Editorials

Saturday May 28 2016

Judiciary must always defend Constitution

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

Two court rulings this week have reinforced the supremacy of the Constitution and underscored the need for fidelity to it. The first is the ruling by the High Court that dismissed the amendments to the Judicial Service Commission Act that gave the President undue powers in the appointment of the Chief Justice.

Second was the Appeal Court ruling that declared that judges have to retire at the age of 70, as provided by the Constitution.

This followed a suit by Deputy Chief Justice Kalpana Rawal, who had challenged a notice by the JSC asking her to retire at 70, with the argument being that she was entitled to exit age 74, as provided in the previous Constitution and which was the basis of her contract. Mrs Rawal has since appealed against the ruling in the Supreme Court.

In the ruling on presidential powers in appointing the CJ, we take note of the court’s opinion that the principle of separation of powers must be respected at all times. When the amendment was proposed and put to debate in Parliament, experts raised fundamental legal and conceptual concerns.

Specifically, it was argued that the President should not be given latitude in the CJ’s appointment as that subjugated the Judiciary to the Executive. Yet, the spirit of the Constitution was to disperse powers from the Executive and safeguard the independence of institutions.

So, when Parliament went ahead to amend the JSC law, it was acting in breach of the Constitution and has rightfully been stopped dead in its tracks. Several other amendments have been made which have equally been thrown out by the court. The lesson is that Parliament must act prudently and judiciously and avoid the kind of aggression that puts it in conflict with the law.

Although Mrs Rawal has appealed against the ruling on her retirement case, the verdict had sought to address a fundamental constitutional question and had implications on the transition at the Judiciary given that CJ Willy Mutunga is due to retire next month.

But the most crucial message is that the Judiciary is playing its role in defending the Constitution, which is constantly under attack from all quarters.

Advertisement

Saturday May 28 2016

Walk the talk on doping

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

Parliament this week approved the Anti-Doping (Amendment) Bill to comply with the recommendations of the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada).

The Bill now awaits presidential assent for it to become law, and is then sent back to Wada, who will scrutinise it to ensure it conforms to its standards.

If all this happens, the country looks set to avoid a possible Rio Olympics Games ban. It is, therefore, paramount that we do not bungle this second opportunity given to us by the global agency and strive to fulfil its recommendations.

It was revealed that it was the Attorney-General who had made changes to the initial Bill that was rejected by Wada. This must not happen again, especially after President Uhuru Kenyatta sent two Cabinet Secretaries to meet Wada officials over the issue.

The government reassured Wada of its commitment to fight the doping scourge and must, therefore, walk the talk. Our athletes need to focus on training for the Olympics rather than worrying about whether they might be banned from taking part.

All stakeholders need to ensure that the correct document is sent back to Wada so that focus remains on performing well in the August event.

Advertisement

Friday May 27 2016

Punish those who steal school funds

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

Free primary and subsidised secondary education remain the most outstanding government interventions as they opened doors to millions of children to go to school.

Until 2003, when the then Narc administration introduced free primary education and 2008 when the coalition government started subsidising secondary education, many children were locked out of school because they could not afford the numerous levies.

Enrolment has since soared from 5.9 million in 2002 to 10.2 million in 2015 in primary school and 800,000 in 2008 to 2.3 million in 2015 in secondary school.

Over that period, the government has committed some Sh100 billion to primary education.

However, a report by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission gives damning evidence of financial mismanagement of the free schooling fund.

Billions of shillings cannot be accounted for as they have been stolen by headteachers and school boards.

When the programme first started, the government instituted fairly tight regulations over school funds, including requiring headteachers to post on noticeboards the sums received from the Treasury and the expenses incurred.

Parents had to be notified when books were bought and witness when they were being issued to pupils.

Schools were required to account regularly for the cash and auditors visited schools to inspect the books.

These requirements seem to have died and instead fraud is thriving in schools.

Procurement rules are hardly followed, commodity prices are inflated, account books are never checked, and headteachers give inflated enrolment figures to secure higher capitation grants. Consequently, many schools do not have facilities, books, and other teaching and learning resources despite the government’s subventions.

The government must prosecute those found to have stolen school funds.

The Education Ministry must enforce tight systems for dispensing, withdrawing, and accounting for the cash.

Advertisement

Friday May 27 2016

Streamline issuing of IDs

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

A parliamentary committee’s decision to summon Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery to explain why millions of Kenyans have not been issued with national identity cards confirms the vital importance of these documents.

Without IDs, it is difficult for most Kenyans to prove their citizenship.

The scrutiny that goes into the issuance of the national ID cards makes it the prime document, confirming the identity of the holder.

Though the government has made tremendous efforts to enable all citizens to get their IDs, there are still some hitches.

Huduma centres have speeded up the processing of IDs and other documents but the work is far from done. 

The officials responsible must evaluate the system and clear any hurdles.

However, the registration bureau has often complained about tens of thousands of IDs that have been processed but lie uncollected in its offices all over the country.

With the next General Election just a year away, some people will be making frantic efforts to register or get lost IDs replaced in order to be able to sign up and vote.

The issuance of national IDs is a continuous process that must never be tied to events such as elections.

The government should make it easier for all eligible Kenyans to obtain their IDs.

Advertisement

Thursday May 26 2016

Let us find solution to electoral impasse

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

The opposition Cord has made the right decision to call off the weekly protests against the electoral commission.

They were increasingly becoming violent and threatened to get out of hand.

This week’s protest left three people dead and scores of others injured.

Business people recorded losses and players in the tourism industry raised the fact that the images of violence splashed around the world were bound to affect the sector, which is struggling to get back on its feet after a recession occasioned by terrorism and general insecurity.

We have all along maintained that the solution to the crisis over the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission could not be realised through street protests, but well-structured dialogue.

The point has been made that a large segment of the society is dissatisfied with the commission and the consequence is that it cannot be trusted to manage the 2017 elections.

However, it is also acknowledged that the commission is in office constitutionally and cannot be ejected without recourse to the law.

Even so, it is also recognised that the issues at play and the prevailing circumstances demand that other options be explored to resolve the impasse, which is why we have been calling on the government to facilitate a broad-based consultative forum to agree on the process of transforming the commission.

Such consultations must be devoid of threats and the players must be ready to listen to one another.

The outcomes should be presented to Parliament for legislation.

Since Cord has suspended the protests, this is an opportunity for the government too to show that it is willing to find a permanent solution to the stalemate.

People of goodwill, including religious leaders, the private sector, and the international community, are willing to arbitrate and resolve the dispute.

Therefore, all parties must quickly get down to dialogue.

It would be foolhardy to imagine that the crisis will go away simply because the protests have been suspended.

Advertisement

Thursday May 26 2016

Claims hard to believe

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission’s claim that the number of Kenyans who give bribes has drastically reduced — from 70 to 40 per cent in the past year — is one that many will take with a pinch of salt. If, indeed, this is true, then it is commendable progress.

Many Kenyans know that palms must be greased to avoid getting into trouble with the law or to get services.

Some of the most blatant bribe-taking is by traffic police officers.

Kenyans seeking services in public offices must cough up a bribe.

A number of questions arise. Could the anti-corruption agency, which has often been criticised for its lethargic performance, be trying to boost its image?

How was this finding arrived at? Are the statistics based on the number of people who report these cases? What of the many who will give a bribe and never talk about it?

The country cannot afford to deceive itself that there is an improvement when there is none.

Let us have tangible evidence to build on instead of bandying around statistics that can encourage false complacency.

Ours has been repeatedly cited by credible local and international agencies as a totally corrupt country.

That is the reality that we must fight.

Advertisement

Wednesday May 25 2016

It’s urgent that we manage our debt

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

The International Monetary Fund’s warning that Kenya’s debt burden is rising at an exceedingly high rate must be taken seriously.

The country has developed a sharp appetite for borrowing, both at the local and international markets, with serious ramifications on the economy.

Statistics show that Kenya’s gross public debt measured against the gross domestic product (GDP) is about 50 per cent, which means that the country owes its lenders the equivalent of half of its wealth. This is beyond the internationally accepted benchmark of 40 per cent debt-to-GDP ratio.

The challenge with Kenya’s debt burden is worrying in many respects. First, some of the money borrowed has not been put to good use, which means that Kenyans are paying for what never benefited them.

One of the debts incurred, the Eurobond, was intended for capital development, but was spent under controversial circumstances, with critics arguing that part of it cannot be accountable for, although the government insists that the sum in question went to budgetary support.

Second, the high debt burden puts pressure on the Kenya Revenue Authority to up its tax collection portfolio and when it is unable to meet its target, as is currently the case, it resorts to punitive measures that hurt citizens. Put simply, it is the taxpayer who pays when a country is heavily indebted.

Third, it leads to a painful vicious cycle. A heavily indebted country is forced to take more loans, but which are given at high interest rates because it is a risky borrower. Getting out of that bind is very difficult. Worse, a country is rendered vulnerable such that it cannot stand on its feet on matters of principle.

With the debt portfolio reaching Sh3.2 trillion this financial year and the budget at Sh1.2 trillion, Kenya’s liability is reaching unsustainable levels. This is the reason the government must review its expenditure, make drastic cuts on non-priority areas, and manage its budget tightly.  

Advertisement

Wednesday May 25 2016

Prevention is the weapon

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

At the core of an effective public health care system is prevention, which is certainly better than cure. Ensuring that people live in clean environments is not just wiser, but also less costly than providing medicines and health care workers.

Unless conditions that breed illnesses are eliminated, more people will fall ill even as more will be treated, thus wasting valuable time and resources. Malaria and cholera are good examples.

People who contract these diseases must be quickly treated, but more lives will be saved if the conditions that breed the diseases are removed.

The Health ministry has over the years mounted public awareness campaigns to destroy breeding grounds for mosquitoes, get people to observe high sanitation standards, and avoid drinking contaminated water to keep cholera at bay.

The message of prevention has just been reinforced by the United Nations, which says that almost a quarter of all deaths could be prevented if people took better care of their environment.

Slum dwellers and the millions who lack access to clean water in the rural areas are more prone to disease than their compatriots in the more affluent areas. Even more vulnerable are the children. The solution is to clean up neighbourhoods and boost access to clean water.

Advertisement

Tuesday May 24 2016

Stop this madness before it ruins us

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

The death of three people on Monday as the opposition protests against the electoral commission entered the fourth week is an exceedingly dangerous escalation of the constitutional crisis this country must immediately resolve. The protagonists should sober up and encourage a peaceful and lasting solution to the stalemate.

The country must not be held captive by a clique of stubborn leaders who seem happy to sacrifice lives as they seek to score political points.

The opposition Cord and the Jubilee administration must stop this dangerous political chest-thumping. The standoff over the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission is a presage to a more insidious reality linked to the 2017 General Election.

We cannot afford a situation where lives are lost, people hurt, and businesses crippled just because the political class cannot agree on how to handle IEBC. Yet, street protests cannot end the crisis. Also, hanging onto legalese when a country is burning is naïve and untenable.

When the demonstrations started four weeks ago, we warned that they ought to be stopped before they got out of hand. On Monday, they escalated and spread to various other towns, and the security teams responded with even more brute force.

We are reaching a tipping point and what is going to happen next, unless the matter is resolved quickly, is unfathomable. Sadly, we are losing sight of the bigger picture, namely, defining the problems with the electoral process and providing alternative solutions. The objective should be to prepare ground for free, fair, credible, and peaceful elections next year.

The opposition has made its point and the government cannot pretend that it has not heard. We call on the Cord leadership under Raila Odinga to call off the protests.

Similarly, we ask President Kenyatta and the Jubilee administration to open the door for dialogue, which must be broad-based, including representatives of the faiths, the private sector, civil society, and possibly with external mediators.

Advertisement

Tuesday May 24 2016

Prevent abuse of pupils

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

The tendency by some wayward teachers to prey on their own pupils is not only illegal and immoral, it is also the height of betrayal of the young ones and their parents.

These children are entrusted to the teachers for most of the school day because parents have the confidence that they will be properly looked after. Though most of the teachers do a good job, there are those who sexually, physically, and psychologically abuse their pupils.

These rotten apples have no place in this noble profession and must be identified, weeded out, and punished. The education authorities have taken measures to safeguard pupils from predators, but the evil deeds continue.

The TSC banned pupils from going to teachers’ houses, but the practice continues in many schools. Also, some teachers have ignored the ban on corporal punishment.

One of the impediments to wiping out these crimes against children is the tendency by some parents to forgive the offenders or agree to out-of-court settlements.

This is unacceptable. As headteachers grapple with this, it is also imperative that a regime of stringent school inspections be enforced.

Parents must also play their part by looking out for any signs of abuse and blowing the whistle.

Advertisement

Monday May 23 2016

Step up recruitment of new Chief Justice

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

A crisis is looming at the Judiciary, yet there is little indication that anything is being done to deal with it. Chief Justice Willy Mutunga is retiring next month and his deputy, Kalpana Rawal, is technically out as she fights in court the constitutional requirement that judges should retire at 70.

When Dr Mutunga retires and as Mrs Rawal’s case continues in court, technically, the Judiciary will be without its president and deputy, which is constitutionally untenable.

Previously, the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) had stated that it was preparing for the transition but was not categorical about its form and shape. The commission had indicated that the process of filling the position of Chief Justice would take a couple of months and the earliest that a new one can be in office is late in the year.

Add to the mix the fact that one of the Supreme Court judges, Justice Philip Tunoi, is out of office as he goes through a tribunal hearing over corruption allegations and that three other judges have had to fight to clear their names over claims of misconduct, then the situation obtaining at the highest court in the land is precarious.

Without stability at the Supreme Court, the subordinate courts, which draw direction and order from it, find themselves in an awkward position.

Taken collectively, the Judiciary is sitting delicately and that does not augur well for the administration of justice.

It is not lost that although the Judiciary was the first to go through a process of change when the Constitution was enacted in 2010, a few things were done in those early years to reform it, but largely, it has marked time and in recent times, even seemed to retreat into the past, when the institution was invaded by sloth and sleaze.

The JSC must come out with a comprehensive strategy to manage the transition to avoid a lacuna, and create order in the Judiciary.

Advertisement

Monday May 23 2016

It’s time to revive football

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

Nick Mwendwa celebrated his 100 days in office last week as Football Kenya Federation (FKF) president, but there is still a lot to be done to revive our football.

Mwendwa’s election may have been the impetus that Kenyan soccer needed, but systems need restructuring if there is to be real change.

The excitement that greeted Harambee Starlets’ qualifying for the Africa Cup of Nations is evidence enough that Kenyan soccer fans have been missing positive happenings in the sport, especially after Harambee Stars failed to qualify for the African Games, the Olympic Games, and the Africa Cup of Nations.

Mwendwa’s team has tried to bring back professionalism in its operations, but many other matters need to be addressed before Kenya can return to the good books of Fifa. The issue of age-cheating that saw Kenya being banned by CAF from the Under-20 championship should addressed.

There is also a need to harmonise the local calendar with the international one. The Kenya Premier League (KPL) starts when most local leagues in the world are ending. This has seen both local clubs and the national team perform poorly because they struggle to catch up with their rivals who are on form. The disputes between KPL and FKF must end.

Advertisement

Sunday May 22 2016

Kenya treading on a dangerous path

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

It is often said that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it and when it comes to electoral politics in Kenya, this quote rings especially true.

In every election cycle since the optimism sparked by the post-Kanu transitional election in 2002, the pattern has been the same.

The country has gone into the elections badly divided and inevitably come out of the electoral cycle with the ties of national cohesion badly frayed.

One would have hoped that the political elite and their many enablers on social media would have drawn a lesson from the bloody violence in 2007, and the bitter recriminations that followed the 2013 election, and found a way to calm tempers before the next one.

In fact, few in political circles appear interested in conciliation and accommodation.

In the face of opposition demands for electoral reforms which are being ventilated in angry weekly street demonstrations, the government has reacted with equal ferocity, sending in riot police whose brutal treatment of protesters has attracted global attention.

Meanwhile, middle ranking operatives on both sides are beating the war drums with, on one side, some opposition figures declaring that Cord has only one bullet remaining to clinch power next year while others in the ruling Jubilee side issue similar war cries on their ability to rally supporters to back the government.

Amid all this, the position of the Church, which seems to have recovered its footing and offered a rare voice of reason, appears lost with the politicians leading their supporters to adopt extreme positions holding sway.

The time has come for the players on all sides to put the nation ahead of their interests and find a way to compromise before it is too late.

It is obvious that the nation is as divided as it has ever been along ethnic lines and this does not bode well heading into an election year.

A cause for hope is that the politicians exercise significant power over their supporters and if they can find a way to accommodate each other and find common cause, then trouble can be averted.

There are obvious common sense solutions to the impasse over the electoral commission. These should be explored and fully adopted to end all the unnecessary divisions that are now animating national debate.

Advertisement

Sunday May 22 2016

Share Somalia burden

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s call that the international community should provide more support to efforts to stabilise Somalia speaks of the frustrations Kenya, and other regional powers, have endured for decades. 

The recent decision by the Kenyan government to close down the massive Dadaab Refugee Camp, and repatriate the more than 500,000 Somalis, has once again highlighted the headache the war-torn country is causing and attracted international attention.

Indeed, a United Nations delegation has held talks with the President, and other top government officials. The message is clear: Kenya is paying more than its fair share in terms of the financial burden, loss of life and damaged reputation.

While we urge the government to be sensitive in handling the repatriation of refugees, it is also important for the international community to acknowledge that an unstable Somalia is a threat to the entire world.   

When the Kenyan Defence Forces (KDF) went to Somalia in 2011, they wanted to pursue the merchants of terror who had turned the once vibrant neighbouring country into a failed state, and spread their violent acts to the rest of the region.

KDF later joined the African Union Mission in Somalia with one aim of stabilising Somalia. This was never a permanent mission, but a temporary measure to help Somali’s run their own country.

Security is yet to be attained in full, but four years later, Somalia is no longer where it was then. This August, Somalis are expected to hold national elections. The world must do more to support them.

However, that will not happen if essential areas of the Somali government are not strengthened. This includes security.

That is why the recent cuts in funding by the European Union do not send the right signal. The world must wake up to the reality of a shared responsibility in stabilising Somalia.

Advertisement

Saturday May 21 2016

Resolve IEBC impasse or risk more violence

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s declaration that he is willing to open dialogue with the Opposition over electoral reforms is a welcome climbdown from the previous hard stance, and should, therefore, be followed quickly by a formal invitation for a structured discussion on a matter that has divided the country down the middle.

We have said before, and we state again, that the question of reforming the Independent Boundaries and Electoral Commission (IEBC) is no longer just a legal matter, but is also a political one.

Administering an election is a political process and when some of the players raise questions about refereeing, they cannot be dismissed expressly at the altar of the law. Many organised groups, among them faiths, the private sector and unions, have vouched for a structured discussion of the matter.

So, even though IEBC chairman Issack Hassan is perfectly right when he insists that they cannot leave office unless and until due process is followed, we are also alive to the fact that hanging onto the law when the country is burning is counter-intuitive. All the voices calling for electoral reforms are not vain.

We take note of the attempts by Parliament to end the stalemate by proposing amendments to the electoral law and, specifically, providing for an exit of the commissioners and espousing a new formula for appointing new ones.

However, that is not acceptable because such ends up being a deal of convenience without tackling the inherent and fundamental deficiencies that encumber the commission.

Street protests by Cord and sympathisers are not a solution. Judging from what happened last Monday, things are bound to get worse if the protests continue as others have vowed to organise counter demos. We must stem a culture of violence that is creeping in.

Instead of making public statements, President Kenyatta should convene a meeting with the opposition, faiths and other interest groups to discuss ways of resolving the standoff. Both the government and the Opposition must rise above narrow interests and work for the common national good.

