Main Menu

Tuesday, January 8th, 2019

 

Ebola response resumes despite ‘risky environment’

Despite a precarious security environment and continuing pockets of mistrust on the part of affected populations, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported on Tuesday that all Ebola-affected areas in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC) North Kivu Province are now accessible to health workers.

Civil unrest in Beni, the epicenter of the epidemic, crippled operations last month. But WHO says that now, under Government leadership and in collaboration with partner agencies, the Ebola response has resumed in force. However, it warned, further disruptions and security issues, could seriously impact the complex effort to end the outbreak.

The main challenges to the response are a hazardous security situation and the inability to prevent and control infection in many public and private health facilities.

WHO revealed that some 577 confirmed cases and 377 deaths have been recorded since the outbreak was declared in August last year. The UN agency also stated that 220 people have recovered and more than 56,500 have been vaccinated.

From 31 December 2018 to 2 January 2019, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus traveled to Ebola-affected areas in the DRC, where he spelled out that “Ebola responders are sacrificing a lot… to combat one of the world’s deadliest viruses in a risky environment.”

Accompanying him, Dr, Jeremy Farrar, Chair of WHO’s Research and Development Blueprint, came away “worried by the immense challenges they face in such a complex environment.”

“It is vital the international community recognizes this and ensures the DRC and WHO have the support needed to ensure this outbreak does not spiral out of control,” he said.

The Ebola outbreak is in reality, several distinct outbreaks in the different affected areas. While the major outbreak in Beni, which was responsible for a large proportion of cases in recent months, is coming under control, the positive trend there is not mirrored elsewhere.

WHO pointed out that the volatile situation in Komanda and Butembo/Katwa has rendered those outbreaks more unstable.

At a glance: DRC’s continuing battle against Ebola:

  • WHO currently has 447 staff in DRC to support the response.
  • Some 37,000 contacts have been registered for tracing, with almost 5,000 under surveillance.
  • Six Ebola Treatment Centers are caring for 143 inpatients – 30 confirmed cases.
  • To date, 248 patients have been treated under the MEURI protocol, an ethical framework developed by WHO, in consultation with experts and the DRC.
  • As of Sunday, 44 patients were enrolled in a randomized control trial in Beni.
  • Over 24,000,000 travelers have been screened, with two confirmed cases detected among them.

How the Greek reception system is failing to protect the most vulnerable people

Greece and its EU partners are failing pregnant women, unaccompanied children, victims of torture or sexual violence and other vulnerable people who seek protection in Europe. These people are being put at risk by flawed processes and chronic understaffing in EU ‘hotspot’ camps on the Greek islands. They do not receive adequate support from the authorities that are legally responsible for protecting them and are being abandoned in overcrowded camps in squalid conditions. Many people live in unheated tents and do not have sufficient access to washing facilities and toilets, and winter is only making their situation worse.

1. Introduction

When people arrive in Greece and seek asylum, they are supposed to undergo a vulnerability assessment, that includes an assessment by a medical specialist and, if needed, by a psychologist.
This is critical to ensure that vulnerable people – for instance pregnant women, unaccompanied children, people with disabilities and victims of torture or sexual violence – are identified and can access to the protection and care they need.

Vulnerable people should be hosted in suitable accommodation and they should receive the medical and psycho-social attention they need, as well as have access to other basic services. They should enter the normal asylum procedure in Greece instead of the fast-track procedure that aims to send most people back to Turkey under the EU-Turkey deal. In addition, they should be exempt from being put in detention.

However, Oxfam and its partners on the island of Lesvos have witnessed convoluted and ever changing rules and procedures, and a shortage of qualified staff, resulting in a process that has often failed to identify and assist the most vulnerable people. For example, as the last government appointed camp doctor on the Greek island of Lesvos quit in November 2018, vulnerability assessments have not taken place at all for at least a month.

Because of the flawed system, vulnerable people including survivors of torture and sexual violence are being housed in unsafe areas of Lesvos’ EU-sponsored migrant camp ‘Moria’. Pregnant women and mothers with newborns are left sleeping in tents, and unaccompanied children, wrongly registered as adults, have been placed in detention.

