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Wednesday, June 13th, 2018


Idd holiday should not be an ambush

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The Islamic calendar is quite different from the conventional Gregorian one. Islamic months either end with 29 or 30 days, depending on the sighting of the moon.

This has been a challenge when it comes to the declaration of Islamic holidays, especially where Muslims are a minority.

Many Kenyans — both Muslims and non-Muslims — continue to face questions of knowing the exact day of the Idd-ul-Fitr public holiday.

It has been a common trend to have the official Idd holiday being gazetted a few days before the end of Ramadhan.

The delay has led to serious inconveniences to not only Muslims but even non-Muslims. With the sudden announcements, the calendars of the government and the private sector are mired in confusion as key events and meetings are abruptly cancelled.

School examination timetables are also affected due to the ad hoc announcement. If a prior alert was given, such situations would not have occurred.

With proper arrangements in place, Kenyans would know the exact day of the Idd public holiday three weeks before the end of Ramadhan.


According to the Public Holidays Act, Idd-ul-Fitr is marked on the 31st day after the beginning of Ramadhan.

Based on a simple arithmetic, within the first two days of fasting, the Chief Kadhi is in a position to know the exact day for Idd-ul-Fitr, giving him enough time to coordinate with the government in the declaration of the public holiday.

This can easily be done, and it is just a matter of proper and early coordination between the authorities and the Chief Kadhi. The approach, if adopted by both the Chief Kadhi and the government, will make the Idd holiday enjoyable and free from any inconvenience for both Muslims and non-Muslims.

The government also need to pay attention to the persistent calls from Muslims to have the Idd-ul-Adha holiday declared a national public holiday.

Unlike the Idd-ul-Fitr holiday, Idd-ul-Adha — the other most important religious festival for Muslims, which is marked at the end of the Hajj pilgrimage — is recognised in the Act as a public holiday “only for Muslims”.


This procedure does not serve Muslims well. For the lucky employees, they are forced to attend Idd prayers and rush back to the workplace while, for others, they have to sacrifice their religious obligations and report to work. Students sitting exams are compelled to forgo the all-important Idd prayers if they have a test that day.

For the first time in the country, the event was declared a public holiday in 2007 by former President Mwai Kibaki with a promise that this will be followed up with a national public holiday. This was not to be.

Last year, the late Interior Cabinet Secretary, Joseph Nkaissery, warmed the hearts of Muslims when he also declared the event a public holiday and the expectations that this would be a step forward in the eventual promulgation of Idd-ul-Adha as a public holiday have since waned.


Muslims form a significant population in the country and it is imperative that the government follows up on this matter and grants Muslims an additional day to allow the faithful to observe and share the joys and happiness of Idd with their families, non-Muslim neighbours and compatriots.

In the eastern African region, it is only Kenya which is yet to recognise this event — the most important day in the Muslim calendar — and it should not be a laborious task for the government to declare Idd-ul-Adha a national public holiday.

Plastic cement bag ban critical to development of Blue Economy

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The World Oceans Day was marked last week with a grim reminder that the war on plastics is far from over.

More than eight million tonnes of plastic enter the seas each year, according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), choking marine life and threatening human survival. An estimated 99 per cent of seabirds would have ingested plastic by mid-century, the UNEP says on its website.

The alarming sickness of the seas should rally the most powerful world leaders to more avidly control the production and use of plastics in their territories.

At the G7 summit in Canada last week, President Uhuru Kenyatta urged the leaders to lead in controlling plastics and saving marine life — whose existence is at risk from plastics washed away from dumpsites to the oceans.


The President’s message is clear: The largest producers and consumers of plastics should invest more in removing the toxic plastic waste from the global marketplace and cleaning up the seas. The most powerful nations should lead from the front to save the world from being suffocated to early ruin.

The world produces over 300 million tonnes of plastic yearly and most of it isn’t recycled. China accounts for 25 per cent of the global output, the rest of Asia 21 per cent, Europe 23 per cent and North America 19 per cent. The Middle East, Africa and Central and South Africa are small producers, contributing just 12 per cent combined.

For Kenya, the greatest challenge is to fight plastics with passion to free space for sustainable development of the Blue Economy.

