Archive for July 2007

Thanks to Equity, the big boys are now shaking

BARCLAYS BANK RECENTLY opened a branch in my neighbourhood. Now, that is the sort of place the very pukka doyen of establishment banking would ordinarily turn up their noses at.

Not too long ago, the big two, Barclays and Standard Chartered were going out of their way in competing to distance themselves from the hoi polloi.

They aggressively kicked out those without much to bank, made it clear they would lend only to those who could provide documentary proof that they did not need the money in the first place, and closed dozens of branches across the country, particularly in rural areas.

Even agriculturally rich areas in the countryside were not spared the axe, the reason being, I suppose, that it was not the amount of money that a customer banked, but the pedigree of that money.

Some urban fellow in sharp suits and affected Queen’s English was valued more than some rustic peasant fellow who sullied the banking hall with his muddy gumboots, even if the latter had the much healthier account.

The came the counter-revolution in the banking industry, and the prestigious banks realised there were missing the boat. So Barclays comes to Nairobi West, no longer afraid to be sandwiched between an endless row of bars in the drinking capital of Nairobi.

Yes, the ears of the banking staff will be assaulted by the deafening cacophony from the 24-hour drinking joints, the honking matatus and yelling touts, the hawkers laden with wares who might just try to make their pitch for bootleg DVDs in the hallowed precincts of the banking hall....

Yes, the very prim and proper bankers will grin and bear it. Latest I hear is that both Barclays and Standard, and everybody else, are scrambling for space in Kawangware, Eastleigh, Gikomba and other centres of the capital city’s underground economy. They are even venturing back into the countryside.

In Nairobi, it is now common to find on sidewalks and alleys Barclays and Standard touts competing for space with other hawkers. The only difference is that they are in corporate colours and offering free account openings and loans rather than fruits, cigarettes, small electronic items and trinkets.

What made the big guns come to earth? One word. Equity.

No, they were not looking for equity, but that is the name of a struggling building society that moved aggressively into the space the big banks were abandoning, and before they knew what was happening, it had become a major rival.

Now the big banks have eaten humble pie, realised that they made some very foolish mistakes, and are desperately trying to claw back lost territory.

That is all to the advantage of the consumers, who had involuntarily been forced to become part of Kenya’s large unbanked population.

I CREDIT EQUITY BANK FOR shaking up the big boys to such drastic effect. But as the battle for the heart, mind and money of the customer rages, it is disheartening to read and hear stories alleging some hanky panky at Equity.

Some of the stuff peddled in the media and in Parliament sounds like pure propaganda. But all the same, the truism must hold that a banker must, like Caesar’s wife, be above suspicion.

And this standard must be applied even higher in banks like Equity and other growing local financial institutions like Family Bank.

This is because they are prospering on the trust of people who have previously entrusted their hard-earned money to indigenous banks, only to be ripped off by greedy managers and owners.

The locally-owned banks which fell like dominoes starting in 1986 collapsed largely because they engaged in very unconventional practices. Their owners and managers grew rich, and the poor depositor was taken to the cleaners.

Those bank collapses, incidentally, contributed to the growth of the foreign-controlled transnationals, especially in a situation when the big state-controlled banks were also being systematically driven to insolvency by the robber barons of the Moi regime.

It has take a long time for Kenyans to once again put their trust in homegrown financial institutions. It would be a tragedy if they were to be let down again.

It is amusing to see the power-sharing deals being worked out. One would have Mr Raila Odinga stand for President and undertake to appoint his main rival for the ODM nomination, Mr Kalonzo Musyoka, as Vice-President. Mr William Ruto would settle for the non-existent post of executive Prime Minister.

In the absence of US-style running-mate pair, Mr Musyoka would have to trust that Mr Odinga will, if elected, keep to his word and appoint him VP.

Then we presume that after campaigning so hard to get elected, Raila will push through constitutional amendment by which he will be reduced to a figurehead and surrender executive power to Premier Ruto? Tell that to the birds!

It gets more interesting. President Odinga would serve for just one term, giving way to Mr Musyoka in 2012.

He would then take over the premiership. Maybe it is only towards the end of his first term that the constitution will have to been amended to create the office of executive prime minister.


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So who killed Trade Bank?

When Assistant Minister Dr Bonny Khalwale rose to speak in parliament last week, he had some really scathing allegations to make against one of the country’s fastest growing and most innovative bank, Equity.

“The CEO at Equity Bank was the finance manager at Trade Bank…” This was one of accusation that Dr. Khalwale brought to the floor of parliament when he sought to question the operations at the bank.

Khalwale’s accusation were part of a letter that has been circulating in the emails written by one SK Patel.

“Mr speaker sir,” Dr Khalwale told parliament, “I fear that the CEO might sink Equity Bank, in the way that they sunk Trade Bank.”

With these remarks, Khalwale, who is the assistant minister for East African Cooperation and Regional Corporation, seemed to point apportion the blame of the collapse of Trade Bank on the investor and managers.

But were the Bank’s investors and managers responsible for the collapse? LKet’s look at the one decade life of Trade Bank to find out.

A great idea in the banking industry

To most financial analysts, Trade Bank was one of the most brilliant ideas in Kenya’s banking industry in the 1980s. The financial institution was the brainchild of businessman, Alnoor Kassam who now lives in Canada and his brother Iqbal Kassam. Before Trade Bank, Kassam had bought the local franchise Diners Card, then, a moribund plastic money business offering its services to Europeans in the country.

When he bought the franchise, he quickly transformed it into a vibrant business by refocusing it to serve indigenous Kenyans. Within a short time, Diners Card became one of the most successful financial services in the country that attracted top cream professionals in the finance with its remuneration packages that were the best in the country.

Replicating Diner Card success

In founding Trade Bank, Kassam and his brother had hoped to replicate the success of Diners in the banking industry which was highly skewed against the low and middle income earners.

Long before the micro finance banking was anything to speak about, Kassam and Iqbal fashioned their bank to attract small depositors by pegging high interests on deposits and doing away with complicated account opening procedures which were the norm then.

For an industry that was marked by lowest interests on deposits, Trade Bank’s interests were quite revolutionary as they were attractive.

True to the bank’s slogan, Hakuna Maneno (no hassles), at Trade Bank, one required an ID and a passport size photo only to open an account unlike in other banks, where one was required to produce letters of introduction, payslips among other documents.

On top of this, the Bank introduced other very innovative services that spiced its attraction to depositors. In a break from the tradition of the time, it used to operate for long hours unlike the other banks which would shut its doors by 3.00 PM. In another fast one, the Bank was the first to operate on weekends.

At the Trade Bank Centre, what is today the Integrity Centre, the Bank Operated a drive in banking services where account holders would access services while waiting in their cars and drive out.

But that was not all. Long before the local banking sector had heard about it, Trade Bank introduced unsecured loans where like is the practice in the banking sector today, all one needs for access credit is a payslip.

The Kassam magic began to pay off almost immediately as small depositors began flocking the bank to open accounts and for the hassle free credit facilities.

Where did the rain begin to beat Trade Bank?

As an inactive director of the bank, Kassam and his brother had ceded control of the bank to Gad Zeevi, one of the directors, a Jew, who unbeknown to many people was the business front of one of the most powerful politicians in the country and Ian Rayner, the managing director.

In a bid to consolidate his control in the Bank, Kassam began buying out stakes of some of the directors.

One of the people Kassam bought out was Gad Zeevi in a move that gave him an opportunity to track the operations of the bank.

