Category Archives: Kenya

In Kenya, islanders on heritage site count cost of $25 billion mega-project

Lamu Island on Kenya’s northeast coast was established some 700 years ago as part of a thriving Indian Ocean trade network that eventually stretched to Oman, India, Portugal, and China.

The mixing of those cultures produced the Swahili people and language, as well as an Islamic renaissance of architecture, poetry, and cuisine.

Lamu is regarded as the best preserved Swahili settlement in existence. The history, the remote white beaches, the carved wooden doorways, and the winding alleys, all make it a top Kenya tourist destination.

But change is coming – more drastic than any in Lamu’s history – that could irreversibly transform this ancient place. Read more…

Photo: Ben Curtis/AP

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Kenya’s President Kenyatta is summoned to world criminal court: Will he go?

Photo: Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta addresses the 69th United Nations General Assembly at the UN headquarters in New York September 24, 2014. Lucas Jackson/Reuters

A summons by the International Criminal Court to Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta is forcing a standoff between the symbol of international justice – and the prerogatives of a sitting president whose decision on compliance could damage his country’s foreign relations. Read more…

Lamu after dark

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It was near nine o’clock in Shela, the sleepy village on the northeast beach of Lamu Island, when we ran out of soda for our brandies. Continue reading Lamu after dark

Why to visit Lamu ASAP. It’s as cheap as it will ever be.

View image on Twitter

My buddy Ian Cox made this storify using some tweets of mine about why you should  visit Lamu. His words:

My friend Jason visited Lamu Island on the nothern Kenyan coast for work and tweeted these photos. I won’t bother to explain the charms of Lamu as it’s all over Google. Right now the tourism industry is suffering and a huge number of the residents have been laid off from work. Why is it so? Read more…

Kenya conundrum: Kick out Maasai herders to develop geothermal energy?

Maasai sheep graze in front of geothermal wells at Olkaria, Africa’s largest geothermal complex, near Naivasha, Kenya. Photo by Jason Patinkin.

Sitting by his dung hut at sunrise, Daudi Maisiodo, a Maasai herdsman, praises Mt. Suswa, a smoldering volcano on Kenya’s Great Rift Valley where he lives.

“It’s the best land,” Mr. Maisiodo says of the mountain slopes. “There’s firewood. There’s plains with enough space for pasture. You can grow maize….There’s red and white ochre … for rituals.”

The mountain is rich in another way as well. Hot springs and fumaroles, the cracks in the earth’s crust that belch steam, indicate that magma-heated rocks are only a mile below, close enough to be tapped for lucrative geothermal energy.

Suswa holds part of Kenya’s vast undeveloped reserves of geothermal energy, which the government wants to exploit in order to help propel the East African nation to industrialized, middle income status.

Already, Kenya is Africa’s largest producer of geothermal and the ninth-largest worldwide. But the 424 megawatts currently generated represent less than 1/20th of the energy locked beneath a string of volcanic fields in the Rift Valley. Suswa alone has an estimated 600 untapped megawatts.

Realizing Kenya’s geothermal potential would cut energy costs and power economic expansion. But it could come at a high price: displacing thousands of indigenous Maasai people who, after a century of losing land rights, are upset at being moved again.

“We don’t like it,” says Maisiodo of the budding geothermal exploration at Suswa. “We fear many people will come and take our land.” Read more…

Nairobi ‘Saba Saba’ rally reveals sharp ethnic, political divides

Supporters of the opposition Coalition for Reforms and Democracy or Cord attend a rally at Uhuru Park in Nairobi Monday July 7, 2014. Sayyid Azim/AP

A highly emotive rally of more than 10,000 people in Nairobi today capped a month of antigovernment protests led by longtime opposition figure Raila Odinga, who is calling for a “national dialogue” with President Uhuru Kenyatta as ethnic tensions reach a fever pitch.

The two political leaders were also on different sides in post-election violence in 2007 that led to a charge of crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court at The Hague. That violence killed more than 1,000 people.

Kenya’s opposition today said it would pursue a national referendum to deal with deepening insecurity and economic woes that the Kenyatta government has struggled to solve.  Read more…

East Africa’s elegant antelope on the verge of bowing out

 

Antelope conservationist Abdullahi Ali, left, and an assistant, track radio collared hirola using a radio receiver at sunset near Masalani, Ijara District in northeastern Kenya. Jason Patinkin

Africa’s most endangered large mammal species isn’t the majestic mountain gorilla or the stately black rhino.

It’s the hirola, pronounced “hee-ROH-la,” a tawny brown antelope with spiraled, curved horns and a long, skinny snout whose facial markings make it look like it wears eyeglasses.

With just over 400 individual creatures living in a small section of northeastern Kenya, the hirola is not only more threatened than Africa’s most famous species, it is also the world’s most endangered antelope species.

But outside the narrow strip of sandy, thorny wilderness along Kenya’s volatile border with Somalia, few know the hirola exist at all – or of the need to conserve them.  Read more…