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Tuesday, July 3rd, 2018


At heart of Lamu town is Mkunguni Square, a peace haven

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Mkunguni Square in Lamu Old Town has become the oldest meeting point in the county for people from all walks of life.

The name ‘Mkunguni’ was inspired by the Mkungu tree which has existed in the area for centuries.

Mkunguni Square is part of the Lamu Fort Museum which was taken over by the National Museums of Kenya (NMK) in 1984.

The Lamu Fort’s construction started in 1813, shortly after Lamu’s victory over Pate and Mombasa in the battle of Shella and was completed in 1821.

Upon completion, the fort marked the southern end of the original stone town and served as a garrison for the Baluchi soldiers (from India) who were sent by the Sultan of Oman.


The protective presence of the fort encouraged new development around it and by 1900 it had become a social centre for the community, a role it still plays to date.

According to Lamu Cultural Promotional Group Chairman Ghalib Alwy, Mkunguni Square became a crucial meeting point almost over 100 years ago.

“In fact, it started functioning when our elders converged at the square to meet the Sultan Zahidi Ngumi who visited the region for the first time. Since then, it’s being used for similar purposes,” says Mr Alwy.

Mkunguni Square is situated right in the middle of the Lamu Old Town which was listed as a Unesco World Heritage site in 2001.

Visitors, who find it hard to manouvre the narrow streets of the town, use Mkunguni Square as the central meeting point.

Mr Charles Harrison, a tourist, says it is easier to meet at Mkunguni Square than anywhere else since the place is not very crowded and is in the middle of the town.

“It’s a cool place. I am new to this place but Mkunguni Square has been of great help since it’s where I have meeting my friends,” says Harrison.

Apart from Mkunguni Square and the Lamu Fort, the region also boats of a museum. The Lamu Museum is a cultural and architectural jewel on Lamu Island.

One of the reasons that led to its enlistment as UNESCO world heritage site is because of the town’s important religious functions that continue to be a significant centre for education in Islamic and Swahili culture.

Another reason was because the town’s historical architecture preserves the importance of human interactions, which have come together over hundreds of years, in a bid to create a distinct culture.


Lamu is also the best example of the growth and decline of East Africa’s seaports, a reason which also contributed to its enlistment as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Lamu Consists of over 40 individual towns or ‘mitaa’ with a main business street which is literally the town main street separating the old stone town from the comparatively recent 21th century seafront.

Mr Charles Harrison, a tourist says it’s easier to meet at Mkunguni Square than anywhere else since the place is less crowed and with the fact that it’s right at the middle of the old town.

“It’s a cool place. It’s at the middle of the Old Town. I am new to this place but Mkunguni Square has been of great assistance since it’s where I have been using to meet my friends since I came. It’s not easy to get lost after mastering the location of the Mkunguni Square,” says Harrison.

Apart from the Mkunguni Square and the Lamu Fort, the region also boats itself for having a museum-The Lamu Museum.


The Lamu museum is a magnificent multicultural architectural jewel on Lamu Island.

The museum was built in the 19th century and served as the Li-Walis (Governor) and later the District Commissioner’s residence.

The building earned its current status in 1971 as a museum and hosts one of the best Ethnographic collections in the region.

The museum now counts as one of the most promising historical attractions of the Lamu Archipelago.

The museum has priceless exhibits depicting the life and history of the town and the surrounding Swahili towns.

Lamu also boasts itself of having various historical attraction sites.


Among them is the Takwa Ruins located on Manda Island and covering nearly twelve acres, the ruins are the remains of a Swahili city that flourished between the 15th-17th century.

Once home to 2,500 people, the settlement was abandoned in the 17th century because sea water contaminated the city’s wells.

It was originally home to the ancestors of the people of Shella.

Takwa is situated at the end of a tidal channel which flows through the mangroves at the foot of the dunes and gives access to one of the most unique beaches. The site is maintained by the National Museums of Kenya since 1977.

