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Archive for May 7th, 2008

Releasing Njenga (Mungiki’s leader) and negotiating with Mungiki is the right way to go if Kenya cherishes lasting peace

Posted by African Press International on May 7, 2008

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

Mungiki has been blamed for many killings in the country. The politicians want to talk to them now, but the police do not want that to happen. The question is why the police do not want the Mungiki to have a dialogue with the government. The reports reaching API confirm that some police officers are afraid of the outcome of such talks because some of the Mungiki members have been killed by the police indiscrimately. The police are forgeting that these are young people some are said to be the sons and daughters of some Kenyan leaders. These are young people who feel left out with no opportunities in sight and they become enemies of the establishement they see to be recycling leaders leaving no room for them to get jobs. Some of them are educated and are unemployed.

The government can easily solve the problem by having a serious dialogue with the leaders of Mungiki and understand them and deal with what they want. Some of them have stated that they want jobs, business and other opportunities. It is true if they get opportunities that will change their lives and Kenya will stabilise. API

Why Mungiki sect leader is a cut above the other inmates

He cuts an ordinary body frame and his eyes reveal an innocent man in jail. His brown complexion radiates in sunshine and when our eyes first meet, I doubt whether this is the man behind all we hear about the dreaded and banned Mungiki sect.

Mungiki sect leader Maina Njenga. He looks healthy and smart even in jail. Photo/FILE

But mystery surrounds Maina Njenga, the man believed to be the force behind a sect that is known to extort, intimidate, and kill in cold blood.

When we seek to meet him at the Naivasha prison, we are, as expected, filled with curiosity.

The Nation team visited him in prison to get an interview with the man believed to be leading the movement that is believed to have a following of over two million members.

To Park aside

Having never visited a prison before, it was all challenging and reaching the gate, the warder asked what our mission was. And straight, we told him we were visiting a prisoner.

We were asked to park aside and give our details to be given a pass. The thought of saying who we were visiting scared us with the possibility we may even get arrested.

A small white gate pass was issued, which we presented to the officer at the next gate.

Luckily, there were some officers outside, and we were ushered in after waiting for about half an hour.

An elderly warder, identified only as Makau, showed us a small office and yes; here was Maina Njenga, the man I had read so much about.

He looked younger and more energetic than seen on TV.

He welcomed us and once again introduced himself.

Spoken on phone

Frankly speaking, we had spoken on phone earlier informing him that we were on the way.

Looking at him, you would think we were visiting a prisoner in a Hollywood movie. He looked healthy, and his face shone unlike other prisoners, a clear indication that he gets enough of sunlight.

His hair was well kept. He wore smart open shoes with clean socks, unlike the normal prison scenario whereby inmates are always in open shoes made from old car tyres, commonly known as akala.

We met at an office-like setting where the warder sat as the host, while we sat facing each other, unlike the case with many other prisoners. (I have heard you see them through a grille with limited time).

We were treated with utmost respect right from the gate, so to speak, and apart from the search at the gate using the metal detector, all was well with us.

The interview lasted for over one hour, but mostly Maina leaned on his history, saying that he attended Ortum Secondary School in West Pokot.

I have lived with Pokots, Turkanas, Ugandans, Kalenjins, among other tribes. Many people look at me and think I am a tribalist. I appreciate cultures of the different communities I have lived with, Maina said.

I had decided to keep my paper and pen safely in the pocket as we had posed as friends visiting an inmate. But I was shocked when Maina asked me to write and even make calls and not to fear anything. He was very strong and agile and stressed every point that he put through.

Analysing what he was talking about, he stressed on the importance of dialogue, and that there was hope, especially after the Prime Minister, Mr Raila Odinga, invited Mungiki sect members to dialogue after the naming of the grand coalition Cabinet.

The sect leader is known to claim that he had died and resurrected after four days.

Bible verses

In this respect, Maina seems to have become quite spiritual of late, quoting Bible verses every now and again, notably from 1 Corinthians 13:11.

The verse reads: When I was a child, I understood as a child, I spoke as a child, but when I became a man I put away childish things.

He stressed that from 1987 when he started the sect, he was worshipping as a child, but now he has grown up and that he was ready to change the dreaded sect members to good people.

He adds that God is his shield and they will no longer face Mt Kenya while praying.

Though at the beginning, the Mungiki were said to be fighting modernity, they are seen to have shifted goalposts to fight against poverty and other social injustices.

The warders

The sect members say they are the children of the Mau Mau, who were forgotten during the land allocation after independence.

Prisoners are known to languish in pain and misery while behind bars. However, former Vice-President Moody Awori is known to have reformed the institutions although he seems to have forgotten about the warders.

The latest warders go-slow revealed some of the issues that have not been dealt with for decades.

Maina was arrested on February 2, 2006 and was convicted in June of being in possession of 22 rolls of bhang worth Sh1,220 and an Italian Bandeli pistol, though he always claims they were fabricated.

The two offences were also bailable, but his efforts to be out on bond always proved futile.

Naivasha maximum security jail was built in late 1969, and has held some of Kenyas well-known prisoners, including Delameres grandson Tom Cholmondeley and Naivasha businessman Fai Amario.

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How many “loyal-to-raila” PNU ministers will attend Raila’s homecoming party in Luo land?

Posted by African Press International on May 7, 2008

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

Recently, Raila had a meeting in his office where he had invited all ministers but a handful PNU ministers attended. The rest demonstrated their disloyalty to Raila because they do not want to recognise his supervisory role. API

Raila to host homecoming parties

Story by KENNETH OGOSIA and JOHN NGIRACHU

Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who returned from South Africa Tuesday, will host homecoming parties at his Kisumu and Bondo homes this weekend.A tentative programme for the celebrations indicates that on Saturday, the PM will be at his Milimani residence in Kisumu, where the party will be held.

