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Saturday, August 4th, 2018


My take on it : Open letter to Vice President Saulos Chilima, UTM President

My Take On It August 3, 2018

Open letter to Vice President Saulos Chilima, UTM President

Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips Joshua 1:7-8 a

To the Right Honourable Saulos Chilima, Vice President of the Republic of Malawi,

At the outset, profound and sincere congratulations for splashing onto Malawi’s information avenues in the last few weeks by coming out from behind the scenes and launching the United Transformation Movement (UTM!

In coming out, speaking from the heart, and holding numerous humongous rallies starting with Lilongwe, moving to Blantyre and then Mzuzu, you have heeded and in one sweep, glazed yourself with your supporters’ praises. This is indeed the melting point in Malawi politics, and as many of your followers expressed concern that you were taking long, I wish to join the voices coming out as we race on the road to 2019 Presidential elections. Outlined below are seven points (the first of many to come), words of wisdom from These Freedoms platform; three are on former presidents’ speeches for you to earnestly study.

1. No need to resign

There is no need for you to resign; in fact, the constitution is silent on this concept. There is no one that was endowed with the authority to remove you or force your removal. Muluzi failed to remove VP Malewezi; Bungu failed to remove VP Chilumpha; and Bingu failed to remove VP Banda. These presidents failed to remove their VP’s because the Constitution does not deal with it; the VP as the President may be removed from their respective offices only in the case of their becoming incapacitated.

There is no one in Malawi that is endowed with the power to remove the Vice President from the office of the Vice President. It is also unconstitutional to remove the Vice president’s security detail. Your office and security detail are guaranteed by the ordinances of the Office of the VP.

We have the courts to review this provision or lack of it. It is a right that even former VPs and former Presidents will enjoy as long as they live. It’s in the Constitution.

2. On UTM cloth

Honestly speaking Your Honor, the red cloth is bright and very colourful. The design is also super and when worn by men and women, the red sea is brilliant and dazzling. But please, you don’t have to wear it also. Leave the wearing of your face, to your supporters. Can you imagine Kamuzu wearing a Kamuzu cloth? No? Of course not, he would never and never had a suit made from his cloth.

Speaking of the cloth, this was mainly worn by women; today, even men wear the cloth to show their support. Thus, speaking of the cloth, please REMEMBER women with your own lenses, in you planning.

3. Micromanagement

The third point that Your Honour needs to consider is to avoid micromanagement in the running of the country. While taking note that Malawi is faced with a myriad of challenges, however, to speak about them from the Presidential podium, gives the voters the impression that it is the office of the President, to which you aspire, that will correct challenges like persistent blackouts, corruption, nepotism.

There are Constitutional frameworks that were established to implement programs in the such domains as electricity generation and distribution, anti-corruption, provision of water, housing, roadworks etc. We trust that Your Honor will ensure the operatives will follow through on their mandates without your interference. This is what we want to hear from you in your campaign rallies. People are looking for changes in the drama of running a government. It is time that Malawi moved away from the dictators in this democracy.

4. Bingu’s inauguration speech

Please listen to former President Bingu wa Mutharika’s inaugural address in 2004. Bingu’s win disappointed many Malawians and on this day, disgruntled citizens that feared Mutharika would be a puppet of the UDF President Muluzi, were stunned to hear Bingu speak so eloquently at Kamuzu Stadium. And to many, the speech sounded so much like a Kamuzu – he covered all the sectors. Please get that speech and hear how Bingu, who’s great line during his campaign was “Malawi woyee,” won the hearts of many disgruntled Malawians.

5. Kamuzu speeches

Malawi’s first President, late Dr. H. Kamuzu Banda, has been labeled numerous and horrific names; among them dictator, villain and even murderer. However, in his 31-year rule, Banda brought tremendous development, that has been unmatched by any of subsequent presidents; except in some way, Bingu.

Please take time to listen to at least 6 of Kamuzu’s public statements: youth week, crop inspection, Kamuzu Day, Mothers’ Day, parliament, or opening of development projects. One theme you will hear is the delivery of his promises surrounding his vision (popularly called Gweru dreams): all of which came true, they were implemented.

“When I was in Gweru, I had three dreams: university in Zomba, capital to move from Zomba to Lilongwe, and building the Lake Shore Road linking the Southern, Central and Southern Regions….”

From such a clear and concise development roadmap that the people looked forward to and all Malawians and visitors to Malawi can clearly see, Malawians are still benefiting from the Gweru Dreams. From these visions, Kamuzu set out to create structures such as an entity for produce (ADMARC), housing (MHC), provision of electricity (ESCOM), clean water (LWB, BWB, MWB), government road works (PVHO), development planning and implementation (MDC), among others. These were on the government side, but Kamuzu also had visions on the private sector side: Press Corporation, Import and Export, DWS, SUCOMA, VIPLY and a host of others like the Kamuzu Academy, providing international education to Malawi high school students.

6. Watch Muluzi speeches

Lastly, please watch former President Muluzi and his speech and bantering style during the time the UDF was a pressure group (1992-1993). Muluzi’s easy flair and ability to rouse the public, who in turn usually roused him, create a spontaneously flamboyant and gleeful crowd.

Muluzi: “Uuuuuuu!” Crowd: “Uuuuuuu!” Muluzi: “UDF.” Crowd: “UDF.”



Malawians are a highly creative people, and you don’t have to copy style per style of these former presidents, but message crafting and crowd management was key to their successes.

