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Botswana’s elephant in the room

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By PETER DUBE
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A few days before April’s Fools Day last year, Botswana President Ian Khama, spoke glowingly about his choice of successor, his then deputy Mokgweetsi Masisi.

President Khama assured the nation it would be in safe hands. At midnight, on March 31, 2018, Mr Khama’s 10-year race as the southern African country’s president, came to an end.

Under in the rain in the capital Gaborone on April 1, Mr Masisi was sworn-in, continuing a tradition that has attracted envy from peers, in a continent known for turbulent transitions. Botswana had completed a fourth and yet another bloodless transfer of power.

Botswana is widely regarded as a bastion of peace, in a sea of instability, and Mr Khama’s exit only served to validate that.

However, months down the line, the veil of tranquility was crudely lifted. Shortly after taking the oath of office, President Masisi encountered the first turbulence as he was forced to counter damaging reports that Botswana had turned into a safe haven for poachers, who were decimating elephants, which at over 100,000, is the largest population in the world.

For years, regarded as a no-go zone for poachers, reports emerged that there was a sudden surge in elephant poaching, with 87 killed in President Masisi’s first two months, which, however, Gaborone denied.

The poaching reports attracted global media attention, and it was the first incident which pointed to a souring relationship between President Masisi and his predecessor.

Mr Khama’s brother, Tshekedi Khama, was in charge of the Wildlife ministry and the incumbent was not impressed that false impressions had been created, which had the potential to harm Botswana’s key tourism industry.

The Botswana government was forced to organise a media tour, and the reports of widespread poaching were disproved. Only 19 elephant corpses were found, with only six identified as victims of poaching.

Mr Khama had criticised his successor’s decision to disarm wildlife officers.

“I do not really know the reason why the wildlife officials were disarmed. But it was unfortunate. It is possible that the decision could be partly responsible for the increase in poaching,” he told the local media.

That only brought to the fore a simmering conflict between President Masisi and Mr Khama, a feud which has ultimately proved to be the proverbial elephant in the room.

Subsequently, President Masisi started pulling to pieces most of the policies which his predecessor had left in place, including those on immigration. During Mr Khama’s administration, a number of people were denied entry into Botswana, while some expatriates were deported under unexplained circumstances.

The former president’s request for an aircraft to attend to a private function was declined, and it became apparent that the two’s relationship had broken down.

During last November’s State of the Nation Address (Sona), President Masisi, for the first time, acknowledged that it was not all rosy between him and his former boss.

“Batswana are all aware that the transition from the previous administration has not been as smooth as expected,” he said.

At one stage, Mr Khama’s staff at his official residence were withdrawn, but immediately reinstated after he threatened to go to court. President Masisi also stoked fires when he dismissed Mr Khama’s trusted lieutenant, Mr Isaac Kgosi, the country’s former Intelligence chief.



Map of Botswana

Map of Botswana

The two’s relationship has taken a turn for the worse after the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS) pounced on Mr Kgosi recently in a Hollywood type arrest. Mr Kgosi was arriving from India, and in an unprecedented development, was handcuffed in full media glare at the Sir Seretse Khama International Airport in Gaborone. The former spy chief was once regarded as one of the most powerful men during Mr Khama’s presidency.

The fallout between Mr Khama and President Masisi has seen factionalism engulf the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).

For the first time in the history of the party, the President will be challenged at the BDP’s elective congress in July.

Former Cabinet minister Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, a known associate of the former Mr Khama, is challenging President Masisi.

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Dr Venson-Moitoi, a former journalist who stood for and lost the African Union chair elections, was fired from Cabinet last month after she came out publicly, to state that she would be challenging the incumbent.

Fears were growing that the public spectacle might hurt BDP’s chances at what was expected to be a watershed poll, due in October this year. However, BDP does not see the conflict having any bearing on the party’s chances.

“The BDP has been able to resolve its internal issues from time to time. It’s been rigorous with that and that is why those who leave the party are able to come back because it is the most stable party in the country. We expect this to pass very soon, and we will use party structures to resolve the matter without hurting the party and the country,” BDP chairperson of Communications and International Relations Kagelelo Kentse said.

He admitted that the transition of power between the two leaders has not been smooth, and poses challenges.

“As a party, we do not see what is unfolding between the current and the former as a rift. We do think it’s a challenge because we would have hoped for a much smoother transition and had hoped that the former will work closely with his successor for the benefit of the party and the country,” Mr Kentse added.

Despite acknowledging the challenge, Mr Kentse said as a party, they were handling the matter “very well”.

The opposition was looking to capitalise and topple the BDP from power for the first time since independence from Britain in 1966.

A coalition of opposition parties, the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), has said their eyes were on the ball, and they were less worried about what was going on in BDP.

UDC spokesperson Moeti Mohwasa feels the coalition can take full advantage of BDP’s squabbles.

“This will definitely affect BDP’s chances. Khama commands a lot of following particularly in the Central District (where he comes from). This will reduce the BDP’s chances of winning in those constituencies. The feud is dividing the BDP. Their popular vote was already declining in 2014, and with this infighting, we expect the situation to get worse,” Mr Mohwasa said.

A piece of history was created during the 2014 elections, when, for the first time, the BDP’s popular vote dropped below 50 percent to 47.

“Even if they resolve their issues, the damage has been done. It is a watershed election and for the first time, BDP cannot say for certain that they will win the election. This presents the best opportunity for the opposition,” he said.

Mr Mohwasa said while they were not too engrossed with the unfolding within the BDP, the opposition was worried that state apparatus were being used to fight party wars.

“Our concern comes in when state institutions are used to fight party factional battles. The case in point is the recent arrest of Kgosi by the DISS.”

While Mr Mohwasa said the BDP’s chances would be diminished by the internal instability, Mr Kentse maintains the governing party still has sufficient power to romp to victory.

“We have our eyes, minds and energy on elections that are coming later this year. We are grateful that Batswana are happy with how the president is doing so far. There is a lot of positive sentiments, a sense of hope and a sense of belonging. We therefore, expect the BDP to perform very well compared to the 2014 general elections and get the popular vote,” said Mr Kentse.

A political science professor at the University of Botswana, Zibanani Maundeni said it was too early to gauge if the Masisi-Khama clashes would have any bearing on the election outcome.

“It is still unclear. We do not know how much damage the Khama faction will do to the party. We cannot predict before time. On whether the opposition can take advantage, it will all depend on their internal processes. In some sense, the opposition is taking advantage as we have seen a key party, the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) joining the coalition, while an olive branch has been extended to another, the Alliance for Progressives,” Prof Maundeni said.     

The Khama-Masisi rift is rumoured to be emanating from a botched deal between the two. Party insiders allege Mr Khama had anointed his former right-hand man on condition that he would in turn appoint Mr Tshekedi Khama, as his Deputy. But President Masisi, instead opted to appoint Slumber Tsogwane as his Vice-President, upsetting the apple cart in the process.             

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General

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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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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