On Sunday May 11, the big occasion moves to his ancestral home in Bondo.

On Monday 12, the PM will attend the homecoming party for Fisheries Development minister Paul Otuoma in Funyula.

It is not yet clear which dignitaries have been invited.

Define the future

The occasions may define the future of the grand coalition Government especially if Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka and PNU MPs attend.

Most ODM MPs and Cabinet ministers are expected to attend.

The two days will certainly cause excitement in Nyanza Province, the bedrock of Mr Odingas support.

Mr Odinga flew back into the country on Monday night after a week-long visit abroad during which he underwent an operation on his left eye at Ulm University Hospital in Germany.

Recuperating

Speaking at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Mr Odinga said he had also spent time recuperating in South Africa.

He had the chance to meet former South African president Nelson Mandela and his wife Graa Machel and Zimbabwes Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

Mrs Machel was part of the mediation team that helped resolve the post-election crisis in the country.

It was wrongly reported that I met Mr Tsvangirai yesterday (Sunday). I just met him today, actually around five hours ago in South Africa, he said.

He said he had advised Mr Tsvangirai to participate in the election rerun.

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The woman who exercised her woman-hood power got back to real power

Posted by African Press International on May 7, 2008

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

When she was sacked by Kibaki last year from her health ministerial position, she told the workers in her then Afya house that she was not finished and that she was going to be back. This has nothing to do with witchcraft deeds but a woman with a strong will to succeed and succeed she did, only that she got a different ministry.

Ngilu keeps her “I’II be back” promise

Story by KENNETH OGOSIA

Tears accompanied her sacking from the Ministry of Health in December 2007, but instead of being overwhelmed by the emotions shown by her staff, she made a more prophetic statement and took the dismissal in her stride.

Health minister Charity Ngilu acknowledges cheers from some of her supporters who had turned up at Narc headquarters shortly before she defected to the Orange Democratic Movement, prompting her sacking. Photo/FILE

Jesus also said; I will be back and this act of faith keeps Christianity burning the flame of resurrection from the dead and life after death for those who have kept the word.

Power of women

The powerful words she uttered with a smile and drove her vehicle out of Afya House today confirm her faith. Looked at differently, the words reinforce the belief in the power of women, who use words and action to mobilise success.

Although the Presidential results were disputed, Mrs Ngilu is now the minister for Water and Irrigation, thanks to Mr Kofi Annan, who brokered the National Accord and Reconciliation Act, which midwifed the power sharing deal between ODM and PNU.

In some communities, it is believed  that a woman’s warning always comes true.

It is conventional wisdom among many Africans that when one’s wife warns her  man against travelling or getting into a deal, they always end in doom when such concerns are ignored.

But when it is for the better, like Mrs Ngilu’s, it now translates to the events that  led to the formation of a Grand Coalition Government that includes not only her return to the Cabinet but also ministers sacked by President Kibaki after the referendum voting in 2005.

Mrs Ngilu is truly back and her office at Maji House is just a fence away from Afya House. More interestingly, the man who backed her presidential bid in 1997 and who she saved from a humiliating defeat in the hands of Mr Raila Odinga’s National Development Party through a nomination to Parliament, Prof Peter Anyang Nyong`o, is right there to replace her in the Ministry of Health.
Prof Nyong`o is the Minister for Medical Services.

All the people President Kibaki sacked in 2005 after the referendum are in the Grand Coalition Cabinet.

Former Roads and Public Works minister Raila Odinga is the Prime Minister, former Environment and Natural Resources minister Kalonzo Musyoka is the Vice-President, Mr Najib Balala is the minister for Tourism and Mrs Linah Jebii Kilimo is assistant minister.

Mrs Ngilu’s prophesy enrich her controversial, charming and go-getter political approach.

She reclaimed her Kitui Central seat, which was hotly contested given the power struggle between her and Mr Musyoka’s ODM-Kenya party in last year’s elections.

Ngilu was born in Mbooni, Makueni District in 1952. She worked as a secretary for the Central Bank of Kenya, before becoming an entrepreneur. She acted as a director of a plastics extrusion factory.

Those close to her say her childhood on a poor farm in the eastern Makueni District had a great impact on her and influences many of her actions, particularly her fight for justice and equality.

In Kenya’s multiparty elections held in 1992, Mrs Ngilu pulled off a big surprise by capturing the Kitui Central seat on the Democratic Party ticket.

In the December 1997 General Election, she ran for the presidency and along with Wangari Maathai became the first ever women presidential candidates in Kenya. Mrs Ngilu then represented the Social Democratic Party of Kenya. She finished fifth.

In the December 2002 General Election, her party was part of the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC).

The coalition went on to win the elections, and President Kibaki appointed her minister of Health on January 3, 2003. Ngilu was seen as a new school member in the government, as opposed to old school members like John Michuki and President Kibaki.

She was also appointed NARC chairperson. However, she was left stranded after the Liberal Democratic Party left the coalition after the defeat of the Government-sponsored draft constitution, while most of the remaining NARC members founded the new Narc-Kenya party.

On July 31, 2007, Ngilu took Ann Njogu, a protester, to a hospital after Ms Njogu had allegedly been beaten and detained by police.

Ngilu was then accused of helping Ms Njogu escape from custody, and she was arrested on August 2 before being released on bail.

