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The Rev. Rose Okeno, center, was enthroned as bishop of the Butere Diocese in western Kenya on Sept. 12, 2021. Photo via Twitter/Anglican Church of Kenya

 

NAIROBI, Kenya (RNS) — Amid celebrations in a predominantly Anglican region in western Kenya, the Rev. Rose Okeno was enthroned as bishop of the Butere Diocese on Sunday (Sept. 12).

Okeno, 54, was consecrated in a ceremony presided over by Archbishop Jackson Ole Sapit, the primate of the Anglican Church of Kenya, making her the first woman to be a full Anglican bishop in the East African country, where the consecration of women as bishops is still controversial.

“By the grace of God, I accept to be your bishop,” the long-serving cleric said in her charge after the consecration. “Our election as the fourth bishop of the diocese is a strong confirmation that indeed God is doing a new thing in the history of the church.”

As bishop, Okeno will serve a rural population where the majority of the faithful are small-scale farmers and traders. She was elected on July 20 by a majority of a 23-member college of delegates, beating two male contenders.

The new bishop has promised to remain faithful to the truth, guiding people to celebrate virtue and shun vice. She also vowed to serve the disenfranchised and marginalized in her diocese.

“We will seek to remain faithful to the truth, denounce all evil that subverts justice and the welfare of those we serve,” said Okeno, while promising to advocate for the rights of girls and children and the empowerment of women and other disadvantaged people.

“We shall call out those who use positions of influence, even within the church, to harm the weak.”

Ole Sapit praised Okeno’s courage for putting herself forward as a contender for bishop of Butere and winning. Like in many areas of Kenya, she will lead a patriarchal community where most top leadership positions — even in the church — are held by men.

“I congratulate her for rising above cultural norms and … making history as the first ACK (Anglican Church of Kenya) woman bishop,” said the primate.

Her consecration drew celebration among religious and social leaders, with some saying such women of courage were needed in Kenya and worldwide at the moment.

“It is times like these when we need such strong women, women who are ready to serve,” Charity Ngilu, an Anglican who is the governor of Kitui County, was quoted in the press as saying.

Still, the cleric’s enthronement has defied a 2018 moratorium of the Global Anglican Future Conference, known as GAFCON, on ordination of women. While meeting in Entebbe, Uganda, the GAFCON archbishops resolved to halt the consecration of women into the episcopate until such a time when a consensus is reached. In the meantime, the conservative movement was to uphold the historic practice of consecrating men only.

But Kenya and Uganda, according to reports, had pushed for the consecration of women bishops. Although the two provinces had not consecrated any since then, Kenya produced two quick ordinations this year.

On Jan. 20, the Anglican Church of Kenya ordained the Rev. Emily Onyango, a 59-year-old scholar and researcher, as an assistant bishop of Bondo, a diocese on the edge of Lake Victoria. Months later, Okeno was elected.

While the church in Kenya may appear to be defying the moratorium, some Anglican clerics say it depends on the diocesan synods.

“The GAFCON moratorium is still in force, but it’s not binding. We are in a loose fellowship where, when one diocese takes an action, the other does not have to do the same. Even with this, we still claim to be together. It is unity in diversity,” said retired Anglican Bishop Julius Kalu of Mombasa.

In Africa, Anglican women bishops remain rare. Okeno is probably the fifth, after Onyango — also a Kenyan. In 2016, the Rev. Elizabeth Awut Ngor was consecrated as an assistant bishop in the South Sudan diocese of Rumbek. The South African diocese of False Bay elected the Rev. Margaret Vertue bishop in October 2012 and consecrated her as bishop in 2013.

In 2012, Ellinah Ntombi Wamukoya was ordained as bishop of Swaziland Diocese in southern Africa. Wamukoya died from COVID-19 in January this year. - Fredrick Nzwili, Religion News Service

 

BOR – A man in Bor town of South Sudan’s Jonglei state has been arrested by the police authorities there after allegedly stabbing his sister to death, Jonglei state police spokesman Major Majak Daniel, said.

According to the state police mouthpiece, the victim identified as 20-year-old Amor Mawut Yol was stabbed by her brother identified as Matong during a family fight in which two other people were wounded.

Amor later on succumbed to injuries at Bor Hospital on Friday morning.

“The incident happened on Thursday night by 9pm and when it happened, the boy was with his mother and the cousin’s brother. The three victims were rushed to Bor State Hospital and shortly the lady passed away,” Major Majak said, according to Eye Radio.

