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Saturday, November 10th, 2018

 

Work on Naivasha SGR line, Kiambu dam project halted

By MARY WAMBUI
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Work on the Nairobi-Naivasha standard gauge railway and a multibillion dam in Kiambu County will have to be paused until the High Court lifts a suspension order issued on Friday.

Construction of the Sh24 billion Karimenu II Dam in Gatundu North, and a section of Phase 2A of the standard gauge railway, with a budget of Sh150 billion, will now be subject to court scrutiny mainly on land acquisition.

DISCREPANCIES

The National Land Commission (NLC) acquired land for the projects from last year. But in two gazette notices issued on November 1, its acting chairperson Abigael Mukolwe revoked all the awards issued, citing computation discrepancies, errors, overlapping boundaries and other issues.

NLC further asked the affected Kenyans to visit chiefs’ offices along the Nairobi-Naivasha railway project for more information, or get details from Kiriko Coffee Factory in the case of those affected by Karimenu Dam construction.

DRASTIC ACTION

That announcement was challenged on Thursday when activist Okiya Omtatah filed a petition at the High Court in Nairobi, seeking nullification of the NLC notices because, among other reasons, the affected people were not heard “before the drastic action was taken”.

A day later, High Court judge Wilfrida Okwany certified the case as urgent and ordered a stay.

DETERMINATION

“To preserve the substratum of the application and the petition, a conservatory order is issued by suspending Gazette notices nos. 11370 and 11371 dated November 1, 2018, pending the inter-parties hearing and determination of the application,” the judge said.

In the suit, Mr Omtatah, who is acting on behalf of the affected persons, has sued NLC chairperson Muhammad Swazuri, NLC as an entity, and Ms Mukolwe.

MASQUERADING

By denying the parties a chance to be heard, he argues, NLC violated sections of the Fair Administrative Action Act 2015.

He also observes that Ms Mukolwe violated the Constitution in issuing the gazette notice in her acting capacity, a position that Mr Omtatah noted does not exist in the commission.

“There has never been and there is no vacancy in the office of the chairperson of the commission currently held by Prof Muhammad Swazuri. Ms Mukolwe is masquerading as the holder of the non-existent office of the acting chairperson of NLC, which violates sections of the commission’s act on appointment and removal of the chairperson,” Mr Omtatah argues in the petition.

The Chinese contractor constructing Karimenu Dam has been on site for months but is yet to commence work following the impasse between the yet-to-be-relocated locals and State authorities over valuation of the land and the affected property.

The matter is at the High Court and will be mentioned on November 20, 2018.


All is well, insists Prisons boss amid supplies crisis

By WANJOHI GITHAE
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The supplies crisis at Kenya Prisons Department continues unabated even as the Ministry of Interior officials scrambled to come up with a quick-fix solution following PS Zeinab Hussein’s decision to cancel the annual tender process.

The department has been hit by lack of fuel and emergency drugs for prisoners, torn uniforms for warders and prisoners, dwindling food supplies, failure to give daily payments by officers and lack of crucial utensils.

COMPLIANCE

Last Friday, a meeting scheduled between the PS and prisons commanders to deliberate on the crisis did not take place as Ms Hussein was said to be engaged elsewhere.

Sunday Nation reached out to the ministry and a reply by the Commissioner of Prisoners Isaiah Osugo stated that all was well.

“The ministry is in full compliance of all procurement laws. There is no crisis at prisons’ enterprise. All operations are going on smoothly,” he stated in answers to our questions.

FLOUTING LAW

He added that he was not aware of the letter by the suppliers.

“Such a letter would be copied to me, I am not aware or in receipt of it,” he said.

At the centre of the storm is the decision by the Correctional Services Department to cancel award notifications given to suppliers by calling for new bidders for the same goods through a new advert, thereby flouting the Public Procurement and Disposal Act, 2015.

CANCELLATION

Sources indicated that the crisis followed interference by family members of powerful Jubilee politicians who want to arm-twist the department to their advantage.

Documents in our possession show that Ms Hussein had been warned of the dangers of cancelling contracts mid-stream, but she insisted that her decision must stand.

Moreover, the PS’ efforts to have the Ministry of Transport’s Supplies Department to step in as a new tendering process went on hit a snag.

Ironically, this is not the first time the PS has stopped a tender process. When she was PS in the Ministry of Irrigation, she pulled a similar stunt exposing the ministry to a lawsuit, which suppliers won.

Last week, several aggrieved suppliers wrote to Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i seeking his guidance on the matter. He is yet to reply to their letter.

