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Monday, September 25th, 2017


Drive launched to keep youth away from crime

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The Kenya Red Cross has embarked on a programme aimed at preventing the youth from joining gangs and terror groups by helping them get jobs.

The “Conflict Prevention, Peace and Economic Opportunities for Youth in Kenya” drive focuses on school dropouts and those without any education, the most vulnerable for gang recruitment.

In Kenya, approximately five million youth are unemployed.

Criminal groups in the Coast region such as Wakali Wao and Gaza Boys tend to recruit the youth.

On December 2016, 89 gangs in Kenya — including 42 Brothers, Wakali Kwanza and Islamic State — were outlawed.

These startling figure caught the attention of politicians at the highest level.

Mr Mohammed Rajab, the Kenya Red Cross county coordinator for Mombasa, said President Uhuru Kenyatta approached the organisation to find the underlying factors and come up with ways of taking the teenagers off the streets.

“We decided to approach the youth, sit down with them and engage in dialogue. They cited many challenges,” Mr Rajab told the Nation.

Unemployment was the major factor.

“They are joining the gangs so that they can earn a living,” Mr Rajab said.

The Kenya Red Cross then applied for a European Union grant to carry out its project, and was given an equivalent of Sh669,098,468 over four years.

The funds will be used in working with a total of 2,500 youth in the five coastal counties — Kwale, Mombasa, Kilifi, Tana River and Lamu — as well as Garissa, Wajir and Mandera in northeastern Kenya.

Religious leaders attempt to solve election issue

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Religious leaders have initiated plans to bring Jubilee and the National Super Alliance to the negotiating table in an attempt to avert a situation that could undermine the October 26 presidential poll rerun.

Nasa has called for street protests on Tuesday to force out some Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission officers it accuses of bungling the August 8 election, which has since been nullified by the Supreme Court.

Buoyed by the ruling, Nasa leaders have in recent days ratchetted up demands for reforms at the IEBC.

Jubilee, which accuses the court of stealing its victory, has nevertheless insisted that IEBC manages the election as ordered by the judges, dismissing Nasa’s demands as excuses meant to ensure the poll does not take place.

The Nation has learnt that the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops thinks taking to the streets is a danger to the election.

The clergy believe the standoff has reached intolerable levels and could lead to a constitutional crisis and violence.

Bishop Alfred Rotich on Monday said there were consultations on how to engage and facilitate dialogue among the main political players, but added that the efforts were in the initial stages.

“The bishops have travelled to Nairobi to discuss the situation in the country. We want to seek a solution to the problem. When you are unwell, you go to a doctor,” Bishop Rotich said.

He added that the problem confronting the country has a national character and a solution that can only be found if Kenyans go to the negotiating table.

The bishop asked the main political actors to desist from emotional outbursts.

The Catholic clergy started assembling at an undisclosed place in the capital.

“We have had consultations at individual level as bishops. We are thinking and setting the agenda for the discussion,” he said.

“We are assembling in order to consolidate these efforts, discern the issues at hand and provide the pathway on the way forward. We want to discuss how to engage our friends in politics.”

Within the National Council of Churches of Kenya, consultations on how to respond to the crisis have been ongoing for days and a statement could be made by General Secretary Peter Karanja as early as Tuesday.

“The consultations have been informed by the reality that it is no longer wise to keep on talking without a permanent solution to the crisis being found,” he said.

Cannon Karanja said he would convened the NCCK’s Programme Committee next week to discuss the situation in the country and give solutions.

The committee brings together the NCCK chairman, vice chairman, general secretary and heads of the 29 churches that form the organisation.

Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya Organising Secretary Mohammed Khalifa also confirmed the development but refused to divulge details.

“That idea has informally been placed on the table. That is all I can say for now,” Sheikh Khalifa said.

A similar effort is being pushed by the Supreme Council for Kenyan Muslims.

A source who didn’t want to be quoted confirmed a meeting was being organised by the Inter religious council to bring the political parties and IEBC together.

Work on new law courts in Mombasa set to start

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Construction of a Sh445 million modern law courts in Mombasa funded by the World Bank is set to start.

The project stalled six years ago after the plot was grabbed by a Mombasa businessman, resulting in a protracted dispute.

