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NLC links self-help groups to land grabbing in Nairobi

By SAMWEL OWINO
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The National Land Commission (NLC) has accused some self-help groups of being behind land grabbing in Eastlands, Nairobi County.

In response to an investigation by Buruburu police, NLC chairman Muhammad Swazuri claimed the cartels have been circulating fake determinations purportedly issued by the commission.

He said the cartels usually identify prime undeveloped land and present themselves as squatters who need the commission to settle them, thereby disinheriting the genuine owners of the parcels of land.

This practice has previously been more pronounced at the Coast, where landowners regularly suffer attacks and lose their land in broad daylight.

SQUATTERS
The commission said individuals eyeing other people’s land regularly mobilise people known as “professional squatters” to invade and encroach on private property and claim that their ancestral land has been grabbed.

In a recent case in Nairobi, an ownership tussle pitted Uchumi supermarket against a group of squatters over prime undeveloped land opposite the Kasarani sports complex.

After an expensive and drawn-out litigation, the case was determined in favour of the supermarket, with the so-called squatters dismissed as imposters.

INSIDERS
Dr Swazuri, in his letter dated February 27, has enclosed a February 23 report by the director of investigations at NLC, confirming the extent of the blatant fraudulent activities.

The report says the cartels are working with key people within the commission to issue the fake determinations over the Nairobi/Block/82/7813-7855 land in Donholm estate.

“The purported determination is a forgery and cannot be attested to by the commission,” the report says.

In law, self-help groups have no legal capacity to own land.

The police have launched investigations into the activities of the group.


Embattled IEBC boss Chebukati retains lawyer Donald Kipkorir

By PATRICK LANG’AT
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Electoral commission chairman Wafula Chebukati has retained city lawyer Donald Kipkorir to protect his interests as his job comes under increasing scrutiny.

Mr Chebukati said speculation over his tenure had increased following the sending on leave of the agency’s chief executive officer Ezra Chiloba and the resignation of three commissioners, which left the commission’s ability to discharge its legal mandate in question.

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) chairman said unnamed forces are bent on removing him from office and were behind claims he had instructed the lawyer to negotiate a compensation of Sh700 million for him and the two remaining commissioners to leave office.

“Not true. That is part of a series of rumours created to put pressure on my two commissioners and I, with the sole purpose of attempting to remove us from office,” Mr Chebukati said.

EXIT PACKAGE
In a phone message, Mr Kipkorir said: “I have been retained by Wanyonyi Wafula Chebukati, chairman IEBC, to act for him generally respecting his tenure of office.”

Sources at the commission had told the Nation that Mr Chebukati and the two remaining commissioners were silently negotiating a Sh700 million exit package, way above the estimated Sh120 million owed to them for the remainder of their terms.

The deal was to be based on what they would have earned for the remainder of their six-year term, and a golden handshake, the sources said.

The IEBC team took office in January 2017, and had a fixed, non-renewable six-year term.

Having served only 15 months of their 72-month tenure, the three commissioners have 57 months left in their contract.

The other commissioners still serving are Abdi Guliye and Boya Molu, following last week’s exits of Connie Maina, Paul Kurgat and Margaret Mwachanya.

RESIGNATION

Asked whether the three IEBC top officials would be open to such a package, Mr Chebukati said: “Such discussion is not in our minds.”

Mr Kipkorir, who had earlier refused to discuss the details of any instructions from Mr Chebukati because of client confidentiality, said reports of him leading negotiations for an exit package were “red-herring rumours and fake news”.

“As you are aware, there are some politicians who have been calling for his resignation.

“None of the calls have been put in writing and thus we can’t respond to them.

“We have not made any offer to any one as it has never arisen. At the moment, our client is executing his mandate in office,” the lawyer said.

Sources close to him and commissioners Guliye and Molu however said the three are open to leaving office.

“They feel their fate lies in the Uhuru-Raila handshake. It actually does revolve around it.

“They are open-minded that if the deal so proposes their removal, then the best they can do is negotiate good terms,” the source said.

Since they were recruited before the Salaries and Remuneration Commission did a review of the pay for members of constitutional commissions and independent offices last August, in case of a deal, it might be based on a March 1, 2013 circular.

