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Thika Road high-capacity bus lane to cost Sh5.8 billion

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LYNET IGADWAH

By LYNET IGADWAH
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Taxpayers will spend Sh5.8 billion to construct a lane for high-capacity buses along Thika Road in a bid to ease Nairobi’s traffic congestion.

Transport cabinet secretary James Macharia told Parliament earlier this week the design will comprise a station, four-foot bridges as well as a park and ride facility.

The Kenya National Highways Authority (Kenha) is overseeing the project which is one of the five Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) System corridors in Nairobi.

“The design infrastructure is going on under Kenha which has estimated the cost to be Sh5.8 billion,” Mr Macharia told the National Assembly Committee on Transport.

He said preliminary designs provide that the stations be located at an highland between the two highways going to Thika and coming to Nairobi.

“It means that the people going to Thika would be able to access the station just like those going to Nairobi,” he said.

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The four footbridges under construction on Thika Road are designed as modules for ease of modifications to accommodate BRT services.

Aside from these, development of park and ride facility has been proposed at Kasarani stadium to be integrated with the commuter rail services.

The announcement comes at a time government gears to receive the first batch of high-capacity buses for implementing the pilot of BRT on Thika Road.

The government is sourcing the 32 complete buses from South Africa and another 32 chassis to be deployed on the already-marked Thika Road and other major roads within Nairobi.

MPs have questioned the rationale of importing the high-capacity buses without putting in place supportive infrastructure that is currently at design stage.

The BRT system is generally designed to improve a city’s public transport network relative to conventional buses.

Each bus is expected to have a capacity of about 160 passengers who will use electronic cards for payment.

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Ipoa probes police boss Ipara over land grab case

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DAVID MWERE

By DAVID MWERE
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The Independent Policing Oversight Authority (Ipoa) is investigating a senior police officer over land grabbing claims in Embakasi, Nairobi.

According to a complaint filed to Ipoa by Wanja and Kibe Advocates on behalf of Mr Kapildev Kotedia, Mr Johnstone Ipara, the current Uasin Gishu County Police Commander, is accused of using his position in the service to grab the one-acre land valued at about Sh150 million.

Acting director of complaints at Ipoa, Mr Evans Okeyo, confirmed to the Sunday Nation that the authority is investigating the officer and referred us to head of communications, Mr Dennis Oketch.

“Ipoa is aware of the matter and it is undertaking investigations with a view to establishing factuality and making appropriate recommendations,” said Mr Oketch.

According to the complaint, Mr Ipara subdivided the land and sold or leased portions to several persons and to his immediate family members.

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“Mr Ipara is using the position as a senior police officer to profiteer from this land through unlawful means,” the complaint signed by Ms Eunice Kibe of Wanja and Kibe Advocates reads.

Mr Kotedia was appointed by the court as the guardian and manager of the estate of Mr Dinesh Ramji Kotedia, his father, the registered owner of the land in dispute but who is ailing from Alzheimer’s disease.

The ailment is a condition associated with progressive mental deterioration that can occur in middle or old age, due to generalised degeneration of the brain. It is the commonest cause of premature senility.

Numerous land disputes and related deaths have been reported in Embakasi with fingers pointing at the police for colluding with illegal gangs to reign terror on rightful land owners.

Ipoa was established under the new constitution to, among others, investigate claims of police misconduct in the discharge of their duties.

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The authority receives complaints from the public on police misconduct and undertakes independent investigations as well as complaints from police officers against their fellow colleagues.

Ipoa can also initiate investigations on its own motion and may refer cases to appropriate agencies, including seeking the court’s intervention to have its recommendations implemented.

“Our client appeals to your office to look into this complaint and to assist him to get justice and to stop the blatant abuse of office and impunity by the officer,” the lawyers say.

Mr Ipara is accused of grabbing the land at the time he worked as the OCPD in Embakasi and efforts to have it reclaimed by the owner have failed due to the influence he commands in the police service.

The complaint further alleges that sometimes in March 2017, Mr Ipara through his advocates gave an offer to purchase the land for Sh27 million.

However, Mr Kotedia declined on account that the amount was far below the market value.

After realising that the family had turned down his offer, sometimes in 2017, Mr Ipara together with 16 other individuals are said to have filed proceedings in court seeking ownership of the land through adverse possession.

Interestingly, the case No. 408 of 2017 filed at the city’s Environment and Land Court (ELC) was not served on Mr Kotedia despite being a requirement in the law.

According to the complaint, the suit has proceeded without Mr Kotedia’s participation since he was never served, which is likely to constitute the offence of perjury or lying under the oath.

Mr Kotedia has since notified the National Management Authority (Nema) of the illegal structures on the land and wants them demolished within seven days, failing which he will move to court.

