February 1-15, 2011
A bimonthly on-line newspaper by the Media Diversity Centre, a project of African Woman and Child Feature Service
Drought sends herders to Uganda
By JOHN ORONI Ekidor Lokori leans on the acacia tree hawkishly watching as his herd grazes on the large shrubs in Nakoror area in Moroto district Eastern Uganda. The Kenyan pastoralist from Turkana District was here four years ago after a severe drought hit the country. Five kilometres away, another herder John Ekeno, accompanied by some youths is busy watering hundreds of herds at Loro River. A short interview with Lokori reflects a bright future for his family since the animals will not starve to death should the herds not have accessed pasture in Uganda. “I travelled with my herds through long bad terrain and plains to access pasture and water here,” says Lokori. He adds: “I’m happy that I have not lost any animals to drought which
had started to bite my village in Lorengippi.” As effects of the drought continue to be felt, Ekeno and Lokori are among Pokot and Turkana herders who have to cross the Kenya Uganda border with their cattle in search for pasture and water. Earlier on, the herders were not sure of their security and the herds but two weeks since their arrival in the area, there is peace and no signs of threats from any quarter.
The fleeing Kenyans were restricted from carrying their guns following the ongoing disarmament programme ordered by Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni in the Karamoja region. “Our hosts received us warmly here and we have not received any threats against our lives and herds. Our cattle are accessing both water
An armed Turkana herder with his livestock. Drought has forced them to migrate to neighbouring Uganda in search of water and pasture for their livestock. Picture: John Oroni and pasture and we have been granted rights to graze,” says Ekeno, a reformed cattle rustler. Ekeno is also a respected Turkana peace maker owning over 2,000 heads of cattle. The herders, who number about 3,000 are happy that there has been neither intimidation nor harassment from the Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) soldiers who they previously accused of confiscating their animals. Fleeing the biting drought which has rocked several parts of Kenya, Lokori migrated to Uganda along with other pastoralists last December from Loima district, East of Lodwar town. Lokori and Ekeno like other Kenyan herders are excited due to the existing peace and hospi-
tality between them and their host community, the Karamojongs. “Sometimes we dispatch young men back home to deliver news that we are safe with our cattle because when we left home we were not sure of our safety despite our government entering into discussions with Uganda,” reiterates Lokori. The Turkana depend on cattle for their livelihood. The region also receives relief food from the government and humanitarian organisations. Resident District Commissioner for Moroto Mr Norman Ojwe says they have accommodated 3,000 Turkana herders from Loima District. Ojwe said the Kenyans had Continued on page 5
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ISSUE 033, February 1-15, 2011
Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth
Girls can do better, says best pupil By JANE MUGAMBI According to Sharon Gakii from Kerugoya Good Shepherd Academy, it is not difficult for girls to defeat boys. Speaking at her former school, Gakii who was accompanied by her parents said that it is not hard for girls to defeat boys during the exam period. “Cooperation between the teachers and the pupils is the only way for one to succeed,” reiterated Gakii. She also had some advice for other girls who she urged not to feel inferior and be ready to fight with the boys and they will emerge winners. Though she was hard working, she did not expect to top in the district and in her school. The 13 year old scored 422 marks out of 500 in the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education. She has made her school among the best in the larger Kirinyaga County and in Kir-
inyaga Central attaining a mean score of 375.50. She hopes to join Loreto Limuru and become a neurosurgeon.
The school manager, Mrs Jennifer Mugo said that Gakii has given the school a good name saying that though it is rated as a small private school, she was among the top 100 best pupils countrywide. “Gakii has shown other girls that they are capable of being on Teachers from Kerugoya Good Shepherd Academy carry Sharon Gakii (middle) shoulder high the top despite the school they are in celebration. She was among the top candidates in the country. Picture: Jane Mugambi in,” noted Mugo. compete with boys. Gakii’s father, Pastor Benple for the other three boys,” reiterated MuShe revealed that Gakii was son Mukindia said that she is the role model in kindia. a very organised girl, widely read, keen and the family and he hoped that the brothers will Kerugoya Good Shepherd was the best sought advice where she did not understand. take after her. school in the district followed by Effort Primary The school director, Mr John Mugo said “Being the first born, she has set an examSchool with a mean score of 371. that girls have shown that they are ready to
Parents shocked Best student wants KCPE retained Ministry bans forced repeating of class at higher textbooks prices By JANE MUGAMBI
By HENRY OWINO Most parents have been forced to dig deeper into in their pockets to purchase textbooks for their children. Parents were shocked with the new prices as it was unanticipated. According to a publisher Mr. Lawrence Njagi, the cost of paper, transport and equipment has gone up prompting them to raise textbooks prices. The 12 percent increment has affected several parents who did not plan in advance as many overspent during the Christmas holidays. “We did not plan to increase the textbook prices but when the cost of fuel goes up, it affects everything else in the economy,” said Njagi. Most parents who were in a last minute rush to buy this textbooks were shocked to find the prices had gone up beyond their expectations. A parent, Mrs Alice Okumu admitted to not having budgeted for the textbooks as she got the list of required textbooks from her daughter two days prior to the official opening day.
The total cost for the textbooks required by her Standard Six daughter was KSh6000 and again there were two other children in Standard Four and Three who also needed new academic materials. “Imagine I am complaining about one child, the other two children have textbooks used by their elder sister. What about parents who have more children for who they are expected to buy books? posed Okumu. To make things easier for parents, Okumu suggested that the Government should parents at least one week break after Christmas and New Year celebrations to plan and travel back to their respective schools and work stations. “This time round the reopening of schools and New Year celebrations came too close that there was no time to plan for school shopping,” lamented Okumu.
The government has been urged not to scrap Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE). According to the best pupil in Embu District, Master Edwin Mwai, scraping of KCPE will make pupils relax. He said exams bring competition amongst pupils and allows them to gauge themselves. “KCPE brings competition and if scraped, Kenya will have the worst performers,” reiterated Mwai. He added: “When one has a mind of performing, he/she is able to achieve and rate their performance.” He reiterated that doing away with KCPE would make pupils lazy since they will argue that even if one scores low marks, they will have a place in secondary school.
Mwai also cautioned educationists against making hasty decisions due to pressure. “They should focus on young and talented children whose education will be wasted by politicians,” he advised. “Were it not that I had a competitive mind and determined to work hard, I could have slept knowing that come this year I will have a place in Form One despite having low, un-
satisfying marks,” Mwai argued. He argued: “I could have slept, become very lazy if I knew that getting to Form One was easy but KCPE brings about capacity building in many pupils.” Mwai who was a pupil at Embu Shepherd scored 422 marks, making him the best in the district. He was number nine in Eastern province and 95 nationally. However, among boys he stood at position 58. Mwai was surprised when his father told him his name was among the best 100. “I had sat with a paper and pen writing down all the best pupils and I got tired. When I went to sleep on the couch my dad came calling me saying my name is in the list of top 100 but I told him it could be another pupil only for me to begin receiving phone calls,” he explains. The news got him by surprise. Despite being the top pupil in the school, he did not imagine being the best in the district. Mwai wants to be an accountant. His brother, Mwema Evans an IT student at Strathmore University, was the best in 2002 KCPE in the same school scoring 434. His sister Mercy Mwema a law student at Nairobi University scored 442 in 2005 becoming the best. The second best pupil was Jared Mwendwa with 413 marks.
By HENRY KARIUKI
Heads of schools and or teacher have no rights to force a pupil to repeat the class. This was the message from the Education Ministry at the Kenya Institute of Education during the release of 2011 form one selection list. Led by Education Minister Prof Sam Ongeri, the panel insisted that it is the teachers’ job to facilitate success. Ongeri said under the new Constitution it is a basic human right for children to get free and compulsory primary education. Speaking at the same event, Education Permanent Secretary Prof James ole Kiyapi said some teachers have still not realised the purpose of exams. “The main purpose of exams is to access the pupil, so that you (teachers) can be able to know how to prepare the curriculum,” explained Kiyapi. He said: “Some teachers still use the curriculum they used five years ago yet you need to form a basis of reviewing the teaching method.” Kiyapi reiterated that the ministry will not tolerate executing children from school and instead asked teachers to help pupils to do their best. He urged the teaching fraternity to welcome parents and guardians so that they can explain to them academic issues facing their children.
Minister warns heads over arbitrary fee hike By HENRY OWINO The Ministry of Education is warning school heads against unnecessary increment of fees as it frustrates Government’s effort to provide affordable education for all. According to the Minister for Education Professor Sam Ongeri, the Government introduced free tuition in public secondary schools in 2008 when the country was reeling from economic effects of the post election violence. Ongeri said this was also followed with a declaration made over a decade ago by world governments in Dakar Senegal that by 2015, education would be free to all nationalities. He made the remarks after he released last year’s KCPE results at Kenya National Examination Council headquarters, Mtihani House, Nairobi. He regretted that despite efforts by the ministry, schools have continued to increase fees in a bid to cushion inflation effects. He said even though schools need to provide food and other essentials to learners, they should
not pass the burden to the already overburdened parents by raising fees. “Like all other economic entities, school managers should be sensitive to the economic fluctuations that make life unbearable for Kenyans and avoid actions that counter the government’s initiative for the vulnerable groups in the society,” reiterated Ongeri.
