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Saturday, July 28th, 2018

 

Civilians bear the brunt as Gaza blockade tightened

TIGHTENING RESTRICTIONS

On 9 July 2018, the Government of Israel (GoI) announced it was tightening restrictions on access to Gaza via Kerem Shalom, the main commercial crossing, explicitly noting that the measures were in response to Hamas sending incendiary kites and balloons into Israel.

All goods were banned from exiting and vital materials banned from entering, including construction materials, water pumps, spare parts, generators, clothing, blankets, mattresses, and more.

On 17 July 2018 Israel also banned the entry of fuel and cooking gas, including emergency fuel supplied by the UN. This was a highly dangerous decision in power-starved Gaza where fuel is widely used to compensate for the severe and chronic lack of electricity, powering generators in homes, businesses, and critical civilian infrastructure, including hospitals and water and sewage facilities. The crossing was only partially reopened on 24 July 2018, with some fuel and gas entering Gaza.

The closure means that no items are permitted to enter via the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM), which was established in the wake of the 2014 war to facilitate the entry of construction materials and a range of items classified and treated as ‘dual use’ by Israel. Even before the recent crackdown, imports and exports were severely inadequate for a population of nearly two million people; a fraction of what they were before the blockade was fully imposed in June 2007. In addition to these restrictions, Israel has also further reduced the permitted fishing zone from six nautical miles off the coast of Gaza to three, preventing fishermen from accessing 85% of the fishing waters as agreed under the Oslo Accords. The last time the fishing zone was reduced to three nautical miles was 6 July 2014, two days before Operation Protective Edge officially started.

Immediate impacts are being felt on the ground.

In the WASH sector alone, projects currently being blocked by the GoI’s latest restrictions include:

• A major desalination plant in Gaza city which would provide water to 200,000 people;
• Two water tanks and a water booster system that would provide water to over 190,000 people;
• Facilities that would treat wastewater for hundreds of thousands of households and reduce the contamination load discharged to the sea.

WASH projects amounting to tens of millions of USD, funded by international donors, are currently being blocked by Israeli-imposed restrictions. High priority WASH items being prevented from entering include: mobile pumps to dewater flooded areas, water testing and disinfection material, essential electromechanical equipment, sulfite resistant cement and epoxy paints for insulation.

The additional restrictions imposed this month are therefore jeopardizing access to clean water and sanitation for hundreds of thousands of people who have already waited too long for adequate services. Water-related diseases are the primary cause of child deaths and account for a quarter of illnesses in Gaza.7 Every day of delay puts families at risk of death and illness, paying high prices for unsafe water and without access to safe toilets.


Betty Murungi new diplomatic job puts Kenya in odd position

By KITAVI MUTUA
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The appointment of human rights lawyer Betty Murungi to the UN Commission of Inquiry into the 2018 protests in the occupied Palestinian territory has put Kenya in an awkward diplomatic position.
Kenya opposed the UN resolution that established the commission to investigate alleged human rights violations and abuses in the Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, particularly in the occupied Gaza Strip.
When the resolution No S-28/1 came for debate on May 18, during the 28th Special Session of UN Human Rights Council, Kenya abstained from voting, in apparent solidarity with Israel which lobbied hard against it.
According to records from the United Nations Human Rights Council on how member states voted, Kenya abstained from the vote, alongside Croatia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Japan, Panama, Republic of Korea, Rwanda, Slovakia, Switzerland, Togo, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

VOTED AGAINST
However, the resolution was adopted by a majority recorded vote of 29 to 2, with 14 abstentions – where Australia and United States voted against it.
After Human Rights Council President Ambassador Vojislav Šuc (Slovenia) this week announced Ms Murungi’s appointment, Kenya’s stand against the establishment of the commission of inquiry came into scrutiny.
Ms Murungi was on Wednesday chosen together with David Michael Crane (United States) and Sara Hossain (Bangladesh) to serve as members.
Her appointment came as a surprise to Foreign Affairs ministry in Nairobi and Kenyan diplomats to the United Nations headquarters in New York as she had not been presented as a candidate nor lobbied for the job.
US based law scholar Prof Makau Mutua said the appointment was a great honour for Ms Murungi but a shame for Kenya because it opposed the commission.
“It’s recognition of her towering status as a global human rights champion and authority. Unfortunately, Kenya cannot take credit for the appointment because it opposed the resolution establishing the commission,” Prof Makau tweeted.

MILITARY ASSAULTS
Efforts to get comments from Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma were futile, but the Kenya’s deputy permanent representative to the UN, Koki Muli said Ms Murungi’s appointment was welcome.

She explained that the stand that Kenya took during the vote should be looked at based on the broader picture, context of foreign policy.
“We’re truly proud of Betty and we are also aware that her work in new assignment is going to be extremely difficult but Kenya will play its active role to lobby and persuade member states to support the new team” Ambassador Muli told the Nation in an interview.
Ms Muli downplayed reports that Kenya’s Mission to the UN didn’t expect her appointment saying the Human Rights Council President cannot appoint anyone without the support of the host country.
The commission of inquiry will look into the context of the military assaults on the large-scale civilian protests that began on March 30, this year, whether before, during or after; to establish the facts and hold to account those responsible.

TOP LAWYER
It has been directed “to establish the facts and circumstances, with assistance from relevant experts and special procedure mandate holders, of the alleged violations and abuses, including those that may amount to war crimes and to identify those responsible”, a press release on its website says.
The Commissioners, who will serve in their personal capacities, were also requested by the Council “to make recommendations, in particular on accountability measures, all with a view to avoiding and ending impunity and ensuring legal accountability, including individual criminal and command responsibility, for such violations and abuses, and on protecting civilians against any further assaults”.
The Commission is scheduled to present an oral update to the Human Rights Council at its 39th session in September 2018, and a final, written report at its 40th session to be held in March 2019.
Ms Murungi is a lawyer who has practiced law at national, regional and international levels, and has experience in the management of non-governmental and non-profit organisations.

