Friday, January 11th, 2019
In one of Kenya’s middle-class neighbourhoods, there’s a hair salon frequented by locals. On this particular day, there were three people: The employer, one employee, and one client. The employer was busy tending the client’s hair. The employee, however, was on the phone. Every time the employer looked in his direction, he would pretend to be doing something. This pretence irritated the boss; but the boss restrained herself from getting angry, choosing instead to concentrate on the client. Clearly, the employee was not interested in growth. Just the paycheque. Whereas this event did occur, the narration is not about the challenges of salon management. The salon represents Kenya, the employer stands for the citizens, and the employee, our leaders.
Our leadership does not inspire confidence. It just does a fine job of killing citizens’ spirits and morale. While the citizens are busy toiling hard, our leaders are busy enjoying life — at taxpayer’s expense. Instead of helping the country progress, they grab what we generate and use it to propel themselves from “paupers to billionaires”. Their escapades, as reported by the media, make a sad tale. Still, Kenyans continue to be a tolerant people. It ought not to be like that.
Citizens are supposed to be an angry lot. They should be demanding value for their exorbitant taxes. Yet, at every opportunity, they fail to do so. We are happy to celebrate and protect these leaders especially when they are from “our tribe”. We are awed by their wealth and dazzled by their shine, endearing ourselves to them if only to be like them. Sadly, our sight has been blinded by their shiny outfits. Not once do we see them as enemies of progress; people who have no idea how to steer this country forward.
The Cabinet Secretaries resumed duty next week after a 17-day leave amid rumours of a Cabinet reshuffle. A reshuffle would be a welcome move especially this new year. However, it should not be one that tries to whitewash the leaders’ incompetence and failure to demonstrate their ability to deliver.
Rather, it should about be separating the wheat from the chaff; doers from the talkers. We have seen CSs move to dockets and leave them worse than they found them, leaders move from one party to another with no results in tow. Will we trim the leaves, pluck the diseased flowers and expect a healthy tree? Are not the roots more important than the leaves and flowers?
This country’s leadership is in dire need of patriotic citizens. Our Constitution is clear that sovereignty is vested in the people. Change is in the hands of the citizens. We are the power and we will only find solutions when we start looking in the right places – the roots. That is the hearts of our leaders. Only then will we be able to aptly know what kind of leaders we have. The difference between Kenya and the above salon is that once the boss notices the employee doesn’t deliver, she will fire him. We all know that’s the wisest thing to do. The question then becomes, are we going to be decisive employers and hire transformative leaders, people who have the interest of the country at heart? The time is ripe to ask difficult questions. Where is our righteous anger? Where is our will to do what is right? What do our leaders stand for? Do they have values?
What is their degree of patriotism? What is their strategy for this country? Our leaders need to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. More than that, we must like the answers that we will receive.
Of course the answer to these questions will be a resounding ‘yes’. It will be so confident, capable of overriding the truth. It is then that we must remember: It’s very difficult to sustain confidence when you don’t have an underlying strong character. This character is what we must look out for. When we note any inconsistencies, we should be comfortable raining on their parade. But how will we know what to look out for? How will our leaders take us seriously? You may ask. We must commit to do the onerous work of deeply understanding and desiring transformative leadership. For when we know what we want, we are able to get rid of what we don’t. And the time to change is now.
The ubiquity of data to power and impact all aspects of modern human life and businesses is the easiest explanation to how digital technology has evolved.
Progressively, Internet connectivity continues to break new ground – from basic requirements such as sending correspondence or accessing social media platforms to complex technologies such as artificial intelligence, cloud computing, block-chain and machine learning.
This shift, also known as The Internet of Things (IoT) has rightfully become the next big battleground for tech and telecoms companies and the ultimate frontier for commercial growth.
Closer home, Kenya’s mobile industry bottom line has seen massive growth. The e-commerce explosion, for instance, now backed by mobile money, has spawned an online economy that has become part of our everyday imperative. One only requires connection to earn a livelihood.