She reported to the headquarters of the Criminal Investigations Department on August 3 as she was ordered, but would not leave her car, saying that she should either be charged or released.

Later on the same day, the Nairobi High Court ruled that Mrs Ngilu’s arrest was illegal, and she was allowed to leave.

On October 5, 2007, Mrs Ngilu announced her support for the Orange Democratic Movement and its presidential candidate, Raila Odinga, in the December 2007 General Election. Her dismissal from the Government was announced on October 6.

Mrs Ngilu was re-elected in Kitui Central in the December 2007 parliamentary election.

Bunch of looters

Her husband, Michael Mwendwa Ngilu, died in July 1, 2006 in South Africa.

Mrs Ngilu has always been one of Kenya’s most controversial politicians and became the first minister to be arrested under President Kibaki.

She once described the Government as a bunch of looters, who do not have the people’s interests at heart, and called on the electorate to vote them out in last year’s elections.

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Some appointed Kenya ministers, huge salaries, but no duties to perform

Posted by African Press International on May 7, 2008

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

Revealed: Ministers who got a raw deal in Cabinet

Story by BERNARD NAMUNANE and KENNETH OGOSIA

<Minister Beth Mugo

Some dockets were mere departments before the November 2005 referendum. Photos/FILE

Details of how ministers in the grand coalition will share responsibility emerged this week in a secret document outlining the new government structure.

The draft prepared by the Head of Public Service, Mr Francis Muthaura, shows that some of the new ministries hived off to create the 42-member Cabinet are mere shells meant to satisfy political egos.These are ministries whose dockets suggest that they could be handled as departments within parent ministries.

The ministries on the spot include Public Health and Sanitation headed by Dagoretti MP Beth Mugo; Gender and Children Development of Nyeri Town lawmaker Esther Murugi Mathenge; Fisheries Development whose head is Funyula’s Paul Otuoma; Forestry and Wildlife that was placed in the hands of Kwanza member Noah Wekesa; Malava MP Soita Shitanda’s Ministry of Housing and that of Development of Northern Kenya and Other Arid Lands, headed by Moyale MP Ibrahim Mohamed Elmi. Although the Ministry of Nairobi Metropolitan Development, which is headed by Mbooni MP Mutula Kilonzo, would appear to have its work cut out, major amendments would have to be made to the Local Government Act for it to work effectively.

The Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation has, for example, been overshadowed in terms of responsibility by the Medical Services ministry, headed by Prof Anyang Nyong`o.

Although Mrs Mugo moved to the office previously occupied by Mrs Charity Ngilu when the Kitui Central MP was Health minister, the Dagoretti MP does not have a parastatal under her ministry.

Her responsibilities are listed as public health and sanitation policy, preventive and promotive health services, health education, family planning, food quality and hygiene, health inspection and other public health services, quarantine administration and oversight over all sanitation services.

Prof Nyong`o, on the hand, has overall responsibility over all public hospitals, the Kenya Medical Supplies Agency, Curative Services, the Kenya Medical Research Institute, maternity services, the National Hospital Insurance Fund, the Government Chemist, and registration of doctors, nurses and pharmacists, among others.

When contacted, Mrs Mugo said: A committee has been set up to revise the draft on the function of my ministry.

According to her, HIV and Aids, malaria, tuberculosis and childhood immunisation programmes, which are carried out in dispensaries and health centres will be under her docket.

There appears to be anomalies in the way the dockets were outlined in the draft, she said.

However, Mr Kilonzo dismissed claims that his ministry had little work. According to him, he is faced with a daunting task of transforming the city into a metropolis. He has to find ways of fixing the city’s transport system, water supply, waste disposal, public utilities, slum upgrading and enforcement of zoning regulations.

I must make it clear that taking Nairobi to the status of a metropolis will require a lot of focus, he said.

According to him, the ministry covers all sectors and if that can be termed as a hollow ministry, then the meaning of the word needs a new definition.

However, a casual look at what the ministry is expected to do looks like high-sounding phrases that will require huge amounts of money to become reality. For example, the ministry is charged with upgrading all the city slums.

Most of the ministries in this category were created last month as President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga sought to balance the interests of their party MPs as part of a power-sharing agreement following the disputed presidential election results.

Referendum

Others were created after the November 2005 referendum to give the President a majority in Parliament after Mr Odinga’s Liberal Democratic Party pulled out of Narc.

The new ministries have limited duties and responsibilities and few parastatals, going by the draft Presidential Circular No1/2008 titled: Organisation of the Government of the Republic of Kenya.

The Ministry of Gender and Children’s Development was weakened after the sports docket was hived off and shifted to that of Youth and Sports.

Mrs Mathenge’s task in the ministry will be limited to developing policies and crafting strategies focusing on the plight of women and children. This will include policies on gender and children’s development, the Children’s Department, children’s homes, Kenya National Council for Social Services and community development, Social Services, Women Enterprise Development Fund, and Women’s Bureau. It has no parastatal under its fold.

The Ministry of Fisheries was hived off the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries Development and handed over to Dr Otuoma, the Funyula MP, who ended former Vice-President Moody Awori’s political career.

The ministry has the task of formulating the fisheries policy, issuing fishing licenses, developing marine and fresh water fisheries, value addition and export of fish, marketing and forming cooperatives for local fishermen. It only has one instituteand the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Institute under its docket. These tasks were previously bestowed on the Director of Fisheries, whose position still exists.

The Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife, headed by Dr Wekesa, has two departments that were hitherto under the Ministries of Environment and Natural Resources and that of Tourism and Wildlife.

