One month after Westgate attack, police still abusing Somali Muslims

As the nation grieves, few Kenyans direct their anger toward Somali immigrants here. But that hasn’t stopped police from singling out Somali communities.

A 20-year-old Somali refugee demonstrates the gate to her family’s apartment that a Nairobi police officer threatened to break open before the family paid him a 2,000 Kenyan shilling ($25 US) bribe to leave. (Jacob Kushner/GlobalPost)

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.

Read the full story as it appeared at GlobalPost.

In Kenya, new constitution becomes a tool for workers

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.

Read the full article as it appeared at GlobalPost.

Kenya: A slap caught on tape sparks debate over violence against women

A Maasai woman collects her papers before voting in Ilngarooj, Kajiado County, Maasailand, on March 4, 2013 during the first nationwide elections since the violence-wracked polls five years ago. (CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images)

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.”

Read the full story as it appeared at GlobalPost.

Unanswered questions surround Kenya mall attack

By Jacob Kushner And Jason Straziuso

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — The Sept. 21 terrorist attack on Nairobi’s Westgate Mall produced a raft of questions that haven’t always had clear, complete answers. The answers to some questions about the attack have changed over time. Other questions haven’t yet been fully answered.

How many attackers were there? How many hostages? Were there any hostages at all? The Associated Press attempts to define what is known and not known about the deadly mall attack.

Read the full AP article as it appeared at Bloomberg Businessweek.

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MALL ATTACK TO COST KENYA $200 MILLION IN TOURISM

A giraffe eats a food pellet from the mouth of a foreign visitor at the Giraffe Centre, in the Karen neighborhood of Nairobi, Kenya Monday, Sept. 30, 2013. The risk to the country’s tourism was one of the first concerns expressed by officials during the initial days of the Westgate Mall siege, but tourists continue to fly to Kenya for safaris and beach vacations seemingly despite a number of foreigners being killed in last week’s attack. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

By JACOB KUSHNER

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — When Ohio resident Bill Haynes heard about the shooting at Westgate Mall by Islamic extremist gunmen last month, he considered canceling his upcoming 17-day safari to Kenya and Tanzania.

“You can’t help but be concerned,” said Haynes, 67. “Here’s a place we’re going to be in about five days and there are some terrorists shooting the place up. That would cause anybody to give some pause.”

Acting on advice from a friend in Nairobi, Haynes went through with his trip except for a stop at Lamu, a coastal city near Somalia where a French woman was kidnapped in 2011.

The risk to tourism was one of the first concerns officials expressed after the attack that left at least 67 dead including 18 foreigners. Tourism generates 14 percent of Kenya’s GDP and employs 12 percent of its workforce, according to Moody’s Investment Services and the World Travel and Tourism Council.

Moody’s predicts the attack will cost Kenya’s economy $200 million to $250 million in lost tourism revenue, estimating it will slow growth of Kenya’s GDP by 0.5 percent. Kenya’s 2012 GDP was $41 billion.

Read the full story as it appeared at the Associated Press.

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