This digital transformation is a key driver of the Kenya National Development Blueprint; the Vision 2030’s aspiration to build a knowledge-based economy.
The importance of the Internet to deliver socio-economic benefits is clear. At low cost, and at scale, the Internet has the power to lift the most marginalised people. It is therefore critical and urgent that Internet access is progressively enhanced to reach the majority of Kenyans fast and reliably.
To achieve this, every investment and innovation that goes towards making the Internet more accessible and affordable should be actively encouraged and supported. This includes the ongoing roll-out of 4G by mobile operators across the country. However, it is imperative that the respective ministry and regulatory bodies address the skewed nature of the sector if telcos are to continue with further investment into the sector and the economy. Regulatory reform is urgently needed.
Alongside the drive to roll-out infrastructure, increasing availability of smart phones has been a huge boost in the digital journey. Device manufacturers are now compelled to present more affordable choices, which together with the robust infrastructure, continue to boost data consumption. In line with the one of the Agenda Four pillars, we need to encourage the assembly of these devices locally with an ultimate aim of manufacturing them.
The Mobile Economy Sub-Saharan Africa 2017 Report projects that by 2020 there will be 500 million smart phone connections in Sub-Saharan Africa. In Kenya, the demand and uptake of smart phones is growing. All ingredients for increasing Internet access in the country seem to be falling into place. The next logical step in closing this loop is in making data more available, irrespective of geography. It is unfortunate that some parts of the country are still not adequately covered by 3G and 4G networks to facilitate fast and reliable Internet access. This calls for innovative ways to deliver this service.
The writer is the Chair of the Board of Directors at Telkom.
I love driving along Nairobi’s bypasses. They remind me of the battles we fought to save the respective road reserves. Most of them had been allocated, and some even developed. Saving them took hard work, thanks to those in government and professional leadership at the time. As a result, today’s generation can enjoy a decongested city. Can we try to figure Nairobi traffic without the bypasses and their link roads? But perhaps greater credit should go to yesterday’s planners. Those who had the mind and vision to reserve and, where necessary, purchase and reserve land for the bypasses and link roads! Hadn’t they done so, perhaps these projects would have turned unaffordable when we embarked on them at the turn of this century.
Bypasses are turning out to be the lifelines of our fast growing regional and county towns, including Eldoret and Kisumu cities. Land reserved long ago for the purpose has come in most handy today. Previous and smart long-term projections of public land needs, and subsequent reservations, bequeathed us land for lots of today’s physical and social infrastructure like roads, schools, hospitals, airports, parks and forests. A lot of our urban areas have also sprang up on land earlier reserved for the purpose during public land allocation drives and the mass adjudication programmes of the past. But there is growing concern that today’s generation is not projecting and reserving adequate land for our future needs. There is concern that authorities for the existing urban centres, including major towns and cities, aren’t going far enough to secure land for their expansion and future public needs. Instead, there has been a propensity to privatise every available public land, and to only acquire land for today’s expediencies, and not the future. Unless checked, this will cost us dearly in the long run.
Our towns will degenerate fast and our roads will be stress corridors. It’s already evident that some of our towns and roads are hitting load limits, and unless there are contingency arrangements for extra land for their expansion and to divert traffic, reverse dynamics will obtain.
Look at small towns at Nairobi’s periphery like Kiambu, Ruiru, Limuru, Kikuyu and Ngong. Look at what’s happening in Ongata Rongai, Kitengela and Athi River. These small places are beginning to feel congested, have hardly any green areas and have disproportionate traffic jams. People feel trapped in there. Key roads need to be expanded or diversionary bypasses constructed. There isn’t much space for new schools, hospitals and recreation, yet their population continues to rise. The scenario provides an ultimate test for urban and traffic planners, along with land administration officials.
