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Thursday, January 11th, 2018

 

Tricky balancing act as Uhuru meets Zuma and Ramaphosa

By CHRIS ERASMUS
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in Cape Town, South Africa

President Uhuru Kenyatta Thursday indicated that he will return to South Africa sometime in the first quarter of this year to sign bilateral agreements reached with his counterpart President Jacob Zuma.

The announcement was made during a post-meeting press conference in Durban where the two African heads of state discussed matters of mutual interest, including trade, digital infrastructure, peace and security and regional issues.

President Kenyatta said the talks had helped deepen the partnership beyond the already good relationship between the two states. “We discussed regional issues to do with peace and security,” said the Kenyan leader.

The heads of state covered previous agreements between their nations during their wide-ranging discussions.

“In the first quarter I hope to conclude strong agreements,” said President Kenyatta in reference to his forthcoming return visit.

He said he was “keen to see how political parties can work together to help strengthen the bonds between people”, as was happening with Kenya and South Africa.

CO-OPERATION

During the three-day state visit, President Kenyatta will also meet with Cyril Ramaphosa, the newly- elected leader of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) party.

During the talks yesterday, Presidents Kenyatta and Zuma were to seek a review of the progress in the implementation of prior co-operation agreements, and also explore new areas to “deepen the fraternal ties between Kenya and South Africa”.

Just over a year ago, in October 2016, President Zuma visited Kenya. Several agreements and memoranda of understanding in various sectors were signed during the trip.

While the purpose of President Kenyatta’s visit is to further mutual ties and co-operation, the looming fate of Zuma as President of South Africa means the visit is unavoidably overshadowed by recent changes in the ruling party leadership.

LEADERSHIP STRUGGLE

Thus, whatever progress may be made during the visit, Zuma is in no position to push any wider political agendas, given that ahead of President Kenyatta’s arrival, it was not certain how long Zuma will still be in power.

The ANC’s national executive has been meeting this week to discuss its way forward following a tough leadership struggle in December which has left the ruling party riven and somewhat uncertain about how to handle “the Zuma question”.

With a formal commission of inquiry — mandated by high court judgments — soon to begin an investigation into the “state capture” phenomena of corruption, influence-peddling and alleged enrichment of those connected to Zuma, senior ANC members are saying it is not a question of whether Zuma would be “recalled” by the ANC before his term as President runs out in 2019, but when. Some in the party are pushing hard for his immediate removal, and it has been reliably learnt that Ramaphosa himself was initially leaning in that direction.

But the prospect of further dissent which Zuma’s immediate removal would likely cause, especially in the populous and politically turbulent Zulu-dominated province of KwaZulu-Natal from which Zuma hails, and which has been plagued recently by mounting political violence, has caused ANC leaders to reconsider and put the “Zuma issue” on the back burner for now.

Sources said it was highly unlikely that he would survive more than a couple more months as the country’s nominal leader.

Even so, it is already clear that Ramaphosa, who is a skilled political operator of long standing, is putting his stamp on the party, emphasising economic growth over the Zuma camp’s preferred “radical economic transformation” — making the point that the latter is only possible through the former — while urging unity and calm on his comrades.

Ramaphosa has been embedding his new position at the top of the ruling party, and to that end has met, among others, traditional leaders in a bid to woo them away from their inclination to support Zuma who, in many respects, is a traditionalist.

BILATERAL RELATIONSHIPS

While it was likely, according to the SA Presidency, that agreements previously reached would be furthered, and that bilateral relationships between Kenya and SA would be deepened during the visit, Zuma’s “lame duck” status will prevent any major developments that would have to be ratified by Ramaphosa, who is almost certain to be picked by his ANC leadership comrades to succeed Zuma.

Prior agreements between the two countries, mainly reached during Zuma’s 2016 visit to Kenya, covered many areas of mutual interest.

Included were visa exemption for passport holders of diplomatic, ordinary and service passports, defence and police co-operation, as well as co-operation between Kenya Investment Authority, the Export Promotion Council and Trade-Invest SA, co-operation in the fields of biodiversity, conservation and natural resources management, and the Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia-Transport (LAPSSET) Corridor Project.

