A dream doesn't become reality through magic. It takes sweat, determination and hard work.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Kenyan athlete almost dies as he is being urged to complete marathon in Italy


NAIROBI, Kenya, A shocking video showing Kenyan athlete, Eliud Magut, being urged on to finish the 2014 St Anthony’s Marathon in the Italian region of Padua despite collapsing thrice has surfaced.

Concerns have been raised why organisers and race marshals who are alongside him let him continue before falling thrice in the barriers as he was urged on to the finish before finally being put in an ambulance.

Magut, the winner of Cannes Marathon in France in 2012 where he ran 2:10:31 in November, months after finishing second in 2:16:30 at the Kigali Peace Marathon in Rwanda is 28 was running in his third attempt over the ultimate distance.

He was gunning to finish third behind winner Fatna Maraoui and compatriot Pharis Kimani who was second.

Reports from Italy on the video posted on the Internet question why action to aid the clearly suffering Magut was taken too late.

“We understand regulations athletes should not be touched and everything… but it is not possible that this man could not be rescued when he gave evident signs of not being in himself?

“And if he died as a result of a collapse? What would have happened? The ambulance was not far away…Is it possible that a doctor could not take responsibility for a decision that could even be life-saving?” Italian website atleticalive.it wrote.

Contacted, Athletics Kenya (AK) officials said they were not aware of the incident but would look into it and establish the welfare of Magut.

On November 30, 2008 another Kenyan athlete, Barnabas Kipkoech, died in Goiania, after collapsing competing at a half-marathon in the central-western city of the South American nation.

The deceased who is survived by a widow and two sons was brought home for burial following the intervention of AK and the Government.

Reaction on the Magut video posted below on social media was swift.

“Seriously, should organisers of the Padova Marathon have allowed this to happen? Isn’t this an insult to Kenyan athletes?

“Magut would have died as the medics watched, urging him on like a prize horse! Athletics Kenya really must act on this sort of modern slavery, in my opinion. Absolutely disgusting! The health of the athlete must come first,” veteran Nation Media Group and 2012 IAAF Journalist of the Year, Elias Makori, posted on his Facebook wall alongside the link of the said video.

His colleagues took the cue to lay on organisers and slate race officials, AK and the Government for compromising the welfare of the runners in allowing unscrupulous managers to exploit their talent with little regard to life.


System failure at Nairobi Immigration HQ causes loss of data for 1 Million passports applicants

The Standard


A major crisis has hit the Immigration Department headquarters in Nairobi after a system failed and data for more than one million new passports applicants was lost.

The system crashed last Wednesday and it took experts from Malaysia to jump-start it over the weekend. However, they could not retrieve the data.

On Monday, when staff at the department reported to work, they said they could not process passport requests for new applicants because the data, especially for biometrics, had crashed.

Those coming to collect the passports were asked to take new photos and have their biometric data taken afresh. They were asked to wait for the documents for another week.

This created a huge jam at Nyayo House as the applicants who hoped to collect theirdocuments were informed that they were not ready.

“We have been asked to take new photos because the system crashed or failed. We do not know how long it will take again,” said an applicant who identified himself as Joseph Nguni who had gone to collect his passport.

International experts

Director of Immigration Department Jane Waikenda confirmed that the system was down last week but it had since been rectified.

“We had a system hitch, which created the crisis, but experts have worked on it and rectified whatever was wrong. Things will be okay,” she said.

She added that the problem was caused by a power surge that was experienced at Nyayo House, which is the mainprocessing centre for passports.

Ms Waikenda said the experts were atadvanced stages of normalising the situation. Her statement, however, contradicted that of staff who said they had been overwhelmed by the situation, as there was impatience on the part of some applicants.

“They have to start the process again. It is a crisis that will take days to rectify,” said an insider.

Immigration Department increased the cost of acquiring a passport in 2012. A new ordinary 32-page passport was increased to Sh4,500, up from Sh3,040.

A notice issued at the Immigration Department also indicated that diplomatic 48-page passports cost Sh7,500, up from Sh6,000; ordinary 48-page passports Sh6,000, 64-page passports Sh7,500 and the East African one Sh940.

A 32-page service passport costs Sh6,000.

Hundreds of kidnapped Nigerian school girls reportedly sold as brides to militants for $12, relatives say

Washington Post


Samson Dawah was nervous. For two weeks, he had waited for any bit of information regarding his niece, who was among the 234 Nigerian school girls likely kidnapped by the terrorist group Boko Haram. This week, he gathered his extended family. He had news but also an unusual request. He asked that the elderly not attend. He wasn’t sure they could bear what he had to say.

“We have heard from members of the forest community where they took the girls,” he told them . ”They said there had been mass marriages and the girls are being shared out as wives among the Boko Haram militants.”

The girl’s father fainted, the Guardian reported,and has since been hospitalized. But the news got worse. Village elder Pogo Bitrus told Agence France Presse locals had consulted with “various sources” in the nation’s forested northeast. “From the information we received yesterday from Cameroonian border towns our abducted girls were taken… into Chad and Cameroon,” he said, adding that each girl was sold as a bride to Islamist militants for 2,000 naira — $12.

The Washington Post could not independently verify such claims, and the Nigerian defense ministry didn’t immediately return requests for comment Wednesday morning. But if true, the news would add another terrifying wrinkle to an already horrifying set of events that has galvanized the nation, spurred foreign leaders to take notice, and exposed the powerlessness of President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration in the face of a radicalized and murderous militant group named Boko Haram.