On July 26, barely a month after she had been appointed to the new position, Ms Hussein wrote an internal memo to the supply chain management and issued several far-reaching directives.

“Forthwith there shall be no restricted tendering or direct tendering unless authorised by the accounting officer, and the tenders are hereby cancelled. All tenders in progress stand cancelled with immediate effect,” she wrote.

The PS had in an advert on October 23 called for eligible bidders for the years 2018 to 2020 tenders for various goods.

This was despite internal communications from the acting supply chain manager warning against the move.

NOTIFICATION

““Following our meetings on the above matter, and your instruction that the above tender be cancelled, I wish to bring your attention to sections 1(b) and 2 and 63 of the PPDA, 2015 respectively … The procurement process can only be cancelled before the issuance of notification of awards to the responsive bidders and in our case, the bidders had been notified and 14 days elapsed, hence it is as good as a contract signed.”

INSTRUCTIONS

“In retrospect, I am of the opinion that this process is beyond our cancellation since your predecessor (the former PS) approved the tender award and notifications issued cannot be retrieved,” added the supply chain department.

The PS in return stated that the Supplies Department of the Ministry of Transport would step in as the correctional services went through the process of getting new bidders.

But the supplies department stated that it could not take up the instructions prompting the PS to fire a memo to Commissioner of Prisons Isaiah Osugo on October 30, throwing him to far end of the muddled pool.

“We write further to our letter Ref SDC /SEC/PROG/5/13 (v) dated 11th October, 2018 in which you were informed that you may procure foodstuff for the prisoners and trainees using the valid supplies branch contracts with effect 1 November.”

“We wish to inform you that there has been a delay in accessing contracts from supplies branch. In view of this and pending availability of the supplies branch contracts, the foodstuff may be procured using the current existing procurement method,” wrote one Margret Riungu on behalf of the PS.

A group of suppliers have written to CS Matiangi with a view of ending the impasse that may eventually end up in court.

“Our client participated and won various tenders as listed above in a competitive procurement process and were awarded the various tenders …. The said awards were made more than five months ago, following which our clients have re-organised their businesses and have purchased some of the required items awaiting LPO’s for purposes of deliveries. Many others have entered into financial commitments with various financial institutions following the said awards to enable them meet their obligation in the expected contracts,” wrote the suppliers through law firm of Dennis Anyoka Moturi and Company.


Cheating cartels targeted in new plan as exams enter crucial week

By OUMA WANZALA
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The authorities are expected to step up the prosecution of those involved in Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examination malpractices.

The examinations enter a crucial stage this week with most compulsory subjects being concluded.

On Monday, the 664,550 candidates will take their Mathematics and Biology papers as government agencies focus on how to curb chances of early exposure of examination materials.

Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed has asked Attorney General Paul K. Kariuki to ensure that cases of exam malpractices are dealt with firmly.

 “In order to effectively administer the examinations, it is essential to ensure efficient disposal of reported cases of examination offences and malpractices as detailed in Part IV of the Kenya National Examinations Council Act, 2012. This will safeguard the entire process and protect the integrity of Kenya’s value system and the right to education,” said Ms Mohamed in a letter to Mr Kariuki dated October 5.

She added: “Kindly engage the relevant arms of government to avail a mechanism to fast track any referred cases.”

The examination, which is being done in 10,078 centres, has seen several suspects arrested and charged in court.

The Sunday Nation has learnt that Mr Kariuki has requested Chief Justice David Maraga to put in place a mechanism to fast track all cases arising from the ongoing or previous national examinations.

 The exams, which started on November 5, will end on November 28.

INTELLIGENCE

On Friday, a Maseno University student was charged in court with sitting for the ongoing exams at St Joseph Nyansakia Mixed Secondary School in Bomachoge, Kisii County.

 Mr Davis Ongiri was arrested on Thursday night after officials received intelligence that he was a ‘fake’ candidate.

 The suspect had done six examination papers before he was seized and booked at Ogembo Police Station.

MOBILE PHONE

The suspect has been detained until November 19, when he will return to take a plea.

In Nairobi, a candidate was arrested for being in possession of a mobile phone.

The Saad Secondary School student was sitting for Chemistry Paper Two when a supervisor noticed that the student was suspiciously uneasy.

According to the police, the student, Abshir Mohamed, 22, was arrested and booked at Pangani Police Station.

Upon inspection of the mobile phone, police discovered that the Sim Card was registered under Mr Abshir Abdi Amin.

