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Egypt ‘seizes’ Suez megaship, demands nearly $1 billion compensation

A picture released by Egypt’s Suez Canal Authority on March 29, 2021, shows a man waving the Egyptian flag after Panama-flagged MV ‘Ever Given’ container ship was fully dislodged from the banks of the Suez.

By AFP
Cairo,
The megaship which blocked Egypt’s Suez Canal and crippled world trade for nearly a week has been “seized” on court orders until the vessel’s owners pay $900 million, canal authorities said Tuesday.

The 200,000-tonne MV Ever Given got diagonally stuck in the narrow but crucial global trade artery in a sandstorm on March 23, triggering a mammoth six-day-long effort by Egyptian personnel and international salvage specialists to dislodge it.

Maritime data company Lloyd’s List said the blockage by the vessel, longer than four football fields, held up an estimated $9.6 billion-worth of cargo between Asia and Europe each day it was stuck.

Egypt also lost between $12 and $15 million in revenues for each day the waterway was closed, according to the canal authority.

 

Compensation figure
The MV “Ever Given was seized due to its failure to pay $900 million” compensation, Suez Canal Authority chief Osama Rabie was quoted as saying by Al-Ahram, a state-run newspaper.

Rabie did not explicitly cite the Japanese owners Shoei Kisen Kaisha, but a different source at the SCA told AFP Tuesday that negotiations over damages between that company, insurance firms and the canal authority were ongoing.

The Japanese-owned, Taiwanese-operated and Panama-flagged ship was moved to unobstructive anchorage in the canal’s Great Bitter Lake after it was freed on March 29, and tailbacks totalling 420 vessels at the northern and southern entrances to the canal were cleared in early April.

The compensation figure was calculated based on “the losses incurred by the grounded vessel as well as the flotation and maintenance costs” Rabie said, citing a ruling handed down by the Ismailia Economic Court in Egypt.

The grounding of the ship and the intensive salvage efforts are also reported to have resulted in significant damage to the canal.

 

The court ruling

In its court filing, the SCA referred to Articles 59 and 60 of Egypt’s maritime trade law which stipulates that the ship would remain seized until the amount is paid in full, Al-Ahram reported.

But analysts have warned that apportioning legal responsibility for losses incurred by the numerous parties is likely to play out in protracted and complex international litigation.

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has ruled out any widening of the southern stretch of the canal where the boat became diagonally stuck.

Sisi oversaw an expansion of a northern section, which included widening an existing stretch and introducing a 35-kilometre (21-mile) parallel waterway, to much fanfare in 2014-15.

 

But that was achieved at a cost of over $8 billion, without significantly increasing revenues from the canal. The Suez Canal earned Egypt just over $5.7 billion in the 2019/20 fiscal year, according to official figures — little changed from the $5.3 billion earned back in 2014.

Egyptian authorities have presented the dislodging of the ship as a vindication of the country’s engineering and salvage capabilities, but observers point also to the crucial role played by international salvage experts.

Cryptocurrencies: A $2-trillion market

Bitcoin. The cryptocurrency market has grown exponentially in 2021 and is now worth a staggering $2.0 trillion.

By AFP

The cryptocurrency market has grown exponentially in 2021 and is now worth a staggering $2.0 trillion as it increasingly attracts interest from big names on Wall Street. As digital currency exchange Coinbase prepares to list Tuesday in New York, AFP takes a look at a sector built from scratch just 12 years ago.

Bitcoin

On October 31, 2008, in the wake of the financial crisis, one or more anonymous people, hidden behind the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto, published the founding white paper of bitcoin.

The goal was to create a means of payment, the security of which would not be overseen by a central bank or financial organisations, but instead regulated by software with rules almost impossible to alter.

While anybody can “mine” for new bitcoins, to do so requires giant data centres — leading to platforms such as Coinbase providing a way of trading in cryptocurrencies. Banks and payment services such as Paypal allow transactions in certain digital currencies. Almost 18.7 million bitcoins have been created since the first block of 50 in early 2009.

