Kenyan villagers on Friday lynched a man believed to be a “bloodthirsty vampire” child murderer, days after the self-confessed serial killer escaped from police custody, officials said.
Masten Milimo Wanjala was arrested on July 14 over the disappearance of two children, but in a chilling confession, admitted to killing at least 10 others over a five-year period, “sometimes through sucking blood from their veins before executing them”, the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) said at the time.
The 20-year-old was due for a court appearance Wednesday in Nairobi over the cold-blooded murders which targeted 12- and 13-year-old children, when officers noticed during the morning roll call that he had disappeared.
But a mob caught up with him Friday after he was identified by schoolgoing children at his rural home in Bungoma, more than 400 kilometres (250 miles) from the police station he had escaped from.
“He comes from this area and so the children saw him and knew it was him and that is when information spread around and locals started pursuing him,” area administrator Bonface Ndiema said.
“In the end he ran into a neighbour’s house but he was flushed out and lynched.”
Police had in July described Wanjala’s arrest as a major breakthrough in an investigation into a spate of disturbing child disappearances in the East African country.
His victims were drugged and drained of their blood and some of them strangled, police said.
‘Submerged in sewers’
According to police, Wanjala’s first victim was a 12-year-old girl he kidnapped five years ago in Machakos county east of Nairobi.
The murder of his next victim in western Kenya sparked protests, with locals torching the house of the person they suspected killed the boy.
“Unbeknownst to some of the worried families, their children were long executed by the beast and their remains dumped in thickets. Others were submerged in sewer lines in the city and left to rot away,” the DCI said in July.
The bodies of several children feared to have died at Wanjala’s hands have yet to be found.
Three officers who were on duty at the Nairobi police station where he was held were arrested this week on allegations that they either aided or “neglected to prevent” his escape.
A court ordered their release on bail on Friday as a probe into the escape gets under way.
Police spokesman Bruno Shiosho told AFP they have launched a forensic investigation into the identity of the lynched man.
“The locals have said it is him… For now we can confirm that a man locals say is Masten Wanjala who was on the run has been lynched in Bungoma,” he said.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta paid tribute to the young athlete and urged the police to track down those behind her death.
“It is unsettling, utterly unfortunate and very sad that we’ve lost a young and promising athlete who, at a young age of 25 years, she had brought our country so much glory through her exploits on the global athletics stage,” he said in a statement.
“It is even more painful that Agnes, a Kenyan hero by all measures, painfully lost her young life through a criminal act perpetuated by selfish and cowardly people,” he said.
The US embassy in Nairobi also expressed its condolences over the loss of Tirop, describing her as “a figure of hope for women in sports”.
On Saturday, another Kenyan long-distance athlete Hosea Mwok Macharinyang, a member of the country’s record-breaking world cross country team, died of what Kenyan athletics officials said was suicide.
Macharinyang, 35, was found in his home in West Pokot in western Kenya.
“He was such a brilliant athlete, committed to the sport where he competed for Kenya for many years in both cross country and the 5,000m and 10,000m races,” Jackson Pkemoi, the West Pokot representative of Athletics Kenya, told AFP.
Macharinyang made a record eight appearances, and won three consecutive titles for Kenya in the World Cross Country Championships from 2006 to 2008.
Kenya is the most successful nation in the cross country championships, having won 49 team and 27 individual titles.
Joe Biden will welcome Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on Thursday, in the first visit by an African leader to the White House during his presidency.
The summit will be part of “Biden’s commitment to the US partnership with Africa based on principles of mutual respect and equality,” a White House statement said Tuesday.
It said Biden and Kenyatta would discuss “the need to bring transparency and accountability to domestic and international financial systems,” amid a push by the Biden administration to fight both corruption and inequities overseas.
The two will also “discuss efforts to defend democracy and human rights, advance peace and security, accelerate economic growth and tackle climate change,” the White House said.
Biden has vowed to promote democracy overseas. Once-stable Kenya saw deadly political violence after 2017 elections, but Kenyatta has since made up with his former rival Raila Odinga.
Biden took office vowing a new commitment to Africa after the disinterest of his predecessor Donald Trump, who was the first president in decades not to visit sub-Saharan Africa.
But Biden has only gone on one international trip and has trimmed the number of visitors at the White House amid continued precautions against Covid-19.
