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Archive for May 24th, 2008

Tsvangirai returns to Zimbabwe to face Mugabe

Posted by African Press International on May 24, 2008

HARARE (AFP) Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai arrived home Saturday after a six-week absence vowing to end the near three-decade rule of veteran President Robert Mugabe in next month’s election.

Despite fears of an assassination plot and the threat of treason charges, Tsvangirai returned home looking relaxed and launched into a blistering attack on Mugabe ahead of a June 27 presidential run-off between the two men.

“As sure as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, Mugabe will not win in the second round,” he told reporters in his first press conference since returning from South Africa.

Tsvangirai also rejected the idea of a coalition government with Mugabe, which some have suggested would allow the 84-year-old Mugabe a graceful exit and prevent further violence.

“There is no government of national unity on the table,” he said. “There has been so much speculation but I don’t see how that is going to be implemented.”

Tsvangirai had been abroad since shortly after a first round of elections on March 29, lobbying regional leaders to pressure veteran President Robert Mugabe to allow free and fair elections.

The former trade union leader defeated Mugabe in the first round, but not by enough to secure an outright victory.

The aftermath of the disputed polls, the results of which were delayed by nearly five weeks, has been marked by violence that the opposition claims is designed to rig the run-off.

Rights groups and the United Nations have said the attacks are being directed at followers of Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party, with pro-government militias accused of a campaign of terror in the countryside.

Tsvangirai, who visited victims of the political violence in hospital before the press conference, said the attacks on his supporters would backfire on the ruling ZANU-PF party.

“The violence is the most disastrous policy they (ZANU PF) have implemented,” Tsvangirai said.

Mugabe, now fighting for his political life after nearly three decades in power, has acknowledged a “disastrous” first-round campaign and has since accused the MDC of embarking on “an evil crusade.”

Tsvangirai has made a series of demands to ensure a free and fair run-off, including the presence of regional peacekeepers and international election monitors, but these have been largely brushed off by the government.

No Western monitors were allowed to oversee the first ballot and teams from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU) were widely criticised for giving it a largely clean bill of health.

The threat of a treason charge against Tsvangirai stems from allegations by Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa who accused him of plotting to overthrow Mugabe with connivance from former colonial power Britain in April.

Tsvangirai, who was beaten unconscious in police custody in March last year, has faced treason charges on two previous occasions.

He had twice announced his intention to return to Zimbabwe only to delay the move and his long absence from the country ahead of the June 27 run-off had begun to raise questions about his leadership qualities.

Tsvangirai had announced his return for last Saturday before pulling out at the last minute, citing an assassination plot.

His party’s number two, Tendai Biti, has since claimed that Tsvangirai was one of dozens of top opposition figures on an army hitlist. The government denies the allegations.

Seen as a post-colonial success story in the first decade-and-a-half after independence, Zimbabwe’s economy has been in freefall since 2000 when Mugabe embarked on a land reform programme which saw thousands of white-owned farms expropriated.

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African Press International – API

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Kenya: Cabinet: No amnesty

Posted by African Press International on May 24, 2008

Publisher: Korir, africanpress@getmail.no source.Daily Nation (Kenya) by Bernad Namunane

A divided Cabinet Thursday declined to give amnesty to thousands of youths arrested over post-election violence. Sources close to the meeting said debate on the matter split the second session of the Grand Coalition Cabinet down the middle.

The ministers agreed to immediately set up a commission to investigate the cause and the perpetrators of the violence. Immediately after chairing the meeting at State House, Nairobi, President Kibaki appointed members of the Commission of Inquiry into Post-Election Violence that will be chaired by Appellate Judge Philip Waki. Meanwhile, the fate of the youths linked to the violence was left in the hands of the police, who are still investigating some of the cases. Over 1,200 people were killed in the violence that erupted after the disputed presidential election results were announced on December 30, last year. Property worth billions of shillings was also destroyed in the mayhem that also displaced over 350,000 people.

Sources said Prime Minister, Raila Odinga and Agriculture minister, William Ruto had pushed for the release of thousands of youths arrested countrywide on grounds that the protests were political and the problem should be solved politically. Sources said their position was strongly opposed by Internal Security minister, George Saitoti and Justice minister, Martha Karua who said the law should not be thrown out through the window simply because the youths in questions were advancing the cause of a political party. According to the sources, tension was high because the ministers took strong positions.

It is understood that ministers allied to ODM had argued that for the country to heal from the wounds resulting from the violence over disputed presidential election results, the Government must begin to lead the way by pardoning the youths. This could explain why the President named the commission of inquiry soon after the stormy session. Said a statement by the Presidential Press Services: ?President Kibaki, being of the opinion that it is in the public interest to do so, has appointed members of the Commission of Inquiry into the post-election violence following the December 2007 elections.? Members of the commission are Mr Gavin Alistair McFayden, a former assistant police commissioner in New Zealand and a Congolese human rights lawyer Pascal Kambale.

Mr George Kegoro of the International Commission of Jurists Kenya chapter will serve as the secretary to the commission while lawyer David Majanja will be its counsel. The Cabinet also directed the police to move quickly and rank the offences allegedly committed by each of the youths in custody for scrutiny by the Waki commission. Said the PPS brief on the Cabinet meeting: ?The police should categorise in terms of the gravity (minor or major) the offences of all the cases of persons in custody, pending investigations for further consideration by the Cabinet; “that the due process of law should be respected and that there should be total impartiality in regard to investigations and prosecutions.?

