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Archive for March 19th, 2008

No rain – Western Kenya residents in fear

Posted by African Press International on March 19, 2008

api-correspondent-odera-omolo.jpg<FromLeo Odera Omolo
Although at this time of the year the much awaited long rains should have already started in most parts of the agriculturally reach western not even iota of rain water has fallen
Top officials of the the metereological department had already predicted in February that the long rains will be rather sparce and will not cover most parts of Kenya.Their projection is that the long rain might not go beyond the month of May 2008.
Maize crop, which is the staple food of many Kenyans take up to 120 days (or four months} to mature and in the highlands south and North of Rift Valley ,the crop stays in farms for up to 8 months .This is meant between April to October.
It is, indeed a rush for farmers times ,especially those in the North Rift region as they buy farm inputs of the season ,planting exercise though with bitter complaints about the skyrocketing cost of inputs which they said is unaffordable.
Most of the farmers in areas like Nandi ,Eldoret,Tanzania,Molo,Kericho,Sotik and Gusii regions have voiced concern that farm inputs outlets in the region have been recording high profits as the farmers purchase maize seed and fertilizer.But complaints about high fertilizer and fuel prices which they said have forced the majority of farmers to reduce acreage under maize cultivation is also bitting
Fuel and fertilizer prices are too high and we have no option but to reduce acreage under cultivation this season said Mr.Said Chepkeitany of Uasin Gishu.
Most farm outlets stores in Eldoret town are selling a 50kg bag of diamonium phosphate (DAP) at kshs 4,000 up from about kshs 1800 last year which the farmers have as too high.
Diesel is used excessively in mechanized modern farming Diesel prices have increased from kshs 78.24 to kshs 83.99 per litre sparking protests of increased cost of cultivation by the farmers.
The planting seams in most parts of western Kenya region especially in the North Rift usually starts from March and extend to many as the long rains begin to fall.
But the escalating cost of fuel and fertilizer has rendered agriculture and non-profitable venture, said a sergant farmer mzee William Chemweno.
Non arrival of long rain seeds have gone high the prizes pf maize skyrocketing in the region.This is being attributed to the panicking farmers now said to be hoarding maize in their stores in wait for better prizes later as the famine bites deeper.
Maize production in Uasin Gishu district alone is expected to trop by 600,000 bags due to increased cost of farm inputs and displacement of some of the farmers as a result of the recent post-election violence.
The Uasin Gishu district Agricultural officer Mrs Grace Kirui says in her annual report that the district is expected to harvest 3.7 million bags of maize this season from 43 million harvested last year.
She added that the farmers have diversified into wheat cultivation and dairy farming which is attracting better return prices.
In Kericho district another maize producing area only a third of farmland has so far been planted with food crop.
According to a report out of the 90 percent of land prepared for this planting season, only a third has been planted as the farmers waits for the year to come long rains. And the recent statement by the Meteorogical department that the rains will not last beyond May 2008 has caused a lot of panicking among the farmers.
The report says however the farmers in Kericho region were lucky to have harvested bumper crops and stored last years crops due to politics and prolonged drought
A bag of 90kg maize is now selling at between 1400 and 1600 shillings in most parts of Western Kenya .But it is expected to shoot up to Kshs 2000 by the beginning of May 2008
Most Churches prayed for rains to come last Sunday in Kisumu, Kisii, Kericho and Kilgoris.
Ends
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Kibaki and Raila – Meeting the diplomats as lobbying for cabinet posts intensifies

Posted by African Press International on March 19, 2008

MPs lobby for Cabinet positions

 

By Standard Team Behind-the-scenes lobbying and a string of secret meetings appeared to precede the naming in the next few days of a new Cabinet complete with a prime minister and two deputies, The Standard can report.

Already, powerful regional interests are publicly piling pressure on President Kibaki and Mr Raila Odinga, the prime minister-designate, over appointments to the Cabinet and the two deputy premiership slots.

By Monday night, the intense clamour for positions appeared to paint a picture of the return to the same old high stakes, personality-driven, quest for power in a new dawn where the electorate expects the focus to shift to building and strengthening governance institutions.

In Central Kenya, a succession war between Cabinet ministers, Ms Martha Karua (Justice) and Mr Uhuru Kenyatta (Local Government), appears to have split MPs as the two Party of National Unity (PNU) bigwigs battle for one of the deputy premiership slots.

But a series of meetings between the regions MPs are yet to reach a consensus on who between the two would be fronted for the single slot reserved for the party in the envisaged coalition Government.

It is understood that while those in Kiambu and Thika districts are rooting for Uhuru, those in President Kibakis backyard of Nyeri and Kirinyaga support Karua, a staunch defender of the Government.

Another meeting scheduled for Tuesday at Railways Club in Nairobi, in which the regions MPs are expected to draw demands for Cabinet positions, will tackle the matter of the deputy PM slot afresh.

There were claims at the weekend that MPs had unanimously agreed to support Uhuru, the Kanu chairman who is also being backed by the Independence party.

Former Gatanga MP, Mr David Murathe, who is a close ally of Uhuru, told The Standard the decision was reached at a meeting last week and claimed that a Cabinet minister was sent to deliver the news to Uhuru.

