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Saturday, July 7th, 2018

 

Swiss President Alain Berset on state visit to Kenya

By WANJOHI GITHAE
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Switzerland President Alain Berset on Sunday starts an official three-day state visit to Kenya that will culminate in a formal welcome at State House Nairobi mid-morning on Monday.

The visit aims to broaden bilateral relations between Switzerland and Kenya. Kenya is one of Switzerland’s five most important trading partners in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Berset will hold talks with President Uhuru Kenyatta on Monday to discuss economic and political relations.

Cooperation in the fight against corruption and discussions on the health sector will also be on the agenda.

Sources indicated that Mr Kenyatta will use the visit to broaden his anti-corruption agenda. Swiss banks have previously been named as the channels where stolen money from Africa is stashed.

The Kroll report commissioned by Narc government mentioned Switzerland as one of the countries that Moi regime cronies stashed their ill-gotten wealth.

President Berset was elected to the post in December for a one-year non-renewable term.

RENEWED RELATIONS
The visit comes after renewed relations between Kenya and Switzerland, with Bern opening its new Embassy building in Gigiri two years ago.

President Kenyatta has singled out universal healthcare, affordable housing, manufacturing and food security — legacy-driven targets he has singled out as the Big Four.

President Berset’s visit will seek to strengthen ties in the development of Africa’s pharmaceutical industry in areas of generic medicine, prescription drugs, over-the-counter medication and medical devices.

Norvatis, a Swiss healthcare company, is a key partner in the industry. Kenya was the first country to launch its Norvatis Access Programme in 2015, which is being implemented through Kenya Medical Supplies Agency and select local health institutions.

Hoestch, another Swiss company, was also instrumental in the country’s bid for universal health coverage as a key pharmaceutical distributor.

The Swiss government will also discuss its contribution in the water and livestock sectors in arid and semi-arid areas.

POLITICAL SITUATION
Kenyatta and Berset will also discuss the political situation in Eastern Africa and international cooperation between Switzerland and Kenya.

On Tuesday, Berset will visit the Kakuma Refugee Camp. Kenya has about 500,000 refugees, most of them from Somalia, South Sudan and the DRC.

Swiss Humanitarian Aid is active on Kenyan territory. Berset will also hold a meeting with Chief Justice David Maraga.

Meetings are also planned with representatives from the Kenyan civil society, members of the arts scene and the Swiss community.

Close ties between Switzerland and Kenya go back to the dawn of Kenya’s independence.

The iconic Kenya Utalii College set up in the 1970s is the best-known Kenya-Switzerland economic cooperation project. By training the first generation of indigenous Kenyan hotel managers, it helped lay the foundation for Kenya’s tourism sector.


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Few women willing to join diplomatic service, says CS Juma

By AGGREY MUTAMBO
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Foreign Affairs CS Monica Juma has lamented the reluctance by qualified women to take up diplomatic assignments for “family reasons”.

The admission last week at a side event during the African Union Summit in Mauritania could indicate her ministry’s challenge to bring on board as many women as possible in the foreign service.

Dr Juma told the audience her office has often struggled to convince women to take up foreign service jobs because of the inherent belief in society that they have to take care of homes and raise children.

Though she didn’t mention specific incidents and argued there is rising improvement as more women choose careers and delay family commitments, she called for concerted efforts for women to take up jobs traditionally seen as meant for men.

EXTERNAL POSTINGS

“In our own foreign service, often times female colleagues are compelled to decline foreign service external postings due to family obligations.

“On the other hand, when their spouses are posted out of the country, they stall their career progression to accompany their spouses,” she told an audience in a speech distributed by the Foreign ministry.

Dr Juma spoke at the event dubbed “Women in Power”, in Nouakchott in Mauritania, part of the African Union’s policy to encourage gender equality as well as the UN Sustainable Development Goals. And among the audience was Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame whose government is often cited as one of Africa’s most progressive in gender equality.

Though Kenya’s law requires that no gender should take up more than two-thirds of appointive and elective posts, Kenya is yet to achieve this.

FOREIGN MISSIONS

In the Foreign ministry, there have been two women Cabinet Secretaries since 2013. Of the 56 foreign missions, women head embassies in Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Iran, Belgium, France, South Africa and Malaysia (the latter not yet confirmed). At least six others are acting heads of missions.