TRADE RELATIONS

During Zuma’s visit to Kenya, the leaders said talks towards the establishment of a bi-national commission to bolster trade relations between the two countries would be held. President Kenyatta’s official visit to South Africa was planned accordingly, and to focus on enhancing co-operation between the two countries, especially in the area of training.

On Friday, President Kenyatta is to meet Ramaphosa in his capacity as Deputy President of SA. He will also meet with business leaders in Johannesburg, including the CEO of Volkswagen SA, who set up an assembling plant in Kenya after Zuma’s 2016 visit.

On Saturday, President Kenyatta will attend celebrations to mark the 106th anniversary of the ANC, Africa’s oldest liberation movement.


Lamu residents, security forces hope for al-Shabaab free 2018

By MOHAMED AHMED
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Al-Shabaab fighters who have set up camp in Boni Forest, Lamu,  remained a thorn in the flesh of Kenya in 2017 despite spirited efforts to flush them out.

The terrorists, who initially only operated from villages near the forest, seem to have expanded into new territory, making the Malindi-Lamu road almost a no-go zone.

The militants outwitted soldiers and police officers involved in “Linda Boni” operation by launching attacks that claimed the lives of many people.

One attack on July 13 led to the death of Public Works Principal Secretary Maryam el Maawy, the highest ranked government official to die in the attacks.

The PS had attended a meeting on the Lamu Port South Sudan Ethiopia Transport Corridor project at Huduma Centre in Lamu town before heading to Witu.

The fighters ambushed the car in which Maawy and six other occupants were travelling on the Mpeketoni-Lamu road.

SET CAR ABLAZE

However, they fled when a military helicopter hovered above,  but not before setting the car ablaze. Soldiers took the injured PS to hospital.

Maawy’s 21-year-old nephew and trainee pilot Arif Kassim, her driver Godana Borani, police officer Ayub ole Ndoloni and a civilian died in the attack.

In August, three Tana River County officials were killed in another brazen attack, also orchestrated by al-Shabaab. 

They were public works chief officer Sammy Mwakisha Tola, quantity surveyor Chrispine Dulu and an employee who was not immediately identified.

According to the Nation, at least 30 security officers, among them Kenya Defence Forces soldiers, were killed in attacks linked to al-Shabaab terrorists between May and November.

CIVILIANS DIED

“The number of colleagues who have died could be more as we engage these people almost daily,” said a security source who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.

On May 31, nine security officers and a civilian died when their vehicles hit explosives in separate incidents.

The first explosion in Baure and Milimani areas killed a civilian and all seven policemen in an armoured personnel carrier.

On June 27, eight people — four policemen and four pupils — died when a Rapid Border Patrol Unit vehicle hit a land mine in Ota area on the Mararani-Kiunga road in Lamu East sub-county.

On July 5, two officers were killed while seven others went missing after terrorists raided a police station in Pandanguo.

Three days later, nine people were killed when the militants raided Jima village in Lamu West.

On August 3, three people were killed in a Shabaab attack on a bus in Witu.

OPENED FIRE

The boda boda operator and his two passengers were killed when gunmen opened fire on the bus and a police escort car.

The bus was heading to Kipini from Malindi.

An occupant of a station wagon and a  lorry driver were killed when their vehicles were sprayed with bullets in Gamba near Nyongoro On August 30.

The attackers also bombed and destroyed an electric pylon belonging to Kenya Power.

Earlier on August 18, four people were beheaded by suspected al-Shabaab militants at Maleli Village in Witu.

And on November 28, two AP officers died while three others were wounded when their vehicle was ambushed at Lango La Simba in Nyongoro, on the Lamu-Malindi road.

The policemen were escorting five buses from Lamu to Mombasa.

DEADLY RAIDS

The increase in the deadly raids led Coast regional coordinator Nelson Marwa to call for the bombing of Boni Forest.

The administrator said al-Shabaab members had turned the woodland “into a playground, launching attacks on security personnel and civilians at will”.

