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Tuesday, January 2nd, 2018


Power-hungry strongmen give Africa a bitter taste of liberty

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With the start of a new year, I have found myself increasingly thinking about my motherland continent: “Africa My Africa”. “Africa My Africa” is the title of a famous poem by a famous poet – David Diop – a French West African negritudist, who was born in Southern France. It is one of the poems that have stayed with me since my high school days, when I read the poem for the first time and have forever been touched by its nostalgic sentimentality.

Diop died young (1927–1960), but his poetry rings so true today, just like it did when it was written in the early years of the 19th century. Allow me to quote its touching provocative first stanza:

Africa my Africa/Africa of proud warriors in ancestral savannah/Africa of whom my grandmother sings/On the brinks of the distant river…..your blood flows in my veins/Your beautiful black blood that irrigates the fields/The blood of your sweat/The sweat of your work…
Africa the beloved continent had a tumultuous 2017. It is the year that started with a whimper and ended with a bang – as it were.


Who would have imagined the Zimbabweans at the eleventh hour of the 11th month would ferret away their imposing despot, a permanent signature who had sworn before the political gods that he would rule the great Zimbabwe even when he was six feet under? But lo and behold, what happened? What happened can only be described as the mighty fall of a political juggernaut who had once come to believe in his infallibility.

Since the fall of President Robert Gabriel Mugabe (Comrade Bob), some of my compatriots have been sceptical, even cynical. “But what is the difference between Emmerson (Dambudzo) Mnangagwa (ED) and Robert Mugabe?” ED is Comrade Bob’s former vice-president, now president. And that is where they miss the point. After 37 years of Comrade Bob’s mercurial and oftentimes imperialistic rule, many Zimbabweans erroneously came to believe that to eject Mugabe was akin to uprooting the great ruins of Monomotapa. It was an impossible feat. The truth of the matter is Zimbabweans had resigned to fate and were just waiting for Mugabe to die. When a window of opportunity offered itself, Zimbabweans seized it and run away with it. Historical moments are made of this.


Liberia, the small West African nation, had been wrought by war for the better part of the 1990s. But who would have imagined that one day in the month of December in the year 2017, George Weah, a footballer of no mean feat, would one day triumph on the electoral political field, just like he had done on the football field?

Weah, whose footballing exploits are legendary, was to become even more legendary, when for a period of time, he took it upon himself to bankroll the national football team of Liberia from his own pocket, money he earned as a professional football player in Europe.

When he won the presidential election contest on the second round, defeating former Vice-President Joseph Boakai, with a majority vote of more than 60 per cent, it was a testament that it had been just a matter of time before he ascended to the highest office of the land in Liberia.
Weah’s first attempt at the presidency was in 2005, when he lost to the first ever woman African president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Liberia has become a country of firsts in Africa. While Sirleaf was the first female president, Weah becomes the first footballer to be elected president in Africa. It was also the first time since 1944 that Liberia had experienced a smooth transition of power, signalling a forward match that if not interrupted by power mongers, should propel Liberia to greater heights of economic and political progress and stability.


Thirdly, in Africa’s economically most powerful nation, South Africa, the African National Congress (ANC) held its national party elections last month and elected what many South Africans – as indeed many Africans – see as a man who should steer the rainbow nation away from runaway corruption.

Cyril Ramaphosa’s defeat of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was interpreted as a victory over sleaze that has defined President Jacob Zuma’s reign of “state capture” by inimical corrupt forces that seems to have overturned and overwhelmed Zuma’s presidency. Zuma has been South African president since 2009.

Yet, Africa is a continent of great paradoxes: It makes three steps forward, only to make three steps backward. On New Year’s Day 2018, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had to remind Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) President Joseph Kabila to honour the memorandum of understanding he committed himself to, with Catholic clerics telling him to vacate power, with his term having ended at the beginning of the year after he indefinitely postponed the presidential elections.


Kabila, a young man of 46, younger than the just elected Liberian president George Weah, 51, has caught the African presidential disease of old tinpot dictators like Yoweri Kaguta Museveni of Uganda, Comrade Bob of Zimbabwe, Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo and Cameroon’s Paul Biya. The disease called “presidentialmiasis” is a condition that infects African men who ascend to presidential positions, then realise they cannot do without them.

Museveni, on New Year’s Day, addressed the nation and among the highlights of his speech was to thank the Ugandan parliament for removing presidential term limits. Museveni’s ideas on African leadership — the less said about them the better. Suffice it to say, after ruling Uganda for 31 years, Museveni’s claim to continued presidency is at best cocky and spurious. Now 73, Museveni’s life presidency ambitions could not be achieved unless and until he tampered with the constitution. To make sure parliament toed the line, during the choreographed debate on the age limit, he would send his presidential guards right inside the precincts of the house to beat up recalcitrant MPs who were not dancing to his rap song.


His former comrade at arms, President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, mid last year took Rwandans through a rigmarole of a referendum to effectively change the constitution so that he can rule the tiny Great Lakes nation indefinitely.

