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October 1-15, 2010


A bimonthly on-line newspaper by the Media Diversity Centre, a project of African Woman and Child Feature Service

Women from Modogashe at a workshop on Agenda Four issues. These women have suffered historical injustices and continue to be ostracised by the community. Picture: Abjata Khalif

Modogashe’s concubines Women kidnapped in clan conflicts, sexually violated and now ostracised by community


By Abjata Khalif

t is afternoon and the scorching sun is causing discomfort in Modogashe town, some 250 kilometres from Garissa. The main route to other towns in northern Kenya like Wajir and Mandera passes through this dusty town, which gets its temporary glory when a convoy of vehicles from Garissa makes a stopover. As you approach the town, a village with makeshift houses made of polythene will attract your attention. However, as get closer to the dotted structures, you will notice a group of women and children by the

main road. They are almost like beggars, hoping to get relief food from here. The relief food is normally distributed in this village. These women have not received the ratios in the recent past due to the heavy rains that rendered the road impassable, hindering lorries carrying relief food from reaching the area in time. But before we can satisfy our curiosity, a woman inside our vehicle shouts: “Look at these women, they are ‘conflict concubines’ and are not allowed into the main town.” She then proceeds to explain to other women passengers: “It seems they are hungry and their ‘business’ is not good these days.”

The statement raises debate inside the bus as the conductor says that the ‘women prostitutes’ are hungry as they have not received relief food for the last two months due dilapidated road. Women passengers inside the bus curse the women outside and call them names, a sign that the society does not welcome them. But unknown to the passengers, journalists from Kenya Pastoralist Journalist Network (PAJAN) are inside the bus on a mission to meet the concubines. The objective of the trip is to train the women on issues surrounding Truth, Justice, Reconciliation among other Agenda Four issues like constitution review and national cohesion.

These are women who have suffered historical injustices and are victims of crimes against humanity. Among the community here, to hold on to one’s virginity is chaste. If one loses their virginity either by choice or through other circumstances like rape, the burden of guilt is with the woman. These are women who lost their virginity, and did not get married according to cultural or religious norms. They have been forced to face the wrath of the community through no mistake of their own. Cursed and ostracised from their communities, these women and their illegitimate children have moved to this area Continued on page 2

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ISSUE 026, October 1-15, 2010

Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth

Early childhood educators make demands



rivate early childhood education colleges are demanding to be treated equally by the Kenya National Examination Council

(KNEC). The proprietors’ said that the examiner has been disregarding their input in the education sector saying that they now seek to be treated as partners in education. Speaking during the annual general meeting, the sidelines of the Kenya Early

Childhood Education Private Training Institutions Association (KECEPTIA) at a hotel in Embu, the educators said the examination council must adopt similar methods on them just as they do to government owned colleges. “We use the government curriculum and take KNEC exams so why should we be kept at an arm’s length?” posed Mr Njuguna Wangunyu, the association’s chairman. The Professional Early Childhood Education Training Centre owner said that the private colleges are forced to pay

more money for invigilators and security during exams which are provided by the examiner. “We remit cash for the students to sit for the examinations but KNEC does not pay either the police security or the invigilators. We are asked for more money which is not fair and we are demanding to be treated equally,” said Njuguna. He added: “We also demand for qualified examination officials who are able to understand and enforce examination regulations.”

The educators also want the curriculum to be streamlined saying it is overloaded and forces the students to cover unnecessary syllabus. Njuguna said that the association will also push the government to start employing early childhood development teachers who have never been employed since 1986. “The Government ought to work at its own Session Paper One of 2005 and the ECD policy framework prepared by the ministry of education saying that it will employ them by 2010,” he said.

Women kidnapped in clan conflicts now ostracised

Modogashe village, where the conflict concubines live in isolation. They are a product of prolonged internecine conflict between clans in the area. Picture: Abjata Khalif Continued from page 1

among others to start life afresh. However, currently there are 50 of them living in Modogashe Village.

Clashes These women are not allowed into town. They are commonly known as the conflict concubines of Modogashe. They are a product of prolonged internecine conflict between clans in the area. The inter-clan conflict started in 1994-1999 and was the order of the day in Modogashe where armed combatants attacked villages and houses of rival clans. Modogashe town is divided between Eastern and North Eastern provinces. The northern side is governed by Garissa while the east side is governed by Isiolo. The communities in Modogashe are drawn from various Borana and Somali communities. The armed clashes were triggered by historical rivalries between clans. It was heightened by lack of government intervention due to politics and weak security structures in the area. The armed combatants used various tactics in the conflict zones that included abducting young girls who would be forced to act as wives in the conflict zones. According to survey in various area like Gurufa and Modogashe, almost every family lost a daughter to the combatants as they were taken to conflict areas which were no-go zones. The conflict ended in 2000 after a peace deal dubbed “Modogashe Declara-

tion” was signed. During the peak of the conflict, many women managed to escape while others were chased away to create room for fresh concubines. After the fighting was over, many of the women came back to the villages five or six years after they were kidnapped, majority of them with children borne of the combatants.

