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Great beauty in the Rift

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Meanders at Kiboino village along Iten-Kabarnet road. The road is famous for its tens of corners between Baringo and Elgeyo Marakwet counties.[Denish Ochieng, Standard]

Faults.” By the way, suppose Gregory never happened on the scene, what would you have called this fissure?
The vast valley, formed when the core of the earth heaved and sighed millions of years ago as a result of volcanic activity, is visible from space and runs from Lebanon in the Middle East to Mozambique in the southern part of Africa. Yet, it is the immense natural beauty and diverse cultures that make a visit to this region worthwhile.
Late last year, during the small window that allowed for some travel, I hooked up with Ben, a birding expert for an exploratory tour of the Rift Valley.
Now Ben is one man who can tell one bird from another even in his sleep. He will spend copious amounts of time combing every bush for that rare bird few can identify.
The adventure starts at the eastern escarpment that drops towards Mai Mahiu. The unwritten rule is to stop and take in the enchanting vistas that stretch beyond the valley floor as far as the eye can see because the most beautiful things in life are free.
From here, the conical Mount Longonot looms large, another product of the volcanic activity that created a caldera when part of the volcano collapsed. Since our aim was to make it to Baringo by early afternoon, a quick glimpse of the expanse was enough.
We got to Nakuru by midday. The sweltering heat was becoming unbearable, a sharp contrast to the cloudy weather back in Nairobi.
“If you think Nakuru is hot, wait till you get to Baringo,” warned a security guard at a mall in Nakuru.

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True to his words, the terrain became harsh past Kabarak. Trees, bereft of leaves dotted the countryside.
Lake Bogoria Spa was our next pit stop. In the harsh terrain, the hotel stands out like a diamond in the rough. On a good day, guests are entertained by Tugen dancers just before dinner. It was in this hotel that I got to taste mursik for the first time. I say on a good day because there was little activity at the hotel as the effects of Covid-19 wore on.
The hotel is named after the nearby Lake Bogoria, one of the four Rift Valley lakes to the north.

Flamingos at Lake Bogoria National Reserve in Baringo county on January 20, 2021.[Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

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Bogoria also marks the divide between the northern lakes of Baringo, Turkana and the ‘Masai’ lakes of Nakuru, Elementaita and Magadi.
Lake Bogoria is set at the bottom of the 600-metre Ngendelel Escarpment. Bogoria could not have been set in a more bleak environment.
It lacks an outlet, but the high alkalinity in the lake has been a factor in the propagation of the blue-green algae that is at the core of the lake’s global fame. Still, the stench from the algae is enough to make you puke.
How, you may wonder, would such seemingly useless substance bring visitors from around the world? You see, Bogoria is known for harbouring thousands of flamingos.
Though they do feed on some small fish, the algae is not only their main source of food but their vibrant pink colour as well.
The algae contains beta-carotene, a water-based bacteria with a reddish-orange pigment. When the bacteria dissolves in the birds’ fat, it is then deposited in feathers and as the birds grow, their colour slowly shifts to pink. Got it? Thus, a well-fed flamingo will have a deeper shade of pink and will make a formidable mate while a pale one could as well be content in the singles club. In the flamingo world, you are what you eat!
Sadly, his beautiful phenomenon is slowly fading away, thanks to the current phenomenon of rising Rift Valley lakes. For the last 10 years, the water in Lake Bogoria has risen to unprecedented levels, diluting the alkalinity and making it difficult for the flamingoes to survive.
A similar phenomenon greeted us in Baringo. At Kampi ya Samaki, scores of men washed their motorcycles on the road, now part of the lake.

Some of the buildings submerged at Soi Safari Lodge after Lake Baringo swelled on July 21, 2020.[Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

We had anticipated to lodge at the nearby Soi Safari Lodge, but this one too has been eaten up by the lake. And so are Robert’s Camp and Lake Baringo Country Club, the region’s favourite safari destinations. We were content staying in a nondescript haven on the water’s edge.
For some sense of serenity, we took the vertical ascent towards Kabarnet, the town set on a hill, one side overlooking the Iten escarpment.
Kabarnet sits on top of Kerio Valley, undoubtedly one of the most scenic locations in Kenya. Three minutes from Kabarnet, we pull over to the side of the road to take in the endless beauty of the valley below, where, as my primary school teacher told me, is the source of fluorspar.
If the landscape does not stir any emotions on your part, the Kabarnet-Iten Road surely does.
On such terrain, constructing a road vertically presented many challenges. In order to minimise the gradient, the engineers simply made numerous twists and turns, coils upon coils of tarmac meandering all the way to the top. While this was not their intention, the winding road has become part of the region’s tourist attraction.
My two days in the geological museum that John Gregory called the Rift Valley revealed some secrets that make the region tick. Here, the remains of animals and plants lie fossilised, awaiting a new discovery. 

 

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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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