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Archive for February, 2009

Optimistic that female condoms had the potential to encourage greater autonomy

Posted by African Press International on February 28, 2009

SAO TOME AND PRINCIPE: Anyone for a female condom?

Photo: Lourenço Silva/PlusNews
A health professional demonstrates how to use a female condom

SO TOM, – Women in So Tom and Prncipe have a new way to avoid unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

In late January, the initial phase of a government programme, coordinated by the Reproductive Health Programme (known by the Portuguese-language acronym PSR) and the National Programme for the Fight Against AIDS (PNLS), began distributing 3,500 free female condoms.

“This is a special moment for a lot of São Tomean women,” said Maria Tom, minister of health and the family at a launch ceremony in So Tom, the capital.

Elisabete Carvalho, who coordinates the Health Ministry’s Reproductive Health Programme, said the female condom could give women more control over their sexual health. “We want this to give them greater decision-making power, because they’re the most vulnerable.”

According to data from the Reproductive Health Programme, 12.1 percent of girls experience early pregnancy, while 1.5 percent of So Tom’s approximately 150,000 people are living with HIV.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has donated a limited number of female condoms for the first phase of the campaign. “If there is a major demand, we’ll distribute more of them,” said PNLS Director Alzira do Rosrio.

The condoms are available at hospitals and health centres all over So Tom and Prncipe, along with information pamphlets about the proper use of the contraceptive.

Radio and television stations have been broadcasting messages about the advantages of the female condom before and after popular Brazilian soap operas and the evening news, when audiences are at their peak.

Women speak

Tchai Martins, 26, was told about the new contraceptive method during a check-up at the Mother-Infant Centre in So Tom, but after inspecting the prophylactic, which is 17cm long, she told IRIN/PlusNews: “If I were to change my method, this would be the last one I’d adopt.”

''If I bring this home, my husband will think a million different things''

Mena Xavier, 35 and a mother of three, also had doubts. “So Tomean men are very aggressive. If I bring this home, my husband will think a million different things,” she said. “I’ll even run the risk of him beating me, because he refuses to have sex with a condom.”

Around 30 women per day visit the centre for pre-natal and family planning consultations; in the first week of the initiative, nine of them decided to adopt the new contraceptive method.

Adelaide Mendonca, 23, was optimistic that female condoms had the potential to encourage greater autonomy. “Now women can act differently when their partners don’t have condoms,” she commented.


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Ogiek people, has largely remained separate from the rest of society, but NGOs warn that their ignorance and isolation from HIV/AIDS prevention efforts could heighten their vulnerability to the virus

Posted by African Press International on February 28, 2009

KENYA: Changing lifestyles put indigenous communities at risk

The Ogiek have battled eviction from their home in Mau Forest for decades

MAU FOREST, – One of East Africa’s last remaining hunter-gatherer communities, the Ogiek people, has largely remained separate from the rest of society, but NGOs warn that their ignorance and isolation from HIV/AIDS prevention efforts could heighten their vulnerability to the virus.

According to the Centre for Minority Rights and Development (CEMIRIDE), an NGO promoting the rights of indigenous peoples in Kenya, total ignorance of HIV among the Ogiek is not uncommon.

“There are no HIV campaigns at all directed at the Ogiek … the government do not even have statistics about the prevalence amongst them,” said Pattita Tiongoi, a programme officer with CEMIRIDE.

“The disease is penetrating through the Ogiek because of displacement, which has seen them mingle with their infected cosmopolitan neighbours like the Maasai and the Kalenjin.”

Napuoyo Moibei*, who thinks she is about 35 years old, was evicted from the Mau forest in Kenya’s Rift Valley Province several years ago and took up employment on a nearby wheat farm to make ends meet.

“The money was little, and with children and no husband, my option was to have sex with men from other communities who lived in the nearby trading centres,” she told IRIN/PlusNews.

Moibei’s husband passed away three years ago, and she recently discovered that she too was HIV-positive. “I had never heard about the disease called AIDS until I got sick and was almost dying,” she said. “The wife of my employer sympathised with me and took me to Nakuru for treatment.”

“I still do not know much, except that I have to go for drugs [life-prolonging antiretroviral medication] in Nakuru to live – that is what the nurse told me.”

''I had never heard about the disease called AIDS until I got sick and was almost dying''

With no knowledge about the virus, Moibei was unable to protect herself. “I do not know even how a condom looks like,” she said.

Experts say there is an urgent need to start HIV awareness campaigns targeting the Ogiek population of around 20,000, especially as more of them leave the forest for urban settlements and rural plantations, where they interact with higher-prevalence communities.

A study by the Minority Rights Group International and CEMIRIDE found that sex work was increasing as single-parent girls and women sought to fend for themselves, leading to the spread of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

“The initial lifestyle of being confined to the forest kind of shielded the Ogiek from HIV spread, but that lifestyle has been disrupted due to displacement,” CEMIRIDE’s Tiongoi said. “This is a small group of people that can easily be wiped out by [HIV] in just a few generations.”

According to Daniel Kobei, executive director of the Ogiek People’s Development Programme, HIV and other health issues have been sidelined as the government and NGOs focused on other Ogiek issues such as landlessness and poverty.

Kobei noted that very few Ogiek were literate, which meant they could not benefit from traditional HIV campaigns and would need specially created messages; health services would also have to be brought nearer the forest to reach the people still living there.

“Those who seek medical help have to come all the way to Nakuru, which is almost 40 kilometres away from where they are; it is a tiring walk for one who is living with the virus,” he said.

Most Ogiek still live in the Rift Valley, which has an HIV prevalence of seven percent, slightly lower than the national average of 7.4 percent.


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Sub-contracted to inform workers of HIV preventive measures

Posted by African Press International on February 28, 2009

MOZAMBIQUE: Bridging the prevention gap

Photo: André Catueira/PlusNews
Under construction

CAIA, – A new bridge is being built across the Zambezi River at Caia, a town in the central Mozambican province of Sofala; near the end of the workday three young men try to get the bridge construction workers to pay attention to their HIV and AIDS prevention messages.