Enter Moi Era Powerbrokers

During the purchase of the shares, Zeevi was forced to disclose that he had prevailed on Trade Bank to lend Shs 400 Million, which was a higher amount than what it had to LZ ltd, a construction company owned by the powerful minister in the then Moi’s government. The loan was for the construction of an ultra-modern commercial property in Kilimani area, named after Zeevi’s daughter.

Kassam immediately reported the fraud to Central Bank of Kenya and immediately embarked on attempts to compel LZ ltd, to pay up the loan.

As Kassam was to discover LZ had no intentions of paying up the loan. Once when he tried to attaché the property, LZ contracted a valuer who put the price of the property. LZ contracted a valuer who put the piece of property at shs 900 million meaning that any attempts to sell the property would mean that Trade Bank would still have to pay LZ Shs 500 million.

The hunter becomes the hunted

Parallel to the upping of the value of the property, the politicos had set in place a motion a process to have Kassam arrested and charged with fraud. When he decided to drive towards Namanga to escape Special Branch’s dragnet, it had finally occurred to him that he had nowhere to turn in his bid to stabilize the bank. So he let it crumble and left the country, not a businessman, but a fugitive.

From the foregoing, one wonders; between the innovative investors, the hard-working bank staff who gave Trade Bank the positive edge it had acquired in the market and the politicians who borrowed money with no intention to paying; who really killed Trade Bank?


Uhuru set to quit ODM-Kenya

Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta is all set to leave ODM-Kenya, a special delegates conference is in the works,a nd the future of 44 year old party – Kanu is in yet another deep crisis, one which will underscore and stretch the political muscle of its current leaders to the ultimate limits.

His crisis is deepened by the fact that Raila Odinga, the man who had shown indications that he would not mind a loose coalition with him was no longer showing interest in the formation of what was said to be a third force and had instead gone ahead to register a political party as a fallback plan, his denials in public recently notwithstanding.

Though in public Raila was putting a hardline stance on Uhuru issue, sources indicate that he was actually planning to seek a deal with Uhuru ahead of the general elections. During the plenary meeting held at Panafric hotel, two weeks ago, Raila was on Uhuru’s side as he made his demands, engineering the formation of a committee to look into what he termed as “legitimate demands”.

Uhuru, we have learnt from his close aides was piecing together what will be the toughest political fight, by calling yet another National Delegates Conference, the second in two months, to chart the way forward.

“However, there is something we are trying to fix in the power that NEC holds in such a meeting. The last time they spoilt our plans, this time we have to be a little smarter and we are working on a surprise. I am sure you are not waiting for me to give my enemies a piece of pie on the media by telling you all about our battle plan,” a former legislator involved with the Uhuru camp said in an interview.

Uhuru, who has undergone an almost complete political metamorphosis, from the young naïve politician who lost the 1997 parliamentary elections to Moi political project that was rejected by voters in the 2002 general elections, is now faced with a tough choice; balancing his own and the interest of the very people who have chartered his political career.

Already the party is prepared for a split within its ranks, with possible scenarios already presenting themselves. One of them is the possible unity of the Uhuru faction and the Biwott splinter group. Signs are already there as the two held a meeting in a Nairobi Hotel on Wednesday.

Top on the chart is the exit of Secretary General William Ruto, alongside key Rift valley legislators allied o both Kanu and ODM-Kenya, including chairman Henry Kosgey. The fate of others like Mutula Kilonzo who has ideally opposed Uhuru from the day of party elections and more recently in the June delegates conference.

“Lets not make the same mistakes we made in the past, let’s stick on ODM-Kenya and push for our course within the party,” said Kilonzo.

Reached on phone Justin Muturi the closest ally of Uhuru in Kanu, said that their position on ODM-Kenya was not going to change and that they would explore other avenues, on their political path once the deadline is over.

“I will not tell you about our next move, because you never know maybe someone is still trying to do something to address what we raised but let’s be very clear here, if the deadline comes and no word has been spoken to us formally then we will surely move out,” Muturi said.

Uhuru wants ODM-K to recognize Kanu as a corporate partner within its ranks with power to sponsor its own parliamentary candidates to parliament, Kanu also wants the 40:40:20 principle implemented in all organs of ODM-K as a way of ensuring the party does not cede its independence.

“Coalitions are best formed after elections, for now the best approach will obviously be mergers and the individual status of parties must be recognized,” Uhuru argued un the June special delegates conference.

“Let no one think Kanu is out of options, we have options, we know we cant win the elections alone, and we will surely join with other players to make sure that we are victorious in the next general elections,” said Uhuru in the same parley held at the traditional venue, Moi International Sports Centre Kasarani.

“The likely scenario is that Kanu will move out of ODM-L,” explained James Mumo, a political scientist with a local actuarial firm, the next “is the exit of Ruto and the return of the Biwott team.”

“Depending on how you look at it, the move would have both devastating and positive effects on Uhuru,” Mumo further narrated.

“If Ruto left, then it would mean that he would be joining ODM-K as an individual, a move that would reduce his negotiation power within ODM-K ranks. However, the return of Biwott would be seen as a major victory for Uhuru especially if he returned and took an inferior position to his within the party”.

Mumo also noted, “You however must appreciate that the return of Biwott and Nick Salat to Kanu is the re-entry of former president Moi into Kanu and it would take loads of convincing for Uhuru to prove that at last he had become his own man.”

“It is however, the coalition the post-Ruto Kanu chooses to join that will either seal or add muscle to Uhuru as a political success,” Mumo said.

The scenario of Uhur joining up with Kibaki was dismissed by all political scientists we attempted to speak saying “Uhuru’s political star is not in the victory of 2007 elections but in his preparations and packaging for the 2012 general elections.”

A Uhuru prepares to bolt out of ODM-K, a coalition he has fought more than he has worked with in his short flirtation with it, the question that comes up is, what next for Uhuru?

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How Kalonzo humiliation was plotted

It has now emerged that the heckling of one of the ODM-K presidential aspirant Kalonzo Musyoka at the would-have-been party unity rally in Mombasa was indeed a pre-planned and well executed affair.

Details unearthed confirm that supporters of a leading ODM-K presidential hopeful held secret meetings before the rally. Sources say that it is in those meetings that Kalonzo’s humiliation was planned.

The secret meetings took place at Mombasa’s Casablanca Spot, which is owned by a Coast civic leader closely related to a key ODM-K luminary.

The civic leader was entirely in charge of organizing the Mombasa rally, first set to take place at the famous Tononoka Grounds, but whose venue was abruptly changed at the last minute. The change of venue, we are informed, was ostensibly to suit the anti-Kalonzo scheme.

The Mwingi North legislator’s agents as well as those of other ODM-K hopefuls were kept in the dark as the last minute arrangements were made and only one aspirant, area MP Najib Balala, was left to inform others about the details.

Sources allege that Balala as well as Changamwe MP Ramadhan Kajembe, were privy to the last minute secret arrangements. Both are well known supporters of one of the ODM-K luminaries.

Investigations indicate that the civic leader personally recruited the youths who heckled Kalonzo. He also hired one John Mwai to supervise printing of T-shirts, banners and symbols that identifies with one of the ODM-K aspirants.

The chairman of the Coast province Networking Committee (CPNC) for Kalonzo Musyoka, Mrs Shakilla Omar, confirmed that her group was not involved in the last minute preparations of the Mombasa rally, including the abrupt change of venue.

“We were only told Balala was handling the matter and was in touch with all ODM-K presidential hopefuls”, she said when contacted on telephone.

Omar says it al started on Wednesday, five days before the rally, when Kalonzo’s representatives on the rally organizing committee were informed that the venue had changed from the historical Tononoka Grounds to a primary school in the neighbourhood. No reasons were given for the change.

