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Archive for January, 2009

A surrending commander should be pardoned and given time to tame LRA boss Kony

Posted by African Press International on January 31, 2009

UGANDA: Rebel commander’s defection a boon to peace


Photo: Manoocher Deghati/IRIN
A resident who was mutilated in an LRA attack (file photo): The LRA are accused of mass murder, rape and pillage in northern Uganda, the DRC and Southern Sudan

KAMPALA, 30 January 2009 (IRIN) – The reported defection of a senior rebel commander could revive hopes of a peaceful end to a regional conflict in which hundreds have recently died and thousands fled their homes, a leading cleric in northern Uganda said.

Okot Odhiambo, second-in-command of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), contacted the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to announce his defection.

“We are coordinating with the Ugandan government and the UPDF [Uganda People’s Defence Force]; I can confirm that he has defected,” Jeremy Haslam, IOM’s head of office in Uganda, told IRIN.

The IOM, he added, was now negotiating Odhiambo’s safe passage from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to Uganda.

“I have heard about the intended surrender; the treatment he gets will play a big role for similar moves by [other] rebel commanders in future,” Gulu Catholic Archbishop, John Baptist Odama, told IRIN on 30 January.

“This must be the time where mercy triumphs over other convictions to build true reconciliation. Let him be handled like someone who has surrendered,” said the cleric, who has been involved in various efforts to peacefully end more than two decades of war between the LRA and the Ugandan government.

Odama said he hoped the surrender would lead to the conclusion of a peace process through a signed agreement, and ease an ongoing military offensive in eastern DRC.

“When he comes out, he should convince his boss [LRA leader, Joseph Kony] to come and sign [a peace agreement] instead of resorting to war,” Odama told IRIN. “War generates hatred, revenge and other evils. We think that it will be of no use for the government to go on with an outright military offensive with its consequent loss of lives.”

The LRA have been flushed out of their bases in the Garamba National Park, north-eastern DRC, but have split into smaller groups. These are now accused of mass murder, rape and pillage in DRC and Southern Sudan.

They have also abducted children and driven tens of thousands of people from their homes. On 27 January, the UN reported an attack by 13 suspected LRA rebels on the remote village of Tora in which at least 100 civilians were killed.

The LRA have been particularly vicious since December when Uganda launched an offensive against them, with the support of the DRC and Southern Sudan armies. This “poorly executed” offensive provoked a wave of “retaliatory” massacres, according to Enough Project, an international think-tank.

Mixed reactions

The Ugandan army said military pressure from the three armies had started yielding results and that the surrender would weaken the LRA military command. “If he surrenders, Kony will be isolated because Odhiambo was one of his field men who were running around,” spokesman Maj Felix Kulaigye said.

Walter Ochora, Gulu district commissioner, said the surrender “would mean the LRA has been surprisingly weakened and that it is on its death bed, which can only be good news for the people of northern Uganda”.

Others had different opinions, however. “[The defection] will be the only obvious positive contribution of Operation Lightning Thunder instead of what we have heard since it was launched,” said Kalule Kawooya, a lawyer in Kampala.

Opposition leader Ogenga Latigo doubted reports of Odhiambo’s defection. “If he really comes out, it will mean there are some dissenting voices [developing] in the LRA, opposed to the strategy of Kony, and it will signal the beginning of the end to the LRA. I still have my doubts that this is true.”

Odhiambo is one of five LRA commanders indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court in 2005. Two have since died, including Vincent Otti, Odhiambos predecessor, who was reportedly killed on the orders of Kony in 2008.

The rebels agreed to a truce with the government in 2006 and entered into peace negotiations, but the process has been stalled, with Kony insisting the ICC warrants must be dropped before he signs a final agreement.

vm/js/eo/mw source.www.irinnews.org

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Higher Education Minister Pare told IRIN the government has invested more than US$15 million to improve and adapt universities since 2005.

Posted by African Press International on January 31, 2009

BURKINA FASO: Progress on MDG education goal creates new problems


Photo: Brahima Ouedraogo/ IRIN
University of Ouagadougou sits empty during a nationwide university professor strike, January 2009

OUAGADOUGOU, 30 January 2009 (IRIN) – Years of boosting primary school enrolment in Burkina Faso to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) has increased pressure on the countrys universities. Education officials must now manage the explosive growth at higher levels created as more students enrol and stay in school longer, according to the Ministry of Education.

The MDGs, adopted in 2000, call for universal primary education by 2015.

Joseph Pare, Minister of Higher Education, told IRIN that university enrolment in Burkina Faso has increased by 25 percent in 2007, in part because of more high school graduates. There is now a strong trend of students making it though the secondary level, which creates infrastructural and human resource problems.

In 2007 the main public university in the capital Ouagadougou had 400 professors for 40,000 students, according to the government.

The lack of teachers as well as inadequate classroom and research space led to student strikes in 2006 and 2007. The most recent ended in clashes with security forces.

Higher Education Minister Pare told IRIN the government has invested more than US$15 million to improve and adapt universities since 2005.

While reforms are underway, Pare said expensive temporary measures are the only way to accommodate the ever-growing student population. Every year, we are forced to rent classroom space downtown at the cost of $784,000. And this is done with the countrys five-percent annual economic growth.

Strikes spread

In December professors at the University of Ouagadougou and two smaller public universities, in Kodougou and Bobo Dioulasso, went on strike, demanding more government benefits.

The entire system is crumbling, said Magloire Som, secretary general of the national teachers union known as Synadec. No one is addressing the current problems of infrastructure, lack of teachers or students learning conditions.

Union leaders met with Ministry of Education officials on 30 January to find a compromise to re-open the universities.

The government has agreed to pay $360 in back pay owed to each professor, but union leader Som said overburdened teachers need more. The education level will continue to decline because it is not possible for one teacher to oversee 100 students.

Professors currently earn almost $300 per month after four years of teaching, according to the union.

Expenses grow

The governments Pare told IRIN as the number of students has increased, so has financial need. He said the government offered $1 million in scholarships in 2008, increasing student loan and grant amounts to $400 and $300, respectively.

