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Sunday, January 14th, 2018

 

New fuel prices deal blow to poor families

By DAVE OPIYO
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The cost of kerosene has gone up by Sh3.36 a litre, dealing a huge blow to millions of homes that rely on the fuel for cooking and lighting.

Also hit by the latest fuel pump pricing guide announced Sunday are motorists who have to pay Sh2.13 and 2.39 more for super petrol and diesel respectively.

This is the fifth month in a row that the Energy Regulatory Commission has raised the maximum pump prices in the country, putting a strain in the pockets of Kenyans, who grappling with the high cost of living.

The commission yesterday attributed the high prices to an increase in landed costs — the total price of a product once it has arrived at a buyer’s door, including the original price, transportation fees, inland and ocean levies customs, duties, taxes, insurance, currency conversion, crating, handling and payment fees.

The commission’s director General Pavel Oimeke said the average landed cost of imported Super petrol increased by 3.99 per cent from Sh65,530 per tonne to Sh68,148 between November and December last year.

DIESEL INCREASED

He explained that during the same period, the landed cost of diesel also increased by 4.63 per cent from Sh55, 994 per tonne to Sh58, 588 while that of Kerosine also went up by 6.36 per cent from Sh59, 703 per tonne to Sh63, 500.

 He further explained that over the same period, the mean monthly US dollar to the shilling exchange rate appreciated by 0.30 per cent, from Sh103.43 to Sh103.12.

The upward adjustment in pricing will see kerosene, which is largely used by the urban poor and rural households, retail at Sh72.01 per litre in Mombasa, Sh74.78 in Nairobi, Sh75.62 in Nakuru, Sh76.69 in Eldoret and Kisumu, Sh78. 77 in Isebania and Sh88.59 in Mandera for the next one month.

SUPER PETROL

Super petrol, will be cheapest in Mombasa at Sh103.01 per litre.  In Nairobi, it will be sold at Sh106.30, Sh114.55 in Wajir, Sh120 in Mandera, Sh106 in Nakuru and 108.17 and 108.24 respectively in Eldoret and Kisumu.

For diesel, retailers will sell the commodity at Sh91.55 per litre in Mombasa, Sh94.82 in Nairobi, Sh103 in Wajir, Sh108.63 in Mandera, Sh95.74 in Nakuru, Sh96.92 in Eldoret and 96.99 in Kisumu.

Petroleum prices currently vary across Kenya due to transport costs from Mombasa port where imported consignments land .

The commission said the purpose of fuel pricing regulations is to cap the pump prices of the products so that the importation and other prudently incurred costs are recovered while ensuring reasonable prices to consumers.


Thefts in hotel rooms spoil the holiday mood at the Coast

By KENNEDY KIMANTHI
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By MOHAMED AHMED
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The Coast is popular with many Kenyans for comfort and pleasant vacations.

Unfortunately, it can happen that your lovely vacation is spoiled by the theft or damage of your personal belongings in the hotel or residence where you stay!

Recently, cases of non-violent break-ins in rooms have been reported in many of the high end hotels in the region especially during the peak season in December, with holiday makers complaining of losing valuables such as electronics, designer clothes and cash.

In fact, the Kenya Tourism Federation (KTF) says it is aware of the increased crime. Interviews with theft victims, many of whom did not want to be identified, point to well executed and organised crime within the facilities.

And to save their brands, the hotels ask victims not to report the matter to the media as they conduct their own investigations with the help of detectives.

STOLE VALUABLES

*James*(not his real name) is one such victim.

He had booked in at the Sarova Whitesands Beach Resort and Spa in Mombasa in December.

But as the New Year approached, unknown people gained access to his room and stole valuables including laptops, cash and a phone.

“I suspect it was during the fireworks display when they took advantage and opened my room stealing the items,” he told the Nation. James reported the matter to the police but they are yet to arrest any suspects or recover the items.

Police sources revealed that the thieves entered four hotel rooms and stole valuables. The hotel’s General Manager Siddharth Sathe confirmed such a break-in and detectives were still investigating the matter.

Another victim disclosed losing up to Sh100,000 that was kept in a safe inside the room. He is still puzzled by how they accessed the lockable box and made away with cash. Investigations have not yielded much so far.

Mr Sathe told the Nation none of his staff have been implicated in any of the cases.

PERSONAL SAFETY

“All the cases reported are with the Directorate of Criminal Investigations. We also ask visitors to take their personal safety and that of their items into consideration at all times,” Mr Sathe said.

Reviews on American travel website TripAdvisor revealed a series of complaints from holidaymakers, both local and foreign.

Voyager Beach Resort, Sai Rock Beach Hotel and Spa are mentioned as those where theft occurred.

Kenya Tourism Federation chairman Mohammed Hersi said those attending conferences have not been spared either. According to him, robbers scale hotel walls to steal valuables. Those in Bamburi, Diani, Nyali and Malindi-Watamu areas are the most affected areas.

“Most hotels have been forced to employ staff as bystanders to watch out for non-residents,” Mr Heri said.

LAPTOPS STOLEN

Last December, three laptops belonging to an assembly clerk assistant and two Nairobi nominated MCAs were stolen from a hotel in Bamburi during lunch break at a conference.

Mombasa police commander Johnston Ipara said hotel management should come up with a mechanism on how to do follow up on the matters which will also involve scrutinising the workers.

“We do not want to make conclusions as the investigations are still on, but when such blunders are reported to us, we will hold the management to account. We will not allow some individuals to tarnish the name of the hotel and the tourism sector as a whole,” said Mr Ipara.

Elsewhere in the Zimbabwean capital of Harare, two Kenyan nationals were arrested last July after they allegedly broke into a hotel room and an apartment and stole property worth more than $44,000.

In the US, Hollywood star Lupita Nyong’o’s dress was stolen from her hotel room in California in 2015. It was later recovered by Los Angeles police. In her case, the burglar(s) used the balcony to steal the dress. The thief threw it off the balcony where someone on the ground was waiting to grab it.


Governors in dilemma as counties sag under suspicious debts

By BARNABAS BII
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Newly-elected governors in the North Rift have an uphill task in settling pending debts inherited from  the previous regimes.

They are equally faced with the daunting task of completing ‘stalled’ projects started by their predecessors as audit reports show billions of shillings have been lost in ghost projects.

The governors, elected in the August 8 General Election, are Stephen Sang (Nandi), Prof John Lonyangapuo (West Pokot) and Stanley Kiptis (Baringo).

In Nandi County, for instance, Mr Sang has released an audit report on expenditures by the former Governor Dr Cleophas Lagat’s administration, showing attempts by contractors to fleece the county of more than Sh670 million in fictitious claims.

In the report, the contractors are demanding payment for 656 projects undertaken in 2013-2017, which the audit reveals do not meet the threshold of public procurement regulations.

“The audit has unearthed many irregularities. What is being claimed is so huge yet we inherited only Sh759 million as balance brought forward in the 2016/17 financial year,” Mr Sang told journalists recently in his office in Kapsabet. The county government has pending bills amounting to Sh1.2 billion.

KIPCHOGE KEINO

The construction of the Governor’s office and Kipchoge Keino stadium are some of the pending projects in the county. According to a report by Auditor-General Edward Ouko, the initial cost of the Governor’s office was estimated at Sh103 million for the two-storey building but an additional floor was later approved at a cost of Sh21 million.

The construction work started on February 10, 2014, and it was to be completed in February 6, 2015. The building still remains unfinished.

“The county management has not explained if and when the project will be completed and when the stakeholders will get value for their resource,” stated the report released on  June  30, 2015.

Governor Sang now wants the national government to take over the construction of the stadium, which started four years ago.

It can also be revealed that some of the devolved units in the North Rift incurred losses due to excessive expenditure on domestic and foreign travels which exceeds the approved budget. Controller of Budget Mrs Agnes Odhiambo now wants measures put in place to cut down on the expenses.

PENDING BILLS

According to annual County Budget Implementation Review Report for 2016/2017, Turkana had pending bills of Sh2.9 billion, Nandi Sh813.5 million, Elgeyo Marakwet  Sh785 million and Baringo Sh91.4 million as at June 30, 2017.The pending bills which are in form of recurrent and development expenditure, according to Mrs Odhiambo, need to be perused by the Auditor General to ascertain their legitimacy.

Baringo County had excessive domestic and foreign expenditure last financial year, amounting to Sh195.14 million up from Sh125.87 million spent in 2015/16 financial year.

It consisted of Sh117.61 million for County Assembly and Sh77.54 million for the County Executive representing 5.2 per cent of the recurrent expenditure.

The county had a total recurrent expenditure of Sh3.75 billion out of which Sh2.38 billion was spent on personnel emoluments and Sh1.36 billion on operations and maintenance.

STAFFING STRUCTURE

Elgeyo Marakwet County recorded declined local revenue collection and increased wage bill in 2016/2017 which is likely to affect implementation of key development projects.

The devolved unit generated Sh97.32 million last financial year as compared to Sh128 million in 2015/2017 representing a decline of 23.9 per cent in total local revenue collection.

