,

The alarm was raised at about 3pm on Tuesday when gunfire and explosions were heard at the hotel, in the upscale Westlands neighbourhood of the city. Dozens of ambulances, police vehicles and fire engines arrived at the scene as fleeing office workers filled the surrounding streets.

Witnesses said two cars had been driven at speed towards the hotel complex at about 3pm. One appeared to have been used to blast open its gates. Security personnel came under fire before gunmen entered the complex, initially targeting a bank and diners at a Thai restaurant.

As gunfire continued to be heard from the complex in the early evening, police officials said that special forces had cleared six of the hotel’s seven floors.

“We have made considerable progress in containing the situation. Various premises have been [secured] that had been taken over by armed criminals,” Kenya’s inspector general of police, Joseph Boinnet, told reporters.

Tuesday’s attack came exactly three years after a deadly al-Shabaab attack on a Kenyan military base in El-Adde in Somalia, where about 140 Kenyasoldiers were killed.

“Al-Shabaab mujahideen snipers are in operation in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya. Our reports confirm that mujahideen fighters stormed the target building,” the al-Shabaab statement said.

Witnesses reported that the attackers were wearing military fatigues and wrapped in ammunition when they ran into the hotel.

People are evacuated from the compound in Nairobi. Photograph: Thomas Mukoya/Reuters

In the hours after the attack, the gunmen and security forces were engaged in a fierce firefight. Plumes of smoke rose into the air from several burning cars. “There was a bomb, there is a lot of gunfire,” said one man working at the complex, asking not to be named.

Others described office workers in the complex hiding under the desks or sheltering behind makeshift barricades. Hundreds were evacuated from nearby buildings.

Rashid Abdi, an expert in Islamic militancy in east Africa with the International Crisis Group in Nairobi, said al-Shabab was a versatile and patient organisation.

“It was always a matter of when not if. There has been some successes against al-Shabab in northern Kenya but if we have learned anything it is that al-Shabaab lulls security services into complacency. Months and years can go between attacks and then they strike.”

Though the Kenyan deployment in Somalia is one motive for al-Shabab’s attacks in Nairobi and elsewhere, the organisation is also committed to the broader causes of global jihadi ideology and sees the Kenyan capital as a key target.

Medics removed four bodies from buildings near the hotel , witnesses said. A medic said two more body bags were removed from another location nearby. One person died earlier at a hospital.

Kenya faced a spate of attacks after it sent its army into Somalia in October 2011 to fight al-Shabaab, which is affiliated to al-Qaida.

On 2 April 2015, al-Shabaab killed 148 people at a university in Garissa, eastern Kenya. Islamic State has a small presence in the Horn of Africa.

Nairobi is the economic hub of the east Africa region with a big presence of western companies, diplomats and tourists. Kenya has long been a significant security partner of the US and other western countries.

Authorities said they had been vigilant over the Christmas and New Year holiday season.

“Hotels and other public buildings remain under close watch. Reports from throughout the country indicate that everything remains calm and normal,” Boinnet told reporters.

Boy arrested for posing as girl in Kenyan music exam

A talented musician who passed himself off as a girl during music exams at a high school in Kenya has been arrested, local media report.

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He wore a girls’ uniform and attracted the attention of other students “as he played instruments with dexterity, unlike the rest of them”, Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper reports.

The boy involved has not been named.

The incident took place at Mukuyu Girls’ Secondary School in Kakamega County in western Kenya.

The musician was a student in neighbouring Uasin Gishu County.

The principal at the girls’ school as well as the school’s music teacher have also been arrested.


Cover photo: The authorities have recently been trying to crack down on wide-scale cheating in exams in Kenya

Coke to launch sugar-free fanta in Kenya

Soft drinks Company Coca-Cola Beverages Africa (CCBA) is expanding its sugar free range of beverages targeting increasingly health-conscious consumers.

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The company says it will next month introduce Fanta Zero adding to the existing Sprite Zero, Stoney Zero and Coke Zero being sold in Kenya.

“We will be bringing Fanta Zero in two weeks completing the range of Zero sugar soft drinks already available in Kenya,” said CCBA managing director Daryl Wilson.

Coca-Cola has been aggressively diversifying its soft drinks in Kenya including the introduction of its milk-juice blend under the Minute Maid range.

The milk infused juice was part of the line-up from the new Sh2.7 billion production line that allows for hot fill drinks, hence removing the need for preservatives.

“We are evolving our recipes to offer drinks that provide benefits like nutrition and hydration; and reduction of sugar by reformulating the sugar content in some of our products,” said Coca-Cola.

