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Friday, June 1st, 2018

 

Restoring education for children affected by earthquake in Papua New Guinea

New-York, 1 June 2018 – The Education Cannot Wait (ECW) fund announces an allocation of US$1.5 million to bring thousands of children back to school in Papua New Guinea. The island nation was struck by a 7.5 magnitude earthquake at the end of February which affected more than half a million people and damaged key infrastructures, including hundreds of schools.

This ECW emergency response allocation will provide resources for humanitarian aid organizations to immediately start restoring education services, particularly through the setting up of temporary learning spaces. The funding will cover activities for a period of one year. “It is urgent for children to recover a sense of normalcy in their lives after living through such a disaster. Going back to school is crucial to help them overcome the trauma they have endured and to ensure they continue to learn and thrive,” says ECW Director, Yasmine Sherif.

ECW’s emergency response allocation targets some of the areas most affected by the earthquake in the Southern Highlands Province and in Hela Province. Thanks to ECW’s support, children will benefit from a safe learning environment while damaged infrastructure is being rehabilitated. They will also receive psychological support as well as learning and recreational materials. At total of 10,000 teachers will also be supported through these funds.

This is ECW’s second First Emergency Response allocation this year, further to a $3 million allocation announced in April to support the education response in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

ECW is a new global fund set up by international humanitarian and development aid actors, along with public and private donors, to support education for children and youth affected by conflict and natural disasters. Since the start of its operations in 2017, ECW has invested a total of $87 million in 16 crisis-affected countries, reaching more than 650,000 children and youth with quality education.

For press enquiries contact:

Ms. Anouk Desgroseilliers, adesgroseilliers@unicef.org, +1917 640-6820


NYS suspects face judge who jailed ex-Town Clerk Gakuo

By SAM KIPLAGAT
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The magistrate who sent former Nairobi Town Clerk John Gakuo and three other former public officials to prison for corruption is the same one handling the cases of the over 40 suspects in the National Youth Service scandal.

Chief Magistrate Douglas Ogoti made news in May when he sent Gakuo and former Permanent Secretary Sammy Kirui to three years in prison for abuse of office over the loss of over Sh280 million meant for cemetery land in Nairobi. He also fined them Sh1 million each.

The same Milimani Anti-Corruption court magistrate ordered a former Huduma Centre official to pay a fine of Sh500,000 after he found her guilty of receiving a bribe of Sh2,500 to facilitate the processing of a birth certificate for a parent.

IN THE LINE OF FIRE

Mr Ogoti directed that Ms Justinah Syonzua Malela, a former clerk at a Huduma Centre in Kibera, spend two years in prison if she fails to pay the fine.

And now the tough-talking magistrate has been tasked with the trial of one of the biggest scandals in recent years — the loss of Sh468 million at the National Youth Service.

Among the big names in the scandal are suspended Public Service Principal Secretary Lillian Omollo, former NYS Director-General Richard Ndubai and a host of public officials accused of conspiracy to defraud, abuse of office and false accounting among other charges.

Among the suspects are David Kirui, Timothy Kiplagat Rotich and Ezekiel Osoro – who allegedly collected foodstuffs from the NYS stores and signed acceptance forms for goods that were never supplied in the first place.

INVESTIGATIONS
Others are chief accountant Clement Murage, Michael Ojiambo the director, administration at the Ministry of Youth and Gender Affairs, Lucas Owino Otieno, the internal auditor at the National Treasury, all of whom were in the ministry’s verification committee and alleged approved payments to the companies that received hundreds of millions of shillings irregularly.

A total of 22 individuals and five companies were in court on Tuesday and the accused persons sat for more than 10 hours as the charges were being read to them.

Mr Ogoti also had to deal with some 17 suspects who failed to appear in court.

He directed them to present themselves before the Directorate of Criminal Investigations by Thursday.

BAIL APPLICATION

They were held after showing up for “processing”.

The magistrate, who directed that all the suspects be remanded, is set to deliver a ruling on their bail application on Tuesday next week.

The suspects, through their lawyers, pleaded with the court to be freed on bond, arguing that it was their constitutional right.

The prosecution on the other hand wanted them kept in custody as the investigators completed their investigations.

On Thursday, Chief Justice David Maraga told President Uhuru Kenyatta that the Judiciary would cooperate in tackling corruption.

“We know you have declared war against corruption, and I want to tell you, Mr President, we are with you. You can count on the Judiciary.”

