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Archive for August 23rd, 2008

New alliance stirs trouble in Kibaki backyard

Posted by African Press International on August 23, 2008

By Gakuu Mathenge

President Kibaki took the chairmans seat at Party of National Unitys meeting on October elections, as a third force in the coalition solidified.

Faced with affiliate parties caught up in a cold war and undecided on which way to go after his term ends, the President chaired the PNU meeting as another fire raged in his vast voting bloc central Kenya.

The region, whose arms ring the gorgeous snow-capped Mt Kenya, is a boiling political pot. It is no longer just about Justice Minister Martha Karua and Deputy Prime minister Uhuru Kenyatta and their Narc-Kenya and Kanu parties.

The centre appears to hold in the rush to post-Kibaki era in the region as the new alliance comprising at least four political parties and two youth movements elbows its way to national attention, with a radical agenda.

Last weekend, Sisi Kwa Sisi, Safina, and Asili Saba Saba teamed up with lobby groups National Youth Alliance and Bunge La Mwananchi to form the Progressive Parties Alliance (Propa).

The alliance is the latest entrant into the central Kenya political scene, which has been simmering with a host of initiatives about the future of the Agikuyu.

So far, those in the public domain include Kikuyus for Change, Intra Ethnic Conversations under the auspices of the Open Society Initiative for East Africa (Osiea), the revived Gema cultural group and the Council of Elders initiative seeking to make Raila Odinga a Kikuyu elder.

However, all the groups, working independently, have found themselves pursuing the same agenda.

They want to find out how the Kikuyu came to attract so much hate which climaxed in the clashes in the Rift Valley from other communities.

The soul searching seems to have concluded that political leaders from the community, right from Jomo Kenyatta to the present, have been responsible for the anti-Kikuyu sentiment.

The view gaining ground among the groups is that the community is being condemned and even ostracised for mistakes of a few.

Today, the Kikuyus for Change will host a convention at the Limuru Conference Centre. A scholar, Karuti Kanyinga, former Kabete MP Paul Muite and immediate former chairman of Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, Maina Kiai are expected to deliver position papers on past, present and future leadership of the Agikuyu.

The emergence of this new group coincided with the registration of the Gikuyu, Embu, and Meru Association a once powerful welfare group with massive political clout.

Gema, which was revived in April, has been re-registered as a cultural organisation with Methodist Bishop, Lawi Imathiu, as interim chairman, and former Kimbaa MP Njenga Karume, as patron.

Gema played a critical role in the Kenyatta succession debate in the late 1970s.

The launch of the alliance is the latest addition to a budding third political force in Central Province politics.

This lays the ground for a bruising succession battle between the old guard who dominate Kibakis Government under PNU, and the younger generation of leaders who want to have a say in the succession and the anticipated constitutional review.

During the launch at Ufungamano, the Alliance directed its anger at the regions ruling elite who it said cannot account for their wealth, and should not be in leadership.

New alliance

Since 1963, Kenya has been ruled by rightwing conservatives whose attitude has been bad. Many in this clique at the top did not acquire their wealth from honest hard work. They acquired it by stealing public resources, abuse of office and unfair distribution of opportunities and resources, the group said, in a statement Safina leader Muite, read.

The statement was signed by Sisi Kwa Sisi Secretary General Julius Mwangi, Saba Saba Asili Organising Secretary Joe Kanguchu, Safina organising secretary Joe Korir, spokesman of the National Youth Alliance Njuguna Gitau Njuguna and Students Organisation of Nairobi University (Sonu) chairman, Dan Mwangi.

The Alliance is ideologically progressive and consists of genuine reformers, compassionate capitalists and social democrats. The alliance seeks a sound economic and social management of the country, Muite said, at Ufungamano House.

The group insists their mission is not tribal.

Time has come when ideology, not the tribe, must define where in the political divide a party or an individual belongs. We will fight for constitutional and legal reforms, provide a framework for a more just society, a permanent solution to the land question, resettlement of all internal refugees and do away with imperial presidency, Muite added.

