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Old, broke and homeless: Coast ‘Wazungu Kimbo’ live in penury

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MOHAMED AHMED

By MOHAMED AHMED
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SIAGO CECE

By SIAGO CECE
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“Do you have some change you could help me with?” pleads a scruffy elderly white man in a baggy green T-shirt.

We can barely hide our shock at the sight of a mzungu beggar, and especially on the Kenyan Coast, where a white person is typically considered a goldmine: a tourist with a bundle of disposable dollars.

We look in dismay at the bedraggled old man of European descent. Peter, for that is his name, is a British national who is well-known in Mtwapa.

He has been living here for the past seven years, doing menial jobs and hassling people for alms.

Few people know his second name, as he will not divulge it. He was 54 when he first came into the country.

Several visits later, he decided to settle in Mtwapa, Kilifi County. Then misfortune befell him.

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Peter had travelled to more than 20 countries across the world before he came to Kenya.

During his travels, he says he learnt at least 25 languages, with Chinese being his favourite.

His sojourn in Kenya, however, has not been good. Here, he has been leading a difficult life, at least two years as a homeless person.

Three days before we met Peter at a pub in Mtwapa, we had heard stories about how he was robbed by a Kenyan woman.

During our conversation, Peter confirmed that a woman took off with all that he had, leaving him with only his passport, which he always keeps on his person.

Today, the 78-year-old man lives with a Good Samaritan, who has given him accommodation at her servant quarters at La Marina Estate.

Joyce Auma, a mandazi vendor who has been feeding Peter in exchange for odd jobs such as splitting firewood and cleaning, says they rescued him from a thicket near a building under construction, where he had lived for two years.

Peter now works for Auma to earn a meal. “She is a good person,” he says, gratitude written all over his wrinkled face.

It is Auma who asked her friend to take Peter in after she spotted him being rained on two years ago.

“I have been selling mandazi and fried potatoes here for the past three years. He comes in the morning for breakfast. That is what I can help him with since I cannot give him shelter,” says Auma.

She describes Peter as a good man with a bad temper, especially when asked why he cannot just go back home to England.

“If you want to have a bad day ask him to go back home. He does not want to hear that,” she says.

Why, really, does he detest the idea of going back home? He says the coastal weather has been friendly to him, compared with the situation back home.

“My skin reacts to the cold back home. I enjoy the weather here,” says Peter.

A broke white man is something of a paradox, especially on Kenya’s Coast. Not so in Mtwapa township.

Here, white men, the majority in their sunset years, roam freely, eliciting a glance from the residents or just clinical interest.

White settlers enjoy their leisure at a pub in
White settlers enjoy their leisure at a pub in Mtwapa, Kilifi County, on February 3, 2020. PHOTO | KEVIN ODIT | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Tucked away from the bustling town is a residential area christened Heaven, with immaculate modern buildings, bars and simple but classy hotels lining dirt roads.

The place is christened Heaven because of its apparent affluence, compared to other areas nearby, and its uncanny ability to lure white people as residents.

But life in Heaven is not heavenly. Amid the apparent affluence are the ‘Wazungu Kimbo’: ageing, broke men who live in penury. Some are virtually homeless.

Walking down the street that starts from the famous Posta area all the way to the beach, one easily spots groups of white people seated on the verandas of pubs sipping water or tipple.

Some wear vests, others are clad in faded shirts. Their skins are tanned, thanks to lengthy exposure to the tropical sunshine.

They converse in low tones, barely drawing attention to themselves.

Mtwapa Paradise is one of the joints frequented by the white men. There is free Wi-Fi but you do not get to use it until you buy a drink.

Sylvia, the waitress, will issue the password after taking your order.

At Paradise, one of the foreigners walks in and orders a 500ml bottled water, which costs Sh25, and in the same beat asks for Wi-Fi to be switched on.

Sylvia knows the man too well. “He usually comes here to use the Wi-Fi, but he knows that he must buy something to enjoy the luxury of using our internet connection,” she says as she switches on the Wi-Fi router.

Contrary to the expectation that, being foreigners, they would order expensive drinks, they always drink on a budget.

