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Unknown to many, this is now the most powerful man at State House after Uhuru?

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Nzioka Waita, the head of the Presidential Delivery Unit, has emerged as the new power broker at State House, multiple sources reveal.

Mr Waita also doubles as President Uhuru Kenyatta’s chief of staff, another position that puts him within arm’s reach of the President, having no executive role at the PDU, since it is run by Andrew Wakahiu, coupled with the fact that the role of the chief of staff is not well defined, Mr Waita has found himself with enough room to wiggle his way across government departments. And he has the President’s ear.

Speaking to the Sunday Nation, Mr Waita said power is a matter of perception and he would not be drawn into discussing whether he is powerful or not.

“I am a backroom person. My work is to ensure that the job I have been given is accomplished. I work at the pleasure of the President,” he said.

Since his appointment, Mr Waita has been instrumental in various decisions that have been made since the President’s second term started.

GROWING CLOUT

He co-wrote Executive Order 1, a powerful instrument that determines the duties of each government department.

He is the face of recent demolitions as the chair of the Nairobi Regeneration Committee. He has also been co-opted into the Cabinet and was prominent in Cabinet photos after the last meeting.

He has a refurbished office once occupied by former secretary to the Cabinet Francis Kimemia.

And he has several deputies. Acting PSCU boss Kanze Dena and Government Spokesman Eric Kiraithe report to him, making him the communication boss for the government.

Mr Nzioka has eclipsed Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua and Comptroller of State House Kinuthia Mbugua.

When he was head-hunted from Safaricom to head the newly created Presidential Delivery Unit, Mr Waita perhaps never knew that one day he would be viewed as one of the most powerful people in the Jubilee administration.

POWERFUL MAN

Cabinet secretaries and principal secretaries, as well as parastatal executives, have been dealing with Mr Waita, thus making his reach in government far, wide and deep.

Previously, Mr Kinyua played this role but, as his time in government nears its end, it is Mr Waita who is slowly stepping into his shoes.

When an audio clip of a phone call between governors Mike Sonko (Nairobi) and Ferdinand Waititu (Kiambu) over the arrest of the latter’s wife was leaked, an interesting tidbit passed unnoticed.

On the tape, Sonko is heard saying that his hands are tied and that Mr Waititu should call Mr Waita to have his wife released. It was telling that the elected governors were afraid of the unelected Mr Waita and not President Kenyatta.

“He is the new (Hezekiah) Oyugi, though not as powerful as the Moi man,” a source with knowledge of power manoeuvres in the corridors of power said.

The late Oyugi was a powerful permanent secretary in the office of the President at the dawn of multiparty politics in early 1990s.

DEMONSTRATIONS

When importers of Chinese products mounted a demonstration in city streets, shocking the government for their daring act, it was Mr Waita who scrambled a response to address their woes.

He led a high-powered delegation comprising top officers from the KRA, the Anti-Counterfeit Agency and the Kenya Bureau of Standards to meet officials of the Nairobi Importers and Traders Association, a lobby for small traders, in downtown Nairobi.

He promised them that the President was committed to ensuring that their problems with government agencies would end.

When the Kenya Medical Association and the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists’ Union opposed the Kenya-Cuba doctors deal, he was again at hand to provide a policy direction over the matter.

He said only experts in areas such as oncology (cancer), nephrology (kidney) and dermatology (skin) would be brought to Kenya.

CUBAN DOCTORS

He defended the Nairobi-Havana deal, saying deploying medical experts to rural areas would reduce the number of patients relying on Kenyatta National Hospital and Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital.

In June, High Court Judge Onesmus Makau temporarily stopped the implementation of a circular by the head of civil service on the vetting of procurement officers.

Mr Waita took to Twitter to air what was considered as the Executive position on the matter.

“Whereas the Judiciary shouldn’t be condemned wholesale, from today’s ruling by the Labour Relations Court stopping vetting of public officers, two things are now clear for all to see: 1) Corruption is fighting back 2) Agents of impunity have found refuge in court corridors,” Mr Waita wrote.

