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Archive for November 24th, 2008

MAJOR SPLIT IN THE EAST AFRICAN COMMUNITY IS IN THE OFFING OVER THE PROPOSAL FOR THE FREE MOVEMENT OF PEOPLE AND OTHER ISSUES

Posted by African Press International on November 24, 2008

api-correspondent-leo-odera-omoloNews Analysis By Leo Odera Omolo

A major sharp disagreement and split has emerged between several members states of the East African Community an economic unit bloc bringing together countries like Burundi, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.

The split emerged over the issues currently being negotiated under the Common Market for Eastern African region.

The differences pitting Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burindi on one hand and Tanzania on the other.

Four of the EAC countries are now pushing for the fast tracking of amendments to the EACs Treaty that set up the EAC to allow for majority rule to be used in decision-making instead of consensus. As currently provided in the Treaty.

The latest move was sparked off by what is widely seen as Tanzanias double-speak on its commitment to the integration of the EAC as well as the countrys apparent refusal to agree with other partners states on critical provisions of the Draft Common Market Protocol such as free movement of persons, rights of establishment and residence, and permanent residence..

If the Treaty is amended to replace consensus with majority rule in decision making then Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi can move on with integration process even when Tanzania disagree with some decisions.

Tanzania, according to Kenyan participants at the Zanzibar meeting held two weeks ago, is reluctance overe the integration process and this became apparent during the fith round of negotiations on the EAC Common Market held in Zanzibar two weeks ago.

At the meeting Tanzania is reporte by a source among the participants to have consistently opposed nearly all the proposals by the other four member countries that citizens of the EAC countries be allowed to use their respective national identity cards as travel documents in the region instead of passports.

Tanzania is also reported to have told its partner states that it was opposed to the move and flatly refused to allow the inclusion of a clause that would allow East African citizens to acquire, access and use land in any member state.

Tanzanian government representatives had told the meeting in Zanzibar that it was committed to the integration process, but they had asked other partner states to go Slow on the EAC integration process.

The disagreement have forced the Council of Ministers of the EAC to extend the deadline for the conclusion of the integration in the EACs Common Market Protocol from December 2008 to April 2009.

Tanzania is expected to state its position on the bracketed issues by January next year.

Article 7 of the Treaty says that if a country is not ready to continue with the integration process, it can be allowed to pull out and rejoin the bloc later on at its own volation.

During the Zanzibar meeting, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi proposed to retain Article 6[5and6} of the Common Market Protocol as the basis for allowing East African citizens to use their national identity cards to travel within the EAC region.

The four countries argued that acquiring national passports is cumbersome and not easily accessible to the majority of the citizens.

They also argued that since all partner states are obliged to issue national identity cards in line with the Council decision of September 13 2004 and September 28, 2007, these will be available to all community nationals and should be used to facilitate their free movements within the Common Market.

The four nations further argued that the national identity cards will ease movement of people across borders previously used temporary movement permits which they are charged for each crossings sometimes forcing people to engage in illegal border crossings..

However, the Council of Ministers that elevating national identity cards to travel documents will not stop the use of the national of East Africans official passports.

But Tanzania, on it part, vehemently opposed the proposal, saying national identity cards are not internationally recognized as the standard travel documents.

They also argued hat the Treaty under Article 104 {3}[b} provides for partner states to maintain common standard travel documents.

Tanzania further dstated that there was no need to use IDs as travel documents as there already in place an East African passport which is acceopted as a common Market standard travel document in East cAfrica region as a whole.

Sources says Tanzania had stressed that given the size of the country and its porus borders, it could not allow the use of national identity cards as the standard travel documents for the public security.

Kenyans participants also reported that there was a tug-of-war between the four partner states and Tanzania over the clause thast allows citizens to acquire land and reside in any partner states.

These contentious issues are viewed by observerds as posing a serious thgreat to the existence of the EAC.

Ends

leooderaomolo@yahoo.com

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Posted by African Press International on November 24, 2008

api-correspondent-leo-odera-omoloBusiness Feature By Leo odera omolo(Photo)

The recent overwhelming election victory of the US President-elect Barrack Obama jnr who has a family root and background in Western Kenya is a Big Blessing and is likely to have a significant economic impact in the region.

The tiny semi-bushy and dust Kogelo village, which is located about ten kilometers in the south east of Siaya town has become the behest of intensive business activities in the recent past. The village is frequented by businessmen, especially those involved in the tourist operation, hoteliers and others. Apart from businessmen, the village is witnessing the trooping of a battery of journalists from both locally and internationally.

Kenyas Minister fir Tourism Najib Balala flew into Kisumu at the weekend and made a surprise visit to Kogelo village, located about 80 km in the north west . The Minister visited Mama Sarah Obama, the step grand mother of the US President-elect and disclosed that the government of Kenya intend to construct a modest Museum at an estimate cost of Kshs 5 million. The work is to commence immediately.

