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Monday, August 6th, 2018

 

Nurse who was addicted to painkillers warns it can happen to anyone

Addiction to drugs cost him a degree in medicine and landed him in rehab

Towards the end, when he finally weaned off a crippling three-year dependence on Pethidine, an opioid, Ken*, a nurse, could have given up anything for a shot of the painkiller.

It had been three years since Ken walked into a restricted room in a public hospital and retrieved one of the strongest and highly addictive painkillers and gave himself a shot, just for the “highs” of it.

He was not in any kind of pain that warranted the use of the drug , so he sneaked into what should have been a locked drawer and took a vial of the drug.

Barely 10 minutes after shooting up, the effects of Pethidine kicked in; an euphoric feeling washed over him and he could not wait for the second dose. That was the beginning of a three-year addiction that almost cost him his job.

Since then, he got clean, got hooked again, sobered up and finally relapsed.

Child’s play

Ken’s addiction to pain medication started out like child’s play when as a teenager he started shooting heroin.

As a medical student at a Russian university finding a vein was never a problem. All you need, he quips, is a strap tied to control blood flow followed by a light tap to make the vein pop out, so you can hit it.

He messed around with alcohol, cigarettes, bhang, and finally heroin, which according to Ken, never truly affected him until the administration called his mother complaining about his drug abuse. As a result, he was discontinued and sent back home.

“My mother stopped paying my school fees. I started a business and saved up for my schooling,” he recounts.

He also checked into a rehab centre. Although the rehab stopped his infatuation with heroin, at least for a while, his craving for marijuana never ceased.

“My first shot was a vial of 100mg of Pethidine. I experienced the same euphoric effects of heroin as the drug coursed through my body,” he says.

By weaning off heroin, which he had used for a decade, Ken was able to raise funds which enabled him to register for a nursing course at Kenya Medical Teachers Training College in Kitui in 2011, six years after leaving Russia.

A creature of habit, it was just a matter of time before he begun feeding his addiction. This time, he chose not to go to the dingy alleys of Nairobi but went for what was within his reach: prescription pain medications known as opioids.

“It was three months after joining school that we first went to do our ward rounds and I signed out the small cylindrical glass capsules containing Pethidine and Morphine injections. The sight of those vials of drugs immediately triggered a craving,” recalls the father of two.

Labour pain

Being posted in the maternity ward where mothers are given the drugs to alleviate labour pain did not help Ken’s battle with addiction as he could see nurses administer the drugs to mothers.

So bad was his craving that on his first night shift as a student at a level four hospital, Ken forged papers, put them in a patient’s file and walked to the cabinet where the two medicines were kept under lock and key and retrieved them for his use. “My first shot was a vial of 100mg of Pethidine. I experienced the same euphoric effects of heroin as the drug coursed through my body,” he says.

Compared to heroin, cocaine and bhang, Pethidine and Morphine “do not give you a hangover or leave you emitting a pungent smell. So, I began telling myself, ‘If I can feel this good after 48 hours of work, why shouldn’t I feel this good every day after a long day’s work?’”

Before long Ken, 40, was hooked to Pethidine and for two years he hid the habit until one evening a senior nurse sent him for medical equipment at the theatre only for some drugs to be found missing.

The senior nurse confronted him but he only got a warning. Describing the effects of the drug he says: “Pethidine grabs a hold of you, and it won’t let go. It turned me into somebody I never thought I would be. Once you are hooked, it is almost like a relationship with a person you love.”

After being caught with his hand in the cookie jar soon the supply of the hospital “heroin” ran dry. Ken He later returned to street heroin. “Although I didn’t want to use heroin again when you are suffering from the withdrawal symptoms including, achy bones, lack of energy, roughed up intestines and vomiting you don’t make clear decisions. All you need is the next fix,” he adds.

Dr Peter Njagi, a psychiatrist and addiction expert who runs a rehab, says the level of stress and fatigue experienced by health professionals can easily push them to abuse prescription opioids.
Ken is undergoing rehabilitation at Mathari National Teaching and Referral Hospital and counts himself lucky given that many health professions have overdosed on Pethidine and even died.

Figures from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime indicate that only one in ten people who suffer from opioid dependence globally receives treatment.
*Name has been changed to protect the nurse’s identity


Audit queries on Judiciary over two contracts

By SAM KIPLAGAT
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Two separate audits reveal loss of million of shillings at the Judiciary during the conversion of Income Tax House to the Milimani Law courts and provision of security services.

