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February 26 2014

8 Dishes From Africa We Dare You To Try

Mopane worm. Photo released to be used freely by  Arne Larsen.

A live Mopane worm. Photo released to be used freely by Arne Larsen.

As we conclude “Food Month” here at Global Voices Online, let's take a look at eight dishes from Sub-Saharan Africa that might take you out of your culinary comfort zone. We dare you to try them”

1. Madora (mopane worms):

Delicious Mopane worms ready to serve. Photo used with permission from www.zimbokitchen.com

Delicious Mopane worms ready to serve. Photo used with permission from www.zimbokitchen.com

Madora (Gonimbrasia belina) is a species of moth found in much of Southern Africa, whose large edible caterpillar, the mopani or mopane worm, is an important source of protein for millions of indigenous Southern Africans.

If you want to try mopane worms, follow Zimbo Kitchen instructions here:

Before you run-off, madora are high in protein to the extent that it’s just what the doctor ordered. Here is the power of protein according to WebMD – “protein is an important component of every cell in the body. Hair and nails are mostly made of protein. Your body uses protein to build and repair tissues. You also use protein to make enzymes, hormones, and other body chemicals. Protein is an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood“. No wonder why the folks in rural Zimbabwe escape many diseases suffered by us urbanites.

In Zimbabwe, this delicacy is often prepared in a simple and straight forward manner – frying. This is how I intend to do them today with a little variation of my own involving black pepper. You are good to go when you choose this combo: sadza, green veggies and mbuya’s tomato and onion soup to accompany this dish even though it’s still possible to have madora on their own as a crisp snack or with other combinations. Enough said, let’s start frying!

2. Nsenene (grasshoppers):

A male grasshopper. Photo released under Creative Commons License by Wikipedia user Bruce Marlin.

A live male grasshopper. Photo released under Creative Commons license by Wikipedia user Bruce Marlin.

Nsenene” is the Luganda name for a long-horned grasshopper (more commonly called bush cricket or katydid) that is a central Ugandan delicacy as well as an important source of income. The insect is also eaten in Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania.

Follow these seven steps to make your grasshopper dish.

3. Bullfrog:

African bullfrog. Photo released under Creative Commons License by Wikipedia user Stevenj

African bullfrog. Photo released under Creative Commons License by Wikipedia user Stevenj

Science in Africa blog explains how the frog is eaten in Namibia:

In Namibian traditional cuisine the entire frog is eaten, with the exception of the alimentary canal, which may be fed to dogs or poultry.

It continues:

Generally people are advised to wait until the Giant Bullfrogs start croaking or until “after the third rain” before eating them. Despite this caution people in some areas choose to eat frogs prematurely. However when they do so very specific anti-poisoning preventative measures are usually taken.

People from the Oshakati/Ongwediva [northern Namibia] area prevent poisoning by lining their cooking pots with pieces of dry wood from a tree locally known as Omuhongo (not to be confused by Omuoongo, the Marula tree). This wood apparently neutralises the frog poison while also preventing the frog skin from sticking to the pot bottom. “Nobody becomes ill from the disease when this cooking method is followed. In the Okambebe/Oshikango areas, where the Omuhongo tree appears to be unknown, people use the Omuva and Oshipeke trees instead. “Only two small pieces cut from Omuva or Oshipeke, when used to line the bottom of the pot while cooking frogs, will prevent the disease from attacking the culprit.

4. Mazondo (Beef trotters):

Mazondo (beef trotters) ready to be eaten. Photo used with permission from www.zimbokitchen.com.

Mazondo (beef trotters) ready to be eaten. Photo used with permission from www.zimbokitchen.com.

Mazondo (Beef trotters) are amongst one of the favourite dishes for most Zimbabwean men and some women too. It’s best to slow cook them on your stove if you’re not cooking them pamoto (using firewood). The way to prepare them is pretty straight forward, much like pork trotters, maguru (tripe) or even beef stew which are prepared in more or less the same way here in Zimbabwe.

5. Termites:

Termits (white ants) in Sudan. Public domain photo from the Agricultural Research Service, the research agency of the United States Department of Agriculture.

Termites (white ants) in Sudan. Public domain photo from the Agricultural Research Service, the research agency of the United States Department of Agriculture.

Termites are also known as “white ants”, although they are unrelated to ants. They are a delicacy in many African cultures.

Here are photo instructions on how to fry flying termites.

6. Blood and milk:

Thomson Safaris blog notes:

[...] but much more fascinating [about the Maasai diet] (and possibly a little off-putting to the western palate) is the tradition of drinking raw blood, cooked blood, and blood-milk mixtures.

This is the traditional method of obtaining cow's blood:

they [Maasai] eat milk and blood which is harvested by puncturing the loose flesh on the cow's neck with an arrow. The wound is closed after a gourdfull of blood is obtained. This operation can be repeated every month or so with no harm to the cow. The Masai typically drink blood mixed with milk.

Brave enough to try it? Make a blood and milk concoction as follows:

Cow blood can be cooked with fresh or sour milk as follows: Pour the fresh blood through a sieve to separate it from the clots. Mix three parts liquid blood to one part milk (or equal parts blood and sour milk). Cook over low heat, stirring often, for twenty to thirty minutes. The mixture should thicken like scrambled eggs. If desired, butter, fried chopped onions, or salt can be added during cooking. Serve with Ugali, Fufu, or boiled Plantains, or Rice.

7. Mbewa (mice):

Mice is a well-known delicacy in northern Malawi, where it is known as “mbewa”, as well as in eastern Zambia.

The YouTube video below from Peter Larson shows roasted mice for sale:

Writing about “mbewa”, Peter Larson says:

Malawians are largely divided as to the culinary merit of Mbewa. Most love the Mbewa and consider it a delicious snack food. Others decry them as unfit for eating. Mbewa are caught and roasted over a fire, but clearly not roasted long enough to burn off the copious amounts of visible fur. Malawians then garnish them with salt and cayenne pepper and gnaw on them like jerky, consuming them completely, bones and all.

If you want to know all the social and cultural dynamics involved in mice-eating and, more importantly, how to hunt your own mice for dinner, read this blog post.

8. Palm tree larvae:

Next time you are hungry, try this one! Photo released under Creative Commons by Luigi Barraco.

Next time you are hungry, reach for one of these! Photo released under Creative Commons by Luigi Barraco.

Palm tree larvae is a delicious tropical treat and a great source of protein.

Follow cooking instructions [fr] from Cuisine Au Kamer to make your own delicious plate of palm tree larvae:

Nettoyer les larves: les laver à grande eau les ouvrir avec les doigts et enlever le liquide marron qui se trouve à l'intérieur des larves

Disposer directement chaque larve nettoyée dans la marmite qui sera utilisée pour les cuire. L'enlèvement du liquide marron à l'intérieur des larves colore les doigts en couleur marron, mais cette couleur s'enlève au lavage.

Préparer les condiments nécessaires: ail, basilic africain, oignon, pèbè, feuille de gingembre (odzom). Mélanger avec les larves et mettre au feu doux. Ne pas ajouter de l'eau. laisser cuire 25 à 30 mns à feu doux, le temps que les larves produisent leur huile, puis servir.