It is understood there had been complaints that the youths were being persecuted by the Government for the atrocities that were also committed by the police, and it was feared that the police would not be impartial in their investigations. It was also argued that some of the youths were merely rounded up in the mayhem and placed in custody and should be released. On another matter, the meeting vetoed the move by MPs to form a grand opposition in Parliament on the grounds that it was unconstitutional and went against the spirit of the National Accord and Reconciliation Act that created the coalition Government.

A group of MPs led by Budalang?i lawmaker, Ababu Namwamba and his Lugari counterpart, Mr Cyrus Jirongo, were behind the move to put in place a recognised Official Opposition to put the Government in check.
A motion seeking to create the opposition has already sailed through the House and a Bill is being prepared for presentation in Parliament. The Government, however, is uncomfortable with the move, and has decided to veto it. The PPS statement also said the Cabinet meeting gave the green light to the pact for the country to host the secretariat of the Eastern Africa Standby Brigade coordination mechanism.

The brigade is part of the African Union Standby Force, which is a component of the continental peace and security initiative. The meeting also overruled an attempt to reclaim portfolios given to some ministries perceived to be more powerful than others. A Cabinet minister who sought anonymity told the Nation: ?We cannot allow underhand deals with some ministers who feel their ministries are empty.?

At the Ministry of Medical Services, there is pressure that health centres and dispensaries be managed by the Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation. In Education, it is felt that managing both primary and secondary education could be a heavy burden for one minister, but the minister retorted that since they were single ministries before, such claims would not hold. According to one source, one minister warned that if portfolios were reviewed again, the grand coalition would be at risk of collapsing. Ministries targeted for reduction of portfolio are Local Government, Education, Medical Services, Agriculture, Energy and Transport.

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African Press International – API

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Africa at large: New rice varieties boost Africa’s rice production, but…

Posted by African Press International on May 24, 2008

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

Lagos (Nigeria) – As African governments and tens of millions of poor African consumers faced a dangerous rice crisis in 2007, new rice varieties adapted to African conditions helped achieve a 6 percent increase in the continent’s output, the African Rice Centre (WARDA) said in a statement made available to PANA here Thursday.

The Cotonou-based centre said – in a report released in advance of a key international conference in Japan on Africa’s development – that though this represents a major advance, it was still far short of meeting demand. The new rice varieties, which are suited to drylands, were distributed and sown on more than 200,000 hectares during the last five years in several African countries, notably Guinea, Nigeria, Cte d’Ivoire and Uganda, according to the report.

The results of the New Rice for Africa (NERICA(R)) Project, which is funded by the African Development Bank, the Japanese government, and the United Nations Development Programme, will be discussed next week at the Fourth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD IV) in Yokohama, where world leaders and development experts are meeting for three days, starting 28 May, to talk about pressing development issues in Africa.

The gains from the new rice varieties came against a worrisome backdrop of rapidly increasing consumption of rice in Africa, which imports 40 percent of its rice. Africa Rice Trends, a report released earlier this year by the Africa Rice Centre, notes that rice production in West Africa ? the continent’s main rice belt ? increased 5.1 percent annually from 2001 to 2005, while consumption increased 6.5 percent annually during the same period.

Africa imports more than one-third of the rice traded in the world. In 2006, when prices were much lower, the region’s rice imports cost US$2 billion. “Relying so much on rice from other countries is a recipe for disaster for this continent,” said Dr. Papa Abdoulaye Seck, Director General of the Africa Rice Centre, one of 15 centres supported by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).
“Unless government leaders take strong action now, the economic recovery experienced in so many parts of Africa will evaporate. We need short- and long-term solutions that boost domestic rice production,” he said.

The Centre’s African Rice Initiative is managing the U$35 million, five-year project, which started in 2005. In less than three years, the project has shown tangible impact in seven countries ? Benin, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, Guinea achieved a record harvest of 1.4 million tonnes in 2007 ? 5 percent higher than in 2006 and the highest in its history, largely because of the government’s massive support for NERICA(R) dissemination. Domestic rice production now covers about 70 percent of consumption.

In Nigeria, the government announced that the country’s rice imports had declined from 2 million tonnes in 2003/04 to less than 1 million tonnes in 2005/06. And officials in Uganda reported that the country had reduced its rice importation from 60,000 tonnes in 2005 to 35,000 tonnes in 2007, saving Ugandans roughly U$30 million. The initiative has helped disseminate improved rice varieties in about 30 African countries, including post-conflict countries.

Overall, since 2005, the project has produced more than 10,000 tonnes of improved rice seed. Experts from the Africa Rice Centre estimate that 1 tonne of that seed is enough to plant 20 hectares of land. The project has trained 6,500 farmers, more than half of them women, to produce high-quality seed. In addition, the initiative has helped train 1,225 technicians. At the TICAD meeting, Africa Rice Centre experts will discuss the importance of boosting the continent’s agricultural production to increase food self-sufficiency and reduce reliance on imported food staples and food aid.

Researchers said that while people around the world have been feeling the impact of the soaring prices of key staples like rice and maize, no one has been hurt more than Africans. Over the last several months, food riots have broken out in several rice-importing countries in Africa. According to the Africa Rice Centre, the best option for Africa is to combine emergency responses in the short term with measures that favor sustainable expansion of the continent’s rice supply in the longer term.