The audits, were prepared by the Audit and Risk Management Directorate.

The Chief Risk and Internal Systems Auditor Ronald Wanyama said that during the conversion of the building, which costs about Sh1 billion, the contract was varied by Sh313,246,147 and some of the variations were not supported by the site instructions to the contractor; N.K. Brothers.

The works were completed and eventually handed over to the Judiciary on November 17, 2010.

The report reveals that the project manager then issued a final certificate for payment of Sh116,825,566 dated January 30, 2015.

MEDIATE DISPUTE

A dispute later arose over the payment and the matter was referred to arbitration. Mr Onesmus Mwangi Gichuiri was nominated as the arbitrator by the President of the Architectural Association if Kenya to mediate in the dispute.

On his part, the contractor demanded Sh13,119,985 as outstanding fees on certificates, Sh177,021,746 as interest on delayed payments, Sh147,344,970 and interest of 14 per cent per annum since November 7, 2016. After several sittings, the parties agreed that the Judiciary pays Sh388 million to the contractor.

In the deal, the Judiciary was to pay Sh50 million within three months of filing the consent or before June 30, 2018, while the remainder was to be paid in the next two financial years beginning the current financial year. The agreement was dated February 8, 2018.

“Most of the variation orders were not signed by the F.M. King’ori, the principal quantity surveyor, J.K. Kafuna, the principal Architect, E.W. Njoroge, the acting chief quantity surveyor and A.N. Munano, the acting chief Architect,” reads part of the report.

VARIATIONS SIGNED

The report said the documents should be sent back to the Public Works directorate to ensure that all the variations are signed- so as to authenticate the variation orders as well as provide site instructions, which are duly signed.

In the second audit, the report notes that there were lapses on the part of the Judiciary when they contracted two firms to provide security to court building across the country.

The procurement of security guards and cleaning services were included in the 2016/17 financial year at an estimated cost of Sh285 million.

Two security firms later engaged the Judiciary in court battles as each claimed the rival was favoured.

Bedrock Security Services Ltd filed a petition at the Public Procurement Administrative Review Board, saying Lavington Security Ltd was favoured.

As the two firms embroiled in a tussle over the Sh200 million tender, reports later emerged that the successful bidder did not meet the requirements.

DEPLOY SECURITY GUARDS

In the deal with Lavington Security, the firm was to deploy some 508 guards to 73 court stations and another 242 guards to 57 court stations identified as category B stations. But it emerged that the firm deployed 45 more guards.

The tender was later nullified by the Board on February 17, 2017 and Judiciary ordered to re-advertise it. The Judiciary later wrote to the Director General of the Public procurement Administrative Authority stating why the courts premises cannot remain unguarded while the process was being undertaken.

Following the termination of the contract with Bedrock Security, the firm moved to court and obtained orders maintain the status quo.


We’ve suffered but aren’t beaten, terrorists will never defeat us

By ROBERT GODEC
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Twenty years ago, evil showed its terrible face in Kenya and Tanzania. In the middle of a busy Friday morning, Al-Qaeda exploded bombs outside the US embassies here in Nairobi and in Dar es Salaam.

Their horrific attack killed close to 250 people and injured nearly 5,000. In an awful moment, the lives of thousands changed forever, as did the lives of their families and friends.

We remember and mourn those who were killed and we stand with all who were injured or touched by this brutal attack.

My wife Lori and I were in Kenya and assigned to the US embassy when the bomb blast occurred. We saw the trauma and tragedy of that day and its aftermath.

COMPASSION

But we also saw the heroism, compassion and selflessness of the embassy staff, Kenyan citizens and friends from countries around the world.

Our embassy staff and many Kenyans who were nearby that tragic morning responded to the attack with immense personal courage. They worked tirelessly, taking great risks, to save lives and help the injured. Side by side, they rescued those who needed help, they retrieved the dead, and they began the process of recovery and rebuilding.

We also saw the bravery of Kenyan emergency and medical personnel and the special teams who rushed from the United States and other countries to assist.

As ambassador, I would like to express my deep, personal appreciation and that of the US, for the courage of so many that day.

In the moments and days that followed the blast, their heroism stands in tribute to compassion and all that is best in humanity.