The daily living conditions for migrants on the Greek islands compound the challenges for vulnerable people: Moria camp is severely overcrowded at double its capacity, and has often been at more than three times its capacity in 2018. Every year, conditions in and around the camp deteriorate further with the onset of winter because it is not equipped for cold temperatures, heavy rain and snowfall.
While the Greek government is directly responsible for many of the procedural failures and the abysmal conditions in which people seeking asylum on the Greek islands live, European Union member states, too, are responsible for this crisis due to their refusal to share responsibility for hosting people seeking asylum.

Oxfam is calling on the EU and member states to support the Greek government in deploying additional medical and psycho-social staff and experts to the Greek islands to help identify and protect vulnerable people seeking asylum. It is also calling on the Greek government to end the policy restricting the movement of asylum seekers to the islands, which is impeding access to adequate facilities and services on the mainland. Instead, all people should be transferred to safe and dignified facilities on the mainland immediately after first reception and identification. EU member states should reach an agreement on responsibility sharing as part of the reform of the European asylum system.


NYS trial adjourned to next week

By SAM KIPLAGAT
More by this Author

The trial of 32 people charged with the loss of Sh60.5 million at the National Youth Service was adjourned Tuesday to allow the accused persons and their lawyers to prepare adequately for the hearing.

Arguing before Principal Magistrate Peter Ooko, the lawyers said the charges, which were amended by the prosecution, introduced new details and timelines on the dates the offences were allegedly committed.

Mr Stephen Ligunya, who represents former PS Lillian Omollo, said the new charge sheet introduced additional charges against her, which changes the approach of the case. He said he needed to seek instructions from Ms Omollo especially because of the voluminous documents he has to go through.

MOBILE PHONE

The sentiments were supported by advocates Kiraithe Wandugi, Migos Ogamba and Assa Nyakundi, among others.

Although the prosecution opposed the application, Mr Ooko agreed to adjourn the case until Monday to allow the defence lawyers to look at the documents.

The magistrate warned the prosecution against introducing any documents unless with the permission of the court.

The magistrate noted that the prosecution had admitted that the consolidated charge sheet was furnished to the accused persons on Monday, and that some of them pleaded to the charges Tuesday. “In the interest of justice, I am inclined to grant the defence three days to prepare for the trial,” he said. At the same time, Mr Samuel Otieno, who was yet to be arrested since other suspects were arraigned in May, was brought to court yesterday. Prosecutor Verah Amisi told the court that Mr Otieno was picked from his office on Monday evening, adding that his mobile phone has been off for several months.

STRINGENT TERMS

But through his lawyer David Oyata, Mr Otieno said he has never been informed of the charges and that he is a civil servant working with the Ministry of Trade. The lawyer said Mr Otieno has been on the run and asked the court to reject the application to impose stringent bond terms against him.

In the ruling, Mr Ooko directed Mr Otieno to deposit the bond terms imposed on other accused persons.

Among the persons facing the charges are Ms Omollo, former NYS Director-General Richard Ndubai, former senior deputy director Nicholas Ahere, former acting finance Willington Lubira and former chief accountant Clement Murage, among others.

On Monday, DPP Noordin Haji said he had withdrawn charges against 11 accused persons after reviewing their cases and finding that they are more “suitable as prosecution witnesses”.


Use law on right to information to fight corruption

By SAMMY CHEBOI
More by this Author

The chairpersons of constitutional commissions and holders of independent offices (CC and IOs) in October last year held their seventh annual conference in Meru County. Fittingly, the theme was, “Public Participation: Pathway to Sustainable Development”.

In the spirit of the new constitutional order, public participation has been given prominence and it is a requirement that all conduct of public affairs — whether law-making, decision-making or implementation of government projects — have the input of the public. The import of public participation is based on the foundation that the people of Kenya have sovereign power, which they have delegated to state actors at the national and county levels.

Public participation is a tool that ensures the transparency of government actions and containment of corruption. The enactment of the Access to Information Act 2016 was a critical step towards enabling citizens to fully enjoy their right to information and entrench accountability in public affairs.

7,000 TENDERS

In his desire to make the government accountable and tackle the runaway corruption, President Uhuru Kenyatta issued Executive Order No. 2 of 2018, directing public entities to, from July 1, maintain and continuously update and publicise complete information of all tenders awarded.

