Archive for November 2009

The World Toilet Day - Let’s Talk About Sh!T

World Toilet Day, today (November 19), may pass unnoticed largely owing to lack of awareness of such a day. So, what is World Toilet Day for? It seeks to promote good toilet behavior and raise awareness on the effects of poor hygiene on people’s health.

This year’s theme is ‘health of your child begins in the toilet’. It aims to raise awareness on the effects of faecal-oral contamination on children. This simply means how ‘eating shit’ can lead to contracting diarrhoeal diseases such as dysentery and cholera, and lead to death of children. It also contributes to absenteeism from school.

Over 2.6 billion of the world population do not have proper toilet facilities. Worse still, even those with proper toilet facilities do not wash their hands properly after shitting. In Kenya, about 20 million people do not have proper toilet facilities. They defecate in the open or in a juala (flying toilet). Over 85% of Kenyans do not properly wash their hands after shitting. The implication? Four out of every five people you shake hands with today will most likely leave some human shit in your hands!

As Kenyans, we worry a lot about where and how to get water, food, shelter and good health. However, when we do eat a meal, how many of us pause to think of where and how we shall dispose of it after it has gone through the digestive system?

For a minority (VIPs, political elite, CEOs and the middle class), this is never an issue as toilets are readily available. They use a toilet and do not think of where the sh!t goes after the flush. Unfortunately, for many people in low income settlements - from Kibera in Nairobi, to Kondele in Kisumu or Majengo in Nanyuki, to Kisumu Ndogo in Mombasa - answering a simple call of nature is a big issue. It requires skill, trickery, proper timing and a good measure of luck.

Slumlords rent houses without adequate toilet facilities and public authorities have either taken no action, or worse, been complicit in this injustice. Tenants have to settle for communal toilets that are few, often filthy, far apart and costly. A limited daily budget of less than Ksh.100 has to factor in Ksh.5 for every short call and Ksh.10 for a long call. Over and above the indignity of not having a private toilet, girls and women are exposed to sexual violence as they are forced to defecate before dawn or at night, for the semi-privacy that the dark affords.

But there is a section of Kenyans that aren’t taking the shit anymore. Children! In villages such as Jaribuni Kilifi, children have vowed to name and shame through signposting names of those who persist in the practice at the defecation sites. And if some one is caught in the act? They resort to the whistle – quite literally.

Due the efforts of these children and their communities, today many villagers in Kilifi, Homa Bay, Kwale, Machakos and Kawangware will join others globally, to celebrate the attainment of Open Defecation Free (ODF) status as they mark the World Toilet Day. These communities symbolize genuine commitment and collective action to address local problems, using local resources without reliance on external help.

This has been possible through Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS), which uses disgust and shame, to helps communities link open defecation, to their health. This often triggers them to take action to ensure that nobody defecates in the open and that every one has appropriate toilet facilities. They all accept that nothing short of 100 per cent safe disposal of “shit” will do. Open Defecation Free Status is recognition that nobody defecates in the open, every household in the village has a latrine, uses it well and washes their hands well.

Adequate sanitary toilets and facilities that have previously been viewed as expensive, and beyond the reach of the mwanaichi, are now being erected by households with no subsidy from either government or NGOs. Locally available materials – mud, sticks and grass are used to revolutionalize toilet construction and hand-washing utilizing ash.

In Kilifi district, toilet coverage has increased from 300 to 6000 over a period of just 18 months. Across Kenya, there are over 200 villages that are already Open Defecation Free (ODF) since the introduction of Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) in July 2007. In Kilifi district alone, 15 additional villages will be celebrating attainment of open defecation free status.

Are these villages going to remain open defecation free? Ask the whistle-blowing children and youth!

Community-Led Total Sanitation Team
Plan International
Kenya Country Office

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The Star: Think long-term on constitution

THE draft constitution was released on Wednesday. There will now be 30 days of public debate before it returns to the Committee of Experts; then to Parliament; to the Attorney General; and finally to a referendum in March next year.

This is a tight schedule for the CoE and the nation to meet but it needs to be done.

Kenya's long-drawn-out political crisis has divided the country, undermined confidence
Wand damaged the economy.

The way to resolve that crisis is to introduce a stronger social order based on a new
constitution, as well as the Agenda Four.

All Kenyans — politicians, religious leaders and the general public — should think long-term when they debate the draft constitution. (We should not think about whom we want to win in 2012.

The big issue will now be the choice between an executive Prime Minister or President, or a hybrid system.

But whatever is decided, Kenya does not need an imperial President or an imperial Prime Minister.

The whole point of the new constitution is that it will restore checks and balances into the political system.

The powers of whoever runs the country in future should be strictly limited by an independent Judiciary and a responsible Parliament.

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The Star Corridors of Power Political Gossip

WHAT'S it with our assistant ministers? Yet another assistant minister unsuccessfully tried to seduce her driver over the weekend to the dismay of the man who decided to let Corridors in on the situation. The man said his boss summoned him to go to her home on Saturday night so that he could driver her to the airport. She insisted that he should not pick up her bodyguard but to go to her home alone. When he got there, he was received by his very intoxicated boss who was nearly naked. Shocked by her appearance, the man was further taken aback when she told him she had no intention of going anyway and that the idea was a ruse to have the driver come to her home and perform what she said would still be 'official duty." The driver did not succumb and he says he will this morning be seeking to be transferred to another ministry!

Simama Kenya may be a movement but speculation is rife it might evolve into a party to become the vehicle for President Kibaki's son Jimmi to vie for his father's seat in Othaya. In case that doesn't work out, there is always the possibility of the man forming his own party!

Some Muslim scholars suspect that a senior Cabinet minister from Central Kenya may be sponsoring some church leaders who are opposed to the inclusion of the Kadhi's court in the new constitution. A meeting by scholars at Yaya centre, Nairobi, was recently told that it was not mere coincidence that most of those who have been vocally opposed to the Kadhi's court come from the region and are close to the politician.

Remember the internally displaced people who were reported to have walked from Limuru to Naivasha? Now we are told that some of them did not actually walk and an MP has obtained video footage showing that some of them were ferried by trailer truck and dropped just before Naivasha town and walked the rest of the way to be met by journalists. Those in the know tell us that the whole event was staged-managed by some politicians in Central Kenya and senior officials in the Office of the President to create the impression that the Ministry of Special Programmes had failed in its duties.

A minister who has presidential ambitions has been behaving badly. The minister has reportedly been named as the person responsible for impregnating many young girls in his region and now several elders have decided to talk to him because the matter is likely to hurt his political ambitions.

We are told that some people who wanted to donate money during Prime Minister Raila Odinga's harambee at Kibera on Saturday returned home with their cash because they were unhappy that former Makadara MP Reuben Ndolo was the MC. The guests felt Ndolo acknowledge their presence or even mention the amount of cash they were contributing.

An MP from Western Kenya has been forced to use taxis after auctioneers raided his parking lot and drove away with his two brand new cars because he had not paid for them. The MP, who lives in a rented apartment in Kilimani had apparently taken the two cars, one Mercedes Benz E 200 and a Hummer on credit promising to pay up within three months. But nine months down the line, the man had not paid up and the owner decided to repossess the cars and auction them to recover his money.

A former Cabinet minister made millions of shillings from the misfortunes of Internally Displaced People by procuring substandard construction materials at inflated prices. The man is reported to be among those contracted to supply the materials. A confidential audit report prepared by the Efficiency Monitoring Unit cited the minister's firm as one of those that inflated the cost of building materials.

IDPs beware! We are told that some people, supported by well known politicians, are going round IDP camps claiming that they are agents of the International Criminal Court Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo. They are telling the IDPs that they have been sent to confirm how many IDPS still exist in the camps so that they can be compensated. Ocampo has indicated that some IDPs could be compensated. The fake agents are asking each IDP to pay Sh1,000 as registration fee to be included in a list of those who will be compensated.

The Law Society of Kenya might soon find itself in court as one of its former employees has filed a wrongful dismissal suit. The Okong'o Omogeni led council is scheduled to start holding its nationwide elections soon.

Speaking of LSK, we are told that some of its council members are lobbying to be appointed to the Bench. Some of them have been openly seeking the assistance of anyone they think can help. The Judiciary has vacancies for at least 10 more judges and some of those who may have served in the council are eligible if they do not want to defend their positions and are interested in going into public service.