The 2013 notice did not change the IEBC chiefs’ packages in the August 2017 salary review, which proposes a Sh924,000-per-month pay for IEBC chairman and Sh765,188 for the commissioners.

CHILOBA SUSPENSION
Mr Chebukati earned Sh792,000 per month in his first year in office, which was to be increased by Sh52,800 each year to cap at Sh1.056 million monthly in the sixth year.

Calculated on this scale, Mr Chebukati would take home Sh45 million in his pending contract.

The commissioners, on the other hand, earned Sh640,681 in their first year with a Sh42,712 increase each year to hit Sh852,241 in the sixth year.

They would go home with Sh75 million based on the 2013 scale.

Reports of the deal emerged as a memo to IEBC staff by Mr Chebukati showed a man appearing to retract on the reasons for suspending Mr Chiloba.

While he had insisted that Mr Chiloba was suspended because he failed to provide answers to audit queries, Mr Chebukati said the suspension was only to allow for a substantive audit.


Good laws, policies will bring growth

By EDITORIAL
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The economic slump recorded last year, characterised by rising inflation, wage cuts and stagnation, decline in industrial productivity and agricultural output, is not surprising.

It was a year of high-octane politics and the dubious record of two presidential elections in quick succession made worse by adverse weather that destroyed crops and occasioned food shortages.

Details of the decline came out in the 2018 Economic Survey published this week, indicating that the country recorded the lowest growth in recent times — 4.9 per cent, a 10 percentage points drop from the previous year.

ECONOMIC STABILITY

Broadly, the country is running an unstable economy; one whose fortunes fluctuate based on politics or the weather.

This should worry us and force discussions on a strategic direction to economic stability.

With the elections now behind us and given the bountiful rains that promise improved farm produce, the government must rollout programmes to spur growth.

Top on the card is infrastructural development — roads, railways and energy — to enhance the movement of people and goods and reduce the cost of doing business.

Secondly, create a conducive environment for trade through responsive legislation and policies.

PRIVATE SECTOR
Thirdly, the government must deal with human resource capital, itself mired in contradictions.

The public sector has not been hiring for a couple of years and, although it is assumed that the private sector is likely to grow to create jobs, that only works if the fundamentals are right.

Paradoxically, the national government has frozen jobs but counties have not and pay good salaries.

The causes of stagnation are multifaceted. There are inherently dangerous practices that undermine campaigns to end poverty and disease.

Corruption, ethnicity, wastage and theft dominate public life.

The import is that well-meaning programmes collapse to the detriment of the taxpayers.

The National Treasury is projecting a higher growth of 5.5 per cent this year, given the prevailing sanity in politics.

But that is easier said than done. The government must implement well-thought-out programmes if it hopes to meet the target.


Devolution meet a perfect time to reflect on plight of the youth

By GODFFREY OMWARE
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On approaching the famous Kondele slum in Kisumu, traffic halts into a jam and everybody is aghast.

Through the window, I see a group of youth running towards one direction.

In seconds of tracking the race, I spot a crowd on a county-plated Mercedes Benz and realise that it is the usual “mheshimiwa” thing.

Unfortunately, none is lucky as it is another day’s promise from the politician.

In despair, they head back to the so-called “Bunge la Wananchi”, disgruntled.

This scene depicts the lives of many youth across the country despite the five years of devolution.

UNEMPLOYMENT
The national government is seemingly overwhelmed by the runaway unemployment among the youth, going by the recently released ‘2015-2016 Household Survey’ report by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS).

It put Kenya’s unemployment at paltry 7.4 per cent, raising an uproar, especially among jobless youth, who questioned the scope of study.

As a result, the unemployment burden is soon being shifted to the county governments.

And with the 47 governors convened in Kakamega, it is time for them to ponder the plight of the youth.

The devolution conference being held in Kakamega County is a good setting for this topic.

PUBLIC FUNDS

Last week, the host, Governor Wycliffe Oparanya, attributed misappropriation of some of his county’s funds to youth projects, claiming that they have been brought down by youthful drug addicts.

The question is, was there proper planning and financing before implementing the projects, or were they meant to fail?

Drug lords and owners of chang’aa dens across the country are becoming rich in the name of the hopeless youth.

The estates are full of illicit liquor dens and young addicts resembling 80-year olds. The smell of bhang rents the air.