Developing marine resources holds great potential for expanding output, diversifying the economy and creating jobs, particularly at the Coast.


Emerging investment opportunities in the Blue Economy would strengthen food security and new manufacturing activities, supporting the President’s ‘Big Four’ agenda for economic transformation.

The war involves clamping down on plastic suppliers and users, replacing them with producers of environmentally friendly paper and other non-plastic products.

Used cement bags
The ban on plastic carrier bags last August reduced one of the greatest threats to Kenya’s Green and Blue economies. Production of plastics fell by 21.8 per cent last year, shows the ‘Economic Survey 2018’ by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS).

It was striking how quickly the market converted and shoppers changed their attitude to embrace the wide choice of alternative bio-degradable and reusable carrier bags.

The other major threat comes from used cement bags that are washed through the rivers to the Indian Ocean and the inland lakes.

Kenya produces over six million tonnes of cement a year, according to the KNBS. Most of the cement for retail sales is packaged in non-degradable woven polypropylene bags.

Since cement is packed in 50 kilogramme bags, the potential threat to the environment is over 120 million used bags discarded and washed away from domestic and commercial construction sites. A few million more bags are imported; hence, over 150 million bags littering the country annually.

The government should firmly restrict the use of such bags and encourage cement producers to use biodegradable ones.

It should support manufacturers of eco-friendly bags to scale up their production to fill the gaps created by the plastic ban. Plastic manufacturers should be encouraged to convert their production processes.


Developing strategic options for manufacturers and consumers would deepen Kenya’s resolve to tame the plastic menace and create eco-friendly opportunities for growth. Kenya should also demonstrate its leadership in mobilising other African countries to support the global war on plastics.

The proposed Blue Economy summit in November would present a great opportunity for Kenya to showcase its progress in reducing plastics.

It should also focus on practical solutions for reducing the economy’s dependence on toxic industries and expanding opportunities for cleaner production.

Enjoy the Fifa World Cup football party!

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The Fifa World Cup, the world’s most popular sporting show, gets under way on Thursday in Moscow.

Host nation Russia play Saudi Arabia in the opening match of the tournament and, over the next 32 days, football fans will be treated to 64 high-octane matches played in 12 stadiums spread across 11 Russian cities.

The stakes are high with bragging rights, the trophy, national pride as well as personal ambitions in focus.

But the tournament is not just about prestige, honour and immortality on the pitch. It’s also about money.

According to world football governing body Fifa, the total prize money this year stands at Sh79.1 billion, of which Sh4 billion will be distributed to the 32 competing teams, depending on performance and placement.


The rest of the amount will be handed out as part of preparations for the tournament, benefits to players’ parent clubs and compensation to clubs that lose their players due to injury.

The World Cup winners will take home an eye-watering figure of Sh3.8 billion, an increase on the Sh3.5 billion paid out to Germany after winning the 2014 tournament in Brazil.

The Russian cities of Moscow, Sochi, Saint Petersburg, Kaliningrad, Nizhny Novgorod, Kazan, Saransk, Samara, Volgograd and Rostov-On-Don will host the quadrennial tournament with Moscow’s iconic Luzhniki Stadium the venue of the opening ceremony and today’s opening match, as well as the final game and the closing ceremony on July 15.

The 12 venues for the tournament include the 81,000-seater Luzhniki Stadium, Saint Petersburg (67,000), Fisht Stadium (48,000), Ekaterinburg Arena (45,000), Kazan Arena (45,000), Nizhny Novgorod (45,000) and Rostov Arena (45,000). The others are Samara Arena (45,000), Mordovia Arena (45,000), Volgograd Stadium (45,000), Spartak Stadium (42,000) and Aliningrad Stadium (32, 212).

Some 36 referees will officiate in the tournament with the help of 63 assistant referees.

Nigeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco and Senegal will fly Africa’s flag in Russia. Egypt, the most successful team in the continent, having won the Africa Cup of Nations a record seven times, returns to the World Cup after a 28-year hiatus.

Sadly, Kenya will have to continue the wait to see action at the World Cup as our football is still in the ‘intensive care unit’ and in need of a major overhaul to keep up with the top nations.

