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Tuesday, January 1st, 2019


Sri Lanka Red Cross Society continues to help people affected by floods

The Sri Lanka Red Cross Society’s Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi Branch continues to provide support to people affected by floods despite the weather having improved.

According to reports, incessant rains over the past few weeks along with heavy winds have resulted in flash floods in northern Sri Lanka affecting over 100,000 people. The worst-affected districts were Mullaitivu, and Killinochchi in the northern parts of Sri Lanka.

As of now SLRCS has managed to provide NFRI to over 4500 people in Killinochchi and Mullaitivu districts.

The Sri Lanka Red Cross Society volunteers engaged in providing First Aid services, search & rescue, drinking water distribution & evacuation centre cleaning as well.

2019 outlook: Emmanuel Macron set for Nairobi visit

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French President Emmanuel Macron makes first visit in Kenya for an environment conference set for March in a meet that will also seek to boost business ties.

President Uhuru Kenyatta will host the French president at UN Environment Assembly tagged UNEA-4.

“Hodeidah must not become the next Aleppo”

The renewed offensive on Hodeidah city risks cutting the lifeline for 20 million Yemenis.

“There is now little doubt that the vital port city of Hodeidah is under attack. As the offensive sweeps into the city, tens of thousands of Yemenis risk being caught in the crossfire. The fighting threatens to cut off a lifeline to over 20 million men, women and children who depend on supplies through Hodeidah port to survive,” warned the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Secretary General, Jan Egeland.

Extreme violence at the edge of the city stands in direct opposition to rhetoric from both parties to the conflict about their willingness to return to the negotiations table and secure peace.

More than half a million people have already been displaced as a result of the fighting around Hodeidah city since June this year. In addition, millions of people have been driven into crisis by obstructions to the flow of food and fuel through Hodeidah’s ports.

The densely-populated city is home to an estimated 3 million inhabitants. It is also the site of Yemen’s biggest sea entry point for commercial supplies and the quickest, cheapest and safest way to move supplies into a country that depends on imports to meet 90 per cent of its supply needs.

“If the senseless war engulfing Hodeidah is allowed to continue, an entirely preventable human catastrophe will become a reality. It is more critical than ever that the US, UK, France, Iran and all the actors engaged in this brutal conflict call the parties to drop their arms and start peace talks now,” said Egeland.

Note to editors:

NRC has spokespeople available for interview in English and Norwegian.

Hodeidah photos and human interest stories can be downloaded free here, here and here.

For interviews or more information, please contact:

Global media, +47 905 623 29

Delayed pay, poor prices threaten maize farming

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A section of maize farmers in West Pokot and Trans-Nzoia counties have threatened to boycott planting the crop next season due to poor prices and failure by the national government to pay them on time.

They are now demanding a memorandum of understanding with the government on maize prices for the next harvesting season. They said they ought to know the prices early enough to budget for maize farming.

The farmers accused the government of frustrating them, citing delayed payment for their produce.

They said they are yet to sell last season’s crop due to lack of market and poor prices. A majority of them say they are now unable to repay their loans.

They said the woes facing them have been worsened by creditors who are after their properties to recover loans they secured to purchase farm inputs over the last two seasons.

The growers said the MOU will enable them to know if they will plant maize or resort to other crops that will benefit them.

Led by their chairman Richard Mwareng, the farmers said they got demoralised after the government failed to increase prices from the current Sh2,300 per 90kg to Sh3,600.

“We have suffered for many years. The government is giving us a raw deal and we have been discouraged by poor prices and lack of market for the produce,” Mr Mwareng lamented.

They accused the government of allowing cartels to ship in cheap maize to the NCPB at their expense. “We have huge stocks from the last season and there is no market,” he said.

The government, they argued, may not achieve the food security agenda if they continue to lack incentives to double productivity.

They noted that maize farming is now unprofitable, adding that they will shift to dairy farming.