She goes on, “come Friday, the eve of the meeting, we were summoned for a final-touches meeting at the Mombasa Show Grounds. On arrival at the venue, we found representatives of a rival presidential hopeful leaving the venue.

On inquiring what could have been going on, we were told the area MP, Balala had called to say there would be no need for the meeting because the presidential hopefuls were handling everything at their level. At that moment we smelled a rat,” says Omar.

Other sources say supporters of a key ODM-K aspirant hijacked entire security arrangements for the rally after playing a trick on the organizing committee.

“The initial plan was that the committee recruits a neutral team of 100 security team to man the dais. Then all over a sudden we were told that Mombasa MPs, being hosts to the meeting, would be taking care of the security arrangements. It turned out that a team from just one of the candidates had already been put on stand-by for the function,” they say.

Come Saturday and Kalonzo’s people found themselves in a confused state and unable to brief their man exactly what was going on.

Says Omar “We were quite embarrassed that we didn’t know what to tell our candidate”. She discloses that at that juncture, Kalonzo decided not to attend the meeting but was prevailed upon by key allies not to do so.

Information availed is that T-shirts and placards in support of one candidate were distributed at the Mombasa Village Club and behind the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) offices on the eve of the rally.

Contacted however, Mvita MP, Najib Balala insisted there was no plot to humiliate Kalonzo.

He said “The rally was genuinely called for the purposes of unity in ODM. It is true there was tension a few days before it took place but this is normal because of the support people have for different preffered candidates.”

Balala added that himself being a presidential hopeful, he would not be party to schemes intended to favour one candidate over the other.

“The issue came up during our luncheon will all the hopefuls just before the rally and where we agreed that presidential candidates would not declare their support or objection to the contentious issue (the method to pick our party flag bearer),” he says.

Although Balala admits that Kalonzo communicated to him, fears that there would be tension at the meeting, he insists that there was no plot to humiliate him or any other presidential candidate.

He says, “The only thing I know for sure is that Coast province is with me and they will go wherever I will go. And for now, I am neutral.”

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Time to stop warlords in ODM-K

When do you decide that it’s time to buy a new pair of shoes? An MP I asked this question said he buys new shoes whenever he buys a new suit. A pair to every suit, he said was his wardrobe motto.

Someone told me he buys a new pair whenever unexpected amount of money such as a bonus at work goes his way. A lady told me she buys a new pair every two months.

Another told me that the question wasn’t applicable to him because al his shoes were second-hand and so it wasn’t quite correct for him to say the he bought new shoes. Eyeing my own shoes, he asked me when I buy new shoes myself.

I buy new shoes, I told him, when the newest pair starts looking worse than the previous one. When I start considering the shoe I had replaced better than the one that replaced it, I told the fellow, then that’s the time I buy a new one. Sometimes, I return to the shoe I had replaced until the shoe I replaced it with starts looking better and that I again return to it until it also starts looking worse off than the other one.

Laugh at me but that’s where we’ll soon be heading to as a country when it comes to replacing leaders unless magic happens and we come up with a formula for nurturing leaders.

For with president Mwai Kibaki poised to retain his seat, there’s no one on the horizon who appears equal to the task of presidency once Kibaki calls it quits after, from all indications, another five years.

Not to worry, someone assured me when I expressed these fears to him. God, he went on, was still with Kenyans because he has kept Moi as healthy as ever and so in case there’s no good replacement for Kibaki, then we can always ask Moi to take over the steering wheel of the country.

When we were putting Kibaki in power in 2002, we were seeing Moi as an old shoe that wasn’t decent enough to be put on by any self-respecting country.

Now if there’re some people who are now considering Moi for the job of presidency again, what does that say about the country? If returning to the old shoes means that one is degenerating dress-wise, then considering Moi to state house says the same thing about our country’s leadership, simply that there’re no leaders around fit enough to become presidents.

Imagine Kibaki who only months ago was considered by some to be a below average president is now considered a better option to all aspirants for his job. In other words the aspirants are below below average.

And not without reason, for if the blatant glutton for power Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka is anything to go by, anyone would be forgiven for rating Kibaki and Moi so highly.

Raila and Kalonzo are now like the animals that will go for each other’s neck the moment they set eyes on each other. Luckily, Kalonzo seems to have realized that and now is even asking ODM to keep the two of them as far apart as possible until the party comes up with a candidate.

Raila on the other hand is saying that they can still be kept together. Whether Raila’s stand is informed by the knowledge that he will emerge better off in the dog-tear-dog fight with Kalonzo or Kalonzo’s stand is informed by fear of emerging worse off, both are right in their own ways as to stay together might lead to a healing of relationships while staying apart may avert a confrontation between the two’s followers.

Instead of lessening, the differences between the two are increasing. These two, let’s face it, will never work together comfortably. Let them go their own ways and then bring together their different parties in a coalition if need be.

As things stand now, the two are fighting over a plate of food that’s enough for each but doesn’t seem so because it’s in one plate. Why not put it in bowls with a bowl for each?

They would then have no one but themselves to blame if the food in their bowls spilled as they want to now spill it from the plate. But with the now differing duo at daggers drawn, it might even be more dangerous for them to eat from different bowls as they might seek to poison each other.

One plate for both would therefore be the safer option as no one would dare poison it unless they were suicidal. But would they hear? These warlords of ODM?

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Mogere now quits to try hand in parliament

The managing director National Cereals and Produce Board Naftali Mogere has resigned to contest for the Bobasi parliamentary seat during the December polls.

Mogere will now try to give the sitting member of parliament Stephen Manoti hard time to recapture the seat.

Mogere tendered his resignation to his boss Agriculture minister Kipruto Arap Kirwa. The former MD will bank on his development record and clan factor to unseat Manoti who is serving for the second term.

Mogere has been holding meetings with persons he had assisted secure employment in both government and private sector to boost his campaigns.

The soft-spoken and policed personality is the candidate to watch for the seat after the December elections.

Manoti and former area mp Chris Obure have been dominating the parliamentary race with Obure serving for three terms while Manoti is serving for the second time.

The former MD gained popularity when he was thrown out of National Social Security Fund over alleged corruption and abuse of office.

While serving as managing trustee NSSF, Mogere ensured that people from his constituency seeking employment and who had qualifications secured employment.

He extended the same spirit to NCPB by giving jobs to members of his community. The spirit gives him added advantage against his opponents.

He had conducted a number of fund-drives in aid of school orphans, clearing hospital bills for the sick among others.

He feels that issues facing the masses have not been addressed by the MP

The former MP is not a newcomer in politics as this is the man behind the political success of Obure. He is the one who had been coordinating and facilitating his political campaigns.

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Kiraitu defends move on KTDA

Energy Minister Kiraitu Murungi has strongly defended the government’s plan of converting Kenya Tea Development Agency into a government parastatal. The South Imenti MP says the tea industry has not been able to benefit from the government’s funding despite the fact that it has various financial predicaments, because it is managed as a private company. The minister said as much as the government may wish, it cannot bail out the tea farmers from several of their monetary hiccups as it did with coffee, sugar and maize farmers because Kenya Tea Development Agency is a private entity.

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Khamisi under siege as race for Bahari hots up

The Bahari parliamentary seat in Kilifi district is becoming a hotbed of Coast politics as evidenced by the turnover of aspirants scheming hard to topple Joe Khamisi in this year’s general elections.

It is instructive to note, no past MP for Bahari has ever managed a second successive term and this time round, the pattern is unlikely to change if the mood of the voters on the ground is anything to go by.

