Main Menu

Tuesday, October 16th, 2018


Governors must stop populist politics with national assets

More by this Author

I accuse the Governor of Murang’a, Mr Mwangi wa Iria, of engaging in populism. He must be stopped from inciting and psyching the ordinary man and women in that county into believing that residents of Murang’a are entitled to special and superior rights over other Kenyans when it comes to water resources in their area.

The governor and his cronies are riding on the crest of a high-profile populist campaign branded ‘our water, our oil’ and couched as a fight for water rights. He has been on a roller-coaster campaign characterised by well-attended rallies — his supporters and local leaders turning out dressed in branded ‘our water, our oil’ T-shirts — as they take turns to mouth strident rhetoric about how foreign counties have been infringing on the water rights of the people of Murang’a.


Listening to remarks made at a rally at Ihura, what you hear and see are politically charged local leaders engaged in a populist campaign aimed at stoking what I would describe as a new strain of ‘Murang’a nationalism’ — all couched as a fight for water rights of the people.

I am surprised that the goings-on in Murang’a have not elicited national outrage. We are taking a big risk because such a campaign can easily be copied by populists from other parts of the country thus spiralling out of control into a national crisis.

Because water resources cut across borders of counties, water disputes between counties can explode at any time. Where does the water in Nakuru flow from? What if Baringo started to demand to charge levies on water flowing from there into Nakuru?


We have five main water towers in the country, namely, Mt Kenya, the Aberdare Ranges, Cherengani, Mt Elgon and the Mau Forest Complex. In addition, we have several other small water towers.

In initiating the campaign, the governor has approached a complex issue in a very simplistic manner. Indeed, the right to use a specific portion of the flow of a river — at a particular part of the stream- is a complex policy question that can hardly be approached by the theatrics we have seeing in Murang’a recently.

As East Africans, we have had to sign complex agreements with Egypt over the use of Lake Victoria – the source of river Nile. I read somewhere that under a benchmarks known as the Colorado principle, you are not allowed to injure water rights of others.


But what makes the happenings in Murang’a pose even more national risk is the fact that that the structure of the water sector itself renders it vulnerable to tacky jurisdictional disputes.

Courtesy of the World Bank-supported reforms, we ended up with multiple institutions — the Water Services, Regulatory Board, Water Resources Management Authority, Water Management Boards, Water Service Providers. Talk of functional overlaps.

The 2010 Constitution and the advent of devolution, complete with a new breed of local megalomaniacs in the name of governors, county ministers and county assembly members added to create an environment prone to endless fights and unnecessary power plays.


When Wa Iria and company compare the situation in Turkana, which has been allowed to earn oil revenues, they are engaged in comparing apples to oranges. Water resources, unlike oil, are shared between counties.

Still, it seems to me that we will have to encourage local elites to see the big picture and to refrain from saddling the oil exploration projects there with too many parochial demands.

Most of Kenya’s oil discoveries have been in Turkana. Yet, after that oil has been drilled and mined, it has to be transported by pipeline to refineries and by ships to markets where it is sold.

What if leaders from the counties that neighbour Turkana-namely- Trans Nzoia and Baringo – start mobilising communities to demand that a levy be paid to the county before they can allow the oil pipeline from Turkana to pass through their counties to Mombasa?


We must encourage our governors to approach issues with broad minds and to appreciate interdependence between the regions of the country.

The biggest risk we must fight is stopping the spread of populists who incite the public to make unwarranted parochial claims against national assets. If we don’t manage and deal with these issues urgently, it should not surprise if a populist pops out some day in Mombasa County to starts demanding a levy on the port of Mombasa?

Even the fight by Wa Iria to forcefully take control of the Murang’a Water Services Company, Muwasco, has serious national implications.

Were other governors to follow his example and start fighting to forcefully take over water companies, the circumstances will impede the flow of funds from donors and international lending agencies into the sector.

The Murang’a water sector has many international institutions, including the World Bank and the African Development Bank. International lending institutions abhor chaos.

Beware, our fiscal recklessness could be coming home to roost

More by this Author

The fiscal recklessness of the Kenyan government is coming home to roost for the Kenyan government.