Wash really well with water, open the larvae with your fingers and remove the brown liquid that is inside the larvae.

Put each larva directly into the pot (don't worry if the brown liquid stains your fingers, this color can be removed with washing).

Prepare the necessary condiments: garlic, African basil, onion, pébé [a local spice in Cameroon], ginger leaves. Mix with the larvae and cook on a low heat. Do not add water. Cook for 25-30 minutes on a low heat until the larvae start melting, and then serve.

February 18 2014

10 Dishes From Sub-Saharan Africa Everyone Needs to Try

We simply cannot let February, which is Food Month here at Global Voices Online, pass without sharing with you ten delicious dishes from Sub-Saharan Africa. Make sure to add them to your recipe collections!

1. Kamba wa nazi (Prawns in coconut sauce)

Kamba (Prawns/shrimp) is loved in the coastal region [East Africa]. Shrimps taste better if cooked for just a few minutes on high heat. In the past I preferred fried shrimp only, but shrimp cooked with coconut milk is something that I would advise everyone to try. Believe me; you may never want fried shrimp ever again if you try this recipe. This recipe is exotic.

Follow the instructions from the YouTube video below from Miriam Kinunda:

2. Efo riro (Nigerian vegetable soup)

Efo Riro is a Nigerian vegetable soup. Image used with permission from Dobby Signature.

Efo Riro is a Nigerian vegetable soup. Photo used with permission from Dobby Signature.

Efo riro” is a Yoruba word which simply means “Vegetable soup” and it’s enjoyed by many. This is because it’s really versatile and could be eaten with meals such as Rice, Yam and any type of Swallow. When I got to the market to buy the ingredients for cooking this meal, I actually got so confused when it came to choosing which Leaf to use for the soup.

3. Ceebu jenn (Senegalese rice and fish)

Senegalese national dish cebe..... Photo released in the public domain by Wikipedia user KVDP.

Senegalese national dish Ceebu jenn. Photo released in the public domain by Wikipedia user KVDP.

There are about as many variations for spelling ceebu jenn (thieboudienne, thiep bu dinenne, ceebujenn…) as there are to making it. This rice (ceeb) and fish (jenn) recipe is the national dish of Senegal and can also be made with beef (ceebu yapp). If the dish looks familiar, it’s because it’s a descendent of paella.

4. Seswaa (Botswana's slow-cooked shredded beef)

Watch the video below to learn from Freedes Em how to make this scrumptious recipe from Botswana:

5. Matapa

Matapa is a typical Mozambican dish prepared with young cassava leaves piled with garlic and flour extracted from the tubers, cooked with crab or shrimp. Many Matapa dishes add cashew nuts and can be eaten with bread, rice or alone.

Cook Guru Mozambique Cuisine has simple instructions for you to make your own Matapa:

Matapa...ooh, what a delicious dish! Photo by Brandi Phiri. Used with permission.

Are you ready to eat Matapa? Photo by Brandi Phiri. Used with permission.

Ingredients:

- 1 kg of shrimps
- 750 gr of peanuts
- 1 kg of cabbage leaf or cassava leaf
- 1 coconut
- 2 L of water
- salt to taste

6. Ghana's Benne (sesame) soup with guineafowl (or Cornish game hens)

Below are the ingredients needed:

1. Fowl (I'm using 2 Cornish game hens, around 4 lbs, total)
2. 1.5 teaspoons salt, or to taste
3. 1 cup of tahini (or less if you prefer)
4. 3 – 4 cloves of garlic
5. About 2-inch chunk of fresh peeled ginger
6. 1 onion (about 1 cup, red, if available)
7. About 4 habanero, or other milder chile peppers, seeded and membranes removed, if desired. (When ground they should make about 1 Tablespoon of pepper paste). Americans use milder chile peppers, remove seeds, etc.)
8. 6 small-to-medium tomatoes (or about half a large 28 oz can of tomatoes; I imagine this might also be a small can, but I never have them in the house): enough to get 1 1/2- 2 cups when blended.

Read the full cooking instructions from Betumi here.

7. Doro wet (Ethiopian/Eritrean stew made from chicken and hard-boiled eggs)

Watch the YouTube video below made by Makonnen Wolde to learn how to make Doro wet:

8. Injera

Doro wet (above) is traditionally eaten with injera, a spongy flat bread made from the millet-like grain known as teff:

Ingredients

5 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon yeast
enough warm water to make a thin batter

Begin by combining the flour, baking powder and yeast in a large bowl. Add enough water to make a batter the consistency of thin pancake batter. Cover the bowl and set it aside.

Full cooking instructions are here.

Ethiopian/Eritrean injera (flat bread), which can be eaten with dishes such as Doro wet. Photo released under Creative Commons by Wikipedia user Rama.

Ethiopian/Eritrean injera (flat bread), which can be eaten with dishes such as Doro wet. Photo released under Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0 FR) by Wikipedia user Rama.

9. Chapati (flat bread)

Chapati or “chapo” as we fondly refer to them in Kenya, is a very popular flat bread that is a staple in many homes in East Africa. The dish has it's origins in India as do many of our foods in Kenya. This owing to the large Indian population that has lived in Kenya since the 19th century, and whom we consider as our fellow Kenyans. Though this flat bread shares the same name with another flat bread in India, the preparation of the dough and the type of flour used make them different. The Indian chapati is made of a combination of whole wheat flour (atta) and all-purpose flour whereas the East African version of the chapati uses only all-purpose flour. When making the East African chapati, oil is used whereas no oil is used in kneading the dough for the Indian chapati. In that regard, the East African chapati is more similar to the Indian flat bread called “Paratha”. But what's in a name? A chapati by any other name would still be delish :)

Chapati and chapati roll. Photo released under Creative Commons  (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Flickr user Kalyan.

Chapati and chapati roll. Photo released under Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Flickr user Kalyan.

Learn chapati cooking instructions here.

10. Ndole (spinach/bitter leaves and peanut soup):

Writing about Cameroonian dish Ndole on her blog, food blogger Immaculate writes:

At the top of my favorite Cameroonian food is Ndole, which is always present at parties ,and when cooked properly flies off the table. It is an absolutely irresistible combination of peanuts, bitter leaves (substitute spinach), meat (stock fish, shrimp,) crayfish (dried shrimps) and oil. If I could eat this every day I would, It is rich, high in calories and loved by many. It tastes like a stew spinach dip with all the spices and meat.

Follow Immaculate's instructions here to make your own Ndole.

Sub-Saharan Africa has many more yummy dishes to offer the world than those listed above. Make sure that you explore the blogs linked in this post for more!

Reposted bytowsertowser

February 14 2014

A Visitor Describes How it Feels to be Mugged by Bulgarian Police

Central Bus Station Sofia. Photo by Nikola Gruev, published on Wikipedia under CC-BY license.

Central Bus Station in Sofia. Photo by Nikola Gruev, used under Creative Commons-BY license.

