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Meet Cherono guard by day and student in the evening

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As you enter Egerton University Nakuru Town Campus on Government Road, the institution is a beehive of activities.

The security at the entrance is tight as a female security guard keep a close watch on every movement around and past the metal gate.

And as students and other clients pass her at the entrance, they have no idea that the woman who inspects their luggage and frisk them before allowing them to go through a metal detector is student at the same institution. Not even some lecturers notice her.

Some of the students even reprimand her for the slow pace at which she clears them, perhaps because of fatigue as she rarely gets good rest.

“Sometimes when I look at some of these students who scorn at me, I pray to God to give me strength to study hard and join them at graduation square one day. Sometimes it is good to respect people you meet because whatever one is doing is not permanent. This world is a global village and you don’t know the next meeting point,” she said.

She added: “Unfortunately many Kenyans see security guards as failures in life and school dropouts who don’t deserve respect.”

Meet Ms Naomi Cherono, 27, who is the darling of the students and lecturers as she ensures their security is guaranteed through superb checking at the entrance.

Interestingly, students and other visitors who have interacted with Ms Cherono leave the institution impressed.

However, many would probably never know that the guard who takes care of their security is struggling to complete her studies at the same institution.

“She is the safe pair of hands to help the students and workers at the institution enjoy their work and study. I love the way she is strict. I was happy with the way she handled my colleagues who did not carry identification documents,” said George, a student.

“With terror threats at public institutions, Cherono makes sure only students and staff with proper identification documents enter the institution when she is on duty. She is a no nonsense guard who loves her job,” said Mary a second year student.

“She is a cool guard and when she talks about security, I listen very attentively. She gave me some advice on personal safety including tips on how to detect suspected criminals in a crowded gathering,” Victor, another student.

Ms Cherono, who is a Library and Information Science student, hopes to graduate this year. But she may not graduate as she owes the university a fee arrears of Sh268,000.

“I have decided to work as a guard in the day and in the evening I attend my classes but my joy walking home smiling with my certificate is fast fading as I have not cleared my arrears,” she says.

“Juggling between class and work to raise an extra coin for my school fees,” she told Nation. Ms Cherono’s journey is inspiring.

 In 2012 she sat her Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) and scored a D and since she wanted to join university her poor grades let her down. She enrolled for a certificate course and passed her exams.

“I passed and I decided to advance by studying a diploma course which I passed,” she recalls.

Ms Cherono wants to prove that getting a D in KCSE is not the end of the road.

“Getting a D was a blessing in disguise as I have been able to realise my potential and as I study hard. I want to be a role model to other girls who seem to despair after getting the grade,” says Ms Cherono adding that poverty is the state of the mind. She says her dream is to pursue Library Studies to PhD level.

“My next stop is a PhD class and nothing will stop me from one day earning the title Dr Cherono,” she says as she frisks a client.

But the journey has not been easy as raising the school fees was an uphill task.

“I come from a poor background. I am the first born in a family of 10 (eight girls and two boys) and my father is a tractor driver in Mauche while my mother is housewife and they have a burden of taking care of the rest of my siblings,” she says.

She added: “It is not easy to raise such a big family. At one stage my dad told me to quit college as he had no money to pay for my fees.”

However, that did not dampen her fighting spirit and she was forced to carry the books to read and complete assignments while working as a guard.

“When you’re a security guard cum student, there is no time to relax. Every second counts. I wake up at 4am to study and complete my assignments and by 7am, I am I report to my place of work and the university,” she said. “Working as a guard has denied me the privileges of social life,” she said.

Despite the challenges, Ms Cherono has passed all her examinations and practical tests and is optimistic of a bright future.

“I owe the university Sh268,000 and unless I raise this money my dreams of graduating as a librarian may  not be realised,” she said.

“I have to clear the arrears as I don’t believe to be a failure in life. What I earn as a security guard caters for food, and pays my rent and other costs,” she said.

Egerton University Vice-Chancellor Prof Rose Mwonya commended Ms Cherono for overcoming odds to pursue her dreams.

“Her sacrifice is commendable. I started from diploma and today I am the vice-chancellor of Egerton University. I encourage her to work hard,” said Prof Mwonya.