Takwa includes the remains of mosques, tombs and over 100 lime and coral ruins. Another attraction site in Lamu is the Siyu Fort.

Siyu is the only town that built its own fort unlike Lamu and Mombasa where the forts were put up by foreigners.


Oral tradition indicates that this fort was put up by Siyu’s great leaders Bwana Mataka in the 19th century to safeguard Siyu residents from the Omani Arabs domination.

The fort, constructed by coral with a small mosque within it, was gazette in 1958 as a national monument.

Apart from the impressive fort, Siyu is host to the remains of magnificent tombs and mosques while the present village is still known for its well established leather craft and wood carving cottage industries.

Nakuru’s cemetery crisis worsens

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A cemetery is supposed to be the final resting place for the dead. However, many bodies in Nakuru cemeteries are no longer resting in peace.

Burial space within key cemeteries, especially in Nakuru and Njoro towns, is running out and desperate measures are being taken to accommodate fresh bodies. These include recycling of graves, digging fresh ones on footpaths within the graveyards and along perimeter fences.

A spot-check at the Njoro cemetery revealed that getting fresh space was a big challenge. The Nation established that new graves are being dug beside others, on footpaths or on top of old ones and along perimeter fences.

“Grave diggers are abusing the rights of the dead. The dead can no longer rest in peace,” said Mary Wanjiku, a resident of Njoro town.

The scenario is replicated at the Nakuru North Cemetery where old graves are being recycled to accommodate fresh ones.


“The Nakuru North and Njoro cemeteries in Nakuru town are full and the rest have very little space but they still receive bodies. There is nothing we can do rather than invent new ways of using the available space,” said a grave digger at the Nakuru North Cemetery.

The main cemeteries in the region were declared full by county health officials over a decade ago.

Limited space is left in Nakuru South and Gilgil cemeteries, making the county stare at a possible burial crisis.

A worker digs a fresh grave on a pavement atA worker digs a fresh grave on a pavement at the Nakuru North Cemetery in Nakuru on June 5, 2015. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Njoro residents are the most affected as their cemetery was declared full while still under the management of the defunct Nakuru County Council.

Since the advent of devolution in 2013, it has been challenging for the county government to get land for new public cemeteries.

In the 2014/2015 financial year, Sh84 million was set aside for purchase of a 20-acre alternative parcel of land for a public cemetery.

However, a majority of residents have been reluctant to sell land to accommodate a cemetery.

Traditional beliefs and taboos among Nakuru residents have been cited as a major frustration in search of new locations.

County Public Health Officer Samuel King’ori said it has been difficult for the county administration to secure new locations because of the resistance from locals who associate cemeteries with bad omens.

Previous attempts to acquire land in various places, including Rongai and Naivasha, failed as residents said the graveyards would lower the value of their land. Other challenges cited by the county health official include specifications required like topography and distance and the fact that the county government has to bury unclaimed bodies every year.


However, Governor Lee Kinyanjui says his administration is aware of the challenge and is determined to get alternative land for public cemeteries.

“We have identified land in Mau Mahiu where we intend to set aside about 25 acres for a public cemetery,” he said.

Already Sh10 million has been allocated in the 2018/2019 budget for cemeteries.

 Mariashoni MCA Douglas Ayabei faulted the Executive for reducing the money to purchase cemetery land to Sh45 million.

 “We need to prioritise the purchase of cemetery land because the current ones are full,” said Mr Ayabei at the county assembly.

Due to the shrinking space for burials, some health officials previously proposed that residents cremate the bodies of their loved ones. The idea, however, met a lot of resistance.

Former CS Michael Kamau fails to take plea in tender case

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Former Cabinet Secretary Michael Kamau on Tuesday declined to plead to charges of abuse of office, arguing that the case should be suspended pending the determination of an appeal to be heard by the Supreme Court.

Appearing before Chief Magistrate Douglas Ogoti, Mr Kamau said he and the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission and the Director of Public Prosecutions have moved to the Supreme Court over the matter.

