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Thursday, April 12th, 2018


Idle land to be taxed in new Ministry bill

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The Ministry of Lands has introduced a policy that will allow taxation of idle land.

But the policy will be implemented only after both the Senate and the National Assembly adopt it.

Land Cabinet Secretary Farida Karoney on Thursday told senators during the Inaugural Retreat for the Senate Committee on Land, Environment and Natural Resources in Mombasa that the two houses have a role to play in ensuring that the changes take effect.

“In our Rural Settlement Planning at the ministry, we have the land taxation policy that seeks to provide a package of incentives to encourage productive and sustainable use of land and disincentives for keeping idle land,” Ms Karoney said.

She said among the aims is to have all owners of idle land to be taxed to encourage sustainable use.

She added: “This is pegged on the National Land Use Policy (NLUP). I am appealing to the Senate, through the committee, to support the fully implementation of the NLUP and the National Spatial Planning Policy (NSP).”

Ms Karoney said the ministry needs adequate funding to fully implement its programmes.

She said there are chunks of idle land that, were they well utilised for both agriculture and commercialisation, would make the country food secure and well developed.

“It is sad that we have all this idle land that can be used for agricultural and commercial purposes for our economic development. This is the land we are targeting. That land must be utilised for the growth of this nation,” she said.

The CS called for a revisit of the land policy of 2009, saying it was adopted before the new Constitution.

She asked the Senate to encourage counties to allocate adequate funds to undertake their physical planning function.

“The Senate should fast-track enactment of the Physical Planning Bill No. 34 of 2017 to provide the framework to guide the physical planning envisaged,” she said.

Senators took the minister to task over digitisation of all land transactions, which the ministry is currently implementing.

“How safe is the digital online land transaction that your ministry is undertaking.

“We know some of these online platforms also pose certain risks. We need to know how secure it is for us to give it a clean bill of operations,” Senate committee vice chairman Victor Prengei said.

Voi Senator Jones Mwaruma asked the CS to elaborate on the issues that the Law Society of Kenya had raised on digitisation of land transactions.

“How will you assure Kenyans that their records will be safe on the internet platform?” he asked.

Ms Karoney said the system has undergone a series of security and safety checks and has a data backup stored in several servers.

“It has been tested and is now on the E-citizen platform,” she said.

Daystar University students want release of audit report

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Students of Daystar University, which was shut on Wednesday night, have demanded the release of an audit into the institution’s finances.

The students on Thursday vacated the Athi River and Nairobi campuses following chaos on Wednesday night when a meeting between the college’s senate and them turned violent.

Police lobbed tear gas at the Nairobi campus students after they boycotted classes demanding results of the audit.

The audit report, which the university says was released two weeks ago, is said to have unearthed financial improprieties by the management.

The students said the closure of the institution was a tactic aimed at diverting the attention of the public from the audit report.

Vice-Chancellor Timothy Wachira was ordered to go on a sabbatical leave in December last year following students’ unrest and was replaced by Prof James Kombo in an acting capacity.

The students have been complaining about the conditions of their hostels, sports facilities and lack of water.

They also want a review of the programmes offered by the institution and an overhaul of the departments.

They, together with some staff members, wrote to the council in February demanding that a forensic financial audit be done to ascertain how the funds paid by students are spent.

The chairman of the Academic Executive Committee at the Valley Road Campus, Mr Brian Wanjiku, on Thursday said that the students were demanding dialogue over the audit report but the management had refused to capitulate.

“We want the issues that affect students in that audit report to be solved. We want to know the details of the report so that we can have dialogue on the way forward,” Wanjiku said.

Prof Kombo, however, said the closure of the university was necessary to allow a thorough study of the issues raised.

The students had in November last year complained about the manner in which the institution was run, following which the management ordered the audit.

Why some readers paid no heed to Baby Claire's cries for help

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A cynic, in my book, is a Nation classifieds reader who doubts an advertiser’s true motives without one iota of evidence.

We are partly to blame for creating such cynics. This column has exposed fraudulent advertisers, and the Nation Ad Centre advises readers to make appropriate enquiries before sending money. This has contributed to the cynicism.

Their modus operandi is to take a suspecting posture as a defensive mechanism to protect themselves against fraudsters.

They thus lose their ability to be human, to feel emotionally touched to help sick people who appeal for donations.

They use their suspicions as an excuse not to donate.

In the case of Claire Muthoni Thuo medical appeal, the cynics — and they were quite a number — went a wee bit too far.

They distrusted the ads apparently because they were too many!

They became so sceptical that it became unhealthy. They were so negative that they spawned conspiracy theories.

