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Wednesday, June 6th, 2018


Suppliers who failed test delivered maize, audit reveals

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Thirteen suppliers who failed vetting at the locational level delivered maize to Eldoret and Kisumu National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) depots and were paid more than Sh1 billion, a ministry of Agriculture audit shows.

The audit submitted to the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture by Principal Secretary Richard Lesiyampe shows that some farmers had quoted farm sizes that were not achievable in the areas indicated on the forms.

The audit was conducted by the head of Internal Audit Unit at the ministry, Moses Karanja.

“Yields used on some forms were unrealistic and unachievable. Support documents on the acreage quoted on the forms were unavailable,” the audit reads in part.

“Information gathered in the field revealed that some chiefs had little knowledge of the suppliers despite the fact they had signed their supply forms,” added Dr Lesiyampe.


It also emerged that some suppliers could not be identified by the chiefs as being genuine farmers in their regions.

In Kisumude depot, five farmers who had supplied 10,000 bags were found to be traders and failed the vetting although Sh130,074,459 had been paid to them as partial payment.

Total payment due to the five suppliers amounts to Sh286,489,144.

In Nakuru depot, out of 18 farmers vetted, nine were disowned by their chief who they had indicated in application for maize purchase form as their witness.

 They had supplied Nakuru NCPB depot with maize valued at Sh156,441,643 out of which Sh30,472,892 has already been paid hence outstanding balance of Sh125,968,750.


In Bungoma depot,19 traders who supplied maize were paid a whooping Sh534,055,397.

However, the ministry audit indicates that some individuals who had supplied maize to the depot had not filled the supply forms.

“Most of the suppliers were from neighbouring counties and some had also delivered large quantities to other depots including Mois Bridge. The records available at the depot were inconsistent and the retrieval was noted to be poor,” reads the audit report.

The audit has proposed that due to the outcome of the vetting of farmers in North and South Rift regions only amount of Sh3,049,866,608 be considered for payment.

Farmers are still demanding close to Sh4 billion for produce delivered to NCPB stores.


The board suspended buying of maize two months ago after it exhausted the Sh7.1 billion to buy 2.4 million bags of maize to replenish the Country’s Strategic Grains Reserve.

Leaders from the North Rift have demanded for an independent audit to establish all maize deliveries made to National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) depots countrywide. They also want the audit to reveal the names of those who made the deliveries.

The leaders, among them Moiben MP Silas Tiren and his Nandi Hills counterpart Alfred Keter, said many farmers were grappling with financial problems, with some who delivered their maize as early as December yet to be paid.

“We need an independent audit to unearth all these mysteries. Farmers have no other source of income. I wonder why we are destroying the lives of these people,” said Mr Tiren.


Mr Keter said influential individuals have been importing maize and supplying it to NCPB at the expense of genuine farmers.

“We should be given the names of those who filled NCPB depots with maize. Many farmers cannot cater for their families,” said Mr Keter.

 “Farmers should not suffer because of cartels that benefited from unscrupulous deals. Corrupt individuals are threatening to derail President Kenyatta’s Big Four Agenda,” he added.

Sources told the Nation that those who supplied the produce and got paid were traders who took advantage of the situation to buy maize from farmers at low prices, compared with the high premiums offered by the government.

Cereal farmers have called for the setting up of buying centres to ease delivery of maize.

“Silos have become a cartel paradise. It is where they lay and hatch their eggs,” said Uasin Gishu Governor Jackson Mandago.


The farmers have also petitioned the government to hand over NCPB roles to county governments after the agriculture department was transferred to devolved units.

They said decentralization of NCPB would safeguard it from mismanagement.

Anti-graft body-Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) has since commenced investigation on powerful individuals behind the maize scandal.

Detectives have pitched camp at various NCPB depots in Western Kenya where cheap crop suspected to be from Uganda and Mexico was delivered and prompt payment made at the expense of genuine farmers.

Long wait for news on lost plane, passengers

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Family and friends of the eight passengers and two crew members who were travelling on the ill-fated flight from Kitale to Nairobi spent most of Wednesday desperately waiting for news about their loved ones.

They converged at Weston Hotel on Langata Road where counsellors, government officials and the airline’s staff kept updating them on the search and rescue operation commissioned at Kinangop, Aberdares.