He said school authorities need to appreciate the Government’s efforts of ensuring that deserving children are not pushed out of schools by high cost of education. He added: “Learners should be supported to access quality education especially during hard economic times.” In a recent circular, Education Permanent Secretary directed all public schools to adhere to the fees guidelines and to avoid other unnecessary charges which burden parents and humiliate the Government’s vision of affordable secondary education for all Kenyans. Ongeri warned that attempts to increase fees is like slapping the Government on the face in
its efforts to achieve access and retention of secondary education to many pupils after primary school level. “Already the ministry is reviewing its current expenditure to accommodate teachers pay hike, thus pushing the education bill even higher up. This is a good reason for school managers to appreciate the burden faced by the Kenyan tax payer,” observed the minister. He said all those delegated with authority to govern schools must be seen to be reading from the same scripts. “It would not be prudent for school heads to manipulate boards of governors to endorse unwarranted increment in school fees,” Ongeri reiterated. The minister appreciated that Kenya has made gains in education over the last seven years in a bid to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the education for all by 2015. He reminded the parents and teachers that the Government has also provided access to basic education, hence the need for all stakeholders, especially school managers to ensure that these gains are sustained.
ISSUE 033, February 1-15, 2011
Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth
Poverty cuts short slum children’s dreams By GRACE KILONZI For many in the slums, life has been truly unfair but among them are many who harbour dreams and hope that things will get better. Most hopes are rekindled when they are able to complete primary and secondary education and proceed to college or a form of training and acquiring knowledge that some have used to better their lives. The Reject began a journey in search of students from the slums who performed well in the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examinations 2010 and as fate would have it, the road led to the expansive Mathare slums in Nairobi. The first stop was a one-roomed house where the team was welcomed by a woman who seemed overjoyed by their presence. After a brief introduction, it emerged that a bright student apparently comes from this home.
A mother of three, Margaret Waringa knows too well the hardship a parent undergoes in the slums when raising children and helping them acquire education. Waringa who is jobless survives by doing menial jobs like washing neighbours’ clothes from which she earns what enables her to put food on the table. Her husband, meanwhile, has to contend with the little that he gets from working at construction sites. Life has really been difficult for this family. “Sometimes we have been forced to go without food,” she says. When lucky, the little that she gets goes to food, the rest, as she puts
it, sorts itself out. Despite all this poverty, Waringa had something to celebrate about in the New Year. Her last born son Emmanuel Wanyoike was the best in his school in the KCPE 2010. “I could not get over the shock for nearly two days. God has surely remembered me,” she said as she shared her joy with the Reject. Her son managed to emerge top at Daima Primary School in Huruma which is a public school. Emmanuel who scored 389 marks was among the first batch of the Free Primary Education programme candidates that was started by the Government in 2003.
Lack of fees
At first Waringa was overjoyed, ecstatic and happy that even though she is poor, God had blessed her with bright children. But soon her joy turned to despair. She is worried that her son may not make it to secondary school. She doesn’t have school fees to enable him join Dagoretti High School where he has been admitted. Emmanuel’s greatest hope that he will reach the school gates seems to be a mirage. Emmanuel’s story is not new to most of the children in the slum and is what replicates itself among many families. After going through primary school, most of them lack money to continue with secondary education and in most cases, their dreams end there. While most parents are grateful for the free primary education, some like Emmanuel’s mother hope the Government will hear their cry and help chil-
Emmanuel Wanyoike with his mother Margaret Waringa outside their home in Mathare slums. He needs a benefactor to pay his fees at Dagoretti High School where he has been admitted. Picture: Grace Kilonzi dren in the slums advance their studies till they are able to get jobs. Though she does not have much to offer her children, she says: “The best thing a parent can give his or her children is education.” Her eldest daughter, Diana Juma, managed to garner 406 marks in her KCPE and after her story was highlighted in the media, she got assistance from a prominent businessman who
paid her secondary fees in full. But since she left secondary school nearly three years ago with a B plain, Diana has not gone to college. Waringa’s second born, Oscar, also dropped out of school due to lack of fees. He was almost done with his secondary education but as fate had it, he was forced to drop out last year. Emmanuel who is the last born in the family says that he has been work-
Malindi celebrates hosting top girl in Coast By KIGONDU NDAVANO Given that the Coastal region has a bad track record of poor performance by girls in national examinations, it was, therefore, a surprise that a girl emerged top in Malindi. Fourteen year old Linet Dzidza notes that she put in a lot of hard work and was able to overcome the challenges that face girls. She says nobody should look down upon girls and they themselves should not accept to be considered as weak academically.
“I have confidence that girls are able to perform as well as boy and girls should never give up or feel intimidated by boys when it comes to academics. We are all the same and with hard work we can achieve the best results,” said Dzidza. Dzidza emerged the best candidate in last year’s Kenya Certificate of Primary School Education (KCPE) examinations in Malindi District with 417 points. The second born child in a family of four was at home with the mother and the sister when her name was read on National television attracting an emotional reaction “I expected good results, but I did not expect my name to be read on TV and I was so overjoyed that I just started crying,” explained Dzidza. She added: “The news took me by surprise and although I was sure I would do well in the examina-
place of work burst into shouts of joy. “Oh thanks to God, how great that our prayers, sacrifice and hard work have been answered,” he said. He quickly left his place of work and in less than five minutes was together with his family for thanksgiving prayers to kick off the celebrations. Even before settling down, Dzombo’s friends at work and neighbours soon started streaming into their humble homestead to share the joy.
Friends and neighbours describe Dzidza as “quite shy” but were happy that she had made her school, Malindi Little Angels Junior School community as well as parents and neighbours proud by taking such a prime position in the results. Linet Dzidza, the top candidate from Friends and neighbours showered her Malindi. Picture: Kigondu Ndavano with gifts as she responded to questions from the media with confidence. Although clearly shy, Dzidza who intions, it took me some time to digest the tends to be a neurosurgeon eventually atnews that I was one of the best.” tributed her good results to hard work, disHer mother Esther Lewa had spent cipline and respect to all including fellow some time between the bathroom, washpupils, teachers, parents and all elders. ing clothes and the seating room to catch “I want to be a doctor and specialise the news of the results on TV, though in neurosurgery because I would wish to having anxiously reacted with a shout of always assist people in health matters,” joy and appreciation to God for having she said. “rewarded our deserving and hard workHer love for medicine emanates from ing girl to achieve the best results in the the fact that through “my primary educaCoast region”. tion I missed lessons quite frequently for Dzidza’s father, Mr Macrenzon Malbeing ill, and hence I decided that it is only ingi Dzombo, officer in charge of parks through hard work that I would earn good and gardens at the Malindi Municipal results and start my path towards becomCouncil who had briefly followed the ing a doctor”. news of the results on a TV set at his
ing hard and if he gets funding, he will work even harder and hopefully attain his dream of becoming an architect. The young man assures whoever would respond to his cry for help that the spirit of hard work he has cultivated will never die. He hopes to help his country and more so his parents come out of poverty. He concludes: “I trust that God will make a way.”
Makueni tops Eastern Province By ERIC MUTAI Makueni District which produced the top candidate in last year’s KCPE tops Eastern with 276.38 showing an improvement of 11.96 and moved from position four to lead the province. The district described as semi arid, beat Makindu (also described as semi arid) was the 2009 winner to the second position with a mean aggregate of 275.86 after making a 1.06 drop. According to the examination results released by the Education Minister, Prof Sam Ongeri, Patrick Mumo Mutuku 13, of Kathonzweni AIC Primary School emerge the best performer and was placed at position five with 422 points. In 2009, the best student in the province had an aggregate of 432 points. Mutuku was the only student from the province in the top ten nationally although there were two in that category from the province in 2009. The provincial Director of Education was inaccessible as he was said to be busy with analysis of the provincial results but sources said that the province had performed dismally. However, stakeholders in the education sector think otherwise. “Schools in Ukambani have been dominating the province for a while and it seems like this trend will go on for some time unless other regions wake up,” said an education official. Makueni and Makindu were the only two districts in the province to appear among the top ten nationally where Kirinyaga Central led the pack. Makueni Boys’ School principal Mr Onesmus Mulinge lauded discipline as the key to success and called on other heads to entertain the idea of student councils where prefects would be elected by students to avert cases of indiscipline. Mulinge who is also the Eastern Province Heads Association chairman called for elevation of best performing schools in the province to national status saying that the new quota system does not favour the province. “There is no national school in the province and the new form one selection process will lead to many KCPE candidates in the province failing to get places in those schools,” said Mulinge.
ISSUE 033, February 1-15, 2011
Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth
Death of traditional weather forecasts Gone are the days communities could mitigate dry seasons
By Musembi Nzengu The country is currently experiencing drought that has left many lives, human and livestock lost. Crops have dried in the fields and hope has turned into despair. However, among many communities there were ways of telling when the rains would not come and people were prepared. However, these same communities abandoned their traditional ways of managing drought, with many terming them as backward and unchristian. One community, the Kamba, have suffered a lot from seasons when rains have failed. However, this same community had traditional ways in which they were able to foretell drought and come up with mitigating measures and as such the people never suffered hunger.
Until recently, when inhabitants of the larger Mwingi started embracing Christianity, the residents had a culturally enshrined way of fore-telling the season of bounty harvest or rainfall failure. Due to the firm belief that departed ancestors watched over the living and at times paid ghostly visits to a selected few among the living, the people believed the ancestors’ visitations were to pass messages of good harvest, rain failure or crop disaster. The ancestors, through spirits would visit and possess their hosts among the population in a cluster of villages sharing the same ecological zone and through the person, pass good or bad omen messages. Since Mwingi region annually experiences two rainfall seasons; the long rains of March-May and the short rains of October-December, weeks before the rains arrived, an evening Kuinga kilumi (to beat the drum) dance supplemented by high pitched drumming was held during which the ancestors descended on their living host who subsequently poured out the beans. During the dance, attended largely by elderly men and women, the person to host the departed ancestors’ spirits would go into a frenzy and unusual convulsions. Speaking to the Reject about the cultural practice which would enable people to either prepare for food scarcity due to rain failure or bumper harvest depending on the message delivered, 78-year-old Mutambu Nyamu says the practice referred to locally as kuinga kilumi was very helpful. “The message was delivered by the possessed person who rightly gave the true forecast of what would happen. The same message would be communicated to the rest of the community to prepare them for the impending situation,” explains Nyamu. He says because of the accuracy in forecasting the future in regard to rainfall and harvest, kuinga kilumi cultural dance was religiously held whenever the rainy season approached. All the predictions were made by the possessed person and taken seriously by the community. “You might not believe it, but if the possessed person predicted plenty of rains and bounty harvest, the same turned out to be true. However, if he or she said that there would be rain failure and an accompanying famine, the same came to pass,” says Nyamu. It was only until Christianity crept in and took over the society that the culture faded away. It was a cultural practice that aptly enabled the people to brace themselves either for good tidings or devastating famine and they were never caught unawares.
