A Kenyan Journey

Another Feast

2024-04-10: Again a Ramadan is over, and again Eid al-Fitr, the end of Ramadan is a national holiday in multi-religious Kenya!

Even More Arts

2024-03-23: With the help of a friend and colleague of Dorothee we discovered another arts project, this time in Kibera, a not-so-well-off part of Nairobi, best known for its slums.

In this environment the Kibera Arts District, a joined US-Kenyan project by an association called House of Friends, provides the Hof Gallery with high-class artists. We attended the vernissage of an exhibition called Mabaki with works of Sudanese artist Adlan Yousif.

Mr Yousif works with remainders of metal (mabaki means leftovers in Kiswahili) he found in his native Darfur, transforming them into sculptures reflecting the horror of the Sudanese wars.

High-class art in the context of a slum is a really thrilling experience, showing the transformational potential of art on society very clearly. With the Kibera Arts District (KAD) the Hof Gallery tries to reach out to Kibera with art as well with actions.

You can visit the exhibition in Hof Gallery until June, 10th.

Inspiring and Fashionable

2024-03-16: After two years we re-visited the yearly Nairobi Design Week. And again is was a truely stimulating experience, a showcase of the Kenyan civil society, intertwined with progressive design and crafts.

One of the civil society projects was a place called „Freedom Alley“, where open discussions about the revolutionary past and present of Kenya were moderated. An exhibition recalled the role of the Mau Mau uprising for the de-colonisation of Kenya, other projects covered the present state of Kenyan affairs.

One mind-blogging story was told by RxAxLxF, an artist from the Netherlands residing in Nairobi. He created a series of artworks called „The Gods of Money“, including actual Kenyan coins as material. The artist learned authentic spiritual practices and claims that the pictures will make their owners rich.

This series raised the interest of the Kenyan authorities, customs confiscating the pictures when a European collector wanted to export them. They were declared illegal for involving withcraft – indigenous African rites are still prohibited in Kenya by British colonial law -, but no official charge was raised and the pictures were eventually returned to the artist after a year.

RxAxLxF describes some rumours about the pictures, including one by a Kenyan official, that the pictures were used to produce money for the re-election campaign of then President Kenyatta jr.

If this is true it shows like a burning glass the ambivalent position with regard to indigenous rites and practices up to the highest circles of power.

The visitors were mostly young and fashionable, in constrast to the neighbourning organic farm, which is frequented more by older and not so fashionable white people.

For the ecological aspect: did you ever try pineapple fabric? It’s made from pineapple green, harder than cotton, but even smoother.

The Dark Side of the Roads

2024-03-06: Kenya has a road net of ca. 100,000 km, of which 11,000 alone were built in the last decade during the presidency of Mr. Kenyatta jr. Being able to reach even the farest away dwellings greatly improved the circulation of people and goods.

The downside is the high death toll imposed by the new traffic. According to a report in the Nation, more than 36,000 lives were lost to road accidents in the past decade.

One main responsible factor for this nightmare are boda boda riders. Their exponential growth in number together with a widespread disregard of traffic rules adds up to high numbers of casualties among boda boda drivers, pillions and pedastrians alike.

There is a extreme hotspot pattern here: Five roads in Nairobi County alone account for 36% of all fatal crashes in the country.

As for so many areas in Kenya there is an institution here also, the National Traffic and Safety Authority NTSA. According to it the causes for the daily nightmare are well known: Low compliance to traffic rules, missing or demolished road furniture, and a general lack of awareness for safety in traffic.

Action plans are in place or planning, one of the main actions being a mitigation of widespread police corruption. Much of the rude and dangerous behaviour in traffic is only possible because the police turns a blind eye on it.

A Natural Wonder

2024-02-15: Of all Kenyan national parks Meru might be the most underestimated. In 2000, It stood at the brink of ruin, with its wildlife nearly extincted by excessive poaching and lacking protection.

Then things took a sharp upturn in the years 2000-2005 with the combined efforts of the Kenya Wildlife Service, Agence Française de Développement (AFD) and International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) restoring peace and order in the park. Today it has one of the richest animal populations of all Kenyan parks.

The park is located in an area of extensive rainfalls, therefore it is very green and rich of flowing water.

Consider the Ikweta (Kiswahili for equator) camp for a stay. They have high ecological standards and provide a beautiful environment also for longer stays.

Oh, yes: Fans of the lioness Elsa („Born free“) can see her grave there.

Corruption: On Decline or Unknown?

2024-01-31: According to a report in the Nation the Kenyan Public Service Commission (PSC) disclosed the status of compliance of public servants for the fiscal year 2022/2023, ending in June 2023.

According to PSC Public servants in Kenya made away with Sh605.1 million, a drop from Sh1.22 billion in the year before. A further Sh222.7 million were stolen, but recovered.

The interpretation of these figures remains quite disputed. They could indicate that the extent of corruption is less in Kenya than publicly noticed.

Although there are some caveats againt this conclusion. First, this evaluation excludes officers under other commissions like the Police Service Commission, Teachers Service Commission, Judicious Service Commision and the County Public
Service. The Public Service Commission’s report only comprises about a third of the public service.

Second, it is possible that many cases of corruption were not reported to the commission.

Transparency International (TI) ranked Kenya in its recent report at place 128 out of 180 countries, indicating the perception of Kenya as one of the most corrupt states.

The PSC acknowledges Transparency International as one of the key yardsticks here. The discrepancy between the published figures and the TI verdict could indicate, according to PSC, a low confidence in state organsations to deal with corruption. The PSC recommends a study to be undertaken by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission about these open questions.

Remains to hope that this report will really clarify these very important issues.

Ethnicity in Public Service

2024-01-23: Kenya, like most African countries, has a broad variety of ethnic affiliations. Since the British used ethnic diversity as a domination tool to split resistance in the area now called Kenya and elsewhere, the discussion about the role of ethnicities in the nation state is ongoing.

Also the first two presidents of independent Kenya, Kenyatta and Moi, misused ethnic affiliation as a pillar of their despotism.

Still today the ethnicities play an important role, e.g. in the recruitment of public service. A recent report by the Kenya Public Service Commission shows that on nearly every level of government some ethnicities are over- or underrepresented.

Overall the big ethnicities like the Kikuyu or Kalenjin are grossly over-represented, whereas other communities like Kenyan Somalis or the Maasai are under-represented.

The National Cohesion and Integration Act of 2008 tried to counteract this and states that no public entity should recruit more than a third of its employees from one ethnicity. A new state-backed motion now seeks to reduce this threshold to 20%, according to a report of the Nation. If the parliament agrees, this could be – at least on paper – one more step to a true nationhood of Kenya with a reduced impact of ethnic affiliation.

Death of a Blogger

2024-01-19: Bloggers, who are political activists, live dangerously in Kenya. The murder of Mr Daniel Muthiani, alias ‚Sniper‘, is the latest example for this. The autopsy revealed that he was turtured before he was strangled in December 2023.

According to a report in the Nation several suspects of this murder where now charged in court with this murder. One of them is the brother of Mr Mwangaza, the governor of Meru county.

Mr Muthiani had criticised the governor in his video posts. Apparently he sought to ameliorate his relationship with the governor, and the suspects promised to arrange a meeting with Mr Mwangaza for this.

Rests to see whether the trial will shed more light on the political dimension of this murder.

Blossoming Beauty

2024-01-16: The Bougainvillea is used in many gardens as an eye-catcher.

Developing Nairobi

2024-01-14: Nairobi County Governor Johnson Sakaja is quite a contentious politician. Being a favourite of the electorate – Sakaja was elected despite his affiliation with President Ruto’s UDA – he faces an adversarial majority in the County Assembly.

Controversies arise from an apparent gap between his election promises and his tenure. E.g. according to a report of the Nation Nairobi was one of ten counties spending not a single shilling on development in the first quarter of the financial year 2023-2024 (July to September).

There is at least a litte execption to this finding: in some streets new stalls for street traders are erected under the umbrella of Sakaja’s claim „Let’s Make Nairobi Work“.

This is an improvement for the traders, especially in the rainy season, and a relatively unexpensive one. But an Uber driver told me that not all traders are welcome here. There used to be a bunch of other traders here before, but they were expelled some time before the reconstruction. The question remains open which criteria are implemented for a trader to be expelled or improved.

The Kiswahili motto „Sakaja Siku Zote“ (Sakaja every day) might sound like a menace for some Nairobians.

Yet Another Masterpiece

2024-01-10: Here in Nairobi we develop a distinctive appetite for visual arts, especially paintings. In the Mukuru Arts Club we encountered some exceptionally good painters like Adam Masava or Chrispus Nyaanga.

But for us one tops them all: Mika Obanda. Still very young, he already developed his very personal style, using painted eggshells as the main material for his paintings.

Together with his imagination the use of eggshells leads to an expressive look with plasticity and splendor.

The cross on the head of the woman (his mother) does not only reflect her religious feelings, but his as well. As he told us he believes in a free form of Christianity, as so many people here in Kenya do.

We couldn’t refrain from buying this picture. I’m sure this wouldn’t be possible for us in a near future any more.

A Time Machine

2024-01-04: Do you sometimes feel nostalgic to former socialistic charme? Nairobi City Council’s Nyayo House can provide this specific feeling.

If you need to visit this place to get e.g. an ID document, you will encounter in this administrative centre everything associated with socialism, including the furniture and the arrogant attitude of some officials. For me the building works like a time machine, recalling old experience in East Berlin.

A Christmas Gift

2023-12-25: My wunderful wife surprised me with a tremendous Christmas gift, a painting by Nairobian painter Jimmy Kitheka. We met Jimmy first in his studio in Karen Village and later we participated in one of his painting lessons.

There I saw this picture which immediately reminded me my youth. In the 1960’s there was a tremendous belief in scientific and technological progress, with a bright outlook for the future. Imagine my surprise when I saw all this in a contemporary painting here in Kenya. Speaking with Jimmy revelead that he shares this belief in progress and a better future. So my feelings matched his intention.

The difference here between Germany and Kenya is striking: whereas in Germany the dominant feeling with regard to the future seems to be angst, Kenyans desperately need a better future. Speaking with Jimmy reveals that future is connoted with progress, making lives better. Maybe we in Germany or even Europe should re-learn this lesson.

Jimmy also told me that the dominant part of the picture is the wall, it is part of a „Wall series“. So we are separated from our future by a huge wall, possibly on different levels, psychological or by power structures. The message here seems to be that we have to tear down walls for a better future. So there is hope for us: Tearing down walls sounds familiar to Germans.

Seasons‘ Greetings

2023-12-25: Krismasi njema!

Yet Another Suspect Deal

2023-12-02: The basic facts are grim enough: the government imported 125,000 metric tonnes of duty-free cooking oil aimed at lowering market prices for ca. 17bn Ksh. Unfortunately, the Kenya Bureau of Standard (KEBS) declared that this oil is unfit for human consumption for several reasons like containing not enough vitamin A and too much insoluble ingredients.

