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Archive for December 12th, 2008

Kenya became free from the British colonialists

Posted by African Press International on December 12, 2008

We wish all the Kenyan people a prosperous day during the rememberance of this day the 12th December celebrating independence that was won 12.12.63 after kicking out the British colonialists who had taken root on the Kenyan soil.

Chief editor Korir and all editorial staff wishes all Kenyans a good day, a day to be proud of.

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API enemies have run short of what to expose

Posted by African Press International on December 12, 2008

Two months ago, many jealous personalities went on rampage putting pieces together that they collected in order to try and tarnish our name. They behaved like they were climbing a ladder to heaven.

Now two months on, they have no more to expose about us, and may be they need some help to get what to expose and write about, all in the name of tarnishing API something they have not succeeded in doing. Instead they gave API fame throughout the world.

It is important for us to let them know that we are here and getting more stronger than ever before. Their attacks on us has made us greater than we were. API has now become a subject to talk about world-wide and we are very pleased with the present developments. I have always believed in the saying “bad publicity does not necessarily mean bad in progress.”

Therefore, we wish them all those who chose to be against us in the last few weeks, a merry Christmas as we soon enter a prosperous new year for API

Chief editor Korir

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Iraq experiencing low oil prices – next year’s IDP budget could be affected

Posted by African Press International on December 12, 2008

IRAQ: Low oil prices could affect government aid to IDPs


Photo: IRCS
Iraqi Red Cresent Society staff hand out supplies to displaced families at al-Hashemite compound in Babil Province

BAGHDAD, 4 December 2008 (IRIN) – Low world oil prices could exacerbate the plight of internally displaced persons (IDPs): The government, which relies on oil revenues for over 90 percent of its income, will have to cut financial assistance to IDPs in next years budget, an Iraqi lawmaker has said.

There is no doubt the current economic crisis will affect Iraqs income and living standards, especially those of the miserable displaced families, Abdul-Khaliq Zankana told IRIN.

Zankana, who heads parliaments Displacement and Migration Committee, recently called on the government to consider earmarking a fixed percentage of oil export revenues for IDPs – a proposal he now sees as unlikely to be implemented next year.

The government still insists there should be no separate budget allocation for IDPs, in line with its philosophy that IDPs are a temporary phenomenon However, we believe this issue will take years, not months, to be resolved, Zankana said.

He said some 50 billion Iraqi dinars (about US$42.5 million) was supposed to be allocated in next years budget for emergencies and payments to needy groups such as IDPs. Zankana has been campaigning for 10 times this sum to be made available.

Last month the Iraqi government cut $13 billion from its draft budget in light of falling oil prices, and with oil prices down to around $50 a barrel – from a summer peak of $147 – the government may have to revise its budget for a third time, as the second draft was based on an assumed oil price of $62 a barrel.

Hashim Hassan, a media professor at Baghdad university, said the government should help IDPs get jobs and make public spending cuts to ease pressure on the budget.

Iraq has an estimated two million IDPs and a further two million people are living abroad as asylum-seekers or refugees.

Food rations

Currently the government is providing ad hoc assistance and monthly food rations to some IDPs. The rations are distributed through the Public Distribution System (PDS), though there have been many question marks over its effectiveness and fairness.

According tothe September update from the IDP Working Group in Iraq, which includes the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), other UN Agencies and NGOs, there is a need for emergency food distributions to vulnerable IDPs and host communities unable to access PDS rations.

The update said there were a number of problems with the PDS: Not all families have a PDS card, either due to delays in transferring rations cards or because they are not eligible to register where they have settled. Food rations are insufficient, incomplete and received irregularly for almost half of the caseloads.

It also highlighted some of the problems facing IDPs: In certain areas, humanitarian conditions are dire with a lack of access to food, adequate shelter, clean water and sanitation, health and employment, particularly affecting vulnerable groups such as women and children. In addition, rising costs of fuel, rent and food further strain IDPs and returnees limited resources.

sm/at/cb

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Ethiopia to withdraw troops from Somalia, but after Uganda and Burundi have completed their match-out of the country

Posted by African Press International on December 12, 2008

Ethiopia announced on Thursday that it is waiting the withdrawal of Ugandan and Burundi troops before it withdraws its own troops from Somalia.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi told Parliament that Ugandan and Burundi have decided to withdraw their troops from Somalia following its own decision to withdraw.

