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Archive for December, 2008

Governments in West Africa must step up existing measures to prevent the spread of malaria

Posted by African Press International on December 31, 2008

AFRICA: New hope for malaria vaccine

Photo: UNICEF/HQ00-0159/Pirozzi
Health experts say any future vaccine should be part of broad prevention efforts (file photo)

DAKAR, 22 December 2008 (IRIN) – The worlds most clinically advanced malaria vaccine trials have given new hope in the fight against the disease, which in sub-Saharan Africa kills a child every 30 seconds.

Malaria experts recently meeting in the Burkina Faso capital Ouagadougou say promising vaccine research aside, governments in West Africa must step up existing measures to prevent the spread of the disease.

Results published on 11 December in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that the vaccine candidate RTS,S/AS (made by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Biologicals), provides both infants and young children with significant protection against malaria.

We are closer than ever before to developing a malaria vaccine,” said Christian Loucq, director of PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative (MVI), the organisation coordinating the global effort.

The Roll Back Malaria (RBM) partnership says malaria is the leading cause of death of under-five children in Africa, and in pregnant women increases the chances of low birth weight, anaemia or early infant death.

Malaria is endemic in most West African countries. The World Health Organisation (WHO) says malaria causes an average loss of 1.3 percent of economic growth in countries with intense transmission.

Scientific success

Two separate second phase trials of versions of the RTS,S/AS drug were conducted in Kenya and Tanzania, and reaffirmed earlier study results, supporting the launch of a further, stage three trial.

In children aged five months to seventeen months, the candidate RTS,S/AS01 reduced the risk of clinical episodes of malaria by 53 percent, over an eight-month period. It was also shown to have a promising safety profile. And for the first time, data from the study of RTS,S/AS02 showed that the drug can be used in infants, as part of existing national immunisation programmes.

The vaccine works alongside standard infant vaccines of the World Health Organisations (WHO) Expanded Program of Immunization (EPI), and has consistently shown a significant efficacy level, said Joe Cohen, a co-inventor of the vaccine and vice-president of Research & Development, Emerging Diseases & HIV at GSK Biologicals.

Holistic approach

One RBM official, who took part in the Ouagadougou malaria conference, said the vaccine progress is welcome news but does not change the need for better prevention efforts in West Africa.

This new research is positive but it doesnt change our message countries still need to modify their strategies, especially in prevention and treatment, Boi-Betty Udom, RBM partnership facilitator, told IRIN. Were hopeful a vaccine could be part of a holistic approach to malaria control, as a way to reduce the severity of malaria attacks.

At the Ouagadougou meeting WHO and RBM officials urged West African governments to work to reach more people with preventive measures. Udom said just 20 percent of people mainly under-five children and pregnant women are being targeted.

Stephan Tohon of WHOs malaria programme in Burkina Faso said too narrow a focus might mean that preventive tools like insecticide-treated nets (ITN) are not being used as they should. Ten years ago we focused on the most vulnerable populations women and under-five children but today we realise that where there is a mosquito net its often the head of the household who uses it.

WHOs latest world malaria report says surveys in 2006-07 in 18 African countries showed that 34 percent of households owned ITNs and 23 percent of under-five children slept under the nets.

Experts at the meeting noted that none of the countries in West Africa have met the African Unions 2003 Maputo declaration, which stipulated that governments allot 15 percent of the national budget to the health sector.


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Not clear yet as to who will become Ghana’s president

Posted by African Press International on December 31, 2008

GHANA: No president-elect yet

Photo: Evans Mensah/IRIN
Ghanaians sat for hours outsde the national electoral commission offices awaiting results of the presidential run-off

ACCRA, 30 December 2008 (IRIN) – Ghanas test as a model democracy in coup-wracked West Africa will be stretched over a few more days as election officials investigate fraud allegations and conduct a missed poll in one district.

Results from Ghanas 28 December presidential run-off were expected on 30 December but the head of the electoral commission said the outcome will be delayed for audits of disputed polls and thefresh 2 January vote.

Thousands of Ghanaians camped out overnight at the electoral commission headquarters in the capital Accra the eve of the expected announcement. Armed soldiers and police were out in forceto control the crowds.

As of late 30 December, with counts from 229 of 230 constituencies, opposition candidate John Evans Atta Mills was leading with 50.13 percent against 49.87 percent for the ruling party candidate Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, according to the national electoral commission.

Voters number some 53,000 in the district set to vote later this week.

Ghanaians are watching nervously, thinking not only of their new leader but also of the countrys reputation at stake.

More on Ghana elections
Critical issues in presidential poll
Police gear up to prevent election violence
Candidates go to a run-off

Teacher Yaw Ampong, 37, told IRIN: For me the many reports of intimidation and allegations of vote rigging by both parties is worrying, especially because of the reputation weve carved for ourselves as an example of a world class democracy worth emulating.

Businesses in Accra shut down early on 30 December as people awaited results.

Many citizens say tensions surrounding the tight election have evoked last years election violence in Kenya and recent coups dtat in Mauritania and Guinea.

A 40-year-old bus driver who gave his name as Steven said he hopes politicians and citizens alike will take a cue from Kenya to avoid post-election violence.

I am particularly concerned because listening to the international media on the coup dtat in Guinea I get the sense that the coup has the potential to destabilise the sub-region, he added.

He says on election day he told a number of his friends to avoid any act that might make the country vulnerable to a situation as witnessed by the Guineans.

Ghana has seen an era of military coups but has been a stable democracy since the 1990s.

At Accras central business district a market woman yelled: We want peace. We want peace. Ghana is not Kenya!

Photo: Evans Mensah/IRIN
Armed soldiers and police were out in force in the streets of the Ghanaian capital Accra as people awaited results of the close presidential run-off

Despite some reports of poll disturbances in the presidential run-off observers have declared the election as largely fair and peaceful. The head of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) observer mission former Nigerian president General Yakubu Gowon told the press the elections have been free, fair and credible.