But Tharaka MP, Mr Muiru Mburi, and his Nithi counterpart, Mr Kareke Mbiuki, on Monday backed Energy minister, Mr Kiraitu Murungi, for the deputy PM post.

meeting-the-diplomats.jpg
President Kibaki and Prime Minister-designate, Mr Raila Odinga, with members of the diplomatic corps at Harambee House, Nairobi, on Monday. Picture: PPS

This emerged as lobbying for Cabinet positions continued. But several Central MPs were in agreement that they should not push too hard as the region was already well represented in the half-Cabinet named in January.Nyeri MP, Ms Esther Murugi, said the situation was tricky as Central already had four Cabinet posts, while the Meru region was represented by Kiraitu. In ODM, Eldoret North MP, Mr William Ruto, defused building tension when he backed Mr Musalia Mudavadi, the party deputy leader and MP for Sabatia, for the deputy PM job.

“I know my people have been asking that I be appointed deputy PM. But for the sake of our party, I will instead support my brother Mudavadi,” Ruto, citing how a discredited presidential election changed circumstances for the party, stated. He is probably now be lined up for a powerful Cabinet position.

Rift valley leaders demands But that doesnt mean ODM is out of the woods yet. Three of MPs Mr Kipkalya Kones, Mr Franklin Bett and Dr Julius Kones said at the weekend that power-sharing in the party should be based on voting patterns in the December elections.

“If we gave more votes than the North Rift, we the Kipsigis should get the bigger portion,” Bett was quoted by our sister paper, The Sunday Standard, as saying on Saturday.

Luo Nyanza is also laying its stake amid reports that the region was fronting ODM Secretary-General, Prof Anyang Nyongo, Mbita MP, Mr Otieno Kajwang, and his Rongo counterpart, Mr Dalmas Otieno.

“Personality could play a role. This is going to be a very competitive Government and there will be a lot of haggling over policies,” argued Kajwang, even as leaders from other regions insisted that for the sake of future support, Nyanza should expect less than other regions.

But the biggest headache for ODM is in the Rift Valley, not to mention Western Province, which has already landed the Speakers post.

The Coast, with 12 MPs in ODM, is expected to get not more than two Cabinet positions. But Kisauni MP, Mr Hassan Joho, says the region is not making any demands.

North Eastern, which already has a PNU minister, is expected to get only one from ODM.

By virtue of being in the powerful House Business Committee (HBC) in Parliament, Dr Sally Kosgei, Mr Najib Balala, Mr Henry Kosgey, Nyongo, Mr Ali Mohamed Mohamud, Mrs Charity Ngilu and Mr Omingo Magara may already have one leg in the Cabinet.

Perhaps, ODM may want to follow the example of PNU, which already has HBC members Karua (Justice), Mr Amos Kimunya (Finance), Prof George Saitoti (Internal Security), Kiraitu (Energy), Mr Moses Wetangula (Foreign Affairs) and Uhuru in the Cabinet.

Influential pentagon members Like Ruto and Mudavadi, Balala and Ngilu may have more leverage to influence things because they sit in the Pentagon, ODMs top governing organ. Another Pentagon member, Mr Joseph Nyagah, may also be causing a regional balance headache for the party.

But last night, only the two principals appeared privy to the secrets of the new Cabinet on a day the President dropped the strongest hint yet that the much-awaited coalition Government could be announced any time now.

“Once an enlarged coalition Government is formed in the next few days, we shall be operating as one strong government,” the Head of State, who will start the day officiating at a pass-out parade at the Police Training College in Kiganjo and returning to attend Parliament this afternoon, said on Saturday in a statement he read to foreign envoys.

His presence in Parliament and the shelving of debate on the Presidential Speech to pave way for two crucial Bills appeared to add to the urgency with which the President wants the matter of the coalition Government dispensed with.

Consequently, debate on the Presidential Speech, in its fourth day today, will follow the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill and the National Accord and Reconciliation Bill in that order.

Todays Order Paper lines up the two Bills for debate, after which they are expected to go to the Committee of the Whole House for scrutiny and probably eventual passage.

Karua and Attorney-General, Mr Amos Wako, are expected to set the mood for debate of the Bills.

On Saturday, President Kibaki assured the donor community that the coalition Government and its structures would be in place as soon as the laws are passed. Kibaki and Raila also held an hour-long meeting at Harambee House where they appealed to MPs to pass the two Bills.

Although there will be no amendment on the floor to the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, notice has been given for a proposed amendment to a clause on the National Accord and Reconciliation Bill.

Githunguri MP, Mr Njoroge Baiya (Safina), wants clause 4 amended in sub-clause (2) by deleting the words “parliamentary leader of the party in the coalition and thereafter shall be in full consultation with the President on the appointment of all ministers”.

The MP wants this clause to be substituted during the Committee Stage with the words “respective parliamentary leader of the party in the coalition and thereafter there shall be concurrence between such leader and the President on the appointment of ministers and assistant ministers”.

Earlier, President Kibaki recommitted himself to the peace pact, saying that signing the accord on February 28 was the first step to achieving a prosperous and stable future for all Kenyans.

“Let me assure you that we are fully committed to implementing and abiding by the Accord with our coalition partners without any reservation,” he told the more than 40 envoys at Harambee House.

President Kibaki and Raila had earlier briefed the envoys including representatives of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank on the National Reconciliation and Emergency Social and Recovery Strategy.

