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Thursday, May 17th, 2018


Beware of ‘mature’ girl who is trapped in child’s body

Parents and guardians should take proactive measures to ensure their child remains a child.

MPs threaten to cut NYS funding in wake of scandal

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Members of Parliament have threatened not to approve any budgetary allocations for National Youth Service (NYS) programmes until action is taken against those behind the Sh9 billion scandal.

The National Assembly’s Committee on Labour and Social Welfare, which oversees the Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs, also demanded that the list of the fictitious companies that were paid the Sh9 billion be made public.

During a meeting with Cabinet Secretary Margaret Kobia on Thursday, the lawmakers were categorical that they will not continue to give money to the NYS, which is riddled with scandals.

“It is not prudent anymore to continue pumping billions into NYS with all these scandals that we are waking up to everyday. We are not getting value for money channelled towards NYS,” Gladys Wanga, Homa Bay Woman Representative, said.

Meanwhile, nominated MP David ole Sankok demanded that the ministry publish the names of the people behind the fictitious companies that were paid at the expense of those who offered services.

“We want to know the faces of the people behind these companies and the specific amounts they received from the ministry,” Mr Sankok said.

Dr Kobia told MPs that she was still not sure of the exact amount of money lost in the scam since she is yet to receive a report from the investigative agencies.

The committee’s chairman, Mr Ali Wario, however faulted Dr Kobia for failing to find out on her own the exact amount lost.

“If my house is on fire, I must do something to find out the cause and not necessarily wait for investigations and, therefore, as CS in charge, you should do something as you wait for the report,” Mr Wario said.

Dr Kobia said the ministry’s policy on such matters is very clear, adding that action will be taken against those found culpable once the investigations are completed.

She urged the MPs to give the investigators time to do their work.

She told the committee that the payment vouchers that the ministry gave top officials from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations amounted to Sh900 million, but said the figure could be higher.

In a memo to Dr Kobia on May 12, Public Service Principal Secretary Lilian Mbogo Omollo also said the amount being investigated is Sh900 million, not Sh10.5 billion as reported in the media.

The Sunday Nation, which broke the story, reported that the amount in question is Sh10.5 billion.

Boost hiring of teachers

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The decision by the Teachers Service Commission to employ about 9,000 new teachers, though a step in the direction, falls far below the real need in the schools.

With a shortfall of 155,000 teachers, this will hardly have an impact on the secondary and primary schools that are reeling under a severe staff shortage.

Considering the TSC’s ambitious plan to achieve a 100 per cent secondary school transition rate, the 9,000 new teachers will be just a drop in the ocean.

However, the TSC’s hands are, literally, tied by allocation of meagre funds for the recruitment.

It had asked the government for Sh8.3 billion to enable the hiring of 12,626 secondary school teachers every year for the next four years, bringing the total to 50,504.

This would have made a difference in the pursuit to boost the transition rate. But the government gave it only Sh4.7 billion.

The TSC has no choice but to make do with the little money that is available instead of waiting for the ideal sum, which might not be realised as the government grapples with lack of funds in these difficult economic times.

However, the acute teacher shortage is bound to have serious consequences, the most immediate being undermining the quality of teaching and learning.

To get the best out of education, and lay the foundation for future quality manpower across the country, more resources should be made available to the TSC.

Amisom camp where everyone carries a gun

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Captain (Dr) Robert Tsimba wears a stethoscope, attending to patients seeking treatment at a military camp in Somalia, but still tightly holds an M4 assault rifle.

At another corner, sergeant James Karanja, the camp’s catechist, sits holding a Bible while the other hand carries an AK-47 rifle.

Evans Wekesa is the camp’s chef and, as he lead cooks in preparing dishes for his comrades, he has a G3 rifle on his back. This is the typical life in an African Union Mission to Somalia (Amisom) camp in Somalia.

In Sector Two, the area where Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) are deployed, there are 16 of them and are known as Forward Operating Bases.

With the headquarters at Dhobley, there are bases in Hosingo, Tabda, Belesqoqani, Afmadhow, Xagar, Abdalle Birole, Kismayu, Busaar, Fafadun and Kuday, among others.

