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Archive for December 13th, 2007

21 years for triple murder – in Norway

Posted by African Press International on December 13, 2007

Shahzad Khan, 31, was sentenced in Oslo to Norway’s maximum prison sentence of 21 years for the killing of his three sisters last year. District Attorney Kristian Nicolaisen argued for forvaring for Khan, extended preventive custody that can be used to potentially extend a sentence to life incarceration, on the grounds that there was a danger the Norwegian-Pakistani could kill again.

The court did not rule in favor of forvaring, explaining that it was unlikely he would emerge from such a long prison sentence with his drug problems intact.

Khan was on a variety of drugs, vodka and rohypnol when committing the crimes.

The three sisters Nafisa, 13, Saadia, 24, and Sobia, 27, were struck down with an axe and murdered in their semi-detached home in the Kalbakken district of Oslo. One of the sisters was also shot with a pistol on the night of October 1, 2006.

When the trial began the brother declared himself partially guilty, and testified that he could not remember carrying out the killings, but realized that he must have been responsible.

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Posted by African Press International on December 13, 2007

Mogadishu (Somalia) Ten civilians are reported dead and 16 others were wounded when fresh shelling rocked the main Bakara market in Mogadishu Wednesday night, with overnight gun battles and shelling occurring in different districts in south and north Mogadishu after Islamic insurgents simultaneously attacked different camps occupied by troops of the transitional government and their Ethiopian backers, eyewitness accounts confirm.

The attack on the market came only just hours after Islamist insurgents clashed with Ethiopian-backed government forces in different places, including Yaqshid district, north Mogadishu, the fighting took place mainly in the southern neighbourhoods but some mortar shells were reported in some distant northern districts of the war-wary capital.

“Stray shells landed outside the battlefield, killing 4 people at same spot,” said Mukhtar Hassan, 26, a resident, adding; “I have never seen such heavy fighting, with mortars landing like a hail of ice.”

In the morning of Thursday, a hail of mortar shells landed in the Bakara market where some of them fell among a crowded of civilians who were busy with commercial activities.

“A mortar shell exploded in the middle of a crowded area, killing six people and wounding eight others, some of them were seriously injured.The people in the market were very terrified, with everybody running in all directions, said Aweys Hagi, an eyewitness.

Somalia faces what the United Nations describes as the biggest humanitarian crisis in Africa. The countrys fragile government is battling an Islamic insurgency that has killed thousands of people this year alone.

Somalia had been plunged into anarchy after dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was toppled in 1991, and since then, there has never been an effective central authority to govern the country.

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Nigerien NGO urges international community to help restore peace in north

Posted by African Press International on December 13, 2007

Niamey (Niger) A coalition of Nigerien civil society organisations group for the right to energy (CODDAE), urged the European Union and the United Nations to help Niger to end the conflict which prevails in the north, a theatre of confrontations between the army and the rebel group, the Niger Movement for Justice (MNJ), APA has learnt.

In a statement copied to APA Thursday, CODDAE called on the Niger government and rebels to spare civilians in the Agadez region conflict, 1000km north of Niamey.

The group urged the government “to do everything possible to ensure the safety of the population,” following the explosions of landmines on the main roads and cities of the country.

“We request from the international community particularly the United Nations and the European Union to help Niger to end this conflict,” the declaration noted.

Last Monday, the explosion of two anti-tank mines in Maradi (centre) and Tahoua (north-east) killed two civilians and severely wounded others, a few days before the visit of President Mamadou Tandja to Tahoua to celebrate the 49th independence anniversary of the country.

CODDAE termed these acts as “criminal and widespread terrorism, which creates insecurity among the peaceful Niger population, in obvious violation of human rights.”

In a statement published Wednesday on its website, the MNJ rejected burying anti-tank mines in Maradi and Tahoua, accusing the government of “creating a diversion”.

The MNJ, which is not recognised by the Niamey authorities, demands a better socio-economic reintegration for the Tuareg people and for the mining companies to give employment priority to natives of northern Niger.

