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Archive for May 21st, 2008

Felicen Kabuga’s request to the Rwandese government will be channelled this week

Posted by African Press International on May 21, 2008

Publisher: Korir, africanpress@getmail.no

Flicien KabugaMr Felicen Kabuga (left) The Rwandese government will have to take a decision, either for or against the request for talks with their wanted man, Mr Felicen Kabuga.

The Rwandese government has been briefed through their representative on what is on the way for the government to deal with. As details continue to come in, we realise also that the topgovernment officials are anxiously waiting for thedocument to be relayed to them. At the same time the government seems to find the situation complicated because the plan for talks has come out in the open.

People wanted to do things quietly but now the fact that the information is out in the open, seems to have placed the Rwandese government into an awkward position that may cause problems should they enter into secret talks with Kabuga without clearing with the International Court.

The talks between LRA/Kony and the government of Uganda was not blessed by the International court who has not agreed to withdraw Mr Kony’s arrest warrant.

Mr Kabuga’s request will be channelled to the government in the next few days. The International arrest warranthas not prevented Kabuga from moving from country to country. He has nowdecided that the time for talks has come.

In an interesting well-wordedappeal,the government will be invited to take a decision in favour of negotiationsand find an agreeable solution. The government will do good to accept to talk because Mr Kabuga has alot of information that will also help sort out other cases.

Developments in the case worry some Kenyans

If the Rwandese government chose to enter into talks with Mr Kabuga, some Kenyan politicians and security officers willget sleepless nights. For the talks to succeed, Mr kabuga will have to name names of his Kenyan keepers who helped him evade justice in Nairobi for a long time.

Related story:

Rwandese businessman hunted by ICTR requests API to deliver a massage to Rwandese Government. I am ready to negotiate for a supervised surrender on agreeable terms, saysKabuga

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Who will take Ainamoi seat?

Posted by African Press International on May 21, 2008

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

ODM the ticket of choice in Ainamoi

Story by SOLLO KIRAGU and WALTER MENYA

The memories of the murder of Ainamois newly-elected MP David Kimutai Too in late January are still fresh as the June 11 by-election approaches.

A security officer and the public at the scene of Ainamoi MP David Kimutai Toos shooting at West Indies in Eldoret Town on January 31, this year. Photo/Jared Nyataya

Commonly referred to as Principal, his name is still invoked at every political forum in the constituency. Prospective candidates are pledging to actualise the development projects he had promised in his campaigns for the seat in last years General Election.

Mr Too was shot dead soon after members of Parliament were sworn in. The killing inflamed passions in a constituency that had been hit hard by the political violence that rocked the country after the disputed presidential elections.

Thousands had fled the area, especially from Swahili, Mombasa Ndogo, Kambi-Somali and Nyagacho estates in Kericho Town after they were targeted for retribution and their houses and business premises torched and looted.

Front runner

Many of them are still holed up in camps for the displaced in Nakuru, Nyamira, Kisii and Naivasha.

The Ainamoi by-election has attracted more than 20 contenders, with the ODM being the ticket of choice.

An early front runner for the party nomination is a brother of the felled MP, Mr Benjamin Langat. He is likely to get a lot of sympathy votes.

Mr Langat has the support of some key Rift Valley ODM figures, including Agriculture minister William Ruto, Belgut MP Charles Keter and Kipkelion MP Magerer Langat.

This was demonstrated at Mr Toos funeral in February when Mr Ruto and Mr Keter told the Ainamoi people to ensure that the seat remained in the family.

In the presence of the areas former MP Noah arap Too, Mr Ruto introduced Mr Langat as a responsible person.

But Mr Langat will not have it all his own way.

Another strong contender for the seat is retired Kenya Army general John Koech, who vied in 2007, but lost to Mr Too in the ODM nominations.

Unlike other nomination losers who decamped from ODM to other parties, Mr Koech chose to stay put in the party and helped lead ODM campaigns across Rift Valley.

Others who want to try their luck are newcomers David Kitur, the chief executive of Micro LAN Company, and Dr Paul Chepkwony, a former Moi University lecturer.

Other strong contenders for the ODM nomination include lawyer Onesmus Langat, Henry Rop, Job Chirchir, Ezekiel Ngeny, Andrew Maritim, Paul Chirchir, Gideon Koros, Julius Kiplangat Kirui and Mrs Anna Kibet, a clinical officer.

A comeback

Also in the race are radio personality Parveen Sigey, who has quit his job with Royal Media Groups Kalenjin language station, Chamge FM, to try his hand in politics, and a former Kericho Day Secondary School principal, Mr Paul Yaem.

Trying to make a comeback at the Ainamoi by-election are two former MPs, Mr Ayub Chepkwony and Mr Kiptarus Kirior, who served as assistant ministers in Mr Daniel arap Mois government.

The two are banking on past experience to regain the seat they occupied when it was part of Belgut constituency. The constituency was created in 1997.

Two former Kericho Town councillors, Joel Siele and Samuel Rugut are also vying for the prized ODM ticket.

Mr Stephen Kipkurui, a former district education officer, wants to run on a PNU ticket. Mr Joseph Mosonik and Mr John Kibet Keino eye the Kanu and Agano party tickets respectively.

The United Democratic Movement (UDM) hopes to bag the seat, which would be its second. Its only MP is Kericho lawyer Joseph Kirui.

Meanwhile, the ODM aspirants have told the party headquarters to ensure transparency in the exercise so that only the best candidate wins.

Speaking to Nation, the aspirants say that missing names in ballot papers and other anomalies should not be allowed to recur, as happened last year.

The growing dissent among ODM faithful in the wider Kericho region will be something to watch during the campaigns.

After the formation of the grand coalition Cabinet, there were perceptions that the Kipsigis had been short-changed.

During a meeting held at Tea Research Foundation of Kenya last month, seven ODM MPs threatened to form a political party to serve their interests. They were Dr Julius Kones, Mr Franklin Bett, Mr Magerer Langat, Mr Zakayo Cheruiyot, Mr Isaac Ruto and Energy assistant minister Charles Keter

This is a warning that the local political elite may back a candidate from an alternative party if the ODM nominations are not handled fairly.

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Passport racket unearthed

Posted by African Press International on May 21, 2008

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

By David Ohito

An immigration, human trafficking and travel documents forgery syndicate has been unearthed in Nairobi.

The Immigration Department and the police are piecing together evidence and details of trafficking in suspected terrorists.

Two suspects are in police custody and more than 100 passports of different countries 87 Somali, 12 Kenyan, 17 from the US, UK, France, Italy and a host of other European countries were seized from a suspect in what has been described as a multi-million shilling international ring.

Mr Dume Wanda, a senior Immigration officer in charge of prosecutions, displays some of the air tickets and passports netted from a “publisher” in Eastliegh.

The Immigration Department raised the red flag over rising cases of forged documents and human trafficking. It deals with about seven cases daily and at times up to 200 incidents.

So grave is the problem that genuine travellers from Kenya could have problems travelling to the US, United Kingdom, the European Union and other countries with strict immigration rules.

It appears that chartered flights are used to move illegal immigrants to safe escape routes from where they cross borders on foot and in vehicles.