The Nation visited some of the bases and spent days with the soldiers on the frontline.

Brigadier Joachim Ngure Mwamburi, the sector commander, started with a warning:

“The security situation here is fluid and unpredictable. Always wear your helmet and flak jacket to protect yourself from bullets. In case of an attack, you move to the trenches. That is where we seek protection.”  

Even when Al-Shabaab terrorists – who Amisom is fighting in Somalia – are not ready for a confrontation, they routinely fire motors and rocket propelled grenades towards the camps in what the military calls “probing attacks”.

One briefing was interrupted after Brigadier Mwamburi received a call on his cell phone.

He is heard barking at the caller on the other end, “basi wachemshwe”, (go ahead, open fire).”

The commander later explains that flash lights were spotted approaching one of the bases under his command.

The camp is guarded round the clock by KDF sentries with mounted machine guns, but every soldier and officers take their weapons to bed, to the dining table and even to the washrooms.

Want to end corruption? Build prisons, fill them with thieves

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If President Uhuru Kenyatta wants to solve all his corruption problems, he should build a prison.

A big, clean, white-collar prison to which thieves can be sent without one feeling that they have been sent to their deaths.

This week, I had planned to write a fun piece about cars, but I suppose that would be wasting an opportunity to pontificate on graft — what with the scandals swirling around us.

I feel sorry for Mr Kenyatta; I really do.

He speaks with total, despairing frustration about corruption amongst Kenyans and what he sees as a lack of patriotism among those who steal public funds.

I think he has tried to deal with the crisis by appointing in critical positions persons he hopes are patriotic and loyal to the country and in whom he has confidence, particularly based on their background and previous experience.

That is one affective approach to the problem.

As a student of society, I think the question of how to efficiently drive a large number of people to do a multitude of complex tasks over time and do it well without deviance was canvassed and resolved many years ago. Principally by Max Weber in the late 1800s.

What you need to run a country properly and to clean-out corruption is not a club of well-bred, patriotic chaps; it is a well-functioning, good, old bureaucracy.     

This is the dictionary definition of bureaucracy from Encyclopedia Britannica: “Bureaucracy: Specific form of organisation defined by complexity, division of labour, permanence, professional management, hierarchical coordination and control, strict chain of command, and legal authority.

“It is distinguished from informal and collegial organisations. In its ideal form, bureaucracy is impersonal and rational and based on rules rather than ties of kinship, friendship, or patrimonial or charismatic authority.”

Rigid, formal, impersonal, rule-based, clear authority, division of labour — these are the critical ingredients of a Weberian bureaucracy.

Now, we can argue whether all that bloodless approach to the management of human beings is really necessary, but it depends on whether your objective is to show people love or to get the job well done with the least fuss.

If you want efficiency and predictable outcomes, then the rigid, formal approach is the way to go.

If you want hugs, high-fives approach, where results are 50-50 at best and it is not clear which money is public and which is private since we are all brothers and sisters, then take the mom-and-pop approach.

The reason people are (allegedly) still stealing from the National Youth Service is because the people who (allegedly) stole in the Anne Waiguru scandal cycle got away with it scot-free, without the least inconvenience.

It is a failure of consequence management.

It matters not whether people are patriotic or not, loyal or not, so long as they follow the rules and do their jobs competently. A loyal and patriotic thief is of little value.

People are stealing from the public because it is safe to do so.

They will not be caught and, if they are, they can buy their way out.

If you change the dynamics and increase the risk of imprisonment, the attractiveness of corruption will fall diametrically.

Build a big jail, fill it and keep filling it until there are no more thieves left.

* * *
I read in the Star that Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko’s bodyguards had been reduced from 15 to four.

I am a great supporter of providing our leaders with the best possible security.

Writer John Kamau argues that giving bodyguards to elected leaders is a democratic imperative.

Somebody can defeat the will of the people and cause a by-election if there isn’t enough protection.

But 15 is a lot; it’s a whole rugby team. That’s almost two squads.