From left: The Muumbu tree where the Kuinga kilumi (to beat the drum) dance took place, during which time the ancestors descended on their living host to predict how the season would be; Women preparing to beat the drums for the Kuinga kilumi dance; Kasungi Mbambu with her daughter Mawia. Mbambu would often be visited by the ancestors to convey the message regarding the season to the community. Pictures: Musembi Nzengu Nyamu, who is from Thunguthu Village in Kyuso District says the spirits of the ancestors Nzangaiti and Itute would visit and possess people around Gai, Tii and Kairu villages in Kamuwongo Division to warn them about what to expect.
Kasungi Mbambu, 58, from Kivusyani village in Kamuwongo Division of Kyuso was constantly used by the ancestors to pass their important messages until she became a Christian. Speaking at her home, Kasungi says soon after she was married, the ghosts would take possession of her in the night. It was not until the kuinga kilumi dance was held allowing them to speak out did they set her free. “Whenever I was possessed, I would become restless and would spend sleepless nights until my late husband, Manzi, informed the elders who subsequently organised for the kuinga kilumi dance during which I would pass the ancestors’ message,” explains Kasungi. She would be possessed by the ghosts, usually those of a departed ancestor called Nzangaiti. She was not aware of what she told the people but would be informed about the details of the message later by those present. She says all the prediction made by the ancestors through her came to be true in the long run. “If during the time I was possessed I predicted plenty of rain and bumper yields, the people optimistically moved to prepare their shambas,” she points out. Kasungi says if she predicted rain failure, then members of community would prepare themselves for hard times and most of them would soon thereafter start migrating to other areas in search of food until the next prediction.
The initial kuinga kilumi dance during which the predictions were made, was followed by a night long Kutonya Mbui ritual at shrines where a black goat was sacrificed. — Yohanna Mwendwa Mutemi
Yohanna Mwendwa Mutemi, 61, of Malili Village in the newly created Itivanzou Location says although he is now a born again Christian, previously he would indulge in issues of kuinga kilumi, but not anymore. He says the initial kuinga kilumi dance during which the predictions were made, was followed by a night long Kutonya Mbui ritual at shrines under a huge tree on river beds, at the foot of hills or a huge rocky hill during which a black goat was sacrificed. The most common shrines where the night long ritual was held were at Ngeani Hills, Kyamwiu River, Tii Rock and Itundua Hills. Mutemi says depending on whether the prediction was favourable to the community or not, a goat was killed to either thank the ancestors or appease them should they be offended. “The sacrifice was a must whichever way the prediction went,” stresses Mutemi. The kutonya mbui ritual involved a beastly killing of a goat by piercing its neck artery with a sharp knife spilling blood at the shrine with the animal dying a slow but painful death. The striking of the neck artery with a knife was significant in that it would confirm whether the prediction by the possessed person was true or not. “If the possessed person had predicted rain failure, then the knife would only have one of its side stained with blood but the confirmation of abundant rains would be done by having the knife completely covered by the blood,” explains Mutemi. Mutemi, who during the interview insisted time and again that he no longer subscribed to such devilish beliefs, says the elders who performed the ritual were not allowed to take any meat home but ate all the meat at the shrine leaving behind bones. “Nothing of the slaughtered goat was taken away, except the goat’s head that was handed over to the person who had during the kuinga kilumi dance been picked as the goat donor for the next kutonya mbui ritual,” points Mutemi. Even though Christianity prevailed upon many people to stop the practise, there are many who still believe in the culture that is surprisingly
recognised by the provincial administration. When in 2008, Titu Makau Manzi, 45, of Kamuwongo Location, Kyuso District, at the time a practicing traditional healer went to Mwania seasonal river, spread his paraphernalia on the dry river bed and burned them, he immediately ran into trouble with traditionalists. Although Manzi had decided to destroy his tools of trade after being converted to Christianity, the aggrieved group reported to the local chief that he had defiled the land causing rain failure by burning the witchcraft paraphernalia on a sacred place — a river bed. Manzi received a letter from the Kamuwongo chief ’s office informing him that his action had offended the community. The chief consequently gave him an ultimatum to clear the charred charms from the river bed. “I went to the river and collected the burnt up charms as instructed in the chief ’s letter but some villagers later insisted that I had to slaughter a goat and pour blood over the spot to cleanse the place. I obliged to get out of trouble,” says Manzi. Speaking to the Reject on telephone, chief Kilonzo said there was absolutely nothing wrong with the instructions his office had given as he says: “It was for the general good of the local populace and would ensure the upholding of peace among the residents.” A pastor based in Mwingi, Mr Joseph Kilonzo Ilai says that such a ritual would only work for people who believed in devilish things which would happen as predicted due to Satanic powers.
ISSUE 033, February 1-15, 2011
Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth
Naivasha at risk of pasture conflict as drought bites By George Murage The first indication that Naivasha has been hit by drought is the level of Lake Naivasha and the presence of pastoralists from neighbouring counties. Already, water levels in the troubled lake have started to drop at alarming rates with warning to fishermen and flower farmers to brace themselves for harder times. Hundreds of pastoralists from neighbouring Kajiado and Narok counties are already within Naivasha with their livestock in the search for pastures and water. For Naivasha residents, this clearly means drought and its effects have already started to be felt in and around the lakeside town.
Already, the district disaster preparedness committee chaired by area DC, Ms Hellen Kiilu has written to the Minister for Special Programmes requesting for relief food. Close to 7,000 people in Naivasha are facing starvation as the current drought continues to bite deeper. According to the committee, a further 240,000 livestock face starvation due to the adverse weather in the district. This has been made worse by poor harvests in the last season. The DC says that the situation on the ground is worrying adding that though no deaths have been reported there are fears that some people could lose their lives. “We have identified 6,838 vulnerable people including orphans, the aged and HIV positive patients who are affected by the current drought and need urgent food relief,” says the DC. This number does not include the hundreds of IDPs in Mai Mahiu as they have their permanent monthly food ration. She has called on the state to assist in supplementary feeding of the affected livestock through the relevant departments. The most affected areas are Namcha in Mai Mahiu, Kongoni and parts of Central division. “We have written to the Ministry of Special Programmes and to the area MP on the issue and we expect feedback soon,” said Kiilu. She noted that no deaths of livestock had been reported in the district though it was only
Boat operators on the shores of Lake Naivasha where water levels have receded due to the ongoing drought. Picture: George Murage a matter of time. Kiilu also expressed fears that pastoralists who are arriving in their hundreds from Kajiado and Narok in search of pasture and water could cause conflict.
She noted that some herders have already driven their livestock into private ranches and warned they will be arrested if they continued to trespass on private property. Local residents say the act of driving the animals into private farms could raise tension and animosity. Already the arrival by tens of pastoralists from neighbouring counties in search of pastures has raised tension in Mai Mahiu and Ndabibi area. “We shall not sit back and watch livestock
being driven into our farms. We ask the government to watch the situation careful,” said Mr Joel Mungai, a farmer in the area. Meanwhile, water levels at Lake Naivasha are dropping at an alarming rate. Two of the three rivers that supply water to the lake have dried up while farming upstream in the third river has adversely affected water flow.
Rivers Karate and Gilgil are no longer flowing while the main source of water for the lake, River Malewa, is also on the brink of drying up. According to Mr David Kilo, a tour operator, the lake’s shore had receded by over 20 metres since the year began. “Water levels rose sharply last year during the short rains but due to the ongoing drought,
the levels are dropping at an alarming rate,” explained Kilo. Kilo who has practiced tour guide around the lake for over 20 years has expressed fears that the situation could get worse. Coupled with water hyacinth that had adversely affected operations in the lake, things were not very good. At the Hellsgate National Park, all indications are that some animals, mainly the browsers might die if the current climatic conditions continue. The Park’s game warden, Ms Nelly Palmeris said no wildlife has died though the impact of the drought is being felt. “Many of the wildlife are moving to surrounding farms through parts of the Park that are not fenced and we are experiencing human-wildlife conflict,” said Palmeris.
