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High-capacity buses on the way amid questions

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By BERNARDINE MUTANU
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Transport Principal Secretary Charles Hinga Mwaura is currently leading a delegation to South Africa on a mission to follow up on plans to acquire Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) buses that are expected in the country any time from today.

This is despite lingering questions on the implementation of the mass transit system in Nairobi. Of the five corridors identified, it is only Thika Road that has a dedicated lane for the BRT buses and which has been clearly marked.

According to a map plan, this corridor, referred to as Simba, and which runs from Bomas of Kenya to Ruiru on Thika Road, will have a dedicated lane along Lang’ata Road, Mombasa Road, Uhuru Highway, and University Way, which joins Murang’a Road and finally Thika Road.

The proposed BRT system runs on five corridors: Tembo Line (Kangemi-Imara), Simba (Bomas-Ruiru on Thika Superhighway), Chui (Njiru-Showground), Kifaru (Mama Lucy-T-Mall) and Nyati (Balozi-Imara).

According to the Infrastructure secretary, who is also the chief executive officer of the Nairobi Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (NAMATA), Mr Francis Gitau, the corridors will be implemented in phases: “Currently a master implementation plan is being developed, and that will inform the investment plan. Mostly prudent investment is demand-driven, the corridor service affects the entire metropolitan region and its impacts extends to all counties and beyond.”

The system comprises an ordinary road with exclusive lanes on the inner or outer lane for the articulated buses depending on the needs of the population. In the case of Kenyan system, these lanes are in the middle. During an interview, Mr Gitau said mass rapid transit is a continually evolving system, guided by demand, policy and the public.

“The system is a composite of infrastructure with facilities like park-and-ride and installations for management of the operations provided through an intelligent system,” he said. He added that the middle lane is the preferred configuration under the design framework as opposed to kerbside service.

“This minimises friction with other traffic and offers a high-quality service. The intention is to have the buses run on a dedicated lane because the exclusivity ensures a reliable, rapid service with enhanced mobility,” he said.

He did not disclose the overall implementation cost of the project, which not only involves the buying of buses and dedicating lanes but also integrating it with the existing public transport system.

“The first phase improvements on Thika Road is being competitively procured by the Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA),” he said. The Kenyan system is expected to cost at least Sh100 billion for it to be fully operational according to the Institute of Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP).

Though there are no known stages along Thika Road or zebra crossings and tunnels to facilitate road crossing for pedestrians after they alight from the buses, 10 stations will be constructed in the coming days, said Mr Gitau.

These are Kenyatta University, Kahawa Barracks, Githurai Clayworks, Kasarani Roysambu, Safari Park Garden City, which is being constructed, Kenya School of Monetary Studies (under construction) Utalii/National Youth Service, Muthaiga and Ngara. The stages will be modified to accommodate the BRT, he said, and added that three new footbridges will be built along the BRT.

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Other characteristics of the BRT system will be pick-up booths in the median. The Ministry of Transport will also funnel roads and both pedestrian and vehicular traffic to accommodate the BRT infrastructure and ensure safety of all road users.

There will be three park-and-ride facilities and, with time, the red lines which demarcate the bus routes will be physically separated according to the plan. Mr Gitau said transfer stations will be constructed at Ruiru, Githurai and Kasarani to ensure a smooth flow of traffic at the junctions and accesses while the BRT infrastructure will be branded upon completion of engineering work.

Apart from the marked lanes on Thika Road and the expected BRT buses, there are no other visible works on the implementation of the project. The ticketing will be cashless in a system where passengers are supposed to pay before boarding, said Mr Gitau.

The first 64 high-capacity buses for the pilot stage are being shipped here from South Africa and should arrive soon.

Late last year, buses that had been manufactured by Isuzu East Africa were stopped from operating over what City Hall said were “design concerns”.

City Hall said the buses had not met the specifications set out by the Ministry of Transport and NAMATA. This is notwithstanding the fact that Tanzania imported her BRT buses from Kenya last year.

The Tanzanian government hired Labh Singh Harnam Singh (LSHS) to build high-capacity buses. Isuzu Motors was contracted to build 80-person capacity buses for use under the programme.

Mr Gitau, however, insisted that the specifications for a BRT bus are not met locally at the moment.

“In April last year, the government requested local assemblies to provide the buses but they were not available. However, the local assembly and manufacturers are working to meet the specifications,” he said.

“To ensure the implementation is calibrated, a pilot phase will include 64 high-capacity buses to provide the initial learning capacity, including the upstream training of drivers, depot managers and operators,” he said.

He said that the reason they picked South Africa is that the buses were ready after a municipality had ordered them but was unable pick them up due to unspecified challenges.

“The stock is available immediately. It is noted this opportunity can reduce the lead procurement, which may be in excess of nine months. The untenable state of public transport requires action. The process is within the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Act,” he said.

 Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko is also said to be in London on a fact-finding mission about the same project, raising eyebrows about its coordination and implementation.

The BRT system is touted as being able to decongest the CBD and solve the transport crisis in the city by increasing reliability, easing transport woes, reducing travel time and air pollution as well as improving the quality of life.

A majority of stakeholders are still apprehensive about the system, with past attempts to decongest the city having amounted to nought. On a number of occasions, the government has taken unpopular measures to reduce traffic congestion in the CBD.



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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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