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Archive for June 8th, 2009

The Kenya story – the destruction of Mau forest has captured international headlines for years

Posted by African Press International on June 8, 2009

By Abisalom Omolo

Kenya stands to lose over US $300 million alone to the energy, tea,and tourism sectors if the forest of the Mau Complex continues to be degraded and destroyed at the current rate,this is according to the UN Environment Programme. A new United Nations research ranks Kenya among countries vulnerable to floods and drought due to climate change occasioned by wanton destruction of forests and water catchment areas, the destruction of Mau forest has captured international headlines for years. The destruction of Kenya’s biggest water catchment area is already spelling doom to riparian states like Egypt. Uganda, Tanzania and the entire eastern African states according to a UN report, the petty corruption at the level of the forest guards and local policemen has resulted to constant nightlogging of the Mau forest with environmentalists plea for the government to tighten its environmental laws falling on deaf ears.

A walk in the Mau complex that has 22 forests spanning five districts Narok, Nakuru, Nandi, Bomet and Kericho that represent over 25 per cent of Kenya’s forests and are said to be larger than the Aberdares and Mt Kenya forests,reveals tracks of bear land cleared to pave way for farming ,The indigenous trees have been cleared, plantations of  maize, beans, potatoes, peas and other staples have replaced them. Human interferences in the Mau forest will have devastating environmental effects  not only to Kenyans but also surrounding states, Dr. Gilbert angienda an environmentalist said,. Numerous rivers feeding the worlds second largest fresh water source i.e. lake Victoria have since dried with several on there way down the drain ,it forms catchments for all the major rivers flowing into Lake Victoria Sondu, Yala and Nzoia as well as Ewaso Nyiro, Kerio and Mara, which pastoralist communities rely on. Experts have estimated that between 1967 and 1989, the eastern sector of the complex had lost approximately 28 per cent of its tree cover and that a total of 7,084 hectares of forest cover were cleared from the Mau Complex between 2000 and last year

But the big question really is whatthe problem is atthe mau? Why can’t the Kenyan government flex its mussle and save millions of people whose lives will be destroyed whith the destruction ofd the mau?the answer is behind the mau complex lies tribal politics, corruption and goverment’s inefficiency to implement environmental policies ‘indiscriminate cutting of trees for timber, fuel wood and charcoal burning, clearing of vegetation for agriculture and settlement are the most serious and common  human practices contributing to local or regional environmental degradation, Dr.Angienda said. Most rivers in the Rift valley have become seasonal due to this destruction and the reduction of water flow has seriouse implications on the ecosystem and livelihoods of the communities living downstream.

Livelihoods are destroyed when income from  agriculture, livestock, tourism, andfishing is lost due to weather related disasters initiated by man. According to Nick Nuttall who works for the United Nations Enviromental Programme in Nairobi Kenyathe mau forest destruction remains a major issue in the country as illegal logging and clearing of forests to allow for human settlements and agriculture take priority over environmental conservation currently the mau has been reduced to a a mass of forests patches interspersed with human settlemens and cultivated farms.


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Masterly display that got Kenya off the hook – The professor fighting without fear in order to save his country’s reputation

Posted by African Press International on June 8, 2009

Saitoti in Geneva

Kenya’s Security minister Prof Saitoti presents the government report in Geneva. Photo/Correspondent

ByOSEI KOFI in Geneva

In Summary

  • Saitoti charmed the audience by vowing to punish impunity, begin police reforms

Kenyas performance at the 11th Session of the Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva, Switzerland was a masterful display of damage control.

A high-powered eight-person delegation led by minister for Internal Security George Saitoti had flown into the free city of Calvin on June 1, 2009 determined to rebut all manner of criticism and condemnation expected to ensue from the tabling of the report of Prof Philip Alston, HRCs Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions.

Some observers

Some observers in Kenya andbeyond had anticipated fireworks, or at least some high drama in Geneva. The expectations rested on two main factors.

Firstly, the Alston Report, when previewed in Kenya earlier this year, provoked passionate debate with various government leaders and the pro-government commentariat rebutting the accusation of extrajudicial killings, killings that dated back before the tragedy that has forever blighted Kenya in the court of world opinion the traumatic post-election violence of December 2007.

Opposition party spokespersons and human rights groups, on the other hand, had concurred with many ofAlstons findings that many people, especially suspected members of the Mungiki sect, were being executed by police death squads.

Secondly, fireworks were expected in Geneva because the news had gone out that Kenya had sent two separate delegations because the government and its erstwhile coalition partner had failed to agree on a common response to the questions raised in the Alston Report.

One of the largest

The sitting arrangement in the packed conference hall also gave credence to, or an appearance of, reports of a schism. Prof Saitoti and a team of eight occupied the official Kenya seat area.

