Tuesday, August 7th, 2018
Floods and mud hamper aid delivery
PHNOM PENH, Aug 7 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Thousands of people in Laos, whose homes were swept away when a dam burst, are sheltering in areas contaminated by landmines, humanitarians said, as floods and mud hamper aid delivery.
The United Nations (U.N.) said on Monday that 34 people were reported dead, 97 were missing and 6,000 had been evacuated due to flash floods that followed the collapse of a hydropower dam in Laos last month.
Attapeu Province in southern Laos is “highly contaminated” by unexploded ordnance, it said, with almost 320 hectares (791 acres) in Sanamxay district, where people are sheltering in camps, “confirmed hazardous areas”.
“There’s a real danger that explosive items on or in the ground will have moved,” said Blossum Gilmour, country director for Mines Advisory Group (MAG), a British charity that works to clear unexploded ordnance, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“Areas which have been cleared of bombs may need re-clearing … But also, as people are evacuated from their homes, they may be relocated to places which have not yet been cleared.”
Laos is the most heavily bombed country per capita in the world as a result of bombing by the United States when it was waging war in neighbouring Vietnam in the decade up to 1973, according to MAG.
Much of the Southeast Asian nation is still contaminated by landmines, despite decades of clearance efforts, with about 300 new casualties each year, many of them children, it says.
Laos was hit by a tropical storm on July 18 and 19, which caused flooding in parts of 13 provinces, including Attapeu, the U.N. said.
As floodwaters rose, a saddle dam that was part of Laos’ $1.2 billion Xe-Pian Xe-Namnoy hydropower project collapsed, sending torrents of water crashing into neighboring villages.
The U.N. said three camps “remain largely inaccessible” and that aid officials are in discussion with the military about using its helicopters to provide “last mile delivery” of relief items, including food.
With seasonal rains continuing until September and water levels rising in the Mekong River and its tributaries, “flooding across the country may spread further,” the U.N. said.
(Reporting by Jared Ferrie; Editing by Katy Migiro; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights, resilience and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org to see more stories.)
The Government Advertising Agency (GAA) plans to cut out the media and place all state advertising on a website.
The agency sees this a way of reining in government entities which book adverts but do not pay and possibly as a way of getting around the mass of debt it has accumulated.
GAA head Ngari Gituku told Nation that MyGov, the weekly pamphlet of government adverts and propaganda that is inserted in daily newspapers on a rotational basis, will soon become a website. This would be in a bid to help the government stop reliance on media houses for delivery of the messages.
While digital is the way of the future, less than a third of the population have access to the Internet and smartphones that would allow them access government opportunities.
Governments are ordinarily obliged to use the media with the widest reach to ensure that they reach as many citizens as possible.
MEDIA OWED SH2.5 BILLION
The other measure is for GAA to require its advertisers to pay upfront for the agency’s services, ensuring that the current spectre of media houses being owed more than Sh2.5 billion is not repeated.
“We are at an advanced stage of riding on technology to deliver government content through a website,” Mr Gituku said.
The agency, he said, would also bar serial defaulters from its services. For seamless operations, Mr Gituku said the agency should be made a fully semi-autonomous unit with powers to enforce payment by government ministries, departments and agencies. The agency is now under the government News and Information department in the ICT ministry.
“We might adopt a system where government departments pay up on booking,” Mr Gituku said, adding that he had reached out to head of the public service Joseph Kinyua to find the best way of clearing the debt owed to media houses.
DROP IN THE OCEAN
He revealed the plans as Nation learnt that the Agency paid Sh404 million in the past financial year — its entire allocation for media services — to media houses.
The amount was, however, just a drop in the ocean and the method used to allocate payment was also not very clear.
The schedule shows that Mediamax Network was paid Sh74 million while the Standard Group and Nation Media Group were paid Sh41 million and Sh33 million respectively.
Royal Media Services was paid Sh47 million and Star Publications which received Sh21 million. In the list of payments are beneficiaries like Professional Marketing (Sh30 million), Sunday Publishers (Sh28 million) and Business Times (Sh18 million) whose debt could not be immediately established.
Also in the list are government agencies like Kenya Yearbook which got Sh40 million and KBC (Sh11 million) as well as several outlets that received sums ranging between Sh2 million and Sh9 million.
The Orange Democratic Movement has denied sending Mr Silas Jakakimba to Zimbabwe as the party’s representative during the country’s General Election.
ODM executive director Oduor Ong’wen on Tuesday said though Mr Jakakimba is known to party leader Raila Odinga, having worked in the Office of the Prime Minister during the coalition government, he is neither an employee of ODM nor in the Raila secretariat.
