Tuesday, August 28th, 2018
Deputy President (DP) William Ruto on Tuesday said never again will Kenyans fight because of politics.
Instead, the DP said the government will work towards fostering national cohesion.
Mr Ruto spoke on Tuesday when he attended the 63rd National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) General Assembly at Jumuia conference in Kikambala, Kilifi County, where he was accompanied by Kisauni MP Ali Mbogo.
“Those of us in leadership including my boss President Uhuru Kenyatta and the Jubilee government in general, we will never return this country into the dark days of ethnicity and tribal affiliations,” he said.
He added: “As long as we are in politics now, never again will this country witness the animosity and tribal utterances that had characterised every election.”
The DP revisited the 2017 General Election where he said the Jubilee government trounced their opponents (Nasa) after campaigning on the development agenda they had initiated when they were elected to office in 2013.
“Our win in 2013 General Election was based on the emotive issue of the ICC cases. But in 2017, we changed the narrative and that caught our opponents by surprise. They could not challenge us on the development,” he said.
He added: ” When we talked about the Standard Gauge Railway it was there for the Kenyans to see, so did the household electricity connection,” he said.
Mr Ruto told the church to speak openly and without fear the challenges facing the country, adding that the days when the church was threatened by politicians and those in power is long gone.
“The days when the likes of Mr Timothy Njoya were beaten senseless for speaking their mind is long gone. In fact, public participation and free airing of views is a constitutional right for every Kenyan. I am saying here that no one will be victimised for speaking their minds on the challenges this country is facing, be it political, socio-economic or development,” he added.
The DP said the building bridges initiative is a good gesture to take the country forward and that there is still a lot of work to be done as the country move towards more progressive projects in future.
“There is still work to be done and we are committed to that. From where we stand, we can only make more strides further and not return back,” he said.
The DP rooted for more enrolment of students in the technical and vocational institutions, saying the government is currently investing a lot in providing the technical education which had been overlooked for many years.
NCCK Secretary General Rev Canon Peter Karanja said the extensive and corrosive nature of corruption in Kenyan may need a more honest and collaborative approach to achieve lasting solutions.
“We hope that you will find a formula that will enable the nation to turn over a new leaf in the fight against corruption,” he said.
Rev Karanja also commended the March 9 handshake saying the move will lead to finding lasting solutions to challenges that Kenyans continue to face.
The Mau Forest evictions have taken a new turn after two ministers contradicted each other over the legality of title deeds issued to those claiming land in the forest.
The government took the decision to evict settlers from Mau Forest and other public forests in a bid to conserve one of the country’s largest water towers and improve its tree cover.
Whereas Environment and Natural Resources Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko says Mau title deeds were issued fraudulently, his Lands colleague Faridah Karoney disagrees.
Ms Karoney appeared before a joint sitting of the National Assembly committees on Lands and Environment Wednesday on the variation of 4,607 hectares of Mt Elgon forest.
She faulted Mr Tobiko, saying the process of invalidating a title deed is clear.
“The status of Mau titles is what we are looking at within the government,” Ms Karoney told the lawmakers.
“There is a way of cancelling a title. I cannot just announce that they are fraudulent.”
Ms Karoney was responding to a question from Kipkelion West MP Hillary Kosgey, who wanted to know the process of invalidating titles, given that they were issued by the government.
The CS told the MPs that the government has formed a joint team from the ministries of Lands and Environment to audit titles held by those claiming ownership of part of Mau forest.
When he appeared before the Environment Committee last week, Mr Tobiko said the titles in possession of the evictees “are just pieces of paper because they were issued fraudulently”.
Normally, the Cabinet is guided by the principal of collective responsibility, in which ministers should publicly support government decisions made at Cabinet level even if they do not agree with them.
The contradictory statements by the two Cabinet secretaries caught the committee members by surprise.
Environment Committee chairman Kareke Mbiuki said the ministers are confused.
“We are at a loss because your colleague has already made up his mind. Is his ministry part of the team you are talking about?” Mr Mbiuki asked.
Ms Karoney chose not to give an answer.
“I wish your counterpart in Environment was a bit conservative with his words. What we know is that title deeds are not wooden or metallic,” Mr Mbiuki said.
He added that the panel should find a way of penalising ministers who mislead House committees and Kenyans.
A Senate committee has been given seven days to provide details on claims that some of its members tried to solicit millions of shillings from a Nairobi businessman to influence the outcome of an investigation.
Mr Francis Mburu, who claims ownership of land on which Ruaraka High and Drive Inn Primary schools stand, has alleged that members of the County Public Accounts and Investments Committee demanded a Sh100 million bribe to make a favourable determination in their investigation on the controversy surrounding the land.
The Powers and Privileges committee of the Senate, chaired by Speaker Kenneth Lusaka, told reporters on Wednesday that the allegations made by Mr Mburu are grave and have the prospect of undermining public confidence in the House. During a press conference at Parliament Buildings, the House Speaker said they had taken the decision to seek information from the chairman of the committee, Mr Moses Kajwang’, because “Parliament does not act on media reports”.
“After deliberations, the committee has taken the position that the matter is serious and is one that is suitable for inquiry by the committee within the meaning of section 15(5) of the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Act when presented with adequate information on the basis of which to commence the inquiry,” Mr Lusaka said.
However, the Nation learnt that the committee found itself in a quandary after Mr Mburu filed before it two contrasting letters that forced it to take the unprecedented decision.
According to the source, the first of Mr Mburu’s letter accuses three senators of misconduct while another letter absolves another senator from any claim of wrongdoing.
The committee expressed concern in the anomaly, questioning how the accuser could exonerate the senator when he had not filed a complaint in the first place.
The Public Accounts committee has been investigating circumstances under which the land changed hands culminating in the government paying Sh1.5 billion for it.
Mr Kajwang’ last week denied allegations that some of the committee members tried to solicit for bribes to influence the outcome of the investigation into the ownership of the Sh3.3 billion land. He said the claim by Mr Mburu was a plot to divert attention from the war against corruption.
The dramatic but widely speculated arrest of Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mbete Mwilu yesterday set social media on fire. “Is the Judiciary being ‘revisited’ over its famous decision to nullify the presidential election result a year ago?” was one of the questions debated on by internet pundits.
While there is nothing to be gained by a rush to unreasoned conclusions, the arrest is an indication of profound changes in the conduct of public affairs in the country.
The strong statement by Director of Public Prosecution Noordin Haji announcing the action revealed a much more profound reality: The country is changing in dramatic ways. There is a new thinking, a much more resolute and possibly patriotic determination to hold public servants to account and to repair a severely damaged country.
Mr Haji, in a rather interesting turn of phrase, spoke of a “system of chaos” that has taken root in Kenya, and which has rendered the products people are consuming unsafe, blocked access to justice, destroyed the economy and left millions of youth unemployed.
Kenyans have been waiting for the government to start speaking — and meaning — this kind of language. It is for this reason that many Kenyans support the fight against corruption and encourage the DPP and his prosecutors, as well as the other public officers involved — notably, Director of Criminal Investigations George Kinoti and his detectives, who in recent months have worked hard to redeem the image of the typical Kenyan police officer as incorrigibly corrupt and incompetent — to crank up the war and leave no thief free and no unethical official in the offices they now abuse.
A word of caution though: This is a moment for cool heads and calm words. Periods such as these are times of vulnerability for institutions and due care must be taken to ensure that they continue to function. It is important for the independence of the Judiciary to be respected and protected at all times. For one, if the government means well, it ought to restore the budget of the Judiciary in full.
More important, all suspects must be treated humanely and with dignity and prosecution should only be in strict conformity with the law. There is no room for revenge or partisan pursuits. Ensure the manner in which members of the Judiciary are handled does not contribute to reduction in the authority and dignity of the courts.
Finally, Justice Mwilu is innocent until proven guilty. In a way, she is fortunate that her fate and future will be determined by the system she has served and helped to create — the Kenyan Judiciary. All citizens of goodwill will continue to fight for her right to a free and fair trial and to equal and just treatment before the law.
But the fight against corruption must be relentlessly prosecuted until sleaze and impunity cease to be an accepted way of life.
The other day, I was approached by a group of Kenyans living in Massachusetts who turned up to narrate to me a horrifying human interest story about the tribulation some compatriots there have been enduring.
Many years ago, these people were lured into investing their hard-earned money in a locally based micro-finance bank by a Kenyan who lived with them in he United States then.
Nine years later, they have not had access to their savings and have been endlessly knocking at doors and sending lawyers letters all over the place in the hope that regulatory and investigatory authorities will take up the matter.
When I met them, they had a copy of a recent Central Bank of Kenya supervision report on the said micro-finance bank. From what the report says about both governance and financial health of that institution, I doubt whether these people will ever get their money back.
But are micro-finance banks really allowed to mobilise savings from outside the jurisdiction of their licences?
I will not go into the details of the matter at this stage but, instead, address the broad policy issues around the Kenyan diaspora and the safety of their investments in their motherland.
We are at a point where we must approach diaspora issues with more seriousness. Diaspora remittances have become Kenya’s single-largest foreign exchange earner, having long-surpassed tourism, tea and coffee.
Indeed, remittances from the Kenyan diaspora have been growing at an exponential rate, even hitting $2.6 billion annually.
So, when you see the CBK Governor, Dr Patrick Njuguna, chest-thumping about how we have healthy foreign exchange reserves or a surplus on the current account — the biggest contributory factor is the flow of diaspora remittances.
Receipts from the diaspora are what is shielding our currency from unpredictable volatility. Yet we don’t have a policy robust enough to harness this cash cow.
Although we came up with some diaspora policy document three years ago, it counts for nothing.
We have not been taking tangible decisions to make it easy, profitable and safe for our people in the diaspora to invest in the country.
Unscrupulous property developers have been taking advantage of the pent-up demand for investment from Kenyans living abroad by coming up with fraudulent schemes to con them of their hard-earned savings.
The scheme is all too familiar: A local developer acquires a large tract of land, typically 60-100 acres, taking control of the property after making part payment to the original owner and on the promise to settle the balance when the property is formally transferred to him.
He will then draw a plan purporting to show that the land has been sub-divided into quarter-acre plots around a gated community typically comprising a club house and borehole — even a golf course.
The stage will have been set for an investor road show to the US, where the developer typically turns up with glossy pamphlets offering the plots for sale in exchange for instalments of between Sh3 million and Sh5 milllion.
Diaspora Kenyans faithfully remit payments in order to acquire the plots.
But instead of investing the money collected through installments into building roads, providing water and generally developing the project, the cowboy developer will invest in a totally new project, where he will make part payment for another piece of land.
The type of developer I describe is usually an over-borrowed individual surviving on massive bank loans, keeping up appearances by involving in conspicuous consumption funded by big loans and the instalment payments received from Kenyans in diaspora.
Even top commercial banks have fallen prey to these ‘developers’. Diaspora Kenyans have been waiting for years to be given titles for the plots.
Which brings me back to the subject of the safety of savings and investments by Kenyans living in diaspora. Because of the growing importance of diaspora remittances to our economy, we must take precipitate action urgently. We must seriously consider introducing policies and institutions that are specifically dedicated to dealing with diaspora affairs.
In 2004, Indians, after realising just how important their diaspora was to that country’s economy, created an entire ministry for that, called Non-Resident Indians.
We need a mechanism of approving products and services that can be marketed to the diaspora. I don’t know what happened to the idea of issuing a diaspora bond.
Let us give diaspora issues the significance commensurate with the role which remittances are playing in the national economy. If we make savings and investment safe for the diaspora, I see it growing even much faster.
President Uhuru Kenyatta has since last year pronounced himself on the ‘Big Four’ agenda of health, food security, manufacturing and housing as the key focus to seal his legacy by 2022.
This is certainly ambitious and forward-looking and most Kenyans identify with these very noble aspirations.
However, corruption is the underbelly of the Presidents’ agenda. We are all excited with the move against corruption and look forward to convictions and recovery of billions of shillings allegedly stolen from the public coffers by the ever-lengthening list of perpetrators.
But corruption is not uniquely Kenyan: The UN Convention Against Corruption was ratified in 2005.
100 MILLION DOLLARS
Dr Mahathir Mohamad was, at 93, recently elected Prime Minister of Malaysia against an incumbent accused of running down the Asian country through an unprecedented corrupt system after inheriting a vibrant, thriving and robust economy.
It is also alleged that, at the time of his ouster, over $100 million was found at his home. In addition, the United States is after the man for $4 billion stashed in foreign countries, allegedly acquired through illicit and corrupt means.
This is a nation where, less than 15 years ago, minimal corruption prevailed when Dr Mohamad was the premier.
Some nations have had considerable success against graft — such as Singapore and Norway, which are relatively above board as far as the corruption scourge is concerned. There are different degrees of corruption with extremes cases in Africa.
But the distinguishing factor in the success against corruption among countries is their institutional capacity to deal with the menace.
In the case of Kenya, way back in 1971, when the Ndegwa commission recommended that involvement of civil servants in business was not inconsistent with the Constitution and the laws, it allowed the few talented Kenyans then, who were mainly from public service, to engage in private business due to the relative inexperience of the vast majority of Kenyans, coming from a colonial environment.
The alternative was to accept the status quo, where Indians and Europeans would continue to dominate the business landscape.
However, a review of the subsequent auditor-general’s reports, Public Accounts Committees and Public investment Committees’ reports shows a litany of cases that demonstrate glaring evidence of theft of public resources by known culprits but without either punitive or retributive sanction taken against them. That has emboldened a culture of plundering of public resources.
But to enhance the mission of combating the corruption, the 2010 Constitution has separation of functions between the office of the Attorney-General and Department of Justice and that of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution, which became responsible for the criminal justice system.
Under the previous DPP, there was nothing to write home about. Nevertheless, the DPP, Director of Criminal Investigation (DCI), Attorney-General and Solicitor-General offices have new appointees. Surprisingly, the outcome is extremely high-profile prosecutions like no other.
The President has publicly stated that the war against corruption has, ironically, cost him friends! It had better. Why? The speed at which Kenya has been on self-destruct due to the runaway corruption was frightening but, all of a sudden, there seems to be a ray of hope, given the concrete actions being taken to rein in the menace.
Hopefully, the President will continue to be emboldened in his declared mission to rid the country of the scourge with all its manifestations so that, at retirement, he will have achieved for the country the greatest objective of consolidation of our nationhood free of the vice.
The ongoing demolitions of expensive structures built on riparian land is a war against impunity.
The President should sit in comfort, knowing that his bold actions are consistent with Article 62 of the Constitution and should be extended to all those buildings on public land including schools, hospitals, playgrounds and roads.
This will bring to an end impunity and lack of respect for the rule of law for the benefit of future generations. The President need not achieve the Big Four; winning the war against impunity will have restored the glory of our nationhood and that will seal for him the greatest legacy he could ever wish to have.
The Taita-Taveta County wants the Senate to intervene in its dispute with the government over the sharing of revenue from two Tsavo national parks.
Governor Granton Samboja told the Public Accounts and Investments Committee that though Tsavo East and West parks occupy about 63 per cent of the county, area residents have not enjoyed their benefits.
“We have never received a cent of the park fees. We need support from the Senate,” Mr Samboja said on Tuesday.
The two parks cover 10 million acres, an area that is slightly more than four per cent of Kenya’s total land mass.
Kenya Wildlife Service manages the parks on behalf of the government.
The governor told the committee, chaired by Homa Bay Senator Moses Kajwang, that his administration is drafting a petition to redress the “anomaly”.
“We intend to present the petition to the Senate soon. We count on your support because the people of Taita-Taveta should benefit from the parks,” Mr Samboja said as he defended the county government’s revenue and expenditure for the 2015/16 financial year.
“I have met Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala over the matter but my efforts have not borne any fruit.”
He said the ministry keeps telling the county government to wait.
“The people of Taita-Taveta cannot wait any longer,” the governor told the committee.
Narok Senator Ledama ole Kina welcomed the suggestion by Mr Samboja.
Though he offered his support, the senator told Taita-Taveta County residents to “stand up and fight for their rights”.
“They must insist on getting what is rightfully theirs,” he said.
The lawmaker suggested that the first step would be for the status of the Tsavos to change from national parks to game reserves.
“That is how (former Culture and Heritage minister William) Ntimama fought for Maasai Mara,” he said.
