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Sunday, May 13th, 2018

 

Suswa havoc: Human activity has caused damage that is costly to fix

By DR CHARLES GACHENE

Mother Nature is on a very serious revenge mission in this country, as recent events indicate. Before discussing the events that took place in Suswa, let’s first revisit a few fundamental facts.

The increasing degradation of ecosystems and the growing impact of climate change urgently call for a change in the way we manage our natural resources, particularly soils and forests.

NATURAL RESOURCES

But why pay special attention to these two natural resources?

First, soil is a finite resource, meaning that once it is lost or degraded, it is not recoverable within a human lifespan.

As a core component of land resources, agricultural development and ecological sustainability, soil is the basis for human and animal food, fuel and fibre production, and for many critical ecosystem services.

It is, therefore, a highly valuable natural resource, yet it is often seriously overlooked and overexploited. Its preservation is essential for food security and a sustainable future.

Mining PS John Omenge and a team of geologists during a tour of the Maai Mahiu fissure and Suswa flood-prone area on April 22 2018. PHOTO | GEORGE SAYAGIEMining PS John Omenge and a team of geologists during a tour of the Maai Mahiu fissure and Suswa flood-prone area on April 22 2018. PHOTO | GEORGE SAYAGIE

A few basic questions: How many of us are aware that it can take up to 1,000 years to form one centimetre of soil? And did you know that nowhere in nature are species so densely packed as they are in soil communities, and that many of the world’s terrestrial insect species live in the soil during at least some stage of their life cycle?

Do you appreciate that soils help combat and adapt to climate change by playing a key role in the carbon cycle, and that they can sequester around 20 petagrams of carbon in 25 years, more than 10 per cent of the anthropogenic emissions (see terminology box)?

Are we aware that the top metre of the world’s soils store approximately 2,200 gigatonnes (a billion tonnes) of carbon, which is more than three times the amount of carbon held in the atmosphere?

Yet we talk about global warming without appreciating the role this important natural resource plays in reducing the rate of enrichment of atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide.

ROLE OF SOILS

What is more disturbing is that, despite the important role soils play in our economy, our soils are being destroyed and in most places, land has lost its productivity due to overexploitation and soil erosion.

Finally, how many of us pay attention when we see, during the rainy seasons, rivers, lakes and other water bodies laden with sediments that contain the most fertile soils and nutrients that are essential for plant growth? Has the Kenya National Highway Authority (KeNHA) ever bothered to know the source of the huge amounts of sediment deposited along the Maai Mahiu road, leave alone the infrastructural damage that comes with such overland flow?

Now let’s look at some basic facts about forests. Forests provide livelihoods for more than a billion people and are vital for carbon sinks, conservation of biodiversity, energy supply, and soil and water protection.

A visible fault line in Karima area, Maai Mahiu, Naivasha in March 2018. The owner of the house vacated his home. PHOTO | MACHARIA MWANGIA visible fault line in Karima area, Maai Mahiu, Naivasha in March 2018. The owner of the house vacated his home. PHOTO | MACHARIA MWANGI

One of the most vulnerable natural resources highly threatened by human beings is the forest. For instance, using multi-temporal remote sensing images and field-based studies in the Mount Suswa catchment, it was found that bare land increased from about 1.21 square kilometres in 1985, to 2.46 square kilometres in 2011, a 103 per cent rise.

On the other hand, the area under agriculture increased by 23 times, from one square kilometre in 1985 to 23 square kilometres in 2011. All these took place at the expense of grassland and shrubland, clearly indicating that the hand of man was at work clearing the natural vegetation.

The recommended forest cover by the United Nations is 10 per cent, while the average for Kenya in 2016 was about 7.14 per cent. The figure shows that most of the counties’ forest cover is less than 10 per cent and only 18 of the 47 counties have attained 10 per cent cover, according to 2016 data, and the fear is that after the ongoing forest audit is done, there is a huge possibility that this cover has declined, given the massive destruction of forests that has been taking place.

