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Archive for July 20th, 2008

Obama meets Afghan president on key visit

Posted by African Press International on July 20, 2008

US Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama met Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul today, the second day of a visit to Afghanistan that is meant to bolster the senator’s foreign policy credentials.

Mr Obama has previously criticised Mr Karzai, who has led Afghanistan since US-led and Afghan forces toppled the hardline Islamist Taliban in 2001, but said the purpose of this trip was to listen rather than deliver strong messages.

Congressional delegation

Mr Obama, part of a congressional delegation, was at the heavily guarded Afghan presidential palace in the capital Kabul and was having lunch with Karzai, a palace official said.

The Illinois senator will also visit Iraq, Jordan, Israel, Germany, France and Britain on a foreign tour he hopes will help answer Republican criticism that he does not have the experience to be commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

Mr Obama last week criticised Mr Karzai in an interview with CNN.

“I think the Karzai government has not gotten out of the bunker and helped to organise Afghanistan, and the government, the judiciary, police forces, in ways that would give people confidence. So there are a lot of problems there,” he said.

Once the darling of the West, Mr Karzai has come under increasing criticism at home and abroad for failing to take tough action to clamp down on rampant corruption, tackle former warlords and stamp out record-breaking drug production – all factors that feed the growing Taliban insurgency.

But asked ahead of the trip whether he would have tough talk for Karzai and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, Obama replied: “I’m more interested in listening than doing a lot of talking.” “And I think it is very important to recognise that I’m going over there as a US senator. We have one president at a time, so it’s the president’s job to deliver those messages,” Mr Obama said. Mr Obama earlier had breakfast with US troops in Kabul and talked about their experiences in the country, which has seen a sharp rise in violence this year. (Reuters)

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Zuma describes Mandela as the glue that binds nation

Posted by African Press International on July 20, 2008

South Africa’s former President Nelson Mandela blows out the candles on his birthday cake, as his wife Graca Machel watches at his house in Qunu at the weekend. Photo/REUTERS

You are the glue that holds us together as a nation. You provide eternal hope in our people and the world that South Africa can only be a better place each day,” said Jacob Zuma, ANC president at a party marking Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday.

Tributes to Mandela poured in, including from US presidential candidate Barack Obama, who is trying to make history in November by becoming the first black US president.

Mr Obama said in a message: “Celebrations and simple words of admiration are not enough … to honour a man who’s brought hope to a world often filled with despair; who’s brought so much love to a world so filled with hate and who’s shown us how much we can achieve when we have the courage to be our better selves.”

“No, the way to truly honour you, Nelson Mandela, is to act each and every day in our own lives to do our part for our fellow human beings and to live up to the example you continue to set each and every day.’’

Mr Mandela turned 90 on Friday, more than 14 years after becoming the country’s first black president at the end of white minority rule.

Mr Mandela, who spent 27 years in jail for his anti-apartheid activities, became a symbol of unity between black and white South Africans during his one term as president, but the euphoria that accompanied those early years has somewhat faded.

Has long retired

Although Mandela has long retired from active politics, many say he still provides a unifying force in a country where divisions between black and white, as well as rich and poor are resurfacing as a largely black majority stays mired in poverty.

Financial Mail editor Barney Mthombothi wrote in a tribute to Mr Mandela on Friday: “We’re approaching a future without his commanding presence with some trepidation. … We won’t see the likes of him again.”

Critics say Mr Mandela’s successor Thabo Mbeki has failed to address the huge gulf between rich and poor which is stoking labour unrest, while South Africa still suffers one of the world’s worst crime rates.

President Mbeki lost the leadership of the ANC to Mr Zuma in a bruising battle last December which exposed divisions within the ruling party.

But on Saturday Mr Mbeki and Mr Zuma put aside their differences and joined celebrations for Mr Mandela, which included performances by choirs and dancers, while cattle herders beat drums outside.

It was a grand occasion, held in a tent outside his homestead in Qunu, 900 kilometres south of Johannesburg, where as a boy he herded cattle in the hills.

The anti-apartheid icon walked into the tent with Mr Mbeki, and Mr Zuma, stopping to personally greet some of the 500 guests as he made his way to the head table.

