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Introduction to Covid Stories from East Africa and Beyond: Lived experiences and forward-looking reflections, 2020



Coronavirus happened and is still with us. Its impact has been far reaching, and many lives have been deeply disrupted, even lost. Africans have sought to cope with it in various ways, including giving it names of derision, names of defiance, and names that point to a determination to overcome it. In one of Kenya’s languages, it is referred to as kinguki giki. Kinguki means uproot, upheaval, disruption, destabilization, something that goes against the grain of established order. True to the word, coronavirus has shaken to the root the fundamentals of the neoliberal economy and our current lifestyles. This book opens a window to how Africans in different contexts respond rapidly to covid, adapt to new realities, work with the most vulnerable, engage systems, and begin to transform towards a better world. It comprises 29 chapters about lived experiences of coronavirus in East Africa and beyond. The collective of 40 authors from over 20 countries narrates experiences through various socioeconomic, political, and cultural lenses. Regardless of their circumstances, coronavirus had an impact on every one of them and on their families. The stories in this collection highlight challenges, new opportunities, and ultimately the deep resilience of communities across the continent.
Covid Stories
from East Africa
and Beyond:
Lived Experiences and
Forward-Looking Reflections
Mary Njeri Kinyanjui
Roopal Thaker
Kathryn Toure
Langaa Research & Publishing CIG
Mankon, Bamenda
Langaa RPCIG
Langaa Research and Publishing Common Initiative Group
PO Box 902 Mankon
North West Region
ISBN-10: 9956-551-54-6
ISBN-13: 978-9956-551-54-5
© 2020 Mary Njeri Kinyanjui, Roopal Thaker, and Kathryn Toure,
copyright for each of the chapters is with the chapter author(s)
To reference this book:
Kinyanjui, M. N., Thaker, R., and Toure, K. (Eds.) (2020). Covid stories from East
Africa and beyond: Lived experiences and forward-looking reflections. Bamenda: Langaa.
Cover design includes a photo of a mixed media painting by Anna Rarity;
see the end of the book for more information and her bio.
Praise for the Book
It is inspiring to read the many voices of African women and men telling
their stories, rich in the value systems of our cultures. The stories bring out
the class issue as well. They endorse justice as a central issue of our
continent. We are proud that Africa is telling its stories. Timely too!
– Fatma Alloo, Founder,
Tanzania Media Womens Association (TAMWA)
* * *
We are in a season of tremendous change, and it is important that we hear
from Africa. As we move forward during the 21st century, while dealing
with the consequences of covid19, we are challenged to examine our
priorities and pivot to focus on what matters most. The writers of
Covid Stories from East Africa and Beyond generously share what theyre
encountering during the season of covid, but more importantly, they share
their strategies of coping and resilience. Africa can help us understand ways
to live our lives more fully.
Joanna Grace Farmer, Building Community Capacity…
Remembering our Legacy of Love
* * *
This book, privileging the voices of ordinary people, will open your eyes to
covid19’s impact on the African continent, the ways the virus has disrupted
daily life, and how people are coping and adapting to the pandemic.
Michèle Foster, Professor and Henry Heuser Jr. Endowed Chair for
Urban Education Partnerships, University of Louisville
* * *
Covid Stories from East Africa and Beyond
These covid19 stories are a revelation of our 360 degrees of human struggle
and triumph – matters ultimately of heart, mind, body, and soul. These are
all expressed in the chapters in personal and structural ways, addressing
policy and practice, the macro and the micro. A new normal must-read...
Karindi Odindo, Psychologist and
Conflict Transformation Counsellor
* * *
We are delighted by the publication of Covid Stories from East Africa and
Beyond and by its success in revealing how African people have responded
to covid19 with resilience and creativity.
James Giblin, Professor of African History, and
Blandina Kaduma Giblin, Lecturer in Kiswahili, University of Iowa
* * *
Brilliant and timely. This book shares the stories of real people during the
coronavirus pandemic on the African continent. It shows people dealing in
so many ways with this shocking moment in history when, like in some
improbable science fiction movie, a deadly virus comes from nowhere with
little or no warning and shuts down our lives. The question on everybodys
lips is “How will I cope?” The book provides valuable insights of how
Africans were coping eight months into the pandemic. It begins with stories
of everyday life and then gets into structural issues.
Sitawa Namwalie, Kenyan, Poet, Playwright and Performer
* * *
Praise for the Book
The African continent is so diverse, yet these covid stories from East Africa
and beyond resonate with experiences here in West Africa. Happy to see
mention of Ghana, The Gambia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria as well.
Adwoa Agyeman, Social change strategist and
co-founder of EPIC-Africa, enhancing philanthropic impact
* * *
This is an important and extraordinary collection. With books and articles
being written and published about life during this pandemic, this book is
not just another one. It is gripping, depressing, inspiring, and very
thoughtful about both the present and the future. Its authors are primarily
women from African countries, but its reach ought to be far wider.
Immediate reactions to the pandemic may be largely shared by people
in many other regions of the world, but I love how this collection also asks
about a post-covid19 world, how some things ought to change, how some
things may well be transformed, what we might want in a post-pandemic
world, and how that future world can learn from what this pandemic has
made palpably visible.
Virginia R. Dominquez, Gutgsell Professor of Anthropology,
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
To all those who supported each other
during covid19 and those who lost
someone during the pandemic.
Every book is a collective effort. This is no exception. Many people
contributed in different ways to the realization of Covid Stories from East
Africa and Beyond: Lived Experiences and Forward-Looking Reflections. Through
small acts like circulating the call for chapters, encouraging and supporting
one or more of the authors or editors, or reviewing and commenting a
chapter to two, people from diverse horizons have raised the quality of the
overall oeuvre. We do not take your efforts or contributions for granted
and cannot thank you enough. Please feel acknowledged and appreciated.
Thanks to all those who in their daily endeavours invite interrogation
of history and culture and power relations and promote understandings of
African contexts in an interconnected continent and globalized world.
