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Archive for May 15th, 2008

Posted by African Press International on May 15, 2008

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

Story by CHARLES ONYANGO-OBBO | WHAT OTHERS SAY

THE NORTHEASTERN PART of Uganda is a land of great contrasts. Some parts of it are very fertile and lush, but others are extremely dry. Its swampy, but also famously rocky.

The rocks teem with lizards, and juicy mangoes grow abundantly in the wild.

These lands were ravaged by a famine in the late 1980s. The minister of Agriculture then, went to tour the region to see what help her ministry could offer. Instead she kicked up a big storm. Travelling in the countryside and seeing all the gorgeous mangoes hanging from trees, she asked: Why cant the hungry eat mangoes?

Its nearly 20 years later, and the good lady has since moved on to greater things, but to this day, her statement is still quoted as if she made it yesterday. You would think the political backlash from the mangoes episode would have discouraged any more impertinent remarks about the famine.

But, we guess, not if it is African politicians involved. Some weeks later, the vice-president went to see for himself the tragedy that had befallen the region. Unlike the agriculture minister, he was fascinated by the rocks.

Commenting on what he had seen, he wondered by the starving people did not eat lizards.

It seems we have been rash to put down African rulers. There are worse ones out there like the soldiers running Burma (or Myanmar).

Last week, a cyclone battered the long-suffering Burma, killing at least 116,000 people and leaving another 1.5 million at risk, according to UN estimates.

For many days, the military junta first rejected international aid, although it couldnt cope, and when it opened up, it has made it very difficult for relief workers to operate.

Any country hit by such a tragedy would do the right thing; hoist the flag at half mast and declare several days of mourning. Not the Burmese junta.

For starters, it went ahead with a referendum that would entrench military rule. Most cynical, according to The Independent, was a photo on the front page of the New Light of Burma the state-run newspaper, as you will have guessed from the name of the Prime Minister, Thein Sein, handing over 20 television sets and 10 DVD players as part of the relief operation!

What makes this piece of insensitivity even more obscene is that the Irrawaddy delta, which bore the brunt of Cyclone Nargis has had no electricity since the storm struck.

The junta was not done. It announced that it would continue exporting rice, and planned to meet all its commitments. Most of the rice Burma exports is grown in the Irrawaddy delta, the very same region to which the government was limiting international food donations.

WHY DO POLITICIANS, OR BETTER still many people in positions of power, behave this way? Its common for company executives to lay off a quarter of the staff, citing falling revenues and mounting losses, then at the end of the year pay themselves the largest bonuses ever.

Perhaps it is that to survive at the top of most jobs, you need to develop a certain amount of indifference to the suffering around you.

A president addressing a rally of barefoot, emaciated villagers, wouldnt finish his speech if he took pity upon them. He, therefore, makes a promise he doesnt intend to keep, and moves on to the next rally.

To entirely unrelated matters, it is with a little sense of shame and embarrassment that I must acknowledge that the biggest talking point in East Africa (not to mention football loving nations in the Third World) this week is probably Manchester Uniteds capture of the Premier League championship.

The thing about this, though, is that it made me wish that politics and business journalism would be as good as most of the better sports reporting and commentary is.

The Premier League season that just ended started on August 11, last year. On that day Brian Viner, a sports columnist in The Independent wrote: You dont have to be a Nostradamus, or even Eileen Drewery, to predict what is going to happen in the season, which begins today with no certainties, except that Manchester United will win it, Chelsea will finish second, Arsenal will finish third and Liverpool fourth. And so it was.

Nostradamus, almost all of us know. He was the 16th century French physician and astrologer, who also dabbled in prophecy.

To those who dont follow the dark side of international football, the question must be: who is Eileen Drewery? She is a disgraced Italian faith healer and exorcist, and to use a description I much liked, practitioner of white magic.

Drewery (aka Clara Romano) is what we would call a juju woman.

She has an impressive list of clients, starting from Manchester City (soon to be ex-) manager and former England head coach Sven-Gran Erickson, up to Massimo Moratti, the Inter Milan president.

Maybe this partly explains why European football is so popular in our part of the world.

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API

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ODM power brokers differ: Ruto sends a warning signal to Raila not to kill democracy in Kenya

Posted by African Press International on May 15, 2008

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

Now Ruto goes against Raila who thought hehas become a supreme leader for the Kalenjins. He will never be supreme leader for the Kalenjins. It is okay if he continues to be supreme for the Luos, Even Kibaki’s people will not accept him.Ruto’s act against Raila now is a sign of things to come. With little support in parliament, Raila may have to resign as PM. API

Ruto differs with Raila over opposition in House

Agriculture minister William Ruto has differed with his party leader over the need for an official opposition.

Mr Ruto said an official opposition was important if the Government was keen on upholding democracy.

If we are not checked, we would end up not delivering on the promises we have made to Kenyans, he said.

He promised to issue a detailed report on the matter at a later date.

Major parties

He was speaking at a news conference during which he revoked licenses of 16 sugar exporters.

In recent weeks, there has been debate on whether an opposition is needed since the three major political parties were in Government.

Last weekend, ODM leader Raila Odinga criticised those calling for an official opposition. He said ODM was likely to lose its majority in Parliament.

However, MPs on the backbench, led by Lugari MP Cyrus Jirongo and Budalangi MP Ababu Namwamba, have insisted that an opposition was important.

A Bill seeking to legalise the formation of an official opposition has already been tabled in Parliament.

Broke ranks

Assistant minister Danson Mungatana Wednesday broke ranks with his Party of National Unity colleagues by supporting the formation of an official opposition to check the grand coalition Government.

Im surprised that Mr Odinga is having a problem with the formation of an opposition since this should not in any way threaten him or the existing status quo, Mr Mungatana said.

