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Press Review; Top news at a glance

Today is Wednesday, January 11, 2023.

Here is what is making headlines.

KCSE marking standoff

The Kenya National Examination Council (KNEC) has reassured the public that the ongoing marking of the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Examination is on track and proceeding well, despite reports of a strike by teachers at St Francis Girls High School Mang’u, which is one of the many marking centers.

In a statement, KNEC Chairman Julius Nyabundi said that the grievances raised by the teachers had already been addressed and that the strike was the result of a small group of teachers who did not want to honour the contracts they had signed.

He said, “Despite responding to their initial demand, a few of the examiners yet again came up with a fresh call that the marking fee be revised upwards.”

KNEC went on to note that the dissenting teachers were permitted to leave their assignments, but those who were willing to continue working under the agreed rates were allowed to continue with the marking. According to insiders, 1500 examiners left the marking centre.

The Council also invited trained examiners from its database to apply for the ceded positions in order to ensure the smooth progress of the exercise.

The Secretary-General of the Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers (KUPPET), Akelo Misori, had earlier accused KNEC of adopting “unfair” measures in the process of marking and claimed that KNEC was discriminating against teachers marking Christian Religious Education (CRE) at the centre.

He also alleged that the chief examiner at Mang’u High School had resorted to intimidation and was making examiners work from 4am until 10pm, which he argued was disrupting the sanctity of the examination.

The teachers were demanding a raise in pay from the current KES 55 to KES 100 per paper.

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Safaricom walks back Bonga points expiry plan

Safaricom has reversed a plan to put an expiry date on its Bonga loyalty programme that had amassed KES 4.5 billion in liabilities by March 2022.

The move would have seen customers lose points accrued before 2019. The telco had announced that all Bonga Points older than three years would expire and would be unavailable for redemption effective January 1, 2023.

However, Safaricom on Tuesday disputed reports that it had set a Bonga Points expiry date in an email response to questions on the loyalty program ahead of 2019.

“At no point did Safaricom announce that Bonga (Points) were expiring,” the company said. A review shows that Safaricom has since retracted the update from its website.

Safaricom had said that the move to expire the unused Bonga Points was a business decision aimed at incentivizing redemption with liabilities hitting KES 4.5 billion end of March 2022.

The telco began the loyalty program in October 2017, giving both pre-pay and postpaid subscribers a point for every KES 10 spent on its network. The Bonga Points can be redeemed for rewards including talk-time, data bundles, and messaging bundles.

Biting hunger, 10 million people at risk

15 counties with a total population of more than 10 million remain at risk of acute hunger in 2023, according to reports by public and private organizations.

Due to five consecutive failed planting seasons, households in 24 of the 47 counties, with an estimated 18.8 million people, will be facing food emergencies, food crises, or stressed food insecurity between February and May, the reports warn.

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (Fews Net) warns that at least six counties in Northern Kenya will be facing an emergency food situation, with a cumulative population of 4.6 million people in danger. These are Turkana, Marsabit, Isiolo, Wajir, Mandera and Garissa.

Nine other counties will be facing food crises during the period, with an estimated cumulative population of 5.8 million people in danger of high levels of food shortage.

Governors to face Senate queries on expenditure

Governors and county assembly speakers are set to face questioning by senators over audit queries raised by Auditor General Nancy Gathungu.

The officials will appear before the Senate Public Accounts Committee starting February 1, which oversees the expenditure of billions of shillings of taxpayers’ money in county governments.

The governors and their top finance officials, as well as the speakers and their assembly clerks, will respond to audit queries for the 2019-20 financial year.

The nine-member panel is chaired by Homa Bay Senator Moses Kajwang’.

“The Public Accounts Committee hereby informs the chief executive officers of the entities of the sittings of the committee scheduled for the month of February 2023,” a notice by Senate clerk Jeremiah Nyegenye reads.

Java back on sale

UK-based private equity fund Actis is looking to sell its 100 per cent stake in Kenyan restaurant chain Java House for an undisclosed value, which is expected to run into billions of shillings.

This move comes three years after the chain was acquired from Dubai-based Abraaj Group, and months after Actis signed a deal to buy hotel properties in Kenya and Tanzania.

“They are looking to sell Java House by end of this year. Actis are the ones looking for a buyer,” said an anonymous source. While the value of the transaction remains undisclosed, it is reported to be worth $40 million (KES 4.9 billion).

Despite the fierce competition from other restaurants such as ArtCaffe, Java House has been experiencing fast-paced growth since its inception in 1999, and currently operates 72 outlets.

The restaurant chain plans to grow its outlet numbers in Kenya and expand beyond East Africa, having operations in Uganda and Rwanda, and at one point targeted a presence in Dar es Salaam, Lagos, Accra and Lusaka.

This potential sale is expected to cement Kenya’s reputation as a high-return market for private equity funds and development finance institutions.

As per recent trend, most of the PE funds and DFIs have exited by selling to similar funds, indicating a strong demand from institutional investors.

Court in Uganda peels back section of contentious internet law

A court in Uganda has struck down a section of the country’s communications law that has been used to prosecute government critics, journalists, and writers.

The provision of the Computer Misuse Act in question prohibits the use of electronic communication to “disturb the peace, quiet, or right of privacy of any person with no purpose of legitimate communication.”

Punishments for violators of this provision range from financial penalties to prison sentences of several years.

On Tuesday, the Constitutional Court of Uganda ruled that the provision of the law “is unjustifiable as it curtails the freedom of speech in a free and democratic society.”

Judge Kenneth Kakuru, who wrote the lead judgment on behalf of a panel of five judges, declared the section “null and void” and prohibited its enforcement.

Rights activists have long criticized Uganda’s communications laws, which have been enacted by President Yoweri Museveni’s government. Critics argue that the laws are indiscriminately broad, mask censorship, and have mostly been used to punish opponents of Museveni, who has been in power since 1986.

For instance, Stella Nyanzi, a university lecturer and author, who gained a huge following on social media for her profanity-laced criticism of Museveni, spent more than a year in jail after being convicted under the country’s electronic communications laws.

She subsequently fled the country and now lives in exile in Germany, alongside another Ugandan author and international award winner, Kakwenza Rukirabashaija, who was also prosecuted under the same laws before he fled.

Sports

Man United and Newcastle through to Carabao Cup semis

“We had to finish this off early on but in the end the objective was to get through so compliments to the team,” said Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag after his side secured their place in the Carabao Cup semi-finals with a 2-1 victory over League One Charlton Athletic at Old Trafford.

The match seemed to be heading for a draw after Antony’s opener for United was cancelled out by a Scott Fraser equaliser, but Marcus Rashford had other ideas, scoring twice in the final six minutes to take his season tally to 15 goals.

Despite the loss, Charlton’s 9,000 travelling supporters, their largest ever for a midweek cup tie, applauded their team off the pitch after a valiant effort. United will now face Manchester City in the Premier League on Saturday.

Newcastle United won 2-0 over fellow premier league side Leicester to also book a spot in the semi-final. Newcastle are hunting its first trophy in more than 50 years, and with their recent performances, expectations abound among the Magpies fans,

 

 

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