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Saturday, August 18th, 2018


You needed to get close to the man to understand diplomacy

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I must admit it is difficult to pen a tribute to someone who has just passed on. It is difficult to do so especially if the person was central to your life, career, and outlook in life.

And it is not about whether the person has ‘passed on’ or ‘passed away’. It is simply because the person has died. It is difficult to relate to the death of someone who has been dear to your life and career.

This is the position I find myself in. When asked whether I was in a position to write a tribute on ‘my time’ with Kofi Annan, I reacted with hesitation. I did not want to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ because I had to fully understand what his death meant.

Or indeed whether the source of the death is authoritative or not. And indeed this is what I learnt throughout my interaction with Mr Kofi Annan from 2008 to 2013 in Kenya and several years later.

You act on basis of strong information and good evidence and knowledge about something. Kofi would take action on issue after understanding the issue and weighing its meaning and implication.

To agree to write this piece, therefore, resulted from one simple approach. I called several friends across Africa with whom I worked and those who continued to work with him in Geneva. Few answered my calls while others sent a message that ‘I can’t speak now’. Those who answered calls reacted in the same manner. They were ‘quiet’ on the other end.

I began interactions with KA, as we referred to him, during the Kenya Dialogue and Reconciliation (KNDR) process. This is the dialogue that ended the post-2007 election violence.

This is the dialogue process that Mr Kofi Annan so well chaired that both the government under President Mwai Kibaki and the opposition led by former Prime Minister Raila Odinga agreed to submit to its recommendations for a better Kenya.

Mr Annan’s approach to the dialogue process saw men and women involved in the process submit to his authority with great ease. The leaders involved in the negotiation process would shout tough in public rallies and in the presence of the cameras. But they would humble themselves later when they met with Mr Annan. He would always begin by saying, “Kenya is bigger than all of you — so let us listen to each other” … or “think about those ordinary poor citizens who are looking upon you for solutions”. These words would soften the hardliners.


Away from cameras, his diplomatic and simple language, and few words would soften the positions taken by hardliners. His quiet, simple and humble demeanour would disarm even those who had a reputation for hostile language in the presence of the cameras.

I came to work with Mr Annan closely during the monitoring of implementation of reforms initiated under the KNDR process. Indeed the Constitution of Kenya 2010, including devolution of power and resources resulted from his initiatives. Although many will today shy away from giving Mr Annan credit for these initiatives, it is him and his approach to issues that initiated these reforms. He approached the causes of violence in Kenya as if he had lived in Kenya’s violent past.

He would warn the political elites that they risked losing everything. That ordinary citizens will turn against them if the leaders did not address the challenges that wanainchi faced.


During the monitoring process, he would insist on evidence for all the statements in our research. He would not speak without data and adequate information. He would not get to a press conference with a statement whose words he had not read, edited and counter edited. Every word would be measured, reviewed, and counter reviewed to ensure it communicated appropriately and that it focused on improving the future of Kenya.

The leaders easily submitted to Kofi Annan led reforms. His initiatives led to to the making of a new constitution in 2010.

He helped form the coalition government to which he would present findings on key reforms.


He would point at weaker areas and leaders would agree on how to implement them.

Because of these initiatives, Mr. Kofi Annan remained highly rated in Kenya between 2008 and 2013. He was the most ‘highly trusted’ person in the country. More than 75 per cent of Kenyans had trust and confidence in him. He pulled Kenya out of the brink and remained focused on the future of Kenya. He would have loved to see a better and a democratic Kenya.

Prof Kanyinga is based at the Institute for Development Studies (IDS), University of Nairobi; [email protected]

Pitfalls in Uhuru’s war against corruption

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Although Uhuru Kenyatta’s war against corruption must be applauded as a great leadership initiative, its ultimate fate must be evaluated within the broad context of his own agency and political will, on the one hand, and Kenya’s political, economic and cultural structure, on the other hand.

Viewed in the context of the thoughts of Anthony Giddens, the historically and politically minded sociologist, the interaction between agency and structure will condition the achievement of the desired change in Kenya. How is this to be explained?

First let us define agency and explain how its characteristics can either facilitate or constrain the war against corruption.

In Giddens’ usage, agency means an individual’s or leader’s capacity for willed action. Such action ought to be characterised by intentionality, purposiveness, rationality, forethought and self-reflectiveness. And if by a president, such action should, indeed, be for the good of the country and its citizens.