Political scientist and blogger Anastas Vangeli described his experience of extortion by Bulgarian policemen on his way from Macedonia to Poland, in a Facebook post. On February 9, 2014, two armed officers “detained” him at a secluded area of the main bus station in Sofia, until he gave them some money. In conclusion, he wrote:

This was probably one of the most disappointing experiences in my lifetime. What added to the disappointment, however, were the comments and the double victimization by people when I told them this happened:

  • I was asking for it since I look “like a foreigner” and rich
  • I was asking for it since I was bragging with my China books and looked rich
  • I was supposed to know and expect this kind of things
  • I was supposed to hold my grounds better, e.g. not let them take me to a room, not let them get my money
  • I am supposed not to complain, as this stuff happens every day and I am not special

These are all statements that not speak only of the reality of omnipresent corruption and abuse of office and power, but about the complete lack of empathy, or even consciousness that one day it might be you. Moreover, it is an indicator that people have given up the hope that things will change; but also the responsibility that they should contribute to such change. At the end of the day, the state holds the monopoly of the use of force; I was mugged by those who are supposed to protect me (even though I don’t have a Bulgarian passport – no pun intended). So all kinds of relativizing comments are completely out of place on this.

These reactions are consistent with one of the key characteristics of “backsliding from democracy,” exposed at the Seventh Assembly of the World Movement for Democracy, held in Lima, in October 2012:

“…corruption becomes so widespread that citizens accept is as a norm.”

People commenting (in various languages) on Vangeli's Facebook post about the incident reminisced that such a “toll for foreigners” was common Bulgarian police practice during the dismal 1990s – but that they had not expected its resurgence in this day and age. Some of the commenters related similar experiences from other countries, from Russia to Kenya. Activist Besim Nebiu wrote:

Notice how they immediately asked you if you have a flight to catch at the airport. That gave them the ‘upper hand’ in dealing with you. A friend of mine who lives in Kenya, once wrote a blog post, in which he describes how corrupt police have “opportunity cost” (8 hours shifts in which they try to maximize revenue). They usually avoid “difficult customers,” so any strategy of acting dumb and not too upset should work, after 15 minutes, they give up on you, and move to someone easier to deal with.

Special Winter uniform of Bulgarian Border Police. Source: Ministry of Interior.

Special Winter uniform of Bulgarian Border Police presented [bg] on the website of Ministry of Interior Affairs. According to the victim, the officers in question wore green and carried badges of common police (“Ohranitelna Politsiya”), which according to the Ministry wears dark blue uniforms.

Bulgarian blogger Komitata translated Vangeli's post within his post [bg] titled “They Protect Us and It's No Theater,” which includes opinions about the local context of wasted state resources on questionable police actions praised by the relevant minister:

Системата на МВР не е реформирана. Предното неслужебно правителство положи големи усилия, но поради липса на решителност и политическа воля, реформите останаха скромни и далеч не необратими.

The system of the Ministry of Internal Affairs is not reformed. The previous government invested great efforts, but due to lack of decisiveness and political will, the reforms remain modest and far from irreversible.

In his post, Komitata also referred to Twitter discussion [bg] in which Bulgarians ask whether the police have the right to search them at the bus station, and pointed to information on citizen rights during police searches [bg].

February 09 2014

An Info-Activism Tool-Kit on Women's Rights Campaigning

Tacticaal Tech's Info-activism Toolkit on Women's Rights Campaigning

Tactical Tech's Info-activism Toolkit on Women's Rights Campaigning

The Women's Rights Campaigning: Info-Activism Toolkit by Tactical Technology Collective is a new guide for women's rights activists, advocates, NGOs and community based organizations who want to use technology tools and practices in their campaigning. This has been developed in collaboration with advocacy organizations from Nepal, Bangladesh, India, Kenya and Egypt.

This Toolkit has been customized from an updated version of two earlier toolkits: Message in a Box and Mobiles in a Box. The website will soon be translated into Arabic, Swahili, Bengali, and Hindi.

Reposted bycheg00 cheg00

February 05 2014

8 Irrresistable Food Blogs From Sub-Saharan Africa

A display of foodstuff. Public domain image from  National Institutes of Health (USA).

A display of different types of food. Public domain image from the United States National Institutes of Health.

Food is life. It unites us all. Here at Global Voices, we love food, so we bring you eight yummy food blogs from Sub-Saharan Africa.

1. Scrumptious South Africa

The logo of Scrumptious South Africa blog. Used with permission.

The logo of Scrumptious South Africa blog. Used with permission.


Scrumptious South Africa is a food blog run by Jane-Anne Hobbs Rayner, who is a cook, food writer, recipe developer and professional freelance journalist:

My site Scrumptious, which pioneered recipe blogging in South Africa almost seven years ago, is an independent food blog all about careful, patient home cooking, and about how to prepare excellent food for family and friends.

The recipes on this blog are, with a few early exceptions, my original work: I have devised, developed and thoroughly tested them myself. Of course, there are very few recipes these days that can be called truly original: every recipe builds on the work and patient testing of many generations of talented cooks, chefs and alchemists. Where I've adapted an existing recipe, or drawn on the work of other cookery writers, or found inspiration in someone else's recipe, I always say so.

2. Dobby's Signature

This is a Nigerian food blog by Nigerian blogger Dobby:

I'm dobby, a culinary enthusiast with a flair for Local Cuisines in Nigeria and around the globe. Welcome to my online recipe diary where I explore and showcase dishes from my Nigerian kitchen to inspire meals in yours. Let me confess, i'm not a professional chef…..Yeah! i'm not. But Cooking is one of my major hobbies and i do it well. Whenever i'm not cooking, i do illustrations/graphic designs too as shown on the blog. So, Stick around and explore Nigerian food from my own point of view.

Dobby's signature is a Nigerian Food Blog focused on Showcasing Nigerian dishes, Exploring Traditional food recipes and Flavors with strong emphasis on Photography, Diversity, Vibrant colors and Health benefits… Just the way Mama makes it ;)

3. Kadi African Recipes

Oumou Bah from Guinea shares her passion for food on her blog. The blog also uses YouTube videos:

I love the fact that in Africa, mealtimes are moments of great gatherings for big families. In most African countries such as Mali, Somalia, through Guinea, Nigeria and Eritrea, people use their fingers instead of a spoon, fork and knife to eat which make the meals more special and taste so unique.

The dishes are mostly made of meat, chicken, fish and vegetables all usually accompanied by the staple such as rice,FouFou, Tô, ugali and many more . Peppers and spices are widely used, which gives the taste especially African cuisine. Also without forgetting the vegetable leaves such as sweet potatoes leaves, Ukazi, bitter leaves and so on . Yams, corn, okra, and tomatoes and many other vegetables are also heavily used varies according to the region.

The YouTube video below from Kadi African Recipes show how to make Attiéké, the main dish of the Ivory Cost:

4. Taste of Tanzania

After sharing recipes online on various sites since 2004, Miriam Rose Kinunda now runs the Taste of Tanzania blog:

Tanzania is located in East Africa (Indian Ocean is on the East). Since Persians visited the coast of East Africa dated as early as 17th century, they introduced many things including spices and some recipes; example, Pilau, Haluwa, samosa, Bagia, etc. Our diet is a mainly African, and a little bit of Indian and Arabic. I hope you will enjoy these simple recipes from Tanzania and a few of my favorate from other countries.