It at the same time experienced increased wage bill from Sh1.79 billion to Sh2.05 billion last financial year and Mrs Odhiambo has called on the County Public Service Board to establish an optimal staffing structure to manage the wage bill.


Power, tender wars at the centre of Nairobi County crisis

By COLLINS OMULO
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Differences in tendering, accusations of collusion with State House to usurp powers, and battle for control of operations at City Hall contributed to the short-lived political marriage between Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko and his deputy Polycarp Igathe, the Nation has learnt.

This came as Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja said there were plans by county’s elected leaders to reach out to Mr Igathe to try and convince him to rescind his decision to resign.

“We (Nairobi leaders) will discuss the matter. Also, senators know there are clauses that are not clear (on filling of the deputy governor’s position) and we are looking into it so that Nyeri County can get a deputy governor. In Nairobi, if we will not be able to bring the two together, we will move on,” said Mr Sakaja in Kiambu on Saturday.

Even though the reign of Mr Sonko and his deputy started on a strong path, this was short-lived.

“I regret I have failed to earn the trust of the governor to enable me to drive the administration and management of the county. Without fear, favour or ill will I step down,” he had said.

Mr Sonko had promised to only run the political affairs at City Hall while his deputy was to deal with planning and policies.

According to a source close to Mr Igathe, the first sign of mistrust and acrimony occurred when the deputy governor approached his boss with a proposal to terminate the Sh23.2 million contract awarded to Web Tribe Ltd, Jambo Pay’s parent company, which was collecting parking revenue, and award to it to another firm.

This was in line with their manifesto in which they promised to cancel the Jambo Pay contract within 100 days in office after Auditor-General Edward Ouko faulted the tendering process, saying the company won the tender even though it was not one of the lowest bidders.

JAMBO PAY DEAL

The source said the governor received the proposal but rather than act on their pledge, he continued with the Jambo Pay deal. “When he went back to the governor to inquire about the proposal, Mr Sonko told him off and he was told Jambo Pay will continue offering services,” said the source.

Later there was a tussle over an award of tender for garbage collection for which the source claimed the two were vouching for separate entities.

Mr Igathe lost once again with the contract going to Sonko Rescue Team, a non-charitable organisation which is a brainchild of the governor and has been in operation since 2015 and had been running the “Operation Ng’arisha Jiji” campaign.

Although the amount of money at stake in the tender was not revealed, garbage collection is a lucrative multi-billion shilling business in Nairobi with a point in case being in 2004 when an Italian company, Jacorossi Impresse, was awarded a Sh3.5 billion contract which later hit a brick wall. It is estimated that the contract is nowadays in the north of Sh20 billion.

PENDING BILLS

The next battlefront was on the payment of pending bills and contractors that were undertaking various projects. The pending bills stood at Sh58 billion as was revealed by the governor during his address at the opening of the county assembly in September.

The source said Mr Igathe wanted the bills paid without audit while the governor wanted an audit as he considered the amount high, an overruling that irked Mr Igathe. “The governor said if they went ahead with the payments without audit then the county might be left with nothing to run its operations,” said the source.

There was also the message revelation where the governor shared 23 screenshots of his conversations with his deputy. Mr Sonko only made one-word replies, laying bare differences in priorities between the two.

CONTRACTORS

“Your Excellency, request these market contractors to get paid. I visited the projects and if paid they can be completed before end of year,” wrote Mr Igathe in one message

He later reminded him: “Your excellency, I beg that we pay markets and ICT contractors so work commences.”

The City Hall boss only replied with one word, “Done.” This is said to have widened the rift between the two.

 Additional reporting by Eric Wainaina


New governors set to clean up mess of stalled projects

By NATION TEAM
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A number of first-time governors have started audits of incomplete projects started by their predecessors to decide their fate.

Although they have dismissed claims that they will abandon all the projects, they warned they will not hesitate to shelve those they felt were not beneficial to the public and start new ones that would define their legacy.

In Bomet County, for instance, Governor Joyce Laboso, the region’s first woman governor, in an interview with the Nation, said there was no point of “disrupting what is good for the people”.

“We have our agenda and we have a manifesto which we presented to the people. But, any other good thing is welcome. We want to bring everyone on board because we know this is not the time for politics. The people want us to serve them,” she said.

At the Coast, Taita-Taveta Governor Granton Samboja said he will only abandon projects started by his predecessor John Mruttu only if there were compelling reasons for him to do so.

The governor said all the projects being implemented in the county were meant to benefit citizens.

“The process of coming up with the projects was one that involved the people in the constitutional spirit of public participation through the County Integrated Development Plan formation process and also through the budget-making process every financial year,” he said.