He said the Alliance would embark on drive and public rallies around the country, starting with opening a regional office in Nakuru on September 30.

The sight of Mungiki leader and spokesman of Kenya National Youth Alliance Njuguna Gitau Njuguna sharing a platform with party officials and personalities like Mr Muite was most conspicuous.

A senior politician criticised Muite for giving the Mungiki a political platform, calling it a great mistake.

Njuguna has been in the limelight chastising the police for allegedly executing and persecuting the sect members.

Kenya National Youth Alliance was registered under the NGO Act two years ago.

But its association with Mungiki makes many politicians from the Mt Kenya region want to associate with it only under the cover of darkness.

When asked to comment on the Mungiki connection, Muite said: We must move away from giving a dog a bad name and then hanging it. We do not condone criminal activities by anyone.

We also condemn extra-judicial killings in the name of fighting Mungiki. Our association with these young people is part of our efforts to rehabilitate those who have been marginalised and ostracised.

The former MP added: We cannot wish them away. They are Kenyans. Neither can we have any positive influence on any criminal elements among them by isolating them or ourselves from them.

The immediate former Kikuyu MP said bad economic policies and corruption created economic gaps that result in mushrooming of criminal gangs by those feeling squeezed out.

The alliance, he said, would seek to mobilise Kenyans to force reduction of prices for basic commodities; lobby for anti-poor Government policies; constitutional reforms to ensure a just society; a permanent solution to festering land problems and financial and material support for all internally displaced persons.

Besides opening an office in Nakuru, the Alliance will tour areas affected by post-election violence and address rallies.

Before the new alliance was born, Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Martha Karua broke off from the PNU mainstream, protesting at alleged attempts to impose a Kibaki successor on the party.

Soon after, Grand National Union (GNU), whose leadership comprises Laikipia East MP Mwangi Kiunjuri and former Mathira MP Nderitu Gachagua, was launched.

Though they are yet to reveal their faces, some business heavyweights are said to be behind GNU.

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Obama picks Biden as running mate in U.S. election

Posted by African Press International on August 23, 2008

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has chosen Delaware Sen. Joseph Biden to be his vice presidential running mate, the campaign said on its Website on Saturday.

Biden, 65, is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a highly respected voice on international affairs.

The announcement also was made in e-mails and mobile phone text messages to millions of supporters. Obama will face off in the Nov. 4 presidential election against Republican John McCain, who has yet to announce his choice for the No. 2 spot.

“Barack has chosen Joe Biden to be his running mate,” the announcement said. “Joe Biden brings extensive foreign policy experience, an impressive record of collaborating across party lines, and a direct approach to getting the job done.”

Obama and Biden are scheduled to appear together later on Saturday at the Old State Capitol in Springfield, Illinois. The venue is where Obama launched his White House bid last year.

Some facts about Biden

Biden was first elected to the Senate in 1972, shortly before he turned 30, the minimum age. A month later, his wife and daughter were killed and two sons injured in a car crash. Biden considered giving up his Senate seat but party leaders helped persuade him to serve. He remarried 15 years later.

With a liberal to moderate voting record, Biden heads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and has been outspoken on international affairs. Although he backed the 2002 resolution to authorize the use of force in Iraq, he soon became a strong critic of the war and accused President George W. Bush of mishandling it.

Biden’s son Beau, a captain in the Army National Guard, is scheduled to be deployed to Iraq in October.

A Roman Catholic originally from the key battleground state of Pennsylvania, Biden would bring to the ticket strong working-class roots that could help Obama connect with the blue-collar voters he has failed to attract.

Biden is the son of a car salesman and is less well off than many of his Senate colleagues. While many lawmakers own or rent residences in Washington, Biden commutes by train from his house in Wilmington, Delaware, 80 minutes each way.

Biden, a frequent guest on political talk shows who seems to relish debating, is seen by many political analysts as well-suited to the traditional role of a No. 2 — attacking the rival candidate.

