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Polls have indicated that more than half of Kenyans think police are a threat rather than a service

 

It’s unclear at first: Are we reading a true-crime novel, or are we on Twitter?

“The 45-yr-old dad, a local Jua Kali artisan, had gone to his son’s house to enquire on his habitual absenteeism from school,” the script begins, using a Swahili term for someone who works in the sun.

He barges into his 21-year-old son’s room, “only to find him enjoying a romantic moment with a lady.”

 

We are, in fact, on Twitter, and this is the account of Kenya’s esteemed Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI). And yet the language only becomes more florid, even Shakespearean.

A patricidal stabbing allegedly occurs. The older man does not simply die: He “profusely bled, sliding into his death.” Our narrator assures us the younger man is in custody despite escaping an “infuriated mob.”

In recent months, the directorate’s Twitter account has become some of the most titillating reading in Kenya. The director, George Kinoti, the country’s top detective, was blunt about why.

“For a very long time in Kenya, police have been thought of as killers. See a policeman? You run. Nothing good could come of it,” he said. “If we want the public’s confidence, we have to show them we are not all like that - we do work for them.”

 

The wielding of the badge as a license for brutality is nothing new. At least 778 people have been killed or “disappeared” by police in Kenya since 2007, according to Missing Voices, a group that tracks official and other reports of extrajudicial killings. Last year’s tally was 166. The number of police convicted in these killings is in the single digits, according to Kenya’s Independent Policing Oversight Authority.

The force, with its numerous branches, including the DCI, has not been significantly reformed since colonial times, Mr Kinoti acknowledged, back when British overlords used it to subjugate rebellions. Polls show that more than half of Kenyans think police are a threat, not a service.

The police, in other words, have some serious PR work to do.That’s where the recounting of high-octane searches for the suspected perpetrators of “heinous acts,” such as child sex abuse, horribly botched circumcision rites, or the chopping up and burning of the body of one’s murder victim, comes in.Jonah Kimani, 29, is the man at the keyboard, tweeting to a following that has recently ballooned to almost 700,000.

Mr Kimani has a penchant for scandal, evidenced in part by his choice on a recent day to wear a tan suit in the tradition of one of his idols, Barack Obama. In his spare time, he bolsters his vocabulary by listening to other favorite orators, such as the Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

“Kenyans from top to bottom have embraced Twitter as their source of information,” said Mr Kimani, who once dreamed of becoming a journalist but ended up a police constable. “What I’ve learned is that people want thrills. You must feed your followers. That’s how the word gets out.”

Mr Kinoti, the director, would know. Before taking the nation’s top detective job, he was a spokesman for the police’s inspector general, known for his approachability.

He also knows a thing or two about dramatic police action: When terrorists stormed an upscale hotel and office complex in Nairobi in 2019, taking dozens of hostages, he rushed in locked and loaded, and was inside for 18 hours until the siege ended. He occasionally retells the story of how he was shot 28 times during an assassination attempt in 2005.

Under his leadership, the PR team has grown to eight, all of whom are younger than 35. A few others work in a new call center across a drab hallway, where dozens of actionable tips flow in each day, mostly via Twitter.

“A lot of information slides directly into our DMs, especially now that we are tweeting more often,” said Inspector Michael Mugo, who leads the team. “I’d like to think we’ve made crime fighting more accessible to people, by speaking their language.”

Kenyans are famously online. The hashtag #KOT - Kenyans on Twitter - is a cultural and political force. Judging by the kinds of comments Kimani gets on his posts, he thinks it can be a force for good when coupled with his agency’s detective work.

That said, it is Twitter.

After a recent post cautioning motorists not to settle fender benders on their own after one man was swindled for a “whooping” half-million Kenyan shillings, one user took issue with Mr Mugo and Mr Kimani’s prized vocabulary.

“I recommend @DCI_Kenya to download Grammarly,” he wrote, referencing the popular editing app. “It’s a sting [sic] of conscience to use words inappropriate. What is “whooping”. The last time I checked whooping it meant to utter a loud shout or cry.”

Above all, the DCI is hoping increased engagement on Twitter will help it fight crime.

All too often, Mr Mugo feels as if his team is tweeting about a “mastermind, who escaped our dragnet by a whisker.”

He wants more examples of the “thunderstruck neighbours who witnessed the incident informed our detectives who responded swiftly and effected his arrest.”

“It’s one way of showing we don’t just go out shooting people indiscriminately,” Mr Mugo said. “We want to show that there is justice - that the police really do something useful.”The Washington Post/The Independent

 

 
NAIROBI, Kenya, March 2, 2021/APO Group/ --

152 people have tested positive of the coronavirus from a sample size of 2,213.

