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Archive for May 14th, 2008

Myanmar’s military junta are adamant when it comes to allowing aid workers into the country

Posted by African Press International on May 14, 2008

Publisher. Korir, afrianpress@getmail.no source.cnn

PATTAYA, Thailand (CNN) — Myanmar’s military junta has reportedly insisted it does not need help from foreign aid experts, while survivors in the cyclone-devastated country are braced for further hardship following warnings that more bad weather is coming this week.

art.kidsaid.gi.jpgChildren receive relief food and water in Dedaye, south-west of Yangon, on Wednesday.

A “significant” tropical cyclone is expected to form in the next 24 hours and sweep across Myanmar’s largest city Yangon and into the Irrawaddy delta area — the region worst affected — according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center.

Aid agencies estimate that there are around 2 million people who survived Cyclone Nargis on May 3, many of whom are still homeless, and the groups have been able to reach only 270,000 of them so far, The Associated Press reported Wednesday.

But Thailand’s prime minister said Wednesday that the junta believes it is in control of the relief operations, AP reported.

Samak Sundaravej, back from a visit to Yangon, said the military had guaranteed him that there were no disease outbreaks or starvation among the survivors.

He said Myanmar did not want any foreign aid workers because they “have their own team to cope with the situation.”

The United Nations estimates that between 63,000 and 100,000 people died as a result of the cyclone, while the junta has put the figure at less than 30,000.

“The government has a responsibility to assist their people in the event of a natural disaster,” Amanda Pitt, a spokeswoman for the U.N. Office for Humanitarian Affairs, told AP.

“We are here to do what we can and facilitate their efforts and scale up their response. It is clearly inadequate, and we do not want to see a second wave of death as a result of that not being scaled up.”

Yangon residents discovered news of a second cyclone on foreign broadcasts and on the Internet as it was not broadcast by Myanmar’s state-controlled media, AP reported.

  • Impact Your World

  • “I prayed to the Lord Buddha, ‘Please save us from another cyclone. Not just me but all of Myanmar,”‘ Min Min, whose house was destroyed in Cyclone Nargis, told AP. The rickshaw driver, his wife and three children now live on their wrecked premises under plastic sheets.

    “Another cyclone will be a disaster because our relief center is already overcrowded. I am very worried,” Tun Zaw, 68, another Yangon resident who is living in a government relief center, told AP.

    However, a tropical cyclone expert at City University of Hong Kong told AP that the new storm would probably not be as severe as Nargis because it was already close to land — and cyclones need to be over sea to gain full strength.

    “There will be a lot of rain but the winds will not be as strong,” Prof. Johnny Chan said.

    CNN’s weather forecast also predicted that the effects would be far less severe.

    However, any more significant rainfall could cause further hindrance to aid distribution, which has already been slowed by the ruling junta’s refusal to allow most foreign workers to do much more than drop supplies at Yangon airport.

    The government has, however, agreed to allow the first foreign aid group into the Irrawaddy delta, according to AP.

    The agency reported that a Thai medical team is scheduled on Friday to go into a region previously classified as off-limits to foreigners, quoting Dr. Thawat Sutharacha of neighboring Thailand’s Public Health Ministry.

    Meanwhile, the Myanmar government has authorized five more U.S. aid flights to land in Yangon, a U.S. Marine spokesman said.

    Three planes had left an airbase in Thailand by about 12 p.m. local time, and two more were scheduled to take off soon, said Lt. Col. Doug Powell of the U.S. Marine Corps.

    The five flights will deliver 85 tons of supplies including 46 pallets loaded with bottled water, plastic sheeting and hygiene kits as well as crackers and powdered milk, Powell said.

    Three additional U.S. military flights have gone into Myanmar already this week — one on Monday and two on Tuesday. They carried food, mosquito netting and plastic tarpaulins.Meanwhile, the USS Essex, USS Juneau and USS Harpers Ferry were in international waters off the coast of Myanmar laden with more than 14,000 containers of fresh water and other aid, awaiting orders to deliver by air or landing craft, Pentagon officials said.

    While this new development was encouraging, much more needs to be done, U.S. Admiral Timothy Keating told CNN on Wednesday.

    “It’s not enough. We are capable of doing more,” he said. “We have delivered 170,000 pounds of relief supplies, water, food, shelter, and interestingly some mosquito netting. So the spigot isn’t wide open, but it’s open a little bit.”

    Keating, who was part of the negotiations with the junta to bring in aid, said he hoped Myanmar’s leaders would allow much more aid into the country.

    “It appears they’re allowing limited numbers but increasing numbers,” Keating said. “So we’re very, very guardedly optimistic we will see approval for more flights.”

    British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has asked the United Nations secretary-general to convene an emergency summit on aid to Myanmar.

    Brown told the House of Commons on Wednesday that he had also asked Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to go to the country himself.

    Brown said a British plane had just arrived in Myanmar with shelter supplies for 45,000 people. He said three other planeloads of aid would arrive soon, and eventually two more would arrive “very soon.”

    “There has been an improvement (in aid getting to victims) but it is not good enough,” Brown said. “The regime is still preventing aid getting to the rest of the country.”

    Brown said it was important for Asian countries to jointly pressure leaders in Myanmar, also called by its previous name Burma by those who refuse to recognize the military junta.