So who bought this unconsumable oil? It turns out that the body who imported the oil is an old relic of the times of the Jmo Kenyatta government. The state-owned Kenya National Trading Corporation (KNTC) was established in 1965 originally for driving the Africanisation agenda of this government. In the 1970’s and 80’s it was a scandal-ridden entity that catapulted a few well-connected Kenyans into billionaire status. The parastatal was largely unknown until a few months ago.

Last week, the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) held some officers linked to the controversial oil import for questioning. Not only the oil seems to be unfit for consumption, there are reports that about half of it cannot be accounted for in the KNTC warehouses.

The Senate Standing Committee on Trade, Industrialisation and Tourism noted discrepancies between the submissions presented by the Ministry of Trade and the KNTC. Unfortunately, these efforts did no bear fruits so far, as Cabinet Secretary for the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry Rebecca Miano failed to turn up for a meeting. Also missing was KNTC’s top management.

This new scandal appears as one more in a row of apparently corruption-driven frauds at the expense of the tax payer. It remains to see whether this scandal can be elucidated or whether it remains in the dark as so man others.

Amendment as of 2023-12-06: According to a report by kenyans.co.ke KEBS claims after a re-inspection that the imported oil is safe for human consumption, although not meeting the vitamin A standard.

A Grim Picture

2023-11-24: While the civil society in Kenya remains rather weak, there are several state institutions safeguarding the public interest and the rights of the citizens like the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commision.

Another one is the Kenyan National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR), which today painted a grim pricture on the state of human rights in Kenya (see a Nation report here).

Both civil and political as well as economic and social rights suffer severe setbacks. 22 extrajudicial killings and nine enforced disappearances recorded from January to June this year together with 47 reported killings during the election period and the Maandamano protests make the agency reiterate its call to respect the right to life.

The rising cost of living, the high level of youth unemployment, the unsettled curriculum reform for the schools and the financing of universities raise concerns about the economic and social rights.

The KNCHR, like most human rights institutes in the world, can only appeal to state institutions to change their behaviour. But it is good to hear a watchdog voice in all this political mess showing that the spirit of the 2010 constitution is still alive.

A (Somewhat Funny) Deal

2023-11-23: Kenya is shaken up by an oil deal, which looks at first sight somewhat funny. Ms Njeri, a woman so far not known to be in the oil business, claims to own an oil consignment worth more than 17bn Ksh.

According to a report in the Nation a parliamentary committee tries now to find out whether this claim is correct and, if so, where she got the money for the consignment from.

Opposition leader Mr Odinga publicly suspects two cabinet secretaries of corruption using Ms Njeri as a straw woman for the deal financed with public money.

The whole story comes very inept for President Ruto, who just confirmed his determination to fight corruption in his State of the Nation speech. One of the CSs in question, Mr Chirchir, was forced out in 2015 from the government of Mr Kenyatta and figures on the „List of Shame“ by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission. The other, Prof Ndung’u, survived a parliamentary scrutiny despite the fact, that he was indicted in a report by the Public Accounts Committee over the illegal sale of a real estate property.

Dr Ruto is apparently in a predicament: he is not satisfied with the conduct and the abilities of some of his CSs, but cannot simply sack them all.

That he is determined to fight corruption can be seen by a row of sackings: Just last week five CEOs of parastatals were fired over corruption, as well as 67 police officers. Is this just a new „hang the small, spare the big“ game?

A Feast of Light

2023-11-12: The Indian feast of light, Diwali, is not a public holiday in Kenya, but nonetheless present in everyday life.

So it comes in very conveniently, that the following Monday was declared a public holiday. The religious multiplicity of Kenya is impressive.

A Lesson of Life

2023-10-27: Of all national parks and reserves in Kenya, the Maasai Mara is most cited as the best place to watch wildlife in its entirety. To my experience this seems to be true. Of course I knew that life is to eat and to be eaten, but when you witness how two cheetahs catch a little calf and eat it up in front of the mother, this knowledge gets an unpleasant presence. But it is a precious lesson of life, since the predators help to maintain the balance in this ecosystem. So the beautiful cats fulfill an important role in the play of life.

And a morning in the Maasai Mara is an unforgettable experience.

If you want to go there consider the Mara Siligi Camp as your base. It is a really great stay with solar power and water recycling, friendly not only to the ecosystem, but also to the guests. And Robert the Maasai may be the most successful driver in the whole Mara for watching animals.

An End to Slums

2023-10-01: In countries with a fast growing population and a lot of migration from rural areas to the cities, informal settlements have been a long-standing issue. Kenya is no exeption here, with some large shanty towns in Nairobi like Kibera, the largest urban slum in Africa.

President Ruto now unveiled an ambitiuos plan to transform Kibera and all other informal settlements in Kenya into modern residential areas within a decade.

If this plan will be executed, it would bring about one of the biggest changes in Africa’s modern history. It only rests to see how this plan will be implemented. One critical point is the question who will live on this modern area. Will it be the actual residents, living there for lack of alternatives, or will this modern area be just another place for the better-off?

If the vision encompasses the transformation of the lives of the actual inhabitants, it could be a really big advancement to a better future. If it will be just a housing project, chances are that the slum is simply moving to the next availabe place.

Electric Future

2023-09-26: Despite all the current problems the country is facing, there are also plans for a better future. According to a report in the Nation, the Energy and Petroleum Authority reveals plans for charging stations for electric vehicles in the whole of Kenya.

At least one charging station in a grid of three by three kilometers, additionally one charging station every 25 km in both directions and one fast charging station every 100 km are planned. Within cities, fast charging stations shall be included in bus stops. This is a plan that would be ambitious for many ‚developed‘ countries, so it is for Kenya. When realised, it could change Kenyan traffic deeply, especially in cities. So far, no deadline is given.

Yet another Price Tag

2023-09-16: Despite the government’s actions to cushion the gasoline price the devaluation of the Kenyan Shilling against other currencies, especially the Dollar, makes imports more expensive.

This is especially true for gasoline and diesel imports, for which prices reach new heights. The price for a litre of unleaded premium went up over night from 194 to 208 Ksh (and this station offers a 3 bobs discount others have not).

Rests to see how the combined financial pressure of higher prices and higher taxes will affect the living conditions not only of the poor, but also of the middle class.

A Kenyan Gaza Strip

2023-09-15: The North Rift Valley, parts of Elgeyo Marakwet and Pokot counties, has experienced for a long time violent banditry attacks which the government tries to end. The infamous Kerio valley is even called by local politicians the „Gaza Strip“ of Kenya, according to a report of the Nation.

Fortunately the government is not only relying on brute force. As part of a Marshall Plan for the North Rift the government plans to improve the infrastructure, especially along the border between the counties, with new dams, roads and schools. Going to school together shall boost cultural exchange and engender peaceful co-existence.

Together with more activities like strengthen the local agriculture this holistic approach to peace building looks promising, if local politicians take the lead into a good future.

A Strange Legacy

2023-09-06: All of Kenya was subjected to British colonial rule. All of Kenya? Well, like the Gallic village of Asterix, the Sultanate of Zanzibar was formally a protectorate and not subject to the British Crown. People living within the 10-mile strip along the coast enjoyed certain rights that those living in colonial Kenya did not.

After independence, the protectorate became a part of Kenya. Its communities, such as the Pokomo and the Mijikenda, were recognised as citizens, with the notable exception of the Pemba, who have remained stateless since then.

This precarious status brought many disadvantages for the Pemba, e.g. they were officially not allowed to fish in the coastal waters, because they couldn’t obtain a Kenyan fishing license.

After 60 years this strange status comes to an end, President Ruto granting citizenship to all Pemba now, according to a report of the Africa Report. This step could help Kenya to reach the goal to abolish all statelessness by 2024, the end of the UN decade to end statelessness. Will the remaining stateless communities in Kenya also be integrated by then?

Peaceful Coexistence

2023-09-03: It seems to be a simple case of cattle rustling: three herds were stolen alongside the border between the counties of Kisumu and Kericho. But as often this robbery has much deeper roots, e.g. inter-ethnic differences and disputed borders between the counties.

Religious leaders and the elders in place now reached a return of the herds, settling this dispute peacefully. This return will be hopefully only the first of actions after the NCCK organized a series of intra- and intercommunity forums to promote peace and cohesion along the border, including religious leaders, Nyumba Kumi leaders, village elders, cross-border peace committee members,
community members, Anti Stock Theft Unit personnel, and National Government
Administration Officials (led by the Deputy County Commissioner). The NCCK also facilitated a meeting of two communities to restore peaceful coexistence along the border.

The sucessful application of proven peacebuilding actions with the inclusion of most relevant stakeholders shows a conflict resolution mechanism by far superior to other ways of restoring peace.

Uninteded Consequences of the Rain

2023-08-28: After three years of drought live comes back to the north-east of Kenya. As representatives of the four north-eastern counties of Mandera, Garissa, Wajir and Lamu pointed out according to a report in the Nation, the islamistic al-Shabaab militia now returns into north-east Kenya because it is more attractive now. Also the militia is heavily foughted in Somalia and tries to evade the pressure.

Somewhat shocking was the revelation by Mandera county governor Mr Khalif that ca. 60% of this county is under control of al-Shabaab. In Lamu four districts were declared no-go areas for civilians to enable security force operations. The fight against islamistic terror seems far from being over or even won.


2023-08-27: The current constitution (katiba means constitution in Kiswahili) was promulgated 13 years before, on August 27th, 2013. It is commonly seen as a very important event for the rule of law in Kenya, since it brought devolution, human rights‘ guarantees and independent judiciary with it.

Therefore it’s anniversary is taken as an opportunity to reinforce the values in it. Religious leaders in Kenya, including the NCCK, urge the government to uphold human rights and the rule of law. Human rights violations by the police and security forces, the issue of endemic corruption and fair employment opportunities are the most prominent concerns seen by the clerics in the actual situation of Kenya.

Not only the government is responsible for the rule of the constitution. The clerics encourage all Kenyans to take various actions, among them exposing injustices against anyone, resisting corruption by rejecting bribes and offering prayers for the nation.

A Paradise to Visit

2023-08-23: The Hell’s Gate National Park’s most distinguished feature in my opinion is not the beautiful scenery, but the peace in which the grazing animals live there, predators being mostly absent. If you walk through the park the silence gives you a feeling of strolling around in the lost paradise.

The name of the park, indicating the mere opposite of paradise, comes from the rich geothermal sources it features. They are used by a huge geothermal plant producing already ca. 950 MW. It is planned to be developed as world’s largest geothermal plant by 2030.

Favouritism at Work

2023-08-16: After every change of government, employees are also changed in most of the state’s bodies and organisations, the KRA (Kenya Revenue Authority) being no exception. The winners usually use this opportunity to reward their supporters or companions.

According to a report in the Nation the new Ruto government is following this old tradition. This can be seen using the ethnic affiliation of the new employees. Whereas Kalenjin have a proportion in Kenyan population of ca. 13% and the Kikuyu of ca. 17%, their combined share of new jobs at the KRA is around 57%.

The figures become better understandable if one knows that President Ruto is a Kalenjin and Vice President Gachagua a Kikuyu.

An Infamous Item

2023-08-07: The National Museum of Kenya in Nairobi displays an impressive exhibition about Kenyan history. Among them are several items about the most infamous period of her history, the time of British colonial rule.

