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Archive for December 10th, 2008

Kenya: Mugabe must go (editorial)

Posted by African Press International on December 10, 2008

Nairobi (Kenya) – There comes a time when the world must stand together and pursue a common goal. That time has come for Zimbabwe.

A great deal has been said and written about the pain, anguish and desperation of Zimbabweans. Lofty ideas and suggestions have been discussed, but none has helped to resolve the Zimbabwe crisis.

The once prosperous nation is trudging down the cliff with millions of lives at risk.

Zimbabwes President Robert Mugabe rigged himself back to power in June when he had been vanquished in national elections early in the year.

When push came to shove, he agreed in September to share power with Mr Morgan Tsvangirai, but three months after signing the deal, Mr Mugabe has failed to honour it.

The world has been watching from the sidelines for far too long as things moved from bad to worse.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC), which, under former South African President Thabo Mbeki, has been trying to resolve the political impasse has proved unequal to the task.

The African Union has not even tried. Since diplomacy and all other means have failed, the United Nations should now mobilise the international community to rescue Zimbabwe before its final fall.

There is no way one old and temperamental tyrant can be allowed to continue running roughshod over nine million famished people.

Zimbabwe and Africa deserve better, and the only way is to force Mr Mugabe out, through any means possible. Time for the niceties is gone.

The UN should take the lead in forcing change in Zimbabwe.
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api/The Nation (Kenya)- December 8, 2008.

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Somalia: Piracy now attracting the dogs of war

Posted by African Press International on December 10, 2008

Nairobi (Kenya) – Piracy off the Horn may prove lucrative for more than just the pirates.

Private security firms, including US-based Blackwater Worldwide, have begun angling for contracts to provide armed protection for vessels plying the treacherous seas around the Horn. Blackwater representatives held a series of meetings in London last week with several potential clients.

And Britains Hart Security, a maritime-defence company founded by a former SAS officer, has already entered a partnership with Swinglehurst, a London-based insurance brokerage. Swinglehurst said last month that the deal with Hart will enable it to offer war risk cover to ship-owners at extremely attractive insurance rates for voyages through the Gulf of Aden.

This could be the biggest new market since Iraq… the potential is huge, an unnamed security consultant in Nairobi told the French press agency. Everybody is talking about it, added Bernard Jacquemart, head of information and analysis for Paris-based Securite Sans Frontieres. There is a very large potential market here. Its not only Somalia, but the Gulf of Guinea where you have oil and the Bay of Bengal, Mr Jacquemart added.

The use of armed private guards to combat or deter pirates also carries risks of bloodshed as well as potentially rich rewards. In Iraq, these agents have been accused of employing spray and pray tactics meaning they shoot randomly when they feel threatened.

Blackwater has been a focus of controversy within the United States due to its operations in Iraq. The companys personnel described by critics as mercenaries shot dead 17 civilians in one incident in Baghdad last year.

Blackwater said its guards had come under attack from insurgents, but survivors charged that the companys employees had started shooting without provocation. An Iraqi investigation concluded that the Blackwater forces had committed premeditated murder.

And the Associated Press reported in mid-November that US prosecutors have drafted an indictment against six Blackwater guards in connection with the deadly shootings in 2007. The companys workers have been victims too. Four slain Blackwater contractors were mutilated and hanged from a bridge in the Iraqi city of Fallujah in 2004.

Blackwater has a strong incentive to look for new business opportunities. It receives an estimated $300-$400 million a year through a State Department contract for services in Iraq. But the private security industry is worried that its costs and legal vulnerability could both rise sharply next year as a result of an agreement that ends foreign contractors immunity from Iraqi law.

In its pitches to shipping firms, Blackwater points out that it has its own well-equipped guardian vessel, the 183-foot McArthur, that can escort freighters through pirate-infested waters. The McArthur can carry two helicopters along with the type of inflatable boats used by naval commandoes. The ship has space for 30 Blackwater guards as well as a 15-member crew.

Blackwater says it prefers to keep its personnel on the companys own ship because of potential liability issues. At the same time, the guards could engage in combat with the pirates. We would be allowed to fire if fired upon, Blackwater spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell said. The right of self-defence is one that exists in international waters.

The primary goal of Blackwater missions in the vicinity of the Horn would be deterrence, Ms Tyrrell added. That is the main idea here.

Shippers may turn to private firms such as Blackwater out of concern that the armed forces of nation-states cannot alone thwart the increasingly bold Somali pirates.

