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Saturday, August 25th, 2018

 

Aukot: How Uhuru an achieve 'Big Four' agenda

By DAVID MWERE
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As the cloud of anxiety on the state of affairs continues to hover over Kenyans, Thirdway Alliance party leader Ekuru Aukot is striving to carve himself out a niche as the “people’s liberator”.

Seated at his office on Chalbhi drive in Lavington, Nairobi, Dr Aukot is yet to unfold his sleeves a year after the general elections that saw him lose to President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Asked why he is still active, he says, “until Kenya gets redemption from poor leadership, I cannot rest easy”.

“I want to liberate Kenyans from the capture of the State by the elite fanned by indecisiveness at the highest level, which is nonsense.

“The MPs are all over with their hands in the cookie jar and nothing seems to be done,” Dr Aukot, who holds a PhD in International Refugee Protection Law, says.

With him are the party’s secretary-general Fredrick Okango and chairman Miruru Waweru.

DEDICATION TO HUMANITY

The man from Kapedo, Turkana County, has many reasons why Kenyans cannot afford to smile, singling out unemployment, high cost of living and rampant corruption as Kenya’s Achilles’ heel.

Dr Aukot adds that the country’s state of security is not something to brag about, citing incidents in Mt Elgon, Isiolo, Bungoma, Wajir and Lamu counties.

Other than playing politics, he runs Dr Ekuru Aukot Foundation that sponsors the education of nomadic and pastoralist boys and girls.

He also operates Ekuru Aukot Law Consulting where he also takes up pro bono cases.

He has had a vertical career progression, having been the CEO of the Committee of Experts that wrote Kenya’s 2010 constitution, and later conducting consultancy works in Lesotho, Gambia, Liberia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Tunisia and Egypt.

Dr Aukot has also been an adviser to South Sudan’s Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement before and after the 2011 independence.

“I am passionate about what I do. I cannot be compromised, I am truthful and brutally honest.”

Despite his poll defeat he has not given up yet, just like a hunter who misses an antelope for a hare on a not so good day.

“This is what gives me courage because I believe that one day, I will be up there. The far I have come, I thank God. I come from a humble background, a son of a pastoralist,” he says.

A year after the controversial presidential elections that saw the Supreme Court nullify President Kenyatta’s win and ordered a fresh poll be held on October 26, Dr Aukot believes that Kenyans feel cheated. Why?

BUILDING BRIDGES

After the acrimonious poll, Mr Kenyatta teamed up with opposition leader Raila Odinga and developed a nine-point agenda to foster durable peace among Kenyans.

Though it is meant to bring the country back to the path of national healing, he fears that it may be another diversionary tactic and that nothing solid may come out of it.

“I support the building bridges initiative and if you look at our manifesto, the issues the team is seeking to address are the same things we have been talking about,” he says, adding that they are fashioned along the lines of the Kriegler report on electoral reforms and the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission report, among others, whose recommendations have not been enforced.

PEACE DEAL

He is also unapologetic about his comments that opposition Nasa and Jubilee Party have become political Siamese twins.

Dr Aukot said he supports the famous March 9 peace deal between President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga, and hopes their agenda succeeds.

On that note, he revealed that he ran for the top seat hoping to inform Kenyans how “mature” politics should be conducted.

“I knew I would not win the election but it did not stop me from telling Kenyans this is how we play politics, mature politics. We are soldiering on and one day we shall reach the destination we promised Kenyans,” he says.

CORRUPTION

When Mr Kenyatta was inaugurated for his second and last term, he announced his priority areas that he must achieve: providing universal healthcare and affordable housing for all, improving food security and promoting the manufacturing industry.

But the man from Kapedo says the only way the President will accomplish his goals is by first stanching theft of public resources.

He observed that many Kenyans continue to lack access to basic services such as primary healthcare, education, potable water and security; meanwhile, corruption is thriving.

On the renewed war against graft, the party’s secretary-general Fredrick Okango says they are happy that some of the proposals they have been pushing for are being implemented.

“We proposed that investigations should not take more than 30 days and we can see that the DPP [Director of Public Prosecutions] and the investigative agencies are doing something,” Mr Okango says.

On his part, Mr Waweru, an economist, says that the President’s priorities will continue to remain a pipe dream unless all the monies that have been looted are recovered.

“Economy is a social science and if you want to know its growth, just hear what the poor are saying.”


Odinga factor and other parallels in Kenya's succession politics

By KAMAU NGOTHO
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In the last years to the death of First President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta on August 22, 1978, formerly bitter rivals to former Vice President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga had secretly mended fences with him, first to block then Vice President Daniel arap Moi’s ascendancy to the presidency, but also to neutralise the radical political wing fronted by Jaramogi.

Just before Kenyatta’s death, the US government too had secretly requested the ageing President to find a way of accommodating Jaramogi, who Washington feared could destabilise the country if left loose in the absence of Kenyatta.

The American interest was personally communicated to the Kenyan president in an April 1976 conversation at State House, Nakuru, with US Foreign Secretary Henry Kissinger.

LAST PROJECT

The new disclosures are gleaned from unpublished recorded interviews with Foreign Affairs minister in the Jomo Kenyatta administration, Dr Munyua Waiyaki.

In the years before his death in April last year aged 91, Dr Waiyaki and I had worked on a project to establish parallel national archives where individuals would put their collection of papers and artefacts in a depository managed by a private trusteeship.

In the process, I recorded recollections of momentous events in his career, and which were to form the basis of a memoir he intended to publish.

Both projects fell through when ill health and old age took toll on him.

Though an insider in the Jomo Kenyatta government, Dr Waiyaki remained a family friend and political ally to the Odingas.

When Jaramogi formed the first opposition party — the Kenya People’s Union (KPU) — in 1966, Dr Waiyaki, then parliamentary secretary (the name of assistant ministers those days) and his younger brother, Kimani Waiyaki, who was Clerk to Mombasa Municipal Council, signed off to go with Jaramogi.

However, President Kenyatta managed to pull back Dr Waiyaki who at one time had been his personal doctor.

But he never had much luck with the younger brother who stuck with Jaramogi, costing him brief detention by the Kenyatta government.

KPU BANNED

When multiparty political system returned in 1992, Dr Waiyaki and his sister, Wambui Otieno, were the very few politicians from Mount Kenya region — others were Kiraitu Murungi and Paul Muite — who stuck with Jaramogi’s Ford-Kenya party despite the stampede in the region to join Kenneth Matiba’s Ford Asili or Mwai Kibaki’s Democratic Party (DP).

Dr Waiyaki told me that even after the disastrous Jomo/Jaramogi spat in Kisumu on October 26, 1969, when presidential guards drew guns after a mob heckled and threw stones in the direction of the President, the latter retained a soft spot for his former deputy.

In a recorded speech that day, angry President Kenyata is quoted saying: “Were it not for my friendship with you, Odinga, who I loved more than my own brother, I would have ordered that you be placed in detention right away!”

The day after the showdown at the grounds of the New Nyanza General Hospital (popularly known as the Russian Hospital), Jaramogi’s KPU party was banned and its key leaders placed in detention without trial.

JOMO/ODINGA COMMUNICATION

Dr Waiyaki told me that Jaramogi’s detention papers had been prepared but the President instead ordered that he be put under house arrest where all his interactions would be monitored.

