Sunday, September 16th, 2018
There is a powerful wind of hope blowing across the Horn of Africa region, said UN chief António Guterres on Sunday, in Saudi Arabia to witness the signing of a peace agreement between Ethiopia and Eritrea, ending decades of simmering conflict.
Saudi Arabia facilitated the agreement, and in a message on Twitter, the Foreign Ministry said that the accord, signed in Jeddah “is a historic milestone for the peoples of Ethiopia and Eritrea, and will contribute to strengthening security and stability in the region at large”.
“The signature of the peace agreement between the President of Eritrea and the Prime Minister of Ethiopia is indeed a historic event,” said the Secretary-General, speaking at a press conference following the signing in Saudi Arabia’s second-largest city, on the Red Sea coast, with Foreign Minister Adel Aljubeir.
“We have seen a conflict that has lasted for decades, ending, and that has a very important meaning in a world where we see, unfortunately, so many conflicts multiplying, and lasting forever,” added Mr. Guterres.
He expressed his “deep appreciation” for the role played by Saudi Arabia, before paying tribute “on one hand to the courage, the vision, the wisdom of the Prime Minister of Ethiopia – who has had the capacity to overcome enormous resistance from the past and open a new chapter in the history of his country – and also the way the President of Eritrea has promptly responded to his peace initiatives.”
The thaw in relations between the neighbouring countries, who fought a bloody, unresolved war in the late 1990s, began in earnest in June, when Ethiopia’s newly-elected leader, Abiy Ahmed, made peace overtures to his counterpart, which have now come to fruition.
Seizing on the implications for the whole region, Mr. Guterres said that the agreement meant that “there is a wind of hope blowing in the Horn of Africa. It is not only the peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea – it is the fact that tomorrow and the day after tomorrow we will have, here in Saudi Arabia, the President of Djibouti and the President of Eritrea – two countries that have also been at odds with each other.”
According to news reports, Eritrea and Djibouti announced on Friday that they would also normalize diplomatic relations with each other following a falling out on the border, in 2008, which left several dead and resulted in prisoners being taken on both sides.
The UN chief also noted the peace agreement between the President and his former Vice President in South Sudan, that was signed on Thursday – in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa – as another indicator of real diplomatic movement across the Horn of Africa and its borders.
“I want to say that this window of hope is enormously important in a world where, unfortunately, hope has been very scarce,” added the Secretary-General.
The brokenness of Pauline Chelang’at, a mother of four, captures the extent of the anguish and dejection that has ravaged families trapped in ethnic clashes at Nessuit in Njoro, Nakuru County for more than a week now.
The suckling mother of a four-month-old baby has not eaten for two days. Her lips perform a dance as she struggles to speak, her voice tremulous and feeble.
Two ripe veins cut across her temples, signs of starvation and helplessness. When she tries to rock her baby, her hands bumble involuntarily.
“I need food. My children are starving,” she says breaking down, and is joined by her three other children aged 13, 11 and 8 who are huddled close to her in a show of unity in woe. The baby’s skin has paled and it has rashes all over its body. It groans as it suckles at its mother’s empty breast.
Chelang’at is not sure of her husband’s whereabouts, after she fled with her children from their Segutiet home leaving behind a heap of ruins after bandits from the Ogiek community torched their home and drove their livestock away.
CHANGE OF CLOTHES
The family salvaged neither food nor change of clothes. Even the baby has been in the same clothes for a week now.
Rachel Ngok, a granny of 70 years, has not been spared by the misery either. She may not have children to feed, but her worries are not any less either.
A grimy jacket. Bare feet, blistered and dusty. A hackneyed scarf. All signs of hasty flight from marauding attackers as Ogiek warriors raided her home at Mesubei. She has not had a bath nor a proper meal for five days.
Another mother, 20-year-old Sharon Korir, has three children for whom she cannot provide owing to her current situation. She has never felt so helpless about her children’s plight.
“My children have never gone for a day without food. Their father and I farm to provide for them. They (Ogiek) burnt our grain stores with all our maize and beans inside. Now I have to beg from strangers to feed my children, which I have never done,” she says as tears flow uninhibited down her face.
For more than one week now, Tagitech Primary School has hosted more than 50 families like Korir’s, who sought shelter here following clashes pitting Kipsigis farmers and their Ogiek hunter-gatherer neighbours on the fringes of Mau Forest in Njoro, Nakuru County.
From the outside, the primary school appears lifeless. But when a vehicle roars into the compound, it bursts into life, with women and children issuing forth from the classrooms and making a beeline for the assembly point. For them, visitors can only have brought them relief.
The more than 150 children surround guests with careworn looks on their faces, grinning despite the pangs of starvation gnawing at their guts, and hoping that a morsel might come from these guests.
While the children bounced about few days after arriving here, playing together in spite of the chaos back home, their energy has evidently dissipated, and all they do now is gather around their mothers in groups of despair and starvation.
The families came and camped here hoping that the government and other aid agencies would provide them with relief food and other necessities as is the norm during such crises.
Curiously though, no relief from either the government or other humanitarian organisations has been supplied to them.
The Nation could not immediately verify information that Rift Valley Regional Coordinator Mongo Chimwaga had barred relief agencies from supplying food to the victims.
According to the reports, Mr Chimwaga had also ordered the families to return to their homes after a shaky calm prevailed late last week.
Left without a choice but to starve, the evictees have had to rely on neighbours of the school for food. But the feeling is that even these neighbours have provided more than they possibly could.
The public has been united in supporting the demolition of structures put up on riparian land, road reserves or parcels earmarked for public utilities.
It is the surest way to end the pervading culture of impunity that has seen public land and other resources misappropriated by selfish individuals.
Never again should we allow public land to be grabbed and converted into private use. However, we must move beyond demolition to target those who approved illegal acquisition and developments on public land.
The latest casualty is Airgate Mall (formerly Taj Mall) in Nairobi, which was brought down at the weekend, marking another milestone in the government’s concerted and irresolute campaign to recover ill-gotten public land and restore it for common utilities.
But we must now deal severely with those who allocated such public land and gave the statutory approvals. The question is: Who allocates public land to private developers? Who approves the designs and construction on public land? Who gives the building a clean bill of health and paves the way for its occupation?
It is recalled that President Uhuru Kenyatta has pronounced himself on the matter by declaring that action will be taken not only against the grabbers of public land, but also those who facilitated the crime.
Several weeks after the demolitions commenced, we have not seen government functionaries who issued the land titles and approved the construction arraigned to answer to charges.
Now, we want action. Heads must roll.
All agencies in the chain — such as National Land Commission, the National Construction Authority, Kenya National Highways Authority, Kenya Urban Roads Authority (Kura), Nairobi City County Government, National Environment Management Authority, Water Resources Authority — which, in one way or the other were involved in either allocations or approvals of such construction, must be brought to account.
It is paradoxical, for example, that Kura and the Kenya Pipeline Corporation came out at the weekend to applaud the demolition of Airgate Centre.
Kura pointed out that the structure had blocked the dualling of Outering Road, while KPC said the building stood on a pipeline path. How ridiculous? Why this hypocrisy? Where were they when the building was coming up? Why had they kept quiet all these years?
Our argument is that there are government agencies and individuals just as culpable as the grabbers. So, besides the demolitions, those who gave out the land titles and approved the construction must also be brought to book.
The Directorate of Criminal Investigations must commence an investigation into all the illegal allocations of land titles and approvals of controversial buildings, identify those involved and present them to the Director of Public Prosecution to face trial.
Ending the culture of impunity must deal with both the demand and supply sides. All the illegal structures on public land must fall, and so are those who facilitated them.
Eliud Kipchoge and Gladys Cherono on Sunday put Kenya on the world map with their stellar performances in the 45th edition of the Berlin Marathon.
Kipchoge shattered the world marathon record after running a brilliant race, clocking 2 hours, 1 minute and 39 seconds to retain the Berlin men’s title.
Cherono, on the other hand, claimed a hat-trick of titles in the women’s race, winning in a course record and personal best time of 2 hours, 18 minutes and 11 seconds.
The two athletes’ enviable achievements saw their fellow Kenyans, led by President Uhuru Kenyatta, unite in celebrating them.
Kipchoge’s exploits come at a time when Kenyan athletics has made the headlines for the wrong reasons with the revelation of doping claims among some elite athletes and the life ban of a former official for graft. However, the 33-year-old Olympic champion has proved that success can be achieved running clean.
At a time when many up-and-coming athletes would rather find short-cuts to gain success and fame, Kipchoge’s hard work and integrity have propelled him to greatness.
Younger sportsmen and women should draw inspiration from Kipchoge and strive to follow in his footsteps by simply working hard and maintaining honesty.
They can also make an honest living out of sports.
The Teachers Service Commission has until October 5 to address the problems facing tutors or face a strike that may paralyse national examinations.
Kenya National Union of Teachers second women representative Jacinta Ndegwa said a weeklong retreat with TSC that begins on September 30 would determine the fate of the strike.
The retreat will focus on delocalisation, promotions, deployment, Teachers Performance Appraisal And Development tool, new qualifications and other issues.
Teachers are concerned that their employer is not stopped the delocalisation, defying President Uhuru Kenyatta’s call for a review of the programme about a month ago.
According to Knut, delocalisation is destroying families.
“From 2014, more than 30,000 teacher have gone back to college and attained certificates, diplomas and degrees but the best TSC can offer is acknowledgement letters. Some took loans to go back to school,” Ms Ndegwa said during the Knut Busia branch AGM at St Catherine’s Special School in Butula Sub-County on Saturday.
“Some teachers are too old to be transferred to far-flung areas. One wonders how a 58 year old will adapt to new conditions. Let the programme target new teachers.”
Ms Ndegwa asked TSC to keep off the assessment of teachers and let the Education Ministry’s quality assurance department do that.
She was speaking during the KNUT Busia Branch Annual General meeting held at St Catherine’s Special School in Butula on Saturday.
Efforts to eradicate polio in the Horn of Africa have received a boost following a meeting on Sunday between four countries from the region in Garissa.
Health ministers and representatives from Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, and South Sudan on Sunday signed a joint statement under auspices of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), further reinforcing their member countries’ support and future actions towards this goal.
The event marked a high-level response to the recent outbreak of vaccine-derived polio virus, in which Somalia has detected and reported seven cases from human contacts since December 2017.
Kenya also confirmed one case in an environmental sample gathered from the sewers of Nairobi’s Eastleigh in March 2018, which resulted in a countrywide polio immunisation campaign that is ongoing.
Somalia is the epicentre of the outbreak, which now has been declared a public health emergency on a Grade 2 scale by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Other IGAD countries, namely Ethiopia, South Sudan, Sudan, Uganda, and Djibouti, are also at risk of polio outbreaks due to the frequent movement of large groups of people in the region and the porous borders across the countries.
Speaking during the event, the Ministry of Health Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS), Dr Rashid Aman, reiterated that diseases know no borders and countries in the region faced common challenges, including poor infrastructure, human conflict, porous borders and insecurity.
Kenya’s Health Cabinet Secretary, Ms Sicily Kariuki, said that countries in the Horn of Africa had experienced repeated polio outbreaks, mainly due to immigration fuelled by low nutritional levels, population immunity and displacement.
Her Somali counterpart, Ms Fauziya Abikar Nur, outlined her country’s challenges, including the difficulty in reaching children in mobile populations, consisting of nomadic pastoralists and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), as well as access to compromised settlements in the South and Central areas, for both immunization and surveillance activities.
The minister emphasised the importance of ensuring that every child was reached, saying that the health sector could not afford to leave anyone behind in the campaign to eradicate the incapacitating disease.
Over the years, the region has responded with joint cross-border immunization campaigns and related activities, including strengthened border vigilance, awareness creation, and routine immunization.
The latest effort is expected to enhance coordination of campaigns. In the plans are polio campaigns in September in Kenya, targeting 2.8 million children under five and Ethiopia targeting 500,000. Somalia has scheduled a campaign for early October targeting 2.5 million children.
As the Sentrim Kenya Limited chain seeks a buyer to take over its entire Kenyan hotel portfolio, one of its key properties — Boulevard Hotel — remains at the centre of a protracted land battle.
The fight for a portion of land that Boulevard uses as its parking lot has given a peek into the intricate ownership structure that Sentrim has employed.
The new owner may inherit the battle, should its sale be completed before High Court judge Elijah Obaga determines the 10-year-old suit filed by Westward Properties.
Suit papers indicate that Boulevard is owned by Chezer Investments, which is one of the firms under the Sentrim umbrella. Sentrim is associated with billionaire tycoon Jac Patel.
Others are Mayhouse Limited, which is registered as the Hotel 680 owner.
ROYAL CASTLE HOTEL
Newgate Management Limited owns the 68-room Royal Castle hotel in Mombasa while Sentrim Kenya Limited owns the Sentrim Mara facility in Narok and the Sentrim Tsavo in Tsavo East, Taita-Taveta County.
The group also owns Samburu Lodge situated in Samburu National Reserve with 21 cottages, the newly built Elementaita Lodge on the shores of Lake Elementaita with 84 guest rooms and 58 cottages and Sentrim Amboseli located in the Amboseli National Park, with 60 tents.
Westward Properties, which owns a piece of land adjacent to Boulevard, sued in 2008 claiming that the hotel had grabbed part of its land.
Boulevard has been using the land as a parking lot since the 1970s and now wants Justice Obaga to award it the property under adverse possession.
Adverse possession is a legal principle that allows individuals to claim ownership of land after occupying it for several years without interruption. In Kenya, one can claim adverse possession after occupying a piece of land for 12 years.
Justice Obaga in June dismissed Boulevard’s application which sought to delay the suit until the National Land Commission (NLC) has completed investigations into Westward Properties’ title deed.
The NLC started its probe following a complaint by the Kenya National Highways Authority which claims that Westward’s land sits on a road reserve.
But the probe now hangs in the balance as NLC lost power to review grants on May 2, last year. The Constitution only gave the NLC five years to look into historical land disputes.
Knight Frank says the properties will be sold for Sh5.2 billion.
The Kilifi County government has signed a Sh12.5 billion deal with an Israeli company for the establishment of an agricultural park in Bamba, Ganze Sub-county.
The 30-year project will see more than 250,000 hectares of land in Ganze put under avocados, mangoes and citrus fruits.
Turnkey Fruit Farming yesterday said plans are at an advanced stage for the large-scale, technology driven avocado and mango farming.
On Friday, a team from the Israeli firm toured Bamba to get the local people’s views on the project.
The groundbreaking will take place next month, with the first phase being the construction of an avocado processing plant.
The company will build a plant for extracting avocado oil, a logistics centre, including state-of-the art grading and cleaning chambers, a packaging house and cold rooms. It will also put up a modern agricultural village, with low-cost housing for the residents.
Speaking during a sensitisation meeting in Mitangani in Bamba, Turnkey representative Rodgers Tuku said the company is keen on launching the project, which will increase the country’s fruit producing capacity from 5-10 tonnes per hectare to 20-30 tonnes per hectare in three years.
He said the firm had already sourced for markets, which means once the plant becomes operational, the products will be exported.
Meanwhile, Kilifi Deputy Governor Gideon Saburi, who represented Governor Amason Kingi, said the county government will set up major water and access roads critical to the success of the project.
He said that Governor Kingi had identified Bamba as the ideal location for the project because there is land available, and the climate is also suitable for growing fruits like avocados and mangoes.
When we heard about the project, we were ecstatic. We knew that the investors could have gone to any other area in the country, but they choose Kilifi for this project. I believe we have become an ideal region for investments because of the incentives we are offering investors,” Mr Saburi said, adding that it has given them hope.
Ganze MP Teddy Mwambire also welcomed the project, saying that it will change the fortunes of the people of Ganze, which has for a long time been ranked among the country’s poorest constituencies.
However, he urged Governor Kingi’s administration to thoroughly review the proposals on the deal so that the people of Bamba don’t get a raw deal, as happened in the case of Giriama ranch.
The project is expected to create one job per hectare.
Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia has unveiled a plan to reduce traffic jams in the city centre by completing a ring road and four link roads.
The minister said Ngong and Outer Ring roads would be improved while Lang’ata Road would be expanded.
The World Bank estimates that Nairobi traffic jams cost Sh50 million in lost productivity a day.
With the city population expected to double to seven million by 2030 and car ownership set to rise from a quarter of the households in 2014 to half by 2025, the need to address the gridlocks has not been more pressing.
Top in the plans is a four-lane, 16.5-kilometre expressway connecting Gitaru and Ruaka.
The road, known as the Western Bypass, will connect the Southern Bypass in Gitaru and the Northern Bypass in Ruaka, completing the ring road.
All major junctions around Nairobi will have modern high-capacity systems with interchanges, according to the new plan by the ministry.
The bypasses forming the ring road would be 96.7 kilometres long once complete.
The Southern Bypass from Mombasa Road to Kikuyu is 28.2 kilometres while the Eastern Bypass linking Mombasa and Thika roads stretches for 52 kilometres.
The Western Bypass will cost Sh17.3 billion, with 17.7 kilometres of service roads and two metre-wide walkways on both sides.
“Our aim is to ensure people can move fast with minimal disruptions,” Mr Macharia told the Nation.
CENTRAL BUSINESS DISTRICT
“The link roads will ensure that those who want to reach their destinations without necessarily passing through the central business district do so with ease.”
Other features of the Western Bypass, a brief from the Kenya National Highways Authority shows, are six interchanges and overpasses in Gitaru, Wangige, Kahara, Ndenderu, Rumingi and Ruaka.
There will also be 11 traffic bridges and pedestrian underpasses and seven footbridges.
At the same time, the Kenya National Highways Authority plans to construct a 30-kilometre bridge from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to Kangemi on Waiyaki Way.
Mr Macharia said the bridge, which he described as one-of-a-kind, would address the problem of passengers missing flights at JKIA, usually blamed on Mombasa Road traffic jams.
And while Kenha seeks to make the big connections, Kenya Urban Roads Authority is in the process of completing the links to highways, with 16 having been done and four expected to be completed soon.
The Transport Ministry has also embarked on a plan to upgrade Ngong, Outer Ring, Lang’ata and Enterprise roads.
At 75 per cent complete, Kura is also constructing the Sh3.01 billion Waiyaki Way-Redhill link road stretching five kilometres through Kyuna, Spring Valley, Kitisuru and Peponi roads.
“This project is also aimed at decongesting roads in the capital. Traffic will be distributed across the network, with improved flows,” Kura said.
REDUCED TRAFFIC VOLUMES
“The local community will benefit from reduced traffic volumes. This is expected to reflect on the economy as operating costs in the transport industry, business and commuters is expected to reduce.”
When completed, it will be possible for a motorist to cruise from Lang’ata Road through Kibera into Waiyaki Way, Red Hill Road and end up on Thika Superhighway — without passing through the city centre. On Ngong Road, the authority plans to complete the dualling of the carriageway and improving junctions, in addition to the Sh1.98 billion dualling of Dagoretti Corner-Karen junction, all by July 2019.
Was it the fact of Peter Mutharika being a blood brother to late Bingu wa Mutharika that banished our initial thoughts of the limits of his leadership background?
Early in Peter’s political career, Mutharika was happy to criticize his brother’s intractability and give an impression that he was more prepared to listen to opinions of others other than have headstrong convictions about his own ideas as his brother was. This boded well with the DPP insiders and they saw him as a mellowed down, more sensitive edition of the autocratic Bingu. Later, when trying to convince people that his presidential candidacy was what the party needed, he placed high hopes on his meetings with almost anyone who wanted to meet him, regardless of the fact that Ben Phiri, his gatekeeper at the time, had other ideas as to whom should be allowed to meet the “important man”.
I realize now how people were led on by these hints; I was led on myself by the hope that Peter might make a more listening, less autocratic leader, and that his academic background would make him more open to debate, suggestion and advice. As a matter of fact, never did I feel it more strongly than after my first meeting with Peter Mutharika, then aspiring candidate for a parliamentary seat in Thyolo, sometime 2009, when he was meeting strategists and listening to views on the then upcoming election.
From around 6 P.M. until around 10 P.M. on a chilly night, we sat at his operational office in the accountant general’s building in Blantyre and discussed the forthcoming campaign. There were criticisms of how things were being done, and criticisms of his brother’s approach to the handling of various issues. “The president must control, from his first moment in the new term, the influence of the Mulakho wa Alomwe so that it does not become a political influence but remains essentially a cultural issue,” Said Peter. “He must avoid the ancient practice of having only one strongman control all his moves. He should be more accommodating of diverse opinions and have and have a policy think tank just like the way it is done in the states. And he must constantly search for ways to make the people in government feel that he was looking over their shoulders day after day, encouraging, inspecting, reproving, an ever-present focus for loyalty and healthy fear.”
This is the kind of thinking we need in our leaders, I remember telling myself in my exhilaration that night. Government and the executive is not the place for Mulakho officials and political party strongmen to be prancing about giving orders and thinking they are the ones running the country. Perhaps this is the kind of thinking that will finally put an end to days of Inspector generals and MRA commissioners general fearing for their jobs because they have crossed Party regional chairmen and secretary generals.
I told my friends then that Peter seemed to have the potential to leave the government forever changed by his presence: Perhaps not by implementing an expansive economic development agenda, but by helping restructure and reform the country’s corrupt governance framework. Peter radiated confidence, or the illusion of confidence, to a nation ready and eager to be reassured. Peter Mutharika—so I thought—might be able to point out a new political direction to a nation all too ready to be led. Yes. The way Peter came across that night, I was convinced he would stay one step ahead of staff jealousies, information blockages and the monopolization of our politics.
Perhaps this list is a testament to nothing more than my own naivete; but here and there among the items the reader may recognize a signal that he also picked up from listening to Mutharika speak, especially after the death of Bingu and when he took over the DPP leadership and embarked on a campaign to wrestle the presidency from Joyce Banda. Those memories may be refreshed by looking back to Mutharika’s speech at the funeral of Bingu, where he demonstrated not only his poise under pressure and grief but also his ability to make contact, to communicate, to lead with determination.
But by the time the anniversary of his first 100 days in office came around, most of the original hopes had well withered and died. Those of us that were close to the innerworkings of the system discovered very quickly that Peter Mutharika’s leadership by and large consisted of delegating all his responsibilities to Ben Phiri, his then presidential assistant, and that Phiri was using this newfound power to his benefit, to oppress his perceived enemies, real and imaginary, and to enrich himself and his cronies. The leader we all thought was his own man had somehow become a figurehead and a puppet.
The first jarring note was struck after two months in office, when the appointment of Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet was made at the instigation of Phiri and the president’s task was simply to sign it off. Many other such appointments to important government positions followed. The control that we all had hoped for with baited breath never came. The Molakho wa Alomwe grew more and more powerful and influential, and appointments made on tribal and political party affiliation basis remained the order of business just as it had been all the years before him. There was no change of any kind except for the worse.
The signs that Mutharika was not alert to bureaucratic perils caused by the over-influential assistant were everywhere. If there is any constant in the literature of presidential performance, it is that the President must husband his time and be in control. In a word, lead. If he is distracted from the big choices by the torrent of the conflicting interests of assistants and advisors, the big choices will not be made—or will be resolved by their own internal logic, not by the wishes of those who have been elected to lead. Mutharika seemed to have come into office without any clarity as to how to be in charge. This may be because in his previous world as a professor and an academic, he was never the leader and the decision maker with the final say except perhaps when giving grades to his students. Otherwise, there were always other people in the university administration above him making the big decisions. Thus, on reflection, Mutharika was never in practice the detail-man capable of running his own warehouse, nor the perfectionist accustomed to thinking that to do a job right you must do it yourself.
It often seemed to me that “history,” for Mutharika and those closest to him, consisted only of the Joyce Banda presidency; if they could avoid the errors, as commonly understood, of Joyce Banda, then they would score well. No devaluation of the Kwacha, no obvious Cashgate Scandal, no giving chickens and cows to families in exchange for votes.
But just like Joyce Banda, Mutharika fell prey to having his major decisions made by someone else, and allowing someone else pick the people that surrounded him and who soon became his confidants and sounding boards.
The result of this kind of leadership should be clear to anyone. If you surround yourself with dull paranoid people bent on enriching themselves rather than serving the country, you soon begin to think exactly like them.
(To be continued…)
Allan Ntata’s Column can be read every Sunday on the Maravi Post