Miriam Rose Kinunda started to post Tanzanian recipes just for fun in June 2004 with the domain name miriammalaquias.com; In 2006 I changed to mirecipe.com and started to blog, In July 2009, I decided to give this site a name that fits, A taste of Tanzania

5. Chef Afrik

Adhis, the owner of Chef Afrik, plans on “cooking my way through Africa one country at a time”:

First started in November 2011, Chef Afrik is my African food and travel lovechild. The site's motto, “Cooking my way through Africa one country at a time”, indicates my pursuit as a Kenyan diasporan to discover the continent of Africa through its food. As well as showcasing food from all over the continent “In the Kitchen”, I also enjoy interviewing people who work with African food, whether as food writers, bloggers or chefs in my “Get to know” series.

6. Foodie in the Desert 

Breadcrumbs sweet potatoes dish. Photo by Wangeci Wandere. Used with permission. from

Breadcrumbs sweet potatoes dish. Photo by Wangeci Wandere. Used with permission. from

Wangeci Wandere believes that anyone can cook no matter where they live. She started her food blog in a Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya:

Thanx for stopping by Foodie in the desert, my online home for recipes I try out and my culinary journeys from all around the place. Here, I share recipes that I have tried and loved anything from a simple stew to a complicated dessert, a few kitchen disasters and I will give you a few tips and tricks here and There.

I am a big believer that ANYBODY can cook whether you live in a bedsitter (studio apartment) or a lavish duplex, whether your a bachelor who just moved out of home or a wife with 4 kids. I started this blog in Kakuma refugee Camp, I live in a tiny studio apartment and I barely get any supplies so if I can do it so can you. So join me in discovering how to spice up your meals using supplies that you can find in your local supermarkets.

7. A Hungry African

This is a blog written by Brandi Phiri, a graduate student in Botswana, who despised cooking until recently:

Madombi (dumplings), a local cuisine in Botswana,  in chicken stew. Photo by Brandi Phiri. Used with permission.

Madombi (dumplings), a local cuisine in Botswana, in chicken stew. Photo by Brandi Phiri. Used with permission.

I’ve never really been a fan of the kitchen or any chores involving it. Until very recently I despised the Kitchen, I mostly especially despised cooking, anyone in my family will attest to that!

But after finally moving into a campus flat equipped with a kitchen I realised I didn’t want to eat boring food. If I was forced to feed myself everyday it would be with good food!

Traditional African cooking (at least in southern Africa) doesn’t allow for much experimenting or variety. We don’t play fast and loose with spices like the west Africans or Indians, our baking is mostly limited to plain cakes,breads and buns, our staple food is nsima/pap/sadza/ugali/posho/fufu/bugari/phaletshe and we tend to favour meat stews. Of course there is slight variation from country to country. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with traditional African food, nothing at all however I yearn for something different at times, something to surprise my taste buds and that is how my culinary adventures began.

8. Mzanzi Style Cuisine

South African blogger Thuli started Mzansi Style Cuisine in 2011 to encourage young people to cook and provide them with an online platform to access traditional and indigenous dishes:

Indigenous dishes are not widely documented reason being that the knowledge was passed down from generation to generation by training young women. Nowadays things have changed, young women move to the city to get education and jobs before they could have that entire food heritage passed down to them by the older generation. Well, I hope to bridge that gap through this blog. In addition to that, I urge young people, both women and men, to spend more time with the older generation. By that I mean our grandparents, parents, uncles and aunts. Let us embrace them, listen and learn from their experiences. Knowing where one comes from makes for a grounded individual and there is nothing cooler than that.

There are many more African food blogs than those listed above. Do you have a favorite African food blog? Please share it in the comments section below.

January 28 2014

Kenya Blog Awards 2014 Open for Submissions

The 2014 BAKE Kenyan Blog awards is now accepting submissions until February 10, 2014. Users can vote online from March 1 to April 30, 2014 for their favorite blogs in 17 different categories, including the new additions of Best Health Blog and Best County Blog. 

Bake logo

Logo of BAKE. Image source: http://bloggers.or.ke.

The Kenyan Blog Awards, an initiative of the Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE), seeks to reward bloggers that post on a regular basis, have great and useful content, are creative and innovative. Other categories include: 

  • Best Technology Blog
  • Best Photography Blog
  • Best Creative Writing Blog
  • Best Business Blog
  • Best Food Blog
  • Best Environmental/Agricultural Blog
  • Best Fashion/Beauty/Hair/Style Blog
  • Best Politics Blog
  • Best New Blog
  • Best Corporate Blog
  • Best Topical Blog
  • Best Sports Blog
  • Best Entertainment/Lifestyle Blog
  • Best Travel Blog
  • Kenyan Blog of the Year

Below is a video of the inauguration of the Kenyan Blog Awards:

Blogs can be submitted using this link.  

January 27 2014

Prominent Kenyan Writer Binyavanga Wainaina Comes Out as Gay

Binyavanga Wainaina at the 2009 Brooklyn Book Festival. Photo released by Wikipedia user  Binyavanga Wainaina at the 2009 Brooklyn Book Festival. under Creative Commons (CC BY 3.0).

Binyavanga Wainaina at the 2009 Brooklyn Book Festival. Photo released by Wikipedia user Binyavanga Wainaina at the 2009 Brooklyn Book Festival. CC BY 3.0

Kenyan novelist and short story writer Binyavanga Wainaina has released a chapter that was left out from his 2011 memoir “One Day I Will Write About This Place” titled “I am homosexual, mum“. Wainaina, who is the founding editor of the East African leading literary magazine Kwani?, is an award-winning author whose memoir made the reading list of Oprah's book club in 2011.

Wainaina recounts events prior to his mother's death and his struggle to reveal his sexual orientation to the people he cares about. In what he calls a lost chapter from “One Day I Will Write About This Place”, he revealed:

I, Binyavanga Wainaina, quite honestly swear I have known I am a homosexual since I was five. I have never touched a man sexually. I have slept with three women in my life. One woman, successfully. Only once with her. It was amazing. But the next day, I was not able to.

It will take me five years after my mother’s death to find a man who will give me a massage and some brief, paid-for love. In Earl’s Court, London. And I will be freed, and tell my best friend, who will surprise me by understanding, without understanding. I will tell him what I did, but not tell him I am gay. I cannot say the word gay until I am thirty nine, four years after that brief massage encounter. Today, it is 18 January 2013, and I am forty three.

The revelation came shortly after Uganda's parliament passed legislation that would jail homosexuals and President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria approved a new law that criminalises homosexual relationships and imposes prison terms of up of to 14 years.

Wainaina is quoted by Kenyan newspaper The Star saying that the anti-gay law in Nigeria was one of the things that made him decide to come out.

