Monday, 21 August 2017

Grace Mugabe, Zimbabwe's queen of drama; 21.08.2017

By AGENCIES
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Zimbabwe First Lady Grace Mugabe. From lavishZimbabwe First Lady Grace Mugabe. From lavish lifestyles to abrasive politics, controversy is her second nature. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 
Grace Mugabe is no stranger to controversy and drama.
The 52-year-old Zimbabwean First Lady’s love affair with President Robert Mugabe, which started when both were married and their eventual marriage in 1996, was materials fit enough for rousing telenovela.
ASSAULT
But the alleged assault of a model, said to be a girlfriend of one of her sons, in South Africa earlier this week may bring her back to her senses even after she was granted diplomatic immunity.
It was alleged that Mrs Mugabe hit the 20-year-old Gabriella Engels and injured her on the face last Sunday.
Ms Engels claims that Mrs Mugabe assaulted her after she found her with her sons, Robert jr and Chatunga Bellarmine.
It seems Mrs Mugabe also assaulted her sons, known for their high-rolling lifestyles, according to speculations in South African media.
Ms Engels suffered cuts and bruises and had to crawl out of the room to escape, she claimed.
BODYGUARDS
She said that the first lady’s bodyguards stood by and watched. Her family and lawyers have vowed to pursue the case.
Mrs Mugabe has not yet publicly addressed the assault allegations, fanning speculation in the mainstream and social media.
Her whereabouts was a subject of intense media coverage until she was allowed to fly out of South African on Sunday.
First, it was reported on Monday that she had surrender to police, who confirmed that they would take her to court later in the week.
On Tuesday, news had it that she had fled back to Harare where she was expected to attend an anniversary of the Zimbabwean army.
IMMUNITY
But in the course of the week, it emerged that she was still holed up in a hotel in South Africa where she was expected to accompany her husband to a SADC summit taking place in Pretoria.
Andon Saturday, there was news of Zimbabwean officials working frantically to seek diplomatic immunity to protect her against prosecution.
They succeeded and she left South African on Sunday.
A section of South African media on Saturday claimed that Mrs Mugabe alleged that she hit Ms Engels in self-defence because Ms Engels had attacked her first.
“She is adamant on the issue of protecting herself because she feels she was attacked," South African weekly, Saturday Star, quoted an unnamed source as saying.
MEDIA
"She says she was attacked by the victim and that she also has her own injuries, which she is not going to publish in the media."
News of attack followed an avalanche of calls for prosecution of the Zimbabwean First Lady from civil society organisations.
Back home in Zimbabwe, Ms Mugabe is a staple in the mainstream media.
She is politically active, which gives her opportunity and forums to speak her mind every other day.
She was designated as head of the ZANU-PF Women’s wing in 2014.
'MIRACLE'
If she is not in the news insulting a government minister, she would be featured accusing a vice president or another high profile government official of piloting to take power.
Recently, she hit headlines after she publicly called upon her husband president to nominate a successor.
Last month, she went public with news that she had somehow escaped unhurt from a freak accident that would have otherwise left her disabled.
She ‘revealed’ that her leg was run over by Mr Mugabe’s bullet proof limousine and that it was a “a miracle” she could still walk.
“I am telling you, I was run over by the armoured car… My leg was crushed and I thought I was not going to walk the rest of my life,” she was quoted by the Zimbabwean media as saying.
POLITICS
The accident happened when the limousine sent to pick them up from the airport, on July 15, moved off before she got in.
They were returning from President Mugabe’s medical check-up in Singapore.
He political ambitions are not a secret, neither are her abrasive tactics.
In late 2014, she was fiercely critical of Vice-President Joice Mujuru, who allegedly plotted against her husband President Mugabe.
Ultimately, the accusations against Mrs Mujuru resulted in her elimination as a candidate to succeed Mugabe and effectively becoming an outcast within Zanu-PF.
PhD
Following the ouster of Ms Mujuru, she was nominated as head of the Zanu-PF Women’s League, and delegates to the party congress approved her nomination by acclamation on December 6, 2014.
In becoming head of the women’s league, she also became a member of the Zanu-PF Politburo
Grace Mugabe hit the headlines again in 2014 with the revelation that she had gained her PhD in sociology from the University of Zimbabwe only two months after registering at the university, although a dissertation does not exist.
The degree was widely described as fraudulent and the news was received with shock by many Zimbabweans some of who demanded that she hand back the doctorate.
GUCCI
Many also believed the PhD was also part of her machinations to position herself to succeed her husband as the President of Zimbabwe.
Some academicians such as Kate Law and Helen Garnett say as Mugabe has aged, his wife has been operating as the ‘power behind the throne’, and that it is Grace who has encouraged the authoritarian nature of Zanu-PF.
“It’s lazy, but convenient to rest on the ‘Lady Macbeth’ argument when one considers that Mugabe inherited one of the strongest economies in the region in 1980, with the country seemingly going from bread basket to basket case by the early 2000s,” they argue.
But Grace is also known for her lavish lifestyle and seeming and shopping sprees that have earned her the name of ‘Gucci Grace’.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Nasa lawyers tell of rough time in compiling petition

