A struggle for land and survival in Kenya’s restive highlands

Agence France-Presse (AFP)
Laikipia, Kenya

A young herder from the Samburu pastoral community grazes his family cattle on the dwindling pasture of the Loisaba, Kenya (AFP/Tony Karumba)
A young herder from the Samburu pastoral community grazes his family cattle on the dwindling pasture of the Loisaba, Kenya (AFP/Tony Karumba)

The broad plains of Mugie, a huge estate on a high plateau northwest of Mount Kenya, are crisscrossed with cattle trails and the wildlife is mostly gone. The knee-high grass remains, but not for long, reckons manager Josh Perrett.

Tensions between semi-nomadic pastoralists and settled landowners are nothing new, nor is competition between livestock and wildlife, but in Kenya’s central Laikipia highlands they are taking a destructive, sometimes violent turn. Continue reading A struggle for land and survival in Kenya’s restive highlands

In Somalia, voting underway but democracy delayed

Agence France-Presse (AFP)
Baidoa, Somalia

Just 14,025 of the Somalia's perhaps 12 million citizens are voting for 275 MPs, who will join 54 appointed senators in voting for a new president (AFP Photo/Simon Maina)
Just 14,025 of the Somalia’s perhaps 12 million citizens are voting for 275 MPs, who will join 54 appointed senators in voting for a new president (AFP Photo/Simon Maina)

With its security-sealed plastic boxes and cardboard polling booths, Somalia’s election –- under way since last month and still ongoing –- has the trappings of democracy, but few of the functions.

Last week in the western city of Baidoa, 51 handpicked representatives of the Reer Aw Hassan clan took an hour to vote unanimously for Abdiweli Ibrahim Ali Sheikh Mudey, a current minister and the only candidate to show up on the day.

Among Mudey’s backers were 15 enthusiastic female voters. “We selected the most beautiful man!” cheered one as Mudey smiled in his dark aviator sunglasses, a garland of purple tinsel round his neck. Continue reading In Somalia, voting underway but democracy delayed

Big Interview: Fadumo Dayib, Presidential candidate, Somalia

Monocle
Nairobi, Kenya

Fadumo Dayib, photographed for Monocle by Andrew Renneisen
Fadumo Dayib, photographed for Monocle by Andrew Renneisen

For a presidential candidate just weeks ahead of the vote, Fadumo Dayib is remarkably resigned to losing. Like many of her fellow aspirants Dayib is a dual passport-holding member of Somalia’s far-flung diaspora, an elite group whose privileges over those left behind frequently foster resentment. But, unlike any of her competitors, she is a woman and in a patriarchal society such as Somalia that makes her shoe-string run for the presidency both impossible and impossibly significant. Continue reading Big Interview: Fadumo Dayib, Presidential candidate, Somalia

Obama’s half-brother stumps for Trump on Twitter

Agence France-Presse (AFP)
Nairobi, Kenya

US president-elect Donald Trump will be sworn into office on January 20, 2017 (AFP Photo/Timothy A. Clary)
US president-elect Donald Trump will be sworn into office on January 20, 2017 (AFP Photo/Timothy A. Clary)

Donald Trump has been called many things but arguably the most bizarre is “the white Malcolm X”, a title inexplicably bestowed upon him by President Obama’s half-brother, Malik.

The 58-year-old Muslim from a small village in western Kenya was a late but loud convert to the Trump cause, aping his preferred candidate’s social media style with the liberal use of capital letters, misspellings and discourteous epithets.

Malik, who made a disastrous run for local political office in Kenya in 2013, has bad-mouthed Barack for years accusing him of dishonesty and abandoning his Kenyan relatives. At the same time he has reportedly earned tens of thousands of dollars by auctioning off 20-year-old handwritten letters from the man who would become president. Continue reading Obama’s half-brother stumps for Trump on Twitter

Rights groups question Kenyan police account of ‘terror attack’

Agence France-Presse (AFP)
Nairobi, Kenya

Nairobi has been battling the Shabaab, an al-Qaeda linked militant group headquartered in Somalia, that carries out regular deadly attacks in Kenya (AFP Photo)
Nairobi has been battling the Shabaab, an al-Qaeda linked militant group headquartered in Somalia, that carries out regular deadly attacks in Kenya (AFP Photo)

On a Sunday morning in September three young women were killed by officers at the main police station in Kenya’s second city — but that’s the only fact beyond doubt in a case that activists say is further evidence of a police force gone rogue.

