Kenya’s disputed poll turns neighbours against each other

Agence France-Presse (AFP)
Nairobi, Kenya

The fire in Nairobi’s Kawangware slum began after groups of young men from different ethnic groups began fighting over Thursday’s divisive election (Marco Longari/AFP)

“That was the bedroom,” said Steven Chege pointing to a tangle of charred wire, blackened metal sheets and burned wood. “And that was the first room,” the 32-year-old said, gesturing at a melted stereo and a shattered television among the smouldering ashes. “The intention was to burn us alive in our houses.” Continue reading Kenya’s disputed poll turns neighbours against each other

Grey skies and stench of teargas mark vote in Kenya slums

Agence France-Presse (AFP)
Nairobi, Kenya

A barricade burns in the Nairobi slum of Mathare (Luis Tato/AFP)

“It is our right not to vote. We voted already in August and you see what happened,” said Joseph Otieno as he stood in the drizzling rain with a handful of youths boycotting Thursday’s presidential re-run. In Nairobi’s Mathare slum, a neighbourhood of rickety high-rises and tin shacks, mixed ethnicity and mixed political affiliation, some polling stations were deserted, while others opened late, attracting just a trickle of voters. Continue reading Grey skies and stench of teargas mark vote in Kenya slums

Wildlife pays the price of Kenya’s illegal grazing

Agence France-Presse (AFP)
Nairobi, Kenya

African wild dogs (AFP/Handout)

“It’s devastating. I’ve been following them every day of my life for the last year,” said Dedan Ngatia, a wild dog researcher in Kenya’s central Laikipia region. “They’re all dead.”

Months of invasions by sometimes armed semi-nomadic herders, and tens of thousands of their livestock, have had a disastrous impact on the wildlife of a region heralded as a conservation success story. Continue reading Wildlife pays the price of Kenya’s illegal grazing

Forgetting Westgate: how Kenya erases terrorism

Agence France-Presse (AFP)
Nairobi, Kenya

Staff of the Nakumatt supermarket chain gather in front of candles lit to mark the second anniversary commemorations of the Westgate shopping mall attack by militants (Simon Maina/AFP)

On the inside Nairobi’s Westgate mall is a shiny shopping centre, all sparkling glass shop fronts, Bose-conveyed muzak and boutiques stuffed with expensive imports. On the outside it is a fortress.

Four years ago, Islamic militants raided the mall killing at least 67 people. They tossed grenades over the balustrade from the pavement then stormed through the front entrance and up the car parking ramp shooting as they went. The modus operandi was reminiscent of the Mumbai attacks five years earlier.

Yet Westgate has drifted into what Caine Prize-winning Kenyan writer Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor describes as “our national propensity to amnesia for ‘bad things’.” Two years after the mall reopened, Westgate remains glossy and new, as if nothing happened. There’s plenty for the well-heeled shopper but not even a plaque for the dead. Continue reading Forgetting Westgate: how Kenya erases terrorism

Kenyan cattle herders defend ‘necessary’ land invasions

Agence France-Presse (AFP)
Crocodile Jaw Bridge, Kenya

(AFP Photo)

Close by a narrow, rickety bridge in Kenya’s central Laikipia highlands two herders sit on blistering hot rock next to the muddy trickle of the Ewaso Nyiro river to explain why they routinely break the law, invading private land to graze their cattle.

“The reason we go there is not to grab the land, we go for pasture, nothing else,” says Lemerigi Letimalo, a 28-year-old Samburu herder in a Manchester United T-shirt with a mobile phone hanging in a pouch around his neck. “The white settlers are the ones who call the police forces to attack us,” he adds. Continue reading Kenyan cattle herders defend ‘necessary’ land invasions

Politics not pasture drives violence in Kenya’s heart

Agence France-Presse (AFP)
Kamwenje, Kenya

Violence has spiked in Laikipia this year, with smallholder farms and huge ranches alike invaded by armed herders. (AFP Photo)

Footsteps came first, then unfamiliar voices, the smell of cow dung and the kicking in of the front door. Suddenly awake, John Mbogo wrapped his 11-year-old daughter Tabitha in his arms and rolled under the bed. His wife, Anne, crawled next to them, eyes wide.

Torchlight fell on the now empty beds and they saw naked legs smeared in manure, a “shuka” blanket rolled at the waist and the muzzle of a gun. Continue reading Politics not pasture drives violence in Kenya’s heart

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

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