Clients pay between Sh200,000 and Sh500,000 for visas to South America and Europe in search of jobs and a better life.

Documents recovered included asylum application forms for US, South Africa and other European countries. South Africas, Kenya, Uganda, Somali and Ethiopia are the most easily forged passports.

The appeal for human trafficking is the lure of well paying jobs and relocation packages offered to unsuspecting clients.

Best con facilities

In the syndicate, Kenyan passports are stolen and the bio-data and photo pages forged, thus making it difficult to ascertain authenticity.

Immigration officials on Tuesday appealed to the public to notify them of loss of passports and other security documents to help curb the crime.

Drug traffickers and international criminals use the forged documents to hide their identities.

The officials deplored the weakness of the law in combating human trafficking.

Details have emerged showing that Kenya was the preferred human trafficking centre in the continent because it had better infrastructure, facilities for local and international cash transfers, international air destination connections and a good road network with neighbourng countries.

Immigration officials said porous borders and an 800-km coastline without guards abetted trafficking in the region.

A key suspect who has been on the Immigrations most wanted list for nearly a year is still at large after two of his workers were nabbed.

The syndicate has been operating in Eastleigh, Nairobi, where forgery of visas, passports, birth and marriage certificates, travellers cheques, bank credit cards and air tickets is done.

Immigration officials are also investigating if the criminal outlet is linked to the illegal buying and selling of passports.

A senior Immigration officer, Mr Dume Wanda, said officials had confiscated forged and genuine travel documents.

Linked to the forgery saga is an outlet distributing airtime in Eastleigh where large amounts of money are transacted and banked to hide the illegal activities.

“This is a major breakthrough for our department because this is a dangerous syndicate that many Kenyans and foreigners have fallen prey to,” Wanda said.

Among the equipment recovered from the cartel included an ultra-violet light, a sophisticated instrument used to verify the authenticity of visas, passports, currency and travel documents. Several forged blank visas of the Schengen States were part of the items Immigration investigators were holding.

The gang operates from a hotel building, which disguises itself as a travel agency. Yesterday, detectives were investigating whether the travel agency was a registered business.

Similarly, the Immigration Department wrote to the Registrar of Persons to verify if identity cards and passports recovered from the two suspects were genuine or forgeries.

Application forms for Kenyan and Ugandan visas, vaccination and marriage certificates and stamped travel documents were also confiscated in the Friday operation.

So sophisticated is the cartel that they forge letters for international seminars and workshops which are used to get visas from unsuspecting embassies. Three prominent travel agencies are used as conduits. Stolen credit cards are used to buy airline tickets for clients involved in the fraud. Investigators are zeroing in on the premises where printing of visas is done.

Charges for forged documents range between Sh40,000 and Sh100,000. But in some cases, securing a passport complete with a visa before photographs are superimposed costs up to Sh500,000.

In others, genuine passports are stolen from the public and travellers before they are handed over to look-alike people.

The trafficking ring offers fine details how to evade the police and Immigration spots. Clients are advised to travel by road or through porous borders to avoid detection.

“We are unearthing many illegal activities, including women being paid to have miracle babies who need passports. We arrest them when they forget and present applications for passports where three children were born of the same mother in a year yet they are not triplets,” Wanda said.

This is the second major immigration and identity fraud in recent times. Recently, a Congolese, identified as Mr Emmanuel Lambata, was deported after he forged travel documents that would have aided 34 countrymen to be flown to Hungary.

He was arrested with 12 Kenyan passports as he presented them to the Czech embassy.

“Foreign missions have been of great help in the efforts to curb visa and passport forgery,” Wanda said.

Last week, 18 Indians trafficked to Kenya were arrested.

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Ministers shamed for poor performance in their duties

Posted by African Press International on May 21, 2008

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

10 ministers named and shamed in State report

By Andrew TeyieA government performance evaluation report has named and shamed 10 ministries and by extension the Cabinet ministers who held the offices at the time of the study.

Alongside the ministries, the report on evaluation of performance of public agencies for the year 2006/2007 has also lined up for scrutiny a number of State corporations and local authorities, whose performance it judged as not up to scratch.

But it was a day high performers were feted, as the Prime Minister, Mr Raila Odinga, got a clearer hint of exactly what his duties would entail co-ordinating and supervising the performance of Government.

Unveiling the report at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Nairobi, on Monday, President Kibaki also rolled out an incentive system to reward performers.

“I have directed the Minister for Finance to authorise revenue generating public institutions to pay their performing employees based on a formula developed by the ministry,” the President, who also directed that best performing employees in high performing organisations be rewarded immediately, said.

He added: “Public institutions will henceforth be required to fully comply with the new system to ensure equal incentives for equal performance irrespective of whether the institution is generating revenue, regulating or giving service.”

Time for change

In his speech, Raila said he was passionate about changing the way civil service works.

“I remain passionate about changing the Public Service, making changes that are difficult, including learning from business where it is appropriate,” the PM, who was at hand to receive the Head of State at KICC, said in his welcome remarks.

Deputy Prime Ministers, Mr Musalia Mudavadi and Mr Uhuru Kenyatta, also attended the function.

By having their ministries placed at the bottom of the ranking table, the report appeared to indict at least 10 former Cabinet ministers, who at their time enjoyed political goodwill and by extension Government resources owing to their party affiliation.

The worst performing former ministers, according to the evaluation, include Mr Musikari Kombo (Local Government), Dr Mukhisa Kituyi (Trade), Mr Mutua Katuku (Water), Mr Simeon Nyachae (Roads and Public Works) and Mr Raphael Tuju (Foreign Affairs).

Others are Mr Joseph Munyao (Livestock), Prof Kivutha Kibwana (Environment), Mr Henry Obwocha (Planning) and Attorney General, Amos Wako (State Law Office).

The ministers were all voted out at the last General Election.

Agriculture Minister Mr William Ruto (left) adjusts the lapel of Prime Minister Raila Odinga as Lands Minister, Mr James Orengo observes at the KICC on Monday. Picture by Collins Kweyu

On a brighter note, however, the evaluation report showed overall improved performance of ministries, State corporations and local authorities since the launch of performance contracts.

“It is evident that as a result of the introduction of the contracts, there is greater accountability in the management of public resources,” states the report.

Gender, Sports, Culture and Social Services ministry, previously headed by Mr Maina Kamanda, who lost his Starehe parliamentary seat to Bishop Margaret Wanjiru, sat at the top of the league of the top 10 best performers.

Others, in order of ascendancy, included Regional Development Authorities, Special Programmes, Energy, Housing, Home Affairs, National Heritage and Health. The rest were Immigration and Registration of Persons and Justice and Constitutional Affairs.

Instructively, a number of ministers who previously held the dockets retained their seats in the last elections. Notable examples are Ms Martha Karua, Mr John Munyes, Mrs Charity Ngilu, Mr Kiraitu Murungi and Mr Soita Shitanda.

Karua, Kiraitu and Shitanda have returned to their old dockets, while Munyes and Ngilu are now at Labour and Water in the Grand Coalition Government.

The coalition is the child of the National Accord brokered between President Kibakis PNU and Railas ODM to haul the country out of a crippling post-election crisis touched off by the disputed December 27 presidential election.

