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VIDEO: Eugene Wamalwa’s relative to be deported from US after court rejects appeal

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BY CHRIS WAMALWA

A relative of Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa is to be deported from the US after his appeal for political asylum was denied.

Dr Mzenga Aggrey Wanyama, who teaches at Augsburg University in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and his wife Mary Namalwa Mzenga, have attracted huge support as they face deportation from a country they have lived in for 25 years.

“Well, what can I do? If they want me to buy my own ticket, I will do that,” he told the Minneapolis-based StarTribune newspaper on Thursday. Dr Wanyama told the publication that he had resigned himself to the deportation at a time when US President Donald Trump is increasingly taking a hard-line stance on immigration.

On Friday, Dr Wanyama and his wife met in the Twin Cities (Saint Paul and Minneapolis) with officials of Immigration and Customs Enforcement to review their case and discuss plans for deportation.

REPORT TO IMMIGRATION

Dr Wanyama was ordered to report back to the immigration officials next month to plan for his repatriation to Kenya, even as his university and the community of Minneapolis-Saint Paul put pressure on immigration authorities to spare him.

 

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said in a statement that Dr Wanyama was a pillar in the community and the region was better for his work.

“No president, no federal agency will deport Dr Wanyama without a fight from me, from our partners in the state and federal delegations, and from the thousands of people in Minneapolis who share our values,” said Mr Frey.

ENTERED US IN 1992

Dr Wanyama first entered the US in 1992 as a non-immigrant exchange visitor.

He was followed in 1995 by his wife and children Billy Levin Mzenga, 30, and Billy Masibai Mzenga, 26.

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The two children are protected from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programme.

A third son, a 19-year-old attending the University of Minnesota, was born in the US and is a citizen.

ASYLUM

Upon expiration of his visa in 2005, Dr Wanyama applied for asylum.

He claimed he will be persecuted in Kenya primarily on account of an article he wrote in The Standard newspaper in 2004 criticising the government of President Mwai Kibaki and praising his opponent Raila Odinga.

Dr Wanyama told a US immigration judge that the Kenyan government began harassing his family members in Kenya after the article was published.

He claimed that his brother was fired as managing director of a parastatal, and an MP made “suspicious remarks” to Dr Wanyama’s mother, questioning her about his activities and whereabouts. Several other family members sent emails to Dr Wanyama telling him he should not return to Kenya for safety reasons, he testified before the judge.

POLITICAL OPPONENT

Additionally, as his removal proceedings progressed, Dr Wanyama wrote two more articles in The Standard newspaper supporting Mr Odinga’s candidacy in the 2007 General Election.

After the articles were published, Dr Wanyama claimed the Kenyan government intensified its focus on him as a political opponent based on his involvement with an American political group that supported Mr Odinga.

“To illustrate the danger of being identified as a political opponent, he testified about two of Kibaki’s opponents that he believes suffered persecution at the hands of the government,” United Courts of Appeal for the Eight Circuit heard in 2012.

He told the court that his cousin Vice-President Kijana Wamalwa’s death in a London Hospital in 2003 after a long illness, was under “suspicious circumstances”.

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“Wanyama theorised that Kibaki’s government was responsible because Wamalwa was slated to succeed Kibaki as president pursuant to a memorandum of understanding,” the court heard.

DON’S MURDER

He also testified about a professor from the University of Nairobi whom he believed was murdered for proposing the transfer of some power from the presidency to a new prime minister’s position, the court further heard.

The professor in question is likely to be Dr Crispin Odhiambo Mbai who was gunned down in his Nairobi home by unknown assailants in September 2003.

At the time of his death, Dr Mbai was a delegate and the chairman of the sub-committee on devolution of power at the National Constitutional Conference of Kenya.

After a hearing in April 2008, the immigration judge closed the proceedings, but asked the parties to submit additional documentation.

In December 2009, the judge reopened Dr Wanyama’s case to allow the parties to submit additional evidence, which included evidence of improved country conditions as a result of the formation of the grand coalition government in Kenya in 2008.

PERSECUTION

Although it was found Wanyama’s testimony was credible to establish a subjective fear of persecution, the judge determined that Dr Wanyama failed to show an objectively reasonable fear of future persecution.

Dr Wanyama appealed the case to the Board of Immigration Appeals, where he also claimed the judge violated his due process rights by delaying his decision and reopening the case sua sponte(without formal prompting from another party) in December 2009, thereby allowing the US government to present evidence of recently improved country conditions in Kenya.