Several candidates have already made up their minds to face-off with Khamisi. They include a former area MP Dr Mtana Lewa, land activist Mrima Wanyepe, Narc-K constituency chairperson Margaret Safari, nominated councilor Chiriku Wanje, Shirikisho party of Kenya activist Mohamed Omar Masumbuko and hotelier Madaraka Mzerera.

Others are clearing and forwarding agent Vincent Mwachiro, former NTV sports anchor-man Mustafa Idi, MYWO Coast region chairperson Sureiya Hirsi, land activist Ramos Mwachiru, businessman Hamid Mbarak, Raphael Mwanagala, Michael Tinga, Victor Nyale, Benedict Gunda, Amos Chibuba, Eng, Mwatebwe Saa, John Safari Mumba and Chilumo Katai.

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Karume 1000 acre land sale deal backfires

Defense minister Njenga Karume may face a legal battle over an alleged illegal sale of 1,000 acres peace of land to the Government of Kenya at a cost of Kshs 169m. it has now emerged that Karume had allegedly illegally acquired the land from Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC) in 1994.

Although it is not known why the controversial sale of the said piece of land is coming up more than 10 years after Karume acquired it and more than one year after it was sold to the Government, sources say the matter came to public limelight when some government officials attempted to repossess it but the increasingly influential Karume and those who benefited from the sale frustrated the efforts.

Those who have been closely monitoring the saga divulged that Karume who owns big parcels of land in Nakuru acquired the land way back during the Moi and Kanu regime at a time when those loyal to the system were rewarded with pieces of land.

The sale of the controversial ADC plots in the early 1990s was ordered by Moi who affected changes to the ADC Act that empowered parastatals to dispose land under its care.

But in a quick rejoinder, Karume stood his ground and insisted he legally acquired the land saying laid down procedures were followed to the letter and that when he sold it to the government last year, the transaction was transparently done on a willing-buyer, willing-seller basis.

Documents show that Karume sold to the government parcel of land No. LR9060 (Shs 72m) and LR9696 (Shs 48m). But as much as Karume has come out fighting, sources say he bought the land for Shs 1m and that the sale eluded legal scrutiny.

We have gathered that by the time the government was entering into the sale agreement with Karume, government officials did not bother to counter-check how Karume acquired the land. The land was however bought to settle squatters from Likia Forest and other areas affected by tribal clashes in the early 1990s.

Ten years after purchasing the parcel of land which he had not developed by the time of the controversial sale, Karume allegedly approached the Lands minister sometimes in June 2005 to buy the piece of land to settle squatters. Interestingly, it was the time that the government through the minister for Finance allocated Shs 400m in the 2005/2006 budget as part of the resettlement programme.

Although it is said valuation of the plot was done to favour Karume, it emerged that Karume had offered to sell the parcel to the government at Shs 250,000 per acre but later accepted the government’s offer of Shs 159,000 per acre.

But even as queries are being raised over the controversial sale, rumours spreading like bushfire say the Government ahs received requests from Karume to sell more pieces of land to the government after Finance minister allocated Shs 1.5 bn for the resettlement programme in the current financial year’s budget.

But those who have been involved in the sale negotiations revealed there is general fear that Karume may be in a hurry to sell out the plots as a commission appointed by the president in 2003 to look into illegal allocation of public land recommended that the controversial ADC plots sold to politically correct individuals and businessmen be repossessed as the transactions amounted to corruption.

According to the report, the commission through its chairman Nairobi lawyer Paul Ndung’u specifically recommended that the ADC plots sold to Karume and others be repossessed and the beneficiaries charged for corruption. The plots were sold to the government when there was pressure from the public that the president makes public findings of the Ndung’u report that implicated senior government officials in serious land grabbing. It was during that time that Karume pulled a fast one against the government and negotiated for the sale.

What remains to be seen now is whether the government can move in to either repossess the controversial ADC plots or implement the Ndung’u report which implicated Karume among other top government officials.

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Kibaki men go for Raila: Kibaki now dangles carrot infront of Raila

Scared of the man’s popularity, the president’s kitchen cabinet now wants to bring Raila to their side.

Despite oozing confidence last week that President Mwai Kibaki remains the favourite candidate to win this year’s elections, according to the Steadman opinion polls, his strategists are leaving nothing to chance warning of misplaced over-confidence especially if ODM remains united.

A highly confidential intelligence report points out that the only way Presidnet Kibaki can comfortably win back the presidency is to ensure the Orange democratic Movement (ODM-K) breaks up. And how else, the sources point out, than to reach out to ODM presidential luminary, Lang’ata MP Raila Odinga to support Kibaki’s re-election bid, something many see as a Herculean task indeed.

Members of the Kibaki kitchen cabinet are said to have approached Rail and his close allies with several proposals including making him the president’s running mate. Although Kibaki and Raila have never met face to face, their emissaries are said to have held several behind-the-scene meetings to strike a deal. As they say in politics there are no permanent enemies although Odinga still bitterly recalls the broken power sharing deal (MOU) of 2002 which Kibaki breached.

Last week, Raila’s key ally Otieno Kajwang revealed that Raila and his supporters would rather support Kibaki than let ODM pick its presidential candidate through consensus. After the Mombasa rally in which Kalonzo was heckled by ODM supporters perceived to be Raila supporters, the two last week addressed what was known as unity press conference but it remains to be seen whether the unity will hold for long.

ODM-K luminaries last week tried to put a brave face denying that the party is divided. The Steadman Group poll revealed that ODM-K is the party majority of Kenyans support at the moment, and it appears attempts to break it up seems to have hit a dead end after Raila men reportedly told off emissaries sent to woo Raila to support Kibaki.

We have gathered that when Raila supporters hinted that they were ready to leave ODM and contest the presidency on an LDP ticket, Kibaki’s men assumed it was the entry point to have Raila to their side. Sources say that State House has been dangling goodies to Raila including lucrative business opportunities.

Top on their agenda is to ensure a company owned by the Odinga family trading as Spectre International is given first priority to buy Miwani and Muhoroni sugar companies once they are privatized. The two companies are currently under receivership and Spectre International is said to be one of the companies that have pre-qualified. Spectre is also expected to be given lucrative deals and to consolidate the supply of molasses.

Although it is not known whether the Odinga family may agree to strike the deal, State House sources divulged that Kibaki has been convinced that Raila is more valuable than the rest of the ODM-K presidential contenders as they claim that without Raila, ODM will die a natural death. It is against such fears that emissaries have been sent to Raila’s confidantes and some even to Raila’s wife Ida Odinga.

The idea that is being sold to Raila is to move out of ODM and support Kibaki to win the second term through LDP. By supporting Kibaki, he can be appointed his deputy and will therefore be a principal player in Kibaki’s succession for 2012 elections.

Many are however pondering whether this strategy is tenable after the betrayal in 2002 but they say Odinga is unpredictable having patched things with his former tormentor retired President Moi. The Moi regime had allowed the Odingas to acquire the Molasses plant. Raila, a political schemer to boot, is said to be aware of all the possible scenarios in the Kibaki succession political games and has given tough conditions for such a deal.

According to Raila, Kibaki strategists are said to be positioning Education Minister Prof. George Saitoti as heir apparent while another class of thought has it that Kanu national chairman Uhuru Kenyatta will be Kibaki’s choice for the top seat in 2012.

We have gathered that some state house operatives have also been approaching Kanu chairman Uhuru Kenyatta to consider pulling out of ODM to support Kibaki through a coalition ahead of the December poll.