These two countries are telling us that they want to withdraw their troops from Somalia before the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops. Now, we are waiting for the two countries to withdraw, he said.

Ethiopia decided last week to withdraw its troops from Somalia by the end of December after a two-year stay.

We have been waiting for the past two years the deployment of the necessary peacekeeping forces by the African Union, Zenawi said.

However, the African Union is unable to deploy the troops required due to financial constrains and lack of contribution of troops by member states.

We believe that we have given the international community enough time for peacekeeping force deployment, said Zenawi.

He said Ethiopian troops will support the withdrawal of the Ugandan and Burundi troops by creating a conducive environment for safe withdrawal.

Now they are waiting for airplanes and ships for their withdrawal from Somalia, he said.

Once the Burundi and Uganda troops withdraw from Somalia, Ethiopian troops will immediately withdraw, he said.

The distance between the Ethiopian border and Mogadishu is estimated to be over 400 km and the Ethiopian troops are expected to withdraw using land transport.

The Ethiopian troops will be based at the border after their withdrawal from Somalia to closely follow the situation and the movement of Al-Shabab.

If there is a threat of security by Al Shabab and insurgents against Ethiopia, we will enter Somali and take military action, he said.

Since 2007, Uganda and Burundi have had over 3,000 troops in Somalia as part of the African Union mission in the country.

sourc.apa

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Many countries could soon experience a worsening food crisis

Posted by African Press International on December 12, 2008

GLOBAL: Food crisis could worsen, warns FAO


Photo: Manoocher Deghati/IRIN
Food prices will continue to remain high

JOHANNESBURG, 9 December 2008 (IRIN) – The food price crisis of 2008 will continue into 2009 and might get worse, says the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The 2008 food crisis has already pushed 40 million people into hunger, bringing the number of undernourished in the world closer to a billion.

FAO economists made the gloomy prognosis at the release of their ninth progress report, State of Food Insecurity in the World 2008, since the 1996 World Food Summit on world hunger.

The authors warned that the situation in the Democratic Republic Congo (DRC), which recordedmost of the increase in the number of hungry people because of widespread and persistent conflict,could get worse. Between 2003 and 2005, the number of hungry in the DRC rose from 11 million to 43 million, and the proportion of undernourished rose from 29 percent to 76 percent.

Many countries are finding the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of halving the number of undernourished people in the world by 2015 more difficult to reach.

“The first scenario, which is the more positive scenario, is that the food production levels [in 2009] will remain the same as they were this year [2008],” said Abdolreza Abbassian, a grains expert at FAO.

Asecond scenario appears more likely asfarmers are expected to plant lessresulting from mixed signals “because of the [effect of the 2008] global financial crisis on the 2009 price projections for fuel and other inputs, as well as the expected price of any staple grain next year [2009].

“It is all rather unpredictable at this stage.”

Food is not going to get cheaper soon; prices of major cereals have fallen by over 50 percent from their peaks earlier in 2008 but are still high compared with previous years, the FAO report noted. Despite a sharp decline in recent months, the FAO Food Price Index was still 28 percent higher in October 2008 than in October 2006.

EU’s bailout

The European parliament has approved a US$1.2 billion facility to boost food production in at least 35 developing countries affected by the food crisis.

According to Gay Mitchell, an Irish Member of the European Parliament (MEP) the funds will come from three sources: the flexibility instrument, the emergency aid reserve, and the redeployment of funds in the external relations heading. At least $975 million of the approved amount is “fresh money”.

The vote on the facility was delayed. The funds, which were to have been made available over a three year period from 2008, will now be disbursed from 2009 onward.

