Kibera’s not as big as we thought

Kibera is not as heavily populated as many (most?) people have been saying. This is old news (last year), but it’s gotten some recent attention  at Humanitarian info (for some reason, I can’t see the actual post; I only see the comments). See also Africa Research Institute’s Urban Africa by Numbers.

Posted  Friday, September 3  2010 at  22:30

It has been billed as Africa’s biggest slum and even by some accounts, the world’s largest. Some say it is home to two million people, others a million.

But the 2009 Kenya Population and Housing Census results released this week make everything you have heard about the size of Kibera improbable. Numbers do not lie, and figures from the 2009 census indicate that Kibera barely makes it to Nairobi’s largest slum.

According to the census figures, the eight locations that form Kibera slums combined host a paltry 170,070. These include Lindi, the largest, with 35,158 people; Kianda (29,356); Laini Saba (28,182); Makina (25,242); Gatwikira (24.991); Siranga (17,363); and Kibera (9,786)…

…Another major city slum, Mukuru Kwa Njenga, in Nairobi West with 130,402 people is slowly edging towards the largest slum in Kenya status. Throw in Mathare slum in Nairobi North with 87,097 people and you begin to understand why Kibera has never been Africa’s largest slum.

For a long time Kibera has been touted as Africa’s largest slum, with various ‘experts’ putting its population at anything between one and two million. But the slum does not hold a candle to India’s Pharavi with one million. Brazil’s Rocinha Farela with a quarter million is probably the closest rival…

…As for thousands of foreign visitors who trooped in to see the “Biggest-Slum-in-Africa:” You swallowed one big lie, hook and bait!

Read the whole article.

Brian Ekdale responded to the Daily Nation article with What’s in (a Name and a Number?) He offers a history of Kibara and just defended his dissertation on the subject (congratulations!): “Creativity and Constraint in Self-Representational Media: A Production Ethnography of Visual Storytelling in a Nairobi Slum.”:

First, I argue that the dominant discourse about Kibera that is constructed and circulated by authors, journalists, NGOs, and unawares is hyperbolic and simplistic. I explore this discourse by speaking with Kibera residents about the disconnect they see between their lived experiences and the representations of their community offered by non-residents and the media….[abstract]

So how did we get the million figure?

“In the absence of actual data (such as an official census), NGO staff make a back-of-envelope estimate in order to plan their projects; a postgraduate visiting the NGO staff tweaks that estimate for his thesis research; a journalist interviews the researcher and includes the estimate in a newspaper article; a UN officer reads the article and copies the estimate into her report; a television station picks up the report and the estimate becomes the headline; NGO staff see the television report and update their original estimate accordingly.” (source: via Map Kibera see also Kibera’s Census)

Although I’ve been into Kibera a number of times for various reasons (including my day in Kibera court), the population “figure” mostly comes to mind when I’m driving a foreign visitor down a stretch of Langata Road, near Wilson Airport, where you get a good, panoramic view of all the roofs. I’ve commented more than once that this is “supposedly the largest slum in Africa…they say about a million people live there.”

I guess now I know better now.

Update (17 Aug. 2012): 

See now Martin Robins, “The missing millions of Kibera” (The Guardian, Aug. 1)

…A quick search on Google finds page after page of estimates in or around the same ball-park. The White House reckon it’s “just about 1.5 million”, while the BBC claim 700,000. Jambo Volunteers say “more than one million.” The rather sickly-sounding Global Angels reckon “around 1 million.” The Kibera Tours website describes “a population estimated at one million.” The Kibera Law Centre gives “almost 1 million.”Shining Hope for Communities reckon that Kibera “houses 1.5 million people.” The Kibera Foundation talk about “a population of almost a million people,” as do Kibera UK and about a hundred other sites you can find through your friendly neighbourhood search engine.

…Kibera consists of around two square miles of densely-clustered, single story shacks. For the White House’s estimate to be accurate, Kibera’s cluttered streets and labyrinthine alleyways would have to support a population density thirty times higher than the towering skyscrapers of New York…

He too cites the above studies:

Hence the shock when a census by the Kenyan government found only 170,000 residents, a count probably not much higher than the number of NGOs that have swarmed into the area. It isn’t easy counting the transient population of an informal settlement, and of course the government don’t have a fantastic record on Kibera – if they did, it wouldn’t exist – but their figures fit reasonably well with those produced by others. The Map Kibera Project used sampling to produce an estimate of 235,000-270,000, while KeyObs deployed the cold, hard gaze of a satellite to produce an estimate of around 200,000. These more accurate figures have suffered the fate that tends to befall most inconvenient truths; they have been widely ignored.