Having briefly highlighted the importance of soil and forests as natural providers of ecosystem services, let us look at a few points regarding what has been happening in Suswa. This time from a pedologist’s point of view.

A section of the Maai Mahiu-Narok highway that was damaged by raging flood water at Karima area in March 2018. PHOTO | MACHARIA MWANGIA section of the Maai Mahiu-Narok highway that was damaged by raging flood water at Karima area in March 2018. PHOTO | MACHARIA MWANGI

ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERN

In the recent past, Narok has been identified as one of the hotspots of environmental concern in the country due to the massive production of charcoal, which has a ready market, both locally and in the adjacent urban areas. Coupled with overgrazing and deforestation, the conversion of natural grasslands and forests into cropland has led to severe land degradation in an already highly fragile ecosystem.

Dense gully (considered the worst stage of water erosion) networks dissect the area’s landscape and these gullies widen every time there is a downpour. Network expansion and channel widening go together, with mass wasting acting on the gully channel walls and potentially threatening humans and livestock.

The channels in Suswa already make it difficult to practise agriculture, while such severe landscape dissection leads to the destruction of the infrastructure, as is already happening on the Maai Mahiu-Narok Road. 

The photo that appeared on the cover page of the Daily Nation on March 20, 2018 and the explanation given for it: One, the photo shows a landscape void of any vegetation cover, obviously making the area very prone to erosion. The gully—I won’t call it a fissure—is a typical feature every time this area experiences downpours.

This is not the first time the Maai Mahiu-Narok Road is being rendered impassable by rain. The fact is that overland flow from the Suswa Hills is the main culprit, not a geological tremor. The soils in Suswa are the so-called andosols (young volcanic soils) that are extremely vulnerable to gully erosion and landslides if they are mismanaged. They are characterised by a high silt:clay ratio, and low organic matter content, properties that make them even more prone to erosion.

Suswa Gulley. PHOTO | COURTESYSuswa Gulley. PHOTO | COURTESY

DEGRADATION

An assessment of the carbon management index (CMI – an indicator for soil degradation or improvement in response to land use and land cover changes) showed that the agricultural lands have higher CMI than grasslands (53 per cent against 41 per cent relative to shrubland) suggesting that grasslands in Suswa face serious degradation through overgrazing, a recipe for land degradation and gully formation.

So what makes these soils so fragile? Their top, moderately deep layer, is underlain by very loose material (this is the black sand that is usually harvested for building). Once water seeps into this loose material, lateral seepage occurs, accompanied by underground piping, scouring and tunnelling, and finally, the top layer of the soil collapses, exposing huge gullies. The end result is the formation of huge gullies that continue deepening and widening due to this loose material.

Second, could such a tremor induced-fissure (measuring 15 deep and 20 wide as reported) not have caused unprecedented destruction?

If it was a fissure caused by an earthquake, remember that the December 24, 2014, tsunami killed more than 280,000 people in 14 countries, yet it only displaced the sea floor by nine metres horizontally.

The reported dimensions of this fissure would make it look like a joke when, just three or so kilometres upslope from Nduka Moja Shopping Centre towards Mt Suswa there are gullies almost bordering on canyons in Olesharo, a sub-catchment of the Suswa catchment. Here livestock and people cannot cross easily from one side of the gully to the other.

STUDY ON GULLY FORMATION AND ELOPMENT

This author, with a team of experts from the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, the Kenya Forestry Research Institute, the Ministry of Agriculture Livestock and Fisheries, postgraduate students from the University of Nairobi, and the local community, studied gully formation and development, their causes and rehabilitation.

The study was supported by the Mainstreaming Sustainable Land Management in Agro-pastoral Production Systems of Kenya Project financed by the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), the United Nations Development Programme-Kenya (UNDP-K) and the government through the State Department of Livestock and the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries. 

The activities involved massive rehabilitation work. LandSat images showed that these gullies were not there in 1988, an observation also confirmed by the local community using participatory geographical information system (PGIS).