“No matter how many obstacles are thrown in the way of this fight against corruption, there will be no relenting. It is my prayer that the leadership of the Judiciary upon whom the country has placed a lot of faith will put its house in order. The fight against corruption will be messy and uncomfortable but it must be done for the greater good of the nation,” he added.

OFFICIAL COMMUNICATION

In July, Mr Waita moved to streamline communication in government by disowning several social media handles and setting the record straight on how information is disseminated.

He disowned @PresidentKE and @PSCU_Digital unit as official Twitter accounts and directed that official accounts would be @StateHouseKenya, @UKenyatta, @FirstLadyKenya and @KanzeDena.

“All official communication originating from the President’s Strategic Communications Unit will strictly be communicated through the listed channels,” he said.

“Operational correspondence by PSCU staff to media outlets will be done through officially assigned president.go.ke email addresses.”

He had also made the announcement that saw Citizen TV anchor Kanze Dena appointed the Deputy State House spokesperson in far-reaching changes made in the Presidential Strategic Communication Unit.

Mr Nzioka joined the government in 2016 from Safaricom, where he was the director of corporate affairs.

-nation.co.ke

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Lifestyle

How man survived in 60ft well for 13 days

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A mentally challenged man from Gatituni village in Chuka, Tharaka-Nithi County has shocked many after surviving in a 60-foot well for 13 days without food.

Mr Royford Mugambi, 42, was retrieved from the well Wednesday evening.

He disappeared on the morning of May 22, 2020 while with his elderly mother who lives with him.

Speaking to journalists at their home on Thursday morning, Mr Henry Gitonga, Mr Mugambi’s elder brother, said they had been searching for him since his disappearance, even going to the Chuka County Referral Hospital mortuary.

REPORTED DISAPPEARANCE

He said the family had reported his disappearance to the administration and at Chuka Police Station and were almost losing hope of tracing him when he was discovered in the well.

Mr Gitonga said a neighbour, Mr John Mwenda, was working in a farm near the well when he heard someone calling and thought it was his father who was also working some meters away. But when he responded, his father said he had not called him.

Mr Mwenda continued with his work and then he heard the voice again. This time, the person called him by his name and when he trailed the direction of the voice, he noticed that the person was calling from the well and the soft voice sounded familiar; it was that of Mugambi.

He went close to the well and when he called out, Mugambi responded and asked for some water.

LADDER AND ROPE

“After confirming that it was Mugambi who had disappeared for some days, Mwenda rushed and informed his father before proceeding to our home and broke the shocking news,” said Mr Gitonga.

He said they all ran to the well, which had been dug many years back by the owner of the farm who was looking for water, and confirmed that it was his brother.

He hurriedly looked for a ladder, tied it with a rope and dropped it to the well.

He said they asked him to hold firm to the ladder as they pulled him out.

VERY WEAK

Mr Gitonga said they struggled to remove him because he was very weak, making it difficult for him to hold onto the ladder. When he came out, he asked for water.

“His body was pale, completely emaciated and totally confused when he came out,” he said.

The family called a doctor from Chuka County Referral Hospital who advised them to give him a glucose solution and some milk for a few days before introducing him to porridge and later soft food.

The villagers said they suspected the man had been taking some water since when he came out his clothes were wet, suggesting that the well had some water.

They termed the incident as miracle, saying they would hold a thanksgiving ceremony later

By Nation.co.ke

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Entertainment

Echesa: Ruto didn’t protect his allies

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The Jubilee Party purge has triggered a dramatic falling out within Deputy President William Ruto’s camp in Western Kenya.

His allies are now questioning his silence in the wake of their removal from various positions.

Former Sports Cabinet Secretary Rashid Echesa drew first blood Wednesday when he lashed out at the DP for his silence after Tuesday’s sacking of Mumias East MP Benjamin Washiali as the Majority Whip.

“I am sure if Mr Ruto had pleaded with the President, Mr Washiali would have survived the axe,” Mr Echesa said.

He added: “There has been talk about Mr Atwoli and Oparanya pushing for the changes, but I never saw them at State House. The person I saw was the Deputy President and unfortunately, he didn’t raise a finger on the fate of Mr Washiali”.

The former CS, who is facing criminal charges related to an arms procurement scam, spoke a day after a Jubilee Parliamentary Group meeting made changes to the majority leadership in the National Assembly.

While Majority Leader Aden Duale survived the purge, Mr Washiali and his deputy Cecily Mbarire were not lucky. Navakholo MP Emmanuel Wangwe replaced Mr Washiali, while Igembe North MP Maoka Maore took over from Ms Mbarire.

Mr Wangwe took office with gusto, extending the purge to 16 MPs. He issued the legislators allied to the DP with letters notifying them of the party’s intention to remove them from various House committees.

Among those issued with the letters was Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichung’wa, whose position as the chairman of the Budget and Appropriations Committee now hangs in the balance, unless, of course, he shifts his loyalty to the President in the next seven days.

Other letters the Nation has seen are those of Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria, the vice-chair of the Transport committee, Aldai MP Cornelly Serem (vice-Trade), Bomet Woman Rep Joyce Korir (vice-chair, Labour committee), and Endebess MP Robert Pukose (vice-chair, Health committee).

On Wednesday, Mr Wangwe refused to speak about the changes arguing that he is yet to be confirmed into his position by the Speaker.

But Echesa was unrelenting.

“The DP is the General, and we have been fighting for him. I can’t understand how a General can abandon his troops and remain silent when they are being purged the way we have seen in Jubilee Party,” he said.

According to Mr Echesa, DP Ruto is silent because he thinks he will exploit the sackings in 2022. The DP, he said, had calculated that the sackings would cause anger within the community’s political elite, to his advantage.

He told the DP that he will be disappointed if he expects a fallout within the luhya leadership.

But Mr Washiali rejected the assertion and defended the DP against the claims, noting that the former CS does not understand how the “system” works.

He didn’t not elaborate on what he meant by the “system”, but claimed that he had been shown the door for refusing to execute “dirty” work for some powerful forces in Jubilee.

“The problem is not me; it is my conscience,” he said. “You have seen my successor do funny things like the ones Mr Irungu Kang’ata is doing in the Senate, removing people from committees without any valid reason. That is what I refused to do and that is why I am being punished.”

He said he had done his best during his time in the office and insisted that no one can assume ownership of a public office.

“The office can be taken away any time as it happened. I was prepared for that eventuality,” he said. Using a metaphor of a football team, Mr Washiali argued that even best scorers are rested after scoring goals.

“You score and the coach rests you because he is preparing for the next match. I have a future to look forward to. This is the start of a journey,” he said.

Mr Washiali had earlier blamed ODM leader Raila Odinga for his tribulations.

Describing the Mr Odinga as a stranger in Jubilee, Mr Washiali said the Handshake was a sinister move aimed at humiliating MPs allied to the DP.

“He (Mr Odinga) is a stranger who came to our house to get a go at our parents. To do that, he must obliterate all the children” he said, when he addressed the media at the home of Bungoma Senator Moses Wetangula.

Mr Echesa’s eruption signals tough times in the DP’s base, especially in Western Kenya.

By Nation.co.ke

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Education

KCSE A-listers who went for diplomas

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They came out tops in last year’s KCSE examinations and were assured of admission to prestigious degree courses and universities of their choice, but they have chosen a different path.

Bruno Sharif Kahindi, who scored an A of 81 points and who would have been enrolled to pursue a medicine course at the University of Nairobi, will instead join the Nairobi Technical Training Institute for a diploma in pharmaceutical technology.

His counterpart Titus Mokaya Ogamba, who scored an A- of 80 points, will trot to Masinde Muliro University to enroll for a diploma in music and dance.

The pair join more than 2,000 students who qualified for university admission last year, but who have opted to pursue diploma courses in technical and vocational institutions.

Statistics from the Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service (KUCCPS) shows that 2,632 candidates, who would have been enrolled for university degrees, have instead been offered places in Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges.

Other top performers in last year’s Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examinations, who have chosen to join TVET colleges, are Emily Muhoria, who scored an A- and will study a diploma in chemical engineering and Mohamed Dowa, who has been admitted to Kagumo Teachers Training College to study a diploma in education despite scoring an A-.

KUCCPS data released on Tuesday also shows that 280 candidates who scored a B plain and above opted for diplomas in TVET colleges, snubbing some of the most competitive degree programmes in both public and private universities.

The students, who Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha described as TVET champions, include 11 students with A- and 66 with B+.

On Wednesday, KUCCPS chief executive John Muraguri explained that the top candidates were placed in institutions of their choices.

“We had applications made in schools, they did first and second revision and most of them affirmed that they wanted to study those courses,” he said on the telephone.

He said a number of students do not see the need to study for degree courses when they can take diploma courses which have more prospects in terms of employment and job opportunities.

However, he regretted that some learners only applied for courses while in secondary schools and did not make any follow up during revision.

“We therefore had no choice, but to place them where they wanted. But they will have an opportunity for transfers,” Mr Muraguri said.

School application marked the beginning of the placement process that saw applications from 2,228 of the 10,289 registered schools submit their candidates’ choices/preferences, which translated to 21.65 per cent.

“The placement board is concerned about this low participation of schools at this important stage of the placement process.

‘‘To address this concern, the board recommends to the Ministry of Education that it considers issuing a policy guideline to all schools, especially those with candidates eligible for placement to TVET institutions, to ensure that they submit the applications on behalf of their KCSE candidates for university and TVET placement,” Mr Muraguri said.

The TVET candidates were among 125,463 others who were eligible for placement to degree programmes.

Majority of the students opted for engineering, building and civil engineering, information technology, architecture, electrical and electric engineering, aeronautical engineering, pharmaceutical technology, civil engineering, computer science and building economics (quantity surveying), among others.

The most sought-after colleges, which offer diplomas in technical courses, are the Technical University of Kenya, Technical University of Mombasa and national polytechnics.

Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) secretary-general Akelo Misori said that unlike in the past, students are now taking courses that add value.

“We should support TVET sector because that is the future and we should allow students to take courses of their choice,” Mr Misori said.

He urged the government to strengthen career guidance in schools so that learners are advised accordingly.

He said many schools still struggle in terms of developing capacities of teachers to guide students on the right courses to pursue after secondary school.

Kenya should not be left behind

Educationist Andiwo Obondo said the world is moving towards TVET and Kenya should not be left behind.

“The decade of campaign is paying off now as we are giving premiums to TVET courses. Technology and engineering are now the drivers of the economy, and we must put emphasis on them,” he said, although he wants the government to improve facilities so that more students can get quality education.

“KUCCPS needs to do away with Sh500 application fee for those joining colleges and universities as it discourages learners to apply because they see it as extra cost to their parents,” Kenya Secondary School Heads Association (Kessha) chairman Kahi Indimuli said.

According to KUCCPS, 276,163 TVET programme vacancies were provided for placement with 88,724 applicants, translating to only 32 per cent of the total capacity.

The government plans to have 1,540 vocational training centres across the country by 2022 with each of the 290 constituencies having a technical college.

The government has also identified more than 10 national polytechnics to be centres of excellence in a move that seeks to attract more students who usually prefer to join universities.

Figures released on Tuesday show that 54.2 per cent or 66,661 of the 122,831 students placed to degree courses will join science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programmes. In comparison, arts and humanities attracted 56,170 students or 45.7 per cent.

Some 2,632 candidates who scored C+ and above in the 2019 KCSE examination and qualified for placement to degree programmes opted for diploma courses in technical institutions.

Prof Magoha said the number of students preferring to join TVETs has been growing over time.

“In 2019, the number was 1,269. This is a clear indication that concerted efforts to improve enrolment in TVET courses are yielding fruits,” he said.

He admitted that low uptake of courses in TVET institutions has been because of negative attitude by parents and students.

By Nation.co.ke

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