Saturday, April 21st, 2018
Former South Sudanese military chief Gen Paul Malong is on a charm offensive enlisting Kikuyu elders to lobby the Kenyan government to back his efforts to dislodge embattled President Salva Kiir.
Hours after the recent launch of South Sudan United Front (SS-UF), his new political group, in Nairobi, Gen Malong pulled a surprise move by heading to Thika Road offices of the Kikuyu Council of Elders for a two-hour meeting.
He was also scheduled to meet the Kalenjin Council of Elders at a later date.
Although the elders’ outfit runs no official errands for government, the audacity to host a former army chief who has publicly declared intentions to take over leadership in a neighbouring country could be viewed by some as an oblique message that Gen Malong’s actions and movements are not without support from top Kenyan state officials.
Gen Malong’s 10-man delegation included former legal adviser to President Salva Kiir and his former ambassador to Moscow Telar Ring Deng.
Gen Malong was sacked by President Salva Kiir in May 2017, and Mr Kiir’s government has been viewing him with suspicion since then.
The announcement that he had formed an opposition group to push for change has only heightened the mistrust.
During the recent meeting, the elders’ lobby chairman Wachira Kiago gave Gen Malong a copy of a Social- Economic and Cultural Memorandum of Understanding, signed between them and Gen Malong’s Dinka Council of Elders known as Jieng in 2016 in Nairobi.
The MoU contains resolutions and intentions to extend mutual assistance to their communities, where the Kikuyu Council of Elders was expected to use its networks in Kenya to lobby for the establishment of investments in social services like education in South Sudan.
Jieng would, in return, use its influence in Juba to assure security, safety and conducive environment for Kenyan expatriates and investors.
Gen Malong said he decided to engage with Kenyan elders to assist in lobbying Nairobi to take an active role in helping South Sudan to achieve a lasting peace and stability.
“As things stand now, it is clear to all (that) many things have gone wrong in South Sudan and change is inevitable. I am seeking support from the entire continent. We were birthed in Kenya,” Gen Malong said.
He added: “We still need Kenya’s support to get to where we needed to go in setting up service delivery systems after the liberation struggle.
“For instance, we are supposed to have teachers from Kenya for at least 15 years, after which we could be left alone to do the job.”
He however made it clear that he was not seeking Kenya’s support to secure weapons of war, but rather to exert diplomatic pressure in “pushing sense into the leadership of South Sudan on how a country should be run”.
He said Sudan had enormous resources, with over 80 per cent of its land arable as opposed to Kenya’s mere 10 per cent.
Gen Malong said many investors from Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and even those belonging to Arabs from the Sudan had suffered in South Sudan, but it was difficult to take stock and address the matter “until there is change of government”.
Mr Kiago told the Sudanese delegation that peace was critical for mutual economic benefits.
However, the Kenyan elders were concerned that while hundreds of South Sudanese people had lived in Kenya for decades unmolested, Kenyans and their businesses had become the target of attacks in South Sudan in recent years.
The Kikuyu Council of Elders has in recent years carved out a niche for itself on the local social cultural and political affairs, and has of late venturing beyond national borders.
For those of us who began working in the newsroom in 1990, it felt like chicks prematurely kicked out of the nestling.
We were just past 20 years, but the newsroom made us look and act like we’d hit 40s.
For the editors, getting a headline wasn’t a headache. They were spoilt for choice.
Events were unfolding at a frenetic, maddening pace.
By midday, a headline would be found only for a bombshell to drop by three o’clock and the would-be headline relegated to a second lead story.
Then, just as the paper was going to bed (the newsroom language for going to print), the real stopper would come and the would-be headline would be pushed to inside pages.
I remember one day when the newspaper was going to bed. Then lawyer Paul Muite, who had gone underground to escape arrest over the Saba Saba crackdown, showed up in the newsroom with his wife in tow.
The newspaper lead page had to be recalled from press to create room for the breaking story.
I was also in the newsroom on the day Kenneth Matiba, Charles Rubia and Raila Odinga were arrested on July 4, 1990.
The news came past eight when everybody was packing for home. By then upcountry editions had begun rolling off the press.
Only the city edition carried news of the arrest.
Elsewhere, US Ambassador Smith Hempstone had just arrived at a holiday camp on the slopes of Mount Kenya after hosting the July 4 US Independence Day party.
He had just filled himself a glass of Jack Daniels when he heard the news on a shortwave radio.
He madly drove back to Nairobi nursing a terrible thirst and wishing someone hadn’t brought the radio near him.
The year had opened with drama right from day one, the New Year day, when PCEA cleric, the Rev Timothy Njoya, declared 1990 would be the year of multipartyism.
Only the Daily Nation had the guts to splash the story.
The following day, the newspaper’s Managing Editor, George Mbugguss, stayed underground.
Security men were instructed to look for him but he outwitted them by showing up at the office of the dreaded Internal Security Permanent Secretary Hezekiah Oyugi.
Throughout the week, politicians foamed at the mouth and sweated in special areas as they competed to condemn Rev Njoya and sing praises to the king, oops, to His Excellency.
Hardly had the Njoya storm calmed when, in the second week of February, Foreign Affairs Minister Robert Ouko was whisked away from his bedroom, killed and a corrosive acid poured on his body.
Days later he was buried in a laboratory made skull and reconstructed face.
His real skull had been flown to London for forensic tests by the Scotland Yard.
Early in April, His Excellency the Big Man held rallies in all provincial headquarters with the last one in Nairobi where he announced that Kenyans had “told” him they didn’t want a multiparty political system.
He decreed debate on multipartyism was officially closed. No, Anglican clergy, Bishop Henry Okullu, answered him:
“You haven’t heard anything yet. The debate has just begun,” the bishop said.
Early in May, Matiba and Rubia called a press conference and demanded that Kenya return to a multiparty system.
On the same day, Mr Hempstone told a gathering of Rotarians that in future, his government would channel development aid only to nations that practised multiparty democracy. The battle was enjoined.
At a crisis security meeting convened at State House, the spear-carriers in the government called for detention of Matiba and Rubia.
