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Thursday, January 4th, 2018

 

The problem with national talks, from the horses’ mouths

By NATION TEAM
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Jubilee and National Super Alliance leaders have hit a deadlock on the much anticipated national dialogue to end the political stand-off brought about by last year’s bitterly contested elections.

And even before the two sides open channels of communication in an effort to heal the wounds created by the polls, politicians from both sides are already dismissing each other’s agenda for the proposed talks that are being pushed by diplomats, the Church and the business community.

On Thursday, American ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec said the Opposition coalition and the ruling Jubilee should give national dialogue a chance, noting that discussions between the two sides on the structure of the talks are ongoing.

But his assertion that talks were ongoing was immediately disputed by politicians from both Nasa and Jubilee, in a classic example of what happens when parties cannot trust each other, and how far political henchmen would go to protect their turfs. Kenyans, unfortunately, are caught in the middle.

JUDICIAL DIALOGUE

Interviews with politicians from across the political divide reveal a fractured, fidgety approach to the conversation about electoral and judicial dialogue, with either side arguing that the other wants to scam the process.

Jubilee majority leader in the National Assembly, Mr Aden Duale, said he cannot understand the motivation for dialogue yet the electioneering period is already behind Kenyans.

“Kenyans long picked their leaders,” he said. “What else does somebody want us to dialogue over? If we must talk with the opposition, it must be about achieving universal healthcare, affordable housing, food security and manufacturing. Nothing else.”

Mr Duale held that when the opposition took up positions in parliamentary committees and minority and whip positions, it inadvertently recognised Mr Kenyatta’s win.

But Kitui Senator Enoch Wambua, who is a close ally of Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka, the Nasa running mate in the August 8 presidential elections, said such talks must be on electoral justice, and that its agenda must be sanctioned by Mr Odinga and Mr Musyoka.

ELECTORAL JUSTICE

“In the event of such talks, we will insist on achieving electoral justice, not a boardroom deal. We are not interested in anusu mkate (coalition government) arrangement. We want talks that will return victory to its rightful owners — Raila and Kalonzo,” he said.

These positions point to a stillbirth at the negotiating table as neither side trusts the other, and so the environment does not give room for agreement on the talks agenda.

Jubilee party vice-chairman David Murathe said President Kenyatta has been very clear that he wants healing, inclusion and focus on his four pillars to deliver to Kenyans, and “if there is need for any dialogue, it will be directly with the people”.

“Nasa is having dialogue directly with their people’s assemblies, na hata sisi tutaongea na wananchi (we will also engage the public directly),” he said, posing: “Who said we must sit around a table with a few select people?”

Mr Murathe said Nasa has tried hard to “externalise” the political tussle. “They were even calling for the United Nations to supervise elections and we refused. We said as long as these are Kenyan issues, only Kenyans will solve them.”

WISHFUL THINKING

He dismissed those pushing for dialogue between Nasa and Jubilee as “busybodies”, adding: “The envoys have talked to the clergy, the private sector, and even Raila and his team. I do not know whether the President is in the loop, but I know there are people imagining that there will be a caucus in terms of dialogue. That is wishful thinking.”

He said the diplomatic community has no business minding Kenya’s internal affairs.

“If Kenyans need international participation, it will have to follow the correct channels, and the right channel is for Raila to talk directly to Uhuru and suggest the areas they need to tackle. But to get stuck like a broken record singing the same electoral justice tune… what is election justice? When they win?”

Mr Godec had earlier in the day said that “dialogue is important”, and that “the country must be as strong and united as possible”.

MOVE FORWARD

“The elections are over,” he continued during a meeting with Senate Speaker Ken Lusaka and majority leader Kipchumba Murkomen at Parliament Buildings in Nairobi, where they also discussed the promotion of devolution. “They are now behind Kenyans. It is now time to move forward.”

As a result of the impasse, the opposition coalition National Super Alliance said it will swear in Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka as president and deputy president, respectively, this month.

Their plans to swear in Mr Odinga and Mr Musyoka are informed, in part, by what the coalition terms as President Kenyatta’s “intransigence” for a structured dialogue. Other plans to push for reforms include a series of protests, civil disobedience, and unveiling of a people’s assembly.

ODM executive director Oduor Ong’wen said in Nairobi on Thursday that Mr Odinga and Mr Musyoka have formed, and are set to unveil, an assumption to office committee that will work on the modalities of their swearing-in ceremony, tentatively set for the end of January.