Nakuru City Board Director Kamau Kuria commended Ms Cherono’s resilience.

“Unlike other girls who score a D grade and think there is no future, Ms Cherono has a bright future and her hard work is now paying off. She is a role model to her peers,” said Mr Kuria.

A lecturer at Egerton Town campus William Kipchumba described Ms Cherono as a hardworking student.

Egerton University Town Campus Security Supervisor Paul Rotich described her as a courageous and disciplined student.

By Nation.co.ke


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Lifestyle

My cruel marriage to politician’s son

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Like any other woman about to get married, Esther Kisaghu was eager to tie the knot with her soulmate. When she finally settled down with the son of a prominent politician, who retired in 1988, it was all bliss. In her mind, the Cinderella life was a reality.

But she was wrong. She soon realised that marriage life wasn’t the bed of roses she had envisioned.

“I started like any other girl who is happy to get married. But soon, things changed. I started experiencing domestic violence,” reveals Ms Kisaghu, who studied at Alliance Girls’ High School, before going abroad for further studies.

She joined Boston University in the United States for a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration.

“When I was in the middle of my studies, my fiancé requested me to come back for us to get married…

“I didn’t complete my studies. Two years after we got married, however, he changed. He started strangling me, but I kept quiet,” she says.

Ms Kisaghu, who got married at 27, later completed her Bachelor’s at African Nazarene University in Kenya.

She says her husband beat her up regularly without any reason.

“It does not matter what the victim does, as long as the perpetrator wants to beat his victim, it will happen. Nothing the victim does, will stop the violence — only if the abuser changes. He chose to beat me, emotionally and psychological tortured me — it was his choice. At the heart of abuse is power and control — the twisted behaviour to control and abuse the victim,” says Ms Kisaghu, who has since founded The Rose Foundation, which assists women undergoing abuse in marriage.

“His family was powerful when he was abusing me. He also abused substance. However, as an expert in domestic violence, I later realised that drunkenness does not cause violence. It merely exacerbates it. There is no causal link between being a drunk and violence. Violence is a choice,” she says.

When the mother of one realised she was going through suffering with her son, she thought of means to get out of the marriage after nine years of painful experience.

Wanted to stab me

“After seeing my life in danger, when my husband wanted to stab me with a knife, I decided to go and study for a second degree in America,” she says, adding that, that was the only means of escaping from death that was staring at her.

However, it was hard to escape and she had to devise ways out.

“I was married to a powerful politician’s son. So, escaping to the US via the studies route was not easy at all, especially because I left with my son — a no, no, in African culture,” narrates Ms Kisaghu, who was born in Taita-Taveta County.

Nevertheless, she joined Boston University, again, to study Public Health – International Health at Master’s degree level. Her going for further studies in 2004, she says, was just an escape.

“My life was in danger. I used the opportunity… to keep safe in another country with my son.”

It was at the university that it dawned on her that domestic violence is preventable.

“During the four years of studies, I decided that I should come and assist people back at home.”

Indeed, when she was done, she returned to Kenya and opened a new chapter in her life by establishing The Rose Foundation in 2015.

Gender-Based Violence

Prior to that, she volunteered her services at the Gender-Based Violence Recovery Centre at Nairobi Women’s Hospital for six months.

She says safety planning to escape for victims is crucial, and that 70 per cent of homicides happen after the victim has left.

“Many women in Kenya get killed when the husband follows them to their new life. It’s true that victims face death every day in violent marriages, but when leaving, a safety plan must be put in place.

At The Rose Foundation, we do domestic violence training, which includes safety planning,” says Ms Kisaghu, who spent 11 years trying to get a divorce because her husband kept interfering with the case.

Children are affected

Ms Kisaghu notes that many children are affected psychologically when they witness domestic violence in their homes.

She says that victims ought to realise that leaving a violent home is possible, “no matter how difficult it is.

“What is important is to do a safety plan,” says Ms Kisaghu who is also the author of The Triumph of My Life: Domestic Violence and Society’s Thundering Silence.

by nation


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Lifestyle

Peter Gwengi: ‘Accepting I had HIV saved my life’

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“Can you imagine for the many years since I signed a memorandum of understanding with my virus, I have lived a happy and peaceful life. We have been faithful to each other,” this was Peter Gwengi’s opening statement when we visited him at his home in Migori County.

It was his wife’s poor health that made him test for the virus. He learnt about his wife’s status, and eventually his own, in a cruel manner.

“She was seriously ill and admitted to hospital in Migori, but when there was no change, and her health deteriorating, I requested to move her to a better hospital. A nurse called me on the side and whispered, ‘why are you wasting your money treating her and she is going to die anyway. She is HIV positive’,” said Mr Gwengi.

He did not believe it. He called the family doctor, who confirmed that his wife was HIV positive and had been taking drugs for six years. She had kept the news away from him, perhaps due to fear of stigma and rejection. “For six years, living with someone and not knowing she is HIV positive, and many people, including some of my family members, knew her status. I was the only one who had been in the dark all along. It took a toll on me,” he said.

Opportunistic infection

Fearing the worst, but determined to get it over with, Mr Gwengi got tested for the virus. Even though he had prepared himself for the worst, when the test came back positive, he was devastated. Nine months later, his wife died. He lived in denial for two years, not talking about the disease to anyone — not even close relatives and friends — and refusing to take medication.

The two years were not easy for him. It was one opportunistic infection after another, but he would not accept that he had the virus. He thought of committing suicide.

He could not get out of his house or face his family or friends because of the stigma that came with the disease.

“One thing that I kept on asking myself — and I did not have an answer — is, where the disease came from. But thinking deeply, I believe I contracted HIV when I worked as a field officer in the early 1990s, a job that kept me away from home for long periods,” he said .

One day in 2001, he got seriously ill and was rushed to hospital unconscious. It was after several counselling sessions and being told that he was going to die and leave his three daughters orphans that made him accept his status. He then did everything he could to prolong his life.

 Telling his inner circle of friends about his HIV status was easier than he had expected, because he had accepted it.

He was placed on drugs, and thanks to his employer, Mr Gwengi was fully insured and would get his drugs using his medical card. Having seen how his wife suffered, he vowed to keep to the drugs regimen.

“One day, I woke up and told my virus now that we are partners and they are going to be part of me forever, they should not put me down and I will not disturb them. I would obey and follow all the requirements. And that’s how I have been living with my virus,” he narrated to the Nation.

Mr Gwengi said he maintains a well-balanced lifestyle, healthy diet, taking antiretroviral drugs on time, exercising, having adequate rest, and dropping bad habits such as taking excessive alcohol.

“HIV is a very jealous virus. If you are to take your drugs, for instance at 9pm, and you skip, it will eventually notice that something is not right and it will attack with several diseases until you adhere to the rules,” said Mr Gwengi.

Stress, he points out, is also dangerous and can undermine your health.

“This is one of the most faithful viruses. It does not want to be disturbed and it will not disturb you. All you need to do is just to accept that you have it and it will respond positively. Get yourself good friends and family members who encourage you positively.”

Mr Gwengi founded an advocacy organisation, where he runs campaigns to promote positive living and acceptance of people with HIV.

by nation.africa


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Courts

Fraud case opens lid into the sophisticated art of con game

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When seven suspects took to the dock to plead to fraud charges, they looked ordinary. Like any Tom, Dick and Harry – plain. But underneath the veneer of simplicity lay a suave and sophisticated lot that has opened the door to the world of conmanship.

The seven, who had purported to be officials from the Office of the Deputy President, were yesterday charged a fresh over a Sh180 million fake tender scam.

Allan Kiprotich Chesang, Teddy Awiti, Kevin Mutundura Nyongesa, Augustine Wambua Matata, Joy Wangari Kamau, James William Makokha alias MrWanyonyi and Johan Ochieng Osore appeared before Chief Magistrate Martha Mutuku and denied the charges.

They were charged afresh after the prosecution consolidated their files.

They appeared before Chief Magistrate Martha Mutuku after the prosecution consolidated their files.

The suspects, who duped the victim into supplying 2,800 pieces of laptops in August 2018, had forged a Local Purchase Order (LPO) purported to have been issued by a Mr Mulinge, an assistant procurement officer at the DP’s office.

Their case is a classic example of the tremendous transformation fraud – originally associated with dingy downtown areas, and targeting the naive and less educated people – has undergone in the last few years.

Lately, the majority of the victims – as the recent case of a high-ranking diplomat – are well exposed people.

But what has baffled detectives is the fact that some of the serious fraud cases are executed in high-level government and security offices.

According to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI), the State House, Harambee House, Harambee House Annex, the United Nations, the Department of Defence (DoD), Jogoo House police offices and Afya House, are among places where fraudsters have either pitched tent, or purported to operate from.

The Economic and Commercial Crimes Unit of the DCI is currently investigating a case of fraud involving millions of shillings by suspects posing as UN staff.

The gang, including a man and a woman who the DCI a fortnight ago listed as wanted persons, are also wanted for bank fraud offences.

The DCI, in a notice in the newspapers, indicated that Gerald Gatheru Mwai and Gladys Mwara Kamau, were wanted following a warrant of arrest issued by a Milimani court in Nairobi, on October 16.

Apart from the case before court in which a warrant of arrest was issued against the duo, the two are also said to have been duping unsuspecting businessmen over nonexisting tenders at the UN.

The victims are issued with fake Local Purchase Orders (LPOs) after parting with some money, and would be directed to specific companies to purchase tendered goods, especially drugs and rice, but told to pay and wait for the goods to be delivered, because the UN complex is a security zone.

Some of the victims told detectives that since access to the UN compound was restricted, they were convinced to surrender the goods to a team of ‘UN staff’ to deliver. The fraudsters would then disappear with the goods.

The gullibility has been baffling, a clear proof that no one is immune to fraud.

In the latest fraud case involving Sh300 million that was in court on Wednesday last week, the victim, Haile Menkerios, is said to have served in different senior positions within the UN.

The suspect, businessman and former Embakasi East parliamentary aspirant

Francis Mureithi, is alleged to have defrauded Menkerios under the pretext that he could help the diplomat secure a food supply tender at the DoD.

Menkerios, 74, has served as the Head of UN office to the African Union (UNOAU) and as a Special Representative to the African Union.

He has also served as the UN Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Sudan and South Sudan.

According to Psychology professor Robert Cialdini, people fall for scams due to a number of reasons, including the principle of reciprocity or enforced indebtedness used to elicit unwise action from the targeted victims.

“Not all fraud victims are risk-taking and greedy individuals seeking to make a quick shilling. They come from a variety of socio-economic, educational, age and gender backgrounds,” a senior detective at DCI headquarters said.

And the fraudsters are not the ordinary slinky characters who operate covertly. Some of them are ubiquitous characters who use their community and professional credibility and respectability to con.

In most of the cases, fraudsters disguise themselves as employees of certain institutions and forge LPOs and letterheads to send fake tender bids to unsuspecting companies or businessmen with requests to supply goods.

DoD In another case at DoD in August this year, the once high flying former assistant minister Danston Mungatana was arrested by detectives from Kilimani DCI together with Collins Paul Waweru for the offence of obtaining money by pretences, forgery and making of a false document.

The two had obtained Sh1 million by pretending they were in a position to help a business person to secure a non-existent Sh70 million tender, purportedly to supply cereals and building materials to the DOD. After the complainant parted with Sh1 million, she was called to a Nairobi hotel to meet “a senior officer who would help push the alleged business opportunity”.

AFYA HOUSE

In March this year, detectives arrested Mercy Waihiga Wanjiku alias Linda Masake Mugundu for obtaining goods valued at Sh37 million from a businessman in another fake tender at the Ministry of Health (MoH), Afya House.

Wanjiku, together with other suspects, posed as senior MoH Health officials and lured Eastleigh businessman Ibrahim Adan to deliver 20,000 boxes of hand gloves, 1000 pieces of non-contact infrared thermometers and 579 boxes of face masks worth Sh37 million.

The meetings -to award the fake tender MOH/DPPH/DNMP/001/GFONT/2019- 2020 dated May 4 to Rocketway Construction Ltd -were held at the boardroom used by the Human Resources department. According to the businessman, every time he visited Afya House, he would find the ‘officials’ waiting for him and they would quickly whisk him past the security officers at the reception.

by Zadock Angira, PD.co.ke


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