“We don’t know where we will take the crop when it is ready by October. It is so discouraging that the government owes us a lot of money,” Mr Mwareng added.

Hunt on for gang stealing from patients in Nyeri

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Police are hunting a gang that has been robbing patients at Nyeri County Referral Hospital.

The officers are holding a man believed to be a member of the gang that has been stealing from the sick at the hospital’s outpatient department.

“It seems even the sick are not safe in Nyeri. This is a very serious matter that we need to tackle immediately,” police boss Ali Nuno told the Nation.

The suspect, whose name has been withheld by police, was arrested last week over the mugging of a female patient at the hospital.

The robbery was captured on surveillance cameras, which police used to identify five other suspects.

According to police, the gang ambushed the victim at the outpatient section of the largest health facility in Central region and robbed her of a laptop, phone and money.

Police have said the suspect is cooperating to help identify the remaining gang members believed to have been involved in other theft cases at the hospital.

Surveillance footage in possession of police shows that more cases could be unearthed even though they were not officially reported to police.

Undertones from the hospital have been in circulation over cases of theft, prompting police to widen their net in an ongoing operation against crime in Nyeri.

“We are pursuing the other five suspects and anybody else who is involved in this. The one in custody will be taken to court,” the police boss said.

The suspect in custody was among 100 convicts released from Nyeri Medium Prison on probation a week ago. The inmates were released as part of a decongestion programme.

Detectives have also launched investigations into the theft of babies inside the hospital after a woman was arrested and a baby she had allegedly stolen rescued last week. She was arrested in Naromoru.

Police records indicate that the woman is believed to have taken the infant from the biological mother at the referral hospital a few days ago.

A surveillance footage showed the woman leaving the facility with the baby on her back alongside the biological mother.

Detectives believe she had duped the mother that she was helping her carry the baby after being discharged from the maternity wing.

The woman later disappeared, prompting the family to report the matter to the authorities.

Detectives launched a manhunt for the woman by tracking her phone which at the time indicated she was travelling towards Nairobi.

It was later discovered that the woman had left the phone in a Nairobi-bound vehicle in what is seen as a deliberate attempt to throw police off track.

The decoy phone was later recovered by police who used it track down the woman’s husband.

“We laid an ambush for the woman and she agreed to meet the husband with the baby. That is when we arrested her,” a source privy to the case said.

It also claimed that the same woman had earlier stolen another baby who later died while under her care.

The case is pending in court but the Nation has learned that other similar cases are being looked into at the health facility.

Immigration law a hurdle on Swiss man's path to happiness

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Mark Baur is a frustrated man. He has a Kenyan wife who is so near yet so far and it all has to do with immigration laws.

The Swiss national has been living in the country on and off for the past 16 years. He has a legally married wife, Lilian, with whom they have a four-year-old daughter.

He has accused the Immigration department based at Nyayo House of extortion, claiming that they are seeking to make Sh500,000 from him before he can legally live in the country with his family by granting him permanent residency status.

“I have about eight tourist visas in my passport from the past two years. Every three months I have to renew it,” the former musician and music producer said.

Every time he applies for a new tourist visa he pays $50 (Sh5,000). The Baurs have been married for the past two years, although they have been in a relationship for nine years.

Their daughter has a Kenyan birth certificate and passport.

The couple was advised to seek an alternative route to gain residency in the country. Mr Baur was told to apply for a dependant pass.

“This document is issued to a person whose spouse, parent or guardian is lawfully entitled to enter Kenya,” according to the Immigration department’s website.

“It is an offence while in possession of a dependant pass to engage in any form of trade or employment either for gain or not,” it adds.

Mr Baur was told that he would have to part with Sh100,000 every year for three years in order to obtain a Class K permit that allows him to live in the country.

This permit is granted to people who are not employed but have an annual income of more that $24000, which will be beneficial to the country.

Mr Baur said he was told he can apply for permanent residency after the three years are up and the process would take up to two years, in which he would still have to apply for the Class K permit.

