Kenya votes for a new President next week.* Elections are contentious in Kenya. My abrupt departure from field research in December 2008, after a scary evening listening to gunshots, was related to the presidential election later in the month.
The 2008 election was followed by 1,000+ deaths and an ethnic “unmixing” of the country, in which ~600,000 people move more or less permanently to areas where their own ethnic group is in the majority. Basically, when ethnic identity becomes salient (in this case, via the move to murder folks simply for being the “wrong” ethnicity), people feel they have to be with “their own kind” in order to be physically safe.
Go figure: Folks are trying out styrofoam homes in Kajiado District in Kenya. They’re apparently economical, pleasantly insulated, and environmentally friendly in a timber-poor environment.
To make houses, polystyrene foam is sandwiched between two slabs of steel wire mesh. Once these have been joined together, they are sprayed with cement to support and strengthen the walls.
The tiny air bubbles trapped in the foam mean polystyrene houses can control climatic conditions better than buildings made of timber or concrete. Because air is a poor conductor of heat, the house stays cool when external temperatures are high and warm when it is cold outside.
A little internet searching reveals that such construction isn’t new: there’s a polystyrene panel manufacturer that’s been operating since at least 2012.
Still no news in the Kenyan election, and there are technical breakdowns that have slowed vote counting. The major news organizations are reporting that there is likely to be a run-off between Kenyatta and Odinga. I am watching tallies by the Electoral Commission. Click on the top image in the sidebar to see what’s happening, or click here.
I’m wondering how reflective of the whole country the voting patterns in Nairobi are. If they are representative, then it suggests that funny business is occurring. But in reality I don’t know, and there are still a lot of votes left to count.
A new program in Kenya responds to studies indicating that menstruation is a factor that keeps girls from attending school. I’ve heard of programs that build latrines, but these kits with washable pads are also a great idea.
Update: The New York Times published its first account of some negotiations between Kibaki and Odinga. It also gives an horrific account of a church burning in western Kenya that killed 18 to 50 people. Gettleman sounds like he’s getting more pessimistic about the situation.
The Economist published an article about Kenya with a fair amount of analysis today. The New York Times is also keeping pace. I still have the impression that all the players are still trying to decide what they will do, and so the situation (relative peace or relative war) remains undecided and precarious.
The Kenyan researcher at my research camp emailed today that things are fine so far at Koija and in Nanyuki, though supplies are running out in town.
As for me, I don’t know yet if or when I will be returning to do my research.