I was once told that little girls in the slums of Nairobi, even those in kindergarten, go for tuition after school because it is unsafe for them to be at home without their mums.

They would be defiled. So their mums drop them off at school and pick them up after work from the tuition centre.

How much difference would a single police officer make in the life of many of those endangered little girls in those slums?

Our mothers, wives, daughters and neighbours are having their weaves and wigs ripped off their heads in the streets of Nairobi.

Kenya has 90,000 police officers providing protection for a population of 45 million.

That means an officer is supposed to protect a whole 500 of us mere mortals.

Special human beings like Mr Sonko reverse the ratios and take up 15 officers for a single man.

Some British Prime Ministers have had about four guards on normal days.

Bodyguards, like chase cars, are crutches for fragile egos.

The consequence is that security resources, like all other national resources, are tied up by a few people, some of them totally useless to the country.

It is right and proper to protect. But it is wrong to take away from the majority and assign armies to folks whose biggest problem is low self-esteem.

Cybercrime law is faulty, let’s rectify it

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The public uproar over the Computer Misuse and Cybercrime Act signed this week by President Uhuru Kenyatta is justified.

The law violates fundamental rights such as freedoms of expression and access to information and personal liberties.

It is a threat to the media, developers of digital applications and content, bloggers, as well as ordinary citizens.

Even more worrying is that most of the criminal offences targeted are not clearly defined, which portends ill for citizens because such provisions are susceptible to arbitrary interpretations and can be misapplied with grave consequences.

What essentially is a law meant to curb cybercrime has turned out to be an omnibus legislation that limits and criminalises rights established in the Constitution, duplicates existing laws and dispenses harsh penalties contrary to the principle of natural justice.

The objective of the law is to prevent cybercrime — a major threat to national and international peace and security.

Cybercrime has several permutations and affects national and global security, economic and financial systems, industrial and technological institutions and personal safety.

Nations are grappling every day with ways and means of curbing its effects. To that extent, there is clear merit for its enactment.

However, we are concerned that the intention and implication of the law are poles apart.

First, it imposes very harsh penalties — fines and custodial sentences — for every crime it serves to curb.

For example, Article 27, which addresses cyber harassment (loosely defined as communication or act that causes apprehension or fear), provides for a Sh10 million fine or 20-year jail term.

Clearly, this is inordinately cruel and defies the rule of proportionality.

Secondly, it extends beyond its scope, ominously as it criminalises libel and curtails media freedom.

It stipulates that a publisher of false information — defamation — is liable to a Sh5 million fine or 10 years imprisonment. Yet the courts had declared this unconstitutional.

It violates critical constitutional provisions, is punitive and retrogressive. It must be challenged in court.

Address drug and substance abuse by youth

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BBC Africa recently aired Sweet Sweet Codeine, an investigative piece by Ruona Meyer on the abuse of codeine in Nigeria.

Ruona got interested in the subject after watching her brother struggle with codeine syrup addiction. 

Through the feature, she goes undercover to show how senior sales executives from big pharmaceuticals in Nigeria strike deals with people looking to sell codeine to the youth, the effects of the drug and the state of the existing rehabilitation and mental health facilities where some of the addicts end up.

An estimated three million bottles of codeine are consumed daily in one of the states in Nigeria.

Following the feature, the government of Nigeria banned the syrup. In Kenya, about 90 people die from opioid overdose (including codeine).

Through the Pharmacy and Poisons Board, the Kenyan government has banned purchase of codeine without a prescription.

Manufacturers have been asked to put warning labels on packaging and include patient information leaflets highlighting the risk of addiction to medicines that have codeine.

Although these measures are good attempts at reducing access to codeine, they are not enough to prevent the deaths and wastage of young people across the continent.

Besides attempting to cut-off the supply of the syrup, there is a need to cut-off those who supply it — especially in the black market — through heavy penalties to those found supplying.

More importantly, governments should cut-off the need for the supply.

They should not rely on ‘cold-turkeying’ everyone on codeine but devise complimentary ways of dealing with the problem.

A good starting point would be finding out why young people are getting hooked to codeine and other forms of drugs and substances.