One item arousing especially negative feelings among Kenyans under colonial rule was the ‚Kipande‘ (Kiswahili for piece).

The Kipande was an identity document featuring basic personal details, fingerprints, and an employment history. It was introduced in 1920 as a compulsory item to be carried by all male Kenyans from the age of 15.

Its main purpose was to control and restrict the movement of the African work force, ensuring its availability at the places the white rulers wanted it.

Its introduction was yet another part of the catastrophic economic policy of the British, finally leading to the Mau Mau uprise in the 1950’s.

Winter is Going

2023-07-31: It seems to become warmer again. After a long period of clouds and cool temperatures, sun is back, at least for one day. Our cats are delighted!

The True Death Toll

2023-07-29: Unfortunately it turns out only now, that the Maandamano protests in the last weeks weren’t so peaceful as first reports had it.

According to a report in the Nation the death toll alone in Kisumu, an opposition stronghold, rose to 16, all attributed to police brutality.

To get the whole picture about the protests, their victims and opportunistic criminality turns out to be very difficult. Media seem increasingly unable to cover these events adequately, for reasons not really clear in the moment.

Is the government really on a way to dictatorship, as some commentators see it?

A War spill-over?

2023-07-28: Yesterday evening I wondered why I couldn’t use M-Pesa to pay for a service, so far there were no outages of this crucial service.

According to an article in the Nation, the outage of M-Pesa and some governmental services was due to a cyberattack, for which a group calling itself „Anonymous Sudan“ took responsibility. Lacking any confirmation so far it is impossible to assess this claim, but cyber crime has been a frequent business in Kenya for several years. A recent report by the Central Bank of Kenya shows that saccos alone lose around 200,000 KSH per day to hackers.

If the claim by Anonymous Sudan would be verified it could indicate yet another dimension. The Kenyan government, among others, tries to negotiate a truce between conflicting parties in Sudan civil war, and the cyber attack could be a retaliation for this. Not a bright outlook into the future of East Africa.

Birds in Nairobi

2023-07-26: The birds in Nairobi, and in Kenya and East Africa in general, are impressive. Looking from my office, I see these two Marabus in search of a nesting site.

A Remarkable Building

2023-07-25: The „Mihrab“, an office building opened in 2017 and styled like a muslim prayer niche, is sometimes called a landmark in Nairobi guide books. In any case, it is a remarkable view in the city’s Kilimani borough.

A Grisly Update

2023-07-20: According to a report in the Nation, the death toll in Shakahola due the activities of the so-called „Church of Good Hope“ rose to 425, the excavations not being finished yet.

A Cry for Help

2023-07-15: The economic situation of the poor in Kenya is deteriorating constantly, also in Nairobi. It has never been easy to live here on a small budget, but with recent price increases for all goods of daily need, life has become nearly impossible to manage.

Kenyans are patient, but their patience may run out, if their needs remain unaddressed. With many measures of the tax bill the government follows conditions imposed by the International Monetary Fund. Will Kenya become yet another victim of the organisation’s neo-liberal convictions?

Boxes and Other Objects

2023-07-13: Our companions are curious, as cats are, and check out every new object in their territory. If it’s a box or basket, especially Jabali is delighted.

A New Price Tag (Again)

2023-07-11: Part of President Ruto’s plan to stabilize the nation’s financial situation is a doubling of the VAT on fuel form 8% to 16%. This leads to an increase of fuel prices by nearly 20 KSH, hitting hard all matatu, bus and taxi drivers.

Although fiercely contested in court and officially suspended by a federal judge in the moment, the government is not willing to take the increase back. Even strikes by drivers couldn’t change this so far. Rest to see how the situation further evolves.

The President Who Never Was

2023-07-10: The myth about Tom Mboya, a national hero of the decolonisation era, is still a strong narrative in Kenyan society.

This narrative gets still new material from the CIA, which hasn’t opended all their files about Mboya. An article in the Nation now reveals a new file released by the agency, adding a new facet to the riddle of Mboya’s murder in 1969.

Was the murder planned as the removal of a potential non-Kikuyu successor to ageing president Jomo Kenyatta? The question remains open also after this publication, but the myth persists. Even stronger today in times of a disputed government and missing trust in political leaders.

Saba Saba Day

2023-07-07: 7th of July (saba means seven in Kiswahili) is in Kenya a day of rememberance with a different meaning over time. At first, on July 7th, 1990 Kenyans took to the streets against the dictatorial Moi regime and demanded free elections. In later years it became a day used by civil society organisations to demand for respect of the constitution and an end to police brutality.

Later on, in 2020, demonstrators had taken to the streets to demand for basic rights like clean water, good housing and an end to abuse from those who are in power.

This year Saba Saba day is used by the Azimio la Umoja opposition coalition to demonstrate against the government and the tax bill, which just passed through the parliament. Opposition leader Mr Odinga calls the politics of the Ruto government antisocial and detrimental to many tax payers, a feeling shared apparently by many citizens. The protest remains mostly peaceful, luckily, whereas it does not reach any of its aims, since the governement continues with its policy. Future has to show who was right here.

Nairobian Art Life

2023-07-02: On my birthday we visited an art exhibition in town, organised by Ardhi Gallery. Ardhi (Kiswahili for ground) Gallery is probably Nairobi’s latest contemporary art gallery, having opened its doors in April 2023.

Its purpose is to give a platform to not yet well-known artists, in contrast to many other galleries relying on established artists.

Nonetheless the exhibition is impressive by the breadth of the topics and styles as well as by the quality of the paintings. More information about the gallery can be found here.

We couldn’t refrain from buying two pictures by two young artists, Alex Mongare and Chrispus Nyaanga. Their common purpose is to show their habitat, which is usually called a slum or shanty town, as the place of their only, wunderful and mysterious lives, full of energy.

The Day of the Lions

2023-07-01: After a year we visited again the Nairobi National Park. Whereas one year before the rhinos were most impressive, this time it was the day of the lions. They apparently don’t care about cars or humans, but just lay around the streets to rest or to wait for a hunt. This lioness seemed very disappointed that the zebras were too far away.

Her male companion sees things much more relaxed, undisturbed by visitors or animals.

Winter has Come (again)

2023-06-29: In the winter time, it’s not becoming really cold in Nairobi, but fresh and cloudy. And if you consider the lack of heating or insulation in all buildings, the freshness becomes really cool from time to time.

Therefore we are thankful for every ray of sun, especially our cats are. They try to get the most out of these rare moments of sunshine.

Asking for Prayers

2023-06-26: The fight against corruption is a hard one, not only, but also in Kenya. The Cabinet Secretary for Health, Ms. Susan Nakhumicha, now asked for prayers for her „war“ on corruption in the health sector, according to a report in the Nation.

She confirmed her resolution to fight especially against graft at the KEMSA, the Kenya Medical Supplies Agency and the NHIF, the National Health Insurance Fund. Both institutions are crucial for the public health care in Kenya and under heavy fire for multi-billion scandals.

The latest KEMSA scandal made Geneva-based Global Fund to cancel a Sh3.7 billion tender for mosquito nets. For this President Ruto sent home the entire KEMSA board and the Principal Secretary for Health.

Ms. Nakhumicha now speaks about powerful and deeply rooted ‚cartels‘ in both organisations. It remains to see how successful her resolution to end these practises will be in the longer run. In any case it’s a purpose well deserving the prayers of any benevolent human being.

Death Toll Rising

2023-06-19: According to a report in the Nation the death toll of the Shakahola massacre rose to 336, and the exhumations are still not finished. A total of 95 people were rescued so far, and 36 arrested.

The President and the CS for Interior now admitted, that the government – both the previous and the actual – slept on the job.

It rests to be seen what consequences are really drawn from this disaster. During a Senate’s hearing about Shakahola security officers declined to reveal details, but apparently state agencies knew about the actions of the sect well before they became apparent. More investigatins to come, hopefully.

A Rising Gap

2023-06-10: The economic situation in Kenya seems pretty bleak, not only in the moment, but also in a mid-term outlook. All analysts agree that the balancing act between budget consolidation and standard of living will become more difficult in future. The discussions about higher taxes and levies inside and outside the parliament become harsher, even the Worldbank warns against some parts of the proposed tax bill.

A publication by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics shows another, but related facet of the problem. According to a report by Business Daily the Gini co-efficient for Kenya rose to 38.9% in 2021, up from 35.8% in the Covid-19 year 2020.

The Gini co-efficient is a measure for income inequality, rising values show rising inequality between the rich and the poor.

The government of Dr Ruto started with the promise to lower the cost of living for all Kenyans. If the politics of the government cause instead a depletion of most Kenyans, the government will come into trouble.


2023-06-01: Madaraka Day again. This day 60 years ago Kenya gained self-rule, but not full independence yet.

Many newspapers and other media took the opportunity to assess the change in these 60 years. Indeed, some progress can be stated. According to figures by the Kenyan National Bureau of Statistics, among others:

  • the population rose from ca. 8.6 to 48.8 million
  • the GDP rose from 6.58 million to 13.4 billion KSH
  • the number of primary schools rose from 6,058 to 32,504
  • the number of enrolled students (all ages) rose from 35,921 to 3,858,100
  • and the life expectancy nearly doubled from 35 years to 62.7 years.

And the other side, many problems did not improve over the years, as comments point out, especially the rampant corruption and the hunger in some parts of Kenya.

Cats (usually) love Boxes

2022-05-29: Finally one of our cats loves empty and not so empty boxes, as cats usually do. Interestingly, after Molly Jabali is only our second cat to do so.

One Man – One Vote – One Shilling

2023-05-22: A political debate is raging in Mt Kenya region that could heavily backfire on the government of President Ruto. Mt Kenya was decisive for his victory and now wants to see the rewards for this backing.

The point here is that there are regions being allocated an average subsidy by the central government of KSH 30,000 per head while others receive only KSH 3,000. The disadvantaged regions are in Mt Kenya, but also in Bungoma, Homa Bay, Machakos, Kakamega, Kisii, Siaya, Kisumu, Uasin Gishu, Kilifi, Bomet and Kajiado, according to local politicians in a report by the Nation.

Giving to one would be taking from the other, since there is no more money to distribute. Therefore this debate, which the government tries to keep down for the moment, could become a very dangerous one, of course exploited by Dr Ruto’s political enemies. If the president loses the support of Mt Kenya he could lose the next elections.

Again no easy choice for the president, who is in trouble for other issues like tax raisings and new contributions already. This presidency won’t be an easy one, but that Dr Ruto knew before.

Shakahola: A reconstruction

2023-05-15: Using satellite imagery the Kenyan daily newspaper Nation reconstructed the build-up of the Shakahola death camp, starting with the first activities between October-December 2020. In May 2021 brown spaces on the images were becoming widespread, especially in the central part of Shakahola village.

The demarcations spread further out from October 2021 to July 2022. Counting what was clearly identified as house comes up with ca. 120 houses.

The Nation also spoke with police officers and survivors, who in turn sometimes had a role in the massacre. Investigators told Nation in confidence that they first learned of Mr Mackenzie’s operations in Shakahola in August 2022 when a family from Western region reported at the Malindi Police Station about the death of their kin in one of the villages controlled by Mr Mackenzie’s cult. But no action was taken by the officers. Accounts from survivors hint to possible complicity within the local administration, amid allegations that police officers were bribed.