Stigma Culturally, in this region, a woman must get married officially through a traditional ceremony witnessed by her relatives among other people before having sex. However, the conflict in Modogashe broke cultural order. These women were not allowed back into society. They were chased away, although some of them escaped from the conflict zones with babies. Due to stigmatisation, the women, now commonly referred to as ‘conflict concubines’ set up a camp of makeshift structures made from acacia tree branches, away from the rest of the community and have been living in this village fighting ostracisation and stigma. “Conflict has been the cause of problems here. All these women are sidelined or called names because they had children out of wedlock,” says Ms Asha Ali, chairperson of the women’s group. She explains: “They live a horrible life but they are our daughters. It is culture that demands they be ostracised.” Life in the conflict zone was not easy. Although the women could access food

and medicine, they kept moving with the combatants from one area to another. The worst thing for the women is that they were not restricted to one combatant for sex. In most cases they were raped or forced to share the men. “The men decided who will sleep with whom. Some had permanent concubines while others shared the concubines.” Halima Gesey narrates her story: “I was abducted by the bandits and they forced me to be their wife for four years. After four years of horrible life in the conflict zone, they chased me away as they had abducted fresh young girls. I managed to walk for four days before I reached my village with my baby, born in the conflict field.” Gesey cannot tell who impregnated her as she served several men in the conflict

“I was abducted by the bandits and they forced me to be their wife for four years. After four years of horrible life in the conflict zone, they chased me away as they had abducted fresh young girls.” — Halima Gesey

zone. She says: “Up to now I don’t know who the father of my baby is but I don’t regret either and I will soldier on with life.” Although they never faced challenges like HIV/Aids some had severe sexually transmitted infections like Gonorrhoea and syphilis. Most of the women who tested for HIV at the local hospital turned negative.

Moving on They have all accepted their situation and it is life as usual. Many have gone into small-scale businesses as they move round selling small goods like vegetables and textiles. Others sell the relief food they have been given before going back to their village on the Isiolo side of Modogashe. However, given an avenue to air their grievances, the women are in an upbeat mood. With the hope that the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) will reach them soon, the women are happy about the awareness being created on the Commission’s role and function. They are happy that they will get an avenue to present their grievances and complaints and hopefully the Government will compensate and offer them rehabilitation. The ex-combatants who we approached to tell their side of the story were very hostile and declined to speak to us. Some of them are said to have escaped to other regions in northern Kenya avoid being identified by the women.

ISSUE 026, October 1-15, 2010

Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth


Enlarged scrotum leaves orphan writhing in pain and stigma By NICK ODHIAMBO When Lorna Ang’wen visited a friend in Kimai village, Nyatike District, in August, last year, she got concerned when she was told of a sick boy who was taking care of himself in a neighbouring homestead. She wanted to see the sick boy who was alone in the homestead after the death of his parents. Ang’wen was shocked to find the boy under a shade writhing in pain. The boy could not wear trousers, he was naked. He could not cook for himself and relied on what was brought to him by sympathetic neighbours. His scrotum was swollen to the size of a human head.

Enlarged organ The swelling forced the organ to push itself between the boy’s thighs and settled underneath the buttocks. What Ang’wen saw touched the core of her feelings. She decided to make it her responsibility to take the boy to hospital. They went to public hospitals in both Nyatike and Migori districts to no avail. “Before they died, the boy’s parents got a sympathiser who took him to Kenyatta National Hospital but because of the high treatment costs they went back to the village,” explains Ang’wen. In April, last year, David Ndama, 16, was taken to Kenyatta National Hospital but discharged in May when his father could not raise the required amount for his treatment.

No well-wisher Ndama says the amount required by the hospital was over KSh100,000. Unfortunately he cannot trace where his father kept some of the documents given to him at Kenyatta Hospital. “When we came back, the well wisher disappeared,” explains Ndama from his bed at the Homa Bay District Hospital. “There was no money and we went back home, from that time I have been ailing fromthe homestead,” he says. He adds: “Immediately, thereafter, my father died.” Ndama’s mother, Ms Benter Akinyi Ndama died in July, 2008 and his father, Mr Paul Ndama in July last year. His only sister, Ms Caroline Ndama who had been married has not been seen andhe does not know where she is. “I don’t know where she went after the burial,” he says. Ang’wen had taken Ndama to the Homa Bay Hospital after learning that surgeons there have been helping many with similar cases in southern Nyanza region.

David Ndama, an orphan, lies in Homa Bay district hospital hoping to get help. Below: Some of the documents from kenyatta national hospital indicating the condition he is suffering from. Picture: Nick Odhiambo

Ndama is now the face of stigma in his village. “Many people fear associating with the boy because of his ailment. No one, including his closest relatives want to help or be associated with him,” says Ang’wen. Ndama’s problem started when he was in nursery school at Kimai Primary School as a small spot on the scrotum that was itching. He kept on scratching it until he reached Standard Four when the spot grew bigger and painful. This is when he left school. That was five years ago. His hopes of studying up to the university have now been shattered. According to the results given by surgeons at the Homa Bay District Hospital, led by the Medical Superintendent Dr Ojwang’ Ayoma, the boy is suffering from Lymphoedema, which is simply the Elephantiasis of the Scrotum. “We carried out the test and this is Lym-

“Many people fear associating with the boy because of his ailment. No one, including his closest relatives want to help or be associated with him.” — Lorna Ang’wen

phoedema that requires plastic surgery but unfortunately we do not have plastic surgeons here who could have helped,” explains Ojwang’.

Plastic surgery According to Ojwang’ the solution is only to perform plastic surgery of the scrotum. This can only be done either in Kenyatta National Hospital or Moi Referral Hospital in Eldoret. “It is the reconstruction of the scrotum that can be done to avoid continued enlargement and further hardening,” he says. He urges well-wishers to help in contributing towards the boy’s treatment. Ndama’s case is sad because none of his family members have bothered to find out how he is faring. “This is a serious case and I ask church leaders, organisations and individuals to

come forward and help the situation,” says Ojwang’. With a small wooden cross on a thread around his neck, Ndama keeps on praying, hopeful one day God will save him from the situation. “I know I will be helped. With God’s power all is possible,” he says, smiling. But after staying at the Homa Bay District Hospital for a month, the boy had to be discharged. With the pain, he went home but was exempted from paying the hospital bill. His fate is now unknown. But this does not only affect the boy in Kenya. Many people in the country especially the poor are not in a position to get good health care. Public hospitals have become too expensive for the poor since many do not have enough drugs while others have health officers who are not qualified.


