Magazine article Newsweek

In the Slums of Nairobi, the Star of Africa Fades

Magazine article Newsweek

In the Slums of Nairobi, the Star of Africa Fades

Article excerpt

Byline: Andrew Ehrenkranz

The most dangerous thing in the world is a young unemployed man." That's what my taxi driver told me as we pulled into a burned-out gas station on the outskirts of Muthare, the sprawling slum that's been the epicenter of violent unrest in Nairobi, Kenya, ever since this country's bitterly contested Dec. 27 election. On the far edge of Muthare, on Juju Road, a dusty, litter-strewn artery, army trucks idled near the charred remains of four cars freshly burned to the ground. On one side of the road was a campaign poster for opposition candidate Raila Odinga, marking the area as belonging to his Luo tribe. Walking a few steps the other way, I entered the territory of embattled President Mwai Kibaki's tribe, the Kikuyu.

It wasn't so long ago that everyone in Muthare lived together in peace. Now Kenya is a nation divided along tribal lines. In the last week, some 300 people have been killed and 100,000 left homeless in a country that has been long considered a model of stability in violence-ridden East Africa. Many homes, shops and churches have been burned to the ground with crude Molotov cocktails made from Coke bottles. Random attacks and gang rapes occur under the cover of night, keeping everyone on high alert. "It was never like this," said my Kenyan colleague, Justus, a TV reporter coping with a live-broadcast ban by Kibaki's government. One of Justus's best friends, a Luo, will no longer speak to him because he's a Kikuyu.

Vigilantes have taken control of security in Muthare. …

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