Raila is said to be aware of the Uhuru and Saitoti power games for the 2012 elections and has asked for more time for wider consultations before making any move. Saitoti on the other hand is said to be spending millions of shillings sponsoring parliamentary and civic candidates to consolidate his support for the 2012 elections.

The professor of mathematics is a member of the Kibaki campaign team and a leading financier and contributor to the national campaign kitty. He is said to have pledged to contribute Shs 1bn from himself and friends towards Kibaki’s presidential campaign. Apart form Saitoti, those said to have pledged to contribute towards Kibaki’s campaign kitty include Defense minister Njenga Karume, Internal security minister John Michuki, Nairobi Stock exchange Chairman Jimnah Mbaru, businessmen Lee Karuri, peter Kanyago and Jimmy Wanjigi among others.

Back to the Raila-Kibaki deal, investigations reveal that although remarks by William Ruto that Raila is not electable because he is a Luo did not go down well with his supporters, Raila’s plan B is to go it alone on an LDP ticket. One of the options Raila men are said to have given the Kibaki emissaries is that Odinga can only form an alliance with Kibaki after the elections.

According to outraged Raila strategists, it would be laughable to the extreme to enter into yet another pre-election MOU as it happened during the 2002 general elections. Kibaki on the other hand is working on a strategy that has even kept his ardent supporters in total darkness. His party of choice remains a thorny issue and the current power struggle between DP and Narc-K tells it all. There is even word that he could be headed back to DP a party he formed in 1991.

Another intelligence report has it that Kibaki has been advised that it will be to his advantage if ODM fields more than one candidate in separate parties and the trick here is to force a run-off between the winner and the first runner off.

In case of a run-off, Kibaki who currently enjoys backing off several political parties and their leaders such as Simeon Nyachae of Ford-People and Musikari Kombo of Ford-K and also including Shirikisho party which last month took Coast Province by storm, he can be assured of winning comfortably. According to latest opinion polls, no single candidate can garner the mandatory 25 percent of total votes cast in five provinces.

But even as attempts by Kibaki men to woo Raila enters crucial stages, ODM-K luminaries vowed to stick together with Odinga describing the ongoing ODM nomination race as unique and a healthy experience. Many however point out that time could be running out for Kibaki to show his ace card (read party of choice) but others say this could also turn out to be both his secret and Achilles heel.

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CIA secret report on ODM crisis

America now ditches ODM over infighting

President Mwai Kibaki is the man to bet on in this year’s crucial general elections, a secret report compiled by the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States of America (CIA) says.

The agency apart from collecting security data also collects political data worldwide which it then passes to the US government for analysis with a view to helping Washington chart appropriate political foreign policy positions.

Although the agency had mid-way through Kibaki’s term as president given the US government the impression that the man to put its bets on was Kalonzo Musyoka, the incessant infighting in ODM-K has now changed and CIA believes the opposition party has lost its previous formidable clout, and can not possibly form the next government.

So promising at one time was ODM that the Americans were confident the question of a regime change in Kenya was a matter of when and not if. As a result, the Americans had reportedly even started planning how they would channel campaign funds to the Kalonzo camp through the Tanzanian government. It will be remembered that the Tanzanian president Jakaya Kikwete during a trip to Washington discussed the government of Kenya with US president George Bush, something that did not go down well with the Nairobi regime who felt that Kikwete and Bush were overstepping their limits by talking about a friendly government in the absence of its representatives. At the time, Kikwete reportedly told Bush that Kibaki was fast losing political clout.

It is understood that the Americans were showing a preference to ODM ostensibly because Kibaki’s style of leadership was rolling back the gains of democracy and losing the war on high level graft something that has enraged Washington and was echoed by visiting senator of Kenyan roots Barrack Obama early this year.

With ODM now as good as dead thanks to endless infighting, the Americans now look at Kibaki through different lenses much to the chagrin of Kalonzo who had reportedly counted on the US to provide him with campaign cash.

The CIA, blamed for the overthrow of some African governments like Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah and murder of Congo’s Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba as the cold war raged in the 1960’s, was created in 1947 with the signing of the National Security Act by President Harry S. Truman. The CIA’s responsibilities include collecting, correlating and evaluating intelligence related to the national security and providing appropriate dissemination of such intelligence.

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These road shows mean little; get on with the real job

The so-called luminaries of ODM Kenya are putting some rather grand public displays designed to demonstrate how united they are.

There was the press conference in Nairobi last Friday followed by the rally in Nakuru on Sunday. Any visitor from Mars witnessing the two occasions would have presumed that the very public displays of affection indicate a party with no problems whatsoever.

But there is the fact that the public love-fest is dictated by the need to put on a public display of unity, itself an indicator that there is little love lost between the main contenders for the party’s presidential nomination.

As they put on the road-shows which have the effect of selling a big lie, time is running out. If it is clear that the attempts at brokering a compromise are not getting anywhere, then ODM must immediately put in place a timetable for party primaries.

There is the argument that the primary poll will be too expensive and divisive, but if there is no better alternative, that will be the only way to go.

The process can be simplified so that instead of a poll involving over a 100,000 delegates, the numbers are reduced to something much more manageable.

All that ODM needs to do is to organise grassroots elections limited to card-carrying members, which will result in the election of between 3,000 and 4,000 delegates who would then elect the presidential candidate as well as office-bearers.

That is the exerise that will separate the serious candidates from the no-hopers and joy-riders. And if the party is go the consensus way, then a way must be found so that those involved in the negotiations are weighted according to the numbers they bring to the table.

It will not be enough to assume, for instance, that Mr William Ruto controls the vast Rift Valley or that Mr Musalia Mudavadi controls the Western Province vote. All the polls so far show that the two are are relative minnows.

ODM can take the Steadman polls or commission its own and use those numbers to weight the candidates.

That way, those who are being called luminaries merely because they have declared they are also standing for president, yet they have absolutely no chance, will not be able to claim equal billing with the real candidates.

The fact of the matter is that the contest for the ODM presidential nomination is a two-horse race between Mr Raila Odinga and Mr Kalonzo Musyoka, with the former pulling away and the latter going backwards. The rest are in the race merely to make up the numbers or to bargain for Cabinet posts if ODM forms the next government.

SOME ARE THAT BY SOME MIRAcle, they can sit back and be declared the compromise candidate. Others are so weak even in their own constituencies that they cannot be confident of winning a parliamentary seat. So they hope that the “luminary” tag will earn them free passage for the ticket in their respective constituencies, or if the worst comes to the worst, direct nomination to Parliament after the elections.

Surely such people, the likes of Mr Joe Nyagah, Dr Julia Ojiambo and Mr Najib Balala, have no place sitting on the negotiation table as equals with the likes of Mr Odinga and Mr Musyoka. They should not even be allowed on the table.

It follows that the effort to reach a consensus must be based on identifying the candidate most likely to secure victory for ODM. Such a candidate can only be identified through a process based on real facts and figures, not mumbo jumbo about somebody being more electable.

Whatever method ODM settles for, delegates or consensus, time is not on their side. By now there should be a clear timetable for selection or election of a presidential candidate.

Ideally, there should be no harm waiting until just two or three months to the general elections, but that would be extremely risky in a situation where their main rival controls the election timetable. Remember ex-President Moi and his “election date is my secret weapon” pronouncements of years gone by?

There is nothing even today to stop President Kibaki dissolving Parliament next week. They could be called when the ODM leaders are still taking their fake unity road shows across the country and proclaiming undying love; but with daggers aimed at each others’ backs.