Upon releasing preliminary figures the head of the electoral commission, Kwadjo Afari Djan, announced that allegations of irregularities in the Ashanti and Volta regions are serious enough to warrant audits. He said the Tain district in the Brong Ahafo region will vote on 2 January; polls did not go forward there on 28 December because lingering tension between rival supporters was considered too explosive to hold a vote.


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Exodus in northeastern DRC due to deadly attacks

Posted by African Press International on December 31, 2008

DRC-UGANDA: Deadly LRA attacks prompt exodus in northeastern DRC

Photo: Voxcom/IRIN
LRA soldiers: Tens of thousands of civilians have fled their villages in northeastern DRC after attacks blamed on the Lords Resistance Army

KINSHASA, 30 December 2008 (IRIN) – Tens of thousands of civilians have fled their villages in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) after 189 people were killed in attacks blamed on the Lords Resistance Army, a Ugandan rebel group, according to the UNs Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

The entire population of Faradje [80km from the Sudanese border], some 30,000 people, has left. Most have taken refuge in Tadu and Kpodo, said Ivo Brandau, head of information for OCHA in the DRC, referring to villages 37km and 11km from Faradje respectively.

Brandau said there were concerns among humanitarian agencies that large numbers of other civilians would take flight for fear of new attacks.

The armies of the DRC, Uganda and Southern Sudan have been conducting joint military operations against the LRA in northeastern DRC since shortly after the rebel groups leader, Joseph Kony, failed once again to show up in early December for a scheduled signing of a final peace accord.

Brandau said the region of Bangadi (200km west-north-west of Faradje) was particularly vulnerable because there was no military presence there.

Photo: Peter Martell/IRIN
Congolese displaced in a past LRA attack in northeastern DRC. Some 189 people were killed in the latest LRA attacks blamed in the area

An OCHA field mission said displaced people from Kiliwa and Paika had travelled to Masabe, 75km from the town of Dungu (about 120km west of Faradje).

Its not yet known exactly how many. Another group of around 180 households is said to be in Duru (about 150km west of Faradje). This area is considered to be at risk because of the presence of the LRA, said Brandau.

Citing local authorities and residents, he said that in recent days 40 people had been killed in Faradje, 89 in Doruma (about 250km northwest of Faradje) and 60 in Gurga. Villages and local officials are still looking for bodies.

Prominent citizens killed

Several prominent Faradje citizens were killed in the attack, including a senior doctor, two pastors, a school inspector, a pharmacist, and the deputy head of the Directorate General of Migration.

Dungu Territory Administrator Leandres Bwilu told IRIN the Ugandan rebels had attacked several villages in the area, but declined to comment further.

About 20 children were abducted during the attack on Faradje, 120 houses were set on fire, and numerous buildings, including the hospital and the police barracks, were looted, according to residents cited by the OCHA field mission.

According to OCHA, the LRA is currently occupying seven villages around Doruma: Batande, Manzagala, Mabando, Bagbugu, Nakatilikpa,, Nagengwa and Natulugbu.

DRC army spokesman Col Leon-Richard Kasongo said air raids on LRA positions in Garamba National Park in northeastern DRC had dispersed the rebels both north towards Sudan and south into the DRC.

The military operations and the LRA presence make it very difficult for humanitarian agencies to operate, and some areas are currently totally inaccessible to aid workers.


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The crunching continues – food prices

Posted by African Press International on December 31, 2008

SWAZILAND: The food price crunch continues

Photo: James Hall/IRIN
Many are increasingly growing vegetables to get by

MBABANE, 30 December 2008 (IRIN) – Swazi familieshave increasingly resorted togrowing vegetables in their backyards and even making sour milk concoctions for sale as food prices continue to bite during the lean season.

We are a people who know how to get along in hard times, and for us times have been hard for a long time, said Amos Thwala, who lives with his family of six on a little plot outside Swazilands central commercial town of Manzini.

Prices of essential food items have risen 10-40 percent in 2008. This week, the Swazi media have also reported meat shortages in towns.

While the USAID-funded Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS-NET) reported that the food inflation rate had dropped from 18.3 percent to 17.9 percent in Swaziland in October, the rate is still high.

Amos, like 80 percent of the population, lives on communal Swazi Nation Land, administered by hereditary chiefs. Unlike 2007, when Swaziland’s maize crop was devastated by a prolonged dry spell and high temperatures (resulting in the lowest annual harvest on record), this year, his land has received rainfall.

''We are all hoping for good crops [in 2009], because what little food people had in their crop storage bins from last years harvests is finished by December, weeks before the new crops come in''

The summer rains have helped him to grow vegetables on his plot. They have already covered his childrens school fees for when classes resume in January 2009.

Selling what we can is our way of getting on, said Amos, whose wife on occasion also sells a sour milk concoction called `emasi, a popular Swazi drink, made from his cows output.

Job losses

However, selling sour milk and tomatoes can never make up for the income of their eldest son, who lost his job in a South African mine prior to the holiday season, when migrant workers are customarily dismissed for the year to visit their home countries.

For a century the remittances of Swazi men working in mines in South Africa have supported their families in the chiefdoms, and been a source of foreign exchange earnings for the national economy.

Remittances in Swaziland account for 4.2 percent of Gross Domestic Product, reported the Financial Mail, a South African weekly, in December. Quoting analysts, the magazine also said South Africas mining sector is expected to lose 40,000 jobs by the end of 2009.

Borderline existences under threat

The Thwala familys efforts to cope tells in microcosm the wider national story of higher food prices threatening already borderline existences.

World Vision reported this month that many Swazis in rural areas are down to one or two meals a day as they ration their food supplies, and the cost of food increases.