Advertisement

Saturday May 21 2016

All the best to Kenya team

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

The national women’s volleyball team is in Puerto Rico for an Olympic qualifying tournament that starts on Saturday. They will face hosts Puerto Rico, Colombia and Algeria.

Also known as the Malkia Strikers, the girls found themselves seeking a second chance after failing to go through in the African qualifying tournament held in Cameroon in February.

In Cameroon, Kenya were favourites by virtue of having won the FIVB Grand Prix III and the Africa Games last year. However, Cameroon cashed in on Kenya’s sloppiness to qualify.

The failure came with great lessons for the Kenya Volleyball Federation officials on what poor management can result in. Making undesired changes to the technical bench, besides interference with team selection, eventually led to the big flop.

Only one team will qualify in Puerto Rico, and thus the competition will be stiff.

However, all is not lost as coach David Lung’aho leads his charges. Malkia Strikers can still produce the much desired result if they focus on the assignment at hand. Malkia Strikers last made an appearance at the Olympics during the 2004 Athens Summer Games.

Advertisement

Friday May 20 2016

Uchumi: It’s now or never

The struggling Uchumi Supermarket chain could just be given a new lease of life once a plan to get suppliers to turn its Sh1.8 billion debt into equity gets the nod.

This will be the second bailout for the retailer, which not long ago was brought back from the brink of collapse, with a rescue strategy under a management team that seemed to work.

However, the gloss has faded. There have been shocking revelations of insider dealings and other malpractices that have contributed to the decline of the supermarket chain.

The company is still heavily weighed down by its huge debt portfolio and remains a pale shadow of what was once a vibrant brand.

There is still some sentimental public attachment to Uchumi, having been the first Kenyan supermarket chain.

But this feeling alone is not enough to take it across the rough waters, though the proposed debt-for-equity swap is a welcome idea as the company searches for a strategic investor.

The blunt message that should go out to the management and directors is that Uchumi must fight hard in a challenging environment to keep afloat and eventually return to profitability.

It is highly unlikely that it will get a third chance if the ongoing efforts do not put it firmly back on track. The writing is on the wall for Uchumi.

Advertisement

Friday May 20 2016

More action needed to stop exam cheats

The new rules spelt out by Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i to curb cheating in national examinations signal the government’s determination to restore credibility in the country’s education system.

For the past few years, the country has been grappling with rising cases of examination cheating, which reached ridiculous levels last year.

In fact, we reached a point where the public lost faith in the sanctity of the exams as schools, candidates, parents, examiners, and education and security officers were all roped into the cheating loop.

Unfortunately, top Kenya National Examinations Council officials barricaded themselves in a cocoon, blaming everyone else for the mess.

Since March, when Dr Matiangi’i dissolved the council and sent its top officials packing, he has demonstrated strong determination to end exam cheating.

And the public has been waiting to hear what action was being taken to achieve that.

The change has begun at the school level, where the minister has reorganised the term dates and outlawed non-academic activities in schools in the third term to minimise candidates’ interaction with outsiders.

Headteachers will be primarily held responsible for examination administration, meaning that where cheating occurs, it is the principals who will face the law together with the invigilators.

Even then, this must be interrogated because some headteachers have been implicated in cheating.

However, we need more drastic action. The exam council itself must be reformed and we challenge the new chairman, Prof George Magoha, and his team to restructure the organisation and weed out corrupt officials.

We agree that the top exam officials should be vetted. In addition, the new team must carry out structural and administrative changes, including the way the exams are set, printed, transported, and secured.

The proposals made so far are welcome, but more bold action must be taken to restore the credibility of the exams

Advertisement

Thursday May 19 2016

Police brutality has no place in Kenya

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

The police brutality witnessed on Monday as the officers dispersed opposition leaders and the supporters of the protest against the electoral commission shows that little has changed in the force. The use of brute force was a sad reminder of the dark Kanu era, an attempt to return a police State, and a testament that the reforms envisaged in the Constitution have failed.

Police reform has been on the national agenda for years.

Part of the reason the Constitution created the National Police Service, away from the Kenya Police, was to give it a new sheen, reconfigure its structures, and give it propulsion to professionalise. Unlike before, the top police officers are appointed through a competitive process and are subjected to public vetting to ensure that only those who meet a high threshold of professional competence and moral standing are recruited.

Indeed, the Constitution requires the officers to exercise high ethical standards and respect human rights, fundamental freedoms, and human dignity. Some of the freedoms provided for in the Constitution are picketing, association, and assembly.

To this end, in the exercise of their mandate of maintaining law and order, the officers must be sensitive and judicious.

What we saw on Monday was a far cry from these stipulations.

This is the reason action must be taken against those who blatantly breached the law.

We take note of the directive of the Inspector General, Mr Joseph Boinnet, that investigations will be conducted and those who violated the law punished and hope that this will be taken seriously.

As we have said before, even though the street protests against the Independent Electoral and Boundaries are legitimate, they are not a solution to the problem.

They are easily infiltrated by hooligans who unleash chaos.

However, in executing their mandate, the police must respect the law and exercise judiciousness.

The transgressors must be punished.

Advertisement

Thursday May 19 2016

Boost mental health care

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

The inadequacies of the public health care system are even more pronounced in the tiny unit that takes care of mental illnesses.

There is an acute shortage of professional personnel, and yet the problem of mental illness is on the increase.

According to the latest statistics, there are only 88 psychiatrists and 427 nurses handling mental cases.

This is bound to get worse as health experts are warning that at least one in every four Kenyans will suffer from some form of mental illness.

There are only 14 mental health units in public hospitals with an average of 15 to 25 beds.

This sorry state is also evident in the appalling condition of Mathari Mental Hospital, the national referral institution.

The place is shabby and ill-equipped and is reeling under congestion, with a bed capacity of 250, but catering for double that number of patients.

The launch of the first-ever national policy on mental health has provided an opportunity to reflect on these challenges and seek solutions.

The call to the government to train more mental health care professionals and increase the number of hospitals makes plenty of sense in the long run, but there is a need for a more immediate plan to revamp the available facilities to enable them to cater for more patients.

Advertisement

Wednesday May 18 2016

Address root cause of mess in Lands

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

The dissolution of land control boards across the country and the declaration that those to be appointed will be vetted is a significant step in restoring order in the management of land matters.

It is a recognition that the mess starts right at the grassroots, where board members collude with wheeler dealers to identify and allocate land irregularly.

The dangers of irregular land allocation are widely documented. Nairobi, for example, is reeling from the folly of irregular land allocations.

The recent tragedy in Huruma was a combination of poor workmanship and irregular allotment of riparian land. Such cases abound across the country.

Dishing out of public land to individuals has raised the cost of infrastructure development as those who have titles for the parcels that are earmarked for such projects have to be compensated. Yet, they should not be in possession of such titles in the first place.

However, dissolving and setting up new land control boards is just treating the symptoms. Land allocation involves many players, right up to the national office in Nairobi. Most of the dubious deals involve top officials at the Lands Ministry, who have access to files and are able to manipulate records. Added to this is political influence where powerful individuals grab public land or issue decrees for land allocation without due regard to procedure.

The truth of the matter is that there is no serious intention to reform the land sector. We have seen several attempts that all ended up being stunts for public show.

For instance, former minister Charity Ngilu once closed Lands offices for days, ostensibly to allow the auditing and digitisation of documents, but that did not end land grabbing.

The point is that land reforms must be holistic and all-encompassing. Public declarations will not resolve the vexed land question. Records and recommendations for land reform are available. What is required is the political will to actualise them.

Advertisement

Wednesday May 18 2016

Hostel kitchens is the way to go

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

The recent protests at the University of Nairobi against a ban on students cooking in their hostels are a reminder of a serious problem that the authorities have glossed over for a long time.

The students did not start cooking in their rooms yesterday. This has been going on for a long time and it is a pointer to a bigger problem — that of the welfare of the students.

If all could afford the meals cooked in the secure kitchens, they would never have resorted to this. In the old days, when student meals were fully subsidised, this problem never arose.

Facing a cash crunch, the public universities introduced the so-called “pay-as-you-eat” system, but even this has proved costly for many students, who have set up makeshift kitchens in their rooms, turning the hostels into potential deathtraps. The risk of fires and explosions is all too real.

As happens in some universities overseas, an investment in communal kitchens where students can pay to have access to cookers is a possibility.

University of Nairobi Enterprises and Services Limited has done well in managing the so-called Module II and made good money.

It should set up the kitchens or allow private investors to do so. This could then be replicated in all the other public universities.

Advertisement

Tuesday May 17 2016

Agree on reforms before chaos reign

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

The violence that broke out on Monday as opposition leaders and their supporters stormed electoral commission offices in various parts of the country confirms our worst fears.

It was just a matter of time before the weekly protests snowballed into chaos. And what happened on Monday is a harbinger of mayhem waiting to happen in the near future.

As we have said countless times, the hardline positions adopted by both the government and the opposition in resolving the stalemate over the reform of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) will be costly for the country.

On Monday, criminals took advantage of the protests to steal and loot from shops and innocent people as others resorted to stone-throwing and destroying property. And the police acted ruthlessly, unleashing teargas and beating up protesters.

Even then, the opposition Cord has resolved that it will continue with the protests and going by what we saw on Monday, the government is equally determined to use brute force to repulse them.

This is a perfect set-up for chaos. If the matter is not dealt with quickly, the situation is likely to worsen in the coming days. That is not good for either politics or business. Worse, this is preparing the ground for chaotic elections next year. Unfortunately, we have gone through such cycles in the past and should now be wiser and handle things differently.

The government and the opposition, as well as the faiths and civil society, agreed that IEBC needs to be reformed because it is ill-constituted and equipped to deliver any meaningful elections.

So, why should there be violence in seeking to reform it? Common sense should prevail and the right thing done.

We need broad-based national dialogue — not just political parties — to resolve the standoff over IEBC. There is no reason for people to lose their lives and property over a matter that can be thrashed out across a negotiation table.

Advertisement

Tuesday May 17 2016

Step up war on doping

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

Kenya got yet another reprieve when the International Association of Athletics Federations and the International Olympic Committee indicated that they would not suspend Kenya even after the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) declared the country non-compliant.

However, there should be no complacency and the fight against doping must not be abandoned. Sports minister Hassan Wario has travelled to Canada for an audience with Wada and it is expected that he will engage the agency on what exactly needs to be addressed in the new anti-doping law.

Kenya is still on Wada’s radar and any mistake could still lead to suspension. This would mean that the country would not host the World Under-18 Athletics Championships in June next year. Kenya found itself in trouble after it missed two compliance deadlines.

To make matters worse, Wada’s recommendations in the Anti-Doping Bill 2016 were overlooked, with Parliament moving hurriedly to make amendments to some clauses. Some of the changes are preposterous, for example the one that allows athletes to cite illiteracy and, therefore, ignorance on doping issues in order to avoid being punished. Doping cheats and their agents must face the consequences.

Advertisement

Monday May 16 2016

Let’s have national dialogue over IEBC

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

At the centre of the heated debate and conflict currently being played out over the legitimacy or otherwise of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) is the fundamental question of how the outcome of the 2017 poll will be received, or if indeed the elections will be held at all.

This country is being prepared for a situation in which the elections are tainted even before they are held, and the ground is set for a replay of the horrors of 2007/2008. This is not acceptable.

We have published a powerful collection of reports that essentially demolishes the argument that the IEBC is Kenya’s biggest nightmare and threat to stability. The stories and commentaries demonstrate that whatever failures attended the 2013 elections were not necessarily limited to the IEBC.

And even if it was culpable, the manner of responding to that failure is certainly not in demonstrations.

The bottom line is that IEBC is just a lightning rod that Cord is using to stir disaffection and the response of Jubilee is not very reflective either.

Neither of these parties has the right to trifle with the stability of this country and future generations. Exchanging words and threats as we are seeing now is both unseemly and unproductive.

The most urgent enterprise now and in the lead-up to the polls is to ensure that the country remains united before, during and after the election — which is likely to be the most hotly-contested in Kenya’s history.

As such, we are calling for a national dialogue — not talks between two parties to discuss IEBC — that brings together all stakeholders to discuss the imperatives necessary to ensure that the 2017 election is free, fair, acceptable and credible.

The dialogue should not be limited to the integrity of the process and systems of conducting elections and the mechanisms to resolve election-related disputes, especially a challenge of the outcome in the presidential elections.

There is also need to ensure that the nation is preserved in harmony despite the heat of electioneering. In the final analysis, the electoral contest is one for the leadership of the country, not for its division or disruption.

Such talks — modelled along the famous Ufungamano talks of the late 1990s — must bring on board representatives of religious leaders from various persuasions, the private sector and workers’ unions, civil society and elected leaders.

If need be, the leaders ought to consider inviting external mediators, say, from the African Union or the United Nations, to ensure that the outcome is the product of a broad consensus between Kenyans and their international friends.

Such talks must address themselves to the broad issues of nation-building, restoration of public confidence in institutions of governance, election management, and dispute resolution.

The talks must agree on what legal reforms ought to be undertaken to ensure that the laws provide an environment for credible elections and timely resolution of any disputes.

For this to happen, however, political leaders must come down from their heightened and volatile exchanges, which have produced more heat than light and more anxiety than confidence in the debate over how to conduct the next election.

Leaders from across the divide would do this country great good by toning down rhetoric, reaching out across the aisle and giving space for voices of reason to guide the talks and the subsequent process. Throughout, the interest of the country must remain the guiding light and principle. 

Advertisement

Sunday May 15 2016

End the circus and name new KAA chief

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

The failure to appoint a substantive managing director at the Kenya Airports Authority is an indictment on the board and the ministry in charge.

The authority, which oversees the operations of all airports and airstrips in the country, is an extremely important and strategic organisation.

Kenya has long thrived on its position as a regional transport and economic hub. The national airline and the main airport in Nairobi sit at the nerve-centre of the regional economy, transporting thousands of passengers and millions of tonnes of cargo to various destinations every year.

It is a show of gross irresponsibility, coming so soon after the mysterious shelving of a new airport project, to leave such a crucial state agency without substantive management for more than one year.

It is unfortunate that this pattern has been witnessed in the matter of appointing substantive holders of positions in other areas. There is no excuse as to why, for example, the board of the Central Bank of Kenya is yet to be named many months after the chairman was appointed.

In the meantime, the public has in recent weeks been treated to the sight of the ugly squabble between Water Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa and the board of the National Irrigation Board, where the 13 members of the board walked out of a function in Mwea after Mr Wamalwa showed up with the suspended Managing Director, who has since resigned, in tow.

Mr Wamalwa has now fired the entire board, never mind the fact that only the president can sack the chairman of the board.

This is unacceptable. At the end of the day, the buck stops with the President. The mandate by cabinet secretaries and various boards to appoint these key officials flows from the presidency and when various players fail to carry out their duties, it is incumbent upon the president to act.

The case of the airports authority also highlights the folly of bringing in professional companies such as PricewaterhouseCoopers to conduct recruitment only to pull the rug from under their feet and not allow them to work without political interference.

This circus should end so that KAA is steered by a strong chief executive at a time when numerous challenges, including several ambitious airport projects in Addis Ababa and Kigali, are seeking to displace Kenya from its role as a regional hub.

Advertisement

Sunday May 15 2016

Time to go, Kabila

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

When President Pierre Nkurunziza decided to defy the constitution and run for a third term, he triggered a political crisis in Burundi that has left close to 500 people dead and uprooted hundreds of thousands from their homes.

Now, it appears to be the turn of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Joseph Kabila who is supposed to leave office at the end of 2016.

The electoral calendar in the DRC leaves no doubt that the next presidential election is scheduled to be held in November.

However, Mr Kabila found a way to cling to power by engineering a proposal that the election cannot go ahead without a census being conducted first.

That decision attracted strong protests from the many people who understood it for what it was — a transparent effort to subvert the constitution.

Unfortunately, the courts have rubber-stamped Mr Kabila’s decision to stay in office illegally by declaring that he can remain as president beyond November.

It has now become a tragic reality in Africa that few leaders, even those that achieve very little in their time in office such as Mr Kabila and Mr Nkurunziza, will agree to leave the presidency when their terms expire.

This is extremely dangerous. In the DRC, in particular, where so many armed rebel groups continue to exist, Mr Kabila’s gambit will only lead to more strife and despair.

All parties involved, including the United Nations which maintains a huge peacekeeping force in the DRC and other regional and global powers, should step up to the plate and persuade Mr Kabila to step down.

His clinging to power will be a disastrous choice for the long-suffering people of the DRC, who for decades have borne the brunt of the incompetence and greed of their leaders.

Advertisement

Saturday May 14 2016

Sort out wrangles over deployment of doctors

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

The blame game between the national and county governments over the management of health care should stop. Health care is a delicate matter and the public expects that both the national and county governments handle it with diligence.

Since medical services were devolved to the counties in line with the constitutional provisions, the sector has hurtled from one crisis to another. If it is not doctors and nurses striking over poor terms and conditions of service then it is a grouse over equipment or the poor quality of health care at the medical facilities.

The latest controversy is over the recruitment of doctors and deployment of medical interns. Some 757 intern medical doctors are due for deployment but the counties reckon they cannot absorb all of them because they do not have cash to pay them.

This is absurd because most hospitals are understaffed and require additional hands. Moreover, the interns need a chance to practice, which is a requirement for their training.

When the Constitution devolved medical care management to the counties, leaving the national government to provide policy and manage referral hospitals, the reason was that the centralised approach of the past had failed.

Devolving the services to the counties was intended to improve the services and make it easy for people at the grassroots to access quality medical care. And some milestones have been realised. For example, regions that had never had surgical facilities have been able to access them for the first time in history under devolution.

However, there are many issues that must be resolved. Funding for the medical services is still inadequate and counties have to wait for long to receive the resources. Even then, the counties are not properly prepared to manage health care. Doctors and nurses have expressed a lot of frustration from the county managers, some of whom never appreciate the delicate nature of their work.
Devolution is here to stay and the benefits are visible. Health ministry and the county leaders must find a formula to work together to ensure a smooth transition towards a truly devolved quality health care.

Advertisement

Saturday May 14 2016

We can’t miss Rio games

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

Kenya’s participation in the 2016 Rio Olympics is under threat after the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) declared the nation non-compliant this week. According to the Wada Compliance Review Committee, the country’s anti-doping law, which came into force last month, is not in line with the World Anti-Doping Code.

The country’s track and field athletes face the prospect of being banned from competing in the Olympics. Kenya has for years dominated in athletics at international events and topped the medal standings at last year’s IAAF World Athletics Championships in Beijing, China with seven gold, six silver and three bronze medals.

The government needs to move with speed and sort out the grey areas in the new law that were ruled inadequate by Wada.

With just about three months left to the Rio Olympics, these problems are a distraction from our athletes’ preparations. Athletics is a source of pride for Kenya and a source of livelihood for thousands of Kenyans.

These men and women have worked tirelessly to put Kenya on the global map and it would be sad if their hard work goes down the drain because of the hitches in the new law.

Advertisement

Friday May 13 2016

Challenge for Museveni

The swearing-in of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni for the sixth time since he swept to power 30 years ago is a continuation of the democratisation of the East African region.

Tanzania’s elections several months ago brought to office a new president, Dr John Pombe Magufuli, and next year, President Uhuru Kenyatta will be seeking his second and final five-year term.

On this score, East Africa has done quite well with regular elections that afford the people an opportunity to pick their leaders.

However, in Uganda, the euphoria and celebrations that greeted President Museveni’s rise to power three decades ago are missing.

The country is bitterly divided, with the brutalisation of opposition leaders being the order of the day.

And nothing could have exemplified the disunity more than the reported swearing-in of opposition leader Kizza Besigye.

