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November, 2018


More than 30,000 people affected by floods in Paraguay

A. Situation analysis

Description of the disaster

In Asunción, 30,225 people (6,085 families) were evacuated to 109 temporary collective centres set up by the Municipality of Asunción and one collective centre managed by the National Emergency Secretariat in a military site in Bañado Tacumbú. On 1 November 2018, the Asunción municipal government declared a 90-day citywide emergency. Over the last few weeks, the number of affected people has increased, and the Paraguayan government has had to evacuate them and install improvised temporary lodgings to house them. The rains are expected to continue, putting those who have chosen to remain in their home at risk and threatening to increase the affected population’s humanitarian needs. To date, there has been 1,561.7 mm of rainfall in the affected area from 1 January 2018 to 23 November 2018, including a sharp increase from October to November 2018; the rainfall total for 2018 is 350.8 mm higher than the yearly average for the affected region2. The unusually heavy rainfall has oversaturated the soil in the affected area and put riverine communities in danger, and recent forecasts suggest that the rainfall will continue unabated, further worsening the situation. The perilousness of the affected communities, the forecasts of additional rainfall and the precipitous rise in rainfall in November prompted the PRC to request a Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF).

The most affected areas are to the south of Asunción along the banks of the Paraguay River known as Bañado Sur, which includes the neighbourhoods of Tacumbú, Santa Ana, San Cayetano, Sajonia and Yukyty; to the north in Bañado Norte, including the neighbourhoods of Tablada Nueva, Mburicaó and Banco San Miguel; and the area of La Chacarita area, including the neighbourhoods of 3 de Febrero, Oriental, Resistencia, San Pedro, San Vicente and San Felipe. The impact suffered by families in Bañado Norte and Bañado Sur can mainly be attributed to three factors: a) the unusual flooding of the Paraguay River; b) recent road works; and c) poor coordination between the institutions working in the affected area. There are many risks in the collective centres, beginning with the lack of space for the families that will continue to be evacuated and the uneasy coexistence with residents due to the occupation of public spaces.

According to the Hydrometeorological Report issued for the Paraguay River by the Meteorology and Navigation Directorate on 19 November 2018, the atypical flooding is due to the significant amount of rainfall recorded in the last week in the Paraguay River’s middle basin. In Asunción, the Paraguay River has already exceeded critical levels (5.50 m), and according to predictions, the river will reach a height of seven metres in December 2018 (8 metres for total evacuation)3, surpassing alert levels. Moreover, it is likely that levels will progressively increase due to the rains seen in recent days.

Indiscipline in schools: Parents only reaping what they sowed

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Lack of discipline in schools neither started with Ambira Boys, nor will it end with whatever punishment the eight louts, who grossly abused two Cabinet secretaries, receive after more than a week in police and prison custody.

Indeed, indiscipline in institutions of learning, right from kindergarten to university, has a rich history and, as any teacher will attest, there will never come a time when corrective action will be unnecessary.

Schools are a microcosm of society, and society will always require policing. In fact, crime and punishment are inevitable for, however benign the laws may be, there will always be people who will break them.

Some will do so as a form of rebellion against injustice, others through sheer stupidity, while a vast majority will deliberately ignore the law because they want to benefit themselves or because they are simply anti-social.

That is why there will be bullies, thieves, rapists, murderers, and other miscreants in society who will require to be disciplined.

It would be impossible for any society to function without laws and agencies to enforce them.

In the wider society, if you make a habit of breaking the law, the police will sooner or later catch up with you and the courts will send you to jail.

Should any of these institutions fail, then society will become dysfunctional, and people will resort to “mob justice”.

Thus the reality is, people are, on the whole, unable to govern themselves, hence the need for stringent enforcement of the law.


The same applies to schools which can only function if there is strict adherence to the letter and spirit of the law, in the absence of which everyone is a loser.

But what has this to do with the juvenile delinquents who were filmed abusing Education CS Amina Mohamed and Interior CS Fred Matiang’i?

And what has it to do with the reaction of Kenyans who argue that the boys who gloated they had stolen examinations are too young to discipline and should instead be counselled?