The more sycophantic even called for detention of the US ambassador!
Wise counsel prevailed and none of the actions was taken — not yet. But the season of madness had begun.
Matiba, Rubia and dozens of other Kenyans were put on round-the-clock surveillance.
I remember one day when Matiba and Rubia made to walk to the offices of the Weekly Review magazine at Agip House for an interview.
Tens of policemen were sent to blockade the magazine offices and deny them entrance.
A few minutes later when they walked to the offices of their lawyer Paul Muite at the Electricity House, they found another police contingent camping at Muite’s door.
When they angrily pushed their way in, six policemen followed them inside the lawyer’s office and insisted they must listen in to the client/lawyer conversation!
Later in the evening when Muite went to retrieve his vehicle from the underground parking, he found it had been given a new coat of “paint” using human waste.
He had to pay street boys to clean it, the same ones who had been hired to do the dirty job!
Business must have been good for the street boys that day!
Nobody felt safe anywhere. One day as then Cabinet minister Mwai Kibaki walked out of a shopping mall, he met an old friend who was recuperating from a mysterious skin disease following a poisoning incident staged by security agents.
Kibaki was so shocked and whispered to his friend that he would be visiting him at his home to know what had happened.
At the friend’s place, Kibaki couldn’t talk inside the house.
They sat at a far corner and still feared the fence was listening in and reporting them to the Big Man!
Security men had tried to kill Kibaki’s friend on suspicion that he was the secret liaison between Kibaki and some clergymen critical of the government.
In those days, I used to live off Limuru Road, which was the route used by Matiba when travelling to his home at Riara Ridge in Limuru.
One day we woke up to find leaflets all over demanding a return to a multiparty system.
I wrote the story of the leaflets in the Kenya Times newspapers where I worked.
In the evening, five uninvited guests came to my tiny one-bedroom house and forced themselves on the sofa.
I had to sit on the stool, the only other furniture in the tiny room.
The “guests” were the area chief and his Administration Police officers.
They demanded to know why I had reported the story of the pamphlets. I told them it was the kind of job I was employed to do.
“Young man, that is the kind of a story that can cause us lose our jobs,” they angrily told me.
“But I never said you’re the ones who wrote or distributed the pamphlets! Why would anybody take offence on you?” I asked them.
“Look here,” the chief replied, “when our superiors, including the President, read that kind of story, the impression created is that we, as the area administrators, aren’t doing our job, which is why dissidents are distributing seditious documents all over the place. That can get us fired at the drop of the hat!”
On the Saba Saba day, July 7, the area where I lived near Banana shopping centre went into flames, as rioting mobs clashed with police.
Five people were shot dead and tens clobbered senseless. For three days there was no public transport and we had to walk to work.
On the first day, a Monday, I got to the office past midday and found my boss seething.
“You have decided this is your kiosk to be walking in when you wish?” he asked me.
When I attempted to explain why I was late, he cut me short:
“Do you mean to say any day there is a hitch in transport we won’t be producing the newspaper!” I had nothing to say.
Anxiety has gripped residents of Murang’a County following reports that fallen politician and multi-party crusader Kenneth Matiba will be cremated in Nairobi later this week.
Yesterday, the veteran politician’s rural home in Mukangu village, Kiharu constituency, which he had christened “Embassy Home” when he was alive, remained under lock and key, with funeral meetings taking place at his Riara Ridge home in Limuru, Kiambu County.
It is the little activity at the heavily guarded home that sparked anxiety among villagers that the man who had served them selflessly as Member of Parliament and later Cabinet minister before he resigned to lead the push for political pluralism may not be buried amongst them.
Obituaries placed in local newspapers since his death at the Karen Hospital last Sunday did not specify the date and place of burial, only indicating that there would be two funeral services for Matiba, the first one at the All Saints’ Cathedral in Nairobi on Wednesday, April 25, followed by another one at Ihura Stadium, Murang’a, the next day. Today, a remembrance service will be held at his Riara Ridge home in Limuru starting at 4pm.
A well-placed source in the committee organising the politician’s final journey told the Sunday Nation in strict confidence that it had been agreed upon that the politician be cremated at the Lang’ata crematorium in Nairobi on Friday.
“The committee has tentatively agreed that Mzee will be cremated in Lang’ata on Friday according to his wishes which the family felt it has a duty to honour. There will be a funeral service in Nairobi on Wednesday and at Ihura Stadium on Thursday before the cremation on Friday, which will be largely a private family affair,’’ the source revealed.
Contacted, Matiba’s daughter Ivy declined to comment on the matter, saying she was not the family spokesperson. “Kindly, I am not the family spokesperson so I cannot comment, but I will get the spokesperson to comment on the issue,” she told the Sunday Nation.
The politician was way back in January 1994 quoted in a local daily as expressing his wish to be cremated instead of being buried with pomp and fanfare.
“If a man was not assisted while he was alive, why should people raise funds for him after he dies?” Mr Matiba, then Ford Asili leader, was quoted as saying, adding that when he dies, there should be no funds drive or parties and that his body should be cremated.
True to his wishes, no fundraising meeting has been held to collect money for funeral arrangements this far, as is common in the country, even when wealthy people die.
Yesterday, retired President Mwai Kibaki visited the Riara Ridge residence to condole with the family.
Mr Kibaki arrived at the homestead at about 1.35pm and left two hours later without addressing members of the press. No family member or relative spoke to the media.
The retired president, while greeting the widow Edith Matiba, only said in the Kikuyu, “It’s God’s plan.”
Security was tightened with police officers in the compound checking and clearing all visitors getting into the home.
At the homestead, a number of workers could be seen clearing the compound and sprucing up some of the buildings.
When the Sunday Nation visited the Mukangu rural home where Mr Matiba was born, we found no activity going on with the big black metal gate leading to his expansive compound locked and officers from the General Service Unit patrolling outside.
Mr Kariuki Kimani, a villager, said that it was the wish of many Kiharu residents that Mr Matiba is buried there.
“It is us the constituents who were led by Mr Matiba who know his importance, and I urge the family to consider bringing his remains home so that we can get a chance to give the fallen hero our last respects,” Mr Kimani said.
