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Friday, August 17th, 2018


Severe drought threatening food security in Central America

The Situation

A severe drought is affecting Central America’s Dry Corridor, which stretches from southern Mexico to Panama, threatening the food security of millions of Central American people. The most impacted countries are El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, which have experienced prolonged periods without rain since late June 2018; the drought conditions are expected to persist until 15 August 2018, and the LVI Climate Forum in Central America predicts below normal rainfall for the affected region from August to October 2018, further compounding the situation.

The agriculture calendar below shows the various seasons in Central America. Typically, there is little to no rainfall in August, which is called the canícula in Spanish. However, since the canícula arrived much earlier than usual this year, crops losses have been significantly higher in the affected areas due to the sustained drought conditions.

The drought could lead to further internal immigration in the Americas, as climatic factors have impelled people to emigrate from the Northern Triangle’s Dry Corridor to the United States of America and elsewhere. A United Nations study found that more than 50 per cent of the Central Americans migrants apprehended by Mexican authorities identified as agricultural workers, and 80 per cent of Guatemalan migrants are from rural, predominantly agricultural areas with comparable homicide rates to the United States of America. Furthermore, a 2017 World Food Programme study revealed that almost half of the migrants that were interviewed reported they were food insecure and that 75% of them had been obliged to use emergency coping strategies such as selling their land; migrants from the most drought- afflicted areas that left between 2014 and 2016 gave “no food” as their primary reason for emigrating. Increases in oil prices and corn prices spurred by the situation in Nicaragua, crop losses and price speculation, and a continued decrease in coffee prices could cause further instability and spark more internal immigration.

Technology to the rescue: New app to fight depression

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At one point in your life you may have suffered from stress or depression; usually a lonely journey.

However, from now on should you find yourself with any of the conditions, you will not have to go through this valley alone.

An app developed by four women in Mombasa can help people suffering from depression and stress to recover.

Through the online platform, members can share what they feel and find solutions to their problems.

PsychBeing was created by Ms Latifa Noor, 20, Ms Angela Mumbi, 26, Ms Eunice Njeghe, 23, and Ms Walder Amani who are members of Swahilipot hub in the county.

The app has different features that will enable a new visitor to sign in and get the necessary help.

“Statistics show that in Africa many people do not know they are suffering from depression,” Ms Noor, who was displaying the app Friday at Swahilipot hub during an event where Vocational and Technical Education Principal Secretary Kevit Desai was speaking on reforms in the sector, said.

To join PsychBeing one must log in using a username and a password.

“Many people, especially men, will not want to put their original names maybe because they don’t want to admit they have problems, so one is free to use a username of their choice,” she said.

Some of its features are sharing screen, community and group chats.

In the sharing screen, one is able to share what they feel or anything else they wish to with other users. “It is secure, so our users will not experience cyber bullying,” she said.


In the community feature, one is able to chat one-on-one with other users or therapists and also share photos with them.

“The therapists are skilled, some of them have hospitals while others work in various health facilities in Mombasa such as Coast General Provincial Hospital, Pandya and Aga Khan,” she added.

The group chat is divided into various sections, which allow people facing similar problems to share in one group.

“For example, it has a section for people who have lost their loved ones, those facing financial problems, relationship stress and many others because depression is caused by different things,” the 20-year-old web developer said.


Besides making the app, the women partner with counsellors and doctors in the county for seminars to educate people on depression and also help the victims feel better.

“During the workshops, we encourage the members to share their skills like singing, poetry and dancing to help relieve them of depression,” Ms Noor said.

The app also has the support of a website, Facebook and twitter accounts.

Being a prototype, Ms Noor said they hope to get Sh2.5 million to launch it.

Kenyans pay through the nose for drugs

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Kenyans are paying as much as 5,000 per cent more for medicines and medical procedures in public health facilities, a shocking report from the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission has revealed.

The price inflations involve the inflation of bills for patients paying through the National Hospital Insurance Fund for medical procedures such as surgery and removal of stitches.

The commission carried out the survey between April and September 2017, and published the findings in a document titled Report on the systems, policies, procedures and practices in the pricing of pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical supplies in the Kenya public health sector.