The Cessna C208 aircraft, registration number 5Y-CAC, operated by Fly Sax, left a Kitale airstrip in Trans-Nzoia County at 4.05pm for Nairobi but lost contact with the control tower at 5.20pm.

On board were the pilot, Captain Barbra Wangeci Kamau, First Officer Jean Mureithi and eight passengers — Ahmed Ali Abdi, Karaba Sailah Waweru Muiga, Khetia Kishani, Matakasakaraia Thamani, Matakatekei Paula, Ngugi George Kinyua, Pinuertorn Ronald and Wafula Robinson.


Relatives said they got information from the media that the flight was missing. They then called the airline, based at Wilson Airport, Nairobi, which confirmed the news.

Mr Robinson Wafula’s sister, Ms Charity Wafula, said he left their home in Bungoma and was heading to Nairobi where he does business.

She said her 30-year-old brother called them on Tuesday morning and confirmed that he would be travelling to Nairobi on the flight.

“When he left in the afternoon, the driver at home called us informing us that he had left for the capital city at around 4pm. But at around 7pm, we heard news that the flight was missing. It has been terrible for us but we hope he is safe,” Ms Charity said.

She said the airline had been updating the family on the search and rescue operations, with the worry being that bad weather in Kinangop could delay the mission.

“We are just being patient because there is nothing we can do. We are relying on the airline and the government spokesman for updates,” Ms Wafula said.


She said her brother, the first born in the family, has a five-year-old son and travels regularly on business.

Fly Sax CEO George Kivindyo, speaking to the media at Weston Hotel, said the airline did not have enough information about the whereabouts of the flight and that they did not want to speculate about its fate.

Relatives of passengers in the missing planeRelatives of passengers in the missing plane. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

“We have activated phase one of the search and rescue operation with the help of Air Accident Investigation Division of Kenya, Red Cross, Kenya Wildlife Service, Kenya Forestry Services and Kenya Airforce, with a concentration on Aberdare region,” he said.

Kenya Wildlife Service assistant director in charge of mountain areas, Mr Simon Gitau, said they would concentrate on Kinangop where the signals were located.

“We are not sure how long the search will take but Njambini remains an area of interest,” he said.


Mr Gitau said they resumed the search at 4am, after it was called off on Tuesday night, but an aerial hunt for the craft is hampered by bad weather.

By 7am, a section of the search and rescue team was waiting to be airlifted from Njambini playground.

Signals from the aircraft belonging to Fly540’s East Africa Safari Air Express (FlySax), were identified but the search was hampered by adverse weather.

Questions linger as to what caused the accident, with claims of inconsistencies in the destined flight-path, the plane’s destined landing airfield, and the time the plane is supposed to have lost contact with the airport’s tower.

The Kenya Association of Air Operators executive secretary, Colonel (Rtd) Eutychus Karumba Waithaka, said the plane was expected to land shortly after 5pm.

“Until more investigation is done, it is still early to say what may have caused the mishap,” said Col (Rtd) Waithaka.


“It could have developed mechanical problems midair, could have been forced off-course by strong gusts of wind, or impeded by other bad weather such as dense fog, which have been prevalent in the area,” he said.

He said that to have been allowed to leave the airstrip, the plane must have been in good flying condition, and the crew well-versed in flying.

“An airline would hardly ever let a crew deemed inexperienced, or still green in the trade, to fly their aircraft. This is a dictum of the set regulations which all airlines adhere to.”

Refuting claims that the plane was destined for Wilson Airport, and may have changed course mid-flight, KCAA director general Gilbert Kibe was in agreement with the KAAO executive secretary. He said that the plane’s itinerary was from Kitale Airstrip to JKIA; without any stops or deviations.

Final signals indicate that the plane went off the radar in the Aberdares; a little off the predestined path.


Another persistent question is, at its predetermined landing time, why was the plane still 40 nautical miles away?

“We are investigating the circumstances behind this turn of events and wouldn’t wish to speculate on anything,” said the director general.

The Air Accident Investigation Division of Kenya said until the search and pertinent investigations are complete, it is too early to know what caused the accident.

