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Archive for May 3rd, 2008

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Posted by African Press International on May 3, 2008

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Ann Njogu: Born to fight – Helping the needy in society

Posted by African Press International on May 3, 2008

Publisher: Korir, africanpress@getmail.no source.standard.ke

Reading about Ann Njogu and the sacrifice she made by leaving a huge salaried job in preference to having one that will guide and help the needy, is amazing and one thing that those who love aiding others do not miss noticing and getting enticed to be partnered with one way or another. We congratulate her for the work she is doing for the Kenyans and hope many emulate her way of doing things that contribute in developing the people of Kenya. API

By Evelyne Ogutu
Human rights lawyer Ann Wairimu Njogu does not shy away from controversy. Her fighting spirit keeps her fighting until she achieves results.
On July 31, last year, Njogu was arrested together with other activists after a peaceful demonstration over Parliament�s proposal to introduce gratuity (golden handshake) to legislators.
Her arrest turned dramatic when the then Health Minister, Charity Ngilu, got her out of custody and took her to hospital for treatment. The Minister was summoned to CID headquarters for interrogation but was later released by a court order. “The minister rescued me from officers after they hurt me. They had kicked me on the head and I sustained injuries on my back as well. She came in when she heard me screaming,” Njogu explains.

After early education in Nakuru, Njogu joined Mugoiri Girls High School in Muranga and later the University of Nairobi. She graduated with a Bachelor in Law in 1989.

The following year, she graduated as an advocate from the Kenya School of Law and joined Akhaabi and Company Advocates as an associate.

The holder of a Certified Public Secretary (K) certificate joined Madison Insurance Company as legal officer in 1992 and rose through the ranks to become the chief legal officer.

She is a member of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, London, and has attended human rights and management seminars in Raul Wallenberg Institute in Sweden.

Brought up in a close-knit family of seven, the Executive Director of Centre for Rights Education and Awareness (CREAW) was brought up in Nairobi�s Bahati estate, Eastleigh and Nyandarua. She says she began human rights activism as a small girl of only five when she demanded to know why her parents did not take her photographs while a toddler and yet everyone else in the family had photos.

Njogu, a mother of two, a daughter, Stephanie aged 15, and a 12-year-old son, Ted, says few people, especially women, know their basic human rights. Hence in 2000, she quit a high paying job as the chief legal officer at Madison Insurance Company, to devote herself to running the NGO.

Creaw, a non-profit making organisation was established for the purpose of transforming society by empowering women through helping them know their rights.

 

Ann Njogu: CREAW Director��� 

“I needed new challenges. I had risen to the highest level in the company. Being young and energetic, I needed an occupation that could bring smiles to disadvantaged members of society.”

With her two colleagues, she had quietly founded Creaw in 1998, to give legal advice to women. They agreed they needed to give back to society part of their time and legal skills as appreciation “for nurturing and educating us.”

But the organisation founded to occupy her spare time was increasingly becoming her favourite. This led to her decision to quit her job.

However, her family was against the move and could not understand why she had to quit a well paying job for an organisation whose future could not be guaranteed.

Njogu, however, had made up her mind, and not even her husband could convince her otherwise.

Now eight years down the line, she is happy she followed her instincts.

The founders, who are members of the Federation of Women Lawyers (Fida), decided to form Creaw to supplement Fida�s efforts and to go “that extra legal assistance mile” she says.

Creaw is proud of many achievements. One of it is the campaign for creation of gender desks manned by women police officers where aggrieved women can report violence. This is intended to check the charade of insensitivity women are taken through by male officers who demand victims demonstrate their ordeal to the officers� mirth.

The organisation has opened an office in Nakuru and also runs domestic violence sensitisation programmes in Ngong, Karatina, Garissa and Mwingi.

Her efforts in championing women�s cause have received the Community Awareness Award from the Rainbow House movement in Chicago, USA, where she had an opportunity to meet famous TV talk hostess Oprah Winfrey.

Despite initial challenges, Njogu has propelled Creaw to international recognition. The NGO now boasts of a lean workforce of 12 professionals and eight volunteers.

She cites cases of rape, which have in the past few years dramatically increased, despite the passing of the Sexual Offences Bill (2005), as some of the worst cases of human rights abuses.

Her move to alert city residents on Rape Red Spots saw her pick awards at home and abroad.

This strong woman was the force behind the controversial “Beware of Human Dogs and Beasts at this place” billboards, which were spread all over Nairobi and Kiambu district. The billboards, placed in places where cases of rape and defilement had been reported, elicited a lot of discussions, eventually making the law enforcers to take relevant action.

“Whenever one saw the alert message then the red colour signalling danger, they knew they were not on safe ground and thus we managed to reduce cases of rape in the danger spots,” Njogu says.

This led to the lighting of the Uhuru Park recreational facility, which had been ignored by the City Council.

She says that although rape is one of the second leading crimes in the country after assault, nobody takes it seriously. As a matter of fact, it was only after this campaign that an anti-rape squad and children�s desk in various police stations ware established. She says many sexual related crimes like rape, defilement and sodomy are never reported hence the need to sensitize people on their rights.

The lawyer notes that re-claiming the vulnerable Rape Red Spots through mobilisation of various stakeholders to provide essential services like the Nairobi city Council setting up lighting in the red spots whilst the police increasing surveillance is one of the achievements that she is proud of.

Her ceaseless search for justice on behalf of poor Kenyans by providing pro-bono services through the court process has resulted in real and actual gains for poor and marginalised women and has enhanced their access to justice.

“My organisation under the legal aid programme seeks to reclaim through the court, and/or alternative dispute resolution, women�s human rights in the areas of property rights violations including succession and inheritance, custody, maintenance, division of property and divorce,” she says.

Creaw has assisted women who cannot afford legal fees in their criminal cases including domestic violence, rape and defilement.

Under the Gender and Governance programme Creaw, recently drafted the Constitutional Amendment Bill, which shall seek to push for affirmative action within the Constitution whilst awaiting for the new Constitution.

“Creaw has been a key stakeholder and partner in the drafting and also lobbying for the Sexual Offences Bill that is now a law, as well as in stepping it down and we are happy that the offenders now are facing stiffer punishments.”

In partnership with groups from UK, South Africa, Uganda and Tanzania, Creaw is working towards abolishment or regulation of the practice of bride price. Recent surveys conducted have linked human rights violations to bride price.

This impressive lady could go on and on for years about Creaw and her passion for women rights issues. She is determined it seems to spend her last breath on this course. As a woman taking leave of her office, I cannot help feeling proud and secure in the knowledge that one day, the Kenyan woman will tread the country without fear of oppression, assault or marginalisation.

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African Press International – api

 

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Ethiopia frees eleven Kenyan Muslims

Posted by African Press International on May 3, 2008

Publisher: Korir,africanpress@getmail.no source.standard.ke

By David Ochami

Eleven Muslims deported to Somalia from Kenya after the collapse of Somalias Islamic Courts Union (ICU) have been released from Ethiopian jails and taken to Somalia.

It is not known why they were freed without charges.

But 19 Kenyans deported and detained with this group remain in Ethiopias jails in Addis Ababa and Awasso cities.