The study was carried out in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, Bungoma and Eldoret.

The EACC sought to identify the systemic weaknesses in the procurement of medicines and non-pharmaceutical supplies as well as loopholes for corruption, including price hikes and high user fees.

Removal of the nasal neck pack, used to prevent the possibility of patients vomiting or swallowing blood after surgery on the nose, costs Sh700 normally but hospitals are charging up to Sh35,000 if a patient pays using the NHIF cover, a 4,900 per cent increase.

Radical neck dissection, which involves the surgical removal of a cancerous mass in the neck or metastasis costs Sh76,500 when paid in cash. But using the NHIF card, one parts with Sh111,000.

Caesarean section operations cost Sh 20,000 in cash but skyrockets to Sh90,000 if payment is made via the NHIF cover.

Surgical removal of cysts or irregular growths from the body is charged at Sh7,500 in cash but sharply increases to Sh90,000 when paid via card.

Removal of stitches, a Sh100 procedure, undergoes a fivefold increase to Sh500 when paid through the State health insurer.


A milligram injection of adrenaline, which is used in emergencies to treat very serious allergic reactions to insect stings or bites, foods, drugs, or other substances, costs a mere Sh7 when dispensed by the Kenya Medical Supplies Agencies.

At Coast Referral Hospital, its price is hiked to Sh18.62, while at Embu Referral, it costs Sh30.

At Nakuru Referral, it costs a staggering Sh100, dropping to Sh50 at Mama Lucy Kibaki Hospital in Nairobi.

Food poisoning or H.pylori bacterial infection drug consisting of 14 tablets of 500mg of Clarithromycin, 1mg of amoxicillin and 30mg of Lansoprazole, is sold at Kemsa for Sh840, while at Coast General Hospital it goes for Sh1,300, as compared to Sh2,400 at Nakuru Referral.

Amoxycillin syrup, a common antibiotic used to treat bacterial infections, costs Sh35 at Kemsa but shoots up to Sh61 at Coast, Sh50 in Nakuru and Sh40 at Embu referral hospitals respectively.

EACC Deputy Director, Prevention, Ms Emma Chege said the survey discovered that there is no list of suppliers licensed to manufacture and distribute non-pharmaceutical supplies in Kenya.

“This (situation) has led to procurement of all forms of supplies, some of which are of very poor quality. They include syringes and needles which break while being used, causing medical complications,” Ms Chege said.

EACC chief executive Halakhe Waqo termed the price variations “immoral and unethical”, saying they could not be classified as genuine profits.

“When a facility charges patients up to 4,900 times the original price for a procedure, can that be called profit?” he posed.

EACC chairman Eliud Wabukala likened the report to a painful surgical procedure on the health sector that would result in better prices and services for Kenyans if implemented.


Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki said there was need for proper guidelines on procurement, adding that cases of the State insurer paying for inflated bills would no longer be allowed.

“The incidents of NHIF using its discretion to pay for inflated bills will certainly be reformed,” she said, adding the report will be implemented.

Ms Kariuki said State officers who will be found to be culpable in the offences will pay the price.

“We will not hesitate to deal with persons defeating the purpose of justice and fleecing the scheme,” she said.

Four charged over illegal sugar imports

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Two Kenya Bureau of Standards officials, a Kilindini port health officer and a director of an importing company were on Friday charged with allowing 10,000 bags of substandard sugar into the country.

Kebs inspection manager Samuel Njolo, inspection officer Daniel Samuel Musta, port health official Peter Mwadziwe and Air Menzies International Company director Ali Abdi Mohamed denied the charge before Mombasa Resident Magistrate Christine Ogweno.

Mr Njolo and Mr Musta were further charged with abuse of office, where they are accused of unlawfully authorising the release of the substandard brown sugar with excess moisture content and water insoluble matter to Flora Bakers Ltd.

The prosecution said the suspects entered into agreement with Air Menzies International to permit the release of the substandard cargo.

Mr Mwadziwe is further charged that as a health officer, he wilfully disobeyed statutory duty by failing to ensure full compliance of Section 30(11) of the Food, Drugs and Chemical Substances Act.