VAST EXPERIENCE
She served on the board of the Kenya Human Rights Commission and the Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice, among others. She has background in international human rights in the context of violent conflict with experience in international criminal justice and accountability mechanisms.
The lawyer has also worked in Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Northern Uganda and South Sudan and served for a short period as Vice Chairperson and Commissioner to the Kenya Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission, and as the Africa representative on the Board of Directors of the Trust Fund for Victims at the International Criminal Court (2010- 2013).
The members will also be required to make recommendations aimed at ending impunity and boosting legal accountability of perpetrators of the violence.
The UN Human Rights Council is made of 47 Member States, which are elected by the majority of members of the General Assembly of the United Nations through direct and secret ballot.
The General Assembly takes into account the candidate States’ contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights, as well as their voluntary pledges and commitments in this regard.


TSC ignored assaulted teachers’ cries for help

By NATION TEAM
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Had the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) in Marsabit County acted on a letter by a teacher in March this year over threats non-local teachers were facing, the recent incident where six teachers at Chalbi High School were attacked and seriously injured could not have happened.

The teacher, in the letter dated March 1, had asked TSC officials in the region to consider transferring them since they were being linked to last year’s cancellation of Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examination results that affected 70 students.

The teacher further stated that the school principal, Mr Paul Boya, had made it clear that those behind the cancellation would pay the price for reporting the school to Kenya National examination Council (Knec).

“I have faced numerous accusations from the principal. In his address to students during morning assemblies, he has been claiming that the cancellation was instigated by ‘outsiders’ and some ‘insiders’ who were determined to bring down the school. He further claimed that the said people were propagating witchcraft in his school,” reads the letter.

EVIL DEEDS

It adds: “The principal went ahead to declare that all those involved must pay for their evil deeds irrespective of who they are in the school. After making these allegations for several weeks, the principal summoned me on February 19 in his office. He informed me that he had managed to penetrate Knec and got information that, I was part of the network that was behind cancellation of results at Chalbi School.”

True to his concerns, last week, students whose results were cancelled and are currently repeating Form Four attacked the teachers, seriously injuring them.

Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang said students who attack their teachers will be dealt with as criminals while the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) said it was archiving and profiling every criminal act and consolidating charges that may be preferred to each and every student involved in any crime.

On examination irregularities, TSC interdicted supervisor Woto B. Barako for infamous conduct by colluding with the principal and invigilators to allocate extra time while four invigilators were warned. The principal has since been suspended in connection with the incident.

IRREGULARITIES

TSC has since moved 12 teachers from the school to other centres following the attack. However, the teacher denies any involvement in setting up the school to Knec over irregularities.

“The principal told me that anyone who was part of the scheme “atalipia”. The above claims left me with a lot of fear since, by claiming that I was part of the group, he meant that I was working for the downfall of the school and I would be one of those whose who would pay for it,” stated the teacher in the letter.

When TSC officers from Nairobi visited the school to seek information on how exams were conducted in the school, the discipline of the 2017 candidates class, their previous performance and their general conduct, the teacher said he was called by the officials and was interviewed.

“The learners knew that I was being interviewed and since then they started calling me names like Mchawi and Adui and whenever I could walk around they could ask me “Chuki ni ya nini bwana,” he said.

The teacher narrated that the hatred was worse among students from Form Two to Four.

70 REPEATERS

According to the report handed to Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed to guide further action, the students who attacked the teacher were among 70 repeaters who had rejoined the school to sit this year’s KCSE following last year’s examination cancellations.

Yet the Chalbi incident is not an isolated case.

In July alone, at least eight teachers have been roughed up by protesting learners, and players in the education sector are now asking for quick action before the trend hits endemic levels.

The most recent case was reported in Kisii County, where a male teacher at Monianku Secondary School in South Mugirango constituency is nursing injuries he sustained on Monday when he tried to quell rioting students.

The County Education Board chairman, Dr Henry Onderi, said the teacher was injured on various parts of his body and that he was hospitalised at a local health facility.

He added that the students had no particular reason for protesting; that they only claimed to be unhappy over changes introduced by the new school principal.

SUSTAINED INJURIES

Exactly a week earlier, the deputy principal at Kirimara High School in Nyeri County had sustained injuries after being stoned by riotous students, and it is suspected that some learners bore a grudge against him.

Following these incidents and many others in the country, the Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association (Kessha) is calling on the government to investigate cases of student assaulting their teachers.

Kessha chairman Kahi Indimuli, who is the principal of Machakos Boys, said most students turn against their teachers due to incitement from local leadership.

He challenged the leadership of Marsabit County to come clean on the incident where non-local teachers were attacked by students. Parents at the school had defended their children over the action, accusing the attacked teachers of poorly addressing them, which angered the students.

“No student can just wake up and clobber a teacher. We are asking the government to investigate further,” said Mr Indimuli. “The local leadership of the area must provide answers. The action by the students must be investigated.”

CHASE NON-LOCAL TEACHERS

Coming at a time when teachers’ unions are opposing the government’s policy on de-localisation, Mr Indimuli noted that the affected teachers are not new in the area.

“Why attack only non-local teachers? In no uncertain terms can students clobber or chase away non-local teachers,” he said. Mr Indimuli, however, noted that teachers were ready to teach in any region in the country.

Some players in the education sector, however, feel that it is time caning was reintroduced in schools — a position held by a section of Members of Parliament led by Kiminini MP Chris Wamalwa who plan to pass a bill to reintroduce caning.

Dr Onderi, the chairman of the Kisii county education board, supported calls to re-introduce caning, saying student discipline had deteriorated with learners thinking they were their teachers’ equals.

Mr John Wesonga, an official of the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) in Kakamega County, faulted Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed for rejecting the proposal. Mr Wesonga said the CS needs to consult widely on the issue of indiscipline and reconsider her stand.

CHILDREN’S RIGHTS

He added that many tutors had been assaulted by their students and no action had been taken. He added that most teachers bear with the pain of such assault in silence.

“We cannot allow the indiscipline to continue ruining learning in our schools because of children’s rights.

We support the reintroduction of caning to instil discipline among learners,” said Mr Wesonga, a member of Knut’s national executive council representing Western region.