The proposed Museum, which will accommodate the history of the Obama family background is also to be stocked with the artifacts and works of the late Barrack Obama snr, the father of the US President Elect.

Also to be stored at the Museum are documentary explanation of the Obama family history and background that those featuring the Kogelo sub-clan as a whole..

The surprise visit by Minister Balala is expected to rekindle the sleeping blue print of Western Kenya Tourist circuit made nearly 40 years ago, but which has for all these years remained in the drawing board without being implemented. It will open up the influx of tourists to the expansive Rift Valley then to Lake Victoria before they wound up the trip at the Obamas family Museum at Kogelo Village.

The sleepy Western Kenya Tourist Circuit was made public in 1965, but could not be implemented by the government of the day due to some political disagreement between the local politicians and the first founding President of Kenya Mzee Jomo Kenyatta . The stumbling bloc was none other than the doyen of the opposition’s politics in Kenya the late Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, the father of the present Kenyas powerful Prime Minister Raila Odinga. The late Odinga and the late President Jomo Kenyatta had sharp ideological differences, which saw Odinga walking out of the Kenyatta administration and forming an opposition party, the defunct Kenya Peoples Union {KPU}

And thereafter the region, especially Nyanza Province, the home of the late Mr. Odinga was marginalized by the governments after the governments impoverizing the people. Kenyatta died in August 1978 and was succeeded by his former Vice President Daniel Arap Moi who continued pursuing the policy of his mentor and predecessor to the latter.

But the recent election victory by Obama in the US has ushered into the region the stream of activities in his ancestral Kogelo home village with tourism officials seeking to brand it as a tourist attraction site. The area has not only attracted tourists alone, but a battery of local and international newsmen.

The chairperson of the Domestic Tourism Council of Kenyan, Ms Anastasia Wakesho become the first most important official to pay a visit to Kogelo village. Her visit was followed by that of the Chief Executive of the Kenya Tourism Board Dr. Ongonga Achieng…

During his brief visit visit Minister Balala who danced jubilantly with the 86 granny Mama Sarah Obama to the tune of local Luo music Nyatiti announced that a new route to take travelers from Nairobi through the expansive Rift Valley and to the shorelines of Lake Victoria before winding up at Kogelo Village the home of Barrack Obama jnrs father was in the offing.

The Minister said the government and other players in the tourism industry in Kenyan are expecting the number of American tourists to rise by between 10 to 15 per cent due to the Obama effect.

The increase if truly realized, said the Minister, would be significant for the industry, considering that America is the second largest source market for tourists coming to the country after the UK.

Ms Wakesho was among the first tourist operators to visit Kogelo Village. Other players in the industry are already gearing up for such a possibility.

A stream of visits by top tourist operators and government officials to Kogelo Village and its environs comes soon after Barrack Obama jnr resounding victory in the US Presidential race.

All of them seemed to come outtomwork for the new tourist route for the Western Kenya Tourist Circuit.

Ms Wakeshos own company Karibu Paradise Safaris Has already designed a route for the region with great expectation of both domestic ands foreign tourists would soon be streaming into Kogelo Village for sight seeing after visiting other tourist attraction scenery around Lake Victoria..

She told newsmen that she has already worked out for a program, which will covering six parliamentary constituencies in the region on a day trip with the night bat Siaya or Kisumu City.

Meanwhile A Spiritual leader from the West African state of Ghana last week quietly slipped into Kogelo Village the home of Barrack Obamas paternal relatives. Peter Anamoh is the first foreign dignitary to pay the homage to the Obama family. The other celebrity is the populist Congolese musician Kanda Bongo Man who visited Mama Sarah Obama s village home two weeks ago, after performing a concert in the heart of Kisumu City, which attracted c lose to 500,000 people.

The Ghanaian spiritual leader said he had traveled all the way from Accra Ghana to come and bless the Obama family. He is credited to have predicted Obama presidential ambition long before he even made his intention public four years ago.

Anamoh appealed to the Kenya government to establish an international conference centre at Kogelo alongside the Museum to serve as the last monument of the victory of the first African American to the presidency of the World most powerful nation on the earth.

Ends

leooderaomolo@yahoo.com

About the writer,

Leo Odera Omolo is a veteran Kenyan journalist and author who is working as a freelance journalist in Kisumu City, but frequenting the neighbouring Tanzania and Uganda for news coverage at regular intervals. He can be reached at cellphone No 0722-486181 or 0734 509215

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Kenyan MPs waste tax-payers money abroad: How MPs spend millions abroad

Posted by African Press International on November 24, 2008

mps-eating-abroadEating tax-payers money abroad does worry Kenyan members of parliament.

According to them, that is also part of service to the electorate.

By Isaac Ongiri

Members of Parliament are burning tens of millions of shillings in non-essential trips abroad every month, The Standard can reveal.

Some 145 MPs have so far spent more than Sh116 million on travel since March and there are six more months to go before the next financial year.