THE ACCUSED:

  • PS Lillian Omollo: Abuse of office and failure to comply with procedures relating to management of public funds.
  • Richard Ndubai: Abuse of office and failure to comply with procedures relating to management of public funds.
  • Sammy Mbugua Mwangi: Fraudulently making payments from public revenue for goods not supplied.
  • Rodgers Nzioka: False accounting by a public officer and abuse of office.
  • Phillis Njeri Ngirita: Fraudulent acquisition of public property.
  • Stella Chepkemboi Biwott: False accounting by a public officer.
  • Sammy Michuki: False accounting by a public officer and abuse of office.
  • Tabitha Nduati: Fraudulently false accounting by public officer.
  • Catherine Mwai: Fraudulent acquisition of public property as a director of Arkroad  Holding Ltd.
  • Evans Wafula Kundu: False accounting by a public officer and abuse of office.
  • Christopher Malala Simbauni: Abuse of office.
  • Jeremiah Gichini Ngirita:Fraudulent acquisition of public property.
  • Anne Wambere Ngirita: Fraudulent acquisition of public property.
  • Lucy Wambui Ngirita: Fraudulent acquisition of public property.
  • James Nderitu: Fraudulent acquisition of public property as a director of Firstling.
  • Welenano Mulupi: False accounting by a public officer.
  • Keziah Wanjugu Mwangi: Making a false document and false accounting by a public officer.
  • Jamal Galgalo: False accounting by a public officer.
  • Sophy Karimi Kinyua: False accounting by a public officer and abuse of office.

It is time to crack down on corruption

By EDITORIAL
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The test of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s declaration yesterday to confront and kick out the corrupt and looters in government is execution. In the wake of endless lists of scandals in government, the only remedy is action. And this must go far and wide. All suspected looters must be forced out of government, taken to court and jailed. All proceeds from theft — cash and assets — must be confiscated and returned to the public.

INVESTIGATIONS

After the National Youth Service scam, the investigations must turn the heat on the other agencies and departments, such as National Cereals and Produce Board, Kenya Power, Kenya Forest Service, Kenya Pipeline, Kenya Bureau of Standards, Kenya Revenue Authority, Kenya Ports Authority and county governments, among others, and dig out the pervasive rot and send suspects to court.

LITTLE ACTION

Corruption, theft, mismanagement and waste have grounded the country. Yet little action is ever taken on the culprits. On the contrary, the corrupt have become celebrities and used their ill-gotten wealth not only to evade punishment, but also to buy their way to top positions in government.

It is absurd that after 55 years of self-rule, the country finds itself under captivity — not of colonialists — but looters and economic saboteurs. And the consequences are grave. Public services have failed. Infrastructure is collapsing due to poor workmanship by conniving contractors and engineers.

Courts are veritable dens of corruption where justice is auctioned to the highest bidder. Public health and education are in shambles. Nairobi and all the cities thrive in chaos. Insecurity is at an all-time high. The list is endless.

INSECURITY

President Kenyatta is well aware of this. Now, he has declared total war on corruption, which we fully support. Even so, we remind him that he had made several such pledges in the past but little ever came out of them. Notably, in 2015, he sacked some top government officials, among them Cabinet secretaries over corruption, and decreed they be tried and convicted. But the cases later collapsed and the suspects remain free to date with some proceeding to contest and win top political positions. Mr President, let the blood spill, heads must roll.


Give Harambee Stars quality matches

By EDITORIAL
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The national football team Harambee Stars faces a herculean task in their qualifying battle for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon.

So far, the team has lost one match away to Sierra Leone in Group ‘F’ where they will also meet powerhouse Ghana and Ethiopia in the qualifying rounds. 

The Stars last qualified for the tournament 15 years ago. While we agree that it is important for the team to play friendly matches, Football Kenya Federation (FKF) needs to arrange for meaningful and quality matches.

Harambee Stars, ranked 111th in the world, are currently in India for the Four Nations tournament that involves hosts India, New Zealand and Chinese Taipei, who are ranked 97th, 133rd and 122nd respectively.

In March, the team drew 2-2 with Comoros (142) and lost to Central Africa Republic (115) 3-2. In May, Kenya lost to Swaziland (240) before beating Equatorial Guinea (145) 1-0. Clearly, Harambee Stars should not be meeting some of these teams since they do not help the players to improve at all.