ISSUE 026, October 1-15, 2010

Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth

The cash transfer revolution turns lives upside down By Jane Godia Going by the number of Mpesa agents dotting the country, it is clear that the money transfer services has changed this country. Started by Safaricom, the mobile service provider where one gets money transferred directly to their phones, the Mpesa revolution has taken the country to another level and it is not only the talk of town, even in international meetings you will find people discussing about this Kenyan innovation that has made a transformation on how money is moving around. Other mobile phone providers have decided to join Safaricom in also including money transfer services within their business. From the beaches of the Indian Ocean to the shores of Lake Victoria, the tip of Mt Kenya to the arid lands of Turkana down the Great Rift Valley, Mpesa is a revolution that has affected the poor and rich, literate and illiterate on equal measures. Mothers and fathers as well as all relatives will just ask one to Mpesa them kitu kidogo (something small). Mothers whose children would previously say they do not have the facilities to send money are now jubilant. Thanks to the money transfer service, the children no longer have an excuse for failing to assist their parents financially. And in the rural areas where matatu and boda boda operators capitalized on taking old men and women to collect money from either a matatu/bus termini, post office or courier point, the trips are longer

necessary. The Mpesa agents dotted all over small market centres have made the revolution impact heavily on Kenyans as the cost of transport in going to fetch money is no longer incurred.

multi tasking But best of all the convenience that one can pay for their bills from their handheld gadgets. What more could a person ask for if they have a way of avoiding long queues at pay points. Bars and petrol stations have also put up posters indicating that they accept Mpesa payments. Courier services were notorious for opening people’s packages if they suspected that money was enclosed. They no longer have this luxury. The other organizations such as Posta Kenya which also conduct fast money transfer services have suffered business loss particularly for the small amounts of money. It however, still has an edge over MPesa because it allows transfers running into hundreds of thousands. Banks have also joined the bandwagon and are allowing customers to access their accounts using the Mpesa. This could be for withdrawals or savings.

An M-PESA agent in Eldoret. The cash transfer service from different providers has created many jobs for the youth countrywide. Picture: Reject Correspondent

However, many times customers do get disappointed when they go to get money and are told there is no cash float. To the rural or illiterate person this is usually the biggest disappointment in the money transfer. It must also be noted that rural folk hardly deposit money, they are more kin on withdrawals. The agents therefore, have

to keep going to the bank to maintain the floats. But in the long run, everyone will agree that the money transfer business on mobile phones, whichever the mobile provider, can only be compared to when money was created as a means of exchanging goods as life has never been better.

Services offer women entrepreneurs better prospects By David Njagi For Millicent Kanjiru, the touch of a mobile phone has never felt so good. With just a click of a button, she is able to send and withdraw money from the hand held gadget.

Convenience Unlike those days when she would spend hours at the Equity Bank to deposit every coin, these days she only visits the banking hall when she has to make a big transaction. Her mobile phone does the rest. Sitting outside her home at Land Mawe Estate in Nairobi, Kanjiru threshes maize cobs with a confident demeanor knowing too well that she will have enough time today to prepare take away Githeri for her customers. “At the end of the day I take stock of Small-scale traders can now run their businesses through the cash transfer services. The what I have made and separate the profpreviously unbanked traders now enjoy financial services that were beyond their reach. its from capital which I deposit at the Picture: David Njagi Mpesa retail outlet in my neighboura Safaricom customer service centre along back in Meru from the palm of her hand. hood,” says Kanjiru, a mother of three. “I also use the service to contribute to “Likewise, when I need money to subsidise Kimathi street. After days of mastering the art of mobile our merry go round group as well as commy business, I just visit the shop and comtransfer services from the centre’s attend- municate with my colleagues when I am plete the transaction in a matter of minutes.” Like many women entrepreneurs in ant, she can now transact business within not able to attend the monthly meetings,” Kenya, the exciting new experience that has the vicinity of her home. Besides, she is says Kanjiru. A few miles from her home, Jane Njoki now become her life begun when she visited able to manage activities at her shamba

has taken the new business trend a notch higher. After an engaging day of selling potatoes at the Gikomba open market, she has three choices from which to save her profits. To cushion her business from emergencies, she saves some money on the Safaricom Mpesa account. When she has made a good deal before close of business, she walks to the Gikomba Equity Bank Branch and deposits her savings over the counter at the banking hall. “But in instances where I close my business late, I usually deposit my savings through the Safaricom M-Kesho service or Equity Bank’s Automated Teller Machine (ATM) service,” explains Njoki.

Efficient service While Njoki learnt about the Mpesa service from a business colleague, the M-Kesho banking service and ATM products became part of her life during a promotion outside the Equity Bank branch in Gikomba. M-Kesho, they said, allows one to transfer money to and from an Mpesa account, with the customer’s Equity Bank account through a mobile phone. “The product also enables the customer to enjoy other benefits that come with a bank account and is protected by the Deposit Protection Fund,” says customer service. Continued on page 5

ISSUE 026, October 1-15, 2010

Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth


The cash transfer revolution turns lives upside down Employment opportunities open up to alternative banking By HENRY OWINO According to Sharon Atieno and her husband Jeremiah Onyango, they are now in business. The couple who own a mobile phone business shop have extended it to doing many things. Other than selling mobile phone accessories and airtime top up cards, they are now Mpesa agents offering an opportunity to customers who want to withdraw or deposit cash through the hand held gadgets.