He released the goods before obtaining a certificate of the results of the analysis of the samples taken from the said bags of sugar from the Government Chemist.

The magistrate issued a warrant of arrest against Hassan Abdi Mohamed and Abdulahi Abdi Mohamed, who are also the directors of Flora Bakers Ltd after failing to appear in court to take plea Friday.

Ms Ogweno ordered the other four suspects to be remanded at Port Police Station pending ruling on their bond application.

The application will be heard on August 20.

William Ruto, Raila Odinga fight it out at Obwocha funeral

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Deputy President William Ruto and ODM party leader Raila Odinga on Friday clashed over the winner of last year’s presidential election and the March 9 peace deal.

The two leaders, attending the funeral of one time Cabinet Minister Henry Obwocha, publicly faced off at Sironga-Ekerubo grounds in West Mugirango, Nyamira County, over the outcome of the August 8 election, with Mr Odinga suggesting that his victory was stolen while Mr Ruto maintaining that Jubilee won fair and square.

Mr Odinga and Mr Ruto earlier shook hands and exchanged pleasantries and apologies for trading insults during last year’s elections.

However, minutes later, they rekindled their increasingly bitter political rivalry as mourners watched.

The Nasa leader, who spoke before Mr Ruto at the ceremony, revisited the polls saying that Chief Justice David Maraga had vindicated the opposition by nullifying the elections.

“People were so disappointed after the elections and we went before Chief Justice Maraga (Supreme Court) and you all know what happened,” Mr Odinga started.


Mr Maraga, who had spoken earlier, had called on politicians to emulate the late Obwocha’s style of politics.

“I am not a politician but I am urging politicians to embrace Obwocha’s style of peaceful politics,” Mr Justice Maraga said.

And speaking as Mr Ruto watched pensively, Mr Odinga said that in past elections people were killed, maimed and others burnt in churches.

He added that he had since March agreed to work with President Uhuru Kenyatta for the sake of peace and development in the country.

When it was his turn to address mourners, Mr Ruto told Mr Odinga to accept defeat and restated that Jubilee won the August 8 polls.

“Asiyekubali kushindwa sio mshindani (He who is unwilling to accept defeat is not a competitor),” the DP said.

“I want to appeal to our brothers; you said mambo yabadilika (things change) and we said tuko pamoja (we are together) and now here we are mambo yalibadilika na sasa tuko pamoja (things changed and now we are together),” Mr Ruto said.


Mr Odinga had earlier likened his January 30 ‘oath’ and President Kenyatta’s swearing in ceremony on November 28, 2017 to the biblical narrative where two women claimed the same baby.

“In that scenario, one mother agreed that the baby be divided into two but one refused and agreed to let him go.

“That’s exactly what I and President Kenyatta did when we came together and put up the building bridges team to bring all Kenyans together, fight corruption and impunity and foster development,” he said.

In his speech, Mr Ruto cautioned the Opposition against focusing on positions and party affairs at the expense of the people.

“The public wants development; they want electricity, roads, schools and hospitals and it is high time we as leaders focused on that,” he said.

Mr Odinga said leaders must come together and fight corruption without favouring any individual.

“There should be no brotherhood in the fight against corruption,” Mr Odinga said.


He said his building bridges initiative with President Kenyatta will address corruption and past injustices, noting corruption was the country’s worst enemy.

“We said we were leading Kenyans to Canaan. Unfortunately, on our arrival at River Jordan, our journey was interrupted by a snake. We are therefore building the bridges to use on our way to Canaan,” Mr Odinga said amid laughter from the mourners.

In the past, both Mr Odinga and Mr Ruto have criticised each other.

Mr Odinga has previously challenged Mr Ruto to reveal where he gets the money he donates in church harambees.

Similarly, Mr Ruto has been making political forays in areas perceived to be Mr Odinga’s strongholds, particularly at the Coast.

Mr Ruto is widely expected to vie for the presidency in 2022.


However, his ambitions have become increasingly complicated since Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga buried their hatchet during the March handshake, which also isolated some of the political leaders close to Mr Odinga.

Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetang’ula — one Mr Odinga’s ally-turned-foe and who has been rallying his lieutenants against the Nasa leader, on Friday steered clear of politics and instead eulogised the late minister — who died at 69 — as a “voice of reason and balance”.