In Nyandarua and Laikipia, however, leaders in the education sector are opposed to the reintroduction of the cane.

Nyandarua county education executive committee member, Ms Faith Mbugua, said other disciplinary methods and approaches should be adopted.

MENTOR CHILDREN

“That is a retrogressive culture. What we need is an all-inclusive method to guide and mentor our children, starting from our homes to schools,” she said.

Bishop Josam Kariuki, the chairman of the Nyandarua County Council of Churches, said canning is inhuman, adding that it was in the past abused by the teachers who did it in excess, causing serious injuries or death to learners.

The Nyandarua county executive secretary of the Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet), Mr Julius Macharia, only parents should be allowed to cane their children.

Reporting by Elvis Ondieki, Ouma Wanzala, Ruth Mbula, Derick Luvega, Benson Amadala, Rushdie Oudia, Waikwa Maina and Joseph Wangui


Double misfortune for petition losers

By ELVIS ONDIEKI
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By WYCLIFF KIPSANG
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As the Court of Appeal continues deciding on election petitions, the cost burden is becoming unbearable for most people who dared to appeal.

Petitioners, who have lost at the appellate court, are now faced with hefty costs to foot, running into millions of shillings.

Among them is Mr Benard Kitur, who came second in the Nandi Hills parliamentary election last year.

The High Court had nullified the election of Mr Alfred Keter in a case filed by Mr Kitur. The MP, however, appealed the verdict and won.

After being slapped with a Sh6 million bill by the appellate court, money that will cater for the costs incurred by Mr Keter and the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, Mr Kitur launched a funds drive to help him raise the money.

He then shared a paybill number through which well-wishers can help him raise the money. “I can’t name the exact figure at the moment. I appreciate Kenyans from all walks of life for their continued support,” he said, expressing optimism that he will soon raise the Sh6 million.

While the petitioners’ costs seem high, Law Society of Kenya (LSK) President Allen Gichuhi does not think they are punitive.

Mr Gichuhi said the capping of costs by judges makes it fair because if lawyers were left to determine what they should be paid for their efforts, the amounts will be higher.

“Before the courts capped costs, on average, election petitions would range between Sh20 million and Sh50 million,” Mr Gichuhi told the Sunday Nation.

Another petitioner who has been left with holes in his pockets is former Kirinyaga Senator Dickson Karaba. He has a Sh5 million bill to foot after the Court of Appeal rejected his case against incumbent Charles Kibiru.

Former Bonchari MP Zebedeo Opore must fork out Sh3 million — Sh1.5 million for IEBC and a similar amount for MP Oroo Oyioka.

Mr Walter Nyambati, a former MP, should equally raise Sh3 million to cater for the costs incurred by the electoral agency and the Nyamira Governor John Nyagarama.

SHOULD COSTS

Others who are to shoulder costs that have not been specified by the Court of Appeal include Mr Arthur Apungu who was suing for the Ikolomani MP’s seat, Mr Evans Nabwera (Likuyani) and Mr Jeremiah Matoke (Bomachoge).

The LSK boss said the common charge of Sh3 million “is even on the lower side”.

“One thing we have to appreciate is that election petitions are very involving. The minute an advocate takes on an election petition, he can almost literally shut down his office,” said Mr Gichuhi. “We actually make a loss, to be honest.”

He added: “You will find that on average, it may even take you more than 500 hours in the six months, actually even 1,000 hours. That takes you even up to Sh10 million.”

SUPER-RICH

Mr Gichuhi’s predecessor Isaac Okero had spoken on the need for some degree of regulation in the costs levied.

“With the costs escalating, it means the matter of election disputes is the preserve of the wealthy or the prohibitive costs will make Kenyans with genuine complaints keep away from the courts,” Mr Okero told Nation earlier this year.

But Mr Kitur said election cases are a very costly affair. “Election petitions should not be highly priced. It should not be only for the super-rich,” he said.

Among the highest amounts ever set is Sh12 million that of Mr Peter Odima, who was challenging the election of Busia Governor Sospeter Ojaamong at the High Court.


 NHIF maternity pay hits Sh1.5b

By OUMA WANZALA
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By ELIZABETH MERAB
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The National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) payouts for free maternity have crossed the Sh1.5 billion mark since it was launched in October 2016.

A scrutiny of the financial records indicates that the State insurer paid Sh1.5 billion in the 2017/2018 financial year, compared to Sh28 million paid in claims for 2016/2017, representing a 5,183 per cent increase.

According to a financial brief from NHIF obtained by the Sunday Nation, the money was used to settle bills of 395,918 mothers and 223,459 deliveries across the country.

Dubbed “Linda Mama – Boresha Jamii’, the free maternity was launched in October 2016, after the NHIF signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the government in February 2016.

“The sharp rise in the free maternity claims arose from the fact that the Fund fully took over the Linda Mama programme. Previously, it was largely under the Ministry of Health,” explained NHIF boss Geoffrey Mwangi, adding that services for registered mothers’ began thereafter on May 1, 2017.

The free maternity programme was transferred to the NHIF in 2016 to target pregnant mothers from low-income backgrounds.

ANTENATAL CHECKUPS

The nearly Sh4 billion programme guarantees expectant mothers at least four antenatal check-ups, delivery (normal and caesarean section) and post-natal check-ups, and immunisations for their children, with the cover paying about Sh6,000 per woman.

The 2017 statistical abstract indicates that there were approximately 1.5 million births in 2016, with about 875,101 children being delivered at a health facility.

The NHIF official records also show that expenditure on kidney transplants, minor and major surgeries and rehabilitation for drugs and substance abuse are also taking up the largest chunks of claim settlements.

For instance, the Fund notes that there was a 198 per cent increase in payments for kidney transplants from Sh22 million to Sh65 million. Surgery payouts equally shot up by 73 per cent from Sh2.1 billion to Sh3.6 billion and rehabilitation for drugs and substance abuse also consumed Sh54 million, up from Sh32 million.

CANCER TREATMENT

The number of patients being admitted in NHIF accredited facilities has also gone up, seeing claims settlement of Sh14 billion as compared to the previous Sh12 billion.

