Author Archives: moderatekenyan

Saving the Railway

When you think the railway you think of something old. A relic that belongs to a museum and whose time is past in this age of smartphones and driverless cars.

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Tayiana Chao is a stunning contrast to that thought.

Tall, slim, with long dreadlocks, afro jewellery and an infectious laugh she would pass for a uni student who moonlights as an model.

I met her in in a gallery but rather than her being the subject it is her photographs that are under the limelight.

Still in her early 20s, this retired computer scientist has a story to tell and she has already written her first chapter – Save the Railway.

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Save the Railway is an exhibition that is ongoing at the ShiftEye gallery.

It is the fruit of Chao’s 3 years labour of love.

Chao was picked to go to JKUAT and study Computer Science but instead of Juja she was sent to the Voi campus. Her first instinct was to say no but as a history buff and introvert, Voi won her over.

Being away from the city was heavenly and in her weekend exploring she stumbled on the Voi Railway station.

The picture of the Voi Railway station is stunning. A house built with red bricks, with a tree on the side and with the horizon endless. It stands bang in the middle of the exhibition taking pride of place as her first love in this project.

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Chao puts it brilliantly “…it takes you to a different time…the station exactly as it was..not in the present time..grand… antique..

With that a dream was born. To tell the story of the railway. Not as an item in the history books but rather as a living being.

Everyone knows about the railway start in Mombasa and end in Kisumu but what of its impact? Basically, what did the railway do for Kenya and Kenyans?

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Through her journey across Kenya searching for and photographing railway stations Chao learnt just how much the railway was part and parcel of people’s lives.

It was not history for the people who lived next to the railway but rather a living breathing thing.

She felt the emotional aspect of the Railway. The lives touched, the grievances, the poverty, the lingering hope. And she learnt that the Railway mattered. Life for many Kenyans revolved around the railway and you can not put a value on the Railway’s importance.

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Chao’s journey is curated in the Save the Railway exhibition that runs from the 19th of August to the 2nd of September at the ShiftEye Gallery at the Priory building on Arwings Kodhek Road.

What started as a hobby has taken a life of its own.

“..someone come all the way from India to see this! I felt so honoured…” gushes Chao.

She graduated as a computer scientist but she has taken time off being a programmer to think of the way forward.

She wishes to write a book on her experience chasing down Kenya’s forgotten train stations. She also wishes to complete taking photographs of the off-road train stations.

But that is just the second chapter of her book.

Computing for heritage is where her book will anchor next. As a techie Chao wishes to do culture tech and believes that restoration of history through tech is the way to go. Chao envisions a day when Gedi ruins will be mapped and one will be able to relive the 13th century.

With Kenya in the middle of the SGR hype, I had to ask if she has plans to photograph the current history being made.

“..why did the old railway fail? Even as we do SGR let us ask ourselves that. Development is great but we need to learn from our past..” was the deep response.

Chatting with Chao feels like taking a walk down memory lane as well as how the history looks at the present.

What made her achievement even more amazing that is that this was mostly a solo-project. The bodies you would expect to be involved the National Museum, Kenya Railways, Brand Kenya were not and when they were it was as a by the way.

Now to the twist to this tale of Kenya’s railway.

Hilary Ng’weno is Kenya’s best known historian. A nuclear physicist turned journalist turned historian Ng’weno has curated much of Kenya’s history. Makers of a nation anyone?

His daughter, Professor Bettina Ng’weno runs a production house and she is working on a Hollywood style movie – Last dance in Kaloleni.

The movie which is in the funding stage will look at life in African railway quarters in the early 1920s-60s.

How the railway as one of the biggest employers in the colonial time impacted in the urbanisation, the arts, the politics, the music of Kenya.

Chao is also involved in the movie and when I asked her if she will be an actress, she laughed her infectious laugh and said maybe as an extra.

My gut says that when Kenya’s history in the next 5o years is written, Tayiana Chao will be a name worth noting not least because she will have photographed, written and technologically curated it.

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Be sport. Go check out the Save The Railway exhibition.

 

GOD BLESS KENYA!


#ConversationWith: Faith Muturi-Ngugi

After 4 years of hosting NTV’s Sunday morning gospel show Crossover101, Faith Muturi-Ngugi has called it quits.

