Several years from now when Kenya counts its football heroes, he will make for a good quiz: which Kenyan powered Harambee Stars to qualify for their first Africa Cup of Nations this millennium?
Need a clue?
He was the first Kenyan player to feature for a French club. He was offered a chance to change his citizenship from Kenyan to Qatari in 2004. At age 19 he was listed by British newspaper the Guardian as one of the world’s most wanted young players alongside Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie and Wesley Sneijder. He signed a four-year contract with the French Ligue 1 team Nantes, worth $3.7 million (Sh281 million) in 2005.
He constantly rubbed federation officials the wrong way by either speaking up about non-payment of allowances for his team mates or snubbing national team call-ups altogether. Twice he paid air tickets for his Harambee Stars team mates so they could honour international matches.
Any clue yet?
He announced his retirement at age 32 but returned two years later as Kenya’s highest paid local-based footballer with a reported sign-on fee of Sh3.5 million and a monthly salary of Sh350,000.
Who is he?
None other than Dennis Oguta Oliech. The eighth child of Boaz Opiyo Oliech and Mary Auma Oliech, born and bred in Dagoretti; became invincible at Mathare United where he was signed as a teenager.
Oliech is no doubt revered as Kenya’s best scorer in the modern era and in his 14 years of international football, only Michael Olunga has come up as remotely comparable to his prowess.
So what is his personal assessment of himself? Of his supposed protégé?
WHERE IT ALL STARTED
“No. It is not that I am the best,” he says with a slight chuckle. “It is that nobody is looking for the strikers. There are no youth academies. That is where strikers are got from. Not from out of the blue.”
“Olunga is good, but he is still growing,” Oliech smiles. “You (the media) started talking about him when he was still at the developmental stage. Of course he has got the talent, but his time will come. Success doesn’t just come in one or two years. It takes time. But he is a good player.”
Oliech’s story dates back almost two decades ago to Kakamega High School from where Mathare United plucked him and convinced him to join their youth team.
This forced him to transfer to Kamukunji Secondary School in Nairobi where he found himself in the good company of his “school father” MacDonald Mariga, whose brother Victor Wanyama later became his “school son”.
So steep was his career trajectory that in 2004, just after he scored the winning goal against Cape Verde Islands that sealed Kenya qualification to the final tournament, Oliech was offered huge sums of money to change his citizenship from Kenyan to Qatari.
Those who were present on that day say that two Qataris confronted Oliech and gave him Sh100 million “for shopping”, before tabling their agenda for the evening.
Oliech, who was on the verge of signing a deal with French club Nantes worth double that amount, opened his visitors’ huge, grey suitcase to confirm that it indeed contained crisp dollar hundred-dollar notes, but politely declined the offer to the surprise of both his team mates and his generous visitors.
But asked if it is a decision he regrets, Oliech’s response is swift.
“That was a long time ago and I was quite young. I was just 17,” he said and refuses completely to reveal how much was involved. “It was a lot of money but I was still too young to make that decision.
“If they would offer me the same right now I don’t know. I could say yes, because of money, but is that opportunity still there? And I love my country so…” he says and leaves me to make my own conclusion.
Almost a decade later, money became the heart of almost every discussion involving Oliech, as rumours started flying around that he had gone broke, had lost his friends and was depressed.
So intense were the rumours that at some point, his family, through his brother Nickson “Chiggy” Oliech, threatened to sue certain local media houses for publishing the stories that so troubled his ailing mother. Nickson warned that Oliech was not “father Christmas who dishes out free gifts to anyone.”
So where is the truth?
“I don’t like talking about money,” he says and shifts uncomfortably in his chair.
“If I asked you how much money you have right now would you tell me? I don’t like talking about it. Let people talk about my money but I won’t talk about it. The money is mine. If I am broke, the brokenness is also mine. I like talking about football. But not money.”
Oliech retired from international football and went quiet for more than two years, appearing only in pictures dressed shabbily and hanging out with his childhood friends in Eastlands and Dagoretti, which helped fuel rumours that he had run out of all that money he had made as professional player.
“At that time I was employed by Betway and I had a two-year contract that’s why I wasn’t playing. After the contract lapsed I was able to come back,” he said.
That money question seemed to have irked him, and it is not long before Oliech protests that it is time to get back to talking football. We do, and it turns out he is well aware of the divided opinion that came with his widely talked about move to K’Ogalo.
Even before he was unveiled, everyone agreed that he was a good player, but many believed that progress required that he stays in retirement.
He, however, made the bold move and signed for the current league champions, leaving the pundits to discuss whether it was right, and whether his return meant that he would be part of Kenya’s team to this year’s Afcon.
“People keep talking about my legacy. But legacy is one thing. What about the present? Does it mean that I should not get active because it will soil my legacy? At Gor I am happy. I am playing for the club that I knew and loved since I was a small boy. And they have good players. And you get to play international matches so that gives me a good challenge.”
This statement presents a good opportunity to ask whether he will come out of retirement and feature in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.
“Of course.” He says with a conviction I have not yet encountered in the course of the interview.
“If I am selected I will go. And I will do my job perfectly. I still have some four years left to play,” he says confidently.
His sparkling national team record makes it easy for Harambee Stars coach Sebastien Migne to call up Oliech, but what about his outspokenness whenever he disagrees with his coaches or federation officials?
“I am not a bad boy. When players were not paid I went public about it and those who were responsible took it the wrong way. But I was the most experienced person in the team at that time which meant I was the voice of the players,” he said.
Oliech recently lost his mother after battling cancer for many years. In his own admission, the death was a big blow, and that he misses her greatly.
“In my life she is not the only person who has left me. The first was my father, then my bother. Having lost three close family members, I was well versed with handling grief. It was however a difficult thing to experience,” he says face down.
Face back up, the lethal goal getter nicknamed “Dennis the Menace” just wants to do what he has been enjoying most of his adult life — play football, as long as his body will let him. So far, so good.
The Kitui based wife of a Dutch national facing defilement charges in court says she was shocked to learn that his husband had been jailed in the Netherlands with the same offenses of sexually molesting underage girls.
Rachel Hans, the Kenyan wife of Hans Vriens Egon Dieter, the Dutch national accused of defiling three minors in Nairobi says the allegations and subsequent court case have hugely disrupted their humble lives and the charity work of taking care of street children.
In an interview with the Nation at his Kyusyani rural home in Kitui County, Mrs Hans narrated how he met the 65-year-old man in 2010 while staying at Githurai area in Nairobi and dated him for two years before agreeing to marry him.
At 24, she says her only desire was to settle down with her white husband and lead a quiet life and that’s why she opted to buy land in Kitui away from the city.
At first, Rachel flatly rejected our request for an interview but later reluctantly agreed so as to set the record straight because many people had misunderstood them, after media reports linked her husband to child abuse crimes.
She paraded eight girls from different communities staying at their home as beneficiaries of their charity work, saying she has enrolled them in local primary schools.
“I knew Hans must have had a family back in his motherland and he had told me as much but I didn’t imagine he could be linked to such offences as I’ve never seen him behave suspiciously,” she said.
When the sex abuse claims first emerged in November 2018, Rachel was visiting family friends in Malindi and the husband was in Nairobi, where he stays most of the time.
“I was called from Netherlands by one of his sisters who wanted to know what was happening. Unfortunately, I hadn’t seen the news on TV and nobody had told me about it. I was shocked by the charges and I’ve been struggling to know the truth because he still pleads his innocence,” Rachel explained.
In the subsequent days, before Hans was arraigned in court, detectives from Directorate of Criminal Investigations raided their Kitui home and ransacked every room, looking for the children who were staying with the couple.
She doesn’t regret marrying the white man who promised to take care of her despite the age difference but she’s frustrated by the turn of events the and deeply ashamed by the negative publicity the court case has attracted.
“Marriage is for better or worse. Here is a foreigner whom I’ve stayed with for 10 years now facing grave charges. The entire country including my home village may be against him but I’ve no choice other than to stick with him,” she said in resignation.
