To celebrate my wife’s 60 birthday

we had a short holiday at a beach resort on the south coast about 30 km from Mombasa in Kenya.

I had previously worked in Mombasa in the Railways and Harbours Corporation so I was returning to Mombasa after an absence of nearly 25 years. To catch up with what was going on in the country, every morning I read either one or the other of Kenya’s two English language national papers. One item which takes a lot of space nowadays which did not exist 25 years ago is AIDS. On Friday the East-African Standard, the more ‘classy’ of the two papers claimed that 500 Kenyans die every day from aids. On Saturday the other paper the Daily Nation put the figure at 600 per day. Presumably the real figure is somewhere between these two figures, either way it represents a very high loss of life in a population of just over 20 million working out to about 1% of the population per year. The other figure which was quoted is that 200,000 people are infected per year with HIV and the present level of infection is 14 % of the population. On 1st. December 2000 a Sh 14 billion (US$ 200 million) National Strategy to Combat Aids was launched in Kenya.

Another item which took up a lot of newspaper space was a few days of rioting in Nairobi. On Friday 1st. December the Standard reported that in a land dispute in a slum district of Nairobi a mosque still under construction was burnt down after Moslems (blacks from northern or coastal Kenya or immigrants from Ethiopia) had tried to evict squatters from a part of the site and in the ensuing riots other buildings including a small church were also burnt down, if I remember rightly belonging to 7th day Adventists or something. In addition, four young men were set on by Muslim youth with spears and pangas (bush knives), left for dead but were fighting for their lives after having been taken to hospital.

On Saturday in the ‘Nation’ there was photograph of the "Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church" also in Nairobi being totally gutted by fire with the priest standing helplessly by outside watching his church burn. Groups of warring young Moslems and Christian blacks (sorry folks - no whites in this story) were fighting in the streets which even spread into the city centre of Kenya’s capital where police were pelted with stones. An attempt to burn down the Mombasa Pentecostal Church was foiled by church workers (not the police) who were able to put out a small fire set in the pews. It was also reported that in Nairobi the charred remains of a man were found in his slum home amongst the buildings which had been burnt down. This was corrected a day or so later…it was a woman. The authorities were at great pains to explain that this was NOT religious or tribal (racial) violence but was just a small land dispute that got out of hand. Just thought I’d let you know how the ethnics get along abroad like a house on fire. We've not quite reached this state of affairs in most European countries yet but I suppose it's only a matter of time.

Article posted 16 December 2000


Posted by: John aus Paris