According to „Alex“, a 15-years old survivor, the situation in Shakahola took a decisive turn in Februray 2023. The leader Mr. Mackenzie revealed a schedule for the death of the whole community, he „meeting Jesus as the last one“. The first who should starve to death were the children below 15 years, many of whom were in fact suffocated. After them the adults should start starving to death on March 15. Starvation was accompanied by torture, beatings, and suffocation all the day.

A chance to stop the carnage was missed in mid-March 2023, when Mr. Mackenzie was arrested and released on bond. The investigators admit that there was an intelligence lapse after Mr Mackenzie was released as they waited for instructions from Nairobi, which unfortunately took a month to come.

Alex himself managed to escape and informed the authorities about the activities. His resumé: “If they had acted at that time, so many children would be alive today.“

There is a lot to investigate around these happenings, not to the least the role local authorities and security officers played here. Really difficult questions about possible regulations of religious bodies in a tremendously religious country will need an answer.

Let the children come to me?

2023-05-11: According to a report by The Standard up to now 145 bodies were found at Shakahola, the search not being closed yet.

In reading the reports the most striking fact for me is the high number of children parents brought with them to Shakahola. Whereas an adult might resolve himself to starve to death, this seems impossible to do with a child. And in fact the examination of their bodies showed that most of them were suffocated to death.

This crimes for which the leaders of the so-called „Good News International Church“ have to take responsibility become ever and ever more diabolic.

A Human-made Drought

2023-04-27: Science has it clear by now. According to a recent report by the World Weather Attribution Organisation the human-made climate change raised the global average temperature by 1.2 °C already. This converted a quite normal La Niña phenomenon into the catastrophic drought people of the Horn of Africa experience actually.

The conclusion of the scientists is unambiguous: „We found that, as a result of human-induced climate change, the combination of low rainfall and high evapotranspiration as unusual as the recent conditions would not have led to drought at all in a 1.2°C cooler world“.

Again the poorest people pay the highest price for the global lifestyle induced by the global North. The only good news here is that La Niña is over for now.

A Sign of Hope

2023-04-26: The rainbow is a clear sign of hope to me.

A Son of Jesus?

2023-04-25: Shocking pictures of mass graves reveal a murderous cult in the village of Shakahola in Kilifi county. So far 65 bodies have been found, and the search in the vast area of the „Good News International Church“ is not finished yet. Note: an update on the search can be found here.

The strange cult apparently showed typical patterns of force and brainwashing. So far it is not clear, how many of the dead where actually killed by the leaders or brought to death by starvation, which was apparently a central part of the cult.

One alleged mastermind of the cult gave himself the name „Zablon Mwana wa Yesu“, which means in Kiswahili „Zablon Son of Jesus“. A report in the Nation reveals more of this murderous belief system. Not surprisingly the arrested leaders uttered in court wild threats of apocalyptic dimensions, the usual concomitants of such a sect.

The activities of this sect didn’t go unnoticed. The NCCK stated yesterday that this church is not under its umbrella and General Secretary Rev. Canon Chris Kinyanjui blamed security agencies for failing to act on time after pastors and bishops in the area raised an alarm about the illegal activities. Hopefully all responsibles will be brought to justice and preventive action will be taken to prevent further massacres.

A Country in Trouble

2023-04-24: Imagine your employer doesn’t pay you in time, a nightmare. Now imagine your employer is the government. An even bigger nightmare, since the government is expected to pay at least its own employees in time. Though the nightmare came true in March for Kenyans, the payments being delayed by several days.

According to a report by the Nation, the unions of the civil servants and the teachers now announced strikes if another delay should occur in April.

The bigger picture here is that the government is apparently broke. President Ruto is firmly resolved not to borrow for loans, but other money does not seem to be available. Together with massive increases of the cost of living and a deteriorating economy this adds up to a massive crisis, the first real crash test for the (not so) new government. The payments are due on the 27th at the latest, so the next days will show where the country is heading.

A Hopeful Sky

2023-04-18: In the rainy seasons the sky sometimes looks so impressive!

Harassing a Church Leader

2023-04-04: A conference of religious leaders in Nairobi, including the NCCK, published today a press statement about the actual political situation of Kenya.

While continuing to urge the political leaders to peace and co-operation they also oppose a new and intriguing act of apparent police arbitrariness. According to media reports Prof. David Kodia, Bishop of the Anglican Church in Nyanza and Region’s chairperson of the NCCK, was raided by police officers in the early morning. Prof. Kodia, being in Nairobi at that time, told the press that the police wanted him for allegedly taking part in money laundering.

The police officers couldn’t produce any written search or arrest warrant and drove away when noticing journalists at Prof. Kodia’s home.

The NCCK urges the government „to assure Kenyans of the protection and freedom of all people, including religious leaders who speak out for the people“. Is this act yet another puzzle part in the dreary power game in Kenya?

Return of Reason?

2022-04-02: According to media reports President Ruto and Azimio leader Raila Odinga are resolved to enter into a dialogue on the pressing issues of the country. Mr Odinga cancelled the protests for Monday, and President Ruto announced his decision to seek a bi-partisan solution for ongoing recruitement of IEBC commissioners.

Most observers agree that the pressure by religious groups, including the NCCK, was instrumental for this truce, even more than comparable efforts by the African Union or Western states.

While this development is an encouraging first step, it must be followed by many more steps in addressing the dire needs of Kenyans. Hopefully all participants here will find real solutions instead of empty promises and empty protests.

The Dark Side of Maandamano

2023-03-31: The Maandamano protests, now on Mondays and Thursdays, cause fatalities, unfortunately. Not only three protesters (as known so far) died, last night also a policeman died due to a stone attack by protesters.

The situation is pretty unclear at the moment. It is unclear what Mr Odinga wants to do next and it is unclear what President Ruto wants to do next. Both simply cannot continue as they did so far.

Mr Odinga has to either accept Dr Ruto’s election win or to deliver substantial evidence that the election was rigged. His demand to open the IEBC servers is misleading, since it is very unlikely that this can yield any proof to his claims.

President Ruto has to deliver on his promise to lower the costs of living for all Kenyans. This was his central promise with which he won the election (as one knows so far). His alleged competence in economics is publicly doubted by now, since his government apparently has no plan to steer the multiple crises of Kenya.

There are even more casualities than those of the protests. But people dying from hunger die with much less attention of the public.

Kenya in a Novel

2023-03-30: My list of favourite authors got a new member, the Kenyan writer Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor. Her novel „Dust“ is a moving account of the life of a Kenyan family through the last 70 years.

The credit on the cover is not exaggerating: it is a deeply moving tale arousing many very different, even contradictory emotions, sympathy and antipathy for its characters changing quickly.

In this novel Kenya is a country deeply tinted with sheer violence, not starting with colonial rule and not ending with independence.

Maandamano Monday

2023-03-24: After the turmoil on Monday (maandamano is Kiswahili for protest) the NCCK cites in a press release Micah 6:8 to urge all Kenyans to respect the constitution and each other: „walk humbly with your God„.

There are requests for all involved here: for the president to respect the constitution and not to oppress legal protest, for the opposition leader Raila Odinga to respect the constitution and not abuse protest and for all Kenyans to respect the constitution and to refrain from violence.

Instead of empty promises and empty protests Kenyans need effective action against hunger, high cost of living and the consequences of the drought. It is instructive to see that countries like Uganda, despite being less rich on paper at least, come better through the drought crisis. A key for this may lay in the fact that the Ugandan government adopted proactive politics regarding agriculture.

One encouraging example here is ESAFF Uganda. It is a small scale farmer initiated and farmer-led movement with the aim to promote sustainable and resilient agroecology among the peasants of Uganda. By now there are many success stories of farmers becoming independent of seed and fertilizer vendors and earning enough money to get out of poverty. Uganda is even able to export food to Kenya. This should become a role model for Kenya, too.

A Greener Kilimani

2023-03-19: The change of supposedly well-off boroughs like our Kilimani is rapid and threatening in some aspects. High and big new appartment blocks are built every day, changing the green landscape into a treeless desert. Sometimes these buildings are called vertical slums, overpowering the ailing infrastructure of the borough.

There are legally binding rules how such tall buildings have to be planned; unfortunately these rules are in most cases simply ignored.

Luckily some collective action is started to counter such developments. Construction plans are brought to court, trees are planted and waste is collected.

One of these initiatives is the Kilimani Project Foundation, a non-profit community addressing the most pressing issues like sustainable development, green spaces, public safety and social cohesion. This type of collective action has been by far too rare in Kenya to address issues an individual cannot address alone. Let’s hope that this example finds its followers.

Finally Rain Again

2023-03-16: The rain is back in Nairobi. I had never thought that I would be delighted by the beginning of a rainy season. Luckily, the rain is not limited to Nairobi. According to a forecast by the Kenya Meteorological Department, rain is expected also over the Highlands East and West of the Rift Valley, the Lake Victoria Basin, the South and Central Rift Valley and North-western Kenya and even over some parts of the Coast and North-eastern Kenya. This is really good news, let’s hope that more rain will fall all over Kenya!

The rain is also an entertaining spectacle for our two new companions.

Catkeepers again

2023-03-11: What we hoped for, gets reality: Two cats opted for us as personnel. Bahati (Kiswahili for luck) and Jabali (rock, in front) allow us to care for them.

The two, brother and sister, come from a private feline sanctuary and are said to have been indoor cats already. So far they show a lot of patience in training their new servants, it looks like a promising beginning of a wonderful friendship.

How to End Hunger?

2023-03-10: The nutritional situation of six million Kenyans is critical. According to a Greenpeace International Report Kenya now ranks at 94th place out of 121 countries regarding food security. Facing shrinking water resources due to the climate crisis, Greenpeace urges the Kenyan Government to build long-term resilience to drought and rethink the current food system.

Relying heavily on food imports – Kenya imported $97.8M worth of maize in 2020 – the government should support innovations to boost local production and encourage the consumption of indigenous food that is nutritious and healthy to curb the problem of overdependence on maize and wheat.

Will the actual government have the stature to impose a longer-term solution to a recurrent problem, which has remained untackled for a long time now?

Rain or no Rain?

2023-03-08: According to a forecast by the Kenya Meteorological Department there will be also in March below average rainfalls in most parts of Kenya. If this becomes true, the crisis especially in the Northern parts will still aggravate: more animals, domestic and wildlife, will die, more people will be threatened by starvation.

The Ruto government refuses for unclear reasons to declare the drought a national disaster, thus preventing more international help.

One direct consequence of the crisis can be seen in northwestern Kenya: According to a report in the Nation, cattles rustlers, an ancient banditry business there, are organising themselves in a paramilitary, Guerilla-style way. This makes the task of the Kenyan army and policy to secure the region against this crime a nightmare, the situation escalating next to civil war. Without quick and effective help the situation could get out of control finally.

Another New Hope

2023-02-21: Remember the fierce battle for vaccine access for African people during Covid-19 pandemic? Africans seem to have learned the lesson from European blockage of a WTO patent waiver. According to a report in the Nation, the first vaccine manufacturing plants are under construction in Egypt, South Africa and Kenya, among others.