    “The key thing at the moment is to pressure the regime by all countries in Asia uniting with all of us to make sure that aid gets to the people of Burma as quickly as possible,” he said. “The Burmese regime must now let into the country all aid workers and all aid immediately.”

    Brown said he asked for an emergency summit because “other countries” blocked a meeting of the U.N. Security Council to discuss aid to Myanmar. When asked to name those other countries, Brown refused.

    “We’re applying a great deal of pressure,” he said. “I think it would be in our interest to apply that pressure rather than name names at the moment.”

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    API

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    Why some MPs are pushing for the grand opposition

    Posted by African Press International on May 14, 2008

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

    Story by KIBISU KABATESI
    SO SOME MPS WANT TO FORM an official grand coalition opposition? I would find it amusing were it not for the hypocrisy of it all. It is time to speak frankly since many Kenyans may not know why the MPs are bitter now.

    In March this year, MPs voted unanimously for the formation of the Grand Coalition Government via amendment of section 15 of the Constitution and the enactment of the National Accord and Reconciliation Act 2008.

    On one account, dissent was not manifest since the legislators had been whipped to support the Peace Accord. On the other account, MPs were acutely aware of the delicate context of violence and threat to State collapse that ECK bungling of the presidential elections had bestowed on the country.

    The country needed healing and there was no other way but a power-sharing arrangement.

    The truth about what happened to the presidential vote at KICC, is known because confessions have been made, however, we have, as a nation, chosen the politically correct and evasive we dont know who won the presidency as rationalisation we can live with. This is the mantra under which we chose to humanise the truth and move on.

    It is no gainsaying that given the brink that we were headed to, it was in our collective interest that legal, institutional and political sacrifices be made to seek accommodation as a way of resolving the impasse.

    The Accord, in its making and reality, is a stopgap measure. That is why at the political level, Prime Minister, Raila Odinga and ODM, and President Kibaki and PNU suspended their lofty claims to victory, recognised the country had lost and agreed to live together as sinners in an unholy marriage.

    It is under this make-up that legally, the Office of the Leader of Official Opposition had to be sacrificed, for the greater good. The sacrifice is legally superficial because it is only physical occupancy that is the issue.

    This office still exists and whosoever can constitutionally qualify among parliamentary parties, can claim the office. A party requires 30 MPs for it to qualify.

    Mr Cyrus Jirongo of Kaddu, though slyly referred to by the Speaker as the only recognised opposition MP by virtue of his party being unrepresented in the Grand Coalition, cannot style himself as Leader of Official Opposition; he is the only Kaddu member in Parliament.

    Therefore, the correct thing to do for the MPs who seek to fall under this office is to resign from their parties and seek fresh mandate to make the numbers required for Mr Jirongo to assume office. The MPs cannot eat their cake and still seek to have it all back.

    They cannot, given the resolutions of their own party organs, belong to the grand coalition government and at the same time be members of the Official Opposition. It is politically sacrilegious and dishonest.

    LETS PAUSE AND REFLECT; HOW come democratic parliamentary practice hinged on official opposition in Parliament only became a subject of grave concern to the MPs after announcement of the grand coalition Cabinet?

    Recall that many outside Parliament voiced caution over the imperfections and loopholes in the legal framework of the Accord, among them, the question on what happens to the Office of the Leader of Official Opposition in Parliament. Hardly any MP, including those boisterous claimants to democratic practices, raised the concern.

    MPs did not raise the red flag on the National Accord because of self-interest; each hoped the formation of grand coalition government was their opening to appointment as ministers.

    This is the main reason MPs kept their peace or were muted on criticism of the Accord. However once the Cabinet was announced, meek, stringent and raucous voices began emerging from legislators calling for the formation of a grand coalition opposition.

    It is quite telling that among them were those who had been calling for a clean and lean Cabinet, but now felt snubbed by not being in the bloated Cabinet!

    Clearly, not all MPs supporting this deceptive idea of official opposition are all motivated by the altruism of having an opposition to check government.

    This they can do as loudly as their demand to be recognised as opposition is being done from the backbench. Indeed, the best opposition this country has had was when under one-party Kanu oppression, the Kanu backbench became the megaphone of the repressed Kenyans.

    However, these MPs are joined together by a feeling of betrayal that they were not named to the Cabinet. For this reason alone, they desire, regardless of political party affiliation, to frustrate their bosses in the Grand Coalition.

    All are driven by revenge and the only avenue is if they can have a vehicle rubberstamped as official opposition. Ultimately, their goal is to destroy the Grand Coalition Governments set objectives for legal, institutional and constitutional reforms. Reason? To spite Raila and Kibaki for leaving them out of the Cabinet.

    It is instructive that these MPs did start their agitation on claims that their regions were short-changed in the grand coalition Cabinet.

    What these MPs do not want to admit is that they are willing victims of the collateral damage leading up to the formation of the Grand Coalition Government.

    Finally, there are characters who style themselves as MPs who owe it to their political parties in the grand coalition that they are MPs.

    Mr Kabatesi is a communications consultant and University of Nairobi lecturer.