Dr Waiyaki disclosed that after the Kisumu fallout, President Kenyatta established a back channel of communication with Jaramogi through him (Dr Waiyaki), and through the President’s daughter, then Mayor of Nairobi, Ms Margaret Kenyatta.

President Kenyatta would often ask Dr Waiyaki: “How is your in-law?” in reference to Jaramogi.

Dr Waiyaki’s sister, Wambui, was married to lawyer S.M. Otieno, the man whose protracted burial court saga gave Kenyans the name Nyalgunga, the name of his home village in Nyanza.

It is through the back channel between President Kenyatta and Jaramogi that house restriction on the latter was lifted in 1971, two years after the showdown at the Russian Hospital.

Through the same channel, President Kenyatta was informed that the Odinga family planned to go into gas-cylinder manufacturing business, for which they needed government approvals and funding from the state-owned corporation, the Kenya Industrial Estates.

When Jaramogi’s request was presented to the President, Dr Waiyaki recalled, the president’s aides were opposed to it but the President told them off by saying:

“You people are foolish. Jaramogi is a businessman. You can’t stop him from doing business and at the same time keep him away from politics. Let him do business as you people do your politics.”

It’s also through secret communication with President Kenyatta that Jaramogi secured release from detention of his closest ally, Ramogi Achieng Oneko.

The latter was detained in the aftermath of the Kisumu fracas and remained in until 1975.

Dr Waiyaki recalled to me the meeting at Nakuru State House the week Oneko was freed. “You could see it was a meeting of genuine friends. The two (Kenyatta and Oneko) spoke about a long history they shared from 1940s.”

At that time it had become clear the ageing and ailing President Kenyatta would soon be exiting, leaving a vacuum.

Two bitterly opposed camps had emerged to square it out over his succession.

On the one hand was Attorney-General Charles Njonjo who was rooting for Vice-President Moi to succeed President Kenyatta.

It has been said, and there is no reason to doubt it, that the former AG saw a weakling in Moi who he’d eventually dislodge and place himself at the helm.

On the other hand was a camp led by influential former powerful Cabinet minister, Dr Njoroge Mungai, President Kenyatta’s cousin and one-time personal doctor.

US CONCERNED

As rival camps angled for Kenyatta succession, concern also grew in Washington about a Kenya without Kenyatta.

Dr Waiyaki recalled to me of a visit to Kenya by US Foreign Secretary Dr Henry Kissinger in April 1976.

Among the issues President Kenyatta discussed with the visiting envoy at State House, Nakuru, was how the Jaramogi factor was likely to influence politics in a post-Kenyatta era.

The concern in Washington was whether Vice President Moi would have political muscle to contain Jaramogi in the event he became president.

At the time, Moi was perceived to be a political wimp who Washington feared couldn’t march Jaramogi’s populism and mobilisation skills.

Dr Waiyaki recalled his US counterpart imploring on President Kenyatta that a way had to be found to bring Jaramogi back to the political fold and contain him from within.

LAW AMENDMENT

Weeks after Dr Kissinger’s visit, there came the clamour to change the constitution to delete the clause that allowed a 90-day window for the sitting VP to be acting president in the event the incumbent was incapacitated or died in office.

The change-the-constitution movement was the brainchild of the anti-Moi camp fronted by Dr Mungai.

Then one of the many surprises of Kenyan politics happened. Dr Mungai secretly reached out to Jaramogi.

Now, Dr Mungai happened to be the most entrenched of the anti-Jaramogi forces.

He was the only Cabinet minister who accompanied President Kenyatta during the disastrous visit to Kisumu.

Many accounts have it that he is the one who gave the shoot-to-kill order when the crowd heckled the President. At the time he was the minister for defence and internal security.

Dr Waiyaki told me he was the first emissary Dr Mungai sent to sound off Jaramogi.

The two questions the former VP asked Dr Waiyaki when they secretly met at his Kisumu home was whether President Kenyatta was aware of Dr Mungai’s intentions, and whether he’d be protected should the Moi/Njonjo axis attempt to harm him once they knew he was working with their rivals.

Assured that President Kenyatta was neutral in the matter, and that nothing adverse would happen to him or his business investments, Jaramogi agreed to play ball on Dr Mungai’s side.

Jaramogi and Dr Mungai’s ‘handshake’ secretly took place at Nakuru’s Midlands Hotel on June 1, 1976.

They agreed to bury their political hatchet, sabotage Moi’s ascendancy to power, and ‘build bridges’ the best way they knew.

Odinga was to attend the first public rally by the change-the-constitution movement in Nakuru the following week but President Kenyatta vetoed it.

According to Dr Waiyaki, the President didn’t like the idea of taking the war to Moi’s doorstep, Nakuru, much so where the President’s allies would share a platform with Jaramogi.

MOMBASA RALLY

However, a compromise was reached that Odinga send his number one trusted ally, Achieng Oneko, to the Nakuru rally.

The latter was wildly applauded when he rose to address the first change-the-constitution rally in Nakuru.

The next rally was in Mombasa where Jaramogi was to show up.

Again President Kenyatta objected to Jaramogi’s presence at the rally, arguing that if the latter wanted to help Dr Mungai, he should start it in Nyanza before moving to the rest of the country.

Eventually President Kenyatta put a stop to the change-the-constitution campaigns, annoyed by the rowdy manner in which the Mungai group went about the anti-Moi crusade.

KANU ELECTIONS

But Mungai/Jaramogi anti-Moi manoeuvres didn’t end. The next line of battle was in the ruling party Kanu.

The party national elections had been postponed for years as President Kenyatta delayed in showing his hand to any of the camps angling for his succession.

But in 1977, a year before his death, a date was set for the much awaited elections.

In Dr Mungai’s line-up, he was to go for the position of party vice president held by Moi.

This would have automatically made Moi a sitting duck in the succession equation.

Jaramogi was to vie for Kanu national chairman. And in the larger picture for inclusivity, Dr Mungai camp had firebrand politician George Anyona to vie for assistant national organising secretary.

But, at the very last minute, the elections were called off. Then President Kenyatta died. So much for the first ‘handshake’.


Luhya unity bid faces fresh headwinds as criticism rises

By IBRAHIM ORUKO
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Barely a week after the signing of a unity deal among a group of Luhya leaders, sharp divisions have already emerged, an indication of the headwinds the bid faces.

Most of its opponents are sympathetic to Opposition leader Raila Odinga’s ODM.

Before the 2017 elections, ODM was the single biggest party in western but it lost this tag to the Amani National Congress.

However, the party has been working to win back its lost support in the region, including naming a youthful politician from the region, Mr Edwin Sifuna, to its influential position of secretary-general.

The emerging divisions show that western Kenya would be up for grabs by the key contenders in the 2022 presidential elections.

The lines seem divided between Deputy President William Ruto and Mr Odinga.

However, the leaders pushing for unity say they will back one of their own for the job in 2022.

The leaders signed the unity deal during the memorial of service of former Vice-President Michael Wamalwa last week.

Dubbed Unity of Purpose, the MOU is aimed at uniting all the groups that form the Luhya community and improving the economy of the region that has been on life support following the collapse of the two main sugar factories — Mumias and Nzoia.

Sugarcane farming is the main economic mainstay of the region.

RUTO ALLIES

However, leaders who skipped the Thursday event dismissed the initiative as part of the wider scheme to coronate Mr Ruto as the next president of Kenya.

ODM secretary-general Edwin Sifuna, MPs Caleb Amisi (Saboti), Godfrey Osotsi (Nominated) and Senator Cleophas Malala declared that they will not join the unity bid because it is an extension of Mr Ruto’s campaigns.

“The call for unity is being pushed by people who are in Mr Ruto’s pockets. They have already auctioned their souls to the DP and his team but they fear coming out to openly support Mr Ruto’s bid because they know that it can’t fly,” Mr Malala said.

“If they are men enough, they should come out of the woodworks and declare their support for the DP instead of hiding behind this unity thing.” Mr Sifuna took a dig at ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi and Senator Moses Wetang’ula, accusing them of secretly negotiating with Mr Ruto.

“Each one of them is walking with an MOU to be Mr Ruto’s running mate in their pockets. Their careers have been dented so badly. They are like an abandoned quarry; you can neither plant nor build anything on it,” he said.

SELFISH INTERESTS

Mr Sifuna censured both Mr Mudavadi and Mr Wetang’ula for failing to rally their MPs to support the report on harmful sugar that was rejected by the National Assembly.

“It’s funny that these leaders could easily mobilise 40 MPs to attend the memorial service of Mr Wamalwa but could not mobilise the same number to support the report on sugar in the House,” he said.

While Mr Amisi said he supported the unity of the community, he declared the unity must place the interests of the community above anything else.

He argued that the pro-unity leaders were out to exploit the community’s strength to bargain for State jobs.

“They preach unity during the day and at night they scramble in Ruto’s house for handouts,” the MP said.

Mr Malala said proponents of the unity crusade were deceiving Mr Mudavadi and are on the path to blindly take him to the Mr Ruto’s side.

GENUINE EFFORT

Mr Mudavadi dismissed the claims, noting they are from people fighting back because they are threatened by the realisation of the unity.

“Its absolute nonsense. Its purpose is to create division within the Mulembe nation, therefore responding to them is giving credence they don’t deserve,” he said.

Mr Jack Wamboka, an aide to Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa, also denied the claims saying they amount to character assassination.

“Ruto neither funded nor was involved in the planning or financing of the meeting. Are you suggesting that our leaders have no money to buy tea? Ruto was not involved and we are ready to say this under oath.”

Those who signed the unity agreement included Mr Mudavadi, Mr Wamalwa, Mr Wetang’ula, Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka, Governors Wilbur Otichilo (Vihiga), Wycliffe Wangamati (Bungoma) and Sospeter Ojaamong (Busia).

Additional reporting by David Luvega


Jubilee members battle for control as succession race heats up

By JUSTUS WANGA
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Two factions of the ruling Jubilee Party are battling for control of the party ahead of its much-awaited retreat whose outcome will have a significant effect on the 2022 succession race.

The jostling has been presented as pitting elected politicians against current officials of the party who did not vie for any elective posts in the 2017 General Election.

However, it is an open secret that it is between those who insist President Uhuru Kenyatta must back his deputy, Mr William Ruto, in the 2022 polls and those who argue that Mr Kenyatta has no such obligation.

Most of the elected leaders seeking to take up party positions are perceived to be supporters of the Deputy President.

Consequently, Mr Kenyatta’s camp fears that allowing them to take over the party will make the president a lame duck.

STATE VISIT

The President’s men say he is keen to remain in charge until the last minute to discharge his legacy projects, an untenable goal, they believe, if he will not be in charge of the politics.

The elected leaders accuse non-elected individuals in control of the party of being out of touch with the people.

Yet in a counter-strategy and in what appears to be backed up by the deep State, there is a decision to keep party positions among men and women who are not sitting in Parliament for strategic reasons.

Initially planned for next weekend, the retreat has been put on hold until the President, also the party leader, returns from China.

“We have shared our programme with the President. It is dependent on his diary,” secretary-general Raphael Tuju said.

Mr Kenyatta will be in Beijing for two days for the annual China-Africa co-operation summit starting on September 3.

He is currently in the United States for a bilateral meeting with President Donald Trump.

Notably, those angling for slots accuse current office holders of riding roughshod over party members.

The camp that wins will vanquish the other in what could also change the country’s political architecture.

Mr Tuju admits that elections are on the cards. “We will also be talking about programmes and timelines for our party elections, what is required for us to conduct the elections and establishment of branches across the country within the context of our constitution and registrar of political parties.”

If the agitation continues unchecked, the party could implode under the weight of internal bickering.

Elected leaders like Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria say there is urgent need to bring them on board for the party to go far.

“Even the most lethal warhead requires a strong missile to deliver it. In the case of the Big Four, a strong Jubilee is that missile.

“Yet we are the only major political party with no space for politicians. John Mbadi (ODM), Prof Kivutha Kibwana (Wiper), Bonny Khalwale and Chris Wamalwa (Ford Kenya) are all party chairmen and active politicians.

“Time has come for Jubilee to open up space for political participation. Party elections are long overdue,” Mr Kuria said early in the week, kicking up a political storm.

TANGATANGA CREW

The faction opposed to elected leaders assuming party positions reckons that it would amount to conflict of interest.

“Elected leaders already have enough on their plates in terms of House business and will likely have divided attention,” a high ranking member said.

Mr Kuria, Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichung’wa and Kiharu’s Ndindi Nyoro are among the most vocal leaders vying for control of the party. They all happen to be Mr Ruto’s close allies.

Another sticking point likely to come up at the retreat is the utterances of party officials like vice chairman David Murathe, whom they accuse of openly opposing Mr Ruto.

Last week, Mr Murathe fired a salvo at the Tangatanga team, a group of Jubilee politicians supporting Mr Ruto’s presidential bid.

“I want to tell Moses (Moses Kuria) and his Tangatanga crew, they are spoiling for the DP.

“The Constitution of Kenya talks of 50 per cent+1 votes, be careful so that you do not chase away the requisite +1 vote. When did the President say he does not support his deputy yet you guys are going around preaching despondency?” he posed.

The fact that the party has not held a parliamentary group meeting since February when it convened a poorly attended get-together has worsened internal suspicions.

So glaring has the internal rift become that Garissa Township MP Aden Duale, the Majority Leader in the National Assembly and an ally to the DP, recently threatened to shoot down a government nominee, Ms Sarah Serem, for an ambassadorial position in the House.

Ms Serem’s nomination has since been approved and will be reporting in Beijing.

The battle for control has been more pronounced in Central Kenya, Mr Kenyatta’s backyard.

If not resolved, it may drown the President’s commitment to his legacy flagship projects of manufacturing, food security, affordable housing and universal healthcare.

Mr Tuju outlined other areas of focus for the retreat such as how to deal with the widespread ethnic divide that puts the country in a state of animosity every five years during elections.

This agenda will heavily borrow from the Building Bridges Initiative, the brainchild of President Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga.

INDOCTRINATION

Jubilee is also planning an academy where its new recruits will be indoctrinated to strengthen it.

This idea is borrowed from parties such as the Communist Party of China, the Communist Party of Cuba and the African National Congress of South Africa.