The US Navy has intensified its patrols of the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden in the vicinity of Somalia. Naval vessels from India, Russia, Britain and other European nations have joined the effort to stop, or at least curtail, the piracy.

And the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously last week to renew for one year its authorisation for countries to use military force against the Somali pirates. But the attacks have only increased during the past month. And many have been successful, with the pirates seizing ships for ransom payments.

US military officials say the area where the pirates prowl is too vast to be monitored closely.

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api/The East African (Kenya)- December 8, 2008.

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Zimbabwe: ‘If cholera doesn’t, hunger will finish us’

Posted by African Press International on December 10, 2008

Harare (Zimbabwe) “I am afraid that if we won’t all die of cholera, then hunger will finish off those that remain,” said a miserable Givemore Nyakudya, who lost his daughter to cholera three weeks ago, while the UN World Food Programme (WFP) announced that it had failed to raise enough money to feed the nearly half a million Zimbabweans in need of food.

Zimbabwe is in the grip of a cholera outbreak that has claimed the lives of 589 people; 13,960 cases had been reported in nine of Zimbabwe’s 10 provinces, according to a World Health Organisation (WHO) bulletin.

“If people are not on full rations, the numbers of malnourished are going to increase – more Zimbabweans are going to become vulnerable and susceptible to disease,” said Richard Lee, the WFP spokesman in Southern Africa. “It will make it much harder for them to fight cholera.”

The food agency has little choice; it had expected to raise enough money to feed 4.2 million beneficiaries in December, and up to 5.1 million Zimbabweans – more than half the country’s population – by January 2009, but has managed to find money to feed only 3.7 million Zimbabweans.

“To ensure that families at least have some food rather than no food at all, we have decided to cap the rations to a maximum of six per household, rather than exclude entire households,” Lee said.

In November the monthly ration per person was cut from 12kg of maize-meal to 10kg, and from 1.8kg of beans to 1kg. “We will continue with the cut rations – we still don’t know what will happen next month [January 2009],” he said, adding that the agency was considering other options, including borrowing money or food.

Nyakudya, a municipal worker in the capital, Harare, whose two other children have also contracted cholera, said he is no longer “fussy” about what his family ate, as long as they did not starve.

The agency was still trying to determine why donors have failed to respond to the crisis. “It could be any number of reasons – the global recession – the focus is also now on the crisis in the Horn of Africa,” said Lee.

The Toronga family in the village of Poshayi, 450km southwest of Harare, had hoped food would be coming when an NGO collected the names of villagers in preparation for food distribution, but their spirits fell when they were told that food stocks had run out.

“I heard that nearby villagers had actually been given maize-meal and cooking oil by an NGO, and I was relieved that my family would have food to eat,” said Samuel Toronga, who works in Harare as a shop assistant and is now at a loss over how to feed his family.

Two weeks ago, when the family’s food stocks were almost exhausted, his wife was forced to visit him in Harare. “I had gone for two months without communicating with my family because there is no means to do that – there are no buses, you cannot phone, and you hardly find people to send word with these days because travelling has become so expensive,” he said.

“My wife had no option but to borrow money from neighbours in order to come and collect food, but the problem is that I am struggling to get the money to buy the food here. Now I can’t even raise enough for her to go back to the children, who were left with hardly enough to live on for three days,” he added.

“Sadly, I have to spend sleepless nights thinking how best I can get money to buy the food, which is mostly sold in foreign currency.”

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api/UN Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)- December 8, 2008.

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Kenya: MAU FOREST COMPLEX REMAINS VOLATILE AND POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS AS THE MAASAI AND KIPSIGIS CONFRONT EACH OTHER.

Posted by African Press International on December 10, 2008

News Analysis By Leo Odera Omolo In Kericho Town

Surveyors from the Ministry of Lands and settlements will this week go into action to verify the boundaries of the volatile, expansive and controversial Mau complex in a bid to establish the correct status of excised forest land.

The exercise will commence tomorrow (Wednesday) and the Rift Valley Provincial Commissioner Hassan Noor Hassan, was quoted early in the week as saying that the government team would inspect the entire Mau Forest complex to determine whether the cut lines set when the excision was done had been interfered with.

At the same time the PC said the Mau Forest task force which was recently appointed by the Prime Minister Raila Odinga, to look into problems in the Mau complex was expected to conclude its work by Christmas when it would submit its recommendations to the government.

