Keep Your Titles; Give Us Our Land

| Owen Yaa Baya

 

The Mau Mau in Kenya fought for land and they got it. Shujaa Mekatili wa Menza and her compatriots fought for land but they did not get it. When they thought they had it in their hands and it was time to rest, new Mr. Champions emerged, whose trickery was more dangerous because they held documents called title deeds that took away what the heroine and her people fought for.

Today, the daughters and sons of Mekatilili are settled on the land of their forefathers but have a new title: “squatters”. It is a title that can only change when someone in Nairobi says “yes, that is your land” and provides a title deed.

President Uhuru Kenyatta descends into Mombasa followed by a Kenya Police plane carrying 60,000 land titles to be issued to squatters. Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho and his men gather to decry the move to dish out titles, as one Dr. Muhamud Swazuri, the Chairman of the National Lands Commission says with certainty that his commission does not know anything about the business. He adds that some of those titles probably started being processed in the ‘80s.

Then the Lands Housing and Urban Development Principal Secretary enters the fray saying due diligence has been done with the full involvement of the local people. But wait a minute PS Mariamu, how was the consultation done with full involvement with the local people if their elected leaders know nothing about the exercise? Maybe it was done on Facebook, Whatsapp or Twitter? Or probably via personal calls to the beneficiaries and chiefs and assistant chiefs? Maybe county commissioners were consulted?

Integrity issues have repeatedly been raised about the goings on at Ardhi house. If the same Ardhi house processed these documents in just a few days, then chances are the information used to come up with the titles is highly suspect.

The owner of the land and the owner of the title deed must be the same person. Anything else is a clear recipe for chaos. A case in point is the Chembe, Kanani, Kibaba Muche area. If the government has now processed land titles for these areas then there is almost sure to be  trouble as what is on record is not what is on the ground.

What fuels the suspicion that the bulk of these titles are going to non-Coastals is the political angle to the whole matter. A title deed is a private matter. It actually is part of private property. Why would a whole head of state come to give local residents land titles? Whose benefit is it for in the long run? It must be for the president and therefore cannot be a sign of goodwill.

If it truly was an olive branch, the national government should have allowed county governments to participate in vetting the lists through the ward representatives. The titles would then have been sent to the county governor’s office awaiting the arrival of the president to issue them.

Handling this matter in a proper way would have indeed helped the president come closer to endearing himself to the people of the coast who voted against him almost to a man. One of the reasons that the people of the coast did not vote for the president was land. There was suspicion that like his father he would not give issues of land at the Coast a meaningful hearing. And now when he looks like he would like to prove his critics wrong his handlers are now getting the whole thing wrong.

All said and done, let the coast people be assured of their land. Let each and every person feel and know that there is a genuine mechanism to ensure that they have land they can settle on, and that no one can come to unsettle them from their ancestral lands because of a piece of paper. The national government would rather keep their titles but ensure that people have land they can call their own to settle on. Titles can come thereafter.

 

| 30 Aug 2013

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New Berth Shows Kenya Is Ready To Fight

The president’s reiteration that we are custodians of the Gateway to the East Africa upon whom our regional brothers depend brought a ray of hope that the Mombasa Port is deadly serious about maintaining its lead over any competition that can be mustered south of Kenya’s border.

Uganda President Yoweri Museveni’s commissioning of the Sh5.6 billion facility and the presence of Rwandan President Paul Kagame during the occasion that will be hosted by President Uhuru Kenyatta underlines the fact we’re still number one in the race.

But that should not make us complacent. Although the new berth increases the port’s capacity by 33 per cent, the country will only be able to keep its lead position only if it maintains the momentum of the changes it has been undertaking recently to fix the failures that have allowed Dar-es-Salaam to steal business away from Mombasa. As it stands, the amount of cargo meant for the hinterland of Uganda, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi that has been diverting from Mombasa and going through Dar-es-Salaam has grown by an average of 25 per cent annually.

That President Kenyatta is aware of the need for Mombasa to retake its position as the leader is clear from his directives in June aimed at massive reforms at the port and along the transport and logistics corridor. The directive required the Kenya Ports Authority MD of to take charge of all the operations around the facility to reduce delays. The directive also required institutions to work round the clock and abolished the scanning of trans-shipment cargo and trans-shipment bonds.

It also required alignment of organisations’ processes to be compatible with the National Single Window Systems and removed roadblocks and weighbridges except for the one at Mariakani.

And now, the new berth, constructed at an estimated cost of Sh5.8 billion means that the port now has additional capacity of 200,000 twenty-foot equivalent per annum. This will greatly help ease the movement of cargo in the region and boost the attractiveness of Mombasa port in the face of competition from neighbouring Tanzania.

These are all signs of progress though much work remains to be done. An effective port backed by an effective infrastructural network will do a lot towards propelling the country towards greater prosperity.