More than 26 cases of exam malpractices have been recorded in the last one week despite tough rules put in place by the government.

INVESTIGATIONS

On Thursday, Shaban Ouma Omar, a former secondary schoolteacher and former Ugenya North Ward Member of County Assembly was arraigned in Milimani Law Courts in Nairobi and released on a Sh200, 000 cash bail after denying the charge.

Another suspect Emmanuel Nakasi Nkonina was arraigned at the Kajiado Law Courts where detectives were ordered to detain him until Monday as investigations continue.

Last year, 101 cases of exam malpractices were reported, 33 in 2016 and 700 cases in 2015.

Following the incidents, Ms Mohamed has directed field officers to do serious frisking of candidates.

“We haven’t recorded a single case where any examination question or paper has been leaked since the examination started. All the papers have been delivered to examination centres with all unique Knec security features intact,” said Ms Mohamed.

COMMITMENTS

She commended Knec — contracted personnel for putting aside all their personal and official commitments to ensure the examination is as flawless as it can get.

“I thank all my Cabinet colleagues, chief administrative secretaries and principal secretaries who have joined my Ministry to monitor and supervise the examination,” said the CS.

However, Consumer Federation of Kenya has questioned the involvement of senior government officers in the exam process.

ASSESSMENT

“We cannot spend less on improving the quality education yet spend so much trying to stop examination cheating. The government should invest in cheaper and sustainable systems that will eradicate exam cheating without deploying massive resources,” said Cofek in a report.

 The report continued: “The urge to steal exams will remain as long as there are no mechanisms to ensure that viable options are made available for those that are not academically endowed. In any case, it is a lucrative business for the cartels. We believe that exams should be scrapped and replaced by continuous assessment tests.”


Arts, humanities are the soul of our education

By Andrew Ole Sunkuli
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I was introduced to debating in primary school at Standard Four. The motions for debate were declarative, almost warlike, and as simplistic as they could possibly get. One of those motions which I remember vividly stated: “To be a teacher is better than to be a doctor”.

PROFESSIONS

Like they did in ancient Athens, the whole school sat on the rugged lawns of Kilgoris’ St Joseph’s Primary School in two formations — the proposers and the opposers — to convince the panel about which of the two professions was actually better.

Usually the debates generated more heat than light. In the end, the winners were declared on such irrelevant technicalities as the bombast of the vocabulary used. In hindsight, except for the fact that the debate developed our communication skills and cured our stage fright, the motion itself was useless in the end because the teacher and the doctor were both noble and essential.

Only recently, Deputy President William Ruto ignited a debate which sounded pretty much like those of my early days. In this case, he seemed to pose the motion: “Sciences are better than Arts”. While addressing a gathering at Jeremiah Nyagah Technical Institute in Embu, he called upon institutions of higher learning to scrap what he termed as “useless” art subjects which did not help graduates find employment.

Except, of course, that the statement by the Deputy President was not an idle Thursday afternoon school debate. This was a directive from the second most powerful man in the land instructing institutions of higher learning to replace the humanities with more job-market friendly subjects in science and technology.

Admittedly, the Deputy President is a bot-zoo (botany and zoology) graduate and I am a graduate of literature and languages. Therefore, of necessity, whereas he proposes the motion to de-emphasise the humanities I oppose that from the outset.

ALL-ROUNDED

To effectively argue the case for the social sciences, the arts and the humanities, there are two myths and untruths which need debunking. The first is the assumption that the be-all and end-all of education is to provide graduates with a salaried job. Far from being an assembly line for employees, the education system of any serious country is a crucible where all-rounded citizens are fashioned. It is the place where the next generation of citizens acquire the skills to work, the knowledge to navigate life, and the values to sustain society.

There is no disputing that the economy needs labour. However, a wholesome society needs much more than this. Besides being an economy, a country also has social life. The tools and other wherewithal needed for a society to survive and thrive cannot all come from botanists, zoologists and other branches of science.

REVOLUTION

On the contrary, the most advanced societies have both thriving industrial economies and vibrant arts. The power of Europe was enhanced, not just by the drivers of the Industrial Revolution, but also by the artistic productions of William Shakespeare of Great Britain, Leon Tolstoy of Russia, Michelangelo di Lodovico of Italy and Pablo Ruiz Picasso of Spain among other defining artists.

It is tantamount to heresy to suppress or suffocate the teaching of the humanities in order to convert the education system into a workforce factory. The development of talent, the study of our past as a guide to our future, the teaching of liberal arts as a way to anchor and sustain our democracy, are just some of the legitimate purposes for which schools exist.