Short-term measures include reduction of customs duties and taxes on imported rice and setting up mechanisms to avoid speculation in rice markets. At the same time, governments must avoid undermining incentives for domestic rice production. In the medium- and long-term, taxes on all critical inputs, cost-saving agricultural machinery and equipment as well as post-harvest technologies need to be reduced.

Governments should also facilitate access to financial services and credit for stakeholders in the domestic rice sector; increase investment in water-control technologies; expand rice areas under irrigation; increase investment in regional research capacity to support the development of rice varieties resistant to major pests and diseases and sufficiently robust to withstand drought and climate change-induced shocks; and boost investment in rural infrastructure to enhance rice farmers’ access to markets and capacity to respond to market signals.

The centre said Africa had proven capable of significantly increasing rice production before. From 1985 to 2005, production in West Africa more than doubled, from 2.76 million tonnes to 5.75 million. “We’re convinced that the future for rice farming lies in Africa,” Dr. Seck said. “This continent has more potential than any other area of the world because of its land and water resources. Our studies have found that local rice production under irrigated conditions can be as competitive as in Asia and much cheaper than in the USA.”

Meanwhile ahead of the meeting in Japan, the Chair of the Council of Ministers that has oversight responsibility for the Africa Rice Centre signed a declaration commending Japan’s long-term investment in science and technology toward sustainable development in Africa. In particular, the Council noted not only the current investment in high-yielding rice varieties, but also said that Japan had sent hundreds of agricultural scientists to Africa over the last few decades and contributed a total of U$593 million to the CGIAR since its inception in 1971. The Africa Rice Centre is an autonomous inter-governmental research association of African member states.

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Uganda: Corruption responsible for poor infrastructure (commentary)

Posted by African Press International on May 24, 2008

Publisher: Korir, africanpress@getmail.no source.Monitor (Uganda) Mbatau wa Ngai

Kampala (Uganda) – It is inexplicable for the government to say it doesn?t have money to fund vital public services in sanitation, water and health while sitting on its hands when it comes to prosecuting corrupt cases.

Reports from the World Bank that the country has been losing about Shs510 billion every year since 2005 to corruption are particularly distressing. That may explain why Ugandans empathize with Mr Niels Hjordal, the head of Programmes at Danida who criticised the government earlier in the week. The diplomat accused the government of adopting go-slow policies in its fight against corruption.

Mr Hjordal said corruption was still rampant in Uganda despite a wide-range of laws, regulations and institutions to fight it. The Ugandan experience demonstrates that whereas anti-corruption laws, regulations and institutions are important they are no substitute for action. This means the country?s top leadership must walk the talk of waging war against corruption if it is to be won. Failure to do so does not only lead to loss of huge public finances and the provision of second-rate public services but it also slows down private investment.

Worse, the youth learn that the road to wealth, leisure and conspicuous consumption is through corrupt practices making a mockery of hard work and honesty. The result is that few Ugandans, or even fewer foreigners, are ready to tie their money in long-term investments. Corruption also undermines the rule of law leading to even grater doubts about the future. The national motto then easily becomes ?come, let us eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.? This leads to the kind of reckless behaviour that is becoming all too common.

Worse, corruption also leads to the glorification of consumption over production. It is not uncommon to hear of foreign investors who change their mind after staying a few days in Kampala and instead of investing in industry they invest in casinos and in the imports of luxury goods. No country can develop by following such lop-sided policies. And no amount of talk about prosperity for all will make it happen without sustained savings and medium-to-long-term investments both in agriculture and industry. The hope is that the top leadership will see the danger of failing to rein in corruption before it is too late.

The leadership should understand that it is in its own best interest to lead the war against corruption by example and from the front. At the very minimum that should mean that any of their members found with sticky fingers is cut off from the rest and is prosecuted speedily. That ensures that the majority don?t become guilty of the vice by association. Our neighbours to the south, Tanzania, are showing a welcome determination to deal with the vice that has robbed them of development since independence. Let it be hoped that the local high command will follow suit.

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Burundi: Risks of fresh war as peace talks falter

Posted by African Press International on May 24, 2008

Publisher: Korir, africanpress@getmail.no source.Guardian (Nigeria)

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Posted by African Press International on May 24, 2008

Publisher: Korir, africanpress@getmail.no source.UN Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)

Abidjan (Cte d’Ivoire) – The country’s elections will be jeopardised if the government does not rein in members of the Student Federation of Cote d’Ivoire (FESCI), a violent youth group, Human Rights Watch warned on 21 May.

FESCI is “responsible for political and criminal violence, notably murders, aggression, extortion and rape,” HRW said in a statement on 21 May. “The impunity enjoyed by groups like FESCI has got to stop now in order to create a climate conducive to peaceful elections,” West Africa director Corinne Dufka said. HRW’s report linked FESCI violence and presidential elections which are scheduled for 30 November year, and will be a key test of Ivorian leaders’ commitment to peace in the country.

“The impunity enjoyed by these groups must stop now… to create a climate propitious for peaceful election,” the report said. Augustin Mian, secretary-general of FESCI, told IRIN the organisation rejects out of hand HRW’s accusations. “We realise that the means of fighting used in the past by FESCI were not good. But we have turned our back on that now.” FESCI was set up in 1990 and has a history of challenging the government of the day and even leading violent street clashes with the authorities. The organisation has been repeatedly banned as a result.