Reporting by Ibrahim Oruko, David Mwere, Justus Wanga and Wanjohi Githae


Education reforms ought to be done with all cards on the table

By JONATHAN WESAYA
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Over the past year, the probity of Kenya’s education system has been called into question in a manner hitherto unseen.

For the first time in the country, parents, guardians and other stakeholders are consistently questioning the value of investment made vis-a-vis the return on investment in education.

The question is, what value was obtained from the 600,000 learners who failed the school leaving examination despite huge investments in their 12 years of learning.

That only 11 per cent of the children who sat KCSE last year are eligible to join university, down from 15 per cent in 2016, signals a downward trajectory and a ballooning base of a failing mass of learners.

For an education system to claim efficiency and effectiveness within its investment model, three things must stand out: Wastage management processes, teacher quality and functional accountability frameworks.

Over the years, exam results in Kenya have repeatedly shown that learners are not adequately exposed to knowledge, reason, skills, appropriate attitude formation and values embodied in the curriculum.

With the introduction of subsidies in schools this year through the free secondary education programme, we are waking up to the reality that 70 per cent of the learners are functionally illiterate. In other words, we are transferring a problem from primary school to secondary school (with our desire to obtain 100 per cent transition) with the hope that it will somehow decimate.

It is official that many primary school learners cannot read basic sentences, perform elementary operations in numeracy or identify, interpret, create or communicate using printed and written materials. Nonetheless, we expect them to pass KCSE as they finish the secondary school cycle.

The 2017 KCSE cohort joined primary school in 2005 and it is a ‘fine product’ of the Free Primary Education (FPE) programme introduced in 2003.

QUALITY GRADUATES

The KCSE results of 2015, 2016 and 2017 should have jolted us to reality. We hurriedly implemented FPE without looking at the requisite ingredients to make it produce quality graduates.

The desire to have secondary school students covered under NHIF is noble but the question is: Is that the most essential investment in secondary school education at this point in time? We should worry about if we have enough quality teachers. Have we adequately invested in infrastructure to absorb the larger numbers transitioning into secondary school?

The de-localisation of secondary school leadership is welcome but more consultations were necessary.

Players in the sector need to redefine upward and downward accountability and develop frameworks that will hold the sector to account.

The recent National Steering Committee meeting made helpful and forward-looking resolutions. That was necessary to cushion the cabinet secretary, whom the public now perceive to be issuing edicts that are not grounded on research since the Education Management Information System (Emis) is moribund.

TRANSFORMATION

Education is a tool for transformation and liberation and households are spending in excess of 60 per cent of their income on it.

That is why the sector must be made efficient and more effective.

By fixing education, we may, in turn, fix devolution since education affects every household. Only 12 years to Vision 2030 targets, education needs to find its place in steering the nation towards these development milestones.

The reforms are good tools to get the nation out of the rut of politics, abrasiveness and single-framing of national issues.

The ministry needs to climb down from the pedestal and engage stakeholders with all cards on the table.

The sector needs to engage honestly to seal the leaks and eliminate system capture of resources so as to ensure more is obtainable at the point of service delivery.

 Mr Wesaya is the country director, Discovery Learning Alliance-Kenya. [email protected]


Uhuru, relatives and scholars eulogise top don Calestous Juma

By SILAS APOLLO
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By JAMES KAHONGEH
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President Uhuru Kenyatta on Thursday led Kenyans in eulogising top Kenyan scholar Calestous Juma, who has been credited with putting the country on the international map.

The President described Prof Juma as a distinguished scholar whose work as an academician, researcher and a public intellectual, impacted the country and beyond, and who has left a legacy that will traverse generations.

Mourners present at the mass which was held at the Holy Family Minor Basilica in Nairobi, among them Supreme Court Judge Jackton Ojwang, said the don was an intellectual powerhouse, an honourable man, a scholar of repute and integrity whose service to the country and the world has impacted hundreds of lives.

“No words can match the achievements of this great man who enjoyed an exemplary career and served with humility and generosity,” said President Kenyatta. Prof Juma’s formal teaching career began at Egoji and ended at Harvard. That is the power of persistence: He simply kept going, improving himself and his students along the way. We ought to take that lesson to heart.” 

