African Press International (API)

"Daily Online News Channel".

Archive for August 25th, 2008

Finally, Bungei bags the big one

Posted by African Press International on August 25, 2008

ByELIAS MAKORI IN Beijing

In Summary

  • The 28-year-olds lucky number is three and when he was drawn in lane three for Saturdays race
  • Bungei said his 10 years of training in Verona, Italy, where he is currently under Italian coach, Gianni Ghidini, had finally paid off.

Wilfred Bungei shed a tear as the Kenyan national anthem was played for the fourth time at Beijings National Olympic stadium on Saturday night.

His efforts had finally been rewarded with an Olympic gold medal in the 800 metres.

With defending Olympic champion, Russias Yuriy Borzakovskiy, eliminated in the semi-finals along with the fastest man this season so far, Sudans Abubaker Kaki, Bungei knew the gold was either his or team-mate Alfred Kirwa Yegos for the taking and did not take any chances in his game plan.

The 28-year-olds lucky number is three and when he was drawn in lane three for Saturdays race, the stars were shining down on him already.

The idea was that I would just try and go out there and just run, he revisited.

Sometimes when you come into a race with the plan to lead and you dont end up in the lead, you panic. So I needed to take the race as it was going to come. I found myself in the lead and I said lets just go to myself.

Indeed, Bungei controlled the race perfectly with a 53.35-second first lap that had him lead Bahrains Yusuf Saad Kamel (formerly Gregory Konchellah of Kenya) with Kirwa deep in the pack going into the last 100 metres.

Sprint finish

The world champion, who was placed fifth with 100 metres to go, was forced to make his way out of the mob through to lane three for the sprint finish.

It was a tactical error that messed me up. I found myself too deep in the crowd and I has to come out and find room to print to the finish but it was a little too late for the gold, Kirwa said.

Bungei, the world indoor 800m champion in 2006 (Moscow) said his 10 years of training in Verona, Italy, where he is currently under Italian coach, Gianni Ghidini, had finally paid off.

For the last 10 years Ive been training in Italy because for middle distance and short distance races, its not always good to train at high altitude places like Kenya.

For Langat, last nights victory was the climax of a career she has gradually built since 1995 when she qualified to run in the Kenyan team at the World Cross Country Championships but was locked out as she was underage, finally making her debut the following year.

My father was also an athlete who ran in the 5,000m and he encouraged me a lot to take up athletics, the 27-year-old Armed Forces star said.

Favourite

Langat was third after the first lap with favourite, world champion Maryam Yusuf Jamal of Bahrain, leading at the bell after which the Kenyan gold medallist emerged with 200 metres to go, closing the gap on Jamal before opening up a 20-metre gap at the finish.

The mens 5,000m metres was not as close with the three Ethiopians Kenenisa Bekele, his brother Tariku Bekele and Abreham Cherkos – doing the front running as Kenyas Eliud Kipchoge and Edwin Soi kept close tabs.

But the group could not go with Kenenisa when he made his traditional mad dash to the finish line.

My plan was to pick up the pace very fast and indeed it was a fast race. After hard work and so much effort, Im very happy to achieve the double, said Kenenisa who also won the 10,000m gold medal.

Kenyas debutante, Edwin Soi was overwhelmed at bagging the bronze with a seasons best 13:06.22.

I will celebrate with my team-mates. Ive called my family but they didnt pick up the phone. I guess maybe they are still yelling, Soi said.

—————–

API/Source.nation.ke

Advertisements

Posted in AA > News and News analysis | Leave a Comment »

Posted by African Press International on August 25, 2008

Photo/PHOTOS.COM

By CAROLINE NJUNGE

In Summary

  • Majengo, Nairobi is one of the popular spots to find a witchdoctor.
  • Women looking for a man are normally asked to buy meat, which they are then told to insert into their private parts before cooking and serving the man.
  • Most women who turn to witchcraft have tried everything, including prayers, counselling, poring through relationship books and even seeking intervention from their parents

It may sound stranger than fiction or straight out of a Nigerian movie, but Kenyan women, desperate to keep their roving men on a tight leash, are turning to black magic to keep their men home.

Single women yearning for a man to call their own or seeking a life of material comfort but unwilling to work for it are also seeking the services of the so-called love doctors in an effort to net themselves men with a fat wallet and millions in the bank.

It is believed that once treated, these men will find the women so irresistible that they will follow them around like besotted puppies, never casting a glance at other women and answering to their every whim.