TERRIBLE GOALS

I want to thank, as well, all those who helped build and maintain the powerful and poignant memorial at the site of the attack. We will always remember.

As we reflect on the attack, we know that Al-Qaeda had not one but three terrible goals. Their immediate purpose was to kill and destroy, but they had more in mind.

They sought to divide us, to divide Kenya and the United States. And, they sought to undermine the values we hold dear, to destroy civilisation and replace it with oppression.

Tragically, in the years since the bombing, Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups have continued their savage assault on humanity.

In far too many places across the world, they have pursued their attacks. From New York, to Paris, to Bali, to Garissa, to the mall at Westgate, the terrorists have followed their murderous agenda.

But on the 20th anniversary of the attacks here in Nairobi and in Dar es Salaam, we say clearly and loudly say that although we have suffered, we are not beaten.

We will never let those who traffic in death and destruction defeat us. While the terrorists sought to sow fear and division, they failed. Instead, we have risen with an even stronger determination to stand together for freedom, for justice and for peace.

On this occasion, I ask that we reflect on what binds us together. For today, we are united as Kenyans and Americans. We are united as people. And, even as we mourn, we resolve to build a better, brighter future for ourselves, for our children and for people across the world.

 The writer is the US ambassador to Kenya


American embassy attack was Kenya’s wake up call

By JACQUELINE KUBANIA
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Walk into almost any building in Nairobi today and you are sure to undergo at least a cursory body search.

This is the legacy terror group Al Qaida left 20 years ago today, when it bombed the American Embassy, killing 224 people and wounding more than 4,000 others.

Since then, most building entrances are manned by uniformed guards, who search visitors with metal detectors and record their names, ID and phone numbers.

Ubiquitous private security guards and regular street patrols by uniformed policemen have made Nairobi an openly militarised city.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i announced in May that the government was considering arming private security guards, but some people felt it would be ill-advised, given the guards’ low level of training and skills.

PROPERLY TRAINED

“I would say that only about 10 per cent of the over 400,000 security guards in the country are properly trained. Most firms focus on their guards’ physical fitness but neglect other aspects such as assessing and neutralising threats,” said Kepsa Security Sector Chairman Silvanus Sewe.

He noted that the guards’ poor pay is also more likely to make them complicit in insecurity rather than motivate them to work effectively.

Ms Rose Rioba, a tax adviser in Nairobi, says the thoroughness with which guards search her depends on the establishment she is visiting, the car she is driving, and her passenger(s).

“Guards tend to be lax when one is driving an expensive car. I have also noticed that women are searched far less thoroughly than men. For instance, there is more scrutiny when I have male passengers compared with when I am carrying only women,” she said.

COMPETENCE
She added that she has doubts about the guards’ competence: “Sometimes I wonder, what if I actually had a weapon; would they find it and know how to disarm me?”

A security guard working in the central business district admitted that he cannot readily recognise a grenade but insisted that he is very good at spotting people who behave suspiciously, so he always asks them to leave. He also let on that the scanner in the building where he works has been out of service for a while.

This superficial nature of the security in many buildings points to a laxity that could have serious consequences.

But while acknowledging that security guards could do with better training, Mr Sewe insists that their presence alone is a deterrent to crime.

PRIVATE SECURITY

Meanwhile, Maj (rtd) Twalib Mbarak, now in private security, said: “Before ’98, we thought of terrorism as something that happened in other countries. We had to immediately wake up as a country and realise that we were very much a target, and that we had to start protecting ourselves.”

“The culture among security experts and citizens changed. Kenya became a lot more militarised, with armed security officers on the streets, who can pick you out at random and ask for your ID. People accepted this because they were much more aware of the ever-present risk to their lives,” he added, noting that security agencies have improved their intelligence gathering and sharing and now approach security as a multiagency effort.

But there is a long way to go. Corruption, for instance, allows undocumented foreigners to enter the country using fake documents. And the high unemployment rate makes idle and frustrated youths easy targets for radicalisation.


Talk of looming Cabinet shuffle unfounded, says State House

By LUCAS BARASA
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By MOHAMED AHMED
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State House on Monday dismissed reports of a looming Cabinet reshuffle following President Uhuru Kenyatta’s low-key visit to the Coast, which began on July 22.

