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WANDETO: Rethink scrapping of small constituencies

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By GEOFFREY WANDETO
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The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) has indicated its intention to review the constituency boundaries after the results of the 2019 National Population Census. The fate of 27 constituencies hangs in the balance. Tentatively, the casualties include Lamu East, Lamu West, Mvita, Mwatate, Wundanyi, Voi, Bura, Galole, Ndaragwa, Tetu, Murkurweini, Othaya, Kangema, and Mathioya, Samburu East, Marakwet East, Keiyo North, Mogotio, Vihiga, Budalang’i, Isiolo South, Kilome, Laisamis, North Horr, Saku, and Mbeere North.

Ever since the announcement by IEBC in August last year, MPs, especially those from the affected areas, have been vocal about the issue and have threatened to shoot down any legislation to effect these changes. Some have threatened to go to court to block the changes. Although their anger could be mistaken as an act of self-preservation, there is quite some sense in rethinking the whole exercise.

On the face of it, the boundaries review sounds like a straight forward exercise guided by numerical formulae. That is not true. The current boundaries have historical realities which we can only ignore at our own peril. The theory of unintended outcomes will kick in. For example, scrapping or merging Lamu East and Lamu West, the only two constituencies in Lamu County, will call into question the viability of Lamu as a one constituency county. Consequently, government administrative structures could be whittled down or downgraded to align to the new reality. Half of the CDF kitty will disappear. This will aggravate marginalisation and poverty in an area which doesn’t have a shortage of the two.

In the northern frontier, the constituency boundaries are based on certain ethnic or clan identities which has worked well for peace and development over the years. Any attempt to alter this balance will lead to unfair political playing field against the smaller clans or sub-tribes. The outcome of this would be the resurgence of ethnic tensions and border skirmishes with the attendant loss of life and property.

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In Mt Kenya region, constituencies could face the axe supposedly because their population is below the required threshold of 133,000. That is a half-truth. Due to proximity to Nairobi there is “weekday migration” to the city from Nyeri and Murang’a but these residents maintain a home and have economic interests especially in coffee, tea, dairy and horticulture, in their rural areas. The traffic jams witnessed on the roads leading to this region over the weekends tells it all. Of even great importance is that MPs have been catalytic in mobilising their people including their Nairobi diaspora, along certain economic opportunities, the best example being the thriving dairy industry in Mukurwe-ini. Any disenfranchisement of representation will only serve to degrade the gains made in reviving the local economies of these areas.

Further it cannot be safely assumed, for example, that the people of Mukurwe-ini and Othaya will just forget their four-decade old identity as separate constituencies and warm-up to each other overnight. Social integration could take years at a great cost to development and cohesion.

The case of the North Rift constituencies is unique. Sparsely populated, they are some of the most marginalised areas in Kenya and face a myriad of problems including poor road network, low school enrolment, insecurity among others. While a Nairobi MPs can tour his or her constituency in a matter of hours, it will take days to travel around a constituency like Samburu East, Marakwet East, Keiyo North. The legislators from these areas worker harder and longer to achieve even the smallest gains in the development. And there isn’t much support on the ground either as the best teachers, doctors, veterinarians and community workers are not willing to work in these hardship areas. Under-representation will just exacerbate the current challenges.

Constituencies are an important economic, social and cultural identifier of the people. Any changes to the status quo must be the outcome of thorough public participation and not a new map drawn by bureaucrats in Nairobi.



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No decision yet on when schools will open, says Magoha

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By FAITH NYAMAI

Learning institutions will not reopen on June 4 as was earlier scheduled, Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha has said.

Speaking after he received an interim report from the 10-member Education Response Committee on Covid-19 at the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development yesterday, Prof Magoha said schools will remain closed until the Covid-19 situation is contained.

“Parents should prepare to stay with their children longer until the health situation in the country stabilises. As at now, I cannot say when schools will resume. For me timelines and national exams are not a priority, they can even stay until January,” Prof Magoha said.

The Ministry of Health projected that the rates of Covid-19 infections are likely to hit a peak in August-September.

“The ministry takes these projections seriously, especially in view of the fact that more than 359 of our schools are currently designated as quarantine and isolation centres.”

The CS asked parents to be prepared to face the reality of an extended closure of schools.

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He said the government cannot sacrifice the health of children for the sake of an education that can wait to be offered later, when the safety and health of children can be guaranteed.

“The ministry will desist from focusing on schools’ reopening dates and instead give priority to putting in place solid mitigation measures.”

Prof Magoha downplayed some of the recommendations of the task force and said the report is too preliminary to be acted on.

The ministry, he said, will review the report before advising the country on the steps to be taken regarding the academic calendar and the level of preparedness that will be required of all stakeholders involved in the running of schools.

“There are several committees set up by President Uhuru Kenyatta on the response to the pandemic. I will look into the report and we will have to remove some of the recommendations made by the Education task force and retain others.”