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“They have a specific quantity that they drink on a daily basis and, most of the time, they don’t exceed two beers. You cannot serve them anything more than that,” says Sylvia.

The most frequent patrons are German, who settled in Mtwapa after they lost their money to local women.

Frank Merkt, who is living with a Kenyan woman whom he says he is “assisting because she has children she cannot cater fully for”, admits that he has not been lucky with women.

“They (women) are thieves. They have stolen from me more than once. I no longer trust anyone,” says Merkt, 78, who has been visiting Kenya for the past two decades.

Merkt, a German architect, first came to Kenya in 1999. In Mtwapa, he met Pauline, whom he accuses of fleecing him.

She started the process of acquiring a passport so that they could travel and live together but turned this quest into a cash cow.

According to Merkt, she would ask for money to pay for the document, while already having it. “I sent her a lot of money for the passport, which I never saw,” says Merkt.

He left Pauline for another woman, whom he says used her children to get money from him, purporting to be seeking support for their education.

He was shocked to learn that she had no children. The ones he met were “borrowed” from their parents.

Merkt, now old and bitter, lives alone and does his own cooking, house chores and shopping.

Once bitten, twice shy? No, it did not work for him. “There is another woman I brought to the house and she ended up stealing all my household stuff. I will never trust anyone here,” he says.

For the past 10 years, he has been moving around on a bicycle. He spends most of his time at the pubs where he grabs a beer or two, before heading out to the beach and later retiring for the night.

“The weather is what keeps me here. I used to go home for three months and come back here. Even my children do not know that I come to Kenya,” says the father of two.

A couple stroll in Mtwapa, Kilifi County, on
A couple stroll in Mtwapa, Kilifi County, on February 3, 2020. PHOTO | KEVIN ODIT | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Hans, another German, frequents a hotel in the area owned by a German, where he and his compatriots hang out. He says the hotel serves the best coffee and bread.

For the past three years, the 66-year-old says he has lived in Mtwapa enjoying the “favourable weather”.

“I caught the African virus when I first visited in 2003. Whenever I go back to my country, my body reacts differently,” he said.

Hans, like his compatriots stuck in Mtwapa, has lost all his money to conniving Kenyan women.

Ironically, his ex-wife of Kenyan origin lives in Germany. But how does he live in Kenya without any source of income?

“I used to work as a gardener in Germany. I receive my pension every month from home,” he says, adding that he does not plan to go back to his country.

This is despite his complaints about being treated “like a foreigner”. “I hate the way we are treated like foreigners. When I am at the shop and someone else comes after me, they are served first. When I try to complain they tell me to go back to my country,” he says.

According to him, the neighbours despise him. Patrick Muhanji, a chef at Honey Pot Bar and Restaurant, says they are used to the European men hanging out like the rest of Kenyans around Mtwapa.

“They are not tourists. We call them Wazungu Kimbo. They have relocated to Kenya and are now part of Mtwapa,” he says.

The Wazungu Kimbo earned their name for staying in Mtwapa long enough to even learn Kiswahili, explains Muhanji, who also lives there.

He says that the foreigners party on budget and even shop on credit.

Yet some never learn from their past misadventures. Muhanji says sometimes the Europeans party with young men and women who end up stealing from them.

The Saturday Nation caught up with Mercy, a young call girl in Mtwapa who lives with a white man.

Mercy says the women who steal from the foreigners do so because some of the men are “too stingy”.

“If you live with someone who is using you without giving you any monetary gain, what do you do? I have been living with my mzungu for almost a year now and it is because he is catering for my needs,” she says.

She reveals that a majority of the small businesses in the area are owned by women who are in relationships with foreigners.

Do they consider leaving? None of those we spoke with wants to seek the help of their embassy or appeal for help from home.

They prefer to suffer in the friendly coastal paradise. We are told that some people once fundraised for Peter to get airfare but he took the cash and stayed on.

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Macron says ‘not sure’ EU-UK trade deal possible before end of 2020 » Capital News

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French President Emmanuel Macron said that trade negotiations between the European Union and Britain will “become more tense” © POOL/AFP / Ludovic Marin

, Paris, France, Feb 23 – French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday said he was “not sure” it would be possible for the European Union and Britain to reach a trade deal by the end of the year.

