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Caps on interest rate unlawful, court rules

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By WASHINGTON GIKUNDU
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A court on Thursday declared unconstitutional the section of the Banking Act that introduced interest rate controls.

However, the Commercial and Admiralty Division court suspended the enforcement of the ruling for 12 months to give lawmakers time to amend the law.

“Although the responsibility of the Central Bank of Kenya in setting and publishing the Central Bank Rate under Section 36 of the Central Bank Act is undoubtedly a function of formulating monetary policy, the petitioner (Mr Boniface Oduor) has not demonstrated to the satisfaction of the court that the provisions of Section 33B, relating to interest rate capping, falls within the purview of monetary policy,” the court said in its press summary.

The statement went on: ” For that reason, the court cannot fault the National Assembly in legislating a provision on interest rate ceiling. In arriving at the decision, the court gives deference to the principle of the presumption of constitutionality of legislation.”

After the law was effected in September 2016, small and medium enterprises have been complaining of reduced lending by commercial banks, dealing a blow to the country’s economic growth plans.

Further, the national government’s appetite for domestic borrowing has seen banks make astronomical profits, a consequence of the caps.

Last year a report showed that KCB, Equity, Cooperative, Standard Chartered and Barclays – the top lenders – raked in Sh56 billion in net profits, Sh6 billion higher than in the same period last year.

The strain on the economy compelled some lawmakers to call for revision of the law. Treasury Cabinet Secretary last year said as much: “In order to enhance access to credit and minimise the adverse impact of the interest rate caps on credit growth, while strengthening financial access and monetary policy effectiveness, I propose to amend the banking Act,” Mr Rotich said during his budget speech in June.

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Transgender men have functional ovaries after a year of testosterone injections » Capital News

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Doctors from Tel Aviv studied 52 transgender men aged 17-40 for a year after they began receiving testosterone injections and found their ovaries appeared to remain functional © AFP/File / VALERY HACHE

, Washington, United States, Mar 23 – The ovaries of transgender men appear to remain functional even after a year of receiving hormonal treatment with testosterone, according to a small Israeli study presented Saturday in the United States.

Transgender men are born female but self-identify as male. Not all of them undergo gender reassignment surgery but lots of them take hormones to make their bodies more masculine.

Doctors from Tel Aviv-Sourasky Medical Center studied 52 transgender men aged between 17 and 40 for a year after they began receiving injections of testosterone.

They had access to the complete results for 32 of them, which is a small sample but studies of this kind are rare.

“Our research shows for the first time that after one year of testosterone treatment, ovary function is preserved to a degree that may allow reproduction,” said the study’s lead investigator, Yona Greenman.

“This information is important for transgender men and their partners who desire to have their own children,” Greenman said.

The level of the Anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH) dropped off after 12 months of treatment but remained in the normal range for fertility, said the researchers, who will present their findings at the annual conference of the Endocrine Society in New Orleans this weekend.

The level of this hormone is an indicator of the so-called ovarian reserve and is used by doctors to assess the remaining egg supply.


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Weatherman: Long rains likely to delay

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By BERNADINE MUTANU
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There seems to be little chance of a reprieve for Kenyans against the ongoing drought even as they expect the long rains to start pouring down later this month.

This is because the drought, which has left at least 1.1 million people in need of urgent food aid, will not be ending soon and may actually spread out according to the latest predictions by the Kenya Meteorological Department (KMD).

Cyclone Idai may have killed more than 500 people and devastated thousands in the southern African nations of Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, but in Kenya, the storm is expected to leave millions hungrier, according to KMD.

According to the weatherman, the onset of long rains has delayed because the cyclone delayed the movement of the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) — a belt of low pressure near the equator, “where trade winds of the northern and southern hemispheres come together” to create favourable conditions for rains.

As the government and food aid agencies continue distributing food and water to starving Kenyans in different parts especially in Turkana, Baringo and some parts of Coast and northern Kenya, more will need food aid in the coming months as the March-April- May rainfall is expected to be short and sparsely distributed.

Although above-average rainfall for most parts of the country was expected except for parts of Eastern Kenya and the Coastal regions in accordance with the Climate Outlook, the situation has abruptly changed due to the cyclone, said KMD in its latest weather update.

“The seasonal rainfall onset was also expected to be timely over several parts of the country. However, a tropical cyclone known as “IDAI” located in the Mozambican Channel has delayed the northward movement of the rain-bearing ITCZ,” said Stella Aura, the Acting director of meteorological services at KMD, in a briefing.

According to the update, “the cyclone significantly reduced moisture influx into the country and led to the continued sunny and dry weather conditions over the better part of the country.”

And more depressing is the fact that there is a possibility of more tropical cyclones which may further delay rains in the eastern parts of the country and prolonged dry spells in the western counties despite timely onset of the rains.

Also in play is the neutral to cooler than average sea surface temperatures along the Kenyan Coast and very warm sea surface temperatures to the east of which contributed to the delay in the establishment of the ITCZ over Kenya.





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How Hamad’s defection alters Zanzibar vote

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Former Civic United Front secretary general Seif Sharif Hamad has defected to the Alliance for Change and Transparency -Wazalendo party, ending a three-year leadership wrangle in Zanzibar’s leading opposition party.

Mr Hamad’s defection immediately after the High Court in Dar es Salaam threw out his petition challenging Prof Ibrahim Lipumba’s chairmanship of the Civic United Front was a culmination of behind-the-scenes negotiations with three Tanzania Mainland opposition parties as he sought an exit.

ACT-Wazalendo party leader Zitto Kabwe on Thursday joined Mr Hamad in a homecoming tour of Zanzibar where they were expected to visit Mr Hamad’s strongholds in Pemba and Unguja Islands.

The CUF enjoys a near-fanatical following in Zanzibar and made significant inroads into the Mainland during the last general election in 2015, more than doubling its MPs.

Mr Hamad holds commanding sway among party supporters whom ACT-Wazalendo hopes to welcome alongside the man they say has remained steadfast in advancing their interests since the 1990s.

Prof Lipumba, who for years worked alongside Hamad, resigned from the position of party chairman in the heat of the 2015 elections, but returned in 2016 to claim the position.

His faction has accused the government through the Registrar of Political Parties of engineering the split in the party by propping up Prof Lipumba.

Mbarara Maharagande, a former CUF spokesperson, told The EastAfrican that at least one million membership cards had been issued to prospective defectors to ACT-Wazalendo.

“We are confident we will print as many more in the coming weeks,” he said.

Sources said that Mr Hamad’s faction settled for ACT-Wazalendo fearing stiff competition within Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (Chadema) which was also likely to grapple with its own internal rivalries between their leading lights for the presidential ticket.

Chadema national chairman Freeman Mbowe hinted they were interested in recruiting Mr Hamad but said they have taken it in their stride his decision to join ACT-Wazalendo.

“We will work with him from his new base to strengthen our unity,” he said.

Awadhi Ali Said, a former president of Zanzibar Law Society said that Mr Hamad’s defection puts ACT-Wazalendo on equal footing with Chadema in coalition-building ahead of the 2020 elections.

“The defection also raises Mr Kabwe’s stake should he choose to run for the Union presidency, with Mr Hamad in Zanzibar,” said Mr Awadhi.

In Chadema, the defection back to CCM of 2015 opposition presidential candidate Edward Lowassa means the party will likely front Mr Mbowe or its firebrand Singida East MP Tundu Lissu for the top seat.

Mr Lissu is currently in Belgium, where he has been receiving treatment from injuries sustained in a failed assassination attempt in September 2017.



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