We are all hoping for good crops [in 2009], because what little food people had in their crop storage bins from last years harvests is finished by December, weeks before the new crops come in. This is the time when people resort to buying food staples in shops. But with rising costs and less money, they cant this year, said Samuel Zwane, an aid worker in the Manzini region.

The high price of food has worsened life for families struggling to nourish their HIV-positive relatives, who require well-balanced meals to facilitate the effectiveness of their antiretroviral regimen. The doubling of wheat prices in 2008 has also made bread unaffordable for many Swazis.

The Thwalas are relatively lucky. They receive rations of maize meal and cooking oil supplied by the World Food Programme and distributed in their area by World Vision.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, it is estimated that about 210,000 Swazis will be food insecure during the 2008/09 marketing year (April/March). Of these, 60,000 are temporarily food insecure primarily due to rising food prices, and face a food deficit of about 4,300 metric tonnes of cereals.


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11 deaths – Ebola may be on its way back

Posted by African Press International on December 31, 2008

DRC: Ebola suspected as 11 die in Kasai Occidental (corrected version)

Photo: BBC
DRC Health Minister August Mopipi said the symptoms of those who died were evidence that they had succumbed to the effects of the Ebola virus

KINSHASA, 30 December 2008 (IRIN) – Eleven people have died in a remote area of central Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where the presence of the Ebola virus has been confirmed, according to health officials.

The 11 were among a few dozen people suspected to be infected with the deadly virus near the village of Kaluemba in Kasai Occidental Province.

DRC Health Minister August Mopipi said the symptoms of those who died fever, bloody vomit and diarrhoea, muscular pains were evidence that they had succumbed to the effects of the Ebola virus.

The outbreak began on 29 November when an 18-year-old girl gave birth prematurely and both mother and child and people who were nearby died shortly afterwards, said the minister.

Mopipi explained that two samples from the area had been tested at National Institute of Biomedical Research in Kinshasa and the Franceville laboratory in Gabon for confirmation. The Franceville results showed the presence of the Ebola virus, Mopipi said.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), however, the samples were taken from two patients who were still alive.

We only have two confirmed cases, Gregory Hrtl of the WHOs Epidemic and Pandemic Alert and Response unit told IRIN by phone from Geneva.

We are not sure the 11 deaths were due to Ebola. This is a part of the world where there are many diseases, such as cholera, typhoid and shigellosis, he added.

Hrtl noted that some patients in Kaluemba were responding to antibiotics, which would rule out Ebola.

WHO country and regional staff are working closely with the Ministry of Health. This is a very remote part of the country and transport is extremely limited, he said.

Pockets, or suspected cases, of Ebola have been recorded with increasing frequency in villages within the Kaluemba health area where the disease has been confirmed, said Olivier Chenebon, of the Belgian branch of the medical charity Mdecins Sans Frontires.

The work of our teams on the ground is important: They should be closely monitoring the 102 people who have been in contact with the dead or the sick. It is possible they might develop the disease and infect others, Chenebon said.

The Ebola epidemic has been reappearing in Mweka District for nearly a year.

The disease is thought to have caused the deaths of many of the 187 people who died in and around Kampungu village, also in Kasai Occidental, during a confirmed outbreak in 2007.

According to Chenebon, the teams touring villages to raise awareness of the disease are telling people not to touch dead animals, not to eat bats or monkeys, and to avoid all contact with human fluids.


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President Chavez congratulates Iraqi shoe thrower for targeting President Bush

Posted by African Press International on December 31, 2008

chavez-praising-the-iraqi-shoe-throwerVenezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Photo/REUTERS

PostedTuesday, December 162008at17:28

CARACAS, Tuesday

Venezuela President Hugo Chavez said yesterday that an Iraqi reporter who flung his shoes at US President George W. Bush was courageous.

Mr Chavez, who has himself hurled insults at the US President over the years, said he was glad the shoes didnt hit Mr Bush but smiled broadly during a video of the incident played during a cabinet meeting broadcast on Venezuela television.

Its a good thing it didnt hit him. Im not encouraging throwing shoes at anybody, but really, what courage, he said.

Iraqi reporter Muntazer al-Zaidi threw shoes at Mr Bush and called him a dog during a Baghdad news conference on Sunday, an act that has won him wide support in the Middle East.

Mr Chavez is a fierce critic of the US war on terror in Iraq and Afghanistan and frequently calls Mr Bush a donkey, a drunkard or Mr Danger.

Most famously he called Mr Bush the Devil during a speech at the UN headquarters in New York, sniffing the air and saying it still smelt of sulphur after Mr Bush had left the podium.

During 10 years in office, Mr Chavez has portrayed his socialist government as an alternative to the US empire. He promotes alliances with countries including Iran, Cuba and Russia to weaken Washingtons influence on the world stage.

Venezuelan state TV repeatedly replayed a clip of the shoe throwing incident. (Reuters)


IRAQ/BUSH-SHOEVideo frame grab of U.S. President George W. Bush (L) ducking from a shoe during a news conference in Baghdad December 14, 2008. An Iraqi reporter called visiting U.S. President Bush a “dog” in Arabic on Sunday and threw his shoes at him during a news conference in Baghdad. Iraqi security officers and U.S. secret service agents leapt at the man and dragged him struggling and screaming out of the room where Bush was giving a news conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. PHOTO/ REUTERS

ByBILLY MUIRURIPostedSaturday, December 272008at17:25

In Summary

  • How can he address other presidents as if he owns the world? Chavez wonders about Bush

The president robustly threw a bold stare at the audience, paused and with their full attention on his next statement, he blurted out: address other presidents as if heThe devil came here yesterday! And it smells of sulphur till today… How can he address other presidents as if he owns the world?

That was President Hugo Chavez of oil-rich Venezuela addressing the UN General Assembly on just who he thought US President George Walker Bush is. Bush had addressed the same meeting the day before.

Chavez wasnt through. He stunned delegates again when he acknowledged that he had a warm relationship with former president Bill Clinton. But on Bush, he bellowed: With this cowboy, you cant even talk he even stole the elections.

