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Monday, December 3rd, 2018


Three probed over abduction of Italian volunteer

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Detectives are interrogating three people linked to the abduction of an Italian volunteer Silvia Romano and injury of five people at Chakama in Kilifi County last month.
Mr Dumal Haji Osman and Mr Hassan Borow Khamis were arrested last Saturday at a forest in Asa Kone, Tana River County, while allegedly trying to supply food to the abductors.

The third suspect, Ms Rukia Nuno, the wife of Mr Said Adan Abdi — one of the three key suspects in the abduction with a Sh1 million bounty on his head — was arrested in Tarasaa village in Garsen, Tana River County.
Police Monday presented Mr Osman, Mr Khamis and Ms Nuno before Malindi Chief Magistrate Julie Oseko to request for more days to enable them complete their investigations.
The magistrate directed police to detain the three until December 14.

In the application, Chief Inspector Peter Muriithi said a Toyota Fielder motor vehicle belonging to the two men was recovered deep in the forest but it has not been processed by forensic experts from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations.
“We believe the two wanted to supply food and medication to the attackers since they have been adversely mentioned in the kidnapping of the Italian woman,” the detective said.

Mr Muriithi said the investigations cover Mombasa, Kilifi, Tana River and Garissa counties and Somalia, saying the abductors could be trying to cross over to Somalia with Ms Romano. “The three are likely to face charges for the offences of aiding and abetting the commission of a terrorist act contrary to the law and conspiracy to commit a terrorist act,” he added.

Last week, the government incorporated the pastoralist Oroma community in Tana River County in an operation to track and rescue the Italian social worker.
The Tana River security team led by County Commissioner Oning’oi ole Sosio, together with Garsen MP Ali Wario and Senator Jumwa Wario, on Monday held a baraza with the Oroma community at Bombi to deliberate on how to rescue the Italian and arrest the culprits.

The unknown gunmen on November 20 kidnapped Ms Romano, 23, a manager of a non-governmental organisation known as African Milele Onlus and wounded five locals.
During the baraza, some locals said they saw the attackers criss-crossing Matolani and Hawa Wanje. When asked about their mission, they lied that they were looking for their lost livestock.
The suspects were first seen at Matolani, tens of kilometres from Chakama Trading Centre, before travelling towards the north.
Other suspects with Sh1 million bounties on their heads each are Mr Ibrahim Adan Omar and Mr Yusuf Kuno Adan.

Columnist Kisero got it wrong in NCPB maize blame-game saga

Daily Nation columnist Jaindi Kisero’s November 14 article, “On maize, the biggest scandal was the role of major millers”, was unfair.
In December 2016, millers warned the government of an impending maize shortage. The delay to open a duty-free maize import window led to real and serious shortages in the country.
The severe drought in April to September last year left the region with no maize stocks. Millers had to source maize from Ethiopia at Sh4,200 per 90kg bag. Tanzania had banned exports and Uganda had no surplus. A 2kg packet of maize flour retailed at Sh150.

To lower flour prices, the government released 450,000 bags of maize at Sh3,000 each but prices still shot up to Sh4,500. The only source of imported non-GMO maize was Mexico and South Africa.
A maize flour subsidy programme on May 20 last year saw a 2kg packet of flour cost Sh90 as the government supplied maize to designated millers at Sh2,300. With the shortage, the government put out a tender for imports, to be bought at Sh3,600.

The government bought the maize brought in by the first vessel in June for the subsidy programme, gazetted to run from May 20 up to September 30. But millers faced challenges, including one entry and offloading port at the port, which created bottlenecks.
Millers and traders incurred demurrage charges of Sh1.3 billion on vessels carrying wheat grain. Logistical challenges included transferring maize from the port to depots, seeing millers operate below capacity and lose brand differentiation due to uniform pricing.

The government declared a Sh3,200 retail price for local maize in October but there was no significant flow as farmers expected Sh3,600. Millers did not have stocks by the end of the programme, whose extension to December 31 saw them bring in a million bags of costlier maize.
The anticipated harvest was affected by a fall army worm invasion and inadequate rainfall. The government required 1.5 million bags per month, or 4.5 million for this period, but local supply was inadequate, hence purchased a million bags at Sh3,200 from the importers.

Millers participated in the maize flour subsidy programme to ensure affordable food for consumers. However, despite these initiatives, they are crippled by serious cash flow constraints as they are yet to be paid for the million bags, worth Sh2.3 billion.
It would, therefore, be selective amnesia to sweep under the rug, the myriad complications that led to last year’s maize crisis by heaping blame on millers. The problems that the maize sector faces are multifaceted and can only be genuinely addressed through a sober inquiry and not finger pointing as Mr Kisero opted to do.
Mohamed Islam, Cereal Millers Association (CMA) chairman.

Story on erosion of coastal beaches had wrong scientific information

I was irritated by the explanations provided on the accelerated erosion of coastal beaches at Kipini in the story, “Kipini: Green paradise that the deep, blue ocean swallowed up” (Sunday Nation, December 2).
County director of meteorology Isaiah Munga is quoted as saying that the “rise in temperature causes the ocean to warm up and become dense, hence rising. Kipini is already at sea level…and the ocean is seeking extra space since there is no other channel.
“Even the freshwater River Tana becomes salty in the morning until about noon. It then goes back to its fresh nature in the afternoon-that is a result of thermal expansion.”
As a hydrologist who has carried out extensive research on the Tana, including the Tana Delta and other estuarine systems along the Kenya coast, I find these explanations non-factual and baseless allegations that are not well grounded on scientific research. The rise of the ocean temperature, a fact in the Indian Ocean, does not make the ocean water dense. As ocean water temperature rises, the water becomes less dense! While coastal erosion along the Tana Delta, in which Kipini is located, can partly be attributed to thermal expansion of the Indian Ocean, studies show that alteration and modification of the hydrology of the river, occasioned by construction of hydro-electric power dams in the Upper Tana basin, is also a culprit.
Seek Information on technical and scientific issues from reputable experienced scientists to avoid embarrassing misrepresentation of facts.

Regulator should rein in utilities gone berserk, stop ‘Open Sesame’

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The Energy Regulatory Commission carries out its work with aplomb. Every month, it announces the maximum retail price of petroleum products for all major cities. The oil marketers dutifully and uniformly rack up their prices to this figure.
And yet, this is not the way that it was supposed to pan out. ERC and National Oil Corporation were set up to protect the consumer from avaricious marketers.

Marketers were expected to compete in price but not charge above the maximum recommended price. The ERC formulas cushioned them against fluctuations in exchange rate and other market uncertainties and provided generous margins.
This obvious collusion has been largely ignored. The formula also hides the inefficiencies in the agencies that handle the fuel. This has been exposed by the goings-on at Kenya Pipeline Company.

Following the saga unfolding at KPC is like reading Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. Ali Baba, a poor woodcutter, is gathering wood in the forest when a band of thieves approaches. He hides as they enter a cave that opens when they say the words “Open Sesame”. After they depart, he stands before the cave and gives the command. To his surprise and delight, it opens to reveal an enormous cache of treasure. He packs some gold on his donkeys and returns home.

KPC pumps oil marketers’ fuel. Over the years, a few people have discovered that they only need to fiddle with paper work and voila! A vast quantity of fuel is unlocked for the shady parallel market.
Devani discovered this with the Triton scam, where 126 million litres of fuel were siphoned off. Like Ali Baba, he had watched the marketers trust their fuel to an insecure KPC. He discovered that nobody would follow him. Like Ali Baba, he went to enjoy his fortune.

Several ‘Ali Babas’ have discovered the cave that KPC has become. Oil marketers, like the 40 thieves, have secured their wealth in this compromised cave. Just as with the 40 thieves, we do not feel much sympathy for them.
What we do not know is that this cave also serves as a self-refilling cornucopia at our expense. Wily oil marketers have recruited our guard, the ERC, to ensure that they do not suffer loss. Losses are passed on to the consumer, the very society whom the 40 thieves rob!

When Ali Baba’s rich but hard-hearted merchant brother Kasim discovers his sibling’s newfound wealth, he demands an explanation. The next day, he visits the cave and greedily gathers as much treasure as he can but forgets the formula for leaving the cave. He is found and killed by the thieves.
Greed leads to carelessness. The looters who came after ‘Ali Baba’ Devani were impatient. They forgot the formula. They took too much too soon. It is even reported that they replaced the fuel with water!

The marketers are angry, but only because insurance and ERC have refused to refill their horn by covering up this obvious loss. They are now throwing ‘Kasim’ under the bus.
Ironically, it is the Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Mr Keriako Tobiko, a former Director of Public Prosecutions, who has pointed out that it is not possible to lose Sh1 billion fuel without perpetrating an environmental crisis.

ERC needs to up its game. The service levels provided by monopolies in the energy sector leave a lot to be desired. Consumers are still reeling from expensive electricity charges by Kenya Power, attributed to purchase of faulty transformers and an opaque billing system.

ERC is unfortunate to be regulator in an industry with powerful players, both government and private, in a highly politicised environment. It is supposed to regulate behemoths like Kenya Power, KenGen, KPC, Ketracco, Rural Electrification Authority, Geothermal Development Company as well as powerful private players. Could ERC be a victim of ‘regulatory capture’?
ERC and the DPP must make it personally expensive to play ‘Open Sesame’ with public resources. Theft of public resources is not a victimless crime. Is somebody still waiting for the President to order a crackdown?

Mr Odido is head of flying studies department in the School of Aerospace Sciences, Moi University. [email protected]

Refine new curriculum before it’s rolled out

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At several forums by the school where I am a parent, we have had very engaging discussions and interactions with the stakeholders of the competency-based curriculum (CBC), such as representatives of KICD, the Education ministry and Knec.
The new system is good and the clear difference with 8-4-4 is that it shifts from the summative evaluation to competency-based evaluation where continuous assessment counts more. The 8-4-4 is said to be too rigid and with limited opportunities to align basic education with children’s career interests, aptitudes and abilities.

Our school has been piloted for Knec’s Kenya Early Years Assessment for grade three, and the kind of preparation we had to go through was quite rigorous. This revealed great opportunities for parents to work with the children.
The most challenging part was the case of portfolio books and display materials. These are not readily available in the local bookshops or supermarkets yet they are mandatory to complement CBC learning.

CBC embraces digital literacy as a key competency and, therefore, uses tablets with preloaded learning content such as Msingi Pack. The gadget, charging cabinets, laptops for teachers and the teaching content are expensive, as is electricity required to run them.
A compelling reason to embrace the CBC in Kenya is regional cooperation and integration, one of the objectives of the East African Community. One way of achieving this was movement of goods and services across the five countries.

Movement of labour required a harmonised curriculum among the members. This culminated in the development of “A Framework on Harmonization of Curricula, Structure and Examinations in the EAC”.
Secondly, there are many children whose aptitude, interests and abilities lie in vocational education, the arts and sports, much as the country needs learners who perform well in the traditional subjects like medicine, engineering, law.

Lastly, general education and, specifically, the curriculum that learners interact with will play a major role in helping Kenya to achieve the SDGs. The curriculum provides an opportunity to align to the SDGs and the
Digital literacy aids innovations and inventions, making it desirable. It also makes sense to keep preparing teachers and parents to embrace the change. But how prepared is the government to meet the resource-intensive learning?

Policy makers, stakeholders and development partners must agree on improving this learning method and be keen on internationally accepted standards, testing and quality management for effective monitoring of the transition.
But the government must address the concerns already raised before its roll out in 2019.
As Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed has said, education must deliver to Africa what it did to the rest of the world. Let’s go the competency-based way.

Ms Odhiambo, a strategic management consultant, is a development studies PhD student at JKUAT. [email protected]

Dying of Aids in shadow of success

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December 1 marked the 30th anniversary of World Aids Day, an international day observed since the 1980s when HIV diagnosis was a certain death sentence and life-saving anti-retrovirals were a distant dream. The world has become used to news stories presenting the HIV response as a success.

Certainly in some places, particularly the global North, there is no way we can compare this with the situation 30 years ago. But if the last 20 years will be known as the ‘HIV treatment revolution’ with its massive strides in access to drugs and prevention tools, thanks to vigorous international funding, from our vantage we fear entering an era of ‘the return of Aids’. The general impression may be that the worst is over, yet it is not.

This year, Unaids reports that 75 percent of the 36.9 million people living with HIV know their HIV status, compared to just two thirds (67 percent) in 2015, and the fact that 59 percent of the people have access to treatment. Yet a terrible flipside to this confident narrative of success is emerging. Global progress remains grossly uneven. There are also distressing indications that international donors are now disengaging from the fight against HIV.

Nearly a million people living with HIV died from Aids last year, despite the available science, tools and diagnostics. Global death tolls from Aids have barely dropped over the last years. The global goal of 150,000 fewer deaths a year hovers on the horizon like a mirage.
The number of Aids deaths in countries where Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) works remains staggering. Democratic Republic of Congo had 17,000 deaths, Guinea 5,100 deaths, Kenya 28,000 deaths, Malawi 39,000 deaths, Mozambique 70,000 deaths and South Africa 126,000 deaths. Today 30 percent to 40 percent of people worldwide who test positive for HIV and start treatment do so with an alarmingly low CD4 count (below 200), an indicator of serious immune failure, and are at grave risk.

What is different today ago is that the majority of people presenting at the worst stages of Aids already know their HIV positive status, with the majority already on anti-retrovirals. In MSF-supported hospitals providing care for Aids patients the majority of patients had already been on treatment: Kinshasa (DRC) 71 percent, Conakry (Guinea) 62 percent, Homa Bay (Kenya) 60 percent and Nsanje (Malawi) 67 percent of patients. The inevitable challenges of daily treatment coupled with health systems that struggle to support them properly lead to people experiencing ‘treatment failure’, when they stop treatment or their treatment stops working for them. At worst, a significant proportion has developed resistance to treatment.

Yet without the political acknowledgement of continued high numbers of Aids deaths, we will not see necessary action translated on the ground for people living with HIV. Measures to deal effectively with ‘contemporary’ Aids remain glaringly absent from today’s HIV response.
Health centres and hospitals must be equipped to quickly deliver lifesaving testing and treatment for people in advanced stages of HIV.

Observations by MSF colleagues and HIV activists in sub-Saharan Africa indicate early signs of the deadly impact of a sharp drop in international funding that will affect millions of lives in the coming years. In countries heavily reliant on donors for antiretrovirals, a shortfall of international HIV funding and a treatment scale-down appear imminent at the most crucial moment. Where the last 20 years saw a generation of lives saved thanks to international solidarity, today a new generation are at risk of being lost as donors disengage.

Much has been said recently about the importance of HIV testing but it cannot be seen in isolation of the current funding context. Without secured funding to power HIV treatment and support, knowledge of one’s HIV-status is a real dilemma.
People who test positive for HIV should have access to treatment, within health or community systems supported to deliver care.

World Aids Day is about international solidarity with people who continue to fight for survival, struggling against barriers of neglect and discrimination. These are the people and patients who need our attention. World Aids Day 2018 is for those who continue to die in the shadow of success.

Ms Anam is the HIV advocacy coordinator, Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders (MSF)

County executives want higher pay

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County executive members have renewed their clamour for higher salaries, arguing that they should be recognised for their productivity and performance.
The ministers, who are attending a three-day conference in Nairobi, said theirs is a high-risk job.
During the opening of the summit, County Executive Committee Members chairperson Charles Birech asked the Council of Governors to intervene.

He said the reduction of their pay by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission was in bad taste.
Mr Birech, the Kericho County Infrastructure executive, said the current pay was not objectively and rationally determined.
SRC reduced the monthly pay for county executives from Sh350,000 to Sh259,563 last year.

Every county has a maximum 10 executives.
“We need support from the Council of Governors. Our loyalty and allegiance is to governors. We ask our governors to hold our hands on this one,” Mr Birech said.
In January, State officers in counties got a reprieve when the High Court temporarily suspended the implementation of the pay cuts and abolished allowances.

The directive was issued when the Kakamega County government challenged the decision by the commission to implement the review.
The salary structure for September 2017 to 2022 and which also affected other senior State officers was to reduce the country’s public wage bill by 35 per cent.
The then Sarah Serem-led commission said it would save Kenya more than Sh8 billion annually.

Council of Governors vice-chairperson Anne Waiguru said the welfare of county employees should be taken seriously “since governors have high expectations of them”.
She, however, added it must be within the framework of the law.
“We will pick up this matter with the council and make it our agenda in our meetings. County employees work a lot and sometimes governors push them and put targets which are not easily achievable,” the Kirinyaga governor said.

“We understand your needs and will ensure your welfare is taken care of. Every governor would want to see his or her employees protected.”
Finance experts say the ballooning wage bill is taking a heavy toll on the economy of the country and devolved governments, threatening growth, poverty-reduction and the citizens’ general welfare.
Mandera Trade and Industrialisation executive Abdiaziz Sheikh Maad wanted to know why county assembly speakers earn more than executives.

Senators put Sonko on the spot over JamboPay deal

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Senators have criticised Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko for failure to terminate the contract between the county and JamboPay revenue collection platform even after the Auditor-General and the assembly found the system inefficient.
Digital payment system JamboPay, owned by Web Tribe, has been offering services to Nairobi since 2014.

The lawmakers said the system is wanting, prone to leakages and that the county is not in control of the transactions.
Mr Sonko told the County Public Accounts and Investments Committee the system is a “headache” as its transactions are not always transparent and its owners are not accountable.

“We have written protest letters to the owners of the system to no avail. Our main problem with them is reconciliation of figures which is not happening,” he said, telling the committee that an audit by KPMG had failed to account for up to Sh22 billion. “We have even asked them to bring their servers to City Hall so that we can monitor the transactions but they have refused.”
He urged the Senate to summon JamboPay’s CEO and question him.

Mr Sonko said he could not stop the contract for fear of lawsuits for breach of the agreement, saying this could be costly to the taxpayer. He also said termination meant going back to manual payments which are more susceptible to corruption.

But, the lawmakers questioned his sincerity on the issue and demanded an explanation on why he had not exploited the exit clause in the contract to end the deal.
Mr Moses Kajwang’, who chairs the committee, told the governor to take practical steps to terminate the contract. “If you are dissatisfied you better terminate it because this committee will hold you responsible and recommend that you be investigated for the loss of public funds and violation of the law,” he warned, saying waiting for the contract to run out is not enough.

Narok senator Ledama ole Kina said the deal is flawed because it violates the Public Finance Management Act which stipulates that commission payable to those who collect revenue on behalf of a public entity cannot be paid at source. “The fact that JamboPay pays itself before banking the money is illegal and should be a ground to terminate the contract,” Mr Kina said.
Kiambu Senator Kimani Wamatangi said the contract is meant to put the county in bondage until it runs out.
The contract stipulates that any party can terminate the contract after a six month notice and after the party that owes money pays the other.

To stop maize 'eating' scandals, blow up NCPB

By Macharia Gaitho
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Kenyan TV viewers were recently treated to a riveting flyweight verbal slugfest between Elgeyo-Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen and Cherangany MP Joshua Kutuny.
Instead of getting enlightened on serious food security issues that have dogged the country since Independence, viewers were treated to a juvenile quarrel based largely on the two politicians hurling crude insults across the table.

A big problem is that protagonists were unwilling or unequipped to engage in serious discourse on the elusive quest for national food security, the economics of maize farming, the role of the National Cereals and Produce Board, subsidies and market interventions, market economics versus State control and all the other issues that cloud food supply.

It did not help matters that neither of them got onto the TV show in their own right but merely as hired mouthpieces for powerful individuals with stakes in the premature presidential succession race.
In short, it wasn’t about maize but simply political war fought by proxy.
Mr Kutuny is in the small group of Rift Valley Kalenjin politicians accusing their regional political kingpin, Deputy President William Ruto, of being a key profiteer in the cartels that subvert the supply chains to make big money, often at the expense of their constituents, farmers in Kenya’s grain basket.

Mr Ruto’s backers argue that Mr Kutuny and his colleagues are merely hirelings at the service of groups out to derail the DP’s bid to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta at State House in 2022. The finger is pointed (in)directly at figures such as the President, (former?) opposition leader Raila Odinga and Baringo Senator Gideon Moi.
Otherwise, Mr Murkomen and company don’t dispute that Mr Ruto is a big farmer who has sold maize to NCPB and been paid for his supplies. They also don’t exactly deny that he may have been involved in the importation and supply of maize and fertiliser, defending the right of anyone to legitimately engage in such business.
The right to deal with NCPB came out clearly at the TV encounter when both Mr Kutuny and Mr Murkomen concurred that they had sold and been paid for maize deliveries to the board. Both took that as a right, seeing no contradiction or conflict of interest in political leaders dealing with a chronically corrupt institution.
For them, it’s about who is in a position to exploit office for preferential treatment on maize deliveries and payments and insider information on duty-free import windows.

It was a revelation that NCPB had long abandoned its core functions and became a mere vessel for politicians and merchants out to make windfalls from food insecurity. It’s time for radical prescriptions to put a stop to our maize eating scandals.
Recently, I was at an event where somebody suggested that, to eliminate corruption cartels, a first step would be to blow up the NCPB. The audience was shocked.

But, on reflection, that might not be bad thing, when we consider that the ogre actually does very little towards market regulation, efficient distribution, maintenance of strategic reserves, farmer support and all the myriad functions related to food security.
Kenya has a vibrant private sector that can take up many of those roles if freed from the shackles of a corrupt and inefficient Ministry of Agriculture bureaucracy which often behaves like a communist command and control organ.

Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria is not everyone’s favourite politician. He too often shoots from the hip with acerbic ethnic-hate comments that incite angry reactions. Soon after the disgraceful Kutuny-Murkomen verbal duel, he had his own turn on the small screen, giving a more sober performance which questioned the very basis of what his colleagues were quarrelling about.

Mr Kuria’s proposal was that we cease this obsession with maize. That we end State support for inefficient producers through prize fixing at the producer and consumer ends. That we abandon the role of NCPB as a guaranteed buyer for big farmers who employ political muscle to demand prices far above world market rates. In other words, blow up NCPB and let maize farmers survive as do avocado, orange, bean, potato and cassava farmers.

Food for thought — if only it wasn’t coming from a politician who keeps mum on State support for coffee, tea and miraa farmers from his part of the world. And one who is sponsoring legislation that defies all free market principals in seeking to make coffee farmers hostage to a prize-fixing cartels of local processors who have already enslaved and impoverished cashew nut and macadamia farmers through State protection.
[email protected]; @MachariaGaitho

Good idea badly effected

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The order barring matatus from accessing Nairobi’s city centre came into force yesterday with devastating consequences for thousands of commuters and motorists. According to City Hall, the ban is meant to eliminate traffic congestion and chaos in the city centre often blamed on matatus.
The purpose, it says, is to restrict public service vehicles to terminuses on the fringes of the city, where they can drop off and pick up passengers without crowding the CBD. However, as the ban took effect yesterday, it was the commuters and private motorists who were left holding the short end of the stick.
In the morning, many had to walk long distances to their places of work after the PSVs decided to terminate their journey way off their designated areas. And in the evening, it was the same agony as commuters trekked all the way outside the city centre to catch matatus home. Though the move was meant to ease traffic movement, it was utter chaos on the roads and highways leading into and out of the city centre.
The chaotic scenes at the terminuses were testimony of the lack of foresight in the execution of the order. It was clear the planners did not take into consideration the impact it would have on commuters. The situation was compounded by an apparent lack of clear guidelines to traffic officers to monitor matatus without adversely affecting other motorists. The result was a transport paralysis late into the night.
In the absence of a reliable mass transport system, matatus are the backbone of the system. Any directive that disrupts their operations only ends up making the lives of the millions of commuters more miserable. City planners must come up with a public transport system capable of handling the teeming population.