“We want to establish Jubilee Party leadership centre and academy. It will make it a party which is informed by ideals and a vision, which includes the Big Four as opposed to some of the pedestrian approaches that sometimes parties in this part of the world are engaged in,” Mr Tuju said.

Mr Tuju said the agenda on the table is flexible to accommodate other pressing but non-listed issues that members may want ventilated.

“Those are the issues before us and any other business which may arise from the floor,” he said.

Even as Mr Tuju spoke, conversations with other party leaders suggested the meeting will be dominated by politics rather than policy talk.


Joho’s Kabarak visit hints at likely union with Gideon Moi

By MOHAMED AHMED
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It was Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho’s turn to visit retired president Daniel arap Moi on Saturday amid heightened talk of a political alliance in the offing with the scion of the former head of State, Baringo Senator Gideon Moi.

Mr Joho first got the “blessings” of the retired president at his Kabarak home in Nakuru before proceeding to fundraising meetings in Samburu and Baringo.

Mr Joho’s meeting with Mr Moi came a few months after he (Mr Moi) “snubbed” Deputy President William Ruto when he visited him at his home.

Mr Joho vowed to work with Senator Moi and other like-minded leaders to jettison Mr Ruto’s dreams of becoming Kenya’s fifth president.

Senator Moi hosted Mr Joho to a one-hour closed-door meeting with the former president.

The two were then joined by a number of leaders from the Rift Valley and Coast regions.

POLITICAL ADVICE
An MP from the Coast said: “The governor found it wise to pass by and meet Mzee Moi. He was then given some political advice and we hope it is for his betterment.”

Mombasa County official Idris Abdiraham, who is Mr Joho’s former political adviser, said the governor was in Kabarak to receive “words of wisdom” from Mzee Moi.

In his statement, Mr Joho said he got the opportunity to get advice from Mr Moi on “national issues”.

He said the meeting involved driving forward the building bridges initiative started by President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga.

“A nation rarely gets the opportunity to look back and fix its divisions. History is full of countries that have gone down the wrong path, but through the grace of God and wisdom of HE Raila Odinga and HE Uhuru Kenyatta, we now have a unique opportunity to change the future of this country,” Mr Joho said.

He urged Kenyans to “embrace this second chance of building a new Kenya”.

PEACE DEAL
According to political commentators, Mr Joho has been using the peace-pact between President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga to politically undermine Mr Ruto and cut the image of a national politician with a view to playing a prominent role in national affairs after the end of his term as governor.

For instance, he has on several occasions reiterated that the “handshake” has given him an opportunity to negotiate on matters of importance to the people of Kenya.

And Saturday’s meeting comes barely two months after Mr Joho hosted Senator Moi in Mombasa where the two announced a unity deal ahead of 2022 elections.

The two leaders, who have both declared interest in the presidency in the next General Election, said they will unite “in changing the people’s lives”.

The Kanu chairman termed the ODM deputy leader is an “extremely important person in the political equation of the country”.

The two said they will traverse the country to “unite Kenyans”.

KINGI FRIENDSHIP
Two weeks ago, Mr Joho re-united with his Kilifi counterpart, Mr Amason Kingi, and met members of county assembly (MCAs) from the Coast to chart the region’s political route.

During the talks, he hinted at the possibility of forming a political party to push for the region’s agenda ahead of the 2022 elections.

The two governors also said they would be meeting with the other four governors from the region on September 7 to discuss the unity of the region.

The meeting with MCAs was also seen as a strategy to lock out the Deputy President and other presidential hopefuls from making inroads at the Coast.

Mr Ruto has visited the Coast more than 10 times in the recent past and is believed to be making inroads in the region, which was dominated by opposition Nasa.

A majority of MPs from the region have in the past promised to support him in his bid for the top seat. This could have influenced Mr Joho’s decision to reach out to the MCAs.


Stage set for Uhuru, Raila building bridges event

By SAMWEL OWINO
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President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga’s building bridges initiative is finally set to have its conference at the Bomas of Kenya on September 10.

This is after Treasury intervened following postponement earlier in the month.

Mr Paul Mwangi, the co-secretary from Mr Odinga’s side, confirmed that the team will start with a national conference on corruption, which will run for four days.

There had been fears that delays by the Exchequer to release funds would completely ground activities of the task force seen by allies of Deputy President William Ruto as a threat to his State House ambitions.

BUILDING TRUST

The delay in rolling out activities of the Building Bridges Initiative Task Force had seen temporary celebration among those opposed to it, with some senior officials at the Treasury being accused of gatekeeping for some politicians.

The conference will be attended by grassroots leaders, women, youth, elders and the disabled from all the 47 counties, with their transport and accommodation paid for.

On Saturday, Mr Mwangi explained that the 14-member team did not hit the ground running immediately as earlier anticipated because they were still laying the ground, mapping out their scope of work and deciding on the timelines of the activities ahead.

Mr Mwangi suggested that the task force took some time building trust among members before embarking on the real work.

“Traditionally, before you embark on any journey, you must plan. Remember the team has 14 members from different backgrounds and seeing things differently so we had to first make them have a common goal,” Mr Mwangi said.

OBJECTIVES

After the anti-corruption conference, the team will embark on county tours for two months before converging in Nairobi again to start going through memoranda that they will have received from the public, professional bodies and organisations on various matters.

“After going through the memoranda, we will then listen to experts before finally starting to write our report,” Mr Mwangi said.

The team has been tasked with finding lasting solutions to shared objectives of tackling ethnic antagonism and competition, lack of national ethos, inclusivity, devolution, safety and security and corruption.

Members of the task force are Dr Adams Oloo, Mr Agnes Kavindu, Busia Senator Amos Wako, Ms Florence Omose, Mr Saeed Mwanguni, and Mr James Matundura.

Others are Major (Rtd) John Seii, Bishop Lawi Imathiu, Samburu Woman Representative Maison Leshomo, Mr Morompi ole Ronkai, Bishop Peter Njenga, Ms Rose Moseu and Mr Zaccheaus Okoth.

A member of the team said the conference will offer a rare platform for ordinary citizens to “look at the Executive and Judiciary in the face and tell them what they think about the fight against corruption”.

DETRACTORS

The task force is a product of political rapprochement between Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga, fierce rivals in the 2013 and last year’s elections.

Mr Mwangi sought to downplay earlier reports of the committee being crippled because of lack of funds.

“We are part of the bureaucracy and we have to go through the processes to get any money,” Mr Mwangi said.

President Kenyatta on Wednesday put up yet another spirited defence of his pact with Mr Odinga.

“I want you to understand that there is a much, much deeper understanding between myself and Raila Odinga. I appeal to all politicians that, while there can never be an end to politics, they should never misinterpret politics with this deeper understanding,” President Kenyatta said.

A section of leaders allied to Deputy President Ruto have seen it as a strategy to complicate political mathematics for the DP in the 2022 presidential race.

LASTING UNITY

Senators Samson Cherargei (Nandi), Kipchumba Murkomen (Elgeyo Marakwet) and Aaron Cheruiyot (Kericho) have been on record several times saying the handshake is a ploy to put Mr Odinga in the 2022 race at the expense of the DP.

But on Saturday, Mr Ruto called for an end to tribal politics and supported the building of bridges.

Speaking at Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos during the installation of the new Bishop of Machakos Norman King’oo Wambua, Mr Ruto said unity among political and church leaders will help the government deliver services to the people.

“We are all brothers. Let us build the bridges of friendship for our country to prosper,” he said.

Coast-based lobby Pwani Building Bridges Initiative has also poked holes in the March 9 pact and called for the decentralisation of the initiative to the grassroots level.

RECONCILIATION

The group – comprising human right activists, politicians and professionals – has demanded that the gesture be extended to governors and legislators to enable them reconcile with their opponents.

However, former Kaloleni MP Gunga Mwinga, a member of the group, observed that elected leaders in the six coastal counties were not keen on embracing their political rivals.

Speaking at Greenwood resort in Mtwapa after a Building Bridges forum, Mr Mwinga said the spirit of the handshake has not yet been felt at the grassroots level.

“We expect the governors of the six counties to sit down with their opponents, talk and agree on how to manage counties since the handshake at the national level has not been felt at the grassroots,” he said.

Elsewhere in Western and Nyanza regions, there have been murmurs that the fruits of the deal are yet to percolate to the ground.

Mr Odinga has however urged patience, saying the proverbial Canaan wouldn’t be reached in a day.

Additional reporting by Charles Lwanga and Stephen Muthini


KBL invests in job creation and farmers' welfare

By SUNDAY NATION REPORTER
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In this interactive series, we invite readers to send in questions to selected public figures. This week, Kenya Breweries Managing Director Jane Karuku responds to your questions.

1. To sustain your multibillion shilling Kisumu factory, you intend to contract sorghum farmers for the raw materials. How have you planned to insulate this model against abuse by your managers or brokers linking you with the farmers as witnessed in the sugar industry, where farmers receive negative returns after dubious deductions being done by the companies?

Komen Moris, Eldoret

To begin with we have already contracted over 15,000 farmers from western Kenya for the Kisumu brewery.

This means we now have over 45,000 sorghum farmers across Kenya, who will deliver the crop to our breweries in Nairobi and Kisumu for use in production of our iconic Senator beer.

This model has been hugely successful since we started its production in 2009. In the year ending July 2018, farmers delivered 31,000 tonnes of sorghum worth Sh1 billion, and the commercialisation of this activity has resulted in a huge socio-economic transformation.

There is a huge potential for the growth of Senator, as illicit alcohol consumers seek safer, quality drink options, so our demand for sorghum as a raw material for Senator will potentially remain high.

The current tax regime is encouraging, given the sensitivity of this lowly-priced beer; if it remains this way long-term, demand for sorghum will continue to be high.

2. Kenya is a member of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa), a bloc whose treaty entitles zero-rating tariffs for some goods produced by respective countries. What has been the impact of the Comesa tariff policy on KBL and its affiliates?

Geoffrey Njukhilili, Bungoma

Most of KBL’s business is conducted within Kenya, so most of our products are sold locally.

However, we export to South Sudan, who are members of both Comesa and the East African Community.

In this market, we benefit from the preferential rates as stipulated in the agreements within the trading blocs.

Notably, East African Breweries Ltd (EABL), our parent company, also has subsidiaries in Uganda, Tanzania, and we have affiliated businesses across other Comesa markets, so we only export in special cases.

From the raw material perspective, we source over 80 per cent of our inputs locally.

We, therefore, only benefit from Comesa at a secondary level when we need some of the remaining 20 per cent of raw materials.

3. What has been the implication of the influx of foreign alcoholic brands into Kenya on KBL’s business?

Geoffrey Njukhilili, Bungoma

Foreign alcoholic brands have been in this market for a while now and that is a characteristic of Kenya’s free market, which KBL benefits from as well.

Our strategy is to offer consumers options at preferred packs and affordable price points, giving them the freedom to choose.

However, our biggest competition and challenge is the illicit/contraband products.

Besides denying government billions in taxes and being a health hazard to consumers, their presence presents an unfair playing ground for legitimate manufacturers and sellers.

We are encouraged by the significant enforcement efforts by the government and relevant agencies on this front, and we hope they will be sustained in the long-term.

4. Every time I hear of beer manufacturers announcing their plans to invest more in the alcoholic beverages industry, I think of how much damage beer is doing to families rather than the enjoyment beer lovers get from it. What is your take on this?

Francis Njuguna, Kibichoi

Our brands are made to be enjoyed responsibly. We care passionately about reducing alcohol-related harm through our own programmes such as Under 18 Asipewe, which is aimed at checking the sale of alcohol to those under legal drinking age, and Utado? whose objective is to empower consumers with information and tools on how to behave when interacting with alcohol through partnership and collaboration with others.

Therefore, we seek to provide consumers with what they need to make informed choices about drinking or not drinking.

We are also cautious about how we market our products: We recently signed a thought-leading code of conduct with industry peers under the Alcoholic Beverages Association of Kenya setting guidelines on how to self-regulate the way we brand and market our products.

5. For many years, the Rift Valley region has provided a huge market for KBL products in its major towns. You have now opened a plant in Kisumu and sort of bypassed Rift Valley. When do you think our local people will directly benefit from jobs out of a massive KBL investment in this region?

Dan Murugu, Nakuru

The decision to set-up the brewery in Kisumu was informed by our strategic and sustainability objectives: The site was already an operational hub and the basic infrastructure was in place for us to set- up the plant.

However, the largest multiplier effect of this brewery is, in fact, in the sourcing of the raw material, distribution and retail, and that part of the chain is projected to impact over 100,000 livelihoods in the next coming year.

It important to note that the Rift Valley region provides KBL with the majority of barley used to make other brands such as Tusker.

We have already engaged county governments across Rift Valley to drive conducive policies for farmers and businesses and we expect communities in the region to benefit as well.

6. I am a resident of Obunga, which is adjacent to the Kisumu brewery. There are claims of a clandestine recruitment for the plant to the detriment of the qualified and capable local graduates. A large number of existing EABL staff are said to have been exported from Nairobi to work in Kisumu. Other than providing indirect employment opportunities especially to farmers, which is laudable, don’t you feel it is also prudent to give direct jobs to locals?

Carlos Oliech

First of all, the community in Kisumu, including Obunga, has been very welcoming and we are extremely pleased with the progress we have made ahead of the plant’s commissioning.

This is an outcome of various engagements between KBL, the local community and county leaders at large.

Our recruitment process has been very open. When we started building last year, we advertised for various technical positions in the local media.

In all, we recruited 25 mechanical operators and we doubled this up as a skills programme.

We are mainly using local labour to construct our plant and have proudly maintained an 85 per cent local hire average.

Since this is a modern brewery, we have adopted state-of-the-art technology, meaning that more indirect job opportunities will be in the sourcing, distribution and the retail end of the value chain than at the brewery site.

7. You have invested heavily in the Kisumu factory. This means jobs – especially for the youth around the lake region and its surrounding areas. I come from Kisii County. I have made several applications seeking a job in the production line. To my dismay I have not received any reply. How can one get a job in your organisation? I hold a degree and several certificates in food technology, production and services.

Ruth Kemunto, Kisii County

The KBL is an equal opportunity employer and we have provided a central applicant platform through our career portal (www.diageo-careers.com) to enable potential candidates, such as you, to express interest in our vacancies.

