Sorry, all signage in Russian language
Life in Russia can be rough for foreigners. All signage on roads, bus stops, the sub-way and railway stations are in Russian. To make matters worse, the Russian language does not use English alphabets, so it is very difficult for one to try and loosely associate words with their apparent English meanings from their spellings alone.
Even then, very few Russians speak English. Getting lost or not knowing one’s destination is easily the start of very long and cold day for foreigners here. But thank God for the search engines, one can somehow make out a few directions.
No work here for foreign students
Since I arrived in Moscow, I have met students from Kenya here, most of them studying Medicine or Engineering.
Unlike in the USA or UK where foreign students also get to work part-time to earn some extra money, foreigners studying in Russia are not allowed to work.
Only Russians and people from surrounding countries which made up the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) are allowed to work.
The most foreign students can do is to offer English language lessons, and even that is done in private, without knowledge of the authorities.
Long days confuse Nigerian scribe
It is summer in Russia, and June is the warmest month here, with temperatures averaging 23 degrees celcius. It is also the season of longer days and shorter nights.
The sun rises at 4am and sets at 10pm, and we have aptly called it ‘the season of longer working hours.”
But this scenario has left a Nigerian journalist dumbfounded.
Having woken up in his hotel room at 4am to full daylight, he quickly dressed up and walked to the bus station only to find himself alone there.
He rushed back to the hotel room upon looking at his watch! It’s only 4am!
Media centre mini ‘United Nations’
As is the requirement for all Fifa tournaments, hosts Russia have availed a state-of-the-art media centre the size of half a football pitch.
In Moscow alone where Group ‘A’ and Group ‘D’ matches are being played at Luzhniki Stadium and Spartak Stadium respectively, there are two such media centres for some 700 journalists here alone.
They feature work stations complete with internet service and giant television screens. Journalists from all over the world speaking different languages make it look like a mini United Nations conference. Each of the 12 stadiums has a media centre.
Belgium coach Roberto Martinez believes Eden Hazard can be one of the stars of the World Cup as the Chelsea man prepares to lead his nation into their tournament opener against Panama.
Hazard is the captain of a supremely talented Red Devils side who are determined to improve on runs to the quarter-finals at each of the last two major tournaments.
The 27-year-old attacking midfielder is fresh from winning the FA Cup with Chelsea, scoring the only goal in the final against Manchester United.
Hazard at his best could be the tournament’s standout player, and on Monday he will take to the field at Sochi’s Fisht Stadium, the same venue where Cristiano Ronaldo scored a stunning hat-trick for Portugal against Spain on Friday.
“I think Eden is in a great moment of his career, look at his age, he is the captain, in terms of leadership — he never finds it difficult to show for the ball,” said Martinez on the eve of the game.
“In his one v one situations he is as good as anyone in the world.”
Hazard is surrounded by outstanding attacking talents, from Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne to Napoli’s Dries Mertens and Manchester United’s Romelu Lukaku.
Such a concentration of quality explains why they are so strongly fancied in a group also containing England.
“You cannot compare one player to another, but I just feel now we have players in great moments of their careers and they are ready to make a real mark in the World Cup. Kevin De Bruyne is in exactly the same moment,” added Martinez.
The Spaniard, whose press conferences are conducted entirely in English, is perhaps exactly what is required by a Belgian side who have in the past been handicapped by divisions between Flemish and French-speaking groups in the squad.
Such is the quality at his disposal that he felt able to leave Roma midfielder Radja Nainggolan out altogether, but Belgium need to improve on their underwhelming performances at the last World Cup and at Euro 2016, when they never really found their best form.
“We are privileged to have this group of players, not just with their skills — it is more their attitude, and the way that they are ambassadors for Belgian football,” said Martinez.
PANAMA INTO THE UNKNOWN
Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois is one of the many survivors from four years ago, and he admitted that past experience can be invaluable.
Belgium now know what to expect, while Panama are entering the unknown.
Their coach Hernan Dario Gomez described Belgium as having “the best players in the world, except for Messi and Cristiano.”