AP18636023227 Hundreds of kidnapped Nigerian school girls reportedly sold as brides to militants for $12, relatives say

In this April, 21 2014 photo, security walks past the burned government secondary school Chibok, where gunmen abducted more than 200 students in Chibok, Nigeria. (AP Photo/ Haruna Umar)

The group, for which Western education is anathema, has killed at least 2,300 people since 2010, according to estimates in journalistic andAmnesty International reports. In the first four months of this year alone, Amnesty International says 1,500 people have died in sectarian violence between Muslims and Christians.

But the girls’ capture and alleged sell-off constitutes one of its most disturbing actions yet. On April 14, scores of armed militants stormed a dormitory in Chibok at night, captured hundreds of girls, and disappeared back into the night. Since, the bungled search for them has lurched from one mistake to the next.

First, the Nigerian military reported that 129 school girls had been taken from the northeastern state of Borno. Then it claimed that all of the girls but eight had been released. This soon proved false. Few, if any, had been released. In fact, parents said an additional 100 girls beyond original estimates had also been taken. In all, 234 school girls are today suspected captured.

Parents have grown increasingly frustrated by what they perceive as a feckless governmental response. Some relatives have launched their own search, riding motorcycles deep into the surrounding forests in search of their girls. “My wife keeps asking me, why isn’t the government deploying every means to find our children,”relative Dawah said .

“All we want from the government is to help us bring our children back,” one father named Pogu Yaga, wept .

The missing girls have ignited a social media campaign underneath the hashtag #BringBackOurDaughters, and the issue has stirred concern in the highest echelons of British society. “We cannot stop terrorism overnight,”said former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who plans to visit Nigeria. “But we can make sure that its perpetrators are aware that murdering and abducting school children is a heinous crime that the international authorities are determined to punish.”

Nothing, however, has brought back the girls, now missing for 16 days.

AP641639136500 300x199 Hundreds of kidnapped Nigerian school girls reportedly sold as brides to militants for $12, relatives say

An unidentified mother cries out during a demonstration on Tuesday April 29, 2014, in Abuja, Nigeria. (AP Photo/ Gbemiga Olamikan)

The news of the mass marriage come from a group of fathers, uncles, cousins, and nephews who gather every morning to pool their resources, buy fuel, and journey unarmed to forests and border towns in search of the missing girls. They learned this week, they said, that mass wedding ceremonies had occurred on Saturday and Sunday. The insurgents reportedly shot their guns into the air after taking their new brides, and split them into three groups. They were then reportedly moved out by truckload.

“It’s a medieval kind of slavery,” village leader Bitrus told the BBC.

“The free movement of the kidnappers in huge convoys with their captives for two weeks without being traced by the military, which claims to be working diligently to free the girls, is unbelievable,” he said.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Kenya signs polygamy bill into law

Source: Times Live April 29, 2014 — 

A law permitting men in Kenya to marry as many women as they want was signed into law on Tuesday by President Uhuru Kenyatta, despite criticism from women's groups

A statement from President Kenyatta's office confirmed that the bill, which it said "consolidates various laws relating to marriage", had been signed into law. Photo: Reuters

A statement from President Kenyatta's office confirmed that the bill, which it said "consolidates various laws relating to marriage", had been signed into law. Photo: Reuters

The bill, which amended existing legislation, was passed by parliament last month to formalise traditional practice regarding polygamy.

“Marriage is the voluntary union of a man and a woman, whether in a monogamous or polygamous union,” the presidential statement stated, confirming the signing of the bill into law..

The initial bill had given a wife the right to first approve of the husband’s choice, but male members of parliament overcame party divisions to push through a text that dropped this clause.

When the bill was passed last month, female members of parliament stormed out of the session in fury after a heated debate.

The bill has been decried by many civil groups including National Council of Churches in Kenya (NCCK) and Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA Kenya).

Monday, 28 April 2014

Gun drama as family fight over of a Sh700 million Nairobi Hotel


A pistol was drawn in a new battle for control of a Sh700 million city hotel.

The fight for the 37-year-old Fig Tree Hotel at Ngara is pitting children of the original hotel owners against each other.

Mr Patrick Githinji, a businessman who operates from the World Business Centre on Tom Mboya Street allegedly drew his gun against his cousins Mr Mwangi Gachau and Mr George Kariuki.

The drama was seen by a local chief, a Mr Wanjau, and several police officers.

Mr Wanjau later said he was shocked at the action. “I can be a witness. The threats are very serious,” he said.

Battle for ownership The battle for ownership erupted on Friday when Mr Githinji’s supporters raided the hotel accompanied by more than 10 police officers and evicted everybody in sight, including customers who had lodged there.

The hotel is on an acre on Murang’a Road and has 35 well furnished rooms, a bar, a restaurant and several conference rooms.

Investigations revealed the hotel, acquired in 1977, had 21 shareholders with only three of them being from outside the family.

Records at the Attorney General’s office show the original owners of the hotel as Patrick Mwangi, Frederick Njora, Nelson Gachau, Mwangi Kariuki and Mwangi Kimang’a.

The current fight has ensued among their children who are split into two camps.

One is led by Ms Lucy Waithera, a daughter of Patrick Mwangi, while the other revolves around Mr Stephen Maina Kimang’a, a son of Mr Benson Kimang’a.

Ms Waithera’s camp comprises 13 of the 21 shareholders while Mr Kimang’a’s camp, which has been managing the hotel on a day-to-day basis comprises his brothers Fred John Njora, Moses Irungu, their mother Prisca Wanjiku, plus Mr Githinji, Mr Mwangi Gachau and two others.

The current flare-up which brought business to a standstill arises from the creation of an extra 2,175 shares last year by the Kimang’a group, a move that the Waithera axis opposed.