All applications are reviewed accordingly, based on the required qualifications. For those who do not meet the eligibility criteria set out, we still retain their details on our database for future considerations on more suitable openings.

8. What are you doing to ensure former employees who worked tirelessly for many years to achieve your goals also lead decent lives?

Charles Gitagia

Because we realise the health of our business is always as good as that of our employees, KBL has a long-held culture of encouraging them to align their personal development goals to those of the company at the beginning of every financial year.

We believe that such efforts help our employees put in place safety nets critical even after their employment.

Apart from our pension scheme, we have given them access to sufficient support and investment options.

9. In a bid to protect the youth, the government came up with regulations that specify the times when alcoholic and tobacco products can be advertised. How have the regulations affected KBL’s business?

Hassan Mbuno, Nairobi

We are committed to the prevention of underage drinking in keeping with the law.

We have invested heavily in behavioural campaigns targeted at adults who have the responsibility to ensure that people under the age of 18 do not access alcoholic beverages.

10. Every year, the government targets alcoholic drinks for increased taxes. Do you think this is fair? How come EABL/KBL still continue to declare billions in profits despite increased taxes?

Patricia Mutheu, Nakuru

As the oldest player in this industry, we continuously engage the government, presenting our constructive feedback and insights around various issues affecting the business.

Whereas excise tax decisions are, at times, at variance with our position, we have worked on some win-win industry developments in areas such the lowly-priced Senator, making the strong case for elimination of illicit alcohol in Kenya.

We have been advocating a sense of tax predictability and, unlike in the past where increases were made arbitrarily, we believe the recently announced inflation-linked excise tax structure is a sustainable and fair model.

11. What initiatives are you undertaking to push the organisation to new frontiers, for instance any strategic partnerships to grow the market share?

Brian Muya, Machakos

The largest consideration to grow market share relates to our ability to be continuously aware of the shifting market dynamics.

As our market place becomes more urbanised and consumers’ tastes and preferences continue to change, we have to respond appropriately.

12. One of the key ingredients of your products is sugar. How do you ensure contraband sugar does not find its way to your products?

John Wafula, Kakamega

All the sugar used in our production process is of refined industrial white variety, sourced directly from vetted and qualified manufacturers.


How British, Israeli firms ended plans to build KICC phase two

By ODHIAMBO LEVIN OPIYO
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The iconic Kenyatta International Convention Centre in Nairobi would have had a second wing and the city’s skyline would have changed forever, had tender wars pitting Israel and Britain not crippled the idea, Sunday Nation can reveal.

The lucrative contract pitted Solel Boneh, which was owned by the Israeli labour organisation Histadrut, against Kenya Construction Company (KCC) which was a 50-50 partnership between Kanu and John Howard Ltd of Britain.

The founder of John Howard Ltd was Sir John Alfred Golding Howard, an Australian-born British civil engineer and a conservative politician, who was once described by a leading British newspaper as “one of the last great construction pioneers”.

His company was involved in the construction of some of Britain’s most iconic bridges, and in Kenya its subsidiary, John Howard Africa Ltd, was the main contractor for the Kahawa Barracks project in the early 60s.

BOARD MEMBER

On its board was Humphry Berkeley, another British conservative politician known for his strong support for the legalisation of homosexuality and his vast business interests in Africa.

He could smell business opportunities from far and hobnobbed with African nationalists, among them Patrice Lumumba, with the aim of getting contracts when their countries eventually attained independence.

However, when he hosted Kenneth Kaunda in London at a time when Zambia was still under Sir Roy Welensky, who was trying to establish a federation, he was forced to resign from the board of John Howard Africa for almost two years before he was reinstated when Zambia got independence.

In Kenya, Berkley befriended Joseph Murumbi, the Kanu Treasurer and a former minister and Vice-President, who he convinced to join him the board of the newly created KCC.

PHASE TWO FUNDING

His influence was evident when, after the completion of Phase I – which had been undertaken by Solel Boneh – President Jomo Kenyatta personally wrote to KCC to submit tender for phase II of the architectural marvel.

Berkley, although representing John Howard on the board of KCC, hoped to raise funds for this project through his own company, Investeco Ltd, which he had formed to invest in Africa and on whose board he had also appointed Murumbi.

It is also worth adding that Investeco also created a subsidiary called Kenyavillas, which provided fully furnished beach villas to tourists on the Kenyan Coast.

Back to the KICC project in which Berkeley had already found a lender who was ready to put in £1.7 million at a rate of 8.5 per cent over 25 years, and hoped to raise an additional £500,000 from locally represented British banks at similar rates.

On this basis he claimed that Kanu investment trust, which was to own KICC, would net approximately £160,000 a year after repayment of interest and principal.

These estimates were strongly disputed by officials at the Kenyan Treasury, who argued that the government would be forced to rent office space at inflated rates.

Officials from the Ministry of Public Works and an independent local valuer had both produced assessments, which showed that the estimates would result in insufficient gross revenue to meet amortisation costs.

James Hyland, the local manager of the KCC, attempted to refute this conclusion but his defence suffered setback when the original lender who had agreed to give £1.7 million withdrew the offer.

It was feared that in case it was reinstated then it would be at a higher interest rate.

While the negotiations were still ongoing, the Israelis made a counter-offer for the project through James Gichuru – the Minister for Finance who had become one of their pointmen.

COUNTER-OFFER

With a worth of around £2.5 million, according to the British estimates, the KICC contract was not only lucrative to the KCC, but also beneficial to Britain since £750,000 were to be British exports.

So there was no way its directors were going to let the rug to be pulled from under their feet.

They requested the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office to step in, arguing that their own offer was better and that acceptance of the Israeli proposal would be purely politically motivated since Solel Boneh already had substantial contracts in Kenya.

To this end, Lord Robert Stewart, the British Foreign Secretary, telegrammed the British High Commission in Nairobi:

“We undertook to let you know of the development and to ask you to lend their local manager, Mr James Hyland, who will be getting in touch with you, any advice and assistance you think proper.”

Consequently, Mr R.W. Munro, the Deputy British High Commissioner, met Hyland and advised that UK Export Finance Government Agency should be consulted and financial proposals raised as quickly as possible to achieve the most favourable terms to counter the Israeli offer.

It was also considered most important that maximum UK content should be included in the financing offer.

Although this had initially been put to £750,00, it was now being estimated in the tune of over £1 million

Munro further advised that “maximum pressure be exerted by the local Directorate of Kanu Investment Trust to have the Israeli offer brought in the open and discussed”.

Acting on the advice, Murumbi wrote a letter to then Vice-President Daniel Arap Moi urging that a final decision on the contract should be reached as soon as possible.

But while this letter was being delivered on July 3, 1969, an Israeli delegation was found sitting in Moi’s boardroom.

This delegation was led by Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban who had arrived in Nairobi under the guise of a three-day goodwill visit but with the definite aim of lobbying for Solel Boneh.

With the fate of KCC almost sealed, its directors made attempts to reach Gichuru, but he couldn’t be located.

MBOYA KILLED

Two days later, Tom Mboya, who had opposed the KCC, was assassinated in Nairobi.

Although it might be farfetched to link his assassination to the tender war, the presence of Solel Boneh in Kenya could be linked to his honeymoon in Israel in January 1962, when he entered into an agreement with Israel on the formation of a construction company which was to bear almost a similar name.