In the official version of events, police thwarted an attempted terrorist attack on September 11 when the women — who they say recently pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group — entered Mombasa Central Police Station armed with a knife, a petrol bomb and a suicide vest. Continue reading Rights groups question Kenyan police account of ‘terror attack’

Islamic State makes inroads into Kenya

Agence France-Presse (AFP)
Nairobi, Kenya

A Kenyan police officer folds up a flag inscribed with the logo of the Islamic State group following a raid on two mosques in the coastal city of Mombasa (AFP Photo)
A Kenyan police officer folds up a flag inscribed with the logo of the Islamic State group following a raid on two mosques in the coastal city of Mombasa (AFP Photo)

Recent arrests show the Islamic State’s growing presence in East Africa, where they are recruiting young Kenyans for jihad abroad and raising fears some of them will return to threaten the country.

Kenyan intelligence agencies estimate that around 100 men and women may have gone to join the IS in Libya and Syria, triggering concern that some may come back to stage attacks on Kenyan and foreign targets in a country already victim to regular, deadly terrorism.

“There is now a real threat that Kenya faces from IS and the danger will continue to increase,” said Rashid Abdi, senior analyst at the International Crisis Group think tank in Nairobi. Continue reading Islamic State makes inroads into Kenya

Corruption, politics, murder: anatomy of a Kenyan killing

The funeral of Kenyan businessman Jacob Juma (AFP Photo)
The funeral of Kenyan businessman Jacob Juma (AFP Photo)

Agence France-Presse (AFP)
Nairobi, Kenya

On a wet Thursday night in early May, a well-known businessman and government critic was found dead in his armoured blue Mercedes by a busy road on the outskirts of Nairobi, five bullet holes in his chest, neck and arm.

Kenya’s long history of state violence meant the murder of Jacob Juma, who was in his mid-forties, was quickly viewed as a political assassination. Continue reading Corruption, politics, murder: anatomy of a Kenyan killing

The downfall of Yang Fenglan, the “Ivory Queen”

New Statesman
Nairobi, Kenya

2016_22_ellieLate last year, a car chase through the streets of Dar es Salaam ended outside a blue art deco hotel when police officers rammed their car into another belonging to their suspect: a small, bespectacled Chinese woman in her mid-sixties. Continue reading The downfall of Yang Fenglan, the “Ivory Queen”

Kenya wakes up to coffee

Agence France-Presse (AFP)
Nairobi, Kenya

A worker checks sacks of green, unroasted coffee beans at Dormans coffee factory in Nairobi, the country's oldest coffee roaster (AFP Photo/Carl de Souza)
A worker checks sacks of green, unroasted coffee beans at Dormans coffee factory in Nairobi, the country’s oldest coffee roaster (AFP Photo/Carl de Souza)

Africa’s best barista doesn’t drink coffee, nor even really like it, yet two-time Kenyan champ Martin Shabaya won the Africa round and next month competes at the World Barista Championships.

Shabaya, 26, has only been pouring coffee for five years but his success is indicative of a country that – unlike him – is learning to love coffee. Continue reading Kenya wakes up to coffee

An elephant returns to Somalia for first time in 20 years

Agence France-Presse (AFP)
Nairobi, Kenya

Morgan the elephant on his way to Somalia (Save the Elephants)
Morgan the elephant on his way to Somalia (Save the Elephants)

An elephant marched hundreds of kilometres and briefly crossed into Somalia this month marking the first time the animal has been seen in the country in 20 years, conservationists said Wednesday.

Morgan, a male bull in his 30s, was fitted with a tracking collar in December in Kenya’s coastal Tana River Delta, but in mid-February began an unexpected march northwards to Somalia, reaching the border nearly three weeks later. His march has excited conservationists who say it shows the elephant remembered ancient routes after decades of absence due to war.

Continue reading An elephant returns to Somalia for first time in 20 years