Saturday, November 22, 2008

This is the response the Kenya government made following my blog on piracy. These Somali leaders should go home and build their country and stop this piracy. They cannot do it from the safety of Nairobi.

Kenya threatens to impose sanctions on Somali MPs (Daily Nation)

By OLIVER MATHENGEPosted Saturday, November 22 2008 at 22:07
Kenya has threatened to impose sanctions against Somali leaders if they do not spearhead efforts to restore stability in the Horn of Africa country.
Foreign Affairs minister Moses Wetang’ula issued the threat on Friday saying leaders must be responsible for the political situation in Somalia.
The minister said member states of the Intergovernmental Agreement on Development (Igad) would impose sanctions on the leaders and their family members.
He said this would ensure that the Somali leaders no longer sought “safe havens abroad. We are faced with an embarrassing situation where Somali Members of Parliament came to Kenya for a meeting and have refused to go back home,” the minister said.
“They have to go and build their country. They can’t leave it to warlords that are partly benefiting from this criminal enterprise. I think hard decisions have to be made in one way or the other to enable us move to the next level.”
Mr Wetang’ula was speaking at the InterContinental Hotel in Nairobi, where he hosted heads of foreign missions in the country for a consultative meeting over the escalating incidences of piracy along the East African coastline.
He attributed this increase to the political instability in Somalia. Defence minister Yusuf Haji also attended the meeting.
The international community has raised concern over the growing number of hijacked ships in the Indian Ocean reportedly by Somali pirates. The minister said President Kibaki would host an international conference in Nairobi to discuss the matter. He however did not give a date for the meeting.
“The plot has been thickening day by day, and has now turned into a major international enterprise affecting all of us,” the minister said. He said the fact that pirates were now hijacking ships from as long as 800km from the shore showed that the problem was big.
Praising a decision by India three days ago to destroy one of its hijacked vessels, Mr Wetang’ula said that all countries must now prepare to act tough on the pirates.
“I think sometimes we must take decisions that are harsh... We must act now,” he said.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


I hate to say this but I told you so. In a previous post on piracy I warned that these thugs will be targeting a more valuable vessel than the fishing boats they have been hitting. They now have a 100 million dollar worth of crude and a whole tanker under their armpits. They are operating with daring impudence and temerity. They are collecting ransom right left and center. They defied international maritime law and instituted their own banditry laws that puts to shame the pirates of old, Caribbean included. The world is still at a loss on how to handle them.

We cannot turn merchant ships into warships. Merchant vessels should prowl the waters safely and uninhibited. The law of the sea cannot be turned to the law of the jungle. These pirates must be faced with utmost force and be annihilated. There should be no safe haven for them. All their operating bases should be targeted and destroyed. All who harbor them should hang with them. The beneficiaries of the loot should not be spared either.

This brings me to the question, where is all the ransom money going? We know it is not financing the building of hospitals in Mogadishu, neither is it financing education or supplying water to the Somalis. This loot is being recycled to buy arms to destabilize the region and entrench some warlords in power. This is a recipe for disaster both inside Somalia and in the neighboring countries. Kenya is still sitting and watching and even hosting the so called Somali government MPs in the capital. If they cannot control their own backyard, what business does the Kenya government have in according them any recognition.

You cannot lead by telepathy, which is what these fellows attempt to do from the safety of Eastleigh lodgings. Kick them out and let them go and tame these pirates. Parading some fellows in court delivered by the British doesn’t mean we are doing much. Don’t we have a sizable Somali population in Kenya? Don’t they have links with some of those Somalis? Must we wait for someone to put their finger in our noses before we react. As Achebe would ask, if someone comes and defecates on your floor, do you close your eyes and pretend not to see? No! You take a stick and break his neck. These have not only defecated on our floor they are defecating on our food lines, our export routes, our import routes, our fuel route and we are closing our eyes and pretending not to see.