Spokesperson Kanze Dena said she was not aware of any planned changes in the Cabinet. Addressing journalists at State House, Mombasa, Ms Dena said the President was at the coast to ensure that Kenyans got good services.

There has been speculation after President Kenyatta quietly retreated to the coast and held meetings with his newfound ally, opposition leader Raila Odinga, the team spearheading the Building Bridges Initiative, Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho and select members of the Cabinet.

He took a break only to visit retired President Daniel arap Moi in Nakuru on July 28, after which he attended a funeral before returning to Mombasa the following day.

PEACE PACT

He has mostly been staying at his residences in Nyali, Mombasa, and Vipingo, Kilifi, and has been making impromptu visits to inspect development projects in the six coast counties, taking locals by surprise.

On Monday, Ms Dena said President Kenyatta was at the Coast to work, and that he will Tuesday officially open a conference for principals of African schools at Pride Inn Hotel. He will later launch a steel company in Kinango, Kwale.

“The Head of State wants to meet locals at the grassroots and key people involved in the projects — the contractors. The visits are not for politics,” Ms Dena said when asked why the President was not accompanied by Cabinet secretaries and other leaders during the tours.

NO CRACKS IN GOVERNMENT

She said the President wanted to know whether the government projects beneficial to Kenyans.

President Kenyatta has not been accompanied by MPs during his meetings with members of county assemblies, with local youths being given a chance to welcome him and speak wherever he visited; he has been to Lamu, Kilifi, Tana River and Kwale counties.

Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia and Chief of General Staff Samson Mwathete are the top officials who have been in his entourage.

Meanwhile, Deputy President William Ruto, whose frequent meetings at the coast usually attract a many MPs, has dismissed talk of cracks in the government.


The elders have failed us in corruption war

By JOB NAIBEI
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Corruption in Kenya has reached such levels that even the habitually corrupt are shocked. It is the level of corruption, rather than corruption itself, that is troubling us.

People who stole millions of shillings in past years feel like saints. They are shocked at the boldness and tactics of the new kids on the block doing billions.

But how did we get here? How did corruption become such a part of us?

A common factor in all the major corruption scams is the involvement of the older generation — people who are mostly over 40 or have worked for more than 15 or so years.

Most young Kenyans first encountered corruption in the presence of, or from, an older person.

It is the parents who gave bribes to police officers in front of their children. It is the senior accountants who taught their juniors how to ‘cook’ books.

CHEAT IN EXAMS

It is the senior engineers who told their juniors, “This is how it’s done here.” It is teachers who helped students to cheat in examinations.

This does not mean that all the seniors are culpable but corruption in companies and organisations (especially where significant amounts of money are involved) does not occur without their knowledge.

Mostly, young people are guided into corruption by the older folks. It evolves into ‘monkey see, monkey do’. Some young people join in, innovating new stealing methods.

Regarding integrity, there is a great disconnect between what the young people hear and what they see. They are told to work hard and smart but are not shown how.

All they see is an older generation who have a lot of money but most of whom cannot explain how they made it. Young people don’t see the ‘hustle’, which raises questions.

Young people want to see integrity broken down to dos and don’ts. Show us examples of how you fought corruption, how you said ‘no’ to a bribe.

STORIES OF INTEGRITY

To them, fight against corruption sounds mostly like a chicken flapping its wings — continuous rhetoric that yields nothing. We all know the chicken isn’t flying anywhere.

We want to see action, but, more importantly, men and women coming out to give their stories of integrity. Mentors.

Young people have been left to fend for themselves; older people seem resigned to the fact that they can’t relate to them.

When young people have to be spoken to, they go and find the youngest person in age or ideology to speak.

Even in churches, they are confined in ‘youth churches’ with young pastors who, with all due respect, may be struggling just like their congregation.

I know young people who strive to do things right. But they are being frustrated by the elders.

JOB SECURITY

They are asked for almost all their profit as bribes. Their job security depends on how well they ‘co-operate’ rather than their performance.

Values, like vices, are more caught than taught. We all need to be champions of integrity in our spaces. Only then can we begin to build family values and then, maybe, national values.

C. S. Lewis said, “Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil.” Lacking values, we have made cleverer devils through our education system.

It is time to instil values but it can only begin with every individual modelling it, especially those who have people looking up to them.