The declared target of these initiatives is to produce 60% of the vaccine doses required on the continent by 2040. This seems to be an ambitious target, but, given the possibilities of African states, not an unrealistic one.

An Evening to Remember

2023-02-19: It is difficult not to remember an evening at the sea!

A Farm to Shriek

2023-02-18: Two British founded back in the 80s a snake research facility, hosting now the largest population of snakes in East Africa. Many of the most poisonous and dangerous snakes in the world can be seen here, including Black Mambas and huge Pythons. Luckily, they also produce antidotes for the snakes they host.

I prefer the nice chameleons they also have. When the caretaker takes it out of its box, the colour changes from white to green, until it has the right colour not to stand out of its environment.

Richesses of the Coast

2023-02-17: The Swahili people were excellent seafarers, travelling with their boats the whole Indian ocean. Till today many fishermen are busy to satisfy the hunger of inhabitants and guests for fish, with excellent results.

An Ancient Legacy

2023-02-16: Before the Portuguese destroyed it in the 16th century, the indigenous local Swahili culture flourished at the coast. Some cities here date back as far as the 8th century, and together they dominated the trade on the Indian Ocean for centuries.

One of these cities, Gede, was abandoned for unknown reasons in the 15th century. Her ruins have been excavated and give an impressive sight till today. Don’t trust the guide when he tells you it was Arabic. The Swahili culture was clealy influenced by Arabic culture, but it was a highly developed culture of its own. Many indigenous African cultures are not recognized as such still today.

Happy Valentine!

2023-02-14: Valentine’s Day is a really big thing here in Kenya. Therefore Dorothee and I took a week off at the sea in Watamu, a small town with a considerable Italian population. Italian is a lingua franca there, dating back to the 70s, when many Sicilians came to Watamu.

An Old Vice

2023-02-02: Corruption is a widespread vice all over the world. Watchdog Transparency International just published its annual report over the state of corruption worldwide. Their overall résumé is pretty bleak: More than two-thirds of countries score below 50, while 26 countries have fallen to their lowest scores yet. TI sees corruption as both a key cause and a result of an increasingly insecure and more violent world.

This is also true for East Afica. Kenya for example could improve its corruption index by 2 points to 32, up from 30 in 2021 and well below the global average of 43 (0 meaning ‚highly corrupt‘ and 100 ‚very clean‘). This puts the country on rank 128 out of 180 countries included.

In the East Africa region it holds a middle place, worse than neighbouring Tanzania and Ethiopia (both 38), but better than Uganda (26) or South Sudan (13).

Speaking with employees of TI Kenya reveals quite a typical pattern of good and bad that can be seen in other fields as well. There are some very engaged institutions fighting corruption like the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission EACC, with which TI Kenya can work closely, but there are also many powerful players hampering the fight against corruption on all levels. The fight seems to be a damn long one.

A Beautiful Dawn

2023-01-31: In the dry season there are wonderful dawns in Nairobi!

Tough Waters Ahead

2023-01-30: One of Dr Ruto’s central promises during his election campaign was to lower the costs of living for all Kenyans in the first 100 days in office. Such promises usually have a short lifespan, but this one is too important to be simply forgotten.

Unfortunately it looks that after 140 days in office of the new government the opposite happened. According to the latest figures published by the KNBS, the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, prices for many important basic goods raised by 42% between September 2022 and January 2023.

According to a report in the Nation, the price of a kilo of potatoes rose from ca. 90 KES in September to 97 KES in November. The price for electricity made a jump by over 27% between August and December.

If President Ruto continues to fail on his central election promise, times for the new government could get rough. The pressure on most Kenyans is rising constantly, and their patience could be limited.

A Dangerous Job

2023-01-23: Human rights activists face life-endangering threats and violence all over the world, and Kenya is no exeption here.

Recently, according to a report of the Nation, Mr Kimutai Kirui called for police protection. Mr Kirui did a lot of public action to expose an Eldoret based recruitment agency in connection with World Cup jobs promised to youths, jobs the paying applicants never saw.

Mr Kirui is executive director of the Centre Against Torture in Uasin Gishu, a North Rift county. He now reported to the police that he receives dead threats and faces physical molestation.

The protection of Mr Kirui is yet another litmus test for the government whether or not it is willing to safeguard the Kenyan civil society. The phenomen of ’shrinking spaces‘ for civil society actors is also ubiquitous here in Kenya.

Stray or not stray?

2023-01-14: Since we have no cats actually to look after, the sight of cats on the streets induces a desire to simply take them home, provided we were able to catch them, of course.

But is she really a stray cat? Such a good looking cat certainly has recruited already some personnel to cover her needs. Though, after Christmas there are many cats in the shelter, we’re told. Maybe one or two of them will recruit us?


2023-01-12: Finally the (not so) short rainy season is over, and the summer (called the dry season in Kenya) is here. It feels like holidays, and for most pupils it still is, since the Christmas break is the time of long home stays for them.

What inspires us with happiness is for others a nightmare. The closing of the „rainy“ season without rain, for the forth consecutive year, means for many Kenyans, that hunger and death will persist.

A report by the Wildlife Research and Training Institute, based in Naivasha, shows the impact of drought on both wildlife and livestock. In the most affected ecosystems (Amboseli, Tsavo, Laikipia-Samburu) the wildlife losses are endangering all conservation efforts of the past.

Where wildlife suffers, humans suffer too. According to Reliefweb more than 4.2 million people in the arid and semi-arid parts of Kenya are facing high levels of acute food insecurity with about 2.7 million people in the crisis phase and 785,000 people in emergency state (these figures of October are still on the rise).

In Germany you can often hear and read that the climate crisis is not so pressing and no urgent actions are necessary. In Kenya you can experience the true deadly dimension of this crisis.

Happy New Year

2022-12-31 / 2023-01-01: I wish you all a happy New Year! After a difficult 2022 a happier and easier 2023 might follow, bringing as much as possible of what you wish.

Merry Christmas

2022-12-25: Christmas in Nairobi is a pretty new experience for us. To celebrate it in a tropical environment is somewhat unknown; luckily Dorothee brought with her some unexpected Moravian stars to give a home-bound feeling of the day. To all who celebrate: Have a happy, peaceful Christmas!

An old Legacy

2022-12-22: Do you know what a kaya is? On their way through southern Africa some Bantu people found their way to the beach south of Mombasa. In fact the Mijikenda fled from slave traders into the forests, which originally flourished at the beaches. An inhabitated forest was called a kaya. At the end of the 19th century the last inhabitants left the kaya as a habitation, but they remained sacred places for the spirits of the tribe, consultated till today by the chiefs.

To preserve the kaya the Digo (one of the Mijikenda tribes) decided to make one of it, the Kaya Kinondo, accessible for visitors, except for the sacred area in the middle. Today it forms an UNESCO world heritage site and a successful eco-tourist project providing some money to the members of the community.

If you want to visit this kaya, look for Kaya Kinondo near Ukunda south of Mombasa. More info about it can be found here.

Swahili Architecture

2022-12-21: There are not many buildings left from the Swahili past of Mombasa, unfortunately. One of the most impressive is the oldest mosque in town, Mandhry Mosque, founded in 1570. Its rounded minaret is said to be typical for the Bantu-influenced architecture.

Advent on the Beach

2022-12-18: A day at the sea is for me always a wonder, like here at Pirate Beach near Mombasa. There is a metaphysical feeling of happiness!

To light or not to light

2022-12-13: The electricity net in Nairobi and other parts of the country is sometimes bound to – mostly short – outages. This is not too surprising, given its somewhat improvised nature with surface cables and distributors.

Unfortunately there is a deeper reason for the lack of investments into the electricity net. According to a report in the Nation Kenyans failed to pay Sh27bn for electricity bills in the first half of 2022 alone. This is not only due to the sharp rise of cost of living in the recent months, including electricity costs, but is a decade-old problem for power suppliers.

The new administration seems determined to push county governments and government entities to settle their power bills, since also these institutions do not always pay their bills.

Jamhuri Day

2022-12-12: Yet another public holiday, the second to mark Kenyan independence after Madaraka day on June, 1st. Jamhuri means republic in Kiswahili, and it commemorates two events: the formal independence on Dec. 12th, 1963 and the admittance to the Commonwealth as a republic one year later. Unfortunately the weather in Nairobi is not festive at all, which is a pity for the many activities planned for today.

Two Visitors

2022-12-04: From our balcony we can see many birds, among them eagles, storks, crows and swallows. But there are far more species. Today two Northern Black Flycatchers (probably) inspected our balcony and indeed found some apparently interesting food there. Wait and see whether they become regulars here.

Christmas Stress

2022-11-28: You think you can escape the pre-Christmas stress in Nairobi? Nope, you can’t. Christmas is a really big thing here and everybody seems to hurry to get some presents for the family.

Therefore, all need money, including criminals. Many horrific stories about attacks in Nairobi flood the social media channels, tales of assaults in plain daylight, even on groups.

But not all stories turn out to be true. Sometimes pictures and videos from other countries like South Africa are posted to have taken place in Nairobi, sometimes the reported events are anything but criminal attacks, for example a fundraising event.

Nonetheless the security situation in Nairobi, especially in the CBD, has deteriorated, as it usually does before Christmas. The new city government seems determined to change this, but in a country with a chronically corrupt police force this will prove to be difficult.

In the meantime we observe our security rules, e.g. no strolls outside after sunset, even stricter. As Karl Valentin had it: „After the ‚Silent Days‘ things will become quieter again.“

Malkia amekufa (The Queen is dead)

2022-11-20: Lucy the cat decided to enter the next level of life. She was critically ill, so we had to let her go.

This is very hard for us, especially for Dorothee, who had an exceptionally close relationship to her, all the nine years she was with us.

Stay in the glory of the Lord, paka wetu!

New Buses for Nairobi

2022-11-18: The climate crisis is an omnipresent issue here in Kenya. The drought is only the most devastating part of it, the changes of seasons and the rising unpredictability of the weather are also well present in the public opinion.

Part of the problem is the public transport in Nairobi, relying almost exclusively on old buses and small transporters issuing a lot of pollutants. The revival of the small meter-gauge suburban railway network, brought about by the previous administration, was just one step to a better public transport system.

Another step was just kicked-off by the local start-up BasiGo (basi is the Kiswahili word for bus). It announced some days ago to start the production of electric buses in Kenya and to produce 100 of them in 2023, 15 to be delivered already in January next year. Also the charging infrastructure for these buses shall be provided.

100 buses are not too big a number for Nairobi, for sure. But these electric buses could set a way forward into a fossil-free future and show that this is not out of reach for a country like Kenya. I really look forward to use it!

Rain and no Rain

2022-11-16: In Nairobi the second raining season of the year, the „short“ raining season, has started with some weeks of delay. The city’s claim to be the „City in the sun“ seems now nothing more than a clever marketing invention.

Unfortunately in the parts of Kenya desperately waiting for rain for four years now there is still no or very little rain. According to media reports more than 5 million people actually stand in need for humanitarian assistance, not to mention the many animals, wild and domestic, starving to death. The demands for climate change compensations from the countries of the north become very tanglible here.