Filip Reyntjens, the Belgian expert on Rwanda, has pointed out that Rwanda is a dictatorship that might lead the country to exploding again: “My concern is Rwanda will explode again,” said Reyntjens in July last year. Journalist Anjan Sundaram, who worked in Rwanda for five years, in his book Bad News, lends credence to Reyntjens’s assertion, saying donor money helps fuel repression: “Rwandans benefit from aid on condition they do not criticize the Rwanda government.” David Himbara, the former principal private secretary, says Kagame runs Rwanda like fiefdom.

Although Kenya held two general elections in a space of two and half months, the country is as polarized as it was in December 2007, when a general election was first openly bungled, leading to social upheaval in parts of the country. The first election was held on August 8, 2017, which was overturned by the Supreme Court. In the repeat on October 26, 2017, a third of the electorate participated countrywide, with four counties not participating at all.

Predictions on how a particular year will pan out are usually a deadpan guesswork. I will not pretend to make any concerning Africa’s political trajectory. So, I will end with Diop’s last stanza, which says: “That is your Africa springing anew/Springing up patiently, obstinately/Whose fruit bit by bit acquires/The bitter taste of liberty.”

NTSA night travel ban bites as hundreds stranded

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Travellers, who included students, were for the second day stranded following the ban on night travel by the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA).

This, as pressure mounted on the government to disband the authority after leaders accused it of incompetence and failure to rein in rogue road users, who have been blamed for the increased deaths.

Travellers in western Kenya, North Rift, Nakuru, Mombasa and Central region towns also complained of increased costs as they were forced to spend more than they had planned in search for food and accommodation.

Students were not spared as they had to scramble for the few vehicles available, most which had raised their fares almost to double the normal rates.

This forced parents to dig deeper into their pockets while others opted to pay owners of private vehicles to take their children to school.

Matatu owners in Nakuru Tuesday threatened to sue the NTSA for issuing the directive without consulting them, leading to heavy losses.

Mr James Munene, the manager of North Rift Shuttle-Nakuru branch, said more than 500 passengers were stranded as they had already started their journeys from various points by the time NTSA issued the directive.

A student seeking to travel upcountryA student seeking to travel upcountry was also among travellers at Easy Coach bus terminus on January 2, 2018. Most buses were booked and with the NTSA ban on night travel, travelling has been a nightmare for many travellers. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

“Our passengers travelling from Malaba to Nairobi and other places that require a minimum of seven hours travel were forced to spend their night on the roads because the directive was issued after they had begun their journey,” said Mr Munene.

In western Kenya, a spot check in most schools in Kisumu County revealed a low turnout due to the crisis and confusion on the opening dates.

School head teachers attributed the low turnout to the transport crisis and confusion regarding the opening date.


At Pandpieri Primary School Tuesday, head teacher Veronica Otieno said compared to other opening dates, the turn out was a bit low but she expressed confidence that all pupils would report by the end of the week.

“We are receiving calls from parents asking if indeed the schools are opening today,” said Ms Otieno.

Meanwhile, Kakamega Central education officer Jane Mutange said the ban on night travel had disrupted transport services making it difficult for students to report to school as planned.

Passengers at Transline terminus in Nairobi Passengers ponder their next move at Transline terminus in Nairobi on January 2, 2018. Available vehicles were fully booked creating a crisis. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

“We are expecting reports from respective head teachers on the reopening of schools before the end of the day,” said Ms Mutange on Tuesday.

Elsewhere, West Pokot Governor John Lonyangapuo took issue with the national government over the poor state of roads which he claimed contributed to the upsurge in crashes.

“Apart from shortcomings by the NTSA, most of these roads need to be repaired and expanded to accommodate the increased number of vehicles,” said Prof Lonyangapuo.


And to reduce accidents on notorious routes, the National Assembly Transport Committee chairman, Mr David Pkosing, proposed the diversion of heavy trucks off Nakuru-Eldoret and Kisumu highways as a temporary solution to the high number of road accidents.

“What we need to do now is ensure that the heavy trucks use the Molo and Eldama Ravine diversions. That way we reduce the number of trucks using the dangerous spots on our highways,” he told Nation.

Students who failed to secure means of transport to school feared missing their Continuous Assessment Tests that mark the beginning of the term.

Drivers said that the government should invest in reconstructing the Salgaa-Migaa-Total stretch in order to reduce accidents.

Business people who were caught up in the embargo feared that their goods would go bad as their stay on the roads was lengthened.

Ms Mary Omondi, who was stranded with her sack of cabbages at Mololine stage in Nakuru, complained that she might incur losses as the cabbages had stayed in the sack for long.


In Kisii, operators increased fares as some buses charged between Sh1,500 and Sh2,000 for a single trip to Nairobi, up from the usual Sh900.

Travellers in Kakamega were stranded at bus termini for several hours due lack of transport to their destinations and fare increase.

Some travellers had slept at the bus stage hoping to catch the early morning buses to Nairobi but could not raise the Sh2,500 fare for the trip.

In Migori County, few students and teachers reported to school.

Travellers in Mombasa continued to suffer due to the impact of night travel ban as buses remained fully booked until next week.