The ministry’s functions focus on forests and wildlife and they include developing policies for the two areas, re-afforestation and conservation of wildlife. Under its docket are the Kenya Forestry Research Institute (Kefri), Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and Wildlife Clubs of Kenya.

Mr Shitanda’s Housing ministry, which was a department under the Ministry of Lands, Settlement and Housing before the 2005 referendum, is tasked with writing the housing policy, shelter and slum upgrading outside the Nairobi metropolis, development of low-cost rental housing, building and construction technologies, housing for civil servants, disciplined forces, government housing, leasing of public office space and the rent tribunal.

The National Housing Corporation and Housing Finance Company of Kenya Ltd fall under this ministry.

The Ministry of Development of Northern Kenya and Other Arid Lands, formerly part of the docket of Regional Development Authorities, has the duty of ensuring all-round development of marginal areas.

Infrastructure

It will deal with infrastructure, livestock, water, irrigation, tapping solar and wind energy, mineral exploration, growth of townships and management of natural resources in the dry areas.

Most of these tasks have parent ministries, and Mr Elmi will be required to work closely with his colleagues to meet his targets.

However, Mr Muthaura’s circular gives some ministries powerful functions in terms portfolio responsibilities. The powerfulministries include that ofJustice, National Cohesion and Constitutional Affairs,Medical Services, Environment and Mineral Resources, Basic Education, Energy, Foreign Affairs, Agriculture, Finance, Information and Communications, Industrialisation, and Transport.

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A young man running big dream charities – Kenya

Posted by African Press International on May 7, 2008

Publisher: Korir, africanpress@getmail.no

<Story by Harrison Mwirigi Ikunda, Nairobi – Kenya

ADDHU CYCA International is a non governmental organization in Kenya which is an affiliate of ADDHU international which is a Portuguese NGO dealing with democracy and caring for destitute, aids orphans and other disadvantaged people globally. It’s International Director is Laura Vasconcellos and its affiliate Kenyan operation is headed by Mr. Armstrong O’Brian Ongera, Jnr.

I did chat with Brian a week ago about himself and the activities of the organization he heads here in Kenya which included a visit to a ‘Silicon Valley’ project in a place called Murungurune some 250 km away from Nairobi and in the slopes of Mt. Kenya and an orphaned children project in Nairobi at a place called Ongata Rongai.

Brian is a young man of about 24 years. He started the business of Non Governmental Organization soon after finishing high school in Kenya. All along he had a feeling about the disadvantaged in the society and had keen sense of contributing to make a change. So as soon as he finished High school Brian was making contacts all over in a bid to form an organization to help the disadvantaged in the society. Along the way and with a lot of hardwork Capital Youth Caucus (CYCA) Kenya was born. Later as it got down to serious business of helping the disadvantaged it affiliated with ADDHU of Portugal to launch ADDHU CYA International Kenya.

Brian Armstrong Jnr is a man with a lot of energy. When you get him talking you would easily mistake him for a seasoned politician. However his subject matter may have nothing to do with politics. It has everything to do with changing the society. AIDS have been a giant killer globally. In Africa it has left a trail of destruction and Kenya has not been spared the agony. When Brian talks about helping the disadvantaged he means so much about helping among others the AIDS orphans who in Kenya are just too many.

Brian is very passionate about his project. He is not just only involved in helping the disadvantaged orphans and the poor abut he is also busy changing the orientation of the society towards a rapidly changing economy. Besides having the ADDHU CYCA project for children in Ongata Rongai in Nairobi, Brian has a ‘Silicon Valley’ project in Murungurune in Meru of Kenya, some 250 kilometers from Nairobi.

We toured the center on 03.05.2008 and we were warmly received as one of the latest guests to visit them. In a space of one month the centre has hosted among others the US Ambassador to Kenya, The Portuguese ambassador to Kenya, The Director of International Cultural Projects University of Scranton and a democracy and civil engagement crusader Professor Sondra Myers and Professor Morey Myers a US Civil Rights lawyer among others.

When we checked at the center with the company of the ADDHU CYCA Director we were warmly received by the children and staff. We were taken through the history of the centre, the challenges and the strategic plans in place. Brian ushered us in the office where he took us through the children project , the Murungurune ‘silicon valley’ project and his Murungurune primary school sanitary towels programme which is meant to encourage young girls to complete their schooling and aim high unhindered. His Murungurune Silicon valley project is about duplicating what has been achieved in Silicon Valley in USA but this time in a primary school in far flung place away from the capital city of Nairobi and in the slopes of the highest mountain in Kenya Mt Kenya and an area almost covered with forest and with a cold, cool, warm climate much less the same with Silicon of USA.

What drives Brian? According to him, he has passion for charity work and especially that which involves disadvantaged groups such as of children, youth and poor people generally. Hence his desire to play his part to transform society in the best he can.

Brian started involving himself with charity work starting with slum dwellers in big slums of Nairobi in 2001 and over the years he has grown a formidable organization with global affiliations under CYCA. He wakes early at 4 am and works through out the day until he retires top bed at around mid night. His energy and drive leaves many wondering the motivation beyond the young man who has interacted with the high in society locally and globally. Just about a month a go, he was in an international round table meeting in a neighbouring country called Rwanda which was like a meeting of who is who in the academia and human rights and democracy non governmental organization.

We can only wish Brian well in his good work. After we were through with the visit it was time to say au- revoir and Brian was ready to meet the next group pf visitors, this time some from Finland and others from UK. Busy and tight schedules for such a young and ambitious man who wants to change the society he lives in.

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A different kind of Luo – One good professor to be proud of in Kenya!

