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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Raila Meets with Somali Kenyans in Minnesota

Prime Minister Raila Odinga met with the Somali Kenyan Community of Minnesota and laid out his plans for the country. The meeting revolved around issues related to food security, the famine in East Africa and how to bring the Kenyan dream to the millions of Kenyans that have been marginalized. Raila talked about his plan to get the economy working for the regular man again and ensuring accessible education and health care for all.

Also to pander to the audiences islamic believes, he reiterated that the Kenya Constitution does not legalize gay marriage or abortion.

Dr. Siyat Abdullahi, the chairman of the committee that organized the event and other speakers in the diaspora spoke of their hope for a Ministry of the Diaspora and for a say in the Kenyan democracy. 

Not to forget, the PM cracked the usual jokes about Kenyan tribes. The event was attended by dignitaries such as the Kenyan Ambassador to the United Nation and The PM's wife, Ida odinga.

Here are some grainy cellphone pictures of the event. Courtesy of one Hinda Ali's Twitter TL (@HindaAli19)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Garissa-Mandera Highway: Why I Don't Believe in that Anymore

I will admit to being a jaded skeptic when it comes to government led development in North Eastern. But one need not be a seasoned cynic to shrug at the mere mention of a Garissa-Mandera Highway. No politicians comes to NEP without mentioning it. No local power hungry tribalist crank runs for office without invoking it.
Yet, despite all the lip service, this project has never gotten off the ground. This's why  I'm not impressed this time round when Yusuf Haji drapes himself in "Saudi Labianism"  and talks about the shovel readiness of this infrastructure project.

I remember, as a sixth grader less than a decade ago, following politicians on the campaign trail and hearing all the great things they promised to do for the residents of NEP. They talked about this highway, about building leather factories, irrigation schemes. They talked about building better schools and mobile clinics.

It's not just that they haven't done any of those things. The more important thing is that our own politicians have not fought for this highway and more bizarrely have continued to campaign for the same people who've lied to us for two generations now.

Its like we have a natural affinity for disappointment. The more our corrupt political elites piss on us, the more subservient we get.

I am sorry to have disappointed you Mr. illiterate Minister. I just don't believe in you and its getting painful seeing an old ass like you pay homage to this deadbeat project.  

The Standard: Saudi Arabia Loans Kenya Sh 1.6 Billion for Garissa--Mandera HIghway

Saudi Arabia loans Kenya sh1.6b for road construction

Updated 20 hr(s) 13 min(s) ago
By Athman Amran
The Saudi Government has approved an over Sh1.6 billion loan to Kenya for the construction of the 146km Nuno-Modagashe road that will run between Garissa and Mandera towns.
Saudi Ambassador to Kenya Ghorm Said Malhan said the Saudi government is also set to give Kenya another Sh1.2 billion to fund five power projects. Adding that the money would be sourced from the Saudi Fund for Development.
The ambassador was speaking during the marking of the 80th anniversary of the Unification of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia at a Nairobi hotel on Thursday evening.
The total construction of the Nuno-Modagashe road is estimated at Sh8 billion with a total of Sh5.36 billion to be procured from loans from the Saudi Fund, the Kuwait Fund, the OPEC fund and the Abu-Dhabi Fund.
The first phase of the project was expected to begin in Garissa last year.
Malhan said most of Saudi assistance to Kenya is directed towards development of infrastructure, water, irrigation and agriculture. He said the power projects will be done in five different locations in the country.
"Delegations from the Saudi Fund for Development visited Nairobi twice this year to upraise rural projects in Kenya," Malhan said.
The ambassador also said that the Saudi Government contributed 200 tonnes of assorted food and another 200 tonnes of dates to assist Kenyans affected by famine.
Defence minister Yusuf Haji said Kenya will continue to have good relations with Saudi Arabia, which he said is host to over 20,000 Kenyan workers, including both professionals and domestic workers among others.
"The Kenyan workers in Saudi Arabia remit about Sh1 billion annually to Kenya," Haji said.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Standard: How North Eastern Can Feed The Rest of Kenya