Cut off those safe havens. Simply splatter them along the ocean shore. Bomb them if need be to oblivion. This way we are protecting ourselves from being hit where it hurts. If this piracy continues we are going to pay dearly and the events of August 1998 will look like Diwali fireworks. My philosophy is simple, preemptive strike is not cowardice. Let us give maximum support to those fighting our battles for us, the Indian Navy and the Royal Navy, While we shamelessly debate over whether to punish the killers in our midst who sponsored the ethnic cleansing after the elections, the two nations have taken the mantle to defend our gates. We have lost the moral authority to point at these pirates for our actions are worse than theirs. The pirates in our leadership should be routed out too.
If that supertanker is not rescued, through ransom or by force, and the pirates destroy it as they might, the environmental consequences will be catastrophic. Believe me they are prone to destroy it. nothing matters to them other than ransom. Then what? They will take another one and another one? Someone must put a stop to this. There must be preemptive action. Seal those safe havens, splatter those mother ships, cease those ransoms, enforce maritime international law. Kenya government stands indicted. This happening at your door step on your watch, and you are doing nothing discernible to help yourself or others. The ball is squarely in your coat. Do not fold your tail and hide behind grass blades. Even if you can’t bite, just bark.

Saturday, November 08, 2008


So Kenya declared a public holiday to celebrate Obama’s victory. A number of goats and bulls and countless chicken have met with premature death in the name of celebration. This is all good and befitting the man soon to reside in the best-known address in the USA. All this euphoric celebration made me think of the way we celebrated our own election results some ten months ago. Instead of slaughtering goats and chicken we slaughtered each other. Instead of letting the law and legally empowered institutions take action we hijacked that responsibility and went berserk. Instead of accepting defeat in humility and meekness we still harbor grudges and seek revenge. Yet when the Americans carry out the very same process and elect their leader, we shamelessly take to the streets in tumultuous celebration and declare holidays.

What is the lesson to be learned from the American elections? First is the maturity of democratic practice. People listen, reason and react. People do not react then reason. If the power of the spoken word is not backed by the power of the character behind the word, then the prospective candidate has no chance. In Kenya we want to back our words with force not character. That is why we have politicians hiring some goons to intimidate their opponents. We saw the humility of John McCain in his concession speech, if you are defeated, eat the humble pie and live to fight another day. But Kenyans are never losers, even if they get one per cent of the votes it is rigging and not democracy.

Second we must learn to cherish our institutions. Beginning with the election process. This must be made sacrosanct. It must be beyond manipulation and bias. This can only come about if we learn to man the institutions with competent men and women. Our social, economic and political fabric has been weakened by our allowing cronyism and payback is the guiding principles of appointing people to these institutions. We must transcend this and look at competence, integrity, patriotism and devotion to democratic ideals in the appointments.

Third we must learn to appreciate our own values. We should not rush to embrace only those who turn out to be successful. There are many Kenyans who in their own small ways should make us proud. Let us also celebrate them the way we celebrate this American whose father was a Kenyan.

Fourth every child out there ought to take heart and know that the only thing that can limit your becoming what you dream is you. Obama grew without a father in the house, his mother died of cancer, and his grandmother who did not live to savor his victory brought him up. This is typical of some boys out there and they should take heart that someone has walked the path and made it. This however does not mean the fathers should abscond from their responsibilities. But there is much to learn from this victory than claiming kinship and seeking favors. The greatest lesson to me is that dreams come, true, no matter how long it takes.

Some members of parliament are bending backward looking for appropriate preachers and priests to conduct public prayers of thanksgiving. There is nothing wrong with prayers but there is everything wrong if the purpose is to be seen to be most loyal and greatest praise singer of the US president-elect. Remember the IDPs in your backyard; they need more prayers and perhaps some handouts, if not their homes. When was the last time you called for prayers or help for them or visited them? If you are religious you might remember the saying that Jesus said that if you help any of these (referring to the children and suffering) you are doing it to me. Charity begins at home. Pray to Our Father who art in Heaven, not to the one who art the Whitehouse.

Lastly, if we are a working nation we need to change our attitude to work. Kenya has at least eleven official public holidays, more if you are a Hindu, more if the president visits your area and more if Obama wins elections. Thank God it is only possible one more time. Add to this the annual leave, sick leave, funeral leave and you have two months of working time off and paid. Kenya should rethink her work ethic. The policy of hanging jackets on chairs and closing offices for lunch should be reviewed. Stagger the lunch hours, even if this will dismantle the nyama choma lunch clubs, and deliver services whole day. Pay people per hour rather than per month or per day and this will improve productivity. Instead of a public holiday, Kenyans should have worked full day Saturday, and for free.