Another villager, Ms Wanjiru Ngamau, said the Matiba family should announce where he will be buried so that, if by any chance they decide to settle on Limuru, Kiharu residents will have the time to make travel arrangements to give their hero a befitting send-off.
But Mr George Gachugu, Mr Matiba’s first cousin and vice-chairperson of Wangu Investments, a co-operative society established by the veteran politician in the 1970s, said the family would make public the funeral plans “soon”.
“I urge Kenyans to be a little bit patient as we shall be announcing whether or not to cremate Mr Matiba,” Mr Gachugu said. Among those in the funeral committee are Cabinet secretaries Fred Matiangi, Joe Mucheru, James Macharia, Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua, PS for Interior Karanja Kibicho and family members led by Matiba’s eldest son Raymond.
January’s shutdown of local TV stations lasted at least a week, but President Uhuru Kenyatta has told the world that it was only for a day.
During an interview with CNN that aired on Friday, Mr Kenyatta said it was only on January 30, the day of ODM leader Raila Odinga’s mock swearing in, that stations were shut.
“They were shutdown on a single day when Raila Odinga went and purported to swear himself in as president of the Republic of Kenya,” he told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.
“That was the only day. You can do your homework and check: the only day that they were shutdown,” he added.
But the fact is that after the January 30 shutdown of transmission systems, signals for NTV and KTN News were allowed on air on February 5 while those for Citizen TV and Inooro TV were restored on February 8.
Mr Kenyatta made the remarks as Ms Amanpour questioned the legality of a number of government actions around last year’s General Election.
The president insisted that the shutdown was the doing of the TV stations because they had earlier promised not to air the event.
“Them agreeing, [and] proceeding to air, and we said on that basis, those who do air that particular programme will be shutdown in accordance with our law and we proceeded to do exactly that for that one single occasion,” the president said.
The interview touched on a wide range of issues, among them the relations between the United States and African countries.
Mr Kenyatta termed “troubling” a move by the US and other Western powers to focus more on themselves than countries they trade with.
“We see today a growing tendency towards isolationism, moving away from globalisation, which has enabled many countries in the West to reach the levels of development that they have and now constraining it when it comes to the African continent,” he said.
In the same vein, Mr Kenyatta also called against the erection of walls like US president Donald Trump has vowed to put up one on its border with Mexico.
“The way is not just to put up a big wall and shut people out,” he said.
“We live in Kenya, as you know, on a very troublesome border with Somalia. But yet, at the same time, we acknowledge that we can’t just wake up one morning and close the border because these are real people,” he added.
Kenya had begun building a wall on its border with Somalia but stopped earlier this year.
Mandera Governor Ali Roba said in March that Mr Kenyatta was due to meet with his Somali counterpart Mohamed Farmajo to agree on a number of issues.
During the CNN interview, Kenya’s political situation was also a talking point.
Ms Amanpour asked Mr Kenyatta if he would offer an apology to Kenyans whose relatives lost lives during election-related violence last year.
“As a parent myself, I feel for them, I sympathise with them and I give them my assurance that I will do everything in my power to ensure that this thing never happens again and make available all channels to ensure that anybody who lost life or property is availed a channel to get justice,” he said.
The host also touched on the recent handshake between Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga. The president said the move was proof of his commitment to dialogue.
“We acknowledged that there is an opposition and I said it very clearly that I have no problem reaching out to find my bipartisan solutions to the issues that affect us; to the problems that Kenyans have,” he said.
They also discussed the matter of rights for gays and lesbians in Kenya, which Mr Kenyatta said it is not yet a pressing issue for Kenyans.
“I will not engage in a subject that is not of any nature important to the people under the Republic of Kenya,” he said.
“In years to come, possibly long after I’m president, who knows? Maybe our society will have reached a stage where those are issues that people are willing to freely and openly discuss.”
They are regarded as the highest profiled inmates in the second largest correctional facility in the country.
They are among the 15 women who are either serving at Shimo la Tewa Maximum Security Prison in Mombasa, remanded or convicted of terror charges.
The women are accused of travelling to Somalia to join Al-Shabaab, or recruiting for the group, masterminding terrorist attacks in Coast region, forming terror cells, and providing information and finances for terrorist organisations.
Top on the list is widow of slain Muslim cleric Aboud Rogo, Hania Sagar and the wife of a former Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) soldier Mwanasiti Shee Masha.
At the maximum prison, Ms Sagar, 47, is surrounded by at least 10 policewomen monitoring her every move.
On this day, she is at the prison’s open ground where she has joined other inmates during the remote parenting day at the facility.
The tight security she has been put under notwithstanding, the mother of five can still afford a smile, even though trying as much as possible not to be photographed.
“You cannot talk to her. She is not allowed to mingle with anyone because of the nature of her case. In fact she has been secluded in her own cell in here,” an officer says.
Ms Sagar is serving a 10-year sentence after she was convicted for failing to disclose information that could have prevented a terror attack at Mombasa’s Central Police Station.
She has since appealed the prison sentence. Her family is at the correctional facility to pay her a visit.
“How are you? I have missed you a lot,” Ms Sagar is heard telling her children and grandchildren as she hugs them.
Speaking to Sunday Nation, her son Hubeib Aboud reveals that life has not been easy since their mother was convicted.
Mr Aboud is short of words during this interview at the correctional facility:
“Like any son would feel, that is what we are feeling for missing our mother. We know that what happened to my mother is just an injustice.”
“I do not want to comment any further about this matter. I just thank the God we have been able to meet her,” he says.
He thanks the government for giving the families of the prisoners an opportunity to spend time with their kin.
“We would just urge the authorities to create more opportunities like this one for us to feel closer to our loved ones,” he says before walking away.
We also meet another terrorism convict, Ms Masha, the wife of a former KDF soldier who is serving a seven-year sentence.
Ms Masha was arrested for illegal possession of hand grenades and handed the sentence last year together with her husband Hassan Jillo Bwanamaka after being in remand for three years.
She has now served one year at the facility. The tribulations of the short, brown and charming woman are hidden behind her occasional smile.
