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BOLD WOMAN: Lawyer Amy Ochiel thrives on multitasking

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By KAREN MBUYA MURIUKI
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Amy Ochiel Ochieng is a lawyer who is passionate about children, women, devolution and international law.

At only 23, she has made a name for herself through her passions. She is the founder of the Wings of Hope Organization and runs an initiative called African Women in Leadership Narratives. She is also the former chair of the Young African Leaders Initiative, YALI, in Kenya. She talked to Nation.co.ke about her journey.

When did you realize you had so many interests?
In 2014, a year after finishing high school. I wanted to add value to my community based on my experiences because I was orphaned at the age of 14. I have been privileged; I was able to even further my studies and have never lacked. I wanted to use my knowledge, skills and finances to give back to the society so that someone in my position was able to get access to basic needs.

How exactly did you start?
One day, as I watched the news, I was touched by a story of some girls who missed school because they lacked sanitary towels. My friends and I were able to raise funds and we donated 250 packets to Cheryl Children’s Home. It was moving seeing how much hope these girls had. They had dreams that they wanted to achieve but could not because of the lack of basic needs. I had planned on doing this donation as a one-off thing but after this first visit, we decided to do it continually. We started the Wings of Hope Organization in 2014, with a team of nine.

Amy Ochiel is also the former chair of the Young African Leaders Initiative, YALI, in Kenya. PHOTO| COURTESY

Amy Ochiel is also the former chair of the Young African Leaders Initiative, YALI, in Kenya. PHOTO| COURTESY

I had joined the School of Law at the University of Nairobi earlier that year in January. Law has always been my passion, but learning made me realise what my interests were. I was more passionate about human rights and international law. I also got to realise that in Kenya, we do more of making laws; which is beautiful and progressive, but with zero implementation. I decided to use my knowledge in projects instead of going to the courthouses.

With Wings of Hope, I was able to implement some laws in terms of ensuring that these girls are in school and getting an education. This was a problem because without these sanitary towels, these girls would miss school when they were on their menses.

Our donations are done annually through the help of other friends and family. Over the years, we have also donated to Star Rays High School, Kayole Stars High School and Kajiado Rehabilitation Centre.

At the beginning, people doubted my abilities because of my age but we have been able to earn their trust and support.

YALI is an initiative founded by former US president Barrack Obama in 2010. It supports young African leaders as they work to spur growth and prosperity, strengthen democratic governance, and enhance peace and security across the continent. While there, I met people doing projects similar to what I was doing; in business and entrepreneurship, public management or civic.

I joined YALI in November of 2015. We were taught on leadership, and ensuring we have our victory first. As leaders, we give out to the society a lot and forget to invest in ourselves. This may lead to us becoming irrelevant because we fail to upgrade our skills, or we get worn out.

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We are also taught on how to interact with the community and to get to know what it wants. People often think that only the leaders have solutions to problems, yet the community members do.

I graduated from YALI in February of 2016. Going through its training, I was able to know how to approach people, mobilize resources and run the Wings of Hope Organization.

I started studying a Certified Secretaries, CS, course at KCA University around the same time.

Wasn’t it hard having all these things on your plate?
(Laughs.) I thrive on doing a lot of things at the same time, so juggling all these responsibilities was not as hard.

YALI fellows join the Alumni Chapter of Kenya after their 12-week training, which is what I did after I graduated. I decided to vie as the YALI chairperson in April of 2016. At this time, we were about 300 alumni. There I was; a 22-year-old trying to convince 30-year-olds that I was fit for the task.

It got a bit political because one needed to campaign and have manifestos to persuade others to vote for them. I stayed away from politics while in the University so this was a new and exciting experience for me.

Luckily, I had built a good rapport with the alumni as an active alumnus and this made it easier to convince them. These people had also seen the kind of work I did so there was that trust. I was able to garner 87 per cent of the total votes.

At YALI, members do not discriminate because of age. They will listen, and even help you achieve what you want to if you have the content.

I was sworn in as the YALI chairperson in May and immediately took a break from my CS course because law school became very demanding at the same time.

What was your job as the Chair?

Mainly, to implement things on the ground. Previously, most activities were done in Nairobi. We, as the YALI alumni, had to devolve and fund the activities. I believe in structures, so we created county structures which made devolvement easier. We would place them in clusters within the counties, where they would be able to brainstorm, plan, implement and fund these activities. I got a lot of support. I was the only woman in the executive committee made up of five. My term ended in June this year.

I then started Africa Women in Leadership Narratives where I showcase news and blogposts on women. I also write stories of what women do, as well as their achievements. We are two members for now; my other colleague being Hellen Mutua, a vibrant and amazing lady who is passionate about women.

What have been your highlights in the past three years?
Being the YALI chair, and part of YALI, of course. I also got to be featured in True Love and People Daily for the work of implementing activities across the country.

In July 2016, I was nominated for the Africa Youth Steering Committee by United Nations Women was also a great moment for me. I also exceled in law school despite having so much on my hands.

I was also honoured to be a co-curator at the TEDx Muthangari. TEDx is an international community that organizes TED-style events anywhere and everywhere — celebrating locally-driven ideas and elevating them to a global stage.

On that note, what challenges have you faced?
It takes more hard work to convince others to do anything when you are a young woman. People still have a patriarchal way of viewing things in our society.

In implementation of policies, higher authorities were sometimes not on the same page with us as the leaders, and yet we were still pressured from down below. Creating that balance was difficult.

What’s next for you in five years?
I will have gotten my Master’s Degree, be part of policy-making boards that deal with women and children and hopefully be in diplomacy.



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Sordid tale of the bank ‘that would bribe God’

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Bank of Credit and Commerce International. August 1991. [File, Standard]

“This bank would bribe God.” These words of a former employee of the disgraced Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) sum up one of the most rotten global financial institutions.
BCCI pitched itself as a top bank for the Third World, but its spectacular collapse would reveal a web of transnational corruption and a playground for dictators, drug lords and terrorists.
It was one of the largest banks cutting across 69 countries and its aftermath would cause despair to innocent depositors, including Kenyans.
BCCI, which had $20 billion (Sh2.1 trillion in today’s exchange rate) assets globally, was revealed to have lost more than its entire capital.
The bank was founded in 1972 by the crafty Pakistani banker Agha Hasan Abedi.
He was loved in his homeland for his charitable acts but would go on to break every rule known to God and man.
In 1991, the Bank of England (BoE) froze its assets, citing large-scale fraud running for several years. This would see the bank cease operations in multiple countries. The Luxembourg-based BCCI was 77 per cent owned by the Gulf Emirate of Abu Dhabi.  
BoE investigations had unearthed laundering of drugs money, terrorism financing and the bank boasted of having high-profile customers such as Panama’s former strongman Manual Noriega as customers.
The Standard, quoting “highly placed” sources reported that Abu Dhabi ruler Sheikh Zayed Sultan would act as guarantor to protect the savings of Kenyan depositors.
The bank had five branches countrywide and panic had gripped depositors on the state of their money.
Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) would then move to appoint a manager to oversee the operations of the BCCI operations in Kenya.
It sent statements assuring depositors that their money was safe.
The Standard reported that the Sheikh would be approaching the Kenyan and other regional subsidiaries of the bank to urge them to maintain operations and assure them of his personal support.
It was said that contact between CBK and Abu Dhabi was “likely.”
This came as the British Ambassador to the UAE Graham Burton implored the gulf state to help compensate Britons, and the Indian government also took similar steps.
The collapse of BCCI was, however, not expect to badly hit the Kenyan banking system. This was during the sleazy 1990s when Kenya’s banking system was badly tested. It was the era of high graft and “political banks,” where the institutions fraudulently lent to firms belonging or connected to politicians, who were sometimes also shareholders.
And even though the impact was expected to be minimal, it was projected that a significant number of depositors would transfer funds from Asian and Arab banks to other local institutions.
“Confidence in Arab banking has taken a serious knock,” the “highly placed” source told The Standard.
BCCI didn’t go down without a fight. It accused the British government of a conspiracy to bring down the Pakistani-run bank.  The Sheikh was said to be furious and would later engage in a protracted legal battle with the British.
“It looks to us like a Western plot to eliminate a successful Muslim-run Third World Bank. We know that it often acted unethically. But that is no excuse for putting it out of business, especially as the Sultan of Abu Dhabi had agreed to a restructuring plan,” said a spokesperson for British Asians.
A CBK statement signed by then-Deputy Governor Wanjohi Murithi said it was keenly monitoring affairs of the mother bank and would go to lengths to protect Kenyan depositors.
“In this respect, the CBK has sought and obtained the assurance of the branch’s management that the interests of depositors are not put at risk by the difficulties facing the parent company and that the bank will meet any withdrawal instructions by depositors in the normal course of business,” said Mr Murithi.
CBK added that it had maintained surveillance of the local branch and was satisfied with its solvency and liquidity.
This was meant to stop Kenyans from making panic withdrawals.
For instance, armed policemen would be deployed at the bank’s Nairobi branch on Koinange Street after the bank had announced it would shut its Kenyan operations.
In Britain, thousands of businesses owned by British Asians were on the verge of financial ruin following the closure of BCCI.
Their firms held almost half of the 120,000 bank accounts registered with BCCI in Britain. 
The African Development Bank was also not spared from this mess, with the bulk of its funds deposited and BCCI and stood to lose every coin.
Criminal culture
In Britain, local authorities from Scotland to the Channel Islands are said to have lost over £100 million (Sh15.2 billion in today’s exchange rate).
The biggest puzzle remained how BCCI was allowed by BoE and other monetary regulation authorities globally to reach such levels of fraudulence.
This was despite the bank being under tight watch owing to the conviction of some of its executives on narcotics laundering charges in the US.
Coast politician, the late Shariff Nassir, would claim that five primary schools in Mombasa lost nearly Sh1 million and appealed to then Education Minister George Saitoti to help recover the savings. Then BoE Governor Robin Leigh-Pemberton condemned it as so deeply immersed in fraud that rescue or recovery – at least in Britain – was out of the question.
“The culture of the bank is criminal,” he said. The bank was revealed to have targeted the Third World and had created several “institutional devices” to promote its operations in developing countries.
These included the Third World Foundation for Social and Economic Studies, a British-registered charity.
“It allowed it to cultivate high-level contacts among international statesmen,” reported The Observer, a British newspaper.
BCCI also arranged an annual Third World lecture and a Third World prize endowment fund of about $10 million (Sh1 billion in today’s exchange rate).
Winners of the annual prize had included Nelson Mandela (1985), sir Bob Geldof (1986) and Archbishop Desmond Tutu (1989).
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Monitor water pumps remotely via your phone

Tracking and monitoring motor vehicles is not new to Kenyans. Competition to install affordable tracking devices is fierce but essential for fleet managers who receive reports online and track vehicles from the comfort of their desk.

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Agricultural Development Corporation Chief Accountant Gerald Karuga on the Spot Over Fraud –

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Gerald Karuga, the acting chief accountant at the Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC), is on the spot over fraud in land dealings.

ADC was established in 1965 through an Act of Parliament Cap 346 to facilitate the land transfer programme from European settlers to locals after Kenya gained independence.

Karuga is under fire for allegedly aiding a former powerful permanent secretary in the KANU era Benjamin Kipkulei to deprive ADC beneficiaries of their land in Naivasha.

Kahawa Tungu understands that the aggrieved parties continue to protest the injustice and are now asking the Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission (EACC) and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) to probe Karuga.

A source who spoke to Weekly Citizen publication revealed that Managing Director Mohammed Dulle is also involved in the mess at ADC.

Read: Ministry of Agriculture Apologizes After Sending Out Tweets Portraying the President in bad light

Dulle is accused of sidelining a section of staffers in the parastatal.

The sources at ADC intimated that Karuga has been placed strategically at ADC to safeguard interests of many people who acquired the corporations’ land as “donations” from former President Daniel Arap Moi.

Despite working at ADC for many years Karuga has never been transferred, a trend that has raised eyebrows.

“Karuga has worked here for more than 30 years and unlike other senior officers in other parastatals who are transferred after promotion or moved to different ministries, for him, he has stuck here for all these years and we highly suspect that he is aiding people who were dished out with big chunks of land belonging to the corporation in different parts of the country,” said the source.

In the case of Karuga safeguarding Kipkulei’s interests, workers at the parastatals and the victims who claim to have lost their land in Naivasha revealed that during the Moi regime some senior officials used dubious means to register people as beneficiaries of land without their knowledge and later on colluded with rogue land officials at the Ministry of Lands to acquire title deeds in their names instead of those of the benefactors.

Read Also: Galana Kulalu Irrigation Scheme To Undergo Viability Test Before Being Privatised

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“We have information that Karuga has benefitted much from Kipkulei through helping him and this can be proved by the fact that since the matter of the Naivasha land began, he has been seen changing and buying high-end vehicles that many people of his rank in government can’t afford to buy or maintain,” the source added.

“He is even building a big apartment for rent in Ruiru town.”

The wealthy officer is valued at over Sh1.5 billion in prime properties and real estate.

Last month, more than 100 squatters caused scenes in Naivasha after raiding a private firm owned by Kipkulei.

The squatters, who claimed to have lived on the land for more than 40 years, were protesting take over of the land by a private developer who had allegedly bought the land from the former PS.

They pulled down a three-kilometre fence that the private developed had erected.

The squatters claimed that the former PS had not informed them that he had sold the land and that the developer was spraying harmful chemicals on the grass affecting their livestock and homes built on a section of the land.

Read Also: DP Ruto Wants NCPB And Other Agricultural Bodies Merged For Efficiency

Naivasha Deputy County Commissioner Kisilu Mutua later issued a statement warning the squatters against encroaching on Kipkuleir’s land.

“They are illegally invading private land. We shall not allow the rule of the jungle to take root,” warned Mutua.

Meanwhile, a parliamentary committee recently demanded to know identities of 10 faceless people who grabbed 30,350 acres of land belonging to the parastatal, exposing the rot at the corporation.

ADC Chairman Nick Salat, who doubles up as the KANU party Secretary-General, denied knowledge of the individuals and has asked DCI to probe the matter.

Email your news TIPS to [email protected] or WhatsApp +254708677607. You can also find us on Telegram through www.t.me/kahawatungu

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William Ruto eyes Raila Odinga Nyanza backyard

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Deputy President William Ruto will next month take his ‘hustler nation’ campaigns to his main rival, ODM leader Raila Odinga’s Nyanza backyard, in an escalation of the 2022 General Election competition.

Acrimonious fall-out

Development agenda

Won’t bear fruit

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