The National Lands Commission (NLC) and the Ministry of Lands have since returned the 1.477-hectare plot to the Judiciary.

On Monday, Mombasa Chief Magistrate Evans Makori told a gathering of lawyers, civil society and members of the public, during launch of this year’s Law Society of Kenya legal Awareness Week, that work has started and the building will be ready within 18 months.

Last week, Judiciary Performance Improvement Project team, Mombasa Resident Judge Erick Ogolla and LSK branch officials led by chairman Benjamin Njoroge handed over the project to Bashash contractors. 

The four-storey building, to be named Justice Tower, will house all divisions of the High Court and lower courts that are presently located in various buildings scattered across the county.

“The Chief Justice will soon be visiting us to do the ground-breaking. Once completed, Justice Tower will have more technology based courts that will be delivering justice through Information Communication Technology (ICT),” Mr Makori said.

He also indicated that members of public will use digital technology to monitor progress of their cases instead of relying on court clerks and lawyers for updates.

IEBC promises transparent and accountable poll

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The electoral commission has pledged to be more transparent and accountable in its conduct of the October 26 repeat presidential election.

In a letter to opposition coalition National Super Alliance (Nasa), the commission says it will embed technical experts from the UN and the Commonwealth as well as representatives of candidates into the electoral ICT team.

The media will also be free to cover the announcement of results in the 290 constituency tallying centres.

The letter by chairman Wafula Chebukati to Nasa executive director Norman Magaya dated September 22 was in response to the coalition’s “irreducible minimum” demands following the nullification of the August 8 presidential election by the Supreme Court on grounds that the Constitution and electoral laws were flouted.

In the communication, Mr Chebukati gives concessions on some of Nasa’s demands while pushing back on others.

For example, on the issue of printing of ballot papers and result forms, it says although it has a two-year contract with Al Ghurair, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) had also offered to procure the materials for it.

The request had been passed to the Treasury and is awaiting a response, Mr Chebukati says.

Already, Cabinet has approved Sh10 billion budget for the repeat election.

Nasa has demanded that the Al Ghurair printing contract be revoked.

On the demand for staff changes at the commission, Mr Chebukati says some Returning Officers will be shuffled while others may face disciplinary action arising from the nullified August 8 elections.

He is however silent on the senior officials at the headquarters who Nasa wants sacked.

The commission says media houses should cover the announcements of the results in all the 290 Constituency Tallying Centres to promote accountability.

In the run-up to the August 8 General Election, the government warned media houses against releasing presidential election results before the commission, warning that those who defied the order risked losing their licences.

As a result, many of the returning officers refused to publicly display or share forms 34B — the constituency result documents— with journalists.

This time the commission says the media and other independent observers will be given access to the entire electoral process including all ballot paper printing, deployment and reception of election materials, polling, counting at the polling stations and tallying at both the constituency and national centre.

“The commission will provide access to accredited media houses to cover results announcements at all levels. Media will be encouraged to show a live feed of the verified results,” the commission says.

On August 8, transmission of results started with a text message followed by a scanned image of Form 34A.

But the commission now says the system has been reconfigured to ensure no text results are transmitted without a scanned image.

Returning Officers and Presiding Officers will only use approved standardised results forms on October 26 unlike in August when they used forms not standardised.

“All forms 34A will be reprinted with the candidate and polling station names,” Mr Chebukati said.

Owing to its size, forms 34B will only have the first page pre-printed and the rest of the document prepared on secured excel worksheet.

The transmission of the forms will be done by scanning the result forms and sending the scanned documents through a safe IP address and will be secured as hashed and/or password-protected, which will be allocated directly by the national returning officer to the returning officers at the point of transmission.

Unlike in the August 8 elections, the fresh presidential poll will see forms 34B verified against scanned forms 34A before the winner is identified.

Similarly, the result at the National Tallying Centre will show which polling stations they will be transmitted from and will be accompanied by scanned images of the results.

On August 11, Mr Chebukati announced aggregated results from the 47 counties but on October 26, he will announce results by constituencies after all forms 34A and 34B have been received and verified.

In the letter, Mr Chebukati affirms the commission’s independence and shows determination to avoid pitfalls that led to the nullification of the August 8 presidential election.