And in a move that is likely to shock and outrage tax payers, the MPs have thwarted an attempt by Head of Civil Service Francis Muthaura to rationalise their per diem (allowances), a move that could reduce the costs by half.

The Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) claimed it was autonomous and, therefore, did not need direction from Mr Muthaura.

This comes barely a fortnight after MPs defeated a Motion in Parliament to have their generous allowances, about Sh600,000, a month from taxation.

Kenyas globetrotting MPs favourite destinations are the US, UK, United Arabs Emirates and Sweden. These also happen to be some of the most expensive destinations. Foreign travel in the August House is said to be so popular that at any given time, delegations abroad comprise sizeable numbers of MPs.

But PSC Vice-Chairman Walter Nyambati said the trips are necessary because about 70 per cent of MPs in are new.

“These members must acquaint themselves with Commonwealth parliamentary procedures. Kenyans should expect this to reduce next year,” he said.

Parliamentary committees trips are most sought after, and schedules of travel for the committees are always ready.

Toured Robben Island

Last week, for example, at least 40 MPs were out of the country on such trips. The Committee on Administration, National Security and Local Authority chaired by Mt Elgon MP Fred Kapondi was in South Africa where they not only met the Speaker in Cape Town, but also toured Robben Island (where Nelson Mandela was restricted for 18 years), Johannesburg and mineral-rich Gauteng Province.

The Energy, Communications and Public Works Committee, whose chairman is Karachuonyo MP James Rege, arrived last Wednesday from a tour of Sweden and other Scandinavian countries.

The Prime Minister was in China recently for the UN Habitat conference, accompanied by 89 delegates, including six Cabinet ministers, two Assistant ministers, seven MPs and seven PSs. The delegation also had 30 councillors, two town clerks and 20 technocrats. In total, the China delegations travel cost taxpayers a whopping Sh40 million.

In Parliament, coalition partners PNU and ODM Chief Whips George Thuo (Juja) and Jakoyo Midiwo (Gem) are said to be the most frequently travelled clocking about 15 trips each. Mr Thuo disputed the number of trips he had taken, saying other MPs had travelled more than he and that his travels were not “out of the ordinary”. He pointed out that his recent travel to the US was sponsored by the US State Department.

Mr Midiwo arrived from the US a week ago. He confirmed to The Standard that he was in Sweden at the weekend, but clarified some trips were funded by foreign governments.

Commenting on the issue, an MP who sought anonymity said: “It is an issue we have raised in Parliament. It is obvious that whatever they (Chief Whips) are doing has no immediate benefit. The trips are for personal gain.” And Parliamentary Accounts Committee (PAC) Chairman Bonny Khalwale concurred.

“I agree that the number of trips some individuals have made are alarming,” he said.

Take caution

Dr Khalwale (Ikolomani) said although his committee was yet to travel abroad this financial year, there was need for the team that organises trips to take caution.

“The people involved in trips are few and specific. In fact, the Clerk of the National Assembly should publish a list of trips made, the beneficiaries and the cost incurred,” the MP said.

That notwithstanding, The Standard established that MPs have devised a way of extending trips.

Some are sudden and unplanned, occasioning protocol and diplomatic issues. Some countries have written to the National Assembly, warning they will not condone many visits from Kenyan delegations.

A Kenyan diplomat confirmed to The Standard that some delegations arrive unannounced, leading to logistical headaches. In one incident, a mission had to close so that staff attend to a 20-member delegation headed by a high-ranking MP that had arrived without notice.

A senior diplomat who sought anonymity said: “There is need to follow procedure to ensure nobody lands without the knowledge of the hosts.”

However, Clerk of the National Assembly Patrick Gichohi denied that MPs foreign trips were non-essential.

“They are well regulated and normally approved by the Speakers Committee,” he said.

Mr Gichohi said the current Parliament comprised new MPs and there was need for “exposure to parliamentary business”, thus the travels.

“We are within the budget and there is no misappropriation of funds,” Gichohi said.

Exchange programmes

He explained that MPs normally travel to benefit from various exchange programmes to boost their capacity.

Gichohi disclosed that some trips are funded by the Westminster Foundation, United States Agency for International Development (USaid) and the Swedish government.

But Kangundo MP Johnstone Muthama the only legislator who has agreed that his allowances be taxed described some trips as “useless” and “shopping ventures”.

He told MPs to sympathise with Kenyans and reduce unnecessary burden on the taxpayers by cutting on the number of trips abroad.

“I have never travelled abroad on a ticket paid by the people of Kenya. Parliament should not be made a holiday camp,” said Mr Muthama.

Parliaments Budget Committee Chairman Otieno Ogindo, who admitted travelling twice to the US and Uganda, said his trips were essential.

“My committee is fairly new and there is need for us to travel around and learn how other committees of that nature operate,” he said.

Mr Ogindo said his committee travels business class.

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api/source.standard.ke

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