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Friday, 1 September, 2000, 15:48 GMT 16:48 UK
Kenya curses the month of August

The embassy bombing in Nairobi was in August two years ago
By Joseph Warungu in Nairobi

August is cursed in Kenya. And I am not alone in thinking this.

Early this week, a worried Kenyan wrote to a national newspaper saying: "Much has been said about August being the month of sorrow. But that's when I was born and it's unfortunate I can't change the date. Isn't there anything to celebrate in this month?"


12 months on another August looms

Well, apparently not. And here's why:

On 1 August 1982, Kenyans woke up to the sounds of gunfire throughout Nairobi as a group of Kenya Airforce soldiers seized power in a coup attempt that saw private Hezekiah Ochuka rule the country for about six hours.

Loyalist army soldiers then moved in and restored a shaken Daniel arap Moi to office at the cost of dozens of lives.

Only four years earlier on 22 August 1978, the country was thrown into national mourning preceded by a period of deep political uncertainty as the founder President Jomo Kenyatta died in Mombasa.

Embassy bombing

But perhaps the most dreadful moment for Kenya was 7 August 1998 when an innocent looking truck drove up to the then US embassy on Haile Selassie Avenue and stopped.

Kenyans pay their respects
Many Kenyans mourned the recent death of Father Kaiser
Moments later a powerful bomb went off and with it the lives of over 200 people.

Some of the more memorable suspected political deaths have also occurred in the month of August.

Take the example of one the government's fiercest critics and champion of the poor people's rights - Anglican Bishop Alexander Kipsang Muge.

He died in a horrendous road crash on Tuesday 14 August 1990. Foul play was immediately whispered everywhere given the fact that the Bishop had ruffled the feathers of one too many politicians.

On the same day in August two years later - 14 August 1992, a prominent opposition leader Masinde Muliro died under mysterious circumstances.

Bad economics

And it is not just the hand of death that has visited Kenya during August.
Body being removed from the scene of the crash
More than 200 Kenyans died in accidents in August
The economy too can blame the eighth month of the year for gloomy happenings such as 12 August 1997 when the World Bank announced it was witholding the disbursement of $5bn in structural adjustment credit to Kenya.

Although such aid has since resumed, things have never been the same on the economic front.

Kenya's second-largest city, Mombasa, has traditionally been a haven of peace. So it was with deep shock that on 13 August 1997 Kenyans received the news of an attack on the police station in the coastal town of Likoni and the killing of a number of policemen sparking a period of mindless political and ethnic blood-letting that left many dead.

August 2000

And finally to the year 2000 which has had its fair share of August tragedies.

As if the effects of the darkest period in recent memory due to power rationing was not bad enough, Kenyans have had to grapple with some of the worst railway and road accidents in its history, that have left a total of nearly 200 people dead in August 2000.


August has brought no respite from Kenya's drought
And just a few days ago, many traders were in tears when a fierce fire swept through a huge and popular Nairobi market reducing it and millions of shillings worth of goods to ashes.

And just as Kenyans prepared to breathe a sigh of relief that awful month was nearly gone - on 24 August , a controversial Catholic priest and outspoken critic of the government Father John Antony Kaiser was found murdered near Naivasha town in the Rift Valley province.

And though the American FBI and Kenyan police are on the case, once again the words politics and assassination were used in the same sentence by many people.

On the last day of the month Father Kaiser was buried, and so too, hopefully, the memories of August - but 12 months on another August looms.

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See also:

07 Aug 00 | Africa
Kenyans mourn bomb victims
18 Aug 00 | Africa
Nairobi's taps run dry
24 Aug 00 | Africa
US priest murdered in Kenya
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