We cannot deny the fact that Uhuru’s war against corruption is well-intentioned. He found out that the vice has eaten into Kenya’s political economy and society like debilitating cancer and concluded that it should be immediately eradicated. Uhuru’s purpose is to reconstruct the country and place it on a high moral pedestal.

Although Uhuru may not be quite sure of the success of his crusade, like all of us, he must remain hopeful that the war will be won against all odds.

However, by instituting the lifestyle audit for purposes of accountability, taking many corruption suspects to court and exhorting all leaders to play a vital role in the anti-corruption war, Uhuru has demonstrated unprecedented political will, defined here as the commitment of agents to undertake action to achieve a set objective.

But what other strategies has he put in place and how do they sit with the present structures of governance, economy and society?

This leads us to questions pertaining to structure, the other component of our analysis.

For political will in the war against corruption should include issues such as whether Uhuru’s initiatives will be sustained in the long run, whether the chosen anti-corruption programme is technically sound on the basis of its process and outcome, whether all possible stakeholders have been mobilised, whether the public has been sufficiently conscientised to support the anti-corruption war, and finally, whether sufficient financial and institutional resources have been committed to the crusade.

What is structure and how can it condition the war against corruption? As has been stated above, structure refers to the political, economic and socio-cultural processes in a country.

Each of these is an ensemble of institutions, rules, roles, beliefs and meanings into which people are socialised in matters pertaining to their governance, economic activities such as production and the distribution of products of their labour through personal consumption, trade and accumulation. Structure also refers to cultural values which regulate people’s social relations.


In our context all these are the outcome of Kenya’s history through past and present roles of our leaders and us. Positively or negatively we are products of our country’s structures as much as we are their authors.

For instance, Kenya’s political, economic and socio-cultural systems may stifle Uhuru’s noble intentions in many ways. First, our neo-patrimonial governance systems at the national and county levels are the very opposite of democratic governance. Far from serving the public good, the State at these two levels is the instrument for the self-enrichment of the political and other privileged classes. This is a colonial legacy.

Just as the colonial state corruptly served the interests of the British capitalist aristocracy and middle class, including local African chiefs, our own leaders today resort to grand corruption, including patronage, ethnicity, impunity and nepotism to serve their own interests.

Corruption is therefore a deeply embedded political vice which will only be successfully eradicated through comprehensive and meaningful democratic transformation.


Uhuru’s crusade against corruption may be well-intentioned but to what extent has he convinced other political leaders, the business community, the civil society and the clergy to join him in it?

Secondly, Kenya’s poor and dependent economy promotes corruption which is made official through international and domestic rules intended to regulate production and local and international trade. Surplus value is extracted from peasant farmers, traders and labour through returns to produce and wages that are far below effort. Individuals and companies that control both the export and import sectors accumulate astronomic surplus value, mostly through unfair arrangements with the state and at producers’ expense.

Corruption is intended to subvert the rules. The fight against corruption, therefore, calls for major transformations.

For instance, agricultural production should be improved through mechanisation.


Our tea, coffee, sugar, maize and flower producers should be paid the real value of their labour and merchandise.

Financial and other institutions in charge of the economy should be streamlined to serve in the best interests of all stakeholders.

This will empower the majority to fight against corruption.

Finally, corruption has become an accepted culture in Kenya. The majority of our people worship material wealth irrespective of its source possibly due to feelings of relative deprivation in terms of the people with whom we compare ourselves.

Most of our leaders aspire to be as rich as former European settler farmers like Lord Delamere and billionaires in the developed countries. The rest of the poor and middle class citizens want to be like our billionaire leaders and businessmen. Max Weber states in his book, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, that European Christians who colonised North America believed in hard work and frugality.


In contrast, the majority of Kenyans cultivate capitalist tastes and acquisitiveness without these requisite Christian values. In what ways will the Government positively transform the cultural values of the majority of Kenyans so that they see the vice in corruption and what role should our families, schools, churches and mosques play in this?

In the war against corruption although Uhuru occupies the position of the principal agent, Kenya’s political, economic and socio-cultural structures, if not simultaneously transformed, will continue to stifle the President’s agential power.