The ministry of Education, he said, will table some of the proposals before the National Emergency Response Committee this weekend for further consultations to inform the decision on reopening schools

“These consultations will also take into consideration the fact that the current government restrictions announced by President Kenyatta will expire on June 6,” he said.

Details in the committee’s report revealed that the team is proposing that this year’s national examinations be pushed to a date not earlier than February next year.

Credible sources on the committee also revealed they have advised that schools be reopened in September.

The report prepared by the Dr Sarah Ruto-chaired committee recommends that the Ministry of Education change the academic calendar to start in September and provide all resources required to keep schools running.

Other recommendations are that school funds that were meant for first term, second and third term should be released in whole in September once classes resume.

Prof Magoha, who seemed to have disagreed with some of the details of the report, said the decision to reopen schools should not be hastened.

He said even though Covid-19 may linger, the ministry has started putting in place measures to ensure children are safeguarded and high levels of hygiene are maintained in schools.

“We will start putting water in our schools and put all the other measures in place for both learners and teachers,” he said.

On private schools, the CS said all learning institutions are closed and those enrolling learners for second term are going against the ministry’s regulations.

He, however, said parents who choose to pay for their children to attend online classes should do it voluntarily.

“Private schools depend on parents and those that have their children studying online should pay,” he said.

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 Nation, DTB help needy families

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By JOSEPH OPENDA

Hannah Muthoni, 39, has not smiled for months. The hard economic times occasioned by Covid-19 pandemic has made life unbearable for her and her family.

When the disease was first reported in the country, she was among the first people to feel its pinch. She was among the casual labourers who were laid off when the flower firm she was working for grounded operations after the government announced containment measures to stem its spread.

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Since then, the mother of seven has been depending on her relatives for help to provide for her family.

But she smiled yesterday, thanks to the initiative by the Nation Media Group (NMG) Board chairman Wilfred Kiboro and Diamond Trust Bank (DTB) to provide relief food for the vulnerable community members.

Ms Muthoni was among the 4,000 residents of Subukia who benefited from the relief food worth over Sh1 million, which was distributed across the three wards in the constituency.

She could not hide her joy after receiving her relief package.

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“It has been a very difficult period for me since my husband and I were sent home from work due to the pandemic. Getting food on the table has been a matter of luck. But, with this package, I’m assured of a meal for two weeks,” said Ms Muthoni.

Dr Kiboro said he took the initiative to look for donors to assist the families who have been negatively affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.He said DTB came in handy and agreed to support the initiative.

“Subukia is my rural home and I realised that most families are suffering in silence. I therefore took it upon myself to use the connections that I have to mobilise support. I thank DTB for supporting the initiative,” said Dr Kiboro.

He called on individuals and corporate organisations that can help to join in the donations to help the vulnerable members of the society.

“This is just a matter of standing up to be counted. I believe everyone can give something to help a neighbour who is in need. I urge everyone to support these families,” said Dr Kiboro.

DTB Nakuru branch manager Lucy Rotich said the bank is committed to supporting poor families in the times of need.

“As DTB, we want to stand in solidarity with our clients in all times since we understand that most people are affected by this pandemic,” said Ms Rotich.

Magdalena Nthenya who was among the beneficiaries, thanked the bank for the donations, saying that it was timely.

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Raphael Lekolool appointed Postbank Managing Director

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Postbank Board of Directors’ Chairman, Mr. Ntoros Baari Ole Senteu, Friday announced the appointment of Raphael Lekolool as the new Postbank Managing Director effective June 1, 2020.

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This follows the retirement of Ms. Anne Karanja from the Postbank after serving in the position of Managing Director for the last six years.

Prior to this appointment, Anne had served in different senior management positions in the same Bank.

In his role as the Managing Director, Mr.Lekolool will be riding on a strong foundation of the existing customer base and digital platforms in pursuit of growing the Bank’s market share while executing the Bank’s strategic Plan.

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The financial world is going digital and one of Postbanks’s priority areas is to exploit technology to ensure customers can handle most of their financial transactions online.

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With his vastexperience in banking, micro finance and insurance sectors, Lekolool is well placed to drive the Bank’s business to the next level while offering customer driven products.

“I have full confidence that my successor, Mr. Lekolool will steer Postbank to greater heights. I take this opportunity to wish him a successful tenure.” said Ms. Karanja.

“We appreciate the stewardship of Ms. Anne Karanja which kept Postbank focused on inculcating a savings culture among Kenyans.” reflected Mr. Baari Ole Senteu, the Board Chairman. “We wish her well in her endeavors as she continues serving the nation in different capacity”added Mr. Senteu.

Prior to this appointment, Mr. Lekolool was the Enterprise Risk Manager at UAP, Old Mutual and Head of Internal Audit at Faulu Microfinance.

He is an MBA graduate of Cardiff Business School and holds a BSc. Degree in Banking from University of Manchester.

 

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