Updated 1 hr(s) 25 min(s) ago
 By Patrick Mathangani
All his life, Idriss Yakub has followed cattle and goats across North Eastern Province in search of grass and water. 
However, nowadays, as he surveys his rice farm on the banks of the River Tana in Jara Jara village, he beams with pride and hope.
His farm is a little less than an acre, but it illustrates new thinking among residents used to living on relief shipments. They have always shunned farming and reared cattle, camels and goats. However, long spells of drought and the current food emergency have sent them looking for alternatives of survival.
“From what I get after selling the rice, I’m able to feed my two children and pay fees,” says Yakub. 
He feeds his cattle waste from the farm. He says he doesn’t get a lot, but when other people are crying about food, he is a bit comfortable, he says.
Agricultural potential
The Government has also established a 100-acre rice farm in the village, which is in the new Balambala District. Maintained by the National Youth Service personnel, the farm shows the area has agricultural potential. There are plans to expand the farm to 200 acres.
The Tana snakes its way through the arid province for more than 400km, and government officials say it presents a huge potential for agriculture through irrigation. 
However, due to a history of neglect since independence, this potential remains untapped.
Farther away in Mandera, other farmers are also on the footsteps of Yakub and have established fertile farms along River Dawa, which is 300km long and forms Kenya’s border with Ethiopia. Their fresh farm products such as mangoes and green maize are sold as far away as Samburu and Moyale.
“We can feed ourselves if we tap the waters and train farmers in new farming methods,” says Mohammed Issack Duale, executive director of Racida, a charitable organisation. The charity is assisting farmers by digging channels for irrigation along the river, and educating them on modern farming technologies.
Duale says if the river waters are harnessed for farming, many people in the province would no longer have to import food. 
Area PC James ole Serian says residents need not rely on relief food as their land is fertile and productive.
 “We’ve been given relief food for almost 100 years,” says Serian, “that’s embarrassing. Every year, we see more people wanting aid.”
Due to the drought that has devastated the Horn of Africa, the worst in 60 years according to the United Nations, more than one million people are surviving on relief shipments in the province.
No reliable rain
There has been no reliable rainfall in the past four years, which has rendered families destitute. Most people are nomads, but their cattle have been wiped out by the drought. 
The region is the poorest in the country and lacks road or telephone networks. 
Transporting aid is a nightmarish experience through dust, sweltering heat and narrow tracks that serve for roads.
The area has also been plagued by insecurity caused by inter-clan fighting, banditry attacks and incursions by militants from the war-ravaged eastern neighbour, Somalia. This has kept investors away, and has aided in portraying the region as a barren, dangerous wasteland.
Serian says through irrigation on the banks of the two rivers, the province could not only feed itself, but other parts of Kenya. The land is virgin and fertile, he says, and could support tens of thousands of acres under agriculture.
“What we need to do is expand what we are doing in places like Jara Jara. All we need is technology and money,” adds Serian.
He said the Government has allocated Sh1 billion to expand and start projects in Mandera, Garissa and Habaswen, where an underground river runs through.
Seek alternatives
“If you want a solution in NEP, we should just ban the distribution of relief and seek alternatives. If you do something for 100 years and there’s no solution, you must abandon it and look for another solution,” says Serian.
The area is much quieter now, with few incidents of bloodshed, he says. Although there are now plans to tarmac the road between Garissa and Modogashe, the road network is still pathetic.
Abdi Mohammed, a farmer in Raya near Garissa, says transporting produce is a nightmare.
“If it rains, you can’t move an inch,” he says, “Sometimes, it floods and you have to wait until the water levels go down.”
Farming, however, does not mean residents need to completely forget their livestock. There has been talk of establishing abattoirs in the area, but this has not been implemented.
Residents also need to change their attitude toward agriculture. Due to traditional attachment to livestock, even flourishing farmers are regarded as poor and worth no respect. 
“Among the Somali, no one respects you if you have no livestock. If you die, they’ll just abandon you to rot away,” says Adan Keynan, the Jara Jara chief.
He adds: “We believe if you don’t eat meat for 40 days, your brain becomes useless. But now, people have a big urge to farm because they have seen how the farmers have benefited.”

Friday, September 9, 2011

One Year Anniversary

Ladies & Gentlemen, today is the one year anniversary since this blog was started. I would like to sincerely thank you for your readership and loyalty throughout the past 12 months.