Reports by Ben Agina, Patrick Mathangani, Francis Ngige, Moses Njagi, Patrick Muriungi and Boniface Gikandi.

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The annual congress has the mandate to elect a leadership able to steer games to another level, says Kalusha Bwalya

Posted by African Press International on March 19, 2008

musonda.jpg<From Chishala Musonda(Journalist)

LUSAKA, – Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) presidential aspiring candidate, Kalusha Bwalya, says affiliates and clubs to the annual congress to be held at the Mulungushi International Conference Centre in Lusaka next weekend have the mandate to elect into office a leadership able to steer the countrys ebbing game to another level.The FAZ annual general meeting will be held on March 29.Now the people have the chance to see the game change for the better. You (councillor) have the mandate to elect the right people in office to see our football move forward.

Change is inevitable, Kalusha said in his campaign address to Copperbelt-based club representatives on Sunday night at Zanji Lodge in Ndola, about 300 kilometres from the capital Lusaka.

Kalusha is challenging incumbent Teddy Mulonga for the FAZ presidency while Lusaka businessman Hanif Adam is another competitor.

Premier League clubs in attendance were Baluba Rising Stars, Chifubu Bullets, Chifubu Pirates, Indeni, Lime Hotspurs, Luanshya Hotspurs, Luanshya United, Ndola United, Ndola Police, Roan United, Tug-Argan Snipers, Zamtel and Zesco United.

Kalusha had a meeting earlier Sunday in Kitwe, about 60 kilometres from Ndola, and on Saturday also met club from Luapula province, north of the country to drum up support for the March 29 elections.

Kalusha, who is the outgoing FAZ vice-president, said he decided contest the top job and be in the driving seat of the game in the country following the backward strides football has taken in this era.

He said the reason to vie for the position was mainly to help develop football in Zambia as he could not afford to be in the back seat and see the games standards fall when he is able to offer some solutions in a way.

Kalusha, who turns 45 in August, charged that there is need to change the perspective of football in Zambia and that could be done with the focused leadership ready to take football to another level.

An ambassador for the South Africa 2010 FIFA World Cup, Kalusha said Zambia is able to benefit the tournament with the right attitude having been part of the envoys to help bring the worlds famous game to the continent.Other African soccer stars to help South Africa win the staging of the World Cup in 2010 are Abedi Pele from Ghana and Cameroons Rodger Milla. We helped bring the World Cup 2010 and can do a lot to benefit from that, he said.The 1988 Africa Footballer-of-the-Year talked highly of fair play, the FIFA slogan that represents the positive of playing by the rule, during the on-going campaigns and not let the divisions take the toil.Dividing people in football because of the election is bad, it does not promote the spirit of the game, a delightful Kalusha, who was accompanied by FAZ vice-president aspiring candidates Emmanuel Munaile and Andre Mtine, said.

A veteran of six Africa Cup of Nations tournaments, Kalusha retired from active football in 2004, after his illustrious career took him to play football in Europe, North America and the Middle East, to take up coaching and administration at the same time.

Munaile is a former Zambian international midfielder and played with Kalusha club football at Mufulira Wanderers.Munaile and Mtine are up for the number two position against three other candidates; Giles Yambayamba, Simataa Simataa and Joseph Nkole.

Bourne Mwamelo who is seeking a vote for the treasurers post, a woman Lenny Nkhuwa, Macha Chilemena, Keagan Chipango and Pivoty Simwanza all eyeing the committee membership were also present.

Nkhuwa, Division Two (Copperbelt) Nkhwiza FC proprietor, said she would fight to strike gender, the promotion of women football and also ensure the de-centralisation the FAZ secretariat when elected into the FAZ executive.The Nkhwiza boss said she had acquired enough experience from the club she run for 12 years and having served on the FAZ sub-committee to enter the main stream of the local football governing body.

Nkhuwa, Violet Bwalya, Eustrasia Chambeshi and Dorothy Sampa are the women wanting to get into FAZ.

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Sudan: China talks tough over Darfur

Posted by African Press International on March 19, 2008

China has issued an unusually energetic call to its ally, Sudan, to do more to stop fighting in Darfur.

According to British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), China’s envoy, Liu Guijin said that the “humanitarian disaster” in the region was a grave concern to China. Liu called on Khartoum to do more to speed up the arrival of peacekeepers in the region but he also criticised Darfur’s rebel groups. China is a key ally of the Sudanese government – buying its oil, selling it weapons and using its weight at the UN.
Liu has just returned from a trip to Sudan, which included Darfur.

He said he had been profoundly affected by things he had seen in the province. He added that he was also moved by the stories he had heard from Darfuris forced to flee their homes after five years of conflict. China has been stung by Western accusations that it is colluding with the Sudanese government, and is eager to ensure the issue does not overshadow this year’s Olympic Games in Beijing. Last month, US film director Steven Spielberg pulled out as artistic adviser to the Olympics, saying that China had failed to use its influence on Khartoum over Darfur.

The BBC said that Beijing is keen to defend its economic interests but also wants to be seen to be taking a more aggressive stance against Khartoum in the run up to the Olympics. She said that when Liu spoke to journalists in Khartoum last week he was much less outspoken. Then he pointed out that China was a friend to Sudan and that the Chinese government was already doing a lot to work with the West over Darfur.

The United Nations says more than 200,000 have died in Darfur during the four-year conflict and at least two million have been displaced and live in camps.

 

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The Gambia and press freedom

Posted by African Press International on March 19, 2008

From Scott A Morgan

One of the best sources of Gambian News that is available online has come under attack. That source The Freedom Newspaper which is based in Raliegh, North Carolina in the United States had its access to the country blocked by GAMTEL the State Telecommunications Company. This action was taken in response to a story the paper carried about the company.

This action meant that the only source of information available to the Gambian people were those sponsored by the State.

So effectively for a short period of time there was a news blackout from The Gambia. This action shows that any efforts that are deemed necessary to crackdown on the independent media are the rule not the exception.

Since December 2004 when Deyda Hydara the Editor of The Point was murdered in cold blood by unknown assailants press freedom has been on a short leash. In July of 2006 Chief Ebrima Manneh another Journalist disappeared. Currently Fatou Jaw Manneh another Journalist who currently is based in the United States was delayed again as the Magistrate failed to show up for the Proceedings.

Ms. Manneh is currently facing charges of sedition for an article that she posted on http://www.allgambian.net . In the item she criticized President Jammeh and his rule within Gambia. The case has been bouncing around the Gambian court system for the last year. If found guilty of the charges she faces a 7 year Jail term.

These incidents are just the lowlights of what is currently occuring within Gambia. Late last year two researchers from Amnesty International were arrested after leading classes on journalism. Their driver was also detained as well. The members of the Human Rights Group were Released After intervention from the Embassies of the United States, Great Britain and Nigeria.

One of the basic tenents of a free society is a free and independent press. These acts of intimidation are indictiative of a government that has individuals in it that are drunk with power.

They have even used Gambians living in the United States to threaten those internet journalists who dare to print what the current government does not want people to see.

The region itself is a potential powderkey. There are rebels from the Casamance region currently in Gambian jails facing treason charges as well. No one knows how this case will be adjudicated. There is a growing narcotics trade in Guniea-Bissau as well and there are new allegations that neighboring Senegal is conducting intelligence operations within Gambia as well.

For whatever reason The Gambia is on the Brink. Could it be its power hungry president and his desire to retain power? Could it be regional tensions rising up in the country? Or is it a combination of the two factors? Or something unseen? Whatever it is the situation isn’t sexy enough like the crisis in Darfur. And it may catch some people by suprise.

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The Dakar agreement between Sudan and Chad applauded

Posted by African Press International on March 19, 2008

mohamed-legally-cole.jpg<From Mohamed Legally-Cole

The Secretary General of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, Professor Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, welcomed the signing of an agreement between H.E. President Omar Hassan Al Bashir and H.E. President Idriss Deby, President of the Republic of Chad, under the auspices of H.E. Maitre Abdoulaye Wade, President of the Republic of Senegal, on the sidelines of the 11th Session of the Islamic Summit Conference, held in Dakar, Senegal on 13 March 2008.

The Secretary General praised the commendable efforts made by H.E. Maitre Abdoulaye Wade, President of the Republic of Senegal, Chair of the current Session of the Islamic Summit Conference, whose outcome was the realization of this Agreement, and expressed his hope that this Agreement would permanently end the differences between the two countries and establish peace and security in the region.The Secretary General affirmed that his participation in the consultations which led to the signing of the Dakar Agreement fits into the context of the increasingly growing role of the OIC in safeguarding peace and security at the regional and international levels.

President Abdoulaye Wade said in Dakar on Friday, that the peace agreement signed between Chad and Sudan in Dakar, Thursday night, is “the beginning of the process” to make peace return to this region, stressing that he was “the instrument of the hand of God.”

The accord between the two countries “is for us the beginning of the process, the first stage to restore peace” in this African region undermined by instability, he told a news conference held at the end of the 11th Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC).

“Two days ago,” when President Debby arrived in Dakar, “elements of the Chadian opposition crossed the border and went to attack him,” President Wade intimated.

Since then, “we have been very concerned by thinking that the rebels” would attack while the Chadian leader was in Dakar, where he participated in the Islamic Ummah meeting, said the head of state.

The process which helped bring Presidents Idriss Debby and Omar El Beshir together, would be continued, he stressed that in Chad, “the problem is to form a national union government. In Sudan, it is the same thing.”

Both Sudan and Chad are confronted with armed conflicts in their territories, in addition to armed incursions that they are subjected to from both sides of the common border.

Sudanese President Omar El Beshir and his Chadian counterpart Idriss Debby signed in Dakar, Thursday, a peace deal in order to “end for good” the differences between their countries. Under this accord concluded as a result of talks started in Dakar, in the afternoon, both states agree to “restore peace and security” between Chad and Sudan, but also in the sub-region.

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OIC moves to reduce inequality amongst Islamic States

Posted by African Press International on March 19, 2008

mohamed-legally-cole.jpg<From Mohammed Legally-Cole)

Member states of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) have agree on ways to reduce poverty and revise their charter to addresses the huge imbalance in wealth between rich and poor countries in the Islamic world at the 11th OIC summit held in the Senegalese capital Dakar.

The Senegalese Foreign Affairs Minister Cheikh Tidiane Gadio said that there are about 57 member states of the OIC are amongst the richest and the poorest in the world. This was expressed at a press conference on 11th March 2008, following a meeting of some 30 Foreign Ministers who had spent the day putting final touches on the revised OIC’s charter. The new charterwas set to be adopted by some 37 heads of stateat the end of the two-day OIC summit in Dakar, Senegal.

“The plan is not just to provide ‘Zakaat’ (charity) to poor states but a genuine mechanism by which the wealth of Islamic states can be more equal,” he said. An anti-poverty fund which the OIC first announced in May 2007 would total US$10 billion, although so far only US$2.6 billion has been committed reports say.

Foreign Minister Gadio said that the OIC must put special emphasis on African development. “The holding of this summit in Senegal must be remembered as a landmark for (when Islamic countries started seriously getting involved in) Africa, just as the summit held in Malaysia (in October 2003) was a landmark for Asia,” he said.

OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu agreed. The proposed changes to the OIC charter symbolise a “turning point for the organisation” he said at the press conference “This will be the first change to the charter in almost 40 years,” he said. “The OIC is not what it was in 1972. The scope of the OIC has increased and the world we are living in today is no longer that of the bipolar Cold War.”

The exact changes to the charter are yet to be made public but Foreign Minister Gadio suggested they would be extensive and focused on helping reduce the disparities between rich and poor Islamic countries. He and Ihsanoglu also said that they were confident the revised charter would be approved by OIC heads of state.

Other OIC officials welcomed the proposed changes. “The time has surely come to move from talk to action, from vague deliberations to implementation with practical measures for the benefit of our people,” Bangladesh‘s Foreign Adviser Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury told the Bangladesh publication The Daily Star.

The application of an economic, social and cultural partnership will be one the “major axes” of Senegal chair of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), President Abdoulaye Wade announced on Thursday March 13th in Dakar at the opening ceremony of the 11th summit.

“Today, we’re all concerned with the necessity of dynamic economic, social, and cultural partnership, Abdoulaye Wade said just after his designation as new chairman of the Islamic Ummah board. “‘What is paradoxical is that the Islamic Ummah is made of rich and a majority of poor countries while solidarity is one the essential basis of Islam”, Abdoulaye Wade insisted.

From the 3rd action plan elaborated during the extraordinary summit in Mecca, we must boost economic, social and cultural relations to the same level as the links between the OIC member countries, according t Mr. Wade. “The Islamic solidarity must not be restricted to assistance” In his speech, President Abdoulaye Wade also called for a debt cancellation in favour of the OIC member countries.

About 45 heads of state and government took part to the opening ceremony. Senegal is organising this summit for the second time, after hosting it for the first in 1991.

It could be recalled that the OIC was created in 1969 to defend the interest of Muslims in the world and to strengthen the relations between Islamic countries, in reaction to the burning of Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. It has 57 members.

The Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) has set the date, 1st January 2009 as the deadline to put in place a Trade Preferential System expected to be the “starting point to reach the 20 percent ratio in trade” among the Islamic organisation’s member countries.

This ratio has been set by the Ten-Year Programme of Action adopted by the 3rd extraordinary session of the Islamic Summit Conference in the Mecca, 7-8 December 2005, “to promote and reinforce trade liberalisation within the OIC community.”

According to a document on “draft resolutions on economic affairs” presented in the 11th OIC session that ended in Dakar, Friday, the Islamic organisation “lauds the successful conclusion of the first and second rounds of trade negotiations for the establishment of a Trade Preferential System among the OIC states (TPS-OIC).

The OIC urges the Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC) member states “to finalise the signature and ratification of the protocol on the Preferential Tariff System (PRETAS) and the original rules of the TPS-OIC by the closest deadline to make the TPS-OIC operational as of 1 January 2009.”

At this prospect, the chairman of the Permanent Committee for Economic and Trade Cooperation (COMCEC) and the OIC secretary-general have been invited “to coordinate their efforts in order to have the quorum of ratifications required for the PRETAS and TPS-OIC original rules to be effective to make the latter system become a reality by the deadline.”

The economic and trade cooperation strategy adopted by the COMCEC provides for cooperation between the sub-groups of member countries and is based on principles focusing the private sector, economic liberalisation, integration into global economy, as well as the inviolable nature of economic, political, legal and institutional bodies in member states, and their international obligations, according to the same source.

Senegal recognized the extent of the “exceptional privilege” to host an Islamic Ummah meeting for the second time, President Abdoulaye Wade, chairman of the 11th Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) session, said in Dakar on Thursday 13th March 2008.

The Summit “is not only that of Senegal,” but that “the entire Africa,” from the north to the south, President Wade said in his opening address.

He lauded “the massive presence” of the Islamic Ummah heads of state and government, who have come “in great number, sometimes from a distance” to take part in the Dakar meeting. This is to him an expression of their “esteem” for Senegal, its authorities and Africa.

The president of the Malaysian senate, Pant Mohammad Hamid Panwenth, representing his country’s prime minister, who chaired the 10th session, opened the deliberations of the 11th session, a ceremony marked by 11 addresses at the plenary session room of Meridien President Hotel.

The Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) must not only be a platform to exchange views, but also a forum against the libelous attacks on Islam and for solidarity with destitute Muslims. “The OIC must not only be a platform to exchange views, but also a forum to launch the fight against libelous attacks, for solidarity with the millions of poverty-stricken Muslims throughout the world,” Mohammad Hamid Panwenth said on Thursday.

He added that the OIC would have to be a forum to protect the Ummah against extremism and xenophobia, while contributing to the social development of Muslim populations and the fight against justice and equity.

“We cannot afford to lag behind,” he added, stressing that the OIC “must play its part” in the same capacity as the international community in the fight “against poverty, hunger and diseases.”

“The OIC must not give up” in its fight for justice, notably in view of the current international geopolitical environment, he indicated. In this connection, he stressed the need to look for solutions to “end the sufferings of more than half a century of the Palestinian people” and support the establishment of a Palestinian sate.

However, for the Malaysian Prime Minister, Abdallah Bedews, whose message was read by the president of the Malaysian senate, the Muslim leaders need first to work “together,” “remained united.” Therefore, he stressed the need to cultivate the “political will, saying that he was convinced that “the Ummah can get over its differences.”

Cheikh Tidiane Ndongo of “Nassroul Islam” school in Dakar had the privilege to recite before the heads of state, sovereigns and heads of government the Holy Koranic verses as a blessing at the opening of the 11th Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) Summit.

However, in another development, The Secretary General of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, Professor Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, was re-elected for a new term of office during the closing meeting of the 11th Session of the Islamic Summit Conference held in the Senegalese capital Dakar.The new Charter sets the new term of office for OIC Secretary General at five years instead of four years as it was in the previous Charter.The incumbent Secretary General has one year remaining in office thereby bringing the overall length of his term to six years. The Member States commended the Secretary General for his performance during the past years as well as for his efforts in preparing the Dakar Summit.

Professor Ihsanoglu expressed his thanks and gratitude to the Member States for their confidence and support for the Organisation and the Secretary General, and reaffirmed his determination to continue playing a positive role in serving the OIC Member States and the Islamic World.

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The first conference of humanitarian organizations in the OIC member States gathered in the resort of Sally Portudal – Senegal

Posted by African Press International on March 19, 2008

mohamed-legally-cole.jpg

<From Mohamed Legally-Cole

More than 50 Islamic Non-Governmental Organisations in the OIC Member States gathered in the resort of Sally Portudal in Dakar, the Republic of Senegal from 7 to 9 March 2008, in the First Conference of Humanitarian Organizations in the OIC Member States and leaders of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) have agreed to play a greater role in providing humanitarian assistance to Islamic countries.

“This is a historical moment in the history of the OIC and the Islamic Ummah in general,” said OIC Assistant Secretary General Atta Manane Bakhit at the closing of a three-day conference on 9 March, held before the start of the full OIC summit in the Senegalese capital Dakar.

“It marks a new page in cooperation between humanitarians, governments, and international organisations.”

The conference, the first of its kind according to organisers, closed with a joint statement calling on governments throughout the Islamic world to support humanitarian NGOs in their countries. The OIC pledged to create a centre to analyse humanitarian needs in OIC countries. It also said it would establish more formal links with NGOs.

Some 60 percent of all refugees in the world are within and around Islamic countries, according to the OIC. Bakhit said that Islamic NGOs should focus first on humanitarian problems facing the Islamic countries, he pledged that the OIC and Islamic NGOs should also work with the wider humanitarian community.

“We are part of the bigger community of humanitarian organisations worldwide,” he said. “We think we can add value.” “We will work transparently and clearly and we are ready to cooperate with anyone,” Bakhit said.

Several recommendations were made for submission to the 11th Islamic Summit in Dakar. Cited among them are those calling for endeavours to adopt codes of conduct and a code of honour for humanitarian and charitable action in the Member States of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference and establishment within the OIC a Centre for Studies, Information and Training to be concerned with the work of organizations, disasters, crises and development needs in the Member States.The Conference also called for energizing the role of Zakaat, Waqfs, financing and local donations in Member States to support charitable and humanitarian action and fill the legislative gaps therein and, also stressed the role of the OIC as a coordinator in emergency humanitarian situations, proceeding from the fact that this relation is one of coordination, cooperation and complementarity. Also recommended was the appointment of goodwill ambassadors for the OIC consisting of eminent personalities in order to encourage coordination and partnership between humanitarian organizations. At the end of their deliberations, the participants issued a declaration on the humanitarian situation in Gaza.A delegation representing the participants met with His Excellency President Maitre Abdoulaye WADE in the presence of H.E. Prof. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu at the Presidential Palace and presented the Final Communiqu and a Message addressed to leaders of the Muslim World during their meeting in Dakar

The meeting was attended by observers from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the European Union, and non-OIC countries.

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Mahmoud Abbass calls for support on peace negotiations

Posted by African Press International on March 19, 2008

mohamed-legally-cole.jpg<From Mohamed Legally-Cole

The Palestinian Authority Chief Mahmoud Abbas has invited the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) to support the “difficult negotiations” for the creation of an independent Palestinian State.

Speaking during the opening ceremony of the 11th OIC summit in the Senegalese capital, Mr. Abbas said his country will comply with international laws for the success of the negotiations in order to create an independent Palestinian State.

“We are conducting tough negotiations. That is why we need your support. We will comply with the international law”, Palestinian Authority chairman authority said. According to him, “without the return of the refugees at home, there will be no solution to the crisis Palestinian people are facing”.

“We organise this summit amid a framework characterised by many challenges such as aggressions against our religion and our prophet”, Abbas added, regretting ‘the sad events going on” in his country, Palestine.

“We are engage to maintain peace (in the Gaza strip) which is very strategic. President Bush wants peace, so does the OIC”. He also called for the unity of Palestinian people, denouncing the blockade of his people and his negative consequences.

Speaking to delegates at the OIC Summit, Egypt’s Amr Moussa described the lack of commitment as “weakness” of the Ummah countries. Moussa deplored the “division” noted among the Muslims and which had “reached the Palestinians.” In connection with the Palestinian issue, he criticize Israel‘s attitude, ordering it to “put an end to the occupation” and the blockade on the Palestinian territories.

“The Palestinian people are victim of international injustice,” Moussa said. “The Palestinian issue is not a question of terrorism, but a question of occupation,” he insisted. The Secretary General of the Arab League explained that even the recent Annapolis agreement (United States) on the peace process “is on the point of ceasing to exist.”

Stressing that his “priority is peace between Israel and Palestine,” President Wade revealed that President Shimon Peres had approached him to carry out an “official mediation” for peace between the two parties.

The Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Alpha Omar Konare of Mali, on Thursday 13th March 2008 in Dakar called for a “fair dialogue” between Palestine and Israel for the Palestinian people to recover all its rights.

“A dialogue must be established, a fair dialogue between Palestine and Israel for the Palestinian people to recover all its rights,” said Konare, who was speaking at the opening of the 11th Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OCI) summit.

“We are all thinking about what is happening in Palestine. The situation of Palestine, injustice, occupation of Palestine that we all witness, humiliated, helpless, as you said Mr. President (Abdoulaye Wade)”, Konare said.

He also called the Ummah leaders to think about the situation of several African states in the grip of armed conflicts, notably in Darfur (Sudan), Somalia, Chad.

In Somalia, Konare said, “dialogue must prevail in order to have a government, which will be the only one responsible for security.”

In Darfur, Sudan, he called people to make every effort for “the Sirte talks to succeed and all Sudanese parties, particularly the rebel movements, to be there for Sirte to be a success.”

As for the Chad issue, the former Malian president stressed that “we must not accept power taking by force in Chad.”

He added: “if the (Islamic) Conference accepts it, we will then have to get ready to admit once again to be the stakes of the fights of non African powers.”

Meanwhile, Senegal, the officially appointed OIC chair, had already made the Palestinian issue one of its “priorities,” President Wade announced in Dakar, Thursday 13th March 2008, calling for the organisation of a congress of Palestinian peoples in the Senegalese capital. The Palestinian issue will be Senegal‘s “priority”, with the establishment of a state internationally recognised on its boundaries, Abdoulaye Wade said in his address delivered shortly after the opening of the 11th OIC Summit.

Stressing that his “priority is peace between Israel and Palestine,” President Wade revealed that President Shimon Peres had approached him to carry out an “official mediation” for peace between the two parties.

The Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade called on the Palestinians to unite and stop internal violence. Wade also called the Palestinians actors for the organisation in Dakar of a congress of the peoples of Palestine, from Gaza to Jordan. “Senegal can host your congress if such a request suits you,” he assured.

In any case, he asked the Ummah and the international community to support his peace initiative in the Middle East. The Senegalese president also condemned the “illegal occupation” by Israel and invited the country to stop it “immediately.”

Abdoulaye Wade asked the protagonists “to stop violence, anywhere it may come from and observe a cease-fire.”

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Posted by African Press International on March 19, 2008

mohamed-legally-cole.jpg<From Mohammed Legally-Cole)

The Senegalese Foreign Minister Cheikh Tidiane Gadio has urged the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) to stand on its own two feet on the issue of Islamophobia by adopting a “total sense” of freedom of expression and responsibility.

In addition to the recommended establishment of an Observatory on Islamophobia intended to help some OIC partners to get informed on Islam and rid of some of their “absolutely incorrect” ideologies on the religion revealed by Muhammad (PBUH), the Muslim countries should stand on their own two feet, he indicated.

According to him, on the Islamophobia issue, one needs to have a freedom of expression” and sense of responsibility and the serious consequences” of “what they may do or say.” He added that Islam, which has “great intellectuals and great men and women to try hard this time around to develops its “own agenda” on the religious, social and economic areas.

Therefore, he cited the example of the concepts of dialogue between cultures and Islamic-Christian dialogue respectively promoted by former Iranian President Mohamed Khatami and President Wade. Both ideas, he said, are closely akin to the concept of alliance of civilisations championed by the Spanish Prime Minister.

The Secretary General of the Arab League Ambassador Moussa said that Muslim peoples expected “a lot” from the Dakar summit. These peoples’ eyes “are turned towards our summit,” he said, adding that they were expecting a “message” of peace and security. “That is what they expect from us,” he added.

The Egyptian official also addressed the Islamophobia issue, an important topic of the Dakar meeting, and called on Muslims to “protect Islam and the Prophet (PBUH)” against the attacks on them.

He pleaded in favour of the development of sciences in the OIC countries. Amr Moussa expressed that the 21st century is that of development of education and science, as well as that of openness. It is the alliance between the cultures, he added.

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WAMZ pleased with The Gambia’s economic performance

Posted by African Press International on March 19, 2008

mohamed-legally-cole.jpg<From Mohammed Legally-Cole)

The department of State for Finance and Economic Affairs in The Gambia issued a press released which indicated that the West African Monetary Institute had conducted a multilateral surveillance mission to The Gambia from March 3rd to 10th, 2008 in accordance with the West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ) article XV Agreement.

During the mission, WAMI staff assessed The Gambias performance under the qualitative convergence criteria as outlined in the Banjul Declaration of 2005. In doing this staff held discussions with public officers of various Governmental Agencies and the organised private sector. We want to put on record our appreciation to The Government and peoples of The Gambia for the wonderful hospitality and cooperation during our visit.

The Mission commends The Gambian authorities for sustaining the momentum of implementing the WAMZ programmes and developing a Strategic Plan consisting of a combination of policy measures aimed at delivering the economic objectives of high growth, low inflation, and a viable external sector. The programme has improved economic management as shown in the prudent management of resources, improved the external reserves position, and engendered macroeconomic stability. Public expenditure and debt management have improved, while reinforced tax administration has led to improved revenue collection.

The mission is satisfied with the performance of the economy and in particular, the ability of the authorities to sustain its performance on the convergence scale, leading to the meeting of all the four convergence criteria- inflation (6.0 per cent); Fiscal Deficit as a ratio of GDP (1.0 per cent); Central Banking financing of Fiscal Deficit as a ratio of previous years Tax Revenue (0.0) and Gross External Reserves/Months of imports cover (5.5 months). The country also sustained her 2006 performance on the Secondary Criteria, meeting three out of six in 2007.

The mission commends the Gambian Authorities commitment on the other structural benchmarks including Statistical Harmonisation, Financial Sector Integration, Single Market Programme, Ratification of WAMZ Legal Instruments and Financial Contributions. However more effort is required on the payments system and sensitisation.

Overall, the mission is of the opinion that the economy performed satisfactorily in 2007.

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President Jammeh attends OIC summit in Dakar, Senegal

Posted by African Press International on March 19, 2008

mohamed-legally-cole.jpg<FromMohammed Legally-Cole)

President Yahya. A.J.J. Jammeh alongside a high-power delegation as part of his entourage departed from the Banjul International Airport on Thursday 13th March 2008 for the 11th Summit of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC). The conference took place in Dakar, Senegal from March 13 and 14th.

President Jammeh was seen off at the Banjul International Airport by Dr Haja Isatou Njie-Saidy, the vice president and secretary of state for Womens Affairs, the speaker of the National Assembly, Hon Fatoumatta Jahumpa Ceesay, secretaries of state, security chiefs, members of the diplomatic corps, amongst others.

The 11th Summit of OIC, to focus on the theme “Islam in the 21st Century”, as the event is significant due to the current events and challenges facing the Muslim Ummah including the issue of Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, Somalia, and Darfur. The issue of Islamophobia has high priority on the agenda whereupon the first report on Islamophobia by the OIC Islamophobia Observatory will be released. Also of priority is the Special Development Programme for Africa and raising intra-OIC trade among the Member States from 13% to 20% by 2015 in accordance with the OIC Ten-year Programme of Action.


It could be recalled that Crispin Grey-Johnson, Secretary of state for Foreign Affairs, who arrived in
Dakar on Sunday March 2nd, 2008 on day visit as the Presidents special envoy, confirmed the Gambian leaders participation in the summit. SOS Grey-Johnson met with Senegals president, Maitre Abdoulaye Wade, at his Avenue Roume Presidential Palace in Dakar shortly after his arrival in the Senegalese capital. President Wade formally welcomed president Jammehs envoy, witnessed by his Foreign Minister Cheikh Tidiane Gadio.After his audience with President Wade, SOS Grey-Johnson said he conveyed a special message from President Jammeh to President Wade. The message is an expression of friendship and brotherhood for the people of the two countries, SOS Johnson said.

He further confirmed President Jammehs participation in theIOC summit.
His Excellency Dr Alhaji Yahya AJJ Jammeh has assured his Senegalese counterpart of hisintended participation. President Jammeh will attend this summit of the Islamic Ummah from the beginning to the end. In fact, President Abdoulaye Wade has asked me to tell President Jammeh that he wishes that Jammeh should arrive first in Dakar before all other leaders of the Ummah. Wade wants Jammeh to be by his side when he welcomes all his guests at Dakars airport, SoS Grey-Johnson explained.

According to release monitored from Dakar, the Senegalese officials announced that about 40 heads of state were to participate in the 11th OIC meeting. The OIC has 57 member countries and five others with observer status.

Abdoulaye Bald, the Executive Director of ANOCI, the agency that covers all the preparations for the summit, revealed that King Abdallah of
Saudi Arabia will also be in Dakar. “About 18 generals of the kings entourage are already in Senegal
to prepare his Majestys stay in our country,” Bald revealed. Since her decision to host the 11th OIC Summit, Senegal has seen the launching of what has been described as the Great Projects (launched by President Wade) to rebuild its roads, hotels and enhance electricity and other infrastructural facilities to beautify its capital city. Similarly Senegalese security has been boosted to ensure a successful OIC meeting.

It could also be recalled that Senegal had previously hosted the OIC Summit in 1991, which saw the participation of 36 heads of state.

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