I do not, as a rule, publicly endorse candidates for political office. But I am tempted to buck the trend and root for Local Government minister Musikari Kombo and the civic leaders who are pushing some of the toughest “no smoking” rules in the world.

Mr Kombo and Nairobi Mayor Wathika, backed by rather overzealous city police, have ensured that my daytime nicotine fix has been radically reduced. Nairobi must be the only city where “public place” in reference to smoking means even the great outdoors.

Anyway, after years of vain struggle, the new anti-smoking rules have forced me to involuntarily cut down on the noxious weed. But only during the day, for immediately I get to a “safe” place – where there will be no council police to extract cash – at the end of the day, the tendency is to make up the arrears.

So, overall ,nothing has changed. I still need something to cure me of that deadly addiction.

Publication Date: 2007/07/17

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Raila lost his innocence during the referendum

By Koigi wa Wamwere

The recent statement that ODM-Kenya presidential aspirant Mr Raila Odinga is unelectable because he is a Luo is the smoke from an atomic bomb of negative ethnicity. Unless it is defused, it will blow the country into smithereens. But who cares? Most of us are too busy to notice. Behind the statement lies a severe, vicious and reckless struggle for power.

The statement, however, belongs to the same genre as: "This Government is ours, we must never let it go" or "it is the turn of our community to eat".

It is the desperate struggle for power that brings out the worst in us and marries us to negative ethnicity. Because the Luo and others are unelectable, we argue, only we qualify to lead. The argument is meant to disqualify not just Raila, but the whole community from power.

But if belonging to another ethnicity disqualifies the Luo from power, it could also be used to disqualify other communities by those who believe only they have the right to ascend to top leadership. But when we join the chorus that others are unelectable because they are ethnically different, we forget that could also be used against us. The unelectability of others is our own unelectability.

Yesterday, we disqualified the Kikuyu; today we disqualify the Luo and tomorrow we shall disqualify the Kalenjin, Kamba, Luhya and people from the Coast. But as founding Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere correctly argued, embracing tribalism is as unstoppable as eating human flesh. Even after the ogre in us has eaten the Kikuyu, the Luo and others, it will not rest when all the communities have been eaten. It will demand that we feed it with clans, families, brothers and sisters.

The Somali call negative ethnicity that "war against my brother". And they put it very amply: It begins with my country and I against the world, then my clan and I against the country, my family and I against the clan, my brother and I against my family and then my brother and I.

Pursuit of individual dreams, greed and interest disguised as collective survival is what has destroyed Somalia, unleashed genocide in Rwanda and will, some day, destroy Kenya. The problem of negative ethnicity and power seekers calling others unelectable did not start with the so-called ODM-Kenya luminaries telling Raila that he is unelectable.

It started with colonialists pitting African communities against one another. After independence, Kikuyu leaders killed and detained enemies of their rule — Pio Gama Pinto, Tom Mboya, Oginga Odinga and JM Kariuki, among others. After Kenyatta, Kanu institutionalised the call of "all against one", rallying other communities against the Kikuyu until it came to all other communities against Kanu.

Since Narc came to power, Raila has championed the rallying of other communities against the Kikuyu whom he called the enemy during and after the referendum on the draft constitution. As Raila mobilised anti-Kikuyu forces, he did not understand that anti-Kikuyuism is just an offspring of tribalism, the monster that now wants to devour him.

Calling Raila unelectable is unacceptable, but also a case of poetic justice, the hunter being the hunted and Raila reaping where he sowed.

Raila lost his innocence when he joined hands with tribal hyenas, thinking they would escort him to State House. Now that the crocodile that Raila reared to eat others is baying for his blood, will he change and fight or all he wants is a sympathy vote?

Raila might say that by defending himself, he is fighting tribalism. To fight tribalism, however, one needs to do more than defend oneself. One must defend oneself and all others against tribalism.

But can Raila fight tribalism within ODM-Kenya? Though the party is not more guilty of tribalism than the rest of us, its ideology and compass are ethnic hate. It used anti-Kikuyu tribalism to win the referendum.

It is now using anti-Luoism to pick its presidential candidate. Thereafter, it will revert to anti-Kikuyu tribalism for the General Election. Raila cannot, therefore, fight tribalism from within ODM. He plans to gain from the anti-Kikuyu tribalism of ODM should he be picked as its presidential flag bearer.

It is amazing that Raila was surprised when ODM-Kenya’s tribalism sprang upon him. He should have seen it coming. How can a person of Raila’s political experience and intellectual acumen have failed to know that there is no way ethnic hate can stop at one community?

How can it stop when ODM-Kenya promotes majimboism as opposed to non-ethnic devolution; when ODM-Kenya presidential candidates, including Raila, have been selling themselves as ethnic presidents?

Raila must have thought anti-Kikuyu tribalism was good because it won ODM-Kenya victory in the referendum on the draft constitution and can easily win him victory in the elections.

But tribalism is a boomerang. It comes back to whoever throws it. It is also a saw. It cuts both ways. When you ride the tiger of tribalism to take you to victory or power, you must not complain when it turns round and shreds you into pieces.

By embracing negative ethnicity, we dig a common grave for us all.

The writer is the Assistant minister for Information and Subukia MP

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Mungiki: Things Fall Apart

President Mwai Kibaki’s Madaraka Day outburst against the Mungiki sect was an act of escapism and hollow bravado, geared at glossing over much deeper and wider societal problems. Even in passing, his Madaraka Day remarks cannot be treated with any shred of seriousness, given the failure of his Government to take any action on the perpetrators of the multi-billion shilling Anglo-Leasing scam of 2004 and equally, the failure of his Government to take action
on the criminals who caused damage to the offices and press of the Standard Group in the high profile March 2006 raid, among just two still outstanding matters.

Two of the alleged masterminds of the Standard Group raid, foreigners no less, continued to operate with impunity in the country thereafter, before being belatedly deported following another high profile holdup at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta Airport, yet the president chose to insult the people of Kenya on Madaraka Day by declaring that his Government would not tolerate or harbour any kinds of criminal activity. Were Anglo-Leasing and the Standard Group raid the work of “Mungiki”?

Moreover, and tragically so, Mungiki is just part reflection of the near absolute manner in which this country is now overrun by marauding gangs and murderous militia, whose actions are seldom known to the wider public. Just before the crush of KQ 507 in May of this year, a gang of thugs gunned down 11 people near Kitale town in inexplicable gangland manner. This matter was quickly overshadowed by the KQ 507 plane crush, and has not been addressed since.
Incidences such as this have in any case been happening in all parts of the country for several
years now.

Numerous militia now control and administer different parts of the country, terrorising, maiming, stealing and raping, and are no different from Congo based militia such as “Intarahamwe” or “Banyamulenge”. The security apparatus in all parts of the country have
been heavily compromised by these gangs and militia, or are overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude, in areas where the security apparatus has resisted being compromised. A case in point are the July 2005 killings in Marsabit district where there stands proof of repeated memos to the central Government, both describing a deteriorating situation and appealing for

In areas such as Nairobi’s peri-urban Ngong division, it is a known fact that inebriated gangs operate in groups of up to one hundred at night and implore residents to scream as much as they want during break-ins. This only makes things worse, and co-operation is often the best defence. Numerous overwhelmed residents in areas such as Ngong have now chosen to either sell their properties, shift, leave their gates and main entrances open at night to lessen the damage, or opted to pay protection money to the gangs or militia. It is a state of futility that the
vast majority find themselves in, and it is in extremely poor taste for President Kibaki to brush all this aside and instead make bombastic remarks about only part of much more serious and much wider phenomenon.