Whats more, a woman seeking the services of a witchdoctor no longer has to travel far to get one.

Nairobi, for instance, has its own waganga and all one has to do is take a matatu (or drive) to Majengo, a slum on the outskirts of the city centre, to get the desires of their heart.

Remarkably, the women seeking these services are not just your average ordinary woman.

They are educated, intelligent, sophisticated women with well-paying jobs, the type who have weekly manicures and pedicures.

These women, many of whom are university graduates and hold senior positions at their places of work, will, however, tell you that common sense and a sound education become inconsequential when you see your once cozy and secure world start crumbling.

Take 35-year-old Eunice Syombua*, for example. Eunice, a marketing manager with an international freight company and a Bachelor of Arts graduate from a local university, admits that she sought the services of a mganga a year ago to try and save her ailing, seven-year marriage.

Eunice discovered that her husband, Brian, had been cheating on her for several months.

The discovery hit her like a tonne of bricks because she had thought that she and her husband were happy, despite of the challenges every couple faces.

She found out about his illicit affair when she stumbled on a text message on his mobile phone.

I had borrowed it to send a message to a friend, so when one came through soon after I sent mine, I assumed that it was a reply to the one I had sent, so I read it, recalls Eunice.

It turned out that the message was for her husband, and it was from a woman called Mercy.

It said, Sweetheart, are we still on this evening?

It was a Saturday and Brian had told me that he was meeting his business partner that evening.

A huge argument ensued, during which her husband admitted that he was, indeed, having an affair.

I was devastated. We were college sweethearts and had been inseparable throughout. Everyone assumed that we would get married, and we did, Eunice recalls of her happier days.

She says nothing could have prepared her for this betrayal because there had been no signs that her husband was getting into mischief behind her back.

After several days of talking about issues they decided to work on the relationship.

He assured me that it was just a fling, that it was me that he loved. He convinced me that he was committed to our relationship and even agreed to go for counselling.

Shaken to the core, Eunice started paying more attention to her appearance and started doing more cooking at home.

She did everything she could to ensure that her husband did not develop a roving eye again.

Four months later, however, a friend told her that she had spotted Brian in a certain restaurant on the outskirts of the city looking cozy with another woman.

The first thought that came to mind was to leave him, but when I considered how much I had invested in our marriage, I knew I could not turn my back on it all.

“We had both contributed towards building our home, buying the family car and creating a comfortable life for ourselves, she explains, adding that she could not stand seeing another woman cheat her out of her hard-earned comfortable life.

It was a friend of a friend who came up with the unconventional solution of enlisting the help of a witchdoctor.

At first she laughed it off, but when she thought about it later, she decided to give it a try.

After all, the orthodox methods had all failed. Not even horror stories of witchcraft gone wrong could deter her.

I have heard of men who have turned into zombies after charms that were supposed to tame them backfired. I considered this possibility but convinced myself that it would not happen in my case.

Accompanied by two women and with Sh5,000, in her handbag, they navigated their way to a local slum and into a dimly lit, dingy single room.

Sitting inside on the floor on a tattered mat was an elderly man with one shuka (shawl) wrapped round his waist and another round his shoulders.

Without any pleasantries, he asked what their business was. After explaining her problem, he started mumbling some incoherent things while shaking a rattle.

It was frightening and I nearly ran out, especially when I saw froth coming from the side of his mouth.

Afterwards, he asked for her husbands photograph, which he inserted into a clear bottle containing black powder before corking it.

He explained that it signified bondage. As long as the cork remained in place, her husband would remain by her side.

He told her to take the bottle home and hide it in the bedroom.

An hour later, and Sh4, 000 poorer, Eunice made her way home with her husband imprisoned in a bottle.

It felt kind of absurd but I was willing to try out anything to save my marriage, she explains.

Whether the black magic worked or her husband realised that his marriage was too important to throw away for a mere fling, Eunices husband began spending more time at home and become more loving towards her and their son.

So far, all signs are that he has said goodbye to his cheating ways.

Eunice says that she still has the bottle kept out of sight and has no intention of uncorking it any time soon. Asked whether she feels guilty about what she did, shakes her head emphatically.

He still has his freedom but he comes home to me. Every woman deserves that, she says defiantly.

Frida Kareithi*, a 30-year-old single mother of one who will be quitting the singles club next month to marry the man of her dreams, is convinced that black magic works.

