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Friday, May 4th, 2018


ERC to phase out kerosene use, wants price hike

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Millions of Kenyans who rely on kerosene for lighting and cooking are headed for tough times following a decision by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to phase out the product from the local market.

ERC said the consumption of kerosene in the country is ever increasing and needs to be drastically cut in favour of clean fuels, solar for lighting and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) for cooking.

The commission on Friday urged Treasury and Energy ministries to hike kerosene prices to match that of diesel as a way of deterring consumers from buying the product, and in the end phase it out of the market.

“The commission has been engaging the two ministries with the aim of overcoming the problem of fuel adulteration. Currently, the country consumes about 33 million litres of kerosene monthly when ideally it should be less than five million litres,” said ERC Director General Pavel Oimeke.

Mr Oimeke said the reason for huge kerosene consumption was due to the price incentive, a factor he said had caused unscrupulous traders to adulterate the product by mixing it with diesel.

“As a result we have about 27 million litres of kerosene that goes into vehicles which are damaging our vehicles and affecting the export markets. We are losing outside markets such as in Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and parts of Tanzania who have not been buying from us due to the alteration of quality of the product,” Mr Oimeke said.

He said kerosene price increase would add up to Sh34 billion to the government coffers annually.

“Instead of adding VAT [value added tax] on petroleum products, it may be prudent to increase taxes on kerosene to enable the government collect the equivalent Sh34 billion and in essence save our export market and protect our vehicles by consuming the best fuel,” Mr Oimeke said.

He said the commission arrived at the decision after conducting a study on Tanzania which employed the strategy in 2011 and reduced the product’s consumption from 30 million litres per month to five million litres currently.

“There are other alternatives that are being launched like the 1.2million LPG cylinders at a subsidised price and the solar lanterns which will also benefit the country. We are licensing companies to offer those services at a subsidized rate,” he said.

Consumers’ federation of Kenya secretary general Sterue”>



An attendant at a Nyeri petrol station sells kerosene to a customer. The energy regulator has asked the Treasury and Energy ministries to hike kerosene prices to match that of diesel as it seeks to phase out the product from the local market in favour of clean fuels. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

Orphans of ‘handshake’ should not sabotage the noble initiative

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The politics of this country is in a state of flux, and few people seem to have any idea what to expect next. However, this is not saying too much because always we seem to lurch from one crisis of expectation to another, and speculation invariably precedes fact. Nevertheless, few could have foretold the kind of surprise that President Uhuru Kenyatta unleashed on Kenyans during his State of the Nation address. His humility in apologising for anything he may have said or done to divide the nation during the 2017 campaigns was not only touching, but also charming.

Incidentally, may be it is time the players in the opposite camp did the same thing, with the singular aim of bringing about the beginning of the healing process.

The filth spewed out during the campaign was never one-sided. However, this may not be as important as the fact that the President’s unprecedented initiative heralds a new start and promises changes in governance, which he and Mr Odinga sealed with a handshake on March 9.

The rapprochement between the two leaders generated celebration and consternation in equal measure among their respective diehard supporters. Those who thrive in discord in either camp were disconcerted by the new-found amity for they were deprived of their pet hates and are now at a loss as who to cut down to size with ridicule and poisonous invective. Such fellows can best be described as orphans of the handshake.

Yet they should not be ignored, for they can easily spoil the party and return the country to its inglorious past. Nevertheless, they must not be allowed to prevail.

The next course of action is the call for a referendum which is increasingly becoming rowdy. It is clear some people are supporting this call with a singular aim in mind — to create executive positions for their own in the name of inclusion. They too must not be allowed to prevail. There are many reasons why the Constitution should be reviewed, for although it was hailed as the most progressive of the kind this side of the 21st Century, it left many gaping holes as became evident last year. The country still remained divided to the extent that one half started talking secession.