“Proper procedure has to be followed. We are not even sure if the plane crashed, we are just relying on a signal received from Kinangop. We have to find the aircraft first and determine if it crashed before proceeding with the relevant investigations,” said the official who didn’t wish to be named.

NPSC starts verifying officers’ degree certificates

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The National Police Service Commission has embarked on  verifying the authenticity of over 3,700 degree certificates submitted by its junior officers last month.

Police officers in the rank of constable, corporal, sergeant and senior sergeant from Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI), Kenya Police and Administration Police (AP) submitted their certificates in 11 centres spread across the country between May 2 and May 5.

The preliminary statistics indicate that 3,739 police officers are degree holders.

“In phase 1, graduate police constables were required to complete a questionnaire  and present themselves at various centres with original and certified copies of academic certificates,” according to an NPSC bulletin published every two months.


In Phase 2, the commission is set to verify the authenticity of the said certificates.

The Johnstone Kavuludi-led team is involving Commission on University Education, the State Department of University Education, National Police Service (NPS) and the Kenya National Qualifications Authority in the exercise.

In April NPSC, through a circular, informed all regional commanders about its intention to visit the counties from May 2 with the aim of auditing all degrees held by police officers in a bid to clean up the payroll.

The NPSC took the step after a pay dispute erupted over the reduction of salaries for graduate and disabled officers.

The pay cuts were effected on their March pay-slips after it emerged that thousands of officers were presenting fake degree certificates in order to qualify for higher pay.

A Form Four leaver recruited to the service earns a basic pay of Sh25,000 as a constable. This is increased to Sh36,000 if the officer acquires a degree.

This amount is similar to what an inspector earns as basic pay or what those who join the force after clearing university are paid every month.

“Several police officers have acquired degrees in specialised fields but are currently in general duty areas,” NPSC said.


The commission has a pool of graduates from which we can easily pick officers to be re-designated as cadets,” said NPSC.

The audit conducted by NPSC in conjunction with the National Council for Persons Living with Disability (NCPWD)  between April 3 and April 4, also indicates that 408 police officers are disabled.

“Out of 514 police officers who turned for vetting at eight regional headquarters, 408 cases as being authentic while another 40 cases are being further scrutinised.

The other 105 officers are not yet registered with the NCPWD and thus are not recognised as and hence cannot access these benefits,” says the report.


The cause of injury for majority of officers is gunshot wounds by bandits, terrorist attacks. Other injuries are caused by road accidents, rioting members of the public and even sickness through stroke and diabetes.

Policeman ‘shot bosses dead for punishing him’

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A policeman killed his two seniors because they punished him after he reported to work late and drunk, the High Court in Nyeri heard on Wednesday.

Four witnesses told Justice Teresia Matheka that Constable Mark Mutwiri Mbogo snatched a G3 rifle from a colleague and started shooting at his bosses and other officers at Narumoru Police Station on March 26, 2011.

The witnesses, all police officers, testified that Mr Mbogo shot dead the station’s deputy commander, Inspector Hudson Orwenyo, and Senior Sergeant John Koros in the melee.

They were shot in the chest four and three times respectively while two other officers, James Kiogora and Margaret Imathiu, escaped with gunshot wounds in the 6 pm incident.


Corporal Kibiri Munjiri, a prosecution witness, told the court that prior to the incident, he shared living quarters with the suspect and another officer, Constable Wanjohi.

“Mr Mbogo reported on duty at 6.20 pm in full uniform while drunk. He was supposed to report at 4 pm. The seniors decided to enter his name in the Occurrence Book as a disciplinary measure. He then grabbed a gun from Ms Imathiu and started shooting,” said Mr Munjiri.

His efforts to prevent the accused from causing harm were futile as he was forced to take cover to save his own life.

Inspector Evans Wesonga, the investigating officer, said Mr Mbogo  escaped towards Nanyuki town after the shooting incident.

A team of police officers from different units was deployed to search for the suspect and investigate the incident.


“The suspect was arrested at Nanyuki bus terminus aboard a matatu that was leaving for Nairobi. We had monitored his movements through his mobile phone calls,” said Mr Wesonga.

He produced the gun together with spent bullet cartridges in court and explained that Mr Mbogo had fired 14 times during the incident.

