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Archive for January 20th, 2008

Serious things to come> hurdles the government must overcome

Posted by African Press International on January 20, 2008

Standard story:

What lies ahead for Kibaki Presidency?

What was billed to be the closest fought and thrilling election not only exploded into violence over disputed results, but also is redefining the countrys geo-political map. The bitterly fought contest, subsequent dispute over declared results and finally violence, has also upset the countrys inter-ethnic relations and traditional political alliances.

With the transformation of inter-ethnic relations, and the hardened positions adopted by Party of National Unity and the Orange Democratic Movement, another picture is also building up. History is repeating itself in the furious political battles between President Kibaki and ODM leader Mr Raila Odinga.

It rekindles the plummeting relations between the founding Father Mzee Jomo Kenyatta and one of his one-time staunch supporters and first Vice-President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga in mid-1960s. Though the falling out did not result in fighting, it broke up the pre-Independence political alliance between Kenyas largest two communities the Kikuyu and Luo from which the two come.

The Kibaki-Raila contest may not only widen the fissure between the two communities. Also along with it, the communities that supported each. It is this fissure that is the worry of the international mediators given the recent attack on a community perceived to have its presence beyond its traditional foothold. The biggest worry would be the emergence of Kenyas version of Nigerias South and North.

Besides the implication on the political careers of Kibaki and Raila, the mediators will also be pondering not just on the danger of economic shutdown, the toll on the social fabric and danger of anarchy, but the future of Kenya. With two forces falling apart, focus will be on making both sides weigh what they have to lose, no matter what they make of their victory or defeat, if the polarisation intensifies.

Kibakis big task

But with President Kibakis team insisting it won fairly, and Railas sides demand for transitional government and finally a re-run of presidential election, the task could be arduous.

But of immediate concern will be first, restoring peace, and putting a plan that would save the country from further slide to the precipice through inter-ethnic violence, and stemming isolation mainly by the 27 European Union States and the US.

Already, the EU Parliament has recommended to its members to stop aid to Kenya, until the political impasse is resolved.

But in the long term the eye will be on the hurdles President Kibaki may have to grapple with, particularly if the legitimacy of his government is challenged in Parliament where PNU does not have the comfort of numerical supremacy.

With credibility problems locally and abroad, the Government has a battle on its hands. Internationally, more members of the Government may have their visas cancelled, particularly if the EU maintains its stand that the elections fell below international and regional standards.

At home, the President is grappling with an uphill battle in a Parliament tilted against him and a nation divided in two unequal parts and upset by the scandal of the December 27 General Election.

“Because there are many who believe he was not elected and because of the bitterness after the election, the President may never really have the authority to do what he wanted,” a political activist, who consults with the Opposition, says.

“He will be restrained by the situation he walked into,” he adds.

In British House of Commons, Mr Edward Davey, a Liberal Democrat MP for Kingston and Surbiton rose to “thank the Government in their various public statements for not referring to “Mr Mwai Kibaki as the President”.

He then asked, “Will the Foreign Secretary confirm that the Government still do not recognise Mr Kibaki as having been re-elected president? Did the Foreign Secretary share my concern when the US State Department, in the first crucial hours after the poll, rushed to accept the flawed election result? Has he raised the serious consequences of that critical error of judgement with the US Secretary of State?”

In response, Mr David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary state: “I can confirm that we have recognised no new Government in Kenya. In respect of the United States position, I spoke to the Secretary of State on December 30, or possibly 31.”

He added: “She made it absolutely clear to me that although the United States was happy to congratulate the Kenyan people on the way they had participated in the democratic process, it had issued no congratulation to an individual “winner”; that her concerns about the irregularities identified by the EU are serious and real; and that she shares our commitment to the spirit of compromise to which we referred in our joint statement and, critically, to the sharing of power.”

Mr Miliband warned of the risks of Kenya forfeiting international support if they fail to strike a compromise.

Germany wants EU aid suspended if the Government rejects international mediation. The United States has warned that the US would find it impossible to conduct “business as usual” in the present circumstances.

Locally and abroad, a build-up is taking shape that point to possibility of Kenya returning to the turbulent days of late 1970s, through the 1980s all the way to the 1990s if the current political crisis is not resolved.

A political solution appears remote. Raila insists that the presidential poll was rigged and international observers have described the vote count as “obviously flawed” and “plagued by irregularity”.

Recently, the President named a half of his Cabinet before the arrival of African Union chairman and Ghanaian President, Mr John Kufuor. Before President Kibaki named the Cabinet, Railas team put off planned demonstrations to give international mediation a chance.

At that time, Kufuor, who later handed over the mantle to former UN secretary general, who is expected around on Tuesday, flew in to try to bring Raila and Kibaki to the negotiating table. He did not succeed.

President Kibaki responded to Railas gesture by appointing 17 Cabinet ministers in what was interpreted as a slap in the face of foreign diplomats, who had pleaded with the President and Raila not to make any appointments or moves until the business of mediation had run its course.

With massive destruction and death, and a political solution not in sight, there are grim predictions that the country could be headed for harsh times economically and politically.

There are predictions that the economic ramifications of the disputed and discredited presidential elections could prove substantial.

The World Banks January forecast puts the GDP growth at 5.3 per cent this year, down from 6.3 per cent, last year.

The bank predicts the economy will slow further to 5.1 per cent, next year.

The Economist, in its latest Intelligence Unit forecast, says these figures are likely to be downgraded substantially to reflect the damage and disruption of the election period, poor rains and decline in tourism.

The Kenya Tourist Board projects that it will take about six months for the tourism industry to recover even if there is a quick resolution of the impasse.

KTB says that it took the industry five years to recover from the Likoni land clashes of 1997; the Nairobi terrorist bombing blamed on al-Qaida a year later, and another bomb blast at the Coasts Paradise Hotel in 2002.

Donors are under pressure to cut financial assistance. But the US has assured it does not plan to cut aid, despite plans by other partners to do so.

State Department spokesman, Mr Sean McCormack, made this assurance in response to a threat on Wednesday by 14 donors, including the United States, to reduce their assistance to the Government unless progress is made in resolving the crisis.

“If there is any discussion about some of our assistance programmes in Kenya, it hasnt begun yet,” McCormack said at a Press briefing in Washington. He added that the US is, in any event, unlikely to make any cuts in the large portion of aid to Kenya that is devoted to humanitarian programmes.