“After those two years, it is not guaranteed that I would be granted the residency. It is very frustrating! The Kenyan government is basically trying to extort money from me so that I can be with my family,” Mr Baur explained to the Nation.

“I told them that I am the one who supports my family. I do not work, but I have an income from investments I have back in Switzerland,” he said.

He said that he finds it strange that the Constitution is so stringent yet he is legally married to a Kenyan.

“If we were applying for residency for my wife in Switzerland, we would get it in two weeks at no cost, because we are married!”

The Constitution also states that a foreigner can apply for permanent residency if he/she has been married to a citizen of the country for at least three years.

This year, according to Mr Baur, he would have been living in the country continuously for the past seven years and he would be legally married to a citizen for three years.

The couple applied for the dependant pass in May and went to Switzerland to look after Mr Baur’s aged mother. They came back after two months and went straight to Nyayo House for the document.

“When we got there we were told that that they had denied my application. I asked for the documents showing that my request for the pass had been denied but they told me that my file was lost and could not be found,” he said.

He was told that he would also have the option of applying for citizenship, but he had not been living in the country continuously for the past seven years.

“I have never he heard of any other country denying a family the right to stay together. It is very unfair. We have a home here, but I feel unwanted in this country. If this fails, then we might just have to leave and go to Switzerland.”

Protect wildlife heritage

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The release of guidelines on the relocation of rhinos is laudable, though, sadly, it comes after a horrendous national loss that could have been easily prevented.

Several months ago, 11 rhinos died shortly after being moved from Nairobi and Nakuru to Tsavo National Park in a botched operation.

Reports into the circumstances leading to the deaths of the rhinos, an endangered species, make a mockery of the vast expertise, experience and knowledge that the Kenya Wildlife Service has accumulated over the years.

One of the most annoying revelations is that preparations to move the animals did not include an analysis of the conditions they would find in the new location.

Investigations have established that key health factors were ignored, which smacks of professional negligence.

The KWS is not just an authority on the protection of wild animals, including the endangered species, but has carried out many successful relocations.

Indeed, that explains the speculation that the rhinos might have been poisoned so that their horns could be harvested in a sly shift in tactics by poachers.

With the new guidelines, the public needs an assurance that they will be strictly adhered to in future relocations.

According to the guidelines, a proposal justifying a translocation will first have to be presented to the KWS director of biodiversity, research and planning.

Two specialist committee will then consider the request before it is approved, or rejected, by the board or trustees.

As far as Kenyans are concerned, these are internal administrative issues.

What is important is the need to enhance the safety and protection of wildlife, which is not only a national treasure, but also a key contributor to the national economy as the backbone of the tourism industry, a major foreign exchange earner.

Good strategy needed to clean rot at Lands

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Corruption at the Lands ministry is legendary.

Every so often, any new minister coming in pledges to clear the mess but exits without much success. Some well-heeled individuals there have perfected the art of trickery and get their way.

For nearly a decade, the ministry has undergone reforms, including automation to create efficiencies and eliminate malpractices associated with the issuance of title deeds or transfer of properties.

Granted, progress has been made and land transactions made easier. However, fraud and other corrupt practices thrive.

As we reported in yesterday’s edition, mega fraudulent and dubious deals thrive at the ministry.

Officials working in cahoots with lawyers, criminal investigators, land brokers and cybercafé operators, run a major racket where they obtain the records of genuine landowners and alter and use them to sell such properties to unsuspecting prospectors.

At face value, such racketeering is perpetrated by clerical officers and other low-placed personnel.

But behind them are powerful and influential people high up in the system, who condone and facilitate the operations. Those frontliners are well-protected and survive every regime change.

Land is a valuable asset that every individual seeks to own.

Many people spend a lot of money in search of land to put up shelter, commercial structures or for agriculture. Vulnerability in search of land is very high.

This is why the con land dealers flourish. People easily fall prey to them.