Posted by African Press International on May 7, 2008

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

University lecturer who lives in a slum

By Jane Akinyi
The university lecturers choice to live in Obunga slums, Kisumu, has puzzled many people.

While men of his status reside in dream houses in upmarket estates, Boniface Otieno Oriaro, is content with a paupers lifestyle.

Oriaro holds the trophy and certificate presented to him by Obunga residents in appreciation for his efforts.

“Happiness is a direction and not a place,” he says thoughtfully.

Oriaro, 34, teaches Marketing and Economics at University of Nairobis Kisumu Campus.

He lives in a two-room semi-permanent house, which he pays a monthly rent of Sh2,000. He says he gets along well with his neighbours.

“I do not mind sharing the pit latrine and bathroom with them,” he says, humbly.

Oriaro is the chairman of Obunga Community Policing Programme (OCPP). About 12,000 residents depend on the organisation for better security.

Last year, he had a meeting with President Kibaki.

“The President wanted to know the state of the crime rate in the area,” says the lecturer.

Oriaro, a father of four, grew up surrounded by poverty. He remembers the times he could go without a decent meal for days.

“I survived by the mercy of well wishers, as my grandparents were to poor to support me,” explains Oriaro, who grew up as an orphan.

The lecturer on his graduation day.

His wife, Ruth Oriaro, is a CDC site coordinator in Barolengo, Siaya District.

“My wife initially found it unpleasant for us to live in this place.”

However, she has come to accept her husbands desire to live in an informal setting.

“Of course I would have loved for us to live in a better area, but what can I do? These are his people whom he cherishes and has decided to work for. As a family we have to support one another,” she explains.

She says one day, when her husband retires, they will move to a better setting.

Oriaro is dedicated to improving the security of Obunga residents. He owes the chairmanship of OCPP to the Franciscan Sisters of St Joseph Church in Kibuye, Kisumu District and Father Anthony Chantrey, formerly of Mill Hill Fathers, from the same place.

Oriaro first lived with his paternal grandfather in Sega, his birthplace, and later moved in with his maternal grandmother in Obunga, where he grew up.

“There are times I would skip classes to carry sand for constructors, so they would pay for my food and clothing,” he recalls.

The missionaries appointed him an altar boy in a local church, during his teenage years.

“Father Anthony was touched by my situation and promised to educate me until I achieved my goals in life,” says Oriaro.

He sat his KCPE examinations at Kudho Primary, Kisumu, before proceeding for his O-Levels at Lions High School, Kisumu, in 1989.

He then joined Southern Bank University in the US, sponsored by the nuns.

He began teaching at University of Nairobi six years ago.

Oriaro has lived in Obunga for many years. Now that he is a family man, he still does not intend to move to another place.

Oriaro in Obunga slums.Pictures George Mulala

“I was brought up in this slum; migrating is like running away from my people,” he says.

The lecturer, however, feels that living in the slum has made him achieve some dreams. One of them is the visit to State House.

He organised a harambee last year to help set up income generating projects for youth in the slum. More than Sh70,000 was raised.

“We used the funds to set up stalls, where the youth now sell bicycle spare parts.” He has also introduced widows to poultry-keeping. He has provided food and uniforms to 26 orphans in different primary schools in Obunga and put up seven latrines last year.

They have also built seven food kiosks, and a barbershop for the disabled.

Children under 12 have not been left out. The community organises an nual football tournaments for them.

Oriaro is happy the community appreciates his efforts. They honoured him with a trophy and a certificate for his good work.

“I am working hard to make Obunga a better place and to put paid to the misconception that it is an unsafe and unhygienic place to live in,” he says.

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African Press International – api

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Kenya Parliament: New House committee chairmen elected

Posted by African Press International on May 7, 2008

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

Story by ODHIAMBO ORLALE

A first-time Member of Parliament has been elected chairman of a parliamentary watchdog committee.

Cyrus Jirongo

Igembe South MP Mithika Linturi (Kanu) will chair the Public Investment Committee (PIC) after he was elected unopposed by committee members.

Former Cabinet minister and now Lugari MP Cyrus Jirongo is the new vice chairman.

Also interested in the seat were Mr Jirongo (Lugari) and Mr Ephraim Maina (Mathira), who later stepped aside for Mr Linturi.

Mr Jirongo is the chairman of Kaddu. He ousted former Health Assistant minister, Dr Enock Kibunguchy during the last Generral Election.

Kaddu is the only parliamentary party that has not joined the Grand Coalition Government.

Mr Jirongo is angling to become the leader of the Official Opposition, a feat he can achieve if a motion to debate the issue sails through the House on Wednesday.

The coalition partners are PNU, ODM, Kanu, ODM-K, Safina, Narc and Narc Kenya among others.

Members of the other watchdog committee,the Public Accounts Committee, elected Ikolomani MP Dr Bonny Khalwale the new chairperson. Wundanyi MP Thomas Mwadeghu was elected his deputy.

Their counterparts in the finance committee are expected to meet and elect their leaders on Wednesday. The position has attracted two candidates- Nominated MP Musikari Kombo and Nambale MP Chris Okemo.

Additional reporting by Anthony Kariuki

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Kibaki: Our farmers are continuously being frustrated by inadequate resources to buy fertilizers

Posted by African Press International on May 7, 2008

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

Kshs 3.2 billion credit facility for low-income farmers launched

Written By:PPS

Mwai Kibaki (right) Tuesday launched a Kshs 3.2 billion credit facility, dubbed Kilimo Biashara Partnership, geared towards providing affordable credit to low income farmers in the country and building business capacity in the sector

Speaking at the launch at a Nairobi hotel, President Kibaki said his Government was addressing the challenges facing farmers in their efforts to expand their farming activities.

