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Wednesday, November 14th, 2018


PS blames counties cash crisis on last year’s polls

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The Government Wednesday blamed the heavy cost incurred in last year’s two elections for its failure to release funds to counties promptly.

Planning Principal Secretary Julius Muia said the delays in disbursements were because of the effect of the elections but said the situation was quickly improving.


He said the ministry was working on a framework to ensure equitable and prompt disbursement to counties, when he addressed a monitoring and evaluation week forum at Sarova Whitesands Hotel in Mombasa.

Most counties have been hit by financial crisis and lack of money for development since the financial year begun in July.

There have been fears that the devolved units might not receive the funds by December as the development module on the Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS) has not been activated, stalling implementation of projects.

 “We do what is called balanced budget, meaning that the funds we use and the money that is sent to the counties is tax generated from the taxpayers. We have no other way to get these funds. So if the economy is not doing well, then tax collection becomes a challenge,” he said.


“But we have good indicators at the moment that our economy is doing well. Yes, there have been concerns about the delayed funds in the last disbursements and that was caused by two general elections we had last year where a lot of money was used.”

The PS blamed counties for failing to meet their revenue targets, saying most are still trying to figure out how to generate more revenue from the resources within their borders.


“Hopefully in near future, counties will have an opportunity to generate more revenue from their resources to meet some of their obligations. It is not something that can be achieved within a day, it’s a process and finally counties will be able to generate enough revenue to take them forward and end dependency on the national government,” he said.

Governors have recently complained about persistent delays of funds, saying they are unable to implement their development projects and pay contractors and suppliers.


According to the Division of Revenue Act, 2018, the 47 county governments were allocated Sh372 billion by the national government.

About Sh314 billion of the vertical allocation is in equitable share and the balance in conditional grants from the national government and other development partners.

Treasury is by law required to disburse monthly funds as a block to the county revenue fund held at the Central Bank of Kenya in Nairobi.

Africans have got this colonial thing all wrong and here's why

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In response to an article a few days ago on the rising debt in many African countries, someone on social media said reporting problems on the continent was “a colonial mentality”.

Africa was not all “doom and gloom”, he repeated the tired line. Of course, it is not. It is a normal continent like others, with as much agony as joy. The danger would be to see it as the land of only milk and honey.


The bigger problem though with his argument, is this idea that the 19th and 20th century European colonialists (or the West and others today) see Africa as a continent of “doom and gloom”. It represents a serious misunderstanding of colonialism and imperialism.

At the beginning of the colonial era proper, towards the end of the 19th century, records show that on average, it took 16 to 22 days to sail from Britain, to the coast of most of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa that eventually became British — and French, German, or Belgium — colonies.

There was little to no treatment for malaria those days. It should be noted, a fact that is not taught at all in our schools, that the greatest anti-colonial weapon in Africa was the mosquito. For it was virulent malaria, really, that ensured that Africa wasn’t settled and consumed by the Europeans like most of the Americas were.

So why would a European sail for nearly a month over dangerous waters, and come to Africa where the likelihood that he would die of malaria or some other disease for which there was no treatment then, was several times higher than death in war?


You don’t take all that risk if the reward is not so big. It had to be worthwhile. Look, today, al-Shabaab militants kill innocent civilians in an ambush in northern Kenya, and tourists cancel their holidays hundreds of kilometres away at the coast. We, humans take high risks when we are extremely desperate, or the rewards — if you get out alive — are gargantuan.

So the colonialists came because they figured that Africa was not “doom and gloom”. They understood that it was very rich in minerals that were not exploited, and fertile lands that they could farm and grow lucrative cash crops and spices that they would sell to Europe and Asia.

They understood, as Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has written, that they had a technological and scientific advantage, so the cost of overwhelming the natives in conflict would be relatively low. In modern terms, we would say the cost of market entry in Africa was low.

In an earlier period, the Arabs and Europeans who came and enslaved millions of Africans, while they were criminal and evil, were not stupid. Though they said the African was not fully human, that was merely propaganda that allowed them to exploit African labour. They needed to open sugar and cotton plantations and figured that living in malaria-infested lands, Africans had evolved slightly greater resistance to the disease, and would endure the fields in the “new World” better.

They also understood the opportunities that rivalries among African chiefdoms and kingdoms presented, and that our early leaders, like others in history, were already corrupt, and would trade their people or capture the ones from a neighbouring rival hill, and sell them off for trinkets, whisky, or cigarettes.