Criteria

It was the second time ministries, parastatals and local authorities were evaluated.

“The performance of any particular ministry is determined by many factors and not necessarily the holder of the ministerial position,” Kibwana, who together with Tuju were recently appointed to the Commission on Constitutional and Ethnic Relations, told The Standard when reached for comment.

Kibwana said: “What I can speak about at the moment are matters that concern the Constitution and not the ministry that I previously served.”

On his part, Kombo said: “Ill talk about the report after reading it. I have not seen it yet.”

The Local Government ministry is now under Mudavadi, one of the two deputy premiers.

Meanwhile, Kituyi, who lost the Kimilili seat toDrDavid Eseli Simiyu, said: “I cannot comment about the performance because I am no longer in that ministry.”

But top performer Kamanda, who could not hide his excitement, said: “Ill talk at length on how we achieved this, but not right now.”

His former Ministry of Gender, Sports, Culture and Social Services grabbed the top position from Agriculture, which dropped to position 25.

The evaluation report wants the Government to put in place a reward and sanction system for best and worst performers.

Kenyatta University grabbed the top State corporation prize, followed by Nyayo Tea Zones and Kenya Wines.

Nairobi City Council, Municipal Council of Chuka and County Council of Bungoma topped the local authorities category in that order, while Chepareria, Namachie, Bureti, Keroka and Homa Bay were at the bottom of the list.

The most improved ministry was Housing, which rose from position 34 to five. The State Law Office was singled out as a persistently poor performer. It ranked at position 36, having dropped from position 33.

Agriculture, previously held by Mr Kipruto Kirwa, but now headed by Eldoret North MP, Mr William Ruto, recorded the biggest decline, plummeting from position one to 25.

Nyayo Tea Zones was ranked the most improved of the State Corporations, climbing from 110th to become number two this year.

Telkom was also singled out as a persistently poor performer. It was ranked 114, managing to move up only four points to position 110. Kenya Seed Company also registered a major decline. It was ranked 82 in its category.

President Kibaki and Raila asserted said State corporations must conform to performance contracts.

The PM singled out Muhoroni, Gilgil Telecommunication, Safaricom, Development Bank of Kenya, Kenya National Trading Company, National Bank, Rift Valley Textiles, National Council of Children Services and National Council of Law as culprits.

The evaluation report calls for strengthening of the Performance Contracts Secretariat. It also recommends a reward system for the top three achievers in each category.

The report also proposes that Parliament enacts a law on performance contracting.

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The rising star and fortune of Gedeon Moi in Rift Valley political landscape

Posted by African Press International on May 21, 2008

Publisher: Korir, africanpress@getmail.no

Commentary
<By Leo Odera Omolo
With the rapidly changing pattern of politics within the expansive Rift Valley Province the continued dominance of two major political parties namely PNU and the ODM parties now hangs in the balance.
But the only man whose stars seemed to be steadfastly on the rise is the former Baringo Central KANU MP Gideon Moi. The soft spoken favourite son of the retired President Daniel Arap Moi could be the man of the day comes the year 2012 if he plays his card well and ensure that he steer away from unnecessary controversies.
Gideon Moi, arguably is steadily making major inroads in nearly all sub-region of the vast Rift Valley Province. He has held consultative meetings in Trans-Mara with the Maasai leaders, organized a close door meting with the Kalenjin leaders in the north Rift and was recently spotted having a close door meeting with political personalities from across the region at his family tea estate and factory at Kaisugu, about 7 kilometres east of Kericho town. This particular meeting brought a large number of Kalenjins politicians from as far field as Sebei in the Mt. Elgon constituency.
This is said to be ostensibly at the expense of the Orange Democratic Movement, which is presently the party of the day in the region. The Raila Odinga led is reputed for having harvested a total of 33 parliamentary seats during the last general elections. Obviously this figure is the largest number of parliamentarians from one Province. All of these were pocketed by the ODM, But the seemingly dwindling unity of purpose, which had propelled this party to election victory is another subject of great importance
The local political pundits, were now quick in saying the populist party which only five months ago had swept the board and even further won the majority of civic seats in Town Councils, Urban Councils, Municipalities and County Councils is now on the receiving end..The fallout came about following numerous allegations and accusation that it had short-changed the communities that gave it thousands of votes in the last December general elections .And the ODM is doing very little in countering the se claims and dreadful allegations against it.
There is ample of a big drift of people in the region, particularly among members of the Kipsigis community, the most populous sub-clan of the larger Kalenjin ethnic groups. This people are said to have read malice in the recent cabinet appointment . The abrupt about turn, by its members of parliament is a major point to worry by the ODM leadership.
And the man who stand to gain from the fallout within the ODM rank and file none other than Gideon Moi who is out to cash on the disagreement. The younger Moi is praying that the disagreement should widen to the extent of a mass walk out of the ODM by the Kipsigis leaders.
The ODM only lost a few parliamentary seat in the Central Rift, especially in those area with heavy presence of the Kikuyu settlers.like in the case of Nakuru Town, Molo, Subukia, Naivash, Laikpia and Nyandarua .
The Kipsigis leaders maintains that they have smelt a rat on Raila Odingas political machinations because the Prim Minister had seen it fit to marginalize them in the same way former president Daniel Moi used to engage their sons and doughters for political expedition, but dumps them after he had achieved his political goals., a situation which has given Gideon Moi a leeway to recapture the glory lost by KANU under his father leadership in the year 2002.
It is imperative to note that some of the Kipsigis leaders were all along suspicious about Mr. Odingas political machinations, even long before the last general election. One of such leaders is Paul M.K. Sang, the former Minister for Health Services and the MP for Buret who had cautioned his colleagues who were campaigning for the Raila and the ODM to go slow over the matter, arguing that once the ODM supreme achieved his goal, he will eventually dump them.,.Sangs prophecy eventually translated itself and became the truth of the matter.But the community remains adamant and gave in to the waves of Raila Odinga and the euphoria and the popular slogans for a change that accompanied them.
Mr Arap Mibei{The son of the Lake} is the name the Kipsigis gave Raila Odinga. It reigned the air all over the Kipsigis land from river Amalo in the far flung deep south to River Kipchorian {Nyando}.in the north east.
The Kipsigis elders for the son of the late Jaramogi was not in vain. It is part of the fulfillment of the long cherished belief a,mong the community that the third leadership of this country wojuld emerge from the Lake Victoria regionm. The prediction were made over centuaries by the old Kalenjins, especially the Kipsigis and the Nandis laibons
[Orkoiyot} who accurately predicted the coming of the White man and his rules.
The saying goes that after the Whiteman had ruled Kenya for some years the colonialist would be kicked out in a bloody uprising by the natives. There after a strong native ruler would emerge from the east {Kongasis} and that the seond powerful rule of Kenya would emerge from the Kapkoilonget Kalenjins } and this is what transpired during the rule of the late Jomo Kenyatta and thereafter that of Daniel Moi.
The predictions and prophecies goes that the third powerful rule would emerge from the Lake region. Having in mind of these mythiology, the Kipsigis elders visited villages after villages in Kericho, Buret and Bomet and pleaded with the electorate to vote for Raila Odinga on a man to man. They community appeal had extended to the Kipsigis area of influence in the outlaying districts like Molo, Rongai and Trans-Mara. The message was the same Arap Mibei only.
And after the elections were over, the community had duly submitted the three names to the ODM headquarters in the hope that one of them could be given the nomination to parliament. These were Mrs RACHEL Yegon, Mr. Joel Kirui and Lt. Gen. {rtd} John Koech. But none of them was picked nomination to Parliament. Odinga was later reported as having said that not even one single Kipsigis had supported the ideas of nominating one of their own during the process, whereas MP from other regions were scrambling for these nominations a claim that was given credence by one of the MP who admitted that they didnt conduct lobby exercise for their people.
In the last general election Gideon Moi lost his Central parliamentary seat, which his father had sat on ever since 1963 to a relatively unknown political novice.. Ths happened not because Gideon was an ineffective MP in the nineth [parliament, but due to the euphoria of ODM, which was sweeping the entire region.
The ODM popularity in the South Rift region, however, will be put to a grueling test next month on June 11th, when the by-elections to fill the Ainamoi and Kilgoris seats takes place.
The contest is expected to be the toughest as there would be strong challenges from the PNU and its affiliate parties involve in the by-elections. Already the ODM haa ditched its former candidate Peter Ole Salaphan and settle on the former KADDU candidate Jinathan Kipyegon Ngeno. Who is believed to have won in the last elections whose results were nullified by the ECK after the outbreak of violence.
Ole Salaphan had performed poor almost taking the fourth position after the two former cabinet ministers, Gideon Konchellah of PNU and Julius Sunkuli of KANU. Fr the ODM to capture the seat it needed a popular candidate. But owing to its much flawed nominations system in December, the party had ditched Ngeno a Kipsigis 3ho had the popular votes and settled on Ole Salaphan.
Fr Gideon Moi, the by-election in Kilgoris would be a toll order, for had visited the area only two weeks ago and told the Maasai in proverb that it was unsual in Kalenjin to eatb the lips of a cow slaughtered for him, and that this was the exclusive preserve of the owner of the cow, implying that a Kalenjin should not claim political; leasdership in Maasailand, a view long held by his father. But Ngenos.vctory would be a problematic for the ODM because the indiginant Maasai leaders have vowed not toallow a non-Maasai to become an MP for the area under all the circumstances come what may.
Ends
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Burkina Faso: The scientist with a large heart for Africa’s poor