ACHIEVEMENTS

Prof Juma’s achievements as the founder of the African Centre for Technology Studies (ACTS) in Nairobi in 1988, permanent executive secretary of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and scholarly work at the Harvard University, received special accolades from speakers.

Justice Ojwang, a friend of Prof Juma’s, and who was part of the founding team at ACTS, said the death had come as a surprise to many.

University of Nairobi Vice-Chancellor Peter MbithiUniversity of Nairobi Vice-Chancellor Peter Mbithi and other pallbearers carry the casket bearing the remains of Prof Juma at the Holy Family Basilica, Nairobi, on January 4, 2018. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

“We have lost a distinguished scientist who played a critical role in shaping various discourses in the country,” he said.

Also present at the mass were Busia Senator Amos Wako, Nairobi Woman Representative Esther Passaris, Environment Cabinet Secretary Judi Wakhungu, former vice-president Moody Awori, University of Nairobi Vice-Chancellor Peter Mbithi and the Controller of Budget Agnes Odhiambo among others.

The casket was wrapped in a gown as a sign of honour for his exemplary service and contribution in the development of public universities.

At the time of his death, Juma was a Professor of the Practice of International Development and Director of the Science, Technology and Globalisation Project at the Belfer Centre for Science and International Affairs at Harvard Kennedy School.

His colleagues in the academia, who served as pallbearers during the service Thursday, eulogised him as an astute academician whose insight helped shape research and the development of various curricula in public universities.

Prof Judith Mbula, the chairperson of the Committee of Chancellors of Public Universities in Kenya, eulogised Prof Juma as a major influence in the realm of global sustainable development, climate change and adaptation of biotechnology.

“Juma worked tirelessly to create harmony between science, technology innovation and development. He helped to link Kenyan universities to Harvard University during his time there,” said Prof Mbula.

His wife Alison Field Juma described him as a humble man who endeavoured to impact on people he met. She said he was a man with an optimistic outlook in life who turned ideas into policies that have transformed the world.

SCHOLARLY WORK

“Even as a family, we supported each other in our scholarly work,” said Mrs Juma. Prof Juma will be buried on Saturday at his home in Port Victoria in Busia county.

Dr Juma joined Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government as a Visiting Fellow in its Belfer Centre for Science and International Affairs in 1999.

The Budalang’i-born scholar began his career as a science teacher in Mombasa between 1974 and 1978 before becoming the first science and environment journalist for Daily Nation between 1978 and 1979.

He later started his own magazine, Ecoforum. It was during his brief stint at the Nation that environmental issues were prominently covered by Kenyan media before joining the Environment Liaison Centre in Nairobi between 1979 and 1982 as an editor and researcher.

The scientist, who attained a teacher’s certificate from Egoji Teacher’s College in 1974, also held a PhD in Science Policy Research from the University of Sussex and was one of the most sought after experts in the field of application of science, technology and innovation to sustainable development in developing and developed countries.

A public intellectual, was the only Kenyan to be listed in the inaugural list of “2017 Most Reputable People on Earth” alongside luminaries such as Bill Gates, Barack and Michelle Obama and the Pope.


Nakuru governor unveils plan to lift county from graft, plunder

By FRANCIS MUREITHI
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For  the two million residents of Nakuru, the pain of seeing their county sink into a pit of corruption and mismanagement of public resources in the first five years of devolution is something they would not like to be repeated in 2018.

While other counties with less resources have made remarkable steps since 2013, residents of County 32 have in the past four years been watching an open-air film dubbed: Nakuru’s Sinking Devolution Ship.

But with the change of guard that placed Governor Lee Kinyanjui at the helm, residents are hoping that things will change for the better.

The county is steeped in corruption, cash crisis, mounting debt of Sh3 billion and cartels that took the previous regime hostage.

A huge wage bill standing at nearly Sh6 billion a year, poor revenue collection, creaking healthcare system, collapsed agriculture sector and demotivated workforce are yet other  challenges.

Mr Kinyanjui must address the high rate of youth unemployment, decaying infrastructure and marginalisation of some communities.

CONFIDENCE

The majority of residents talk of a near 100 per cent confidence rating for the governor. He should quickly take advantage of this and turn around the county’s fortunes.

Mr Kinyanjui has launched several development activities to resuscitate the county. “There is light at the end of the tunnel if the revival activities are anything to go by,” said Mr Joseph Monda, the national chairman of Pyrethrum Growers Association (PGA) and a resident of Molo sub-county.