But in Europe, it is a different tone. Last week, the European Union said it could cut its aid over disputed elections.

“Its difficult to continue the same level of budgetary support, if we see that the election had not been respected,” EU Development Commissioner Louis Michel told a meeting of the European Parliaments development committee.

“We are not in a situation we can call business as usual by any means,” Michel said. “We have to adapt our relations.”

The EU provided 290 million euros in aid to Kenya between 2002 and last year. A further 383 million euros were planned for this year, through to 2013.

Government officials argue the country no longer depended on donor support and has been self-reliant in the last five years, financing up to 85 per cent of its budget from local tax collections.

But disruption of businesses, closure of offices, and destruction of property and displacement could undermine the countrys tax collection base.

There are also fears some businesses could close shop leading to unemployment and resentment.

The Government had planned to borrow from the capital markets. Before the poll the Government had said it hoped to exploit its favourable credit rating of B+ awarded by rating agency Standard and Poors to borrow money internationally.

The Economists Intelligence Unit predictions say that it will almost certainly not be feasible in the first half of the year, although foreign borrowing may be possible towards the end of 2008 “if there is a quick return to normality.”

“The cost of borrowing abroad is likely to rise, the overvalued Kenyan shilling will fall, tourism has already been badly hit and foreign aid may be cut back. Planned privatisations will get greater scrutiny; some may falter. There may not be enough money to keep Kibakis promise of free secondary education. But breaking it would sorely undermine him.”

Hope for continued EU funding now hangs on the outcome of Annans efforts.

A EU official was last week quoted saying that if Annans mediation failed the European Union would consider tougher steps.

“We are working on an options paper, all the possible scenarios are on the table, including the possibility of suspending aid, and of sanctions,” a news agency quoted an official saying.

The official said EU ambassadors are to begin working on those options on Tuesday, when Annan arrives.

Michel, the EU Development Commissioner yesterday shuttled between separate talks with Kibaki, Kalonzo and ODM. But last week he said he had failed to make contact with Kibaki.

“I have attempted to contact him in vain for days. I get to his front office, but Im never transferred to the President either the line goes dead or he does not pick up the phone,” he told the lawmakers.

Kenyas ambassador to Belgium, where the EU headquarters are based, Mr Marx Kahende, told the same meeting that a negotiated solution was possible.

“We remain optimistic that ongoing efforts, including the engagement by Mr Kofi Annan … will yield an acceptable solution,” Kahende said. “Democracy cant be built in a void … Maybe Nato forces are required, I dont know,” Reuters quoted the ambassador saying.

Back in Kenya, Annans arrival is being awaited with a mixture of relief and doubt. After the collapse of talks that were to be spearheaded by Kufuor, Opposition leaders privately believe that the peace talks present a road map to nowhere, although they are willing to give them a chance.

Some go further and describe them as a plot by Kibaki, backed by the United States, to help cool down emotions while business continues as usual in Government.

Some observers say Annans mediation may have “a little more weight” than Kufuors. But the leaders are not keen to postpone their plans of action for the sake of Annan-led talks or any other because they are convinced it wont amount to much.

“A Head of State like Kufuor is restrained by several factors when he approaches a fellow Head of State. Among the restraints is diplomatic etiquette,” a political activist told The Sunday Standard.

“A Head of State cannot face another and tell him, You stole the elections”. That is more so in Africa, where nothing is clear in politics. Next time, it may be Kufuor seeking mediation from President Kibaki. You can never tell in Africa. Thats why Kufuor could only do so much,” he added.

Annan, some Opposition leaders say, could have more leeway “to tell Kibaki off” although others view his efforts as “part of the strategy to buy time”.

Casting even more suspicion is the entry of Ugandas Yoweri Museveni, who is also said to be keen to resolve the impasse.

With talk of Ugandan soldiers having crossed into Kenya to help Kibaki stem the tide, some Opposition leaders say Museveni cannot be an honest broker.

Others argue that Museveni “has no democratic credentials,” having come to power through the power of the gun, before manipulating the constitution to hang onto power.

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Are the two Kalenjins, Henry Koskey and William Ruto being misused by ODM and Raila now that they are calling for fresh round of protests in Kenya?

Posted by African Press International on January 20, 2008

Raila has stated there will be no more mass demonstrations. Now the two Kalenjins, Koskey and Ruto are calling for fresh round of protest. Are the two Kalenjins being misused oris ODM facing a split?

___________________

Nation story

ODM calls fresh round of protests Story by ODHIAMBO ORLALE


The Orange Democratic Party has retreated from a promise made only hours before and announced a new round of mass action to protest against the disputed presidential election results.

ODM’s Henry Kosgey and William Ruto at a news conference, where the party announced a new round of protests. Photo/ NATION Correspondent

This time the protests would also include economic sabotage of companies whose directors are perceived to be close allies of President Kibaki. The announcement came on a day when youths armed with spears, bows, arrows and machetes went on the rampage in areas surrounding Eldoret town and burnt houses in broad daylight.

Kipkelion District Commissioner Abdi Halake said that six people were killed and 50 houses burnt in the area.

A Catholic priest in the district had sent out a distress call to the police after the monastery he runs was surrounded by armed youths.

As I speak to you, I can see about 1,500 people armed with bows, arrows and spears, Fr Dominic Vincent Nkoyoyo told the Sunday Nation.

The priest said that the monastery had received threats of attack by people who said they were unhappy about the 600 displaced people camped there.

From State House Nairobi, President Kibaki last night said that no form of violence against innocent Kenyans will be tolerated. The Head of State stressed that security of the country was paramount and the government will continue beefing up security in areas facing unrest to ensure the lives of wananchi and their property are protected.

He was meeting a European Union delegation, which had earlier held talks with ODM leader Raila Odinga.

While supporting the Kofi Annan-led initiative of eminent persons, European Union Commissioner Louis Michel said the solution to Kenyas political problem must come from Kenyans themselves, a statement from PPS said.

Mr Michel noted that although the European parliament passed a resolution that was not favourable to the government, the European Union would not take any precipitating action against Kenya but would wait for the outcome of dialogue.

President Kibaki expressed his willingness to dialogue in addressing the current political situation.

The violence that has rocked the country started soon after the announcement of the results of the December 27 presidential election, which ODM says were rigged in favour of Mr Kibaki.