Nonetheless, Kenyans will share in this festival with NTV offering free-to-air live broadcasts of 32 of the tournament’s 64 matches over the month-long extravaganza, in partnership with Kwese Free Sports.

Sport — especially the world’s most popular game of football — plays a huge role in unifying nations.

For instance, Wednesday’s victory of the joint Canada-USA-Mexico bid for hosting rights of the 2026 World Cup finals will play a major role in easing the diplomatic tensions between the three North American nations.

Such is the power of sport and, despite the fact that Kenya’s Harambee Stars will be missing out in Russia, we should take this opportunity to share in the joy of the World Cup.

Meanwhile, with video halls and public spaces across Kenya being converted into World Cup viewing centres for the next month, there is every need to exercise extra caution and intensify security during this exciting period.

This is especially as safety issues are of great concern not just in Kenya but globally, going by recent incidents at places of mass public gatherings.

Further, we should enjoy the matches with a fair share of decorum and tolerance, even when teams we shall be supporting are on the receiving end of not-too-flattering scorelines. Emotions must be kept in check because, after all, it’s just a game, and winning or losing shouldn’t drive a wedge among us.

Our football managers and players alike should take time to learn what it takes to be among the world’s best by keenly following the proceedings in Russia.

We must aim at making an appearance at the next World Cup in Qatar in 2022, which is possible only with prudent management, proper planning and prudent benchmarking.

While it would be our joy to see an African nation lift the coveted golden trophy for the first time ever, we wish all the 32 competing nations well. May the best team win!

The World Cup is here, arise Africa's brave 'sports tribes'

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The 2018 football World Cup is upon us. If you are a hostile alien, the World Cup is, perhaps, the best time to invade Earth.

In 2014, when the tournament was held in Brazil, it’s estimated that 3.5 billion people — nearly half of humans on the planet at that time — watched it.

This year, there will be five African countries in the World Cup: Senegal, Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria and Tunisia.

We have come a long way from 1934, when Egypt became the first African country to participate in the World Cup. And 1934 is, therefore, a good date to try and explore how Africa has changed through the World Cup.

That was the time before live broadcast, of course. However, although there are people who are alive in Africa today when the World Cup was played that year, there was absolutely no chance they would have got to watch even a story about it months later.


That’s because there wasn’t a single TV station in Africa then. The first television service was to be introduced in Morocco 20 years later, in 1954. And Egypt itself had to wait until 1960.

The most interesting World Cup stuff in Africa started happening after the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 and the end of the Cold War a year later.

Africa entered a new wave of political and economic liberalisation that led to the freeing of the airwaves.

So, until the 1994 World Cup, and even then in less than a handful of cases, everyone who watched the tournament live in Africa did so on State-owned TV!

In fact, the first time a reasonably large number of Africans watched the World Cup on a private TV channel was in 1998, when it was held in France.

In that sense, how we watch the World Cup in Africa is also a separate history of our relationship with our governments, their power to mediate our television (and cultural) experience and how that, in turn, has changed.


An 18-year-old African child from a well-to-do middle class family that has a pay TV subscription that brings him all his football games is, perhaps, most different from his father in his World Cup viewing experience.

But all this would have turned out differently without another political development — the beginning of the end apartheid in South Africa in 1990, with the release of Nelson Mandela after his 27-year spell in prison.

That, and Mandela’s election as president in 1994, led to the South African companies spreading out into once-forbidden territories, and that is how pay TV first arrived in virtually all of Sub-Saharan Africa, via MultiChoice’s DStv.

MultiChoice was really the end of State TV’s control of the World Cup and the further liberalisation of the broadcast space and emergence of a multitude of independent channels the last nail in its coffin.


However, MultiChoice led to something that has become a defining feature of sports consumption in Africa; the rise of the sports pub. For many years, sports, and especially the World Cup and European club football, became sweetest when watched with a horde of other football fanatics in these sports pubs.

That was partly because sports clubs allowed the entrenchment of what you might call “sports tribes” (Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal fans) and also became a platform for them to gather in ritual.

In addition, sports pubs became an important sports Roman-style arena, where the sports tribes gathered to go to war as they do victimless battle by taunting one another.

