Tuesday, 22 September 2009
One of the worst droughts in living memory is taking its toll on both people and wildlife in Kenya.
Clashes over land and water lead to the deaths of 32 people last week, with community leaders warning there will be more violence.
Meanwhile, in Samburu district at least 24 elephants have either starved or been shot by poachers looking for food.
It was not hard to find the dead elephant.
The stench of the rotting carcass made it easy to track down in the sparse bush. A young male - barely four years old and still an infant by elephant standards - lay on its side in the sand by a river.
Around its feet, the sand had been cleared in small arcs - signs of the animal's thrashing as it struggled to stand and survive.
But there was nothing to eat. Nothing. On the ground, not a blade of grass existed, every green shoot had been stripped from the trees.
For Iain Douglas Hamilton, from the conservation organisation Save The Elephants, it was a heartbreaking sight.
"In all my 12 years here, I've never seen anything as bad as this," he said.
"The last long rains [in April] failed completely, and we haven't had a proper wet season for at least three years. If the rains fail in October and November, we'll go into total crisis. I can't even begin to imagine how awful that would be."
Sunday, 20 September 2009
BBC News, Nairobi
A new high-speed undersea cable connecting East Africa with the rest of the world is poised to go live, Kenya's top internet official has told the BBC.
The launch of the government-backed East African Marine System (Teams) comes as providers face a backlash over slow connection speeds and high prices.
Internet providers have increased speeds and lowered costs since the Seacom cable went live in August.
But users say services still remain too expensive for most ordinary Kenyans.
Senior government official Bitange Ndemo said there was evidence that some internet service providers (ISPs) were "fleecing the public".
Almost two months after the first high-speed cable made landfall, the highest residential internet speed offered by Kenya's largest ISP remains capped at one megabit per second (Mbps).
That speed is available only at night and at weekends, for an annual cost of $1,440 (£860). The average Kenyan annual wage is about $800, the UN estimates.
Many of Nairobi's coffee shops now offer free or low -cost wireless internet .
tech savvy users have access to the latest laptops and 3G devices
Monday, 14 September 2009
"The city is one of the oldest in Sub Saharan Africa and probably among the earliest settlements in the world," he said.
Archeologists believe about 15,000 people were inhabitants of the city, which is a few metres from the famous historical Jumba la Mtwana ruins.
They believe the city existed through various eras, from BC to AD (after Christ), ending up with colonisation by Arabs who converted the inhabitants to Islam.
Initial conclusion after the find appears to confirm that the Inhabitants were African who were later colonised by Arabs.
The Mtwapa ruins covers about 22 acres in diameter, ringed with a thick stone wall.
Since 1986, the lost town had become the subject of intensive research by archaeologists who now see its discovery as a breakthrough in their efforts to trace the background of Africa’s early inhabitants.
Little has been documented about the new discovery, which is a protected area by the National Museums of Kenya (NMK).
The professor says the main aim of the research is to study all the history that the excavation can yield and shed light on the city’s past. "Despite reports that the early inhabitants were Arabs, we are strongly convinced they were of African origin since an initial study of their way of life, as seen from the ruins, compares with others found elsewhere in sub Saharan Africa," said the professor.
The skulls do not resemble those from Arabic communities, but bear similar characteristics with Africans.
"Their feeding culture was similar to that of old African communities and they removed some of their teeth and sharpened others, a common African tradition," he said.
According to the Assistant Director and Curator at the Fort Jesus museum, Jimbi Katana the site was gazetted way back before Kenya attained independence due to its historic importance.
The NMK and officials from Illinois University will rebury the dead after conclusion of the research.
If proven that the inhabitants were Africans, it will be a sharp contradiction to historical records that the region’s early inhabitants had been Arab. "They may have been ancestors of Watwafi, Wachonyi, Giriama, Ribe, Mvita, Oromo, Taita among others who inhabit the coastal region," said Kusimba.
At one tomb where there were 19 burials, there are layers of floors indicating different times that the community lived through.
But they were converted to Islam as skeletons were buried facing Qibla (the Mecca direction for Islamic prayers) with the knees bent at the joint.
At the scene, there is a ruin of a mosque that acted as their worship centre and a borehole where they used to fetch water, he said.
"We believe the inhabitants were attacked by some kind of water or airborne disease since most of the graves are for young children," the professor noted.
"We have dug through several layers until we reached the underneath natural corals and we have established the Islamic culture was introduced at the fourth layer, way after the locals had established themselves," he said.
The streets were narrow and buildings had a unique and rich architectural design with thick walls that acted as sound mufflers with rooms being measured by arms’ stretch.
"They realised, since the area was hot and humid, having narrow streets would ensure they got the beach breeze that would keep their houses cool, since they had no windows," said the historian.
The inhabitants who had lived in the area for over 3,000 years interacted with Muslim traders from Iran, Turkey, India and later the Omans who came after the Romans.
The graves are said to date back to the 13th Century and the city’s wall had three gates. The wall’s main function was to prevent animals from invading them, said the professor.
After the excavation the researchers will take out three teeth from each skeleton, and some few bones to act as samples.
One of the teeth will be used to extract ancient DNA for biological identity while the second will be for an isotope (chemical) analysis including the migration patterns and history.
The last tooth will be for dating purposes and would determine when they died.
"We shall just extract a few parts including the teeth and some bones in order to get their genealogy," said the professor.
Prof Kusimba, the author of six books on the ‘Rise and Fall of Swahili States’ urges Kenyans to be interested in learning the diversity of old history.
He is also studying the link between the Coastal beaches.
Sunday, 13 September 2009
Monday, 7 September 2009
More than 2,500 residents of Faza Island are spending their nights on the hard floors of the island’s mosques after a fire destroyed their homes on Saturday.
Others huddled inside classrooms of the only secondary school on the island of 4,500 people. Faza is part of the Lamu archipelago.
The dogs were members of the Readyfield Bloodhounds pack, from Caunton, near Newark, and are more used to taking part in hunts in the surrounding counties.
Now, they will be putting their skills to use in the wilds of Africa, tracking down poachers who illegally hunt rhino.