Mr Samboja, however, said his administration had formed a task force to review projects undertaken by the previous government for the purpose of establishing their status.

He said a public outcry on a number of incomplete projects and pending bills, that had come about as a result of some payments not being made to the contractors, informed his decision to form a task force to review the issues.

Tharaka-Nithi Governor Muthomi Njuki also shares similar thoughts.

Just a few weeks ago, the county boss commissioned a water project at Kathwana – the country’s headquarters – that had been started by his predecessor Samuel Ragwa.

NOBLE IDEA

“This project was a noble idea and I could not let it die,” said Mr Njuki. In Isiolo, Governor Mohamed Kuti also said he will complete an abattoir which has not been put into use due to poor workmanship.

The abattoir had been constructed with funds from the national government and handed over to the county in 2014.

The new administration, he said, was seeking an investor to fast-track its completion to allow pastoralists to reap its benefits.

However, Dr Kuti said his government will do away with plans by the former administration to have two of its game reserves managed by a private firm.

Initially, the former governor had planned to seek the services of a private firm to manage Buffalo Springs and Shaba game reserves, but Dr Kuti insisted that his administration will constitute a board with qualified members who will manage the sanctuaries.

MORE FUNDS

In Laikipia, Governor Ndiritu Muriithi said he was still inspecting all the projects initiated by his predecessor, some of which had stalled  after being allocated millions of shillings.

Recently, he toured Laikipia North constituency, where he inspected two projects – a borehole worth Sh22 million and a maternity wing that was allocated Sh18 million by former Governor Joshua Irungu’s administration.

“We have revived and hope to complete them by end of this year,” he said.

Nyeri’s Mutahi Kahiga has injected more funds into projects started by the previous regime.

Infrastructure Executive Muthui Kariuki said the county government will not abandon projects started “for the good of the people”.

“It is only logical to complete projects because they were meant to help residents not the government.  As long as that project make life easy for Wanjiku, then we will complete it,” he said.

In Vihiga, Governor Wilber Ottichilo said apart from completing all the stalled projects started by his predecessor, he will clear more than Sh1.2 billion pending bills also inherited from former Governor Moses Akaranga’s administration. However, he said this will take several months to implement.

STALLED PROJECTS

“We will only pay for clearly documented services offered,” said the former Emuhaya MP.

He added: “Some of the pending bills and stalled projects have been included in the Sh5.6 billion supplementary budget currently before the assembly, which is expected to approve them.”

The governor said the county launched an audit of all the stalled projects with the findings being used in the preparation of the 2017/18 supplementary budget.

This, the he said, will ensure the projects are completed and operationalised within 90 days.

“The new county government found out that there was neither a clearly established governance system in the county nor ongoing development projects,” he said.

 Reported by Geoffrey Rono, Brian Ocharo, Derrick Luvega, Alex Njeru, Vivian Jebet, Mwangi Ndirangu and Grace Gitau


Nasa holds crisis talks over Raila swearing-in plan

By SAMWEL OWINO
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Principals of the National Super Alliance will meet on Monday to sort out differences surrounding the planned swearing-in of opposition leader Raila Odinga as the people’s president, and complaints by Wiper Democratic Movement over the sharing of parliamentary leadership positions.

Mr Odinga and his co-principals Kalonzo Musyoka, Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetang’ula will seek to calm nerves in the opposition after Mr Miguna Miguna, a key player in the coalition’s resistance wing, sensationally claimed on Twitter at the weekend that Mr Musyoka and Mr Wetang’ula had been holding night meetings with Jubilee leaders.

On Sunday, Wiper Party Secretary-General Peter Mathuki and Deputy Minority Whip in the National Assembly Chris Wamalwa described the allegations as total lies, saying Mr Miguna should not be taken seriously.

“Mr Musyoka is a co-principal in Nasa. How can someone leave his home, which he founded?. We cannot take Miguna seriously because he is not even a member of Nasa,” Mr Mathuki said.

“The rumours are far-fetched as the only thing our party leader has called for is national dialogue on electoral reforms. Mr Musyoka is a respected international diplomat and can lead dialogue in this country. If he has done it in other countries, why not in his own? asked Mr Mathuki.

Dr Wamalwa, while dismissing the allegations as cheap lies, stated that the Bungoma senator was in Nasa for the long haul: “Whoever is saying that Mr Wetang’ula is headed to Jubilee is daydreaming and such rumours should be treated as total lies.”

“As Ford-Kenya, we are in Nasa to stay and we are not going anywhere any time, Nasa is our bedrock,” said the Kiminini MP.