29 patients have recovered bringing the total to 86,717.

Unfortunately 3 patients have succumbed to the disease pushing the total fatalities to 1,859.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Ministry of Health, Kenya.

 
ImaliPay, an African-based fintech start-up is making waves by reshaping the future of work in the gig economy. The Australian venture capital firm TEN13 reputed for investing in top-tier start-ups has invested an undisclosed amount of pre-seed funding in ImaliPay. ImaliPay joins TEN13's growing fintech portfolio; the likes of Chipper Cash and Bookipi. Other investors included in the raise are; Finca Ventures, Optimiser Foundation, Mercycorps Ventures, Changecom, and super angels from Norway, Nigeria, UK, and Kenya. The primary aim of the investment is to expand and accelerate its growth and footprint in Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa to be the one-stop-shop for gig workers' financial needs.
 
TEN13's backing of ImaliPay follows a recent string of events that has elevated the visibility of Africa's Fintech start-up scene. "We believe this is a perfect opportunity to introduce our growing international network of investment professionals and investors to one of the most exciting emerging Fintech companies in Africa, " said TEN13 Managing Partner, Stew Glynn.
 
The growth in the African gig workforce is being propelled by the growth in digitisation and smartphone penetration. Gig workers constitute a significant proportion of the economy within ImaliPay's target markets and this market segment is expected to grow rapidly over the next decade. ImaliPay offers gig workers a one-stop-shop of financial services such as the ability to seamlessly save their income and receive in-kind loans through a "buy now, pay later" model tied to their trade.
 
Bolt drivers in Kenya can now request a fuel loan and payback after 3-4 days, this allows them to get more work done and Safeboda riders in Nigeria can now buy on credit bike parts, fuel, and smartphones to keep their gig moving and reduce any downtime. Other products to be offered off the platform include insurance and investment options to foster a safety net for this hard-working but vulnerable part of the population.
 
ImaliPay was co-founded in 2020 by Zimbabwean Tatenda Furusa and Nigerian Sanmi Akinmusire who met whilst working at leading payments company Cellulant. They believe the backing of the start-up by a notable venture capital company such as TEN13 has tremendous benefits. "It's a great opportunity for investors to participate in the fintech revolution and a fast-growing segment. Our vision at ImaliPay is to advance financial health and inclusion for gig workers who struggle to manage and access flexible financial services that are often only available to traditional SMEs", said Furusa. AMA

Forty-nine motorcycles made little noise but raised much interest in Nairobi’s Karura Forest this morning, as the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) launched a pilot electric bikes project in the presence of Kenyan government officials and business leaders. Following the pilot phase in four locations in Kenya, the project is expected to expand in an effort to reduce air pollution, improve national energy security and create green jobs.

“Kenya is importing more motorcycles than cars, doubling its fleet every 7-8 years. These are generally inefficient and poorly maintained polluting motorcycles,” said Joyce Msuya, UNEP Deputy Executive Director. “Kenya’s electricity is very green in 2019 with more than 80% was generated by hydro, solar, geothermal, and wind. Shifting to electric bikes in Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and elsewhere will reduce costs, air pollution and Greenhouse Gas Emissions, as well as create jobs.”

"The average motorcycle is estimated to be 10 times more polluting per mile than a passenger car, light truck or SUV. Hydrocarbons are dangerous to human health,” said Peter Anyang' Nyong'o, Governor of Kisumu County. “Electric motorcycles not only mitigate against this health hazard but also help reduce noise pollution that the rampant increase of petroleum powered motorbikes currently causes in our cities.”

The pilot aims to help policy makers assess the barriers in uptake of the much-needed technological shift towards electric bikes, and to demonstrate that the shift is feasible and within reach. In Kenya, the number of newly registered motorcycles, commonly used as taxis (boda-boda), was estimated in 2018 at 1.5 million and will likely grow over five million by 2030.  Though developing countries have the fastest growing fleets of bikes, most lack vehicle emissions standards or programmes and incentives to promote zero emission vehicles.

The pilot test launched today in Kenya is based on a study implemented by the Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority, the University of Nairobi, and Sustainable Transport Africa. The pilot includes a host of local partners, including ministries, and national and sub-national authorities, and uses bikes donated by Shenzhen Shenling Car Company Limited (TAILG). It will last 6-12 months and is replicated in Uganda, Ethiopia, the Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam. The overarching project, “Integrating Electric 2&3 Wheelers into Existing Urban Transport Modes in Developing and Transitional Countries” is supported by UNEP with funding from the International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the German Ministry for the Environment.