The surveying exercise however comes at the time when political temperature among the communities living within the surrounding environs have gone a notch higher as the two Rift Valley political giants dig in for a major political confrontations over the government planned evictions of close to 20,000 families

Thism time around, the residents have been assured by the Prime minister that the eviction will be carried out clinically with human face an unlike the previous evictions which were carried by armed police and soldiers who set ablaze houses of the settlers and burnt them down to ashes

The two protagonists are the Agriculture Minister William Ruto and the National Heritage Minister William Ole Ntimama. The two are all members of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party which is headed by the Prime Minister Raila Odinga, but are known to pursue different line of argument as far as the Mau forest issue is concerned.

An angry Ole Ntimama yesterday reacted to the PCs statement that surveying works will start in the Mau complex arguing the statement was misleading.

He said the statement showed lack of commitment to save the controversial Mau Forest. There are no genuine beneficiaries because all settlers fraudulently acquired parcels of land . he said, adding that all the beneficiaries of the forest land should publicly be named and be ashamed claiming they included senior government officials.

The government lacks the will to save the forestland from eminent depletion. There is no genuine beneficiaries at all, the National Heriateg Minister added.

Ole Ntimama spoke at a Maasai cultural ceremony in Njora Narok district, his home turf where a clash looms between the Narok County Council and several settlers.

Plans to evict settlers in Mau Forest one of the five water towers in Kenya have sharply divided politicians with some Rift Valley MPs accusing the state of targeting their communities .These legislators are known to breathe fire, which could rekindle the tribal clashes in this volatile Kenyan region. Close to 1500 people lost their lives in the clashes between 1991 and 1993 while thousands were rendered homeless and forced to seek refuge in the churches and police stations .Many homes went up in smoke.

The best part of the 400,000 hectors Mau Forest complex are located on the Narok West side while the remaining parts are in the newly created Molo district and a small portion is administratively under the Kericho district. Thousands had fled their homes for safety leaving property worth millions of shillings. Similar clashes reoccurred in 1997-1998.But the worse tribal clashes and the most bloodiest ocured between January and March this years during the post election violence.

Civic leaders in Narok have joined the fray with the Maasai Councilors issuing an ultimatum of seven days to have those illegally settled in the complex evicted or they will take the law into themselves and do the duty.

Five Councillors had issued a stern warning to Minister Ruto to keep off all matters relating to Mau Forest claiming that the Eldoret North ODM MP was equally a foreigner in the area.

Journalists who were present at the press conference have concurred that everything was planned and the Maasai leaders were ringing war bell.

The timing having come only days after Minister Ole Ntimama who is perceived to be undisputed Maasai leader had touched on the sensitive issues, which left many guessing what will happen in the area.

At the tension charged press conference the Maasai civic leaders stated that it was time their community united to protect the Mau Forest from enemies.

Ntimama has been bold insisting that the treatment of kalenjin settlers who had grabbed the forest land need not to be compensated but mist be kicked out so that the water catchment area is conserved.

The political language used by the civic leaders was frightening and threatening and left a lot to be desired what is so special about Ruto and the Kalenjin that they must be compensated ? asked Ntimama adding that many other Kenyans have faced such evictions in other parts of the country yet no single cent was paid to them, the councilor statement read in part.

They went on we want to tell the government that unless it evicts those who have settled in Mau in the next seven days then they should let the Maasai who are the true owners of Mau carry out the eviction in the way they know

The press conference by the Maasai civic leaders came immediately after those leaders held a ful council meeting at the Narok County council chambers chaired by the Council chairman Coun.Kerimpoti Ole Sadera. Also in attendance was minister Ntimamas daughter Lydia Masiconde who is the Council Chief internal auditor.

The Maasai leaders were categorical and emphatical that Minister Ruto should be blamed if blood was shed in the Mau complex.

During the meeting the Maasai council of Elders Chairman Mzee John Ole Maitai challenged the community to fight for their rights.

The Mau forest complex is a thorny issue which has divided the ODM leadership in the South Rift right in the middle. The Kipsigis leaders Isaac Ruto,(Chepalungu) Frankline bett (Bureti) Dr.Julious Kones (Konoin) Zakayo K Cheruiyot (Kuresoi) are known to be vehemently opposed to eviction move.

