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Archive for June 21st, 2008

As a citizen, Kabuga look-alike must be treated with respect

Posted by African Press International on June 21, 2008

Story by PETER MWAURA | FAIR PLAY

The arrest, detention and bundling from one police station to another of Dr Charles Nyandwi on suspicion that he was the elusive Rwanda genocide suspect, millionaire Felicien Kabuga, was wasted labour.

It was also a violation of the personal liberties of an innocent Kenyan citizen.

The mathematics professor was never in hiding and all the relevant information about him has been in the possession of the authorities since 1995.

For the police to wake up one morning and start hunting him down as Kabuga boggles the mind.

Dr Nyandwi teaches at the University of Nairobi, whose administration offices are a stones-throw from Central police station.

He is a Kenyan citizen by registration or naturalisation, which means he underwent an elaborate vetting system.

THE IMMIGRATION DEPARTMENT has a dossier on him. There was no good reason, therefore, why the police went on a futile pursuit and search.

The only two living things that are identical are peas in a pod, not human-beings.

A well-trained police detective would not have gone on such a wild-goose chase or mistaken Dr Nyandwi for Kabuga.

As a former Cabinet minister in Rwanda and an intellectual, Dr Nyandwi has been living in Kenya openly for nearly 14 years, teaching at two universities and interacting with students and the public.

He is the vice-chairman of the executive committee of the Rwandan Diaspora in Kenya, and since 1998, he has been a member of the Academic Affairs Committee of the University of Nairobi.

He got his Kenyan citizenship after an open and above-board process that needs an application to the Immigration minister, which must be verified by a declaration made before a magistrate or the commissioner for oaths.

The minister runs a check on such applicants to ensure one is of good character and that he would be a suitable citizen of Kenya.

Even if Dr Nyandwi resembled Kabuga, the police should have known he was not Kabuga whom they know very well.

On July 19, 1997, when they arrested seven other Rwandan genocide suspects in Nairobi in a dramatic raid code-named Operation NAKI (Operation Nairobi-Kigali), Kabuga escaped the dragnet because one of them leaked to him information about the impending raid.

He was protected by people with police connections.

The police should also have known that the immigration department revoked Kabugas Kenya residence permit in 1997.

Therefore, there was no way he, or his incarnation, could have dared to take up a job as a university teacher in Nairobi and obtained Kenyan citizenship without risking detection, no matter how clever the disguise or camouflage.

Besides, Kabugas identity has been publicly circulated for years.

He also has a $5 million (Sh315 million) prize on his head and there are many takers who would have long ago turned him in for the money if he was freely available in the streets of Nairobi.

The police heavy-handedness, indiscretion and much ado about nothing is inexcusable.

They owe Dr Nyandwi a public apology for the violation of his rights. He has the right to be treated with respect, just like any other Kenyan citizen, even if he is a Kabuga look-alike.

And Immigration minister Otieno Kajwang should stop threatening Dr Nyandwi with revoking his citizenship if, as he says, he finds that he has a case to answer in Rwanda or before the International Criminal Tribunal in Arusha, as one newspaper reported.

In the eyes of the world, Mr Kajwang is cheapening the Kenya citizenship by making it appear as if it can be revoked by his whimsical acts.

In any case, the minister has no powers to carry out his threat. Dr Nyandwi became a citizen of Kenya according to the citizenship law, which is set out in Chapter VI of the Constitution of Kenya and the Kenya Citizenship Act.

IT IS TRUE THAT, ACCORDING TO the law, the minister makes all the decisions to grant or refuse citizenship.

He also enjoys discretionary powers and is not required to give reasons for the grant or rejection of an application for citizenship.

But once he grants the citizenship, the minister cannot take it away, except by an order published in the Kenya Gazette if he is satisfied that the citizen has shown himself by act or speech to be disloyal or disaffected towards Kenya.

The minister can deprive the person of his citizenship if during any war in which Kenya was engaged, he unlawfully dealt with or assisted the enemy.

There are other reasons, which we need not go into.

What is certain is that the good professor cannot be deprived of his citizenship merely because he is wanted by Rwanda or the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

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API.source.nation.ke

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NINTH SUMMIT OF THE EAST AFRICAN COMMUNITY TO BE HELD IN KIGALI , 26 JUNE 2008

Posted by African Press International on June 21, 2008

PRESS RELEASE

East African Community Headquarters, Arusha, 21 June 2008:

The five EAC Heads of State President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni of Uganda , President Mwai Kibaki of Kenya , President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete of Tanzania , President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and President Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi will attend the Summit Meeting.