It has been an intellectually enriching experience. Thanks once again to all those who e-mailed snippets of news, events, links and general internet banality.

Thanks also to all those who debated me in the comments sections, on my Facebook page, on Twitter, in person or by phone and e-mail.

Let's all work to better our City and society together.

Halal Medicine in Eastleigh

The Business Daily Africa has this interesting article on a nascent business that's taking Eastleigh by storm.

Eastleigh area is arguably the best place to shop for textiles and electronics in Nairobi.
These businesses are mainly driven by the Somali community that forms a significant population. Initially a nondescript area full of poorly-planned buildings, its newer inhabitants’ affluence is rapidly changing the face of Eastleigh.
The old buildings are coming down and modern shopping malls taking their places. The previously popular bedsitters are also giving way to modern apartments. Big banks all have branches in Eastleigh.
Not to be left behind, major private hospitals are also moving in. Already, a leading children’s hospital has opened a satellite clinic and two others are in the process of opening up in the next quarter.
But Eastleigh is also turning out to be the centre of another niche product; Halal medicine. Just like the financial sector where Sharia-compliant products have become popular with banks, enterprising doctors have also seen the potential in halal medicine.
The huge Muslim populace means that a market exists for such a product. The high per capita among some of the residents also means that privately- run facilities charging significantly higher than most of the other Islamic charity- run medical centres will still have clients.
For any hospital visit, small things make a major difference in the experience.
For instance, the music or TV channel showing at the reception may appear innocuous to some patients but quite important to others. Some patients are offended by the content. In these FM and liberal TV days, you never know what you will hear or see.
Early in my career, an experience I had finds relevance in this situation.
My female patient was accompanied by a male relative who was not her husband. I told him to excuse us while I examined the patient if he was not her husband. An argument erupted only for me to later find out that their customs allowed him to be there.
Small things like these make a big difference to the patient.
Prayers are common in hospitls. Sadly though, some patients pray too loudly to the discomfort of others. It may be a bit uncomfortable for atheists or people of a different denomination.
Although prayer time, privacy, washroom facilities and diet may appear like irrelevant things, they count for a patient’s hospital experience.
As a result, a few facilities are coming up mostly along Juja Rd which is fast becoming like Ngong Road in its clustering of medical facilities. Halal dental clinics and chemists have sprung up. And coming soon is an ultra- modern 50-bed boutique hospital.
For the Halal facilities, the design and operations regard the patients’ religious and cultural views as important.
The details are taken care of— from the architecture (windows direction, ablution blocks design and amenities), diet and meal times (consisting of halal products and timed not to inconvenience prayers) and entertainment that does not offend religious sensibilities.
Although some people will argue against such enterprises as they tend to have more cultural and religious leanings,d the client should have the right of choice and a patient in the right mood is a better one.
Their success will spur other investors.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

High Court Established in Garissa

Chief Justice Willy Mutunga has established a high court in Garissa. The court will be headed by Justice Stella Mutuku. Prior to this gig, Mutuku served as a registrar to the East African Court of Justice in Arusha, Tanzania.

This is part of a major reshuffling of the courts undertaken by C.J Mutunga. We, the residents of Garissa, couldn't be happier. We no longer have to travel to Meru or Nairobi to appeal decisions.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

A Glowing Profile of Yusuf Hassan By Saturday Nation

 The new Kamukunji Member of Parliament, Mr Yusuf Hassan. Photo/FILE

The Saturday Nation's Billy Muiru penned a glowing profile of Kamukunji's newly minted MP, Yusuf Hassan, in which any substantive policy discussion was conspicuously absent.

Not to be parsimonious with praise myself but having read the article twice, I'm still at a loss to understand what the thesis was.

My intention is not to dismiss the profile as a fluff piece but questioning the writers journalistic talents is warranted and justified.

Instead of taking Kamukunji's only ever MP to possess a measurable sense of intellectual gravitas to task about his plans for the constituency, especially Eastleigh's business community, the writer focuses on the trivialities of the election battle and the personality quirks of Mr. Yusuf.