So my fellow Kenyans as we rush to establish kinship with the US president-elect, let us first cherish the kingdom we have in our land, nurture it, and learn from the lessons of the American Dream. Blood, sweat, toil, and fatalities of Civil War and civil rights movement marked the path walked by many before Obama could start on the journey towards the presidency of the United States of America. Let us not just see the breasting of the tape but the rigors of the journey, the agonies of the afflicted, the desperation of the destitute, let us pull them up for they too have a dream.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


Piracy in High Seas

Over the past month a drama has been unfolding off the coast of East Africa. An Ukrainians ship laden with arms destined for Kenya has been commandeered by a rag tag army of pirates armed with all sorts of short-range weapons. The pattern of highjacking has developed from small boats to bigger ships. The pirates have been emboldened by the apparent lack of deterrence in the region.
Kenya’s strategy has been unknown, ineffective and in some way emboldening the pirates. Kenya has not shown by word or deeds its capacity to protect her interests in the region. The maintenance of clear, open and safe sea-lanes on the east coast of Africa is paramount for the sovereignty and security of Kenya. Kenya should not condone any interference with maritime security near her borders. When such a threat is from a bandit organization from an anarchic neighbor, it is demeaning and unacceptable that we are reduced to the level of contemplating ransom payment for release of our cargo. Whether the cargo on board the high jacked vessel was destined for Kenya or not, the fact remains that the sea-lanes are threatened and something has to be done.
Kenya has a duty, indeed a responsibility to demand the cessation of such activities on her doorstep. Kenya should act in conjunction with other maritime nations of the Indian Ocean to ensure safety of all ships in the region. These sea-lanes are vital to our economy and national security. All our oil imports from the Middle East pass through here, all our imports from China, India, Japan and other countries of the east pass through here. If today we allow these pirates to take one ship and demand compensation, tomorrow they will take a whole oil tanker. One cannot imagine the consequence, environmental, political and economic if, God forbid, they were to take one such tanker and blow it up in the ocean.
We need decisive early action. Kenya must flex her muscles and show her willingness to step in and protect shipping in the area. Kenya should send her ships to patrol the region. Given the ships are not equipped for prolonged sea stay, you nevertheless need to bark and show your fangs even if you cannot bite. Those thugs deserve to be blown to oblivion and the world will not shed tears over them.
The moment they get emboldened, they are going to get sympathizers from the international terror organizations and soon we will be dealing not with the ragtag pirates but with Al Qaeida and others on our doorstep. The time to stem this tide is now. Back your bark with the sound of your guns, conduct exercises in the region, show them the consequences of their actions, let them see you can blow them to smithereens to protect our national interest.
Kenya should lead in this responsibility. We cannot wait for America to come and do it for us, yes we may need their help, but let us show those pirates that the 21st century is not the age of piracy. Once they get enough revenue from the sea, they will start getting guns, which will be used along our borders and eventually inside our country. Let us nip this menace in the bud, let our navy, army and air force flex their muscles along the common border. Test the endurance of our navy along the international waters off the coast of Somalia. Let us work with other maritime powers of the Indian Ocean especially India and South Africa. Let us dare those bandits to touch our ships and let us send them a clear message, keep off the waters off our coastline. If we are not a nation of cowards, let us take the dare!
Are we declaring war on Somalia no. Are we declaring war on pirates you bet, be they Somalis, Kenyans or whatever breed. The time to act is now.

Friday, July 25, 2008



The current wave of strikes and arson in schools is cause for concern. That the minister of education responds with setting up a commission is cause for greater concern. Commissions in Kenya have been taken to mean a temporary reprieve and buying time for the fire to wear itself out and be smothered and ashes dissipated. Schools unrest in Kenya at all levels is an epidemic that has been with us for a long time. What we haven’t done is to prescribe a permanent cure. We have always administered temporary relief balm soothing the swelling while the cancer beneath festers to break out again elsewhere.

Our boarding schools have been the biggest culprits of this menace. We need to address not only the causes but also come up with prescriptions for the cure. I am a product of day school. I went to a day primary school and a day high school and we never had a strike. The only boarding school I attended was for my A levels, and we had a strike. One of my children went to a day high school and they never had a strike, the other went to a boarding school and they had a strike. A local high school in my neighborhood was a day school for many years without any student problems, but from the time it became a boarding school, it has been characterized by strikes and acts of hooliganism frequently. This may not be scientific research but there is something to be said about boarding schools being more prone to student unrest and accompanying mayhem and destruction than day schools.