The water range has also been diversified to include flavoured sparkling water, which according to Mr Wilson, will be expanded in the near future to include flavoured still water.

In July, the soda maker introduced a lemon-flavoured carbonated drink dubbed Schweppes +C geared at reaching the adult consumer not served by its existing soda range.

The company has been forced to look for alternatives for its core business mode to cater for depressed global sales for soda as more and more consumers push for healthier drinks given the changing lifestyles.

Coca-Cola is banking on innovation and diversification of its soft drinks products in the country to grow sales.

In 2016 and 2017, the company invested Sh9.3 billion in its production and packaging lines to cater for the new brands alongside its mainstay soda, juice and water products.

According to the firm, its investments in Kenya have included Sh8.5 billion ($85 million) in infrastructure and Sh4.4 billion ($44 million) in distribution over the past five years.


Cover photo: A Fanta production line at the Coca Cola plant in Nanjing, China. Coca-Cola has been diversifying its soft drinks in Kenya. PHOTO | AFP 

Over 10 Million Mobile Users hit by SIM fraud

Over 25 percent of Kenya’s 43 million mobile users have been victims of SIM swap fraud, either as targets or victims, according to a survey by Myriad Connect.

French startup Moodstocks has developed technology that helps smartphones recognize whatever they are aimed at

The survey also reveals that 90 percent of Kenyan banking leaders see SIM swap fraud as a serious threat in the sector in what is becoming one of the rising global crimes involving mobile phones.

The most recent high-profile case is where US entrepreneur Michael Terpin who is suing AT&T over an alleged SIM swap that resulted in millions of dollars’ worth of cryptocurrency tokens being stolen from his account

While in South Africa, the South African Banking Risk Information Centre (SABRIC) reported recently that the incidence of SIM swap fraud has more than doubled in the past year.

“A SIM swap is when criminals manage to get a replacement SIM for a mobile number that does not belong to them, allowing the new SIM to supersede the existing one, and give criminals access to the legitimate user’s information and accounts,” says Willie Kanyeki, Myriad Connect Director Business Development – Africa.

Kanyeki adds that in addition to financial losses, SIM swap presents the risk of reputational damage and the exposure of sensitive data, and once fraudsters control a user’s accounts, “regaining control of them can be complex.”

In the past, the market’s response to the threat of digital transaction fraud has been to introduce authentication measures to protect transactions, often in the form of a one-time-password (OTP) over SMS.

Recent research among leading financial services CIOs in Kenya found that 87pc of financial services providers deploy OTP via SMS to protect transactions, and consumer research indicates that 71pc of consumers have used services that use OTP via SMS to authenticate financial service transactions.

“However, OTP via SMS has long been considered a vulnerable channel for authenticating financial services transactions, as it does not meet strict security standards,” says Kanyeki.

In 2016 the National Institute of Standards and Technology in the US identified that SMS is a risk and that OTP via SMS is not fit to secure financial services as it can be vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attacks such as SIM swap.

The American administration’s top diplomat for African affairs, Assistant Secretary of State Tibor P Nagy, Jr, will soon… Read more »

Citizen TV journalist Jacque Maribe talking to her lawyer, Katwa Kigen, at the Kiambu Law Courts on October 1, 2018. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Everything about Jacque Maribe’s police statement

Citizen TV anchor Jacque Maribe has admitted to police that her fiancé Joseph Irungu shot himself in her house in an incident investigators believe was a suicide attempt.

According to Ms Maribe, Jowie, as her fiancé is known, shot himself in his chest following a “serious” disagreement between them in her house in Lang’ata on the night of September 20.

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Jowie later claimed in a police statement that he had been shot by three thugs after dropping off Ms Maribe at her house. Police have since questioned the narrative.

Ms Maribe and Jowie are being detained in separate police stations in Nairobi over the gruesome murder of Monica Kimani, whose body was found at her Kilimani apartment.

Jowie is the prime suspect in the murder.

The fresh details of the quarrel that led to Jowie shooting himself is contained in an affidavit sworn by the lead investigator. “That according to the statement from the Respondent (Jacqueline Maribe), the said Joseph Irungu alias Jowie on the night of 20/21st September 2018 at around 1am attempted to commit suicide by shooting himself on [sic] the left chest following serious disagreement between the two,” the investigator stated in his affidavit.

Police are yet to provide a link between Jowie’s stated suicide attempt and Ms Kimani’s murder.

They have also not expounded on the reason of the quarrel between Ms Maribe and her fiance.