Biden has acknowledged a tendency to talk too much and he has been prone to verbal gaffes. Last year, early in his own failed presidential campaign, Biden apologized after calling Obama “articulate and bright and clean” in an interview with the New York Observer. Obama said he did not take offense.

When Biden was asked during a primary election season debate whether he possessed the discipline to be president, the famously loquacious senator responded with one word — “yes” — prompting gales of laughter from the audience.

In his previous role as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Biden presided over two of the most controversial confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominees, both conservative Republicans. Robert Bork was rejected while Clarence Thomas was narrowly confirmed.

In 1987, Biden was seen as a rising young political star and ran for president. But he dropped out after charges of plagiarism in one speech and exaggerating his academic record. Biden said: “In my zeal to rekindle idealism, I made some mistakes.”

Story by Reuters

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Princess challenges building regulations, again

Posted by African Press International on August 23, 2008

Princess Mrtha Louise, who has successfully won exemptions from building regulations in the past, is now challenging officials of the city of Oslo. She wants to move her controversial “angel school” to a building that’s supposed to be strictly residential.

Princess Martha Louise wants to move her angel school to this residential apartment building in Oslo’s Frogner district, but the rules won’t let her. The princess wants an exemption from the rules.

PHOTO: INGAR STORFJELL

Newspaper Aftenposten reported this week that the controversial princess has applied for a so-called bruksendring (similar to a re-zoning) of a flat she has provisionally bought in a gracious old residential building at Riddervolds gate 9.

The property isn’t zoned for business use, and the firm set up by the princess “to help people contact their own angels,” Astarte Education, is clearly a business.

Erna Kahlbom of the Socialist Left party (SV) is among those against any such rezoning application. “We need the housing units we have in Oslo,” she said.

She’s not alone. Most all of Oslo’s parties across the political spectrum frown on rezoning or “change of usage” applications. “The Conservatives and the political majority in Oslo are in principle against such applications, but it will be handled,” said Anne-Turid Steinsvik of the Conservative Party.

The princess has been known to get her way before. She succeeded in adding on to her house in suburban Lommedalen, thus breaking rules against building in forested areas, and she was granted special permission to build along the coastline of the summer property she inherited in Hanko. Local officials there willingly admitted she benefitted from “royal privilege.”

The residents of Riddervolds gate 9 support the princess’ application, so she doesn’t face opposition from her would-be neighbours. Several units in the building have been on the market lately and the princess’ case raises the profile of the property.

Her purchase of a 182-square-meter flat in the building, for around NOK 6 million, is contingent on the princess winning the right to change its use from residential to business. The seller of the flat had also sought a change of use but it was turned down because the application was viewed as “deficient.

The princess’ application, meanwhile, has been marked as a high-priority case but officials in the city planning office wouldn’t comment whether that status also reflected royal privilege.

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Multi-cultural festival in Oslo

Posted by African Press International on August 23, 2008

The vast waterfront plaza adjoining Oslo’s City Hall (Rdhusplassen) was being transformed this weekend into a colourful festival grounds where different cultures could meet and mingle.

Flamenco dancers were just one attraction at last year’s Mela Festival in Oslo’s City Hall Plaza.

PHOTO: TONE GEORGSEN

The annual Mela Festival opened Friday, with food, music, crafts and various performers on tap until late Sunday night.

The festival has attracted support from a variety of sources, including the state, the city, trade union federation LO and a host of private sponsors from fertilizer maker Yara to mobile telephone service Lebara.

“LO believes that a wide and active artistic and cultural life contributes to increased quality of life,” said LO leader Roar Flthen. “What’s so good about the Mela Festifal is that it’s a family festival with lots of activities for big and small.”

Grammy Award winner and human rights activist Miriam Makeba is among the artists performing at Mela, or “the meeting place.” Others include Ashar Azmat, Viet Vo Da House and Stereo Nation.

Admission is free. More than 300,000 have attended the festival in recent years and thousands more were expected over the weekend.’

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State toughens passport rules

Posted by African Press International on August 23, 2008

Starting September 1, persons applying for Norwegian citizenship will have to prove their proficiency in the Norwegian language. That’s in addition to paying a fee of NOK 2,500 (nearly USD 500).