WRATH OF KENYANS

On Saturday, Mr Miguna said some principals were against Mr Odinga’s swearing-in and warned that anyone sabotaging the plans will face the wrath of Kenyans.

The meeting comes as various parliamentary committees are gearing up for their induction in Mombasa, with the House set to resume its sittings on February 13.

On Sunday, Mr Mudavadi confirmed the meeting but declined to reveal the agenda: “It is true we will have a meeting tomorrow (Monday).”

Mr Wetang’ula confirmed on Friday at a press conference that Nasa top leadership would meet to find a solution to some of the issues raised.

“We have a leadership structure and party leaders and we have agreed to sit down on Monday the four of us and talk. Our Wiper brothers will tell us what they are not happy about and we will resolve that because we must move forward as a coalition,” said Mr Wetang’ula.

SHARPLY DIVIDED

“Wiper has a right to say that the right thing was not done and we will look at that and where we will find that we did not do well as a coalition, we will correct,” added the senate minority leader.

The parliamentary committees chairperson positions sharply divided the opposition lawmakers as other coalition partners accused the Orange Democratic Movement of bulldozing small parties.

Apart from Wiper, Mr Mudavadi’s Amani National Congress had also expressed displeasure at ODM on the sharing of the positions, especially the Public Accounts Committee leadership.

However, the other coalition partner, Ford-Kenya, has not raised any complaint, having taken the Senate minority leadership position, which was given to Mr Wetang’ula and the Deputy Minority Whip in the National Assembly, which went to Dr Wamalwa.

Lugari MP Ayub Savula had earlier complained that ANC had raised the issue of being short-changed and bullied by ODM.

The committee leadership elections were done when Mr Musyoka was on a 10-week tour of Germany, where his ailing wife was being treated.

In the elections, ODM took the Public Accounts Committee chairmanship through Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi, although the coalition had reportedly settled on Mr Mudavadi’s pointman, Sakwa Bunyasi (Nambale, ANC).

SHORT-CHANGED

In the Public Investments Committee, Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir was elected the chairman, leaving Butere MP Tindi Mwale of ANC complaining that his party had once again been short-changed.

In the Parliamentary Service Commission, Wiper has claimed it was cheated out of a seat that was to be handed to Borabu MP Bernard Momanyi.

“We demand a slot in the PSC because we are in the coalition by right and deserve a slot.

The  Wiper Party on Wednesday reignited the Nasa disagreements over leadership positions in parliamentary committees after it demanded a reversal to what it said was the originally agreed on line-up.

In a meeting chaired by Mr Musyoka at the party headquarters in Nairobi last week, Wiper said it was dissatisfied with how it was treated in the sharing of the slots.

“It is not a light matter. Our members have expressed strong sentiments that when Mr Kalonzo was away, the committee positions were not shared as agreed,” the Wiper party chairman, Prof Kivutha Kibwana, said.

“We will be looking for a reversal to the original agreements.”


Uhuru back after a three-day State visit to South Africa

By PSCU
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President Uhuru Kenyatta jetted into the country on Sunday evening after a three-day State visit to South Africa.

Mr Kenyatta held a meeting with President Jacob Zuma in Durban. The talks centred around strengthening relations between Kenya and South Africa. 

The two presidents discussed trade and connectivity and how these could boost manufacturing and create jobs for millions of young people.

From Durban, President Kenyatta headed to the industrial town of East London where he met ruling African National Congress  party new leader Cyril Ramaphosa, who is also the country’s deputy president.

During a dinner hosted on the eve of the ANC’s 106th anniversary celebration, Mr Ramaphosa said President Kenyatta’s visit demonstrated the special relations between Kenya and South Africa. 

GOOD RELATIONS

Mr Ramaphosa congratulated President Kenyatta for his election victory last year.

“ANC and Jubilee party will work towards cementing good relations between Kenyans and South Africans,” Mr Ramaphosa told his guest.

 In East London, Mr Kenyatta met Volkswagen South Africa head Thomas Schaefer who assured him that the car maker would  soon double production in Kenya and introduce a new model at the Thika vehicle assembly plant.

FINAL TERM

The President capped his visit, the first foreign trip since his inauguration for his second and final term in office, by attending the ANC’s anniversary fete at Buffalo City stadium in East London before flying home.

The plane carrying the President and his delegation touched down at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport shortly after 6pm.

The President was received by his deputy William Ruto, executives and other senior government officials.


Though difficult, breaking away of part of a country can be achieved by negotiations

By MARIA NZOMO
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Attempts at secession in Africa have faced huge challenges as the UN and the global community increasingly become anti-breakaway and mother states dig in and become ruthlessly militaristic.