In the same breath, we should remember that governments borrow on behalf of its citizens in theory for the ultimate benefit of those citizens. If it borrows wisely and prudently for projects that give value for money, with the relevant multiplier benefits, that is money well spent. If it does not, then its citizens get shackled with debt it has little to show for it.

Governments come and go but the debt burden incurred on behalf of its citizens lasts long after. And it is a burden because the citizens have to pay dearly for it out of their taxes year in, year out. That means a chunk of the money extracted from us by the government goes straight into debt repayment and interest charges instead of paying for goods and services.


The money diverted to debt servicing does not go into improving health and education facilities, for example, but paying for the relevant projects contracted over the past years. For example, the SGR debt repayment and interest is around Sh1.4 billion monthly.

This arguably biggest of the mega infrastructural projects, SGR I and II, has been trumpeted as one of the great feats the Jubilee government has pulled off. But besides the massive cost factor versus value for money, one must measure other key factors, such its overall value to the citizens.


The May 2017 cartoon of the SGR passing through protesting citizens carrying placards with demands for affordable unga comes to mind. SGR is, so far, a great boon for the middle class and, in time, possibly our commercial transport needs. But could it have cost less, so that the overstretched and underfunded budgets for basics got the money instead? When and whether its huge cost will be justified is an open question.

Now, the World Bank has raised a red flag over this propensity for expensive mega projects. It has also questioned a related area: The predisposition for wastefulness in the public sector in the form of poor value for money spent and its massive public wage bill. It argues that it crowds out development expenditure, which is one of the keys to sustainable economic health and growth. The bank casts the net wider to include county governments.


A wander around the Nairobi County government offices recently reminded me just how poor and disjointed the service delivery of that entity is. To get a correct rates invoice often requires one to take in all the payment slips to be correctly posted. That is just one aspect of service delivery. The actual service delivery and record is chequered — except, maybe, in the clamping of vehicles!

Another fiscal red flag is that we often resort to borrowing expensively locally and internationally instead of going down the road of much cheaper concessional debt. One of the reasons local banks still make good money is, they have a large guaranteed borrower: The government. It borrows expensively, often locally, to plug its ever-recurrent deficits.


Take a look at the overall figure. Around 94 per cent of tax revenue goes into recurrent expenditure. Of this, 40 per cent pays salaries and wages and another 24 per cent goes toward debt servicing. As a result, development expenditure gets cut and cut even more.

Another area that needs to be questioned is the unrealistic, often delusional, forecasting of growth rates and revenues. The government tends to use figures projecting growth in excess of seven per cent when, in reality, we have been witnessing an average growth rate of around 5.5 per cent.


Realistic forecasts of revenue put the figure at around Sh1.60 trillion. The government is working on a basis of increasing this by over 20 per cent. This is clearly not going to happen unless a miracle happens.

Therefore, the government is going to fall well short of revenue versus expenditure, which means the axe will need to fall real hard and fast in several areas. Hence, delay in Sh200 billion pending bills and a cacophony of short-changed county governments.

The World Bank is being polite about the fiscal mess and dilemma. If radical surgery does not take place to remedy the growing maladies, then we are in for big trouble. The borrowing window is closing.

Leading change in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world

More by this Author

We live in a VUCA world. That is, a world of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.

In this context, we need a different kind of leadership — a versatile, adaptive leadership that embraces the challenges and opportunities that come with relentless change. A versatile leadership calls for a constant balance between strategic and operational leadership on the one axis and forceful but enabling leadership on the other.


To achieve that balance, we must first cast off some myths about leadership. We do not, for example, lead alone, and nor are we leaders because of a title or a position. Leadership, in other words, isn’t about authority. It’s also not about delegating all the work to a few hard-working souls while everybody else warily watches, hoping that The Boss doesn’t catch their eye.

Leadership is about influence. And in this VUCA world, that influence comes through robust stakeholder management, collaboration and the destruction of silos. That is the only way to guide our organisations through complex strategic threats that can take years to navigate.


All of these skills require consistent, clear, honest and wise communication. In years past, leaders considered communication a necessary evil, an ancillary skill. That is no longer true. Today, effective communication and effective leadership go hand in hand.