“Our farmers, and particularly the small-scale producers, are hardworking, but their efforts are continuously being frustrated by inadequate resources to buy fertilizers and other inputs that will enable them to increase productivity and improve their incomes,” President Kibaki said.

He thanked the Alliance for the Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), the Equity Bank and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) for providing 2.5 million U.S. dollars each as guarantee funds for the credit facility.

Citing the example of the Kilimo Plus arrangement, the President said under the initiative, the Government was providing free seeds, fertilizers and training to poor farmers to enable them increase production and sell the surplus to enhance their income base.

He expressed satisfaction that about 48,000 farmers benefited from this initiative last year.

Said the President: “The initiative is therefore expected to make a major contribution towards efforts to eradicate absolute poverty.”

Noting that the credit requirements for the agricultural sector, currently estimated at well over 60 billion shillings, were enormous, the President said the Kshs 3.2 billion being provided under the Kilimo Biashara Partnership was significant as it targeted low-income farmers.

He said the arrangements would cushion farmers from the effects of high interest rates and urged them to put the loans into good use and honour their repayment commitments so that other farmers could have access to the loans in future.

President Kibaki, at the same time, said his Government has undertaken a wide range of measures to improve the performance of the agricultural sector to mitigate the devastating effects of the high cost of basic foods as a result of escalating fuel prices, high cost of agricultural inputs and rapidly growing demand for cereals for use in bio-fuel production was having on Kenyans.

The President said among the key measures the Government has taken is the provision of affordable credit to farmers, pointing out that by 31st December last year, a total of 25,000 farmers were awarded loans totaling to over 3 billion shillings under the seasonal credit loans scheme.

The Head of State added that a further 2 billion shillings was disbursed under the enterprise loans scheme.

To augment these efforts and to ensure that key crop commodities have a sustainable source of development credit, President Kibaki said the Government will increase the Sugar Development Fund from the current 3.2 billion shillings to 4 billion shillings and the Coffee Development Fund from the current 750 million shillings to 2 billion shillings in the next two years.

He said the Government would also continue to establish commodity-specific funds to increase access to credit for farmers and agro-dealers.

“Beyond the provision of credit, we have revived farmers’ institutions that had collapsed due to years of mismanagement,” President Kibaki said.

In addition, the President said his Government has strengthened the capacity of the agricultural extension services by employing new technical staff and providing them with transport and other facilities so that they can reach more farmers.

He said the Government has over the last four years more than doubled the budgetary allocation to the agricultural sector from 13 billion shillings in 2002 to 29 billion shillings in 2007, noting that these efforts, coupled with the hard work of farmers, have gone a long way towards revitalizing the performance of the agricultural sector.

Said the President: “Indeed, since 2004, the sector has achieved an average growth rate of 6.2 percent, which is the highest growth rate achieved over the last 3 decades.”

The President, however, regretted that while the agricultural sector has made tremendous strides, the post-election disturbances created major setbacks, as thousands of farmers were displaced from their farms and could not therefore engage in normal farming activities.

In this regard, President Kibaki said in order to address these challenges, the Government is ploughing land for free for internally displaced people and low income farmers in the affected areas.

He said the Government was also providing free seeds and fertilizer to internally displaced farmers who are returning to their farms and has beefed up extension services to educate farmers on innovative ways of fertilizer application.

“These are some of the short-term measures to ensure that the farming situation returns to normal. I am glad to note that the resettlement programme has already kicked-off, and is going on well,” President Kibaki said.

The President appealed to all concerned to give peace a chance and encouraged the neighbours who have co-existed well for years to accommodate each other and live together in the true spirit of reconciliation.

He added that it was imperative that extra efforts are marshaled for the agricultural sector to recover and regain the momentum that it had picked by last year.

To reduce and manage the cost of farm inputs, the President directed the Ministry of Agriculture to come up with interventions that will ensure that prices of fertilizer and seeds are affordable to low income farmers.

He asked the Ministry of Local Government in conjunction with the Ministry of Agriculture to expand the wholesale fresh produce marketing infrastructure in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, Nakuru and other urban centres to provide farmers with reliable markets and marketing infrastructure for them to sell their produce.

Expressing the need to also develop proper market infrastructure in the rural areas, President Kibaki said there should be a proper market in every district headquarters.

With regard to national food security, the President directed the Ministry of Agriculture in collaboration with the Ministry of Finance to allocate more funds so as to increase the Strategic Grain Reserve from the current 4 million bags or one and half months of the national requirement to 8 million bags or three months of the national requirement over the next two years.

Noting that the Kilimo Biashara Partnership was the first of its kind in the country, President Kibaki called on more development partners and other banks to emulate this example and establish similar partnerships through which farmers could access affordable credit and asked the Ministry of Agriculture in consultation with the Ministry of Finance to allocate more funds for expansion of this type of product.

Other speakers included Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Agriculture Minister William Ruto among others.

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African Press International – api

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African man’s instincts led to death on Dallas freeway – Eritrean who knew nothing of roads

Posted by African Press International on May 7, 2008

Publisher: Korir, arfricanpress@getmail.no source.dallasnews

By DAVID FLICK / The Dallas Morning News
dflick@dallasnews.com

Had Musa Bilay been able to read a map, or had he known something about American freeways, he almost certainly would be alive today.