On Monday, Ms Maribe and a third suspect Brian Kassaine were arraigned in Kiambu and the court ordered their detention for a further 10 days to allow for investigations.

The police have also announced they will extract DNA samples from Ms Maribe, information that will help in investigations.


Cover photo: Citizen TV journalist Jacque Maribe talking to her lawyer, Katwa Kigen, at the Kiambu Law Courts on October 1, 2018. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Many campaigns have been launched to end discrimination against people with disabilities

Kenya mothers ‘ under pressure to kill disabled babies’

A new study has found that nearly half of Kenyan mothers with disabled babies were pressured to kill them.

Many campaigns have been launched to end discrimination against people with disabilities

The two-year research, carried out by the charity Disability Rights International, also found that such mothers are often blamed for the conditions of their children.

More than two thirds of mothers interviewed said disabled children were considered a curse.

They told researchers they were accused of having sinned – and brought it upon themselves.

One said her grandmother suggested she put needles in her son’s veins to kill him slowly. Another that she should feed her child acid.

The study did not however reveal the proportion of parents who actually ended their disabled babies’ lives.

But the BBC was told that infanticide is carried out secretly and often goes unreported.

Many communities across the world which carried out infanticide in the past have ended the practice. It is illegal in Kenya.


Cover photo: Many campaigns have been launched to end discrimination against people with disabilities

Kenya banks fined over $78m corruption scandal

Kenya’s Central Bank has fined five commercial banks linked to an alleged $78m (£59m) corruption scandal involving the National Youth Service (NYS).

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The missing funds were allegedly stolen in a scheme involving senior government officials and ghost suppliers.

Standard Chartered, Equity Bank, KCB Bank, Co-operative Bank and Diamond Trust Bank were collectively fined just under $4m.

They are accused of being conduits of fraudulent payments to suppliers of the NYS.

The NYS is an initiative by the government to train young people in life and business skills. It was part of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s plan to fix Kenya’s high youth unemployment.

BBC Africa Business’s Hudheifa Aden says Kenya’s director of public prosecution is expected to determine the criminal culpability of the accused banks.

NYS boss Richard Ndubai, who was arrested in May, is among 20 officials already facing charges over the scandal.


Cover photo: The multi-million dollar scandal was brought to light by suppliers who had not been paid. Photo: Reuters

UK and Kenya are stepping up fight against paedophilia

UK Prime Minister Theresa May is to announce a tie-up with the Kenyan authorities to help track down British paedophiles as she concludes her tour of Africa.

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The UK is to build a cyber centre in Nairobi to help Kenyan police stop child abuse images being shared online.

It will also assist efforts to identify potential victims and access data from tech firms to catch offenders.

Mrs May is the first British prime minister since Margaret Thatcher in 1988 to visit the country.

She is to meet president Uhuru Kenyatta and see British soldiers who are training troops from Kenya and other African countries fighting Islamist militant group al-Shabaab in Somalia.

The prime minister will announce a wide-ranging new security pact between the two countries, including funding for enhanced airport security in the former British colony.


Source: This story first appeared on BBC Africa

President Uhuru Kenyatta

Even my own family can be investigated – Kenyatta

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has tried to prove his corruption busting credentials by insisting that the current anti-graft drive could include members of his family.

President Uhuru Kenyatta

“We have begun to tackle corruption regardless of who you are… even if you’re my own family member,” Mr Kenyatta told the BBC’s HardTalk programme.

The president’s family is one of the richest in the country with interests across the economy.

Mr Kenyatta said he welcomed public scrutiny of his wealth.

As I have always stated, what we own is open to the public

If there is an instance where somebody can say that what we have done is not legitimate say so. We are ready to face any court.”

In June, the Kenyan government launched what are called lifestyle audits for every public servant where their wealth will have to be declared.

Mr Kenyatta said that he would be happy to take part in that process.


Cover photo: Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta says he is open for investigation and to face the court if accused. Photo: Citizen TV

“No home for us”: Nairobi residents in danger as slum demolished for highway without compensation

A road project has taken the homes of 2,000 families without compensation – yet over half of Kenyans travel on foot.

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Early on Sunday morning on the outskirts of Nairobi, hundreds of people gathered amid the rubble where their church once stood. Pastors preached atop bare foundations. Worshippers, dressed in their Sunday best, sat on shattered bricks and broken concrete. Pamphlets, family photos and school papers littered the ground.