Much of the Biden administration’s attention in Africa has turned to Ethiopia, a longtime US ally that has disappointed Washington with a nearly year-old offensive in the Tigray region.
Ethiopia launched the operation late last year in response to attacks on an army camp by the then ruling party in Tigray, where UN officials say that hundreds of thousands are facing severe hunger.
Kenyatta, speaking Tuesday after a UN Security Council meeting on Ethiopia, called for “an immediate cessation of hostilities by both sides.”
“We do not believe that there is a military solution, and we need to urgently have all parties coming across the table in order for us to be able to ensure that all humanitarian corridors are actually opened,” he told reporters.
“We will continue to push — not just as Kenya, as a neighbor and a member of the Security Council but also through the African Union.”
Kenya says its border heads out to sea in a straight line east.
Nairobi says it has exercised sovereignty over the contested area since 1979, when Kenya proclaimed the limits of its exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
The EEZ is a marine territory extending up to 200 nautical miles (370 kilometres) offshore where a state has the right to exploit resources.
Riches as well as sovereignty are at stake.
It is believed an oil and gas bonanza lies beneath the disputed 100,000-square-kilometre (38,000-square-mile) swathe of ocean. Nairobi has granted exploration permits to Italian energy giant ENI but the Somalis are contesting the move.
For Kenya, redefining the border along Somalia’s claim would also cut into fertile fishing grounds, particularly around the Lamu archipelago.
The two countries agreed in 2009 to settle their dispute through bilateral negotiations.
Two meetings were held in 2014, but little progress made. A third round that same year fell through when the Kenyan delegation failed to show up without informing their counterparts, later citing security concerns.
Somalia referred the matter to the ICJ in August 2014, citing a collapse in diplomatic efforts to solve the spat.
Kenya challenged the ICJ’s authority to rule, arguing that arbitration could only take place once the negotiation process was complete.
The ICJ asserted jurisdiction in February 2017. Hearings were scheduled for September 2019 but postponed three times before being set for March 2021.
Kenya then announced it would not participate in the hearings, and just days before the ICJ verdict the foreign ministry said it did not recognise the tribunal’s “compulsory jurisdiction.”
The dispute has added to ructions in ties between the neighbours.
Kenya recalled its ambassador in Mogadishu in early 2019 after accusing Somalia of auctioning off oil and gas blocks in the contested area.
It described the move as an “illegal grab” at resources, and reminded Somalia of Kenya’s help in the battle against Al-Shabaab jihadists.
Kenya is a major contributor of troops to AMISOM, an African Union military operation against the Al-Qaeda-linked fighters waging a violent insurgency across Somalia.
Mogadishu rejected suggestions that it had auctioned off permits, pledging not to do so until the ICJ had delivered its ruling.
Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, better known as Farmajo, and his Kenyan counterpart Uhuru Kenyatta met in November 2019 and agreed to “normalise” relations.
But Somalia then severed ties in December 2020 after Kenya hosted the leadership of Somaliland, a breakaway state not recognised by Mogadishu.
They agreed to reset relations when Somali Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble held talks with Kenyatta in August 2021.
The UN’s top court will rule in a bitter border dispute between Somalia and Kenya on Tuesday, delivering a verdict with potentially far-reaching consequences for bilateral ties and energy extraction in the region.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ), is to give its final word in a case filed by Mogadishu more than seven years ago.
A full bench of 15 judges led by US judge Joan Donoghue will hand down the verdict at the Peace Palace in The Hague at 1300 GMT.
At stake are sovereignty, undersea riches and the future of relations between two countries in one of the world’s most troubled regions.
Kenya has already lashed the ICJ as biased and announced it does not recognise the court’s binding jurisdiction.
At the heart of the dispute is the direction that the joint maritime boundary should take from the point where the land frontiers meet on the coast.
Somalia insists the boundary should follow the orientation of its land border and thus head out in a line towards the southeast.
But Kenya says its boundary runs in a straight line east — a delineation that would give it a big triangular slice of the sea.
Nairobi says it has exercised sovereignty over the area since 1979, when it proclaimed the limits of its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) — a maritime territory extending up to 200 nautical miles offshore where a state has the right to exploit resources.
The contested 100,000-square-kilometre (38,000-square-mile) area is believed to contain rich gas and oil deposits.
