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Kenyans angry as MPs pocket millions in allowances



Kenyans have reacted angrily to reports that MPs pocketed millions of shillings in allowances.Academicians, civil society groups, unionists and the public are furious about the latest move by the 416 legislators to secretly pocket Sh2.25 million each last month as house allowance.

Despite Treasury and the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) protesting the move, members of the Senate and National Assembly are now enjoying allowances, totalling Sh936 million.

The allowances include a Sh250,000 monthly allowance for each of the 416 members.The allowances are to be backdated to August last year in a move that would see the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) pay house allowances to legislators over and above their mortgages.

Economic hardships

But it is the current economic hardships being experienced in the country — where majority of the population are unable to meet their basic needs — that has heightened the criticism to the legislators’ action.

Yesterday, Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi hit out at the MPs for secretly pocketing the Sh2.25 million each as house allowances.

SEE ALSO :Don’t touch our allowances, workers union warns SRC

Speaking at the Deliverance Church in Umoja, Nairobi, Mr Mudavadi said it was a sign of greed by elected leaders to continue awarding themselves hefty perks when ordinary Kenyans were struggling to meet basic needs like food and healthcare.

“What sense is there for Parliament to allocate itself huge allowances when poor Kenyans are missing out on essential basic commodities such as medicine, and even others dying of hunger? Where does this Parliament reside? Where does it sit? With Kenyans or who?” he posed.

Consumers Federation of Kenya (Cofek) warned MPs to expect a fight that will ensure their action is not implemented.“The MPs’ action is provocative and it has annoyed Kenyans. It sounds as if the leaders don’t care what happens to other people. Their action has the potential to cause a revolution and should be stopped,” Stephen Mutoro, Cofek’s secretary general said.

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Mutoro said they will move to court to stop the implementation of the award of the allowances.

He said legislators have lost the moral authority to represent Kenyans and it is time the country began a discussion on whether or not they should be represented by them.

“There is high inflation, unemployment, high public debt and high taxes among other bad things but instead of MPs acting in solidarity with wananchi, they do something that is completely unacceptable. We now must vote on a question in the referendum on whether or not there is need for legislators,” Mutoro said.

But MPs defended their action, arguing that it is the responsibility of the employer to provide the facility.Minority Leader in the National Assembly John Mbadi (Suba South), Ben Momanyi (Borabu) and Wilson Sossion (nominated) said MPs should be treated just like other State officers.Mbadi explained that the decision to give MPs house allowance stemmed out of a court judgment.

“It is the responsibility of the employer to give house allowance or buy a house. This is what the court ruled,” he said.Prof James ole Kiyiapi, a former Permanent Secretary, accused MPs of dereliction of responsibility and service and urged Kenyans to unite and recall them.

“This is the highest insensibility and disregard of the current situation in the country. This business of pampering elected leaders must stop,” Kiyiapi, who teaches at the University of Eldoret, said.

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He opposed the legislators’ action and accused them of being selfish.“Maybe MPs are not living in Kenya. There is no money that can satisfy them. Kenyans should condemn this and call out their leaders. All this is happening when Government says there is no money for classrooms, teachers, lecturers, doctors and other workers,” Kiyiapi said.

Borabu MP and Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) representative Mr Momanyi said MPs as State officers should be allowed to enjoy the benefits just like Cabinet secretaries.

Momanyi said PSC had discussed and resolved to pay for monthly house allowances to the lawmakers starting from the date of the court ruling that awarded deputy governors house allowance.“It is the responsibility of PSC as the employer of MPs to provide the housing facility. This is what we had discussed and resolved as a commission,” said Momanyi.

Union of Kenya Civil Servants Union (UKCS) condemned the move, terming it pure greed.“The lawmakers are entitled to mortgage to build their own houses and they can comfortably afford that owing to their hefty pay. Forcing the taxpayer to fork out another amount to pay rent is plainly outrageous,” said UKCS Deputy Secretary General Jerry ole Kina.

Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) Secretary General Francis Atwoli condemned Kenyans for what the MPs are doing and called for a change of mindset by the citizens to stop legislators in their tracks.

“It is a good lesson to Kenyans so that the next time they go to elections, they think twice before voting for their preferred candidates. What MPs are doing is no longer a calling,” said Mr Atwoli.

He said what MPs are doing reflects the general culture of Kenyans who live on hand-outs.“You can’t expect a leader who buys your vote to serve you. They will instead use their time in Parliament to ‘steal’ money through corruption and increasing their salaries and allowances,” Atwoli said.

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Mr Sossion said Kenyans were over-depending on their leaders and that there was need to do a social analysis of harambees in the society.

“If we must reduce the wage of the MPs then we need to eradicate poverty and inequity. Kenyans are too poor and the assumption is that MPs have money. The question we should be asking, do MPs deserve it?” posed Sossion.

Universities Academic Staff Union (Uasu) condemned SRC for the mess and called for its disbandment.“SRC was supposed to look into salaries and allowances of civil servants who include MPs and advise Government on how to deal with their remuneration. But SRC has stooped so low and allowed PSC to give MPs anything they ask for,” Uasu Secretary General Dr Constantine Wasonga said.

Ndung’u Wainaina, executive director of International Centre for Policy and Conflict (ICPC), said MPs are flouting the Constitution and their actions must be challenged in the Supreme Court.

Subvert Constitution

“MPs are exploiting PSC to push for budgets that subvert the Constitution,” Mr Wainaina said.

He said MPs can’t legislate and oversight on a matter they have interest in.But National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi defended the new allowances and instead asserted that legislators, just like other state officers, are entitled to such benefits.

Lyn Mengich, SRC chairperson, said she is not aware of the said allowances and as far as SRC is concerned, house allowance definitely falls under remuneration for all State officers.

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Tweeting chief Francis Kariuki is dead



Nakuru’s Lanet Umoja location Chief Francis Kariuki, popularly known as the ‘tweeting chief’, is dead.

His family said he died at the Nakuru Level Five Hospital, where he was rushed to for emergency treatment after experiencing breathing difficulties.

The tweeting chief died at the age of 55 years.

“My father fell ill on Tuesday and we first took him to Evans Sunrise Hospital in Nakuru before he was referred to the Nakuru Level Five Hospital, where he passed on, while receiving treatment,” his son, Ken Kariuki, told the Nation on phone.

His daughter revealed that Chief Kariuki has been ailing from diabetes for a long time.

The tech-savvy village chief of Lanet Umoja was known for using Twitter and other social media platforms to discharge his duties.

He received global attention in 2014 for using Twitter to fight crime.

Mr Kariuki led a community of more than 30,000 residents.

Via text message

His Twitter account shows he has about 60,000 followers and those who receive his tweets via text message are said to be in the thousands.

Subscribers get his tweets in real-time via free text messages and don’t need to have a Twitter account or an internet connection.

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The chief could send them at any time of the day or night using his smartphone.

By the time of his death,

‘s tweeting had reduced the crime rate in Lanet Umoja.

He also used Twitter to encourage unemployed youth through messages of hope.

Early life

He was born and raised in Nakuru and attended Mereroni Primary School. He later joined Lanet Secondary School and Kigari Teachers Training College later.

He taught for 21 years in different schools as a teacher, four years as a deputy head teacher and six years as a head teacher at Lords School, Kambi Moto in Rongai Sub-County.

In 2009, he became the first chief of Lanet Umoja.

In 2015, he graduated with a degree in Counseling Psychology from Mount Kenya University, which he had been pursuing through virtual learning.


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Keeping our family coffee business picking



When 41 -year-old Gitau Waweru Karanja was a boy, he recalls spending his school holidays in his grandfather’s coffee farm with his cousins. His late grandmother would push them to pick berries to earn pocket money. Though he took up his parents’ passion in interior design and studied Interior Design in Kwa Zulu Natal University in South Africa, he did he know that one day he would wake up and smell the coffee and participate in running his grandfather’s coffee farm.

Gitau is the third generation of his family to manage Karunguru Farm, which belonged to his late grandfather Geoffrey Kareithi. Kareithi had bought the 300-acre farm in Ruiru, from a white settler in 1972. Gitau is married to Wangeci Gitau who grew up in Maragwa, in Murang’a where they also had a coffee farm.

Values instilled

For Wangeci, despite growing up in the coffee fields, she was more passionate about tourism and was a travel consultant before becoming a tour manager at a local company.

In 2012, she got an ectopic pregnancy, which put her on bed rest and thus was compelled to quit her job. When she recovered, she began assisting her husband. “By that time, my husband was selling modern house doors, but the business took a while to pick. Then we began selling milk from Karunguru Farm, but the milk production went down in 2016. The management, comprising of family members, told us to address the issue by becoming dairy managers. But when we joined the management of Karunguru Farm, we saw an opportunity in coffee tours,” she says.

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Taking cue from South Africa where they do wine tourism and also export wine, Gitau and his wife sought to use that knowledge in their coffee farm. “We started Karunguru Coffee and Tours after we found out that despite it being our main export, it was being underutilised when it comes to tourism. So, here we take visitors through the journey that coffee has to go through before getting to your cup,” explains Gitau. Everything is done in Karunguru Farm— including value addition such as processing coffee, drying and even roasting. “We have our very own packaged Karunguru Coffee, which is available in the market,” he adds.

Their late grandfather instilled in them a love for each other and every holiday it is the family culture to meet and bond as a family. The grandpa also ensured that the farm management is shared amongst all his seven children who meet every week to discuss the business of the farm. Once they come to an unanimous decision, it is then passed on to their children, who implements their decision.

Before one is given any role, you have _ . to be qualified for the position. “It’s not about being favoured, but your qualification. I am in tourism, so I handle the tourism aspect, my husband is in operations. In fact, one applies for the position and then you are interviewed. If you qualify, you are placed on probation until the management is satisfied that you can handle the role well,” says Wangeci.

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No entitlement

What makes family business go down is the fact that people who are less qualified are employed. Other people have to cover up for their messes and this creates bitterness and conflict. Gitau sometimes watches his nephews and nieces in the farm, giving them roles to check out whether they have interest in the farm or not before beginning to mentor them. Everyone begins from the lowest level and must know how to roast, pack, as well as prepare a cup of Karunguru coffee. This is to en inculcate the spirit of appreciation and value for the workers employed to do the role.

“My uncles always tell us that we didn’t come in the business because we are their children, but because of the passion we had in the business. With that, entitlement is killed and we ensure that we do our best to take the farm to higher levels,” says Gitau

They don’t entertain gossip,  ‘‘ but if someone has an issue, I then the person is invited ‘ to a meeting where one is confronted and told in love where they have missed the mark.


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How we solved thorny issues in our not-so-rosy union



Robert Wambugu and Lucy Wambui’s marriage has been a bitter-sweet experience. When their firstborn son was a toddler, he almost drowned in a basin full of water.

“The water had been stored on the corridor and the young boy sneaked out of the house. Within a split of a second, he had fallen head first and was in there for almost a minute before we were alerted by other children. He passed out, but was saved by quick intervention from a nearby hospital,” Lucy says.

Lucy says they faced a lot of challenges driven by their lack of marriage experience due to their young age. She was 20, Robert was 21. “We had not received proper counselling and did not know how to handle our personality differences. Let’s just say we were clueless of what was ahead of us. We used to have endless arguments, long weeks without speaking to each other and so on. It wasn’t until we got support from a neighbour who cared and counselled us,” she says.

Making it work

They worked on improving their communication and openness to each other. She offers: “We started giving each other constructive feedback that builds someone rather than hurt them emotionally. We stopped pointing fingers at faults and started addressing the issue rather than attacking the person. For instance, Robert was forgetful. At first, this used to make me think he was deliberately ignoring me and I would choose to just stay quiet and ‘payback’. But one time he told me he would start working on a “To do list” and once he started it, I saw great improvement. He also asked me to be sending him reminders on pending stuff. This way, we were able to handle that issue once and for all. On the other hand, I would prepare food that he didn’t like and he would not eat it. I would feel like he was eating elsewhere. At one time, I asked him to recommend what he prefers and how he liked it made. It took time to understand and master this, but it was worth it.”

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Lucy and Robert also worked on their decision-making, as well as teamwork, and from that point things changed for the better.

Other challenges have arisen when they had to juggle between work and raising children. “Sometimes as a working parent, you realise you have to spend time with your children and establish a personal connection. For me, this is important and if I have to work from home to do this, I do not mind doing so. But it can be quite overwhelming,” she adds.

Lucy and Robert both live in Rwanda. They have been married for 11 years and have three children-two boys, Arthur aged 10, Fabrice aged seven and a girl, Ashe Wambui aged 1.5 years. Lucy runs a cake business while Robert works as a Certified Hospitality Training Manager at Marriot International, and is also an experienced digital marketer and art director. She is also a co-director at Halleria Consult, a marketing consulting agency they started together with her husband. He is the country manager in charge of overall operations of the consultancy.

They also mentor young couples on marriage and parenting.

Lucy terms her husband as her greatest support system. “He has been supportive in raising the children. He spends his free time with them. On the other hand, when we visit our parents in Nairobi, we ensure that the children spend time with their grandparents. I get tips from our parents from both sides and I ensure they communicate as often so that they build that bond. I have also taken part in a programme called ‘Mother of Sons’ that focuses on mothers who are raising boys. It gives mums the space to learn how to handle boys’ challenges as well as bringing up men who are well nurtured,” she says.

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Discovering children’s potential

Their parenting approach is centred on raising children who understand between right and wrong and are able to make independent and right choices. Lucy is a disciplinarian. “I don’t shy away from using the rod where necessary. But I spend time trying to find effective non-authoritarian ways to help mentor them, especially in matters self-confidence and life skills,” she reveals.

Her husband, however, uses a different approach. He uses experiential learning techniques where through observation, he has identified some interests in them. Both boys love using 3D modelling software and have basic photography skills. He spends time training them. “We thank God that this strategy has helped them learn and be responsible. We also encourage them to go out and play and develop a social life. The first one is an extrovert. He makes friends quite easily while the second one is an introvert who prefers staying indoors. The last one is starting the ‘terrible two phase’, always throwing tantrums,” Lucy says.

Lucy’s word of advise to couples and parents is: “Love, support your spouse and walk with them. You don’t get into a relationship to attain happiness. Rather make it your role to create an environment that sustains joy. If this is done, it’s easier to get the other person to reciprocate. Before you point fingers at your spouse, first do a self-analysis and see what you would do to work on yourself and improve. That way, we shall have happier relationships.”

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