Reports from Nigeria say the price of codeine in the black market has shot up since the ban.

That means the supply is still there and, if the ‘why’ is not addressed, the society will either have to deal with an alternative drug or an spike in robberies and kidnappings as addicts look for ways to get money so as to afford the now more expensive codeine.

Governments also need to think about those who are addicted and revamp rehabilitation and reintegration avenues.

In Kenya, the use of medically assisted therapy in the main mental health referral and training hospitals — such as Mathari National Teaching Hospital in Nairobi, and in Malindi — has gone a long way in assisting those who were previously dependent on heroine.

The programme offers methadone and counselling through outpatient services.

Such services, as well as forming partnerships with the media to do a sequel that gives information to the society, will go a long way in providing care for the affected.

Establishing champion programmes, where those who have recovered are part of the awareness campaigns and participate in exploring ‘the why’ and ‘the what next’, will also help in reducing the chances of more young people getting into drug and substance abuse or looking for alternatives.

Issues such as unemployment, lack of skills and capital to create own jobs and difficulty in accessing markets for services and products by young people need to be addressed.


The ministries of labour, trade and education ought to be present during such deliberations to explore how to make countries more youth-friendly.

Youth-friendly healthcare and, more importantly, mental health services need to be prioritised alongside continuous awareness programmes that make youth comfortable enough to seek help and not look for alternative solutions to issues.

Ms Wafula is a TED Speaker and an Aspen New Voices fellow who runs an incubation programme on mental health in Africa[email protected]

You don’t have to go through hoops to get errors corrected

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Now you don’t have to jump through hoops to get the right person so that errors in the Daily Nation can be corrected; just email [email protected]

No need to write or call the public editor — who, in any case, operates outside the newsroom — to request for a correction.

However, you can still contact the public editor if you’re not satisfied with the response you get.

The Nation has come a long way. When I came in in 2015 as the public editor, there was no such facility.

Readers encountered a culture of reluctance to own up to mistakes and publish corrections.


While journalists and editors thrived on criticising the transgressions of others, they shied away from correcting their own mistakes.

That’s why so few mistakes were corrected — so much so that some readers have been surprised, even shocked, that the Nation now frequently publishes corrections on page 2.

“Peter, what is happening…their (sic) are too many corrections and apologies from Nation almost on daily basis,” one of them wrote.

Muguna Ntumbari, on his part, wonders if Nation proofreaders have been laid off in austerity measures or they have all of a sudden become a bunch of incompetents.

On the contrary, the Nation is not making more mistakes; it’s correcting more mistakes.

Absence of corrections didn’t mean absence of errors. Frequent corrections now do not mean a surge of errors either.

As corrections editor Henry Gekonde says, the Nation “has become more aggressive about setting the record straight when we make mistakes”.

He added that corrections, clarifications and apologies are a good thing: “They show that we care about accuracy in our journalism, and that we are not afraid to acknowledge errors when they occur, because we are human and we make mistakes. The best newspapers in the world do exactly what we are doing.”

The Nation is, in fact, living its commitment to accuracy and transparency. It’s being honest about journalism.

In journalism, mistakes are common. In my article, Mistakes and typos are unacceptable, but we need to see them in perspective, published on April 2, 2015, I pointed out why journalists make mistakes and why correcting them enables good journalism.

Journalists make mistakes because of the hurried and incomplete nature of journalism and information coming from different sources.

Due to the deadline pressure and the speed at which they work, errors can easily slip through — including those made by them because they did not do their work properly or failed to comprehend and interpret information.

In journalism, mistakes are expected. Some of the world’s leading newspapers have daily columns devoted to corrections and senior editors who deal exclusively with errors.

A newspaper without errors, it’s said, is a newspaper without journalistic guts. It takes few risks.

However, when a newspaper makes mistakes, it should correct them.

In fact, the NMG editorial policy, as well as the Code of Conduct for the Practice of Journalism in Kenya, requires that when errors are discovered they must be corrected promptly.
* * *
The Nation has done a good job reporting the Solai dam tragedy, which was not an act of God.