My opinion is that if, indeed, there must be a referendum to bring back sanity to this country’s politics, it should have little bearing on the 2022 presidential succession four- and-a-half years away. There is a sense in which those seeing the clamour as a direct attempt to undercut the Deputy President’s ambition could be right.


When you contemplate a Bill, which seeks to take away an elected President’s executive powers and vest them in an executive Prime Minister elected by Parliament, then you are actually suggesting a fundamental change just a few months after a very contentious election. That is not a wise idea, for it actually defeats the whole purpose of the newfound concord.

Even more ridiculous are the games being played by a few self-assigned king-makers to roil the waters by misusing the President’s name in the guise of fighting for his future. The asinine suggestion by Cotu supremo Francis Atwoli to tweak the Supreme Law so that President Kenyatta can continue playing a yet undefined executive role in politics after he leaves office should be dismissed with contempt. This is not to indicate the President does not deserve recognition for the job he has already done, but should the idea gain traction, the inevitable uproar ensuing will unravel everything he tries to do in the last four years of his incumbency. Let it rest, Mr Atwoli. Four years is a very long time in politics.

It was quite disheartening to see a miserable group of poor Kenyans hurdling in the cold complaining their shanties in Lang’ata had been demolished and they had no idea what to do next. Though they had been given ample warning to demolish the structures under power lines and ignored it claiming they had nowhere else to go, the evictions were quite inhuman considering the floods wreaking havoc in the city and elsewhere.

Couldn’t the deadline have been extended until the weather improved? Can you imagine a family with young children been kicked out in the rain? Poverty is not a choice, nor is it a crime … except, maybe, in Kenya.

Reclaiming African culture long overdue

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The proposal by the Foreign Affairs ministry to set aside Friday as the day of African attire is the kind of statement one would be happy to hear more frequently from the civil service.

It embodies the hope of many people in Africa who yearn to emerge from the restrictive and oppressive present, where they are overwhelmed and intimidated by exotic attire and culture.

This predicament cannot be blamed on any particular group.

However, it is a fact that the conspiracy of the West and the local educated elite undermine many forms of cultural expression that rob Africans of self-confidence.

On the walls of the ground floor of the Kenya National Archives, Nairobi, hang pictures capturing historic social and political events in which members of the Cabinet and other luminaries of independence took part.

You sympathise to see how they were falling over each other, competing to mimic the colonialists by dressing in three-piece suits, fur-trimmed coats, embroidered dresses and bowler hats.

They adopted whites’ hair styles, smoked pipes, kept moustaches and spoke through their noses to make a statement that they, by choice, belonged to the aristocratic colonial class, not the indigenous African peasantry.

These elite who populated the civil service, business circles and institutions of government always looked with suspicion and hostility any mode of dress that would make a statement to the contrary.

It angered musician Joseph Kamaru, prompting him in the 1970s to compose songs critical of the snobbery of urbanised elite.

They despised even their heritage, which to them was primitive.

If a child took a meal at the grandparents’ home back in the village, he would be rushed to hospital.

If the child spent a night in the village, his clothes would be burnt in order not to ‘import’ bedbugs to the city home.

Slowly, the urbanised elite was transformed into a critical mass opposed to anything indigenous — African liquor, attire, food, herbs, language and religion.

Today the million dollar question is: Where has this taken us?

The African dress may enhance the self-confidence of a people, making them distinguishable from the crowd.

Thinking, speaking and marrying their own way helps them to confidently express their collective hope of overcoming limitations placed on their way by oppressive systems.

Once a people recover their freedom to dress their own way, speak their language, cook their own food, worship their own gods, they realise that it is all bound up with greater freedoms to change the exploitative socio-economic order.

It definitely worries the oppressor, whether that exploiter is colonial or the kamatimu who benefits from the status quo.

The time is ripe for Africans to take their individuality positively.

They have a duty to stand up confidently to run their own affairs by believing in themselves, setting their ethical standards, values and goals and defining who they are.