An official at Modern Coast said all buses left in the morning and added that their vehicles had been booked until January 11.

At Mwembe Tayari bus stage, many passengers especially students were stranded due to lack of transport.

 Reports by Victor Otieno, Collins Omulo, Benson Amadala, Magati Obebo, Elisha Otieno, Vivere Nandiemo, Geoffrey Rono, Barnabas Bii, Oscar Kakai and Gerald Bwisa, Eunice Murathe, Grace Gitau and Winnie Atieno. 

Experts meet to determine fate of bold school reforms

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Will there, or will there not, be a new education curriculum? That was the question on the minds of Kenyans last evening as education experts prepared to meet Wednesday at a special conference to determine, among other things, the Ministry of Education’s preparedness to roll out ambitious reforms in the sector.

There were indications Tuesday that the launch of the new curriculum could be pushed forward to next year to allow for, among others, training of all teachers and printing of teaching materials.

Stakeholders in the education sector have previously pointed out major gaps that need to be closed before the new curriculum is implemented. Among them are lack of training materials to guide the curriculum, failure to involve all stakeholders, and failure to train teachers.

Wednesday’s National Steering Committee on Curriculum Reforms meeting, therefore, comes amidst confusion in the education sector as to whether to stick to the old curriculum or wait for direction on the new syllabus.

And, as schools re-opened Tuesday after a two-month break, parents and teachers were conflicted on what materials to buy and what to prepare for classwork.

At various bookshops in the country, parents queued to buy textbooks and other learning materials for the current curriculum, but said they feared a new directive from the ministry could force them back to the shops in a matter of days, if not hours.

Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i will chair this morning’s conference, which will also be attended by officials from the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) and Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut).

The 36-member National Steering Committee on Curriculum Reforms was launched last year by Dr Matiang’i to oversee and guide reforms in the sector, and yesterday KICD director Julius Jwan told Nation that the institution will present a report on the new, competency-based curriculum today before the team reaches a final decision on its implementation.


“We presented the report on our preparedness on the implementation of the curriculum to the Ministry of Education,” said Dr Jwan, “and we shall be presenting the same report during the meeting.”

The planned roll-out of the new syllabus has been largely clouded in uncertainty since the last quarter of 2017, even though the Ministry of Education has spent a fortune readying its officers to oversee the transition. More than 170,000 teachers were scheduled to be trained last month in readiness for the launch this term. Those targeted for the training were teachers handling pupils from nursery school to Standard Three.

The proposed system will replace the current 8-4-4 curriculum, introduced in schools in 1985. The current system, whose fate could be sealed today, is based on eight years of primary school, four years of secondary school, and four years of university.

The new system, according to KICD, places more emphasis on continuous assessment tests (CATs) over one-off examinations.


Every teacher is required to keep a record of each pupil’s performance and skills as these will be used in the entire education lifetime — from lower primary level through secondary school and university — to determine the learner’s key competencies.

It is expected to be rolled out in nursery school up to Standard Three this year, Standard Four to Six in 2019, Standard Seven, Eight and Form One in 2020. In 2021, the system will be extended to Form Two only, in the following year it will cover Form Three, and in 2023 it will be rolled out in Form Four.

The last time Kenyan students are expected to sit the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education Examination (KCSE), according to KICD, is in 2025 through a careful phasing-out programme, after which the new system takes over completely. Instead of the current Standard One to Form Four, the new system will have Grade 1 to 12.

The Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development says the syllabus was developed by a team of experts that relied on a needs assessment study conducted countrywide.


The study on early childhood development, primary and secondary education, and special needs education was undertaken in January 2016, and the findings were disseminated on March 30 the same year.

The proposed Basic Education Curriculum Framework was presented to stakeholders for adoption on January 30 last year, and this formed the basis of the new curriculum design.

Soon after, the KICD Course Panel and Academic Committee approved the Pre-Primary 1 and 2, Grade 1, 2 and 3 that was used for the pilot presided over by Dr Matiang’i on April 21 last year.

Dr Jwan has previously said that the proposed curriculum is ambitious, futuristic and in tune with global trends. Many countries, he says, have adopted such a competency-based, learner-focussed approach as academics move to make education more competitive globally.

But Tuesday, Knut secretary-general Wilson Sossion said, whether good or needing some fine-tuning, the new curriculum should be postponed as teachers are hardly prepared to implement it.

“We will attend the meeting (Wednesday) and our message to the national steering committee will be: ‘Let’s push the timelines,’” he said. “We need to engage each other more and come up with a good curriculum that will benefit our children.”

Mr Sossion also cited failure by the Ministry of Education and KICD to involve stakeholders and the public before the decision was made as one a deterrent. Booksellers across the country have complained that they were never informed in time and are making huge losses due to dead stock.

The Knut secretary-general on Sunday told the Nation that “the period of piloting was too short”. His concerns, and those of hundreds of thousands of parents and their children in the country, will be the focus in today’s special conference.

