As the nation grieves, few Kenyans direct their anger toward Somali immigrants here. But that hasn’t stopped police from singling out Somali communities.
NAIROBI, Kenya — In the middle of a crowded downtown street stand two hundred men and women, listening to a religious debate between a Muslim cleric and a Christian priest.
The two take turns shouting into a microphone that amplifies their voices to the curious onlookers: ‘The Bible says…’ the priest begins. The cleric responds, “The Koran says…” and so on.
The ritual has become a daily phenomenon as Christians and Muslims come together to discuss their religions here in Eastleigh, the heart of Nairobi’s Somali Muslim community. But this religious debate held a special significance Monday, exactly one month after gunmen including at least one Muslim of Somali heritage began their deadly siege of Nairobi’s Westgate shopping mall.
Progress on labor rights in the city of Mombasa sets a precedent for the rest of the country.
MOMBASA, Kenya – One of the first tests of Kenya’s progressive new labor law began slowly.
First, piles of trash formed outside restaurants and shops here in Kenya’s island city. Then traffic jams brought downtown Mombasa to a standstill when, after two agonizing months without a paycheck, most of the city’s 2,600 public workers went on strike in protest.
Three years ago, such organized action would have been illegal in Kenya. But a clause in Kenya’s new 2010 constitution explicitly guarantees workers the right to organize, bargain collectively—and to strike.
And so, when Mombasa officials reacted to the strike by going to court to force workers back to their jobs, the judge ruled in favor of the workers. In a matter of days, Mombasa’s city employees were back to work with pay after officials scrambled to fix the glitches in the county’s new payroll system that had caused the problem.
As workers across Kenya look to benefit from their progressive constitution, Mombasa’s public sector may serve as a model for what the new standards can accomplish.
While the Westgate investigation simmers, Kenyan women protest a more systematic type of violence.
NAIROBI, Kenya – Two weeks before the shooting at Westgate mall, a scandal erupted within Nairobi’s political scene. The city’s governor, a man, delivered a slap to the face of a leading female parliamentarian Rachel Shebesh. It was caught on video and immediately made national news.
But reactions to the incident revealed Kenyan society remains divided in how it perceives of acts of violence against women. Some say Shebesh deserved the slap for becoming confrontational with the governor. Others say it was an unprovoked act of physical violence that should be prosecuted as an assault.
The division is stark: Many men and some women in Nairobi fall into the former category, but advocates for women’s rights say the incident highlights how violence against women continues to permeate Kenyan society.
“Men make jokes that you have to discipline a woman so she knows that he loves her. And we treat it as a joke,” said Helen Macharia, 70. “We need to start treating it as it is—abuse.”