We should have day of African dishes, day of African languages, day of African stories, day of African food, music and worship.

If this happens we shall have retrieved the cornerstone of the African renaissance that had been carted away by colonists, their heirs and Afro-pessimists.

KRA on right path in pushing for excise tax compliance

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The most significant news coming out of the latest review of the performance of the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) is a shortfall in the collection of excise duties during the first six months of the current fiscal year.

Coming against the backdrop of Kenya’s excessive debt and huge revenue deficit, all indications are that this funding gap will now force the tax authority to confront reports of an upsurge in fake excise stamps and also the urgent necessity to expand the rollout and enforce the use of the Excisable Goods Management System, which has been in operation since 2013.

Supported by the international technology provider SICPA, the system involves the affixing of secure excise stamps on goods at the production site, which then allows the tracing and tracking of products and monitoring of production volumes.

As expected, implementation of the system in Kenya has elicited big resistance from some industries.

No manufacturer likes a monitoring system built directly into his production line and collecting real-time production data for the tax authority.

But in terms of broad fiscal policy, the high-tech monitoring system in Kenya is beginning to enjoy support and endorsement by other tax authorities in Africa, as well as by some forward thinking taxpayers.

During a recent meeting of the Africa Tax Administration Forum (ATAF), the continental association of tax administration authorities, the EGMS received wide endorsement and acclaim by the members.

Indeed, KRA has reported that EGMS increased excise tax compliance by 45 per cent.


A report by ATAF noted that the system had proved robust at detecting counterfeit goods and preventing smuggling.

The report also found it to be adept at stamping out falsification of production volumes.

It is therefore not surprising that in the wake of the shortfall in excise tax collections, KRA is planning to put more pressure on non-compliant behaviour by expanding and enforcing the use of EGMS.

Last week, KRA announced that it will rollout a major campaign to sensitise manufacturers, retailers and distributors as well as the police and consumers to verify genuine products by using smartphones through an app dubbed ‘Soma Label’ that is part of the EGMS solution.

The use of mobile phones to scan products will go a long way in empowering consumers to identify and avoid contraband products in the market, thereby eventually eliminating them by drying up demand.

Recent trends show that excise duty is emerging as the tax with the greatest potential for sub-Saharan countries.

Excisable goods are mainly luxury goods. Excise duties are also charged as a sin tax on goods like alcohol and tobacco that are known to pose health problems to consumers.

But there are other factors and side benefits which have encouraged authorities to gradually expand the excise tax dragnet.

Not least is the fact that controls can help reduce counterfeits, fakes and fraudulent practices.

Today, the list of excisable goods and services includes juices, mineral water, soft drinks, petroleum jelly, cosmetics, mobile phones, talk time and wireless services.

Excise duty is also imposed on imported used computers, fees charged on money transfers, and banking services fees.

From a continental perspective, excise tax revenues on average account for about 1.7 per cent of GDP of member countries of the African Tax Forum, nearly one percentage point below the OECD average of 2.6 per cent of GDP.

Countries must finance public expenditures through fiscal revenues as deficit financing is no longer feasible.

Kenya must therefore strive to increase the performance of this tax category as it is clearly the tax of the future.

The best route to get there is by expanding the use of track and trace systems.

Robert Ndege is a Director at TL Message and Media

State of stadiums appalling

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Poor sporting facilities especially soccer and athletics grounds can be a big threat to sportsmen and women’s careers.

The current rains have exposed Kenya’s sorry state of facilities with athletes being forced to seek alternative grounds to avoid injuries.

For instance, Athletics Kenya has been forced to use grounds in Kisii, Eldoret, Kakamega and Mombasa for their track and field championships owing to poor grounds at Gusii, Kipchoge Keino, Bukhungu and Mbaraki.

Kenya is racing against time to have Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani, ready to host Gor Mahia’s CAF Confederation Cup matches.