He insists that due to time constraints, Dubai-based Al Ghurair Company will print ballot papers and result forms and French firm OT-Morpho will provide the result transmission system for the repeat presidential poll.

Mr Chebukati contends that IEBC was bound by a two-year framework agreement with the Dubai firm for the printing of ballot papers.

Igad urges Kenyans to take part in poll

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The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad) has asked Kenyans to reject calls by politicians to boycott the planned fresh presidential election.

The group condemned the ongoing plans to remove electoral officials from office.

Igad executive secretary Mahboub Maalim, in a statement on Monday, said statements and actions by some quarters regarding the poll planned for October 26 are undermining the people’s confidence in the commission’s ability to manage the poll.

Mr Maalim said there are unrealistic demands that are being made to frustrate the commission.

“Indeed, calls to boycott the fresh election put Kenya on a dangerous path,” he said.

He added: “Igad urges and appeals to the people of Kenya, including political parties and their leadership and all constitutional institutions, to jealously safeguard and protect the mode of transfer of power provided for, in the Constitution.”

Nasa has demanded that some senior IEBC officials, among them CEO Ezra Chiloba, be removed from office.

The coalition’s presidential candidate Raila Odinga has also threatened not to take part in the poll if his demands are not met.

Mr Maalim said as the Supreme Court determined, the commission has to make certain critical administrative adjustments and correct certain errors that became evident during the August 8 elections.

Igad reiterated its observation that the August 8 General Election was conducted in a peaceful, orderly and transparent manner.

He said unconstitutional change of government does not only include military coup d’etat, use of mercenaries, rebels or armed dissidents against democratically elected government, but also included the refusal by an incumbent government to relinquish power to the winning party after free and fair elections.

Nasa turns down IEBC's request to call-off protests

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The National Super Alliance leaders maintained that their demonstration against electoral officials would proceed as planned on Tuesday.

The protest is meant to force the resignation of electoral commission chief executive officer Ezra Chiloba and 10 officials whom the coalition claims bungled the August 8 presidential poll.

However, they announced that they would not storm the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) offices at Anniversary Towers as earlier stated to force out Mr Chiloba and his colleagues, but they would only march peacefully on the streets of Nairobi to force them to resign.

The protest comes even as the commission urged the Nasa leadership to put off the demonstration to enable a joint consultative meeting between IEBC, Jubilee Party and the opposition coalition scheduled for Wednesday.

“The commission, nonetheless, recognising your inalienable constitutional right to picket and demonstrate, writes to request that you put off the planned protest to enable the joint consultative meeting scheduled for Wednesday (tomorrow) to address the concerns raised by the various parties,” IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati said in the letter to the Opposition last evening.

The demonstration comes even as IEBC sent out a detailed response to Nasa on how the agency intends to conduct and manage the repeat presidential election.

Nasa has set some conditions that the commission must meet before its candidate Raila Odinga participates in the October 26 election.

The list of “irreducible minimums” includes the personnel changes in which Nasa wants electoral officials, including commissioner Abdi Guliye, Mr Chiloba and his deputy Betty Nyabuto to be shown the door.

They also include reforms on election technology, identification of a new printer for the ballot papers as well as operational and logistical changes.

Speaking on behalf of the coalition’s leadership on Monday, Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula acknowledged receipt of the response, but said it did not address “irregularities and illegalities” in conformity to the Supreme Court ruling.

Mr Wetang’ula was briefing journalists at Okoa Kenya offices in Lavington where he assured that they would not engage in any confrontation with the police but will have a peaceful march, saying the Constitution guarantees them the right to picket.

“Today’s demonstration is not a confrontation with anyone. We will march peacefully to show to the country our desire of having IEBC cleaned before the fresh poll,” he said.

He added: “There must be full accountability for the August 8 election.

“In this regard, we demand that all the IEBC officers now under investigation must step aside. In this regard, we are from tomorrow embarking on a campaign to demand suspension of these officers.

“We urge them to do the right thing and resign or retire voluntarily as one of them has already done.”

The Opposition also said they will sue Safaricom, claiming that they conspired with IEBC and Jubilee to rig the August poll.

“We will give details of acts of omission or commission of how Safaricom was part of the mess of the August poll,” Mr Wetang’ula added.