I know this because of the number of “Is this advertisement another con job?” queries that I received.

Following persistent queries from suspicious readers, I checked with the Ad Centre on March 9 how often the advertisements had run.

There were 51 insertions, costing Sh12,180 each — that is a total of Sh621,180.

The cynics saw the number of insertions, and the amount paid for them, as proof of a confidence trick.

“My name is Claire Muthoni Thuo aged four years,” the ads read. “I underwent a bone marrow transplant five months ago and producing normal cells for the treatment of leukaemia at Apollo Ahmedabad in India.

“The challenge I have is recurrent infections that has increased my hospital stay thus a high medical bill.

“So far 10.8 million has been settled and an estimated cost of 4.9 million is required.

“I am re-appealing to well-wishers to help my parents in raising the pending medical bill through M-Pesa Paybill No. 759616 or to Equity Bank, Kenyatta Avenue Branch, account name Claire Muthoni Medical Fund, Account No. 1290173133950. M-Pesa No. 0792876416. God bless you.”

The Ad Centre proved time and again the medical appeal was genuine and, it was, in my view, one of the most moving I have read.

Baby Claire was battling with leukaemia, a cancer of the blood that develops in the bone marrow.

She was three when she was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia, which occurs in children and adults. It progresses quickly and can become fatal in a few months.

Her father, Gidraff Thuo Mwangi, donated the bone marrow for the transplant. The family needed Sh10 million for the medical expenses.

They sold a parcel of land in Meru, organised harambees and sought help from relatives and friends.

They used their NHIF card to top up but the money was still not enough; hence the numerous Daily Nation ads in which Baby Claire, now with a puffed-up face that made her look older than she was, became a familiar sight in the Nation classifieds pages.

She died on April 1, shortly after returning from India, at Kenyatta National Hospital’s High Dependency Unit (HDU), where a deposit of Sh200,000 is required and a bed is charged at Sh15,000 per night.

Baby Claire, who was born on December 17, 2013, will be buried today at Gikui village in Murang’a.

In the funeral announcement on Tuesday, the family said:

“Although Baby Claire has finally rested, the family remains forever grateful to all friends, well-wishers and all people of goodwill for your immense support and prayers through Baby Claire’s illness.”

The family, however, is still appealing for donations to pay pending bills.

The cynics should now drop their suspicions and open their wallets.

The Baby Claire medical misfortune can befall any typical Kenyan family and the Nation classifieds should remain a dependable forum for appeals.

May the Lord grant her eternal rest and let perpetual light shine upon her. May she rest in peace. Amen.

Stop Mt Elgon terror

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The raging violence in Mt Elgon that has seen nearly 40 people killed and property destroyed in recent weeks is a blatant mockery of the security system.

The gangs behind the mayhem have defied orders from not only Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i, who declared a curfew, but also Deputy President William Ruto.

The DP toured the sub-county several weeks ago and put the criminals on notice but the crime wave persists.

Dr Matiang’i has also been to the area to reinforce efforts to restore peace but raids on homes and attacks on innocent people continue.

The law-abiding citizens deserve better, considering that this is a resurgence of the lawlessness that claimed many more lives several years ago.

Whatever grievances these people might have, they are expressing them in the wrong way.

But the latest development, where the goons now target chiefs, is proof that the situation is getting out of hand.

The criminals realise that chiefs play a crucial role at the grassroots.

The chiefs are in a position to get good intelligence on the activities of such gangs, and are also the natural allies of the security personnel in fighting crime.

It is time, therefore, to protect and enable these local administrators to discharge their duties without any fear.

The gangs terrorising Mt Elgon must be relentlessly pursued and neutralised.

Cybercrime law changes too harsh, lobbies say

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Civil society groups have welcomed the proposed amendments to the Computer and Cyberspace Bill, 2017, but they are warning that the bill contains several broadly defined offences with harsh sentences that could gag online freedom of expression.

The groups’ analysis of the bill is based on Kenya’s obligations under international standards on freedom of expression and related human rights, particularly as they apply to digital media and the domestic guarantees to freedom of expression in the Constitution.

The bill, sponsored by Majority Leader Aden Duale, establishes two main categories of offences: Nine offences relating to the mishandling of computer systems or data, and three relating to content.

It also establishes enhanced penalties for certain offences, liability for aiding and abetting the commission of offences and corporate liability for offences.
In its analysis, Article 19 wants the drafters of the bill to address its inconsistencies with human rights standards before it is adopted by Parliament, arguing that enacting it in its existing format threatens online freedom of expression.

The organisation says in its report that the bill introduces an unusually high number of computer-related offences.