Chavez, whose country is the fourth largest exporter of oil to the US, is just one of the people who have never agreed with Bush on anything.

At one time, he blamed the UN for being an arm of the US and even proposed to offer Caracas, the Venezuelan capital, to be its headquarters as the way it (UN) is, there is no way to save it (from US influence).

Definitely the most powerful man alive, Bush has stepped on the toes of many presidents, especially from oil-rich countries.

In the process, he has earned so many enemies that even a fortnight ago, his retinue of security agents had never imagined that the presidents enemies could include journalists.

A fortnight ago, he ducked two shoes hurled at him by an enraged Iraq journalist, Muntadar al-Zaidi of Al-Baghdadiya TV, who called him dog, during a press conference alongside Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki.

Again, Chavez was the first and only international leader to publicly paised the journalists attack. What courage! he said of Zaidis onslaught. Though he said it was very funny, he added that the action was courageous and acting for the Iraq people.

Bush is the man Iraqis blame for all misery they are suffering since the US invaded the country five years ago.

Early this month, he regreted having waged a war in Iraq and said it was the most unfortunate event in his eight-year rule.

Perceived to be overbearing and egoistic, he has come in conflict with several world leaders, especially those who think Western powers should not interfere with their own internal affairs.

He attacked Iraq in 2003, accusing strong man Saddam Hussein of making chemical and biological weapons and of having links with the al Qaeda terrorist network.

He was so keen to distort intelligence reports to justify the attack that he is said to have ignored a plea by Saddam that he could go to exile if compensated with $1 (Sh80) billion.

Saddam wont change. Time has come to get rid of him. Thats the way it is, he had said after a meeting in Texas with then Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar where the offer plea was presented.

And in a televised address to Americans in March, 2003, Bush urged the Iraq military not to defend their commander-in-chief.

Do not fight for a dying regime. Saddam is not worth your own life, he added, This man (Saddam) is insane. He is a dangerous man. We should force him out now.

In 2002, he had expressed hatred for Saddam in the Senate and tried to justify war against him, After all, this is the guy who tried to kill my father. Bush Senior, who helped to drive Iraq forces out of Kuwait in 1990, was targeted during a visit to Kuwait during Bill Clintons tenure.

Former Cuban strongman Fidel Castro also had very little respect for Bush. He was more vicious against the man he said had fooled some people all the time, and all people part of the time but could never fool all the people all the time.

Castro was enraged when Bush declared: Long live free Cuba, after Castro transferred power to his brother Raul.

A frail Castro said from his hospital bed: I cant imagine such words from the mouth of a whole US president, a whole 139 years later.

Cuba gained independence from Spain in 1878. When Bush said in 2004 that Cuba was a growing sex tourist destination, Castro wrote a letter to him accusing the US of playing the Holy God nation while it had a more thriving sexual and human trafficking industry.

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I wish I had listened to my mother when she advised me not to get married at a young age

Posted by African Press International on December 30, 2008

KENYA: Caroline Mwita: “I wish I had listened to my mother, who advised against getting married early”

Photo: Bristol-Myers Squibb
“I do not know whether I got HIV from my husband or from [one of] these men”

KISII, 29 December 2008 (PlusNews) – “I met my future husband when I was around 13 years old and I went to Kisii town to live with my father, who worked there as a watchman.

“We talked [she and her future husband] and he told me that he was working in one of the supermarkets as a loader, and we started going out.

“I managed to convince him that I should finish my primary schooling before we could marry. Unfortunately, before I could even sit for my final primary education exam, I became pregnant and we decided to get married.

“After only one year, my husband died. He had been sick on and off but I did not expect him to die that soon. After the burial, I was told that I would be inherited and I was scared, because the man who would inherit me was old enough to be my father.

“I had no choice but to do as they wanted. I could not even go back to my parents because my father [agreed with] these people. All I could do was cry, but I soon got used to it.

“The first man to inherit me died, and our child died soon after birth. And it is then that I realised I was [HIV] positive.

“The second man only stayed for three months and left to inherit another woman. I am now living with the third man to inherit me after my husband’s death.

“I do not know whether I got HIV from my husband or from [one of] these men. We have sex without even protection, yet you cannot even tell them a thing.

“It is sad, because somebody is just inheriting you, yet the community gives them complete control over you.

“At times I wish I had listened to my mother, who advised me against getting married early.”


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Kenyans must not be deceived, there shall be no peace if the Mungiki sect pressing issues are not addressed

Posted by African Press International on December 30, 2008

The Waki recommendation and setting up of the Kenya tribunal to look into the 2007 post-election violence will only bear lasting fruits if the Mungiki militiaʼs sect matters are also addressed as part of the main agenda.

The top Kikiyus in the government have for the past years been victimising innocent Kenyans in the name of being members of this outlawed sect, through well orchestrated propaganda being spread by security agents as licence to kill and brutally murder innocent people without justice.

Kenyan must not be deceived, there shall be no peace if the Mungiki sect pressing issues are not addressed, and in essence the road map for the tribunal success is to follow up with Kenyan PM Raila Odinga gesture to open up talks with Mungiki leaders, hear their grievances with sober approach to find a lasting solution to the same.

Hundreds of the suspected members of mungiki have been executed in cold blood in broad daylight, the butchering of people without charging them in the court of law shall not eliminate the group, and instead it will further escalate more violence and increase human right abuses in Kenya.

The Kenya government must accept the fact that this group are children of the Mau Mau freedom fighters whoʼs forefather fought for the liberation cause of the land, now living under extreme poverty in the streets or as squatters or landless, while ongoing killings and abductions are being staged by a renegade faction sponsored by government to distort the genuine and original cause of sect to demand back their ancestral land.

Sweep the history under the carpet in order to avoid answering questions on those behind the mysterious killings will let this myth go.