Mr Naibei is a computer specialist based in Nairobi and also a blogger at www.naibei.co.ke.


Kibera evictions a renegation of ‘Big Four’ agenda, be very afraid

By BEVERLINE ONGARO
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Even before the ink has dried on the Jubilee government’s commitment to provide 500,000 affordable housing units by 2022 as a ‘Big Four’ agenda item, that is turning out to be subterfuge.

The evictions in Kibera last month rendered more than 30,000 residents homeless and 2,000 children out of school. Places of worship were also bulldozed.

While the evictions were, positively, to pave the way for the construction of a public road, they are gravely disturbing.

First, they are in violation to the right to housing — which includes sanitation, water, food and education — which are guaranteed under Article 43 of the Constitution.

Further, Kenya is a state party to international and regional human rights instruments, under which it has an obligation to provide affordable housing to vulnerable groups — in which category Kibera residents collectively fit.

SOCIAL RIGHTS

These include the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa.

Given that the evictions were carried out in the wee hours in the coldest month, they were not only inhumane but also in violation of the residents’ right to their inherent dignity, which was equally guaranteed under Article 28 of the Constitution.

They are also in violation of the Prevention, Protection and Assistance to Internally Displaced Persons and Affected Communities Act 2012, which seeks to address Kenya’s sad history of unlawful evictions.

Section 22 mandates the government to ensure displacement is carried out in a manner that is respectful to the special needs of women, children and persons with disabilities and that no harm is imposed on the displaced.

So far, however, the ordeals of the Kibera residents show that the special needs were not factored; rather, the vulnerabilities of women, children and persons with disabilities were heightened.

For example, for pupils of the demolished schools learning has been summarily terminated, depriving them of an education that would afford them a chance at a brighter future — and maybe break the cycle of their families’ poverty.

CONTEND WITH BARRIERS
Families have had to spend nights in the open, exposing them to cold, flu and pneumonia. Should they become sick, they will have to contend with barriers, including financial ones, to access healthcare as they must direct any money they have on them to survival, buying food and paying for toilet facilities.

While the Kenya Urban Roads Authority says it had notified the residents, that notice was not adequate and was in bad faith.

Kura had a deal with the residents that the evictions and demotions would be done after enumeration and relocation of affected persons.

But the greatest concern is that the evictions were in disregard of an April 28 High Court order arising from Petition No. 974 of 2016 that prohibited the government from evicting the residents until an agreed resettlement action plan was in place. It was not.

This reeks of the impunity that is increasingly rendering court orders ‘empty victories’ for litigants. Since it beckons the question if court orders cannot be complied with, then where does ‘Wanjiku’ seek reprieve from the powerful, in this case, the government?

BIG FOUR AGENDA
Could the genesis of the reneging on the housing agenda be the fact that it is a campaign tool post the 2017 General Election and will, indeed, be once again come the next polls, hence the 2022 timeframe?

It is imperative to interrogate all the Big Four items under the premise of human rights, where all the pillars shift from being mere campaign promises into a state obligation with the government responsible to fulfil.

The right to housing is not only guaranteed in the Constitution but is also a government commitment under the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), whose overarching architect and foundation is to “leave no one behind”.

MAKING CITIES SAFE

Of significance is goal number 17 on sustainable cities and communities, which requires making cities safe and sustainable by ensuring access to safe and affordable housing.

Clearly, the government has left behind the residents of the Kibera informal settlements — nay, the former Kibera informal settlements.

The rest of us Kenyans should have some form of trepidation that, at some point, we, too, may be left behind as the Jubilee regime embarks on its Big Four agenda.

Ms Ongaro, an advocate of the High Court of Kenya, is a researcher on human rights and gender. [email protected]


Driver education cure for accidents

By CAXTON MUUNE
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The recent National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) report on road safety audit shows high-risk traffic operations on national roads and Nairobi streets with focus on the most dangerous sections, commonly called “blackspots”.

The NTSA should be commended for the audit to identify the blackspots and their locations, invariably in the high-density traffic roads passing through equally densely populated informal marketplaces.

The report also shows that the agency’s initiatives to address road carnage are not targeted at the blackspots because much of its resources and attention is concentrated on streamlining the administration function. ICT hardware has taken precedence in a massive automation drive to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of delivery of timely and responsive services to motorists.

