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Let’s celebrate this itinerant African artist and intellectual




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A few weeks ago there was a special celebration in Nairobi. A party to commemorate the writer, Prof Austin Bukenya. The party was in honour of this baba mkhulu’s elder membership of the artistic and intellectual world in Kenya/East Africa/Africa/the world.

Bukenya was being ‘remembered’ as a celebrated contributor to the art, culture, literature and as a senior public intellectual — which he indeed is. Memories were recalled in honour of his writing, teaching, acting, mentoring, wisdom, parenting, etc, in the region.

This was and is the right thing to do. To pay tribute to these artists and intellectuals when they are still alive is the honourable thing, rather than when they are dead, as we are doing today about Prof James David Rubadiri.

Indeed, Bukenya deserved to be honoured in a bigger space, with the celebration spread more than it was, but at least there is still a record that he was feted.

This is why it is sad that we are mourning rather than celebrating the late Rubadiri. We are merely retrieving memories from the archive, to convince the spirits that we did know he who has passed on to the other world.

We are unable to sit down with him and have a cup of tea and thank him for his verses, stories, jokes, wisdom etc. For we have become a people who easily forget the ‘old’. We consign the aged to the ‘past’, to the countryside, and the ‘old people’s home’; we abandon them till they die. That is when we ‘remember’ shreds of their worth.

When I saw the announcement about the death of Rubadiri, there was a discussion of the famous anthology of poetry, Poems from East Africa, edited by him and David Cook.

Even those who call themselves writers can only remember the collection of verses — there is little or no discussion of who Rubadiri was, how he came to be an ‘East African’, and what other works of literature did he produce.

How ironical that this enduring collection of poems is the work of two non-East Africans. Well, Cook and Rubadiri lived and worked in East Africa at a time when Africans still dreamt of a free Africa. These itinerant creative and intellectuals left a legacy that today’s artists and intellectuals can only envy.

Rubadiri’s death marks what is a fast approaching end of a generation that truly dreamt of an Africa where anyone could live, work, die and be buried anywhere.

The political enthusiasm of the 1960s and early 1970s may have been halted or marred by the Cold War ideological differences of the global north, which spawned violence and economic downturns in many newly independent African countries, but the artists and intellectuals of that era still crossed the borders, in many senses, effortlessly.

For East Africans, the centrality of Makerere University, the seeding ground, of the artistic and intellectual spirit of the first two decades of independence in Africa cannot be gainsaid.

David Rubadiri, Okot p’Bitek, Robert Serumaga, John Ruganda, Austin Bukenya, Taban lo Liyong, Theresa Musoke, Elimo Njau, Eskia Mphahlele, Jak Katarikawe, are some of the names that easily come to mind, of ‘Kenyans’ of the 1960s and ‘70s who were born in other African communities (assuming that the colonial imposed borders were and are still artificial) but lived here and contributed immensely to Kenya’s cultural and intellectual heritage.


Indeed, if there is anything one can call the ‘glory days’ (a contestable idea) of Kenyan culture and scholarship, a large part of whatever came out of that time must be attributed to these ‘Kenyans’ from the rest of Africa.

These individuals and their output were products of their time, yes, but they also were probably more determined to make something important out of their lives wherever they lived.

Reading Ngugi’s memoir, Birth of a Dream Weaver, reminds one of the spirit of Africanism that brought together people from different regions and communities to dream of a bigger community.

The splitting of Makerere into constituent colleges in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam made it even easier for artists and academics to cross borders, settle in ‘new’ homes and form new relationships and communities. Individuals like Elimo Njau and Jak Katarikawe settled in Kenya permanently, and completely changed the art landscape here.

Many of these African travelling intellectuals and artists had been forced by circumstances to leave home. Several Ugandans settled in Kenya as their country had become inhabitable.

The oppression and violence of the Obote and Amin regimes, which had led to the imprisonment and killing of a number of artists and academics, meant that many of them relocated to other African countries, Europe or America.

Kenya benefited a lot from this forced migration, with several academics contributing significantly to the education sector, especially in high schools and at the University of Nairobi and the then Kenyatta University College.

Someone like David Rubadiri was a forced traveller for different reasons. He studied at King’s College, Budo, Uganda; Makerere University; King’s College, Cambridge; and Bristol University.

One can say that this was a child of the Empire — forced by circumstances to seek education beyond his homeland. He would subsequently go back to teach in Makerere but Amin’s regime would make it difficult for him.

When he relocated to Nairobi, he taught literature but was also actively involved in theatre, especially at the Kenya National Theatre. He would subsequently relocate to the University of Ibadan, Nigeria; then, University of Botswana; and go back to Malawi after the end of Hastings Kamuzu Banda’s regime.

Rubadiri stands tall among his generation of artists and intellectuals, a generation that in a very practical way saw Africa as ‘home’, and remained committed to making the continent successful.

So, there is a sense in which the life of Rubadiri should teach those he has left behind some lessons about Africa.

As a celebration of his life, we should revisit his essays, novel, play and poems to understand what kind of African he was; what type of Africa did he dream of, especially in relation to Africanism; what legacy he wished to leave to us, beyond the borders of his native Malawi.



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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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 –




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.

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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.

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William Ruto eyes Raila Odinga Nyanza backyard




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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