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Bustling cities that can teach Nairobi a lesson on taming traffic

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By JAMES KAHONGEH
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Traffic congestion is easily the most conspicuous yet distressing feature of life in Nairobi. Kenya’s capital may be enjoying rapid growth, but inability to move its people with ease is the fly in the ointment of Nairobi’s status as the regional hub. 

From lack of a smooth public transport system, poor infrastructure and insecurity, moving in the “city under the sun” is a treacherous affair. 

To get to your destination, you have to count on luck. And if you have hard luck, a fight will suffice. But you are certain to sit in traffic for hours every day.

He is a look at how bustling global cities have tamed traffic congestion while also minimising pollution:

Stockholm, Sweden: Electronic road pricing

  • In what is perhaps the most ingenious way to control traffic in the world, motorists pay a tariff to drive into this Swedish city between 6:30an and 18:30pm.
  • Only buses, eco-fuel cars, taxis and emergency vehicles are exempt from this toll.
  • This strategy has seen millions of vehicles off Stockholm roads, dramatically reducing traffic congestions.
  • Additionally, the city authority collects more than Sh30 million daily from toll revenues.
  • The revenue is used to develop the city’s transport infrastructure for more efficiency.  
  • In Nairobi, everyone is welcome into the city centre. From emergency vehicles, motorists on leisurely jaunts, people driving to work and matatus all compete for the minimal road space.  

Hong Kong, China: Public Light Bus (PLB)

  • This is the equivalent of matatus on Kenyan roads.
  • These buses, with a capacity of 16 passengers, supplement the normal bus lines in the city.
  • They transport people into the remotest part of the city where large buses cannot access in what is referred to as the “last mile”.
  • These buses are express, and do not stop along the way to pick of drop passengers.
  • PLBs have helped to drastically reduce illegal transport in Hong Kong.
  • In Nairobi, estate buses and minibuses pick and drop passengers at any point, and are the cause of traffic jams in the city and in the estates they serve.
  • Illegal transport is rife in Nairobi, with unlicensed drivers (what is commonly known as squads) in charge of the buses.
  • Battered vessels move people in and out of the city.

Copenhagen, Denmark: Cycling

  • This Scandinavian city is built for cyclists and is one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the world, thanks to its many cycling tracks.
  • The city and its municipalities have 350km of cycle paths and lanes which are elevated from the main highways, complete with their own road signage. 
  • Sixty-three percent of Danes cycle to work and to school every day, covering 1.1 million kilometres.
  • This has seen an 80 percent drop in CO2 emission levels (equivalent of 90000 tonnes) annually.
  • Cycling to work in Nairobi is as risky as it is frustrating, as cyclists compete for space with road hogs who have absolutely no regard for road users on two wheels. 
  • Nairobi roads have no marked cycle lanes and cyclists often get knocked down by motorists.

Hangzhou, China: Public Cycling System

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  • You don’t need to own a bike to cycle through this Chinese city.
  • Hangzhou has nearly 70,000 public bikes for hire in the elaborate bike-sharing programme.
  • There are also about 3,000 service points where you can hire or leave a bike.
  • Cycling is convenient and cheap, and has been infused into the city’s tourism sector. 
  • The few cyclists in Nairobi have their own bicycles.

London, United Kingdom: Online Integrated journey planner

  • Londoners have multiple choices for transport within the city: Tube train, bus, underground trains, river transport and cycling are the main options.
  • Using GPS technology to capture real-time traffic in the city streets, the journey planner suggests to users what mode and route to use at any given time, and the estimated time to that destination.
  • The absence of a schedule for bicycle arrivals at various docking stations inconveniences people who wish to hire them to cycle round the city.
  • To curb this, London has integrated a bicycle sharing scheme with the other modes of transport to reduce wait times at docking stations through bicycle availability prediction.
  • No such plan exists in Nairobi.
  • Motorists and cyclists operate entirely autonomously.
  • Besides updates on radio, there is no other way to know the state of traffic in Kenya’s capital, which often leads to the wrong choice of mode of transport.  
  • With seven million people, has the largest walking population in the world.
  • To promote walking, authorities in Guangzhou redeveloped the banks of the Pearl River to create an ecological corridor for pedestrians.
  • This also resulted in more than 90 kilometres of greenways that connect with paths leading to tourist attraction sites.
  • Melbourne converted grim alleyways previously used for dumping garbage into laneways with coffee shops and resting gardens.
  • Medellin has widened pavements and put up library parks in the city to encourage walking.
  • Freeways and streets in Madrid are lined with beautiful fountains for pedestrians to cool off.
  • Experts say that for walking to appeal to city populations around the world, it has to meet the three tenets of safety, beauty and comfort.
  • While many people living in the environs of Nairobi would love to walk to work, lack of the support infrastructure forces them to bard buses instead.
  • Until recently, roads in the city had few walkways, and pedestrians had to jostle for space with motorists, making walking dangerous. 



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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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