Within the ministry, the Protocol office, Africa Division, the Great Lakes Region office and the Chef de Cabinet posts are headed by women.

 “A choice between having a family and career is not a choice young women should have to make. More likely than not, family wins. This leads to stalled career progression, which then leads to unfulfilment (sic) and diminished confidence,” she argued.

“Very few women compete for positions at the highest levels and this leads to a draining on selection that may not be driven by competence.”

The AU Summit held at the weekend was convened in July for Heads of State and government to discuss the continental body’s budgetary approvals, fix policy on combating corruption as well as peace and security.

Dr Juma who represented President Uhuru Kenyatta, called on leaders to support gender equality, saying it could help reduce Africa’s incessant conflicts.

“Evidence has shown that supporting a stronger role for women contributes to economic growth, improves child survival and overall family health.

“Where women are involved in peace processes, there is a greater likelihood of successful conflict resolution and sustained peace and stability.

This is mainly because, women peace-builders’ perspectives, priorities and focus address wholesome societies beyond acquisition and retention of power, she said.

Under Agenda 2063 where the AU seeks to be prosperous and peaceful in 50 years, leaders agreed to ‘silence guns’ by 2020, a tall order considering South Sudan, Somalia, Central Africa Republic are still violent areas.


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 Party leaders say Uhuru, Raila 'handshake' has calmed the country

By VICTOR RABALLA
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Jubilee and Orange Democratic Movement leaders have committed to work together to ensure the success of the Building Bridges Initiative initiated by President Uhuru Kenyatta and Mr Raila Odinga.

Homa Bay Woman Representative Gladys Wanga said their unwavering support for President Kenyatta will ensure that he fulfils his pre-election promises for the benefit of all Kenyans.

“The instructions we have from our party leader Mr Odinga is that we should support the administration of Mr Kenyatta to help him achieve his legacy as his term comes to an end in 2022,” she said.

The legislator, who spoke during a National Government Affirmative Action Fund (NGAAF) sports tournament organised by Kisumu Woman Representative Rosa Buyu in Ahero, Kisumu County, on Saturday, assured the Jubilee government that the opposition will support their initiatives in and out of Parliament.

FIGHT CORRUPTION

“As loyal supporters of Mr Odinga, we will not question his moves since we know that he has always sacrificed and done everything for the interest of Kenyans,” said Mrs Wanga during the event that took place at Karanda Primary School.

While lauding the government for the steps it has taken in the fight on corruption, the Homa Bay MP said no one should be spared in the fight.

Public Service Chief Administrative Secretary Rachel Shebesh, who was the chief guest at the function, termed Mr Odinga a selfless man who has fought for the country to ensure the attainment of democracy and liberty.

“With the handshake between the two great leaders, the country is experiencing peace and harmonious co-existence between communities,” she said.

Alego Usonga MP Samuel Atandi said that the country’s economy was on the right track due to the calm witnessed after the handshake.

The leaders further committed to champion the allocation of more funds to the NGAAF to ensure that women are more economically empowered.

“As the Ministry concerned with gender issues, I will advocate that seats of women representatives be given more resources,” said Shebesh.

Mrs Buyu termed as unfair for MPs to be given Sh100 million annual allocation while they are only given Sh7 million per constituency every year.


Is your organisation playing corporate snakes and ladders?

By SUNNY BINDRA
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Do you remember Snakes and Ladders? Back in the day when board games were pretty much the only indoor games we had, this one was a favourite. You tried to progress up a board by throwing dice; in your path lay ladders (that helped you jump up several levels); and some nasty snakes (that brought you tumbling down again).

Recently I came across a version for the modern era (courtesy of damned.com). This is called “Corporate Snakes & Ladders” and it outlines the hilarious journey from trainee to CEO in a typical large corporation.

So what “ladders” does our eager young trainee encounter — the things that vault you into higher grades without needing to wait for years? It was quite a priceless list.

CAREER-LIMITING

You can get promoted quickly if the following apply to you: you are willing to work on Sundays; the CEO is your papa’s friend; you join some task force that is valued by the upper echelons; or you ask a good (and presumably safe) question in a town-hall meeting that gets you noticed by the CEO.