The plot against politicians who sponsored or participated in the post- election violence has thickened. Apart from the adult relatives and family members who were injured and rendered homeless, testimony is now being collected from children affected by the violence. The accounts by the children, which are being collected by an international NGO dealing with children's rights, will be presented to the International Criminal Court
Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo.

Parents in a number of city primary schools are up in arms against plans to reintroduce the school milk programme. But this time round, the milk will not be subsidised like it was under Moi. Instead, parents are expected to pay Sh7,000 a term per child for the milk which will be given to the children three times a week. A packet of milk sells for Sh15.

A senior ODM Cabinet minister has reportedly 'fallen in love' with the sister of his Cabinet colleague who holds sway in the politics of the region he represents. The man is hoping that the relationship, which he has been pursuing ardently for the last few months, will come in handy during the next elections. Reason? He has realised that his Cabinet colleague may switch his support to a political rival and thereby bring his political career to an end. The minister has decided to get intimate with the sister of his influential colleague in the hope that she can intervene at his hour of need.

John Haroun Mwau may not be in the public limelight a lot but we are told the PICK boss is working behind the scenes together with Water Minister Charity Ngilu and Mutito MP Kiema Kilonzo to establish a new political order in Ukambani. The trio are hoping to have their group elected to Parliament as part of the plan to stop Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka from realising his presidential ambition.

Retired President Moi once refused to meet with the Yash Pal Ghai-led team of constitution commissioners after someone showed him a wrong copy of the draft constitution. The Ghai team had secured an appointment with Moi to brief him on the final draft but apparently some mischievous person gave the former President a 'fake' copy of the draft which contained proposals that made Moi very angry and he promptly decided to cancel the appointment.

Speaking of Moi, a senior Kanu official who owes his political career to Nyayo grooming is behaving very badly. We are told the man has become so disrespectful that he snubs calls from the former President — disregarding any courtesy. We are now told his behaviour has caused concern among some of the party stalwarts who are wondering why the official is ignoring the former President.

The daughter to a Cabinet minister from Rift Valley is very upset with her father. The University of Nairobi Student is unhappy with her father because he has been seducing her friends. The minister is understood to have hit on so many young girls from the university that some of them decided to tell his daughter. The daughter reported the matter to her mother who then confronted her philandering husband.

Another Cabinet minister has asked one of his lecturers to award him top marks for the exams he has not sat. The minister was going for part-time classes until a few months back when he stopped. He was nowhere to be seen when his classmates sat the exams and when he finally remembered his books the minister told his lecturer, "Just give me good marks and I will appoint you to a senior position in my ministry".

Word has it that some people in government are looking for witnesses who will implicate a senior politician from Central Kenya and a former Nairobi MP in the post-election violence. Those involved, we are told, want the two sacrificed to save a senior Cabinet minister believed to be on the Waki List that was given to the International Criminal Court by Kofi Annan.

Officially police have denied that the dreaded Kwekwe Squad which has been accused of extra-judicial killings has been disbanded but unofficially the squad is still existing and
some of its team leaders now want it disbanded. They argue that the officers under the unit have become unruly and no longer take instructions from their seniors.

An MP has been playing hide-and-seek games with court orderlies who want to serve him with a summons to appear in court to answer to charges of failing to remit child support. The MP from Central Kenya is alleged to be the father of a child he sired with a young woman who worked as his personal assistant. He allegedly promised to maintain the mother and child but a year since the child was born, he has neither visited nor assisted her. Out of frustration, the young woman filed a court suit last week, and obtained orders requiring the politician to appear in court but he has since been evading court process servers by increasing his security detail to screen all the people who come close to him.

Several MPs were stunned on Thursday when a Cabinet minister fell ill within Parliament Buildings but flatly refused to be taken to hospital insisting that he was OK and did not need medical attention. The MPs were forced to carry the minister to the House lounge where they laid him on a settee so that he could recover. The minister regained consciousness after a few minutes and was even well enough to go to the Chamber where he responded to a question shot by one of the MPs!

A Cabinet minister walked up to the CEO of a parastatal under his ministry and demanded Sh500,000 cash. It "is not clear why the minister wanted the money but the CEO refused to give in to the demand saying that he could not be able to justify or even account for the money. Unwilling to accept the CEO's explanation, the minister insisted the CEO must find the money "from somewhere within the parastatal and give it to me".

A group of MPs from Central Province allied to a senior politician from the region are planning to hold a demonstration outside the US Embassy in Nairobi to show solidarity with Attorney General Amos Wako who has been banned from travelling to the US.

The Ministry of Tourism is in the news again for all the bad reasons. Some employees at the ministry are accusing their seniors of nepotism and tribalism in recommending staff for training. We are told that some of those being hired to work in various departments within the Najib Balala-led ministry are not just related to the senior managers but are not qualified to hold such positions. Balala, isn't this an issue you need to deal with especially because your ODM party promised to end such things when its leaders, including yourself, were campaigning in 2007?

Still on matters of employment, what is happening at the Kenya School of Law? We are told one of the senior managers at the school is not qualified for the position he holds. The manager is apparently not an advocate of the High Court and his own colleagues have been wondering why the man has continued to serve in the managerial position. It is stipulated one must be an advocate of the High Court to occupy the position.

Drivers of several ministers and assistant ministers who drove the new Passats to Mombasa for the weekend Cabinet retreat are complaining that the cars are guzzling a lot of fuel. Two of them told Corridors that they used more money on fuel than their colleagues who drove the 1800 cc Mercedes Benz. Question is, will the government really make any savings from the Passats?

What do you do with a policeman who loses his swagger stick (a baton usually carried by a uniformed officer as a symbol of authority)? Corridors picked up the swagger stick at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on Friday after the airport disaster preparedness drill and we are wondering how a senior administration police officer could lose his/her symbol of authority? Is it that he/she just did not care or was he/she trying to put a message through to his boss Kinuthia Mbugua? Corridors has the silver-capped stick bearing regimental insignia just in case the officer wants it back.

We are told that one of the Artur brothers may have sneaked back into the country recently. He came to pick up the dog they were forced to leave behind when they were deported. The Artur brother was able to come back because despite the manner of the duo's departure, they were not declared prohibited immigrants and therefore can still visit Kenya.

Speaking of the Arturs, just what happened to the grand plan to wed Winnie, the daughter of high-profile political activist Mary Wambui? Local media were so enthusiastic about the impeding nuptials between Artur Margaryan and Winnie but the whole thing seems to have fizzled out after the brothers were deported.

Kenyans may not value the knowledge and experience Prof Yash Pal Ghai has gained over the years on constitutional matters but in other parts of the world, he is well respected and regarded. Just the other day, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso who is both the head of state and spiritual leader of Tibet picked Ghai to advise him on matters constitutional. Ghai, who is currently in Rome to meet with the Dalai Lama, is expected to advise him on how to make Tibet autonomous. Remember Ghai also helped write the Afghanistan constitution but his work at Bomas was trashed!

LAST week a hard-up media consultant thought up a good wheeze - to exploit his friendship with American Ambassador Michael Ranneberger in getting a travel visa for a former close associate of ex-President Moi. The two rolled up to the ambassador's Muthaiga residence and rang the bell, only to be told to get lost. The ambassador has now apparently cut off relations with the media consultant.

Some senior managers at the National Social Security Fund have been fighting the managing trustee Alex Kazongo. While some are starting to show outright insubordination, others are quietly taking their sweet time to implement directives. We are told that the managers have conspired among themselves to frustrate Kazongo because they want him fired. Those in the know say the situation may get worse in the coming days unless the board intervenes.

The son of an assistant minister from Western Kenya who quit his job at a local bank recently shocked neighbours in Ngong after he locked himself in his room and threatened to commit suicide to protest what he said was his father's neglect of him and over-pampering his sisters. The minister, who harbours presidential ambitions, was not taken in by the boy's antics and even called in a few friends and relatives to witness the "suicide". When they arrived, the MP went on to taunt the boy to hurry up with his suicide so they could start arranging his funeral. It took the intervention of an uncle to prevail upon the boy not to take his life.

Politicians are streaming to Foreign Affairs ministry to seek favours for relatives and friends. We are told most of them want their people hired and those who are already working in the ministry posted out of the country because of the perks that come with an overseas posting.

The girlfriend of a senior Cabinet minister from Central Province who works in Parliament has annoyed many MPs and ministers for treating them with disrespect and outright arrogance. A minister who tried to talk to her was taken aback when the woman, who is in her late 20s, told him off and boasted that nobody could discipline her because her boyfriend was rich and powerful.