“The workers’ routine could be risky and contribute towards the high HIV prevalence in Caia, which is why they need frequent lectures on AIDS,” said activist Alfredo Ranguisse. He and his colleagues belong to the Cupona (“to live” in the Ndau language) Association.

The association has been sub-contracted by the National Highway Administration to inform workers on the Zambezi River Bridge Construction Project about HIV prevention.

The bridge is 2.5km long and 16m wide and links Caia in Sofala Province with the town of Chimuara in Zambezia Province, on Mozambique’s main north-south highway. Government figures put HIV prevalence in both provinces at about 20 percent.

Prevention campaigns also target nearby communities, informing workers and the local population about the dangers of commercial sex, the importance of condom use, sexual health and voluntary testing.

Condom distribution is an integral part of the campaign: the construction workers are often far from their families and have cash at their disposal to spend on alcohol, while poverty in the surrounding communities often leads to sex work in response to ready cash.

The campaign has also focused on integrating the workers into the community, so that they learn local rules of conduct from neighbourhood leaders and do not live in camps, thus avoiding a situation where women and children are left behind when the project finishes and the men return to their home provinces or countries.

“We’ve carried out awareness-raising work about proper behaviour with the bridge workers, but because they’re away from home for so long they end up getting involved with local women,” said Xavier Muxenga, a community leader in Caia’s Chandimba neighbourhood.

Manuel was one such man. “A girl was given over to my care because I took her virginity. It’s my obligation to live with her as husband and wife, because her parents think that I might abandon her when my job is over,” he told IRIN/PlusNews.

A necessary warning

Prevention initiatives only began in 2006 after Save the Children, a UK-based NGO, warned in its report, Bridge across the Zambezi What Needs to be done for Children? that if measures were not taken, a great number of children would end up dropping out of school to work on construction projects or in the surrounding areas, and become involved in high-risk activities such as sex work.

''So far the impact of HIV has not been as devastating as would have been expected among bridge workers community''

The study found that many workers were accused of sexually abusing minors; there were also cases of teenagers diagnosed with sexually transmitted diseases.

However, the report noted that it was possible to reduce the negative impacts of such projects on the community through prevention, protection, care and support initiatives, mainly aimed at children.

“The study helped us make sure we had tight control to avoid an increase in cases of sexually transmissible diseases, including HIV, during the construction of the bridge,” said Elias Paulo, director of the Zambezi and the River Bridge Construction Project.

Health services

Local health facilities were also reinforced with more professionals while construction was in progress, and two more ambulances were allocated to the Caia Rural Hospital.

A clinic specifically for workers was set up next to the construction site, offering counselling, voluntary testing and, if necessary, antiretroviral (ARV) drugs. The cost of these health services was carried by the construction company.

“Up to a point, the campaigns have led to healthy behaviour among the workers. So far, the impact of HIV has not been as devastating as would have been expected among bridge workers and the community,” said the Cupona Association’s Ranguisse.

An average of 150 to 180 workers visit the clinic every day. “A lot of them seek out the clinic’s services to become better informed about HIV, and do routine tests voluntarily,” said Nina Bondarenko, a Ukrainian physician who works at the clinic.

Twenty-five bridge workers are living with HIV, and five are on ARV treatment; all of them receive basic food baskets every month to help ensure a balanced diet.

The Zambezi River Bridge project employs 500 people directly and 2,000 indirectly. Construction of the bridge started in the 1970s but was interrupted by Mozambique’s 16-year civil war. Work on the bridge began again in March 2006 and is scheduled to be completed in June of 2009.


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Jane, a businesswoman in Kibera, the largest slum in the capital, Nairobi, was gang-raped by five men two days after the election

Posted by African Press International on February 28, 2009

Jane, “I told them I was HIV-positive … they raped me anyway”

Photo: Edgar Mwakaba/IRIN
“They didn’t believe me – they said I looked too healthy”

NAIROBI, Exactly one year ago, Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki and his erstwhile rival for the presidency, Raila Odinga, signed an agreement that created a government of national unity, ending two months of election-related violence during which more than 1,000 people were killed. The effects of that violence are still being felt.

Jane, a businesswoman in Kibera, the largest slum in the capital, Nairobi, was gang-raped by five men two days after the election. Life was already extremely hard – her husband had thrown her and their children out of their home nine years ago when she tested positive for HIV. Jane told IRIN/PlusNews that when she sits by herself and recalls the rape, she feels “tortured in the mind”.

“It was about seven in the evening. The violence had already broken out and my neighbours had run away, but I was weak and had nowhere to run, so I thought if I locked up and stayed quiet, people would think the house was empty.

“The men came and I heard one of them saying, ‘I think there is someone in this house.’ They broke the door and came in. When I saw they were going to rape me, I told them I was HIV-positive.

“They didn’t believe me – they said I looked too healthy. I even showed them my ARVs [antiretrovirals] but they raped me anyway; there were five of them.

“They raped me in front of my two youngest children, aged three and seven … the kids cried out while it happened. My older children, 14 and 16 [years old], were at my sister’s place in Kayole [another informal settlement in Nairobi], so at least they did not see it. Afterwards the younger ones kept asking me what happened, but I just told them to forget it, I am okay.

“Immediately after the rape I went to the hospital and got some treatment. I prayed that I had not contracted any STIs [sexually transmitted infections], and thankfully I have not tested positive for any.

“I felt very bad abdominal pain for about one year after the rape … the men damaged me with their strength; I only started feeling normal again recently.

“I reported the case to the police and they said they would follow it, but they have not taken any action. I did not know the men who raped me, so it would be difficult to make a case, but I don’t think the police have done much. They said they would come to my house to investigate but they never did. It was no use going to them.

“I am a member of a support group for women living with HIV and they have helped me by listening to me when I want to talk about the rape. My counsellor has also been very helpful.

“I am trying to carry on with life, selling smoked fish and working part-time as a home carer, but it’s hard. Food and everything is so expensive, and yet I have to make sure my kids go to school.