These must continue to be funded instead of being bullied or intimidated. Whereas the sciences may grow our economies and modernise our tool kit, the arts and the humanities in general help to grow our societies and sense of nationhood.
PROSPERITY

The second fallacy which needs to be confronted is the assumption that the arts do not create jobs. Robert L Lynch, the CEO and President of America for the Arts has argued that “strategic investment in our arts and cultural organisations is not an extra, it’s a path to prosperity.”

Indeed, in the case of the United States, statistics for 2015 produced by the Bureau for Economic Analysis, demonstrates that culture and the arts are a significant contributor to the economy.

4.2 MILLION

In 2015, the Arts and Culture contributed close to $800 billion to the economy surpassing agriculture, transportation and warehousing. This figure accounted for 4.2 per cent of GDP. The sector employed about 4.2 million people directly — and even more people indirectly.

I have tremendous faith in Kenya’s gene pool and have no doubt that if the humanities are streamlined and cultivated — not ridiculed — Kenyan youth can surprise the world just as they have done in sport and technology.

Art and culture could easily become one of Kenya’s biggest employers and export revenue earners. In fact, contrary to the assertions of the naysayers, this sector can generate a larger employment pool, much faster than the conventional sectors with much lower investment requirements. My friend, Nicholas Moipei, who chairs the Board of the Kenya Cultural Centre, has related to me how investments made at the Kenya National Theatre have transformed the place and increased its revenues besides giving our youth an avenue for their God-given talents.

INVESTMENT

Institutions of higher learning themselves need to get serious about the arts and humanities and not simply treat them as tuition fee cash cows.

There is a glaring need for financial investment in this sector across all the constituent disciplines.

Investments required include voice and language laboratories, state of the art studios, performance theatres, modern libraries and partnerships with relevant industry players to ensure that graduates of the arts, are not just dreaming theorists with no market orientation and ready targets of ridicule.

In short, the arts and humanities must stand up to be counted and strive to attain their full potential.

Mr Sunkuli, an author and publisher, is the chairman of Mara Education Trust; [email protected]


Resurgent ethnic nationalism shaping geopolitics in the horn

By PETER KAGWANJA
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In an enthralling article, “Us and them: The enduring power of ethnic nationalism”, Jerry Muller has argued that although we generally tend to belittle the role of ethnic nationalism in politics, “it will drive global politics for generations to come”.

The rise of Abiy Ahmed Ali (42) as Prime Minister of Ethiopia on April 2, 2018 and his bold move to open up Ethiopia to political reforms and to end hostilities with Eritrea heralded an era of peace in the turbulent Horn of Africa.

But the ascendancy of the first-ever ethnic Oromo to the helm of the Ethiopian state in modern times is fuelling ethnic nationalism and putting a sharp focus on the Oromo people as the centrepiece of an imagined Oromo-Somali ‘Cushitic Alliance’ as a new axis in the Horn of Africa politics.

GEOPOLITICS

The numbers and wide geographical spread of the Oromo, the largest ethnic group in the Horn of Africa, has put them at the apex of this residual nationalism. By 2015, the Oromo, and an Afro-Asiatic linguistic group in the Horn of Africa, represented 34.5 percent (over 40 million) of Ethiopia’s population, half a million people in Kenya and 42,000 in Somalia.

Prompters of the Oromo-Somali ‘Cushitic Alliance’ are seeking to replace the old geopolitical alliances based on the nation-state, which before April 2018 seemed to rest on a sturdy ‘Bantu-Amhara Alliance’.

ASIATIC POWER

Before the 1935, Italian occupation, Ethiopia always imagined itself as an ‘Asiatic power’, and not an African empire. But Fascist Italy’s brutal conquest and Haile Selassie’s own humbling exile in England (1936-40) transformed Ethiopia into a symbol of African nationalism.

As Jeremy Murray-Brown noted in his biography, Kenyatta: A Biography, in 1931 Mzee Jomo Kenyatta had kept the red, green and gold Ethiopian flag in his room at 75 Castle Road England commemorating a year after Haile Selassie was crowned Emperor having resisted colonisation by Fascist Italy.

FIGHTER JETS

In exile, Emperor Haile Selassie met Kenyatta and other pan-Africanists. After independence, Kenyatta invited the Emperor during the Jamhuri Day celebrations in June 1964, and named ‘Haile Selassie Avenue’ in the honour of his Ethiopian friend.

