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GIRL ABOUT TOWN: Peculiar people at the gym




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In the last two years, I’ve patronised two gyms — on and off, and mostly I like minding my own business.

But noticing a few peculiar people here and there has made me more attentive to my environment than before. And there’s never a shortage of peculiar people at the gym.

Take for instance the really muscled man who loudly puffs and groans as he is lifting weights and looks around to see whether other people are watching him. At first, I thought he was in pain, but later realised it was an attention-seeking strategy. And there’s the other muscled man, a fitness enthusiast who comes to the gym, does his workouts and minds his own business.

Then there’s that lady who is the star of the aerobics and zumba classes, has a lot of endurance, exaggerates all her moves, is always at the front row, and really really likes to show off. Of course, there are always some people who sing along to the music more than they exercise.

Then there’s the shy people who keep to themselves, always at the back of an aerobics class or prefer coming to the gym at off-peak hours when there is hardly anybody around.

There are those who hog the treadmill for so long, even at peak time, yet most gyms have just a few of those. Some gyms have even put up signs on maximum times on the machines, especially for peak hours, but some people still ignore this even when there are many people waiting in line to use the facilities.

There are those first-timers who are still being shown the ropes and are often scared of trying out some exercises or of ruining equipment, though a number of them don’t mind experimenting.

There are those who see first-timers and view them as prey, one once told me: “Kumbe ni siku ya kwanza. Nitakuwa nikikusumbua (So, it’s your first day. I’ll be nagging you).” Need I say that I was shocked and I became so uncomfortable that every time this man passed nearby or our eyes locked, I felt a chill down my spine. I think I’ve noted his gym patterns and I try to avoid being at the gym when he is there. Hopefully I got his schedule right.

There are those who look like hawks in the gym, always looking around, watching people — wait, am I becoming one of them? I could be, because, well, you can learn a lot from observing people in the gym, albeit discreetly so they do not get uncomfortable.

And there are those who keep telling the trainers that they want only certain types of workouts or challenging their expertise or just hogging trainers’ time when everyone else also requires a bit of the attention to make the best of their workouts.

But the most peculiar habits I have encountered are not in the workout rooms but in the locker rooms.


In my first gym some time last year, I encountered a small and overcrowded locker room with people’s clothes hanging on some stalls, shoes all over, and even some clothes strewn on chairs and other hand over the toilet door and shower cubicles. It was not a sight to behold, and the stale smell of sweat and stinking shoes assaulted my nose. What amused me is that, even though there was a notice not to leave dirty gym shoes in the locker room, people often left them on top of their lockers leading to the stench.

It is also in this small locker room, which had only two shower stalls and one toilet stall (all serving as changing stalls), that I encountered people walking around half-naked or changing in the open. But at least they were slightly covered.

My current gym has a good, clean and a more spacious locker room. But the shocker for me was women prancing around naked without a care in the world. The changing area is an open space, and I was shocked the first time I went in and a lady got out of the shower, threw her towel on the bench, and began oiling herself. I did not know where to look, so I looked down and covered myself with my towel as I changed into gym clothes. After working out, I met another lady in the locker room, and an almost similar thing happened. She removed her gym clothes, picked up her towel, walked naked to the shower stall and hang her towel outside the shower stall; all the while I was asking myself what was going on.

And that was not the last encounter; it seems it’s the norm here.

I remember going to a boarding school in high school, and people who had come from primary boarding schools where there was mass showering would just bathe in the open until they were told it was against the school rules to do so. Every year it was the same issue when Form Ones came to school. And for the life of me, I could not understand why. I was shy and always locked myself in the bathroom.

So now in the gym locker room, I get weird looks when I cover myself as I am changing.

A friend recently asked what I hide that others do not have. I had no comeback. But see, I didn’t go to a boarding school where there was mass showering, I only heard about it from people who had done so. And, I didn’t grow up sharing bathrooms with people; from when I was about seven years old I was always uneasy and refused to shower in anyone’s presence.

I get very uneasy seeing people in the nude and most times I wish people would just cover up.

You may be okay with walking around naked, but for those of us who feel assaulted, is it too much to ask that you try and cover up a little? Or at least give us a heads up before you throw your clothes to the ground so we can look elsewhere?

And perhaps all gyms should think about adding changing stalls to their locker rooms for those of us struggling with privacy.



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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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.

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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.

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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




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