To ensure that the aid is effective, MEPs decided it should target no more than 35 priority developing countries, Mitchell was quoted as saying in the European Parliament’s website.”They should be selected based on their dependence on food imports, on the level of food price inflation compared to general inflation, agricultural production capacity or political instability caused by the crisis, as in Haiti, Bangladesh or Egypt.”

jk/he

The prices of agricultural inputs have more than doubled since 2006, so poor farmers could not increase production. Richer farmers, particularly those in developed countries, could afford the higher input costs and expand plantings. As a result, cereal production in developed countries was likely to rise by at least 10 percent in 2008, while the increase in developing countries might be less than1 percent.

Where the hunger has grown

Studies have shown that particularly critical levels of undernutrition occur when undernourishment exceeds 10 percent in the total population. “This will not only lead to more frequent outbreaks of diseases, but affects the capacity of people to work and earn a living,” said Mark Smulders, an agricultural economist at the FAO.

Africa is home to 16 of the 17 countries – DRC, Eritrea, Burundi, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Angola, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Central African Republic, Rwanda, Chad, Liberia, Mozambique, Togo, Madagascar and Tanzania – where the prevalence of hunger already exceeds 35 percent of the population, making them particularly vulnerable to higher food prices.

Most of the world’s undernourished people- 907 million – live in developing countries, according to the 2007 data in the report; of these, 65 percent live in only seven countries: India, China, DRC, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan and Ethiopia.

Yet the news is not all bad. Overall, sub-Saharan Africa has made some progress in reducing the proportion of people suffering from chronic hunger, from 34 (1995-97) to 30 percent (2003-05).

Ghana, Congo, Nigeria, Mozambique and Malawi have achieved the steepest drop in the proportion of undernourished people. Ghana is the only country that has reached both the hunger reduction target set at the World Food Summit and the MDG on hunger. Growth in agricultural production was key to this success, the report noted.

Latin America and the Caribbean area were most successful in reducing hunger before the surge in food prices. High food prices increased the number of hungry people in the sub-region to 51 million in 2007.

Countries in the Near East and North Africa have generally experienced the lowest levels of undernourishment worldwide, but conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, combined with high food prices, pushed the numbers up from 15 million in 1990-92 to 37 million in 2007.

Tackling hunger

During the June 2008 FAO Food Summit in Rome, a two-track response to the crisis was put forward: boost production by investing in the agricultural sector and rural development; ensure immediate access to food for the poor and vulnerable in both rural and urban areas by providing social safety nets and protection measures.

The investment track called for a lot of donor aid. “During the FAO Rome Food Summit in June, several billions of dollars were pledged by world leaders towards agricultural development little of that had materialised,” said Abbassian.

“In fact, in the last few weeks, the world has witnessed trillions of dollars being lost in financial markets, forcing governments to spend even more trillions on propping them up. Overcoming the financial crisis is critical, but continuing the fight against hunger by realising those pledged billions is no less important.”

The European parliament recently approved a US$1.2 billion facility over a three-year period from 2009 for rapid response to soaring prices in developing countries, which was a step in the right direction, said the FAO economists.

The report suggests other measures to boost nutrition levels: governments should support small-scale food industries to produce infant weaning foods of good nutritional quality; promote breastfeeding; provide education messages on adequate nutrition; and conduct growth monitoring.

“Evidence that emerged from Bangladesh in the 1990ssuggests that macroeconomic food policies that keep the price of food staples low, can, in combination with other food and nutrition interventions, help reduce the percentage of underweight children,” the FAO report said.

Governments should also underline investment in small-scale farms. About two-thirds of the world’s three billion rural people live off the income generated by farmers managing some 500 million small farms of less than two hectares each.

Impact of traditional market turmoil

The recent turmoil in traditional asset markets has had an impact on food prices, according to the FAO, as new types of investors became involved in derivatives markets based on agricultural commodities in the hope of achieving better returns than those available from traditional assets.

Global trading activity in futures and options combined has more than doubled in the last five years. In the first nine months of 2007 it grew by 30 percent over the previous year, and some analysts have said the increased speculation was a significant factor in soaring food prices.