 

A limit of 21 million bitcoins has been set by Nakamoto. An investment despite bitcoin’s volatility and limitations as a means of payment, it is being seen as a store of value to rival and even one day potentially surpass gold as a haven investment in the face of high inflation for example.

In Nigeria, where the naira currency has shed 50 percent of its value against the dollar in recent years, it is claimed that a third of inhabitants have used cryptocurrencies.

After bitcoin’s value crashed in 2018, it rebounded and has smashed records since late last year — rocketing from around $12,000 in October to more than $60,000 a month ago.

Against this backdrop, central banks and market regulators warn about the volatility’s impact — especially on small investors who risk suffering big losses.

 

But it is clear that some individuals and companies have made huge gains from bitcoin, while major central banks are working on their own potential digital currency projects.

Electric car giant Tesla has invested $1.5 billion in bitcoin and in March began accepting the currency as payment. Tesla’s multi-billionaire chief executive Elon Musk has used social media to espouse the merits of cryptocurrencies, helping to lift interest and prices.

 

Other cryptocurrencies

Numerous cryptocurrencies seek to compete with, or complement, bitcoin. Number two in the market is ethereum, which this week hit an all-time high above $2,000.

The cryptocurrency market as a whole is worth more than $2.0 trillion, according to specialist site Coinmarketcap, which lists more than 9,000 different cryptocurrencies.

Some are known as “stablecoins” as their value is tied to a traditional asset such as the dollar, helping to avoid the volatility shown by bitcoin.

Meanwhile with bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies minted by solving puzzles using powerful computers that consume enormous amounts of electricity, environmental concerns cast a further shadow. – By AFP

Iran vows revenge for ‘Israeli’ attack on Natanz nuclear site

Iran’s foreign ministry said a number of uranium centrifuges were damaged in the incident

The Iranian foreign minister has said his country will “take revenge” for an attack on an underground nuclear site, for which it has blamed Israel. Iranian officials said the Natanz uranium enrichment plant was the target of “nuclear terrorism” on Sunday, after initially reporting a power failure. New advanced centrifuges to enrich uranium had just been activated there. Israel has not commented, but public radio cited intelligence sources as saying it was a Mossad cyber operation. They said it had caused more extensive damage than Iran had reported.

 

US intelligence officials told the New York Times that a large explosion had completely destroyed the independent internal power system that supplied the centrifuges inside the underground facility. They estimated it could take at least nine months to resume enrichment there.

Iran’s Nour News agency, which is affiliated to the Supreme National Security Council, cited an intelligence ministry source as saying the “main perpetrator” had been identified and an operation was under way to arrest them. Israel has recently stepped up its warnings about its arch-foe’s nuclear programme amid efforts to revive a 2015 nuclear deal that was abandoned by former US President Donald Trump.

 

His successor, Joe Biden, has said he wants to return to the landmark accord. But Iran and the five other world powers still party to it – China, France, Germany, Russia and the UK – need to find a way for him to lift US sanctions and for Iran to return to the agreed limits on its nuclear programme.

US and Iranian officials are holding indirect talks in the Austrian capital, Vienna, to try to break the impasse, with European officials acting as intermediaries. The European Union said it still needed to clarify the facts about the Natanz incident, but that it rejected “any attempts to undermine or weaken diplomatic efforts on the nuclear agreement”. US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, who is visiting Israel, said he was aware of the reports about Natanz and that the Biden administration’s diplomatic efforts to re-engage with Iran diplomatically would continue.

 

World powers don’t trust Iran: Some countries believe Iran wants nuclear power because it wants to build a nuclear bomb – it denies this. So a deal was struck: In 2015, Iran and six other countries reached a major agreement. Iran would stop some nuclear work in return for an end to harsh penalties, or sanctions, hurting its economy.

What is the problem now? Iran re-started banned nuclear work after former US President Donald Trump pulled out of the deal and re-imposed sanctions on Iran. Even though new leader Joe Biden wants to rejoin, both sides say the other must make the first move. “The Zionists want to take revenge because of our progress in the way to lift sanctions,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was quoted by state media as saying on Monday.