Thanks, as well, to all those who support Langaa Research and Publishing
to promote the circulation of stories and analysis about Africa and Africans
and exposure to African worldviews and ways of thinking.
table of contents
Introduction, Mary Njeri Kinyanjui, Roopal Thaker, Kathryn Toure ............. xix
Responding rapidly
chapter 1
The Covid Outlaw
Didi Wamukoya
chapter 2
What I Learned
Surviving the Apocalypse
Awuor Onguru
chapter 3
Emotional Highs and
Lows of Quarantine
Susan Karungi
chapter 4
Making Covid19 Manageable
with Gospel Music
Catherine Mongella-Kalokola
chapter 5
School Closure and Panic Mode
Meseret Kassahun Desta
chapter 6
What Is It Like
Working in a Hospital
during the Covid Pandemic?
Toseef Din
chapter 7
Covid in Africa:
Keeping it Hopeful
Margaret LoWilla
Adapting to new realities
chapter 8
Coronavirus: Retracing Our
Steps Back to the Home
Mary Njeri Kinyanjui
chapter 9
Covid Dating and
Anti-Social Cues
Nyawira Muraguri
chapter 10
The Girl Who
Met Her Shadow
Joanne Ball-Burgess
chapter 11
Covid19 in
Kigali, Rwanda
Mirka Eikelschulte
chapter 12
No Hugs
in Weeks
Nyambura “NashKariuki
chapter 13
Humanizing Covid:
Humor during
a Pandemic
Ukaiko A. Bitrus-Ojiambo
chapter 14
Nahyas Best
Ramadan Ever
Marloes Hamelink
Nahya Khamis Nassor
chapter 15
Neema Trades Her
Books for a Broom
Marloes Hamelink
Neema Rubaba
chapter 16
Collective voice:
Working and Showing
Solidarity from a Distance
Chimwemwe A. Fabiano
Essa Njie
Ikran Abdullahi
Working with the most vulnerable
chapter 17
By the Roadside in Kilimani
Waiting for Work
Mary Amuyunzu-Nyamongo
Diana Kinagu
Catherine Muyeka Mumma
chapter 18
When Home is Not Safe:
Covid19 and Domestic Violence
Sarah Nasimiyu Sikuku
Mary Amuyunzu-Nyamongo
chapter 19
Collective voice:
Wanting to Feel
Safe and Secure
Nyawira Wahito
Ibrahim Mohammed Machina
chapter 20
African Women at Work
during a Pandemic:
Case of Muundo Barakoa
Aguere Yilma Bultcha
Frannie Léautier
Eléonore Immaculée Nyamwiza
Engaging systems
chapter 21
Small-Scale Farming
in Light of Covid
Christopher Mubeteneh Tankou
chapter 22
Evolving Story of
Covid19 in Douala
and Surrounding Towns
Rose Chia Fonchingong
chapter 23
Covid19 and Violent
Extremism in Somalia
Tabitha W. Mwangi
chapter 24
Le confinement dû à la covid19
nous rend-t-il plus humain ?
Does Confinement
Due to Covid19
Make Us More Human?
Nelkem Jeannette Londadjim
Transforming towards a better world
chapter 25
Covid et Africains : dénis et réveil
Covid and Africans:
Denial and Awakening
Nelkem Jeannette Londadjim
chapter 26
Collective voice:
Ubuntu, Social Justice,
Gardens and Market Mammas
Kundai Mtasa
Margaret LoWilla
Alexandra A. Lukamba
chapter 27
A Tale of a Mother and a Son
Haimanot Kebede Bayeh
chapter 28
Covid19: The Humbling
and Humbled Virus
Francis B. Nyamnjoh
chapter 29
Rediscovering Neptune:
Towards Care
María José Moreno-Ruiz
Afterword, Dramane Darave .......................................................................... 269
About the Authors, Editors, and Artist ..................................................... 271
Introduction to
Covid Stories from East Africa and Beyond1
Mary Njeri Kinyanjui
Roopal Thaker
Kathryn Toure
Coronavirus happened and is still with us. Its impact has been far
reaching, and many lives have been deeply disrupted, even lost. Africans
have sought to cope with it in various ways, including giving it names of
derision, names of defiance, and names that point to a determination to
overcome it. In one of Kenyas languages, it is referred to as kinguki giki.
Kinguki means uproot, upheaval, disruption, destabilization, something
that goes against the grain of established order. True to the word,
coronavirus has shaken to the root the fundamentals of the neoliberal
economy and our current lifestyles.
This book opens a window to how Africans in different contexts
respond rapidly to covid, adapt to new realities, work with the most
vulnerable, engage systems, and begin to transform towards a better world.
It comprises 29 chapters about lived experiences of coronavirus in East
Africa and beyond. The collective of 40 authors from over 20 countries
narrates experiences through various socioeconomic, political, and cultural
lenses. Regardless of their circumstances, coronavirus had an impact on
every one of them and on their families. The stories in this collection
highlight challenges, new opportunities, and ultimately the deep resilience
of communities across the continent.
Covid19 has left a trail of problems. It has affected livelihoods and jobs,
small businesses, and large industries. It has deeply affected education and
schooling, exacerbated physical and mental health issues, affected
agricultural production and markets, increased social problems such as
1 Kinyanjui, M. N., Thaker, R., and Toure, K. (2020). Introduction to covid stories from
East Africa and beyond. In M. N. Kinyanjui, R. Thaker, and K. Toure (Eds.), Covid stories
from East Africa and beyond: Lived experiences and forward-looking reflections (pp. xix-xxviii).
Bamenda: Langaa.
Covid Stories from East Africa and Beyond
domestic abuse and police brutality, compromised personal and public
safety, and much more.
Yet, katika hali zote (“across the board” in Swahili), each story in this
collection reveals innovation, nimbleness, shifts in paradigms, and a variety
of strategies for human agency and mutual support to prevail.
Coronavirus happened rapidly and caught many unawares. Part 1 of
this volume, on “Responding rapidly,” highlights initial disbelief and early
shifts in understanding and behaviour.
Wamukoya’s protagonist quickly takes her children to a rural area, a safe
haven, to improve their chances of survival during the pandemic. Her
characters are daring and self-reliant, do with what they have, and do what
they have to do. They are outlawed and their speaking the truth does not
matter, but through solidarity they work together to face the emergency.