In any case, groupings such as “Mungiki” are the result of extreme societal chauvinism, inequality, insensitivity and prejudice, going back several years. They have grown from strength to strength, fueled by society’s failure to adapt to changing times and changing realities. The terms in generous use at the moment, such as “crush Mungiki” and “deal with Mungiki once and for all” are in themselves a grim and sordid reflection of how detached we are from reality.
“Mungiki” and other similar groupings, are the Kenyanequivalent of organised crime elsewhere in the world, such as the Sicilian Mafia, the Italian Mafia, the Mafia in America (“The Mob”), “Commora”, the Russian Mafia and “Yakuza” in Japan. These are powerful and lethal organisations with wide and far reaching tentacles. If the American and Italian Governments
have been unable to “crush the Mafia” and/or “deal with the Mafia once and for all”, it is futile for President Kibaki to declare that he will squarely deal with “Mungiki”.

The line between organised crime, big business and Government is in any case extremely blurred. One of the most celebrated cases of this involves the high profile Kennedy dynasty in America. The Mob played a key role in the fortune that family patriarch Ambassador Joseph Kennedy made in the motion picture industry in Hollywood. Ambassador Kennedy also got
heavy support from The Mob in the 1960 election victory of his son, former President John F. Kennedy. It doesn’t stop there. Despite the Warren Commission’s dismissal of a conspiracy in the assassination of President Kennedy and the ridiculous adoption by the same commission of the zigzag trajectory of the bullet that eventually killed Kennedy, a strong conspiracy theory of the Mafia’s role in the assassination still looms, the motive being that Kennedy had made up his
mind to bring down the Mafia. What’s more is that Kennedy shared a mistress, Judith Exner, with then Chicago Mafia boss Sam Giancana, and Judith was said to be one of the key moles that the Mafia had in the White House. Besides, the Zapruder tape taken by an amateur cameraman on the day of Kennedy’s assassination, 22nd November 1963, clearly shows a clear shot to Kennedy’s head, the work of a high calibre rifle even by today’s standards, and certainly
the work of a professional hitman. There is no comparison whatsoever between Ronald Reagan’s
attempted assassination in 1981, and John F. Kennedy’s assassination of 1963. Many of us reacted with scornful disbelief when the Kenya Government initially suggested that former Foreign Affairs Minister Robert Ouko had committed suicide following his February 1990
demise, and it is clearly not just the Kenya Government that goofs. One would expect much better from any American Government. What’s more is that John F. Kennedy’s younger brother, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, was known to have even less patience for The Mob, and had to be stopped even before he became president.

Another example of the large presence of organised crime in society, is the intrigue surrounding the sudden unexpected death of Pope John Paul I in 1978, as captured in David Yallop’s bestseller “In God’s Name”. In the said David Yallop classic, one detects a determined effort by Albino Luciano (Pope John Paul I), to rid the Vatican of any Mafia connections and dealings, such as Paul Marcinkus (“God’s Banker”), and collapsed Italian bank, “Banco Ambrosiano”. Pope John Paul I paid for this with his life, and Churches in Kenya have no idea what they are talking about when they tell the Kenya Government to immediately crush “Mungiki”.

Comparisons of “Mungiki” with the Sicilian Mafia or the American Mafia do not however start and end there, and this is probably where our greater concern should lie. “Mungiki” clearly also has far-left political leanings and can in this respect be also compared to radical organisations such as “Hezbollah”, “Hamas”, “Taliban”, “Tupac Amaru”, “Fatah al-Islam”, “Abu Sayyaf” and “Black September”. “Mungiki” therefore has the combined features of an organised crime outfit
such as the Sicilian Mafia, as well left wing rebels with a political cause, such as “Black September”, and it is very unfortunate that we have chosen to ignore this.

President Kibaki, his Government and indeed all us, should therefore desist from using terms like “crush” because we are clearly dealing with phenomenon that we are little aware. We shall rather engage the likes of “Mungiki” in “talks” and “discussions”, in the same way that the Israelis engaged the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO), and in the same way that the Colombian Government engaged the Colombian drug cartels, including Pablo Escobar’s Medellin
cartel. “Mungiki” is not a fairy tale, but grim reality that can tear this country apart in ways that
we never imagined. Half of this country is under the siege of “Mungiki” type militia and the other half has put it’s money into collapsing pyramid schemes, and the best that President Kibaki can offer are hollow threats and a disputable 6.1 % growth rate. This country is in a terrible crisis and we are not helping matters by living in denial.

On Valentine’s Day 1929, another high profile, well known and ruthless Chicago mobster, Al Capone, ordered high profile executions on a rival gang, in what has come to be known as “The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre”, and what certainly ranks as one of the most brutal warnings and statements of intent of all time. “Mungiki” has done precisely this with it’s recent beheadings and none of us should make things worse by further provoking them.

By Michael M K

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Ruto denies visit as Nairobi Star apologizes

Ruto last Saturday vehemently denied claims by Nairobi Star that he had visited state house. He also denied that any of his companies had been awarded government tenders. He further denied that he had talks with Kibaki emissaries in order to decamp from ODM to Narck Kenya.

He promised to sue Nairobi Star over its Friday paper headline allegations. Nairobi Star admittedly in its first editorial mistake regarding politicians hastily apologized in its Saturday paper and confirmed that the Friday headline was propaganda and had no truth in it.

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Ruto in secret visit to state house

This story from the newly launched Nairobi Star.

Ruto in secret Narc-K talks

Kanu bigwig William Ruto could be on his way to ditching the Orange coalition and joining the Kibaki camp.

He has held top secret talks with the President’s key allies on at least three separate occasions – once in State House itself.

Although the Eldoret North MP has not met Mr Kibaki face to face, the President is privy to the delicate negotiations and has asked to be kept fully briefed.

Mr Ruto’s meetings with the President’s men – among them Defence minister Njenga Karume, Sports Minister Maina Kamanda and the presidents’s strategy adviser Stanley Murage – are said already to have yielded fruit, with the MP’s insurance firm Amarco winning a Sh 500 million tender to insure military vehicles.

The contaract was given to Mr Ruto’s company last month and factored into this year’s Budget. The Eldoret MP is also reported to have raised the possibility of several outstanding court cases involving alleged corruption being withdrawn.

In return it ahs been suggested Mr Ruto would cross over from the Orange movement to Narc-Kenya, taking with him the influential North Rift vote which would vastly increase Mr Kibaki’s chances of re-election.

Backing the switch of allegiance on Mr Ruto’s side and seen as the man who brokered the talks is MR Joshua Kulei, the private secretary of former President Moi.

One senior Kanu MP revealed: “I am privy to one of the meetings which was at State House and held on June 9 after Ruto came from a public rally in Kapkapet in Kericho district.”

Mr Ruto was flown to State House directly from the function, after being promised he would be meeting Mr Kibaki. Instead he was greeted by Defence Minister, Mr Karume.

The meeting was held two days before the Kanu National Delegates’ conference at Kasarani.

“Two other meetings took place in the home of influential Nairobi businessman Mr Jimmy Wanjigi in upmarket Muthaiga – a stone’s throw from the President’s own private residence – according to an istant minister from Central province. He said Mr Ruto’s contact people in the president’s team were Mr Kamanda and Education Minister Gorge Saitoti.

Last night, Mr, Ruto was not available for comment.

Nairobi Star

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Panic grips Royal Media

Just when everyone thought the going would be smooth at Royal Media Services after poaching top presenters from KTN and NTV, all is apparently not well at the locally-owned media house.