Effective leadership explains both the “what” and the “why” to their teams and to external stakeholders. In this world of instant, non-stop information, strong leadership means being proactive about key developments, about both good news and bad news. Good leadership means shaping the narrative — especially when we are pushing our people through dramatic change.


Moving our teams toward change also entails sacrifice and forces people out of comfort zones. Leadership must consider: What are we asking people to give up or adopt? How are we asking them to do this? Are we sending clear and effective signals to our teams, our stakeholders?

A recent Harvard Business Review article noted: “Leaders too often express what they want in terms not of outcomes but of tasks and they rarely, if ever, make clear the full extent of the change they are asking for. It’s also much easier to jump from ‘We need to change’ to ‘Here’s what to do’ than it is to thrash out the difficult trade-offs involved. Left to their own devices, many leadership teams shortchange the questions of what they want the change to achieve, and why.”


How are we cultivating emerging leaders within our organisations? Is this grounded in strong values of adaptive leadership, and are links clearly drawn to the sustainability of the organisation?

In this VUCA world, is our leadership focused on building organisations that understand and create effective customer journeys as a means of constant reinvention, and staying ahead of the competition? How are we taking advantage of today’s powerful analytical tools and behavioural science models as we face our long-term challenges?


In fact adaptive, agile leadership and powerful communication are the anchors of the new world of work. I know how hard it is for them to grapple with the complicated changes their organisations face. But the urgent truth is that today’s leaders must not only steer their organisations through deep and complex change; they must evolve.

Otherwise, they — and their organisations — will go the way of the dinosaur.

Mr Oduor-Otieno is a facilitator of the executive education programme at The Aga Khan University Graduate School of Media and Communications.

Act to stop violation of right to safe food

More by this Author

The past few months have seen an immense violation of Kenyans’ right to food. From mercury-laced sugar to expired rice and sub-standard cooking oil to aflatoxin-infected maize and calcium carbide-ripened fruits.

Not long ago, the lobby Consumer Downtown Association reported cases of rejected products destined for the European Union that were sold in the local market. In January, Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro) announced an outbreak of aflatoxin in certain maize-growing areas.

Food contamination has increased with unscrupulous traders selling such products to consumers and rogue port officials working in cahoots with cartels to clear sub-standard imported foodstuff.


Sadly, the government seems to have failed to protect its citizens in this regard.

The Kenyan food safety control system is multi-sectoral with the various Acts of Parliament implemented by different organs — such as the Health and Agriculture ministries, Kenya Bureau of Standards and Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services.

The spreading of the 22 laws across different agencies makes it difficult to pinpoint who is responsible for food safety. The enactment of the National Food Safety Coordination Committee has not yielded much either. It has failed to provide information to consumers or coordinate and monitor food safety activities as mandated.


There is a compelling need for President Uhuru Kenyatta to act and end the crisis. Food safety and quality control are issues of national importance that require swift intervention. Reforms in the agencies entrusted with food safety are key in making sure that consumers have safe food that is fit for consumption.

Coordination of activities and harmonisation of the regulatory and institutional framework is essential. Further, there is a need to make the National Food and Nutrition Security Policy (2011) an Act of Parliament — providing a binding agreement between agencies and citizens.

Again, unregulated imports are pushing small-scale farmers, who depend on agriculture for their livelihood, out of the market, threatening the consumers’ right to safe food. The government ought to ensure adequate support for sustainable and safe food production methods such as ecological farming, especially among smallholder farmers.


Ecological farming does not contaminate the food or the environment with chemicals, thus ensuring local stable supply of safe and healthy food. This can be achieved through increased resource allocation, deployment of agricultural officers and providing organic farm inputs to farmers.

The President should also ensure that there are robust measures to combat impunity within the food sector and that there are regulatory provisions and clear standardisation systems that can trace supplies through the value chain.

Tuesday was World Food Day. It is time the National Food Safety Coordination Committee effectively carried out its mandate. Food safety is critical to good health, essential for the growth of the economy.

Strategy needed for the country to achieve zero hunger by 2030

More by this Author

Even as the world strives to achieve zero hunger by 2030, food insecurity, under-nutrition and income inequality remain high in Kenya.