Roads minister Kipkalya Kones Wednesday said MPs trying to form an opposition were unrealistic since, as back- benchers, they were automatically playing the same role.

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API

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Kenya: The arrogance and impunity speaks for itself.

Posted by African Press International on May 15, 2008

Publisher: Korir, africanpress@getmail.no

The email below has alot for the Kenyans to chew in their new political landscape. Our readers may contribute on what they think about it. API

On 5/15/08, samokello@sahelpublishing.net <samokello@sahelpublishing.net> wrote:

——– Original Message ——–
Subject: The Real Culprits
From: samokello@sahelpublishing.net
Date: Wed, May 14, 2008 5:23 pm
To: Kumekucha <umissedthis@yahoo.com>

Fellow Kenyans,
The other day I heard Martha Karua speak eloquently in support of Kalonzo Musyoka’s contention that those who committed crimes against humanity during the horrible weeks after the stolen elections must be punished. I fully agree with these two characters, but only if everybody is indeedpunished. I don’t need to go over the manner in which the election was stolen. The arrogance and impunity speaks for itself. What Kenyans need to remember, before we embark on the administration of justice, is that there are levels of responsibility in the manner in which events unfolded. Here is my list of the levels.
1. President Kibaki. This man, back in 2002, was elected by Kenyans to unite the nation. His presidency brought Kenya tribal hatred, an economy skewed against the poor and an election that he refused to concede. Now, the reason Kibaki should face punishment before anybody else is…he was the head of state. He was the one whose security apparatus presided over the killing and maiming of innocent Kenyans. Had he chosen to walk away after losing the elections, nobody would have died. For him to now turn around and blame others for the mess he orchestrated tells us a lot about this man’s character. What a shameless goon!
2. Samuel Kivuitu. This man presided over a sham election. He knew that Kibaki had lost the election and yet went ahead to declare him the winner. Did Kivuitu hope that Kenyans would just fold up and accept a stolen election? And just how much was he paid to swing the thing Kibaki’s way? It’s my contention that had Kivuitu not accepted a bribe, and had he not called the election for Kibaki, Kenyans would not have needlessly died. For him to still occupy the chairmanship of the ECK speaks to what kind of a man he is. How dumb!
3. John Michuki. This man was in charge of internal security. He led the police force in brutalizing Kenyans, killing men women and children. If it can be proved that he coordinated efforts with the Mungiki, then indeed thisis the man who killed Kenyans. He is responsible for the atrocities the forces committed against Kenyans. For him to sit out there and pretend he is innocent makes a mockery of the judicial system in Kenya. Idiot.
4. Uhuru Kenyatta. I watched this man in Nakuru at the height of the election violence. He was on a track, ostensibly on a mission to bring peace to Nakuru. But his body language spoke about his true intentions. He was in Nakuru to cheer the murderous Mungiki on. What does he know about the Mungiki? What does he know about how the election theft was planned? What made him insist he was going to be in government several months before the elections? To the extent that Kenyans died, Uhuru Kenyatta cannot escape blame for helping orchestrate the game plan that led to the death of kenyans.
5. General Ali. The police commissioner is a man I pity. It’s now clear that he so deplored the tactics employed by the Kibaki people that he resigned. But he was marched back to work. He catches blame because as the man who is responsible for the actions of his officers, he should have stopped their murderous campaign. If he feared for his life, like I’m aware he was, he should have fled the country. Honor is a great thing, General.
Guys, that’s my list. Now, I know there will be people who ask why Ruto’s name doesn’t make my list. It’s for the same reason I leave out the Mungiki and the Kalenjin warriors who raided an Eldoret church and fought like hell to drive out the invading Mungiki. What I’m saying is that The Mungiki and The Kalenjin warriors were responding to events that were planned by the five culprits I mentioned above. Did you expect the Kalenjin warriors to sit by and watch the wholesale slaughter of their children and wives? Did you expect the Mungiki to watch as their community in the diaspora was decimated by the rest of Kenya? I don’t think so. These brave boys all fought to protect their people…even if they did it for the wrong reasons. By fighting like they did, they fought other people’s wars. They fought a war planned by Kibaki’s people.
So when the time comes to punish the evil people, we must start with Kibaki and go down the chain. This situation where the people who planned the evil are excused and the small man who valiantly fought to defend himself is blamed will not stand. It may now, but as sure as the sun sets in the west, it will only breed more discontent and will bring us the next implosion.
Is anybody listening?
If you are, here is my proposal. Punish Kibaki and his team, the people who led us down this path, or let the boys in prisons across Kenya go. We will not allow the fat cats to dump their foolishness on the small man. And to the small man, the time has come to think of Kenya in different terms. Aren’t we tired of fighting the wars of these tycoons? Why do we kill each other for them?
I ask the Mungiki leadership, the young Luos around the world, the Kalenjin warriors, the youthful Luhya Brigade and the Coastal Vijanato rethink their political and economic situation. Maybe the time has come to worry about a future beyond these people. Maybe Luke Mboya is right to ask for a shift in our thinking. Maybe only younger leaders will save us.
By Sam O. Okello
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African Press International – api

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Kenya forces civil servants who earn little to contribute money for the upkeep of IDPs

Posted by African Press International on May 15, 2008

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

When Kibaki took over from Moi, his government, Raila was one of them changes the laws making harambees illegal. Now the same people are breaking the law. Some are trying to justify that the civil servants being asked to contribute are not being forced to do so.