Notably, in his 15-year presidency, Kenyatta made only two foreign trips: one to England in July 1964 and the other to Ethiopia where fighter jets formed the name ‘JOMO’ on the sky in 1969! Haile Selassie also hived off a prime piece of land next to the British Embassy, allocating it to the Kenyan Embassy in Addis Ababa.

However, the ‘Bantu-Amhara Alliance moved to a new concrete level on December 27, 1963 following the signing of the Kenya-Ethiopia Mutual Defence to contain Somalia’s expansionist ambitions in the Horn of Africa by annexing Ethiopia’s Ogaden region, Kenya’s North-Eastern District and Djibouti.

At the heart of ethnic nationalism in the Horn of Africa is the long and vexed history of accords and discords involving the “highlanders” (Bantu-Amhara) and the “lowlanders” (Oromo and Somali) in the Horn of Africa. Pan-Somali ethnic nationalism propelled by Somalia’s territorial claims against its neighbours led to four wars with Ethiopia: the 1960-1964 Border War; the 1977-1978 Ogaden War; the 1982 border clash and the 1998-2000 cross-border warfare during the turbulent era of warlords.

CUSHITIC ALLIANCE

It also contributed to the Somali Secessionist War (Shifta war) in Northern Kenya (1963-1968) and, to a great extent, the Djiboutian Civil War (1991-1994).

Today, a mix of Islamism and pan-Somali nationalism are also driving Al-Shabaab’s war against its neighbours and Internationally-backed Federal Government of Somalia in Mogadishu.

More broadly, proponents of the ‘Cushitic Alliance’ see the rise of Abiy as a return to the glorious years of Oromo power from the 18th century to the 19th century when they were the dominant influence in Ethiopia.

US-VERSUS-THEM

In this configuration, the African Mission in Somalia (Amisom) fighting against the Al-Shabaab is redefined as part of the “Bantu-Amhara” military offensive involving mainly Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, Djiobouti and Ethiopia (before April).

Publicity of the Oromo-Somali Cushitic Axis has been kept low and out of the diplomatic purview. But paradoxically, it is the Eritreans, themselves “highlanders”, who are the theorists and prime movers of the idea. The us-versus-them Bantu-Cushitic divide is based on the logic that “the enemy of my enemy is a potential friend”.

President Isaias Afwerki and his Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) have always blamed former Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and the Amhara Democratic Party (ADP) within the EPRDF for the Eritrean — Ethiopian War (1998- 2000) and Eritrea’s subsequent isolation.

Isaias has seized his détente with Abiy, as the leader of the Oromo Democratic Party (ODP) and chairman of Ethiopia’s ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), as an opportunity to vanquish and isolate his foes in Ethiopia. He has carefully wafted the idea of a Cushitic Alliance through a flurry of tri-lateral meetings with Abiy and Mohamed Abdullahi “Farmajo” of Somalia.

Geopolitical rivalries involving the Gulf States are adding a dangerous twist to the new politics of difference. In its recent report titled, “The United Arab Emirates in the Horn of Africa” (November 6, 2018), the Belgium-based think tank, the International Crisis Group, highlights the contradictory role of the Gulf states in the Horn of Africa.

While the diplomacy and aid of the UAE and Saudi Arabia, were pivotal in the peace agreement that normalised the Eritrea-Ethiopia relations, competition with Qatar and Turkey has aggravated friction between Mogadishu and Somali regional leaders.

RECOVERY PLAN

The less ideological technocratic wing of the Somalia Government is looking to Kenya and Ethiopia to soar its economic recovery plan. Alliances based on recidivistic nationalism can only undermine the war on Al-Shabaab and Somalia’s recovery.

Prof Kagwanja is a former Government Adviser and Chief Executive of the Africa Policy Institute.


Get views of Kenyans before making public firms private

By ISAAC OTIDI AMUKE
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One of the absurd repercussions of Kenya having a politics devoid of policy is that for the longest time, the state’s economic agenda hasn’t received the attention it deserves — starting from national budgeting, to borrowing and investment.

It is for this reason that for the most part, public discourse regarding the country’s economic fate is almost always reactionary, as indicated by the continued protestations over the hasty growth of the national debt since the current government took over the reins of power.

One wonders why it had to take these huge infrastructure loans, especially from China, for the country to sit up, in almost what one may perceive as peer pressure, considering that other Chinese debtors — mostly developing countries in Africa and Asia — are now having similar jittery reactions to their government’s high, and possibly unreasonable appetite for debt.

The same knee-jerk reactions followed the country’s two Euro bonds, whose necessity was not widely debated beforehand and whose use remains a mirage, traceability of the funds — especially the second bond — having got mired in mystery.