The Kipsigis MPs and their supporters have rubbished the task force appointed by the Prime minister, arguing that it comprises of civic servants mostly from the communities with vested interests in Mau. Members of the task force, they claimed lacked the credibility and impertiality

It is equally important to note that the most vocal MPs opposed to eviction have got personal interests in the Mau Forest land. Frankline Bett and the late Kipkalya Kones ,Issac Ruto and other had directly benefited by acquiring land plots in the forest . Bett and Kones each own 100 acres of prime tea farms located next to the Tea Research Institute of Kenya on the Kericho district side and have already planted tea business on their farms.

Many MPs from the Rift Valley especially those from the various kalenjin sub-tribes have opposed evictions of thousands of people settled in Mau , mist of the settlers having originated from the Kipsigis and Turgen sub-tribes.

The MPs have been saying that the government must adequately compensate those it intended to evict.

Others have proposed that a colossal amount of money to the tune of kshs 60 billion meant for the exercise be sued for the enhancement free painting on individual land plots.

The Rift Valley PC Hassan Noor Hassan was recently quoted as saying that after the task force concludes its work, it shall hand over the report to the government for debate and recommendations on the best way to go about the Mau conservation efforts.

But the PC readily admitted that the implementation of the findings would take many yeasr because of logistics.

The PC has assured thousands of those either settled by the government or who had acquired land in Mau complex that the government would consider all options to ensure their plight was considered in the conservation of the water catchment areas.

There is no way the government is going to punish its people conserving the Mau is not only for the sake of Kenya but for the sake of our neighbor such as Uganda, Tanzania as well as Egypt which rivers from the Mau complex are emptying their waters.

Despite such assurances ,not all residents who attended the P.CS meeting were convinced over the government intention. Some settlers have like the Mps have questioned the mandate of the task force collecting data from them saying it was trying to dispose them of their rightfully acquired land.

Observers however believes that the mau forest issue is still a potential thony issue which could explode at anytime sparking fresh council skirmishes between the force Maasai and their equally strong and battle hardened Kipsigis neighboirs.

Both the two communities are staunch members of ODM nd their contraction would place the Prime Minister Raila Odinga in a very awkward situation. This political scenario would also scuttle the PMs presidential ambitions in the year 2012.

Ends

leooderaomolo@yahoo.com

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Obama ready to offer incentives to Iran just as Michelle Tapes confirm

Posted by African Press International on December 10, 2008

Rafsanjani dismisses Obama’s “carrot and stick” policy over Iranian nuclear issue

TEHRAN, Dec. 9 (Xinhua) — Iran’s powerful former president AliAkbar Hashemi Rafsanjani on Tuesday dismissed U.S. President-elect Barack Obama’s “carrot and stick ” policy in dealing with Tehran’s nuclear issue, the official IRNA news agency reported.

Rafsanjani said in a sermon that “the Iranian nation and government neither want the U.S. incentives nor sanctions because they (the tactics) will prevent the country treading the path to peaceful use of nuclear energy and science,” according to IRNA.

On Sunday, Obama told NBC’s “Meet the Press” program that he was prepared to offer Iran economic incentives to stop its nuclear program, while warning that sanctions would be toughened if it refuses.

The U.S. president-elect said his administration would work with international partners to present a set of carrots and sticks to encourage Iran to suspend its nuclear program.

Rafsanjani, who currently is head of the Experts Assembly and chairman of the Expediency Council, was quoted as saying in the sermon that Obama’s preconditions for talks with Iran were “meaningless.”

”For 30 years you have been calling for talks with us and we refused. Now, you lay tough conditions to make us talk with you?” Rafsanjani questioned, accusing Obama of mimicking U.S. President George W. Bush’s tough stance in dealing with Tehran’s nuclear issue.

”We do not expect a person, considering himself representative of the African continent and of the oppressed U.S. blacks, to parrot others such as Bush,” Rafsanjani said.

”We do not wish to quarrel with the U.S. or go into war and fighting with it. We want to defend our rights to benefits from global sciences and technology and stand on our own feet,” he added.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi on Monday also rejected Obama’s call for a “carrot and stick” policy and reiterated its unbent will to continue the nuclear work.

”The carrot and stick policy has proven to be useless. It is an unacceptable policy that had failed in the past,” Qashqavi said, adding that Iran would not halt its nuclear work, which the West suspected was aimed to produce nuclear weapons.

”When they repeat calls for Iran to suspend uranium enrichment, our answer will be that we will never suspend it,” Qashqavi said.

The United States and its allies have accused Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian nuclear program. Iran has denied the charges and insists that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.

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Source xinhuanet

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