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Archive for October 31st, 2008

To all the Readers: Problem with our email account

Posted by African Press International on October 31, 2008

API got aproblem with email account from yesterday.

That is the reason why some readers have not been able to get replies to their emails. The Norwegian electricity company “Hafslund” was attending to their electricity lines after the heavy snow fell and damaged some of them. While doing repairs on the damged lines, it affected the cable TV and Internet lines leading to a numer of buildings, API’s building included.

This happens almost every year in many places in Norway at the start of the snow season. It is not sabbotage on our email traffic.

The cable TV/Internet network is now working on the lines to repair all the connections.

We apologise the inconvenience that this has caused. We hope everything will be in order either today Friday 31st., or tomorrow 1st of November.

Chief Editor Korir

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Trade war between Kenya and South Africa has intensified

Posted by African Press International on October 31, 2008

<Business feature By Leo Odera Omolo

As per areport filed earlier by this writer, the South African government has now officially clamped a total ban on Kenya’s avocados exports to its market.

This has prompted players in the Kenyan horticultural industry to ask the government to immediately take a retaliatory action on non-tariff barrier on South African imports in response to the latter’s ban on Kenyan avocados.

South Africa in the past six months, has virtuallybanned imports of fresh fruits from Kenya, citing fruit fly infestation.

There have been an un successful efforts by Kenya in the past to have the ban lifted, with the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (KEPHIS) pleading for Kenya fruits in vain. This is an internationally recognized body charged with the responsibility of serving as a certifying agency, serving South Africa with documents detailing tests carried out that gave the fruits a clean bill of health.

Fresh Produce Exports Association of Kenya chief executive officer (CEO) Stephen Mbithi was recently quoted by the Nairobi’s popular weekly, the EASTAFRICAN as saying that, although South Africa has finally responded to inquiries on why the ban was still on and asked for further technical details,” the ban should be lifted because it is illegal and against the World Trade Organization’s (WTO} Sanitary and Phyatosanitary agreement .

Kephis managing director Dr. Chagema Kedero was also quoted by the same media as saying that the institution was currently busy sampling the information wanted by South African authorities and was hopeful that the interrupted trade would be restored soon.

The KEPHIS boss added that Kenya joined the organization for economic cooperation and development fruit and vegetable scheme, which sets out standards in international trade, and of which South Africa is a member, a development that is expected to make it easier for the two countries to resolve the problem amicably,

Dr.Mbithi said if the ban is not lifted then Kenya must with immediate effect ban imports of fruit pulp and fresh fruits from South Africa in retaliation.

His sentiments had been echoed by Mr.Matanda Wabulye, the CEO of the Kenya export Promotion Council, who was also quoted by the same media house as saying we see this ban as a constraint on trade with South Africa.

South Africa banned Kenyan avocados from its markets in April this year saying they could spread fruit flies, but market players discountedthis angle of argument, saying it was a lame excuse because, although the flies are a common pest across Africa there was no infestation in the region as cited by the South African Authorities.

Kenya is South Africa largest trading partner in East Africa with the economic survey of 2008 showing there was a fast growing trade between the two economic power houses of the region of the Eastern and Southern African regions.

Last year export to South Africa was worth kshs 2.3 billion against South African import worth USD 504 million. If the avocados produce exporters have their way , apples, mangoes, oranges and pears among other common fruits from South Africa that have dominated local retail outlets inthe recent past ,could disappear from many towns in Kenya.

Sourcesat the Trade Ministry in Nairobi say the government is pursuing a diplomatic solution to he simmering trade row and the parties seem to be agreeing.

Avocado is one of the Kenya’s emerging horticultural crops that fetches up to kshs 2.3 billion (usd 31.4 million) annually from exports mainly to the European Union (EU)

On an industrial scale , the crop is an important revenue earner for listed agricultural farm, Kakuzi imited based in Thika district.

Kakuzi exports of the Hase avocado variety accounts for an estimated 7 per cent of Kenya’s total avocado export to Europe.

However at Kshs 150 million (USD 2.1 million) annually, South Africa market is still considered the single largest export destination for Kenyan avocados outside Europe.

Industry player say that if South Africa had a genuine ease, the EU considered being more stringent in traceability, sanitary and physosanity rules, would have banned the fruit as well.

Kenya is favoured by an equatorial climate that allows it to produce avocado through out the year unlike south Arica, whose productions is seasonal.

The officials say the local horticultural industry has been working closely with the Kenya plant Health inspectorate services personnel to have he said phytosanitary concern addressed.

Despite local producers farning to value addition in the hope of increasing exports recounts snow avocado export to South Africa have fallen by 80 per cent since the ban was affected from last April.

The ban has raised eyebrows as some see it as an illegal way of protecting the South African avocado industry.

Experts say the South Africa government has been known to resort to non- tariff trade barriers before to protect it’s from external competition.

They are breaking WTO agreement because they are trying to protect their industry by banning imports “said Dr.Mbithi.

The South African government, however many the legally exploiting a provision in international trade laws that allows countries to institute trade barriers in certain circumstances.

International laws themselves allow countries to protect themselves from hazardous imports that threaten their crops and this is what the South African government has used said an official of the Kenya Horticultural crops Development Authority Edward Maina.

South African like Kenya also a major producer of avocados with most of its exports going to Europe. However avocado industry in that country is seasonal due to the presence of very cold winters leading to low productions.

The production season for the county’s avocados is between March and October while Kenya on the other hand enjoys an equatorial climate and avocado trees in the country produce all year around Mt.Kenya and the North rift region.

Despite the ban, not all of Kenya’s avocados exports to South Africa have been affected, since some exporters have started adding value to their avocado experts extracting the oil and exporting it.

Ends

leooderaomolo@yahoo.com

About the author,

Leo Odera Omolo is a veteran Kenyan journalist operating as a freelance writer in the lakeside city of Kisumu and frequents the neighbouring Tanzania and Uganda, He can be reached on his cellphones Nos 0722-486181 and 9734-509215 for day and nights. Or  his postal address P.O. box 833, Kisumu-Kenya

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Somalia: Suicide bombers strike Bossaso and Hargeisa, killing dozens

Posted by African Press International on October 31, 2008

Hargeisa (Somaliland) – Up to 40 people are reported to have been killed and many others injured as near-simultaneous explosions hit Hargeisa, capital of the self-declared republic of Somaliland, and the town of Bossaso, commercial capital of the neighbouring region of Puntland.

Witnesses told IRIN the explosions were caused by suicide bombers in cars. In Hargeisa, a local journalist said the attackers “were definitely suicide bombers, who seem to have coordinated their attacks”.

Police sources told IRIN five men have arrested in connection with the attacks on Hargeisa.

Somaliland President Dahir Riyaale told a news conference in Hargeisa on 29 October that 19 people were killed in three suicide attacks. However, a local journalist told IRIN that 39 people were killed and over 50 injured, including four journalists.

A statement from the Office of the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia said: “At approximately 10 o’clock this morning the UNDP [UN Development Programme] compound in Hargeisa, Somaliland, was hit by an explosion, caused by a vehicle which forced entry into the compound.” The statement added there were casualties, “but the numbers are currently being verified”.

Witnesses said the bombs also went off at the presidential palace and the Ethiopian embassy in Hargeisa.

“I was sitting in a caf in front of the presidential palace when I was hit by something on my head; when I touched it I found I was bleeding, and I was taken to the hospital,” said Jamal Abdi, a local journalist.

Hundreds of people were crowding around Hargeisa general hospital to check on family and friends. “It is so crowded that police are firing into the air to disperse people,” said the journalist.

Muse Gelle, governor of Bari Region, where Bossaso in located, told IRIN that four people, including the two suicide bombers, were killed in the Bossaso attacks. He said seven security officers were being treated in hospital. He added that the target was the Puntland Intelligence Service (PIS) compound.

Gelle said the security compounds were “seriously damaged by explosions”.

The governor said no one had claimed responsibility for the attacks.

“We cannot say who is behind this now but the police are investigating it and will issue a statement once we have identified the culprits,” he said.

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API/Source.UN Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) – October 29, 2008.

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Somalia: Fleeing from the frying pan into the fire

Posted by African Press International on October 31, 2008

Hargeisa (Somaliland) – When he fled Mogadishu, Mohamed Abdi thought life outside the war-torn capital could not be worse than what he was leaving behind. But since arriving in the self-declared republic of Somaliland in September, Abdi has had to reconsider.

Besides the overcrowded conditions in shelters for the displaced, Abdi and hundreds more who fled fighting in Mogadishu are still awaiting official registration in Somaliland and have yet to receive food aid. Their situation is complicated because agencies and local authorities remain divided over whether the southerners are refugees from another country or internally displaced people (IDPs).

“Those who come from Somalia are considered refugees by the Somaliland government; therefore the policy of Somaliland has not changed on that issue,” Ali Ibrahim, Minister of Planning, said, adding that any report suggesting otherwise “is false and erroneous”. Somaliland, he said, treated the southerners according to international conventions covering refugees. “We are doing the best we can for them,” he added.

Ibrahim stressed that only people from Somaliland were considered “displaced persons” – a term some agencies uses rather than “internally displaced persons”. There are no accurate figures available, but the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates there are about 75,000 displaced people in Somaliland.

Meanwhile, Abdi and others have to make do with whatever they can lay their hands on. They travelled for nine days from Mogadishu: “We were caught between the two sides,” he told IRIN in Hargeisa on 20 October. “The government and the Ethiopians were accusing us [civilians] of being part of the Muqawama [resistance] and the resistance was accusing us of collaborating with the enemy.”

Abdi owned a shop in the Black Sea area of Mogadishu, where he lived with his wife and five children. He said by the time they left, life had become “impossible”.

“My shop was destroyed and we lost many neighbours and friends,” he explained. “So I decided to take my family to a safer place.”

Osman Hussein, another displaced civilian, said Mogadishu had become a killing zone. “It seemed like every day we were burying someone we loved or knew,” Hussein added. “We may not have been the target but we always suffered and no one cares.”

The suffering did not end the day they left Mogadishu. During the trip, they were robbed twice and the women raped. “We were robbed near Jowhar and then between Bulo Burte and Beletweyne,” said Abdi. “The second time, our women were raped and we could not do anything.”

Some of the new arrivals were sharing shelters in the camp with IDPs from Somaliland, as they awaited official registration. However, none of the new arrivals had received food assistance, forcing many to look for work in Hargeisa.

The influx from south-central Somalia to Somaliland started early this year. “They have been coming in droves since February,” said Farhan Abdi Saleebaan, a protection officer with CCBRS, a local NGO. Saleebaan said by the time they arrive in Hargeisa, the displaced were traumatised, weak and disoriented. “They really are in bad shape,” he said, adding that some had lost family members while others suffered untold miseries at the hands of bandits en route.

Abdi, who is also the community leader, said despite some of the economic difficulties they faced, they were much happier in Hargeisa because they had peace and security.

“I am now living in a very small hut with no door, but I sleep like I haven’t slept in a long time,” Abdi told IRIN. “The children can go outside and play, without worrying about a shell landing on them. “We don’t have much and we depend on the kindness of these people; some days we eat, some we don’t,” Abdi added. “But at least we have peace and security – that is what we want and the chance to make a living for our families without being afraid of being killed.”

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API/Source.UN Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) – October 29, 2008.

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Zimbabwe: Opposition pessimistic on SADC intervention

Posted by African Press International on October 31, 2008

Nairobi (Kenya) – Zimbabwe’s main opposition has contradicted the 15 nation Southern African Development Community on the reasons for the country’s power sharing deadlock. This has fuelled pessimism that the regional block will succeed in forcing the political rivals to form a government of national unity.

On Monday, a SADC troika meeting made of leaders from South Africa, Swaziland, Angola and Mozambique called for a full summit of the regional body to deal with the Zimbabwean crisis after a 13 hour meeting failed to break the impasse. A communiqu issued at the end of the summit said the only dispute delaying the implementation of the agreement signed on 15 September was the allocation of the Ministry of Home Affairs, which is in charge of the police.

But two days after the meeting, the MDC issued a statement saying the parties were at loggerheads on almost all the key ministries. The opposition party led by Mr Morgan Tsvangirai, said President Robert Mugabe also appeared unwilling to share the posts of provincial governors, permanent secretaries and diplomats.

The statement said Mugabe unwillingness to share the positions undermined genuine power sharing. Mr Tsvangirai will become Prime Minister if the deal brokered by for South African President Thabo Mbeki is finally implemented.

“There is an attempt to ignore or over look fundamental principles and hence the claim in some circles that only the portfolio of Home Affairs is outstanding,” the MDC said. “Nothing can be further from the truth.”

Analysts said instead of calling a SADC summit, which is unlikely to deliver a final solution to the complex crisis, the matter should have been referred to the African Union. SADC and AU are the guarantors of the agreement that calls for the formation of a unity government between President Mugabe’s ruling Zanu PF and the two formations of the MDC.

“SADC has struggled with the Zimbabwe problem since the disputed presidential elections in 2002 and there is not much that it can do now,” said Mr Joseph Mhishi, an analyst. “After the troika failed to narrow the gap between the parties, SADC should have thrown in the towel.”

The SADC intervention has always been clouded by the MDC’s lack of confidence in Mr Mbeki’s mediation as it accuses him of siding with Mr Mugabe. Mr Mbeki was appointed by SADC in 2002 to lead the mediation effort and was re-assigned this year following the disputed June 27 presidential election.

“Although there are few SADC leaders who are prepared to stand up to Mugabe like Botswana, the rest don’t seem ready to prevail on Zanu PF to genuinely share power.” Mr Mhishi said. “They hold Mugabe in so much awe.”

The deal that is seen as the best opportunity for ending Zimbabwe’s unprecedented economic and political crisis has stalled over the control of the most powerful ministries. The MDC accuses Mr Mugabe of wanting to grab all the powerful posts, while Zanu PF accuses the opposition of deliberately stalling the process of setting up the government to invite Western intervention.

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API/Source.The Nation (Kenya) – October 29, 2008.

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