From the PGIS studies, the main drivers of gully erosion were identified as an increase in bare land and agricultural land, and a reduction in grassland, meaning the hand of man is at work in Suswa, so and we should not blame the tremor!

According to the study, Olesharo has lost 313,750 tonnes of sediment due to gully erosion within a span of 20 years. It is part of this large amount of eroded soil that is deposited along the Narok-Maai Mahiu Road, making it temporarily impassable during heavy rains.

The rehabilitation of the Olesharo sub-catchment gullies involved establishing numerous soil and water conservation structures such as water retention ditches, terraces, cut-off drains, semi-circular bands, water pans, check dams and planting of trees in degraded areas.

The project also supported the establishment and training of more than 120 farmer field schools members on sustainable land management practices, including sustainable charcoal production; pasture establishment and improved livestock breeds, all to enhance the regeneration of vegetation.

One water pan with a capacity of 20,000 cubic metres, retention ditches totalling 16,300 metres (900 metres of semi-circular bands and check dams) and 910 metres of brushwood strips and cut-off drains were constructed. Four years after the rehabilitation work, the Olesharo sub-catchment gullies have been healed and the land is once again productive. Worth noting is that the Olesharo has survived the current rains! It is the same hand of man that has done this, but at a very high price!

Finally, there is a need to urgently control and rehabilitate the gullies the in Suswa Hills to avoid degrading the land in the area any further. Controlling and rehabilitating gullies is the most costly endeavour of soil erosion control.

It is time an organisation like KeNHa got involved in rehabilitating the surrounding catchment, even if only by providing tree seedlings. Otherwise this will be a recurrent problem.

The best strategy is to prevent the formation and development of gullies through proper land management and soil conservation. It is also recommended that an integrated approach that incorporates sustainable land management and climate change be used to offer more benefits in combating land degradation and increasing resilience and adaptability to climate change.

This will require a review of the policies related to land management, together with supporting integration and mainstreaming of sustainable land management into the national planning processes and implementing land management approaches, techniques and technologies. Pending relevant policies on sustainable land management require immediate attention.

The National Agricultural Soil Management Policy Draft (NASM Policy) supposed to be spearheaded by the Ministry of Agriculture is yet to see the light of day.

Yet this comprehensive document outlines, in clear terms, the measures that should be taken to restore, conserve and maintain the country’s soils.


Help to make Simbas roar

By EDITORIAL
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National 15s rugby team Kenya Simbas should get down to business after a squad of 35 players was picked on Monday to start preparations for the qualifiers of the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.

The matches, which will double as the Africa Gold Cup, will feature top teams from Africa — Namibia, Morocco, Uganda, Tunisia and Zimbabwe — will be held on a home-and-away basis in June. South Africa has an automatic World Cup slot due to its superior ranking.

RENEWED HOPE

Kenya, coached by Jerome Paawater, formerly of South Africa, came close to qualifying for the 2015 World Cup but fell at the final hurdle. But now, there is renewed hope following the appointment of coach Ian Snook and deputy Murray Roulston to the team’s technical bench. The two New Zealanders have brought a new dimension to coaching and approach to training.

The coaches shoulder huge expectations from fans, who expect them to deliver the maiden World Cup appearance.

SPONSORSHIP

The Kenya 15s team has, for a long time, lived in the shadow of their sevens colleagues, who have reached the Sevens Rugby World Cup semi-finals twice.

Kenya Simbas need the support of all to qualify for the World Cup. The team, particularly, needs sponsorship — a chance for local companies to partner with it. Players will need a conducive atmosphere, good facilities and proper remuneration to perform at such a high level.


189 poll petitions still pending in courts

By GALGALO BOCHA
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By RUSHDIE OUDIA
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More than 180 election petitions are still pending determination in courts.

Statistics from the Judiciary released on Sunday indicates that the Court of Appeal in Malindi, Nairobi, Kisumu and Nyeri is handling 102 appeals, while 87 cases are before the High Court.

