Stories written by Najum Mushtaq

TRADE-AFRICA: Flip-flops Transformed Into Toys to Save Turtles

Art and fashion, environmental conservation, poverty alleviation and fair trade come together at UniqEco’s Marula Studios in an upscale suburb of Nairobi. A visit to its workshop and display centre is a delight to the eyes as well as an occasion to learn about the problem of marine pollution and its eco-friendly, community-based and business-savvy solutions.

The new TFG president must deal with Islamist militants who control much of Somalia. Credit:  Hassan Mahamud/IRIN

SOMALIA: Sharif Returns to Power as Militants Advance

A rare sense of optimism rose in Mogadishu in the early hours of Jan. 31 as people learnt that the leader of a moderate faction of the Union of Islamic Courts, Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, had been elected as head the Transitional Federal Government (TFG).

A French family strolling on Diani Beach, Mombasa, Kenya. Credit:  Najum Mushtaq/IPS

KENYA: Tourism Industry Picking Up Again After Election Violence

As the eagerly awaited recovery in tourism after the election violence in Kenya takes off, bad news has come in the form of corruption allegations.

Abdalla -- pushing legislation to protect women's rights.  Credit:  Najum Mushtaq/IPS

POLITICS-KENYA: Taking Up a Women's Agenda

The first woman from the Muslim majority island constituency of East Lamu to contest for a seat in Kenyan parliament, Shakila Abdalla is determined to give voice to the country's poor and marginalised.

Contrary to appearances, Mogadishu port has re-opened for business Credit: Najum Mushtaq/IPS

ECONOMY-SOMALIA: Walking The Line Between Business and War

A doctor in Mogadishu gives medicine to a man complaining of an upset stomach. ‘‘This medicine won't work,’’ groans the patient, ‘‘I got sick after eating expired food; only an expired medicine will cure it.’’

Farmers showing stacks of bhang -- more ''valuable'' than maize. Credit:  Najum Mushtaq/IPS

TRADE-EAST AFRICA: Low Crop Prices Drive Farmers to Marijuana

Kenyan small-scale farmers have moved across the border into Tanzania to cultivate marijuana or ‘‘bhang’’, as the cannabis sativa plant is locally called. One of them is 25-year-old Steve Odhiambo. He believes that the international and local campaign against bhang harms only the small growers while the true profiteers get away.

Shamso Abdulle: Women can move around more because they do not belong to clans. Credit:  Najum Mushtaq/IPS

SOMALIA: Women 'Keep Life Going' in Violent Streets of Mogadishu

On the fifth day of every month a group of women entrepreneurs gather to share their experiences and discuss matters of trade. What makes this exceptional is that the women are from south-central Somalia and they meet in Mogadishu, one of the world's most devastated and dangerous cities.

KENYA: Failing Grade For Free Primary Education?

When in 2003 Kenya followed its neighbours Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda and Malawi in introducing free and compulsory primary education for all, the response from the public as well as international donors was overwhelming.

POLITICS-KENYA: Broken Bodies, Unbroken Spirit

It was a sad occasion, and an occasion to rejoice. Sad, said Dr Ludeki Chweya, introducing Flora Terah's new book, because her heart-wrenching story shows that physical abuse and torture are a weapon of choice to deter women's participation in electoral politics in Kenya.

ENVIRONMENT-KENYA: Threat to Pastoralists' Way of Life

Ole Kaparo works as a school teacher in Nairobi, though his family still herds cattle in the Masai pastures of the north Rift Valley province. Five years ago, during a prolonged spell of drought, he left this traditional life to seek work in the city.

"Nairobi rivers are increasingly choking with uncollected garbage; human waste from informal settlements; industrial waste..." Credit:  Karl H Mueller

ENVIRONMENT-KENYA: City Living Costs the Earth

At its source in the hills of the Thogoto Forest, the Mbaghati river adds a gushing noise to the quiet verdant landscape.

KENYA: Ready For New Abortion Law?

In May 2008, a group of civil society activists launched a campaign to reform Kenya's archaic abortion laws, sparking a countrywide debate. Now, as a new draft bill on women's reproductive health and rights seeking to decriminalise abortions is set to be tabled in parliament, the battle lines between opponents and advocates of abortion are clearly drawn.

RIGHTS-KENYA: Rethinking 'Return Home'

The most urgent test of the grand coalition in Kenya is resettlement of the estimated 350,000 or so people made homeless by the violence after the December 2007 elections. Launched in May, the government's Operation 'Return Home' has been riddled with flaws and many experts on internal displacement argue it has exacerbated the crisis rather than resolving it.

A kerosene kiosk in Kibera Credit:  Najum Mushtaq/IPS

KENYA: Gathering Storm of Expectations in Nairobi Slum

For the first time in its 60 years of existence, there is a ray of hope for the one million inhabitants of Kibera, one of the world's most densely-populated slums. After spending most of his life on opposition benches - or in prison - as a champion of the poor, the member of parliament for this desperately poor constituency is now the prime minister of Kenya.

DEVELOPMENT-KENYA: People, Not Electricity, Make Growth Possible

Conventional wisdom holds that a shortage of affordable and reliable energy is a key factor in perpetuating low levels of development in countries like Kenya. But the country's chief energy regulator argues that Kenya has all the power it needs, and growth in generation need not precede growth in demand.

POLITICS-KENYA: Writing For Peace

Since January, a group of politically-conscious poets, writers and storytellers in Kenya has been writing an alternative account of the violence that shook Kenya during the first two months of the year. Their work is now part of the evidence before the Waki Commission inquiring into post-election violence in Kenya.

KENYA: Supporting Single Mothers

There are increasing numbers of single mothers in Kenya. Is it a sign of growing independence of women, or a consequence of poverty and lack of sexual education?

SOMALIA: Famine Looms as Aid Workers Flee

By December this year, aid agencies estimate that the number of displaced and hungry people in need of life-saving aid in Somalia will swell to 3.5 million—nearly half the country's population. Yet, as drought and conflict conspire to worsen the crisis, the humanitarian space to deliver food and other essential assistance in this conflict zone has all but vanished.

RIGHTS-SUDAN: ICC Indictment Sparks Hope, Fear

The indictment of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on 10 counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide has greatly encouraged some Darfuri human rights activists. Other observers in Sudan fear it will provoke a backlash from the government, further worsening the situation in Darfur.

RIGHTS-KENYA: Commission To Challenge Silence on Sexual Crimes

No sooner did Kenya's Commission of Inquiry into Post-election Violence begin public hearings last week than it was overwhelmed by the enormity of the task at hand.

POLITICS-KENYA: Civil Society Scores Victory Against Corruption

Two days after publicly vowing to die rather than resign, Kenya's powerful finance minister, Amos Kimunya, announced he was resigning to allow an independent investigation of corruption charges against him.

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