7. Listen to Diaspora drums

What started out as the brain drain in the mid-1970’s and continues, has created a massive corps of Malawians in the diaspora; Malawians gifted with various skills and financial muscle. This entity has produced three presidents (HK Banda and the two Mutharika brothers), but that is all Malawi has benefited from this reality: Malawi brains outside Malawi.

There are Malawian scientists, economists, educators, doctors, nurses, health officials, evangelists, development specialists etc., all over the world.

In the 1970’s the government of Taiwan, created a science park that invites its citizens in the diaspora to come during their holidays to work in the park; they are given the opportunity to contribute to the development of the country. This is a great factor in the rapid progress the tiny island has made, against the political odds it faces.

Malawi needs to make an open olive branch outreach that is deep and sincere to its growing diaspora. Let’s face it, Your Honor, when Kamuzu Banda said he had dreams, on one of them, he explained he “could not sleep thinking about my boys and girls traveling outside the country to get higher education.” That is why he established the University of Malawi.

Sadly, the University is churning out graduates that are forced by circumstances, to seek livelihoods outside their country. Its your opportunity, to use the diaspora muscles, or continue to let the country bleed and lose.

Anyone who flips this, is in the win, win and win Chair.


Cash-strapped KBC under probe over fund misuse claims

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The Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) is investigating allegations of abuse of office and misappropriation of funds at the troubled Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC).

Investigators are seeking to unravel how the decades old State broadcaster sank into such a deep financial mess that it was declared technically insolvent by the Auditor-General in 2016. “This office is investigating a reported case of abuse of office and misappropriation of funds at the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation,” reads a letter dated July 20 by Mr Samuel Ngeywa, an officer from the DCI.

Mr Ngeywa is seeking to know why the corporation cannot remit employees’ statutory deductions to the Kenya Revenue Authority, the national pension fund, co-operative unions, healthcare and insurance.


KBC Acting Managing Director Paul Jilani took issue with the wording of Mr Ngeywa’s letter, saying it implied that the investigator has already found the corporation’s top bosses culpable. “I feel that the letter is conclusive on the allegations even before investigations commence,” he said. “But we are co-operating with the DCI and any other relevant body that wishes to find out why we are in a mess.”

Mr Jilani said KBC’s woes are not unique. “We face the same cash flow problems many other parastatals are facing. But we need to modernise our systems if we are to get out of this rut.”

Mr Ngeywa requested KBC’s management to provide documents regarding employee contributions to eight saccos namely Ardhi, Sauti, Mtangazaji, Harambee, Shirika, Ukulima, Magereza and Hazina.

In addition, the officer asked to be furnished with documents relating to remittance of statutory deductions to banks, remittance of PAYE as well as deductions to insurance companies and the pension scheme.

Furthermore, the investigator requested the payroll and employees’ payslips over the past two years as from July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2018 for examination.

Mr Jilani, who was the corporation’s company secretary for seven years until October last year when he replaced Mr Waithaka Waihenya who retired as the MD, said KBC is in dire financial straits. “We have not made the statutory remittances due to cash flow problems,” he said.


“We are making little money since we no longer attract advertisers as we once did. Whatever little money we raise is used to pay staff. We are planning on how to meet our statutory obligations soon.”

A statement prepared by KBC management at the request of the Senate Committee on Information Communication Technology, which is also investigating the matter, indicated that KBC owes more than Sh2.1 billion in unremitted deductions alone as of last month.

The largest of these pending payments is the Sh764 million the broadcaster is yet to remit to the employees’ pension scheme since 2011, making it impossible for retired staff to get their money.

Another notable outstanding payment is the Sh225 million the organisation is yet to remit to Treasury as employees’ PAYE. The arrears are as from March last year when the corporation started defaulting on the payments. As from February this year, the corporation has not remitted Sh48 million to the eight saccos.


In the statement, the corporation said it is preparing a proposal for Sh1.9 billion to carry out limited restructuring by April next year. A complete overhaul of KBC will cost about Sh7 billion, said an insider.

Insiders privy to KBC’s books of accounts paint a gloomy picture. KBC’s monthly recurrent expenditure stands at Sh280 million against an average revenue of about Sh100 million. Of this amount earned, Sh87 million goes to paying the salaries of the more than 1,100 staff.

KBC’s troubles can be traced to 1989 when it signed a contract with Japan Telecommunications Engineering Consultancy Service for a Sh1 billion loan to buy equipment to improve and expand its national medium wave frequency radio broadcasting network.


Over the years, the loan remained unpaid and by 2015, it had grown to about Sh10.5 billion. Today it is estimated to stand at more than Sh40 billion and is still accruing interest.

The dawn of multiparty politics, the liberalisation of the airwaves and the mushrooming of private broadcast media caught KBC flatfooted. Suddenly, the public broadcaster lost its monopoly and glory. “KBC failed to adapt to the changes in time due to the deliberate State neglect which starved it of critical funding,” said Mr Eric Oduor, the secretary-general of Kenya Union of Journalists.

He said 115 KBC staff are members of his union. “Many of them have gone without salaries while others have been penalised by banks for not repaying their loans in time,” he said.

Stopping Nigeria’s spiralling farmer-herder violence

Rising conflict between herders and farmers in Nigeria is already six times deadlier in 2018 than Boko Haram’s insurgency. To stop the bloodshed, the federal government should improve security; end impunity for assailants; and hasten livestock sector reform. State governments should freeze open grazing bans.