A Cabinet minister from Rift Valley has been lying to his in-laws that he "dumped" his wife. Word has it that the man has told his in-laws that their daughter was associating with his political enemies which he found untenable. The reality is however different. Those in the know say the man's wife left him because he used to beat her and just wouldn't stop sleeping around.

Political circles are agog with the antics of a minister who flew a girl to Mombasa for a night and ended up paying her Sh1 million. The girl flew back to Nairobi and was overheard boasting that she had made a killing from the minister. She did not seem unduly perturbed when her friends alerted her to the fact that the minister was actually HIV-positive and she should have used protection.

A vehicle belonging to a senior policeman was used to ferry mourners to the burial of Mungiki spokesman Njuguna Gitau. Our mole tells us that the newly acquired City Shuttle bus which is linked to a deputy police commissioner was among the vehicles that carried mourners to Ngoliba village in Thika where Gitau was buried onTuesday.

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The Star: Mau evictions are harsh but necessary

TWO months ago there was drought in Kenya.

Now that it is raining, it is easy to forget that simple fact.

When there was drought, no-one disputed the need to evict settlers from the Mau Forest. Everyone understood that it was life and death for the nation.

The Mau is the largest of Kenya's five water towers, equal to Mt Kenya and the Aberdares put together. It must be protected.

Now that it is raining, people have decided that they can play politics with the evictions. That is a big mistake.

Relocation from the Mau Forest should go ahead but it must be handled humanely.

The total area of encroached or settled forest affects 34,000 households.

The present phase of evictions in the eastern and south-western Mau affects 1,700 families without title deeds.

Regrettably they cannot be compensated. Illegal squatters cannot be rewarded but they should be assisted to return to their places of origin.

However the government must identify land for the resettlement of the 30,000 households with land titles in 2010. They are legally entitled to it.

Kenya must push ahead with the relocation, harsh as it may seem, as the alternative is too bleak to contemplate.

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Wydiffe Muga: Raila's Blunder in the Mau Saga: The Star

Over the past few days, Prime Minister Raila Odinga has been severely criticised by two ODM Cabinet ministers, who are not only prominent in the Cabinet but also members of the so-called Pentagon, the team which was supposed to collectively lead the party after electoral victory in 2007.

The interesting thing is that in one case, the criticism means very little. And in the other, the criticism had huge symbolic significance, and political analysts may yet look back on this as a key turning point in Raila's continuing quest for high office.

Let's start with the criticism that carried no real weight: this was when Tourism minister Najib Balala, supposedly the Coast Province representative on the Pentagon, accused Raila of betrayal and said he was dividing Muslims.

Whatever may have been the provocation, this does not make much sense: Muslim voters are in general a much divided lot, just like Christian voters. Tribal and clan affiliations tend to count for more than religious affiliation when Kenyans vote.

In Garsen Constituency, for example, the reason Danson Mungatana won the seat in 2002 was that the Muslim vote was splintered along communal lines.

But of course the reason Balala is so bitter is no secret either. For the past few months, it has become increasingly clear the PM prefers to work with other Coast leaders at the expense of Balala. And this in turn suggests that come the next election, Balala cannot hope to get Raila's support for the Mvita seat.

This could mean the end of Balala's political career, especially if he should face Abdulsamad Nassir, the son of the legendary former Mvita MP Snariff Nassir.

The fact is that Balala would never have won the Mvita seat at any point if it had not been for Raila's support. So he has every right to be nervous: Balala needs Raila but Raila does not need Balala.

But Agriculture minister William Ruto, the other Cabinet minister to criticise Raila, is a different matter. His complaint cannot be casually shrugged off.

Have you noticed that when something bad happens to persons from any Kenyan community, very many members of that community will feel threatened?

In Thika not too long ago, for example, after their businesses were targeted by criminals, the local Asian community held a demonstration to protest police inefficiency.

What some indigenous Kenyans would probably attribute to the common myth that Asians in Kenya tend to keep huge amounts of cash lying about at all times, was seen by these businessmen as a direct threat to their welfare.

Likewise, when we read of violence flaring up at the border of the Tharaka and Tigania communities in Meru, many would be inclined to attribute it to the reputed propensity for violence among the men from that area. But if you were actually from Tharaka or Tigania, you would see it all very differently, even if you live hundreds of miles away from the scene of the violence.

And out of the approximately 1,000 people killed in the post-election violence last year, if there had been just 10 tourists butchered, less than 1 per cent of those murdered, it would have been a great deal more difficult to persuade foreigners to return to Kenya.

It is from such a perspective that the effect of the Mau Forest evictions on the Kalenjin community must be seen. Even if the rest of the country insists on focusing on the big picture and the environmental necessity of this action, this is not how it will seem to the Kalenjin.

All they will see is thousands of their own being added to the numbers of the displaced.

And they will note that where the IDPs originally from Central Province have received money, building materials, and even land, their own are left to shiver in the rain on some muddy roadside, with not a trace of the government assistance that had been pledged if the settlers left peacefully.

As a man who is believed to still have a presidential or prime-ministerial election campaign in his future, Raila should not have allowed this to happen, when there were so many ways in which the government could have mitigated the suffering of these people.

It was a huge strategic blunder. For this is the kind of thing that has a long-term impact on the sentiments of regional voting blocks.

And in this case, the Kalenjin who were among his most fervent supporters back in 2007 will neither forgive nor forget.

Muga comments on topical issues.

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Gwvnne Dyer: Africans May Soon Openly Discuss Sex: The Star

It was ostensibly about obscenity, but it was really about corruption and censorship — and in the end, justice prevailed.

On Monday a Zambian court found journalist Chansa Kabwela not guilty of "distributing obscene material with intent to corrupt public morals."

What obscene material?

She had sent photographs of a woman giving birth in a hospital parking lot during a nurses' strike to senior government officials.

President Rupiah Banda called a press conference and declared the photographs "pornographic."

Soon after, Kabwela was arrested on obscenity charges. She faced a five-year jail sentence if she were found guilty — but Banda's real motive was probably the fact that the newspaper Kabwela works for, the Post, constantly accuses him of corruption.

The Post is probably right. Banda succeeded Levy Mwanawasa, a President of unquestioned integrity, after the latter died of a stroke last year.

But unlike Mwanawasa, he has failed to pursue the previous President, Frederick Chiluba, a monumentally corrupt man. An unsympathetic observer might wonder if some of Chiluba's stolen millions have bought Banda's complicity.

The Post wonders that out loud, so Banda went after its news editor, Kabwela. The pictures she sent out were not pornographic. Rather, they were horrific: images of a woman in the midst of a breech birth, the baby's legs dangling out between her own while its head was still inside her.

It all happened in a hospital parking lot (she had already been turned away from two clinics), but nobody would help her because of the strike, and the baby suffocated.

Her appalled and furious relatives brought pictures of the scene to the Post. Kabwela did not publish them because they were so upsetting, but she sent copies to senior officials together with a letter urging them to intervene and settle the strike. That's when Banda declared the images pornographic and had her arrested.

The courts are still independent in Zambia, and in the end Kabwela was found not guilty — but many of the witnesses were genuinely more shocked by photographs of a woman naked from the waist down than by the horror of what was actually happening.

As one witness said: "We are all Zambians here. We all know this is not allowed in our culture."

The word you're looking for is "prudish," and it applies to a lot of African popular culture.

Never mind what's actually happening. We don't want to hear about it, and we certainly don't want to see it. The Zambian elite has been devastated by HIV/Aids — the higher the social class, the worse the death rate — and yet nobody wants to talk about sex, let alone about the links between sex, power and violence.

Go a thousand kilometres (miles) south to South Africa, and the gulf between appearances and reality is even wider.

Last June the country's Medical Research Council published a study about rape and HIV which reported that 28 per cent of South African men admitted to having raped a woman or a girl. (A further 3 per cent said they had raped a man or boy.)

Almost half the rapists said they had raped more than one person, and three-quarters of them said they had carried out their first assault before the age of 20. They didn't use condoms, and they were twice as likely to be HIV-positive than non-rapists.

This is a national calamity that is killing more people than a middle-sized war, and causing a huge amount of pain and grief. Yet few South Africans are even willing to talk about it.