Mr Jakakimba issued a statement on Sunday claiming he was sent to Harare by Mr Odinga.
“Last week, Hon Odinga asked me to go to Zimbabwe to convey his goodwill message to the Movement for Democratic Change,” Mr Jakakimba said, referring to the Zimbabwe opposition party.
The self-declared ODM strategist challenged critics to visit Youtube and view a clip of him delivering the message.
Mr Jakakimba said he was received at the airport by the widow of MDC founder Morgan Tsvangirai, Elizabeth Macheka.
Mr Jakakimba’s tour may not have been known by many until Zimbabwe police said they wanted to question him in relation to the post-election violence that killed six people.
Zimbabwe police chief spokesperson Charity Charamba said Mr Jakakimba was in Harare as Mr Odinga’s envoy, adding that he incited opposition supporters.
“The Zimbabwe republic police is keen to interview Silas Jakakimba, a Kenyan, in connection with the disturbance which occurred in Harare on August 1, 2018,” she said.
ODM initially fought off general claims that the party was involved in the violence.
It said the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission was deflecting blame and that the party does not have the ability and means to create chaos in that country.
Party chairman John Mbadi said ODM wishes for peaceful, free and fair elections across the continent. But on Tuesday, the party disowned Mr Jakakimba.
Dr Ong’wen said reports of Mr Jakakimba acting as Mr Odinga’s envoy and the party’s involvement in the chaos were untrue.
“We want to state that neither ODM nor the office of the party leader sent any representative to Harare either to witness or on observer mission in the general election,” Dr Ong’wen said.
Mr Odinga and Mr Tsvangirai were close friends, attending each other’s political events from time to time.
MNANGAGWA DECLARED WINNER
Mr Jakakimba dismissed Dr Ong’wen’s statement, insisting that only the Odinga secretariat can comment on his “assignment”.
“Whereas I am a life member of ODM, I have never worked at Orange House. Neither am I an employee of ODM,” he said, referring to the party’s headquarters in Nairobi.
“It is not the province of Oduor Ong’wen to comment on issues he has no idea about.”
When Mr Tsvangirai died early in the year, Mr Odinga gave a keynote speech at his funeral.
Zanu-PF candidate Emmerson Mnangagwa was declared winner in last Week’s elections, beating MDC’s Nelson Chamisa.
Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho has sought the Senate’s intervention to ensure that State agencies in the county pay land rates, and that the sanctity of title deeds be respected.
Mr Joho, who appeared before the Senate’s County Public Accounts and Investment Committee on Tuesday, said land invasion is a major problem at the Coast and asked the Senate to take up the matter to save land owners.
He revealed that Mombasa has uncollected land rates amounting to Sh28 billion, which his administration has a challenge collecting since most defaulters are State agencies.
“Seventy per cent of this money is owed by the national government, which is not paying,” he told the committee chaired by Homa Bay Senator Moses Kajwang’.
He said his administration has sent demand letters, to no avail, but added that it is discussing how the money can be paid with the national government.
NEW LAND SUBDIVISIONS
“We hope that the issue will be addressed and the money paid because we need it,” he said.
According to the auditor-general, the valuation roll used to bill plot owners was not updated with new land subdivisions, while more than 4,000 plots were registered in the names of people who could not be identified.
Besides, the outstanding rates of Sh45.9 billion as at June 2015 include penalties amounting to Sh39.4 million, which are not included in the financial statement for the 2014/2015 financial year.
On the question of land invasion, the governor said there was nothing the county could do.
“We can’t instruct the police to stop such invasions. We have talked to the county commissioners, and that is where our mandate ends,” we cannot enforce anything,” he said.
He asked the Senate to review the formula of sharing revenue among the 47 counties, arguing that it doesn’t take into consideration the fact that delivering services in the county cities of Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu is significantly higher than that of rural counties.
He proposed an amendment to the formula to include a conditional grant to help the counties tackle the problem.
“We have a huge influx of people who come to work in Mombasa every day, which is not factored in the existing formula, and we need special consideration in the allocations to ensure that we offer services efficiently,” Mr said.
“People come to these cities because there are opportunities and better facilities. This has raised the cost of rendering services. We need special consideration,” he said.
His views were echoed by Kiambu Senator Kimani Wamatangi, who said his county has also suffered because of its huge population, which is attributable to its close proximity to Nairobi.
The completion of new roads in Mombasa have eased traffic flow and movement in the resort city, boosting tourism and business.
Travel time to and from the Mombasa International Airport and Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) terminus from the central business district has reduced.
