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How things fall apart for Kenyans in US

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By RUTH MBULA
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When news about Violet Kemunto, the Al-Shabaab bride broke out last month, the Nation team set out on a mission to locate her home in Kisii County.

A lead took the team to Nyankoba in Kitutu Masaba and Kiomiti in Nyaribari Masaba. It is there that they ended up locating the home of Violet Nyaroka, not her real name. Except she wasn’t Violet. Her story was different.

Nyaroka has been in the US since 2006 and her relatives say she went there on a Green Card. She later informed them that she had enrolled in a college to study medicine.

Since 2006, she only came back in January 2018 for her mother’s burial. Her father died in 2001. When he died, it was her grandparents who funded her education in Kenya.

Her kin told Nation that they do not know much about their granddaughter or what she does now in the US.

“All I know is that she went to study medicine. We rarely communicate and when we do, it is usually brief with very scanty disclosures. We last spoke two months ago while I was inquiring on some succession issues of our parents’ property,” said Nyaroka’s brother.

When the Nation tried to contact Nyaroka over the concerns raised by her relatives, her response was curt.

“And who are you? Stop threatening me. Where I live and what I do is nobody’s business. Mind your own business,” she said.

Nyaroka is among many Kenyans who reside in the US but have gone quiet on their families, with little known about their lives.

Her case is not unusual, David Ombati, a senior chief in Masaba South Sub-County told the Nation.

“Many other people from this region have left for the US. How they go and what they do is not known. And with the nature of today’s life where people do not want to be bothered, it becomes difficult to ask questions,” he said.

Cases of Kenyan immigrants in the US failing to return home for decades have left many of their relatives worried, sometimes more about their plight.

According to a 2018 Bloomberg report, there are 120,000 Kenyans who legally live and work in the US.

The figure could be higher when illegal immigrants are accounted for, especially those who go on student or visitor’s visas and stay long after they have expired.

But many other Kenyans are stuck in America even when they could be better off home and some rarely visit or talk to relatives.

Former University of Nairobi lecturer Omari Onyango said various circumstances force some Kenyans to continue living in the US even when it harms their well-being.

“There are those who have tried to find either meaningful employment or a viable business in Kenya before they can relocate. Both are difficult to come by for various reasons, said Dr Onyango who runs a successful dental clinic in Los Angeles, California.

Onyango, quoting an unpublished manuscript by Dr Marvin Opiyo Stuck in The USA: African Immigrants, said Kenyans who have established families in America find themselves stuck because the academic standards are superior, schools well-funded and reliable than in Kenya.

“In regard to employment, Kenya is experiencing a high unemployment rate and so to land a job with similar benefits as is the case in the US is difficult,” said Onyango.

He added: “Those who have tried to start a business in Kenya end up losing large sums of money because of lack of honesty among their relatives. Nobody wants to relocate until they have an ongoing income-generating venture back home.”

Opiyo, who is a teacher in California, says high and unrealistic expectations have landed many Kenyans in the US in trouble.

“School system in America is not easy. Many people do not understand this system before they start putting high demands on people who live in America,” said Opiyo.

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“Kenyans, especially women, enjoy expanded social and economic freedom abundant in the US and, therefore, find no incentive to return to Kenya.”

Onyango said weak law enforcement agencies also make Kenyans in the diaspora reluctant to return home.

A case is told of a man from Bomachoge in Kisii County who went to the US ostensibly for further studies. Only death brought him home after two decades in America.

Joseph Omambia, not his real name, abandoned his wife and three children 10 years ago. They are now in college and only see him on WhatsApp.

Their mother, a senior official in a Kenyan parastatal, has solely taking care of their children alone.

In another case, when Tom Orina, not his real name, left his parents’ Karen home in Nairobi for the US about 20 years ago to complete his undergraduate degree in business management, he did not know what awaited him.

When his father, a former Kanu operative during retired president Daniel Moi’s regime, mooted the idea of him transferring from the United States International University (USIU-Africa) to a university in San Diego, he was halfway through his studies.

Before young Orina took his flight to the US, his father convened a fundraiser in which millions were raised in aid of his college tuition, accommodation and other living expenses.

His father booked his flight to the US, promised to send him the money before he landed in California, saying it would be risky to carry the cash to America.

Soon after arriving in California, Orina found out that his father had not sent a penny to the college admissions office.

His calls went unanswered. His mother, unemployed and dependent on subsistence farming in western Kenya, did not have money to bail him out and soon found himself among the homeless.

A US-based Kenyan journalist Peter Makori said that there are many other students from Kenya whose parents sent them to America on the false hope that it is the land of dreams, milk and honey, where everything works out well in the end.

“What they don’t appreciate is that when you come on student visa, you risk deportation if you’re caught doing any job,” Makori said.

But the strict enforcement of law in the US has seen many Kenyan immigrants locked up.

In November last year, Kenyans living in Minnesota convened a meeting to deliberate how the community could salvage its badly-damaged image.

The meeting was preceded by the increasing number of Kenyans imprisoned for engaging in criminal activities.

Makori said the number of Kenyans, especially men, have been arrested and charged with rape and wife battering.

In June last year, a group of Kenyan immigrant men met in Atlanta, Georgia, formed ‘Maendeleo ya Wanaume’ (an empowerment group for men) to rail against women, many of them Kenyans, who allegedly called police on them at the slightest provocation.

A documentary written and produced by Kaba Mbugua shed light on some untold challenges Kenyans face as immigrants in the US.

The film, which was released in Raleigh, North Carolina, features a number of Kenyans who candidly shared their ordeals in the US.

The documentary revealed that many Kenyans, just like other immigrants, struggle to make ends meet.

Challenges have at times led some — especially the youth — to fall into bad company, ending up in jail, shelters for the homeless, on a forced flight back home or even death.

The film highlights the misconceptions held by Kenyans about life in the “land of the free.”



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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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