Rachel says she can’t confirm or deny the child abuse charges both in Kenya and the Netherlands but describes Mr Hans is a humble man who may have been a victim of blackmail by women out to extort him.
“I don’t know what happened to him before he came to Kenya because I’ve never visited the Netherlands since we got married but at his age he’s less active sexually and incapable of engaging in such escapades,” she said.
The mother of one, a girl aged seven years is at crossroads, but she has vowed to continue taking care of the children from poor backgrounds.
The couple is currently constructing a two-storey house that can be seen from a distance at the Kwa Vonza-Kanyangi Road in Kitui Rural Constituency, dwarfing other buildings around. Those who know the Dutch national well say he has two wives, with one living in Nairobi.
At the Kitui home, Rachel keeps two dairy cows, several hybrid goats and hundreds of chickens in the two acre compound, where he practices mixed farming.
She also cultivates maize on a one acre farm which she says sustains the children in her care.
Born in Machakos County, Rachel chose to settle with her white husband in Kitui after her maternal uncle sold them the land.
Mr Hans visits his Kitui wife at least twice every month and can stay in Kitui for two weeks although he hardly interacts with other villagers.
Neighbours who spoke to the Nation, said very little is known about Mr Hans but that his wife had borne the stigma of marrying a man seen as a sex pest.
The standoff between City Hall workers and the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) is now headed to the corridors of justice.
This after the workers vowed not to return to work until their demands for a salary increase are met.
Kenya County Government Workers Union (KCGWU) Nairobi branch secretary Benson Olianga said that they have received a letter from the salaries commission informing them to appear before the Labour Relations court on Monday.
“The strike is still on and we will not be at work tomorrow (Monday). We will report at City Hall for a small briefing then we will march to the court. We will halt our demonstrations so that all of us, the entire workforce, will go there.
“SRC has taken us to court and I do not know for what reasons because they are not clear in their application. They are saying that they are an intended interested party,” added Mr Olianga on Sunday.
He said that the letter shows that the case will be mentioned tomorrow (Monday) before Justice Maureen Onyango of the Labour Relations Court.
“We will hear what they want to say. I have never heard of being an intended interested party in a non-existent case. The copy of the letter is with our main office,” he said.
Mr Olianga said that they have even met Labour Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yattani to resolve the matter but he was not successful as he termed the standoff a unique case which lacks the usual disagreement between the employer and the employees.
“Last week on Friday, we were before CS Yattani and he was tongue-tied because he could not find a way of arbitrating our case. He said it was abnormal as all the cases have had disagreements but this one, the employer and the employee is one,” he said.
Monday will mark a week since the workers downed their tools maintaining that they will continue with their strike until SRC gives into their demands.
The go slow has led to paralysis in operations at various departments at the county government as the workers including cleaners, clinicians, casual labourers as well as the rates and parking attendants boycotted work.
Also on strike are sweepers, contractors, cemetery workers and who plant trees and cut grass and unblocking drainages.
Only a handful of offices at the county remained open as the protesting workers remained true to their stance of not going back to work as they continue to blame Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) for their woes.
The workers have placed the blame squarely on the doorsteps of the salaries commission accusing them of being against the negotiated CBA.
The county staff together with their leaders, have been camping outside City Hall and also marching to SRC offices in Upper Hill, have vowed not to return to work until a return to work formula agreed with the county is implemented.
On Wednesday, services at City Mortuary were grounded with only few mortuary attendants available with a huge percentage of them joining the strike.
In the Central Business District (CBD), cleaners and parking attendants were nowhere to be seen as well as those working on the city’s drainages and planting of grass.
The situation did not get any better on Thursday and Friday as most of the departments are still lacking personnel as they protested outside City Hall Annex before being dispersed after being teargased.
On Tuesday last week, Governor Mike Sonko appealed to the striking workers to go back to work assuring them that his administration will honour the agreement.
He also blamed SRC for the standoff, accusing it of rejecting the deal entered in May 2017, although the county had set aside some funds in its supplementary budget to honour the deal.
The workers are demanding salary increment of between 15 and 28 percent salary increment translating to approximately Sh100 million, in an agreement signed in May 2017 that City Hall had promised would be effected last month.
The CBA was registered before Labour court’s Judge Nelson Abuodha, paving way for workers from all cadres to get a pay increment of at least 15 percent and all that was remaining was the implementation.
The registration ended a protracted negotiation that started in 2015. Under the terms of the agreement, the pay rise was to take effect in 2017/2018 financial year, but that never happened even though the county set aside Sh800 million to cater for the CBA.
Thick weed smoke wafted into the night air every other minute on Saturday night at the KICC grounds during the Nobody Can Stop Reggae concert, which was headlined by Jamaican reggae star Richie Spice.
One would have easily mistaken the concert for some sort of a ‘weed party’, as the revelers appeared to take turns in lighting up and puffing their spliffs as they enjoyed the reggae music.
Even the presence of policemen within the concert venue wasn’t enough of a deterrence to the reggae enthusiasts.
It was one of those rare occasions when it is ‘okay’ to publicly smoke weed in this city without risking arrest.
Weed smoking aside, the event started sluggishly, probably due to the fact that there were no other acts performing on the night, save for the main guest artiste.
And when the man himself, Richie Spice, got his performance started with a Rastafarian prayer, the ravers scrambled record the spectacle on their cellphones.
The 47-year-old, who hasn’t released a new album in the last seven years, got the crowd worked up with hit tracks such as Earth a Run Red, Gideon Boot, Righteous Youth, Ghetto Girl, King and Queen and of course Marijuana.
In a thrilling performance, which lasted more than three hours, Richie Spice also performed his latest single Beautiful Life from his upcoming album set to be released in July this year.
Despite the ticket prices being a little bot prohibitive, the event attracted a good crowd including celebrities such as Citizen TV news anchor Lilian Muli, Starehe MP Jaguar, DJ Stylez and Gidi Gidi Maji Maji.
Harambee Stars coach Sebastian Migne has left out Gor Mahia duo Kenneth Muguna and Nicholas Kipkurui from his squad which is set to commence preparations for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations and 2020 Africa Nations Championship (Chan) qualifiers.
Muguna and Kipkurui are missing despite largely impressing for the Kenyan champions in local and continental assignments.
Curiously, Kariobangi Sharks goalkeeper, Brian Bwire, who has only played one Kenyan Premier League match out of a possible 12 during the 2018/2019 Kenyan Premier League season, has been included in the squad.
FIRST TRAINING SESSION
Three Gor Mahia players namely Francis Kahata, Philemon Otieno and Joash Onyango have been included and excused from Tuesday’s training session due to club commitments.
Also excused from Tuesday’s session are Elvis Nandwa, Abdallah Hassan, Farouk Shikalo, Allan Wanga and Benard Ochieng who are based outside Nairobi.
In total, 25 players have been called up to this provisional squad and 17 of these players will hold the first of an intended weekly training session in Nairobi next Tuesday.
Kenya is set to play Ghana, away, in the final Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in March and Burundi in a Chan qualifier.
Provisional squad – Goalkeepers: Brian Bwire (Kariobangi Sharks), John Oyemba (Kariobangi Sharks), Farouk Shikalo (Bandari) Defenders: Andrew Juma (Mathare United), David Owino (Mathare United), Philemon Otieno (Gor Mahia), Joash Onyango (Gor Mahia), Elvis Nandwa (Ulinzi Stars), Michael Kibwage (KCB), Benard Ochieng (Vihiga United) Midfielders: Francis Kahata (Gor Mahia), James Mazembe (Kariobangi Sharks), Duke Abuya (Kariobangi Sharks), Roy Okal (Mathare United), Cliff Nyakeya (Mathare United), John Avire (Sofapaka), Dennis Odhiambo (Sofapaka), Teddy Osok (Wazito FC), Whyonne Isuza (AFC Leopards), Jafari Owiti (AFC Leopards), Abdallah Hassan (Bandari) Forwards: Sydney Lokale (Kariobangi Sharks), Piston Mutamba (Sofapaka), Allan Wanga (Kakamega HomeBoyz), David Juma (Tusker)