Days before, they had watched as bulldozers tore through their neighbourhood, mowing down churches, schools and businesses, to make way for a highway extension that aims to ease Nairobi’s notoriously bad traffic congestion. The new road will pass through the heart of Kibera, the largest informal settlement in Africa, where many of the homes are built from mud bricks and corrugated metal, and house some of the capital’s poorest people.

Two thousand families were forcibly evicted in the demolitions. There has been no offer of compensation or plans made for resettlement.

“Is this a free country? Why are they chasing away their citizens without telling them where they should go?” asks Elijah Musembi, a metalworker who has lived here since the 1980s. “Of what use am I to this country?”

“Progress is good. We are not refusing that,” adds Jackson Muindo, 25, who lost his home in the demolition and now sleeps outside. “But this is not progress. This is being taken advantage of.”

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Kibera is the largest informal settlement in Africa. Photo: David Levene for the Guardian.

In recent years, Kenya’s economy has grown rapidly. Since 2000, GDP has increased five-fold to $75bn in 2017. But in that same period the number of people in severe poverty increased by 10%, leaving many Kenyans to feel they have been left out of the boom. And the road project is a particular sticking point, given that more than half of Kenyans still walk to where to they need to go.

“It will not benefit us, we don’t have cars. It will benefit the rich men,” Bryan Matisa, 28, says as he stares out over the wreckage of the school where he once worked. The demolitions came just days before end-of-term exams, leaving hundreds of children in the lurch. “The road is not more important than the children. They should have let the children finish school.”

2018 study by the Overseas Development Institute warned that Kenya’s push to build new roads, a popular political platform on the campaign trail, has come at the expense of safety.

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The new highway extension is intended to ease Nairobi’s notorious traffic congestion. Photo: Tom Cockrem/Getty Images/Lonely Planet Images

“More than half of all road deaths take place on the handful of new roads, and the poorest – those who walk, cycle, and use motorcycles – make up more than 90% of the fatalities on the roads,” says Avi Silverman, deputy director of the FIA Foundation, a philanthropic organisation that promotes global road safety.

Research has also shown that new roads don’t necessarily mitigate congestion, and can exacerbate it. “Disproportionate investment in road building over safe, sustainable public transport, or measures to provide protection for those who walk or cycle, fuels the demand for private vehicles, which creates further congestion,” Silverman says.

With the battle for their homes lost, residents in Kibera are now demanding compensation. The Kenya Urban Roads Authority (Kura), the government body managing the project, has taken a defiant stance against compensating the evictees, whom they consider to be squatters on government land.

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Kenya’s economy has grown rapidly since 2000. But the number of people in severe poverty has increased by 10% in the same period. Photo: Rajiv Golla

The Kenyan constitution does offer some support to occupiers who are removed from their land. Consultations with local community groups has led to an agreement in principle for compensation, but no details have been announced, let alone delivered.

Kibera has long had a precarious relationship with the government. When Nairobi was founded in 1899 as the colonial capital, it was segregated along racial lines: white settlers in the centre, Indian traders beside them, and migrant African labour far outside, in the surrounding forest. Those migrant camps soon became bustling informal settlements, of which Kibera was the largest and oldest. Kibera was initially settled by any southern Sudanese soldiers recruited into the British colonial King’s African Rifles regiment: when they retired, their pension included a permit to live on this vast government tract. Those permits were traded and sold, serving as unofficial title deeds.

However, as Kibera grew over the decades, the government made several failed attempts to demolish the site and resettle the residents. In the 1990s, it began a programme of “slum upgrading”, but the projects were accused of being corrupt and ineffective, serving mainly to displace existing residents and increase tenant costs.

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Residents began demanding more autonomy to develop their properties themselves. In 2017, the Nubian community, descendants of the original Sudanese soldiers, secured a title deed for 116 hectares (288 acres) of Kibera to be placed into a community trust. The rest of Kibera, however, remains in a precarious position on government land that can be reclaimed at any time.

Politicians have exacerbated the tensions in Kibera over the years. With the introduction of multiparty politics in the 1990s, Kibera became a hotbed of ethnic mobilisation and the site of some of the worst violence in the 2007 elections. That the demolitions came almost exactly one year after the heated 2017 general election was not lost on residents.

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Supporters of the opposition leader flee as shots are fired by riot police during a protest in Kibera during Kenya’s 2017 general elections. Photo: Dai Kurokawa/EPA

“We voted for these politicians but they are not helping us,” sayes Esther Muli, the founder and headteacher of Makina Self Help primary school in Nairobi. “They get an office and they just sit inside. But when they want their votes, their cars are going all over the place. They came here and did a lot of politicking, but, one year later, I don’t see anybody.”