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    API

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    Fireworks expected during Ainamoi and Kilgoris by-elections – Tension hightens between the Kipsigis and Maasai

    Posted by African Press International on May 14, 2008

    Publisher, Korir, africanpress@getmail.no
    Story filed by Leo Odera Omolo, Kericho -Kenya
    The date 24th of May is the D for the residents of both Ainamoi and Kilgoris constituencies both located in the seemingly volatile south rift region of the expansive Rift Valley Province.
    It is slated to be a nomination day for those wishing to contest the elections in the two vacant parliamentary seats .Almost every aspirant here is in the mood for the elections.
    Ainamoi seat in Kericho district fell vacant following the slaying of the former incumbent, the late David Kimutai Too in January this year only weeks after being sworn in. The late legislator and a woman companion were sprayed with bullets by an assassin who is alleged to be a police traffic officer. His companion was also a traffic police officer who hails from his rural village at Chepkoiyo at Soin in Ainamoi Division.
    The seat is said to have attracted close to 26 aspirants. But by yesterday only about four would be contestants had presented their nomination papers to the ODM headquarters in Nairobi.They include the former Deputy CGS.Lt. General {rtd} John K.Koech, the former Minister for Water Development, Eng. Kipngeno Arap Ngeny who served in the last KANU regime, another former MP for the larger Belgut Kiptarus Kirior and Nairobi based businessman David C. Kitur. Also in the race is a Mombasa based tea auctioneer Ezekiel Ngeny.
    The ODM is the party of the day in the area, therefore more aspirants could be on their way to present their nomination papers as there is still plenty of time. It could not, however, be assessed immediately if the recent outbursts by a group ofKipsigis MPs against, the Prime Minister Raila ODINGA over his recent choices of cabinet members in the grand coalition government had impacted negatively among the electorate in Ainamoi, but observers were quick in predicting a landslide victory for the party provided it carried its nominations in a transparent manner, which will be devoid of complaints and protests.
    Also said to be in the race is the former Kericho Mayor Joel Siele, a Moi University senior lecturer, DR.Paul Chepkwony, the younger brother of the slain MP Benjamin Too, a Nairobi businessman Paul Chirchir and the immediate former MP for the area Noah Nondin Arap Too.
    Two men are to be watched as one of them is expected to carry the day. These are Gen. Koech and Mr. David Kitur. Both men are said to have very attractive track record of development within the semi-cosmopolitan constituency, which also covered Kericho Municipality and the vast tea estates and factories in the neighbourhood
    Gen Koech hails from the upper part of the constituency, while Mr.Kitur is from the Kaitui area in Soin, but he is said to have changed his residency from the area to South Nandi. The location of his residency could impact negatively with the voters.
    Gen Koech contested the seat in last December, but lost during the ODM preliminaries, which were highly flawed, but he later joined hand and vigorously campaigned for the late Too and Raila Odinga in the entire Kipsigis region resulting in the ODM clinching all the eight seats. There is a strong feeling on the ground that he should be rewarded with a direct nomination by the Pentagon due to his unswerving loyalty and consistency to the party.
    An attempt to market Benjamin Too, the younger brother of the murdered MP had hit the rock owing to the Kipsigis tradition belief that there is no political inheritance within the community, therefore all the aspirants are required to account for their past records of active participation in development activities. Some of the issues which are likely to feature prominently during the campaign include the lack of a tea leaves processing factory in the Kapcheptororiet and Kapsaus areas. Poor feeder and access roads, water and electricity supplies, improvement of schools and other institutions.
    Meanwhile the by-election in Kilgoris constituency is likely to fuel more tribal animosities between the Maasai an the settler communities. Already two sets of delegation visited the office of the Electoral Commission of Kenya {ECK} yesterday and pressed their demands.
    The first delegation was led by the MP for Chepalungu Isaack Ruto and consisted of Mr. Jonathan Kipyegon Ng;eno, the man who is widely believed to have won the Kilgoris seat last December, but the election was immediatelyt nullified following outbreak of violence when armed Maasai Morans invaded the counting hall during the tallying of the votes, beat up election officials, cut the election boxes into pieces. Two people were shot dead during thechaosthat followed. This led to the result being nullified by the ECK. The Maasai leaders had sensed the inevitable defeat by Mr. Ngeno a Kipsigis tribesman. At the time, the provisional result showed that Ngeno was leading with a big margin of 6,000 votes..
    Suspicion have been rife between the Maasai who consider themselves as the native and indigenous residents and the Kipsigis settlers.The two communities and their leaders have been jittery, especially over political representations. Although the Kipsigis moved and settled in Kilgoris around 1960 and 1970s, they are the majority in terms of voters numerical strength
    Out of the 73, 310 registered voters in Kilgoris, the Kipsigis forms about 58 per cent. But the Maasai delegation that visited the ECK offices, and which was led by the former Internal Security Minister Julius Sunkuli did no mince its words, It informed the ECK not to allow a non-Maasai to be nominated once again to contest the seat, while the Kipsigis delegation merely asked for the improved security during the campaign.
    In the last election Mr.Ngeno had thrown his hat on the table against two Maasai heavyweight politicians who included the former Immigration minister Gideon Konchellah and former Internal Security Minister Julius Sunkuili who served in the last KANU regime. Ngeno contested the election on a KADDU ticket and appeared to have tamed the two former ministers and a troops of other contestants. Other aspirants were Peter Ole Salapan of ODM, Kipra Ibrahim {CCM}, Simon Maer{ODM-K} John Naiguru{Narc-K}, Emmnanuel Tusur{kenda}, DanielKiptune{NDA}, Tinai Kantai{UDM}, Francis Ngeno{DP] AND Kipteng Lesame of KCPCK.
    Two former Minister were Julius Sunkuli {KANU}and Gideon Konchellah {PNU}
    For many years the Maasai leaders have not hidden their uneasiness with the settler communities consisting of Kalenjin and theKisiis in a matter of political supremacy and have always ensured that the area remained their preserve, a myth that was tested in the last general election.
    The seemingly well rooted enemities came as the result of decades of competition for the control of political and by extension economic activities in this vast district , which is ensconced between Bomet to the east, Sotik to the northeast, Borabu to the north, Gucha to the northwest, Rongo to the west, Migori to the south west, Kuria to the south west and Narok to the south east.
    ,
    The nullification of the election result came about when the Maasai leaders who had gathered at the county hall in Kilgoris town had realized that MR. Ngeno a Kipsigis was winning, they summoned the Morans who invaded the hall where the tallying of the votes was in progress. The rungus wielding Morans beat up everybody and cut the election boxes into pieces. This prompted the men of the GSU to open fire and two men were killed. thereafter.
    Observers have informed me that there is no way the minority Maasai could win the election in Kilgoris. For many years and during his twenty four years at the help of power, the retired President Daniel Arap Moi had always prevailed among his fellow Kalenjin not to compete with the indiginant Maasai on elective positions, but now that Moi is no longer in control, the Kipsigis have vowed to capture the seat using their voting numerity strength.
    Ends
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    African Press International – api

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    Abductions in Somalia must be stopped by the international community in cooperation with Somali authorities

    Posted by African Press International on May 14, 2008

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

    Abductions in Somalia is not good for the country’s economy. Tourists will not like to visit the country, fearing to be abducted and held for days if not months and also risk to die if nobody steps in to pay ransom.API

    Kenyan lecturer abducted in Somalia

    Written By:Reuters

    A Kenyan lecturer has been abducted in Mogadishu, Somalia.

    Witnesses said that three gunmen abducted the public administration lecturer on Tuesday in the latest seizure of a foreigner in the lawless Horn of Africa country,.

    Yasin Abdi, a student at the Taleh campus in the bombed-out Somali capital, said the lecturer was forced into a car waiting to take him home and the driver ordered by gunmen to speed off towards the Islamist stronghold of north Mogadishu.

    “Three young men armed with pistols abducted our professor,” Abdi told Reuters. “We do not know who the kidnappers were and where he is held.”

    University and government officials declined to comment.

    Kidnapping is lucrative business in Somalia, and abductors generally treat their captives well in anticipation of a large ransom.

    Somali gunmen are still holding hostage two aid workers, one Kenyan and one British, abducted in April.

    Sources said foreign lecturers at the campus are no longer protected by armed guards, since the interim government disarmed the school last year as part of a plan to limit the weapons in private hands.

    The professor was not under armed guard when he was seized. His house is just 300 steps from the main gate.

    The driver who was to drop him was later released by the gunmen. They told him they just want to question the professor,’ the staffer said.

    The university offers undergraduate and masters degrees, and its 2,000 students are taught by lecturers mainly from India and Kenya. It was ranked among the top 100 universities in Africa in a 2005 survey, despite its dangerous location.

    Mogadishu is one of the most dangerous cities in the world, mired in anarchy and awash in weapons since the overthrow of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.

    For more than a year, Islamist insurgents have battled allied Somali-Ethiopian forces for control of the capital.

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    African Press International – api

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    The government criticised over sugar imports

    Posted by African Press International on May 14, 2008

    Publisher, Korir, africanpress@getmail.no
    BY Dickens Wasonga,Kisumu, Kenya
    .
    The move by the government to allow two sugar factories from western Kenyato import sugar on behalf of the other millershas been criticised by the Kenya sugar plantation workers union who now want it shelved.
    The union instead wants the government to speeda programme it started initially to expand existing sugarfactories but stalledinstead of encouraging importation of sugar.
    The union’s secretary general Mr. Francis Wangara said the move was a bigthreat both to the sugar famers in the sugar beltand the workers.
    He was reacting to a move by the ministry of agriculture which granted Mumias and Sony sugar companiesthe exclusive rights to import sugar into the country on behalf of the other millers.
    Mr.Wangara said if implemented,the milling companieweremost likely todrop cane crashing thereby killingsugarcane farmingsince local farmers will be leftwith no firm to crash their cane.
    ”This move by the ministeris dangerous to the sugarcane farmer and those employed in the sugar firms and we can not allow it to go on.”he said.
    He said such a venture will also force the companies to reduce their workforce since it will nolonger focus more on production but on the profits that they intend to get.
    The unionist said if the government completed its expansion programmes then the existing sugar factories would have the capacity to produce more sugar and meet the current 200,000 metric tonnes annual deficit whichis serviced through COMESA.
    The government began expanding some of the industries and reviving those that had collapsed to scale up the production levels but the programe stalled.
    Some of the factories where the work began but later stalled includes Sony,Miwani,Chemelil amongst others.
    During an interview with this writer Mr. Wangaraalso called for the urgent implementation of the sugar act so as to save the farmers from the huge losses they incure during weighing of the delivered cane.
    He regreted that alot of wastage was registerd while transporting the cane to the millers but the cost was tranfered to the farmer insteade
    Mr. Wangara clamed that at the moment farmers rely on measurement done at the factories which is not often very accurate.
    He also urged farmers to elect only people who are informed about the running of the sugar sub-sector and also grow the crop if they expect efficient representation at the sugar board.
    He speaking to reporters who paid him a courtesy call in his Kisumuoffice yesterday.
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    African Press International – api

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    Who is powerful between The Minister for Internal Security Mr George Saitoti and The Prime Minister Raila Odinga?

    Posted by African Press International on May 14, 2008

    Written by Korir, africanpress@getmail.nosource.nation.ke

    The truth must be told. When we ask ourselves about power and who is powerful, we tend to make judgement following our feelings and not really accept to see the facts.

    In Kenya, we have Professor George Saitoti (<left photo)minister in charge of internal security, the most powerful thing in the survival of any country and its leaders. Then you have a Prime Minister (Raila Odinga – right photo>) who is supervising the government duties believing he is the most powerful man than all the ministers. And then you have a President who is above the law constitutionally, gets daily morning briefs on security in the land from the Internal Security minister, a minister who does not brief the PM because of the “need to know principle.”

    When we think of Mungiki we think of insecurity, at least that is the way the Internal Minister sees it. For him, he does not have to think that Mungiki may be a sect that destabilises the country, he has information that he gets on daily basis from the security service and he weighs them, thereafter makes a decision and that is it. Even the president will have to listen if the Security minister tells him of a plot to harm him. This is because the Security minister is well informed.

    When the PM says the government should talk to Mungiki, we have no reason to object, and yet we question the PM’s motive. It is pure politics, thinking of 2012 presidential elections. The interesting thing with all these, and the comparison between the PM and the internal security minister is the fact that Saitoti in his capacity as the Internal Minister can order the release of Njenga, (<left photo) the jailed Mungiki leader on security grounds, whereas the PM cannot do so. He does not have the power in that direction. Saitoti can order such release,in liason with Justice minister Martha Karua (right photo). These are the two wielding power in Kenya.

    Even the PM’s own security apparatus come from Saitoti’stent. Every time they experience something security-wisethat id directed against the PM, they give a briefing to their bosses, who in turn brief Internal Security minister before anything is done. Saitoti as internal minister can remove or reshuffle the PM’s security personnel. Some security personnel assigned to guard the PM may even be loyal and closer to the internal minister and may not have any loyalty remaining to direct towards the PM. They are just there doing their job. Remember it was her own security man that took the life of Indira Gandhi former Indian PM and president Kabila of DRC was assasinated by his own security. It is a sad thing to think it can happen to any leader who has disloyal security men and women.

    So time has come to see the point and cchew the hard nut.

    We decided to bring out this piece, because many people seem to look at the PM chair as something big. It is big yes, but empty.

    With the Chief’s act, a chief is powerful that the PM. The Chief can order the Administration Police to detain a PM. Let us face this and not become emotional. The thing is that the President is above the law, otherwise, the Chief’s Act could also work on him with the help of the Administration Police. That is the law.

    For Kenya to run smoothly, leaders should respect one another. They should accept the limit of their power and not pretend to be more than what they are, butto be the people’s servants.

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    Saitoti says no to Raila on Mungiki issue

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    We are not talking to Mungiki: Saitoti

    Story by BERNARD NAMUNANE

    The Government on Tuesday seemed to issue contradictory signals on the Mungiki sect with a statement in Parliament saying there would be no negotiations with the outlawed group.

    Mothers and wives of Mungiki followers flee after they were dispersed by police as they sought audience with Prime Minister Raila Odinga last month. Yesterday, Prof Saitoti ruled out talks with leaders of the outlawed sect. Photo/FILE

    The statement by the Internal Security and Provincial Administration minister, Prof George Saitoti contradicted public appeals by Prime Minister Raila Odinga for talks with the controversial sect.

    However, Prof Saitoti admitted the gravity of the security problems posed by Mungiki and other illegal militia groups and stated that new ways were being sought to eliminate the threats.

    Wave of terror

    During his installation as Prime Minister Mr Odinga called for talks with Mungiki, a Central Kenya-based movement that has caused a wave of terror in the province and adjacent regions in the Rift Valley and Nairobi.

    Shortly afterwards a group of former and present MPs from Central Kenya led by former Defense minister Njenga Karume called a press conference to call for negotiations with the group an release of its leader Maina Njenga who is serving jail term.

    The government has since not reacted to press reports that emissaries, including some clergymen and former senior civil servants, have been quietly despatched to talk to Mr Njenga in jail.

    The Mungiki leader claims to have been visited by emissaries from State House, the Office of the President and the and the Office of the Prime Minister, and in return has called on his followers to cease their violent activities.

    Apart from Mungiki, the government has previously classified 20 organisations in various parts of the country as illegal outfits and warned their members to disband them or face the full force of the law.

    They include the Sabaot Land Defense Force in Mt Elgon District currently being battled by the unprecedented deployment of a Kenya Army unit.

    Others are the Baghdad Boys in Kisumu, Chinkororo in Kisii, Taliban in Nairobi and Mulungunipa based in Kwale, among others.

    Mr Njenga has named a Catholic priest, a former senior provincial administrator and a Nairobi political activist among those he alleges to have approached him on behalf of the government.

    Inequality

    Mr Odinga has also acknowledged that some sort of negotiations were taking place, likening Mungiki to a movement born of injustice and inequality in Central Kenya.

    Other who have supported the calls for talks with Mungiki include church leaders form the region led by Nairobi Catholic Archbishop John Cardinal Njue.

    In Parliament on Tuesday, Prof Saitoti acknowledged proposals by Mr Odinga and others for talks with Mungiki, but avoided being drawn into comments on what the Prime Minister has said.

    He insisted that the law of the land would remain supreme and that he would not compromise on the security of Kenyans and their property. It is true that we have to admit that we are dealing with a complex matter of not just one group. It is an issue of dealing with a plethora of militias. The only thing as a minister that I will not compromise on is the security of Kenyans and their property, he said.

    Challenged on the proposals for dialogue floated by the Prime Minister, Prof Saitoti sought refuge in the House rules that do not allow debate on Member without a substantive motion, but he he was reminded by deputy Speaker Farah Maalim that the issue at hand was the Government policy on Mungiki and other armed militias.

    We are not discussing the Prime Minister or any other Member. What we are seeking is the Government policy on Mungiki, said Mr Maalim.

    MPs Bonny Khalwale (Ikolomani, New Ford-K), Charles Kilonzo (Yatta, ODM-K), Kiema Kilonzo (Mutito, ODM-K) and Lucas Chepkitony (Keiyo North, ODM) had pressured the Internal Security minister state whether or not the Government had changed its position on Mungiki.

    They also argued that if there to be negotiations with Mungiki, the same approach the same approach should be used in dealing with the Sabaot Land Defence Forces (SLDF), the militias who executed post-election violence in the Rift Valley and other armed gangs like Chinkororo, Taliban and Jeshi la Mzee.

    There is confusion. The Prime Minister Raila, who is his boss, has said that the Government should negotiate with Mungiki but the minister has said No. Can he make it clear whether the Government will negotiate with Mungiki and if that is the approach that has been adopted, they should also let the Sabaot Land Defence Forces and the Rift Valley youth who part in the post-election violence choose dialogue as the way out. Or are you trying to tell us that you are in different governments? posed Dr Khalwale.

    Prof Saitoti stated that they were serving the same government with the PM and was not contradicting the statement by Mr Odinga. His grounds of argument, he said, were driven by the dictates of the law and vowed to pursue it.

    The fact that many people have talked about it shows we have a complex matter that requires serious reflection without compromising security. It has to be addressed in a well thought manner a

    nd considered way and that is what we are doing by seeking to get to the root problem, he said.

    The matter arose as he was delivered a ministerial statement on the killings two suspected Mungiki leaders, Charles Wagacha and Naftali Irungu, on the Nairobi/Nakuru Highway near Lari two weeks ago. The statement was requested last week by Maragwa MP Elias Mbau (PNU) who was not in the House.

    In his statement, Prof Saitoti said that the two, according to information provided to police by the public, were killed by a group of five people in two cars who blocked their car near Lari and sprayed them with bullets.

    ________________

    African Press International

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    Now Marende, The speaker of Kenya’s National assembly backs MPs opposed to Raila’s dictatorship move against MPs fronting grand opposition in parliament

    Posted by African Press International on May 14, 2008

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

    WHO IS KENNETH MARENDE?

    marende_ken.jpg

    He is a man who wants to set a good example for the Kenyan people. Marende has done the right thing for Kenya. He will allow a Grand opposition in Parliament despite Raila’s protest. Raila has tried to block MPs who want to form a Grand Opposition in parliament. Suprisingly, Raila himself saw no wrong forming a grand coalition with PNU of Kibaki. The MPs from both parties ODM and PNU who are not part of the ministerial catchy will unite and become a grand opposition. With the speaker’s blessings, those MPS will get what they want, and it is a good way to serve the Kenyans.

    They will serve as check and balancers on behalf of the members of the public. This is a good thing for Kenya. Kibaki sees nothing wrong with getting a grand opposition, but Raila and his staunch supporters like James Orengo, the Lands Minister are worried that with such grand opposition, Raila will loose his authority.

    Here it is clear that Raila is afraid to loose the power baked in the position of a PM. Does it mean this people are only interested in self gain? We congratulate Mr Marende on his mature stand in the issue.API.

    Speaker backs calls for Opposition

    By Standard Team

    The Speaker of the National Assembly Mr Kenneth Marende joined the debate on the formation of Grand Opposition, saying MPs were free to do so without having to seek a fresh mandate.

    Marende said there was a provision for an opposition in Parliament and that he would not gag debate on the formation of an opposition to check the Grand Coalition Government.
    The remarks by the Speaker will embolden a group of about 80 MPs who have vowed to join the proposed Grand Opposition despite calls by Prime Minister Raila Odinga and other senior members of the Grand Coalition Government to put it on hold.

    Marende spoke as anxiety rose in ODM, some of whose erstwhile loyal MPs have come out defiantly against Railas call to put off the idea of forming the opposition.

    ODM on Tuesday sent out a call to all its MPs to attend a Parliamentary Group meeting in a weeks time, on May 23, at the party headquarters to deliberate on the thorny issue.

    Marendes words also came at the peak of a heated debate on the issue, with MPs arguing for or against the formation of an opposition.

    Minister Dalmas Otieno and other ODM MPs maintained that the formation of a Grand Opposition would weaken the position of the Prime Minister by reducing the partys majority. But the coterie of pro-opposition MPs said their aim was different and not targeted on individual leaders.

    Raila kicked off the heated fray over the weekend as he spoke in Kisumu and Bondo at his homecoming ceremony where he asked MPs to shelve the formation of an opposition saying it would undermine the Government.

    He also told ODM MPs insisting on joining the Grand Opposition to quit the party and seek fresh mandate on a different party ticket. However, a group of ODM and PNU MPs, led by Bundalangi MP Mr Ababu Namwamba, vowed to press on with the Grand Opposition following the passing of a motion for its formation in Parliament last week.

    The Speakers remarks yesterday appeared to give a go-ahead to the MPs even as debate generated by the issue raged.

    Opposition legally acceptable
    Marende said Parliament would live up to the challenges posed by the push for Opposition.

    “The law allows for Oppositionbut if operationalising it may be difficult then Parliament can amend the laws and bring in fresh legislation,” Marende said.

    He said his office was equal to the task and would give direction to members when such an issue comes before him for ruling.

    “I will preside over debates ably, but I will not control contents of debaters,” Marende said at a Press conference after hosting Speakers of the national assemblies of Burundi, Rwanda, and East Africa Legislative Assembly at Parliament buildings, Nairobi, yesterday.

    Citing examples of a recent trip he made to Germany to see how the grand coalition government there works, Marende said Kenya had not documented many agreements for reference purposes.

    He said the National Dialogue and Reconciliation Committee, popularly referred to as the Mediated Talks Committee, formed by Chief Mediator Dr Kofi Annan allows for such touchy matters to be referred to it.

    Marende allayed fears that Parliament would be weakened, saying he was looking forward to a vibrant future in the House.

    But debate still flared with Chepalungu MP Mr Isaac Ruto, who has been among those championing the formation of an Opposition in Parliament, warning Party leaders President Kibaki (PNU) and Prime Minister Raila Odinga (ODM) to prepare for tough times in the House.

    “We will scrutinise performance of the Grand Coalition and check them on commissions and omissions,” Ruto said.

    “We owe our allegiance to voters and not to the power barons,” he added.

    But Dalmas saw in the Grand Opposition a plot to deny the PM the authority of his office, which he was appointed to courtesy of ODM partys numbers in Parliament.

    Dalmas said those behind the formation of the opposition were out to frustrate Raila and divert his attention from ensuring quality service delivery to Kenyans as a PM.

    “Unlike the President who got his position because of the votes he garnered, Raila got his position as PM because of the number of MPs his party ODM has in Parliament. It beats logic that the very MPs who celebrated his appointment to the office are being rallied by some forces to abandon him in Government and form an opposition” said the Public Service Minister.

    But one of the proponents, Lugari MP Mr Cyrus Jirongo of Kaddu Party said no amount of intimidation would force the MPs to abandon their determination to form an opposition in Parliament.

    “We are not in any way fighting anybody in Government. All we are doing is to help them deliver what they promised Kenyans by being their watchdogs,” said Jirongo.

    Lands Ministers Mr James Orengo trod carefully by asking coalition partners to hold meetings to learn more about the proposed Grand Opposition.

    The minister said that he and some of his six colleagues in a previous parliament, who were then dubbed the seven bearded sisters, gave President Mois government a run for its money even at the time “when thinking about opposition was a crime.”

    The Law Society of Kenya (LSK) urged

    Raila to negotiate with the MPs calling for a Grand Opposition in Parliament. The societys vice-chairman, Mr James Mwamu, said the country was in a unique and fragile political situation that needed understanding.

    The President of the East African Law Society, Mr Tom Ojienda, said the debate on the Grand Opposition was taking space it did not deserve.

    “The move to seek a Grand Opposition itself shows that the backbenchers are capable of uniting to keep checks and balances. There is no need to form an opposition,” he said.

    But PNU affiliated Members denied they were being driven by a desire to undermine the PM.

    The chairman of the Parliamentary Investment Committee (PIC) and Igembe South MP, Mr Mithika Linturi, who last week seconded the motion on the Grand Opposition said their only aim was to provide checks and balances for the Government and that Raila had nothing to worry about.

    “I want to assure him that if he brings pro-wananchi motions, we shall support him fully. We are not going to oppose for the sake of it, said Linturi.

    Kigumo MP (PNU) Mr Jamleck Kamau said even though he supports the Government fully, he saw nothing wrong with the formation of the Opposition.

    Reports by David Ohito, Joseph Murimi, Isaac Ongiri, Harold Ayodo, Beatrice Obwocha, Beautah Omangaa And Mutinda Mwanzia
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    API

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    Sudan: Authorities arrest opposition leader, pursues rebels

    Posted by African Press International on May 14, 2008

    Publisher: Korir, africanpress@getmail.no source.guardian.nigeria

    Barely 48 hours after Darfur rebels attacked the capital’s twin city of Omdurman, Sudan yesterday arrested Islamist opposition leader Hassan al-Turabi and pressed its pursuit of rebels who threatened again to attack the capital amid sporadic gunfire across Khartoum.

    Witnesses yesterday said gunfire could be heard in Khartoum around the United States (U.S.) embassy as government forces continued to pursue Darfur rebels believed to be hiding. Associates of prominent opposition leader Hassan al-Turabi said he and at least four members of his Popular Congress party were rounded up yesterday. “We know they have also detained Hassan al-Turabi and at least three other senior members of the party. There could be more,” Agence France Presse (AFP) quoted Israa Mohammed al-Bashir, the wife of one of the party members arrested, as saying.

    “Security forces gave no reasons for the arrest but some are saying that they were involved in what happened in Khartoum,” she said. The arrests followed the attack on the capital by rebel group-the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), the first time regional rebels have ever brought decades of violence so close to the seat of Sudanese power. The most powerful rebel group fighting government forces in Darfur, the JEM shares the Islamist ideology of Turabi, although both he and the rebels have always denied any links with each other.

    A friend-turned-foe of President Omar al-Bashir, Turabi last spent more than a year in detention after an alleged coup plot until he was freed in June 2005. Although the shooting quickly subsided, the UN restricted the movement of its personnel working in one nearby agency office as a precaution. A resident of Omdurman, Saddiq Babo Nimir, said that shooting flared as he ventured out of his home near one of the bridges over the Nile. “Right now there is shooting in the street. It is near the new bridge, all the people are running in the streets. The main road is closed and full of soldiers,” he said.

    The security services were firing at rebel remnants holed up in residential buildings and a curfew remained in force in Omdurman and shops closed. “When they were defeated, they (the rebels) started going from one place to another in Omdurman. The security services are still trying to pursue them,” an official at the foreign ministry, Ali Yousif, said. Sudanese security services have arrested more than 300 Sudanese and Chadians following Saturday’s attack, he said.

    The deputy chief of JEM’s staff said that the movement had decided to abandon the fight in Darfur and take the battle to the capital. “Now I am in Omdurman. We finished our target and just now I have troops there in Omdurman, divisions and so forth. I am re-arranging my troops and gathering them,” Suleiman Sandal said. “After that, if the government does not solve our problems, does not give our rights, we will arrange ourselves to attack Khartoum so as to attack the republican palace,” he said referring to the president’s residence.

    “We will no longer fight in Darfur and the desert, we will fight in Khartoum,” he said. The attack on saturday, which saw rebel fighters in the streets of Omdurman, led Sudan to sever diplomatic ties with Chad, which it accused of backing the rebel assault. Chad said it regretted Khartoum’s decision, denied any involvement in the attack and condemned a raid on the Chadian embassy. The official SUNA news agency said the Sudanese military had killed a leading JEM commander and had chased down, fought and wiped out a 45-man rebel force 50 kilometres (30 miles) from Omdurman.

    A senior official in the military command told the state SUNA news agency that 250 million pounds (123 million dollars) would be paid to anyone who captures JEM leader Khalil Ibrahim or provides information on his whereabouts. Sudan’s foreign ministry said it had evidence of communication between the rebels, the Chad government and the Chadian embassy in Khartoum.

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    Korir/API

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    Chad: Government denies involvement in Khartoum attack

    Posted by African Press International on May 14, 2008

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

    Ndjamena (Chad) – The government has denied allegations made by neighbouring Sudan that it backed rebels who raided the Sudanese capital Khartoum on 10 May.

    The government denies all involvement in this adventure that it condemns without reservation, Chadian government spokesperson Mahamat Hissene said in a statement released in Ndjamena on 11 May.
    The government of Chad is surprised at this escalation at a time when we are preparing for a meeting in Tripoli of the delegations of the contact group for the Dakar Peace Accord concerned with security in the region, the statement added, referring to a mediation between Chad and Sudan started in March.

    Sudan cut relations with Chad on Saturday following an attack on Khartoum by rebels allied with the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) from Sudans Darfur region, the first time in the five-year conflict in Darfur that fighters have reached the heavily-defended capital. Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir accused Chad of backing JEM in an address televised on Saturday evening. We have no choice but to sever relations, he reportedly said. Other news reports from Khartoum said the Chadian embassy was entered by Sudanese security officials.

    Chad and Sudan have repeatedly accused each other of backing rebel groups opposed to the other. Most recently in March Chad accused Sudan of backing rebels which launched an assault on Ndjamena. Sudan denied any involvement. Security and political analysts believe Chads relationship with the JEM was forged in 2005 when Chadian President Idriss Deby switched his support from forces allied with the Sudanese government in Khartoum to anti-Sudanese forces.

    Although he perceived the JEM rebels in Sudan as a threat to his power, JEM fighters are drawn from his own Zaghawa ethnic group and analysts believe Deby came under intense pressure from the Chadian army and his close supporters to back them. When Chads capital came under attack in March this year, the national army fought off a first wave of attackers but called on JEM to help it defend its border against a second column of attackers crossing over from Sudan, according to several think tanks and analysts.

    ———————

    API

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