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BUKENYA: Cornered by the debate on beauty




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I was delighted when two young ladies, separately, took me head-on regarding the provocative questions I recently raised about beauty.

I was wondering aloud if beauty is something we are, something we have or something we do. I also asked if there is anything useful that we can do with beauty.

The first respondent to my questions did not say even a word to me. Indeed, I am yet to meet her. But she was actually the subject around whom I phrased my questions.

Quiin Abenakyo, the reigning Ms Africa, graduated with a degree in Business Studies from Makerere University last week.

Apparently she had been pursuing her university course at the prestigious MUBS (Makerere University Business School), even as she competed for the Miss Uganda and Miss World titles, eventually earning the Miss Africa beauty crown.

I had only noticed her visits to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on her triumphant return from China.

But now I would not argue too loudly if someone told me that there is more than a pretty face to being a Miss Africa.

Here apparently is a person who is so well-organised that she could successfully juggle the demands of a degree course and the considerable social commitments of her beauty path.

I have just heard that the Ugandan Parliament has unanimously agreed to honour Ms Abenakyo for her contribution to promoting and publicising her country through her beauty adventures.

She might even be considered for a stipend, and official roles like being an Ambassador for Uganda’s tourism. She seems to be in good business, and my intended questions to her may be already half-answered by her performance.

But Rosemary Nyambura, my new friend at MMUST (the Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology) in Kakamega County, responded systematically and analytically to each of my queries.

Her lucid exposé gave me stimulating insights into the matter, and I thought I would, with her permission, share some of these with you. I take the liberty not only to paraphrase but also to summarise the main points of our “conversation”.

Apparently, beauty is as much what you are and have as what you do. Those of us used to working in triads, or three-sided structures, could thus say that beauty is a compound of body, character and action.

Nyambura seems to agree with me in faulting beauty contests, and the whole “beauty” industry, for concentrating almost exclusively on body or physical impressions.

I am on record as saying that there is nothing wrong with being good-looking, elegant and striking. But overconcentration on appearances tends to turn people into mere objects for our prurient voyeurism. This is an aspect of what we call “objectification” in feminist studies, the loathsome reduction of women to mere “things”.

Another shortcoming of the body beauty approach in the industry is that it arbitrarily defines beauty by the criteria of a narrow cultural clique that cannot justifiably claim any universality.

Have you, for example, heard of the “36-26-36” definition of a woman’s perfect figure? Those are supposed to be the bust, waist and hip measurements of a “beautiful” body.


The fact that they are stated in inches is a pointer to their Anglo-Saxon origins.

But an even more pernicious problem with these artificial and imposed standards of beauty is that they brainwash a lot of young people and end up making them thoroughly miserable, even suicidal in extreme cases.

As Nyambura observes, this kind of beauty is associated with tension and stress, since it is sought for the purpose of being accepted and fitting into certain prescribed patterns.

But someone born with a particular bone structure and other genetic features is not going to be able to hammer them into a 36-26-36 figure.

Yet the desperate struggles rage on all around us, with punishing exercises, starvation diets, creams, lotions and supposedly flattering clothes and other accessories.

Eating disorders, like bulimia and anorexia nervosa, arise from anxiety about eating properly in order to attain or maintain a desirable figure. The pathos here is only comparable to those who scorch their skins and even damage their internal organs with toxic substances in search of attractive skin tones or colours.

Speaking of colour, did you hear of the demented insults to which Ms Algeria, Nihed Markria, who competed in Beijing with our own Ms Africa, was subjected by some of her compatriots simply because her skin was “too dark” for their liking? Lupita Nyong’o once told to us that there was a time when she did not feel quite comfortable with her skin colour.

Yet Lupita is today regarded as one of the “most beautiful women” in the world, not because she changed her colour, but because she changed her attitude to it, liberating herself from imposed brainwashing and feeling comfortable with her natural endowments. My friend Nyambura’s apt and compact advice to her generation is that each of us should confidently say to herself or himself: “I love and accept myself completely.”

This actually brings us to the second, and higher, aspect of beauty, the beauty of character. This, I think, is what you are, as distinct from what you have. My discussant clarified this for me by pointing out that this is “the good that flows from within a person. This could be a virtue of calmness, patience, joy.” Nyambura adds a spiritual dimension to it by suggesting that beauty of character is “the godly gift that the environment around you enjoys”. One strong word that sums up this is “charm”.

But what particularly delighted me was the way Nyambura figuratively described the beauty of action. She suggests that this the “Mother Theresa beauty”. Need I say more? The courage, patience, selflessness and love that dares pick up dead, dying and ailing strangers off the streets and struggling to restore to them some human dignity is, indeed, beautiful.

Nyambura is a communication sciences student. Should I consider handing over the column to her, soon?

Prof Bukenya is a leading East African scholar of English and Literature. [email protected]



Sordid tale of the bank ‘that would bribe God’




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 –




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.

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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.

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William Ruto eyes Raila Odinga Nyanza backyard




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

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