Ghana (50), Sierra Leone (103) and Ethiopia (146) will be tough nuts to crack. 


As the corrupt loot public coffers dry, it is the poor who are left to suffer most

By NG’ANG’A MBUGUA
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The worst thing about grand corruption is that there are too few beneficiaries and far too many losers. The people who get the short end of the stick all the time are the poor, who lose out on public goods, and the diligent taxpayers, whose efforts at building the nation are made a mockery of.

The biggest threat posed by grand corruption to public welfare is that it diverts money meant to increase citizens’ access to important services such as health and education. In countries like Kenya, access to health and education through public institutions is primarily meant to benefit the poor. The rich can get treatment in private hospitals, or abroad, and they can send their children to private schools, too. This is to say that when large amounts of tax cash are stolen, the cartels of dubious “enterprises” are stealing from the masses with the connivance of greedy public officials who have no regard for citizens’ welfare. That is why the government cannot find the money to pay doctors and teachers, even if they were to strike for eternity.

POOR FAMILIES

In effect, corruption on the scale perpetuated at the National Youth Service and the cereals board diminishes the capacity of the State to offer services to wananchi. It is, for instance, instructive, that when the Ministry of Education released a circular on capitation for primary school pupils last month, there was no money allocated for buying text books either for the learners or the teachers. According to the circular, each child in Kenyan public schools is to get Sh213 in the second term, while each school will get Sh186.70 per child for exigencies such as wages for support staff and repairs. Compare and contrast these with the Sh60 million that NYS paid to Ms Anne Wangui Ngirita, even without evidence that she had supplied anything to the agency meant to train youths from primarily poor families.

At the end of the day, it is the poor who are hurt the most by this kind of larceny. And even if State players like the police and prosecutors pledge to nail the corrupt, little progress will be made in the fight against corruption because the networks of beneficiaries are joined at the hip. In the end, even the noises that government honchos make when pledging to fight corruption will remain mere platitudes. They are a balm to the support base, to create the illusion that something is being done. The reality is that some of those in government offices are beneficiaries because there can be no corruption without the involvement of public officers.

REDUCE INEQUALITY

Those in government want the money so that they can perpetuate their hold on power while those in business want their share so that they can consolidate their social influence and ability to do bigger businesses, even when such enterprises are neither creating jobs nor growing the economy. There is no way, under such circumstances, that Kenya can either reduce inequality or grow into a middle income economy with a high quality of life for all its citizens.

As such, these ideals will remain a distant dream for the vast majority because the money to turn this dream into a reality remains in the hands of a few. This is what makes grand corruption so dangerous. It is a threat to social stability and economic progress, both of which are important for medium and long-term national growth.

As politicians from the Rift Valley have said, the biggest casualties of the cereals board scandal are ordinary farmers and their families. A handful of “suppliers” have not only eaten their lunch but also run away with their children’s school fees.

Now, the small-scale farmers who actually spent time tilling their land cannot take their children to school because they simply have not been paid. And the money for payouts has probably run out. God bless them if they or their loved ones fall sick.

DEEPER MISERY

Yet, as Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri told Parliament on Wednesday, there are eight people who, between them, pocketed Sh1.8 billion. That translates to an average of Sh225 million for each supplier. What makes the case worse is that some of them were paid immediately. This is a classic example of the rich getting instantly richer and the poor sinking deeper into misery.

In their study of graft in Afghanistan, three scholars – Manija Gardizi, Karen Hussmann and Yama Torabi – noted that “grand corruption usually involves twisting the rules for private sector interests and for significant personal or group enrichment”. That is why, in their view, traditional anti-corruption mechanisms are insufficient.

“Many corrupt practices are not isolated individual acts but instruments for the benefit of groups and networks,” they said in their study, Corrupting the State or State-Crafted Corruption?

Given their argument, should Kenyans entertain any hope that charging the NYS officials and their “free market” accomplices will bring them to justice? Will those found culpable be made to return their ill-gotten public wealth? To answer these questions, let us examine the handling of the most recent corruption case.

PRIVATE ENTERPRISE

Two weeks ago, former Permanent Secretary Sammy Kirui and former Nairobi Town Clerk John Gakuo were found guilty of abuse of office over the controversial purchase of Nairobi cemetery land worth Sh283,200,000. In a classic exemplification of grand corruption, the irregular payment was made to a private enterprise, Naen Rech Ltd, but at the end of the transaction, there was no land for Nairobi’s poor to bury their dead. Both Kirui and Gakuo were jailed for three years and fined Sh1 million each. There was no mention of recovering the lost money or surcharging the officials for the loss.