Evening at the Lake

2022-11-04: The Lake Victoria (it’s still named like that) is the biggest freshwater lake in Africa. It is world’s second-largest lake by surface, but since it is not very deep (40 m on average), it is in terms of volume only the world’s ninth-largest continental lake.

It is often considered to be the most important source of the river Nile. But more often the true source of the Nile is considered to be one of the tributary rivers of the Kagera River, flowing into the lake and coming from Burundi or Rwanda, this is not finally settled.

If you see it like that, then again the ancient Greek „story-teller“ Herodotus was right, claiming that the Nile originates from hills in southern Africa.

In any case the scenery is impressive. Sitting at the lake shore in Dunga Hill Camp near Kisumu and eating some Nyama Choma, an iconic food of Kenya, gives you a feeling of the greatness of Africa.

Holy Cows

2022-10-24: Diwali, the Indian fest of lights, is also celebrated here. It is not a national holiday, but an optional one, which employees can pick from a list of optional holidays as a day off.

Also cows are not holy for non-Indian people here in Eastern Africa, but wait, there could be an exception.

For the Maasai their cattle have a status of very high importance, next to holiness. Maasai cows are a frequent sight now also in Nairobi, searching for every piece of green they can find. In the streets they have the right of way, causing even more jams than usual.

A Beautiful Season

2022-10-24: In Europe and other parts of the world you would call it spring, not so in Kenya. People here speak about the long or the short rainy season, the cold or hot season.

What we now have in Nairobi you could call the Jacaranda season. Many of these beautifully blossoming trees can be seen now, and their violet blooms give the city a very special flair. Nairobi, the „City in the Sun“, becomes a city of colours, finally.

A Day for Heroes

2022-10-20: In Kiswahili „mashujaa“ means „heroes“, so Mashujaa Day is the day of the heroes, a public holiday remembering in the first place all who fought for Kenya’s independence or positively contributed to the post-independence Kenya.

We use the holiday to attend the NGO International Film Festival in Nairobi. The idea behind this festival is to show short films produced by NGOs for their own purposes and to make them seen by a greater public. The public is not so big indeed – only 4 spectators including us at this venue – but the films from Tanzania, Nigeria and Mexico are brilliant.

„Zafi“ by Chloe Coko presents the sad story of two child brides in Nigeria, married to much older men to pay the debts of their fathers. „Champion“ by the Tanzanian studio Tai tells about a girl hero in a Massai village (some of the films by Tai can be seen here). „Education for Life and Peace“ documents an educational event in Mexico devoted to a holistic approach to economic, social and political issues.

The bare existence of such a festival is yet another sign of life of the Kenyan civil society.

Walking Africa

2022-10-18: According to a report by UN Human Settlements Programme up to one billion Africans spend 56 minutes walking or cycling for transport every day (I’m part of that, if it’s not raining).

But there is a backside here: While the continent accounts for just 3 percent of the world’s registered vehicles, it is home to 20 percent of global road traffic deaths. More than 260’000 people were killed on African roads in 2019, 36 percent of these pedestrians.

The security for pedestrians on Nairobi’s roads is not too good: sidewalks are limited to bigger roads, if any, and often illegally used by motorcycles. Some sort of anarchy in the city traffic, apparently due to the election period, seems to prevail still. Hopefully the new county goverment will tackle with it in near future.

And there is also a social dimension in walking, as it is considered to be a form of mobility for poor people. In Kiswahili, if you don’t want to say „nilikuja kwa miguu“ (I came by feet) you can say „nilikuja kwa routi eleven“, meaning the same.

On the Bright (Sea-)Side of Life

2022-10-10: After three years I finally see the sea again! Monday is Utamaduni Day, a holiday to celebrate the country’s rich cultural diversity and heritage. We use the long week-end and Dorothee’s birthday on Sunday to go to Mombasa, Kenya’s busy and most important port town at the Indian Ocean.

I cannot describe the joy I feel when sinking into the warm sea. The whole trip is an abundance of light, sun, sea, easy life, and pure happiness. More pictures can be found here.

On the not so Bright Side of Life

2022-10-05: People with disabilities struggle in Kenya, as in other countries, with many prejudices, especially as children. They are often hidden by their parents, can’t go to school or conduct a life as normal as possible. Disabilities are seen as a curse, also for their families.

The NCCK launched a campaign for the rights of these people. One part of it is a sensitization workshop at Getembe Church of God in East Africa in Kisii County, where stakeholders cite discrimination, stigma and gender based violence as some of the cruelties meted against persons with disabilities in the society.

As usual the NCCK tries to organize affected persons to speak for themselves and make them heard. A news coverage of this action can be seen here. You may notice the sign language interpretation, which is quite common in Kenya, not only on television.

A New Hope

2022-09-30: Of course you know Malaria. But do you know Kala-Azar (or Visceral Leishmaniasis)? This is the second deadliest parasitic killer in Africa after Malaria. It is one of the so-called „Neglected Diseases“, for which only a long, costly, and painful treatment is available, although the disease has been well known for a long time.

According to the Ministry of Health in Kenya five million people, mainly children aged five to 15, are at risk of the disease, mostly in nine arid and semi-arid parts of the country, parts also at risk of hunger and poverty.

As a disease mostly affecting poor people there has been nearly no research on it. With one notable execption: The Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDI) recently developed a new treatment with the potential to significantly reduce the risk for a deadly course and which is much easier to administer.

According to a recent DNDI press release a clinical trial initiated in 2017 in Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, and Uganda by the AfriKADIA Consortium with funding from The European & Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP) showed very good results.

This finding is encouraging, but if you compare the time to develop this treatment with the development of COVID-19 vaccines (only marginally shared with so-called developing countries) you see the difference in the target audiences of these diseases.

An Old Story

2022-09-27: According to an article in the Nation Kenyan lawyer Mr Paul Gicheru was found dead at his home in the borough of Karen, the circumstances of his death still being unclear.

The story behind here is that Mr Gicheru faced a charge at the International Criminal Court in the Hague for interference with the ICC process in 2014-2015 against then vice president and actual president Dr William Ruto.

Dr Ruto was accused in the Hague for crimes against humanities for his role in the violent ourbursts after the 2007 elections. The prosecutor backed this charge with many witnesses, who began to withdraw their testimonies or disappeared completely after Mr Gicheru entered the stage.

Mr Gicheru was charged by the ICC, but denied any interference. Surprisingly in 2020 Mr Gicheru chose to face trial in the Hague pleading not guilty.

The pre-trial chamber of the ICC confirmed the case against Mr Gicheru just last week, stating it „is convinced that between April 2013 and January 2014, Mr Gicheru offered various witnesses (millions of shillings) in cash instalments in exchange for withdrawing as Prosecution witnesses in the Ruto and Sang case”, according to the Nation.

President Ruto is adversely mentioned as one of the people in the scheme of things in the court documents, but the court so far does not demand Mr Ruto’s appearance.

Nonetheless this old story could still backfire on the actual president.

A Trappy Climate

2022-09-25: The climate in Nairobi is a bit treacherous: the sun is intense, given Nairobi’s position on the equator, but the air is fresh, given Nairobi’s altitude of 1,800 m. Her name comes from the Maasai phrase Enkare Nairobi, which translates to „place of cool waters“, but it could have been also „place of cool air“.

So sitting in the sun gives me a good feeling of summer and warmth, but when the sun has gone, I catch a bad cold without even realising at first. Learning here: Always take a jacket with you.

And almost all Kenyans we speak to agree that the climate became unpredictable due to the climate crisis. Previously unknown floods and droughts and shifts in seasons add to the difficulties most Kenyans face actually.

A Call for Action

2022-09-22: Many groups of Kenyan society try to influence the agenda of the new government, even when it is not finally installed yet. So do the religious leaders of the member churches of the NCCK.

In a press statement – you can watch it here – they call for action on four top priorities: lower the cost of living, declare famine and dought a national disaster, address the socio-economic situation of young people, and strengthen state institutions to protect the welfare of Kenyans.

Dealing with these issues may prove to be difficult, to say the least. Hopefully Kenyans will see more than symbolic actions and the usual corruption.

A New Price Tag

2022-09-15: It may seem to be a simple price tag, but it is a very important one. The new government raised the petrol prices by KES 20 and by KES 25 for diesel. Even after this sharp rise prices are still ca. KES 30 below market prices.

The decision was a first compromise, President Ruto originally planned to remove subsidies completely. But the way ahead is like squaring the circle: the new government needs to comply with harsh budget restrictions while delivering on its promise to lower cost of life within the first 100 days. The apparently difficult decision-making process with petrol prices shows that the new government is in trouble already from the start.

It is little comfort to Kenyans that the rest of the world faces the same problems.

An End and a Start

2022-09-12: According to the daily newspaper Nation outgoing president Uhuru Kenyatta leaves a two-faced legacy.

On the positive side are more roads built (11,000 km) than by all other administrations before together – including the British – and a much increased access to electricity (from 40% to 71% of the population). Also many other infrastructure projects like ports and the Standard Gauge Railway list here together with the issuance of six million land title deeds.

On the negative stand a much increased public debt, amounting to Sh8.56 trillion or 67% of Kenya’s GDP and many issues and scandals showing that corruption didn’t diminish, to say the least.

The new administration of Dr Ruto faces tough waters ahead in fulfilling its promises: the 100-days-action plan for ‚hustlers‘ – a term that means in Kenya small and medium business entrepreneurs – and actions to bring down the cost of living will require much money, and money got rare now.

The subsidy for the petrol price – acutally fixed ca. Sh50 per litre below the market price – is not well received by the International Monetary Fund and will be difficult to maintain in future. But a petrol price of over Sh200 per litre would be a severe shock to hustlers and the whole economy.

If the new administration can’t handle these problems adequately the outlook could be sobre for it. But at least it starts with a public holiday for the inauguration tomorrow.

Light and Blue Silence

2022-09-07: During our visit at Karen Village we encountered a young Kenyan artist, Jimmy Kitheka, in his atelier. His paintings show a very individual look, often playing with light reflections of candles, neon bulbs or other sources of light. Most of them are situated in the dark, with unsharp contours of the objects depicted, giving his pictures a look of strangeness and mystery.

Attending the vernissage of an exhibition of his works at the Alliance Française in Nairobi we meet Jimmy again and share his happiness with this evening. He did some other jobs before starting to paint, but since he does he is quite successful. His works are currently also shown in Venice at an exhibition called ‚African Identities‘, so it is a real chance to see his works here.

You can visit the exhibition till September, 30th.

The Final Decision

2022-09-05: The election of a president is over: The Supreme Court confirmed the victory of Dr Ruto and dismissed all petitions against it. The only critical point is a severe malfunction in the governance of the IEBC, the election board of Kenya. Here reform seems inevitable.

It is quite disappointing that Mr Odinga was not able to present more evidence for his case. He had done a better service to the people of Kenya in conceding his defeat, hopefully he does so now. Also the four dissenting commissioners need to be asked whether their move to split the IEBC – called an ‚antic‘ by the Court – was really adequate.