Early this year, Deputy President William Ruto announced the government had pumped in Sh4.5 billion into the renovation and construction of five stadiums, and that four of them including Kasarani and Nyayo were to be ready by April but this has not happened.

Kenya would be better off with just one ultra-modern stadium that can host major games than promise of many that never come to materialise.

Just how will Kenya be able to successfully bid for World Under-20 Athletics Championships without a proper stadium?

Let us respect the truth however bitter a pill it may be to swallow

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Imagine if the truth as an undisputed fact was reset, fine-tuned and revised to become a ‘new idea’.

Kenya was never a colony, it was under a new regime. Oh, of ‘new ideas’, ‘alternative facts’ and ‘inadvertently misleading’ making waves around us.

The flawed seems to be continuously ‘winning’ at the dire expense of the poor defenceless truth.

On this sliding scale at the ever oncoming dysfunctional reality, the truth needs an advocate.

Ah, Kanye West in his recent return to public made an appearance at TMZ where he knowingly and wilfully said, “When you hear about slavery for 400 years… for 400 years? That sounds like a choice.”

His current esteemed call to action and philosophy is promoting ‘new ideas’.

In his quest as a thinker and modern day ‘idealist’, his thinking is risibly flawed and offensive.

To argue slavery is a choice is redefining slavery to have an element of freedom which by its definition there isn’t.

Kanye has proved there is a new higher hierarchy of faux; nonsense!

Under no circumstances should self-serving ideas or ‘truth’ be publically peddled because it’s cathartic.

Whether it is done inadvertently or otherwise, lies must not thrive and prosper mightily while infringing on the truth.

The former UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd quickly and harshly learnt this the hard way.

After being quizzed by the Home Affairs Select Committee if there were any targets for immigration removal, Rudd rather confidently said there weren’t any.

But here’s the thing about the truth, it doesn’t rely on the upright women and men: It will eventually reveal itself even through the maze of the flawed web of lies, ‘new ideas’ and ‘alternative facts’.

The Guardian revealed a memo dated June 21, 2017 by Rudd to the UK Prime Minister where she had set “increasing the number of enforced removal by more than 10 per cent”, something she considered, “ambitious, but deliverable”.

This lie led to Rudd’s resignation, which she conveniently deemed to have “inadvertently misled the Home Affairs Select Committee”.

What if we held our elected and public officials to this same high standard of integrity?

How many would be unelected or out of office? Is Chapter 6 of the Constitution truly enforceable or is it just another page in the book?

Now more than ever the truth, ugly as it maybe is a pressing issue.

The battle between the sanctity of the truth versus the convenience of the flawed lie is creating a socially dysfunctional society every time the lie is told.

In that moment where the audience dare to think your lie is the truth, is mentally hectic.

If a ‘new idea’ or the ‘inadvertently misleading’ continues in this unhinged trajectory, the full scale of the truth as we know it will be wrought.

Mass scale peddling of a ‘new idea’ for the truth, is creating the risk of gradually mercilessly wiping out history one line at a time.

Sadly, this will be at the highest expense of ourselves and to the disappointment of future generations.

The truth, sometimes, immediately hurts excruciatingly, but it does set you free from the warm, comfortable self-imposed bondage.

Particular for those in public office, it is gravely important you maintain a clear distinction between a truth and a lie.


And no, there is no defence when you are called to account to say, ‘I didn’t know’, ‘I wasn’t informed’, or the good old fashioned, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about’.

We cannot afford to be driven further down the whirlwind pitfall of chaos trying to make sense of a flaw.

This mental maze will frankly lead to lack of lucidity! But alas, this generation is the most informed.

Frankly telling that lie is a faux pas, beyond risible and you are not fooling anyone into believing your flawed thinking.

We know the truth, and this performance is at a high public cost not worth the time.

Oh sure, the consequences are not immediately evident, but as Shakespeare said, ‘but at the length truth will out’.