By PETER LEFTIE
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Nasa leaders Raila Odinga (right) and Kalonzo Musyoka submit petitionNasa leaders Raila Odinga (right) and Kalonzo Musyoka submit petition documents to the Supreme Court's registry on August 19, 2017. The Nasa principals will meet to discuss the list of lawyers who will prosecute their petition. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

Summary

  • The team had just under 48 hours to put together a water-tight case for the nullification of the presidential results.
  • The team of lawyers included MPs-elect Otiende Amollo (Rarieda), Opondo Kaluma (Homa Bay Town), Anthony Oluoch (Mathare) and Tom Kajwang’ (Ruaraka).
Lawyers compiling the National Super Alliance (Nasa) petition challenging President Uhuru Kenyatta’s election victory were forced to seek refuge at Raila Odinga’s Nairobi residence to evade a crackdown from suspected agents of the State.
Members of the legal team who spoke to the Sunday Nation on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution from the State said they were forced to shift base three times between Wednesday and Friday to evade raids from suspected police and intelligence officers.
INFILTRATION
The team, which was coordinated by Mr Odinga’s legal adviser Paul Mwangi, also had to contend with infiltration from suspected intelligence officers as well as defections that saw three key lawyers “disappear” on Friday and fail to append their signatures to the final document, forcing the opposition coalition to look for replacements to sign the document barely four hours to the Friday midnight deadline.
“Three very critical experts, when it came to signing the papers at the very tail end of the exercise, switched off their phones and disappeared.
"Luckily, they were not working alone so we got other lawyers to take over, given the strict timelines we were operating under,” our source said.
PETITION
According to the lawyers who spoke to the Sunday Nation, the team had just under 48 hours to put together a water-tight case for the nullification of the presidential results following Mr Odinga’s declaration on Wednesday that he would, after all, challenge the outcome that saw President Kenyatta declared the winner.
“He gave us 48 hours to put together a solid case. We had to identify a team of about 30 lawyers, many of them volunteers, to undertake the task.
"We had drafters of the petition itself and those handling the affidavits; we had another team dealing with research on law and others analysing the evidence available; it was a big team working round the clock to beat the Friday midnight deadline,” the source said.
RAIDS
The lawyers said they were raided by persons they believe to have been undercover police officers thrice between Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon, forcing them to shift base every time they were raided.
“Following the third raid on our secret operational base, it was decided that we shift base to Raila’s home in Karen.
"That was the only safe location we could operate from. We were being hunted down like rabbits,” he said.
SPIES
Also working with the team of lawyers who included MPs-elect Otiende Amollo (Rarieda), Opondo Kaluma (Homa Bay Town), Anthony Oluoch (Mathare) and Tom Kajwang’ (Ruaraka) was an “army” of clerks numbering about 100, the sources revealed.
“Of course we had to vet the volunteer lawyers and the clerks to ensure our team was not infiltrated by the other side.
"We turned away quite a number because we did not trust their intentions. The lawyers we settled on had to be agreeable to our core team of lawyers,” the source added.
DEADLINE
The team kept its distance from the five Nasa principals during the hectic 48 hours, with Mr Orengo acting as the link between the two groups.
“They (principals) gave us a free hand to work, they did not interfere at all.
"If we wanted any direction or clarification, we got in touch through Orengo or Mwangi (Paul),” one of the lawyers said.
The lawyers revealed the anxiety that gripped them as the Friday midnight deadline fast approached yet heavy work still remained.
“The disappearance of the three experts jolted us a bit.
"Coming barely four hours to the deadline, we had to move fast to secure fresh signatures before we took the entire document to the principals for their affidavits.
"We ended up taking the documents to Raila and Kalonzo to append their signatures on the affidavits at 10pm, just two hours to the deadline,” one of the lawyers said. 
PROSECUTORS
It was not until 10.34pm that the Nasa team of lawyers led by Mr Amollo and Mr Oluoch delivered the first batch of documents at the Supreme Court.
Alongside lawyer Jackson Awele, whose law firm Murumba & Awele Advocates played a key role in the petition, the Nasa team of lawyers is said to have left the Supreme Court in the early hours of Saturday after spending the better part of the night arranging the documents for easy reference by the various parties to the case.
The Sunday Nation learnt that the Nasa principals will Sunday meet with the legal team led by Mr Orengo and Mr Mwangi to discuss the list of lawyers who will prosecute their petition.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Robert Alai Arrested; 19.08.17