All observers agree that the elections were fair and transparent, and the mere possibility of hacking the tallying system – without showing any evidence that it really occured – is simply not enough to compromise the reported results.

A report by KICTANet, a Kenyan think tank for IT issues, makes several proposals for improvement of the systems used. Hopefully the next government adopts them along with a governance reform for the IEBC.

A Fresh Start

2022-09-01: While Kenyans wait for a new president the elected candidates for governors in the counties are sworn in and start their work.

According to an article in the Nation the newly elected governors of the three North Eastern counties Garissa, Wajir, and Mandera announced such a fresh start. Two of them in Wajir and Garissa are not new to their positions, but reclaimed seats they lost in 2017; only the Mandera governor is a really new face.

All three announced quick fixes especially in the ailing health sector, where services are severely hampared by lack of medical supplies.

Hopefully this fresh momentum lasts longer, since the tasks waiting will need an even longer commitment than the five years of a term until the next elections.

Unfortunately, no mention is done in the article of the ongoing drought and hunger crisis affecting the three counties. The Regional Drought Response Plan of the UN World Food Programme lists them among others like Turkana, Marsabit, Isiolo and Samburu as severly hit by food shortages and the loss of livestock. The number of people in need of relief food assistance is estimated to be 3.5 million for Kenya.

The WFP changes its actions in Kenya from direct provision of food to the strengthening of national and local systems. It is of vital importance therefore that the counties are competent partners in this process, providing quick and efficient help.

Living in the Limbo

2022-08-27: While the Supreme Court discusses the presidential election, the elected governors and MPs, national and in the counties, take their offices. Many new faces, among them more women than ever before, shape a new picture of Kenyan politics.

For the contested presidential elections the way forward remains totally unclear. The Supreme Court has three possible choices: reject the elections completely, accept the voting, but not the tallying or confirm the victory of Dr Ruto.

Publicly a rare apathy reigns here over that issue. Together with the much lower voter turnout and the quietness before, during and after the election – even in Dr Ruto’s strongholds the celebrations were short-lived – this life in limbo shows that most Kenyans care more for their own survival than for a president. Mr Odinga had problems mobilising his voters in the first round already, Dr Ruto might join him in a possible repetition or second round. Turned positively: the time of ‚magic‘ in politics, claiming to bring about the Promised Land, seems to be over. An able crisis manager seems to be preferable over a miracle doctor.

The Wind of Change

2022-08-23: If you want to see some fresh wind in the political system of Kenya, have a look at human rights activist Mr Okiya Omtatah Okoiti. In the elections Mr Omtatah won the senator seat for Busia county with a big majority, reflecting the respect for Mr Omtatah’s work in the last years.

Not being a professional lawyer he filed some successful pledges in different courts, winning major cases in favour of the public.

According to the daily newspaper Nation, he filed also a petition at the Supreme Court claiming that neither Dr Ruto nor Mr Odinga got 50% + 1 of votes as the constitution requires. He not only found a typo in the officially published results – seemingly to be the first to do so – but also raised some serious questions about the count of voters.

Maybe the case of the four dissenting commissioners of the IEBC is stronger than it looked at first. There could be good reasons to repeat the presidential election.

Key to Success: Mobilisation

2022-08-19: If the victory of Dr Ruto is valid – the Supreme Court to decide – , the key factor for it lies in the far better mobilisation of voters. The voters‘ turnout was on average much higher in counties preferring Dr Ruto than in counties with a majority for Mr Odinga.

So it’s not only the political preference of the Mt. Kenya region, as most commen-tators see it. Maybe voters generally saw more future in Dr Ruto than in the hero of the past.

A Stray turns House Cat

2022-08-17: Zuri the (ex-)stray cat accomodates with her new home, even with Lucy the cat. Lucy still has not come to terms with her new companion, but as cats normally do the both share the resources available like rooms, places to sleep and the attention of humans. A fragile peace seems to prevail, hopefully to last.

The Day After

2022-08-16: Kenya has a president-elect, but does it have a new president? Insecurity about the validity of the elections, especially the tallying process persists, after four out of seven commissioners of the IEBC refused to validate the result that was proclaimed. The deeper reason for this remains unclear so far.

The vote is a pity seriously compromising the work of thousands very engaged and trustworthy officers during the election. All commissioners together must find a way to rebuild the confidence in the IEBC and not roll off the whole mess to the Supreme Court. The commission owes the people of Kenya a full elucidation, at least as a last service to its returning officer Mr Daniel Musyoka found dead today, murdered and tortured.

Apart from rare outbursts of frustration in some Raila strongholds all remained calm, but today most businesses remain closed and public transport is mostly out of service.

Compared to prior elections this calmness can be interpreted in different ways: you can read it as a proof of maturity, or of widespread complacency about the whole political system. The latter seems true for many, if not most Kenyans under 35. This puts an additional weight on the shoulders of the incoming administration. It must find ways to steer Kenya through the combined crises ahead, otherwise the apparent peace will break soon.

A Lesson in Patience

2022-08-15: Coming from Europe to Kenya you learn patience in many aspects of your life. We made this experience already with Kenyan bureaucracy and customs. But the nerve-racking wait for presidential results sets a new mark, even by Kenyan standards.

Speaking with Kenyans reveals that there are many new facets in these elections: the public admittance of defeat by many candidates, the transparent way of tallying and the calls for peace and patience by all major players in politics and society results in an emotional, but peaceful intermediate stage in this process. Outlooks are good that peace will prevail also when the result is announced.


2022-08-09: The long awaited day of general elections is finally here. According to most observers the elections went fair and peacefully without the feared outbursts of violence.

The operation for the six elections hold together went smoothly in most parts of the country, with the exception of some quirks with the electronic voters‘ register and missing ballot forms.

I serve among many others all over Kenya as an official observer for the NCCK in a polling station in our borough of Kilimani, located in the Kilimani Primary School.

The station is well-equipped with all necessary material, and the whole process is well-organized with colour-coded ballot forms and boxes.

Speaking with the election officers from the IEBC, the organizing body of the elections, reveals, that they are part-time employees of IEBC with a contract for the elections. During the election process they show a high level of engagement and professionalism, also the result of four days of training.

Most striking to me, with an experience of more than 30 years as an election volunteer in Germany, is the transparency of the counting process: Each ballot is unfolded by the presiding officer and assessed by all present officers and observers for the respective candidate. Also the counting is done together, so no room for any fraud is left open.

The long day, starting at 6 am, ends after midnight, when all results are counted and tallied to the IEBC. From there it will take up to seven days for a final result to be officially announced. Hopefully all candidates and citizens will accept this result.

African Arts in a Village

2022-08-07: One of the HAART activities is placed at Karen Village, a cultural hub with over 25 studios and social enterprises in the noble borough of Karen. Beside a temporary exhibition one lasting contribution of HAART’s campaign is a mural with its central message: take action against human trafficking.

The vast area is marked with art all over, vibrating with originality and wit.

We even find an Ethiopian restaurant for an excellent dinner.

A Widely Unknown World Day

2022-07-30: Do you know that July, 30th is the World Day against Human Trafficking? HAART is using this day to promote its fight with many different actions. Among them are boxes in shopping malls displaying the dimensions of this crime and the false promises traffickers make.

One survivor, Ms Mary Muroki, now works with HAART to protect other people from that what happened to her. Her story, narrated by herself, is heart-breaking, but full of hope and strength. Remarkable is not only what she tells, but the quiet, intense way to tell about the hardnesses in her life. You can hear it here.

A Call for Safe and Peaceful Elections

2022-07-28: As the election day approaches quickly, many actors in the Kenyan society raise their voices to call for safe and peaceful elections.

Under the umbrella of the Mulika initiative, funded by USAID, the main religious groups in Kenya join forces to enforce these peace messages. At a conference in Ufungamano House, a venue of the NCCK in Nairobi, catholic and protestant leaders, along with Muslim and Hindhu representatives, discuss for two days issues of the election preparation and offer their help.

In the focus of questions stands the IEBC, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission as the main organizing body of the elections. After the problems in 2017, when the elections had to be repeated due to grave execution problems, the Kenyan public has a close look on this commission. Its communication has room for improvement, to say the least, and some of their recent actions are not building up trust in it.

Speaking with some of IEBC’s employees, who work with great engagement to safeguard the elections, shows another facet. They are very disappointed about the ongoing critique and many rumours raised in the public about its conduct. It is great to see that fairness and correctness of elections find strong advocates among them.

In their press statement the religious leaders urge all stakeholders, IEBC, politicians, police, media, and all Kenyans to facilitate fair, credible and peaceful elections.

Flashmobs in Nairobi

2022-07-24: What if you are forced to work as housemaid or sexworker? Human trafficking is a crime with horrible consequences for the victims. HAART, the NGO Dorothee works with, tries to raise awareness for this ongoing human rights crisis. Flashmobs in very different places of Nairobi like a noble shopping mall or an informal settlement are just one type of action to promote this.

Excellent dancers and rappers catch the attention of the inhabitants and carry the message about human trafficking into an environment with very vulnerable people for human trafficking, here in Kibera.

Peacekeeping at Bigger Scale

2022-07-20: The National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK), the organisation I am working with, undertakes together with other institutions some intiatives to keep the upcoming election safe and peaceful. This encompasses election observation (including primaries), peace messages voiced in member churches and dedicated research about the feelings in Kenya with regard to institutions and politicians.

The picture painted at the annual conference of the Executive Committee of the NCCK today in Limuru is a mixed one: some findings are encouraging, many are not. The level of credibility of governmental institutions and politicians is quite low, and many people don’t believe in fair, free and correct elections. Nonetheless the calls for peace and national cohesion are widespread, and chances are still good for non-violent elections.

Part of the good news is that these elections may differ from earlier ones in one important point. They could be the first not too heavily influenced by the underlying ethnic-identity problem Kenya faces from the start. Both of the leading candidates adress the same ethnic groups, but with different issues and promises. This could make these elections the first issue-based ones ever.

Peacemaking at Small Scale

2022-07-17: You want to know whether you qualify for UN Secretary General? Try to bring two cats together. Zuri the stray cat (white-gray) is not too well received by Lucy the cat (brown), but Dorothee reaches sort of a fragile state of peace. We have to see whether this will keep or ends up in open fight. ‚Zuri‘ means pretty or nice in Kiswahili, but she is also a born street cat with an experience of assertiveness. Or might it be that Zuri will not be satisfied without the street life?

Fight Every Crisis

2022-07-15: The conditions of living in East Africa in general and in Nairobi in special are deteriorating constantly. As a report in the daily newspaper Nation puts it: „In Nairobi, the wealthy live large, the middle class survive while the needy merely exist in the hope that the next sunrise will bring better fortunes.“

Life in Nairobi has never been easy if you are not so well-off, but now the combined crises of drought (through climate change), fuel and food shortage (mostly due to the war in Ukraine) and COVID-19 make it really difficult, not to mention the persistant crises of corruption and criminality. One immediate consequence is much less traffic in the streets, giving a previously unknown feeling of ease to get from A to B.

And still the life in the capital seems to be better than in rural areas in northern Kenya. Reports are sparse even in Kenyan media but the hunger seems all too common there. According to the Borgen project help is under way, but in no ways sufficient. Unfortunately there are not too many voters living in the most affected areas.