This signifies the booming illegal businesses targeting idle youth.

CRIME
Roadside sheds in the name of “bases” have become the ‘offices’ of the unemployed youth, where problems that have no solution are discussed and cursed.

At times, they may be overridden by debate about the weekly ‘Baba’ handshakes, only to be interrupted by a convoy.

Some of the sheds have become havens of crime as it brings together both the educated and the unlearned.

This is the daily routine for many unemployed youth — that of despair and frustration.

Youth projects need to be enhanced through sufficient financing and proper planning and implementation.

POLICY
In December, the Kisumu County government launched a project that involved daily clean-up of estates.

A sacco formed to manage the youth’s earnings helped to drastically reduce crime within a week.

Several illicit brew dens were closed as their customers became enlightened and occupied.

But the project survived for only a month due to insufficient funds.

Devolution was all the hope the youth had for closer service delivery and increased employment opportunities, leave alone improved governance.

County governments should, therefore, put the youth at the centre stage of service delivery through well financed projects.


Education bosses to assess impact of heavy rains

By FAITH NYAMAI
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By ABDIMALIK HAJIR
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By CHARLES LWANGA
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The Ministry of Education has instructed regional education coordinators and county directors of education to conduct a quick assessment of the impact rains have had on schools before they reopen next week.

Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed wants the assessment done in both primary and secondary schools, universities and vocational training centres.

“Particularly, the officers should advise the ministry on areas where the rains may drastically affect the reopening of schools or the learning process in the higher education sector with a view to forestalling any crises,” she said.

Ms Mohamed said the rains have drastically affected infrastructure in many parts of the country, making access to schools difficult.

“I also urge the public to be vigilant and take proper care of our young ones, who are also our greatest resource,” she said.

DISPLACED
The heavy rains have seen many families displaced and several schools flooded.

Iimba Primary School in Makueni County is among the schools that are flooded, with parents fearing for the safety of their pupils ahead of the reopening of schools for the second term.

Meanwhile, hundreds of families in Garissa have been displaced after the River Tana burst its banks.

The victims, who were caught unawares by the floodwaters on Wednesday night, were trying to retrieve their soaked belongings and move to safer grounds as they appealed to the government and relief agencies for help.

Farmers have also been hard hit with their crops washed away and equipment such as pumps damaged.

ROADS DAMAGED

The worst-hit areas in Garissa are Windsor, Bula Punda, Bula Kamor and Bula Sheikh while houses in Bakuyu, Ziwani and Mororo in Tana River County are flooded.

In Kilifi, the number of flood victims has risen to 18,000 after the River Sabaki broke its banks following heavy rains upstream, the Kenya Red Cross Society has said, adding that some 3,000 people in Kakuyuni, Garashi and Sabaki wards have been rendered homeless as a result.

Ms Hakima Masoud, the Kilifi County Red Cross coordinator, said they have been assessing the situation in the most affected areas, adding that some places are still inaccessible by boat or road.

RELIEF FOOD
Speaking during a tour of Kakuyuni Ward, she said some areas were now accessible only by chopper.

“We have supplied those displaced with blankets, tarpaulins and water treatment chemicals. We are working with the Interior ministry to ensure that they get food,” she said.

Some of the victims are sheltering in schools.

A group of workers at the Galana Conservancy near the Galana Kulalu Irrigation Scheme were stranded for the better part of yesterday until Kenya Wildlife Service and Kenya Red Cross personnel went to their rescue.


Nothing new about cremation in Kenya

By JOHN KAMAU
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At the National Museums of Kenya are pot-sherds, beads and burnt human bones in one of Kenya’s oldest crematorium – known by archaeologists as the Njoro River Cave site.

As debate kicks off once again on cremation – following politician Kenneth Matiba’s will to be cremated – unknown to many, Kenya has one of the oldest crematorium in East Africa dating back to more than 3,000 years.

The remains, preserved in boxes – were excavated in April 1938 by Louis Leakey; a promoter of the study of human origins, having been discovered by Mrs Nellie Grant – the mother of famous writer Elspeth Huxley, the author of Flame Trees of Thika.

“Going by the evidence at Njoro River Cave, cremation is an old practice in Africa,” Dr Purity Kiura, a research scientist at the museums, says.