A feeling of renewed hope is also palpable in the other 10 sub-counties.

The governor has started a radical surgery of the county government by ushering in a new team comprising young, brilliant leaders from the private sector and the national government.

Based on his track record as MP for Nakuru Town and national chairman of National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA), there is high hope that he will work a miracle and put the county back on the fast lane of development.

SETTLED DOWN

“My stint in office has been greatly affected by the national political environment. But I have settled down and established the critical offices for service delivery. The planning of critical areas like health, agriculture and education has also been ongoing. We are on the verge of take-off,” said Mr Kinyanjui.

He added that top on his list is revival of the ailing multibillion-shilling pyrethrum sub-sector and establishment of an airport.

“We have already partnered with pyrethrum stakeholders to restore confidence in the sector and have established seed nurseries to provide clean planting materials,” he said.

On the airport project which has been pending for more than a decade, he disclosed that he would make a major announcement in the next two weeks. “The progress made in the past two months is encouraging. Soon, residents will know the fate of the project,” he said.

He added that the challenges he has been tackling include lack of existing systems that can support a development agenda. “Absence of such systems creates cartels and other parasitic layers that compromise service delivery,” he said.

CORRUPTION

To tame runaway corruption, he said a stringent anti-corruption policy would be put in place.

He said he would set up a task force to determine the authenticity of the Sh3 billion debt and address concerns on value for money.

“Unsupported and inflated claims will be isolated and appropriate action taken against the people liable. Genuine and verifiable claims will be paid in accordance with the laid down procedures.”

On the Sh6 billion wage bill, he said a human resource audit to establish the number of workers, their skills, deployment and training would commence this month.

“This will give a framework for making critical decisions on the work force,” he said, adding that staff due to retire will be gradually phased out and energetic employees engaged. “A succession plan must be implemented in critical departments to avoid laxity in service delivery when workers retire.”

The governor said he would not abandon development projects started by his predecessor.


Migori County has gold, but residents live in want

By ELISHA OTIENO
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Gold costs a fortune on the main markets. But to extract it from the ground might mean death. In Migori, many gold miners have been trapped inside their tunnels and others buried by falling heaps of soil.

Some have suffocated from fumes emitted from generators that they use to light up the tunnels, which are both vertical and horizontal.

Migori’s miners live precariously: things could go haywire at any moment. So families keep their men in prayers whenever they go into the tunnels.

“The money is too little compared to the health risks I expose myself to every day,” says Mr Paul Anyona, a veteran of the tunnels and a father of nine.

“I can hardly make ends meet with the Sh1,500 I am paid monthly by our co-operative society,” he tells Nation.

FACE MASKS

It is the same story from most of his colleagues. Mr Isaac Ouma, 29, says sometimes they go into the tunnels without face masks, gumboots, and gloves, exposing them to respiratory ailments as they inhale rock dust for several hours each day.

In Nyatike and Suna West areas, the mines are often a political issue. They include Mikeyi, Gor Maria, Osiri, Nyathoro, Akala, Mukuro, and Shinyanga, all of which are guarded by village vigilante groups 24 hours a day, every day.

Folks here say they put a round-the-clock eye on the precious metals after it was discovered that some dealers would come at night and prospect for gold without the relevant licences from the government.

Some of the miners have bought crushing mills from Tanzania at a cost of Sh250,000. This equipment is used to crush rocks into a fine powder before mercury is used to amalgamate gold from stone dust.

But there are dangers. Mary Odhiambo is one of those who touches mercury with her bare hands, oblivious to the risk she is exposing herself to.

HEALTH RISKS

Experts warn this type of exposure could have long-term health risks on the people here, including nervous system complications. Mr Joshua Owino, a mining consultant, says mercury should not be handled without gloves.

“It is highly dangerous. The managers should address the safety concerns of their employees,” he adds.

The miners also use explosives, according to police, who fear they could land in the wrong hands and be used to commit crimes, including terrorism.

“We are being faced with a new security challenge because these youths may start using the explosives in criminal activities,” says Nyatike police boss Richard Mukwate, who has since been transferred.

He says the explosives are “very dangerous and could easily bring down a ten-storey building within seconds.”

He added: “We have tried to discourage the miners from using the explosives but they have ignored us”.