However many students insist that since 2002, when Cote d’Ivoire was split by a brief civil war, FESCI has transformed into a pro-government militia, with a mafia-like hold on the university that extends to quashing all support for parties other than the President Laurent Gbagbo’s Ivorian Popular Front (FPI).

The UN and national and international human rights groups including HRW have all accused FESCI, which they allege is aligned with President Laurent Gbagbo’s Ivorian Popular Front (FPI), of violence against students who support the opposition. Marcellin Aka, another FESCI official, denied that the organisation has political ties. “We don’t support any political party, and we have no idea how we are supposed to influence the elections,” he said.

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African Press International – API

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Zimbabwe: Mugabe Orders ‘warlike’ Campaign

Posted by African Press International on May 24, 2008

Publisher: Korir, africanpress@getmail.no source.Zimbabwe Independent (UK/Zimbabwe), by Dumisani Muleya

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Somalia: UN Has Lost Touch With the Reality in Country

Posted by African Press International on May 24, 2008

Publisher: Korir, africanpress@getmail.no source.

ANALYSIS ..Written by Ernest Mpinganjira – Nairobi

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stirred human rights activists in Eastern Africa when he announced last week that the Security Council was waiting for the chaos in troubled Somalia to subside before deploying 20,000-plus international peacekeepers.

US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW), which has chronicled gross violations of human rights since war broke out in Somalia, fired off criticism, accusing the council of insensitivity to the plight of those fleeing the country to safety.

HRW accused the Security Council of limiting its discussions mainly to political aspects of the conflict and neglecting human rights abuses in the conflict.

“The Security Council has repeatedly failed to take action to end these horrific abuses of civilians in Somalia. The council should strongly condemn abuses by all the warring parties, and it also needs to establish a commission to investigate and identify those responsible,” says Mr Georgette Gagnon, HRW Africa director.

In the meantime, Ki-moon appealed to AU early this month to maintain its lean force in the anarchic Horn of Africa nation, which has been submerged in civil strife since 1991.

HRW says further delays means Kenya, Eritrea, Tanzania, Uganda and Sudan will continue to pay the price for the savage killings in Somalia as the international community procrastinates.

The Somali crisis is a principal cause of instability in most parts of eastern Africa.

The chaos in the Horn of Africa provide a safe corridor through which small arms and light weapons pass into East and central Africa, which lends credence to the argument that the UN is not committed to restoration of stability in Somalia.

Ki-moon expressed optimism that as soon as the situation in Somalia improves, the UN would deploy more than 20,000 peacekeepers.

He asked AU to extend the mandate of the Amison (African Mission in Somalia) peacekeepers by six months upon expiry in August to enable the UN prepare for its overdue peacekeeping mission.

The 1,600 Amison troops, drawn mainly from Ugandan military, have been on a peace-keeping mission in Somalia for one year, prior to being joined by a contingent of 2,000 soldiers from Burundi this month.

The presence of the African Union force has done little to improve security in the Mogadishu, which is the commercial nerve centre of Somalia. Instead, Amison, which exists side by side with Ethiopian troops, is perceived as an occupation force and elicits strong resentment.

However, in its March-April newsletter, UN humanitarian agency, UNHCR, paints a gloomy picture of the word’s pariah nation. The report negates the UN chief’s optimism that there is likely to be a decline in the violence in Somalia.

UNHCR says in the newsletter: “Somalia (retains) dubious distinction of being the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today… Civilians bear the brunt of a protracted and dirty conflict that has destroyed thousands of lives and caused much suffering.”

The newsletter says it would be expecting too much to think of a sudden decline in fighting in the coming six months because “the parties to the conflict disregard basic international humanitarian law and human rights principles.”

“It is clear that the only way forward for Somalia and for the Somali people, is a commitment to political dialogue and the understanding that conflict and war will not solve the problems, but on the contrary, will aggravate them further,” UNHCR says in its assessment of the conflict that has displaced 700,000 residents of Mogadishu’s one million population in the past one year.

The residents have resigned to living through the horror of killings, destruction of property and an acute shortage of food.

Humanitarian situation

The apparent indifference of the Security Council is thus a source of concern as human rights organisations are of the opinion that it is not doing enough to restore peace in Somalia and the larger Eastern Africa.

HRW is concerned that the human rights and humanitarian situation in Mogadishu and south-central Somalia is dire.

HRW’s latest report says: “Thousands of civilians have been killed and injured since the conflict between Ethiopian and Somali government forces and insurgents escalated early last year. All parties to the conflict have been responsible for serious violations of the laws of war that amount to war crimes.

“On its part, UNHCR is seeking a commitment by the international community to end the chaos in the Horn of Africa.”

UNHCR’s position is a veiled criticism of the Security Council’s recent resolutions, which are no more than lip service to a situation that has been snowballing into potential threat to global security.

The Security Council policies on Somalia are cloaked in apathy and callous ambiguities.

Last week, the Security Council restated its previous resolutions on women, peace and security and stressed the responsibility of all parties and armed groups in Somalia to take appropriate steps to protect the civilian population.

As if to confirm its dangerous aloofness to the suffering in Somalia, the Security Council said the militia groups’ conduct should be “consistent with international humanitarian law, human rights and refugee law, in particular by avoiding any indiscriminate attacks on populated areas.”