Here are the seven issues likely to hit headlines in 2018

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It’s 2018, finally, and Kenyans are settling in to the humdrum grind of daily life. But as the year progresses, several news events are likely to remain a constant, at least until June. Nation looked at some of the personalities and issues that are likely to shape conversations in the country this year. Here are the seven news events to keep an eye on:

1. Raila Odinga/Nasa’s future

National Super Alliance (Nasa) leader Raila Odinga has started 2018 much the same way he ended 2017 — in suspense. Much as he declared that his coalition would not recognise the outcome of the October 26 presidential election, the former Prime Minister has largely remained silent, creating suspense in the national social, political and economic psyche.

He insists he will be sworn in, and possibly run a parallel government, if President Uhuru Kenyatta does not cede to calls for national dialogue.

Because of his own clamour to be sworn in, Mr Odinga is likely to shape political events in the new year.

The plan to swear in Mr Odinga got a boost towards the end of last December when his running mate Kalonzo Musyoka, upon returning home from a long sojourn in Germany, declared that he would participate in the planned oath if there is no genuine national dialogue.

Mr Odinga’s next step, whatever it will be, will make headlines for the better part of 2018. In his Christmas message, Mr Odinga promised his supporters that he would take oath as the people’s president “very early in the new year” or call for self-determination — in what might mean an escalation of the push for secession.

In his New Year message, Mr Odinga heightened his message when he said Nasa would unveil a civil disobedience programme if the Jubilee government persists in undermining calls for dialogue.

Just what happens next provides  mouthwatering prospects for the news media, much as it will determine the future of Kenyan politics in the near future.

Closely related to the plans to swear in the two, is the future of the main opposition entity, Nasa. Unity among the constituent parties has lately been an issue of concern to some partners, who accuse ODM of being domineering and patronising them.

Signs of trouble emerged following the election of members to the regional assembly in Arusha and the election of chairpersons and their deputies to various committees of the National Assembly. ODM swept the leadership of all watchdog committees, to the chagrin of both Wiper and ANC.

The first cracks have emerged and how the coalition navigates this challenge will definitely make the headlines in 2018. Linked to this is the alleged plan by Jubilee Party to isolate Mr Odinga by ensuring that all his co-principals are appointed to the Cabinet.

quality of educationEducation Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

2. New education curriculum

When schools opened Tuesday for the start of the 2018 academic year, the new education system developed to replace the 8-4-4 system also set to take off and is most likely to dominate discussions and news.

The system places emphasis on continuous assessment tests (Cats) over one-off examinations. The new system replaces the current Standard One to Form Four with Grade 1 to 12.

It has been categorised into three phases: Early Years Education covering nursery education to Grade 3, Middle School Education covering Grade 4 to Grade 9 and Senior School covering Grade 10 to 12.


A National Basic Education Curriculum Framework (NBECF) implementation plan developed by the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) shows that the last Standard Eight candidates to sit the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examination will do so in 2021, while the last Form Four to sit the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examination will write the papers in 2025.

However, teachers and their unions have opposed the rush in implementation of the new system and called for systematic implementation of the programme. Knut has threatened legal or industrial action if the government does not shelve proposals contained in the new curriculum. It has demanded that the rollout be deferred to pave the way for “intensive and extensive” consultations.

Kuppet has announced it will use all means to influence the National Assembly to halt the implementation of the new system until all contentious issues are addressed.

3.Leadership wrangles in counties.

As the first-term governors settle into their offices, a number of the regional governments are set to witness leadership wrangles between the county chiefs and their deputies, as well as ward representatives as has been witnessed in Kisumu.

The wrangles mostly stem from a fight for control of power, tenders, jobs and resources, and could stretch to months and affect the delivery of services, just as witnessed in the first term of devolution.

Some of the deputy governors, who have previously criticised the law for assigning them secondary responsibilities, have also accused their bosses of sidelining them from decision-making in county policies. This is expected to continue in the second term of devolution.

This is while the MCAs have in the past been accused of blackmailing governors for favours such as foreign trips and kickbacks in tenders before passing legislation.

Auditor-General Auditor-General Edward Ouko.Auditor-General Auditor-General Edward Ouko. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

4.Audit reports

A number of government ministries and departments, both in the national and county levels, will be put to task to explain their expenditures as  Auditor-General Edward Ouko and  Controller of Budget Agnes Odhiambo release reports for the third quarter of the 2015/16 financial year.

The two levels of government have been faced with tough audit queries in previous reports, on expenditure on salaries and development, most of which have been flagged for exceeding the set thresholds.

The reports by Mr Ouko and Ms Odhiambo are also set to shed light on the expenditures as the country struggles to contain the ballooning wage bill blamed for eating into the development funds.

Consequently, it is through the reports that newly-sworn in governors as well as their colleagues, who were re-elected for the second term, will form the basis for hiring or freezing the appointment of new staff.

Jamhuri Day Sachangwan accident.A pick up that was involved in the crash at the Sachangwan on December 12, 2017. PHOTO | CAROLINE WAFULA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

5. Sachang’wan

The Salgaa stretch on the Nakuru-Eldoret road, which has so far claimed at least 200 lives in the past month alone, will also be an area of focus as the government seeks to rein in road carnage.

Part of the focus will be the construction of the proposed Sh500 million dual carriageway that was announced by the national government last month after 16 people died at the black spot.

According to Roads Principal Secretary John Mosonik, the construction will begin in January or February, and will take six months.

The project will be done by the Kenya National Highways Authority. The PS said bumps would be erected on the road as a temporary measure, before the expansion begins.

6.Election petitions

The Elections Act obligates courts to dispose of all petitions within six months. A total of 348 petitions drawn from all elective positions were filed after the August 8 General Election in early September and the judgments are all due before the end of February.

Already, 60 of these petitions have been concluded and rulings delivered. In these 60 cases, at least three governors have survived and 17 others await their fate. It is estimated that two or three governors may have their wins nullified by the courts.

This could open the door for by elections that could bring with them long drawn and messy campaigns as well as all manner of political shenanigans that could be a reflection of the 2022 succession politics.

Top, from left: Court of Appeal judges Jamila Mohammed, Alnashir Visram, Erastus Githinji, Roselyne Nambuye and Prof James Odek on July 20, 2017. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUPTop, from left: Court of Appeal judges Jamila Mohammed, Alnashir Visram, Erastus Githinji, Roselyne Nambuye and Prof James Odek on July 20, 2017. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

7.Court of Appeal judges

The Judicial Service Commission is expected to recruit more judges, especially at the Court of Appeal, to replace those who have either retired or been promoted to superior courts. For the past two years, five judges have retired, among them former Chief Justice Willy Mutunga, Deputy Chief Justice Kalpana Rawal and Justice Philip Tunoi of the Supreme Court.

The top three posts were filled almost immediately but JSC did not recruit judges for the country’s second highest court. Justice Isaac Lenaola is yet to be replaced in the High Court after he was promoted to the Supreme Court last year. Others who are yet to be replaced are Justice Joseph Mutava and Justice Nicholas Ombija in the same court.


At the Court of Appeal, the retirement of Justice John Mwera, Justice Anyara Emukule and Justice Festus Azangalala has left the court with only 21 judges out of the maximum 30 required in the court.

There are four Court of Appeal stations — Nairobi, Kisumu, Malindi and Nyeri. The court had a total of 3,387 pending cases by June last year, with the highest number of cases being in Nairobi. Five judges of the Court of Appeal are also between 65 and 69 years, meaning that more judges are set to retire this year.

In the recruitment, the JSC must ensure that not more than two-thirds of the members are of the same gender in compliance with the principle of regional and ethnic balance. The Constitution calls for equality, equity and ethnic and regional balancing in all public appointments. There are only seven women judges at the Court of Appeal.

Night travel ban for buses poor decision

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The transport crisis triggered by the whimsical decision to ban night travel by public service vehicles is a terrible indictment on the National Transport and Safety Authority.

With schools opening this week and workers returning to work after the vacation, that could not have come at a worse time.

As our reports indicate, hundreds of stranded travellers across the country were forced to incur huge expenses on unplanned accommodation or doomed to suffer vagaries of the weather for lack of means to their destinations.

What was billed as a panacea has morphed into a human crisis with serious economic consequences.

We have consistently argued that the problem is not night travel per se; it is much more. Neither is it lack of policies but sheer inability to enforce rules.

The main causes of the perennial road accidents are known — careless driving, mechanically faulty vehicles, overloading and the veritable corruption involving drivers, traffic police and NTSA staff.

Rules exist for PSVs operating at night. Among others, they are required to have two drivers, who exchange roles to guard against fatigue. The drivers must be properly trained while vehicles have to go for regular checks. However, these are hardly enforced.

The latest horrific crash that claimed at least 36 lives along the notorious Sachang’wan stretch was claimed to have been caused by reckless driving and a road-unworthy vehicle that was allowed to cruise past several police roadblocks, ostensibly after greasing hands.

A few days earlier, an accident was caused by a vehicle that essentially plies a Nairobi route but, at that time, was given a temporary licence under questionable circumstances to ferry passengers upcountry.

If the idea was to impose a ban, the first target should be long-distance lorries, which are involved in most of the tragic crashes. Years ago, they were outlawed from night movement. But that rule fizzled out somewhat.

The NTSA has shot itself in the foot. Together with other agencies, it must think outside the box and pursue practical solutions that can end bloodbath on the road. But it should not dig a pitch to fill a hole.

Partnerships key to sustainable health

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In the list of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), “health and well being” is listed at number three — just below “no poverty” and “zero hunger”. 

Assuming the goals are listed in order of importance, this would mean health and well being is the third-most important issue. But I must state that all the 17 goals are intricately intertwined. It is impossible, therefore, to create a sustainable and inclusive world by treating any of them with lesser attention than the others.

The SDGs of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development officially came into force on January 1, 2016, following adoption by world leaders at a historic United Nations Summit the previous September. They are designed to build on the successes of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Nations are expected to frame policies and focus their efforts around the goals to end extreme poverty and inequalities and tackle climate change while ensuring no one is left behind. A future-proof world would be one where every member country meets all its commitments by 2030.