The board affirmed the immigration judge’s decision because it found that the lecturer’s testimony could not support an objectively reasonable fear of future persecution, and it denied his due process claim.

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APPEAL

Dr Wanyama then took his case to the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit which also ruled against him in November 2012.

“In summary, after reviewing the record, we affirm the denial of Wanyama’s petition for asylum on behalf of himself and his family,” the court ruled.

The Wanyamas case, like many others in the US, has gained a sense of urgency in the wake of President Trump administration’s pledges to tighten border security and step up efforts to deport those who are in the country illegally.

The president of Augsburg University Paul Pribbenow on Thursday joined supporters who fear that a professor is being unfairly targeted for deportation despite his many years as a higher education instructor and crime-free life in the US.

ROLE MODEL

“Dr Wanyama is a role model for the professional aspirations and accomplishments of future leaders in our city and country,” Mr Pribbenow told the StarTribune. “We strongly stand behind him and believe he should be able to stay in the US.”

Ms Sarah Wairimu Brooks, a Kenyan lawyer based in Dallas, Texas, cautions Kenyans living in the US who find themselves in similar circumstances to be wary of signing documents from immigration officers in the absence of a credible immigration lawyer.

“Wanyama’s and other similar cases, which by the way run into thousands if not millions, were previously deemed as low priority by immigration during the Obama administration, in part because he is a full-time professor and has no criminal record. But, in the Trump administration, these are some of the people that are considered to be taking away jobs from Americans,” she said.

-Nation.co.ke

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The underbelly of success: Speaker Ken Lusaka’s untold story

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There are things Ken Lusaka, the Speaker of the Senate would want to consign to history such as the little incident of the wheelbarrows said to cost Sh109,000 each when he was the Governor for Bungoma County.

The ceremony in which Ken Lusaka was sworn in as Speaker of the Senate is just a hazy memory to him. It was just too surreal.

“I don’t even remember where I was sitting,” he says. “I try to look at photographs today to try and recall that day. I was very happy because I had just been elevated to a high point. I had never imagined I would be a Speaker. That was out of my line. My line had been civil service, then I thought I would be a governor for two terms and then do my own business afterwards.”

And yet, there he was, getting sworn in after having lost his bid for a second term as Bungoma Governor. He had not quite believed it was happening, from wondering what to do next after the loss, to the moment the President called him to tell him he wanted him to be the speaker, to filling the forms, getting voted in, and finally getting in.

And it was not just happiness. “I was also a bit anxious because there was a perception that to be a speaker you had to have done law, since most speakers have always had a law background,” he says. “The house I was going to lead also had well known and seasoned lawyers. I like doing things to the best of my ability. I don’t like failure. So I wondered if I would control the house or if I would goof. You know sometimes these things are lived on TV and some situations may arise that are very difficult and you have to make a decision on your feet. I thank God that I learned very fast.”

His phone, face up on the table, is on silent, not even on vibrate mode, because it never stops ringing through out the interview. It is always lit up with some person calling.

As is the fate of many a man who have lost power, when he lost governorship, it wasn’t always this way. He learned that people can be fickle. “It stopped ringing immediately. In fact, for two days I thought it was spoilt. For the first time, I didn’t have to charge it, because the charge was always full. But then when I became the speaker, people bounced back saying, ‘Oh you know we were praying for you! We knew you would get something else,’ he says laughing.

Before we finally sit down for our interview at his home in Karen, Nairobi, we have had to wait for him to finish talking with one group of people in one living room, before he joined us in the other one where we were waiting. Yet another group of people is waiting to speak to him after us.

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Home life

The little décor here feels very… safe. It is almost aggressively neutral, very much like a government-issued house, painted and draped in muted tones of cream and beige, unlike his boisterous personality.

The children are long gone, something he reflects on wistfully. He has three – a daughter aged 34, a son aged 30 and another daughter aged 28, all grown up and living their own lives elsewhere. “I have two grandsons and a granddaughter who I got last week through my son. I have not gone to celebrate yet. You know as a grandfather you don’t rush! (laughs). You wait to be called, so I am waiting anxiously. There has to be a ceremony,” he says.

The big, empty house is something that has taken some getting used to. “Kids leave so fast! I have not seen my children for about a month. We are now back where we started with my wife as the two of us, since the children have now left. You know you must learn to appreciate each other as you both depreciate,” he says with a laugh. “We are not the same people we were when we met.”

His wife, Margaret Makelo, has a PhD in Plant Breeding and is a director in the Ministry of Agriculture. The two met at the University of Nairobi in 1988 during political campaigns in Webuye. “That is when we started interacting because we happened to be in the same camp. I was ahead of her at the university. We started chatting, developed a relationship, and one thing led to another until we got married.” In 1989, they were married. He laughs when I point it out how fast it was. “Sometimes you need to move with speed and precision!” he says.

He describes himself as a “serious fan” of Lingala music, and when not at work, you can find him dancing away at the music with friends. A bottle of Glenlivet Single Malt Scotch Whiskey, will likely be on the table. “I like it 18 years and above. The older the drink, the better. The smoother it is,” he says.

Lusaka the actor

In another life, he might have been a sought-after actor or comedian. “If I wasn’t a politician, I would have been an artist, in terms of acting. I am good at drama, by the way,” he says. I later on discover that he really is, and has a knack for doing impressions of people, as he regales us with an impeccable impression of former President Moi. “I just need to stay with you for about two or three days and I can act the way you do.”

While at the University of Nairobi, he was part of the Travelling Theatre, playing the lead roles such as Wamala in The Burdens, Antoni in The Merchant of Venice and Mulili in Betrayal in the City. “I studied Literature in first year, 1996, and then I realised it was very involving. Since I didn’t want to be a teacher, I dropped it and took Political Science and History.”

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Hollywood may no longer be in his sights, but he still utilises the skills he picked up as an actor in his work as Senate Speaker. “Art is critical because sometimes you need it to break a stalemate. When the debate is so intense to the point of people disagreeing and there is a lot of tension, you can throw in a comment, a light moment and the whole house lights up and the tension goes down. Or maybe you make a joke about someone who has spoken something very serious, and he ends up laughing and it ends up reversing an otherwise tense situation,” he says.

Rise to the top

He can hardly finish a paragraph without invoking God’s name, and it is easy to see why. His life of 56 years has been a series of lucky breaks, seemingly always being at the right place at the right time. “One thing I know about my life is that God has been very gracious to me. There are many things that have happened that don’t look ordinary,” he says, before describing a jaw-dropping series of favourable circumstances that propelled his rise.

“Like when I was to run as student leader, I dropped out the last night before the elections in 1987. All those that ran the following day, like Wafula Buke and Miguna Miguna, who was my year mate, were arrested and expelled,” he says.

After university, he was jobless for a month or two before being called for interviews, where out of 80 people, he was among the 10 posted as District Officers. He was in Muhoroni, and then in Homa Bay before being picked to go for a master’s degree in the Netherlands on Policy and Administration.

“When I came back I became a District Commissioner. When President Kibaki formed his government in 2008, I became the first secretary of provincial administration in the Office of the President. They dropped Khaemba, who was the Permanent Secretary (PS) Livestock.

The policy was that if you drop somebody from a region, you replace them with somebody from the same region. I happened to be the most senior person who was there, so that is how I became a PS. After that, I became the first governor of Bungoma. Somehow when people thought I had been buried, the President appointed me as Senate Speaker.

“When you hear me quoting God, it is not in vain.”

The underbelly of success

It hasn’t all been sunshine and rainbows in his career. One incident has particularly cast a gloomy shadow over all that and refuses to go away. If there was anything he could undo, it is the perception the public has about the wheelbarrow incident.

“This thing about the wheelbarrow that everyone talks about. It keeps coming up. It was me who had initiated an audit as governor to find out how the ministries were performing. When I saw it I was also shocked. Why would a wheelbarrow cost Sh109,000? I wanted an explanation, and they came and explained to me that it was not an ordinary wheelbarrow. It was a regular food trolley. It is just the name that was given because of the material that was used.

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“But you see politics being what it is, it was really taken out of proportion,” he continues. “Media of course set me up because whoever interviewed me edited some parts out and just left the parts that they wanted to use. So then everybody was like, “Oh how can you buy a wheelbarrow for Sh109,000. That time we had bought wheelbarrows for Sh3,000, so how would I have allowed? That is one thing I wish would be reversed and that people would know the truth.”

In his words, that has been hanging like a dark cloud over his head. He regards it as part of the misfortune about politics, and regards the salacious stories regarding him with the same distaste. “Most of what you see on social media are lies. At some point I was convinced my mother was wondering what happened to her son because of the kinds of things said about me offline and online.