Many innocent Kikuyus are currently seeking asylum across the world after being falsely framed by the powerful figures of their community in the current government as members of the banned sect, this is a tact being used by these ruthless and blood thirsty wealthy land grabbers to eliminate rightful owners of land grabbed by the late Kenyattaʼs family and his cronies.

There are reports that so many Kikuyus in the past years have fled the country and currently seeking asylums around the world under the fear of being implicated as members ofMungiki and therefore if the Kenya government does not take swift action to have formal reconciliation meeting with sect leaders, it wonʼt be surprised if they transformed itself to sophisticated and dangerous revolutionary movement in Central Province.

By Rev. Okoth Otura

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Wake up and start demanding your rights and every Kenyan rights from the government.

Posted by African Press International on December 30, 2008

It’s very sad that this fellow has been putting his life for the emancipation of Kenyans and, today, his life is in danger but the people he has always fought for, are the very ones sending these characters to put him off tyhe streets. Once this is done, you will hear how they rush to condemn the government or who ever is behind this – then, it will be history!

Why are do we always take human life so cheap? Why should we use those who have supported us as things to be used up? Kenyans must surely wake up if they really want to have a peaceful country where everyone will move freely and trade wherever they choose to do so.

We are, today, in the jaws of those who believe, like the Boers before them, that those whose names could not be found in the history books during independent, were made to be our servants and slaves!

Wake up and start demanding your rights and every Kenyan rights from the government. The civil liberties must be granted to everyone
irrespective of the house where Odhiambo came from. We don’t need to hoodwink the family the way we have done with the Mbai’s and others, then, we disappear into oblivion!

By Otieno Mbare

Otieno Mbare, P.hD (Econ & Bus.Adm) Research Fellow, bo Akademi University & Lecturer, Turku University of Applied Sciences
+358 2 2154 976 (Off) +358 40 5341 996

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Somalia crisis: A member of parliament in the Yusuf camp, who requested anonymity, told IRIN Yusuf was pressured into resigning by the international community.

Posted by African Press International on December 30, 2008

SOMALIA: Fresh turmoil, uncertainty as president resigns

Photo: Liban Warsame
President Abdullahi Yusuf resigned on 29 December four years after his election

NAIROBI, 29 December 2008 (IRIN) – Fresh turmoil and uncertainty loom for the people of Somalia – already ravaged by displacement, conflict, drought and hyper-inflation – after the countrys interim president resigned on 29 December.

Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed resigned after disagreements with parliament and his prime minister, as well as pressure from the international community.

“President Abdullahi Yusuf resigned at around 1000am local time. The speaker of parliament, Sheikh Aden Madobe, is now the acting president until a new one is elected,” Abdi Haji Gobdon, the government spokesman told IRIN.

Gobdon said parliament had to elect a new president within 30 days, according to the interim constitution.

Yusuf’s resignation comes days after the man he appointed as prime minister, Mohamed Mahamud Guled, resigned – in defiance of parliament.

Yusuf, a former warlord, was elected four years ago to a five-year term in the hope that he would bring peace and stability to the war-torn country.

According to local sources, Yusuf, in a resignation speech, told parliament he had failed to do so, and blamed both Somalis and the international community for his failure.

Photo: Hassan Ahmed/IRIN
Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein

Clash with premier

Yusuf and the Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein had clashed over attempts to negotiate a peace deal with the Islamist-led armed opposition.

Yusuf was opposed to peace talks held in Djibouti which brought together representatives of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and a faction of the Eritrea-based opposition group, the Alliance for the Reliberation of Somalia (ARS), led by Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.

The ex-president regarded these talks as “a plan to weaken his power”, said a Somali political observer. “He saw the whole process as a way to sideline him.”

According to the observer, Yusuf could still pose a serious obstacle to peace in the country. “He will most likely re-establish his political base in Puntland and use that as a bargaining chip.”

A member of parliament in the Yusuf camp, who requested anonymity, told IRIN Yusuf was pressured into resigning by the international community.

“He was forced to resign and it will not lead to peace and stability,” said the MP who was speaking from Galkayo, Yusuf’s home town.


A Somali civil society source told IRIN Yusuf’s departure would be positive if it meant the end of “warlordism” in the country.

“If it marks the end of a warlord era then it is positive and we welcome it.”

He said the resignation should be accompanied by serious changes in the TFG “if anything positive is to come out of it”.

A Nairobi-based regional analyst who preferred anonymity, welcomed Yusuf’s resignation, calling it “very positive”.

“This is a very positive and long-awaited step that removes impediments to the Djibouti peace process,” he said, adding that considerable challenges remain.

He said the TFG and the Djibouti wing of ARS need to move quickly to form a broad-based government. “They need to move with greater urgency to form a unity government and bring in others opposed to the process.”

Ethiopian forces

Photo: TS/IRIN
Yusuf will be remembered as the man who brought Ethiopian forces into Somalia – file photo

Many Somalis will remember Yusuf as the man who brought Ethiopian forces into Somalia, which led to a fierce insurgency and the displacement of over a million people.

Over the past couple of months, insurgents comprising Islamist Al-Shabab, nationalists and militia clans opposed to foreign forces, have taken control of more than a dozen localities, according to a local journalist.

The TFG has control only over Mogadishu and the town of Baidoa, 240km southwest of Mogadishu, where the parliament is based.

At least 16,000 Somalis died between 2007 and 2008 and more than 30,000 were injured, according to local human rights groups. According to the UN, 2.6 million Somalis need assistance. That number is expected to reach 3.5 million by the end of the year.

Somalia has the highest levels of malnutrition in the world, with up to 300,000 children acutely malnourished annually, according to the UN Childrens Fund (UNICEF).


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Humanitarian access to Gaza has been severely restricted by Israel since early November.