What’s new? Violence between Nigerian herders and farmers has escalated, killing more than 1,300 people since January 2018. The conflict has evolved from spontaneous reactions to provocations and now to deadlier planned attacks, particularly in Benue, Plateau, Adamawa, Nasarawa and Taraba states.

Why did it happen? Three factors have aggravated this decades-long conflict arising from environmental degradation in the far north and encroachment upon grazing grounds in the Middle Belt: militia attacks; the poor government response to distress calls and failure to punish past perpetrators; and new laws banning open grazing in Benue and Taraba states.

Why does it matter? The farmer-herder conflict has become Nigeria’s gravest security challenge, now claiming far more lives than the Boko Haram insurgency. It has displaced hundreds of thousands and sharpened ethnic, regional and religious polarisation. It threatens to become even deadlier and could affect forthcoming elections and undermine national stability.

What should be done? The federal government should better protect both herders and farmers, prosecute attackers, and carry out its National Livestock Transformation Plan. State governments should roll out open grazing bans in phases. Communal leaders should curb inflammatory rhetoric and encourage compromise. International partners should advocate for accountability and support livestock sector reform.

Executive Summary

In the first half of 2018, more than 1,300 Nigerians have died in violence involving herders and farmers. What were once spontaneous attacks have become premeditated scorched-earth campaigns in which marauders often take villages by surprise at night. Now claiming about six times more civilian lives than the Boko Haram insurgency, the conflict poses a grave threat to the country’s stability and unity, and it could affect the 2019 general elections. The federal government has taken welcome but insufficient steps to halt the killings. Its immediate priorities should be to deploy more security units to vulnerable areas; prosecute perpetrators of violence; disarm ethnic militias and local vigilantes; and begin executing long-term plans for comprehensive livestock sector reform. The Benue state government should freeze enforcement of its law banning open grazing, review that law’s provisions and encourage a phased transition to ranching.

The conflict is fundamentally a land-use contest between farmers and herders across the country’s Middle Belt. It has taken on dangerous religious and ethnic dimensions, however, because most of the herders are from the traditionally nomadic and Muslim Fulani who make up about 90 per cent of Nigeria’s pastoralists, while most of the farmers are Christians of various ethnicities. Since the violence escalated in January 2018, an estimated 300,000 people have fled their homes. Large-scale displacement and insecurity in parts of Adamawa, Benue, Nasarawa, Plateau and Taraba states hinder farming as well as herding and drive up food prices. The violence exacts a heavy burden on the military, police and other security services, distracting them from other important missions, such as countering the Boko Haram insurgency.

The conflict’s roots lie in climate-induced degradation of pasture and increasing violence in the country’s far north, which have forced herders south; the expansion of farms and settlements that swallow up grazing reserves and block traditional migration routes; and the damage to farmers’ crops wrought by herders’ indiscriminate grazing. But three immediate factors explain the 2018 escalation. First is the rapid growth of ethnic militias, such as those of the Bachama and Fulani in Adamawa state, bearing illegally acquired weapons. Second is the failure of the federal government to prosecute past perpetrators or heed early warnings of impending attacks. Third is the introduction in November 2017 of anti-grazing laws vehemently opposed by herders in Benue and Taraba states, and the resultant exodus of herders and cattle, largely into neighbouring Nasarawa and, to a lesser degree, Adamawa, sparking clashes with farmers in those states.

As the killings persist, Nigerians are weaving destructive conspiracy theories to explain the conflict. Charges and counter-charges fly of ethnic cleansing and even genocide – by both farmers and herders. In Benue state, once part of Nigeria’s northern region, herders’ attacks have deepened anger, particularly but not only among farmers, at the Fulani who are spread across the north. Widespread disenchantment with President Muhammadu Buhari – who is viewed outside the north as soft on the herders – could hurt his, and the ruling party’s, chances in the February 2019 elections.

The federal government has taken measures to stop the bloodshed. It has deployed additional police and army units, and launched two military operations to curb violence in six states – Exercise Cat Race, which ran from 15 February to 31 March, and subsequently Operation Whirl Stroke, which is still ongoing. Even with these deployments, however, killings continue. President Buhari and other senior officials have consulted with herder and farmer leaders, as well as relevant state governments, to discuss ways to halt the attacks. As a long-term solution, the government has proposed establishing “cattle colonies”, which would set aside land for herders across the country, and more recently unveiled a National Livestock Transformation Plan (2018-2027). These measures signal greater commitment on the government’s part, but they are yet to be implemented and the violence continues.

President Buhari’s administration needs to do more. Crisis Group’s September 2017 report, which analysed the roots of the conflict, laid out detailed recommendations for resolving it. These remain largely valid. This report focuses on immediate priorities – tasks the federal and state authorities, as well as community leaders and Nigeria’s international partners, must urgently undertake to stop the escalation spinning out of control. In this light, the Nigerian government should:

  • Bolster security for farmers and herders: The federal government should deploy more police in affected areas; ensure they are better equipped; improve local ties to gather better intelligence; and respond speedily to early warnings and distress calls. In addition, it should begin to disarm armed groups, including ethnic militias and vigilantes in the affected states, and closely watch land borders to curb the inflow of firearms.

  • End impunity: The federal government also should order the investigation of all recent major incidents of farmer-herder violence. It may need to expedite the trials of individuals or organisations found to have participated, sponsored or been complicit in violence.