Job opportunities The business has offered them an opportunity for self-employment and they are happy with what is going on in their lives. With the mobile phones, one can send or receive money and this has enabled many people to buy and purchase goods, save money in mobile phone accounts and pay bills. Onyango says apart from the above services, the cash transfer has opened employment opportunities for several people who would otherwise be jobless. There are certain people who have registered many outlets and then they employ people to work for them in the agents outlets. “In Kibera alone there are about 200 mobile phone shops providing services as agents in the money transfer,” says Onyango.He adds: “There are at least 400 people are directly employed and earning their daily bread or feeding their families through this technology.” He reiterates: “In a day, my shop receives approximately 200 customers who are either receiving or sending money to their relatives and loved ones.” He adds: “So it is booming business in Kibera despite stiff competition from rival agents but that is normal in any business enterprise.” Mr Urbanus Nzuki, also from Kibera says sending and receiving money is not a problem so long as you can access a mobile phone money transfer agent.

Booming business

In Kibera estate these agents are all over and since they compete amongst themselves, services are fantastic. “The agents in Kibera open their shops as early as 7am and close as late as 9pm as opposed to banks which operate between 9am to 4pm with long queues,” says Nzuki. He adds: “Mobile phone money transfer is convenient, faster, safe and accessible even in remote regions.” However, Mr John Wekesa also a resident of the expansive slum says the mobile phone money transfer has made many agents rich but the customers become poor. “This is because any time you withdraw some cash they deduct KSh30 as service charges yet one can withdraw even five times in day depending on how much is in

the account and you require,” explains Wekesa. He argues: “To make it worse mobile phone agents work even on weekends where people spend a lot but for agents it is a booming business. Wekesa explains: “These agents are all over Kibera and you can deposit at 9 am in one agent’s shop, then at 10 am you withdraw some, again at 12pm you cash out some money, by 9pm when they close down shops you will find that you have withdrawn a lot and have been charged more.” He argues that the banks also do the same but the far distances between branches and ATMs limits one to temptation to careless withdrawals.

Simpler life The money transfer helps in meeting so many demands. Take for example a parent sending school fees to his or her children in boarding via mobile phone through the school administration. A son or daughter sending some money to their parents at the rural home, they only need to have a mobile phone and cash it at the nearest agent stall. Even contribution to harambee (fund raising), wedding, chama (merry go round groups) and the list is endless. An old timer, Mr Robert Omondi, 52 remembers during his time in school when he there was no other method of sending money other than via telegram or money order through the post office. This was also the safest and fastest method to send cash parents in the village. “Today, however, things have changed and one gets confused due to the many methods that are available,” he says. Growing up, Omondi only remembers the few people who had house phones. Many people relied on the telephone booth. Today he is proud to own a mobile phone that he uses to communicate with his parents back home. He is also able to send money from any agent without necessarily travelling to the city centre to post it. “Surely technology has eased life and made it comfortable especially to our children who even use mobile phones while still in school,” says Omondi. Another Kibera resident, Ms Emma Akinyi says the best thing about the transfer is that you can withdraw money from your bank account by phone. She says banks such as Kenya Commercial (KCB) and Equity have having savings accounts that are easily used for mobile phone cash transfer. Akinyi says: “The banks are becoming less popular by the current generation unless you run a business and you need to deposit large amounts of money or take a loan.” She said because of

An Mpesa agent in Kibera. The convenient service has made it possible for people to carry out financial transactions until late in the night. Picture: Henry Owino

the mobile phone transfers these banks such as Co-Operative and Equity are now constructing new branches in Kibera not only to offer these services but also provide normal banking services. Mobile phone money transfer can at times be a disadvantage. If you miss

a digit then the money goes to a wrong recipient. There are pro and cons in both systems but one must be careful in using the methods.

Better prospects for women in trading Continued from page 4

Although Njoki is keen on taking advantage of these services to pursue interests in social enterprise, for now, she says, these services are strictly for business. “These days I do not have to travel to Nyandarua to replenish my stock,” says Njoki. “All I need to do is send one of the young men I have employed to Nyandarua and pay my supplier through Mpesa.”

New market Coming from an era where entrepreneurs in the low end market were thought to be unbankable, mobile phone money transfer services have revolutionalised the banking sector, with market intelligence indicating that it is the bridge that will take Kenya into the new economic frontier. According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), a 2008 survey of 3,000 households representing 92 per cent of Kenya’s population found out that about 38 per cent of money transfers originated from rural areas, with farmers enjoying the biggest slice of the technology. Apart from Safaricom’s money transfer services, Kenyans are spoilt for choice between Yu Cash, Zain’s Zap and Orange Money, products that have recently entered the cash transfer market. The silver lining that now decorates money transfer services, however, should not obscure the cloud. Apart from lack

of information on how to use the service, many women cite incidences where they have lost money to con artists and service providers. “The worst that has ever happened to me is when I transferred some KSh 5,000 to the wrong Mpesa account,” says Kanjiru. “When I discovered the error I tried to trace the owner of the mobile phone number but it was impossible because the subscriber switched off the phone. I have never recovered it to date.” For those in the upper end income bracket, however, money transfer services have brought an efficiency that extends beyond borders. Mercy Njoroge, the founder of Changing Fortunes Organization (CFO) says services that were previously there such as Western Union are reliable but not all women entrepreneurs are able to access the product. “I find these services to be efficient, “says Njoroge, whose NGO fights for the promotion of the dignity of house helps. “Unfortunately I come across complaints that the charges for the service are expensive and so many women in small scale businesses may not afford.” While the Communication Commission of Kenya (CCK) says mobile phone penetration is about 51 per cent, the World Bank says remittances from overseas to developing countries are over 10 trillion Kenya shilling every year.


ISSUE 026, October 1-15, 2010

Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth

Correspondents’ cheques rendered extinct By Musa Radoli The dreaded landlord was again threatening to throw out Barasa’s family. The children had been chased away from school due to fees areas. However, the worst nightmare was that the stock of food was nearly depleted. The reason behind all these woes plaguing Barasa, a correspondent with one of the country’s highly respected daily newspapers was simply because though it was mid month, the cheque for the stories he had written and were published the previous month had not arrived. Nobody could believe that a man who worked for such a big newspaper company could not have money. That if his stories were not published there would be no money completely. That even after they were published, payment would be processed after the last day of the month. The cheque writing and signing processes only mark the beginning of a nightmare for freelance journalists otherwise referred to as correspondents.