In comparison, the Council of Europe Cybercrime Convention contains only five such offences, and the UK Computer Misuse Act 1990 contains only four such offences.

“To our knowledge, neither State parties to the Convention nor the UK has raised concern that these offences are insufficient to deal with cybercrime,” Article 19 says in its analysis on the bill.

It also points out that the Bill contains separate offences for unauthorised access and interception, and separate offences for computer forgery or fraud.

“The substantial overlap between these offences creates concern that individuals will be charged under separate offences for the same crime, enhancing the risk of excessive criminal liability,” it argues in its report to the Committee on Communication, Information and Innovation of the National Assembly, which is dealing with the bill.

It adds that offences criminalising the exchange of particular types of content, including false publications and communications that “detrimentally affect a person” are likely to violate Kenya’s obligations to respect and freedom of expression.

“These offences are excessively broad and provide the authorities (with) largely unfettered discretion to prosecute individuals for expression and communication that is perfectly legitimate and lawful,” it states.

The group further argues that the potential impact and chilling effect of the offences in the proposed changes on minorities, civil society, academics and political opposition is particularly concerning.

Police get back cash after pay cut saga

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Tens of junior police officers whose salaries were drastically reduced last month have a reason to smile after new payslips showed the pay cut was rescinded.

Officers who logged into the government’s human resources online portal received April payslips indicating they would get higher salaries at the end of the month.

Those affected by the pay cuts were officers who had acquired university degrees and were rewarded with higher salaries, and others who were exempted from paying taxes because they were disabled.

A number of officers shared with the Nation individual pay details they obtained from Government Human Resource Information System, which is a service that is accessible to government employees using unique passwords.

The decision to reduce the salaries was occasioned by an audit by the National Police Service Commission (NPSC), which revealed some graduate police officers colluded with crooked seniors to get higher pay.

The officers took advantage of a gap in their employment terms that allowed graduates to earn higher salaries than colleagues with lower academic qualifications.

This triggered a rush for higher qualifications as officers who joined the service on the strength of a secondary school certificate sought university degrees and were subsequently considered as constable graduates.

After the pay cut, officers who had taken loans and mortgages were left with negative income.

But even as the government rescinded the decision, NPSC is going ahead with a process to identify those who are getting salaries of graduate constables yet they do not deserve.

Another process is on to identify more officers who were paying taxes undeservingly.

The NPSC has constituted eight committees to interview officers and decide whether or not they deserve tax reliefs.

The Kenya Revenue Authority exempts disabled Kenyans from hefty taxation.

In Nairobi, the committee to vet disabled officers conducted interviews at the Directorate of Criminal Investigations Training School in South C.

Other teams sat in Nyeri, Embu, Nakuru, Garissa, Kakamega, Kisumu and Mombasa.

Even in death, Mama Winnie still unites South Africans

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The “sanctification” of Winnie Mandela during 10 days of national mourning and countrywide memorial services to mark her passing last week at age 81 has elevated her into an unparalleled position as the unquestioned heroine of the struggle against South Africa’s past repressive racist policies.

Nomzamo Winifred Zanyiwe Madikizela, born on September 26, 1936, was a young social worker in her early 20s when she met Nelson Mandela, the man she would marry.

Once Mandela was sentenced to life imprisonment for his role in the anti-apartheid struggle, she came to stand in his stead as the front person for the decades-long battle against colonialist oppression and brutal white minority rule.

Her death in a Johannesburg hospital last week after a long illness has seen the legacy of “Mama Winnie”, as she has almost universally come to be called here, transcending the many controversies and difficulties of her hard-fought life.

The current national mourning period, with many memorial services held across all nine provinces of South Africa this week, and the thousands upon thousands of tributes poured out for her in the wake of her passing, have outstripped even the expressions of grief, gratitude and honouring that Mandela himself had received.

“Mama Winnie”, in death enjoying fully once again the title of “Mother of the Nation”, has been almost completely “rehabilitated” in terms of the legacy being bestowed on her life, both officially and unofficially.

In one of the memorial services, held this Tuesday in her birthplace of Bizana in the Eastern Cape province, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa put the official seal on the full and complete “sanctification” of her legacy.

She had, he said, never betrayed the struggle against apartheid.

She had never wavered in her determination to set her fellow South Africans free.