Another witness, Corporal Julius ole Salaparach, said the firearm was later recovered hidden behind the OCS’s pit latrine within the police station.

But, through lawyer Njuguna Kimani, the suspect asked why no inventory was recorded in respect of the rifle, adding that Mr Munjiri had contradicted himself in his testimony.

The lawyer told the court that Mr Munjiri was not an eyewitness in the incident since he escaped towards Solio Ranch as indicated in his statement.

The hearing continues on October 8, 2018. 

Make clean-up daily duty

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The idea of a national monthly clean-up day is one nobody can fault. It’s a means to raise awareness about the need to ensure a clean environment. Many diseases have their genesis in dirt with cholera, typhoid, dysentery and other communicable diseases posing a grave danger to urban and rural communities.

Coming from the government, this development is hardly surprising. After all, the beacon held by Rwanda, whose government has had such a day, is an example worth emulating.


However, Kenya’s drive is targeted at eradicating plastic waste, which has been a terrible menace, wreaking havoc on urban centres with clogged drains that are potential breeding grounds for diseases.

According to Deputy President William Ruto, our own clean-up day will be led by the Environment minister and will culminate in the annual Word Clean-up Day in September. It will be marked in the counties, towns, villages, schools, colleges and even universities.


However, we need to guard against the likelihood of turning this into a monthly preoccupation: That there will only be heightened activities towards and on the day of the clean-up. This would be unfortunate. Ensuring that our environment is clean must be a full-time job.

Instead of a monthly clean-up, every eligible person should be engaged in cleansing their homes and communities of garbage daily. Cleanliness is next to godliness.

Award Obama highest national honour on his visit

The story, Obama set to visit Kenya on June 16 (Sunday Nation, June 3), was welcome news.

Rather than just offer the former American president the traditional cup of tea and other Kenyan bitings such as mahamri, mutura and kichwa ya mbuzi, accompanied by numerous photo-ops and selfies, I think we should take one or two concrete steps to honour the man and his legacy.

Former US President is to meet President Uhuru Kenyatta during his tour. I feel that President Kenyatta and his government, if nothing more, should use the opportunity to award the son of Barack Obama Senior Kenya’s highest honour — the Order of the Chief of the Golden Heart, 1st Class (CGH).

Nairobi’s Lang’ata Road should be renamed Barack Obama Road and the city’s Ngong Road, Michelle Obama Road. Also, top-class paintings should be done: Barack dressed in the regalia of legendary Luo warrior Luanda Magere, Michelle donning Giriama heroine Mekatilili wa Menza’s dress.

Statues of the calibre of Jomo Kenyatta, Tom Mboya, Prophetess Syokimau, Muindi Mbingu, Dedan Kimathi, Paul Ngei and Mulu Mutisya’s should be erected in their honour.

President Obama still has a very distinguished place in American, world and Kenyan history, something I feel we Kenyans are not doing enough to recognise and appreciate.

Michael Mundia Kamau,Nairobi.

Mitigate recurring drought and floods

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Drought is a creeping natural hazard that varies every other year in its intensity, duration and spatial distribution. Unfortunately, after food imports more than doubled from Sh114.56 billion in 2016 to Sh245.28 billion last year, the country is grappling with floods, whose damage extent and intensity is yet to be quantified.

Fresh in our minds is the 47 people who lost their lives in the Solai dam tragedy. Flood-related tragedies have occurred every four-and-a-half years, on average, since Independence, until the El-Nino-induced floods of 1997–98, which caused loss and damage of property valued at Sh15.14 billion. The previous seven episodes were not well-documented.

The El-Nino followed drought and came with a Rift Valley Fever epidemic that adversely affected livestock rearing.

The Kenya Red Cross said the floods caused 300 deaths and damage worth Sh2.36 billion to the agricultural sector.


Last year’s heavy floods in Kwale, Mombasa, Taita-Taveta and Garissa, among 13 counties, left 26 people dead and 24,803 others displaced. Also, a huge number of livestock was lost.

Floods cause land degradation, erosion of river banks and increase soil erosion with the consequent silting of dams, thus complicating the recovery due to the damage caused.