Subsequently, the Public Procurement Information Portal — an online platform for the publication of contract awards and tender notices by public bodies — was set up to consolidate and upload such information on a monthly basis. More than 7,000 tenders and 1,500 contracts worth Sh50 billion awarded to 4,200 suppliers have been posted to enhance transparency in the public procurement of goods and services.

The epidemic of corruption has not only afflicted the national government, but also county governments. This is why access to information is a first step to fighting it. Perhaps, it is fitting to mention the exemplary public participation model and transparency being championed by the Makueni County government in making the devolution dream a reality.

Recently, four envoys from the Nordic countries of Finland, Sweden, Norway and Denmark made particular mention of the county government’s model of public participation in its engagements with citizens. The ambassadors specifically praised the county for its policy of involving residents in law making, decision making and project identification, implementation and monitoring.

Although I had heard about the devolution magic that is Makueni, the media reports about the envoys’ observations prompted me to revisit the county’s website. In there, I saw a transparent and accountable devolved unit backing its talk with concrete actions!

Makueni has created the County Projects Management System, which tracks budget and performance data for over 1,600 programmes and projects from the 30 wards implemented since the 2013/14 Financial Year as it works towards realising its Vision 2025.

ACCOUNTABILITY

In addition to allowing the tracking of the projects being implemented by the county, it entrenches transparency and accountability by providing public access to information on government spending.

From the website, it is clear that Governor Kivutha Kibwana and his government are not doing anything extraordinary; they are attempting to breathe life into the Constitution. And since most of the other counties are doing a lousy job of making devolution a reality, we have Prof Kibwana to thank for keeping our collective hope alive.

However, with all this information made available through public participation forums, the procurement portal and the websites of public entities, the question arises as to how the public consumes such content to further the cause of civilian oversight of state affairs.

The provision of information must not be an end in itself, but a means to an informed citizenry better equipped to demand accountability and improved governance of public resources and institutions. That is a key expectation of the access to information law: That citizens will actively seek out information from public offices in their quest to advance the enjoyment of their rights and enforce accountability.

Similarly, public entities have the duty to disclose the information needed by the citizenry without necessarily waiting for it to be requested for.

Mr Cheboi is a senior manager, advocacy and communications, at the Commission on Administrative Justice (Office of the Ombudsman). [email protected]


Syria’s freshly displaced in desperate need of winter supplies


European Union Donates 220 motorcycles to Malawi Government

(EU) in Malawi & Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations Tuesday, 8th June, 2019 granted 220 motorcycles to the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation & Water

In support to agriculture & nutrition advisory services provision, European Union (EU) in Malawi & Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations Tuesday, 8th June, 2019 granted 220 motorcycles to the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation & Water Development. Minister responsible Joseph Mwanamvekha received the bikes on behalf of Malawi Government

EUI Bikes to MalawiJoseph Mwanamvekha received the bikes on behalf of Malawi Government

:


Tap tourism for prosperity

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

The two million international tourists who defied the threat of terrorism and other hitches to visit Kenya last year are the toast of an industry that was staring at doom. After all, this is a business that is sensitive as many people are unlikely to travel to places where their lives will be in grave danger.

The good news is that the country raked in a tidy Sh157 billion from tourism last year. It was an impressive growth of 37 per cent, up from the Sh119 earned in 2017. This performance has reaffirmed tourism as a major foreign exchange earner that can do even better if all the stakeholders diligently played their roles.

Indeed, as Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala has pointed out, the volatility of some strong tourist markets in the north, as a result of the Arab Uprising, has been a boon to Kenya. Ironically, it’s during these difficult economic times globally that Kenya has posted its highest annual international tourist arrivals.

As the government boosts security and strives to create an enabling environment for the industry to thrive, the onus is on all the tourism stakeholders, including hotel owners and tour operators, to strive to provide the visitors with the best experience possible to secure repeat visits. These visitors are also a sure bet in spreading the word to would-be tourists if they get value for their money.

However, the effort to woo foreign tourists does not, in any way, diminish the growing impact of domestic tourism. There has been an upsurge in the number of Kenyans keen to know their country better and enjoy its attractions. Tourism ministry data puts this at 3.9 million last year, up from 3.4 million in 2017.