Statistics show that 26 per cent of children under five years suffer from stunted growth and 11 per cent underweight.

The statistics contained in the recent report by the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation released at the celebrations of the World Food Day on Tuesday also shows that 12 per cent of Kenyan households have unacceptable levels of food consumption.


With such findings, is the quest to achieve zero hunger in Kenya by 2030 plausible?

The Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation is leading government efforts to implement Sustainable Development Goal 2 (SDG 2).

The ministry notes in its report, that food insecurity, under-nutrition and income inequality remain high despite rapid economic growth.

While the proportion of under-weight children under five decreased from 22.3 per cent in 1990 to 11 per cent in 2014, the proportion of the population below minimum level of dietary energy consumption was still below the recommended level.


From 2010 to 2030, it is estimated that under-nutrition will cost Kenya $38.3 billion (Sh3.8trillion) in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) due to losses in workforce productivity.

According to Chief Administrative Secretary at the ministry, Dr Andrew Tuimur, World Food Day is currently supporting 1.3 million people who are food insecure every year.

“This is the group that the government is saying should be able to have enough food so that we don’t have to distribute food now and then,” he said.

Dr Tuimur said: “In 2017, 3.4 million Kenyans were exposed to severe food insecurity. The number of food insecure Kenyans ranges between 2.5 to 3.4 million during the drought seasons,” adding, “With such figures is zero hunger by 2030 achievable? With concerted efforts it can be done. We produce a lot of food. It is just that a lot of it get wasted and does not get to those that need it. The county governments should be able to support their people in dealing with the problem of food waste.”


Kenya loses about 30 per cent of what comes from the farms to post-harvest waste. According to the speakers there is also need to help the farmers eliminate post-harvest losses to bridge the gap from both ends that is production and accessibility. Rural households in Kenya were found to be food insecure than urban households at 14 per cent and nine per cent respectively with almost one in 10 rural households having low dietary diversity.

However, food security is not just a rural problem, in Nairobi 19,000 households experience poor food consumption, while 77,000 households experience borderline levels.

According to the Towards Zero Hunger Strategic Review 2018, which takes stock of the current status and trends in food, nutrition and agricultural in Kenya, food and nutrition insecurity is one of the major challenges currently affecting development in Kenya and is closely linked to the high level of poverty in the country.


One third of Kenyans live below the poverty line ($1.90 per day) according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

According to World Food Program Kenya country director, Ms Annalisa Conte, food security includes good nutrition and quality.

Most of the hunger prone areas are located in Arid and Semi Arid Lands (Asals). Turkana stands out as food insecure county compared to others — almost one in five households (19 per cent) have poor levels of food consumption and a further 24 per cent of households have borderline levels of food consumption.

The next most food insecure counties (by Food Consumption Score) are Samburu, Tana River, Baringo, West Pokot, Busia and Siaya, respectively.


The four arid counties of Marsabit, Mandera, Garissa and Wajir are relatively food secure — because their high milk consumption inflates their score.

Kenya Vision 2030 and its second Medium-Term Plan (MTP II) 2013 — 2017 outlines agriculture as a key driver of an anticipated 10 per cent annual economic growth.

The ministry emphasises that sustained agricultural growth is important in attaining the targets of SDG 2 as well as facilitating the attainment of the other SDGs.

According to the ministry document, households headed by women are more likely to be food insecure than those headed by men — 16 per cent and 10 per cent, respectively.


The government acknowledges the slow progress towards food and nutrition security.

According to World Food Program Kenya country director Ms Annalisa Conte, “There is a partial overlap between poverty and food insecurity. In the past there has never really been a focus in achieving zero hunger, we have only been talking about reducing poverty which is related to food security.”

According to her, those in the rural areas are also ending up buying food with many going hungry because they cannot afford to buy food.

The big question remains whether Kenya will achieve zero hunger by 2030.

On food, move from intention to action

More by this Author

Access to food is increasingly becoming a major challenge in the country. Many families cannot afford a decent meal in a day, a matter that brings to question the viability of our food policy and practices. On paper, agriculture is the mainstay of the country’s economy. Underlying this is the conception that the country has capacity to feed her people and produce more food for export. But that is not the reality on the ground.