He said that the culprit has been arrested and is behind bars and was also taken to the hospital to for examination to tell if he has a history of drug influence.

“Police are suspecting this issue of gangs in the town and they are investigating. He was taken to the hospital to be examined whether he has a history of drug influence and police are waiting for the results,” he added. - Sudans Post

[Patrick Gathara/ Al Jazeera]

On the evening of September 11, 2001, I was returning home from work, dreading the uncomfortable ride in the crowded, noisy minibuses that are the backbone of what passes for a public transport system in Nairobi. I spotted a group of people crowding the TV outside an upscale bar and walked over to find out what was going on. The burning tower on the screen seemed like something out of a movie. Then the second plane hit. I pulled up a chair, knowing I would not be heading home for a while. Like everyone else at that bar, I instinctively felt something significant was happening, even though I did not appreciate then just how world-changing the events would be.

International terrorism was nothing new to Kenyans at the dawn of the 21st century. In 1976, the country quietly aided the audacious Israeli mission, known as Operation Entebbe, to rescue 260 passengers and crew after members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the German Revolutionary Cells hijacked an Air France plane and flew it to neighbouring Uganda. Five years later, the bombing of the Norfolk Hotel in Nairobi, which killed 20 people and injured close to 100, was linked to the PFLP – apparent payback for Kenya’s role in Operation Entebbe. In 1998, the country suffered its worst attack to date when 213 people were killed and more than 4000 injured after al-Qaeda fighters bombed the US Embassy in Nairobi, causing a commercial building next door to collapse.

The attack on the US, however, seemed set to be orders of magnitude more consequential, even for Kenya. This was exemplified when the brutal dictator, Daniel Arap Moi, for the first time took to the streets to lead a demonstration against the 9/11 attacks, something he had not done when Kenya was the target. And with al-Qaeda having set up a base next door in anarchic southern Somalia, Kenya would be drawn into the so-called “global war on terror” US President George W Bush would soon launch.

Kenya had been battling the terrorists on its own territory even before the “war on terror” arrived in the region. The 9/11 Commission report cites instances in the run up to the US Embassy bombing when Kenyan authorities working with their US counterparts conducted operations against the al-Qaeda cell established in the country in 1992 – the same cell that carried out the bombing. The Commission also prophetically noted that areas in northern Kenya bordering Somalia would be an ideal place to locate a terrorist base.

 

Still, southern Somalia remained the major focus of US anti-terror efforts in the region. In 2002, the same year al-Qaeda bombed a Kenyan hotel and targeted an Israeli airliner flying out of the coastal city of Mombasa with a surface-to-air missile, the US established the Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa in Djibouti. Although stabilising anarchic Somalia in order to deny its ungoverned spaces to al-Qaeda was its declared aim, the US was content to pay warlords in Mogadishu to track suspected al-Qaeda operatives and thwart the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), which was scheming to take power there.

This model collapsed, however, when the UIC routed the warlords in 2006 and took over the entire country. Although the UIC had little interest in fighting a global “jihad”, preferring instead to establish their idea of an Islamic state in Somalia, and despite the fact that they had brought a semblance of peace back to Somalia, the US post 9/11 propensity to view everything through the prism of the “war on terror” doomed the enterprise. Six months after they kicked out the warlords, and after foolishly laying claim to Ethiopia’s Somali region, the Ogaden, the UIC was deposed by US-backed Ethiopian troops. Within three years, the armed wing of the UIC, known as al-Shabab, had regrouped, fought its way back north to Mogadishu and sworn allegiance to al-Qaeda.

Despite the threat on her doorstep, for the first decade of the “war on terror”, Kenya was more focused on internal political upheavals, from the exit from power of the dictatorial Daniel arap Moi at the end of 2002, to a failed attempt to change its constitution three years later, to the violence that followed the disputed 2007 elections. Still, in 2004 Kenya established a clandestine team within the paramilitary General Service Unit’s Recce Company which was equipped, trained and guided on counter-terror operations by the US Central Intelligence Agency. The team was responsible for, according to an investigation by Declassified UK, “the capture of high-value terror suspects, as well as rendition operations, killings and alleged summary executions”. Kenya’s vice president at the time, Kalonzo Musyoka, would later admit that the government was carrying out extrajudicial killings “because we are doing the bidding of the West in the war on terror”.