According to the International Journal of Economics, Commerce and Management, political corruption, like the kind rampant in Kenya, “impedes the capacity of a State to grow”.

“Corruption weakens public service delivery, misdirects public resources, and holds back the growth that is necessary to pull people out of poverty,” writes Rashidat S. Akande in his article, “Corruption and State Capacity in Sub-Saharan Africa,” published in volume five of the journal.

He warns that policy makers can distort policies to meet the interests of the corrupt when they should be serving a greater public good. This can be manifested in various forms, such as giving higher allocations to public institutions targeted for plunder or aligning the pet projects of robber barons with party manifestos and government policies.

TRADE BALANCE

The other ugly face of grand corruption such as that witnessed at NYS and the cereals board is that it affects the quality of investments. Suppliers and contractors with dubious credentials are paid mind-boggling sums of money without creating jobs, building industries or making any serious investments in the factors of production. In turn, they can only use their ill-gotten incomes on high-value imports such as luxury goods. This, in turn, erodes the country’s balance of trade, meaning that we spend more dollars buying as a country than we earn from exports.

There is also the money element to it.

“Fiscal capacity is an important aspect of State capacity. A reduction in efficiency in this branch of the government is likely to mean that fewer returns are processed and when individuals’ living standards are squeezed; their incentive to accept bribes in lieu of collecting taxes is increased,” writes Akande.

PAYING DEBT

The upshot of this is that tax revenues are depressed, meaning that the government will be hard-pressed to meet its obligations, including paying debt. Already, we have witnessed in the last two weeks, an attempt to re-organise the board of the Kenya Revenue Authority, a move that has been challenged in court.

“Ajazand Ahmed (2010) analysed the effect of corruption and governance on tax revenue in 25 developing countries and the result showed corruption has a significant effect on taxes,” Akande argues.

Whichever way one looks at it, one sees Kenya going through the throes of all these symptoms, all of which point to the State’s diminishing capacity to do its job effectively, efficiently or at all. The result is a growing tide of public disillusionment and a cynical conviction that there is nothing the State or its agencies, such as the courts and the police, can do to make a meaningful change and to truly fight corruption. Already, the handwriting is on the social media walls of Kenyans, who are showing their impatience even with those who are claiming to be sick and tired of corruption.

ROLE MODELS

The next question then is: What is to be done? First, there is need for a critical mass of sufficiently angry citizens who must rise to demand an end to impunity. Role models abound, from Guatemala to Malaysia, Brazil to South Africa, Burkina Faso to South Korea, where the populace has in the recent past taken it upon itself to pile pressure on their governments to take action against the corrupt.

Sarah Chayes, in a paper she published last month titled Fighting the Hydra: Lessons from Worldwide Protests against Corruption, also proposed the protection and strengthening of the institutions that enforce the law, especially the courts, to ensure that the law applies to the powerful as it does to the weak. This is the message that Kenyans on Twitter were sending when they called for the rich and mighty to face the same fate as the weak and the poor. But this outrage needs to be amplified if it is to achieve the desired results, and this will not happen only on social media.

Mr Mbugua is the Editor of the Saturday Nation.


Change of tack needed in HIV prevention among youth

By KELLEN KIAMBATI
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By ANNE KARIUKI
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It is worrying that 29 per cent of new HIV infections in Kenya are occurring among the youth, with the main mode of transmission being through sexual intercourse. 

What is more shocking is that the biggest concern for young people is not the risk of infection but of getting pregnant.

This is an indication that, as a country, we need to start a candid conversation around HIV and Aids and its implications for the future.

It will also be imperative for all public agencies of both the national and county governments, faith-based and non-governmental organisations, private sector and development partners, to come together and develop age-specific and multifaceted approaches that will reduce HIV infections among the youth. We propose the following:

HIV and Aids prevention toolkit

This strategy can play a big role in dealing with rising HIV infections among the youth.

Young people lack accurate and comprehensive HIV prevention information, and this perhaps explains why they contribute the biggest percentage of new infections.

We therefore need a package that takes care of youth diversity, their unique needs and specific challenges they face in accessing HIV and Aids information and sexual and reproductive health services, among others.