Fr Nkoyoyo told the Sunday Nation that four more violence victims were brought in for treatment. All appeared to have been attacked with arrows.

ODMs fresh call for mass action also came three days ahead of the expected arrival of former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, who has been detailed by the African Union to mediate between President Kibaki and Mr Odinga.

In Nairobi, the opposition partys officials said they would hold inter-denominational funeral services tomorrow for their supporters who died during the post-election violence in Kisumu.

A follow-up one would be held in Nairobi on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Friday would be the national day of prayers to commemorate all the martyrs who have given their lives in the peaceful struggle for democracy, the rule of law and the rejection of the December 27 presidential election results. And Thursday would be the day of countrywide peace rallies.

Police say that 510 people have died in the violence across the country, which has also left more than 250,000 displaced and property worth billions looted, torched or destroyed.

Announcing plans to sabotage selected companies, ODM chairman Henry Kosgey said: We would like to formally inaugurate our campaign for economic boycott directed at hardline members of the clique around Mr Kibaki. These individuals are using the wealth they have created from our open democratic system to undermine the rule of law and democracy in Kenya.

Yesterdays statement came a day after Mr Odinga denied that his party planned any economic sabotage to force President Kibaki to the negotiation table under the auspices of international mediators.

Mr Odinga had spoken after a meeting with businessmen from the Mount Kenya region and top brass of the Central Organisation of Trade Unions.

Equity Bank is everywhere helping the poor in the process of economic empowerment, Mr Odinga had been quoted as saying.

It is foolhardy to tie it to an individual when we know shareholders include international bodies and countries like the United States.

On Friday, the business community separately met President Kibaki and Mr Odinga and asked them to resolve the political crisis.

During the media conference at Pentagon House in Nairobi, Mr Kosgey said some bus firms had been identified for sabotage because they were implicated in the controversial transporting of administration policemen to Western Kenya on the eve of the polls.

At the same time, the party condemned what it called inflammatory advertisements the government had been placing in the media.

Mr Kosgey accused the government of taking a hard position on the mediation efforts. He said they were committed to internationally mediated negotiations and were looking forward to the arrival of Mr Annan, former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa and Graca Machel, the wife of former South African president Nelson Mandela.

Said Mr Kosgey: We have placed absolutely no preconditions to these talks.

In a separate statement, Mr Kibakis PNU said that a truth and reconciliation approach to the current impasse would resolve the crisis.

The whole country is in the mood of truth, justice and reconciliation. Truth will only be based on the losers accepting defeat and the winners being magnanimous in victory, like Francis Kaparo and Kenneth Marende have demonstrated to this country.

We urge Raila Odinga to follow suit and recognise that Kenya can only have one president, and Mwai Kibaki is the one President who has won the mandate of Kenyans, the PNU statement, signed by the partys director of programmes, Mr Moses Kuria, and National Board member Dr Josephine Ojiambo, said. They said justice had a custodian the Judiciary and that any aggrieved Kenyan should seek justice there.

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Men afraid of strong women

Posted by African Press International on January 20, 2008

It is said that quiet men are attracted to talkative women. Such women are perceived to be social hence they attract visitors to a home.But it is increasingly emerging that the word talkative has many definitions, and borders even on the loud and abrasive.

Soon after he left prison, former South African president Nelson Mandela divorced his second wife, Winnie. Winnie, a woman with a strong character was known to be ruthless in quelling those who failed to join the anti-apartheid cause, including initiating the infamous “necklace” mode of torture and death. But Winnie was also a vigilant crusader of the oppressed black South Africans, a role she played superbly, including flashing the ANC clenched fist symbol, when her husband was incarcerated at Robben Island.

But Mandela divorced her after her evil ways were exposed to the world, on top of citing loneliness and unfaithfulness. He ended up marrying Mozambican former first Lady, Graca Machel, a gentle, laid-back, sweet, non-controversial woman, who evidently makes him happy. Graca is nowhere near Winnie in physical beauty but evidently, Mandela never took that into consideration when he slapped Winnie with divorce papers.

Looking at the British royal family, the late Princess Diana was not only a stunning beauty, making her a darling of the media, but was also strong-willed and assertive. When things between her and Prince Charles deteriorated, Diana publicly admitted having had an affair, which she attributed to neglect by her husband.

Prince Charles was also in an affair with his teenage sweetheart, Camilla Parker Bowles, a colourless soft-spoken woman, who could not compare to Dianas incredible beauty and charm.

Two years ago, Charles wedded Camilla, eight years after Diana and her lover, Dodi Fayed, perished in a car crash in Paris.

These are just a few of the examples of men who have dumped beautiful, assertive women, opting instead for less attractive but quiet and soft spoken, almost shy women. Does it therefore hold true that quiet women generally find husbands more easily than outspoken, almost abrasive women?

David Maundu seems to concur. “To me, an attractive woman is one who exudes quiet femininity but can correct me with gentle firmness when I go wrong. Loud, aggressive women are a no-no for me,” he says.

Maundu says laid-back quiet women find quick approval among their in-laws than those who are not.

Prince Mwaniki says the beauty of an African woman is in her manners.

“A loud woman is perceived to be a noisy nag, who would never give her husband peace in the home. She is also considered rude and ill-mannered,” says Mwaniki.

Moses, 29, abhors women who interject loudly during conversations and laugh in a non-feminine voice. “If I married such a woman, it would be difficult to tell who wears the trousers in the house,” says Moses.

Janice Kaari, 35, says modernity might have come to Africa but the society still believes that women are to be seen not heard. “My husband cannot stomach it if I raised my voice during an argument. He misconstrues this as a lack of respect, and I have to always ensure my voice is lower than his,” says Kaari.

But what about women whose natural disposition is to be loud and boisterous?

“I cannot pretend to be who I am not,” says Jean Nyakio, 27. “How would I articulate my feelings and thoughts if I have to speak in a near whisper to please a man? He would have to take me as I am; if not, too bad for him.”

Christine Ndamari, 24, aspires to become a politician. “Does it mean that I would not speak at public gatherings and campaign aggressively just because of a husband? We are living in modern times where women are encouraged to tap into their highest potential. Should I kill my ambition to create an impression of stereotyped femininity?”