An unnamed Kenyan among those released has not returned to the country for fear of persecution.

About 60 Kenyans and foreigners were deported to Somalia on January 27 after crossing from the war torn country in the wake of the collapse of the ICU spurred by an Ethiopian led invasion.

Kenyan and Ethiopian authorities accused them of links with the ICU and Al Qaeida. Most were taken to Ethiopia and some to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

Reports in Somalias Dobley town and Daadab on Kenyas border with Somalia indicate one of the deportees was Kenyan without identification papers. Relatives declined to divulge further details.

In Nairobi the Muslim Human Rights Forum that has fought against US led renditions said its officials have met some of the released former deportees on the Somalia border.

Al Amin Kimathi, head of the forum, said the eleven were set free from Awasso and taken to Baidoa in South Central Somalia in February, apparently after being cleared by a military tribunal.

The official said one Kenyan has become deaf because of inhuman detention conditions. Independent accounts from former deportees show two detainees are now paralysed and one has lost an eye.

“It shows the extent of torture and atrocities in these jails,” said Al Amin.

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African Press International – api

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Sami al-Hajj hits out at US captors

Posted by African Press International on May 3, 2008

Publisher: Korir, africanpress@getmail.no source.aljazeera

Al-Hajj had an emotional reunion with his son, after six yearsof detention in Guantanamo
AlJazeera cameraman Sami al-Hajj has hit out at the US treatment of detainees at the Guantanamo Bay military prison where he was held for nearly six and a half years.
Saying that “rats are treated with more humanity”, al-Hajj said inmates’ “human dignity was violated”.

Al-Hajj, whoarrived in Sudan early on Friday, was carried off the US air force jet on a stretcher and immediately taken to hospital.
Later, he had an emotional reunion with his wife and son.

His brother, Asim al-Hajj, said he did not recognise the cameraman because he looked like aman in his 80s.
Still, al-Hajj said: “I was lucky because God allowed that I be released.”
But his attention soon turned to the 275 inmates he left behind in the US military prison.
‘Dignity violated’

“I’m very happy to be in Sudan, but I’m very sad because of the situation of our brothers who remain in Guantanamo. Conditions in Guantanamo are very, very bad and they get worse by the day,” he said from his hospital bed.

“Our human condition, our human dignity was violated, and the American administration went beyond all human values, all moral values, all religious values.

“In Guantanamo …ratsare treated with more humanity. But we have people from more than 50 countries that are completely deprived of all rights and privileges.

“And they will not give them the rights that they give animals,” he said.

Al-Hajj complained that “for more than seven years, [inmates]did not get a chance to be brought before a civil court to defend their just case”.

Free man

The US embassy in Khartoum issued a brief statement confirming that a “detainee transfer” to Sudan had taken placeand saying it appreciated Sudan’s co-operation.

A senior US defence official in Washington speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters that al-Hajjwas “not being released [but] being transferred to the Sudanese government”. Sudan’s justice minister told Al Jazeera that al-Hajj was a free man and would not be arrested or face any charges.

The two said they were blindfolded, handcuffed and chained to their seats during the flight home. The Reprieve organisation that represents some Guantanamo inmates said Moroccan detainee Said Boujaadia was also released and flown home on the same aircraft as the three Sudanese. According to a US defence department statement, five detainees were “transferred” to Afghanistan as well. It saidthat all thosedetainees, ninein total, had been “determined to be eligible for transfer following a comprehensive series of review proccesses”.

Al-Hajj was the only journalist from a major international news organisation held at Guantanamo and many of his supporters saw his detention as punishment for the network’s broadcasts.

Seized in 2001
He was seized by Pakistani intelligence officers while travelling near the Afghan border in December 2001.

Despite holding a legitimate visa to work for Al Jazeera’s Arabic channel in Afghanistan, he was handed to the US military in January 2002 and sent to Guantanamo Bay.

Al-Hajj, who is originally from Sudan, was held as an “enemy combatant” without ever facingtrial or charges.
Al-Hajj was never prosecuted at Guantanamo so the US did not make public its full allegations against him.

But in a hearing that determined that he was an enemy combatant, US officials alleged that in the 1990s, al-Hajj was an executive assistant at a Qatar-based beverage company that provided support to Muslim fighters in Bosnia and Chechnya.

The US claimed he also travelled to Azerbaijan at least eight times to carry money on behalf of his employer to the al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, a now defunct charity that US authorities say funded armed groups.

The US also clamed he met Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, allegedly a senior lieutenant to Osama bin Laden who was arrested in Germany in 1998 and extradited to the United States.

His lawyers have always denied the allegations.
‘Element of racism’
Al-Hajjhad been on hunger strike since January 7, 2007.

David Remes, a lawyer for 17 detainees at Guantanamo Bay, told Al Jazeera that the treatment al-Hajj received “was more horrific than most” and that there was “an element of racism” in the way he was treated.

He said he had been in contact with the lawyer representing al-Hajj and it appeared the cameraman had been “psychologically damaged”.

“The Europeans would never receive this treatment,” Remes said.

About 275detainees remain at Guantanamo andthe lawyer said European detainees had all been returned to their country, leaving nationalities such as Yemenis – who nowconstitute one third of the inmate population.

Aljazeera had been campaigning for al-Hajj’s
release since his capturein 2001[EPA]

Remes said al-Hajj hadbeen released because the Bush administration “wants to flush as many men out of Guantanamo as quickly as possible as Guantanamo has become such an international badge of shame”.

“Once the Supreme Court said the men could have lawyers the pressure increased [on the US] and condemnation isolated the US administration. Guantanamo was a PR disaster,” he said.

“Unfortunately Americans appreciate violations of rights but they have no sympathy for men held at Guantanamo as the [Bush] administration has done such a good job in portraying them as the worst of the worst and as evil doers.

“I’ve met many prisoners, gotten to appreciate their suffering … we know them as humans not as worst of worst, we’ve met their families.

“I’ve been to Guantanamo and the human dimension of Guantanamo is a story yet to be told,” Remes said.

Al Jazeera concerns
AlJazeera had been campaigning for al-Hajj’s release since his capture nearly six and a half yearsago.

Wadah Khanfar, the network’s director-general who was in Khartoum to welcome al-Hajj, said “we are overwhelmed with joy”.

But he criticised the US military for urging al-Hajjto spy on his employers.
“We are concerned about the way the Americans dealt with Sami, and we are concerned about the way they could deal with others as well,” he said.

“Sami will continue with Al Jazeera, he will continue as a professional person who has done great jobs during his work with Al Jazeera.

“We congratulate his family and all those who knew Sami and loved Sami and worked for this moment.”

Two other Sudanese inmates at Guantanamo, Amir Yacoub al-Amir and Walid Ali,were freed along with al-Hajj.

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African Press International – api

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Sudan minister among air crash dead – A sad day for the country

Posted by African Press International on May 3, 2008

Publisher: Korir, africanpress@getmail.no source.aljazeera

Twenty-three people, including the defence minister for south Sudan, have been killed in an aeroplane crash in the African state.
Dominic Dim, who was also minister of the Southern People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), died when the aircraft went down about 375km from the southern capital Juba, Diek Machar, south Sudan’s vice president, said.

