Stories

Kenya’s Most Famous Critic of Politicians Runs for Political Office

The New Yorker
Nairobi, Kenya

Boniface Mwangi. Photograph by Daniel Irungu / EPA / Redux

On a March afternoon, as gray clouds gathered overhead, Boniface Mwangi procrastinated outside the walled Kariokor Market, in Nairobi, scrolling through text messages on his iPhone. Mwangi is thirty-four years old and a well-known political activist whose tactics frequently put him at the center of attention. On that day, however, he was entering the narrow, crowded alleys of the market not to protest government corruption—his signature issue—but to campaign for a seat in parliament, and he was nervous.

Continue reading Kenya’s Most Famous Critic of Politicians Runs for Political Office

Who shot Kuki Gallmann?

The Observer Magazine
Nairobi, Kenya

Darknes and light: Kuki Gallmann poses for a portrait inside her Nairobi home about a month after being shot by armed men on her ranch in Laikipia County, in Kenya.
Photograph: Pete Muller for the Observer

There is thunder and the equatorial rain falls perfectly straight, drenching the lawn and a pair of towering candelabra trees that frame the driveway which leads to a two-storey, colonial-era house. Inside, logs burn in the grey stone fireplace, worn kilims are spread on the parquet floor and Kuki Gallmann – 74 years old and recovering from two bullet wounds in her abdomen – sits regally upon a chair of wrought iron and stained glass shaped like a resting bird. Continue reading Who shot Kuki Gallmann?

The U.S. made a critical mistake during Somalia’s last famine. Will we repeat it?

The Washington Post
Nairobi, Kenya

A newly registered Somali refugee outside a registration and medical aid facility at the Dadaab Internally Displaced People (IDP) camp in eastern Kenya in 2011. (Tony Karumba/AFP)

Later this year, a drought in Somalia will likely become a famine. Hundreds of thousands of people are at risk. International aid agencies will scramble to deliver food and medical care. As usual, most of those who may die will be children.

It will be the third famine to tear through Somalia in a quarter-century, a rate of starvation unmatched on Earth. The scenario is familiar to the United States, which has intervened in the previous famines with disastrous results. This time, the United States has a chance to get it right. Continue reading The U.S. made a critical mistake during Somalia’s last famine. Will we repeat it?

Cloaked in rags and dust, Somalis flee looming famine

Agence France Presse (AFP)
Baidoa, Somalia

A woman builds a shelter at a makeshift camp on the outskirts of Baidoa, in the southwestern Bay region of Somalia (AFP Photo/Tony Karumba)

Mariam Ibrahim, her seven children and two neighbouring families were the last to leave their village in southwestern Somalia.

They loaded their combined belongings — blankets, cooking pots, sleeping mats, jerry cans, clothes — onto a hired donkey cart and walked beside it for 20 kilometres (12 miles) to Baidoa, the closest city.

“There is nobody left now,” said the 28-year-old. She joined thousands of others who are arriving in Baidoa each day, staggering from the parched countryside into the garrison city, cloaked in rags and dust.

Continue reading Cloaked in rags and dust, Somalis flee looming famine

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