ModerateKenyan chatted with her just minutes after she hosted her final show.

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ModerateKenyan: You just hosted you last show. How do you feel.

Faith: Overwhelmed.  So so overwhelmed by the love everyone has shown me. We have really journeyed together. First the feedback got me to tears. You realize you have formed a relationship with people. Shocked by the way the crew and my family planned the final surprise of having my family show up on my final show. My hubby dropped me in the morning and did not say anything. Imagine my surprise at him walking in to the set. It has taught me the importance of finishing well. I resigned in May but stayed on till end of July to ensure a smooth transition happens. Glad I stayed.

ModerateKenyan: Why are you leaving is what everyone is asking.

Faith: I am leaving because it is time. . No I am not trying to be deep, I just feel that it is time.  Life has seasons. My season at Crossover is over.

ModerateKenyan: Let’s go back to the beginning. How did you start.

Faith: I had wanted to be on TV six years ago but one of the TV stations rejected me saying I was not cut out for TV. Then four years ago a pal told me Crossover were looking for a host. Imagine they had already finished doing screen tests and even shortlisted but I showed up and they liked me. I did a screen test on Saturday 5pm and was on air on Sunday morning and the rest is history. Goes to show that when God opens a door, He really does open the door.

ModerateKenyan: How was your first Crossover show.

Faith: Wow! Not sure I should say this. I had never watched Crossover but I obviously could not say that at the interview. Had also never met DJ Mo or Sadic so did not know who was who (laughs). Why did you not google you ask? Well, my internet was flaky so could not Google. I was a Psychology major and had no clue about broadcast. It may seem like I was totally flying blind but I was not. I had been doing youth ministry for four years, 5 days a week, 9 high schools a week and I did not know it then but that was my education for TV hosting.

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ModerateKenyan: Co-hosting with DJ Mo.

Faith: When I started we were two hosts, two DJs. Learnt a lot from Allan T and Sadic. Then they left and it was just Mo and I.  We have amazing chemistry and bring out the best in each other. I feel that I am a better everything because of Mo. We have moved from being just colleagues to great friends who have each other’s backs. We are also great family friends now. It took him so long to accept that I am leaving. (sigh)

ModerateKenyan: Shows that stand out.

Faith: Honouring Kaberere. That was very very emotional. (pauses for a awhile). We also did a throw back show and dressed like 70s guys, then there was a reggae show (laughs). The first show also stands out. The theme was forgiveness and the impact was phenomenal. It is hard to pick a show but trust me all the laughing and dancing on Crossover has a HUGE impact.

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ModerateKenyan: Has Crossover gone too far towards secular.

Faith: I came into the show as the deep one given that I am a pastor’s daughter but I have changed. Some songs I cannot sing along too and I do not understand but the youth relate totally with the songs and the musicians. I do outreach in the slums and I ask the gospel artistes to come perform. When we go by ourselves they do not listen but when a musician they love sings first then we talk after they listen to us totally. Through the music, which may seem secular we are able to change lives. The Bible says we shall know them by their fruits. It is easy to judge and not understand and call it going to far but Crossover is changing lives through what works in this generation.

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ModerateKenyan: How have you changed.

Faith: Ha ha. My look has changed. No, seriously, yes I have changed a lot. I am more conscious of the audience. I have moved from I know everything and the Bible is in my head and wanting to preach to seeking to connect and reach my audience at their level. Preaching at folk does not help anyone. Jesus used parables and really got the message home.

ModerateKenyan: The look.

Faith: Hahahaha. Let us just say many many many people have worked hard to get me here. It is still a work in progress but I am glad I have found my style. Dressing curvy me is not easy but I am now able to express my values, personality and still be trendy.

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ModerateKenyan: The curves.

Faith: You know my pal sent me a screenshot. Ati if you google Faith Muturi there is an option for Faith Muturi hips. (laughs and laughs and laughs) The curves have enabled us to push the Gospel. If someone watched Crossover because of the curves and stayed on longer and got ministered to then I am grateful. I have also shown that you can be curvaceous yet decent and with values.

ModerateKenyan: Baby bump. Congratulations.

Faith: Thank you. We are 5 months. It has been an amazing journey. I am blessed.

