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Archive for March 7th, 2008

Fresh start for Kenyans

Posted by African Press International on March 7, 2008

Job creation and legal reforms were top on the list when President Kibaki set the legislative agenda for the Tenth Parliament Thursday.

President Kibaki with Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka (to his left) and ODM leader Raila Odinga shortly after the State Opening of the Tenth Parliament yesterday. The President said that the new coalition will prioritise the war against poverty besides embarking on key legal reforms. Photo/PETERSON GITHAIGA

And in what would signal a fresh start in the way Kenya is governed, the House opened without an official Opposition party for the first time since multi-partyism was re-introduced in 1992. Once the crucial Bills legalising the coalition are passed, MPs from all parties will work as a team to promote national healing. The manifestos of all parties will be used as a framework for new national policies, the President said.

The President urged MPs to become ambassadors of peace and reconciliation. He was confident that Kenya would overcome the post-election strife that cost the country over 1,200 lives.

The four key Bills will legalise the grand coalition and set up a Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission. High on the reforms agenda is the Bill to change the way local authorities are governed. The President urged Parliament to pass a law to pave the way for the direct election of mayors.

My Government will also re-table the Sessional Paper on Employment Policy for discussion in the House on the urgent and critical matter of providing enough jobs for our young people, said the President.

Priority will be given to activities that improve the livelihoods and conditions of the poor while promoting equitable opportunities for development throughout the country.

Slum upgrading, building of public markets in all urban areas and support for small businesses and smallholders will be top on the agenda of the coalition government.

President Kibaki also revealed why he and ODM leader Raila Odinga signed the power- sharing deal and peace accord last Thursday: They were answering the cries of Kenyans and had recognised that the country was more important than either of them.

The four Bills, The National Accord and Reconciliation Bill, The Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, The Establishment of Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission Bill, and The Establishment of the Ethnic Relations Commission of Kenya Bill will be given priority to ensure the power-sharing accord is legalised and effected.

The National Accord and Reconciliation Bill will give legal weight to the agreement signed between President Kibaki and Mr Odinga to create the posts of Prime Minister and two deputies. It will also legalise the proportionate distribution of Cabinet positions between PNU and ODM.

Once it is passed, Mr Odinga will become independent Kenyas second Prime Minister after Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, who held the position briefly.
It was obvious from the mood among MPs that the peace deal had eased tensions between them.

Sharp contrast

The atmosphere in the House was in sharp contrast to the chaos and name-calling that marked the swearing-in of MPs and the election of the Speaker in January.

At that time, tempers flared and lawmakers nearly came to blows with each side raising numerous points of order to delay proceedings after the two sides disagreed over the outcome of the December 27 presidential election results.

During the State Opening of Parliament Thursday, President Kibaki was received by Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka, Mr Odinga, deputy leader of government business Martha Karua and whips from the Government coalition and ODM.

Though Mr Odinga occupied the seat of the Leader of Official Opposition, this time round, MPs from both sides of the House rose when the President made his way into the chamber to occupy the Chair of State from where he delivered his address.

Only PNU/government coalition MPs stood during the swearing-in in January.

This time, there was spontaneous foot thumping during the Presidents address.

Minutes silence

At the Presidents request, the House observed a minutes silence twice to honour Embakasi MP Melitus Mugabe Were and Ainamoi MP David Too, who were short dead in January and the more than 1,200 people killed in the violence sparked by the disputed presidential election results.

The President also congratulated the new women MPs, whose number had increased to 21. He also reiterated that the Government would pursue its policy to ensure that women got at least 30 per cent of appointments in the public service.

And to the other MPs, he said: Honourable Members, you must now become the ambassadors of peace and reconciliation in your constituencies, among your communities and throughout the country. Kenyans need to hear and be reassured by their political leaders that they can live, own property and do business in any part of the country without fear of prejudice, harassment or persecution.

National security

The President proposed that a comprehensive policy and law to promote national security and social cohesion be passed for the well-being of the country.

With regard to local authorities, the President proposed that a Bill be brought to the House to amend the Local Government Act to enable the direct election of mayors and county council chairmen.

This reform is long overdue and this Parliament should deliberate on it as a matter of priority, he said.