Union leaders are demanding $400 per professor in monthly housing subsidies, rejecting the governments offer of $120. Teachers currently receive $110 per month for housing.

Minister Pare said the government is already paying $1.3 million per year in teacher benefits and that this amount can reach up to nearly $2 million in the case there are additional teachers who collect benefits.

But union leader Som said without more attractive benefits, teachers will opt out of education to make ends meet. Improved conditions [in public institutions] would lead to better-trained professors who would not need to look elsewhere in the private sector [for employment].

University professors are scheduled to hold further talks with the government on 16 February. We are fighting for better salaries and benefits to make the job more attractive so as to welcome more professors to fill the void left by those who retire, said Som.

Within the next five years, 120 professors will retire, according to the union Synadec.

Every year in Burkina Faso fewer than half of 50 university teaching vacancies are filled, forcing authorities to start recruiting from doctoral students to fill the widening gap.

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source.www.irinnews.org

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Southern Mozambique, which is arid, had been hit by a drought in early 2008

Posted by African Press International on January 31, 2009

MOZAMBIQUE: Another drought looming in the south


Photo: IRIN
High food prices have also pushed aid needs higher

JOHANNESBURG, 30 January 2009 (IRIN) – “This year is going to be much harder than last year because the rainfall we have recorded [in southern Mozambique] in the first month of this year is lower if you compare with the same period in 2008,” Mussa Mustapha, head of country’s meteorological institute (INAM) told IRIN.

Southern Mozambique, which is arid, had been hit by a drought in early 2008. “The below average rains, which are much lower this year than 2008, and the high temperatures in the southern parts mean agricultural production is going to be badly affected,” said Mustapha.

“We can say the wet season has already ended in the central and southern parts, and the drought has begun because the rains are moving away from this region.”

Since October 2008 less than half the usual rain has fallen and farmers in the region are headed for their third consecutive year of drought. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, 450,000 people need food assistance and up to 150,000 face a critical situation.

The country has also been affected by the high cost of food: maize prices rose by almost 102 percent last year, leaving people more vulnerable than in 2007, according to the Community and Household Surveillance (CHS) conducted in southern and central Mozambique in 2008.

In the first ten days of January 2009, Maputo Province, in the south, received 2.9mm of rainfall compared to about 40.8mm in the first ten days of 2008.

The Famine Early Warning Network (FEWS-NET), which is funded by USAID, warned in November 2008 that crops planted in southern Mozambique had not received adequate rainfall.

“Also, a more worrisome situation is the long delay of the start of rains in the central region, which may compromise this year’s agricultural season in that region,” FEWS-Net said in its last report.

The World Food Programme recentlyappealed for US$8.5 millionto buy 10,840 tonnes of cereals to supplement household reserves and help families cope with high food prices until the next harvest, due in April/May.

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source.www.irinnews.org

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Posted by African Press International on January 31, 2009

CAPE VERDE: WFP to shut down by 2010


Photo: Phuong Tran/ IRIN
Primary school child in Praia, Cape Verde

PRAIA, 30 January 2009 (IRIN) – After 30 years supporting national school feeding in Cape Verde, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) is handing the programme over to the government, saying the country is ready to fully finance it by 2010.

The head of Cape Verdes UN team who represents all UN agencies working in Cape Verde, Petra Lantz, told IRIN that WFPs decision to pull out was based on overall gains the country has made. WFP uses two primary indicators to determine whether it should have a country presence, namely the degree of stunting among children under five and GNP [income] per capita.

“Cape Verdes ‘graduation’ from WFP assistance in 2010 is thus a result of the countrys positive development indicators over a long period.

Employed Cape Verdeans earn on average more than twice the income cap of US$1,100/year for countries where WFP works. Based on its growing average income per resident, Cape Verde shed its UN least-developed country status in 2007.

The government has been on track to take over the lunch programme, but the world financial crisis has presented new and unexpected challenges, said Felisberto Moreira, president of the governmental Cape Verdean Institute of School Social Services. Right now we are completely engaged, but you never know, with the international economic crisis. The government will continue to make all the necessary efforts to provide the same services.

Recession

The UNs Lantz said Cape Verdes reliance on money from overseas makes it more vulnerable to external financial shocks.

The most recent government census showed more Cape Verdeans living overseas than the fewer than half million who live on the islands. Remittances from overseas relatives constituted 12 percent of the national budget in 2007, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the African Development Bank.

Cape Verde faces a recession with the economy expected to grow by 0.5 percent in 2009 compared to an estimated tourism-fueled seven-percent growth in 2008, according to the Ministry of Finance.

Despite the gloomy economic outlook, national school social services director Moreira said the government is working to ensure a smooth handover for school feeding. He said the government has set aside $1.7 million to pay almost all costs in 2009.

Take two

As of 2008, the programme served 100,000 primary and some pre-school students, according to the UN.

WFP decreased support for school lunches in Cape Verde in 1995, but resumed full funding seven years later after it noted a drop in school enrolment after the government took over, said UN’s Lantz.

Primary school teacher Maria Jose Cabral who has taught for 23 years told IRIN her students are not regularly fed at home. Some of them come in the morning with nothing but coffee in their stomachs. Without lunches, students may still attend, but they would not be able to concentrate.

At the New President primary school where she teaches in the capital Praia, more than 200 students get daily meals, mostly soup and rice. I hope the government gets it right this time, said Cabral. Mobilise private businesses, do whatever is necessary because this school, this entire country, cannot grow its own food magically.

Less than ten percent of the once-volcanic archipelago is cultivable, according to the Ministry of Agriculture; most all of the islands food is imported

About one out of every 10 people slightly more in rural areasis severely malnourished and has less than 65 US cents a day to buy food, according to a recent government study conducted with the Food and Agricultural Organization; the report used 2002 data.

The school-feeding programme covers lunches for students up to age 12. Teacher Cabral told IRIN many youths do not continue school after that age. They tend to drop out and wash cars.

The drop-out rate for youths 12 and older is almost twice as high as the overall school-abandonment rate of 11 percent in 2007, according to the government.

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source.www.irinnews.org

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Tsvangirai has now given in and will share power with Mugabe – Is it on Mugabe’s terms?

Posted by African Press International on January 31, 2009

Zimbabwe’s political rivals moved closer to forming a unity government on Friday after main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai got an endorsement from his formation’s national council to support the implementation of the September 15 power sharing agreement.

The endorsement came a few hours after the ruling Zanu PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) formations set up a joint committee to monitor the September 15 power-sharing pact, a sign that the parties were close to implementing the pact.

South African mediator, Mr Sydney Mufumadi said the establishment of the team drawn from the three parties that signed the agreement showed that a regional timetable to set up the new government was on course.

”It is the first structure to be formed in terms of the global political agreement and it demonstrates the commitment of the parties to ensure that what they agreed to does come to pass,” Mr Mufumadi said.

A Southern African Development Community (SADC) extra-ordinary summit in South Africa laid out a timeline for President Robert Mugabe’s ruling Zanu PF and the two MDC formations to set up a joint government by February 13.

Excited supporters mobbed Mr Tsvangirai, as he emerged from his party’s headquarters in central Harare after announcing to journalists that his party’s national council had endorsed SADC’s time line.

There were fears the national council of the MDC would reject the timetable after indications that some hardliners were opposed to any power sharing deal with Mr Mugabe.

“In accordance with the party’s constitution, the political agreement we signed on September 15 and in the best interests of the welfare of all Zimbabweans, the MDC has resolved to form an inclusive government with Zanu PF and MDC-M,” Mr Tsvangirai said.

But he cautioned that by joining the inclusive government, Zimbabwe’s multifaceted crisis was not over.

“Instead our participation signifies that we have chosen to continue the struggle for a democratic Zimbabwe in a new arena,” he said. “This agreement is a significant milestone in our journey to democracy but it does not signify that we have arrived at our destination. We are committed to establishing a democratic Zimbabwe regardless of how long that struggle takes us.”

Zimbabwe is facing a devastating economic crisis that has paralysed government operations and left three quarters of the population facing starvation.

Analysts say a unity government would be the only solution to the crises blamed on the country’s isolation by the international community.

source.nation.ke

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Posted by African Press International on January 31, 2009

Key politicians plotted against bid to speed up tribunal Bills

Key politicians are behind the tactical move by Parliament to increase the possibility of dragging ministers and MPs suspected of being behind the post-election violence to The Hague.

The revelation came as a consultancy firm hired by the Panel of Eminent African Personalities to monitor the progress of the implementation of the National Accord warned that the government was moving at a slow pace.

Sources said on Friday that a few MPs met hours before the Bills that sought to establish the Special Tribunal for Kenya and its entrenchment in the Constitution were presented in Parliament.

The meeting, it was said, was the climax of a plot by some senior members in the government to ensure that suspects on the Waki list are taken to The Hague instead of being tried on Kenyan soil where the work of the Special Tribunal could be manipulated.

Of course there was a meeting before the Bills were brought to the floor of the House. It was agreed that measures should be taken to block the governments rush to beat the deadline, said an MP who attended the meeting at Continental House, where the MPs offices are located.

Another MP said that a senior Cabinet minister had complained to him that a scheme was underway by his colleagues to frustrate the efforts of setting up the Special Tribunal.

There are a lot of worries and from the look of things, there are some people who want this matter to end up at The Hague, said the MP.

They were referring to a last-minute move, on Thursday, by Imenti Central MP Gitobu Imanyara to block attempts by Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister Martha Karua to shorten the maturity period of the two Bills.

Mr Imanyara was backed by MPs Bonny Khalwale, Olago Aluoch, Charles Kilonzo, and Ababu Namwamba, prompting Speaker Kenneth Marende to rule that the House could not grant leave to shorten the maturity period of the Bills.

According to the agreed timetable between the government and the Panel of Eminent African Personalities chaired by Mr Kofi Annan, the Statute for the Special Tribunal and its entrenchment in the Constitution should have been passed by yesterday.

The Special Tribunal, which President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga committed to establish when they signed the agreement on December 17, last year, should start operating by March 1.

The two Bills before the House were the Special Tribunal for Kenya Bill, 2009, that sought to put in place a Statute for the tribunal, and the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill that was to entrench the tribunal in the Constitution.

According to parliamentary rules, the Bills, published on Thursday, were supposed to take 14 days to mature before they were debated on the floor of the House.

If this were to hold, the government would have failed to meet the deadlines set in the Waki commission report, and that is why Ms Karua was expediting the process.

And now, the fate of the six Cabinet ministers, five MPs and other prominent people listed in the secret Waki envelope lies with Mr Annan.

Political will

On Friday, Dr Khalwale, former Kabete MP Paul Muite and civil society personality Ndungu Wainaina declared that there was lack of political will to establish the Special Tribunal and advanced that the matter should be taken to The Hague.

Dr Khalwale accused the Executive of taking Parliament for granted in their efforts to push through the Bills.

The Ikolomani MP argued that the reason behind the decision by MPs to block the fast tracking of the Bills was to pass the message that there was a constitutional crisis between Parliament and the Executive.

He warned that the government should not expect the Bills to sail through on Tuesday next week unless the Executive starts to respect Parliament. Mr Muite questioned the governments decision to make a last-minute rush over the key Bills.

The big issue here is lack of political will in implementing the Waki report. The key pillar in the recommendations was the resignation of ministers who were named and this was removed during the two kamukunjis, he said.

Mr Wainaina described the technicality invoked by Mr Imanyara as deliberate and stated that the trial of post-election violence suspects should be taken to the ICC.

Spirited move

He cited the spirited move by Cabinet ministers George Saitoti and Yusuf Haji to exonerate Police Commissioner Hussein Ali and Administration Police Commandant Kinuthia Mbugua as an indicator that politicians were determined to manipulate the tribunal.

However, sources said President Kibaki and Mr Odinga were also being blamed for the governments failure to push through the Bill.

The PM flew to Davos, Switzerland, early in the week to attend a G8 meeting while President Kibaki is scheduled to attend an Africa Union meeting.

But even as they spoke, South Consulting, expressed dismay at the pace with which the government was moving in meeting the time lines. It met the Serena team at the Serena Hotel on Friday.

Members of the Serena team pledged that the government will speed up the pace of implementation.

source.nation.ke

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A military judge goes against President Obama’s executive order – but for how long?

Posted by African Press International on January 31, 2009

Obama’a plan to suspend Guatamano proceedings hits snag

Written By:AFP

President Barack Obama’s plan to suspend proceedings against Guantanamo detainees hit a snag when a military judge said it would be unreasonable to delay a hearing for the alleged mastermind of the USS Cole bombing.

Thursday’s ruling by the judge, Army Col. James Pohl, creates an unexpected challenge for the new administration as it reviews how America puts suspected terrorists on trial.

Pohl said his decision was difficult but necessary to protect “the public interest in a speedy trial.” The ruling came in the case against Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. The bombing of the Navy destroyer in 2000 in the harbor of Aden, Yemen, killed 17 U.S. sailors.

Obama has ordered the detention center in Cuba to be closed within a year. The administration asked last week for a 120-day suspension in proceedings against some 20 detainees as it considers whether to continue trying alleged terrorists in the military commissions, revamp them or try suspects in other courts.

Obama signed an executive order directing Defense Secretary Robert Gates to ensure that “all proceedings of such military commissions to which charges have been referred but in which no judgment has been rendered … are halted.”

But Pohl wrote in his ruling that “on its face, the request to delay the arraignment is not reasonable.”

The judge’s decision seemed to take the Pentagon and White House by surprise.

“We are consulting with the Pentagon and the Department of Justice to explore our options in the case,” said White Press secretary Robert Gibbs, adding that he doubted the decision would hamper the administration’s ability to decide how to move forward from Guantanamo.

The Department of Defense is reviewing Judge Pohl’s ruling, said Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman.

Geoff Morrell, another Pentagon spokesman, told reporters that there were “no ifs, ands or buts” about adhering to the president’s executive order and that there would “be no proceedings continuing down at Gitmo with military commissions.”

“The bottom line is, we all work for the president of the United States in this chain of command, and he has signed an executive order which has made abundantly clear that until these reviews are done all of this is on hiatus,” Morrell said.

The American Civil Liberties Union urged Gates to put a halt to the proceedings by withdrawing the charges against al-Nashiri.

“Judge Pohl’s decision to move forward despite a clear statement from the president also raises questions about Secretary of Defense Gates – is he the ‘new Gates’ or is he the same old Gates under a new president?” ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero said. “Secretary Gates has the power to stop the military commissions and ought to follow his new boss’ directives.”

The Cole’s former commanding officer, retired Navy Cmdr. Kirk Lippold, said the case “needs to go forward” at Guantanamo. He said Pohl’s ruling validated the war-crimes trials by demonstrating the independence of the military judges.

“The families involved want to see al-Nashiri held accountable for his heinous acts,” Lippold said in an interview.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Stephen Reyes, the Pentagon-appointed attorney for al-Nashiri, said the decision gives the Obama administration few options.

“The next step, if the government wants to halt the proceedings, is to withdraw the charges,” Reyes said.

“Now it’s in the government’s hands,” he said. “I have no idea what they’re going to do.”

Pohl is the chief judge at the tribunals at the U.S. Navy base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. At least two other judges have already granted the continuance sought by the president, with the defense and prosecution agreeing in both cases that they should be suspended.

Pohl noted that no substantive legal issues would be litigated at al-Nashiri’s arraignment, scheduled for Feb. 9, meaning that “nothing will be mooted or necessary for relitigation” if Obama scraps the tribunals.

The war crimes court came to an abrupt halt Jan. 21 after two other military judges granted Obama’s request for a suspension.

His executive order came the following day in Washington.

Those cases were against a Canadian accused of killing a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan and five men charged in the Sept. 11 attacks.

In all, war crimes charges are pending against 21 men at Guantanamo.

Before Obama became president, the U.S. said it planned to try dozens of detainees in a system that was created by George W. Bush and Congress in 2006 and has faced repeated challenges.

source.kbc.ke

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Whoever is elected Somali president will face hardships

Posted by African Press International on January 30, 2009

SOMALIA: Leading contenders for presidency


Photo: Ahmed Yusuf Mohamed/IRIN
Whoever wins the presidency faces the daunting task of rebuilding Somalia after 18 years of war (file photo)

NAIROBI, 29 January 2009 (IRIN) – Somalia’s parliament, meeting in Djibouti, is expected to elect a new president on 30 January, to replace Abdullahi Yusuf, who resigned at the end of December 2008 after prolonged differences with the prime minister.

Fourteen candidates are vying for the position but observers say two stand out. However, whoever takes over faces the daunting task of trying to rebuild a nation that has been at war for nearly 18 years, leaving more than one million displaced and up to 3.5 million people needing aid. Not only does the winner inherit a broken country but also the task of bringing in those in opposition that are not involved in the current talks, including the militant Al-Shabab group.

Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed
In his late 40s, he is the leader of a faction of the Eritrea-based Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS). He is also the former chairman of the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), which was ousted in late 2006 by Ethiopian-backed Somali troops. He is considered a relative moderate and led his group into negotiations with the Transitional Federal Government (TFG).

Ahmed started out as a former lieutenant of faction leader Mohamed Dheere until they fell out in 2003. In the same year, he helped to set up the SiSi neighbourhood Islamic court to combat rampant crime and banditry in the poor neighbourhoods of north Mogadishu. He comes from a long line of religious leaders. He is from the Abgal sub-clan of the Hawiye clan.

After falling out with the secular warlord controlling the town, Ahmed became a secondary school teacher in Mogadishu, where a gang abducted one of his 12-year-old students. The captors demanded a ransom from the boy’s family – a moment Ahmed called a turning point. In 2004, he became chairman of the group, now made up of 11 courts and known as the UIC.


Photo: Hassan Ahmed/IRIN
Nur Hassan Hussein, better known as “Nur Ade”, one of the leading contenders for the presidency (file photo)

Nur Hassan Hussein
In his 70s and popularly known as Nur Ade, he was appointed prime minister in October 2008 by Yusuf. Hussein replaced Ali Mohamed Gedi, who was blamed for contributing to the displacement of hundreds of thousands from Mogadishu.

He is considered a pragmatist and cautious. He is credited with overseeing the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops.

Hussein is a lawyer by training and a former police colonel, who, until his appointment, had been secretary-general of the Somali Red Crescent Society since 1991. Like his predecessor, Hussein is a member of the Abgal sub-clan of the Hawiye clan, which is dominant in Mogadishu and the surrounding areas.

Other candidates, considered long shots, however, include Maj-Gen Maslah Mohamed Siad, the son of late President Siad Barre, and former Prime Minister Ali Khalif Glayr, who is currently teaching at a university in the United States.

ah/mw source.irinnews.org

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Food: There is a vital priority for countries which have immediate needs for the next planting season, such as Kenya.”

Posted by African Press International on January 30, 2009

GLOBAL: Talks and more talks about food


Photo: AS Naing/IRIN
Countries are in search of long-term solutions to food insecurity

JOHANNESBURG, 29 January 2009 (IRIN) – The two-day UN meeting in Madrid, Spain, to review global plans to deal with the food price crisis began amid claims of overlapping programmes and competition for resources between the UN agencies, and talk of setting up a global partnership to improve agriculture and food security.

Ahead of the meeting, UK-based aid agency Oxfam and the Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration (ETC Group), which works with civil society organisations, had raised concerns over UN agencies’ call for funds in an allegedly uncoordinated manner and with “noticeable overlaps”.

One of the overlaps, Oxfam said, was the World Bank’s Global Food Response Programme, set up to respond to high food prices and which finances the UN World Food Programme’s (WFP) food aid and agricultural inputs; and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) Initiative on Soaring Food Prices, centred on providing farming inputs. Both had independently requested donor support.

Fred Mousseau, a policy advisor to Oxfam, said after the meeting, “There was a lot of emphasis on a UN-centred approach to tackling the crisis and a unified UN, which was reassuring.”

David Nabarro, coordinator of the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Task Force (HLTF) on Global Food Security, commented: “The most serious challenge is not duplication, but a shortage of resources.” The HLTF members are heads of UN specialised agencies, funds and programmes, Bretton Woods institutions and relevant parts of the UN Secretariat, who have “improved policy and programme coordination, particularly at national level”.

''The immediate priority was to ensure that the resources which are available for countries are used as efficiently as possible, and are easily available for countries facing food security challenges''

Nabarro noted that in most countries a framework for action on food security had been agreed to by government and donors, and “while improvements can be made, [it] has for the most part worked well”.

The immediate priority, he said, was “to ensure that the resources which are available for countries are used as efficiently as possible, and are easily available for countries facing food security challenges. There is a vital priority for countries which have immediate needs for the next planting season, such as Kenya.”

Global partnership

Two proposals were up for discussion as participants debated the best architecture for providing long-term solutions to the food price crisis: the HLTF proposed a global partnership that would include UN agencies, governments, NGOs and the private sector; the FAO suggested that the UN committee on World Food Security be expanded. Opinion remained divided and no decision was taken.

Agreement was reached on “the importance of an inclusive and broad process of consultation on options leading to the establishment of a Global Partnership for Agriculture, Food Security and Nutrition,” said a communiqu on the meeting’s website.

“There was a lot of scepticism about the idea, as there [sometimes] is about the creation of new structures,” said Pat Mooney, the ETC Group’s executive director, noting that during the food crisis in the 1970s, the World Food Council had been set up in 1974 and had never really functioned until it was suspended in 1993.

Steve Jarrett, Principal advisor to the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, said the global partnership would not be a “structure, but more of a broad-based alliance of UN agencies, NGOs, governments and the private sector.”

Nabarro commented, “There is no decision on the outcome – only some ideas from different countries and constituencies, and an agreement on the need to have participatory consultation as soon as possible.”

He said the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, had been asked by the African Union, the European Union and the G8 group of highly industrialised countries to facilitate consultations about options for partnerships that would generate effective responses to the food security crisis.

“In addition, FAO’s members are being consulted about a plan for an intergovernmental process on the agricultural and food security elements of a global partnership.”

Money makes the food go round

Oxfam and the medical aid NGO, Mdecins Sans Frontires, welcomed a commitment by Spain, the host country, to earmark 0.7 percent of its gross domestic product to overseas development assistance (ODA) by 2012.

Donor response at present was poor, “but it was not a pledging conference”, said Oxfam’s Mousseau. “Affected countries in Africa and Asia also need to increase their investment in agriculture.”

jk/he/oa
source.www.irinnews.org

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African nations seeing the light in the tunnel – G7 leaders will pay attention to Africa

Posted by African Press International on January 30, 2009

G7 leaders to focus on increased assistance for African nations

Switzerland,Thursday

World leaders support for an ambitious African aid plan in Davos thrusts development funding to the top of the Group of Seven finance ministers agenda next weekend.

Currency reform was put on the back burner after chances for a breakthrough at the London G7 meeting faded, when China told the World Economic Forum annual meeting, which concluded on Sunday, that the Asian giant is in no hurry to loosen its fixed peg to the US dollar.

That leaves economic policymakers from top industrial nations delivering progress reports on how they are implementing a three-pronged strategy to improve growth the United States raising its savings rate to cut its deficits, Europe making structural reforms to boost growth and Japan securing recovery.

“We will revisit the consensus,” German central bank president Axel Weber told Reuters when asked what the G7 will achieve on the economic policy front.

Equilibrium economy

“As long as we agree on the homework and we all agree to do it, I think we are moving toward a more equilibrium global economy,” said Weber, who attends the G7 as Bundesbank president and also sits on the European Central Banks policy council. For more than a year now, G7 policymakers have been urging China to adopt a flexible exchange-rate regime. Its yuan currency is currently pegged at a very low value of about 8.28.

Flexibility is aimed at relieving upward pressure on the euro, which has borne the brunt of dollar declines, and thus helping Europe grow faster.

This is part of a plan to rebalance the global economy, now powered mainly by a dynamic US. Speculation was rife in financial markets before the Davos meetings where business, political and financial leaders gather for five days of high-powered networking that China could signal at G7 it was ready to move to a flexible exchange-rate regime. China is attending the February 4 to 5 meeting.

But Huang Ju, Chinas vice premier for financial and banking issues, told the Davos gathering that before acting on exchange rates, China needs to make further progress on cleaning up its ailing banking system and opening up its capital markets.

“We do not have a specific time frame,” Huang said on Saturday. “To improve the exchange-rate mechanism, we have to maintain the exchange rate at a reasonably stable level.”

G7 finance ministers also want details on how the United States will cut its massive current account deficit.

Developments

At 5.6 per cent of GDP and growing, it is fuelling dollar declines. But they expect no major developments, since the Bush administration budget is not unveiled until the following week.

That leaves the British scheme to double aid to poorer states to $100 billion a year by leveraging existing budgets in capital markets as the most likely topic for G7 agreement.

It got a major boost after German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said at Davos that this was “a proposal around which the world is preparing to unite.”

Four of the European members of the G7 Italy, France, Germany and Britain are now supporting a key element of the development plan, the International Financial Facility.

US Treasury Under Secretary John Taylor also threw US backing behind a plan to lift Africa from poverty. “I think its a terrific idea,” Taylor told reporters at Davos.

Reuters

source.standard.ke

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Some Kenyan ministers maybe tried at the Hague due to failure to establish a special tribunal on the Kenyan soil

Posted by African Press International on January 30, 2009

State seeks options over Waki timelines

David Ochami and Peter Opiyo

The Government suffered a blow as it missed deadlines set by the Waki Report to create a Special Tribunal to try post-election violence suspects.

And faced with the risk of having ministers and suspects tried at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, it was exploring options for extending the deadlines.

The Special Statute Tribunal for Kenya Bill, 2009 was blocked on technical grounds in the House, yesterday.

In a tactful understanding of the House Standing Orders, Mr Gitobu Imanyara (Imenti Central, CCU) objected to fast-tracking discussion on the Statute Bill and Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2009, denying the House a chance to debate them.

The former sought to establish the tribunal, while the latter was to anchor it in the Constitution. To beat todays deadline, the Government has no option than to speed the two Bills.

But rising on a point of order, Imanyara objected to the move, saying the House was not ready to grant leave to debate the two Bills.

Speaker Kenneth Marende referred to Standing Order No 99 and declared Imanyaras move legal, thus denying the House the opportunity to establish the court.

According to this Standing Order, a member can object to the House granting leave to speed up a Bill as long as he is supported by at least two members.

Imanyara had Mr Olago Aluoch (Kisumu Town West, ODM), Mr Charles Kilonzo (Yatta, ODM-K) and Dr Bonny Khalwale (Ikolomani, New Ford-K), among others.

Mr Marende then ruled: “Imanyara doesnt have the sympathy of the Chair because he has the numbers.”

Earlier, Justice Minister Martha Karua had moved three procedural Motions that extended yesterdays sitting and fast tracking the publication date of the Bills. House rules require that a Bill can only be debated after the lapse of 14 days since its publication. But the House can change this. And Parliament effectively did this by reducing the publication date to one day to give opportunity for the debate and passage of the two Bills.

Tabled bills

Karua only managed to table the Constitution of Kenya (Ammendment) Bill, 2007 and the Statute for the Special Tribunal at the first readings.

But Imanyara objected that the Bills go through the second and third readings in yesterdays single session. Since Parliament does not sit today, technically, the opportunity to establish the Tribunal is lost.

On Tuesday, Parliament had laid the ground for the establishment of the Tribunal by adopting the Waki Report.

It also enacted the International Crimes Bill that domesticated the Rome Statute and defined international crimes, paving way for the establishment of the tribunal.

And The Standard has established that the move to stop debate on the formation of the tribunal was mooted by backbenchers from both sides of the House in the last two days.

Several MPs told The Standard on condition of anonymity that the move was aimed at “teaching” the President a lesson for slighting Parliament over the reappointment of Kipipiri MP Amos Kimunya to the Cabinet.

“I have been told by some MPs that they are unhappy with Kibaki over the Kimunya issue. That is why they behaved that way,” a minister told us.

The MPs, who spoke after stopping debate on the two Constitution Bills, said Parliament had no confidence in Kimunya

Earlier, while delivering a ruling on Kimunyas reappointment, Mr Marende said the Motion of censure in which a no confidence vote was passed against Kimunya still stands.

source.standard.ke

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When you are cut as a woman, you do not become promiscuous and it means you cannot get infected by HIV

Posted by African Press International on January 29, 2009

KENYA: FGM falsely touted as a panacea for HIV


Photo: IRIN
Can FGM prevent HIV?

KISII, 27 January 2009 (PlusNews) – Priscilla Bosibori, now 17, was 14 when an aunt fetched her from her school in Kisii, western Kenya, on the pretext of taking her to an important family function. Once they had left the school grounds, her aunt said her family had found a way of protecting her from HIV.

Bosibori arrived home to a welcome of songs and dances by female members of her family before being placed in a room with other girls her age.

“Immediately I knew that I was about to be circumcised and I was shocked that even my mother, who had all along resisted my father’s attempts to have me cut, was convincing me that this would be the best way to protect myself from getting infected with HIV,” she told IRIN/PlusNews.

Proponents of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) in Kisii, where the practice is widespread, claim that the removal of part of the clitoris reduces a woman’s sexual desire and the likelihood that she will have several sexual partners, thus reducing her chances of contracting the virus.

“When you are cut as a woman, you do not become promiscuous and it means you cannot get infected by HIV; even our men want circumcised girls who will not turn out to be prostitutes,” said Grace Kemunto, a traditional circumciser.

According to local residents, a campaign by the government and NGOs to end the practice has made people like Kemunto even more aggressive in their efforts to keep FGM/C alive. The practice goes against Ministry of Health policy and also contravenes the Kenya Children’s Act of 2001, which outlaws FGM/C of girls under the age of 18.

“I do not know where this idea of female genital mutilation being a remedy to HIV infection originated, but it is a strong belief here,” said Jacqueline Mogaka, an anti-FGM/C campaigner in the area. “Young girls are now even voluntarily turning up for the cut because of this belief … the proponents of this practice will die fighting.”

An estimated 97 percent of girls in Kisii undergo circumcision, usually when they are teenagers but sometimes while still prepubescent.

A false premise

Anti-FGM/C campaigners in the region say the argument used by people like Kemunto is extremely harmful, particularly since it assumes that girls and women are in control of their sex lives, which is not true of most women in Kisii.

''When you are cut as a woman, you do not become promiscuous and it means you cannot get infected by HIV''

According to the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey of 2003, in the rural areas of Nyanza Province, where Kisii is located, an estimated nine percent of girls are married by the age of 15, while 53 percent are married by the age of 19.

Many of these girls and young women marry older men and have little say in the marriage. Women in Nyanza are also much more likely to report physical and sexual violence than those in other parts of Kenya.

The notion that FGM/C reduces sexual desire has been challenged by researchers, who found that girls who undergo the practice do not show any significant difference in sexual desire compared to those who are uncircumcised.

Dorothy Onyancha is convinced that her 12-year-old daughter contracted HIV when she was secretly taken by her father to a traditional circumciser. “The father lied to her that if she is cut she will be free from HIV,” she said.

“She is now HIV-positive and I know she got it from the practice because she confided to me that the woman who cut them used one knife to circumcise 15 of them,” Onyancha said. “Now I take care of her alone, yet the father does not even care … he cares more about his pride of having a circumcised daughter.” One of the girls later died from excessive bleeding.

FGM/C increases a woman’s risk of HIV primarily through the use of a single blade to cut several girls during traditional circumcision. There is also an increased risk of haemorrhage, leading to a greater likelihood of blood transfusions becoming necessary during circumcision, at childbirth, or as a result of vaginal tearing during sexual intercourse, with an even higher risk in areas where a safe blood supply cannot be guaranteed.

“How can one claim to be reducing HIV by practicing female genital mutilation when we know one knife can be used to circumcise up to 10 girls or even more?” asked Dr Erick Abunga, the Kisii District medical officer of health.

Prohibited but still widespread

Kisii District Commissioner Benjamin Njoroge said the practice was difficult to eradicate because families now did it secretly for fear of legal repercussions, and those who dared to talk about it were silenced by the community.

The fight against FGM/C in Kisii had made some progress by using the argument that traditional methods increased the risk of HIV, but lately nurses and midwives had been carrying out circumcisions.

Anti-FGM/C campaigners said this was common, even though it was illegal, and was now holding back the fight against FGM/C because the practice was no longer associated with a fear of HIV.

Nyanza province has the highest level of HIV in the country – 15.3 percent – compared to a national average of 7.4 percent.

ko/kr/kn/he source. www.irinnews.org

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Kenya: MORE SECURITY MEN SENTA LONG MAASAI-KIPSIGIS BORDER FOLLOWING TRIBAL SKIRMISHES

Posted by African Press International on January 29, 2009

api-correspondent-leo-odera-omolo2<Report Leo Odera Omolo.

A large contingents of policemen and other security personnel have been deployed along the boarder of South Narok and Bomet districts to stop fighting between the Kipsigis and the Maasai communities.

The security men work dispatched to the region at the weekend and managed to quell the clashes that had lasted for two weeks.

Two ODM legislators Nkoidila Ole Lankas (Narok South) Isaac Ruto Chepalungu had asked the government to bring the communal clashes in the area to an immediate end.

Another leader who added his weight to the on-going armed conflict between the two neighbouring communities is the KANU Secretary General Nick Salat who appealed to the warring communities to live in peace and harmony

.

Salat a former KANU MP asked the government and the elders from the two communities to hold a reconciliation meeting in order to have the feuds sorted out immediately. Such skirmishes usually retards development, he said.

The clashes were also conformed by the area DC Ferdinand Otwani who said the security often had intention night patrol in the affected areas.

We are also organizing reconciliation meeting between the two communities

Tribal clashes are so common in this part of the country Rift region, and the main source of such belligerency is cattle rustling and land dispute.

The latest clashes come barely a week after civic leaders had organized Public demonstration protesting about the settlement of Kalenjin speakers in the water catchments of Mau forest and valued to evict the settlers by using crude means and weapon should the government fail to do so.

At the same time the government early this week moved to source the controversial Mau Forest Complex fro further destruction and influx of illegal settlers.

The Kenya Forest Service (KFS) and the Narok County Council have formerly deployed forest rangers guards into the forest to mock further settlements to stop charcoal burners from felling tree indiscriminately.

The Deputy Forest Director Emelio Mugo confirmed the reports adding we want to make , give that people do not take advantage to destroy the forest further to settle inside,

The latest move follows fears that persist in the area that people may be moving into the forest hoping to benefit from government compensation.

Mugo said the government would protect the 400,000 hectored Mau Forest Complex from the intruders until a task force on the forest completes work and make recommendation.

The Prime Minister Raila Odinga last month extended the mandate and direction of the task force, which he had appointed to work into the detailed acuse and aspect of eviction of illegal settlers by three months.

Raila appointed the task force last year after some Rift valley leaders and MPs even opposed attempt by the government to evict more than 20,000 families of settlers from the forest.

Mugo said the task force would determine the true forest boundaries of the forest in order to secure the protested area.

Ends

leooderaomolo@yahoo.com

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THE EAC IS IN THE PROCESS OF OVERHAULING ITS TREATY AND OTHER PROTOCOLS

Posted by African Press International on January 29, 2009

api-correspondent-leo-odera-omolo2<Report Leo Odera Omolo

The 10 year East Community (EAC) Treaty is currently undergoing overhauling process in order to make the regional economic bloc more effective in the face of new challenges and expectations.

The community’s secretariat and its Council of Legal and judicial Affairs kick started the process at a meeting held in Kenya’s coastal port only of Mombassa last weekend.

Head of the corporate Communications and Public Affairs of the EAC, Magaga A lot said the review of the Treaty is intended to make the community a more effective organization.

The secretarial council is made up of Ministers of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Attorney General of the EAC member Countries, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.

Mr Alot said in addition to considering amendment of the treaty, the council would consider proposal for amendment of rules of procedure for the summit of Heads of state, council of Minister and the coordinator committee.

He further explained in a statement that amendments of the rules of procedure are intended to enhance decision making processes and delivery of the regional agenda.

The Mombasa review meeting follow an order by the East African carried of Justice last year the East African Community its Treaty and makes it consistent with the spirit and intention of the revived regional economic bloc.

Making a ruling in an application in which four applicants were challenging the December 2006 Treaty amendment but the EAC summit and their subsequent adoption, a former judge bench said amendment did not anger well for the regional body’s, The treaty must assigned with the aspirations of the people on East Africa,” they added.

The amendment in questions were done on December 14, 2006 by the EAC Summit-which comprises the heads of states after the bloc lost a case barring Kenya MPs nominated to the East African Legislative assembly from taking up their position.

Alot said the secretarial council would also handle an extensive agenda mainly concerned with regulation, proposal and acts governing the operation of the projects and programmes of the East African Countries.

Among those are Draft proposal for operational the Extended Jurisdiction Draft regulation on working relations between the EAC directorate of custom Administrations and Draft by the end of next week.

A meeting of the high level task force is planned for this coming weekend in Kisumu to fine tune the protocol that weekend established a borderless regime to the people of East Africa.

The seventh round of the negotiations on the protocol to be held from January 29 to February 5, 2009 as a Kisumu Hotel was the opened by the Minister for the East African Affairs Jeftan Kingi.

According to a press statement release by the Ministry of East African Community the negotiations, which were concluded in April last year, are almost complete

“Ever go per cent of the negotiation have since been concluded by concerns among partner states”

Among the items that have been concluded are its objectives and principals establishment of goods, Capital and Services.

Other are the transport policy, completions and consumers welfare, economic and financials as sector policy coordination, common commercial policy and approximation of loans

However a few area still remain outstanding. They include residence permit, competition and consumer welfare common transport policy, interpretation of term used in draft protocol, common social policy and technology.

Ends

leooderaomolo@yahoo.com

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Somalia has been hard hit by a combination of conflict, drought and hyperinflation, creating a humanitarian crisis.

Posted by African Press International on January 29, 2009

SOMALIA: Baidoa capture puts pressure on TFG


Photo: Atosh/IRIN
The aftermath of an assassination attempt on Somalia’s former President, Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, in Baidoa in 2006 (file photo): The fall of Baidoa to Al-Shabab, an Islamist group, raises fresh questions about the viability of the Somali government

NAIROBI, 27 January 2009 (IRIN) – The fall of Baidoa in south-western Somalia to Al-Shabab, hours after Ethiopian troops left, raises fresh questions about the viability of the Somali government, a civil society analyst said.

Baidoa, seat of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), fell to the Islamist group on 26 January. A number of people were killed and injured and families displaced.

“The fall of Baidoa calls into question the viability of the TFG,” the analyst said. “If they cannot defend the only town under their control, how can they hope to bring the rest of the country under their control?”

Baidoa fell as representatives of the TFG and a faction of the Eritrea-based Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS), led by Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, met in Djibouti to set up a new parliament and elect a president.

The two groups had in November reached a power-sharing deal to double the size of parliament from the current 275 members to 550 members. The meeting in Djibouti voted to seat the extra MPs, according to Abdirahman Abdishakur, the ARS chief negotiator.

The new MPs, he added, would be sworn in “within a day or two, while the process of electing a new president would take “no more than a couple of days”.

However, a civil society analyst, who requested anonymity because of the volatile situation, posed the question: “Where will the new parliament go?”

The capture of Baidoa would also “bring Mogadishu under new and sustained pressure”, he said. “They may not be able to capture Mogadishu, but they will be able to apply pressure.”

In the past, the insurgents have captured towns and later abandoned them, but the capture of Baidoa signalled their ability to take advantage of any vacuum and expand their sphere of influence, he said.

The Al-Shabab met little resistance as they entered the town, local residents said. “At around 4:30pm local time yesterday, Al-Shabab forces entered and captured Baidao from the TFG. There was some resistance but not much,” Ali, a local resident, told IRIN.

Looting

Another local, who requested anonymity, said the group, which was camping on the outskirts of town, had entered after talks with community leaders and stopped looting.

“There was looting of the presidential compound and two other places but that came to an end as soon they came in,” he said. “There has been minimum displacement.”

A local journalist told IRIN the group captured but later released senior government officials, including transport minister Mohamed Ibrahim Habsade and Aden Saransoor, another former warlord and deputy director of the central bank.

“They have all left for Wajid where they are expected to fly out of the country,” he added.

Baidoa had been one of the few towns in the country completely controlled by the government and its Ethiopian allies, and therefore spared the violence witnessed daily in the capital, Mogadishu.

Somalia has been hard hit by a combination of conflict, drought and hyperinflation, creating a humanitarian crisis.

An estimated 3.5 million people need assistance while more than 16,000 civilians have been killed in the conflict between the Ethiopian-backed government and insurgents over the past two years.

ah/mw source.irinnews.org

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