TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: September 26

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Al-Shabaab is stronger a year after their horrific attack on a mall in Kenya, thriving on widespread resentment of Kenyan anti-Muslim policies which must be reformed.

By the International Crisis Group

2. The unnecessary separation of oral care from the rest of medical care under Medicaid puts the poor at risk of worse health and even death.

By Olga Khazan in the Atlantic

3. In these views from activists and intellectuals in Syria, we see rueful themes of a hijacked revolution and an intervention that may be coming too late.

By Danny Postel in Dissent

4. Adding a way to assess learning for students is the key to making education games work for schools.

By Lee Banville in Games and Learning

5. The toothless early warning system designed to head off future financial crises must be strengthened or it risks missing the next market cataclysm.

By the Editors of Bloomberg View

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

MONEY mobile payments

Why the U.S. Lags the World in Mobile Payments

Octopus card
Hong Kong's Octopus card Horizons WWP—Alamy

Many American consumers are beyond excited by the prospect of Apple Pay, but overseas the iPhone's latest feature is old news.

When Apple announced its new payment service, Apple Pay, earlier this month, many in the tech world were blown away. The system allows iPhone users to pay at the checkout counter simply by holding their phone to a receiver for a few seconds. Dieter Bohn, writing for The Verge, called Apple Pay “this week’s most revolutionary product,” and eloquently summarized how most Americans already feel about the status quo: “mobile payments have sucked so far, and it’s high time somebody fixed it.”

Bohn is right, but what he likely meant to say was “mobile payments have sucked so far in the United States.” Across the globe in Japan, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, viewers of Apple’s announcement could be forgiven for falling asleep. Using your phone to buy stuff? We’ve been doing that for years.

In Hong Kong, residents regularly pay for goods, services, and public transit, all without swiping or signing. Instead, shoppers can simply wave their Octopus card, which uses a technology similar to Apple Pay, at checkout and go on their merry way. Octopus Holdings claims 95% of people in Hong Kong between ages 16 to 65 use its product, and Octopus is accepted at 14,000 retail outlets. Even more impressive, the card’s swipeless technology has been incorporated into phones, and yes, watches too. When did this magical future tech launch? Hong Kong has had Octopus since 1997.

Apple Pay-like services are also old news in Japan, a country where mobile payments are already ubiquitous. Afterall, it was Sony that invented the region’s major method of short-range data transfer. That technology eventually came to power Hong Kong’s Octopus card, as well as a slew of Japanese mobile wallets. Today, nearly every cell phone sold in Japan (other than the iPhone) comes with mobile payment technology built in by default.

Takeshi Natsuno, a former executive at one of Japan’s largest wireless carriers, once bragged, “When I leave my house in the morning all I take with me is my phone, which lets me do everything—pay, take public transport—simply by swiping a special reader in shops, stations or airports.” Sounds just like the promise of Apple Pay, except Natsuno said that in 2004.

But the world leader in mobile payments isn’t a glittering Eastern city. According to the Economist, that title belongs to Kenya and its revolutionary cell phone-based payment system, M-PESA. Launched in 2007, the service allows users to essentially text money back and forth while using telecom giant Safaricom, M-PESA’s creator, as a bank. Deposits and withdrawals are made through Safaricom’s network of 40,000 agents. Once money is in the system, it can be sent to any other M-PESA customer—even merchants—via a phone menu. Thanks to M-PESA, the Economist notes, “paying for a taxi in Nairobi is easier than it is in New York.”

Why is the U.S. so far behind other countries? There isn’t a single answer. At least in Asia-Pacific, major players may just be more willing to adopt the latest tech. “The thing hindering mobile payment development and contactless cards is that there’s an infrastructure set up in place and banks [and merchants] feel compatible with the current infrastructure,” said Theresa Jameson, senior analyst at Datamonitor Financial. “Certain markets are more willing to adopt new payment technologies.”

