This young Kenyan chess champion wants to take her moves abroad. The bureaucracy is keeping her in check.

Published: 12/Août/2019
Source: Washington Post

By Max Bearak

MUKURU KWA NJENGA, Kenya —  With a nonchalance only teenagers have, the 13-year-old shook out the contents of a tote bag onto the table in the one-room shack she shares with her grandmother. Certificates and medals tumbled out.

Sarah Momanyi has won national chess championships for her age bracket two years running.

The slum where she lives, Mukuru kwa Njenga, is one of the grittiest in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. It makes headlines for cholera outbreaks, gang battles, prostitution rings and the city government’s constant threats to raze it. It is built on a wasteland between two industrial zones. Every alleyway is lined by two open gutters.

Sarah’s achievements come despite both her parents’ absence in her life. Her grandmother, who raised her, said her own daughter is an alcoholic with severe tuberculosis and that she tried to sell Sarah as an infant to buy her next fix.


Invitations have rolled in for continental and even global championships in places such as China. This year’s African Youth Chess Championship in Namibia is just a few months away.

But she has had to turn down every invitation, and not for lack of support from the charity that sends her to school. She’s stuck because she’s facing an opponent tougher than anyone who has sat across the chessboard from her: Kenya’s stifling bureaucracy.

Like about 35 percent of Kenyans, Sarah doesn’t have a proper birth certificate. It means she can’t access almost any public services, let alone procure a passport.

Read full article at Washington Post website.

Themes: Acquisition par les enfants, Apatridie, Cartes d’identité et passeports, Enregistrement des naissances, Pièces d'identité
Regions: Kenya
Year: 2019