Those things might leapfrog you into middle management. From there, a whole new set of ladders are available. You go even higher if: you suck up to bosses like a star; you get job offers from the competition that you can leverage to get promotions; and you know how to win at office politics.

Now let’s look at the snakes — the career-limiting pitfalls that await you. Earlier in your career, these would be: lies on your CV get found out; HR gets complaints about you; you forget to “CYA” (ahem); or you get drunk at an off-site session and abuse your boss.

POLITICS AND PREJUDICES

If you survive those and make it to senior management, a different set of perils may be lying in wait: the CEO just doesn’t like you; the economy is down and the board needs a scapegoat; you commit a regulatory violation and go to jail (this game clearly wasn’t designed in Kenya!); you lose a boardroom power struggle; or the best one of all — you tumble for no reason at all…

Rings true, huh? But are you laughing or crying?

Amid the hilarity, it’s worth stopping to reflect. Why do we build institutions like these? Because make no mistake, most of those things are true. I have seen pretty much all of them happen, across organisations and across continents.

Part of the problem is simple, and can be summed up in two words: human beings. We are mostly flawed and mostly petty creatures. We are mistrustful and self-seeking; we play favourites and suffer from ingrained preconceptions; we are the victims of a multitude of cognitive biases. It should come as no surprise that our institutions are usually hotbeds of politics and prejudices. The real surprise is that we can run anything at all.

CONSTRUCT MERITOCRACIES

And yet we pretend: we pretend to construct meritocracies; we pretend to pay for performance; we pretend to believe in equity of reward; we pretend to have corporate values. Behind those smokescreens, the usual pettinesses are in play.

The real play in organisations is a bigger play: one that at least attempts, sincerely and meaningfully, to create a workplace that lends meaning to the lives of those who are present in it. It is actually possible; but it is hard work.

A bigger deal in the workplace is one that is centred on a genuine cause, one that improves lives, one that actually believes humans can be better and do better. It is not one centred on personal bonuses and promotions. The few leaders who can enrol others in a mission to do something profound are the ones who create standout organisations that transcend generations. The rest? Well, they play corporate snakes and ladders.

BAD BEHAVIOUR

What kind of organisation do you work for? Is it one that rewards the kissing of behinds, one in which politicking and power plays can take you far? Or one that is genuinely interested in the personal development of the many, not just the few? Whichever it is, it’s a reflection of its leaders. Leaders have the power to set standards, to demonstrate genuine values, to control bad behaviour, to reward virtue.

Few do this, however.

Most run organisations that are like childish games, where your words matter more than your deeds; where you must make powerful allies in order to ever be noticed; where spin gets you promoted faster than substance does.

To be in those organisations for too long is to waste a life.

www.sunwords.com


Employ blockchain technology to stop graft

By SAM WAMBUGU
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There are two tech words that make many heads spin. They are Blockchain and Bitcoin. Many find it hard to tell the difference between them, much less how to invest in them. Bitcoin is an anonymous currency. Think of it like a stock in the market.

Like stock, Bitcoin can be bought, sold, and traded on online exchanges. The more people have confidence in it, the higher the price goes — just like a popular stock.

A Blockchain is a mathematical technology on whose wings Bitcoin currency and other such currencies fly. It is a public ledger that is distributed to all Bitcoin owners around the world. Its use, however, goes beyond Bitcoin.

TRANSACTIONS

In fact, it is such an important arsenal to stem the terrible tide of corruption. Here is how. The shared ledger carries a history of all transactions of goods in circulation, including information of who owns them. All transactions are open to scrutiny: there is nothing to conceal.

Part of the reason corruption thrives is because crafty people have mastered the art of beating the system by manipulating or altering the records that represent transactions. In other words, they know how to cover their tracks, making it hard for law enforcement authorities to nab them.

Blockchain technology strength is in helping to certify records and transactions — or “blocks” — in a way that cannot be erased, altered or tampered with. It provides security of records and frustrates fraudsters.

SMART THIEVES

It provides an unprecedented level of integrity, security and reliability to the information it manages. It eliminates the need for intermediaries, cuts red tape and reduces the risk of arbitrary discretion. It makes the work of auditors easy and seals the loopholes exploited by smart thieves.

The Kenyan government has set up a task force to advise the President on how to use the technology in various sectors, especially in land and education. The land sector has particularly been tainted by corruption such that property owners are never sure whether the title deed they hold is fake or factual.

With accurate digital data on land registry, Blockchain can clearly show the history of transactions for each piece of land and, therefore, authenticate its ownership and get rid of intermediaries or brokers who benefit out of the current confusion.

INFRASTRUCTURE

The removal of brokers reduces the price of goods and services and increases transparency and trust. There are many case studies on how Blockchain streamlines procurement of goods and services to ensure that there is an authentic and traceable “paper trail” from start to finish.

Bitcoin may or may not succeed but that’s a call for economists to make, but the Blockchain technology is an imperative innovation in our time. It can help to bring back trust in a country scarred by cheats and swindlers.

Blockchain is a technology owned by everyone and, therefore, shared by all. It is, therefore, a public good just like roads, communication and electricity lines; the infrastructure through which the blood that nourishes development flows. It removes the veil of secrecy that shrouds many important transactions, especially those often compromised by con men. It opens the doors to transparency.

MAGIC BULLET

But we should not assume that technologies like Blockchain alone will be a magic bullet that will wipe out corruption. It is one of the arrows in a quiver that the government and the private sector can tap into in shooting down corruption.

Blockchain technology alone will not solve all of our corruption-related evils. Governments must tackle the weaknesses underlying institutions, especially leadership and governance mechanisms.

Without accurate data for example on land registry, attempting to use Blockchain technology will be like blowing air into a suck; a fruitless effort often referred in tech jargon as garbage-in, garbage-out.


Heat wave so severe it melts the tarmac and buckles railway lines

By GERRY LOUGHRAN
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If you live in Britain you get used to people complaining about the weather with its frequent rain, winds, snow and sleet. So when the sun shines, we should all be happy, right? Right! Except we’re now experiencing a heat wave, which brings problems of its own.

After a hot, dry June, when temperatures in several places hit 30C and over, the forecasters say we can expect four more weeks with mercury levels in the high 20s. On one day last week, the temperature in Newcastle upon Tyne in the north of England was higher than in Nairobi.

SPEED LIMITS

There is concern over water levels in rivers and reservoirs and several councils have banned the use of hosepipes. Authorities suggest we should spend no longer than four minutes in the shower and use rainwater for our gardens.

Tarmac on roads in Wales melted in the sun last week, just months after the same roads were closed due to heavy snow, while in Carlisle, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Devon, railway bosses imposed speed limits after some steel rails expanded and buckled.

Fire trucks were called out to beat back moorland blazes in Lancashire and Yorkshire. Two separate conflagrations near Bolton joined up when high winds fanned the flames. Officials asked the public not to fly drones over the area because they interfered with efforts to fight the fires by helicopter.

LIGHT SALADS

Wildlife has been suffering and Mr Jon Traill of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust said birds, squirrels and hedgehogs would all be desperate for a drink. “Even if you don’t have a big garden, put out a bowl or saucer of water,” he said.

Appetites change according to the weather and growers warned of a shortage of lettuces because more people were eating light salads. A record 18 million lettuces were sold in one week, about 40 per cent more than the same week last year.

Bouts of hot weather are often accompanied by heavy downpours and the southwest of England and south Wales experienced short-lived but fierce storms.

Students are not known for getting up early, so there was consternation when the elite Durham University announced that some lectures would start at 8am, an hour earlier than usual.

Business and law undergraduates will be the victims of plans to expand the university to cater for increasing numbers.

Professor Alan Houston said, “This arrangement will be for one year only until our new teaching and learning centre opens.”

Students’ Union president Megan Croll responded, “It seems the university is more concerned about tuition fees than the student experience.”

After a years-long hunt through Britain, Spain and Switzerland, police have arrested one of the UK’s most wanted fugitives.

An announcement said that Mark Acklom was tracked down to a luxury apartment in Zurich and was held for extradition.

Carolyn Woods claims that Acklom posed as an MI6 agent and a Swiss banker and conned her into “lending” him her life savings of £850,000 during a year-long romance. Then in 2012 he disappeared.

In 2016, he was named among 10 British fugitives as “Most Wanted” in Spain.

Detective Inspector Adam Bunting said, “Acklom thought he could continue to evade capture by moving around Europe but we were determined to locate him and bring him back to this country.”

When he appears in court in England, he will face 20 charges of fraud.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics reveal that the number of men who stay at home and look after their children has nearly doubled in the past 24 years.

From 123,000 men in 1993, the figure rose to 242,000 at the end of 2017. A third of the stay-at-home dads said they wanted a job, but a spokesman for the Fathers Institute said, “We still make assumptions about mothers being more natural at caregiving… our goal should be more about every family having choices about who does what.

“Some families may want to split the earning and caring fifty-fifty, and others might prefer to have one parent doing more of one than the other.”

It’s been so hot that… chickens are laying hard-boiled eggs, we’re eating red-hot chillies to cool our mouths off and hot water comes out of both taps.

At the wedding reception, the 60-year-old multimillionaire was asked how he snared his beautiful bride of 23. “I faked my age,” he said. “I told her I was 87.”

When a man told his friends that his credit card was stolen but he hadn’t reported it, they wanted to know why. “Whoever the thief is,” he said, “he spends less than my wife”.

Marriage is an institution of three rings: Engagement ring, wedding ring and suffering.


Teachers shockingly callous over rape claims

By LUKOYE ATWOLI
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A few weeks ago, at a prominent girls’ school in Nairobi, a young lady claimed to have been sexually assaulted at night by unknown men. The matter raised quite a furore that resulted in the resignation of the principal. A police investigation was instituted and several suspects were questioned and samples collected, purportedly for DNA analysis. The police have not released the results of their investigation, or said if they are closing in on any potential perpetrators.

Interestingly, a teachers’ union has come out with a report exonerating any potential suspect in the matter. They have said that the girl who claimed she was raped was not telling the truth, and that she fabricated the claims. The union has gone ahead to explain why they arrived at this conclusion, indicating that young girls in high school are engaged in curious sexual behaviours that might explain the injuries sustained by the girl in the alleged sexual assault.

CONCLUSIVE EVIDENCE

Firstly, it must be obvious that one cannot be the judge, jury, and executioner in their own case. The teachers’ union is clearly entitled to an opinion on what might have happened on that night when the girl was alleged to have been raped, but as someone clearly pointed out in the past, they are not entitled to their own facts. The statutory institutions mandated with the investigation have not yet given their findings, and it is premature for anyone to purport to have done conclusive investigations and have findings that can solve the many puzzles in this case.

Secondly, any and all allegations of sexual assault must be taken seriously, and trivialisation of the claims must be completely avoided, especially by those with the greatest duty of care. Teachers cannot absolve their colleagues when such serious allegations are made, and purported findings casting aspersions on the integrity of the victim are uncalled for. Such conduct reduces the chances of any future victims reporting sexual assault. In the care of survivors of sexual assault, the practice is to take every allegation seriously, provide support for the survivor, and investigate as far as possible to discover and bring the perpetrator to justice. Teachers are the last persons expected to trivialise a student’s claims of sexual assault, and are ordinarily expected to be supportive of the student as she seeks care to deal with the ordeal.

SOCIOPATHIC MIND

It has been the practice in this country that our first response to any allegations of sexual assault is to be sceptical or blame the victim. This has resulted in a hostile environment for reporting sexual assault, and majority of cases go unreported. We must change our mindset and make this country safe for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence if we are to make any progress in addressing this problem. Our reaction to this case of sexual assault speaks to our values as a nation, and the fact that we even entertained this purported report from the teachers’ union suggests that as a country we still place a very low value on the lives of others. Instead of starting from the premise that the allegation indicates the existence of a serious problem that requires to be solved, we are operating on the assumption that any allegation of harm to an individual is spurious or false. We therefore are not taking any action to address such allegations, and are instead looking for scapegoats.

A country operating on these principles is setting itself up for failure. Even if the allegations turn out to be false, it is still necessary to investigate their genesis to determine the kind of assistance the person making the allegations will need. It is only a sick society whose first reaction to allegations of harm to its most vulnerable members is to wave them off as being the product of a sociopathic mind.

The author is associate professor of psychiatry and dean, Moi University School of Medicine. [email protected]