CHALLENGES

The county government admits that there have been challenges in controlling the problem. The national government once cancelled licences for mining companies but that seems to have left the gap for individuals to go in at their own risk.

“The county government is formulating by-laws aimed at streamlining gold mining in the region to make it safer and more profitable,” Governor Okoth Obado tells the Daily Nation.

Gold prospecting began in Mikeyi in Nyatike in the 1930s by officials of the colonial government. The name Mikeyi is derived from the abbreviation MK, for  Mines of Kenya.

The colonial miners left Mikeyi in the 1960s after the then powerful cabinet minister Joseph Tom Mboya gave them marching orders.

Nyatike sub-county has often been associated with misfortunes such as floods, famine, and poverty yet is has enormous fish and mineral resources.

Mining expert  Julius Opiyo says a gram of gold costs Sh2,500 in the villages and about Sh4,000 in Nairobi.


Fight graft, lest it derails good county plans

By ISAAC ONGIRI
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The story repeatedly told by our political elite at major public rallies is that Kenya and Singapore are development ‘age mates’ given the time the two states gained independence in the 1960s.

The political class has even moved the story forward by comparing the prospects of the fast-moving industrial Asian state of South Korea to Kenya. However, South Korea gained independence in 1949.

In April 2013, all the 47 Kenyan counties started on the same footing under a new Constitution. The first devolution cash was disbursed and several functions devolved to the peripheral governments with powers to initiate tangible development in the regions.

The national government transferred up to Sh1.1 trillion — something quite unprecedented.

Five years after devolution, however, some counties have raced up the ladder of economic independence and are nudging true economic liberty while others have zigzagged their way to doom and national shame as they confine their constituents to economic incarceration.

DEVOLVED RESOURCES

But even as millions in the countryside may not see the value of devolved resources, devolution is not all curse but also a blessing. It is interesting how about 10 counties have taken off as the rest struggle. I highlight a few projects.

The other day, I heard the Kisumu governor, Prof Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o, say on radio that his county had sent a team on a benchmarking tour of Makueni County, which is headed by Prof Kivutha Kibwana, to study how the region set up a successful village administration unit.

From the construction of good roads to Emali bus station, several technical colleges and enactment of laws to create organisations that improve services, to the recent launch of universal medical cover, Makueni is among the 10 counties blazing the devolution trail.

Meru County, under former governor Peter Munya, has a lot to learn from. Besides rebuilding Kinoru Stadium to international standards, it was on its way to starting an Equity Bank-like institution by building on a county-funded micro-finance unit started in 2014.

REVENUE COLLECTION

And as many counties fell below target in revenue collection, Meru established the County Revenue Authority — a parastatal modelled on the Kenya Revenue Authority — resulting in an enviable improvement in targets.

In Kakamega, Bukhungu Stadium, formerly a shack, is now in good standing. And with Sh120 million, the county has put up a bridge at Khaunga.

Kirinyaga’s allocation up to last year was not even Sh2.7 billion. Yet, it has set up a modern building that will house its headquarters at Kutus.

In 2023, Kenyans will mark 10 years of devolution. The pace of take-off by counties that will have gotten it right, I dare say, will see them give relief support to their peers who will have taken too long to settle down and those bogged down by massive corruption and lack of transparency in the management of devolved funds.

The danger for prosperity is corruption.

DEVOLUTION

On the advent of devolution, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission circulated a placard borrowed from the experienced Nigeria. It bore the photograph of one of the governors in the West African country, handcuffed after being arrested on claims of abuse of office and financial infidelity.

Interestingly, soon afterwards the EACC abandoned the war on corruption in the regions!

The national government must lead the way in ensuring safety and risk management for the billions it gives the counties. Also, devolution champions must put equal emphasis on anti-graft war in counties as they do in the national government.

 Mr Ongiri is a communication expert and international relations master’s student at the University of Nairobi. [email protected]


587 top students given this year’s ‘wings to fly’ scholarships

By MARY WAMBUI
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Some 587 beneficiaries of Equity Bank and Mastercard foundations Wings to Fly programme were on Thursday commissioned to begin their secondary education in various schools across the country at a colourful event graced by Cabinet Secretaries Fred Matiang’i and  Eugene Wamalwa, and  Kenyan born Australian senator Lucy Gichuhi at Kenyatta University.

The annual  programme  ensures top performing children from financially challenged backgrounds in all counties across Kenya attain secondary school education.