Admittedly, progress has been slow, more so in the developing world.

Back to SDG #3. It is critical that the national and county governments, private healthcare providers and other stakeholders work in partnership to deliver.

Health and wellbeing have two critical components: The preventive and the curative. Emphasis should put on the preventive since it costs less money to prevent disease than to treat it. This relieves the burden on healthcare providers and the resources can be invested elsewhere.

Secondly, once disease attacks the body, it does not go away easily. And, despite treatment, it may recur at some point, thereby weakening the individual and compromising their contribution to the economy.

Prevention can be as simple as providing information on basic hygiene, production and preparation of nutritious foods, exercise, rest and avoiding stress. That can go a long way in preventing communicable and non-communicable diseases.


The primary duty bearer here is the government — both national and county. But businesses also have a responsibility as they can only thrive in the long term when their employees, suppliers and customers enjoy good health.

To carry out successful prevention programmes and encourage sustainable partnerships, the country needs progressive healthcare policies.

We need policies on food production (improving the quality of soils and shifting from rain-fed to irrigated agriculture), food handling, manufacturing, importation and distribution to the end consumer.

Foods that are not properly inspected by competent authorities can end up endangering lives. Also, medicinal products that enter the market through improper channels can harm users.

We also need policies around industrial complexes that emit waste into the environment, polluting it. Where strict regulations are absent, industrial complexes are wont to release untreated emissions into the atmosphere, water systems and soils, often with devastating consequences.


However, policies alone are not enough: They must be implemented professionally and without discrimination. Let the regulators do their work without being compromised.

The curative is, perhaps, the most challenging in Kenya. One of the overarching challenges is accessibility: Well-equipped public health facilities are too few compared to the need. Patients are sometimes forced to travel long distances for quality healthcare. For a generally poor population, this is a heavy burden on many. 

Often, the next available option are the privately run, profit-making facilities. But the cost is almost always out of reach for the ordinary Kenyan, making it a preserve of the few insured people.

To effectively manage the cost of healthcare, we must take it closer to the people, deal firmly with corruption and inefficiencies and build partnerships with businesses, faith-based organisations, the relevant NGOs and the people.

The people understand their needs better than anyone else and know the solutions. Any intervention, therefore, must be made with their full participation.

I am confident that we can meet SDG 3 by 2030, considering the investments that we have made over the past decade and a half. But this will require, first of all, a change in attitude by healthcare workers and the people, as well as the right leadership, investments and partnerships.

Ms Boomsma is the co-ordinator, Sustainable Inclusive Business (SIB) Kenya. @karin_boomsma.

Fishing in troubled waters of Lake Victoria

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Kenya and Uganda consider themselves as “friendly nations.” But for a long time now, there has a low-profile diplomatic tiff pitting nationals of the two countries, especially over the waters of Lake Victoria.

In Homa Bay County, for instance, fishermen say they have been detained several times by Ugandan police for allegedly fishing in foreign waters.

The row between Kenyan fishermen and Ugandan security officials has triggered accusations against the Jubilee government of laxity in protecting its territory.

Last month, 17 Kenyan fishermen were arrested in Lake Victoria and detained in Ugandan islands by security personnel. The fishermen, who were in six boats, were taken to two different islands.

Nine fishermen were detained on Riabana Island and eight on Kalangala Island, which are both located in the Ugandan side of Lake Victoria.

According to Lake Victoria Beach Management Unit Network chairman Edward Oremo, the fishermen were arrested by armed Ugandan security personnel a few kilometres from Remba Island. They were hounded into one boat.

At the local level, politicians led by Suba North MP Millie Odhiambo and her Suba South counterpart John Mbadi have accused the national government of failing to provide security to fishermen.

“It is sad that the government is watching as Ugandan security officials harass our hard working fishermen,” said Ms Odhiambo.

Mr Mbadi argued that the State might be uninterested in offering security to Lake Victoria fishermen because the region largely supports the opposition.

“The government is ignoring the harassment and arrest of Kenyan fishermen because the region is pro-opposition,” said Mr Mbadi.

Other MPs from the region who have accused the police of laxity in protecting fishermen include Tom Odege (Nyatike) and Gideon Ochanda (Bondo).


The fishermen were released after the issue created political heat. Foreign Affairs CS Amina Mohamed reportedly intervened and placed a call to her counterpart in Uganda.

But Police Inspector-General Joseph Boinnet said fishermen from both sides must respect local laws. “The law is very clear on fishing in the lake. The arrested fishermen must face the law if they are found to have broken it,” he told reporters in Mombasa.

The law might be clear… but the boundaries are not.  For years, the two countries have quarrelled over ownership of Migingo, a one-acre island in Lake Victoria.

At one point, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said the water around Migingo belongs to Kampala while the land belongs to Nairobi.

The two sides agreed to form a joint survey team to check the exact position of the island, reputed to have abundant fish.

The findings of the survey were hushed. Locals on the island still complain of harassment by Ugandan police.