He sees them as candidates to win the title, although perhaps Iceland’s achievement in holding Lionel Messi’s Argentina to a draw on Saturday signalled the way for their fellow World Cup debutants.
“Iceland qualified ahead of Croatia and did well in the Euros as well, and they were coming up against an Argentina side who are not on the same level as Belgium just now.
“There is a bigger gulf between Belgium and Panama. Nobody denies they are the favourites, but if we have a good day we can get something.”
The heat and humidity here in southern Russia could help them, and Martinez is not underestimating the Central Americans.
“We respect immensely Panama, they are one of the stories of the World Cup,” said Martinez, who is without injured defenders Vincent Kompany and Thomas Vermaelen.
The Orange Party has denied reports that its two-day retreat in Mombasa is aimed at punishing dissenting members who have shown allegiance to Deputy President William Ruto.
The party is holding a joint meeting of its national executive council and parliamentary group in the wake of significant forays made by the DP in the region recently, which have seen him win the support of at least five ODM MPs and a governor.
Party director of elections Junet Mohammed yesterday downplayed the decision to hold the meeting in Mombasa, saying it had nothing to do with a show of might or punishment of dissenting members.
“Mombasa is the ideal place for a retreat. Parliamentary committees, NGOs and private companies have made the city a favourite destination for retreats; why not ODM? A decision was consciously made a long time ago and it had nothing to do with the rebelling MPs,” he said.
Since the March 9 handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga, at least five ODM MPs have been inching closer to Mr Ruto, declaring their support for his 2022 presidential bid.
They include Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa, who the party had appointed as its nominee to the Parliamentary Service Commission, Msambweni MP Suleiman Dori, Jomvu MP Ali Twalib, Kinango MP Benjamin Tayari and Kilifi North MP Owen Baya.
It is believed that Kwale Senator Issa Boy is also angling towards the DP.
Nyali MP Mohamed Ali (Independent) and Kisauni’s Ali Mbogo (Wiper) have also thrown their weight behind Mr Ruto.
And even though he has been linked to Mr Ruto, Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi has never publicly supported the DP. However, the actions and public statements of his allies indicate that it is just a matter of time before he joins the DP’s camp.
A statement from the party yesterday said the retreat is pursuant to a resolution of the NEC meeting at Lake Elementaita Lodge in May, where it was agreed that a joint meeting of the two organs should be held.
The statement further said the two organs would be briefed by Mr Odinga on the Building Bridges initiative and about his meeting with President Kenyatta, which culminated in the March 9 handshake.
“He will be seeking members’ support for the initiative which is aimed at uniting the country and solving the problems facing Kenyans,” the statement, signed by Secretary General Edwin Sifuna, said
The meeting will be held at Flamingo Beach Resort and will be chaired by Mr Odinga, his two deputies Hassan Ali Joho and Wycliffe Ambetsa Oparanya, as well as the Secretary General, Mr Sifuna. Other top party officials will also attend, the statement said.
Yesterday, Mr Junet, who is also the National Assembly’s Minority Whip, insisted that the party is not interested in wars with its members, especially after the handshake.
“There is nothing to stand firm about,” he responded to a question on whether the retreat will consider disciplinary action against rebel MPs.
“Dissenters are normal in politics. We have had dissenters before; we have them now; and we shall have them in future. Are you suggesting that, now that Mr Alfred Keter (Nandi Hills MP) is considered a rebel in Jubilee, the party should hold a retreat in Nandi?”
However, both Ms Jumwa and Mr Dori returned to ODM in 2016 when they realised the ground was hostile.
You set a thief to catch a thief. Hence, I would like to propose to the corrupt to join the campaign of eradicating corruption; they are better placed than the rest of us to do that.
You see, every time I ask to go into a government office to borrow something as tiny as a paper clip, somebody would readily suggest to me that they know someone in that office who could help.
But I am only going for a paper clip; why do I need to know someone who would know someone who knows where I can borrow one paper clip?
We all know that is how we roll in Kenya. There is a corruption gene in all of us. We have never paused to ask why it is even necessary to have to go to an office to borrow a paper clip when we should buy ours.