Kura has already put out eviction notices to other sites across Nairobi to be demolished to make way for the road, pushing people to gather their belongings and leave before compensation or resettlement plans are made.

Meanwhile, outside Nairobi, 8,000 people have been forced from their homes in Mau Forest, ostensibly to protect an important water catchment area from deforestation and overgrazing. Critics say the evictions are a political strategy to shift support in the upcoming 2022 elections, with farmers and herders caught in the middle.

“It’s not just us – and it’s not just roads,” Muli says. “Kenyans must protect themselves from their leaders.”


Story Source: Guardian Cities

Cover Photo:  A Kibera resident kneels in the rubble of his church, 
demolished as part of the road development. Photo: Baz Ratner/Reuters

Al-Shabab claim ‘deadly’ attack on Kenyan military base

Islamist militants have attacked a military base in southern Somalia, detonating a suicide car bomb and sending in gunmen.

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An al-Shabab spokesman said 27 soldiers were killed in the raid at Baar Sanguni, near Kismayo.

But the claim cannot be independently verified and the Somali government has not yet commented on the attack – which began just after early morning prayers.

The jihadist group targeted a military base in the same area in June. During that attack an American soldier was killed and four others were wounded.

US adds Kenyan wing of Al-Shabab to terror list

The US has extended its designation of the al-Shabab jihadist group as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation to include a Kenya-based wing of the group known as al-Hijra.

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Somali soldiers are seen here on patrol in the country’s south in June, where days earlier al-Shabab militants claimed responsibly for the killing of an American special operations soldier. Photo: AFP

Washington says al-Hijra is interconnected with al-Shabab and consists mainly of Kenyan and Somali members.

The move comes at the end of a legally required five-year review of al-Shabab’s status as a terror group.

With these terror designations, the US says it aims to expose and isolate individuals or organisations it considers a threat – and to deny them access to its financial system.

The Somali group al-Shabab has had this label since 2008, the same year al-Hijra was formed in neighbouring Kenya. The State Department says this wing has been openly recruiting for al-Shabab in Kenya and facilitating travel for its members to Somalia “for terrorism purposes”.

Security analysts suggest that al-Hijra was involved in planning the siege on Kenya’s Westgate shopping mall in 2013.

A United Nations report named Aboud Rogo – a radical Kenyan cleric – as al-Hijra’s ideological leader.

Rogo was killed in 2012 but continues to inspire Swahili-speaking jihadists in eastern Africa.

‘prison beauty queen’ sentenced to death

A 24-year-old Kenyan woman has been sentenced to death by hanging for killing her boyfriend.

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Ruth Wanjiku Kamande in the dock at Milimani High Court in Nairobi. She was found guilty of murdering Farid Mohammed in 2015. [George Njunge/Standard]


Ruth Kamande was 21 when she was charged with murder for stabbing her 24-year-old boyfriend Farid Mohammed to death. Since her arrest in 2015, she has been held in Lang’ata women’s jail in Nairobi, where she won a prisoners’ beauty pageant.

Kenyan media have focused on her looks through the trial, dubbing her the “prison beauty queen”.

Rights group Amnesty International has called on Kenya’s High Court to reverse its decision to sentence Kamande to death, calling the practice “cruel, inhumane and outdated”.

Kenya has not enforced hanging as a capital punishment since 1987. Amnesty said this latest sentence, if enforced, would be “a blow to the country’s “progressive record in commuting death sentences to terms of imprisonment”.

Before sentencing, Kamande testified that her boyfriend threatened to kill her when she found out he was HIV-positive. She said she had acted in self-defence:

“Mohammed told me that he would rather kill me and himself than have his status exposed. l stabbed him severally using a kitchen knife, which fell on my chest from his hands after I overpowered him, after putting my two thumbs in his eyes to save my life.”

But Jugde Jessie Lessit said Kamande showed no mercy, still shows no remorse and deserves nothing less than death.

“She stabbed again and again and took pleasure in it. It wasn’t at a go, there were intervals,” Judge Lessit said.

Governor Rasanga refuse to be searched by Obama’s security

Siaya and Kisumu county governors on Monday depicted contrasting scenarios to security as former President Barack Obama toured K’Ogelo.

While Prof Anyang Nyong’o of Kisumu bowed to demands and accepted to be searched at the gate of Sauti Kuu Resource Centre, Mr Cornel Rasanga refused threatening to return home if they insisted on what he saw as public humiliation.

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Prof Nyong’o, wearing his grey Kaunda suit, was searched together with his deputy Mathews Owili.