He has also released a six-part YouTube video titled “We Must Free Our Imagination” discussing his decision to come out, homosexuality in Africa, the church and anti-sodomy laws on the continent. Below is the first part of his video series:

Following his public declaration of his sexual orientation, Cal Advocacy blog asked, “Where are the voices of African lesbians?”:

Can lesbian women publicly and proudly raise their voices without fear of reprisals from conservative, patriarchal systems of silencing and oppression? And if we can- then why aren’t we? What systems of oppression still keep us muffled and quiet? When homosexuality is spoken about in Africa, the voice, rhetoric and overall emphasis on either affirming or disputing the rights of non-heteronormative people is more often than not the voice of gay men. Binyavanga is a gay man and he has ‘come out’ and publicly said so. But what does this mean for bisexual, trans and lesbian women? Does Binyavanga’s coming out also give us a voice and a space to claim our rights to exist in spaces that are hostile to our otherness? Can a lesbian woman in Africa copy-paste and edit his letter as a telling of her own story? Has he, in essence, spoken for us all? Women’s sexuality as a whole is a completely side-lined and unacknowledged part of womanhood, where societies, cultures, traditions and religions refuse to recognize women’s sexual rights and bodily autonomy. In this light, lesbian women struggle for legitimacy in a phallocentric world, where the absence of the penis means the absence of sex and sexuality. It can even be argued that colonial laws never took lesbian relationships to account because the very thought that two women, or women alone, could have sexually gratifying relationships was seen as ludicrous, and therefore unaffected by any kind of laws.

The post continued by praising the writer and pointing the way forward for African lesbians:

Binyavanga has helped push an already happening conversation into a public, heterosexual space. The energy around unapologetically and honestly stating our sexuality should not lose momentum. And the voice he uses in planting, firmly, his homosexual identity, is admirable. He makes no apologies, and offers no explanations. And neither should we. We need more lesbian voices, and the voices of gender non-conforming women, asserting ourselves and owning our place on the continent. It doesn’t have to be a coming out story, and you don’t have to be a literary giant. It just has to be your truth as a lesbian, bisexual or transgendered woman, but it has to be spoken out loud, because like Audre Lorde said-your silence will not save you.

On Twitter, many people praised his courage, while a few voices condemned him for his choice:

December 06 2013

#GVMeetup: Recreating the Virtual Global Voices World for Real Audiences

You've been reading their stories and have been following them on Twitter for years, but have you ever met the Global Voices authors and translators covering your countries?

This winter we launched our first official global in-person ‘meetups’ led and facilitated by Global Voices members, who live and know those local communities in six countries. 

And we are already half-way through!

They will be sharing their experiences of bringing the virtual Global Voices mission, energy and love to very real offline audiences in their countries.

In Karachi, Kampala, Cairo and Skopje dozens of participants have already met GV members who facilitated peer learning and knowledge sharing in the field of citizen media. And #GVMeetup facilitators are getting ready to woe audiences in Porto and Phnom Penh next!

More information on our Google + event page.

 

 

November 13 2013

Thinking About Blogging at WordCamp Kenya 2013

White Africa thinks about blogging at WordCamp Kenya 2013

Today finds me in Nanyuki, Kenya at WordCamp Kenya 2013. The past couple years, I’ve been traveling during the event, but this year I get to come hang out with my blogging brothers and sisters.

As I was thinking about what to talk about, I thought I’d cover four areas:

Why we blog
My rules for blogging
3 things that are bothering me in the Kenyan blogosphere
Using blogging as a tool

November 06 2013

The FIRE Awards Winners for Internet Development in Africa

The FIRE programme awards, an initiative of AFRINIC, acknowledge the actors from the African region who strive to provide solutions to internet development for the African Continent. The 2013 FIRE Awards Winners are : 

Below is the presentation of the MEWC initiative :

October 25 2013

What Has Nairobi Tech Hub Achieved?

Erik Hersmann explains what iHub, a technology hub in Nairobi, has achieved in its three and a half years of existence:

[T]he iHub started in March 2010, so it’s been about 3.5 years and a lot has happened here in the intervening years. Many people ask me, “so, what has the iHub done?” The best way I could think of to answer that is to just list as much as I could think of, so here’s a rather exhaustive list, though I’m sure that I’m missing some things.
Before I get into that though, maybe a framing on why tech hubs exist is important. They’re not just there for startups, in fact our thoughts on incubation and products going back to 2010 was just pre-incubation and connecting to other businesses and investors. Places like the iHub exist to connect this community together, while we get involved in other gaps that exist in the market (UX, incubation, research, etc), these are just part of providing a place where serendipity happens for those who are involved across the network.

October 24 2013

En attendant le port qui doit sauver le Kenya...

Les nouveaux dirigeants du Kenya héritent d'épineux dossiers, dont celui du port en eau profonde à Lamu, débouché continental d'un large projet de corridor de transport qui a pour but de transformer l'économie africaine en l'ouvrant sur l'Asie. / Afrique, Asie, Chine, Éthiopie, Kenya, Soudan, (...) / Afrique, Asie, Chine, Éthiopie, Kenya, Soudan, Coopération internationale, Développement, Économie, Entreprise, Finance, Géopolitique, Industrie, Inégalités, Transports, Matières premières, Commerce, Diplomatie, Corruption, Panafricanisme - 2013/04

October 11 2013

I Didn't Visit Westgate Mall

Matt Hunte (2nd from right) and some Global Voices friends eating out in Nairobi in July 2012.

Matt Hunte (2nd from right) and some Global Voices friends eating out in Nairobi in July 2012. Photo by Ayumi Nakajimi.

1. When I was in Nairobi last year, I didn’t visit Westgate Mall. I spent most of my extra day in Kenya moping around my hotel room alone, only stirring when I discovered late in the afternoon that the friend I had had presumptuously assumed would host me for a night in London on my way back home would be visiting Paris with her boyfriend. I’m not a good tourist.

2. I took note of the high, barbed-wired walls around the buildings in Westlands; armed guards at patted us down at hotel entrances. I took an afternoon walk with some friends on the campus of a nearby school. My friend asked a teacher if she could take some pictures. The teacher politely replied that it probably wasn’t a great idea.

3. I brought along Naipaul’s “A Bend In The River”. I’d planned to read it on the trip. I listened to rock music instead. I slept very little.

4. We were on the deck of a busy Nairobi bar, overlooking the city. I don’t drink and can’t dance. My roommate tells me about his parents’ life under Communism. His father was a photojournalist. I think he mentioned something about them tying to defect when he was a child. When the Berlin Wall fell he was only three. His sister lives in Florida now.

5. Her name is Aminah.

6. Someone told me to not bother getting any authentic Kenyan fabric from the market because most of that stuff is really from the West anyway, Ghana and so on.

7. At breakfast at the hotel I tried to make conversation with a girl. She was planning to visit “home” for the first time in since leaving as a child. My knowledge of Somalia is superficial: Black Hawk Down and, of course, Iman. She mentions Siad BarrePuntland, Al-Shabaab. I make a quip about Grover Norquist and pirates.