There are, however, some unique exceptions like Starehe. But by and large our boarding schools are breeding grounds for strikes. Our boarding schools are not cheap. The cost of maintaining a student there is sometimes beyond the means of most parents. The return on investment is not proportionate when you factor in the material, intellectual and sometimes human destruction that occurs there. We need to seriously look at the efficacy of boarding schools versus day schools. The days when boarding schools were established because the students could not commute daily are gone. With advancement in transportation, people are able to cover vast distances each day. We should do away with the boarding schools. This way we will promote our neighborhood schools and develop a sense of ownership and responsibility of the institution. Our children would be home each night and parents would take greater responsibility over their discipline and welfare.

Currently parents send their children to boarding schools, leave them with the principal and are not bothered to even pay the required fees for their maintenance. They abrogate their responsibility and expect the teachers not only teach but also feed, nurture, discipline, counsel, guide, train, control and educate without their full participation physically and materially. The pressure on school administration and teachers is excessive without adding performance contracts. For teachers to be able to perform effectively, they need the necessary resources. Apart from books and labs, they need the security and protection that comes from knowledge that their disciplinary actions will be upheld, their tenure is protected from political whims and their salaries will arrive on time. With this they will be able to exert measures and institute systems that work. But in most of our schools this is not happening. Let the parents take over the ownership of the schools.

Who owns Nairobi School, for example? Is it Abdi’s father from Garissa or Omwami’s father from Bungoma or Njoroge from nearby Kangemi? To instill a sense of security in our institutions we must instill a sense of ownership. The parents, the teachers and mostly the students must develop a sense of ownership of the institution. If this is lacking, destruction will continue as the destroyers will see it as them versus us, it is their property not our property. In a culture like ours where materialism takes precedent over reason, it may take time to instill such a sense of ownership but it is not impossible.

Students cannot develop a sense of ownership if they view their school as a prison. While maintenance of discipline and order is conducive to good learning, participation and ownership of the rules and regulations makes it easier to enforce discipline. When students are engaged in the formulation and implementation of discipline, the institution runs smoothly. The students become the owners of the rules and the teachers guide and supervise their implementation. When the students are empowered to handle lower level disciplinary infringements, the school is relatively at peace. This in no way absolves the school administration of ultimate responsibility, but it eases the workload of the teachers. But if the teachers are drunken with power mania, wanting to show whom the boss is, they end up stressing themselves and the school suffers. Teachers should always remember that the interest of the child is supreme. The child should be the focus of all decisions.

The schools are not there for the teachers or the parents, they are not there for the minister to set commissions, they are not there for the politicians to brag and blast, they are there for the education of our children. The basic question, indeed the only question, that should be asked before a decision is made about a school should be; is this in the best interest of the child? Therefore, it is my contention that in the best interests of our children, we should decentralize provision of education. Put the parents in the center of the operations. It is their children; they should be primarily responsible for them. If they choose to delegate this responsibility to the teachers there should be a contractual relationship, which all the parties should respect and enforce. This is no strange supposition. Decentralization was the rallying call of the last elections, where is the implementation?

That there are incidents of bullying in our schools today is an indictment of the failure of the school administration. The culprits for bullying in schools should not be the student, but the head of the school. Any school head that has not been able to control bullying in their school should not head the institution, ability to control bullying should be a basic requirement in every evaluation of the school head’s performance. But for this to work, the channels of communication between the parents, their children and the school must be open and smooth. There is parental responsibility here and should be established on the first day they send their children to the school.

I know this is a long haul but it is possible. We have to start somewhere, somebody has to take the first step and say we must change. We cannot hide in the premise that our children are only there for four years. We must have the long view and make it better for those that will come after us. I am sure I am not alone in seeing that the school that I went to is the same school my children went to and perhaps my grandchildren will be going to, if we do not change it now, we are condemning our grandchildren to the same mess that we were exposed to. One day we might be faced with the inevitable question from a grandson; why didn’t you take action when you had the capacity and foresight?