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14 local cement importers have lost their licences

Posted by African Press International on March 7, 2008

From Leo Odera
Reports from Dar Es Salaam says Tanzania has cancelled cement import licenses for 14 local companies that had applied to import the commodity from East African countries and elsewhere.
The decision comes after months of foot dragging by importers who were issued with licenses to cover cement deficit that had sent prices souring
An article appearing in the latest edition of the influential East African weekly says that late last year the Ministry of Industry, Trade and marketing issued licenses for importers to bring into country 100,000 metric tonnes of cement from East African counties at zero duty.
The Ministry issued a total of 29 licences to various companies .But by January 31 this year only 2,789 tonnes from outside the region had been imported ,prompting the permanent secretary at the Ministry Stagomena Tax Bamwenda to cancel the licenses.
Ms Bamwenda, according to the report also gave 14 days ultimatum for importers with cargo already in transit to ensure that it is delivered before the licenses expired. companies importing cement outside the EAC states have been given up to February 29 to do so with a warning that licenses without at least a third of the amount requested would be cancelled.
However, the cement deficit is likely to end when cement manufacturing expansion projects are finalized.
Tanzania three cement manufacturers Tanzania Portland Cement Company Ltd,Tanga Cement Company Ltd and Mbeya Cement Company Ltd
Last year the combined cement production of te three firms reached 1.6 million tones against an installed capacity of 1.7 million tones.
Tow of them Tanga Cement and Tanzania Portland are currently undertaking expansion projects .the three companies expect to produce a total of 2650,000 tones per annum
With the countys consumption currently standing at 1.5 million annually, the new production capacity for the manufacturers will man a reduced price once the local supply goes up.
Ends
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Uganda: Democracy at the local level is the secret of the country’s stability

Posted by African Press International on March 7, 2008

While Uganda has seen far more violent conflict, it has never quite taken the lethal ethnic turn it did following the disputed elections in Kenya.

Some media reports, on the BBC for example, are already reporting higher numbers for casualties: 1,500 dead, and 600,000 displaced. For violence that lasted only three weeks, and where combatants used mostly machetes, clubs and arrows, that was a high kill rate.

However, though Kenyans were shocked to the bone by the violence, and many had their national self-assurance shattered, no political death is ever completely in vain. There are always lessons, small and big, to be learnt: For example, a new awareness of a peoples strengths and their capacity for evil…

Kenyans only have to look to Uganda. President Yoweri Museveni came to power in January 1986 after a five-year guerrilla war against Milton Obotes Uganda Peoples Congress Party (UPC). The war was fought in the Luwero Triangle, the rich agricultural heartland of Buganda.

A year into Musevenis presidency, I was having coffee with a professor who used to work at the UPC secretariat, and was a staunch, unapologetic supporter of Obote. He was an intelligent man.
He wasnt a professor for nothing. I asked him what was the one thing a UPC government would do differently if it had to fight Musevenis National Resistance Army guerrillas all over again. He paused for about 20 seconds, and I thought he was going to give me a long yarn about changing military strategy.

His answer surprised me. The UPCs mistakes against Museveni were political, not military, he said. In Luwero, as part of its attempt to keep a grip on the area, the Obote government sacked or transferred all civil servants suspected to be unsympathetic to UPC. The area was represented in Parliament by the opposition Democratic Party (DP), which had been hugely popular there. Fearing that the DP was collaborating with the Museveni rebels, the UPC government dismantled its infrastructure and ran all its local leaders out of the area.

That, the good professor said, was the one mistake that truly cost UPC power. If it had not disrupted the DP, and had packed the area with pro-DP civil servants, he said, the war there wouldnt have been between the NRA and the UPC, who were seen as outsiders, but between the rebels and DP, who were local and had a deeper stake in the region. The war was more likely to have failed, he said, because the DP enjoyed far greater support in Luwero than UPC could ever hope to get.

Museveni and his comrades too were watching, and combined with the knowledge they gained from building local support for their campaign, reached the same conclusions rather faster than the UPC.

Musevenis Uganda remained a one-party dictatorship for 19 years of his rule. But that was at the macro, national level. At the grassroots and local levels, the Museveni years delivered one of the most democratic and representative political societies the country and this region have ever had. In Uganda, from mayor to head of a small village fish market, you have to be elected. This has helped Museveni defeat the dozens of rebellions against his government, as the insurgencies struggled to spread beyond the counties and districts where they started because neighbouring areas were led by people who were too deeply a product of local interests to allow an outsiders war to take root there.

