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The war on corruption will be won on convictions, jail terms

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MACHARIA GAITHO

By MACHARIA GAITHO
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The dramatic arrest of Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko might be taken as strong evidence that President Uhuru Kenyatta’s war against corruption will spare no one irrespective of status, wealth, power or political clout and connections.

Indeed, the President, in June last year, publicly declared that his brother, younger brother Muhoho, should be arrested and charged if there was any truth to reports that he was involved in the business of importing contraband sugar.

However, there have never been any indications that the two men directly responsible for driving the war on corruption — Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji and Director of Criminal Investigations George Kinoti — escalated the matter, raised in Parliament by an ally of Deputy President William Ruto, into an active investigation.

There are no reports of the younger Kenyatta — one of the most powerful men in the President’s retinue, who is referred to as “First Brother” in the corridors of State House — being hauled in for questioning.

That there was, apparently, no follow-up on the Muhoho sugar import allegations should not be used as an excuse to spare others mentioned in corruption.

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No one in Kenya is above the law — not even President Kenyatta or Dr Ruto or their families, friends and political allies.

The flamboyant Nairobi governor with a penchant for oversized gold adornments and bizarre theatrics should not be spared just for who he is.

There are distractions that always follow such dramatic arrests. One can expect that Mr Sonko will be mobilising his supporters and hirelings to make the usual noises and, maybe, pull off those childish stunts he is associated with.

The political factions that have always fought the war on corruption will also raise the decibel count with their perennial complaints about alleged victimisation and demands for gentler treatment for those of their class and status caught in the net.

They must be roundly ignored. The important thing is that Kenya is a country of laws. Mr Sonko will have his day in court and, if innocent, should persuade the judges to set him free.

Much, however, will depend on the quality of investigations and the evidence presented.

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Too often, we have seen cases suffer embarrassing collapse due to inept investigators who gathered little in the way of evidence that can stand in court, and similarly unprepared prosecuting counsel who present little to justify the charges.

Dramatic arrests of high-profile personalities make for great theatre but, ultimately, the war on corruption will be won on the guilty verdicts and jail terms.

Until we start seeing wealthy and powerful personalities going to jail, the anti-graft effort will remain little more than hot air.

So far, it has been waged mostly in the media, with planted stories that give titillating details of what investigators unearthed and promise ‘rock-solid’ evidence, only for what is eventually presented in court to fall far short of expectations.

Mr Sonko, who loves boasting of his closeness to the President, will, therefore, be a test case of sorts.

On trial will be not only the outrageously gaudy governor but also Mr Kinoti and Mr Haji, who must this time present the court with solid evidence beyond publicity stunts and media leaks.

Meanwhile, it will be important for all to take it as just another criminal prosecution.

The political noises from those who fear that the war on corruption will ultimately land them in jail will be deafening.

Those who will want to politicise the case for their selfish and short-sighted reasons must be ignored.

Kenyans, by now, must recognise that graft presents a clear and present danger to survival of the nation.

It devastates the economy, diverts the national wealth from roads, hospitals, schools and other development activities into the pockets of a few.

Ultimately, it is responsible for the poverty and unemployment that afflicts the nation.

That situation is what can fuel anger, helplessness and, eventually, crime, unrest, social disorder, insecurity, breakdown of law and order and political instability.

Those driving the war need to be supported by all but, in return, they repay the public trust by making sure the lords of corruption are thrown into jail.

They must also know that they operate in an unhealthy environment, where every move is weighed on political context.

It is, therefore, their duty to demonstrate that there is absolutely no victimisation or other political shenanigans whatsoever in the arrests and prosecutions.

They must also debunk the notion of a class of citizens that is above the law simply because of family ties to those in power.

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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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