Awareness campaign led by religious groups

Naturally, human beings feel more confident with faith-based interventions, mostly because they give hope and have the interests of the faithful as a core value.

For this reason, they should maximise youth-centred efforts to promote awareness about HIV/Aids by giving facts and information about the modes of transmission and high risk behaviour.

In our day-to-day engagement with young people, we have learnt that they always have fresh ideas in all aspects of life, and we believe HIV and Aids prevention is no exception.

Since they are the most affected groups, with Aids being the second most common cause of death among youth globally, we consider them crucial in coming up with responsive strategies.

As such, their inclusion brings clarity to issues such as stigma and social exclusion, offering unique perspectives not always considered by adults from the same populations.

The youth can be encouraged to share these perspectives through online platforms which also allow for confidentiality.

Fun learning models

Young people like entertainment. Using models that allow enjoyment as active learning takes place can help in preventing new HIV infections among peers.

More often than not, HIV and Aids communication messages ask young people to passively listen to a slogan about prevention, like, “Abstain, Be Faithful, and Use condoms.”

They hear it and read it, but then what? Using models like theatre may do more for HIV and Aids education, because it provokes the performers and spectators to actively participate in developing the message, and also to connect it to their own lives and behaviour. This can have a life-long impact.

Value systems

Having mentioned that the main mode of HIV transmission is through sexual intercourse, it follows that we should talk about sex and take stock to see where the rain started beating us as well as when alterations of social arrangements regarding sex occurred.

While no universal value system exists, traditionally, sex was known to be a sacred affair dedicated exclusively to a person worthy of reverence or respect.

This wisdom has been lost, with a range of contested values and beliefs which are brought to bear on issues of social change.

The contemporary debate around sex and sexual ethics has in most cases left young people confused.

Ultimately, a sense of what is good for society as a whole hangs in the balance.

We cannot stop here, we have to rethink how we define sex as a sacred issue and how to ensure young people view it as such.

Dr Kiambati is a management consultant and a senior lecturer at Karatina University. [email protected] gmail.com. Dr Kariuki is a social scientist, management consultant and a lecturer at Karatina University. [email protected]


Lack of information on sex leaves young people vulnerable

Let’s talk about sex.

That is the one statement that makes many parents cringe while others run for holy water and call a priest.

But the reality is that, by the time they turn 19, the majority of Kenyan youth have already had their sexual debut.

In a research published by Consumer Insight this week, 53 per cent of youth under the age of 19 said they are already engaging in sex.

What is even more jarring is the fact that one in every four of these has more than one sexual partner.

SEXUAL DEBUT
This is similar to the national average. The Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS) says 15 per cent of women aged 20-49 have the first sexual contact by age 15, while 50 per cent have had a similar experience by age 18, and 71 per cent by age 20.

“Men have an earlier sexual debut than women, a pattern that holds true for most age groups,” the KDHS says.

“For example, 22 per cent of men aged 20-49 had first sexual encounter by age 15; 56 per cent by age 18 and 76 per cent by age 20.

Even as they start on the sexual path at such an early age, three in every 10 are not using protection despite the risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

CONTRACEPTIVE
In the Consumer Insight research, 32 per cent of the “debutantes” said they pop the morning after pill, while six in every 10 said they use condoms.

As they get older, they may not necessarily get wiser as the usage of the morning after pill nearly doubles.

Half of the women in the 20 to 25 age bracket use emergency contraceptive pills, though 76 per cent are on contraceptives, the preferred one being injections.

Compared to their younger counterparts, the 26 to 30-year-olds are less keen on the use of contraceptives with only 68 per cent on any form of contraceptive, and yes they are still using the emergency pill. 

Fifty-one per cent of them, however, said they do have a lower prevalence of multiple partners.

SEXUAL PARTNERS
Nationally, more men than women reported having two or more sexual partners at 10 and two per cent respectively.

Among respondents reporting two or more sexual partners in the past 12 months, 38 per cent of women and 69 per cent of men used a condom during their most recent sexual encounter.

“Having multiple sexual partners and having unprotected sex increase one’s chances of both contracting and transmitting HIV,” the KHDS warns.

With 87 per cent of those between 26 and 30 years already active and using injections, the majority said they were more worried about pregnancy than sexually transmitted diseases.

However, the use of “morning after” pills, also known as emergency pills, has become risky business with counterfeits flooding the market.