Originally, the hotel had 2,000 shares valued at Sh2 million.

Before the creation of the new shares, the Kimang’a group had 625 shares. The new move raises their ownership to 2,800 shares which gives them 67 per cent ownership against the rest’s 33 per cent.

Yesterday, Ms Waithera said the fight for the hotel will continue.

“There is a dispute. Some people have used fraud to increase their stake in the property.

“We challenge them to table proof that the other shareholders were involved in passing a resolution to increase the shares.” One of the shareholders, Mr George Kariuki, said the conflict has arisen because of a potential sale of the property.

“Why does the ownership arithmetic just change now this year? This is fraud,” he said.

Today, the family is launching an investigation at the office of the Registrar of Companies to see how the disputed shares were allegedly increased.

Yesterday, Ms Waithera said the Compensation claim In October 2011, Lady Justice Murugi Mugo ordered Attorney General Githu Muigai to appear in court and explain why the Commissioner of Lands had ignored court orders relating to Sh48 million awarded to the shareholders of the Fig Tree Hotel after a piece of their land was compulsorily acquired by the government for the construction of the Thika Superhighway.

The judge ordered the AG to explain how the money had been released to a section of the shareholders without the consent of all the parties.

Six shareholders of the hotel had filed contempt of court proceedings against the AG and four other members of the company over the release of the money.

After acquiring the land, the company was duly paid Sh48 million and parties agreed that the money be deposited in a joint account of their lawyers. One group, comprising six shareholders was represented by Omangi Musangi & Co. Advocates while four others were represented by E.K. Njagi & Co.

But the money was released to one set of shareholders led by Lucy Waithera Mwangi despite a court order.

In January 2010, the other group led by Stephen Kimanga filed contempt proceedings against the AG and their rivals led by Mwangi.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Boat found with Sh27b heroin haul linked to Kenyan owners

Sunday, April 27th 2014 

Boat found with Sh27b heroin haul linked to Kenyan owners
 An Australian Naval officer empties heroin seized from a ship off the coast of Mombasa into the sea. 

Mombasa, Kenya: The vessel found with a large heroin haul off the Kenya Coast is one of two notorious vessels used for illegal trade along the East African Coast and is partly owned by Kenyans, The Standard on Sunday has learnt.

The two boats, according to our sources, are said to be predominantly used along the East Africa coast and have been tracked from Somalia.

It has also emerged that the Kenya Government was kept in the dark over the operation to seize the drug to limit any prospects of information leaking out.

The drugs consignment, with a street value of Sh25 billion, was seized by the Royal Australian Frigate — HMAS Darwin — and destroyed at sea.

Multiple source in the maritime sector privy to the operation say the boat carrying the heroin was being monitored by the international naval forces operating in the Indian Ocean for almost a year.

“The Australian embassy knew of the operation. In fact I’m aware that their liaison officer in Mombasa was privy of the arrest but there were fears that if local security agencies were involved the information could easily leak out to the owner of the consignment,” said the source who did not want to be named.

The source said the heroin might have been loaded in Kenya given that the vessel was also carrying cement for export. “Most drug barons use sugar to hide drugs if the port of loading is Kisimayo or rice if it’s Pakistan. In Mombasa they use cement.”

Second vessel

The Australian Department of Defence said the vessel was seized by the Australian Navy 27 nautical miles off Mombasa but our sources say that the exact point of arrest was less than 30 nautical miles off Malindi or Lamu. However, his claims could not be independently confirmed.

“The vessel was between Somali and Kenyan waters and the plan was load the consignment into the second vessel that was stationed at the same point,” said the source.

Reports indicate that although Kenyan authorities are adamant that the heroin was seized out of the country’s territorial waters, maritime sources indicate in unconfirmed reports that the seizure was actually inside the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone, which is 200 nautical miles long.

Kenyan police patrol up to 12 nautical mile into the Indian Ocean but Kenya Navy is required to operate the remaining part of the 200 nautical miles. The navy is, however, largely handicapped as it cannot make arrest if there is no police officer on board.

Saturday, The Standard on Sunday also learnt that the Australian Naval force reported the seizure to the UK Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) office in Dubai, which acts as the primary point of contact for merchant vessels and liaison with military forces in the region.

All warships operating under what is called Combined Task Force 150 (CTF-150), CTF155 and CTF156 in the Indian Ocean reportedly report to the UKMTO and Atlanta.

On Friday, the Australian Embassy in Nairobi said they could not provide any information about the seizure until next week.

“We don’t have that information, and as it is a public holiday in Australia today we will not have any further information until next week,” Simon Anderson from the Australian Embassy said when asked if the seizure had a Kenyan link.

How Angolans get by in expensive Luanda

Angola's capital Luanda is the world’s most expensive city for expatriates, according to research bureau Mercer. Yet somewhere between 75% and 85% of its residents live in slums. How do Angolans get by with such skyrocketing prices?

Luanda Bay, Angola (Photo credit: Miguel Costa Photography)

Luanda Bay, Angola 

A well-paid expat keen to empty his or her deep pockets has a vast array of choices in Angola’s bustling seaside capital. Probably Luanda’s most breathtaking asset is its huge horse-shoe shaped bay. It was transformed from a waterfront in disrepair to a promenade with manicured lawns, palm trees, flowers, benches and playgrounds at a cost of 135 million US dollars.

The expensive facelift came right before President Jose Eduardo dos Santos was re-elected this summer after 33 years in power. The waterfront leads on to the city’s peninsula (Ilha), dotted with glamorous clubs and restaurants boasting views of Luanda’s rapidly evolving skyline.