That is nonsense. If a civil servant does not contribute, his or her name will be noted and should he or she one day make a mistake will be sacked. Some will not be promoted even for failure to contribute. And yet these civil servants earn little. The IDP issue is the responsibility of the government and any contributions must be voluntary. We do hope there are some brave civil servants out there who can challenge the forced contribution in court and have it stopped immediately.API

Civil servants asked to give refugee cash

Story by KENNETH OGOSIA and JILLO KADIDA

Public servants have received letters asking them to contribute to the fund launched recently to help resettle internal refugees.

Deputy prime minister Uhuru Kenyatta presents his contribution to President Kibaki during a public fund-raising in aid of resettlement of Internally Displaced Persons at KICC, Nairobi yesterday. With him are special programmes minister Dr Naomi Shaban and national humanitarian fund chairman Rtd Archbishop Ndingi Mwana a Nzeki. Photo/PHOEBE OKALL.

Public Service head Francis Muthaura has written to all permanent secretaries asking them to seek contributions from staff towards the fund which targets Sh30 billion to help victims of the post-election violence.

In turn, PSs and other accounting officers have written to all departmental, divisional and section heads to request for contributions from all public officers.

In some cases the letters specify the amount different grades of officers should pay.

Judges, for example are being asked to contribute a minimum of Sh5,000 each towards the fund, while magistrates will pay between Sh2,000 and Sh3,000.

Paralegal staff are expected to part with Sh1,000 while other Judiciary employees like cooks and cleaners are asked to pay Sh500 each.

The letter to Judiciary staff is dated May 12, the same day President Kibaki launched the scheme and is signed by the Acting Registrar, Mrs Lidya Achode.

The exercise is a reminder of the practice which was prevalent during former President Daniel arap Mois rule when civil servants and employees of parastatals were made to contribute to all manner of funds.

At the time, representatives of NGOs and political activists complained about alleged forced donations by civil servants.

The function hosted by President at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre on Monday has already raised eyebrows because it flouted provisions of the Public Officer Ethics Act which bars officers from participating in such funds drives or using their positions to raise harambee money.

On Wednesday, the PS for Public Service, Mr Titus Ndambuki said: These are voluntary contributions depending in the nature of distress. Civil servants are being asked to assist and no deductions will be made from their salaries to make it compulsory.

Mr Ndambuki added: That does not therefore break the law and those who will not be able to donate are not under any obligation to pay. But they are sympathetically deemed to be human beings and know the state of IDPs.

But the civil servants union condemned the donations terming the move a breach of the Public Officer Ethics Act.

The unions acting secretary general Tom Odege said: That is introducing corruption by compassion and in itself a breach of the law because the MPs should have foreseen circumstances beyond human control, and created a caveat to cushion civil servants.

Mr Odege said: If any of the civil servants went to court the process would be reversed. Any normal human being would not ordinarily refuse to assist but the salaries of the civil servants cannot be enough to even sustain them for a month let alone donate to a person in distress.

According to a circular sent to all Judiciary staff, the institution is expected to raise more than Sh3.6 million towards the resettlement of those who were displaced from their homes following the violence.

The circular which was obtained by the nation says the donations should be submitted to the registrars office starting from May 12 to May 26.

Some of the judges and magistrates who talked to Nation in anonymity said it is wrong to force anyone to contribute money to any funds drive. They said it ought to be done voluntarily.

Attached to the circular is a letter Mr Muthaura inviting the registrar to the launch of the public fund raising which was chaired by President Kibaki.

He says the purpose of the invite is to request the staff to make contribution to the humanitarian effort. It also indicates that the donations should be made to the national humanitarian fund under the ministry of state for special programmes.

The resettlement programme is estimated to cost almost Sh30 billion.

Mr Muthaura said the government has been able to factor Sh1 billion in the current financial year.

The public fund which was spearheaded by President Kibaki raised Sh457 million. The money is meant to help families affected by post-election violence to resettle. The violence, which followed the disputed presidential election, left more than 1,000 people dead and 350,000 displaced.

The funds drive which was launched at Kenyatta International Conference Centre was attended by Cabinet ministers, permanent secretaries, members of the diplomatic corps and chief executive officers of various parastatals. President Kibaki pledged a donation of Sh5 million towards the resettlement kitty as his personal contribution.

Agriculture ministry, led by Mr William Ruto, topped the list of donors with Sh298 million, money contributed by members of staff and parastatals under it. The newly created office of the Prime Minister donated Sh500,000 with a pledge to give more.

The Office of the Vice-President donated Sh512,700. The Ministry of Energy led by Mr Kiraitu Murungi, donated Sh14.8 million. Other contributors were Ministry of Medical Services (Sh6.6 million), Office of the President (Sh6.3 million) and Ministry of Foreign Affairs Sh4.6 million.

The Ministry of Trade, headed by Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, and the Ministry of Local Government, led by Deputy PM Musalia Mudavadi, donated Sh1.3 million each. The government of Algeria donated Sh30 million, while China gave Sh1.38 million.

The money will be used for building new houses, replace household effects as well as rehabilitate community utilities and institutions destroyed in the violence.

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API

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Motion to limit size of Cabinet passed

Posted by African Press International on May 15, 2008

By Ben AginaParliament has passed a Motion that seeks to reduce the number of ministerial positions.

Through a private members Motion, Parliament allowed Turkana Central MP Ekwe Ethuro (PNU) to introduce a Bill to create offices of Ministers of the Government of Kenya.

The Bill will spell out requirements for appointment and other related matters.

Moving the Motion, Ethuro said since the inception of the Republic of Kenya, Parliament had not established such offices for ministers, resulting in the arbitrary and uncontrolled establishment of excessive ministries.

However, Ethuro noted that although he would be bringing a Bill to enforce section 16(1) of the Constitution that gives Parliament the powers to create offices of the Ministers of the Government of Kenya, he does not envisage the current Cabinet of 42 ministers to be reduced.

“This Bill will not be applicable in the current arrangement. We are just trying to follow our obligations as provided for under the current Constitution,” said Ethuro.

He said if Parliament had created such ministries, there would be no haggling at the number of ministries the government should have.

He said negotiations on the number of ministries, as witnessed during the formation of the Grand Coalition Government, would not have been necessary if Parliament has set the requisite number.

He wondered why Kenya could not emulate countries like Uganda that have legislated the number of ministries the government should have.

Uganda legislated 21 ministries; UK has 22, while Nigeria whose population is much higher than Kenya has only 19 ministries.

Parliament to blame

But responding on behalf of the Government, the Assistant minister for Justice, National Cohesion and Constitutional Affairs, Mr William Cheptumo, blamed Parliament for failing to enforce the constitutional provision.

“Parliament has continued to breach the law either by omission and commission,” said Cheptumo.

Dismissing an assertion by Kisumu Town West MP Olago Aluoch (ODM) that the Government as currently constituted was illegal, Cheptumo said the President acted within the law.

“The Government is legally in place. It is a Parliament that has failed to do its work,” said Cheptumo.

He added: It has taken 45 years since independence for Mr Ethuros eye to open. This law has been with us.”

The Assistant minister told the House that the Grand Coalition Government was committed to ensuring Kenyans get a new Constitution within the next 12 months.

Noting that the timing of the Motion was good, Cheptumo said the proposals Ethuro had made should form part of the envisaged amendments to the Constitution.

“The timing for this Motion is good, but let us not make piecemeal amendments,” said Cheptumo.

Seconding the motion, the Kisumu Town West MP, Mr Olago Aluoch, said successive governments had abdicated their role of limiting the number of ministerial positions.

The member said since independence, the Cabinet size had increased.

In 1963, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, had a 20 member Cabinet, it grew to 23 in 1969, 23 in 1975, 28 in 1980, 24 in 1994, 34 in 1989, 25 in 1993, 28 in 1998, 27 in 2002 and now 42 in 2008.

Olago said over this period Parliament failed to rise to the occasion by failing to stamp its authority.

Supporting the motion, Assistant minister for Medical Services Danson Mungatana, said it was possible to reduce the size of the Cabinet.

He suggested that Kenyans must be consulted on the number of ministries they should have.

Assistant Minister for Defence Maj-Gen (Rtd) Joseph Nkaissery said Parliament had failed from the onset in setting a threshold for the number of ministries.

Nkaissery said people who had been mentioned in past corruption cases found themselves back in Cabinet.

“When I was in Form Three, some of these people were PSs. They are still in Government,” said Nkaissery.

Mandera Central MP, Mr Abdikadir Hassan, reminded members that Kenya was a Republic and not a monarch.

Abdikadir blamed the whole confusion in setting up the number of ministries to an executive that was acting as a monarchy.

Assistant Minister for East African Community, Mr Peter Munya, said political considerations override appointments to Cabinet positions.

“Appointment to Cabinet has become euphoric. We need performers in Cabinet not political considerations,” he said.

Eldoret East MP Prof Margaret Kamar said there was need to change the way Cabinet is appointed.

“It is unfortunate to see a Cabinet minister read a speech in an international forum but cannot interpret the speech when it comes to discussion,” she said.

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API, source.standard.ke

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Kenya: The cracking cabinet

Posted by African Press International on May 15, 2008

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

The Grand Coalition Government appeared under attack from at least four fronts on the eve of its first Cabinet meeting to be chaired by President Kibaki at State House, Nairobi, from 10am today.

In Parliament alone, over the last two weeks, two fronts have opened up. Yesterday for the first time in 45 years members realised they could actually determine the size of the Cabinet. And last week, they passed a Motion that could pave way for debate on the formation of Grand Opposition.

Outside Parliament, a growing demand for amnesty by mostly Rift Valley MPs for suspects of the post-election violence that left at least 1,000 people dead, hundreds of others maimed or traumatised for life and property worth millions of shillings reduced to rubble, appeared to split the Government down the middle.

Add to this the Mungiki and Saboti Land Defence Force (SLDF) militia phenomenon over which the Prime Minister, Mr Raila Odinga, appears to be reading from a different script from that held by Prof George Saitoti, the Internal Security minister, and at least half a dozen Cabinet colleagues and the agenda for todays meeting becomes a mouthful.

There is also the little matter of control of the Cabinet that has pitted hardliners in President Kibakis PNU against those of the PMs ODM in a silent war of attrition.

And intra-party schisms deepened when a key Raila ally, Mr William Ruto, the Eldoret North MP and Agriculture minister, supported the formation of a Grand Opposition, arguing that a system of checks and balances was necessary.

Unity document not tabled

All that notwithstanding, it is not clear if a draft policy document authored by Mr Mutula Kilonzo, the Mbooni MP and Nairobi Metropolitan minister, that structured the Grand Coalition Government and outlined how it would work was not tabled before the National Dialogue and Reconciliation Committee on Wednesday as earlier envisaged.

The document was expected to clearly spell out the role of the PM and to put to an end among other things some of the embarrassing public confusion over roles as witnessed at State functions in recent times between Raila and Vice-President, Mr Kalonzo Musyoka.

Ministers and PSs were also understood to be in a last minute flurry yesterday preparing what sources described as “status briefs” of their respective dockets ahead of todays meeting.

It is within this background that President Kibaki will today, at a forum in which the future role of the PM could also become clearer, chair his first Cabinet meeting.

On Wednesday, a statement from the Director of Presidential Press Service (PPS), Mr Isaiya Kabira, read: “The President will tomorrow chair the first formal Cabinet meeting of the Grand Coalition Government.”

But even as the word on the Cabinet meeting was put out separately by State House and the PM, thorny issues that have stretched the fledgling fabric of the coalition cast a dark shadow on the session.

Seeking a common ground

President Kibaki, as the chair, would hope that the ministers remember the induction meeting at the Kenya School of Monetary Studies last weekend, where they were taught etiquette and co-existence in Government.

The Presidents clarion call at the historic meeting was: “We are members of one Government and colleagues in Cabinet who should always feel free to reach out to one another.”

Today, President Kibaki and Raila will attempt to work out a common ground in the Cabinet of 42 members, who have taken sharply differing views on at least four key issues that seem to have put the coalition under siege.

On his part, Raila said there were many “weighty matters” in which collective decision of the Cabinet was required as opposed to unilateral decisions by individual ministers.

The PM is against plans for a Grand Opposition, but has stated his interest in dialogue with Mungiki, an outlawed sect.

On militia groups, Raila said: “I will present the concerns of Mungiki and the Sabaot Land Defence Force before Cabinet tomorrow (today) before a collective decision is made.

On Tuesday, Saitoti told Parliament that there was no formal Government dialogue going on with Mungiki, also terming the issue as “weighty”.

But in reference to what Saitoti said, Raila added: “There are no contradictions over talking to Mungiki. My colleague Saitoti just echoed the true position of Government. But we will meet and reach a consensus.”

The PM was speaking after meeting a delegation of leaders from Mt Elgon District, led by the local MP, Mr Fred Kapondi, former legislators, Mr Wilberforce Kisiero and Mr David Moiben, and clerics at his Treasury office.

The militia issue also featured in Parliament when Ndaragwa MP, Mr Jeremiah Kioni, gave notice of a Motion seeking the establishment of a select committee to investigate Mungiki and other militia groups.

Kioni said the unlawful groups drew their membership mainly from the youth. The Government, he said, had unsuccessfully attempted to crack down on them in the past.

But there will also be the matter of bloated numbers for the Cabinet to ponder at todays inaugural session. Yesterday, through a private members Motion, Turkana Central MP, Mr Ekwee Ethuro (PNU), was given authority to bring a Bill to create offices of Ministers of the Government and to regulate their number.

Equally unsettling is the growing pressure to release post-election violence suspects, a matter that is beginning to divide the Cabinet down the middle.

A group of Rift Valley MPs, comprising Mr Zakayo Cheruiyot, Mr Franklin Bett and Dr Julius Kones yesterday pressured the Government to release the suspects.

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API

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Chad-Sudan accord contact group to meet next in Brazzaville

Posted by African Press International on May 15, 2008

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

The Contact Group for the implementation of the Dakar Agreement between Chad and Sudan agreed – at its Monday meeting in Tripoli – to hold its third session in Brazzaville “as soon as conditions are met,” said a statement copied to APA.
The Group also welcomed all the participants expressed willingness to redouble efforts to rapidly restore permanent peace between Chad and Sudan.

It expressed hope that the Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi and his Congolese counterpart Denis Sassou Nguesso as well as the other heads of state in the group will quickly take all necessary steps to re-engage Chad and Sudan on the path to effective and sustainable reconciliation.

The meeting called for the immediate restoration of diplomatic relations between Khartoum and Ndjamena, taking note of “the Chadian governments strong condemnation of the attack against Sudan and its call for restraint and calm,” the press release added.

Sudan was absent from the Tripoli meeting after sustaining a rebel attack on 10 May on the outskirts of Khartoum.

The foreign ministers of Senegal, Cheikh Tidiane Gadio, Laure Olga Gondjout of Gabon , Osman Saleh Mohammed of Eritrea and Moussa Faki Mahamat of Chad, as well as the Libyan Secretary for African Union Affairs Ali Abdessalam Triki attended the meeting.

The meeting also attracted delegates from the African Union, the Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD), the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) and observers from the United Nations, the European Union, USA, France and Great Britain.

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API

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Rwandan minister accuses West of supporting genocide deniers

Posted by African Press International on May 15, 2008

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

The Rwandan minister of Justice and Attorney General, Tharcisse Karugarama has accused some Western countries, individuals and organizations of providing support to Rwandan rebel groups and genociders, leading to an increase in genocide ideology.

The minister was on Tuesday opening a one-day consultative meeting of different national stakeholders on strategies of eradicating the ideology of genocide at Hotel Novotel Umubano in Kigali.

Without mentioning their names, the Rwandan minister said there was overwhelming evidence to suggest that the Rwandan rebel group, Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), Interahamwe militias and member of the ex-Rwandan army during the 1994 genocide, all operating in the Democratic Republic of Congo have international networks. He claimed that the rebel groups have partners in many European countries who have continued to propagate the ideology in Rwanda as well as vehemently denying the occurrence of the 1994 genocide.

We have received enough evidence suggesting that some elements in the international community are providing logistical and financial support to Rwanda rebels whose aim is nothing but to commit genocide, Karugarama said.

“Anyone who denies the occurrence of the Holocaust is severely punished, yet those who deny the Rwandan genocide are simply said to be exercising their rights to freedom of expression,” he said. He noted that Rwandan negative forces are now using religious and political groups in several countries in an effort to continue their unfinished genocide agenda in Rwanda.

The minister called on the judiciary to help in the eradication of the genocide ideology by judging it from a regional and international perspective rather than from a local one.

The head of crime investigation in the Rwanda national police, Superintendent Morris Muligo, said that the community policing strategy would contribute immensely in the eradication of the ideology at local level.

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API

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New cyclone threatens Burma

Posted by African Press International on May 15, 2008

A second cyclone was forming Wednesday near Burma, less than two weeks after it was devastated by a killer storm. The United Nations’ weather center was tracking a nascent tropical storm that is likely to become a cyclone, said Amanda Pitt, the spokeswoman of the world body’s humanitarian relief program, in Bangkok, Thailand. A new cyclone would further jeopardize the people who survived Cyclone Nargis on May 3 and the efforts to distribute aid for them. UN officials, meanwhile, were considering use of force in getting past Burma’s ruling military junta, which has blocked foreign attempts to send in food, supplies and medical aid to its people.

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API, source.AftenpostenEng

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Posted by African Press International on May 15, 2008

Police in the Oslo suburb of Brum struggled to control the worst night of violence involving teenaged russ so far this year. It’s high season for their wild partying that traditionally accompanies the last days of their schooling.

Typical russ dress includes overalls and a cap.

PHOTO: INGAR STORFJELL

Teenagers compete to have the fanciest bus to ride around in.

PHOTO: PAAL AUDESTAD

Between 30 and 40 of the painted busses used by the russ (roughly pronounced “roose”) were gathered late Tuesday night at the waterfront area in Sandvika called Kadettangen.

“Police had to send in all available patrols after several reports of noise, drunkenness and fighting,” the operations leader of the Asker and Brum Police District, Jrgen Jacobsen, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) Wednesday morning.

He said chaos reigned when police arrived at the scene, and their forces were insufficient to handle the brawling crowds. “It was almost impossible for us to get through,” Jacobsen said. “There were russ-busses in the driveways and everywhere, along with lots of garbage and several fights.”

There was so much fighting going on, he said, “that we didn’t manage to control it all.”

Police had their hands full simply trying to corral the drunken teenagers inside the various busses, and order them out of the area. There wasn’t time, he said, for police to identify the brawling teens.

The weeks leading up to Constitution Day on the 17th of May mark high season for the russ in Norway — students graduating from high school (upper secondary school) who run wild all May in colored boiler suits, partying day and night, celebrating the end of their school days.

The russ students wear different colors, depending on what line of study they’ve been in, with similarly colored caps with tassles.Most of the russ are one of two colors: Red for humanities/general studies, math, sciences, etc, and blue for economics/administration. However, there are also some rare green russ (agriculture school) and even black russ (trade school).

The russ hand out russekort, which are business-card sized cards, usually with a photo of themselves, and a phrase or personal motto, often something to do with alcohol. For example: “They say alcohol doesn’t solve any problems, but then again, neither does milk.”

Expensive paraphernalia
In addition to the colored uniforms, caps, and cards, one of the most important (or at least most visible) parts of the russ paraphernalia are the “russebil”– the trucks or busses the russ decorate outrageously and equip even more outrageously with huge stereo systems. Inside, the busses are often fitted with TVs and entertainment equipment, couches, refrigerators.

The different groups of friends who pool their funds to put together a russ-bus compete to have the best and coolest vehicle, which includes not just the equipment, but the shape and decoration on the outside.

Now they also want to have the coolest website. The russ arrange huge gatherings, where thousands, even tens of thousands, come together to party the night away. As the russ festivities have become wilder, longer, and more out of hand, there has been debate over whether this tradition should be eradicated or replaced.

Until 1979, the students final exams where held before May 17th, and then the celebrations would break loose. However, the government at the time decided to move the exams until after May 17th in an unsuccessful effort to control the partying.

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API source.AftenpostenEng

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Security agent gets child porn sentence

Posted by African Press International on May 15, 2008

A Norwegian National Security Authority (NSM) agent has been convicted after compiling a collection of 600 films and 1750 images of hard-core child porn while on the job.

The 41-year-old man accepted his 10-month suspended sentence from Asker and Brum Court, but the district attorney filed an appeal – both sides have this right under Norwegian law.

The man, who did not have an Internet connection at home, used two years before his arrest in March 2006, sitting in a former NATO bunker in Kolss and filling 99 CDs with child pornography, involving the abuse of minors as young as four to five years of age.

“The man realized himself that it was best for both parties that his employment ended at once,” acting NSM director Geir Salvesen told Aftenposten.no.

The NSM worker had the highest security clearance at the time, with access to top secret material when arrested.

The NSM’s own control system picked up the abnormal network traffic on their service server, and notified police.

The man told the court that his job could involve waiting for data to download, and that he “could sit bored for hours while his thoughts wandered”. His pornography watching gradually grew to be an obsession, and he became a compulsive recorder of films and images, “without having a thought about what he should do with them”.

When sentencing, the judge ruled that the 41-year-old appeared to regret his actions and took into account the over 200 newspaper articles written about the case before it came to trial, which the defense argued had been strain on the man.

Asker and Brum police district had a massive task examining the evidence of the man’s collection and it took 26 months before the case came to trial.

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API SOURCE AFTENPOSTENENG

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Peace and trade activists gather in Oslo

Posted by African Press International on May 15, 2008

Peace advocacy isn’t only something for diplomats and politicians, claim arrangers of a conference linking peace with trade to be held in Oslo Thursday. Among the participants: rocker Bob Geldof.

Bob Geldof has also been Oslo for the Nobel Peace Prize awards, here with peace broker Erik Solheim, now a government minister.

PHOTO: JARL FR. ERICHSEN / SCANPIX

Also on the line-up are the Palestinian presidential adviser Nabil Shaath and former British Foreign Minister Margaret Beckett.

The conference will be led by former UN peace envoy and development chief Jan Egeland, now head of the Norwegian foreign policy institute NUPI.

“Trade can often be used to dampen conflict,” said Egeland. “With the exception of oil, gold and diamonds, peace and trade are often connected.”

Eastern Europe’s integration with the west can also be linked to trade, as can Hong Kong’s role in opening up China, claim organizers.

The conference opens in the Oslo City Hall, site of the annual Nobel Peace Prize awards ceremony, on Thursday. It’s being arranged by the Business for Peace Foundation in cooperation with the city of Oslo.

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API source.aftenposteneng

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Telenor, Peace Prize winner caught in labour scandal

Posted by African Press International on May 15, 2008

Telenor officials, with chief executive Jon Fredrik Baksaas at center, admit they have failed to adequately monitor working conditions at GrameenPhone’s suppliers.

PHOTO: SVEIN ERIK FURULUND

A Danish TV documentary has revealed miserable working conditions and environmental violations at companies in Bangladesh that act as suppliers to GrameenPhone, which is co-owned by Norwegian telecoms firm Telenor and firms founded by Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus.

The documentary shows miserable working conditions at several firms supplying Telenor-owned GrameenPhone. Hard-hats were donned when Telenor came to inspect.

PHOTO: TELENOR

Telenor’s Baksaas with Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus. Together, they own GrameenPhone, although Yunus has wanted Telenor to reduce its stake.

PHOTO: TELENOR

It’s an embarrassing labour scandal for Telenor, which itself is majority-owned by the government of Norway, a country that prides itself on championing fair labour conditions and human rights.

It also reflects poorly on Grameen Telecom and Grameen Bank, which own 38 percent of GrameenPhone (Telenor has 62 percent) and which were founded by Peace Prize-winner Yunus not least to help lift people in Bangladesh out of abject poverty through the micro-credit system.

The documentary, made by Danish journalist Tom Heinemann and to be aired on Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) Thursday evening, reveals shocking working conditions at the firms supplying GrameenPhone. Employees were shown working with hazardous chemicals and heavy metals virtually without protection. Workers were as young as 13 years, a clear violation of child labour laws. The firms were caught allowing polluted wastewater to spill into nearby rice fields.

And in one case, a worker was killed when he fell into an unsecured pool of acid.

Telenor, clearly believing that the best defense is a good offense, opted to reveal some of the findings of the documentary even before it was aired. Telenor officials claim they were shaken by the documentary’s findings, and admit they failed to adequately monitor the operations of GrameenPhone’s suppliers.

“We are deeply moved by the case, and the human side of it,” Telenor chief executive Jon Fredrik Baksaas told reporters. He called the labour violations “completely unacceptable,” claiming Telenor had trained the firms in health and safety issues. “But we’ve clearly been bad about following up afterwards,” Baksaas admitted.

He neglected to mention the worker fatality, but confirmed it when questioned by a reporter from Danish newspaper Berlingske Tidende.

Telenor and the Norwegian state have generated huge profits on GrameenPhone, which has as many as 20 million customers, but Baksaas said he didn’t feel badly that the operation earns a lot on the work of poor employees. “We haven’t taken out substantial dividends on what we’ve earned in Bangladesh,” Baksaas said. “The money has gone into investments that are building up the country.”

Norway’s government minister in charge of business and industry, Dag Terje Andersen, wrote in an e-mail to Aftenposten that the working conditions shown in the documental “assuming they are accurate, clearly are unacceptable.”

Andersen claimed, however, that Telenor has worked actively for years to make its own ethical regulations part of all operations, also those at suppliers. “It looks like the follow-up on the part of Telenor was inadequate,” he wrote. Telenor has since conducted inspections at five suppliers of mobile telephone masts, and has fired one of them.

Telenor and Yunus have been involved in a long-simmering conflict over ownership of GrameenPhone. Yunus has wanted Telenor to reduce its stake.

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API sorce.aftenposteneng

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Mozambique: Battle to contain diseases following flood

Posted by African Press International on May 15, 2008

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

Story by steven lang.

Grahamstown (South Africa) – More people have died of cholera following recent floods in Mozambique than the number of those who perished in the rising floodwaters.

Most rivers in central and northern Mozambique burst their banks after heavy rains in December, January and February, and as a result of Cyclone Jokwe — which hit in early March.

Exact figures are not readily available, but it is believed that about dozen people lost their lives in the floods, while three were eaten by crocodiles that had escaped their usual habitats. However, the international relief organisation, Mdecins Sans Frontires (Doctors Without Borders, MSF), says that at least 72 people have died of cholera and an equal number because of other waterborne diseases such as dysentery.

The numbers reveal that while Mozambican authorities have learned to mitigate the immediate consequences of massive floods, they are still struggling to cope with diseases that inevitably spread in the aftermath of such flooding. Mozambique’s National Institute for Disaster Management (Instituto Nacional de Gesto de Calamidades, INGC) has described the recent downpours as the heaviest in living memory. Yet because the flooding followed similar patterns to the great floods of 2000 and 2007, authorities were able to extricate in good time almost all citizens living in areas at risk of being inundated.

More than 100,000 people were relocated, some of them forcibly, from the flood plains and transferred to resettlement camps at safe distances from rivers. As soon as it appeared that the floodwaters were beginning to subside, Cyclone Jokwe hit the coastline near Nampula in the north, displacing thousands more people and causing 17 deaths. Government would like to transform some of the resettlement areas into permanent villages in order to avoid the flood rescue operations, which take place on an almost annual basis. More than 20,000 houses were washed away over recent months.

Most villagers are not keen on permanent resettlement because it means that they would lose their normally fertile plots of land close to the river banks. In order to overcome this reluctance, authorities launched a “food for reconstruction” programme that encourages the 30,000 people still living in the resettlement areas to lay water pipes, build houses, and construct the infrastructure that is necessary for maintaining basic levels of hygiene. In exchange for their labour, families are allocated enough food to sustain themselves.