Upcoming blue economy summit beneficial if tapped by our officials

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The demolition of properties erected on Nairobi’s riparian zones, that is, the interfaces between land and rivers, will come to zero if it is not aimed at, or anchored in, the larger picture of promoting, developing and sustaining Kenya’s blue economy.

That naturally says that the demolitions cannot be confined to the capital unless Nairobi is acting as a pilot. Let me explain. First, what is a blue economy? This is the sustainable use of and conservation of oceans, seas, lakes, rivers and other water resources.

Kenya must be part and parcel and in the forefront of developing its blue economy by taking care of and developing its ocean, lakes, rivers, rivulets in a sustainable manner. These present a platform with immense potential for inclusive economic development.


Witness the position of International Rivers, an advocacy group: “They mitigate floods and droughts, support forests, recharge groundwater supplies, sustain fisheries and provide byways for travel.” That is what Nairobi River, for example, should be doing.

But it is not doing this because it is itself struggling to survive choking as it does on toxic filth that poisons it and the living organisms in it.

Demolition of properties on riparian zones will come to naught if it does not end in giving the city clean and healthy rivers.

Here’s International Rivers again: “Healthy rivers are the lifelines of our planet. Rivers and their waterbeds — and the rich variety of life they sustain — provide people with water, food, medicines, building materials, land-replenishing, silts and more.’’

Healthy rivers are not just about water but also carry nutrient-rich sediments and dissolved minerals that replenish the land. Now, can we talk thus about the importance of rivers and their economic significance and not do the same for our lakes and ocean?

Fortunately, there is a point of departure: The fit-for-purpose two-day Sustainable Blue Economy Conference (SBEC) which will be co-hosted by the Governments of Kenya and Canada in Nairobi in November.

SBEC is important first because it is clear that we are as a country yet to grasp, or greatly underestimate, the potential of the blue economy and second because it is aimed not at Kenya’s and Canada’s bodies of water but the world’s.

This, of course, must mean that Kenya’s governors in whose counties are found rivers and lakes and face the Indian Ocean, experts in fisheries, aquaculture, environment, forestry, maritime and shipping from Kenya’s public and private universities attend, present and benefit from discussions of position papers on the blue economy.

These discussions should centre on the use of water resources to, inter alia, help end hunger and make our counties and country food secure, manage and sustain marine life, enhance transportation and global connectivity, promote the growth of cities, tourism and create employment opportunities.


I submit that SBEC will benefit Kenyans immensely if Governors Anyang’ Nyong’o (Kisumu), Cyprian Awiti (Homa Bay), Okoth Obado (Migori), Cornel Rasanga (Siaya) and Sospeter Ojaamong’ (Busia) tackled the matter of depleted fish stocks in Lake Victoria and invited experts to share with them ways and means of replenishing them.

And would Governor Gideon Mbuvi not secure healthy funding if he presented a paper on, for example, making a healthy Nairobi River a byway for ferrying farm produce from Kikuyu to Nairobi and for transporting merchandise from Nairobi to Athi River? Would he not provoke interest in investment in a tour of Nairobi by boat?

After all the online brochure markets the conference as seeking to address the challenges of protecting oceans, seas, lakes and rivers in order that they may be harnessed to create jobs and combat poverty by encouraging businesses to collaborate with governments and civil society.

Of course, SBEC should aim to bring to Nairobi experts in all sorts of innovative and cutting edge technologies that help or will help make rivers, lakes and oceans healthy, safe and productive for local people and communities.


SBEC should cause Kenyans to want to know the bodies of water closest to them better. Do the Tana Delta communities appreciate that the river’s estuary, where its fresh water mixes with the Ocean’s salt, is its most biologically productive part?

According to International Rivers, most of the world’s fish catch comes from species that depend for at least part of their life cycle on estuarine habitats, themselves the most productive parts of the planet.

I commend SBEC to the national government, governors, Parliament, universities, Kenya Private Sector Alliance and civil society.

Be honest and consistent to win graft war

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There are many definitions of a commonly used phenomenon in everyday speech known as culture.

The one definition I find most appropriate in describing the process of the formation of a people’s perception — a function of culture — goes as follows; “Culture is the basis upon which a group of people or even a society interprets their experience of the world around them and orders their relationships into a coherent way of life.”

To achieve this level of competence each member of that group or society must go through a process known as socialisation.

When all members of that group or society have been socialised into this basis upon which they interpret their surroundings, they then all form a common perception and continually act in a way that is guided by that perception and over time they know no other way.


When we look at such people operating that way we see that as their culture. The truth is that creating a culture such as that is a very easy process because it is only about doing things — whether good or bad — and repeating the same things over and over again.

If a time comes when, for whatever reason that culture has to be broken or called off, that can be an uphill battle.

In this country there is a war that has been started. I believe it is one that should have happened earlier but certainly all is not lost if the fight is sustained.

I am talking about the battle against corruption.

Any thinking and caring Kenyan knows that here we are dealing with a matter that has to do with the survival of each one of us and the future of our nation.

We, however, must realise that there is a general Kenyan conception of government operations that has been formed over the last 50 five years of our independence.

Surely if a Kenyan has worked for other Kenyans for all his working life and when he goes to the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) to collect his dues his file cannot be found until he gives something to somebody, he does so because he is a Kenyan and he has accepted that kind of mentality. That is our culture.


Does he or she have a choice? The Kenyan population has accepted that kind of thinking. How about how we Kenyans deal with our policemen on the roads or in other places even where death is involved? It is the culture.

A culture once established is difficult to uproot. Only determination and honesty can do it. Look at what happened in Parliament the other day.

We are told members there were given money to shoot down a report. Are we truly going to win this war?

Uhuru White House visit has special meaning

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Who picks a fight with LeBron James? The colossal basketball player is a larger-than-life character both off the court and on it. He is a hero to many.

Not the sort of individual any person would rush to pick a fight with. But, alas, as the world has come to realise, US President Donald Trump is willing to pick a fight with anyone.

The problem this time was that by attacking James in the same tweet as another African American TV personality, Don Lemon, he once again brought up his questionable relationship with black Americans. The situation in America is bad. African-Americans once again feel on the back foot.

As a result, many African- Americans have now begun to look to Africa for inspiration and for identity. 

And while our own Barack Obama (no Mr Trump, he was not born in Kenya) is no longer in White House, his recent visit to Kenya at this moment in history, had particularly special significance.


It is a matter of black pride. Now President Kenyatta is going to America at a time of optimism for both Kenya and Africa.

From the depths of the depressing presidential elections, and the post-election madness, Kenya is again on the upward trajectory.

We are racing forward towards the Big Four agenda which, if achieved, will change the future of Kenya. Healthcare, housing, food security, and a revamped manufacturing sector are the four limbs of our national body which desperately need fixing.

But perhaps more worrying for all of us is the chronic heart disease affecting the functioning of our national body — corruption. Indeed, when African-Americans look at the continent of their forefathers they see the aforementioned issues and it pains them. But when they look at the widespread and endemic corruption, it is not pain they feel, but shame.


The saving grace is the present momentum in fighting the monster. When he stands before the American people, President Kenyatta will be able to hold his head a little higher than the vast majority of his continental counterparts.

While the Washington Post recently wrote a piece celebrating the opening shots of Mr Kenyatta’s war, not many people in the US have taken notice.

The President should use his time in the US to call on America to show support for his efforts. We have already seen what international agreements can do in the fight against corruption.

In recent months, Uhuru’s government has made deals with both Switzerland and Mauritius.

These two well-known havens for hidden cash are playing ball with Kenya. Bank accounts in which tens of millions of dollars are thought to have been hidden, have already been frozen.


America, of course, is the next level. The US Treasury Department is perhaps the most well-oiled anti-money laundering and anti-corruption agency in the world.

There is a reason why every country, entity and individual is petrified on finding their name on the US sanctions list. This trip is symbolic as it is pragmatic. From trade deals to coordination and cooperation with the US Treasury in our fight against corruption, there is no better partner than the United States, no matter who the president is.

From successful campaigns in Rwanda and Tanzania in East Africa, Liberia and Ghana in West Africa, there are signs that Africa is pushing back against graft.

And Kenya is now rated highly on that front. President Kenyatta could as well be carrying the black world’s dream in the White House.

 Ms Kaparo comments on governance issues.

We should create right settings for African geniuses to thrive

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Jackson is my young friend who has defied the odds. I met him a few years ago when I visited his mother in Mathare, Nairobi.

The room was about 10 feet long and 10 feet wide. That was where Jackson, his mother and three siblings stayed. There was a curtain that divided the room into two.

I was connected to the family through my mission to young people in the slums. Jackson’s story was further compounded a short while later when his mother died.

These children were now all alone in the world.

Every time I was teaching or having sessions with the youth in Mathare, Jackson would show up. He began to develop himself and gradually became the go-to-guy for websites and all things internet.

He did not stop there. He continued to add new layers to his knowledge and today it has paid off. He has been invited to the Google campus in Mountain View, California.


Google has taken care of all the expenses. You should have seen the joy on his face as he recounted the fact that when he got to the embassy for his visa, they were expecting him and everything went flawlessly. Jackson is one person that surely will be heard of in time to come.

Why have I shared Jackson’s story with you today? It is because Africa is full of millions of Jacksons who will never make it out of the slums because they do not know what is possible. As such, they settle for what is available.

My message to my children in the slums has always been that if their minds leave the slums, their bodies have no choice but to follow.

The 2018 Fifa World Cup came and got the whole world glued to their TV sets. Ever since the conclusion of the most popular football extravaganza, where France emerged champions, one question has lingered on my mind. Why did African teams crash out at the group stages while an African-dominated French team won the Cup? What is the explanation for this seeming anomaly?

Come to think of it, never in any pre-World Cup conversation did any of my friends, even remotely, suggest that an African team could win.


The African dream was to get past the group stages (and even that dream was not to be). Are we dreaming too small? Have we set our benchmarks against mediocrity? Has our environment conditioned us to mediocrity?

The quality of our dreams is inspired by our environment and our exposure to information. What environment are we creating for the African dream?

The French players of African descent were in an environment that supported their talents to the fullest.

Africans players in Africa, on the other hand, were in an environment where they had to fight for everything, including their fees.

The French players were honoured to play for a nation that had them covered and that had their best interests and development at heart.

If we don’t nurture and celebrate what we have, can we blame the person who celebrates them?


When Jackson goes to America and the Americans spot the genius in him, can we blame him if he decides to dedicate his mind to contributing to the American dream, rather than a Kenyan or African dream?

If we do not create the environment in which the African geniuses will thrive, we will continue to lose out on the innovations that hold the key to African transformation. It is so sad when we import intelligence without developing our own.

Environment is king. There is a reason why even if you have all the infrastructure, money and trained personnel to look after polar bears, a polar bear will not thrive in Mombasa, and team building won’t do it. Nothing can take the place of the right environment.

We see this from the recent tragedy where we lost rhinos that were moved from one environment to another.

Environment is key in transformation. Some environments are catalysts for geniuses while others are death sentences.


Some organisations are France in that they are fertile grounds for nurturing talent, while some organisations are Africa, where even if you went in with great talent, the organisational dream is to get beyond group stages and not to win the World Cup.

Until we create the environment that brings out the genius in our people, we have lost the right to complain if our people give their best to others.

France had no advantage over African nations in terms of skill, strength or experience. The only advantage they had was the the environment that had the capacity to translate their dream into reality. No amount of motivation can counter the effect of a bad environment. In fact, motivation without the right environment leads to frustration.

We must decide to proactively work on creating the environment for the home we want, the nation we want and indeed the world we want.

Dr Akinyemi is the Chief Transformation Officer, PowerTalks. [email protected] WALE AKINYEMI

Implement provisions of National Accord

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The overwhelming outpouring of grief following the death of Kofi Annan attests to the greatness of a man who conquered the world and touched the lives of many.

Dr Annan was more than the secretary-general of the United Nations, which job many have held and performed as an assignment, but without inner convictions of oneness of humanity.

Dr Annan was a believer in human values, sanctity of relationships and true peace.

He lived the spirit and ethos of the UN of co-existence, bringing peace to the world and crusading for common prosperity.

It is for this reason that he won the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, which was a recognition of the pivotal role he played in revitalising the UN, a body that at one point was losing traction due to grand failures and especially, escalation of war across the globe.


For Kenya, the passing on of Dr Annan is not just transition of a prominent personality. It is wrapped in deep memories.

Dr Annan goes down in history as the single personality who pulled Kenya from extermination after the bungled elections in 2007.

When all efforts had failed, it was Dr Annan who stoically brought retired President Mwai Kibaki and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga to the negotiating table and convinced them to accept truce and enjoined them to set up a coalition government.

