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BY THE BOOK: Pasomi Mucha

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By MARION MAINA
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She wears many hats; author, editor, Spelling Bee judge and pronouncer, and an enthusiastic English and Literature teacher.

Besides her involvement with the Ministry of Education in writing school textbooks, she has also authored fiction books for children and young adults including, It Looks Like a Goat and Shades of Life. Pasomi Mucha speaks to Nation.co.ke:

Describe to us your ideal reading experience.

Legs and feet warm as toast under a rug or duvet; something to sip, rain drumming on the roof, open window beside me with a view to green nature for me to look at as I occasionally look outside while reflecting on what I am reading. If there’s someone to share the most impactful bits of the read, all the better.

Which are your three most treasured books?

Let’s push the bounds of your question and talk about the young me and the older me. I read Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights when I was quite young and it had so major an impact on me that I would converse aloud with Heathcliff, et al – they became imaginary friends.

Much later, I bent to look at books at an Inama (street) bookshop one day and became curious about the seeming grammatical error in the book title PS; Your Not Listening by Eleanor Craig, so I bought it. Little did I know that it would impact me so much that it would change the way I interact with all my students. I believe it made me a better teacher.

Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo is brilliantly executed writing. It is one of the books my sons and I have read and discussed at length.

Do you lend out your books?

Sigh. That’s hard. On the rare occasions I do, it is with trembling hands and lips. Any book that comes into my possession becomes a member of my family. Parting is sorrow, and I have learnt, painfully, that borrowed books hardly ever come back.

Tell us a little bit about a story you read and will never forget.

Tekayo by Grace Ogot. I read that story while I was still young, and it wreaked havoc in my imagination. My mind kept creating mini-movies of Tekayo creeping up on the poor children, striking them, cutting them up and roasting their livers. I’m still queasy about eating liver, by the way.

Only much later did I expand the analogy to include paedophiles and all who mishandle public policy and coffers, the environment as well as the hearts and minds of seekers of God. They are modern-day Tekayos.

If you were to become a character from a book, who would you be?

The ‘who’ I have in mind is actually a blend of two women. There is the fictional Akoko Adoyo Obanda Akello Veronica in The River and the Source by Margaret Ogola, and the real-life Patricia Nombuyiselo Noah, who I met in Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah.

Trevor says of his mother, “No one showed her. She did it on her own. She found her way through sheer force of will.” These words describe Akoko and Nombuyiselo really well.

Maybe because I am generally rather timid, I love that about both of these women – that they stepped out and did the unthinkable, thereby changing destinies and opening hitherto unimaginable vistas for themselves and so many after them.

How do you handle difficult reads?

I have realised, to my great horror, that, with time, I am tending towards ‘reading for entertainment’ rather than reading for intellectual and phrenic expansion.

I want to make deliberate effort to change this, to get through and gather depth from the works of writers such as Frantz Fannon. Also, I have been convincing myself to read Kiswahili books because I love the language and I want to speak it better.

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If you had the opportunity to meet three authors, dead or alive, who would they be?

Marguerite Annie Johnson, better known as Maya Angelou: reading her is like immersing yourself into the song a soul would sing if it could – she is profound, larger than life, poesy.

Franz Fanon: we studied some of his work in college. There is an intelligence and uniqueness to his thinking that I wish I could interact with on a one-to-one basis.

I’ll cheat and mention a number of Kenyan writers who I have never met in person: Meja Mwangi, whose works are so real I feel I could reach out and touch his characters; Margaret Ogola, my students actually enjoy reading her art; Marjorie Oludhe Macgoye, whose works are so comfortably African, one would think she was born and bred in an African village; and lastly Barbara Kimenye, her Moses series is among the reasons I love to read, and her stories are full of wit.

As a teacher, what is your take on the reading patterns among the young generation?

Our young people fall into an interesting sharp divide of those who read and those who would rather do anything else than read.

Sadly, many of those who read are going for Sidney Sheldon, Dan Brown et al, rather than our home-written books. We are writing interesting stories but not publicising them enough, not getting them out there and exposing them to our young people.

As families and schools, we need to make a conscious, deliberate effort to create scheduled reading time at home and in school. We need to provide books and be seen to be reading ourselves because example is better than precept.

We need to provide forums where young people can share with us and with each other on what they read and the impact it has had on them, what thoughts and feelings it has provoked.

If you were to recommend three books to a 10-year old, which ones would they be and why?
Barbara Kimenye’s Moses Series is a good read with simple language and tons of humour. There’s a whole raft of Kiswahili storybooks in the market. I would recommend these. We are losing our indigenous languages. Maybe we should at least retain Kiswahili so that we do not altogether lose our identity, and reading would be a good way to do this.

And, well, there’s my book, It Looks like a Goat, because it is an interesting mix of humour and a sprinkling of food for thought – even if I say so myself.

Take us through your checklist when it comes to picking out your next read.

There is no clinical precision in my choice of next-to-read. I always have tons of books waiting in the wings once I am done with one. I pick one depending on how gutted I am by the previous read or whether I am in the mood for light-hearted or heavily themed, profound human philosophy writing.

Did you enjoy your last read?
That, I did. It was the festive season cum holiday so I was in the mood for a tale that would entertain and yet cause me to reflect – and I found that in Jojo Moyes’s Me Before You.

She’s a captivating writer. I bought all three from Kindle Store.

If you were to give an elevator pitch on the need to read, what would you say?
Leaders read,

A nation where none will read

Is a nation where follies will breed.

Share with us your reading goals for 2019

I hope to have read a book every week. I am not doing too badly at three books so far. I hope I can make my students read at least a chapter a week beyond their set books and put together a brief report or narrate what they have read.



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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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