At least five people, including two children, were killed Monday after a six-story building collapsed in a town on the outskirts of Kenya’s capital Nairobi, a senior official said.
The building, which was under construction in Kiambu, caved in on Monday morning, the town’s governor Kimani Wamatangi said on Twitter.
“We have lost five people in the collapsed… building,” he said, adding that search and rescue efforts were under way.
“Several people have already been pulled out of the rubble, and rushed to the hospital. Sadly, some are feared to have succumbed to their injuries,” he said.
Emergency workers and volunteers attempted to help people trapped under heavy concrete and brick debris, with a married couple as well as a mother and her two children among the five fatalities listed by the governor.
The cause of the collapse was not immediately clear.
In the past, shoddy construction and flouted regulations have led to deadly accidents in Kenya.
The East African nation is undergoing a construction boom, but corruption has allowed contractors to cut corners or bypass regulations.
The protesters burnt tyres and blocked a busy road linking the capital Nairobi with the busy port city of Mombasa.
Reports of wildlife straying into human habitats in Kenya have increased in recent years as the animals come under growing pressure with cities expanding into ancient migration and hunting grounds.
But the police force — under-equipped, badly paid and trained — also has a poor reputation in the East African country, often coming under scrutiny over the alleged use of excessive force and unlawful killings, especially in poor neighbourhoods.
Lenku described Thursday’s deaths as “unfortunate” and vowed a full investigation.
“These deaths could have been avoided with a little more understanding that the local communities are getting frustrated by the loss of human lives to wildlife,” he said in an earlier statement.
Kenya’s police watchdog, the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA), announced a probe into the deaths, saying it had dispatched a rapid response team to interview the survivors and seek ballistic examination reports.
“On completion of the investigations, where fault is found, the authority shall make recommendations, including but not limited to prosecution,” it said in a statement.
The IPOA was established by parliament in 2011 to provide civilian oversight of a powerful institution whose reputation also ranks among Kenya’s most corrupt.
But only a handful of officers have been convicted as a result of IPOA investigations, even though the body has examined more than 6,000 cases of police misconduct according to data covering the period from its inception to June 2020.
Activists largely defend IPOA’s track record, saying police frustrate the body’s inquiries by refusing to cooperate.
President Muhammadu Buhari has returned to Nigeria from Kenya where he attended the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) at 50.
Buhari, who participated in the Special Session to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the United Nation body, had initially planned to proceed to London for a medical check-up but returned to Abuja this afternoon.
Sources at the presidency said that the president returns briefly and would head to London on Sunday, March 6 for his routine medical checks.
In Kenya, the president also met with the Executive Secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), Mr Ibrahim Thiaw, in Nairobi where he among other things directed collaboration between the ministries of environment, water resources, agriculture, and rural development and power to combat desertification.
Victoria Atieno was waiting at a Nairobi bus stop when she felt blood gush from her body, the result of a secret, self-induced abortion — a method used by thousands of Kenyan women, with potentially fatal consequences.
Kenya’s constitution eased access to abortions in 2010 but entrenched stigma about the procedure means that many women resort to traditional practices or backstreet clinics which put their life in jeopardy.
Even a reproductive health counsellor like Atieno — her mind blanketed with fear — ended up gulping down a herbal concoction to induce an abortion in secret.
Hours later, as she experienced a public and hugely traumatic termination, she faced a flood of abuse from onlookers, living out the very nightmare she had tried to avoid.
“People will condemn you, criminalise you, try to chase you out of the community,” the 35-year-old mother-of-three told AFP.
Many women will do anything to avoid that fate, from drinking bleach to using knitting needles or clothes hangers to end their pregnancies.
The results are horrific, ranging from ruptured uteruses, cervical tears and vaginal cuts to severe infections, bleeding and death.
Every week, 23 women die from botched abortions, according to a study by Kenya’s health ministry in 2012 – the most recent available government data.
Campaigners say the real number is even higher.
A report released last year by the non-profit Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) estimates that seven women and girls die every day in Kenya due to unsafe abortions.
In the Dandora slum in the eastern suburbs of Nairobi, where Atieno works with the Coalition of Grassroots Women Initiative, sanitation workers sometimes find abandoned foetuses in the neighbourhood’s huge garbage dump.
Volunteers tasked with cleaning up the Nairobi River in 2019 retrieved 14 bodies from its trash-clogged waters, most of them babies.
Cultural and religious beliefs in the deeply Christian country have contributed towards creating a stigma so strong that even women who procure safe abortions believe they have committed a sin by doing so.
More than a year after Susan aborted a pregnancy resulting from a gang rape, the churchgoing mother-of-four still battles intense guilt.
“People see you as a murderer… it makes me feel like I did something very bad,” the 36-year-old told AFP.
– De facto ban – Kenya’s constitution says abortions are illegal unless “in the opinion of a trained health professional, there is need for emergency treatment, or the life or health of the mother is in danger, or if permitted by any other written law”.
No other conditions or terms are spelt out.
The vaguely-worded document puts decision-making power wholly in the hands of health providers.
So when the health ministry stopped training abortion providers in 2013, access to such services took a hit, and women bore the brunt.
The ministry’s move came a year after its own study warned that a “disproportionately high” number of women were dying in Kenya because of unsafe abortions.
“The ministry’s decision was not based on scientific evidence, it was made against that evidence, evidence which was gathered by the ministry itself,” Martin Onyango, CRR’s senior legal adviser for Africa, told AFP.
Ministry officials declined interview requests, with a reproductive health expert in the ministry telling AFP: “We are not permitted to talk about abortion at all. That’s the policy.”
The ministry was pulled up by the Nairobi high court in 2019 for violating women’s and girls’ right to physical and mental health by halting training for legal abortion providers.
Yet little has changed on the ground since then, leaving the field open for unscrupulous backstreet clinics to exploit women’s need for secrecy.
Ken Ojili Mele’s niece died at 26 after a botched abortion.
Long opposed to abortion, the 48-year-old carpenter told AFP he was filled with regret after her untimely death en route to a hospital.
“Maybe she didn’t want to tell me because she knew I would have been angry,” he said.
“I wish she had shared it with me, I could have maybe helped her find a safer hospital.”
– Silence and tears – Abortions are extremely difficult to access at state hospitals. Some private health providers perform the procedure, for which the fee starts at around 3,000-4,000 Kenyan shillings ($27 / 23.5 euros). Pills are used to curtail shorter-term pregnancies.
For women who turn to these sources, fear of disapproval and shame can run deep. The silence lingers even in doctors’ waiting rooms.
“In Kenya, it’s not easy to say you want an abortion,” said Samson Otiago, a doctor specialising in reproductive health.
Dozens of women visit his Nairobi clinic every month and most have to be coaxed into telling him about their intention to terminate a pregnancy.
Some start crying before they have even said a word, he told AFP.
Many can’t afford to pay his fees, which start at 4,000 shillings ($36), so occasionally he offers his services for free or on credit.
“Once a woman has decided to do an abortion, she will do it whichever way she can.
“So we would rather do it (for less money) than expose her to quacks and see her again with complications,” he said.
In Dandora, as rape survivor Seline awaited the results of a pregnancy test, she had little doubt about what to do next.
Barely surviving on a monthly wage of 5,000 shillings, the 38-year-old domestic worker told AFP she was determined to get an abortion if the test was positive.
“If the hospital refuses, I will do it the traditional way, with herbs,” she said, her voice barely rising above a whisper.
“I am ready to do anything, as long as I don’t have to have this baby.”
Imaobong Nse Uko, the reigning World U-18 fastest girl (51.70s) has impressed on the opening day of the World Athletics U-20 Championship in Nairobi, Kenya, running 52.33 seconds to qualify for Saturday’s 400m final.
Nse Uko, Nigeria’s only representative in the event will run from lane six in the final.
The 17-year old, the youngest member of Nigeria’s mixed relay team that made a new African record at the Tokyo Olympics, ran the fastest qualifying time in the semi-final heats and she’s set to become the third Nigerian girl, after Fatimah Yusuf (1990) and Bisi Afolabi (1994), to win the event’s gold at the championship.
Also through to the final is the 4x400m mixed relay team who also equally ran the fastest time and a national record time of 3:21.66 in qualifying for the final this evening at the Kasarani Stadium in Nairobi.
In the 100m, the trio of Godson Oghenebrume, Praise Ofokwu, and Tima Godbless have qualified for this evening’s semi-final. Oghenebrume ran 10.35 seconds to win his heat while his compatriot, Favour Ashe (11.00s) couldn’t make it after finishing in the seventh position.
In the women’s race, both Ofoku and Godbless made it to the semi-final. Ofoku ran 11.65 to win heat two of the first round while Godbless was second (11.59) in the third heat behind Namibia’s Beatrice Masilingi who ran a new 11.20 national record to win.
Police said Sunday that 13 people were killed and many others seriously burned when an overturned petrol tanker exploded in western Kenya as crowds thronged to collect the spilling fuel.
The fuel truck collided with another vehicle and toppled over late Saturday near Malanga, some 315 kilometres (195 miles) northwest of Nairobi, on the busy highway between Kisumu and the border with Uganda.
Onlookers rushed to the scene with jerrycans but the cargo exploded, engulfing those around in a terrible fireball.
“It burst into flames as they scooped fuel that was flowing,” said Charles Chacha, a local police chief in Siaya County where the accident occurred.
“We counted twelve bodies at the scene. Another person died in hospital from their injuries.”
Fire crews arrived on the scene two hours later to douse the inferno while those injured in the blast were taken to hospital.
“Many others have been taken to hospital with serious burns and they include young children,” Chacha said.
The cause of the explosion is not yet known.
Images broadcast by Kenyan media showed the blazing tanker lighting up the night sky and in the morning following, crowds gaping at the twisted, smouldering wreckage.
Deadly fuel truck accidents along perilous roads are not uncommon in Kenya and the wider East Africa region.
In 2009, more than 100 people were killed when a petrol tanker overturned northwest of Nairobi and an explosion consumed those gathering to collect leaking fuel.
More recently, at least 100 people were killed when a tanker exploded in Tanzania in 2019 while in 2015 more than 200 perished in a similar accident in South Sudan.
Kenya announced Tuesday that flights between Nairobi and Mogadishu had been suspended, just days after Somalia said diplomatic ties with its neighbour had been normalised following months of tension.
The Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) said commercial flights to and from Somalia would be paused for three months, without giving a reason.
“All flights between Kenya and Somalia are suspended expect medevac flights and United Nations flights on humanitarian missions only,” the regulator said..
KCAA director general Gilbert Kibe told AFP the suspension was “a decision by the government” but gave no further details.
The directive appeared catch some Somali aviation officials and travel agents by surprise.
“We had not been given a prior notice, and there’s been no explanation about the reason so far,” an airport tower operator in Mogadishu told AFP on condition of anonymity.
The suspension comes a day after Somalia said shipments of khat from Kenya remained on hold. Khat is a narcotic leaf popular in Somalia.
Somalia announced last week that bilateral ties with Kenya had been restored, citing “the interests of good neighbourliness” as motivating its decision.
Nairobi said it took note of the statement and was looking forward “to further normalisation of relations by the Somali authorities.”
Mogadishu cut off diplomatic relations in December after Nairobi hosted the political leadership of Somaliland, a breakaway state not recognised by Somalia’s central government.
Somalia has long bristled over 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.
The pair have also engaged in a long-running territorial dispute over a stretch of the Indian Ocean claimed by both nations believed to hold valuable deposits of oil and gas, and have sought international arbitration over the matter.
Eritrean soldiers fighting across the border in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region killed hundreds of people in a massacre last year in a likely crime against humanity, Amnesty International said Friday.
The rights watchdog spoke to survivors of the atrocities and used satellite images to piece together the bloody events of last November in the ancient town of Axum in a new report.
“The evidence is compelling and points to a chilling conclusion. Ethiopian and Eritrean troops carried out multiple war crimes in their offensive to take control of Axum,” said Deprose Muchena of Amnesty International.
“Above and beyond that, Eritrean troops went on a rampage and systematically killed hundreds of civilians in cold blood, which appears to constitute crimes against humanity.
“This atrocity ranks among the worst documented so far in this conflict.”
Tigray has been the theatre of fighting since early November 2020, when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced military operations against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), accusing them of attacking federal army camps.
He declared victory after pro-government troops took the regional capital Mekele in late November, though the TPLF vowed to fight on, and clashes have persisted in the region.
Tigray has been without internet and difficult to access since the start of the conflict, making claims and counter-claims of violence hard to confirm.
The presence of Eritrean troops in Ethiopia is widely documented but has been denied by Addis Ababa and Asmara.
Eritrea fought a brutal border war with Ethiopia in 1998-2000, back when the TPLF dominated Ethiopia’s governing coalition.
Abiy won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 in large part for initiating a rapprochement with Eritrea, whose President Isaias Afwerki and the TPLF remain bitter enemies.
Amnesty said it had spoken to 41 survivors and witnesses of the violence who said that on November 19, 2020, Ethiopian and Eritrean military forces took control of Axum “in a large-scale offensive, killing and displacing civilians with indiscriminate shelling and shooting.”
“In the nine days that followed, the Eritrean military engaged in widespread looting of civilian property and extrajudicial executions.”
Witnesses said the Eritrean forces were easily identifiable, via their vehicles, language and unique ritual facial scars, while they also openly declared themselves as such.
The worst violence unfolded after a small group of pro-TPLF militiamen attacked the soldiers’ base on 28 November and they retaliated, leaving the town strewn with bodies.
“The Eritrean soldiers came into the city and started killing randomly,” said a 22-year-old man who had wanted to bring food to the militia, who he described as young and barely knowing how to fight.
Residents told Amnesty that many victims in Axum carried no weapons and were running away from the soldiers when they were shot.
“I saw a lot of people dead on the street. Even my uncle’s family. Six of his family members were killed. So many people were killed,” said a 21-year-old male resident.
The next day the soldiers allegedly shot at those trying to move the bodies, while carrying out house-to-house raids.
One man told Amnesty he saw soldiers line up six men and shoot them from behind in the street outside his house.
The organisation said it had collected the names of more than 240 of the victims, but could not independently verify the overall death toll. However, corroborating testimonies and evidence made it plausible that hundreds had died.
“Residents estimate that several hundred people were buried in the aftermath of the massacre, and they attended funerals at several churches where scores were buried,” said the report.
Satellite imagery showed signs of mass burials near two of the town’s churches.
“As a matter of urgency, there must be a UN-led investigation into the grave violations in Axum. Those suspected of responsibility for war crimes or crimes against humanity must be prosecuted in fair trials and victims and their families must receive full reparation,” said Muchena.
“We repeat our call on the Ethiopian government to grant full and unimpeded access across Tigray for humanitarian, human rights, and media organisations.”