Many Africans will be feeling very defensive at this point, but a lot of this reminds me of where I grew up. There was an amazing amount of low-level violence around — you saw it literally every day — and there was also a huge amount of sexual predation.

In the boys' school I went to, the male teachers molested the boarders on an industrial scale, although day-boys like me were fairly safe. And none of it was ever admitted or discussed in public.

Now I live in a culture where we are no longer prudes. Everything is out in the open, including trivialised, commercialised sex.

Around half of all marriages end in divorce, but gays, once persecuted and forced to hide, can also get married if they want to. You can still mugged in the street, but the level of casual violence — usually men beating up on women or kids — is sharply down. I bet that the real figures for rape are down a lot too.

I like the transformed culture I live in now a lot better — and it occurs to me that what we are seeing in Africa now may be as transitional as what I grew up with in Newfoundland.

In which case the moral and cultural changes that socially conservative Africans see as a descent into darkness may actually be a move towards the light.

Dyer is a UK-based independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries.

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The Star: Ruling on Ruto's Sh96m KPC land in February

JUDGES will in February decide whether to stop a Sh96 million KPC land case against Agriculture Minister William Ruto.

Judges Jane Gacheche, Leonard Njagi and Roselyne Wendoh yesterday set the verdict date for February 2.

This follows the final submissions from Ruto's lawyer Katwa Kigen.

Kigen said Ruto has asked the high court to stop the case.

He had argued that the case was instituted by Attorney General Amos Wako for ulterior motives.

But Wako said the land sold to the Kenya Pipeline Company by Ruto and his company, Berke Commercial Agencies, was a forest reserve not available for alienation.

State lawyer Vincent Wohoro told the court that the parcel in Ngong' Forest sold to KPC was public land.

The excision, he added, was unlawful because the parcel had not been degazetted. The parcel was sold to KPC through Berke Commercial Agencies whose director is Ruto.

The minister wants the high court to end criminal proceedings at the chief magistrate court, where he has been accused of obtaining Sh96 million by false pretense from the finance manager of Kenya Pipeline Company.

Ruto and Berke Commercial Agencies are challenging the Sh96 million case preferred against the two at the magistrate's court.

Ruto was charged with receiving Sh9.9 million from Hellen Njue, then financial manager of KPC, saying he was in a position to sell 4.31 acres that belonged to the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources.

He is alleged to have received another Sh57.8 million for the sale of two parcels and another Sh28 million for a parcel in the same forest.

He is allegedly to have obtained the money on pretense that he was in a position to sell land though it is owned by the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources.

Ruto, a company associated with him, Berke Commercial Agencies; a former aide of retired President Daniel Moi, Joshua Kulei; and two other companies have been sued for allegedly obtaining money from Kenya Pipeline Company in 2001

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Joseph Kamotho: Constitution Deal by Cabinet Illegal: The Star

In 2004 the High Court ruled that Parliament is not an organ of review and could not purport to replace the constitution under which it was chosen but can only amend the existing constitution.

The ruling by Justice Aaron Ringera restrained the legislature from ratifying the Bomas draft constitution but a defiant Parliament and the executive reopened the document for circumstantial amendments before presentation to an ill-fated referendum.

The ruling is still valid and the law has not changed but ministers last week converged at Mombasa to build a consensus on contentious issues in the new draft by the Committee of Experts on Constitutional Review.

Parliament like other state organs, the judiciary and the executive, are creatures of the constitution and cannot purport to make one for Kenyans in the meantime.

The retreat was in contempt of a court decision and height of impunity Kenyans already abhor and condemn. The legislature and the executive are undermining the independence of the process by anticipating debate on the draft and influencing what should go into the document.

If anything, contentious issues were to be referred for arbitration to the yet to be constituted Independent Constitutional Court.

The committee is at fault by including Parliament and the noisy religious leaders amongst the Reference Group instead of calling for the creation of the Independent Constitutional Court to deliberate on the imagined and real thorny issues.

If , anything, Parliament has outlived its usefulness in so far as the review is concerned.

It had a chance to add value to the process at the National Constitutional Conference at Bomas but squandered it in sideshows and tribal chest-thumping.

Formed out of the ashes , of the post-poll violence, the committee ought to have conducted a postmortem examination on the electoral procedure and propose a departure from the present method.

A proportional representation in which the electorate choose parties and they in turn select parliamentarians could have been an ideal proposal and chaos-free.

This was never considered and already Kenyans are in a dress rehearsal for battle in 2012.

Some of the proposals by the committee are mere experiments and above all public relations exercises by a body that ought to have reminded the ministers that they were in contempt of court and proceedings of the team.

For instance, it is clear that the team had the President, Prime Minister, the coalition and political parties in mind, not the Kenyan people.

Kenyans expected the committee to draw a clear line between the executive, the legislature and the judiciary with inbuilt checks and balances.

Similarly, Kenyans expected the team to delink political parties from the government of the day by banning elected leaders from holding party positions in the interest of national unity.

There can be no shortcut to a new constitution as some leaders would like to think.

The committee's proposal on the system of government promises to be a source of perennial conflict between the Prime Minister and the President similar to the 1966 Uganda constitutional crisis between Prime Minister Milton Obote and the President and the Buganda King, Kabaka Mutesa II.

It is either a presidential system in which the President is elected by the people or a Parliamentary system in which a party with the majority assumes the role of an executive Prime Minister with the President as Head of State.

Kenyans cannot afford a hybrid system in the light of problems it has undergone.

Choice of ministers from within and outside Parliament would generate a lot of heat between nominated and elected ministers. Parliamentarians are basically elected to legislate and represent the electorate.

Appointing MPs to Cabinet positions compromises their role as lawmakers and representatives of the people. Ministers are constrained by their positions to move motions and ask questions regarding their constituencies.

The proposal that High Court judges resign simultaneously as the operationalisation of the new constitution starts smacks of malice and double standards.

The judiciary, like the legislature and the executive, are constitutional offices which should cease to exist as soon as the constitution under which they were appointed is replaced.

For all intents and purposes, the new constitution should be one that outlives tribal divisions, political rivalries, harmonises divergent views and survives the test of time.

The writer is a former minister, MP and secretary general of Kanu and LDP.

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Paul Krugman: China's Yuan Policy a Dangerous Game

International travel by world leaders is mainly about making symbolic gestures.

Nobody expects President Obama to come back from China with major new agreements on economic policy or anything else.

But let's hope that when the cameras aren't rolling Obama and his hosts engage in some frank talk about currency policy. For the problem of international trade imbalances is about to get substantially worse. And there's a potentially ugly confrontation looming unless China mends its ways.

Some background: Most of the world's major currencies "float" against one another. That is, their relative values move up or down depending on market forces. That doesn't necessarily mean that governments pursue pure hands-off policies: countries sometimes limit capital outflows when there's a run on their currency (as Iceland did last year) or take steps to discourage hot-money inflows when they fear that speculators love their economies not wisely but too well (which is what Brazil is doing right now).

But these days most nations try to keep the value of their currency in line with long-term economic fundamentals.

China is the great exception. Despite huge trade surpluses and the desire of many investors to buy into this fast-growing economy — forces that should have strengthened the renminbi, China's currency — Chinese authorities have kept that currency persistently weak.

They've done this mainly by trading renminbi for dollars, which they have accumulated in vast quantities.

And in recent months China has carried out what amounts to a beggar-thy-neighbour devaluation, keeping the yuan-dollar exchange rate fixed even as the dollar has fallen sharply against other major currencies.

This has given Chinese exporters a growing competitive advantage over their rivals, especially producers in other developing countries.

What makes China's currency policy especially problematic is the depressed state of the world economy. Cheap money and fiscal stimulus seem to have averted a second Great Depression.

But policy makers haven't been able to generate enough spending, public or private, to make progress against mass unemployment. And China's weak-currency policy exacerbates the problem, in effect siphoning much-needed demand away from the rest of the world into the pockets of artificially competitive Chinese exporters.

But why do I say that this problem is about to get much worse? Because for the past year the true scale of the China problem has been masked by temporary factors.

Looking forward, we can expect to see both China's trade surplus and America's trade deficit surge. That, at any rate, is the argument made in a new paper by Richard Baldwin and Daria Taglioni of the Graduate Institute, Geneva.

As they note, trade imbalances, both China's surplus and America's deficit, have recently been much smaller than they were a few years ago.

But, they argue, "these global imbalance improvements are mostly illusory — the transitory side effect of the greatest trade collapse the world has ever seen."