The call elicited a strong criticism from HRW, with its Africa director Gagnon saying: “The Security Council needs to send a clear message that crimes committed in Somalia will not go unpunished. Establishing an international commission of inquiry will send that signal to all the warring parties, including the Ethiopians.”

Nothing short of a strong international intervention will lift Somalia from the ravages of war, he said.

But the Security Council appeared oblivious of this when it said it supported “ongoing humanitarian relief efforts in Somalia…protection of humanitarian and United Nations personnel.”

Its call on “all parties and armed groups in Somalia to take appropriate steps to ensure the safety and security of Amisom and humanitarian personnel and grant timely, safe and unhindered access for the delivery of humanitarian assistance to all those in need,” presupposes that there is order in the country.

While it is a fact the Somali imbroglio cannot be ended with a single stroke, the Security Council must begin walking the talk. Somalia is a blot on the conscience of eastern Africa that must be ordered to give Africa a much-needed makeover in the human rights realm.

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African Press International – API

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COMMENTARY – Terror made in Somalia: Why Kenya is in the line of fire

Posted by African Press International on May 24, 2008

Publisher: Korir, africanpress@getmail.no source.

BY YUKABETH CHEPKONGA

THE BORDER BETWEEN KENYA and Somalia is a long strip of land. Somalia has a long history of chaos and civil war. Kenya, on the other hand, is trying to maintain its national security against constant threats of terrorism spilling over from its neighbour.

The border area is where hordes of refugees from Somalia have streamed to escape chaos in their homeland. Overwhelming masses have converged there, creating a humanitarian crisis.

Huge numbers of people are forced to live in depressing conditions, with insufficient resources. The influx of refugees has compounded Kenyas security concerns, because many of them are streaming into the country unfiltered and unchecked for possible terrorist leanings.

THE KENYA POLICE FORCE HAS singled out the Somalia border as a major challenge in the countrys efforts against terrorism. The country has invested substantial resources to patrolling the border to curb terrorist acts. The cost of acquiring the technology and equipment to screen and detect criminals, particularly at airports and other points of entry, is prohibitive.

In place of technological solutions, Kenya has implemented new security procedures such as requiring all chartered cargo aircraft departing Somalia to land at Wajir for inspection before proceeding to Nairobi. The planes are also prohibited from returning any passengers to Somalia.

Maintaining the borders integrity has become even more difficult since the fall of the Islamic Courts Union in Somalia and the rise of insurgency.

The radical group, with known ties to al Qaeda, ruled Mogadishu and much of southern Somalia last year until they were driven out by the combined forces of the Somalia interim government and Ethiopia.

Remnants of the group have launched an Iraqi-style insurgency with near-daily roadside bombs, land mines and grenade attacks. The new warfare has placed additional hardship on Somalis, as many more are being forced from their homes and are heading to Kenya.

The insurgency generally aims its attacks at Somali troops and their Ethiopian allies, but civilians are often wounded or killed as well. The insurgents, dressed in civilian clothes, take aim at soldiers. Unable to recognise them, the soldiers fire back, and often, innocent civilians are caught in the crossfire.

Civilians also do not know when an attack is imminent. Bombs thrown by insurgents usually hiss a few seconds before going off. Soldiers have been trained to recognise the sound and take cover. Civilians suffer the consequences.

The seemingly endless stream of civilian deaths is shocking, even in bloodstained Mogadishu. Pregnant women, elderly people, and even entire families have been victims of the violence.

Last month, five children stopped to play with a toy they spotted in the street. The toy turned out to be a land mine. Before they had realised their mistake, the device exploded, killing all five.

More than 6,000 civilians were killed by insurgents linked to terrorist groups last year. Officials refuse to say how many troops were wounded or killed, but witness reports indicate the numbers are far fewer than those of civilians.

Recently, there were reports of six insurgents with pistols executing a blindfolded captive on a Mogadishu street. He was suspected of spying for government forces. A second victim was killed in the ensuing crossfire. At least 25 people were killed in Mogadishu in less than a week.

Mortar bombs damaged parts of Bakara, and sustained fighting broke out in other parts of the city. Some Somalis say the insurgents have grown increasingly confident, while the interim government has been hobbled by in-fighting.

THE GOVERNMENT SAYS THE AL Qaeda-linked insurgents are backed by 4,500 foreign jihadists from Afghanistan, Chechnya and the Middle East.

The toll exacted by the insurgency has been high. In addition to the thousands killed, more have been forced to head for the Kenya border to seek refuge.

In December, seven people were arrested in Nairobi and Mombasa on suspicion of bringing grenades and pistols over the border from Somalia. It was unclear what targets they had in mind, but police are certain a terrorist attack was part of their plan.

In Somalia, the fighting continues between government forces and insurgents sympathetic to the radicals. And in Kenya, the threat of terrorism spilling over the Somali border remains a major source of concern.

Ms Chepkonga is a development security consultant on Africa conflicts.

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African Press International – API

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South Africa Glimpse into the shape of government after Mbeki (commentary)

Posted by African Press International on May 24, 2008

Publisher: Korir, africanpress@getmail.no source.Business Day (South Africa), by Karima Brown

Calls by the South African Communist Party (SACP) for President Thabo Mbeki to step down have hogged the headlines ? and will almost certainly feature at today?s meeting of the African National Congress?s (ANC?s) national executive committee meeting.

But it is the SACP?s call for a major reorganisation of the state that is likely to provide a glimpse into what a post-Mbeki government might look like.