Officials said Justin Yak, a presidential adviser for local government affairs, was also on the aeroplane that crashed near Rumbek, in the remote Bahr Gazal region on Friday.
Yak’s wife was also killed in the crash, a government source said.
Machar gave no reason for the crash, but ruled out an attack.

“The plane had been rented from an charter company and was carrying a delegation of leaders from the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement from Wau to the capital Juba,” he said.
He said an inquiry would be launched.
The former rebel SPLM signed an accord with the northern National Congress Party (NCP) in 2005, ending Africa’s longest civil war.
Friday’s crash comes a day after southern army officials said Sudan’s northern and southern forces had agreed to withdraw from an oil-rich border, where clashes killed dozens last month.
The UN said the plane was a Beachcraft 1900 operated by South Sudan Air Connection traveling from Wau to Juba.

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Kirsan Ilyumzhinov elected the first president of the Republic of Kalmykia

Posted by African Press International on May 3, 2008

Publisher: Korir, africanpress@getmail.no

Watching Aljazeeratv program today focusingon the President of the Republic of Kalmykia,Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, one cannot avoid liking him. His straight forward attitude when answering questions from the journalist is amazing. When you listen to him, you get a feeling that he is speaking from his heart. And he puts his people ahead of everything else. Investing on kids knowledge is the best thing that other world leaders should emulate. Knowledge and activities of the mind keeps kids from engaging in crimes and drugs. It is one good example the Kalmyk republic boast about.

This country, though small, can become a model for world success.

Early life

From a humble beginning – his parents, as with other Kamlyks – were deported by Josef Stalin in World War II, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov grew up in Elista after the Kalmyks were allowed to return following Stalin’s death. He won the Kalmykian national chess championship in 1976 at the age of 14. From 1979-80 Ilyumzhinov was a mechanic-fitter at the Zvezda plant in Elista. After two years in military service for the Soviet Army, he returned to the plant as a mechanic for a year, and then studied at the Moscow State Institute of Foreign Relations from 1983-89. From 1989-90 he was selling cars as manager of the Soviet- Japanese company “Liko-Raduga” in Moscow, and from 1990-93 he was President of SAN Corporation in Moscow. Ilyumzhinov acquired his wealth in the economic free-for-all which followed the collapse of the USSR. He now owns a private jet and six Rolls Royces; he has a black limousine in Moscow, but prefers his white one at home.

Political career

On April 12, 1993, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov was elected as the first president of the Republic of Kalmykia, and has been running the state since then. Soon after his election, Ilyumzhinov introduced presidential rule, concentrating power in his own hands. He called early elections on October 15, 1995 and was re-elected unopposed – this time for a 7-year term. He won re-election in 2002. According to the BBC, Ilyumzhinov’s election platform for the presidency of Kalmykia included promising voters $100 each, a promise of a mobile phone for every shepherd. He once campaigned under the slogan “a wealthy president is a safeguard against corruption.” He also pledged to introduce what he called an “economic dictatorship” in the republic, as well as to promote chess in Kalmykia, in Russia and to the wider world. He speaks English relatively fluently.

After his reelection in 1995, Ilyumzhinov reportedly told a journalist from the Russian daily Izvestia, “Irrespective of what I tell people, I give them instructions on a sub-conscious level, a code. I do the same thing when I communicate with Russian citizens from other regions. I am creating around the republic a kind of extra-sensory field and it helps us a lot in our projects.”

Ilyumzhinov has striven to become an “Asian values” authoritarian like his Singaporean, Korean, and Chinese role models (even though his republic is in the southern European portion of Russia). He has spent millions of dollars on chess and religion, building a Catholic church at the instigation of the Pope John PaulII. He has also built a mosque, a synagogue, 22 Orthodox churches, and 30 Buddhist temples. Chess was made a compulsory subject in the first three years of elementary school – the only place in the world where this is the case; the region now has numerous champions. The Dalai Lama has visited Kirsan on mque, any occasions, and has blessed a number of the temples in Elista. Ilyumzhinov denies persistent accusations of diverting the republic’s resources for his own use (in fact he does not draw a salary as president), as well as of suppressing media freedom. In 2004 police dispersed a small group of demonstrators who accused him of human rights violations and demanded his resignation. When Australian journalist Eric Campbell interviewed people in Elista about Ilyumzhinov, he found that many were happy that he had managed to gain widespread attention for Kalmykia through chess, although one was slightly critical of the money invested in chess projects.

On 8 June 1998, Larisa Yudina of an opposition newspaper, was stabbed to death in Elista. Both people convicted in the murder were Kalmykian government aides, and one was an advisor to Ilyumzhinov. One other person was acquitted by offering evidence to help in the conviction. Ilyumzhinov denied any involvement with the murder – and indeed it was fully investigated by the local and the Russian authorities.

Claim of being abducted by an Unidentified Flying Object

Two newspaper journalists relate – although this is not in his autobiography – that Ilyumzhinov maintains that in 1997 while he was on a business trip to Moscow he was forced onto a UFO. “They took me from my apartment and we went aboard their ship. We flew to some kind of star. They put a spacesuit on me, told me many things and showed me around. They wanted to demonstrate that UFOs do exist.” He predicts that, “The day will come when [the extra-terrestrials] land on our planet and say: ‘You have behaved poorly. Why do you wage wars? Why do you destroy each other?.’ Then they will pack us all into their spaceships and take us away from this place. It appears that the story was allegoical and taken literally by two gullible western journalists anxious to gain attention.

FIDE career

From November 1995 to present Ilyumzhinov has been President of the World Chess Federation, investing a large amount of his private fortune into the game. He has been enthusiastic about attracting international tournaments to Kalmykia. His flamboyant plans to build an extravagant Chess City in the republic have led to protests by its impoverished citizens. The 1996 bout was scheduled between Gata Kamsky and Anatoly Karpov for Baghdad, after negotiations with Saddam Hussein. However the international response was so harsh, however, that FIDE moved the match to Elista.

In other developments during that time, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov encountered opposition from rivals in the European chess federations, the U.S., and Canada. Some of these managed to a special meeting in Utrecht, Netherlands, on April 27-28. The meeting called for equal treatment for Kamsky and Karpov, the restoration of the traditional FIDE cycle of qualifying contests leading to the world title match, and a shake-up in FIDE. To reinforce this reformation the Utrecht partners supported a candidate to challenge Ilyumzhinov at the FIDE Congress that took place alongside the World Chess Olympiad. The candidate was Jaime Sunye Neto, a grandmaster from Brazil. Ilyumzhinov was successful in mustering support from the Third World and from Russia, and he won the election 87-46. There was no restoration of the traditional qualifying cycle, and Ilyumzhinov’s own preference for a $5 million knockout contest for the world’s top 100 players was deferred from December 1996 until December 1997 with no definite sponsor announced.