Indeed, the 2008-9 plunge in world trade was one for the record books. What it mainly reflected was the fact that modern trade is dominated by sales of durable manufactured goods — and in the face of severe financial crisis and its attendant uncertainty, both consumers and corporations postponed purchases of anything that wasn't needed immediately.

How did this reduce the US trade deficit? Imports of goods like automobiles collapsed; so did some US exports; but because we came into the crisis importing much more than we exported, the net effect was a smaller trade gap.

But with the financial crisis abating, this process is going into reverse. Last week's US trade report showed a sharp increase in the trade deficit between August and September.

And there will be many more reports along those lines.

So picture this: month after month of headlines juxtaposing soaring US trade deficits and Chinese trade surpluses with the suffering of unemployed American workers. If I were the Chinese government, I'd be really worried about that prospect.

Unfortunately, the Chinese don't seem to get it: rather than face up to the need to change their currency policy, they've taken to lecturing the United States, telling Americans to raise interest rates and curb fiscal deficits — that is, to make their unemployment problem even worse.

And I'm not sure the Obama administration gets it, either. The administration's statements on Chinese currency policy seem pro forma, lacking any sense of urgency.

That needs to change. I don't begrudge Obama the banquets and the photo ops; they're part of his job. But behind the scenes he better be warning the Chinese that they're playing a dangerous game.

Krugman is a professor of economics and international affairs at Princeton University.

This article was first published in the New York Times.

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Njoki Ndung'u boycotts launch of draft constitution: By Nzau Musau - The Star

THE Committee of Experts rebel member Njoki Ndung'u steered clear of the launch of the draft attended by ministers, diplomats, MPs and civil society leaders.

Ndung'u, who has in the past boycotted key functions, decided not to be part of the launch beamed live from KICC and attended by thousands of enthusiastic Kenyans.

Chairman Nzamba Kitonga, who introduced all the commissioners, said Ndung'u was abroad and could not have made it to the event.

Committee members Otiende Amollo and vice chair Atsango Chesoni took centre stage with their impressive speeches exhorting Kenyans to see sense and accept the draft. "Our work has been analytical and consultative. The ball is now on your court as Kenyans. We assure you that the process is long and thorough enough to address all the fears and what may now appear contentious," Amollo said.

In the promise to give Kenya a new constitution, the launch also brought together PM Raila Odinga, James Orengo and former Constitution of Kenya Review Commissioner Kavetsa Adagala.

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Adam Hussein Adam: Birth Registration Plan Best for Kenya - The Star

On October 29, Immigration minister Otieno Kajwang' unveiled his ministry's four-year plan.

The ministry wants to issue electronic IDs and make birth certificates a requirement for pupils joining Kenyan schools. Birth certificates will form the basis of citizenship registration.

He also declared that his ministry aims at doubling the birth registration from the current below 50 per cent to more than 70 per cent.

While the strategy seeks to solve security concerns by improving on documentation, it may be a source of human rights violation.

Without doubt, the directives will face numerous implementation challenges. For starters, more than 60 per cent of Kenyan infants don't have birth certificates.

Kajwang' was even quoted in the press saying Kenya registers less than 45 per cent of children born in the country and, therefore, they aim at increasing this dismal figure to at least 70 per cent.

Birth registration, by comparison, is worse in rural areas than in urban centres. The public apathy to birth registration and government's poor record on the same have an administrative and historical component.

Another contributing factor could be the perception in the rural settings that such documents serve no purpose.

Although registration of birth in Kenya started in 1904, the government made it mandatory for all in 1971. Since then the uptake of the process has been slow.

For most of the time, it was an exclusive exercise. In 1904, it was a preserve of the white settlers. The colonial government later extended the "privilege" to Kenyan Asians and in 1963 to Africans in Nairobi and Nyeri.

More than half of the districts in Kenya are now under the community-based system of registration.

This is the result of a decentralisation process piloted in 1983-1985 and fully implemented in 1990. However, the registration's infrastructure in the country is poor.

Some remote districts have administrators without equipment. To a majority of Kenyans, there has not been any incentive to register birth.

The government's demand for use of a birth certificate has also been selective. Maybe Kajwang's directive, if approved, may stimulate massive registration. What does it mean or imply?

Compulsory registration responds to several international conventions in addition to Kenya Children's Act 2001.

Globally, the move dovetails with Convention on the Rights of Children and Africa's Charter on the Rights and Welfare of Children compels states to recognise children born on their territory through registration.

Article 7 of the CRC gives every child the right to be registered at birth by the state. This means that states must make birth registration accessible and available to all children including asylum seekers, refugees and immigrants.

Drawing from the right to a name and nationality contained in Article 7 of the charter, a 2002 General Assembly Resolution reaffirms governments' commitment to ensure birth registration and to invest in educating and protecting children.

To achieve these goals, it is necessary for governments to have accurate population data to support planning for children and the caregivers.

Only a handful of African countries, Kenya included, provide in law for children born on their soil to have a right to their nationality if they would otherwise be stateless, despite the provisions of international treaties that require this protection.

Thus Kajwang's decision has every possibility of mitigating such problems in Kenya.

By the continent's standards, Kajwang's move is laudable.

In fact, Kenya should show the good example in Africa. The country should further sell the idea to other East African Community member states. Kajwang' has mooted the decision at a critical time in the country's history.

Kenya is undergoing major reforms and critical national processes. The country has conducted a census; it is writing a new constitution and increasingly working towards a free movement in the EAC. These reforms are linked to citizenship, which starts from birth and affirmed through birth registration.

Birth registration is at the core of every state's relation to it citizens. Children whose births are not registered may not be able to claim the services and protections due to them on a full and equal basis.

During emergencies, birth registration provides a basis for tracing separated and unaccompanied children.

While the minister's declaration potentially formalises the country's relation to its citizens, it is one move with a potential to foster inclusion and equality.

Nonetheless, should the directive be poorly managed, it can legalise exclusion and human rights violation.

Adam is the citizenship and statelessness programmes officer of the Open Society Initiative for East Africa

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Lucy Anaya: Tobacco Firms Hiding Nyanza Deadly Facts - The Star

British American Tobacco released this year's earnings of 1,400 farmers in some region in Nyanza as Shl89,000 million from 3.9 million kilos of tobacco leaf. And last year, BAT gave inputs to farmers whose cost was calculated as Sh150 million. It is common knowledge that the inputs must be deducted from the interest.

This is basic math any layman can calculate. Take Sh188 million minus Sh150 million expenses incurred by BAT. You get Sh38 million. Divide this figure with 1,400 farmers and you will get something close to Sh27,143. An average African family especially in the rural setup is seven. Therefore, if you take the Sh27,000 a tobacco farmer earns in one year, divide with each head in the family, the amount is ridiculous.

The report further talked of a woman from Migori who was once a sugarcane farmer but now grows tobacco. It stated that she earned Sh100,000 last year, double what she used to get before. The captions on her picture touching the crop barehanded, oblivious of the health effects, read that she earned Sh220,000.

The environmental and health consequences of tobacco production and consumption are well-documented. That tobacco production exposes peasant farmers to some of the worst and intricate game of exploitation on labour, income and other resources is no secret. Tobacco-growing areas in Western, Nyanza and Eastern provinces are the poorest of the poor.

Malawi and Bangladesh, the leading tobacco growing countries in the world, are among the poorest in the world. Tobacco is never planted in Europe because of health effects.

In this country, tobacco farmers mortgage their farms, where they could grow subsistence crops, mortgage their time, intellectual prowess and effort to produce the crop for very unreliable returns.

They are paid Sh75 or Sh25 per kilo for the finest tobacco in the world. From 1 kg, the industry makes Sh3,000-Sh4,500. Whichever the case, the products of this very crop when consumed in various ways have a devastating health impact. It should be a human rights issue.

Last month, there was yet another story of a woman of 56 years from the same region who is paying dearly from growing tobacco. The woman has never smoked in her life. But today one of her lungs is badly damaged as a result of exposure to tobacco fumes during curing and using her bedroom for storage of the harvested crop. Doctors have confirmed to her the lung is beyond repair and only needs a transplant abroad. Now if you calculate the period of hospitalisation, doctors' fees, travel costs, among others things, the figure is between Shl4 million and Sh27 million.

The questions Kenyans should pose to BAT are — is the amount a farmer gets able to sustain him and his family, cater for their medical bills and if yes, to What extent? Is it worth the period of nine months a farmer toils to prepare seedbeds, plant, weed and harvest?