And while the law of competition may be sometimes hard for the individual, it is best for the race, because it ensures the survival of the fittest in every department.
– Andrew Carnegie

 

 

| 30 Aug 2013

“Of wigs, weaves and hair-raising predicaments” – Timbuktu

| Timbuktu Express

Toon tim x_48

I am broke and it seems this is becoming routine. The matatu as they say ‘is on stones’ meaning broken down.

I wish vehicles were like people and can be given simple, cash-free mouth to mouth resuscitation every time they act up.

On the other hand, Michelle is also acting up. Her problem is she has not been to the salon in a long time. The gusto with which she harangues me would make you believe that fixing one’s hair is the forth human need after food, shelter and clothing.

But I cannot be fooled because I have the misfortune of intricate knowledge of her. To begin with, the woman is as bald as an egg with just a few tufts here and there upon which they sew a weave when she visits the salon. The entire shaggy mass is then pickled in oil as hot rollers hold it in place to give it a shiny gloss.

Were it not for the fact that her head starts smelling like the operation theatre of a cheap salon after some time, I would appreciate all the money that gets poured into the project.

The whole drama however makes me wish that I could sometimes sleep beside a woman whose head smells human.

“Honey, just this once pray for me,” I plead with her as I head out of the house. “You know how much I would like to meet all your demands and this is guy is promising me a job on the strength of my friend’s recommendation,” I continue.

“Just don’t feed me lies when you come back. I am getting fed up,” she simply said as the looked at her image in the dressing table.

I keep time, dressed to kill in my crisp suit, as I knock on the hotel chain manager’s door. After introducing myself as the cousin to a friend of someone he knew, we settle down to business.

tim toon 60 clean

“The only available vacancy is that of a Maasai,” he tells me blandly. “What do you mean, Sir, after seeing my degree. I will never be a watchman,” I vehemently protest.

“I did not mean a watchman but a Maasai showman. These guys are quite popular with the tourists and you will be surprised how much in tips they take home in addition to the 5K retainer and free meals from the hotel.

“But what if the tourists find out I’m a fraud?” I protest. “Will I not get lynched?”

“I assure you they can’t find out and even if you decided to give yourself away, they won’t understand. Their knowledge of Kiswahili begins and ends with ‘Jambo’.”

I take the job just for the tips. I hear these come in the form of real dollars and Euros and not the local legal tender whose value erodes with every successive regime.

I join our leader who outfits me with a loin cloth, traditional bling, weapons and a pair of shoes made of tires. “All you have to do is leap as high as you can and chant the chorus when the rest are singing.” And that does it for my orientation.

Before we get on stage that evening, a makeup technician fixes a wig on my bald head. It is then smoothed over with mud and animal fat “to make it as colorful as the sun rising over the Savannah” she says.

Poor me, I am no different from Michele with a fake wig dripping of smelly fat. But then again my wig will make money while hers punches a hole in my pocket.

We troop out at the appointed hour after the guests have been dined and are busy getting drunk. The songs go mighty well and we climax to a deafening crescendo when the spirit of the wild takes over and we start leaping high up in the air.

The wazungus are happy and they cheer and clap at our antics as some join the dance.

We almost bring down the house with renditions out of Africa. I can’t wait to start receiving the tips. So when an old German lady approaches me, I welcome her with a big wide Kenyan smile.

“Jambo Herr Masai,” she greets me. “Jambo yourself lady. Hakuna matata,” I yell at her.

That was as far as we could communicate but I understood when she invited me to have a drink on her. I knew European money was headed my way.

We toast our new found friendship after the usual photo shoot during which she stands rather close. I must say the only other thing of interest besides her money is the sweet smell in her hair unlike Michelle’s.

“Mercedes,” I say the only German word I know as I imitate driving. She smiles happily and launches into her language. I of course am interested with what she has to say so I bring in a waiter who understands Deustche.

“Ich bin eine einsame Witwe. Sie wäre mein schöner Maasai Freund einen guten Ehemann,” she says. I look at the translator who shakes his head in disbelief.

“Are you always this lucky mtunguyaz?” he asks winking at me. A kaleidoscope of Deusche Marks in varying denominations flash before me. “She says her husband is dead and you are strong and handsome enough to fit into the old Kampfer’s (soldier) boots,” he tells me with the air of one informing a Kenyan that they have won Tetemesha na Safaricom.

I am shocked beyond words and excuse myself to visit the bathroom. I know I won’t get a Mercedes, but one wife is more than enough. I just hope I don’t get nightmares of her dead husband chasing after me with his Kanonn.

Work-abroad Scheme To Be Introduced

| Mwamadi Sumbukeni

Youths seeking to work abroad will no longer have to be exploited by greedy middlemen who ask for exorbitant charges for jobs that are already available thereby locking thousands of Kenyans from potential employment.

This is because the Youth Enterprise Development Fund is initiating an ambitious scheme where those seeking for abroad job opportunities will be supported through an integrated process where local job seekers and foreign employers will be handled by a structured labour export secretariat that would cut out job agencies.