But Rasanga argued with security details he was the governor of Siaya and hence the host who should be exempted from the search.

Junior security guards from KK Security company, unable to handle the impasse passed the buck to a Secret Service agent stationed at the gate.

The agent then asked local security officers to confirm if in deed Mr Rasanga was the governor. Once they did, he was allowed in together with his deputy James Okumbe.

But his bodyguard had to be searched after he also tried to push his way through with a firearm.

The incidents, isolated and separate, punctuated the tight security as Obama arrived in a village where his father was born.

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He was due to launch the Sauti Kuu Resource Centre, an initiative by his half-sister Auma Obama.

Wearing grey trousers, dark sunglasses and a white shirt with folded sleeves, Mr Obama arrived in the village in a convoy of security and diplomatic cars from Kisumu International Airport, at around 8.30am and headed straight the home of his grandmother Sarah Obama.

A crowd that had surged on the road side was prevented from pushing forward to the road as the cars wheeled by into the Resource Centre.

They were only prevented by the elite security squad on the ground.

Only invited guests and accredited media were allowed access.


SOURCE: Nairobi News

‘Trump mounts pressures on Kenya to seize South Sudan assets’

Kenya’s Daily Nation news site says that the country’s government has resisted pressure from the US to seize assets and wealth belonging to South Sudan’s elite.

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The newspaper quotes Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary Macharia Kamau as saying:

Kenya knows its obligations in regards to corruption and money laundering, and is working closely with the international community on the same. However, we work with multilateral platforms and don’t take instructions from other sovereign states.”

The Trump administration’s actions follows the publication of a report in 2016, commissioned by actor George Clooney, which accuses South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir, opposition leader Riek Machar, and top generals of making themselves rich while the country has struggled under a civil war of their making.

The report found that family members of President Kiir and Mr Machar reside in luxurious homes outside South Sudan, including homes in one particular upmarket neighbourhood of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.

It also said that former army chief Paul Malong, whose salary was about $45,000 per year, has at least two villas in Uganda in addition to a $2m mansion in a gated community in Nairobi.

In March, the US imposed sanctions on 15 South Sudanese oil operators that it said were key sources of finance for the government.

Samuel, 13, center, the son of Fraciah Wangari, exercising during a physical education class at Muthaiga Primary School in Nairobi. He is teased about his weight.

An unexpected epidemic across Africa: Obesity

NAIROBI, Kenya — As she walks through the alleyways of her poor neighborhood, to a job washing other people’s clothes, Valentine Akinyi weathers the jeers yelled at her: “Elephant, elephant, elephant.”

Samuel, 13, center, the son of Fraciah Wangari, exercising during a physical education class at Muthaiga Primary School in Nairobi. He is teased about his weight.
Samuel, 13, center, the son of Fraciah Wangari, exercising during a physical education class at Muthaiga Primary School in Nairobi. He is teased about his weight. Photo: Andrew Renneisen for The New York Times

She has gotten used to the insults, she said, but still, it hurts.

“Who’s going to want to marry me?” she asked.

It used to be difficult in Kenya to find many people built like Ms. Akinyi, who, at 5 feet 9 inches tall and 285 pounds, is obese.

In Africa, the world’s poorest continent, malnutrition is stubbornly widespread and millions of people are desperately hungry, with famine conditions looming in some war-torn countries.

But in many places, growing economies have led to growing waistlines. Obesity rates in sub-Saharan Africa are shooting up faster than in just about anywhere else in the world, causing a public health crisis that is catching Africa, and the world, by surprise.

In Burkina Faso, the prevalence of adult obesity in the past 36 years has jumped nearly 1,400 percent. In Ghana, Togo, Ethiopia and Benin, it has increased by more than 500 percent. Eight of the 20 nations in the world with the fastest-rising rates of adult obesity are in Africa, according to a recent study by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.

It is part of a seismic shift in Africa as rapid economic growth transforms every aspect of life, including the very shape of its people.

Many Africans are eating more junk food, much of it imported. They are also getting much less exercise, as millions of people abandon a more active farming life to crowd into cities, where they tend to be more sedentary. More affordable cars and a wave of motorbike imports also mean that fewer Africans walk to work.

Dr. Anders Barasa, a cardiologist, measures a patient’s waistline during an appointment at the heart clinic at Aga Khan University Hospital in Nairobi
Dr. Anders Barasa, a cardiologist, measures a patient’s waistline during an appointment at the heart clinic at Aga Khan University Hospital in Nairobi. Photo: Andrew Renneisen for The New York Times

Obesity may be an especially tough battle in Africa for other reasons. For one, people who did not get enough nutrients when they were young (which is still a problem in Africa) are more prone to putting on weightwhen lots of food is available. And second, African health systems are heavily geared toward combating other diseases.

African doctors say their public health systems have been so focused on AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and tropical fevers — historically, Africa’s big killers — that few resources are left for what are called noncommunicable diseases, like diabetes and heart ailments.

“What we are seeing is likely the worst epidemic the country will ever see, probably in the long run worse than the H.I.V. epidemic of the ’90s,” said Anders Barasa, a cardiologist in Kenya, referring to obesity and its related diseases. “But changing the health care system to cater for obesity related diseases is like turning a supertanker.”

In Kenya, one of Africa’s most developed nations, there are around 40 cardiologists for the entire population of 48 million people. In the United States, there is one cardiologist for every 13,000 people.

Even as the obesity problem worsens, Africa’s older problem of malnutrition has hardly vanished. While millions of Africans are eating unhealthy foods or overeating, millions of Africans are still starving or near to it.

Last year was one of the worst on record for hunger. In March, United Nations officials warned that famines could break out in three different African countries — Somalia, Nigeria and South Sudan — because of wars and long dry spells.

Full-blown famines have not materialized, because aid agencies got to the hardest hit places quickly enough. But thousands have died from a cholera epidemic catalyzed by malnourished people streaming into camps, and famine still stalks a large part of Africa.

Health professionals say that people who grow up deprived of nutrients, as millions of Africans do, run a higher risk of later becoming obese. During famine times, one of the body’s defense mechanisms, some experts say, is to slow down metabolism to hold onto every calorie.

When feast times come, metabolism often remains slow. Such metabolic disorders can lead to all kinds of health problems later on, some of them life threatening.

One leading Kenyan endocrinologist, Nancy Kunyiha said that when she started a diabetes practice years ago, her medical school colleagues thought she was crazy.

“ ‘There’s no way you can survive off diabetes,’ ” she said they warned her. “ ‘You got to do something else.’ ”

But Type II diabetes is closely linked to obesity, and sub-Saharan Africa is in the midst of a “rapidly expanding diabetes epidemic,” according to a report last year in a medical journal, The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.

In the past decade, Dr. Kunyiha’s diabetes practice has quadrupled, and most days, her brightly lit, no-frills waiting room at the Aga Khan hospital in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, is standing room only.

Kenya’s obesity rate, which is close to one in 10 people, is still far below industrialized countries like the United States (where more than one-third of adults are obese). But Kenya’s rate is rising fast, more than doubling since 1990, and many Kenyans are thinking about obesity for the first time.

Ms. Akinyi says she reads any article in the local papers about “lifestyle diseases,” as obesity and hypertension are often referred to here. But what the writers recommend to lose weight, she cannot afford.

She is a high school dropout, a single mother and a washerwoman; on about $40 a month, she supports herself and three children. Millions of Africans are just like her: trapped between the old and the new. They might not be destitute like their parents were. But they are still poor.

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People eating at Burger King at the The Hub, an upscale shopping mall in the Karen neighborhood of Nairobi. The Hub has a variety of Western fast food options including Burger King and Dominos. Photo: Andrew Renneisen for The New York Times

While they have just enough money to buy processed foods like potato chips, which are now widely available in low-income areas for a few cents, they often do not have enough to join a gym or buy fish or fresh vegetables.

And instead of working in the fields (which is how most Kenyans lived just a generation ago), they are marooned in squalid urban areas and are less physically active. Some of the least expensive foods to buy in the Kibera slum where Ms. Akinyi lives are French fries and fried dough, each around 20 cents. Apples, at the equivalent of 40 cents, are outside her budget, though soda isn’t.

“And I love Sprite,” Ms. Akinyi said with a guilty smile.

One of Coca-Cola’s strategies in Kenya has been to reach the lower economic classes by making smaller 200 milliliter bottles, or about 6.75 fluid ounces, that cost about 15 cents (compared with the standard 300 milliliter bottle that costs 25 cents). Burger King, Domino’s, Cold Stone Creamery and Subway have all recently opened their first stores in Kenya, part of their strategy to break into Africa.

Despite insults like “elephant,” there is also a stigma to being thin in some Kenyan circles. It goes back generations but was especially true in the 1990s, at the height of the AIDS epidemic when millions of Africans died.

To many Kenyans, Dr. Kunyiha said, being thin still means being poor or sick.

