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Elephant menace: Change of land blamed for increased human-wildlife conflict in Taita-Taveta

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On a Sunday night after supper in December 2018 at Sagalla village in Taita-Taveta County, Patience Karisa tucked her three children to bed before retiring to her own.

She would be awoken at 2 am by a loud thud on her roof. A deafening screech followed.

She watched in horror as the roof over her head was peeled away and an elephant thrust its trunk through the open space searching for maize stored in sacks.

Motherly survival instincts kicked in as Karisa grabbed mattress, clothes and bedding and dumped them over her children to hide them from the trunk.

She squeezed herself against a wall, closed her eyes and started praying.

“I have never been so terrified but I thank God for the children, though equally terrified, didn’t scream,” the teary mother later admitted.

Neighbours, alerted by noises, beat empty cans and utensils forcing the herd of elephants to flee back to a nearby forest.

Such hallowing tales of close shaves with elephants in Sagalla are so common that residents no longer bother reporting them.

Scarier is an emerging trend where jumbos are losing their fears of humans and are raiding houses is search of flour, stored food grains and sugar.

Silas Mwambinji, an elder in Ndara, claims the area has over 500 elephants, bulls, mothers and their calves roaming in Talio, Kajire, Sagalla and other neighbouring villages.

The elephants occupy a thickly-forested area from where they raid farms and disrupt human activities.

He adds the current invasion feels different from past ones because the pachyderms seem to have basically settled.

“They are not going anywhere. They have decided to stay here,” said Mwambiji.

Schools have also been affected as pupils are reporting past the nine o’clock because most are escorted by their parents.

In December, learners at Kileva Primary School had a major scare after three elephants wandered too close the classrooms.

As a result, Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) has come under heavy criticism from the residents and local leaders over the invasion.

Locals claim KWS is overwhelmed by the sheer number of elephants roaming the area.

They allege rangers on the ground are stretched too thin to have any meaningful impact.

Mzee Mwambiji estimates that over 1,000 acres of maize crops have been destroyed since the invasion started last year.

When contacted, Zainabu Salim, KWS Senior Warden for Community Service, said patrol teams were on the ground working round-the-clock to ensure such conflicts were eliminated.

She attributed the problem to massive human settlement in areas that were traditionally migration corridors.

She said the change of land use had interfered with annual migration patterns for elephants.

“There has been change in land use in migration corridors with a lot of settlements in rangelands,” she said.

She revealed even the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) underpasses specially set aside for elephants while moving from ranches to Tsavo East National Park have been blocked by residential homes.

The worst hit is the Ndara underpass and one near Izera ranch.

Stranded herds of elephants have been unable to cross to Tsavo East and result to going back to Sagalla forest.

She said KWS was engaging the Kenya Railway and Kenya National Highway Authority (KeNHA) for directions over the illegal settlements in such vital facilities.

Zaibabu said contrary to the impression KWS was overwhelmed by elephants, several activities were ongoing to drive the jumbos from Sagalla. Specialists with Problem Animal Management Unit (PAMU) who are backing up teams of rangers are on the ground to manage the jumbos.

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The teams are based Mwambiti, Kajire and Talio which are considered as trouble hotspot.

Between December 2018 and January, KWS had four chopper aerial drives that reinforced the ground jumbo drive operation. Over 150 elephants were pushed into Tsavo East National Park. Additional aerial support came from KWS partners where slightly over 300 elephants were pushed back to the ranches.

The warden says the migration pattern is normal but the effects are slightly magnified because of radical change in land use and rapid settlements in areas traditionally left bare.

She said the situation is now manageable but continuous monitoring is ongoing.

She added that the elephants’ movement was being mapped by monitoring the migration trends of collared elephants which are known to be using traditional corridors.

“We now have less than 30 elephants in Sagalla but our teams are still working to push them into the park or the ranches,” she said.

Once driven into the ranches, KWS expect the jumbos to stay there or move to Tsavo East through underpasses that are not blocked by human settlement.

However, smooth ground operation by KWS is hampered by lack of access roads in several Sagalla villages and thick undergrowth which easily conceals families of jumbos.

John Mlamba, a wildlife expert, adds that heavy rains have led to the rejuvenation of heavy forest growth favoured by elephants for shade and foliage.

This has slowed down their migration to Tsavo East National Park triggering daily confrontation with the farmers.

“The fact that elephants are not moving had put them in direct conflict with farmers,” he said.

As a long term solution, KWS plans to erect a 100-km permanent solar-powered fence from Mwatate Sisal Estate to Kasighau.

The fence will protect farm and leave migration corridors open.

The crisis in Sagalla is also exacerbated by the surge in the population of elephants.

According to the latest elephant census of 2017, the number of jumbos in Tsavo Conservation area stood at 12,866 from 11,076 in 2014.

However, local leaders blame KWS for not doing enough.

Sagalla Member of County Assembly (MCA) Godwin Kilele said thousands of farmers have lost their crops to elephants.

He adds that elephants were putting people’s lives in danger by destroying their food.

“We are tired of complaining and we are now ready to defend and protect our farms from these animals,” said the MCA.

The MCA in one time led other local leaders in alleging that the constitution permitted farmers to protect themselves by killing or maiming such wildlife.

Experts refute these claims noting that Wildlife Conservation and Management Act 2013 places the burden of proof on the person who kills the wildlife.

“The law allows such actions in extreme of circumstances but the person who kills must prove he had no choice but to kill. It’s not as easy as the leaders put it,” said Mlamba.

 Zainabu called for constant engagements with local leaders over conservation issues.

She said such talks would yield results in more urgent matters including how to fast-track on delayed matters of compensation to farmers whose crops were destroyed.

She stated that no elephants have been translocated in the area, noting such exercise required approval from highest KWS offices.

“There is a need to speed-up compensation for farmers affected by the conflicts,” she proposed.

To date Sh35 million have been paid as compensation for deaths caused by wildlife in the region.

The money is only for seven fatalities reported since 2014. No money has been paid for crop destruction.

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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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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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