In the end, both sides agreed to police the island jointly, but the issue of who owns the island was never resolved.

Still, the boundaries remain hazy. Remba Island, for example, is supposed to be in Kenyan waters, three kilometres from the supposed Ugandan border in the lake. 

But fishermen claim they have been arrested here too by Ugandan police.

“They were arrested by security personnel who were armed with rifles. They were held at two different islands,” said Mr Oremo, describing the latest incident.

After alleged torture and extortion, five fishermen who were detained at Riabana were released. Each allegedly parted with Sh11,000. Mr Oremo said friends and relatives contributed money to secure their release.

Migingo Island beach manager John Obunge said the high number of Ugandans on the island could result in chaos. “We also have low stocks of fish,” he said.

The Kenyan security team, led by Nyatike OCPD Dishon Chadaka, said they had held talks with the Ugandans and told them to go back to their country.

In another recent incident, Rural Border Patrol Police detained 19 boats belonging to Ugandan fishermen at Nambo Beach in Bondo Sub-County. 

This was after more than 80 Kenyan fishermen were arrested and detained at Sigulu Island in Uganda. They were fined Sh150,000.

The core challenges for 2018 and beyond

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Many Kenyans are happy to see the back of 2017. The endless politics replete with uncertainties, coupled with a lengthy drought, made it a tough and gruelling year.

With the election behind us and at least a modicum of rain, it is tempting to think this year will be kinder. In some ways, it may be — especially if we are not subjected to the level of adversary politics we had last year.

Certainly, the dawn of 2018 comes with raised expectations. But the latter is a double-edged sword: It puts pressure on meeting, or at least satisfying, those increased expectations. That gargantuan challenge requires action and walking the talk as opposed to a string of promises as issued last year.

Honing in on the country’s demographics helps to comprehend the heart of the challenge. Eighty per cent of the population is below 35. Over 800,000 jobseekers hit the road each year but less than 7 per cent find formal employment.


The informal sector will absorb many more but there is still a huge number of unemployed or under-employed youth. More than half of them are unemployed and the younger they are the greater the chance of unemployment.

Then there is the disparity of wealth factor. Around 62 per cent of the country’s wealth is controlled by 10,000 people. The top 10 per cent of households control around 40 per cent of the income; conversely the bottom tenth control less than 1 per cent.

But straddling the two is the dispossessed factor. Indeed, the younger you are, the more likely you are to be in the bottom 10 per cent.

The youth ‘quake’, disparity of wealth and dispossessed factors are not unique to Kenya. They surface around the world in countries as varied as Saudi Arabia and Iran — an interesting irony as the two are sworn enemies of each other.

One common thread is that the country is ultimately controlled by ruling oligarchies such as the House of Saud of Saudi Arabia or the Ayatollahs in Iran. These often elderly men live in a rarefied world that is out of touch with the bulging younger populations.

Kenya has been through an election and is, certainly, not in that league. But there are comparisons when you look at the extremes between the rulers and the subjects of that rule. 

A third factor that is prevalent both here and there is corruption. As is often the case, most people resent paying a bribe but know that they have no choice. What does this tell President Uhuru Kenyatta and his future team? He must have focused shorter- and longer-term objectives that run concurrently. In some cases, the policies will have the dual objective.

Growing the economy and increasing the space for greater creation of gainful opportunities is one. That said, it is much easier to look at the immediate and more urgent demands than focus on the longer term — and therein lies the danger.

But growing the economy must be a holistic and inclusive exercise. Of course, there must be the incentive for people to make money but it must be on a level playing field that gives equitable opportunity to all.

One of the things the next government must concentrate on is reduce the constraints to commercial and economic activity for opportunities to multiply.

It must go through the system and ease or take out the various handbrakes on letting people go about their livelihoods.

That does not mean throwing away the framework and the rules and regulations that go with it, but taking out the unnecessary impediments.

Needless to say, one of the most pervasive of the latter is corruption. The President has talked much on this, as has his outgoing government. But the facts and figures show that it is very much alive and kicking and, in some areas, increasing.  

How cash transfer programmes can improve lives of rural poor

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I have just returned to the capital city from my Christmas break at a place where my parents live — deep in rural South Nyanza in an area called West Karachuonyo.

And I find myself reflecting about the incidence of poverty in the area and debating with myself why the quality of life of rural folks doesn’t seem to improve despite the money the county and national governments keep pouring into these villages.

I am convinced that any major assault at improving the quality of life of the poor in the villages will require new ideas, fresh and bold approaches.

An American NGO called GiveDirectly has been rolling out in my village an experiment modelled on the idea known as ‘unconditional cash transfers’.

First, they conducted a quick baseline poverty survey that mainly targeted women, unemployed school drop-outs and widows. Once in the sample, one was given a free mobile phone and asked to await cash through M-Pesa.


In a matter of weeks, everybody in the sample — nearly 4,000 people — had received a total of Sh100,000. These are folks who had never handled such money before.

My mind went to what I read some years back about the achievements of one Mr Ignatio Lula da Silva.