Mr Kamau, through his lawyers James Orengo and Nelson Havi, maintains he was acquitted of the charges and bringing a fresh suit against him is an abuse of the court process.


Mr Orengo further told the court that the matter should await the decision of the Supreme Court, where it would be determined whether his client was acquitted or discharged.

Senior Principal Prosecution Counsel Fredrick Ashimosi confirmed to the court that the matter has already been certified urgent and parties are waiting for directions from the Deputy Registrar of the Supreme Court.

The former Roads CS was to plead to the charges on May 23 but he failed to appear, forcing the court to issue summons against him.

He is facing charges of abuse of office and failure to comply with guidelines relating to the management of public funds.

Two other suspects, Mr Mwangi Maingi (former Chief Engineer Roads) and Nicholas Ndungu (a former resident engineer), denied charges of abuse of office in connection to the redesigning of a road in Bungoma County.

The court heard that they arbitrarily authorised the redesigning of the Kamukuywa-Kaptama-Kapsokwony-Sirisia road in Bungoma county leading to the loss of Sh33 million. The charges stated that the design had been done by Engiconsult Consulting Engineers Ltd but the trio allegedly authorised its redesign, causing loss of Sh33,303,600.


The court heard that they committed the offence between July 15, 2007 and March 15, 2008.

Mr Maingi denied an additional charge of giving a misleading report. He allegedly wrote a memo on November 6, 2007 to the ministerial tender committee stating that the implementation of an MoU between the Roads ministry and Kundan Singh Construction Company had no cost implications.

Defending Pokots is our crime, Baringo leaders claim

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Outspoken politicians in Tiaty, Baringo County, say they live in fear of being killed for speaking against “ills meted on the Pokot”.

Some have been arrested before and prosecuted for incitement.

The latest to be abducted lived to tell the tale. Silale Ward Representative Nelson Lotela was found in Nakuru on Monday after missing for more than 10 hours.

Seven MPs  from West Pokot County on Tuesday gave Inspector-General of police Joseph Boinnet a week to arrest those who abducted Mr Lotela.

During a press briefing at Parliament buildings, Mr Samuel Moroto (Kapenguria), Ms Lilian Tomoitin (Woman Rep), Mr David Pkosing (Pokot South), Mr Mark Lomunokol (Kacheliba), Mr Perter Lochakapong and Mr Kamket said if the deadline passes, they will call for a rally and make their stand known “on how to defend our community”.


Senator Samuel Pogishio said the leaders “will no longer sit as insecurity grows worse in our county”.

The MPs said despite giving police all the information, including the registration number of the car the MCA was bundled in, no one has been arrested.

The MCA has, on many occasions, accused the government of failing to tame cattle rustling in Baringo.

During a recent peace run organised by Governor Stanley Kiptis’ wife Ivy in Loruk, Mr Lotela said the county security team is doing little to address the situation.

“I have given the county commissioner names of suspected rustlers but none has been arrested,” he said.

He has on many occasions been summoned by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations over insecurity.

In May 2017, Churo/Amaya MCA Thomas Minito disappeared. His body was retrieved from Oldonyo Sabuk River, Machakos County four days later.

Mr Minito was reportedly approached by three people at a Kabarnet hotel.

Before his disappearance, the MCA had appeared in a Nyahururu court to answer assault charges.


On Tuesday, Tiaty MP William Kamket blamed police officers for the abductions.

“The guns the abductors were carrying were similar to those used by the Recce squad,” he said.

Baringo County Commissioner Henry Wafula said investigations into the abduction of the MCA have been launched.

Additional reporting by Samwel Owino

With new boss, let’s see return of old NYS

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The National Youth Service has dominated news for the past four years because of endemic corruption.

It has become the poster signature of the bad and the ugly in government’s financial management.

First, the loss of Sh791 million in 2016, which claimed big names like the current Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru, then Cabinet Secretary in charge of youth affairs, was the clearest signal that the service had become the epicentre of rot and sleaze.

