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Majanja’s body received in Nairobi, to be buried Saturday in Kakamega

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BY BMJ MURIITHI

The body of Timothy Majanja, a 71-year-old homeless Kenyan who has been living in the United States and who, at one point, wanted to return home after 46 years in North America, arrived in Nairobi Thursday ready for burial in Lubao Village, Kakamega County on Saturday.

His body was received by Umash Funeral home in the Kenyan capital before it was transported by road to its final resting place in Kakamega.

Majanja died last month at at Grady Memorial Hospital in downtown Atlanta where he had been rushed in an ambulance while in critical condition.

Medical personnel at the hospital said he died from complications emanating to an earlier ailment which led to him having “extremely high blood pressure.”

Soon after receiving the news of his death, Majanja’s relatives in Lubao, Kakamega, expressed their wish that the body could be flown home for burial.

On Thursday, Protus told Ksnmedia that he was very happy that the body arrived home.

“Is this what we would have wished? Of course not…but I can tell you  that we are very delighted to see the body of  Mzee Majanja. This will bring some form of closure,” he said.

“We were devastated by the news and the elders here couldn’t fathom the idea of their son being buried or cremated  in a foreign land, thousands of miles away from his ancestral home,” said Protus Muhanji Shikoli, Majanja’s nephew.

“We have been through a lot as a family….we wished we could see him alive but obviously, it was not meant to be,” he added.

After Majanja’s death, well wishers, friends and family members got together and raised enough money to pay for the services at West Cobb Funeral home where the body was preserved and also to repatriate it to Kenya for burial.

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“Let us never grow weary of doing good,” said Pastor Salania Salania quoting part of a Biblical verse (Galatians 6:9 when Apostle Paul was writing to the Galatians). He was one of the organizers of a  fundraiser held at believers’ Center in Atlanta, Georgia, where close to $7,000 was raised. Most of those who contributed money had not even met Majanja in person. “We didn’t have to know him to help,” added Mr Salania.

According to Ms Catherine Ogembo, Majanja’s niece who lives in the New Hope City in Minnesota, and who is accompanying the boday, her uncle’s final journey will be on Saturday when he will be laid to rest on his piece of land in Kakamega.

Mr Majanja was in the news in 2014 when NTV aired a story about his plight in which he appealed for help to return to Kenya after living in North America for an uninterrupted period of 46 years.

He told the Nation that he had had enough of the US and wanted to go back to Kenya and rejoin his family. He however did not have any travel documents.

Following the story, many Kenyans expressed their willingness to help him return home.

Watch related video below:

Majanja left Kenya for Canada in 1968, moved to the state of Georgia in the United States in 1993, and has been living in squalor since losing his job 25 years ago.

READ ALSO:   Majanja's family appeals for help as fundraiser planned this Saturday in Atlanta to help fly body home

“I have been leading a miserable life here and it is high time I left this country,” he told this reporter in an interview on Memorial Drive in Atlanta, Georgia.

After the story aired, Mr Alphonce Shikoli, his elder brother, told NTV’s Namukabo Werunga that the family was excited to know that their relative was alive.

“We eagerly await the return of our ‘prodigal son’. We are fattening a bull to slaughter upon his arrival,” said Shikoli at his rural home in Lupao Village, Kakamega County.

 

In December of the same year, Majanja was hospialised at Grady Hospital where he had been taken after falling ill.

And in an email to the Nation then, an official at the Kenyan embassy in Washington, DC, said the hospital had been in touch, seeking help in tracing Mr Majanja’s relatives.

“But I was not able to talk to him as I was informed that he is not coherent,” said Ms Evelyn Cheluget, the then immigration attaché at the Kenyan mission.

In the 2014 interview which went viral,  Majanja, however, said he was stuck because he lost all his documents and cannot travel and appealed to the Kenyan Government, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to help him out.

POLITICAL OFFICE

In 1973, he was recruited by the Canadian government into the prestigious Royal Canadian Mounted Police, where he served before venturing into politics.

He run for political office as a city representative in Calgary, Alberta, before unsuccessfully contesting a vacant mayoral seat.

Mr Majanja, however, declined to disclose when or why he left the Canadian police service.

“That matter is confidential,” he said.

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After relocating to Atlanta, he worked for a transport company before losing his job.

“I lost my driver’s license and all the other documents which I had kept in a safe deposit at a local bank,” he said.

Mr Majanja said he has sought help several times from the US and Canadian governments without success.

“I have no single document and can’t travel anywhere,” he said, adding, “I appeal to the Kenyan embassy to give me some travel documents so I can visit my relatives back home.”