In my view, there is nothing wrong with such arguments. Prison custody is not the best environment for people who are underage and who have not committed the most heinous of crimes.

Without attempting to prejudice the ruling of the court on December 3, it is difficult to see these fellows being jailed over the words they uttered while inebriated, unless it is proved that they, indeed, cheated during the Form Four exams. It is not advisable to use a studded club to brain a gnat.


However, the sentiments expressed by some commentators in social media and even a few advocates are extremely disquieting.

They say the boys did no wrong because whatever they uttered they learnt from politicians who were never punished for it.

Others claim that no crime was committed and the boys should not have been arrested in the first place. They argue that the decision to remand the eight boys was “a high-handed executive decision to punish children”, with the willing connivance of the court.

In my view, some of these reactions are tantamount to political posturing. There is no earthly reason why the police should not have arrested those boys.

The vile names they called CS Mohamed were unjustified. Also, someone has conveniently forgotten that the no-nonsense Fred Matiang’i is in charge of the Police Service.

If you were a senior policeman, what would you do if a group of brats gratuitously insulted your boss for doing his job? Look the other way?

I add my voice to those calling for the boys’ release, but not because they were within their constitutional right to call a minister prostitute.

I do so only because they have suffered enough over a stupid escapade and jailing them will probably destroy their future.

However, even if they are let off the hook, presumably with an appropriate reprimand, there are a few lessons Kenyans should learn.

The first is that parents have taken to coddling their children too much and thereby lost the plot. The inevitable outcome is mounting indiscipline.

The spate of school fires that have, seemingly, become part of the curriculum every second term of the year are a case in point.

When dormitories are set ablaze, we grope around for explanations and, in the end, make teachers the most convenient scapegoats.

Very few voices are raised over the way parents are bringing up their children, or about all the crazy rules which have made school authorities unable to instil discipline.


The second is that some of us went through high schools in which discipline was legendary and it did not in any way harm our educational pursuits.

We were caned by the deputy headmaster for indiscipline and suspended by the headmaster when our contraventions were more serious.

Today, no headteacher dares suspend a student without the school board’s express permission. As a result, it is possible for a student to insult his teacher or even beat him up, knowing well that nothing will happen.

The festive season is here. Try and get an ethical gift

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Festival parties are stealthily taking up space in our minds together with gift purchasing, which is synonymous with the Festive Season.

Most of us are expecting to give gifts to (and receive from) workmates, friends and family. If you are serious about gifts, you know how much thought is given to each one.

You study the individual you are to gift, their personality, what would impress them and finally, how much the gift will set you back financially.

However, there’s a new lens through which you must view gifts purchasing: The Ethical Lens.

Every year, thousands of gifts are exchanged. How and where they were purchased are not appropriate questions to ask as a receiver of any gift.

A receiver’s role is to cheerfully accept the neatly wrapped surprise. However, as the gift giver, it is imperative that you ask this question: How ethical is this gift?

Responsible consumption and production is the Sustainable Development Goal 12. To achieve it, we urgently need to rethink and change the way we produce and consume resources.

With this in mind, gifts take on a whole new perspective and become moral. Thus, an ethical gift is one that takes into account how its production and consumption affects others and the environment.

Purchasing ethical gifts doesn’t make gift purchasing a chore but rather an adventure. It forces us to think outside the proverbial box and find out what else is “out there” besides buying new things.

Fortunately, there’s a template for us to follow created by Kat Black, the founder of an eco-friendly enterprise called Just Little Changes.

The template, in form of an overturned pyramid, is known as “The Ethical Hierarchy of Gift Purchasing”.

While purchasing new things is not entirely a bad thing, new things off the production line contribute to an increase rather than a decrease of our carbon footprint.

It is this school of thought upon which the ethical hierarchy is based. Production of new things uses new natural resources, which release new carbon into the atmosphere yet the gift may not be consumed in its entirety and could soon be thrown away, destined for Dandora where it will not only release more new carbon but could additionally cause other detrimental effects.