  • Elaborate the new National Livestock Transformation Plan and commence implementation: The federal government should publicise details of its National Livestock Transformation Plan, encourage buy-in by herders and state governments, and move quickly to put the plan into effect in consenting states.

  • Freeze enforcement of and reform state anti-grazing legislation: The Benue state government should freeze enforcement of its law banning open grazing, as Taraba state has already done, and amend objectionable provisions therein. It should also help herders become ranchers, including by developing pilot or demonstration ranches, and conducting education programs for herders uneasy about making the transition.

  • Encourage herder-farmer dialogues and support local peace initiatives: Federal and state governments should foster dialogue between herders and farmers, by strengthening mechanisms already existing at state and local levels, and particularly by supporting peace initiatives at the local level.

For their part, herder leaders, many of whom recognise that pastoralists will have to move, even if gradually, toward ranching, should exercise restraint. They should challenge legislation they dislike in court; urge members, in the meantime, to abide by laws and court decisions; and encourage herders to take opportunities to move from open grazing to ranching. All communal leaders – religious, regional and ethnic – should denounce violence unequivocally and step up support for local dialogue. Nigeria’s international partners should nudge Buhari to act more swiftly to end the killings. Human rights groups should speak out more loudly against atrocities. Aid organisations should devote resources to internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Benue, Nasarawa and Plateau states, with special attention to women and children, who constitute the majority of the displaced. International development agencies should work with Nigerian authorities to offer technical support for livestock sector reform.

Abuja/Dakar/Brussels, 26 July 2018

Return the favour, hawker tells President Uhuru Kenyatta

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For many Kenyans, September 1, 2017 remains significant for only one reason: It is the day the Supreme Court made an unprecedented landmark ruling nullifying the re-election of President Uhuru Kenyatta.

The ruling touched off heightened political activity of seismic proportions, further extending what had already been a prolonged electioneering period and unexpectedly plunging Kenyan voters into another round of the presidential vote.

It is also on the same day that an incensed President Kenyatta made the infamous “we will revisit” statement that was perceived by many as a thinly veiled threat to the Supreme Court bench led by Justice David Maraga for overturning his election victory of August 8, 2017.

However, for one young man struggling to eke out a living on the harsh streets of Nairobi, that Friday evening remains etched on his mind for a totally different — if not very special — reason.

It is the day he not only met, but also shook hands and had a brief chat with the President in very interesting circumstances.


For 22-year-old Dennis Wachira, a chewing gum hawker on the busy Jogoo and Landies roads, the day started like any other. “I had no idea that the President would be visiting the area adjacent to where I operate,” Mr Wachira told Nairobi News in an interview last year.

As it were, Mr Kenyatta would that afternoon make an impromptu stopover at Burma market off Jogoo road, just about the same time that fate had placed Mr Wachira within the vicinity as part of the crowd that had gathered to catch a glimpse of the President.

So when the unexpected opportunity presented itself, the hawker seized the moment for what he genuinely believed would he a life-changing encounter.

In a daring move that breached the usually impregnable presidential protocol, Mr Wachira did the unthinkable, if only to stick out from the crowd and draw the President’s attention. “I held up an orange PK chewing gum and shouted while gesturing to him ‘Mr President, can I sell you this?’” he narrates.

As you would expect the President’s security detail attempted to block him by shoving him out of the way.


But it was to be his lucky day. The President, who was addressing the crowd from the sunroof of his vehicle, had already taken notice. He quickly gestured to the security personnel to let go off the young man. “Everything happened so fast. I couldn’t believe it. When I got close to his vehicle, all I could do was to offer him a mint gum worth Sh20,” he recalls.

The President graciously accepted the humble offer and cupped the hawker’s head in his hand and whispered something into his ear. “He simply asked me what I wanted from him. I was in shock and I could not believe that I was talking to the Head of State. I couldn’t talk,” Mr Wachira says.

Hawker Dennis WachiraHawker Dennis Wachira when he offered President Uhuru Kenyatta chewing gum on September 1, 2017. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

And that was it. His 15 seconds of fame came and passed, just like that. Almost one year down the line, he still hustles and shuffles, hopping from one Umoja-bound matatu to another with his precious wares in hand. His perceived life changing encounter with the President seemingly never came to pass.

“Life has become tougher for me. In fact, that incident has made me the laughing stock among my peers and colleagues. They mockingly ask me why my life hasn’t changed for the better even after meeting, speaking to and offering mint gum to the President,” he tells the Sunday Nation.


But when contacted on Saturday, PSCU Director in Charge of Digital, Dennis Itumbi, said: “We will follow up on this issue and Team Uhuru, the political charity of the President, will engage with him to ensure that we see what can be done, especially to ensure his business and livelihood are sustained.”

The father of one laments how tough getting by in the hawking business has become following the influx of hawkers on the roads he plies his trade. “There are days I hardly make any profit even after toiling for a whole day. There are too many of us in this business. Also, the completion of Outering Road has greatly eased traffic along Jogoo Road. Our business only thrives when traffic is heavy since you can easily manoeuvre from one matatu to another in a traffic jam,” he says.

Furthermore, he says, his job is fraught with many perils and challenges. “My job is very risky. You can easily get knocked down by a speeding vehicle. We also have to be constantly on the lookout for Nairobi County askaris (kanjo) who often harass us,” he said.


He also regrets being unable to fully provide for his two-month-old son, who lives with the mother in Kakamega.