When it does, do not play the piteous victim, feigning all manner of weakness after you webbed your web of lies and you are now tangled.

Take meaningful action and stand for the truth. Do not be apathetic either hoping someone else will taking up this responsibility.

Indeed, to whom much is given much is tested; it’s a damn shame Kanye West and Amber Rudd failed theirs. Perhaps you are better off being an ordinary mwananchi.

Let us be sensitive as we transfer school head teachers

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There are currently 8,542 principals and head teachers in the country.

The Teachers Service Commission transferred 515 principals in the latest move to delocalise management of public secondary schools across the country.

The process to move school heads working in their home counties started last year.

Chief Executive Officer Nancy Macharia said the delocalisation policy seeks to improve cohesion and deepen appreciation of the country’s diverse cultures.

The principals now join another 346 who were transferred in January in a move that attracted protests from teachers’ unions.

Primary school head teachers, secondary school and college principals will no longer serve in their home counties, their employer says.

The Teachers Service Commission said the managers would also not serve in one station for more than nine years.

Delocalisation will eventually be cascaded to deputy heads and other senior teachers in public schools.

Delocalisation and teacher appraisal was part of the collective bargaining agreement that the TSC signed with the Kenya National Union of Teachers and Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers in 2016, and was subsequently registered at the Employment and Labour Relations Court. 

This reminds me of this story. The owner of an underwear making company was having a tough time with shortages.

On departure for home, all worker’s bags were searched and everything always seemed to be ok. All security measures you can think of were put in place.

Auditors were called in, but still no one was caught and stock continued to disappear.

All workers, including management, were checked on departure, each wearing just one underwear, and no one was caught with more than one pair.

Then one day, someone thought out of the box, and the security officer was advised to check all workers on arrival.

He got the shock of his life when he found that all the workers, including management, had no underwear on them.

Has TSC thought out of the box? What has TSC discovered that we don’t know?

In the 80s and 90s, most families that lived in town centres with their children, schooled or played with other children and did not know the tribes or even know the names of the children’s parents.

There was co-existence between neighbours.

But the elections of 1997, 2013, and 2017 have led to an emergency of tribalism, which has largely divided Kenyans into tribal cocoons.

This made education officials see the need of removing teachers from their local homes to areas which are not their locality.

When teachers graduated from teacher training colleges, they were posted to their home districts and recruitment of teachers is based on home district.

This is how the teachers found themselves in their current stations except when districts were overstaffed.

Let those conducting this exercise conduct it in a humane manner. Let them consider age and that some are not locals.

The process has sent shivers down the spines of head teachers and principals who are above 45 years of age because, since they were posted, they have never worked outside their counties.

Moreover, they will be forced to rent houses apart from those of their families. This is an added expense.

Let this delocalisation be done to teachers who are 40 years and below.

Those above 40, if moved, the process will destabilise families and ruin many relationships.

These teachers have invested their earnings in a lot of development to help them when they retire.

But as they have been relocated, most of their investments may collapse.

Let those who are sick and on medication not be moved. The delocalisation will make Kenya attain development but should be carried out sensitively.

How CUE plans to root out insecurity in universities

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Universities hostels have been turned into criminal and prostitution dens as well as radicalisation cells.

The shocking details are contained in a report by the Commission for University Education (CUE), which was presented to Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed on Wednesday.

The report indicate universities have become hideouts and convergence points for criminals, especially in hostels.

“There are cases of active radicalisation cells in universities. Students are colluding with each other in hiding crime,” the report, which is now being studied by the government in order for action to be taken, says.

There is also prostitution at the hostels and increased cases of organised crimes where students are either involved or institutions acting as centres of crime, the report states.

“Ethnic and political alliances where national politicians engage university students during political campaigns; and laxity or little attention being given to security concerns in universities and constituent colleges are rife,” the report reads.