“The first day I stepped here will remain in my memory for the rest of my life,” she says as we start our conversation.
The mother of one terms life in prison as “stagnant”.
“Life has not been easy at all in here. When you wake up, there is nothing you do that you say would say will help you grow in any way,” she says.
Ms Masha was during her first days at the facility isolated as she is regarded as a “high profile” inmate, something she says affected her.
“I would most of the time ask myself of what use I am in this world if I cannot even be allowed to mingle with others. It really hurts to see myself in here,” she says.
Now that she has been interacting with other inmates, the feeling has since changed, but this was only to herself.
“You have been asked not to spend much time with high-profiled prisoners. Just finish and let her go,” an officer interrupts the interview.
Ms Masha operated a restaurant in Ganjoni before she was arrested in 2013 in Majengo Mapya, Likoni.
We also meet two sisters Amina Said, 18, and Asya Hamisi 23, who were arrested in 2016 and charged before a Kwale court with conspiring with terrorists.
The two denied the charges pending hearing of their case due on May 15 this year. The sisters have been in remand for two years now.
Life, they say, has been difficult. Ms Said, who is arguably the youngest terror suspect to be remanded at the facility, has gone through tough times as she was pregnant at the time of her arrest.
“I have gone through hell in here. I was staring at death during delivery of my baby.
“I did not go through the required medication even after giving birth. Since then things have not been easy,” she says.
She remembers a day when she was beaten mercilessly by the prison wardens.
This is after she was mistaken for another inmate who had caused trouble.
None of her family member has ever visited her as they all accuse her of putting her sister in trouble, leading to her arrest.
Ms Said says in the two years she has been at Shimo la Tewa, relatives have only been visiting her sister.
“You can imagine the pain I am going through. I would see my brother talking to my sister but will never even greet me.
“I have been left to survive on my own in here. No one needs me,” Ms Said says.
Her husband has also limited communication with her. “I can say the only thing that keeps me going is this child here,” she adds.
Her biggest worry is whether her family will ever accept back once she leaves prison.
“If they can come here and not seem to be interested in seeing me, do you think they will take me in if I leave this place.
“If the conditions were good here, I would prefer to remain here,” she says.
Ms Hamisi on her part says she is only worried of the upkeep of her two children that she left with her husband.
“I have never been at peace since whenever I see my children I feel like crying because I know I would have brought them up better as a mother.
“It pains me a lot to see my children lacking that parental love as I languish here for a crime I do not know anything about,” she says.
The inmates’ uniform she says exposes her body, which is against “Islamic teachings”.
“I have problem with everything here but I am just not comfortable with how I am dressing,” she says.
Security sources confided in Sunday Nation that despite a number of cases collapsing, the threat of women joining the terror groups still exists.
The National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) deputy director Joseph Opondo acknowledged that more women are joining terror groups, adding that
“Yes they [women] are now being targeted. The women are part of the society,” Mr Opondo says.
He said currently, the anti-terrorism agency has developed an approach that will see both male and female youth dealt with to prevent them from joining terrorism.
“Our approach is all-inclusive now and our focus is not on gender right now. We are dealing with the terrorism threat as a whole.”
He added that at the higher learning institutions, officials have been working with the universities’ leadership to prevent radicalisation, which leads the students to joining of the terror groups.
According to a report by the Institute for Security Studies in Africa, once recruited, the women play various roles in the violent extremist group such as recruiters, spies, cooks and cleaners.
Officials in Tanzania prosecuting a Sh600 million bribery scandal relating to a government bond have now turned to the country’s Justice minister for help to get Kenyan authorities to extradite two of its citizens they believe will help solve the case.
They are looking for Kenya Pipeline Company (KPC) chairman John Ngumi, who was in charge of the CFC Stanbic Bank’s East Africa investment arm, and Mr Bashir Awale, who served as Stanbic Tanzania CEO when the bond was floated in 2012.
The Tanzanian bond was handled by Stanbic Tanzania, a subsidiary of the Standard Chartered Bank PLC of the United Kingdom, which was fined in 2015 for its role in the scandal.
Mr Awale is accused of using the money as an inducement to have state officials favour the two banks when Tanzania floated the international bond.
Tanzania’s Attorney-General Adelardus Kilangi, whose office was reportedly co-ordinating the extradition requests, referred all questions on the matter to the Justice minister, Prof Palamagamba Kabudi.
He said only the minister would be issuing progress on the extradition requests as it involved two friendly nations.
“I wouldn’t be in a position to say right now what has not happened or happened as I am barely two months in office,” the AG said. “I prefer that our minister be the spokesperson on matters such as this touching on two countries.”
Dr Kilangi was appointed in February to replace Justice George Masaju, who is now a judge of the High Court.
The Prevention and Combatting of Corruption Bureau director-general Valentino Mlowola on April 12 said the extradition process of the two Kenyans wanted over the case was now being handled from the AG’s office.
“It is the AG’s office that should be in a position to say how far the extradition process has gone. I am not authorised to speak about the matter,” Mr Mlowola said in a telephone interview. Mr Awale was Stanbic Tanzania chief for seven years and was fired on August 19, 2013 for failing to co-operate with investigators. The bank later announced that he had left voluntarily. The fact that he sat in the strategy team of the opposition presidential candidate Edward Lowassa did not help matters for him. He was deported for allegedly being in the country illegally soon after the 2015 General Election, which Mr Lowassa lost to CCM’s John Magufuli.
Exactly a year ago, Kenya’s Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) said it was helping investigators from Tanzania under the Mutual Legal Agreement to have the two Kenyans produced in Tanzania.
“We have received the MLA and are working closely with the State Law Office in line with the request. A team of investigators from Tanzania and Kenya has been put in place to implement the request,” EACC CEO Halakhe Waqo said at the time.However, Tanzania feels that Kenya is not keen on fulfilling its obligation. A source in the office of the director of prosecution close to the case told The Citizen — a publication of the Nation Media Group in Tanzania — that investigators have been so far unsuccessful in seeking the extradition of the Kenyans.