His memorable one-liner quote: “It’s a deal” ended the guns and drumbeats of war. Kenya picked itself up, dusted itself and undertook to reform and reorganise itself to stem any future catastrophe.

As the chair of the Team of Eminent Persons comprising Gracia Machel and former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa, Dr Annan led President Kibaki and Mr Odinga to signing the National Accord on February 28, 2008, which set the agenda for national reforms.


A lasting legacy of the National Accord was the review of the Constitution and enactment of a new one, which was ratified in 2010 and which changed the course of Kenya’s history forever.

A decade later, the country has undergone a complete makeover.

Even so, some challenges such as historical injustices, inequitable distribution of national resources and winner-takes-it-all politics remain unresolved.

The aftermath of last year’s elections that nearly saw the country burst into flames demonstrated that the perceived peace is just ankle-deep; that the country can explode any time.

Which is the reason we must implement all the prescriptions of the National Accord, particularly, Agenda Four that dealt with long-term structural, administrative and legal issues.

The best tribute Kenya can give to the fallen hero is to fully implement the provisions of the National Accord, which offer foundation for transformation and creation of a just and fair society; one where individuals are not judged by their origins but abilities.

Life insurance crisis as State holds onto Sh600m in claims

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More than Sh600 million is lying unclaimed with the State, having been left behind by Kenyans who died without informing their relatives that they had life insurance covers.

The unclaimed cash, which points at a scenario where people fear disclosing that they have a policy lest their kin eliminate them, has made Kenyan insurers urge citizens to be more open with their relatives on life cover to ensure the benefits are drawn without a hitch when they die.

According to Ms Kellen Kariuki, the CEO of the Unclaimed Financial Assets Authority (Ufaa), the exact amount as of Friday was Sh610,980,456 — comprising five per cent of all unclaimed monies.

The revelation by Ms Kariuki came as tongues continued to wag over the case of Evans Masaku Kasyoki, the man being tried following an accusation that he secretly bought two different insurance policies worth a total of Sh10 million for his nephew then murdered him.


Mr Kasyoki was on Wednesday presented before a High Court deputy registrar in Machakos and the court ordered that he be mentally examined before taking plea.

Before that, stories of individuals who had arranged for the murder of their spouses so they could pocket insurance benefits had been commonplace, both locally and abroad.

Such tales have sent even colder chills down the spines of most Kenyans who often frown upon any post-death arrangements.

Whether it is buying a life cover, writing a will or paying towards funeral expenses in case of death, there are Kenyans who will be hesitant to sign up, as revealed in the Sunday Nation’s interviews with players in the insurance sector.

“The topic of death in some African cultures is taboo. It could mean invoking a bad spell or omen to oneself, or one’s family,” said Mr Bernard Shisanya, the head of ordinary life sales at Britam Insurance.

“Such beliefs have a potential to be a source of objection to the discussion about planning for death taking up an insurance policy,” he added.


The industry estimates say less than three per cent of Kenyans have life insurance. Only South Africans seem to be more receptive of life cover across Africa, with penetration rates standing at approximately 15 per cent of the population.

Mr Shisanya said Kenyan life cover purchasers are individuals with high awareness levels who “are more receptive to discussions on death”.

Top among the concerns by Kenyans who discussed the matter with the Nation is the risk of being murdered.

We were informed of a local bank that bought life cover for its staff, but the beneficiaries were warned not to inform those listed as the next of kin lest they be “sacrificed” for the cash.

A typical life cover entails someone signing up for a set amount, like Sh1 million. The agreement is that should the person die, the next of kin they nominate gets the set amount. Some companies also provide the option of paying the sum if the purchaser is seriously incapacitated.


Should the person not die within a certain period, there is usually an option of withdrawing the amount after a number of years, typically a decade. Once signed up, the person services the policy through deductions on their salary or by sending cash via mobile money. The tricky part is nominating the beneficiary.

“It will be hard to tell my wife because I fear she might get influenced and eliminate me,” said Nairobi resident Isaiah Nyandoro.

Mr Shisanya, the Britam life insurance boss, said it is a tall order convincing individuals like Mr Nyandoro to buy a life insurance policy.

“Many wouldn’t like to talk about death or probably imagine that they will at one time die, and so they tend to shy away from that topic,” said Mr Shisanya.

Mr Shisanya further said: “Normally, it takes a lot of convincing for them to take a life, or a funeral expense policy, where the benefit could be used in the event of death of the bread winner, which greatly eases the financial burden to the affected family.”


And for those who buy cover, the Association of Kenya Insurers (AKI) encourages them to disclose the information to those they have nominated as beneficiaries.

“Ensure you have listed someone as your beneficiary. It would also be good to inform the beneficiary that you have taken out life insurance,” AKI told the Sunday Nation through communications officer Hazel King’ori.

“We have had instances where no one claims since the beneficiary was not aware,” the association added.

Mr Shisanya said individuals with huge families also tend to struggle when nominating the next of kin, partly because there is a limit to the number of beneficiaries.

It is also common for employed folk to buy funeral cover for their parents, but the unwritten rule, as we established from our discussions, is that the parents are never informed or they may start worrying about their children’s intentions.

“By and large, many would not inform the parents, because of the perception that they would be actually planning for, or looking forward to, the demise of the parents. So they would rather keep it under wraps,” reasoned Mr Shisanya.


But even as a majority of Kenyans frown upon life insurance, data from the regulator shows that the amount of money remitted to be given in case of death or serious incapacitation is rising by the year.

The Insurance Regulatory Authority indicates in the Economic Survey 2018 that gross premium income has been rising in the five years to 2017, starting from Sh44 billion in 2013 to Sh82 billion last year.

“This means that there are more lives insured,” said AKI, adding that by the end of last year, there were 26 life insurance companies in Kenya. A 2013 study by Julius Odemba, then a Master’s student at the University of Nairobi, revealed that most customers with life insurance policies were living way above the poverty line, with monthly net incomes of above Sh35,000. Life insurance aside, AKI wants more Kenyans to buy cover for their funerals.


“AKI will be carrying out an awareness campaign on funeral insurance from the end of August. Our focus will be on the high cost of funerals,” the association said. “Funeral insurance is very simple to understand and affordable product, average of Sh1,200 per year. Payment to beneficiary is made within 24 hours of notification of death.”

Elsewhere, Umash Funeral Home is also selling three different funeral cover products. The most advanced plan, dubbed “Umash Superior Plan”, has features like an executive hearse with a chase car, a metal or wooden coffin, a one-day advert in one of Kenya’s top two dailies, a wreath of flowers and a high-resolution portrait. Fancy that?  

Revamp NYS to end graft

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Still reeling from two mega scandals in which billions of taxpayers’ money was looted, the National Youth Service remains a hot potato.

This is why the public will be watching keenly to see if the two new officials entrusted with managing this youth empowerment agency can make a difference and enable it to efficiently discharge its mandate.

During the first scam, the NYS lost nearly Sh800 in fraudulent procurement of goods and services. And it got worse in the second round, when billions of shillings were illegally and irregularly paid out to crooked individuals and shadowy companies, some of which supplied air.

What is important for the NYS now, as the suspects are subjected to due process, and some of the loot hopefully recovered, is to embark on a bold new start that will be driven by an impeccable commitment to transparency and accountability.


New Youth Principal Secretary Francis Otieno and NYS Director-General Matilda Sakwa, we are told, have come to these positions with not just a wealth of experience, but also proven efficiency.

They are now in charge of a rotten institution and should work together to give it a fresh start.

When he was sworn in as the Youth PS, President Uhuru Kenyatta pointedly told Mr Otieno to “clean up the mess” at the NYS.

The President said he was aware that Mr Otieno was familiar with the challenges at the NYS and that he will be able to restore or come up with new programmes to strengthen the youth agency.


It’s instructive that this briefing to the new PS followed a Cabinet meeting that approved the restructuring of the NYS to deal with its managerial and operational weaknesses.

Among the proposals to ease the running of the NYS is the establishment of an oversight board and making the director-general its chief executive officer.

An agency that was meant to equip youth with skills and ease the high rate of unemployment, the NYS has been riddled with graft, prompting calls for its disbandment.

Ms Sakwa and PS Otieno will be under intense pressure to restore the tainted image of the NYS.

Celebrating first responders and their quest to save lives

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Call it the day when rescuers became the rescued, or the day when Kenya Red Cross personnel and wananchi switched roles.

Wednesday June 6 will be remembered as the day with double breaking news, when an ambulance crashed while rushing to an accident scene.