The terror attack on Garissa University on April 2, 2015 where 148 people and at least 79 others were injured (mainly students), revealed lack of capacity for universities in Kenya to mitigate against the emerging threats and risks to safety and security.

To address the security concerns, the government through the Ministry of Education released a directive in April 2016 that required all universities and constituent colleges to implement biometric identification systems and automate students’ records.

Further, a Universities Security Committee (USC) comprising 11 Vice Chancellors and representatives from the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government and National Intelligence Service was mandated to draft national minimum standards and guidelines on safety and security in universities, to be ratified and used to audit universities on security.

A status report on implementation of biometric identification systems and automation of students’ records obtained from 56 universities and university colleges indicate by July 2016, majority of universities had initiated the process of implementing the requirements on security.

However, many indicated the process was hampered by budgetary constraints.

The CUE has since committed to fast track the development of universities minimum standards and guidelines on safety and security to operationalise the amended Universities Act and Universities Regulations.

The report says the standards and guidelines will thereafter be used to audit the security status of all universities and ensure accredited ones meet minimum standards and guidelines, including those on safety and security.

It will also liaise with universities to provide data on student discipline to facilitate maintenance of an updated centralised student disciplinary profile database domiciled at CUE, which will act as a “Disciplinary Reference Bureau” for universities and constituent colleges.

CUE ponders drastic proposals to transform higher education

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University education is likely to go through radical transformation if the government adopts new proposals to revitalise the sector.

The Commission for University Education (CUE) has proposed the merger of several universities or closure of some since many have become unsustainable.

The commission also wants public universities to be allowed to raise fees to reflect the market realities, arguing that the current rate of Sh120,000 per student is unrealistic.

In one of the far-reaching proposals, the commission wants the creation of a regional university system by merging universities within the same geographical locations and converting most of the existing universities into constituent colleges or campuses.

“This would be similar to the practice in the UK with University of London System, the US with California University System and in Rwanda where all universities were merged and placed under an umbrella University of Rwanda system,” the proposal that was presented to Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed this week reads.

Currently, the country has 31 public universities and six constituent colleges, 18 private universities, five private constituent colleges and 14 private institutions operating with letters of interim authority.

The report titled “Policy Advisory on Rationalisation of Universities and Programmes in Kenya”, says the creation of the campuses from existing universities should be based on national development needs, existing infrastructure and resources, and regional balance.

“For example, in Mombasa, there could be a focus on marine ecology and oceanography and in Turkana a focus on arid lands and oil studies, but all as colleges of one national university. The rest of the public universities that do not fit this model will be closed,” the report says.

CUE is also proposing a review of university tuition fees and charges to align them with the cost of training for each programme in support of the Differentiated Unit Cost (DUC) managed by the University Funding Board.

If approved, it will be the first major increase of fees since the end of free university education in 1991 and the introduction of the Higher Education Loans Board (Helb) in 1995.

Last year, then Education Cabinet secretary Fred Matiang’i announced government’s plan to rollout the unit-cost fees, but it has not been implemented largely because of fear of backlash from students, parents and even universities.

CUE, in its report, wants provision of more support for scholarships and research in the universities and support for the training of academic staff to attain higher degrees in their fields as well as introduction of an apprenticeship programme that invites and trains promising graduates to grow a steady supply of teaching staff.

It proposes: “Reduction in the ratio of teaching to non-teaching staff in universities to 70:30 and improve terms of service for academic staff to reduce the need to teach in multiple institutions to make ends meet.

“This exercise is to commence after a national audit of all support staff in universities. Some of the services currently offered by non-academic staff should be outsourced.”


CUE is also recommending development of capacity building training programmes for universities in governance, quality assurance and research.

“Such capacity should include leadership training for current leadership and management teams and an expectation that those who apply for such positions have undertaken such training.

“For sustainability, such training should be anchored in an existing institution. Establishment of centres of excellence should be encouraged and duplication of academic programmes in universities discouraged,” the report adds.