Besides, the typical practice at any Lands office is to be asked for facilitation fees before receiving a service.

Even basic transactions such as transfer of title do not come easy; money has to change hands. Effectively, there are various transgressions at the ministry that require singular and focused attention.

It is not particularly difficult to identify the masterminds and their benefactors.

What is required is a carefully planned and coordinated operation that gets to the root of the problem.

This means moving beyond the typical showbiz the public is treated to — like closing lands registries, apparently to lock out fraudsters and digitise documents.

Clearing the fraud and malpractices at the ministry must be tactical and strategic.

Tactical to shake and demobilise the networks quickly, but strategic to make it long-term.

Also required is proper public communication to sensitise the citizens on the intricacies of land transactions and the likelihood for deception.

Concerted actions are urgently needed to create systems to lock out the crooks skimming off the sweat of helpless citizens.

To be an expert, one has to invest much time and energy in practice

Henry Gekonde (DN, Dec. 31, 2018) posed an age-old question: “Can creativity and imagination be taught or are these innate abilities?”

He concluded that “creativity and imagination may not be taught, but good writing can be — the rules of writing, techniques and principles”.

This raised a question, is writing a mechanical function or a skill in dire need of creativeness and imagination?

The thinking has been that certain skills (call them ‘soft’) cannot be taught in class and that those who excel often do so only as a result of in-born talent, leaving ordinary mortals like yours truly gasping for air.

A 2007 landmark paper in the Harvard Business Review titled The Making of an Expert concluded that “consistently and overwhelmingly, experts — be it writers, musicians, athletes, chess players, physicians, exceptional leaders and managers — are always made, not born”.

In fact, the question isn’t if these ‘soft skills’ can be taught or not but how; the tools and methods needed to impart them.

The secret behind successful writers like Benjamin Franklin, entrepreneurs like Bill Gates, musicians like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart or world-beating runners like David Rudisha isn’t in their genes but deliberative practice and thinking.

According to the paper above, although Mozart was an exceptional musician, his musical tutelage started before he was four and his father, a skilled composer and a music teacher, wrote one the first books on violin instruction.

To write eloquently and fluently, Franklin would read his favourite newspaper article, reconstruct it from memory and compare it with the original.

In other words, experts invest their time in hours and hours of training and preparation to be good at what they do.

Research has shown that even the most gifted performers need a minimum of 10 years (or 10,000 hours) of intense training to win international competitions.

Neurocognitive scientists say our brains function in two modes: “Task-positive” or “task-negative” (not both at once).

The task-positive allows us to accomplish something in the moment that often requires intense mental concentration; task-negative, also “daydreaming”, is responsible for our moments of greatest creativity and insight, when we’re able to solve problems that previously seemed unsolvable.

The English mathematician and physicist Isaac Newton discovered gravity while in a task-negative mode, when he saw a falling apple while thinking about the forces of nature.

A common mistake is to assume that all practice makes perfect.

Experts caution that deliberative practice (and thinking) is not about practising over and over a skill that you’re good at; it involves doing what you aren’t good at and finding expert coaches and mentors to provide constructive, and, if need be, painful feedback.

As the adage goes, living in a cave certainly doesn’t make one a geologist.

Journalist found dead in Kisii home

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A journalist was on Monday found dead in his home in Jogoo estate, Kisii County.

Mr Johnson Nyakundi, a former cameraman for Newstar, Mwanyagetinge and Voice of Victory TV stations, was last seen before Christmas.

“We are yet to know what caused his death. A neighbour was attracted by a stench coming from his house and after consulting the landlord and other guys, they decided to break in; and found his body on the bed,” Mr Job Ongaga, a former colleague at Voice of Victory, said.

He was living alone after separating with his wife.

“When we peeped through the window, we saw a lot of blood on his bed,” Mr Ongaga said.

The body was taken to Kisii Teaching and Referral hospital mortuary.