James Orengo and another four representatives sat in the Reserved area close by.The Kenyan delegation was one of the largest sent to such meetings, and accommodating everyone was a logistics headache.

Prof Alstons current brief for the UN commission has him looking into chilling and deplorable goings-on in our world such as death sentences handed down to juveniles and their actual execution; the killing of witches; the use of lethal force in policing, and the reprisals against those who assist the work of the special rapporteurs.

The head of the Brazilian delegation was first off the block during the open discussion, at pains to burnish his countrys tarnished image as a result of decades of ruthless police death squads, with nothing much to show in successful prosecution of the recalcitrant officers.

The head of the United States delegation also used his allotted three minutes to defend his countrys penal system in general and the death penalty in specific.

And despite opinions to the contrary, the HRC found that Prof Alston did the job he was contracted to do in Kenya. He was hard-hitting, and he cited many of the gory things that happened, including slashings and beheadings by phantom killers, and the jailing, harassment and assassinations of human rights activists.

He indicted Kenya for allowing extrajudicial killings to go on and for so long.

When Kenyas reply to Prof Alstons report came, it was swift and conclusive.

The person who won the day for Kenya, at least in the battle for hearts and minds, was Prof Saitoti. He was compelling.

From the word go and he had three minutes to present the defence although he took six he set the audience at ease, simply by owning up.

He acknowledged serious shortcomings in Kenyas forces of law and order. He talked about the completion of the prosecutions of 53 police officers, with 81 convictions since 2000.

These prosecutions are a reflection of the seriousness with which the government is dealing with the issue, he said.

Timelines for reforms

He talked about a road map and timelines for reforms in the judiciary and the criminal justice system. He talked of not only ending but also punishing impunity.

He expressed the States profound regret for the deaths of human rights activists and talked of enhancing safeguards for human rights.

His delivery style was also quite winning. The former university don turned consummate politician employed an arsenal of interpersonal and public communication tools: clipped diction, voice modulation, contrite demeanor in some places and forceful in others.

And if a consensus had been hard to come by in Nairobi, it was achieved in Geneva as Kenyas delegations united to congratulate Prof Saitoti on his performance.

Kenya seems to be off the hook, for the time being at least. The country was not castigated in the numerous interventions that followed Prof Alstons report.

But after all is said and done, much about the work of the HRC is not to bring perpetrators to account, but to persuade governments and non-state actors to behave better.

General atmosphere

Then there is the matter of the general atmosphere atthese meeting places.

Genevas Palais des Nations, the venue the HRC uses for its sittings, is the most beautiful of the seven seats of the United Nations, including New York, Washington, Paris, Rome, Vienna and Nairobi Kenya being the only developing country that hosts UN specialised agencies.

The Ariana Park gardens of 150-year-old cedar trees in which peacocks roam freely, the calm of the neo-classical Palais built to house the League of Nations, the artworks donated by the worlds potentates, the Palais Art Deco bars, lounges and restaurants, and the smiling security guards are all intended to inspire awe and dampen the ardour of quarreling protagonists against a background of decorum and soothing music.

Mr Osei is a media consultant, author and columnist based in Geneva.

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Kenya: Karua says No to political dynasties – And we agree with her but…..

Posted by African Press International on June 8, 2009

This means locking out the following from the presidential race:

Kenyatta’s son, Moi’s son and Kibaki’s son. And People free to go for the high office whose father’s have never ruled Kenya are Raila Odinga, William Ruto, George Saitoti, Martha Karua and any other man or woman who feels competent to run like Wakoli Bifoli. On the other hand, it may be difficult to lock out people because they are just as Kenyan as everybody else who is Kenyan and is not their fault that their father’s were first in politics. (API)


In Summary

  • Dont run Kenya like a family business that can be inherited, she tells leaders

Former Justice minister Martha Karua yesterday took on fellow presidential aspirants, urging Kenyans to vote out political dynasties in the next elections.

While marking Narc Kenyas third anniversary, she was categorical that the countrys political leadership should be competitive. The country should not be run like a family business that could be inherited.

Lately, President Kibakis son, Jimmy Kibaki, and the first presidents son, Uhuru Kenyatta, have expressed interests in leading the country.

Although she said there was nothing wrong with such interests, Ms Karua said Kenya should be led by people who understand what being a normal citizen means.

Let people compete like businessmen… It is wrong for the countrys political elite to run the country like a family business, Ms Karua said. She reiterated her bid to campaign for the presidency in 2012.

I will hold steadfast until the end. I am sure that I will win the race. It is never too early to express the plight of the people by giving a notice of my presidential plans… never too early to talk about reforms, she said.