Luckily, our policy provides for the establishment and build-up of land banks, or if you wish, reserves of land for vital needs. Strategic facilities like seaports, airports, security facilities, agriculture and livestock research will always require public land. Land is also needed for housing, industry an investment. Unfortunately, there is little public land left for such needs. So it makes lots of sense to protect public land for the existing facilities, and to make arrangements for the purchase or compulsory acquisition of much more. Buying or compulsorily acquiring private or community land has always posed a major challenge for the national and county governments. It spells big budgets. It is further compounded by speculation and distorted market rates, and of course the risk of process irregularities, delays or price fixing. I have heard lamentations from both levels of government whenever proposals for compulsory acquisition are tabled to the National Land Commission.
But this notwithstanding, Kenya must move on. Postponing the acquisition and banking of adequate land for future needs, for whatever reason, will be tantamount to abdicating our planning and patriotic duty in our time. It therefore behoves the planning and land administration organs in the national and county governments to prioritise and engage this intervention. For most counties, there still exists a good opportunity to purchase land from communities and private land owners at the moment. If we think prices are high today, they will be much higher in future. Deliberate measures should be taken to ensure the use of any remaining public land must be very well rationalised. Then programmes to buy some land with every annual budget could be instituted. This buying could also be guided by the medium and long-term development plans for the respective counties, and the national spatial plan, which help to indicate the spatial zones for the prioritised public facilities.
But some pundits argue that the accumulation over-exposes such land to grabbing, particularly by cartels with insider links. And that such land remains unproductive for the periods it lies uncommitted for development. My view is that these are lower level risks and mustn’t be allowed to immobilise us on such a compelling matter. It should be possible to come up with appropriate mitigation and safeguard measures.
There has been hue and cry over professionalism of advocates and on how they charge legal fees. In the recent past we have had prominent lawyers who have been struck off the roll of advocates including a onetime minister.
Advocates have been accused of stealing clients’ money, practicing without a license, breach of confidentiality, undercutting, coaching of witnesses and charging illegal fees. Advocates, just like the medical profession or the engineering profession, get disciplined for professional misconduct. Professional misconduct is when a member of a profession fails to adhere to the rules, regulations and the basic ethos of such a profession.
The legal profession is guided by the Advocates Act, the Law Society of Kenya Regulations and the Advocate’s Remuneration Order. The Advocates Act establishes the basic legal framework for advocate’s disciplinary mechanisms. The Law Society of Kenya Regulations regulates the conduct between lawyers and provides guidelines and instances when conduct amounts to professional misconduct. The Remuneration Order regulates the charging of fees by advocates. Charging of lower fees than what is provided in the Remuneration Order amounts to undercutting, which is a professional misconduct.
The upsurge in arrests of advocates over legal fees is a worrying trend, charging of fees is not an offence and it is not illegal for advocates to charge fees that the public feels is excessive. There exist laws that govern disciplining advocates and voicing complaints if one is aggrieved by the fees charged.
The Advocates Act provides for a two tier system. Section 53 the Act establishes the Complaint Commission and section 57 establishes the Disciplinary Tribunal. The Complaint Commission Section 53 (4) receives complaints regarding professional misconduct about a firm, a particular advocate, an advocate’s employees and any member of such firm. It’s the duty of the commission to consider any complaint received and if it merits the commission shall forward the same to Disciplinary Committee for action but if the commission considers that it’s a matter not within the purview of the committee and the commission, it shall advice the complainant to direct such matter to the courts.
An order made by the commission is registered with the court and becomes and can be executed as a court order.
If the complaint is a matter in regards to fees charged by an advocate, the commission has powers to call for the fee note and if the advocate fails to surrender it, the commission has powers to asses such fees as it deems fit. Under subsection 6 E the commission has powers to investigate the accounts of an Advocate.
The commission can order an Advocate to provide documents to accounts held by the advocate to the commission or an accountant appointed by it for investigation.
These are some of the the avenues through which advocates get disciplined in case of any wrong amounting to a professional misconduct by or any questionable issue on the legal fee charged by an advocate.
Section 57 establishes the Disciplinary Tribunal, the tribunal consists of, the Attorney General, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Solicitor General or a person deputed by the Attorney General and (6) six advocates of not less than 10 years standing and one of those advocates is one who does not practice within Nairobi.
