Kenya Could be the Next Country to Strike Down a Colonial-Era Law Against Homosexuality

WNYC The Takeaway

Jake Naughton

Cynthia is a lesbian activist and refugee from Burundi. She fled to Kenya after authorities found out she was gay. There she lived in hiding while hoping for resettlement abroad. Photo: Jake Naughton

The law in question is a colonial-era ban on “carnal knowledge against the order of nature” is part of the penal code in dozens of former British colonies. Many of them are former British colonies with the exact same law on the books. 

The activists who brought the case contend that the law is used to exploit and extort, and that it is used to justify discrimination against LGBT people. Opponents have said they will consider alternative measures if the law is overturned, including, potentially a referendum. 

Joining The Takeaway to explain what’s at stake is Jacob Kushner, a freelance journalist based in East Africa. Listen to the full interview at WNYC’s The Takeaway. Produced by Beenish Ahmed.

Gay-Rights Activists Hoping for a Legal Victory in Kenya

The New Yorker

Simon Maina

Kenya’s penal code punishes acts “against the order of nature”—usually interpreted as sex between men—with up to fourteen years in prison. It also prescribes up to five years in prison for “gross indecency with another male person,” which is often interpreted as other, undefined sexual acts between men. Worldwide, at least seventy nations—more than a third of all countries—still outlaw homosexuality, and it remains illegal in more than thirty of the fifty-four African countries.

L.G.B.T. activists in Kenya are taking on these laws. Changing a society’s values would take generations, they reasoned, but striking down an unjust law could be accomplished in just a few years. Read: The New Yorker

Scientists hope a new vaccine will reduce malaria in Africa. But is it worth the cost?

National Geographic

Lena Mucha

The first-ever malaria vaccine is 35 years and billions of dollars in the making. It’s less than 40% effective.

Hundreds of thousands of children across malaria-stricken regions of Kenya, Malawi, and Ghana are receiving the world’s first ever malaria vaccine, which Western health experts laud as an exciting new tool in the global fight against the disease. But after 35 years and hundreds of millions of dollars spent in development, some African health professionals are wondering: Is the vaccine worth the cost?

One study estimated that on average, the vaccine will be nearly three times as expensive as distributing bed nets to achieve the same improvements in health. With limited funding available, some in Kenya worry that the money is being misspent. “The nets—that’s our need, for now.”

Read: National Geographic / Español

Uganda Attempts to Shut Down Controversial Silicon Valley-Funded Schools

Columbia Global Reports

School children in Malindi, Kenya, February 2018. Photo by Ian Ingalula, Creative Commons.

Bridge International Academies was conceived in 2007 to be the McDonald’s of global education, promising to better educate poor students using Nooks and standardized curriculums for as little as $6 to $7 a month. Using tablets and standardized curriculums in each country, Bridge operates more than 520 schools, teaching some 100,000 students in Uganda, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria and India. It’s currently expanding in Asia with dreams of reaching an ambitious 10 million students across the world by 2025.

But Some African parents may be uneasy about the idea of a western-conceived company disrupting something they hold so dear: control over their children’s education. Bridge threatens to globalize—or perhaps, to westernize—the sector on which many Africans bank their families’ futures.

Read the full story at Columbia Global Reports.

In Kenya’s Baringo county, police raid, burn and murder

Al Jazeera

A bullet cartridge for a G3-type self-loading rifle is one of 14 found near the blood-stained dirt where the body of Ekurio Mugeluk first lay [Will Swanson/Al Jazeera]

On the trail of police who stormed a village, burned down homes, stole livestock – and murdered an 80-year-old man.

One May afternoon along a dirt road in a remote swath of Kenya’s Baringo County lay the remains of an elderly man. Wild animals had eaten his flesh, torn off some of his limbs, and dragged his body – now mostly bones. A purple shawl and a yellow football jersey clung to the skeleton.

Witnesses say nine days earlier, several truckloads of police officers raided their village, burning their huts and stealing their goats. Officers then threw rocks at the elderly man who had tried to escape. They loaded him onto a truck, dumped him by the side of the road and shot him.

Reporting by Al Jazeera corroborates witnesses’ accounts that on May 9, Kenyan police murdered 80-year-old Ekurio Mugeluk and left his body to the wild.

Read the full investigation at Al Jazeera. Reported with Anthony Langat and Will Swanson. 

Guns, Grass, and Cattle

Roads & Kingdoms

Cornelius said the drive to Arabal would take an hour, but it’s been more like three. Already a full day’s journey from Nairobi, we chanced that by dark we could reach the Arabal river and make it back to the town of Marigat to sleep. But now the sun is inching westward and our car is running out of gas.

This isn’t a place you want to be stranded for the night. Baringo County is in the midst of a war over livestock. A severe drought has forced Pokot herders to drive their cows and goats from the dry flatlands up into the beautiful mountains above Lake Baringo in search of grass. But this land is inhabited by Tugen, and the Tugen are struggling to feed their own livestock as it is.

In central Kenya, grass and vegetation can be a matter of life and death, and not just for the animals. Pastoralists depend upon milk and meat for their livelihoods. Deprived of that income, entire communities can become food insecure. For many families, livestock are their only assets: they have no bank accounts, no land to farm.