Frida, a nurse at a local hospital, had been alone for four years after the man she was dating dumped her when he found out that she was pregnant.

Most men who showed an interest in me took off immediately they found out that I had a child. I feared that I would end up alone, yet felt helpless because I could not force a man to love me.

“It is a friend who advised me to consult a witchdoctor, saying he could help me get a man.

That was six months ago. Though hesitant to explain what exactly the treatment involved, she says that she parted with Sh8,000.

The next month, she met James, a laboratory assistant and the first man not to take off when he learnt that she had a four-year-old child.

It works. Otherwise, how would you explain my getting a man who was willing to marry me almost immediately after getting treated? she asks.

Isnt she worried that the spell might wear off at some point?

What I want is companionship and a man to go home to. I am tired of going to an empty house. There is no doubt that he is happy with me because I treat him well. That is all that matters, she says evasively.

Fridas case is not strange. There have been stories of commercial sex workers who swear that visiting a mganga ensures that they have a steady supply of clients.

What they are asked to do is enough to turn even the toughest stomach.

Saturday magazine learnt that women looking for a man are normally asked to buy meat, which they are then told to insert into their private parts before cooking and serving the man.

This, they are told, securely binds the man to them and prevents him from ever looking elsewhere for love.

Others are asked to buy a padlock, which is then treated and locked before being handed over to the patient. It symbolises that the man is bound.

Saturday magazine also learnt that most women who turn to witchcraft have tried everything, including prayers, counselling, poring through relationship books and even seeking intervention from their parents.

However, some, like commercial sex workers or those in search of the eternal rich man, resort to black magic simply because they believe or have been told that it is the answer to what they want.

But some women are skeptical about the potency of black a mans behaviour.

How can you believe the so-called witch doctors yet most are poor and live in deplorable conditions? one woman asked, adding that they were just out to rip off people.

The question that kept arising was how a poor person could help others make millions when they could not help themselves.

How does it feel to know that your mans actions are not motivated by his love for you, but are controlled by a supernatural force, if indeed, that is the case? another woman asked.

————

African Press International – API/ Source.nation.ke

Posted in AA > News and News analysis | Leave a Comment »

Raila quizzed in secret by Waki commission

Posted by African Press International on August 25, 2008

PM Raila Odinga. Photo/FILE

ByMUGUMO MUNENE

In Summary

  • PM gives evidence over poll clashes.
  • He was quizzed for several hours on Friday morning before the commission at the KICC.
  • Deputy PM Uhuru Kenyatta has been asked to appear before the commission in a closed-door session on Monday.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga has appeared in private before the judicial commission of inquiry investigating post-election violence, sources told the Sunday Nation.

Mr Odinga was quizzed for several hours on Friday morning before the commission, chaired by Court of Appeal Judge Philip Waki at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre.

Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta has been asked to appear before the commission in a closed-door session on Monday, according to other government sources.

It was not clear whether the commission would seek an appearance from President Mwai Kibaki, though there were indications that it will.

Mr Odinga testified before three commissioners, the secretary to the commission George Kegoro and lead assisting counsel, David Majanja.

It was not clear whether Mr Odinga appeared with his advocate, though it is standard procedure for people giving evidence in confidence to do so in the presence of their lawyers.

The sources, who declined to be named for fear of being identified betraying confidences, said the interchange between the Premier and the commission was very cordial.

The commission has gone to great lengths to receive some evidence in private and has occasionally sat in secret venues and met witnesses without staff.

Mr Odinga becomes the highest-ranking government official to meet the commission, though it is understood that many more senior politicians will be questioned.

The commission was set up as part of the deal struck between the Orange Democratic Movement and the Party of National Unity to bring an end to the violence in the country following the bitterly disputed results of the December presidential election.

At least 1,200 people were killed and 350,000 forced to flee their homes.

The commission has invited Kenyans who may have information to step forward and testify.

No details were immediately available about the circumstances under which Mr Odinga was called by the commission although the law the Commissions of Inquiry Act provides for three possibilities.

The commission has powers equivalent to those of the High Court to summon witnesses who, in its view, may hold evidence that will help them to complete their task.

In the second scenario, people who are mentioned in bad light by witnesses appearing before such a commission are served with notices warning them in advance about such evidence, in which case the person so mentioned may appear to offer countering evidence, send a lawyer to represent their interests or hold their peace and wait for the commissions verdict.

In the third scenario an individual may respond to a commissions request for information related to their terms of reference.

Established on May 23, the commission is mandated to investigate the post-election violence that rocked the country at the beginning of the year.

The country started its slow journey back to normalcy after President Kibaki and Mr Odinga signed a power-sharing pact that paved the way for a grand coalition government with half the ministers coming from each side.

The Waki team includes commissioners Gavin Alistair McFadden from New Zealand and Pascal Kalume Kambale from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Among its terms of reference, the commission is charged with investigating the actions or omissions of state security agencies during the course of the violence.

The commissioners have so far heard the Chief of General Staff Gen Jeremiah Kiangah, Police Commissioner Maj Gen Hussein Ali, Director-General of the National Security Intelligence Service Maj Gen Michael Gichangi, Administration Police Commandant Kinuthia Mbugua, among others.

The government source said the commission is understood to be pleased with the response of leading politicians who have been summoned and who have been described as very cooperative.

The commission has also earned its share of praise, with one source describing Justice Waki as listening to all parties, sober, focused and unwavering in his pursuit of fairness.

————–

API/Source.nation.ke

Posted in AA > News and News analysis | Leave a Comment »

Kenya: Gathering storm of expectations in Nairobi slum

Posted by African Press International on August 25, 2008

Nairobi (Kenya) – For the first time in its 60 years of existence, there is a ray of hope for the one million inhabitants of Kibera, one of the world’s most densely-populated slums. After spending most of his life on opposition benches — or in prison — as a champion of the poor, the member of parliament for this desperately poor constituency is now the prime minister of Kenya.

“An MP’s primary duty is to his constituents. Raila (Odinga) owes his share of power to the youth of Kibera who not only voted for him but also rose up in arms to protest electoral rigging,” says Eric Otieno, a young man from the majority Luo community in Fort Jesus, one of the dozen or so villages in this 260-hectare slum crowded into a ravine in Nairobi hills.

“We understand his limitations as he is only sharing political power with President Kibaki. But all we are asking for is the basic human dignity and survival.”

Whatever approach you take to enter Kibera, the disparity between Nairobi’s poor and rich is conspicuous. You either go past a scuba diving club and a majestic Catholic church, or gaze at the palatial Moi Kabarak, the residence of former president Daniel Arap Moi, which sits in the corner of a golf course just beyond the last of Kibera’s shacks.

The Royal Golf Course itself is contiguous with Kibera. Mis-hit balls by aspiring golfers sometimes land in the winding maze of narrow dirt and stone pathways, lined with heaps of rubbish and divided by a labyrinth of open sewage channels, overflowing with people struggling to survive. Children throw the balls back and usually get a 20-shilling coin thrown back at them from the lush, manicured greens.

On paper, all of Kibera is government land and all construction here is illegal. But its inhabitants pay varying amounts of rent to ‘landlords’ who, with the connivance of district and provincial administration officials, have managed to grab rights to build on this land.

Most shacks are roughly 3 x 3 metres, shared by up to eight people; glued to one another in a patchwork of different shapes. For toilets, residents must either pay for access to a pit-latrine used by 200-odd other people, or defecate in a bag and throw it over the wall.

Similarly, control over the few pipelines bringing in stolen water is in a few hands. Twenty-litres of water costs up to ten shillings (6.5 cents).

“Kibera is an ongoing, daily emergency,” says Caroline Testud, co-founder of the Coalition for Peace and Development (COPE), a new alliance of 14 community-based groups and NGOs. “Humanitarian assistance by international and local NGOs is needed but it is not a substitute for the government’s role. A durable solution warrants political will and governmental action.”

Kibera, like its counterparts in Kampala, Lagos, Lusaka or Cape Town, signifies state failure of criminal proportions in managing urbanisation.

The government has no accurate idea what’s going on in Kibera: there is no official map of the area; the last census took place in 1987, and no one is sure about the mortality rate or any other vital socio-economic statistics. The area’s population is given as between 700,000 and 1.2 million.

There is no consolidated data on the hundreds of organisations working in the area, but some activists estimate there are more than 700 NGOs and community groups working on projects in Kibera, among them a crowd of expatriates working for an alphabet soup of United Nations acronyms, and international and national NGOs. Parallel to this is a religious fervour, palpable throughout the week, that peaks on Sundays when church sermons and street pastors raise a cacophony of holy noise. Most of the better buildings in Kibera are churches or mosques.

However, especially after the experience of post-election violence, skepticism among the youth about both the NGOs and churches is growing.

“For long we’ve had only two kinds of community leaders in Kibera: pastors and community politicians. Both have misled us. Now new leadership is emerging from within the youth that does not want to see the world through tribal and sectarian lenses,” says Skaro.

Yet, everyone IPS talked to in Kibera was hopeful that with Raila in charge, change will happen.

—————

API/Source.IPS (Inter Press SErvice), by Najum Mushtaq

Posted in AA > News and News analysis | Leave a Comment »

Uganda: Losing fight against HIV

Posted by African Press International on August 25, 2008

Kampala (Uganda) – Four out of every 10 people living with HIV in Uganda do not have access to drugs that would keep them alive and healthy and the country is losing the fight against the epidemic, a senior government official said yesterday.

Dr Kihumuro Apuuli, the director general of the Aids Commission, the government agency that coordinates the countrys response to the epidemic, said despite reducing HIV prevalence rates from highs of 30 per cent in the early 1990s, more Ugandans are becoming infected each year.

Uganda used to be a champion in HIV prevention, but now we are doing poorly, Dr Kihumuro said. When HIV patients take ARVs and become better, they relax and start playing sex carelessly which has increased our infection rate.

Speaking to journalists after returning from the recently-concluded World Aids conference in Mexico, Dr Kihumuro said Uganda, Kenya, Senegal and Thailand were some of the countries found to be backsliding in HIV prevention.

He revealed that about six per cent of Ugandans living with HIV have partners who are HIV negative and called on such discordant couples to seek joint health advice.

Dr Kihumuro said: When a man tests for HIV and finds out that he is positive, he decides to go and kill a wife as we have been reading in the press. This is dangerous because the woman might be negative. To be sure, couples are advised to go together for treatment because they can access counselling on how to live together if one is found HIV negative and the other positive.

He said scientists at the conference agreed that, while it would be challenging to find an HIV vaccine, the phenomenon of discordant couples provides research opportunities to explain why some people do not get infected despite being exposed to the virus.

We must quickly scale-up prevention measures and promote earlier diagnosis and treatment of HIV as a strategy to yield prevention benefits at population level, Dr Kihumuro said.

About two million people are living with HIV in Uganda, including about a million who require access to anti-retroviral therapy. However, only 125,000, of whom 13,000 are children, have access to the life-prolonging drugs while four out of 10 people who require the drugs do not have access.

The official revealed that despite an aggressive campaign by the government and NGOs to increase access to treatment for Aids patients, HIV treatment in Uganda is being outpaced by the rising number of infections.

By 2000, Uganda was regarded as a model for Africa in the fight against HIV and Aids due to strong government leadership, broad-based partnerships and effective public education campaigns which all contributed to a decline in the number of people living with HIV between 2000 and 2004.

However, debate over the best strategy, which pitted pro-abstinence and faithfulness supporters against those in favour of condom use and growing complacency, is putting the countrys gains against HIV and Aids at risk.

Dr Kihumuro said that Uganda needs to rethink and re-energise its HIV prevention campaigns targeting individual and community reforms. He said: Deliberate effort should be made to ensure participation of and adequate consultations with population groups perceived to be at higher risk of infection to help them clearly understand the structural vulnerability factors.

—————

API/Source.Daily Monitor (Uganda), by Gerald Bareebe

Posted in AA > News and News analysis | Leave a Comment »

Botswana: Khama too powerful, says university lecturer

Posted by African Press International on August 25, 2008

Gaborone (Botswana) – University of Botswana (UB) lecturer, Log Raditlhokwa, says that the Botswana government is distrustful of the country’s intelligentsia so it fails to utilise its intellectual resources to develop the country.

Speaking at an ongoing annual conference on economic policy in Africa, he said that intellectuals need more space in order to bring their influence to bear on policy making at government level. Due to the mistrust that exists between government and UB lecturers and other sectors, government is likely to lose their contributions. Government should not be fearful of divergent views, he said.

“There is a huge problem, especially that we have a new president whose approach to government has question marks. The President, due to his popularity, has become an institution within the state. He has become too powerful and if that power was to be shared, it would work well for the country. But due to mistrust of intellectuals, we might see a lot of intellectuals being marginalised,” he said.

He said that the exclusion of intellectuals in the recently appointed Morals Committee is a case in point that government is suspicious of them. “There are capable people like Dr Monageng Mogalakwe, a sociologist, who could have been co-opted into the committee to meaningfully contribute in its work,” he said.

According to him, government is likely to rely only on foreign consultants and sycophants of the state to carry out research projects relating to government policy. This, he said, is largely due to the fact that the new government is against anyone who criticises it.

“The new leader is imposing directives. Even if intellectuals try to engage government departments it will be difficult because critical thinking is not encouraged,” he said.

Intellectuals both at government and in the university, he said, are straight-jacketed and not expected to think broadly, such that even the political elites within government are silenced and made to think about protecting their jobs.

He dismissed as fallacious what he calls government thinking that it cannot rule without intellectuals, especially those with discordant views. He said that not everyone at UB is a political activist.

“We need to talk about how we can work together to make our country a success. When you are critical of government you are labelled a politician, but what I know is that university empowers its lecturers and students to critically assess issues constructively.

We are not being listened to because we are seen as against the system. We should apply ourselves tactfully and not succumb to government attitude because we have to pay back the nation for educating us,” he said.

He said despite his limitations, Khama has come up with his road map, which intellectuals should partake in, to find their place in it and help develop Botswana.

He hailed the president’s intention to cut the long government bureaucracy and rallied intellectuals to seize the opportunity to serve their country by contributing ideas and solutions to national issues.

————-

API/Source.Mmegi(Botswana), by Ephraim Keoreng

Posted in AA > News and News analysis | Leave a Comment »

South Africa: Freedom is more than the vote (editorial)

Posted by African Press International on August 25, 2008

Johannesburg (South Africa) – History is written by the victors, and in the struggle for a democracy in SA the African National Congress (ANC) has declared itself the liberator of the people.

But this week the ANC, in a rather stilted statement on the 25th anniversary of the launch of the United Democratic Front (UDF), acknowledged that the UDF brought down apartheid.

A monument is being erected in Mitchells Plain, Cape Town, to mark the site of the launch of the broad front against apartheid in 1983, so perhaps its erasure from history is no longer a certainty.

Finance Minister Trevor Manuel pointed out at a gathering commemorating the UDF this week that South Africans should never again give up the hunger for freedom, even to our own comrades in Parliament or government. Manuels statements echo sentiments by political commentators that there may in fact be a need in todays political climate for an organisation similar to the UDF .

After eight years of escalating protest and defiance against the National Party government on a scale never seen before in SA, the UDF was dissolved. The ANC had just been unbanned, and several key UDF leaders were members of the ANC anyway. So it seemed logical to throw in their lot with the party. After all, the UDF had deferred to the ANC throughout its existence.

But today, many former UDF leaders acknowledge that SA lost something when the front was disbanded. This includes the insistence that freedom means much more than a right to vote the UDF mobilised people to demand quality education, housing and healthcare as well as the vote.

Another political principle lost was the recognition that the contribution of ordinary people in organisations and campaigns was as important as that of their leaders.

The cult of leadership that has developed in the ANC denies the power of citizens to effect change. South Africans may have won the right to elect their leaders, but have lost the power to compel them to do their bidding.

————-

API/Source.Business Day (South Africa)

Posted in AA > News and News analysis | Leave a Comment »

Africa at large: Internal refugees deserve rights (opinion)

Posted by African Press International on August 25, 2008

Nairobi (Kenya) – The May xenophobic violence in South Africa, which left over 30,000 people displaced, posed a new challenge for the Africa Union (AU) in its quest to tackle the problem of refugees and internally displaced people in the continent.

The carnage took place when the AU was revising the Organization of African Unity Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa (1969) and drafting an Internally Displaced Persons Convention.

The revised AU refugees convention is intended to assist the continental body to grapple with the huge numbers of displaced people who, according to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, remain arguably the most significant humanitarian challenge that we face.

To improve refugee security, the continental body needs to revive the spirit and letter of the 1969 OAU Refugee Convention by utilising the existing legal and institutional regional framework to act on human rights crises as they unfold.

Noting the huge numbers of internal refugees in the continent, in 2006 the AU embarked on drafting a Convention on the Prevention of Internal Displacement and the Protection of and Assistance to Internally Displaced Persons in Africa.

Unlike refugees, who fall under the protection of international instruments such as the AU and UN refugee conventions together with the specialist agency UN High Commissioner for Refugees UNHCR) to assist them, there are no comparable standards or mechanisms to safeguard the rights of internal refugees.

Their own state is often unable or unwilling to assist and protect them. Likewise, the international community is often powerless or unwilling to intervene. To date a draft text has been discussed among a group of experts drawn from AU member states and representatives of various UN agencies.

The adoption of a legally-binding Convention on internal refugees will send an important signal to the rest of the world about the seriousness with which Africa considers the issue. In 2007, the UNHCR recorded 11.4 million refugees under its care, up from 9.9 million the previous year. This was the second consecutive year that the number of refugees had steadily increased. Sudan with 523,000 refugees and Somalia (457,000) recorded the highest figures in the continent.

According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre of the Norwegian Refugee Council, the estimated number of internal refugees passed the 26 million mark in 2007 the highest figure since the early 1990s.

As in previous years, Africa was particularly hard hit. The continent hosted almost half of the global internal refugees population (12.7 million people) spread across 20 African countries. Sudan had the highest number of internal refugees (5.8 million) and generated nearly one in every two of the new displacements (1.6 million).

Somalia and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) were the worst affected by new internal displacements in 2007. In Somalia the violence that engulfed the capital Mogadishu and other parts of the country after the Ethiopian invasion in December 2006 displaced some 600,000 people.

In the DRC, fighting between ethnic Tutsi rebels and the government army has uprooted an estimated 500,000 people in the east of the country.

Against this background, there is urgency to review the IDP and refugee resettlement procedures in the continent.

Drafted in the aftermath of anti-colonial struggles, the OAU Refugee Convention has been globally acknowledged as a land-mark contribution to the international refugee protection regimes through its broadening of the refugee definition in response to Africas needs. It was a radical affirmation and expansion of the refugee definition contained in the 1959 UN refugee convention and its 1967 Protocol.

The OAU Refugee Convention allows for the group-based determination of refugee status. In addition, it expands the definition of refugee by stating that external aggression, occupation, foreign domination or events seriously disturbing public order in either part or the whole country of origin or nationality of a person are a basis for claiming refugee status. This means that large groups of refugees fleeing mass human rights violations or generalised violence can be given protection on the strength of their nationality or their membership of a particular ethnic group.

Historically, the response of most African countries and communities towards the displaced has been generous, reflecting long-standing ethnic, political and cultural links between refugees and host populations. However, in recent years, the tremendous stress on the institution of refugee protection in Africa has eroded this hospitality. The large number of refugees in countries already experiencing remarkable social and economic hardships has brought into question the very capacity of African nations to cope with refugees.

* Patrick Mutahi works with Eastern and Horn of Africa Programme, Africa Policy Institute (Nairobi). Africa Insight is an initiative of the Nation Media Groups Africa Media Network Project.

————–

API/Source.Daily Nation (Kenya), by Patrick Mutahi

Posted in AA > News and News analysis | Leave a Comment »

Africa at large: Signs that lion will roar in 21st century

Posted by African Press International on August 25, 2008

Johannesburg (South Africa) – To the uninitiated, Africa is still a huge, dark land mass where angels fear to tread and missionaries disappear. But can we really continue to ignore what constitutes almost 25% of the worlds land mass and is home to 10% of its people?

Despite the many political, social, technological and economic challenges faced by Africa, the past five years have been a beacon of hope. Africa today offers unique and unprecedented business opportunities to global businesses in largely virgin terrain.

In many areas, including healthcare, infrastructure, education, poverty and violence, Africa has far to go. However, the continent is poised for a dramatic change in its economic prospects. Maybe the dawn has arrived, as we see African countries finally develop from debt-laden, aid-financed, market-unresponsive commodity exporters to market-driven, prosperous, dynamic and diversified economies.

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), African growth has been outpacing world growth since the beginning of the commodity bull market in late 2001. Since that year, annual economic growth in Africa has averaged 5%, while overall world growth rose only 4,2% a trend that is expected to continue. The IMF forecasts that this relative outperformance will continue, with average African economic growth at 5,6% up to 2012, while the rest of the worlds growth is expected to advance only 4,8% on average.

Africa offers a world of opportunity. Interestingly, in a Merrill Lynch-Capgemini World Wealth Report for last year, Africa posted the fastest gains in the number of high net-worth individuals, with an increase of 12,5% in 2006. Looking forward, the report estimates that the number of high net-worth individuals in Africa will rise 6,1% through to 2011 and surpass the $1,2-trillion level.

Rising per capita incomes will precipitate the development of a consumer class, creating huge demands for banking, mortgage, insurance and asset management services in the years to come. African economies are showing strong fiscal positions and proving to be an attractive destination for global capital flows. This bodes well for infrastructure development with its allied effect on the greater economy through job creation , taxes and financial services.

Tangible evidence of this is the exponential growth of the telecommunications industry. The internet revolution seems also to be within striking distance. This is likely to be a cornerstone for future African businesses, distribution models and penetration, and thereby act as key ingredients for enhanced productivity and entrepreneurial success.

There is already growing evidence of this IT revolution in countries such as Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco. Experience in southeast Asia and India has shown that a young and hungry population combined with the power of IT and technology can be a compelling proposition, which can bring enterprise, productivity and diversification.

One of the key sources of wealth in Africa is oil, as the continent possesses 8% of the worlds proven oil reserves. Libya, Algeria and Egypt together possess 51% of Africas proven oil reserves, making northern Africa very wealthy. However, only four of the 10 highest per capita gross domestic product countries on the continent are oil exporters.

Large parts of Africa stand to benefit from much better utilisation of the significant untapped oil resources and the multiplier effect on those oil-exporting economies. Reserves in the west African countries alone have been estimated at about 110-billion barrels, which, if proven, would be on a par with Iraq and more than Kuwait.

Africa is also one of the largest continents in the world, with an estimated 24,3-million square kilometres, almost one-quarter of the worlds land, yet with only 12% of the worlds arable land. As the world continues to struggle with constraints on food production and a lack of arable land, Africa with its abundant land could become a major food exporter. Signs of this opportunity being harvested for many African nations to produce and export food are already evident.

Natural resources such as gold, silver, platinum and various other commodities have filled government coffers. Diamonds, for example, are a major source of revenue with African nations producing about $8,4bn a year in revenues from diamond mining alone. In addition, Africa offers unique natural wonders and, as the perception of and access to Africa improves, the travel and tourism industry will make rapid strides in its net contribution to the local economies. An emerging consumer class will also spend some of its disposable income on travel within and outside the continent, thus boosting aviation-based industries and airlines.

If it was the Asian tiger in the 1980s and 1990s, it is definitely the African lion that is ready to roar in this new century. Despite the challenges, there are many factors that indicate that Africa is awakening. When it does, make sure youre ready.

* Sanjeev Gupta is CEO of Sanlam Investment Management Emerging Markets.

—————

API/Source.Business Day (South Africa), by Sanjeev Gupta

Posted in AA > News and News analysis | Leave a Comment »

Africa at large: To be black, Jamaican, Nigerian and very proud

Posted by African Press International on August 25, 2008

Nairobi (Kenya) – When American swimmer Michael Phelps won his eighth Olympic gold medal of the Beijing Games to beat Mark Spitz’s 1972 record of seven, a BBC TV presenter noted that he had bagged more gold than most countries.

The BBC presenter didn’t pursue the matter. Instead she announced a contest in which viewers were being asked to assume Phelps were a country, and to send in proposals about what his flag might be.

As of Tuesday night, Phelps’ eight golds were more than those of the sportsmen and women representing nearly 900 million Africans at the games combined.

But perhaps more surprising is that by the same Tuesday evening, Phelps’ medals represent 30 per cent of the USA’s haul at the Olympics.

For a country that topped the Olympic gold medal table for so long and is now second after China, the impact of a single sportsman on its fortunes is not a good sign.

One man who is very happy about the performance of Africans at the Olympics is Dotun Adebayo, a controversial columnist with The Voice, the black London-published weekly newspaper.

First, Adebayo does something that a lot of us politically correct folks just can’t. He argues that the Olympic games began with the White Week, dominated by sports like swimming, fencing, rowing and others which black folks do not excel in.

The REAL Olympics’, as he called them, begin with track and field, and this year the Jamaicans are the stars. He counts every athlete with a hint of black blood in his or her veins as African.

He is more specific. He holds that all those fast Jamaicans cannot be descendants of slaves from Ghana, as history has it, because for a long time, there has been no Ghanaian in the final stages of the 100- and 200-metre race.

However, there is always a Nigerian. So, he deduces, Jamaicans must be Nigerians, and therefore Nigeria is the best performing country at Beijing!

—————

API/Source.Daily Nation (Kenya), by Charles Onyango-Obbo (opinion)

Posted in AA > News and News analysis | Leave a Comment »

 
%d bloggers like this: