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Of a friendship forged in foreign lands and a cold reception at home

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When we landed in Rome, the expansive airport was deserted. The Covid-19 pandemic had caused international pandemonium and everyone was in hiding.

I walked across empty lobbies to the Nairobi counter. Social distancing was mandatory and there was no one to ask for direction, but there were speakers blaring information in different languages, thank God!

No African people in sight … but, wait … I saw one behind a counter and dashed there. “English?” I asked. “French.” I walked on towards my designated counter 125D.

After what I thought was a long walk, I saw Counter 125D, and yes, it was closed. It was to be opened two hours to departure time.

I checked my watch and confirmed the obvious: My flight was six hours away and had to wait until 9pm. I got myself a seat at the empty waiting bay. Then two African guys approached me. “Ethiopian?” they asked. I said yes. In halting English, they told me that they were heading home to Togo via Addis Ababa.

I was grateful for the company of kindred souls. By now, I was drained, thirsty and hungry. I blacked out, only to wake up at 8.58pm! I checked around, and realised that the Togolese were gone! There was no one in sight and it was crazy cold. Desperately, I threw away the gloves and mask that the Madrid staff had given me and started panting like a lost puppy. What now? Where are my two African peas!? I was now all alone in this Italian pod! I begged my legs to have some more energy and to look for anyone … any living being, black or yellow in this citadel of emptiness!

I started walking. All the counters were closed. There were no guards. I meandered like a lost soul. Then, finally I saw a woman in uniform. She spotted me too and pointed towards some direction … not even waiting for me to ask for help. She was tired of answering questions, and sign language, I realised, was all she had left.

I had removed my glasses to listen properly to any human sound. I walked towards the pointed direction and I could only see blurred

human figures. The Togolese were among the eight people I found there. There also was a slim girl who was so covered up that only her small frame and feminine boots betrayed her gender.

I moved nearer and asked: “Ethiopia?”

She nodded, then added: “Nairobi.”

I exclaimed “Ngaai!” and she was so excited to hear it that she took off her mask and spoke Kiswahili with a deep Mt Kenya accent. Her name was Njoki. Then we switched to Kikuyu and I started feeling at home.

She had a story too. On arriving at the airport, she realised how hard it was to get help. So she had feigned disability and a guard had wheeled her up to the Ethiopian Airlines boarding gate!

She gave me a mask and a bottle of hand sanitiser as we checked in.

She was 21 and had visited Italy for the first time. Finally, at around 11pm, we boarded the huge plane.

We were only eight! It was deathly silent inside.

The beautiful cabin crew reminded me of the young ones who perished in the Ethiopian plane, a year ago. I tried to shake off the dark thoughts.

I had not eaten anything for a whole day and night but I couldn’t stand the aroma of the spiced Ethiopian bites.

I only took fruit juice, tea and some biscuits. I couldn’t sleep at all. Finally, we landed in Addis Ababa.

JENNY VAUGHAN | AFP
International passengers arrive at Addis Ababa’s Bole International Airport in the past. The writer struck a lasting friendship with two other passengers at the airport that lifted the load off her Covid-19 worries.

I was now 6.50am. It was such a relief. I even mused that I’d walk to Kenya if all failed.

I had seen it all from Madrid to Rome and now Addis. All passengers were made to fill in their full details, all contact persons and places visited with an agreement that they would agree to a mandatory 14-day quarantine on their arrival to whichever destination.

I had so far filled three of those.

Addis, with its many Africans, offered me much relief. A lot of familiar languages, including Kiswahili, were spoken.

Njoki was still by my side. Bole International Airport was small, dirty and disorganised, but if felt like home.

Our flight to Nairobi was three hours away. We could rest and chat. At last, we were able to relax.

In a little while, another woman approached us smiling. She was so excited to see Kenyans and having reached Ethiopia. She had flown from the UK and speaking Kiswahili was a fresh breath of air for her.

We even took some refreshments and had deep conversations narrating and sharing our predicaments.

We became friends and swore that we wouldn’t part ways, no matter what. The Covid-19 situation called for unity in strength. We knew we would face the quarantine monster in Kenya.

We touched down at Jomo Kenyatta International at 11.30am.

There was so much security at the airport that it looked like a war zone. They were waiting for us. Our stories did not matter to anyone.

There were instant temperature checks and those who failed were whisked away by men wearing hazmat suits. It was so sickening and frightening. We looked like pariahs and nobody cared to even give us counselling.

To Be Continued….

By Daily 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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Lifestyle

Mum celebrates petrol station attendant who shielded her daughter at night

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“I will forever be grateful to this guy,” Kihangu Veronicah said as she shared a photo of a petrol station attendant who saved her daughter’s life.

Limuru mum celebrates petrol station attendant who shielded her daughter at night

Peter Elegwa worked the night shift that day. Photo: Shell
Source: UGC

The grateful mum narrated how Peter Elegwa shielded her daughter from the danger in the dead of the night after she failed to make it home in time.

According to the Facebook user, her daughter was caught in traffic past curfew hours on Saturday, November 28.

The driver of the matatu she had boarded decided to drop the passengers before they reached their destinations.

 

Limuru mum celebrates petrol station attendant who shielded her daughter at night

Peter, the man who watched over Kihangu’s daughter. Photo: Kihangu Victoria
Source: Facebook

The driver then turned away as he was not willing to spend one more minute on the God-forsaken road.

Kihangu’s daughter decided to trek the rest of the way despite it being pitch black outside.

It was around 10.30pm and the rain had started pouring so she had to consider seeking shelter while the rainfall subsided.

“She arrived at Shell Petrol Station and this guy sheltered her and provided my daughter with a seat as she waited for me to sort out her transportation,” the happy mum recalled.

Kihangu further explained that Peter made sure her daughter was safe till 11.15pm when a car was sent to pick her up.

She praised the kind employee and thanked him for his heart of gold.

by Tuko.co.ke


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