Currently, NYS is at the centre of Sh9 billion scandal and for which some 40-plus suspects have already been charged and awaiting full trial.

Largely, the organisation has become a bottomless pit and which must be fixed through radical measures.


Now, the government has appointed career administrator Matilda Sakwa to take charge at the service.

Ms Sakwa, who has been Machakos County Commissioner, has her work cut out. She must pull out all the stops and turn the organisation around. She must give it a new shine.

The point of conversation is not who becomes the director of NYS, but what steps are being taken to reform it.

What systems and structures are being introduced to ensure effective management? What is being done to seal the loopholes? What are the systems for financial management?

What is the scope of its involvement in national projects? We want to encourage action on these areas.

Past experience shows the organisation’s structures and processes are faulty. It receives inordinately huge sums of money but without defined budget plans. Projects are conceived and executed haphazardly and now, with the benefit of hindsight, it seems they are designed with ulterior motives.

On paper, NYS is conceived as an independent outfit that seeks to equip youngsters with practical skills to prepare them for gainful employment.

Its scope of operations is broad, ranging from construction to security. It is involved in several national projects and it has equipment and resources. However, the challenge is that the resources are never prudently managed.

It is remembered that in the late 1980s up to mid-1990s, NYS operated a fleet of buses in Nairobi and other towns to ease public transport but the project fell flat on its head due to outright theft, vandalism and mismanagement.


Those who presided over that grand rip-off were never punished. Since, it has tottered from scandal one to another. But this can change.

The new CEO has a chance to make a difference. She needs to get down quickly and institute radical changes to give the institution a new direction. And on this, she needs full support from the top.

We wish her well but call for structural and systemic transformation to revitalise this vital institution.

Vet private school levies

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Complaints by parents that private schools are overcharging them for educational trips raise a pertinent question about whether it is time to introduce some form of regulation in the management of private institutions.

According to a report in the Sunday Nation, parents accused private school managers of charging for trips impulsively instead of using standard principles based on distance and additional levies.

Although the Kenya Private Schools Heads Association has dismissed the claims, saying the institutions take into account many variables in coming up with the figures, which it describes as generally reasonable, there is clearly a case for robust debate about the extent to which schools can go in determining various charges.


While public schools operate under a stringent regulatory framework that ensures a sense of uniformity in the way they are run, private schools enjoy a more liberal environment that allows them to set their own rules as long as they stick to the curriculum and examination rules.

This obviously means that the management of private schools could be open to abuse, especially when it comes to charging for extra-curricular activities.


For a start, the schools should be magnanimous enough to involve parents in decisions involving charges outside tuition fees, especially because these are never declared in fees guidelines.
In the long term, however, the education authorities must determine if there is a need for closer supervision of private schools to protect parents from undue exploitation, the integrity of the tuition and the learners themselves.

US day reminds us of our strong ties

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On July 4, the United States celebrates the visionary courage of its Founders, who rejected tyranny and declared the 13 colonies they represented to be free.

We honour their Declaration of Independence and its affirmation that we are all created equal with Our Declaration began America’s long journey toward a more perfect union.

We have made great progress, but we are not there yet. Americans continue to debate difficult issues and strive to build a better nation.

We are still working to fulfill the promise of 1776.

In doing so, we hold true to the ideals and values of the Declaration, and our Constitution. Those ideals and values are universal, and we share them with Kenyans, whose Constitution makes the same promise of democracy and guarantees fundamental freedoms.


That Constitution was reaffirmed when, after a difficult election, Kenyan leaders shook hands, put their nation first and agreed to work together for a better future. We welcome their leadership and look forward to robust discussions and concrete progress.

We hope all Kenyans, including women, will have a voice in the process. When women have a seat at the table, they bring new ideas and perspectives to overcoming any country’s challenges.

Over my six years in Kenya, I have travelled far and wide in this extraordinary country and my travel always reminds me how much Americans have in common with Kenyans.