Joan Awich, 34, believes it is all about the age old power and control wars between males and females. “Men always want to be in control, so they feel uncomfortable in the presence of strong women. They do not want the woman to have higher credentials or more money. It even goes to mannerisms, where they want you to act in that meek, gentle, docile manner, which has no place in todays competitive society,” says Joan. When asked if her strong assertive manner is responsible for her single status, Joans answer is swift and emphatic: “No way! I am beautiful, sophisticated and strike smart business deals. I can get any man I want.”

Joan admits that she has driven away several good men due to her strong-headedness. “Admittedly, I do like my space, and if I feel a man is stifling it, I tell him as much. I go out when I want and can only agree to stay home and cook for a boyfriend when I am able to,” she says.

Muthoni Mbugua believes men feel threatened by strong women, which is why they are afraid to marry them.

“Men want a woman they can control with ease, so if you are not ready for this, you might as well forget ever getting married,” says the 37-year-old lawyer.

Muthoni, who is earnestly looking for a husband, says she is willing to change her ways to endear an eligible man to her.

“I am willing to change my usually loud tone to a soft one and smile more often and argue less, because I seriously want to settle down. I have been around long enough to realise that with a man, one has to come down. Otherwise prepare to spend your sunset years as an old maid,” she cautions.

Cyrille Omolo, says he does not mind an assertive woman, as long as she recognises that he is the head of the home and accords him the respect due to him.

“We have to embrace womens emancipation since there are many women doing great things out there. But they must realise that they do not have to make their points in unnecessarily loud abrasive voices and uncalled for arguments,” he says.

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DANGERS OF ETHNIC DIVISIONS HAUNTING KENYA

Posted by African Press International on January 20, 2008

The post 2007 Kenya’s general election has become one of the most trying times in post independent Kenya. Something surely has gone awry that nobody would be confident to say this is the Kenya we knew.

I had warned previously that one of the greatest weaknesses in our politics and which has ever been a lurking danger is tribalism. Unfortunately this is not a phenomenon which can be addressed overnight.

Tribal feelings and associations abound and they are not about to go away soon. It is only more unfortunate that when fused with our politics it becomes more dangerous and harder to handle. Additionally there are salient problems of land, governance, institutions like judiciary, legislature the executive, electoral commission and laws and so on which need an urgent address.

Unfortunately colonialism created artificial boundaries which to date haunt Africa. Similarly the colonial divide and rule tactics have been the horrible legacy they bequeathed post independence Africa leadership. Post independence leaders in Africa were just too happy to inherit the same monstrosity of instruments which they invariably oppressed their subjects plus used the bad structures to allocate resources in a very skewed way.

The undercurrents have always been there. It was a matter of time before they explode. Unfortunately and very unfortunately the many people who have been affected have innocently suffered for sins not of their own. Today in Kenya losing an election look like a death sentence. The communities that are perceived to be opposition have invariably been at times reminded that they loose and be out of government at their own peril! With these kind of structural weaknesses and irrational posturing then the sparks are just already there to cause an explosion.

Unfortunately our Kenyan leaders seem all keen to bury their heads on sand. Religious leaders as one category of leaders and other types have not come out honestly to speak and say things must change. Kenya is the nation we need today and tomorrow. And it belongs to all of us irrespective of tribe, gender, age, colour etc. Unless we carry some fundamental changes, we are not guaranteeing a secure future.

And it is unfortunate that we have made our children so much aware of rabid tribalism existing in our country that this irrational consciousness has also been awoken in them. It will be magical so to say; to save our future generations from the irrational paradigm we have shifted our country and politics. At the moment tribal feelings, fear and myopic posturing are at unprecedented heights.

To get Kenya out of the sudden morass it has found itself in will require a lot of sincere diplomacy, truth, justice and fairness. We need genuine diplomats not pretenders. nor selfish and egocentric cahoots to get involved in the process of truth, sharing and reconciliation. Our country is currently suffering a deadly flu which left unattended will lead to a deadly malady!

And to sum up, all is not lost. Kenyans need to be re-assured that we can still live together and should also learn to appreciate one another. The so many tribes and the rich cultures across the country is strength in itself. And not to loose sight is that there are serious structural and historical weaknesses which need to be addressed. We had an election whose outcome has led to the so much human suffering and pillage, something that should never happened. It is unfortunate!

There are people who have contributed to the current status who should not only urgently seek repentance but should come out openly and tell the world the truth and reconcile their conscious plus that of the nation. It is so shameful that the one rising jewel of Africa has so suddenly been wrecked and shamefully destroyed. But we will come out of the mess soon.

harrison-ikunda.jpgBy Harrison Mwirigi Ikunda, Nairobi,

Kenya.

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Vigilant Kenya police arrest suspected terrorists claiming to be European journalists

Posted by African Press International on January 20, 2008

Police arrest three foreigners

Written By:Rose kamau

Police in Nairobi arrested two Germans and a Dutch national who claimed they were in the country as journalists reporting on the Dec. 27 elections.

The three were detained at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on Thursday night as they were preparing to leave the country and questioned by the anti-terrorism police unit, police spokesman Eric Kiraithe said in a statement.

German Embassy officials who confirmed the arrests say they have spoken to authorities in Nairobi to establish the reason for the arrests and are in contact with the individuals being held, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, who declined to be identified, said in a telephone interview from Berlin.

“Although they entered the country as journalists, they have been conducting themselves in a suspicious manner,” Kiraithe said in the statement. “These people were found with photographs and sketches of vital installations in Nairobi.”

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South Africa: Power crisis threatens to sink major projects

Posted by African Press International on January 20, 2008

 

Concern is growing that SAs electricity crisis could tarnish its appeal to investors, after news that several new mining projects and a ferrochrome expansion project had been put on the back burner because Eskom lacked the power needed to run them.

A R22bn aluminium smelter the biggest foreign direct investment secured by the country to date also may be under threat, with Eskom confirming yesterday it may be delayed by supply constraints. Chamber of Mines assistant adviser Dick Kruger said he could not give details, but there were platinum projects for which the mining companies had been told there was no power available. A ferrochrome expansion plan had also been halted.