The biggest challenge in East Africa today is properly managing elections to ensure that the true verdict of the electorate emerges.

The plain truth, however, is that the playground remains skewed in favour of the incumbents, with their challengers often harassed and obstacles placed in their way.

As a respected leader in the region and in Africa, President Museveni must use his new term to clean up his own backyard and entrench multi-party democracy.

Advertisement

Friday May 13 2016

Africa must tackle youth joblessness

The debate on youth unemployment that has dominated a regional economic summit in Rwanda this week rightly locates Africa’s key challenge, which must be confronted if the continent is to realise meaningful socio-economic growth.

Data from the African Union indicate that 45 per cent of the continent’s graduates hardly find jobs, meaning that they cannot contribute productively to their economies.

Danger abounds when youth, with skills, energy, and networks, are jobless and helpless. Most of them easily drift into crime and became a menace to society.

At the core of the problem is economic stagnation and the inability of African countries to divest from traditional economies marked by agricultural production and extraction of raw materials to the more advanced and better-paying technology-driven ones.

Countries such as Kenya, which in the past thrived on tourism, are hard-hit as that sector no longer brings in the big incomes it used to.

As rightfully argued at the summit, the continent’s education and training systems are severely constrained to produce innovators who can create wealth.

Instead, the graduates are mere imitators of what others have done elsewhere.

This is the reason experts at the World Economic Forum are challenging African leaders to invest in quality education to create doers rather than passive consumers.

Quite often, youth unemployment dominates public discourse, but little is done to tackle the challenge.

In Kenya, for example, several initiatives have been rolled out, such as the Youth Fund or the revamping of the National Youth Service, but their resources are misappropriated and they never benefit the youth.

African leaders must walk the talk. They must institute practical interventions to support the youth.

Economic growth is paramount and so is the review of education and training. More importantly, the leaders must rethink their economic models and create a conducive environment for business.

Advertisement

Thursday May 12 2016

Involve all in reform of electoral process

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

Parliament has started the process of reforming the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission.

The process, being led by the National Assembly’s Justice and Legal Affairs Committee, targets the process of nominating commissioners and electoral laws.

In seeking to review the IEBC Act, Parliament acknowledges that the commission has inherent weaknesses that undermine its ability to manage free and fair elections.

This is the statement that the opposition, religious leaders, and civil society activists have been making all along.

IEBC may be an independent constitutional body, but the laws establishing it and the way it executes its mandate are manifestly deficient.

The commission made a terrible mistake in 2013 when it brought in dysfunctional election equipment, which sullied the electoral process.

Further, the “Chickengate” scandal that involved some members of its predecessor hangs around its neck like an albatross.

There is a general consensus that the commission needs to be restructured and reorganised to give it the capacity and credibility to conduct next year’s elections.

However, opinion differs on how this should be done.

The opposition has taken the mass protest route, which, as we have pointed out before, is ill-advised and fraught with perils.

Contrastingly, the government has insisted that the reforms can only be done according to the rule book.

The approach being adopted by Parliament, which mirrors the Inter-Parties Parliamentary Group model of 1997, risks confining the process to the political class. That is not acceptable.

Politicians are known to cut deals and paper over issues without curing the fundamental problems.

Reforming the electoral process is a matter of national interest, therefore it must involve a wide spectrum of players.

Parliament can start the legislative process, but everyone must be involved in the reform agenda.

We, therefore, call for national dialogue bringing together all stakeholders to agree on the desired electoral reforms.

Advertisement

Thursday May 12 2016

Tackle new HIV threat

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

The many health challenges confronting the country call for deliberate, multi-faceted, and sustained interventions if citizens are to enjoy better health and more meaningful lives.

A report on HIV that indicates that the virus is the leading cause of death and disability among young people aged 10 to 24 is worrying.

If urgent interventions are not made to arrest the trend, there is a risk that this could cause serious social and economic problems in the future.

It is possible that most of those dying now contracted HIV at birth.

This calls for more robust interventions to prevent mother-to-child transmission, especially in the counties with inordinately high HIV prevalence rates.

Considering that this age is sexually active, the need to address the challenge that this trend poses becomes all the more urgent as it is likely to increase the burden of families having to care for the affected children, who will not be guaranteed of enjoying the full benefits of education and securing a bright future.

It would also be prudent for the government to implement mitigating measures, bearing in mind that about 46 per cent of Kenyans live in poverty and do not have the economic wherewithal to afford quality health care over the long term.

Advertisement

Wednesday May 11 2016

Return the billions in foreign accounts

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

On several occasions in the past, the government has announced that it had recovered large sums of stolen money stashed in foreign accounts and pledged to have the cash repatriated.

The most notable was the announcement by the Narc administration in 2003 of the alleged recovery of Sh100 billion by Kroll Associates, which was to be remitted to Kenya. However, nothing came of it and the matter quietly died.

This time around, the government reports that it has located Sh400 billion corruptly banked out there and which it is seeking to retrieve and return to the economy.

From the outset, this looks like a huge amount of money but it is just the tip of the iceberg. Much more money is hidden out there and if it was found and brought back, it would make a major difference to the economy.

However, it is a matter of concern that talk about recovering and repatriating such money is always hollow. Never is it followed by any concrete action and it appears the announcements are just meant for the public gallery.

The current administration has a chance to make a difference. It must act quickly and decisively to secure the money. But that is just a baby step. A lot more work needs to be done to trace and recover the stolen billions kept in foreign accounts.

Fortunately, many governments are becoming intolerant of thieving bureaucrats and wheeler-dealers who wire looted money out there.

For example, Britain recently offered to return to Kenya the money recovered from the “Chickengate” scandal. It is a lot easier now to get hold of such funds and the looters.

Even more importantly is the need to intensify the fight against corruption and seal all loopholes through which fraudsters steal public funds.

It is shameful that our government has to beg for money or float bonds abroad when so much stolen money is held in individuals’ accounts overseas.

Advertisement

Wednesday May 11 2016

Rethink order on refugees

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

The decision to close down the Dadaab and Kakuma camps that host more than 600,000 refugees is a manifestation of the government’s increasing frustration over inadequate international support in dealing with this crisis.

Hosting these many refugees presents numerous challenges, but perhaps the most pressing is insecurity.

Terrorists have been taking advantage of Kenya’s hospitality to plan devious acts, such as the attacks on Garissa University College and the Westgate Shopping Mall, in which more than 200 people perished.

The Dadaab and Kakuma camps have, for nearly two decades, been home to Somali and South Sudanese refugees. It is not surprising, therefore, that the United Nations is alarmed and has warned that shutting down the camps would have “extreme humanitarian and practical consequences” and it would also violate international law. Kenya is a signatory to statutes that protect refugees. The best way to go about this challenge is to encourage voluntary repatriation when the refugees’ safety can be guaranteed.

However, we cannot ignore the government’s concern, which is a salient cry for greater international involvement in dealing with the refugee crisis. It is unfair to leave the bulk of the burden to Kenya. The UN must seek greater support for Kenya.

Advertisement

Tuesday May 10 2016

KRA should target the real tax evaders

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

The Kenya Revenue Authority’s proposal to examine mobile money transaction records to track tax defaulters sounds like an innovative strategy to rein in culprits adept at devising new tactics to escape the dragnet.

Mobile money transactions have expanded enormously in the past 10 years, offering people an easier and effortless model of doing business.

According to statistics, mobile money transactions have risen to about Sh2.4 trillion a year, more or less equivalent to the country’s annual budget.

On paper, therefore, this looks like a huge pool to tap into because there are chances some of the transactions are by people who do not pay tax.

Practically, however, seeking to get tax defaulters through their mobile money transactions is akin to searching for a needle in a haystack.

On average, daily transactions for an individual are just about Sh100,000 and the bulk of the users are your average citizen who, more often than not, pays tax.

There may be tax defaulters among them, but they may not be in the quantities that KRA expects.

Worse, targeting mobile money transactions will force users to revert to cumbersome cash payments at a time when the focus is on a paperless economy, or push some to the black market.

Tax defaulters are big corporates and big-time business sharks and wheeler dealers; those who know the loopholes to exploit.

Many multinationals operating in the country do not pay full tax, and they are known. Moreover, the tax defaulters work in cahoots with the KRA officials, which is the reason President Kenyatta declared a couple of months ago that their lifestyle should be audited. That has not happened.

KRA is under pressure to raise more money, having missed its revenue targets by Sh690 million, a fact that it attributed to poor performance by many corporates. It is mounting the wrong horse. It should look for the big tax defaulters instead of chasing small-timers.

Advertisement

Tuesday May 10 2016

Stop pneumonia deaths

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

The revelation in the Economic Survey, 2016, that pneumonia is now the leading killer disease in Kenya raises disturbing questions about the state of our health care.

More worrying is that young children are the most vulnerable, yet a vaccine exists. That the toll from the disease continues to rise — from 21,640 in 2013 to 22,473 last year — points to a failure to put in place interventions to stop these deaths.

Sadly, these statistics come against the background of perennial strikes by medical professionals in several counties because their grievances, including pay and working conditions, are not adequately addressed.

These challenges compromise the health of the nation, depress life expectancy, and cause needless emotional trauma to parents who lose their children to a disease that is both preventable and curable.

But it is not enough to just lament. Counties, especially those with high numbers of pneumonia cases, must be challenged to come up with both short- and long-term measures to reduce the prevalence of the disease.

Families in rural areas, where the disease is prevalent, should also be encouraged to embrace practices that protect them from pneumonia.

Advertisement

Monday May 9 2016

Let dialogue resolve electoral reform row

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

The row over the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission is bound to intensify on Monday if the opposition Cord lives up to its threat to storm the agency’s offices nationwide in a bid to push out the commissioners.

Cord’s top officials have vowed to carry out their threat despite warnings from the government that they would not be allowed to do so. Their attempt a fortnight ago was met with brute force and the same thing is bound to happen on Monday.

And the commissioners, led by chairman Isaack Hassan, have vowed to stay put, in fact threatening to discipline the coalition for breaching electoral laws.

The campaign against the IEBC — eviction of commissioners who have constitutional protection — is premised on a wrong approach. Mass protests, although a constitutional right, are bound to lead to violence. Even so, managing elections is a political process. Laws exist that guide the commission’s operations, including the way the commissioners can be removed. However, the issue at hand is beyond the narrow prism of legalism.

The IEBC is suffering a credibility crisis. A large section of the political class is at odds with it. Besides, religious organisations have called for its reform. As currently constituted, the commission cannot be trusted to conduct a credible election. Those voices cannot be wished away and rebuffed purely on legalese.

Experience from the past is painful. We have the dubious history of violence occasioned by an election bungled by a discredited referee in 2007. We risk getting there unless drastic actions are taken now to avoid such a scenario.

This is the reason we are asking the government to call for national dialogue on electoral reforms and create conditions where all players go to the polls with the confidence that the referee is believable and, therefore, the outcomes acceptable.

The hard stance of both the government and the opposition is foolhardy. Let us give national dialogue a chance.

Advertisement

Monday May 9 2016

Teams need sponsorship

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

The Kenya Rugby Union, the Kenya Cup, and the Kenya Hockey Union men’s and women’s leagues have come to an end.

Kabras Sugar became the only team from outside Nairobi to win the Kenya Cup after edging out Impala 22-5.

Butali Sugar, formerly Kisumu Simba, won their second consecutive men’s hockey Premier League title, with Telkom Kenya claiming an unprecedented 18th women’s league title.

The results are proof that good sponsorship cultivates good results and improved standards. However, these are individual club sponsorships.

Sports federations must intensify efforts to source for sponsorship for their respective leagues. Clubs invest heavily in their preparations, hence the need to reward their efforts wells.

Previously, East African Breweries sponsored the 15s rugby. Teams were able to honour their matches. Having walkovers in top-flight games because some teams could not afford to make the trip does not help the game’s development.

Hockey is crying out for sponsorship. Clubs with sponsorship have thrived since they can afford to hire the astro turf City Park. Telkom are in a class of their own owing to financial backing. Sports federation should set up marketing boards to source for sponsorship for teams.

Advertisement

Sunday May 8 2016

Why only Eastlands?

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero has issued a directive giving the occupants of buildings marked for demolition in the Eastlands area seven days to vacate and find alternative accommodation.

Yet the Governor and the ministry of Lands are quiet about another burning question: Why have all the demolitions so far targeted only properties in low income areas?

It is a matter of public record that there are several buildings in upmarket areas which stand right atop wetlands and which are possibly the cause of deadly overflows to poorer settlements.

This week, Nairobi County MCAs approved a report by the County Planning and Housing Committee authorising the demolition of a five-storey building at the Mbagathi-Langata Road roundabout, a four-storey building in Westlands and another in Gigiri, Karura ward.

CONSTRUCTION CONTINUES

No action has so far been taken.

In fact, media reports indicate construction continues apace at these building sites.

How can this be allowed to happen?

It is a common refrain in Kenya that the rules only apply to the poor and that the wealthy can essentially get away with anything, of course by using well placed bribes.

In a week when the nation has lost dozens of lives in a building which caved in amid a rainstorm, it is an absolute scandal that all the buildings that stand on wetlands are not being brought down to save life and limb the next time raging waters are blocked by illegal developments.

This impunity cannot stand.

The Lands ministry, the National Construction Authority and the Nairobi County Government, which collectively approve all these dodgy deals, must call an end to these games.

All buildings on wetlands – and not just those that are to be found in low income areas – must be brought down immediately.

Advertisement

Sunday May 8 2016

Treat refugees with due consideration

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

It is unclear what prompted the decision by the government to declare that Kenya would no longer host refugees and that authorities would soon move to close the sprawling Kakuma and Dadaab camps.

The reasons cited in the statement by the Interior Permanent Secretary Karanja Kibicho for sending the refugees home “within the shortest time possible” are all valid but they are not new.

It is true that Kenya has borne a heavy environmental, security and economic burden by hosting about 600,000 refugees.

It is not commonly understood, for example, that local host communities, particularly in the Dadaab area of Garissa, have paid a heavy environmental price.

WATER PAN SUNK

As local leaders have told humanitarian agencies, the water pan in the area adjoining the camp has sunk considerably in the last two-and-a-half decades due to population pressure while the forest cover has shrunk in tandem.

On the security front – and despite the shrill statements released by human rights groups – it is a fact that policing a sprawling refugee camp populated by tens of thousands of non-citizens is not an easy task.

In Dadaab in January 2012, a policeman was shot dead alongside several community leaders who were spearheading a community policing initiative following a spate of attacks by the Shabaab.

Nevertheless, a hasty and disorderly process of closure of these camps is neither feasible nor right.

Without paying too much attention to Kenya’s obligations under international conventions – European countries have in recent months showed that these do not apply to them when the refugee crisis showed up in their lands – Kenya must consider the humanitarian needs of the refugees.

These thousands of civilians are the victims of war, famine and the general breakdown of order in their countries.

They should be treated with due consideration and their rights should not be sacrificed as part of geopolitical battles or in prosecuting the war against terror.

It is also true that these camps should not be permanent.

The tripartite committee bringing together the governments of Kenya and Somalia and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, working with international partners, should come together to formulate long-term solutions which do not violate the rights of the long-suffering refugees.

Advertisement

Saturday May 7 2016

Quickly probe and nail businessman’s killers

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

The killing on Thursday night of controversial Nairobi businessman Jacob Juma has sparked intense public anxiety, with mounting speculation on a possible motive. Rumours are being spread, especially on social media, with some apparently outlandish statements being made.

Some people have called the death an assassination, though a formal investigation has not even begun. What is clear so far is that he died after unknown gunmen sprayed his car with bullets.

There is always a tendency to speculate whenever prominent people get killed in such suspect circumstances. This is why it is important that police move quickly to establish whether the businessman was a victim of a criminal gang, or hitmen hired by his adversaries.

However, those who have been keenly following his anti-corruption crusade lately, are sold to the theory that he might have been targeted by people uncomfortable with his revelations on mega graft deals.

The man has in the recent past been publicly questioning the handling of the Eurobond proceeds, alleging that the bulk of the funds were not remitted to the country, having been allegedly diverted elsewhere.

Indeed, Cord leader Raila Odinga, who has been at the forefront in demanding answers from the government on the Eurobond saga, has acknowledged that Mr Juma was one of the key sources of his information.

This matter cannot be simply wished away as the businessman appeared to have credible confidential information on the Eurobond transactions. His vociferous self-styled anti-corruption campaign is, therefore, easy to explain as the reason why some people could have hatched a plot to eliminate him.

Another possible explanation could be business rivalry or a bitter fallout over a deal gone wrong. It is also possible that Mr Juma had stepped on many toes in building his business empire, with interests in construction, supplies to government agencies and mining.

The manner in which he was killed, with 10 bullets pumped into his body, and nothing stolen, points to some deep bitterness over something.

To allay the fears and speculation and some outright lies and rumours, the police must quickly investigate the killing, and bring the culprits to book.

Advertisement

Saturday May 7 2016

Referees need supervision

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

Football Kenya Federation has finally unveiled measures to stem the rising cases of suspect officiating in the Kenyan Premier League.

The decision by FKF to hand out a short term suspension to a senior referee, warn a few more, and summon others to explain their actions should be lauded.

This, however, isn’t enough.

Football is an emotional sport and football fanatics are a hyper lot. In recent times, the feeble standards of officiating have directly led to the increasing incidents of hooliganism within and outside the stadia.

FKF thus needs to find a way of consistently overseeing the performance of referees during local matches, including those that are not televised.

The federation also needs to organise training courses and evaluation tests to keep the whistle blowers on their toes.

Lastly, the rumoured link between the failing standards of refereeing and the emergence of a myriad of betting activities in the country need be investigated fully.

Advertisement

Friday May 6 2016

We must prevent another Huruma

The rescuing of four people on Thursday from the rubble of the building that collapsed in Huruma has raised hopes that there is a reasonable chance of finding more survivors of the tragedy that has so far claimed 36 lives.

The worry is that time is running out for search and rescue.

It will be seven days today since the building came tumbling down, meaning that unless those trapped alive under the rubble are found and rescued soon, they could die due to exposure, hunger, thirst, and illness.

The disciplined forces fighting against time to find more survivors are doing a gallant job and must be commended in the face of the sheer frustration of knowing that people are trapped beneath the rubble and that it is difficult to reach them.

It is all too evident that there are numerous obstacles standing in their way. One, of course, is the large pile of building stones and mortar that has slowed down their work.

The other is lack of sufficient space, partly because the house was built next to a river and there are numerous other adjacent blocks of flats.

The rescue team should be enabled to do its work — including being provided with more equipment and personnel — if this will improve its chances of finding and rescuing more survivors.

There have been claims that the first two floors of the building sank.

This means that if the rescue team had enough space and room to manoeuvre, there is a chance that more people could be rescued.

Away from this particular tragedy, the option of demolishing other buildings that pose a public safety hazard must be considered seriously as a way of preventing future tragedies.

CAUTION
However, this must be done with utmost circumspection, openness, and fairness to ensure that even as hazardous buildings are brought down, no one is unfairly target or victimised.

Where questions have been raised, the owners must be given an opportunity to demonstrate that they have complied with building standards.

As a long-term measure, the county government must urgently eliminate the bottlenecks that stand in the way of good workmanship, starting with corruption, which has led to the proliferation of unsafe buildings.

It must also streamline the issuance of title deeds so that land owners have the legal wherewithal to secure all the permits that they need from the government agencies that regulate building and construction.

In the same vein, the county must increase the number of inspection officers and if need be retrain those it has hired to examine buildings under construction to ensure that problems are arrested before they are completed and tenants move in.

This team must include professionals from the construction industry so that they can be held responsible for approving such buildings as the Huruma tragedy one.