For Onguru, news of the pandemic and imminent lockdowns meant
unexpected panic buying where shoppers grabbed all they could from
supermarket shelves. “I eventually decided that leaving my cart at the till
and dashing back and forth was my best bet,” while her mother was “rapid-
firing lists of items to me by text, and I could barely keep up.”
Karungi in Uganda considers herself a “typical African mother,”
conditioned to “suck it up” in the face of challenge. During quarantine, she
learns important lessons on mental health from her daughters and their
“self-awareness that is the norm for today’s child.”
For Mongella-Kalokola, like for so many others, daily routines were
“overhauled when covid19 came into the picture.” What helps her to get
through it? Taking a deep breath and “playing music from a playlist on my
phone.” Readers may find themselves dancing alongside her to Relax by
Christina Shusho or Wewe ni Mungu (You are God) by Daddy Owen,
strategies to detach momentarily from the chaos of the pandemic and find
solace and peace of mind.
Desta goes into panic mode when schools close. “Day by day, it became
clearer that unknowns would be the norm during the covid19 pandemic. I
was quite stressed.” How to manage her full-time consultancy researching
and writing on the Horn of Africa and at the same time ensure her
extroverted daughter an only child who misses her classmates and
playmates and insists that “virtual learning is boring” has the attention
and support she needs? Tensions escalate.
While juggling her responsibilities as a mother, Din shows leadership
by ensuring people-centred disease surveillance and care at a major hospital
in Nairobi. This was not a moment to boss people around but rather one
of innovation, collaboration, and joint action to save lives and jobs at the
hospital. “Dont let your guard downwere the closing remarks of every
taskforce meeting.
LoWilla tries to calm her own worries about family spread across
eastern Africa by looking to the innovative ways in which youth in her
home country of South Sudan share information, including through the
#WagifCorona or Stop Corona campaign.
In this first part of the book, authors describe their experiencing of
responding rapidly to needs during a pandemic, from grappling with
surprise detention at a quarantine site, stocking supplies, learning about
mental health issues, and developing coping mechanisms to reorganizing
work and school at home and working together to keep staff at a major
hospital safe, sane, and motivated. This part of the book wraps up with a
reminder from Din and her team to “spread calm not chaos” and an appeal
from LoWilla to manage our state of mind and Keep things Hopeful.
In Part 2 are stories of “Adapting to new realities.” A sense of deeper
understanding and change develops. Coronavirus happened and became a
moment for self-discovery, a moment to rethink lifestyles that had been
overtaken by the neoliberal modernity of going to work every day and not
having enough family time. Coronavirus compelled people to stop their
everyday routines and creatively adjust to new normals.
Kinyanjui describes the abrupt act of women retracing their steps back
to the home in 2020. Is home the anticipated safe haven? And a site of
fulfilment and self-realization for women? How can it be the healing space
it is meant to be?
Creatively rethinking dating is the subject of Muraguris chapter, and
the process if full of self-discovery. In a well told story, she introduces her
challenge as “Im not good at normal dating by any standards. I figured I
couldn’t be that much worse at covid dating.” On Quarantine Day 14,
Muraguri “stumbles” into her “first covid date.”
The protagonist in “The Girl Who Met Her Shadow” by Ball-Burgess
realizes that the physical mask she has to wear now, to protect herself and
others, is similar to many other masks she has worn to hide and shield her
Covid Stories from East Africa and Beyond
herself from herself and those who might cause her harm. Others struggle
with the invisible monster outside. This girl struggles with the monster
Eikelschulte opted to stay in Rwanda as the pandemic unfolded rather
than return to the Netherlands. She takes time to learn some Kinyarwanda,
which comes in handy in explanations to police officers on her first trip out
of the house after the lockdown. She also learns the intricacies of MoMo
or mobile money, especially for responding to requests for solidarity “in
these bad days.” Eikelschulte and her husband in turn experience the
“caring people of Rwanda.”
Kariuki shares an illustrated story titled No Hugs in Weeks.” Just after
people make their New Years resolutions, news of covid filters through,
and before we know it, it cant be muted or avoided. What to do? Comfort
each other, laugh, and keep moving. The drawings by Kariuki let us take a
step back to look in on the situation and smile before figuring out how to
stitch life back together.
Bitrus-Ojiambo shows another aspect to the pandemic, highlighting
how humour is used to communicate and stay connected. She explores the
“carnivalesque” and satire in 15 videoclips, memes, and images that
circulated on social media, from “Laundry room prayer” to “Heading home
past curfew.” A very insightful read!
Hamelink and Nassor describe an unexpectedly enriching Ramadan
experience with family and scripture, including an unanticipated deepening
of faith during a time of isolation. Nassor also discovers the useful role the
Niqab plays in social distancing.
Hamelink and Rubaba describe how Rubaba, a fourth-year medical
student, leaves Dar es Salam when schools and universities are closed. She
learns to balance chores at home and online learning, while enjoying the
unexpected time with family and missing friends.
In this first of three “collective voice” chapters, titled “Working and
Showing Solidarity from a Distance,” Fabiano shares thoughts from
professional women in Malawi who echo the advantages and challenges of
working from home, which she considers a “sneak peek into the future of
work.” Njie describes the difficulties in the beginning for people in The
Gambia to respect social distancing, when “social interaction constitutes
one of the fundamental values of Africa.” Abdullahi describes how Muslims
find creative ways to show generosity to kin and provide alms to the needy,
even when congregating is not possible.
The stories in this second part of the book speak to working from
home, dating in new ways, and understanding more about the masks we
wear. Ordinary life takes on an extraordinary character, as evidenced by the
couple discovering new layers in their relations with Rwandans. Humour is
important in adapting to new realities and provides insight. Religious
practices and university learning change, and people surprise themselves in
their adaptability, disciplining themselves to stay physically apart when
possible, even when they yearn for sociality.
Part 3 of this collection addresses the extraordinary impact of
coronavirus on humanity and comprises stories related to “Working with
the most vulnerable.”