Out-patient services also increased to Sh7.5 billion compared to the previous Sh5 billion.

Cancer treatment took Sh1.4 billion from Sh1.2 billion, dental (managed scheme) consumed Sh559 million from Sh373 million, and specialised surgeries took Sh548 million from Sh274 million while rehabilitation for drugs and substance abuse gobbled up Sh54 million from Sh32 million.

“The Fund has over the last three years developed and rolled out a new benefit structure as a means towards expanding access to both the employed and self-employed sectors,” the report signed by the chief executive officer Geoffrey Mwangi notes.

Mr Mwangi added that the expanded benefits package currently offered have increased health care access for NHIF members and at the same time boosted the healthcare providers’ ability to offer more effective care to members.

PUBLIC EDUCATION

He added that the Fund has grown its principal membership from 6.8 million last financial year to Sh7.7 million.

“This growth is attributed to the various initiatives conducted which include recruitment of community health volunteers, partnerships with various counties, public education and local activations,” added Mr Mwangi.

Some 39 per cent of members are in private sector followed by the micro-insurance, which is at 38 per cent.

Private sector is made up of small businesses while micro-insurance consists of voluntary contributors.

Mr Mwangi said the Fund has been implementing various programmes aimed at enhancing social protection and inclusivity.


One day we'll sing, vows Msando kin at tearful memorial

By ELVIS ONDIEKI
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By VICTOR RABALLA
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A mothers’ tears were the highlight of a memorial service held on Saturday to mark a year since the mysterious death of Mr Chris Msando, who was the ICT director of the electoral commission.

Mr Msando was killed a few days to last year’s General Election.

His widow, Mrs Eva Buyu, shed tears in church as she opened up on the struggles of single-handedly raising their four children. “One day, we will sing,” she said to her mother-in-law before the crowd gathered at Christ the King Catholic Church in Embakasi. “One day, we will say it. But now, I cannot say it is well. It is not.”

Directing her remarks at her husband’s killers, she said their day of reckoning would come. “I know you are still watching. I know you could probably be in here; but I know you will still watch. What I can tell you, and I will still tell you: you will keep killing. But how many will you kill?” she posed.

SOLVING PUZZLE

Tears also welled in the eyes of Mr Msando’s mother, Mary, outside the church as she showed the media letters she had written to ambassadors of the US and UK, asking for help in solving the puzzle of her son’s death.

In a January 28 letter to the US embassy, she pleaded: “We are now seeking for independent intervention of international investigators who had offered to help to unravel the killers of Chris.”

And in a January 29 letter to the British High Commissioner, she said: “We are disappointed at the slow pace this investigation has taken, with no one being prosecuted so far for this heinous crime. The release of the suspects so far arrested has dampened our spirits.”

Both US Ambassador Robert Godec and British High Commissioner Nic Hailey had replied with a similar message: that they had offered to help investigate the murder but were not welcome by the government.

“The UK stands with you in your quest for justice for your son,” Mr Hailey stated in his February 14 letter.

“I share your concerns about the slow pace of investigation, and I have also asked for an update on the status of the investigation,” replied Mr Godec in a February 23 letter.

KEPT QUIET

Inside the church, the distraught 79-year-old mother also spoke on the death of Mr Msando.

“For the past one year, I have not left his grave. I’ve been there,” she said in a statement read by her daughter Pamela.

“Kenya has kept quiet, the church has kept quiet, everyone who is involved has kept quiet. I have not kept quiet as the mother. I have been pained and I have been taking relevant steps quietly to see that justice is served to my son,” added the mother.

Chris MsandoMr Chris Msando’s mother, Mary, and relatives during the memorial service for the slain IEBC official at Christ The King Church, Embakasi, Nairobi on July 29, 2018. PHOTO | ANTHONY OMUYA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

The slow pace of investigation was the clarion call of the Mr Msando family, and his elder brother Tom mentioned the release of Mr Msando’s car as one of the puzzling things in the probe.

“I remember going to look for his car at the DCI headquarters and we were told by the police that they were still using it to investigate,” he told the Sunday Nation outside the church. “Then the car was released without any word. That’s where we are. Nothing good has happened so far.”

“We leave it to the government and probably hope and pray that we will get closure. But it’s been one year of anguish,” said the widow.

HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVISTS

Saturday’s memorial service was attended by Mr Msando’s family, friends, politicians and human rights activists.

Politicians spoke after the Mass and asked that Mr Msando’s death be included in the “Building Bridges” initiative started by President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

“As the initiative continues, let the first bridge be built at the doorstep of Mr Chris Msando, so that President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga extend an olive branch to family members of Mr Msando,” said Embakasi East MP Babu Owino.

Orange Democratic Movement secretary-general Edwin Sifuna said: “We want you to extend a handshake to Eva and her children … We celebrate Mr Msando as a hero because we know the people who tortured him before murdering him were after something.”

Also present at the function was Mr George Kegoro, the executive director of the Kenya Human Rights Commission.

BRUTALLY TORTURED

Hours before the memorial, Dr Roselyn Akombe, a former commissioner with the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), had weighed in on the impact of Mr Msando’s death.

“It is one year but our questions on who brutally tortured and murdered Chris linger on. It is clear, though, that the trajectory of the 2017 elections would not have been the same if you were alive Chris. We shall never forget,” she tweeted.

Her message echoed the many tributes written on books outside the church, where Mr Msando’s friends and relatives wrote their messages.

“It is incomprehensible that the family has not been told anything one year after the burial of a person who was eliminated in the most inhuman manner,” said Mr Msando’s nephew, Mr Jacob Oduor.


When crooks call with cock-and-bull stories

By KAMAU NGOTHO
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I was about to go out for lunch one day at the Nation newsroom when Editorial Director Wangethi Mwangi called me to his office.

There I found him seated with a visitor who he introduced to me only as Peter. Next he asked me whether I remembered the story a decade earlier concerning alleged secret camps in Uganda where young Kenyans were given military training with intention to sneak back home and overthrow government of then President Daniel arap Moi.

I vividly remembered the story which made headlines in early 1995. The story originated from official government statement from State House, Nairobi.