That knowledge didnt come cheap. The lesson cost over 100,000 deaths. Yet, if you asked the Ugandans who today will insist on electing even the overseer of their borehole, none knows that that was the price tag on the democratic rights they now take for granted.

*By Charles Onyango-Obbo is Nation Media Groups managing editor for convergence and new products.

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Sudan: EU troops’ clash claims two, French soldier missing

Posted by African Press International on March 7, 2008

Sudanese forces have clashed with troops from the European Union (EU) Force in Chad after they crossed the border into the Darfur region. A Sudanese soldier and a civilian were killed during the exchange of fire, the Sudanese army says.

The EU Force (Eufor) said it was trying to recover one of its vehicles, which had accidentally strayed into Sudan. A French soldier who was in the vehicle is still missing, and France has asked for Sudan’s help to find him. The French soldier’s disappearance is the first serious incident experienced by the force. Another soldier was injured – the mission’s first casualty.

A Sudanese spokesman said occupants of the Eufor vehicle shot at a checkpoint five kilometres inside Sudan, and fled when Sudanese forces returned fire. He said three Sports Utility Vehicles (SUV) and a helicopter returned to the area after 30 minutes and there was an exchange of gunfire, which resulted in the deaths of two Sudanese nationals.

The Eufor says the vehicle had mistakenly strayed three kilometres inside the unmarked border, and an attempt to recover it was met with hostile fire. Eufor is mandated to protect refugees from the Sudanese region of Darfur and the Central African Republic, as well as internally displaced people. The French-dominated 3,700-strong force began deploying in eastern Chad and Central African Republic last month.

 

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Sudan: Presidential advisor lashes out against peace agreement

Posted by African Press International on March 7, 2008

Khartoum (Sudan) Sudanese presidential advisor has lashed out at the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) saying it ignores the real cause of the Sudanese crisis. He further said that what we need is to identify what unite the Sudanese people before to talk about democracy.

Speaking to the Sudanese press on Tuesday about the “Democracy and Benevolent Government”, presidential advisor Bona Malwal said the real debate should be about the perpetual failure of the national political leadership to identify what unites the people of Sudan. The CPA “has only massaged the issues of democracy in Sudan and not really resolved them. We, are neither free from a theocratic state, as the SPLM leadership would want us to believe, nor are we an Islamic state as the NCP also would want to believe.” The prominent southern politician said.

However, he underlined that the “best we can do, is to strive to make it [CPA] work, since it has secured for us a precious peace in our country.” The presidential advisor stressed that Sudanese need “a change of mind set” if they are really want to implement a true “democratic transformation” in the country. “If we achieve a change of mind set and the leaders of the Government of National Unity (GoNU) cooperate with one another better than has so far been the case, then we can achieve something in the remaining two years, before the people of Southern Sudan vote in their referendum on Self-determination.”

Bona said declaring Sudan as an Arab state can be considered as “a show of power by those who took over the country from colonialism.” He further added that The idea of an Islamic State totally ignores the reality of our country.” asking “What democracy are we talking about therefore?” Bona pronounced a harsh verdict against the ruling party saying that the Sudanese society has degenerated into a series of tribal societies. Tribalism has become even proudly acceptable mode of individual identification in Sudan.”

“You almost witness the pride in the face of our politicians, when they identify themselves in power as Jaaleen or Shagia or Danagla. It is as if it is some shame on those tribes who have not set foot on the Presidential Palace along the Nile as rulers of Sudan. Where is the room for real democracy or for Sudanese nationalism?” he said.

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Somalia: Organization urges government to protect journalists

Posted by African Press International on March 7, 2008

Lagos (Nigeria) – The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called on the Somali government to reign in the country’s security forces as a way of stopping the incessant attacks on journalists and media organisations in the country.

The call came as government soldiers raided three radio stations — Horn Afrik, Radio Shabelle, and Radio Simba — in Somalia on Sunday and detained the director of one of the stations. “Security forces must be reined in by the Somali government so they do not carry out their own personal agendas against journalists,” a CPJ statement quoted the committee’s executive director, Joel Simon, as saying.

