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A taskmaster of Kenya Air Force makes his last flight : The Standard

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Maj Gen (rtd) Duncan Wachira
Maj Gen (rtd) Duncan Wachira, the seventh commander of the Kenya Air Force, was a decisive man.

Before his appointment as chief of logistics at Defence headquarters, senior military officers used to drive their gleaming Peugeot 504 saloons to fuel pumps in their bases and simply order the attendants to fill the tanks. It was a charmed life. As soon as Wachira took over, he put a cap of 20 litres per vehicle. Anybody who wanted more than that had to make a written justification for it.
The tough edict, and other strict cost-cutting measures he instituted, caught the attention of Mahmoud Mohammed, the army general who crushed the 1982 attempted coup and became Air Force commander on his way to succeeding Gen Jackson Mulinge as Chief of the General Staff, as the nation’s top military officer was known then.
Mohammed had Wachira succeed Maj Gen Dedan Gichuru as Air Force commander.
Attempted coup
Gichuru, the first African to head the service, had made a second brief tour of duty at Eastleigh in the turbulent post-coup years.
Military chiefs by their very position wield considerable influence on the President but as the man who saved Moi his presidency, Mohammed was in a class of his own. The President owed him the world and his preference of a service commander was always going to have his way.
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Soon after Wachira was installed at the top office at Moi Air Base, the Air Force headquarters where many years ago he had learnt to fly military transport planes, he called a meeting of key personnel.
He wanted to know why the Kenya Air Force could not train its own flying instructors instead of sending them abroad where the steep costs kept on rising every year. In the military, the difference between the boss’ opinion and order is the same. Wachira wanted training costs cut and they sure were going to be. Out of that meeting, the Air Force Qualified Flying Instructors programme – African instructors giving advanced training to African pilots – was born.
Strictness, which seemed mapped in the DNA of this meticulous pilot and logistician, is a positive that attracts respect. But taken beyond certain limits, it becomes overbearing, which is a negative that instils fear in subordinates. By the account of some officers who knew him, Wachira spread fear in abundance.
“He was an excellent pilot,” one of them told me. “He flew even when he became the Air Force commander. But he didn’t forgive mistakes. He meted out punishment immediately. Many people thus tried to avoid him as much as possible.”
His towering physique, which would have deterred even a heavyweight boxer from thinking of engaging him in a duel, made him all the more forbidding. 
Another one said he was impossible to understand or interpret.
“When it came to work,” he said, “you could not find anybody more dependable. He was competent and committed. He was the kind of officer who performed over and above what was expected of him. He deserved every promotion he got. But his social life was mysterious. He was intensely private. Unlike others, he never even brought along his wife during official social functions at the Officers’ Mess.”
He added: “I liked him. He was my friend. I knew him for many years. But it is only after his death that I realised that I didn’t know any of his family members. I wanted to condole with them upon learning of his death but I discovered that the only number I have on my phone is his. I am looking for people who knew him like anyone else.”
He was probably the best-suited person to head the Air Force during its wilderness years in the aftermath of the coup attempt instigated by elements in its rank and file. It was a broken service. It had lost some of its best and brightest. It had lost its colours; the cherished sky blue was now an earthy beige that survivors of the purge found painful to wear. It had even lost its name – it was no longer Kenya Air Force but 82 Air Force. The name rankled. Its future seemed as cloudy as any day could get. There was even talk that it could be disbanded altogether and be made a division of the Army, which administered it for a number of years and whose officers milked every small chance to remind those smart alecs who looked down on them who was boss now.
The no-nonsense Wachira was imminently suited to restore Air Force self-belief because he could get things done. And yet, life is not a straight course. It is possible to achieve admirable accomplishments while leaving too many aching bones in your wake. Inspiring and motivating were not his strongest points. 
He was at the helm when the Air Force marked the 10th anniversary of the darkest chapter in its history.
This was his appraisal of where things stood: “This year we are celebrating 10 years of the 82 Air Force. The events surrounding the formation of our service are still very vivid in our minds. We started off with an acute shortage of manpower, low morale and general apathy. Currently, our manning levels are adequate, morale is high and we have renewed confidence in the future of the service.
“We can now effectively carry out our operational and training tasks. More aircraft have been added to our transport fleet and now we have a dedicated VIP Squadron.”
One of the steepest costs Kenyans pay today is the cost of dying. It can wipe out everything one worked for in life and still saddle those left behind with unmanageable debts. Fortunately for him, his family is not facing that daunting prospect. Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) minds its own. As soon as he breathed his last following a long illness and treatment at Nairobi Hospital, Defence headquarters quietly established a funeral committee.
Funeral plans
His colleagues in the retired Air Force fraternity did the same. They will ensure that all his medical bills are cleared and that he is given a funeral service befitting a service commander of KDF. He commanded the Air Force during the dark days of dictatorship and played his part to return it airborne after it had flown into terrain in 1982. His battles with wastefulness and dedication to training which saw more African pilots graduate from Air Force flying school than could otherwise have, if he didn’t change the status quo, are his greatest legacies.
Today’s young pilots, who know him only from historical records, must thank him for his initiative.
[Roy Gachuhi is a writer and documentary film producer with The Content House]

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Kenya Air ForceDuncan WachiraMaj Gen (rtd) Duncan Wachira

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North Korea threatens to scrap military deal with South

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Seoul

North Korea threatened Thursday to scrap a military agreement with the South and close down a cross-border liaison office unless Seoul stops activists from flying anti-Pyongyang leaflets over the border.