In Section 60 (1), a complaint against an advocate is made to the tribunal if one considers the advocate’s conduct as a professional misconduct or dishonourable conduct incompatible with the status of an advocate. The complaint shall be filed in the form of an Affidavit by any aggrieved party.
The tribunal shall consider the evidence before it and if the evidence discloses misconduct the tribunal can order either that the advocate be admonished, the advocate be suspended from practice for not more than five years, the name of the advocate be struck of the roll, the advocate pays a fine of Sh50,000 or any combination of the orders above. The Advocate may also be required to pay not more than Sh5 million to the complainant.
The tribunal also has powers on complaints on advocates fees. The tribunal can require an advocate to file a bill of costs for taxation and if the advocate fails to file the tribunal can determine the fees as it deems fit.
Omwanza Nyamweya is an advocate of the High Court of Kenya
“The young have power, now it is time we harness it for our growth. This world demands the qualities of youth: Not a time of life but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the life of ease …”
I begin this column — and essentially this New Year — with the profound words Robert F. Kennedy spoke in Cape Town in 1966 during his visit to South Africa. Senator Kennedy, who would be assassinated exactly two years later in June 1968, understood an important fact that many leaders today forget about the youth; they are the hope of the world, the hope of our country, the hope of our societies and the hope of our industries.
Last week, the US House of Representatives elected 78-year-old Nancy Pelosi, a representative from California, to the become the House Speaker, for a second stint, she’s the first woman to hold the position and the most powerful woman in the history of American politics.
In a recent interview, when asked on her advice to young women — and youth by extension — Pelosi answered with powerful words: “Know your power,” she said. She has also been quoted many times saying; “No one gives you power, you have to take it from them.”
So today’s piece is a message to every young Kenyan. Whether you are reading me on your phone seated in a noisy matatu, or in your dorm room anxiously awaiting a new academic year or even leafing through this newspaper in search of a job opportunity, today’s message is for you. As we begin 2019, I would like every Kenyan aged 18-35 to know this; you are powerful.
Let me give a little perspective. We, the youth, make up 16 per cent of the global population, which means there are more than 1.2 billion of us on this planet. Closer home, in Kenya, the youth make up 80 per cent of the total population, meaning that there are about 40 million of us within our borders. That is a critical mass.
Our country needs us and, therefore, we must use our talents and energy not only in the service of our dreams and visions, but more importantly in the service of our beloved country, our communities and the industries in which we earn our daily bread. In a country with a youth unemployment rate of nearly 12 per cent, it is easier to give up on our country and walk away, but we must remember that this is our home, our motherland, and we must remain stoic and determined to make it better.
They say “youth is wasted on the young”, but we must not allow this to be our narrative. We must make our youthful years count for something. Each of us has the equal opportunity to use our imagination and creativity to turn our respective industries around. The youth of Kenya are the crucible of this country’s incredible entrepreneurial spirit. For those of us with an entrepreneurial bug, we must use our shrewdness to build enduring companies that will transform society.
To those in community service, we must empower communities to see a better tomorrow for themselves. For those in activism, you must not allow selfish ambition to be our guide, but use these opportunities to bring down structures of oppression and injustice.
We must have the courage to look evil in the eye and say “no” to those who want to use us for their own gain. We must not allow ourselves to be poisoned by petty, tribal and divisive politics, but instead, each of us should play our part in respecting our neighbours irrespective of their ethnicity, skin colour, gender, religion, affectional orientation or social standing.
We have the power to take this country in the direction we want, if only each of us takes personal responsibility to remain true to values such as integrity, hard work and diligence. In 1996, Nelson Mandela said that young people “are capable, when aroused, of bringing down the towers of oppression and raising the banners of freedom.”
Dear fellow youth, we are capable; we are powerful. As we embark on 2019, may we go beyond making tonnes of money and benefiting ourselves; may we bear visions that will impact our societies and may we be drivers of the change that we want to see.
Above all, we must remain hopeful. Without hope, there can be no tomorrow. Hope is all we have, and hope is all we will ever need.