The former president of Brazil earned international plaudits for having rolled out one of the most extensive and elaborate cash transfer programmes. He was praised for focusing the attention of the world to such programmes as a viable means of tackling poverty in the rural areas.

Although I am yet to see a comprehensive impact study of GiveDirectly in West Karachuonyo, I must admit that I am thoroughly intrigued and impressed so far.

How did these rural folks spend the money?


A good proportion went into improving their dwellings, mainly refurbishing their houses and building latrines. Some of it was spent on procuring seeds and fertiliser, buying solar lamps, purchasing motorcycle taxis and starting small businesses.

Then there are those who spent the money on defraying hospital bills and paying school fees and buying clothes for their families.

The impact on the local macro-economy was an unprecedented boom in business activity with fishermen, livestock farmers and cereals traders recording massive sales. Indeed, GiveDirectly turned out to be the biggest economic stimulus programme to be implemented in the region.

This was ‘quantitative easing’ at the rural level.

As expected, there were folks who just squandered the money on alcohol and conspicuous consumption.

The most dramatic account is of the village wag — a chap by the name Ogony from Pala Market — who would ride his newly acquired motorbike around the village with one-thousand-shilling notes pinned all over his shirt to brag and show off his new status.


Still, the experiment by GiveDirectly has demonstrated that well-targeted cash transfer programmes can substantially improve the lives of many poor people in rural villages.

I plan to write a book about the impact of this intriguing experiment in West Karachuonyo under the title, Hand-outs that caused development.

I want to challenge county governments and Constituency Development Fund (CDF) boards to give serious thought to well- targeted, evidence-based cash transfer programmes where beneficiaries are vetted transparently.

After all, where do the billions allocated to CDFs every year end up? What can county governments claim to have achieved in terms of improving the quality of life of the rural poor?

As you visit villages throughout the country, what you see are incomplete rural dispensaries, half-finished sports stadiums, haphazardly designed foot bridges and stalled cattle dips.

As a people, we suffer from an attitude that equates rural development with concrete and buildings. We will raise millions of shillings to build cattle dips without bothering about the money for chemicals and maintenance.

We are always more than willing to raise money to fund capital expenditure — build churches , dining halls and classrooms — without bothering about where funds for recurrent expenditure will come from.

Many rural health centres provide shoddy services to the poor simply because not enough nurses have been posted there. Neither are medicines supplied adequately to these beautifully designed structures.

History will record that the gravest mistake successive Kenyan governments made was to invest far less in human beings — cash transfers, nutrition and public health — than in brick and mortar.

Questions abound as SportPesa cancels sponsorships

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The question of just how much money SportPesa is making from gaming activities Tuesday came to the fore as the giant betting company made good their threat to withdraw its commitment to all local sponsorships.

SportPesa chief executive officer Ronald Karauri faced a salvo of questions from journalists wanting him to address the common belief that the company is making obscene profits, especially in the Kenyan chapter, hence the need to increase the tax rate.

Karauri, who cut a dejected figure as he delivered the news of their decision, deflected by saying that it shouldn’t be about how much money the company makes, but about whether or not it can “continue to sustain the existing sponsorships under the new tax law.” He also clarified boldly that the company will not be withdrawing its operations in Kenya, although he noted that a restructuring of its marketing budgets is now inevitable.

“To end all speculation, we have effectively cancelled all sponsorships with Football Kenya Federation, (Harambee Stars coach) Paul Put, (assistant coach) Andreas Spiers, Kenya Premier League, Kenya Rugby Union, Gor Mahia, AFC Leopards, Nakuru All Stars, Boxing Federation and the Super 8 grassroots tournament,” he said.


Karauri said that contrary to media reports, no government official had reached out to him for consultation, and he issued a passionate appeal to government to rethink the matter.

“The Sports Fund is a good idea, but in no country in the world has a government been able to support sports entirely. We hope the government will sufficiently manage the funds and propel sports to the next level.

“I still believe there is hope, and as the chairman of the Association of Gaming Operators in Kenya, I request government to sit down with me so that we can come up with a more amicable solution,” he said.

The withdrawal from sponsorship takes effect immediately, as clubs had already been issued with notices of intent to withdraw in June last year.


SportPesa are major partners of national sporting bodies Kenya Rugby Union, Football Kenya Federation and Boxing Association of Kenya.

They are also shirt sponsors of the glob-trotting Kenya sevens rugby team and official partners of top football clubs Gor Mahia (Sh300 million over five years) and AFC Leopards (Sh225 million over five years). SportPesa are also the official sponsors of National Super League side Nakuru All Stars and their withdrawal will particularly hit the Kenyan Premier League hard, as the already struggling league clubs will have to take huge cuts in their annual grants.

The company’s withdrawal has been precipitated by a High Court ruling delivered by Justice John Mativo last week upholding the new tax laws that require betting, lotteries and gaming to pay 35 per cent tax.

The Bulgarian-owned company has, however, issued a notice to appeal against the High Court’s judgment, saying that the increased tax rate is in breach of Article 201 of the Constitution which demands the public finance system promotes an equitable society where the tax burden shall be shared fairly.