Mr Kajwang’ said Mr Samboja’s call is in line with the Constitution but added that KWS should be retained as the manager of the parks should the county have its way.
Kiambu Senator Kimani Wamatangi urged caution, saying a cost-benefit analysis should be done before the plan to take over the parks by the county government is implemented.
“You are already getting an allocation on the land on which the parks stand,” Mr Wamatangi told the governor.
“You must weigh carefully. You may go for a share of the revenue raised but lose out on the allocation due to land mass in the sharing formula.”
The pledge by Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki to regulate the cost of essential drugs is a timely intervention following the recent revelation of massive rip-off of patients by medical facilities. An Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission report a fortnight ago revealed a major scandal of drug procurement, stating how patients were being charged extremely high prices for drugs, sometimes more than four times the recommended price.
Worse, the costs were exaggerated where patients paid through insurance, which simply means it is a racket involving many across the chain. What is upsetting is the fact that public health facilities obtain their medicines from the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa) at moderate costs but charge very expensively for them — making a killing, literally, from the sick and vulnerable. This is not acceptable and goes against all plans for universal health coverage.
It is imperative that the government intervenes to restore order and sanity in the drug supply chain. Ms Kariuki’s proposal for regulation of medicine cost fits pretty well with the plan to expand medical care to all. Essentially, access to universal health coverage is obstructed by the inordinately high costs and the converse is to lower the prices. That is only possible through regulation.
But that can only work if the minister also puts in place stringent enforcement measures. We are alive to the shenanigans in the health sector, where individuals use all means possible to extract money from the vulnerable public. They will seek new crafty ways to short-circuit the system to get their way.
Moreover, Kemsa has to be properly resourced so that it can stock of all the essential drugs to eliminate the possibility of public health facilities seeking procurement elsewhere, opening avenues for extortion. The government should also streamline the supply chain to ensure efficiency and sustainability of drug provisions.
President Uhuru Kenyatta arrived in Washington, DC seeking what he described as win-win partnerships.
But he may have had to give out more to secure any benefits. Soon after meeting with President Donald Trump, he told the BBC that trade, not aid, is what Africa is looking for.
It was the same message he gave to leaders in April during the Commonwealth Summit in London.
In Washington, President Kenyatta also discussed security, the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa), direct flights between Kenya and the US and tourism numbers.
Afterwards, Kenya’s Trade Principal Secretary Chris Kiptoo, who represented Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya, signed a deal with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to establish a US-Kenya Trade Investment Group.
A joint communique signed by the two officials said the group will be some form of a committee meant to “explore ways to deepen the trade and investment ties between the two countries”.
Part of its terms of reference is to “support comprehensive trade policies and begin to lay groundwork for a stronger future trade relationship”, a reference to gradual reduction of barriers to trade under bilateral agreements like Agoa.
Dr Kiptoo told the Nation the group will also be charged with ensuring both sides benefit fully from the remaining years of Agoa, set to expire in 2025.
Kenya already enjoys significant trade volumes, standing an average of Sh100 billion with more than Sh40 billion worth of exports to the US under Agoa in 2017.
Kenya says Agoa has created 60,000 jobs, but critics say it benefits foreigners because firms exporting apparel to the US under Agoa are mostly foreign ventures.
In Washington, the President was promoting the country as open for more investments.
President Uhuru Kenyatta and US President Donald Trump lead their respective delegations in bilateral talks at White House in Washington DC, USA, on August 27, 2018. PHOTO | JOAN PERERUAN | NATION MEDIA GROUP
“Kenya is open for business and all we want to do is package our partnership in a way that it is mutually beneficial to you as a private sector and the people of Kenya,” President Kenyatta told a gathering of US investors under the Business Council for International Understanding, a non-profit US organisation that organises trade forums.
He told the group, where US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Rose was present, about the benefits of setting up shop in Kenya for opportunities created by the Big Four development blueprint projects.
The Big Four is the President’s legacy programme to improve manufacturing, food security, healthcare and housing.
The Big Four is, however, threatened by corruption. This agenda also needs funds because Kenya wants to raise manufacturing from 8.4 per cent to 15 per cent of the GDP by 2022, build at least 500,000 housing units a year at an affordable cost and secure food for the population.
