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Why I broke the law to undergo FGM aged 26 – Sylvia Yeko

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Sylvia Yeko decided to undergo female genital mutilation (FGM) three weeks ago at the age of 26 – even though the practice, which used to be performed on teenage girls, was outlawed in Uganda in 2010.

Her circumcision ceremony took place in public – she showed us a video taken on the day. It shows an excited, cheering crowd surrounding Ms Yeko and another woman, whose faces are smeared with a whitish-brown flour.

They lie on bare grass with their legs open as an older woman approaches each in turn and swiftly cuts off their clitoris.

Neither of them screams because to do so would be a sign of weakness and would nullify what this community in eastern Uganda regard as a rite of passage before a woman can get married.

“During this day I felt so proud, I just felt so excited,” Yeko tells the BBC as she watches the footage.

“Before I was circumcised I was taken as any other child, but now I’m someone respected.”

FGM convictions

She knows she could face up to five years in prison for being circumcised, but she insists that she wants to be identified.

Those who cut her genitals could be imprisoned for 10 years.

Since December, several of these public circumcision ceremonies have happened in the Sebei region of eastern Uganda – most of them in Kween district, which borders Kenya.

Three people have recently been convicted for practising FGM, including a 15-year-old girl and a woman. Nineteen others are in jail awaiting trial.

FGM is life-threatening. The immediate danger comes from bleeding to death after the genitals have been cut.

Then infections can set in. The women in the video also had their private parts covered with flour, and it’s not clear if the same blade was used for all the initiates.

Later in life, the scars could form keloids, which are growths. Childbirth is also likely to be more difficult.

Nevertheless, Yeko has become a sort of celebrity in Sebei – and when I ask if she is concerned that girls and women who follow her example are putting their lives in danger, she says she does not believe FGM is harmful.

For her, the act was not only a cultural rite but also a form of protest against the government’s failure to keep its promises to help educate and advance prospects for women once circumcision was banned.

People in these underdeveloped and poor areas expected to have greater access to social services and infrastructure by giving up FGM.

To make her point, Yeko takes me to Kwosir Girl’s Boarding Secondary School, where a plaque on the wall reads: “Presidential pledge to stop FGM”.

But she says that even though the school was built in the wake of the circumcision ban and was meant to be free for all girls, costs can run up to $90 (£69) a term and are unaffordable for many in her community.

“They better take back their school because we’re not benefiting from the school and we’re not enjoying anything from this school,” she says.

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Kween is one of the worst-performing areas when it comes to education. According to government statistics, on average, about 6,000 students enrol at primary school level, but by the end of secondary school only 200 students remain in class.

Yeko says she did manage to get an education, but like many young people in the East African nation she remains unemployed.

A university graduate and now the mother of a four-year-old boy, her decision to get circumcised was to make the point that she feels let down by Uganda’s leaders. She even wrote a letter to the police before her cutting ceremony to make sure the authorities knew about it.

‘We are treated like children’

For another woman, who spoke to the BBC about her recent circumcision, the motive was more personal.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, she said she felt ostracised because as a married woman within the ethnic Sabiny community she was prevented from doing certain things because she had not been cut.

“In Sebei, a woman who has not been cut cannot go to the [communal] granary or pick cow dung from the kraal.”

Cow dung is often used to plaster houses, a task often left to women.

“A husband can marry another wife. She might be circumcised and then starts insulting the uncircumcised woman. You are just equated to your children,” she explained.

Yet the mother of three daughters does not intend to circumcise any of them as her hope is that they will be educated and less easily intimidated by the community.

‘She broke the doors’

Uganda’s first female Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, has been a key campaigner against FGM over the last 20 years. She visits the region every year and commissioned the Kwosir Girl’s Boarding Secondary School.

 Kadaga maintains the decision to ban FGM came from the Sebei leaders themselves, who first passed a local by-law in 2009.

“I know that they are unhappy about a number of issues. But I think injuring yourself because there’s no road… it’s also not right. But I think it’s our duty to ensure that they have services,” she says.

The ban has seen the cases of circumcision fall in Uganda. In 2011 1.4% of women were circumcised and by 2016 that had fallen to 0.3%.

But Yeko’s father, Arapkwures Chemegich, who does not support FGM, says being heavy-handed about the ban will not work and has created pockets of resistance.

He should know as he tried to stop his daughter from going ahead with her circumcision.

“When we tried to stop her, she actually fought and broke the door,” he says, showing me two doors inside the family hut that were hanging off their hinges.

“I think FGM should be stopped, but the method? They should not have come by force.

“It should be something they educate them about.”

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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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