However, more needs to be done to tap the country’s tourism potential to boost the economy.


Collapsing cases bad for war on corruption

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

The energy and determination exhibited by the Director of Criminal Investigations and the Director of Public Prosecution in the war against corruption has given Kenyans high hopes. In a matter of months, many high-profile public officials have been seized and arraigned in court to answer to corruption charges. Among these are those suspected to have been involved in the scandals at the National Youth Service, which has become a veritable den for graft.

However, concerns have been expressed about the trial of the cases. First, they take exceedingly longer to be adjudicated and dispensed with. Which is why the Executive has been critical of the Judiciary, asking it to find ways and means of expediting the trials. Chief Justice David Maraga has committed himself to doing just that but we are not there yet.

Second, which is the substantive point of discussion here, is the quality of investigations and evidence presented before the court. This week, the court freed 11 suspects in the NYS case upon the application of the DPP, Mr Noordin Haji, to withdraw the charges against them. Prosecution and conviction are based on incontrovertible evidence. Investigative and prosecution authorities are obliged to assemble concrete facts to sustain any charge in court. Lack of that undermines the legal process. A lot of work has to be done on this.

Oftentimes, the Judiciary is blamed for lethargy in handling criminal cases, and for a good reason. However, at times it is not for their incompetence. On occasions, it is because the prosecution has not done its work properly or argued out its case competently.

It is not lost on us that, in the first term of the Jubilee administration, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission gave President Uhuru Kenyatta a list of Cabinet secretaries, principal secretaries and other top government officials allegedly involved in corruption, who were subsequently fired. But most of the accusations fell flat for lack of evidence. That is the kind of scenario we cannot countenance.

Therefore, the starting point for winning the war against corruption is ensuring there is sufficient evidence. There is a grave danger when corruption cases collapse because the public easily loses confidence in the fight. Worse, it emboldens the corrupt in the knowledge that they are safe. That public confidence must be sustained, especially when there is political goodwill as it is today.

Yet the war must be fought and won. We commend the DCI and the DPP for their commitment but the lesson is that they must do more homework so that, when they seize and present suspects in court, they have sufficient evidence to secure a conviction.


Jubilee implosion would cause grave damage to local economy

By JAINDI KISERO
More by this Author

How is the infighting in the ruling party likely to impact on the management of the economy? Will this coalition hold? Can we expect major realignments in political parties in the coming months?

These questions keep coming up whenever I meet diplomats or foreigners with interests in Kenya. Instead of excitement, what you read in the air is anxiety. Our leaders are engaged in activities that will keep the country in a permanent electioneering mood until 2022.

If Jubilee leaders persist in dissipating energy in internecine warfare, the party will degenerate into a lethargy with no capacity to resolve the economic woes that the country faces.

LOAN REPAYMENT

The most pressing challenge for the government in the coming months is finding the money to repay the principal of the first Eurobond we borrowed in 2014. We have to raise the money to service the syndicated loan we took out two years ago. The National Treasury must quickly raise Sh150 billion from somewhere.

Since we did not set up a sinking fund to accumulate this repayments, it is obvious that the only option open to Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich is to incur more debt.

When they tell you that our indebtedness is bearable and that we are still within debt-to-GDP sustainable frameworks and thresholds by multilateral agencies, they are dead wrong. The litmus test is for you to show that the asset you invested the borrowed money on is generating enough revenues to cover both its operating cost and loan repayment.

The other day, President Uhuru Kenyatta told a panel of journalists in Mombasa that he was not worried about the level of our indebtedness because the borrowed money was invested in development projects. Where are the revenues generated from the projects the 2014 Eurobond proceeds were invested in?

How can you claim that your commercial borrowings are sustainable when you have to borrow more money to repay old loans?

Clearly, we are in very hard times. And the political environment is going to worsen the situation because there is a likelihood that we are headed for more factional intrigues within the ruling party in the coming year.

DIVISIVE ISSUES

Mr David Murathe, who has just exited as vice-chairman of Jubilee, has served notice that he will still be playing in the same space. I see mutual suspicions within the ruling party intensifying in the coming months, depending on several factors.

