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September, 2018


China needs to soften its power, respect hosts to succeed in Africa

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There has been intense debate in the past decade over whether China is the new colonising power in Africa.

And whereas that — at least in the fashion that followed the Berlin Conference of 1884, heralding the Scramble for Africa — may be a long shot, proponents of this view have the balance of trade to anchor their argument.

According to China’s Ministry of Commerce (Mofcom), the trade peaked to $170 billion last year with the surplus, predictably, in China’s favour by $19.5 billion.

One may argue that this is not too bad, given the state of the Chinese economy and industrialisation.

In Kenya, things weren’t, however, as rosy! Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) data show we imported Sh390 billion Chinese goods last year but sold to the Far East giant Sh10 billion.

But even as Africa struggles to balance trade with China, which leverages on its massive loans to the continent that come with terms that we must buy from them, another important issue is emerging: Image.

Focus is slowly shifting from what trade China is doing with Africa to the manner in which it is done.

Unfortunately for China, it appears to be reading from the same bad script as the European powers over a century ago: The ‘barrel-of-a-gun approach.

Our forefathers experienced massive violence, unleashed unforgivingly, as the colonialists sought to beat their ‘archaic backward ways’ into submission to ‘civilised and superior ways of the West’, along the ‘small matter’ of allocating themselves our land, labour and taxes!

In similar fashion, albeit on a less scale, cases have been reported of Chinese firms mistreating their African hosts.

The less obvious domineering practice has been the naming and branding of Chinese-built or -financed facilities in such bold Chinese signage that Emperor Qin Shi Huang would mistake us for one of his provinces.


Winning hearts is a daunting task. China needs to employ more soft power to advance its interests in Africa sustainably and without backlash.

‘Soft power’ is winning influence abroad by persuasion and appeal rather than brute force, threats, military muscle or coercion.

Heavily branding projects in bold red with titles in Chinese language is likely to earn the managers praise from Beijing but they are less likely to earn their firms and government favours in Africa.

Worse, they are likely to build resentment of the Red Dragon and ground long-held suspicion that China is intent on taking over the continent.

It would actually earn China far more hearts in Kenya, for instance, if their projects were labelled in Kiswahili with a small red flag on the side, with the words ‘Kutoka Watu Wa China, Kwa Marafiki Wetu Wakenya’ (From the people of China, to our Kenyan friends).

Kaara Wainaina, communication and culture consultant, Nairobi.

Nuclear power negates hope for prosperity

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The Bill providing for the Kenya Nuclear Electricity Board (Kneb) received Cabinet approval a few weeks ago, setting the country on a path to developing a 1,000-megawatt nuclear power plant in Lake Victoria, Lake Turkana or Coast regions.

The reason for considering these three locations rests on the premise that power plants fuelled by coal, natural gas, oil and nuclear fission boil water to produce steam, which turns a turbine to generate electricity.

Nuclear power generation is the most water-intensive fuel option. While cooling systems account for the vast amount of water, fuel extraction and refining affect water sources.

Uranium fuel extraction, for example, requires a substantial amount. Uranium mining also contaminates surface and groundwater sources.

Developing nuclear power plants will add pressure to the constrained water resources in Kenya, caused mainly by years of recurrent droughts and a sharp increase in demand resulting from a high population growth.

Thousands do not have access to clean, safe and adequate water. Lack of rainfall also affects the ability to acquire food and has led to violence in some parts of the country.

Nuclear energy is the most expensive way to produce electricity, leading to it often being described as “the most expensive way to boil water”.

For Kenya to achieve its prosperity dreams, there is a need to adopt energy production options that will stimulate manufacturing.

Nuclear power production will increase the already soaring energy prices and drive investors away. The cost of products will increase further, affecting the quality of life and livelihoods of Kenyans.

Nuclear power plants pose a substantial risk of accidents. With Kenya’s poor disaster management credentials, no insurer will be keen to cover a nuclear power plant in the country.

This leaves the government and the taxpayers to shoulder the risk. A major nuclear accident could cost trillions of shillings.

The Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine, for instance, was estimated to have cost more than Sh23 trillion.

One such accident would wreck Kenya’s economy. Kenya is, surprisingly, pursuing energy production technologies — coal and nuclear — that have been surpassed by the expansion of renewable energy technologies such as wind and solar.

More shocking, the country has a huge potential for wind and solar power, which would increase its energy independence at a lower cost.

But instead of increasing its solar and wind power projects, Kenya is investing in outdated, dirty and costly energy options such as coal and nuclear.

For a country where solid waste management is a big problem, radioactive waste from a nuclear power plant will pose a massive challenge.