But while floods seem to have about the same prevalence as droughts, the latter affect many more people because the water supply is reduced, leading to crop and livestock losses and thus reducing the amount of food available and, consequently, the deterioration of human health due to undernutrition and malnutrition.

Conflicts between communities in search for water and pasture and wildlife also increase.

The scorching effect of droughts also leads to environmental degradation — desertification and bio-diversity loss. The droughts that have had a significant impact occurred in 1983/84, 1991/92, 1995/96, 1999/2000, 2004, 2005/6, 2009, 2011 and 2016/17.


The 1999-2001 drought was one of the country’s worst ever.

Affecting 4.4 million people, it killed nearly 60-70 per cent of the livestock in the arid and semi-arid areas and caused crop failure in most parts of the Rift Valley, coastal, eastern and central regions. Last year, 23 of the 47 counties required food support.

Many areas contend with famine and/or floods every other year, partly due to scarcity and mismanagement of water resources, ignorance and lack of information. Human activities such as deforestation and conversion of rangelands into irrigated farms and farm husbandry practices, including overgrazing and pollution of land and water sources, contribute to increased frequency and intensity of the disasters. 

The coverage and impact have persisted, raising concerns over the effectiveness of the resilience measures put in place to mitigate them.


Their increasing incidence and severity in the past two decades require holistic policy interventions in terms of preparedness and measures to minimise their adverse effects.

First, we need to implement the existing floods and droughts prevention and mitigation strategies. This includes improving catchment areas by conserving and protecting the ecosystem so as to check surface run-off, improve on soil infiltration and enhance groundwater storage.

That is in addition to public awareness campaigns on water saving and harvesting technologies, adopting conservation agriculture to ensure the soil structure and composition is preserved, to name but a few.

These strategies should encompass public participation that facilitates natural resource stewardship. In addition, to improve their effectiveness, we need to strengthen the drought, floods and disaster management agencies to ensure that programmes and response efforts are carried out in an effective, efficient and customer-oriented manner.


Secondly, enhance collaboration among national, regional and global early warning systems, while developing homegrown information delivery systems that promote public understanding and preparedness for drought and floods.

That would improve early warning communication and awareness of the risks posed by floods and droughts and act as a driver towards prevention strategies. Improved delivery systems of the early warning communication would build trusted networks and improve the resilience of local communities.

Thirdly, create comprehensive financial instruments such as insurance to support mitigation and adaptation strategies.


Insurance can be used as a climate-smart strategy to reduce vulnerability to flood and drought risks. In Kenya, this strategy is being used to provide a safety net to communities, making it easy to cope with drought risks. An example is Takaful Insurance Africa in the drought-prone Wajir County.

The strategy can be rolled out to other drought- and flood-affected regions.

Kenya needs a new, innovative approach to fighting corruption

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Fighting corruption is like skinning the cat. There are many ways of arresting this cancer that threatens to destroy Kenya’s social and economic fabric.

The most widely adopted strategy includes creating multiple anti-corruption agencies — including investigators, prosecutors, economic crime courts and an asset recovery agency. But the anti-corruption chain continues to bloat but have little to show for the billions of shillings invested in them.

In declaring total war on corruption, President Uhuru Kenyatta is venting his frustration at a state machinery that has let loose public officials and cartels to rip off the economy through procurement fiddles.

The massive graft reported at the National Youth Service, National Cereals and Produce Board, National Land Commission and energy sector parastatals could just be a tip of the iceberg.


It’s an expression of the sickening scale to which anti-corruption agencies have failed — not for lack of resources but since they have turned the vice into a money-minting enterprise where suspects are milked dry.

While the President’s order on the vetting of all heads of government procurement is being executed, investigators should scrutinise the lifestyle of the suspects, and their families, to determine if they live within their means. Moreover, annual wealth declaration forms and tax returns should be used to verify their true and fair worth.

The government should consider other innovative ways. The first step should be to question the sanity of the offenders. It should be presumed that those stealing from the public coffers are abnormal; hence, they have no moral authority to hold office. Before prosecution, they should enjoy a few nights in a mental facility, where they should be thoroughly examined by psychiatrists.


Secondly, the government should engage a consortium of firms to conduct a forensic audit of all suspicious transactions.

