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‘Sagana summits’ should not be happening in 21st-century Kenya

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KALTUM GUYO

By KALTUM GUYO
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The gathering of leaders from Mt Kenya region at Sagana State Lodge recently might not have been the first but, I hope, for the sake of national unity, it will be the last.

There is nothing more ethnocentric than the President of the Republic being seen as kowtowing to one community in a country of nearly 50 million in an ethnically divided country.

It is understandable that Mt Kenya leaders should cry foul for having been neglected by the government — if, indeed, that is true.

And this, we learnt, was the reason for the hurriedly organised summit to address their woes. But now, the other communities will similarly come out crying of neglect.

Would the President have the time and energy to run around mollycoddling all the cry babies of this world?

The problem with the Head of State reacting in such a manner just to appease an ethnic community is the risk of opening a Pandora’s box, where time and efforts are spent to placate all the rest and even their clans and sub-clans, which will only lead to further division.

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On the face of it, tribal cocoons may seem harmless. But continuous conduct of leaders in a tribal way does not help to change the psyche of a country to think less of tribe and more of the nation.

The Tanzanian Foreign minister, Prof Palamagamba Kabudi, during his speech at the BBI report launch, gave fantastic examples of how Tanzanians consider themselves as Tanzanians first before their tribe.

We even learnt that Tanzania has had Kikuyu, Maasai and Kipsigis in its governance structure.

Tribal talk in Kenya is not confined to the country’s borders. When a Kenyan meets another abroad, the second question they would always ask is, “Where are you from?”, meaning, “Which is your tribe?”

From there, some of them would choose where to place you.

And it is mostly in two boxes: tribe and political party. The information is very crucial, too, in deciding whether you are worthy an invite to a nyama choma party!

I’m not suggesting that we can’t get together to discuss issues that affect our communities. Tribe is the monster we can’t avoid but can learn to live with.

But if the issues at hand are of national importance, our leaders ought to separate tribe from nation.

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For me, what makes Sagana more of a tribal congregation than a national one is the fact that the participants were drawn largely from one region and mostly from one community.

The irony of this is that, what was to be discussed also touched on and concerned the rest of the country — be it the local economy or BBI.

Economic discussions are a very easy excuse to use in Kenya to isolate investment in other parts of the country.

I don’t believe one part of Kenya should be given priority and more attention because it’s closer to the centre of power.

It means other areas that have no chance of ascending to the presidency will have a longer wait for lacking in numbers at the policy table.

Economic discrimination has been detrimental to the country. I believe the President should also have convened a ‘Sagana’ to help quell the weekly protests by the coastal residents over the declining local economy.

An economically stable Mombasa is to the benefit of the country. Mombasa is the hub of Kenya’s tourism. It also hosts one of the largest ports in East and Central Africa.

Mombasa is also the second largest city in the country and one of the highest contributors to the GDP.

Economic sabotage of parts of the country is an own goal by the State. There is more pride for Kenya to have prosperous tribes all round.

The President was reported as having wondered aloud recently why “Kenyans were broke”.

It is not entirely his fault, however, to not have the true picture of the struggles ordinary Kenyans go through. The problem is sycophancy, which has become entrenched in our society.

Those appointed to give the President feedback are busy painting a rosy picture of a country bursting at the seams with poverty, diseases, high cost of food, insecurity and unemployment for self-preservation.

It’s time President Kenyatta looked around those he relies on to achieve his goals. If there are dead weights, then he must consider offloading them.

He needs a team that is people-focused and ready to engage with him and the public honestly with a view to improving lives.

As Kenyan youth keep saying, ni kubaya (life is tough). But all is not lost as long as we find the solution to our political and economic woes as a Kenyan nation and not ethnic blocs.

We must stop being inward-looking — as Sagana summits exemplify. The Kenyan nation can only be built by looking outwards to all communities.

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Our wizards saw the Brave New World, but none saw coronavirus

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By CHARLES ONYANGO-OBBO

Last year in December, Nation Media Group held its first Kusi Ideas Festival in Kigali. The festival tried to peer ahead the next 60 years in Africa.

There were many Brave New World ideas about how that future might look like, and also the perils that progress almost always brings. Needless to say, no one saw Covid-19 coming.

A futurist curtain-raiser in The EastAfrican, titled Africa in 2079, came close to outlining a mirror universe to the one Covid-19 is bequeathing us.

Between London, Zimbabwe, and the corners of Africa where Econet’s fibre optic network reaches, Strive Masiyiwa, founder and chairman of Econet Wireless and former chair of the board of AGRA wrote:

“I recently invested in a tech start-up that has created an Uber-like platform for tractors, enabling farmers to link up with a central database and order a tractor via SMS…freeing the farmer from the drudgery of the hoe. This service is particularly valued by women farmers, enabling them to circumvent social norms that might otherwise hamper their ability to hire a tractor.” From wherever we are hiding from the virus, unable to roam the farm, Uber farming could be the new way a lot of our food is produced.