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ModerateKenyan: Boy or girl:

Faith: (rubs her belly) Hmmmmm. I shall tell you in the next interview. (smiles and winks) There is another interview, no? (laughs)

ModerateKenyan: Did pregnancy influence your decision to leave?

Faith: Since last Year I have felt it is time to leave. This was before expecting. So leaving was going to happen but pregnancy played a part. Ladies have worked in the media while pregnant and it should not matter only that for me I have a lot on my plate. I am a corporate trainer with over ten years experience; I do the Simama Outreach program where last year we had over 3,000 youth. Now add baby and husband then Crossover. Something has gotta give.

ModerateKenyan: Will you make a return to our screens?

Faith: (smiles) Watch this space.

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GOD BLESS KENYA!


Les Mangelepa at 40

Words are read but music is heard so it is hard to write fluently about a musical experience.

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But this story is about more than just music.

Since November 2011, Rashid of Roots International has hosted a live music gig at Choices on Baricho Road dubbed Thursday Nite Live.

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A glimpse on Nairobi Now that gives me the ‘in’ into Nairobi’s art scene revealed that the legendary Orchestra Les Mangelepa would be performing on Thursday 16 June.

I battled Nairobi traffic, got to Choices at 7.45pm and snagged a good seat that would enable me to get a good view of the stage and also of the crowd.

The crowd was a mix of young and old itself a testimony to the endearing and enduring nature of the music of Les Mangelepa.

The gig was set to start at 8pm but in typically Kenyan fashion it did not. Not complaining though as I got to overhear a conversation that was as funny as it was informative.

Three members of the ORIGINAL Orchestra Les Mangelepa can boast of forty years of marching to their step.

The three are Kabila wa Kabanze Evany, Nzazi Kalenga Kibawa Vivy and Kaniki Lutulu Macky.

The band members of Les Mangelepa walked into Choices and their humble bearings meant that many did not recognize they were the stars of the night. From my vantage position I observed them, picked out the trio of legends whose dressing revealed they are sapuers.

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At a quarter past eight Kenyan cartooning legend Paul “Maddo” Kelemba went up on stage and wore a new hat. That of the Chairman of the Board of Directors for Ketebul Music which is a not for profit organization that seeks to curate the music traditions of East Africa.

Maddo proceeded to give his audience an education on the origin of Les Mangelepa. His mastery of Lingala and the in’s and out’s of Rhumba in Kenya was a marvel to behold.

After the impromptu lesson it was time to invite Les Mangelepa to the stage. Maddo started with the new band members before completing with the three living legends – Kabila wa Kabanze, Nzazi Kalenga and Kaniki Lutulu.

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Les Mangelepa then gave a brilliant performance. The first hour went by so first. The dance moves of the three oldies were breathtaking. The trio then took a 10 minute break and performed for another hour getting the crowd on their feet.

Personally I was blown away. It was wonderful listening to hits like ‘Embakasi’, ‘Maindusa’, ‘Nyako konya’ and ‘Safari ya Mangelepa LIVE.

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Rhumba bands fragment every so often so for a band to mark its 40th birthday is an AMAZING feat.

Félicitations Orchestra Les Mangelepa!

The legendary band is marking 40 years in the music scene with a tour of Europe.

Hope they will celebrate their four decades in music with a performance in Nairobi West.

Long live Muziki ya Bakulutu.

GOD BLESS KENYA.

 


Hijab Tales

Eid Mubarak!

For all who fasted may your prayers, sacrifices and fasts be accepted.

I spent a bit of my teenager years in Mombasa and I really love the coastal culture.

From the food – mapochopocho, pilau mbuzi, mabuyu etc.

The music – taarab, bango.

And the dressing – hijab, buibui, kanzu, kofia.

So this conversation about Hijabs is not entirely random.

Basically I  wondered how it is to be a hijabi, young and trendy and so I engaged two of my Muslim friends in their early 20s on their hijab stories.

They both opted for anonymity so they shall be S.G and S.A🙂.

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Courtesy – Google

 

ModerateKenyan – Why do you wear the hijab?

S.G – *hmmmm* Because it is mandatory from a  religious perspective. Also from my culture women wear the headscarf. Hijab is about decency.

S.A – *smiles, crosses legs, adjusts buibui* To conceal. Hijab means to cover. Necessary to cover one’s beauty. Personal choice. Save men from impure thoughts. Feel at peace when covered up. There is more respect when you are covered.