By NATION REPORTER
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Blogger Robert Alai who has been arrested andBlogger Robert Alai who has been arrested and is being held at Kamukunji Police Station in Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 
Controversial blogger Robert Alai is being held at Kamukunji Police Station in Nairobi.
He told the Nation that he was arrested Friday on Mombasa Road.
According to him, police cars fitted with ordinary number plates blocked his vehicle, before the officers jumped out with guns.
“They have not told me why I am under arrest. I do not know why I am here. They roughed me up. My shirt is torn,” said Mr Alai.
He added that the police had four cars when they arrested him.
Alai is active on social media, where he posts information on politics and social issues.
Recently, he posted photographs of the first family that were supposedly taken in a city hospital.
The caption suggested that a member of the first family had passed on.

All eyes on CJ David Maraga as Raila Odinga files petition; 18.08.17

By SAM KIPLAGAT
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By PATRICK LANG'AT
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Justice David Maraga, the chairman of the tribunal investigating Judge Joseph Mbalu Mutava, speaks during a press briefing at KICC in Nairobi on September 21, 2016.Chief Justice David Maraga. He is set to handle a presidential election petition for the first time. FILE PHOTO | ANTHONY OMUYA | NATION MEDIA GROUP. 

Summary

  • While the Supreme Court decision, which must be delivered on September 1, will be determined by seven judges of the court, all eyes will be on Justice Maraga.
  • This is because of his role as president of the court and presiding judge, and the fact that it is his biggest case yet.
  • Also, Judge Maraga will be the tie breaker should the other six judges tie in their votes.
Two weeks after he was sworn in in October last year, Chief Justice David Maraga met opposition chief Raila Odinga at the Supreme Court for a one-and-a-half-hour meeting.
It was a way of the new president of the Supreme Court reaching out to all political actors, the Mr Odinga meeting coming just a few days after he met President Uhuru Kenyatta.
READY
Accompanied by his co-principals Kalonzo Musyoka and Moses Wetang’ula, Mr Odinga reportedly poured his heart out to Mr Justice Maraga about his misgivings of the court, and why he stood the biggest chance to restore that confidence.
And at the heart of that test, CJ Maraga later said, was a potential presidential elections petition, on which the Supreme Court has the exclusive jurisdiction and whose decision is final.
“I want to assure the country that the Judiciary is prepared to handle any election petitions that may arise next year,” Mr Justice Maraga told Mr Odinga and his colleagues at the steps of the iconic building that houses Kenya’s highest court.
Judge Maraga would continually repeat his assertion that the court was ready to handle such a petition since then, and as late as a week to the high-stakes August 8 elections, whose results Mr Odinga has disputed and is expected to lodge a case today.
7 JUDGES
While the Supreme Court decision, which must be delivered on September 1, will be determined by seven judges of the court, all eyes will be on Justice Maraga.
This is because of his role as president of the court and presiding judge, and the fact that it is his biggest case yet.
Also, Judge Maraga will be the tie breaker should the other six judges tie in their votes.
And since the court was formed primarily for such a petition, it will be baptism by fire for the 66-year-old former Kisumu Court of Appeal presiding judge.
The court will, however, have the benefit of judges Mohamed Ibrahim, Prof Jackton Ojwang’, Dr Smokin Wanjala and Lady Justice Njoki Ndung’u who arbitrated a similar petition in 2013.
CHURCH
Those who took the oath of office with the CJ are his deputy Lady Justice Philomena Mwilu, and Justice Isaac Lenaola.
A furiously independent-minded judge, Justice Maraga is a staunch Seventh Day Adventist church elder who has in the recent months stamped the authority of the Judiciary against attacks by politicians.
So strong is his faith that during the interviews for the job in which he beat 14 other contestants, Justice Maraga said he could not compromise his going to church on Saturday for work.
“It would be very difficult for me to sit on a Saturday to hear a case,” he told the Judicial Service Commission.
THE PAST
“I would rather talk with my colleagues in the court to accommodate me and exempt me from sitting if the hearing extends to a Saturday.”
Given the 14-day window to hear and determine a presidential petition includes the weekends, it remains to be seen how the soft-spoken judge will navigate the waters in the high-stakes case.
The father of three also served as a judge of the High Court in Mombasa, Kisumu, Nakuru and Nairobi.
Before joining the bench, Mr Maraga practised as an advocate in Nakuru.
As the presiding judge in Nakuru, Maraga handled the murder trial of a former Eldoret traffic policeman- Andrew Moache, who had been charged with double murder of Ainamoi MP David Kimutai Too and his companion Eunice Chepkwony.
ELECTIONS
Judge Maraga found the officer guilty of manslaughter and sentenced him to 10 years in prison, sparking protests.
The two were shot dead at West Indies Estate in Eldoret on January 31, 2008.
He is also chaired the judiciary's committee on election preparedness.
The committee was tasked with finding pitfalls from previous election petition hearings and it made wide recommendations on how to hear the petitions efficiently.

Friday, 18 August 2017

NYAYO HOUSE: Unravelling the Architecture and Aesthetics of Torture; 17.08.17

“I’m conflicted. Sometimes I want them to just tear it down. But it’s also part of our history. If we don’t deal with the legacy of that past then we are likely to repeat the same mistakes”.
Wachira Waheire spends several of the first minutes of our interview sizing me up. As he shares this observation with me, he is guarded and measured, uncertain that he will collaborate with me until he establishes who I am and why I need to speak to him. It is Saturday morning in the Kenyan capital Nairobi and the museum coffee shop where we are meeting is buzzing. Only when I show him samples of my previous writing on my phone does he begin to relax and speak a little more freely. “You know this story is very traumatising,” he tells me. “Every time a journalist asks me to talk about it, I give a piece of myself away. I relive the experience again. It’s very hard.”
Waheire was bundled back into the vehicle and driven around for hours before he was dropped off in the bowels of a building he didn’t recognise. “I was promised a short questioning – I ended up in prison for four years. But had I not been so young and healthy I’m not sure I would even be here today,” he says, laughing mirthlessly.
This story is the 17 days Waheire spent in the tower looming over us during our interview, days in which he was beaten, tortured and interrogated before he was finally transferred to a maximum security prison, where he was held in solitary confinement for four years. In 1986, Waheire was 25 and two years out from university when Kenyan Special Branch officers showed up at his office and asked him to follow them. The officers calmly escorted him to the back of a four-wheel-drive vehicle and took him to his home. There, they found a political poster featuring an ear of corn and an AK-47 that stated that food insecurity was the root of revolution. The officers argued that that was enough to charge him with sedition. Suddenly the mood shifted.
Waheire was bundled back into the vehicle and driven around for hours before he was dropped off in the bowels of a building he didn’t recognise. “I was promised a short questioning – I ended up in prison for four years. But had I not been so young and healthy I’m not sure I would even be here today,” he says, laughing mirthlessly.
The building where Waheire was held is Nyayo House, once the Nairobi provincial headquarters and administrative heart of the city. Commissioned in 1973 by the Ministry of Works, it was initially planned as the 14-storey “Nairobi House”. In 1979, a year after he assumed office following the death of his predecessor Jomo Kenyatta, President Daniel arap Moi, also known by the sobriquet Nyayo, renamed the project Nyayo House. In a 2003 interview, the then chief government architect, the late A. A. Ngotho, said that by the time they broke ground, the decision to use the building for Special Branch offices as well as other government ministries had been taken.
Nyayo House is loaded with symbols of the relationship between the two presidents. It was for several years the second tallest building after the Kenyatta International Conference Centre, a nod to the way Moi, who served as vice president under Kenyatta, always positioned himself as secondary to his predecessor. Indeed, the word “Nyayo” is Kiswahili for footsteps – a nickname that Moi gave himself and his political philosophy to indicate that he would follow in the footsteps of his predecessor. Thus the building initially conceived as Nairobi House became Nyayo House on completion, and for almost 22 years, Nairobi’s big men symbolically presided over the capital city until Times Tower was completed in 1995.
Both Nyayo House and Nyati House were at the heart of the Moi regime’s torture network, and Kenyans who remember the 1986 to 1992 period still associate the two buildings with arbitrary arrests, detentions and disappearances. Growing up in Nairobi, we avoided walking past Nyati House, especially because of rumours that you could be arrested and held incommunicado for simply looking at the building in the wrong way.
The Moi regime was on shaky grounds from the beginning, but its most severe challenge was an attempted coup by the air force in 1982 that triggered a wave of punitive repression that arguably didn’t end until the Moi regime itself ended and reached its apogee in sites like Nyayo House. Between 1982 and 1985, after the building had been finished, the government architects who oversaw the project were asked by the Special Branch to make several alterations to the original planning that would turn an office block in the heart of a major city into one of the most secretive and notorious prisons in the country. Twelve strong rooms in the basement were turned into pitch black holding cells and concrete slabs blocked elevator access to all but five floors. Access to the top three floors was blocked almost entirely, except through a single door.
In a 2003 interview with a local paper, the then police commissioner Bernard Njiinu argued that even he didn’t have a sense of the full scope of what was happening in the building. “I knew what I read in the newspapers like anybody elsewhere,” he told journalists, even though he was building a picture of his own from titbits of information he gathered independently.
Waheire gives credence to this argument. “It used to be a very busy government office,” he recalls, “but we were always brought in at night, and they made it so that the office workers never knew what was happening in the basement.” Thus, while by day bureaucrats pushed paper and traded water cooler banter, by night hundreds of political prisoners were held incommunicado in the basement, shuffled to the rooftop for painful beating and interrogation sessions, and then shuffled back downstairs for more torture in the form of sensory deprivation and environmental manipulation. Those in the offices may not have known the particulars, but certainly most of Nairobi suspected that all was not well within the building. There were too many “suicides” off the top floor. There were too many armed police officers milling about in the corridors and at the entrances, shouting at civilians to stay away from the staircases.
The scale of the operation was eventually so large that it couldn’t be contained completely and locals would swear that even the air around the building was sodden with the stench of death. The fear and paranoia it triggered is still reflected in the way Nairobians who remember that time navigate the city, leaving a wide berth around Nyayo House even if it is the shortest route to their destination. It is seared in the collective memory of the city.
Do buildings have memory? The phrase “institutional memory” generally refers to the way ideas get preserved and transmitted across a network over time. But there isn’t really a word to describe the ways in which negative energies become indelibly associated with buildings or constructed artefacts that have been used to violent ends. Yet violence like torture marks buildings not least with the physical debris of damaged human bodies: blood stains the walls and floors and soaks into the concrete; human waste in substantial quantities festers in poorly ventilated spaces.
Walking through such spaces, especially when these spaces have been built or altered to accommodate such uses, one often gets a sense of claustrophobia. Spiritualists may argue that this is the weight of tormented spirits that succumbed to unnatural deaths in these spaces, but non-spiritualists would probably observe that our perception of physical spaces is altered by the uses we associate with them.
Moreover, there’s the more ethereal sense of oppression that lingers even after the torture. Walking through such spaces, especially when these spaces have been built or altered to accommodate such uses, one often gets a sense of claustrophobia. Spiritualists may argue that this is the weight of tormented spirits that succumbed to unnatural deaths in these spaces, but non-spiritualists would probably observe that our perception of physical spaces is altered by the uses we associate with them. The philosopher Saul Fisher argues in the Stanford Encyclopedia of philosophy that beyond aesthetics or beauty, our experience of the built environment contributes to our state of mind – “the ways we experience architectural objects may contribute to how we comprehend, and interact with, those objects.” So an ugly building used as a space to save lives will evoke an entirely different emotion from a beautiful building used for torture.