President Uhuru Kenyatta’s directive in December last year that the Ministry of Education implement’s the competency-based curriculum (CBC) in early childhood development centres and grades 1, 2, and 3 contradicted a recommendation by an evaluation team led by Prof Laban Ayiro.
Prof Ayiro’s recommendation had been accepted by the Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohammed, who had postponed the implementation of the CBC by one year until the issues raised are addressed. So far, there has been no summative evaluation of the pilot phase of the CBC.
Overruling the CS, as the President did, means that the curriculum is being implemented in a rush before the ministry is ready for it. Further worrying is that it paints Amina and the ministry as groping in the dark, with the reversal having portrayed her as a flip-flopper.
The current primary school curriculum was implemented in January 1986 after a summative evaluation and a serious of discussions of the evaluation report. I give credit to the respected educationists Herbert Kanina, James Kamunge, and Dr Gilbert Oluoch for leading the curriculum reform processes. Credit should be given to former Presidents Jomo Kenyatta and Daniel Arap Moi for giving curriculum developers and evaluators a freehand to do the right thing.
Following the implementation of the current curriculum, Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) was expected to reform it many years ago, but this did not happen.
It is the reason that the clamour for a new curriculum gained momentum over the years leading to the coming up of CBC. But it is unfortunate that the only reason CBC framework was adopted is to implement Unicef’s advice to East African Community countries. Research on implementation of CBC in Tanzania shows that it is appropriate for technical and vocational training, but inappropriate for education.
What often leads the supporters and defenders of CBC framework astray is their addiction to development of skills for self-reliance and employment. The current curriculum initially aimed at achieving that but during the pilot phase, it was discovered that the goal was not realistic. Consequently, the goal was changed to making learners trainable. The performance of students in technical and vocational training institutions clearly shows that the goal has been achieved.
Questions are being asked openly about why piloting of CBC was done if the intention was to implement the curriculum before conducting summative evaluation. Piloting a curriculum is the gold standard of curriculum development. It is an experiment in which:
1. Several schools are selected, preferably randomly;
2. Schools are randomly divided into two groups: experimental or pilot schools, and control schools;
3. Achievement tests and other evaluation instruments are administered to students. Other instruments are administered to key stakeholders;
4. Pilot schools implement the new curriculum while control schools continue with the existing curriculum;
5. Formative evaluation is conducted by curriculum developers and quality and standards officers;
6. Internal summative evaluation is conducted;
7. External summative evaluation is conducted by respected people who were not involved in the development of the curriculum. The purpose of external summative evaluation is to determine the effect of the new curriculum. During this stage, differences between pre-test and post-test scores of pilot and control school pupils are compared. Other factors such as quality of the curriculum, relevance of the curriculum, cost-effectiveness, cost-benefit, and sustainability of the project are also evaluated.
Thus, the debate about whether or not CBC should be implemented in all schools will only end when summative evaluation shows that it has more positive effects on learners and society than the current curriculum. As said earlier, the summative evaluation of the pilot phase of CBC has not been done. Yet, the Ministry of Education is under pressure from vested business interests, rent-seeking cartels, international agencies, and non-governmental organisations with hidden agenda, to implement the curriculum. Senior Ministry of Education officials should remember that curriculum reform should benefit society as a whole, not foreigners and vested business interests. While most of the above parties may be considered as legitimate stakeholders, the fulcrum of this process and the knowledge that matters most is that of competent professionals. Let the ministry be given space to do the right thing.
Implementation of the competency-based curriculum ranks among the biggest crises the education system has faced since independence. It could do a lot of harm to Kenyan children if not handled properly. The Ministry of Education is currently facing widespread criticism for hurried implementation of the curriculum. Now that a lot of public money has been paid to publishers and allegedly to rent-seeking cartels in government and international non-governmental organisations, the best solution to the crisis is to allow KICD staff and quality assurance and standards officers and other Ministry of Education staff to do their work professionally and in the interest of students and society.
