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The ups and downs of life at Busia border

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By GAITANO PESSA
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When Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta and Yoweri Museveni opened the improved border crossing at Busia in February last year, they said they were implementing their commitment to expand trade by freeing movement of people.

Known as the Busia One-Stop-Border Post, the crossing cost about Sh1.2 billion, with facilitation from the Trade Mark East Africa.

But away from the dignitaries, media, pomp and colour, the Nation spent time with border communities to get a peak on what regional integration means for them.

At Buyengo village, deep in Busia on the Ugandan side, 67-year-old Alfred Mang’eni tells of a story of mixed parentage and a life unhindered by borders.

Mang’eni is, technically a Ugandan resident. But he is Kenyan.

His father is a Kenyan from Luchululo village in Samia Sub-County of Busia but he bought land in Jinja, Uganda where he was born with other six siblings.

“Long time ago we could visit our relatives in Kenya without many restrictions. We used to cross via the lake using boats,” he told the Nation, as he massaged his beard.

“At the moment a lot has changed and we have to produce documents to relevant authorities. At the main Busia border [crossing], we were never issued with permits to grant us entry to Kenya or vice versa,” said Mr Mang’eni in his native Samia, a language also spoken in Funyula Constituency in Busia County.

For the Samia, the border between Kenya and Uganda at Busia cut their villages right in the middle, dividing families and clans as colonialists went about ruling the African land.

Today, it is common for kids from one side to go to school in institutions across the boundary.

When the permits were introduced early in 80s, he said they had to check on their movements.

Locals had to adjust to the sudden restriction of being in the country for a maximum of a week for each entry.

Mang’eni says they struggled with that culture change. Then they defied it. Authorities had to change tack and do what the people want: to move freely.

Today, authorities demand that visitors must have at least a national identity card and a yellow fever certificate to cross. Still, there is favourable treatment for border communities.

One is allowed to cross to either side as long as it is within 10 kilometres from the border point.

Uganda’s Busia District Resident Commissioner Hussein Matanda said administrators’ intention has always been to strengthen integration beyond border points.

“In the interest of fostering integration, we at the border have already implemented many bilateral arrangements that have enabled our people to move freely in a radius of 10km with only an identity card.

“There are so many Kenyan students schooling here in Uganda and some of our people also seek healthcare services across the border,” he said.

“Kenyan is our biggest trading partner and this can only get better if we stump our feet on the ground and foster integration. People are forming economic blocks and military alliances to make sure they are a force to reckon with. Remaining fragmented is a sign of weakness.”

For local communities, regional integration is not just about a border post. They do it through intermarriages.

“During our time, we had very few encounters with smuggled goods sneaked through unsanctioned entry points,” Mr Mang’eni said.

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The Samia, Iteso, Banyala, Acholi/Japadhola (a mirror community of the Kenyan Luos) and the Abagissu who mirror the Kenyan Bukusu have often intermarried. The result, as Mr Mang’eni explains, is that one can wake up speaking one language and go to bed speaking another.

Locals told the Nation that East African Integration has, nonetheless, enhanced the relationship between communities living on the border.

Mukasa Hakim, a Ugandan money changer based at the Sofia slums just a stone’s throw away from the Busia border post said they now enjoy more free trade and movement compared to yesteryears.

“We can cross to Kenya any time without restrictions. We interact with our Kenyan colleagues freely. Previous trust concerns between us constrained our interactions,” said Hakim, who has been forex currency trader for the last six years.

But integration has come with its own challenges as Mukabi Alushula, the Busia County Referral Hospital Medical Superintendent reveals.

“Our resources are being constrained because we are not able to cater for medical needs of huge number of patients visiting this facility every day. Some Ugandans have acquired Kenyan IDs and sometimes it is very difficult to deny them access to services,” he said. 

Kenyan clearing agents and those in the hospitality industry said commissioning of the improved border crossing is slowly pushing them out of business.

The chairman of Kenya International Freight and Warehousing Association Busia branch Joseph Ouma said they are the big losers as a result of integration.

“The number of clearing agents has dropped from 300 to 100. More than 300 trucks which pass through Busia customs now park on the Ugandan side. The creation of the border point has resulted in the shutting down of companies which were handling export goods.

“We are appealing to the government to review the customs laws so that we don’t lose our jobs because of the facility,” he said.

Mr Geoffrey Waswa, a manager of the popular Nalongo Pub located on the border, said integration has boosted business and interaction between the border communities.

“We receive over 70 customers every day, most of them Kenyans. They are attracted by our affordable prices on key Kenyan brands available here,” he said.

But Kenyan hotel and bar owners complain of heavy taxation, saying the playing field is not level.

Francis Kubebea, the Busia Tourism Association chairperson, appealed to both the county and national governments to intervene with legislation that will foster level playing ground on key commodities.

“We support the EAC integration fully but we are disadvantaged by the price structure of some the key commodities and services. For instance, a Kenyan beer brand in Uganda is very cheap at less than Sh100 compared to Sh200 back home.

“The difference in pricing between Kenya and Uganda has caused a serious market dichotomy. We appeal to the government to review tax rates on beers, especially those ending at the border,” said Busia Tourism Association Chairperson Francis Kubebea.



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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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