During the 9th Summit, the EAC Heads of State will receive a Progress Report of the Council of Ministers of the East African Community on the activities of the EAC undertaken over the past one year period and review the overall programme of the Community in the period ahead of the implementation of the 3rd EAC Development Strategy ( 2006-2010). The Heads of State will also make appointments of new Judges of the East African Court of Justice.

The Heads of State Summit will be immediately followed by a Summit Retreat which will focus on the development of regional infrastructure which the EAC has prioritized in its programme. The EAC Council of Ministers has adopted plans of action which will be discussed at the Summit Retreat in Kigali , examining in depth the infrastructure deficits in the region and determining the ways and means to address the deficits expeditiously. The plans of action encompass modernization, extension and development of railways and road networks, lake transport on Lake Victoria and Lake Tanganyika , ports and harbours, civil aviation, telecommunications and energy.

Directorate of Corporate Communications and Public Affairs,

East African Community (EAC), Arusha International Conference Centre, 5th floor Kilimanjaro Wing, P.O. Box 1096 Arusha, Tanzania, Tel: (255) – 27 – 2504253/8; Fax (255) – 2504255;E-mail: eac@eachq.org; Web: www.eac.int

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API

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Barack Hussein Obama Did Not Visit With Cousin Ralia Odinga From Kenya

Posted by African Press International on June 21, 2008

Are they really related or someone is telling a lie in an effort to power-ride? And if related, so what, and what does it have to do with world politics.?

Kenya’s Prime Minster Raila Odinga arrived into Washington this week for a 3 day visit but his cousin Barack Hussein Obama was too busy to meet with him. Photo: API

When Barack Hussein Obama was in Kenya in 2006, Obama campaigned on his behalf to such an extent that the Government of Kenya, made a formal complaint to the State Department.

More here from Chicagoans Against Obama

Rev. Jim Sutter is in a tizzy that I have called Barack Hussein Obama “Barry” so now he should be happy that I am using his full name.

Now Obama whose name is being highlighted as “Hussein Obama” why did he dress this way in Africa and not in the USA ? Are the American People Ready for a Black Muslim President ?

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African Press International – api

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Forgiveness in politics: a key pillar in our healing is being truthfull and remorsefull

Posted by African Press International on June 21, 2008

A Standard.ke By Njonjo MueAs Kenya sets up a Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission, it is important to reflect on the
meaning of forgiveness in politics and its role in helping a society to break with a painful past and move towards a hopeful future.

Forgiveness is key in reconciliation. It means foregoing that which we become entitled to by virtue of being unjustly treated.

While the most natural reaction to anyone who has been unjustly treated is revenge, it is also the most destructive as it enslaves both the victim and the perpetrator in a vicious cycle of hatred and violence.

Irreversibility

Writer Hannah Arendt calls this spiral of vengeance the predicament of irreversibility, which is the inability to undo what one has done.

She argues that if our harmful deeds could be undone, then revenge would be unnecessary since undoing them would suffice.

But as they cannot be undone, revenge seems almost irresistible. According to Arendt, the only way out is forgiveness.

However, while forgiveness is vital, it should neither be cheapened nor offered without requiring anything on the part of the perpetrator.

South Africas Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu put it succinctly when he said: “Forgiveness and being reconciled are not about pretending that things are other than they are. It is not patting one another on the back and turning a blind eye to the wrong.

“True reconciliation exposes the awfulness, the abuse, the degradation, the truth. Spurious reconciliation can only bring spurious healing.”

Meaningful reconciliation must, therefore, be vigilant against those advancing an agenda of impunity in the name of forgiveness; neither should it be taken for granted that those wronged will want to forgive. Forgiveness cannot be imposed on them, but conditions can be created to make forgiveness easier.

The notion of forgiveness in politics has been dismissed by some who claim that forgiveness is essentially a private or religious phenomenon.

Writer Gregory Jones captures this view when he writes “it is assumed that forgiveness cannot effectively respond to the pervasive darkness that characterises the world.

“At most, forgiveness can offer private, personal consolation amid the most pervasive and public necessity of force and violence; any significant politics of forgiveness has been eclipsed by the darkness of the world.”

Although violence and revenge do at times seem to dominate the political landscape, it cannot be argued that forgiveness has no place in the public arena.

Leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr and Nelson Mandela and the movements they led give the lie to any such assertion. Forgiveness is far too important a virtue in human affairs to be confined to the private sphere.

Although there is certainly a distinction between personal and political forgiveness, there is certainly a dialectic that makes the two mutually enforcing.