I propose that they adopt the following five-pronged strategy:
1. Continued implementation of CBC in grade 1, 2, and 3 on a pilot basis in 2019 and 2020;
2. Formative and summative evaluation of the curriculum be done in 2019. Remember, a curriculum that is implemented without input from stakeholders is bound to fail; and,
3. Revision of the curriculum on the basis of formative and summative evaluation in 2019 and 2020. Summative evaluation teams should consist of representatives from Knut, Council of Governors, Kenya Parents Association, Kenya Primary Head Teachers Association, religious organisations, Employer Association, Society of Educational Research and Evaluation in Kenya, and other key stakeholders. They should be led by a highly educated, internationally recognised Kenyan academic with proven experience in conducting curriculum evaluation.
Ogula is a professor of education at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa and chairman, Society of Educational Research and Evaluation in Kenya email: [email protected]
A false narrative has been carefully crafted that Martin Fayulu should have won the presidential elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) because he was the leading candidate in the opinion polls before the elections. And that Felix Tshisekedi is the surprise winner because he was not expected to win based on the same polls.
This narrative is outright dishonest. Let’s examine the facts. Until December 29, 2018, just one day before the DRC presidential elections, Fayulu had never been above eight per cent in any opinion poll conducted over the last two years in the Democratic Republic of Congo. And he represents a political party, the Engagement for Citizenship and Development party, that has only one representative in the legislature: Fayulu himself. His party has no political infrastructure in the DRC.
On December 29, just one day before the elections, an opinion poll appeared that catapulted Fayulu from eight per cent to 47 per cent. That is the only opinion poll that ever put him above eight per cent. It’s the “miracle” opinion poll!
Until December 29, Tshisekedi had consistently led in every opinion poll in 2018. In addition, he is the leader of the largest opposition party in the DRC, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), a party with vast political infrastructure across the country.
The sin of Tshisekedi, at least in the eyes of his political detractors, lies in his consistent and public refusal to boycott the 2018 elections. To Tshisekedi, the elections would mark the moment of liberation for Congo. On this, he and Fayulu stood on opposite sides. Fayulu campaigned vigorously that the elections must be boycotted if voting machines were used. He called them “the cheating machines”. Tshisekedi and his party, the UDPS, transparently maintained that they would participate in the elections with or without the voting machines.
At a key opposition meeting in Geneva in November 2018, where opposition leaders gathered to choose a sole opposition candidate, Tshisekedi was the prohibitive favourite. Everyone expected him to emerge as the sole opposition leader. At that time, Fayulu was not known internationally or domestically outside Kinshasa, where he was a well-known political activist.
To everyone’s great surprise, Fayulu was selected in Geneva over Tshisekedi. When the news broke in the DRC, there were spontaneous riots across the country. Even though Tshisekedi had graciously accepted his colleagues’ surprise verdict in Geneva, his political base in Congo revolted and demanded that he withdraws from the Geneva Accord. Tshisekedi withdrew and on November 23 formed a political alliance in Nairobi, Kenya (the “Nairobi Accord”) with Vital Kamerhe, the second most popular opposition presidential candidate. When the joint team returned to Kinshasa on December 15, to launch their campaign, they were welcomed by over a million people — a scene replayed across the country throughout the presidential campaign.
But in Geneva on November 10, the issue was the question of the voting machines. Had Tshisekedi agreed to boycott the elections if the voting machines were used, he would have emerged in Geneva as the sole opposition leader. But he refused on principle to make such a compromise, knowing full well that he would have to dishonour it or be forced to boycott the elections.
The Geneva Accord marked the rise of Fayulu as a major opposition figure. It also marked the rise of a very strange media narrative that has persisted: That Fayulu, and not Tshisekedi, was the popular opposition leader. Hence the recurring and the carefully orchestrated reference to the “surprised” victory. It’s difficult to determine where fiction ends and where reality begins.
The writer is special envoy of Felix Tshisekedi
Last Saturday, I predicted that the elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo would be stolen, but I couldn’t foresee that it would be done in such a crude, multi-pronged manner, denying the majority voters their democratic right. The election was, indeed, rigged, the victory snatched from the man who actually deserved it — Mr Martin Fayulu — and handed over to the runner-up, Mr Felix Tshisekedi, after what is suspected to have been a backroom deal.