PROPOSITIONS

It is this same reactionary response that has greeted news that the Privatisation Commission is considering selling off to private investors some of the country’s leading parastatals, totalling 26.

For a period of time, especially in the early- to mid-90s, the privatisation debate, as instigated by policy propositions and interventions by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, took centre stage in a lot of African countries, whose governments were being urged to transfer the running of state-owned enterprises to private hands, the common refrain being that government had no business doing business.

INCOMPETENT

This push was supposed to be beneficial in a twofold manner: first, by putting money in the State’s hands right away, followed by a predicted improved efficiency of these entities. Some of the parastatals were considered either under performing or mismanaged by mostly incompetent political appointees, hence, the interventions were supposed to inject new impetus into the economy.

Those opposing the privatisation campaign at the time argued that the move was meant to take away from the many and give to the few — in the sense that government-owned entities are considered public property held in trust for the masses, while once privatised, the ownership shifts to a handful of individuals, even if publicly traded in the Stock Exchange.

IDEOLOGICAL

As such, these debates for and against privatisation have almost always taken an ideological direction where those for the relinquishing of state assets proclaim capitalist tendencies in defence of free markets and maximising of profit, while those against deploy socialist ideals in perceived protection of the people’s collective ownership of a country’s means of production.

The political conversation in Kenya has not always happened in neat ideological capitalist-or-socialist terms, and, therefore, one doesn’t expect an economic conversation — which is in effect an integral part of the broader political conversation — to suddenly acquire ideological flare.

PROCEDURALLY

However, what is really important is for the state to stay true to its social contract with the people — as entered into during elections where and when power is donated to the few by the many — such that even if government has made up its mind about these privatisations — which is the more likely scenario — it would be of great importance to do so procedurally, in the political sense.

Of course all the technical and legal motions of the process will be followed, but what may not be attracting due government attention is the need for the public to feel that even if some don’t support privatisation, it should not seem as if it is being shoved down the country’s throat. Those who oppose the process must feel they are being heard as much as those who support it, and it would make for necessary national conversation to hear out government on why this move is necessary at this time — aside from the obvious reason that it needs quick money to cover budgetary deficits.

One interesting dimension on such a conversation would be to interrogate why the state feels it is necessary to relinquish ownership of state agencies when the governing political party has become an overzealous mentee to China’s Communist Party, whose belief in state run enterprises is self-evident in its construction, banking and other sectors of the economy.

In thinking through its need for immediate money and its political contradictions, coupled with hearing out those who are for or against privatisation, the government, and by extension the ruling party, may just find some sort of policy clarity, be it borrowing elements of the Chinese model and mashing it with its neo-liberal market-driven pursuits.


Uhuru is young enough to go for another term

By PHILIP OCHIENG
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Uhuru Kenyatta’s final presidential term will come to an end soon. Unfortunately, the law does not allow him a third term. I say ‘unfortunately’ because Mr Kenyatta’s experience and reasonableness will remain essential to the unity and purpose of the nation-in-the-making called Kenya.

Yet, mentally and physically speaking, Uhuru will still be energetic enough to continue to serve this country productively and with dedication in some other essential national capacity.

EMPOWERING

Having served Kenyans as head of state for many years, this son of Jomo — our founding father — will enjoy greater knowledge and experience than any other Kenyan individual in the field of governing and defending a nation.

That is why my advice would remain for lawmakers to invent some constitutionally defensible method by which to enable the young man of Gatundu to clinch even a third term. Yes, I am familiar with the general human fear against empowering any individual for such a long time.

SUCCESSORS

Moreover, I have nothing in particular against such of Uhuru Kenyatta’s many potential successors as William Samoei Ruto and Raila Amolo Odinga. One of the points to make here is that both are still young enough to afford all the time that it might require for them to wait in the wings.

Moreover, patience pays. Patience offers you the time and experience to weigh your circumstances more objectively and, therefore, with greater accuracy than otherwise to organise your arrival more triumphantly and with colours that are more attractive.

Mr Odinga will require extraordinarily thoughtful patience because his mass support belongs to a single ethnic community whose power belongs only to its numerical size, but which is notorious for extreme political excitability of the kind that can only weaken you.

Luo excitability is what most of Kenya’s other communities appear to fear the most against an individual belonging to my community ever becoming the president.

I refer, in particular, to the readiness and extraordinary arrogance with which any Luo mass tends to plunge into thoughtless violence of the kind most likely to prove counter-productive because most forms of such chest-thumping heroics are not consequences of maturity and proper and adequate mental organisation.