As South African writer John De Gruchy points out: “There are alternative ways of pursuing politics than those that spawn the spiral of violence and escalate into war, ways that build on a commitment to moral accountability, pardon and reparation.

“And in a paradoxical way, these ways serve the long-term interests of the common good.”

One vexed question when it comes to forgiveness in politics is, who should forgive? While some people argue that only the direct victims should have the right to forgive and that no one else should have the right to forgive on their behalf, others argue that society may assume the right to forgive perpetrators for the greater good.

In South Africa, some aggrieved families took the Truth and Reconciliation Commission looking into apartheid crimes to court arguing that it had no right to extend amnesty to perpetrators.

They lost the case as the court argued that this was the price everyone had to pay for a peaceful transition to democracy and the most efficacious way of establishing the truth about the past.

Right to forgive

Whether the State should have the right to forgive over the heads of objecting citizens will remain a controversial issue to be dealt with on a case by case basis depending on prevailing political circumstances.

While it is hard for collectives either to repent or forgive, without either repentance or forgiveness, the way to justice is closed, especially in situations where the entail of history cannot be closed, where it is impossible for past injuries to be cured or full restitution to be made. In such cases, justice can only be established through forgiveness.

Forgiveness in politics is, therefore, not just desirable; in many instances, it is a practical necessity if a society is to move forward. It should, however, not be cheap forgiveness where injustices are allowed to fester on unattended.

Genuine forgiveness does not trivialise the past or ignore injustice. It is about bringing peace to the past for the sake of the present and the future and enables society to move forward into new and meaningful relationships.

It is also about building trustworthy and sustainable structures and providing secure social spaces for people.

When properly done, forgiveness in politics emphasises the healing aspect of reconciliation and opens the door for the perpetrators to be welcomed back into the community fold thereby helping to move society forward to a new future.

The writer is the principal human rights officer with the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights

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Fury over IPO refunds – Refunds chaotic in Kenya, may lead to corruption

Posted by African Press International on June 21, 2008

A Nation.ke Story by FRED MUKINDA and JOSEPH BONYO

Kenyans who have spent days queuing for refunds after the Safaricom IPO expressed outrage on Thursday over delays in refunding their money.

Investors queue to collect their refund cheques after the Safaricom IPO in Nairobi on Thursday. Many protested at the delays even as the Central Bank gave a new directive on cash for cheques. Photos/STEPHEN MUDIARI and FAITH NJUGUNA

Businessmen, workers and students who had hoped to get a share of East Africas most profitable company expressed anger over the delays in processing their refunds. Some said they were either required to wait in long queues or visit their stockbrokers offices more than once before being issued with the cheques.

Others said it had been easier to apply for the shares compared to getting the refunds. Mr Job Kariuki, 36, an insurance broker in Nairobi said he went to the Dyer and Blair offices four times before he got his cheque on Thursday.

On Wednesday last week, he found the queue was too long and had to turn back. This is my fourth time here, he said.

Ms Evelyne Ambala, 24, an accountant at a city firm had applied for shares worth Sh10,000 with Standard Investment Bank at the ICEA Building. She was finally refunded Sh7,500 on Thursday. I came here on the first day but I could not afford to wait in the line… I had to wait until the number of people reduced, she said.

A the Suntra Investiment Bank on Moi Avenue, Ms Esther Wasike avoided going to collect her cheque until Thursday. She had applied for shares worth Sh50,000 but she received a Sh39,000 cheque. Ms Wasike, an accountant, excused herself from work thrice but on all occasions, she gave up because the queue was too long and was moving slowly.

Even as the queues became shorter on Thursday, others with a tighter schedule stayed away hoping the service time would reduce by next week.

Ms Lillian Wawira, a student at the University of Nairobi, has not gone for her refund at Dyer and Blair. As I passed on Loita street on Thursday I noticed there was a queue though it was not very long but am keen not to waste even a minute, she said.

The Central Bank and CMA have directed the lead receiving banks in the IPO to encash refund cheques of upto Sh10,000. The directive is expected to ease the confusion that has marred the refund process.

However, the lead banks Citibank, Equity Bank, National Bank and Post Bank will have to ensure that sufficient proof is obtained from the investors before the money is released to them.

In a joint statement, CBK and CMA also indicated that they were in talks with the authorised selling agents in the offer to ensure that the process was speeded up through deployment of additional resources, read the statement.

Investors have been complaining about the process that has seen hundreds of them spend long hours sometimes days in queues to get their cheques. However, selling agents who are issuing the cheques blamed the delays on the need to obtain sufficient proof from investors, while some did not have sufficient workers to handle the investors.

