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Love brewed in India: How a liver disease brought two strangers together

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By ELVIS ONDIEKI
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On a hot Sunday in July 2016, Anthony Maina Ng’ang’a finally met a woman who, for a number of days, had been asking him dozens of questions via messaging platform WhatsApp.

The meeting happened at the Indraprastha Apollo Hospital in New Delhi, India, as Anthony’s systems were coming to grips with adjustments that had been done after a major surgery and the heavy medication that followed.

The operation that was conducted on June 13, 2016, saw 65 per cent of his mother’s liver surgically removed and attached to his, a process that slammed the brakes on a rare liver disease that had been plaguing him for more than five years.

The inquisitive woman, Ms Ruth Muthoni, was scheduled to undergo the same procedure as Anthony’s mother on August 8, 2016, at the Medanta Hospital, about two hours away from the hospital whose medics had operated on Anthony.

Sixty-seven per cent of Ruth’s liver was to be excised and given to her elder brother, Mr Peter King’ori, who had the same rare disease as Anthony.

She had been posing the many questions to Anthony as she sought to understand everything about the procedure, having obtained his phone number from a former classmate.

That communication between Ruth and Anthony, under trying circumstances; that brief first meeting at the hospital in New Delhi, has progressed into a marriage — a love story between a liver recipient and a liver donor that was brewed in India and whose main ingredient is a rare liver disease called primary sclerosing cholangitis.

When they let Lifestyle into their rented house in Nairobi’s Ngumo Estate for breakfast, it was the 53rd day for the Maina’s since their wedding that took place at the Lily of the Valley Garden along Kiambu Road on December 15, 2018.

The breakfast meeting also came eight days to Valentine’s Day 2019, a day that will mark a year since Mr Maina went down on one knee to propose to her, whereupon her answer was a no-brainer.

We find them watching cartoon series “Family Guy” on Netflix. Ruth, 27, ensures everyone in the living room has a cupful of hot tea and buttered bread before she sits by her husband, 30, for the interview.

Anthony Maina makes the right pick on his fiancé Ruth during the traditional wedding in September 2018.

Anthony Maina makes the right pick on his fiancé Ruth during the traditional wedding in September 2018. PHOTO | COURTESY

WE MET TO SHARE KNOWLEDGE

“When we had that first encounter, I don’t think any of us knew it would end here because, at that time, in the situation we were in, we were just trying to get information and share it with each other,” Anthony says.

Ruth says that they arrived in India on a Thursday and went visiting Anthony and his mother Eunice Wangari on a Sunday.

“They were looking really good. It was just a month after surgery and I couldn’t believe they had undergone the operation,” says Ruth.

On hindsight, she believes Anthony and his mother were putting on a brave face to give her assurance ahead of her operation.

“To some degree, I think they were acting. They didn’t want to discourage us. They were sick but they just wore smiles, something that really encouraged us,” she says.

The two maintained their communication until the day Ruth and her brother Peter went for surgery. Liver transplant operations are scheduled in such a way that the donor is the first to be opened up so that doctors can be completely certain about the quality of the liver.

Once medics are satisfied that the liver is good enough to be transplanted, the opening up of the recipient’s chest starts. Ruth says her surgery lasted 14 hours while her brother’s, which was delayed for about an hour, went on for 18 hours.

Ruth’s surgery having been completed, and as her wound healed, it was Anthony’s mother — her future mother-in-law — who signed as her caregiver.

“She took care of me while my mum acted as my brother’s caregiver,” Ruth says. “Anthony couldn’t visit me in the hospital because he had not recovered fully. So, we continued chatting over WhatsApp,” Ruth reveals.

It took over a month before Ruth recovered enough to move around. In those early post-surgery days, doctors had instructed her to walk a lot. That is where Anthony came in handy. He visited her the same week she was discharged and encouraged her to follow the doctor’s advice.

“I didn’t feel like doing it; but he managed to push me,” she remembers.

“After that, he took me to visit my brother who was still admitted in hospital, and while we were there, it was him who was taking care of me instead of my mum and my aunt. He was wheeling me around in the wheelchair, which was really nice. I think my mum and my aunt felt like I was in good hands. They didn’t have to keep checking behind their backs to see what I was doing,” narrates Ruth.

Those were the beginnings of their relationship.

ln days to come, Anthony would take Ruth to a mall nearby, which they say is the only place a person could find “normal” food because Indian food is typically jammed with spices that wrestle down the palates of the uninitiated.

