Why the name: Nairobi?

Nairobi in 2010
Nairobi in 2010

Have you ever fallen in love with a name? with a place? well… that is the feeling… when you hear the name Nairobi (the capital of Kenya) for the first time, it is like some beautiful girl you were always attracted to but could never get.  Well, the name Nairobi is quite far from that: it comes from the Maasai Enkare Nyrobi which means the place of cool waters, which is also the name for the Nairobi River which lent its name to the city.  Today, it is popularly known as the Green city in the sun… probably because of its lush-ness.

Flag of Kenya
Flag of Kenya

Nairobi hosts a natural reserve protected, the Nairobi National Park, within its borders.  It is also the capital hosting the most species of birds in the world.  Nairobi was originally built at the beginning of the 1900s as a railway link between Mombasa (on the coast of Kenya) and Kampala (Uganda) by the rail company Kenya Uganda Railway.  It was completely rebuilt in the early 1900s after an outbreak of plague and the burning of the original town.  Its location was chosen because of its central position between Mombasa and Kampala; it was also chosen because its network of rivers which could supply the British camp with water and its elevation which would make it cool for the British residential purposes.

Map of Nairobi
Map of Nairobi
Nairobi from Nairobi National Park
A girafe looking onto Nairobi, from Nairobi National Park

In 1905, Nairobi replaced Mombasa as capital of the British protectorate, and from then on grew tremendously around tourism, administration, and big game hunting.  Britons came to live in Nairobi for for game hunting.  In those times, the city quickly became the commercial centre for the colony’s coffee, tea, and sisal industry. Today, Nairobi is one of the most populous cities in Africa known for its beauty, for its versatility, and also for its slum Kibera.  The city of Nairobi is located on the eastern edge of the Rift valley, with the Ngong Hills located to the west of the city, and Africa’s two tallest mountains, Mount Kenya and Mount Kilimanjaro are located to the north and towards the southeast, respectively.  It was also the birthplace of Kenya’s first president, Jomo Kenyatta.

Enjoy the great Congolese singer M’Bilia Bel (she is also a beauty) singing about the beautiful Nairobi, Nakei Nairobi, a song written and composed by Tabu Ley Rochereau.

Have you ever been to Nairobi? What were your impressions?

The British Government apologizes for Mau Mau atrocities

In a prison camp during the Mau Mau rebellion (Source:The Guardian)
In a prison camp in Kenya during the Mau Mau rebellion (Source:The Guardian)

The British government finally recognized its wrong-doings in Kenya, during the Mau Mau uprising, and publicly apologized for it.  The British colonial forces thoroughly tortured and murdered thousands of people during the Mau Mau revolt against British rule in Kenya in the 1950s.  The British foreign secretary admitted last Thursday (06/06/2013) that: … ” on behalf of Her Majesty’s government, that we [the British government] understand the pain and grievance felt by those who were involved in the events of the emergency in Kenya.”… “The British government recognizes that Kenyans were subject to torture and other forms of ill-treatment at the hands of the colonial administrationThe British government sincerely regrets that these abuses took place and that they marred Kenya’s progress towards independence.”

Under British guns, during the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya
Under British guns, during the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya in the 1950s

So today’s surviving victims, 5228 people will receive a payment of £19.9m for compensation.  The compensation amounts to about £3,000 per victim and applies only to the living survivors of the abuses that took place.  As I read this… first I was happy that after so many years (over 60 years), the British government could finally acknowledge their atrocities in Kenya, and I think this opens the door for other colonial powers to openly recognize atrocities they perpetrated in their colonies: such as the massacre and genocides perpetrated by the French in Cameroon, Algeria, and Madagascar during the colonial era and after independence.  However, when I read the amount given to every victim, I gasped in shock: 3000 pounds per person? what is that? Is that a joke? What would £3,000 do to somebody who has been tortured, raped, and beaten to death? Would it erase the debilitating pain, and all those years spent fighting for the British to acknowledge their wrongdoings? Finally what is money compared to the pain? What is the British government doing to ensure that no such thing would ever happen again? As we know, paying quickly so that nobody bothers you is easy, but has anything been put in place for this never to occur again? Or would other citizens of the world have to fight 50 or 100 years from now for yet another apology?

Enjoy the documentary below on the Mau Mau rebellion… no amount of money can erase this! The case in court used some of the work by Harvard professor Caroline Elkins.