This year, however, the number of beneficiaries reduced. This has been blamed on the lack of support from the USAID.

During the event,  Equity Group CEO James Mwangi thanked the government for rolling out free secondary education, saying this will complement the programme’s efforts in ensuring that needy students gain access to secondary education.

DESERVING STUDENTS

“The Wings to Fly scholarships are not always adequate to cater for all deserving students who apply, a majority of them qualified to join national schools. The new opportunities afforded by the free secondary education will go a long way in supporting students who otherwise would have missed the opportunity due to financial challenges. Our hope is that the free day schools will maintain high quality education similar to what the scholars would have accessed if they had the financial ability to join national schools,” said Dr Mwangi.

Kenyan born Australian Senator Lucy GichuhiKenyan born Australian Senator Lucy Gichuhi and her husband, William Gichuhi at Kenyatta University on January 4, 2018. PHOTO | MARY WAMBUI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

The programme has, for the last eight years, been receiving between 20,000 and 30,000 applications with only about 15,000 students getting the scholarships.

“The Wings to Fly spirit has compelled most elected leaders, corporate sectors and players in the oil industry to pick a majority of the ones we left out after setting up similar programmes to help address the plight of the needy students. However, much still needs to be done and we applaud the efforts of the government to roll out free secondary education which means that those who missed out on our scholarships can enrol in  free secondary schools and continue with their education,” said Dr Mwangi.

Senator Gichuhi, originally from Nyeri County, sought to inspire the young people with her story on how she rose to become a senator in Australia.

The 2018 intake has seen the number of Equity Leaders Programme scholars rise to 19,260. About 10,920 of these scholars who have completed secondary education have secured admissions to local universities, while 443 of them have joined global universities.


Strathmore University don’s wife had blood clot in the heart

By STELLA CHERONO
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A postmortem exam on the body of the wife of a university lecturer arrested over her death has revealed that she had no physical injuries.

Chief Government Pathologist Johansen Oduor, who examined the body of Rebecca Gobi Mwachongo said the 27-year-old had fluid in the lungs.

“She also had a blood clot in the left atrium (in the heart) … but we cannot attribute this to anything at the moment,” Dr Oduor said, adding that samples from her body have been taken for further analysis.

Rebecca’s husband, Dr Fredrick Ogola — a Strathmore University lecturer — was arrested following her death on New Year’s Day.

He said in an interview on Thursday that he was just playing with his wife and denied there was a fight between them.

INVESTIGATION

He is detained at the Kabete Police Station after the court granted the police a 10-day custodial order to allow them to complete investigations into the death of his wife — Rebecca Gobi Mwachongo.

During an interview at the Dagoretti Police Station where he was initially detained, Dr Ogola denied killing the woman he said “I have loved her very much”. He termed the death as “very unfortunate”.

“There was no fight. This was a play, she had asked me what my programme was and I told her that my plan was to drop the letters. She told me that I would not be going and I asked her what she would do to stop me,” Dr Ogola said adding that after that, his wife pushed him and he fell on their matrimonial bed.

“When a woman pushes you, you do not resist. She sat on me and tried to remove the phone from my pocket and I told her ‘Sweetheart you are going to tear my pocket’,” he said of the deceased, whom he said, was determined to confiscate the phone from him.

Dr Ogola said during the “play”, his wife suddenly exclaimed and fell back on the edge of the bed.

“I thought this was a joke because we had been playing. I left the bedroom and rushed to deliver the letter and then I called the house help to ask her whether Becky was up taking care of the baby and she said ‘No’, so I rushed back and found her still down where she had fallen,” Dr Ogola said.

Dr Ogola took her to the MP Shah Hospital and later to the Aga Khan University Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

The don was arrested on Tuesday evening at his home in Lavington, and was taken to court on Wednesday, but did not take plea following a request by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations to have him detained.

Dagoretti OCPD Rashid Mohammed said several people had been interrogated. He, however, refused to name them or give details of their accounts, saying that would jeopardize investigations.


Tough times as ‘unga’ prices set to increase

By NATION TEAM
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Retail prices of maize flour are expected to go up from Monday following the expiry of the six-month government subsidy on December 31.

Checks in various supermarkets across the country Thursday showed that most of them were clearing their last stock of the Sh90 2kg packet subsidised unga.

Popular brands like Pembe, Jogoo and Soko were scarce on most shelves, a sign of the impending price hike.