Lastly, the county must invest in preventing disaster. It must not only show the residents how it plans to safely channel flood waters, it must build the infrastructure to prevent a recurrence of what happened in Huruma.

Advertisement

Wednesday May 4 2016

Resolve row over IEBC

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

Kenyans and leaders from across the political divide should heed the warning of 11 Western envoys who have said they consider what steps to take to ensure that next year’s elections are free, fair, and peaceful.

With only 15 months to the election, political temperatures are already rising with the opposition making it clear that it has no confidence in the electoral commission as currently constituted.

The politicians have also raised doubts about the impartiality of the Judiciary, which is itself facing a transition with the expected retirement of the Chief Justice before the end of the year.

As the envoys have rightly pointed out, organising free, fair, and peaceful elections is the effort of the whole of society. They have also called for dialogue between the government and opposition to build confidence in the electoral system.

Kenya will be better off if the leaders can find a mutually agreeable way to resolve the dispute over the constitution of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission.

Political leaders have in the past pledged to ensure that the country does not go back to the dark days of election violence. It is now time to match that pledge with action to guarantee the credibility of the polls.

Advertisement

Wednesday May 4 2016

Let us up our game to beat terrorists

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

The revelation by Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery that the government had foiled an attempted biological terror attack recently reinforces the concern that the extremists are seeking new tactics every day for mass annihilation.

It is worrying that the terrorists are contemplating unobtrusive but lethal methods such as biological attacks, in this case using anthrax, and targeting places such as hospitals.

The efforts of the government in recent times to contain terrorism have yielded results. The attacks have dropped remarkably. The tempo must be maintained and one way to do so is to transform our security networks to match the guile of terrorists.

Surveillance must be enhanced and security teams properly trained and equipped to anticipate and prevent attacks. Terrorism has mutated from the physical and brute use of force to more intelligent forms perpetrated by highly educated fellows. It now requires a higher level of sophistication to respond.

It means that public institutions such as hospitals and universities must be equipped with the resources and capacity to monitor those working there.

When it transpires that students are actively being recruited into terrorist cells, then it means that the vetting and recruitment processes at learning institutions must be revised to keep out ill-intentioned fellows.

Previously, it was thought that recruiters targeted idle school dropouts. However, it is now clear that those being radicalised are university students, the best brains and, therefore, people with conviction about their mission, however, perverted.

That is worrying. The challenge, therefore, is not just for the security agencies to intensify surveillance, but for all of us to be alert everywhere and at all times.

We must continuously check and monitor those around us and report our suspicions to the authorities. Public involvement is critical in the war against terrorists.

Advertisement

Monday May 2 2016

Make it possible to pay workers well

The question of compensation took centre stage as Kenyan workers marked Labour Day on Sunday.

The Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) was upset with the position taken by the Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE) that workers’ pay should be pegged on productivity, not an automatic increase at the end of the year, as has been the case. Instead, it should be guided by economic factors.

FKE has been campaigning against the practice of raising the minimum wage every year, arguing that this does not take cognisance of economic realities and does not distinguish between good and poor performance.

Contrastingly, Cotu has been arguing for a raise of the minimum wage to improve workers’ living conditions.

Pay for performance has become a dominant practice in the private sector, where salaries are tied to individual and organisation outputs.

This is purely capitalist thinking that disregards social concerns such as inequality and the need to cushion the vulnerable.

Governments have a duty to care for workers. They must ensure that workers earn a wage that enables them to meet their basic needs.

Most Kenyan workers are underpaid and overworked and suffer the vagaries of inflation.

Economic growth has been slow, which renders employers unable to improve workers’ pay.

Conversely, low pay is demoralising and undermines productivity. So it is a vicious cycle that defies simple solutions.

Labour issues are emotive because they strike at the heart of livelihoods. Notwithstanding that, the hard facts must be confronted.

While recognising the imperative for equality and other social obligations, it must also be acknowledged that the economics of labour have changed.

Workers have to be judged by their outputs. There must be a compulsion for individuals to achieve targets.

The government must create a conducive environment for doing business to spur economic growth and make it possible for organisations to generate sufficient revenues to give workers decent pay.

Advertisement

Monday May 2 2016

Volleyball needs inspiration

The Kenyan volleyball clubs failed to sparkle at the African Women’s Club Championship, which ended in Tunisia on Saturday.

The country’s representatives — Kenya Pipeline and Kenya Prisons — finished third and sixth respectively as Egyptian club Al Ahly retained the title. 

The performance ranks as one of the worst for Kenyan clubs after years of dominating the sport.

The two home clubs have won the continental title five times each and were expected to reach the final.

It is time the management of Kenya Pipeline and Kenya Prisons went back to the drawing board to chart a way to enable them to bounce back in next year’s competition.

Kenyan volleyball is slowly undergoing a transition and it might take some time before our clubs knock their North African rivals from the top.

Stakeholders need to work to ensure that Kenyan clubs dominate the sport once again.

In the meantime, all efforts must go into ensuring that the national women’s team’s preparations for next month’s Olympic Qualifiers are not disrupted.

With most of the national team players drawn from Prisons and Pipeline, the technical bench has its work cut out for it to inspire the girls to play well in the qualifiers.

Advertisement

Sunday May 1 2016

Tackle impunity over construction in city

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

The collapse of a building in Nairobi’s Huruma estate has once again plunged the nation into a state of mourning.

As reported elsewhere in this edition, this tragedy could well have been averted if adequate preventive steps had been taken as outlined in a probe report into yet another building collapse in the very same Huruma estate.

Many of the recommendations of the audit team were sensible and would have averted loss of life if implemented.

For example, the report which was completed in November 2015 called for comprehensive structural tests to be undertaken on all buildings classified as unsafe.

Ominously, the authors noted that the Huruma area, in which several wetlands fall, is marked by buildings of questionable structural integrity.

Many of the recommendations can as well serve as an illustration of how much the system of regulatory approval for the building of structures has failed.

For example, the fact that the report called for the removal of buildings built on sewer lines and those encroaching on road reserves and drainage way leaves underlines the fact that when it comes to securing approval to put up structures, impunity rules.

It should worry all residents of the big cities that of the 2,035 buildings surveyed, only 64 per cent were found to have attained the right structural standard.

In such a situation, it is anybody’s guess the scale of destruction that would unfold in the city if a geological event such as an earthquake occurred.

On Saturday, President Kenyatta recommended that those found to be living in structurally unsound areas be moved to alternative accommodation, something which was a centrepiece of the report handed in last year.

The authorities need to make a more serious and proactive approach to this issue. There is clearly an urgent need for a root and branch overhaul of the building approvals system to send home those who preside over corrupt cartels.

Disaster response measures must also be sharpened to ensure more lives can be saved in the immediate aftermath of such events.

More broadly, it is time for a proper discussion on how to reverse the decades of impunity which have turned areas such as Eastlands into a giant urban jungle.

Advertisement

Sunday May 1 2016

Burning ivory welcome

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

The burning of 105 tonnes of ivory and rhino horn at the Nairobi National Park on Saturday is undoubtedly an important step in global efforts to preserve these graceful animals.

Some critics have argued that it would have been more prudent to sell the stock which was worth by some estimates close to $180 million.

That is a warped argument because it would have meant that Kenya would effectively be endorsing the trade in these items and would in effect be feeding the misguided notion among those that buy them, especially in places such as China and Vietnam, that rhino horn, for example, has medicinal value.

While the torching of the ivory stock is welcome, more hard work is needed to secure the country’s elephants.

It is noteworthy that the number of deaths of jumbos and rhinos in the parks has declined. New tough laws and the appointment of Dr Richard Leakey were welcome steps to help address this menace.

However, more needs to be done to secure the national parks and also to reduce human-wildlife conflict by fencing off the parks to win the support of local communities.

The other main challenge remains in stopping the use of Kenya as a transit point for ivory.

These days, the biggest number of arrests of smugglers tends to be of those travelling through Kenya after killing jumbos in places as far apart as the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.

These individuals obviously feel they can exploit the corrupt ways for which many officials at key transit points are known.

It is a pipeline which must be shut down through the arrest and prosecution not just of the smugglers but of the officials who enable the trade too.

Advertisement

Saturday April 30 2016

Probe claims of rot at the Irrigation Board

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

The row between Water and Irrigation Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa and the National Irrigation Board is unhealthy. The role of ministers in managing parastatals under their domain is well articulated in the respective laws.

They are the appointing authority of the boards and have powers to dissolve them. More critically, they have the duty to give advice and general guidance.

However, the law also stipulates clear roles of the boards and management teams of the parastatals. Ministers are not expected to get involved in the administrative and operational processes. On the contrary, they are expected to keep a judicious distance to give them leverage to mediate and intervene where necessary.

In the case at hand, questions are being asked why the minister is getting deeply involved in board operations. The board has suspended three officials on claims of impropriety.

The law of natural justice requires that anyone accused of any misdeed must be accorded a fair trial. In the event that they are found guilty, then they must be disciplined and should the cases be criminal in nature, then they have to be charged in courts.

Procedurally, therefore, the matter should be left to take its natural course without extraneous intervention. It is not lost, though, that a petition has also been submitted in the National Assembly by Loima MP Protus Akuja, which accuses the three suspended officials of financial and procurement irregularities in regard to irrigation projects in Turkana. Put together, all is not well at the board, which justifies the need for thorough investigations.

The reason why the board is being put under scrutiny is that it is controlling large sums of money meant for food production through irrigation, building dams and other water sources.

Already there is public concern that the major irrigation programmes like the Galana-Kulalu are monumental disasters.

When claims begin to emerge about financial irregularities then we have to be worried. For this reason, Mr Wamalwa should stop getting entangled in the board and let the law takes its course.

Advertisement

Saturday April 30 2016

Heed warning from Caf

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

The damning assessment given by Confederation of African Football (CAF) on the state of five stadiums in the country is worrying. With only 18 months until the 2018 Africa Nations Championship (Chan) gets underway in Kenya, very little has been done to show that we will be ready to host the continental tournament.

Kenya was awarded the rights to host the bi-annual competition three years ago and one would have expected preparations to begin then.

However, it is sad that only the Safaricom Stadium, Kasarani, is up to the standard of hosting Chan matches. Caf requires the hosting nation to have at least four standard stadiums with state-of-the-art facilities.

The ball is squarely on the government and the football authorities’ court. Caf has given the country a deadline of September 2017 to have completed all its preparations, failure to which the event will be moved to another country.

The Jubilee government promised to build five modern stadiums, but three years down the line, work is yet to start on any of them. The government must walk the talk and ensure the country does not lose this opportunity.

Advertisement

Friday April 29 2016

Make gender equity a reality in Kenya

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

The vote in Parliament on Wednesday that sought to amend the Constitution to allow more women to join the august House was crucial because it aimed to help the country address a constitutional problem.

However, it failed because it did not meet the two-thirds threshold required by the law.

Despite lobbying by both government and opposition leaders, not all the MPs were convinced that they should support the Bill to give women a chance in the House.

This underscores the social, cultural, legal, and political challenges that we need to deal with in the push for gender equity.

The Constitution provides for the one-third gender rule in appointment or election to public offices.

However, this Parliament has woefully failed to achieve this. There are 68 female MPs consisting of 16 elected, 47 woman representatives, and five nominated.

There is no elected woman senator. Things are worse at the county level - there is no female governor.

Out of the 1,450 elected members of county assemblies, only 82 are women. Parties had to nominate 680 female MCAs to achieve the one-third gender rule.

ROUGH ELECTIVE POLITICS

Elective politics is rough and tumultuous. It is characterised by violence, scheming, manipulation, and cut-throat competition, which puts off many women.

Party nominations are worse. In many cases they are won on the strength of one’s pocket and not ability.

This is the reason alternative paths have to be created to allow proportionate representation in Parliament.

The converse, however, is that the nominated MPs must give a good account of themselves by making substantive contributions and fully participating in national discourse.

MPs have another chance next week to revisit the matter and they must support the Motion because it is crucial for women’s empowerment.

However, parties must also reform themselves to promote internal democracy and allow more women to get tickets to seek parliamentary and county assembly seats. 

Advertisement

Friday April 29 2016

Solve tea land row amicably

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

The controversy over some tea companies’ old land leases does not augur well for the sub-sector, which is a major contributor to the income of some counties and national development.

Local politicians have a right to get interested in the matter as it has a bearing on the future ownership of the land.

They have been demanding that multinational companies disclose when their leases are set to expire, in line with the implementation of the Constitution, which reduced the leases from 999 to 99 years.

Land ownership is an emotive issue that needs to be handled with great care.

It is becoming increasingly evident in Nandi County that the matter is being overly politicised.

The Ministry of Lands and the National Land Commission must provide the leadership needed to amicably resolve the matter.

There is a need, however, to avoid actions that could disrupt the operations of the tea companies.

Most of the 16 firms in the area, which employ some 50,000 people, are owned by British investors, who have over the years dedicated themselves to the production of tea, a major foreign exchange earner.

Some might have benefited from forced land acquisition, but this is a delicate matter that calls for order.

Advertisement

Thursday April 28 2016

Summit sets agenda for war on poaching

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

The Giant’s Club Summit, the biggest assembly in Africa on wildlife conservation, taking place in Nanyuki this week, rightfully puts Kenya at the centre of global campaigns to end poaching.

A gathering that brings together several African heads of state, corporate moguls such as Richard Branson, renowned conservationists and philanthropists as well as world celebrities, the meeting provides a platform to develop a continent-wide approach to curbing illegal trade in wildlife. Nothing could be more appropriate.

Kenya and several other African countries are facing a poaching crisis, especially of the elephant for ivory.

Statistics show that some 100,000 elephants were killed on the continent in the past three years.

In the past two years, Kenya, for instance, has witnessed a return of big-time game poaching.

Moreover, traders in illegal ivory found safety transiting through the country as they had local backers.

Yet for Kenya, elephants and other big-name animals constitute the basis for its tourism, itself a major revenue earner.

Joining a global partnership is the noble thing to do because trade in ivory and other animal artefacts is an inextricable international network.

Significantly, the summit will be crowned with the burning of some 120 tonnes of ivory on Saturday at the Nairobi National Park, a powerful testimony to Kenya’s commitment to ending the illegal trade.

For Kenya, the challenge is moving beyond the summit and the symbolic burning of ivory to institutionalising effective anti-poaching initiatives.

Evidence shows that campaigns against poaching work in cycles - highly intensified at certain times and relaxed at others.

We must have a solid and foolproof system that protects game and underscores our commitment to conservation.

This means intensifying surveillance, equipping the Kenya Wildlife Service with modern technology to beat poachers, enforcing strict regulations, and eternal vigilance.

Advertisement

Thursday April 28 2016

Make South Sudan deal work

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

Following the swearing-in on Tuesday of Dr Riek Machar as vice-president of South Sudan, the country, which has not known peace for nearly two years, now has a chance to chart a bold new path to stability and progress.

Dr Machar resumes a position that he held until he was sacked, sparking off the bloodletting that has marred the dream of a prosperous new nation.

That promise evaporated as former allies became deadly foes.

The vice-president’s return had been held up for long due to disagreements on security arrangements, a pointer to the fact that the mutual mistrust and suspicion between him and President Salva Kiir will not go away overnight.

But credit goes to the international community, especially the United Nations and the foreign diplomats involved in the negotiations, for keeping up the faith.

It is now up to President Kiir and Dr Machar to put aside their egos and make every effort to bring South Sudan back on track.

Leaders come and go, but the nation will always remain.

The two must, for the sake of their people, do all they can to make this new arrangement work so that the job of reconstruction can begin in earnest.

Never again should South Sudan allow itself to be drawn into another bloody political feud.

Advertisement

Wednesday April 27 2016

Chase Bank revival for future reference

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

The reopening of Chase Bank on Wednesday marks a major turning point in the financial services that has gone through turbulence in recent times.

It is proof enough that the financial markets can be rescued from collapse through concerted and timely actions by the regulator, the Central Bank of Kenya, and other interested parties, in this case the Kenya Commercial Bank.

When the Central Bank closed Chase Bank about a fortnight ago, there was a hue and cry, with depositors agonising over the fate of their savings that would have gone down the drain if the bank had gone under. Coming in the wake of the collapse of Dubai and Imperial banks, whose future remains uncertain, the market required a well-thought-out strategy to create stability.

It is to be hoped that the banking crisis has provided vital lessons. First, banking regulations seem to have been taken for granted and some lenders were allowed to flout rules without penalties because the Central Bank was slow to act. Never again should this be allowed to happen. Central Bank Governor Patrick Njoroge, who has acknowledged this, must stridently enforce the rules. As provided for in the Banking Act, routine inspections must be conducted and reports made available for public information.

Second, unorthodox practices must be uprooted, specifically falsifying books. Ethical practices must prevail and banks must be managed on the principles of truth and accuracy.

Third, experts have argued that there are too many banks chasing after few depositors and in the rat race, some offer deals that they cannot sustain. So, depending on how things pan out in the Chase Bank case under the management of KCB, other banks in financial distress may have to go that route.

The critical point for now is that KCB’s revival package puts Chase Bank back on its feet, ensures that it sustains itself, and ultimately provides a model to rescue other faltering banks. 

Advertisement

Wednesday April 27 2016

Boost road rescue teams

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

It is a monumental shame that a single accident brought the Nairobi-Mombasa highway to a standstill for 12 hours. It is also a mockery of our nation’s organisation and level of development. This happened on Sunday night when a truck rolled at Athi River and blocked the highway. Travellers spent the night in a gridlock that even a rudimentary emergency rescue team should have cleared in less than an hour.

As this was not the first such incident, we should have learnt from the past how to quickly unlock such a mess. Where were the National Transport and Safety Authority and the police highway patrol teams? Couldn’t they have hired or borrowed a helicopter to reach the scene and clear the road? More importantly, what are the contingency plans when such a mishap occurs?

There has been a remarkable development of infrastructure, with the building of bypasses in the recent past, but more are needed to ensure continuous traffic flow on highways.

Could the transport authority and traffic police also address the perennial time-wasting weekend traffic jams on the Nakuru-Nairobi highway that begin at Gilgil? Getting trapped on roads is a definition of backwardness.

Advertisement

Tuesday April 26 2016

Settle matter of the elections team now

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

Monday’s forceful ejection of Cord leaders by police as they attempted to storm the electoral commission’s offices in Nairobi was inevitable, but it sends strong and ominous signals that the country is sitting on a time bomb.

It portends ill for the future of the country’s politics and particularly next year’s elections slated for August.

The opposition is disenchanted with the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission and is getting desperate, which is dangerous. It is likely to resort to unorthodox means such as mass action to force its agenda. From past experience, we know that mass action breeds violence and death.

At the heart of the matter is the contention that the IEBC cannot be relied upon to supervise an election. The way it bungled the last elections, where it brought in faulty electronic gadgets and the subsequent delays in releasing the results, ruined the commission’s reputation.

Moreover, the commission has not extricated itself from fraud claims in which some of its commissioners and officials were accused in a London court of taking bribes from British printers contracted to prepare voting materials.

Various groups such as the Catholic bishops and the National Council of Churches of Kenya and the Central Organisation of Trade Unions have made this point in the past few days.

However, the use of force to eject the IEBC commissioners is unwarranted. Cord must act with decorum in its pursuit of change.

When the country was faced with such a situation in the countdown to the 1997 elections and the opposition organised street protests to push for electoral reforms, the Kanu administration was forced to climb down and agreed to the constitution of the Inter-Parties Parliamentary Group, which penned an agreement on the composition and nomination of commissioners to the electoral commission.

We have an example to borrow from. The Jubilee administration and Cord must sit down and agree on a plan to reform the commission.

