Six months later: Kenya’s Westgate Mall workers reflect on a delicate recovery


NAIROBI, Kenya —Today marks six months since gunmen trained by the Somali-based terrorist group al-Shabaab stormed a popular shopping mall here, in a siege that left 62 civilians and five Kenyan soldiers dead, and at least 200 others injured.
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The victims consisted of both Kenyans and expatriates. Their families and friends remained traumatized by the attack and angered by the government’s response, during which Kenyan soldiers looted the mall, even while bodies remained strewn about.

The Israeli-owned Westgate Mall opened in 2007. It was a popular hangout for Kenyans and expatriates alike until it collapsed during the September 2013 siege. But one group of Kenyans in particular holds a uniquely intimate connection to the mall and the event that destroyed it: These hundreds of Kenyans were employed in the mall’s 80 shops and restaurants, and depended on the mall for their livelihoods.
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Their wages, small by western standards, supported their families or paid for their continuing education.

When the gunshots erupted, workers fled side-by-side with patrons. Some hid from the gunmen for upwards of 11 hours before being rescued. In small acts of heroism, some workers led others up or down staircases to safety, or out back doors.

In the aftermath of the attack, some were transferred to other franchise locations owned by their employers. But many lost their jobs entirely.

Six months later, GlobalPost asked mall employees to reflect on how the attack changed their lives and how they are coping with its long-lasting effects.

Read the full story and watch the video at GlobalPost.

Getting Out of Gridlock, One Text at a Time

Din Haitao/Xinhua /Landov

Urban Kenyans hate wasting time in traffic as much as you do, and they’re turning to mobile-phone apps to free up the road.

By Jacob Kushner
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Traffic in Nairobi is so mind-numbing it makes L.A.’s Interstate 5 look like the Autobahn. Motorcycles squeeze between cars and trucks that practically park on major boulevards and highways. Street peddlers walk to and fro selling newspapers, flowers, air fresheners and children’s toys to captive audiences. Roundabouts become cartoonishly clogged.

Nairobi is the world’s fourth most congested city, far worse than any in the U.S., according to a 2011 survey. Kenya’s government estimates traffic jams cost Nairobi $600,000 per day in lost productivity and wasted fuel. That’s $219 million per year.

As the number of cars on the road increases, the city’s future holds even more frustration and waste, unless Nairobi can find a different type of solution for its traffic woes. One team at IBM’s headquarters in Nairobi thinks it’s found an answer – and if it works, it could provide relief to millions of commuters throughout the developing world.
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Read the full story at or at NPR.

Income inequality: In Congo, a tale of two cities

In Africa’s fastest-growing city, a new haven for Congo’s wealthy burdens some of its poor.

KINSHASA, Congo — On one side of the water, hand-carved wooden canoes navigate the marshy canals of a crowded fishing village. Unpainted cement houses line muddy dirt streets where women sit at stands, selling the day’s catch.

On the other side, where the fishermen used to cast their nets, a posh private city is being raised from the bottom of the Congo River. Pumping millions of cubic meters of sand, the British hedge fund Hawkwood Properties is developing 1600 acres of water to become a tranquil residential haven complete with swimming pools, schools, grocery stores and a sports complex.

A more striking portrayal of income disparity in Congo than Kinshasa’s Cite du Pecheur (Fisherman’s City) and the upcoming La Cite du Fleuve, (City of the River), would be difficult to come by. But Hawkwood’s private development is a logical progression of life in Africa’s fastest-growing city.

See the full story and video at GlobalPost. This story was supported by a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

Haiti’s road to recovery


LES CAYES, Haiti — For years, the road from here to the coastal city of Jérémie has been paved with good intentions, but never with asphalt.

Well-meaning international organizations and donors built schools in the villages that dot the roadside, purchased goats for children to raise and sell and donated supplies for home repair. But those projects came and went, barely making a dent in the region’s gripping poverty. All the while, the road itself deteriorated into a 62-mile stretch of rocks and mud, making travel difficult and sometimes deadly.

Last week 40 passengers were killed when their bus overturned trying to cross the flooded Riviére Glace — Ice River —that dissects the passage, according to government figures from the incident.

Now, the passage known as National Route 7 is in the middle of a $142 million development project that in many ways is a model of the successful, long-term development Haiti desperately needs.

GlobalPost set out to find what insight this road can offer the myriad of small reconstruction projects underway here and throughout Haiti that are largely failing to bring about lasting change despite billions of dollars in post-earthquake reconstruction aid.

Read the full story as it appeared at the Global Post.

Haiti’s politics of blame

As foreigners ask where aid money went, Haitians turn inward, demanding answers from their own government.

PORT-AU-PRINCE — For all the talk about a Haitian people who have grown impatient with the slow pace of a largely foreign-led reconstruction effort, what Haitians are clamoring for most is accountability from their own government for promises that remain unfulfilled two years after the earthquake.

Click HERE to read the full story as it appeared at the Global Post.

RADIO: Lost Between two Nations

WLRN South Florida

Broadcast on WLRN Florida, November 17, 2011

When a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti in 2010, the United States stopped deporting Haitians. Earlier this year deportations to Haiti resumed. 24-year-old Franco Coby grew up in Fort Myers, but he was born in Haiti. And untiul this year, he had never been back. Jacob Kushner brings us the story of a man lost in his own country.

Listen to the story at WLRN’s Under the Sun.

Or Listen directly.

This story was part of Jacob Kushner’s 2011 reporting for the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting on deportations to Haiti.