“I was angry with the men who raped me – they wanted to show me that they were tough, and now they may be HIV-positive. I was angry with the police as well. Now I have learned to forget about all of them, but sometimes, when I sit alone, I am still tortured in the mind.”


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Former President of Malawi arrested – to face corruption charges

Posted by African Press International on February 28, 2009

MALAWI: Tensions high as ex-president arrested

Photo: IRIN
Fears over this year’s election

LILONGWE, – The arrest of Malawi’s ex-president, Bakili Muluzi, by the country’s Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) for allegedly stealing US$11 million in donor money has turned up the political heat ahead of general elections due in May.

Muluzi, who wants to run in the 19 May poll, was charged on 87 counts for allegedly diverting money meant for development projects into his private account. He has denied any wrongdoing and is currently on bail.

His United Democratic Front (UDF) party accused the government of launching a witch hunt, and thousands of his supporters gathered outside the ACB offices, and later at the Magistrate’s court in Blantyre, Malawi’s commercial capital, on 26 February amid a heavy police presence.

Muluzi’s lawyer, Fahad Assani, said the ex-president was essentially facing four charges. “There are 87 charges which they have pressed on Muluzi, which can be divided into four. One charge is multiplied four times, using different language.”

Muluzi is being quizzed on how he constructed a plush office complex in Blantyre, and how he could afford 106 vehicles and UDF campaign material for the 2004 general election, which ushered President Bingu wa Mutharika into office. Muluzi has insisted that he took a bank loan to cover the purchases.

AU delegation appeals for calm

Political tensions are already high in Malawi, with the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) arguing that Muluzi’s comeback bid is destabilising the country. Senior UDF official Humphrey Mvula said the DPP “want to keep [Muluzi] busy with cases – it’s a typical way of running away from competition.”

Muluzi, who ruled Malawi for 10 years before picking Mutharika from political obscurity to succeed him, is awaiting a court ruling on whether he can contest the election. The constitution bars a president from seeking more than two consecutive terms, but is silent on whether Muluzi’s five-year break allows him to stand.

Former Ghanaian president John Kufuor and former Mozambican president Joachim Chissano were recently in the country as part of an African Union mission to help ease the political tensions.

At a press conference in the capital, Lilongwe, this week, Chissano said: “President Bingu wa Mutharika assured the high-level delegation that he was open to dialogue with all stakeholders to avert violence and to uphold peace and democracy in Malawi. On his part, the former president, Bakili Muluzi, agreed to participate in such dialogue.”

With the country waiting to hear from the electoral authorities as to the list of presidential nominees, Chissano added: “The high-level delegation calls upon all political parties and the public to remain calm and peaceful until such a decision is made by the Malawi Electoral Commission.”

Mutharika came to power on the UDF’s ticket but dumped the party in 2005 and formed the DPP. Since then, he and Muluzi have been bitter rivals in a country with a history of political violence.


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Open letter to President Obama

Posted by African Press International on February 27, 2009

President Barrack Obama 1st Floor, West Wing 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. Washington, DC 20500

Reg: Solar Energy Dear Sir, What counts for more, experience or book learning? I say experience is a better and more accurate, but less forgiving teacher. I would like to share my personal experience utilizing solar energy with you. When I became disabled, unable to afford our mortgage in the Santa Cruz Mountains my husband and I decided to sell our house and develop a piece of property I bought in 1991.

This property is along an incorporated highway, FH119 and a short distance, less than a mile for electricity. Our first option was to bring in PG&E but after a $1000 deposit and several trips to my house, PG&E decided they didn’t have a check, wanted $5000 in certified funds to begin engineering and oh by they way, they filed for bankruptcy. They originally quoted me $35,000 for a line extension of one mile but suddenly it went up to $100,000. I had a preapproved construction loan but no longer had the equity to pay for the cost of electricity. With no alternatives, I invested in a solar energy (photovoltaic) system. I bought sixteen batteries, four 165 watt panels and one inverter. That was a start.

Panels at that time were running about $800 each, produced 160 watts per panel and were sold in pairs. My last two panels produced 170 watts per panel. By the time they are installed they average about $1000 per panel to produce 340 watts of power. That will run seventeen compact florescent light bulbs or a 185 watt TV and seven light bulbs. It will not run a refrigerator, forced heating or air conditioner. The refrigerator starting or running the microwave will trigger the generator to start. I have six panels. When I wrote Exposed; the Solar Energy Con, I documented the costs and I had an aerospace engineer, a former coworker and adversary tell me I was all wrong. He said solar panels were cheap and only cost $3 to $4 per watt. I pointed out that was still $3000 to $4000 per kilowatt. Compare that to PG&E’s price of $0.11 to $0.35 per kilowatt. Determined to prove I was wrong he did some research. He came back with the statement that in order to run an air conditioning I would need two acres of panels and a ton of batteries. His conclusion was that I had simply developed too soon. So what has it cost me? Everything. My relationship with my husband. He has Parkinson’s, got sick after we moved here and I have to maintain the system. He also doesn’t understand the system.

It takes an engineer to understand the intricacies of balancing an inverter, charge controller and generator. The only thing my husband can do is check the water on the battery. I change the oil, the spark plugs and monitor the system. Generators break down. I have spent in excess of $30,000 buying, repairing and replacing generators. Batteries have limited life span. My first set of batteries died in five years my second started dying after two. At a cost of over $2000. My propane usage, with solar panels is around 200 gallons per month. Propane is down to $2.13. I have had propane bills of $746 for one month. I have gone through my 401K, my inheritance and my disability settlement as well as my husband’s VA back pay for my home and just to maintain electricity. On SSDI we went bankrupt. We tried to sell but because we are off the grid (on solar energy) our house was worth 50% of what we had invested and people who were interested couldn’t get financing. Not because of the mortgage meltdown but because it is almost impossible to find a lender who will finance a solar energy (non-conforming) structure. My three bedroom Y2K 1664 square foot manufactured home was worth less than a one bedroom cabin due to Mark-to-Market appraisal. On June 26th, 2006 at 7:00 AM I lost the most important part of my life when my five year old dog, my Baby, my BooBoo died due to water intoxication because I was unable to run my air conditioner and keep him cool. At that point I would have sold my soul to the devil to get electricity. Determined not to lose another dog or much worse my husband I became determined to find a way to get electricity. I had my house appraised with electricity for a construction loan. Because of the bankruptcy I could not qualify for a conventional loan so I went to a mortgage broker.