Delayed cheques “After the cheque had been signed, it is up to you to call the accounts department to find out if the ‘corre’s cheques’ were ready and start finding ways through which it can be dispatched to you the fastest way possible,” says Barasa He adds: “You must have somebody who is completely reliable at the head office to pick the cheque and send it to you instead of relying on the office procedures. The most preferred mode of dispatch was by Akamba or Securicor courier and later by the newspaper transport vans. Sometimes I had to travel overnight from the Kenya/Uganda border, where I was based, to Nairobi to collect the document and cash it there.” Even after the turn of the millennium in the year 2000, Barasa’s experience is testimony to the tribulations hundreds of correspondents faced before they could get payment for published stories at the end of the ‘moon’. Sometimes things got even worse if whoever was dispatching the cheque from Nairobi made a mistake when registering the enveloped document. It could end

up in another part of the country only to worsen things for the correspondent. It was also common to have a cheque going in the wrong van. Those who were lucky to get their cheques fast are the ones who were based in Nairobi or neighbouring districts like Kiambu, Muranga, Nyeri and a few other towns within easy access to the city. The other problem was if the dispatched cheque was crossed. This meant it could only be deposited on a bank account to mature after more than seven days.

Frustrations Most of the correspondents did not have bank accounts because of the paltry earnings in the face of high account opening fees demanded by most commercial banks. “This was the worst part of being an up-country correspondent. It was hard enough to hunt for the stories in the field hoping that they will be published. After so many had been spiked now came the nightmare of getting paid. There were cases of my colleagues who never got paid a cent for their published stories,” says Margaret Mwasharu who was based in Mombasa. Mwasharu who left journalism to venture into public relations because of these frustrations says: “Sometimes banks refused to cash open cheques across the counter. They also wanted us to open accounts with them to cash their own cheques. We therefore conspired with district and provincial accountants to get cash.” Mwasharu says that this came at a fee since whether it was in the bank with an open cheque or at the district accountant’s offices you had to be a charged some hefty commission from your meagre earnings even if you were cashing a cheque of KSh250 which left you with nothing. Hundreds of the correspondents who went through these experiences before the advent of technology introducing high speed money transfer say it is like a miracle that today one gets paid within seconds of the money being transferred hundreds even thousands of kilometres away. Michael Onsongo who is based in Kisii says: “Today it is a miracle that Nairobi can call you to go out there to do an assignment or you can alert them that there

A man makes a call at a telephone booth. Correspondents previously worked from the booths to file stories through reverse calls to the newsrooms. Picture: Correspondent

is a major story breaking in a far off place and they will send you cash via Mpesa to do the job.” Onsongo says that apart from Mpesa, other money transfer services like Zain’s ZAP and Posta Pay money transfer services have greatly improved the way payment for stories is done. It has forced many financial institutions that were stringent to re-think and also revolutionize the way of doing business not only with correspondents but also a wide range of many diversified customers.

Onsongo says many financial institutions had gone to the extent of closing up branches in many rural townships, particularly districts headquarters across the country. “It is a miracle that many of the big multi-national banks that had closed their branches have come back. As a matter of fact many of are offering fast money transfer services to compete with other services that are not commercial financial institutions,” says Zahara Suleiman from Garissa in North Eastern Province.

An overwhelming rush to register for cash transfer By GILBERT OCHIENG The mobile phone cash transfer services have benefited a lot of people especially at the grassroots level since its inception three years ago. This is evidenced by the overwhelming rush by Kenyans seeking to open an Mpesa account through their mobile phones. Scores of small scale traders from Busia Municipality say the cash transaction services have positively transformed their lives. Within Busia Municipality and its environs, majority of the Mpesa clients are small-scale traders who could not afford to operate a bank account taking into con-

sideration the fact that they are involved in small-scale businesses. Majority of the traders support the move taken by the mobile phone service provider saying it has enabled them carry out their business transactions effectively and with ease. They are now in a position to place orders with their suppliers through the phone and have the goods delivered to them at the doorstep without having to travel long distances. “As a small scale trader with a family, I could not manage to raise the cash to operate a bank account, but with the introduction of the Mpesa, I am now in a position to save money through my mobile phone’s M-Kesho account,” says Jose-

phine Auma, a small scale trader at the Busia municipal market. Wafula Simiyu, 35, a barber within Busia municipality was not left behind. He commends the mobile phone service provider for coming up with the system of transaction. “People in the rural areas where there are no banking services are the biggest beneficiaries of this service,” says Simiyu. He adds: “Previously most people were compelled to trek long distances to urban centres to access such services but now they get money from within the shortest distance and very fast.” An Mpesa agent within Busia municipality, one Abdalla Juma (not real name) said more and more people keeping com-

ing to him to register for the cash transfer service. “In the last two months, I have been able to register 2,000 new Mpesa clients,” says Juma. However, some M-PESA agents who talked to the Reject on condition of anonymity expressed concern over conmen who are on the prowl defrauding them of cash through fake withdrawals which they say is too hard to detect. “Some conmen who are suspected to have been sacked by the mobile phone service provider and who know how the system operates have been defrauding us of a lot of money,’ said the agents, adding their frequent appeals to the company to intervene has always fallen on deaf ears.

ISSUE 026, October 1-15, 2010


Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth

EU to support Hailstorm leaves village environmental reeling in shock and loss conservation By JOHN KINYUA           


The scenario of turning an area fit for human habitation into an ice land in a record of 30 minutes is disturbing. For three consecutive days, livestock had nothing to feed on while newborns let out cries that caused their mothers to weep. The situation has become a nightmare to residents of Nyandarua West District who have been hit thrice in the past two years by hailstorms that leave behind a trail of destruction.