“However, it is not clear whether speculation is driving prices higher, or whether this behaviour is the result of prices that are rising in any case,” said the FAO report. “Either way, large inflows of funds could partly account for the persistence of high food prices and their increased volatility.”

jk/he/mw

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After AU troops ended Bacar’s rule, Comoros President Ahmed Abdallah Sambi “told us not to seek revenge, as government would resolve it, but nothing has happened,” Abdullah said.

Posted by African Press International on December 12, 2008

MUTSAMUDU, 10 December 2008 (IRIN) – Unlike the hundreds, if not thousands, of people hauled off for torture sessions by Mohamed Bacar’s militia on the word of paid informants, Laidine Abdullah was betrayed by a small photograph, pinned up and almost invisible in the clutterin his shop, of the rival presidential candidate, Moussa Toybou.

The photograph was “evidence” of Abdullah’s “sedition” against Anjouan’s strongman.

Abdullah’s shop is in a maze of narrow pathways in the Barakani neighbourhood, which clings to the lush steep slopes of Anjouan – the least developed of the three islands – Grand Comore, Moheli and Anjouan – comprising the Comoros state.

The shop is a few hundred metres from Bacar’s villa, a construction that shares greater architectural affinity with a concrete bunker than a luxurious residence, squatting amid a sea of poverty.

“At about 4 p.m., eight of Bacar’s soldiers came with their guns and arrested me. They took me to Bacar’s house and started to beat me with wooden sticks in the courtyard,” Abdullah told IRIN.

“They tied me up, put me in a car and took me to the president’s [official] residence and continued beating me there. I lost consciousness. They dumped me on the outskirts of a village in the early hours of the morning. I think they thought I must be dead,” he said.

''They tied me up, put me in a car and took me to the president’s [official] residence and continued beating me there. I lost consciousness. They dumped me on the outskirts of a village in the early hours of the morning. I think they thought I must be dead''

Bacar had refused to step down as President of Anjouan in June 2007 after disputed elections, which led to a stand-off with the Comoros Union government for nearly a year, and also with the African Union (AU), and only ended when AU troops landed on the island in March 2008.

The AU had imposed sanctions in October 2007, although Anjouan residents said they regularly saw ships, said to be South African, moored off the coast. After he became isolated, Bacar instituted a curfew and stationed his militia outside hospitals and clinics; anyone bearing the marks of a beating was refused treatment.

Abdullah spent 24 days recuperating at home before being smuggled in a small boat to Moheli, and then to hospital on Grand Comore, where he spent a further month receiving treatment for his injuries.

By the time Abdullah returned to Anjouan, Bacar had fled with about 30 of his militia a few days before the AU troops arrived, apparently taking a high-speed motor boat from the village of Moya.

Bacar, the son of a former French regular soldier, has found a haven in West Africa, after first fleeing to the French-administered island of Mayotte, then to another French island in the Indian Ocean, Reunion, before settling in the former French colony of Benin.

Comoros claims the island of Mayotte as its territory, but France says that in a referendum held just before independence in 1975, most people in Mayotte chose to remain under French jurisdiction.

A referendum is scheduled for March 2009 to determine whether Mayotte should become an overseas department, essentially a French territory, whose citizens would enjoy the same rights as those of mainland France.

Talk of revenge

Abdullah said he knows some of Bacar’s soldiers who tortured him are in Mayotte and he “wants revenge”, or at least compensation for the cost of his medical treatment, which he paid for by borrowing money from friends and relatives.

After AU troops ended Bacar’s rule, Comoros President Ahmed Abdallah Sambi “told us not to seek revenge, as government would resolve it, but nothing has happened,” Abdullah said.

Abdoulrahime Said Bacar, the Union government spokesman, told IRIN the government was actively seeking Mohamed Bacar’s extradition from Benin.

“We do not want his crimes to be forgotten and taken for granted. He must pay and we want an international court of justice to judge him,” he said.


Photo: Guy Oliver/IRIN
Laidine Abdullah sits outside his shop – where the trouble began

The soles of Abdullah’s feet were beaten to a bloody pulp and his body still aches, nearly a year after the beating. “All I am good for is getting up. I’ve got no strength to work or tend my garden.”