Standard Investment Bank director of research, Mr Job Kihumba said the CBK directive of encashing cheques would only be a relief to investors without bank accounts.

And while addressing a Budget review meeting in Nairobi on Thursday, Mr Steve Lugalia, the chairman of Institute of Certified Public Accountants, said the buck of the refunds fiasco stopped with the CBK, CMA and stockbrokers. Experiences of the KenGen IPO should have given a better indication on how to handle this refund process, said Mr Lugalia.

To avert cases of fraud and abuse, the CBK had advised against the endorsement of the cheques. Endorsing the cheques in favour of the stockbroker amounts to taking deposits a role that the brokers are not authorised to undertake by the CBK, the statement from Central Bank said.

The share offer attracted over 800,000 investors. The refund cheques were released to the agents on Monday, June 9.

In the IPO, the Government issued 25 per cent of its stake in Safaricom, equivalent to 10 billion shares. It had planned to raise Sh50 billion through the IPO, to finance various development programmes.

The application was however oversubscribed by 532 per cent, raising some Sh236 billion. This lead to an excess Sh150 billion, which was to be refunded to all the clusters of investors.

According to Finance minister Amos Kimunya, the success recorded by the listing of the company was an indication of Kenyans eagerness to invest in the stock market.

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API:Source.nation.ke

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Hero defied age to save son from jaws of hyena

Posted by African Press International on June 21, 2008

A Nation.ke Story by SIMON SIELE

Mr Emanuel Toroitich, 30, never thought he would survive to tell the tale of how he narrowly escaped death as he fought with a hyena near Lake Bogoria National Park.

Mzee Toroitich Kurere is wheeled to the theatre at the Rift Valley Provincial General Hospital after he was mauled by a hyena near Lake Bogoria National Park. The old man was on a mission to rescue his son, Emmanuel Toroitich from the beast. Photos/MARTIN TELEWA

The beast had subdued him and was eating him when his father, Mr Toroitich Kerere, suddenly emerged to rescue him, only for another fierce battle with the wild animal to ensue.

Undeterred by the arrival of Mzee Kerere, 70, the hyena leaped with anger and jumped on the old man, but he was not going to give up the struggle.

Weapon broke

Using his walking stick, Mzee Kerere tried to fight the animal, but his weapon broke into pieces. Left with no option but to use his bare hands, it appeared as if they were fighting a losing battle.

Mr Toroitich, though badly hurt and bleeding profusely, narrated to the Nation at his bed at Rift Valley Provincial General Hospital, Ward Seven, how he survived the attack.

It all started at 6.30am when he went to inspect their maize plantation at Emsos in Mogotio Division. Human-wildlife conflict is on the rise in the area, with monkeys and other wild animals constantly destroying crops.

As a routine, they normally use scarecrows, among other methods, to scare away monkeys and birds that have become a nuisance among the farming communities bordering Lake Bogoria National Park.

As he went about his business on the one-acre maize plantation, he heard some strange noise. He searched for its source and it was then that he spotted the hyena.

The beast charged at him, and sensing danger, Mr Toroitich jumped onto a huge rock beside him, but the hyena was determined to make a kill.

I jumped onto a rock hoping to stay in an advantageous position where I would be able to tackle it in case of any eventuality, but I sensed danger as it was not giving up, said the father of four.

Instead, the hyena too leapt and hit him on the chest. He fell on the ground, but managed to pick himself up as the enraged animal gathered more strength for the mortal combat.

Unlike in the folktales that usually depict a hyena as a coward and greedy animal that would trail human beings, hoping that at some point the hands would drop off, such was not the case for the youthful farmer. The animal braced itself for a bruising battle.

The hyena was targeting his face, but Mr Toroitich knew that this was a fight for his life.

Gaping wounds

He had to struggle or lose the war that eventually left him with gaping wounds in the legs, chest and on both hands. During the combat, the hyena wrestled him to the ground three times, but through determination, he did not give up.

As he prayed that some miracle happens to save him, his wishes were soon to be fulfilled because his elderly father must have been attracted by the commotion on the farm and immediately responded to his sons distress call.

I screamed because I had sustained serious injuries, and it was then that my father rushed to the scene to assist me.

However, the wild animal jumped on him and viciously attacked him before neighbours saved him. Rangers from Kenya Wildlife Service later visited the scene to hunt for the hyena.

It was not immediately established whether they managed to track it down. The hyena fled moments after the neighbours responded to the victims’ distress call.

This is the first time in the last many years since we encountered such an attack by the hyenas in Embos area, one of the rescuers, Mr Cyrus Chirongo, said. Human-wildlife conflict, he said, had constantly been with monkeys and birds that destroy crops.

Virtually lost

By the time the old man arrived, Mr Toroitich, who had virtually lost the battle, lay on the ground as the hyena ate his right hand. It was then that Mr Kerere hit the animal with his walking stick.

On sensing that somebody was interfering with its hard-earned meal, the hyena sought to tackle the new enemy. It jumped on Mr Kerere, forcing him down in a fraction of a second.

It started gouging the old mans eyes and he lay down helplessly before the animal went back to the young man, who was also quite helpless then.

Brave the pain

I had resolved to keep quiet and brave the pain silently when my father enquired if I was still alive. This must have angered the hyena because at that moment, it immediately left me and surged towards where the voice had come from, Mr Toroitich said.

The hyena started mauling the old mans face, before two of their neighbours arrived and chased it away. Other people arrived at the scene, with village activities nearly coming to a standstill.

Many villagers came out to witness for themselves the serious wounds inflicted on father and son as arrangements were made to take them to hospital. On arrival at the hospital, three hours later, the injured were yet to encounter another sad scene. Patients and visitors at the casualty department struggled to have a glimpse of their injuries.

By yesterday, Mr Kerere was still under intensive care, although the doctors said he was improving. His son had been referred to the general ward where he too was improving.

For my children

Mr Toroitich expressed bitterness, more against Kenya Wildlife Service, than at the hyena, which nearly cost him his life as well as his fathers.

He noted that over 1,000 farmers in Emsos, Maji Moto and Nyalil Buch had lost crops and livestock to wildlife that wander out of the neighbouring Lake Bogoria conservancy.

For the next six months, I might not be in a position to effectively cater for my children, who rely on me to bring food on the table, and yet no information has been forthcoming [from KWS] on whether or not we shall be compensated, Mr Toroitich said.

However, three officers from the wildlife service visited the victims at the hospital although the purpose of their visit could not be established immediately.

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API.source.nation.ke

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Tibet braces for torch relay

Posted by African Press International on June 21, 2008

The capital of Tibet prepared Friday to host the Olympic torch relay, three months after violent anti-government rioting rocked the city.The relay, which was disrupted during several legs outside of China by protests against Beijing’s policies in Tibet, was scheduled to be held in Lhasa on Saturday.

The 6.8-mile (11-kilometer) run will begin at Norbulingka, the Dalai Lama’s former summer palace, and end at the hilltop Potala Palace, the traditional seat of Tibetan rulers, the state-run China Daily newspaper reported.

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API:Source.aftenposteneng.ap

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Soccer fans eye Euro 2016

Posted by African Press International on June 21, 2008

Small groups of politically connected Norwegians have been milling around Austria this week, where the European football (soccer) championships have been playing out. The Norwegian sports boosters are dreaming of hosting the championships themselves in 2016.

Here’s one of the small groups of Norwegians dreaming of a European championship in Norway: (from left) Karen Espelund of the football association, project leader and former politician Hilde Barstad, and football president in Norway Sondre Kfjord, snapped in Innsbruck this week.

PHOTO: ROBERT VEIKER JOHANSEN

There’s seemingly no limits to the desires of sports bureaucrats and politicians to host international competitions.

Norway, which has hosted the Winter Olympics twice, already has secured the Nordic Skiing World Championships in 2011. Some groups are working hard to win the rights to host the Winter Olympics again, up in Troms, in 2018.

In the meantime, others are lobbying for the European football championships two years before that. The plan is for Norway and Sweden to co-host “Euro 2016,” with matches to be played in eight cities: Oslo, Trondheim, Stavanger and Bergen in Norway, and Stockholm, Gothenburg, Malmo and possibly Norrkping in Sweden.

Sweden and Norway would each have its own organizing committee, and a joint board. If the two countries decide to formally apply, they’ll do so together.

It all entails a lot of money, and the Norwegian soccer association would need financial support from the state (that is, the taxpayers) to build new stadiums and facilities. The Swedes already have approved construction of a new national stadium (Swedbank Arena) that could hold 50,000 fans in Stockholm.

Meanwhile, sports bureaucrats are enjoying “study tours” to Austria and elsewhere to see how such events are held. Former politician Hilde Barstad from the Conservatives has secured a job as “project leader” to see whether applying for Euro 2016 is viable.

“It’s too early to say,” Karen Espelund, secretary general of Norway’s football association, told newspaper Aftenposten. “But the thought of bringing (Euro 2016) to Norway, and getting a national boost that the entire sports world would support, is extremely exciting.”