But a confluence of cultural misunderstandings, linguistic isolation and simple bad luck led to the death of a man whose widow and 10 children are now struggling to survive in a country that is both unfamiliar and, often, incomprehensible.

Mr. Bilay and his brother-in-law, Chaku Kallafo, got off work late a few weeks ago and missed the last bus of the night. They decided to walk home, a nine-mile trek across northern Dallas.

The two men, who were dishwashers at Luby’s Cafeteria along Midway Road, could have safely followed the road as it dipped under the nearby LBJ Freeway.

But to Mr. Bilay, 51, who had spent most of his life as a farmer in a rural area of Eritrea in East Africa, that route made no sense. Midway Road went south, and his apartment was to the southeast, on Park Lane in northeast Dallas.

“For us, we did it that way,” Mr. Kallafo said. “We knew nothing of the roads in Dallas. We did not know where it [Midway] would go. We just knew what direction was home and that we had to cross the freeway to get there.”

As they tried to do so, Mr. Bilay was struck by a car and killed instantly.

His wife, Signe Kallafo, still lives in the apartment with nine of the couple’s 10 children. Beds and couches line the walls, there is no television, and a small coffee table and a fan serve as furniture.

The air conditioning and lights are kept off to conserve money. Only one picture adorns the walls a photo of Mr. Bilay. Two crosses made of palm fronds are wedged in the frame.

“With my husband dead, there is no money. I am sick, and I have a 3-month-old daughter, so I cannot work,” Ms. Kallafo, who speaks no English, said through a relative who acted as an interpreter.

“I don’t know what to do. Everywhere, darkness is around us.”

Two of the older children, who are in high school, work part time and are the family’s sole wage earners.

A group of Dallas-area Eritreans and Catholic Charities of Dallas, which had sponsored the family since it arrived in August, donated money to give Mr. Bilay a decent funeral.

Eyassu G. Beraki, who is head of the Eritrean group, said the committee does not have the resources to continue to support the family and that support from Catholic Charities ended last month.

Questions to Catholic Charities were referred to a spokeswoman, who declined to discuss the case without the family’s permission.

Because Mr. Bilay entered the country under a U.S. State Department program, the family can remain in the country legally. But no one is sure how they will live.

“We are hoping someone will hear their story and help them,” Mr. Beraki said. “The American people are very generous.”

That generosity allowed Mr. Bilay and his family to find refuge from a civil war in his native East Africa, but his isolation from the ways of a 21st-century metropolis may have contributed to his death.

Mr. Bilay was a member of the Kunama, the most ancient people in Eritrea, whose language is unrelated to any other ethnic group in the country.

After the war between Eritrea and Ethiopia ended in the late 1990s, large numbers of the Kunama who had stayed in their native region when the Ethiopians invaded fled from what they feared would be reprisals from the Eritrean government, according to a backgrounder prepared by the Cultural Orientation Resource Center at the U.S. State Department.

Soloman Addas, a nephew of Mr. Bilay living in Salt Lake City, said his uncle fled in 2000 after two family members were taken away by the authorities. He said he did not know their fate, although other family members said the men had been killed.

The family spent the next seven years at the Shimelba Refugee Camp in Ethiopia. They were granted refugee status and came to the United States in August under State Department participation in a U.N. resettlement program.

“They are but little-educated people who came to America for peace and a better life, but they had very deep problems,” Mr. Addas said.

While other family members had come to the U.S. under the same program, they were located in other states. And though there are other Eritreans in Dallas, Mr. Bilay and his immediate family were the only people here who spoke Kunama.

“We were farmers. We knew nothing about life here,” Ms. Kallafo said.

Larry James, president and CEO of Dallas Central Ministries, said such isolation is highly unusual. Most immigrants in Dallas quickly become part of a tight-knit ethnic community that eases their transition to an unfamiliar life.

“The Asians, the West Africans, the East Africans, they support each other and help each other navigate the system, and it helps transform them up and out of isolation,” he said.

Two of Ms. Kallafo’s children speak passable English, but they are in school and cannot always be with her. When she goes to the doctor, she said, she can communicate only by hand signs. She said she will receive letters telling her of appointments, but she cannot read them and does not know where the doctor’s offices are.

Family members said Catholic Charities helped get Mr. Bilay the dishwasher job and conducted a cultural-orientation session.

But they said the orientation session was conducted in the Tigrinya language, unintelligible to someone who speaks only Kunama.

“I asked the family if they had a meeting with Catholic Charities, and they said they did, but they didn’t understand what they said,” said Stefano Dago, Mr. Bilay’s cousin, who lives in Minneapolis.

Residents of the Shimelba camp were given orientations before their departure, but a spokesman for the International Organization for Migration, the intergovernmental group that conducted the sessions, could not be reached for comment.

Todd Pierce, a spokesman for the U.S. State Department Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration which oversees the resettlement program that brought the Bilay family to Dallas said that while resettlement in a strange country is difficult in the best of circumstances, he was unaware of a situation in which a family had been as isolated as the Bilay family.

Because the IOM, rather than the State Department, conducted the Shimelba orientation sessions, Mr. Pierce said he was unaware what the immigrants were taught.

“But obviously no orientation course could possibly prepare a family from rural Eritrea for a life in a big American city,” he said.

To Mr. Bilay, a man who was virtually illiterate in his native language, Dallas was a bewildering place, family members said.

“He didn’t know how to live in a city. At first he didn’t know how to ride in a car,” said Mr. Kallafo. “People at home ask me if they should come here. I tell them that America is a very hard country to live in.”