The media company which owns Citizen Television, Radio Citizen, The Leader Newspaper and eight other vernacular radio stations has been rocked with scandals, sources have divulged.

The embarrassing scenario has now seen the proprietor of the company S.K. Macharia and his wife Mrs Gathoni Macharia who are Chairman and Vice Chairman respectively contemplating sacking Waruru Wachira who was hired from Kenya Film Corporation.

According to inside sources at Royal Media headquarters based in Hurlingham, Wachira whose monthly salary is said to be more than Shs 500,000 plus numerous allowances has been reduced to signing vouchers since the Chairman and Vice chairman have lost faith in him as far as decision making is concerned.

Trouble started for Wachira when he re-instated Ms Cess Mutungi who had been suspended from Hot 96 allegedly because of drink problems and missing her breakfast morning shows. She had also earlier been kicked out of Chris Kirubi’s owned Capital FM because of similar reasons.

On being brought on board as Managing Director of Royal Media Services, the first thing Wachira did was to poach from KBC Ms Yasmin Martin a lady with whom their alleged relationship dates back to when he was the Managing Director at KBC. His attempts to bring on board Ms Tichi Nyasani another alleged mistress hit a snag when it leaked that he was having a hidden agenda.

Wachira has brought The Leader weekly to its knees by frustrating efforts by the founding Managing Editor Kiruri Kamau who has since resigned in a huff.

Md Judy Muhoro who was the force behind getting advertisements for The Leader weekly has also resigned to join KISS FM’s Nairobi Star that hit the streets this week due to Wachira’s interference.

Even after Royal Media Services commissioned research firm Infotrak whom they paid Shs 500,000, Wachira frustrated efforts by Kiruri to implement some of the issues contained in the crucial report a situation that has seen the paper’s weekly circulation cut from 6,000 to 2,000.

According to inside sources at The Leader Weekly, Njoka has now embarked on replacing those perceived to have been close to Kiruri, a situation which ahs affected the quality of stories carried in the paper which at one pointy was becoming a force to reckon with.


State hijacks Mudavadi Ombudsman idea

ODM-K presidential aspirant Musalia Mudavadi has lauded the government for anticipating some of his vision policies by implementing his proposal to create office of an Ombudsman.

The former vice president, however, doubted that the government had thought through before hurriedly appointing the committee. He said he hoped the committee was not part of the government ploy to hoodwink Kenyans by stealing ideas from the opposition.

“I launched a realistic vision and I am honoured that the government had found it fitting to appoint a committee at this time. I however do hope that this is not part of the stealing of ideas this government has perfected,” he said.

Mudavadi promises to create the office of the Ombudsman as a guarantee to equal access to justice in his vision entitled, “A Dignified Life for Kenyans”.

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Tom Mshindi makes come-back at Nation

A former Standard Group chief executive and veteran journalist Tom Mshindi has found his way back at the Nation Media group after being appointed managing director of Nation sister newspapers in Uganda Daily and Sunday Monitor with effect from 1st July 2007. He takes over from the outgoing MD Conrad Nkuru who has been promoted and transferred to Nairobi as Group Development Director.

Nkutu will be based in Nairobi while Mshindi heads to Kampala.

Mshindi’s appointment was made public to the staff of the Monitor Publications Ltd through a letter signed by the Chief Executive of the Nation Media Group Linus Gitahi.

Gitahi’s letter to the staff says in part “Tom Mshindi has been appointed the new Managing Director, Monitor Publications Ltd. Mr Mshindi a veteran journalist and respected editor, served as the Managing Editor of the daily Nation for nine years and as Group Managing Editor and CEO of the Standard Newspapers group.

Before the Standard, he worked as communications programmes consultant within the United Nations system in New York and Lagos, Nigeria. Lately, he has been a consultant in media relations, general management and communications. He has consulted for the World Bank, the United Nations and various other clients and helped set up Channel 2 entertainment TV station that is a joint venture between KBC and a Dubai based investor.

Mshindi is credited with turning around the fortunes of the Standard during the three years he was in charge through a business re-engineering process that brought far reaching improvements in the quality of the products and the marketing systems.

Some of the consultancies involved media research in East Africa from which he has gained useful insights in the challenges and opportunities existing in the countries and the region.

Mshindi holds a BA in political science and Literature, a Diploma in Mass Communications/Journalism from the University of Nairobi, a masters degree in international affaris from Columbia University/IESE. The changes take effect on July 1st 2007.

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Nairobi plans Africa’s first seven star hotel

Only days after its ISO 9001/2000 certification, Kenyatta International Conference Centre Corporation, the parastatal that manages the conference centre, is planning to construct a Shs 17 billion complex to tap into the ever growing international conference hosting.

The complex expected to be completed in three years’ time will be modelled along Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur International Conference centre will house Africa’s first seven star hotel complete with 220 VIP suites 20 of which will be presidential suites in internationally recognised and certified standards.

If approved, work on the site could begin as early as next year once the ongoing shs 1.2 billion rehabilitation programme on KICC is completed. The current phase of the rehabilitation is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Philip Kisia, KICC Managing Director, revealed that the corporation had already submitted the plans to the Ministry of tourism, treasury and office of the president for approval.

“It will be a complex,” Kisia said, “complete with several shopping malls, bars and restaurants, cinema halls, duty free shopping complexes, hotels, car rentals, health clubs, curio shops, salons and barber shops, churches, mosques and other prayer centres…a complex providing anything and everything anybody can dream of in terms of needs.”

It is expected that once complete, the complex will transform KICC into a city within a city in the same lines as the Sandton Conference Centre in South Africa or Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.

Kisia says: “The reason why the government and KICC board of directors are committed to this project is because modern conferencing is expanding very rapidly going beyond the capacities of the conferencing facilities which were constructed even in the 1980s through the 1990s because they are very limiting in the fast emerging scenario, yet it is extremely lucrative.”

The conference centre was built in late 1960’s but it opened its doors as a meeting facility in 1970s after it was officially opened in September 1973 by the late President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta.

It is estimated that when the convention centre is completed, it will increase the revenue generated by the center as a state corporation from shs 250 million to shs 2.3 billion annually. In the last two years, KICC has increased its turnover by 250 percent.

“The revenue generated to the national economy by the conference center annually is expected to be upwards of Shs 25 billion while employing more than 500 people on a permanent basis. Not to mention the huge number of business opportunities expected to be generated,” said Kisia.

According to the plans drawn by the KICC board, the convention centre is expected to have underground tunnels connecting its complex which will also house some shops to enable those strolling around the centre to do their shopping.

Parking facilities will also be underground, while the helipad on top of the KICC main twenty-eight floor structure is being revived to begin handling helicopter landings. Helicopters will be used to provide shuttle services for visitors from the airports to the convention center and other destinations.

The plans document possibilities of constructing a cable car network that will ferry passengers from the convention center to various parts of the city above the Nairobi skyline at a fee.

The convention center according to the plans, will occupy the area from Garden Square restaurant, all the way to Sheria House, Public Service Commission (PSC) headquarters and the Comesa grounds across parliament road part of which is currently being used as a public pay car park and open grounds for exhibitions and other activities.

The KICC boss says the ambitious plans for the convention are aimed at positioning Kenya to compete effectively in international conference tourism that has traditionally been a preserve for European and American countries.

In the recent years, Asian countries have emerged as competitors in preferred destination for conference tourism.

“Once the convention centre is complete,” Kisia said, “our only competitors will be South Africa and Egypt, but we are determined to dominate this market in the entire East African region, and the Comesa trading block because we have the capacity and the widest range of attractions to offer than any of our competitors.”

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