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From Tanzania, Aidan Eyakuze, who is executive director of Twaweza East Africa and has been confined in-country as an elegant prisoner for nearly two years because of his love of inconvenient data, painted an intoxicating but strange utopian-dystopian picture of Africa at the end the century.

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By 2079, he foresaw the “vast majority of Africans earn their living through multiple micro-tasking (MMTs) ever since every ”job” was unbundled into its component tasks…leaving only those unbundled micro-tasks needing social intelligence, creativity or dexterity to be done by people. All ”taskers” are always-on private contractors who bid relentlessly for the privilege of tasking.

Incomes are kept low by the relative scarcity of tasks requiring the human touch.

“The unrelenting competition for tasks is both stressful and socially divisive — you are competing against everyone all the time…even marriages have renewable term limits, ‘in case someone better comes along.’” With work-from-home regimes, the former has come 78 years earlier.

Indeed, even for the latter, more people now probably think being cooped up with the same man or woman in the house “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part,” is a very archaic model.

Between Italy and Kenya, the Society for International Development’s Arthur Muliro, peered into a what a truly borderless Africa might look. Among others, his gaze settled on, of all places, Libya.

“Libya…was now welcoming other Africans and allowing them to settle. The peace deal that had come after a decade of civil war was holding and there was new optimism, in part boosted by the arrival and expansion of new migrant groups who had settled there and were helping rebuild their adopted country.”

On a close re-reading, turns out Aidan hinted that Turkey, which jumped in the Libyan fray as the coronavirus made its way out of Wuhan, might have something to do with it.

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Stadiums progress welcome – Daily Nation

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By EDITORIAL

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Last week, the Sports ministry’s top officials, led by Chief Administrative Secretary Hassan Noor Hassan and Principal Secretary Joe Okudo traversed the country to access the ongoing construction of stadiums.

President Uhuru Kenyatta also made an impromptu tour of the Nyayo National Stadium to ensure that all is well besides giving Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed full support. That has made sure that renovation works resume at all the stadiums — including Kasarani, Nyayo, Kipchoge Keino, Kamariny and Wote — and that everything is running on schedule.

Upon completion of some of these arenas, the country will have positioned itself to host major world events, especially in football, athletics and basketball. The ministry must, therefore, ensure that, while it has given contractors an ultimatum to finish their work, it also insists on quality delivery.

But there are concerns about work at county stadiums, especially in Mombasa, where those who redesigned the arena have done away with the internationally approved running track.

The new stadium has been designed for football only hence won’t host any track and field events. The four lane track will only be for warm up and this has raised eyebrows.

Mombasa County Chief Sports Officer Innocent Mugabe said Bububu grounds in Likoni and Kenya Ports Authority’s Mbaraki Sports Club will be upgraded for sports use. Mombasa being at low altitude, it is suitable for staging major World Athletics events, having staged the 2007 World Cross Country Championships.

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Kenya is bidding to host the 2025 World Championships in Athletics and Mombasa can easily be the venue with a good stadium in place. There is still time to build a county stadium.

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Ensure reopening of schools runs smoothly

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By EDITORIAL

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When Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha announced a fortnight ago the postponement of school reopening to January next year, he gave an exception. Universities, teacher training colleges and technical training institutions were directed to be ready to reopen in September.

Consequently, they were asked to put in place safety measures prescribed by the Health ministry, including reorganising classrooms and hostels to ensure social distancing. Just a month to the planned reopening, are those institutions really prepared?

In the past few days, Prof Magoha has convened meetings with the heads of the institutions to plan for the reopening and visiting the colleges to assess their preparedness. Preliminary reports from these engagements indicate that just a few institutions are ready.

POOR STATE

At the university level, so far, only Strathmore has been declared ready for reopening. Ensure reopening of schools runs smoothly

For teachers’ colleges, three — Murang’a, Kibabii and Kericho — have met the threshold. Assessment is ongoing for the technical training institutions.

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But the broad observation is that most of the institutions are not ready. Though not surprising, most of them are ordinarily in poor state and Covid-19 has just exposed them. Beyond the situation, long-term actions are required to revamp and revitalise them.

Reopening the colleges in September will be the starting point for relaxing restrictions in the education sector. The reason for beginning with colleges is that they have mature students who understand the health protocols and can, therefore, take care of themselves and minimise infections. Their experience would then inform plans for reopening primary and secondary schools.

REPEAT CLASSES

Closure of schools and colleges has dealt a huge blow to education. Learners in schools have lost a whole year and have to repeat classes next year. This comes with high social, economic and psychological. Indeed, this is the first time in history that schools are being closed for a year.

The last time the education sector suffered most was in 1982, when, following an abortive coup, the University of Nairobi and then-Kenyatta University College were closed for nine months. That created a major backlog and that took five years to clear. This is the reason steps should be taken at the earliest opportunity to mitigate the damage.

The challenge, therefore, is for the colleges to work on those health protocols to prepare for reopening. All other sectors, such as transport and tourism, are reopening and, therefore, colleges have no reason to lag behind. We ask the management of the institutions to expedite the required processes and get ready for reopening in September as directed.

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