It’s getting tougher, and more expensive, to get a Norwegian passport.

PHOTO: STEIN J BJRGE

All persons aged 18-55 who apply for Norwegian citizenship from September 1 will have to document that he or she has successfully completed 300 hours of Norwegian language courses. That alone can cost around NOK 15,000.

If they can’t document such courses, they’ll have to pass a language exam administered by Folkeuniversitetet or their local adult education program. That, too, will incur a fee.

Last year, 4,001 persons sought Norwegian citizenship in Oslo alone. They didn’t have to document their language skills, but now they will.

In addition to meeting the new language requirements, applicants must have lived in Norway for seven of the last 10 years. They need a clean police record, must give up their existing citizenship and pay a fee of NOK 2,500 upon delivery of their application.

If citizenship is granted, the new Norwegians can participate in a citizenship ceremony but that’s not obligatory. More information on citizenship rules can be found on the website for Norway’s immigration agency UDI, www.udi.no.

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More than 30 insurgents killed in latest Somali clashes, Ethiopia claims

Posted by African Press International on August 23, 2008

The Ethiopian government, in an unprecedented statement released in Addis Ababa on Friday, said 36 insurgents in Somalia have been killed at a joint operation carried out by the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia backed by the Ethiopian troops.

The ministry of Foreign Affairs said in the statement that the 36 insurgents were killed in Mogadishu at the ongoing clashes between insurgents from Al Shabaab and the government of Somalia, which is being supported by the Ethiopian troops since December 2006.

The ministry said that another 20 were injured while one was arrested by the operation being carried out by the government supported by the Ethiopian troops.

“Two mini buses belonging to the insurgents were also destroyed by the operation. An Al Shabaab top leader was also killed in the operation,” the ministry said.

The ministry, quoting the Ethiopian military spokesperson in Mogadishu said that the Al Shabaab which remains a challenge in bringing peace to Somalia is losing its potential and confidence among the Somalis.

However, according to media reports from Mogadishu, the Islamist insurgents on Friday took control of the southern port of Kismayo.

This weeks clashes in Mogadishu and Kismayo have resulted in the deaths of more ath100 people, the worst in the past few months.

Ethiopia, which sent its troops to Somalia in December 2006, still continues to support the government of Somalia in bringing peace to that country, which remains without an effective central government for the past 18 years.

The African Union (AU) is currently deploying around 2,600 peacekeeping forces under the African Mission In Somalia (AMISOM), comprising troops from Uganda and Burundi. While the AU is planning to deploy up to 8,000 peace keepers, but so far, it has had little success in persuading other member states to contribute more troops for AMISOM.

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Ugandan rebel leader sets conditions for signing final peace agreement

Posted by African Press International on August 23, 2008

The chief negotiator of the Ugandan rebel Lords Resistance Army (LRA), David Matsanga on Saturday said that the LRA leader, Joseph Kony will not sign a final peace agreement with the Ugandan government until the United Nations International Criminal Court (ICC) drops the arrest warrant it issued in 2005.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with APA in Nairobi on Saturday, Matsanga said that even though they were fully committed to concluding the final peace process, but the LRA cannot sign the peace agreement without the dropping of the ICC arrest warrants first, saying that to do so would jeopardize the peace process.

Kony is ready and will agree to a final peace agreement with the Ugandan government provided that the international arrest warrants are dropped, he said, disclosing that already the LRA leader has agreed to appear at a negotiation ceremony on Sunday in Southern Sudan, subject to the conditions that are yet to be addressed.

Matsanga added that he will leave Nairobi for Southern Sudan on Sunday where he was going to meet the negotiators led by South Sudan Vice President, Dr. Reik Machar and protest over the arrest warrants before talks between the government and the LRA can resume for the final peace agreement to be reached and signed.

In October 2005, the ICC issued its first arrest warrants for Kony and four of his top LRA commanders accused of crimes against humanity.

Kony failed to turn up on April 10 this year when the world expected him to sign the final peace agreement that would end the war that has greatly affected people in northern Uganda.