The senator added: “The role of the telecommunications service providers is also in question.

“We have very credible evidence that points to culpability of Safaricom on the basis of which we will institute private prosecution against the company and its directors.”

Strike: Tough times ahead for patients

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The crisis in public hospitals is likely to worsen as some county governments gave the striking nurses a week to return to work or face the sack.

However, the nurses dug in saying they will not return to work without the Council of Governors signing the Collective Bargaining Agreement that improves their terms.

Private hospitals across the country are congested with an increasing number of patients seeking treatment.

Some public hospitals said they were running out of essential drugs as the nurses’ strike enters its fourth month to demand better pay, allowances and working conditions.

Elgeyo-Marakwet Governor Alex Tolgos threatened to sack all striking health workers and advertise their jobs by next Monday.

“We are giving all the striking nurses up to Friday this week to get back to work,” Mr Tolgos said.

In West Pokot, Governor John Lonyangapuo is set to meet the striking nurses on Tuesday in a bid to resolve the stalemate.

He cautioned politicians against inciting the workers not to resume duty.

“We are ready to hold talks with nurses. We don’t want our people to continue suffering,” he said.

Turkana Health executive Jane Adele said most health facilities in far-flung areas had received 90 newly employed nurses and health services are still ongoing.

In Bungoma, Kenya National Union of Nurses branch secretary George Shibeka said he was hopeful the union’s talks with the governors will resolve the stalemate.

“The strike is still on and currently the union and Council of Governors are meeting under the Labour ministry to try and end the strike,” he said.

In Nandi, services are back to normal after Governor Stephen Sang brokered a deal with the nurses last week that saw them return to work.

In Nyeri, the union threatened to fine nurses who had gone back to work without the deal being signed.

According to branch secretary Beatrice Nduati, each nurse who had resume duty would be fined 2.5 percent of their monthly salary for the next four years.

Expectant mothers and newborns are the most affected by the strike.

A spot check in various public health facilities in Nakuru County, including the Nakuru Level Five Hospital and Molo sub-county hospital, revealed that a huge percentage of expectant mothers had been forced to pay up to Sh15,000 to get maternity services in private hospitals.

“Private facilities are too expensive for us. It has forced some of us to opt for home deliveries, which are not safe,” Ms Eunice Njoroge, a mother, told the Nation.

In Narok, there were no admissions in most hospitals with patients being discharged to enable them seek services in private hospitals.

On Monday, only doctors were seen attending to patients and those who needed the services of nurses and clinical officers were turned away.

In Busia, nurses appealed to Governor Sospeter Ojaamong to prevail upon his colleagues to sign the CBA, saying they were ready to work.

However, Busia County Health Chief Officer Asoka Itur threatened to stop the nurses’ September salary if they failed to report to work.

The situation was the same in Homa Bay, where nurses claimed governors were deliberately delaying the signing of the CBA.

In Kisii County, acting Health services chief executive Raymond Oigara said they were still awaiting communication from the county secretary before they write warning letters to the striking nurses.

“We will begin writing show-cause letters as soon as we get communication from the employing agency,” he said.

Some patients in Mombasa, Kwale and Taita-Taveta counties are now seeking treatment in Tanzania due to the health crisis.

Patients are also flocking to medical camps organised by charity organisations.

On Sunday, more than 1,500 people were treated during the Mabati Rolling Mills free medical camp at their Mabati Medical Centre in Kilifi.

Sonko praises matatu operators as traffic flow eases

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Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko on Monday said the city had begun experiencing free flow of traffic.

Governor Sonko said there was little congestion in several areas because matatu operators were no longer double parking, overlapping and dropping or picking up of passengers at undesignated areas.

“Finally, matatu operators have heeded the order to be organised in the CBD.

“This is what is known as self-regulation of matatu sector. At the Globe Roundabout around 7am, traffic was flowing smoothly. Keep it up matatu operators,” Mr Sonko said on his Facebook page.

Last week, the governor suspended the plan to bar matatus from the city center for a month “to allow the industry to self-regulate as the two parties look for a permanent solution to the traffic problem”.

He added that the county will deploy 300 marshals to ensure free flow of traffic.

The county boss went on to urge the more than 30,000 operators to adhere to the agreement they struck with city authorities.