Loses Residents of Charagita Village, Olkalou Constituency who are mainly farmers are counting losses after the hailstorm destroyed their wheat farms. This was the second incident in two weeks after another hailstorm hit the neighbouring GaResidents of Gatimu Village in Nyandarua West district came out to marvel at the spectre of timu Location. snow. Much as the sight was beautiful, farmers also lost their crops in the farms. Picture: John Kinyua For those who love tourism, it was a sight to behold. Unlike at watch our investments go down to waste. hectares of land had already been covered Gatimu, the hailstorm at Charagita by a white sheet of ice with a thickness of left behind a sheet of ice covering the entire We just pray that it does not occur again.” The residents are now appealing to the between 8 and 10 inches deep. region. The sheet, which measured about six to Meteorological Department to take action ten inches in depth, covered about 20 square and advise farmers on when to plant. One year later, residents from the region “They should investigate this matter and kilometres. Residents say it started when a strong wind blew in the area at around 1.00 advise us accordingly. We cannot be losing are still marvelling over the incident while pm only for the incident to occur moments our investments every now and then,” notes expressing their worries that it may recur. Mr James Gichuki, whose ten acres of pota- The storm caused widespread damage to later. food crops, grazing fields and greenhouses toes was covered in snow. For those who were at Gikingi Village, at a nearby flower and wheat farms. Experts “It started with a strong wind, then rain about five kilometres from Nyahururu, the said this was as a consequence of humandrops and a loud bang. We came to realise September 2, 2008 incident that took place induced rapid climate change and ecologithat a sheet of snow had covered the entire at round 2.00 pm near the Lake Ol-Bolosat cal conditions that must be experienced. Little awareness has since been extended area,” notes Mr Philip Mwangi. Forest was history repeating itself. “This is like a miracle to us since we only For residents of this village, the thick to local communities in relation to preparget to see ice and snow on television. Al- sparkling sheet of hailstones that covered edness over such incidents. Following the though it is a blessing because of the heavy a large swathe of nearby Ol-Bolosat Forest incident, local leaders mobilised residents rains, our crops have been destroyed,” says remains a spectacle. Meteorologists gave de- in the area to plant more trees to avert a Ms Ann Njoki. tailed explanations of the science behind the similar occurrence. Plans have already been laid down to Just like other farmers in the region, her 30-minute hailstorm on that Tuesday afterentire potato plantation went to waste. noon. It had laid a sheet of ice balls visible plant over 10 million trees at the Ol Bolosat Forest as a measure to contain soil degradaNjoki notes: “There was nothing else that from as far as three kilometres away. we could have done to save the situation but By the time the rain ceased, about 50 tion and improve soil cover.


Crops destroyed

Farmers want more information on valuable tree



esidents of Katangi division in Machakos District have shown their much interest in being educated about the melia volkensii tree, locally known as Mukau. The Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI) had organised a field day for tree farmers at the Kitui Regional Research Centre at Kakuuni village, Kyua location of Katangi division, to educate them about the tree species (melia volkensii). The farmers said they were fully pre-

pared to plant or farm the melia volkensii but lack of information about the tree species was their only stumbling block. A research officer with the KEFRI Kitui Regional Research Centre, Mrs Josephine Musyoki, who represented the centre director, Dr James Ndufa Kamiri agreed to the farmers’ request. Musyoki said KEFRI Kitui Regional Research Centre is out to educate people on trees. She urged them to take the lessons seriously. “This tree species is drought resistant. It matures for harvesting within seven to ten years after planting,” explained Musy-

oki. “We promote the tree because of its value in quality timber, fodder and saw dust,” she added. Musyoki reiterated the melia volkensii is a valuable natural resource and a blessing for the Kamba community. We need you to be with us at the centre and even share your knowledge and skills with us,” She urged. The forester also said that the Centre had begun doing some research on natural dyes. The farmers were urged to share the knowledge and skills they had acquired with others.

The European Union will give a total of KSh3.19 Billion to the Community-Based Environmental Conservation projects across the country in the next five years. Speaking during the commissioning of rehabilitation of Wire Forest in Oyugis town, Rachuonyo South District, Mr Barmoi Yatich, Programme Officer for the Social and Environment Section in the European Union said the funds will provide support through grants towards the initiation and implementation of integrated socio-economic infrastructure and ecosystem-based environmental conservation projects. He reiterated that the EU was committed to promoting sustainable natural resource management and would lay a firm foundation for current and future generations to continue in a sustained manner to benefit from the country’s diverse ecosystems. Yatich said: “Through NEMA, EU will support integration of environmental dimensions of poverty reduction into local planning in line with district environment action plans in the districts and provincial environmental action plans at the provincial levels.”

Conservation He was touring the Kokwanyo community and Liera primary school projects in Rachuonyo South and North districts to see how the implementation is going. In Western Province, the EU is providing funding towards implementation of the Okoa Kuni Project, participatory conservation and management of Upper Nzoia River basin. In Kuria District in Nyanza Province there is an integrated energy and environmental management project funded by the EU. “We are going to ensure that we help in environmental conservation to benefit the local people and Kenya as a country,” Yatich said. Nyanza Head of Conservancy Mr Fred Ogombe said the Government has recognised the annual contribution of sales from charcoal to the tune of KSh32 billion to the exchequer. However, only people who have been registered by the Department of Social Services, with a proof that the trees they are using belong to them and are applying the right technology in charcoal making will be allowed to do the business. He urged charcoal businessmen to liaise with foresters on the good tree species for charcoal production and the new technology for making charcoal.  