On April 11, Mr. Kallafo said, he and Mr. Bilay left their jobs at Luby’s only to discover that their regular bus had already left. As they had done several times before, they decided to walk home, although the trip took hours, Mr. Kallafo said.

They did not consider the freeway a barrier, he said, because in their country, if you tried to cross a road, the cars would stop.

Mr. Kallafo ran first, followed by his brother-in-law. Mr. Kallafo said he heard a noise, and when he looked back, he saw that Mr. Bilay had been struck by a car.

“I saw the car come to a stop. He was far away and he had skidded sideways and he had his lights on, but he did not come back,” Mr. Kallafo said. “I heard later that he called the police and told them about it.”

Mr. Kallafo said he stood by the side of the road, shaking with fear.

“I was scared, but I went out and got him and pulled him back to the side,” he said. “I didn’t want him to get hit again.”

Mr. Kallafo waited until police arrived, and then walked the rest of the way to the family’s apartment, where he informed them of Mr. Bilay’s death.

“Their life is really hard,” Mr. Kallafo said. “He was the father and the light of the day. Signe cries all the time. She says, ‘I’m by myself. I have a 3-month-old.’ ”

Four days before he died, Mr. Bilay confided to a friend that he needed to find a second job to support his family.

“His only dream was to find a job,” Mr. Kallafo said. “He wasn’t happy because he didn’t speak the language, but he was happy for his kids, that they would get an education.

“He said he hoped someday that his kids would grow up and they would have an education and get good jobs, and then he could rest.”

Staff writer Holly Yan contributed to this story.

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African press International – api

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Kenya. Police in Kericho succeeding in uprooting armed gangs ambushing buses

Posted by African Press International on May 7, 2008

Publisher: Korir, africanpress@getmail.no

<Story by Leo Odera Omolo
Police in Kericho have succeeded in smashing the activities and operations of the most dangerous, and heavily armed highway night gangsters.
The gang of terror comprises of ten heavily armed men, who in the recent past were reported to be terrorizing passengers using night buses plying between Nairobi and western Kenya.
The criminals are said to have been targeting night buses carrying Ugandan businessmen and women heading home after visiting the Kenyan capital where they usually visit regularly for the purpose of purchasinggoods and other items. The Ugandans are said to be carrying a lot of cash in hard currency.
And although the Kenya police is the most vilified force in the African content facing multiple accusations and allegations of being prone to corruption, this time around the force has done a commendable job in smashing the terror gang.
The weekend action by police in killing four members of the gang and apprehending three was an act ofbravery and heroism, which deserves recognition by the state and the public alike.
The police action came in the backdrop when bus drivers plying the Kisumu-Kericho-Nakuru-Eldoret highway had issued a threat of downing their tools unless their personal security and that of their passengers is addressed adequately by the government.
The drivers had said in a statement that night attacks by heavily armed gunmen have increased. They said that lives and property worth millions of shillings were lost in the recent past following the attacks by armed thugs.
The protest came following attacks by ten gunmen last Friday night. During the night of terror 16 vehicles were stopped by the gunmen who robbed the passengers of all valuables, cellphones, money and other property. A report was made at the Kericho Police station following the two prong attack.
Passenger country buses were stopped and passengers and crews robbed on the main Kisumu-Kericho-Nakuru road. The attack was mounted in two prongs, one near Kapsoit-Kaitui road while the thugs had first erected an illegal road block at Chepsir on the Kericho-Nakuru road, the drivers had threatened their bosses that they would stop and suspend all night journey to Western Kenya.
In most incidents, these highway robbers are said to be operating in co-hoot with their secret contact who are permanently stationed at the main booking offices of the bus companies operating on these routes.
Last Saturday during the early hours of the morning, the gangsters had hijacked 12 passenger vehicles, mostly country buses and other private cars. The thugs were said to be armed with sophisticated automatic rifles.
According to an eye witness the thugs had carjacked a dozen of motor vehicles in the early hours of the morning as they headed to western Kenya on one night. They ransacked the passengers emptying their pockets of any money, mobile phones and luggage.
The Kericho Police under the command of the OCPD Petterson Maelo responded to the passenger’s distress and moved with speed to the scene of crime. They apprehended three members of the terror gang, and after a thorough interrogation the apprehended thugs took the police to the hideout of the main gangs.
On sensing that the police were closing in, the thugs started firing indiscriminately at the police and a heavy exchange of fire ensued, during which four thugs were gunned down. The rest fled in all direction living behind the loot. Police recovereddozens of stolen mobile phone, guns and other items.
A month ago these thugs had carjacked a lorry and killed its driver near Kapsoit trading centre in Belgut. His bullet riddled body was recovered in an abandoned vehicle the next day. The driver was ferrying a full track loaded with sugar. There has been other numerous similar cases of carjacking. Last week, thethugs carjacked a woman driver, shot her in the neck and injured her daughter who was a passenger in the car.
The raid by police at the thugs hideout resulted in 134 mobile phones being recovered. The police had earlier apprehended three members of the terror gang which provided them with vital information, leading to the smashing of the gangsters hideout.
Meanwhile the Provincial administration on both sides of Nyanza and Rift Valley together with the police authorities have been urged to maintain a 24 hour surveillance along the Sotik-Borabu district borders in order to stamp out thuggery and cattle rustlings along the border separating the Kipsigis and the Kisii communities.
Residents of both districts want the government to retain a contingent of acombined force of the General Service Unit{GSU}. The Rapid Deployment Unit and the police should be stationed along this volatile border to restore law and order. There has been sporadic skirmishes between the two communities following report of cattle rustling, leading to full scale tribal clashes in the area.
Ends
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African Press International – api

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