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Day villagers mistook fighter pilot for black Jesus

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“He is the One!” The cry burst unprompted from one of the people milling around Lieutenant Seth Shava. Several of his fellow villagers were already on their knees in supplication to the Air Force fighter pilot who had just ejected from his doomed plane.

Others, however, stood a safe distance away, doubt etched on their faces. As the debate raged on the afternoon of November 26, 1982, Shava was busy packing up his parachute that had saved his life moments earlier, setting him down unharmed in a villager’s garden.The people were speaking Gikuyu, a language the young military man understood well.

It was not that the doubting Thomases were of wavering faith. Their disbelief had only increased after Shava dug into a pocket on the sleeve of his bomber jacket and pulled out a packet of cigarettes and a lighter. He calmly lit up and inhaled deeply, calming his frayed nerves after the scary experience.

One of the locals, who introduced himself as the headmaster of a primary school, had the presence of mind to approach Shava, who asked for directions to the nearest police station.

The man of the chalk drove the man from the sky to the station, where a report was written and immediately relayed to Nanyuki Police Station.The information was then forwarded to Laikipia Air Base and a search and rescue team swiftly scrambled to go and fetch their pilot.

It was much later that Shava would learn that the “One” being referred to was Jesus Christ. The helpful Akorino people in the Kinangop village, where he landed, had been in a prayer and fasting period when they heard the bang of his crashing plane. The next thing they saw was a man hanging from a brightly coloured parachute up in the skies before sinking gently to the earth.

Son of god

Many were convinced that the promised second coming of the son of God was happening right before their eyes.

The crash was the culmination of a high-octane three-day odyssey for a four-man formation squad tasked with the duty of providing an honours escort to a Kenya Airways plane carrying President Daniel arap Moi from Tripoli, Libya.

The mission had started three days earlier when Shava and his three colleagues from the 82 Air Force were picked for the prestigious duty of escorting their Commander-In-Chief into the country.

The team leader was Michael Gichangi (who last served the public as a chief spy at the National Intelligence Service). There was also Geoffrey Okang’a, who would later serve as Kenya’s High Commissioner to Uganda, and Christopher Kariuki.

Writing about the event in the Nation newspaper 10 years ago, veteran journalist Roy Gachuhi said President Moi had picked up the habit of being escorted by fighter jets after a visit to Israel.Entering the Jewish state’s airspace, the plane carrying Moi was joined by fighter jets from the Israeli air force and given an escort until it landed at the Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv.

At the end of the visit, a similar formation escorted the home-bound Moi until his plane reached the borders of Israel. A similar tradition was soon established in Kenya.“Early in President Moi’s reign, the military assumed a very high public profile. When travelling to and returning from state visits abroad, there was always a full guard of honour for him. He used to be escorted by Air Force fighter jets and then the same jets would give him a fly-by when he finished inspecting the guard of honour. He opened many agricultural shows around the country and the story was the same: guard of honour, Air Force fly-by.

He was very different from Kenyatta who seemed to have little time for the armed forces,” a former military officer was quoted as saying in the article.This was the reason the four-man team readied their F-5 fighter planes for a mission that was supposed to take place on a Monday.However, it was not to be, as the president’s trip to Tripoli seemed to drag on forever.

Moi’s return

Unbeknownst to the pilots, Moi’s return was being delayed by high stakes political machinations that took centre stage at the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) – which has since morphed into the African Union (AU) – Heads of State summit in Libya.

A dispatch from the defunct United Press International said: “The future of the Organisation of African Unity was thrown into doubt today by the collapse of its 19th summit over deep divisions that prevented Libyan leader Moammar Khadafy (better known as Muammar Gaddafi) from becoming the OAU’s chairman.“The summit broke up Thursday after 15 of the organisation’s 51 nations withdrew in protest because of Libya’s refusal to seat a pro-Western delegation from Chad.

”This was the stalemate that delayed Moi’s return. Moi’s term as OAU chair was also extended by one year. The leadership of the organisation was on a rotational one-year basis and because Gaddafi did not take over, the chairmanship returned to Nairobi.It is 37 years later and I am seated in a restaurant at Kasuku Centre in Kileleshwa with Shava (now a retired colonel), who remembers the day’s events like they happened yesterday.

When confirmation finally came through that Moi was on his way back, the escort team embarked on their mission.