She had always rvia-handle=”dailynation” data-share-desc=”President Ramaphosa put the official seal on the full and complete “sanctification” of her legacy.” data-share-title=”Even in death, Mama Winnie still unites South Africans” data-share-img=”/image/view/-/4390700/highRes/1937190/-/wov5il/-/WINPIC.jpg” data-show-only=”facebook,twitter,gplus,linkedin,whatsapp” data-share-related=”dailynation” data-mobile=”true”>


Winnie Mandela

Mourners gather at the Olando Stadium in Soweto on April 11, 2018 during a memorial service for late South African anti-apartheid campaigner Winnie Mandela. PHOTO | MARCO LONGARI | AFP 

Want to fight radicalisation? Start with the home

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Studies and conversations with de-radicalised youth and Al-Shabaab defectors undergoing government-sponsored rehabilitation and reintegration programmes show radicalisation and recruitment into extremist groups is increasingly taking place at the family level.

A study commissioned by Coast Education Centre (COEC) under the umbrella of Strengthening Community Resilience Against Extremism programme established that.

Spouses are recruiting each other in the comfort of their homes while young boys and girls are being recruited via social media with peer networks, aunties and uncles the main recruiters and influencers.

Most of the extremist or radicalised individuals are young men who had a difficult upbringing or where the father figure was missing in their lives.

Others had endured a tough upbringing by extended family members, who often mistreated them or denied them what they believe rightly belonged to them.

Efforts at preventing or countering violent extremism must increasingly focus on the family unit as an entry point.

Family clinics, outreach missions, radio programmes and other forms of engagements at the family level should be explored to keep abreast with this dynamic nature of recruitment into extremist groups.

We ought to be ahead of the trends.

Kemsa denies supplying expired drugs

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Senators on Thursday put the Kenya Medical Supplies Agency (Kemsa) to task over allegations that some of their employees have been colluding with rogue traders to supply expired drugs to the market.

But while appearing before the Senate Health committee, Kemsa acting chief executive officer Fredrick Wanyonyi denied that the agency has been supplying expired drugs to hospitals across the country.

“I want to assure the public that Kemsa has never supplied expired drugs and such reports are erroneous and misleading,” Mr Wanyonyi told the committee.

“We have not received any complaint from the counties or any health facility that the drugs we supplied them have expired,” he added.

Mr Wanyonyi told the senators that their procurement system is efficient and foolproof and there is no way expired drugs can end up in the market.

He said Kemsa does not supply drugs that have a shelf life of below 75 per cent.

Auditor-General Edward Ouko, in a report tabled in the National Assembly last week, said that Kemsa could not explain why it stocked expired drugs yet hospitals countrywide were facing shortages.

The Kemsa officials will on Tuesday appear again before the committee.

We need power supply but not at the expense of sea and Man

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Parliament’s Energy Committee last month gave the green light for the construction of the Sh200 billion coal power plant in Lamu, which is expected to generate 1,050 megawatts of electricity.

That can solve our energy problems. However, is coal the right fuel to generate it?

The Lamu archipelago is a Unesco heritage site on the shores of the Indian Ocean and this is where the economic revolution is set be powered from.

The MPs argued that the facility will use modern technology, making the production less harmful to the environment.

The Ministry of Environment is opposed to the idea because of the negative environmental effects of coal mining.

We should not be blinded by the attractive sentiments such as employment creation and stable power supply.

Coal mining, especially surface mining, has substantial effects on the environment.

Clearing vegetation exposes the land to soil erosion and dangerous landslides may occur due to abandoned coal mines.

Land clearing could also lead to displacement of wildlife species and severe habitat fragmentation. Besides, plant species are lost.

There is also pollution by acid and toxic mineral drainage.

It can be severe when sulphuric acid and dangerous dissolved materials such as lead, arsenic and cadmium wash from coal and metal mines into nearby lakes and streams.

Burning coal can affect air and water quality and effects range from local to global climate change and ocean acidification.

Coal burning generally contributes more air pollutants than does burning either oil or natural gas to generate the same amount of useful energy. 

Coal often contains mercury, which is released during combustion and is harmful.

Acidification of lakes and streams results in decline of aquatic animal populations. Acid rain also results in forest damage and forest decline.

Although Kenya faces an electricity deficit, dirty coal power cannot be a sustainable solution.

The country has the potential to increase its power supply through renewable energy such as geothermal, solar and wind.

Most developing economies are scaling back on reliance on coal.

They include the United States, United Kingdom and China, which form a significant portion of global demand for electricity.

Kenya should not turn its back on the climate change war by firing up a coal plant, but explore renewable energy options that are environmental friendly and sustainable.


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Desperation should not make us embrace obsolete technologies from our development partners.

Why China, for instance, wants Kenya to go the route that they are trying very hard to move away from elicits many questions.

Could our going East for solutions end up with our country becoming a dumping ground for obsolete technology?

It is true we need to grow on the technology front. But we should ask ourselves, “At what cost?”

DAVID M. KIGO, Nairobi.