In the summer of 1998, the controversial president of FIDE announced his possible candidacy for the Russian presidency. At the same time he was embroiled in turmoil over his plan to introduce an annual knockout FIDE world title system. The plan was resisted by Anatoly Karpov on the grounds that his contract with FIDE stipulated that the winner of the 1998 Karpov-Anand match would hold the title for two years. Karpov’s successful advocacy of his rights led to the cancellation of a planned world title knockout series in Las Vegas, Nevada, late in the year. Since Karpov had an unsuccessful year apart from the Anand match, he was unable to resist the plan that he would have to enter this knockout, whenever it came to be organized, at a far earlier stage.

Ilyumzhinov was involved in further controversy when some groups made attempts to persuade the 140 member countries of FIDE to boycott the main team event of the year, the World Chess Olympiad, scheduled to start in late September 1998 in Elista, the capital of Kalmykia. The event started late due to the failure to complete the new venue in time, but it attracted 110 teams to the main event, a Swiss-system contest shortened to 13 rounds to allow for the delay.

Libyan tournament controversy

Ilyumzhinov arranged to hold the 2004 World Championship in Tripoli, Libya, at the urging of Muammar al-Gaddafi. The 2004 World Championship was held in Libya, and Boris Gulko who had previosuly not wanted to attend, being qualified to play. He accepted the invitation but President Qadafis son, who was also the President of the Libyan Organizing Committee, reportedly announced: “We did not and will not invite the Zionist enemies to this championship.” FIDE clarified that this statement was never made and it was only a rumour. Even so, Gulko, along with other Jewish players from Israel and the United States, declared that they will not participate. Gulko sent a strong letter to Ilyumzhinov, saying “I implore you not to be the first president of FIDE to preside over the first world chess championship from which Jews are excluded. Our magnificent and noble game does not deserve such a disgrace.” The tournament went on as scheduled, without Gulko.

Re-election controversy

On June 2, 2006, Ilyumzhinov was reelected as FIDE President by a margin of 96-54 against his opponent Bessel Kok. In an October 2006 Wall Street Journal article Gary Kasparov harshly criticized Ilyumzhinov FIDE’s leadership stating: “(Ilyumzhinov) has created a vertical column of power that would be familiar to any observer of Russia today. He runs the chess world in the same authoritarian way he runs his impoverished republic. After a decade of such mistreatment, the only place that could be found to host the (chess world champion unification) match was his own capital. Some sponsors boycotted the organization, and tried to set up a rival one.” Nigel Short, the British grandmaster who supported Kirsan’s rival for the leadership of FIDE, was critical of Ilyumzhinov’s victory and said that “either FIDE stays a cowboy organisation mired in sleaze and shunned by corporate sponsors, or it becomes a modern, professional sporting body.” Anatoly Karpov, the former world champion, and onetime supporter of Kirsan, has now turned against him.

Source: wikipedia

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Source.Gvt of the republic of Kalmykia

Elista – the capital of Kalmykia

Elista, the capital of Kalmykia, is located in the South West of the republic in the wide valley to the South from the Yergeninskaya Height.

According to the data of the State Statistics Committee of the Republic of Kalmykia for January 1, 2002 was 109.9 thousand.

By January 1, 2002 the area of Elista was 39657 hectares of which 21045 hectares is the city itself and 18612 hectares is the conjoining territories.

The transport network of the city is made by 300 kilometers of automobile roads, including 220 km of asphalt coated and 80 km of unpaved roads. The three highways crossing Elista have federal status: Elista – Volgograd, Elista – Makhachkala, Elista – Astrakhan.

The external transport communication is performed by the railroad line Stavropol – Elista, motorways Stavropol – Elista – Volgograd, Elista – Astrakhan and Volgograd – Elista – Kizlyar and the airlines.

The analysis of Elista population growth indicated that the largest growth rates occurred in the recent years. The growth of the population in 1996 made 6.3 percent.

The demographic changes are conditioned by the incoming migration flow from other regions and rural areas of the republic.

One of the priorities in the development of the city is residential construction and construction of social objects.

In the last six years the amount of contractual works reached 1.5 billion rubles, this amount in 2001 became 10 times higher than in 1996. Completed were over 269 thousand of residence areas from all the financing sources.

The residential construction was activated by the adoption of the Presidential Program “Dwelling 2001”. The city hall carried out the necessary works aim at the realization of the program. The Elista City Council prepared and adopted the municipal targeted program “Dwelling” that marked the main directions of fulfilling the provision of residential areas to the population of Elista. The program stipulates the attraction of all the financing sources, the development of the mortgage crediting, individual residential construction, construction of housing to various degrees of completeness, mansard construction.

The Elista City Council have established the Investments and Mortgage Service in order to create the organizational, economic and information condition for solving the questions connected with the investment activities in municipal education as well as coordination of City Hall activities in the sphere of mortgage crediting.

The main directions in the work of the Service are connected with the coordination of investment issues, realization of mortgage crediting, development of legal basis for the investment tenders and operative control in realization of investment projects.

Realization of the “Dwelling” program objectives required the creation of the organization to become its principal executor. The experience of the other regions and the analysis of the current situation allowed the service to develop the documents required for the creation of such organization. On May 20, 2001 a non-profit fund, the City Fund for the Development of Mortgage Housing was created to become the main executor of the program.

May 2001 was marked by the beginning of active work in construction of residential objects and attraction of financial resources to the residential construction.

The main condition in granting apartments with the installments of payment is the payment of 50 percent of housing cost and 2 guarantor and the corresponding overall family income.

The advantages of the program are:

  • Cost of 1 square meter of housing is below the market price (uncompleted construction);
  • Payment by installments up to 10 years;
  • Inflation ratio is excluded;
  • The credit rate is 10 percent.

All the new construction must be organically inscribed in the architectural look of Elista which is the recent years takes up ethnic color.

The city is carrying out the gradual greening and municipal improvements, laid are new parks, repaired roads, flower beds and loans, pavement and lighting of walkways.

It is necessary to note that Elista is the largest city in the republic inhabited by 31.2 % of Kalmykia’s population. Elista accounts for 30 % of republic’s enterprises’ and organizations’ capital assets, 32 % of capital investments, 45.1 % in the total industrial output, over 70 % of retail trade and catering. Elista carries capital city functions and is a political and administrative, cultural and organizational center. It was legally acknowledged in the decree by the President of the Republic of Kalmykia “On the city of Elista, the capital of the Republic of Kalmykia” dated December 02, 1997. Realization of this decree have considerable increased the legal, social and economic status of Kalmykia’s capital.

The program of the social and economic development determines the prospectives of the development of Elista, reformation of the particular sectors of city economy, increase of the life standards.

The program of social and economic development of Elista for 2001-2005 stipulates the plans of measures to support small and middle enterprises, shows calculations of the population’s demand, economic effect of the production development, provides basis for the development of the industries.

There are 23 industrial enterprises in the territory of Elista. They represent the following sectors: oil extraction, power production, machinery building, wood processing, construction materials, light, food and printing industries.

The structure of the industrial production by sectors is characterized by the following data: oil extraction- 70.5%, printing – 1.3%, construction materials – 0.7%.

The City Hall of Elista developed the program of the prospective development of the industrial production for years 2001-2005, is was approved by the decision of the Elista City Council. The program defines the priority directions for the development of industrial production by supporting the modern competitive plants and types of economic activities, worked out the mechanism of program’s realization by offering state contracts, system of crediting.

In 2001 the enterprises of light industry received the total amount of 3043.0 thousand rubles of commodity credit. This support contributed to the growth tendency in the light industry production.

Effectiveness of the republic’s economy was greatly influenced by the development of private entrepreneurship. So far the highest potential belongs to the small businesses as it is more flexible to meet the changing market conditions.

The number of small enterprises in Elista is 2713 or 23,6 % of the total number of enterprises, registered as tax payers and carrying out business in the territory of Elista.

In the period from 1996 to the first half of 2002 the number of small enterprises in Elista grew by 2.5 times.

The main educational priorities in the schools of the city are: development of the national educational system, studies of the Kalmyk people’s epic “Jangar”, application of the unique technology “Enlargement of the didactic units” by P. Erdniev, development of chess education.

The unique educational technology , enlargement of didactic units, developed by P. Erdniev is actively implemented in more than 50 regions of Russian Federation. The followers of professor Erdniev work in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Krasnodar, Stavropol and other cities of Russia.

Elista is also a science center of the region concentrating post secondary and secondary educational institutions, Kalmyk State University.

Education of the city is 10 secondary special institutions offering instruction to 6892 students, 29 secondary schools, including 7 innovative ones, 2 evening schools, 9 primary schools, 26 children’s pre-primary institutions, the Palace of Children’s Arts, Children’s Olympic Reserve Sport School.

Prizes of Elista students at all-Russian school student’s subject Olympiads are the indicators of school achievement level. Former Elista school students attend post secondary educational institutions in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Rostov, Pyatigorsk, Astrakhan, Volgograd. In the last 10 years 72 students left secondary school with golden medals, 131 were awarded with silver.

In spite of the difficult social and economic situation and inadequate financing the municipal health care institutions managed to save its structure and specialists, did not lower the amounts of health services and constantly perfect the methods and forms of work. Eight treatment and prophylaxis institutions function in Elista. In order to ensure a higher degree of accessibility of medical services to the population four branches of city clinics were opened in the city.

The main objective of the youth policy is the creation of legal, social, economic and organizational conditions for the development of young personality, realization of his creative and physical potential, formation of active life position.

The Elista City Council aids the family and children assistance centers “Itkel”, “Itsel”, “Buyancha sedkel”. Social protection of rights and interests, availability of jobs for minors and youths is one of the main concerns of the city administration and all the prevention services.

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Zimbabwe: Opposition unites against Mugabe

Posted by African Press International on May 3, 2008

Publisher: Korir, africanpress@getmail.no source.zimonline

Story by Wayne Mafaro and Prince Nyathi

Johanneburg (South Africa) Zimbabwes opposition factions announced a parliamentary cooperation agreement on Monday giving them firm control of parliament and piling up the pressure on embattled President Robert Mugabe.

But the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party factions the larger one led by Morgan Tsvangirai and the other by academic Arthur Mutambara will still be short of a two-thirds parliamentary majority required to amend Zimbabwes defective Constitution that bestows wide-ranging powers on Mugabe. Its our pleasure to announce that our two formations in Parliament have agreed to work together, Tsvangirai told journalists in Johannesburg. The combined MDC parliamentary caucus is now in control of Parliament and ZANU PF (Mugabes party) is now the opposition.

The Tsvangirai-led MDC won 99 seats while the Mutambara group won 10, to bring their total number of seats to 109, a simple majority in the 210-seat House of Assembly. An independent candidate won one seat while ZANU PF, which had controlled Parliament since Zimbabwes 1980 independence took 97 seats. Three constituencies where voting could not take place will hold by-elections at an as yet unknown date.

Tsvangirai, who says he should be declared president because he defeated Mugabe in the March 29 combined presidential and parliamentary elections, urged the veteran Zimbabwean leader to concede defeat because there was no way he could rule effectively when he does not control Parliament. He should concede. He cannot be president without control of Parliament, said Tsvangirai.

However, analysts say with Zimbabwes strong presidential system Mugabe, if he wins an anticipated second round ballot against Tsvangirai, would still be able to rule although an opposition-led but traditionally weak Parliament would make the task a little harder. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) is expected to issue official results of the presidential vote sometime this week. But ZANU PF and independent observers acknowledge Mugabe lost to Tsvangirai, although they say a second round of voting is required to settle the contest.

Tsvangirai said his party would this week meet Tanzanian President and African Union Chairman Jakaya Kikwete in its bid to bring more pressure on Mugabe to allow the release of the presidential election results.
The ZECs failure to release the results has touched off a tense stalemate that analysts fear could lead to violence and bloodshed, while the United States has threatened sanctions over delays to issue results.
The MDC says Mugabe is delaying results to use the time to unleash violence and terror on voters in a bid to cow them to support him in the second round ballot that, according to the electoral law, should be held within three days of issuing of results.

The MDC says at least 15 of its supporters have been murdered while another 3 000 have been displaced in the violence, which it the opposition party has described as a war being waged by state security forces and ZANU PF militants against Zimbabweans. Tsvangirai said the United Nations Security Council was on Tuesday scheduled to discuss violence and the deepening electoral crisis at the request of the MDC.
We have requested that the UN deals with the matter. The UN is meeting tomorrow and Zimbabwe is on the agenda, the opposition leader said.

MDC secretary general Tendai Biti is expected to brief the Security Council on the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe and to ask that the world body send a special envoy to probe violence and human rights abuses committed by state agents against opposition supporters.

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Uganda: Police; stop this press brutality (editorial)

Posted by African Press International on May 3, 2008

Publisher: Korir, africanpress@getmail.no source:TheMonitor.ug

The crude and brutal manner in which journalists continue to be arrested by the State in Uganda is quite pathetic and must be condemned.

On Saturday morning, intelligence personnel and police raided the offices of The Independent newsmagazine in Kamwokya and arrested Managing Editor Andrew Mwenda and Consulting Editor Odoobo Bichachi for alleged sedition. Sunday Monitor photojournalist Joseph Kiggundu, who was taking pictures of the raid on The Independent offices, was not spared either. He was manhandled, beaten up, blindfolded and driven away in a very humiliating manner.

The security personnel first raided Mwendas home in Kololo in search of seditious material. He was manhandled, handcuffed and bundled into a security car. If there was reasonable ground to suggest that the magazine had committed an offence within the provisions of the law, there are clear legal procedures on how the journalists can be handled. In a civilised, democratic and free country, the police do not manhandle and handcuff journalists as if they are highway robbers or hardcore street criminals.

They are, at worst, summoned to police and later charged in court. This brutality was not just directed at The Independent but the press in general. The government must desist from such brutality and learn civilised ways of handling journalists through the law. In Uganda today, its increasingly becoming difficult to write or publish a story severely critical of the State or its gurus without standing the risk of being arrested or summoned to CID. The freedom of the press is rapidly getting stifled and (if this trend continues) will ultimately be irreversibly suffocated.

Several editors of the independent press such as Daily Monitor and Weekly Observer are already making endless trips to CID headquarters and court for interrogation or trial on diverse charges ranging from sedition to promoting sectarianism. The raid on The Independent is a sufficient red flag for what lies ahead for the press in Uganda. All lovers of press freedom must come together to condemn such callous brutality of the police against harmless journalists.

As we mark the Press Freedom Day on May 3, these are the issues we must reflect upon. But above all we must collectively condemn continued police brutality against press liberty, not only in Uganda but all over the world.

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Posted by African Press International on May 3, 2008

Publisher: Korir, africanpress@getmail.no source.businessday.SA

Story by Tony Leon.

More than three weeks since its fateful poll, the ageing tyrant in Zimbabwe and his handpicked electoral commission are busy suppressing or altering the real result of its presidential election.

But, here at home, we have an outright winner for the most fatuous analysis of our northern neighbours recent election and our governments role in it. Step forward Tony Heard, one time editor of the Cape Times and, for the past 14 years, full-time fabulist for the South African Presidency. In the overcrowded room of ill-considered and plainly wrong remarks, his breathless article on this page in the days soon after the poll deserves, at least, the journalistic equivalent of a wooden spoon.

Heard wrote that President Thabo Mbekis diplomacy has been vindicated no one can take away (his) proven success over Zimbabwe. When this modest man bows out next year, we shall miss him, be sure. Actually, Im not so sure and neither, apparently, is an ever-growing chorus of critics and commentators, at home and abroad: they are dismayed by our continuing conniving with democratic suppression in Zimbabwe, our silence over the far too familiar repression, the green-lighting of dubious arms shipments and the predictable political autism Mbeki continues to display in denying a manifestly palpable crisis and refusing to acknowledge its cause, or even treat its symptoms.

Last week, The Economist labelled Mbeki and SADCs collusion with Mugabe Africas Shame, observing that SAs president has prolonged Zimbabwes agony. Can Thabo Mbeki, SAs lame-duck president, truly believe there is no crisis in Zimbabwe? If so, it must be concluded that there is a crisis also in SA a moral one. Polemicist (and one time Mbeki ally) Christopher Hitchens, in his online article in Slate, was even more scornful. He described our continued coddling of Robert Mugabe as a continuation of the long cowardly ambiguity of the post-Mandela regime towards a thieving megalomaniac.

In reality, I think Mbekis stance is more depressingly consistent than ambiguous. Just under a year ago, Mugabe quoted approvingly Mbekis take on Zimbabwe, in a little-noted interview, which appeared in New Africa magazine. These were the words Mugabe attributed to Mbeki: The fight against Zimbabwe is a fight against us all. Today it is Zimbabwe, tomorrow it will be SA, it will be Mozambique, it will be Angola, it will be any other African country. And any government that is perceived to be strong, and to be resistant to imperialists, would be made a target and would be undermined. So let us not allow any point of weakness in the solidarity of SADC, because that weakness will also be transferred to the rest of Africa.

For Heard and other occupants of our presidents intellectual bunker, the wages of spin include, apparently, the willing suspension of disbelief. But the clues to our presidents current denialism on Zimbabwe were salted when this crisis began back in 2000. The only change and it has been as significant as it is recent is that his own party has now broken ranks with him on this defining issue. But there is no evidence to suggest that Mbekis cabinet is anything other than faithful to the undertaking given over five years ago by Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma that the world would never hear one word of criticism of Zimbabwe as long as this (African National Congress) government is in power.

The burden of Heards argument is that there were hardly any tougher options for SA to employ to engage Zimbabwe out of what he termed its tragic spiral. Really? You dont require a decoder to work out the semiotics behind Mbekis approach: Mugabe knew that the lingering resentments towards colonialism, white racism and the Cold War played directly into Mbekis blind spots. And so it happened. The South African government and SADC green-lighted and approved three stolen elections in Zimbabwe, in 2000, 2002 and in 2005. Our stance on the 2008 poll is all of a piece with that pattern. These were not acts of quiet diplomacy but constituted outright complicity with democratic subversion.

Over the past seven years, Mbeki certainly had the ability, to borrow the words of The Economist, (as John Vorster demonstrated in respect of Ian Smith), to squeeze Mugabe out of power. He apparently promised to do precisely that when President George Bush came calling on Pretoria in June 2003. But Bushs point man faltered or never intended to try. As far back as March 2002, I gave Mbeki full credit for his role in the suspension of Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth. But this, too, proved to be a false dawn, as Mbeki later acknowledged. He was an unwitting or unwilling participant in the Commonwealth troikas decision and did his best, unavailingly, to undo that suspension.

When, after the 2005 elections, Mugabe borrowed directly from the handbook of the Khmer Rouge by launching Operation Murambatsvina (or drive out the trash), which saw the devastation of the homes and shacks of some 700000 urban dwellers, Pretoria maintained its infamous silence.

Heard, adamant to the last, maintains (Mbekis) critics failed to make suggestions, I mean practical and effective suggestions, because they had none. This piffle is simply laughable. The European Union and US had imposed penalties against Mugabes regime over seven years ago. As far back as February 2001, in a speech to Parliament, I proposed that SA endorse international smart sanctions by freezing foreign assets and funds owned by individuals in the Zanu (PF) hierarchy; restrict travel to SA by Zimbabwean ministers; and apply an arms embargo. These were not drastic measures, nor unprecedented. As one newspaper noted, at that time, they were the more modest measures the ANC once demanded against the apartheid government.

But Mbeki and his government strenuously opposed firm action against Mugabe. Sadly, even the most sensible ministers fell into line. Back in 2001, Trevor Manuel continued to support co-operation, not criticism of the Mugabe regime and backed economic aid for Zimbabwe. The cabinets most voluble human rights exponent, Kader Asmal, broke his silence on Mugabes tyranny only last year, three years after he had been dropped from the government.

The only surprise around the nonresponse of President Mbeki and his government to the latest flawed election in Zimbabwe is that we are at all surprised. Although the endgame in Zimbabwe remains unknown, the locust years, which saw the destruction of one of Africas greatest economic success stories and potent symbols of democratic reconciliation, yields no end of lessons, most of them sombre. The relative ease and speed with which Mugabe could plunder his country and starve his people is the most obvious. But Zimbabwe also demonstrated the severe limits of SAs willingness, or ability, to lead the African renaissance to which Mbeki committed his presidency. In the words of Harvards Samantha Power, faced with a real test he flunked it.

*Leon is a Democratic Alliance MP and foreign affairs spokesman.

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East Africa: Countries move to upgrade railway network

Posted by African Press International on May 3, 2008

Publisher: Korir, africanpress@getmail.no source.businessdaily.sa

Story by Zeddy Sambu.

Derailed by a dilapidated public railway system, East African governments will today unveil plans to expand and revamp the regions rail network..

The major project provides for a vast network of additional railway lines within East Africa and others linking the region to neighbouring Ethiopia, southern Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Magaga Alot, the spokesperson for the East African Community (EAC) Secretariat said consultants have been commissioned to establish the viability of constructing 15 new lines under the EAC Railways Development Master Plan.

The feasibility study will outline precise financial and implementation details. We are meeting stakeholders in Nairobi tomorrow (today) to appraise them on the feasibility report, Elijah Nduati, the deputy secretary for rail transport told the Business Daily. A bidders conference for all potential investors will follow thereafter, Nduati said. Tanzania would be the main beneficiary of the new railway lines should the ambitious project materialise. Besides the Isaka-Kigali line, eight other new railway lines have been proposed within the country, linking Tanzania with other states.

Kenya would have two railway branches connecting it to its closest Horn of Africa neighbours, Ethiopia and Sudan. One of the proposed railway lines will connect Garissa town with the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, while another will be constructed from Lamu to Juba in south Sudan via Garissa.

Under the East African Railways Master plan, Uganda would have four new lines connecting to southern Sudan, DRC and Tanzania. Burundi and Rwanda, which joined the regional bloc on July 1, have been asked to provide their proposals to the Master Plan Study consultants to speed up the work. Already, the Tanzanian and Rwandan governments have confirmed that a railway line would be built to link the Isaka Inland Port in Shinyanga region and the Rwandese capital, Kigali.

By revamping, linking and expanding the rail network, players are moving towards establishing a standardised network throughout the region. Analysts say existing East African railways, built at the dawn of the last century, have fallen into near total neglect and need overhaul. Last week, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni who is the current chairman of the East African Community, directed the EAC to launch integrated regional infrastructure development programmes. President Museveni further directed the EAC Secretariat to present the implementation master plan for the railways project for consideration at the next Summit meeting.

This is an initiative to replace theone metre-gauge line by a four-metre line.A taskforce is in place and is today expected to brief on a finalised feasibility study, Mr Nduati said by phone. During a strategic ministerial retreat on Regional Infrastructure Development and Opportunities held at the Munyonyo Resort in Kampala, President Museveni said the EAC region faced a great challenge regarding its current state of infrastructure.

There is need to satisfy demand for energy, railways, roads, inland waterways and airlines services, communications networks, as well as ease border crossing and administrative procedures, Mr Museveni said.

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Burkina Faso: Community-directed health works

Posted by African Press International on May 3, 2008

Publisher: Korir, africanpress@getmail.no source.Pana

Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso) – African scientists Monday unveiled a new research that shows a doubling of treatment coverage of children suffering from malaria, when delivery of drugs was controlled by the local community themselves.

Other key findings of the research, announced at the 4th Primary Health Care conference which opened in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, include: The proportion of households possessing at least one insecticide-treated bed net to prevent mosquito bites approached the international target of 60%, despite shortage of nets.

Also, the findings show Vitamin A supplement coverage was significantly higher than sites without this process (community-directed treatment), reaching an average of 90% of eligible children, while Onchocerciasis (river blindness) annual treatment jumped from 10% to 74% of the populations studied. Dr. Hans Remme, who oversaw the study design and execution, described the finding on Malaria treatment as “a dramatic improvement”.

“And what is really exciting is that each village determined how they would provide this care, who would do it and how,” added Dr. Remme, who is a research coordinator in the Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR) based at WHO. According to the research, while there were no additional costs to the regional and national health systems, the local communities spent many volunteer hours.

“The villagers were mainly motivated by the desire to contribute to the community, recognition, status, knowledge and skills gained,” TDR said in a statement made available to PANA here. The presentation of the report to the over 30 Ministers attending the conference is significant, since the Ouagadougou meeting is focusing on new approaches. The research was requested by the African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control (APOC) to assess whether a community-based system launched in the 1990s to distribute a drug to prevent River Blindness (Onchocerciasis) could be used for other health conditions.

It shows small communities, each developing their own approach to delivering the River Blindness drug, ivermectin, did this so effectively the disease is now on its way to being eliminated.
The three-year research, which investigated a number of different types of care that communities could provide themselves, was conducted among 2-3 million people across Nigeria, Uganda and Cameroon during 2005-2007.

Based on the findings, APOC will now work to help expand into countries currently using this approach for river blindness alone, and will work with Ministers of Health and TDR to assess how to implement this approach in areas that have never used the community-based process before.

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East Africa: Our children will be united by technology (commentary)

Posted by African Press International on May 3, 2008

Publisher: Korir, africanpress@getmail.no source.eastafrican.ke

Story By Charles Onyango-Obbo.

This Tuesday quite a few East African policy wonks will don their thinking caps and head to the Rwandan capital for the launch of the most ambitious attempt to predict the likely collective fortunes and misfortunes of the region some 40 years from now.

The occasion will be the global launch of the Society for International Developments East African scenarios report, What Do We Want? What Might We Become: Imagining the Future of East Africa. This labour of love was for four years in the making. The region is more familiar with SIDs State of East Africa Reports, a more certain undertaking. This gazing into the East African crystal ball, however, is a more adventurous business as it involves taking a few gambles.

Given that the East African Communitys life expectancy is under 50 years, probably over half the people reading this will be dead by 2040, the East Africa that the scenario-building team imagines. I guess there is still reward in knowing the likely shape of the region we are bequeathing our grandchildren. These futures shall no doubt be reported on widely after the Kigali launch, but a quick reading of it reveals why it is extremely important to build these scenarios of our futures.

Consider this: The State of East Africa Report 2007 celebrated the ringtone economy, the creation of a regional market driven by the cellphone companies bringing East Africa together through Celtels One Network and the Safaricom-MTN-Vodacom Just Like Home tie-up. Together with Safaricoms introduction of the digital money transfer service M-Pesa, the report spoke of the likelihood of the cellphone companies emerging as the real East African central banks of the future.

The optimistic scenario in Imagining the Future of East Africa picks up this element of enlightened decades ahead driven partly by new technologies.

When the main work on the report was completed late last year, it still viewed the evolution of East African citizenship as something that would largely be influenced by the decisions of the concert of EAC leaders, the Summit. However, two actions since then, one by a corporate, the other by a national government, now have the potentially of dramatically altering the pace of integration. One was the announcement by a new EAC-entrant last year that it would no longer require EAC professionals to have work permits to be employed in Rwanda.

And the other was the decision by Kenyas Safaricom, the regions most profitable company, to open its IPO to all East Africans who, for that purpose, would be treated like local Kenyans. It is a decision with wide political significance. While it was always clear that the technology companies would be important in shaping the architecture of the region, it was presumed this would mostly be in the economic area. No one imagined it would be so political.

Likewise, whereas it was evident that the entry of Burundi and Rwanda would remake the EAC, no one imagined that it would be a new entrant who would make the first bold leap into the future. The report had foreseen various catastrophes, but it didnt imagine that one would come so soonand from Kenya, via the bloody clashes following the December disputed polls. While the Kenya violence threw up a surprising point of weakness in the EAC, its philosophical impact at was even more unpredictable.

As the economies of Uganda, Rwanda, eastern Congo and Southern Sudan went into a tailspin because of the Kenya violence, the debate about how interdependent the EAC countries are was settled. Perhaps once and for all. Who would have bet on that?

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

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Uganda: Waiting for Kony

Posted by African Press International on May 3, 2008

Publisher: Korir, africanpress@getmail.no source.mail&guardian.SA

Story by David Lewis

Ri-Kwangba (Congo-Sudan border) – It was meant to be a day of celebration and festivities, marking the end of one of Africa’s longest and most brutal wars.

Mediators and government ministers were flown in by helicopter, an army of journalists scrambled for the best view and sweated out the wait in their seats under a tent in a remote bush clearing on the Sudan-Democratic Republic of Congo border. In the end, amid allegations of stolen wads of cash, after an undelivered letter from a president to the rebels and the sacking of the main negotiator, it collapsed into farce.
Uganda’s notorious Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels were expected, on April 10, to sign a deal to end their two-decade-long insurgency against President Yoweri Museveni’s government.

Faced with a barrage of scepticism during the days leading up to the supposed signing, LRA negotiators insisted that Joseph Kony, their mysterious leader who believes he has mystical powers, would indeed emerge from the bush and sign a deal. But, by the end of the day, he hadn’t appeared. “We have squandered this, our best opportunity [to sign],” said David Matsanga, the sacked LRA negotiator, as it started becoming clear just how badly things had gone wrong.

“It could take seven days for him to reach the signing place,” he said, in a rare moment of honesty, before he was whisked out of the bush camp that became the base for those trying to rescue Uganda’s two-year-old peace process. In fact, seven days’ walk away for the LRA could place him just about anywhere and, for many, was a clear sign that no one had any idea where the rebel leader actually was.

Riek Machar, chief mediator and Southern Sudan’s vice-president, proceeded to spend the next five days sitting outside his tent in the clearing, waiting, even for just a phone call. Word spread in the camp that neither Machar nor Joachim Chissano, the UN’s special envoy to the LRA peace process, had spoken directly to Kony since last year. “There is a complete lack of communication. This is ridiculous,” said one official who has been following the talks.

Ugandan chiefs, elders and religious leaders, who travelled up to South Sudan to witness a new beginning for north Uganda, which has borne the brunt of the war despite being home to the Acholi people Kony claims to be fighting for, were instead charged with heading into the bush to try to make contact. They returned saying they had occasionally spoken only to Kony on the phone and everyone began to understand that the entire organisation was riddled with divisions. Having originally included fighters from the bush, the LRA negotiating team became a vehicle for Acholi leaders from the diaspora, who were vying for influence and money.

Factions within the delegation had to be physically separated at times and rowed frequently over money. Observers say Kony is deeply suspicious of his negotiators, as well as of the mediation, and believes more money given to the process — more than $10-million so far — should go directly to him. Meanwhile, as last year’s execution of Vincent Otti, Kony’s deputy, showed, there are deep divisions within the ranks of the fighters. Otti’s murder meant contact with the dark and often baffling world of the LRA, where Otti was considered a dove and Kony a hawk, had been severed.

In the end Machar did not speak to Kony, making for a frustrating process. “We are here because there is no other option,” said the LRA watcher, leaving the bush camp. “This is fine if they [the LRA] are not building up in the meantime.” The LRA is no longer seen as an immediate threat to Uganda. During the process the north has been spared the attacks that have left tens of thousands dead and two million displaced since the mid 1980s.

This violence, as well as talk of the International Criminal Court, which wants to try Kony and several commanders for war crimes but has been accused of being an obstacle to peace, seemed a distant memory.
But just over the border in the Democratic Republic of Congo, it is very real for the hundreds of newly abducted civilians who, according to deserters debriefed by the United Nations mission there, are being trained as fighters to swell the LRA ranks.

Estimates for the ranks of the LRA dropped into the mid hundreds but, with the fresh batch of abductees, could now be more than 1 000 fighters, said security sources.
The fear now is that Kony will roam around the lawless corners of the DRC, Sudan and the Central African Republic (CAR) as a gun for hire. “He will cease to be a freedom fighter and turn into a mercenary. This is a danger,” said a regional political adviser to the process.

Kony is reported to have made links already with rebels from the CAR and Chad. Meanwhile, his relationship with the government in Khartoum, long a backer of the LRA, is well documented and, some say, might be rekindled as a result of tensions between north and south Sudan. “Now we need to get Congo, the CAR, Uganda and Sudan to come together and work out what steps they can take. The stick needs to take shape,” said the adviser. Given the weaknesses and the complexities of the domestic situations in the countries involved, the hostile terrain and the LRA’s experience and battle-hardened tactics, this could take some time.

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Congo DRC: Malaria still biggest killer

Posted by African Press International on May 3, 2008

Publisher: Korir, africanpress@getmail.no source.Irin

Kinshasa (Congo DRC) – Exauce Makembi, aged three, has been very weak for three days and sleeps in the arms of her mother, Tina Nzongola, who has taken her to a health centre on the outskirts of Kinshasa.

She is suffering from malaria. The doctor prescribed water-soluble artesunate, but Nzongola complains she does not have the funds to buy it, as it costs around US$5. Other patients lie on beds next to her – young and old – taking quinine and antibiotics because their cases, according to the nurse, are serious. “Most of the patients we receive have malaria,” said Baby Bilo, a consultant at another health centre in the area.

“Today, malaria is the primary cause of sickness and death in the country as it is in Africa, despite the efforts made,” said Yacouba Zina, head of the malaria project of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. On average, five million cases of malaria, according to him, are registered every year throughout the country with a population of nearly 60 million. Between 500,000 and one million people die of the disease every year.

However, according to the National Programme for the Struggle against Malaria (PNLP), some success has been noted. “Medicines have been distributed to the sick, insecticide-treated bed nets have been distributed and awareness-raising campaigns have been conducted,” explained the deputy head of the PNLP, Jean Angbalu. Today, malaria is the primary cause of sickness and death in the country as it is in Africa, despite the efforts made

According to him, the Congolese government since 2006 has taken an integrated approach to tackling the disease, including insecticide-treated bed nets. “Treated bed nets have either been donated or cost 50 US cents, while other partners are selling them at 18 cents,” Angbalu said. Zina said the Global Fund, like other partners (the European Union and the World Bank), had ensured that the new drugs artesunate and amodiaquine are sold at 10 percent of their true value. Nevertheless, he notes, the number of malaria cases seemed to be rising.

The first is that, according to Zina, malaria is endemic in the DRC owing to its geographical location. The lack of access to the new drugs for most of the population is another reason, he said. In addition, the new strategy had improved the means of detection, prompting many more people to go for a test, and diagnosis is quick.

“There has been an upward trend in the number of malaria cases and there are also many more of the serious cases because of resistance [to certain drugs used hitherto] owing, among other things, to self-medication,” Zina said. “And this translates into a high mortality rate among infants, owing to the resistance,” he said. In addition, said Zina and Angbalu, the new drugs, although sold 10 times cheaper thanks to the partnership with international organisations, were not readily available to most of the population.

Nor has the distribution of bed nets been universal. According to Angbalu, only 35 health zones out of 515 were covered. But the Global Fund programme envisages covering 120 health zones. Partners, such as the World Bank and the EU, will be able to take on others. More could be done in terms of prevention, said Zina. Formal education on hygiene issues, or via the media, had not been carried out sufficiently, he said.
“Furthermore, the bed nets given out are insufficient, as they are distributed only to pregnant women and children under five, while other family members are left out and exposed to the disease,” he said.

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