8. In “White Noise”, DeLillo said that supermarkets are our new cathedrals. I never quite got that book.

9. I see on Twitter that a Ghanaian writer has been killed at Westgate Mall. He was attending a literary conference in Nairobi. I Google his name. See that I’ve read about him before. Can’t remember when or why.

10. I’d always wanted a Mac because they were beautiful, different and incompatible. I was almost the only one at the conference without one.

11. My roommate and I spent all night listening to music. He drank Coke. I drank water. Our tastes were disturbingly similar. How did the conference organiser know to pair us? We both like Britpop. But I don’t know any Hungarian music.

12. At Nairobi airport, we had to pass through a security scanner at the departures terminal entrance and two more to enter the boarding area. A guy asked if he could take a photo with his smart phone. His request was politely denied.

13. On checking out of the hotel, I gave one of the security guards a nearly full two-litre bottle of Coke. My roommate hadn’t managed to go through that one yet. I think he's in need of an intervention.

14. A few months ago I saw on Twitter that there’d been a fire at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. I've only just realised that I never followed up to find out what caused it.

15. Went to an Ethiopian restaurant with some friends. We planned to walk the short distance back to the hotel, but a member of the hotel staff insisted we shouldn’t. We didn’t. I was supposed to be the first drop-off but I missed my stop. Taxi turned around and made the two-minute trip back. Paid him two hundred shillings, about six Eastern Caribbean Dollars.

16. The group claiming responsibility for the attack on the mall had its Twitter account taken down.

17. Some guy tweets that some lefty academic would argue that the attack on the mall was anti-consumerist. Chuckle.

18. One night, my roommate and I played The Clash's “Somebody Got Murdered” over and over. It became a constant refrain while we were watching the UEFA championships. Good times.

19. “The sinking feeling when the Kenyan police announce they’ve taken over the mall and then go on to say that “most” of the hostages are free.” Still sinking.

20. My last day in Kenya I warmed some leftover injera and beef over the water heater in the bathroom. Hadn’t noticed that we didn’t have a microwave. The food was at best lukewarm. I didn’t spit it out.

Matt Hunte is from the eastern Caribbean island of St. Lucia.

October 09 2013

White American Claims to Be Kenya's First Female Maasai Warrior

Mindy Budgor is an American woman from Southern California who has released a book, “Warrior Princess: My Quest to Become the First Female Maasai Warrior“, detailing her controversial attempt to become the first female Maasai warrior.

A photo of Mindy Budgor's book from amazon.com.

A photo of Mindy Budgor's book from amazon.com.

Mindy says that she traveled to Kenya from the US and lived among the Maasai who took her through the rituals of becoming a warrior. Maasai men become warriors after going through rituals that demonstrate bravery, courage and patience. The Maasai are a Nilotic ethnic group of semi-nomadic people located in Kenya and Tanzania, known for their centuries-old traditions.

Her journey has sparked intense debate online about cultural appropriation and insensitivity. TMS Ruge, the co-founder of Ugandan technology incubator HiveColab, shared his thoughts on Mindy's warriorhood:

I have been toying with the idea of writing a full blog post in response Mindy Budgor’s ill-advised Warrior Princess book that I linked to yesterday. Partly because I got so incensed by and felt I really needed to dig deeper to understand her reasoning for thinking this was a good idea. Then I thought, how many amateur NGO’s or ‘guilt of privilege’ projects have I heard of that started after a volunteer came back from a two-week trip to Africa or read about some injustice on the continent? Nearly all of them turn out to be spectacular disasters. So why should I waste any more energy on this one?

He then posted a comment left by a Maasai woman, Rarin Ole Sein, on a Facebook discussion group:

I have expressed how I feel about this piece elsewhere but I have to add my 2 cts to this discussion as a Kenyan Maasai Woman. What I find disturbing about it;

Of course the obvious ‘white savior’ aspect – she came, she did and now we all should be able to follow suit. Like we needed her to come show us the way. Who told her we want to be ‘warriors’? Who told her we need to be ‘warriors’ to make a ‘difference’?

The culture insensitiveness of it all – that she can just trot into the wilderness and claim to be a ‘warrior’ after a month WTF it takes about 15 years to be a Moran and even then some don’t make it – so what is she saying – the Maasai morans are slackers?

Insulting to the many Maasai women and Maasai Culture in general. Especially all the brilliant women working towards equality for themselves and girls. As far as I know Maasai women don’t become warriors and don’t want to be warriors But if they want to and choose to…they don’t need an ‘outsider’ to come fight their fight for them.

Africa is a Country described the background of Mindy's trip to Kenya, and went on to critique Western media coverage of her book:

Loads of our readers have been badgering us to blog about Mindy Budgor, a young white, middle class American from Southern California (her site comes with a health warning) who traveled to Kenya for a PR campaign for Under Armour sports clothing prior to starting an MBA degree and disguised the trip as a white feminist cause to end sexism among the Maasai. Budgor predictably published a book (Warrior Princess: My Quest to Become the First Female Maasai Warrior) and goes on about her “tribe” of Maasai. She now gets interviewed by glossy women’s magazines and even suckers The Guardian and the BBC (both of whom should be ashamed of themselves). The Guardian have chosen to indulge this sort of drivel plenty of times before despite always considering themselves better than other British newspapers, and we have to wonder why Mindy’s piece wasn’t posted to the Guardian Africa Network page if they really thought it was a piece worth publishing. It’s one thing to talk about getting past the bad old way of writing about Africa, quite another to show that you are really serious.

Young Maasai warriors doing the traditional warriors' dance. Photo released under Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0) by Wikipedia user Bjørn Christian Tørrissen.

Young Maasai warriors doing the traditional warriors’ dance. Photo released under Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0) by Wikipedia user Bjørn Christian Tørrissen.

A commenter on their piece, Rachel Kay Albers, expressed her total disgust:

I am absolutely DISGUSTED by this! And her personal website is the WORST. Apparently the “first female Masaai warrior” wears Chanel nail polish and washes her PEARL earrings in Smart Water. Are you effing KIDDING ME?!?!? Oh and 25% of book proceeds go to “empower” women. Yay! Let’s empower women of color to seek out “brave” middle class white women to be their heroes AND make money do that. “Go ahead! Appropriate my culture and get rich doing it! I’ll take 25% How empowering!!!!!!!!!!!!”

However, another reader, Micah, argued that Mindy pursued her passion of experiencing a different culture:

I think Miss Budgor pursued her passion of experiencing a very interesting culture and has done an incredible job at creating a universe around this experience. All of the naysayers are clearly jealous of the ability to take a brazen leap into a new journey, and are solely focusing on her “privileged” situation. I applaud Mindy’s efforts and I think the book was punchy and sheds light on a culture that I was not familiar with. Bravo Mindy Budgor!!!!!!!

April Conway, who said she spent five years in an African village, disagreed with Micah's argument:

I’m a nay-sayer (this book is horse-crap, and she’s exploiting the concept of the noble savage for her profit), and I can certainly say I am not jealous of her. I think her a fool. I’ve spent over 5 years living in an African village, learning from them without trying to change their culture and without exploiting their culture for my profit. I think you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. Read some of the Maasai women and the Kenyan peoples responses to this article and maaaybe you’ll get a clue. Seriously, three months in a place is just a flashy vacation – to promote it as otherwise is moronic (Not Moran-ic).