Despite bombing some parts of the dense forest and destroying a number of militia camps, the attacks did not stop.

Recently, details emerged on the group’s  new operational tactics.

Officials said the terrorists were using women as spies in areas targeted for attacks.

Security officers in Galmaghala, Ijara, Bodhei, Milimani, Basuba, Mararani, Ishakani and Kiunga villages said they had no option but to send women out of the villages. 

Police, administrators and military chiefs have, in the meantime, expressed confidence they will emerge victorious in their war against al-Shabaab.

In a recent interview, Coast Police Commander Larry Kieng said efforts were in place to ensure the fighters were dealt with.

“We have been grappling with the problem but we need cooperation from residents, especially those in Boni and its surroundings,” Mr Kieng told the Nation.

“We are here to ensure the region is safe and we will do that by all means.”

Despite the assurances, some security agents deployed to fight the group have complained of lack of proper equipment and provisions.

Some officers who lost their lives were travelling in armoured personnel carriers, vehicles that were meant to be bullet proof and able to withstand road mines and other explosives.

Lamu residents hope security forces will be more successful in their bid to defeat the terrorists  this year.


County bosses get role in school reforms review

By OUMA WANZALA
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The Ministry of Education has moved to implement President Uhuru Kenyatta’s directive on education reforms, which now  involves incorporating county commissioners  in the programme after the failed rollout of the new curriculum.

On Friday, acting Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i will chair a meeting that will bring together more than 100 top officials from Education and Interior ministries to work out modalities for implementing the presidential directive issued last week.

Among those who will attend the meeting to be held at Kenya School of Government are county commissioners, regional and county directors of education as well as top education officials from Jogoo House.

Speaking last week during the launch of distribution of books to schools, President Kenyatta said the process will be consultative and directed that the views of stakeholders be sought nationwide and “not just in Nairobi”.

“This is the dialogue we are looking for. This is the dialogue that will benefit our children and our country,” said the President.

He directed the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government to ensure that the information on the new curriculum reaches every corner of the country.

“To enhance further stakeholder input, I direct the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government to ensure that Regional Commissioners work with Regional Coordinators of Education to convene forums to educate the public on the new curriculum,” he said.

The new curriculum was supposed to be rolled out this month but was pushed to next year after it emerged that teachers were not adequately prepared to implement it.

The piloting of the curriculum, which started last year, will now be extended to the end of this year and will cover pre-school and standards One and Two. It will also be done in Standard Three in a few schools.

Known as the Competence-Based Curriculum (CBC), the new system, which seeks to replace the current 8-4-4, focuses on skills instead of knowledge.

It is phased as follows: two years of pre-school, six years of primary school, six years of high school, and three years of tertiary education (2-6-6-3).


Investors blocked from taking over their hotel in Watamu

By CHARLES LWANGA
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A Kenyan and an Italian investor were on Wednesday blocked from accessing their hotel in Watamu while attempting to execute a court order claiming it allowed them to take over the property.

The Temple Point Resort management, staff and some members of the community barricaded its main gate to prevent Mr Isaac Rodrot and Mr Stefano Uccelli from accessing the disputed property.

A German investor, Mr Hans Jurgen Langer, who is currently operating the resort, accused Mr Rodrot and Mr Uccelli of misinterpreting and executing a wrong court order.

Speaking to journalists at the resort, Mr Langer said the court did not give a precise judgment and nobody should enter the hotel.

“The court needs to sort out the issue on who is the real shareholder in the hotel,’’ he added.

DEFRAUD THE GERMAN

Following a Court of Appeal decision last December, Mr Rodrot and Mr Uccelli sought another order from a magistrate’s court to fully effect the Court of Appeal orders using Watamu police officers.

Senior Counsel Ahmednasir Abdullahi once dragged Nairobi Governor Mike Mbuvi Sonko into the eight-year case, accusing the governor of conspiring to defraud the German couple of the luxurious hotel valued at about Sh1 billion.

On Wednesday, residents ganged up with the resort’s staff and management to barricade the main gate to prevent Mr Rodrot, Mr Uccelli and police officers led by Malindi OCPD Matawa Muchangi from accessing it.