Are farmers given protective gear and storage facilities? Has BAT installed storage facilities since most farmers use their bedrooms and houses to store the crop after harvesting?

How is the crop cured without using firewood?

If the company can answer all these questions, it still has to explain why the crop can never mix with other crops? If it is less harmful, why is it that even herbivores do not move near it? And, what efforts are they doing to reclaim the fast declining soil fertility caused by use of strong pesticides.

There has been outcry from tobacco farmers over poor pay and working under deplorable conditions. They are bitter about the way they are being exploited by the leaf companies and have even threatened to uproot the crop.

A study done in parts of South Nyanza and Western Provinces indicates that up to 60 per cent of medical consultations are attributable to production and home processing of tobacco.

Women complained of miscarriages during harvesting stage and use of child labour.

These are some of the facts the tobacco industry try to cover up, by continuously lying to the government and to the public of the danger of their products.

They still go against the spirit of the Tobacco Control Act with impunity, very much in spite of and against the known fact that tobacco is among the leading preventable cause of death and disability in the world today.

It is time to ensure that everyone shares the right to a clean and safe and healthy environment free of tobacco.

Lucy Anaya is the communication officer of the Kenya Tobacco Control Alliance.

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Police must find Njuguna killers - The Star

KENYA Youth Alliance leader Gitau Njuguna is due to be buried today in Thika. He was shot dead by gunmen on Luthuli Avenue on November 12. Police have hotly denied claims that Kwekwe Squad, or its successors, was responsible.

The rumours have arisen because Njuguna was the spokesman of Mungiki, the banned sect that is heavily involved in extortion rackets. Police regularly shoot dead criminals who they say are Mungiki.

But Njuguna's is a more sensitive case. His Kenya Youth Alliance represented the social reform wing of Mungiki, rather than its criminal wing. With an estimated two million members countrywide, an open war with Mungiki would be a high-risk strategy.

Now evidence has emerged that several companions of Njuguna went missing just before his murder and their bodies may be in the City Mortuary. They allegedly went missing in International Life House which is covered by police CCTV cameras.

The police may indeed be trying to clean up its act. The police indeed may not be responsible for Njuguna's death, contrary to popular opinion.

But the way to convince the public is to investigate, arrest and prosecute the culprits.

And the public has not yet seen much evidence of that.

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Njuguna dodged trap before Luthuli bullet - By Star Reporters

TWO days before he was shot dead, Mungiki spokesman Njuguna Gitau reportedly escaped a trap in the Nairobi city centre that may have claimed the lives of two of his companions.

Njuguna headed the Kenya Youth Alliance, the political wing of Mungiki. He was shot dead on Luthuli Avenue on Thursday, November 5.

The 32-year-old father of three will be buried today at his father's home in Ngoriba in Thika.

Sources who spoke on condition of anonymity said Njuguna was invited to a meeting on November 3 on the 10th floor of International Life House by unknown people.

When they got there, they found the floor was empty because it had been vacated by the previous tenant.

Njuguna then left his four companions and went downstairs to check with the Centre for Multiparty Democracy offices on the 6th floor.

He was advised by staff that the floor where the meeting was supposed to take place was unoccupied and he left immediately.

Human rights activist Njeri Kabeberi of the CMD yesterday confirmed that Njuguna had visited their offices to seek information about the meeting place.

The four companions who were with him have reportedly vanished.

International Life House has a police post with CCTV coverage of every floor.

On November 11, the BuruBuru police division delivered to the City Mortuary five unidentified bodies.

An attendant at the mortuary, who declined to be named, said the bodies belonged to Mungiki members who had been gunned down by the police in Dandora estate.

However the Star viewed the bodies and established that two victims had their eyes gouged out, which is not consistent with a shoot-out with thieves.

Another body had a deep cut on the head while another two had bullet wounds on their heads and abdomen.

Yesterday, police spokesman Erick Kiraithe declined to comment.

Kiraithe said investigations were underway and that he was not privy to the proceedings.

Police commissioner Mathew Iteere has denied media reports that Njuguna was gunned down by the police. Iteere told a press conference last week that investigations into the killings were ongoing.

After Njuguna left International Life House on November 3, he attended another meeting with five clergymen at Jacob Wells school in Rongai.

Returning later that day, Njuguna was shot at by people in a white Toyota Corolla as his taxi approached Museum Hill roundabout, according to a Mungiki source.

Former Kabete MP Paul Muite, last week claimed in a sworn affidavit that Njuguna told him at a goat-eating ceremony in Kitengela that police had warned him that he and Maina Njenga would soon be killed.

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Ndung'u Wainaina: Constitution Must Build Just Society - The Star

Centrality of democratic constitutional order to a functioning democracy and stability is a recognised fact. Constitution making has become a way of renewal of a nation and state, as the new social forces emerge or assert themselves.

The role of the constitution is generally conceived in terms of governance, ways of the distribution and exercise of state powers.

Yet it can be said that while a constitution cannot guarantee democracy and stability in contemporary times, the two are impossible without a constitutional order with a broad commitment to its rules and the acceptance of the supremacy of the constitution.

The search for the rehabilitation of the state or the restoration of democracy starts with a new constitution. A new constitution must help build a just society.

Kenya must have a radical transformative democratic constitutional order. It is common knowledge that the first wave of reforms was introduced in a disconnected, piecemeal fashion, with no overarching explanation or vision.

This current mess in governance finds its genesis here. Kenya needs a new democratic constitutional order based on a completely new philosophy of management of public affairs. The constitutional order should act as the foundation base which reinvigorates democracy and protects civil liberties.

New democratic constitutional change is essential for two quite fundamental reasons: it is vital in enshrining responsibility to ensure the individual is protected against the shameless vested interests of the state; and it is a necessary means of advancing the potential of the individual in a wider community.

We need a strong society backed by an active and accountable government. The anticipated constitutional change is of historic importance for it signals the demand for a decisive shift in the balance of power. We are not tidying up the current archaic constitution but transforming it.

The new democratic settlement must recognise, first, that the individual needs proper and guaranteed protection to make government accountable. This requires a commitment to ensure that people can take part as much as possible in decisions that affect their own lives, that power is devolved as far as possible and that decision making is open and accountable.

In order to bring forth this new dawn we must be ready to tolerate and listen to each other. Constitutions are brought about through hard negotiations, building consensus and compromising. It has to be an agreement between peoples for the prosperity not for short-term agenda.

Don't write a constitution for 2012 or formula for constant winning of an election vide ethnic voting blocks. It is wrong to write a constitution with the intention of containing or locking out certain groups. Universal participation, accountability and justice are Kenyans' best guarantee of an energetic and prosperous society.

Social equality is crucial, but it is potentially very dangerous if not coupled with liberty.

Equality in servitude does nothing for democracy. If anything, it paves the way for tyrannical government.

Forty six years after becoming a sovereign state and republic it is a shame that we still need to take steps to ensure that all of us live in a common home. Many of us who do not have the right connections still feel like second class citizens. It is time that governance is divested of its power. Political leaders must relinquish some power, giving it to the people.

One way of building a common home is to take 'national' institutions away from the control of the government of the day.

A parliamentary system of government with the President as head of state and head of government would suffice this purpose. Parliament should stop being run like another government department. Under the new order Parliament would become an independent national institution and have enormous constitutional powers to enable it successfully hold executive to account.

Government must be more open and accountable to Parliament. All senior appointments must be made subject to parliamentary scrutiny; the main prerogative powers have to be subject to proper parliamentary control and there must be divesting powers of patronage over appointments.

Equality and liberty are the necessary prerequisites for a healthy and vibrant democracy.

To be truly equal, we must also be equally free. We want to create a society where mothers don't die while giving birth. Children will have the right to quality education. No one will die due to diseases.

Overall environment justice and sustainable development will be ensured by conservation and proper use of natural resources. The decisions made by the policy makers will not be for their personal gain but for the benefit of the poor and the marginalised as well.

Wainaina is the executive director of the International Centre for Policy and Conflict

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David Makali: The Presidential System Still the Best - The Star

Reports from the Mombasa retreat called by the government agree on the contentious issues in the draft constitution indicate a continuing standoff over the form of government Kenya should have.

Unable to reach an amicable solution, it is reported that the matter of whether to have an executive Prime Minister or President was left to the two incumbent principals — Raila Odinga and Mwai Kbaki — to agree.