The company, which was to be called the Kenya National Construction Company, was to be a joint venture between the Kenya Federation of Labour, which was to own 51 per cent, and Solel Boneh, which was to own 49 per cent.

The aim of the company, as stated in a memorandum of agreement prepared in 1962, was:

“To strengthen the economy of the country, to help solve the housing problem, whilst at the same time aiming to improve the standard of skill and technique as well as economic and social conditions of African labour in the building and civil engineering fields in Kenya, particularly taking into account the imminent establishment of Kenya as an independent state, …. and without competing with small contractors or undertaking contracts usually undertaken by such small contractors.”

MBOYA TRIP

Mboya would later return to Israel in August 1962 on the same mission during which he sat with officials of Histadrut from night until the early morning of August 11, to put the finishing touches on the final agreement.

However, with his exit from the trade union movement, and as a result of the internal politics within Kanu and the involvement of the British, the idea fizzled out.

The quick formation of the KCC by John Howard and some KANU officials just after the Israelis had finished the construction of phase I, was part of a wider plot by the British to lock out Israeli companies as both countries manoeuvred for business opportunities in Kenya.

This was captured in a confidential letter written on Jan 29, 1969 by the British High Commissioner to Kenya Sir Eric Norris that read:

“Given that the Israelis often set in a manner detrimental to our interests when they infiltrate into African countries, our aim should be to hold them as far as we can to their present position in Kenya.”


How Kenya is caught up in delicate Iran and Israel drama

By JOHN KAMAU
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The Judiciary and the Executive is caught up in a tricky legal, diplomatic and security dilemma over two Iranians — described by intelligence to be members of Iran’s secretive Quds corps tasked to revenge the killing of the country’s nuclear scientists by Israel.

Kenya is now embroiled in an international drama that involves Israel, US and Iran — and it is not ending soon.

The two men in Kenya’s custody — Ahmad Abolfathi Mohammad and Sayed Mansour Mousavi — were arrested in Mombasa and jailed for 15 years for illegal possession of 15kg of hexogen (RDX), a chemical used in the 2006 Mumbai train bombings, which left 186 people dead.

The Mumbai explosives had been packed into pressure cookers and placed on trains.

A similar chemical was also used in the 2010 Moscow metro attacks where two female suicide bombers detonated explosives in Moscow’s subway system, killing 40.

Last month, the powerful commander of Quds Force dared US President Donald Trump to a fight:

“As a soldier,” he said, “it is my duty to respond to your threats… If you wants to use the language of threat … talk to me, not to the president (Hassan Rouhani).”

Major-general Qasem Soleimani was warning the United States to stop threatening Iran with war.

“We are ready… If you begin the war, we will end the war,” Soleimani warned. “You know that this war will destroy all that you possess.”

To which Trump said: “Never, ever threaten the United States again or you will suffer consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered before. We are no longer a country that will stand for your demented words of violence and death. Be cautious!”

Kenya is now sharing a slice of this drama. While the Court of Appeal has ordered the release of the two Iranians, the government has appealed and continues to hold them in custody, fearing that they might escape.

CONTEMPT OF COURT

That matter is currently undetermined by the Supreme Court which, four months ago, determined that the Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinett was not in contempt of court for continuing to hold the suspects.

“This court did not order that (the Iranians) be released, but rather, that their rights be not infringed; we note that, indeed, they are not in prison, but in a situation more elevated than that of prisoners,” the Supreme Court said.

On January 26, Supreme Court judges, led by Chief Justice David Maraga, ordered that the two should be held in a manner that is in accordance with the law, pending the application by the Director of Public Prosecutions who wants to have the release quashed.

But the two Iranians later told the Supreme Court that they were still being held in police custody and had lodged contempt proceedings against Mr Boinett.

During their trial, the government chemist had told the court that the chemical found in Mombasa was capable of bringing down Times Tower, the second tallest building in Kenya, and that it “is considered as one of the most powerful military explosives”.

DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS

Other Kenyan security sources say the two were plotting to bomb the Israeli embassy, although the issue was not canvased in court.

The security officers who testified during the trial told the court that Ahmad Abolfathi Mohammad took them to the spot where the bomb-making material was buried.

The case has gained diplomatic interest and the Iranian embassy has been tracking its progress ever since the two were arrested.

Again, whichever way the case goes, Kenya is caught up between two traditional enemies — Iran and Israel.

How the case will affect trade relations remains to be seen but it is of significant interest in the diplomatic circles.

On one hand, Kenya had been targeting Iran as one of the major buyers of its tea after the lifting of the sanctions in 2016. But the resumption of sanctions now complicates the issue.

TERROR ATTACKS

Again, Kenya has built strong diplomatic and intelligence relations with Israel and when he was being sworn in for the second term, President Uhuru Kenyatta invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as the key speaker.

Actually, the arrests of the two Iranians in June 2012 came four months after two Israeli diplomatic missions in New Delhi and Tbilisi were targeted by terrorists.

Mr Netanyahu blamed Iran and its proxy Hezbollah for the attacks which occurred in February 2012, and described Iran as “the world’s greatest exporter of terror”. Both Iran and Hezbollah have historically considered Israel their arch-enemy.

A senior ranking Intelligence source told the Sunday Nation that an Iranian operative had tried to recruit two more Kenyans to become its agents and that they had plotted to have the Iranian prisoners escape.

Shortly after the arrest of the two Iranians, investigators in Nairobi told the British Independent newspaper that the Iranian-imported chemicals “could have been broken up into smaller batches and then used in a series of attacks that would not necessarily have been blamed on Iran”.

While ordering their release on January 26, Appellate Judges Paul Kihara Kariuki (now Attorney General), Kathurima M’inoti and Agnes Murgor held that the circumstantial evidence relied on by both the High Court and Magistrate Court was weak and that the two Iranians were not the only people who could have placed the bomb-making material, RDX, at the unfenced Mombasa Golf Course where it was found.

But the Director of Public Prosecutions has now gone to the Supreme Court seeking to have the duo remain in custody, pending its appeal.

The Supreme Court also ordered the two to remain within its jurisdiction and asked the DPP to ensure their rights are not infringed until their appeal is heard and determined.

The arrest of the two saw Kenya enmeshed between the political and security interests of two countries at war with each other.

A month before the two were arrested, Kenya had signed a memorandum of understanding with Iran, in May 2012, to import 80,000 tonnes of crude oil, but cancelled the deal after only two months to avert US financial sanctions against countries that buy oil from Iran.

LAWYERS ARRESTED

It is now known that in Tehran, there was panic after their arrest and the Iranian government in December 2016 sent two lawyers — Sayed Nasrollah Ebrahimi and Abdolhosein Gholi — to follow up on the matter.

The two arrived in Nairobi only to be arrested by anti-terrorism police after they were caught filming the Israeli embassy in Milimani.

The prosecution led by senior state counsel Duncan Ondimu told the court the two were arrested in a car belonging to the Iranian Embassy and next to the Israeli Embassy on Bishop Road.

He told the court though the passports of the two Iranians bore entry stamps, their visit was not reflected in Immigration systems. Why, nobody seems to know.

Shortly after their arrest, Iran’s Foreign Affairs ministry managed to secure their freedom after Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif sent his deputy Hassan Qashqavi to Kenya “to initiate negotiations… and remove misunderstanding”.