Angola is Africa's fifth-biggest and fastest-growing economy, and the continent’s second-largest oil producer after Nigeria.

Let’s assume our expat is a man. He may want to spend the night in Club Lookal’s new ‘Pescaderia’ [fish restaurant], where expats and rich Angolans easily spend over 150 US dollars a head. On his way there, he will encounter countless shiny four-wheel drives. He will also notice numerous potholes and slums. Slum dwellers will be right next door when he sits down to lobster and wine. That’s the easily visible flipside to Luanda’s glamour.

The next day, he might decide to go shopping. The small, luxury supermarket Casa dos Frescos will offer him imported goods he knows from home: French and Italian cheeses, iceberg lettuce ($11 USD a piece) and Brussels sprouts or mangetouts (13 USD for a handful). One box of Nespresso will set him back $14 USD, almost four times the European price.

If he has yet to find a decent rental home, he will probably spend a few weeks in a comfortable hotel that offers fast internet access, a restaurant and a gym. The current place to be is the new 5-star Epic Sana Hotelin the city centre, which offers single rooms, including breakfast, for $450 USD a night, $200 USD less than you would have spent two years ago at Hotel Tropico and therefore a fairly a good deal.

Luanda Sul

Luanda Sul

Home from home
To offer his children a safe and clean environment, he may decide to rent a house in one of Luanda’s new distant suburbs,Luanda Sul. A 3-bedroom house with garden in a guarded condominium will cost his oil company at least $12,000 per month. Another good deal. In 2008, the price would have been $23,000 USD. His children’s international school, $40,000 USD per child per year, will also be at his employers’ expense. It reportedly costs an average international company operating in Angola $1 million USD a year to settle an expat in Luanda.

To stay fit, you may opt for a 6-month gym membership at Hotel Tropico in the city centre, at $1,500 USD. For the fastest internet connection available – still a lot slower than in Europe, Asia or the US – he will pay up to 100 times more for his subscription than he would back home.

Despite all this, his stay will be worthwhile. With 130,000 Portuguese, 30,000 Brazilians, 230,000 Chinese and thousands more from elsewhere, you can safely state that Angola, and particularly Luanda, is an expat magnet. With a population of around 20 million, Angola is Africa’s fifth-biggest and fastest-growing economy, and the continent’s second-largest oil producer after Nigeria.

Since the end of Angola’s civil war [1975-2002], Chinese oil-backed credit lines – Angola is China’s No. 1 oil supplier – have fueled an impressive building and infrastructure boom. Angola’s 8% growth rate this year is lower than usual, but the country is expecting to return to double-digit growth rates in the foreseeable future while European markets decline. On top of that, Angola has a huge demand for skilled labor.

The have-nots
The large majority of Angolans, however, have not profited from Angola’s growth. According to economist Manual Rocha, around 2.5% of Angolans are (extremely) rich, and around 10% can be considered middle class. The rest struggle to make ends meet.

A musseque, Luanda (Photo credit: Curioso)

A musseque, Luanda (Photo credit: Curioso)

Single mother of four Maria Jose Fransisco (30) sells fruit and vegetables every day together with her female colleagues outside one of Luanda’s cheaper supermarkets, Martal. “Sometimes we earn something, sometimes we don’t,” Maria told This is Africa. “There are days when we make 10 or 15 dollars.” They sleep on a mattress, on the floor. “I pay $100 USD rent per month for one room.” “We buy our products far from here, in Viana,” Lucinda Domingo (23) adds. “Taking them and us here by candungeiro [minivan taxi] costs 10 dollars per person.”

A little further down the road, Victor Vieiras Alfonso Jose (28) and his friend sell cheap clothes outside, at the edge of a slum. He studies Engineering at a private university, paid by his parents. “I usually don’t work here,” he said. “I’m a candungueiro driver. Per month, I earn $100 USD.” Victor works from 5:30 till 18:00 and studies at night. There are very few jobs for people his age, his says. He rents a room in a slum for $80 USD per month, including water and electricity. “Per day, I spend more than $10 USD on food alone. Life is very difficult,” he said.

Facts and statistics
Angola ranks 148 out of 187 countries on the UN Development Index. More than a quarter of the population is officially unemployed. The official minimum wage, around $120 USD, is comparatively speaking extremely low. Especially given the fact that although inflation is decreasing rapidly, it still stands at 10%. Around 87% of urban Angolans live in shanty towns. In Luanda, “only” 1 in 12 live below the poverty line of around $47 USD per month (in rural areas, poverty reaches 58%). The question is what this poverty line means in a country where prices are up to 4 times as high as in Western Europe, and how on earth Luanda’s poor manage to get by.

The large majority of Angolans, however, have not profited from Angola’s growth

A brief look at costs and incomes may provide a clue. According to UNICEF, Luanda’s poor earn a monthly income of between $17 USD and $328 USD. The average Angolan, of course, does not shop at Casa dos Frescos. Around 87% of Angolans reportedly buy their groceries in the informal sector, but prices at local markets are also significantly higher than those in other sub-Saharan capital cities.

In Europe and the US, people spend between 10 and 15% of their income on food. In Angola’s urban areas, people have to spend a staggering 50% of their income on food, 12% on rent and 9% on water, electricity and gas. Four percent is spent on health and 5% on transport. Only 1% is spent on alcoholic drinks, tobacco and education. (Note: beer at $1 USD a can and cigarettes at $1.50 USD a packet are among the cheapest items you can get in Angola).

At Most ordinary people buy their food from the informal sector. Typical prices: Eggplant: $1 USD; four onions: $2; five or six small tomatoes: $; head of lettuce: $4 USD. Lunch in a cheap musseque eatery costs about $4.00 USD

Not all bad news
Despite the disappointing figures, not everything in Angola is bad news for the poor. Primary education, secondary education, basic healthcare and public universities are freely accessible, in principle. But public hospital services are rather limited, administrative school and university costs can be a heavy burden, and following a nighttime course costs $150 USD per month. Luanda’s poor often have to resort to local, private clinics and pharmacies scattered throughout town, including in the slum areas. And they aren’t cheap.

At these clinics, Angolans pay $80 to $150 USD for a simple malaria treatment, $200 to 300 USD for a complicated malaria treatment and about the same for the treatment of typhoid fever. Do these hospitals offer quality care? Perhaps the figures speak for themselves. Infant and maternal mortality rates are among the highest in the world, and average life expectancy at 51 still among the lowest even though Angola’s (official) 2% HIV prevalence rate is extremely low compared to its neighbouring countries.

Housing situations offers more clues. A rental home in a musseque [slum] in or near the city centre costs $250 to $300 USD, about the entire salary of a cleaner or guard. Houses in slums outside the city centre, where most of Luanda’s residents live, cost $150 to $200 USD a month. Some people in the musseques build and own their own stone house. To do that, they have to cough up $10,000 to $15,000 USD, which few can afford.

Driving prices up
Recent history, a lack of national agriculture and industry, a skewed housing market, oil and the role of image in Angolan society together form the answer to the question why Luanda is so expensive.

Luanda was once a thriving agricultural exporter and possesses some of the most fertile of African soils. But the independence war [1961-1974] and civil war [1975-2002] destroyed both its farms and infrastructure, and large parts of its countryside are still littered with land-mines. That means that almost everything has to be imported. There’s lots of red tape involved in these procedures and expensive bribes to speed them up at will, inflating prices further. Transparency International ranks Angola 168th out of 183 countries on its corruption perception index.

Expats never take long to find out that corruption and related monopolies are an important factor in Angola’s impressive price levels. The same goes for the poor. The candungueiros they use for transport are owned by [politically] well-connected Angolan businessmen, as do the lucrative – read: expensive – water trucks that come to people’s rescue when drought hits the capital. The business is too lucrative for those involved for them to want to improve the city’s running water supply, an anonymous embassy source told This is Africa.

Angola's president Jose Eduardo dos Santos. The billboard reads: "Distributing better". (Photo credit: Lula Ahrens)

Angola’s president Jose Eduardo dos Santos. The billboard reads: “Distributing better”. (Photo credit: Lula Ahrens)

Angola’s economy is heavily dependent on oil. Oil production of almost 2 million barrels per day plus related activities constitute approximately 85% of Angolan GDP. (By comparison agriculture, while growing rapidly with a 13% growth forecast for 2012, accounts for just over 10% of GDP.) International oil companies have deep pockets, and their willingness to splash out pushes Luanda’s prices up further.

This mineral-rich, post-war country in reconstruction also offers smart or corrupt Angolan entrepreneurs plenty opportunities to get rich fast, due to high demand for goods and services and lack of competition. Luanda’s happy few look at brands, not prices, keeping them high up there. Only now that competition is on the rise are prices starting to drop.

A skewed housing market is another major factor in Luanda’s price levels. When the Portuguese left after Angolan independence in 1975, many of their homes were squatted by Angolans. An estimated 50% of home owners in Luanda never bought the house or apartment they live in. During Angola’s consequent civil war between the Russian and Cuban-supported MPLA and the American and South African-supported UNITA [1975-2002], many of the 4 million displaced Angolans fled the countryside for the relative safety of Luanda city. Most of them stayed. The capital now counts around 7 million residents, while it was originally built for around 250,000. Only recently has the building craze begun to take some strain off demand, lowering prices as a result.

No choice
According to both UNICEF and Mr Rocha, Angola’s chronic though improving inflationhas disproportionately affected the poor. “People pay more than triple the amount for transport in candungueiros compared to 10 years ago,” Mr Rocha told This is Africa. He is not worried about the expats, as their already high salaries are constantly evaluated and adjusted. He even believes that one of the causes of Angola’s inflation are in fact expats’ high salaries. By contrast, “Life for Luanda’s poor population has become much more expensive over the last 10 years compared to their income.”

Expats with generous salary packages including free private education for their children, a four-wheel drive plus driver and two flights home per annum have little reason to complain about Luanda’s prices, and luckily not many of them do. For years up until 2012, Luanda used to be the number one most expensive city in the world. Prices are going down in some sectors thanks to reconstruction, increasing agricultural production, rising competition, new customs tariffs and decreasing red tape.

Besides, what an expat spends in Luanda is largely up to him or her. A hamburger can cost $23 USD at a posh hotel, or $5 to $7.50 USD in the street. A pair of shoes in a ‘posh’ boutique cost up to $350 USD, while lovely, good-quality new shoes sold in the street will only cost $25 USD. Exchange your Lookal Pescaderia dinner for one of the Ilha’s local, sometimes illegal, shabby-looking fish restaurants, and you will get simpler but arguably tastier seafood for one fifth of the price. The extremely basic but centrally located Hotel Globo, right next to the 5-star Epic Sana, offers rooms at an amazing $60 USD per night.

Luanda’s poor do not have these choices. They face an uphill battle every day to meet their most basic needs, and according to Mr Rocha their buying power deteriorates with inflation. Perhaps it is time for an annual report on the world’s most expensive cities for local have-nots.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Can a man be stolen from you if he doesn’t want? Two Kenyan women feud over “their” man

The Nairobian


Two women are engaged in a bitter fight over a man, with both claiming to be married to him legally.