So, here we are today. Watching the World Cup in Africa is an experience that even a fiction writer with the most fertile imagination would not have conjured up just 35 years ago.


It’s a change, as we have noted, driven by global and particular continental politics — the end of the Cold War, and the social and economic changes it brought — and the demise of apartheid.

And there is something else. Africa’s representatives highlight yet again the absence of southern and eastern Africa and the Horn.

It is a divide that wiser men and women will, hopefully, study and explain to us. But every World Cup reminds us that West and North Africa are much better at collective/team sports like football and basketball.

Southern Africa excels at short distance races (plus jumping) and East and Horn of Africa rule the world when it comes to long-distance running — all of them involving a lone hero persevering against a chasing field and breaking the tape at the finish in dramatic fashion.

The beauty with the World Cup in Africa, then, is the things it says about us that have totally nothing to do with football. We shall continue this conversation in the days ahead.

Mr Onyango-Obbo is publisher of and explainer Twitter: @cobbo3 

Top Nandi County officials take cover as EACC cracks the whip

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Senior Nandi County government officials have gone underground as the anti-corruption watchdog intensifies crack-down on alleged misappropriation of billions of shillings for the last five years.

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) has pitched camp in the county for the last three days hunting for current and former officials linked to the loss of the funds through irregular road contracts and illegal tenders and procurements.


The investigators carried out major search in the homes of the officials in Nandi, Uasin Gishu, Trans Nzoia and Vihiga counties and confiscated vital documents including title deeds, electronic machines, tender and procurement documents among other personal items.

Nandi County Police Commandant Patrick Wambani confirmed that the EACC team had sought their help in tracing some of the suspects implicated in fleecing public funds.


“Some police officers were assigned to offer security for the EACC officials during their search in homes of the suspects,” said Mr Wambani.

The EACC sleuths visited the three residents of former Governor Dr Cleophas Lagat in the crack-down where the devolved unit is suspected to have lost billions of shillings between 2014 and 2018.

Politicians fighting for “our man” in graft war ought to be investigated

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The fight against corruption and embezzlement of public funds is indeed bearing fruit. We might have not witnessed convictions yet but the fact that people high in the political ladder have started fidgeting is a clear indication that the heat generated from the effort is being felt in the right places.

About a week ago, politicians associated with Deputy President William Ruto were reported to have raised concerns that the ongoing onslaught against graft was targeting their man. This despite the fact the DP had earlier categorically voiced support for what the Executive he is second in command of was doing to find and recover and safeguard public property. When individuals in positions of leadership start to point fingers and attempt to taint a process that is obviously in public interest, it puts in doubt their express motive. But in the case of the current campaign, it is an indication that the process is on course.

Another interesting part of the supposed defense of the Deputy President against supposed witch hunt is the failure by its advocates to deny that the crime was committed but rather that it seems to target a section of the leadership.

What the leaders in question are suggesting, and they said as much, is that the whole graft war is planned and executed just to frustrate the Deputy President’s plans to inherit President Uhuru Kenyatta’s seat in 2022. In essence, the leaders are saying, the Deputy President lied to the nation when he said that he and the President are working together to arrest the run-away corruption.  The self-declared Ruto allies are telling the public that the DP is not committed to his boss’s declaration of war against graft and he suspects the President is fighting him. And that does not augur well for the leadership of the country.

There’s hope though. The men quoted by the press could possibly be using the Deputy President’s name to fight their own wars.


When the first scandal was made public, everyone seemed to be in agreement that “no stone should be left unturned to bring the perpetrators to book.”  Until now, no politician from whichever faction has come out to deny or defend the accused in the National Youth Service scandal. The scandal involves the misappropriation or loss of Sh9 billion and already some 43 people are in court for it. It seems the suspects in this one do not have political representatives!

Then came the maize scandal at the National Cereals and Produce Board, the oil scandal at the Kenya Pipeline Company, the Kenya Power and the Kenya Electricity Transmission Company and suddenly the leaders came out of the cocoons with the our-man-is-being-targeted song.