“We also have burial sites in northern Kenya, which also point to the beginning of burial practices rather than discarding of bodies. The best known is the Namoritunga site on the western side of Lake Turkana.”

DISCOVERY
But it is the cremation at Njoro that has always astounded researchers.

“Njoro was an interesting site in the history of cremation in Kenya,” Dr Kiura says.

When it was excavated, Dr Leakey with his wife, Mary, removed remains of 74 individuals cremated and buried with their beads, pots, baskets and one wooden vessel – now housed at the museum in Nairobi.

While Dr Leakey had at first thought that the remains belonged to some “Mesopotamians”- and he told The Times as much, he would later discover that what he thought was evidence of opal mining in Africa turned out to be beads at a cremation site by local inhabitants.

The site became of interest to archaeologists.

Apart from the stone bowls, the presence of pestles and mortars did suggest that the crematorium existed during a time when people knew how to ground grain.

CUSTOM
Before the discovery of Njoro River Cave site, it was always thought that burnt human remains at some sites was accidental and not an ancient burial custom.

Other smaller crematoriums were discovered at Keringet and Egerton caves.

In their book – Excavations at the Njoro River Cave – Mary and Leakey say the excavation yielded at least 42 males, 21 females, plus 11 individuals “too poorly preserved to make a sex determination”.

“Of the males whose age can be estimated, 15 out of 34 never reached even early middle age, while 20 never reached full middle age. Only one reached an advanced age,” the two wrote after studying the remains.

While no cremation sites have been found during the iron-age – cremations in modern day Kenya were associated more with the arrival of Hindus during the building of the Uganda Railway.

It was the Mombasa Hindu Union, founded in 1899 – when the railway reached Nairobi – that build the first crematorium in Mombasa in 1904, near the Shivalaya Temple, to serve the Hindus, jains and Sikhs.

It also served others who chose to cremate the dead rather than bury them.

KARIOKOR
In the interior, other crematoriums were set in Nakuru and Nairobi in 1907.

The Kariokor Crematorium was opened in 1933 and remains the best known in Kenya.

In 1967, there was debate in Parliament seeking the removal of Kariokor “from an African area” with then-Butere MP Martin Shikuku arguing that smell of “the smoke from dead Indians” was offensive to residents.

But then Parklands MP F.R.S. De Souza told him off, and said that cremation was the “cleanest and healthiest way of getting rid of the dead”.

POLITICIANS
In 1974, then-Attorney General Charles Njonjo also sparked debate in Parliament when he suggested that the dead “should either be cremated or thrown to the hyenas”.

The first high-ranking Kenyan to be cremated was Cabinet Minister Bruce Mackenzie, who for many years was Jomo Kenyatta’s Minister for Agriculture. He was cremated in 1978.

Former Cabinet Minister Peter Habenga Okondo and the Nobel Laurette Wangari Maathai bodies were cremated at Kariokor.

In 2002, the cremation of Mary Kuria, the wife of Archbishop Manasess Kuria of the Anglican Church, caused uproar within the church.

“We do it because it is Christian,” Bishop Kuria, whose body was also cremated, said.

When she died in 2011, Prof Maathai was cremated – in what is catching up to be a tradition in Kenya.


Distance cannot separate true friends

By LIU XIANFA
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In January 2014, I was honoured to be appointed to this beautiful and legendary country as China’s Ambassador to Kenya and Permanent Representative to Unep and UN-Habitat.

Four years and three months later, I feel even more honoured that I have been the longest-serving Chinese ambassador to Kenya since 2000.

As I travelled all over this great land, its ecological harmony, natural splendour of wildness, cultural diversity and especially the diligence and courage of the people have been deeply imprinted on my mind.

I have been touched by the profound friendship of the government and people extended to China, gratified by the strong momentum of development of China-Kenya relations and thrilled by the great achievements of the bilateral cooperation.

DEVELOPMENT
I have followed in the footsteps of ancient Chinese navigator Zheng He to Lamu and Malindi.

The profound friendship between our two peoples, which dates back to over 600 years ago, is now rejuvenated with vigour and vitality.

I have experienced the Kenya Speed and Kenya Miracle along the Mombasa-Nairobi standard gauge railway and seen the flourishing socio-economic development.