However, the report shows a mismatch between the initiatives and the recommended remedial measures, which has caused some pronounced structural and administrative failures. This is a disconnect between the accidents at the blackspots and actions being taken to tame them.

COMMERCIAL CENTRES

The blackspots have been located on roads and streets running through the densely populated neighbourhoods in the city and cosmopolitan towns in other counties. Marketplaces, schools, commercial centres and residential estates are some of the central locations.

This means it is the mix of large numbers of vehicles and pedestrians walking and/or crossing roads and streets with many high-speed motorists that creates the accident-enhancing conditions at the blackspots.

Separation of motor- from foot traffic, putting up signs, lighting, speed bumps and traffic control systems are some of the safety engineering upgrades that require immediate attention.

These should be undertaken with focus on engineering systems and technologies to improve coordination and regulation of mass movement in these areas.

Mass engineering concepts, applications and models are needed to effectively and efficiently channel the movement of heavy traffic on upgraded streets with superior capabilities to handle thousands of people and vehicles moving at the same time and section without collisions.

SMART DRIVING LICENCES

The NTSA has prioritised areas with no direct immediate impact on the blackspots. Some of the interventions include a new curriculum, smart driving licences and such instruments and gadgets to aid in administration.

Somers, a risk management pioneer, argues that road “safety standards equal the efficiency and effectiveness of the administration function”.

The higher accident rates in disorderly and chaotic traffic operations represent the structural and administrative failures in the national road safety administration.

This implies that there is an acute deficit of institutional capacity building, indicating the need for technical support for the development and implementation of evidence-based counter-measures.

There are genuine fears that the accidents will only go up by leaps and bounds unless the agency redirects focus and resources towards addressing the blackspots.

Granted, human factor is largely to blame — as put by the principal secretary. Then, the Transport ministry would concentrate on improvement of drivers and fixing safety engineering furniture on the blackspots.

INCREASING SAFETY MARGINS

Driver education would be the most cost-effective counter-measure to tame the rising accidents.

It is the universal tool of improving the competence and skills of drivers, increasing safety margins and reducing accidents.

This is the way to address the multiple influencing factors described in the report as “unsafe driving behaviour, lack of road furniture, inadequate passenger safety protection” especially on the high-capacity buses.

But the NTSA is not wholly to blame. The main problem is the public perception of high-risk traffic exposures.

This is main reason for the general indifference to and ignorance of the fatal exposure to accidents at blackspots.

ROAD CARNAGE

The “blackbox”, which is being touted as panacea for the runaway road carnage, only traces and tracks the roadmap movement of vehicles.

It does not address the human factor, which accounts for well over 80 per cent of accidents.

These gadgets will be nothing more than another frustrating dud speed governor project. At any rate, they are targeted at the matatus — which, by the way, only account for less than 15 per cent of the total accidents. They only occasionally kill such high numbers of passengers in a single accident, which raises emotive public anger and bitterness.


Let proposed raw coffee export ban not go the painful nut way

By MACHARIA GAITHO
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The law proposed by Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria that would bar the export of raw coffee seems to be a good thing.

It has received wholesome support from Deputy President William Ruto, which means it will be received in the National Assembly almost as an official government initiative rather than a mere Private Member’s Bill. More on that later.

Export of processed coffee would add great value to the Kenyan produce. It would mean more money in the pockets of farmers and higher foreign exchange earnings for the country.

It would also go some way towards transforming the country from an exporter of raw produce to an exporter of value-added finished goods. Sounds great, but that’s only on the surface.

The big winners, if Mr Kuria’s Crops (Amendment) Bill is passed, will not be farmers he claims to be fighting for but a small cartel of profiteers.

CARTELS
Processors will be empowered to dictate exploitative prices locally. The cartel will be able to collude and keep for themselves all the gains from global sales while farmers are reduced to penury.

The MP himself let the cat out of the bag when he alluded to previous bans on export of unprocessed macadamia, as well as cashew and other nuts.

The fact is that those bans were imposed specifically for the benefit of the cartel which gained a stranglehold on the market.

Anyone who cared to visit the cashew-growing regions at the Coast might be reduced to tears by the absolute poverty of the farmers.

They have been left with no choice but to sell their produce for peanuts to the price-fixing local cartels yet there are foreign buyers from China, Japan, Europe and the United States ready and willing to buy them at much better rates.