That would validate or discredit graft reports from the Auditor-General, Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, Directorate of Public Prosecution and the other agencies. It might also expose the rot and weaknesses in the chain, setting the stage for reform or disbandment of the agencies that make no contribution to the graft war.

The audit would focus on the channels through which proceeds of corruption and money laundering are sanitised.

It would shed light on whether commercial banks, the Central Bank of Kenya and Financial Reporting Centre are complicit in the schemes or have discharged their mandates to stop suspicious transactions running through their systems.

Thirdly, the Integrated Financial Management Information System and the Public Procurement Oversight Authority — the two weakest links in the public procurement chain — need  urgent fixing.


Ifmis and PPOA were established at great cost as part of Public Financial Management reforms funded by development agencies and bilateral agencies to enhance transparency and accountability in public procurement and payments.

Instead of preventing fraud, they have been widely abused by cartels to control and manipulate public contracts.

An in-depth audit of the two systems should establish why they are prone to attacks by ‘tenderpreneurs’, who continue to loot government coffers with impunity.


It should establish whether there are deliberate loopholes designed to compromise the system and create opportunities for looting or if systemic weaknesses are to blame for the leakages.

Finally, fighting corruption should start with easy quick wins or low-hanging fruits. A public inquiry on corruption might produce amazing results. The people sometimes have fertile insights into who owns what in their neighbourhood and the evolution of the lifestyle of officials and their families.

Such leads are critical to mapping the behaviour and tracing the assets of graft networks.

NYS best bet to end culture of funds theft

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As detectives investigate various individuals accused of corruption, we need to relook at ourselves and our moral compass as Kenyans. 

An average youth, shows a recent survey by the East African Institute, would not think twice about evading tax or taking a bribe as long as they do not end up in jail. About 35 per cent of the respondents said they would readily give or take a bribe. How unfortunate! 

The feeling has been emboldened by recent revelations of multi-billion-shilling scandals.

At the National Youth Service, undeserving individuals were paid millions of shillings at the expense of genuine suppliers; at the National Cereals and Produce Board, unscrupulous traders locked out poor farmers who were meant to deliver their maize; and at Kenya Power, employees awarded tenders to their or relatives’ firms. 


While the grand theft of taxpayers’ money should worry us, the feeling among the youth that it is okay to be corrupt and the belief that corruption might be the easiest path to riches is even more worrying. 

It is extremely important for those who have been caught stealing from the public to be brought to book, and fast, but it is equally critical that we deter the future generation from thinking that it is okay to steal. 

And that is where the National Youth Service (NYS), formed in 1964, comes in. The service was meant to equip Kenyan youth with the requisite skills before they were let out to live their lives. It instilled in them discipline, a sense of duty and, above all, patriotism.

It was an idea that, sadly, ground to a halt in the 1980s. We abandoned the route we had taken to shape our youth into, at the very least, appreciating the meaning of hard work. 

The NYS had hope of a revival when, in July 18, 2013, the Senate unanimously passed a Bill by then-Nominated Senator Beatrice Elachi (now Nairobi City County Speaker) to re-introduce compulsory national youth service training in Kenya. 

We should go back there. If we do not take charge of shaping the way our young people view an honest day’s work, we will be bringing up a generation of crooks — one that genuinely believes it is okay to steal.

By hiving off the sharpest trainers and best aspects of the disciplined forces, we can pool resources for compulsory one-year training for university- and college-bound students. While they will not necessarily end up as soldiers, they will be taught honour, discipline and the sense of duty and hard work.


It has been done successfully elsewhere, with Israel being the best example. Ordinarily, all Israeli youth undergo military training. Those between 18-21 who choose not to go through the national youth service, working 30-40 hours a week over 12-24 months.

They are taken through nursing, caring for the elderly, rehabilitation of drug users and public administration, among others — critical life skills that come in handy all their life.

There has been similar success and consistency with the National Youth Service Corps in Nigeria and, closer to home, Rwanda’s Ingando (from kugandika — Kinyarwanda for going to stay in a place far from one’s home, often with a group, for a specific reason).


Participants are taken far from their homes to live with people in those areas, which instils in them the love for others, understanding their culture and, most importantly, promotes religious and national cohesion.  