COUNTERFEIT

Last month, the Kenya Anti-Counterfeit Agency confiscated about 31,000 pieces of fake “morning-after” pills estimated to be worth Sh7 million.

The consignment was discovered together with other counterfeit materials at the Embakasi Inland Container Depot in Nairobi.

The result of using such fake drugs is failure to prevent pregnancies, creating ground for illegal and, more often than not, unsafe abortions.

Kenya spent Sh533 million treating complications of unsafe abortions in public health facilities, according to “The Costs of Treating Unsafe Abortion Complications in Public Health Facilities in Kenya” report prepared by the ministry of Health and the African Population and Health Research Centre.

ABORTIONS
It is recommended that addressing the drivers of unsafe abortion beyond the enhancement of use of contraceptives is the timely and comprehensive sexuality education and a genuine discussion on how to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

However, with limited guidance from schools and parents, the youth are turning to their peers for information on sex.

“Most of them say that they do not fully trust their friends but they seek them out for information on sex,” Mr Maina Ndirangu, assistant research director at Consumer Insight, says.

According to the Consumer Insight survey, a culture of introversion is slowly emerging among the youth and there is a tendency to consult friends and the media for advice.

“Thirty-six per cent would rather confide in their friends, but only 20 per cent trust them as confidants.

“Similarly, 14 per cent consult the Internet but only seven per cent trust the wisdom therein, while six per cent rely on other media but four per cent take that counsel with a pinch of salt,” the report says.

AWARENESS
Statistics from Unesco show that only 34 per cent of young people around the world can demonstrate accurate knowledge of HIV prevention and transmission.

“Too many young people receive confusing and conflicting information about relationships and sex, as they make the transition from childhood to adulthood.

“This has led to an increasing demand from young people for reliable information, which prepares them for a safe, productive and fulfilling life,” says Unesco highlighting the importance of comprehensive sexuality education for the young as they transition into adulthood.


Our newspapers should learn to avoid ambiguity

By PHILIP OCHIENG
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Because I prefer clean natural water, I do not habitually drink any manufactured coloured water called soda. Yet ambiguity is common in our newspapers. And one doubtful characteristic of the world’s most intelligent species is that mere colour — such as that of the human skin — can bend its mind towards thoughts and activities positively perilous to the whole species.

If Kenyans were the world’s best English users, the rest of English-speaking human beings would be in a parlous state. It is not that Kenya’s users are specifically prone to double speak. It is only that English confounds the faculties of all its users, including even those of the Englanders who once imposed that language on humanity.

PLAYS HAVOC

Take this headline (on page 33 of the Daily Nation of May 29): “Coca-Cola launches first alcoholic drink in Japan”. In that manner of writing, you raise some highly important language questions. For instance, exactly what or who was “the first” in that context? In other words, what noun or pronoun was the adjective “first” describing? 

In that context, that adjective can refer to one of two possibilities. For, reportedly, what had been launched was the first alcoholic drink that Coca-Cola had ever produced. But, in that case, there was here information of definite news value fit even for page one. It was that Coca-Cola, a controverted soft-drink company, had become a producer and salesman of alcohol, one of the most controverted products of human industry. For alcohol plays havoc with the minds of young human beings the whole world over.

WORLD AFFAIRS

The fact that such news had never reached my ears couldn’t matter because my knowledge is not a precondition for the existence of anything on our world. Millions of things and phenomena exist on earth of which I am not aware. What might have made history was if this had been the first time that the company had exported such a drink to Japan.

Yet, as far as my knowledge of world affairs goes, the American soft drinks company has done neither the one thing nor the other. It is important to relate the newspaper’s statement to my knowledge — and, indeed, to yours and to everybody else’s — because the universally influential American soft drinks company might have scored both achievements without the news having reached our faculty of knowledge.

FREE MARKET

However, though that is a highly unlikely eventuality given today’s technological situation, I assert it confidently. For an intense sense of self-importance is the chief characteristic of all of our world’s controlling individuals, classes, organisations and political states today. Yet if “Coke” had really scored that feat, it would have deafened humanity’s ears all the way from New York City to, say, Kendu, Kakamega, Machakos and Nyeri. 

For sales propaganda would have been the chief content of that news item. Ever since Europe’s “free market” rose to world domination, Europe’s self-importance has been the controlling characteristic of all the systems that pass as information — even as “education” — throughout the modern world. 