Posted by African Press International on December 30, 2008

ISRAEL-OPT: Dire humanitarian situation looms in Gaza

Photo: Wissam Nassar/IRIN
Palestinians mourn relatives during funerals in Gaza after previous Israeli military activity (file photo)

GAZA CITY, 29 December 2008 (IRIN) – As a result of a major offensive on 27 December by Israel against Hamas, the Islamist movement that controls Gaza, a dire humanitarian situation looms, according to aid officials.

Gaza had been teetering on the edge of such a crisis even before the Israeli offensive: Humanitarian access to Gaza has been severely restricted by Israel since early November.

Now infrastructure in several areas has been destroyed, leaving residents without electricity and water.

On 28 December Oxfam said it had been forced to temporarily suspend most of its humanitarian work in Gaza because of the bombing, and a programme which will feed 25,000 people has also been put on hold.

Only UN agencies and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have been able to send staff to Gaza since early November.

Photo: Tom Spender/IRIN
A Qassam rocket is displayed in Sderot town hall, next to pictures of residents killed in rocket and other attacks (file photo)

“Since 3 November Oxfam Great Britain’s requests for the coordination of 10 staff members to enter and exit Gaza have been denied,” said Oxfam administrator Mohammed Abu-Gharbieh.

The death toll in Gaza has risen to over 300, but Hamas says rocket-fire into Israel will continue. One Israeli civilian was killed on 27 December by a missile fired by militants from Gaza and a second civilian was killed on 29 December.

Home to 1.5 million Palestinians, Gaza is one of the most densely populated places on earth.

Shortage of medical supplies

Our capabilities are limited. Since August we have not received basic medications. The ICRC, which usually delivers 60 types of medication, has been unable to deliver a shipment for one month said health ministry spokesperson Hamam Nasman.

One hundred and five drugs and 230 basic supplies, like alcohol, cotton, needles, and IVs [intravenous drips] are out of stock.

About 50 percent of Gazas 200 ambulances are not working due to the lack of spare parts, according to the head of ambulances and emergency care at the health ministry, Mawia Hassanin. As a result, victims were being brought to hospitals in private cars, donkey carts, and some were being carried by others on foot.

Air strikes

Eight students from Gaza Vocational Training Centre in Gaza City were killed and 20 injured by an air strike, said UNRWA [UN Palestinian agency for refugees] spokesperson Sami Mshasha. Two UNRWA teachers were also killed.

Numerous targets were attacked in the Israeli offensive which continued on 29 December, including the presidential compound, security and police headquarters, the central prison in Gaza City and five mosques.

Photo: UNRWA
UNRWA stopped distributing food in Gaza on 18 December

At least 55 women and children in Gaza have been killed in Israeli air strikes since Saturday [27 December], according to a tally by a UN aid agency, said Mshasha.

The attack follows a decision by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s security cabinet to escalate Israel’s response to rockets fired by Palestinian militants in Gaza against southern Israeli communities.

The Israeli army said on 27 December that the air strikes “will continue, will be expanded, and will deepen if necessary.”

UNRWA recognises Israels legitimate security concerns. However, its actions should be in conformity with international humanitarian law and it should not use disproportionate force, said Commissioner-General of UNRWA Karen AbuZayd.

Israeli goals

Israel has two goals, according to the spokesperson for the Israeli Prime Ministers Office, Mark Regev: To create a new security environment in Israel and to protect the population in the south.

UNRWA spokesperson Christopher Gunness in Jerusalem said: It is virtually impossible to run or to do large-scale planning for such a humanitarian operation. We feed more than 750,000 people in Gaza. The World Food Programme feeds over 200,000 people in Gaza. We do cash distributions to 94,000 people. To conduct an aid operation of this scale – given the drip drip drip on and off policy of supplies into Gaza – its become virtually impossible.

UNRWA stopped distributing food in Gaza on 18 December.



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Kenya politics > ODM drops case against PNU – ODM leaders may be the ones to face the tribunal after all

Posted by African Press International on December 30, 2008

Try poll violence suspects locally, says minister

By Peter Atsiaya

ODM has rescinded its decision to take PNU to The Hague over post-election violence, Lands Minister James Orengo has said.

Mr Orengo said the move was to give the proposed local tribunal opportunity to deal with perpetrators of the violence that claimed more than 1, 000 lives and left thousands homeless.

“We have decided not to go ahead with plans to have International Criminal Court (ICC) investigate and try leaders in PNU who were in charge of the Government during the skirmishes,” said the Ugenya MP.

Speaking in Kisumu on Sunday, Orengo said a plan to set up a local tribunal to deal with the matter was positive.

“It is not fair to exhibit Kenyans to the international community. A home grown solution was the best way of dealing with the matter,” he said.

Orengo said Kenya was a sovereign and should not move to a level where ICC is allowed to assume the responsibility of the Judiciary.

Orengo was quick to add that if the local tribunal would not deal with the matter exhaustively ICC should step in as proposed by the Waki Report.

“The tribunal should not be used to protect some powerful leaders because Kenyans want to bring to an end the era of impunity,” he said.

ODM, PNU and NGOs had presented their complaints to ICC for investigations and prosecution.

“If ICC declares that issues raised by ODM merit investigations and trial they are free to move in,” he said.

He went on: ” May be issues raised by our party might not be exactly what the tribunal would be dealing with.”

The minister said the tribunal should not leave any loopholes that would warrant ICCs intervention.

Orengo called on leaders in the Government not to interfere with the tribunal once set up.

“We are aware that some influential leaders in the Government, who fear being touched, might use their positions to frustrate the work of the tribunal for their selfish good,” he said.

Orengo said the Government must show commitment to ending the culture of impunity.

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Kenyan minister wants to face the tribunal to cleanse himself – Post election violence in Kenya assumed funded by politicians

Posted by African Press International on December 29, 2008

Im ready to face tribunal, says Ruto

By Dedan Okanga

Agriculture Minister William Ruto says he is ready to face the Special Tribunal on post-election violence to redeem his image.