Some of the poignant questions that should have been addressed in the article include:
  •  The civil injunction issued against the collection of taxes by city council  from Eastleigh based businesses
  • The desperately malfunctioning sewerage system in Eastleigh
  • Alien Registration for the thousands of Somali Refugees doing business in Eastleigh and paying tax to both local and central government apparatuses.   
  • Police over reach and antagonism towards Somalis.
  • Muslim Profiling
  • Infrastructure that is begging for a serious re-investment.
Mega crap Saturday Nation! Sometimes I just have to say no thanks. Why point out the guys political outlook instead of offering us the chance to derive such conclusions from his answers. 
That Said, this profile will be useful to those looking to fill their knowledge gaps about the MP's biography. If you have the patience to go through the whole thing, it will most definitely shed light on some of those shadowy zones in his background. 
Here is an excerpt of the profile as it appeared on today's paper.

      Who is this young man of Arabic or Somali descent on air? 

      That is what former Voice of Kenya head James Kangwana asked when he first heard young Yusuf Hassan on radio on a hot weekend in the early 1970s.

      Hassan had been selected for a part-time job as a presenter, and would present the popular Dunia Wiki Hii when journalists failed to show up on time after binging on Friday.

      Kangwana had noticed the soft but firm voice. Little did he know the Kenyan Somali man he had also described as “thin but intelligent” would rise to international echelons and work for both BBC and Voice of America.

      Fast forward to 2011. Hassan is the new Kamukunji MP, representing a constituency whose parliamentary elections have been marred by controversy never seen in Kenya’s history.

      In 2007, vote counting and tallying was violently stopped by angry youth, and it was only after eight months that the then Electoral Commission of Kenya would declare Samuel Mbugua the winner.

      Did not enjoy his salary

      He did not enjoy his salary for long. Loser Ibrahim Ahmed lodged a petition at the High Court and the election was nullified in January this year.
      In May, the ensuing by-election was stopped again only two days before polling after another loser filed a court case to stop it, arguing the nominations discriminated against him.
      So when the ill-fated election was finally concluded two weeks ago and Hassan declared the winner, he heaved a sigh of relief.
      “I felt like a new born baby. For all the battles I have fought, even at international level, I derived a lot of joy in this win,” said Hassan. He polled 19,030 votes against closest rival Ibrahim Ahmed’s (Johnnie ) 15, 476 votes.
      Yusuf cuts a figure of a man who cannot harm a fly beneath his seemingly elderly demeanour.
      A glimpse into his personal life, career exploits and political views reveals a personality that you cannot entirely brand as a journalist, human rights activist or a politician. He is all of them.
      Human deprivation
      Perhaps the easy way in which Hassan carries his affairs is a result of all the wars and human deprivation he has witnessed since his childhood through to his adulthood.
      To read full profile, go here

      Compensation for Garissa's Herders

      The Nairobi Star has this good piece of news for Garissa's herders whose stock has been decimated by an unforgiving drought.

      I hope the stakeholders will behave prudently and distribute the funds equitably among the thousands of pastrolists who've been adversely affected by the famine.

      If this aid is doled out fairly, there is a good chance our society will be a lot more functional. Let's remember, many of these herders were proud people who lived fully independent lives before they were wrecked by a combination natural calamities and a lack of social safety net.

      Injecting politics or tribalism into this is bad and immoral.

      The Kenya Drylands Livestock Development Programme yesterday compensated livestock traders in Garissa in bid to cushion them from the devastating drought.
      With funds from the United States Agency for international Development, KDLDP paid out the money to community groups trading in livestock for losing their animals.
      KDLDP's Chief of Party Francis Chabari said it is part of their work to stabilise households income and food security by empowering communities through giving them financial help. He further said they were looking at improving the access to  the livestock markets. “After loosing all my 200 cows three months ago as a result of drought, the going has really been tough for my family of 8 since my husband is also jobless. But I thank KDLDP that it has awarded us cheques,” said Habiba Sheikh of Bayan women group. The group receivedSh136,000.
      Habiba's group engages in the selling of milk, leather, bones and horns.
      Chabaria on his part said the KDLDP proposes to pay Sh72 million to support community projects in the 3 counties of Garissa, Wajir andMandera. He urged the locals to fully use the opportunity presented to them by applying for the funds in their respective groups and use the funds to fully exploit the livestock industry.
      He added that discussions were at an advanced stage with the District livestock marketing councils in mandera wajir Garissa ijara and Tana river on ways for establishing a sheria compliant community managed fund where DLMC members would be able to save into and borrow from. The region has been had hit by the ongoing drought rendering majority of them destitute.