I have heard the hopes and dreams of teachers in West Pokot, healthcare workers in Mombasa, conservationists in Baringo, journalists in Kisumu, farmers in Migori and young people in Kwale.


Kenyans across this nation seek the rule of law, good governance, strong and effective democratic institutions and an end to tribal conflict.

They are looking for meaningful jobs, a clean environment, strong communities and education for their children. And they want corruption to stop.
Corruption is a cancer that is killing this country and the theft must end.

Every Kenyan should stand up and reject corruption completely. Kenyans can stop corruption if they work together and commit themselves to the principles of their Constitution and the rule of law. Kenya’s future can only be secured with good governance and a commitment to transparency.

As you strive to realise Kenya’s hopes and potential, Americans will continue to stand with you.

We have a deep and vibrant partnership spanning more than 50 years. We have worked, hand in hand, to improve security, strengthen health care, educate children, assist farmers, protect wildlife and create prosperity for all.


The ties that bind us are a tapestry of unmatched beauty. That tapestry includes more than 100,000 Kenyans living in the US and 30,000 Americans here.

It includes the hundreds of American companies that have created tens of thousands of good, well-paying jobs for Kenyans.

And it includes the top US business executives and government officials who came to Nairobi a week ago to deepen our trade and investment relations.

The delegation took part in an American Chamber of Commerce conference focused on the ‘Big Four’ and signed business deals worth more than Sh10 billion.

The visit culminated in the signing of a memorandum of understanding between our governments that offers new ways for US companies to support the ‘Big Four’ and infrastructure initiatives. The visit was another important step forward for our economic ties.


The tapestry also includes our work on healthcare. Together, we do research to end malaria, build cancer clinics, improve care for mothers and newborns and more. With Sh65 billion in annual government support alone, the US is the largest international investor in Kenya’s health sector.

As part of this, more than a million HIV-positive Kenyans receive life-saving antiretroviral therapy everyday, allowing them to live productive lives.

Another thread is our partnership to improve education for the next generation. Our joint reading programme, Tusome, puts books in English and Kiswahili in the hands of every early primary school child in Kenya.

In addition, our Generation programme with the private sector trains young Kenyans and helps them to get better jobs. In the next two years, we will assist 100,000 youth to find meaningful employment that allows them and their families to thrive.

Together, we are improving the lives of Kenyans and Americans everyday.

Mr Godec is the US Ambassador to Kenya.

On Independence Day, Trump struggles with US role in Africa

The core ideal of the Declaration of Independence that “All men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator to certain inalienable rights to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness” have inspired millions over the 242 years of the United States of America’s existence.

Kenya’s independence constitution was shaped by the first American Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. The United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights has borrowed extensively from the American constitution, specifically its Bill of Rights.

The idealism of the American Republic emphasises human rights and the State’s obligation to protect them.

That has shaped the US policy with Africa but, under President Donald Trump, they have been de-emphasised.


President Trump shaped his successful 2016 campaign around populism. His “America First” policy is in stark contrast to his predecessors, who had constructed US interests around either conservative power politics on the right or leftist neoliberal idealism.

This has left the Trump administration’s policy on Africa in an ideological limbo.

Major challenges centre on how to best articulate, define and pursue American interests in Africa. The resultant ideological chasm has been filled by an ad hoc approach to international issues facing the continent.

President Barack Obama advanced the idealist view that “Africa does not need strongmen; it needs strong institutions”. But Trump has taken a different view, advancing a policy grounded on more military support for authoritarian regimes in Africa.

He has doubled security-related aid to Africa to fight terrorist groups such as Al-Shabaab, Boko Haram and Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb.


That has helped to entrench the “strongmen” the Obama administration criticised for hampering the development of democratic institutions and abusing human rights in Africa.

Nigeria’s Muhammadu Buhari was the first African president to visit the Trump White House, which approved a $600 million weapons sale to his military, accused by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International of gross human rights violations.

US’s retreat from humanitarian aid to national security has severely strained the budgets of countries like Kenya, which hosts the largest refugee camp, Dadaab, with over half a million refugees.


The idealism of exporting neoliberal ideals under the Bill Clinton and Obama regimes has been replaced by America First; now the US finds itself alone and in conflict with African allies.

Trump has proposed a 40 per cent cut in support to international bodies, throwing into doubt humanitarian programmes in Africa.

The regime has removed itself from the UN Human Rights Council, absolving the US from leadership on human rights and contradicts America’s founding values around respect for human rights and individual liberties.

David O. Monda, New York, USA.

Don’t politicise lifestyle audit as that only ‘incriminates’ opposers

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The opposition to the lifestyle audit on public officers recently ordered by President Uhuru Kenyatta is a strategy to sabotage the well-intentioned war on corruption.

By framing the audit as a witchhunt, they want to make it so politically tainted that it becomes impossible to fairly and objectively carry it out.

The hitherto soft murmurs, especially from a section of Rift Valley MPs, have now become open grumbles with claims that the audit targets Deputy President William Ruto with the aim of blocking his 2022 presidential bid.

Never mind that the DP has voiced his support for the President’s directive and publicly affirmed that he will submit to the audit.

History has taught us that in Kenya, whenever you politicise an issue, especially by introducing the ethnic card, even the best of intentions are doomed to fail. The same script was used to sabotage the Mau Forest rehabilitation efforts.


Lifestyle audit is used to determine if a person’s lifestyle is consistent with their known income. It would target their property, business interests and credit history to look for a mismatch between one’s income and wealth status.

Organisations use it as a fraud detection and prevention tool. A sudden change in lifestyle could be indicative of fraud or illicit activities to generate wealth.

A while back, there was a case of a county finance minister with a Sh85,000 salary whose bank accounts had transacted more than Sh400 million in 11 months.

He also had a fleet of six vehicles, several houses in posh estates and prime pieces of land. But did his known income justify the lavish lifestyle?

Such a person, or anyone implicated in dubious financial gains, must submit to the audit.

Holding public office in Kenya is viewed as a quick route to personal enrichment. Ultimately, the wealth is used to ascend to political office — which becomes a self-perpetuating trend as corrupt leaders acquire more wealth to consolidate their political power.


This was previously restricted to the national government but, with the advent of devolution, we have seen overnight millionaires in the counties.

There must be a reasonable explanation regarding a sudden increase in noticeable wealth.

Towards the end of his first term, President Kenyatta shocked the nation with his helpless “Mnataka nifanye nini? (What do you want me to do)?” — an admission by no less than the Commander-in-Chief that the corruption war was lost.

In his second and final term, he seems to have realised that several options are available to him as President, after acknowledging that corruption would not only tarnish his legacy but also undermine his ‘Big Four’ agenda.

By reorganising the leadership of key strategic institutions and departments mandated to lead the anti-corruption efforts, the President signalled his intention to deal with graft.

The zeal and seriousness with which the new Director of Public Prosecution and the Director of Criminal Investigations took up their duties not only triggered panic among the suspects but also heralded a new chapter in the anti-graft purge.


The Judiciary also appears to be playing ball, with no less than Chief Justice David Maraga affirming its support in the anti-graft war.

Kenyans on social media recently initiated their version of a lifestyle audit, sharing details of properties suspected to be owned by politicians and other public servants through a hashtag #WeKnowYourSalary. This was proof of the growing public support in the effort.

To be fair, some of the concerns raised about the audits are genuine but they cannot be an excuse to escape public scrutiny.

In a political process, lifestyle audits can be subject to manipulation and abuse if used in the wrong way. To insulate it from accusations of a witchhunt, the audit must be done professionally by the bodies recognised and empowered by the law.

The law must also be followed in obtaining personal information to prevent abuse and violation of rights.

There must also be the understanding that the results of such audits are never conclusive and cannot be used to prosecute a person, they can only give clues which must be supported by evidence.