The pandemic created problems for many domestic workers. Their
employers asked them to stay away from work for a while or completely
released them from their services. Amuyunzu-Nyamongo, Kinagu, and
Mumma share the stories of some of these people who opted to sit “silently
wearing masks” along a roadside in Nairobi, “watching cars and passersby,”
and waiting for work.
Domestic violence has intensified, as families shelter together during
curfew hours. Sikuku and Amuyunzu-Nyamongo explore this reality in
their chapter titled “When Home is Not Safe.” They discuss societal norms
and efforts to shift them and call for more strategic responses.
In a second “collective voice” chapter, “Wanting to Feel Safe and
Secure,” Wahito stays with the theme of the previous chapter, describing
what it is like to be a schoolchild at home and not feel safe. Machina takes
the reader to northeast Nigeria where people displaced from their homes
because of insurgency have to deal with covid in addition. He relates
examples of creative community mobilisation and calls on “leaders in
formal positions of authority to recognize the resilience of the
communities” and “work with them to respond to their needs and
In many communities, “maintaining good respiratory hygiene by
wearing a mask was not affordable to many people.” Bultcha, Léautier, and
Nyamwiza entrepreneurially decide to do something about it. They describe
Muundo Barakoa as a creative shift during this moment of crisis, whereby
Covid Stories from East Africa and Beyond
women seamstresses link to markets to be of service and assure their
This part of the collection does not cover all dire situations provoked
by the covid19 pandemic. It rather shines a spotlight on four issues. First,
the plight of domestic workers and how some former domestic workers
all women take the situation into their hands as best they can, for the
wellbeing of their families. Second, the longstanding problem of domestic
violence, aggravated during the pandemic, and how human rights and
womens rights organizations are responding and advocating. Third, how
the pandemic inordinately affects people displaced from their homes
and who may be living in camps, the actions of such communities to
respond to covid, and the expectations of leaders in formal positions of
authority. Fourth, how women in the informal economy benefit from
the mobilisation and organization of local industrial capacity and thus are
able to contribute meaningfully to public health efforts while assuring a
livelihood for their families. This section speaks to the power of agency and
solidarity but also the need to address patriarchal norms, other root causes
of discrimination and physical and symbolic violence, and systems that
perpetuate inequalities.
The chapters in Part 4 focus on “Engaging systems,” knowing that
systems structuring our everyday socioeconomic and political lives need to
be questioned and evolved. In some cases, they need to be fundamentally
changed in a post-covid world of global interconnectedness.
Coronavirus is challenging the fundamentals of the neoliberal economy
but also the home and the family, including production and exchange, as
described by Tankou. Small-scale African famers produce the majority of
food consumed on the continent, yet transport restrictions have limited
their access to input and output markets and to farm labour. Farmers
products are healthy and loaded with nutrition but highly perishable. What
does all this mean when it comes to rural and urban development and
linkages and rethinking agricultural and food systems? Tankou
demonstrates how farmers can farm for self- and community-reliance.
The story by Fonchingong shows how unprepared Cameroon was
when covid19 arrived. She describes the fear, rumour-mongering, and
stigmatization to which the pandemic gave rise. As in any public health
campaign, communication, public education, and community involvement
are crucial. “To ensure community engagement and see changes in
behaviour, we need to involve the persons being protected.” She calls for
true commitment going forward to the Abuja Declaration, in which African
Union countries pledged to invest 15% of their national budget in health.
Mwangi describes what the stance of the Somali government should be
in the face of the presence of terrorist organizations in the country in the
midst of a pandemic. To serve all the Somali people, she stresses the need
for leadership, unity, and the respect of human rights, especially for women
and girls. She calls on neighbouring countries, regional organizations, and
the international community to play their parts in fighting violent
extremism. Because of the interconnectedness of people and economies,
peace, security, and development in the greater Horn of Africa region
depend in part on the same in Somalia.
The reflection by Londadjim is an exploration of the human heart and
what connects and humanizes people. Her chapter shows how people
thought covid was for Asia and Europe in the beginning a disease for the
rich that could not survive in Africa. But coronavirus happened everywhere,
and everything stopped. “We also stopped” to “see clearly” and take better
care of each other. “People who were invisible before the crisis have
become visible.” Londadjim marvels at how, in a short time, “collective
intelligence flowed and functioned, and the pooling of energies worked
miracles for the good of people.”
Londadjim posits that we are “coming out of a long sleep” and
searching for coherence in our human relations. The awakening and
newfound consciousness, if applied to engaging systems, can contribute to
a more equitable and harmonious world. But the “barriers that separate”
rich and poor “are not only external to us, they are also within us.” We need
to work on ourselves, even as we work to transform societal constructs.
This reality about our common humanity needs to infuse our
engagement with agricultural and health systems, and other systems such as
education systems, and also efforts to counter violent extremism.
Coronavirus happened. It is time for Africa to reimagine its
postcolonial and decolonial futures. Part 5 of Covid Stories from East Africa
and Beyond points towards the beginnings of “Transforming towards a
better world.”
Covid Stories from East Africa and Beyond
Has the crisis “awakened an awareness that was already there” and that
will help in transforming towards The Africa We Want? Londadjim
suggests this, in her second chapter, also translated from French. She is
encouraged by the resourcefulness, creativity, and solidarity evident in
social networks “developed by youth associations in the neighborhoods
and suburbs of Ndjamena, Chads capital city.” She suggests it is time to
question imposed development models, partnerships, and solidarities,
denounce exploitation and oppression, and move away from debts that
cannot be repaid. She reflects on the Black Lives Matter movement, which
is calling out “fractured society, where whole groups of people have been
excluded and others privileged.” She writes: “Humxn2 beings are not the
enemy of humxn beings.”
In the third and final “collective voice” chapter, titled “Ubuntu, Social
Justice, Gardens and Market Mammas,” Mtasa asks if ubuntu will become
extinct in the age of covid19. Fragilities in society have been made worse
and blatantly exposed. “Life has been dismantled for many people across
the continent,” including through xenophobia, for example towards some
Zimbabweans living in South Africa. “Where has ubuntu gone?” When we
are “collectively responsible for each others wellbeing”?
LoWilla in the same chapter describes how South Sudanese women
around the world fight for social justice in the face of violence from
patriarchal systems. Lukamba inspires us by sharing about market women
in Kinshasa who not only increase their sales of therapeutic plants that
boost the immune system, and “have been part of the culture for centuries,”
but also take “time to educate their clients on their use.”
In “A Tale of a Mother and a Son,” Bayeh describes rediscovering the
importance of time with her son. She humbly reminds us, in charming style
and celebratory fashion, to focus on what is important as we continue to
make shifts in our lives. She commits to setting her priorities and organizing
her life in line with realizations that surfaced during the time of
confinement and before Ethiopian New Year.
We have all been afraid and humbled by the humbling coronavirus,
according to Nyamnjoh. He suggests that migrantsrights are at risk and
that “neoliberalism in its various guises and disguises runs the risk of losing
2 “Why humxn is not misspelled,” by Bunny Young, 15 May 2020,
out to the virus […] if current rates of transmission are not contained with
imagination, creativity, and innovation.” He calls for “appropriate action,
creativity, and innovative modes of solidarity” going forward and
embracing the composite nature of being African.
The solution to the postcolonial and decolonial futures of Africa lies in
“Rediscovering Neptune” by Morena-Ruiz who shows how the ethics of
care challenge neoliberalism. Neoliberalism thrives on patriarchal
extraction and exploitative hierarchies. It is time to rethink prosperity,
consumption, and happiness in our everyday lives. Coronavirus has taught
us that what is important is life, love, livelihoods, and our relations with the
planet. As human beings we can build community capital in an utu-ubuntu
way to serve as insurance to support life, livelihoods, and fulfilment,
beginning with those around us.
Morena-Ruiz calls for “a radical transformation” in the narratives that
support the ways we organize our relations and economies, with profound
implications for care. We hope that the 29 covid stories shared in this
volume are an inspirational contribution in that regard.
The human experiences, brought and bound together here, constitute
stories of individuals, families, and communities. They tell a collective and
multi-layered story about the impact of the coronavirus on humanity in East
Africa and beyond. Some of the experiences surpass our limited human
imagination which has been shaped by science, economic status, culture,
policy, policing, and everyday politics. The stories are of courage, solidarity,
reciprocity, love, and resilience of the human spirit to survive and thrive in
the adversity caused by coronavirus. Together, the stories bear witness to
an important moment in history and will take on new dimensions when
read in future years beyond the now already infamous year of 2020.
Ultimately, love will help us dare to do the impossible and to prevail.
Mary Njeri Kinyanjui
has published on womens movements, the informal economy
in Africa, ubuntu business models, and how women experience anthropain in their
everyday lives. She taught at the University of Nairobis Institute for Development
Studies and earned her PhD in Geography from the University of Cambridge in the
United Kingdom and her masters from Kenyatta University in Kenya. She is author of
Coffee Time, based on the experience of her family.
Covid Stories from East Africa and Beyond
Roopal Thaker
is a highly experienced program manager in the non-profit sector. She
is passionate about working with community-based organizations to shape public policy
from the ground up. Born and raised in Nairobi, she has studied at Harvard University,
McGill University, and the University of Ottawa and is now working on adolescent
health and life skills education programs in Kenya.
Kathryn Toure
, PhD in education, is a researcher and writer. She promotes the
circulation of African worldviews and facilitates community inquiry to deepen
understandings of her/history and culture. She worked at Africa Online and in
international and comparative studies at the University of Iowa and studied at the
University of Montreal (education), University of Abidjan (history), University of
Grenoble (literature), and University of Kansas (political science).
Dramane Darave
The year 2020 was marked by the beginning of the covid19 pandemic,
which changed the lives and habits of the worlds populations, including on
the African continent. If the pandemic caused fears, reminded us of the
fragility of human life, and plunged some families into mourning, it also
provided an opportunity – because of the need to respect and adapt to the
necessary measures to limit the spread of the disease to experiment and
discover new modes of working and of living together.
The idea behind producing this collection of stories and reflections was
to provide a record of a moment in time. People in East Africa and beyond
recount how they experienced the pandemic and what they were thinking
at the time. Their lived experiences and contemplations provide insight into
adapting to and supporting each other in crisis and also into shaping the
The process of producing the book began with the establishment of an
editorial committee and then the sharing of a call for chapters through the
Langaa Research and Publishing Common Initiative Group website and
social media platforms. As chapter proposals were received, a virtual
community of authors gradually took shape.
The editing phase consisted of the editorial team engaging in dialogue
with the contributors to refine the chapters with comments, questions, and
suggestions. During this editing phase, the virtual community of authors
was further strengthened through conversations with human touches.
The finalization phase was devoted to the creation of a table of contents
which organizes the contents of the book for greater accessibility. It also
involved assembling the chapters, collecting photos and short biographies
of the authors, and creating a cover design and promotional posters.
The experience related to the production of this book has been very
enriching on both human and intellectual levels. The magic of the internet
has allowed us to interact on a daily basis with authors from several African
Covid Stories from East Africa and Beyond
countries on how they experienced the covid19 pandemic and to actively
participate in the creation of this oeuvre.
We hope Covid Stories from East Africa and Beyond: Lived Experiences and
Forward-Looking Reflections will provide information, insight, and inspiration
now and into the future on responding rapidly, adapting to new realities,
working with the most vulnerable, engaging systems, and transforming
towards a better world, where care is at the heart of human and planetary
Dramane Darave
is an Information and Communications Technology professional.
He has extensive experience in knowledge translation and digital communications and
has worked in the field of education and with international development organizations,
the United Nations, the media, and publishing houses in Africa. He is passionate about
helping people, communities, and organizations use technology in ways that enhance
connectivity, creativity, and human relations.
About the Authors, Editors, and Artist
-·- Authors -·-
Aguere Yilma Bultcha is Executive Assistant to the President and Chief
Executive Office of the Trade and Development Bank (TDB). She is
multilingual, with 21+ years of work experience in African and international
organisations and companies. Co-Founder of Muundo Barakoa, she is
finalizing her master’s in Leadership and Management. She obtained her
first degree from New Generation University College in Addis Ababa and
a second from the University of South Africa.
Alexandra A. Lukamba is pursuing a dual masters in International
Development and in Leadership and Development at Sciences Po Paris and
King’s College London. Since 2014 she has been involved with Sœur, Lève-
toi, a nongovernmental organization in Kinshasa, in the Democratic
Republic of Congo, working on building young women’s leadership skills
through mentoring sessions with women in the workforce.
Awuor Onguru is a 17-year-old female from Nairobi, Kenya. She has been
writing poetry and short stories since she was 12 years old. Her work has
appeared in Menacing Hedge and Polyphony Lit, among other publications, and
has been recognised by Hollins University and the Alliance for Young
Artists and Writers.
Catherine Mongella-Kalokola is a visionary with over 10 years of
experience in the nongovernmental sector in East Africa. She works as a
consultant with HC&A Solutions, a consultancy firm which helps build
human capital and supports organizational development using Solution
Focused Approach and Theory of Change.
Catherine Muyeka Mumma is a human rights lawyer and defender who
has served on the Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution
and the Kenya National Human Rights Commission. She is part of human
rights teams that have championed the right to health in Kenya including
Covid Stories from East Africa and Beyond
HIV/AIDS-related human rights and is keen to see the poor and vulnerable
not getting further disenfranchised by this pandemic.
Chimwemwe A. Fabiano holds a bachelor’s in Social and Political
Philosophy from the University of Malawi. Chimwemwe has 12 years of
work experience and is particularly interested in gender justice. Currently,
Chimwemwe is a Fellow at the African Leadership Centre under the Peace
and Security Fellowship for African Women.
Christopher Mubeteneh Tankou is a Systems Agronomist and an
Associate Professor in the Department of Crop Science, Faculty of
Agronomy and Agricultural Sciences, University of Dschang, Cameroon.
He is currently the Coordinator of the university’s Distance Education
Diana Kinagu is a third-year student at the University of Nairobi
undertaking a bachelors degree in Anthropology. She is a keen researcher
who wants to understand the human context of development.
Didi Wamukoya is a Kenyan lawyer and author. She currently works at
African Wildlife Foundation. Didi is the author of two fiction novels,
Wamukoya Netia and Wakaba Will Marry, and the author of the fiction blog
“Wooden Glass” (
Dramane Darave is an Information and Communications Technology
professional with extensive experience in knowledge translation and digital
communications. He has worked in the field of education and with
international development organizations, the United Nations, the media,
and publishing houses in Africa. He is passionate about helping people,
communities, and organizations use technology in ways that enhance
connectivity, creativity, and human relations.
Eléonore Immaculée Nyamwiza is Programme Coordinator in the Asset
Management Department at the Trade and Development Bank, in its
Regional Office in Nairobi. Co-Founder of Muundo Barakoa foundation,
she earned a master’s in Project Management from the University of Salford
About the authors, editors, and artist
in the United Kingdom. She has also lived and worked in Haiti and in
Burundi. Ms. Nyamwiza is multilingual.
Essa Njie, an African Leadership Centre Fellow, earned a masters in
Security, Leadership and Society from King’s College London and another
in Human Rights and Democratisation from the University of Pretoria. He
earned a bachelors in Political Science from the University of The Gambia
where he lectures. He has worked as a conflict monitor for the Economic
Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in The Gambia.
Francis B. Nyamnjoh is professor of Social Anthropology at the
University of Cape Town, South Africa. Recent publications include
Drinking from the Cosmic Gourd: How Amos Tutuola Can Change Our Minds
(2017), The Rational Consumer: Bad for Business and Politics: Democracy at the
Crossroads of Nature and Culture (2018) and “Covid-19 and the Resilience of
Systemic Suppression, Oppression and Repression” (2020).
Frannie Léautier, Senior Partner and Chief Executive Officer,
SouthBridge Investments, is a well-known finance and development expert,
experienced in transforming complex multi-constituency organizations.
Thought leader, author, and member of Responsible Leaders Network,
Dr. Léautier is Co-Founder and Chair of Muundo Barakoa.
Haimanot Kebede Bayeh works as a Programme Policy Officer in the
non-profit sector in the Horn of Africa. She has a masters in Global
Management from the University of Salford Business School in the United
Kingdom. For her thesis, she studied the tourism sector in Ethiopia. She
completed her secondary studies in India. Outside of work, Haimanot
enjoys spending time with her son.
Ibrahim Mohammed Machina holds a masters in International
Relations and Diplomacy from Nile University of Nigeria, Abuja and is
pursuing another masters in Security, Leadership and Society at Kings
College London. Ibrahim has taught courses in International Law and
Diplomacy and in Nigerian Government and Politics for undergraduate
students of political science at Federal University, Gashua in Yobe State in
Covid Stories from East Africa and Beyond
Ikran Abdullahi holds a masters in International Relations from the
United States International University-Africa in Kenya. She has worked
with Somalias Ministry of Constitutional Affairs and on gender equality
awareness and empowerment with women affected by gender-based
violence. She is interested in the crossroads of human rights and
peacebuilding and is researching relations between leadership and
customary law approaches to addressing sexual and gender-based violence.
Joanne Ball-Burgess is a Bermudian, born and raised in Bermuda, of
Afro-Caribbean descent. She has been living in Nairobi, Kenya for nine
years. She is a dancer and educator as well as a writer. She wrote “An
underworld education,” published in Take This Journey with Me: Bermuda
Anthology of Memoir and Creative Non-Fiction. She also wrote The Lizard and the
Rock: A Fable of Bermudas Discovery and The Priceless Hogg Penny: A Tale of True
Kundai Mtasa earned two degrees from the University of Pretoria: an
undergraduate degree in Politics and International Studies and an honours
degree in Development Studies. She is pursuing a masters in Leadership
and Development at Kings College London and is currently an Associate
Fellow at the African Leadership Centre and a research intern with the
African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes. Previously she
worked with UNICEF and the World Wildlife Fund, and she has conducted
research on human trafficking.
Margaret LoWilla holds a bachelors in Economics and Business Studies
from the Australian Catholic University, where she worked with Josephite
Community Aid in Australia, engaging with Sudanese refugee children to
aid their transition into a new educational system. She is completing a
masters in Governance, Peace and Security at Africa Nazarene University,
in Nairobi, Kenya. Margaret has worked with local civil society
organizations in South Sudan on womens rights, womens political
participation, and advocacy against child and forced marriages.
María José Moreno-Ruiz lives in Nairobi and works as Global Director
for Gender Justice at Oxfam International. Previously, she worked with the
About the authors, editors, and artist
African Development Bank Group based mainly in Cote dIvoire. She has
also worked with the German Corporation for international cooperation in
Latin America and the Maghreb, the Latin American School of Social
Sciences, and the United Nations Development Programme. Dr. Moreno-
Ruiz studied sociology and gender.
Marloes Hamelink is a cultural anthropologist and journalist. Her
research themes include gender, social media, and religion. Currently she is
doing research on the online lives and morality of Muslim women in
Zanzibar. She lives in Dar es Salaam with her family and invests in youth
education initiatives.
Mary Amuyunzu-Nyamongo earned a PhD in Social Anthropology from
the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. She is the Founder
Director of the African Institute for Health and Development. She has over
30 years of experience in social development with a focus on health, social
safeguards, social protection, and poverty alleviation. With regard to
covid19, her focus is on identifying and mitigating the social impacts in the
immediate, medium, and long term.
Meseret Kassahun Desta has a PhD in Social Work from the Jane
Addams College of Social Work, University of Illinois at Chicago. She has
taught at the School of Social Work at Addis Ababa University. Her
research interests include gender issues, child protection, urban
governance, migration, and peace and security issues. She is the founder
and a researcher at EMAH Social Development Consulting. As a
consultant, she carries out formative studies and evaluations of social
programs in Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa more broadly.
Mirka Eikelschulte came to Rwanda as Marketing Director in 2015, when
her Dutch employer founded a food producing subsidiary in Kigali,
Rwanda. Ever since, she and her husband have been living between Kigali
and Rotterdam.
Nahya Khamis Nassor is an Environmental Health Officer and Assistant
Researcher at the Zanzibar Health Research Institute. Previously, Nahya
worked as an Environmental Health Officer at Pennyroyal Gibraltar Ltd,
Covid Stories from East Africa and Beyond
Zanzibar. She graduated with honors from State University of Zanzibar
with a degree in Environmental Health.
Neema Rubaba is a medical student at Hubert Kairuki Memorial
University (HKMU) in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. During the closure of her
university due to covid19, she stays with her family in Kigoma. She is
President of the Rotaract Club of HKMU.
Nelkem Jeannette Londadjim, from Chad, is a sister of St. Joseph,
currently living in France and working with schoolchildren. Before that, in
Algeria, she worked with migrants. In 2017, she was an activist in residence
at Avila University in Kansas City, USA. She taught in a girlshigh school
in Cote dIvoire and helped found the “Young Peacemakers” organization
in Senegal.
Nelkem Jeannette Londadjim
, du Tchad, est une sœur de Saint-Joseph. Elle
vit actuellement en France et travaille avec des écoliers. Avant cela, en Algérie, elle a
travaillé avec des migrants. En 2017, elle était activiste en résidence à lUniversité
Avila à Kansas City, aux États-Unis. Elle a enseigné dans un lycée de filles en Côte
d’Ivoire et a aidé à fonder lassociation « Jeunes artisan·e·s de la paix » au Sénégal.
Nyambura “Nash” Kariuki is an illustrator, designer and self-taught
animator living and loving in Nairobi, Kenya. She has always enjoyed and
even found kinship in the zany worlds of various cartoon characters. She
began seriously exploring the cartoon medium in 2015 and continues to
self-teach to date. She has worked with various brands such as the Qai Qai
doll, Joanna Kinuthia Cosmetics, Think Equal organization, and many
others. She is currently freelancing as an illustrator and designer.
Nyawira Muraguri in her writing depicts life as she experiences it and
passes on light-hearted messages of self-acceptance and compassion. She is
a full-time investor interested in the innovative ways finance can address
the failures of a capitalist society.
Nyawira Wahito holds a bachelors in Sociology and Philosophy from the
University of Nairobi and is pursuing a masters in Security, Leadership and
Society at Kings College London. Nyawira is a feminist young womens
About the authors, editors, and artist
rights activist with over eight yearsexperience working, most recently via
the Resource Center for Women and Girls in Kenya, with adolescent girls
from disadvantaged and underserved backgrounds.
Rose Chia Fonchingong is a public health physician, with a passion for
HIV/AIDS management. She has spent the last five years working as a
technical advisor for an international NGO fighting HIV/AIDS in
Cameroon. She is the author of Stifled by Justice, a true-life account published
by Langaa Research and Publishing in 2016.
Sarah Nasimiyu Sikuku is a post-graduate student of Monitoring and
Evaluation at Daystar University in Nairobi, Kenya. She is an economic and
social justice advocate. She currently works at Clean Start, a social enterprise
that works to restore the dignity and hope of women and their children
impacted by the criminal justice system.
Susan Karungi is a governance specialist, social analytical writer, and
passionate development practitioner working to positively transform and
improve communities in Uganda. She is a mother who outside her work
enjoys spending time loving and nurturing her two daughters.
Tabitha W. Mwangi is an Early Career Fellow at the African Leadership
Centre. She is researching the role of the private sector in humanitarian
assistance for persons displaced as a result of the insurgency in Nigeria. She
studied for a masters in Government Counter-Terrorism and Homeland
Security at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya in Israel and earned a
bachelor’s in International Relations from the United States International
University-Africa in Kenya.
Toseef Din was born into a humble family in Nairobi. Dr. Din is an
accomplished management professional with over 15 years of experience
in finance, eight of which are in healthcare at M. P. Shah Hospital in
Nairobi, Kenya. She attended primary and secondary school in Nairobi. At
present, she holds the position of Chief Executive Officer at the Hospital.
She has three sisters and is married with three children. She is a certified
Kaizen (change for the better) practitioner and a member of the Institute
of Certified Public Accountants of Kenya.
Covid Stories from East Africa and Beyond
Ukaiko A. Bitrus-Ojiambo is a communications instructor at St. Pauls
University. Her scholarly contributions and interests are in media cultural
studies, autoethnography, and the role of language in communication.
Ukaiko has experience in faculty development and quality assurance in
higher education. Born in Nigeria, she has lived in Kenya for over three
decades. Ukaiko is currently undertaking doctoral studies in human
communication at Daystar University in Kenya.
-·- Co-editors-·-
Mary Njeri Kinyanjui is a researcher and writer on womens movements
and the informal economy in Africa. She earned her PhD from the
University of Cambridge, United Kingdom, and taught at the Institute for
Development Studies, University of Nairobi, Kenya.
Roopal Thaker works with community-based organizations to shape
public policy from the ground up. She currently works on adolescent health
and life skills education programs in Kenya.
Kathryn Toure is a researcher and writer. She promotes the circulation of
African worldviews and facilitates community inquiry to deepen
understandings of her/history and culture.
-·- Artist-·-
Anna Rarity studied Fine Art in London, focusing on painting and
printmaking, and occasionally dabbling in pottery. She taught Community
Arts in schools for many years and most recently in Kenya. She still teaches
some private lessons but enjoys finding more time for her own art. She
recently moved to the coast of Kenya and, during covid, is soaking up the
scents, colours, and heat of the coastal region.
Here are words of appreciation shared by a teacher in August 2020:
“In the midst of many difficult situations there are bright spots of joy. Artist
Anna Rarity, who recently moved to the coast, has volunteered to give art
lessons to some of our students. It becomes a combined cycling, art, swim,
and snack time. Art has not been taught in schools here, so it is a new
About the authors, editors, and artist
venture for these kids but one they enjoy. With schools closed since March,
outings are welcome and probably necessary.”
A photograph of her “New Beginnings” painting (114h x 94w cm,
which is 3 ft x 4 ft) features on the cover of this book, Covid Stories from East
Africa and Beyond. She completed the painting in March 2020 as a response
to covid19, taking a positive slant on the situation. “I looked at Covid as a
way of awakening populations and governments to environmental and
health issues, an awakening which will hopefully lead to a more balanced,
symbiotic relationship with Mother Earth.”
The experimental painting on canvas is about growth, birth, and cell
division, based on drawings made of microscope images. It is a mixed media
collage which includes iron oxide, gold leaf, and acrylic. Red is the first
colour that humans perceive after black and white, a colour of strength and
vitality. The iron oxide, often used as a red or rust colouring medium in
ceramics, adds an earthy tone. The “New Beginnings” painting was part of
the “Red” eclectic exhibition a response to covid at One Off
Contemporary Art Gallery1 in June and July 2020 in Nairobi.
We at Langaa hope you enjoyed reading
Covid Stories from East Africa and Beyond:
Lived Experiences and Forward-Looking Reflections
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Mankon, Bamenda
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Covid Stories from East Africa and Beyond:
Lived Experiences and Forward-Looking Reflections
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Full-text available
This paper examined print media representations of gender-based domestic violence messages from Nyeri, Kenya, one of the counties inhabited by the Kikuyu ethnic group. The Kikuyu are Kenya's most populous ethnic group-this is according to the 2009 Kenya population census (Basse, 2010). Two newspapers, the Daily Nation (mainstream) and the Nairobian (tabloid-style) weekly provided the data for the study. Content analysis was used to examine the frequency of frames, prominence, type of stories, and sources used in the stories while critical discourse analysis (CDA) helped examine emergent themes. Purposive sampling was used to select news articles on gender-based domestic violence in Nyeri County published by the two newspapers between June 1st, 2015 and August 31st, 2015. In total, 22 articles were analyzed from both newspapers. The main findings: (1) Most of the news articles had a negative tone: Daily Nation (eight) and the Nairobian (nine); (2) the Nairobian covered the domestic violence in Nyeri in a sensational manner using vivid language, graphics and colorful pictorials, while the Daily Nation used a conservative approach in its coverage; (3) The two newspapers framed the Nyeri woman as an angry, violent and dangerous woman while the Nyeri man was framed as mainly an alcoholic and helpless victim; and (4) Previous gender media narratives such as the Bobbitt's gender violence story and the Angry black woman phenomenon parallel the localized Nyerification effect.
What happens when the world’s ‘oldest profession’ interacts with history’s oldest form of war? In the Horn of Africa, a symbiotic relationship between prostitutes and terrorists has emerged, illuminating critical information about the group’s ideology and strategy. In this article, we argue that al-Shabaab’s differential treatment of Somali and other East African women reveals the group’s strategic focus on Somalia, despite its claims to be a globally focused Islamic extremist organization. Through original ethnographic fieldwork in Kenya, the authors explore al-Shabaab’s deliberate relationships with different groups of women and explain how this helps scholars better understand the group. This article suggests the next phase of scholarship on gender and terrorism, encouraging scholars not only to pay attention to the relationship between women and terrorist groups, but to also examine the nuanced relationships between different categories of women and terrorist groups.
This paper undertakes an analysis of Breytenbach’s prison book in terms of the autobiographer's psychological response to his experience of incarceration. Breytenbach’s ‘gallows humour' is shown to parallel the Bakhtinian ‘carnivalesque' with its symbolic destruction of official authority on the one hand, and the assertion of spiritual renewal on the other While looking into the carnivalesque dimension of gallows humour as mediated through the literary device of the trickster figure, I shall show that ‘the laughter of irreverence' goes beyond mere verbal playfulness in that it is part of a spiritually-based programme of opposition.
The self in performance: Autobiographical, self-revelatory, and autoethnographic forms of therapeutic theatre
  • S Pendzik
  • R Emunah
Pendzik, S., Emunah, R., and Johnson, D. R. (2016). The self in performance: Context, definitions, directions. In S. Pendzik, R. Emunah, and D. R. Johnson (Eds.), The self in performance: Autobiographical, self-revelatory, and autoethnographic forms of therapeutic theatre (pp. 1-18). New York: Palgrave McMillian.
Creating understanding
  • D K Smith
Smith, D. K. (1992). Creating understanding. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.