In another post, Africa is a Country shared two responses from their readers who happen to be Maasai women. aerofloatbo wrote:

I am a Maasai woman (from Kenya) and we have seen these (white) women come and go. We have Maasai women members of parliament, doctors, lawyers, professors, civil servants, teachers, nurses, business owners etc., but of course, we don’t exist in the eyes of fools like this Mindy woman whose sole purpose always appears to be to fetishize Maasai men (our sons, brothers, fathers and husbands) in one way or another. How many books are going to be written by white women about how they came and fell in love with a Maasai man, gave up everything for him, helped poor ignorant Maasai women, taught Maasai men how to behave etc, etc. We are sooooo fed up! I’m surprised it was an American this time because usually, the British are the WORST culprits.

Another Maasai reader, Leah, said she was offended by the book:

As a Maasai woman I feel very offended by Budgor’s attempt to gain fame at the expense of Maasai culture. There is nothing unique she has done that a regular Maasai woman hasn’t done and/or experienced and we don’t call ourselves warriers for a good reason. It’s like me coming to America and claiming I am the first female football player because I spent two weeks at training camp!

A discussion thread on Africa is a Country Facebook page, “Please.Stop:With.This.Nonsense ( “How Did This California Girl Become a Real Warrior Princess?”)“, has attracted 62 comments and 66 likes at the time of writing this post. Adding a comment on the thread, Chad McClymonds complained:

Oh my God. The worst part is, so many great African writers get rejected by publishers, yet this bullshit gets published and dispersed widely. I only wish it was a parody it is that God awful absurd

Laurah Sambuli made fun of her:

I read through hoping to read that she had killed a lion with her spear or bare hands (that's how it used to be to become a Maasai warrior). And she claims to have succeeded in changing the Maasai gender policy. Ntsk!

Tunan Nyokabi noted:

what a nonsense! Laurah Sambuli that's how fake these books by people who have no idea about our cultures continue to spread stereotypes

Following widespread criticism about her attempt to become a female Maasai warrior, Mindy used her website to explain herself:

I never intended to fall in love with Africa, nor find myself living among the Maasai. But I did and I have. During my first trip to Kenya, as a volunteer in a women’s clinic, I met an inspiring man named Winston. This Maasai warrior explained the rites of passage to become a warrior, a path closed to women because we were not strong enough or brave enough, but one I could try to master.This conjured up feelings of my own inadequacies, physical limitations, and lack of confidence in the unknown. Perhaps I would have forgotten about Winston’s words if I hadn’t met a Maasai woman named Faith later that day; she told me that women in her tribe have wanted the right to become warriors for generations. Faith explained that women longed to receive this status, and thus ultimate respect in the tribe. She took the offer seriously and encouraged me to understand its significance.

She concluded:

In the end, a group of elders decided to take it upon themselves to work to allow girls the right to become warriors because they believed it was in the best interest of the preservation of the culture. Today they are working to allow twenty Maasai girls in Loita to be part of the next warrior class.

My experience with the Maasai was transformative. I was pushed in my physical and mental capacity on a daily basis, despite wanting to wave the white flag on countless occasions. It seemed to me that the Maasai didn’t care that I was white, Jewish, or came from a family of financial means.

My intention in sharing my story was not to stir up controversy and surely not anger, but to build awareness for the tribe and show that even the least auspicious person can allow her or himself the freedom to explore other perspectives.

October 07 2013

Trials of Kenyan Politicians at the Hague

The Hague Trials Kenya is a project of the Africa Desk of Radio Netherlands Worldwide in collaboration with This is Africa:

How has Kenya’s post-election violence in 2007 and 2008 affected your life? What do you want to know about international justice? Share your stories, thoughts and questions right here, via e-mail (africa@rnw.nl), on Facebook or Twitter with the hashtag #HagueTrials.
Your best articles, blogs, videos, photos and cartoons will get published. Feel free to indicate if you wish to remain anonymous.

Follow AfricaHackTrip Online

A group of developers and designers from Europe who are curious about the emerging African tech hubs are on hack trip of the continent.

Check out their blog or Tumblr and follow discussion about the trip on Twitter.

September 27 2013

GV Face: Retweeting Terrorists? The Westgate Mall Attacks

Social media played a major role in the dissemination of news about the terrorist attack on Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, but unverified information spread with lightning speed, including from government, terrorists, journalists and citizens on Facebook and Twitter.

What does this tell us about the quest for truth in the aftermath of this devastating attack on Kenyan citizens?

Does it even matter what the media report, when anyone who wants the real story seeks out hashtags on Twitter?

GV's Sub-Saharan Africa authors – Omar Mohamad (@shurufu ) and Collins Mbalo (@collinsom92) answered these questions and more in our Google Hangout series GV Face on Friday, September 27, 2013. 

September 26 2013

When There's No Emergency Phone Number, Kenya Tweets For Help

Philip Ogola - Kenya Red Cross

Philip Ogola runs Kenya Red Cross's social media command center from his desk in Nairobi. Credit: Valerie Hamilton (used with permission from PRI.org)

This article and a radio report by Valerie Hamilton for The World originally appeared on PRI.org on September 24, 2013 and is republished as part of a content sharing agreement.

When al-Shabab gunmen attacked Nairobi's Westgate Mall, Philip Ogola jumped to action – with a tweet.

 

Ogola runs the Kenya Red Cross's social media command center, a cluster of computer screens at Red Cross headquarters in Nairobi. It's where I visited him earlier this month, before the attacks.

In the last year, Ogola has turned Kenya Red Cross social media into a virtual 911 [emergency phone number in North America], taking in information about emergencies and putting out public safety bulletins, 24 hours a day.

“The information I get online, it's amazing,” says Ogola. “You get the exact location of where the incident is, you get photos, how many people injured, where, and how far. Previously it was really hard.”

Ogola says he has helped coordinate response to hundreds of emergencies, liaising with social media users on the scene and emergency services countrywide. All with the help of ordinary Kenyans on their mobile phones.

“Kenyans thought, ‘Whoa, I can actually save someone's life with a touch of a button,'” he says. “And it went viral.”

Here's how it works: you see an accident, a shooting, or a fire; you tweet, or Facebook, or text Kenya Red Cross. Ogola does a cloud search, scanning social media for photos, location tags or other information on the same incident. Within minutes, he hands it over to first responders on the ground.

“If we get a security tweet we forward it to the police. If we get a fire alert about a building burning, we forward it to the fire brigade, and we call a backup team,” Ogola says. “We have actually become the reporting tool for all kind of incidents. We never had any reporting tool in Kenya.”

Kenya's public emergency services are notoriously threadbare. What started as a small fire at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport this summer gutted a terminal before firefighters got it under control. There's no national 911-type number for medical crises, and no comprehensive national disaster plan.

But thousands of Kenyans are plugged into Red Cross social media, through their mobile phones and tweet-to-text services. In emergencies, often, the Red Cross is their first call.