Onesimus Online: a blog to stir your thinking (Bill Black)

UPDATE: Onesimus Online no longer exists.

Ask any of Bill Black’s students here about him, and they will probably say: “he provokes; he really challenges us to think.”   Thankfully, for the rest of us, Bill blogs at Onesimus Online: history, theology, culture, the church, and other dangerous stuff. If you are at all interested in theology, theological education in Africa, global Christianity, missions, evangelicalism, American cultural Christianity, and other related topics, you might enjoy his blog–and having your thinking provoked and deepened. I know Bill appreciates the broader dialog.  Bill and his wife are both pastors, graduates of Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, PhDs from Cambridge, and teachers here at NEGST.  Previously, they taught in Ethiopia. Plus, they are a lot of fun to talk to;  I’ve learned a lot from them.

Here are a few “sound bytes” from some of Bill’s posts to whet your appetite:

The passing of evangelicalism

…We Western Evangelicals thought we were the center of the Christian universe, only to discover that the glory seems to have departed and moved south to Africa, Latin America and Asia. Those tongues-speaking, hallelujah-shouting, other-side-of-the-tracks-dwelling so-called Pentecostals, even more derisively labeled as ‘holy rollers’ by the upstanding Christians in my home church who, of course, knew better, have become the most explosive force in the global expansion of Christianity ever. There is not a single individual person in my systematic theology class who would not identify themselves as either Pentecostal or Charismatic. On the ‘mission field’ at least, the old paradigms of missionary Christianity are in the process of being leap-frogged entirely. ..
…Anyway, the point of all of this is that things have changed. Radically. Decisively. The old verities and polarities don’t work anymore (if they ever did). The systems and structures which we created to manage the world as we knew it are being pressed into service beyond their capacity to cope. This is not a call to somehow change Evangelicalism. It’s actually too late for that. Its day has passed and cannot be recovered. Instead, …

A Plea for Civility, Sanity and Integrity in Theological/Political Debate (3 personal examples)

Theology is not safe:

…there is another reason why I am undertaking this blog. Theology is a dangerous thing. Theology that attempts to reduce God to what I can understand about God is an attempt to tame God. But the God revealed in the Christian Scriptures is untamable. Our Western theological traditions, both Catholic and Protestant, are attempts to mount God onto a specimen board, attempts to dissect and label God’s constituent parts, attempts to deduce divine physiology from divine structure. But efforts to catalogue the parts fails to apprehend the whole. Our orthodoxies miss the point…

…This blog then is becoming increasingly like my own incident at the fords of the Jabbok, my own wrestling with the one who refuses to be named and categorized…

The Western Captivity of African Christianity

…Not only are we forcing Western Evangelical categories on African students as the measure of all that’s true in the world, but we have simply assumed that our model of theological education itself is the baseline for all subsequent thinking on the matter…

…We theological educators in Africa are doing a bang-up job of reproducing North American Evangelicals for Africa, replete with our ways of thinking about and practicing Christianity. But in doing so, I’m not at all certain that we are either being true to New Testament Christianity or engaging effectively with the people of this continent as they really are…

Brain tumors, theological education and the church

The human brain is an unimaginably complex piece of work…Though my extended parable may be like the tumor it describes – a malignant profusion of words that obliterates the intended purpose – the purpose itself remains. The concern of this post is with theological education as it is actually practiced, especially at the higher levels, and its relationship with the church it’s intended to serve. My concerns come from my own experience as one who has benefitted from theological education and who has gone on to serve several churches in a professional ministerial capacity, and from my observations of theological education in actual practice…

…I think there are likely a number of reasons contributing to this fundamental dysfunction in our churches. First,…

….The breathtaking irony of all this is, having created such an institutionalized system for training our leaders (the theological education industry), a system that has succeeded in taking us further and further afield from that which Christ is calling us to be, we heedlessly presume our institutional model to be the most effective way to train Nigerians or Indians or Chinese or Ethiopians for the ministry…

Africa, Spiral Logic, Systematic Theology, and the Perils of Theological Education

The Indefensible Evangelical Habit of Shooting Our Wounded

Last week there was a gun battle outside our gate. Four gangsters had hijacked cars and shot drivers and the authorities finally caught up with them just over the fence from my house. In the ensuing firefight, two of the carjackers were killed outright, one escaped over the fence (and through my garden!), and the fourth lay wounded on the road…

Believers Baptism vs. Infant Baptism, Must it Matter?

Evangelicalism Inc.

…Not only are the Western Prosperity gods raking it in, but developing-world prosperity-god-wannabees are trying desperately to get in on the cash…Dare I even mention the Evangelical publishing industry, which seems to have taken on the role of God in conservative academic and popular religion circles, raising up this one and ignoring that one, and on the grounds of whether or not it is ‘marketable’. I can’t imagine Jeremiah being able to secure a publishing contract from this crowd…

…Then there are the incredibly large and wealthy Christian aid organizations poised globally to respond immediately to the latest front page disaster and who must raise gazillions of dollars not only to feed the starving, but to buy the planes and Toyota land cruisers and computers and iPhones and Blackberries and pay the travel fees for all the conferences and meetings and consultations that must happen in the background for the hungry to be fed…

Does this bother anybody else?

…I do not deny the good intentions of most (I hope) of my fellow Christians involved in these so-called ‘ministries’. But I can’t help but thinking that we Evangelicals have become like addicts hooked on methamphetamine. We’ve got to have more, more, more. We’ve got to be successful, or at least appear successful, because if we are or appear so, more people will be drawn to our ‘ministry’ which will make us all the more successful. But like the meth addict, this stuff is destroying us…We dare not take a genuinely prophetic stance on anything, because if we do, someone will be offended and we will lose support. We’ve become like Ahab’s court prophets, cunningly discerning which way the wind is blowing before committing ourselves on any issue, and viciously smacking down anyone who does not toe the party line.

We Evangelicals are seriously compromised. And seriously compromised people are like salt that’s lost its savor…

And much, much MORE.

My Book

Our collective amnesia about Kenyan (and African) histories (Eve)

On her nacent blog, Quill-Squeak, Eve writes about African history.

…As i think about the stories i have heard from my father and grandfather, it surprises me that someone would think that Africans have no history. Although these “savages” roamed around naked with no seeming sense of rational organisation as some have said, it is the observer that looked but did not see. In these stories i have found a goldmine of history. My family history. Now anyone who hears me speak (read butchering) my venacular, would be surprised that i have a sense of history at all. After all, i am a “mkosa mila” (one without culture) having had a lot of western influence. I have found that this history tells me where my family has been and how i got here.It gives me an identity. However, it does not make me want to go back to the past. Rather, i learn from it and move forward to embrace the future…

…My appreciation for family history has opened my eyes to the loss of history. While the west had the quill and ink bottle, we had story, proverbs, songs and other mnemonic aids. The introduction of literacy has slowly but surely choked these though culture change. I do not think that the past was ideal but i mourn the loss of history. I listen to my father’s tales of growing up in colonial kenya and i think how many are dying with their memories; history. The US project Storycorps captures my desire for this country. Oral history from the older generation (indian,african and european) is being lost and i would like to salvage it. How? I dont know. All i know is that the old men in the village can only tell stories and i want to give them a quill…[read more]

and on our collective amnesia about that history.

..The reference to the brutality of the colonialist on their labour force is consistent with the stories that my father has told me…Although others like Ngugi wa Thion’go have written about this period, the bitterness of colonial rule that paints all settlers black is evident. That I cannot stand. The political twist in the narratives, though part of the period, do not interest me. I want to hear personal experiences of Africans and the settlers in that period of time, good or bad in relation to each other…

Why the interest? The phenomenon I call collective amnesia…Apparently, when Kenyatta took power, he said two things. To the settlers; stay and shut up or get out. To the rest of us; let us forget the past and move on together. And forget we did. The history I learnt was stripped of humanity. All we ever learnt about is dry boring political manoeuvring and posturing that is no different from what we read in the papers today.

While at the time re-examining the things that had happened may have been painful and even counter productive, it is interesting that we have buried history and are determined to forget it. Instead of historical knowledge on the colonial times, I have been fed caricatures that may hang on some evidence but I have had no freedom to decide what I think. For example, were all settlers bad by virtue of the fact that they were colonizers/missionaries and the black good by virtue of being the oppressed?

…I think its time we stopped ignoring the elephant in the room. So what if there are skeletons? And there are. Ignoring them will not make them disappear.

I think its time we talked.

more of this post

I know you are buried in books right now, Eve, but keep writing! The world awaits.

My day in Kibera’s law court

I’ve lived in Nairobi (“Nairobbery” for some) for almost five years and never once been robbed (though many of my friends have been) or arrested (though my friends have negotiated for me at least twice–once for not having “life savers” (reflective triangles), before I knew we were supposed to.

Over Christmas, I visited the US for the first time since I moved to Nairobi in 2005 (maybe I’ll post on that in one of the coming weeks.) On returning to Nairobi, I was arrested within 12 hours and robbed within 36.

I’m used to being pulled over out of a line of cars going past police checkpoints; white skin can mean quick money. Usually it’s routine: insurance card, check; driver’s license–I hand it over smugly. If they are ambitious, they ask for my “lifesavers” (I’m ready for them now.) Monday, however, the officer looks over my license and says, “Benjamin, do you know that your driver’s license has expired.” I look at him in disbelief, and he hands it to me to verify. Sure enough, Oct. 20. (How did I let that happen?)

So, Benjamin, what are you going to do?
Well, I suppose you will write me up, and I will pay a fine.
Oh, so you already know the system.

I nodded, but was thinking, “just a little bit.” The conversation was over in less than a minute, then I followed him to the police station and just kept reminding myself to be full of God’s peace.  I was second in line to go into the office.
“So… you will need to pay.”
“How much is the fine?”
“How much do you have?”
“What is the amount of the fine?”
“You will need to go to court.”
“Cash bail for us to release you is 5,000.” (about $65 at 75 shillings/$$. )
“5,000!!! [I panicked briefly] I don’t have that much.”
“How much do you have?”
(I did a quick Continue reading

Feeling Lucky

We got to take part in the Kenyan census yesterday, which was an hour-long question and answer session about all the basics and luxuries in Kenyan life. I [Christi] felt particularly lucky, being able to answer positively to many of the questions, knowing there are people all around us who can’t. We were at my parent’s house near Daystar, so some of the answers would have been different if we had been at home. Here were some of my favorites:

Q – Is your husband married to one wife, or is he polygamous?
A – Only me!

Q – Where do you get your water?
A – We were all set to complain about how you never know if city water is actually going to come, or whether it will come from the Daystar campus, or what. But then we realized we had the best of the possible answers–it comes through a pipe (as opposed to carrying it in a bucket from who knows how far away).

Q – Where do you go for your “calls”? (as in: when nature calls)
A – We have a flush toilet and a septic system.

Q – Do you have ACCESS to any of the following electronic devices (not do you own–but does your neighbor have one you could use in an emergency). Radio, TV, cell phone, land line, computer, car?
A – Yes to all. To ALL? Yes. (As opposed to the States, where the survey would have asked how many TVs, how many cars, how many iPods, how many laptops, how many desktops, DVD players, TiVo, etc, etc, and forget about borrowing from a neighbor)

Q – How often do you use the internet, and where do you access it?
A – We answered this question for each family member, and it was shocking to note that our 5- and 8-year-olds know how to use the internet and do so on a weekly basis from home. As opposed to our friends also answering the census with us, whose 13- and 14-year-olds have never used the internet.

Q – How many deaths of your children in the past 12 months?
A – None, thank God! (But so many of my friends can’t answer this question the same way).

Q – How many livestock do you own? Cows, horses, goats, sheep, chickens, etc, etc.
A – None. What?? None? Not even a CHICKEN???

Q – I’m going to ask questions about your last-born, NOT that I’m saying that he is your last-born meaning that you will never have any other children. I’m just saying your last-born until this time. Was your last-born born alive, and  is he alive to this day?
A – Yes (and I’m thankful as visions of the time I found him floating in a lake, and the time he drank a whole bottle of children’s Tylenol flashed through my brain.)

Lucky us.

From street kid to missionary to Member of Parliament (an interview with a Kenyan MP)

Here are some excerpts from an interview with Fred Outa, Kenyan member of parliament [for the Biola University Magazine—hence the promotional angle]. Outa earned an MA from Biola University in 2002, and originally returned to his native Kenya in order to do missionary work, church ministry, and agricultural service back in Africa, but eventually decided to run for elected office at the urging of his community (2007).:

. . . When my father died, I was out on the street just like the “street kids.” Life was hard. Food was scarce. I learned the hardship of poverty, the need for education and the struggle to keep warm and to eat. I made it a vow to rise above this and one day come back and serve these kids. That hope led me to the U.S., with the loving help of an American couple, to Biola, and now back here in Kenya serving with my own foundation (, serving the people of my nation, and serving the Lord. My memory of my father reminds me everyday to help the poor, to open the doors of my home – which my wife and I have done for many orphaned children – and to keep Christ above culture.

Why the switch from missionary to parliament? What did God do that brought you here to this parliament building?

Mark, it’s people, it’s people, it’s people and it’s people. I had no clue at all that I would be in politics. I never thought about it; all my life I had prepared to be a missionary, just a simple missionary – a servant who was reaching out to a community. And yet one thing I learned at Biola was entrepreneurship: how important micro-finance is to every community, to reach out to a community to empower them to eradicate poverty so they will have the opportunity to hear the gospel. Those components of training were very real and people were in need. They needed to be given the opportunity to do something to improve their lives. So when I came here, my people approached me, my community in Kisumu. And they said, “Hey, since now you are coming from the U.S., why don’t you help us with rice production, which is being mismanaged by the government?”

I had no clue how to help, except for the micro-financing Biola taught me. We started a rice project on a very small scale. After one year, I had seen God’s hand on the little money we had earned, and things began to multiply – from 100 acres to 500 acres and the next year from 500 to 2,000 acres of production. As the rice production expanded in the area, it was touching individual lives by putting food on the table for families, and also bringing money to families to send their kids to school. That is where God helped me see the connection between leadership and politics, because the community had experienced bad leadership. They wanted someone to lead them that they could trust, and by living and serving among the people, they came to me. Not just a few, but the whole community came to me and shouted, “Send him to parliament!” . . .

[Details of running for parliament and responding to the initial violence] . . . Once, I was a missionary; now I was once again building peace in my own nation.

Cinderella and her missionary prince, a personal story

Back in August, while I was in Western Kenya at the pastor’s conference, I realized that I was only about an hour away from where Patrick and Violet Nabwera’s rural home near Kakamega. [I’ve written about Patrick and Violet before. They were our next door neighbors last year – and their daughter Joy (Kiara’s best friend last year) was part of our family for a few months. This past week they moved to Mozambique to begin language study.]

Patrick at homeWhen I realized I was this close, I called them and when I was done with my portion of the conference and caught a matatu to Kakamega. There’s something about visiting the place where a friend spent his childhood; suddenly all the family details take on a new concreteness. Here, meet my mother and my brother. These are the two cows he owns.

This is the field of sugar cane that provides a little income, and here is how the sugar company collects it. There is the little primary school school I went to as a kid. Here is Continue reading

African politicians take note

I don’t often find myself saying to Africans, do as we (Americans) do; there are significant reasons I want my kids raised in Africa where they can absorb lifelong African cultural values. But if you haven’t heard, the governor of Illinois has been arrested for corruption.

Points I’d like to highlight about this story:

1. Corruption exists in America; it’s a struggle everywhere – not uniquely an African problem. Some of it, as in this case, is clearly illegal and, if caught, will be punished. But I’d go further and that some of it is legalized, even if there are limits placed on it – some forms of lobbying, soft money contributions, etc. Sometimes there is a fine line between the two.

2. Note the way our “African hero” Obama was personally involved in a way that eventually (if indirectly) led to the corrupt governor’s downfall – even while he was concentrating on his own election:

In a sequence of events that neatly captures the contradictions of Barack Obama’s rise through Illinois politics, a phone call he made three months ago to urge passage of a state ethics bill indirectly contributed to the downfall of a fellow Democrat he twice supported, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich.

. . . after the call from Mr. Obama, the Senate overrode the veto, prompting the governor to press state contractors for campaign contributions before the law’s restrictions could take effect on Jan. 1, prosecutors say.

Tipped off to Mr. Blagojevich’s efforts, federal agents obtained wiretaps for his phones and eventually overheard what they say was scheming by the governor to profit from his appointment of a successor to the United States Senate seat being vacated by President-elect Obama. . .

[Then again, maybe it was all a political ploy? I’m sure some would argue that too.]

3. No one is above the law (Don’t forget that many of Nixon’s cabinet went to jail).

4. There is a public culture where this is seen as despicable; it is not tolerated.

5. Good systems are in place for prosecuting corruption.

cart111208_01-graft-suspectsUntil African governments are willing to deal with corruption in this way, and until the people have established viable systems of holding their politicians accountable, the populations will continue to suffer at the hands of unscrupulous politicians – we have our fair share too. Look at any of the recent headlines in the Kenyan papers (Daily Nation; Standard: Parliamentarian tax evasion, Waki, the maize meal cartel, etc.) It’s good to see these issues getting some scrutiny these days. Not so long ago, the Tanzanian prime minister was held accountable and lost his post too. Now for more established systems and popular intolerance to deal with them. I’m with Rombo; let’s keep dreaming for Africa.

Here’s an editorial that role of Western multinational corporations in African corruption.

Technorati Tags:

Who goes to see the modern witchdoctor?

From yesterday’s Sunday Nation: Why many are falling for the jujuman’s charms

jujuFour Cabinet ministers are among thousands of Kenyans flocking to consult witchdoctors and fortune tellers, interviews with charm sellers and soothsayers reveal.

The witchdoctors promise a simple solution to all problems and desires, be it romance, career, health, an errant lover and even political power. They are doing such a roaring business that they advertise the potency of their charms in leading newspapers, such as the Daily Nation and the Sunday Nation.

Thanks to their services, many prominent Kenyans are therefore walking around wearing charms and talismans, some disguised as gold chains, amulets and bracelets.

Also putting their faith on talismans dispensed by fortune tellers and self-acclaimed astrologers are scores of MPs, businessmen and people with relationship problems, as extensive investigations by the Sunday Nation reveal.

Operating from various parts of the city including rooms in three-star hotel rooms, the charm sellers attract clients through advertisements and references. . .

. . . Sunday Nation could not find anyone willing to admit that they had consulted a witchdoctor. But the “doctors” said those flashy cufflinks, glasses, chains and gold rings could actually be charms.

Why many are falling for the jujuman’s charms

Related Stories

In the on-line Continue reading

Obama’s poor grandmother: “I can’t cope”, the price of fame

From Today’s Daily Standard: I can’t cope with new status, says Obama’s granny

obamas-grandmaWith only a month to the inauguration of her grandson as America’s 44th President, Mama Sarah Obama has become more than a celebrity.

The American and Kenyan governments have taken full charge of her security with the number of guests visiting her home in Alego Kogelo, Siaya, increasing tenfold since the US election on November 4.

Her movements have been restricted for security reasons and the two governments are monitoring every move at her home as the clock tick’s to January 20 — the day President-elect Barack Obama takes over as the President of the world’s most powerful country.

“She is now a VIP and must be treated as so. We do not want to leave anything to chance,” said a senior police officer at the Nyanza Provincial headquarters.

Sarah’s home, once just like any other in the village, is now teeming with visitors and trappings of power. She now has electricity — which took the Government only a week to install, a fence, a metal gate and a police post.

The Government is now drilling a well at the home. Kogelo Market, once a sleepy outpost, is now competing with many urban centres in the province.

Mama Sarah, 87, has received close to 5,000 visitors since Barack Obama’s historic election as the America’s first black President. . .

. . . “This visitors are many and I do not even have the time to go to my kitchen to cook as I use to do,” says Mama Sarah.

The grand mother said “Gibiro motamo wan’ga” (they have overwhelmed me) adding that she has not seen such a scenario before. . . .

I hope my Kenyan brothers and sisters are REALLY watching

As we celebrate the victory of “your son,” (Kenya Declares a National Holiday) I hope you pay close attention to the details.

  • People voted across ethnic lines (at least in many places).
  • Ballots were quickly and ACCURATELY counted, and the results released immediately.
  • The loser graciously conceded, and both candidates put the campaign rhetoric aside and praised their opponents.
  • There was no violence.

I know the circumstances here last year were difficult and different; we had our disputed election this decade too.

In 2012 your American son will be up for re-election, and both of our nations will be voting. For that election to be successful here, attitudes and systems need to begin changing now in preparation- “change you can believe in; the change we need” (I’m referring especially to ethnicity as a political tool and systems of accountability.)

So savor the moment, and let’s work towards making 2012 a celebration for all of us.

The Daily Nation editorial perhaps says it best: Lessons for Africa from US elections.

Obama’s Crazy Nation

if there is an Obama nation, it is situated in the eastern part of Africa, it straddles the equator, and, for the give away clue, its name starts with K and ends with A.

Obama’s like a disease in these parts and everyone’s caught the fever. The lead stories in today’s press are all about Obama. I just went through my copy of the Sunday Nation and Obama features, in photo or text, in a whopping 17 out of 51 pages [Classifieds included]. . .

Read all about it from What an African Woman Thinks: Obama all over the place.

My favorite:

. . . an advertisement from Dura Coat paints where the White House has been repainted a screaming yellow and Mr Marangi (found in translation: Mr Paints) is declaring that he agrees with Mr Barack, ‘It’s time for change!” . . .

Today’s Standard: “And thousands of kilometres away in Kenya, the atmosphere was palpable with expectation. Huge Obama billboards were put up in Nairobi and Kisumu, the provincial capital of the village Obama’s father hailed from. And the Prime Minister Raila Odinga led 10 Cabinet ministers in endorsing Obama’s candidacy.” . . .

Bet you didn’t kiss a giraffe this weekend

(I know; I look even worse than normal in this picture, but I thought some of you would get a kick out of it anyway. Looking on is my niece Liana.)

As part of the show-our-nieces-and-nephew a good time tour, we took them to the nearby Giraffe Center. (The center is about 10 minutes from our home, and we’ve taken so many friends there my eight year old Kiara now considers it “boring”; she is a good sport anyway). Obviously, most people just feed the giraffe by hand from the balcony.

While we were there, a local primary school visited, and I was quite impressed with how the staff turned from the tourists and made the kids a priority. (The same happened at the Elephant Orphanage). In addition to regular school visits . . .

. . .  the funds collected [from visitors] are utilised solely and specifically in bringing underprivileged children to the Giraffe Centre and other places of Wildlife interest. We call these “Ecology trips”. . . .We locate schools in the slums and outlying areas and arrange to collect  25 kids at a time by bus from the schools, rehabilitation centres and Homes. . . [read more]

Bet you didn’t get to ride an ostrich this weekend

Friday night, we went out to Christi’s parents house to spend some time with her brother and his family. They are currently transitioning between Uganda and Southern Sudan. Saturday, we went out into the plains behind their house and saw lots of wildlife – including a group of 27 giraffe. For lunch, we went to a nearby ostrich farm, and all the kids took a ride on an ostrich. (It’s less than $1.50 each). I was slightly over the weight limit,

but the handler encouraged me to try it anyway. The ostrich, on the other hand, protested when I first sat down. It’s definitely worth doing once in your lifetime.

Don’t mess with Obama in Kenya or you’ll be deported (Corsi)

Everyone is welcome to visit Kenya’s gameparks; just don’t try to slander Obama while you are here. I didn’t see the TV news last night (don’t own a TV), but today The Standard writes Drama as anti-Obama author is deported:

. . . An attempt by anti-Obama crusaders to launch a smear campaign ended in a dramatic anti-climax when an American author was bundled out of Nairobi, moments before he could launch his book, The Obama Nation: Leftist Politics and The Cult of Personality. Dr Jerome Corsi, a Republican, was declared persona non grata and deported last night after earlier being detained by Immigration officials. The charge… engaging in illegal activities in Kenya. . . “They violated terms of the visitor’s pass by engaging in a business and marketing of his book. They required a special permit to do business,” a top Immigration source said.

Read all about it in the Standard’s article or the Daily Nation’s version (it gets better) and now even the NY Times and the Washington Post.

Here is The Standard‘s cartoon for today – 8 October:

Immigration officer leads Corsi away

Thanks for the heads up, Simon. I would have missed it.

There’s more ugali in Cambridge than in Kenya

As hard as it is to believe, I’ve eaten far more ugali here in Cambridge than I ever ate in Kenya. It’s not that I haven’t eaten ugali before; it’s just that I’ve never actually lived in a house with so many Kenyan guys. 

They tracked down cornmeal flour here, and we’ve eaten ugali and chicken almost every single night. Strangely enough, I’ve actually come to prefer it over rice. I guess I’ve become more Kenyan in Cambridge.

Three more days, till we head home – not soon enough to see our families; not long enough to finish all the research we need to get done before leaving.

[I “borrowed” this photo from Tim in Kenya’s great post on Kenyan cuisine – from a westerner’s perspective with great pictures.

Two American couples blitz Nairobi (interesting new blogs)

Two new American couples have just moved to Nairobi and have great blogs about their experiences. The Mertes Family Blog (Luke, Liesel, and Ada June ) and Mzungu learning in Africa (Tiffany, Jake, and Asante Malloy). Jake is studying translation at NEGST.

Tiffany posts the first few days in Africa and pictures of their apartment which is more or less like ours: pictures of our new home, and more pictures.

Here’s are a few examples from the Merte’s first few exciting days in Nairobi.

Shoes and Stones: . . . “So there I was, driving down the street, and they were firing tear gas…they even pulled down the power lines! Sparks were everywhere and I thought to myself, ‘I have to get out of here.’ They were throwing stones and there were shoes and clothes and fruit all in the streets. Me, I was even prepared to leave my car. There were people running everywhere. I came this close to hitting a man,” [Welcome to Nairobi ;-)] –

OR: The matatus of Nairobi reflect the panache and flair of individual drivers. The exteriors are often splashed in bright colors, bearing slogans like “Heaven-bound”, which is ironic considering that I daily read stories from the Standard about individuals killed as a result of matatu crashes. Yesterday, Luke and I walked by a matatu that had “To God be the Glory” written in letters that were dripping with blood.

Yesterday, we saw a most improbable sight as we prepared to cross Ngong road on our way back to the Kitololos. As we stood in the median, awaiting an opportune time to cross, a matatu cruised by blaring ABBA’s “Dancing Queen”. We looked after the passing vehicle and saw a man in rollerblades bent at the waist, holding onto the bumper. . . . [Read the rest of Matatus and Microfinance.]

“Messiah Complex: For decades, well-intentioned men and women from around the world have come here thinking that they will save the Kenyans. Save them from spiritual darkness…save them from poverty…save them from HIV and AIDS. NGOs, mission agencies and aid organizations seem to especially flourish here in Nairobi. Truly, there is no shortage of saviors here. . .[BUT not all of them actually “look” like Jesus (Read more of the “Messiah Complex”). It’s not got a nice twist;-)]

Both are bringing back a lot of memories.

What Kenyan Christians can teach Americans about voting

Given Kenya’s disastrous election less than a year ago, it may seem odd to say that Kenyans have anything to say to Americans about elections, but sometimes the best lessons are learned the hard way. Paul Heidebrecht writes:

When I was in Kenya in May, I had many lively conversations with Kenyan Christians about their election—NEGST students, professors, local pastors, ordinary folks—they all spoke passionately about what had happened in their nation. . .

. . . They believed Kenyan Christians had swung from one extreme to the other. For many years Christians had avoided politics because it was seen as corrupt and compromising. The only thing that mattered was “getting saved” and “getting ready for heaven.” But eventually Christians realized that government can’t be left to people without integrity. They had to be engaged. The past few elections saw many more Christians running for office and voting. But church leaders identified themselves too closely with particular parties and their political tactics. This left them without a credible voice when the crisis struck. In some areas of the country, the church was part of the problem, not the solution. . . .

. . . Christians need to be careful with politics. They need to find the right balance. They need to hold firm to higher principles of justice and righteousness. They must ask, What is good for the nation? and not, What is good for me? Nor can they pin their hopes on one party but rather they need to be independent enough to speak respectfully and credibly to all parties.

Pastors especially have to be careful. In most cases, they should avoid endorsing candidates and parties, especially if their congregation has divided loyalties. They should challenge their members to vote and participate in public affairs. They should preach and teach what the Bible says about citizenship in heaven and on earth. . .

. . . Don’t expect too much from government was another lesson learned. Don’t be naïve about politicians. Many are corrupt or susceptible to corruption. The pressure to take care of their supporters and family members is tremendous. Those who have absolute integrity are easily marginalized. Christians must keep calling upon their government leaders to act justly and for the good of all even when it seems hopeless.

. . . churches must tackle the social problems that government leaders won’t face. This means empowering those who live in slums, assisting refugees from other nations, resolving conflicts between antagonistic groups of people, establishing schools, clinics and small business enterprises. . .

Read the whole article: Can Kenyans teach us how to vote

For amazing story of Kenyan pastors leading a prayer march for spiritual cleansing, visit