The prevailing low number of students eligible for university entry and the decision by the Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service to place students in programmes and institutions of their choice should be used to determine programmes that are not economically viable.

“Rationalisation of the universities and university academic programmes through reduced number of universities, leaving fewer universities with clear focus on specific academic fields, will ensure prudent use of resources, quality, relevance and sustainability of university education in Kenya.

“The proposed recommendations in this advisory will provide a framework for achievement of objectives of university education and the national development agenda.”

It states that with 31 public universities and six constituent colleges, Kenya with a total population of 48.4 million, has more universities than South Africa, which has only 26 public universities for a population of 55.91 million and a far bigger economy.

Ghana, an equally vibrant economy and with a longer history of higher education, has only nine public universities for a population of 28.21.

In other continents, the United Kingdom has 130 universities (total population, 64.61 million), Australia (which is actually a continent) has a total of 43 universities.

Some of the shortcomings the report has identified include: inadequate physical facilities to accommodate the large numbers of students as well as to offer the ideal learning environment and inadequate academic staff to teach, mentor, and supervise the students.

Others are inadequate academic staff with PhD qualifications in their fields of specialisation, inadequate funding or revenue to offer quality services – which has led to universities mounting many programmes that are inexpensive to mount, especially those in the Humanities and Social sciences, at the expense of programmes that would align with national goals for development such as engineering, manufacturing, health sciences, and architecture.

“Many public universities have disproportionate numbers of teaching and support staff; this results in high expenditure on non-core costs as reported during the recent university audits by the Commission,” the report reveals.

CUE also calls for the amendment of the Universities Act 2012 to change the provision compelling the government to create a university in every county, arguing it is unrealistic.

Land and housing projects to restore refugees’ dignity

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In the recent past, refugees have been a shunned lot and in some instances have faced hostilities from those they live with.

They have had problems being productive in their societies as harsh laws and stigma have always stood in their way.

However, this is slowly changing. Kenya’s newest refugee settlement in Turkana County is taking shape two years after it was set up amid concerns of its long-term impact on the resource-stretched environment.

The Kalobeyei camp is an “integrated settlement” whose model was intended to work for the mutual benefit of refugees and the local community by providing equal access to healthcare, schools and clean water.

Developed in 2016 after negotiations between the UNHCR and Turkana County government, it marked a shift from the current model where aid agencies are wholly responsible for the upkeep of displaced persons.

The remote outpost is gradually telling the story of refugees and a host community determined to live a better life despite the prevailing circumstances.

Latest UNHCR statistics show 38,561 refugees are hosted there.

As part of a pilot project to help them be self-sufficient and integrate into the local economy, a sizable portion of the land is reserved for farming and other economic activities.

This is a radical departure from the norm because Kenya has traditionally not allowed refugees to work for income and live in permanent structures on the grounds camps are meant to offer temporary refuge pending return to home countries.

This is the situation at Kakuma Camp where the refugees are housed in tents and get food rations from the World Food Programme (WFP).

But at Kalobeyei, some 300 permanent shelters have been built. The project which also involves UN-Habitat and World Bank Group is funded by the Japanese government.

Twenty of these houses have been allocated to the host community as part of the agreement and another 8,000 temporary structures are being replaced gradually.

Permanent structures are made of mud and brick with iron sheet roofing, interlocking briquettes or hardened paper rolls.

The shelter project ensures construction of adequate housing for refugees that is affordable, accessible and culturally appropriate.

Locals and foreigners who spoke to the Saturday Nation say this model of settlement is better because it takes into consideration the long-term interests of host populations, bringing together humanitarian and development efforts under the leadership of the national and county governments.

Lojore Lokong from South Sudan is the kind of refugee the settlement was designed to accommodate.

“I grow vegetables in a small garden behind my house. Part of the garden produce is consumed by my family of four, therefore complementing our meals usually made of beans or cereals while the rest I sell at the market,” he said.