Advertisement

Tuesday April 26 2016

Heed advice on hospitals

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

The philosophy behind devolving health services is a sound one. The objective is to take the services to the grassroots. However, none of the 47 counties has had a smooth run as far as the management of health services is concerned.

The frequent strikes by doctors and other health workers are a manifestation of an ailing sector. The counties have shown that they are incapable of managing the big hospitals under their jurisdiction. This has led to many highly trained professionals quitting county hospitals for the private sector.

It is going to take a lot of resources and effort to build the capacity of counties to effectively manage health services. Both the national and county governments, therefore, need to seriously consider an appeal by two prominent medical experts on the running of referral hospitals.

Prof Richard Muga, a former National Hospital Insurance Fund chairman, and Prof George Magoha, a former vice-chancellor of the University of Nairobi, are calling on the national government to take over all the referral hospitals.

The county referral hospitals should be fully equipped to ease the burden on the Kenyatta National Hospital and Moi Referral Hospital. Decongesting the two will free them to deal with more complex referral cases.

Advertisement

Sunday April 24 2016

Stem looming row over yellow fever

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

The delay in providing the yellow fever vaccine for travellers stranded at the Busia and Malaba border points is yet another non-tariff barrier to trade between Kenya and Uganda.

The delay, besides souring relations between the two countries, has also inconvenienced hundreds of individuals seeking to carry out business across the borders of the two countries.

Among those stranded are truck drivers ferrying goods either for import or export. Both governments need to find a quick and lasting solution to this problem in the interest of their citizens and economies.

One of the requirements for the yellow fever vaccine is that one must get it at least 10 days before travelling.

It would appear, however, that this rule has been enforced without prior notice to all those concerned, meaning that even those who present themselves for clearance at border points cannot proceed with their journeys because they have to wait for 10 days.

Whereas one cannot fault the Kenyan Government for seeking to protect its citizens and keep its borders free of yellow fever, there is a need to communicate this requirement to the countries affected in good time to reduce the inconvenience that travellers suffer at border points and to facilitate the smooth flow of people and goods across borders.

There is also a need to ensure that the vaccine is made readily available at border points and in hospitals in the border regions so that those who wish to get it can do so without having to travel to either Nairobi or Kampala.

Mapping the regions affected by the disease can also help to determine which travellers can be cleared to travel if their regions of origin are not affected by the disease.

Unless a pragmatic solution is found, there is a risk of the problem sparking a needless diplomatic row between neighbours.

Advertisement

Sunday April 24 2016

Good tidings in sports

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

Something good is happening in Kenyan sports. From Harambee Starlets qualifying for their maiden Africa Cup of Nations finals, the Kenya Sevens winning their first-ever World Rugby Sevens Series cup in Singapore, the performance of Kenyans at the World Half Marathon, to President Uhuru Kenyatta signing the 2016 Anti-Doping Bill into law, things are suddenly looking up.

It is inspiring to see the government rewarding these performances and the President honouring the sports men and women at State House. This should spur other sports to up their game.

Although behind schedule, the Ministry of Sports has moved to ensure that the five institutions to be set up under the 2013 Sports Act — the Kenya Academy of Sports, Sports Kenya, the Sports Tribunal, the Registrar of Sports, and the Sports Fund — are finally beginning to function.

The government and sports federations must work together to strengthen these institutions to improve sports in the country.

This should go beyond merely rewarding athletes to setting up structures to help identify and nurture talent in all sports. The Sports Academy at Kasarani must set up more centres across the country to enable Kenya to participate in more disciplines at the Olympics than just athletics, rugby, and boxing.

Advertisement

Sunday April 24 2016

Big money factor in campaigns worrying

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

Across the country, aspirants for various electoral positions have begun making their case to the public as to why they are the best bet for voters in 2017.

It is true that campaigns in many democracies kick off unofficially well before the official 21-day campaign period spelt out in law.

One of the most disturbing aspects about politics in Kenya, though, is how important the role of money has become in determining the winners of electoral contests, particularly in the last decade.

The days in the 1970s and 1980s when aspirants would jointly address rallies and sell their policies at mini-debates in various parts of the country seem to be firmly in the past.

Now, particularly for the most sought-after positions of President, Governor, Member of County Assembly and MP, it appears that what counts most is not the personal character, intellect, integrity and policies of contestants but simply what amount of money they have amassed, by means fair or foul, and are ready to spend to win.

It goes without saying that this approach to elections fosters a culture of corruption where aspirants at all levels consider that they have bought their seats and earned a ticket to continue to engage in unorthodox means to raise campaign funds.

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission has published a set of regulations designed to monitor and regulate how much political parties and candidates spend on elections. This is, of course, an exercise in futility. The fact parties are supposed to self-report on their source of funds means compliance is highly unlikely.

The IEBC, by failing to punish outright violations of the law in past campaigns, including during the recent by-elections, has left itself with little moral authority to take action on such issues.

Ultimately, the most powerful players in this situation are the voters. They can opt to cast their votes on the basis of an objective assessment of the candidates campaigning for public office rather than simply backing those that have the deepest pockets.

It is virtually impossible to legislate effectively to stop the splashing of huge sums during elections.

But voters can render the activities of deep pocketed politicians standing on an empty platform null by choosing to support only individuals with a solid policy base and a promise to conduct themselves with integrity once in office.

Advertisement

Sunday April 24 2016

End row at legal council

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

The confusion over the leadership of the Council for Legal Education needs to be ended soon to ensure the key body tasked with overseeing legal training can undertake its responsibilities properly.

Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua has moved to dissolve the board on the strength of an amendment in Parliament which capped the tenure of board members from four years to three. A judgment on April 4 by Justice George Odunga also found that the board was improperly constituted.

In addition, a petition has been tabled seeking to oust the chief executive, who is said to have attained retirement age. The petitioner has asked for the board to be dissolved, too, arguing that the move would be in line with the court judgment and the amendments passed by Parliament.

The standoff over this matter is unfortunate because it potentially exposes hundreds of learners to legal limbo if the CLE is not able to discharge its mandate.

One of the council’s key responsibilities is the accreditation and licensing of legal education providers and it plays a key role in the renewal of licences, termination, suspension, revocation of licences and the closure plan of legal education providers.

This is a critical mandate that should be exercised by a properly constituted council board and executive whose own legal mandate is not the subject of dispute.

All the parties involved need to get their act together and end the unseemly stalemate, which seems to put the body that regulates legal education in a situation where it has fallen afoul of the law.

It is unacceptable to subject students to unnecessary anxiety and to allow the activities of such a key institution to grind to a halt due to boardroom wrangling.

Advertisement

Saturday April 23 2016

Heed clergies’ call for reforms ahead of polls

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

Friday’s statement by the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) that enumerates critical challenges facing the country cannot be ignored.

Top on the list is the concern over the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), which is seen as tainted and tattered and incapable of delivering a credible election, and hence should be dissolved.

Secondly, the council has expressed grave fears over the state of the Judiciary, which besides a transition crisis, is bedevilled with claims of corruption and lethargy. Third, the clergy are worried by the level of political intolerance, which, as happened in the past, breeds deep resentment that easily culminates in violence.

Only recently, the Catholic bishops came out forcefully to express their discontent over the state of national affairs, saying the country was headed for ruins unless the political class changes its errant ways.

Similarly, the Catholics were categorical that the IEBC and the Judiciary, particularly the Supreme Court, were very hamstrung and could not be depended upon to deliver on their mandates.

These distress calls are not without basis. Increasingly, the country appears to be hurtling dangerously towards the cliff, with politicians inflaming passions and poisoning the environment and unconsciously preparing the perfect ground for violence.

This is the reason why the clergy’s call for a national dialogue and reconciliation to cool the temperatures is apt. Similar calls have been made by the Opposition but have been spurned by the ruling coalition.

Despite the tribulations that we went through in the 2007/8 post-election violence, the country seems not to have learnt the bitter lessons.

Fundamental issues relating to governance and co-existence have not been addressed. So, the embers are burning beneath the ash.

The IEBC and electoral process must be reformed if the country is to realise a peaceful and credible election next year. 

As currently constituted, the commission is a damaged good. But importantly, the political class must address itself to the festering tensions that are likely to explode with tragic consequences.

Advertisement

Saturday April 23 2016

New law good for athletes

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

The signing into law by President Uhuru Kenyatta of the 2015 Anti-Doping Bill has ushered in a new era for cleaner sports.

First, the law will ensure that Kenya is not punished by the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) for missing the May 2 compliance deadline. But most importantly, it will rein in the cheats — the athletes and those vending the banned substances.

Indeed, over 40 Kenyan athletes have been banned for doping in the last three years. But on a brighter note, Kenya topped the medal standings for the first time during last year’s World Athletics Championships in Beijing. Many now want to replicate this in the forthcoming Rio Olympics.

Now, any athlete found guilty of using banned substances will be liable to a Sh1 million fine or a three-year jail term. Anybody who deals in the prohibited substances will be liable to a jail term of three years or a fine of Sh3 million or both.

This is good news for those who have been running clean. Similar laws have been in use in countries such as Italy and Germany.

Advertisement

Thursday April 21 2016

Let schools buy books

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

The decision by the government to take back the role of procuring and distributing books to public schools raises a number of questions.

First, it is tantamount to a return to the very system that was found wanting, necessitating the change that enabled schools to buy books directly.

Second, the government should ask itself why a system that worked so well when free primary education was introduced in 2003 has now failed.

Under the School Equipment Scheme, cartels thrived, with many schools hardly receiving their allotments and delays making a mockery of an otherwise noble idea.

Instead of creating yet another monolithic bureaucracy, the ministry should streamline the current system as it is, indeed, true that some booksellers collude with headteachers to inflate quotations or pretend to have supplied books.

Letting schools buy books directly makes sense as the institutions know their actual needs. Indeed, the real problem is the devolving of corruption in school supplies. However, centralising procurement will only create an opportunity for even bigger cartels to profit.

There is a need to enforce strict regular inspections by education officers to ensure that books said to have been bought are actually in schools.

Advertisement

Thursday April 21 2016

Take concrete steps to enforce austerity

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

President Uhuru Kenyatta is pushing for austerity measures to cut government spending, insisting on putting resources in areas with high returns to the taxpayers.

To demonstrate the resolve to cut costs, together with Deputy President William Ruto, he opted for a salary cut to free some cash to cater for other crucial services. However, his call to top public officers to follow suit was not heeded.

Austerity is critical at times of financial squeeze, such as now when hard choices have to be made to steer the economy. The just-concluded Cabinet retreat in Naivasha reinforced this view with the resolution to freeze new projects and make the completion of the existing ones a priority.

However, the reality on the ground is at variance with this thinking. The proposed supplementary budget prepared by Treasury and now under discussion in Parliament has allocated an additional Sh775 million to the presidency for entertainment and travel.

This is in addition to the Sh925 million allotted in July at the start of this financial year. Put together, the presidency’s hospitality and travel budget shoots up to Sh1.7 billion, comparing oddly with the Sh231.4 million given out the previous financial year. More pointedly, the presidency overshot its hospitality and travel budget within six months — July to December — by more than Sh70 million.

Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich justified the proposed increases on the grounds that the hospitality and travel costs for the presidency are difficult to predict, hence cannot be adequately provided for. However, this not a new problem.

Finance ministers have always found ways around it and made appropriate provisions. Although the trips are justified on the grounds that they translate to financial deals that benefit the country, they need to be managed.

Given President Kenyatta’s push to reduce spending, he should lead from the front. His office must substantially reduce spending by, for example, minimising foreign travel and hospitality costs.

Advertisement

Thursday April 21 2016

Tackle the problems afflicting counties

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

The third devolution conference that opened on Wednesday in Meru comes at a time when county governments are under intense scrutiny over their performance.

Devolution is perceived as a panacea to decades of inequality and marginalisation where some regions were favoured in terms of access to State resources at the expense of others.

This created resentment and mistrust among communities.

Devolution has ensured equitable distribution of resources to counties and empowered communities at the grassroots to make decisions on their development plans.

Many projects have been initiated by the county governments and they have transformed lives.

However, the journey to a fully developed governance system is still bumpy.

Top officials of the national government have continued to fight the counties and placed obstacles in their way at every turn.

Resources to counties have not been forthcoming, on time, and in sufficient amounts.

PERENNIAL WRANGLES

Perennial wrangles obtain between the national and county governments over finances and management of functions such as health and infrastructure.

Three years may not be a sufficient length of time, but evidence is emerging on the performance of the counties.

Mismanagement of resources, fraud, corruption, and nepotism are prevalent at the counties.

Although the counties are entitled to funding from the national government, in principle, they are also expected to generate their own revenues. This has not been forthcoming.

The conference, therefore, should afford the governors the opportunity to review what they have done thus far and what ought to be done to deliver, according to the spirit of devolution.

The governors must resolve to curb wastage, corruption, lethargy, nepotism, and wrangles that threaten the future of counties.

The conference should move from being a mere political jamboree for self-aggrandisement to a forum for meaningful discussions that ultimately translate to improved services.

Advertisement

Thursday April 21 2016

HIV insurance healthy idea

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

The planned introduction of a National Health Insurance Fund cover for HIV patients is good news for them and their families.

If implemented, it will ease access to vital medication and enable those infected to keep opportunistic illnesses at bay, thus improving the quality of their lives.

With 100,000 new infections every year, HIV remains a significant health challenge as the cost of providing life-prolonging antiretroviral drugs is high.

According to the National HIV and Aids Estimates report, Sh1.75 trillion will be required to prevent 1.5 million new infections by 2030.

The enormity of this burden is evident in the fact that about 1.6 million Kenyans are living with HIV, 191,840 of them children.

TIME BOMB

Unless they can get access to antiretroviral drugs, these people are literally staring death in the face.

HIV, more prevalent in the productive segment of society, is a time bomb that must be defused.

The National Aids Control Council is upbeat about a feasibility study that could see HIV treatment included in the NHIF coverage.

The government spends Sh20,000 on one patient’s ARV treatment in a year.

The health insurance scheme will reduce this cost. The insurance proposal is a great idea that should be speeded up.   

Advertisement

Wednesday April 20 2016

Film board’s order is unconstitutional

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

The new directive by the Kenya Film Classification Board outlawing what it calls “immoral” commercial advertisements is misguided and unconstitutional.

The board is over-reaching itself, arrogating itself powers it does not have and is seeking to enforce a rule of terrorism in the media industry.

In the directive issued Tuesday, the board’s chief executive, Mr Ezekiel Mutua, outlaws advertisements on alcoholic products, condoms, and those with “sexual innuendo” between 5am and 10pm.

This is an affront to the Constitution and various other laws.

Article 46 of the Constitution stipulates that consumers have a right to accurate and proper information to make the right choices about products and goods. 

Further, it provides that it is Parliament that should make laws to protect consumers and ensure fair and honest advertising.

Regulations on alcohol are provided for under the Alcoholic Drinks Control Act.

Established under Cap 222, the board’s role is to regulate films and stage plays, not commercial adverts.

Therefore, it defeats logic why it should get into commercial advertisements on television.

At any rate, the classification is faulty.

Declaring, for example, items such as condom adverts immoral is misguided at a time when the government is fighting HIV/Aids and other sexually transmitted infections.

The era of State regulation is long gone.

The practice is self-regulation and not a boardroom affair by some insidious government agency that seems clueless about its mandate and priorities.

Media organisations have in-house and industry policies and regulations that guide the adverts they publish or put on air.

Similarly, advertising practitioners have a code or regulations developed by the industry that provide clear standards and ethical principles.

These breaches of the law by the likes of Mr Mutua, who are trying to clutch on to anything to remain relevant, are unacceptable.

Let the board confine itself to its mandate and leave the industry to regulate itself.

Advertisement

Wednesday April 20 2016

Kenya Sevens team welcome a befitting honour

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

The rousing welcome given to the world-beating Kenya Sevens rugby team on their return Tuesday from Singapore, where they won glory for the country, is a big honour to the players by compatriots who appreciate their monumental feat.

It is during moments like this one that many forget their political and other differences and rally together as a people proud of being Kenyans.

It is also a manifestation of the potential of sport to unite Kenyans in celebration of great national achievements.

Since their marvellous win in the international rugby tournament, all the rave has been about all Kenyans, and not just the few young men who trounced Fiji.

Besides athletics, we have been starved of success in sports, with woeful performances in football.

But the rugby players are making the nation proud and they and their officials deserve congratulations for an excellent job.

This is about national success and pride and we hope the foundation has been laid to make the country savour more moments like this one. 

Though this is the first cup win, the country has for years made a strong showing in this segment of rugby.

It should inspire the 15s team to replicate this, and also the soccer players and others to immortalise Kenya as a great sporting nation.

Advertisement

Tuesday April 19 2016

Address issues that trouble the country

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

President Kenyatta is leading a three-day Cabinet retreat in Naivasha whose core objective is to review and prioritise projects and programmes to be undertaken in the next financial year that begins in July.

A retreat of this nature affords the national leadership the opportunity to conduct self-appraisal, consolidate achievements made, and revise targets where necessary. The key areas of focus are national security, infrastructure development, devolution, national cohesion, and governance.

On the whole, the government has restored security in the past year and citizens now feel relatively safer. However, that is not to say that terrorism and other forms of violence and criminal activities have been completed dealt with.

Some work has been done on infrastructure, especially the first phase of the standard gauge railway line to Nairobi, which is expected to be completed by mid-next year. The government has made progress in expanding power supply. The health sector has recorded mixed results.

Little has been done on roads and water supply. Major projects started by the previous administration such as Konza City and the Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport Corridor project have been grounded. Devolution has largely taken root but is afflicted by challenges such as inadequate funding, corruption, and incessant wrangles.

It is surprising that corruption is not a key item on the agenda, yet this remains the single most debilitating factor against national growth. The level of corruption under the current administration is mind-boggling. Unfortunately, there is no political and administrative resolve to tackle it.

If this retreat is to make a difference, it should resolve to kick out all the corrupt officials in government, charge them in court, and seize their ill-gotten wealth.
The President and the Cabinet must also tackle profligate spending in government, exclusion and marginalisation of some communities, as well as unemployment and youth empowerment.

Advertisement

Tuesday April 19 2016

Stop wasting public funds

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

Two wrongs do not make a right. This is the message that should go out to the members of county assemblies who are accusing the Auditor-General and Controller of Budget of unfairly targeting them over wasteful foreign trips.

It is foolhardy of the MCAs to suggest that just because some governors are guilty of misusing billions of shillings on foreign travel, theirs should not be scrutinised.

Past audits have exposed wanton wastage of public funds on the so-called benchmarking trips overseas. As the custodians of public funds, the Auditor-General’s and Controller of Budget’s offices have every right to question irregular or unjustified spending.

Sh1.95 billion was spent by the 47 counties in just three months last year. While it, indeed, makes sense to seek to learn from others, there is a need to rationalise this.

The officials should either pick a few representatives or invite experts from the countries they intend to learn from.

It is also possible, thanks to advances in information technology, to have virtual visits instead. It makes even more sense to encourage exchange visits to brainstorm on problems and seek solutions instead of trying to learn from foreign countries at a much higher level of development, and with little immediate relevance.

Advertisement

Monday April 18 2016

Hasten clean-up to restore youth plan

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

The National Youth Service, an initiative meant to equip young people with skills to enable them to not only earn an honest living, but also contribute to national development, has, sadly, become a source of agony for the intended beneficiaries.

As the NYS reels under the scandal in which nearly Sh791 million was looted by well-connected operatives, there are other woes.

One is the saga of 8,000 trainees who were sent away from the NYS Training Institute at Gilgil after a delay of more than five months in their passing out.

Secondly, many of the young people who had started income-generating projects and savings and credit societies with assistance from the NYS are now stuck as no funding has been forthcoming since the scandal was exposed.

