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Tuesday, September 4th, 2018


Magistrates barred from asking lawyers to wear robes in court

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Lawyers appearing before the lower courts in the country will not be required to wear the legal profession’s vestments, registrar of the magistrates courts Peter Mulwa has said.

Mr Mulwa, in a memo addressed to all magistrates, indicated that a section of magistrates were forcing lawyers to be robed, according to Kenya’s legal profession code of dress, while in open courtroom. He noted that some magistrates had gone to the extent of denying audience to lawyers who are not wearing the vestments.

Recently, the Judiciary issued all chief magistrates, senior principal magistrates and a few principal magistrates with robes for use in open courtrooms.


“We are aware of some unfortunate developments where some magistrates have gone ahead to require that advocates appearing in their courts be robed. And that in some instances counsel have been denied audience for failure to robe,” said Mr Mulwa.

He instructed the magistrates who had issued the directives to withdraw them with immediate effect and in writing.

“Kindly note that our issuance of robes did not come with a requirement that advocates be required to robe in those courts,” Mr Mulwa told the magistrates.

Vehicles stuck at port after NTSA registration system breaks down

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More than 1,000 imported vehicles are lying at Mombasa port following the breakdown of a vital National Transport and Safety Authority system.

The collapse of the NTSA e-sticker application system has affected car importers and Kenyans who applied for a change of vehicle registration.

The application for the sticker is being done through the integrated transport management system, which is found on the NTSA website.

Vehicle owners from upcountry have spent days in Mombasa waiting for the authority to repair its system.

Car Importers Association of Kenya chairman Peter Otieno said the application of the sticker through e-Citizen goes through but does not reflect on the NTSA system.


“We have received complaints from importers. If the system is not operational by Thursday, there will be 2,000 vehicles stuck at the port. They have paid for the stickers but their vehicles have not been released,” he said.

Between 9,000 and 12,000 vehicles are imported in a month.

Last month, NTSA said it was launching the second phase of acquisition of the third licence plate (e-sticker) for vehicles being registered and inspected.

The authority said the phase would begin on September 1. All the applicants for vehicle transfer and duplicate logbooks would be required to have the e-sticker.

The sticker will have critical car details in an electronic form such as chassis and engine numbers, make, colour, registration number and owner.


The applicants are required to pay Sh775 through M-Pesa. Mr Otieno said applicants now pay twice following the system breakdown.

“Instead of communicating the problem, NTSA has remained quiet as importers and car owners suffer,” he said.

The sticker is valid for 10 years though importers have complained about its durability. Mr Otieno said the stickers already issued by NTSA are wearing out faster than expected.

“What is happening is pure exploitation. Why can’t NTSA get better printing machines and materials for the stickers? If the authority is issuing stickers that cannot last, it should not insist on payment,” Mr Otieno added.

Contacted, NTSA Coast region chief Zack Muema said the system broke down on Tuesday and not last week.


He linked the problem to e-Citizen, which is being used for payment of digital applications.

“Most of our services are okay. It is payment for the e-sticker that had a problem but it has already been solved,” Mr Muema told the Nation.

“Let the importers come to our offices and clear their vehicles.”

The NTSA official added that those who have already paid for the registration would not be required to pay again.

He said importers would be asked to share with NTSA their invoice and M-Pesa reference numbers in order to be cleared.

“We cleared some vehicle owners today (Tuesday). Those who will have paid by tomorrow (Wednesday) will get their cars,” Mr Muema said.

Twins Blessing and Favour turn four

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Baby Blessing Kathure and Favour Karimi, who were separated at the Kenyatta National Hospital in a landmark surgery last year, celebrated their fourth birthday at St Theresa’s Mission Hospital, where they were born.

It was a joyful reunion for medics, the mother, Caroline Mukiri and the girls who left the hospital with their spines and lower back fused but returned separated.

Blessing and Favour underwent the delicate 23-hour operation in November 2016.

The team involved in the operation comprised 58 medical specialists who cut through a mass of flesh and bone that they shared on their lower backsides. They were discharged on June 15, 2017


The birthday party, organised by the hospital, brought together medics, a few patients and members of the public who were keen to see the ‘miracle babies’.

The bubbly girls, dressed in white and pink, were the attraction as they were taken around the hospital.


Ms Mukiri recounted her gruelling journey that started on the day she gave birth to the twins at the facility.

“I can vividly remember how I arrived at this hospital at 10pm accompanied by my mother. The support from the doctors and the management enabled me gather strength for the three years we lived at KNH,” Ms Mukiri said.


She said the three years she spent were difficult but lauded the KNH medics for psychological and financial support.

Hospital administrators and medics, too, shared their experiences with the twins during their one-day stay at St Theresa’s before being transferred to KNH on September 6, 2014.


The medics recounted how they rushed against time to ensure safe delivery of the babies.

“We were excited when we saw the first ever conjoined twins in the hospital. It was a miracle that the delivery was normal. We wish them many more years to come,” Mr Timothy Mbaabu said.

St Theresa’s CEO MaryAgnes Nkatha said the two girls should serve as a lesson to mothers who abandoned their children due to deformities.

“I want to thank Ms Mukiri for her courage and standing by her children despite being abandoned by the father. We have a children’s home and we receive many babies abandoned by mothers for various reasons. If Ms Mukiri did not stand by them, we could not have had the groundbreaking surgery at KNH,” She said.

Sister Nkatha said the hospital would continue to support the twins as they grow, adding that they made the hospital to be part of the historic health milestone.

Lobby wants IEBC 3 chiefs who resigned reinstated

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A lobby has filed a case in court to push for the reinstatement of three electoral agency commissioners.

The International Human Rights Defenders Care Well Society, in a suit filed on Tuesday, said Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission chairman Wafula Chebukati acted unreasonably when he stopped the three from taking their jobs.

Mr Chebukati earlier said Ms Consolata Nkatha, Ms Margaret Mwachoya and Mr Paul Kurgat would not be allowed back following their public resignation on April 16.

 He said the three resigned from IEBC and even returned the commission’s property.


The group said Mr Chebukati violated the law and demonstrated his intentions “in word and deed”.

It said Mr Chebukati is not the their employer and that locking their offices was unlawful.

The High Court last week stopped the three from resuming duty, pending the hearing and determination of an application by Mr Okiya Omtatah — an activist — who wants the resignations upheld.

Mr Omtatah said he seeks to protect the Constitution and the rule of law, “which are threatened by the action of the three”.

“The application seeks to stop the resumption of duty by the three, who have announced and demonstrated their shameless resolve to resume duty, after they voluntarily resigned on April 16, 2018,” Mr Omtatah in the court papers says.


He argues that the three stated under oath that they formally resigned from the IEBC by writing to the President and had handed over their offices.

“Later, they cleared with the IEBC,” Mr Omtatah says.

According to the activist, the “former” commissioners “purport to have rescinded the decision to resign by relying on sections of a judgment delivered recently, which failed to resolve the controversy surrounding their action”.

The court will give directions on the case on September 17.

Jump saved me from abductors, says Nation journalist Barack Oduor

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Police in Nyanza region were on Tuesday evening piecing together a failed scheme to abduct a Nation journalist even as the key suspect in the dirty deal was detained.

Mr Barack Oduor, who covers the expansive Homa Bay County, was forced to jump out of a speeding car driven by his abductors after he sensed they could harm him.

But what started as a meet-the-source affair between the reporter and the Personal Assistant of Migori Governor Okoth Obado, Mr Michael Oyamo, is now a subject of criminal investigation.

On Tuesday, the Governor fought back any association with the kidnapping incident saying his aide had acted on his own and should face police investigations.

“The Governor is not aware of such a plan and his name should not be dragged into such criminal schemes,” Mr Obado’s spokesman, Mr Nicholas Anyuor, told the Nation.


“Let the police do the investigations and take necessary actions,” he added.

The Kenya Union of Journalists condemned the incident, saying it was a ploy to scare journalists.

“Intimidation and attacks will not stop journalists from telling stories of infidelity and wanton corruption in the two counties where there are no tangible results of devolution,” Mr Erick Oduor, the KUJ Secretary-General said.

The scheme began when Mr Oyamo approached the Nation reporter after a 26-year-old university student contacted the journalist and gave him information about an affair that left her pregnant and that the man responsible had turned his back on her.

The young woman, Sharon Otieno, is a second year Medical Records and Information student at Rongo University. She is seven months pregnant.