Our seemingly innocent actions affect other parts of the ecosystem. Ethical gift purchasing inspires us to practise environmental ethics, which denotes human beings are part of nature, not independent or lord over it.

The overturned pyramid consists of seven tiers of ethical gift ideas that promise to indulge your creativity. Layer number one is Giving Memories.

Like the name suggests, the gift is something that will create a lasting memory. It can be event tickets, gym or club memberships, and spa, manicure or pedicure treatments.

The second tier, Give Your Time, is about volunteering time and skills. Your gift could be pro-bono accounting or any other service to an upcoming start-up, visiting the elderly or babysitting for a couple that needs some alone time.

The third tier is Upcycle, aka creative reuse. This is converting old materials into new, useful ones with a new narrative and character.

Worth noting is that upcycling is more energy efficient than recycling. Examples are turning wine bottles into beautiful flower vases or old jeans into sling bags. You don’t even have to do this yourself.

There are local people who earn a living from this. Purchase from them and celebrate their craft! The fourth one is Buying Second Hand.

We all know that store in Gikomba that has items that look as good as new and are very inexpensive. How about making a trip there?

Tier number five, Make. You can bake, knit items, draw, paint, or bead making a master piece with your own two hands.

The sweat that goes into creating this makes the gift more precious and timeless.


The sixth tier is Ethical Buying — purchasing an organic or locally produced item like coffee, baobab oil, peanut butter or handmade soaps.

The last tier is Buy Something New. When all else has failed, you can buy something new. Valuable gifts don’t have to be “stuff”.

Let’s get more creative and purposeful and forward-thinking. Such that, as we are spreading cheer a gift at a time, we are also reducing our ecological footprint.

Want more women in leadership? Here’s the way

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Once again, the gender bill sponsored by National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale failed this week to sail through because of lack of a quorum, forcing Parliament to defer debate to February next year.

I can only hope and pray that come February, MPs will do the honourable thing and shoot the bill into an abyss of oblivion, where it really belongs.

Now, there are many ways of including more women in leadership roles but this bill is definitely not one of those. Here’s why.

This bill suggests the only way women can get into leadership is through tokenism, nominations and freebies.

Of course, there are some threadbare arguments advanced by ill-meaning male politicians, such as the fact that these new positions might be abused by party leaders to award their girlfriends.

But the main reason this bill should not sail through — from my point of view — is that it is bound to make women lazy in their nominated comfort zones, besides the fact that it really does nothing to address the real and underlying reasons why women are not in leadership in the first place.

As a young woman with C-suite ambitions, I can authoritatively say what aspiring future female leaders need is not freebie positions or even affirmative action but a favourable environment where we fairly and equally compete with our male counterparts.

While I appreciate those who look at it differently and believe nominated positions give women a “foot in the door”, I also believe if men in leadership truly want to increase female leadership, they must and should do the following.

1. Treat women as equals.

Many of you like to pretend that you are feminists and believers in gender equality, but it is almost often mere lip service.

You pretend you are blind to the gender when offering jobs and opportunities, but some of us have been alive long enough to know when it comes to equal opportunities, men are perceived as superior to women.

It is why we have never had a female president — or even deputy president — and why we do meaningless opinion polls asking stupid questions like, “Are you comfortable with a female president?”

If you want more women in leadership, don’t use gender as a determining factor. Just use performance and potential — and you will find yourself working with an equal number of men and women, if not more women.

2. Women don’t want mentorship, just sponsor them

I am one of the few people who think mentorship is overrated, if not useless, especially for women.

There are a hundred and one female mentorship programmes in hotel ballrooms where women swap teary motherhood stories but very few female leaders.

Why? Mentorship is a massive waste of time. Men rarely mentor each other or share those emotional, useless stories. Men sponsor each other.

Every male leader you know has a sponsor, a fellow guy who took him under his wing and introduced him to the right people and opened the door for him.

Women — especially those in power — rarely do this for younger women; they just step on them, malign them, sabotage them and lock them out.

If you are serious about more women in leadership, male leaders must sponsor women into leadership.