We have been so conditioned to bleeding the system that we rarely stop to question the implication our action would have on others. The drip-drip effect of water is all that is needed for a ship to sink.
Some of us have perfected chopping a little here and there, thinking that the minutiae action will have little impact on the country. We have you, and millions more Kenyans, chopping a little here and there and — Bingo! — before we know it, we end up with hospitals with no medication, schools with no books, poor roads and a fire department with no water.
As Shakespeare said in King Lear, “Which is the justice, which is the thief?” In Kenya, it is hard to distinguish between the ‘honest’ and the corrupt. We are either complicit or cowardly impervious to corruption.
Michael Jackson was once asked about the use of plastic surgery in Hollywood and he said: “If everyone who had plastic surgery in Hollywood was asked to leave, it would be left empty.”
If we were to apply the same analogy in Kenya on corrupt people, we would be left with a near-empty country, I bet.
Corruption is something in Kenya that we all partake in through design or default. When a bribe is offered, there is always the giver and the recipient. Rarely do we hear the giver being punished for the same crime that is a causal-effect of two people’s action. Roadside bribery, for instance, takes a police officer and a motorist. In the eyes of the law, both are guilty.
Corrupt individuals have the answer to ending corruption. However, I believe they can only eradicate it the day they take a pause to understand the implication of their actions.
When you fail a State school but take your children to private institutions, you must remember you have created social problems for yourself. Those whom you denied opportunities will one day find you by jumping over your high wall and rob you to survive.
The policeman, then, cannot afford to protect you because he has no fuel in his car since you embezzled the fuel budget.
God forbid if the robbers left you with serious injuries and the nearest hospital is the State hospital whose resources you depleted. There will be nothing the doctors could use to stem your blood flow or resuscitate you with.
Pray the house doesn’t catch fire in the melee because no fire truck will come to your rescue as you didn’t bother to ensure there was enough water to fill their tanks when you worked at the Water Department.
Should the worst happen, I am afraid, there won’t be a casket large enough to take all that you looted (just in case we kindly decide to send you to your grave with your blood money). The beach villa can’t be flat-packed, so I am not sure how we can help with that but, perhaps, move in the homeless you created?
You will go to hell, as that is where the corrupt belong. Yet, again, who knows, you may meet an angel up there from Kenya whom you can influence and help you return to earth as a real pig for corruption Take-Two.
We can plot and plan on how to eradicate corruption but the solution can only be found at individual level. The temptation of easy money will always be there, but would it be worth anything if it all came back to haunt you or your family?
For every action, there is a reaction. At policy level, the natural reaction to corruption is having legislation to deal with the menace.
However, legislation will achieve very little if corruption is left to permeate in the society because we failed to take individual responsibility.
Before you purchase your four-wheel-drive car to cope with the potholed roads you built, think! You could still be a victim of carjacking from the young man you denied an education opportunity because he could not cross the only river to his school since you failed to build a bridge over it. Instead, you spent the money on a fuel guzzler.
If you are corrupt, think; corruption has consequences for you too.
Security authorities in Nyanza are on the spot over insecurity following shooting incidents that led to the death of a doctor and left a county staff hospitalised last week.
Dr Peter Odada, who was attached to the Kenya Medical Research Institute, was shot at a social joint in Kisumu on Friday.
The incident came barely a day after Homa Bay County assembly Principal Accountant Maurice Amek was shot at his house in Sofia Estate. He is being treated at a Kisumu hospital.
Dr Odada died Sunday morning at Aga Khan Hospital, where he had been taken after the 11pm shooting incident at the New Rainbow Bar and Restaurant in Otonglo on the Kisumu-Busia road. He was shot in the stomach and leg.
“The hospital informed us that he died at about 4am today (Sunday),” Kisumu West OCPD Wilstone Mwakio said.
He said police were investigating the shooting.
After the shooting, the suspects reportedly raided a home in the area, but escaped after an alarm was raised.
CUT THE FENCE
“They managed to cut the fence but they did not get inside the home as dogs were barking and an alarm was raised,” said Mr John Obuya, a resident.