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Mittal to raise its investment in Liberia to $1.5bn, chief executive discloses

Posted by African Press International on December 13, 2007

Monrovia (Liberia) Lakshmi Mittal, the worlds fifth richest man and head of the steel giant ArcelorMittal, who paid a one-day visit to Liberia on Wednesday has announced in Monrovia that his company will increase its investment in the country from US$1billion to US$1.5 billion.

Mr. Mittal made the announcement Wednesday following talks with Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf at the presidential villa in Monrovia.

He told a news conference late Wednesday shortly before departing the country that his company was increasing its investment because the “scepticism which once hung over Liberia has now been removed with the return of peace and democracy to the country”.

“AcelorMital is giving Liberia the topmost priority in its mining sector by placing the project on its fastest track,” Mr. Mittal , adding that the company hopes to ship the first consignment of iron ore in the middle of 2009.

The ArcelorMittal chief executive disclosed that a geological team along with drilling equipment has already arrived in the country to begin drilling later this month.

He called on Liberians with mining experience to make themselves available, as the company would need local manpower to undertake immediate rehabilitation of the railways.

Mittal further disclosed that his company is willing to expand its activities beyond the mining sector to share its expertise in other areas.

He praised President Johnson Sirleaf for the progress her government continues to make since she assumed leadership of the country, and said he was pleased to associate with the Presidents efforts.

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TV debate? No way, says Kibaki

Posted by African Press International on December 13, 2007

By Peter Murigi And Luciane Limo

It is now official. President Kibaki wont take part in any live televised debate.

The Head of State turned down all invitations to any such debates, saying the engagements would add no value to his campaigns.

Instead, he rubbished the debates saying they are only meant to entrench what he described as parochial and biased ideas of ODM presidential candidate, Mr Raila Odinga.

Kibaki said he could not participate in public debates that were neither focused nor objective and those driven by narrow and partisan agenda to serve individual purposes.

Kibaki was reacting to a challenge by Raila to a public debate to discuss their party manifestos.

Raila said he was ready and willing to meet his Party of National Unity (PNU) challenger, in a public forum where each candidate would expound on his party manifesto. The thrust of Railas challenge was that, Kibaki was actively engaging in what he described as “bankrupt politics”.

President Kibaki hardly issues statements to respond to challenges thrown at him, but he broke his own rules by issuing a five-paragraph statement whose words were deliberately picked to match those Raila used.

“President Kibaki will, therefore, not be drawn into a debate that wont add value to the campaign and believes that any presidential debate must be focused and objective and address pertinent issues that affect Kenyans and not based on narrow partisan agendas that only serve individual purposes,” the statement said.

Kibaki said Railas challenge had been made irrelevant by the fact that the ODM leader had previously expressed his “biased sentiments against the PNU manifesto via a print media advertisement on November 12”.

“Hon Raila Odingas invitation to President Kibaki to hold a debate on the various manifestos is, therefore, coming late in the day and can only amount to his seeking a platform to entrench the parochial and biased ideas he sought to outline in the advertisement”.

In the one-page advertisement, the ODM tore into all the PNU pledges point by point and shred all the key pillars of the party from security, equity, education, healthcare, investment, infrastructure, to equal rights and representation of women.

The advertisement also gave a detailed catalogue of all the promises that Kibaki had allegedly broken.

In his statement on Tuesday, Kibaki said Raila was belatedly calling for issues-oriented campaigns, which he (Kibaki) had preached over the years and where the incumbent had emphasised the need for politicians to rise above parochial matters and get into the realm of national debate on the economic and social development.

Besides Kibaki and Raila, the other main presidential contender Kalonzo Musyoka, had indicated readiness to participate in the public debate.

Had the public discourse taken off, the presidential candidates would have discussed such matters as security, tribalism, hate propaganda and other issues like majimbo.

The Law Society of Kenya (LSK) joined the debate, saying presidential candidates should engage in live TV discussions to give voters an opportunity to scrutinise them.

Their argument is that a public debate would be ideal since the stakes are too high and the contest too close to call and, therefore, Kenyans will use the opportunity to make an informed choice.

LSK chairman, Mr Okongo Omogeni, said the only way to show that the country had matured democratically was to have a presidential debate where wananchi could also ask questions.

“Not everyone can attend rallies, but a televised debate would ensure all Kenyans watch how their favourite candidate articulates issues,” Omogeni said on telephone.

He urged presidential candidates to take on the challenge, adding that this would allow voters an opportunity to cross-examine them.

Omogeni and the Kituo Cha Sheria chairman, Mr Harun Ndubi, said President Kibaki should not shy away from the debate, having participated in a 1997 one, which LSK organised.

They recalled that during the debate, the then incumbent, President Moi, snubbed the event.

“If Kibaki accepted to be grilled then, what has changed now? He should not shy away. Those who are against the debate are afraid of something,” they added.

Mars Group director, Mr Mwalimu Mati, said, “Anybody who wants to be a president should not have a problem talking to voters through televised fora.

“This happens all over the world and it challenges candidates to speak and think on their feet, which is the greatest evidence of transparency,” said Mati.

Ndubi said a public forum would give voters the opportunity to gauge which candidate had issues on their finger tips and not just being coached by their campaign strategists.

“In terms of accountability, a public forum for our candidates is ideal since Kenyans are able to make final and informed choices,” said Ndubi.

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US Envoy declines to finance aspirants

Posted by African Press International on December 13, 2007

By Alex Ndegwa

Scores of women parliamentary candidates were disappointed when it dawned on them that a meeting hosted by US Ambassador, Mr Michael Ranneberger, was not about bankrolling their campaigns.

The candidates had trooped into the envoys residence in Nairobi on Monday evening hoping that they would receive campaign funds.

They did not mince their words at the function saying they expected the US Embassy to give them funds if it was “genuinely determined to help women ascend to power”.

Ms Jennifer Masis, ODM-Kenyas candidate for Kwanza, said police protection costed Sh2, 000 per day yet women faced attacks everyday.

“Our resources are very limited. We thought we came here for assistance. If you are serious about helping us then just give us financial assistance,” she said.

Dr Jacinta Ndambuki, the Republican Liberty Party candidate for Mbooni, also pleaded for funding, saying campaigns were expensive and it was “twice as hard for women to sell their candidature than men.”

But their hopes were dashed when Ranneberger told them that the US was neutral in the forthcoming elections.

“We cannot provide direct support to any particular candidates because that would be against Kenyan and US law,” the envoy said amid murmurs of discontent.

When funds were not forthcoming, the women turned the forum into one to ventilate on their tribulations on the campaign trail.

One woman narrated how she escaped from a mob that was baying for her blood, while another had her child kidnapped until she paid a ransom. Yet another was physically assaulted and threatened with rape.

ODM-Kenya presidential running mate Prof Julia Ojiambo attended the meeting.

The grim reality facing them was captured by the story of a Limuru parliamentary hopeful, Ms Mercy Muthoni Mbugua, whose child was kidnapped for five days until she paid a ransom.

“My kid was abducted last week and released on Saturday after I paid the ransom. I am terrified at the nasty level our opponents can resort to,” said the National Alliance Party candidate as she broke in tears.

Ms Alice Muthoni, who is eyeing the Kandara seat on a Safina ticket, limped to the podium and recounted her ordeal in the hands of rowdy youths on November 19, during the controversial party nominations.

“They plucked out my hair and pulled my breasts. A dozen of them wrestled me to the ground. It was so humiliating,” recalled the lawyer.

“I have now been threatened with rape to force me to pull out of the race,” she added.

Ms Esther Wanjiku, who is vying in Limuru on a Mazingira Greens Party of Kenya ticket, narrated how armed policemen saved her from an unruly mob that besieged her after she had addressed a public rally.

“I would be dead were it not for the swift action by police who drew their guns to scare away the rowdy youths who attacked my car,” she said.

The candidates demanded a meeting with the Police Commissioner regarding their security.

This years elections have attracted the largest number of women candidates, some 269, who are seeking parliamentary seats, while another 1, 478 want to be councillors.

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Kibaki in final plea for votes – The 44th independence celebrations

Posted by African Press International on December 13, 2007

By Standard Team

Today marks a crucial moment in the almost five-decade political career of President Kibaki. This 44th Jamhuri Day celebrations, which he will preside over as Head of State this morning, is the last national day of his first term that he is likely to use to rally the nation behind him.

But like never before, the stakes are higher and the opposition is tougher.

His chief opponent for the highest office in the land, Mr Raila Odinga, on Tuesday told a news conference in Nairobi that his party, the Orange Democratic Movement has “smelt power”.

This is how he summed up his battle with President Kibaki for top honours, “We shall attack the enemy from every directionon land, on air, in sea, under the water until we secure victory.”

jamhurikenya.jpg
Security men try to control wananchi from surging towards President Kibaki in Maua town on Tuesday. He later left without addressing them after a stampede. Picture By Moses Omusula

Today, as President Kibaki ascends the ramp of the flag-bedecked ceremonial Land-Rover at Nyayo National Stadium, he will be aware that in the next 15 days Kenyans could give him another chance to perform a similar function next year or confine him to watching it as a retired citizen. This Jamhuri Day is given importance, not just by the colourful trooping of colour by the military, but also the tense political a crossroads at which Kenya sits and on the threshold of which Kibaki stands to deliver his national message.Kibaki will enjoy the benefit of the tradition set by his predecessors to speak the sole message of the day and it is highly expected his speechwriters will have grabbed the occasion to pack a message to rally the nation behind him.

It is expected he will live up to what has been his wont in the election year to use the national day platform to enumerate his performance scorecard and give a projection of a future under his Government.

He may also use the chance, in which he will bask in the limelight of live coverage by TV and radio channels, to whip his key challengers and exalt his rating.

On Kenyatta Day, Kibaki hailed his development record then signed off by lashing at his challengers Raila and Mr Kalonzo Musyoka as leaders who have nothing to offer.

The President gave an account of his rule, and then moved on to paint the picture of the next five years, if re-elected, pledging that he would make the economy grow “to double its current size.”

Kibaki declared his rivals liars and dreamers who were promising miracles they could not deliver.

Being the last big chance of his most publicised live event, Kibaki will not surprise if he takes time off from his prepared speech to raise his profile and hope to clinch a finishing advantage.

ODM ready for powerBut Raila sought to pull the rag under Kibakis feet ahead of todays celebrations, saying his Orange party had “smelt power”.

Saying he was in the lead in six provinces, the ODM presidential candidate and outgoing Langata MP said, “We have our in-house pollsters who sample a wider response than all pollsters and we can gauge our support. We know we are ahead. ”

Raila spoke at a press conference at Wilson Airport, Nairobi, before he flew out to remote Samburu East and Samburu West for homestretch campaigns.

He was accompanied by ODM chairman, Mr Henry Kosgey, secretary-general, Prof Anyang Nyongo, former MP, Mr Kipkalya Kones and secretariat officials.

Sending Kenyans a special Jamhuri Day goodwill message, Raila urged voters to support ODM.

To the media, Raila emphasised the importance of a free and fair media to a credible election.

” I have a specific message to the The Standard Group and the Nation Media Group your role in coverage of elections is crucial. Be fair to all candidates.”

In Meru, where he was on the campaign trail, a security scare forced President Kibaki to cut short his speech at the Maua Municipal Stadium in Igembe District.

The President spoke for about three minutes only before a stampede. This is after he personally ordered the police to stop blocking a crowd that was surging towards the dais.

“Wewe, wewe hapo wachana na hawa watu. Wachana nao wewe. Asante sana,” the President was heard instructing police officers, who were controlling the crowd.

As soon as this directive was implemented about 3,000 people surged forward.