Those shouting the loudest against lifestyle audit give the impression that they have something to hide. But soon, the corrupt will have nowhere to run.

Dr Kamau, a political communications specialist, teaches at the Aga Khan University’s Graduate School of Media and Communications. [email protected]

A sovereign wealth bond to safeguard oil money

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The forthcoming visit of President John Magufuli of Tanzania got me thinking about the subject of management of national resource revenues: Whether we have clearly thought through how we want to manage the oil wealth once production commences in earnest.

Indeed, President Magufuli has lately faced incessant attacks, especially by the Western media, over his controversial disputes with multinational mining firms on the sharing of revenues.

Although some of his decisions on mining contracts have been very controversial, the good thing is that Dr Magufuli’s battles with multinationals have mobilised the citizens of that country into recognising that the national interest must be key in the dealings between multinationals and a country.

In Kenya, what is being debated is how we should be sharing revenues between the centre and host communities.

We recently witnessed members of the Turkana community come out to demonstrate by blocking trucks transporting crude oil to Mombasa under the government’s early oil programme.

Clearly, we will need a sounder framework for managing national resource revenues.


Are the production sharing agreements with these multinationals the appropriate tools for us? Or are the service contracts model, as practised in most of the Middle East and in Ecuador, the most appropriate in our circumstances?

Without doubt, the concerns of the Turkana community needs to be dealt with in transparent negotiations. However, the bigger debate should be overall management of oil revenues.

The best model is to manage national resource revenues through a sovereign wealth fund. That comes with the following advantages.

First, it allows you to save money for future generation. Secondly, it allows you to manage fluctuations in oil revenues. Thirdly, you have a tool to help to manage adverse impacts on the macro-economy. A sovereign wealth fund could also be a good source of money to invest in infrastructure.

And, to ring-fence the fund from plunder by finance ministers and stop them from looking at it with lustful eyes, sovereign wealth funds have what is known as a ‘fiscal rule’, stipulating that only returns from investment of the fund can be withdrawn and used to support national budgets.


Thus, a sovereign wealth fund will force a finance minister onto managing his national budget deficit without looking at the money from national resource funds.

Sovereign wealth funds have been used successfully across the world, most notably in Norway, but also in the Middle East, Malaysia, Singapore and China. Even the US state of Alaska and Australia have established very successful and well-run funds.

In Africa, Botswana always earns plaudits for using its sovereign wealth fund — the ‘pulu fund’ — to successfully manage her diamond revenues. It is so well-run that it helped to give the country better sovereign ratings than some of the smaller European countries.

I at times get the feeling that we are yet to come up with a good framework and that arrangements such as government’s early oil pilot scheme have set us on the wrong path. Does it surprise you that we are already seeing demonstrations and threats to block the trucks by citizens?


Clearly, the government made a tactical error in terms of managing the expectations of the host community.

You don’t expect the ordinary man and woman in Turkana to see huge trucks passing by villages, shipping away crude oil out of the country, and still expect them to believe that no money is being made and that there is nothing to be shared with them.

We all know that the oil exploration and production is a capital-intensive industry which generates very few jobs.

But does that matter? If you don’t do a good job at managing expectations, the Turkana will continue demanding jobs and blocking roads.

Tightening security by deploying more policemen in the area may help on the short-run. But reaching an understanding with the local people through transparent negotiation is what will create sustainable harmony. Which brings me back to the case for a sovereign wealth fund for Kenya.


More than five years ago, the presidential task force on parastatal reforms recommended establishment of a sovereign wealth fund.

Indeed, President Uhuru Kenyatta formally accepted the recommendations way back in November 2013.

The recommendations came complete with a Kenya Sovereign Wealth Fund Bill.

Months later, the National Treasury came up with a rival Bill — the National Sovereign Fund Bill. To date, we don’t know what happened to the proposal.

Kenya must avoid going the route of African nations who have plundered all their natural resource wealth. The starting point should be, go back to the Kenya National Sovereign Wealth Fund Bill.