The Court of Appeal is dealing with cases involving 31 governors’ seats, eight senators, five woman reps, 56 MPs, one county assembly Speaker’s position and one political party list dispute.

The High Court has 45 cases of MCAs and 42 political party list petitions.

About 15 petitions have been dismissed through ruling or judgment at the High Court and Court of Appeal while 15 others were withdrawn.

At least seven appeals went through including two at the appeal court and five at the high court. 

SIX MONTHS

These appeals originated from 388 petitions filed at various courts around the country after August 8 General Election. They involved 35 governors, 15 senators, 12 woman reps, 98 MPs and 139 MCAs.

After the six months of hearing and determination of election petitions, judges and magistrates dismissed 312 cases; 117 through ruling and 195 by judgment and allowed 40 others.

“Of the 388 petitions, one was a Constitutional petition filed on September 6, 2017, and it was gazetted, but since such petitions are ordinarily not gazetted, and do not have the mandatory six months’ timelines, it was still pending as at March 6, 2018,” states a press release from the Judiciary.

The election dispute resolution procedure states that election appeals shall be heard and determined within six months.

GRUELLING WEEK

Meanwhile, three governors in Nyanza region are bracing for a gruelling week when they appear at the Kisumu Appellate Court to fight for their seats.

Mr James Ongwae (Kisii), Mr John Nyagarama (Nyamira) and Mr Zachary Obado (Migori) will be hoping to convince the Court of Appeal through their battery of lawyers that their elections on August 8, 2017, were credible.

An appeal challenging Mr Nyagarama’s win will be heard on Monday, while those involving Mr Ongwae and Mr Obado will be on Tuesday and Thursday respectively.

The appeals will be heard by two benches, one from Kisumu and the other from Nairobi.


Herders to get part of disputed land in order by NLC

By MWANGI NDIRANGU
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The National Land Commission (NLC) has directed that pastoralists who have occupied a disputed land for decades along the Laikipia-Isiolo border be allocated 25,000 acres.

The land has been at the centre of a dispute between the Kenya Defence Force and the livestock department in Isiolo County, with both claiming ownership.

Dr Muhammad Swazuri, the NLC chairman, visited the site in Leparua village together with the chairman of the National Cohesion and Integration Commission Francis ole Kaparo and announced that demarcation of the 300,000 acres would start next month to benefit 3,800 people.

HISTORICAL

Retired President Mwai Kibaki had in 2007 directed that the community be allocated part of the land but players in the livestock industry have been opposing the exercise, saying the land was a holding ground for their animals.

Mr Kaparo, however, said this should not be used as   an excuse to block allocation of the land to people who have called it home for four decades.

Local leaders told Dr Swazuri that several eviction attempts have been made through the instigation of KDF’s School of Infantry based in Isiolo.

Isiolo Senator Fatuma Dullo and Laikipia North MP Sarah Korere termed failure by the government to settle the community as a case of historical land injustice towards the group.


Shops razed as woman evicted from ex-MP's land

By STELLA CHERONO
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Tens of structures were Sunday demolished at Nairobi’s Woodley estate on a land that has been the subject of a tussle between a businesswoman  and former Marakwet West MP David Sudi.

Police were deployed to enforce a court order after tenants who ran businesses on the one-acre land became rowdy.

The multi-million shilling property was occupied by the businesswoman, Mrs Grace Wairimu Sorora, her agents and tenants, who had constructed temporary structures such as eateries and shops. The structures were demolished a day after Mr Sudi through DM Ambao Advocates gave the businesswoman a notice to vacate the property.

EARTH MOVER

Kilimani OCPD Michael Muchiri, who oversaw the eviction, said a notice had been served to the tenants to vacate the premises. “We have let them remove their property safely because an earth mover would have damaged it,” Mr Muchiri said.

The National Land Commission (NLC) had last week asked the National Police Service to expedite the eviction of tenants from the land.

“The commission wishes that you fully reinforce the order given that the law protects the right to land and property,” a letter signed by NLC Chair  Swazuri Muhammad indicated.

Mr Sudi had been entangled in a case involving the land claimed by Mrs Sorara. He was declared the rightful owner of the property in March,2, 2015. He bought the land valued at approximately Sh100 million from Deposit Protection Fund in 2009.

Mrs Sorora, the widow of the late Francis Sorora Oloitiptip, lost the 10-year legal battle for ownership of the prime land, which had been allocated to her husband by the defunct Nairobi City Council. 

The Court of Appeal upheld an earlier judgment that Mr Sudi was the rightful owner of the suit property.

During the eight-year tussle for the prime property located near Winners’ Chapel, Mrs Sorora was arraigned before Kibera Magistrates Court for forgery of land documents. She was also charged with perjury as she had allegedly lied to the court that she was the legitimate owner of the land.

The court had ordered Mrs Sorora to pay Sh100,000 to Chaka Ltd, which was represented by lawyer Ham Lagat, as nominal damages for trespass.

Mrs Sorara had not vacated the property despite the  NLC, the county government and the courts directing her to do so. Nation learnt that the tenants remit up to Sh2 million monthly in rent despite their single business permits also being revoked.

The late Sorora had instituted the suit on July 19, 2007 claiming ownership of the land, but died before the hearing of the case.

Mrs Sorara substituted him five years later, seeking to be declared the rightful owner by adverse possession on the basis that she had occupied the land for more than 12 years.


Enforce the standards of earth dam construction to cut risks

The private Patel dam broke its banks last week, sweeping away villages in Solai, Nakuru County, and causing the deaths of more than 40 innocent Kenyans, even as more than 200,000 people were displaced in flood-prone areas as a result of the ongoing rains.

The danger aside, however, if managed well, such dams have a myriad benefits. As in the case of Patel, earth dams are used for harnessing a fluctuating flow of flood or seasonal water and store huge amounts of water supported by embankments.

A convectional dam design follows a sequence of steps — calculation of daily water use requirement, collecting monthly rainfall data, estimating catchment area water outflow, estimating evaporation and seepage losses, calculating required dam reservoir storage volume and determining dimensions and height of embankment based on selected dam site topography.

Vision 2030 provides concrete ideas on the infrastructural programmes for construction of earth dams to supply water for domestic, livestock and irrigation use in arid and semi-arid areas. But we must follow the standard requirements for earth dams, whether in private or public sites. For example, an environmental impact assessment (EIA) must be done to determine, analyse and present the environmental impact of earth dam projects and formulate remedial measures to mitigate the negative ones.

The beauty of EIAs is that it involves interviewing all key stakeholders and enhances public participation through incorporating views and concerns and the potential negative impacts are documented and the mitigation measures put in place.

The good thing with earth dams is that they provide reliable water supply for long, even during drought, and can solve food security and livestock deaths in the semi-arid areas. Water for human use is treated and, in some counties, such as Laikipia, they are stocked with fish and also used for horticultural farming. They play a significant role in the improvement of livelihoods.

Additionally, and very important, earth dams regulate and moderate the micro-climatic conditions of the immediate surrounding areas through increased humidity and cooling effects. However, they come with challenges and can cause increased cases of malaria and water-borne diseases.

The relevant authorities should regularly inspect the dams to ensure that they are stable and the mitigation measures are implemented appropriately to reduce risks to downstream communities.

Maina Mwari, Nyeri.

The Patel dam is above ground with earthen banks with word that there are others in the area that could burst due to the rains.

But even as we blame the farm owner, government officials who approved the construction of an above-the-ground dam with no reinforced concrete walls should be quizzed by the investigators.

When will the government ensure compliance to safety standards in construction to avert deaths?

Antony Alex Irungu, Pennsylvania. USA.


Go slow on homecoming parties, focus on improving citizens’ lives

By JEREMIAH KIPLANG’AT
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It is amazing that our leaders are still sending invites and asking fellow Kenyans to attend homecoming ceremonies meant to celebrate victory in an election held eight months ago.

Following the charged and highly divisive prolonged electioneering period that culminated in the August 8, 2017 General Election and the repeat presidential poll on October 26, the March 9 handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga appears to have calmed the country.

With less animosity, leaders would be expected to train their eyes on fixing the many perennial challenges facing Kenyans. But that appears not to be the case. The number of homecoming parties has shot up since the famous handshake and more are on the way. This as the lives of millions of citizens become tougher and harder.

These ceremonies really border on an insult to many sane Kenyans, who expect nothing but tangible solutions to the ills bedevilling the nation.

Anyone keen on events in Parliament would realise that the political leaders who are active have never held an homecoming party. However, most of those at the forefront of hosting these ceremonies have not sponsored any Bill or motion since they were elected. Have they only been planning their victory party all that time? 

What’s more worrying is that most of these events have become forums where politicians chide their rivals, incite Kenyans against one another and just chest thump. Contrary to what the name suggests, the parties are rarely used to thank anyone. 

It’s even more insulting for a Cabinet secretary or principal secretary to plan such an event. These are the leading policy makers, who should be raking their brains as they develop strategies on how to make Kenyans’ lives better. They should be out there ensuring those policies are properly implemented and giving frequent updates on their successes and failures and, importantly, how they could be improved.

It is not bad to hold a small party and buy some nyama choma and down it with some drinks to celebrate a feat. It is human and godly to say ‘thank you’. However, that should be for family and close friends. It should be an intimate affair involving only those who played a role in the victory and neither a constituency affair nor a national event. And since it is meant as an expression of appreciation, it should serve just that purpose and nothing more.

Importantly, the party should be held within the first month of the victory for them to make sense, not ages later.

REPORT CARDS

People don’t cast their vote for you so that they can receive an invite to some vague homecoming party. The only way to thank voters is through finding solutions to challenges such as unemployment, insecurity, corruption and the cost of living.

Just as workers in organisation sign performance contracts and are appraised regularly, elected leaders should be held to account for their time in office. Instead of hosting lavish parties, therefore, they should hold quarterly or biannual meetings that would act as a forum to present their report card to their employer — voters.

This shouldn’t just be a gentleman’s agreement between the electorate and the elected; there should be a law protecting it. Just as it is with swearing-in ceremonies, that law should clearly indicate when and where the meetings should be held, the agenda and participants. They should also be recorded. 

The President, his deputy and the opposition leaders should discourage their juniors from wasting time and pumping millions of shillings into functions that do not add value to the lives of those who queued for hours to vote for them. 

Kenyans should also put to task leaders who host such events to show what they have done for the people instead.

Mr Kiplang’at is the Regional Editor, North Rift, for Nation Media Group. [email protected]


Job opening: Cabinet secretary for anger management, Kenya

By KALTUM GUYO
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When the governor of Imo State, Nigeria, created a post of Commissioner for Happiness, I howled with laughter; it seemed ridiculous and just another highway to corruption.

However, after a while, I gave it serious consideration. The appointee was to be a special advisor on domestic matters — which was wrongly interpreted as being “in charge of ‘couples’ fulfilment” (whatever that means).

The commissioner clarified thus: “My role is to create positive attitudes for our Imo people”. I like that. Banal as it sounds, I felt the role would be useful in supporting communities to be and remain happy. As the commissioner said, happiness means different things to different people. If it takes couples’ fulfilment to be happy; so be it.

The United Kingdom followed suit, appointing a minister for loneliness. Loneliness in UK homes is considered almost an epidemic. More and more people live alone with only a cat or a dog for company. Kenyans might find that strange to comprehend because, luckily, we still enjoy the benefits of African communal living through extended families.

Growing up in Mombasa, all people seemed to do was chat. They also popped in at home easily just to say hello. It still happens. It is not uncommon in Mombasa for people to start a conversation with you in a matatu. I know upcountry people find that odd.

If you also tried to strike a conversation on the London underground, chances are, you would be deemed mad. But I would still do it, just to put a smile on people’s faces. Once, a young black man told me no one had ever spoken to him on the train before. We talked and laughed all the way.

I understand the UK loneliness problems better than most. As an immigrant, you could spend the first several months trying to figure out British culture of individualism and silence. Over time, you realise that it’s normal for people to keep to themselves.

Right to privacy overrides everything else. You wait to be invited; you just don’t drop by for tea as we do here with ease. And the invite comes once in a blue moon — or you are left in the company of your four walls. Loneliness is even harder to tackle during winter as one’s movements are restricted by the weather.

A Zimbabwean hairdresser summed up for me as to why more people get depressed in the UK due to loneliness. She said in Africa you could wake up depressed but get healed before lunch time.

Her analogy was that, on your way to the market, in your depressed state, you meet quite a lot of familiar faces. You share your problems with just about each one of them and, by the time you get back to preparing lunch, what beleaguered you has come off your chest. Free talking therapy!

Incidentally, Zimbabwean psychiatrists offer talking therapy to mental health patients on benches outside rather than in stuffy hospital wards — and it has been effective and won much praise.

With the advent of self-scanning machines in most UK supermarkets, lonely people have lost the human contact in the form of check-out staff.

HUMAN CONTACT

The elderly, in particular, who lived alone considered daily trips to the supermarkets the highlights of their days. They looked forward to having a chat at the till. Self-check-out machines have now taken away their friendly human contact.

In Kenya’s case, a post of a Cabinet secretary for anger is long overdue. We have witnessed many incidents of violence; mostly during the electioneering period. However, my interest is in how disputes are resolved.

When ‘goons’ (read criminals) are hired to facilitate eviction or interfere with one’s right to freedom of expression, you are bound to get concerned. Even the tone of most of our politicians on national television is aggressive and impolite. Such behaviour has a copy-cat effect on the community.

When state officials turn to scuffles to resolve a simple matter, the constituents are bound to follow suit. Violence has become the only way we can express ourselves. Recently, a city matatu conductor was killed in a dispute over a sudden rise in bus fare.

HAPPINESS RECORDS

We were recently voted one of the least happy countries. Why? With such a beautiful and sunny country, we should be up there breaking happiness records. Life is hard but it could be harder for most people. Even then, no one has the right to take out their life challenges on others.

Something is giving at the seams and I think there could be deep-seated problems that lead to the level of anger witnessed in the country. This now begs for professional input to help those who are struggling to cope with life. Collective compassion-focused therapy (CFT) might be just what we need.


Nairobi hotel charging Sh1m to watch Prince Harry, Meghan wedding

By JACQUELINE KUBANIA
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A Nairobi hotel is charging couples a staggering Sh1 million to watch Prince Harry and Ms Meghan Markle get married next weekend, not at the Windsor Castle in the United Kingdom where the wedding will take place, but on television in Nairobi.

Posters on the viewing party by Windsor Golf Hotel and Country Club have been doing rounds on social media since last week, advertising an exclusive viewing of the wedding, complete with a “champagne toast and live commentary throughout the ceremony to make this day what can only be described as a True Royal Wedding experience”. The package also offers a night for two at the hotel and a helicopter ride to Mt Kenya for breakfast.

The marketers behind the event said that the steep pricing is intentional, to make the event exclusive, and that they are targeting around 20 couples. When the Nation called to enquire on Sunday, there were slots still available for the Saturday event.

MIXED-RACE

The royal wedding has attracted worldwide attention since the engagement was announced last November.  The  story of the mixed-race American actress who fell in love with a prince has captured the world’s imagination, generating a cult-like following during the run-up to the wedding across various media platforms.

Prince Harry's forthcoming marriage to Meghan MarkleA picture taken at Buckingham Palace in London on April 12, 2018 shows the signature of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II at the top of the Instrument of Consent, an official State document that records the Queen’s formal consent to Prince Harry’s forthcoming marriage to Meghan Markle. PHOTO | VICTORIA JONES | AFP

With Sh1 million, a couple could easily travel to Windsor for the wedding, where they would have ample opportunity to see the newly-weds. On their wedding day, Prince Harry and Ms Markle will make several public appearances. The royal family will allow 1,200 members of the public into the Windsor Castle grounds to share in the festivities.