Its proposals have not yet been formally discussed within the ANC, but they provide some insight into the thinking of an increasingly influential ally in the ANC-led tripartite alliance and could point to changes to how the state functions, when Jacob Zuma assumes office next year. Many of the proposals floated at the recent alliance summit enjoy broad support among the ANC?s power brokers and, if accepted, could have far-reaching implications for the shape of the government after next year?s elections.

Efforts to restructure the government and state departments are, of course, nothing new. In 2005, the Mbeki administration tried to streamline government departments and ministries, but with little success. Instead, what we saw was a bloated presidency that usurped most policy functions from line departments and got bogged down during the critical implementation phase. Then there was much talk about the possibility of creating so called ?super ministries?, especially in the economic cluster ministries, but in the end little came of the idea.

The crisis of governance in SA is essentially a crisis of choice between two models of development and, flowing from that, what sort of governance and state structure is best suited to deliver on SA?s social development goals. The SACP?s push for an overhaul of the state should thus be located in this paradigm. There is broad agreement about what the development goals are, and they were best articulated in the declaration of the Growth and Development Summit. Among them is to halve unemployment and increase foreign and domestic investment. While the summit gave the vision for development, the detail ? which has largely been left to the government to fill in ? has been bedeviled by many kinds of upheavals. This reflects the fact that filling in the detail involves making ideologically driven choices not inherent in the goals articulated by the summit?s developmental vision.

Hence, we have today?s dichotomy between what the government refers to as the ?developmental state? on the one hand, and the belief of many social activists, and even within the tripartite alliance, in a socially embedded ?democratic state?. The modes of operation inherent in both these state models are at the heart of the tension between the government and communities over service delivery. The SACP?s proposal for the development of high-level ?planning capacity? in the state can be seen as a response to what it regards as the shortcomings in the government?s developmental state.

While the SACP argues that such ?planning capacity? be situated in the Presidency, ANC insiders have also floated the idea of creating a separate ?central planning ministry?, which would cut across line functions to drive the developmental agenda of the state. While the nitty gritty of this idea is likely to still be the subject of much debate, there appears to be convergence around the idea that this planning capacity should be able to co-ordinate, discipline and harmonise key strategic interventions, aligning infrastructure, industrial policy, energy policy, macroeconomic stability, safety and security, and international relations and trade. ?It can?t be that the president gets briefed only at cabinet level. You need a mechanism that cuts across departments in order to boost and build the capacity of the developmental state,? says SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande.

The call for the reorganisation of government departments, including a proposal that the minerals and energy department and the agriculture and land affairs department each be split into two departments, is also likely to find a sympathetic ear. SA?s energy crises and its attendant challenges give currency to those who argue that energy is a strategic resource that should be run as a standalone ministry. The SACP?s view on splitting some departments has already found support among ANC leaders, many of whom are also calling for a restructuring of the education ministry. Some suggest SA should follow the Canadian model, which separates higher education off into a standalone ministry, as a possible solution to dealing with SA?s education challenges.

However, all of these proposals are based on the notion that the state has the capacity to drive these initiatives, when this is simply not the case. The dearth of skills across provinces and in the municipalities will hamper efforts to reconfigure state departments, never mind creating new ones. The constitutional requirements on equity employment also pose huge challenges. But the push for a developmental state paradigm also needs to be interrogated. To date, the government has never formally defined what it means when it refers to a ?developmental state?, which makes a dispassionate evaluation of the concept and its use in the South African context difficult.

Under Mbeki, it was possible to glean from throwaway remarks and policy directions that the South African ?developmental state? places a great degree of emphasis on technical intervention. Its philosophy of operation is managerial and top-down, allowing minimal buy-in, and is distrustful of popular participation. It is instructive that developmental state models come from the east ? from Japan?s postwar military regime-driven economic boom, to the later rise of the Asian tigers. All these countries were examples of stellar but exclusively state-driven economic growth. Socially and culturally, they are countries without SA?s deep participatory culture, nor its history of popular struggle. They therefore provide an authoritarian state model totally unsuited to SA?s conditions, which leaves many puzzled about why a government born from deeply democratic roots should be determined to import this centralist development strategy. There is, after all, no shortage of alternative development paths.

The social democracies of western Europe were fashioned from traditions of popular involvement that are far closer to our own history. Project Consolidate, which is the government?s flagship strategy to rescue municipalities from collapse, is a prime example of the commandist approach. While it has had some success and made good on its promise of delivery, there is the danger that the government equates delivery with democracy. This has led to it falling victim to a legitimacy and credibility crisis caused by the top-down approach and the limitations inherent in parachuting technical support in to often political problems.

Advocates of the democratic state argue that this localised conflict would not be a feature of our politics if the government involved citizens in a participatory system that went beyond electing representatives, but encompassed also the policy-making process that state technocrats currently guard jealously for themselves. The People?s Budget Campaign is an example of this alternative policy making model, in which social advocacy groups present workable budget choices and are required to do more than present the treasury with their annual wish list.

While there is merit in this argument, in a policy environment characterised by this binary logic, it is possible to romanticise public participation. The result of this approach is often ?process paralysis?, in which the government is unable to act ? not because of a lack of democratic buy-in, but because its actions will imperil power arrangements and illegitimate, but vested, interests. If we accept the need for a greater state role in ensuring SA reaches its development goals, then the nature of the state at all levels needs to be transformed. The community mobilisation seen recently around service delivery is proof that ordinary people are eager to fashion their own development path, in partnership with whatever government they elect.