      Thursday, September 1, 2011

      Garissa's Bourgeoisie

      The four-star Almond Hotel, owned by Mr Mahat Kuno Roble, is one of the landmarks of Garissa Town. Photo/JENNIFER MUIRURI
      The four-star Almond Hotel, owned by Mr Mahat Kuno Roble, is one of the landmarks of Garissa Town. Photo/JENNIFER MUIRURI 
      Posted  Thursday, September 1  2011 at  18:00
      Share This Story
      Just two families own and control most of Garissa’s wealth — and by extension wield immense political influence in the county.
      Gen (Rtd) Mahmud Mohamed’s immediate family and a former detainee, Mahat Kuno Roble are synonymous with property in Garissa Town and the county in general.
      Gen Mohamed rose to fame for having crushed the abortive 1982 coup by recapturing the then Voice of Kenya radio station from Kenya Air Force rebels.
      He then rose to the pinnacle of the military, becoming Chief of General Staff, before retiring in 1996.
      His children have extended the old man’s influence in the family.
      Mr Roble was both a poet and labelled a troublemaker during the Kenyatta era.
      For this, he was detained without trial along with Prof Ngugi wa Thiong’o in 1977.
      There is no connection between Gen Mohamed and Mr Roble but the two families have built separate business empires nobody can rival in the near future.
      Gen Mohamed owns many commercial buildings within Garissa Town, housing big businesses like leading Kenyan banks.
      The general and his family also own houses and the 146-acre Maendeleo Farm on the banks of River Tana.
      The general’s children have married into families of Who is Who in the county.
      Dujis MP Aden Duale, who was sacked as assistant Minister for Livestock Development last week, is married to the general’s daughter.
      Mr Duale and his brother, Noor Barre, have also built their own empire in the county.
      They own Nomad Resort, the second upmarket hotel in the town besides other commercial ventures, which include the affiliate Nomad Hotel in Nairobi’s Eastleigh.
      Mr Ali Buno Korane, a former Permanent Secretary for Information and Tourism is married to another of the general’s daughters
      Immense influence
      He owns Mnara private schools and like his father-in-law has a farm on the southern part of Garissa Town, in the Tana valley.
      He is currently aspiring for governorship of the county.
      The general’s son, Dr Ibrahim Mohamed, is the chief executive officer of National AIDS/STD Control and Prevention, while the general’s younger brother, Mr Maalim Mohamed, entered the country’s history books when he became the first Cabinet Minister from arid and semi-arid lands in 1983, 20 years after Independence.
      Although a soft spoken man always avoiding the glare of the media, the general wields immense influence on who becomes a leader in the county.
      The county’s other wealth controller and opinion former, Mr Roble, rose from humble beginnings to become a tycoon.
      Few would even remember that he suffered detention under the Kenyatta regime just as Prof Ngugi and Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s father Jaramogi Oginga Odinga.
      From detention after President Moi had ascended to power, he began humbly as a merchant in supplies.
      Soon after, he was calling the shots in that trade in Nairobi and Garissa.
      Today, he owns Almond, a four star Hotel in Garissa, sitting on five acres with all the amenities available in a five star hotel in Nairobi or Mombasa.
      It has an affiliate in Nairobi’s Central Business District, Jamiat next to the Jamia Mosque.
      Mr Roble also owns substantial shares in blue chip companies on the Nairobi Stock Exchange and he has substantial property holdings with commercial buildings and rental houses in Garissa, plus a group farm in Mbalambala on the banks of the Tana that he has donated to local people.
      In Kuno Location, he has built schools and other amenities while in Garissa, he owns the Waqaf high rise office block, the income from which he is giving to help pay for salaries to madrasa teachers.
      Come next year’s first elections under the new Constitution, aspiring politicians in the county will be looking in the direction of these families for signals.
      Time will tell which if them will become the king maker.