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Saturday, January 5th, 2019

 

Will Egypt’s Al-Sisi steer the AU to greater heights after Kagame? reign ends

By BOB WEKESA
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A key development on Africa’s diplomacy in 2019 will be on hand from mid-January to early February when the Heads of State and government convene for the 32nd summit at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa.

Change of the AU leadership is expected when Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi will take over from Rwanda’s Paul Kagame as the rotational chairman of the continental body.

Will Al-Sisi rise to expectation in steering the continent forward in 2019 as did Paul Kagame in 2018?

In international relations, institutions such as the AU and its organs do not achieve results on their own.

Leaders and countries play a crucial role as agents in the pursuit and attainment of goals.

It is thus valid to look at the African geopolitics through personality lenses.

For instance, one of the major dynamics at the AU was undertaken in the late 1990s to early 2000s when the former South African President Thabo Mbeki – working with fellow leaders Abdoulaye Wade (Senegal), Abdel Aziz Bouteflika (Algeria) and Olusegun Obasanjo (Nigeria) – led to the establishment of the AU as a successor to the Organisation of African Unity (OAU).

It is true that Kagame has attracted criticism at home with regards to apparent emasculation of political freedoms and charges of ruling Rwanda with an iron fist.

Rwanda has also suffered diplomatic spats with nations such as South Africa, Uganda and the DRC.

Equally, some of the intractable challenges – like turmoil in South Sudanese and Somalia – were not resolved during Kagame’s one-year tenure putting paid to the AU’s plan to silence guns by 2020.

However, at the continental level, Kagame has emerged as a visible agent for the Pan African renewal and evidence abounds to back up this notion.

In so doing, Kagame has built on and intensified the work that was started by South African politician and former African Union Commission (AUC) chairperson Nkosana Dlamini-Zuma, namely, AU’s Agenda 2063, a comprehensive strategic framework for the socio-economic transformation of the continent.

For instance, throughout 2017, Kagame led a reform initiative at the AU culminating in the so-called Kagame report with rubrics incorporating structural, human resource and financial re-organisation of the continental body.

A major milestone was achieved in March 2018 when the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) was launched in Kigali under Kagame’s stewardship.

Aimed at enhancing the intra-Africa flow of goods, services, investments and businesspeople, the initiative is a potential continental game-changer.

The optimism for the AfCFTA is predicated on the fact that 49 countries have signed up and 14 ratified it.

TRADE PACT

It is also in Rwanda that the African passport was launched in 2017 which, along with the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM), portends improved intra-Africa mobility.

The question to pose is whether the AU under Al-Sisi will rise to expectation given the apparent, even though modest, achievements.

What are the challenges that Al-Sisi and Egypt will be facing?

Generally, Al-Sisi will have to heavily invest in Egyptian diplomatic resources including consultations with fellow African leaders, hosting meetings and shuttle diplomacy. It will not come cheap for the Egyptian coffers.

Observers will be watching to see if Cairo’s stewardship will move the continental free trade area from mere endorsements towards tangible implementation.

The challenge is that vested interests in a number of countries are wary of ceding sovereignty over their national trade to the continental good.

Early indications show that Cairo will be keen to advance the continental trade deal – with the Egyptian national interests at heart.

In December, the country hosted a highly publicised African Intra-African Trade Fair in the resort city of Sharm El Sheikh in partnership with the African Development Bank and the African Export-Import Bank.

Looking ahead, observers will be keen to see if Egyptian national interest trumps Pan-African interest.

The wider Egyptian strategy for Africa includes a number of public diplomacy and soft power instruments.

These include paid-for-trips for journalists, scholarships and friendly immigration processes for African nationals.

Cairo has also put in place funds for IT infrastructure, risk insurance and investment.

The conundrum for Al-Sisi will be the navigation of perceptions towards Egypt by nationals of Sub-Saharan Africa.

This is borne of the ambiguity of Egypt being both an African and Arabic/Middle East nation.

Analysts have long concluded that the core of the Egyptian foreign policy towards the rest of Africa is founded on the Nile River.

Indeed, the Nile is not just an economic resource for Egypt but a national security matter.

Cairo has in the past bristled at the increased developments on the Nile by riparian states, most emblematically in the case of Ethiopia’s building of the massive Renaissance Dam.

Will the Nile-based diplomacy trump other continental ideals?

Dr Wekesa is a media and geopolitics scholar at University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa: [email protected]


How do we move towards a truly civilised Kenyan society?

By DOMINIC WAMUGUNDA
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There is a thought that I used to articulate in this column some years back which has come back to haunt me. It is the matter of what a civilised society looks like and whether we Kenyans are actually civilised. If those of us who have been to school — and I mean to school — were put together and asked to discuss the question of whether we as Kenyans are a civilised society or not I am not sure what side many of us would be aligned to. It is quite possible that there would be a struggle between people wondering who has what and who has not. Isn’t that Kenya?

PHILOSOPHICAL

I have been thinking and wondering about issues that we shall always be dealing with. Things such as weddings, funerals, house warming parties — including birthday parties — and so on.

Those things have become part of how people think about their existence. What this means is that we have subjected ourselves to a level that is even below our fore fathers. Our fore fathers did what they did for a philosophical reason.

Some external force came — even in the name of religion — and convinced our people that our fore fathers did not have a philosophy and that is why our current generation and the parents who have brought them up have no philosophical thinking about matters of life.

A friend of mine was telling me two nights ago about a common friend whose body is still lying in the mortuary for over a month. We shall not go into the reasons but when a human being dies there ought to be closure for whoever is closely related. How does it happen if one is holding back?

CORRUPTION

Anyhow, my friend made me laugh when he told me that when he dies — he thinks I shall still be around because he is older than I am — I should tell people there should not be too many shenanigans.

We, therefore, have to ask ourselves what makes a truly civilised society so that perhaps we could start working towards one. In my honest view I really do not think that as we stand, we in Kenya really stand in the community of the international community as an African nation that stands for law and order.

Internally, we have much more to do. Obviously the political class will get quite irritated with what I am saying but the long and short of it is that if people in leadership do not focus on issues that have some philosophical import in them, we shall not get anywhere. Corruption will go on even as government watches.

The day Kenyans will start thinking about issues philosophically and see things in the abstract as opposed to too concretely, we shall get somewhere.

Fr Wamugunda is Dean of Students and a lecturer of Sociology at the University of Nairobi; [email protected]


E-commerce: Mirage or untapped potential?

By RITA OKUTHE
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Just over a year ago, Safaricom launched Masoko, our e-commerce platform. It’s a decision that was based on the desire to tap into an opportunity whose potential to open up Africa to the world could eventually make it a key driver of economic growth.

In that time, we’ve had the opportunity to see first-hand how e-commerce can create vibrant markets, connecting small businesses with buyers around the globe, creating employment for Kenya’s connected youth, and transforming the lives of communities all over the country.

INTERNET CONNECTION

Imagine being able to connect the jua kali wood carver in Shauri Moyo to the African art enthusiast in Boston, or the basket weaver from northern Kenya to an interior designer in Europe. Online trade eliminates middlemen and ensures that the people doing the hard work can enjoy higher income through direct sales.

Yet for a country whose population enjoys access to fast internet (fast enough for it to be noticed by Alibaba’s Jack Ma), and whose smartphone penetration continues to rise significantly, we still have a long way to go before we can fully embrace e-commerce.

But our current position is not so much a challenge as it is an opportunity, and the data on internet penetration and the growing popularity of e-commerce bears me out on the shift that is happening around us, albeit slowly.

According to the International Telecommunications Union, over 51 per cent of the global population will have access to internet by the year’s end. Africa recorded the highest growth in internet connection over the past decade.

This increase in internet access and usage has caused a surge in global e-commerce, which clocked $2.304 trillion in 2017, a 25 per cent growth compared to 2016 figures according to eMarketer. Interestingly, the Middle East and Africa recorded the highest retail sales growth across platforms, having reached a high of $23.3 billion in 2017: an increase of close to 25 per cent over the previous year.

YOUTHFUL POPULATIONS

These global e-commerce figures are expected to double by 2021, when it is projected that the number of African households with access to internet will have grown significantly from the current 24 per cent.

Yet globally, only 10 per cent of retail sales were carried out online in 2017. Africa accounted for just two per cent of this, indicating the immense potential that still remains untapped. What does this mean for the fashion designer in Mombasa? It means that in a few years, she could be servicing a client list from Nigeria to Australia, and doing it all online.

But before this happens, governments and businesses will have to work together to break down the barriers preventing growth of e-commerce, especially in Africa.

While the continent’s population explosion has been touted as one of the biggest resources at our disposal, governments must look beyond that to the innate industriousness, innovation and grit of their youthful populations — that’s where the magic lies.

The expansion of the digital economy, while important, is not enough on its own. Investing in infrastructure that will support connectivity is critical, but just as crucial is creating robust structures that support online industry.

MEANINGFUL EMPLOYMENT

This means complementing mobile and internet penetration with access to credit and market; it means investing in skills such as computer literacy, web design, digital marketing and financial management to bridge the skills gaps and address skills mismatches, and building a reliable postal network and home address system to facilitate last mile delivery.

E-commerce can turn cottage industries into flourishing enterprises with the capacity to package high quality goods for local markets and export; it can boost the agricultural sector by connecting local farmers to local or international markets through a platform such as Masoko. E-commerce can create global franchises out of business dreams that start small.

Imagine how many youths could be engaged in meaningful employment if we got this right; how many families would be assured of decent living, and how success in e-commerce would disprove the notion that the biggest thing Africa has going for it is its population.

Ms Okuthe is the Chief Enterprise Business Officer, Safaricom.


Learn from health project

By EDITORIAL
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There are encouraging signs from the four counties chosen to pilot the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) programme.

However, this early in the day, it appears as if it will be a steep mountain to climb. Since its launch on December 13, as part of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s health pillar in his Big Four agenda, the programme underlines the commitment to extend access to healthcare to all, including the very poor.

Health workers in Kisumu, Machakos, Isiolo and Nyeri counties have been overwhelmed by the demand. However, it provides a vital insight into the challenges the country will face as the affordable healthcare programme is finally rolled out to the rest of the counties.

A recurring problem is the shortage of medical personnel, including doctors, nurses, other health cadres and support staff. Another challenge is inadequate facilities and medicines. This new initiative is expected to herald the transformation of the health sector which is hampered by inequalities because of poverty and lack of medical insurance. This is where the National Hospital Insurance Fund is expected to play a key role, with the first phase targeting 3.2 million patients, and the full rollout expected by 2022.

This is a crucial feedback for Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki, who has been quick to assure the public that come next week, the challenges in the pilot will have been sorted out. Hopefully, the CS and her team will use their learning from this stage to good effect.

President Kenyatta is also upbeat that the UHC will be achieved as promised by his government. His dream is to help ease the health burden many families shoulder. The UHC is the means to consolidate and revamp healthcare.


Kenya is richer for its colourful mosaic of tribes

By PHILIP OCHIENG
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Kenya’s political system was designed with the hope that, once you have been elected to the top seat, you will serve all parts of your country with equal commitment and equal benevolence. Yet the implication by certain Kenyans remains that President Uhuru Kenyatta should serve a certain ethnic province with much greater dedication than he serves Kenya’s other areas.

What that idea means is that Mr Kenyatta should behave like a typical negative tribalist. The attitude by certain spokesmen and spokeswomen for our Central region is that the young President should focus all his attention on the region in which he was born. But there is always the exception to prove the rule. Koigi wa Wamwere, for example, used to condemn as “negative tribalism” the ethnic exclusivism that characterises our country.

SECTARIANISM

For me, however, the chief problem with the term “negative tribalism” is its implication that there exists such a thing as “positive tribalism”. This other term expresses the attitude that, in a multi-ethnic and multi-racial situation like Kenya, political governance should benefit only the ethnic or racial community among whom the serving President was born.

That is an astonishingly small-minded and anti-human attitude to take. How do you supply the objective needs of your whole country whenever you distribute goods — material as well as ideal — only to your ethnic (or racial or religious or sectarian) community? What it would be ignoring is one fact that all human societies have experienced. It is well known the whole world over that whenever racism or tribalism or another such manifestation of tiny-mindedness becomes the general attitude in a country, then a national and even international catastrophe is just around the corner — as Hitler Germany has only recently proved to humankind.

How is it that the most intelligent species that the solar system has ever produced continues to fail miserably to draw any perennial lessons from the myriad of examples of humanity’s tiny-mindedness? Why haven’t negative genderism, nationalism, racism, sectarianism and tribalism so miserably failed to teach humanity any perennial lesson?

SMALL-MINDEDNESS

Why do even the most civilised human communities still in the 21st century behave with typical human cruelties, prejudices, tiny-mindedness and unkindness the whole world over? I ask because, quite clearly, Koigi’s term “negative tribalism” either is self-contradictory or implies the existence of its opposite system, namely, “positive tribalism” and such of its imaginable counterparts as positive genderism, positive racism and positive sectarianism.

The human species exists in Kenya in such numerous and colourful forms as Arab, English, Gujerati, Kikuyu, Luhya, Luo, Maasai, and so on ad infinitum. The question is: Why on this earth can I not be fully dedicated to the Luo, who gave birth to me, without looking down upon and ignoring the other ethnic, religious and sectarian human communities with whom evolution meant me to share the bounties of this good country and this good planet of ours?

If all other human ethnicities and races living in Kenya ask themselves that same question and try to give it a truly honest answer, humanity might be able to rid itself overnight of all the small-mindedness that have characterised the human species ever since earthly evolution gave birth to us a few millennia ago.

If humanity has as much brain as the Darwinian biologists tell us, then the brain should one day, soon, lift our species to the sublimity of specific recognition of our oneness not only with one another but also with other ethnic, gender, racial and religious human communities.

Mr Ochieng is a veteran journalist.


Kenya should learn resilience from Cuba in these hard times

By ISAAC OTIDI AMUKE
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When historians write on Kenya during epochs within which 2018 shall fall, the events of this year shall form not footnotes but entire chapters of such texts. From the swearing in of Raila Odinga to the handshake between Mr Odinga and President Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenyans have indeed had their fair share of what would easily pass for political events of the decade.

However, as all these took place, the general public mostly remained in a head space filled with uncertainty, unsure about the full implications of these events as pertains their everyday struggles.

As if those weren’t significant enough, the Auditor General recently rang the alarm bell that were the country to default on its debt obligations to China as regards the financing of the standard gauge railway, then the Mombasa port, used as collateral, will be up for grabs by the Chinese. We all hope it doesn’t get to that, like in Sri Lanka’s case.

SPECIAL PERIOD

At times such as these, when a lot is happening and everyone is struggling to make sense out of it all, it is always important to take a moment to reflect, both as a country and as individuals. And there is no better time to do so than now.

In the late 1980s, Fidel Castro Ruz, then Cuba’s Commander-in-Chief, warned Cubans that they needed to be alive to the possibility of the dissolution of the Soviet Union — at the time Cuba’s largest trading partner — and what such an occurrence would mean for Cuba. Thanks to its Communist leadership and its dalliance with the Soviet Union, Cuba had been blacklisted by the United States, placing a multibillion economic blockade against the island.

In the early 1990s, Castro’s prophesy came to pass. The Soviet Union dissolved under what its leader Mikhail Gorbachev considered mandatory reforms. The union split into a number of states some of which denounced Communist ideals in aligning with the United States. As such, Cuba lost its largest trading partner, resulting in serious economic hardship, what Castro christened the Special Period starting in 1991.

The Special Period — coupled with the United States blockade — made having a meal a day no mean task for Cubans. Yet to Cubans — egged on by Castro’s sometimes eight-hour-long speeches explaining the need to persist — the period was simply a phase which would subside.

MANY SHORTFALLS

Of course there was no unanimous support for Castro — especially by Cuban exiles in the United States and dissidents at home who remained his biggest critics — but Cubans took solace in the fact that despite economic difficulties, they had almost all their basic needs catered for by the State, including subsidised food rations and comprehensive healthcare.

Throughout Castro’s reign, Cuba’s healthcare sector constituted about a third of the country’s national budget, followed by education. To Castro, the future of Cuba was dependent on a healthy, educated population. So those two sectors were first priorities for the State. Despite its many shortfalls, the fact that Castro’s State took care of its population using the very limited resources enabled Cuba to survive the tough economic times.

On December 31, Cuba marked its 60th anniversary since Castro led a military invasion into Havana. To Cubans, this marks 60 years of surviving tough external pressures while strengthening internal resilience through programmes such as comprehensive universal healthcare.

Kenya, like the United States, has since repaired its diplomatic relationship with Cuba. President Uhuru Kenyatta — like his former United States counterpart Barack Obama — visited Havana, where the head-bust of his father and Kenya’s founding President Jomo Kenyatta was unveiled. Later on, 100 Cuban doctors were absorbed across the 47 counties.

TINY COUNTRIES

But as Cuba’s new friends like Kenya strengthen their co-operation and congratulate Cuba as it celebrates the 60 year anniversary of its new republic, it is important to remind the likes of President Kenyatta that tiny countries such as Cuba have survived unbearable difficulty thanks to the fact that its peoples’ basic needs such as healthcare and education were fully catered for.

In 2019 — as Kenya grapples with challenges of introducing a new curriculum and rolling out universal healthcare — may we see unwavering commitment from President Kenyatta in making comprehensive healthcare and quality education accessible for all Kenyans. It may mean training more personnel — Cuba has over 70,000 doctors and nurses for a population of 11 million — and increasing the fiscal allocation for healthcare to 15 per cent of the national budget in line with the 2001 African Union Abuja Declaration.

These interventions are what will cushion Kenyans during uncertain times.


Kuria is at it again, but does Mt Kenya really disagree with him?

By GITAU WARIGI
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Murang’a Senator Irungu Kang’ata is among the Central Kenya politicians who have been hurling blows at Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria over his assertion about below-par development in the Central region under the Uhuru Kenyatta presidency. Kang’ata, a noted reggae fan, went as far as to assert that what was accomplished there under both Mzee Jomo Kenyatta and Mwai Kibaki cannot compare with what has been done under Uhuru. That’s a bit rich. The senator is free to sing hosannas to the king. He should have noted, though, how Kuria’s observations have not been met with the expected torrent of condemnation by Mt Kenya leaders.

PRE-HANDSHAKE

I listened to Kuria’s remarks in Thika town on New Year’s eve. They were typically provocative and in a sense below the belt. Coming from Gatundu, he has less to complain about Uhuru’s development record than, say, a guy like Kang’ata from Kiharu, who ironically only sees the value of effusive praise. The senator enjoys some rapport with the President, who found time to attend his wedding last year in Kiharu. The Murang’a County leadership represented by Governor Mwangi wa Iria was in attendance, as were local MPs. There was no reason why the local leaders could not raise pertinent development issues at the forum, unlike perhaps at a funeral. The ceremony came at a time the Governor was at the peak of his battle with Nairobi over tunnelling of water from local rivers without compensation. Yet Wa Iria never mentioned the matter in the presence of the President.

I have noticed Murang’a leaders rarely raise publicly matters of local welfare whenever they host presidential visits in their county. They would rather wax lyrical about their favourite pastime of succession politics and how they love Uhuru’s government to bits. Pre-“Handshake”, they would get especially vocal in castigating Uhuru’s opponents. At a time when there was a noxious proposal to relocate the main Nairobi dumpsite to Makuyu, none of them thought this was something they should fight to resist.

DEVOLUTION

The case in Mt Kenya is not so much about lack of development as of glaring disparities in its distribution. A look at how hospitals are being upgraded will help to illustrate. A spanking new Level-5 hospital in Gatundu has been completed during Uhuru’s presidency. This facility is not too far from the other Level-5 facility in Thika. Kiambu town, too, has a Level-5 hospital. Note also that Level-4 hospitals are being done in Githunguri and Limuru, all in one county. Many counties in Central Kenya, including Kang’ata’s own, have to make do with one Level-5 hospital each.

Gatundu town also boasts a modern market built in record speed under a stimulus programme when Uhuru was Finance minister. So does Karatina in Nyeri County, where the long-delayed hub market which will be the second largest in the country after Mombasa’s Kongowea was opened by Uhuru last year. The President promised to be back in Nyeri soon to open the Level-5 (or is it Level-6?) hospital built by Kibaki in his Othaya constituency. This will be in addition to the Level-5 facility that was previously the Nyeri Provincial General Hospital, and a planned cancer centre to be built somewhere in the county.

The Murang’a governor’s devolution philosophy is not to bring home the big things, but the “deliverables” to local households, or “bringing cash into farmers’ pockets,” as he puts it. It is about support for avocado farmers through free seedlings and marketing. Coffee and macadamia growers also get marketing support and inputs such as fertiliser. His other focus has been dairy farming through milk buying centres and cooling plants. Fair enough. Still, a few flagship projects like a promised factory for specialty tea for export are important.

The trouble with Kikuyu leadership as a whole is that the best minds are not in politics. They are in business, and a few in academia.

Chief Justice David Maraga is always droning on and on about the importance of prosecutors presenting his courts with evidence sufficient to convict corruption suspects. His point about “shoddy” investigations that lead to acquittals misses the DPP’s arguments by a mile. The DPP is complaining about strange pre-trial practices where courts issue orders barring prosecutions such as in the Mumias Sugar Company case and, before that, the KRA tax case involving Judicial Service Commission member Tom Ojienda. A similar order temporarily blocking prosecution had been issued with regard to the DCJ Philomena Mwilu. In most instances, a particular High Court judge has been issuing the rulings.

Why blame the DPP for “shoddy investigations” when you don’t even allow him to test the evidence he has in court? The Judiciary is always harping about independence. But is the institution impartial? People are getting thoroughly tired with the Judiciary’s shenanigans. It is highly doubtful the anti-corruption war will be won with the kind of Judiciary we have.


Nairobi sends most students to national schools

By NATION REPORTER
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Nairobi, Nakuru and Kiambu counties are sending the highest number of students to national schools as last year’s Standard Eight graduates start reporting for Form One tomorrow.

Details of the selection compiled by the Sunday Nation based on the Ministry of Education statistics also show that slightly more male students, 1,533, will join national schools.

Cumulatively, 31,337 students out of the 1,049,106 pupils who sat last year’s Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examination will join the elite schools.

Of these, 16,435 are male while 14,902 are female.

There are 103 national schools in the country, meaning that they attract candidates from all counties.

Admission to the national schools is usually competitive as they are well-equipped with teaching and learning resources, giving their students a better chance of performing well in national examinations.

According to the analysis, Nairobi City County will supply 3,152 students, the highest number of all the counties.

Some 59,345 pupils sat last year’s primary school national test in the city.

In Nakuru, 1,847 out of 52,811 candidates will be joining national schools compared to Kiambu’s 1,786 students. Some 41,295 candidates sat the examination in Kiambu.

On the other hand, Samburu (125), West Pokot (150) and Lamu (205) counties have taken the lowest numbers of students to the 103 national schools.

There are only five other counties that are posting more than 1,000 candidates to national schools — Kilifi (1,211), Mombasa (1,127), Meru (1,027), Kakamega (1,027) and Machakos (1,013).

Counties where girls beat boys in the number of students joining the top schools are Taita-Taveta, Kwale, Nyandarua, Kirinyaga, Kiambu, Machakos, Nairobi, Kitui, Embu, Meru, Makueni, Marsabit and Isiolo.

Turkana and Tana River counties had the largest gender disparity in the admission to national schools with the difference being 138 and 107 more boys than girls respectively.

Interestingly, counties in arid and semi-arid areas have sent a good number of their candidates to the leading schools.

Garissa and Wajir East are among sub-counties that are taking more than 250 students to top schools.

These sub-counties rank close to Embakasi (805), Kasarani (613), Garissa (534), Nakuru (345), Ruiru (299), Nyali (268), Wajir East (256) and Kakamega Central (250), which have the largest number of candidates admitted to the top schools.

AFFIRMATIVE ACTION

When she launched the Form One selection on December 3, 2018, Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed announced that all candidates who obtained 400 marks and above had been admitted to national schools.

But since only 12,000 had obtained above 400 marks, a window was opened for more candidates with lesser marks to join the coveted schools.

Also allowed to join the institutions was the best boy and girl from each sub-county.

Besides merit, selection to all categories of schools was also based on affirmative action.

For the first time, the ministry selected candidates using a computerised system for all national, extra-county and county schools.

It means that parents and candidates would only download their letters from the computer.

But candidates selected to join sub-county schools were receiving hard copy letters from the respective schools or sub-county directors’ offices.

The ministry also banned replacement of Form One candidates through provision of hard copy letters, instead directing principals to only feed details of second selection applicants to the National Education Management Information System (Nemis).

The students are then issued with a Unique Personal Identifier (UPI) to be used throughout the learners’ education journey.

Only the ministry’s national office would then approve or reject the recommendations of the principals.

On Wednesday, however, Ms Mohamed revealed that some principals had resorted to issuing hard copy letters to schools thereby circumventing the Nemis system.

PRINCIPALS

She declared letters so issued as null and void, prompting teachers in some of the schools to resort to regularising the letters they had issued through the system.

The CS directed regional coordinators of education and county directors of education to take action against principals who defied the ministry’s order to ban admissions through hard copy letters for national, extra-county and county schools.

As part of the government’s 100 percent transition policy, Amina said all the 2018 KCPE candidates have been allocated places in secondary schools.


CS Amina makes U-turn, allows principals to admit students

By FAITH NYAMAI
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By JAMES KAHONGEH
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In what appears to be a dramatic U-turn by the Ministry of Education on an earlier directive, secondary school principals can now admit Form One students to their schools.

An earlier order from the ministry had barred principals from admitting Form One students, saying they did not have the power to do so.

On Saturday, Education Principal Secretary Dr Belio Kipsang backtracked on the previous order, saying principals are now at liberty to admit Form One students as long as they capture their details in the National Education Management Information System (Nemis) upon reporting to school.

All candidates who sat the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education examination in 2018 are expected to report to various national, extra- county, county and sub-county schools countrywide between tomorrow and Friday next week.

Dr Kipsang asked principals who may have issued letters to parents to standardise the process by uploading the students’ details onto the online system quickly so that they could be validated and approved.

Genuine transfer cases will be considered before the end of the Form One reporting period, Dr Kipsang assured parents and guardians.

The ministry says capturing the students’ details in the system will ease retrieval of data of learners whenever they visit health facilities under the National Hospital Insurance Fund scheme. The government rolled out a medical cover for all secondary school students in 2018.