“It’s really frustrating,” Dr. Kunyiha said. “The image here is: The bigger your tummy, the better you’re doing.”

One of her patients, she says, is a rich man who drives a Mercedes and suffers from hypertension and obesity. She keeps telling him to switch from fast food and meat to the old fashioned Kenya diet of beans, carrots and a vegetable called sukuma wiki that is similar to kale.

“But he tells me he’s come too far to eat like that because that’s what he ate when he was a poor kid,” she said.

Dr. Barasa has had many similar conversations with his patients. “I tell people: ‘Eat like your grandmum did. It’s so much better for you,’ ’’ he said.

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Ms. Akinyi prepares dinner for her family at home. She can afford French fries and fried dough, but apples are outside her budget. Photo: Andrew Renneisen for The New York Times

Several Kenyan parents said they felt deeply conflicted about restricting their children’s diet. Fraciah Wangari grew up in a poor village and does not want to deny her son.

“I remember what it was like to really want biscuits but not be able to afford them,” she said.

So she indulges her only child, Samuel, 13, who is obese, with a plump round face and a big belly. He’s beginning to have circulation problems and says his joints hurt. He gets called animal names, too, like buffalo and pig.

Ms. Wangari recently splurged for a doctor’s visit but many of the nutritious foods the doctor suggested, like fish, were way beyond her budget.

Affluent Kenyans have more options. It is not uncommon in Nairobi’s fancier neighborhoods to see middle-aged men and women jogging their way up the hills, decked out in bright spandex. Just 10 years ago that was an unusual sight.

The Kenyan government, like other African governments, seems to have been slow to recognize the problem. The Health Ministry is still much more focused on promoting protected sex than good nutrition.

Africa is urbanizing faster than any other region of the world. In 1980, only 28 percent of Africans lived in urban areas. Today, that number is 40 percent, and by 2030, it is predicted to be 50 percent.

The urbanization is driven partly by high birthrates and a shrinking availability of land, creating an exodus of millions of Africans from rural areas.

“If you’re working in the field eight hours a day, you can eat anything you want,” Dr. Barasa said. “But if you’re sedentary, your requirements totally change.”

Many Kenyans used to walk miles a day to work or to school. But the road network has vastly improved, and it is now much easier to travel via minibus. Countless Kenyans also use motorcycle taxis, which were not widely available 10 years ago.

Ms. Akinyi, 30, said she still enjoyed walking.

“It’s a way to get to work and get a little exercise,” she said.

Best of all: It is free.

Reuben Kyama contributed reporting.

Pit latrines are mostly used in rural schools

Six Kenyan children rescued from pit latrine

All six students from a school in a rural area in Kenya have been rescued after falling into a pit latrine on Wednesday morning.

Pit latrines are mostly used in rural schools
Pit latrines are mostly used in rural schools. Photo: AFP

Parents, community members and rescuers dug out the mud and bricks from the collapsed pit latrine in a bid to rescue the students, the BBC’s Mercy Juma reports.

The headteacher confirmed that all six students had since been rescued.

Kisulisuli Primary School’s pit latrine is believed to have collapsed following heavy rains in Nakuru county.

Photo: Francis Nderitu/Nairobi News

Nairobi, city where a major clean-up sees a river running through it


Nairobi — Environment Principal Secretary Charles Sunkuli and his Housing counterpart Charles Waweru will on Thursday inspect the Nairobi River Restoration Command Center in preparation for a major cleanup operation.

Photo: Francis Nderitu/Nairobi News
Photo: Francis Nderitu/Nairobi News


Following this, they will lead the operation to clean up the Michuki Park next to the Globe Roundabout off Kijabe Street.

The team leading the regeneration of Nairobi last week committed to ambitious timelines for the delivery of key services, ranging from garbage collection to launching a mortgage refinance company.

Cabinet Secretaries and Principal Secretaries working on the project vowed to hand in their resignation to the President while County Executive Committee (CEC) members will hand in their resignation to the governor should they fail to deliver in their mandate.

The team said garbage would be cleared from all 85 electoral wards in Nairobi within 30 days, and a cleanup of Nairobi River would also start.

More ambitiously, the team will oversee the launch of the Kenya Mortgage Refinance Company, which is at the heart of delivering affordable housing.

Affordable housing is part of the President’s Big Four agenda of putting a roof over many more Kenyans heads, availing healthcare, ensuring no one goes hungry, and creating jobs by growing manufacturing.

Nairobi, alone, is projected to provide 200,000 new affordable homes under this programme.


SOURCE: Capital FM