KENYA

Kenyan restaurant bans black Africans after 5pm

The rule at the creatively-named Chinese Restaurant in Nairobi was simple: after 5pm, no black Africans could enter the premises. Since the Daily Nation newspaper first reported this shocking story on Monday, Kenyans have taken to social media to express their outrage. Much of the anger has been directed at Kenya’s rapidly growing Chinese community.

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Senator Mike Sonko posted this picture of himself with a friend to try and stem anti-Chinese sentiment following the #Racistrestaurant incident.

The rule at the creatively-named Chinese Restaurant in Nairobi was simple: after 5pm, no black Africans could enter the premises. Since the Daily Nation newspaper first reported this shocking story on Monday, Kenyans have taken to social media to express their outrage. Much of the anger has been directed at Kenya’s rapidly growing Chinese community.

Esther Zhao, a manager with the Chinese Restaurant, said that the measure had been taken for security reasons, especially after the dining establishment was held up by armed robbers in 2013. She also mentioned rising terrorist threats in the capital.

“We don’t admit Africans that we don’t know because you never know who is Al-Shabaab and who isn’t,” Zhao told the Nairobi News. “It is not like it is written on somebody’s face that they are a thug armed with a gun.”

Zhao also said that the restaurant’s primarily Chinese clientele (the menus are written exclusively in Chinese) felt “more comfortable” without Africans. This policy apparently resulted in the banning of several black African VIPs, including the former Cabinet Secretary for the Interior Joseph ole Lenku, and former education secretary and presidential candidate Joseph ole Kiyiapi.

The restaurant has since apologised for its comments and its policy, but it hasn’t quelled the storm of angry posts on social media under the hashtag #RacistRestaurant (and, to a lesser extent, #NoBlacksHere.)

Many of the tweets include stigmas about Chinese.

These racist, anti-Chinese tweets resulted in a response from Nairobi senator Mike Sonko.

"I don't agree with them using security as an excuse for discrimination, but in Kenya security is something to consider when selecting a restaurant"

Mikul Shah is the founder and CEO of EatOut Kenya, the first online restaurant guide in the country. Eatout has reviewed over 1500 restaurants in the capital. Shah also publishes Yummy, Kenya’s first foodie magazine. At the time of the interview, the Eatout team was working on an investigation into the incident.

We've not come across blatant racism before. There have been many reported incidents of alleged racism in restaurants, but sometimes bad service is interpreted as racism. It is also a well known fact that local tipping culture does not exist. You often find that waiting staff are more eager to serve expats and tourists with the hope of receiving a bigger tip.

There are several Chinese restaurants that have opened to cater for the influx of Chinese expats in the country. Some of the owners do not speak English and so the clients would not be typical EatOut customers. I would say the clientele would be Chinese, although the higher end establishments cater for everyone.

I don't agree with them using security as an excuse for discrimination, though I do have to say that security in Kenya is and has always been a concern and definitely something to consider when selecting a restaurant.

Ten years ago, there were hardly any Chinese restaurants in Kenya. Now, there are more than 40 in the capital alone, according to a 2013 report by Business Daily Africa. This is a reflection of both a rise in the culture of dining out and also a rise in Kenya’s Chinese population.

As if the allegations of racism were not enough, inspectors found that the Chinese restaurant was operating without numerous licenses and in violation of health codes. The Nairobi County government announced Tuesday that the restaurant would be closed, but not before NTV reporter Dennis Okari found some gross-looking dog legs in the kitchen.

Okari also spoke to restaurant staff who alleged that the restaurant also rented rooms to clients for quick sex romps. 

Post written with FRANCE 24 journalist Brenna Daldorph (@brennad87)