And while an NYS or paramilitary training will help to instil discipline and a sense of hard work in Kenyans, it is only the beginning. The corrupt must be punished severely to act as a deterrent to the culture. 

That is why the stand taken by President Uhuru Kenyatta is commendable. The political will that he has shown will go a long way in tackling corruption in the most effective way — teaching Kenyan youth that it does not pay to steal or be corrupt.

Little hope of ending graft, chat in a WhatsApp group indicates

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Kenyans seem to have finally snapped, and are very angry with all the horror stories about corruption. This anger is not new; it has marked Kenya’s whole post-Independence life. Its corruption has become folklore at home and around East Africa, but it’s not the only one afflicted in this neighbourhood; it’s probably as bad as in Uganda. Not to mention Burundi.

Because of the current fury, it’s time to ask a rather a banal but difficult question: “Will Kenya, and indeed the other graft-plagued African countries, put an end to corruption any day soon?” I decided to have a WhatsApp chat with a cross-section of East African friends — in the knowledge that the conversation would form the basis of the article but they wouldn’t be identified.

I picked the more unconventional arguments: First, there was a strong view that corruption has a long prosperous future, but not because out-of-control greedy political leaders, civil servants and bureaucrats are in charge.


The first main argument for that was that in Kenya, as in other African countries, no government is really ever elected on an anti-corruption platform.

Sure, parties and political leaders throw in the corruption fight among the laundry list of the ills they will cure if they win but it’s never the reason they are elected.

We elect our leaders for identity, regional, historical and other reasons but not because they will slay the corruption dragon.

President Uhuru Kenyatta is furious and has vowed to hammer the corrupt, and we have seen some arrests, but there was doubt that we will have a sea change.

That will not be because he didn’t try hard enough but because voters never elected him to fight corruption. He has no mandate to do it.


Related to that was a strong view that stemming corruption is incidental. One member quoted a rogue friend who once said he didn’t marry his wife in order to have children. He married her because he loved her and wanted to spend his life with her, and the children were incidental.

Fighting corruption is a bit like that, he offered.

To appreciate that, Rwanda, the most honest nation in East Africa, and among the best in Africa when it comes to having a clean nose, came up. Small, and without resources, in the immediate post-genocide period there was no way the little there was could be put to save the country if it was also stolen.


But the most pressing anti-corruption force was the weight of history, we learnt. The largely minority Tutsi-dominated Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) had won a war to give Rwandan refugees back their statehood. The genocide was partly the result of a deadly weaponisation of the resentment of old Tutsi rule, which had been overthrown in the bloody “revolution” of 1959, and a conflict over limited land resources at a time of economic crisis and an attempt to award the regime supporters corruptly.

The legitimacy of the RPF could never have been established without it disavowing the corrupt privileges of the past Tutsi elite, and it would not have built a new social compact without a level of transparency that demonstrates it. It led to things that might seem “small” elsewhere but hugely important domestically — like publishing the list of all students who get state scholarships to study abroad.

But these are not anti-corruption actions, the argument went, but political legitimacy and existential measures.


For all the anger, corruption has not yet become a politically and socially perilous issue in Kenya, although things are changing. Most voters will still elect ‘their thief’ rather than an honest “foreigner”. Until then, even the current anti-graft insurrection will pass.

The other issue with corruption in Africa has to do with the “reward of nationhood”, which arises from having been colonised and, therefore, becoming independent, it was said. For the immediate post-independent generation, the matter of “getting back our things” was settled by distributing the colonial spoils — mzungu businesses through “Africanisation” programmes; thousands of jobs vacated by colonial officials; land; and other goods.


But those are long gone and finished. However, every generation that comes along still wants its cut of the fruits of nationhood, and they are entitled to it. What is left for them are tenders, contracts and taxpayers’ money.

Our countries were founded on distributing the goods from colonial usurpers. It will require history to disappear, or for most countries in Africa to collapse in a corruption-fuelled crisis, for a new anti-corruption national construct to emerge. Even then, look at Somalia or DR Congo. Even past their crises, they are probably more corrupt. I tell you, there was little hope for a corruption-free future.

 Mr Onyango-Obbo is the publisher of Africa data journalism site and explainer Twitter: @cobbo3