The Minister, who spoke when he hosted thousands of his constituents to a lavish homecoming party at his Sugoi home in Turbo Division, said his political detractors had maligned his name.

“What happened in January was caused by leaders, supported by the Press and cheered on by their supporters,” said Mr Ruto.

He challenged political leaders to take responsibility for what happened instead of narrowing the blame on individuals.

Ruto asked his constituents to brace themselves for tough times, as the truth would come out.

“What will come out will redeem the leaders from the region from some of the negativity that has been attached to them due to the post-election violence,” he said.

Present were Saboti MP Eugene Wamalwa, Joshua Kutuny (Cherangany) and Peris Simam, Eldoret South.

Ruto reiterated that the violence was spontaneous and was not planned as was being bandied around.

“The protest was mainly from the youth who had witnessed the bungled electoral process and were intent on making their views known,” he said.

He added: “We want the President to reconvene Parliament early so that we face this tribunal and shame the devil together with the few false witnesses.”

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Posted by African Press International on December 29, 2008

UGANDA/Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi arrives in Uganda in this file photo. PHOTO/ REUTERS



Libya has told Switzerland it must wrap up a probe into the arrest earlier this year of a son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi or face unspecified further sanctions, the foreign ministry said.

Hannibal Gaddafi was arrested by Geneva police on July 15 and was charged with mistreating two domestic employees, a Tunisian woman and a Moroccan man, who later withdrew their formal complaint.

Gaddafi denied the charges and was freed on bail, but the case caused an uproar in Tripoli and led to the detention of two Swiss nationals, who were later released.

Libyas foreign ministry has said the two countries had agreed to set up an independent committee to investigate the incident.

Late on Thursday, the ministry said the committee has now almost completed its probe which showed the arrest was illegal, but the Swiss side was attempting to paper over the truth.

The facts are now clear and display the misuse of authority and infringement of legal procedures by Geneva police but the Swiss side in the committee attempts to issue a final report to save the face of the Swiss authorities, it said.

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What your spouse wants -You may not be aware

Posted by African Press International on December 29, 2008

coupleStop nagging – men get irritated when they are interrogated about every little thing they do. Photo/POSED BY MODELS.

PostedFriday, December 262008at15:46

Nothing epitomises the disillusionment of marriage like the timeless cartoon strip Andy Capp. Andy is a middle-aged man who spends the entire day napping on the sofa while his wife Flo, a disgruntled matronly woman, works from morning to night to pay the bills and support her lazy husband.

When Andy is not napping, he is watching television, enjoying his beloved pint at the local pub, (where he also gets to make passes at the younger women who are more attractive than Flo) getting home in the dead of night much to the chagrin of his wife.

The irony is that Andy pays for his beer using his wifes hard-earned money. He also has a weakness for gambling and his way of making money is betting on horses, never mind that most of the time, his predictions are normally wrong.

Andy, like many women have been known to complain about their husbands, is far from the romantic man Flo married when he proposed to her, he went down on his knee.

Years later however, not even regular counselling sessions can persuade him to take out the trash. And in a scene replayed in many homes, Flo has on numerous occasions packed her bags and left for her mothers house after having a row with her husband.

But Andy is not the only problem in the marriage. Thanks to unflattering clothes and a permanent headscarf which never leaves her head even during those rare occasions when she accompanies Andy to the races or the pub, Flo is no longer a youthful belle.

Also, she rarely has a kind word for her husband, even when shes having an internal dialogue and doesnt raise a finger even when her mother is rude to Andy. Once in a while, she even clobbers him when he is late coming home.

We can afford to laugh at these two characters, especially because, even after all this bickering, they still fondly refer to each other as pet.

Think about it though, were we to replace these cartoon characters with real life people, it wouldnt be so funny because their marriage is an apt representation of many Kenyan marriages, maybe even yours.

Many couples find that their relationship begins to take on a different shape as soon as the honeymoon is over. The man, who was used to seeing his wife looking immaculate all the time, has to get used to waking up to a bleary-eyed stranger with wild-looking hair every morning.

During courtship, he found this sweet and would tousle her hair while teasing her gently, probably because he knew that in a few minutes, she would transform herself into the flawless beauty she became after whipping up some magic with her make-up.

But there is something about marriage that makes women get complacent, too content that they stop paying attention to their looks. After two or three years of marriage, most women stop making an effort to look good for their man like they did during courtship.

After all, whats the point of wearing mascara and lipstick if youre going to spend the entire weekend at home?

A few years later and two children down the line, the slender waist that used to fascinate the man endlessly no longer exists. In its place are love handles which do not feel as nice to hold.

The meals that she used to lovingly prepare are replaced by the bland ones the maid puts together. She is no longer willing to serve the man because she is either not home or is too tired to get up from the sofa.

In some households, the bossy, know-it-all mother-in-law makes an entrance and can make the situation worse if either partner is reluctant to intervene.

The conversation the once loving couple enjoyed also changes. With school fees, homework and bills to talk about, the laughter and the easy banter that they once shared is no longer existent, the activities you enjoyed doing together forgotten in the midst of a harried life.

As for the man, he is no longer the thoughtful chap who surprised you with presents just because. That day he placed a ring on your finger is also the last one he lifted a finger in the kitchen, yet when he was courting you, he would insist that you watch television as he prepared lunch.

But it is not only women who let themselves go. Many men, too, stop paying attention to their looks once they get married.

As his wifes waist disappears, he begins to develop a pot belly and is quite at home with it since he has often heard it said that a pot belly in a man denotes affluence and speaks to the world about his success. But what does his wife think?

He also becomes averse to helping around the house and finds it difficult to pick up after himself, leaving everything to his wife or the maid, never mind the fact that she, too, works from morning to evening.