That is truly absurd. The architecture of our state should not be reduced to the whims of two politicians and what they want to donate to each other. It also compounds the perception that the constitution we are about to debate is a ceasefire document of sorts between the two combatants.

Fair enough, they are in the driver's seat, but we must avoid conveying the slightest illusion that our current awkward coalition arrangement is an example of what the future will look like.

Some Kenyans may begin to see in either of the systems a reflection of the political fortunes of those whom they support so that those who follow Raila may prefer an executive Prime Minister presumptive that it will elevate him above or level him with Kibaki, and vice versa.

These temporary positions will cease with the passage of a new constitution. Kibaki is going home while Raila is bidding to become the new Sheriff in town. The constitution should not be written with a view to protecting either the incumbent or promoting the interests of the aspirant.

Any perceptions of the future based on the current flawed situation will undermine objective decision-making at the referendum.

Which is why, in the current review process, politicians should take a back seat in public awareness. The hardline positions being associated with PNU and ODM with regard to the devolution of power all pander to myopic and selfish interests and they should not be allowed to poison the public. A repeat of 2005 must be avoided.

We should not view the two positions with the blinkers of past monsters. There is nothing essentially wrong with the title of President or Prime Minister. But as it will become clear from the draft to be published tomorrow, the country is being put on a dicey experiment with different systems of government.

The bottom line of all our problems is the excessive executive power vested in the President, which has been abused in the past, and lack of adequate checks that led to flagrant abuse of rights, economic mismanagement and discrimination.

To curb those two weaknesses, we do not need to blow up government disproportionately in the name of devolution.

We are just about to complicate our system of government by providing for numerous structures and elections for counties, Parliament, regions, and what not. This will inevitably burden the country with too much government and administration, which may not amount to better democracy or efficiency.

Representation and democracy isn't cheap; with every level of government comes additional costs and bureaucracy. Yet, people simply need to be facilitated to go about their lives unhindered by authorities.

I want less government and more freedom. I want to choose my mayor, councillor, MP and President. I want a President who is Head of State but who cannot run away with our country like is the case now.

I am not willing to give away that democratic right to elect that President to any representative or institution however cherished. The vote has to be direct and he or she has to be answerable directly to me, the voter.

The rest of the experimental hierarchies being created in our constitution are inspired by fear of domination, marginalisation and an insatiable human desire to control or be part of every little thing.

They are expedient for politicians but expensive to citizens.

I am yet to understand how the Committee of Experts figured out the 14 regions, for example, at a time when debate is raging about redrawing constituency and provincial boundaries.

Do we need to fragment our country into 14 federal regions with representatives in a Senate or should it comprise of representatives of our 41 tribes? Do we need a chamber to approve laws enacted by MPs or should we just strengthen Parliament and the Judiciary with a solid foundation in the Constitution?

I wonder. What I know, though, is that given our complicated ethnic equations, a unitary Republic led by a popularly elected President is still the best.

Makali is the director of The Media Institute,

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Time to endorse Football Kenya and Sack Hey - The Star

HARAMBEE Stars were finally bundled out of contention for the Africa Cup of Nations in January when they were beaten by Nigeria 3-2 on Saturday. They are also out of next year's World Cup in South Africa.

Kenya played gallantly on Saturday and were leading at half time, despite being abandoned by their petulant coach Antoine Hey.

Their Saturday performance shows Kenya is still capable of successfully challenging Africa's leading football nations.

The players did it without Hey. That shows that foreign coaches on astronomical salaries are not the answer to making the Harambee Stars world-beaters.

What is needed is good management without political interference. Abundant local coaching talent is undermined by frustration, poor pay and infighting between the national football bodies and government.

Government should now terminate Hey's Shim per month contract as he has not delivered.

But the problems facing Kenyan football are bigger than Hey. In particular the rivalry between Fifa-recognised Football Kenya and the Kenya Football Federation needs to be decisively resolved.

Government should follow Fifa and formally recognize FKL as being in charge of Kenya football, and then step back and stop interfering.

Otherwise Kenya has no chance of getting to the 2014 World Cup.

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Adam and Twende Magazines Discontinued - The Star

In a move that has sent shockwaves through the "5" magazine-world and left many a talented writer out on a limb, Adam and Twende magazines, published by East Africa Magazines, have been discontinued.

The December/January issues of the two magazines will be the last ones to ever hit the stands.

The news was delivered to the publisher Carol Mandi (pictured) via a phone-call from the company chairman based in South Africa. "It is so sad to be the one during whose tenure you lose two very promising magazines.

It is heart-breaking to have to be the one to break the news to your unsuspecting staff, that was a very hard thing for me to do," said a clearly emotional Carol Mandi, Publisher of EAM.

The departure earlier this year of the founding editors of both Adam and Twende, Oyunga Pala and Carole Arghwings-Kodhek were the first indications that all was not well with the publications.

"These magazines were great but at the end of the day it was the bottom line that gave way. The board members met in South Africa and decided the two ventures were not showing enough traction.

We didn't see it coming but we understand it was a business decision. They haven't been bad employers, and I know they will take care of all their legal obligations to us as employees," said an employee who declined to be named.

With the resignation of Grace Makosewe as Drum stylist, the loss of Wayua Muli as editor of True Love (she is going to Cape Town to join her fiance) little seems to be well in the EAM world and this in spite of new developments such as the hiring of Pinky Ghelani as the new editor of Drum and the launch of the Move! with Julie Masiga as editor.

It seems the problem is the methodology the South Africans are employing in this market.

"What is the point of launching new magazines when you cannot hang to or keep the old ones? What is the point of a shadow editor sitting in South Africa and dictating to you, in that we-know-better-than-you way, what the Kenyan public wants to read about?" said a disgruntled former employee.

"They just never learn these South Africans do they? Kenya is not South Africa and the way things work here is very different to South Africa, and if you want to know, ask the brewers."

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Who Will Save Kenya from the Napoleons of Corruption?

T S Elliot, a 1948 Nobel Prize winner in Literature wrote a poem titled “Macavity –The Mystery cat.” Macavity was described as having a hidden paw, having the movement of a snake and a criminal who used his intellect to defy the law.

He was bafflement to Scotland Yard and caused constant despair to the Flying Squad; for when they reached the scene of the crime, Macavity was simply not there.

This was suavity and deceitfulness par excellence. He always had an alibi and spared one or two more alibis just in case they came in handy. He was outwardly respectable in spite of being a Napoleon of corruption, the crème de la crème. It was therefore not surprising that his footsteps could not be found in any file of the Scotland Yard.

Today, the fictitious Macavity has acquired life. He is alive and kicking in Kenya. He is not one. There are many. The edacious Macavity are more emboldened in the perpetuation of noxious graft as they are equipped with impunity.

They are often surrounded with the exquisite Harvard legalese. They are not in the same league with the pusillanimous. They are true master minds of crime, the fat cats who supervise the pillaging of public coffers on grand scales.

You have heard the ravenous Macavity spin legal webs in defense of the well executed schemes that led to loss of billions of shillings in the Golden Berg, Anglo leasing, Grand Regency and the porous Kenya Pipeline Company (KPC).

You recently heard of him in the ministry of Youth Affairs, Ministry of water, you have seen him in the Ministry of basic Education (remember the 109 million in a mysterious account?) And now he has surfaced in the Ministry of finance; in the infamous Passat deal. And the list goes on ad infinitum.

It is rumored that all the voracious cats whose wicked deeds are widely known are nothing more than agents of these Napoleons of crime. Are we not almost certain that when the pilferage has taken place blame for the scandal is always heaped on junior officers?

When the subordinates are nabbed, which isn't often, there is no evidence linking the crimes to the masters. The master mind of crime is the mysterious "Macavity” who plans the crimes that lesser criminals execute.

With alacrity unmatched, these master minds in cahoots with senior officers have methodically sealed all the possible avenues for the unraveling of the scandals. Their rendition always almost made us believe that there was no iota of evidence to warrant prosecutions.

Of course you and I were so sure that the Ministerial statements read in parliament in the wake of the scandals were as clear as mud.

Just who will save Kenya from the litany of grand scams; from the avaricious clutches of these Napoleons of corruption?