A Supermoon

2022-07-14: The supermoon also rises over Kileleshwa:

Commemorating a Sacrifice

2022-07-11: Yet another long week-end, due to a muslim holiday: Eid al-Adha, the „Feast of the Sacrifce“, the second and bigger Muslim feast after Eid al-Fitr. In Muslim tradition Ibrahim should sacrifice his son Ismail (instead of Isaac in the Jewish tradition). Here also an animal is slaughtered in place of the son, Ibrahim’s willingness to do so was enough for God.

If that holiday falls on a Sunday, as in this year, the following Monday is not automatically free as for other holidays. But this year being an election year the government declared it so, on a very short notice, Friday only.

Singing for God and Peace

2022-07-10: Living with a purpose can change your life. The people behind ‚Tunedem‘ try to convey this feeling through their music classes. ‚Tunedem‘ is derived from ‚tune them‘ and tries to use musical education as a means for tuning people in to the grace of God. The initiative is located at the Hope Church in Lavington, a rather noble borough of Nairobi.

The band behind the project plays Reggae music with Christian texts. Although Dorothee tells me that later the concert turns into a punk festival with Pogo dancing. Definitively I left too early.

Election Fears

2022-07-08: Like all human rights violations also violence in the context of elections has a gender bias. Kenya experienced strong violence after the 2007 elections, and also the last election 2017 was accompanied with outbreaks of rape, assault, and murder.

What did the offcials learn from these events to prevent such crimes during and after the polls in August? According to this comment in daily newspaper ‚Nation‘ the government is aware of the issue.

Last Friday survivors of the 2007/2008 post-election violence shared their stories. They are shattering, especially the stories of women: rape that resulted in pregnancies and HIV infections, crippling assaults and other infringements with long-lasting effects destroyed their lives.

The most discouraging news is that there is no real news in the official plans to prevent further election-related crimes. Tangible and concrete actions are still lacking, and nearly none of the perpetrators of past crimes were prosecuted and convicted.

Hopefully prayers won’t be the only measures to ensure peaceful elections. Otherwise the bare word ‚election‘ will become a menace to many Kenyans.

A House with a View

2022-07-06: I cannot get accustomed to this view. How could I?

A Different Part of Nairobi

2022-07-04: During my work for the NCCK I explore a very different part of Nairobi. The NCCK runs a hospital in Huruma, a lower middle-class borough visibly not so well-off like other boroughs. It was very impressive to see the engagement of doctors and nurses there to provide to their patients not only basic, but also advanced medical services.

The most encouraging fact is that the treatments and services are offered at truely affordable prices covered by the health insurance system in Kenya. Therefore the hospital can indeed serve the people of its neighbourhood.

Safari in the City

2022-07-02: Nairobi is famous to be the only capital in the world with a national park inside the city limits. And she is rightly so: the scenary is impressive to the brink of surreality. Seeing animals well known from wildlife documentaries against the skyscraper skyline of the big city is unforgettable.

Despite the fact that the park is relatively small – for this reason there are no elephants here – many animals live apparently in peace, undisturbed by the human visitors in cars. Be sure to take a guide, unless you won’t see many animals; the tour guides know best the places where to look for them.

Of the three big cat species we only see lions; cheetahs don’t show up, neither do leopards. This is a good sign, because it means their nightly hunt was successful. More photos can be found here.

Eating Out in Nairobi

2022-06-30: Our Kiswahili teacher already warned us: a sentence like ’ninapenda kula‘ (I love to eat) is grammatically correct, but no one would say it. ‚We eat because we have to‘ was her explanation.

But they are there, the good places to eat. They are not so easy to find, so better ask a friend with more experience in Nairobi. With this help we find this beautiful Italian restaurant for our wedding anniversary.

Chef Giovanni really knows the secrets of Italian cuisine, and they serve wunderful wines, a rarity in Nairobi, as far as we can tell for now. Not to mention the friendliness of the whole staff.

Oh, want to go also there? The restaurant is called ‚La Terrazza‘ in Ngong road.

Door to Door with Crooks and Criminals

2022-06-28: Following a report of the daily newspaper Nation our supposedly quiet and peaceful Kileleshwa has become home of crooks and criminals over the last ten years. Fraudsters of all sorts, gold and drug smugglers, and money launderers are taking over former posh quarters of Nairobi like Kileleshwa, Kilimani, Westlands and Riverside Drive.

Unfortunately this is not only a problem of deterioration of boroughs but also one of the public services and institutions. According to the same report the Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i told a stunning public that about 40% of holders of elective office are known as ‚wash-wash‘ dealers. Which simply means they are crooks. Combined with a rising level of criminality this is a sober outlook on Kenya’s future.

Criminal Threats

2022-06-24: One of the biggest problems in Nairobi for Kenyans and foreigners alike is the terrifying level of criminality in the city, proving right her nickname ‚Nairobbery‘.

In a special Whatsapp group for security issues in Kilimani, our supposedly quiet borough, tales of robbery, extortion and abduction are shared that make us feeling deeply threatened. The menace seems so commonplace, that it is difficult to imagine not to fall prey to it at some time.

Therefore we adopted some restrictive security rules here, the most restricting being not to go out after sunset. Which is a pity, of course: (nearly) no nightlife.

Kenyan Economy

2022-06-21: The Kenyan economy has many small enterprises with different organisational forms. Most buses and matatus (small buses) are operated by SACCOs; the acronym stands for ’savings and credit co-operative‘. This form has its origin in establishments for mutual self-help, which is very successful here. They enforce a certain saving discipline and often pay higher interest rates than banks.

But there is also a wealth of private-owned small companies like Love Artisan, from which one of our sofa comes. We couldn’t believe at first that such a beautiful sofa stems from such a small location in a suburb of Nairobi.

A Road for a Legacy

2022-06-13: Outgoing president Uhuru Kenyatta seems determined to get a good record in the history books of Kenya. Many infrastructural projects, like the Chinese-built Expressway in Nairobi, are coming to an end. Nearly two months to go to the next elections, even new projects are begun, like the repair of the bad, bumpy road leading to our house. The works seem to be on a good path, although the workers have to smash big stones manually to make them fit.

Madaraka Day

2022-06-01: Again a Kenyan special holiday, one of two remembering Kenyan history. On June 1st, 1963 the Union Jack was lowered and the new Kenyan flag hoistered, marking the begin of self-rule.

President Kenyatta used the opportunity to publicly expose the benefits of his two terms in office. According to a fact-checking NGO, Africa Check, he was right on some aspects, even underestimated some, but also exaggerated others.

It will be interesting to see in a more distant future how his presidency will be remembered. Maybe his legacy will be more honoured with the time, as it could be seen at the funeral of former president Kibaki.

An Imminent Danger

2022-05-29: Violent incidents are unfortunately very common in Kenya and in Nairobi nowadays. While ’normal‘ criminality is on a constant rise, the approaching general elections on August 9th make imminent tensions rise to a level, that makes many experts fear about violent clashes at and after the elections.

Many institutions, state and civil society actors alike, issue messages calling for maintaining peace. So does the NCCK: a religious call for a strongly religious country.

One state-run institution with the task to strengthen the bonds between Kenyans above all ethnic divides is the NCIC, the National Cohesion and Integration Commission. In a recent communication they state that the country’s potential for election-related violence is above 50%. Let’s pray for a peaceful August!

Let’s Remake Hitchcock’s Birds

2022-05-22: The birdlife of Nairobi is absolutely fascinating. Had Hitchcock seen it, I’m sure, his ‚Birds‘ had been much more frightening even. The birds in the picture are Marabus, close relatives of our storks. They are well accepted by the inhabitants since they eat carrion and keep the streets clean. Therefore they developed a truely sovereign behaviour.

Life of a Cat (as far as we know)

2022-05-10: Lucy the cat finally comes to terms with her new domicile. A bit of new furniture, e.g. a sofa, helps a lot to turn the empty flat into a true home for a cat. You might think she sleeps, but that is only half of the truth, at most.

The Longest Week-end

2022-04-29: A rare constellation of events provides to Kenyans and to us the probably longest week-end in history. The funeral of former president Kibaki on Friday, the additional holiday on Monday, since the first of May falls on a Sunday, and Eid al-Fitr, the end of Ramadan on Tuesday bring about a really long break.

This combination of secular and religious feasts shows well the multitude of Kenyan society and her very diverse influences and heritages.

We use this week-end for a trip to Lake Naivasha, a lovely Rift Valley lake with a conservancy for wildlife. Many animals, zebras, waterbucks, antilopes and many birds live here in peace without fences. One highlight is a 27-days old giraffe calf, following his parents with grace and sovereignty already.

Giraffes at home

2022-04-03: Our first encounter with Kenyan wildlife is not so wild, but by a visit in the Giraffe Centre in Nairobi. The mission of this centre is the conservation of African wildlife and the education about it.

Therefore we learn a lot about Rothschild and other giraffes and especially about their diet, with practical demonstrations. We never came so close to giraffes before. Did you know that giraffes have black tongues?

A Surprising Design Week

2022-03-27: After moving to our own flat and trying to fill its emptiness with a bed, a mattress and a fridge for the most basic needs, we feel ready to make a trip in Nairobi on Saturday.

Dorothee wants to visit the Nairobi Design Week to look for local stuff like cushions or sofas. Interestingly, the Design Week turns out to be a vibrant sign of life of the Nairobian civil society. Nearly all artisans and enterprises on this exposition have a strong background in civil and human rights.

Dorothee feels reminded to her former NGO, since the Jesuit Refugee Service also takes part here.

Some of the problems the artists and artisans are discussing are the same as in Germany: the difficulty to live from one’s art, necessary skills of self-marketing and finding an own place in the art scene.

The exhibitions and stores show a strong sense for design and beauty, and political relevance, too.

A Flat of our own

2022-03-22: After one week in the quiet resort of the sisters we find with the help of a colleague and friend of Dorothee a splendid appartment in the affluent Kileleshwa borough of Nairobi.

The tall building has 14 stories and our flat is on the 13th. Which gives us an unforgettable view over Nairobi.

Nairobi turns out to be all that what it is commonly ascribed, namely loud, crowdy and full of cars. But it has also many green, silent places and a skyline ressembling to New York.

Sitting on our balcony we can see eagles passing by, even below us. Not to mention the view from the roof top.

I can walk to my workplace, whereas Dorothee’s is an hour’s drive away.

Karibu! – Welcome to Nairobi!

2022-03-16: After a long, pleasant flight from Berlin via Frankfort we arrive at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi. My wife Dorothee and I enjoyed the flight, and even Lucy the cat arrives in good condition, albeit not amused.

Her mood does not improve when she learns that she is confined to a single room in the resort of the Sisters of the Holy Family. This is a quiet and green oasis in the noble borough of Karen (hi, Karen Blixen!), but we don’t want Lucy to go out, since she is not accustomed to that.

What she ignores is that we are set to stay for three years as seconded specialists by Brot für die Welt (Bread for the World), a German development agency. Dorothee works with Haart, an NGO working against human trafficking. I help the National Council of Churches of Kenya to become a more data driven organisation.

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