In October 2011, however, the country jumped in with both feet, ignoring the advice of more sensible heads – including the US – and sent troops into Somalia, a decision it would pay a heavy price for. Al-Shabab quickly and viciously retaliated, executing devastating attacks both in the remote north as well as in Nairobi. These include the 2013 attack on the Westgate Mall which killed at least 68, the attack on the Garissa University College in 2015 where 148 perished, and the 2019 storming of the Dusit D2 complex in Nairobi where 21 died. If the point of the invasion was to prevent attacks on Kenyan soil, it had the opposite effect. In the 45 months after the troops went in, Kenya suffered nine times as many attacks as in the 45 months prior. The attacks were also more ferocious, with deaths and injuries multiplying eight-fold in the same period. 

In Somalia itself, Kenyan troops were faring little better. Although they had managed in 2012 to take the port of Kismayo from al-Shabab and to set up a regional government, the Kenyan troops were soon accused of facilitating an illegal trade in charcoal and sugar that actually made more money for the terror group than when it controlled the port. Further, in 2017, al-Shabab overran a Kenyan base in the Somali town of el-Adde, killing at least 148 troops. A year later, another 68 soldiers were killed when the terrorists attacked another base at Kulbiyow.

At home, Kenyans have become used to living in a much more fragile world since 9/11. Security checks and invasions of privacy have become much more ubiquitous. Airports have become fortresses and there are few commercial buildings one can enter in Nairobi today without having your ID and phone number recorded. A trip to the supermarket involves navigating through metal detectors. The neighbourhood Kenyans lived in had always been terrible, with civil wars raging in nearly every country with which Kenya shared a border. Despite being afflicted by a brutal and kleptocratic elite, the country itself had always been widely considered an island of relative peace and stability, hosting refugees and serving as a base for international humanitarian agencies and media organisations. The “war on terror”, political violence and the consequence of the Somalia invasion have taken much of the shine off that.

It has not all been doom and gloom. In many ways, even as the “war on terror” raged, the country made much progress – from promulgating a new and progressive constitution that allowed the country to be one of the first in the world to annul a presidential election, to becoming a global leader in digital money transfer as well as a digital tech industry hub. Looking back to that day 20 years ago, it strikes me that it is our own reactions as Kenyans – both positive and negative – to the things that have happened here, that have had the greatest impact on how people live. It is somewhat comforting to think that when barbaric actions by terrorists halfway across the world can inspire even worse superpower over-reactions that lay waste to entire nations and immiserate tens of millions, local circumstances and the acts of local people can still be what matters most. By Patrick Gathara, alJazeera

Some of the data entrants appearing before MPs

At least 8 data entrants from Arua city who fraudulently obtained COVID-19 relief cash meant for vulnerable people have apologized and requested to refund the money. 

The data entrants were today appearing before the Public Accounts Committee on Local Government chaired by Bardege-Layibi MP, Martin Ojara Mapenduzi alongside Arua city officials. The committee is probing the fraudulent process of registering beneficiaries meant to receive the Shs 100,000 COVID-19 relief cash.

The committee established that the same people who were charged with registering beneficiaries instead chose to register themselves as beneficiaries taking advantage of the system.

Some of data entrants told the MPs that they are just volunteers in Arua city and needed the money because they are not paid a salary. Of the 14 data entrants from Arua city, 8 said they are willing to return back the money and that what they did was regrettable.

Some of the data entrants are Mikail Adam Juma, Shamim Komuntale, John Henry, Donna Munguci, Godfrey Oyimidri, John Dominic and Sandra Fariyo. Each of them admitted one by one that they used their positions to put their names.

"My name is Komuntale Shamim, I registered as a food vendor...am very sorry sir, I apologize I did so but I wasn't supposed to do that...My name is Sandra Fariyo, I'm a volunteer in the audit department, I registered myself as a waitress [I have never been a waitress]." the entrants submitted before MPs.

Committee chairperson Mapenduzi questioned why the whole process was left to the volunteers. However, the city officials said that the task was given to the statisticians.

"There are procedures to follow to recruit staff, you don't just smuggle in people. People who are not formally employed and become in charge. Probably that is why cases of mismanagement is high. Now you have them, they have penetrated your system, they can change names at will. They have paid themselves that is the consequence," Mapenduzi said.  

On those who wanted to refund the money to the committee, Mapenduzi said that they have opened up an inquiry with the criminal investigations department of parliament, and people who handle the issue of receiving money will handle it but not MPs. 

"Our committee is not collecting the money, our mandate is not receiving the money that you fraudulently obtained. That is not our business." Mapenduzi added. 