“Normally, formation jets take off in twos, but because it was raining heavily on that day, it was decided that we take off one by one,” says Shava.Unfortunately, Okang’a’s jet developed problems and he returned to base, leaving his three colleagues to complete the task.The plan was that the fighter jets would rendezvous with the Kenya Airways plane as it entered Kenyan airspace somewhere near Lodwar. But there was a small hitch. Apparently, the Air Force top brass had failed to notify Kenya Airways of the escort plan and Captain Francis Mwangi, the pilot, would not allow them anywhere near his Boeing 707.“Our team leader Gichangi passed the information to our superiors, who then contacted the Department of Defence, who in turn contacted Kenya Airways,” Shava recalls.

All this time, they were following the 707 from a careful distance – not too near to upset Captain Mwangi, and not too far away to lose the sight of the plane with its VIP passenger. This was done in deference to Captain Mwangi, but they still had to keep a distance that made it possible for Mwangi’s passengers to see the fighter jets.Shava says at 39,000 feet above sea level, while over Nakuru, the 707 began its descent to Nairobi.

The three F-5s promptly did the same. But now they entered dense cloud; nobody could see the other. However, by using radar, the F-5s could track the blip on their screens that was the 707.The descending airliner made a gentle turn and immediately after this, Captain Mwangi radioed the fighters to tell them he had been cleared to let them fly in formation with him.As fate would have it, Shava realised he had to manouver his plane to clear a path for his colleagues, more so Gichangi. He pointed the jet’s nose up and gained altitude only to realise he was losing power.

“Things were moving too fast. I could hear Gichangi and Kariuki talking over the radio asking where I was, but I could not answer them because I was fighting with the controls to steady the plane.

Realising that I was fighting a losing battle, I decided to engage the eject system and promptly ejected,” he says.

Shava explains that the whole system of ejection and the parachute opening is timed in milli-seconds. Once activated, the canopy opens and two rockets underneath the seat fire the pilot out of the doomed plane.Two things, he noticed, stand out at this point.

In that dreadful moment of the battle between man and machine, moments are frozen in slow motion. You get to see everything to the minute detail, although in real sense things are moving at a terrific speed.

“Then I saw a flash and my entire life from my childhood through school to employment up to that particular moment was played. I saw all the things I had ever done and the people I ever met,” he says.

Parachute opened

As he was flung out, and before the parachute opened, Shava was not sure whether he was moving up or down. After the chute deployed, he toyed with the idea of cutting some cords attached to the parachute to speed up his fall.

“This comes with the disadvantage that you are likely to drop abruptly,” he says.Luckily, Shava landed safely. “I did a quick check of my body and saw that there was no injury. It was when I was packing my parachute that the whole prayer drama started.”The rescue chopper was held up by heavy rain and it was only later that he was picked up and taken to Moi Air Base in Nairobi.

He spent the night under the watch of a military medical team and was discharged the next day.A board of inquiry cleared Shava of any culpability in the accident. But three months later, the story would take a strange turn when a medical report from the Government Chemist came out.

“My commander called me and said he had bad news. The report said that I had more than 98 per cent alcohol in my system on the day of the accident. In normal circumstances this meant that I was not in a position to walk, leave alone fly,” he says.

Shava faced the grim reality that his beloved flying career was about to come to a crashing end.“Even my team leader, Gichangi, could not understand how this came to be, seeing that we were housemates at the base and for the three days we were on standby waiting for the mission we were off alcohol.”Shava was convinced of his innocence and he sought the opinion of a non-military doctor friend.

The doctor advised Shava to return to the military clinic and ask about the procedure used to draw his blood.The nurse wrote that he had used the normal procedure of rubbing alcohol on the skin before pricking the skin. Somehow, the alcohol had contaminated his blood.“I was cleared and the good thing from this is that the protocols of drawing blood were reviewed and alcohol was banned from the process,” says Shava.

By standard.co.ke

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Business

Pricey tomatoes push up the cost of living in February

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The high cost of tomatoes contributed to a spike in the cost of living in February with overall prices of goods and services in the economy increasing by 6.37 per cent.

This was a nine-month with the increase in general prices of food and non-alcoholic drinks standing at 10.58 per cent, year-on-year.

In January, inflation rate, or the annualised percentage change in price in a basket of goods, stood at 5.78 per cent.

Price of a kilogramme of tomatoes, whose high price has been the butt of many jokes online, increased by 62.4 per cent from Sh82.4 in the same month last year to Sh133.8.Another foodstuff that saw its price rise at a fast rate was maize grain (loose), with a kilogram retailing at Sh50.8, an increase of 42.8 per cent compared to the same period last year

.A kilogramme of onions touched Sh110.29 from Sh89.41, according to data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS).

“The increase in inflation was driven by increase in prices of several food items outweighing decrease registered in respect of others,” said KNBS.

Sukumawiki

“Notably, the prices of tomatoes increased by 62.4 per cent in February 2020 compared to the cost in February 2019. However, prices of mangoes and loose maize grain dropped by 8.39 and 1.3 per cent respectively.”While the heavy downpour depressed the supply of tomatoes, it was a boon for other foodstuff such as Sukuma Wiki.A kilogramme of sukuma wiki retailed at an average of Sh40, this was 15.4 per cent lower compared to Sh47.3 in the same month in 2019.

Mangoes, potatoes, carrots and spinach also saw their retail prices decline during this period.House rents went up, with the index on housing, water, electricity , gas and other fuels increasing by 0.47 per cent.

“However, during the same period, the cost of electricity consumption kerosene dropped,” said KNBS.

A litre of petrol retailed at Sh113.3 last in February, an increase of 12 per cent, from Sh101.13 in January.An inflation rate of 6.37 per cent remains within the Central Bank of Kenya’s target of between 2.5 and 7.5 per cent.

By Standard

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Top researchers caught in toxic scandals over money and sex

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A half a billion-shilling complex, claims of sexual harassment and corruption allegations are at the heart of a bitter war threatening to tear apart one of Africa’s mapping centres of excellence.

So intense is the infighting at the Kasarani based Regional Centre For Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD) that four whistle blowers, among them a technical director, have been sacked.

The working environment at the 44-year old institute is so toxic that members of staff are now fearing it will compromise operations.

Investigations by Saturday Standard indicate that bad blood between some top managers has forced the board of governors drawn from 20 countries in East and South Africa to intervene.

RCMRD’s Director General Emannuel Nkurunzinza insists he is a victim of a plot to sabotage his work, dismissing claims of harassment against him.In October last year, some staff complained to the council chairperson Bonolo Elizabeth Khumotaka about Nkuruzinza’s governance style.Some — John Kiema (director of technical services), Joseph Masatu (staff assistant head), Byron Anangwe (business development) and Ann Kingori (executive secretary) — have now been pushed out.

All the four had testified against the director general when a raft of allegations were presented to the council last October.

“I had worked for RCMRD for 20 years. My contract was to expire in December last year and I expected it to be renewed. However, after I testified, my letter of termination was dropped at home, shortly before Christmas. What they did was not right but I have accepted this and moved on,” Mr Anangwe said.

He said he had complained about bad governance as there was too much interference by his director, whom he claimed was antagonising partners and shooting down other ideas, in the process killing creativity among staff.

Anangwe said he was concerned after all the reserves the centre had been saving for two decades were committed to the construction of a four-storey complex that will cost $5 million (about Sh500 million).But Nkrunzinza said Anangwe’s contract and those of his two colleagues had been terminated by the governing council which had also directed they should not be renewed.

Nkrunzinza, a Rwandan, has also been accused of unilaterally awarding two contracts for training in use of drones in mapping in Zambia and Rwanda a compatriot, Rhona Nyakuluma, instead of letting the centre do the work and earn some money.

The director however defended himself, saying the centre had been contracted by the World Bank to engage the consultant who they had already identified and that it was only supposed to be paid an administration fee of 17 per cent.

Subscription fees

Each member country is supposed to pay an annual subscription fee based on its Gross Domestic Product. There was controversy surrounding how some arrears owed to the centre by Uganda in form of subscription fees had been settled.Nkurunzinza dismissed as untrue allegations that he had waved off the debt after he secured a contract for the recovery of data from a destroyed disk for a Kampala based firm irregularly.

“Uganda has cleared all its arrears. Those making those allegations do not know what they are talking about. The centre’s accounts are scrutinised by external auditors and no queries about our finances have been raised,” he said.

A complaint letter to the chair seen by Saturday Standard detail the frosty working environment at the centre. It reads in part: “2019 has been a very difficult year for TSD (technical service department)  and indeed essentially because of unwarranted interference in the management of TSD) and lack of support from the Director General.” According to this petition, staff had raised their grievances to the management, issues they said were never discussed.

The staff had complained of sexual harassment of students and interns during a meeting held on April 5, 2019, but the director general conclusively dealt with the matter through a memo on May 20, saying the claims had no basis.The staff had further claimed there had been a doubtful payment of about $37,945 (Sh3,832,445) in 2017 to a Ugandan firm after it repaired a computer disc that had vital data.

According to documents seen by Saturday Standard, the payment was suspected to be fishy because another firm in South Africa had unsuccessfully tried to repair the disc.

While requesting for payment, Banuli Kasanga of Dream Soft Uganda Limited had confirmed that his firm had repaired the faulty device which had been tested at at the DG’s office and found to be working.Nkurunzinza had on July 5, 2017 written to Dream Soft: “This is to acknowledge that Mr Babuli Kasango has today delivered data recovered from Dell Power Vault MD32000 and on a sample basis  demonstrated that the data is in good condition,” he wrote.This raised questions among the technical staff who wondered why the repaired disc was never returned to the centre and why the DG had gone to Uganda not long after the payment had been made.

Received data

But the director general maintained that he had indeed received the data which he had handed over to a client who had been patiently waiting for it.When these issues were presented to the governing council, which conducted  its sittings in Nairobi between November 28 and 30 last year, things turned nasty for the whistle blowers.In a case of the hunter becoming the hunted, Prof Kiema received a letter from the governing council dated January 24 informing him of the turn of events.

“Reference is made to your letter of November 28, 2019 addressed to me in which you raised a complaint against the Director General. The governing Council undertook investigations in Nairobi. From the investigations, undertaken no evidence has been established supporting your allegations.

”The chairperson of the board said their investigations had unearthed incontrovertible evidence of insubordination towards the director general and the whistle blower was given five days to show why severe disciplinary action could not be taken against him.Ultimately, the axe fell on Kiema on February 3 when Khumotaka fired back:  “I wish to inform you that I have received your explanation on the offences you were accused of. However, I do not find the explanation satisfactory”.She added: “In the interest of  smooth running the centre, your contract is terminated with immediate effect by paying you three months salary in lieu of notice in accordance with your contract of employment”.

When asked why the witnesses had been sacked barely a month after testifying against him, Nkurunzinza said although the complainants had poisoned the working environment with baseless allegations, this was not the basis of their loss of jobs.“Their contracts ended in December and the governing council opted not to renew them. They were not victimised for reporting me,” the DG said.

On sexual harassment allegations, Nkurunzinza said when the investigators came, nobody came forward or presented evidence to back the claims.

By Saturday Standard,

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Mutua warns on ‘dirty’ content at drama festival

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The Kenya Film and Classification Board (KFCB) has announced strict measures aimed at filtering inappropriate content in stage plays that will be displayed during this year’s National Drama Festival.

Chief Executive Officer Ezekiel Mutua said there would be no room in the festival for content that could erode cultural and moral values and

urged school administrators to ensure stage plays stick to set guidelines as enshrined in the Films and Stage Plays Act.

Mutua said the agency will keenly monitor this year’s event which will be held at the Coast.

He said the measures would help tame rising moral decay in society.

“Since children are impressionable and among the highest consumers of content, there is need to direct them towards consuming clean content early in life. The war against compromised content must begin right from creation and must also involve children rights from the creation level,” said Mutua.

Age approptriate

He said the partnership between the KFCB and the Kenya National Drama and Film Festival (KNDFF) is aimed at ensuring content that is consumed by children promotes moral values and is in tune with the country’s culture.

The partnership, he said, was strategically intended to reach and influence at least 25,000 students and 1,200 teachers as media content creators, consumers towards clean age appropriate content.

Nurture talents

Executive secretary of the Kenya National Drama and Film Festival James Indimuli challenged tutors to expose learners to extra-curricular activities that can enable them explore their talents.

“The Board ventured into partnership with the Ministry of Education through the KNDFF with the aim of identifying and nurturing talent among learners right from preschool,” he added.

Indimuli confirmed that the 61st National Drama Festivals will be held at Shimo La Tewa Secondary School in Mombasa County.

“We want to ensure participant’s tell stories that promote positive morals and culture and those that will not adhere to the guidelines will be banned,” said Indimuli.

The two were speaking during the Kenya Drama and Film festival retreat at a Mombasa hotel on Wednesday.

Data shows that the film industry has a potential to be a significant contributor to the country’s GDP by creating employment opportunities for the youth.

Kenya’s film industry generates Sh7.2 billion every year, creating direct and indirect jobs for more than 100,000 people, according to the Pan African Federation of Filmmakers.

2020 DRAMA FESTIVAL

• The 61st National Drama Festival will be held in the Shimo la Tewa Secondary School in Mombasa County from April 13 to 24, 2020.

• The Kenya Films Classification Board has said it will closely monitor the event in line with this year’s theme which is “Promoting moral responsibility in society through drama and film”.

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