After months of negotiating and his assurances he could get me a loan, he opened an escrow account then told me the interest would be 11.99% and my payments would go up $1000 per month. I told him he was a shylock and told him we could not afford that type of payment. He put a lot of pressure on me but I knew that if I would have taken his loan I would have been in foreclosure within two or three months. I had the common sense to know what I could or could not afford and other borrowers should too. I began looking into grants to bring electricity to my neighborhood. It took about a year but I was awarded a USFDA/RUS High Energy Cost Grant. The first individual ever to be awarded this grant my application came in at number 11 out of 75. That was in April 2008. I am still waiting for the money. The delay has been caused by the California Red Legged Frog. After a $4500 frog assessment the USFWS decided they wanted a survey. Why? Because the biologist didn’t address the location where they have been found, miles away, “We (the USFWS) must assume they are there.” We appealed and offered mitigation that will allow us to start after April 1, 2009. The CRLF is not on the endangered species list as endangered but merely as possibly threatened. Now let me tell you about the CRLF. The frog is supposed to be the frog Mark Twain (a fiction writer) wrote about in The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County. According to newspaper accounts (at that time) the frogs made their way onto the menus of San Francisco restaurants. This means that the Calaveras County frogs could not have been California Red Legged Frogs.

The CRLF is only two to five inches long, lives up to ten years and produces 2000 to 6000 eggs. You only eat the legs of frogs. In other words, diners would have been eating toothpicks. So why is the CRLF considered to be the infamous Calaveras County Jumping Frog? A recent article in the Calaveras Enterprise says the following; “Basey came under fire from several people for his claim that the red-legged frog was the famed jumping frog from Mark Twain’s “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.” Basey set the record straight after the meeting. “In the 1970s, it dawned on me that if there was any truth to the Mark Twain story the winner of that contest would have to be the red-legged frog because bullfrogs did not exist in California until 1922,” he said. “I was making presentations across the state at that time, and said the jumping frog was a red-legged frog to make my speeches more interesting.”” In other words Basey wanted to make his speeches interesting. It has nothing to do with the frog itself. My mail carrier is a tribal elder who told me the tribe has caught people putting CRLF onto the reservation.

To try to claim the tribal land. California is spending millions of tax dollars on California Red Legged Frog surveys in more than 1000 lakes and streams because over 100 years ago when they first started stocking the lakes and streams, they did not perform an environmental impact study. This will collapse the industry as well as sport fishing and tourism. Environmental impact studies only cause delays to development and costs jobs. It does nothing to protect the CRLF. We spend millions on the Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse, reclaiming rice fields to rebuild snake mounds and even protect the Kangaroo Jumping Mouse, a rodent which is known to carry the Hanta virus. My sister in Colorado lost a friend because of the Hanta virus. Tell her about protecting mice. I say we should spend tax dollars eradicating rodents not protecting them. Should we put the mosquito on the endangered species list because it is the mainstay of the CRLF’s diet?

In California we can’t build any new hydroelectric facilities because the environmentalists in Congress tell us to conserve because they don’t want to displace deer habitat. Hydroelectric is the cleanest energy. You can only conserve so much with a growing population and with the drought we face water shortages that will impact the farmers. So instead of protecting people and jobs we protect the deer. No American should die because they can’t obtain water or electricity.

In California it is illegal not to have electricity because as a recent news report stated people use more dangerous things like generators. So I now find out after 8 years my house is illegal. Even though I was given building permits. Getting back to solar energy. It doesn’t work. It is not cost effective and contaminates the environment. Solar panels degrade after as little as six years. Where are we going to recycle these panels? How many megawatts does it take to manufacture a product that over its lifetime will only produce kilowatts? It doesn’t make economic sense to manufacture something that takes more to manufacture than it can produce. Conserve the energy instead. The batteries required for these systems often end up thrown into creeks by the same environmentalists that are promoting this form of energy. A recent cleanup netted twenty-four discarded batteries. Rain running off solar panels causes erosion and how much erosion do you think would be caused by cutting down two acres of trees? Solar panels break loose from mountings and have gone sailing in high winds. This is a fire hazard when broken hot wires touch fallen leaves. And these panels will be hot no matter where they land. The average consumer has little understanding of electric applications.

My IQ is in the 85th percentile (85% above normal) and it has been difficult for me to understand the complexity and the dynamics of a photovoltaic system. Electric generation is best left to the experts. It is too dangerous for the ignorant. Before promoting solar energy you should live it. I have lived this way for 8 years. Don’t talk to me about sacrifice. You have no understanding of sacrifice. You couldn’t even go without electricity for one day when the electricity went out in Hawaii. Before you talk about what you don’t know try living it for a while. Recent news reports say that 650 world renowned climatologists say global temperatures have actually decreased over the last three years and there is no such thing as global warming, but you refuse to believe the experts deferring instead to people like Al Gore who benefit economically from promoting the idea of global warming. Cap and Trade will put the final nail in the coffin which has become the American Economy. Card Check will take away the most sacred of our voting rights and hurt job creation.

Just look at Detroit to see how good unions are and how much they help the economy. Any idiot can see this. My sister is a Realtor who is raising her two grandchildren. She can’t sell anything because of the economy. My best friend is a broker. He has gone bankrupt. Taxpayers waste millions annually on idiotic protectionist environmental policies. No frog, snake, rodent or bear is worth one human life. ANWR is a useless piece of frozen tundra that the polar bear doesn’t even want. Yet the eco-nuts want to protect ANWR for the Polar Bear. We need to drill ANWR and offshore and develop nuclear power and become energy independent.