The colonialist, like the modern-day imperialist, doesn’t go where there are no huge economic gains. I remember visiting two big British offices in Westminster with a Kenyan journalist friend one day. As we left and walked to Trafalgar Square, he was pensive. Then he said: “Man, these mzungus got a great deal out of colonialism that is no longer possible in the modern day. You can’t build a city and these grand offices with marble and fine granite the way they did today.


“These days, however rich you are, you can afford only plastic, fibre glass, and other cheap synthetics like Shanghai and Dubai”.

And he was right. A wise old woman back home once said: “If you want to know the type of woman an unfaithful man will cheat with, listen not to the type he praises, but the one he criticises.

“If he criticises minis, lipstick and such things, know that when he gets to the bar without his wife, that’s the type of woman he will look around for”.


In many ways, racist colonial portrayal of Africa and the natives was like that. In any case, it troubles the conscience less to steal land from a native you think doesn’t deserve it, than one who does.

The colonialists knew a good thing when they saw one. They came not because Africa was useless, but because they saw it as a very good thing.

Mr Onyango-Obbo is the publisher of and explainer [email protected]

Coping with emerging quarter-life crisis

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You’re now 25, life seems to have just started for you, but in reality, you’re two years late to the party — life started long before the pressure dawned on you. You hit the ground running when you got that new job, your career path seems clear enough for a smooth ride. You’re living within your means, it can’t be that bad when you can easily afford the life you always wanted at 21, right?

A couple of months later and you realise you haven’t hit the pinnacle yet, you’re far from where you need to be and no matter how much you sing along to the phrase “trust the process” and “love yours”, the words don’t quite hit home like they should.


And so it begins, quarter-life crisis. Suddenly, everyone around you is eating life with a big spoon when you barely have enough on your table. Social media facade is a reality, nobody ever posts their struggles and you know that, but look how easily you fall to the trap that is comparison.

The hunger for success creeps in, everyone says they are struggling but they hide it so well. Suddenly you don’t love your job enough or the pay is too little, you can do better and you aren’t where you need to be (and where is that anyway?) — there’s always something. Your parents have enough on their plate, you don’t want to bother them. Lord knows they stretch themselves thin for you, and if your ends don’t meet despite their selfless efforts to provide for you then guess what? Your struggles are now your personal problem.

You’re on your own, and that reality stings. It dawns on you every morning and if that doesn’t get you out of bed, then you may have little hope than it takes to survive the crisis.

And 25 isn’t off to a great start is it? Now you’re at the counter on a Wednesday night drowning your sorrows in your poison, the bartender keeps them coming. You feel a little better, just enough to brace the remaining two days of work. So you’re now drowning your sorrows five times a week.

There’s a price for everything so how much of your soul are you willing to sell to the devil? You were raised better than that, so you struggle like everyone else. You start thinking about a side hustle. You’re a creative, you know you can make money out of your craft, but the first window of opportunity comes with a price too high and it’s not really worth it. You can feel yourself giving up. The cycle continues and that’s quarter-life crisis, for you.


Quarter life crisis is not talked about half as much as it should. Quite frankly, I don’t know how far being vocal about it would go but it’s here, so we can as well address it. It is characterised by the pressure to fit in and still stand out in a society that has high expectations of you with little resources to meet them.


Life comes at you fast at the ages of 23 -28. Newsflash, exposure isn’t a currency and no, we don’t want to have to sell ourselves, mind and body, to get to where we want.

The job market is flooded with overworked and underpaid staff, good luck fighting depression from the high-horse that is privilege and the “we all have 24 hours” mentality.

Investing diaspora remittances, skills in boosting blue economy

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Kenyans living abroad send home billions of shillings every year to support their families and invest in income earning ventures such as properties. Last year, they remitted Sh195 billion — much more than China, the World Bank or any development partners can lend Kenya in one year.

In the first six months of this year, they had banked a record Sh138 billion, according to Central Bank of Kenya statistics. If the trend continues, remittances for 2018 could hit a new record that could be 40 percent over the 2017 figures.


This has lifted many families out of poverty and improved economic prospects in health, education and housing. While the diaspora is recognised as an important agent of economic and social change, the investment is largely targeted at improving the livelihoods of their families and investing in assets, such as residential and commercial properties presumed to offer quick returns.


An important aspect of the diaspora that has lagged behind is how to harness the knowledge and skills gained in the West to spur enterprise. Essentially, there’s a need to address the gap between how Kenyans abroad invest their resources back home and how much more they could do if viable opportunities are available.


The Sustainable Blue Economy conference to be hosted by Kenya from November 26 to 28, provides a unique opportunity for the government and the private sector to explore how to tap the money, knowledge, skills and innovation of Kenyans abroad to support the sustainable exploitation of marine resources — oceans, inland lakes and rivers.


A side event organised by the Directorate of Diaspora in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs seeks to link Kenyans overseas to the Blue Economy investment opportunities. They include tourism, fisheries, maritime transport, renewable energy, climate change and waste management.


The activity, which does not even feature in the conference’s main programme, focuses on how to tap the knowledge and skills that Kenyans have accumulated, working and living in the most developed economies. The emerging theme is to consider how the Kenyans and Africans living in the diaspora can be integrated in the most important pillars of development. They have acquired knowledge and skills in engineering science and technology that can be utilised to improve domestic skills and production.


The National Diaspora Council of Kenya, the University of Nairobi and the United States International University-Africa see the importance of leveraging diaspora networks to facilitate the exchange and transfer of knowledge, skills and innovation to improve local enterprise. Sustainable use of marine resources can make a significant contribution to economic and social development. Studies show that investment in the Blue Economy can reduce poverty, enhance food security, create jobs, expand and diversity economic output and exports. The concept paper for the conference and materials from the annual World Ocean Summit, an initiative of the Economist Group, highlight the challenges and opportunities of developing the marine economy.


Kenya has a great opportunity to partner with the diaspora to use marine resources as an instrument of fighting poverty and inequality. Scaling up fish processing, tourism, marine transport and other economic activities around the Indian Ocean, Lake Victoria, other lakes and rivers would improve the livelihoods of the poor and improve equity in income distribution.

The Blue Economy would also help to diversify its domestic output and export base. The export sector is in urgent need of high-growth, high-value products to reduce the rising international trade imbalance that continues to stress foreign exchange reserves and payment obligations.

Key lesson on devolution and cohesion from Belgium

The State of Belgium has undergone a tremendous change since its foundation in 1830. What used to be a centralist structure administered on the basis of one language, morphed during the 20th century into a federal state with three official languages. The federated entities today enjoy fundamental competencies such as education and research, public works, agriculture and environment.


This devolution did not take place to fulfil some political ambitions, but happened out of a necessity to accommodate the different views and needs expressed by different communities more and more conscious of their respective identities, nestled in a territory roughly the size of Tana River County.

This is probably why Belgium feels very much attuned to the devolution that is now taking root in Kenya. The subsidiary principle, according to which a competency should be exercised at the most adequate level, the reliability of financial transfers from the national level to the federated entities according to their needs. It is also based on their contributions to the wealth of the nation. Mechanisms for consultation and dispute settlement to prevent competence overlap and defuse tensions between the different levels, are all at core of the Belgian federal system. However, this system is not perfect and is constantly evolving.


As Kenya knows it now, devolution is a day to day learning experience for politicians, where empathy for the interlocutor, dedication to serve the population and the sense for compromise make a crucial difference. I can only praise President Uhuru Kenyatta and Mr Raila Odinga for having shaken hands and found a middle ground bound to help overcome long-standing national grievances.

Belgium established diplomatic relations with Kenya in 1963. We have since then enjoyed cordial relations with increased co-operation in education and research, cultural exchanges and trade.

Today, the support given by my country to Kenya primarily focuses on the creation of non-commercial infrastructure such as water pumping and distribution systems, footbridges, waste treatment or the acquisition of fire engines.

I was recently in the hills of Kajiado County to see for myself how a Belgian soft loan for the digging of boreholes can make a crucial difference for the local communities. This is, especially so for women and girls who are usually assigned to fetch water no matter the distance, and to the detriment of their own education.


Today the mwananchi is asking himself or herself questions about the loans taken by the government, which is perfectly understandable. But loans are not all the same. If a project represents a real investment for the public good, and without imposing a burden on future generations, it is worth it. This is, of course, a judgment call that every public decision maker has to make in Europe or Africa.


The capital of Belgium, Brussels, is the headquarters of the European Union. After 60 years of peace and success uniting a continent once divided, the EU is facing tough challenges, like everybody else in this fast changing world where populists or nationalists and their “easy” solutions and aggressive posturing bring us closer to a new catastrophe.

How can our memory be so short? A few days ago, we marked the centennial of the end of the First World War, a conflict thousands of Africans were drawn into by the mere fact of being colonised by the warring parties. In Belgium, entire towns were wiped out, hundreds of thousands of young men from the Allied forces died in the Flanders fields, the same fields which a century later still regurgitate dangerous explosives. Across the world, putting aside egos and engaging in a dialogue has never been more important. “Try to see it my way”, sang a famous British band; “we can work it out”.

I commend Kenya for its mediation in South Sudan and for the price paid by its soldiers in Somalia. The EU wants to partner with Kenya in the maintenance of international peace and security in Africa. Soon, Belgium and Kenya will both sit at the table of the Security Council of the United Nations. With the sense of dialogue and compromise that characterises our leaders, this will represent a great opportunity to contribute to a safer and more peaceful world. Long live His Majesty King Philippe and to the bonds of affection between our two nations!

Schools ownership order raises queries

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President Kenyatta has opened a new front for contestation in the education sector. His directive to the Education ministry to revert schools that were established by churches to the religious institutions is fraught with legal, social and financial implications. He has acted out of sync with the law and modern trends in education management.

For starters, he is rewinding the clock and taking the country back to the pre- and immediate post-independence era when faiths managed schools; a tradition that served its time and which has since been overtaken by events. Religious organisations, especially the churches, were instrumental in establishing schools as part of the missionary work. The role was taken over by the government through the Education Act of 1968 on the basis of the fact it was the responsibility of the State to manage public schools.

Since then, the religious organisations have been designated as sponsors with the mandate of providing pastoral guidance to schools, are consulted over appointment of principals and given slots in the boards. However, school management is the mandate of the government through the County Education Boards and school boards of management. This is because education is a secular business.


Religious organisations do not have networks and corresponding professional capabilities to run schools. Experience has shown in the years gone of churches extracting resources from schools to the chagrin of the fee-paying parents. The proposition to involve religious groups in school matters, which is a conversation that has been going for long, is legitimate. They have a right to participate in curriculum development, composition of boards, providing chaplaincy services. Nobody has any problem with that and the law is explicit about it.


Importantly, the faiths have been concerned with growing cases of indiscipline in schools and keen to participate in resolving it. That is fine although it must also be acknowledged that instilling discipline in schools goes beyond religious edicts. But purporting to revert management roles and ownership of titles is ill-advised. It is an illusion to imagine that churches can run schools as they did in the halcyon years of Independence. Times have changed and we cannot go back to those idyllic days.

Laws on managing schools must be respected. If there is any need to change management and ownership of school title deeds, then we must follow the law, and avoid such edicts.

Grant funds to ease floods woes

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The National Treasury has asked Parliament to approve a Sh1.05 billion expenditure to mitigate the consequences of the flooding disaster witnessed earlier in the year. The amount was withdrawn from the Contingency Fund, which is managed by the National Treasury. Every year, the National Assembly allocates about Sh5 billion for response to emergencies such as floods.

According to the Kenya Red Cross, scores of Kenyans lost their lives in the flooding, which also displaced more than 50,680 households or 271,000 people. The deluge also wreaked havoc on property and left road networks and other infrastructure in the affected parts of the country in ruins. The approval, if granted, will pave the way for the National Treasury to regularise the disbursement and replenish the fund for future emergencies.

Treasury Cabinet Secretary has also tabled a report in the House, detailing the expenditures. These are expected to be perused by the House Budget and Appropriations Committee, whose decision will enable the MPs to accept or reject the request. And therein lies the catch. With the families and others affected by the floods still hurting, there is a need to establish that the money was used for the intended purpose and the victims were duly compensated to enable them rebuild their lives.

Many a time, resources allocated for such undertakings have ended up in the hands and pockets of a few greedy and undeserving individuals instead of the genuine victims. This amounts to a slap in the face for families and individuals affected by such calamities. Kenyans expect the MPs to go through the report with a fine tooth comb to ascertain the veracity of the expenditure.

Raila and Waiguru bury the hatchet in spirit of 'handshake'

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Opposition leader Raila Odinga and Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru, who have not seen eye to eye for years over political differences, buried the hatchet Wednesday and announced the forging of a new friendship “in the interest of national development”.


The two met for two hours at Mr Odinga’s private offices at Capitol Hill in Nairobi, during which they discussed their war of words and legal battles over the loss of funds at the National Youth Service during Ms Waiguru’s tenure at the Devolution ministry.


Mr Odinga had accused Ms Waiguru of overseeing the plunder of the NYS in 2015, leading to a defamation suit against him by the governor. On Wednesday, the two acknowledged that the scandal had been a thorn in their collective flesh, and that they had agreed to stop the mudslinging and leave the matter to investigators.

“We’ve had a long dispute with the Governor over the NYS scandal,” said Mr Odinga at a brief press conference shortly after the meeting. “A lot of facts have since emerged since I first made the revelations and we have agreed that we should let bygones be bygones. What exactly happened during the scandal will come out through the offices of our competent investigators, who must tell us where the public money went.”


Mr Odinga also noted that he had used the opportunity with Ms Waiguru to discuss the status of devolution, and noted that they had agreed that the matter should receive “proper attention” should the Constitution review process take off.

“I maintain that devolution is an idea whose time has come,” said Mr Odinga. “It is work in progress and the conversation on how to make it better should go on. We should discuss how to restructure and strengthen it for the sake of our people.”


Ms Waiguru hinted that she will withdraw the defamation case against Mr Odinga in court. “The case is settled in the spirit of national cohesion, oneness and reconciliation,” she said, while hailing the Orange Democratic Movement leader, now a supporter of the Jubilee administration, for his commitment to ensure that devolution works.

In her suit against Mr Odinga Raila, she argues that he portrayed her as a woman of low moral standing who is involved in unethical and professional misconduct, and that Mr Odinga has caused her to suffer immensely as his statements portrayed her as a common thief, an embezzler of public funds, corrupt in the extreme, and a flagrant lawbreaker who is not fit to hold public office.

Nigeria Humanitarian Fund partners with Nigerian private sector to mobilize resources for the most vulnerable

In north-east Nigeria, ten years of conflict have left more than 7 million people in dire need of help in the three worst-affected states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe. 1.8 million people are internally displaced. People need food, water, shelter and health services. But with other global crises competing for scarce resources, the Nigeria Humanitarian Fund is today evolving to partner with the Nigerian private sector to mobilize additional resources and ensure more timely and effective lifesaving support for the affected population.

Launched today, the Nigeria Humanitarian Fund – Private Sector Initiative provides private sector companies and business with the opportunity to contribute to the Country-Based Pooled Fund alongside donor countries. It is the first-ever joint humanitarian fund in which the private sector will join donor countries in providing assistance for humanitarian action. The platform is a first in the world for humanitarian action. It is a major innovation that will serve as a blueprint for other country-based funds.

Read more on OCHA

More than 5,000 people still sheltering in MSF-supported hospital after CAR clashes

Fighting between two armed groups in Batangafo, in the north of the Central African Republic, in late October drove more than 10,000 people to seek shelter in Batangafo hospital. More than 5,000 people still remain in the hospital, living in extremely precarious conditions. Many lost everything in the fires that ravaged their homes during the fighting. Despite a relative lull, the situation remains extremely tense.

“It was like a horror scene. We saw hundreds of households in flames. It was awful,” says Helena Cardellach, MSF Field Coordinator in Batangafo. “It all began on Wednesday, 31 October 2018. We received one wounded patient at the hospital. He was a member of one of the armed groups that controls the city. It was after this incident that violent clashes erupted, eventually destroying a large part of the city of Batangafo.”

In retaliation for the wounded man, one of the armed groups attacked three internally displaced persons’ (IDP) camps housing tens of thousands of people, burning large parts of the camps to the ground.

“Even now you can still smell the ash,” said Helena. “All the houses were burned, as well as the market and the chapel.”

The MSF-supported Batangafo hospital received around 20 victims, some of them shot and some with serious burns. The thousands of displaced people who lost everything are now living in a situation of extreme precariousness.

“We are talking about people who have nothing, and who are living today in conditions of very poor hygiene,” said Helena.

With limited access to healthcare, they face serious risks of malaria, diarrhoea, infections and epidemics. We are initiating an emergency response to install additional water facilities in the hospital in order to guarantee a minimum standard of hygiene for the displaced people. We are particularly concerned about access to healthcare for those who fled into the periphery and the bush.

“For the moment, Batangafo is a ghost town. In the morning when there is a lull, people come out of their refuge in the hospital to try to live their lives, and then they go back to the hospital at night”, said Helena. “These are scenes of desolation. The protection of the population must be ensured.”

The Central African civilian population continues to pay the heaviest price of the conflict, with more than 570,000 refugees in neighbouring countries and nearly 690,000 internally displaced people out of a population of around 4.5 million.