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Wednesday, October 10th, 2018

 

Abusive parents to blame for toxic society

By LINDA NNANANGUTTU
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No one prepares you for the realisation that parents, whom we, rightfully, hold in high regard can be toxic. Nothing can take away the love and respect parents deserve but the realisation that they’re human and prone to being dishonourable is a bitter pill for anyone to swallow.

Abusive parents exist and, while we may be too timid to call them out on account of the unquestionable respect the African culture demands, this is a conversation we need to have.

Abuse is expansive but the most common, yet least-talked about, are the psychological and emotional forms. Emotional abuse, in this context, is the gradual disregard and subsequent destruction of your child’s self-worth and esteem in the way you address them verbally or physically.

SCARRING EFFECT

I may not list all facets of emotional abuse. However, emotional manipulation — constant comparison of your children to others because of their inability to project values you forcibly inflict on them, being verbally uncouth with them, addressing them with little respect and a general lack of empathy for what they are going through embody some of the facets of emotional abuse.

Psychological abuse is manifested in actions that put children in a mental state likely to cause depression, anxiety, trauma and stress. Parents can be rather oblivious to the scarring effect of their actions on their children.

Similarly, physical and verbal projection of anger and violence towards, and in front of, children can cause deep-rooted psychological issues that could take a lifetime to undo.

EXPECTATIONS

While parents are human, they need to realise that children are their own people and deserve inherent respect and dignity that does not attach to their role as parents and caregivers.

More often than not, parents project their desires on their children with such disregard for their preference or decisions, subsequently putting them under pressure to deliver and live up to expectations they may not necessarily subscribe to.

Toxicity among parents runs deep. Sadly, we have been accustomed to being on the receiving end in silence because respect for elders demands it. We should encourage a culture of introspection among parents and for youth to be respectfully vocal about the impact of their elders’ actions on them.

EMOTIONAL DAMAGE

The notion that parents are always right and entitled to treat their children however they please since they bore and raised them is one reason why we raise a generation that is emotionally and psychologically damaged from all the inflictions of toxic parents most are not courageous enough to call out.

When was the last time your parent apologised to you for being wrong? More often than not, their transgressions are swept under the carpet, never to be revisited, and the pile-up catches up with most of us.

How aware do you think your parents are when it comes to their emotional and psychological well-being? Often, their toxicity is a projection of their personal struggles that they need to address before it spills onto their children.

SNARKY COMMENTS

Interestingly, the impact of abusive parents on a child’s well-being cuts across all ages. The effects are felt by adults and minors at different levels.

Most of us have been victims of degrading and snarky comments from our parents who sit with us for a long time, and while we may laugh it off when the wounds no longer bleed, the pile-up has an active role in how we view ourselves and, subsequently, the way in which we address others.


With Linda Mama initiative, no woman should die in childbirth

By JESSICA ANJALO
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Dinah died a very painful death. Sent away by her in-laws while in labour, she walked 10 kilometres through a remote Vihiga County village to her impoverished mother’s house.

Not knowing what to do with her daughter, the elder woman told her to go back. After all, Dinah was now married and she and the baby she was expecting were not her mother’s responsibility anymore. With no help in sight or money to take her to a health facility, Dinah and her unborn baby died on the dusty roadside.

For many years, this sad story has been replicated as thousands of women in die in childbirth in Kenya.

NEGATIVE ATTITUDES

In 2013, a UN report rated Kenya as among the 10 most dangerous countries for pregnant women as 68 per cent of mothers delivered without the assistance of a skilled medical professional. Highlighting the trend of maternal deaths from 1990 to 2013, it indicated that in 2013 alone, 6,300 women had died from pregnancy-related complications. Other reports have given estimates of up to 8,000 similar deaths yearly.

The USAid Kenya-sponsored Health Policy Project gives the reasons for this sad state of affairs.

Dr Isaak Bashir, team leader of the DFID-funded Delivering Increased Family Planning Across Rural Kenya (Difpark) Project at Futures Group, says many women opt to give birth at home because of “lack of transport, fears about negative attitudes of health workers, long distances to health facilities, cultural preferences and, more importantly, charges for services which are beyond what most women can afford”.

On June 1, 2013, President Uhuru Kenyatta launched the Free Maternity Programme, declaring that maternal health services would be offered free of charge in public health facilities. This was aimed at reducing maternal, infant and neonatal mortality and to increase child vaccination.

COMPLICATED DELIVERIES

Public health facilities were reimbursed by the government for every delivery they handled — at Sh2,500 per birth for health centres and dispensaries and Sh5,000 for hospitals. This covered normal, caesarean section and complicated deliveries. The funds were paid directly to the facilities.

In addition, no fees were charged for antenatal and post-natal care up to six weeks after delivery or referrals made in the case of pregnancy-related complications. Fees for all types of healthcare services at dispensaries and health centres were also abolished.

That initiative saw an increase in deliveries in public hospitals. Well over 2,515,051 deliveries have since taken place in public health facilities.

BENEFIT PACKAGE

In October 2016, it was handed over to the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) and rebranded as Linda Mama, which now covers antenatal, neo-natal and post-natal care visits.

Despite being run by the NHIF, the cover remains free. In addition, expectant mothers can be registered using their national identification cards or a guardian’s or even their ante-natal records.

Phase one and two of Linda Mama saw it rolled out to private, faith-based and government-owned facilities. Phase three will offer a comprehensive benefit package to include antenatal, post-natal and immunisation care.

At the launch, the then-Health Cabinet Secretary, Dr Cleopa Mailu, described the programme as part of efforts to enhance system efficiency and accountability and minimise complaints.

INCREASE SENSITISATION

“Linda Mama is one intervention that aims to achieve universal access to quality maternal and child health services and contribute to the country’s progress towards universal health coverage,” he said.

So far, 493,475 women have benefited from the cover but, like any new initiative, there are challenges. For instance, a large majority of the population are unaware of the benefits of the cover. The Ministry of Health should, therefore, increase sensitisation, with special focus on the grassroots for better uptake of the services.

County facilities should be equipped with computers and internet services as this is a basic necessity for the Linda Mama cover and, ultimately, the envisaged universal health coverage (UHC) to be realised.

Reimbursement for Linda Mama goes to the county revenue account instead of the county health facilities. This means that the health facilities cannot plough back the funds to enhance their services.

RELEVANT STRUCTURES

The initiative has proven that the government’s UHC goal is achievable with proper support from the relevant structures.

Though this might have come a little too late for my friend Dinah, her unborn baby and those of us who knew her, it is a timely assurance that, at its full implementation, no other woman will lose her life or that of her baby for lack of medical attention.

Such simple initiatives should be nurtured to maturity with the support of all of us.


Cure to financial mess lies in trimming bloated representation

By JUMA NAMLOLA
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When the National Assembly debated the Finance Bill 2018, it was clear that the halving of the new value added tax on petroleum products to eight per cent by the President would not significantly ease the burden on the common man. This is because the higher kerosene, diesel and petrol prices would increase the cost of living.

The genesis of taxing petroleum products is known. Apparently, Kenya has been borrowing heavily to, ostensibly, fund development projects in the face of ever-increasing budget deficits. But a huge chunk of the money goes to waste in expenses such as salaries and allowances for a bloated government.

FORMER PRESIDENTS

I recently read that some people were claiming that the current government deserves a pat on the back for struggling to implement its pre-election promises under difficult circumstances. They alluded to the fact that former presidents — including Mwai Kibaki, who is remembered for, among other mega projects, the Thika Superhighway — operated under the old constitution. Yet the new supreme law promulgated eight years ago came with many levels of representation.

Luckily, the drafters of the 2010 Constitution saw that coming and created an entire chapter to deal with grievances.

SIXTH SCHEDULE

The Sixth Schedule was intended to guide the implementers of the Constitution to progressively achieve two-thirds gender proportion, a lean Cabinet and restructuring of some services.

I feel that the Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution (CIC) of Kenya, which was chaired by lawyer Charles Nyachae, failed by not properly advising the government on the restructuring of the provincial administration. The CIC was tasked with ensuring that important articles were implemented to the letter.

The Sixth Schedule — Transitional and Consequential Provisions — Devolved Government, Part 4, Article 17 states: “Within five years after the effective date, the national government shall restructure the system of administration commonly known as the provincial administration to accord with and respect the system of devolved government established under the Constitution.”

EXTRA SENATORS

Calling a referendum to address the Sixth Schedule would help us to get out of the hole of ever-increasing taxation. However, that task should not be left to the Punda Amechoka and Okoa Kenya and Punguza Mizigo crusaders. It must be a ‘Wanjiku’ project with public participation forums in places which majority of citizens can access and contribute ideas in focus group discussions.

We need to reduce the number of elective and appointed positions.

Devolved governments are supervised by the Senate, which does not need nominated representatives. Kenyans should not be paying 20 extra senators who don’t represent any county.

RELATED MINISTRIES

As the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission prepares to review constituencies, it ought to merge or scrap some of them.

A county commissioner can work directly with chiefs. That way, regional coordinators and sub-county commissioners need to go. County commissioners would then report to a principal secretary in the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government.

Also up for review is Article 152 of the Constitution, on the Cabinet. Some related ministries should be merged — such as Environment, Tourism and Minerals; Energy and Petroleum; and East African Community and Foreign Affairs.

CABINET SECRETARIES

Cabinet secretaries can be appointed from among elected members of the National Assembly or the Senate.

Creation of positions that do not add value should be scrapped, for example, chief administrative secretary. OCPDs’ work can be done by the county police commander liaising with the various officers commanding station .

Mr Namlola, the News Editor, Taifa Leo, is a development communication specialist. [email protected]


Audit puts IEBC on the spot over taxpayers’ Sh9bn

By SAMWEL OWINO
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Taxpayers lost a staggering Sh9.5 billion for various contracts awarded for the supply of goods and services during last year’s General Election and repeat presidential poll.

A report by the Auditor General Edward Ouko for the year ended June, 2017 tabled in Parliament on Tuesday afternoon, indicates that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission cannot account for up to Sh9.5 billion.

The report reveals massive wastage of public funds on goods that were procured by the commission that were either not delivered despite payment having been made or delivered but not used.

515 SIM CARDS

Mr Ouko says in his report that despite Sh47 million of taxpayers’ money used to buy the BVR kit internal batteries in January 2017, they have not been used to date for unknown reasons.

The audit reveals that IEBC bought excess data bundles for last years’ August poll where it purchased 149,640.5GB of data bundles valued at Sh127, 625,926 million however only 605.3 GB valued at Sh515, 269 were utilised resulting into a wastage bundles valued at Sh127, 109,656. The bundles were procured from Safaricom, Airtel and Telkom.

The electoral commission at the same time procured 515 SIM cards for the repeat presidential election which were never delivered leading to a loss of Sh4.5 million.

UNLIMITED BUNDLES

The report also indicates that IEBC mismanaged 1,000 Thuraya Modems and SIM cards loaded with data.

The first batch of 700 and 300 Thuraya satellite data modems and SIM cards with unlimited bundles were delivered and distributed to the constituencies before the General Election. However, only 339 modems and cards with data of only 4 GB were used.

“In the circumstances, the lawfulness, authorisation and value for money of the expenditure of Sh119.7 million cannot be confirmed as required under Section 68(1) of the Public Finance and Management Act, 2012,” the report states.

LAMP MANTLES

Mr Ouko further reveals that IEBC procured additional 42,927 ballot boxes for the presidential election at a rate of Sh2,500 instead of Sh2,250 offered by the supplier resulting in an excess payment of Sh10 million.

In the supply of the gas lamp mantles, the report says the contract was irregularly awarded as the winning bidder failed to submit a sample as was indicated in the tender advertisement.

“Records also show that the commission did not eliminate the firms from the process, instead awarded the contract for supplying gas lamp mantles to the same firm at Sh5.5 million,” says Mr Ouko.

EXCESS PAYMENT

An audit verification undertaken in 29 counties indicate inconsistencies in the lamp maintained at IEBC warehouses and those supplied to the constituencies. As a result, 66,540 cannot be accounted for.

The electoral commission is also on the spot over excess payment in the contract of supply and delivery of badges.

The commission according to the report awarded a contract for the supply of and delivery of Sh550, 381 badges to a construction company at Sh44 million. However the auditor points out that the initial cost of the contract was Sh9.5 million resulting to an excess payment of Sh34 million.


Musyoka backs referendum bid, defends Senate

By DAVID MWERE
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By SAMWEL OWINO
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Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka Wednesday supported calls for constitutional review, even as he opposed a bid to scrap the Senate.

Mr Musyoka, who spoke after opening the third African Political Summit, defended his meeting with President Uhuru Kenyatta at State House, Nairobi, on Tuesday, saying it was purely developmental oriented.

“If you have to amend the Constitution, I believe it should be about now. But if you ask me about scrapping the Senate, I will disagree. If anything, let us strengthen it; make it the upper House because that is where you have serious debate,” Mr Musyoka said.

DEVELOPMENT

In the State House meeting, Mr Musyoka was accompanied by a delegation of about 30 elected leaders, among them Senators, MPs, County Speakers and Majority Leaders of his Wiper party.

He presented a nine-point agenda which he said would spur development in Upper Eastern region if implemented. The projects Mr Musyoka wants implemented include upgrading of the Kibwezi-Mutomo-Kitui-Mwingi-Kandwia-Gatunga-Usueni road, Wikithuki Irrigation Scheme in Tseikuru, Kitui County, and construction of Tseikuru Airstrip. Mr Musyoka also wants work on the stalled Kiambere-Mwingi Water and Sanitation project to commence.

DISSOLUTION

The Wiper leader made the remarks just a day after a group of MPs, led by Matungu’s Justus Murunga, called for dissolution of the Senate, the third such proposal this year alone.

The MPs instead called for creation of a committee on Devolution in the National Assembly to take care of the interests of county governments.

A number of women leaders, among them Public Service Cabinet Secretary Margaret Kobia, say they will support a referendum only if it will increase the positions reserved for women.

“Where is the voice of women in the call for constitutional changes? We need to say what needs to be changed in the Constitution,” Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu said in the meeting attended by Prof Kobia at a Nairobi hotel.

Nairobi Woman Representative Esther Passaris said: “We should not be talking about reducing positions for women. We already fought for these positions in 2010.” Council of Governors (CoG) CEO Jacqueline Mogeni said: “We woke up early in the morning in 2010 to vote for the new Constitution and we know our space in it”.

Uasin Gishu County Member of Parliament Gladys Boss Shollei has already tabled a Constitutional Amendment Bill seeking to scrap the Woman Rep seat, while the Thirdway Alliance Kenya wants to reduce MPs from 417 to 194.


Death of Joseph Kamaru and the soundtrack of ‘old’ Africa

By CHARLES ONYANGO-OBBO
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The great Kenyan — and East African — benga and gospel musician Joseph Kamaru died on October 3, 2018 and he was much mourned.

Partly because he sang mostly in Kikuyu, and I was a kid in Kampala during the heady heights of his career, I hardly listened to music. But I had some presentations to being a youth “radical”, which in those days required no more than shouting “Aluta continua!” and “Workers of the world unite!”; so, I knew Kamaru because of political activism.

In the immediate post-Cold War political ferment, when Kenya was really in the doghouse, news of the banning of his song Ndumiriri Kuri Mbeu Njithi (Message to the Young People) was a big deal in East Africa.

CLASS SUICIDE

Kamaru bit the hand that had been feeding him, given his dalliance with President Daniel arap Moi, thus committing his musical version of class suicide.

But even without that, superficially, with his sombrero and beard, Kamaru really looked ‘cool’.

There was something different in the loss of Kamaru. Musicians these days are big and their death — remember the passing on of the prodigiously talented hip-hop artiste E-Sir in 2003? — can, sometimes, hit hard. But in the commentary about Kamaru’s death, it was as if Kenya woke up one morning and someone had stolen Mt Kenya.

THE GREAT BETRAYAL

The reason for that is that, all over Africa, musicians of Kamaru’s generation were always more than musicians. And music was, well, more than music. Music then represented five things, of which every great musician in Africa — from Miriam Makeba in South Africa, Franco Luambo in Congo, Ali Farka Touré in Mali, Umm Kulthum in Egypt, Daudi Kabaka in Kenya, Bi Kidude in Tanzania — had to do at least two well.

They had to make a commentary about the heroism of the independence struggle and reflect on the inequities of the colonialist. Secondly, to celebrate independence and freedom. Thirdly, the Great Betrayal of the promise of independence. Fourthly, soothe the soul of a hurting nation with a love song. And, finally, preach.

VILLAGE HUNT

They had to do a song that bemoaned how our treasured culture was being eroded by foreign ways; the crisis of the African family; the badly behaved children who no longer respected the elders; and those kinds of things. And, though strictly required, there was the liberation of southern Africa to think of; so, dropping Nelson Mandela’s name would not go unnoticed.

It could be done in any order, and a musician didn’t have to be directly political in denouncing bad African rulers. All he had to do was come up with idioms that would be understood to be cocking a snook at Power.

And, for reasons of technology and history, music could never be about the kind of solo star acts of today. It was much like a village hunt, with a band or session musicians accompanying a Kamaru.

RECORD SHOP

The result was that there were many famous people in a band, and some — maybe the drummer, the bass guitarist or saxophonist — would sometimes even be more revered than the front man. The outcome of that was that the next stars were almost all previously band members.

The most dramatic example of this came from present-day DRC and South Africa, especially its jazz. The Main Man was, really, like a parent.

There was a reason for this. Music was a ritual at that point. Today, you can have a favourite song and lose interest in it before you have danced to it. In Kamaru’s time, you both listened and danced. When we were in school, we were taught to dance, and things like how to bow and ask a lady to dance — and how to walk her back to her seat (you didn’t turn away until she was properly sat, etc.).

FRAGILE HOUSEHOLDS

And 18-year-olds reading this should actually believe it; your parents introduced you to most of your music. The Man went to the record shop and bought the vinyl. Mostly, he could play it on the gramophone and later the turntable. There weren’t 200 FM stations to choose from nor cheap Sh750 Chinese radios to buy. So, The Man turned on the radio (in the village he was probably the one who had one) at the time he saw fit for the household.

Those were serious men and women, so musicians had to meet high standards before they could unleash them on their fragile households. Thus when we were little, there were musicians we knew a lot about because our parents talked much about them, not because we listened to their music.

Music has been largely freed from the tyranny of parents, the Church and Mosque, politicians and bureaucrats. And musicians can choose their own fights. The Kamarus didn’t have that much luxury; they were of the people. And, at least once, they stepped forward and fought one good fight for them.

Mr Onyango-Obbo is the publisher of Africapedia.com and explainer Roguechiefs.com. Twitter: @cobbo3


More than 2,000 schools yet to get Class One tablets

By OUMA WANZALA
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Some 2,164 primary schools are yet to benefit from the Class One tablets project, more than two years since it was rolled out.

The one-laptop-per-child idea in Jubilee’s Digital Learning Programme was meant, ostensibly, to entrench information and communication technology (ICT) in teaching. President Uhuru Kenyatta’s flagship programme was initiated in 2013.

Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed admitted there were several challenges when she appeared before the National Assembly Education committee on Tuesday. Ms Mohamed began with a breakdown of distribution of the devices to schools. She said 19,565 out of 21,731 institutions have received them.

THEFT CASES

“Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) has installed devices at 7,256 schools while Moi University has reached 12,309. Overall, 1,067,745 digital devices have been installed,” she said, but added that many specials schools have not received the devices.

Homa Bay County has the highest number of schools — 278 — that are yet to benefit from the project. Siaya follows at 176, and then comes West Pokot at 167 schools and Migori at 165. It is only in Elgeyo/Marakwet that all schools have the tablets.

Regarding the challenges, Ms Mohamed said they include inadequate funds, lack of practice and technophobia. She also cited increased cases of theft of the devices, mishandling and low usage due to poor teacher-ICT integration.

MOBILE PHONES

“There is also lack of internet connectivity. Some teachers use their mobile phones to access an appropriate app to download content for teaching,” she said, adding that infrastructure is inadequate as some schools do no have designated ICT rooms.

The minister also noted that training has not been completed due to delayed funding. She added: “Most counties had the National Optic Fibre Backbone (NOFBI) that terminated at the county headquarters with no link distribution.”

The CS said, however, that the government is determined to finalise device deployment to all schools and increase usage and security.

TRAINED TEACHERS

Ms Mohamed told the committee, chaired by Julius Melly (Tinderet) that 91,000 Class One to Three teachers had been trained. Two teachers from each public primary school were taken through the Digital Literacy Programme, she said, but noted that delayed funding has affected this.

Ms Mohamed also said secondary schoolteachers were trained to champion integration in teaching and learning in each of the 325 sub-counties. The training was conducted in two phases, phase one having 156 champions and phase two with 175.

The CS wants regional training hubs for teachers especially during holidays. “This can be forums to build competencies, share experiences and enhance professional collaboration. Each school should have at least one trained teacher who is passionate and conversant with use of digital devices.” She said 23,851 schools have benefited from the electrification project.


Sugar rules won’t end woes

By EDITORIAL
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The long suffering of sugarcane farmers in western Kenya could just get worse with the government planning to introduce rules that clearly go against the liberalisation that was meant to revolutionise the sugar industry. If enacted, the proposed Crops (Sugar) Regulations 2018 will confine cane farmers to supplying millers within their zones. This is bound to make life even more difficult for farmers, who will find themselves having to sell their crop to the same companies that cannot pay them.

The move is meant to address what is commonly known as cane poaching and enable millers to recoup investments in supporting farmers. While the zoning might work where firms are still vibrant, it will condemn others to more agony. It makes absolutely no sense to require farmers who have not been paid for a long time to continue sending their produce to the same firms. There is a serious problem here that calls for a comprehensive solution.

INDUSTRY QUAGMIRE

The rules, though well intentioned, are not the remedy to the current crisis. There is a need to revitalise the industry by coming up with pro-farmer policies.

A recent crackdown on contraband sugar partly revealed what ails the industry. Cartels behind the smuggling of sugar have largely contributed to the collapse of the once vibrant government-owned owned firms. The loopholes exploited by the cartels must be sealed.

There are calls for bailouts, but the government appears reluctant, as previous cash injections have not made much difference. However, the apparent turn-around in the fortunes of coffee farmers in central Kenya is an indication that this is a possible solution. The sugar industry quagmire is a wake-up call to seek a lasting solution. This should include modernising the factories and research to lower the cost of production, which makes our sugar much less competitive in the region.


Road carnage shows a failed safety drive

By EDITORIAL
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Once again, the country has been thrown into mourning following the deadly bus crash that claimed at least 55 lives on the Londiani-Muhoroni road in the wee hours of Wednesday. The number is likely to rise and, by all counts, the accident stands out as one of the most horrific in recent months.

It is quite painful that the country continues to lose lives every so often through avoidable accidents. Road safety campaigns seem to have failed and we have resigned to fate. We cannot accept that fatalistic proposition. The police and the National Transport and Safety Authority, which are charged with keeping order on the roads, must take full responsibility for the endless carnage.

REGULATION ENFORCEMENT

All indications point to the same causes of poor judgment and speeding. Possibly, the driver was tired and overstretched as he did the night shift. Unfortunately, after the crash, the NTSA was quick to report that the bus company had not been licensed to operate at night. Which brings to the fore the question: What became of regulation enforcement? Where was the NTSA all this time as the bus company — and, we believe, many more others — were flouting the rules? What about the police, who man the roadblocks?

Predictably, the NTSA and the police will start an aggressive campaign, ostensively to create order on the roads. But that only goes on for a few weeks and they go back to slumber until another disaster strikes.

PUBLIC SERVICE VEHICLES

Greed and indiscipline are the major causes of such gruesome deaths. Operators of public service vehicles are engaged in a rat race to make money and force drivers to do the near-impossible, with catastrophic effects. Yet this is abetted by the police and the NTSA officials, who, though responsible for enforcing controls and regulations, always look the other way as road rogues have a field day.

While we treasure free market principles, which extend to a 24-hour economy, the regulations on night travel ought to be tightened. The liberal view is that PSV operators have the liberty to do their business day and night if approved by the NTSA. But when the operators fail to play by the rules, then they must face sanctions. They must be penalised for their excesses.

KNEE-JERK REACTIONS

Stiff action must be taken against the bus company, which has clearly flouted the rules. However, the police and NTSA must take their work seriously. Continuous enforcement of traffic rules and regulations is a must. They must avoid knee-jerk reactions.

The Kenya National Highways Authority must provide signs on all dangerous spots along the highways to warn drivers appropriately. We must not condone senseless deaths on our roads just because of poor driving and non-enforcement of rules. 


Fairtrade ready to help food firms move to self-certification

* Fairtrade looks to coach companies on in-house certification

* Certifier working combat deforestation, child labour

By Ana Ionova

LONDON, Oct 10 (Reuters) – The Fairtrade Foundation said on Wednesday it wanted to help food companies create their own schemes to ensure farmers in developing nations were treated fairly, even if the firms want to drop the Fairtrade mark.

In return for using its logo, Fairtrade sets standards to ensure companies pay a minimum price for cocoa, coffee, tea, bananas and other goods so farmers in developing nations receive better returns and have a safety net if world prices slump.

But Fairtrade has seen several big buyers pull back from its mark and set up their own models for sustainable sourcing.

“There have been concerns expressed that big companies will not in the future be using the Fairtrade mark,” said Lord Mark Price, chairman of Fairtrade Foundation’s board of trustees.

“In those circumstances, the role of Fairtrade moves on. The role of Fairtrade is to help those organisations be the best they can be,” he said.

Mondelez International, owner of chocolate brands Cadbury and Toblerone, has gradually moved to its own “Cocoa Life” standard, developed with input from Fairtrade.

Sainsbury’s replaced the Fairtrade mark on its own-brand tea last year with its pilot “Fairly Traded” version, saying farmers received “above and beyond” what they were receiving under the Fairtrade scheme.

Fairtrade said it championed what it termed authentic and transparent self-certification and said it was ready to support companies in their efforts to develop robust in-house schemes.

“We’re not abandoning certification – far from it,” Fairtrade CEO Michael Gidney said. “What we are doing is we’re developing new ways of working with companies, large and small.”

The group was also taking steps to attract more companies to Fairtrade and was working to improve its standards on issues like child labour and deforestation, Gidney said.

Certification schemes have faced some criticism for not doing enough to tackle issues such as poverty, child labour and deforestation in supply chains, while firms have been criticised for trying to water down standards.

Mars Wrigley Confectionery said last month it would only increase cocoa volumes bought from independent certifiers if it saw improvements in the standards of such schemes.

But it said Fairtrade maintained that ensuring payment of a premium and a minimum price for goods to farmers was central to its model, especially as coffee and other commodity prices have plunged. (Reporting by Ana Ionova Editing by Edmund Blair)