RESPECTABILITY

My community will begin to gain national inter-ethnic respectability, trust and support only when the Luo elite begins to compose itself into calm purposefulness. As a Luo leader, history will applaud you by the manner in which you behave, especially in the tactical process by which you seek to organise the many ethnic and racial peoples of Kenya into a modern instrument.

Any national movement led by an ethnic individual may begin to gain and enjoy inter-ethnic and inter-national respectability and support — especially in the field of politics — only when the given party’s organisers and followers have begun to behave with purpose and colour.

Politically, my community is notoriously excitable. It will begin to enjoy inter-ethnic trust and respectability only when the Luo begin to behave with calm, with class, with respectability and with purpose even in the face of such excitative inter-ethnic adversities as unsuccessful presidential elections.

Unfortunately, in most former European colonies, politics remains ethnic in form and content and in its representative organisation, most especially during such particularly emotive mass gatherings as rallies. When will any ethnic or racial Kenyan begin to feel at home among a company dominated by a different ethnic or racial group?

Mr Ochieng is a veteran journalist.


US Democrats win the House of Reps, give notice to Mr Trump

By PETER KAGWANJA
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President Donald Trump is playing a dangerous political game of brinkmanship. His recent firing of Attorney-General Jeff Sessions and his replacement with a Yes-man called Matthew Whitaker has opened an early battlefront with the US House of Representatives. The Democratic Party wrested control of the lower House of Congress from Trump’s Republican Party in the November 6 midterm Congressional elections, and they are raring to press their advantage.

OVERREACHING

The outcry against Trump is the suspicion that he wants to use Whitaker, an avowed loyalist, to interfere with the Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of alleged Trump collusion with Russia ahead of the 2016 presidential election, a charge Trump bitterly denies. Whitaker had given statements in a previous life as a media commentator castigating Mueller’s investigation, and suggesting that the Special Counsel was overreaching.

The issue that had infuriated Trump about Sessions was the fact he opted not to interfere with the investigation and did what they call to recuse himself. Whitaker is giving no such assurance, and the Democrats are not amused. What is more, Trump bypassed the more senior Deputy A-G, Rod Rosenstein, when appointing Whitaker as acting A-G. Rosenstein is seen as a more independent official who has not sought to hinder the Mueller investigation.

UNDERLINGS

Trump mortally fears this investigation, which already has led to the indictment and possible jailing of key business and campaign underlings. But it would be a great political mistake on his part to fire Mueller, which he could conceivably instruct his new A-G to do. That would open a nasty can of worms in Congress. Even his fellow Republicans have said they won’t tolerate that. To the legislators, it would openly signal Trump’s disdain for the rule of law, which has provisions for Special Counsels. Who knows, the subsequent chain of events could even lead to impeachment proceedings.

SHENANIGANS

The Democrats are threatening a constant barrage of harassment. They intend to open investigative hearings in the House of Representatives, where they will control all key committees. They intend to target all manner of shenanigans, from Trump’s business activities and his suspected conflicts of interest. In particular they are very keen on why he has never made public his tax returns from the time he was running for president.

INVESTIGATION

Trump is not the sort who will take the challenges lying down. Despite the loss of the House of Representatives, he remains in a fairly strong position, though not as strong as before. He still has the White House, plus his Republicans control the Senate, the upper chamber of Congress. The Senate is particularly crucial: It has the ultimate say on whether to impeach or not. Further, Trump has, in a fairly short time, packed the Supreme Court with like-minded judges who may overturn any negative findings from Mueller’s investigation that could seriously threaten the Trump presidency.

RURAL PARTS

The midterm elections registered some very interesting results. Democrats emphatically won in the well-off, better educated urban and suburban centres. The Republicans held sway in the rural parts. Commentators have been telling us about two Americas — one progressive, and the other comprising displaced industrial workers allied with “Bible Belt” evangelical Christians. The latter implicitly buy into Trump’s conservative, if strident, agenda.

Or, in fact, one could say it is Trump who cynically bought into the conservative agenda simply so that he could get elected in 2016. Democrats also came across as the party of diversity, with a strong showing by minorities. Women did very well, bringing in a record batch of 96 Congresswomen. They counted African-Americans, Asian-Americans, even a couple of Muslim Americans who included a young Somali-American, Ilhan Omar.