It won’t hurt the environment and will help the economy. When Congress said they were going to allow the moratorium on offshore drilling stocks went up. When it looked like you would be elected the Dow started on it’s downhill slide. It is because of the policies you put in place. Every time you speak, Wall Street listens and the Dow drops. But you don’t seem concerned about that. When are you going to wake up and realize oil prices and bad environmental policies ignited this economic wildfire and urinating on it won’t stop it? A pig by any other name is still pork. Call it what you like but Americans can see the so called stimulus package is filled with pork as is the Omnibus package and the budget.

We are not stupid. I see more methane come out of Congress spewed forth from voracious caverns called Pelosi and Reed than comes out of the worst coal burning power plant. It’s time for a pig roast. You spent millions on a coronation including millions of tax dollars on security and cleanup. You serve $80 per pound beef at your taxpayer subsidized Super Bowl party while American’s can’t afford hamburger or milk.

You party and entertain and fly all over the nation on the taxpayer’s back. Have you ever heard of teleconferencing? Try living by example instead of putting out the rhetoric you are asking the American’s to live by. Americans are pissed off.

By: Tiffany Montano Recovering Environmentalist 11997 Oro Quincy Hwy. Berry Creek, CA 95916-9780 530-589-4667 Exposed; the Solar Energy Con Environmentalism and Government run Amuck Chue’s Trip Squirrelly Squirrel Fights Back

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RUF interim leader Issa Hassan Sesay was charged for war crimes by the Special Court on 25 February 2009

Posted by African Press International on February 27, 2009

SIERRA LEONE: Forced marriage conviction a first

Photo: Special Court/IRIN
RUF interim leader Issa Hassan Sesay was charged for war crimes by the Special Court on 25 February 2009

FREETOWN, – The Special Court for Sierra Leone on 25 February convicted three former leaders of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), marking the first time a court has convicted on the charge of forced marriage.

After a four-year trial, the tribunal found former RUF interim leader Issa Hassan Sesay and RUF commander Morris Kallon guilty on 16 of 18 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and former RUF chief of security Augustine Gbao on 14 counts.

All three men were convicted of forcing marriage on women. The court also set a precedent by charging all three for war crimes for targeting humanitarian and peacekeepers in direct attacks.

The prosecution argued that forced marriage should be considered a crime against humanity distinct from other forms of sexual violence such as sexual slavery because of the length of the association and its domestic nature.

Our position is that sexual slavery is a horrendous crime, lead prosecutor Stephen Rapp told journalists after the verdicts. Victims would be held for days or weeks and forced into sex acts. Forced marriage is all of that plus essentially being consorts to the rebels.

The result, he said, is stigma, with the women seen as responsible for the crimes of their husbands.

Rapp said the decisions marked a legal turning point. We have essentially filled a gap in international humanitarian law. The decision will become a precedent for other cases in the International Criminal Court, and possibly act as a deterrent in future conflicts.

Child soldiersKallon and Sesay were found guilty of the deliberate and widespread conscription of child soldiers as young as eight years old; rebels used children in a number of ways, including: to support soldiers in a campaign of systematic amputation and mutilation, to spy, perform domestic labour, take part in armed patrols, or serve as bodyguards for RUF commanders.

Gbao was acquitted on this charge. I think it’s likely that we will be appealing the majority if not all of the guilty verdicts, John Cammegh, lead counsel for Gbao, told journalists.

Sentences are expected in March 2009, followed by an appeals process, which will mark the end of the Court’s work in Freetown. The Special Court’s trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sierra Leone’s waris ongoing at The Hague.

The Special Court was established jointly by the United Nations and the Government of Sierra Leone to try those deemed most responsible for atrocities committed during the 11-year civil war that killed up to 50,000 people.

Muted reactionLocal reaction to the verdict was muted. In the capital Freetown people went about their daily business, selling goods along bustling downtown streets, largely oblivious.

Unisa Sesay, in his 20s, who during the war was caught in an ambush at Tombo just outside of Freetown, doubted the court’s impact on Sierra Leoneans’ daily lives.

“Jailing them will not bring back lives and property. Look at all of us. We are in the street. We have no jobs. And they are spending money on the Special Court?

Patrick Fatoma, outreach coordinator for the Special Court, is familiar with such reactions.

That’s not going to end, he told IRIN. This is a very poor country, and if people hear about money being spent by the court, even if you’re spending [it] for a good cause, they will think you should spend it on people for food.

Fatoma tries to explain to people like Sesay that the money used to run the Special Court has been donated specifically for that purpose. If it is not used for the court, they [the donor countries] take their money back.

The Special Court received support from over 40 states,with Canada, the Netherlands, Nigeria, the United Kingdom and the United States providing the majority of the funds.

Fatoma said perceptions have shifted slightly. The question [people] ask us now in our outreach events is not, Why are you spending so much money on the Special Court and not giving it to the amputees and war victims? The question is now, Why are you not trying more people?

Some Sierra Leoneans told IRIN that with the RUF verdict they felt they could finally move on. I like the Special Court, said Alpha Tommy Conteh, whose wife was killed by a stray bullet in a January 1999 rebel attack on Freetown. It is necessary. If you don’t [have a] Special Court to bring punishment, other men will just bring war again.


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Marion Kargbo was 18 when she was forced to marry a rebel soldier

Posted by African Press International on February 27, 2009

SIERRA LEONE: Marion Kargbo, “My mother gave me to them”

Photo: Bryna Hallam/IRIN
Marion Kargbo was 18 when she was forced to marry a rebel soldier

FREETOWN, – Marion Kargbo was 18 when she was forced to marry a soldier of the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in January 1999, in the middle of Sierra Leone’s civil war. Ten years later, RUF leaders have been found guilty of crimes against humanity and war crimes, including forced marriage – the first time a court has treated the offence as a crime separate from sexual slavery.

According to local NGOs many women and girls associated with the rebel forces, especially those not in fighting roles, were excluded from the official disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration process whereby ex-combatants received money and training to help them re-enter civilian life.