New contactless payments for public transport have also helped put Apple Pay-like technology in the hands of every consumer. Hong Kong’s Octopus card, as well as Japan and Taiwan’s mobile payment systems, each originated as a better way to pay subway fares. Over time, merchants gradually began to get on board with the new technology until swipeless payment became a norm. Ben Thompson, founder of the website Stratechery, describes how this exact process played out in Taiwan when a new Octopus-style transit card was introduced:

When I first arrived in 2003 almost everything was cash only. Just a year earlier, however, in 2002, the EasyCard Corporation née Smart Card Corporation had rolled out an RFID stored value card for use on Taipei’s new MRT (subway) system… Within a few years you could use the card everywhere: buses, trains, taxis, parking, government fees, and now, 10 years on, almost every retailer, and the RFID chip is no longer limited to cards, but is embedded in some phones, key fobs, and more.

As Thompson points out, another reason behind America’s stagnation in the mobile payment space is simply the inertia of the credit card system. Magnetic stripe cards are accepted by as many as 9 million U.S. businesses, and it will take an enormous investment to make Apple Pay even half as prolific. However, in countries like Taiwan and Kenya, where credit card penetration is low, or Japan, where there is a cultural aversion to debt, new alternatives were given an opportunity to flourish because credit cards had not already dominated the market.

But as America slowly prepares to move from magnetic strips to Near Field Communication (NFC) systems like Apple Pay, Asia may be held back by its own form of inertia. “Japan and Hong Kong are faced with a dilemma,” says Datamonitor’s Jameson. “If they wish to begin using Apple Pay or other NFC-based mobile payment services, they will need to start from the ground up in building their contactless/mobile payments ecosystem like the rest of the world – which would require considerable investment.” Their other option? “Stick with their existing system while the rest of the world moves in a different direction.”

TIME White House

Obama Hosts 51 African Leaders Amid Grumbling Over His Record

President Barack Obama speaks to participants of the Presidential Summit for the Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders in Washington on July 28, 2014.
President Barack Obama speaks to participants of the Presidential Summit for the Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders in Washington on July 28, 2014. Manuel Balce Ceneta—AP

Putting aside Gaza, Iraq and other distractions, Obama focuses on legacy

Barack Obama came to office representing the hopes and dreams of an entire continent. His father, after all, came to America not in the cargo hold of a slave ship hundreds of years ago, but on an academic scholarship from his native Kenya in 1954: for many on the African continent, Obama was the cousin who’d made it big in America. His election was a symbol of hope, and that maybe help was on the way.

Obama stroked those expectations and rapture with the reissuing of his book in 2005, Dreams from My Father, and with a triumphal African tour in 2006, which sparked the first speculation that he might make a bid for the White House. But in his first term in office, Obama visited Africa only once, stopping at the tail end of his first international trip in Cairo deliver his speech launching “A New Beginning” with the Arab world and spending 24-hours in Ghana where he outlined the four themes upon which, he said, the future of Africa would depend: democracy, opportunity, health and the peaceful resolution of conflict.

Those four “pillars,” as he called them, went all but neglected for the next four years as Obama’s attention swung from domestic priorities like health care reform to crises in Syria, Ukraine and Iraq. So, now, as Obama turns an eye to legacy, he is hosting 51 African leaders at the White House this week for a summit. But legacy requires achievement, and Obama has left much undone in Africa.

To be fair, Obama had a tough act to follow. His predecessor George W. Bush created the Millennium Challenge Corporation to boost foreign aid and the Presidents’ Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, where he invested $15 billion for AIDS drugs—a program universally credited for bringing down AIDS deaths in Africa. Bush also had a security vision for Africa, establishing military bases and a joint African command. He helped create an autonomous government in South Sudan in 2005 to stop the genocide in Darfur. And Bush expanded a free trade agreement created under Bill Clinton called the African Growth and Opportunity Act, or AGOA.