This has hampered secessionist efforts of even those that have similar political history to Eritrea, including Somaliland and former British South Cameroon, now part of ex-French Cameroon.

The latter proclaimed independence of  Ambazonia — the name given to the two breakaway Anglophone regions of Cameroon — on October 1, 2017, provoking a crackdown by security forces that left dozens dead and many injured.

Like South Sudan and Eritrea, the Bougainville secession from Papua New Guinea came at a heavy price of a decade-long war. 

The war of 1988 to 1998 between Papua New Guinea and the secessionist forces of the Bougainville is billed as the largest conflict in Oceania since the end of World War II. It left an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 Bougainvilleans dead.

HOSTILITIES

Hostilities ended following a 1998 peace agreement between the Papuan Government and the Bougainville Revolutionary Army. 

Under the deal, officials agreed to the founding of the Autonomous Bougainville Government and to cede certain rights and authorities to the province, including outlying small islands. A referendum for the independence of ABG is scheduled for 2019.

The world is generally averse to secession and does not explicitly provide legal and policy frameworks that would encourage it. 

The ambiguity in international law on the provision of self-determination on the one hand and the principle of territorial integrity on the other, therefore, creates the first challenge in attempts to secede. 

Like the UN, most national constitutions do not directly provide for secession, given the high premium that states place on sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Where such a constitutional provision exists, it is likely to suffer from the same ambiguity as the UN Charter, as it seeks to balance individual with statehood rights.

In the case of Kenya, this ambiguity provides a fertile ground for conflict that is pitting anti and pro-secession forces against each other over divergent legal interpretations. 

Whereas our Constitution outlaws secession by emphatically providing in the preamble that Kenya is “…one indivisible sovereign nation,” and underscoring in Article 5 “the inviolable territorial limits of Kenya as a sovereign republic”, pro-secessionists argue that Articles 1 and 2 provide that “sovereign power belongs to the people” and may be exercised directly — self-determination — or indirectly.

Even so, the parent state still retains an upper hand; in part because it enjoys international recognition of its inalienable statehood. Furthermore, any action challenging the constitutional status quo in regard to Kenya as one sovereign republic within the territorial limits outlined in Article 5, would require an amendment through a referendum. 

Still, to actualise a plebiscite would require a dominant ruling regime’s cooperation, a most unlikely scenario given the government’s abhorrence of part of its territory breaking away. 

WESTERN SAHARA

The combined emphasis on territorial integrity, domestically and internationally, ensures secessionist movements often fail to galvanise the world to pile pressure on the parent government to grant autonomy, as the case of Kosovo demonstrates. 

While Kosovo enjoys the backing of the United States and most industrialised countries, it has not been recognised by the UN and is unlikely to be as long as Russia — a veto-wielding member of the Security Council — does not recognise Kosovo’s  2008 declaration of independence from Moscow’s ally, Serbia.

Even where a separatist group qualifies to break away on the basis of the principle of self-determination, political and legal recognition may be denied on other grounds.

Such is the case of Western Sahara, formerly a Spanish colony, which remains a disputed territory, claimed by Morocco and the Polisario Front.

It is listed by the UN as a non-decolonised territory and included in the UN list of non-self-governing territories.

However, the UN neither recognises Moroccan nor Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic sovereignty over Western Sahara.  

Despite this, 87 states, the Non-Aligned Movement, the African Union and the European Union support “the right of self-determination of the Sahrawi people”.

However, of these, 42 States do not recognise the Sahrawi Republic while only 35 do. Furthermore, while the Organisation of African Unity admitted Western Sahara as a member in 1984 — a decision that created a rift in the union and caused the exit of Morocco — only 21 African States recognise Western Sahara. 

Despite the fact that the dispute that triggered its exit from the union still remains, the return of Morocco in January 2017 after 33 years may augur well for continental unity. 

Spain’s wealthy north-eastern Catalonia region has grabbed international media attention for years as one of the most likely newest member of the secessionist family.

But this has not come to pass, primarily due to the heavy anti-secessionism tide from the government in Madrid and lack of UN and international support.

The Spanish constitution, too, does not provide for secession.

Catalonia, which considers itself different from the rest of Spain, has since the 19th century, struggled  to break away, but has faced resistance from Madrid, which relies heavily on the region’s economy for its national revenue. 

ECONOMIC GRIEVANCES

Fuelled by a distinct language and culture as well as historical economic grievances, aspirations for a separate state for Catalonia have been simmering for generations, culminating in the October 1, 2017, referendum that saw Catalonians voting for secession and the establishment of  their capital in Barcelona. 

This was followed with the declaration by the Catalonian regional parliament and of Catalonia’s independence from Spain on October 27. 

It was in complete defiance of multiple warnings from the central government of the unconstitutionality of secession. 

The Spanish Senate granted Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy unprecedented powers to impose direct rule on Catalonia. 

With this constitutional backing, the premier took the unprecedented step of stripping the region of its autonomy, dismissing its government — including the Catalan police chief — and dissolving the regional parliament. 

He also called for snap elections for the region on December 21, 2017, and vowed to close down Catalan embassies. 

Rajoy then began a crackdown and arrest of Catalonian leaders.  Carles Puigdemont was sacked as Catalan president and charged with sedition and rebellion, but sought refuge in the Belgian capital Brussels.

His former deputy and other Catalan leaders are in jail pending investigations into the same charges. 

However, the December 21 snap elections turned out to be a victory for pro-secessionist parties. They defeated the central government despite the centrist, anti-independence party scoring the best individual result. The European Union, the United Kingdom, Germany and the US declined support for Catalan independence and expressed backing for Madrid’s right to preserve Spanish unity. 

Like Catalonia, Chechnya was a cash cow of the Russian Federation. It served as a hub of the oil infrastructure and so its secession would hurt the Russian economy and energy access. 

The Chechen-Russian conflict dates back to the 18th century. In the ensuing years, the territory was locked in a struggle between successive Russian governments and Chechen factions seeking independence.

During the Russian Civil War of 1917 to 1922, Chechens and other Caucasian nations gained independence before being re-Sovietised in 1921.

SECOND WORLD WAR

During the Second World War, Chechens attempted another revolt against the Soviet regime but the militants were deported en masse to Central Asia where they remained until 1957, four years after Soviet leader Josef Stalin’s death. 

As the Soviet Union disintegrated after the end of the Cold War, Chechen separatists declared independence in 1991. 

The Russian-Chechen war broke out in late 1994 and after two years of fighting, Russian forces withdrew but returned in 1999 to re-establish control over Chechnya in 2000.

The final round of the war was from 1999 to 2009 as Chechnya continued resistance against Russian political control.

The intensification of the war and especially the widespread human rights violations by Russian and separatist forces drew international condemnation. 

By April 2009, the Russian operation officially ended. The troops withdrew from Chechnya and three months later, the exiled leader of the separatist government called for a halt to armed struggle.

According to estimates, between 25,000 and 50,000 people were killed or disappeared during the bloody conflict, civilians accounting for the majority.

To secede or not to secede?

POLITICAL SUICIDE

As demonstrated, it is rare for internationally-recognised states to agree to allow the breakaway of part of their territory.

To many state bureaucrats, such a concession amounts to political suicide. Yet, as shown, the often hardline anti-secessionist stance tends to generate and evoke more radicalised and militant reactions from secessionist groups, which then escalates into an armed conflict. 

Clearly, there can be no winners in such a war. It only leaves a trail of death and destruction.

It would seem, therefore, that the first line of action where feelings of historical injustice have been expressed would be for the government and the aggrieved to seek dialogue rather than confrontation.

The aim is usually to reach a reasonable compromise. However, if dialogue fails and it becomes clear that the differences are irreconcilable, then a negotiated and peaceful exit of the aggrieved party should be considered.

 Maria Nzomo is professor of international relations and governance and director of the Institute of Diplomacy and International Studies, the University of Nairobi. She is a former ambassador of Kenya to the UN and WTO.


Ocean load is pushing the seabed downwards

By CHEGE MBITIRU
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One subject that features prominently because of global warming is sea-level rise.

A new study by a Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands indicates the sea bottom is hurting.

But first, how bad is the sea level rise? Six months ago, The Washington Post carried a story citing a Nature Climate Change report. It was headlined “Sea level Rise Isn’t Just Happening, It’s Getting Faster.”

What was 2.2. millimetres per year rise in 1993, the story said, became 3.3 millimetres in 2014. For those stuck in imperial measurements mindset, that’s a rise of 0.86 and 1.29 inches every ten years; not much on a tiled kitchen floor. A look at the globe indicates lots of water.

Among the components of the rise causes, at the top was the melting of the Greenland ice sheet. The same in smaller glaciers contributed.

Also in the neighbourhood was melting of inland ice caps, most of whose waters remained in inland seas, reservoirs, the Earth’s fauna and flora o flowed into oceans.

But what does the weight of that water do to Earth?  The Delft study, the latest of three on the subject published last year, didn’t go that far. It just looked at the ocean’s bottoms.