“They have publicly said that they will not allow this. But we will take our revenge from the Zionists.” Iran does not recognise Israel’s right to exist and often refers to it as the “Zionist state”.

KCCC-UK GROUP LAUNCH IN THE UK

KCCC-UK was founded when Kenyan Community chairpersons saw the need of having an umbrella body for Kenyans in the UK. Through consultation many more chairpersons joined and led to this group formed in 2020.
KCCC-UK strives to build and strengthen diaspora Kenyans to stay strong, united and be members in the respective Kenyan Communities in their regions.
Our aim is to speak with one voice and effectively network with Chairpersons in Commerce, Education, Culture, Health and Wellbeing while upholding our values. This will help in getting rid of isolations and putting support network available when needed.
We also find pride to disseminate information from Kenyan Embassy and other statutory organisations in the UK and Kenya.
During the COVID 19 pandemic, the chairpersons have seen the need to continue meeting the needs of Kenyans by sharing ideas on how to support Kenyans during hardship. The chairpersons from different areas were able to refer each other and got donations of food and other supplies which they were able to distribute to their members in different areas in England.
Together we can make a difference in the communities we live in by sharing leadership skills of the different chairpersons, to continue supporting Kenyans in the diaspora within the regions we serve. Effectively, we will enable our members to celebrate each other’s success and provide a support network when help is needed by our vulnerable members or during bereavement.
We have attracted membership from different regions in the United Kingdom. So far regions that have joined KCCC-UK include:

1. Bedford. 2. East London. 3.Hertfordshire.

4. Luton & Dunstable. 5. Milton Keynes.

6.Nottingham. 7. Oxford. 8. Peterborough.

9. Reading. 10. Scotland. 11. South East & Kent.

12. Southampton. 13. Yorkshire.

We continue to advocate to Kenyans to join/form associations that would enable all Kenyans in Diaspora to get support in their local areas/regions.
We are still growing and would continue to build this organisation hand in hand to have many chairpersons joining so that we can have a true representations of Kenyans in the UK and speak with one voice on their behalf to meet our common goals.
We are extremely delighted to invite you to our Launch on 24th April 2021 via Zoom. Kindly join our meeting using details below.

Join Zoom Meeting

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81750293441?pwd=QnE2amFtWVlZOFdnc3UvT1VXV24zQT09

Manchester United drop out of top three on Forbes’  list

Manchester United are second in the Premier League, 11 points behind Manchester City with a game in hand

Manchester United have dropped out of the top three most valuable football clubs in the world, according to a list compiled by Forbes.

Barcelona have overtaken La Liga rivals Real Madrid to take top spot with a $4.76bn (£3.5bn) valuation.

United are fourth with a valuation of $4.2bn (£3.05bn), while Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich move to third.

Premier League sides Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham also make the top 10. Everton, West Ham and Leicester are 15th, 18th and 19th respectively.

Forbes said the average worth of clubs in the top 20 had increased by 30% in the last two years, despite the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Matchday revenue fell to $441m (£320m) last season, a 9.6% decrease from the 2017-18 season.

Despite the club’s drop in overall valuation, United had the biggest operating income ($167m/£121m) of the top 20 during the 2019-20 season, and made $643m (£468m) in revenue.

Top 10 world’s most valuable football clubs
Club Valuation
Barcelona $4.76bn
Real Madrid $4.75bn
Bayern Munich $4.22bn
Manchester United $4.2bn
Liverpool $4.1bn
Manchester City $4.0bn
Chelsea $3.2bn
Arsenal $2.8bn
Paris St-Germain $2.5bn
Tottenham $2.3bn

Covid lockdown eases: Celebrations as pub and shops reopen

People continued to enjoy the easing of lockdown rules well into Monday evening

For the first time in months, pub gardens, shops and hairdressers have reopened in England, as rules were also eased in the rest of the UK. Shoppers flocked to the High Street, with long queues seen outside some retailers. Other people took advantage of England’s gyms and zoos reopening. Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged everyone to “behave responsibly”. Northern Ireland’s “stay-at-home” order is ending and some rules are being eased in Scotland and Wales. The PM had planned to have a celebratory pint to mark the measures easing, but that has been postponed following the death of the Duke of Edinburgh on Friday.