The director general of the INGC, Joo Ribeiro, said in a radio interview that government had made a commitment to help the flood victims not only through setting up clinics and a proper sanitation system, but also with supplying cost effective building materials and assisting with construction methods. While the Mozambican government has been able to attend to the basic requirements of the more than 21,000 families who were forced to leave their homes, a large number of Mozambicans living in the Zambezi Valley sought refuge in neighbouring Malawi where that country’s officials have been overseeing relief efforts.

Soon after the floods began to subside, several cases of cholera were reported in Mutarara District in the western part of Mozambique, bordering on Malawi. Cholera is an infection of the intestines caused by contaminated water. It causes chronic diarrhoea and vomiting, leading to severe dehydration and frequently death. The authorities were aware that cholera was likely to follow the floods, but they were not able to prevent the disease from spreading. Mozambique is still a very poor country, and does not have the means to provide adequate sanitation infrastructure throughout the country.

MSF’s Richard Nkurunziza said that resettlement camps without proper toilet facilities or potable water were particularly vulnerable to cholera. He described the hygiene conditions in these camps as inadequate, noting that lack of proper facilities over just a few days was enough to allow the disease to spread. Within days of announcing the first cases, the Mozambican health ministry issued a statement saying that cholera had been diagnosed in nine of the country’s 11 provinces. The situation became serious so quickly that resources were even diverted away from feeding schemes in certain areas so that officials could work towards providing proper sanitation, INGC Director Paulo Zucula noting that lack of hygiene provided a more immediate threat than hunger.

Nevertheless, lack of food in Mozambique was exacerbated by the floods which, according to the INGC, destroyed more than 117,000 hectares of crops. Local shortages coupled with rising food prices on international markets have left thousands of Mozambicans unable to provide sufficiently for themselves and their families. The crisis has already sparked food riots in several cities, during which at least six people died.

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African Press International – api

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Mali: New family law faces opposition from Muslim organisations

Posted by African Press International on May 15, 2008

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

Bamako (Mali) – A new family law code waiting to be adopted by Parliament is facing opposition from some Islamic groups who claim it goes against Islamic principles, particularly when it comes to proposed changes to the countrys marriage laws.

The new code aims to bring more equality between men and women in relation to marital status, parental rights, ownership of land and inheritance, wages and pensions, employment laws and education. The code is a significant step towards gender equality while reflecting the reality of Malian culture today, the minister of women, children and the family, Maiga Sina Damba told IRIN. The current code has seen little change since it was first passed in 1962, three years after Mali gained independence, and according to Oumor Ciss, communications adviser at the ministry for women, children and the family, it is heavily influenced by outmoded French laws, and a strict reading of Koranic texts.

When the draft code went out to civil society groups for the latest round of consultations in early 2008, some Islamic groups started campaigning hard against the proposed changes to marriage laws, inheritance laws and property rights. In early April the Islamic Salvation Association (AISLAM) called for the bill to be withdrawn from Parliament. “All the proposals we made in the consultation phase of the new code were rejected, said Mohamed Kimbiri, president of AISLAM.

The most controversial sticking points relate to shifts in marriage laws. Today in Mali traditional or religious marriages as opposed to civil marriages, are legally accepted but the new code will cease to legally recognise religious marriages. Despite much opposition to this change, legalising religious marriages has been dropped from the bill altogether, Kimbiri complained to IRIN. But Parliamentarian Mountaga Tall elected in Segou a town north of Bamako, said religious or traditional marriages deny some women their basic rights.

“Widows who have only had a traditional marriage are legally excluded from any inheritance rights and their children must go through expensive, lengthy and often humiliating procedures to inherit the basic family allowances due to them. In defiance of the soon-to-be-adopted law, Islamic groups are continuing to issue marriage certificates. For the moment, the issue is unresolved. But if [these marriages] go ahead it will be in violation of the law, and the marriage certificate will not be legal. No one can appropriate a power that is not legally bestowed, said Ciss.

In another vein, under the current law when two people marry if they commit to monogamy they must stick to it in theory, but in reality a husband can re-marry without the consent of his wife. Men can circumvent the law by making a new marriage without any legal consequences,” said Daouda Ciss, a legal adviser to the womens ministry. The code also gives more inheritance rights to illegitimate children, and enables them to choose either their mothers or their fathers name, but according to Kimbiri, Islam can not accept that. [Illegtimate children] can only inherit their mothers name, they do not have a right to their fathers.

And finally, some clerics are concerned about changes the new code makes to giving couples joint rights to land and property currently separate rights are maintained for property. But one Imam told IRIN, under Islamic law spouses must accept separation of ownership of possessions.

The code has already faced many delays and some fear it will stagnate altogether. Redrafting began in 1996 but it was slow to gain momentum in Parliament. Many Parliamentarians didnt want to see change or else they didnt bother to read the draft, Oumor Ciss told IRIN. But in 2007 a group of women Parliamentarians there are about a dozen, said Ciss formed a group with lawyers and human rights activists to defend the codes changes and to push it through Parliament.

If Mali wants to be a fully-functioning democracy it is important to pass this code, Omar Touri, head of a womens rights network, Association of Womens NGOs (CAFO), told IRIN. People have to change their behaviour and they have to accept change. The code brings Mali in line with a number of international protocols it has signed up to, including the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, and the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

Given this, she said, We have no choice but to pass it. But Abdoulaye Dembl, deputy of the National Assembly, thinks it much more likely that a compromise deal will have to be struck, ensuring yet more delays.
In this atmosphere of misunderstanding it is difficult for deputies to vote for this code at the risk of provoking a mass-uprising. We have to take into account the concerns and aspirations of all groups before passing it through Parliament.

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African Press International – api

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