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What next for Kindiki after heated ouster?

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JULIUS SIGEI

By JULIUS SIGEI
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In his allegory “Kusadikika”, Shaaban Robert writes that when a cow is injured it pulls itself home to the pen, where it would be consoled and assisted.

And in Tharaka, where Prof Abraham Kithure Kindiki comes from, there are two such havens where he can take refuge and reflect after his ouster as Senate deputy speaker on Friday.

First, there is Karii ka Mburi (a pond where goats drink water), the oasis in the parched, desolate land that is the place of his ancestors on the border of Kitui and Tharaka-Nithi counties.

Then there is Irunduni (solid rock) in Mukothima farther north, where his father, a Methodist priest, moved and where the law professor has built a home across the Thanantu River.

But the former law lecturer will not be coming home to herd goats or grow finger millet, the mainstay of his people.

Since his re-election to the Senate, the man with a boiling ambition couched in a baby face, wide smile and soft voice has not hidden the fact that he wants to be governor of Tharaka-Nithi.

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To marshal enough votes to be the county chief, however, he will not only traverse the vast and arid Tharaka, but also campaign in the Chuka, Mwimbi and Muthambi highlands.

The personification of the dictum that there is nothing personal in politics but only interests, Prof Kindiki was a key behind-the-scenes strategist for Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto’s defence in the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

The duo had been charged with crimes against humanity following the 2007/2008 post-election clashes. Prof Kindiki even attended the court proceedings a few times.

He rode on this wave to win the Tharaka-Nithi Senate seat in 2013 and was promptly rewarded with the majority leader’s position for his role in leading a team that crafted the Jubilee coalition agreement that brought together Mr Kenyatta’s TNA and Dr Ruto’s URP.

As majority leader, he gravitated towards DP Ruto and for some time entertained the dream of being his running mate in the 2022 elections.

Facing a stiff re-election challenge at the time after opponents painted him as “a Nairobi man who flew too high” (he had been a member of the ‘Sky Team’ that moved around in helicopters in the early years of the Jubilee administration, wowing villagers in remote locations with generous cash donations), he changed tack and touched down to camp in the county.

Some of his antics on the ground proved sticky, such as when he joined men in kneading mud to wall a classroom, for which he took a beating on social media for “failing to build a better classroom”.

In another photo, he was seen campaigning on a bicycle, which projected him as a humble man. In the end, he was re-elected with a huge margin.

On returning to the Senate, his dream for the deputy presidency suffered a setback when his position was taken away and handed to his deputy Kipchumba Murkomen in a calculation that appeared to value a more forceful character rather than the humility of a scholar.

But the professor took it in his stride, though, and from that point he assumed formlessness and shunned the national limelight.

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His party, however, doesn’t think he was circumspect enough and that his support for Dr Ruto was unequivocal.

If he has not been vocal in that support – in part owing to his position as an umpire in the House, and to be seen to be keeping the middle ground – matters came to a head last month when he sanctioned a debate of leaders opposed to President Kenyatta’s takeover of some of Nairobi’s functions.

In the motion, President Kenyatta came under sharp criticism from Mr Murkomen, who has since been axed.

The second charge is that Prof Kindiki snubbed a recent State House meeting that sacked Mr Murkomen as majority leader and Nakuru Senator Susan Kihika as majority chief whip.

President Kenyatta has been on the offensive in recent weeks and has waged a ruthless war to seize control of the Jubilee Party, long seen to be in the grip of his deputy.

And while the two former bosom buddies – through whom the word bromance entered Kenya’s political parlance – have been sizing up each other in the past two and half years for unclear reasons, it is only now that the President has gone for broke and kicked out disloyal lieutenants.

It is in this crossfire that Prof Kindiki found himself. Pushed to apologise rather than wait to be sacked, the lawmaker is said to have chosen to stick with DP Ruto because “the voters on the ground were with him”.

If the former University of Nairobi law lecturer’s rise in 2013 was eventful, the entry of his family onto the national stage in 2017 was a blast.

One of his brothers joined the campaign trail on the opposite end to support Raila Odinga, who was running against President Kenyatta.

After Mr Odinga picked Isaiah Kindiki, a maverick professor of soil science and a Methodist pastor, as his point man in the Mt Kenya East region, the fight for the votes of the larger Meru momentarily assumed the hallmarks of an epic duel, featuring two brothers of stellar academic titles facing off at the ballot.

But the move also offered a glimpse into one of the most academically endowed families in Kenya.

Besides Isaiah and Kithure, there are three other professors in the family, with four other siblings on their way to professorship – they are at different stages of work on their PhDs.

In my conversation with then Opposition-affiliated Kindiki at the time, he traced the go-getter streak in the family to a life of hardship and triumph that his father led, a spirit that he said runs through their bloodline to date.

Rev (rtd) Daniel Kindiki, the patriarch, rose from poverty to a respected cleric and elder in the region.

It is this resilience that the 49-year-old professor will rely on to navigate the rugged political terrain, where he has twice campaigned and triumphed.

His sacking has also offered him an aura of martyrdom in Tharaka-Nithi, where the local branch of the Njuri Ncheke and leaders such as former governor Samwel Ragwa and MPs Gitonga Murugara and John Mutunga beseeched President Kenyatta, in vain, to spare “their son”.

But in a retreat to county politics, Prof Kindiki will have to face Governor Muthomi Njuki, who, in the ever-changing alignments, has cast his lot with President Kenyatta.

As political shock waves lash the landscape, it remains to be seen whether Irunduni – the image for his grip of local politics – will be strong enough to shield the senator against the raging storm.

The writer is an editor at Nation Media Group

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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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