The ambulance carrying seven Red Cross staff was accelerating towards an area believed to be the crash site of a FlySax passenger plane. In technical terms, the ambulance was cruising on code 2+, which means running with an emergency light but no siren.

Time was of the essence. It was more than 18 hours since the plane had gone missing and they hoped they could save someone. They were optimistic they could manoeuvre through the foggy, unforgiving conditions and lend a helping hand to the plane’s occupants wherever they would find them.

But at around 8am when they were about 10 kilometres from Ol Kalou, at a place called Kariamu, they all of a sudden found themselves in distress when their vehicle collided with a lorry.

The driver, said the survivors, had the option of swerving off the road but that would mean rolling numerous times. It was too late to change much and, bang! The collision happened.

When a vehicle crashes, such a small thing as getting out of the wreckage can mean the difference between life and death.

One of those in the ambulance was Erick Mwachia, a Red Cross ambulance paramedic based in Nyahururu, who was seated in the cabin with the driver and a Red Cross volunteer.

Mr Mwachia told the Nation that he is the only one who did not lose consciousness on impact.

But there was little time to count his blessings because he noticed that the vehicle started smouldering as soon as the impact happened.


He was relieved to hear the voice of Kenneth Nelson, the Nyandarua County Coordinator who was seated at the back cabin with other staff. He shouted to warn of an impending fire because the vehicle was smouldering from its mangled bonnet.

Mr Mwachia’s immediate mission was to get out of the vehicle. He attempted to open the door but could not, and he thus decided to smash the window.

“Goodness! People were running towards the vehicle, and I asked a Samaritan to disconnect the battery and help me through the window. He took a stone and helped break the window,” said Mr Mwachia.

“As I was helping myself through the window, that is the time I realised that my right leg was weak and I could not move it. I told the Samaritan how to lift my legs and I was out of the vehicle. By that time, a big crowd was there and Nelson had opened the back door and he was helping others out,” he added.

In the ambulance were Mr Nelson (Nyandarua Red Cross coordinator), Mr Mwachia (a paramedic), Mr Josiah Kinyua (ambulance driver), and Red Cross volunteers Ms Eunice Muya, Mr Steve Odera, Ms Linda Rotich and Mr David Mbatia. All are aged between 23 and 30.

The seven, who are all recuperating, will spend today’s World Humanitarian Day reflecting on the events of two months ago.

“I felt it happened so that I may up my game in caring for trauma patients,” said Mr Mwachia.

Mr Nelson chuckled: “I never knew that I could be in this predicament because we are used to assisting people involved in accidents. It was our turn that day.”

Mr Nelson’s account of the events shows how the personnel helped each other despite all having been hurt.

Mr Nelson recalls slipping in and out of consciousness after impact. In fact, when he opened the door of the back cabin to step out, he lost consciousness and fell on the road, face-first. But he was soon on his feet and he decided to help the volunteers out of the vehicle.

“Good Samaritans were there trying to assist. Then I saw the lorry that we hit. I went to the front and saw the driver was still stuck,” he narrated.

“I saw Good Samaritans trying to open the door the wrong way and I gave them an alternative,” he added.

Mr Nelson also called an ambulance crew that had gone ahead of them. Meanwhile, he decided to offer first aid to the injured volunteers. At that time, he said, his right wrist had dislocated and he had cuts on his face but somehow the pain did not register.

The other ambulance soon arrived and later took the victims to hospital.

The first stop for the injured personnel was the JM Kariuki Memorial Hospital before they were later taken to Mediheal Hospital in Nakuru, where some were operated on.

Mr Mwachia still has metal plates that were affixed to help his bones realign. Doctors told Mr Nelson during his last review on August 13 that he had four weeks for his left arm to fully function.


One of the volunteers, we were told, was taken to ICU for three days. He sustained a head injury, and had fractures on the collar bone and scapula.

The plane they were out to locate was not found until the day after, and it was discovered that all the 10 people in it had died on impact in the Aberdares. The Red Cross personnel were ready for such a long search, as they had been told to carry clothes to last them four days.

World Humanitarian Day is for celebrating aid workers who risk their lives to support people affected by crises, according to the United Nations.

It is also an observance for reflecting on the plight of humanitarian workers, and according to a newly-released report by the Norwegian Refugee Council, South Sudan topped the list of most violent countries for humanitarian workers in 2017, meaning it was the third year in a row that it was tops in the list of shame.