Women don’t need you to carry them on your backs, we just want you to do for us what you do for the men; believe in us, throw in a good word, make a few phone calls and we will fly on our own!

3. Treat strong women with respect

“Every man wants to raise an Ivanka but marries a Melania”, so the modern saying goes. You want to raise strong, independent daughters, but your favourite pastime is to bring down strong and independent women you consider a threat.

How is that helpful? A lot of male leaders we know would never allow their daughters to get into leadership — politics or otherwise — because they know what they do to women.

In public, they yap about “gender inclusion” and “equality”, but in private they engineer the character-assassination of women leaders because strong women generally make a lot of men nervous.

Because we, young women, see what you say and do to the Martha Karuas and Anne Waigurus of this world, we tend to shy away due to the great social price you make strong women pay, simply because they raised their hands.

And that, gentlemen, is how you ensure more women in leadership!

Oil industry requires land tenure security if the trade is to flourish

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Twice, I have had the opportunity to listen to high-level presentations by Tullow Oil. Tullow came and found a home in the otherwise arid and, until fairly recently, rather marginalised northern Kenya.

They prospected for and struck oil in Turkana. But the trouble with things on or below the earth’s surface is that their exploitation is tied to land ownership.

The government, communities, individuals and companies will always stake some claim to such land. That calls for negotiations. And these can be hard.

Luckily, the Constitution and Kenyan law categorise all minerals and mineral resources as public property.

But where land with such minerals was previously community or private, due compensation must be paid before converting it for public use.

Therefore, much as Tullow struck oil, they could not move until they secured guarantees to the use of the land under which they found the oil.

Moreover, once pumped out, the oil must be transported to consumer markets. The existing roads do not provide a good option since this is cumbersome and slow.

So a pipeline to the coastline, along the proposed Lapsset corridor right down to the Lamu Port, is preferred.

This spells acquisition of the affected community and private land along that corridor, hence more negotiations over the affected land!

The construction of an oil pipeline to the Coast could perhaps be a silver lining for Kenya.

It provides good economic justification for the opening up of a second transport corridor parallel to the existing one which runs from Mombasa to Uganda through Nairobi and western Kenya.


This first corridor has informed and defined development in Kenya since commissioning by the colonial government early in the 20th century.

Most of the existing national road and rail network is either part of or offshoots from this corridor. Regions that are far from it ended up lagging behind in development for obvious reasons.

So the proposed second corridor, which will serve the transportation of oil from Turkana among other things, should be a welcome extra boost to the country.

It will not only help to open up large parts of the North to intra-regional commerce but will, to a large extent, also integrate the economy of northern Kenya to that of the rest of the country.

The Tullow oil project also has potential to drive major gains for the region and the country, such as direct and indirect jobs, consumption of vast amounts of construction material and the establishment of much-needed infrastructure, including water points for people and livestock.

The project is also expected to greatly raise Kenya’s geopolitical profile. While appreciating all these, one hopes that any communal or private land rights affected by the oil well sites or the transport corridor will be carefully identified, negotiated and compensated.

Without this, the noble project will suffer delays or even stoppages as land rights contests play out later.

This happened during the titanium mining project in Kwale. It has and continues to play out on the Mombasa-Kisumu standard gauge railway project.


Once acquired, the pipeline corridor should be cushioned from speculative and incompatible land uses through legislation on planning.

It should be gazetted as a special planning zone as was done to protect the Konza City periphery a while back.

But in compensating those affected, public money must be put to optimal use. Care must be exercised not to lose it through unduly exaggerated compensation rates or paying for non-existent land.

Where county governments have to receive payments on behalf of communities that hold unregistered land, mechanisms must be found to ensure that such money impacts the livelihoods of targeted communities.

This could, for instance, be ensured by incorporating community leadership in the decision-making processes on how such money is to be used.

Such arrangements must be effectively explained to the targeted communities in good time to pre-empt their opposition to the project.