The opening of phase one of Dongo Kundu bypass has provided an alternative route to the airport and Miritini SGR terminus.
It now takes less than 30 minutes from Mombasa town to the SGR station.
Tourists and travellers going to the airport spend about 20 minutes on the road, compared to earlier when the journey took about an hour.
BOOST TO TOURISM
Tour operators, taxi drivers and other players have lauded the government for infrastructural development, saying it is a boost to tourism and has created a good business environment.
The motorists now prefer the Dongo Kundu bypass to avoid the Makupa Causeway, which has often delayed passengers heading to Mombasa west including Mikindani, Moi International Airport, Jomvu and Miritini, due to traffic jam mainly caused by trucks taking cargo from Mombasa port.
The first phase of the Sh11 billion Dongo Kundu bypass was opened for public use in May.
The road runs from Mombasa Port’s second terminal and joins the Mombasa-Nairobi highway at Bonje near Mazeras.
Remy Mahugu, a taxi operator, said the new road has reduced operational costs and time taken.
“It takes 15 minutes from Changamwe Shell to Mazeras, a journey that previously used to take more than an hour. It is even faster when dropping a passenger at the SGR terminus which now takes 10 minutes,” Mr Mahugu said.
Kenya Bay Beach Hotel director Jaswinder Kalsi said the ongoing infrastructure projects will boost the number of tourists coming to the port city.
“Another great achievement by our progressive government. Now you can get to the SGR station in Miritini from Kenya Bay Hotel located in the North Coast in less than 45 minutes to catch the early morning train back to Nairobi, via the scenic New Kipevu West Road,” he said.
Kenya Tourism Federation chairman Mohamed Hersi said the completion of the three phases of the Sh11 billion Dongo Kundu bypass will turn the fortunes of the tourism industry at South Coast.
“Once the connecting bridge happens that will be a real game-changer and will connect Mombasa to South Coast and Tanzania. The Miritini interchange is almost done as well which means in future motorists from Nairobi will simply take the interchange to Mwache and Tsunza bridges to cross to Diani,” he said.
Matatu Owners Association Coast co-ordinator Salim Mbarak said the completion of the Kipevu West road was a major success, but lamented that they are not allowed to use it. “We only use it when there is a crisis at Kibarani,” he said.
In phase two, an 8.9km road between Mwache Junction and Mteza will be built while the third phase will see the construction of a 6.9km road between Mteza and Kibundani, linking the highway to the Likoni-Lunga Lunga road, where there will be an interchange.
Further, two bridges will be constructed: one at Mwache (900 metres long) and another at Mteza (1.4km long).
A row is brewing in the tea industry over a bill that seeks to revert Kenya’s biggest tea agency back to the government after two decades in the hands of farmers.
The Kenya Tea and Development Agency (KTDA) Bill by Gem MP Elisha Odhiambo proposes that the government takes over KTDA and scraps some levies as well as offering cheap fertiliser to farmers. KTDA is owned by 560,000 farmers.
But already, his bill, has run to headwinds from Parliament, KTDA, politicians and a section of farmers.
KTDA wrote to the National Assembly clerk Jeremiah Ndombi demanding a copy of the legislation on July 13.
“We have searched the record of the National Assembly and have not found a bill published through the government printer,” read a letter addressed to Parliament by KTDA company secretary John Omanga.
In response on July 25, Mr Ndombi said the bill has not been published.
“We wish to advise that all publishable bills for consideration in the National Assembly are available on Parliament website,” said Mr Ndombi in a letter.
But the MP accused KTDA of trying to pull the rug under his feet and thus sabotage the legislation.
“I am tabling the bill this week. It is ready and they know it,” said the legislator.
A copy of the bill seen by the Nation proposes radical changes in the sector which has elicited mixed reactions from stakeholders.
It replaces the agency with an authority that is controlled by the government through a board.
The law proposes that board members are appointed by the Cabinet Secretary and the chair by the President.
Currently, the KTDA national board is picked by directors of factories, who are in turn elected by farmers depending on the number of shares.
KTDA national chairman Peter Kanyago dismissed the bill as retrogressive and vowed that KTDA would oppose it.
“Trying to make KTDA a parastatal will be disastrous to farmers. It means moving backwards while there is notable progress since the privatisation of the industry,” noted Mr Kanyago.
Eighteen years ago, Kenya Tea Development Authority was privatised in a deal that was sold as a solution to help solve farmers’ problems. The move transferred assets and mandate to farmers through their tea factories and the organisation’s name changed to Kenya Tea Development Agency.