MARRIED TO CANADIAN

During the interview with the Nation, he showed photos of his sojourn in Canada in which he looked young and energetic.

“I married a Canadian lady and we had a son, but now I can’t even travel there to visit them,” he said.

“I thought I was strong enough, but now I need help,” added Majanja, who looked weak and a pale shadow of his former self.

Though hardly reported due to the stigma associated with homelessness, drug addiction or mental illness, cases of destitute Kenyans living in the United States have risen in recent years.

In 2012, the body of a homeless Kenyan was discovered in a lake near Boston, Massachusetts.

Early in 2014, police in Atlanta found a homeless and mentally unstable Kenyan man in a forest in Decatur, Georgia.

The authorities handed the man over to the pastor of a Kenyan community church who asked the congregation to raise money for his upkeep and eventual repatriation to Kenya.

In May of the same year, he was reunited with his family in Kenya.

Watch related video below: Is homelessness among Kenyans in US exaggerated?

 

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Africa

Kenya struggles to give life to futuristic Konza city

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Labourers milled around an unfinished eight-storey building in an expansive field in Konza dotted with zebra and antelope – the only visible sign of progress in a decade-old plan to make Kenya into Africa’s leading technology hub by 2030.

Grandiose plans, red tape and a lack of funding have left Konza Technopolis – the $14.5 billion new city to be built some 60 km (37 miles) southeast of Nairobi – way behind schedule on its goal of having 20,000 people on site by 2020.

“It has taken too long and I think people have moved on,” said tech entrepreneur Josiah Mugambi, founder of Alba.one, a Nairobi-based software company, who was initially excited by the government’s ambitious project.

Dubbed the Silicon Savannah, Konza aims to become a smart city – using tech to manage water and electricity efficiently and reduce commuting time – and a solution to the rapid, unplanned urbanisation which has plagued existing cities.

About 40 percent of Africa’s 1 billion people live in towns and cities and the World Bank predicts the urban population will double over the next 25 years, adding pressure to already stretched infrastructure.

Konza’s dream is to become a top business process outsourcing hub by 2030, with on-site universities training locals to feed into a 200,000-strong tech-savvy workforce providing IT support and call centre services remotely.

But the first building has yet to be completed on the 5,000-acre former cattle ranch, three years after breaking ground, and business has shifted its focus to other African countries, like Rwanda, with competing visions to become modern tech hubs.

“Nobody can wait that long for a city to be built. For a tech entrepreneur, they think about where their startup will be two to three years down the line,” said Mugambi.

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Other smart cities planned across Africa include Nigeria’s Eko Atlantic City near Lagos that will house 250,000 people on land reclaimed from the sea, Ghana’s Hope City and an Ethiopian city styled as the real Wakanda after the film “Black Panther”.

Bringing such utopian schemes to life is no easy task for African governments that are struggling to provide adequate roads, power, water and security to their existing cities.

“Upgrading infrastructure in places like Kibera (slum) in Nairobi to provide water and a better sewerage system is equally as important as building a new city such as Konza,” said Abdu Muwonge, a senior urban specialist with the World Bank in Kenya.

Some critics say Konza was ill-conceived from the start.

“The vision is wrong; the vision is too big,” said Aly-Khan Satchu, a Nairobi-based independent financial analyst.

“This is miles from anywhere. There are not leveraging the existing infrastructure … It is assuming that you can bring in academia, you can bring in venture capital, you can bring in corporates.”

The first serious hurdle arose in 2012 when the National Land Commission (NLC), which manages public land, introduced a cumbersome land acquisition procedure, said Bitange Ndemo, who led a team that conceived Konza Technopolis in 2008.

“The NLC was saying we should follow the processes of acquiring public land, which would take years to complete,” Ndemo, now an associate professor of business at the University of Nairobi, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The delays caused at least one deal with a German university to fall through, he said, as the process was much slower than the old one where investors signed deals directly with government ministries which took care of land leases.

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To resolve this, the government transferred ownership of the site to the Konza Technopolis Development Authority (KoTDA), set up in 2012 to co-ordinate development of the new city, which now allocates land to investors on 50-year renewable leases.

Financing has also proven a major issue.

In its strategic plan, the government promised to fund 10 percent of Konza, laying the infrastructure, while the private sector would come in with the rest of the money to build universities, offices, housing and hotels.

But the government was slow to contribute its share and has yet to pass a law to create KoTDA as a legal entity which would make it easier to sign contracts with external lenders, said Lawrence Esho, one of Konza’s project planners until 2013.

“They are way behind schedule partly because the government took time to give Konza money,” he said, adding that no money came in until 2013.

“This stopped any work from starting at the site and investors may have developed cold feet as they waited.”

KoTDA’s chief executive, John Tanui, said the government has committed to invest more than 80 billion shillings ($780 million).

“When I say committed does not mean we have absorbed. Our absorption is less than 10 percent of that figure,” he said, without elaborating.

The government has stepped up funding since last year, said Abraham Odeng, deputy secretary at Kenya’s Information Communications and Technology ministry, without giving figures.

Odeng pointed to a 40 billion shilling contract signed in 2017 with an Italian firm to build roads, water and sewerage infrastructure by 2021, funded by the Italian government.

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“That is a concessional loan, which is a long-term loan that the Kenyan government will pay,” he said.

But Kenya’s growing reliance on loans is causing jitters, with the International Monetary Fund warning of an increased risk of default this year.

Cities cannot be financed through central government but the absence of international firms points to a lack of investor confidence in the project, said the World Bank’s Muwonge.

“Getting Konza city off the ground will require that we pull in private capital with concessions for them to deliver certain kinds of infrastructure for which the government may not have resources,” he said.

“The issue is eliminating the challenges for the private sector to come and do business.”

Five local investors, including Nairobi-based software developer Craft Silicon and the state-run Kenya Electricity Transmission Company, are expected to build offices, residential buildings and hotels by 2020, KoTDA head Tanui said.

But critics say it is not enough.

“What (investors) have allocated so far is still a drop in the ocean,” said Ndemo, the former government technocrat.

And international interest is shifting elsewhere.

Rwanda – widely regarded as the least corrupt country in East Africa – launched its Kigali Innovation City in 2015, designed to host 50,000 people in universities and tech companies on a 70-hectare site outside the capital.

The $2 billion plan, due for completion by 2020, is seven times cheaper than Konza.

“All these other (cities) have better proximity, have better density and have better collaborative feedback loops,” said financial analyst Satchu. “We are now at a serious disadvantage vis-a-vis these other countries.”

Reuters

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Africa

PHOTOS: See comedian Anne Kansiime’s new love 11 months after divorce

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Ugandan comedian Anne Kansiime has found new love, 11 months after her marriage to Gerald Ojok crumbled.

Kansiime seems to have recovered from the heartbreak and is now head over heels in love with Ugandan singer Skylanta.

On Sunday, Kanssime took to her social media to introduce her new catch to the public, sharing intimate pictures as they locked lips.

Kansiime  and Skylanta

Kansiime captioned the picture in Nyankore dialect; “Rukundo Egumeho na akantukangye lazima.” (May this feeling of love reign)

A visit to Skylanta social media pages confirms the two are indeed madly in love. The little known, skinny musician has shared several picture of themselves spending time together.

Kansiime  and Skylanta

Kansiime was married to Ojok for four years until mid-last year when the marriage hit rock bottom. The cause of their split remains unclear.

The comedienne later confirmed to her fans about the divorce in a live Facebook question and answer session.

Ugandan media speculated that the split might have been caused by their financial status, with Ojok feeling emasculated by Kansiime’s financial muscle.

Other reports claimed that there was so much pressure on Ojok to have a baby with Kansiime, yet the comedienne wanted to focus on stabilising her career.

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Africa

Kenya’s Wawira Njiru wins the 2018 Global Citizen Prize for Youth Leadership

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Kenya’s Wawira Njiru has won the 2018 Global Citizen Prize for Youth Leadership at the Global Citizen Festival hosted on December 2 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The prize honours an activist or changemaker between the ages of 18 and 30 who has contributed meaningfully towards the goal of ending global poverty. Wawira won Ksh. 25,000,000 ($250,000) and will also receive networking and development opportunities to support her work. It is sponsored by Cisco.

Wawira started Food for Education in 2012 while studying for her undergraduate degree in Bachelor in Food Science and Nutrition. The organisation addresses the inequality in education which is caused by limited access to food in Ruiru. Since its inception, Food for Education has provided over 120,000 meals which has helped improve school attendance and performance.

Aside from the Global Citizen Prize for Youth Leadership, she has also received a UNISA Alumni Award in 2017, recognized as a Spark International Change maker (2012), a Transform Nutrition Champion and a Hunger free ambassador in 2013.

Wawira Njiru is currently studying for her Master’s degree in Public Health at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology.


READ ALSO:   Majanja's family appeals for help as fundraiser planned this Saturday in Atlanta to help fly body home
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