Mr Wachira, who grew up in Bahati estate in Nairobi’s Eastlands and attended St Theresa’s Primary School and Highlink Secondary School, is now seeking to draw the President’s attention, yet again, to his plight.

He wants the President to “pay” back in kind for the chewing gum he offered him during their brief encounter by giving him a job. “I understand when I met the President he was out of a job, following the Supreme Court’s ruling. But he is now the sitting Head of State and he has all the powers to offer me a job, any kind of job,” he says.

But if the help won’t be forthcoming from the President, he says, he will appreciate help securing a more decent job from any Kenyan of goodwill.

For now, though, he has to make do with his hawking job in matatus.

The day the devil visited and caused senseless death and destruction in Nairobi

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The day began for me just as other Fridays – the newspaper I worked for did not publish on weekends, so Fridays were pretty easy.

As the news editor, the first thing I did was to assign the reporters and photographers the duties for the day. I then assigned myself to cover the meeting between the United States Ambassador Prudence Bushnell and Minister for Trade, Prudence Bushnell .

I assigned Martin Waweru to be my photographer for the event. However, Waweru would not get out of the newsroom.

I pleaded, threatened and pleaded again but Waweru would say he had forgotten this or that and had to go back to the newsroom to look for the missing item.

Running out of patience, I started walking to the lifts (we were based on 12th floor of Lonrho House). Then I bumped into my elder brother, Ahmed Ben Bella, who had come to see me over some personal issue.


We rode together in the lift and just outside 20th Century Cinema, we stopped. Then it happened. The loud blast left in its wake a dusty whirlwind over the skies.

That’s when I pushed my brother aside and, as any good journalist would do, I started sprinting towards the source of the blast.

By this time the city was in a tumult with people running helter skelter not knowing what had happened.

Near Kencom building, I met this elderly man who was calling out some lady’s name interspersed with mournful dirge of “Nyasaye Gaki” in Ekegusii. Since I was of no much help, I sprinted past him barrelling towards what I was sure was a big story.

Sprinting the last stretch I saw a bleeding Kamotho being carried by a bodyguard and one of his aides, the former journalist Johnson Gakungu, but I never bothered them. Only a heart as cold as an ex-wife’s heart would start asking questions in such circumstances.


Reaching the Co-operative Bank building I ran into a scene straight from hell. The edifice that had long marked the Nairobi skyline, and which Kenyans affectionately called ‘bell bottom house’, had its window panes shattered. Bodies of passers-by were strewn all over. The one strange thing was that the blast had ripped clothes off the victims.

They lay there, robbed of their dignity in the senseless death.

At this time rumours were flying all over – it was a terror attack (true), more bombers were on their way to Nairobi (false), Tanzania had also been attacked (true), there was a similar attempt at State House (false).

In the middle of the chaos, I ran into the then Permanent Secretary for Cooperative Development, my friend Philemon Mwaisaka. A church elder, the long-serving civil servant would tell me thus: “Tom, hiini kazi ya shetani (this is the work of the devil).” I couldn’t disagree with him, for after all, who can lead a man to visit such death and destruction upon fellow human beings if not the devil himself?


This was the day I saw fellow journalists put away their notebooks and cameras and join in rescue operations. Without basic tools, we used our bare hands to rummage through the debris, searching for survivors. At one point, we joined members of the public in telling off the security team at the US embassy.

As we were busy searching for survivors, some not very intelligent American security officer cocked his gun and warned us to stay away from the embassy building, claiming that the Kenyan rescuers were looters. Which made an infuriated Kenyan to shout at them: “If you were this hawk-eyed with the terrorists, we could not be having this problem.” We shouted the poor soldier back into the innards of the ruined embassy building.

Mixed fortunes of instant fame for ‘Githeri Man’

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Perhaps the sudden thrust into the limelight, and the fading glow that followed were in the end too much for Martin Kamotho, the man plucked from obscurity into an overnight sensation for eating githeri as he waited to vote during the August 7, 2017 polls.

In June, Kamotho, who has acquired the moniker ‘Githeri man’, re-appeared on public TV.

He was accompanied by Kiambu County Woman Rep, Gathoni Wamuchomba and others as he checked into Mama Care Centre, a rehab in Kiambaa constituency, after falling into alcoholism.

The directive to have him check into rehab was given by President Uhuru Kenyatta himself, according to Wamuchomba.

It had only been six months since Kamotho was awarded a Head of State commendation by President Kenyatta on Jamhuri Day last year in the wake of an unprecedented flurry of media and public adulation. His photo hurled him into the stratosphere; talk show hosts tripped over themselves as they rushed to scoop him into the TV set while endless online memes flooded social media.


A real estate firm called with the offer of a piece of land while a tour company wrote a cheque for a luxurious holiday trip for the man of the hour and his family.

While it is still not clear whether Kamotho’s descent into alcoholism was a result of the newly found, bewildering fame, it is entirely possible to trace a line back to that famous photograph.

Happening into sudden fame-even when money is not a factor, experts say, often comes with mixed fortunes.

“It can be tragic, especially when one has never handled such a huge amount of money, or attention,” says Veronicah Mugi, a psychologist.

“You either emerge a better person or end up ruing the opportunity, end up in a worse condition than they were.”


For some people, the sudden exposure to celebrity and renown is akin to a “high-the euphoric feeling triggered by the intake of a drug”, adds Ms Mugi. “To suddenly have the experience, the attention come to an end may cause one to experience withdrawal symptoms.”