“This is not Salama Beach but Temple Point Beach! Langer is the real owner of the hotel! We do not recognise Rodrot!” They shouted.

Trouble began when Mr Langer received information that their rivals were going to officially take over the hotel while accompanied by armed police officers.

All the staff members, a section of community members and elders from Watamu armed themselves with rungus, stones, and bows and arrows to keep guard at the entrance of the hotel.

At some point, Mr Muchangi asked the operations manager, Mr Mumba Ngundi, to order the workers out of the gate but he declined, saying the issue must be sorted out by lawyers of both parties.

Earlier, police officers together with both parties had spent about eight hours at Watamu police station trying to agree on the matter after the current management claimed Mr Rodrot and Mr Uccelli did not have orders to take over the hotel.

At the hotel, Watamu elders said they fully supported the German investor.


6,000 vehicles stuck in Mombasa over plates

By NATION TEAM
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More than 6,000 imported second-hand vehicles are lying at container freight stations in Mombasa waiting for the troubled National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) to issue their number plates.

The 6,493 units are attracting storage charges of Sh19.4 million a day as the shortage of plates hit the dealers, Car Importers Association of Kenya chairman Peter Otieno said Thursday.

“CFS charges an average of Sh3,000 per vehicle a day, an expense the importer should not incur because they have paid import duty and port charges. This means that new car owners are being overburdened by NTSA’s inefficiencies,” he said, adding that the authority delivered 500 plates for the D series under the KCN number (KCN ***D) on Wednesday.

“We registered the D series in December, before Christmas. So far registration has been done up to K series. Given that each has 999 vehicles, this means 6,493 units don’t have the plates,” said Mr Otieno.

“We know that the numbers are made at Kamiti prison but that is a third party and the authority should look for a way of dealing with them.” 

CURB ACCIDENTS

Kenya Auto Bazaar Association executive officer Charles Munyori accused NTSA of perpetuating corruption in the issuing of number plates.

Mr Munyori claimed that officers at the agency were asking for bribes before releasing new plates. “Right now the plates are scarce but if you approach an officer with Sh4,000 you will get one. They keep blaming the Prisons for not making enough plates but that’s not the problem,” he said.

He suggested that making of plates be given to private companies since NTSA had failed.

Mr Munyori spoke as an MP revealed plans to lobby Parliament to review the Traffic Act, in view of the many road accidents.

TRAFFIC ACT

Ndaragwa MP Jeremiah Kioni said there was need to interrogate why NTSA had failed to implement its mandate.

Speaking at Nyahururu County  Hospital, the MP said; “There is need to review and re-look at the Traffic Act. We have to establish why NTSA failed and why accidents have persisted on our roads.”

Separately, driving school owners have welcomed the withdrawal of NTSA officers from the roads. They also accused the agency of creating confusion in the transport sector.

The school owners, who have been engaged in a war with NTSA over new rules introduced by the agency, urged President Kenyatta to return to the Traffic department all functions that were initially under it.

“We wish to support the President’s move on NTSA for the reason that the body had failed in its mandate to streamline the sector,” said the chairman of the Kenya Driving School Owners Association, Mr John Mwatha.

The association spoke as it emerged that bad blood between NTSA officials and traffic police officers seconded to the agency may have compromised enforcement of transport rules.

A random chat with police officers attached to NTSA on the killer stretch between Salgaa and Kamara on the Nakuru-Eldoret highway revealed serious gaps that might have compromised safety.

Some of the officers who spoke to the Nation said NTSA was incompetent. “Truth be told, the bad blood between NTSA people and police officers seconded to the authority may have led to loss of lives … there’s a lot of  confusion, and vested interests here,” said a senior police officer.

In December, NTSA officials were accused of chasing a vehicle that caused a serious accident involving a bus that killed at least 17 people.

However, NTSA Director General Francis Meja denied the claims.

On Thursday, Dido Guyatu, in charge of communications at NTSA, could not be reached for a comment as calls and texts to her mobile phone went unanswered.