Mr Oduor was abducted together with Sharon after Mr Oyamo led them to a meeting at Graca Hotel in Rongo around 7:35pm, while promising to provide some information on the matter.

Sharon’s whereabouts still remained unknown by last evening but Mr Oduor was nursing serious injuries he sustained after he jumped out of the vehicle at Nyangweso market on the Homa Bay-Kisumu road.

Mr Oyamo has been working for the Governor for some years now. An ex-soldier, he presents the loyalty of a military man, something that has earned him unmatched legitimacy in the Governor’s office, his associates say.


Detectives arrested him in Uriri, Migori County and wheeled him to Homa Bay for interrogation, Nyanza DCI boss Michael Barasa and Migori County’s Benedict Kigen confirmed.

Mr Oduor reported the incident at Kendu Bay police station on Monday night and proceeded for treatment at Aga Khan Hospital in Kisumu.

He recorded a statement at Central police station in Kisumu town, as he nursed gaping wounds on his two knees and sloughed palms, the stamp of his courage to take a leap that turned out to be his salvation.

Mr Oduor says his source had agreed to meet him at Rodi Kopany in Homa Bay before he changed venues twice, finally settling for Rongo. Still, there was no suspicion as the man is a well-known county official.


But it was the change from one venue to another within Rongo that appeared to have sealed their fate.

They left Rongo eventually, with Mr Oyamo, the driver and another man. But a few minutes later, Mr Oyamo directed the driver to stop and he stepped out.

Two men in black immediately jumped in, sandwiching Mr Oduor and Sharon in the back seat, as the car sped off, without Mr Oyamo.

The men engaged in a chat as the driver took the highway, heading towards Kisumu.

“I was relaxed initially and we even had a chat on politics with the two guys. But then they started strangling me and the lady,” Mr Oduor told journalists in Kisumu.

“I notice the door wasn’t locked and decided to jump as the Homa Bay highway is usually not busy. I took a gamble and it saved me,” he added.

Kenya can easily achieve food security

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Kenya relies on only 10 per cent of its landmass for food while 89 per cent, home to 36 per cent of the population, is arid and semi-arid, and over three million people are severely food-insecure.

The country’s food is produced by millions of smallholder farmers on land as small as a quarter of an acre, practising rain-fed agriculture using inefficient traditional farming methods. The result is record shortfalls in food supply due to poor harvests. Irrigation could help but only 19 per cent (105,000 hectares) of our potential has been developed.

Agricultural production in developed countries is profitable because of higher productivity. We produce two tonnes of maize per hectare compared to global averages of four — and 12 in the United States. Average sorghum production in Kenya is one tonne; in the US it is 10.


Spikes in staple food prices and increased imports have led to the rise in our import bill by 12.55 per cent to Sh109 billion in June.

The bulk of these are staples such as maize, wheat, rice and sugar that can be produced locally. Maize imports increased to nearly 800 per cent (1.2 million tonnes) last year and that of sugar by 655,500.

Transforming Kenya’s agriculture to reduce its food deficit and nutritional challenges is possible. For instance, banana production hit a high of a million tonnes of fruit a year in 1987 but halved in 1995 due to pests and diseases.

However, tissue culture (TC) banana technology and investment in good agronomic trainings have enhanced access superior banana varieties with enhanced pest- and disease resistance and increased yields from an average of 14 to 32 tonnes per hectare. Production has since increased steadily to 1.2 to 1.4 million tonnes yearly.


Introduction of sorghum varieties and training of smallholder farmers in good agronomic practices has raised productivity even fourfold while linking farmers to ready markets, diversifying utilisation and increasing household consumption of the grain.

The aggregator model helped enhance access to mechanisation for land ploughing and grain threshing and increase volumes, assure quality and timely grain delivery to buyers, improving incomes. This can be applied to rice, beans, wheat, potato and other crops, enhancing production and productivity and reducing the import bill.


With food security as a key pillar in the ‘Big Four’ agenda for sustainable development, deliberate action to support adoption of early-maturing drought-, pest- and disease-tolerant varieties and the use of good agronomic practices, policy and capacity support to increase the use of inputs like fertiliser and other soil fertility approaches, increasing mechanisation and expanding irrigation are required.

The Green Revolution in India in the late 1960s transformed the country from dependency on food imports, mainly rice and wheat from the US, to self-sufficiency through drastic policy changes by decision-makers to invest in agricultural production by reallocating the funds spent on food imports.

Investment in agriculture and participation of all stakeholders for enhanced results and sustainability are, therefore, key.

Dr Wambugu is the chief executive officer of Africa Harvest Biotech Foundation International. [email protected]

To get the country out of energy quagmire, sector needs overhaul

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When one takes a good hard look at Kenya Power and the energy sector as a whole, one wonders how it even manages to limp along the way it does and still deliver a modicum of a chequered service.

It is important to remind ourselves that power generation and distribution is a vital pillar to the country, its economy and its aspirations to speed up the development of it. If we do not get it right, it will continue to drag us down and help make the ‘Big Four’ agenda a pipe dream.

Whilst Kenya Power is at the forefront of our minds, there are other players: KenGen, Ketraco, Rural Electrification Authority, Geothermal Development Company, Kenya Nuclear Energy Board and, of course, Energy Regulatory Commission.

The tribulations can be detailed under four broad clusters: Institutional, lack of forward planning, the transmission and distribution operation and its complex set of tariffs.


Kenya Power was ran as a reasonably efficient entity under the likes of the late Julius Gecau until the early 1980s. After that, like several other government-run or -controlled institutions, it got captured by the State and its political fiefdoms.

The government owns just over 50 per cent of Kenya Power and to this day has considerable leverage over it. It was managed by Samuel Gichuru from 1984 to 2002 and, for a while, was under the docket of the former Energy minister, the late Nicholas Biwott, from 1982 to 1992. The former is battling an extradition warrant by the Channel island of Jersey over four money laundering transactions during his tenure.

The government also owns 100 per cent of Ketraco, REA, Kneb and GDC and 70 per cent of KenGen and so, to this day, has a tight grip on the sector. Virtually all board appointments are made by the government. Even the ERC is supposed to be completely independent of government influence but is not.

Kenya Power has a flawed planning history. It bases its growth in demand on 15 per cent per annum for the period to 2030 when the actual figure is around six per cent. This is even more absurd than the Vision 2030 figure of 11.5 per cent. For such an entity to get it so completely wrong is wooliness, to say the least.


On its transmission and distribution operation, the eyesore at many of its yards are the many faulty or broken-down transformers.

On average, a transformer should last 20 years but rarely get beyond five here. There are around 300 transformer failures a month.

The reason is, Kenya Power has been importing cheap and arguably low-quality transformers from India and China.

They may be the cheapest but they do not meet the required quality standard and specifications.

Even the relatively simple exercise of purchasing electricity poles resulted in Kenya Power paying three times the market price.


Then there is the claim of a bloated workforce. This is most conspicuous when one sees maintenance and repair work taking place and counts how many of the team appear idle.

What comes out is that Kenya Power has been run more like a family business by its senior management.

It is not surprising that its tariff is higher than what it should be. Last financial year’s tariff, inclusive of all costs, was Sh15.62 per kilowatt hour and it is projected to rise to around Sh17/ kWh this financial year. Bear in mind that there was a government subsidy of around Sh3/kWh in the 2016/17 figure.

The bottom line is, Kenyans are getting poor value for money from Kenya Power and the energy sector as a whole due to poor management and fraud.

The sector needs a dedicated and professional makeover, starting with bringing the managers to book.


An executive review body comprising experienced sector players, representatives from the National Treasury and Energy ministries and private sector stakeholders such as the Kenya Association of Manufacturers should be set up with the objective of making these bodies professional, efficient, transparent and, most important, deliver value for money.

It should also turn them into independent entities delinked from the Ministry of Energy. They are, after all, commercial operations and should be subjected to the relevant benchmarks. The government would be party to the operations but not as the controller.

The fact that these set-ups must balance social responsibilities and considerations with commercial interests goes without saying.

SGR is largest such project for Kenya, riskiest for loan default

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By all indications, the highlight of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s visit to China this week will be the signing of the Naivasha-Malaba section of the standard gauge railway (SGR).

I thought is an opportune time to revisit this massive project by placing it in the context of one of the most popular subjects in contemporary development literature — namely, China’s debt diplomacy.

The Naivasha-Nairobi section is also significant in terms of the sheer size of the project and its likely impact on the country’s external indebtedness.

But first, some background and facts on the Naivasha-Malaba section. This project has been on the cards for several years. As a matter of fact, the related financial contract has been under negotiation since 2014.

A key aspect of this project is that the route it will follow was decided at a Cabinet meeting on September 15, 2015. The Cabinet decided that the line will run from Naivasha to Narok, then Bomet, Kisumu, Yala, Bumala and eventually Malaba.


In addition, a new terminal for the railway is to be built in Kisumu consisting of a new fully equipped, high-capacity port, a passenger station and a freight exchange centre. The facility in Kisumu will cost the country $140 million.

The Naivasha-Malaba section of the SGR will provide a reliable railway link to the entire region through Kampala in neighbouring Uganda and on to Kigali in Rwanda and Juba in South Sudan.

The negotiated lumpsum contract price for the project is a whopping $4.9 billion.

This is inclusive of civil works, 29 locomotives for the main line, four locomotives for passenger services and two others for shunting.

Clearly, this is going to be the single-largest capital expenditure project in the history of Kenya.


With public debt now at a level where we are now spending 29 per cent of revenues on debt servicing, this project is bound to push the country deeper into indebtedness.

Today, as you look at trends in Africa, and the developing world in general, you will observe that China cares little whether the project they are financing has commercial short-term viability or not.

Unlike other lenders, the Chinese do not bother about whether cash flows from the port or railway they have built will generate enough revenue to service the loan they have lent you.


It seems to me that the important considerations for the Chinese are the following.

First, that the loan they are giving you is collateralised by strategically important national assets — a port, a railway such as the SGR or national resources.

Secondly, that the project enhances and fits in well with their Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Under this initiative, the Chinese are involved in developing major trading and transport corridors. Projects such as the SGR will be financed and supported in pursuit of expanding the BRI network.

We are at a point where we cannot afford to take more loans from China.


I say so because, these days, the trend you see is that when a country is not able to pay back a Chinese loan, they just sieze the hard infrastructure assets they built for you, such as ports and railways.

For example, when Sri Lanka found itself in a position where it could not pay debts to China, the country formally handed over its strategically located Hambantota port to the Chinese.

The Chinese moved quickly to seize the key port because it is a link to major Indian Ocean trade routes connecting Europe, Africa and the Middle East to Asia and, therefore, sitting very well with the BRI. China is also encouraging its companies to bid for outright purchase of strategic ports.

Last year, a Chinese company purchased the Mediterranean port of Piraeus, which will serve as the linking node for the BRI in Europe.


Then there is the case of Djibouti. Having found itself saddled with Chinese debt, the Horn of Africa country was forced to lease strategically positioned land to China.

In total, Kenya plans to borrow a whopping $5.2 billion for development of the Naivasha-Kisumu-Malaba SGR section, the new Kisumu port and the inland container depot in Naivasha.

The cost of electrification of the railway, which is estimated at between 15 per cent and 20 per cent of the civil works, will also be borrowed from China Exim Bank.

If we do not tame our appetite for Chinese debt, we should not be surprised in future if China seizes and turns the port of Mombasa — the gateway to East Africa — into another Hambantota. If, by bad luck, we are unable to pay the loans, China will be salivating to take over the strategic national resources.

Stop steep rise in cancer prevalence

Most Kenyans are directly or indirectly affected by cancer: If one is not sick, a relative, friend, colleague, neighbour or chama member is. At least 40,000 cases are reported in Kenya annually, up from 20,000 five years ago.

Globally, cancer is killing more people than HIV, malaria and tuberculosis (TB) combined. And it is the third-largest killer in Kenya after infectious and cardiovascular diseases.

Why is cancer fast turning into a plague, so much so that some would rather get HIV? Why the spike? Wild speculation is emerging — that, like HIV, it is a disease “sent to finish us”!

There are two schools of thought. One holds that cancer has always been with us; what changed is the diagnostic technology and population.


Death from cancer used to be attributed to witchcraft or unknown causes, while more people means high statistical probability and prevalence. Furthermore, people live longer today. The second, predominant one argues that cancer is a recently man-made disease.

Manchester University Egyptologists studied hundreds of mummies looking for cancer in ancient societies. Only one case was confirmed. The scientists then worked up through the centuries and found that cancer was almost unknown until the Industrial Revolution, 200 years ago — implying that it could be related to rapid economic development.

Prof Rosalie David, an Egyptologist involved in the study, says there is nothing in the natural environment to cause cancer, so, “it has to be a man-made disease…pollution and changes to our diet and lifestyle”.

And the disease is not discriminating on age, gender, socioeconomic class or education level. It is no longer associated with elderly rich people. But studies show cancer affects mostly people under 75 — a generation born and raised at a time of accelerated use of possible cancer-promoting substances (carcinogens) and lifestyles.


If economic activities or lifestyle are to blame, so what possibly happened, at least in Kenya?

First, to boost agricultural production, there was widespread misuse of chemical fertilisers and sprays in farms in the 1970s and ’80s, much so in central Kenya, possibly explaining the high rate of throat cancer in some counties.

In fact, many agricultural chemicals that are banned around the world for their possible cancer links were, for a long time, heavily used in Kenya.

We can never be too sure of their impact on human health and environment but, the fact that they have been banned in their very countries of origin could indicate something serious with them. And they may have ended up in the food chain.


A 2015 report by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a World Health Organization (WHO) agency, flagged glyphosate as a possible carcinogen. Glyphosate is the main ingredient in Roundup. Though banned in many countries, the herbicide is used in Kenya.

Children who participated in the spraying of crops, mostly without protection, as a part of family economy are now adults, who could be facing health problems due to excessive chemical exposure then. It is no consolation that these chemicals were also used in the West, where their impact on human health is questioned.

Secondly, economic expansion meant more pollution. You need a three-month break from Nairobi to realise how obnoxious the air in the city is.

The American Cancer Society associates lead with kidney, brain and lung tumours. Until 2005, leaded petrol was in use in Kenya, where the heavy metal is still used to make paints. Sadly, the country has no policy guidelines on its use in paints, exposing many people to health risks.

Exhaust fumes from improperly burned diesel is suspected to cause larynx cancer. The IARC has actually fingered it as possible carcinogen. Yet, our roads are full of smoke-spewing vehicles.

Burning fuel inefficiently is dangerous. Yet many poor Kenyans have to use firewood in crude burners in poorly ventilated kitchens.

Thirdly, this generation wolfs down tonnes of junk food loaded with trans fats, sugar, salt, preservatives, additives, dyes and mercury, all suspected to contribute to conditions ideal for cancer.


Reports say exercise is related with lower risk for over 10 cancers. Yet we sit in cars for hours and slouch on the sofa watching television after a day seated at a desk. Add alcohol to the mix and the effects can be disastrous.
If there is any intervention on cancer at individual and institutional levels, it should be on ‘lifestyle’ factors that have contributed to this modern scourge. Besides strict policies against motor vehicle pollution, people should be encouraged to eat healthy foods and exercise.

Work permit swoop worthy

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 A two-week crackdown that has led to the expulsion of nearly 1,000 foreigners who have been working in the country illegally is a laudable breakthrough.

Indeed, the operation has lifted the lid off a not-so-well-kept secret: The endemic corruption in the issuance of work permits.

As some wayward officials in the Immigration Department have been lining their pockets, their compatriots have been denied jobs that they deserve.

The effort to streamline the recruitment of expatriates is not driven by xenophobia, as happens in some other countries.


In fact, Kenya has, over the years, been very welcoming to foreigners and is among the countries hosting the largest number of refugees.

The only problem is the few crooked officials, who manipulate the system for illicit gain.

Interior Cabinet Minister Fred Matiang’i has made it quite clear that the aim of the crackdown is to ensure that only genuine foreigners seeking to work in Kenya get work permits. And the principle is that those recruited should possess skills that are not available locally.

From now on, foreigners will apply for work permits in their countries and only come over after being cleared.


It is instructive that the swoop has been extended to net the government officials abetting the scam. Some 30 officials have already been sacked over the clearance of foreigners who pose a security threat to national security.

One loophole that needs to be sealed is the use of tourist or other visas by criminals fleeing justice in their countries, who then go into hiding in Kenya. There have also been cases of terrorists coming in under camouflage.

 The work permit criminal rings must be broken and the culprits seized and punished. With the threat of terrorism hovering over the country and the region, Immigration officials must strictly and meticulous carry out their assignments to help secure the country.