Lokong is also part of the team involved in a project by Japanese firm Lixil that involves recycling human waste into organic fertiliser, which is then sold for use in the kitchen gardens.

The project dubbed Green Toilet System is designed for areas without access to water and sewerage systems.

“The toilet separates solid and liquid waste, enabling maintenance workers to collect the waste from tanks and transport it to a treatment facility.

“It also requires no water to transport human waste, circumventing the need for a traditional sewage system while protecting groundwater from contamination,” he said of the project by Lixil firm.

The company’s country manager, Yu Yamakami, says they will implement a training programme to ensure these facilities will be properly maintained and can be managed by the local community.

“The partnership with locals and refugees is now piloting sustainable urbanisation strategies, including for sanitation,” Ms Yamakami said.

There is also ongoing construction of a community centre with a library and a park, open for use by both communities. 

According to Ayen Thon, also from South Sudan, the settlement offers a part time solution as their over-reliance on humanitarian agencies is reduced.

In fact donor aid has been dwindling in the last two years.

“Many of us have now turned to entrepreneurship in the wake of revelations that some humanitarian agencies are facing funding challenges for the refugee operations in Kenya. We have no option but to think out of the box for our survival,” Thon said

Refugees largely depend on WFP’s in-kind food assistance, a ration composed of cereals, vegetable oil and salt that is provided once or twice a month.

But WFP introduced a new electronic food voucher system known as Bamba Chakula, which involves a cash transfer of Sh1,400 per refugee per month.

As at March this year, Kakuma and Kalobeyei hosted 185,867 refugees.

But with no source of income other than WFP’s monthly cash transfer, most of them remain hungry as food is costly and the pieces of land they have for farming are not big enough.

Locals who are supposed to benefit from the settlement’s model through schools and hospitals which have been constructed are also unlikely to allow refugees to own any more land outside Kakuma, such as Kalobeyei.

The refugee-host community relations have been strained in the past due to the perception that the local population has not benefitted from hosting asylum seekers.

In fact, a 2016 study by the World Bank Group, UNCHR and University of Notre Dame showed that many Turkana inhabitants feel that refugees rob and indirectly steal from them through the acquiring of land and access to water.

But the findings conducted in Kakuma, Lodwar, Lorugum and Lokichogio towns also found out that refugees have a significant positive impact on the Turkana people due to economic and social interactions that result in greater access to food and nutritional well-being.

Both the locals of Turkana and refugees also benefit from relief services, the study found.

“The belief that refugees receive resources that local Turkana deserve was stronger in Lorugum area than in any other location despite the fact that it is the farthest distance away from Kakuma Refugee Camp,” the report said. 

Interactions between the refugees and the host community have brought to light the latter’s increased dependency on the camp for survival.

Their sentiments were captured by Turkana Deputy Governor Peter Emuria Lotethiro during a recent joint donor tour of the settlement.

“As a county we are happy with the fusing of humanitarian activity with socioeconomic development that also benefits the local community, which is at the centre of the project.

“But we will have to iron out some in-house issues as much as we want the project fast tracked,” he told UN Habitat Executive Director Maimunah Sharif and UNHCR Representative in Kenya Raouf Mazou during the visit last week.

“We will be the last to chase refugees back to areas of hostility.

“But we ask the UN to seek durable solutions to this crisis but not encouraging settlements for long and encourage faster repatriation when their home countries are stable,” he said.

The Kalobeyei settlement has generated great expectations within the local community, who have seen their pastures and earnings shrink as a result of erratic rainfall.

Kalobeyei was part of their grazing fields given to the UN by the county government to set up the camp and is divided into three villages.

Ms Sharif said the agency is focusing on sustainable urban development plans rather than refugee camp expansions.

“We are using a three-pronged approach with other partners in their work. These are urban planning and design, legal framework, and economic strategy. This integrates local economies, which benefit from such a humanitarian approach,” she said.