Drought sends herders to Uganda Continued from page 1 been granted grazing rights to access grass in Nakonor area. Some years back, the Ugandan officers rounded up cattle from the owners and drove them to the barracks where some were slaughtered by the soldiers. A UPDF officer who spoke on anonimity press acknowledged the claims by the herders that the soldiers harass and torture the Kenyans whenever they stray into the country in search of pasture and water. “It is true there have been such incidents but our officers have been given express directives to ensure peace and help protect the Kenyans in a bid to boost and nurture the spirit of the East African Cooperation,” said the officer. For decades the two communities have been in conflict over the scarce livestock resources along their common boundary. Using their ill-gotten weapons, the communities have raided each other leaving a trail of bloodshed and destruction. And in the neighbouring Pokot County, the local Catholic Church Justice and Peace Commission (CJPC) officials in Kapenguria say that 10,000 herders have crossed with over 30,000 herds of cattle to Uganda. The officials, Samuel Lemale and Hezron Krop say that the pastoralists have migrated to
Moroto, Nakapirpirit and Bukwo district for pasture and water. “Hundreds of herders have crossed to Uganda to save their livestock from dying from starvation and we are happy that the Ugandan herders have agreed to share grazing fields,” Lemale said on arrival from Kerita Nakapirpirit District. The most hit areas in the Pokot North district are Alale, Kesei, Kiwawa, Kodich, Lokores, Orulwa, Serewa and Kacheliba. Pokot North District Commissioner Mr George Onyanga confirmed that several Pokots have driven their animals to Uganda Hunger stricken victims of Loima Village, Turkana County line up for relief food rations from the in pursuit of pasture and water. Government. Picture: John Oroni The DC said he was in touch with Ugandan authorities to ensure conflicts between the Kenyans and Kenyans. we have accepted to host them but we have their hosts are evaded. “As a community we support the relationwarned them against crime,” said Mr Godfrey “The number of the people who have left ship among the Kenyan and Ugandan pastoAluma, Resident District Commissioner for the country to graze in Uganda is big and I ralists. The sharing of grazing field would proNakapiripirit in a telephone interview. am in contact with my counterparts in Nakamote co-existence,” said Lonyangapuo. Pokot leaders led by the Ministry of Works pirpirit and Moroto districts to ensure their The drought has hit the country hard leadPermanent Secretary Prof John Lonyangapuo safety,” Onyango said. ing to loss of human and animal lives as water lauded the Sabiny and Karamoja communities “In the spirit of the East Africa Cooperation and food becomes scarce with each day. for agreeing to share the scarce resources with
ISSUE 033, February 1-15, 2011
Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth
Mangoes form diet to fight hunger By BENSON MWANGA
There are different beliefs among cultures with an explanation for everything. Among the Taita Taveta, there is a strong cultural old-age belief that when mangoes are in plenty there is famine. While this has not been scientifically proven, already scores of famine-stricken residents have started eating mangoes as a measure to fight hunger pangs. Others are engaging in other activities like fishing, small scale mining, sand harvesting, ballast and brick making, charcoal burning and selling of miraa as well as poaching to make ends meet. It is estimated that about 100,000 people in the region are in dire need of relief supplies as the drought continues to bite. Provincial administration and drought management officials say arid and semi-arid lands in Wundanyi, Mwatate, Voi and Taveta have been the worst hit and are in dire need of food and water. They said erratic rainfall and persistent human-wildlife conflict have impacted negatively on food security in the region.
A drought report prepared by the local Arid Lands Resource Management Project II says even if the rains continue it is evident that almost 60 percent of maize crop in the lowlands will not survive. At the same time the report says children below the five years are rated as being at risk of malnutrition. Four District Commissioners Raphael Lemaletian (Voi), Shufaa Mwijuma (Mwatate), Nkaduda Hiribae (Taveta) and the Taita Acting DC Paul Rotich said the residents are in a des-
perate situation and need food urgently. The administrators said they have already presented a drought and famine situation report to higher authorities for quick intervention to avert a catastrophe in the region. “Residents complain they may die of hunger any time unless help is forthcoming. They will not harvest anything this Antelopes lying dead as a result of drought at Tsavo West National Park. Picture: Benson Mwanga season as all the crops have been wiped out by gala juu if rains persist. However, Mustafa said the rains resulted in the scorching sun,” said Mwijuma. Rotich said the Taita district disaster man- replenishing of water sources and regeneration Speaking to Reject, the administrators said agement committee was yet to meet to evalu- of pastures in some parts of the region. the famine situation is bad and starving resi- ate the famine situation. However, he noted “The condition of natural vegetation and dents should be supplied with relief food im- the famine situation was very bad in Kishushe pasture has significantly improved in both mediately. and Paranga which received little rains this ranches and at the Tsavo National Park. HowevA total of 42,250 people in Mwatate are fac- season. At least 21,000 people need food in the er in some parts of Mwatate District, the pasture ing starvation. “We only received 500 bags of district. condition has not improved due to inadequate maize, 300 bags of beans and 250 cartons of vegrains,” he said. As an intervention measure to etable oil which is not enough to cater for the address food security in the region, Mustafa rising number of people in need of relief food,” “There is no hope for a bumper harvest this said farmers should be sensitised on rainwater said Mwijuma. The worst hit areas as Maktau season as the affected areas are experiencing harvesting to enable them gather adequate waand Mwachabo locations. severe drought,” explained Rotich. The DC said ter to sustain the crop. In Voi where about 30,000 people are starv- they were still waiting for a report from Taveta Recently Regional Development assistant ing, Lemaletian said the Government is cur- District Steering Committee on the famine situ- minister Katoo Ole Metito and Coast Develrently distributing 500 bags of maize, 200 bags ation. opment Authority (CDA) Managing Director of beans and 100 cartoons of vegetable oil. According to the Drought Management Of- James Kahindi said more than KSh73 million “We are still distributing the little govern- ficer, Mr Parkolwa Mustafa a total of 703 mm is required to gravitate water from Lake Challa ment relief food to the starving residents in rainfall was received in December compared to to the lowlands of the district to improve food Kasigau, Marungu and lower parts of Sagala lo- 682 mm recorded in the previous month. security. cations. But we need more food as the number He said the rains were poorly distributed and The region has enormous water sources of starving people is still rising,” said Lemale- high rainfall amounts were recorded in the hilly like the Mzima Springs and Lake Jipe but the tian. masses of Wundanyi, Wongonyi and Sagala. resources have not been harnessed for irrigaThe DC said the only place residents were “Generally in the lowlands the rains were inad- tion purposes that could benefit the commuexpecting some good harvest is Buguta and Sa- equate for survival of maize crops,” he said. nity.
Drought-striken Nyanza Disaster looms as residents call for thousands face starvation By BENDARO TSUMA
More than 400,000 Kenyans in the North Coast face starvation as the drought has hit the area hard. At the same time, tension is building between pastoralists and farmers in Tana Delta and Lamu districts following the arrival of more than 500,000 heads of cattle from Ijara and Northern Kenya districts jeopardising security. In Malindi and Magarini districts, a food security assessment carried out last week reveals that 103,000 people could starve to death if urgent measures are not taken to avert the catastrophe. The area Drought Management Officer (DMO) Mr Roman Shera said the assessment showed many people are at high risk starvation with the dry spell also threatening hundreds of thousands of cattle and other domestic animals. “The situation is quite grim,” Shera told the Reject. The Magarini District Commissioner Mr Richard Karani confirmed that the situation was “very bad” in the area with Marafa, Fundisa, Bungale, Dagamra, Garashi and Adu being hardest hit. Even a government programme to supply the affected residents with relief food does not seem to suffice.
“We have a government programme of distributing relief food which is bringing some hope to residents but it’s not enough as the number of needy people keeps increasing,” explained Karani. Tana Delta District Officer (1) Mr Anthony Macharia said about 23 per cent of the population of 100,000 people in the district could starve if the drought persisted.
“The situation has also heightened tension between pastoralist and farming communities and clashes can not be ruled out,” said Macharia. Lamu East District Commissioner Mr Stephen Ikua said 70,000 residents of the district faced hunger adding that more than 200,000 heads of cattle had invaded the area from Ijara and Tana River districts. “We have set up a drought monitoring unit in my office to assess the situation and carry out mitigation,” reiterated Ikua. He said the influx of cattle in the area had caused security concerns but added that security agents were on alert. Reports said a pastoralist attacked a farmer when the two differed over watering pans leading to his hospitalisation at the Malindi District Hospital. The administrators warned that something drastic has to be done if a disaster is to be avoided.
By ODHIAMBO ODHIAMBO The Government has been asked to consider giving budgetary allocation to drought-stricken areas of Nyanza. Nyatike MP Edick Anyanga said too much attention was being focused on North Eastern and Eastern provinces yet there were some areas in the Lake region that realised very little food production this season. He asked the State to spread the food distribution programme to all regions where the residents were threatened with death following starvation. “Funds should also allocated for the provision of piped water in the semi–arid areas like Nyatike where people usually die of water –borne diseases such as cholera. Areas close to the lake suffer acute shortages of clean piped water and poor sanitation,” the MP said. “A piped water and irrigation programme should be laid out in all the arid and semi-arid areas to boost food production,” Mr Anyanga added. The politician noted that villages sur-
rounding Lake Victoria in Nyanza did not have access to clean, piped and safe water after previous Governments ignored their plight for political reasons. Mr Anyanga said the Government should be fair to all provinces when addressing the problem of Kenyans faced with hunger and famine. Measures to tackle the looming famine have already been outlined by the Government, especially in the pastoral areas. People and livestock have died as drought continues to ravage North Eastern, parts of Eastern, Coast and North Rift. A cabinet meeting said food shortages would receive all the attention needed to prevent further deaths. “The Government assured all Kenyans top priority would be taken to minimise the impact of the La Nina that was being felt in some parts of the country,” said the Cabinet in a brief to the media. A cabinet sub-committee has already been formed to work out details of additional requirements, especially for the poor, the statement added.
ISSUE 033, February 1-15, 2011
Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth
Spirit of never giving up sees young man’s dreams come true By PAUL MWANIKI For the last six years Samuel Maina Theuri has been struggling to get secondary school education. The first born in a family of three is however optimistic that he will sit for the Kenya Certificate of Secondary education (KCSE). Maina, 20, has joined Form Three this year with the assistance of a well wisher in Nanyuki town. His ordeal started soon after his father, who was the family’s sole breadwinner died in 2005. Then Maina was in Form One. “I had just joined Form One at Mt Olive Secondary School here in Nanyuki despite having been admitted at Ndururumo High, a provincial school after scoring 393 marks in my KCPE but my father could not raise the required fees,” explains Maina. Immediately after the death of his father, three well wishers offered to educate him but, they said he had to move him to another school. “I was taken to Brickwoods Academy in Nanyuki where after the school was told of my case they agreed to sponsor me for half a year while my father’s friends would pay the rest,” he explains.
Despite what was going on in his life, Maina still nursed the ambition of pursuing secondary school education. He would save part of his income as he sought to accumulate enough school fees. “I had never lost hope and when I started working, my plan was to save the whole amount for school fees but other family needs had to be catered for,” he says. Maina worked for three years and no one thought he would ever go back to school. However, for him it was a dream that had to be realised. Armed with KSh5, 000 and school uniform, a courageous Maina walked into Temple Mount Secondary School where he enrolled to continue with his education. Luckily Maina had been an all time best performer and due to his amazing grades in all subjects the principal at the new school could not stop him from going on with his education in Form Two. “I was enrolled in Form Two in June last year and all was well the whole of term two and three but I foresaw a problem as we approached December knowing that I had no fees for Form Three come January,” he says. At this time another problem befell the family, the second born who had been schooling
Boy child remains an endangered species By KARIUKI MWANGI
Little did the innocent boy know that this marked the end of their goodwill as immediately after the school took him with the half year sponsorship, he never saw or heard from the well-wishers again. That was 2006 and by June, Maina was sent home for lack of fees. He had no idea of where to begin looking for money to complete his education. At the time, his two younger brothers were living with the grandmother at Likii Village and were doing manual jobs to fend for themselves. “My going home stressed me a lot since I saw myself as the hope of my family after getting good education. My grandmother could not afford to raise fees,” he says. Maina says he did not want to bother people and preferred to be independent. “Since my father’s friends abandoned us even after saying they would support us during his burial, I believed that nobody else would come to our aid, Maina observes. He adds: “Being the first born I had the responsibility of taking care of my siblings who were with my grandmother.” With the future of his education bleak, Maina swallowed his pride and started doing manual jobs ranging from painting, construction works, digging and cart pushing. He used the money for food, clothing and other needs for his siblings who were still in primary school.
Samuel Maina Theuri back in school, joins other students in class at Laikipia Airbase Secondary School. He dropped out of school due to lack of fees but is now determined to become a lawyer. Picture: Paul Mwaniki at Thingithu Secondary School dropped out of school due to school fees problem. At this juncture, life became unbearable for the orphans. Maina’s resolve to his younger brothers was by assuring them a good life. “I could not afford to pay fees for myself and my younger brother so I had to do something,” says young man. He solicited for some cash from local leaders and through their assistance took his brother to train as a welder in local workshop where he is until now. Maina thought of approaching authorities for bursaries. The first stop was the Laikipia East Constituency office where he met the area MP’s Personal Assistant Ms Patricia Muthoni. On presenting his case and a copy of term three report form from Temple Mount Secondary School, Muthoni was amazed and even wondered why such a bright boy has been languishing in the village without the leaders there noticing him. “I was shocked by the straight ‘A’s in the report form and could not come to terms with the ordeals Maina had to go through paying school fees for himself,” notes Muthoni. “I was touched and instead of thinking of how I would assist the boy through the various avenues to get bursary, I took the case upon myself and the boy was like a brother and decided to cater for the rest of his education,” says Muthoni.
Currently Maina is enrolled at the Laikipia Airbase Base Secondary School where the Principal Mr Paul Mwangi has already given him an admission form to join Form Three. “After much struggle and shortcoming I still believe I will make a good lawyer as this is my dream career,” says Maina. “I also want to help my siblings and grandmother who has always struggled for us ever since my mother died in 1997 and father in 2005.” Through the month of December, Maina has been helping the new found sponsor, friend and only sister with home chores as she has become
the hope of the whole family. “I think I failed by not looking for help earlier enough but I am not ashamed of myself. I did what I thought was best for me and my family,” he explains. Asked if he is worried about going to school with students younger than him, Maina says the best thing is to stay focused with your life and on what you want out of it. “Even Maruge schooled with his grandchildren and never felt ashamed. For me it is just an age difference of about seven years which is not a worry,” he reiterates. “I escorted those I sat for KCPE with when they were joining universities in September,” says Maina, perhaps hinting that is where he is headed in the coming years.
The neglect and abandonment of the boy child is said to have been on the increase in Embu County last year. According to Sister Mary Kinyua, administrator of Child Welfare Society, an initiative of the Catholic Church that takes care of abandoned and neglected children, the rate at which boys are abandoned in the district is alarming. “Most of the children that the society absorbs are either abandoned in the hospital or in the town streets. There are also parents who even leave their children at the home’s gate,” observed Kinyua. She attributed the increase in the rate of boy child neglect to the responsibility pegged on bringing him up until he comes of age. “Majority of people who come to the home with the aim of adopting neglected children prefer to adopt girls and that leaves the home with the task of taking care of the boys,” explained Kinyua. The home takes care of the abandoned and neglected children only for a short time as it waits for people to adopt them since the institution does not have enough resources to take care of them until they become adults. The institution only has resources for taking care of the children on a temporary basis. They are later forced to give them up to other institutions that are capable of taking care of them when unable to get adoptive parents. However, Kinyua, cautioned parents against child abuse. She urged young girls to avoid going for abortion but instead give up the child for adoption. “Most people do not like the option of adopting boys, due to the responsibilities that come with bringing them up,” she reiterated. The nun attributes the high number of street boys in Embu town to the neglect and abandonment noting that something needs to be done to avert the situation before it gets out of hand. She called upon the Government to review the child adoption law adding that the current process is expensive and tedious thus discouraging many people from taking the initiative of adopting children. “The child adoption law should be drafted afresh in a way that is friendly and affordable to many people who would wish to get children from the various children homes,” Kinyua reiterated.
Government has enough officers in the field By BONIFACE MULU There are enough extension officers to serve in the newly created administrative districts and locations. This was said by the Kitui District Commissioner, Mr Joshua K. Chepchieng when he responded to the residents of the newly created Wii Location that the government posts extension officers to their area. Chepchieng said: “The Government has many extension officers who serve the public in the administrative locations and they include educationists, medics, veterinarians and agriculturalists who are posted to the original locations and not the newly created locations.” The DC addressing a public rally at the Mwania Primary School when he officially inaugurated the chief for the newly created Wii Location. The location with about 7,500 people has
been hived from Mulango location. The residents of the new location through the locational development committee had requested the DC to post to their location a veterinarian and an agricultural officer. Chepchieng said the government could not deploy extension officers in each location. He also reiterated that there are various ways in which people could provide employment for themselves. “The only lack of employment in Kenya is in white-collar jobs. People with training in areas such as plumbing, carpentry, masonry, tailoring, welding and wiring can employ themselves through their skills,” he said. Chepchieng asked chiefs and their assistants to serve the public effectively and with respect. He said today’s chief is not like the colonial chief. “The colonial chiefs were very dictatorial,” he said.
ISSUE 033, February 1-15, 2011
Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth
Mama Nyaseme: The fish monger
Trader changes attitudes and diets in the upper Rift By Chrispinus Omar “Welcome mabeste (good friends),” are the signatures words that this food joint owner uses to welcome anyone visiting her establishment. Mrs Syprose Atieno or Mama Nyaseme as she is popularly known ushers us into one side of her business premises in Eldoret town. During the interview, we have to cope with the unending flow of customers all of whom she refers to as mabeste. Her workers also keep on reaching out to her for guidance, whenever there is need. At one point, one of the employees excuses herself and requests for KSh100 to go to hospital. Nyaseme gives her KSh200 and warns her against diverting any cent into beer.
“I view my customers and employees as my colleagues. I treasure the business name, which is now widely known in this town and beyond,” says Atieno, with a smile as we settle down for the interview. Some clients call her Mama Nyaseme while other refers to her as Mama Awino. But, for many, she is just ‘beste’ (good friend). For Atieno 41, her story is a typical case of rising from grass to grace. With a paltry KSh500 in 1998, she has overcome all odds to become a successful entrepreneur. She reveals her business is now worth much more compared to what she started with and proudly admits the future is bright. Atieno recalls how a legio maria faithful came to her rural home in Kisumu uninvited with news that ended up transforming her life for the better. “My husband was seriously sick and had remained bedridden for two years and I only relied on brewing and selling traditional beer to fend for the family,” she explains, sometimes being forced to cut short her account to compose herself.
Mrs Syprose Atieno (Nyaseme) removes scales from fish before frying them at her business premises. Hers is a typical case of from grass to grace, having expanded her business from a capital base of KSh500. Picture: Chrispinus Omar
The man of God asked her to stop selling the illicit brews and start a fish business. He also surprised Atieno when he asked to be allowed to pray for her husband. “I could not figure out how he knew about the sickness. This prompted me to heed his word. By one o’clock after he had poured all the beer in my house and left, customers started streaming in as usual. I was tongue tied,” Atieno recalls. Eventually, the customers left with some complaining while others told her she stood to regret the decision given that she solely relied on the illegal business to take care of her family.
“Luckily, one of my customers who was a fish trader in Eldoret accepted to introduce me to the business. I sold my chicken and raised the KSh500 working capital, which I gave him to purchase fish for sale in Eldoret on Wednesday and Saturdays,” Atieno explains. Later on, the trader let her access fish markets and come February 1999, she relocated from her rural home to Eldoret town and started selling fish throughout the week, instead of the selected official days. “It was not that easy adjusting. Challenges were there and top on the list the host community’s association of fish with snakes. At one point, some council askaris would destroy my fish saying they were not fit for human consumption,” Atieno recalls. Fish is not a common delicacy amongst the Kalenjin community who constitute majority of residents in Eldoret. As pressure mounted, Atieno was forced to relocate the business to the current position which is now a full blown fish market. “Out of 12 fish traders we were with in the previous market, I am the only one who is alive. Most of
them unfortunately died of HIV/Aids related illnesses,” she says, warning that money brings comfort but can be a source of evil if one is not careful with their spending habits.
Atieno recruited other women and shared business ideas with them to enable them cope with emerging challenges in the market. “I used to walk from door to door. My core duty was marketing where I had to inform people of my new business site and the nutritious value of fish,” says Atieno. She adds: “Eventually I increased my customer base and managed to change attitudes of many Kalen-
“I used to walk from door to door. My core duty was marketing where I had to inform people of my new business site and the nutritious value of fish.” — Mama Nyaseme
jins who came to like fish.” Atieno brings her fish daily from Masese beach in Jinja, Uganda and not only feeds the Eldoret population but also Nairobi residents. “I can transport up to 600 kilogrammes of fish or more depending on the demand and supply forces in the city and Gikomba markets in Nairobi. Sometimes, the supply from the lake cannot meet the demands,” she reiterates. Mama Nyaseme mainly deals with Tilapia and Nile perch and occasionally sells mudfish and catfish. Prices vary depending on size and the purchasing price. “Sometimes, I am heavily taxed right from the lake, at the border point and by some traffic police officers while on transit and all these charges must unfortunately be factored in the final consumer prices,” she says. Atieno shifted from sourcing for fish from Kisumu to the neighbouring country because it was expensive getting the produce locally. Having been in the industry for long, apart from being able to identify fresh fish, she can easily differentiate between a male and a female fish. “Fish is a highly perishable commodity and a trader who aspires to retain her customers must ensure they take home fresh fish,” she says adding that her ten workers have also come to understand well the characteristics of fresh fish.
“Get the right fish and not fish that has been frozen for long to an extent that they are no longer delicious is key in the business,” Mama Nyaseme reiterates. She advices: “Don’t feed your customers with reject fish because when they realise that what they eat is not worth their money, they will definitely walk away on you.” Atieno says that her husband Mr Stephen Jagero, who has since recovered from his illness is quite supportive and also part and parcel of her success story. She says that the business has greatly transformed her family. “I have purchased land and constructed my own house. I no longer pay rent and that is an achievement worth being proud of,” the fish monger reiterates. She has also been able to take her five children to school with minimal difficulty. Mama Nyaseme’s first rule is that customers must be treated with utmost respect for one to remain in business. “Anyone handling food must be clean. Wash the fish well and use pure oil because recycled oil causes stomach upsets to many people. Also be thorough when removing scales from fish to ensure the job is well done,” Atieno advises. Her parting shot: “Respect your customers. They make you close and open your business with a smile. Don’t be too economical or too strict to lose a customer.”
ISSUE 033, February 1-15, 2011
Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth
Massive sand harvesting leaves residents thirsting By JOHNSON NDOLO Over 10,000 residents of Kivou Location, Mwingi Central District have appealed to the Government to intervene and stop massive harvesting of sand along the Kivou River. The residents complained over the devastating effects of uncontrolled sand harvesting and threatened to take the law into their own hands if the Government does not intervene. Led by the area civic leader, Ms Patricia Kisio, the residents are appealing to the Government to halt unchecked sand harvesting along the Kivou seasonal river which has been their only source of water. “We are losing patience and would like the relevant Government agency to step in before we take matters into our own hands to protect the vital water source from further exploitation,” Kisio said. The residents complained that due to persistent sand harvesting, Kivou River has dried up.
Speaking to the Reject in Mwingi town, Kisio said massive harvesting had left them without sufficient sand making the water levels drop drastically. “Before the sand harvesting came into force, the villagers used to dig one foot shallow wells and get water for their domestic chores and also for livestock to drink, but now they are forced to sink wells that are as A dry water source point along Kivou River dip as six feet to get water,” said Kisio. that has gone dry due to sand harvesting. Kithome Mbithu, a resident in the area Inset: A sand harvesting loading bay. lamented that those involved in illegal activiPictures: Johnstone Ndolo ties were making a killing at the expense of the environment while the locals were lanity as they are being forced to walk for 10 kiloguishing in poverty. metres to get water from other areas. The residents accused the NEMA officials of The residents are likely to suffer more even burying their heads in the sand as serious envias the weather men predicted that some areas ronmental depletion continues. in Eastern Province will soon experience dry As a result of the sand harvesting, they spend spells. a lot of time searching for the essential commod-
Shallow wells offer a lifeline in Kitui By KEN NDAMBU Veronica Mukai stares at the withering crops and prays that the long rains will start in time. And she is not alone, everyone in the village is praying for the rains. The villagers in Mbitini location, Kitui County usher in the rains by planting early as advised by agricultural extension officers. Unfortunately, the rains disappear after a few days putting them in a state of despair. The story is the same in most parts of the district where food crops especially maize and beans have withered off in three consecutive seasons. Donor agencies and a local initiative dubbed Mutui Museo (good neighbour) championed by the local leaders from the entire Ukambani have been traversing the region to supply the residents with relief food.
However, Kitui residents have something to smile about. Surface dams and shallow wells, an initiative of indigenous and international nongovernment organisations are slowly changing the desolate area to wetland suitable for horticultural crops like cabbages, potatoes, onions and kales. Spearheading the initiative is African Medical Research Foundation (AMREF) together with local Salian Solutions and Community of Mercy, both local NGOs which have helped to construct sand dams, giant wells and shallow wells to help the community change from traditional farming of maize and beans to vegetables and fruits. The AMREF official in Kitui, Mr Simon Kithuku says the initiative will improve water and reduce sanitation problems. “Only 6,000
households in the area have access to portable and clean drinking water, representing 5.8 percent of the population,” explains Kithuku. The 2001-2008 district development plan shows that 6,319 households (6.1 percent) of the population of 490,729 people have access to safe and clean piped water while only 600 households (0.6 percent) have roof water catchment facilities.
Only 2,400 homesteads have ventilated improved pit latrines. The average distance to the nearest portable water point is five kilometres. Southern and eastern divisions of Yatta, Mutha, Mwitika, Mutomo and Mutito are hard hit as women and children spend many hours looking for water. “With alternative methods of harvesting water that can be used for minor irrigation, residents can change their livelihood for the better in addition to having good sanitation,” says Kithuku. The project manager for Sasol, Mr Sammy Mutiso says the district will continue to be ravaged by drought unless initiatives are put in place to ensure that the community has access to clean water. “Water and sanitation is a major contributing factor to increased poverty levels,” says Mutiso.
Most of the farmers have organised themselves into groups as they look to sustainability in farming as a source of livelihood. The chairlady of Ngunga Vegetable Growers Association Ms Florence Mukai says the group has changed from maize and beans farming to growing grafted mangoes, paw paws, kales and other green vegetables with assistance from AMREF. In Maseki village, members of Kavoko Farmers Association have started a green house to improve the quality of their vegetable. Alongside the group’s central nursery plot, the farms are dotted with well nurtured tissue culture bananas and sukuma wiki. The chairman of the group, Mr Nguthu Musyi says the group’s members and community around are earning maximum benefits from the horticultural produce after the NGO sank a shallow well for the group. In Utooni Location, residents can now sigh in relief after AMREF revitalised a shallow well sank in 1956 by the colonial government. The 10 km stretch the residents used to trek in search of water has been reduced. Chairman of the project, Mr Charles Kamando says water is a major problem in the area. “Previously one could spend the whole day in search of the commodity from the Tiva River some 10 kilometres away,” reiterates Kamando. Beneficiaries to the project have started an
“The aim of the shallow wells and surface dams is to enable the community have access to safe drinking water and change farming methods to improve their living standards.” — Sammy Mutiso
environmental conservation venture so as to make the river banks wetland. In collaboration with AMREF, the community has constructed 495 shallow wells and 12 giant wells for simple irrigation in project areas of Mwitika, Mutito and Chuluni divisions. The facilities will not only help adopt vegetable farming but will also reduce the distance to water points by two kilometres in addition to improving water and sanitation in the area. “The aim of the shallow wells and surface dams is to enable the community have access to safe drinking water and change farming methods to improve their living standards,” explains Mutiso. The projects helps in building capacity for community owned resources. For instance, the youth are now earning better income from the sale of potatoes grown along the sand dams. The shallow wells have proven to work in dry areas because they involve basic technology in water supply. All the community does is dig until they strike an underground aquifer by use of simple hand tools or machines to obtain sufficient water for their livestock and domestic use. Community projects fail when appropriate community input is not carefully selected during cost sharing since their contribution comes handy in terms of labour and local material. Community contribution to shallow wells has increased from 30 to 60 percent. The chairman of Kaweya shallow well, Mr Mulei Kingondu says the wells have their own bylaws for proper management as those who are not members must pay before they are allowed to use the wells. “We have to charge a small fee to raise money for sustaining the project after the donors pull out,” explains Kingondu. A 20litre jerry can of water sells for three shillings in most of the wells.
ISSUE 033, February 1-15, 2011
Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth
Lax internet security danger to government secrets By CAROLYNE OYUGI Kenyan public and private sectors are unfit to hold sensitive information. This is the verdict of Alpex Consulting Africa Ltd (ACAL) which says that no single public or private organisation in Kenya is certified yet to hold sensitive information. Alpex managing director Mr H. G. Mathenge says that the sector players are zero certified and do not meet the international standard applied worldwide thus cannot be trusted with sensitive information. As things stand, information security breaches are making news headlines in Kenya everyday hurting companies, citizens and government. “Our proposed Constitution was changed before it reached the printers, the exams are being interfered with and even the banking system is getting rapidly less successful in holding customers money,” said Mathenge. The Central Bank reports that three percent of bank transactions are now fraud, six times more than five year ago. “This is an absolutely massive amount of money and we are all victims, even through higher bank charges,” Mathenge reiterated. Websites are being hacked and mailing lists as well as customer information is being traded by a
growing set of ‘information criminals’. He reiterated how in other countries, organisations are not allowed to store information until they have been certified as secure with 133 checks applied and procedures put in place to close the doors. “If there is very sensitive information, it can be accessed only by two people together. If emails need to be sent, they are encrypted with simple encryption technology methods of office access and who is allowed on to the local area network are all reviewed and records are kept of who is accessing what,” said Mathenge.
In Kenya, no national organisation is encrypting its sensitive information as no internet service provider has been certified to offer security to the billions of emails held on their server. No insurance company, no national bank and no government department or ministry has certified information security. Information security is being breached thousands of times a day in Kenya. The problem is not just one of taking your website down or stealing the password out of your computer. “There is hardly a mailing list or file in this country that cannot be obtained by approaching
the ‘the right person,” reiterated Mathenge. Developed countries are not making the same mistake. In Japan, for example, personal information is only handled by businesses and departments that are certified as secured. Says Mathenge: “In Kenya companies engage new staff without thorough precaution. For example a junior reporter can get into the system showing tomorrow’s top headlines, trainee bank clerks can reach the banks details of CEOs and sell the information.” He is worried about government departments
that hold massive sensitive data, handle public matters yet none of them has been certified as having secure information system. “Through these departments, we are getting passports online, holding title deeds, paying our taxes, getting exams results and subsidised ARVs and yet none of these databases is certified as secure,” he said. He reiterated that it is time Kenyans themselves started demanding that information about their personal lives and businesses be respected and not offered for sale in the black market.
The folly of students using social networks
Diabetes killing Kenyans more than ever before
By EDWIN MAKICHE
By HENRY OWINO Creating awareness on certain diseases is important if lives have to be saved. And so for the first time in the history of diabetes, Kenya joins South Africa, in sub-Saharan Africa to sensitise on this non-communicable disease. Diabetes Day is marked annually on November 14 where the world creates awareness on the diseases. Currently about 285 million people worldwide have diabetes and 7 million people develop the disease yearly. Addressing journalists in Nairobi, Dr Kirtida Acharya, chairperson of Diabetes Kenya Association said 60 per cent of deaths in developing countries are due to diabetes complications. To put diabetes as a killer disease on ‘high alert’ in Kenya, the Diabetes Kenya Association signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Kenya Red Cross on an education and testing programme. This will go countrywide beginning with 21 schools in Nairobi in the first 50 batch by Kenya Red Cross followed with another 75 trained Red Cross volunteers to roll out training in five major diabetes hot-spot provinces. This will be done to ensure adequate medical care and support for those with the disease since over 2 million people and 25,000 children in Kenya live with diabetes. Acharya said many people develop Type 1 diabetes at a young age. This type of diabetes is not preventable and one has to depend on daily insulin injections as a lifeline. However, 90 per cent of the cases of diabetes in Kenya are what is known as Type 2 diabetes, which has been brought on by lifestyle choices. This is why diabetes is commonly known as lifestyle disease. The doctor expressed fears that by 2025 more than 380 million people will be affected by diabetes, with 80 percent of the 285 million
A young man chats on Facebook, one of the social media sites. Information theft is on the rise as websites and mailing lists continue to be hacked. Picture: AWC
Dr Kirtida Acharya, chairperson of Diabetes Kenya Association. The Association has put diabetes on the high alert list of killer diseases in Kenya. Picture: Henry Owino people with Type 2 diabetes live in low-income and middle-income countries including Kenya. Statistical data indicates that 70,000 children under the age of 14 develop diabetes Type 2 in the world yearly. Every 10 seconds, a person develops diabetes while two people die from diabetes related causes.
‘’Most of these choices are about how and what people eat, lack of exercise and stress. Some suffer huge consequences as in the case of mothers, babies and children from gestational diabetes, which develops during pregnancy,” Acharya explained. She added: “It is generally caused by overlapping issues of eating habits, sedentary lifestyle, alcohol and tobacco abuse habits.’’ Hospitals today report Kenyans in their 20s and 30s on a daily basis presenting with diabetes. There is no cure for the disease but it sets up a lifetime of medical care and a high risk of devastating complications. She said diabetes is now causing more deaths than HIV/Aids and suggested that it should be declared a national disaster.
The proliferation of new technologies has revolutionised operations in many sectors including the education. With the discovery of the Internet learning has never been easier and enjoyable. Access to information is now possible just at the click of a button. The Internet has been praised as an information ‘super highway’ since it contains virtually every subject under the sun. The need to adopt these technologies in schools has been a theme at many education seminars and conferences. The government, through the ICT board and rural electrification programme, has been setting up ‘digital villages.’ These create jobs and empower the locals by promoting access and information sharing. But amid these well-intentioned efforts to go hi-tech, the missing link in the campaigns has been on the proper use of the technologies. According to Mr David Rono, a lecturer and IT consultant, today’s pupil is many times more informed than the one who studied in the last century but with the irrelevant information. “The learners if left without proper guidance by teachers and other stakeholders can use the Internet to gratify other needs apart from education,” says Rono. “Take the case where a Standard Seven pupil uses the Internet to seek information about his favourite music idol rather than doing a school assignment. This will promote information ‘overload’ on the learner and is risky to the pupil’s academic life,” explains Rono. He adds: “The young person is loaded with too much information but he can hardly transfer bits of it to paper at exams.” Half of university students interviewed said they were addicted to social networks and were busy updating their status even when a lesson was ongoing. Students in secondary schools have not been left behind. They are also members of these social
sites and spend a better part of their school time chatting with friends. Albert, a Form Three student in Nairobi has 250 friends on Facebook whom he chats with on a daily basis. He uses a fancy name and photo to identify himself. Some of his friends are in colleges while others are in high school. However, he only knows a few who share information ranging from social issues such as relationships, sports to explicit messages of sex and nude photos tagged to him by friends. He admits addiction to the site and says he sometimes spends hours of class time chatting or commenting on his friends’ status.
Lynda, a student in Nairobi also admits to having the same problem. “So many of my friends in the social network are in school,” says Lynda. She adds: “Though such social sites have been blocked by the school administration, I am so addicted that sometimes I get permission to go out to town to browse.” Most of her friends are online and Lydia feels left out when she does not update her status. Many schools have banned the possession of mobile phones by students to ensure that they are not distracted from their studies by the gadgets. Some administrators are still in the dark over the attachment some students have to these social sites. Some have been left behind and have no knowledge of existence of such sites. These technologies not only affect their academic performance but can also ruin their social lives. Since most of these social sites are not closely monitored by either guardians or authorities, they are not devoid of stalkers and criminals. Some can take advantage of the students’ and seek sexual advances, criminals could also use the net to lure the students and abduct them. Proper guidance on the use of such interactive media is therefore required for parents, teachers and students.
ISSUE 033, February 1-15, 2011
Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth
Widower champions parenthood in the village By JOSEPH mukubwa For a man to wholeheartedly take the responsibility of bringing up his children without their mother is a rare feat. It is even a more difficult task for a disabled man to bring up the children without a mother. Despite losing his wife five years ago and losing one leg three years ago, a 52-year-old man from Tetu District is beating all odds to educate his four children.
Mr Joseph Gitonga Ndung’u struggles with one leg to make ends meet and ensure that his children who are aged between three and 20 live a normal life just like any other child. Villagers admire Ndung’u who works hard in his one acre farm while his peers are mostly engaged in imbibing illicit brews. At the foot of Aberdare Ranges, Ndung’u has proved unto other villagers that disability is not inability, and what a woman can do, a man can do. “I took over bringing up my children in 2005 when my wife died after a short illness. Two years later, one of my legs started giving me problems due to fungal infections and it was amputated. Doctors at Nyeri Provincial General Hospital said it had to be cut off leaving only half of it,” says the father of four children. Ndung’u, who is also a blacksmith, says that is when the real struggle started. However, he has not sat back bemoaning his situation. He has tried to make the best out of the situation. He now does his metal works for the villagers where he makes iron sheet gutters for harvesting rain water as an income generating activity. He also does farming where he spends most of his time growing fruits, which he sells locally. “I also spend some time in my nursery bed
where I have over 2,000 tree seedlings which I sell to the farmers who want to plant indigenous trees,” Ndung’u explains. His children include 10-year old Florence Mugure who is in Standard Three and Veronica Wairimu, 7, who is in Standard One. Both are pupils at Miagayu-ini Primary School. The second born John Ndung’u, 16, a Form One student at Ngooru Secondary School while the first born Esther Wanjugu, 20 sat for KCSE last year.
Joseph Ndung’u at his home in Miagayu-ini village in Tetu district. (Inset) Ndung’u at his farm and hard at work making gutter sheets which he later sells to locals. Despite his disability, he is involved in various income generating activities and is the sole provider for his family. Pictures: Joseph Mukubwa
The widower, who only wants the best for his children is now thinking of how to get Wanjugu join college. “The passion I have for my children’s education is big. My dream is to ensure that they bring home degrees. I have kept other things aside to ensure that they are the best educated children in the village,” explains Ndung’u. Villagers interviewed said Ndung’u is a role model as he has not brought another woman into his home. Asked why he chose not to remarry, Ndung’u says there was no need to remarry as some of his children are already grown up. The head teacher of Miagayu-ini Primary School, Mr Patrick Karinga where two of his children attend school says Ndung’u is one of the hard working parents who have stunned the school administration, as his disability has not discouraged him from hard work. “We have seen many widowers in the region abandoning their children and or destroying their families by bringing other women at the home but this one has set a good example,” said Karinga.
The headmaster is very happy for the devotion the parent has for the children. Several villagers interviewed including a neighbour Martin Maina said Ndung’u is a role model to many villagers. The children said they are very happy with the love their father has for them and see a bright future. “My father is a very hard working parent. He has been struggling to see us meet our daily needs,” said Wanjugu who is the daughter set to join college.
Light of excellence dims for Naivasha’s top performers By MACHARIA MWANGI The sheen is no more. Despite reaching the apex in the late 1980s and early 1990s, most of the public schools in Naivasha continue to struggle to post positive results in the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education as they did in the yester years. Taking over the mantle are private schools which continue to climb the ladder as public schools’ performance continues to plummet. The story is no longer rosy for former academic powerhouses that include Naivasha Boarding, Milimani and Central primary schools, despite having dominated the list in the past. The flicker that made the institutions the place of choice for bright and ambitious pupils is clearly lacking. Naivasha Boarding Primary School the top most school at the time was home to top notch pupils aiming for the best performance in KCPE. With the ranking of the schools having been done away with, many expected the public school to produce at least several top pupils countrywide going by their past record. But a scholar who declined to be named
said the shimmer is still there and the three leading institutions remain among the best in the country. “It is true private schools are giving us a run for our money, but the three leading schools have what it takes to reach the apex,” he said. However, it was a success story for the first timers like High Peak Junior Academy who put up a sterling performance to restore the dwindling academic fortunes in the district.
With a mean score of 385 marks, the school eclipsed established private institutions to emerge second behind perennial academic giants such as Gilgil Hills Academy. The best student was Diana Nekesa who scored 419 marks to settle for position 88 nationally in the girl’s category. She was followed by Moses Ndirangu, who scored 417 to ice the performance cake for an institution that had pioneer pupils sitting the KCPE. “It was a wonderful performance given it was our first time to sit KCPE,” said Mr David Mwangi, the school’s director. He attributed the impressive show to hard
work among pupils and teachers, adding that their maiden results were a morale booster. “The sky is the limit. We are now aiming to be among top institution come the end of the year,” said Mwangi who is a seasoned educationist. Posting unexpected positive results were inmates at the Naivasha Maximum Security Prison with 39 prisoners scoring more than 250 marks. Francis Kithinji scored an impressive 374 marks to register the highest score at the reform facility in the recent years. He was followed by Peter Njogu who with 366, Caleb Nisa garnered 350 marks with Felix Odare 335 completing the list of star performers. The officer in charge of the prison, Mr Patrick Mwenda attributed the exemplary performance to positive attitude among inmates pursuing formal education. “They now appreciate the value of education and are giving their best,” said Mwenda. “We are forced to do with skeleton staff of inmates who are volunteers,” said Mr Douglas Mugendi, the institution’s welfare officer, explaining the challenges they face.
IDPs at risk of drought effects By GEORGE MURAGE The drought situation that is being felt in the country has hit hard the forgotten people. Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) have expressed fears that some of them could die as it was also taking too long for food rations to reach them. According to Ms Beatrice Nyokabi from Ebenezer camp in Gilgil, many of the IDPs did not farm after the Government promised to resettle them elsewhere. “We were ready to be shifted to arable land where we would start our farming but this never happened and we now do not have food,” said Nyokabi. She observed that those who farmed are counting losses as their crops have either withered or dried up in the farms. Nyokabi urged that it was time the Government owned up to its responsibility and gave them food as well as resettled them immediately. “Many of the people in the camp were farmers before the post-election violence and did not rely on donations,” said Nyokabi, adding they were ready to go back to farming.
ISSUE 033, February 1-15, 2011
Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth
Former prisoner receives donation to start business By RYAN MATHENGE A year and a half ago, Esther Wanjiku was sentenced to serve a jail term after a Murang’a court found her guilty of assault. The 28-year-old woman at first condemned herself for having been thrown into jail for fighting another woman who was married by her former lover. A month later, as she continued to serve the sentence, officers at Murang’a GK Prison assessed her and it emerged that she was talented in hair dressing. On January 14, she walked out of the bars a skilled person having undergone a hairdressing and salon business course facilitated by the Government. Ready to face the world, Wanjiku was received by the Kiharu branch of Maendeleo ya Wanawake led by the chairperson, Mrs Jecinta Ng’ang’a where they encouraged her to have a positive attitude towards life.
The Maendeleo ya Wanawake in Murang’a, has been a core partner with the Prison department to ensure rehabilitation of women is achieved. “We promised to support the girl during a visit. Now we have come to join the Prison Department in saying bye to her as we welcome her to the world,” said Ng’ang’a. Wanjiku who thought the world would condemn her when she got out of jail was shocked with the reception that she received. She shed tears upon seeing the crowd that had come to
welcome her after release from jail. “My stay in jail has been beneficial as I have learnt a lot since my parents were poor to take me to a college to learn beauty care which was my interest,” explained Wanjiku. As she walked out of jail, she expressed interest in securing a job at a salon to equip her with management knowledge before establishing her own. The officer in charge of the Women’s Prison, Inspector Carol Baini said Wanjiku’s story that was highlighted Esther Wanjiku receives salon equipment from in the Reject attracted many Maendeleo ya Wanawake. Below: Esther Wanjiku women in Murang’a town and with Maendeleo ya Wanawake Kiharu Branch beyond. Chairlady Jecinta Ng’anga (right) as she cuts “She proved to be a person cake to celebrate her release from jail. who had interest in developPictures: Ryan Mathenge ing her career and we did our best to ensure she leaves the “Presently in the workshop we have Prison walls a changed perinmates undertaking some courses,” son,” said Baini. said Ominde. He added: “It is encourMany of the people in Murang’a came to aging that Maendeleo ya Wanawake know of an experienced hair dresser at the has been supportive to women inmates facility during the African Correction Service offering assistance.” Day in October last year and since then, her “Gone are days when Prison was a operation room had been full of clients. home to hard-core criminals who conDeputy officer in charge of Prisons, Mr Dicksidered themselves as people without son Ominde said many of the convicts at the hope in life,” said Wanjiku as she walked facility have shown willingness to learn some of out of prison. the courses as they serve their jail term.
Ex-prisoners given a second chance By ERIC MUTAI On being released from prison, most ex-offenders escape from their homes and others find their way back to prison due to stigma from their families and friends. On returning to jail where they are expected to be reformed, these ex-prisoners have been branded jail birds by their communities. However, a group of ex-offenders in Embu are turning the tables. Vision Integrated Community programs, an initiative of the Embu probation office and AMREF has seen hundreds of released prisoners undertake training on life outside the prison walls.
The group which goes around the community sensitizing residents on the need to accept exprisoners is gaining popularity. Its members are finding relatives more receptive towards them. Last month 45 ex-prisoners from the Embu GK Prison were presented with certificates in counselling and life skills to ‘reaffirm their destiny’ after training by probation officers. The smartly dressed prisoners donned Tshirts with a message “From a mess to a messenger”. They also received certificates from Dr Festus Ilako the AMREF Country director
who was assisted by Maanisha programme director, Mr Meshack Ndirangu. Joshua Njeru Josphat, 33, completed his sentence at the Embu Prison in 2004 and was lucky to find the programme sponsored by Maanisha through AMREF in place. Njeru has been going around the villages in Embu West District creating awareness among families on need to accept ex-prisoners back into the society. Speaking to The Reject, Njeru said he receives and trains ex-prisoners on basic human rights.
The programme has received donations of KSh664,570 since last year from Maanisha initiative to support ex-prisoners by providing them with agricultural inputs, human rights advocacy, rights of children and prisoners and community sensitization on Men Serving Men (MSM) in Embu Prison. “The issue of men serving men in prisons has been swept under the carpet for long. We decided to face it head on,” says Ms Rosemary Wanja Nthiga, a trainer with the Vision Integrated Community Group. Njeru says the problem of men having sex with men in prisons has been rampant and the programme is helping in curbing the vice which is said to have contributed greatly to HIV
infections. “After identifying that the problem was not being discussed we moved in to ensure that prisoners understand the risks involved in serving other men and we are seeing great improvement,” explains Njeru, adding that most prisoners are now shunning the vice. Margret Njura Kariuki, 49, was widowed after her husband succumbed to HIV/Aids while at the Kamiti GK Prison while serving a four year jail term. Through the program, Kariuki was identified and trained on positive living. Today she is a robust woman who is a beacon of hope.
“I have been able to accept my status through the training offered by this programme and I understand that life must go on even after contracting the virus,” says Kariuki. She adds: “I have been instrumental in giving home care to families of those affected and infected.” According to Nthiga, the programme begun in 2004 with 29 prisoners — 11 men and 18 women — and has been growing as more ex-prisoners link with the group due to the positive results they see with their colleagues. Nthiga says prisoners are now opening up and discussing the issue and this is seen a milestone in advocating for the rights of prisoners
Executive Director: Rosemary Okello-Orlale Programme Coordinator: Wilson Ugangu Editor: Jane Godia Sub-Editors: Florence Sipalla and Mercy Mumo Designer: Noel Lumbama Contributors: John Oroni, Jane Mugambi, Henry Owino, Henry Kariuki, Grace Kilonzi, Kigondu Ndavano, Eric Mutai, George Murage, Musembi Nzengu, Benson Mwanga, Bendaro Tsuma, Boniface Mulu, Odhiambo Odhiambo, Paul Mwaniki, Chrispinus Omar, Johnson Ndolo, Ken Ndambu, Carolyne Oyugi, Edwin Makiche, Joseph Wambugu, Macharia Mwangi, Ryan Mathenge.
and also in reducing HIV infections. “We even hear of prisoners who raise alarm when they find some of their colleagues engaging in these acts,” says Nthiga. The ex-offenders are organised into groups and are engaged in fish farming where they operate two fish ponds through the Ministry of Agriculture, rabbit rearing and goat keeping as a means of income generation.
“Most ex-prisoners are not accepted back into their communities and shunned which creates a problem,” says Paul Njagi, a trainer with the programme. He adds: “The prisoners and community need to be sensitised on integration to create a conducive environment for community and prisoners’ growth in their new lives.” However, the ex-prisoners complained that they do not have chances for formal education after completing their sentences as they cannot acquire certificates of good conduct once their fingerprints are taken. Lack of capital due to lack of recognition by financial institutions was also identified as a major setback and the reason why they have not catapulted their lives to higher levels. However, with programme offering an alternative to a return to life of crime, it’s a breath of fresh air.
The paper is produced with funds from