“Even the government sometimes falls back on us instead of having their own systems in place,” says Joanne Gitau, an ambulance dispatcher for Red Cross EMTs, “especially when the emergencies occur on a really large scale.”

The terror attack on the Westgate mall was Kenya's biggest crisis since the 1998 embassy bombings. Red Cross, and social media, have been on the front lines. Over Skype a few days after the attacks, Philip Ogola told me about people who were trapped inside, tweeting the Red Cross for help.

“I was getting tweets from guys in the basement parking. I was getting tweets from the injured. I was getting tweets from guys who were hiding in the building,” he says. “I was getting tweets from the public, saying, ‘My mom is inside.'”

Ogola set up a hashtag, #RedCrossTrace, to help match tweets from Westgate with worried loved ones outside. From his iPad at the triage station outside the mall, he put out updates about casualties, first aid, missing persons, and counseling services, and helped organize an unprecedented nationwide blood drive.

Now, Twitter has been buzzing with posts calling him a hero. He says he couldn't have done it without social media.

“It would have been totally impossible to comprehend the situation on the ground, to know the needs of the people, to actually even publish information of what we need. It was easy for me to tweet and say, ‘Hey guys, we need syringes, we need gauzes, we need water.’ And the ripple effect was instantaneous.”

Kenya Red Cross has more than 100,000 followers on Twitter, and 26,000 on Facebook. On a normal day, Ogola says, his posts and reposts reach 5 million people.

Since the Westgate attack, he says, they've gone viral, reaching 50 million, around the globe.

Links

September 25 2013

Nairobi Mall Attack Inspires Two Online Tools for Emergencies

Also read: How the Nairobi Mall Attack Unfolded on Social Media and Global Voices Author Remembers Friends Slain in Nairobi Mall Attack.

On September 21, 2013, a group of suspected al-Shabab militants stormed Westgate mall in Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya, killing at least 61 people, six security personnel and injuring hundreds of innocent men, women and children.

Following the horrible attack, Ushahidi has come up with two tools for emergencies. Ushahidi is a non-profit technology company that specializes in developing free and open source software for information collection, visualization and interactive mapping.

“Ushahidi”, which means “testimony” in Swahili, was a website that was initially developed to map reports of violence in Kenya after the post-election fallout at the beginning of 2008.

The Ping app is a binary, multichannel check-in tool for groups. The tool will help families, friends and companies to quickly check in with each other:

There was a consistent problem in every disaster that happens, not just in Kenya, but everywhere. Small groups, families and companies need to quickly check in with each other. They need to “ping” one another to make sure they’re okay. It has to be something incredibly simple, that requires little thinking to use. People have been doing some stuff in this space in the past, the best like “I’m Ok” are focused on smartphone users, but we have a need to make it work for even the simplest phones. Our goal is to have this available for anyone globally to use.

The Ping App – a group check-in tool for emergencies. Photo source: Ushahidi blog.

The Ping App – a group check-in tool for emergencies. Photo source: Ushahidi blog.

This is how the Ping works:

You create a list of your people (family, organization), and each person also adds another contact who is close to them (spouse, roommate, boy/girlfriend, etc).
When a disaster happens, you send out a message for everyone to check-in. The admin sends out a 120 character message that always has “are you ok?” appended to the end.
This goes out via text message and email (more channels can be added later).
The message goes out three times, once every 5 minutes. If there is a response, then that person is considered okay. If no response, then 3 messages get sent to their other contact.
We file each response into one of 3 areas: responded (verified), not responded, not okay.
Every message that comes back from someone in that group is saved into a big bucket of text, that the admin can add notes to if needed.

Another tool is Blood Donation Kenya, which is a crowdmap of all locations of blood drive centers. The map matches blood location centers with people willing to help with donation, medical instruments or medical personnel.

A screenshot of a crowdmap showing blood donation sites in Kenya. Image source: Ushahidi blog.

A screenshot of a crowdmap showing blood donation sites in Kenya. Image source: Ushahidi blog.

Erik Hersmann explains the logic behind the map:

One of the most amazing guys in Kenya in any emergency is Philip Ogola of the Kenya Red Cross. He’s first on scene with great updates, but there’s only so much that one person can do. Now, the Kenya Red Cross itself has been doing incredible work, but they have a problem with a lot of their stuff still being paper and pen (and there’s another group working on a locally hosted database system to digitize this without putting real people’s names online, run by Nivi of eLimu). Another problem that they have is that the hospitals are running short on some types of blood, and are overwhelmed with others, as the Kenyan population comes out in full force to donate blood.

How can this be managed better, so that people aren’t turned away from some places and so that they know where to go for their type?

We set up a crowdmap deployment to map our all locations of blood drive centers, in an effort to match these areas with those willing to help at BloodDonationKenya.Crowdmap.com, either through blood donation, medical instruments or medical personnel.

Also read: How the Nairobi Mall Attack Unfolded on Social Media and Global Voices Author Remembers Friends Slain in Nairobi Mall Attack.

September 23 2013

Global Voices Author Remembers Friends Slain in Nairobi Mall Attack

Shurufu is a Tanzanian journalist based in Dar es Salaam. He tweets at @shurufu. Also read his post How the Nairobi Mall Attack Unfolded on Social Media.

At the time of writing, the number of people killed in the brutal attack on Westgate Mall in Nairobi stood at 69, with more than 200 injured. Armed militants burst into the mall, one of the city's most popular locations for foreigners and middle-class Kenyans, and carried out the deadliest attack the country has seen since the 1998 bombing of the U.S. embassy.

Among the dead include renowned Ghanaian poet Kofi Awoonor. Also killed was a well-known broadcaster, Ruhila Adatia. She was reportedly pregnant.

I, too, lost friends in the Westgate attack: Ross Langdon and Elif Yavuz, a couple who were expecting their first child. They lived in Dar es Salaam but were in Nairobi to have their baby there because they preferred the city's medical care. Elif had completed her PhD at the Harvard University's School of Public Health. She moved to Dar es Salaam to work for the Clinton Foundation. Here she is, meeting with President Bill Clinton during his visit to Tanzania in August:

Elif Yavuz meeting with President Bill Clinton during his visit to Tanzania in August

Elif Yavuz meeting with former US President Bill Clinton during his visit to Tanzania in August 2013. Photo via Ms. Yavuz's Facebook page.

Elif was smart, witty, disarmingly charming and a joy to be around. She would have made a terrific mother. Her boyfriend Ross had the easy going Aussie humor and zest for life typical of folks from ‘down under.’ He was also an incredibly talented architect. He co-founded a successful inter-continental design studio, Regional Associates. Here he is talking about what he called Chameleon architecture at last year's TEDxKraków:

He was looking forward to becoming a Dad.

But Ross and Elif are now gone. It is difficult to explain why these two wonderful human beings and Professor Awoonor and Ms. Adatia, and Mbugua and Wahito and all the other innocent souls who perished at Westgate Mall had to die.

In the words of the writer Teju Cole (@tejucole), may their gentle souls be ferried in peace to the new world.

Also read: How the Nairobi Mall Attack Unfolded on Social Media.

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