On January 6, 1999, the rebels came to [the capital] Freetown. …The rebels came to burn the [family] house and capture us. Before they set the house on fire, they demanded my mother hand over one of her children. If she didn’t, they would kill us all.
My mother gave me to them.

The rebels took me to the provinces. Makeni [in the north]. I was raped on the way to Makeni. I was unable to walk [afterwards], I was bleeding. Seven men raped me. I was a virgin.

In Makeni I was forced to become the bush wife of CO Papa, the second commander of Scorpion Group.

I lived with him for seven months. I was forced to have sex, but also to collect firewood and water. During that time CO Papa wouldn’t let the other men touch me.

I escaped. The rebels were killing too many people. I was scared and had to escape. I was pregnant with CO Papa’s child.

A Sierra Leone army soldier escaped with me from Makeni to Madina [farther north]. The place was surrounded with RUF again [so] I left the soldier and walked to Kambia [in the west]. In Kambia I was raped again by an RUF rebel. I was still pregnant. I started bleeding. He beat me with his gun.

When I returned to Freetown, my family refused me because they say I am part of the RUF now.

A friend told me about the Forum for African Women Educationalists [FAWE, an NGO that helped victims of the war].

FAWE gave me medicines and skills training in catering. They had to convince [my family] to take me back. I was staying with [my family] but they were not treating me nice, so I left.

I stay just with my daughter. She is nine now. I am doing catering to support us. The assistance from FAWE is the only help I have received.

I have registered in the reparations programme but they did not explain to us what the reparations will be or what the criteria are. I hope my child will be educated [through the programme].

“I was a witness at the [RUF] trial [but] I won’t feel anything.

My life is better now, far different. I am able to support my child.”


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Why should Annan summon Kibaki, Raila and tho Serena group that includes Ruto?

Posted by African Press International on February 27, 2009

If I was Ruto, I would not go to the meeting with Annan abroad in Geneva unless I am sure I am not in the secret list. Why should one man – Annan, summon many Kenyans to Geneva when he can travel to Kenya and save costs?

It is possible that those who travel may not be allowed to leave Geneve and will be arrested and the list made public before hauling them to The Hague. /API


A quick solution: Let’s take the President and PM to The Hague


There are three ways to look at Kofi Annan’s summons to President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga to Geneva over the post-election violence and all that has followed.

One: The world loves Kenya very much, and no one wants to see us become a failed state where the people prefer to live at the mercy of warlords rather than an organised central government.

Two: The world does not really care about us, but we are too strategic to be ignored. Three: The world has lost faith in our ability to manage our affairs in a safe and democratic manner.

The first may be heartwarming, but most unlikely. I don’t think the movers and shakers on the international front are so taken by our game parks and beaches that they would want to protect access to them with all they have got.

I don’t think they love the people of Kenya so much that they are ready to invest so much time and money into keeping them happy.

Besides, there is the question as to how you define a failed state. Is it one that has a government that is present and ready for inspection or, perhaps, one that is so focused on survival that the people in whose name it exists cease to matter?

Could it be one that appears to be permanently at war with itself, with prominent individuals and arms of the same government pulling in different directions, where mutual suspicion seems to drive every agenda?

Number two is more like it. I would like to believe that Mr Annan and the interests he represents feel for the fishermen in my rural home. But those people have lived on the edge of poverty for so long that we would have to ask: Why now?

Besides, they are not politically well connected and no one really considers their views to be important.

The political class feeds off itself, and the two principals would rather save Amos Kimunya and William Ruto than a community of 500 flower farm workers caught up in ethnic warfare they did not start.

The third is self evident. Look, it is one thing for a people to disagree on how their country should be run. But for those differences to become a life and death matter is pure devilry.

For elected leaders to persist in sniping at each other virtually every day, regardless of the pain and misery that they have wreaked on the lives of their voters, is out of this world. The rest of the country takes the cue from them, and that is why ethnic chauvinism thrives.

In the normal order of things, governments are expected to be accountable to the electorate and not external forces, however benign.

Mr Kibaki and Mr Odinga should not be in the position of being hauled up before the headmaster for failing to do their homework, no matter how magisterial Mr Annan is.

They have a duty to bring Kenya back on track, but they could not even bring themselves to visit the epicentre of the violence, the Rift Valley, on the first anniversary of the madness.

Dealing with the architects of the post-election violence and healing the nation should not be a priority that has to be reinforced with a stick wielded by the international community. No individual is bigger than Kenya, including the principals themselves.

In the matter of the tribunal on the post-election violence, Mr Kibaki and Mr Odinga are behaving as though they are mice held hostage by the cat’s paw. Yet we have evidence that they can move at the speed of lightning when it suits them.

Mr Kibaki wasted no time in getting himself sworn in as president of Kenya in December 2007, even brushing aside the tradition of a public ceremony in broad daylight.

If Mr Odinga agonised over the idea of working with someone he had roundly condemned in the election campaigns, it does not show these days.

The story so far is that they have continued to be held at ransom by the same forces that brought about the violence. But we should perhaps broaden our thinking. What if they are held hostage by a desperate desire to cling to power, come hell or high water?

Perhaps we are expecting too much of them when we ask for decisive action against the kingpins of the violence.

Perhaps Agriculture minister William Ruto is right when he says that any prosecution of the perpetrators of violence should start with those who manipulated the election.

Mr Annan is a leader of no mean repute. But he is starting in the wrong place. Maybe he would get more rapid results if he hauled the two principals before a tribunal first.

They have failed the test of ensuring justice for the living and the dead. Geneva is too civilised for them. How about The Hague instead?

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President Mugabe and myself last week agreed that all political detainees who have been formally charged with a crime should be released on bail – Tsvangirai

Posted by African Press International on February 26, 2009

Harare (Zimbabwe) The Zimbabwe Attorney-General’s office is frustrating an agreement reached between President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai for the release of political activists.

“President Mugabe and myself last week agreed that all political detainees who have been formally charged with a crime should be released on bail, and that those who have not been charged should be released unconditionally,” Tsvangirai said at a press briefing in the capital, Harare, on 25 February.

“The Attorney General’s office is wilfully obstructing the release of all detainees by abusing the appeal process, and that must stop forthwith.”

About 30 activists have been detained for allegedly receiving military training in neighbouring Botswana, which has long been critical of Mugabe and his ZANU-PF government. The charge has been strongly denied by the government of President Ian Khama.

The ZANU-PF hardliners are said to be security chiefs and central bank officials, who fear that the emergence of a transparent government could reveal crimes they have committed.

Roy Bennett, Zimbabwe’s deputy agriculture minister designate and treasurer-general of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), remains incarcerated on charges of arms possession and banditry, despite being granted US$2,000 bail by the High Court in Harare on 24 February.

The judge also ordered the former white commercial farmer to surrender travel documents and imposed stringent reporting conditions, after receiving assurances from Tsvangirai that he would ensure Bennett did not abscond from Zimbabwe.

The progress of the unity government – which came into force with the inauguration of Tsvangirai as prime minister on 11 February, after a power-sharing agreement was signed on 15 September 2008 – has been far from smooth.

At the press briefing Tsvangirai also called for the continued farm invasions by ZANU-PF supporters to cease, and said Mugabe’s unilateral appointments of Gideon Gono as central bank governor, and Gen Johannes Tomana as attorney-general, needed to be revisited, as these were contrary to the power-sharing agreement.

The re-appointment by ZANU-PF of the majority of ministerial permanent secretaries without consultation was also contrary to the terms of the deal. “The announcement of permanent secretaries has no force of law, and is therefore null and void,” Tsvangirai said.

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The Zimbabwean leadership, particularly President Mugabe, should carry out and implement the September 15 power-sharing agreement to its sincerest and fullest way

Posted by African Press International on February 26, 2009

Johannesburg (South Africa) – United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said yesterday Zimbabwe would get more humanitarian assistance from the international community if President Robert Mugabe stuck to last September’s power-sharing agreement.

Mugabe should also release the country’s political prisoners and detained activists, Ban said.

After months of disagreement over the sharing of ministries and other key posts, a unity government of Mugabe’s Zanu (PF) and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change was sworn in two weeks ago. The deal was seen as a step towards solving Zimbabwe’s economic and humanitarian crisis.

“The Zimbabwean leadership, particularly President Mugabe, should carry out and implement the September 15 power-sharing agreement to its sincerest and fullest way ,” Ban said in Pretoria, at the start of a five-country, nine-day African tour that will see him visit Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Egypt.

His comments came on the eve of today’s announcement by Catherine Bragg, the UN assistant secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, who yesterday concluded a five-day visit to Zimbabwe to assess the humanitarian needs of the country, where more than 3000 people died of cholera and more than 83000 were infected.

Finance ministers of the Southern African Development Community member nations are meeting in Cape Town to discuss a request from Harare for emergency assistance.

Tsvangirai indicated last week it would take at least US$5bn to revive his economy.

President Kgalema Motlanthe said the meeting of the regional finance ministers would form the basis of requests to the wider international community for funds.

Ban also said Mugabe should release political prisoners whose numbers include former farmer and deputy agriculture minister-elect Roy Bennett.

“It would be appropriate and a welcome gesture for the leader of Zimbabwe to embrace all different parties and opinions in the country by releasing all the detained people,” he said.

Ban, due to leave SA today , called Zimbabwe’s economic situation “very dire” and the humanitarian situation “worrisome”, and said that the rest of the world was ready to help, but wanted to see clear signs of change for the better.

“The international community, led by the UN, stands by to provide all necessary medical support to the Zimbabwean people. But all these efforts … would get stronger and more support from the international community if we can see progress in the political and national reconciliation.”

source.Business Day (South Africa)- February 26, 2009.

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President Mugabe said the inclusive Government bringing together Zanu-PF and the two MDC formations was not a permanent arrangement – elections in two years

Posted by African Press International on February 26, 2009

Harare (Zimbabwe) – Zimbabwe is likely to have a new constitution within the next 18 to 24 months after which voters will head back to the polls for fresh elections, President Mugabe has said.

In his traditional birthday interview at Zimbabwe House yesterday, President Mugabe said the inclusive Government bringing together Zanu-PF and the two MDC formations was not a permanent arrangement and in addition to working on economic recovery, would put forward a draft constitution in preparation for the elections. He pointed out that the parties would most likely work with a draft document that has already been agreed upon, which would be subjected to a referendum before any parliamentary procedures could be initiated to give it legal effect.

“We are an interim arrangement, we are not a permanent inclusive Government. Ahead of us is a whole constitutional process which requires that we address the issue of the constitution. There is already a draft that the three parties agreed on, they call it the Kariba Draft because that is where they came up with the document. We shall all look at it and when we are all satisfied, it shall be put to the people in a referendum.

“If the people say yes, then the draft will be allowed to pass through Parliament. The schedule, the timeframe that was agreed on by the parties, was that within 18 to 24 months we should have a referendum. We will then have an election thereafter, perhaps in about two years’ time,” President Mugabe, who turned 85 on February 21, said.

He also said the creation of the inclusive Government did not nullify any statutory appointments legally made in the recent past. This was in apparent reference to the appointment of Mr Johannes Tomana as the Attorney-General and Dr Gideon Gono’s re-appointment as Governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe for another five years.

The President said the appointments had been made legally and the individuals occupying the various offices in question had been vetted by the responsible authorities to ascertain their suitability for the job.

“I do not see any reason why those people should go and they will not go.”

He said the inclusive Government must be united on the principles of national sovereignty and independence, reiterating that land tenure and agrarian reforms were irreversible. Anyone who rejected such principles, the President said, would in turn be rejected by the Government, adding that undue foreign meddling in the country’s affairs would not be tolerated.

He urged members of the inclusive Government to engage each other constructively and follow due procedures when making criticisms of policy or of their fellow officials in the executive. President Mugabe indicated that he would soon meet with the Minister of Finance, Mr Tendai Biti, to discuss the status of the Zimbabwe dollar and the use of foreign currencies, particularly the South African rand.

“I do not see us adopting the rand as our main currency. Even in Sacu, the South African

Customs Union, the members have their own currencies even though they use the rand. Botswana has its pula, Namibia has its dollar, Lesotho, Swaziland, they all have their own currencies.

“But they base them on the rand and that is something that we might consider doing here. At the moment we are using all international currencies. When it was first mooted, the idea of paying people in US dollars, I was against it and I still am because we just do not have enough (foreign currency). It is a problem that confronts us even now. Personally, I think we should revalue the Zimbabwe dollar in a manner that fixes its relationship with the rand for a while. We will protect it for a while, for a while as we increase production. But we should protect it.

“We do not expose it to fluctuations of the market. The problem is that the people of Zimbabwe have become speculators. There are some people who, if you say the (Zimbabwe) dollar is four to one with the rand, they will immediately make it eight to one and 10 to one.

“So there is this escalation on a daily basis. We should fix it (the value of the local currency) legally and keep it there for now. I want to discuss this with Biti. And how do you make it go? Through production in agriculture, manufacturing, mining and the people get goods and services and then we can expose it to the fluctuations of the market,” he said.

* The Herald is the official newspaper of the Zimbabwean government

Source.The Herald (Zimbabwe)* – February 26, 2009.

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Rwandan troops return home

Posted by African Press International on February 26, 2009

Gisenyi (Rwanda) – Rwandan troops returned home from the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) Wednesday afternoon and received a rousing welcome from hundreds of jubilant Congolese and Rwandan residents of the border towns of Goma (DRC) and Gisenyi.

The troops were part of operation Umoja Wetu, the joint Rwanda-DRC military offensive against FDLR elements in eastern DRC’s.

A farewell ceremony was held In Goma and was attended by many dignitaries, including Foreign Affairs and Defense Ministers from both countries in addition to the two army’s Chiefs of Staff.

“I wish to tell you how Rwandans are proud of your bravery, your discipline, your sacrifice and your demonstration that so much is possible with such little means if this country’s duty calls, Foreign Affairs’ Rosemary Museminali said, thanking them for a job well done. You have contributed to a strong foundation for both our countries, she told the joint forces.

You have shown our countries that we can rely on you for our protection, for our peace and security. You have shown that we are at our best when we are together and that our strength can be best found in our unity, Museminali noted. “The FARDC from today will continue the work that the joint forces have started, she said, adding that much success was achieved but much remains to be done.

“We appreciate your resolve to remain focused on the joint objective of Umoja Wetu – uprooting FDLR/Interahamwe and returning peace in the region, she reiterated, while also reminding the gathering that the FDLR committed genocide in 1994 . Today, fifteen years on, their appetite to kill, rape, loot, and dehumanize remains undiminished, pointed out Museminali who also thanked North Kivu’s Governor Julien Paluku and his people for welcoming and supporting the joint forces.

DRC Defense Minister, Charles Mwando Nsimba, highlighted that it was a memorable day and underscored that the two countries’ leaders had put their energies together to eradicate all forms of menaces capable of destabilizing the sub region.

These two countries have decided to fight the regional phenomenon, the FDLR, he said.

He noted the fact that more than five thousand Rwandans, including FDLR elements, were repatriated during the course of the joint military operations and, and congratulated the Commander of the joint operations as well as all the officers of the two armies. Nsimba also firmly promised DRC’s objective to continue where the just concluded joint operations ended and finish the job.

Rwandan Defence Minister Gen. Marcel Gatsinzi, assured the huge Goma gathering that the Rwandan Defence Force will remain ready to help in efforts eradicate any menace to peace and stability in the sub-region.

The reception in Gisenyi town, starting immediately from the common border with Goma, was unmatched as businesses almost came to a standstill as people thronged the main road to welcome the triumphant soldiers.


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Iran’s President Ahmadinejad in Kenya for business

Posted by African Press International on February 26, 2009


iranian-presidentThe colourful arrival of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a culmination of President Kibaki’s efforts to court new friends in the East was tainted by the manhandling of Iranian journalists who accompanied their leader, by his host’s security men on Tuesday.

Pleas by the head of the Iranian Presidential Press and other officials to allow the journalists do their work, fell on deaf ears as the local security personnel kept shoving and pushing the journalists in an embarrassing display of lack of courtesy.

Stern warning

Local journalists had been herded in a corner about 50 metres away from the leaders and had earlier been given a stern warning not to move and at one point they had to shout at the security team which had totally blocked them from taking pictures of the leaders.

President Ahmadinejad arrived in a presidential jet at around 5 pm accompanied by one of his vice presidents, the Foreign Minister Manoochehr Motaky and a delegation of nearly 100 officials and business people.

For the Iranian leader, who has a frosty relationship with the US and major European powers, his visit to Kenya is seen as a mission to strengthen ties with some African countries.

Last evening, President Ahmadinejad and his team held bilateral talks with his host before a state banquet.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul’s visit last week also signals the extent of the Kibaki government’s foray into the East and new foreign policy thinking.

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Zimbabweans continue to die due to cholera despite the formation of a unity government

Posted by African Press International on February 25, 2009

In Brief: Over 80,000 Zimbabweans infected with cholera

Photo: Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)
An aid worker treats a cholera patient in Zimbabwe

JOHANNESBURG, – Over 80,000 people have been infected with cholera in Zimbabwe, according to the latest figures released by the World Health Organization (WHO).

With 3,759 lives lost already, the Case Fatality Rate (CFR) of the outbreak – described as “one of the world’s largest ever recorded” by the WHO – has also remained shockingly high.

Cumulatively, since the outbreak started in August 2008, 4.7 percent of those infected have died, the WHO’s update on 19 February said. In some areas daily CFRs as high as 74 percent have been registered. The WHO has noted that the acceptable level should be below 1 percent.

Over 60 percent of deaths were being recorded at community level rather than within health facilities, the report said.

For the full update click here: WHO’s daily cholera update and alerts


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