Young people who had saved millions of shillings in the NYS youth empowerment programme no longer have access to it and, as a result, their projects have stalled.

The programme had engaged 10,000 youth, who earned Sh471 each day. They put a bit of their income into savings. The assurance by NYS officials that the young people’s savings in their various saccos are safe, though laudable, is not an answer to the desperation in which they are wallowing.

Also, having 8,000 young men and women idle at home after acquiring employable skills is disappointing. The frustration suffered after they were given a glimpse of a better life on graduation from the NYS could drive some of them into crime.

And these could turn out to be more deadly criminals using their paramilitary skills. Also likely to drift into crime are the hordes of young people across the country who, at the height of the revamped NYS, were assured of a regular income as they were engaged in clean-up campaigns in the slums and other projects.

However, there is some hope as the new leadership at the NYS tries to clear the mess and restore hope in the institution. The process should be speeded up to get the programme back on track.

Advertisement

Monday April 18 2016

Well done, Kenya Sevens

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

The Kenya Sevens rugby team has once again done the country proud, winning the Singapore Sevens, their first victory in the World Sevens Series since their first appearance on invitation in the inaugural tournament in 1999 in Dubai.

Stunning Fiji, who are not only the series defending champions but also the current leaders, 30-7 is no mean feat. It certainly is a big victory for the team’s coach, Benjamin Ayimba, who was in the Kenyan team that Fiji thrashed 71-0 at the 1998 Commonwealth Games.

With two legs remaining to wrap up the series, the victory in Singapore should give Kenya Sevens the momentum they need ahead of the Rio Olympic Games.

The victory sends a clear message to the Kenya Rugby Union and the team’s sponsors, Kenya Airways, that given the right conditions, the Kenya Sevens can excel. Besides ensuring that the players and the technical bench are well remunerated, it is our hope that the team will be accorded the support it needs to prepare well for the Olympics.

The union’s board should desist from interfering with the management of the team as such actions have in the past led to the players going on strike. The new management team led by Richard Omwela should strive to get more sponsorship to enable Kenya Sevens to prepare adequately.

Advertisement

Sunday April 17 2016

Let a new chapter of reconciliation begin

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

It is an unfortunate reality of Kenyan politics that hardly any issue emerges without splitting members of the two main coalitions down the middle.

The collapse of the case involving Deputy President William Ruto, coming just over a year after a similar case against President Uhuru Kenyatta ended in The Hague, was certainly a major development.

It is fair to say that the trials at the International Criminal Court were perhaps the most significant and closely watched judicial proceedings in the country since independence.

A judicial process can end in a variety of ways and it was inevitable that there would have been those who were satisfied or dissatisfied with the outcome whichever way the cases went.

What is important, though, is for all sides to find a way to unite the country and forge a way forward that shows some lessons were learnt from the 2007/2008 violence, an episode which, without the valiant efforts of international mediators, nearly tipped the country into civil war.
The post-election violence in January/February 2008 was one of the worst chapters in modern Kenyan history.

Neighbour turned against neighbour and blood flowed in numerous parts of the country, catching the attention of a watching global audience shocked at the campaign of murder and displacement in a country long viewed as a bedrock of stability in the region.

The police shot into crowds of protesters, increasing the sense of siege, deepening grievances and resulting in the killing of hundreds.

By the end of January, more than 1,000 people had been killed and hundreds of thousands had been displaced. Many others suffered terrible sexual violence including assaults on both men and women. To this day, some women bear the scars of that violence, including those who contracted venereal diseases from their attackers and those who ended up delivering babies after the sexual attacks against them.

REUNITING THE NATION

It is not an easy task reuniting a nation after such a vicious period of violence and upheaval.

That task will be made harder if the politicians continue tearing the fabric of the nation apart by engaging in verbal assaults against each other over the outcome of the cases.

Given how ethnically polarised the nation remains and considering that Kenyans place great stock in the pronouncements of the political leaders from the various parts of the country, a heated exchange of words between them does little to advance the cause of national cohesion.

All the sides need to retreat and consider that it is possible to find a common cause over some of the issues at play.

Perhaps the most critical of these is the sensible demand by judges in The Hague, including the presiding judge Chile Eboe-Osuji, that the victims should receive compensation for their suffering. Action needs to be taken on this front urgently. In particular, the integrated internally displaced persons who did not receive any compensation because they did not have the same levels of publicity that those who were in camps did.

Records also exist detailing the names of those who were killed. In addition, Amnesty International recently produced a detailed report on the ongoing suffering of the victims of sexual violence many of whom are in dire need of counselling and many of whom continue to suffer as a result of what they went through.

All these groups need attention. But as stated before in this space, this programme must not be turned into a channel to misappropriate public funds.

In the meantime, and to improve the chances of national cohesion across the board, it is essential that both the leadership of the Government and the Opposition find a way to read from the same hymn-sheet on this most important of issues.

This is not a moment for triumphalism or recriminations. Instead, this should be a chance to draw lessons from the terrible violence the country witnessed.

Bringing the nation together to tackle the many national challenges that exist is a better approach than engaging in bitter infighting over this issue which nearly tore the country apart.

Ensuring that violence is not repeated should be the duty of each and every one in a position to foster national unity.

Advertisement

Saturday April 16 2016

Political tension not good for the country

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

Two major rallies planned for Saturday in Nakuru and Nairobi by Jubilee and Cord coalitions respectively have all the ingredients of political fireworks and intransigence that undermine the peace and tranquillity of the country.

Going by the events of the past few days, where President Uhuru Kenyatta and Cord leader Raila Odinga have been hurling stinging statements at each other in the wake of the collapse of the Kenyan cases at The Hague, the environment is already poisoned.

Given that background, the two rallies are likely to be turned into the theatre of vitriol with each opposing side insulting and attacking the other with potentially dangerous outcomes. Already, each side of the political divide is mobilising supporters to turn out in large numbers to show might.

The Jubilee rally in Nakuru is billed to be a thanksgiving event following the termination of the two cases of Deputy President William Ruto and journalist Joshua Sang’ that were remaining at the International Criminal Court.

Contrastingly, the other rally in Nairobi organised by Cord is to show solidarity with the victims of the post-election violence. These are mere smokescreens that belie the real objectives of the rallies.

Positions taken by the two coalitions clearly point to an increasingly polarised political environment. Similar situation obtained in the run-up to the 2007 elections, whose outcomes were contested and led to the massive killings, injuries and displacements and nearly tore the country right in the middle.

Political intolerance exhibited by both Jubilee and Cord coalitions is quite frightening. Neither seems to have learnt from the past. But we want to caution both camps to stop the pervasive acts of provocation, intolerance and obstinacy.

Both camps should conduct their rallies respectfully and desist from vitriol and diatribe that are likely to light fires. President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga should act with restraint and avoid the public broadsides. They must rein in their lieutenants and supporters and stop them from acts of incitement.

Advertisement

Saturday April 16 2016

Starlets need our support

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

The women’s national football team, Harambee Starlets, received plenty of congratulations from across the country after they qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON). The country has been starved of a big victory in football for many years, hence the celebrations after the Starlets super show against Algeria at Kasarani on Tuesday.

The Starlets delivered what many Kenyans had been yearning for, especially in the wake of Harambee Stars’ flop in their bid to qualify for three events — the 2015 African Games, the 2016 Rio Olympics and the 2017 AFCON.
The Starlets drew 1-1 with Algeria at Kasarani for a 3-3 aggregate to qualify for the AFCON finals to be held in Cameroon in November. It was a historic moment as the Starlets, mainly comprising students, sailed through on away goals. It is the first time Kenya has ever qualified for the continental games.

While we congratulate Starlets, Football Kenya Federation now has the task of ensuring that the team prepares well for the Cameroon games. The girls need strength and conditioning, and quality build-up matches. Politics must be avoided. As they say, never change a winning outfit.

Advertisement

Saturday April 16 2016

Political tension not good for the country

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

Two major rallies planned for Saturday in Nakuru and Nairobi by Jubilee and Cord coalitions respectively have all the ingredients of political fireworks and intransigence that undermine the peace and tranquillity of the country.

Going by the events of the past few days, where President Uhuru Kenyatta and Cord leader Raila Odinga have been hurling stinging statements at each other in the wake of the collapse of the Kenyan cases at The Hague, the environment is already poisoned.

Given that background, the two rallies are likely to be turned into the theatre of vitriol with each opposing side insulting and attacking the other with potentially dangerous outcomes. Already, each side of the political divide is mobilising supporters to turn out in large numbers to show might.

The Jubilee rally in Nakuru is billed to be a thanksgiving event following the termination of the two cases of Deputy President William Ruto and journalist Joshua Sang’ that were remaining at the International Criminal Court.

Contrastingly, the other rally in Nairobi organised by Cord is to show solidarity with the victims of the post-election violence. These are mere smokescreens that belie the real objectives of the rallies.

Positions taken by the two coalitions clearly point to an increasingly polarised political environment. Similar situation obtained in the run-up to the 2007 elections, whose outcomes were contested and led to the massive killings, injuries and displacements and nearly tore the country right in the middle.

Political intolerance exhibited by both Jubilee and Cord coalitions is quite frightening. Neither seems to have learnt from the past. But we want to caution both camps to stop the pervasive acts of provocation, intolerance and obstinacy.

Both camps should conduct their rallies respectfully and desist from vitriol and diatribe that are likely to light fires. President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga should act with restraint and avoid the public broadsides. They must rein in their lieutenants and supporters and stop them from acts of incitement.

Advertisement

Saturday April 16 2016

Starlets need our support

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

The women’s national football team, Harambee Starlets, received plenty of congratulations from across the country after they qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON). The country has been starved of a big victory in football for many years, hence the celebrations after the Starlets super show against Algeria at Kasarani on Tuesday.

The Starlets delivered what many Kenyans had been yearning for, especially in the wake of Harambee Stars’ flop in their bid to qualify for three events — the 2015 African Games, the 2016 Rio Olympics and the 2017 AFCON.
The Starlets drew 1-1 with Algeria at Kasarani for a 3-3 aggregate to qualify for the AFCON finals to be held in Cameroon in November. It was a historic moment as the Starlets, mainly comprising students, sailed through on away goals. It is the first time Kenya has ever qualified for the continental games.

While we congratulate Starlets, Football Kenya Federation now has the task of ensuring that the team prepares well for the Cameroon games. The girls need strength and conditioning, and quality build-up matches. Politics must be avoided. As they say, never change a winning outfit.

Advertisement

Thursday April 14 2016

Identify and nurture talent

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

The just-ended National Drama Festival has once again showcased the fact that the country is teeming with talent. The items, ranging from dance, verse and stand-up comedy to narratives demonstrate that there is great potential for the entertainment industry that needs to be nurtured.

It is sad that these budding stars just fade away, yet, given support and encouragement, they could make a difference in showbiz, a lucrative area that other countries have hugely benefited from. 

For us, it is a sort of conveyor belt of talent from the schools to the national stage and nowhere else. Only a handful ever go on to develop careers in singing or acting.

There has always been a chorus about the need to develop talent without ever coming up with a systematic way of doing so.

However, there could just be light at the end of the tunnel with the proposed curriculum change that advocates the creation of three pathways in the education system.

If adopted, this will involve assessing learners and sorting them into three channels — academics, technical skills, and talent. Instead of lumping all learners together and teaching them things that will never help some of them in the future, the pathways will enable a clear focus to bring out the best in each child. 

Advertisement

Thursday April 14 2016

Stop grabbing of institutions’ land

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

Reports that Kenya Prisons has lost 4,500 acres to grabbers are not entirely new, but they underscore the urgency to take decisive action to recover public land irregularly allocated to individuals. Land-grabbing remains one of the vexing problems afflicting the county.

Public institutions and utilities such as schools, hospitals, parastatals, and national forests have lost thousands of acres of land to grabbers.

The beneficiaries are known, most of them politically-connected individuals, top government officials, and merchants who collude to get irregular allocations.

Unfortunately, despite various initiatives to address the problem, little has been done to seize the land grabbers and their accomplices and charge them in court and return the land to its original use.

Not surprisingly, it has become difficult to roll out infrastructure projects such as roads and railways because their reserves were long appropriated by individuals.

The report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Illegal/Irregular Allocation of Public Land, otherwise known as the Ndung’u Report, documented cases of land-grabbing and recommended that the government recover some 200,000 title deeds that had been issued unlawfully, but little has been done.

Recognising the mess in the lands sector and the duplicity at the Lands ministry, the current Constitution provided for an independent entity, the National Land Commission, with the mandate to manage public land on behalf of the national and county governments.

In particular, it has the mandate to redress the breaches and injustices related to land. However, the commission has been loud on threats and promises, but there has been little action.

The time for threats, promises, and reports is gone. We need action. Lands minister Jacob Kaimenyi and land commission boss Muhammad Swazuri must take action to recover grabbed public land and commence charges against the beneficiaries, who should be made to return the ill-gotten wealth.

Advertisement

Wednesday April 13 2016

Curb wasteful costs in the public service

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

A report by the Controller of Budget that reviews public sector expenditure shows that the government continues to spend heavily on salaries, contrary to its stated commitment to reduce consumption costs.

During the first six months of the current financial year, which ran between July and December, the government spent Sh123 billion on salaries, which is nearly 50 per cent of total allocations for the same period.

For the past two years, the government has been talking of reducing expenditure on salaries to free resources for capital development, which in turn inspires economic growth.

For good measure, President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy, Mr William Ruto, announced that they had taken a salary cut and exhorted other top government functionaries to do the same. Little has been realised from that.

At the core of public expenditure is the bloated workforce, both in the central and county governments. Besides the main civil service that is overstaffed, there are too many parastatals that consume large sums of public money. Equally worse are the counties, which have employed without rationale.

An economy characterised by heavy consumption cannot grow. This is why the government must take bold measures to contain the wage bill.

For a start, it must follow through the various recommendations on staff rationalisation and make a determination on how to reduce the headcount in the civil service.

It also needs to implement a report on parastatal reform that was prepared by a task force co-chaired by Mr Abdikadir Mohammed and Mr Isaac Awuondo, which recommended the merger, consolidation, and dissolution of various State agencies to eliminate wastage and duplication of responsibilities.

Various development projects, including infrastructure, have stalled for lack of funds. The economy is in a lull. Drastic steps must, therefore, be taken to reduce the government’s operational spending to free cash for capital expenditure.

Advertisement

Wednesday April 13 2016

Stop influenza epidemic

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

An influenza epidemic that has killed nearly 40 children in two counties in less than a month calls for drastic measures to contain its spread.

Since the epidemic began, nearly 300 cases have been reported. The real danger lies in the fact that the disease presents symptoms that could be easily confused for the common cold.

The risk is grave, especially deep in the rural areas, where the ignorance of many parents is likely to fuel infection. It is, therefore, encouraging to note that the Health Ministry is monitoring the outbreak so that it does not get out of hand.

The health executives of Nakuru and Baringo counties need to step up ongoing awareness campaigns about the disease.

We commend the health officials on the ground for doing a good job. Also laudable is the response of the Health Ministry headquarters in Nairobi and several specialist organisations.

The Centres for Disease Control, the National Influenza Sentinel Laboratory, and the Kenya Medical Research Institute have all played key roles in confirming the disease that was initially reported to be “mysterious”.

More importantly, the concerted efforts of all the public and health institutions are needed to curb the rising deaths among children in the two counties.

Advertisement

Wednesday April 13 2016

Africa’s threat over ICC is not sincere

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

The African Union has renewed its threat to withdraw from the International Criminal Court unless some conditions are met, among them immunity for sitting heads of State.

The African Union is an important stakeholder in the ICC and its withdrawal has serious implications for the court. However, its premise of seeking withdrawal is faulty and betrays the continent’s lack of commitment to justice and fair play.

It also depicts a continent that thrives on doublespeak. On one score, the leaders are quick to vilify the court when it threatens them and on the other, they refer matters to it. A case in point is the Uganda case.

Africa has been the theatre of atrocities. It has a history of despotic and malevolent leaders who rule through decrees and violate human rights.

Examples abound, from Darfur to the Central African Republic to Burundi, where hundreds of people have been killed through politically-instigated violence and where the leadership is culpable.

The argument that the AU should be allowed to set up its own justice system is deceitful because the African leadership is incapable of holding its own to account. An immediate example is Burundi, where East African heads of State, let alone the African leaders, have singularly failed to intervene despite gross violation of human rights.

At any rate, it is defeatist to pull out of the Rome Statue because the ICC has jurisdiction to deal with cases of non-members too. Libya, Sudan, and the Central African Republic are not signatories to the statute but their cases ended up there because the United Nations took charge of them.

Moreover, the African Union does not have the financial and human resources to run an independent judicial system.

The six Kenyans who were taken to The Hague and whose cases have since collapsed may have suffered indignities, but the suits were necessary to deter potential mass killers. Pulling out of the ICC without a credible replacement is detrimental and ill-advised.

Advertisement

Wednesday April 13 2016

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

Recent revelations about the goings-on at Kenyan universities may have come as a shock to many, but are hardly surprising to those who take a keen interest in the state of affairs at these institutions.

University administrators have often been quick to issue denials, even where there is tangible evidence of students dabbling in crime. There have been arrests on campuses, with weapons being found hidden under mattresses. Some of these young people lead double lives.

Perhaps the bluntest cue has come from Nacada chief John Mututho on drug cartels at the University of Nairobi. Vice-Chancellor Peter Mbithi has been willing to work with Nacada to sensitise the students on the grave danger that lurks in their midst. As some are lured into drug trafficking with monetary inducements, a few consume the deadly substances. 

There has also been suspicious deaths on campuses. This is worrying for parents, who expect the safety of their children to be guaranteed.

This is why a directive by Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i to the institutions to enhance security by introducing electronic registers to capture the details of all their students is welcome. This will help to weed out criminals masquerading as students.

Advertisement

Monday April 11 2016

CBK must prevent future bank crises

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

The Central Bank of Kenya’s decision to lend money to banks and microfinance institutions facing liquidity problems is aimed at stabilising the financial market and restoring confidence in the sector.

Since the closure of Chase Bank last week due to financial indiscretion, the banking sector has been thrown into a tumult, with heavy withdrawals by panicking depositors occasioning a cash crunch, especially among the small lenders.

In principle, the Central Bank has done the right thing to calm the market. As the lender of last resort, the CBK has the responsibility of supporting financial institutions to stay afloat and avoid a more precipitous situation, where the financiers collapse, triggering a worse economic crisis.

Our situation is not an isolated case. During the 2007-8 financial crisis in the US, the Federal Reserve Bank bailed out banks facing collapse, leading to the mantra that Wall Street banks are “too big to collapse”. The practice has since been reversed, however, with the Federal Bank instituting stringent rules for emergency bailouts.

Even so, questions abound. Where was the CBK when the crisis was brewing? Why did it only come in when the situation had reached a tipping point for the likes of Chase Bank? Why wait for the crisis to unfold in order to offer a bailout, instead of preventing it in the first place?

The Banking Act gives CBK the mandate of supervising banks, which means it can order an inspection if it suspects that things are not going right. As a minimum, it has an obligation to conduct quarterly inspections on banks to establish their financial health. What has emerged is that the banking sector is steeped in rot. Insider lending is rampant, masked through falsified accounting.

The Central Bank has a duty to ensure that the banking sector is steady but it must be selective in determining those to bail out. Henceforth, it must act proactively to prevent crises in the financial sector.

Advertisement

Monday April 11 2016

Protect chiefs from gangs

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

Reports of illicit liquor gangs attacking and killing chiefs are worrying. It is an ugly twist in a campaign that has been lauded for restoring some sanity in areas where youth have been ravaged by alcohol.