ModerateKenyan – When did you start wearing the headscarf?

S.G – When I was very young. My mum trained me how to wear it.

S.A – At 10. But since I went to a Catholic school and had to follow their rules I would wear hijab only on the way from home to school.

ModerateKenyan – Do you ever feel uncomfortable or get into trouble for wearing hijab?

S.G – When I was in high school. Went to a PCEA school. The rules said no hijab so if I wore a hijab I would get into trouble.

S.A – We are not in France. *laughs* But after an attack – Westgate, Garissa all eyes are on you, you are searched more and basically profiled because of the hijab.

ModerateKenyan – Ever considered not wearing the hijab?

S.G – *laughs and laugh* Yes I did! When I was in university. At USIU. I have really long beautiful hair and there were times I would want to show it off and the great make-up. So for a month did not wear hijab. Got so many compliments on my hair and looks. But Muslim friends would ask me what was going on. Also felt individually guilty. So resumed wearing hijab.

S.A – *shock* Doing away with my hijab is like doing away with my religion. Doing away with a part of me. No!

ModerateKenyan – Is hijab a choice or a must?

S.G It is a must. In the Quran there is a whole Sura on hijab.

S.A It is both. It is a personal choice that makes me confident, happier. It is also a religious obligation to cover up. Protects me from so much. If I remove then I am living a double life.

ModerateKenyan – Does it save on hair cost?

S.G – *lights up and really laughs* You have no idea what happens underneath. A married woman has to fix her hair to look good for her husband but me? I can have rastas, matutas, anything. And it is okay and no one knows.

S.A – Oh my! It so does. You have no idea. What is a bad hair day? And what are these things people put on their hair ati sijui weaves? No thanks. Lemme be covered with my hijab.

ModerateKenyan – Fashionable hijabs. Do you wear them? Why? Is it not a contradiction?

S.G – It is wrong. Hijabs should be decent, simple and plain. But I am young! As long as I am covered up then I feel it is okay to go for a fancy, colourful and trendy hijab. It is a tough balancing act. *shrugs*

S.A – Purpose of a hijab is to cover. One is not meant to stand out. One is meant to blend in. But then hijab does not mean you do not look good or you do not look trendy or fashionable. I am a woman. I want to look good. So balance is to ensure you are fashionable but decent. Not easy but I am trying.

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My curiosity was sated and I also got an insight on hijabs.

We are more alike than we are different but ignorance is a huge hindrance to our cohesion.

GOD BLESS KENYA!

ALLAH BLESS KENYA!

 

 

 


Mchele with a twist

This is a story  I overheard at a pub in Nairobi about a story of a story told by a guy to his boys as a warning.

A guy probably in his 40s was seated behind me and I could not help but overhear as he regaled his date on the escapades of his boy, ‘Alex’ who was mchele’d in the most unique way.

‘Kuwekewa mchele’ or being ‘mchele’d’ which is a common occurrence in pubs in Nairobi refers to the lacing of a man’s drinks by a lady with the intention of making said man unconscious and then robbing him. The drugs used are the size of a rice grain hence the name mchele which is rice is Kiswahili.

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‘Alex’ having heard of mchele situations was super vigilant when in pubs especially by himself but despite the vigilance ‘Alex’ was outwitted by a mchele lady.

A random week day saw him conclude a meeting at 10pm in the Central Business District. He then passed through Sanford (Nairobi’s mecca for late-night fast food) on Moi Aveneue for fries and chicken. After he was full and with an empty house awaiting him, ‘Alex’ then had the introspect not so clever thought of checking into a pub and having one for the road as a night cap.

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One for the road, led to two as it usually does and shortly a lady with an ample bosom and a low cut top joined him. ‘Alex’ entertained her in conversation while still being very vigilant; drinking from the bottle, buying a new drink after a visit to the gents as well as taking water in between the alcohol to stay sober.

A pleasant evening was enjoyed but being a week night ‘Alex’ finally decided it was a wrap and sought to leave. The lady then said she had also had had enough and would grab a cab. Since she had not finished her drink ‘Alex’ being the gentleman waited for her.

Having shared the evening the two then felt the need to say goodbye in a more intimate fashion. An intense make-out session ensured but our ‘Alex’ still had his wits about him as he was wary of being ‘mchele’d.