Britain and the EU are about to embark on negotiations aiming to hammer out a trade agreement by the time the post-Brexit transition period shuts at the end of December.

But France has made clear it thinks the negotiations will be particularly difficult, especially in such a tight timeframe.

“I am not sure that an agreement will be reached between now and the end of the year,” Macron said at a meeting with fishermen, who are concerned for their livelihoods after Brexit, at an agricultrual trade event in Paris.

“Anyway, it is going to become more tense because (the British) are very hard,” he said, adding that fishing rights would be a key point of contention.

Britain formally ended its 47-year membership of the EU on January 31, nearly four years after a majority voted to leave the bloc in a 2016 referendum.

France and several other countries want to be able to keep fishing in British waters, while London wants full autonomy and limited access for European fishermen.

The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier has said the EU’s top priorities are fishing, security and maintaining fair trading conditions for European companies.

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He has also firmly rejected a British suggestion that City of London companies could be given broad, permanent access to EU markets without conditions.

Overall, French fishing boats generate 30 percent of their revenue from catches in British maritime territories, particularly rich in fish stocks.

French officials say that the UK exports the bulk of its catch to Europe, indicating that British fishermen have plenty to lose if the two sides fail to reach a deal.


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Atheists dismiss census data, say they have1.5m members

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NICHOLAS KOMU

By NICHOLAS KOMU
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Atheists have rejected census data showing that 700,000 Kenyans do not believe in deity insisting they are twice as many.

Following the release of detailed census data, Atheists In Kenya (AIK) now claims that the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) deliberately failed to count atheists and the actual number of non-religious Kenyans is 1.5 million.

According to the detailed report on the Kenyan population based on their religious beliefs, 755,750 Kenyans do not believe in any religion. That is about 1.6 per cent of the total Kenyan population.

Kilifi County leads in the number of nonbelievers with 146,669, more than double the number of atheists in Nakuru which stands at 67,640.

Nairobi has the third highest atheist population with 54,841 followed by Narok (45,617), Kiambu (30770), Kitui (23,778), Meru (20,985) and Mombasa (11,148).

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However, AIK now insists that the data is inaccurate and that KNBS enumerators deliberately failed tally atheists during the 2019 census.

“We find these statistics to be grossly inaccurate and not fit for purpose. We contend that we have well over 1.5 million atheists in Kenya, and the number is growing steadily. An independent survey of our members has revealed that some KNBS employees deliberately skipped asking whether one is an atheist during the 2019 census. We have evidence that many atheists were undercounted and miscounted,” AIK said in a statement on Saturday.

The statement dated February 23 was signed by the group’s President Harrison Mumia and recently elected Assistant Secretary Kio Kinuthia, questioned the statistics bureau credibility in the 2019 census. Now the atheists’ society is questioning the entire census data, terming it as inaccurate.

According to the 2009 population census report released by the same institution, the number of Kenyans who said that they were not affiliated to any religion was said to be 922,128.

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We find it odd that the 2019 census report indicates that the number of atheists has declined by almost 200,000 in a span of 10 years, yet the population of Kenyans has increased by 10 million over the same period. This undermines the accuracy of not just the atheist data, but the entire KNBS 2019 census report,” AIK said.

While Christianity and Islam are the predominant religions in Kenya, atheism has been attracting quite a following in the past few years.

This has, however, been a tough rise in popularity for the movement under the leadership of Mr Mumia, an Information Technology specialist.

AIK was registered on February 17, 2016 but, just two months later, it was suspended by Registrar of Societies.

The final census report shows there are 15,777,473 Protestants in Kenya, the majority religious group.

Catholics are 9,726,169 in total while 9,648,690 people attend evangelical churches.

About 3,292,573 go to African Instituted Churches, Orthodox (201,263) and other Christian (1,732,911).

Islam has a following of 5,152,194, while Hindu has 60,287. About 318,727 Kenyans are traditionalists.

Atheists in Kenya now wants a review of the census data by KNBS.