 Reports by Gitonga Marete, Steve Njuguna, Peter Mburu, Joseph Openda, Francis Mureithi and Diana Mutheu


Six arrested as school heads face hostility

By NATION TEAM
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The government on Thursday started a crackdown on politicians and other individuals inciting communities to reject and block newly-posted headteachers from taking over learning institutions.

Six Ward Reps from Makueni County who had attempted to prevent the new St Josephs Girls’ High School principal in Kibwezi from accessing the institution’s compound were arrested on Thursday.

Makueni County Commissioner Mohammed Maalim said the six were taken to Mtito Andei police station, where they are currently being detained and will be arraigned in court.

The politicians were rounded up in a dramatic swoop as they sat in a meeting with county education officials and members of the school’s board of management at the school Thursday afternoon.

They were then driven by the law enforcement officers to Mtito Andei, some 40 kilometres away.

BATTLED POLICE

Led by Mr Nicholas Maitha (Thange Ward), who chairs the county assembly’s Education Committee, the MCAs had earlier in the day battled police and education officials as they attempted to prevent Ms Rose Kiragu from reporting to her new work station.

On Thursday, a source at the ministry of Interior, who sought anonymity, described the attempted evictions as a “security issue” pointing out they had now taken full charge of the matter.’

“The ministry of Interior is now handling this issue as a security matter. This is because of the safety of students and teachers in those schools,” said the source.

He spoke as Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association (Kessha) chairman Kahi Indimuli asked the government to protect the head teachers.

Mr Indimuli and Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) secretary-general Akelo Misori condemned the attacks on the headteachers.

SERVE STUDENTS

“Teachers are posted by their employer — the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) — and they have a responsibility to serve students. They do not deploy themselves,” he said.

Mr Misori, on his part, asked the TSC and the ministry of Education to take charge.

“Villagers, including MCAs, are walking into schools. Goons should not be allowed to walk into schools,” said Mr Misori.

He spoke as Kapenguria Boys’ High School in West Pokot was closed indefinitely after students turned rowdy during protests against the transfer of their principal, James Omayo, in the recent changes made by the Teachers Service Commission.

The school’s principal has been moved to Makunga Boys in Trans-Nzioa County. He has been replaced by former Kabarnet Boys’ High School principal, Mr Julius Bahati Mwambili.

The students refused to attend classes, forcing the Director of Education, Mr Jarred Obiero, to immediately close the school to avert destruction after the learners threw stones at police who were called to restore order.

STORMED SCHOOL

Parents stormed the school after they learnt of the indefinite closure, asking the ministry of Education to revoke the transfer. They threatened to withdraw their children, saying the transfer would affect learning at the school.

Speaking to the Nation on the phone, West Pokot County director of education Jarred Obiero said: “The students stoned the OCS in the morning while they were demonstrating.”

Kapenguria OCPD Antony Wanjuu said the OCS sustained minor injuries and was treated at the Kapenguria County Hospital and discharged.

In Bungoma, police said they were looking for four MCAs who stormed Friends School Kamusinga and forcibly  ejected the new principal on Wednesday morning.

Police said the principal and school guards had recorded statements at Kimilili Police Station following the Wednesday incident.

County Police Commander Charles Munyoli said that the MCAs and goons who invaded the school and harassed the principal will be arrested and arraigned in court.

APPREHENDED

“We don’t want interference in our learning institutions. There is a proper channel that they should have followed, not taking the law into their own hands. I have dispatched my officers and they will be apprehended,” Mr Munyoli told the Nation on the phone on Thursday.

Four MCAs, including Elvis Abuka, Stephen Wamalwa of Soysambu/Mitua ward, Aggrey Mulongo of Kibingei ward and nominated MCA Luke Opwora, on Wednesday stormed the national school, ejected the principal, Mr Alex Kariuki Maina, and locked his office with padlocks and chains.

Mr Maina was transferred to the school from Oloolaiser High School in Kajiado to take over from Mr Edwin Namachanja, who was transferred to Maranda High School in Siaya County.

Mr Opwora told the Nation that he did not fear being arrested.