We also need to address our examination system. Our education system lays too much emphasis on the final examination, ours is a system where a student can be an A student for eight or twelve years, depending on the exam, but on the final exam the student gets an E perhaps because of extraneous circumstances like death in the family, illness, or others and that students is condemned as a failure and denied chances of advancement. We must change our system to be cognizant of the day-to-day effort of the students. Knowledge is the cumulative sum of all that is learned and cannot be effectively measured by selective questions administered on a wet soggy day. All the accumulated knowledge over time should be considered at some point, this should ease the pressure on the students to just perform well at the end of their courses. The knowledge that their day-to-day classroom performance will somehow count towards their final grade will shift their focus to the purpose of their being in school, gain education, improve attendance, and not plot strikes and hooliganism.

Too many resources have been expended in ostentatious buildings and buses at the expense of the basic materials like books and labs. This too must change. Our schools should not be seen as shining only during the annual musical festivals, which do not take the participants beyond the funfair of appearing in the capital once a year. Where are the musicians, actors and actresses, dance troupes that emerge from this annual circus? We are wasting tremendous time, talent and manpower in preparing the children for this annual circus, which is seen as a terminal event. It is time it was taken a step further and utilize the talents in perhaps recording their work and marketing it and giving the children a direction towards a career. Some of these children may not be gifted academically and this may be the only avenue where their talents can shine. We should not deny them this opportunity. Let our children see that there is life beyond the classroom. Going to high school and college is an ideal but is not panacea to our problems, there are a lot of people that are successful without having made it to college, albeit with greater stress. But we must show our talented youth the various avenues open to them and guide them accordingly. Our system is such that if you do not excel on your academics you are a failure. It is time we looked at the other alternatives open to those who are not academically gifted.

My recommendations therefore are: systematically abolish all boarding schools, empower students in school discipline enforcement; institute a sense of ownership of the schools among the players, parents, students and teachers; Shift the focus in education policies, staffing procedures, promotions and funding to what is best for the student rather than the teacher, politician or community. Schools are there for the child and everything else should revolve around that. Change the system of our examination to include the school life performance rather than one exam performance. Develop the extracurricular activities to be a vocation for the student not a trophy session for the schools.

Thursday, January 03, 2008


Kenya My Country, I weep For You.

In times of turmoil and anguish like now, in times of desperation and mayhem like the present, when dusk forestalls fear and dawn brings desperation, that is when leaders distinguish themselves. That is the point when leaders to peace and prosperity distinguish themselves from leaders of mobs and ruffians.

A leader does not sprout from the triumphant parade of the victors but from the humility of the vanquished. A leader does not thump his chest and lift his nose at the vanquished but stretches his hand and points them to the road of recovery. The good book of prophet Isaiah calls us to reason ‘Come therefore let us reason together’. This is the sensible thing to do, this is the right thing to do, and this is what we should do. And the time to do it is now.

But as somebody said, you cannot shake hands with closed fists. You do not sit down and talk when your house is on fire. You first put out the fire and then sit down and talk. Find where the fire started, make sure it does not ignite again. The call for talks, reconciliation and peace cannot be heeded when the bows are out of the quivers and the machetes are being sharpened. We cannot talk when our mouths are full of vitriol, hatred and war-mongering. If these leaders talked to the millions that came out and voted, why can’t they talk to the same to lay down their arms and stop this madness?

I refuse to believe that killing your neighbor, burning his house, destroying his livestock and livelihood will change your socio-economic or political status for the better. You have lived in the same neighborhood, drank from the same well, eaten together, gone to the same church, same hospital, same harambee meetings, same cattle dips, same water project, your children go to the same school, and overnight he becomes your enemy because your favorite candidate did not win the election. What folly, what madness, where did we lose our tracks?

We stood in the same queues waiting patiently for our turn to cast our ballot, what was the purpose of the ballot? Was it not to pick one from the many? What was the plan B? Was it not to accept the verdict of the people? If there was a discrepancy, foul play, irregularity, is it going to be corrected with the axes and fires on our neighbors? If your neighbor steals your cow, do you go and steal his? No. You call the elders and let him answer before them? You cannot burn the whole forest just because you are feeling cold and need to warm your toes. You should not kill, or die, just because somebody feels he should be the president, MP or councillor. Believe me. Moi was right, the ugali plates in your house will not increase just because that person won or lost. You may burn or loot but that will change your circumstances for a moment and then you go back to your old routine. Woe unto you if you will have burned that factory, shop or farm that employed you.