SINKING OCEAN

Calculation methods of the Delft study, published in the Science Alert, are beyond the scope of the discussion here.

However, essentially, the study indicates “the weight of all that extra water pushes down on the sinking ocean floor, deforming the seabed—and disguising just how much oceans are truly swelling.” Reason: existing measuring methods, including satellite, only indicate the surface goings-on.

‘’For roughly the last two decade (the period 1993-20140) the team calculates the increase in total ocean load has pushed the seabed by about 0.13mm  per year, or around 2.5mm (almost 1/10 of an inch) in total for the period,” the study shows.

This whole seabed warping though isn’t globally uniform. It indicates, though, scientists have been underestimating the sea-level rise.

DEFORMATION

As for the potential of the rise and the deformation of the seabed, for now, that’s for human beings’ imaginations gone wild.

These might be along the line of do the rising temperate, the melting ice and the warping seabed mean coastal lands and island nations will go up or under, ad infinitum.

Well, as of now only the Biblical Methuselah can tell. But whatever it is, it’s happening, albeit slowly.

Anyway, “The Earth itself is not a rigid sphere, it’s a deforming ball,” geoscientist Thomas Frederikse of Delft, the Earther quotes him.

“With climate change, we do not only change temperature.” 


Primer for Trump: How Africa developed Europe and America

By RASNA WARAH
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I don’t think President Donald Trump deserves more media attention than what he already generates through his ridiculously rash and ignorant tweets.

But a comment he allegedly made last week needs to be forcefully rebutted — if only to give the United States president a primer in history and world affairs.

Trump’s statement at a meeting of senators to discuss immigration — where he is said to have referred to Haitians and Africans as being from “sh**hole countries” — has already been widely condemned for being racist. But what most critics are not addressing is how the US and the West in general have benefitted from the African continent and kept these countries in a permanent state of penury.

Before I delve into this issue, I would like to remind the US president that, had it not been for the trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and the free labour provided by Africans, America would not have become a wealthy nation and there would be fewer blacks living there.

By refusing to accept this reality, Trump and his ilk absolve themselves and their ancestors of all responsibility for slavery and also for the near-extermination of the indigenous native American people, who now live in marginalised and under-serviced reserves in their own country.

Trump should know that Africa is the net exporter of capital to the West, not vice-versa.

The true story of Africa’s billion-dollar losses, a report by a group of United Kingdom- and Africa-based NGOs, shows that $134 billion flows into Africa every year, predominantly in the form of loans, foreign investment and aid.

The report, which was published recent, adds that, of this, $192 billion is taken out, mainly in profits made by Western multinational companies, tax evasion and loan repayments — the latter often to financial institutions that are tied to Western capital.

This means Africa suffers a net loss of $58 billion a year, which is nearly double the amount of foreign aid the continent receives annually.

POLITICAL TOOL

It is also worth noting that aid is a political tool used by rich nations to obtain lucrative military contracts from African governments. Bilateral aid from Britain, France and the US, in particular, is often pegged to deals for military equipment from the donor country.

Usually, these contracts are worth several times more than the aid. Since most of these contracts are signed secretly due to their sensitive nature, it is hard to estimate just how much of Africa’s wealth goes towards enriching the West’s military industrial complex but it is, no doubt, worth billions of dollars.

Africa’s vast natural resources — including oil, copper, diamonds, coltan and uranium — are also looted through dubious contracts.

Big corporations (mostly based in the West but now also increasingly in China) are adept at drawing up mining and other agreements that give them undue advantage, with the result that many African governments — especially those in strife-torn countries or those with corrupt leaders or weak regulatory laws — end up getting a raw deal.

Africa’s wealth is siphoned in other ways too. It is not widely known or acknowledged but as many 14 Francophone African countries — including Mali, Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso and Central African Republic — are is still joined at the hip to their former colonial master through a colonial Francafrique pact that obliges them to deposit up to 50 per cent of their foreign reserves into France’s central bank.

According to the Bank of France’s 2012 annual report, the amount of cash it holds from African countries is larger than the GDPs of all except two of the 14 nations. Apparently, the money is held “in trust” by the French government to guarantee the CFA franc — the currency that is used in these former French colonies.

Any African leader who has resisted this form of neo-colonialism, or threatened to disobey the pact, finds himself either ousted in a coup or killed. For example, when Togo’s first president Sylvanus Olympio decided to issue Togolese national currency and discontinue the CFA franc, he was assassinated by a former French army sergeant, supposedly on the orders of the French government.

Without the wealth looted from African countries, the US and European countries would be much poorer and much less developed than they are. It is these “sh**hole” African countries that have made Trump and his cronies in the West very, very rich.