The agency has been credited with stabilising the tea sector and rolling out a model that is used by other countries.
Mr Philip Munyao Kioko was one of the 213 people who died in the 1998 American Embassy bomb blast in Nairobi that shocked the nation and heralded Kenya’s fight against terrorism and extremism.
Mr Kioko, then in his 50s, had just retired from the Prisons service, where he had worked as a warden. He was standing outside a bank, possibly waiting to withdraw money, when the bomb went off that afternoon at 3.30pm.
He was taken to Kenyatta National Hospital, where he succumbed to head and chest injuries, leaving behind an ailing widow and five children, four of whom were still in school.
Ms Magdalene Munyao, his firstborn, was 26 years old when her father died. She remembers that day as one that marked the beginning of a dark period that the family has not managed to crawl out of to date. “My father was the breadwinner, so when he died the burden of feeding and educating my siblings fell on my mother, a housewife. Our fortunes changed overnight. We went from being a relatively comfortable family to destitution,” she said.
Her siblings, who were at the time in boarding schools, had to move to cheaper day schools to continue their education. Those were the days before the government introduced free education, so the children were frequently sent home for lack of school fees.
“My siblings lost their childhood. They were forced to work casual jobs, for example, as manual labourers on people’s farms to raise money for school and food.
They all finished secondary school with these struggles, but none went to college. One of them developed ulcers out of the stress, a condition she treats to date,” said Ms Munyao.
The family got little help from the government and aid agencies, only receiving a year’s worth of food from the Red Cross. They are still chasing compensation from the US and Kenyan governments.
This kind of stress on Mr Kioko’s family was not unique to them, but happened in varying degrees to other families whose kin were victims of the bomb blast.
In a study published in World Psychiatry, researchers found that children borne of women who were pregnant with them during the terror attack suffered behavioural difficulties caused by their mothers’ post-traumatic stress disorders. “These findings confirm the presenting complaints by mothers of the study group as to why these children seemed to be different from other children, an observation for which the mother had no explanation,” stated the report.
The children exhibited elevated levels of depression, hyperactivity and low attention spans.
Their creativity and socialisation into the community were also affected.
The researchers found that these undesirable traits in the children were due to the psychological trauma suffered by their mothers.
The manifestation of this trauma was despite the fact that the mothers had undergone psychological interventions.
Even three years after the attack, the mothers were found to exhibit signs of hyperarousal, which is a state of psychological and physiological tension that manifests in exaggerated startle responses, insomnia, anxiety and low tolerance for pain.
The fate of Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich hangs in the balance after it emerged MPs have hatched a plan to kick him out of office.
The MPs want Mr Rotich out of office for the importation of sugar during the 2017 duty-free window and the payment of Sh1.5 billion for the Ruaraka land on which two public schools stand.
The push to kick out the CS is being propelled by Kimilili MP Didmus Barasa, who by last evening had garnered the support of 96 of the mandatory 116 MPs required to successfully send Mr Rotich home.
The MPs accuse the CS of opening the floodgates for contraband sugar through a gazette notice in 2017 on duty free sugar and releasing Sh1.5 billion of taxpayers’ money for the payment of Ruaraka land without due diligence.
The imports culminated in the flooding of the market with sugar, some of which has been found to be toxic and also harmed local millers.
“It is in the public domain that the CS Treasury is to blame for the sugar mess in the country and the use of taxpayers’ money to pay for the Ruaraka land,” Mr Barasa said on Tuesday.
He added: “The fact that I have acquired 96 signatures and six more MPs have promised me that they will sign by close of business (Tuesday is an indication that this matter is gaining momentum at a high rate. I am optimistic that by next week I will have garnered the required signatures to move my motion.”
However, questions have been raised in the corridors of Parliament on whether the push was legitimate. For starters, the MP appeared to have breached the procedure laid out by Speaker Justin Muturi in the Anne Waiguru versus Alfred Keter case of 2015. If Mr Barasa had followed the guidelines, then he would have first developed grounds for the CS’s removal, gathered evidence and submitted it to the Speaker’s office.
It’s upon being satisfied the evidence raises substantial grounds that Mr Muturi would have given Mr Barasa the go-ahead to collect the signatures from MPs.
It is on the basis of this process that the Speaker rejected an attempt by Mr Keter to have Ms Waiguru sent home over claims of gross misconduct.
The Constitution requires at least a third of the 349 members of the National Assembly to append their signatures to meet the threshold of impeaching a CS.
Exuding confidence that this time around Parliament is serious in sending the CS home, Mr Barasa dismissed allegations that he might just be pushing for the ouster for rent seeking purposes.