His celebrity status turned light on the state of the local media, exposing an unsettling, almost fraudulent side to a section of the industry. Why, wondered many people, would otherwise respectable media houses dedicate hours of primetime to an individual minding his own business-chewing food from a plastic bag?

The vitriol was relentless. “There is a patient who was carted from his hospital bed to cast his vote yet there’s no mention of him,” someone raged.

The ultimate denouement was the introduction of the lexicon ‘githeri media’, an indictment on cheapened reportage by the industry.

Kenyan vessel that sailed the way of ill-fated Titanic

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At the fall of darkness on Friday, August 5, 1988, Ugandan born Captain Justus Tumwikyirize radioed the control tower at the Kilindini harbour to communicate that his vessel, “The Harrier”, was undocking from the berth into the high seas.

His destiny was a site in the shorelines of Zanzibar islands where a sister ship, “The Venturer,” was stuck at a prospective oil drilling site.

On board with Captain Tumwikyirize were five other crewmen. The vessel was originally a tug for towing chores just within the port, with only a crew of two and no cargo allowed on board. However, it had been improvised and allowed to take a maximum cargo of 43 tonnes.

Days to take-off, the vessel had officially declared it would have aboard the maximum allowed cargo which would include four tonnes of fresh water, two weeks supply of food, 24 bags of drilling chemicals, plywood and chain-links.

The Japanese-built vessel was owned by a maritime company called Cormaco but available for hire by interested clients with cargo to transport across the East African waterfront.


About half-an-hour after it had drifted off the harbour, the vessel was still in touch on radio and a signal was received at Ras Serani signal station near Mombasa where sailing vessels catch up speed to enter the high seas.

But come morning, the radio operator at Comarco offices reported to his superiors that there had been no more signals after the vessel had ventured into high seas.

At first the company director, J.H. Nielsen, wasn’t worried as it was normal for a signal to miss at one station but be received at another. He instructed that all signal stations within Mombasa, the Tanzanian port of Tanga, and Zanzibar islands be contacted. They all drew a blank.

More shock was awaiting the company director when he called the Mombasa port only to be told that the vessel hadn’t left a list of crew members as it was required in the port regulations.

He immediately hired a small plane and did an aerial search at the Kenyan coast but came back clueless. Still hopeful, the company sent its other three vessels to conduct a search in the high seas but still to no avail. It is at that point when Kenyan authorities intervened and the Kenya Navy mobilised to scour the entire Kenyan shores.

Help was also sought from the governments of Tanzania and Somalia. But, after a 10-day search that entailed scouring and high-sea diving off the waterfront between Kenya and Zanzibar, the search was called off.


No debris was ever found to suggest the vessel sank to the depth of the deep blue sea. And no floating bodies or personal effects were found floating or washed ashore to give a hint as to what might have happened.

Subsequently, the Kenya government set up a judicial commission of inquiry to look into the riddle of the disappeared vessel. It was chaired by then High Court Judge Emmanuel O’kubasu.

Two years later, the O’kubasu commission arrived at the conclusion that the vessel had sunk due to overloading. But many questions were left begging for answers.

First was the question of excess crew. Why was the vessel allowed to leave the port with a crew of six yet it was allowed a crew of not more than two? It came out at the inquiry that the vessel’s captain didn’t declare the size of his crew as required by port regulations. But that wasn’t a good enough explanation as the port has responsibility to enforce the rules as it were.

But, more intriguing, was the revelation that the vessel had an undeclared excess cargo of 3.89 tonnes. How was the excess cargo sneaked into the vessel? Who sneaked it onboard? More interesting, what was the content of the contraband cargo?


The wife of the captain of the doomed vessel told the inquiry that for two weeks, her husband had been a worried man and that he confided in her that some people he didn’t mention were insisting that he include in the Zanzibar trip some excess and illegal cargo, and have excess crew.

He told her he would be writing to her employers to object to the trip. But the owners of the ill-fated vessel, Comarco, said they never received any such letter, and that if they did, they would have taken prompt action.

But the mystery remained as to who was forcing the captain to carry “excess and illegal” cargo since the mission to Zanzibar was an in-house assignment to rescue a sister vessel.

Could the captain of the vessel have been moon-lighting for other people behind his employer’s back? Or was there collusion between officials at the port of Mombasa to sneak in contraband cargo for their secret customers?


Over a decade after the fate of the ill-fated vessel was sealed by the judicial commission of inquiry, I was at the coast on an assignment unrelated to the mystery of the disappeared vessel.

The Nation’s Mombasa Bureau Chief at the time, Mr Njuguna Mutonya (May God rest his soul in eternal peace), had made it a habit to make sure no colleague sent on assignment at the coast left the place before he had taken them out “to see the town” as he used to put it.

Ironically, “the seeing the town” inevitably came in the night hours, and it struck me Mr Mutonya knew Mombasa better at night than during the day.

It is while on those nocturnal tours with my colleague that we settled for a drink with a retired Kenya Navy officer well known to him.

As we talked on this and that, the subject of the disappeared vessel came up and we asked the retired officer to tell us what could have happened.

He told us the vessel didn’t sink because of overloading as concluded by the judicial inquiry. It was deliberately fired at from another vessel immediately it ventured into the high seas.


The retired officer told us the Kenya Navy knew for sure what happened but the information was officially withheld.

So, why was the vessel sank? It would be something to do with the illegal excess cargo sneaked in at the port of Mombasa.