“I’m nominated to represent the interests of youths in the county assembly. As long as I am defending the interests of the community, I do not fear being arrested. The newly-posted principals will not stay in those schools,” he said.

In Migori County, the principal of Nyangere Secondary School in Nyatike sub-county, Mr Odunga Nyamusi, was also on Thursday kicked out by angry parents who claimed he has not improved the school’s performance for the last 10 years.

Other schools in the region that have been affected by parents’ protests include Kanga Onditi Mixed, Obolo, Okuodo, and Nyemataburo.

In Siaya, parents of Agwara Mixed Secondary School in Bondo sub-county evicted the principal, Mr Stephen Kosewe, over poor performance and alleged mismanagement.

The hundreds of parents blocked the gate of the school in an attempt to bar the principal from accessing the compound after accusing him of running down the institution.

IMPROVED RESULTS

In Nyeri county, there was discontent at Mahiga Girls’ Secondary School following the replacement of both the principal and the deputy.

The Nation learnt that the school’s board of governors was unhappy with the decision at a time when the school had registered improved results in national examinations.

In Taita-Taveta County, all new principals have reported to their stations despite protests by local leaders.

 Reports by Pius Maundu, Ouma Wanzala, Oscar Kakai, Titus Oteba, Elisha Otieno, Nelcon Odhiambo, Lucy Mkanyika, Lucas Barasa and Nicholas Komu


America scraps travel advisory against Kenya

By KEVIN J. KELLEY
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The US State Department announced on Wednesday that it is scrapping its travel warnings for specific countries, instead launching a four-level “travel advisory programme.”

Kenya is placed in the second tier under the new system. When visiting countries in that grouping, US citizens are urged to “exercise increased caution.”

Officials in the Kenyan government and the country’s tourism industry are likely to welcome the changes initiated by the Trump administration. The US has in the past warned against travel to Kenya, prompting complaints that such notifications were unjustified and damaging to the nation’s economy.

The US has been ranked as the top source of tourists to Kenya. The Kenya Tourism Board reported in December 2016 that more than 82,000 Americans visited between January and October of that year, compared with close to 81,000 arrivals from Britain.

Explaining the revised US notification system, State Department official Michelle Bernier-Toth told reporters that “over the years, we’ve come to recognise that sometimes our various documents were not readily understood.”

“We also needed to make sure that the information was more easily understood, putting it into plain language making it clearer why we were ranking countries, why we were citing them as a threat or a risk.”

Ms Bernier-Toth, the acting deputy assistant secretary for Overseas Citizens Services, noted that the method of assessing travel risks has not changed. Advisories are based on information from intelligence agencies, US embassies and host countries’ governments, she said.

The content of the Kenya section in the new system is similar to evaluations issued by the Obama administration.

Now, as then, US citizens are told that violent crime can occur at any time in Kenya and that police often lack the capacity to respond to criminal incidents.

The new advisory flatly warns against travel to the “Kenya-Somalia border and some coastal areas due to terrorism.”

The counties of Mandera, Wajir, Garissa, Tana River and Lamu are included in the suggested no-go area, along with parts of Kilifi County north of Malindi.

It is also suggested that US citizens “reconsider travel to Nairobi neighbourhood of Eastleigh at all times and Old Town in Mombasa at night due to crime.”

“Consider carefully whether to use the Likoni ferry in Mombasa due to safety concerns,” the advisory adds.

Somalia and South Sudan are among 11 countries worldwide placed in the level-four category which is headed “Do Not Travel.”

Mali and the Central African Republic are also given level-four ratings, along with Afghanistan, North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen.

ARMED CONFLICT

Burundi is designated a level-three destination. The US tells prospective visitors to “reconsider travel” to Burundi due to crime and armed conflict.

Rwanda is the only East African country given a level-one rating, under which US citizens are advised to “exercise normal precautions.”

Tanzania and Uganda are both placed in the level-two group along with Kenya.

 US citizens should, however, “reconsider travel to the Rwanda-Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) border due to armed conflict,” the advisory states.

Travellers are told to “exercise increased caution in Tanzania due to crime, terrorism, and targeting of LGBTI persons.”

