Press Review: Today’s top stories

Welcome to the press review, where we bring you the top stories of the day from various sources.

Whether you are interested in news, politics, business or sports, we have something for you. Read on and find out what’s happening.

Catch up with more on https://epaper.nation.africa/ke

Media Council condemns police brutality against journalists during protests

The Media Council of Kenya (MCK) has strongly condemned the brutal attack on journalists by police officers during the recent mass demonstrations in the country.

Over 25 local and international journalists have been targeted by both state and non-state actors since the onset of the protests on March 20, making it the darkest month in the history of Kenyan media.

MCK CEO David Omwoyo stated that the most targeted journalists were camerapersons and photographers, who were attacked by perpetrators seeking to destroy any evidence captured on camera.

The council plans to take legal action against the National Police Service, considering the attacks were deliberate.

Omwoyo advised editors and reporters preparing for assignments to prioritize risk assessment while in the field and wear appropriate safety gear for protection.

Kenyan shilling continues to weaken despite new forex code

The government’s intervention to save Kenya shilling from further depreciation has failed to have an impact, with the currency continuing to weaken against the dollar.

On Thursday, the shilling weakened further to exchange at KES 132.13 against the dollar, compared to KES 130.62 when the new foreign exchange code was implemented on March 22.

The code was introduced to deter market manipulation, but banks have been reluctant to trade dollars with each other out of fear of regulatory penalties.

The currency’s depreciation is expected to put pressure on the cost of living due to the higher cost of imports, including fuel, vehicles, machinery, electricity, and debt servicing.

The shilling has lost 7.1% or 8.7 units since the start of the year, despite the government’s efforts to stabilise it.

President Ruto saves Airtel Kenya, Amazon from forced stake sale

Amazon successfully lobbies Kenya to drop foreign ownership rules, saving Airtel Kenya from selling a third of its stake to local investors.

President William Ruto announced on Thursday that Kenya will drop the ownership rule, which required telecoms firms to ensure local ownership of at least 30% by March 2024.

The rule had become a hurdle for large tech firms like Amazon wishing to open operations in Kenya, denying the growing number of skilled youth decent job opportunities.

Airtel Kenya will emerge as the biggest beneficiary of the policy shift after the firm started the difficult task of seeking Kenyan investors to buy a 30% stake.

The move could see Kenya become one of the first marketplaces in Africa for Amazon, which is reportedly looking to expand to the continent this year.

“President Ruto will not bow to international pressure to accommodate Raila in government,” says Gachagua

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua has revealed that President William Ruto is facing pressure from the international community to hold talks with Azimio leader Raila Odinga to end the weekly demonstrations.

Speaking in Mombasa, Gachagua stated that Ruto would not bow to pressure to accommodate Raila in government in any form and that “any dialogue can only be anchored on grounds that Raila exits politics permanently.”

Gachagua claimed that Raila has formed a habit of piling pressure on the government after every election loss and must be stopped from trying to get into the Kenya Kwanza administration through the backdoor.

Gachagua added that local clerics have also reached out to the Kenya Kwanza government on the same matter. The demonstrations have impacted Kibra and Kisumu, but normalcy has returned to the rest of Nairobi.

Suspended National Lands Commission CEO Tom Chavangi allows for substantive replacement

Tom Chavangi, the suspended CEO of the National Lands Commission (NLC), has finally allowed the agency to recruit a substantive replacement in anticipation of the end of his term in June 2023.

Chavangi was charged with corruption in August 2018, which led to his suspension under Section 62 of the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act.

Despite appointing an acting CEO, the commission had not been able to recruit a substantive CEO because Chavangi was still technically in the position.

In the nearly five years since his suspension, Chavangi received half pay and full allowances, amounting to a cumulative take-home of KES 44 million. Interested candidates for the CEO position have until May 9 to apply.

Auditor General probes KES 240m payments to Health Ministry consultants in Covid-19 project

An audit probe has been launched into payments of more than KES 240 million made to consultants hired by the Health Ministry in a World Bank-funded Covid-19 response project.

The Auditor General, Nancy Gathungu, raised concerns that the ministry paid consultants varying monthly allowances of between KES 75,000 and KES 120,000 without stating the basis for arriving at the same.