The 22 years of war in northern Uganda is rated to be among the most brutal and long running civil wars in Africa. It has displaced nearly two million people and caused the death of tens of thousands in the region.

The LRA claims that it is fighting for the rights of the marginalized people of the north-eastern part of the country.

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More than 30 insurgents killed in latest Somali clashes, Ethiopia

Posted by African Press International on August 23, 2008

The Ethiopian government, in an unprecedented statement released in Addis Ababa on Friday, said 36 insurgents in Somalia have been killed at a joint operation carried out by the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia backed by the Ethiopian troops.

The ministry of Foreign Affairs said in the statement that the 36 insurgents were killed in Mogadishu at the ongoing clashes between insurgents from Al Shabaab and the government of Somalia, which is being supported by the Ethiopian troops since December 2006.

The ministry said that another 20 were injured while one was arrested by the operation being carried out by the government supported by the Ethiopian troops.

“Two mini buses belonging to the insurgents were also destroyed by the operation. An Al Shabaab top leader was also killed in the operation,” the ministry said.

The ministry, quoting the Ethiopian military spokesperson in Mogadishu said that the Al Shabaab which remains a challenge in bringing peace to Somalia is losing its potential and confidence among the Somalis.

However, according to media reports from Mogadishu, the Islamist insurgents on Friday took control of the southern port of Kismayo.

This weeks clashes in Mogadishu and Kismayo have resulted in the deaths of more ath100 people, the worst in the past few months.

Ethiopia, which sent its troops to Somalia in December 2006, still continues to support the government of Somalia in bringing peace to that country, which remains without an effective central government for the past 18 years.

The African Union (AU) is currently deploying around 2,600 peacekeeping forces under the African Mission In Somalia (AMISOM), comprising troops from Uganda and Burundi. While the AU is planning to deploy up to 8,000 peace keepers, but so far, it has had little success in persuading other member states to contribute more troops for AMISOM.

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UN military chiefs meeting in Liberia condemn coup in Mauritania

Posted by African Press International on August 23, 2008

The United Nations military force commanders in the West Africa sub-region Thursday concluded their 16th quarterly meeting in Monrovia with a condemnation of the recent coup in Mauritania.

The commanders of the United Nations Mission in Cote dIvoire (ONUCI), the UN Integrated Office in Sierra Leone (UNIOSIL), the UN Office for West Africa (UNOWA) and the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) said they were jointly monitoring the situation in Mauritania.

Addressing a press conference following their one-day meeting, the military chiefs described security in the region as “good but fragile”, adding that necessary steps should be taken to prevent it from degenerating.

They told reporters that the issues of the proliferation of arms, drugs and child trafficking, along with the increase in food prices were prime issues discussed at the meeting.

We are cooperating and collaborating to ensure security is maintained in the region. What happens in one country affects the other, thus making it necessary for us to meet and discuss what has happened and then formulate strategy to address it, UNMIL acting Force Commander Major General Carl Setorwu Mordy said following the meeting.

He also indicated that they are building the capacity of security forces in the respective countries they are operating in to enable them handle their security upon the departure of the UN missions.

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African Taekwondo Union boss hails African participation

Posted by African Press International on August 23, 2008

The chairman of the African Taekwondo Union, General Fouly of Egypt on Friday expressed his pride over the performance of African taekwondo athletes in the Beijing Olympics.

“I am very proud of the African taekwondo athletes that comprise twelve representatives to the Beijing Olympics. Long ago, we did not have this large number of athletes”, he said.

Besides the number of athletes, we must also acknowledge the shooters good performance over the years, especially in these Olympics, he added.

He attributed this performance to the good organization of federations, as well as the involvement of all bodies for the advancement of taekwondo in Africa, and the good championship level that Africa hosts.

“Our athletes honoured us even if there has been not any medal yet after three days of competition. We must be patient and wait for the end of the competition which is set for Saturday,” he said.

“Despite this, African taekwondo has made enormous progress,” General Fouly said.

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