A new United Nation’s agency’s publication released Tuesday to mark the World Food Day, ‘Zero Hunger Strategic Review Report’, paints an unedifying picture of Kenya’s food security status. About 14 percent of households in rural areas lacks access to quality food, yet these are the areas that should be producing crops to feed the nation. The situation is not any better in urban areas, where the food deficit among households stands at nine percent.


Statistical evidence presented in the report shows the problem is not just access but also the quality of food. Many families may have food but of low quality, which leads to stunting and other health risks that have long-term effects.

But the situation is hardly surprising. Every often, the country is afflicted with severe famine when crops fail because of low rains. It all relates to agriculture strategy and execution. First, agriculture and for that matter food production is tied to rain. Despite all the evidence demonstrating the unviability of rain-fed agriculture, little has been done to transit to irrigation and technology. Even more upsetting is the fact that the outputs of irrigation projects are never worth writing home about. Some are purely conduits for siphoning government money. Galana-Kulalu at the Coast is one of the recent multi-billion-shilling food production projects that have failed miserably.


Added to this is the general mismanagement of the sector best manifested in the way farm produce and farmers are handled. Maize is perennially left to rot in the field for lack of markets and farmers who deliver to the National Produce and Cereals Board wait for so long for payment. The board itself has been taken over by cartels just like many other agriculture agencies. Put simply, the entire process of food production, harvesting, distribution and marketing are poorly managed and requires shake-up.

Even so, it is notable that the government has prioritised food security, one of the four pillars primed to drive the economy in the next four years. The challenge is to rise above mere intention to providing solid support to realise food sufficiency. The government must push the agenda to end perennial hunger.

Shoddy books big shame

More by this Author

The withdrawal of two English textbooks from the school curriculum over questionable content is an indictment of the quality control systems in the Ministry of Education.

It is even more disgraceful that the books have been in use since the beginning of the year and that they were specifically published for the new curriculum to be rolled out in January.

Still, it took the intervention of keen parents, who raised their concerns through an aggressive social media campaign, for the publisher, the Jomo Kenyatta Foundation, to capitulate under the mounting pressure and recall the books.


It may well be argued that these are only two books out of hundreds being used in primary and secondary schools and that such recalls, while not uncommon, are few and far between. Unfortunately, this incident raises a poignant question on the preparedness of the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development to shepherd the country into the new curriculum in just two months.

If it’s the KICD’s sole mandate to evaluate and approve all learning materials, it has failed in its basic performance indicator.


Were the books taken through the usual stringent quality vetting systems? Was it laxity or sloppiness by the employees responsible for approving books? Could some steps in the approvals have been compromised deliberately? The least the institute can do is to answer these and other relevant questions besides explaining to the public how it plans to seal the loopholes.

Notably, the director has been quick to apologise to the public for the blunders but the offensive content may already have caused damage to the young minds. The institute must immediately undertake a review of its procedures to avoid such errors. More importantly, it must identify the those responsible for the errors and facilitate investigations and punishment of culprits.

Man who killed father to live in State hostel

More by this Author

A 20-year-old who killed his father will be sent to a State probation hostel after his uncles rejected him.

Patrick Mwangi Munyiri was found guilty of manslaughter on his own plea by Nyeri High Court Judge Teresia Matheka.

State counsel Kennedy Magoma asked the court to give Munyiri a five-year prison term.

The court settled on a non-custodial sentence, citing Munyiri’s background and circumstances of the killing.


Munyiri stabbed 42-year-old Samuel Mwangi Munyiri in Gatwe village, Mathira constituency, on October 13, 2017.

“The probation department says the young man’s uncles are opposed to his return,” the judge said.

The court was told that his mother and seven-year-old sister want him back home.


“Munyiri’s mother Ann Wakonyu has forgiven him. His sibling cannot really tell what happened. The uncles say his mother did not bring him up properly,” the judge said.

However, the court was quick to add that disciplining a child is not the responsibility of the mother alone.

“The woman also suffered the loss of her husband,” Justice Matheka said, adding that the young man had attempted suicide five times before killing his father.