There are, of course, those who believe it’s more important to invest the hundreds of millions required into schools or hospitals, not stadiums. Let the political games begin.

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API:Source.aftenposteneng

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Car and boat sales slow down

Posted by African Press International on June 21, 2008

Buyers have put the brakes on purchases of cars and boats. It’s another sign that Norway’s red-hot economy is cooling off.

Many Norwegians love the boating life, but now sales of both boats and cars are markedly slowing down.

PHOTO: TERJE BENDIKSBY

Rows of new cars recently imported into Norway line the massive parking lots at the Port of Drammen. That’s where most new cars enter Norway, and a lack of buyers means they’re not quickly being shipped on to car dealers.

“We’re full here now,” the local manager for the property, ystein Skvalem of Autolink, told newspaper Dagens Nringsliv. He said they have room for 9,000 cars at the port, and have had to lease space for another 2,000.

Many car importers have ordered too many new cars and now have trouble selling them. They’re cutting prices in the hopes of unloading them, and admitting that the entire car market has declined.

It has for another big-ticket item, boats, as well. The number of used boats for sale in Norway is an estimated 70 higher than it was at this time last year, and it’s getting increasingly difficult to sell large sailboats.

A new sense of consumer caution has emerged, and buyers in Norway simply are becoming more careful with their money. Some boat dealers prefer to say the market has become more “selective.”

“But it’s slowed considerably for boats in the NOK 600,000-2 million range (USD 120,000-400,000),” Ole Henrik Nissen-Lie, managing director of magazine Seilas told Dagens Nringsliv. They’re generally financed by loans, he noted, and Norwegians’ willingness to borrow has declined.

There are even more boat slips available around the Oslo Fjord. Last year at this time it seemed nearly impossible to find a slip to rent. Now many marinas are reporting vacancies, reports newspaper Aften.

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API:Source.aftenposteneng

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Continental eyes Star Alliance

Posted by African Press International on June 21, 2008

Continental Airlines, which runs the only non-stop route from Norway to the US, may soon enter the frequent flyer program Star Alliance, in which SAS and Lufthansa are already members.

Tom Grundstad, Continental’s sales and marketing director in Norway, sees advantages for Continental and SAS as well.

PHOTO: SVEIN E. FURULUND

Continental took over the daily non-stop route between Oslo and Newark from SAS and its flights are generally running full. Now Continental looks set to cooperate with United Airlines, one of the founding members of Star Alliance along with Lufthansa, and thus join Star Alliance.

That means travelers in Norway who already are members of SAS’ and Lufthansa’s frequent flyer programs may soon be able to earn points on Continental routes, and try to redeem flights on Continental’s vast route network.

It also may mean a surge of new SAS and Lufthansa passengers for Continental. Many New York-bound travelers in Norway have opted to take SAS or Lufthansa from Oslo to Copenhagen, London or Frankfurt, and transfer there to flights to New York, in order to gain credit for the trip. Now they could more easily and quickly reach New York on Continental’s non-stop, and still get mileage credit.

Loyal Continental passengers, meanwhile, can start to earn and redeem mileage credit on SAS and Lufthansa routes, as well as United and the large group of other airlines in Star Alliance. That could mean new business for SAS and Lufthansa within Europe.

Until now, US-bound Norwegian passengers ticketed on SAS most often get put on United flights for travel within the US. Now SAS could also tap into Continental’s route network.

US Airways is also a member of Star Alliance.

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API:Source.apa

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New children’s ombudsman finally named – Norway

Posted by African Press International on June 21, 2008

And he’s not so new after all. After months of conflict and power struggles, current ombudsman Reidar Hjermann has been allowed to keep his job.

Reidar Hjermann will continue as Norway’s ombudsman for children after all.

PHOTO: PER ANNAR HOLM

Efforts to replace Hjermann were reportedly tied to Haktor Helland, top bureaucrat in the government ministry to which the children’s ombudsman is attached, who has had a lengthy conflict with Hjermann.

PHOTO: MORTEN UGLUM

The Children’s Ombudsman
The ombudsman’s post is important in Norway, not least since Norway was the first country in the world to appoint someone to be an advocate for children.

The ombudsman is, among other things, responsible for looking out for the interests of children, listening to their own needs and wishes, and forwarding them to government officials.

Some observers have worried that the last several months of conflict over the ombudsman’s position threatened to undermine its role and future.

The quarreling over the ombudsman’s position, both at the highest levels of government and within the bureaucracy, has been a hot topic of public debate since last fall. That’s when it became clear that Hjermann might not get his contract renewed after his first four-year term ran out.

It was the first time ever that the incumbent, who clearly wanted to continue, was getting the cold shoulder from those in charge of filling the position. It was never clear why the call went out for new candidates for Hjermann’s job.

Not until Friday morning, when newspaper Aftenposten reported on a long-simmering conflict between Hjermann and the powerful bureaucrat in charge of the government ministry to which the ombudsman is attached — Barne- og likestillingsdepartementet.

Hjermann, Aftenposten reported, ran into trouble with top bureaucrat Haktor Helland almost from the first day he took over as ombudsman in 2004. Helland, well-connected within Norway’s Labour Party, reportedly felt threatened by Hjermann and the two also are said to have entirely different personalities.

The alleged conflict between them was sparked by previous ombudsman Trond Waage’s desire to keep ministry computer equipment worth thousands of kroner. Hjermann demanded Waage return the equipment to the ministry, or pay used prices for it. Helland, who’d had a good relationship with Waage, supported the former ombudsman.

Hjermann wouldn’t relent, apparently even threatening to report the matter to police. Waage finally returned the equipment, and now says he didn’t view the issue as a serious conflict.

It reportedly got Hjermann and Helland off on the wrong foot, though, and their relationship allegedly deteriorated over the next few years. Several sources interviewed by Aftenposten said there even were efforts to broker peace between the two, and Norways Justice Minister was ultimately informed of the conflict. Helland denied there was a conflict, and claimed his relationship with Hjermann was “good … as it should be.”

Meanwhile, “strong forces” within the bureaucracy reportedly tried to replace Hjermann, but the process was troubled from the start. It even led indirectly to the resignation of an earlier cabinet minister over conflict-of-interest issues, and an earlier employment round was cancelled.

Aftenposten reported that at least two government ministers who were supposed to be in charge of naming the ombudsman let themselves be unduly influenced by a bureaucracy that didn’t want Hjermann to continue in the post.

More conflict broke out last week, when a last-minute candidate for the job emerged, weeks after the application deadline. Other candidates immediately complained and questions were raised, not least since the new candidate came from a local research group tied to the Labour Party, leading to more conflict-of-interest challenges.

Hjermann prevailed in the end, winning over the bureaucracy. Some remark that it’s surprising he still wanted the job after all he’s been through, but he did. The potential for more conflict looms, with both Helland, age 68, and Hjermann, age 39, continuing in their jobs.

Storberget, in announcing Hjermann’s reappointment, said Norway has now retained a childrens ombudsman “who will be independent, both formally and in real terms, and first and foremost forward childrens interests.” Hjermann, educated as a psychologist, wasn’t immediately available for comment.’

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API:Source.aftenposteneng

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Conflict mediators gather in Oslo

Posted by African Press International on June 21, 2008

Peace brokers from around the world will once again gather for the annual Oslo Forum next week, to swap experience in conflict mediation.

Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stre (left) and Javier Solana of the Eu at the forum in 2006.

PHOTO: ARCHIVE: LISE SERUD / SCANPIX

Participants include Mohammad Khatami, former president of Iran; Jonathan Powell, former chief of staff for ex-British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and Gareth Evans, president of the International Crisis Group.

This year’s forum, with about 100 persons taking part from Tuesday to Thursday, will be held at the hotel and historic manor house Losby Gods, northeast of Oslo. Those attending have been active in efforts to mediate conflicts in the Middle East, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Somalia.

The conference will be opened by Erik Solheim, former UN envoy to Sri Lanka and now Norway’s government minister in charge of foreign aid and the environment. Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stre and state secretaries Raymond Johansen and Hkon Gulbrandsen will also participate.

The Norwegian government has organized the forum in cooperation with the Geneva-based Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue.

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API:Source.aftenposteneng

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Posted by African Press International on June 21, 2008

Bjarne Hkon Hanssen (left) is taking over as Health Minister, Dag Terje Andersen as minister for labour and immigration, and Sylvia Brustad as Trade & Industry Minister.

PHOTO: SCANPIX

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg fended off criticism that his government was weak and in disarry on Friday, and unveiled a major reorganization of his ministers. He hopes to have a stronger team in place in the run-up to next autumn’s national elections.

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg reshuffled his cabinet on Friday.

PHOTO: MAGNUS KNUTSEN BJRKE

Terje Riis-Johansen from the Center Party will be Norway’s new Oil & Energy Minister.

PHOTO: MARIT HOMMEDAL/SCANPIX

Lars Peder Brekk will take over party colleague Terje Riis-Johansen’s post as Agriculture Minister, and has cleared the way for Liv Signe Navarsete (left) to lead the Center Party. Navarsete already is a cabinet minister, in charge of transportation.