As Eneke the bird says in Chinua Acheba’s Things Fall Apart, since men have learned to shoot without missing, he has learned to fly without perching. As men in Nairobi have learned how to avoid the snares laid by the mchele ladies, the ladies have learned new ticks.

The last thing ‘Alex’ remembers of the make-out session was suckling on a breast.

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‘Alex’ woke up the next day on a pavement outside of the pub, robbed of all his valuables and aptly chastised for thinking he could outwit the mchele ladies.

In retrospect he reckoned that he had been totally vigilant and that the lady must have seen him ogle at her boobs, spotted a weakness, laid the bait on her breasts and then waited for ‘Alex’ to be a ‘thirsty’ man and BOOM.

Interestingly, ‘Alex’ had no hard feelings for the mchele lady saying that she was really nice conversation, the make out session was brilliant and she had a good heart since she even left him twenty shillings as bus fare home.

I could not help but really laugh at poor ‘Alex’ but in the laughter also picked my lesson on the latest tricks of the mchele ladies of Nairobi.

The overheard story may have been made up by a 40-something-year old man attempting  humor for his date or it may be a true story. Either way, forewarned is forearmed🙂.

As my boys say, hii ni town!

GOD BLESS KENYA!


Skywalking in Ngare Ndare

Do you have a fear of heights is an interesting question which I rarely know how to answer. See I have done a picnic atop KICC and had a ball but I also think of what if a flyover gives way when I am crossing the road.

So when I was confronted with a canopy walk made of wire mesh and rope that is 25 metres above the ground and half a kilometre long I was torn between hell yes I want to go up and hell no, what if the canopy walk snapped.

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Seeing an old man walk up the steps and begin walking made up my mind to walk the canopy. The oldie was John Fox.  John is a travel writer who has been writing about Africa for close to three decades. His articles feature on the Sunday Nation under the banner Going Places.

I am not a small man. So stepping on the wire mesh was a leap of faith and I held on to the sides with a vice like grip while looking straight ahead at John.

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Step after step and I finally believed the canopy would not break and I was able to enjoy the unique birds-eye view.

It was exhilarating seeing nature up close with huge 200 year old trees, fresh air and sounds of the Ngare Ndare forest for company.

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Aside from John, his two sons and I, our pack of six also included two crew members of a production house, a director of the Northern Rangeland Trust as well as Ranger Ibrahim Maina.

Ibrahim is a walking encyclopaedia on Ngare Ndare Forest. He regaled us with descriptions of the many indigenous trees, told us of the herd of elephants that had visited in the morning and what kind of wildlife visited the mud bath at Ngare Ndare.

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The Ngare Ndare Forest is an important corridor for elephants and other wild animals that links the Lewa Conservancy and the Mount Kenya region.

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In 2015 I had visited it as one of the legs of the Safari Rally was held there in a very old road which appeared to have been built at least 70 years ago.

This time round I was visiting it as part of my visit to the Lewa Conservancy and the management of the Northern Rangeland Trust wanted publicity for it as part of the Safaricom Lewa Marathon.

As part of the 2016 Safaricom Lewa Marathon participants and visitors are encouraged to day a trip to Ngare Ndare Forest.  The delights are the exhilarating and terrifying canopy walk as well as a mud bath (for the wildlife), stunning waterfalls and camping opportunities.

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Ngare Ndare is Maa for water for goats.  There is a stream that crosses the forest and a bridge to cross over was built in 1947 by the Italian Prisoners of War. It is still in use and quite a delight to behold for a history buff.

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Driving out of Ngare Ndare we gave Ranger Ibrahim and his two colleagues a lift to the nearest town where they live. At one point we have to share the road with a huge herd of domestic animals and Ranger Ibrahim explained that the community is allowed to graze in the forest in a rotational format to ensure a win-win situation for the forest conservancy and the community.

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Aside from the two Kenya Wildlife Service/NRT rangers was Joy, an intern from Egerton University who was on attachment at Ngare Ndare. She incidentally played a starring role in convincing someone from our party to walk across the canopy.

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40-something year old J suffers from phobia of heights. But in an amazing display of mind over mind Joy pep-talked J across the canopy walk and J was eternally grateful for the memory.