“He was living about two hours away from me via train,” she remembers. “On that day, he arrived early in the morning and we had breakfast, then we went to the mall and he walked me round.”

IS THIS LOVE I’M FEELING?

Anthony could not help falling in love. He admits that the attachment began when they were exchanging messages on WhatsApp.

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The “how are you feeling today?” or “what happened today?” and such questions, he says, drew him closer to Ruth, who graduated with a degree in Information Technology from Strathmore University in 2015.

“She didn’t realise that as she was talking to me, it was also helping me recover better because at that time, not many people would talk to you continuously,” says Anthony, who graduated with a degree in electrical engineering from Dedan Kimathi University in 2014.

“In a foreign place, it can get boring and lonely. So, most of the time I found myself just talking, and when she came to India and they went through the surgery, I felt like it was now my turn to just keep her company, talk to her while she was recovering; just be the comfort that she would need because she had done the same for me,” adds Anthony.

So, who among them was the first to say “I love you”?

“Of course, him,” says Ruth, laughing.

Anthony Maina with Ruth Muthoni in India.

Anthony Maina with Ruth Muthoni in India. PHOTO | COURTESY

It happened after they had both returned to Kenya from India, their surgeries having been successful.

“In India, she just thought I was taking her out on dates and showing a lot of interest in her because she was the only Kenyan there,” jokes Anthony.

“I thought I was his India entertainment,” Ruth adds in the same spirit.

After they returned to Kenya and she realised that Anthony still had interest in her, she started taking him seriously.

“She saw I was serious and she decided to easen up; because before she was a hard nut to crack. Everything was just ‘No,’” Anthony narrates.

They also think the gods put the odds in favour of their meeting, same disease — primary sclerosing cholangitis.

According to mayoclinic.org, the condition blocks the tubes that carry bile from the liver to the small intestine, which causes liver damage in the long run.

“A liver transplant is the only known cure for advanced primary sclerosing cholangitis,” the site states, noting that scientists still do not know what causes the condition that mostly affects men.

“It is a rare disease. In Kenya, I’ve only heard of, including myself, maybe just three people, four maximum, who are suffering from it,” says Anthony.

The fact that Anthony and Ruth’s brother had the disease, and the fact that their livers failed around the same time, makes them see the workings of a divine force.

“I think all this was in the plan of God,” says Ruth.

“And then there is the fact that a really close friend, whom I’d call a sister, found herself in the same class as Ruth. Those were very rare odds. I’d say that to some extent, fate brought us together,” Anthony says.

“After meeting her, my life just turned around. She says it’s because I got better, but to me, to some extent, I feel she also has some positive input to it because when you get to this point in life, you need to get focused, and she’s the one who makes me get focused and try to build a stable life for her and for myself. She brought a lot of positivity to my life,” says Anthony.

They are also glad that parents from either side approve very highly of their marriage. Anthony, one of two brothers, says Ruth is now considered the daughter his parents always wanted to have.

Ruth says her mother holds a very high opinion of Anthony.

“My mum says that the one thing she’s happy about Maina is how strong he is; that even when he was sick, he was able to go to work and just try and lead a normal life,” says Ruth.

And how is life in marriage taking them?

“It is fun,” Ruth replies. “Of course, we have been making a few adjustments; getting used to living with one another. But it’s been mostly good.”

“I used to live alone but after the wedding, she came in and we live together. It’s been exciting. It is what I had hoped for, if not better,” Anthony chips in.

Anthony was born in Eldoret but was raised in Nyeri while Ruth has spent most of her life in Nairobi. Anthony’s plight was widely shared on social media ahead of his trip to India, and pictures of his emaciated, discoloured self moved Kenyans to contribute generously towards raising the Sh7 million that was required to facilitate the transplant a success.

The couple is now adjusting to life together, or to “have a very long period of non-conflict” as Anthony puts it. He is currently working with a company that offers financial solutions through technology while Ruth is a consultant in IT.

On Thursday, as loved ones throughout the world mark Valentine’s Day, Anthony is preparing something special to celebrate their love.

“I can’t disclose it now because it has to be a surprise,” he smiles.

Ruth is eagerly waiting for the day. “Since he proposed last year, I’m waiting to see the surprise he has for me,” she says, laughing.

The way the two met is an example of unconventional circumstances that brought people together, who later got married.

In Kenya, there have been cases of people who met at football matches and later tied the knot. There is even a case of people who met through comments on a popular blogger’s platform.



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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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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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