Posted by African Press International on May 21, 2008

Publisher: Korir, africanpress@gemail.no source.Panafrican News Agency (PANA)

Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso) – Number 1473, Naaba Zombre Boulevard in the Gounghin area, west of Ouagadougou, the Burkina Faso capital, occupies a unique position in disease control efforts in Africa, spearheaded by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The building behind the light-blue iron gate is not elegant by modern architectural standards, but it is a repository of several decades of scientific knowledge that has brought hope and future to millions of the poor in hard-to-reach communities afflicted with myriad diseases in Africa, especially river blindness. The six-block complex, including four bungalows and a two-storey structure, houses the Onchocerciasis Control Programme (OCP) in West Africa, the Phase I of the control programme, and it is now the headquarters of the WHO African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control (APOC), its Special Intervention Zones (SIZ) , and the Multi-Disease Surveillance Centre (MDSC).

On a normal day, the complex is a melting pot of activities and a laboratory of ideas, with scientists and researchers, administrative and technical staff busy on a legion of tasks including the analysis of statistics and data collected from field trips. All of these efforts drive disease control projects in a continent struggling under a disproportionately high disease burden. It is from this building that Africa, with the support of the international donor community, has been fighting onchocerciasis (river blindness) for more than 30 years, first through OCP, and now APOC (Phase II) of the control programme. And from her office on the first floor of the main building, Nigerian scientist, Dr. Uche Veronica Amazigo, has been calling the shots as the Programmes’ first female Director from 2005. APOC was founded in 1995, and effectively took over from where OCP left off in 2002, but with an expanded mandate to replicate the OCP successes in 19 other African river blindness-endemic countries and, this time, using ivermectin as the only control tool. Given the enormity of its mandate, APOC in 1997 devised a new strategy – the Community-Directed Treatment with ivermectin (CDTi), now called the community-directed intervention (CDI) approach, to deal with the stubborn disease caused by worms and transmitted by the black fly.

Indisputably, the CDTi strategy has been a remarkable success and, in the last three years, the mammoth challenge of steering APOC towards its ambitious target of eliminating river blindness as a public health disease in Africa by 2015 has fallen on the broad shoulders of Amazigo, a fire-brand professional who is no stranger to the complexities of scientific research and health administration, having served in APOC for more than 10 years in different capacities, including as Chief of the Sustainable Drug Distribution Unit. Indeed, for this former Senior lecturer on tropical diseases at the well-respected University of Nigeria in the eastern city of Nsukka, anti-river blindness drive is a passion, heightened by her chance encounter in 1991 with a pregnant woman plagued by the disease’s itchy lesions and depigmentation. As it is common with many onchocerciasis patients, the disfiguring effects brought stigmatisation and had, in the case of this pregnant woman at an antenatal clinic in eastern Nigeria, resulted in her husband abandoning her. Amazigo resolved to help the woman pay for her treatment and to learn more about the human devastation of onchocerciaisis.

In a sense, Amazigo can stake a valid claim to the APOC brand, process and philosophy, for it was the result of her research with a WHO grant that formed the scientific basis for the launch of APOC in 1995.
The revolutionary outcome of that research has not only changed international perceptions about onchocerciasis morbidity, WHO has replicated it in a number of countries. A member of the Consultative Group on Women’s Health for the 1993 World Development Report, one eloquent testimony to Amazigo’s well-documented work in communication, advocacy, community mobilisation and partnership is the UNFPA-UNIFEM-sponsored film “Broken Wings,” which she produced for the World Conference on Women in Beijing 1995. The 2005 nominee for the Global Champion of Health award by the US WGGH/NOVA Science has also produced and edited several training modules, with her works appearing in international publications, including the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, the medical health journal Lancet and the Annals of Tropical Medicine and Parasitology. In a long distinguished career of public service, involving extensive travelling to remote parts of Africa – from mountainous villages in Cameroon to rural Uganda, to hamlets in the thick forests of the two Congos to villages in Southern Sudan – Amazigo, a humble beginner from a well-to-do family, derives great joy from spending quality time with poor communities, catering to their needs and mobilising support and resources on their behalf at international fora.

Before she assumed the leadership of APOC, the two control programmes, OCP and APOC had between them seen five male directors, including two European pioneer directors. Gambian surgeon Ebrahim Malick Samba, the first African to head the OCP from 1981, left in 1994 to assume the directorship of the WHO Regional Office for Africa. An elegant, unassuming, highly disciplined and deeply religious woman in her 50s, Amazigo has been credited with bringing a dynamic leadership to APOC and health administration in general in Africa. Combining a persuasive and accommodating disposition with an infectious determination and dedication to duty, she is equally praised for inspiring confidence among colleagues and motivating them to higher levels of achievement. APOC Programme Manager/Coordinator, Dr. Laurent Yameogo, said of for Amazigo: “Community service, especially river blindness control, is a passion and helping the poorest of the poor,” almost a vocation. “Her persuasive character makes her a great mobiliser of people and resources and one of her strongest points is that she believes in the strength of others,” said Yameogo, who stressed that Amazigo exudes boundless energy with a motivating and charismatic aura about her. In her carriage, comportment and general character and even simple dressing style, she epitomises the best in the professional African woman.

As she fielded questions from a group of journalists that attended the just-ended WHO international conference on Primary Health Care in Ouagadougou, the APOC director displayed the versatility of a seasoned administrator, a humanist, a mother, a teacher and a good listener. Though soft-spoken, Amazigo – also a stickler for details – will not hesitate to raise her voice, especially to drive home any point she feels strongly about. Her colleagues and subordinates describe her as “a workaholic” who is always striving for excellence with exemplary result-oriented work ethics. Her admirers call her an “African Amazon” and “a general who commands from the front line.” Dr. Mounkaila Noma, APOC Chief of Epidemiology and Vector Elimination Unit, who has worked with Amazigo for 11 years, said she relates to colleagues as a “sister.” “She has an obsession for deadline and innovation that will bring positive changes,” Noma said. “Dr. Amazigo believes in rendering service to poor communities across the road.”

According to him: “she is a team player who believes in capacity-building both at country level and within the organisation, and she will always insist on results from every member of the team, be they yellow, white or black.” Her secretary of many years, Mrs. Patricia Mensah, said Amazigo “knows her onions and believes in community service.” Under Amazigo and her team, APOC’s reputation and international visibility is on the ascendancy. As reward for its string of successes, the programme is riding on the crest of a strong broad-based partnership involving 19 African countries, 20 donor countries and institutions, UN agencies, 12 Non-Governmental Development Organisations (NGDOs), a number of local Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and a free donation of ivermectin by Merck Co Inc for as long as the drug would be needed.
But in her disarming modesty, Amazigo claims no personal credit for APOC’s achievements, insisting they are the product of team work by the programme’s committed staff at all levels, coupled with the unalloyed support of countries, donors and sponsors.

She underscored the high-level support of the WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Luis Gomes Sambo, the unwavering commitment of donors and other stakeholders, including APOC’s governing body, the Joint Action Forum (JAF), the Committee of Sponsoring Agencies (CSA), the Technical Consultative Committee (TCC), which provides technical and strategic guidance on the direction of the Programme, and Ministers, Ministries of Health workers and governments of participating countries. The Nigerian scientist equally acknowledges the contributions and support of former OCP and APOC directors, who share their expertise and experiences with her management team, towards the achievement of APOC’s mandate. But she is not under any illusions about the daunting challenges ahead. “We have recorded many milestones, but we still have a lot of ground to cover,” she affirmed, stressing that the ultimate goal is to empower communities to take charge of their own health. According to her, community-based initiatives, whether in health or other sectors, can only be sustained when communities are part of decision-making, planning and management. The CDTi strategy, the APOC trademark, is now being used to protect more than 92 million people from onchocerciasis infection, while 37 million people infected with the disease are being prevented from developing the relentless itching, skin disease or blindness associated with the clinical disease.

APOC has trained more than 38,000 health workers and over 472,000 Community-Directed Distributors (CDDs) of ivermectin in 16 African countries, who provide the human resources necessary for the implementation of the strategy. In 2007 alone, onchocerciasis-endemic communities with the support of NGDOs and donors treated 48.6 million people in Africa. But the task remains enormous in countries, and especially so in countries in conflict and even post-conflict nations, a number of which are under APOC’s mandate, hence the passionate appeal by Amazigo for the cessation of conflict in Africa so that health care can be delivered to poor, remote and needy communities. The good news is that results of an ongoing scientific study in Mali and Senegal have already shown that it is possible to eliminate river blindness transmission from Africa using ivermectin treatment alone over an unbroken period of time.

The findings from the Onchocerciasis Elimination Study reinforce APOC’s belief in Community-directed intervention (CDI) as a powerful tool for the strengthening of health systems through the empowerment of communities. Certainly, CDI is community-driven and APOC is in fact, leveraging on the burning desire among communities to help themselves to push and expand the boundary of self-help in health care delivery.
Apart from empowering communities to assume ownership and control of their health, the CDI approach has become a model and APOC is advocating the use of this approach for the delivery of multiple health interventions including Vitamin A supplementation, home management of malaria and distribution of treated bed nets. The case for the integration of the CDI strategy into health systems has indeed been strengthened by impressive results from a new multi-country research in Cameroon, Nigeria and Uganda.

The study, requested by APOC’s governing body and coordinated by the WHO Geneva-based Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR), has shown that when community members themselves lead the process of drug delivery and treatment better all round outcome is achieved. Doubtless, APOC’s cost-effective disease control strategy has achieved impressive results. Communities are happy for their improved health and donors and sponsors are satisfied with handsome value for their money. “We have come a long way and we cannot afford to slacken,” Amazigo affirmed. “APOC’s success is an African victory; community-directed intervention is a strategy developed by Africans for Africans. It should be expanded for use by other control programmes to achieve a better outcome.”

But like every other time-bound project, APOC has an exit date of 2015, so the Amazigo-led management is planning the programme’s decentralisation and devolution, preparing countries and partners to assume complete ownership of the control activities. With Africa well on the way to defeating river blindness, and to ensure that the gains of over three decades are not jeopardised, the stakeholders must seize on the momentum built by APOC’s community-directed intervention strategy to ensure the elimination of the disease as a public health problem in Africa, and towards the attainment of Health for All and the health Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) on the continent. For Amazigo, integrating APOC’s activities with the health system is a golden opportunity to leave a lasting legacy for the benefit of poor remote communities. And if Africa is to attain the health MDGs by 2015, building partnership between communities and the health systems to strengthen the latter through community participation and ownership is inevitable.

With women proving a point or two in leadership in a male dominated world, especially in Africa, the Nigerian scientist has already carved a niche for herself as an icon in global health management, although she remains coy about being ranked among other great African female achievers, insisting that her best is yet to come.

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API

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Sierra Leone: In the Belly of the Presidential Convoy

Posted by African Press International on May 21, 2008

Publisher: Korir, africanpress@getmail.no source.World Press, by Karamoh Kabba

Freetown (Sierra Leone) - In the last three months, I found myself in the belly of presidential convoys or trailing them across Sierra Leone.

One could safely measure the seriousness of Ernest Koroma’s burning desire to raise this nation from the wreckage of self-destruction to his travel readiness both inside and outside the country, by what he says and what he does for the people. Indeed, signs of progress are visible around the country. The president stated in Loko Masama, where he opened a new bridge linking Pepel, that by early next year energy would not be a problem in the city. He also revealed a plan to supply energy to the big and small towns through solar and small dam projects.

For a nation with equal rainfall and sunlight, these dual tracks of generating energy through light and water clearly make sense. As well, signs of roadwork in the capital city and around the country are visible.
There is reason for Sierra Leoneans not to forget the past, but to remember and learn from history. For the aphorism, that history repeats itself when we fail to learn from it is being defied by the president’s unwavering determination to hold his ministers to task, to be accountable to the people, to be transparent in their activities, to be creative on the job, to be innovative in thinking, to deliver and inform the people of their deeds. The president has indeed not forgotten our recent past from which he has learned quite a bit.

Recently, I saw the minister of education, Minkailu Bah, expressing frustration with his department being littered with ghost workers and ghost schools. In a personal discussion, he explained, “I have a situation where one staff member of the school system takes salary as a senior teacher in one school and as a head teacher in another. I invited both senior teacher and head teacher of both schools to my office at the same time. I want to know if indeed it is a coincidence that we have two people with such matching profiles in different schools.”

Soccoh Kabia, the minister for health and sanitation, went through his files to show me there was no evidence of wrongdoing when he was accused of having received a letter from Emzor, a pharmaceutical company, to defraud the government. The letter in question merely invited government officials to Nigeria to inspect their manufacturing facilities and capacity. He further stated that contrary to the allegation the contract had not been awarded. Instead, it had been forwarded back to the Ministry of Development from where it originated. “This contract was sent to us because Development did not have a procurement officer at that time. We have since returned the contract back once there procurement officer returned,” Kabia said.

In a recent press conference at the Ministry of Information, Alpha Kanu told the press that the president is working on a construction scheme that would embark on the use of local materials to cut down on the cost of using imported materials for construction. He explained that we use a lot of cement to build our houses whereas we do not have limestone to produce cement. He drew an example from the United States, where most houses are constructed with wood, a material that is in abundance there. “Here,” he said, “we have good soil to bake red bricks to construct our houses yet we spend all our money in building concrete houses.”
Thus, raising a nation from the rubble of 11 years of self-destruction and from the tail end of the United Nations Human Development Index needs a serious minded leader who should be worthy of a social commentator’s examination. These presidential convoys move frenziedly, just as those campaign convoys during the 2007 elections did. One bodyguard commented, “Only that it’s just a bit safer now that all other vehicles give way to presidential sirens and blinkers.”

But the president runs on unpredictable travel schedules in readiness for any need to meet more delegates or take unprecedented diversions. In February, in the V.I.P. launch of the Merzuk ferry from Tarr Green, I met the president for the first time. Alpha Kanu, who had met me on a visit to the United States about a month before, introduced me. Taken aback by the sudden encounter, I managed a few words. Unlike the seeming obsession and fascination with big titles in the past the president struck a chord in me when he simply said, “Show me your works.” Of course, that’s about all I have to show and quite a bit of my works found their way to his desk in less than 24 hours.

On Bo Coronation field, from a close distance, presidential guards roughened away a woman who had broken the presidential personal space or the deadline, if I may, in deferential and emotional quest of the president. Here, I observed the human side of the president; he frowned at his guards, as if to ask them to leave the poor woman alone, in an indiscretion of presidential security modus operandi. In Kenema, at the presidential guesthouse, Koroma asked a personal assistant, “What do you want?” further complaining, “We are always together at State House and yet you want attention out here when I hardly have time to meet all these people.”

In that, I saw a willing president who is determined to remove the perceived enigma away from the State House; who, according to his presidential and public affairs minister, Alpha Kanu, wants to “bring the State House closer to the people and the people closer to State House.” In Kenema, I became somewhat over-comfortable in the presidential convoy as ministers waited for the president in the pallor of the guesthouse; I joined in and sat down on the only unoccupied chair, only for Alpha Kanu to politely draw my attention to it. How close I was? I had opportunities of listening to the president in close discussion with his ministers on several occasions, brainstorming with them, not only on how to keep the people’s hopes alive and at ease, but also to admonish them to inform the people of the activities in their ministries.

On the April 26 at State House, I was privy to the launching of two outreach programs at State House garden, the Attitudinal and Behavioural Change (A.B.C.) and the Open Government Initiatives (O.G.I.), a joint program with the United Nations Development Program. The technical team of the A.B.C. is basically telling the people of Sierra Leone to go back to the basics, thus the need to learn their attitudinal and behavioural alphabet. The O.G.I. is charged with helping to create an open society in which government will be more proactive with information than reactionary after the usual publication of insinuations, assumptions, and speculations.

For the country to succeed in defying the poverty in riches paradox at 47?[Sierra Leone just celebrated its 47th year of independence from British colonial rule?as the president rightfully pointed out, much depends on the peoples’ change of attitude to change their altitude.

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API

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Zimbabwe: COMESA summit in balance

Posted by African Press International on May 21, 2008

Publisher: Korir, africanpress@getmail.no source. Inter Press Service (IPS); by Tonderai Kwidini

Harare (Zimbabwe) – Zimbabwe, which is in a political and financial tailspin, has missed out on an opportunity to save some of its tattered international reputation.

The Common Market for East and Southern Africa?s (COMESA) 13th summit would have taken place in the country?s north-eastern resort town of Victoria Falls but has been postponed indefinitely.

The COMESA secretariat in Zambia issued a communiqu on May 15 advising member states on the postponement of the summit of heads of state. This announcement was overdue as the summit was originally planned to start on May 1. After the ruling ZANU-PF lost the recent parliamentary elections, the results of the presidential election were withheld and state violence engulfed the country. The secretariat said in a statement, ??following consultations between the government of Zimbabwe and the COMESA secretariat, it has now been agreed that the meetings, which were scheduled to be held from May 1 to 15, 2008 in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, be postponed to a date to be announced later.??

The secretariat explained its decision by saying it wanted to give the troubled southern African country time to conclude an electoral process on June 27 when a much-anticipated presidential run-off will be held. It made no reference to moving the summit to another country. However, this development flies in the face of the ZANU-PF government?s interpretation of the decision that Zimbabwe should host the 13th summit. ??No amount of demonisation by western countries, which are on a relentless campaign to isolate Zimbabwe, will influence decisions of bodies like COMESA,?? said Zimbabwe?s foreign affairs minister, Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, said when the selection was made public.

??The postponement is a statement of no confidence in Zimbabwe,?? Harare-based economic analyst John Robertson told IPS. It serves as a another bad sign for the country after it hosted a dismal trade fair last month which failed to attract attention from rich countries. The summit in Victoria Falls was supposed to discuss the consolidation of a regional free trade area; progress on the economic partnership agreements (EPA) negotiations with the European Union (EU); and peace and security in the bloc. Regarding the latter, Zimbabwe would have been an automatic topic.

The summit was also expected to have discussed the possibilities of putting in place a customs union by the end of this year to promote regional trade and investment. A business leaders? forum would have been run alongside the summit. More than 500 business leaders were expected from COMESA member states. The business forum was presented as an opportunity for the COMESA business community to meet and discuss issues of common interest regarding the strengthening, deepening and expansion of trade and investment in the region.

The summit was also touted as an opportunity for Zimbabwe to show a different side to the world as it has been in the international spotlight for all the wrong reasons. ??It is good that Zimbabwe is hosting the 13th edition of the summit. This is time for you to showcase your country,?? said the COMESA secretariat?s head of administration, Victoria Mwewa, last year when she had reviewed the country?s preparedness to host the gigantic forum.