But even as the governor was highlighting the gains, Mr Halpesh Patel, a resident, asked him to take action on drivers who flouted the law.

“Can you fix problems at the Westlands bus terminal? You walked there the other day but still nothing has changed.

“The turn into town is a mess. Matatus just use pedestrian walkways and overlap, causing more delays,” he said.

Families in N. Kenya migrate as hunger bites

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Thousands of families faced with starvation in parts of Rift Valley are in urgent need of relief supplies and access to health care.

In Baragoi, Samburu North, more than 55,000 people are facing a humanitarian crisis due to drought and insecurity experienced in the area.

The insecurity sparked by two warring communities has left thousands of residents stranded in their homes for fear of being attacked in grazing fields.

Drought and cattle rustling blamed on the scramble for grazing lands, water, food and banditry have aggravated the situation.

Hunger-stricken families have also migrated from their homes in Samburu, Marsabit, Isiolo and Turkana counties in search of food and water.

Statistics issued by the Samburu County Director of Disaster Peace and Cohesion Daniel Lesorgor indicate that about 27,120 Samburu East residents have been affected.

Around 25,000 Samburu North residents and about 3,200 migrants from Laisamis in Marsabit County face starvation.

“As a result of drought, most parts of the northern Kenya counties have witnessed massive movement of people and livestock to Suyan, which borders Suguta Valley to seek food and pasture,” Mr Lesorgor said on Monday.

In Turkana and West Pokot counties, a survey by the Kenya Red Cross Society indicates some families are faced with malnourishment.

The food shortage is due to crop failure caused by drought that damaged crops planted in April and May.

“Most households are still faced with acute food shortage that has pushed prices of the commodities beyond the reach of many and the situation might worsen as a result of delayed rainfall,” Mr Michael Ayabei, the Kenya Red Cross programme manager in charge of the North Rift region, said.

He said parts of Elgeyo-Marakwet County were some of the areas experiencing inadequate food supply.

“We do not have exact number of people faced with starvation but the hunger situation changed in the last three months after some areas received rainfall,” Mr Ayabei said.

A report by the National Drought Management Authority indicates that families in 23 arid and semi-arid counties were faced with food shortage and inadequate pasture and water for their animals caused by dry spell.

“The food and pasture situation has improved slightly from alarm to alert although it might take some time before it stabilises,” Mr Abdulkadir Jillo, Turkana County drought coordinator, said.

UN pledges to curb sale and use of mercury

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The international community has pledged to curb proliferation of mercury by banning new mining and closing existing mines.

This came even as Kenya was accused of being the main supply hub for mercury, secretly used in artisanal and small-scale gold mining or ASGM in east and central Africa.

In the first sitting of the conference of the parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury, which started on Sunday in Geneva, Switzerland, countries celebrated the entry into force of the convention.

Under the accord, the countries will regulate and monitor trade in mercury and work to reduce its use in ASGM — the largest source of mercury pollution.

Representatives from more than 150 countries have gathered in Geneva to mark a milestone in efforts to fight mercury pollution.

The United Nations Environment Programme said countries committed to the phase-out of manufacturing, import and export of mercury-added products by 2020.

According to the Unep report title Global Mercury Supply, Trade and Demand, released on the eve of the conference, Kenya and South Africa were the main supply hubs for mercury used in ASGM, especially in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa itself.

The estimated annual mercury demand for ASGM in these countries is 55 to 160 tonnes.

“Trade between the countries mostly appears to be undocumented. For example, Kenya did not register any exports during 2010-15 period.

“Information from gold fields in Tanzania, Uganda and eastern DR Congo, however, confirmed that their mercury came mainly from Nairobi, likely after entering the country via the port of Mombasa,” the report said.

Kenya is a signatory to the Minamata Convention on Mercury and has been carrying out an inventory of the mineral’s use, release and emissions in the country.

The Minamata Convention is an agreement to protect human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury.

Coal burning, medical devices like thermometers, thermostats and dental amalgam as well as cement production have also been cited as major emitters.

ASGM activities occur mostly near Lake Victoria, areas that have significant reserves of gold.

The counties mostly affected by these activities are Migori, Kisumu, Siaya, Vihiga, Kakamega, West Pokot and Turkana.