“We call on the authorities to ensure all the equipment (seized from the stations) is returned undamaged to the three radio stations,” he added in the statement, made available to PANA here. According to the New York based CPJ, Sunday’s raids occurred after heavy fighting and looting over the weekend in the central area of the capital, Mogadishu. Journalists from the affected stations told CPJ that government troops took key radio equipment, including computers, mixers and microphones in order to shutter them.

All three stations were off the air on Sunday but Radio Shabelle and Horn Afrik managed to renew broadcasting Monday. On Sunday, government forces raided the central Howl-Wadaag district, including Bakara market, a day after at least 14 people were killed and 30 wounded in heavy fighting between soldiers and insurgents. Local journalists suspect key equipment was confiscated from the three radio stations in order to censor reporting of Sunday’s mass looting.

The Minister of Information, Ahmed Abdisalam, said the central government did not order the raids on the stations and that the Prime Minister called an emergency meeting on Sunday to investigate the incident.
An estimated 20 soldiers in two armored vehicles raided Radio Simba, looting equipment and beating reporter Abdiaziz Hussein Hassan, local journalists said. Soldiers then proceeded to knock down the doors of Radio Shabelle, taking radio equipment and arresting Director Muktar Mohamed Hirabe.

Hirabe was released the same day. The soldiers also confiscated radio equipment at Horn Afrik and ordered the station to be closed, Chairman Saeed Tahlil told CPJ. Journalists told CPJ that they suspect the order came independently from a top commander and relative of President Abdullahi Yusuf, especially as journalists at two of the stations recognised individuals who took part in the raids as security personnel based at the presidential palace.

The violence in Somalia has taken a heavy toll on journalists, with seven Somali journalists killed because of their work in 2007-

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Somalia: Organization urges government to protect journalists

Posted by African Press International on March 7, 2008

Lagos (Nigeria) – The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called on the Somali government to reign in the country’s security forces as a way of stopping the incessant attacks on journalists and media organisations in the country.

The call came as government soldiers raided three radio stations — Horn Afrik, Radio Shabelle, and Radio Simba — in Somalia on Sunday and detained the director of one of the stations. “Security forces must be reined in by the Somali government so they do not carry out their own personal agendas against journalists,” a CPJ statement quoted the committee’s executive director, Joel Simon, as saying.

“We call on the authorities to ensure all the equipment (seized from the stations) is returned undamaged to the three radio stations,” he added in the statement, made available to PANA here. According to the New York based CPJ, Sunday’s raids occurred after heavy fighting and looting over the weekend in the central area of the capital, Mogadishu. Journalists from the affected stations told CPJ that government troops took key radio equipment, including computers, mixers and microphones in order to shutter them.

All three stations were off the air on Sunday but Radio Shabelle and Horn Afrik managed to renew broadcasting Monday. On Sunday, government forces raided the central Howl-Wadaag district, including Bakara market, a day after at least 14 people were killed and 30 wounded in heavy fighting between soldiers and insurgents. Local journalists suspect key equipment was confiscated from the three radio stations in order to censor reporting of Sunday’s mass looting.

The Minister of Information, Ahmed Abdisalam, said the central government did not order the raids on the stations and that the Prime Minister called an emergency meeting on Sunday to investigate the incident.
An estimated 20 soldiers in two armored vehicles raided Radio Simba, looting equipment and beating reporter Abdiaziz Hussein Hassan, local journalists said. Soldiers then proceeded to knock down the doors of Radio Shabelle, taking radio equipment and arresting Director Muktar Mohamed Hirabe.

Hirabe was released the same day. The soldiers also confiscated radio equipment at Horn Afrik and ordered the station to be closed, Chairman Saeed Tahlil told CPJ. Journalists told CPJ that they suspect the order came independently from a top commander and relative of President Abdullahi Yusuf, especially as journalists at two of the stations recognised individuals who took part in the raids as security personnel based at the presidential palace.

The violence in Somalia has taken a heavy toll on journalists, with seven Somali journalists killed because of their work in 2007-

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Somalia: Hundreds protest US airstrike on Somali town

Posted by African Press International on March 7, 2008

 

Mogadishu (Somalia) - Hundreds of Somalis descended onto the streets of the remote border town of Dobley Tuesday protesting against a US airstrike that destroyed buildings and homes and killed at least six people, witnesses said.

The US confirmed it launched a strike into southern Somalia overnight Sunday in its bid to flush out suspected members of al-Qaeda believed to be hiding in the region. The protestors, mostly women and children, chanted anti-US slogans and demanded the US be held to account for the incursion. “We are very sorry the superpower struck our town and killed our animals, especially our cows and bulls,” Habiibo Dahir, a mother of three, said.

Washington has been concerned that anarchic Somalia has become a safe haven and recruiting ground for al-Qaeda, and backed a successful Ethiopian effort in January 2007 to oust an Islamist group, known as the Union of Islamic Courts, which had seized power and isolated Somalia’s transitional government. In the same month, US AC-130 gunships fired on suspected al-Qaeda agents in southern Somalia.

Dobley’s district commissioner Hagi Ali Dhere said the US “must pay compensation to the Dobley people because they destroyed many assets and lives in this town. It is not the first time they attacked our region.”
Somalia fell into lawlessness after the 1991 toppling of dictator Mohammed Siad Barre by US-backed warlords and the transitional government has been unable to assert full control over the Horn of Africa country.
It is believed remnants of the ousted Islamist group have been harbouring terrorist suspects linked to the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

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Swaziland: To Relocate or not to relocate?

Posted by African Press International on March 7, 2008

Mbabane (Swaziland) – Climate change appears to have permanently altered certain areas of east and southern Swaziland, where good harvests have not been achieved for over a decade. Agriculture officials and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) now question whether these areas can still support communities.

“Before donor fatigue sets in, we have no choice but to confront the obvious. Otherwise we can be accused of turning a blind eye,” said Charles Ndwandwe, an agriculture extension officer in the eastern Lubombo region, which has never fully recovered from a drought that devastated the country in 1992. Climate conditions have also been difficult over recent months. IPS has ascertained that summer rains failed to materialise in Lavumisa, in the eastern Lubombo.

This has taken a severe toll on harvests of maize, the staple food of Swaziland. Maize that was planted in the spring months of November and December is now largely desiccated due to lack of rainfall (the last measurable rains in the region are said to have fallen on Dec. 27). To make matters worse, a heat wave struck Lubombo last month, prompting the National Emergency Relief Council to express concern about the situation there.

Such difficulties, coupled with the country’s small population and the availability of other land, have prompted suggestions that Swazis might be relocated in response to persistent drought. “There are unused government farms in agriculturally viable parts of the country. Why not relocate families who cannot scratch out an existence in Lavumisa and depend on food aid year after year? Food aid should not be a lifestyle. People become dependent,” said Walker Nkambule, a businessman from Manzini, the commercial hub of the country.

Currently there are state farms lying idle that government economic planners intend incorporating into large-scale agriculture projects when funding becomes available. They reject proposals to convert the land into small subsistence farms, claiming this would not be economically viable. “Subsistence farming is very traditional but it only supplements family income from other sources. Nobody can live on it anymore,” said Ndwandwe. At present, 80 percent of the population resides on small farms located on communal land that is overseen by chiefs. Government would like to see farmers combine their fields into larger co-operative ventures.

Christopher Fakudze, an economist who works with the Ministry of Natural Resources to develop water needs projections and water resource management, disagrees with the proposal to abandon drought prone areas. “Swaziland is geographically a small place, and there is no reason why we cannot pipe water to where it is needed.” The large scale projects required to pipe in water would be very expensive, however.

Amidst widespread poverty, few people can afford to move away from inhospitable land of their own accord. According to the 2007/2008 United Nations Human Development Report, 47.7 percent of people in Swaziland live on less than a dollar a day — and 77.8 percent on less than two dollars a day. These figures reflect the widespread joblessness in this Southern African nation; 2007 statistics from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation put unemployment in Swaziland at up to 40 percent, a figure that includes people who are too discouraged to seek work.

Mphilo Dube, a 20-year-old resident of Lavumisa, spent three months trying to find work at the Matsapha Industrial Estate, where the country’s few factories are concentrated, in central Swaziland. “I gave up when I got tired of going hungry. At least here I am with my family,” Dube said. Poverty and climatic hardship elicit a stoic response from many Swazis. “There is a reason that Swaziland is a stable country despite its humanitarian crisis. The people are conservative. They prefer hardship to the unknown that change brings,” said a political scientist at the University of Swaziland. “This is why people stay in those dusty lifeless areas, and why government policy has been for poverty alleviation where people live, rather than relocation.”

 

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