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Award a vote for justice

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EDITORIAL

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There is finally some good news for two families whose patriarchs suffered torture and detention without trial at the hands of a repressive regime.

The High Court has awarded late politicians Jean-Marie Seroney and Charles Rubia Sh17 million each for the injustices inflicted for their political activities.

Seroney was a firebrand MP who excelled with powerful contributions in the National Assembly. Rubia, the first African mayor of Nairobi, was a long-serving MP and Cabinet minister.

The court ruled that there was sufficient proof that the two men were illegally detained.

Both suffered incarceration and became seriously ill for only exercising their freedom of expression, a right that is enshrined in the Constitution.

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Seroney was arrested for uttering words that should have been privileged, having been spoken on the floor of Parliament.

Rubia, who was also a successful businessman, successfully campaigned for the restoration of multiparty democracy.

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After a long wait, justice has finally been done. However, no amount of money can fully compensate the two families for the agony they suffered from that separation.

Nonetheless, the cash award is a symbolic gesture that should go some way in bringing this matter to closure.

It is a shame, however, that taxpayers will bear this financial burden. Ideally, the leaders responsible for this miscarriage of justice and their accomplices should have been required to pay for it.

It is also a pity that the two men who suffered the injustice did not live to enjoy the compensation. This is an indictment of the wheels of justice, which turn quite slowly.

However, the significance of these rulings is that, never again should such a blatant violation of constitutional rights and fundamental freedoms occur in a democratic society whose ideals we truly cherish.

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Need to lay out post-Covid-19 strategies for local industries

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DIANA MULILI

By DIANA MULILI
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MANDEEP SHAH

By MANDEEP SHAH
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The unprecedented global economic disruption that the Covid-19 pandemic has triggered has brought up urgent questions about the resilience of economies. We are faced with the daunting reality of the capacity of region’s economies to recover from the severe short-term constraints and their ability to benefit from new opportunities.

The pandemic could not have occurred at a worse time. The region was looking forward to consolidating gains from investments in domestic industrialisation agendas, expecting the gains of the past two decades of stability and growth in the service sector to spill over into other sectors, with manufacturing and agro-processing sectors as priorities.

That plan is now upended and the region is faced with a very real threat of our economies slumping into depression. As Columbia University professor and historian Adam Tooze states: “This is a period of radical uncertainty, an order of magnitude greater than anything we’re used to.”

East Africa’s transport, agriculture, hospitality, tourism and retail sectors have been jolted by the measures taken to combat the virus. Manufacturing has suffered too, due to mandated working in shifts and the impact of the lockdown, shorter working hours, new working models, closure of retail markets and disruptions in raw material supply chains.

But the greatest threat to industries in these sectors reopening is the mass unemployment the pandemic has triggered, which will deny the economy the critical cash lifeline that oils commerce.

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Industry resilience rests on an interlocking ecosystem where the forward and backward linkages of value chains works seamlessly at all times and that the symbiosis between demand and supply is healthy. This is the logic that has informed all the government responses to the pandemic in a bid to ensure there is sufficient liquidity in the market to sustain commerce, even if this meant the UK paying salaries for furloughed workers, or the US giving relief cash to millions of its citizens.

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Governments and other stakeholders ought to support high-potential sectors in the region to become competitive and resilient and expand opportunities for employment. There should be a long-term view on how industry programmes can adjust.

In the aquaculture and textiles and apparel (T&A) industries, for instance, the immediate priority is survival, acceleration of post-Covid-19 recovery and reduction of impact on businesses and jobs.

Fish farms across East Africa are faced with reduced sales and lower fish prices, driven by a combination of constrained market access and reduced consumer purchasing power. Mid-sized and larger farms are having difficulties sourcing feed due to import restrictions.

RAW MATERIALS
Cross-border movement controls have affected access to large markets like the DR Congo, and the closure of restaurants has cut demand in cities and affected cage farmers.

Appropriate access to working capital would enable fish farms to maintain operations and access fish feed.

The T&A industry has suffered scarcity of raw materials because of disruptions in key source markets like China, India, and Pakistan. There have also been substantial risks to worker wellbeing and job security. But even in the face of adversity, T&A manufacturers have been very supportive, converting their facilities to produce personal protective equipment (PPE).

Short-term intervention worth pursuing include an SME support fund; wage subsidies to facilitate job retention; support for rent and utilities; and the increase in logistics costs required to bring the business back on track. In the medium-term, both textile and apparel manufacturers should be included in the tax and other relief measures by governments to cushion industries.

Reorganising the business for new markets and opportunities post-Covid-19 is also essential for stability in the sector.

The role of regional value chains need to be strengthened to improve the resilience of the economies. The concerted response from government, donors and the private sector should be focused on ensuring all aspects of the aquaculture and T&A sectors’ value chain are robust and self-sufficient, both in the short term and in planning for the longer term.

Ms Mulili is the interim CEO of Msingi East Africa. Mr Mandeep is the project manager, Business Development and Innovations, at Msingi.

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False start as flight promise crumples

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I felt disappointed that the Kenyan embassy was unable to rally the 50 people needed for a plane trip.

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Going after Ruto will not solve Kenya’s ills, let’s uproot system

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MACHARIA GAITHO

By MACHARIA GAITHO
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Kimeumana! This term from the ever evolving glossary of our modern lingua franca is not yet in my copy of the Kenyan Urban Dictionary. It probably is not even a genuine Sheng term, seeming to have originated from military parade grounds rather than the crowded suburbs of Nairobi’s Eastlands, where the wonderfully subversive language grows and the revolution will erupt from.

A video that has been in circulation for some time shows a Kenya Army regimental sergeant-major barking “Sema (say) kimeumana!” at troops who appear to be rehearsing for a national day parade.

“Kimeumana” has since become the stuff of a series of Internet memes depicting a wide range of instances where things spiral out of control. This could be anything — from a public officer caught pants down, literally, to a natural disaster that kills hundreds.

SUCCESSIVE DEFEATS
As with any other words in the Sheng lexicon, the meaning and usage of kimeumana is so clear yet impossible to render in accurate translation into English or any other language.

Kenya’s army of social media wags have translated it into ‘It has bitten itself’, probably as in a dog biting its own tail. An easier translation might be in ‘Things are thick’, also borrowing form local parlance. One could also take kimeumama as an evolution or mutation of the earlier term kumethoka (Wait a minute… that needs its own translation. I kiff up!

Anyway, kimeumana! The sad thing is that I don’t say this in reference to the coronavirus pandemic spreading mayhem across the world but to the state of our politics.

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President Uhuru Kenyatta and former opposition leader Raila Odinga and their joint command structure must right now be chortling after handing successive defeats to Deputy President William Ruto.

In kicking his henchmen out of key Senate leadership positions, they have shown that Dr Ruto’s vaunted control of Jubilee Party troops was built on quicksand. All he had was a bunch of mercenaries in it for the money but with no commitment to his cause, and ready to turn tail and flee at the first sign of trouble or enticement from a fatter wallet.

No doubt, Dr Ruto is mortally wounded. The presumption that he would be Jubilee’s automatic candidate to pick up the baton once President Kenyatta serves out his final term in 2022 has gone up in smoke. Chances are that the anti-Ruto coalition might now feel emboldened enough to go directly for him, either through impeachment or criminal charges. Or both.

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But to what avail? What we are witnessing is just the same hollow, mean, petty, selfish and divisive politics that has been the curse of our nation since Independence. An impeachment Motion or criminal charge motivated by political skulduggery adds absolutely nothing to the campaign for a just society.

I don’t hold brief for Dr Ruto. I know that he came into high office carrying a lot of baggage dating back to his emergence through the notorious YK ’92 organisation, and throughout his career has carried the noxious whiff of scandal. However, any move to impeach or charge Dr Ruto would be foolish, dishonest and an unmitigated disaster.

The DP may well have been projected as the poster child for corruption but the fact is that he is just a single individual within a Jubilee Party and wider political system that stinks to high heaven.
The problem is not just Dr Ruto but a venal and irredeemably corrupt system that must be completely and totally uprooted if we are to solve our existential issues.

Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga sold us their Building Bridges Initiative as the ultimate quest for lasting solutions to the corruption, tribalism, nepotism, crime, violence, poverty, inequalities and other ills that ail Kenya.

They promised an end to the divisive politics of ethnic balkanisation that every electoral cycle hurtle Kenya down the path of dismemberment.

This obsession with cutting Dr Ruto down to size at a time when we all should be focussed on surviving the coronavirus exposes the big lie. It undermines the BBI ‘handshake’ promise of a great new society built on justice, peace, equity and shared prosperity.

So it was not about inculcating political hygiene and a country where all have a sense of belonging but about throwing ashore one individual?

But they will soon find out that punishing one individual for the national ailment is no solution.

Deputy President Ruto came as a package with President Kenyatta. They remain tied at the hip and jointly culpable for Jubilee’s criminal misrule. If one must be thrown over the precipice, the other must follow. Then, we can start uprooting the system.

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