The Zimbabwe Competition and Tariff Commission agreed with Mwewa?s view, saying the summit might have helped the country?s industry to boost its profile. ??This event would have allowed players in the industry to boost their export base and penetrate new markets as local products are in great demand throughout the region,?? Alexander Kabuda, the commission?s director, told IPS. Bulawayo-based economist Eric Bloc concurred with Kabuda, adding that Zimbabwe would have been afforded an opportunity to showcase its products and services in the tourism industry.

An economic analyst at the University of Zimbabwe said that, ??while Zimbabwe?s competitiveness has been reduced significantly in the last seven years, it is capable of regaining equal or higher competitiveness than its regional partners in COMESA, if the situation improves??. The analyst spoke on condition of anonymity. Zimbabwe currently holds the vice-chairpersonship of the regional body and was expected to assume the reins after the summit. This might change if the political tables are turned after the presidential run-off election, which is likely to be won by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

The MDC had been against taking on such huge commitments because of the financial requirements which it argues Zimbabwe can?t afford at a time when it is faced with a collapsing economy. The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa seeks to promote regional economic integration through trade and investment. It currently boasts 19 member countries, which represent a market of 319 million inhabitants. Total trade between member countries adds up to about 159 billion dollars per year and total exports amount to 82 billion dollars per year.

The regional body has a gross domestic product of 275 billion dollars a year.

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API

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Nigeria: Country to lose $478.4million revenue to EPA

Posted by African Press International on May 21, 2008

Publisher: Korir, africanpress@getmail.no source.Daily Trust (Nigeria), by Mohammed Shosanya

Lagos (Nigeria) – The country will lose an average of $478.4million revenue in 2008 if it implements the degree of import liberalization as demanded by the Europeans through the Economic Partnership Agreement, EPA, a top official of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, Chibuzo Nwoke has warned.

The Economic Partnership Agreements are the new trade arrangements that are being negotiated between the 27 countries of the European Union and the 78 countries of Africa- Carribean as a major instrument for economic and trade cooperation.

Senegalese President Abdulaye Wade and the Chairman of the Africa Business Round Table Bamanga Tukur had called for the rejection of the controversial EPA, saying the idea being muted by the Europeans is not in the interest of Africa. Nwoke, who is the Head, Division of International Economic Relations, Research Department of the NIIA, disclosed this weekend at a two-day workshop on the Economic Partnership Agreement negotiations between the European Union and West African States, jointly organised by the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria [MAN] and the Nigerian Economic Summit Group, NESG.

He said that the revenue loss would trickle down to an average of S341million in year 2020, adding that the impact of tariff revenue loss would be quite significant on the nation?s economy because it would constitute about 39 percent of total non-oil revenue. Besides losses in sectoral output as well as increased poverty on general welfare losses, Nwoke said that the policy options to address the revenue loss would be costly and create excruciating pains for Nigerians.

“In relative terms, Nigeria would end up bearing virtually all of the burden of adjustment, while the European Union countries will capture all of the benefits arising from Nigeria?s participation in the proposed West African-European Union EPA initiative. “The implementation of the EPA, especially at the pace being pushed by the European Union, will strain Nigeria?s financial and administrative capacity, and divert attention away from the real development concerns. The EPA is likely to pose a major challenge to the Nigeria?s economy.”

Nwoke also said it is not likely that the Economic Partnership Agreement, EPA will move the country from its present position of primary resource exporter to exporter of manufactured goods adding that certain strategic measures should be taken to reverse the ugly trend. “The starting point is to put in place good governance and patriotic and visionary leadership that will ensure that we take the initiative and are proactive in securing our national interest in our economic partnership with the European Union,?? he advised.

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API

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Uganda: Peace Deal Dissolves

Posted by African Press International on May 21, 2008

Publisher: Korir, africanpress@getmail.no source.Institue for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), by Charles Mpagi Mwanguhya

Kampala (Uganda) – Northern Uganda leaders returned empty handed last week from South Sudan after waiting in vain for days to meet Joseph Kony, the elusive commander of the rebel Lord?s Resistance Army, LRA.

Kony?s no-show was the second time in two months that he has snubbed peace negotiators and appears to have killed what hope remained that a peace deal, 22 months in the making, will be signed. ?Kony said he wanted to meet the elders,? said Colonel Walter Ochora, the Gulu district commissioner who had helped initiate links with the rebels earlier in the negotiations. ?Government knew this wouldn?t happen, but we still said okay. All the behaviour of Kony [doesn?t] indicate that he wants peace.?

Ochora said he was not surprised by Kony?s actions. ?To me the peace process was off right from tenth May, 2008 when Kony failed to show up,? he said. ?But as we did not want the government to be blamed [for the failure], we wanted to give Kony the benefit of the doubt.? Kony had earlier failed to turn up for a scheduled signing of the peace agreement on April 10, at a remote location on the border of South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, DRC, even though some 200 people traveled to the jungle to witness the event.

Kony then said he wanted to meet with his fellow ethnic Acholi leaders on May 10 at the same location for talks about how he might be treated by Ugandan courts if he would sign the deal. Reliable sources told IWPR that instead, Kony issued demands for money, protection, and a mansion in the Ugandan capital, Kampala. Ochora said Kony has refused to communicate with or meet the top negotiators since last October when he reportedly killed his second-in-command, Vincent Otti.

Those top negotiators include United Nations special envoy Joachim Chissano; chief mediator and vice president of South Sudan, Riek Machar; and South Sudan president Salva Kiir. ?These are the three most important people in the negotiation process, but he doesn?t want to talk them,? said Ochora. ?The last time he sent a message to Machar, it was through a third party.? Ugandan interior minister Ruhakana Rugunda, leader of the Uganda delegation, indicated his frustration at the collapsed talks by noting that Kony had been rebuilding his army while frustrating efforts to finalise the northern Ugandan peace deal.

Kony has led a rebel war in the north since 1986 that has left an estimated 100,000 dead and displaced nearly two million people, who only recently have begun returning to their homes following nearly two years of peace talks. As IWPR reported earlier, Kony has rebuilt his force while holed up in the Garamba Park region of northeastern DRC ? and now has about 600 or 700 fighters and about 300 others still in training. The rebuilding of the rebel force has been accomplished through abductions in the DRC, South Sudan and the lawless southeastern corners of the Central African Republic.

Rugunda told IWPR that such reports show Kony is not interested in peace. ?We have covered at least 95 per cent of this [peace] process,? said Rugunda. ?The remaining five per cent was only for the two parties to append their signatures, which has not yet happened.? ?We cannot say the talks are dead,? he continued, but added that the government was unsure if the talks would resume. ?We will have to wait and see the report of the chief mediator and the elders.?

For some, however, the peace talks are over. Speaking in Gulu, Kenneth Oketta, ?prime minister? of the Acholi ethnic group which dominates the north, said tribal leaders were finished talking with Kony. “This is the last time we shall [go] to him because just one man cannot be holding everyone in his palms,” said Oketta. “Kony will never sign a peace accord because he doesn’t [have] anything to do with the peace talks. He is there because he was pushed to be there.”