The residents said crime had soared in the area and called on police to intensify their patrols to restore order.
Homa Bay County Police Commander Marius Tum said they were also investigating Mr Amek’s shooting. The suspects are said to have trailed Mr Amek.
“The number of the criminals has not been established, but they stole a laptop, a mobile phone and papers which were inside his bag,” said Mr Tum.
The police boss said they were trying to establish if the shooting is linked to infighting among Homa Bay MCAs and an investigation by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission into the loss of more than Sh450 million.
Elsewhere, security officials in Rachuonyo East are hunting for a 35-year-old man, who allegedly killed his step-father after he called him a name he did not like.
Mr Walter Samboi is reported to have killed 68-year-old Wilson Ogoyi after they disagreed over the name.
“After the fight, the man was taken to a private dispensary, and he was later referred to Matata Hospital in Oyugis Town. He died on arrival at the heath facility,” said Mr Ongere.
The administrator said the suspect escaped when he learnt of the death of the old man.
Fresh tension has gripped Lake Victoria islands following new arrests of more than 12 Kenyan fishermen by Ugandan security officials.
In what is seen as retaliation after Kenyan security officials secured the release of their three police officers arrested by Ugandan soldiers last week, fishermen on the Kenyan side of the lake are in fear of a fresh wave of arrests.
Local politicians have reignited the debate on ownership of Migingo Island in Lake Victoria, saying they have been raising these issues yet the government has done nothing about it.
Barely a week after Ugandan authorities abducted three Kenyan police officers and five fishermen from Nambo Beach in Siaya County, they struck again this Saturday, seizing two boats.
Witnesses say the officers’ guns and phones were taken away before the officers were transferred to Namaingo by boat. Siaya County Administration Police Commandant Patrick Lumumba said the incident involved up to eight soldiers on patrol who arrived in a Kenyan boat.
On Saturday, according to an incident reported at Usenge Police Station by Nambo Beach Management Unit chairman Gabriel Onyango at 4pm, two Kenyan boats – one with an engine and the other without – were confiscated by Ugandan soldiers.
According to Mr Crispin Nyaga, Usenge police boss, the soldiers were three, one in uniform and armed. They seized the boats, arrested six fishermen, and took away hundreds of kilogrammes of fish.
The boat without an engine belongs to a Mr Omollo. On board were fishermen Daniel Oyugi, John Liepa and Daniel Odhiambo. The other boat is owned by Mr Atepe Okinya, and was being used by fishermen Evans Ochieng, Sadam Onyango and Kevin Otieno.
“The authorities took away about 400kgs of fish but released the fishermen,” said Mr Nyaga.
This time round, the Quick Response Team of the Administration Police of Kenya gave hot pursuit and rescued both fishermen and the boats, he said.
He added that the area needs frequent patrol by Kenyan officers to prevent unnecessary arrests by Ugandan soldiers.
“We need more police patrols and speed boats to assist in all this,” said Mr Nyaga.
A day earlier, six fishermen from Ringiti Island were arrested and released on Saturday after paying some money. The fishermen were arrested on Friday morning near the island while fishing.SH
Ms Penina Aluoch, owner of one of the three boats seized, said Ugandan security personnel demanded Sh18,000 to release the fishermen and the fishing gear.
“I have been told by the arrested fishermen that Sh18,000 is needed to have my two boats and the fishermen released,” she said.
Suba North OCPD Charles Mwangi said they were pursuing the matter and would have the fishermen released.
“We had received information on the arrest of six Kenyans from Ringiti Island. We have had them released after officials of Kenyan fishermen negotiated with Ugandan security officials,” said Mr Mwangi.
Other islands affected are Remba, Kiwa and Mfang’ano.
Lake Victoria Beach Management Units chairman Tom Guda asked the State to take the conflict seriously.
“Insecurity facing Kenyan fishermen in Lake Victoria as a result of harassment by Ugandan officers is not new. The State should end it completely,” said Mr Guda.
Suba North MP Millie Odhiambo, Nyatike MP Tom Odege and Bondo MP Gideon Ochanda yesterday said they had raised the issue of harassment of Kenyan fishermen with State officials without success.
