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To build strong bridges, first knock down old politics and ethnic walls

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KWENDO OPANGA

By KWENDO OPANGA
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The term ethnic competition, when used in regard to political organisation and mobilisation, masks a crucial factor in Kenya’s presidential polling and its aftermath.

Organisers and mobilisers resort to ethnicity as a weapon of attack or defence, or both, to be manipulated and milked for their numerical, psychological and electoral advantage.

In my view, then, the organiser and mobiliser are the culprits to be held responsible for corruption of the process, its toxicity and attendant negativity.

Responsibility and/or guilt thereof, cannot be ascribed to the ethnicities so targeted, but to the organisers and mobilisers who happen to be seekers of the presidency and/or their agents.

Second, I hold that these organisers and mobilisers, at whose hands Kenyans have lost limbs, lives, livelihoods and loved ones, should have no role in shaping the future Building Bridges Initiative envisages for Kenya.

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They have been so blatantly individualistic, divisive, selfish and stuck in the here-and-now and unmindful of tomorrow. Paul must be held responsible for Saul’s infamy.

Last, I hold that while there is apprehension, tension and anxiety in Kenya come an election cycle, this should not be escalated, for political gain, to Kenya being engulfed in violence.

Kenya’s elections have been peaceful, save for the following hotspots.

Scenario One: There was violence in Kenya in 1991 through 1992. There was no election in 1991 but there was in 1992.

The violence of 1991 was meant to send a clear message to certain Kenyan people resident in the Rift Valley about the following year’s General Election.

It can be paraphrased thus: you are resident here, please respect we the local people and our politics and choice for President.

We oppose multiparty politics and will not stand any opposition to the governing party, Kanu.

And then all hell broke loose. The violence was instigated, organised and executed for the above political reasons.

And, more importantly, security agents must have known it was coming for they were forewarned.

But the government failed spectacularly to protect the citizens, their lives, loved ones, livelihoods and their property.

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To argue that there was violence because there was an election is a blatant yet incompetent attempt to absolve the dominant political class — and the government it ran — of blame and lay it at the doorstep of the victims.

Victims because they fell into the trap to attack and victims because they were attacked.

This is a moral, political and legal abomination. Government would have nipped trouble in the bud or stopped the nascent violence in no time flat.

Scenario Two: 1997. Suddenly, there was a daring raid on a police station in Likoni and guns and ammo were stolen and turned on the very people they were supposed to protect and on their livelihoods and property.

The violence was organised and it targeted the people regarded as outsiders (foreigners) and popularly called wabara (literally from up-country).

Wabara were profiled as anti-Kanu, anti-government people whose rapacity deprived locals of jobs.

Again the government, whose foremost duty is the security of its citizens, failed spectacularly to protect both wabara and locals.

Both wabara and locals were going about their lawful day to day activities when they were engulfed by politically instigated violence.

Scenario Three: There was political tension in the lead up to the General Election everybody thought would be held in 2012, as early as 2010.

Indeed, a certain Raila Odinga was Prime Minister and briefed editors on the need to lower the political temperatures.

Mr Odinga was under fire and under pressure. Dr William Ruto and Kalenjin political leaders were out to put as much distance as possible between he and their people before the next General Election.

The community, they argued, needed a homegrown kingpin. Remember the ethnic mobilisation that was centred around the crimes against humanity charges against Mr Uhuru Kenyatta and Dr Ruto?

Scenario Four: The infamous 41 against one mobilisation of the Orange Democratic Movement and the infamy of the country’s worst election-induced violence of 2007.

And we were back to the Rift Valley, and especially in Uasin Gishu, while previously we were in Olenguruone in Molo and Enoosupukia in Narok.

The violent demonstrations of 2017 pale in comparison to the strife and unrest of 1991/92, 1997 and 2007, but the fear and despondency they spread after Mr Odinga’s ‘swearing in’ as a rival president were widespread and business crippling.

A fresh start should be entrusted to fresh leadership with fresh ideas.

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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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