“There is this one time someone posted that a certain woman had stolen my clothes and Sh800,000 from me at some hotel in Bungoma. I have never gone to any hotel in Bungoma! How would you carry Sh800,000 to a hotel room? You know? You even wonder whether they are talking about you or someone else. That is the kind of thing that you expect from being in public life. People become insensitive and unfair, because those things are not true.”

Dealing with it

Being a people person is a lifelong course in human nature, and he has learned his fair share of the lessons on being in the limelight. “It is hard to annoy me, and when I get annoyed it is short-lived. I don’t harbour bitterness. There are people I would not be talking to right now if I did,” he says.

He is noncommittal about whether he will be running as governor again or not, but he intends to stay in politics until at least 2027. Meanwhile, he is happy with where he has gotten. “If you look at my career path, you deal with people, solve their problems and touch their lives. In the Senate, I am happy that I have managed to keep senators together. Despite the different political persuasions, the Senate is one in terms of standing together as a house.

“There are landmarks that will remain in Bungoma town from when I was governor. These are things that when I sit back, I feel proud about them. If history is written on Bungoma one day they will say there once lived a man…,” he says, proudly.

By Standard

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Vehicle that plunged into Indian Ocean at dawn retrieved

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The vehicle that plunged into the Indian Ocean at dawn on Saturday has been retrieved.

John Mutinda, 46, is said to have sped off and dived into the Likoni Channel, ignoring calls by other passengers as well as ferry officials to slow down.

The body was retrieved earlier and taken to Coast General Hospital morgue.There are reports that he got into a fight with his wife, but the family has not issued a statement to that effect.

Mutinda, a father of two, stormed out of his house at 4.20am.He left behind a widow and twins.

It is still unclear why Mutinda would drive off the ramp in what looks like suicide.

The KFS statement on Mutinda’s death said, “A motorist driving a saloon car whose registration number plate has not yet been established right away after purchasing ticket drove off to the ramps with high speed to the ocean.”

The incident brings memories of the recent Likoni Ferry tragedy where Mariam Kighenda and her daughter Amanda Mutheu drowned on September 29.It took rescuers 13 days to retrieve the wreckage of their car from the seabed.

Mutinda’s incident was different as the car had only plunged 6m into the ocean, according to the Kenya Ferry Services.It took the Kenya Navy personnel four hours to retrieve the vehicle.

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More details to follow…

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MP George Theuri buys TV sets for police, but constituents are not amused

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It looks like Embakasi West Member of Parliament George Theuri might not be getting into the good books of his constituents any time soon going by this latest move.

Theuri on Thursday distributed 32 inch television sets to all the 14 police posts in his Embakasi West constituency.

The lawmaker said that the initiative is part of The National Government Constituencies Development Fund (NG-CDF) project to equip all police posts and stations with computers, printers, photocopy machines and furniture.

“Getting ready to deliver TV sets in all our 14 police posts and stations within Embakasi west. This is part of our NGCDF project of equipping our stations with computers, printers, photocopying machines and furniture. Swag na usalama mtaani,” said an elated Theuri.

Residents of Embakasi West however, felt that the MP was directing his focus on the wrong area, and urged him to instead turn his attention to more pressing matters in the constituency fast.

For example, some of the constituents who reacted to the post singled out the poor state of roads and drainage systems bedeviling many of the estates that have seen pools of filthy water and mud hamper access to their homes.

But this is not the first time one of the projects being fronted by Theuri has irked residents instead of attracting praise.

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In 2017, residents expressed their outrage at the new lawmaker after he constructed a swimming pool at Umoja One Primary School using NGCDF cash in the neighbourhood facing perennial water shortage.

Here are some of the reactions his gesture to the men in uniform attracted:

“Missed placed priorities, I pity voters who wake up very early in the morning only to end up voting in clueless leadership. Very sad indeed,” said Weke Henry.

“Thanks mheshi but surely maji inatumaliza mama Lucy road na umoja 2 drainage hakuna kindly do something about it,” wrote Virginia Mwangi.

“Barabara ya Tena apo Rockfields to PCEA MHESH inakaa shamba, Do something,” commented Luke Kamau.

“Drainage in Innercore is pathetic,” stated Paul Owino.

“TV kwa station?” asked Khakabo Fredrick

By NN

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