Combine those stakes with the fact that experts believe there are 530,000 to 680,000 guns in circulation among civilians in Kenya. Guns have long been traded across Kenya’s porous border with Somalia, but some have recently been traced to Uganda and South Sudan. Most herders who carry them do so for self-defense—to protect their animals from raiders. But others use them to raid.

Some of the Pokot who have crossed into the administrative region of Arabal this year fall into the latter category. Since the drought began late last year, there have been dozens of shootouts between Tugen, Pokot, and the police. Thousands of heads of livestock have been stolen, though just how many thousands is anyone’s guess.

Survivors of these shootouts speak of the Pokot as if they were immune to bullets, as if they were sharpshooters who never missed, as if their ammunition were infinite. But survivors are hard to find.

Read the feature story at Roads & Kingdoms. Reported with Anthony Langat, photos by Will Swanson.

The War for Grass in the Heart of Kenya’s Safari Country

Outside Magazine

Laikipia is located in central Kenya in the heart of the Great Rift Valley. It is home to one of East Africa’s largest concentrations of wildlife, from elephants to rhinos and buffalo to packs of wild dogs. An estimated 86,000 tourists visit each year to explore parts of the 32 vast conservancies and ranches that occupy a third of Laikipia County. Many adore Laikipia because it is so remote, situated far from the more popular safari parks that flood with tourists during the dry seasons.

Over the past seven months, however, the peace for which Laikipia is known has given way to a war over grass. A severe drought that began in the fall of 2016 caused nearly 3 million people in northern Kenya to need emergency food assistance. The lack of vegetation caused herdsmen to drive thousands of cows, goats, and sheep southward from nearby counties to where, quite literally, the grass is greener—on private conservancies and ranches.

“Pretty much every wild animal we have has been shot by these herders,” says Sean Outram, manager of Sosian Ranch. Packs of wild dogs—the most endangered large carnivores in East Africa—have been all but wiped out. Dozens of Laikipia’s estimated 5,000 elephants have died in the conflict, as have hundreds of buffalos. Fifteen elephants and at least 12 giraffes were killed on Sosian alone. “Anything that moves has been shot—some of it for the skins, some of it for trophy. Some just because they wanted to shoot it,” says Outram.

There may have been something deeper to the herders’ resentment. Many of Laikipia’s conservancies are owned and managed by white people—Kenyan descendants of British colonialists or immigrants from Europe and other African countries. People like Tristan Voorspuy. “The tribesmen who murdered Tristan Voorspuy saw not a farmer whose life had been spent in Africa and who provided employment for scores of local people, but instead just a rich, white interloper on a horse who challenged them on land they demand to claim as their own,” wrote Max Hastings, a former safari tourist of Voorspuy’s, in the Daily Mail. “Unless its government shows the will and means to restore peace to Laikipia, which means expelling this murderous throng of invaders by force of arms, the nation’s future stands at risk, and its priceless wild heritage faces the prospect of near-extinction.”

Read the feature story at Outside Magazine. 

Nudging in Nairobi

U.S. News & World Report

An emerging science is helping Kenyans make smarter decisions about bargaining, sanitation and more.

Last year at primary schools in western Kenya, social scientists were busy performing dirty skits in front of hundreds of children. The script went like this:

The facilitator pretends to go to the bathroom behind a tree, then wipes using a thin leaf or piece of paper. But the leaf or paper rips, and she reacts with surprise upon getting (imaginary) feces on her hand. But she doesn’t wash her hands. Instead she wipes them on her clothes, then goes to shake the hand of one of the students, or picks up a mandazi – a doughnut – and offers it to a student to eat.

The students recoil in disgust, and the facilitator’s work is done: She has just implanted a “disgust trigger” into the kids’ brains – a simple, but powerful psychological reminder that forgetting to wash your hands is gross. And it works.

Welcome to behavioral psychology, the emerging science that seeks to nudge people to make smarter decisions.

Read the full story at U.S. News & World Report.

Kenyans face health crisis as a doctor strike enters its fourth month

USA Today

Empty beds at a hospital in Kenya where patients have been turned away because there are not enough doctors working to treat them. Staff say typically the beds would be full of patients. Jan 30, 2016 (Photo: Jacob Kushner)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NAIVASHA, Kenya —  Nancy Ndirango grimaced in pain as she waited eight hours at a hospital here with a broken right leg, the result of a fall on her way to school. But there was no doctor to see her because they are on strike.

“People can die,” Ndirango, 17, complained. “(The government) should pay them what they’re asking so they can get back to work.”

Ndirango’s plight at the eerily empty hospital in this town, about 50 miles north of the capital, Nairobi, is being felt by millions of Kenyans as a national strike by 5,000 public-sector doctors demanding better pay and work conditions enters its fourth month. They walked off the job Dec. 5 to protest the government’s failure to make good on a 2013 agreement to double salaries and hire thousands of new doctors to fill a severe shortage of physicians.