Noah Kemisi Muzaid, Arua Central Division mayor Arua said it is sad that the data entrants did that, and even refunding the money can not help. He said that sadly the people in charge of identifying data entrants went for the cheaper option in volunteers.

Meanwhile, the committee also queried how hundreds of female boda boda riders were registered to receive the Shs 100,000 cash, and yet there are only two female boda boda riders in Arua. The data entrants and three Arua city officials were taken to record statements with the CID. By URN, The Observer

Confronting harassment by Kenyan Twitter influencers - recently revealed to have been paid to promote misinformation - is akin to dealing with guerrilla warfare, admits an activist involved in a legal battle to stop a change to the constitution.

"It is waged against you until it tires you out," Daisy Amdany told the BBC about the Twitter attacks those behind the court case have faced.

The mudslinging led one activist to opt out of the campaign and "at least three people have taken a break because of the level of insults and misinformation that they have encountered", she said.

Ms Amdany was reacting to a report by the non-profit Mozilla Foundation - Inside the shadowy world of disinformation for hire in Kenya - which makes startling reading.

It shows how shadowy financers have deployed an army of Twitter influencers to co-ordinate disinformation campaigns in favour of a government-backed constitution amendment bill, known as the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI).

Hashtag heist

According to the research conducted between May and June 2021, they were paid to directly harass and discredit journalists, judges and civil activists on Twitter.

It is not a surprise that Twitter was targeted given the East African nation has one of Africa's loudest and most engaged internet communities, collectively known as Kenyans on Twitter (#KoT).

1px transparent line

The research showed the disinformation business to be lucrative, with influencers for political hire paid roughly between $10 (£7) and $15 to participate in three campaigns per day. Some influencers managed to reach retainer level and were paid about $250 per month.

Payments were made directly to their phones through the mobile money platform M-Pesa.

Influencers interviewed refused to reveal who was paying them, but one told the researchers that sometimes the money came before the campaign and sometimes afterwards.

Those behind the campaigns used WhatsApp groups to send influencers content and detailed instructions.

They were told to promote tags - trending on Twitter was the primary target by which most of them were judged.

The aim was to trick people into thinking that the opinions trending were popular - the equivalent to "paying crowds to show up at political rallies", the research says.

Accounts deactivated

Twitter is also alleged to have profited by placing adverts on the disinformation campaigns.

An agency that sells Twitter adverts in Kenya offers promoted trends for $3,500 per day, the report says.

"While we weren't able to independently confirm the tweet-for-pay activity described in your report, we could confirm the presence of at least one network of co-ordinated accounts," Twitter said in response.

About 100 accounts run by Kenyan Twitter influencers have now been deactivated by the tech giant for violating its platform manipulation and spam policy.

A poster of a rubbish lorry tipping out high court judgesIMAGE SOURCE,TWITTER
image captionImages like this were tweeted about the high court judges

The waves of attacks launched against the judges were intended to discredit their independence, using hashtags including #AnarchistJudges, #JudiciaryRevenge, #JudicialPayback and #Justice4Sale.

An average of at least one disinformation campaign every two days was uncovered during the period before and after the High Court ruling in May.

The judges found the BBI proposal to be irregular, illegal and unconstitutional, a decision upheld by the Appeals Court in August - although the battle continues as the attorney general is challenging the ruling at the Supreme Court.

It all started on Twitter with photo-shopped images about those behind the bid to block BBI, who argued that the process used to implement the changed was flawed and unconstitutional.

"They talked about how we don't care about peace," explained Ms Amdany, who was among those who launched the Linda Katiba Movement (which in Swahili means "Protect the Constitution") in February.

"That we're foreign agents paid to destabilise the nation or [we're] people who are not accountable, the evil society, noisemakers, loudmouths.

"A lot of it is used to mobilise hatred and cast aspersions on the intent and character of the people driving any particular campaign."

Activists were also portrayed as being funded by Deputy President William Ruto - a key opponent of BBI.

Some of the accounts used suggestive pictures of women as profile pictures to bait men into following them.

Fears for democracy

The Mozilla Foundation report found little evidence that the disinformation drive actually swayed people's opinions on the BBI court proceedings.

However, the hired influencers have managed to scare away critical voices from the debate on Twitter, with civil activists saying they now self-censor on the platform.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila OdingaIMAGE SOURCE,AFP
image caption BBI is supported by President Uhuru Kenyatta (L) and his one-time rival Raila Odinga  By Emmanuel Onyango, BBC

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