Furthermore, previous studies by the Land Development and Governance Institute on the Lapsset corridor within Lamu and Isiolo counties revealed that for patriarchal communities, compensation proceeds to private landowners almost exclusively end up in the hands of male household heads who usually spend it at will, and not necessarily on their families.

This exposes rather vulnerable spouses and children to threats of eviction without alternative land for settlement.

To prevent such social-economic challenges, methods must be devised to ensure transparency and responsibility by the compensation beneficiaries.


The study also revealed community frustration that some sections of the transport corridor are planned to pass through cultural and grazing sites.

Such sites are priceless to indigenous and pastoralist communities and therefore avoiding them should be a design priority.

There will also be lots of local and national concern on the kind of measures put in place to mitigate any adverse environmental impacts.

Tullow must hence demonstrate that such measures have been incorporated for the life of the project and after.

Above all these concerns, the local consumer looks forward to better oil prices once Kenya’s oil hits the market.

Engage citizens for devolution to work

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There are success stories of devolution across Kenya. But, in spite of these, many Kenyans (in fact three out of four, going by public opinion research statistics) say they find it difficult to meet their county leaders, influence local decision-making or even access information on public finances.

These three are the core of citizen engagement, and central to the Constitution of Kenya when it comes to devolution. In that respect, one can easily conclude devolution is considerably struggling.

Going by the feelings and realities expressed by citizens, the question therefore is: How are counties making development decisions and implementing projects when, to many, they are inaccessible and unenthusiastic of citizens’ views?

An indisputable hypothesis is counties are taking the easy route — minimal, convenient or no engagement.


It’s rightly arguable counties could be struggling with human capacity issues and finances when it comes to engaging citizens.

In 2016, the Ministry of Devolution alongside the Council of Governors launched guidelines for public participation, and these guiding principles pre-empted possible challenges.

Issues such as planning and financing, reach out and inclusion, threshold and incentives among others, are anticipated.

A key factor complicating and undermining the quality of citizen engagement is citizens themselves being unavailable to engage.

Research shows that the most frequently mentioned barrier is citizens being busy and lacking time (70 percent).


Add apathy, lack of information, and distance and you have a significant majority excluded both at the county and national levels, leaving policymakers and implementers to do things as they please. This, in turn, is a big deterrent to transparency and accountability.

With the current scenario where a majority feel excluded and are unavailable at the same time, so much could be happening.

The small proportion that’s available could be making decisions that favour a small section of a county or endorsing those in line with the policymakers’ desires.

Counties are probably ending up with projects that don’t meaningfully meet the larger counties’ needs.

The reality remains that citizen engagement has to be spearheaded by county governments.


Opportunities also lie in mobile phone technology where counties, with the help of professionals, could create panels of respondents whose views they seek on development matters as well as evaluation.

Technology has the advantage of documentation; where people are, how many people were contacted, those who responded and how they even responded, be it SMS, phone calls, or e-mails, et cetera.

The 2019 census offers an opportunity for counties to map out their counties properly if they want to improve citizen participation using advanced technology. Perhaps technology well help bridge this gap.

The writer is Senior Researcher at Twaweza East Africa where he runs the Sauti Za Wananchi Public Opinion Research Programme. Views are his own.

How to conserve habitat and grow economy

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In demonstrating solidarity with the government’s sponsorship of the international Sustainable Blue Economy Conference, the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) hosted an exhibition of Prince Hussain Aga Khan’s marine photographs entitled Fragile Beauty.

The 47 photographs, both dramatic ones of sharks and whales as well as detailed ones of small creatures, showed the often unknown vibrant beauty that exists under water. The exhibition aimed to make audiences aware of this beauty as well as the potential risk of losing it.

The exhibition underscored why everyone — government, the commercial sector and civil society — must come together to tackle the sustainability agenda.

Kenya has shown its leadership by hosting the conference this week, as well as its involvement in the global #BanPlastics movement (in particular its plastic bags ban) and the UN Environment #CleanSeas campaign).


The Aga Khan Development Network, Kenya, one of the country’s largest private social and economic development organisations, has been doing its part.