First, the pace and direction which the ongoing corruption investigations and prosecution of public officials takes will be a major factor. Mr Murathe has stepped aside against the backdrop of deep feelings of uncertainty and anxiety by sections of the Kalenjin elite, who harbour the view that the anti-corruption crusade targets only public officials from their community.

The second factor is the much-talked about Cabinet reshuffle.

Should, in reshuffling the Cabinet, President Kenyatta radically upset the 2013 power sharing formula that stipulated how top positions in the Cabinet and key parastatals were dished out between the two ethnic communities that form the bedrock of Jubilee’s support — namely, the Kalenjin and the Kikuyu — internal strife within the party may go several notches higher.

The third source of likely conflict will be the goings-on around the so-called Building Bridges Initiative, especially the debate around the proposal for referendum on a new constitutional dispensation. So far, President Kenyatta has strenuously played his cards close to his chest, resisting the temptation to openly show his hands, especially on the big and divisive issues rocking his party.

Mark you, the official position is that Mr Murathe resigned of his own volition. Go tell that to the birds!

The fourth factor quietly fuelling mutual suspicions is a subterranean struggle between factions for patronage of big Chinese contractors.

LUCRATIVE BUSINESS

Today, being the go-between a big Chinese contractor and the government has become a very lucrative business for the political elite.

Away from the limelight, Mr Murathe has been attracting a great deal of envy and resentment from sections of the party membership for dominating dealings with big Chinese contractors and for the high-level contacts and relationships he has cultivated with them.

His status and influence was on display last year, when he accompanied President Kenyatta on an official visit. He would be seen sitting side by side with the President during negotiations with top Chinese government officials.

His activities in China elicited loud murmurs with his critics within the Jubilee leadership questioning why he had been allowed to assume a profile higher than even Cabinet secretaries during the negotiations.

We must bring political temperatures down.


Publishers should look beyond the textbooks cash cow

By HENRY MUNENE
More by this Author

One of the most difficult tasks for managers of private companies is to balance short-term gains and long-term growth. For, while shareholders need earnings for their capital at the AGM, the business has to be managed sustainably and as an entity strong enough to survive internal and external exigencies and outlive its current minders.

This dilemma is even scarier for publishing managers. Books, and good books, at that, need time to produce. And huge investment. In a year, you can only produce a handful. If they don’t sell, you will have incurred costs in vain. Shareholders can never forgive you for that.

CULTURAL BOOKS

Again, it is hard, in a country like Kenya, to tell whether the few novels or other cultural books you are working on will sell, for only textbooks and set books make money.

It is for this reason that most publishers prefer to put their money on textbooks.

The government invites publishers to participate in preparation of the curriculum or support materials. The publishers buy the bid documents and start preparing scripts for evaluation and eventual approval or rejection by the Ministry of Education.

From there, all you need is to adhere to the technical specifications prescribed by the government and the timelines and — voila! — you are selling tens of thousands of books a few months down the line.

The workload and long hours are hell on earth but, once your books are listed in the so-called “Orange Book”, half your marketing work is done.

The tragedy with blind faith in textbooks is that government policy on textbooks and curricula is so amorphous it melts like wax. Just the other day, it suspended the implementation of the competence-based curriculum (though that was rescinded). A few days later, another agency invited publishers to submit books for the programme.

That the system was in limbo for months on end should be a wake-up call to publishers to stop putting all their eggs in the textbooks basket.

WAKE-UP CALL

First, the government may be the biggest business partner but it’s no respecter of business stability. Media houses and suppliers to counties learnt this the hard way.

Publishers might put millions of shillings into textbooks and then, with a mere change of guard at the helm of the ministry, all that goes down the drain. Such a tragic move would leave them with obsolete stocks.

And while non-school books don’t sell in volumes, they have steady sales and can defy a seismic change in state policy. Novels, biographies, plays and anthologies would be a great safety valve when the textbooks cash cow is no more.

Publishers should spare a chunk of their textbook spend for non-school books. Besides, it’s from these titles that money-minting set books are picked.

There is also a moral angle to it. If you make billions from a society through textbooks, it is only fair that you give back by promoting a reading culture through production of good cultural works.

In my book (pun intended), a great publishing firm is not the one that mints loads of cash from exams-based books but one that impacts the knowledge base and cultural development of the people, including those of us who are not sitting exams.