He told us a powerful foreign government knew what the contraband cargo was and had severally warned the Kenya government against transportation of similar cargo.

Sinking the ill-fated vessel was a warning shot to peddlers of the illicit cargo and their accomplices in high places that they were being watched and wouldn’t be allowed to get away with murder.

The retired officer never told us which powerful foreign government ordered the shooting of the vessel. We didn’t bother to ask what the illegal cargo was as we could guess it for ourselves. End of the story.

Twenty years later, bomb blast victims still pushing for compensation

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Twenty years after the twin bombings of the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, Kenyans and Tanzanians victimised by the attacks are still struggling to gain compensation through the US judicial and legislative systems.

“We’re not giving up,” declared Washington attorney Phillip Musolino who represents 538 Kenyan citizens affected by the Nairobi bombing. “If it takes 30 years, we’ll find a way.” “The Kenyans have been as gracious and as patient as possible,” Mr Musolino added.

Court rulings over the years have either excluded non-US citizens from potential damage awards or have ordered payments to African victims from funds that have been obtained from al-Qaeda, the author of the attacks, or from countries said to have abetted the bombings.

The hundreds of Kenyans and Tanzanians harmed by the blasts and unaffiliated with the US government have thus been unable to gain compensation through the courts, Mr Musolino said.


The US Agency for International Development did provide a total of nearly $45 million (Sh4.5 billion) to the families of 173 Kenyan citizens killed or injured in the explosion that occurred on August 7, 1998. That assistance mainly came in the form of coverage for medical expenses.

Mr Musolino said efforts to aid Kenyan victims are now focused on the US Congress. Lobbyists are specifically seeking to persuade legislators to amend a law passed in 2015 that provided payments to US citizens who were seized as hostages in Iran in 1979.

The compensation handed out last year came from fines paid to the US by the Paris-based BNP Paribas bank as a penalty for violating US sanctions against Iran, Sudan and Cuba. US victims of the attacks in Kenya and Tanzania were also deemed eligible for awards from a $1 billion portion of the fines.

The envisioned amendment would enable Kenyan and Tanzanian victims to share in the damage awards.


“We’re hopeful of getting it passed,” Mr Musolino said. “Kenya is regarded in Congress as a friend of the US, so we have to persuade people that this friendship should include compensation.”

He acknowledged, however, that there is no indication that Congress will act soon — or ever — to change the law.

Arguments in support of compensation to Kenyan victims are based partly on claims that the US State Department failed to properly secure the embassy building that stood on Moi Avenue in Nairobi.

Prudence Bushnell, US ambassador to Kenya at the time of the bombing, has said she repeatedly alerted officials in Washington that the embassy was vulnerable to terrorist attack. No action was taken in response to her warnings.

“As ambassador, I was responsible for security,” Ms Bushnell wrote in her contribution to a set of 20th anniversary reflections on the attack published in the Foreign Service Journal. “And while I had pushed and pushed to get Washington’s attention to our vulnerabilities, I remain keenly aware that I failed.”

Meanwhile, more than 350 victims of the attack have signed a petition to go to court to press the Kenyan and the US governments to substantially award them for their losses and injuries.

Mr George Ngige, the chairman of the August 7, 1998 Bomb Blast Victims Association of Kenya, said they have been forced to take the action following a perceived reluctance by the government to follow up on the matter.

“There is no goodwill from the government to listen to us over this matter,” he said yesterday on the phone. “Whenever we have approached the government, they have always claimed that there is little it can do to press the US government to compensate us properly.”

Mr Ngige was outside the bell-bottomed Cooperative Bank building on that chilly August morning 20 years ago when al-Qaeda militants detonated a massive car bomb outside the American embassy.

“I was suddenly lifted up in the air (when the bomb went off). I thought the end of the world had come,” remembered Mr Ngige. The blast sent millions of shards of glass flying in the air, one of which sheared off flesh his left leg.


As a result, he now walks with a crutch and still feels pain in his neck. “I still need checkup for my injuries and medicine for pain, but I don’t have money for that,” he said.

In April 2014, a judge in Washington DC found that 23 Tanzanians and Americans killed or injured in the attack in Dar es Salaam were entitled to $957 million in damages.

That judgement was rendered against the governments of Iran and Sudan, which were found to have abetted al Qaeda’s attacks.

In August 2014, a court in New York awarded some six Kenyan victims of the blast $1 billion (Sh100 billion). However, the catch was that this money will come from whatever assets of al-Qaeda that can be recovered.

“It is unclear whether plaintiffs will ever recover their damages in this case,” said Justice John Facciola, who made the ruling in favour of Mr Castro Otiende, Mr Protus Manyasa Buluma, Mr Dipak L. Shah, Mr Wilfred Nderitu, Mr Charles Makori Mogi and Mr Kioko Muema.


Mr Ngige, who is now suffering from prostate cancer, is still hopeful that some sort of agreement can be worked out between Kenyan and the US governments to finally settle the compensation issue.

“If there was political goodwill from our leaders, yes, it can happen,” he said. “But our government is not Kenyan. A legal officer from the Attorney-General’s office recently told us to drop our claim and in return the government would provide us NHIF (National Hospital Insurance Fund) cards for free for our medical attention.”

Nine individuals have been convicted in the US on charges related to the two bombings. All have been sentenced to life imprisonment.