PHOTO: TERJE BENDIKSBY/SCANPIX

Stoltenberg’s ministerial line-up has been shaken by a series of resignations under pressure, most recently that of Oil & Energy Minister slaug Haga. She had to give up one of the country’s most important ministerial jobs following revelations that she violated local building codes and failed to inform authorities about rental income on her property. She’d also been caught in some questionable political maneuvering earlier this year.

Haga’s resignation left open both a spot for one of her small Center Party colleagues and the oil minister’s post itself. It was considered too tough for a government newcomer, so it will be taken over by the current Agriculture Minister, Terje Riis-Johansen.

Moving into Riis-Johansen’s vacant post will be Lars Peder Brekk from the Center Party, which champions rural and farming interests. Brekk had been named just yesterday to take over Haga’s other role as leader of the party, but he resigned from that post on Friday.

Stoltenberg, faced with mounting criticism over the state of health care in Norway and a health minister who didn’t want the job anymore, also agreed to relieve Health Minister Sylvia Brustad of her duties. They’ll be taken over by the affable, hard-working and widely respected Bjarne Hkon Hanssen, who has been head of the ministry responsible for labour and immigration issues.

It will be taken over by Dag Terje Andersen, currently Trade and Industry Minister. Brustad, who reportedly wanted to leave the government, will instead succeed Andersen.

Stoltenberg, who presented the new government line-up to King Harald V at an extraordinary Council of State Friday evening, clearly wants to move forward from personnel crises and concentrate on his government’s accomplishments amidst rising discontent among voters. Recent public opinion polls have indicated plummeting support for Stoltenberg’s Labour Party, and he needs to present some good results as the re-election campaign gets underway.

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API:Source.aftenposteneng

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Fierce battle between Somali insurgents, govt troops leaves 5 dead

Posted by African Press International on June 21, 2008

Islamist insurgents with heavily armed gunmen waylaid the Ethiopian bases and Somali government forces stationed at Florense Junction near Harayale, in northern Mogadishu on Tuesday evening, residents told APA.

Both rival sides pounded each other with machine guns and mortar shells in a string of attacks mainly in Mogadishu. After the fighting, mortar shells rained down on other civilian districts that are far from the battlefield.

“Two people died a child and a guest- and six others are wounded two adults and four children – in the same family after a mortar shell landed in their home at night,” Daud Aweys, a neighbour of the perished family at Bakara market, told APA on Wednesday.

Two other shells landed at Menada building of Suka Holaha district in north Mogadishu, killing three people and wounding three others.

All these people were civilians sleeping in their home on Tuesday night when the shells landed, according to the resident Mohamed Mukhtar, who came to their rescue.

Around fifteen weapon-wounded civilians had been admitted to the Medina Hospital, according to Dahir Mohamoud Mohamed the deputy director of the Hospital.

“The admitted people included children and women. People are still coming by one or two,” Dahir Mohamoud Mohamed told APA on Wednesday.

This ongoing violence in Mogadishu comes in the wake of a new truce agreement between the Somali government and the opposition alliance based in Asmara (Eritrea), a group comprising both moderates and hardliners.

The truce aims at ending the Iraq-style insurgence and a ceasefire in the beleaguered capital Mogadishu.

Meanwhile, a roadside bomb believed to be remote-controlled was detonated by a government armoured vehicle, at Al-mathal School, that was patrolling the avenue were the Somali president is due to pass on Wednesday at dawn, school students told APA.

“I saw this morning a burned battlewagon near my school; I dont know how many died or were injured, Abdi Kaamil, a student of the school, told APA.

Somalia had been plunged in anarchy after the overthrow of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991, when warlords used their clan-based militias to fall over the dictator then fought each other for power, leading to constant inter-clan war which left thousands killed and millions displaced.

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API:Source.apa

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Israeli Prime Minister to visit Egypt next Tuesday

Posted by African Press International on June 21, 2008

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will visit Egypt next Tuesday 24 June to hold talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, an Egyptian diplomatic source revealed Friday.

The diplomatic source said Olmerts visit to Egypt comes in the wake of the Cairo Declaration on the entry into force of the Armistice Agreement between the Palestinians and Israel as of Thursday morning (6a.m.)after arduous negotiations under the auspices of Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman.

Mr “Ofer Dhikal ” who is in charge of the file of prisoners in Israel will also visit Egypt on the same day to hold talks on a prisoner-exchange deal between Palestinians and Israelis, the source added.

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API:Source.apa

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