Africa News blog

African business, politics and lifestyle

Kenya: Dealing with the hard times

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Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki’s New Year address had a sobering message; east Africa’s biggest economy should brace for a tough year because of the global financial crisis.

It was not the most encouraging message after a year that had few silver linings for the country of 36 million, still recovering from a bout of post-election violence early last year.

But the global crisis has strained even some of the world’s most advanced economies as well as many across Africa and Kibaki was not about to shield Kenyans from reality. He even cancelled the traditional New Year’s Eve state ball that is held in his official residence in Mombasa, on the steamy Indian Ocean coast.

Government minsters and officials, used to ushering in the New Year with a waltz with their spouses at the party, had to quickly make new plans for the occasion.

Ghana steps back from the brink

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Ghana’s epic nail-biter of an election has finally ended with opposition leader John Atta Mills being declared the winner by the narrowest of margins: barely 40,000 votes out of 9 million, or less than 0.5 percent of votes from the past week’s run-off.

Virtually everybody was expecting a close race, but the contest got tighter and increasingly acrimonious as both rival camps sensed power was within their reach. As the vote went down to the wire, to be decided with delayed voting held in one final constituency on Jan 2, the ruling New National Party (NNP) announced a boycott and launched legal proceedings to postpone the poll and freeze the announcement of results
 
After a year that has seen electoral bloodshed in Kenya and Zimbabwe one analyst who has followed the vote closely warned that incidents of violence during the polls indicated Ghana “may be coming close to that abyss of no-return”.
 
Yet shortly after the Electoral Commission announced results on Saturday, Akufo-Addo conceded defeat, congratulated Mills and both candidates were stressing the need for cooperation and consensus between their two parties.

from Global News Journal:

More power-sharing in Africa?

Kenya's power-sharing government was only born after weeks of election violence that killed 1,300 people. Zimbabwe's power sharing agreement is yet to bear fruit as southern Africa's former breadbasket crumbles into economic ruin.

So will power sharing in Central African Republic, where one of Africa's most forgotten conflicts has been simmering for more than half a decade, fare any better?

Kenya’s traffic – a daily adventure

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The ancient truck labouring up the hill followed by a long queue of vehicles looked like a typical Kenyan scene — except for the legs protruding from under the bonnet. A Mafia hit? No, the legs were moving. Then I realised the bonnet was jammed slightly open and the man was adjusting some fault to keep the engine running while the truck proceeded.

Even for Kenya this was bizarre, but only slightly more unusual than the daily chaos on the roads, where almost anything goes; from enormous potholes capable of cracking the axle of normal cars, to abandoned or broken down trucks, to the swarms of battered, unroadworthy and brightly decorated matatu minibuses, driven by people whose brains appear to have been removed. A colleague recently saw a matatu swing across three lanes of traffic to smash into an unsuspecting car for no apparent reason. Matatus are the only available transport for many Kenyans but climbing into one is a daily and possibly terminal gamble. They are notorious for terrible accidents, often when smashing into oncoming trucks while overtaking on bends or hills. Matatus, like other vehicles, including huge trucks, often travel without lights at night. Matatus break down frequently, leaving a group of disconsolate passengers beside the road while the driver and tout (who takes the fares) try to change a wheel or mend the engine, creating another hazardous obstruction. Combined with the entirely selfish habits of other Kenyan drivers who think nothing of jamming a junction to get a slight advantage over other traffic, the minibuses cause the daily commute to frequently turn into a frustrating calvary with jams that last for hours. All this is made worse by regulations requiring drivers involved in an accident, even a minor shunt, to desist from moving their cars until the police arrive – which can be many hours.

from Global News Journal:

Ghana’s elections: Dare Africa hope?

As Ghanaians get set to elect a new president and parliament on Sunday, there seems to be as much attention on what a new leader will mean for Ghana as on what message Ghana will send the world about the state of Africa today. After a dismal year with elections rigged or marred by violence in Kenya, Zimbabwe and most recently Nigeria, to name but a few, Africa could do with a pick-me-up.

Despite some wobbles and sporadic violence in northern Ghana where several people were killed in the early stages of the campaign, preparations for Sunday’s elections have gone relatively smoothly.

from Global News Journal:

Fighting graft in Africa. Or not.

 A little while back, we asked who is and isn’t fighting corruption effectively in Africa. This week, a number of examples bring us back to the subject.

 

In Tanzania, two former ministers have been charged with flouting procurement rules over the award of a tender for auditing gold mining back in 2002. The pair, who deny wrongdoing, served in the government of President Jakaya Kikwete’s predecessor Benjamin Mkapa. One of them also served under Kikwete himself.

from Photographers' Blog:

Maasai fertility blessing: Audio slideshow

Click on the play button above to view an audio slideshow on the Loita Maasai in Kenya blessing women from their village to ensure they have children in a rare fertility ceremony.

Saving Kenyan forest. Is it a turning point?

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mau-forest3.jpgAfter a decade of rampant destruction of the Mau forest water catchment in western Kenya, the country’s coalition government seems firmly united in trying to save the complex before more serious damage is inflicted on the economy.

U.N. officials say this is no longer simply an environmental issue but something that has huge importance for the whole country. Already two of the top three foreign exchange earners — tourism and tea — are feeling the impact of falling water levels which have also forced the postponement of a major hydro-electric project. 

Time for colonial masters to pay up?

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Italy's PM Berlusconi is greeted by Libya's leader Gaddafi in BenghaziItaly settled its colonial era dispute with Libya at the weekend with $5 billion in compensation for wrongs done during colonial rule. The money will be invested in a major new highway as well as used for clearing mines and other projects. Both sides say that will allow them to make a new start.

Relations between Libya and Italy had been especially difficult and this was a very specific dispute, but Italian colonialism did not last all that long in Africa – even if there were episodes of particular nastiness while it did.

Birds and biofuels at odds in Kenya

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tana-demonstration.jpgThe road to Kenya’s Tana River Delta from the Indian Ocean resort of Malindi is a lonely stretch of tarmac punctuated only by road blocks manned by armed police.

Few people from the outside world come this way.

Most foreign and local holidaymakers heading for the popular Lamu Islands prefer to fly rather than use the road.

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