In reference to the failure of a similar motion meant to send home Health CS Sicily Kariuki in March, Mr Barasa said the MPs pushing it relied on hearsay. “My motion is supported by facts which even the public knows,” he said.
The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) was crippled following the exit of vice chairperson Consolata Nkatha, and commissioners Paul Kurgat and Margaret Mwachanya in April.
Dr Roselyne Akombe, resigned eight days to the October 26 repeat presidential poll.
With only three commissioners — chairman Wafula Chebukati, and commissioners Abdi Guliye and Boya Molu — the IEBC is crippled, and cannot sit as plenary with the quorum required to be at least five commissioners.
Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi has reignited the push to reconstitute the IEBC with others questioning the legality of the current team over lack of quorum.
“What was identified as the cause of tension has not been resolved. As we speak, the IEBC is in a shambles, it is riddled with corruption and they are taking each other to court,” Mr Mudavadi told NTV on Sunday.
Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jr on Tuesday told the Nation that Kenyans should be ‘very worried” about the current state of the IEBC.
“Kenyans should be worried that the upcoming by-elections might be thrown out by the courts later because of questions of legality. We cannot assume all is well,” Mr Kilonzo Jr said.
The IEBC has planned various by-elections in Baringo South constituency, North Kadem ward (Migori County) and Bobasi Chache ward (Kisii County) on August 17, with that of Migori Senate mini-poll coming up on October 18.
The Nation could not get any of the commissioners to comment on the matter on Tuesday, but in a brief tabled before the National Assembly Justice and Legal Affairs Committee, the commission stood its ground, saying it was still able to perform its functions.
“Save for conduct of plenary sittings, the commission being lawfully constituted, there is no limitation by law on the discharge of the functions of the commission vis-à-vis its current membership,” the IEBC said in defence.
IEBC has, in a case by activist Okiya Omtatah, and which will be heard next month, also sought the interpretation of the provision of the IEBC Act that provides that quorum for any plenary sitting should be five.
The commission argues that the section is inconsistent with the Constitution which they argue only sets the minimum and maximum number of commissioners at 3 and 9, respectively.
Even then, the IEBC argued, there was an “intricate-conjoined but distinct relationship” between the commission and secretariat that Mr Chebukati said allowed them to carry out most of the functions.
But even as the discussion over the quorum goes on, the commission has opened its doors for a post-election evaluation that they say will help them prepare better for the next elections.
The Kenya National Union of Teachers should stop this obsession with strikes as the only solution to industrial disputes.
It risks losing credibility and public goodwill. Although going on strike is a constitutional right, it is a tool of last resort, guided by law and deployed sparingly.
Not every issue is resolved through strikes — there are several options and the best is negotiation and consensus building.
Knut secretary-general Wilson Sossion has issued a strike notice to take effect from September 1, smartly planned for the third term, when Standard Eight and Form Four candidates write national examinations.
And the issues at hand are mass transfer of teachers, performance contracting and the new promotion policy.
TRANSFER OF TEACHERS
First, the debate about transfer of teachers, especially head teachers, is wrongly premised.
Both Knut and the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) are addressing the matter badly. For Knut, the argument that teachers cannot be transferred from their stations is disingenuous.
All public workers sign to work in every part of the country and it cannot be that it is only teachers who must operate in a particular station.
This is not acceptable and, from experience, is the reason many schools have stagnated.
TSC, on its part, has been sleeping on the job. It had left many head teachers and even classroom teachers to stay in one station for years and then, all of a sudden, started a rush to redeploy them without considering that it is disruptive in the middle of the term.
Second, performance contracting has been adopted as a standard tool for enhancing effectiveness in service delivery.
Ordinarily, teachers have service tools such as schemes of work, lesson plans and assessment results that provide evidence of what they do.
Performance contracting is supposed to advance this. So, there is nothing untoward about it.
The only concern is that TSC seeks to implement the model without consulting and sensitising teachers about it, which is a wrong approach.
Lastly, revision of the promotion policy is paramount because it has been previously abused.
ENGAGE IN DIALOGUE
Non-deserving teachers and often those with connections got their way not only to headship positions but to specific and choice schools.
Our argument is that promotion has to be based on a combination of variables — academic qualifications, years of service and, importantly, performance.
In all these, the point of departure is process, not the substance. Yet that can be resolved through honest and open discussion, which is what we call for between TSC and Knut.
The issues in contention are administrative and reconcilable. Whatever the case, Knut has no reason to call its members to industrial action — it must drop the threat and engage TSC, which must also open up for dialogue.