The AFP reported that the Kenyan ambassador to Iran was summoned to the Tehran Foreign ministry and told the two were arrested following a “hostile intervention of a third party” — which in that case meant the state of Israel.

SCIENTISTS KILLED

But the matter is deeper than that. Tehran claims Mossad, the secret intelligence service of Israel, was behind the recent wave of killings of its nuclear scientists and had vowed to hit back.

Though Israel has never admitted carrying out the car-bomb attacks, the country’s Foreign minister Moshe Ya’alon in 2015 told the German-language Der Spiegel that he bore no responsibility “for the life expectancy of Iranian scientists”.

At least four scientists were killed between 2010 and 2012 in what Tehran said was a scheme to sabotage its nuclear energy programme.

Kenya now finds itself entangled between the battles between Tel Aviv and Tehran as the case of the two Iranians comes to a close.

Mr Mohammad and Mr Mousavi were arrested in June 2012, five months after the assassination of 32-year-old Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, who held the position of a deputy director for commercial affairs at Natanz nuclear plant in central Iran.

His attackers, riding motorcycles, are reported to have attached a magnetic bomb to his Peugeot 405.

NUCLEAR RESEARCH

Western analysts have told various western media outlets that the assassinations are part of a covert war aimed at disrupting Iran’s nuclear programme.

In turn, Iran has blamed Israel, the US and Britain for the attacks on its scientists. Whether the two Iranians are part of this large game plan will be known soon.

Iran’s former vice president Mohammad Reza Rahimi, in quotes carried by the state Irna news agency, said “Iran’s enemies should know they cannot prevent Iran’s progress by carrying out such terrorist acts.”

Mr Mohammed and Mr Mousavi had arrived at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on June 12, 2012 on tourist/holiday visas valid for two weeks.

They then took a domestic flight to Royal Castle Hotel, Mombasa, where they had been booked by Tehran’s Golfers Travel Agency for a period of 10 days.

Court records indicate that they checked out on June 16 and proceeded to Laico Regency, Nairobi, where they checked out on June 19.

They were arrested on their way to the airport by officers from the Anti-Terrorism Police Unit.

POWER GAMES

The substance of the prosecution case against the appellants was that while in Mombasa, they visited the local golf course twice and unlawfully hid therein the RDX, which was recovered in a bag that was buried in the ground.

The two have maintained they are innocent and their lawyer, Ahmednassir Abdullahi, told the Court of Appeal, and it agreed, that the link was “purely circumstantial because there was no direct evidence of their being in possession or armed with the RDX or placing it in the golf course”.

The Supreme Court’s ruling will come at a time when Israel has warned Iran and its “proxies” not to “put a noose of terror around our neck”.

Tensions between Israel and Iran has been building of late, with Israel fearing that Tehran is trying to establish a permanent presence in Syria as part of an effort to become a greater regional power in the Middle East.

The Trump administration re-imposed sanctions on Iran this month after withdrawing from the 2015 international nuclear deal with Iran.

Trump, who will be meeting President Kenyatta today at White House, has told off Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei after he rejected Trump’s offer of unconditional talks on a new nuclear deal.

In an interview with Reuters, President Trump said: “If they want to meet, that’s fine, and if they don’t want to meet, I couldn’t care less.”

With Kenya caught between the fighting bulls, the case in Nairobi is putting the country in an awkward situation.


From a revolutionist to dictator, Museveni does the somersault

By KIPCHUMBA SOME
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A segment in episode seven of Season Four of the popular Kenyan satirical puppet TV programme, the XYZ Show, is an apt metaphor of all that is wrong with the rule of Ugandan strongman, President Yoweri Museveni.

The 3.33 minute long piece is set, presumably, on the lawns of Kololo Heroes Grounds in Kampala, and the occasion was Museveni’s swearing-in for a fourth consecutive term in office following his victory in the February 2011 presidential elections.

Like the elections which he had won in a controversial manner over his perennial challenger, Kizza Besigye, there was nothing normal in the events taking place in the satirical show.

Donning his trademark cowboy hat, the puppet Museveni held aloft in his right hand a gun, rather than a Bible, while another person in the image of Museveni but donning the ceremonial white wig of the chief justice, swore him in.

“I, Museveni Kaguta Yoweri, do solemnly swear by this gun, that I will not leave office till I have taken over all the islands in Lake Victoria,” the puppet Museveni swears.

REVOLUTION

The dignitaries in attendance in the satirical piece, including Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki, his predecessor Daniel arap Moi, Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi and Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, all applauded warmly.

“I also swear that I will not leave office until my family has reaped enough from the oil sector which I have worked hard to stabilise.

“I also confirm that I will only step down as the President of the Republic of Uganda on election as the first president of the East Africa Federation … and that will be like 20 years from now. This I do according to the wishes of my family, and of course my party the NRM (National Resistance Movement). So, understand me God,” the puppet Museveni said amid laughter.

The satirical piece might have been made in jest, but it holds important truths that have defined Museveni, who came to power in 1986 in a revolutionary war that overthrew military government of Lieutenant General Tito Okello.

“The problem of Africa in general and Uganda in particular is not the people, but leaders who want to overstay in power,” he declared as a young revolutionary full of visions and ideals.

TERM LIMIT

But today Museveni is exactly the problem he once talked elegantly against in his younger days.

He has been in power for 32 years now and does not look like one who is about to take the high road to retirement.

In 1996, as winds of change swept through the African continent, Uganda introduced a two five-year presidential term limits. However, 10 years later, Museveni engineered the removal of the term limits.

The 74-year-old leader has not spared any effort to maintain his absolute grip on power.

Many thought that his fifth elective victory in 2016 would be his last given the constitutional age requirements that barred anyone older than 75 from vying for the presidency.

But in January this year, as he did with the term limits, he engineered a constitutional amendment that removed the age limits thus allowing him to serve indefinitely.

Museveni has maintained his firm grip on power by appointing his close family members to key positions in government, especially in the security sector.

His wife, Janet Museveni, is currently the Minister for Education.

Their son, Maj Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba, was the head of the elite presidential Special Forces Command until January last year when he was moved to an advisory role within the presidency.

He appointed his younger brother, Salim Saleh, as the commander of the Uganda Army following his victory over Tito Okello in 1986, but sacked him in 1989 following claims of corruption.

Nonetheless, Saleh still wields huge influence on the President.

Besides fiddling with the constitution, Museveni has maintained his absolute grip on power through sheer brute — by bludgeoning his opponents to submission.

He has routinely unleashed police and military violence on his long-time challenger to the presidency, Mr Besigye, and recently did the same to Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyangulanyi, popularly known as Bobi Wine.

The youthful legislator was allegedly arrested by the police and tortured at the hands of the military who accused him of masterminding violence that led to the stoning of President Museveni’s convoy in north-west town of Arua.

Currently, Mr Museveni looms large in the lives of ordinary Ugandans.

But it would be wise if he contemplated his fate by reflecting on what befell two of the characters who attended his swearing-in in the satirical XYZ Show seven years ago.

His small club of African presidential dinosaurs is fast dwindling with the overthrow and the eventually brutal killing of Gaddafi in October 2011, as well as the peaceful coup de tat against Mugabe last year.