Imams wear masks as Mombasa mosque reopens

Abdinoor Aden


A masked imam at Arab Boys Mosque in Mombasa, Kenya
Abdinoor Aden

Muslims gathered in the Kenyan city of Mombasa for Friday prayers for the first time since March when all places of worship were ordered to close as part of coronavirus restrictions.

The authorities have now allowed them to reopen but only if strict rules are followed.

At Arab Boys Mosque no children or old people were in sight as only those between the ages of 13 and 58 were allowed in.

A wall painted with a masked woman at Arab Boys Mosque in Mombasa, Kenya
Abdinoor Aden

Worshippers were required to come with their own prayer mats and to keep their distance from one another.

A maximum of 100 people were allowed in.

Temperatures were checked at the entrance, face masks had to be worn and hands sanitised.

Worshippers inside Arab Boys Mosque in Mombasa, Kenya
Abdinoor Aden

For the first time too, the imams were seen reading their sermons while wearing masks.

Mombasa Senator Mohammed Faki, who was one of the worshippers, believes more mosques will start re-opening as he says the rules are not too onerous.

However, some Muslim leaders have continued to urge worshippers to keep praying at home to reduce the risk of infection.

How Kenya's radical mosque became a centre of peace

Ferdinand Omondi

BBC News, Nairobi

Masjid Musa mosque in Mombasa, Kenya
People no longer fear walking or living near the Masjid Musa mosque

The Masjid Musa mosque in the Kenyan city of Mombasa, which was once associated with Islamist extremism, has become a centre for reconciliation and peace building.

In 2014, police raided the mosque, saying it was recruiting youths to join the Somalia-based Islamist militant group al-Shabab.

They impounded grenades, propaganda audio, video disks and black flags with painted rifles associated with al-Shabab.

After more than 100 people, mostly young men, were arrested, it was shut down.

Community elders and regional leaders met to reform the mosque’s leadership, expelling radical imams and replacing them with new, moderate ones.

A few weeks later, the state handed the mosque back after being satisfied with its reforms, which included the delicate process of reintegrating the radicalised youth.

Masjid Musa mosque in Mombasa, Kenya
For the last six years the mosque has been promoting reconciliation

Shabi Islam, the new man put in charge, told the BBC about how this was achieved:

We did not use guns. We prayed and used kind words. Village and mosque elders engaged the entire community to convince the young people to change their ways. Today they have. No-one can say they came back by the way of the gun. They changed due to prayer and engagement."

Muslims at prayer in Mombasa, Kenya
Imams now preach peace at the mosque

Salim Karama, who says he was recruited to join al-Shabab and joined in riots at the time of the closure, is among those who have been reintegrated.

But he believes that without jobs people like him remain vulnerable:

The chronic issue is... unemployment and idle minds. If one has a job, he leaves home early morning, goes to work and returns in the evening. The government needs to look at our plight. A lot effort goes into removing a wrong without plugging in something good."

There are still some unanswered questions about the police crackdown.

Tailor Saddah Suleiman says her husband was among those who've been arrested and never seen or heard from since.

A tailor in Mombasa, Kenya
Ms Suleiman wants to know what happened to her husband

A judicial inquiry said the police might have killed him. But Ms Suleiman wants a conclusive answer:

I am not satisfied at all. The government is supposed to tell us where he is because they are the ones who took him. We saw them taking him. So they need to at least tell us where is. We have never been told that."

The police told the inquiry he jumped off a lorry and ran off while he was being taken to a police station.

Nonetheless, six years on, people no longer fear walking or living near the Masjid Musa mosque and tenants are flooding back into its neighbourhood.

US to sign free trade agreement with Kenya

Mombasa port
Getty Images
Mombasa port

The US and Kenya are expected to announce they have negotiated a free trade deal next week.

It will be the US's first with a sub-Saharan African nation.

The US ambassador to Kenya confirmed on his Twitter account, reported Bloomberg.

Kenya exports its first crude oil

Hudheifa Aden

BBC Africa Money Daily, Mombasa

Kipevu oil Terminal in Mombasa Port, Kenya
Kenya hopes to be at full oil production by 2024

Kenya has exported its first batch of oil as President Uhuru Kenyatta flagged off the crude shipment from the port of Mombasa on Monday morning.

It is being described as a historic day and an important step on the way to the full exploration and development of oil in the East African nation.

This is an experimental phase to test the country’s crude oil before full production and exportation begins in around 2024.

A brass band at Mombasa port, Kenya
A brass band formed part of the official ceremony

The country is expected to earn $84m (£69m) over the next two years.

UK-based Chinese company ChemChina UK Ltd won the bid to buy the first batch of 240,000 barrels under the Early Oil Pilot Scheme (EOPS).

Oil bids were received from firms in Asia and Europe, but the joint oil production consortium, led by explorer Tullow Oil, awarded the contract to ChemChina.

The crude was transported 850km (528 miles) by road from the country’s north-western oil fields in Turkana to Mombasa.

Kenya currently does not have an oil pipeline in place.

A plan to build a joint pipeline with Uganda failed after Kampala opted to partner with Tanzania.

Tullow estimates that Kenya’s fields in Turkana hold up to 560 million barrels of oil and expects to produce up to 100,000 barrels per day from 2022.

President Uhuru Kenyatta (C) and other dignitaries at the flagging-off ceremony
It was a red carpet affair with President Uhuru Kenyatta at the centre of the gathered dignitaries

Sharing lessons from the school of hard knocks

Elizabeth Masya is a successful Mombasa trader
Kenya's Mombasa is the largest port in East Africa and thousands of people rely on the ships arriving there for work. Not just the dock workers, but the traders and brokers who buy and sell and transport the goods which leave on lorries bound for countries like Uganda, Rwanda, and South Sudan. Elizabeth Masya is one of them, a business woman who BBC Newsday's Alan Kasujja met at the port gates. 

(Picture: Elizabeth Masya. Credit: BBC/Alan Kasujja)