Through information captured in Nemis, the ministry hopes to track reporting and enrolment of students in schools under the 100 per cent transition rate.

Additionally, the ministry will use this data as the reference point to determine the number of students in every school, which will then facilitate accurate disbursement of the Free Day Secondary Education Programme funds.

This system will also make it easier to track students who wish to transfer to other schools, and for the ministry to manage students’ details to avoid manipulation even when they exit the school system.

During the Form One selection in December 2018, the ministry had instructed school principals to receive details of candidates who wished to join their schools as opposed to those they had been selected to.

The principals had also been asked to upload details of such requests onto the Nemis system for validation and approval by the ministry.

So far, the ministry has successfully approved 26,000 requests for transfers based on data captured on Nemis.

Over the years, principals in leading public schools have been cashing in on their power to admit students, by asking parents to part with money to have their children issued with admission letters. This often locked out students who merited places in such schools as corruption thrived.


Presidential elections to watch in Africa this year

By CIUGU MWAGIRU
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After the relentless electoral drama across Africa last year, several countries will hold presidential polls this year.

The most significant general elections, after the DR Congo one, will be held in Nigeria, South Africa, Mozambique, Libya, Malawi and Mauritania.

In Nigeria, the presidential, Senate and House of Representatives polls are slated for February, while the election of governors and members of state assemblies will follow on March 31.

The two front-runners in the presidential poll will be incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari, who will be pitted against his former ally-turned-rival Atiku Abubakar, 72, who served as Nigeria’s vice-president between 1999 and 2007.

CYRIL RAMAPHOSA

In South Africa, the general election slated for May is widely viewed as a test for the ruling African National Congress, which needs to re-assert itself after being steeped in controversies and scandals during the Jacob Zuma era.

The presidential election, on the other hand, is expected to give current president Cyril Ramaphosa an opportunity to legitimise his power through the popular vote.

In neighbouring Namibia, President Hage Geingob will be seeking re-election on the ticket of the ruling South West African People’s Organisation.

Among the hot issues in the poll will be land, given that years after independence, white Namibians own 70 per cent of commercial farmland despite the fact that they make up less than 10 per cent of the population.

Still in southern Africa, Malawi will be holding presidential, National Assembly and local elections on May 21 amid mounting corruption cases, some implicating President Mutharika himself.

FILIPE NYUSI

As matters stand, incumbent Mutharika, 78, and the ruling Democratic Progressive Party will be challenged at the ballot by his own former vice-president Saulos Chilima and ex-president Joyce Banda.

In Mozambique, President Filipe Nyusi and the ruling Mozambique Liberation Front (Frelimo) are widely expected to have an edge in presidential, legislative and provincial elections slated for October 15.

As for Botswana, just like neighbouring South Africa, the country has a system in which the president is elected by parliament, and this is expected to happen in October. Already the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), which has been in power since 1966, has established a succession plan in which the presidential term ends more than a year ahead of the national elections.

The result is that the incumbent — in this case current president Mokgweetsi Masisi, who is also the BDP’s presidential candidate — has an almost guaranteed lead.

Other riveting elections will be held in Senegal, where 57-year-old President Macky Sall will be seeking a second term in office, as well as in Algeria, which will hold a presidential poll on April 17.

ABDELAZIZ BOUTEFLIKA

In the latter, the frail and wheelchair-bound President Abdelaziz Bouteflika is reportedly set to run for a fifth consecutive term in office despite the fact that he is 81 and has been ailing for years.

Matters will be different in Mauritania, which will hold a presidential election in the middle of the year to find a replacement for current president Ould Abdel Aziz, who rose to power after a putsch in 2008.

Still on presidential polls, Tunisia will be holding one in December, while at different times of the year quite a number of countries will be holding gubernatorial, provincial, Senate, parliamentary and local polls.

Different kinds of referendums will also be held in Libya and Ghana, respectively in February and September.