Those who miss that can catch a glimpse of the newly-weds after the ceremony, when they will leave Windsor Castle in an open carriage for a two-mile procession through the main street in Windsor town, after which they will go back to the castle via the Long Walk, a  three-mile, tree-lined avenue that cuts through the Windsor Great Park straight to the castle.

RETURN FLIGHTS

Return flights to London during the wedding weekend cost at most Sh100,000 for the most expensive direct flights, though one could easily hop onto connecting flights for about Sh50,000 per ticket. Accommodation at a 4-star London hotel would set one back around Sh25,000 a night, or one could decide to stay in Windsor town, smack in the middle of  the action, for around Sh60,000 a night, the price no doubt driven up by the royal wedding. Windsor is only 32 kilometres away from Central London, and there are good transport links between the two.

Prince Harry and wife Meghan MarkleSenior Carriage Restorer, Martin Oates polishes the Scottish State Coach which will carry Britain’s Prince Harry and wife Meghan Markle in wet weather along the processional route in Windsor following their marriage stands in the Royal Mews at Buckingham Palace in London on May 1, 2018. PHOTO | VICTORIA JONES | AFP

With flights, food and accommodation taken care of, there would be around Sh500,000 left to play with. You could shop until you drop on the famous Oxford Street in London, where a variety of stores are located, high end or otherwise, depending on your budget. For sight-seeing enthusiasts, many of London’s biggest attractions are free of charge.

One could take in museums, food markets, parks, galleries and exhibitions at no extra cost.  Buckingham Palace, for instance, charges nothing for the daily changing of guard ceremony, a colourful, elaborate affair complete with music and marching men in uniform where the Queen’s Guards hand over the responsibility of protecting Buckingham Palace and St James’s Palace  to the New Guard.

BIG SPENDERS

However, that  is not to say that there are no Kenyans willing to attend the viewing of the wedding on television for Sh1 million since Kenya is no stranger to big spenders.

Luxury hotel Villa Rosa Kempinski earlier this year set tongues wagging when it revealed a Sh5.4 million Valentine’s Day package for a three-day stay in its presidential suite, upping its previous year’s offer of a Sh2.34 million package, confirming the country is not short of  extravagant  spenders.

The Africa Wealth Report published in 2017 by AfrAsia Bank showed that Kenya has 370 multi-millionaires (people  with assets worth over $10 million  and 9,400 high-net worth  individuals (HNWIs, those worth $1 million or more). Nairobi tops the list of preferred places of residence for high.


Kenyans rally to support victims of  dam disaster

By JOSEPH OPENDA
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By FRANCIS MUREITHI
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Kenyans have responded generously to pleas for assistance to families rendered homeless and destitute in the Patel dam tragedy in Solai.

Private organisations and civil society groups, too, have donated foodstuff and other basic needs to the survivors and families displaced when Patel dam burst its banks on Wednesday night.

Flamingo Ward Rep Eddy Kiragu has opened a donations collection office at Race Track estate in Nakuru town.

“I’m urging residents of Flamingo Ward to assist the victims of Solai dam tragedy by donating foodstuff and clothing. The donations can be dropped at our office at Zakayos trading centre,” said Mr Kiragu.

The same will be delivered to the victims on Wednesday, he said.

SUPPLYING MILK

More than 300 families are camping at the Solai High School where they sought refuge.

Solai Assistant County Commissioner Vicky Munyasia, who has been in-charge of receiving donations from well-wishers, said they have received great support from Kenyans across the country.

“We are overwhelmed by the generous response from Kenyans who have donated food, clothing and beddings to the families,” said Ms Munyasia.

The national and the county governments have donated cereals and provided shelter to the families, while the Nakuru Hindu community gave bedding and clothing.

Mr Patel Mansukul, the owner of the killer dam, is said to have been supplying milk and bread daily to the victims.