Snow showers and chilly temperatures in parts of southern England appeared to do little to dampen enthusiasm for outdoor pints. Scott Westlake, landlord of the Myrtle Tavern in Leeds, said the pub had received 5,000 bookings over the next month for his new outside eating and drinking area. Mr Westlake said: “If the weather’s good, I think most people are optimistic and excited. “Atmosphere, ambience, seeing your mates, I think they (customers) are looking forward to that more than anything – and they’ll sit in a blizzard for the first few days at least.”

 

Nicholas Hair, landlord and owner of the Kentish Belle pub in Bexleyheath, south-east London, said there was a “sense of celebration” in the early hours of Monday as it opened to midnight customers. “I’m hoping that this is a sort of rebirth, and that we are reopen for the foreseeable,” he said. Meanwhile, a town in Lincolnshire has introduced its own European-style pavement cafes to help boost trade. Several hospitality venues in the market town of Louth have been allowed to put seating and tables outside to serve people during the day.

Lewis Phillips, general manager of the Masons Arms, which is one of the venues involved in the Louth scheme, said: “We don’t have a lovely big beer garden. So what we’ve got out the front here is absolutely brilliant.” The prime minister had planned to have a celebratory pint to mark the measures easing, but that was postponed following the death of the Duke of Edinburgh on Friday. However, Downing Street confirmed that Mr Johnson did have a haircut before he paid tribute to the duke in the House of Commons.

 

Marika Smith, general manager of Hough End Leisure Centre, Withington, Manchester, said all of their swimming times were already fully booked on Monday. Kelly Boad, owner of the Hair & Beauty Gallery in Warwick, opened her salon at midnight for a symbolic “first cut” of 2021, adding she is fully booked for the first few weeks. Shoppers rushed back to the High Street, as queues formed outside branches of Primark, JD Sports and TK Maxx and retailers extended their opening hours.

Another business that reopened in England was Secret Spa, which offers at-home salon and spa treatments in London, Manchester and Brighton. Co-owner Emily Ewart-Perks said it had “been such a long time coming”, saying: “Everyone has really missed the social contact of the day-to-day job and making clients happy. Long queues were not going to put shoppers off from visiting their favourite High Street retailers.

The rule changes in England from Monday include:

All shops can reopen

Hairdressers, beauty salons and other close-contact services can open
Restaurants and pubs are allowed to serve food and alcohol to customers sitting outdoors
Gyms, spas, zoos, theme parks, libraries and community centres can all open
Members of the same household can take a holiday in England in self-contained accommodation
Non-essential journeys between England and Wales are allowed
Up to 15 people can attend weddings and 30 can attend funerals
Children can attend any indoor children’s activity
Care home visitors will increase to two per resident
Driving lessons can resume, with tests restarting on 22 April
But the British Beer and Pub Association has estimated that only 40% of licensed premises have the space to reopen for outdoor service.

 

In Northern Ireland, the remaining school year groups 8-11 returned to the classroom. The stay-at-home message has been lifted and up to 10 people from two households can meet in a private garden. In Scotland, pupils at schools in six council areas went back to school but not everyone returned on Monday because differing term times mean some schools are still closed for the Easter holidays.

After a drop in Covid cases prompted the Welsh Government to bring forward some dates for reopening, all students returned to face-to-face teaching on Monday. Non-essential shops can also reopen, close-contact services can resume, driving lessons can restart and travel in and out of Wales from the rest of the UK is allowed.

Protests erupt in Minnesota after ‘black man shot dead by cop’

Protests erupted in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, after a police officer allegedly shot Daunte Write, 20, to death

Protests flared up in a Minnesota city on Sunday night into early Monday after a black man was fatally shot while fleeing police about 10 miles from where George Floyd died. Daunte Wright, 20, identified by his family, was pulled over by police in the city of Brooklyn Center on Sunday afternoon for an outstanding warrant. Cops tried to arrest the man, but he reentered his vehicle and an officer fired at the car, hitting him, according to police. The vehicle traveled several blocks and collided into another car. Police said the victim’s name would be released by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office after a preliminary autopsy and notification to the family, but protesters gathered near the scene and wrote ‘Justice for Duante Wright’ with chalk on the street. Demonstrators held ‘Black Lives Matter’ signs and some jumped on top of police cars and threw rocks at officers, Minnesota Department of Public Safety commissioner John Harrington said during a press conference early Monday. The protest was mostly broken up by 1:15am.

Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott imposed a citywide curfew through 6am Monday and tweeted, ‘We want to make sure everyone is safe. Please be safe and please go home’. Many businesses were looted late Sunday and early Monday in the city with a population of about 30,000 on the northwest border of the state. The National Guard was deployed to Brooklyn Center and around Minneapolis, where former police Officer Derek Chauvin’s murder trial in the death of black man Floyd on Monday enters its third week. Daunte Wright’s mother, Katie Wright, said her son called him as he was subjected to the traffic stop. ‘All he did was have air fresheners in the car and they told him to get out of the car’, said Katie, adding that she heard someone say, ‘Daunte, don’t run’, before the end of the call. The mother said her son’s girlfriend who was in the passenger seat called back to say Daunte had been shot. The girlfriend got out of the car covered in blood and was taken to a hospital for non-life-threatening injuries, as was a police officer.

England lockdown eases: Boris Johnson warns people to ‘behave responsibly’

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned people to continue to take steps to “suppress Covid” as the latest stage of lockdown easing comes into effect. Pub gardens, indoor gyms and hairdressers are among the businesses that can reopen in England on Monday.

Northern Ireland’s “stay-at-home” order is ending and some rules are also being relaxed in Scotland and Wales. Mr Johnson welcomed the “major” step towards normality, but urged everyone to “behave responsibly”.

The PM had planned to have a celebratory pint to mark the measures easing, but that has been postponed following the death of the Duke of Edinburgh on Friday.The rule changes in England from Monday include:

All shops can reopen

Hairdressers, beauty salons and other close-contact services can open
Restaurants and pubs are allowed to serve food and alcohol to customers sitting outdoors

Gyms, spas, zoos, theme parks, libraries and community centres can all open
Members of the same household can take a holiday in England in self-contained accommodation

Up to 15 people can attend weddings and 30 can attend funerals

Children can attend any indoor children’s activity

Care home visitors will increase to two per resident

Driving lessons can resume, with tests restarting on 22 April.

 

In Northern Ireland, the remaining school year groups 8-11 will return to the classroom. The stay-at-home message is being relaxed and up to 10 people from two households can meet in a private garden. In Scotland, all school pupils are returning to full-time education. Not everyone is returning on Monday because differing term times mean some schools are still closed for the Easter holidays. After a drop in Covid cases prompted the Welsh Government to bring forward some dates for reopening, all students will return to face-to-face teaching on Monday.

Non-essential shops can also reopen, close-contact services can resume, driving lessons can restart and travel in and out of Wales from the rest of the UK is allowed. In a statement, the prime minister said the rule relaxations are “a major step forward in our roadmap to freedom”. “I’m sure it will be a huge relief for those business owners who have been closed for so long, and for everyone else it’s a chance to get back to doing some of the things we love and have missed,” he added.

“I urge everyone to continue to behave responsibly and remember ‘hands, face, space and fresh air’ to suppress Covid as we push on with our vaccination programme.” The rule changes in England mark the third in a series of easings since the country’s third national lockdown began on 6 January.

 

There is a gap of at least five weeks between each step on the government’s “roadmap” out of lockdown, to allow the impact of changes on infection rates and hospital admissions to be assessed. The next significant date is 17 May, when up to six people from different households could be allowed to socialise indoors. More than 32 million people in the UK have now had their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine.

A record total of 475,230 second doses were administered on Saturday – along with 111,109 first doses. Mr Johnson praised the “record-breaking day” on Twitter, writing: “Thanks to everyone involved in this extraordinary effort which has already saved thousands of lives.”

The number of people dying in the UK within 28 days of a positive Covid test continues to fall steadily, with seven further deaths reported on Sunday. That is the lowest daily death toll by this measure since 14 September 2020. However, there can be a lag in reporting coronavirus statistics during weekends.

Whiskey smuggler who hosted Prince Philip and Princess Elizabeth in Nyeri

When Prince Philip started his Kenyan tour in 1952, his intention was to go to Sagana, together with Princess Elizabeth, to see their wedding gift – a hunting and fishing lodge at the edge of the forest, which the Associated Press had described as a “$5,600 hunting lodge in the darkest Africa”.

When Sagana lodge was mooted, the colonial government announced on November 24, 1949 that there was “no indication at present of any projected visit of her royal highness to Kenya” but described the planned lodge as near some “good fishing in the Sagana River just beyond the front yard, and big game not far away.”

That gift is now known as Sagana State Lodge after the royal family “donated” it to the new Jomo Kenyatta government, shortly after independence.

But the other interesting story of the Kenyan visit was that both Prince Philip and Princess Elizabeth were hosted by a well-known former liquor smuggler, Eric Sherbrooke Walker, who had laundered his dirty cash in Mt Kenya region.

 

The story of Eric Walker is also the story of Treetops Hotel and Outspan in Nyeri, the two establishments which are getting favourable international mentions after the Friday death of Prince Philip.

During the 1952 safari, both Prince Philip and Princess Elizabeth were to be hosted by Mr Walker and spent a night at the Treetops, which was famous as a game viewing lodge before returning to their Sagana lodge. Treetops would later be burnt down by the Mau Mau freedom fighters to showcase their anger with continued colonial rule in Kenya. Mr Walker and his wife Lady Elizabeth Mary ‘Bettie’, who was daughter of the Earl of Denbigh, shared some dramatic life. It is assumed that both Prince Philip and Princess Elizabeth were attracted to the Mt Kenya region, perhaps because of the stories they had heard about their Kenyan host, Walker, and his character.

Robert Baden Powell

After being shot down during the First World War, Walker, a former private secretary to Scouts Movement founder Robert Baden Powell, escaped from a prison camp by cutting the fence and walked across Germany to Netherlands. He had apparently received some wire cutters from Powell, hidden inside a ham, via a German girl. His desire after the war was to marry Lady ‘Bettie’, then working at the US Embassy in Washington. But since he had no money, after he got married, he decided to run a liquor smuggling business in the US where alcohol was in big demand due to import prohibition.

Walker’s description of his first meeting with a known smuggler was epic: “He introduced me to Captain Cook, where the stout sea captain told me that he had been offered command of a ship by a syndicate which was sending out a load of scotch whiskey to sell to the smugglers on the eastern coast of United States… He produced another captain… from whom he was gleaning information about the tricks of the trade. This other fellow was a pale-faced, shifty-eyed individual, whose face bore the stamp of drink and loose living, and he looked as villainous a rascal as one could wish to find in a day’s march.”

 

In this file photo taken on March 13, 2015 Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II (L) and Britain’s Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, leave St Paul’s Cathedral in London on March 13, 2015, after attending a memorial service to mark the end of Britain’s combat operations in Afghanistan.

He had been told that they would anchor the ship outside the three-mile limit and “thirsty Yankees (would come) flocking out in their little boats with pockets bulging with green-backs to buy the whiskey.” The hope was to make 300 per cent profit.

But there were risks too of pirates “murdering the crew, making away with the ship, cargo and cash” and US authorities who would attack the vessel. The other was the risk of bootleggers “who came out and bought large quantities for cash, paying in counterfeit notes” and dishonest captains.

 

Although he managed to do some good business, selling his cargo of Scotch whisky in the high seas, a shoot-out once occurred and he was forced to flee to Canada, together with Lady Bettie. In Canada, he wrote a memoir The Confessions of a Rum-Runner under the pseudonym of James Barbican. The couple then escaped to Nyeri where Walker built Outspan Hotel, mostly likely financed with the proceeds from the illegal trade. Outspan opened doors on January 1, 1928.