Kisii Senator Sam Ongeri and Homa Bay Woman Rep Gladys Wanga called on Kenyans to embrace the spirit of the handshake and work together.

Prof Ongeri said the handshake between the two leaders had sent a strong message to Kenyans.

The late Obwocha was buried at Igenaitambe village home, Bosamaro in Chache, West Mugirango.

He leaves behind a widow, Dolline Mokeira, two sons and two daughters.

Mr Ruto conveyed President Kenyatta’s condolences while Mr Odinga brought condolences from his Nasa co-principal Musalia Mudavadi.

On the other hand, Mr Wetang’ula conveyed condolence message from Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka.

MPs to question Mucheru, Rotich over media debt

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Two Cabinet secretaries are to appear before the National Assembly to explain failure by the government to pay over Sh2.5 billion owed to media in advertisement revenue.

Mr Joe Mucheru (ICT) and Mr Henry Rotich (Treasury) had been summoned by the ICT Committee to appear on Tuesday but this was pushed back to allow detectives who have been investigating the matter to complete their work.

Marakwet West MP William Kisang, who chairs the National Assembly Committee on Communication, Information and Innovation, on Friday told Nation that the two ministers will appear before the Committee once the probe at the ICT Ministry by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) officers is done.

“We had already done letters for them to appear next week. But when I spoke to the CS (Mucheru) yesterday, he told me that DCI officers are already at the Ministry investigating the matter,” Mr Kisang’ said. The letters had required them to appear on Tuesday.

He continued: “I realised that it is only proper we let the investigators finish their work before we summon them because we do not want to look like we want to compromise what the investigators are doing.”

This came as advertisers raised questions on the integrity of the services they were getting following cases of over-billing and missing records.

Officials of two public universities said they were shocked when told their institution owed the agency millions of shillings despite them having paid for each of the adverts placed in the publication.

The officials showed Nation evidence of their payments to the agency. Records at the agency however showed that nothing had been received.

Recently, Mr Mucheru said that the government has no money to pay the local media for services rendered to GAA.

The DCI probe came after Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Noordin Haji stepped in, questioning the accumulated debt and how some of the services were acquired by the Agency.

The DCI is probing allegations that dummy companies may have illegally benefited from the advertising billions and not the media outlets contracted for the job. Advertising business is a lucrative venture.

Nation has so far established that dummy companies were created, some with names very close to those of existing media houses and publications, to which monies were paid once disbursements to genuine service providers were approved.


A list of payments seen by the Nation, for instance, indicates that Sh21 million was paid between November 2017 and June this year to an entity variously referred to as The Star Publication, Star Publications and Star Publications Limited.

Only The Star Publications Limited, which publishes The Star, could be found at the company registry.

Another Sh2 million was paid to Liaison Media, which in other entries is shown as Liaison Media Nairobi. No media house registered under that name could be found at the company registry.

 Teachers should be ready to work anywhere in the country

The current delocalisation of headteachers by the Teachers Service Commission must continue. Some headteachers have stayed in one school for decades, turning such institutions into personal businesses. They singlehandedly supply all school requirements. They supply food, stationery, building materials, school uniform and rent out houses to teachers. They control schools’ boards of governors that are meant to set and execute school development strategies. Some connive with the local MP to use CDF monies allocated to their school for their personal gain.

So the main reason such teachers oppose delocalisation is the fear of losing the above benefits. Delocalisation promotes national cohesion and reduces tribalism. It encourages inter-marriages between tribes. Teachers whose schools excel in exams should transfer such skills to their new schools. Civil servants, including policemen, soldiers, county staff and ministerial staff, are routinely transferred irrespective of their marital status, yet we never hear of fear of family disintegration. So teachers, like everyone else, must be ready to live, work and marry anywhere in Kenya as long as there is peace.


Yes! There are men, and then there’s Atwoli

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Cotu Secretary General Francis Atwoli is a fascinating man.

For a man who has not much college education or a rich pedigree to speak of, Atwoli is by every standard doing very well for himself. With just a good measure of self-assurance peppered with an embellished sense of himself, Atwoli has managed to scale dizzying heights of wealth, power and success, joining the citadel of the elite on the back of the poor workers whose rights he claims to advocate for.

A man with an impeccable sense of sartorial splendour — except for the litany of gold rings that choke his chubby fingers — Atwoli is not just an interesting man to look at but also captivating to listen to.

For a man who has managed to make Kenya’s Labour Day celebrations about himself, he has perfected the art of broadcasting his exceptionalism at every chance he gets — and two nights ago, in a much-talked about TV show, Atwoli was in his element.

I had never thought of writing about Atwoli until I watched the interview and it occurred to me that a man of Atwoli’s talents, verve and personality could perhaps be worth writing a column about, particularly regarding some two or three lessons we could glean from him. I have on several occasions here made crystal clear my respect for people who manage to succeed with little or no education or a college degree in a world that has over-glorified academic credentials. I am of the opinion that it takes a significant amount of grit, intellect and general cleverness for someone without much credentials to amass the influence of Atwoli’s magnitude.


So, that evening, as I was watching Mr Atwoli speak to an ever-giggly interviewer, I thought to myself, what amount of success could I possibly achieve if I had the confidence of this man?

The first lesson we could learn from Atwoli is that confidence is king. You would think that a man of Atwoli’s background would shy away from taking on jobs that he is perhaps too underqualified for, but obstacles seem to have never deterred Atwoli from gunning for top jobs, qualifications or not. That is the level of confidence we should all aspire to achieve.

Atwoli teaches us to just believe in yourself and do the damn job, it doesn’t matter if you are qualified or not. After all, motivational speakers will tell you “God does not call the qualified … he qualifies the called!’


Lesson number two we learn from the Cotu leader is to embrace who you are. Now I started reading from nondescript blogs that Mr Atwoli had apparently “demolished” another man’s home taking off with the other man’s wife. The bloggers might have thought they could embarrass Atwoli and his drop-dead gorgeous wife (who is also a journalist), but Atwoli handled it like a real man. He came out clean. He went on live TV to clear the air, to quash the rumours and said; Yes, I took on a third wife — to replace the second wife; yes I have 17 children (more on the way), and yes I am a polygamist, so deal with it.

From Atwoli, we could learn to be comfortable in our own skins; to embrace ourselves, our shortcomings, mistakes and missteps — and not to allow people to shame us for the decisions that we have made in life.


Now, by coming out in the open to declare his undying love for his wife, he has killed the rumour mill, silenced the critics and whoever has a problem with the thirty-something age gap between Atwoli and his new bride could take a long walk to China.

Last lesson we could learn from this man Atwoli is the value of personal branding. Labour day celebrations in Kenya are never complete without Atwoli’s grand entrance, long and dramatic speech, not to mention his purple shirt.

Labour Day in the country could easily pass for Atwoli’s birthday. He has created a larger-than-life profile around himself both locally and globally. Say what you like but we could learn something from Atwoli’s personal branding strategy. He teaches us to own our ambitions, to be present in the moment, to seize the day, to make the most of what we have, to squeeze every opportunity to its last drop and exhaust every prospect that comes our way. Harvard will never teach you that.

And that is the story of Francis Atwoli.

I can only wish him more wealth, success and of course a happy marriage to the newest Mrs Atwoli in town.

Fun and prayers to spice up Kabeberi Sevens in Masaku

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There are two ways of finding out what is trending in the fashion world, at least on the Kenyan scene. One can attend a fashion show or make their way to the stadium when there is a rugby match.

From being a sports event, held mostly on Ngong Road in Nairobi, rugby has grown into one of the most colourful social events in diverse counties, from Nakuru to Machakos.

Well, everything about the Masaku Sevens did not go as planned four years ago. Parents were disgusted, fans were appalled, organisers were bitter and the county government was left with egg on its face. What had been billed as a grand rugby tournament ended up with the tag of Sodom and Gomorrah.


Those who drove to Machakos spent hours in a gridlock on Mombasa Road. As for the pictures and videos that came from the event, the less said the better.

Fast forward to 2018 and the Kabeberi Sevens, which started in Machakos on Saturday, has done a 180-degree turn.

The Reverend Richard Karanja of Christ is the Answer Ministries (Citam) aptly captured the moment when he said: “We want to redo the story that happened here a while back by introducing Jesus to the fans.”


For the first time in Kenya’s rugby history, the church has partnered with a club to spread the word in a tournament that has in the past been associated with free living. And this weekend, lovers of the game and those who appreciate the lifestyle associated with the contact sport will interact with 200 young Christians who are in Machakos solely to spread the word, counsel, lend a shoulder and, of course, enjoy the game.

Rev Karanja, speaking when Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua hosted Mwamba RFC officials, said a number of churches will be attending the tournament because they are keen on “influencing culture through sports”. Citam and Mavuno Church will spearhead the initiative.


Mwamba RFC President Alvas Onguru welcomed the pastors, saying Citam, which offers chaplaincy services to Mwamba RFC, will go a long way in supplementing Mwamba’s core values which is “to let young people enjoy the sport, grow and build character”.

The George Mwangi Kabeberi Memorial Sevens, popularly known as the Kabeberi Sevens, was first played in 1986 to commemorate the passing away of the charismatic Kabeberi, one of the founding members of the Mwamba club. Over the years, the significance of the tournament has been expanded to honour departed club members, including Leeroy Okara, Absalom ‘Bimbo’ Mutere, Abedeen Shikoyi, Jimmy Owino and lately Victor Wayodi.


So as the fans troop to the Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos County on Saturday, there will be much more to look forward to besides the girls in short skirts and thigh-high boots and hot pants. With them will be an army of more than 200 young Christian soldiers who will be seeking to “introduce Jesus” to the fans.

Maybe they will take a moment to pray for the Kenya rugby team, Simbas, which is in Namibia, seeking a place in the World Cup.

Prosecution loopholes leave many innocent people in jail

When the Daily Nation recently reported on how shoddy police investigations and prosecution loopholes have derailed the wheels of justice, little did they know that the problem transcends Africa. In Kenya, however, our prison demographics are startling since the court-imposed cash bails and bonds are way beyond the income of most people. As a result, poor Kenyans opt to serve prison sentences or custodial remands while awaiting trial dates.

In theory, Kenyans appear knowledgeable on police and judicial procedures but, in practice, they are ignorant of the basic rights of arrested persons. It is common knowledge that any arrested person is presumed innocent, as Scott Turrow puts it, until proved guilty.


Most officers forego reading the rights of an arrested person.

My recent visit to Kamiti Maximum Security Prison confirmed this hypothesis. Several inmates I talked to confirmed that their preliminary rights upon arrest were concealed, until recently when paralegals taught them.

All criminals arrested are entitled to remain silent because anything they do or say will be used against them. They are entitled to a lawyer. In case they can’t afford one, the government should provide one. Unfortunately, many inmates are underrepresented, many have confessed without waiving their rights, women have testified against their husbands without waiving their marital privilege. These are some of the loopholes Richard North Patterson examines in his novel, Exile.


Last year, Chief Justice David Maraga decried the backlog of cases by clearing minor offenders. Several months later, petty offenders still occupy three-quarters of our prisons, courtesy of punitive bails and bonds. These are the legal flaws Nancy Taylor Rosenberg tackles in Trial By Fire.

Our prosecution is used to infringing on the rights of petty offenders since they are unable to even file either discovery motion or motion in limine. In law, discovery motion enables a defendant to examine evidence provided against them so as to prepare for their defence. Unfortunately, our prosecution has sealed this door, exposing many to ignorant confessions; an ideology John Grisham looks at in his legal thriller, The Confession.

Motion in limine or motion to suppress seeks to eliminate any unsubstantiated evidence the prosecution may use against the defendant. In her book Rough Justice, Lisa Scottoline examines motion in limine.

In the US, for instance, one cannot incriminate himself in court. In the novel The Client, John Grisham covers this topic. In Kenya, however, suspected criminals are brutalised, tortured and illegally incarcerated to confess a crime they are innocent of. Recently, The Nairobian reported about a man who was tortured, intimidated and maimed to confess the fictitious terrorism charges levelled against him.