Nairobi has already granted exploration permits to Italian energy giant ENI but Somalia is contesting the move.
Established after World War II, the ICJ rules in disputes between UN member states. Its decisions are binding and cannot be appealed.
Kenya unsuccessfully argued that the court did not have competence over the case, and in March did not attend hearings, citing difficulties arising from the coronavirus pandemic.
Just over two weeks ago, Nairobi notified the UN secretary-general that it was withdrawing its 1965 declaration accepting the ICJ’s compulsory jurisdiction.
“The delivery of the judgement will be the culmination of a flawed judicial process that Kenya has had reservations with, and withdrawn from,” the Kenyan foreign ministry said last week.
It accused the court of “obvious and inherent bias” in addressing the dispute.
“As a sovereign nation, Kenya shall no longer be subjected to an international court or tribunal without its express consent.”
Somalia and Kenya had agreed in 2009 to settle the squabble through bilateral negotiations.
Two meetings were held in 2014, but little progress was made. A third-round that same year fell through when the Kenyan delegation failed to show up without informing their counterparts, later citing security concerns.
Somalia then took the matter to the ICJ in 2014, saying diplomatic attempts to resolve the row had led nowhere.
Monday’s verdict may further sour diplomatic relations between the two countries after Kenya in 2019 recalled its ambassador in Mogadishu after accusing Somalia of selling off oil and gas blocks in the contested area.
Nairobi called the move an “unparalleled affront and illegal grab” at its resources.
It tartly reminded Somalia of Kenya’s sacrifices in the battle against Al-Shabaab jihadists.
Kenya is a major contributor of troops to AMISOM, an African Union military operation fighting Al-Qaeda-linked fighters waging a violent insurgency across Somalia.
Kenya said on Friday it rejected the jurisdiction of the UN’s International Court of Justice (ICJ), ahead of a ruling next week on its long-running martime border dispute with Somalia.
The Horn of Africa neighbours have been feuding for years over a stretch of the Indian Ocean claimed by both nations that is believed to hold deposits of oil and gas.
“In addition to withdrawing its participation from the current case, Kenya… also joined many other members of the United Nations in withdrawing its recognition of the court’s compulsory jurisdiction,” the foreign ministry said.
Kenya announced in March it would boycott ICJ hearings in the case after The Hague-based tribunal refused to allow further delays. The final ruling is due to be delivered on Tuesday.
“The delivery of the judgement will be the culmination of a flawed judicial process that Kenya has had reservations with, and withdrawn from,” the foreign ministry said, accusing the court of “obvious and inherent bias” in resolving the dispute.
“As a sovereign nation, Kenya shall no longer be subjected to an international court or tribunal without its express consent.”
Somalia, which lies northeast of Kenya, wants to extend its maritime frontier with Kenya along the line of the land border, in a south-easterly direction.
Kenya wants the border to head out to sea in a straight line east, giving it more territory. The disputed triangle of water stretches over an area of more than 100,000 square kilometres (40,000 square miles).
Nairobi maintains it has had sovereignty over the contested zone since 1979.
Somalia took the matter to court after saying diplomatic attempts to resolve the disagreement had led nowhere.
Next week’s ICJ verdict may further trouble the often rocky relations between the two countries.
Somalia has long bristled at what it calls Kenya’s meddling in regions over its border, while Nairobi has accused Mogadishu of using it as a scapegoat for its own political problems.
Kenya in 2019 recalled its ambassador to Mogadishu after accusing Somalia of selling off oil and gas blocks in the contested area.
It described the move as an “illegal grab” of resources, and sought to remind Mogadishu of Kenya’s help in the battle against Al-Shabaab jihadists in Somalia.
Kenya is a major contributor of troops to AMISOM, an African Union military operation fighting the Al-Qaeda-linked fighters waging a violent insurgency across Somalia.
Somalia severed ties in December 2020 after Kenya hosted the leadership of Somaliland, a breakaway state not recognised by Mogadishu.
But the two countries agreed to reset relations when Somali Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble held talks with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta in August 2021.
Kenya on Tuesday confirmed its bid to host the 2025 athletics world championships, which if accepted, would bring the event to Africa for the first time.
Nairobi has hosted both the world under-18 and under-20 world championships in the last four years but faces a string of high-profile rivals including Tokyo, which staged the Olympic Games in July.
“We formally confirmed our bid to host the global championships on Friday, October 1 which was the deadline set by World Athletics,” Athletics Kenya chief Jackson Tuwei told AFP.
“We organised two very successful world junior championships at the Kasarani stadium in 2017 and in August 2021, where a number of world records and personal bests were realised,” he said.
“We learnt a lot of lessons in staging both events, and realistically it is our time to bring the biggest event.”
Africa has never hosted the World Athletics (WA) premier showpiece, which was first contested in Helsinki, Finland in 1983.
Kenyan sports minister Amina Mohammed first announced the country’s bid for the 2025 world championships in Doha in September 2019, after WA said the global event would be held on a rotational basis across continents.
More than a dozen heads of state and government, from Jordan to Azerbaijan, Kenya, and the Czech Republic, have used offshore tax havens to hide assets worth hundreds of millions of dollars, according to a far-reaching new investigation by the ICIJ media consortium.
The so-called “Pandora Papers” investigation — involving some 600 journalists from media including The Washington Post, the BBC and The Guardian — is based on the leak of some 11.9 million documents from 14 financial services companies around the world.
Some 35 current and former leaders are featured in the latest vast trove of documents analysed by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) — facing allegations ranging from corruption to money laundering and global tax avoidance.
In most countries, the ICIJ stresses, it is not illegal to have assets offshore or to use shell companies to do business across national borders.
But such revelations are no less of an embarrassment for leaders who may have campaigned publicly against tax avoidance and corruption, or advocated austerity measures at home.
The documents notably expose how Jordan’s King Abdullah II created a network of offshore companies and tax havens to amass a $100 million property empire from Malibu, California to Washington and London.
The Jordanian embassy in Washington declined to comment, but the BBC cited lawyers for the king saying all the properties were bought with personal wealth, and that it was common practice for high profile individuals to purchase properties via offshore companies for privacy and security reasons.
Family and associates of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev — long accused of corruption in the central Asian nation — are alleged to have been secretly involved in property deals in Britain worth hundreds of millions.
And the documents also show how Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis — who faces an election later this week — failed to declare an offshore investment company used to purchase a chateau worth $22 million in the south of France.
“I have never done anything illegal or wrong,” Babis hit back in a tweet, calling the revelations a smear attempt aimed at influencing the election.
– Tony Blair And Shakira –
In total, the ICIJ found links between almost 1,000 companies in offshore havens and 336 high-level politicians and public officials, including more than a dozen serving heads of state and government, country leaders, cabinet ministers, ambassadors and others.
More than two-thirds of the companies were set up in the British Virgin Islands.
Nearly two million of the 11.9 million leaked documents came from prestigious Panamanian law firm Aleman, Cordero, Galindo & Lee (Alcogal), which the ICJ said had become “a magnet for the rich and powerful from Latin America and beyond seeking to hide wealth offshore.”
Alcogal, whose clients allegedly included the Jordanian monarch and Czech prime minister, rejected accusations of shady dealings, saying it was considering legal action to defend its reputation.
“I guess it mostly demonstrates that the people that could end the secrecy of offshore, could end what’s going on, are themselves benefiting from it,” the ICIJ’s director Gerard Ryle said in a video accompanying the investigation.
“We’re looking at trillions of dollars.”
For Maira Martini, a policy expert with Transparency International, the latest investigation once more offers “clear evidence of how the offshore industry promotes corruption and financial crime, while obstructing justice.”
“This business model cannot go on,” she said.
Among the other revelations from the ICIJ investigation:
Former British prime minister Tony Blair, who has been critical of tax loopholes, is shown to have legally avoided paying stamp duty on a multi-million-pound property in London when he and his wife Cherie bought the offshore company that owned it.
Members of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s inner circle, including cabinet ministers and their families, are said to secretly own companies and trusts holding millions of dollars. In a series of tweets, Khan vowed to “take appropriate action” if any wrongdoing by Pakistani citizens is established.
Vladimir Putin is not directly named in the files, but he is linked via associates to secret assets in Monaco, notably a waterfront home acquired by a Russian woman believed to have had a child with the Russian leader, The Washington Post reports.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta — who has campaigned against corruption and for financial transparency — is alleged along with several family members of secretly owning a network of offshore companies.
As well as politicians, the public figures exposed included the Colombian singer Shakira, the German supermodel Claudia Schiffer and the Indian cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar. Representatives for all three told the ICIJ the investments were legitimate and denied tax avoidance.
The “Pandora Papers” are the latest in a series of mass ICIJ leaks of financial documents, from LuxLeaks in 2014, to the 2016 Panama Papers — which triggered the resignation of the prime minister of Iceland and paved the way for the leader of Pakistan to be ousted.
They were followed by the Paradise Papers in 2017 and FinCen files in 2020.
Kenyans voiced fury on Thursday at a jump in fuel prices, which threaten to pile on the misery for a population already suffering economic hardship because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Fuel prices are now at record levels after the country’s energy regulator this week put an end to subsidies on petrol, diesel and kerosene that were introduced earlier this year to ease anger over the surging cost of living.
The East African economic powerhouse has suffered huge job losses as gross domestic product shrank last year for the first time in three decades, with Covid-19 battering usually strong sectors like tourism.
The scrapping of the subsidies, which took effect on Wednesday, increased the price of petrol in Nairobi by about six percent to a maximum of almost 135 shillings (about $1.20 or 1.00 euro) a litre.
And the cost is set to rise further with the introduction of a near five percent excise duty on fuel from October 1.
“The increase in fuel is just ridiculous, it shows that the government is not in touch with the reality on the ground, how do they want us to survive,” said James Mwangi, 42, a second-hand car dealer in Nairobi.
“Any increase in fuel prices means an increase in many other things.”
Mercilyne Njeri, 35, who works at a five-star hotel in Nairobi, says she is already trying to survive on 60 percent of her usual salary.
“The government is not realistic, you cannot increase fuel prices at a time we are suffering from tough economic times brought about by Covid-19 challenges.”
Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto, who is in open conflict with President Uhuru Kenyatta, criticised the decision, warning it will lead to a higher cost of living across the board.
“This is mistaken in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said, calling for the energy ministry and parliament to address the issue.
‘We Can’t Breathe’
The Consumers Federation of Kenya (Cofek) warned of a huge hit on the economy -– “high cost of production, surge in food prices, transport and overall, a higher cost of living”.
“The foreign direct investments as well as consumer purchasing power will be driven south for a struggling economy reeling under the Covid-19 pandemic,” it said in a statement on Wednesday.
Kenyan consumers pay several taxes on fuel, which account for the vast bulk of the price charged by pump operators.
Kenya’s GDP dropped to 10.75 trillion shillings ($98 billion, 83 billion euros) last year and the economy also shed 738,000 jobs, with informal workers such as small traders and artisans bearing the brunt of those losses.
Kenyans are still living under restrictions including a nighttime curfew to contain the spread of Covid-19.
The disease has infected almost 245,000 people in the country including almost 4,950 fatalities, according to official figures.
“Covid made our lives so miserable and now the fuel prices increase has made it even worse,” said 27-year-old Kevin Mwanzia, an electronics technician.
“We simply can’t breathe, the public transport fare will increase, commodity prices will also increase. How are we supposed to survive?”
Kenya’s veteran opposition leader Raila Odinga has dismissed widespread rumours of a power-sharing deal between him and President Uhuru Kenyatta ahead of elections next year as he leaves the door open for a fifth presidential bid.
A mainstay of Kenyan politics, the former prime minister remains hugely popular despite losing four shots at the presidency in 1997, 2007, 2013 and 2017.
But his image as an anti-establishment firebrand has taken a knock since he stunned the country with a headline-grabbing handshake with former foe Kenyatta in March 2018, following deadly post-election clashes the year before.
The truce, known universally as “the handshake”, sparked feverish speculation the two men had made a pact that would see Odinga succeed Kenyatta, a two-term president who cannot run a third time.
In an interview with AFP however, the 76-year-old Odinga brushed off the rumours, saying he had nothing to gain from the rapprochement, which saw the pair vow to work together to defuse months of violence and political turmoil.
“It is propaganda peddled by busybodies,” Odinga said in his Nairobi office.
“The situation was highly polarised in the country, there were demonstrations, extensive use of force, people were dying and there was need for a resolution,” he said.
“As a result of the handshake, peace returned to the country.”
Critics argue that the truce has effectively left the East African country without an opposition and taken the shine off what many expect to be Odinga’s last stab at the presidency.
The two leaders’ push to amend the constitution and expand the executive has also left them open to the charge that their handshake was designed to ensure that Kenyatta could stay in power as a prime minister.
The government intends to file an appeal with the country’s top court after a panel of judges in Nairobi rejected the wide-ranging constitutional changes.
New Friends, New Foes
Odinga called the allegations unfounded.
“I have no foothold in the government. I have no dealings with the government. There is not a single member of my party who is holding a position in the executive,” he said.
But the usually vociferous politician, who has been seen at official government functions with Kenyatta, refused to be drawn on whether he would run for the presidency next August.
“I will talk about that subject at the appropriate time,” he said, in a nod to his nickname “Agwambo” (“the mysterious”).
His new rival, deputy president William Ruto, may leave him with little option but to reveal his cards.
Ruto was promised Kenyatta’s backing for the top job in 2022 in exchange for his support. “The handshake” has since consigned him to the sidelines, revealing new fissures as his bitter feud with the president plays out in public.
As the man who has gained the most from the pair’s fractured ties, Odinga now faces a threat to the anti-establishment brand he has spent years cultivating.
Ruto has positioned himself as a leader looking to upend the status quo and stand up for the “hustlers” trying to make ends meet in a country ruled by “dynasties”.
The Kenyatta and Odinga families have dominated Kenyan politics since independence in 1963.
But Odinga, who was jailed for eight years under the autocratic regime of Daniel arap Moi, insists he is “a self-made person”.
“I have not inherited anything from anybody. What I have I have worked for.”
Yet Ruto, who is 22 years younger than Odinga, is hoping that his rags-to-riches journey from street hawker to top-ranked politician will resonate with Kenya’s overwhelmingly youthful population.
Odinga, a grandfather of five, said he would “be very happy to hand over (the reins) to a younger person”.
But not just yet.
“I have a track record which Kenyans understand very well,” he said in a parting shot.
“They know that given an opportunity as the head of government, I can introduce a lot of changes.”
With the nimbleness of a younger man, John Ngaii Moses skillfully knotted a tiny fishing fly onto his line, and hopping over mossy rocks, cast off into the surging river flowing through Kenyan tea country.
“I can tie a fly at night, without a light,” the 60-year-old fisherman said with a grin, flicking his line with a graceful arc into the pristine waters.
Moses is something of a rarity in Kenya, where fishing for recreation is neither popular nor widely understood, and even viewed warily as a vestige of colonial times.
But the country occupies a special place in the world of fly fishing, and enthusiasts believe demystifying the sport could create jobs and encourage future generations to protect rivers.
Kenya boasts one of Africa’s oldest fishing clubs, and a fly tying industry that for decades has supplied fishermen from Norway to New Zealand with hand-crafted lures.
Visitors come from all over the world to fish in its highland rivers and alpine lakes, where the British introduced trout in the early 1900s.
Fish don’t draw tourists like the big cats on Kenya’s savannas — but what’s on offer for the intrepid fisherman is no less remarkable.
Just two hours drive from Nairobi, where the Mathioya River crashes beneath the Aberdare Range, prime fishing country meets wilderness inhabited by black rhinos and elephants.
“Imagine spending the morning… fishing and the afternoon out taking pictures of wild animals. Where else can you have this?” said Zac Gichane, owner of the Aberdare Cottages and Fishing Lodge, a resort overlooking the Mathioya.
He said fly fishing was a multi-billion dollar global industry ripe for expansion in Kenya.
“It is God’s country. Two hours from Nairobi and you find crystal-clear rivers, a peaceful village, greenery…. The opportunities here are limitless.”
– Big business – Gichane sources his fishing flies from Kenyan craftsmen whose delicate and elaborate creations have become a mainstay for anglers across the globe.
These artificial lures — some so small they perch on a fingertip — are designed to imitate the particular insects that trout, salmon and other species feast on.
Moses prefers the “royal coachman” — traditionally dressed with feathers and a tail — because it resembles a butterfly native to the Mathioya that brings trout to the surface.
Reliable data is scant, but some estimates suggest one in three flies used in Europe originated in Kenya, while millions more are shipped to the United States, Canada and other key fishing markets.
“It is a big business in Kenya. It employs a lot of people,” said John Nyapola, who runs Ojoo Fishing Flies Designers.
In his small workshop outside Nairobi, flamingo feathers, rabbit pelt and all manner of furs and fabrics litter an assembly table where custom orders from Canada, Australia and Japan are individually hand-tied.
“We have made them all,” says Jane Auma, a veteran fly tyer with 32 years of experience, pointing to a well-worn catalogue detailing 1,000 individual lure designs.
Their names — such as “Woolly Bugger”, “Copper John” and “Irresistible Adams” — are as baffling to most tyers as the sport itself.
“We do fish, but we don’t use flies. We use nets, and we try and catch everything,” Auma said, laughing.
– ‘Our legacy’ – Fly fishermen, by contrast, mostly return whatever they catch to the river, to prevent overfishing.
Gichane said the catch-and-release ethos was considered “madness” by Kenyans who fish for food.
Some also dismiss the sport as a strange import.
Decades ago, the Mathioya valley was a hotbed of anti-colonial resistance, and suffered British reprisals. Gichane said before independence in 1963 — and even a time after — many Kenyans wouldn’t dare pick up a rod.
“They think sport fishing is for mzungus (white people), not for Africans,” said Moses, who himself was born in a British internment camp, and is today a fishing guide.
The Kenya Fly Fishers’ Club, a private 102-year-old establishment on the Mathioya, has sought to broaden the sport’s appeal.
The club has welcomed more Kenyan members as interest has grown, and elected its first black chairman in 2018.
“Times are changing — same as fly fishing. Right now we have a lot of local, indigenous Kenyans who are fishing. I am one of them,” said Musa Ibrahim, a trustee and 20-year member of the club.
It has also reached out to local schools, to introduce children to fly fishing and its conservation aspects such as replenishing the Mathioya with trout.
Kenya at its prime was criss-crossed by 2,000 kilometres (1,200 miles) of unspoiled trout-fishing rivers, but rapid land conversion reduced that 10-fold, Ibrahim said.
“It’s up to us to make sure that we leave the legacy for the next generation,” he said.
Taraba State Governor, Darius Ishaku has issued a stern warning to residents of the Mambilla Plateau, urging them not to sell lands to “selfish politicians” who storm the area in order to benefit from compensations meant for the Mambilla hydroelectric power project site.
Governor Ishaku gave this caution on Thursday when he received members of the Kakara Tea farming community from the Mambilla Plateau.
Members of the group came to appreciate Ishaku for restoring peace and empowering them when they lost hope in a crisis that engulfed the area a few years ago.
While addressing the contingent, the governor added that under no guise will his administration allow any politician influence or tamper with the already existing peace that once eluded the people.
“For people to sit in Abuja and come here, and sneak in here and take data of people and say they enrolled them and have given them jobs, it’s wrong. It’s counter to the spirit of the MoU we signed with the Federal Ministry of Power.
“I am the landlord, I didn’t give myself, the constitution gave me that power. You want to build here, you come to me. I was a minister, I went to other governors, I met them, we negotiated, we built a dam.
“I finished in Kashimina, went to the one that they’re building in Niger State, all those are my handwork. [Even] the one they finished in Kaduna. There is nothing there but cooperation; the Federal Government has the mind and the power to do that, and then we’ll cooperate with the state government and we’ll get it done.
“Don’t sell any land, the state government will tell you the stages we will go when the time comes,” Ishaku urged the people.
Describing the Mambilla Plateau as an oil well to the state, the governor vowed to revoke any land purchased illegally, stressing that the much talked about power project has no road leading to its proposed site, and as such, priorities must be set right.
In 2017, the Mambilla Plateau was in the news for hostilities that broke out between the Mambilla speaking tribe and Hausa-Fulani communities.
Several lives were lost and properties destroyed. But that has long been put behind by the people following interventions by the state government.
In a bid to restore peace, the government constructed the Tunga Hydro Mini Power Station to provide stable power supply as well as the tear, cut and curl machines for the Mambilla beverages in the once moribund highland tea company.
Governor Ishaku further revealed that with the peace being enjoyed within the Mambilla Plateau area, his government’s next target will be to commence coffee production in collaboration with Kenya.