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Tanzania’s earnings from agencies cause disquiet among EAC partners

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FRED OLUOCH

By FRED OLUOCH
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The East African Community needs to address the disproportionate gains that Tanzania gets from hosting most of the trading bloc’s agencies, particularly Dar es Salaam’s 73 per cent earnings from the $31.5 million annual average budget of the organs.

All EAC partner states contribute equally to the bloc’s budget through annual subscriptions.

A new report by the EAC secretariat has revealed that Tanzania earns $23 million from hosting five of the eight EAC organs, much more than Kenya, which earns $4 million, Uganda $3 million, Rwanda $1 million, and Burundi which receives $500,000.

The report, however, notes that Kenya gains the most from trade within the EAC, earning $38 million annually, followed by Uganda ($22 million) and Tanzania ($15 million).

Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan make net losses from trading with the region, according to the draft report titled Equitable Sharing of Benefits and Costs of EAC Integration Process.

“Given the current reality and lessons from the former EAC community, which collapsed mainly as a result of unequal share of benefits, there is a need to share the costs and benefits in a fair and equitable manner for sustainability of the EAC Community which generates far more benefits than the costs,” states the draft report.

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It further states that provisions in the EAC Treaty such as equal contribution to the EAC budget “may no longer be sustainable given the huge differences in population size and GDP of partner states”.

The draft report, which is yet to be approved and adopted, proposes a review of the formulae for equitable sharing of costs and benefits.

Tanzania’s benefits from the five organs that it hosts come from local employment, rent income and supplies. The five are the secretariat, the East African Court of Justice, the East African Legislative Assembly, the East African Kiswahili Commission, and the Competition Authority.

Uganda hosts the East African Development Bank, the Lake Victoria Fisheries Organisation, the Inter University Council of East Africa, and the Safety Oversight Agency.

Kenya hosts the Lake Victoria Basin Commission, Rwanda the East African Science and Technology Commission and Burundi hosts the EAC Health Research Commission.

The study was commissioned after the EAC Council of Ministers at its 18th meeting held in Arusha on September 4, 2009, observed that to actualise the fundamental and operational principles of the EAC required equitable distribution of benefits accruing to or to be derived from operation of the Community.

The EAC secretariat, in an interview on Friday, insisted that the draft report is yet to be finalised and could not therefore publicly discuss its findings.
“This [the earnings by Tanzania] is the percentage of gains from hosting EAC organs and institutions only. It does not include gains from trade where Kenya benefits most,” said Aime Uwase, the EAC principal planning and research officer in a response.

Further studies are ongoing to quantify other benefits from hosting and implementing various protocol provisions under the Customs Union and the Common Market, according to Wilberforce Mariki of the EAC secretariat.

The EAC, initially made up of Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda, broke up in 1977 after the then-socialist Tanzania complained that capitalist Kenya was benefiting more than the other two partners.

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Other issues that caused the collapse included Kenya’s demand for more seats than Uganda and Tanzania in decision-making organs, and disagreements with Ugandan dictator Idi Amin who demanded that Tanzania as a member state of the EAC should not harbour forces fighting to topple his government.

The disparate economic systems of socialism in Tanzania and capitalism in Kenya also contributed to the fall.

Kenya had a more developed manufacturing sector than Tanzania and Uganda, resulting in large income transfers from Dar es Salaam and Kampala.

The report observes that regional integration, by its very nature, creates imbalances in gains if partner states do not take effective measures to maximise the prospective and potential benefits and minimise costs.

The overall objective of the study was to assess whether there is equitable sharing of costs and benefits of the EAC integration so far, and provide a remedial mechanism where possible.

The study suggested that EAC institutions and organs allocate jobs equitably and sustainably as per the Treaty provisions as integration deepens.

The study also suggested that job distribution should be proportional to partner states’ contribution to the EAC budget.

High profile and technical jobs should be competitively awarded, and others should be rotational and allocated on a quota basis.

The study suggests a review of the current system of equal contribution to the EAC budget by partner states, given that they are structurally different in terms of GDP, imports, exports to the region and population.

It suggests that partner states can contribute based on their capacity to pay as represented by GDP. This mode of financing has been successfully used by the Southern African Development Community, the African Union, the Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, and the Organization of American States.

Partner states with bigger economies and population are seen to benefit more, or the impact of integration could be higher in bigger economies than smaller ones. But sharing costs based on GDP remains a parameter that relatively satisfies the principle of solidarity, equity, balance and mutual benefit.

The partner states’ contribution to the 2018/19 total budget was $56,245,162 (56 per cent of the total budget) through the respective ministries of EAC Affairs ($50,227,920), the ministries responsible for education ($4,466,210) and ministries responsible for fisheries ($1,551,032).

Development partners will contribute $42,925,613 to the budget, and member universities will give $333,970. The miscellaneous revenue is pegged at $265,971.

The percentage contribution to the budget by EAC partner states has been increasing over time. It increased from 10 per cent in 2011/12 to 56 per cent in 2018/19.

The analysis of contribution per capita shows a big gap, from $0.94 (Burundi) to $0.19 (Tanzania).
As a result of reforms, trade within the EAC has increased. Intra-EAC trade was $1.7 billion in 2005, rising to $3.5 billion in 2013 and falling to $2.4 billion in 2017.

The report says the shrinking of trade among partner states since 2015 may be as a result of national production patterns becoming more similar, and movement of capital investments where products are manufactured locally.

The EAC intra-trade share is below 20 per cent, compared with the EU where it is 61.7 per cent. Among the members of the North American Free Trade Agreement, the share is 50.3 per cent and 24.3 per cent within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

The elimination of tariffs on intra-EAC trade led to an average annual loss of Customs duty of $1,689.07 million between 2013 and 2017.

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Soviet bombs still killing people in Afghanistan

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AFP

By AFP
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Gholam Mahaiuddin sighs softly as he thinks of his 14-year-old son, who was killed in the spring by a bomb dropped last century in the hills of Bamiyan province in central Afghanistan.

“We knew the mountain was dangerous,” said Mahaiuddin, who found his son’s remains after he didn’t come home one day.

“We were aware of mines but we could not find them. They were buried in the soft sand after the rain.”

Forty years after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan – and three decades since the conflict ended – the war’s legacy continues to claim lives across the country.

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Mahaiuddin’s son, Moujtaba, was killed along with two friends, aged 12 and 14, on May 17 when they went looking for berries in this idyllic landscape where chocolate-coloured mountains are topped with snow.

When none of them had returned the next day, Mahaiuddin and other residents from his tiny village, called Ahangaran, started searching.

“I found my son with just his chest and head left,” Mahaiuddin recalled.

Moujtaba and his friends had been killed by what is known as an AO-2.5 RTM submunition.

The cluster bombs were used extensively by Soviet forces, who dropped them like deadly rain across Afghanistan in the years following their December 1979 invasion.

Mahaiuddin, 44, remembers the war well. He said he used to bring tea to mujahedeen fighters who would hide in the mountains and launch ambushes against Soviet patrols.

More recently, the cluster weapons have been used in Syria, according to a 2016 Human Rights Watch report.

“It is the most dangerous, it is very sensitive to vibrations,” said Bachir Ahmad, who heads a team of deminers from the Danish Demining Group (DDG).

The humanitarian organisation has been working in several Afghan provinces since 1999 to clear explosives left from a war most of the country’s current, young population never lived through.

The hills of Bamiyan, which is famous as the home of two giant 6th-century Buddha carvings that the Taliban blew up, have been extensively scoured for mines and other explosives.

Near the site of the blast that killed Moujtaba and his friends, DDG workers have painted white pathways showing which areas are clear of danger.

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“This is the last battlefield we are cleaning in Bamiyan, it dates back to 1986,” said Habib Noor, the DDG’s head for the province.

Bamiyan, a region dominated by Shiite Hazaras and relatively unaffected by today’s violence ravaging the rest of Afghanistan, will soon be the first of the 34 provinces in Afghanistan where all known contaminated areas have been cleared.

The DDG found 26 explosive devices just in the area around Ahangaran.

“We explored the area with information from the people, finding locals who had fought up there,” Noor said.

At the site near Ahangaran visited by AFP, deminers worked under a bright blue sky, with a doctor and team leader always on hand.

The team of eight, wearing bright blue body armour, picked quietly at the ground, their silence broken only by the sound of crows crying and metal detectors buzzing.
Zarkha, 26, said she had found her first cluster bomb a few days earlier.

“I was very scared,” she said, describing how her team had carefully dug around the sensitive device and then destroyed it in a controlled explosion.

Last year, mines and other “explosive remnants of war” (ERW) killed or wounded 1,391 Afghans, according to government statistics. More than half of the victims were children.

“The explosive is still operable after one hundred years. The metal and plastic will degrade but not the explosives,” said Abdul Hakim Noorzai, DDG’s chief of demining operations based in Kabul.

Ahmad, the demining team leader, said he was angry his country remained devastated by the Soviet war.

“They destroyed our lives. Because of them we have to do demining instead of being a doctor or engineer or teacher,” he said, adding that he had been demining since 2003 and was bored with the tedious work.

While heading down the mountain, the team finds a gang of children playing outside the village’s modest school.

Nahida, 11, smiles shyly under the little white scarf covering her hair.

She remembers Moujtaba well. “He was my cousin. I cried when I learned that he was dead,” she said.

Asked if she knew anything about the war with the Soviets, she replied: “I don’t know where the bombs came from.”

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