Such behaviour puts women off and is a major source of discontent in many marriages. If pressed about it, most women will confess to doing housework half-heartedly all the while cursing their husbands for not making an effort to help.

With the year coming to an end, this is probably the best time to start cultivating a new beginning if you are dissatisfied with your marriage.

To help you out, we interviewed a cross-section of married men and women and asked them to tell us how they wanted to see their spouses change and what they wanted them to do differently come the new year.

Forget about the so called best-selling books by foreign authors or a session at a counsellor’s couch this is bound to be more helpful to your marriage since it came from the horses mouth.

What men want

A popular joke goes like this: a man placed an advert in the classified pages of a newspaper which: Wife wanted. The next day, he received a hundred letters. They all said the same thing You can have mine.

Though a man who is frustrated with his wife wouldnt go as far as giving her out to any willing taker, it doesnt mean that he hasnt questioned whether he made the right choice marrying her in the first place.

However, judging from the responses we got from the men we talked to, men also care about their marriages and would want them to last. This is how they want their women to change:

1. Stop nagging
Judging from the frequency with which this one kept coming up, men get irritated when they are interrogated about every little thing they do. They say that women are obsessive about details, even the ones that dont really matter like what their husbands talked about when they met with their friends or expecting minute by minute details of what transpired during the day.

They understand that communication in a relationship is important, but they want you to be satisfied when they choose to give an overview of events because it means that the details arent important. They also resent being reminded to do something. Request them once and when you do, allow them to do it at their own time.
2. Avoid the double standards
Why should you expect men to be open about money when youre secretive with yours? Apparently, this is a major source of antagonism in many marriages. A couple of men said that their wives were dishonest regarding the amount of money they had yet they expected their husbands to declare all they had to the last penny.

One man revealed that just a few months ago, he found out that his wife had a secret bank account. Because of this little secret, their marriage is on the brink of disintegrating.

She obviously doesnt trust me. What else is she keeping from me? the 42-year-old father of two wonders. If you want men to be forthright with you regarding money, let him know about your chamas as well.

3. Girlfriends are a thorn
While men have no problem with their wives spending time with their friends, they feel that some are a bad influence to their marriage. One man said that his wife frequently stayed out late with friends, sometimes arriving after 10pm after their children had already gone to bed.

Another confessed that it bothers him when his wife overstays at a neighbours house. Does it mean that she finds this neighbour more interesting than I am? James, the 32-year-old teacher wonders.

The men also want you to know that even though there is nothing wrong with you having a girls night out once in a while, it is insensitive to make a habit of it. They also want you to stop comparing your friends husbands with him, saying that it only makes him feel belittled especially if youre criticising him.

4. We love our children but
A number of men resented the amount of time their wives lavished on their children. They appreciate that children need to be looked after, but they also want to know that they too matter in your life.

Ever since we got our first child, my wife behaves as if I dont exist any more, yet our son is about to celebrate his second birthday. He only has to throw a tantrum for her to leave everything else and attend to him, Michael, a 34-year-old account laments. The men are feeling neglected and want you to create some time for them.

5. Take an interest in our work
Most men want their wives to be more interested in their jobs and be involved in investment plans for the future. They felt that their wives assume this is their duty and are therefore reluctant to offer ideas or take an active role in making them become a reality.

They want you to know that they would appreciate it if you showed an interest in how they invest the money you make together. One man feared how his wife would cope were something to happen to him because she has no idea how their businesses run.

6. We miss the good-old days
If you thought women were the only ones who miss the long forgotten courtship days, youre wrong. Men too would want to revive the spark that characterised the dating phase.

They feel that women become complacent after a few years of marriage especially where grooming and body image is concerned. Please start paying attention to how you dress and watch your weight.

They also want you to be more interested in sex and not wait for them to initiate it all the time. It also wouldnt hurt if you became more affectionate, smiled more often and laughed at his silly jokes.

7. Dont sulk
Men are human they cant read minds. Most men said sulking irritates them immensely. If they do something that offends you, let them know. Bottling up anger or ill-feelings will not do you or your relationship any good.

What women want

1. Cut the booze
Coming home stinking of alcohol and expecting your wife to cuddle and act all-loving is unrealistic. They want the men to know that it is not only a complete turn-off, but a bad example for the children.

They also hate it when you regularly come home late at night or in the wee hours of the morning because it robs them of the time they should be spending with you.

2. Help out at home
They may not voice it, but they would appreciate it if you did more around the house, including picking up after yourself. One woman felt that her husband behaved as if their two children did not belong to him, and did not bother to help them with their homework, find out how they were performing at school and did not attend school open days.

Another woman, Susan, a 36-year-old telephone operator said that her husband treated their home like a hotel. He only comes home to eat and sleep. I wish he would spend more time at home because this way, we would get to do more things together.

3. Appreciate us
Women, especially those who have been married for a couple of years, feel that their husbands dont appreciate them as they should. Most women said that the men stopped being thoughtful or caring after marriage.

They no longer bought them presents and rarely went out of their way to do things for them. Women want to feel loved and valued, just like you made them feel when you were courting them. They also want to be complimented. Make an effort to notice when they have a new hairstyle or a new dress. It makes them feel you care.

5. Learn to listen
Sometimes women just want to vent, so kindly switch off the television and give her a few minutes of your undivided attention because it gives them a sense of satisfaction. It also tells them that you really care.

6. Be more responsible
Some women felt that their husbands still behaved liked little boys especially when it came to financial matters. One woman felt that her husband, a manager at his place of work, was too liberal with his money.

Whenever we go for an outing with friends, he offers to foot the bill most of time yet the understanding is that everyone should contribute.

Karen, the 40-year-old business woman says that this is a major bone of contention in their marriage, since she feels that they should be saving most of the money that they spend entertaining friends.

So as we begin the new year next week, if you recognise yourself in any of the above situations, make an effort to improve your relationship by changing whatever you may be doing that your spouse doesnt like.

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