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GACHUHI: Acts of God and human failures that killed top league in 1971

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By ROY GACHUHI
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As the 55th season of the SportPesa Premier League winds to a close with Gor Mahia collecting their 17th title, we revisit an old story.

In my column of Saturday April 11, 2015, I wrote: “This is settled, Ingwe won the 1971 league title.”

That was incorrect and I apologise. In fact, the league was scrapped.

In the interest of accuracy and the historical record, this is the story of what happened in 1971:

Ben Ashihundu’s labours to organize the 1971 Kenya national football league resembled the career of Sisyphus, King of Ephyra in Greek mythology, who was cursed to push a rock up a hill with the goal of placing it at the summit.

But each time he drove it up some distance uphill, something would happen and it would roll all the way back to the bottom, and Sisyphus would be forced to repeat his effort each time.

Ashihundu was the fixtures secretary of the FA of Kenya. He was also the chairman of the League and Tours Committee.

In those days, many foreign countries and clubs toured Kenya and it was Ashihundu’s job to run a calendar that seamlessly integrated these matches with league, continental and other local competition fixtures.

FA of Kenya fixtures secretary Ben Ashihundu in 1971. His labours to organize the 1971 Kenya national football league resembled the career of Sisyphus, King of Ephyra in Greek mythology, who was cursed to push a rock up a hill with the goal of placing it at the summit. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

FA of Kenya fixtures secretary Ben Ashihundu in 1971. His labours to organize the 1971 Kenya national football league resembled the career of Sisyphus, King of Ephyra in Greek mythology, who was cursed to push a rock up a hill with the goal of placing it at the summit. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

He went about it with gusto, firing off a press release here, working the telephone with sports reporters there, addressing impromptu press conferences on the sidelines of matches at the City Stadium, sending cables to the then Africa Football Confederation, giving club officials a tongue-lashing and, generally, leaving no doubt about who was calling the shots at the FA.

And in 1971, he got plenty of it. He appeared in the sports pages a lot more than the football stars on the pitch as he juggled a plethora of administrative balls in the air.

Almost all of them had to do with fighting one fire or another.

It all began with the incomplete 1970 league. Some background here is in order.

On New Year’s Day in 1971, Joab Omino, the new secretary of the FA of Kenya, sent a hopeful message to the nation’s football fans.

He said: “1970 was a year of ups and downs but this year will be one of stability. There were a number of shortcomings in football organisation last year but this year we will seek to take Kenya to the finals of the Africa Cup of Nations competition.

“With the support of the public and the government, I am sure we can even make it to the final of the final rounds. We shall do our best to bring soccer back to its footing.”

He was referring to the wrangles that had characterized the 1970 league that was still in progress.

So bad had they become that the Government was forced to intervene and sack the FA committee headed by Martin Shikuku.

Remember him: he was the self-proclaimed People’s Watchman, who bought himself a coffin almost a decade before his death but whose order to ban political speeches during his funeral was casually disregarded by his kind.

The wrangles and the subsequent dismissal of Shikuku’s committee – which was alleged to have saddled its successors with a staggering debt of £10,000 – about Sh1.4 million today – brought the 1970 league a cropper.

A whopping 230 matches involving 20 clubs had to be completed between January and April if Kenya was to enter a team in what is today the Africa Champions League.

The Daily Nation of Saturday, January 16, 1971 captured the chaos engulfing football at that time with this report:

“The remaining national league fixtures, which resumes today, will be reminiscent of a traffic scene during the rush hour as the FA of Kenya work at full speed to complete the league by April and name the winners to represent the country in the Africa club championship. (My goodness, if they would know how traffic is today!)

All league matches ground to a complete standstill last October after the present FA of Kenya took over from the former administration – dissolved by the Ministry of Cooperatives and Social Services.

Abaluhya are in top spot, ahead of Breweries by a solitary point, a position that could easily change. Abaluhya have 15 points, Breweries one less. Both have played eight matches.”

Twenty teams were involved in this mayhem of a Premier League: 1. Abaluhya 2. Kenya Breweries 3. Gor Mahia 4. Kisumu Hot Stars 5. Nakuru 6. Western Stars 7. Kenya Prisons 8. Ramogi 9. Black Mamba 10. Western United 11. Eldoret 12. Lasco 13. Jogoo 14. Kisii 15. Maseno 16. Kenya Air Force 17. Mwenge 18. Mombasa United 19. Wanderers 20. Kitale.

On the weekend that the league resumed, Gor Mahia hammered Kenya Air Force 6-2, Western Stars thrashed Mwenge 6-4, Lasco pummelled Mombasa United 6-1, Kisumu Hot Stars saw off Maseno 4-1 and Abaluhya had their match against Kenya Prisons abandoned in the 60th minute with score deadlocked at 0-0.

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From then on, however, the future AFC Leopards bared their claws for all to see, especially Kenya Breweries who were breathing hard on their necks.

With three matches to go, Abaluhya remained unbeaten. Kisii and Western United were expected to be easy for them but Ramogi was expected to be a tough nut to crack.

Well, they cracked it really hard, 4-0, to finally bring the long-delayed 1970 league to a close on March 6, 1971 – and beat the deadline for a place in that year’s Africa Cup of Champion clubs.

“Abaluhya are the champs”, proclaimed the Daily Nation of Monday, March 8, 1971.

Now Ashihundu could focus on the 1971 league. But he was neck-deep in problems.

The league was programmed to start on May 15, but the heavens opened up in a great deluge, rendering the stadium surfaces unusable in Nairobi, Nakuru and Mombasa.

In fact, rains in Nairobi prevented the Labour Day Cup match between Gor Mahia and Kenya Breweries from being played. And Gor Mahia asked their guests, Tanzania’s Sunderland FC, to postpone their trip to Kenya until the skies cleared.

The start of the league is postponed for 10 days, Ashihundu announced. It took longer but with much fanfare, the weekend of June 12 was finally announced as the new kick-off date.

In Nairobi, Black Mamba were going to play Mombasa’s Lasco, while Kisumu Hot Stars would host Maseno at home.

Kericho’s Chagaik Estate were to meet Limuru’s Bata Bullets in Nakuru, while in Mombasa, Mwenge and Western Stars would play a local derby at the Municipal Stadium.

It seemed the 1971 season was finally under way but at the last minute, Ashihundu announced yet another postponement.

“We are in a mess,” he told reporters. “On May 16, we agreed at our meeting no more friendly matches would be arranged to enable the national team’s training to continue unhampered. Now I see MMM will play Gor Mahia next week.”

MMM were Madagascar’s representatives in the Africa Cup of Champion Clubs that year. It was customary for clubs on continental assignments passing through a country to organise friendly matches.

But it seemed Ashihundu, the FA of Kenya Tours Committee chairman, wasn’t aware of this one.

Joab Omino, the FA secretary, said they needed to re-plan the league before restarting it. He gave “administrative problems involving clubs and the national team’s training schedule” as the reasons for the new postponement.

The national team was at that time preparing for the 1972 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying match against Mauritius and national coach Eckhardt Krautzun had made it clear he wanted all the time with his players unencumbered by the league.

Krautzun wanted three days in a week, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays for training. He was the first to hail the postponement of the league.

He was followed by Williams Ngaah, chairman of the Kenya Referees Association, who said his organisation still had a lot of issues to thrash out with the FA before his people could be ready to officiate the league matches.

The national team defeated Mauritius in July and duly qualified for its first Nations Cup tournament.

The league resumed in August – but without the top three clubs in the country: Abaluhya, Gor Mahia and Kenya Breweries. These were excluded at the request of Krautzun, who pointed out that together, they provided over 90 per cent of the national team players.

By the end of August, the teams left in the league had played two matches each, with Maseno topping the table with the maximum four points and Mwenge bringing up the rear with none.

Then the Cecafa Challenge Cup came up and with it, another postponement. Ashihundu announced the league would resume on December 19.

“From next week,” he said, “matches will go on non-stop till the completion of the league in March. To make this date, there will be no friendlies or fund raisers on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays.

“And Abaluhya, Gor Mahia and Kenya Breweries will have to turn out for their matches even when their players are with the national team.”

That order was made with a directive issued by Masinde Muliro, the minister responsible for sport, in mind. Muliro had decreed that once called to the national team, players belonged there, and clubs could only have them back when they were released by the national coach.

But on the due date, Ashihundu announced yet another postponement.

A mid-afternoon shower forced the abandonment of the Gor Mahia versus Black Mamba game at the City Stadium. Ashihundu declared the pitch “50 per cent water-logged.”

He promised to release a revised fixtures list, saying that no teams would be inconvenienced by being forced to play during the Christmas season.

That was the last of the postponements. It was time to throw in the towel. Ashihundu waited until the first day of 1972 to announce that the 1971 league had been scrapped.

The rock could never reach the top of the hill. He said: “We realise that this is a wrong message for our fans for the New Year, but it must be appreciated that the odds are against us and, therefore, some workable solution is most desirable.”

And with that, Ashihundu surrendered.



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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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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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