As pressure on Bacar was ratcheted up with sanctions and threats of military force, family members were given senior government positions. His sister, Fatima, a former teacher, was made director of education; his brother, Abdou, a medical doctor, became a colonel and head of Anjouan’s paramilitary police force; another brother, Ibrahim, a primary school teacher, became the director of public services. All are thought to have fled to Mayotte.

Anjouan was a catalyst in the development of the Comoros’ complex electoral system, brokered in 2001 by the Organisation of African Unity, predecessor of the AU, in the wake of Moheli and Anjouan seceding from Grand Comore in 1997.

The Comoros has four governments, costing an estimated 80 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product; each island has its own semi-autonomous government and president, with a rotating presidency for the over-arching Union government. The design was intended to put an end to years of instability and political conflict marked by mercenary invasions, assassinations and more than 20 successful and attempted coups since independence from France in 1975.

Airport served as torture centre

Anjouan airport’s 1,400m runway, which juts into the sea at one end and meets a mountainside at the other, is feared by pilots. During Bacar’s final year of illegitimate rule, the airport was feared for other reasons: regular beatings were conducted on the runway, closed to air traffic by boulders rolled onto the tarmac.

A small-scale cattle farmer, Zouhari Bacar, 45, (no relation) still does not know why he and five others were abducted from their homes in the village of Nyatanga, perched high above the airport, by about 15 soldiers late one night.

“We were ordered to lie down on the runway, and they beat us with batons on our elbows, knees, ankles and the soles of our feet. When they beat us, they told us we were going to die. I thought of my family and that there was no one to take care of them if I died,” Bacar told IRIN.

“We were released at about 3 a.m., but only one was able to walk and go and get help. We were taken home in wheelbarrows. It took two months for me to recover [from the beating]. Two of my three cows died, as I was unable to look after them and feed them.”


Photo: Guy Oliver/IRIN
Omar Oirdine will not forgive the informants

Kassus Ben-Alloui, 30, a trained teacher now working as a hotel receptionist, told IRIN that the nightly curfews ensured most people were at home, and that made it easy for the militia to pick them up.

Informants were paid as much as 5,000 Comorian Francs (US$15) – a small fortune in a country ranked at 134 out of the 177 on the UN Development Index. Ben-Alloui said during that time “it was often said that the walls have ears.”

People who feared arrest, especially the educated, often slept away from home or on the roofs of their houses. Family members would be detained if Bacar’s militia failed to catch people, and were incarcerated, without water, in a shipping container at the airport under the tropical sun until they divulged the whereabouts of their loved ones, Ben-Alloui said.

Despite Bacar’s brutality, food and fuel price increases since the island was liberated have induced a sense that things were not as bad as they actually were, Ben-Alloui said.

Opia Kumah, the UN Resident Coordinator in the Comoros, told IRIN: “This is a classic situation where people who have gone through any traumatic period turn around and blame their rescuers because they cannot deliver the expected relief immediately.”

“In many post-conflict areas where there is not immediate help they tend to relapse back into conflict and the Comoros and Anjouan cannot afford that,” he said.

“A person who lost a cow or two [under Bacar’s rule] – that situation can be multiplied a thousand times or so,” Kumah said. “A certain amount of disillusionment is almost inevitable. That is why it is urgent to start post-conflict reconstruction and rehabilitation right away to improve living conditions.”

A UN assessment mission arriving on the island soon after Bacar’s departure was shocked by the level of destruction. The administrative infrastructure had been destroyed, with offices ransacked and computers smashed, while health, water and sanitation infrastructures were in disrepair.

''Building a bridge from post-conflict [conditions] to sustainable development will take a couple of years in Anjouan, before you can say it is stable''

A subsequent high level mission by UNICEF, the UN Children’s Fund, also found high levels of malnutrition.

The Comoros has been declared eligible for the UN Secretary General’s peace-building fund. Once received, this money would contribute to reinforcing security, promoting national cohesion and reconciliation as well as relaunching economic activities.

“Building a bridge from post-conflict [conditions] to sustainable development will take a couple of years in Anjouan, before you can say it is stable,” Kumah said.

