Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Have I Got News For You?

Yes, yes I do.

So I mentioned in an earlier blogpost that I couldn’t even begin to comment on politics, economics or society here in Kenya and that remains true. But since I read the newspaper almost every day on my way to work, I thought I would give you a brief round-up of some of what has been making headlines here over the past few weeks, at least as far as I understand it.

1) Kenya's war on terror
At the end of October Kenya launched 'Operation Linda Nchi' (in Swahili this means 'protect the country'), a military offensive into Somalia in conjunction with forces from Somalia and Ethiopia in order to wipe out Al Shabaab from Southern Somalia. This is Kenya's first 'war' since independence and was launched in reaction to a number of kidnappings and terrorists attacks on Kenyan soil in recent months. The public's reaction to it, as far as I can gather has been largely positive. The coverage though has been really interesting; the Daily Nation, for example, has two journalists deeply embedded with the troops. As such their reportage is bound to have a certain slant. The 2 journalists in question also love to include random minutiae of the forces' lives. My personal favourite? Tales of the particular roosters which keep soldiers up at night. Since Operation Linda Nchi started there have been further terrorists attacks carried out supposedly by Al Shabaab and their sympathisers, in particular in the eastern region of Kenya but also in Nairobi. All of this has created some animosity and bad feeling towards the country's many ethnically Somali residents who mainly live in the Eastleigh part of Nairobi and in Eastern Kenya.
Also related to this story, I just read today that Al Shabaab have kicked out 16 aid agencies from some of the territory that they control in Southern Somalia, among them 6 UN agencies and Concern, leaving more people (potentially 250,000) at risk of starvation in the region.
2) Election Date

The to-ing and fro-ing about the date for next year's election has been going on for months, since long before I arrived in Nairobi. In a nutshell, the new Kenyan constitution which was ratified in August of last year set the date of future elections as ' (elections here have traditionally been held in December) The cabinet and many members of parliament objected to this, and we were accused by many of doing so for selfish reasons (ie. they wanted to hold onto power as long as possible). I also heard an argument against the move which said that such a change would undermine the new constitution, if this could so easily be changed, what else in this new document (which promises many impressive and progressive reforms) would be changed? The case has been brought to court but as of last week it was ruled that the election could go ahead in December. Bodies such as the Independent Electoral Boundaries Commission has welcomed the later date stating that an August election would not have given them enough time to do their job, which involved an almost complete revamp of the country's constituency boundaries. The subject is a super hot topic here, justifiably so. After the violence that erupted after the elections in 2007 there is enormous pressure for this next election to take place under peaceful and fair conditions.

3) Demolitions

This is a super interesting story, or at least I think so. Actually, it's not one story, but several, and it's indicative of a much larger problem here. Hundreds of residents of Syokimau in South Western Nairobi had their homes (many of them very, very fancy homes) demolished The Kenyan Airport Authority claims that the homes are on the main flight path in and out of Jomo Kenyatta airport and that they have owned the land since 1971 when they acquired it through a Compulsory Purchase Order. Thet also maintain that the owners of the land at the time were compensated. So how has the land ended up with private houses on it 40 years later? Somewhere along the way land documents were forged and sold to these unsuspecting people. Which is not an uncommon practice here and demolitions occur regularly in slum areas for this reason. Questions are being asked as to how the houses were allowed to be built in the first place, and how the city authorities (to whom some of the residents were paying council taxes) failed to notice that these people were not entitled to be on this land.
4) Diplomatic row
Yesterday a Kenyan high court judge ordered that Sudanese President Hassan al-Bashir be arrested if he ever set foot on Kenyan soil. He is wanted by the International Criminal Court for charges of crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide. This led to the Sudanese leader issuing an ultimatum, giving the Kenyan ambassador 72 hours to leave the country if the order was not rescinded, and he also withdres the Sudanese ambassador to Nairobi. Kenyan-Sudan relations have always been cordial enough in the past, Kenya is certainly closer to Sudan than Uganda, which openly criticised the Sudanese government for the situation in Darfur for many years. In a twist in the tale this morning I heard on the radio that Kenya's President Kibaki has written to al-Bashir distancing himself and the government from the High Court ruling and he will be asking his Attorney General to look into the matter. From what I understand the Kenyan government is worried about the effect that this incident might have on it's war on Al Shabaab as it needs all the allies in the region that it can get.
That's all from Nairobi. Until next time, I've been Andrea Wickham. Good evening.

1 comment:

  1. Love it. SOunds like a fascinating place to be at the moment - enjoying the blog, keep it up. Clare