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Simplified curricula: contradictory directives are a testament to lack of consultation

Recent reports from sections of the media that KNEC and KIE have issued contradictory directives with regard to the implementation of the simplified mathematics and science curricula, is a testament to the deep seated problems ailing the education system in Kenya: lack of both a solid research base and consultation. Whereas KIE insists that the package is optional for students, KNEC has made it mandatory for schools to only take one of the packages.

This confusion paints a very bad picture of the two organs that are supposed to compliment each other. They seem not to realize that the problem associated with the development, operation and improvement of any educational system must be based on extensive and systematic applications of knowledge. Moreover it must be an all inclusive and participatory process.

But in Kenya this seems to be far from the truth. The left hand hardly knows what the right hand is up to.

Much as we hope that the confusion will be done away with, I still have a problem with this general science “thing”. It is ostensibly formulated for students whose interest and aptitude is not in pursuing courses that require high competence in pure sciences. Prima facie, this sounds a great policy directive. However, the devil lies in the details.

A good curriculum ought not to be discriminative and must play a significant role in human resource development and placement. But looking at it from all angles, this curriculum bears the hallmarks of the Government`s discrimination against the less fortunate members in the country. Why do I say so?

This is because it is a known fact that performance in examinations differ in such a way that students from the higher socio-economic schools demonstrate a higher performance. Obviously the educational production process in such schools enjoys sufficient resources. Since the dregs (and who constitute the majority) of the society do not have access to such schools, they have to pursue their education in ill equipped village schools that can only offer general science curricula.

In my opinion it appears as if the Government is admitting its failure in addressing issues relating to access, equity and quality of education across the social divide as was promised in the Sessional paper no.1 of 2005.

Under a targeted programme the Government was supposed to rehabilitate and provide laboratory equipment in schools in the rural and marginalized areas in a bid to address regional disparities. Admittedly, the programme is a cropper. Consequently, the Government seems to be suggesting that students from disadvantaged schools will never become engineers and doctors, and by all indications, it will be sending a strong message to the public that students from disadvantaged schools are lesser citizens than their counterparts.

It is precisely because of the threat to validity and equity that saw the Government phase out such a similar curriculum in the nineties. Then we used to have pure and biological sciences.

Much as we all agree that the acute inequalities in schools in the country have over the years made it impossible for the construction of a consistent, reliable and valid performance measurement, but should that be a ground for the entrenching of a discriminatory and retrogressive curriculum change? Certainly not. Two wrongs do not make a right. I am extremely afraid that the complacency now setting in is both foolish and dangerous.

What good will it do to a learner/teacher whose interest is in learning/teaching pure sciences or pure mathematics but who is forced by the school management due to unavailability of resources to only learn/teach the general sciences or simplified mathematics?

From the foregoing, the question shouldn’t be whether the Government can afford to do more to promote social mobility. It should be whether Government can afford not to. And the answer is no.

Tome Francis,

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Party stalwarts against real devolution besmirch public intellect

The makers of our constitution at the time of our country`s independence did not intend to preserve an unchanging society, but instead meant the constitution to invariably adapt to the needs of our dynamic society.

Even though the independence constitution gave the president a carte blanche to run the nation as he deemed fit, experience has shown that such unfettered powers are often misused. The president like a deity became omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent.

There are many among us today who bear the scars of this tyranny. In fact the protracted fight for the second liberation was informed by the dictatorial tendencies that the right thinking public saw in the leadership of president Moi and his predecessor.

Devolvement of the powers vested in the presidency and its usual appurtenances was then the buzz word. Apparently when president Kibaki came to the helm of leadership, those close to the pedestal of power changed tact. They wanted to maintain the status quo. Even after the post election violence, they do not even want to hear anything about a constitutional dispensation that cuts a swath through the imperial presidency.

They prophetically harp on the existence of a constitutional crisis if executive power is shared between the presidency and the Prime Minister (Parliament). This pretence besmirches the intellect of Kenyans. Our reaction to these inanities is not amusement but bafflement, verging on rage. These can only be politicians who are out to have Kenya stop being a democracy in any meaningful sense. That is why they are too busy furthering their selfish interests at the country`s expense.

In the words of Barry Goldwater, a 1964 Republican Party candidate, “Those who seek absolute power even though they seek it to do what they regard as good, are simply demanding the right to enforce their own version of heaven on earth. And let me remind you, they are the very ones who always create the most hellish tyrannies. Absolute power does corrupt, and those who seek it must be suspect and must be opposed.”

Rather than think of that which is best suited for the country some they are busy throwing spanners in the works in the constitutional making process. And their best arsenal is of course to impiously force the country in to a horrendous political ping pong. It is this execrable behavior that engendered the hostilities that plunged this country in to a near holocaust. Yet the same politicians unashamedly elect to deliberately ignore this fact. Mao Tse Tung (1893-1976) said that “Politics is war without bloodshed while war is politics with bloodshed.”

There is a very thin line between the two so much so that it only requires the snafus and preposterous verboten to trigger an unprecedented bloodletting. Of course you and I know that our politicians have plenty of this in stock. Sad as it is, they have already set the tempo. And our hopes of having a new constitutional dispensation can only dissipate.

Should we stand aside helplessly, gnashing our teeth, as a section of our politicians line up to deride the efforts of the Committee of Experts (CoE) just as they did with Constitution of Kenya Review Committee (CKRC) in 2005? We cannot allow this to happen again. It is first and foremost our peace as a country that is at stake.

Secondly it is our tax billions that will yet again go to waste. My exhortation is to patriotic Kenyans. We must stand up and say no to these political machinations. So don't just sit there moaning about how the country's going to the dogs. Sign up and let's kick some ass.

Tome Francis,
Bumula Constituency.

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The quest for a local tribunal ruined by the executive`s hocus pocus

What is this much hyped Ministers` and Assistant Ministers` Grand Retreat? Could it be that it is the Grand Coalition`s way of retreating from tackling the sizzling Imanyara Bill? Honorable Imanyara believes it is sabotage. So do I. This is because this government had plenty of time to organize for bonding sessions during the just concluded recess. Now that parliament has reconvened and with its in tray full with extremely urgent legislation, the executive sees this as a perfect opportunity for “them” to gobble chicken and chicanery in Mombasa.

Weirdly unfamiliar it may be, but certainly not entirely unexpected. Eugene McCarthy (1916-2005), once a US senator said that “politics is like being a football coach. You have to be smart enough to understand the game and dumb enough to think that it is important”. I cannot agree more with him. This is because after many days of indecision, discussion and procrastination, there seems to be no glimmer of hope that Kenya`s Parliament will be sufficiently philanthropic as to establish a local tribunal to complement the ICC. With their eyes ravenously focused on 2012 it is hardly surprising that political machinations have yet again started overriding the national interests. They have no doubt adopted the “see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil” stance. Using this lenses, it becomes crystal clear to all and sundry that the executive`s bonding session is all about its collective desire to evenly cover its muck.

In their quest to ascend to the helm of the country`s leadership they conveniently forget that the price of greatness is responsibility and not irresponsibility. Their body language is reminiscent of the then US president Ronald Reagan who unable to deal with the biting deficit quipped “I am not worried about the deficit. It is big enough to take care of itself.” Like Reagan our politicians scamper at the sight of impunity while fervently hoping that it (impunity) is big enough to take care of itself! And with this kind of obnoxious attitude I have no iota of doubt that Kenya shall continue to greatly suffer the consequences of the criminalization of politics in the successive electioneering periods courtesy of the verbal snafus and preposterous sound bytes of the high and mighty.

They care less whether their mumbo-jumbo can engender a holocaust. That is why at one time they blubber “Don`t be vague, go to Hague.” And in quick succession, they mumble about the establishment of a “local tribunal” then to “Reconciliation without Truth and Justice.” Putting their foot in their mouth or goofing as is commonly known is ostensibly our politicians` way of life. Admittedly many of them just bungle up to gain publicity. (But this not to say that there are those among them who are permanently incapable of speaking sense). They unashamedly engage in hocus-pocus while fervently hoping that the resultant avalanche of confusion will snuff out the nation`s quest for justice. They have conveniently forgotten that it is their unrepentant mood that has over the years resulted in the institutionalization of impunity.

However, for the victims of post election violence, know thee that all is not lost. The wheels of justice may appear to be slow but they shall surely catch up with these Lords of impunity. They may desperately attempt to cover their nakedness with “sovereignty” but not for long. This is because the will of the over 40 million Kenyans shall ultimately triumph.

Tome Francis,

Bumula Constituency.

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