Kenya also wants to have at least 70 per cent of the population under medical insurance by 2022. “This presents major opportunities for local and foreign investors in areas such as agro-processing, textiles and leather, the maritime sector, construction, iron and steel, and oil and gas,” he told the business gathering, according to a speech provided by State House.
Soon after he spoke, he witnessed the signing of two agreements that will see two US companies invest $238 million (Sh23.8 billion) worth of projects in Kenya. Twiga Foods secured a $5 million financing deal to enable it to expand its produce distribution business and improve food security in Kenya.
Acorn Housing, an affiliate of Helios Investment Partners, got a $50 million loan for the development, construction and operation of up to 5,200 affordable apartment units for students in Kenya, part of the government’s public-private partnerships to enhance college accommodation.
Actis LLP/Kipeto Energy secured funding worth $233 million for the construction and operation of a 100-megawatt wind power plant near Ngong Hills.
The funding from the US Overseas Private Investment Corporation (Opic) is part of the US government’s Power Africa Initiative to generate more green energy for African homes using pooled funding from the private sector.
“By addressing some of the country’s most pressing development needs from power to transportation infrastructure, these projects will be hugely impactful engines of economic growth and regional stability throughout Kenya,” said Ray Washburne, President and Chief Executive Officer of Opic.
As one of the largest US direct investments in Kenya, Kipeto is a special purpose vehicle for the wind power project in Kajiado County.
In 2016, China Machinery Engineering Corporation clinched the Sh22.6 billion contract for the engineering design, procurement and construction of the wind farm. But last year, it ran into trouble with conservationists who argued the power plant was a risk to nesting sites for endangered birds.
But Kenya had to give more. In a press presentation, President Trump confirmed the construction of the controversial Nairobi-Mombasa highway will go on, despite the protestations on debt. “Your representatives have been dealing with our representatives and making a lot of progress. We’re talking about a very major highway. And that seems to be going along well. That’s a very important project, I think, for your country,” he said.
The 473-kilometre highway, whose cost could be as high as $3.5 billion is to be constructed by US firm Bechtel, just a year after the standard gauge railway on the same route was completed at a cost of Sh327 billion, yet to be repaid.
A final financing deal may mean more debt for Kenya.
The plan to introduce 16 per cent tax on petroleum products could be delayed for two more years if members of the National Assembly agree with a proposal by the Minority Whip Junet Mohamed.
Mr Mohamed has filed an amendment to the Finance Bill, 2018, which is already before the House, seeking the concurrence of the House to suspend the implementation of the Value Added Tax (VAT) until 2020 to cushion Kenyans from the high cost of living.
He told the Nation on Tuesday that the VAT portends tough times for low income earners and wants its implementation suspended.
The government has twice deferred the implementation of the 16 per cent VAT in the last two financial years following public outcry.
“Kenyans are going through tough times and it is only fair that we suspend the implementation of this VAT,” he said.
At prevailing prices, diesel used to power commercial vehicles such as buses and tractors, will cost Sh119.77 a litre while petrol will go up to Sh130 per litre after adding the tax.
In his amendment, Mr Mohamed seeks to change the date of the implementation to September 1, 2020.
The introduction of the VAT in petroleum products was contained in the budget speech delivered by Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich last June.
However the Central Organisation of Trade Union (Cotu) has threatened to call for a national strike if the government implements the proposal which is set to take effect on Saturday September 1.
REJECT POOR POLICIES
Whereas secretary-general, Mr Francis Atwoli said workers will reject poor policies from the government, which he alleged to have destroyed the economy and left workers poor, the Matatu Owners Association have vowed to hike fares by 30 per cent should the proposal be implemented.
“If not we shall call for a national strike of all our members and the country will come to a standstill. We will also ensure every citizen takes part in the protest to remind Rotich that he is there to serve workers,” Atwoli said.
The bill went through the second reading on Monday and the House will consider amendments when it goes to the committee stage Wednesday.
VAT was first introduced on petrol, diesel, kerosene and jet fuel in the VAT Act of 2013, with a three-year grace period that would have seen it come into force in 2016 when it was once again deferred to September 2018.
However Kenyans have hit out at the proposal arguing excise duties on the basic items will go up at a time they are already struggling to survive.