Top 5 Stories in Kenya This Week

Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho, whose bodyguards have been withdrawn after a spat with President Kenyatta.

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This week’s key stories:

Politicization of elite bodyguard unit? – Security officers for the two governors of Mombasa and Kilifi, drawn from the elite General Service Unit, were withdrawn this week and reassigned elsewhere. Police in the two areas were also instructed not to escort and clear roads ahead of county officials.

Although the presidency claims these measures are routine, the development comes shortly after a row between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho. The latter had offended the president by saying that he should not take credit for development projects funded by the World Bank.

Quoted in The Daily Nation, State House Spokesman Manoah Esipisu called the incident a “juvenile tantrum,” before going on to argue that the security measures were not retaliatory in any way: “The withdrawal of VIP protection from this region is not political in any way.”

The Kenyan opposition ODM party and the Council of Governors are threatening to sue to secure a court order reinstating the governors’ security personnel. The ruling Jubilee coalition, meanwhile, held a rally in Bamburi challenging Joho to apologize to the president.

The government says that the security of the two governors will not be compromised by the redeployment of the elite GSU officers. But could they be left idling in the traffic jams?

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Bribery attempt uncovered in High Court – The top story in Monday’s edition of The Star newspaper leaves readers asking whether bundles of cash were delivered to a judge at Milimani Law Courts in relation to an election-related case.

A clerk and secretary attached to Justice Roselyn Aburili have been arrested by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission allegedly for allegedly collecting Sh1-2 million (more than US $10,000) in treated cash from “a member of the public who wanted to influence the outcome of a case.”

What’s strange about the arrests is the timing. The news breaks just two days after Justice Aburili suspended new campaign finance rules created by the Jubilee-dominated legislature. Her decision supported an application filed by the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), putting the new election rules on hold until after further hearings..

Investigators have not reached any conclusions as to the allegations, but the timing suggests either that one of the two parties concerned could be involved in an attempt to buy influence with her, or that the incident was concocted in an attempt to intimidate or embarrass her ahead of the upcoming election-related hearing.

Doctors defy return-to-work order – The Standard reports that striking doctors have “dared the government to sack them” as a strike drags into the sixth week. This comes after the Council of Governors warned doctors to return to work by Wednesday or face termination.

In the meantime, an arrest warrant has been issued for union leaders after they failed to appear in court. They are demanding backdated pay arrears.

The strikers also want a pay increase up to Sh325,000 for the lowest paid doctor (up from a Sh196,000 offer) and Sh852,000 for the highest paid.

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Threat of Rift Valley showdown as Moi and Ruto clash – A war of words erupted
on Monday at a funeral in the Rift Valley between the two Kalenjin heavyweight politicians Deputy President William Ruto and Senator Gideon Moi, the son of former President Daniel arap Moi and leader of the KANU party.

KANU has not yet declared whether it will stand behind the ruling Jubilee coalition in the upcoming election or campaign against it – a move that could split the Kalenjin vote, which was a critical component of Jubilee’s winning 2013 coalition. Rather than decide now, KANU seems to be positioning itself to decide later whether it would benefit more from joining a ruling coalition or seeking to topple it.

Moi defended himself against allegations of threatening to split the Kalenjin vote saying, “If in the Kalenjin team I am not welcome, and I go out and seek people not from Kalenjin, that is not being bad… And do not come here and tell me that if I do not come to Jubilee I will perish. No. Ask me with humility, that let us please go as one and I just might see reason.”

He also accused the deputy president of “abusing” him and disrespecting him. Ruto, for his part, appealed to Moi to support another Kalenjin (himself) “as we did your father” – a reference to the former president Daniel Arap Moi.

President Uhuru Kenyatta, who was present during the exchange, did not step in except to say later, “We want everyone in Jubilee… I am sure the late Too [the MP being buried] would have liked Gideon and Ruto to speak with one voice.”

Kenyan student launches ‘panic button’ app – gets award – Computer scientist Edwin Inganji has launched an app called “Usalama” that alerts law enforcement and nearby app users about dangerous situations with a few shakes of the phone.

The app was recently shortlisted for the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Africa prize for engineering innovation.

When a person feels threatened, they can shake the phone three times to open the app. Then they either press the emergency button or hold down the volume button. The phone quickly dispatches the local police and fire departments, and alerts every Usalama user within a 650-foot radius.