By hosting the royal entourage, Walker knew this was a good marketing strategy for his business. It actually worked for him after it became associated with Queen Elizabeth II’s ascension to the throne. More so, Treetops was later featured in the National Geographic magazine and started hosting celebrity guests such as British comedian Charlie Chaplin and the Beatles singer-songwriter singer Paul McCartney.

National monument

As a sign of appreciation to Lord Baden Powell for helping him escape the German war camp, he gave him a permanent cottage at Outspan Hotel which is named Paxtu. The cottage is today gazetted as a national monument and hosts the Baden Powell museum in honour of the Scouts movement founder who stayed there from October 1938 to 1941.

So when Princess Elizabeth and her husband set to make the Kenyan tour of Sagana, the choice of Walker’s Treetops and Outspan as host of their entourage was easier.

Sagana was to offer the 30-year-old Philip a chance to tour some of the British colonies and Kenya was his first destination and after that, they would sail to Ceylon, aboard HMS Gothic, a passenger-cargo liner that was designated a royal yacht from 1952 to 1954.

 

As the two flew to Kenya, they never anticipated that the ailing King George VI, whose cancerous lung had been removed, would die from a blood clot. He had become king by fate after Edward VIII abdicated the throne rather than give up the love of his American socialite, Ms Wallis Simpson, twice divorced.

Then things changed on the slopes of Mt Kenya. On the morning of February 6, a valet who had gone to draw curtains in the King’s bedroom found his body. He had apparently died that night.

Prime Minister Winston Churchill was at No. 10 Downing Street when the coded message: “Hyde Park Corner” was delivered by Edward Ford, the King’s assistant Private Secretary. “Hyde Park Corner” was the Palace code for “The King has died.”

And there was a crisis. The princess who was to take over as the new Queen of England was in Kenya – and the fear was that she might learn about the death from a radio broadcast.

 

The clock ticked. A coded message had been sent to Government House (now State House Nairobi) but nobody could decipher the message since the governor had left with the highly secured cipher book for Mombasa, where he was preparing to see off the couple as they sailed on the next day to Ceylon. Then by chance, Martin Charteris, private secretary to the princess, was by chance having a lunch drink at the Outspan Hotel when Granville Roberts, a reporter from the East African Standard who was covering the royal visit, happened to learn about the newsflash from Reuters. It was now 2pm. He saw Charteris and rushed to him. “The King has died!” said Roberts, breaking the news.

Princess Elizabeth

From Outspan, Charteris called Mike Parker, Philip’s equerry and friend, who was in Sagana. Princess Elizabeth was busy writing letters in an adjacent room. “I have a rumour from the press corps that our employer’s father has died,” some published accounts recall how Charteris broke the news to Philip. “I cannot react to a rumour. Please confirm or deny when sure,” said Parker.

But rather than wait, Parker picked a shortwave radio and turned on the BBC. And there it was: John Snagge, one of the definitive voices of BBC, was repeatedly announcing from Sandringham that King George VI had died in his sleep. Still, Princess Elizabeth had not heard the news.

Parker is reported to have walked to Prince Philip’s bedroom. He woke him up from the afternoon nap and broke the news: “He looked as if I had dropped half the world on him. I never felt so sorry for anyone in my life.” Parker later told a biographer.

 

“We must have been among the last people in the world to hear the news,” Pamela Mountbatten (now Lady Pamela Hicks), the lady-in-waiting to the princess, also wrote in her memoirs, Daughter of Empire.

It was at the lawns of State Lodge in Sagana that Philip broke the news to Princess Elizabeth. With her was Pamela Mountbatten. The group watched as the two walked into the lawns of Sagana and as Prince Philip broke the news. Princess Elizabeth was now Queen of England and head of Commonwealth. According to Pamela’s account, the Queen “remained completely calm and said simply: ‘I am so sorry. This means we all have to go home.’”

The royal BOAC was waiting for them in Nairobi – and off they went to start a new life. But the memories of Sagana, Outspan and Treetops remained etched in the royal family’s history. And thanks to the whiskey smuggler – Eric Sherbrooke Walker. – nation.co.ke