Many of my friends upon seeing the pictures of the canopy walk and finding out that I had walked across asked the same questions:  1) Were you not scared? 2) What if it snapped? 3) Are you crazy?

I am glad I walked across the Ngare Ndare Forest Canopy and I will definitely walk across it again upon my return to take in the waterfalls, mud bath and campsites because there is something quite liberating about staring at fear or doubts and overcoming.

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Ngare Ndare Forest is a lovely unique getaway.

Go on!

Visit it 🙂.

GOD BLESS KENYA!


Inside the Kenya Anti-Doping Act 2016

The extent to which the Kenya Anti-Doping Act of 2016 which was passed by parliament and signed into law by the President differed from the version approved by World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is startling.

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Contrary to what the government termed as minor questions by WADA as to the reason for Kenya being declared non-compliant by WADA a total of 24 queries were raised by WADA in regards to the Act in a document that I have seen.

For instance, Section 3 (b) which indicated to whom the act applies to has provisions which narrow the scope of the Act to only focus on athletes instead of ALL sports women and men.

Part VI of the Act that tackled General Provisions and which is at the core of the Act was found to have been severely mutilated. Removed were the parts binding all sports people to the anti-doping rules, the making compliance to anti-doping rules a requirement to participation in sports in Kenya and the requirement for cooperation with Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya (ADAK) by all sportspeople.

WADA also had in issue with Section 26 (k) which terms unlawful stocking, distribution, transporting, selling or dealing in prohibited substances as prohibited activities in the Act. WADA does NOT consider this an anti-doping violation.

WADA is also uncomfortable with the lack of clarity in Section 42 (6) on how anti-doping violations would be handled.

Section 30 (4) which gives powers to an anti-doping compliance officer to arrest, search and detain a suspect for 24 hours was found to take Kenyan anti-doping officials into foray of criminal and prosecution procedures.

WADA took issue with a recommendation in Section 37 (2) that ADAK would annually submit a report to the Cabinet Secretary of Sports. The WADA code is transparent and so it would want public publication of the report and a copy given to WADA.

Section 7 (1) which laid out the functions of ADAK was found to have severely whittled down the functions of ADAK. WADA is for an ADAK that is totally independent.

Section 15 which tackled the conduct, regulation and powers of the ADAK board raised eyebrows with WADA. The board is top-heavy with government officials and political appointees. In the Schedule of the Act WADA once again took exception with the sweeping powers given to the ADAK board.

Section 23 (1) that established the Therapeutic Use Exception Committee was found to be altered from the final version approved by WADA.

Section 24 (2 & 3) that gives guidelines on Therapeutic Use Exception was found to have been modified and clarity lost.

WADA sought clarity in Section 31 (1) on whether the tribunal for dispute resolution would be before or after court process and what the disciplinary procedure would be.

Section 27 (6a) had a surprise reference to the Athlete Testing Programme which WADA sought clarification for as it was not in the definitions.

Section one alone of the bill had 10 comments with WADA questioning the deletion words or changes in phrasing. WADA questions were – Clarify how “prohibited activity” can be defined and why this replaced “anti-doping rule violation? Clarify whether a healthcare practitioner would fall under Athlete Support Personnel or there is a distinction?

The definitions of “national level athlete”, “out-of-competition testing”, “prohibited association”, “trafficking” were changed compared to final version approved by WADA.

All in all quite starling how the government managed to submit a law with SO SO many errors and put at risk the Olympics dreams of all Kenyan sportspeople.

This kind of incompetence needs to be punished by the President.

 

WADA-DELEGATION

 

Now to salvage the situation, the Kenyan government delegation led by Cabinet Secretary Foreign Affairs Amina Mohammed and the Cabinet Secretary Sports, Arts and Culture Hassan Wario met with World Anti-Doping Agency officials led by WADA Director General David Howman for day long deliberations in Montreal Canada on Tuesday 18th May.

The road map agreed with the government of Kenya and WADA will see adoption of the amendments to the Act, presentation of the amended clauses to parliament followed by presidential assent. Thereafter the amended bill will be presented to WADA where the WADA compliance committee will review and give approval.

While this process is on-going Kenyan athletes will be allowed to participate in international sport and Kenya will have representation at the Rio Olympics.

GOD BLESS KENYA!

 


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