The story claimed that a self-styled Kenyan by name “Brigadier” John Odongo was mastermind and “commander” of the said guerrilla army training in Uganda, with allegedly blessings from President Yoweri Museveni.

Though the government story made headlines, many people didn’t believe it and thought it was a government propaganda intended to justify crackdown on political opposition at the home front.

But here now was this man called Peter with a story that the guerrilla actually existed. He told us he came from western Kenya and that his own cousin and another young man from his home village were among those who had been enlisted by “Brig” Odongo and sneaked to Uganda for training.

He told us he’d be giving us pictures taken in the training camps, including some where President Museveni appeared in jungle fatigues inspecting a guard of honour mounted by the guerrillas.

Mr Mwangi instructed that I sit with the Peter man, take all the details he had and more importantly, get the pictures allegedly taken inside the training camps.

I began to suspect the man was up to no good when we got to my desk and he insisted that he didn’t feel safe telling the story inside Nation offices as he believed he was being followed by police.

We exchanged contacts and agreed we meet that evening at a place in Nairobi West where he said he would feel “safe”. He’d be coming with the pictures he claimed to have and any other material to help me come up with what he called “story of the year”.

SUMPTUOUS MEAL

Come the appointed time and I found the man waiting at the agreed place. He was carrying a white manila envelope which made me start salivating.

I ordered for him a sumptuous meal and drinks and sat back to let him talk. He really had rehearsed the story he wanted tell. He said the guerrillas numbered about a thousand.

They’d been “recruited” mainly from western Kenya, Nyanza, and Trans Nzoia. There was also a number from central Kenya and Nairobi.

Two of the three training camps were “located” in western Uganda near President Museveni’s ranch. The other camp was at Tororo town near the border with Kenya.

The Tororo camp allegedly was the recruitment and screening base after which the recruits were dispatched to the main bases in western Uganda.

As a storyteller the Peter man scored an “A”. I guessed he must have devoured a lot of fiction and watched Chuck Norris movies.

After he was done with the story which I recorded on tape, he pulled from his envelope a number of black-and-white pictures which he handed to me.

Sure enough, the pictures had some youths on military drills. Two or three of the pictures had Mr Museveni in jungle fatigues and a machine gun hanging from one shoulder.

After going through the pictures for the second time, it struck me that I had seen them elsewhere many years ago.

I was in high school the year Museveni and his rag-tag army shot their way to State House in Kampala.

DRUM MAGAZINE

At the time, the now defunct Drum magazine was a great read and I never missed a copy. It was just about the greatest investment I made with my meagre pocket money.

The pictures this Peter man had were ones taken back then and splashed in the centre pages of the Drum. All he’d done is to carefully cut the pictures from an old copy of Drum, pasted them minus the captions and re-photographed them on hard paper to look like original pictures I didn’t want to spoil the party for Peter as yet and decided to play in the charade and let him unlock the entire plot.

“These are wonderful pictures”, I lied to him. “My boss will be very happy.”

That made him as pleased as punch and gave him courage to finally get to the meat of the plot. “So how much will you people pay for my story and pictures?” he asked.

I told him I wasn’t authorised to make the decision on the matter of payment and that I’d take the pictures and the story to my boss who would decide on it.

Come next morning, I showed the pictures to Mr Mwangi and waited for his reaction. He gave the pictures one look, shook his head and said: “What makes me feel I have seen these pictures somewhere? In any case this can’t be Museveni in 1995!”

“You’re right”, I told my boss. “These pictures are copied from Drum magazine published in January 1986 when Museveni army stormed Kampala. I can get the copy of magazine from my rural home in Nyahururu.”

“Go for it right away so that we can tell off that conman”, Mr Mwangi instructed. Sure enough, I got the nearly 20 year old copy of the Drum (I still keep it) and the pictures were all there!

“Now you can call that conman and tell him never to call us again. Also tell him we’re reporting the matter to the police for him to be charged with attempt to make money under false pretences!”

When I called to tell him off, the Peter man banged the phone halfway the conversation. I hope he finally found honest ways of making a living.

 FALSE HOPE

As the calendar page turned to December 2002, all indications were that Mr Mwai Kibaki was headed to win the December 27 presidential election with a landslide to become the third President of Kenya.

Even the outgoing President Moi had come to reconcile with the fact, after months of denial and false hope that it was his preferred candidate Mr Uhuru Kenyatta to win the election.

Then on the evening of December 3 as he was driven back to Nairobi after a campaign tour in Kitui county, Mr Kibaki’s vehicle crashed into a ditch at the Machakos/Mombasa highway junction.

According to eyewitnesses whose account Mr. Kibaki would later collaborate, his vehicle had made an emergency swerve to avoid two PSV vehicles involved in an accident, but hit a perimeter fence and landed into a ditch.

Mr. Kibaki suffered a dislocated ankle, a bruised upper right arm, and strained neck. He was airlifted to the Nairobi Hospital by the AAR flying doctors and later flown to London for further treatment.

Despite clear evidence that it was purely a road accident, conspiracy theorists went ahead to allege there was more than met the eye.

A few days after the accident, a gentleman showed up at the Nation reception and requested to see me.

SPILLED THE BEANS

He requested we sit at a far corner where nobody could hear our conversation. Then he “spilled the beans”. He told me he was an ex-GSU officer and once served as one of Kibaki bodyguards when he was Vice President. He told me he had received very “reliable” information that Kibaki accident came about after a gunman, in a trailing car shot at the front tyre of Kibaki’s car, making it lose control and land in a ditch. He alleged that the men in the trailing car had quickly replaced the wheel and drove away at high speed before eye-witnesses go to the scene.

I attentively listened to the “juicy story”, but wow, without a way to collaborate it, it ended where such stories land — the spike basket!

CIRCULATING RUMOURS

Since my “ex-GSU source” seemed to know “a lot” about Mr Kibaki, I couldn’t let me him go without asking him about wide circulating rumours regarding sudden death of the famous police reservist Patrick Shaw, and where Mr Kibaki name featured.

Midday on February 14, 1988, the dreaded cop entered a Nairobi hotel for a scheduled lunch with his friends.

As he waited for his order to be served, he complained of sudden sharp pain in the chest and collapsed on the table.

An ambulance was called and he was rushed to the Nairobi Hospital. Too late, he was pronounced dead on arrival. His death was attributed to massive heart attack.

But in Kenya a prominent person just doesn’t collapse and die. There must be “foul play”.

UNDER SIEGE

And so the rumour mills went into overdrive. Shaw death came only weeks to the infamous queue-vote election, and where Vice President Kibaki and his perceived supporters were under siege.

In the election, most of the VP supporters lost their seats in an election where candidates with the shorter queues were declared “winners”!

On his part, Kibaki was demoted from Vice President. Coming in the middle of the politically charged moment, theories floated that Shaw’s death had something to do with the wider political conspiracy, with stories to the effect that he’d “instructions” to physically “eliminate” some big person in the Kibaki corner but declined and so the dreaded cop had to be “punished” for defiance.

In the Nairobi rumour circuit, anything goes!


Why Senate is a critical cog in the engine of our democracy

By PETER KAGWANJA
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Recently, Kenya has experienced a resurgence of a vicious supremacy battle between the National Assembly and the Senate.

Senates are widely held as checks against the potentially excessive powers of a popularly elected Lower House. As such, it is a salient feature of the recent global surge of democratisation, what political scientist Samuel Huntington described as the “Third Wave”.

Over the last 50 years, however, the fortunes of Senates everywhere have wilted. Out of 195 countries in the world today only 59 have national senates.

Only 15 out of Africa’s 55 states have national senates. Nevertheless, the idea of a senate has undergone seismic changes from its ancient Roman prototype.

Today, it combines Plato’s idea of the “philosopher king” and the modern concept of “a marketplace of ideas”. It is the chamber of “sober second thought” where advisory or decision-making powers are reserved for the senior — and assumedly, the wisest.

DEMOCRATIC PRINCIPLES

The architects of Kenya’s Senate were inspired by the United States Senate, itself conceived by America’s Founding Fathers as a check on the Congress.

Notably, the Senate in Kenya’s post-2010 constitutional order is hoisted on two democratic principles: (1) That leaders should govern with the consent of the governed; and, (2) That checks and balances are needed to guard against concentration of power in one institution, giving rise to tyranny or absolutism.

Had Kenya walked the straight and narrow in adhering to the American model, the supremacy wars would not be there.

The law would be patently clear on a senate sharing with the National Assembly responsibility for all lawmaking within Kenya.

For an act of the National Assembly to be valid, both houses must approve an identical document. The Kenyan Senate would have powers to ratify treaties.

LOWER HOUSE

Senate, not the Lower House, would be responsible for vetting important public appointments such as those of cabinet members, ambassadors, and judges of the Supreme Court.

And Senate would adjudicate impeachment proceedings initiated in the National Assembly.

However, Kenya is a classic case of countries where the senate has been caught in the crossfire of intra-elite tussles for supremacy over the last half a century.

Although Kenya’s 1963 Constitution established a Senate consisting of 41 senators elected for six years, it was abolished in 1966 and its membership combined with that of the House of Representatives to form a unicameral legislature, the National Assembly. Its demise ushered in the dark age of one-party authoritarianism.

Article 98 of Kenya’s 2010 Constitution re-established the senate as the upper house of the Parliament of Kenya which came into force after the elections of March 4, 2013.

BALANCING ACT

Laudably, the Senate is a delicate balancing act between the principle of democratic elections and affirmative action based on gender, age and disability.

However, this experiment in inclusive democracy is awkwardly standing on its head, unable to check the excessive powers of the National Assembly.

Tragically, the framework through which the 2010 constitution was negotiated and passed gave inordinately high powers to the 10th parliament (2008-2013) to determine the fate of a refurbished senate.

Few expected the 10th Parliament to create a strong check against itself! Instead, it midwifed a weak, vacuous and ineffectual institution not worth the name senate.

The post-2010 senate remains the weakest link in Kenya’s new Constitution, tethered by the law to a devolved system rather than to a national and international mandate.

APPROVING BILLS

Its powers are reduced to representing the interests of the counties and their governments; participating in law-making and approving bills concerning counties and determining allocation of national revenue among counties.

The exception is its powers of impeachment over the President, Deputy President, County Governor, and Deputy Governors. Efforts by the Senate to play a greater role have been met with intense resistance.

In December 2015, President Uhuru Kenyatta assented to the National Government Constituencies Development Fund (CDF) Bill, sparking a new round of supremacy war with Senators charging that the law was signed without their input and against the directions of the High Court, which annulled the former law.

A few days earlier, the National Assembly’s Budget and Appropriations Committee threw out five Bills sent to it by the Senate for concurrence. Senators accused MPs of frustrating the Senate with the intention of killing it, and threatened to take legal action.

RENEWED SUPREMACY

In July 2018, a renewed supremacy battle has resurfaced with the National Assembly accusing Senators of conducting parallel investigations on the Ruaraka land saga, Solai dam tragedy, Kenya Airways probe and several others.

Legislators are wary that the two committees might present two reports with entirely different recommendations.

Abolishing the Senate is not an option. The solution lies in boldly re-engineering the Constitution to hew a strong Senate as a pillar of democracy.

Prof Kagwanja is a former Government Adviser and Chief Executive of the Africa Policy Institute. Email [email protected]


Help! Parliamentary committees are now disorderly and gross

By GITAU WARIGI
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National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi gave a landmark ruling on Thursday. From now henceforth, parliamentary committees will be required to suspend any proposed inquiry “if an investigative agency is conducting a parallel investigation, and where prosecution authorities have preferred charges on individuals of interest to a committee on matters similar to those before it.”

Cabinet Secretaries will also be excused from attendance where the questions can be responded to by Principal Secretaries or other senior technocrats in their ministries.

The import of the ruling is that it sharply restructures the relationship between the Executive and Parliament’s numerous committees, which lately have become quite a nuisance to CSs and other top officials, and which are hampering the national crackdown on corruption.

These committees have taken the habit of holding too many hearings and summoning anybody at whim under the guise of parliamentary committee “investigations.”

This approach interferes with the normal working day of ministries as CSs get summoned heedlessly. It also tends to micromanage the work of the CSs.

FIVE SUMONSES

Last week, Transport and Infrastructure CS James Macharia was dumbfounded to receive five separate summonses from five different parliamentary committees — drawn from the National Assembly and the Senate —which want to question him on claims that the Chinese running the SGR were discriminating against African employees.

Five committees seeking to question you on the same subject is too much. The members are bound to ask similar questions, and get the same answers, Macharia explained.

It is classic duplication, and amounts to a waste of the CS’s time. Macharia is even lucky; his Interior colleague Fred Matiang’i is fast being driven mad by the frequency with which he is summoned by these committees.

There is an even bigger problem. The MPs are stepping on the toes of the DPP and DCI through their many dubious parliamentary “investigations.”

When you summon for questioning individuals who are already under active investigation by the DCI, or who are being prosecuted by the DPP, this is open interference with their work.

CONTAMINATED SUGAR

As an example, there are parliamentary committees going on right now purporting to “investigate” the case of contaminated sugar, and who bears responsibility.

Another set of committees is looking into the recent Solai dam calamity. Yet both cases are being dealt with by the DPP and the DCI.

The same individuals Parliament is summoning are the ones the DPP and the DCI have opened cases on. The success of the overall war on corruption lies in the hands of these two law-enforcement officers, and Parliament should not become a hindrance.

The committee system in Parliament works at two levels: Standing committees and Departmental committees.

The former, like the Public Accounts Committee and the Public Investments Committee, do their work properly and are no big problem.

The problem is with the departmental committees. They have become too many even as they fall over themselves to hold sittings on whatever is happening under the sun.

DEFINED PARAMETERS

They are summoning CSs, PSs and even private individuals left, right and centre over purported “investigations” into all manner of cases.

Parliament has its constitutional oversight remit — yes. But this must be exercised responsibly and within defined parameters.

One of the animals the 2010 constitution created is the Senate. It has come with its own array of committees, which are in deadly competition with the National Assembly.

It is all becoming excessive and disorderly. Matters have reached a point where the National Assembly and the Senate have been viciously upstaging each other about which House will probe what matter.

Previously, Muturi has had occasion to warn the Senate committees busy springing up that they have no mandate beyond oversight of county governments.

Why this multiplicity of committee sittings? The answer is simple: Cash. MPs earn more money every month from committee allowances than from their net salaries.

RENT SEEKING

Hence the obsession with committee memberships. The more committees one gets to sit on, the more lucrative it is. The committees have also become arenas for rent seeking.

There have been allegations of bribery and kickbacks extorted from witnesses who have been mentioned adversely. Even CSs are subject to arm-twisting for a variety of favours.

The Speaker’s Thursday ruling instructed committee members to relate with persons appearing as witnesses at “arms-length.”

The same day Muturi gave his ruling, Matiang’i and Government Chemist Ali Gakweli failed to show up before a parliamentary committee that has dragged for weeks its probe of the contraband sugar mess.

The committee wanted to question them over a Government Chemist report that found traces of mercury in samples of the confiscated sugar.

Another committee “investigating” this year’s sensational rape allegations at a Nairobi school got equally furious when DCI George Kinoti skipped their summons.


Sex pests on the loose: Why many children are out of school

By MARY WAMBUI
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A new report has exposed shocking details on the rates of teenage pregnancies, child defilement and drug abuse in schools countrywide.

The draft report of the recently concluded consultations, led by the Education ministry, says teenage pregnancies had hit an all-time high — with Narok County the most affected at more than 60 per cent.

The report says child defilement cases were rampant in some counties, prompting Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed to release strict guidelines to schools last month to deal with the menace.

The report of the Education Quality Dialogue dated July 2018 notes that drug abuse was also widespread in some schools.

In March, the ministry of Education, led by CS Mohamed and Basic Education Principal Secretary Dr Belio Kipsang, rolled out a series of dialogues on education quality with a view to addressing specific county challenges that derail the standards of education.

QUALITY EDUCATION

The forums brought together key education stakeholders at the county level, including Education ministry officials, county commissioners, members of parliament, members of schools’ boards of management, representatives from the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD), the Teachers Service Commission (TSC), Parents Teachers Association (PTA) members, Kenya National Examinations Council (KNEC) and representatives from all the county governments.

Their mandate was to evaluate the status of the quality of education with a view to coming up with better ways of improving learning outcomes for all children.

All counties came up with their findings and recommendations which were then summed up in the report that details some of the key challenges learners and teachers are facing that have a negative effect on teaching and learning in the country.

The forums also sought to evaluate the readiness of teachers and learners for the new competence-based curriculum and to sensitise stakeholders on the new National Education Management Information System (Nemis), whose progress was affected by the delays parents experienced while obtaining birth certificates for their children.

NEMIS SYSTEM

In most counties, lack of certificates was cited as the main reason most learners had not been registered in the Nemis system while in others, low ICT skills among staff involved in the project and low internet connectivity hindered the ministry’s drive to enrol all learners into the system.

As for the new curriculum, some teachers expressed difficulties in their ability to handle some of the requirements of the new curriculum due to large student numbers in classrooms.

In general, the report noted that although the national pilot of the new curriculum was ongoing, teachers had not yet acquired the requisite skills needed for its implementation.

“Instructional materials for the curriculum were said not to have been delivered to most schools and teachers were yet to be trained on the curriculum’s mode of assessment,” stated the report.

Land issues such as encroachment of schools land by private developers and faith-based institutions, lack of title deeds, land grabbing and boundary disputes were found to have an adverse effect on the quality of learning and teaching in various schools in the country.

Student-related challenges, including child defilement and teenage pregnancies, were reported to have a direct effect on access and retention of learners in the school system.

TEENAGE PREGNANCIES

“This was reported mostly in ASAL counties, with Nairobi, Narok, Kilifi, Meru, Bungoma, Busia, Migori, Homa Bay and Kilifi recording the highest cases of teenage pregnancies of up to 60 per cent,” the report stated.