I have visited more than 100 geothermal wells drilled by Chinese companies in the Great Rift Valley that brought not just electricity, but also heat for China-Kenya cooperation.

In Nairobi, I have seen Kenyan and Chinese scientists of the China-Africa Joint Research Centre jointly developing advanced technologies to raise grain output and protect biological diversity.

In Moyale, I have seen a Chinese company constructing the A2 highway and digging boreholes for the local community to solve the problem of water shortages.

In Kisumu, I have seen Chinese and Kenyans construct water tunnels and plan new ports on Lake Victoria.

I am proud to see that the China-Kenya political trust has been further strengthened with frequent high-level contacts.

Since 2013, President Xi Jinping has met with President Uhuru Kenyatta three times.

Premier Li Keqiang and then-chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, Mr Zhang Dejiang, visited Kenya.

TRADE
Last year, President Kenyatta visited China for the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation.

President Xi and President Kenyatta upgraded the China-Kenya cooperation to a Comprehensive Strategic Cooperative Partnership, to play a leading role in the China-Africa relations.

For the third year in a row, China has been Kenya’s largest trading partner, investor and contractor.

In 2017, the bilateral trade volume reached $5.2 billion (Sh522 billion), 59 per cent more than in 2013.

There are about 400 Chinese enterprises in Kenya, creating nearly 130,000 jobs.

Among the many Chinese investment projects are Twyford Ceramics Company, Wuyi precast building materials production base and Nairobi Global Trade Centre, whose total investment exceeds $700 million.

TOURISM
China-Kenya people-to-people exchanges are booming.

Since 2016, we have provided 67,000 training opportunities in Kenya and China for government officials, technicians, doctors and teachers.

Every year, the Chinese Government provides over 200 full scholarships to Kenyan students. In 2017, Chinese tourists to Kenya surpassed 60,000.

This year, which marks the 55th anniversary of the China-Kenya diplomatic relations, China will push forward the Belt and Road Initiative and host the Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation and the first International Import Expo.

I thank President Kenyatta for promoting the China-Kenya cooperation.

He’s always there at the SGR construction site for the quarterly coordination meetings, making it possible to complete the project two-and-a-half years in advance.

FRIENDSHIP
I am extremely grateful for the award of the Order of Moran of the Burning Spear (MBS), which is not just the acknowledgement of my work, but a symbol of China-Kenya friendship.

I thank my Kenyan friends for extending to me the most-needed support, trust and valuable friendship, and my diplomatic colleagues for the exchange of ideas and the Chinese community in Kenya, for their hard work and devotion.

Tomorrow, my wife Li Ping and I will leave Kenya with unforgettable memories.

As the Kenyan saying goes, ‘Daima pamoja ukiwa mbali au karibu (Even distance cannot separate true friends.)’

Though far away, I will always be the envoy of China-Kenya friendship.


Supreme Court asked to throw out smoking rules

By GALGALO BOCHA
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Two cigarette manufacturing firms yesterday asked the Supreme Court to throw out the Tobacco Control Regulations of 2014, arguing that they were introduced arbitrarily.

British American Tobacco (BAT) and Mastermind Tobacco Kenya told five Supreme Court judges in Nairobi that the regulations, enacted to regulate the production and consumption of tobacco and its products, were developed to restrict their commercial interests.

BAT filed the case to challenge the Court of Appeal’s dismissal of its plea against High Court Judge Mumbi Ngugi’s decision to disallow its petition challenging the regulations.

Through lawyers Kiragu Kimani, Irene Kashindi and James Tugee, the British firm argued that the regulations were created without proper public participation and stakeholder consultations.

REGULATIONS
The firm asked Chief Justice David Maraga, his deputy Philomena Mwilu, Justices Jackton Ojwang, Njoki Ndung’u and Smokin Wanjala to rule that the “failure to conduct proper consultations rendered the entire regulations unconstitutional”.

“We urge you to find that in the process of enactment of law, if the process is found to be flawed, the entire legislation is vacuous.

“Failure by legislative bodies to follow due procedure of the law renders the legislation invalid and the product of that legislative work must be struck out,” Mr Kimani said.

He said a statutory instruments act was violated in developing the regulations due to the failure to develop a regulatory impact assessment to address issues arising out of the enforcement of the regulations.