It is not surprising, therefore, that the deadly attacks on some chiefs and the mounting threats against others have occurred in central Kenya.

This is a region that has borne the brunt of the consequences of the consumption of these concoctions that have ruined many young lives. One chief was killed recently, another injured, and three others have received death threats.

The attacks have been carried out by gunmen, who are most likely hitmen hired by the manufacturers of the illicit liquor. The aim is to instil fear in the administrators.

Sadly, the chiefs are now finding themselves between a rock and a hard place. Their employer, the government, has made it clear that they will be sacked if they do not stop the brewing and sale of illicit liquor in their areas.

However, they are easy targets for the cartels behind these brews. Unless the chiefs’ security is guaranteed, it is going to be increasingly difficult for them to lead the fight against the illicit liquor menace.

Advertisement

Monday April 11 2016

We need to heal our nation before polls

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

There is a real danger that with the withdrawal of charges against the last two of the “Ocampo Six” at the International Criminal Court, political leaders will start seeking ways to score points rather than address the real challenges facing the country ahead of the 2017 election.

This is an opportunity for leaders from across the divide to seek national dialogue on how to ensure that the country does not slide back into anarchy in the race for political office, which is likely to gather pace in the wake of last week’s ruling by the ICC judges.

Already, politicians are positioning themselves for the election, but the worrying trend is that they are not doing so to seek healing and unite the country.

The country, and the leadership, must first stop to consider the fate of the hundreds of thousands of ordinary Kenyans whose lives were adversely affected by the 2007-2008 violence. Many of these have yet to find their footing and many have yet to come to terms with the trauma of losing their loved ones, limbs, property and, above all, their human dignity and rights as citizens.

It is, therefore, imperative for the political leadership to create an institutional framework to address the issues that sparked the post-election violence in the first place, give restitution to the affected families, and seek healing before political temperatures begin to rise again as the country heads to the poll.

It is also critical that the nation addresses itself to the individual and institutional errors of omission and commission that led Kenya so close to the precipice with a view to making those responsible to answer for their actions and to ensure that Kenya does not slide down this ignominious path again.

The truth is that the country is still hurting. It is not the time to score political points but to heal and this can only be achieved by confronting the collective failures that led Kenya down the path of violence, not by sweeping them under the carpet.

Advertisement

Monday April 11 2016

Nurture talent in sports

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

The secondary schools term one games are scheduled to start on Tuesday at Friends School Kamusinga in Bungoma County. More than 500 students from all over the country are expected to participate.

Young talent will be on display in many disciplines, including basketball, hockey, rugby, swimming, and athletics.

This is where national coaches should go to identify talent with a view to nurturing it and boosting our national teams. In many cases in Kenya, talent is discovered when it is too late or never at all.

That is one of the reasons our national teams have not performed well in recent years.  

However, the quest to identify and mould talent is marred by age cheating, which has denied many genuine cases the opportunity to excel. Last year, there were many cases of age-cheating at the games and it is our hope that this has been addressed this year.

Kenya failed to shine in some disciplines at last year’s East Africa Secondary School Games mainly because of poor structures and age cheating.

All efforts should be made to avert a repeat of last year’s catastrophe, when Kenyan schools performed disastrously.

Advertisement

Sunday April 10 2016

Constant fights over devolution wasteful

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

Three years after the new two-tier form of government came into place, one of the unfortunate realities is that the national and county level administrations remain permanently at loggerheads.

Authorities in the two tiers continue to communicate primarily through the media and always seem to be antagonising one another.

While President Uhuru Kenyatta has called on county leaders to give his administration credit for disbursing cash for projects to the counties, the governors have accused the national government of perennially being late in sending money to the grassroots and of being lukewarm in its support for devolution.

Matters have been made worse by the noise emanating from MPs (who are accused of being anti-devolution and are constantly sniping at governors) and senators who take the opposite position.

This is unfortunate. In 2013, just when the counties were bedding into place, there was agreement between the two arms of government that relations between them would be handled through the Intergovernmental Relations Technical Committee (IGTRC). It was envisaged that through this forum differences would be thrashed out and plans for action agreed upon, without necessarily shouting past each other in the media.

It is surely not too late to resolve this and find a more collaborative approach. The issues on which the counties and national government differ more often than not can only be resolved by the authorities.

The claim by the governors that the promised hi-tech medical equipment has yet to be supplied to most of the counties is something that should be handled through talks between the ministry and the counties through such organs as the counties summit.

The people can only stand to gain when key arms of the government work together in harmony.

There is no doubt that devolution has made a big difference in many parts of the country, taking resources to areas which had previously been starved of revenue allocation.

But the two arms of government would stand a better chance of success, with obvious mutual success, if they co-operated instead of constantly squabbling.

The time has come for the revival of the key organs which were envisioned to improve harmony between the national and county governments. Bickering does not benefit any party, not least the taxpayers who expect optimal use of the revenue they supply.
 

Advertisement

Sunday April 10 2016

Compensate all IDPs

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

Deputy President William Ruto made a pledge during his press conference on Thursday that following the termination of the cases in The Hague, the Jubilee administration would now turn its focus to ensuring that all the victims of the violence are compensated.

That is obviously a welcome promise but the proof of the pudding will be in the eating.

There are a couple of points that the authorities must pay attention to. One of the crucial things is that the process should be as inclusive as possible.
A well-documented problem with the earlier compensation programme was that it focused too much on those who were in camps for the internally displaced.

While this is understandable, to an extent, because they were the most visible, it is obvious that hundreds of thousands of other victims did not go to camps.

Particularly in parts of Nyanza, western Kenya and some areas in the Rift Valley, many slipped into host communities and became “integrated IDPs”. Yet others fled to Uganda and only returned years later when the compensation programme had been concluded.

It is important that the net is widened to include these individuals. Victims of sexual violence, many who suffered horrific physical and mental scars, should also receive attention, not least in the form of ongoing counselling.

Just as crucially, any compensation exercise should be insulated against corrupt fellows.

The mistakes of the past should not be repeated because it would be a display of the highest form of cruelty for impostors or those in government to use such an initiative to line their pockets.

Advertisement

Saturday April 9 2016

Heed bishops’ call to steer country to peace

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

The Catholic bishops have, in their hardest hitting criticism of the leadership since President Uhuru Kenyatta came to power in 2013, come out to bluntly declare that all is not well. Their statement, it is apparent, comes out of a deep and meticulous reflection by the clergymen driven by a genuine desire to see things done properly.

Of course, the bishops have just added their voice to the mounting public concern over a number of developments, especially the runaway corruption.

The sums are mind-boggling. Money has been looted, either in collusion with people who have a ringside seat in the administration, or officials who either chose to look the other side or are downright incompetent. Whenever the opposition has blown the whistle, there have been denials, but these have not blocked the truth from coming out eventually.

The bishops have cited injustice, corruption, tribalism and a few selfish political leaders as some of the forces pushing the country towards the brink.

The heads of the 26 dioceses across the country, are also warning against political alliances that are not groupings of like-minded individuals, but the building of deadly tribal voting blocs.

Unless urgent steps are taken, the country could be sliding back to the poisoned atmosphere of the post-election violence in 2007-8, in which more than 1,300 innocent Kenyans perished and hundreds of thousands were displaced.

However, all is not lost. The bishops are urging fellow Kenyans not to give up hope, but to reject these vices that threaten to derail the country.

While there is a mood of celebration following the termination by the ICC of Deputy President William Ruto’s crimes against humanity charges, the bishops also want justice for the victims of the post-election violence. Instead, sadly, the ICC ruling is being turned into yet another sad episode of winners and losers.

As the country gears up for another General Election in just over a year, it is imperative that genuine reconciliation efforts begin in order to steady the ship.

Whereas the leaders have an obligation and a duty to steer the nation to stability, peace and prosperity, the people, too, have a civic duty to make this happen.

Advertisement

Saturday April 9 2016

Act fast to save basketball

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

Just what is ailing Kenyan basketball? Perhaps that should the question basketball authorities should be asking as this year’s national league begins.

The standard of the game has been plummeting over the years. Last year, teams from Uganda, Burundi and Uganda ran roughshod over Kenya. The country’s national team, clubs and schools’ teams, just could not cope.

The Kenya Basketball Federation, led by chairman Paul Otula, should urgently seek a way to stem the slide, beginning with the schools competitions.

Last year, Kenya men’s and women’s teams failed to win any titles during the FIBA Zone Five Basketball Club Championships in Kigali.

The Kenya Ports Authority team finished fourth, while USIU came third as Egyptian side Gezira (men) and Burundi’s Berco Stars (women) were crowned the 2015 champions.

The Ugandan men’s and women’s national teams have qualified for the Africa Games, while Kenya came up short during the qualifiers in Kampala.

It is a sorry state of affairs, especially since Kenya has in the past dominated the basketball scene in the region for so long.

Advertisement

Thursday April 7 2016

Tighten vigilance over rogue banks

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

Chase Bank on Thursday became the latest casualty of the Central Bank’s intensified cleaning up of the mess in the banking sector.

The bank’s closure reveals a massive scam among some lending institutions, which publish false financial statements to camouflage dubious dealings that threaten the security of depositors’ money.

The bank was placed in receivership after it failed to meet its financial obligations, just a day after its chairman and chief executive resigned for inaccurate financial reporting.

Last week, the National Bank of Kenya suspended its top managers over suspicious financial dealings. Last year, Imperial Bank and Dubai Bank were put under statutory management.

Put together, these cases indicate that the banking sector is steeped in serious financial misconduct. Internal and external audits seem to have failed or have been compromised.

The problem did not start yesterday; it has been going on for years and is a result of weak auditing, irregular and ineffective supervision, poor governance, and unbridled greed.

In particular, the Central Bank’s inspection unit, which is expected to carry out quarterly audits of the banks and publicise its findings, has clearly failed to do its work.

Shutting down a bank is a painful undertaking as it affects many people, sends a negative signal to the markets, and undermines business.

However, this is inevitable to clear the rot and restore confidence in the lending institutions. In the case of Chase Bank, for example, the management issued a financial statement last week that showed that it was doing well, only to turn around this week to publish a different statement that presented massive insider lending.

As Central Bank Governor Patrick Njoroge has promised, the regulator must intensify the inspection and supervision of banks to save the depositors from cunning and scheming managers who cook up books to give a false impression of profitability.

The bank chiefs involved in fraudulent activities must also be charged in court.

Advertisement

Thursday April 7 2016

Burning ivory a good sign

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

Once again, the country is gearing up for a symbolic demonstration of its commitment to wildlife conservation.

A stockpile of ivory tusks will go up in flames in Nairobi at a ceremony expected to attract international celebrities, conservation gurus, and national and business leaders.

On April 30, Kenya will torch a large portion of its ivory and rhino horn stockpile. This is a tradition that has been continued since former president Daniel Moi torched a haul of ivory decades ago, and signifies the political will that is so important in the campaign against the illicit trade in game trophies.

The clear message is that this country values the animals more than the price tag the traffickers attach to these items. It also goes to show just how far the country is willing to go to protect its wildlife for posterity. 

Indeed, poaching poses a serious threat to a heritage that the country is not only proud of, but which is also pivotal in the tourism industry.

The destruction of the ivory should also send a strong signal to the neighbouring countries and beyond that Kenya will not be used as a transit point for the illicit trade. It should be followed by intensified efforts to curb poaching and the smuggling of game trophies from the region.

Advertisement

Wednesday April 6 2016

We need to resolve the issues that led to cases

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

The collapse of the two cases against six Kenyans at the International Criminal Court puts an end to years of tension and anxiety. However, suspicion and mistrust remain, as many issues are unresolved.

Since the cases were taken to the ICC in November 2009, the country has been gripped with fear over the outcomes of the trials. In particular, President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy, Mr William Ruto, who was freed on Tuesday together with radio presenter Joshua Sang, had been distracted from conducting national business by the trials that at several times required them to appear in person in the court in The Hague.

Politically, the ICC trials provided the glue that cemented the Kenyatta-Ruto duo, helping them to mobilise support and catapulting them to power in 2013. The trials had far-reaching legal, political, economic, social, and diplomatic implications. Now the President and his deputy have put that behind them and should, therefore, concentrate on running the country and delivering on their election pledges.

Legally, the termination of the remaining two cases — Mr Ruto’s and Mr Sang’s — does not mean the end of the road. The text of the ruling was categorical that one of the reasons the cases were vacated was lack of evidence and that the accused had not been acquitted, with the prosecutor given the leeway to open fresh charges should there be solid evidence at a later date. This raises a fundamental moral question that cannot be wished away.

The ruling presents many lessons to Kenya. First, the country lacks a solid framework for resolving political violence and international courts cannot be relied upon to competently adjudicate such matters because they are not immune to interference. The cases were referred to the ICC because of lack of a local mechanism to try them. However, little has been done to resolve this. The previous administration and the current one have both failed to deal with the matter conclusively. Should violence break out again in the future, the country will have few options to resolve the conflict.

PLIGHT OF THE VIOLENCE VICTIMS

Second, the plight of the violence victims remains unresolved. For the families of the 1,133 people who were killed and the 650,000 who were displaced, justice remains elusive. They will forever live with the pain and trauma of the violence and the regrettable knowledge that the perpetrators of the heinous offences were never seized and punished.

It will be difficult to expect them to have faith in their government and society. Their conclusion is likely to be that justice is selective, only favouring the financially well-endowed and powerful, to the detriment of the underprivileged.

Three, the shuttle diplomacy to mobilise other African countries to pull out of the Rome Statute on the grounds that the court had become a rogue institution that targeted Africans unfairly and that it was a latter-day tool for imperialist subjugation remains unfinished business. Whether Kenya will continue to pursue that agenda with all the cases terminated remains to be seen.

The onus is on the current administration to put in place systems to stem possible politically and ethnically-driven violence in future and most importantly, to have structures for adjudication in case of such an eventuality. Never again should the country find itself in the hands of an international court over crimes against humanity.

Advertisement

Tuesday April 5 2016

Address question of managing elections

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission has put forth a new proposal to buy a fresh set of electronic voting equipment for next year’s elections. The argument is that those acquired for the 2013 elections are obsolete.

Kenyans’ desire for foolproof, free, and fair elections is not in doubt. And that is the reason the electoral commission must do everything to deliver such polls. However, the concern is whether buying the new equipment is a panacea to the disastrous administration of elections witnessed in the past.

In 2013, the country invested heavily in the election gadgets but they failed. In the first place, they were brought in late because of haggling over procurement.

When they finally arrived, the gadgets were never tested, the accessories were faulty, and the officials were never trained on how to use them. Therefore, despite spending huge sums of money, the whole experiment was a monumental misadventure. Yet the equipment is now being declared obsolete. Such wastage should not be countenanced.

Preparing and delivering a fair election is a gargantuan task. It requires heavy capital investment in infrastructure, equipment, and human resource.

The IEBC, as currently constituted, does not have the capacity to achieve that feat, even with the latest of technology. It lacks the competence, credibility, and goodwill to administer an election. Giving it money and believing it can procure the appropriate equipment and deliver a credible election is a fatal gamble.

And that leads to the issue that has been shoved to the periphery, namely, dismantling the current electoral commission and constituting a credible one through an open and participatory process and doing that early enough to give it time to prepare for the forthcoming elections.

The point, therefore, is to make haste and reorganise the electoral commission by putting in place a competent team that can be relied upon to make and execute judicious decisions and organise and manage proper elections.

Advertisement

Tuesday April 5 2016

Probe police brutality video

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

Many people are alarmed, and rightly so, about a video clip circulating on social media, purporting to show General Service Unit personnel clobbering rioting University of Nairobi students.

This was bound to spark national outrage as it depicts shocking brutality. It is, therefore, laudable that the police have pledged to investigate the matter and, hopefully, quickly lay to rest speculation.

However, the university students have once again behaved badly, taking out their anger over their own internal frustrations on people who have nothing to do with their union elections.

Their complaints about alleged election rigging should have been filed through the right channels. Opposition to their re-elected chairman can be no justification for the destruction of property on and off campus, including setting fire to the union office.

The behaviour of the students is hardly surprising. It is the mirror image of our national politics, where intolerance and violence rule. With the university now indefinitely closed, the authorities must find the wrongdoers and punish them.

The institution should be reopened as soon as possible, as keeping it shut for long will amount to punishing the innocent and rewarding the criminals.

Advertisement

Monday April 4 2016

Revise recruitment terms for the police

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

The recruitment of police officers that started yesterday across the country continues to be rudimentary at a time when the force is talking of institutional reforms.

The procedures are a carry-over from the colonial administration. Recruits go through demeaning processes that, though intended to test physical strength and resilience, depict a force caught in a time warp.

Modern policing is about intelligence, deterrence, and investigation. Physical strength is vital, but it should not be the only determining factor.

Particular attention should be paid to skills. Police officers require knowledge and skills in technology, law, human rights, sociology, and criminology. This requires fairly high standards of education. Yet, the entry to the profession is pegged at D+ at the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education. Clearly, the entry requirement should be revised.

A critical concern about the recruitment is irregularities. Many people get the jobs because they are able to pay huge sums of money to the top officers. Some use their political connections to secure the chances. Two years ago, the hiring was annulled by the High Court because of massive irregularities.

The National Police Service has resorted to conducting spot checks across the country to eliminate wrongdoing. The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights has introduced a hotline where the public can report any irregularity.

Given the central role of the police at a time of increased terrorist attacks and cybercrime, the authorities must think of how best to recruit police officers and how they can be deployed and utilised to enhance security. The working and living conditions of police officers must be addressed as well their equipment and working resources.

In sum, the force must interrogate the whole process of police recruitment, qualification, training curriculum, deployment, compensation, and welfare, if the officers are to do a professional job.

Advertisement

Monday April 4 2016

It is a waste of resources

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

Kenyans often whine about delays in issuing essential public documents and a number of government agencies have borne the brunt of criticism for delays or failing to issue licences and permits.

Ironically, once some of these documents are issued, many are never collected, leaving those agencies with the needless task of securing them so that they do not fall into the wrong hands.

Perhaps the agency that has the highest number of uncollected documents is the National Registration Bureau, which issues national identity cards.

The National Transport and Safety Authority has reported that some 4,000 driving licences and logbooks have not been collected.

Causing documents to be processed and issued and not collecting them is not just outright irresponsibility, it is also a waste of public resources.

People are employed to issue these documents and they get paid for doing a job, whose effort just goes down the drain as some of the documents are never collected and have to be discarded.

Slapping a surcharge on the owners when they finally turn up could be a good idea. The agencies should also consider a system of sending out reminders and charging a fee for the delay to recoup the expense.

Advertisement

Monday April 4 2016

Extend war on graft to private entities

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

With the government now beginning to step a little harder on the accelerator in the drive against corruption, the conspicuously missing piece in the jigsaw puzzle is the private sector.

Indeed, the operatives in the government who turn the wheels of graft are inspired by the prospect of the huge potential gains in deals with wayward private individuals, companies, and organisations.

In his State of the Nation address last week, President Uhuru Kenyatta outlined the ongoing government measures, including the seizure of assets acquired with the proceeds of corruption.

The anti-graft war calls for a comprehensive and systematic approach. The proposed legislation to get private companies and charity organisations fully involved and committed to the war against corruption is long overdue.

Of particular significance, therefore, is the apparent involvement of the private sector in the preparation of this Bill. The proposed law contains recommendations by the umbrella Kenya Private Sector Alliance.

The apparent buy-in by the private sector is a significant step in the war on graft. Indeed, some of the key drivers in the endemic corruption in the public sector are private firms and other organisations. Private firms, for instance, are the ones that often pay bribes to win government tenders. And non-governmental organisations are also known to be avenues through which some individuals enrich themselves.