“Sadly it’s the lower class that’s suffering,”said Judy Karagania, a resident in opthalmology at Nairobi’s largest public hospital. Sometimes, overcrowding in Kenya’s underfunded public hospitals can be a matter of life or death.

Read the full story at USA Today.

Dorcas Kiteng’e: A victim of Kenya’s doctors’ strike

Al Jazeera

Jacob Kushner/Al Jazeera

One month after Al Jazeera published the story of Dorcas Kiteng’e’s struggle for cancer treatment in a nation whose doctors are on strike, the 25-year-old has died due to lack of proper care.

Some 5,000 public sector doctors walked out on December 5 after Kenya’s leaders failed to make good on a 2013 agreement to raise salaries, hire new physicians and improve conditions in public hospitals. The standoff between the health ministry, which lost $53 million last year due to corruption, and the doctors, continues to drag on. Nobody knows how many hundreds or thousands of Kenyans have died as a result of the government’s refusal to pay and the doctors’ refusal to return to work until that happens.

This is the story of one of those victims – the final days in the life of Dorcas Kiteng’e.

Read the article at Al Jazeera.

The struggle to create ICT jobs for Africa’s youth

Africa Renewal Magazine

Young people across the continent aspire to careers in Africa’s blossoming information and communications technology (ICT) sector. But many encounter major barriers that prevent them from finding jobs in the industry. “We have a lot of young people. But unfortunately they come from neighborhoods that don’t have a lot of opportunities,” says Tim Nderi, the chief executive officer of Mawingu Networks.

“Do people have access to the internet, and is that access afford-able?” asked Microsoft’s Anthony Cook in an interview with Africa Renewal. “As you think about moving towards a knowledge economy, you have to be able to take the bulk of the population with you.”

Read the full feature story in the Special 2017 Edition of Africa Renewal Magazine and read the sidebar, “Teaching Africa’s Young Techies,” which features the Moringa School in Nairobi.

Kenya’s health system on the verge of collapse as doctors’ strike grinds on

The Guardian

Kenya’s hospitals have almost ground to a halt, with millions facing a third month in a row without healthcare as doctors strike over low pay and poor working conditions.

The public healthcare system has long been overburdened and underfunded, but has now virtually stopped functioning after 5,000 doctors walk out in December after attempts to reach a compromise with the health ministry stalled.

“The machines break down frequently, the doctors are overwhelmed. The patients, they are so many that they are lying on the ground,” said Dr Judy Karagania, an ophthalmology resident at Kenyatta National hospital (KNH) in Nairobi, who is taking part in the industrial action.

Karagania and her colleagues are refusing to return to work until the government makes good on a 2013 agreement to dramatically increase salaries, hire thousands of new doctors and address drug and equipment shortages.

As the standoff drags on, Kenyans are suffering from the lack of care.

“The army doctors are turning away patients,” said Karagania, who normally works as a resident medical officer at KNH. “They’re only handling the emergencies of emergencies.”

Read the full article in The Guardian.

In a World of Closed Borders, Deciding Who Deserves Asylum

The Nation & The Nation Institute Investigative Fund

Fenced in: Some refugees at Kakuma are segregated for special protection. /Jake Naughton

At Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, workers face few humane options

From Turkey to Pakistan, from Iran to Ethiopia, refugee workers are being forced to make painful choices regarding the future of more than 21 million refugees, part of a record 65 million displaced persons around the world. They must choose between political and economic refugees, individuals and families, the healthy and the sick, the elderly and unaccompanied children, gay and straight. They try to move those most in need of help to the front of the line for resettlement somewhere safe.

But when it comes to triaging the world’s humanitarian crises, there are few humane choices.

Read in the February 27, 2017 edition of The Nation Magazine.

In Kenya, doctors’ strike leaves a nation ailing

Al Jazeera

Kenya’s public sector doctors began striking two months ago to protest against the Ministry of Health’s failure to implement a 2013 agreement which included raising salaries /Jacob Kushner

Kijabe, Kenya – At the bottom of a winding, tree-lined road, a crowd of patients spills out of the entrance of a private hospital waiting room on to a patio and a dirt parking lot. It begins to rain, and a man on crutches tries to hobble into the cramped building for cover.

Sitting in a wheelchair outside the door is Dorcas Kiteng’e, a 25-year-old woman suffering from cancerous growths in her ovaries.

“They’re pressing down on the spine, they’re paralysing her,” says Mwende Mutambuki, Kiteng’e’s sister-in-law“She can’t walk. Back pain, leg pain – I’m hoping it hasn’t spread.”

Kijabe is the third hospital they’ve visited since they arrived in the Kenyan capital Nairobi last week, looking for an oncologist who could perform the surgery, only to be turned away.

“They sent us to Agha Khan,” says Mutambuki, referring to the private Nairobi hospital that’s regarded as one of the nation’s finest. “But we know we were not going to be able to afford that.”

She fears time is running out to save her sister-in-law: “It’s a matter of life or death.”

Two months ago Kenya’s public sector doctors walked out on strike, and millions of Kenyans who normally depend on them are beginning to overwhelm the nation’s private hospitals, particularly in rural areas.

Read the full article at Al Jazeera.