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African Press International – API

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South Africa: “The Poor Have Turned on the Poor”

Posted by African Press International on May 24, 2008

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

Cape Town (South Africa) – Upwards of 40 people are said to have been killed and some 15,000 displaced in South Africa during more than a week of violence directed mainly against foreigners. IPS reporter Stephanie Nieuwoudt asked Prince Mashele, head of the Crime, Justice and Politics Programme at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), for his views on these developments.

The attacks started in the poor Johannesburg settlement of Alexandra, one of the so-called townships established to house black, mixed race and Indian people during years of racial segregation in the country. Within a week, the violence had spread beyond South Africa’s economic capital to the provinces of KwaZulu-Natal in the south-east, and Mpumalanga in the north-east. There has been widespread condemnation of the attacks, variously blamed on poverty, unemployment, and rising prices for food and fuel. Migrants are often accused of taking jobs away from South Africans, and of involvement in the extensive crime that continues to plague the country.

As many as five million foreigners reportedly live in South Africa, which has a population of almost 50 million. Most of the migrants are believed to be from neighbouring Zimbabwe, where political and economic turmoil has prompted an exodus of nationals. Amidst fears that the police were failing to contain the violence, President Thabo Mbeki this week gave the nod for army intervention in troubled areas.

IPS: Why did these attacks happen now? People have been unhappy for some time about issues like joblessness and poverty and there have been reports of attacks on foreigners, but never on this scale.
?The poor in South Africa have no jobs or decent housing. There is also a concern about escalating crime. Based on this, the atmosphere becomes friendly for opportunists to engage in violence, and this escalates into criminality and hooliganism — and opportunists exploit the situation by looting, thieving and beating up victims.

Then there is the issue of trying to find solutions to problems. Poor people spread the message to other poor people that they are in dire circumstances because of foreigners who take their jobs and who contribute to the high crime rate in this country. This may or may not be true.

IPS: Government officials have said that South Africans should remember that supporters of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) were welcomed in neighbouring states during apartheid, when the party was banned — and with this in mind, treat foreigners well. Will people have any sympathy with such appeals at a time when government is often accused of failing to provide basic services, housing, jobs and the like?
? There is no question that the people are not happy with the performance of government. But we should not analyse the situation by using 1994 as the point of departure. (The ANC won power in 1994; this year also marked the advent of democracy in South Africa.)

There has been a historic chain of events that pre-date 1994, and which has led to the poverty of the majority of the people. The lack of education goes back a long way to policies implemented under the previous regimes. It could be that the current government is caught in a trap set by the previous government. There is a limit to what the government can do: it is not possible to employ all the people in the country.
It is also true that many African countries hosted the ANC leadership during the freedom struggle. Without this help, the leaders would not have been able to win the struggle. There is, therefore, a moral obligation on South Africa to help people from other African countries. But it is a responsibility that the government should take on, as the leadership was looked after by other governments during the struggle.

IPS: What can be done to address the root causes of the violence?
? The violence can only be stopped through the leadership of the broad political spectrum. This entails a vision for the future and getting communities to understand that the government will address their problems.
It is of the utmost importance that the poor get housing, water, roads etc. A sense of hope has to be created. If there is no hope, people do not take responsibility for their actions. There is a large body of predominantly black, uneducated people who have not been absorbed into the economy. The means should be created for them to be absorbed. They should not be given houses, but an opportunity to earn money through which they are empowered to buy their own houses.

A strong law enforcement component is needed to ensure stability, and in the long and medium term, education has to be stepped up.

The Department of Home Affairs needs to come to the party. We have millions of foreigners in this country. I cannot understand why Home Affairs has not set up refugee camps…(perhaps) because they did not want to send out a message to potential refugees that they will be welcomed here. It could also be that government wanted to avoid the cost implications of establishing refugee camps. But if the choice is between spending money and violence, I prefer the first option.

The question arises: if the politicians suddenly found themselves living next to hundreds of hungry, homeless and unemployed immigrants, how soon would they have established refugee camps?

The onus is on the government in power to regulate the movement of foreigners into South Africa. We have a war situation where the poor have turned on the poor.

IPS: Although there are many Zimbabweans in the country, it is often attacks on Somalis that make the headlines. Why?
? It could be because the Zimbabweans and other foreigners keep a relatively low profile. In contrast, Somalis are very visible. They open shops and many seem to do quite well.

IPS: The army has been deployed. Was this a wise decision?
? By sending in the army, the president wants to send a message to the world that he is serious. Personally, I believe there are other avenues which could have been followed. These include sending in the special forces of the police, which are trained to deal with extreme cases of violence.

I believe sending in the army is a political statement. The army can succeed in calming the violence, in which case Mbeki will be lauded. But it can also have the opposite effect: the masses can become really angry and retaliate by throwing stones and shooting at soldiers. This will lead to chaos and destabilise the country as happened in the 1980s during apartheid. In this case, Mbeki will come under fire and be severely criticised.

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South Africa: Xenophobia the ‘perfect excuse’ to commit crime

Posted by African Press International on May 24, 2008

Publisher: Korir, africanpress@getmail.no source.South African Press Association (SAPA)

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Posted by African Press International on May 24, 2008

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How is the struggle for water, such as in Ethiopia and Kenya, shaping conflicts in this century?