The statement issued by the powerful younger sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un comes amid a deep freeze in inter-Korean ties, despite three summits between Kim and the South’s President Moon Jae-in in 2018.

North Korean defectors and other activists have long flown balloons across the border carrying leaflets that criticise Kim over human rights abuses and his nuclear ambitions.

“The South Korean authorities will be forced to pay a dear price if they let this situation go on while making all sort of excuses,” Kim Yo Jong said in a statement carried by the official KCNA news agency.

DEFECTORS

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Calling the defectors “human scum” and “rubbish-like mongrel dogs” who betrayed their homeland, she said it was “time to bring their owners to account” in a reference to the South Korean government.

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She threatened to scrap a military pact signed during Moon’s visit to Pyongyang in 2018 aimed at easing border tensions, and shut down a cross-border liaison office.

But most of the deals agreed at that meeting have not been acted on, with Pyongyang largely cutting off contact with Seoul following the collapse of a summit between Kim and US President Donald Trump in Hanoi last year that left nuclear talks at a standstill.

OPERATIONS SUSPENDED

Operations at the liaison office have already been suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic, and the North has carried out dozens of weapons tests since the military agreement was signed.

Kim Yo Jong also threatened to pull out permanently from joint projects with the South including the Kaesong Industrial Park and Mount Kumgang tours – both of them money-spinners for the North that have been suspended for years due to sanctions over its weapons programmes.

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Cops hunting for rider who fled with friend’s Sh505K and switched off phone – Nairobi News

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Police are looking for a boda boda rider who disappeared after receiving Sh505,200 he had been sent by his friend to collect for her.

Bernard Onsase had been sent by Monica Macharia to collect the money from her friend at Wilson Airport on May 9.

He later switched off his phone and disappeared.

Shaurimoyo police station is obtained court orders to compel telephone services provider Safaricom to share details of Onsase and his wife Asenath Omwenga’s mobile phone numbers.

Police constable Mohamed Ragow told Makadara chief magistrate Heston Nyaga that Onsase has been Macharia’s customer but moved his family and relocated to an unknown place.

Police want Safaricom to avail M-Pesa transaction details of the couple’s phone numbers from May 9 to date and any other information that may help in obtaining concrete evidence for the case.

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The police also want to have access and carry away document related to transactions of Onsase’s account and Safaricom to provide other telephone numbers the two could have registered.

Nyaga granted the orders, but, however, pointed out that 90 percent of Kenyans are likely to do what Onsase did.

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Tunisia announces 3rd phase of lifting Covid-19 restrictions

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By XINHUA

Tunis

Tunisian minister in charge of major national projects Lobna Jribi announced on Wednesday the main lines of the third phase of the national strategy for partially lifting the coronavirus lockdown.

“From June 4, work will resume at 100 per cent capacity in public administrations and in the other sectors of activity,” Jribi said at a press briefing at the government’s headquarters in Tunis.

She announced that mosques, all worship places, hotels and restaurants will reopen on June 4.

“Party halls will reopen on the same date,” said the minister, adding that the enclosed spaces will operate at 50 per cent of their capacity and the open spaces will operate at full capacity, but in compliance with hygiene measures.

SPORTS

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Various sporting activities will be resumed from June 8 without the public “for the moment,” while respecting the preventive measures fixed by the Ministry of Youth and Sports.

Travel between all Tunisian governorates will resume without authorisation, said Jribi.

Tunisian nationals abroad will be repatriated from June 4 to June 14, “and priority will be given to students and residents who have lost their jobs”.

“Since March 15, 2020, Tunisian authorities have managed to ensure the repatriation of 25,000 Tunisians stranded abroad, including 18,000 by air and 7,000 via land borders,” said the Minister of Transport and Logistics, Anouar Maarouf, at a press briefing held in Tunis on Wednesday.

SCHEDULED FLIGHTS

Maarouf said that several flights have been scheduled recently to repatriate Tunisians living in various countries who wish to spend the summer holidays in Tunisia.

“However, the programming of new repatriation flights does not mean opening the borders,” explained Maarouf.

He stressed that any Tunisian national repatriated will be called upon to comply with a mandatory confinement of two weeks; “one week at the hotel at his own expense – during which two screening tests will be carried out, with one upon arrival and the other upon exit – and a second week at his home.”

EXEMPTED FROM QUARANTINE

Students, employees whose contract of employment has expired, Tunisian nationals in difficult financial situations, and those who have been stranded in the destination countries will be exempted from the quarantine fees.

On May 26, Mohamed Rabhi, head of the health quarantine commission at the ministry revealed that mandatory quarantine in Tunisian medical centres over the Covid-19 concerns has so far cost the state 15 million dinars (5 million US dollars).

On June 1, Tunisia decided to reopen the land, air and sea borders from June 27, but Tunisian nationals abroad will be repatriated from June 4.

On Wednesday, Tunisia reported one imported Covid-19 case, bringing the total number of cases to 1,087.

The Tunisian government has imposed strict confinement measures shortly after the announcement of the first coronavirus case on March 2.

The North African country has received several batches of medical aid from the Chinese government, Chinese foundations and companies since late March to help its fight against the pandemic.

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