Madaraka fete marked by loads of fun and jokes

By GUCHU NDUNG’U
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The Madaraka Day celebrations brought out what leaders really think about the Meru people. And also showcased their character.

First, it showed they love fun at a bargain. It all started with beer two weeks ago.

Normally, imbibers in Meru flock to Makutano area, a rugged and overcrowded suburb known for bars with loud music, decorated with colour-clashing strob lights and frequented by fun-loving Sauti Sol-like dancers.

This week however they flocked to Meru showground for cheap alcohol, courtesy of the police and army camped there.

A beer that normally retails at Sh200 was going for less than Sh100 at Kinoru, thanks for supplies from Afco, the military canteen services. 

EARLY BIRDS
But the hangover of the tax-free beer did not stop them from flocking to Kinoru stadium at 6am with miniature flags and hidden miraa and soda cans.

By the time the lazy bones from towns arrived at the stadium around 8am, all seats had been taken by their village counterparts who were ferried in buses.

They had the best of both worlds; chewing miraa and enjoying the music before the speeches. 

Then the leaders told us what they really think about the Ameru people. According to Deputy President William Ruto, the Ameru have some weird form of loyalty.

“Meru people are so loyal that if you send them to hack someone, they will hack them first then ask questions later,” Mr Ruto said.

WOMEN
The Ameru also have beautiful girls, according to opposition leader Raila Odinga. So beautiful that Raila promised Tanzania President Pombe Magufuli a Meru girl as a second wife.

“Receive his greetings. And when he comes, we will get him a girl from Meru,” Mr Odinga, who was invited to the podium by Mr Ruto, said.

Magufuli is already married to Janet.

Then the day showed that the Meru language can present pronouncement challenges.

You can fake the language but not the accent. All the leaders learnt that the hard way when they greeted residents using the expression “Mugeni kairi (how are you once again)”.

GREETINGS
It started with Mr Ruto. The man knows many greetings. He is on record as having said hello in almost all languages of Kenya in places he has toured. And in Meru, he tried it but the accent was missing.

“Mugeni kairi,” he greeted the people. He almost nailed it, but the poetic-like accent of the Ameru was missing.

Both President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga also tried the greeting. The jury is still out on who nailed it. 

There were no hugs among leaders this time round unlike at the Prayer Breakfast on Thursday.

MASHUJAA DAY
Mr Ruto was more relaxed with the handshake between Raila and Uhuru than he was on Thursday when TV cameras captured him giving a cold stare to the two.

Mr Kalonzo Musyoka and other Nasa leaders were missing in action.

But judging from the laughter and enthusiasm of the masses and leaders, they had a good time. See you in Kakamega for the Mashujaa Day celebrations.


Meru at standstill as thousands attend Madaraka Day

By GITONGA MARETE
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Thousands of residents and guests thronged Kinoru Stadium in Meru for the Madaraka Day fete, overwhelming organisers and security officials.

The 18,000-seater filled to capacity and to ease pressure on the gates, residents were allowed to sit in the open field where performances normally take place.

Each member of the crowd also received a copy of the 20,000 Daily Nation papers distributed for free at the event courtesy of the county government.

At least 15 people were injured when a tree fell on dozens of residents perched on it as they followed the celebrations.

Hundreds of enthusiastic Kenyans were turned away as early as 8am due to the high turnout.

DISCHARGED
Ms Flora Mutethi, a nurse in-charge of operations at the emergency centre, said the victims were not seriously injured and were rushed to Meru General Hospital where they were treated and discharged.

“They were told to climbdown from the tree but they refused. We could not help the situation because they had been warned that the tree could not support the weight,” she said.

Those who were turned away said they were disappointed that they travelled from their homes yet they could not access the stadium.

“I have been waiting for this day and I arrived here at 6am but I have not been able to enter. I would rather have watched it from home,” Francis Kirimi, who had brought his family along, said.

BUSINESS
Earlier in the morning, there was a stampede as residents tried to access the venue after they were denied entry.

A spot check revealed that the town was at a standstill. The gates of the stadium were opened at 4am and three hours later, residents packed the stadium to the brim.

Traffic was restricted within about a kilometre radius to the stadium, forcing residents to walk.

Businesses in the hospitality sector in Meru County recorded huge profits following the celebrations, with owners saying they had raked in huge profits.

Guest house owners hiked accommodation rates despite a warning form the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Normally, the rates for guest rooms range between Sh700 and Sh1,000 bob.