The Uganda section makes no mention of threats to lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans-gender or intersex persons, despite passage of a law in 2013, later annulled by the country’s Constitutional Court, that mandated life imprisonment for “aggravated homosexuality.”

US citizens are simply advised to exercise increased caution in Uganda due to crime.

Ms Bernier-Toth pointed out that US nationals are not prohibited from traveling to any country, including those in the level-four category.

“We cannot prevent people from traveling to a country,” she said. “The ‘do not travel’ is our recommendation.”

The State Department does, however, restrict the use of a US passport for travel to North Korea. Americans wishing to travel there “must apply for a one-time waiver and provide justification as to why they need to go,” Ms Bernier-Toth said.


Low literacy, numeracy skills worrying

By JONATHAN WESAYA
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The findings contained in the Uwezo 2016 report released last year, dubbed Beyond Basics Study, are as startling today as they were then, and it should be on the Ministry of Education agenda of 2018.

The study was undertaken in 200 schools in 10 sub-counties across the country. It assessed writing, listening and spelling, as well as learners’ ability to perform mathematical (numeracy) problems that included operations, combined with critical thinking skills.

From the key areas of interest, the findings included low competency rates for division and writing for Standard 5 and 6, as well as less than 50 per cent of Standard 5 and 6 learners having spelling competencies when assessed using Standard 4 work.

It was also found that repetition is still rife in public schools and there was almost no difference between boys and girls regarding their fluency in reading.

And the results are appalling when we arrive at the conclusion that less than half of the students who demonstrated fluency in reading did not understand what they read!

Less than 20 per cent of learners are able to read and tell the date on the calendar and read a clock face to indicate the hour and minutes correctly. From the assessment, only three out of 100 children got a critical thinking question right.

These assessment results have far-reaching implications on the action framework for the ministry’s investment. Now that we have moved closer to gender parity in enrolment and learning outcomes, the minority needs to shift gears to enhance individual and collective learning gains.

The ministry and the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) need to figure out how to handle the transition processes for learners who have gone through Tusome and Priede, which were only being offered at lower primary school.

A conscious decision has to be made to build the capacity of teachers in upper primary school to handle these learners to ensure consistency. If this does not happen, the country is likely to drop the relay baton and the initial investment made is bound to go to waste.

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

The implementation of the framework for teacher education in Kenya developed in 2016 needs to take effect.

Hopefully, substantial investment will go into specific literacy and numeracy support for teachers in upper grades as part of their continuous professional development to safeguard the investment already made at lower grades.

Learners who have transited to higher grades and are lagging behind need support not only at school (classroom and play) but also at home.

Parents, guardians and caregivers need to be sensitised to help to connect classroom learning and contextual or environmental occurrences and activities. Children need to learn how portions of food served relate to division or multiplication. This type of engagement will help to anchor the learning and eliminate the abstract and/or blind spots in the process.

Also, teachers should be encouraged to use the time allocated on the timetable for clubs and societies to reinforce what is happening in class outside the classroom. Schools need to invest in organised play for purposes of nurturing skills and talent, but also as a way of reinforcing what children have learnt in the classroom.

CREATIVITY

The utilisation of locally available material for learning and play leaves a lasting imprint on the mind of the learner and this should be encouraged for it can only be a function of the teacher’s creativity and innovativeness.

The education sector ought to find a new cause for learning. Schooling for employment has lost its glitter and, therefore, the nation needs to find a new reason for sending children to school.

The first generation of nationalists and public servants went to school to gain knowledge and skills to replace the leaving colonial masters and their attendant workforce. The second and third followed the same path. The fourth generation is now stuck unemployed and frustrated.

SERVICE DELIVERY

The Quality Assurance and Standards officers from the ministry headquarters to the grassroots at the points of service delivery need to move away from the after-the-fact form of assessment for purposes of early diagnosis and remedy on issues that hinder learning and improvement of learning outcomes.

We need to stand up for our children and act differently.