Pregnancy cases also led to increased numbers of over-age girls in schools, including those who rejoin school after dropping out of class to take care of their children.

Cases of child defilement were blamed on young men operating boda bodas who lure young girls into sex in exchange for rides.

Students engaging in drugs and substance abuse, especially alcoholism, was also cited. In Nakuru County, abuse of Kuber, shisha and alcohol was the main problem.

The situation was attributed to increased cases of indiscipline among learners and lack of well-established guidance and counselling programmes for help in student character formation.

The HIV/Aids burden on those affected and infected in Nyanza region, particularly in Homa Bay, Migori, Siaya and Kisumu counties, was found to have a direct impact on teaching and learning as some teachers were either suffering directly or indirectly while some students have been made vulnerable after being orphaned by the pandemic.

PERFORMANCE STANDARDS

In Busia County, students were found to be still participating in disco matangas despite this practice having been banned in all sub-counties.

In Kiambu and Nairobi counties, many children are disadvantaged from accessing the many good schools after they were elevated to national schools status.

The report noted that the situation resulted from not factoring in the performance standards of county and sub-county schools when the said schools got elevated.

Poor feeding among learners was found to have contributed to a high and persistent pupil absenteeism in Busia County, where 35.5 per cent of learners fail to take regular meals, especially breakfast.

Dr Osman Warfa, Head of Neonatal, Child and Adolescent Health Unit in the ministry of Health, while addressing the opening of the second National Early Childhood Development Stakeholders Conference at Kenyatta University (KU) on Wednesday, noted that proper nutrition plays a key role in a child’s academic performance as 90 per cent of the human brain develops by the age of five years.

HEALTH DEVELOPMENT

“Efforts put in promoting the health and development of a child in their early formative years promote fast brain development which reflects in their better school performance,” he said.

That said, poverty and proper nutrition are interlinked. In most cases, parents from poor backgrounds are unable to provide their children with a balanced diet. The report noted that due to this, pupils from high social-economic backgrounds perform better than those from low economic backgrounds.

The report also noted that gender disparity among learners was still a major challenge with records showing that more boys have been enrolled in schools compared to girls.

“This characteristic is much prominent especially in rural areas where the disparities are compounded by cultural practices that deny the girl-child an opportunity to advance her education and career,” stated the report.

Teacher-related issues such as absenteeism, teacher shortages, low motivation, gender imbalance and an ageing workforce were found to have an adverse effect on education.

Most counties have inadequate teachers. In Kilifi, for instance, the teacher-student ratio was reported as 1:85 and 1:82 in primary and secondary schools respectively, thus hindering teachers’ ability to address the needs of every learner.

HARSH CLIMATIC CONDITIONS

Under-staffing was also attributed to harsh climatic conditions in Samburu, Isiolo and Marsabit counties. Poor housing, poor road networks and sporadic attacks targeting non-local teachers along border schools were also cited as challenges affecting staffing. In Northern Kenya, these attacks are carried out by al- Shabaab militants operating in Somalia.

Counties affected by frequent teacher exits arising from their seeking transfers to “safer” regions include Wajir, Garissa, Mandera, Baringo and West Pokot.

“The combination of these challenges results in poor quality education in the region,” the report stated.

In Murang’a County, weak pedagogy where teachers were said not to adequately prepare for their lessons was blamed for the county’s poor Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) performance. Last year, only 12.7 per cent of the candidates in the county got university admission.

In some counties like Migori, Bungoma and Nyamira, teachers were found to skip classes and abscond duty due to over-consumption of brews and lack of proper supervision and monitoring by their head teachers.

INADEQUATE CLASSROOMS

Inadequate classrooms and laboratories were some of the infrastructure-related challenges affecting education quality in the country.

The government’s 100 per cent transition to secondary schools initiative has, over time, resulted in over-stretched resources, leading to inadequate learning space, furniture, sanitation facilities and dormitories in Trans Nzoia, Isiolo, Marsabit and Samburu counties.

“In Kilifi County, inadequate numbers of classrooms necessitated combining of classrooms such as Standard Three and Four pupils as others sit on the floor,” the report noted.

In Samburu County, there’s an ongoing plan to upgrade some Early Childhood Development and Education (ECDE) centres to primary schools to address the need for more learning space.

The report indicated that a majority of parents, especially fathers, were not supportive of their children’s education and never attend school meetings. In Nyamira County, the situation was blamed on parents’ consumption of illicit brews while in other counties in general, parents were said to have left that role to the teachers.

In some counties, parents were said to have absconded education support programmes such as school feeding to faith-based organisations and schools development partners leading to an increase in students dropping out of school.

Illiteracy among parents was also cited as a major challenge as well as parents siding with children involved in indiscipline cases, which consequently makes it difficult for teachers to help students reform and concentrate on their studies.

CHILD LABOUR

Cases of child labour were reported as rampant in Migori County where children are engaged in gold mining in Nyatike and Suna West and the sugar belt of Rongo, Awendo and Uriri, which contributed to absenteeism and eventual dropping out of school.

In Marsabit and Samburu counties, children stay out of school to look after cattle while in Nyamira, Embu and Meru counties, many students have dropped out of school to operate bodabodas to make a living.

In tea growing areas of Kericho and Nandi counties, children ended up at tea plantations picking tea for money.

Poverty, as a factor in hindering quality education, was found to be rampant in Kilifi and Kwale counties where parents were not able to support school feeding programmes thus affecting school attendance.

BASIC NEEDS

In Machakos, a number of parents were found not able to provide basic needs such as school uniforms for their children which contributed to school drop outs.

In general, poverty was a challenge that cuts across all counties. It was observed that many bright children drop out of school after missing out on the constituency bursary funds and the presidential bursary scheme.

Simmering tension between some communities in Kisii, Nyamira, Garissa, Wajir and Mandera, where local residents routinely interfered with the smooth administration of schools including seeking the transfers of teachers who they felt are ‘outsiders’, was blamed for unending wrangles between school boards and PTAs thus affecting quality education.