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Why Ukraine is so important to the US

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Did President Donald Trump withhold military aid from ally Ukraine for his own political reasons? That is the big question at the heart of the Democrat-led impeachment inquiry.

Ukraine is not in Nato and it has struggled with years of corruption. But its future direction is of geopolitical importance.

Why does Ukraine matter to US?

For much of its 28-year independent history it has been unclear whether Ukraine would end up aligned with Russia or the West.

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In 2014, that uncertainty appeared to come to an end. After a bloody street revolution, Ukraine’s new leaders asserted that the country’s future lay with closer association with Europe and the West. Russia was now seen as the enemy and it responded by seizing Crimea and supporting an armed uprising in eastern Ukraine that has so far cost more than 13,000 lives.

Under the US Obama administration, Ukrainians’ right to decide their own future, and to resist Russian aggression, was defended as an important ideological principle.

That changed when President Trump took office, and Ukraine’s government has not been able to rely on America’s active support in the same way since.

How much military aid does the US give?

The US has a longstanding relationship with the Ukrainian military and has committed about $1.5bn (£1.2bn; €1.4bn) in aid since 2014.

Much of that has been spent training soldiers and in efforts to modernise the dated way the Ukrainian army is organised and operates.

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A US-supplied Javelin anti-tank missile system is tested by Ukrainian military at an undisclosed site

The latest tranche of assistance, which was held up and then released by the Trump administration, is worth $391m and includes a range of weapons and technical assistance.

How important is US military aid and support to Ukraine?

It is important on both a military and symbolic level.

Where once the Ukrainian military knew that the US had their backs, this can no longer be taken for granted.

The wavering over assistance, and President Trump’s frequent derogatory words about Ukraine, will almost certainly have strengthened Moscow’s hand in peace negotiations.

How is Ukraine linked to Trump impeachment inquiry?

The impeachment inquiry touches on the 2016 US presidential election campaign and also President Trump’s possible opponent in 2020 – Joe Biden. Ukraine is involved in both.

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So far no Ukrainian has been called to testify. The inquiry is instead focusing on the official and “irregular” US channels of communication between Washington and Kyiv.

Why does the 2016 election keep coming up?

President Trump’s lukewarm attitude towards Ukraine dates back to the election campaign of 2016.

At the time, Mr Trump’s campaign manager – Paul Manafort – was forced to resign after documents emerged in Ukraine that suggested he had received off-the-books payments from a pro-Russian political party.

President Trump and his supporters say that by releasing the documents, Ukrainian officials unfairly interfered to support his Democrat opponent Hillary Clinton.

Despite the best efforts of President Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani, the evidence to support the claims remains extremely thin. Meanwhile, Mr Manafort has been jailed for financial crimes.

What about the Bidens?

This has turned into the central part of the impeachment inquiry with both parties approaching from a different angle.

It concerns a period in 2014-15 when Vice-President Biden was the Obama administration’s point-man on Ukraine. At the same time his son, Hunter, had a lucrative directorship with a Ukrainian gas company.

Democrats are seeking to prove that President Trump leveraged US military assistance and a White House visit in return for Ukraine’s president launching an investigation into the Bidens.

Republicans are trying to make this about the Bidens. They want to know why Hunter was paid so much, and whether the vice-president used his political clout to help his son’s company.

What is the Ukrainian government saying about it?

Ukraine’s initial response through President Volodymyr Zelensky was to say that he had felt “no pressure” from the White House to launch an investigation into the Bidens. It has become part of President Trump’s mantra when he riffs about his “perfect” 25 July phone call with his Ukrainian counterpart.

Since then, testimony and text messages released by US diplomats have made it clear that Ukrainian officials were confused and worried about the hold-up in US assistance. And that they were being told the way out was to announce investigations into both the 2016 election and the Bidens.

We now know, for example, that the Ukrainians were actively considering capitulating and doing a TV interview that would announce the investigations that President Trump clearly wanted.

Mindful of getting further sucked into partisan US politics the Ukrainian officials involved are declining to give their side of the story.

What do Ukrainians think?

For the most part they’ve moved on. Ukrainians are more preoccupied by their new president’s efforts to bring peace in the east than his phone call with Trump.

President Zelensky has recently made a series of concessions in the hope of getting Russia to the negotiating table. His critics are accusing him of naivety and capitulating to President Vladimir Putin.

 

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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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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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