But the Deputy President does not head these organisations. There is no apparent evidence that he did business with the firms under investigation. There can only be one assumption: that the people complaining he is being targeted are direct beneficiaries of the suspected malpractice and fear the investigation will reach them and the invocation of the DP is a way of diverting attention. One may be forgiven to think, like Jubilee Party’s Vice Chairman David Murathe, that the guilty are always afraid. Director of Criminal Investigations George Kinoti might consider checking out the source of the noise as he continues with his search for culprits.

On the flipside, other than the lopsided view of selective defense, the tantrums also seem to confirm that appointments to some public offices in this country seem to follow a trend of some partisan, and not necessarily party, lines. Such than when the office holders are called out for something gone wrong, it is interpreted that it is the godfather who is being targeted.


And the reports also brought something else which sounded unintended but which could help the investigations. The leaders were reported to have threatened to spill the beans on others in the system they know are also culpable for corruption. A weekend paper reported that “Those who feel aggrieved said if the trend continued, they too will be forced to come out to say what they know about corruption in high places.” The leaders should not wait for “the trend to continue”! Unless they are admitting culpability, they should furnish the investigating agencies with that information to hasten the process of arresting corruption.

It seems there was a conspiracy to loot the State and now those nabbed in the web are threatening to reveal the identities of their accomplices if they are not set free. Here too, the DCI and the Director of Public Prosecutions may consider digging.

All said, the future and present of the country is tied on the success of the ongoing purge against official graft and nothing should be allowed to stand in the way. The stakes are too high for politics and the tribe. 

Solai dam probe and restoration on course

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The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has said that the Nakuru county government and the National Environmental Management Agency (Nema) are investigating the Solai Dam tragedy, even as Governor Lee Kinyanjui on Wednesday launched a committee to spearhead the restoration of Solai.

Sources at the prosecutor’s office told the Nation on Wednesday that the DPP, Noordin Haji, had written to the Nakuru County Criminal Investigation Officer asking for statements from the two agencies on the matter, giving them seven days to comply otherwise they would face the full force of the law.


Nema is supposed to shed light on whether an environmental and impact assessment on the Patel dam was carried out according to the law that governs such big construction projects, while the Nakuru County government is expected to clarify whether the dam was ever inspected and approved by county officials in line with the County Development Plans.

“Other agencies have already submitted their statements and the only thing holding up the investigations is the refusal by Nema and Nakuru County government to comply. If they will not have appeared before the CCIO to record statements within seven days, they will be arrested,” said the sources.

The Patel dam located inside a farm owned by tycoon Mansukhlal Patel burst its banks over a month ago, killing 47 and displacing hundreds of families.


Mr Kinyanjui said that he was not aware of delays into the investigation occasioned by his office, but that he would do everything to ensure that county officials cooperate to bring a speedy resolution into the matter.

“The most important thing is that the people of Solai get justice and get the necessary help to rebuild their lives, and I will ensure that this happens as soon as possible,” he said.

Governor Kinyanjui who spoke at the scene of the tragedy in Solai was accompanied by Rift Valley regional coordinator Mongo Chimwaga, Nakuru County Commissioner Joshua Nkanatha and Subukia Member of Parliament Samuel Kinuthia Gachobe.


The leaders yesterday visited the scene of the accident where they assured the victims that the national and county governments will not abandon them, but will support them rebuild their lives.

The county boss yesterday warned people who may want to take advantage of the tragedy to enrich themselves, saying they will be dealt with accordingly by the government.

“Through the DC we shall have representatives who will help us resettle the victims,” said Mr Kinyanjui.

Investigations into the killer dam have been marred by delays, with the DPP sending back preliminary reports to the concerned detectives for crucial information.


A report released two weeks ago by the Ministry of Interior stated that the walls of the dam had already been compromised and had started showing cracks way before the heavy rains started and compounded the matter, placing blame squarely on the owners who failed to enforce the dam even after its walls started failing.

“There was clear evidence the earth wall of the dam had started failing much earlier yet no attempt was made to rectify the situation,” the report says.

This contradicts a statement made in the wake of the tragedy by a senior manager at the farm, Vinod Jayakumar, claiming that the dam had burst its banks due to the heavy rains.

Reporting by Jacqueline Kubania, Magdalene Wanja and Peter Mburu

Why cactus is a thorn in the flesh of Laikipia villagers

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In a parched swathe of land in a corner of Laikipia County, the Samburu are caught up in an epic battle with the cactus that is laying waste to thousands of acres of these rangelands.