However, historically, the media has failed to educate the public about such things.

The tragedy might not have happened, or might have taken different dimensions, had the citizenry been aware of the duty of care imposed on all of us.

As a common law country, the law of negligence imposes a duty of care for almost anything that we do, or fail to do, that could foreseeably harm others.

Solai-type cases are notorious as liability is imposed when dangerous things on one’s land escape and cause damage, even in the absence of negligence.

The rule in Rylands v. Fletcher requires that we pay damages.

We want win-win ties with Europe, Raila Odinga says

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Opposition leader Raila Odinga has criticised Europe for “taking Africa for granted”, and for focusing too much on the stability of their interests instead of spurring democracy in elections on the continent.

Mr Odinga, who is on a week-long visit to the UK, told the Oxford Union in a lecture that Europe had failed to realise Africa’s full potential.


“Europe has taken either the ties that we have, or Africa, for granted. At some stage, Europe appeared to embrace the idea of Africa being a ‘hopeless continent’, as the Economist magazine once referred to it,” Mr Odinga said.

In the process, the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader argued, Europe became  content with occasional and predictable reports about corruption, civil wars, stolen elections, Al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, Female Genital Mutilation and starvation “because these are in line with the thinking in European capitals about what Africa is.”

“Unfortunately, this has kept Europe stuck on sending troops and occasional aid to struggling countries. In the process, this made Europe fail to be a genuine partner with an emerging and booming Africa that has experienced sustained, high economic growth of around five per cent, over the past decade,” Mr Odinga said.

Noting that Africa is now looking for new partnerships with Europe, Mr Odinga said these relationships should be on the basis of a win-win engagement.

“We are keen on greater practical, politically-backed engagement with the private sector and civil society actors on both continents to fuel democratisation and economic prosperity,” he said.

He once again talked about how Western diplomats were more interested in the stability of the region rather than building long-lasting democratic institutions.

But one of the most damaging aspects of the relationship between Africa and Europe, he said, is trade, adding that it  is ridiculously skewed in favour of Europe.

WHO declares Kenya free of Guinea Worm

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The World Health Organization has declared Kenya Guinea worm-free, giving a ringing endorsement to the government’s efforts to fight the disease.

Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki termed the award “a validation of Kenya’s Guinea Worm eradication efforts”, when she received the certificate from the UN agency at Panafric Hotel in Nairobi on Thursday.

“The certification of the second disease to be successfully eliminated in Kenya after Small Pox indeed validates our valiant efforts,” she said, adding that the country is determined to eradicate more diseases.

The Guinea Worm achievement was just a milestone in the battle to ensure more diseases no longer exist on Kenyan soil.

“While celebrating our success, we need to collectively anticipate and manage the continuous threat of re-emergence of eradicated diseases.

“The continued threat of importation of Guinea Worm cases from South Sudan and Ethiopia and the need to ensure that our surveillance is robust enough to detect and contain cases promptly, whenever and wherever they may occur, remains a priority on our healthcare agenda,” she said.

In December 2017, a team from the International Commission for the Certification of Guinea Worm Eradication confirmed that the disease no longer exists within the country’s national borders.

“Beyond Guinea Worm, Kenya is on the path towards more successes on the disease eradication front.

“The country is well-placed to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus this year.

“In the late 1980s, tetanus used to kill about seven out of every 1,000 children but that rate is now down to less than one per every 1,000 children, a reduction of more than 90 per cent,” she said, adding that the country is targeting eliminating mother-to-child transmission of HIV and congenital or inherited syphilis by 2021.

“Early signs of the eradication of the (inherited HIV condition) are already emerging with some health facilities reporting zero mother-to-child transmission of HIV over the past year,” Ms Kariuki noted.

“As a country, we are also working on the elimination of elephantiasis by 2020 and trachoma by 2019. Elephantiasis, the treatable parasitic infection which is transmitted through mosquitoes, ought to be eliminated through mass treatment with appropriate antibiotics,” she added.

Other diseases targeted are cervical cancer and Hepatitis C.