REVENUES
The company said it was aggrieved with the provisions limiting interactions between public officials and the tobacco industry, which it termed as discriminatory and a violation of its constitutional rights.

The lawyers told the Supreme Court judges to also find as unconstitutional regulations that require it and other tobacco product manufactures to contribute two per cent of their revenues to a consolidated fund.

They said the levy was a form of forceful taxation imposed on their client and other cigarette and tobacco product manufacturers, and that it was derived from draconian Scottish, Roman and Dutch laws and not English common laws.

RIGHTS
The regulations extended non-smoking zones to outdoor areas adjacent to public places, including streets, verandas and any others defined by the Health Cabinet Secretary, they said.

The rules, they added, violate constitutional rights to privacy and intellectual property rights by requiring them to reveal contents of their products and their revenue.

Senior State Counsel Mohamed Adow opposed the appeal, saying the firms were only protecting their commercial interests without regard to public safety and the health of millions of Kenyans.

The judges will notify the parties on the date of the ruling.


DP Ruto tells governors to clear huge debts

By IBRAHIM ORUKO
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Deputy President William Ruto has challenged governors to develop mechanisms of clearing massive debts in counties.

The debts had accumulated to Sh99 billion by the end of September last year.

“The county assets and liabilities report shows that as of September 2017, county governments had pending bills in excess of Sh99 billion. That is a solid statement,” he said when he presided over the closing ceremony of the Fifth Annual Devolution Conference at Kakamega School yesterday.

REVENUE TARGETS
The office of the Controller of Budget has in its report cited the inability to meet revenue targets, reckless spending and irregular hiring of staff by governors for the debts accumulated over the last four years.

Controller of Budget Agnes Odhiambo attributed the problem to counties over-estimating their revenue collections and then including them in their annual budgets and going ahead to procure yet they do not have the money.

“All counties are not meeting revenue targets yet when they prepare budgets, they budget as if they will collect all that money,” Ms Odhiambo said when she appeared before the Senate’s Finance Committee early this year.

MANAGEMENT
Mr Ruto asked the county chiefs to borrow a leaf from the national government and live within their means.

“We are proud because the national government is living within its means. We have no balances due to counties.

“There may be delays but, at the end, we disburse the money once we get it. We have no arrears,” he said.

Governors Wycliffe Oparanya (Kakamega), Joyce Laboso (Bomet), Anne Waiguru (Kirinyaga)and Francis Kimemia (Nyandarua) also concurred with the DP over the pending bills challenge.

“Pending bills is a problem to counties and it will not end unless cash flow is addressed,” Mr Oparanya said.

WARD FUND
Meanwhile, members of County Assemblies urged county chiefs, senators and MPs at the conference to support the ward fund initiative.

Through the County Assemblies Forum, the MCAs said the County Ward Development Equalisation Fund Bill will ensure rapid development at the grassroots.

The bill seeks to establish a kitty for promoting development in the wards and to set up a framework for coordinating development projects.

Additional reporting by Justus Ochieng


Knut opposes transfer of school heads

By OUMA WANZALA
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The Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) is crying foul over this week’s transfer of 500 head teachers, which it says affected more than 50 of its officials in the counties.

Also affected are officials of the Kenya Primary School Heads Association (Kepsha) and Kenya Secondary School Heads Association (Kessha), and sacco officials.

“The transfers of elected union representatives from their current jurisdiction constitutes an attack on the trade union rights and leadership of teachers’ associations, and investments are equally severely affected,” Knut Secretary-General Wilson Sossion said yesterday during a press conference in Nairobi.

UNION OFFICIALS
Mr Sossion, who was accompanied by acting Chairman Wycliffe Omucheyi, Deputy Secretary-General Hesborne Otieno, and acting national Treasurer James Ndiku, among others, said the move is disruptive and asked the Teachers Service Commission to stop it immediately.

“We have done our tabulation and so far more than 50 union leaders, including branch chairmen, treasurers and women representatives are affected and by the end of the week we will have the full list,” Mr Sossion said.

“Several Kepsha and Kessha officials are also affected, but I know they cannot speak out since they are not trade unions.”

The development means that Knut, Kepsha and Kessha, among other associations will have to elect new officials since those transferred have until today to move to their new stations.