Oketta has been in touch with the Acholi paramount leader, David Acana, who was part of the delegation waiting for Kony, and confirmed that the LRA leader had issued new demands. “The last time we went to meet Kony in April, those demands were not there,? said Oketta, and suggested that the new ones came from ?bad advisers? who apparently have a lot of influence over Kony. The apparent collapse of the talks has renewed speculation of a possible military strike against Kony ? a possibility that was raised recently by officials with the International Criminal Court, ICC, in The Hague.

Speaking to IWPR in Chicago, Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo suggested that a special unit of UN forces currently in the region, as part of some 17,000 peacekeeping contingent in the DRC, could be mobilised to strike Kony. Kony and his top commanders have been sought for trial by the ICC since October 2005 when they were indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity. An attempt at the beginning of 2006 to move against Kony failed when eight Guatemalan peacekeepers, members of a special forces unit, died in a clash with LRA fighters in Garamba Park.

“The unit, which was conducting an operation in this area, established contact with rebel elements at 6 am There followed an exchange of fire lasting four hours, requiring the intervention of armed helicopters,” a UN statement said at the time. A UN military spokesman said at least 15 LRA fighters were killed, out of a group estimated to number 50 or 60. Five members of the peacekeeping force were injured in the incident and were flown to hospital in Bunia, several hundred kilometres south of the park.

Any future military move by the UN, Uganda, or others will require some coordination, said Ochora. A week ago, Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni met his DRC counterpart Joseph Kabila in Tanzania, apparently to discuss a smoldering border dispute and the situation with Kony and the LRA. ?Kony has been a pain to the DR Congo,? said Ochora. ?[Kony] has abducted many children from there. He could choose to involve himself in Darfur. He has caused problems in Sudan, the Central Africa Republic, and now Chad is on the alert. We will have to discuss with all these countries about the way forward.?

*Charles Mpagi Mwanguhya is political editor at The Daily Monitor in Kampala and a contributor to IWPR. Caroline Auygi, an IWPR intern in The Hague, contributed to this report.

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API

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Raila’s motocade involved in an accident

Posted by African Press International on May 21, 2008

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

Railas chase car involved in accident

<Raila Odinga.

One person was injured today morning when the car he was driving rammed into one of the cars in Prime Minister Raila Odingas motorcade, along Karen Road. The 7am accident caused a major traffic snarl up as police arrived to tow the cars away. Raila was on the way to his office when the accident occurred.

The driver of the other car was rushed to Karen Hospital nursing serious injuries. Police are investigating the cause of the accident.

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API

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Uganda: Publicise oil revenues, says corruption watchdog

Posted by African Press International on May 21, 2008

Publisher: Korir, africanpress@getmail.no source.New Vision (Uganda), by Ibrahim Kasita

Uganda?s oil revenues should be publicised to avoid corruption, an official of Transparency International-Uganda Chapter (TI) has warned.

?Uganda has got to use oil revenues wisely when commercial production starts to prevent conflict. Oil, gas and minerals or the extractive industries generate a lot of wealth,? Job Ogonda, the programme coordinator for TI in East and South Africa, said. He said most big oil and gas companies are not transparent about payments made to resource-rich countries. Ogonda said the lack of transparency leads to corruption, economic stagnation, inequality and conflict.

?In the absence of such transparency, governments and companies may behave in ways that will enhance the wealth of the few elite and yield no benefit to the many citizens,? Ogonda said while launching a report at the Imperial Royale Hotel, Kampala. The report evaluated 42 leading international and national oil and gas companies operating in 21 countries. It evaluated transparency of their reporting, particularly on payments made to governments for resource extraction rights.

Based on publicly-available data, the report categorised companies into high, middle and low performers. Robert Lugolobi, the executive director of TI Uganda Chapter, said the Constitution grants Ugandans ownership of the country?s natural resources and access to information. Lugolobi said much of the data on what companies pay for the right to exploit the resources and how the money is spent by host governments remains unpublished and beyond public scrutiny.

?When companies and governments are fully transparent, citizens, journalists, civil society, researchers and investigators can track revenue flows, holding public officials accountable and discouraging corruption,? he said. ?Oil and gas wealth, if properly managed, should support better services and infrastructure. It should lead to a better quality of life for all citizens. It is the duty of civil society to work with companies and governments to unlock this potential.?

?Companies need to act quickly to introduce pro-active reporting, rather than wait for legislation.? According to the report, revenue reporting on a country-by-country basis, which is identified as best practice, was possible.

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API

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South Africa: Burning absence (editorial)

Posted by African Press International on May 21, 2008

Publisher: korir, africanpress@getmail.no source.Business Day (South Africa)

It may be flippant to point this out, but after a week of gruesome violence against immigrants that has killed 22 people, at least we all now know what ?xenophobia? means.

But while one might have expected that the scenes of horror across Gauteng would focus the minds of our leaders on what needs to be done to stop the violence immediately and prevent it starting again in future, it doesn?t seem to have done that at all. SA?s political leaders have been extremely slow to respond, if they responded at all. Taking their cue, perhaps, even its policing services haven?t exactly been quick off the mark. And even where they have responded, the messages have been ambivalent, at best.

It was only on Sunday, a full week after attacks on foreigners began in Alexandra , that President Thabo Mbeki finally got around to condemning the violence. And he did it not from Alex or Cleveland but from the luxury of San Lameer, in KwaZulu-Natal, where he was meeting his International Investment Council.

Perhaps it was that high-profile group of foreigners who pushed Mbeki to say something, anything, as the looting and burning spread into the Johannesburg city centre. And even then it was not much: the cabinet would set up a panel to investigate who was behind the violence, he said. The police must act firmly.

So far neither Mbeki nor any of his cabinet ministers have made an appearance in any of the trouble spots. Nor has Gauteng?s premier, although provincial MECs such as Firoz Cachalia did visit the affected areas last week. And though the new African National Congress (ANC) leadership has done better than the government, it hasn?t gone out of its way either. The party did issue a statement early last week condemning the Alex violence unequivocally, calling on South Africans to take a stand against what it described as ?hate crimes?. And on Thursday ANC president Jacob Zuma made a point, at a graduation address in KwaZulu-Natal, of expressing concern and outrage: ?Xenophobia has no place in a democratic, free country like ours,? he said. Even so, none of the ANC?s top six leaders have made their presence felt in Gauteng?s townships.

Perhaps, with an election approaching, there is some ambivalence among politicians about being seen to be unsympathetic about poor service delivery in the townships and the impact this has had on the locals. But that ambivalence could prove extremely dangerous. Unless a clear message goes out that the government and the ANC are taking this seriously and that, as Archbishop Desmond Tutu put it yesterday, ?this is not how we behave?, the risk is that the violence will spiral.

As it is, the government?s own ambivalence about foreigners has helped to create the space for the xenophobia monster to thrive and for criminal elements to exploit it. The police too have played a role in creating the monster, with officers well known for harassing immigrants and extorting bribes from those without papers.

What?s needed is not just a clear message from SA?s political leaders that violence against foreigners is unacceptable. What?s needed too is for the government to recognise and communicate that immigration is a positive economic force, bringing skills and entrepreneurship, not a threat, and that foreigners should be welcomed, not attacked.

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API

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