The war on graft, therefore, cannot be won by merely focusing only on one sector. It calls for a comprehensive approach that the Bribery Bill, 2006 seeks to address.

If passed, private organisations will be required to implement tough measures to stop their employees from giving or receiving bribes. Since it takes two to tango, it is noteworthy that the Bill seeks to ensure that both the givers and the recipients of bribes are severely punished. The MPs should vigorously debate and enhance the legislation.

Advertisement

Monday April 4 2016

Let us build Kenyan golf

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

The standards of golf in the country are worrying. Just days after local professionals failed to make an impact at the Barclays Kenya Open, with only three of them making the cut, Kenya’s junior amateur team finished a poor sixth at the All Africa Junior Golf Championship in Sousse, Tunisia.

It was Kenya’s worst performance in the championships, where they have always been among the top three teams, as they failed to qualify for the World Junior Championship set for Japan later this year.

Even more worrying is that none of the Kenyan juniors made it to the top 10 in the individual title.

A long-term solution is required to improve the game. For Kenyan golf to grow, the game needs to be included in schools so that golf clubs can have the numbers to train young golfers. Clubs should be willing to adopt some of the schools.

There should be a transition plan with proper structures, from the amateur to the professional level. Local professionals need to play in many tournaments to enhance their chances at the Kenya Open.

Kenya Open Golf Ltd should re-examine its role by coming out to help local professionals by, for instance, sponsoring those who make the cut at the Kenya Open to participate in other challenge events.

Advertisement

Sunday April 3 2016

Learn from attacks and prepare better

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

There is little doubt that the attack by al-Shabaab terrorists on the Garissa University one year ago this week was one of the most devastating assaults on Kenyans since independence.

The victims were drawn from every village in the country. Because the system of admission of students to college in Kenya proportionally allocates slots across every county, the effects of the devastation wreaked by the terrorists stretched to every corner of the nation.

The attack also shone a light on how unprepared the security forces are at a time when the nation confronts multiple threats and in an age where groups such as al-Shabaab are waging unconventional warfare on innocent wananchi everywhere.

The report that a senior policeman was using a crucial transport helicopter for a family trip to the Coast while elite paramilitary officers were waiting for transport to the scene of crime only summarised how shambolic the official response to the attack was.

It is fair to say that some improvements have been made on the security front since April 2, 2015.

A surge in recruitment levels in the police force has added numbers of officers on the beat and reduced the citizen-to- police ratio which was well below the level recommended by the United Nations before all these attacks occurred.

Intensified focus on those who recruit terrorists or incite young men to go across the border to wage terror has brought some respite from endless attacks, particularly at the Coast.

Much more needs to be done. One of the key issues that the attack on Garissa University highlighted was just how little coordination exists between the key security services charged with handling such emergencies.

Just as in the attack on Nairobi’s Westgate Mall in 2013, the response largely came from the military rather than from the General Service Unit’s Recce squad, which is trained to deal with terrorists operating in confined areas.

The delay in getting the GSU to the ground obviously led to unnecessary loss of life.

Gaps in intelligence gathering were also exposed. There were warnings at least two weeks before the attack that the Shabaab were plotting an assault on an institution of higher learning. The warning triggered a beefing up of security across key installations especially around the capital.
It was terribly negligent not to extend the same cordon of security to a university such as Garissa, which was located in an area which has been a favoured hunting ground for the terrorists.

Most troublingly of all, there are reports that the father of one of the main suspects who perpetrated the attack had reported to the authorities that his son had disappeared in Somalia but no action was taken on that intelligence.

It is to be hoped that the authorities have drawn lessons from that devastating attack and that they appreciate the need for greater inter-agency cooperation in tackling a complex threat such as that the Shabaab poses to the country.

The fact tourists are streaming back to the country is heartening. But those gains remain fragile.

The Shabaab threat has not faded. The group remains capable of staging horrifying assaults, as exemplified by the ambush of Kenyan soldiers at the El-Adde camp in Somalia. That means the security forces must remain vigilant to handle the threat that Shabaab militants pose.

As the country has learnt, atrocities from that group can inflict a deep wound, including robbing the nation of bright, young students and also hobbling the economy.

When tourists stop coming into the country, that starves the economy of a source of dollar inflows and weakens the local currency with obvious implications for the cost of living.

This first anniversary is a particularly difficult time for the families and friends of the victims. The nation can only unite in wishing them comfort and strength on their loss of their bright young sons and daughters.

There should also be a structured plan to offer some material recompense to such victims.

The attack on Garissa University terrorised the nation. But, as a country, we should not succumb to the raw intimidation of terrorists but aspire to find a way to create a more just and peaceful world.

Advertisement

Friday April 1 2016

State must trace and recover stolen assets

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s announcement that the government has traced assets worth some Sh1.6 billion that were acquired corruptly and is preparing to seize and return their proceeds to the public coffers, is quite encouraging.

The country continues to lose billions of shillings, which are never traced, and even in the rare occasions when the assets are found and the culprits seized and convicted of economic crimes, the proceeds are never returned to the public.

Part of the problem is that we lack strong institutions to deal with asset recovery. The investigative teams, Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission and the Judiciary, are particularly deficient. Worse, we lack the political will to follow up and take decisive actions.

The recent ‘Chickengate’ case is a classic example. Whereas, officials implicated in the scandal in London were arrested, convicted and penalised, their counterparts in Kenya at the defunct Interim Independent Election Commission and the Kenya National Examinations Council have never been touched. Past cases such as Goldenberg, Anglo Leasing, among others, have never concluded.

When the Narc administration that came to power in 2002, undertook to track down some of the stolen money stashed in foreign accounts, and contracted London-based risk management consultants, Kroll Associates, to carry out the assignment, there were hopes that something was being done.

Kroll Associates duly traced some of the assets and prepared a comprehensive report detailing what ought to be done to seize the money and hand it to Kenya, but to date, no action has been taken.

However, President Kenyatta says the government has since set up institutions, namely, the Financial Reporting Centre and the Assets Recovery Agency, to compile information on stolen assets and recover them.

This is a step in the right direction. But unless the institutions are properly resourced, they may not achieve much. The experience of the anti-corruption commission, which has failed to deal with graft cases, is telling.

We must always remember that commitment to corruption must be demonstrated, sometimes in a very public way and always starts and is driven by the very top office. If Rwanda can do it, so can we. The Chinese way may be a bit extreme, but the resolve and ruthlessness is completely apt. 

Advertisement

Friday April 1 2016

Revamp cricket in Kenya

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

The 2016 International Cricket Council World Twenty20 final between West Indies and England goes down tomorrow at Eden Gardens, Kolkata, India.

Kenyans will be at liberty to support either team. We have fond memories of our exploits on the world cricket scene, but these are fast fading as Kenyans are now confined to cheering other nations.

Kenya has not participated in the biennial ICC World Twenty20 since the inaugural championship in 2007. Kenya finished ninth in last year’s qualifiers, while minnows such as Hong Kong, Afghanistan and Oman made it to the finals in India.

Kenya’s show in the longer version has also been dismal as the country failed to make the 2015 World Cup for the first time since 1996.

This calls for a serious restructuring of the game. Cricket authorities have their work cut out in their effort to rebuild the game.

Advertisement

Friday April 1 2016

Gains and failures on Jubilee scorecard

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

Thursday’s State of the Nation address by President Uhuru Kenyatta started on an uncharacteristically chaotic note with a rowdy show by the Opposition, but that did not undermine its significance.

The President went ahead to give a comprehensive review of the performance of the Jubilee administration in the past year, which, on balance, was not that spectacular.

SECURITY

One leap that the administration has made is to contain the runaway insecurity that at one time had become a nightmare due to frequent terrorist attacks.

Other than the Garissa University College raid in April last year, the terror incidents have remarkably reduced due to intensified security vigilance and the public mobilising under the community policing framework.

ECONOMY

Secondly, the success of a nation is measured by its economic growth. President Kenyatta announced that the economy grew by 5.8 per cent in the year under review and estimated that this would rise to six per cent.

However, the percentages do not make much sense to a population that has not felt the trickle-down benefits.

Inflation and the cost of living continued to rise. Ordinary citizens continue to agonise over price increases and deficient social services.

Another critical component is infrastructure development. The standard gauge railway stands out as the main achievement in recent times.

Arguably, this is one project that, although conceptualised by the Mwai Kibaki tenure, has steadily received support from the Kenyatta administration and is likely to be realised in record time. However, road construction has slowed down.

EDUCATION

The education sector went through tumultuous times most of last year, including a five-week teachers’ strike in the third term that paralysed learning.

Then there was the massive cheating in the national examinations.

However, the sector has turned the corner in the past few weeks with a few milestones realised, namely the disbanding of the board of the Kenya National Examinations Council and the suspension of its management team over the irregularities.

There is also the commencement of the review of the 8-4-4 education system.

DEVOLUTION

Despite constant wrangling, devolution has taken root, with resources being distributed to the counties.

The challenge, as President Kenyatta rightly noted, is the misuse and misappropriation of the resources and the need for public vigilance.

CORRUPTION

However, curbing corruption remained the single most spectacular failure of the administration.

It was daunting for the President to explain what he has done to address the vice, particularly after he released last year a list of some 175 officials suspected of involvement in graft.

Apart from the five Cabinet secretaries and some principal secretaries who were sacked, the list remained largely untouched.

The horrifying revelations of corruption in the second half of last year, starting with the loss of Sh791 million at the National Youth Service, inaction on the “Chickengate” culprits, and questions about the Eurobond are among the cases that have made it difficult to list the successes of the war on graft.

NATIONAL COHESION

The pledge to promote national cohesion has not been realised.

Ethnic division remains strong and the unequal distribution of State appointments has fomented a strong sense of marginalisation.

The President made several pledges and the challenge is actualising them this year.

Advertisement

Thursday March 31 2016

Education changes need full support

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

Kenyans on Wednesday embarked on a journey to change the system and curriculum of education for their children, having operated one for 30 years.

At the centre of this journey is the desire to have an education system that is responsive to the needs of the learners and the country and one that prepares the graduates for competitiveness on the international stage.

At inception in 1985, the current system of 8-4-4 was billed to be practical and skills-based and was intended to equip learners with competencies that would make them doers and creators of wealth rather than passive consumers.

However, with the benefit of hindsight, the implementation went awry and the desired outcomes were never achieved.

As currently constituted, the education system has become a conveyor belt where children are burdened with loads of subjects.

Teachers pump in facts, which learners are expected to reproduce at the end of the school cycle. Examinations have become the yardstick for measuring success.

The exams are fiercely competitive and transition to the next grade or level is determined by how well one performs in national exams.

This excludes talent and other abilities such as sports that are equally marketable and well-paying in other jurisdictions.

For this reason, the proposed system seeks to provide a mix of skills, recognise talent, and allow learners to make career choices based on their abilities.

PROPOSED TIERS

So far, there are three tiers proposed: The foundational level that takes five years and comprises early childhood education and lower primary, the middle level that takes six years and encompasses primary and lower secondary, and the third tier, which is upper secondary and takes three years.

However, the tertiary and university level has not been determined and the teams working on the curriculum will have to consult widely to agree on the number of years it should take.

Education reform is a major undertaking. It requires large amounts of resources to develop and provide new teaching and learning materials, school infrastructure, train teachers, and develop a new framework for testing and certification.

The proposed curriculum puts emphasis on competencies, meaning that learners have to acquire practical skills and demonstrate the ability to manipulate concepts.

That requires massive investment. The process must learn from the experiences of the bungled implementation of the 8-4-4 system and pursue a well-thought-out programme with inbuilt checks so that every stage is implemented according to plan.

Change by its very nature is tumultuous and human beings have the tendency to resist it. The Education Ministry must work with all the stakeholders, ranging from teachers, parents, learners, book publishers, and the society, to secure their buy-in. It must conduct massive public education and demonstrate that the change is necessary and clarify the direction to go.

The government, through Deputy President William Ruto and Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i, has underlined its commitment to the reform programme and Wednesday’s national consultative forum was a demonstration of the desire for an inclusive undertaking.

The path ahead is bound to be bumpy but with political goodwill and public support, the country can succeed in changing its education system to meet the challenges of a new century.

Advertisement

Wednesday March 30 2016

Youth fund’s board shouldn’t be in office

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

Investigations into dealings at the Youth Enterprise Development Fund have exposed massive corruption in the organisation.

So far, it has been revealed that the fund lost some Sh180 million through a dubious contract. However, reports indicate that the loss is much bigger and the full details will only be known once investigations are complete.

Despite the massive losses and the manifest rot in the fund, its board is still intact. Other than the chief executive, Ms Catherine Namuye, who was suspended to pave way for investigations, and the chairman, Mr Bruce Odhiambo, who has since resigned, the rest of the board members are still in office. This demonstrates how impunity has been entrenched in the public service.

Ordinarily, the board members should have resigned, not only on principle because it is expected once one is adversely mentioned, but also to allow investigations to be carried out. Worse, President Uhuru Kenyatta has been advised by the parent ministry, Public Service, Youth Affairs and Gender, to suspend the board, but has done nothing.

Whatever the case, it is immoral for the board members to continue in office when it has emerged that they presided over the looting of the organisation. The fact that the chairman made the CEO the sole bank signatory and the board never questioned this is a blatant violation of the Public Finance Management Act.

The purpose of setting up the fund was to provide capital to the youth to set up businesses and get into productive engagement. It was part of the strategy to tackle prevalent youth unemployment by empowering the youngsters to be entrepreneurial, generate income, and take charge of their destiny.

It is, therefore, sad that such a noble initiative is undermined by corruption and that the perpetrators and their accomplices are not punished. The board members have no business being in office and the rational thing to do is to disband the team. The culprits should be made to face the law. 

Advertisement

Monday March 28 2016

Curb spread of cholera

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

The fact that 135 people have died from cholera since June last year is an alarming signal about the state of the sanitation of our environment and the capacity of the counties to treat and manage an otherwise curable disease.

According to the Ministry of Health, 12 counties have reported cholera outbreaks, raising questions about the level of hygiene in these regions and the capacity of devolved governments to police public eating places and food handlers and to guarantee public health and safety.

There is a need for more focused campaigns to contain the spread of the disease and to provide timely interventions, including medication and monitoring of food distribution chains as a preventive measure.

The relevant agencies should also conduct a study to establish the cause of the sudden increase in cholera cases with a view to addressing the problem at the source.

In the medium term, counties must come up with working strategies to dispose of waste and ensure that water and food are not contaminated.

This will mean putting the governments to task to improve sanitation and to carry out education campaigns in the affected areas to equip the public with knowledge about how to prevent the spread of the disease.

Advertisement

Tuesday March 29 2016

Address Harambee Stars’ problems now

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

Harambee Stars lost to Guinea-Bissau in the qualifiers of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations tournament at the weekend, effectively ending Kenya’s dreams of playing in the continent's premier football competition to be staged in Gabon next year.

Acts of hooliganism witnessed during Sunday’s match at the Nyayo Stadium are unfortunate since they only serve to tarnish Kenya’s reputation as a sporting country. Matches are won on the football pitch, not through crowd trouble.

In recent years Kenya has performed poorly. Our campaign to qualify for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro came a cropper last year. The team’s campaign for a slot in the 2018 World Cup finals also ended prematurely.

Last year, Kenya also failed to qualify for the 2016 African Nations Championships held in Rwanda in January. However, Sunday’s loss to Guinea-Bissau, a country ranked 44 places below Kenya, stands out.

Questions have been raised on the quality of the technical bench, choice of players, and training tactics. These should be addressed urgently to turn around Kenya’s fortunes in football. Football fans have been starved of victory for too long.

Because the national team should be a source of pride and identity for all Kenyans, the issues raised must be attended to urgently. Football Kenya Federation officials, who were recently elected on a platform of change, should ride on the goodwill among stakeholders to turn around the team’s fortunes before fans lose patience with them.

The selection of members of the Harambee Stars technical bench should be done on merit and only deserving players called up to the team. While there is a need to build a team for the future, the transition should be gradual, with care taken not to weaken the team in the middle of a tournament.

FKF must put in place structures to nurture talent for the future. Forcing teams playing in the top-flight to have youth teams, as is the case in other countries, could be a good starting point.

Advertisement

Monday March 28 2016

Curb spread of cholera

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

The fact that 135 people have died from cholera since June last year is an alarming signal about the state of the sanitation of our environment and the capacity of the counties to treat and manage an otherwise curable disease.

According to the Ministry of Health, 12 counties have reported cholera outbreaks, raising questions about the level of hygiene in these regions and the capacity of devolved governments to police public eating places and food handlers and to guarantee public health and safety.

There is a need for more focused campaigns to contain the spread of the disease and to provide timely interventions, including medication and monitoring of food distribution chains as a preventive measure.

The relevant agencies should also conduct a study to establish the cause of the sudden increase in cholera cases with a view to addressing the problem at the source.

In the medium term, counties must come up with working strategies to dispose of waste and ensure that water and food are not contaminated.

This will mean putting the governments to task to improve sanitation and to carry out education campaigns in the affected areas to equip the public with knowledge about how to prevent the spread of the disease.

Advertisement

Sunday March 27 2016

Extension of board term is not justified

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

The proposal by a parliamentary committee to extend the life of the Judges and Magistrates Vetting Board for three months must be thoroughly interrogated.

The argument by Parliament’s Justice and Legal Affairs Committee that the board requires more time because “wheels of justice always run slow” is ambiguous and unconvincing.

The practice where organisations fail to complete their assignments within schedule and seek extension is unacceptable as it promotes a carefree attitude and kills discipline in the execution of national duties.

Indeed, the main concern is whether the team has executed its mandate effectively and whether the extension will make any significant difference. Some of the judges and magistrates who were declared unfit went ahead to challenge the verdict and proved that the accusations made against them were frivolous.

Conversely, and worse, some were declared fit to continue serving in the Judiciary only to be found later to be engaging in professional misconduct, bringing into question the integrity and credibility of the board.

Chief Justice Willy Mutunga is on record as questioning the value of the vetting, arguing that it is cosmetic. He has complained that corruption is back in the Judiciary despite the vetting.

The argument is that the vetting is a one-off event and does not go deep enough to root out the rot in the Judiciary.

Those appearing for vetting are able to put up a convincing show and get a thumbs-up, only to go back to their insidious activities, which explains why corruption, lethargy, and malfeasance continue to thrive in courts. Parliament must put the vetting board to task.

Seeking extension just to tick a box is not a justification. Vetting was meant to be the first step in reforming the Judiciary, but the process has faltered.

The public must get value from the board, which must help in cleaning up the courts by identifying and getting rid of corrupt and incompetent judicial officers. Parliament should explore a long-lasting panacea to the rot in the Judiciary.

Advertisement

Sunday March 27 2016

Revive Kenya’s boxing

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

That only one Kenyan boxer has qualified for the Rio Olympic Games is disturbing. Rayton Okwiri won during the Africa qualifying tournament in Cameroon recently. Eight other boxers, including three women, failed in their quest. Two boxers represented Kenya at the 2012 London Olympics. They both failed to go past the first round.

Local boxing standards have diminished over the years. Kenya’s national boxing team, fondly known at the Hit Squad, was once a force to reckon with, culminating in the 1988 Seoul Olympics where Robert Wangila won Kenya’s and Africa’s first boxing gold medal.

That glint is long gone, owing to poor leadership and non-existent development plans and structures on the part of both the government and the boxing authorities.

The poor performance of Kenya’s boxers should be a wake-up call for the Boxing Association of Kenya and the government.

Good results come from good investment in the youth. Recently, SportPesa gave Sh20 million to the national league, but this has been marred by lack of transparency and accountability.

This is unfortunate because mismanagement has hurt many sporting disciplines. However, the sponsorship brought hope to the sport.

Advertisement

Advertisement