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News Stories In Kenya

As an avid reader of papers here in Kenya, I’ve been noticing that there is a clear distinction from what appears here in papers to stories that would appear in papers in the US or Europe. Sure, there are plenty of financial and business reports, international and national news, huge quantities of political stories, in particular about corruption and scandals, and the usual fare of violence that I’m sure fills papers in every corner of the world. But there are stories here that are certainly unique here in Africa.

A recent example was the story about lions from Tsavo National Park, one of the largest wildlife parks in Kenya, wandering from the parks to wipe out at least 60 head of livestock in nearby villages. That doesn’t exactly happen frequently in the US. Other wildlife related stories that I’ve recently read include a story about a tourist trampled in a different park by an elephant, when he surprised the animal while tromping through the beast. Talking about it with my friends in Kokotoni, who come from a region where people live in close quarters with elephants and other animals, they weren’t surprised; they talk about how elephants will throw a man into the air, then crush him underfoot. Then they press him into the ground and sometimes will break a tree off on him. Finally, just to make sure he won’t be back from his hole in the ground, they’ll keep guard over him for sometimes a week. Sounds bizarre, but then I just read of elephants in an Asian country who were rampaging around a community for weeks, destroying home and trampling people, because one of their own had fallen in a ditch and drowned, and hence deserved revenge. Elephants have an intelligence and a lack of a sense of humor that we don’t always appreciate.

Then there are frequent stories about what is called “mob justice” here in Kenya. This is where someone is suspected of being a thief, or is caught doing something bad, or maybe just happened to drunkenly pass out in someone else’s living room, as was in one case. A mob quickly forms in these instances, and before the cops can arrive and save the poor soul, they’re covered in tires and lit on fire, or stoned, and beaten to death with sticks. This of course happened in the US back in the day, by what we called lynch mobs, but it’s a little shocking to think that it still happens on a daily basis here. It’s not too surprising; for example, people here consider that a man convicted of thievery might get 6 months in jail, then he’s back on the street stealing from people. Only, most people have almost nothing in the first place, so it is a big deal to be robbed. Hence, it’s acceptable to take action, to be vigilantes, because it’s not only the best way to serve up real justice, it’s also a deterrent for others considering doing something bad. The problem is that these mobs form almost over nothing, and people get killed for petty little arguments that spiral out of control.

To continue along the socioeconomic line, I just read an article about a grand plan for building wealth here in Kenya. Essentially they want to try a plan like the one that helped out Asian countries like Thailand and Malaysia. While the article wasn’t all that interesting nor unique to Africa, what really stood out was how it stated that the average yearly income for Kenyans is 33,120 shillings, which is $453.70 a year ($37.81 a month). My respect as well as sympathy grew greatly, especially considering that it is not uncommon for people to work 8-12 hours a day, 6-7 days a week. From there, it’s sad to note that this means a large population in Kenya lives on less than a dollar a day. I’ve mentioned before the guys I saw working outside a big quarry. They take the discarded stone, crushing it into gravel with little hammers, and from what I was told, feel fortunate to make 50-60 shillings a day (75 cents). No wonder people here get lynched for stealing.

An interesting thought from this is the tension that festers between the Africans and Indians living in Kenya. Although Indians were brought here as laborers back in the 1800s, they’ve become quite wealthy, because they have a system of keeping their wealth within their communities. I’ve spoken with many Africans on the matter, and none of them lost any love for Indians, who they feel are very discriminatory against blacks.  The Indians own a substantial portion of business in Kenya, and I’ve heard many stories of huge wage discrepancies and poverty wages being levied on Africans. The huge quarry I mentioned above is owned by Indians, who have siphoned off all of the water for the surrounding community to use in the quarry, pay their black workers nearly nothing for hard labor; I can see the reasoning for dislike in instances such as this. In addition, the community, since they have no running water, must get their water from lakes and ponds filled with bacteria and parasites, which leads to the high numbers of diseases like bilhazia (Schistosomiasis), malaria, and dysentery in the area surrounding Kokotoni. I’m fortunate to have running water, but that’s because I live at the clinic, where water gets trucked in.

So, it’s interesting to read the papers here. It’s a wealth of information, from a perspective I never had before.


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