Elections for the Anjouan presidency were held on 15and 29 June 2008 and Moussa Toybou won the poll, which was declared free and fair by local and international observers, but it did not erase the animosity of Bacar’s rule.

Unforgiving

Omar Oirdine, 45, owner of a small shop in Nyatanga, knows why he was arrested and tortured. On Bacar’s instructions the radio mast was vandalised, preventing broadcasts from reaching those at sea level, including the island capital, Mutsamudu, but Nyatanga was not affected because of its altitude.

''They beat us with batons, especially the soles of our feet; they beat us until we could no longer cry. After they had finished they told us to stand up and get into the car. But we couldn’t stand up, so we had to crawl''

Oirdine told IRIN he knows who informed on him. “It was the old people in the village who overheard me talking about Bacar after I had listened to the radio,” Oirdine told IRIN.

The soldiers came for Oirdine at midnight. He was taken to the runway with four others and instructed to make lewd remarks about the mother of the Union President of the Comoros, Ahmed Abdallah Sambi.

“They beat us with batons, especially the soles of our feet; they beat us until we could no longer cry. After they had finished they told us to stand up and get into the car. But we couldn’t stand up, so we had to crawl,” he said.

It was two months before he could walk or pass urine without pain. “I know who the informants are, and I don’t serve them in my shop anymore.”

go/he

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Chadians threatened by waterborne illnesses

Posted by African Press International on December 12, 2008

N’DJAMENA, 10 December 2008 (IRIN) – Diarrhoea and other deadly waterborne illnesses threaten some 28,000 Chadians inan eastern town,after armed attacks including the theft of a water pump forced out the last aid workersrunningalready scaled-down operations.

UN aid officials fear that people will begin to flee the area Dogdore if aid operations do not resume there soon, thus further complicating humanitarian efforts in Chad’s volatile east.About 24,500 displaced Chadians live in Dogdore, along with some 4,000 local residents, according to the UN.

Aid groups suspended most activities in Dogdore in October after a string of armed attacks. The last remaining aid workers,with the group Action Against Hunger (ACF), pulled out in late November after three attacks in five days, Eric de Monval, head of ACF in Chad, told IRIN. We felt we had no choice given the continued insecurity, he said.

Armed bandits on 21 November stole a motorised water pump that was serving some 70 percent of the population, Fatma Diouf Samoura, UN deputy humanitarian coordinator for eastern Chad, told IRIN from the regions main town Abeche.

There are some drilled wells and traditional wells in the area but they are not sufficient for the number of people, she said. ACF has been planning to build more waterpumps in Dogdore, according to de Monval, who said the group is monitoring the situation and hopes to return soon.

UN officials told IRIN the latest information they have is that many people in Dogdore have been forced to turn to unsafe water. People are digging [makeshift] wells into the wadis [riverbeds], said David Cibonga, head of OCHA in Abeche. We are sure that if humanitarian organisations cannot start work again soon we will have cases of waterborne disease and perhaps even child deaths.

''If humanitarian organisations cannot start work again soon we will have cases of waterborne disease and perhaps even child deaths''

Mdecins Sans Frontires-France (MSF) is among the aid groups that suspended assistance in Dogdore in October. There is no longer a minimum of security to allow for humanitarian operations there, Frdric Emirian of MSF-France in Chad told IRIN. MSF is worried about a possible deterioration of the humanitarian situation [in Dogdore] especially inwater and sanitation.

UN humanitarian officials said it is critical that aid groups be able to resume assistance to people in Dogdore. We fear that the people there will move to other sites where aid agencies are already stretched, the UNs Samoura told IRIN.

UN humanitarian officials said they have appealed to local and national authorities to improve security in the area. The authorities know about the problem and they say theyre considering a response, OCHAs Cibonga told IRIN.

During a recent trip to eastern Chad UN Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes expressed concern about continued insecurity in the Dogdore area.

Armed attacks have long hampered aid efforts in eastern Chad, where according to the UN some 263,000 Sudanese refugees and 180,000 Chadian displaced live, largely dependent on aid agencies for health care and food assistance.

In 2008 more than 160 attacks on humanitarian workers including four murders have been reported in Chad, according to the UN.

ch/np

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