Posted by African Press International on May 24, 2008

To the Editor
African Press International:

Hi, my name is Brian Mahoney and I’m writing on behalf of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, a non-profit news organization thatpromotes in-depth coverage of under-reported international issues. We enjoy your site and have noticed your reports on water scarcity in Africa.

We were wondering if you could post the following information on one of your blogs about a contest we are holding regarding this topic.

We are sponsoring the Pulitzer Center Global Issues/Citizen Voicescontest onHelium.com, an online writing website.The contest is calling for independent voices to answer questions based on our international reporting. Our latest contest has a question that might interest you and your readership. The question is:

The deadline to enter is May 30. To enter, visitors can just click on a question above and submit an essay to Helium. Essays will be judged byother Helium users and staff here at the Pulitzer Center.
We really appreciate the work you do and your efforts to promote sustainable development. Please let your visitors and any other individuals know about this opportunity to get their thoughts heard on this pressing question by posting a short blurb on your blog. Thanks so much for passing this on and please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns.
We would also appreciate if you added us to your links section, if possible.

Thanks so much-

Brian

Brian Mahoney
Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting
1779 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Ste. 615
Washington, DC 20036
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African Press International – api

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Kenya: Killers must not be given amnesty

Posted by African Press International on May 24, 2008

By Chris Mwaura

Last week Itravelled to Timboroa in the Rift Valley to witness my aunt, a long time resident ofChagaiyaVillage, bury her husband who met his grisly death as he attempted to escape from chanting marauders disguised as political agitators. My aunt is now an IDP at Chagaiya Anglican Church. Since her husband was killed in a savage attack during which his head and upper torso were hacked off with a machete, I had neither visited my aunt nor had I sought full details about how her husband met his death. Until this moment the remains of the deceased had lain about two feet beneath the surface in a gunia (gunny bag) where he was buried by terrified neighbours as they fled at the height of the Rift Valley massacres.

Until I listened to her story and accounts of other IDPs at Chagaiya, I had all along lived, as is the case with many other Kenyans, in a fools’ paradise. The image I had conjured of the fate that befell IDPs in December 2007 and January this year was from the snippets I have been reading, listening to and watching in the press. I must admit that my mind until last week had entertained a far less severe situation compared to what I heard and witnessed.

Among the IDPs sheltered at Chagaiya I witnessed and heard horrendous accounts. I learned of acts so atrocious they can only sound like high-fiction to anyone who has not interacted one-on-one with victims of the attacks. Men as old as 80 years had their limbs severed, mothers died as a result of mob rape and loved ones were interred with arrows-ends lodged in their skulls. The things done to the people who are either now dead or dispossesses defy expression and can only be understood by visiting, seeing and listening first-hand.

I heard stories about iron sheets carted away from the roofs of burnt-down houses and presently used to roof the attackers’ homes. I found it particularly disturbing that an attacker who takes away the lives of his neighbours and drives the family to the devil knows where would have the temerity to use charred iron sheets from his former neighbour’s house to roof his own abode. Not unless he wishes to house the devil’s principalities and minions in such a dwelling!

Even worse, some of the perpetrators and inciters of the bestial attacks, including local-level administrators and politicians, though known, are still mingling freely with the victims. Some are bold enough to gloat to the IDPs that nothing will happen even if they report them to the government.

Of all those who were targeted for ‘uprooting’, the saddest case is that of Mzee Njuguna whose story I first heard in the media when he recently returned to Chagaiya to bury seven members of his family killed in the span of half an hour at the peak of the violence. I did not have the courage to nor did I wish to meet Mzee Njuguna who I am told had lived in Chagaiya for 40 years with his family among the very same human beasts who massacred his family.

Nothing can convince my aunt to return to her plot. Now I understand why. She cannot possibly return. Not when the people who slaughtered her husband will be her neighbours. She told me that the very thought of living next door to the person who took away her husbands life is like a death sentence; it would remind her daily of an event she would rather die than be reminded of every morning.

I must confess that before I traveled to see my aunt, I did not have any qualms telling anyone why forgiveness was the panacea Kenyans need to forge ahead and create new brotherhoods and a conscience for the greater good of the nation. I even entertained the thought of amnesty for those arrested as an option.

After what I witnessed and heard, I am totally convinced that granting amnesty for the perpetrators of such inhuman acts is itself criminal. Any human being who would not have a problem slitting open his or her neighbour’s throat, skinning a four-year old, and separating the human head from the rest of the body with a machete, then stealing the neighbour’s domestic animals (including their mongrels and half-wild cats) must carry the very devil’s DNA.

It is painful to realize that such grand butchery of human beings took place as a result of a massive hate crusade led by the same politicians now swiveling away in air-conditioned ministerial offices. The hate crusade was backed by the heavy though for the most part subliminal messaging by an extremely partisan local media. The most active of all were fm stations (as indeed were politicians) whose sympathy base was mainly in the Rift Valley and to a lesser extent, Nyanza. Yet no one has interrogated the cabal of our so-called national leaders who doused inflammable ethnic hate upon Kenyans and went right ahead to breathe fire over them in cahoots with their lackeys in the media!

As we helped my aunt bury her husband, the very same mouthpieces and their preferred media channels were still shamelessly chorusing amnesty! Are they cursed

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African Press International – api

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