With the immense terrorist threats, its nuclear reactors would also be vulnerable to attacks. This puts citizens’ safety at stake.

Renewable energy provides many opportunities to mitigate the effects of climate change, attain energy independence and safeguard the environment.

However, investing in nuclear energy is betting on disaster.

End brutal evictions, they only confirm lip service to housing

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In the early morning biting cold of July 23, 2018, about 10,000 people in Nairobi’s Kibera slum watched in a sleepy haze as their homes and everything they owned were flattened by bulldozers to make way for a new road.

Schools were also brought down, forcing more than 2,000 learners to discontinue their schooling, as were health centres and places of worship.

The scale and brutality of the eviction drew international attention and condemnation.

United Nations experts, including Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing Leilani Farah, called on the government to halt it and guarantee the rights to adequate housing and education.

Undeterred, the authorities carried out a similar eviction 10 days later. On August 3, Kenya Railways Corporation and Kenya Power demolished the homes of 10,000 people along the railway line in Kaloleni and Makongeni, in Nairobi’s Eastlands.

In a desperate frenzy, people scrambled to salvage their belongings. Once again, the eviction was carried out without adequate notice, consultation or compensation and in the presence of heavily armed security personnel.

One cannot help but wonder how the government aims to achieve affordable housing, one of its ‘Big Four’ development priorities for the next four years, when it continues to render thousands of families homeless.

Last week, Kenya signed a deal with the United Nations Office for Project Services (Unops) to jointly finance 100,000 affordable housing units.

But amid a housing deficit of two million units and evictions, the deal is a case of the government taking one step forward and two back.

Evictions drive people deeper into poverty. Once ejected from home, many people have no choice but to live in even more precarious housing than before.

What chance will people who have been left in a far worse situation by the government’s illegal actions have at accessing adequate and affordable housing?

In Nigeria, thousands of people have been homeless since last year after they were evicted from Otodo-Gbame, an informal settlement in Lagos.

Families have been broken up and are sheltering in the nearby informal settlements, where many share a room with 20 others.

One woman told Amnesty International that, having lost her home and source of income, she now sleeps on cardboard boxes and her five children no longer go to school.

Prioritisation of the megacity development project by the authorities negates the idea of inclusiveness and puts lives, livelihoods and access to education at risk.

Evictions are not solely an urban phenomenon. Rural areas also witness this human rights violation.

In eSwatini (formally Swaziland), hundreds of subsistence farmers have been left homeless and deprived of their means of livelihood after they were pushed off the land to make way for development.

AI documented the experiences of families evicted in 2014 and this year and their struggle to rebuild their lives.

“They don’t see us as people,” said one woman whose home had been demolished. “They left us out in the open as if we were animals or something to be thrown away.”


Unfortunately, many — including government officials — believe that people without legal title to the land or house they occupy need not be consulted, compensated or protected from homelessness.

But international human rights law is unequivocal: Evictions are illegal; they are never justified, even where people do not have a legally recognised right to the land or house that they occupy.

Evictions are a grave violation of the right to housing and often lead to a breach of several other human rights — such as those to life, food, water, health, education and work.

As another World Habitat Day dawns, leaders and policymakers will, once again, pay lip service to adequate housing for all.

It is time we called them out, raised questions and demanded answers. Residents of informal settlements in the world are already doing so through peaceful protest.

We must join them and remind our governments that housing is an inalienable human right.

If world leaders are serious about adequate and affordable housing for all, ending evictions is a crucial first step to take.

Ms Vartak is Amnesty International’s Researcher/Adviser on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Twitter: @malavika_rights

Keep politics out of key public services and enhance oversight

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The “discovery” by Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko recently of the bodies of 12 infants “hidden” in boxes at Pumwani Maternity Hospital is a good example of why politics should be delinked from key sectors such as health.

Comments were made that it was a publicity stunt — and a foul one a such — all for political populist gain.

Indeed, such incidents tend to only provide photo ops for political leaders who have very little to do with the advancement of such an important sector.

Politicians’ aim is to use healthcare as a carrot and stick to advance their agenda. Time and again, we have heard how healthcare played a huge role in political rallies when used as bait for votes.

But healthcare is not a political but human rights issue; it is a service that needs to be provided as a matter of course. It forms part of obligatory services that we all need and the State has a legal duty to provide.


It is on record how Pumwani was mired in serious international racketeering involving trafficking of infants.

The extradition of Gilbert Deya, the key suspect, from the United Kingdom to face charges of child trafficking took more than 10 years.

Then, Pumwani should have put in place watertight security measures to avoid a repeat of such a heart-rending incident. But here we are again, talking about its mismanagement and baby trafficking and swapping!

The government has reacted quickly by sending in a team to investigate the serious breaches at Pumwani. However, we should not be standing at the point of investigating serious malpractices at the same hospital twice.

An overhaul of systems at the hospital after the first incident could have ensured no such efforts and resources would need to be spent on another investigation. The money should have gone into funding the hospital instead.

The manner in which the bodies of the infants were handled undignified them and their families.

However, to listen to the clinicians saying there is no mortuary at the hospital makes one wonder whether the management knows that its priority is to protect the dignity of patients, whether dead or alive.

Nearly a century since it was built, we should have addressed such glaring glitches by building a mortuary or two.

Pumwani is just a tip of the iceberg in how much indignity patients suffer at most public hospitals. Poor treatment encapsulates the disregard the hospitals have for them.

We constantly read about our leaders convalescing in private hospitals here and abroad. Then disturbing pictures emerge of bodies dumped on mortuary floors in public hospitals with no regard for their dignity.

At many other hospitals, patients are shown sleeping on the floor or sharing a tiny rickety bed.

Yet others have no windows to shield patients from the elements. Those with respiratory problems such as pneumonia and TB are exposed to the cold further.

Just as we did with the police service, time is ripe to consider having an independent oversight commission with legislative powers to look into the affairs of patients.

It should have the authority to inspect hospital facilities periodically to ensure that standards are maintained.

Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board is there to oversee the welfare of clinicians. There is a need to have a third eye that would ensure the hospital environment is fit for both patients and clinicians.

The health oversight committees at both the Senate and the National Assembly come late into crises and are run by politicians.

I believe they also easily run the risk of being compromised. We witnessed it with the recent claims of medical negligence at Kenyatta National Hospital, where politicians took tribal lines to protect the CEO instead of being concerned with patients’ welfare.

The main role of a ‘Healthcare Commission’ would be to ensure quality and safety. That would help to minimise the level of negligence are witnessing in the public hospitals by mitigating drug shortages and lack of equipment and personnel.

Essentially, their main role would be to raise the red flag whenever a hospital is found wanting in its duty of care.

We now have, for the first time, the comprehensive Health Act of 2017 that offers rights and protection to patients and guidance to the State.


Crucially, given the level of corruption reported in the health sector, it is time we returned healthcare to the national government to seal the loopholes for corruption.

Graft has devolved with politics and the only way to save patients from further harm is to centralise the work of the health sector, which would make it easier to manage and audit.

It will also provide for a uniform standard of care across all the hospitals.

That is the only way to avoid another Pumwani.

Pursue continental titles

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Gor Mahia were officially crowned the 2018 SportPesa Premier League champions in Kisumu yesterday. Gor showed pedigree and class this season to clinch their record 17th title.

Gor had won the title with six matches to go; so, their victory against Mathare United was just the icing on the cake.

But that is how far the celebrations go. Gor can only pride itself on local dominance but there is nothing to write home about when it comes to the continental scene.

The performance of other Kenyan clubs — such as AFC Leopards, Tusker and Ulinzi — on the Africa scene can be read from the same script.

Rarely to do they go past the first round. That sums up the local football standards, which have been wanting for a long time.

No Kenyan club has won the Caf Champions League. Gor, however, reached the knockout stage in 1992, when they lost in the quarter-finals.

They are the only Kenyan side, though, to win a continental tournament — Caf Confederation Cup (then Mandela Cup) in 1987.

This year, Gor were relegated to the second-tier Confed Cup, where they also failed to qualify for the knockouts.

Before being crowned, however, Gor players had sent a wrong message when they boycotted training for two weeks, demanding payment of their August salaries and bonuses for eight months.

This is the recipe for failure. It’s wrong for established clubs such as Gor and Leopards to solely rely on betting firm SportPesa to stay afloat, yet they have fan bases that are huge enough to attract alternative sponsors — if only they could inculcate accountability and professionalism in their structures.

National football champions K’Ogalo — and other clubs — need to up their game and aim higher with good signings and effective management if they are to perform well in the lucrative champions’ league, which has a top prize of Sh250 million.

Keep entry grade to teacher colleges high

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The hitherto unnecessary debate over the minimum qualification for admission to teacher training colleges has resurfaced following a Kenya National Qualification Authority directive that seeks to lower the entry requirement without any logical basis.

The authority has pegged the entry to primary teachers college at grade D- and diploma colleges at C- in the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE).

This is a major climbdown from what the Education ministry had set — C for certificate and C+ for diploma courses.

More perplexing is that KNQA made the changes without consulting the interest groups — the Teachers Service Commission (TSC), unions and the parent ministry.


The education sector is undergoing major reforms. The curriculum is being changed from the traditional knowledge-based orientation to focus on competence so as to equip learners with skills and aptitude, besides knowledge.

That will make them doers rather than imbibers of information that is regurgitated during exams, but without any demonstration of ability to practise what is learnt. Teaching that curriculum requires higher level of thinking.

There is a reason for the ministry to set the high admission threshold. It is one of the strategies of raising education standards across all levels.

The premise is that producing quality teachers requires that the trainees enter with higher grades. That teaching cannot be relegated to a low-tier profession that opens itself to those with weak points.

Teachers are the implementers of a curriculum and are required to have thorough mastery of knowledge.

But that is not possible when the trainees in the colleges have dismal grades. They lack the aptitude and capacity to internalise and deliver quality teaching.

World over, the campaign is to professionalise teaching – recruit only highly qualified people to join the training colleges, deploy them appropriately and pay them well.

It is only by doing so that you can guarantee quality teaching and better academic outputs.

Clearly, KNQA has got its facts wrong and is pulling everyone back.

One wonders what triggered the changes when education experts had agreed on higher qualifications. What is the problem that the authority sought to fix?

We reinforce the TSC’s position that entry grades to the colleges remain competitive.

The teaching profession should not be the dumping ground for weak candidates — those who go into it for lack of options.

The standards must be raised through recruiting highly qualified people and paying them attractive salaries to guarantee retention and better performance.

We cannot engage the reverse gear when the destination is quite clear.

Vokes condemns winless Cardiff to another defeat

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Burnley’s Sam Vokes scored the decisive goal in a 2-1 victory away to Cardiff City on Sunday that left the Welsh club still looking for their first Premier League win of the season.

Defeat left Cardiff second bottom in the table, above basement club Huddersfield on goal difference alone with both sides having drawn two and lost five of their opening seven league matches this term.

“It is a blow to lose a game like today, because we can’t play much better than that,” Cardiff manager Neil Warnock told the BBC.

“Once again the fans were amazing, they really are enjoying it and supporting us.”

By contrast, victory saw Burnley climb to 12th in the table, with Johann Berg Gudmundsson and Vokes scoring either side of Josh Murphy’s equaliser for the Bluebirds.

It was the first time Burnley, who thrashed Bournemouth 4-0 last week, had recorded back-to-back wins in the English top-flight since April.

The one downside for Burnley was that England defender James Tarkowski went off after just 27 minutes with what appeared to be a shoulder injury.

And that could prove to be a problem for England manager Gareth Southgate as well ahead of next month’s Nations League internationals against Croatia and Spain.

Promoted Cardiff always knew they were in for a tough season and things are unlikely to get any easier for Warnock’s side, with trips to Tottenham Hotspur and high-flying Liverpool to come in October.

A largely forgettable first half saw Murphy hit the woodwork, while Burnley’s former England goalkeeper Joe Hart then saved well from Kenneth Zohore.

Cardiff also had a penalty appeal turned down when referee Martin Atkinson decided Burnley defender Matt Lowton, who blocked a Callum Paterson overhead kick in front of his face, was so close to the Bluebirds forward that any handball could not have been deliberate.

“I watched Newcastle v Leicester on Saturday and there was a handball in that game, this lad had his hand in an unnatural position and it was a penalty,” a frustrated Warnock told Sky Sports.

“We don’t get them as smaller clubs, that would have changed the game,” the veteran English manager added.

Burnley went ahead in the 51st minute when a quick throw caught Cardiff unawares before Gudmundsson headed in a cross from Ashley Westwood.

But Cardiff were level just nine minutes later when Murphy scored his first goal for the club.

The former Norwich man then let fly from 20 yards only to be denied by Hart’s fingertip save.

It was a stop made all the more important when the Clarets regained the lead when a stooping Vokes headed home in the 70th minute.

“Sam Vokes’s goal was a great header, that’s difficult,” said Burnley manager Sean Dyche.

“He had to generate all the power into it. It wasn’t a fantastic performance but it was Burnley-like, we stayed in the game. It shows that the undercurrent of Burnley that we have built is still there.”

Marie Stopes defies ban on advert linked to abortion

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International charity Marie Stopes has defied Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB) orders to pull down an advertisement said to promote abortion.

The advertisement has been running on radio weeks after the agency banned it on September 10 on claims the campaign supports abortion of unplanned pregnancies.

The firm’s executives risk a five-year jail term or a Sh100,000 fine for violating the orders.

Marie Stopes — which works in 37 countries providing free contraception, advice on family planning, sexual health, safe abortion and post-abortion care — says it is yet to receive a formal notification on the ban.

The charity reckons that the controversial advertisement aims to help women make an informed choice and vowed to continue airing the teaser advertising at its clinics.

KFCB chief executive Ezekiel Mutua failed to respond to calls and text messages over the issue by press time.

The board said Marie Stopes breached the rule that demands the film regulator vets an advertisement before its airing.

The advertisement has stirred controversy on social media with Kenyans questioning whether the charity is promoting abortion. Marie Stopes has asked those outraged by the advertisement to call them or inbox on social media for more details.

The Constitution broadened access to abortion, permitting it in cases when a woman’s life is at risk but unsafe abortions are rife — and remain a leading cause of maternal mortality.

Almost half a million abortions were conducted in Kenya in 2012 — mostly in backstreet clinics —resulting in one in four women and girls having complications such as high fever, sepsis, shock and organ failure, said a Ministry of Health report.

An estimated 266 women die per 100,000 unsafe abortions in Kenya — higher than rates estimated in other East African nations, it added.

Unaitas says ready for commercial bank licence

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Unaitas says it is ready to roll out fully fledged commercial banking services anytime the Central Bank lifts the moratorium on licensing imposed in 2015.

The indefinite freeze came after massive irregularities were blamed on lack of proper supervisory structures after massive fraud at the Imperial, Chase and Dubai banks.

The moratorium, however, did not affect mergers and acquisitions and has also seen some previous applicants granted licence.

Unaitas Sacco chairman Joseph Kabugu said the institution has gone live with a Sh700 million infrastructure upgrade in readiness for commercial banking.

“We are good to go, even if the licence was to be granted today. We will simply switch on and start offering services to our clients.

“We have come of age and we look forward to being the new kid on the block and solidly compete for the ultimate edge in banking services,” he said.

He added Unaitas is now holding client deposits in excess of Sh30 billion, having declared a Sh300 million pre-tax profit in the third quarter of 2018.

He said the journey that started in 1993 with the opening of Murang’a Tea Growers before metamorphosing to Muramati in 2007 and later Unaitas in 2012 had resulted in a financial services institution capable of entering the competitive banking market.

The sacco has the capacity of receiving Sh40 billion in deposits.

“With slightly over 400,000 customers, 16 per cent of them being in the dSiaspora, we feel that the time to graduate our services was yesterday,” he said.

He said there is increased demand for financial services owing to the dynamics of an expanding national economy, which is relying more on savings and credit to liquidate individual, group and institutional ventures.

Locals to lend more of Sh2trn loans ahead of Uhuru exit

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Domestic investors will fund a larger share of the additional Sh2.13 trillion that President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration targets in the next four years.

This will give banks more room to deepen lending to the government at the expense of companies and households.

Nearly Sh1.27 trillion will be tapped from domestic investors with foreign markets funding the remainder Sh863 billion of the debt portion. The funds will go into implementing Mr Kenyatta’s Big Four plans, the Treasury projections show.

Increased domestic borrowing, analysts say, may hurt flow of loans to the private sector with September 2016 legal ceilings on loan charges still in place.

Banks controlled 55.5 per cent of the nearly Sh2.50 trillion domestic debt as at September 14, Central Bank of Kenya statistics show.

“Increased borrowing in the domestic market squeezes out the private sector and, more so, with rate caps, it is likely to exacerbate the subdued the private sector credit growth you are already seeing,” said Churchill Ogutu, a senior research analyst at Genghis Capital, on phone. “But borrowing from external market also has some risks because of foreign exchange fluctuations.”

Domestic borrowing through weekly sale of Treasury bills and bonds is projected at Sh299.9 billion in the year ending June 2019 from Sh366.5 billion in the year ended last June.

This will, however, rise to Sh309.6 billion in the year to June 2020, Sh310.90 billion in June 2021 and Sh345.7 billion in June 2022, projections in the draft 2018 Budget Review and Outlook Paper indicate.

The reliance on domestic markets to bridge the gap in budget bucks a trend where the Jubilee administration has since 2014 been contracting more of foreign debt to build much-needed roads, standard gauge railway, electricity plants and bridges.

External debt is forecast to fall to Sh272 billion this financial year ending June 2019 from Sh265.5 billion in the one ended June and Sh498.5 billion the year before. New borrowing from foreign investors is set to further drop to Sh217 billion in the year to June 2020 and Sh147.2 billion the following year, according to the Treasury.

“Fiscal policy over the medium-term aims at supporting rapid and inclusive economic growth, ensuring a sustainable debt position by narrowing the budget deficit and at the same time supporting the devolved system of Government for effective delivery of services,” Treasury PS Kamau Thugge.