Indeed, the only surprise was that power did not go to the man selected to take over from President Joseph Kabila because the chap, Mr Emmanuel Shadarry, could not hack it even with the whole State machinery backing him.
To have done anything different would have been too difficult for even the most cynical to believe. As former President Mwai Kibaki acidly pointed out after Kanu attempted to rig him out of his Othaya parliamentary seat back in 1988, even election rigging requires some level of intelligence.
What follows now is difficult to tell, but violence cannot be ruled out. At the same time, maybe voices of reason will prevail and the man who actually won the polls will resort to the courts for arbitration, though this is a vain hope since it is not clear just how independent the judicial system is in DRC. Judging from the way the “independent” electoral commission conducted itself one would have to be an incurable optimist to expect that some judge will do a Maraga and nullify the elections. It won’t happen.
Any attempt to write the history of the Congo is a tedious and fairly unrewarding affair. Not only is it convoluted, it is also quite bloody and mind-numbing. From the days when Belgian King Leopold II made the vast country a corporate entity which he personally controlled from 1884 to 1908, this territory has not known much peace. Indeed it has always been at the centre of various factions warring for its rich mineral wealth and other resources, with very little thought being given to its inhabitants except as sources of forced labour. In many ways, the DRC has always been the heart of darkness as novelist Joseph Conrad succinctly put it.
During the early 1900s, it is estimated that at least 10 million Africans died at the hands of King Leopold’s mercenaries. Things did not get much better when the Belgian government actually took over in 1908, but at least international pressure had an impact in improving the lives of the inhabitants. Fast forward to more modern times when Belgium was forced to give up the colony due to ceaseless resistance at a time when most of Europe had grown progressively weaker.
But things didn’t get any better for the country after independence either. Not only was it too huge to control from the centre, some warlords were more powerful than the central government. To get an idea of just how big the DRC really is, at 2.345 million square kilometres, it is almost the same size as all the four Eastern African countries combined, plus South Sudan. Trying to secure that vast border would be a nightmare for anyone, let alone corrupt incompetents like Joseph Kabila and his late father.
DRC suffers heavily from the much-maligned resource curse, which is why it has always been, and continues to be, the object of competing interests by foreign powers and even neighbouring countries. Not only is it endowed with vast deposits of uranium, diamonds, zinc, copper and rare earths which are useful to industrialised nations for making electronics parts, computers, clean energy and sophisticated weaponry, there is the more mundane, old-fashioned logging for building timber and fuel.
All these are highly-coveted resources and any semblance of stability in the country is a threat to foreign predators. Is it any wonder that the DRC holds the world record for the highest number of rebel movements in the world? Is it any wonder that the armies of neighbouring countries can occupy vast swathes of its territory for years with complete impunity? Whoever eventually rules the country, and assuming it won’t descend into civil war, some other model of governing it will have to be tried out. Western-style democracy simply won’t work.
I usually shy away from commenting on issues that are beyond my ken, but on the war against corruption, I am greatly puzzled. A person is accused of embezzling millions of shillings or abusing public office for self-enrichment. He rushes to court with a battery of lawyers seeking orders forbidding investigations on himself, his family or his assets. On the same day, a minor traffic offender is taken to court and jailed for six months.
Not only do I agree with the President and the Director of Public Prosecutions that in some ways the Judiciary seems to be working at cross-purposes with other arms of government on this war, it also appears there is an element of sabotage. Is there any likelihood that the war on corruption will ever be won?
When we were informed this was the end of my mother’s cancer treatment as nothing else could be done, my first question was: “So what happens next?” Time was now too precious to be worrying over the next steps and emergency response measures when we should have been spending all our waking moments with her.
It was explained she would now be placed under palliative care to keep her comfortable and manage the symptoms. That sounded fair and thoughtful, but the implications did not quite register. What exactly would we be doing, if at all anything, when treatment was now over?