ISSUE 026, October 1-15, 2010

Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth

Mother and daughter stalked by tragedy L

By Richard Wachira

ooking at them, one notices the emptiness in their eyes. They have both been to hell and back. Their tribulations have affected this family of five who live in a mabati (iron sheet) hovel in Githurai Kimbo. Each sunrise reminds them of the hard task ahead of fending themselves. The mother and her husband have no source of income and they literally live by God’s grace. Life was good for Gladys* in her rural home in Kerugoya until tragedy struck in 1992. One day, on her way home after spending the day on the farm, three men waylaid and raped her. Then, she was a Form Two student at Kabare Girls’ High School.

Child of rape

It was just a few days to opening day and she went back to school. A few months later she was found pregnant. The headmistress was understanding and allowed her to give birth, then resume her studies. On December 31, 1992 her daughter Faith* was born. The baby was left under the care of her grandmother as Gladys resumed school. After completing her O levels, Gladys left for Nairobi in search of a job. As she had not performed very well, she could only find work as a house girl. She left the baby with her grandmother in Kerugoya. Tragedy was to strike in July 2006 when Faith, then five years, was hit by a vehicle belonging to a cooperative brokers firm. She was rushed to Kerugoya District Hospital where she stayed in a coma for 42 days, when she regained consciousness doctors advised she be taken to the Kenyatta National hospital in Nairobi. By then her mother had already gotten married in 1996. They had no money. The great promise she held was shattered irrevocably as the accident changed her life forever. The hospital was charging KSh3,000 for consultation and KSh5,000 for every visit. The girl was staying in Kerugoya with her grandmother as her parents could not afford to accommodate her in their humble abode in Kawangware. She would come to Nairobi only for the doctor’s appointment. A lawyer who heard of Gladys’ tribulations offered to help her. She took up the case and talked to the vehicle owners, Kibirigwi Insurance Brokers who offered them KSh300,000 which was spent on treatment. By then, Faith had been diagnosed with post traumatic and personality disorder. Doctors at Kenyatta National Hospital advised her to be going for clinics at Mathari Mental Hospital. At Mathari help came but it was as good as the medicine lasted. Both mother and daughter have been to virtually all hospitals in Nairobi. At Nairobi Women’s Hospital Faith was diagnosed with Frontal Lobe Syndrome. According to Gladys, the young girl has to have someone monitoring her all the

time. Sometimes she wanders off and they fail to trace her for up to two weeks.

Defilement “She just wakes up and walks away. It is during times like this when she is alone that men take advantage of her,” explains Gladys. Faith has been a victim of sexual abuse. The mother is hopeful of good tidings in future but the daughter, who seems perfect to casual eye, is more affected and oblivious to it. She has a medical problem beyond rape. “Unfortunately, Faith has no recollection of what goes on in her life. She has been infected with almost all imaginable sexually transmitted infections yet she is not aware,” says a desolate Gladys. The first abuse occurred in 1999 when Faith was barely eight years old when her teacher defiled her. She stopped going to school in 2006 when in Standard Six after teachers said they were tired of her unpredictability. Since the family never had money, there were times she would go without medicine. This is when her teachers noticed she had unpredictable behaviour. By then they had moved to Githurai-Kimbo where they live in an iron sheet house courtesy of a wellwisher. “We live one day at a time,” says Gladys. Currently, Faith’s medication costs KSh300 a day. The poor family can barely afford the five different drugs that have been prescribed to her. The mother has to travel to Mbagathi Hospital for the vital drugs. The father, a stonemason, cannot afford to raise the amount. The family has no reliable source of income except for an unstable income generating grocery shop that brings in a paltry KSh200 in two days. Gladys’ family has now shunned her because “every time I call them they think I want money.” She does not call any of her siblings or her parents anymore. She is now left to fend for her daughter only with help from her husband. Since Faith left school, she has been staying with her mother at home. “Sometimes when I am overwhelmed with stress or basic home duties, Faith just wonders off. She can stay away even for a fortnight. No one knows what she eats or where she goes. It is during these times that she is raped and I only get to know of it when I take her for check-up,” says Gladys. When they moved to Githurai Kimbo her neighbours reported them to the nearby police station for “throwing out” their child. Police had been told that she is a careless mother. But upon investigations the police found out that the daughter had a medical problem. There reaches a point when the shoulders of a loving mother are overwhelmed by the gravity of the situation. Gladys was recently diagnosed with depression. Faith’s younger brother, who is 12 years old is showing signs of truancy, obviously taking advantage of his overwhelmed parents. He has already been arrested yet he is still a minor. He has been locked up for running away both from home and school

From left: Gladys, her daughter Faith, husband and their youngest daughter. Mother and daughter have been through a cycle of sexual abuse that has made life a living hell for their family. Picture: Richard Wachira

and in the process stealing. Her youngest sister has of late been diagnosed with cerebral malaria. The family is in dire need of financial aid.

*Names have been changed to protect privacy. People of goodwill can reach the mother through 0724-907 331.

Laikipia to benefit in construction of more secondary schools By Eliud WaithakA Students from at least five locations in Mukogodo division, Laikipa North District who would otherwise have failed to join secondary schools next year may have a chance to do so after a group of donors promised to build a secondary school. In the whole district, there are only two secondary schools, St Francis Girls and Doldol Boys, both of which are boarding schools. A third one, Ilpolei Secondary was started this year and only Form One students were admitted. Donors and stakeholders from the locality have started fundraising to construct a secondary school which will be called Kimanjo. Recently, a marathon race was organised to raise the money in conjunction with Ol lentille Lodge and Kijabe Conservancy who were at the forefront of the noble cause.