Munyiri was 19 when he committed the offence. He often got into rows with his father as he did not like school.


“He had just been suspended from boarding school and told to sit the national examinations while commuting from home,” the prosecution said.

Ms Wakonyu said her husband arrived home drunk around 10pm. She served him supper and retired to bed.

She said her son arrived minutes later and went to a room next to the main house when his father confronted him demanding to know where he was and if he was ready for the exams.


She told the court that she heard the son say he was looking for money to repair his phone. The young man then locked himself in his room.

She said her husband broke the door and got into the room.

“A moment later, I heard him scream, ‘Patrick, you’ve stabbed me’. I rushed to the room as my son was running away with a bloody knife,” she said.

Pluralism key to peace, progress, says Aga Khan

More by this Author

The Aga Khan has noted the importance of pluralism in tackling increasing fragmentation and confrontation in the world. In an interview with IB Magazine, the global leader of the Shia Ismaili Muslims, and respected philanthropist, praised pluralism as the “indispensable foundation for human peace and progress”.

“The human society is essentially pluralist, and awareness of the diverse contributions of people, across times and cultures, to global civilisation is essential in engendering respect and understanding,” he said.


He was speaking about the decision for Aga Khan academies to take the International Baccalaureate (IB) model, which he praised for its innovative approach to learning and promotion of multi-cultural experiences.

“Mutual understanding and respect do not come naturally, they must be taught and experienced. The academies work to create an integrated global community that encompasses economic, ethnic, religious and geographic diversity. We believe students draw valuable life lessons not only from learning together but also from living together — especially if the mix is diverse,” he said.


He said, however, that it is hard to find teachers trained to embrace the IB model, especially in countries where the form of learning is rote rather than enquiry-based. “We need to reframe the role of the teacher, develop students’ ownership of their learning and support teachers in using multidisciplinary methods,” he said.

“This requires emphasis of appropriate recruitment and robust professional development. The academies provide education for teachers through professional development centres.”

Maribe: I have cooperated with police, free me

More by this Author

TV Journalist Jacque Maribe wants to be freed on bail, saying there are no compelling reasons to continue holding her.

In an affidavit filed in court through lawyer Katwa Kigen, Ms Maribe said she was not involved in the murder of Ms Monica Kimani, was not at the crime scene, and did not know Ms Kimani.

Further, she said, she allowed the police into her house, handed over her mobile phone, and has co-operated with the police during the investigations. She said she has not been in contact with any of the intended prosecution witnesses.


“I have co-operated with investigators and any association against me with the alleged murder, if any, is wholly weak circumstantial association,” she said in the affidavit.

Ms Maribe, 30, was arrested on September 29 over the murder of Ms Kimani, 28. She and her fiancé, Mr Joseph Kuria Irungu, have denied killing Ms Kimani, whose body was found in the bathtub at her Lamuria Gardens apartment on September 19.

Although the prosecution opposes their release on bond, Ms Maribe said she is not a flight risk and willingly availed herself on nine occasions to the police.


“I am a well-known TV journalist. Most Kenyans are conversant with my job and can easily spot me anywhere, making it impossible to jump bail,” she said.

She added that she is willing to surrender her passport to the court, adding that as single mother she is the sole provider for her child.

But prosecutor Catherine Mwiniki opposes her release on bond through an affidavit, saying several witnesses set to testify against the two need protection, and that the investigations go beyond Kenya.

The two will appear in court today for the hearing of their bail application.


In an affidavit filed in court, the investigating officer said investigations so far has placed Mr Irungu at the scene of crime, but they are yet to arrest a suspect who was with him in the vehicle after he allegedly committed the crime. The affidavit says that the vehicle used after the crime was Ms Maribe’s.

Further, the officer said, the investigations will go beyond Kenyan borders. Ms Kimani had just arrived from South Sudan the day she was killed.

Among the witnesses set to testify is a person who saw Ms Irungu burning some clothes on the night Ms Kimani was murdered. The clothes were allegedly burnt at Ms Maribe’s house in Lang’ata and the witness, who was in their company, positively identified the clothes.

She argues that her child will suffer if she remains in custody until the conclusion of the trial.