The Star (Nairobi)

31 December 2012

Kenya: The Top Stories of 2012

Today is the last day of the year 2012 which was a leap year. It is also the 12th year of the 21st Century and here in Kenya the year has had its highs and lows.

What will probably remain etched in people's mind are the incidences that left many Kenyans and security forces dead, others injured and property damaged. We compiled a list of stories we felt caused ripples in the year 2012.

Whitney Houston death

February 2012 - The sudden death of the pop icon Whitney Houston came as a shock when the 48-year old singer was found dead in her hotel room. Some reports indicated that she died from accidental drowning after taking a cocktail of cocaine, marijuana and prescription drugs while others alleged the singer was killed by a drug dealer after racking up debts. She left behind a daughter Bobbi Kristina who is said to be following her mother's footsteps in being an entertainer.

The lethal maize necrosis disease

May 2012 - The maize lethal necrosis (MLN) disease that threatened to wipe out maize crops in Rift Valley, Kenya's grain basket.

It affected at least 300,000 farmers in the region. Scientists however cautioned the government to destroy the entire crop that had been affected as the only control measure.

The death of Internal Security Minister and his staff

June 2012 - Kenyans were shocked to learn about the death of the then Internal Security minister George Saitoti, his deputy Orwa Ojode and other government officials through a helicopter crash in Ngong.

The government declared three days of mourning. After that questions were raised if the crash was really an accident or there was more to it. This prompted the government to form a commission of inquiry into the crash.

The Queen's Diamond Jubilee

June 2012 - The Queen celebrated 60 years as Monarch which she reigned through six decades of enormous social change. The Queen's Diamond Jubilee was culminated with a ceremonial day which included a church service St Paul's Cathedral and a balcony appearance at Buckingham palace.

During the diamond jubilee year, every commonwealth realm and every region of the United Kingdom has been visited by a member of the royal family.

London Olympics

August 2012 - While the world was excited and looking forward to see/watch Usain Bolt win his race and do his jig, David Rudisha stole the show when he won 800m gold. He became the first athlete to set a new world record on the track at the London 2012 Olympics.

Rudisha's triumph of 1 min 40.91 sec made history as one of the greatest Olympics victories breaking his own 2010 world record of 1 min 41.01 sec.

Before his win, Kenya had started on a bad note having only one gold medal to its name in the 3000m steeplechase which was won by Ezekiel Kemboi.

KDF forces take Kismayo

September 2012 - Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) troops who were part of the UN backed African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia (AMISOM) captured Kismayo, a port city in Somali which was the only remaining bastion of the rebel Al-Shabaab.

The militants who included Somalis and foreign fighters had imposed a strict Sharia law in the areas that they had control of.

Kismayo was their major stronghold as it was a key source of revenue for the militants due to the export of charcoal through the port.

Grenade attacks

Since the Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) captured Kismayo in Somali, there have been several attacks targeting civilians in Kenya.

First it was in Garissa where a church was attacked with recent attacks happening in Nairobi along Juja road where one worshiper died while more than 10 others were injured. In Eastleigh a mosque was attacked where Kamukunji member of parliament, Yussuf Hassan was wounded.

The worst of the attacks was in November when a grenade was thrown at a matatu ferrying passengers on a Sunday afternoon. It killed seven people and wounded 24 others.

National strikes

September 2012 - The third term of the school calender did not start as usual as teachers went on strike disrupting learning in public schools countrywide for three weeks.

Through the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) the teachers remained defiant, vowing not to resume work until their 300 per cent salary increment demand was met.

The government however offered a take or leave deal of Sh13.5 billion to realign teachers salary with that of the civil service.

This was followed by the university lectures and support staff who went on a two-week strike demanding a wage hike and allowances, they were awarded a 30 per cent increment.

Then came the doctors strike that kicked off the largest social media trend in Kenya. It was dubbed 'The Peremende Movement' following remarks by the Minister of Health Dr. Anyang Nyongo' that the doctors were behaving like children demanding 'peremendes' (sweets). Currently on going for the last few weeks is the uncertain nurses strike, they too are demanding a salary increment.

Nairobi-Thika Highway

November 2012 - President Mwai Kibaki officially opened the Nairobi-Thika superhighway which the Kenya National Highways Authority describes as a dream realised.

The eight lane superhighway is said to be the first and one of a kind in East and Central Africa and it took 42 months to construct.

The highway has shortened the travel time from Nairobi to Thika from the 2-3 hours jam-filled journey it used to be, to about 30-45 minutes.

The superhighway connectivity is described as key to regional growth, security, integrity and a strategic point of view to Kenya.

Other infrastructural developments that continue to bring Kenya closer to achieving vision 2030 include the Syokimau commuter railway station at a cost of Sh 24 billion aimed at easing traffic congestion in Nairobi.

Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) kits

November 2012 - The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) made a decision to use a biometric system of registration for the 2013 elections.

The BVR requires a picture taken and thumb prints provided for the information to be used to make sure there are no duplicated voters as well as ensuring the integrity of the voter's register.

The voter registration which started in November and ended in mid-December saw over 14 million Kenyans registered in readiness for the March 4 general elections.

So far it has been tested and used in Ghana and now Kenya. Gambia, Fiji, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone Zambia, Namibia and Mozambique are also making plans to use it.

Baragoi killings

November 2012 - The Baragoi massacre that left more than 40 security officers dead in Suguta valley in Samburu County. The police were attacked by bandits while on a patrol mission to recover stolen livestock from cattle rustlers.

Following the attacks, questions were raised about the manpower, competence and training gaps that exist within the disciplined forces in the country. Police spokesman Erick Kiraithe termed the attack as the worst single attack on police.

President Barrack Obama's re-election

November 2012 - In a fiercely contested election, President Barack Obama was re-elected back to the White House as the United States of America president for the second term where he beat Republican candidate Mitt Romney.

Doomsday Prediction

December 2012 - The Mayan calender predicted that December 21, would make the end of the world. A number of eccentrics had built survival bunkers in anticipation of the said apocalypse.

The doomsday prediction came under heavy criticism from Christians who view December as the month with the greatest period of festivity in the world calender with the birth of Jesus Christ marked in Christmas.

As 2013 beckons, many leaders in the country have called on Kenyans to uphold peace and integrity as we head towards the general elections in March.

This will be a big test for Kenyans as the world is looking and waiting as the country is yet to heal from the 2007/08 post-election violence.

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