“We reject the figure of 755,750 atheists reported by the KNBS 2019 census report. We call for an independent review of how the KNBS collects, analyses, and reports census data,” the society leadership said.

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Israel readies for third election in less than a year » Capital News

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Polls suggest the parties of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and rival Benny Gantz will both fail to secure a majority in parliament © AFP/File / JACK GUEZ

, Jerusalem, ZZZ, Feb 23 – Israel is bracing for an unprecedented third election in under a year, with voters eyeing an end to the deadlock but polls indicating another tight race despite criminal charges against the prime minister.

Two previous votes in April and September last year failed to produce a clear winner between right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main challenger Benny Gantz, who heads the centrist Blue and White party.

Ballot-weary Israelis have shown limited enthusiasm ahead of the March 2 election, with some grudgingly accepting the possibility of a fourth run before the year ends.

But there have been significant developments since Israelis last went to the polls.

Netanyahu, Israel’s longest serving premier, has become the first to be indicted while in office.

Profile of Israel prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. © AFP

Charges unveiled in November and filed in court last month accuse him of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

The prime minister denies wrongdoing in the case that involves multiple alleged offences.

The most serious allegation is that Netanyahu offered mogul Shaul Elovitch regulatory changes worth millions of dollars to his telecoms giant Bezeq in exchange for positive coverage on Elovitch’s Walla! news website.

The trial starts on March 17.

– Trump bump? –

Since the last election, US President Donald Trump has unveiled his controversial plan to end the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Trump’s terms have been rejected by the Palestinians as a capitulation to Israeli objectives.

Netanyahu, who was standing next to Trump at the White House as the initiative was announced last month, cheered it as an “historic” opportunity for the Jewish state.

He has also portrayed the deal as a product of his personal bond with Trump that can only be implemented if he is re-elected prime minister.

But neither the criminal indictments, nor the pro-Israel Trump initiative have moved the polls.

Recent surveys indicate that Netanyahu’s Likud party and Blue and White will both fall short of the 61 seats required for a majority in parliament, the Knesset.

Netanyahu’s main challenger Benny Gantz is a former military chief who argues that the premier’s legal woes will distract him from governing  © AFP/File / JACK GUEZ

Status quo in the polls could be good news for the prime minister, said Gideon Rahat, a political science professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

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“He is not attracting more voters, but he is not losing voters either,” despite the indictments, Rahat told AFP.

Gantz, a former military chief, has sought to convince Israelis that the prime minister’s legal woes will distract him from governing.

“Netanyahu is going to court… he won’t be able to look after the needs of Israeli citizens,” he said this week.

Meanwhile, Israeli prosecutors are probing whether a cyber-security firm formerly chaired by Gantz, Fifth Dimension, inappropriately received public funds.

But the attorney general has confirmed that Gantz is not personally implicated in the investigation.

– Last minute pitches –

Netanyahu has, ahead of past elections, been accused of making last-minute campaign pledges as a play for vital nationalist, right-wing support.

In an interview with the Jerusalem Post on Friday, he repeated his warning that Gantz cannot form a government without support from the mainly Arab Joint List, and its leader Ahmad Tibi.

Netanyahu announced thousands of new settler homes in annexed east Jerusalem, less than two weeks before the election © AFP/File / AHMAD GHARABLI

Joint List won a surprising 13 seats in the last election, making it the third-largest bloc in parliament.

“If Likud doesn’t win, there will be either a fourth election or a left-wing government headed by Gantz and dependent on Ahmad Tibi and the Joint List,” Netanyahu told the paper.

The prime minister this week also announced thousands of new Jewish settler homes in annexed east Jerusalem, construction projects considered illegal by most of the international community.

Palestinian leaders blasted the settlement announcement as a blatant play by Netanyahu to energise his right-wing base.

Facing static polls, both leading parties have grown increasingly concerned about turnout, Rahat said.

“Anywhere else in the world, when you have three elections really close together you would see declining turnout” due to voter apathy, he said.

But turnout ticked up marginally in September compared with April.

“In Israel, you never know,” Rahat said.


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