Another 10 persons accused of involvement in the attacks have been killed or have died of natural causes. The most prominent member of this group is Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda who was killed in Pakistan by US commandos in 2011.

Three alleged bombing conspirators indicted by US prosecutors remain at large. One of them is Ayman al-Zawahiri, who took charge of al-Qaeda following bin Laden’s death.

Raila tried to talk me out of facing Uhuru, says Ekuru Aukot

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The Thirdway Alliance leader Dr Ekuru Aukot has claimed Nasa leaders – Raila Odinga, his deputy Kalonzo Musyoka and Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula, frantically tried to persuade him not to offer his candidature in the fresh elections.

Dr Aukot had participated in the nullified election coming a distant fifth with 27,400 votes behind Joseph Nyagah (38029) and Abduba Dida (38,004) votes compared to Kenyatta’s 8.2 million votes and Mr Odinga’s 6.8 million.

Mr Odinga, then the Nasa presidential candidate, boycotted the fresh election over claims that the electoral commission chaired by Mr Wafula Chebukati was not competent to oversee the process.

Sensing that President Kenyatta was determined to have the election proceed with Dr Aukot as seemingly the only opposition to the president, the Nasa leaders reached out to Aukot.

“Mr Odinga lobbied me not to participate in the election under the understanding that if I boycotted like he had done, it would cause a constitutional crisis because, according to him, Mr Kenyatta would not have competed against himself,” Mr Aukot said.


“After our first meeting, Mr Odinga would call me again. We went on a lunch meeting but I told him that the so-called abandonment will only give President Kenyatta a direct win without a contest,” he said of Mr Odinga, whom he describes as one of his best friends despite holding divergent political ideologies.

“He is my friend. I go to his house and occasionally we meet for a drink.”

According to Dr Aukot, Mr Musyoka and Mr Wetang’ula also called and, well aware they are his seniors in the legal fraternity, he accepted to meet them.

They told him to withdraw the petition he had filed at the High Court challenging the decision of the IEBC to block him from the race so as to deny President Kenyatta the much-needed legitimacy.

This came after the IEBC had decided to gazette President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga as the only candidates, leaving out the eight others who contested in the nullified poll.


The IEBC move was guided by the 2013 Supreme Court judgment that in case an election is cancelled, only the person whose victory is affected and the runner-up be the ones to contest.

“But I explained to them that if Uhuru fails to get a challenger, he would be declared the winner as it happened to Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichung’wah, among others. There was a precedent but these people thought that they were going to pocket and control me,” Dr Aukot said.

He said that his decision to challenge the legality of the IEBC decision was to protect the Constitution and not about his individual interests.

“I felt that my political rights were protected by article 138 of the Constitution. I am my own man and I don’t even support what Jubilee is doing because they have officialised the theft of public funds,” he said in reference to the rampant corruption in government.


He denied claims that he had been bribed by the Jubilee leadership to participate in the repeat election in order to give it legitimacy.

“It was stupid and mediocre for some people to imagine that I had been given money to remain in the race. They even said that it is my wife who went to collect the money but it is all stupid. It is the work of political conmen,” he said.

He went on: “I confronted Mr Odinga about the comments he had made about my wife but he denied it.”

He also said: “CJ Maraga chickened out from issuing an advisory opinion on what he exactly meant on declaring the election null and void.”

But as fate would have it, High Court Judge John Mativo ordered the IEBC to gazette all the candidates, who had participated in the nullified election for the fresh elections.

Leaders oppose calls to increase the NYS budgetary allocation

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A section of leaders from western Kenya have rejected calls to increase budgetary allocation to the National Youth Service, terming the State agency a “conduit of mega corruption”.

ODM secretary-general Edwin Sifuna, Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala and ANC nominated MP Godfrey Osotsi said Kenyans are waiting for a report of recovery of the money that was stolen from the NYS before the agency can get any more funding.

Mr Sifuna asked the government to account for the Sh9.6 billion that was stolen from NYS first, with several suspects facing charges in court over the scandal.


Speaking at Bulimbo Girls Secondary School in Matungu on Sunday, the politicians slammed Deputy President William Ruto for asking members of the National Assembly to review a decision to slash the NYS allocation.

Last week, Mr Ruto said the reduction in NYS budgetary allocation would affect several youth empowerment programmes.

In June, the besieged State agency suffered a blow when Parliament cut its annual budgetary allocation by Sh8.25 billion to Sh10.11 billion in the 2018/2019 financial year.


“The agency has been implicated in misuse of public money. It has failed to provide expected services to the youths due to theft of money it has received in the past and does not merit to get increased funding,” said Mr Sifuna.

Mr Malala said those who have been implicated in the loss of public funds should be forced to return the loot.

He recommended that the NYS be devolved to counties to improve its effectiveness in providing services to the youth at the grassroots.


He noted that devolving the youth service will end corruption because senators will hold governors accountable on the use of the money.

“We (senators) will summon governors who misuse the money and ensure they face the full force of the law,” said Mr Malala.

He said counties need to have a role in administration of NYS, arguing that currently, the service is too big to be managed at a central point.


The leaders reiterated the need to put in place systems to curb corruption saying money in public institutions has in the recent past been fleeced with reckless abandon.

Mr Osotsi chided those who have stolen funds from public coffers and called for their arrest and recovery of the loot.

He said major industries in the region had collapsed because of bad management that opened channels for theft. “Nobody is a sacred cow and those who have mismanaged and looted from the taxpayers should face the law,” said Mr Osotsi.