The guests, many dressed in traditional beaded cloths, animals skins and feather headdresses, stood and cheered while a Xhosa choir sang: “Here is our hope!”

Wearing, an intricately patterned shirt in shades of brown, Mr Mandela looked relaxed and cheerful as he listened attentively to the accolades being heaped on him.

President Mbeki called Mr Mandela a “great liberator.” Mr Zuma said the gathering was a celebration of “a life and legacy of a father, grandfather, comrade, warrior, soldier, nation builder and statesman.”

Former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda caught the festive mood with a tuneful solo of “Happy Birthday,” followed by a teasing verse: “How old are you? State secret!” Then the 84-year-old Kaunda jogged over to shake Mandela’s hand.

The event also marked the 10th anniversary of his marriage to child rights activist Graca Machel and — despite the large number of guests — had a feeling of an intimate family affair.

“This birthday celebration is one of the very small ways that we as your family can show our love, respect and appreciation for all you have done,” said one of Mandela’s granddaughters, Nandi Mandela.
Machel’s daughter Josina said the couple symbolised hope. “The two of you have taught us a lot about the virtues of love,” she said.

In the climax of the afternoon, master of ceremonies and lawmaker Bantu Holomisa toasted the couple. “All of you join me in wishing them both all our love, happiness and long life,” he said. “Long life!”
To the sound of ululating, Mandela was presented with an aluminum-bound album of family photographs and testimonials, compiled by his children and grandchildren.

Eager to thank his guests, Mandela rose to his feet and spoke for a few minutes with his characteristic self-deprecating humour.

“As you know I am not a speaker at all, and I am not going to make any exception on this occasion, except to say thank you for all you have done for me,” he said.

Mandela was imprisoned for nearly three decades for his fight against apartheid. He was released in 1990 to lead negotiations that ended decades of racist white rule, then was elected president in South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994.

He completed his term in 1999 and did not run again, but has continued to take a leading role in the fight against poverty, illiteracy and Aids in Africa. Age has slowed him in recent years, but many still remain in awe of his stamina. Just last month, he was the honoured guest for a huge charity concert in London’s Hyde Park.

“I would say that for a 90-year-old man who has been through what he has been through, he is in exceptional shape,” one of his doctors, Peter Friedland, said at the party on Saturday. (Reuters)

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Funds go to waste as CDF projects stall

Posted by African Press International on July 20, 2008


Story by NATION Team

Millions of shillings allocated by the Government for various development projects in Nyanza and Western provinces have gone to waste, an audit has revealed.

According to audit reports and interviews with players involved in the implementation of the Constituency Development Fund, most of the projects have either stalled or failed to take off completely.

This was largely due to misappropriation of funds allocated to the projects, inadequate funding, failure to establish viability of the ventures or shoddy performance by contractors.

Funds have been wasted on health facilities, schools, rural electrification programmes, roads, bridges, and irrigation schemes, among other projects.

Utilised properly

As a result, account managers seconded to CDF committees by the Government are recommending changes if the funds allocated for various projects are to be utilised properly.

According to the account manager of the Kitutu Masaba CDF committee, Mr Amos Apollo, lack of managerial know-how by implementing teams was largely to blame for the stalling of most projects.
In North Mugirango constituency, some of the stalled projects include Isoge and Sere dispensaries in Borabu and Ekerenyo divisions respectively.

The projects are said to have been either allocated insufficient funds or the money remitted was embezzled.

Misappropriation

In Kitutu Masaba, many water projects stalled due to various reasons, including alleged misappropriation of funds.

Lack of adequate consultations resulted in wastage of public resources in Kisumu West constituency.

About Sh450,000 was spent on constructing fish-drying shades in Obunga, only for the structures to be destroyed by the council because they were located on a road reserve.

Out of the 196 CDF projects initiated in Mumias constituency, only 80 have been completed. In Shinyalu constituency, construction of five rural roads has ignited controversy after contractors were issued with completion certificates before the work was completed.

Reported by Patrick Mayoyo, Henry Nyarora, Ouma Wanzala, John Shilitsa, Benson Amadala, Abiud Ochieng and Elisha Otieno

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