It has been involved in conservation efforts in Kenya for decades. This week, for example, AKDN’s Serena Hotels and Mettle Solar OFGEN, a Kenyan company specialising in developing and funding solar power projects, opened Kenya’s first solar powered lodge – Kilaguni Serena Safari Lodge in Tsavo West National Park.

In addition, the Amboseli Serena Safari Lodge has installed the first Tesla Inverter/Battery system in Kenya, and two hybrid projects were commissioned in February 2018 at Serena’s Lake Elementeita and Sweetwaters Camps.

Earlier this year, Kilaguni Serena Safari Lodge won a Global Best Practice award in Milan, Italy, for using eco-friendly practices and operating energy efficient laundry services.

Moreover, the Serena Beach Resort in Mombasa has been helping to protect turtles for 20 years by releasing more than 50,000 hatchlings into the sea.

AKDN’s tree-planting commitments in Kenya — undertaken by its affiliated institutions, including the Aga Khan Foundation’s coastal programmes, the Aga Khan Academy in Mombasa, Serena Hotels, Frigoken and the Nation Media Group — have planted more than 10 million trees in Kenya as part of a 2014 government pledge to increase forest cover by 10 percent.

Which brings us back to Prince Hussain’s exhibition. Prince Hussain, the second son of His Highness the Aga Khan, became particularly interested in wildlife photography and travel at a young age.

Early on, he demonstrated a concern for issues like deforestation, habitat loss, and the acceleration of the extinction rate, global warming and pollution.

Explaining his photography, Prince Hussain said: “It’s my hope that others will see the beauty I see and become more actively engaged in the struggle to slow the degradation of our environment and decimation of our wildlife. And that they might encourage others to follow suit.”

Which is what we should all do: follow suit.

Dr Azim Lakhani is the Diplomatic Representative of the Aga Khan Development Network, Kenya

Benefits of HIV testing outweigh risks; get to know your status

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You only get one body and one life. To what lengths would you go to protect them from harm?

Today we mark 30 years since the inception of World Aids Day with the renewed call to action, “Know your HIV status”. There is a stigma and fear instilled in society to cower away from knowing their HIV status lest they become shunned.

This stifling fear is still amongst us and at present 9.4 million people around the world are living with HIV and don’t know their status.

Some might be put off by the fear of testing positive, while to others HIV may be unbeknown to them.


But what good does fear do if we hide behind a shadow of what may or may not be true? Wouldn’t you rather “live life positively” without being caged by fear and turmoil of the unknown?

Even more sensibly, by knowing your HIV status you are saving your life. It can also no longer be said those who test positive are the greater beneficiaries.

The same can be said for those who test negative as it goes to inform their sexual health.

The continued steps to staying HIV-free progresses from here with a confirmed test that offers preventive options.

Of vital value is that should you test positive, knowing your HIV status allows you to start treatment as early as possible, ensuring you live a long and healthy life.

More pertinent to the day is the great strides we have made with anti-retroviral treatment which suppresses HIV to the point where it is undetectable in the blood.

It goes without saying this is subject to following the prescribed medication; if treatment is stopped, the virus will re-emerge from reservoirs in the body.

With such encouraging medical news of our generation, is there still much to fear from knowing your HIV status?

If anything, knowing your status paves the way for you to stay alive and well. Tuberculosis remains the leading cause of death among people living with HIV, accounting for around one in three Aids-related deaths.

According to UNAIDS, globally in 2016, 1.2 million people living with HIV developed TB.

People living with HIV with no TB symptoms need preventative therapy, to lessen the risk of developing TB, which then significantly reduces TB/HIV death rates by around 40 percent.

It is estimated that 49 percent of people living with HIV and tuberculosis are unaware of their coinfection and are therefore not receiving care.

Without knowing your HIV status, how would you go about managing your health as medically required? It cannot be over-emphasised the importance of knowing your HIV status.

Nevertheless, no matter how much it is humdrum time, generation after generation, knowing your HIV status remains your choice.

Coercion, undue influence and threats should not under any circumstances be used to force people to take a HIV test against their will.


No matter the gravitas of HIV and the benefits of knowing your HIV status outweighing the risks, it cannot be forced up.

We remain the custodians of our bodies and we should still be expected to give or withdraw consent to the HIV test like other medical tests.

Chiefly, only the recipient of the HIV test bears the true implications of their results.

Of even greater note, should you be informed of another’s HIV status, especially in instances where the person with HIV has confided in you, consider it a great privilege.

It takes admirable courage to be a party to their disclosure, entrusted with great belief and unspoken outmost discretion.

This is not your HIV status to disclose. The excuse that confidentiality is broken because they a family member, a child or the HIV is now undetectable doesn’t wash.

Empathise, what if it was your HIV status? While discretion is paramount, open discussions on HIV remain a key pillar to preventing the spread of the disease.

With the increase in teenage pregnancies, it is obvious a crucial protective measure of barring the spread of HIV has gone amiss.

It is now of great concern how effectively we are educating children on HIV, the risks of those girls contracting it and their current HIV status.

In the HIV and Aids Prevention and Control Act, a person who is and is aware of being infected or carrying HIV shall not, knowingly and recklessly, place another at risk of being infected with HIV unless the person knew that fact and voluntarily accepted the risk of being infected.


Contravening the provision is an offence liable upon conviction to a fine not exceeding Sh500,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding seven years, or both.

As the ODPP investigation on teenage pregnancies progresses, lest it be forgotten, the crime of transmission of HIV should also hold applicable fathers to account.

Know your HIV status, save your life!

Go blue, but it will be a blunder to lose sight of the precious brown

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This week, everyone was seeing and singing blue. Nairobi was a flood of neo-blue economists. Dizzying data and attendant analysis charmed every soul that apparently appeared to have discovered, belatedly though, that water is life and wealth.

The just-concluded Blue Economy Conference, of course was a masterstroke stimulating conversations that trigger insights and foresights on how to optimally exploit and manage an otherwise lucrative trove. But then, let the dazzle of blue not blind us from the land.

The brown economy, driven by soil, is still golden, more so agriculture, which should be the precursor to the rise of an industrial Kenya. It should be revisited and revitalised with zest.

Yet, as it is, there is a monster on the loose devouring our agriculture sector and with it lives and future.


See, Kenya is desirous of rising as a mid level-manufacturing hub. Fantastic dream. A robust manufacturing milieu spawns auxiliary benefits especially in research and innovation, social and welfare portfolios.

Such a realm, mostly, hauls folks from subsistence and poverty to dignity and wealth.

But then, we are not going to achieve much in manufacturing amid a shambolic agriculture sector that is right in the jaws of a demon.

We need to bottle the genie. In other words, for our country to organically industrialise, it must pay heed to the indispensable sector that is agriculture.

Today, agriculture contributes about 26 percent of GDP. It is perhaps the largest employer – directly or indirectly – with roughly 70 percent of Kenyans reliant on it.

Yet, everyday we are unwittingly chocking it to death.

I once attended a conference where the now embattled Agriculture Principal Secretary Richard Lesiyampe dropped depressing stats. The PS revealed thus: “We import 60 percent of rice consumed in this country. We import 65 percent of sugar and 70 percent of wheat…” That is not enough.

Throw in the maize saga, poor post-harvest handling and storage, fake seeds and fertiliser and you get a post-card of how raw greed, mediocre and leadership is driving agriculture to its knees and with it the manufacturing sector.

Sadly, by the latest sugar debacle, parliament, it seems, has miserably failed to tame the executive.

Everyone seems to have gone rogue, throwing caution to wind in the most immoral manner as floodgates of imports open.

Farmers are further deliberately sabotaged through lack of extension experts, low and delayed commodity price and even starving research funds.

Good people, this is a tragedy. It is a shame. It is criminal. It is such criminality that is smashing coffee — Kenya’s crop jewel.

Apart from frustrating farmers, the cartels have made sure little processing can be done locally. We only roast five percent of the production.

Yet, our Arabica coffee is finest in the world, sought after for blending.

You need to know the prestige of our coffee when international coffee chains like Starbucks proudly display posters boasting their beans are from Kenya.

Thus, Kenya needs to emulate Ghana and Ivory Coast, which are building local infrastructure to process Cocoa.


In fact, The Economist of November 17, revealed that African Development Bank is loaning Ghana about $600 million for cocoa processing.

We need such in Kenya cutting across the divide. Indeed, it should not be lost on us that, in Kenya, agriculture is like a low hanging fruit.

It easily predisposes itself to manufacturing and technological innovation. As a people, we are agrarian, and our economy is entwined with the sector.

Agriculture has a long history and therefore a long, intricate value-chain ranging from seed production, agrochemicals, and engineering of farm implements to processing — both micro and macro.

Further, agriculture easily ropes such services as banking, insurance, research, innovation and Information Technology.

That is why it defeats logic when reality dawns on us that the agriculture sector, epically merchandised as the backbone of the economy, is being, unwittingly, dismantled by a cabal of parochial, unpatriotic, technocrats and greedy cartels.

That is why the sector needs to be re-engineered. This way, we can recalibrate, nurture, expand and strongly protect agriculture to stimulate the rise of an agro-industrial society.

A robust agricultural regime will trigger innovation for efficiency, mechanisation, new products, and new markets across the value chain.

But, if our appetite for imports is left as wild as it is, we are just transferring such benefits to the countries of origin.

If we cannot chop off the runaway mediocrity from our boardrooms we shall always, as a nation, remain miserable consumers of imports killing our dreams.


The twain of agriculture and manufacturing are inseparable. And thus, to spur the sector, we need the grit to crash the deeply entrenched cartel empire.

Solid budgetary allocation to agriculture should be indispensable. The executive must also cherry-pick the savviest turnaround technocrats to resuscitate the sector.

More funding should be channelled towards research and innovation that will also spur cottage-processing units.

Co-operatives too should be strengthened to give them leverage in the market and in processing. Lest we forget, the only way to the golden age of manufacturing is through a golden age of agriculture production.

Two-thirds gender law ought not generate so much noise

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As I walked towards the University Health Clinic, I was reflecting on the reasons why the two-thirds gender rule should generate so much acrimony.

My train of thought was disrupted by a female student who was squatting along the path, tying her male colleague’s shoe laces.

I wondered whether she would have voted for a man or a woman if given the choice or why had she gone on her knees on a public path to tie her male colleague’s laces. Does this incident reflect women’s empowerment or subordination?

This brings me to my first reason why the two-thirds rule should not generate so much acrimony.


Men and women are inextricably connected and inter-dependent. Men and women need each other for humanity to flourish.

A society where women or men exist on their own is not fathomable as there would be no offspring.

Unfortunately, the current form of government is based on the invention that privileged the male over the female.

Great thinkers in history and founders of modern governments came up with the idea that only men are rational, therefore they should be given positions of leadership. Women were viewed as emotional and incapable of leadership.


The second reason is that the lack of women leaders in politics is a colonial invention.

Africa had its own share of leaders such as Mekatilili wa Menza, Queen Nzinga of Angola and Syokimau of the Akamba. In my home county of Gatundu North, there was Ndiko wa Mbatia, who organised and mobilised trade expeditions, Njunguru wa Kimere, who was a leader and seer, and Njeri wa Ndugo.

The fact that women led together with men is not questionable. But colonialism and post-colonial policies privileged the men by giving them a head start in education, money culture and self-regulating markets.

Women leaders were disadvantaged because they did not have Western education.

The third reason is that the foundations of the state are based on masculine attributes such as aggression, competition and destruction of opposition.

The modern state needs a feminine touch of affection, inclusiveness, trust and reciprocity to address the issues of selfishness and greed.

Yet by passing the two-thirds gender rule, we are not fighting men. We are addressing historical and philosophical foundations of the unequal world between women and men in politics.

Thus instead of seeing it as a battle between men and women, we should see the passing of the two-thirds gender rule as a way of making humanity to flourish.

Mary Njeri Kinyanjui, Nairobi.