At the Koinange branch of Uchumi Supermarket in Nairobi, a supervisor said millers had already circulated the new price list which will take effect as from Monday next week.

“The millers have already circulated the new price list,” he told the Nation late yesterday, even though he refused to give the details on the list. “We are not allowed to give you the price list before it takes effect. But certainly the new prices take effect on Monday,” he said.

ISSUED NOTICE

At the Muindi Mbingu Street, Nairobi, Tuskys, a staffer confirmed that the millers had issued a similar notice.

“They have intimated the impending price increase but they have not told us when this will be effected or the extent of the increase,” the supervisor said.

At the Kenyatta Avenue branch, the staff were busy restocking their shelves with the remaining stock of the subsidised maize flour.

At Tuskys branches on Accra road, Ronald Ngala and Hakati road, only Pema brand was available retailing at Sh90.

Tuskys Pioneer had a few packets of Pema and Jimbi brands.

The management said the supermarket chain is still left with an estimated 1,200 packets of the subsidised maize flour that they are racing against time to sell before the deadline by the government.

RETAILING AT SH90

The brands that were still retailing at Sh90 per 2kg were Pema, Jimbi and Kifaru maize flour, with the management estimating that the stock would run out within two days and had  restrictions of one packet per person.

“Following the directive by the Agriculture Cabinet secretary on Wednesday, we are clearing the stock that we had left, which we approximate to run out by Saturday as customers can now pick whatever number of pieces they want,” said one of the officials at the supermarket.

At Nakumatt City Hall, there was no subsidised maize flour at the shelves, with only Hostess maize flour retailing at Sh173 hogging the lonely shelf.

A similar situation was witnessed at Uchumi Aga Khan Walk where there were no stocks of the subsidised maize flour.

Maize flourA man checks the prices of available flour at Budget Supermarket in Mombasa on January 4, 2018. PHOTO | KEVIN ODIT | NATION MEDIA GROUP

At Eastmatt supermarket branches on Mfangano Street, there were few packets of government subsidised maize flour available on the shelves.

The brands included Jimbi, Ndovu, Pembe, Shujaa, Jogoo, Mama and 210.

The case was similar in Karrymatt supermarket on Moi Avenue that had only Paa brand selling at Sh100 notwithstanding that it is supposed to go for Sh90.

Shoppers at Choppies, formally Ukwala supermarket on Hakai Road complained that they were not getting their favourite unga brands.

“I have been to about six supermarkets now but I can’t get my brand. I may be forced to buy what I am not used to,” a customer said.

In all the outlets, customers bought the commodity in large quantities perhaps before the end of the government subsidy programme.

Employees in  most outlets Nation visited  said the day’s supplies that were expected had not arrived. This could be taken to mean buying time before releasing them at high prices.

“They were supposed to make the deliveries today but none has been made so far,” an employee at Tuskys supermarket Daima on Accra road said.

In Mombasa, supermarket attendants said the price of a 2kg packet of maize flour is expected to  go up Friday.

Tuskys supermarket stocked one brand of the subsidised  flour.

HIGHER PRICE

At Budget Outlet along Moi Avenue, an official confirmed the stock is almost over, saying they are expecting more at a higher price.

“Chances are the price will be increased today after the new stock comes in. Our buying price from the Millers will determine the next price of the flour,” he said.

However, he said that the price would be set at an average Sh120 for a two-kilogramme packet of Maize Flour.

“It used to come at Sh83 that is why we sold at Sh90 per packet. We cannot go over Sh120. It might range between Sh115 to Sh119.”

He said they were forced to limit  the number of packets of maize flour that a customer could purchase.

In Nyeri, most supermarkets had ran out of stock of the subsidised flour with those who had indicating it was likely to run out within days.

In major outlets, only Naivas supermarket had stocked the subsidised commodity.

OUT OF STOCK

The supermarket customer care desk, however, warned that the prices will go up as suppliers reported that they are running out of stock of the Sh90 unga. The retailer, however, noted that the prices will be defined by millers.

“It will depend on how much the suppliers sell to us. But it will go up,” Ms Ikua added.

In other supermarkets like Samrat and Mathai, the cheapest unga on the shelves is currently going for between Sh125 and Sh185.

The government in May last year announced Sh6 billion subsidy on maize imports to help lower the cost of flour, which had shot up due to drought and poor planning.