Alice Nyaguthii is one of them, and she is sad. She was happily married to Moses Mureithi Kibocha, until one morning, a month after she had delivered their second born. He sent her a text message warning her: “Don’t ever call me, I have found someone else.”

The other woman in Kibocha’s life was Agnes Wairimu Kinga, a former regional sales representative with East African Breweries. Alice tried convincing Agnes to let Mureithi return to his family.

Agnes sent her a text message: ‘Having his kids in quick succession doesn’t make you a wife but a very desperate woman. Since you are broke save that cash and feed your sick kids instead of wasting it on calling him.’

Agnes then sent another text saying that if Alice knew some things, ‘utalia machozi’ (you will cry).

“I have slept in your house in Ratna, Mombasa, not even once, and I can describe the house in detail. He never loved you amekuwaste (he has wasted you).”

The text continued: “We made love on your bed at his request, even on the sofa and we almost broke that ka-glass table. He gives me all the little cash he makes, and it’s why he never has anything to send you. Whatever little he makes, is right here in my purse. Anyway, try and forget him and take care of your kids as a single mum.”

“I have been left all alone in Mombasa, I don’t know whether to go upcountry or to stay here. I need a job and I don’t know what to do. I ask anybody who can help me get a job to come to my aid,” says Alice.

We stayed for eight months ‘akiniita tasa’ (calling me barren.) “We had our first born in Feb 16, 2011, and our second born in October 26, 2012. A month after the birth of our second born, he woke up and said he was going to Nairobi. There is no woman who can stop her man from going anywhere to seek employment. I let him go. That’s when he stopped communicating,” offers Alice.

Her plea that he supports his children were responded to with a text: “I depend on this woman who earns a lot of money at Kenya Breweries (which she has since left), yeye ni mkubwa huko na sikuwa (she is a big shot there) na otherwise than to come and live with her as she had suggested. I have to survive since Nairobi life is tough when you don’t have a job. We’re even getting married since money isn’t an issue to her, and she’s pregnant.”

The Nairobian sought Agnes Wairimu for her side of the story.

“She (Alice) is not normal. I have a five-year-old son with the man (Kibocha). She has a three-year-old daughter with the man, between me and her, who stole the other’s husband?” she poses.

Agnes says Kibocha went to work in Mombasa and over time, got entangled in a relationship with Alice. “When my husband realised he had messed up, he came back to me, confessed, and we underwent counselling together. Why is (Alice) Nyaguthii on my case? Was I there when she was getting knocked up? In fact, I am the one who should be running around accusing her of stealing my husband,” retorts Agnes.

Barrage of insults

She adds: “A husband is not like a handbag or a wallet that can be stolen. Nyaguthii, me and my husband are all grownups, and a man will make his decision, he can’t be stolen. In fact, she has no proof at all that she was married to my husband. I am the one with the marriage certificate. I am the one whose home, dowry was paid.”

Agnes denies sending Alice offensive text messages and insists she is the one who has been under continuous barrage of insults.

“She has called me all sorts of names, she came to my workplace and even to my house. I had to report her to Kasarani police station under OB number 372/21/8/2013.”

Agnes argues that Alice is simply a case of an ex who can’t let go, adding that, “my husband has been paying child support, and if she thinks it hasn’t been happening, there are proper avenues to follow. She can go to Children’s Court and get help. Nobody is above the law.”

Alice on the other hand is bitter she has to struggle to bring up the kids alone when he’s alive enjoying a woman’s money.

“Recently he told me that he’d deleted the kids in his life and was not going to see or support them,” says Alice, who doesn’t know where he lives. Moses Mureithi couldn’t be reached for comment since his phone was off by the time we went to press.

What's an African identity in a globalised world

March, 2014 — 

What makes someone African? In a globalised world, is there such a thing as an African identity? If you’re African by origin but were born and raised abroad, what makes you African? A conversation about identity with Caine Prize-winning author Tope Folarin.

Film still from “Restless City”. (Photo: Jenny Baptiste)

Film still from “Restless City”. (Photo: Jenny Baptiste)

When the Nigerian writer Tope Folarinwon the Caine Prize for African Writing last July, some of the coverage that followed wasn’t about the winning story itself but rather about the fact that Tope wasn’t born in Africa and had – at the time of announcement – visited Nigeria only once, as a baby. On the one hand that aspect of the coverage revealed the trouble many have today in accepting the diversity of African identities; abroad we complain when others who have problems with the fullness of our being try to limit it by asking that question, ‘Yes, but where are you reallyfrom?’, then we turn around and, out of fear that what it is to be African will dissipate if we don’t hold fast to and protect a fixed and narrow idea of THE African identity, do the same to one another.

Ultimately, the diversity of African identities is something we will all have to come to terms with eventually as it’s likely to become a much needed strength in our increasingly globalised world – and this diversity is set to grow, not contract. Besides, being African is about much more than where you were born or grew up.  And for fans of literature or popular fiction, the more African identities there are the greater the variety of stories to be told, read, thought about and discussed. If each story reflects something of ourselves and something of other ways of being African in the world, surely that’s something to look forward to.

On the other hand, I fear some of the discussions of “African-ness” might have distracted people from Miracle, Tope’s award-winning story, which is beautifully written, touching, gripping, and thought provoking. It’s an astonishingly self-assured piece of writing from someone who has clearly thought a great deal about what is at stake for many Africans in the diaspora today, what holds their identity together. We waited till the initial brouhaha died down to have a chat with Tope, which took the form of a Q&A by email.

If you haven’t already read the story, it’s a good idea to do so now (you can read and/or download it HERE) before reading the Q&A.

Tope Folarin (Photo credit: Open Book Fest)

Tope Folarin (Photo credit: Open Book Fest)

To begin, congratulations on your Caine Prize win. The Chair of Judges, praised your story Miracle as “a delightful and beautifully paced narrative, exquisitely observed and utterly compelling”. I couldn’t have said it better. Your story captures something almost any African in the diaspora can relate to, even if they have never set foot in the sort of church you describe. How does it feel to have achieve this, and when did you start to suspect you had it in you? What emotions did you run through while writing it?

Thanks so much for your kind words.

Stories come to me in images. An image may come to me while I’m at work, or while I’m washing the dishes. Once the image arrives, I’ll write it down somewhere, and then I’ll begin to construct a story around it.

In the case of Miracle, the image that came to me was the moment when the child is separated from the whole. I wanted to capture everything about this powerful image—the intensity of the crowd, the sense of nakedness the child feels when he is separated from everyone else. I experimented with a few approaches, and I was incredibly pleased when I finally discovered a way to tell the story in a manner that honoured the image that inspired it.

For anyone reading this who might be curious about the way the publishing industry works, what doors did winning the Caine Prize open? What did it make possible that you could not do before? And how did the win change your life and the way you see yourself?

Winning the Caine Prize changed everything. This sounds like a cliché, I know, but in my case it’s true. For example, before I won the Caine Prize I was looking for an agent, and I was still struggling to get my work published. The morning after I won the prize I had a number of offers in my inbox, from both agents and publishers. In addition, the Caine expanded my audience dramatically.

Miracle is a chapter from your forthcoming novel The Proximity of Distance. But did you write it as a short story or as part of a novel? How are the challenges of writing a short story different from those of writing a novel?

I wrote Miracle as a story. My novel is a novel-in-stories, a form I’ve become enamoured with over the years.

Much of the world recognises that the term ‘African’ is in flux, and has been for quite a while

The main challenge I’ve encountered while writing my book is ensuring that each chapter—each story—has a unique, compelling storyline, while ensuring that these stories flow together. This is a challenge I enjoy.

In the coverage that followed your Caine Prize win, one of the things some questioned was your “African-ness”, i.e. whether you were “African enough”. This is because the Caine Prize is meant to recognise the richness and diversity of African writing, which some people interpret as highlighting “writing from Africa”, and while your parents are Nigerian, you were born in America, have spent most of your life there, and only visited Nigeria as a baby for your naming ceremony. How did it feel to have your degree of African-ness questioned? In your view, what does it mean to be African? Do you think there’s a degree of remove at which being African becomes an act of faith? Or to put it another way, is there a point at which someone with African roots stops being African?

I honestly think that the act of claiming any identity is akin to an act of faith. After all, to my knowledge none of us enter the world with a particular identity stamped on our foreheads. We develop and grow in contexts that shape our beliefs and perspectives.

The Caine Prize—indeed, much of the world—recognises that the term ‘African’ is in flux, and has been for quite a while. Many of us were born abroad and have not spent a great deal of time in Africa, and yet our parents have been telling us that we’re African from the moment we were born, and our friends have told us that we aren’t quite American, we aren’t quite British, we aren’t quite Canadian. Our lives and our stories are important precisely because they point to a future in which identity will be a constantly contested topic, so much so that I believe our traditional methods of categorising ourselves will have to be amended and/or updated.

To put it plainly—I truly believe that anyone who claims that I or anyone else isn’t ‘African’ enough is herself standing on unstable ground.

Ibrahim, a taxi driver from Ghana in New York City. (Photo credit: Susan Liebold)

Ibrahim, a taxi driver from Ghana in New York City. (Photo credit: Susan Liebold)

It is indeed clear, as you say, that identity is becoming more fluid in today’s globalised world; for instance, you consider yourself Nigerian and American, which makes sense given your background. But why do you think we are uncomfortable with people who don’t fit the pigeonholes of place and nationality? Why are many of us ill-prepared to accept the diversity of African identities? What needs to happen for us to accept the variety of African identities as still being African? What reactions have you had in response to your sense of dual-nationality?

I think some people are uncomfortable with folks who don’t fit the ‘pigeonholes of place and nationality’ because, in the first instance, we aren’t instantly comprehensible. We don’t speak like our parents, or like our cousins in Africa, we may dress differently, and sometimes we grew up with different values. All of us who inhabit the margins between cultures are engaged in the act of fashioning new identities for ourselves—not because we’re interested in making some grand political statement, but because we need to find new ways of being in this world. Ways of being that capture the various influences that shaped us, and that simultaneously enable us to chart new paths into the future.

Every culture has a ‘founding story,’ a story about a brave group of pilgrims who ventured into the unknown and established a new home in an alien land. I believe that many of us are engaged in the same work—we are identity pilgrims, and even though (like our pilgrim forbears) we are moving into uncharted territory in order to find more space for ourselves, I think future generations will benefit from our efforts.

Papaye Restaurant in the Bronx. Best spot in the city for Ghanaian food, according to Blitz the Ambassador.

Papaye Restaurant in the Bronx. Best spot in the city for Ghanaian food, according to Blitz the Ambassador.

How was Miraclereceived by readers in Africa versus Africans in the diaspora? What were some of the most unexpected reactions to the story?

I noticed fairly quickly that some readers from Nigeria read Miracle like it was a story about a church in Nigeria. This reading influenced their perception of my story, of course, because the question became if I had actually captured what it’s like to attend a Pentecostal service in Nigeria. Readers in America and elsewhere, however, generally understood that I was writing about an immigrant church in America—a ‘pilgrim’ church, if you will. This may be a subtle difference, but it is an important one—if you read this story with the understanding that everyone in the church is struggling with identity except for the prophet, you may come away with a different conclusion.

“I’m trying to write back – even though I can’t be there physically. I’m trying to write back to Nigeria.” Can you elaborate on this? Why do you feel the need to write back to Nigeria?

When I was growing up my parents never had the money to ship us out to Nigeria, so the only contact I had with my relatives who lived there, and later my mother when she moved back, was the occasional phone conversation, and the time I spent with them in my imagination. As a writer, I can travel to Nigeria whenever I wish, wherever I am. I find this liberating and incredibly exciting.

You once said you feel something is missing from your life, that you feel this significant hole in your life because you haven’t been back to Nigeria since your naming ceremony. But is it possible to fill this hole? And if so, how?

I fill this hole with prayer and art. And the older I get, the more surprised I am by the linkages between the two. For example, creating a work of art requires a great deal of faith, just like the act of prayer, and a great work of art can often stun me into silence, just like a profound religious experience.

Alain Langueu prays during a midnight service at Deeper Life Bible Church in northeast Washington D.C. (Photo credit: Daniel Rosenbaum)

Alain Langueu prays during a midnight service at Deeper Life Bible Church in northeast Washington D.C. (Photo credit: Daniel Rosenbaum)

Following your visit to South Africa, you mentioned having to revise some of the ideas you’d had before the visit. Can you tell us about some of those ideas and how you’d formed them?

Before I traveled to South Africa as a student in 2002, I’d gained all of my ideas about South Africa from books. Of course, books tend to emphasise narrative in a way that reality doesn’t, or can’t, and once I arrived in South Africa I discovered for the first time that even the most nuanced books often lack nuance.

For example, when I arrived in South Africa I was obsessed with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It seemed like the perfect response to decades of apartheid and division, and once I arrived in South Africa, I learned that the TRC represented a critical step forward for South Africa. I also learned that some people felt that the TRC didn’t do enough to address the atrocities perpetuated by the apartheid regime, or the pain that some people still feel. I learned an important lesson about the power of public policy, and its limits as well.

I honestly think that the act of claiming any identity is akin to an act of faith

Unfortunately, that absence of nuance continues to hamstring writing about Africa. Quoting you again: “But if there’s one thing that I am resolved to do it is to ensure my kids never forget what it means to be a human being.” What does it mean to be a human being, and in what ways have people tried to circumscribe your humanity? Also, in what ways do we circumscribe our own humanity?

Being a human being—focusing on our shared humanity—is difficult at times because our identities are premised on difference. Our identities often emphasise what separates us, and sometimes it’s easy to get lost in these differences, to forget that beneath the different songs are people who like to sing, and beneath the different clothes are bodies that are broadly similar.

I’m not sure that people have necessarily circumscribed my humanity—I try my best to prevent this from happening—but I think far too many of us spend our time focusing on the little things, while forgetting the fundamental similarities that stare at us in the face whenever we glance at another human being.

Your novel-in-progress is a coming of age tale about a Nigerian-American, like yourself. How is the work on this going, and when do you hope to have it finished? Have you thought of what your next book will be about?

The book is going really well—I’ve been working quite hard on it over the past couple months, and I like the way it is developing. I have a few ideas about what the next book may be about, but I’m keen to finish my current project before thinking about the next one.

African in New York. Sy Alassane in a scene from “Restless City.”

African in New York. Sy Alassane in a scene from “Restless City.”

You were recently at the Ake Arts & Book Festival in Nigeria. How did it feel to be in the country, among almost no one but Nigerians, after such a long time away? What surprised you?

My recent trip to Nigeria is the most important trip I’ve taken in my life. I was there with a number of artists from around the world, many of whom I’d met at other festivals earlier in the year, so Ake was like a reunion of sorts for me. I also met many of my family members for the first time in 30+ years, and I saw my mother for the first time since I was child. And, to top it off, Ake took place in Abeokuta, which is where my father’s family is from.

Never have I felt as comfortable as I felt in Nigeria. I’ve wondered about this since I returned. Did I feel so comfortable because I spent much of my time with artists and writers, talking and laughing and teasing? Or because my family members instantly accepted me for who I am—that for the first time in my life I did not have to recite a series of justifications for my mere presence? Or perhaps it was a combination of these factors?

Whatever the case may be, I felt incredibly alive while I was there. And I cannot wait to return.

Tope at Ake (Photo credit and more pix: BrittlePaper)

Tope at Ake (Photo credit and more pix: BrittlePaper)

Yes, having to continually justify one’s presence. Any African in the diaspora knows exactly what that feels like. And what were your impressions of the festival and of the health of the literary scene in Nigeria today?

The festival was incredible—props to Lola Shoneyin for conceiving and managing such a wonderful event. We had an opportunity to engage with the broader community—through school visits and other events—and with each other during our panel discussions, and at various engagements during the evenings as well. I suspect that all of us who attended Ake will be talking about it for a long while.

And my trip to Ake confirmed my belief that the literary scene is quite strong in Nigeria, and across Africa. I spend a lot of time thinking about the various artistic movements of the 20th century—the various ‘modern’ movements (surrealism, Dadaism and the like) the Harlem Renaissance, the French New Wave, etc. It seems to me that we are living in the midst of a literary movement in Africa and the African diaspora. Perhaps it’s too early to identify this movement, or to speak about it in any great depth, but I think readers will be pleased and excited by the work that emerges from this population in the coming months and years.