I agree with the Daily Nation writer who noted recently that “if you think matatu operators are rogue, you have not encountered boda boda riders.” The problem with Kenyans is lack of discipline, and the boda boda guys epitomise this national problem. What’s so difficult about respecting traffic lights? I have noticed these riders never do that in Nairobi’s Central Business District. What surprises me is how the police and City Council enforcers are so lenient with them.

FATALITIES

City Hall has previously sponsored its MCAs to visit Kigali. They should have noticed how boda bodas there are disciplined, and how the owners must provide for two helmets: one for the rider and the other for his passenger. This is strictly enforced. And they keep to traffic rules. I don’t know what kind of “benchmarking” these city honchos go to do abroad when they miss such simple things.

I witnessed first-hand the wages of boda boda lawlessness when I once visited a police station in Athi River on a traffic matter. The policeman on duty pointed to rows upon rows of wrecked motorcycles and told me that the highest fatalities reported to them were caused by boda bodas.


Try mediation for justice

By EDITORIAL
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A perennial crisis in the judicial system is the reason for huge backlog of cases in all the courts that makes a mockery of the laudable efforts to ensure that justice is done all the time. In civil disputes, including family succession cases, mediation can cut the time taken and ensure speedy compensation of the aggrieved parties.

According the Judiciary, there are nearly 110,000 pending criminal and civil cases, some of which are more than five years old. What this means is that the suspects, who are innocent until proven guilty by competent courts, are left in abeyance for long periods of time. Also, denial of access to property and funds is a real setback to the innocent.

Indeed, there can be no worse injustice than keeping suspects’ lives literally on hold for prolonged periods with accusations hanging over their heads. For the suspects held in remand prison for many years, this is tantamount to being punished by denial of freedom and yet the cases against them have not been proven.

The old saying, justice delayed is justice denied is the best reminder about the need to do something about this. Chief Justice David Maraga has been quite vocal about the need to clear the backlog of cases in the courts. He has blamed this on sheer laziness by some judges and some technicalities.

The search for alternative ways of delivering justice ensures disputes do not take forever to resolve. The Judiciary is encouraging more litigants to use the two-year-old Court Annexed Mediation Process (Camp), which has shown great promise.

Many cases have been resolved and billions of shillings, which had been withheld in disputes, released back into the economy after the cases were resolved through mediation. The programme is being rolled out to cover cases involving family, commercial, land, and labour matters. This cost-effective method that reduces the time taken to resolve disputes is popular in the developed countries as the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanism.

It is only when an agreement is not reached that the matter is referred to court. Speedily determining cases is a vital means of enhancing justice.


Rows in assemblies a threat to devolution

By EDITORIAL
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County Assemblies appear to be turning into rogue institutions. Members of the County Assembly (MCAs) have misinterpreted their mandate and engage in pursuits that undermine governance. Often they are fighting governors, Assembly speakers or executive committee members, usually with catastrophic consequences.

In recent months, chaos has rocked at least five counties where MCAs have sought to overthrow speakers. These counties are Nairobi, Homa Bay, Kisumu, Kakamega and Nyandarua. Equally, several counties are embroiled in internecine fights between the MCAs and governors. All these fights revolve around two things — control of resources and power. In some instances, it boils down to greed.

INTIMIDATION

MCAs have an oversight role over county governments; they approve budgets and monitor expenditures. In effect, they have to keep governors under check. But that does not mean intimidation, threats and blackmail.

At the Assembly, they elect the speaker, who in turn, is given powers to manage the affairs of the institution dispassionately and independently. Unfortunately, the MCAs imagine that since they are the electors, Speakers should owe them allegiance. Nothing could be more disingenuous.

DELIBERATIONS

Our concern is that the perennial wrangles between MCAs and Assembly Speakers or governors is killing counties. No meaningful deliberations take place at the Assemblies, development projects are stalled and that role of oversight is muddied.

It is deeply troubling to see counties flounder because of incessant squabbles driven by selfish interests. The broad and noble objective of giving citizens power to determine their own destiny through the county system is lost.

RESOLUTION

Annual reports by the Auditor-General reveal massive looting of county resources. Stemming that requires an effective system of checks and control. But MCAs who ought to do that have taken the wrong end of the stick. They extort money from the county governments or the Assemblies.

This is why we acknowledge the move by the Senate’s Devolution Committee to investigate and seek resolution to the disputes in various counties. Beyond the Senate committee sittings, we need to review the county management framework. Certain provisions are fatally flawed and allow for mischief and maladministration. Devolution holds the future for the country and must therefore be jealously safeguarded by among others, reining in rogue groups like MCAs who use their positions to create chaos to secure personal gains.