Kenya to adopt E-Passports in September— Gordon Kihalangwa

By FRED MUKINDA
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Kenyan passport. This current generation willKenyan passport. This current generation will be used till 2019. PHOTO | EMMA NZIOKA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

Summary

  • A Series, B series, C series and diplomatic passports will cost Sh4,550, Sh6,050, Sh7,550 and Sh7,550, respectively.
  • The government has been gradually switching to e-systems to improve efficiency and reduce security loopholes.
Kenyan passport holders will from September be required to replace them as the government begins rolling out electronic ones.
The current passports will however remain in use for two years, after which they will be rendered obsolete.
SECURITY
Those applying for passports from next month will be issued with the new-generation e-passports, which feature a microchip containing data about the holder that also matches the information in the booklet.
“The e-passport allows information stored on the chip to be verified with the information visually displayed on the passport,” the Department of Immigration said Thursday.
“The e-passport is highly secure; hence avoids reproduction and tampering. The e-passport enhances imposter detection.”
COST
Director of Immigration Gordon Kihalangwa took curious Kenyans through the process of acquiring the new passport.
Using his interactive Twitter account, he said the passports would be issued at the same cost as the old ones.
“Applicants will be required to appear in person at our offices for photograph capture and finger prints,” Maj-Gen (Rtd) Kihalangwa said.
“There will be no more printing of application forms or invoices.”
VISAS
He added that the A Series, B series, C series and diplomatic passports will cost Sh4,550, Sh6,050, Sh7,550 and Sh7,550, respectively.
Payment can be made via mobile phone or credit cards, he added.
“It facilitates faster clearance of travellers at immigration checks. It will allow the government to offer world-class consular services to Kenyans,” the department said, adding that the current ordinary East African passport will also be phased out.
After replacement, passports with visas will remain valid.
TECHNOLOGY
The government has been gradually switching to e-systems to improve efficiency and reduce security loopholes.
Since 2015, foreigners visiting Kenya have been required to apply for visas online — unlike in the past, when only manual applications were applicable.
The online system, known as e-visa, is expected to significantly streamline the processing and issuing of visas to foreigners visiting the country.
E-CITIZEN
Earlier, the government rolled out e-citizen, a one-stop portal for information and services to help Kenyans complete transactions conveniently.
The government has also introduced a new computer system — Integrated Population Registration System — to link government agencies that hold personal information of individuals, in a bid to enhance efficiency and security.