According to the source, who requested anonymity as he was not authorised to speak to the media over the matter, requests to extradite Mr Awale back to the country have not been honoured.
“Investigators attempts to summon for questioning other senior Standard Chartered Bank officials in Kenya over the Stanbic scandal have also not been successful,” said the source. He said some of those wanted were apparently enjoying high level political patronage.
The case first came to light after Standard Bank PLC pleaded guilty in a London court in 2015 to charges brought against it by the Serious Fraud Office, which accused its Tanzanian executives of failing to stop a $6 million bribery scandal.
According to UK court papers, the $6 million bribe was paid to a company known as Enterprise Growth Market Advisors (EGMA) as an agent for Stanbic Tanzania to win the $600 million government loan deal on behalf of the bank’s UK-based main unit, Standard Chartered Bank.
These arrangements were allegedly made by Mr Awale and Ms Shose Sinare, then the unit’s head of corporate and investment banking.
On April 13, Ms Sinare and Mr Sioi Solomon, a former senior official of the bank, protested in court over delay in prosecuting the case against them.
Appearing before the Kisutu Resident Magistrate Huruma Shaidi, they accused the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) of taking unnecessarily long to complete investigations.
The two alongside former Tanzania Revenue Authority Director-General Harry Kitilya were charged on April 1, 2016 with several charges relating to the bribe linked to the bond.
The three were charged with seven counts, among them money laundering, forgery, abuse of office, corruption, obtaining advantage and transfer of proceeds. They have been in remand since then.
Appearing before the court for mention on Thursday, Sioi and Sinare asked the magistrate to intervene on the incessant claim by the prosecution that investigations were incomplete.
“We are nearing the third year in custody yet the case is yet to start with the same old song that investigations are incomplete. I am praying that the court intervenes,” said Mr Sioi.
Yesterday, Mr Ngumi did not respond to our enquiries on the matter while we could not reach Mr Awale. But last year, Mr Ngumi told the Sunday Nation he was not aware he was being sought in connection with the case.
Revelations of inflated power bills and unresponsive pre-paid token purchases could reveal the extent of rot in the country’s electricity distribution, even as Kenya Power tries to explain the twin issues away.
When and how some third party vendors were procured, and why at least two of them have been receiving preferential treatment from Kenya Power, including marketing Vendit and Dynamo Digital Company Ltd over its own prepaid paybill, remain serious but unanswered questions.
Complaints from customers over inflated power bills have concretised into a public-interest case currently pending in the Constitutional and Human Rights division of the High Court. The matter will come up on May 7 when the parties will be making submissions.
Ahead of the court date, affidavits by officials at Kenya Power and the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) paint a worrying picture of two institutions trying to pass the buck but in the end giving contradictory, if not revealing information on the rot in the energy sector.
The case was filed by lawyer Apollo Mboya who was later joined by Electricity Consumers Society of Kenya (ECSK).
In his affidavit, ERC director general Pavel Oimeke blames backdated bills allegedly caused by an error by the Government Printer.
He says that on December 13, 2017, ERC wrote to the Government Printer to find out how much it would cost to print four Gazette notices on fuel cost charge, foreign exchange fluctuation adjustment, Water Resource Management Authority levy and inflation adjustment, all to run from January to December 2018.
“ERC attached sample copies of the notice to guide the Government Printer in terms of size and outlay to enable the printer to determine the charges,” Mr Oimeke says.
The said sample copies, the ERC boss says, were for notices that ran in February 2017 “which were at that time past and clearly were not intended for publication.”
The Government Printer, he says, “inadvertently ran all those sample notices as if they were for the month of December 2017.”
Interestingly, while addressing the cause of the inflated and backdated bills, Kenya Power company secretary Beatrice Meso says the problem arose due to challenges caused by migration from the old billing system, the Integrated Customer Service (ICS) to the new Integrated Customer Management System (InCMS).
“In the conversion from ICS to InCMS, the first respondent realised that some accounts were billed erroneously resulting in some customers receiving bills lower than or in excess of what they should have been charged,” Ms Meso states in her affidavit. The affidavit echoes what Kenya Power CEO Ken Tarus had told the Competition Authority on January 10, when he blamed the migration to the new billing platform for the “errors” consumers noticed.
The contradictory explanations offered by ERC and Kenya Power on inflated bills to customers late last year and early this year add to the mystery surrounding the often obscured world of electricity billing.
Already, the Auditor-General Edward Ouko, who is included in the suit as a respondent, has said he is “ready and willing to carry out a forensic audit” of the Sh10.1 billion Kenya Power intends to recover from consumers retroactively.
Besides concerns over inflated bills, Kenya Power has lately been hit by a new problem: pre-paid consumers experiencing slow or non-responsive token generation. Curously, Kenya Power has been marketing third party vendors, in particular Vendit and Dynamo Digital Company Ltd, which charge power consumers premium rates, over the electricity retailer’s own 888880 M-Pesa paybill.
This has left many unanswered questions which the Kenya Power management has struggled to clarify and led to a disruption of the service for close to 24 hours during the Easter weekend.
“The paybill number 888880 transacts 85 per cent of our daily prepaid token purchase of approximately 160,000. This huge traffic slows down the speed at which tokens are received by our customers. However, continuous improvements of our systems has resulted in ease of tokens being generated and sent to our customers. We expect this to improve further in the coming days as we continue to upgrade our systems and network,” Mr Tarus told the Sunday Nation.
Also being questioned are the owners of Vendit and Dynamo, and why they receive preferential treatment, including being marketed by Kenya Power on social media and text messages.
Documents from the Registrar of Companies show that Dynamo was registered in 2013 and its single biggest shareholder is Platinum Bridging Capital Ltd, which holds 285 shares or 75 per cent of the firm.
Vendit, on the other hand, is a trading name for the vending services offered by Professional Digital Systems Ltd (PDSL). PDSL was registered in 2010.
Reports suggest the two vending companies enjoy patronage from a top ministry of Energy official. One of the companies is said to be linked to a businesswoman who was named in the 2016 Sh5 billion ministry of Health scandal.
The two vendors’ charges are premium and range between Sh11 and Sh165 above what Kenya Power charges. A power consumer who purchases tokens worth between Sh1,000 and Sh1,499 through Vendit or Dynamo pays Sh33 as paybill charges, which is Sh11 above what purchasing the same amount of tokens through Kenya Power’s 888880. Customers who spend between Sh5,000 and Sh7,000 in tokens have to pay Sh220 as paybill charges, which is Sh165 more than if the same customer accessed the service through Kenya Power’s paybill.
According to Mr Tarus, the charges are set by mobile network operators and Kenya Power has no role whatsoever.
“In the case you have mentioned, the money service provider has different tariff bands which include cost sharing with customer (Mgawo tariff band), business pays and customer pays,” he said.
“Because of our huge transactional numbers, we have the Mgawo tariff where we pay some fees and the customer pays some charges. The same does not apply to the super vendors hence customers pay all the charges,” the Kenya Power boss added.
However, Kenya Power avoided directly responding to the question why it has in the recent days been promoting Vendit and Dynamo over 15 other third party vendors.
“We have a total of 17 super vendors for both prepaid and post-paid. Each super vendor is free to undertake marketing for their services,” Dr Tarus said.
Following a public outcry, Kenya Power on Monday sent unsolicited text messages to consumers informing them of “delays in prepaid token generations” before another one on Tuesday that the problem had been solved.
The electricity retail company now says the delay was as a result of “a technical hitch which was slowing down vending.”
The Sunday Nation has in the meantime received information that the paybill number 888880 could have been sabotaged internally to give Vendit and Dynamo an edge. Dr Tarus did not respond to the allegations of sabotage.
The Kenya Power boss also declined to demonstrate how the two vendors were contracted or the length of the contract they have with the electricity distribution firm.
“They were competitively engaged as per the public regulations,” he said. “All the 17 super vendors have a current running contract as per our terms of engagement. Each super vendor is paid a commission based on volume of business transacted.”
Though we were unable to corroborate the claim, a credible Treasury source told us that the twin issues of inflated bills and tokens hitch may have something to do with certain decisions made before the 2017 elections.
The Sunday Nation’s questions to Kenya Power CEO Ken Tarus
Q: How were the third party vendors (Dynamo, Vendit and Patapawa) contracted? Was there a competitive bidding and if so, can Kenya Power provide evidence to confirm that?
A: They were competitively engaged as per the public regulations.
Q: Why does Kenya Power market only two of the three third party vendors, Dynamo and Vendit, over your own 888880 and Patapawa?
We have a total of 17 super vendors for both prepaid and post-paid. Each super vendor is free to undertake marketing for their services.
Q: What has been the problem with Kenya Power’s 888880 paybill number? There are allegations that the paybill number was deliberately sabotaged internally so that Vendit and Dynamo can thrive and benefit some senior people within Kenya Power and the Ministry of Energy. What is your reaction to this?
A: The paybill number 888880 transacts 85% of our daily prepaid token purchase of approximately 160,000. This huge traffic slows down the speed at which tokens are received by our customers. However, continuous improvements of our systems has resulted in ease of tokens being generated and sent to our customers. We expect this to improve further in the coming days as we continue to upgrade our systems and network.
Q: What is the contract period with these two vendors (please state the start and end dates for each)? What is the financial value of the contracts Kenya Power has with Vendit and Dynamo?
A: All the 17 super vendors have a current running contract as per our terms of engagement. Each super vendor is paid a commission based on volume of business transacted.
Q: What explains the differences in M-Pesa paybill charges by Vendit and Dynamo on the one hand and the cost a consumer incurs when using Kenya Power’s own 888880?
A: Mobile money services are offered by telcos and therefore subject to the existing charges levied by the mobile network operators. We have no control over these charges. In the case you have mentioned, the money service provider has different tariff bands which include cost-sharing with customer (Mgawo tariff band), business pays (and) customer pays. Because of our huge transactional numbers, we have the Mgawo tariff where we pay some fees and the customer pays some charges. The same does not apply to the super vendors hence customers pay all the charges.
Q: Following public outcry, Kenya Power on Monday sent out text messages to consumers ‘alerting’ them to “delays in prepaid token generations” before another one on Tuesday that the problem had been sorted. What was causing the delay?
A: It was a technical hitch which was slowing down vending but it was eventually resolved and full services restored back. We had not anticipated the magnitude and for that we apologised profusely to our esteemed customers.
Q: Would Kenya Power consider reviewing the contracts it has with the third party token vendors given that they are becoming too expensive to the consumers? If so, what would such a review entail?
A: As indicated earlier, the charges are levied by mobile money service providers. We will endeavour to engage these providers with a view of lowering the cost of vending to ensure our customers enjoy affordable charges.
I first met my friend Kenneth Matiba in 1958. I had just arrived in Makerere but he was completing his Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science, History and Economics, the same course I studied. He had stayed behind to study a diploma in Education for one year. During that year, his then girlfriend — who would later be his wife Edith — was also about to complete her BA. Another man who had completed his BA and stayed behind to do a Bachelor of Education was Mr Habel Nyamu. In essence, it was a ploy for the two to wait for their girlfriends to finish their degrees. (Nyamu went on to become an educationist and a commissioner with the defunct Electoral Commission of Kenya).
I do remember that Edith was at the top of her class, a very bright student, and she studied with Mr Solomon Karanja who was to become the first African Registrar of the University of Nairobi. At Makerere, Matiba was a very active man. He also had leadership qualities that saw him become the liaison between Kenyan students at Makerere and the government of Kenya. Anything to do with bursaries was handled by Matiba on behalf of the students.
He left in March, 1959, and came back to Kenya where he worked with the Ministry of Education. He continued with his liaison job even at the ministry.
When Independence came, Matiba had performed so well that he was elevated to the position of Permanent Secretary for Commerce and Industry at the age of 31.
Myself, I had returned and was posted to Kisumu as a District Officer for six months before we were called to the Kenya Institute of Administration (today Kenya School of Government) for a senior administrators’ course. In 1962, I was posted to the Ministry of Finance.
Matiba worked as PS for Mwai Kibaki at Commerce and Industry and also at Home Affairs as PS for Daniel arap Moi.
You will recall Kibaki had come to Makerere just when Matiba was leaving and he even taught me at some point. Kibaki was to return to Kenya in 1960 where he became the Executive Officer of Kanu.
The three of us, Kibaki and Matiba and I were inseparable, especially because we were all in government after independence.
We used to meet every weekend for a drink, mostly off River Road. Matiba was a teetotaller but that did not make him shy away from joining us.
In 1968, Matiba left the government and joined Kenya Breweries while I became the Finance Secretary at the Ministry of Finance. We used to joke that he (Matiba) must be special to manage production of beer yet he did not drink. On the other hand, Kibaki had an admirable streak of drinking huge amounts of beer without getting drunk. I am yet to meet another person like him.
By early 1970s, the culture of corruption had permeated the society. People close to Jomo Kenyatta started “owning” him.
There were people who wanted to have shortcuts to wealth and Matiba abhorred this. We also worked hard to help our people. I recall that our friends from Kiambu were opposed to the construction of the road from Kenol-Makutano-Sagana-Karatina. But the three of us, with a Mr Mbugua who was the PS for Roads, convinced Mzee Kenyatta of the importance of that road. That was about 1968.
In 1972, I moved to become the managing director of Development Finance Company of Kenya (DFCK) that was instrumental in attracting industries to Kenya. In 1970s, Mzee’s old age was visible and the Change the Constitution movement started. It was aimed at preventing Vice President Moi from ascending to power.
In 1977, there was a retreat for all senior Kikuyu leaders that was held in Nyahururu. It was a three-day event and Matiba and I were there on the first day. Kibaki came on the last day and his speech had ramifications across Mt Kenya region.
Having been in Uganda where the Baganda, despite being the majority, had been kept away from power by both Milton Obote and Iddi Amin, Kibaki knew all too well the dangers of the Change the Constitution talk.
In his speech he said: “It is true Kikuyu are single biggest community in Kenya; but you do agree they are not the majority. If you insist on having your way, all the other communities will gang up and you will be finished.” He then gave the Uganda example.
All those who attended stormed out of the conference room, leaving Kibaki, Matiba and I seated. There was near pandemonium in Nyahururu town and word reached Nyeri that people had ganged against Kibaki.
Matiba was a principled man who called a spade a spade no matter the situation. In the 1979 General Election, Matiba bought a campaign van for a friend of mine who was contesting the Ndia seat, Ngari Rukenya; he was a generous man, too.
He was incorruptible, full of integrity and abhorred nepotism. One had to earn their place, according to their abilities, as far as Matiba was concerned.
Unlike a few in the Kenyatta government, Matiba was pro-Africanisation of Kenya businesses. He had ensured that Africans had acquired the current Biashara Street buildings and shops, unfortunately they resold them to Indians.
Come 1982, I left my job and decided to join politics. Kibaki had the docket of Finance removed from him and he was given Home Affairs docket. I recall the three of us having a drink and I joked with Matiba about what would happen if Kibaki was to be given the VP job.
“Listen here John, I would not want to be VP as long as Kibaki is able to do the job. I am sure you have said that because I was in State House earlier today. But you know, fire can provide warmth or burn you depending on the distance you are from it”.
Come the 1983 campaigns, the District Commissioner for Kirinyaga banned my campaign rallies 24 days to the election and I had to do night campaigns. In Mbiri, Matiba was also being frustrated, so was Kibaki in Othaya.
Eventually we all won against the odds. Despite the frustrations at the campaigns, Moi invited Matiba and I to his Kabarak home where we spent the day telling stories.
At some point, Moi said he needed to go and check his farm and we left at around 3pm. On arrival home, I found a crowd had come to congratulate me; as I drove home. Moi had appointed me to be an assistant minister. However, it was my disappointment not to find Charles Njonjo in bunge in 1983 after he was kicked out over the traitor issue. For many years, Njonjo had accused Matiba and I of being Kibaki’s men, something he didn’t like.
Moi soon changed and he started seeing enemies in everyone. As the years progressed, Moi became more repressive.
He had friends and enemies in every district. In Kirinyaga, his man, James Njiru, was my political opponent who I had defeated in 1983 despite him having orchestrated that I do not campaign. Njiru “won” the farce that was the 1988 mlolongo elections.
In Kiharu, Matiba prevailed against strong opposition from Moi’s ally, Joseph Kamotho, who was from the neighbouring Kangema, and the provincial administration. Kibaki also won in Othaya but was dropped as vice president.
Kibaki was under pressure to resign after he was dropped from the vice president’s position but he insisted he could serve Kenyans from any position.
Up to 1991, though he was loyal to Moi and Jomo before him, Head of Special Branch James Kanyotu helped us in ensuring our businesses were not brought down by Moi’s men. This changed after Kanyotu was dropped by Moi… and Matiba was arrested and detained in July, 1990.
When Matiba was released from detention in May 1991, he was taken to London for medical care.
By then Ford was in full force. We were all in Ford and it was clear Moi was on his way out.
When Matiba left hospital and was recuperating in a house in London, I was tasked by the Gema wing of Ford to travel to London and report back on his condition. The trip was financed by George Nyanja. I stayed in a hotel, but would visit Matiba every day at his house for close to two weeks.
When I came back, I told members that he was in good condition even to lead the country.
Around the same time, Matiba had sent word that he would not need to stand for President if his old friend, Kibaki, abandoned DP and came back to Ford.
A flurry of meetings were held but Kibaki did not yield. As Matiba came back, he also said he would not be Jaramogi’s Vice President as many had hoped. There emerged the Ford Agip House headed by Jaramogi and Ford Muthithi House headed by Matiba. Our efforts with Titus Mbathi and others to bring Ford Agip, Ford Muthithi and DP under one roof in Kenya National Congress as an umbrella body ended in disarray when Moi ordered Attorney General Amos Wako to register all of them as parties. That is how I contested the Ndia seat under Kenya National Congress and lost marginally.
As we bid farewell to Matiba, I recall a steadfast man who always led from the front. I believe the 1992 elections, where he campaigned vigorously, had an adverse effect on him as by the time he returned to Kenya he was in good health.
May my friend Ken Rest in Peace.
Where are we in the evolution of our democracy? One might say that we have made quite some progress since the early 1990s for before then we had been through nearly 30 years of outright dictatorship. But we still have major challenges that threaten to destroy what so many people suffered and even lost their lives for. At the centre of the democratic project are certain institutions which, if not well managed and protected, can derail the progress in building a democracy.
Take the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission. This is — or ought to be — a major player in shaping our democracy as happens in more developed democracies around the world. The faith that citizens have in a commission that is charged with the job of administering elections is critical in the democratic process. In the commissions we have had in recent years we find the weakest link in the endeavour to put in place a true democracy. The one that administered the 2007 elections, for instance, together with the politicians that contested caused a crisis that brought this country almost to its knees.
A new commission was put in place in readiness for the 2013 election and within no time its members were ejected before the 2017 elections. Even up to this point the current commission is in serious problems. Will it survive? It is quite obvious that many Kenyans and particularly those in the political class do not believe that there can be an election in which there is no cheating. What does that mentality mean to the growth of our democracy?
Destabilising the commission that is supposed to manage the most sacred exercise in the building of a democratic society is indeed a betrayal to the vision and courage of those who have suffered and even died so that we can enjoy a democracy. Right now we are mourning a courageous crusader for democracy the late Kenneth Matiba. He was detained without trial for agitating for multiparty democracy. During that detention he suffered a stroke the effects of which have made him immobile and unable to work for more than 25 years.
While we pray that the good Lord will rest his soul in eternal peace we must question ourselves as to how much genuine tribute we can pay him and those like him who suffered and even died so that we can be a democracy. An authentic celebration of his life and courageous act of taking a dictatorship head on must include an examination of conscience on the part of each one of us on how by our acts of selfishness we have betrayed the heroes of our independence and democracy.
It is about 50 days since the strike called by University Academic Staff Union (Uasu) began. This is the fourth in less than 12 months. The crisis facing higher education has the most tenuous relationship with Uasu. Neither has it anything to do with students, parents or commercialisation of higher education, nay! The crisis of higher education in Kenya has everything to do with leadership at the level of government. It does not take a genius to realise that higher education is not taken seriously. As I have argued before, Uasu’s voice needs to be heard beyond the narrow (off) tunes of that song Solidarity Forever. From political discourse, to actual funding, higher education is at best tolerated, and considered a distraction from basic and secondary education.
As the recent disastrous allocations of Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Services (KUCPS) show, there is clearly something wrong with the running of higher education in Kenya. Some universities were allocated as few as two students yet have full (fattened) councils paid for by an already burdened tax payer. We have more universities than we have need and can barely afford to sustain the 64 universities strewn across the country. Many of these problems are clearly beyond Uasu! Meanwhile, as the current strike took its toll, it took nearly 30 days before Education CS Amina Mohammed uttered a word. And when she did, her response that she was waiting for a headcount from universities was unconvincing and uninspiring. In the meantime, those who should be concerned are consumed in premature presidential campaigns for the deputy President.
The 2022 succession seems to be the most urgent matter for this country. I do agree with arguments that politicisation of higher education has reached noxious levels. Virtually all major universities are tribalised at the apex with autochthony being the chief requirement for academic leadership. I am sure Kenyans now know that any position above a deputy vice-chancellor is as political as that of a colonial chief. Uasu has little to do with most of these shenanigans. Even in the past when Uasu leaned more towards social justice, appointments were still political, although less ethnicised than they are today.
While academics should not expect to be paid high salaries in a country that has little regard for intellectuals, they still have a right to a decent pay. We have deliberately turned our lecturers into paupers and for this we commit a grievous ‘sin’. As key drivers of the economy, and the creators of skilled human resource that has always put Kenya way above her peers, lecturers deserve a decent pay. In the current stalemate, the state has simply treated lecturers with scorn. The CBA last year was only signed because of the looming presidential election. In actual fact, it was only a series of strikes that compelled implementation of that CBA. Interestingly, while criticism was leveled against Uasu for waiting too late in the day, a similar criticism is being given to Uasu for clamouring a little too early for the current CBA. These criticisms only lend legitimacy to the argument that the State seems only to prefer and understand the bear-knuckled language of labour withdrawal.
Still, Uasu needs some introspection, not so much on its methods, but on its vision of wealth creation for its members. While I agree with the authors that the yesteryear Uasu was better focused, it is also true that it operated on a clearly different, social, political and economic context. The massification of education was a bonanza of sorts to Uasu, and possibly the reason why it is still singularly salivating on cash payments. That bonanza is long gone and Uasu has already smelled the coffee. I do not think that Uasu, on its own, has the wherewithal of singularly transforming higher education without proper leadership at the political level.
However, Uasu can still realise welfare for its members by focusing beyond CBAs and puny increases which are slow in coming, and when they do, are swallowed up in inflation. A more fruitful focus will be to agitate for meaningful, long term welfare issues such as house ownership, robust health insurance covers and possibly tax exemption from such things as car imports, and the complete exemption from paying university tuition fees for their own children in those universities which they teach. The clamour for more and more CBAs will never haul esteemed dons from their despondency. Still, it is wrong to blame Uasu for woes that primarily are the province of universities management organs. Uasu’s voice in the critical arms of university governance has all been dashed by statutes that exclude them from such deliberative fora.
Many of the troubles related to the crises facing higher education like leadership, massification of university education, careerism and the denigration of professorship are essentially the dirty underclothes of university councils and rogue VCs. For higher education to be restored, the discussion must go beyond Uasu, who are just but a tiny cog in a complex system with many actors, some of whom care very little for the overall welfare of higher education.
We need honest discussions on quality, funding and the spread of higher learning. More important, university education must be de-politicised and de-tribalised. Besides, a more democratic form of governance is urgently needed, and the days when a university VC is appointed as a result of drooling and kowtowing to political brokers, some of whom have never stepped in a university lecture room, must certainly stop!