The General Manager of Ol lentille Lodge, Ms Gill Elias said, the school will be operational by January next year. Kijabe Conservancy Chairman, Mr Hudson Meshame said deserving students had failed to join secondary schools because there were none near. “The only schools we have around are about 50 kilometres away and they only have boarding facilities. The students who qualify for day schools end up grazing livestock since we do not even have a polytechnic in this district,” noted Meshame. Laikipia North is categorized as Arid and Semi Arid by the government. Locals are dependent on relief food from the government and other agencies. Elias said the 42 kilometre race would be held annually to raise the money until the facility is completed. Primary schools that are set to benefit include Kimanjo, Ewaso, Naiperere, Ilmotiok, Ngobolo and Mosul among others.

ISSUE 026, October 1-15, 2010


Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth

Digital centre lights up village By HUSSEIN dido If the world has become a global village then no place should be said to be remote or too far. The advancement of Information Communications Technology (ICT) has made each and every place accessible through the cyber world. Even Merti Division, Isiolo District was a few months ago too far, has now joined the ICT world with the launch of the digital village. Arid Land Information Network in conjunction with the European Union and the Kenyan Government installed high powered information communication gadgets at Merti Trading Centre recently. The digital village is also going to save the area residents a few shillings as they will use the facilities at no cost during the one year grace period.

Early warning Ministers and Permanent Secretaries who accompanied the head of European Union to the opening of the digital village were optimistic that the new development would help in providing relevant data to line ministries and other actors in information management. Minister for Northern Kenya, Mr Mohamed Elmi and Livestock Development counterpart Mr Mohamed Kuti said the centre will help in giving early warning alerts on drought. It will also provide information that would help in mitigating the effect of climate change. Information Permanent Secretary, Mr Bitange Ndemo said the Government was working out strategies to ensure that the country was ahead in information communication by bringing home digital villages to every district by 2015. Kuti hailed the European Union for the support and called on actors in the information communication sector to chip in by supplementing the effort across the district. He called on the constituents to make use of the centre and share the information to enable them catch up with others in urban areas. According to Merti Maarifa coordinator Mr Guyo Haro, approximately over 1,000 villagers among them teachers and volunteers access the centre every three weeks either to browse or access information from the local news dailies.

Sourcing information He said villagers could now get information on news bulletins and local dailies on new development technologies in livestock, agriculture and education. Mr Mohamud Abduba, a frequent cus-

Guyo Wario Haro (left) Field Officer managing the Merti Maarifa Centre, Job Mainye (right), ALIN knowledge worker together with Abkul Guyo, volunteer community knowledge worker at the centre. Youth from the surrounding communities can now access information from the internet at the digital centre. Picture: Susan Mwangi

tomer who visits the village said the project was an eye opener for the community and hailed the European Union and other actors for supporting the project. “It is wonderful we read daily news and other global news across the continent in our village digital centre said Abduba, who works with Kenya Power and Lighting Company. He said youths from the communities around the village are also benefitting from the project since they browse and get information regarding new technologies on agriculture, livestock and fisheries which they put to practise in their day to day activities. Ninety percent of students in rural areas in the country have limited access to information and communication technology. Though mobile phone access has rapidly increased in the past, ICT was yet to reach to them despite Government promises that it would put in place e-learning into the education programme. Hundreds of students from Isiolo, Moyale and Marsabit districts complete their Form Four education without accessing a computer. The Government had announced that it is in the process of in-

“It is wonderful we read daily news and other global news across the continent in our village digital centre.” — Mohamud Abduba

tegrating Information Communication Technology aided learning into the current education programmes.

ict education If the Government makes good its promise, then Form Two and Form Three students from the region might have access to programmes to empower them on ICT education. The Minister of Education Mr Sam Ongeri had also promised that the Government was in the process of making ICT technology a reality in every school. “We have put policies geared towards support to ICTs in schools. The policy is articulated in the Sessional Paper No.1 of 2005, as a policy blueprint which led to the launch of the Kenya Education Sector Support Program (KESSP) in July 2005,” said Ongeri. He said the document has laid out clearly the goals of his ministry which has necessitated budget lines to support elearning. But at Isiolo Girls Secondary School, has a multi-million Nepad e-school programme launched by President Kibaki five years ago that was yet to be utilised. Though the government said the programme would benefit those around the school including the neighbouring Isiolo Boys Secondary School and establish a cyber for the public to access the programme, this was yet to be done four and half years after it was launched. The girls school at the heart of the town has much to smile about because the programme had benefited them and now

Executive Director: Rosemary Okello-Orlale Programme Coordinator: Wilson Ugangu Editor: Jane Godia Sub-Editors: Florence Sipalla and Mercy Mumo Designer: Noel Lumbama Contributors: Abjata Khalif, Eric Mutai, Nick Odhiambo, David Njagi, Henry Owino, Musa Radoli, Gilbert Ochieng, John Kinyua, Boniface Mulu, Richard Wachira, Hussein Dido, Eliud Waithaka.

they can access any information from the part of the world. The students can now browse the net free of charge following the new development by Nepad e-programme. The principal Mrs Mary Amina said that the government has an intention of expanding the school to two streams so as to accommodate the increasing demand for girlchild education among the pastoralists. Previously, parents have been enrolling their students in schools outside the district due to poor performance and indiscipline in the school. Hundreds of the students and parents from the region and outside the district have sought to enrol to the school for the next year.

Easy learning She said students could now easily search for programmes on website and exchange emails with other students connected to the internet. The programme, she said, has eased their work and encouraged students to study. Recently the school received a trophy for being the best secondary schools in science in Eastern Province. Isiolo District Education officer, Mr Newton Okwatsa reiterated the Government’s commitment to supporting the school to ensure it attract girls from upper Eastern. He said a number of girl students from the region were out of school due to lack of school fees or outdated cultural practices and demanded for the change of the trends.

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Reject Online Issue 26  

Issue 26 of the Reject Online - a publication by the Media Diversity Centre, produced with funds from the Ford Foundation