Furthermore, the ministry failed to provide contracts for the period between January and June 2022, raising doubts about the payments. In addition, the ministry received KES 2.07 billion from a budget of KES 6.9 billion, meaning 70% of the budget was unfunded.

Gathungu says the underfunding and underperformance may have affected the project’s key objective. The project, which commenced in March 2020, is expected to run until March 31, 2025.

Univercells Group invited to establish biotech hub in Kenya

Belgian biotech firm Univercells Group has been invited by Kenya to collaborate with the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) to establish a biotech hub in the country.

Univercells Group is renowned for producing biologics, which are products made from living organisms or components of living organisms. The announcement was made during President William Ruto’s visit to the Univercells Group’s biotech centre in Belgium.

The proposed partnership will include skills transfer to enhance the country’s human capital in the pharmaceutical industry.

Prof Elijah Songok, director general of Kemri, welcomed the partnership, stating, “Kemri is living its mission of providing leadership in human health research, capacity building, and service delivery, and this landmark initiative with the Belgians is a clear indication.”

Ruto hailed the move as a testimony that “the Global South is not as risky as they are being profiled.” Univercells Group is yet to comment on the proposed partnership.

The Ministry of Health confirmed that the partnership would focus on the manufacturing of vaccines and drugs.

Ruto pledges commitment to constitution and rule of law, announces tax concessions

During a government summit with the US Chamber of Commerce in Nairobi, President William Ruto committed to upholding the constitution and the rule of law.

He stated that he had promised US President Joe Biden and other world leaders that his government would respect the independence of institutions.

The President also made key tax concessions, including a new tax policy effective June and the elimination of VAT on exported services starting July.

He announced that Kenya would no longer impose the Digital Service Tax (DST) on multinationals directly but instead align with OECD guidelines, resulting in less tax collection from companies like Amazon, Meta, Microsoft, and Google.

The President’s announcement comes as opposition leader Raila Odinga persists with anti-government protests. While announcing the tax reforms, President Ruto said his government was finalizing an operational tax policy to enhance transparency in the tax regime.

Kenya Power identifies three insiders as top candidates for CEO position

Kenya Power has shortlisted three internal candidates for the position of CEO, according to sources familiar with the matter.

The selection follows an earlier plan to hire an expatriate, which was abandoned after facing opposition in the government.

The three leading candidates are Joseph Siror, the general manager for systems operations at Ketraco, Rosemary Oduor, the general manager for commercial and sales at Kenya Power, and Jeremiah Kiplangat, the head of Kenya Power’s training school.

The energy sector parastatal has been without a substantive managing director since Bernard Ngugi resigned in August 2021. The move caused high rates of attrition in the firm’s executive suite and board amid ongoing reforms aimed at stabilising the company.

Cash crunch hits government services and development plans

President William Ruto’s administration is facing an acute cash crunch that has halted essential national and county government services, programs, and development plans.

Treasury PS Chris Kiptoo revealed that the government is unable to release almost KES 300 billion to state agencies and devolved units due to serious cash flow challenges.

Kiptoo stated that the delay in Exchequer releases is due to underperforming revenues, with a revenue shortfall of KES 67 billion as of Wednesday.

The delay, which has run for months, has plunged counties into a financial crisis, with many not paying salaries for over two months.

The ongoing opposition protests in Nairobi have further affected revenue collections to finance government programs, and the situation has been worsened by the huge public debts that the Treasury is obligated to settle as they fall due.

The government is expecting funds from the World Bank through development policy operations, and IMF through resilience sustainability facility.


Football stakeholders demand transparency from Sports CS Namwamba over Fifa deal

Football stakeholders are calling for Sports Cabinet Secretary Ababu Namwamba to disclose the terms of the agreement that led to the lifting of the country’s international football suspension by Fifa.

They also want to know if the deal included Nick Mwendwa returning as the head of Football Kenya Federation.

A KES 38m corruption case against Mwendwa was recently stopped by a Kiambu Senior Principal Magistrate, who cleared him of all charges.

“The agreement between Kenya and Fifa that led to the suspension being lifted has never been made public. It must have had a recommendation in the next course of action if Mwendwa would have been found guilty or not,” said former Cecafa Secretary General Nicholas Musonye.

Former FKF Secretary General Lordvick Aduda called for the government-Fifa resolutions to be made public.

Gabriel Mgendi, an FKF NEC member, said Mwendwa was free to return to the federation.

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