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Mourning my mentor David Rubadiri and celebrating Kiswahili




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Two dear and precious loves of my heart underwent major transitions this week. Umfundisi Professor James David Rubadiri, my teacher, friend, colleague and model African, went to join the ancestors in the Hereafter.

Then Kiswahili took another decisive step towards becoming a truly African continental language with South Africa’s official announcement that it will be taught in that country’s schools, starting in 2020.

Now, here starts my dilemma. Which of the two momentous events should I first share with you, between the sorrow of losing patriarch Rubadiri and my leaping joy at Kiswahili’s bright prospects?

But on second thoughts, there should really be no conflict between my mourning Rubadiri and celebrating Kiswahili.


Indeed, I am sure the dear departed Mzee would be the first to tell me so, as he had quite a close affinity to the language and its speakers.

Did I tell you once that the Prof could easily have been a Tanzanian but for the erratic colonial boundaries drawn over the waters of Lake Malawi/Nyasa?

I remember Mwalimu Rubadiri once taking me with him on a visit to Oscar Kambona, the former Tanzanian Foreign Minister. I do not remember much about the conversation between the two elders.

It was about complex international and African affairs, and I was a young and carefree man then. But what I recall from that encounter is the palpable and relaxed closeness between the elderly statesmen.

Rubadiri used to take me (and maybe his other young charges) on such tours around Nairobi and other East African cities, in his gently disguised efforts to educate me on the African realities that informed his life and the lives of his contemporaries.

Once, for example, he took me to visit Joe Kariuki, somewhere in the Adam’s Arcade suburb. Kariuki, a Makerere and Cambridge contemporary of Rubadiri, also had several other similarities with him.

He was an African independence activist, a former diplomat and an impressively polished lyrical poet. When Rubadiri took me to meet him, I had just written with excited eloquence about his poems. Getting me to meet him was a treat for me, from my teacher, Joseph’s friend.

But let us get back to Rubadiri, Kiswahili and South Africa. Apart from the long spell he spent at the University of Botswana in Gaborone, I believe that Rubadiri had quite a lot of other significant links with southern Africa.

I remember him telling me in conversation of his times at Fort Hare, Mandela’s alma mater. But we will leave that for later, if you have not already heard it from his biographers.

The point is that, if you factor in the visiting stint he spent, together with Okot p’Bitek, at Ibadan University, Rubadiri lived and worked in every region of Black Africa; central, east and south. That is the African after my own heart.

But I think that professionally, culturally and socially, East Africa can justifiably claim to have been Rubadiri’s “home” for most of his life. As such, he was a Mswahili, and I often heard him speak Kiswahili, especially during the many years that he lived in Nairobi.


This is why I think that he would have encouraged me to celebrate South Africa’s bold decision to teach Kiswahili to its citizens. At a deep and personal level, Rubadiri understood better than most of us that the best way to feel at home among people is to speak their language.

In Kampala, his impeccable Luganda made him easily pass for a native, and praises of his English seemed to be almost superfluous, since it sounded entirely natural.

On the front of Pan-African identity and solidarity, to which our fallen Mwalimu wholeheartedly subscribed, I dare to presume that he supported the long-standing proposition that Kiswahili should be accepted as the continent’s lingua franca.

Incidentally, this move did not start with firebrand Julius Malema, only the other day. Those of you who were following African affairs may remember Mozambican President Joachim Chissano addressing an African Union plenary in Kiswahili in 2004.

This followed a resolution, since then fully implemented, that Kiswahili should be an official working language of the AU, alongside English, French and Arabic.

But even 27 years before that, in 1977, I had heard and seen the legendary Wole Soyinka propose that Kiswahili should be the continental language of African identity.

This was in Lagos, Nigeria, at the FESTAC77 Colloquium on African Arts and Culture, where I, too, presented that oft-mentioned paper on oracy and orature.

So, moves like the AU and Chissano’s taking Kiswahili to the seat of African Unity and the South African government’s decision to teach it in schools are only bold steps in implementing an intention that Africa has had for a considerably long time.

Such moves are, indeed, a tremendous challenge to the rest of Africa, including some of us in East Africa, to show the will and the ability to act decisively on the promotion of Kiswahili.

 It is, for example, puzzling and disturbing that, nearly three years after the establishment of the East African Kiswahili Commission, neither Uganda nor Kenya has formed a National Kiswahili Council that would enable these countries to benefit from the services of the commission. What are we waiting for?

As for South Africa, I have only praise and admiration for their courageous decision. We know that language is a very sensitive issue in the country.

People have even died for it, as happened in the 1976 protests, when the apartheid dictatorship tried to impose Afrikaans on the people. Even today, the South African National Anthem is sung in at least three of the republic’s many languages, to symbolise linguistic equity.

It is a truly magnanimous panAfricanist gesture that they should take on Kiswahili.

I can already anticipate the joy of singing “Mungu Ibariki Afrika” alongside “Nkosi Sikeleli i’Afrika” in the not-too-distant future. “And why not?” as Mwalimu Rubadiri would ask.

Prof Bukenya is a leading East African scholar of English and Literature. [email protected]



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.

Read Also: Galana Kulalu Irrigation Scheme To Undergo Viability Test Before Being Privatised


“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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