The plant, which locals say was introduced by the colonial farmers as an ornamental plant, has now colonised much of their land, and has become a major thorn in their flesh.

To them the cactus is a killer. It has brought misery to the Naibunga Community Conservancy in Laikipia North as it also kills their livestock – their source of livelihood. Elephants, too, have not been spared.


In fact, it is the second biggest elephant killer in the north after poaching and it thrives in the dry seasons.

The conservancy’s chairman, Mr Masambai Ole Metiaki, said the ruthless plant has claimed huge chunks of land of the pastoralists grazing land.

The community has lost about 500 goats in the last one year and others have been left toothless after feeding on the plant.

“It has taken all our land since it started growing here. We have lost livestock to this menace,” he says.

Mr Peter Mashami, explains how the plant hits them locals that livestock and wild herbivores like the elephant are lured to the plant by its seemingly juicy pods.

However as the animals munch away on the pods, the poisonous thorns prick or get stuck between their teeth causing them to rot. With time the teeth fall off and the animals cannot feed. They simply waste away and die.


However, there is now light in the horizon, thanks to a small cochineal insect (Dactylopius coccus) that is proving to be a match for the cactus.

The cochineal feeds exclusively on the plant, sucking the water in its succulent parts causing the plant to wilt and decay.

The community is now breeding the insects in greenhouses.

So far nine greenhouses have been set up in different community ranches within Naibunga Conservancy.

“Although it might take time to eradicate the plant, we are happy for the gradual change which is taking place now. “The insect is feeding on the plant and from where we have done experiment it is a successful idea “ says Mr Joseph Putunoi of the Northern Rangelands Trust.

Serengeti voted Africa's best safari park

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Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park is Africa’s best safari park because of to the sheer numbers, variety of wildlife, abundance of predators and spectacular wildebeest migration.

According to the latest ratings by safari travellers and African travel experts, Serengeti National Park polled 4.9 out of 5, emerging the winner.

In second place was the privately owned Mala Mala Game Reserve in South Africa, renowned for its excellent wildlife viewing, luxurious accommodation, and top-class guiding. It was closely followed by Zimbabwe’s pristine wilderness, Mana Pools National Park.

“This sublime park appeals to the adventurous, with canoeing a popular way to see the animals. The quality of the guides ensures wildlife watching is a joy. It is remarkable that Kenya, although having 10 parks in the top 50, has only the Maasai Mara National Reserve ranking in the top 10,” Mr Jeroen Beekwilder, co-owner of, said in a statement.

Tanzania continued dominating in tourism products, after three of its national parks emerged among the continent’s top 10.


The analysis based on more than 2,500 reviews, of which 1670 were contributed by safari-goers from 72 countries; another 860 were written by renowned industry experts.

Experts included guidebook authors from Lonely Planet, Rough Guides, Frommer’s, Bradt and Footprint. e-views from both first time and experienced safari-goers make up the results.

Trans-Nzoia County faces funds misuse allegations

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Trans-Nzoia County government is on the spot over alleged corruption in the health sector that has led to loss of millions of shillings.

Sections of the residents have consequently written to the Senate on alleged embezzlement of funds meant to improve health services.

In their petition, they claim that millions of funds allocated to the health sector have been siphoned by corrupt individuals in the county government.

“The county government has not been cooperative. This has led to delays in supplies and procurement,” said Mr Moses Zewedi one of the petitioners.


The petition dated June 6, 2018, was received by the clerk of Senate, Mr Jeremiah Nyegenye. It will be tabled before the Senate Committee of health.

The petitioners have appealed to the senate to order a forensic audit and physical counting of instruments and equipment at Mt Elgon Hospital.

They want the Senate to conduct an audit of all the finances allocated to the hospital against the authorised expenditures including the amount paid to doctors for services rendered.


“We also demand for an audit of all revenue collected from level four hospitals,” said the petitioners.

They also want the Senate to look into the construction of the county referral hospital to determine whether it meets the required standards.

The Senate is set to discuss the petition forward to the Health Committee for necessary action.