The World Health Organisation describes palliative care as an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problem associated with life-threatening illness. This is done through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification, assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psychosocial and spiritual.
Palliative care for children is described as representing a special care, albeit closely-related to adult palliative care, with an emphasis on the total care of the child’s body, mind and spirit. It also involves giving support to the family.
It took 48 hours for me to wish I was trained in palliative care. Unexpectedly, my mother went into a coma after appearing to be out of it for most of the evening after the talk with the doctor. I was not strong enough to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on her, though my fear was I might break her ribs, ironically. She had to be rushed to hospital.
Had we been prepared on palliative care while simultaneously being informed that treatment had come to an end, I strongly believe the outcome that night would have been different. The hospice would have walked us through the palliative plan, arranged an immediate home visit, advised on what symptoms to watch out for and what pain relief medications to administer and how.
Palliative care can take the form of home-based care or hospice care. No terminally ill patient, whether a child or an adult, should bear the news of being informed that they have six months to live and be sent home with no immediate concrete plan of how to ease their suffering. It is incredibly intense and distressing for family members to take care of a loved one who is undergoing treatment; the magnitude becomes two-fold once in palliative care.
It is not satisfactory to argue that the family is too distressed at that point to have the discussion considering that anything could happen from that point onwards. This is a discussion that must be had for the family’s and patient’s benefit. The fear of talking about death has no place when fighting to offer the best possible, pain-free, comfortable and peaceful death.
If the palliative care discussion is not immediate, then the scenario turns to a revolving door of checking in and out of hospital. This may appear to be to the benefit and relief of the family that their loved one is under hospital care, as opposed to at home where they feel and are ill-equipped and lack the resources and skills to take good care of an ailing family member. On the contrary, the loved one is at risk of picking up infections from the hospital, which takes a further toll on their already fragile bodies.
But, had the family been guided on how to manage the symptoms at home, given the guidelines on who to call when uncertain or wait for the specialist to arrive, they would not be robbed of spending precious time with their loved one commuting back and forth to the hospital.
Palliative care is clearly a most crucial form of care just like chemotherapy, surgery and other medical interventions we use to save our loved ones. Just like you trust to be guided through the treatment, be guided even in these last moments that alleviate your anxiety and put you at ease to cherish precious moments that you will hold on to forever. Don’t allow yourself or your loved one to be in distress and become helpless when there is specialised assistance available. Take the care being offered. If it is not being offered, there is no harm in seeking it out.
Well, after what appeared to be a rather long hospital stay, mum did come home, and we had scheduled home visits much to our relief. The specialised home care was required more than I had imagined. Weeks later, she was admitted in the hospice who took wonderful care of her, making sure she was ever so comfortable, pain free and at peace. Palliative care and the hospice gave my mother a calm send-off surrounded by those she loved.
I cannot recommend palliative care enough.
A former magistrate who was relieved of her duties after disclosing her HIV status has moved to the court seeking reinstatement with full benefits.
The Employment and Labour Relations Court (ELRC) has certified the case as urgent and admitted it for hearing.
Judge Byram Ongaya directed lawyer Jason Okemwa representing the former magistrate, to serve the Judicial Service Commission and Chief Registrar of the Judiciary Anne Amadi with the pleadings by February 5.
“The pre-trial hearing of this case will be February 7, 2019 before any judge in the ELRC division,” Justice Ongaya ruled last week.
The claimant NML said that she was infected with HIV by her husband who was introduced to her by her pastor. Upon discovery that she was infected, the administrator dumped her with their two HIV/AIDS ailing children. They have since died.
She is now struggling to survive with no earnings at all. The magistrate was sent packing when she was serving an interdiction on half salary in 2016.
“(The interdiction) was inconveniencing and her termination was insensitive, unfair and was a death penalty as her support was completely cut off,” Mr Okemwa says in court papers.
The former magistrate asserts that she has nothing to fall back on since her health cover was withdrawn by the Judiciary and all her cards taken away.
Mr Okemwa is asking the court to enforce his client’s constitutional rights by directing the JSC to reinstate her with full benefits.