Saturday, June 20, 2009

The African Child

This week I watched celebrations of the day for the African Child on news. As usual there were songs, poems and dances by happy children. However the real situation of most African children is very grave, hardly a day passes without news of abuse cases, kidnappings, malnourished children, a child not being given an opportunity to go to school, children suffering in war torn countries etc.....

Lately there have been many cases of kidnappings of children in Kenya, kidnapping years back was a worry of the rich because it was believed they could produce the big ransom being demanded by the kidnappers. Now the story in Kenya is different, children of people in the middle class and even lower class are being kidnapped. The kidnappers now demand as low as Ksh50,000 from the parents or else they will kill the child. To a rich person this is very little money but to an ordinary Kenyan this is not a small amount. It is sad that a child’s life can be threatened by silly thugs just because of some small money. I call them silly because they are using mobile phones to contact the parents, who of course will contact the police even when warned not to do so, the police will then contact the mobile company involved to tract down the where-about of the caller. Thanks to technology many of them have been caught, but because they are silly thugs they do not learn from such mistakes, new cases are still being reported. Parents still need to be watchful of their kids because not all of them will be caught others can accomplish their threats.

The other case is child abuse, many African children are abused in many ways. Thursday Daily Nation Newspaper reported that “Sexual abuse against children has been on the increase over the years, but many cases are never reported, police have said”. The Cradle a child right organization is also reported to have said that an average of 10 cases involving child abuse have been reported at its Nairobi offices every week since January Read more on their web. This is very sad because there are many more cases that are not reported, many children are abused by people they know, like a neighbor or a relative. There was also the story of a Catholic Priest who is accused of sexually abusing orphan boys in his care. There are many cases that have been reported about children sexually abused by foreigners at the Kenyan coast. Just this week a man was arrested when he went to produce photographs of young girls he has been abusing in his neighborhood in a Nairobi Slum. The stories are many and I wonder if a relative, a neighbor, a priest, a parent, a teacher can abuse a child sexually, who will protect the African child from these people? The answer can be the government, but the government cannot be everywhere, I think it is stiffer laws against the perpetrators and building of more boarding schools for poor children that will save the African child from such problems.

Apart from the above cases the African child is also threatened by many other problems like diseases, hunger, lack of education or poor education, clothing, being left as orphans (many of their parents die of AIDS, war and the list is long. All these are as a result of poverty and bad governance because I believe a country that is well governed has less suffering citizens when its resources are distributed evenly and are used properly to the benefit of its citizens. A well governed state should have good laws that protect its children.

I therefore hope that one day African leaders will take proper measures to protect the African Child and then the day of the African Child will be marked with real joy.

Kenyans willing to die in search of money

It is just this year that many Kenyans died after trying to get petrol from an oil tanker that turned in Sachangwan in the Rift Valley. Many also got burns and stayed in hospital for a long time because of very serious burns sustained by the explosion. Those who got the burns are now facing serious challenges in life from the terrible scars. This is not the first time such an accident occured, there was a similar incident in Siaya sometime back.

Unfortunately Kenyans never learn from these cases, other tankers have fallen after the Sachangwan case, in Kisumu and other places. The media reported that people rushed to the scene to try and collect fuel, when asked they would say its hunger, no food, high cost of food, high standards of living and did not care they could die in the process. Luckily police would get to some of the scenes fast enough to stop people from getting fuel.

In such cases fire is normally triggered by a smoker, many people do not know that petrol is highly flammable and explodes when it gets ignited. The victims are normally burnt beyond recognition and those who survive suffer terribly from the burns. It is sad when many of the victims have to be buried in mass graves because they cannot be identified.

Even after seeing such cases Kenyans have not learnt, this week another petrol tanker turned in Kericho as usual people went to get petrol to sell. It is said one person tried to steal the battery of the vehicle and in the process petrol exploded. People died and others are still in hospital nursing fire injuries. In all the cases the Government has tried their best to get the victims to hospitals and the dead buried. They have warned people, even the media has played its part in highlighting the tragedies and warning citizens, but nothing has changed, another incident will happen, the story will be the same.

One thing is strange that needs to be investigated, many petrol tankers are getting involved in accidents, the driver and those in the vehicle normally disappear after the accident. Rumors has it that it is always intentional after they sell part of the consignment before they get to their destination. Police will try to contain such incidents but they cannot be everywhere, the Government and the media have done their part well, but still there is a problem. Whether it is due to Poverty or Greed, this is a dangerous trend that needs to be stopped. Siphoning any form of fuel from such vehicles should be outlawed, if one is caught they should be apprehended and charged. A driver caught after causing such an accident, if found guilty of causing the accident intentionally, should be jailed for many years because it is a threat to human life.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

My views on Kenya Budget 2009-2010

This year’s budget by Finance Minister Hon. Uhuru Kenyatta I think is the best Kenya has had in many years. This was a unique budget in that it was the high compared to other years, I did not get bored listening to the Finance Minister read the budget and also noted that most members of parliament were alert and did not sleep as has been their tradition. When the common citizen like me looked forward to hear about bei ya unga, petroli na mafuta ya taa (price of maize flour, petrol and paraffin), he did more than we expected by touching on every aspect of our lives and allocated funds that if used for the purpose they are meant for, can improve living conditions of all Kenyans.

In this economic hash times the Finance Minister tried to tackle most issues affecting the common citizen and I can summarize as follow:-

Food security and Water conservation

In order to improve food security, he has allocated funds to build wholesale fresh produce markets. Enhance food production to eradicate famine and hunger by allocating funds for water harvesting, scientific farming methods etc… Ksh3 billion allocated for rehabilitation of lands in Northern Kenya through irrigation. Money allocated for fish farming ponds in all constituencies, 7m/constituency for water projects.

For conservation of environment, Ksh1.2m was allocated for tree planting by primary school children. 5 water towers to be rehabilitated, exemption of taxes on relief foods and supplies. However I expected to hear more on Agriculture

Security

He allocated funds to Community Policing engaging the youth and allocated funds to purchase motorbikes to assist in this.

Health

Ksh4b or 20m per constituency for construction of Health Centers all over the country. 4200 more nurses to be hired on contract to work in the health centers.

Education

Money allocated for mobile computer laboratories in each constituency to be used by schools. Additional money allocated for free primary and subsidized secondary school education. Ksh1.5b for upgrading rural schools, Ksh1.3b for recruiting more teachers on contract basis to improve quality of education.

Youth empowerment and Job creation

Ksh2.5m per constituency for construction of Jua Kali (artisans) sheds. 210m or 1m per constituency to equip the sheds. 500m allocated for Youth Development funds. More nurses and teachers will be hired.

Women issues and empowerment

500m allocated for Women Enterprise kitty. 19,000 3 bed roomed houses to be built for (internally displaced persons (IDPs), priority to be given to households headed by women. Duty on cosmetics reduced and Duty on sanitary raw materials off.

Communication & Technology

VAT on mobile handsets removed.

Improved energy

Money allocated for Greening Program to conserve energy. Ksh 400m allocated for installation of Solar all over the country.

Physically challenged persons

Kshs 200m interest free revolving funds for operating business. Tax relief on their income up to Ksh 150,000. He also allocated some money for the Elderly.

Transport

New generation log-books to be introduced. To avoid time wasting between Police and commercial vehicle offenders, police will be allowed to issue fines on the spot. I just hope police will not take advantage of this by imposing hefty fines when the offender is not able to pay they take a bribe. The other issue is that they could issue fake receipts to the offenders and pocket the money. Quick inspection and registration of commercial vehicles before they are used on our roads and bicycles zero rated.

Clothing

Duty on Synthetic yarn reduced and that of second hand clothes as well. Many people cannot afford new clothes so this will be welcomed by citizens who wear and also those who sell second hand clothes.

Investing & Finance

VAT exempt on banking services. At one time many Kenyan’s wanted to get rich quick and joined Pyramid Schemes which fleeced them of thousands and millions of shillings. Now the government has come to protect citizens from future cons by outlawing such schemes. Investors will be encouraged to also invest outside major urban centers.

Infrastructure

Compared to others, I think this is the highest allocation, Ksh140b for roads, rails etc... MPs applauded when he mentioned that Constituency Development Funds (CDF) handled by the MPs will get a share of Fuel Levy funds.

Tourism

Tourism Ministry was allocated 400m for marketing. This is good for the country since Tourism generates some good income for the government.

Good Governance

Ministry of Finance together with the public will monitor Donor funds on basis of project performance at every stage to ensure transparency. For good governance to be achieved, reforms must be made, hence Ksh 2b was allocated for implementation of Agenda 4 of the National Accord. Ksh 3.1b has been allocated for reforms of the Judiciary.

It was good news to hear that Ministries spending has been cut down, phone calls, hospitality and traveling costs reduced. Each Minister will now have one official vehicle that will not be their usual fuel guzzlers since they will only be allowed vehicles with engine capacity not exceeding 1800cc. The other vehicles will be sold and proceeds used for resettlement of IDPs. This has been worrying since this coalition government has many Ministries and the spending is hefty, while many Kenyan’s are starving due to lack of rains. Hon. Uhuru Kenyatta led by example when he went to Parliament in a Passat which consumes less fuel than the usual Mercedes Benz vehicles used by Ministers.

Community Development Funds (CDF)

Apart from the budget being citizen friendly, the amount allocated for CDF for MPs may have also caused them not to snooze as they normally do on every budget reading. Ksh 12b or 60m per constituency allocated for CDF, as I mentioned earlier they will also get a share of Fuel Levy funds from money allocated for infrastructure, the Minister also mentioned part of money allocated for education and other development for constituencies would be added to the CDF kitty and if am not wrong I heard it would add up to something like 105m/constituency. That was very good news that kept MPs totally awake prompting them to make a lot of noise in the house that was stopped by the House Speaker upon Finance Minister’s request to be allowed to continue.

This Budget has been received well by many, especially MPs who had a cause to smile and go home happy. The Task now remains on implementation and financing of the Budget.

Sociable

Kenya

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