The subsidy lowered the price of a 90kg bag of maize to Sh2,300 from above Sh4,000 with taxpayers offering importers a rebate or the difference of about Sh1,700.

MARKET PRICE

This has kept the cost of the two-kg packet of flour at Sh90 from a high of Sh153 in April.

The subsidised flour price was backed by a Kenya Gazette notice that criminalised the sale of the product above Sh90.

Millers will now revert to the market price of maize, which will influence by the purchase of the grain by the government to replenish the strategic food reserves.

The government is buying a bag from farmers at Sh3,200 in a Sh6.7 billion plan. Millers say the cost of getting the bag from the farmers to mills will rise to Sh3,400 when transport costs are factored in.

  By Ibrahim Oruko, Collins Omulo, Eunice Murathe, Nicholas Komu,  Rushdie Oudia, Sharon Okolla and Nyaboga Kiage


CA has to declare Safaricom dominant

By KIRIRO WA NGUGI
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I read with considerable dismay and disbelief a report in the Business Daily titled Regulator drops plan to split up Safaricom.

This headline is, in the first place, a serious misrepresentation of fact: The Communications Authority (CA) never planned to split Safaricom. Never! On the contrary, it often acts as an impotent regulatory authority.

The CA has succumbed to government control and done everything to protect and maintain obvious Safaricom dominance, against the greater public interest inherent in declaring the telco’s dominance formally and legally.

That would remove the serious entry barriers for new and better entrants to the sector to nurture more effective competition as dictated by international best practice.

This was the core recommendation by London-based consultancy firm Analysys Mason, hired by the CA itself. But the report has been watered down and, if media reports are to be believed, will eventually be ignored and trashed.

Few Kenyans appreciate the true extent of Safaricom’s influence, the depth and breathtaking grip it has on the Kenyan society, the damage such grip could cause and the constraints and contradictions faced by the CA in trying to regulate this mammoth monopoly in which the government has a 35 per cent stake. A similar portion is foreign-owned.

Safaricom has a subscriber base of 23.3 million, out of a national population of 45.6 million and total mobile subscriber base of 33.6 million. Put another way, it holds as subscribers more than half of Kenyans and, by another metric, 88.25 per cent of the entire adult population in the country.

This is to say Safaricom has in its grip the voice communications, data, finance transactions (individual and business), location information and full bio data for 88 per cent of the Kenyan adult population.

By this measure, it is the primary arbiter of all social and economic relations. It has become the new centre for vital national information, which is the real source of power, including political power. It reportedly even has direct access to all data of our national register of persons!

In that sense, Kenya is, quite literally, a ‘Safaricom Republic’—because Safaricom is unique, not just in the fact that it straddles commerce, banking, security surveillance, election results transmission, entertainment and voice and data communications but also in the depth of its dominance in terms of reach in numbers, brand and socio-political power.

The fact that the opposition coalition Nasa dragged Safaricom into the 2017 presidential election petitions, in terms of power relations, is very significant.

Safaricom holds all the societal tools of commerce, arbitration, power and oversight without express political mandate, authority or culpability. Here-in lies a huge problem, and we should either agree to have handed over the scepter of power to Safaricom or cleave its size and dominance.

ECONOMIC RENT

The M-Pesa transaction fee, for instance, by virtue of its ubiquity and inescapability (it is extracted from over 88 per cent of the adult population) is a society-wide economic rent and, by default, a tax!

The declaration of Safaricom dominance is a much bigger issue than the pedestrian arguments of “rewarding inefficient competitors” or “punishing success” often proffered in support of the gigantic telco.

The CA has the powers and legal obligation to declare Safaricom dominant. However, one of the reasons for the Analysys Mason study was that it could not legally do so without technical due diligence.

However, that has now happened. The report has specifically determined that. It states: “The market analysis concludes that Safaricom is dominant in both the mobile communications and mobile money markets.

“In both of these markets Safaricom enjoys, and has enjoyed for a long time, a very high market share (above 80 per cent in value).”

The first order of business for the CA is, therefore, to declare Safaricom dominant. This has important implications and attendant remedies in the promotion of more equitable competition.

For example, under the EU framework that the report has adopted as best practice, “asymmetric termination charges” across networks is commonplace. This provides better outcomes for customers, which must be the core outcome of this public debate on the Analysys Mason report.