My fellow Kenyans, why are we so myopic, shortsighted, blindfolded, unreasonable? Must we hack each other to death just to make a point? What happened to reason? Where are those helicopters that were crisscrossing the country during the campaigns? Why aren’t they crisscrossing the country preaching peace? Is this not the time for the leaders to distinguish themselves from the mob and halt the violence?

Yes we have the police and security agents to do that, but we need all and sundry to play their part. If this is not forthcoming then we have no choice but to indict them of complicity in this mayhem and imminent genocide. We do not need half-hearted condemnations; we need total commitment and action. Call off these goons and gangs.

. These murderers, arsonists and looters must face the full force of the law. Their protection or remission should not be on any other agenda other than the courts. This is the only way we can tell that you are for peace and that you command respect of those you purport to represent. The country is on the verge of collapse, and if we do not guard it together, save it together, build it together, we shall surely be destroyed together.

Thursday, November 22, 2007



Kenyans are always winners. No Kenyan ever loses. We are a very rare species who detest, nay abhor, that word loser. Ask any politician, none can ever lose an election be it secret ballot or mlolongo (queuing). Even when your queue has two people on it and your opponent’s has a thousand, you cannot lose. You have to be rigged out. All politicians are rigged out. The people who vote you out don’t matter, their opinion is irrelevant, you get rigged out by your political enemies. Never mind you cannot name one such enemy.

Our sports teams are no better. All the world referees in all sports are in a conspiracy to lock out Kenyan teams. Be it soccer or rugby, tennis or swimming, boxing or athletics, the referees, coaches and umpires are against us. They rig us out. Our athletes are always subjected to conspiracies by other teams’ coaches. They conspire to have our opponents defeat us. They are not supposed to do this, we are winners and never losers. Why should all the world volleyball teams, cricket teams, basketball teams conspire to deny us our victory. We are not losers. We do not lose we are only rigged out! The Ethiopians and Moroccans have conspired to defeat our runners in all world events. This is unacceptable, we are being rigged out.

We have to win at all and every cost. We go and move the courts to declare us winners. We profess written and unwritten procedures and manifestos. We have no confidence in any official who declares us defeated. Our enemies will always have bought them before we could reach them. There is never any justice unless we are the victors. We have developed a culture of intolerance. We have grown some impervious solidity to reason and common sense. We do not ever contemplate working with others if we lose to them but we expect them to work with us, perhaps for us, when we win.

We are not guided by organizational principles and goals. The professed party manifestos and memorandum are trashed the moment we fail to secure the party favour. Never mind it is the people who will have decided. The concept of the majority is not ingrained in us. It can only be the majority if we win. Past popularity is assumed to be our heritage in perpetuity. Never mind that assume makes an ass of u and me. That is why when we lose nominations we have to hop from party to party in search of a parch for we can never lose gracefully. That is why we have to hire goons to wreck havoc on our enemies, never mind they are the voters. That is why we have no confidence in the returning officers. That is why we cannot sit down and agree on a workable system of nomination since we seek to skew it in our favour. That is why we will fail in our quest for democracy.

Democracy is not the result of elections and nominations. Democracy is the process. Democracy is the acceptance that the people’s decisions are to be respected. Democracy behooves our leaders accepting that you don’t have to be an MP to be an effective leader. There are other myriad ways of serving the people. Unfortunately the leadership culture in Kenya subsumes there is a hierarchical pecking order of leaders, with the Mps at the top. Chest thumping and the material accumulation that our MPs have allocated themselves so shamelessly in the past is leading some greedy hyenas out of their dens. They cannot lose because their investment has to bear returns. It is not service and duty to the electorate, it is an economic enterprise with the voters being the pawns in this shuffling of ‘resources’ for maximum returns in the nest five years.

Time has come for the voters to tell these investors that their capital is not welcome, it is tainted and the value of their currency is down. It is time these politicians learnt that there is, yin and yang, players and referees, heads and tails, winners and losers. Not all are rigged out. Let us grow up and nurture democracy, tolerance and principles. Stop hopping like grasshoppers in the morning dew. None of us is indispensable, the country will not halt in its match of development just because you will not be in parliament or county council next year. As someone would have said, the quantity of ugali will not increase when you win or lose.

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