Abortion Stigma A Possible Death Sentence For Kenyan Women

A victim rape is pictured in her one-room house nest to her sleeping child in Nairobi’s Dandora slum on September 16, 2021.  (Photo by Tony KARUMBA / AFP)

 

 

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.

 

A victim of a gang-rape leaves the offices of the Coalition of Grassroot Women Intiative that provides psycho-social support among other services to victims of sexual violence in Nairobi’s Dandora slum on September 16, 2021. (Photo by Tony KARUMBA / AFP)

 

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.

 

Samson Otiago (R), a doctor specialising in reproductive health attends to a patient at his clinic in the densely populated Kayole slum that provides services to victims of sexual violence on September 16, 2021. (Photo by Tony KARUMBA / 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.”

 

A victim of sexual violence hangs her laundry outside her house in Nairobi’s Dandora slum on September 16, 2021.  (Photo by Tony KARUMBA / AFP) 

 

– 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.”

Eight Killed By Crane Collapse In Nairobi

 

Eight people, including two Chinese, were killed and two others injured Thursday after a crane collapsed at a construction site in Kenya’s capital Nairobi, police said. 

The crane came crashing down during work to build a 14-storey student hostel.

“We have lost eight people,” said Andrew Mbogo, police chief of Kilimani neighbourhood, where the accident occurred.

“They include two Chinese and six Kenyans,” he told reporters.

The cause of the accident was not immediately clear but eyewitnesses said they heard people screaming as the crane slammed into the ground.

“We were having lunch when we heard things falling and thought part of the building was coming down,” construction worker Michael Odhiambo told AFP.

“When we got there, we found a crane had snapped and tumbled down,” he added.

Shoddy construction and flouted regulations have led to many such deadly accidents in Nairobi.

Kenya is undergoing a construction boom, but corruption has allowed contractors to cut corners or bypass regulations.

At least three people died in December 2019 when a residential building collapsed in Nairobi.

That incident came three months after seven children died and scores were injured when their school was flattened in an accident blamed on third-rate construction.

In April 2016, 49 people were killed when a six-floor building crumbled in the northeast of the capital.

-AFP

PHOTOS: Celebration As Team Nigeria Returns After World Athletics U-20 Championships

 

After a successful outing at the World Athletics U-20 Championships in Nairobi, Kenya, Nigerian athletes have returned home to a rousing welcome.

The team touched down at the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja around 10:00 am on Tuesday.

They were received by Minister of Sports and Development, Mr. Sunday Dare, Minister of Women Affairs, Pauline Tallen, and President of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), Tonobok Okowa.

Nigeria won four gold and three bronze medals to finish third on the medal table.

 

Team Nigeria celebrating after their return from the U-20 Championships in Nairobi, Kenya. Photos: Sodiq Adelakun/ChannelsTV (July 24, 2021)

Over 110 countries participated in the biennial junior track and field competition.

 


Nse Uko Runs Into 400m Final In Nairobi

Nse was part of the 4x400m mixed relay team at the Tokyo Olympics games

 

 

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.

Fuel Truck Blast Kills 13 In Kenya

 

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.

AFP

Kenya Suspends Flights To Somalia For Three Months

Kenya announced that flights between Nairobi and Mogadishu had been suspended.

 

 

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 Troops Killed ‘Hundreds’ In Ethiopia Massacre, Says Amnesty

Eritrean Army reinforcements head 17 May 2000 toward Akurdet, 60 kms from the western city of Barentu, some 180 kms from the capital Asmara, which is under heavy attack from Ethiopian forces that are now deep inside Eritrea. Eritrea has been embroiled in a bitter 24 month border war with neighbouring Ethiopia. The latest fighting started 12 May 2000. Ethiopia said late 17 May 2000 that its forces had captured Das in Eritrea during heavy fighting.
Eritrean Army reinforcements head 17 May 2000 toward Akurdet, 60 kms from the western city of Barentu, some 180 kms from the capital Asmara. AFP

 

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.

‘Killing randomly’

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.

Hundreds buried

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.”

AFP

Somalia Cuts Diplomatic Ties With Kenya

This file photo taken on May 18, 2016, shows a woman waving a flag as soldiers and other military personnel of Somalia’s breakaway territory of Somaliland march past during an Independence day celebration parade in the capital, Hargeisa. PHOTO: MOHAMED ABDIWAHAB / AFP

 

Somalia announced on Tuesday it is severing diplomatic ties with Kenya, accusing Nairobi of “recurring” interference in its political affairs as Mogadishu prepares for long-awaited elections.

Tensions had been rising between the neighbours and the announcement came as Kenya hosted the leadership of Somaliland, a breakaway state not recognised by the central government in Mogadishu which considers the territory part of Somalia.

Information Minister Osman Abukar Dubbe told reporters that Kenyan diplomats in Mogadishu had been given seven days to leave and that Somalia’s envoys were being recalled from Nairobi.

READ ALSO: Record Number Of Journalists Jailed In 2020, Says Watchdog

“The Somali government considers the people of Kenya a peace-loving community who want to live in harmony with other societies in the region. But the current leadership of Kenya is working to drive the two sides apart,” he said in Mogadishu.

“The government took this decision to respond to recurring outright political violations and interference by Kenya against the sovereignty of our country.”

AFP

Two Accomplices In Kenya’s Westgate Attack Jailed For 33 And 18 Years

Westgate Mall in Nairobi after the deadly assault by Islamist gunmen on September 21, 2013.
View dated on September 30, 2013 shows inside the Westgate Mall in Nairobi after the deadly assault by Islamist gunmen on September 21, 2013. 
James Quest / AFP

 

A Kenyan court Friday handed prison terms of 33 and 18 years respectively to two men accused of conspiring with the Al-Shabaab extremists who attacked Nairobi’s Westgate shopping mall in 2013, killing 67 people.

Mohamed Ahmed Abdi and Hassan Hussein Mustafa, both 31, were found guilty on October 7 of conspiring with and supporting the four assailants from the Somalia-based jihadist group who died in what was then Kenya’s worst terrorist attack in 15 years.

The pair, wearing Islamic prayer caps and face masks, asked the judge for leniency, saying they had already served seven years behind bars and had family to care for.

“Despite mitigation by their defence lawyers on their innocence, the offence committed was serious, devastating, destructive, that called for a punishment by the court,” Chief Magistrate Francis Andayi told a Nairobi courtroom.

He sentenced the pair men to 18 years for conspiracy and 18 for supporting extremists, but ordered they serve both terms together. Abdi was also given an additional 15 years for two counts of possessing jihadist propaganda material on his laptop.

He will serve 26 years and Mustafa 11, taking into account their pre-trial detention.

The convicted men were in regular contact with the attackers who at midday on September 21, 2013, stormed the upscale Westgate mall in the Kenyan capital and began throwing grenades and firing indiscriminately on shoppers and business owners.

A four-day siege ensued — much of it broadcast live on television — during which Kenyan security forces tried to flush out the gunmen and take back the high-end retail complex.

Although there was no specific evidence Abdi and Mustafa had provided material help, the court was satisfied their communication with the attackers amount to supporting the armed rampage, and justified the guilty verdict for conspiracy.

The marathon trial began in January 2014. A third accused was acquitted of all charges.

 

Mohamed Ahmed Abdi, right, and his co-accused Hassan Hussein Mustafa stood accused of being accessories in the Westgate Mall attack of September 2013, Nairobi, October 30, 2020. (AFP)

 

Revenge

The Westgate attack was claimed by Al-Shabaab in retaliation for Kenya intervening military over the border in Somalia, where the Islamist group was waging a bloody insurgency against the fragile central government.

Kenya is a major contributor of troops to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), which in 2011 drove Al-Shabaab out of Mogadishu and other urban strongholds after a months-long offensive.

In a car the attackers drove to Westgate, police found evidence of newly-activated SIM cards used by the gunmen. Their communications were traced, including calls to Mohamed Ahmed Abdi and Hassan Hussein Mustafa.

A fourth defendant, Adan Mohammed Abdikadir, was acquitted in early 2019 for lack of evidence.

The Westgate attack was the deadliest incident of violent extremism on Kenyan soil since the 1998 bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi, which killed 213 people.

But since the assault on the shopping complex, Al-Shabaab has perpetrated further atrocities in Kenya against civilian targets.

In April 2015, gunmen entered Garissa University and killed 148 people, almost all of them students. Many were shot point blank after being identified as Christians.

In January 2019, the militants struck Nairobi again, hitting the Dusit Hotel and surrounding offices and killing 21 people.

Al-Shabaab warned in a January statement that Kenya “will never be safe” as long as its troops were stationed in Somalia, and threatened further attacks on tourists and US interests.

That same month, Al-Shabaab attacked a US military base in northeast Kenya in a cross-border raid, killing three Americans and destroying a number of aircraft.

Former Burundi President To Be Buried In State Funeral

Evariste Ndayishimiye (3rd R), Burundi's elected President from the ruling party, the National Council for the Defense of Democracy - Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD), walks in front of members of Burundi's army during the swearing-in ceremony at Ingoma stadium in Gitega, Burundi, on June 18, 2020. - Ndayishimiye rapidly sworn in following the sudden death of President Pierre Nkurunziza, aged 55, came after the May election. (Photo by TCHANDROU NITANGA / AFP)
Evariste Ndayishimiye (3rd R), Burundi’s elected President from the ruling party, the National Council for the Defense of Democracy – Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD), walks in front of members of Burundi’s army during the swearing-in ceremony at Ingoma stadium in Gitega, Burundi, on June 18, 2020. – Ndayishimiye rapidly sworn in following the sudden death of President Pierre Nkurunziza, aged 55, came after the May election. (Photo by TCHANDROU NITANGA / AFP)

 

 

Thousands of Burundians on Friday lined the road to the capital Gitega as the body of former president Pierre Nkurunziza was escorted under heavy security for a state funeral after his sudden death earlier this month.

Nkurunziza, who ruled the country for 15 years, died at the age of 55 of what the government said was “heart failure”.

But speculation is rife he may have caught the coronavirus, as his wife had been flown to Nairobi for treatment for the virus just two weeks prior.

The funeral ceremonies began with an “homage by his wife, Denise Bucumi Nkurunziza, his children and those close to him” in an intimate gathering at the hospital in the central city of Karuzi where he died on June 8, a governmental source told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Nkurunziza died shortly after an election won by his handpicked successor Evariste Ndayishimiye, who was sworn in last week.

Friday was declared a national holiday for the funeral, and schoolchildren in uniform and citizens lined the roads waiting for the funeral convoy to pass.

The stadium in Gitega where the funeral ceremony is to be held was packed with citizens from across the country, all dressed in white at the request of authorities.

Nkurunziza will be buried at a monument recently built in Gitega at the site of another structure which was to be dedicated to victims of the country’s various crises over the years, but was never inaugurated.

Nkurunziza, a devout evangelical who believed he was chosen by God to lead Burundi, left behind a deeply isolated country in political and economic turmoil.

His 2015 run for a third term in office sparked protests and a failed coup, with violence leaving at least 1,200 dead while some 400,000 fled the country.

A climate of fear marked by a crackdown on the opposition and media settled over Burundi, while a personality cult grew around Nkurunziza which saw the ruling party name him a “visionary” and “supreme guide for patriotism.”

UN human rights investigators have said the period since 2015 has been marked by likely crimes against humanity committed by state forces, citing extrajudicial executions, arbitrary arrests, disappearances, torture and sexual violence.

 

-AFP

How COVID-19 Pandemic Is Changing Daily Life In Kenya

A man cycles in an empty street in Eastleigh, Nairobi, on May 7, 2020, following the Kenyan government’s announcement of partial lockdown in two COVID-19 coronavirus hotspots, Eastleigh in Nairobi and Mombasa City for at least 15-days, where there shall be no movement into and out of the places. SIMON MAINA / AFP.

 

Since Kenya confirmed its first coronavirus case on March 13, authorities have adopted various measures to curb the spread of the virus while stopping short of imposing a full lockdown.

AFP spent a day this week exploring how the measures are impacting the capital Nairobi and its 4.3 million inhabitants, as the health crisis exacerbates social inequalities and batters the economy of the regional powerhouse.

– 6:45 am, Ndenderu police checkpoint –

The sun has just risen and morning mist envelops a valley on the outskirts of Nairobi. On this road heading north towards the Rift Valley region armed police monitor vehicles and pedestrians.

“The only people who can go through are the ones with the authorisation: the lorries carrying food, doctors, etc,” explains police inspector Julius Kariuki Mugo.

Edward, a 25-year-old driver, shows a stamped pass from his boss that enables him to continue on his route to deliver flour to a town 75 kilometres (45 miles) northwest.

Since April 6 Kenya has blocked movement in and out of Nairobi, three coastal towns, and the northeastern county of Mandera. Two refugee camps have also been cordoned off, as well as one suburb in Nairobi and one in Mombasa.

After initially creeping up slowly, virus cases this week began to jump, with authorities fearing rampant community transmission in slums and poor areas of the capital and second city Mombasa.

There have been 582 cases and 26 deaths, and Health Minister Mutahi Kagwe has urged citizens not to make a “mockery” of two months of efforts as social distancing fatigue sets in.

– 8:30 am, central Nairobi –

Normally congested during rush hour, central Nairobi is quiet.

In a store that sells bicycle spare parts, brothers N. Shah and S. Shah, both in their fifties, are feeling the impact of the pandemic on the economy.

“We’re doing 10 percent of our usual business,” says N. Shah.

“People don’t have money. If you don’t have money to pay your rent, you don’t have money for shopping,” says S. Shah.

READ ALSO: Thousands Of Migrants Stranded Worldwide By COVID-19 Pandemic – UN

Their neighbour, A.J. Shah, does not know how he will pay his rent and the salaries of his four employees with business at “around 15 percent” of its normal level.

His shop sells food and cleaning products to hotels and restaurants. Even if hotels reopen, it is unclear who would actually stay in them.

“The crisis is hitting everywhere,” he says. “Who is going to come to visit the wildlife?”

– 11:00 am, physiotherapy practice –

Since mid-March, Kenyan authorities have closed schools and encouraged working from home, which many have taken up.

But it does not make sense for everyone.

“For us, working from home is not an option,” says Victoria Choi, who runs a physiotherapy practice in the Westlands neighbourhood with her husband Bernard.

Only one client is allowed in the office at a time, and all must use hand sanitiser and wear masks.

Like many parents, Bernard and Victoria have rearranged their schedules to take care of their two youngest children — girls aged 15 and nine.

Their social lives have also taken a hit.

“I miss going out with the boys,” Bernard says, adding that “having a beer alone in the house in front of the television” is not exactly a substitute.

– 1:00 pm, Java cafe –

An institution in Nairobi, the Java chain of restaurants has continued operating, albeit at a much reduced pace.

“We’ve been affected a lot since we’re only doing takeaways” and home deliveries, explains Pamella Gavala, deputy manager of this franchise.

READ ALSO: COVID-19 Death Toll Tops 150,000 In Europe

Java, with 2,500 employees in total and 50 restaurants in Nairobi alone, plans to reopen gradually after the government last week approved a supervised resumption of restaurant activity.

To comply with the new rules, employees must be tested for COVID-19 and customers must undergo temperature screening.

Once inside, no more than two people can sit at tables which have been spaced out to allow for physical distancing.

– 3:00 pm, Foodplus supermarket –

Grocery stores, one of the few sectors still booming during the pandemic, have also had to make changes.

Masks are required, thermal screening takes place at the entrance and shopping carts are regularly wiped down with disinfectant.

At the registers, markers on the ground indicate where customers must stand to keep an appropriate distance.

“They’re more than cooperative,” Daniel Mutuku, the manager of the Foodplus store in the Kilimani neighbourhood said of customers.

– 5:00 pm, La Tasca tapas restaurant –

Normally open from noon “until the last customer leaves”, Maurizio Fregoni’s restaurant in upscale Lavington is almost completely dead.

The 7:00 pm to 5:00 am curfew imposed since March 25 has brought Nairobi’s nightlife to a standstill.

The restaurant is currently relying on a limited takeaway business and hoping for better days for its 14 employees, most of whom are taking unpaid leave.

Fregoni, an eternal optimist, says the quiet period has given him “time to rethink the menu”.

– 7:00 pm, Kibera slum –

This settlement in the heart of Nairobi, home to hundreds of thousands of Kenyans and often billed as the largest slum in Africa, continues to buzz with activity.

Cans of soap and water have been set up in front of stalls and masks are common, though some wear them around their chins.

A handful of cases of the virus have cropped up here and in other slums in the capital, sparking fears of a massive outbreak in the crowded settlements where social distancing is near impossible.

It is residents of such areas who have been hardest hit by the economic slump the virus has caused.

George Juma, a 39-year-old electrician, has not had work in a month.

“Everybody is afraid of the disease so they don’t want to bring you in their home,” he says.

Juma managed to convince his landlord to let him pay rent “when it’s over”. In the meantime, his family of four is scraping by thanks to a food donation from a NGO and the benevolence of vendors who sell to him on credit.

As curfew approaches, a police helicopter shines its spotlight on Kibera.

Joel, 45, rushes to pack up the stall where he sells fried fish — which used to stay open until 9:30 pm.

With the curfew in place, his earnings have been cut “around 25 percent”.

– 9:00 pm, downtown Nairobi –

The city centre is deserted. At the headquarters of the Nation Media Group, a sign broadcasts prevention messages: “Stay home”, “Wash hands”.

Lilian, one of the few people around to actually see the sign, sweeps the streets of the capital.

She will finish at midnight, then sleep for a few hours in a shelter before curfew lifts at 5:00 am so she can take a share-taxi home.

AFP

Five Arrested For Suspected Terrorism In Kenya

 

Kenyan authorities have arrested five people suspected of preparing a terror attack in Nairobi, according to a police report seen by AFP on Sunday.

The group comprises three men — a US citizen, a Somali and their Kenyan driver — and two Somali women who were believed to be on a reconnaissance mission for an attack in the north of the capital, the report dated Saturday said.

Police received information on Friday saying that “suspected terrorists” were carrying out a surveillance operation at a pub on Kiambu Road, a spot popular for its many bars and nightclubs.

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Kenyan security forces have been on high alert since the Somali Al-Shabaab group, close to Al-Qaeda, stepped up attacks in the east of the country this month, threatening to target more Kenyan and US interests.

On January 5, the Somali Al-Shabaab group attacked Camp Simba, killing three Americans and destroying several aircraft and warning Kenya to withdraw its forces from Somalia while they still “have the chance”.

Kenya sent troops into Somalia in 2011 as part of an African Union peacekeeping mission fighting against Al-Shabaab, and has seen several brutal retaliation attacks both on its troops in Somalia and civilians in Kenya.

AFP