Walk into a supermarket in Kenya today and you will pay the proverbial arm and a leg for a packet Kenyan cashew nuts.

SWIMMING IN MILLIONS

As you enjoy your snack, you might imagine that our cashew farmers are swimming in millions — until you visit Kwale or Kilifi and realise that the high retail prices do not trickle down.
It’s only the processors who make a killing from the nuts.

Exactly the same thing will happen if similar export bans are applied to coffee. Actually, it is criminal that the 2009 ban on export of raw macadamia and cashew, pistachio and oyster nuts was allowed to impoverish farmers for so long.

The ban was imposed by none other the self-same Mr Ruto when he served as Minister for Agriculture.

When Dr Sally Kosgei succeeded Mr Ruto at the ministry in 2010, one of the first things she did was to lift the export ban in order to “facilitate mop-up of the excess raw nuts with farmers”.

Yes, the export ban had left nuts rotting in the fields because the local processors were unable to take up all the produce yet farmers could not access ready international markets.

LEGISLATIVE ENFORCEMENT

Soon after, the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture, then led by Mr John Mututho, declared that it was investigating Dr Kosgei following complaints from the industry. What they did not say is that the complaints came from the processors, not the farmers.
The following year, 2011, a clutch of MPs from the main macadamia-growing regions in Murang’a and Embu started a campaign for imposition of the ban on raw nut exports.

They argued that the country had the capacity to process and export value-added products but completely ignored the fact that, at the same time, cashew farmers at the Coast were reeling from the ban on the export of raw nuts. The government had made them captive to local processors, who didn’t have the capacity to take up all the produce.

It was instructive at the time that the MPs were speaking at the premises of a major nut processor, who, obviously, would have been happy to sponsor legislative enforcement for the ban on export of raw produce.

It might be coincidental that some of the major nut processors are also into coffee processing and would, therefore, reap big from a similar stranglehold on that sector.

RESTRICTIVE LAWS
They push restrictive laws in selfish self-interest, not for the benefit of farmers.

It is, indeed, unjust that only three per cent of Kenyan coffee is processed at home and that local farmers do not get the full value of produce that fetches premium prices globally.

That must stand as an indictment of local processors. Their inefficiencies must not provide the excuse for export bans that will allow them to exploit local farmers.

If the processors mean well, let them demonstrate that they have the capacity to pay farmers well and to serve the world market with ‘Made in Kenya’ coffee brands.

They must do that without unfair protection.


Nursery pupils open fete with colourful performances

By ANTHONY NJAGI
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Nursery school performers were the stars of the day when the 92nd Kenya Music Festival kicked off in Dedan Kimathi University, Nyeri County, on Monday.

The children lit up the stage with colourful singing games and choral verses in the main hall of the university in the opening ceremony which was attended by Nyeri Governor Mutahi Kahiga, Deputy Governor Carole Karugu, Kenya National Music Festival chairman Peter Wanjohi, deputy director in charge of co-curricular activities Sirengo Khaemba, events vice chairman Donald Otoyo and Festival executive secretary Ruth Agesa among others.

In their performances, the children from kindergarten and nursery classes turned the stage into a playground with their singing games.

SINGING GAMES

In this Early Childhood Development category, children are given the opportunity to present singing games in a way similar to how they play in their natural environments at home and school playground.

Among the songs and dances that impressed the audience most was the own choice African singing games for nursery, in which the pupils presented pieces showing how children from various communities in Kenya perform their singing games. Colourful cultural costumes from all over Kenya were showcased, showing the rich cultural diversity of the country.

Among the schools which took part in this category were st Peters Mumias, Sana Academy, Umoja Day and Rosslyn Academy. St Jude Kwingi and Elsa Academy also performed.

ARTS FESTIVAL

Travelling for two days to reach the festival’s venue, Rabuor Primary School from Kisumu County did not disappoint. The pupils performed a colourful Dholuo singing game which featured traditional playing items and music instruments.

“The kids are very excited to come to Nyeri for the first time. They are very excited as they have shown in their singing game,” said the school’s head teacher, Mr Peter Odida Awuor.

It was difficult to tell which institution was better than the other in this category since all the performances had their own peculiarities. This is what makes the Kenya Music Festival, which is the largest arts festival in the country, such a rich experience to witness, said event chairman Peter Wanjohi.