Mr Odege said resolution of the dispute between Kenya and Uganda should form part of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s legacy.
He said the row was more than 15 years old and it was high time it was resolved permanently.
Early last year, the Ugandan government brought in new officers from its People’s Defence Force to replace the ones who had been on the island for more than four years.
Although Kenyan security officers are also deployed on the island, they are outnumbered by those from Uganda.
Reports by Rushdie Oudia, Barack Oduor and Elisha Otieno
The annual secondary school head teachers national conference gets down in Mombasa this week, providing a platform for debate on critical issues in the education sector.
By sheer numbers — more than 8,000 participants — this is a major gathering and an apt forum for reflections, experience sharing and mapping out common strategies for enhancing secondary education.
The major issue in education currently is curriculum reform — transition from 8-4-4 to the proposed 2-6-3-3 system, which is at the pilot stage.
The 2-6-3-3 marks a major departure from the current system, emphasising competence as opposed to rote learning and sheer knowledge acquisition.
However, the new curriculum has not been properly expounded and the implementers, mainly teachers, have hardly been brought on board to get their buy-in.
The second major item is eliminating examination cheating, a campaign started two years ago by the previous Education Cabinet Secretary, Dr Fred Matiang’i, and for which fears are emerging that the cartels that thrived on the vice are attempting a comeback.
The Kenya National Examinations Council has assured us that it is keeping keen watch and won’t allow the criminals to get their way.
Head teachers play a central role and need to be involved at every stage.
Administratively, the Teachers Service Commission has rolled out transfers of principals and teachers, in particular, getting those serving in their home counties to other regions to end too much familiarity.
It is remembered that the policy of deploying teachers to their home districts was introduced in the 1980s, and the reasoning then was that it offered the staffers a chance to stabilise socially and economically.
It freed them from existential worries and hence would have the presence of mind to concentrate on their work.
Over time, however, this has been abused and created a situation where some teachers concentrate on personal matters at the expense of the students, necessitating the reversal.
Serving in any part of the country is noble. We, however, urge the implementers of the delocalisation to ensure that the transfers are not punitive.
Another issue that ought to be seriously discussed is the financing of secondary schools in view of the fees curtain that is proving unrealistic and pushing institutions into heavy debts.
It is time for an honest conversation to determine affordable but realistic fees.
Tied to this is the bursary scheme for the needy, whose disbursement was handed to the MPs to be conducted at the constituencies, but which has been abused and rendered quite ineffective and meaningless.
The conference should move from a mere talk show to illuminating matters that make a difference in secondary education.
The Davis Cup Africa Zone Group III tennis championship starts on Monday at the Nairobi Club.
The six-day tournament has attracted teams from Benin, Algeria, Namibia, Mozambique, Uganda, Nigeria, Rwanda and Cameroon.
Kenya hopes to win and qualify for the Davis Cup Euro/Africa Zone Group II, due next year. The team narrowly missed out on the qualification after falling to Zimbabwe 2-0 in the Africa Zone Group III play-off.
RECAPTURE PAST GLORY
This is the first time Kenya is hosting the Davis Cup since 2002. When it first played in the Davis Cup in 1974, reaching the Europe/Africa Zone Group I semi-finals in 1992, that was Kenya’s best performance ever.
The tournament comes a month after visiting International Tennis Federation president David Haggerty conducted the ground-breaking for a multimillion-shilling tennis centre at Kasarani, Nairobi.
Tennis Kenya should be commended for a job well done.
This development should spur the game’s growth and help Kenya to recapture its past glory.
It is encouraging that the Kenyan team for the Davis Cup is full of youngsters, who need guidance with some quality exposure.
This is because it is by investing in the youth ranks that any country can hope to build a winning team for the future.
However, playing tennis is an expensive undertaking. Consequently, we call upon corporate organisations to chip in, especially by funding the building of facilities so that more young people can play the sport.
We also call upon Nairobi residents and many other Kenyans to turn out in large numbers and cheer our team to victory.
Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich last Thursday presented the 2018/2019 budget outlining the government’s Sh3.07 trillion spending plans. It allocated Sh653 billion to the national government’s development expenditure. The counties were allocated Sh372 billion, of which approximately 30 per cent will likely go towards development. This means approximately Sh760 billion of the total will be used for development.
A big chunk of the recurrent expenditure will also go towards buying goods and services, meaning over Sh1 trillion is earmarked for these. But will the goods and services, assuming a 100 per cent absorption of the budget, be worth that amount of money? If a private entity or a household were to budget for the same goods and services, they would probably use a fraction of this money.
Not the government, though! Like in all past budgets, the 2018/2019 undoubtedly contains lines of frivolous expenditure, exaggerated figures, and repeated items that will most likely gulp billions of shillings. In other words, the budget is padded.
Padding means proposing higher spending than the actual estimates. This is done by increasing expenses in order to be granted approval for artificially high funding for the proposed projects, goods and services; some sort of irresponsible foresight where, for example, public officers will be supplied with this newspaper at a cost of Sh120.
Budget padding is corruption. But, although unethical, in this case it is legitimate and legal. Today, much of the graft occurs through budgeting. What will be looted in the next financial year is already sitting nicely in the budget. The Executive and Legislature at both the national and county governments blatantly allocate public money to themselves, brokers or businesses by manipulating the budgets.
How does this happen? The budgeting cycle generally has four key phases – formulation, adoption, execution and control. Although the formulation and adoption stages do not deal with actual money flows, they are crucial parts of a corruption process that manifests itself only in the actual payments or transfer of money at the execution stage.
It all starts at these “kutenga” stages, although the “eating” occurs at the “kutender” stage. It is where fraudulent and frivolous allocations, many of which are clearly meant to be reaped in the later stages of the budgeting process, are sown. Some of the allocations are either repeated several times, over-priced, or are vendor-driven, obvious misplaced priorities. It is at this initial stage that graft is planned and budgeted for.
Then comes the next stage: adoption. The Budget Committee, and Parliament in general, come on board after almost a year of deliberations between the “budget mafia” in the line ministries, brokers and vendors. Using its oversight mandate, Parliament is, in theory, expected to expose any corruption that took place at the formulation stage. But, in practice, the adoption stage is where Parliament becomes part of the problem rather than the solution. The Constitution allows Parliament to amend the national budget but unfortunately, MPs use this to influence public policy for their own benefit, meaning more corruption is added at this stage than is detected.
A few years ago, the Budget Committee was accused of allocating each of its members millions of shillings to undertake various projects in their respective constituencies before they could approve the proposals. The institution that is supposed to oversee the budgetary process is, thus, itself caught up in the corruption web.
The execution, the first of the two ex-ante stages, is merely where corruption gets transmogrified into outright looting. It is at this stage that what has been cooked at the formulation stage gets “eaten” via the “kutender” process, where corruption in the budget gets legalised and there is hardly anything one can do to stop the procurement of newspapers for Sh120.
In the final stage, control, the deed is done. The Auditor-General presents Kenya’s deadliest corruption wild cats. We learn at this stage of the billions that have disappeared through greed and corruption. The Auditor-General will report how we spent over one trillion on projects, goods and services worth a tiny fraction of that amount. We accept and move on, and planning for how to pad the next one begins.
Budgeting is where need to start if we are to win the war against corruption. But how do we guarantee the integrity of the process?
First, The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) should engage a reputable consulting firm to guide and audit the Appropriation Bill process to ensure the credibility of the 2018/2019 budget. Then, all those found to have abused their powers and privileges should be made to face the law, irrespective of status or position.
Second, we need to reform the budgeting process itself. As part of this, both the Treasury and the counties should fully adopt zero-based budgeting. This would lead to each year’s budget being created from scratch, as opposed to the current process where they take the previous year’s and then build on it. It will also force the line ministries to justify every expenditure, every year.
The budget has become an instrument of corruption. If the Uhuru administration and the anti-corruption watchdog do not stop the process, then corruption would become legitimate and legal.
Mr Wehliye is a senior adviser, Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority