Even at the best of times, Kenyan governments have not shown themselves to be paragons of efficiency. But these are hardly the best of times. In fact, they may very well be the worst — and President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government is living up to the pattern.

When the coronavirus officially arrived in Kenya in mid-March, the government’s initial response was to close all ports of entry and institute a partial lockdown. It closed schools and later instituted a dusk-to-dawn curfew and mandatory quarantines; required people to wear masks in public and to work from home when possible; restricted travel to and from four counties, including the capital Nairobi; and shuttered restaurants and bars.…  Seguir leyendo »

Patrick Meinhardt/AFP via Getty Images The widow of Cosmas Mutethia, who was killed by Kenyan police during a night curfew, helping to bear a symbolic coffin at a protest outside the Kenyan Parliament, Nairobi, Kenya, June 9, 2020

Not long after Kenya announced its first Covid-19 case on March 13, President Uhuru Kenyatta invoked the Public Order Act to activate a series of measures aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus, such as requiring face masks to be worn at all times, vehicles to run at half capacity, and the closure of religious centers, schools, and “non-essential” businesses. But it was the dusk till dawn curfew that became notorious.

The Independent Police Oversight Authority (IPOA), a civilian organization created to monitor police misconduct, says that it has received more than ninety-five complaints of police misconduct and has confirmed thirty deaths, many of which occurred while enforcing this curfew.…  Seguir leyendo »

The pedestal for a statue of Queen Victoria that was knocked down in 2015 in Nairobi on June 10. (Khalil Senosi/AP)

On June 11, a significant anniversary quietly passed. It was the centenary of the day Britain officially annexed parts of East Africa to found the Kenya colony, the precursor to today’s Kenyan state. Over the course of the next four and a half decades, the British would consolidate their brutal, parasitic rule and establish a racist, colonial administration that would, in many ways, become the template for the government of the modern Kenyan nation.

It is perhaps not surprising that few Kenyans remember, or wish to be reminded, of that time. At independence in 1963, statues of British monarchs and settlers were hastily taken down and hidden away.…  Seguir leyendo »

Women hold signs during a protest against repeated failures to apply laws that women must hold at least a third of government seats in Nairobi, Kenya, on 22 January 2018. According to Kenya's 2010 constitution, women must have at least a third of seats in parliament and a third of appointed positions. Photo: Getty Images.

In your paper, you write about how the Kenyan government allocated funds to women so they can participate in entrepreneurial activities and gain financial independence. However, many of the women who were able to access these funds came from more privileged backgrounds. How can the government make sure that these programmes reach marginalized and minority communities?

It’s about how the funds are advertised. The people who have access to this information are often more educated and have a deeper understanding of how the systems work. So, women in very rural areas rarely, if ever, hear about these opportunities. And when they do, even when they access the funds, they don’t know what to do with them.…  Seguir leyendo »

Grafitti artists from Mathare Roots Youth Organisation with their mural helping curb the spread of coronavirus in Nairobi, Kenya. Photo by TONY KARUMBA/AFP via Getty Images

Many Kenyans at home and in the diaspora are used to leveraging home-grown technological innovations to donate money in support of under-privileged families and other households affected by crisis. But with millions of Kenyans in need, the question remains whether community philanthropy can truly substitute formal social welfare in the face of coronavirus.

COVID-19 infection rates remain reasonably low and credit is due to Kenya’s government for its quick response. But, as in other African countries, the measures have brought other costs, with income insecurity top of the list.

Historically, Kenya’s informal sector workers are a hugely vulnerable group, but even those working in the formal economy now face lost wages.…  Seguir leyendo »

A police officer stops a car during lockdown restrictions set by the government to prevent spread of the coronavirus, in Eastleigh district of Nairobi on Wednesday. (Thomas Mukoya/Reuters)

Kenya’s cabinet secretary for health, Mutahi Kagwe, is an unhappy man. A week after the government tentatively allowed restaurants to reopen from 5 a.m. to 4 p.m., he seems surprised that Kenyans are actually patronizing these establishments and having beer with sausages. While bars remain closed, eateries can still serve alcohol to their clients. Ordering a token meal with one’s drink has long been one of the tactics used to get around the country’s ill-considered, poorly drafted and widely ignored law restricting the sale and consumption of alcohol, which was enacted in 2010.

Kagwe’s frustrations reflect the approach of a government used to demanding obedience rather than seeking consent.…  Seguir leyendo »

The covid-19 pandemic is now menacing Africa, making its way through the continent and spreading fear. As of this week, the majority of countries on the continent have reported the presence of the virus, with the total number of reported cases rapidly approaching 1,500 and a death toll of 40.

With a vaccine at least 18 months away, states are reacting by taking drastic steps to limit social gatherings such as church sermons, weddings and funerals, closing schools, and encouraging citizens to stop shaking hands, to stay indoors and to maintain “social distance” from each other. But the ways in which governments have communicated these directives and policies have fallen short.…  Seguir leyendo »

Kenyan activists from the Red Vest Movement marched in central Nairobi on April 30, 2018, to protest government corruption. (Daniel Irungu/EPA-EFE/REX)

On May 6, Kenyan authorities arrested and then released Boniface Mwangi, a Kenyan photographer and political activist, on suspicion of fomenting a “revolution” against the government of President Uhuru Kenyatta.

The previous week, news reports said Mwangi participated in the “Beyond Zero Corruption” campaign in Nairobi (also dubbed the Red Vest Movement) — an initiative highlighting the poor state of Kenya’s economy, rampant corruption and entrenched impunity in the public sector.

Mwangi’s arrest is symptomatic of a nagging unease in the Kenyatta administration about mass protests. The flagging economy — marked by job cuts and corporate losses — along with poor policy choices and public sector corruption, have eroded popular support for Kenyatta over the past year.…  Seguir leyendo »

La oposición al aborto es tan intensa que incluso cuando las mujeres tienen el derecho legal de interrumpir su embarazo, puede ser extremadamente difícil acceder a los servicios necesarios para ejercer dicho derecho. Sin embargo, peor que aquello, es el hecho que los opositores al aborto tienden a ignorar las fallas que, inicialmente, conducen a las mujeres hasta el punto en que buscan un aborto.

Desde un punto de vista moral, se debe defender firmemente el respeto a la libertad personal y autonomía corporal de una mujer, en lugar de obligarla a poner en riesgo su salud o su bienestar al llevar a término un embarazo no deseado o peligroso.…  Seguir leyendo »

A member of the Kenyan Defence Forces stands guard at the Garissa University campus after an attack by Somalia's Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab gunmen in Garissa on 2 April 2015. CARL DE SOUZA / AFP

On 2 April 2015, four gunmen belonging to Al-Shabaab, the Somalia-based affiliate of al-Qaeda, began shooting on the campus of Garissa University College, the only major institution of higher learning in north-eastern Kenya. By the time Kenyan special forces ended the 15-hour siege, the militants had killed 148 students, most of them Christians, and injured more than 79. This particularly deadly assault four years ago attracted considerable media attention – and rightly so. Yet what is arguably Al-Shabaab’s most insidious attack on peace and security in Kenya continues to this day, beneath the media’s radar, in less spectacular forms.

Since 2015, Al-Shabaab has conducted over one hundred small-scale assaults in the north east, killing dozens of soldiers and police, mostly with roadside bombs.…  Seguir leyendo »

Protesters hold banners during a demonstration against the suspension of governorship elections in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, on March 11. (Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP/Getty Images)

In the run-up to the recent elections in Nigeria, an article in Quartz Africa declared that “it’s become much harder to rig elections in Nigeria thanks to technology.” Looking on from about 3,000 miles away, Kenyans would be excused for stifling a laugh. The two countries share a history of electoral malpractice, and technology had been hailed as a guarantor of the credibility and integrity of the election in Kenya as well. The reality, however, turned out to be quite different. As the dust settles on Nigeria’s elections amid reports of technology failures and violence, it is clear that digital elections are no panacea.…  Seguir leyendo »

Shabaabs Nairobi attack is a reminder that tit for tat terror never succeeds Mukoma wa Ngugi

A few nights ago I had a nightmare – my family and I were living on the seventh floor of an apartment building in a US city that I could not name. It was a hot summer night. Through our open windows we heard shouts of: “Go back to where you come from!” This was followed by a commotion, and then gunshots and then death grunts. My daughter was standing by the window looking outside – I crawled to her yelling at her to get on her stomach – and then I woke up relieved.

And then I read about the attack in Nairobi at the Dusit hotel in which at least 14 people were killed.…  Seguir leyendo »

On Tuesday afternoon, terrorists stormed DusitD2, an upscale hotel and office complex in the heart of Nairobi. Within an hour, security forces had cordoned off the area, evacuated nearby buildings and launched an operation to confront the attackers and rescue people.

Given the security forces’ performance during previous attacks, this was a huge improvement. Five years ago, during a terrorist attack on the Westgate Mall, it was a different story. As described in a reconstruction by Tristan McConnell, by the time security agencies organized a response, “most of those who would escape had already escaped; most of those who would be wounded had already been struck; and most of those who would die were already dead.”…  Seguir leyendo »

Pedaleando hacia el éxito en Kenia

¿Cómo iba a la escuela cuando era joven? Para muchos en los países desarrollados, la respuesta es un medio de transporte que se da por supuesto (aunque subestimado), como un bus escolar o el coche de los padres. Sin embargo, el transporte fiable no es algo que los estudiantes de Kenia pueden dar por hecho. Para los keniatas, el transporte a la escuela es, muy literalmente, nuestro pasaje a un futuro mejor.

En 2003, cuando en Kenia se garantizó el libre acceso a la escuela primaria, la matriculación total subió al 104%. Pero este aumento radical en el acceso no vino acompañado de una ampliación de las instalaciones escolares.…  Seguir leyendo »

Residents of Eastleigh, a Nairobi neighborhood known for its densely Somali population, on Jan. 18, 2010. (Simon Maina/AFP via Getty Images)

Pirates. Terrorists. Refugees. There is a long history of negative portrayals of Somalis around the world.

Consider, for example, Kenyan Somalis. According to the most recent census, there are 2.4 million Somalis in Kenya (out of an overall population of 38.6 million in the country). Somalis have lived in Kenya since before colonial rule. By the early 20th century, Somali-speaking nomads established themselves in what is now northeastern Kenya. Still, when you read about Kenyan Somalis in major media outlets, they are portrayed as “others” or as strangers in stories about terrorism or refugees.

How can Somalis be both citizens and strangers in Kenya?…  Seguir leyendo »

Beatrice Anyango, center, leads her grandson, Eugene, 3, by the hand as they walk from school to their home in Kibra, the largest slum in Nairobi. (Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images)

Over the past few days, tens of thousands of Kenyans have been made homeless. This is not the result of some terrible natural disaster, but rather, the deliberate action of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration. Nearly 10,000 have been kicked out of their homes in the Mau forest in a bid to protect the country’s largest water tower. Another community of 30,000 in Kibra, the largest slum in Nairobi, saw their homes, hospitals, shops and schools flattened to make room for a road.

“Development” and “conservation” have always been pretexts for displacing Kenyans. One-hundred twenty years ago, the so-called Lunatic Line was built.…  Seguir leyendo »

Elizabeth Sizar, a new arrival from South Sudan and mother of two, poses for a photo with her youngest son in front of their home in the Kalobeyei settlement. (Samuel Otieno/UNHCR)

Every June 20, on World Refugee Day, the headlines invariably focus on numbers. But numbers are not the issue; only about 0.3 percent of the world’s population are refugees. The real challenge comes from unequal geographical concentration.

Most refugees will never come to the United States or Europe. Around 85 percent end up in low and middle-income countries like Lebanon, Pakistan and Uganda, and just 10 such countries host 60 percent of the world’s refugees. This means refugee protection is primarily a developing world issue, and there is a lack of global responsibility-sharing.

Refugees stay in these safe haven countries for decades.…  Seguir leyendo »

Una pérdida para la democracia keniana

El 27 de marzo, ocho columnistas renunciaron al periódico Nation, de Nation Media Group, por falta de independencia editorial. Para el mayor rotativo de Kenia, este éxodo de brillantes talentos fue el último golpe a una reputación ya manchada. En los últimos meses ya ha sufrido una serie de episodios vergonzantes, como despidos masivos y de alto perfil en su compañía matriz, y acusaciones de interferencia estatal en el proceso editorial.

Pero las renuncias fueron más que otra denuncia a una institución antes merecedora de alabanzas: representaron un recordatorio de que los medios de comunicación siguen siendo un potente actor en la joven democracia de Kenia.…  Seguir leyendo »

A man in a control center of the NTV channel, which was shut down by the Kenyan government because of coverage of opposition leader Raila Odinga’s symbolic presidential inauguration, at the Nation group media building in Nairobi on Feb. 1. (Baz Ratner/Reuters)

Imagine paying over $900 to a government agency just to be allowed to blog.

This is what the government of Tanzania wants to require of its citizens. The Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority has given all online content providers until May 5 to submit massive amounts of documentation to earn state approval for what the Internet has always given for free. If you can’t pony up details of shareholders, share capital, citizenship of owners, staff qualifications, training programs and a tax clearance certificate, you risk a fine of at least $2,200 and/or a year-long prison sentence. While the rest of the progressive world is considering blockchain technology or investing in robots, Tanzania’s big idea this year is licensing bloggers.…  Seguir leyendo »

No one company should have the power to manipulate the psychology of an entire country. We now know that Cambridge Analytica has done just that — not just in the United States, but also in the fragile political systems of the global south.

The company mined Kenyan voters’ data to help President Uhuru Kenyatta win disputed elections. Over two presidential election cycles, it presided over some of the darkest and most vicious campaigns Kenya has ever seen. Cambridge Analytica confirmed its involvement to an undercover reporter for Britain’s Channel 4, which released an exposé on Monday. Executives were taped saying that they ran “just about every element” of Kenyatta’s campaign in 2013 and 2017, including rebranding his party twice, and writing the campaign’s manifesto and speeches.…  Seguir leyendo »