A section of youth following proceedings at a chanuka ujitegemee event. PHOTO/Mohamed Seif

A section of youth following proceedings at a Chanuka Ujitegemee event.
PHOTO/Mohamed Seif

A Youth Employment Scheme Abroad (YESA) secretariat will be set up in all 47 Counties where people will be able to upload their credentials and the secretariat will facilitate job searches by scanning opportunities available abroad that matches the particular qualifications of an individual, according to Youth Enterprise Development Fund’s Chairman Gor Semelang’o.

At a time when there have been increasing cases of shoddy employment contracts leading to disputes especially for Kenyans working in the Gulf countries this scheme also means that Kenyans working abroad will be cushioned from the whims of such bosses.

“It means that we will look at the contracts that you sign before you travel abroad and we’ll also be able to inform our ambassadors abroad the people who are going and where they are going and the contract they’ve signed and a copy of that contract so that young people would no longer be molested in foreign countries when they seek these employments” said Mr. Semelang’o.

As part of the scheme those leaving the country will also be granted a migration loan in the form of a three per cent non repayable air ticket loan in addition to free medical test and small upkeep money.

“We are also partnering with the ILO and IOM to do what is called pre-departure training, we train you before you leave the country for the culture shock,” he added.

Noting that this model has been successful in the Philippines he stressed the need of borrowing a leaf from the East Asia country in an effort to streamline the labour export industry.

“That’s how Philippines has done it and we want to do that here because there are many young  people who have skills here but they don’t have jobs,” said Mr. Semelang’o. “It is structured labour export it means we can ask the government to give us a billion and we put back into the economy shs30 billion” he said.

The Jubilee Government and Sufuria Economics

| Dr. Oduwo Noah Akala

The three month old Jubilee Government a fortnight ago presented its first of five national budgets to the people of the Republic. The proposed budget amounts to massive 1.6 trillion shillings…More than the Ugandan and Tanzanian national budgets combined! This ambitious financial plan is on the back of exuberant electoral promises made by now President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto during the course of the campaign period. This also has to be the first time in modern Kenyan history that a Finance Minister, now referred to as the Treasury Cabinet Secretary, Mr Henry Rotich, has said in Parliament that “I do not know where the money will come from.”

Kenya is in a peculiar socio-economic and political conundrum. This is because in our country, the minority of the population is employed and earning an income. It thus follows that it is this minority that pays tax which funds Government and all of its activities. Yet, when it comes to choosing a Government, it’s the majority who are unemployed and do not pay tax that have the final say. The non-tax paying majority essentially decides how tax revenue generated from the taxpaying minority is going to be spent.

This imbalance in the system is an austerity ticking time bomb as the tax burden on the employed minority increases year after year to service impractical programs of which we have been presented with a host. It is important to note that the budgetary deficit amounts to roughly fifty percent. It is common knowledge that any budgetary deficit is a tax just waiting to happen; it’s not a question of if but when.

The idea behind applying a Value Added Tax on basic commodities was actually the International Monetary Fund’s. This is not a new concept. It was one of the recommended pre-conditions to the Kenyan Government prior to the release of donor funding. The idea being to tax consumption and allow relief on income tax so as to spread the tax net wider. However, the Jubilee Government has deemed it wise to hit the Kenyan people with both a relatively high Pay As You Earn tax as well as a Value Added Tax of 16% on consumption. The Kenyan worker is bound to groan under the weight of expectation from the tax man.

Even more difficult to fathom are moves such as taxing welding rods and applying VAT on sanitary towels. Welding rods are used by Jua Kali artisans working in small scale businesses across the country. Jua Kali artisans are the face of micro-enterprise in Kenya. A tax that burdens small business while big corporates are raking in profits of billions is not only immoral but inequitable as well. With regards to sanitary towels, we had made progress in the past five years by first making them tax free and following that up with a Programme to provide girls in public schools with sanitary towels for free. This basic intervention ensured no girl ever missed school for natural biological reason and girl child performance improved drastically. Why tax sanitary towels now? What will happen to the Sanitary Towels for Public Schools Programme?

All these taxes would not be a problem if the people were receiving a commensurate level of service from their Government. Sweden has an income tax rate of fifty percent! But, the public transport is reliable and extensive, healthcare is catered to by the Government and so is education up to University level. The end result is that this Scandinavian nation has one of the highest standards of living in the world. We, as Kenya, are nearing this level of taxation yet we have forty percent of our population living on less than a dollar a day, the world accepted indicator for poverty!

This is what has informed the raft of industrial action that the Government is facing from public servants across the board. Teachers have issued an ultimatum to go on strike from midnight today on the back of the Government failing to honour a Collective Bargaining Agreement dating back to 1997 and yet this same Government presents an ambitious 54 billion shilling Laptop Programme. Nurses in the National Referral Hospital followed suit. Expect the same in the coming weeks from doctors.

I put it to you, that this Government is disconnected from the hopes and ambitions of the Kenyan people. Our leadership is not in tune with what we as Kenyans aspire to.