He said final decisions on new mining ventures were now likely to be delayed until there was certainty on power supply in 2013 when Medupi, the first new coal-fired plant, comes on stream. We are in for a very hard five years, Kruger said. Eskom finance director Bongani Nqwababa said the utility wanted to dissuade the government from taking on new energy-intensive projects before 2013, when its R300bn five-year expansion plan would be complete. Its a question of supply and demand. It would be irresponsible now to aggressively pursue energy-intensive businesses. A balance has to be found, that is the reality, he said.

Business Unity SA said yesterday it was alarmed at the news and a spate of power blackouts had already cost business millions. It was also eroding international confidence in SA as an investment destination, the group said. We are seeking an urgent meeting with Eskom and government in order to determine the extent of the problem and to have a clear, transparent and unequivocal plan going forward, it said. Minerals and Energy Minister Buyelwa Sonjica acknowledged yesterday SA was experiencing a serious problem, but moved to calm the uproar over power cuts, which have hit industries, offices and homes in the past week.

I wish to put it to the country that we do have an acute problem of supply at the moment. I wish also to emphasise that we have a low electricity reserve margin, she said. But she said the government was considering a number of interventions to ease the crisis, which would be discussed at a cabinet meeting next week. Theres no need to panic about future investments, she said. Nqwababa said projects already in the pipeline would go ahead, but construction of Rio Tintos Alcan aluminium smelter might be rescheduled. We need to make sure the pace of the project and the pace of our commitments match. If we cant meet our commitments then well ask them to reschedule.

With construction set to start in the second half of this year, the project is the biggest and most advanced in Rio Tintos pipeline. Spokesman Robert Valdmanis said yesterday the smelter was going ahead. When pressed, he said: If (the project) gets delayed its prioritisation may change and no one knows what the outcome of that may be. I dont want to speculate beyond that. For projects under construction, mining firms had secured electricity supply at the outset and Eskom would stick to its agreements.

Kruger said SA faced a magnified power squeeze this week, when supply was constricted by maintenance that would help through the winter. But he believed the crisis would be worse this time next year.
Bongani said Eskom aimed to add an average of 2000MW of electricity each year, doubling capacity to 80000MW by 2025. This assumed that the economy would grow at an average 6% a year, and supply would be threatened only if it exceeded those expectations, he said. Faster growth than expected has been one of the main reasons for the power crisis, with SA clocking up a pace of 5,4% in 2006, a 25-year peak.

The government aims to boost growth to 6% by 2010 to help create jobs, but there is concern the power supply crunch will thwart that goal. Kruger said demand would continue to outstrip capacity. Even if the economy slowed this year, appetite from households and mines would remain robust. The biggest electricity users are redistributors mainly municipalities followed by heavy industry and the mining sector.
Standard Bank group economist Goolam Ballim played down the crisis, saying it was just one constraint . Im not sure investor confidence will be downgraded but it will temper confidence and shave off some of the earnings growth expectations for South African equities.

 

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South Africa: Media out of synch – Zuma

Posted by African Press International on January 20, 2008

 

Cape Town (South Africa)- The media in South Africa is “politically and ideologically” out of synch with the society in which it operates, African National Congress President Jacob Zuma said on Friday.

“There are few, if any, mainstream media outlets that articulate a progressive left perspective,” he said in his weekly newsletter, published on his party’s ANC Today website. Such a perspective was endorsed at each election by the majority of South Africans, and represented by the ANC, its allies and the broader democratic movement. “This is one of the reasons why, though there may be plenty of newspapers and magazines on our news stands, and a multitude of radio and TV stations occupying our airwaves, the overall orientation of South African media is politically conservative.”

Zuma said each day brought “fresh instances of a media that, in general terms, is politically and ideologically out of synch with the society in which it exists”. This phenomenon was most starkly illustrated at election time. “To an uninformed reader, listener or viewer, following media coverage in the months and weeks leading up to these elections, it would have appeared patently obvious that the leading party in government, the ANC, was heading for a hiding.”

However, in both these elections, not only had the ANC’s share of the vote increased, but the actual numbers of people who voted for the organisation increased too. “The outcome of the 52nd national conference in Polokwane is a most recent example of the media yet again becoming a victim of its own propaganda and manipulation. “Some are correctly asking themselves: ‘How did we get it so wrong?’, while others now use every opportunity to ‘prove’ that there is something that was seriously wrong with ANC delegates at Polokwane.”

Contrary to what some claimed, the media was not simply a product of the work of disinterested observers – professionals who were able to detach themselves from their personal views. “It is instead a product of the various political, social, economic and cultural forces that exist within a society. It is a battle of ideas, and, as such, the media is part of the battle for power. “The media, viewed in its totality, should be as diverse as the society which it serves and reflects. This is clearly not the case in South Africa today. At times, the media functions as if they are an opposition party,” he said.

Zuma also said there would be changes made with regard to his weekly newsletter. “The ‘Letter from the President’ will now be published on special occasions only, dealing with important themes and events during the course of the year. “The intention is to open up the journal to a diversity of voices, articulating ANC positions. In this regard, there will be weekly contributions from ANC officials and NEC members,” he said.

 

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Burkina Faso: Concern about rise in unwanted teenage pregnancies

Posted by African Press International on January 20, 2008

Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso) – Each year in Burkina Faso 500 girls experience unwanted pregnancies, many of them going on to abandon their newborn babies in toilets, in rubbish bins and behind buildings.

The shocking phenomenon is becoming most widespread in the capital Ouagadougou as more people move to the city from the countryside. Rural traditions which mean girls often marry at age 13 or younger, are clashing with the less conservative, promiscuous city life. Girls, so uneducated they don’t even understand why they menstruate, have nowhere to turn as conservative values still hold strong and public health services are inadequate according to Asseta Sanfo, a government social worker.

“There is not a day when we do not receive an abandoned child in our centre or a mother who has fled, leaving the baby alone,” Sanfo, who works at a government-run hostel for pregnant girls in Ouagadougou, told IRIN. With no more room in orphanages, and provincial authorities unable to cope, the national government stepped in for the first time in 2006 by building a hostel in Ouagadougou to care for pregnant mothers and their newborns.

Social workers there say where appropriate, they try to encourage mothers to keep their babies once born, rather than put them into orphanages, which are already over-stretched. “We realised we had an obligation to accept every child brought [to orphanages] so we had to build a place to shelter the mothers and their offspring,” said Raphael Zongnaba, the government’s regional director of social welfare and national solidarity.
Asseta Sanfo, a social worker at the maternal hostel said: “If we do not help these girls they will seek to get rid of their babies wherever they can.” The hostel currently shelters ten girls and 50 children but it relies on Italian government funding of US$13,500 a year to run it.

With a quarter of all teenage girls in Burkina Faso either pregnant or mothers already, according to a Ministry of Health demographic survey, and just one government hospital to help them, the Catholic church and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are stepping in to fill the gap. Sister Marie Ouedraogo works at Carmen Kisito, a Catholic church-backed centre that helps 100 pregnant women. It was set up in 2006 when church-members realised the orphanage they ran was receiving more abandoned children than orphans.

“Today four children out of five in our orphanage are abandoned children,” Ouedraogo said. Carmen Kisito is dependent on small private donations, and with each birth costing from US$67 to US$336 depending on complications, resources are stretched, meaning sister Ouedraogo must scour the markets to find food cheap enough to feed all the girls.

Another NGO Mercy for All (UMPT) tries to give young mothers longer term help by giving each a loan of US$90 to help them support themselves once they have given birth. Often families want nothing to do with the young mothers because of the shame they have brought on them, Etienne Zombra, a coordinator at UMPT told IRIN, so mediation is needed. So far, they have succeeded in reuniting 130 of the 164 girls they have received. “Families often don’t accept the girls back because of their socio-cultural beliefs. In cases of incest it is even more difficult for girls and parents will refuse to see the baby forever.”

Burkina Faso has a high birth rate, with an average of seven births per woman. It also has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, with mothers dying in 930 out of every 100,000 births, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). With 86 per cent of all women and girls in the country engaging in unprotected sex according to a government health and demographic study from 2003, reproductive healthcare must be introduced into secondary education to try to stop girls from falling pregnant in the first place, said Siaka Traore, communication officer at UNFPA.

UNFPA is also launching a media campaign to inform teenagers of contraceptive methods. Meanwhile, the government hopes to open a second hostel in Bobo-Dioulasso, the country’s second largest city. Construction has been delayed because of lack of funds. ‘”We are exclusively dependent on partners to build the centre,” government official Zongnaba said.

 

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Liberia: President celebrates amid impeachment threats

Posted by African Press International on January 20, 2008

 

Monrovia (Liberia) – President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf celebrated the second anniversary of her presidency on Wednesday amid threats of impeachment proceedings from the opposition.

The celebration began with a service at the First United Methodist Church in Monrovia, attended by Sirleaf, members of her Unity Party (UP) and cabinet members. At the service, she briefly talked about her governments successes but acknowledged that there are still challenges that lie ahead. She emphasized that her government has been able to provide some basic social services and restore peace within a short period of time.

After the prayer service, participants headed for a musical festival at the Antoinette Tubman Stadium. The event brought together many Liberian artists including the controversial Marcus Davis, alias Sunday Guy Dear Boy, who was recently accused of being a rebel commander at Truth and Reconciliation Conference hearings.

The accusation seemed not to affect his reputation he electrified the crowd with his famous praise song for the president, which had her and her cabinet ministers on their feet dancing. Amidst the celebrations, however, Liberia’s two main opposition political parties, the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) of soccer legend George Weah and Charles Brumskine’s Liberty Party (LP), threatened to file a bill of impeachment against the president if she fails to revoke her recent replacement of Judge James Jones. Sirleaf replaced Jones, a lower court judge, with Councillor Comfort Natt. The opposition referenced constitutional articles 71 and 72(b) as their reason for calling for impeachment.

Article 71 states, The Chief Justice and the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court and the judges of subordinate courts of record shall hold office during good behavior. They may be removed upon impeachment and conviction by the legislature based on proved misconduct, gross breach of duty, inability to perform the functions of their office, or conviction in a court of law for treason, bribery or other infamous crimes.

A constitutional crisis involving the appointment of mayors has only just been resolved. The Supreme Court ruled last week that the president had the power to appoint mayors. It remains to be seen how the current controversy will end.

 

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Mali: Festival fosters cultural exchange in the desert

Posted by African Press International on January 20, 2008

Essakane (Mali) – A polar bear is in the middle of the Sahara desert. It is not a mirage.

Underneath the bears head could be seen the face of an Inuit actor, who is wearing the skin for a skit. Artcirq — an Inuit circus collective — had travelled from the Arctic to Africa for Festival in the Desert, held here on the weekend. The festival is the largest concert in Mali, and probably the most remote in the world. Set in the Sahara sand dunes north of Timbuktu, it brings people from everywhere to the middle of nowhere for a mix of music and a celebration of culture.

The festival is in its eighth year — and is growing in popularity — thanks to word of mouth and media coverage. This year Vogue magazine used the event as a backdrop for one of their fashion photo shoots. Bono, the world famous musician and human rights activist, was reportedly considering checking out the festival as well. The three-day concert attracts thousands of music fans from around the world, as well as Malians. Locals receive a discount and many enter free of charge.

The musical line-up is announced only a few days before the show. The event started as a showcase of Malian music but has expanded to promote Tamasheq culture and include other African artists and international acts. The Director of the festival, Manny Ansar, says that the current goal of Festival in the Desert is “contact and human relations”. Artcirq, founded in 1998 in response to the suicide problem in the small island community of Igoolik, Nunavet, Canada, was the most unique act to perform at the festival this year. The group uses traditional culture, circus arts, and videography to empower youth as well as to connect artists from the Arctic to the rest of the world. Their performance festival here coincided with a celebration back in their hometown that marks the return of the sun after two months of darkness.

When Artcirq left Igloolik, it was negative 60 degrees. “We had to take seven planes to come here,” Guillaume Saladin, the co-founder of the group, told IPS. “Now in an hour well be going on camel rides.”
Despite the drastic change in climate, the artists of Artcirq see many similarities between life in the Arctic and life in the Sahara, including a slower pace, listening to the land, and the collision between traditional and modern life.

Saladin, a 35-year-old white French Canadian from a family of anthropologists, grew up in Igloolik. After university he ran away to join the circus and later returned to Igloolik to teach acrobatics. He hopes the gravity defying circus tricks and the success of the group internationally will inspire youth in Igloolik. “Were opening doors to show anything is possible. Were building dreams,” he says. For Artcirq to travel to Timbuktu was a dream come true for Saladin, he explained. “Everywhere in the world people are saying all the way to Timbuktu. Its just like people all around the world knowing Eskimos kiss with their nose.”

“Being here is like being in a giant sandbox,” says Jacky Qrunnut of Artcirq. The 22-year-old acrobat and technician says the trip has been the cultural exchange of a lifetime. “When I got here and told them where I was from, they told me I was strong. I told them they were strong living here,” Qrunnut told IPS. Artcirq members explained to international journalists at a press conference that the media has misrepresented the Inuit. Growing up the artists had watched Chinese and Native American actors on TV, posing as Eskimos, telling their stories. “We never call ourselves Eskimo, we call ourselves Inuit,” explained Sylvia Cloutier, 31, a singer with the group.

Despite the clarification, the festival announcer still introduced the troupe as Eskimos — which has been defined as eater of raw meat — whereas Inuit means person. In hopes of breaking stereotypes, Artcirq presented a film screening of The Fast Runner at the festival. The internationally acclaimed film about life in the Arctic drew a significant crowd in the sand dunes. During the film screening, one member of Artcirq started lifting another member over his back. This caught the attention of a member of the local Tuareg tribe in a purple headscarf. “Are you from Canada?” he asked the duo. He was confused by the positive reply. “You have the face of Japanese people. Do you practice Kung Fu?” he asked.

The Artcirq members explained that they were from the white desert of snow and ice featured in the movie. The Tuareg man then attempted to lift one of the men over his back but failed miserably, collapsing into the sand. With very little effort the Artcirq performer then picked him up from the sand and lifted him repeatedly over his head. This led to lots of laughter and a conversation about building igloos, hunting seals, and Inuit greetings. The Tuareg man seemed impressed. “Youve come to show how you live. Very good,” he said. “And weve come to see how you live,” the Artcirq members replied. The men then smiled, shook hands and parted ways, in the middle of the Sahara desert.

 

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Somalia: Heavy battles in Mogadishu kill 20, wound 90

Posted by African Press International on January 20, 2008

 

Mogadishu (Somalia) – Heavy gun battles shook Somalia’s capital overnight Wednesday and into Thursday, killing at least 20 people and wounding nearly 90 others.

Three civilians were killed last night inside their home when a mortar slammed into a camp where hundreds of internally displaced people live, witnesses said. The fighting, which was concentrated in Mogadishu’s Hodan district, sparked when insurgents attacked the positions of government troops. But a heavier battle erupted midday Thursday near Bakara market, quickly spreading into surrounding neighborhoods.

The face-to-face combat began when insurgent fighters shot and killed two Ethiopian soldiers in a sneak attack. Allied Somali-Ethiopian troops rushed to the scene and a gunfight ensued, witnesses reported.
Ethiopian troops used tanks and other heavy weaponry to combat the insurgents, who used a combination of weapons, including rockets, machineguns and grenades. Today’s battle forced Bakara market to completely shut down, as storeowners and customers alike fled to safety.

Contacts at two Mogadishu hospitals, Medina and Keysaney, confirmed to Garowe Online that a total of 90 wounded people were admitted since last night’s battles. Mogadishu has become a virtual war zone ever since Ethiopian troops entered the capital in January 2007, after militarily ousting Islamic Courts rulers. Before peacefully retreating from Mogadishu, the Islamists vowed to carry out a bloody guerrilla struggle until Ethiopian forces withdraw from Somali soil.

 

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Nigeria: AFRICOM ship heads for Gulf of Guinea

Posted by African Press International on January 20, 2008

 

Lagos (Nigeria) Despite opposition by African governments to United States African Command’s (AFRICOM) presence in the continent, the command said yesterday that its “amphibious dock landing ship” was heading to the Gulf of Guinea in an initiative to enhance security in the West African sub-region.

“The USS Fort McHenry will port off Africa’s west coast to train African volunteers as part of the Africa Partnership Station (APS) to bolster regional security,” a statement made available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in New York, AFRICOM said. “The concept of the African Partnership Station emanates from requests from the Africans themselves to be in a position where they could establish the situational awareness and control over their maritime environment,” Vice Adm. Robert Moeller, AFRICOM ‘s deputy commander for military operations, said.

Moeller said the training would include “responding to maritime security threats among other initiatives in a region where 62 piracy attacks were reported in African waters in 2006”. “Allowing Africans essentially to police and have control over the maritime environment assures the ability of those countries to develop economically in a very stable way. “There is a direct relationship between a secure maritime environment and a secure and stable terrestrial environment,” he stated.

President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, during his visit to US President George W. Bush, late last year, said that the Federal Government was in support of AFRICOM. The Special Assistant to the President (Communications), Mr. Segun Adeniyi, had clarified the President’s statement, which had generated controversy. He had explained that President Yar’Adua’s statement negated what people thought he meant, adding that his support for AFRICOM did not mean that he wanted its headquarters sited in the country.

Also, last December, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, in Washington DC, said that Nigeria did not endorse the presence of the AFRICOM on the continent. “Nigeria’s position on AFRICOM remains that African governments have the sovereign responsibility for the maintenance of peace and security on the continent,” Maduekwe said. Africa is, however, united in rejecting US requests for a military headquarters site. AFRICOM is a new Unified Combatant Command of the United States Department of Defence, to be responsible for U.S. military operations in and military relations with 53 African nations – an area of responsibility covering all of Africa except Egypt – and to be fully operational by September 2008.

 

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Kenya: Commonwealth: Poll validity in doubt

Posted by African Press International on January 20, 2008

 

A final report by the Commonwealth Observer Group has again faulted the outcome of the presidential vote, saying its validity was in doubt.

The report says ECK has so far not succeeded in establishing the integrity of the tallying process. “The Commonwealth Observer Group has concluded that the process after the close of polling did not meet international standards,” said Commonwealth secretary general, Mr Don McKinnon. Consequently, McKinnon has urged President Kibaki and ODM leader, Mr Raila Odinga, to come together to find a lasting solution to the impasse.

McKinnon also said Commonwealth was ready to work with the country “to look at ways of reconstituting ECK along lines of Commonwealth best practice”. He said it was necessary to have a national election management body that was transparent, accountable and enjoys the full confidence of all political contestants. McKinnon stressed the importance of ensuring the integrity of the election process was beyond question as there were consequences in circumstances where confidence was perceived to be lacking. “We are deeply saddened and troubled by the incidents of violence in the wake of the elections and large-scale loss of life and displacement of people which followed. This underlines the importance of ensuring that the integrity of the entire process is beyond question.”

Their verdict comes behind similar ones by European Union and East African Community. In its 32-paged report, the Commonwealth Observers Group faulted ECK on its mode of transmitting and announcing the results. It says the delay in declaring the results resulted in Kenyans experiencing significant concerns about the validity of the results. “It cannot be acceptable that the ECK process does not ensure accurate and speedy transmission of results to the centre and that they appointed a number of returning officers who failed in their duties,” the report says.

Even if the results declared were correct, the report says, the process commencing with the tallying of votes must be considered flawed. The observer team called on ECK to urgently review the process for transmission and announcement of results.

 

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Kenya: EU freezes aid over post-poll stalemate

Posted by African Press International on January 20, 2008

The European Parliament yesterday voted for a freeze of all budgetary support to Kenya until a political settlement to the disputed re-election of President Kibaki is found.

The decision made at a parliamentary session in Strasburg is the first such action taken by the country’s development partners since Mr Kibaki was declared the winner of the December 27 election, which the opposition claims was rigged in his favour. “The European Parliament asks for the freezing of all budgetary support to the Government until a political solution to the crisis is found,” the deputies said in a resolution.
If effected, this resolution could put at risk a number of infrastructure, energy and water projects that have been the major beneficiaries of EU financing over the past five years.

Though its support to Kenya is small compared to other African countries, the EU remains one of Nairobi’s top donors. Since 2002, the European Union has financed the government budget to the tune of Sh28.4 billion. Besides, it had earmarked Sh37.5 billion for infrastructure, energy and water projects between 2008 and 2013. Yesterday, EU parliamentarians condemned the violence and maintained that the result of the election was not credible. They called for a fresh vote “if a fair recount is not possible.”

Through the resolution, the MPs said they were “deeply concerned by the social repercussions of the crisis, its detrimental effect on the country’s socio-economic development and the economic consequences for neighbouring countries.” They criticised the EU executive for disbursing Sh3.9 billion in budgetary support to Kenya on December 28 – a day after the controversial elections. But in what could sound a temporary reprieve for Kenya, EU Aid and Development Commissioner Louis Michel said it would go with the parliamentary resolution but explained that the December 28 disbursement was made before doubts over the results emerged.

The Head of EU delegation in Kenya, Mr Eric van der Linden, said that although he fully agreed with legislators’ analysis, his office may delay effecting it on humanitarian grounds. “The crisis is having a bad effect on the Kenyan people and our priority is to improve the humanitarian conditions,” he said. His comments came barely two days after the European Commission earmarked about Sh550 million in humanitarian aid for victims of post-election violence in Kenya with indications that the funds would go to meeting the basic needs of the displaced.

While announcing the move, Mr Michel expressed concern over the plight of people driven from their homes in recent weeks. “More than a quarter of a million people are displaced and a similar number living a precarious existence in the shanty towns, have been badly affected. We urge all the parties to stop immediately the violence and to engage immediately and seriously in talks with a view to find a political solution.”
The funds, channelled through the Commission’s humanitarian aid department (ECHO), will target key essentials for displaced people and refugees including tents, clean water, sanitation, emergency health care, basic household equipment, hygiene products, food and logistics.

 

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Kenya: Eight more killed in chaos

Posted by African Press International on January 20, 2008

 

Nairobi (Kenya) – Eight more people were killed in Nairobi and Kisumu as police battled with demonstrators on the second day of rallies called by ODM to protest at the disputed results of the December Presidential election.

Police shot a man identified by relatives as Felix Okong’o in Nairobi’s Mathare North area in what they said was a confrontation between them and demonstrators. Another man was killed in Kibera while a third was burnt to death in a house in Nairobi’s Ruaraka area. Meanwhile, the European Union Parliament Thursday passed a resolution to freeze aid to Kenya until the election dispute is resolved.

Anti-riot police were engaged in running battles in the city’s Mathare, Kibera and Dagoretti areas in an effort to stop ODM supporters from making their way to Uhuru Park, the venue of the rally, which was sealed off by GSU officers. Calm was reported in other parts of the country as the ODM protest rallies entered a second day. The party claims its Presidential candidate Raila Odinga won the elections but the polls were rigged in favour of President Kibaki.

Violence also broke out in Narok Town, Mwatate and Voi as police fought with protesters to stop the rallies. Business was disrupted in the city centre in the afternoon as police battled demonstrators.
In Kisumu, three people were shot on Wednesday night in Manyatta, Arina and Nubian estates while a fourth one was shot on the Kisumu-Busia highway as they staged a demonstration. And a bullet tore through a tin-walled dwelling in Bandani estate killing a single mother inside identified as Judith Namukuru.

The deaths brought to six, the number of people killed in Kisumu since Wednesday. The shooting of a man on Wednesday captured on television camera sparked an uproar by Nyanza MPs who called for the officer’s prosecution. Tension remained high in the town as police patrolled the central business district and the estates. Nyanza PPO Grace Kaindi said the victims were killed when demonstrators clashed with security personnel at Kondele, Manyatta and Arina estates.

She said two others were shot last night after they broke into an abandoned house at Arina estate. In Nairobi, a sudden appearance of Pentagon members Najib Balala and Mrs Charity Ngilu forced riot police to throw tear gas on Kenyatta Avenue and Banda Street to disperse people. The two MPs scampered in different directions later regrouping at the Serena Hotel where they were denied entry. At the hotel, Foreign minister Moses Wetang’ula met former Mozambique President Joachim Chisano and former Botswana President Ketumile Masire. The minister told the Press he was briefing the leaders on the current situation in the country.

Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka also went to the hotel in the afternoon, but journalists were barred from entering the venue. Government spokesman Alfred Mutua played down the rallies and instead appealed to civil servants to report to work as usual. In Eldoret, road blocks were set up at four points on the main roads leading to the town despite the tight security by the GSU personnel, regular and Administration police.

Those closed included the Eldoret-Nakuru highway, Iten-Eldoret-road, Kapsabet-Eldoret and Eldoret-Webuye roads. Five workers at Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital were injured when police fought demonstrators in the town. They were hurt as police dispersed demonstrators who appeared to have taken cover in the hospital’s compound.

 

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