Under Obama—or, perhaps better said, the Republican cost-cutting Congress—Millennium Challenge funding has remained flat and PEPFAR has been cut from $6.63 billion to $6.42 bullion in fiscal 2013 and is expected to face another $50 million in cuts this year. South Sudan, whose independence America celebrated in 2011, fell into civil war this year after the U.S. neglected to appoint a special envoy for more than six months. And AGOA’s renewal remains stalled before a Congress full of members who want to rewrite it, or potentially kill it, much like the Export Import Bank, which finances most U.S. business on the continent.

While Obama did help intervene with NATO in Libya and sent special forces to Uganda in 2011 to hunt down the warlord Joseph Kony, who has yet to be found, Obama has otherwise taken a hands off approach militarily in Africa. In Somalia, he sent in seal team that took out an al-shabab leader but only after that group’s terrorist attack against a high-end Nairobi shopping mall attack, which killed 67 people from 13 countries. He declined to send troops into Mali with France but provided air support, but only after a terrorist attack on a gas plant in neighboring Algeria claimed the lives of three Americans.

“There were tremendous expectations,” says Carl LeVan, an African studies professor at American University, who has just written a book on Nigeria. “There were big expectations from some of the big emerging African players on the continent. What has emerge over time is an appreciation of the American presidency as a complex organization that speaks on behalf of a big country and not just one man.”

Obama second term African record has been better. Last year, he toured the continent with hundreds of business leaders in tow, touting American investment. His second national security adviser, Susan Rice, is largely credited with the U.S. intervention in Libya and has a long history with the continent, which she views as a priority. Ahead of that tour, Obama launched Power Africa, a $7 billion program to provide power to 20 million sub-Saharan Africans. He also started the Young Leaders’ initiative, which provides scholarships for young Africans to top U.S. universities.

Obama emphasizes how America’s innovation has helped Africa skip several steps of development. He points to the broad use of smart phones across the continent as evidence of how American innovation allowed Africa to skip poles and wires and still bring, not just phone service, but online global banking and Internet connectivity to the most rural of communities. America, he argued to The Economist last week, is “better than just about anybody else” at such applications of technology.

But America is no long Africa’s largest patron. As the U.S. is pivoting to Asia, Asia is pivoting to Africa. China’s investments in Africa surpassed those of the U.S. in 2010 and are now five times as big—$15 billion to U.S.’s $3 billion. China’s investment in the raw-resource laden continent is expected to reach as high as $400 billion over the next half century. While, Obama says “the more the merrier,” as he told The Economist, “my advice to African leaders is to make sure that if, in fact, China is putting in roads and bridges, number one, that they’re hiring African workers; number two, that the roads don’t just lead from the mine, to the port to Shanghai.”

To that end, Obama has a distinctly American message for African leaders. He has seized upon the conference to underline the power of democracy for emerging nations. It is not by accident that he invited so many former African leaders: a message to Africa’s many aging dictators that it’s okay to step aside and give someone else a chance. Obama has proven that he isn’t Africa’s savior, and there’s only so much he can do. “If there is any lesson regarding development and stability that has been consistent since the end of World War II and the colonial era,” says Anthony Cordesman, a top conflict analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, “it is that we can only really help those states that are helping themselves.”

TIME Uganda

U.S. Embassy Warns of Attack at Uganda’s International Airport

Airport Departure Lounge
Yongyuan Dai—Getty Images

"According to intelligence sources there is a specific threat to attack Entebbe International Airport by an unknown terrorist group today."

The U.S. Embassy in Uganda warned of a “specific threat to attack” the country’s only international airport Thursday evening.

The warning, posted to the Embassy website, says the Ugandan Police Force provided the embassy with information about a possible attack by an “unknown terrorist group” planned for between 9 and 11 p.m. local time at Entebbe International Airport, about 20 miles from the capital of Kampala.

“Individuals planning travel through the airport this evening may want to review their plans in light of this information,” the statement says.

Uganda is one of several countries, including neighboring Kenya, that have sent troops to bolster the government in Somalia. That’s put it in the sights of the Somali terrorist group al-Shabab, which opposes the military presence in Somalia. In 2010, an attack orchestrated by al-Shabab in Kampala killed at least 74 people. Last year, Shaaab militants stormed a shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, killing 67 people.

The statement from the Embassy also warned of the overarching terrorist threat in Uganda.

“U.S. Embassy Kampala wishes to remind U.S. citizens of the continued threat of potential terrorist attacks in the country,” the statement said. “The targets for these attacks could include hotels, restaurants, nightclubs, shopping malls, diplomatic missions, transportation hubs, religious institutions, government offices, or public transportation.”

TIME

Kenya Faces Homegrown Threat From Al-Shabab

Recent attacks have highlighted the growing internal threat from terrorists allied with the Somali militant group

Kenya is under attack from within. Over the past two weeks, suspected al-Shabab militants have massacred 60 people in a Kenyan coastal town, marking the country’s worst terrorist violence since the Westgate mall siege that left at least 67 people dead last year. Eyewitnesses said the attackers stormed the town of Mpeketoni in minivans flying the black al-Shabab flag, shouting “Allahu Akbar” (God is the greatest). Speaking in Somali and Swahili, an official language in Kenya, the gunmen asked if the residents were Muslim. If not, they fired, according to reports.

The attacks underscore the increasing homegrown al-Shabab threat in Kenya, once seen as a stable ally of the United States in East Africa, a popular destination for American tourists to go on safari and sunbathe on the beach of the Indian Ocean. Yet Kenya, with its porous borders, political corruption, and high density of Western targets is now being described as a breeding ground for al-Shabab, a terrorist group with origins in Somalia and links to al-Qaeda, that is actively targeting U.S. citizens and businesses in Kenya and possibly abroad. The oppressive Kenyan response is not helping. Today, critics say Kenya’s latest anti-terror campaign, described by human rights groups as indiscriminate persecution of Somali refugees and Kenyan Muslims, is backfiring, with the anti-Muslim sentiment being used by al-Shabab to whip up support inside the country.

“Probably the greatest misunderstanding of al-Shabab is that people underestimate the degree that al-Shabab has become a Kenyan problem,” says Matt Bryden, the head of Sahan Research, a Nairobi-based Horn of Africa think-tank. al-Hijra, a Kenyan associate of al-Shabab, has mobilized its Kenyan followers through extremist Muslim preachers, targeting youth in mosques and through jihad propaganda; online videos featuring the organization’s leaders and an online magazine, Gaidi Mtaani. Al-Hijra members, estimated by Bryden to number over 700, have battlefield training, having crossed the border to fight in Somalia. Meanwhile, their charismatic leader, Kenyan Ahmed Iman Ali, is at large. “The tempo of attacks and the scale of attacks suggest that al-Shabab and al-Hijra have taken the initiative,” he says, “what observers are looking for is a sign that the Kenyan government has taken the initiative back.”

That sign has not come. The latest terrorist attacks were met with confusion. After first declaring al-Shabab responsible for the massacre, the Kenyan government later blamed the violence on longstanding ethnic devisions, putting the attack squarely on the opposition’s soldiers. The claim was met with skepticism.

Usually, Kenyan leaders cast terrorism as a foreign threat, a Somali problem. But in response to the quickening tempo of al-Shabab bombings, the Kenyan government announced “Operation Usalama Watch,” a crackdown on Somali immigrants and refugees in Kenya. Under the campaign, which means “Operation Safety Watch” in Swahili, over 4,000 Somalis and Muslim Kenyans were detained at the MOI International Sports Center in Kasarani, a suburb of Nairobi. The sports grounds were used as a mass jail, before people were either cleared and released by police, sent to impoverished refugee camps, or deported back to war-torn Somalia. In May, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, US Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of African Affairs, expressed “strong concerns” about the operation, questioning its rectitude after Human Rights Watch reported people dying during brutal round-ups, children becoming estranged from their parents, and police officers beating people and soliciting hundred-dollar bribes. “It’s a lazy, knee jerk response to a deeply serious problem of violent extremism that Kenyans are facing,” says Jonathan Horowitz, a legal officer at the Open Society Justice Initiative, a New York-based non-profit. “Abuses—extrajudicial killings, torture, disappearances—are propaganda and recruitment tools.”

For the United States, the potential radicalization of Kenyan youth is a worst-case scenario. “You’ve just rounded up a group of men, and you’ve set them in a place to get up to either mischief or find another avenue, which could be al-Shabab,” says Lauren Ploch Blanchard, African affairs specialist at the Congressional Research Service in Washington. Huge resources have been spent to prevent Kenyan radicalization. Kenya is the fourth largest recipient of U.S. aid for civilian counterterrorism operations, with $43 million earmarked over the past four years, and an additional $117 million for counterterrorism and border security programs. “Some of this is difficult and frustrating, yet we need to be there to help them so that we don’t have to come in and do it all ourselves,” says U.S. Congressman Mac Thornberry, speaking from his office in Washington. “There’s been a greater effort to gather information about what al-Shabab is doing, what they plan to do,” said Thornberry, who sits on the House Armed Services Committee, “but the primary responsibility within Kenya is obviously up to the Kenyan government.”

Beginning in April, the Kenyan government’s anti-terror campaign saw 6,000 Kenyan police descend on Eastleigh, a bustling, gritty suburb of Nairobi, home to thousands of Somali refugees and Kenyan Muslims. Visiting Eastleigh, I met Ahmed Mohamed, the secretary general of the Eastleigh Business Community, at the Nomad Palace Hotel, a hotel in luxury Mogadishu style with velvet sofas studded with fake diamonds and coffee cups decorated with golden camels. Over a lemon tea with honey, Mohamed described Operation Usalama Watch as a nightmare. “At first they came in and started knocking down doors and flushing out people, it was really, really terrible,” says the 36-year-old, “they were rounding up everyone and taking them to Kasarani stadium, which was later called a concentration camp.”

Today the controversial operation is still going. At the Kasarani stadium, where a billboard proudly displays a champion long distance runner with the slogan “Home of Heroes,” troops in fatigues and maroon berets patrol the grounds with guns slung over their shoulder. Four men were walking from the stadium, just released after four days inside. “I’ve never understood the objective of these police operations, was it to take out illegal immigrants or was it to fight terrorism? Because if it was to fight terrorism they’re going about it the wrong way,” says Mohamed, a Kenyan Muslim. “When you knock down a door at 2 am in the morning, and wake up the elderly grandmother, with her children, what do you expect a teenager to think at that very moment? It will only create animosity in him.”

To the young, al-Shabab promises not only revenge, but fortune and adventure. “Al-Shabab, they even recruit our youth, they tell them we’ll pay you money,” says Benson Sekwa, a burly 38-year-old taxi driver in Nairobi who says a 22-year-old friend of his was recruited by the group. Sekwa’s friend went to Somalia to train and was arrested upon his return to Kenya. “You could tell him don’t do that, but he can’t hear you,” says Sekwa, “he’s after the money.”

As long as the Kenyan government is heavy-handed, observers say al-Shabab and al-Hijra will continue to capitalize on the anti-Muslim sentiment to rally Kenyan youngsters to wage jihad. “The worst case scenario is if the government continues to rely on the hammer, on the security sector, exclusively, to deal with the threat,” says Bryden. “For the moment, we haven’t seen a sign of the government using soft power as a way of undermining jihadist groups,” he says. “If they rely solely on military policing then I’m afraid the threat will endure.”

TIME Kenya

Kenya Says Security Forces Killed 5 Mpeketoni Suspects

Another Kenyan attack has the country shaken.

With locals terrified after a brutal attack earlier this week, Kenyan officials say they found and killed several suspects. The attacks that killed at least 60 people happened as the town of Mpeketoni held a World Cup viewing party Sunday. This marks the deadliest attack in Kenya since the Nairobi mall attack attacks in September.

About 50 armed gunman attacked a police station this past Sunday, taking the town by surprise. The gunman then went door to door, pulling individuals from their homes, and demanding to know who was Muslim, before executing countless people.

TIME Kenya

A Militant Group Rears Its Head in Kenya Again

A member of the Kenyan security forces observes the remains of vehicles destroyed by militants, in the village of Kibaoni just outside the town of Mpeketoni, about 60 miles from the Somali border on the coast of Kenya, June 16, 2014.
A member of the Kenyan security forces observes the remains of vehicles destroyed by al-Shabab militants in the coastal town of Mpeketoni, about 100 km (60 miles) from the Somali border, on June 16, 2014 AP

The country becoming breeding ground for al-Shabab

While the Kenyan government deliberates, al-Shabab has claimed responsibility for attacks on a coastal town that killed 48 people Sunday evening. Al-Shabab, a Somali militant group with links to al-Qaeda, said on Twitter on Monday afternoon that the Mpeketoni attack was “retaliation for Muslim clerics killed in Mombasa,” indicating a growing terrorism threat in Kenya as Western governments are warning their citizens to stay away.

The attack was brutal in its familiarity. In 2010 in Kampala, Uganda, al-Shabab detonated two bombs that killed 74 people watching the World Cup final. Four years later, two minibuses stormed into Mpeketoni carrying gunman who began shooting, aiming at spectators watching the World Cup. Sunday’s battle continued through the night, marking Kenya’s worst violence since al-Shabab gunmen stormed the luxurious Westgate Mall in Nairobi last year, killing 67 people.

Kenya, next door to war-torn Somalia, is being described by the U.S. government as a breeding ground for al-Shabab, an organization actively targeting U.S. citizens, buildings and businesses in Kenya — and possibly on American soil.

“The extremist presence in Kenya is very, very worrying because of the concentration of potential targets,” says Lauren Ploch Blanchard, specialist in African affairs at the Congressional Research Service, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington, D.C. She points out that Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, is home to many U.S. diplomats, aid organizations and companies, including Google and IBM. “The worst case scenario is another Westgate or worse, a 1998 embassy bombing or an attack on a Western plane, you’ve got no end of Western targets there,” she says.

Despite ramping up security, Kenya has seen a string of al-Shabab-related bombings and shootings in the past year, some connected to interchurch rivalries. Six days ago, gunmen killed Sheik Mohamed Idris, a popular moderate Muslim cleric who spoke out against the radical preachings of al-Shabab. Idris’ death followed that of a handful of high-profile preachers aligned with al-Shabab, whose deaths sparked deadly riots in the coastal town of Mombasa.

In May, the U.S. government joined the U.K. in issuing travel advisories to Kenya, warning of increased risks of a terrorist attack. On Monday, American Marines were reportedly stationed on the roof of the U.S. embassy in Nairobi.

Less than 24 hours after the attack took place, questions remain about the motive. Al-Shabab, usually the first to broadcast news of their attacks over radio or Twitter, did not take responsibility for the attack at first, prompting speculation the shooting was caused by an ethnic-based territorial dispute.

In its latest news conference, the Kenyan government did not say al-Shabab was directly to blame, referring to the attackers as an “unknown number of armed militia.” At an emergency briefing convened in Nairobi on Monday afternoon, Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku said armed men fled into the forest after a “fierce exchange of fire” with Kenyan security forces. “The red line has been crossed,” he said, adding the government is committed to dealing with “political incitement” and “ethnic profiling.”

Kenyans are frustrated their government is unable to identify the perpetrators and protect them from attacks. “We are so shocked and traumatized, of course we are in fear, we are scared to go into malls,” says Classin Omulo, 21-year-old student at the Kenya Polytechnic University College, in Nairobi. “You know, our President of our Republic, he was the one talking about security on the television, and the next thing in the morning we wake up to an attack,” says Omulo’s friend, 24-year-old Victor Kutswa. “It makes us think our security is not yet good.”

But the terror is unlikely to go away anytime soon, says Blanchard. “I think we were sort of all expecting some sort of attacks around the World Cup,” she said, “I don’t know if this will be the last.”

TIME Internet

The Internet As a Human Right

An audacious idea whose time has come

Kosta Grammatis likes to think big.

In 2011, around the time of the Arab Spring, Grammatis grew frustrated at the ways governments can pull the plug on people’s Internet access as a form of social and political control. He wanted to figure out how to circumvent political and physical obstacles and bring digital media to anywhere it was otherwise unavailable. He and some colleagues set out to buy a satellite from a bankrupt company and use it to beam connectivity to places like Tunisia. That plan turned out to be harder to realize than to it was to imagine.

But Grammatis, a web evangelist, is a true believer in the good things that can happen in a more interconnected world. He recalibrated his thinking to rely less on expensive orbital technology and more on working with established communications and financial institutions.

But the idea remains big. His new startup, Oluvus — i.e., “all of us” — remains focused on wiring the entire planet and bringing free Internet to the five billion people who do not have access.

In the video above, Grammatis tells the story of how he got where he is now and why this time, the odds of success look good.

 

TIME Kenya

Kenyan Red Cross: Nairobi Blasts Injure At Least 10

The explosions occurred near a popular market in the country's capital as British vacationers were being evacuated due to high terror threat from Al Shabaab extremist group

Explosions in Nairobi injured as many as 10 people on Friday, the Kenya Red Cross said, as European tourists were being evacuated from Kenya due to a high terror threat. At least four people were killed in the twin blasts, the Associated Press reports.

The Kenyan National Disaster Operations Center tweeted that the explosions occurred near a popular Nairobi market.

No group has yet taken responsibility for the bombings, although Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta issued a vague statement about “terrorism” after the blasts.

“Many countries are faced with this particular problem (terrorism). All of us must be united to ensure that we fight it,” reads the statement, posted by the International Business Times. “We will do what we can as a government. We in Kenya, are committed to this fight and we urge Kenyans to work with us.”

Friday’s attack happened as British tourists in the country were being urged to leave due to a high terror threat from Somali extremist group al-Shabab, particularly along the Kenya-Somali border and in areas in Nairobi.

TIME Kenya

Kenyan President Signs Polygamy Law

BELGIUM-EU-AFRICA-SUMMIT
Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta arrives for the 4th EU-Africa summit on April 2, 2014 AFP/Getty Images

The bill, which allows men to marry a second or third woman without their first wife's consent, has received backlash from various women's groups

Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta signed a bill into law Tuesday that makes it legal for men to marry multiple women, even if it is without their wife’s consent.

“Marriage is the voluntary union of a man and a woman, whether in a monogamous or polygamous union,” Kenyatta said in a statement, the AFP reports.

The bill, which amended previous marriage legislation, was passed by the Kenyan parliament in late March following heated late-night debates that inspired female members of parliament to storm out of the room. While the original bill allowed women to have veto power over their husband’s additional spouses, male members of parliament moved to have that clause removed.

“When you marry an African woman, she must know the second one is on the way, and a third wife,” MP Junet Mohammed told the house during the debates, adding, “This is Africa.”

Capital FM reported that female MP Sopian Tuya responded, “We know that men are afraid of women’s tongues more than anything else, but at the end of the day if you are the man of the house, and you choose to bring on another party (and they may be two or three) I think it behooves you to be man enough to agree that your wife and family should know.”

Although proponents of the bill say that this formalizes an already common practice throughout Kenya, many women’s groups have objected to the bill and Kenya’s Federation of Women Lawyers says that it will challenge the law.

Women can not marry more than one man.

[AFP]

 

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