Cabinet ministers Kiraitu Murungi, David Mwiraria and Assistant ministers Peter Munya, Petkay Miriti, Raphael Muriungi, Kilemi Mwiria and Joseph Kingi and the President himself watched helplessly as the crowd surged towards the dais before stopping within a metre of the Head of State.

The presidential security detail and the local security officers were caught unawares and efforts to control the charged crowd failed.

Owing to the prevailing situation, the President was forced to leave the stadium.

But before he left, Kibaki asked the people to turn up in big numbers to vote during the December 27 General Election.

Earlier, there was more drama at the presidential dais when the Igembe South Kanu parliamentary candidate, Mr Mithika Lintuli, attempted to grab the microphone from Mr Munya, who was the master of ceremonies, in front of the Head of State.

Lintuli was angry because Munya had failed to introduce him as one of the candidates like he had done to his counterparts.

In Igembe North constituency where the President commissioned the Sh3 billion Farm-Kaweru-Kipkona road, the outgoing MP, Mr Maoka Maore, was never given a chance to speak, even as his supporters and those of his rival, Mr Ntoitha MMithiaru, engaged in a shouting match.

The President had a hard time also at Laare market in the constituency, where he spoke for less than five minutes as supporters of the various parliamentary candidates supporting him for the second term drowned his voice.

His efforts to calm them down failed and he left the dais after urging them to vote for him. Kibaki told them that they were at liberty to choose an MP of their choice.

Earlier, President Kibaki had commissioned a Sh140 million power project at Marimanti town in Tharaka District before campaign meetings at Kangeta, Karama, Muthaara, Akithi, Kianjai and Nchiru in Tigania East and West constituencies.

The President had earlier declined an invitation by ODM presidential candidate, Mr Raila Odinga, to engage him in a live TV debate, saying it would be unnecessary.

Given the possibility of a regime changeover, todays Jamhuri event draws parallels with the celebrations in 2002 presided over by then President Moi on the brink of a transition.

The only striking difference with the occasion five years ago is that Moi was certain he was presiding over his last national celebration as Head of State.

This was so because a constitutional limit barred Moi from contesting the impending presidential election. Consequently, he had picked on Mr Uhuru Kenyatta as his preferred successor. But Kibaki, then the Narc flag bearer, won the elections.

When he presided over the 39th and last Jamhuri Day in office, Moi delivered a powerful and conciliatory speech one that fitted the occasion.

He said: “If you wronged me, I forgive you and forgive me if I wronged you, too.”

Moi had stated on a nostalgic note: “It has been an extraordinary privilege for me to lead this great nation over the past 24 years, and to serve you, the people of Kenya.”

Moi then unveiled his retirement plans and said he wanted to become Africas peacemaker, as head of the newly created Moi Foundation.

Today, Kibaki may not want to deliver a message that would spell finality but one that exudes confidence of continuity.

In his maiden Jamhuri Day at the helm in 2003, President Kibaki, riding on the crest of public confidence, promised Kenyans a new constitution by June 2004.

The next two celebrations were marked with pomp and colour, as cracks in his government were still not visible. The President then spoke of the success of his Government.

But events took a dramatic turn in December 2005 when the Government was handed a resounding defeat in a referendum on the proposed new constitution.

Kibaki sacked dissident ministers who led the No vote, among them Raila, Kalonzo, Prof Nyongo, Jebii Kilimo, Najib Balala and Ochillo Ayacko.

This group teamed up with Kanu to form a formidable opposition ODM. On Jamhuri Day Raila called for a snap election, saying Kibaki was not in control of Government.

But in his speech Kibaki declared a clean break away from referendum politics, saying the country must move on.

Last year, with the Government of National Unity to seal the cracks, Kibaki spelt out key achievements of his four-year reign.

He delivered the memorable phrase; “I assure you things will get even better.”

Today, the President is likely to deliver a scorecard of his regime, and certainly attract the ire of the opposition for the undue advantage.

Reports by David Ohito, Patrick Muriungi, Alex Ndegwa and Morton Saulo

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