John Chege, infrastructure coordinator from Friends of Karura Forest said, "In my restoration work, the bike will help me move swiftly through the vast forest of over 1000 hectares in a very short period. At first, I was nervous about having to charge it, but now I got used to it. Since it is fast and emits no noise and air pollution like the diesel motor, they allow us to provide better security in the forest and tackle one of Nairobi’s worst environmental problems." 

Two- and three-wheelers are a central transport mode in many low and middle-income countries, including African ones, quickly rising in numbers to a 50 percent increase by 2050. Highly polluting two- and three-wheelers can account for the same amount of emissions as a passenger car. A rapid global shift to electric motorcycles can result in saving 11 billion tons of co2 and about USD 350 billion by 2050 (more than double the annual energy-related emissions in the USA and about 14 times the 2019/2020 budget of Kenya).

A global leapfrog to electric vehicles, already underway in countries like Norway and China, is essential to curb carbon dioxide emissions. Transportation contributes approximately one-quarter of all energy related CO2 emissions. By 2050 it is likely to reach one-third, when the global number of passenger cars is projected to more than double. This growth is expected mostly in low-income countries, where there are rarely any vehicle emissions standards. 

Scaling up the transition to electric mobility will require investments in battery charging infrastructure. Kenya’s electric power generation capacity is sufficient to support the charging infrastructure. However, while demand for motorcycles is high, particularly in rural areas, distribution networks are inadequate. However, this challenge may be tackled by using solar energy, setting up charging stations, consulting boda-boda operators and using lithium ion batteries.

UNEP’s Electric Mobility (eMob) Programme promotes the transition of low-income countries to zero emission vehicles, in line with the UN Environment Assembly’s Air Quality Resolution and the Paris Agreement.

Relatives holding portraits of their missing persons. Photo The Observer

 

Gruesome stories continue coming out of Uganda's torture chambers as survivors describe the physical and mental mistreatment they were subjected to by members of the armed forces following their arrests.

More than 1,000 people were subsequently arrested and more than 54 shot dead following violent countrywide protests on November 18 and 19, 2020 triggered by the arrest of then-presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi in Luuka district in eastern Uganda. Last month President Yoweri Museveni said the commandos unit had arrested over 200 people and killed some who he called "terrorists" who wanted to block the January 14 presidential elections. 

Kareem Muganga, a taxi conductor was arrested on December 21, from Kabembe stage on Kayunga road in Mukono North. Muganga says he was arrested as he persuaded passengers to board his taxi. Immediately, he says, he was handcuffed, blindfolded and thrown into a waiting car that sped off.

Muganga doesn’t know where he was being imprisoned until his release last week. With the beatings having become a daily routine, the most disquieting story from his stay in detention was being forced to eat three kilograms of posho and a kilogram of beans in 20 minutes.

It’s not only him who faced this kind of torture, Muganga claims. Many other people, about 1,000 detainees who were in the same detention facility as he was, would be asked to eat much more food than their stomachs could accommodate. Those who did not finish this food, he says, would be beaten and beatings "measured in kilograms", where 1kg was 100 strokes. 

In the process of torture, Muganga says he lost a tooth and his left eye and the ear were also injured. He has since lost his hearing and one has to shout when talking to him. 

Muganga also narrates that a colleague, Eric Sempijja who is asthmatic, one day tried to pull off the cloth they use to blindfold him because he was having difficulties in breathing but when the soldiers came, they started beating him mercilessly claiming he wanted to escape. Sempijja, he says had never been seen again after his "transfer". 

BOBI WINE SONGS

According to Muganga, the detainees were forced to sing Bobi Wine’s songs in another 'creative' form of torture. One night, he says detainees were asked to sing Bobi Wine’s Tuliyambala Engule (We shall wear the crown) song with the soldiers emphasizing the last verse of “tulivimba mu Uganda empya” loosely translated as “we will have swag in the new Uganda.”

He says soldiers said they were going to show them the 'new Uganda.' For an entire night, according to Muganga, detainees were made to sing, sit, stand, squat repetitively. 

RELEASE 

Muganga says one night at around 8:30 pm last month on February 12, soldiers came and asked him his name quietly, and before Muganga even finished saying his name, the men carried him up to the toilet, unfolded his eyes, photographed him gave him a white shirt and together with some colleagues were thrown into a car 30 minutes and then driven around until about midnight.

He was later dumped in a sugarcane plantation in a place he does not know. Intriguingly, after being dumped, he was given back his phone, fully charged yet when he was arrested, it hardly had any battery charge left.

He says at the time, he was arrested his phone had no airtime but upon release, he found that his captors had loaded airtime for him on his phone which he used to call relatives.   

After release, Muganga, says that he has failed to work as a conductor again because he can hardly hear passengers calling him to collect the money and he also cannot see those standing on the roadside waiting for taxis. - URN/The Observer

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