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


President Kenyatta to meet new ANC leaders on trade deals

By AGGREY MUTAMBO
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By PATRICK LANG’AT
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President Uhuru Kenyatta will use his tour of South Africa to establish contacts with the imminent new leadership in Africa’s largest economy, as well as pursue pending agreements with Pretoria.

Officially, the President has been invited to attend the 106th Anniversary celebrations of the African National Congress, Eastern Cape due on Saturday.

But diplomatic sources told Nation the President has on his mind the fact that Jacob Zuma’s  tenure is set to end, with new leaders coming in.

“The President is using the visit to renew friendship with the new leadership of the African National Congress. This is strategic especially since South Africa is our partner and they have elections coming up next year,” the senior diplomat told Nation a few hours before the President left Nairobi.

CONTROVERSIES

President Kenyatta left the country accompanied by Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed, Principal Secretary Monica Juma and her Trade counterpart Chris Kiptoo, among other officials.

He was seen off by Deputy President William Ruto, who was accompanied by Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i, National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale, Chief of Defence Forces Samson Mwathethe, and Inspector-General of Police Joseph Boinnet.

President Zuma’s tenure has been dogged by controversies, including misuse public funds, inappropriate dealings with an Asian business family as well as illicit arms deals.He has also overseen the ANC, Africa’s oldest liberation party, lose grip of support.

But President Kenyatta has also faced a lengthy political season in Kenya, which saw two elections disputed by the opposition. 

TRADING PARTNER

Yet South Africa is also Kenya’s significant trading partner on the continent albeit in a trade imbalance. While the country sold Kenya goods Sh50 billion last year, it only bought goods worth Sh2 billion from Kenya.

Top on President Kenyatta’s agenda, State House said, would be an attempt to bridge the balance of trade.

But then there are also visa issues. Fifteen months ago, President Zuma visited Nairobi when the two nations signed agreements, including removal of visas for diplomatic and official government delegations, defence cooperation and Lapsett project.

GRANT VISAS

During his inauguration, President Kenyatta announced he would grant all Africans visas on arrival, a gesture meant to boost movement of people. Some experts believe the President should push for reciprocation from countries like South Africa.

“It is still important for him to try and push for the South African government to extend same courtesy to Kenyans,” said Mr George Mucee, the practice leader at immigration consultancy firm Fragomen.


Charity Ngilu defends her poll victory in court

By SAM KIPLAGAT
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Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu on Thursday defended her August 8 win, saying she was voted in overwhelmingly, not because of her gender, but because she was the best candidate.

Mrs Ngilu, who said she has been active in politics since 1992 and was conversant with electoral laws, denied claims of bribing voters, intimidation and campaigning on the election day.

She recalled events of December 16, 2016, saying she cheated death, but unfortunately lost her friend and former Kitui Mayor Martha Mwangangi who was crushed to death by a county lorry.

The Kitui governor told Justice Pauline Nyamweya that she had called youths whose kiosks had been demolished by the county government. She said she addressed them and asked them to record a statement with the police with a view of suing the county government.

“But as we walked towards the police station, a speeding  fire engine came from nowhere and crushed her. I saw the vehicle run over her,” she said.

The former Cabinet secretary said she was elected because “I am a performer” and the people had lost faith in Dr Julius Malombe. “He was voted in overwhelmingly in 2013 but most of them turned and supported my bid in the last election,” she said.

Ms Ngilu told the court through her lawyer Kioko Kilukumi that she triumphed over two strong men — a sitting governor and a sitting senator — adding that Dr Malombe came a distant third, trailing her with 95,309 votes.

Dr Malombe, who unsuccessfully defended the seat on a Wiper ticket, has accused Ms Ngilu of bribery, intimidation of voters and campaigning on the election day.

WIPER AREA

The former governor also claimed that although the county is considered a Wiper area, his agents were intimidated and failed to sign election forms.

But Ms Ngilu denied the claims, saying she did not intimidate anyone and a vehicle impounded on the voting day bearing her campaign posters did not belong to her.

She said she wrote three letters on different occasions to county returning officer Albert Nguma that her rivals printed posters claiming that she had withdrawn from the race.