Speaking in Kayole, Nairobi, after touring several estates, Ms Karua criticised the government, saying its political component was corrupt and indifferent to the plight of the ordinary folk.

She was accompanied by Higher Education assistant minister Asman Kamama, former Medical Services assistant minister Danson Mungatana and former Naivasha MP Jayne Kihara.

Mr Kamama asked Kenyans to support Ms Karua in her presidential bid, saying she was the key out of their problems.

Nairobi Metropolitan minister Njeru Githae, who is a member of the party but failed to attend as he was in Kirinyaga, said Ms Karua will be among the presidential aspirants who will sit together to agree on one candidate.

We shall lockVice-President Kalonzo Musyoka, Gichugu MP Martha Karua, Internal Security minister George Saitoti and Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta in a room and tell them to give us one name, he said.

Additional reporting by George Munene

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Mozambique: Country suffering effects of credit crunch – Mozambique is now suffering from a reduction in export revenue

Posted by African Press International on June 8, 2009

Maputo (Mozambique) Mozambican Prime Minister Luisa Diogo on Wednesday said that Mozambique is now suffering from a reduction in export revenue, a reduction in remittances from migrants, a decline in private sector investment, and a fall in tourist numbers, all effects of the international financial crisis, colloquially known as the “credit crunch”.

Responding in the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, to questions about the government response to the crisis, Diogo stressed that the government is working with the country foreign partners to ensure that there is no reduction in a fifth area, the flow of development aid.

On this front, the government appears to have been successful. On 28 May, the 19 donors and funding agencies which give direct support to the Mozambican budget promised a total of 471.8 million US dollars in budget support for 2010 – an increase of six per cent on the 445.2 million dollars pledge for 2009.

The funds pledged from this group of partners for 2010 rise to 804.5 million dollars when aid earmarked for common funds (in health, for example) and sector programmes are taken into account.

Diogo noted that the growth rate for sub-Saharan Africa is expected to fall from 5.4 per cent last year to less than 1.5 per cent in 2009. The largest economy of the region, that of South Africa is now in recession. The South African economy, which grew by 3.1 per cent in 2008, is expected to shrink by one per cent this year.

But in Mozambique, she added, “the prospects remain acceptable”. The latest predictions are that growth in 2009 will be 6.7 per cent – lower than the seven to eight per cent experienced in recent years, but much better than most economies in the region.

Nonetheless, the crisis would certainly have an impact on public finance. Diogo expected fiscal losses over the year of almost 4.2 billion meticais (about 158 million US dollars). The public sector was responding with measures to restrict expenditure, while safeguarding the areas that are priorities in the government’s poverty alleviation strategy.

Asked by the parliamentary group of the former rebel movement Renamo how the government explained “the ever more unbearable cost of living”, Diogo pointed out that the government has exempted basic foods (such as maize flour, rice, wheat, salt and sugar) from Value Added Tax (VAT).

But the cost of living was not restricted to food. Diogo said that the government has maintained a health service and a primary education service that are essentially free of charge. Consultations and medicines in public health units bear a symbolic cost – five meticais (19 US cents) in urban areas, and half a metical in the countryside. In the education system, enrolment and text books are free up to seventh grade.

“We now take this for granted”, said Diogo. “But there are developed counties where this isn’t the case”. Free health and education services were only available “because there’s a Frelimo government”.

She stressed that the only way to improve the cost of living “is to increase production and productivity in all areas, and this has been happening”.

source.Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique (Mozambique)

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Ghana: Will the Obamas weep at Cape Coast Castle during their visit?

Posted by African Press International on June 8, 2009

Accra (Ghana) – An ancestral hoopla seems to be in the offing ahead of the Obamas visit to Ghana in August, for the First Lady in particular.

The country has a historical site and many Africans from the Diaspora visit it to see where their great-grand parents passed through to America. For President Barack Obama, this might not give him any food for thought because he has long connected with his forebears in Kenya. It is his wife, Michelle who would be given the opportunity to reflect on what her forebears suffered on their long journey through this former slave post.

Will the Obamas weep at Cape Coast Castle during their visit? Others before them wept when they entered the enclaves of this former slave post, which was the final leg on the long journey to the new world. It is yet to be seen whether US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle would also shed tears for the people who either died in the castle or during their voyage to the New World, when they pay a visit during their two-day stay in Ghana.

For some, this is where President Obama and his wife would be given their true education of Black history. Historians say, the castle was first constructed with timber in 1653 and named Carolsborg after King Charles X of Spain for the Swedish Africa Company.

About a decade later, the then Swedish Gold Coast was seized by the Danes and then renamed Danish Gold Coast in 1663. A year later, the British conquered the castle and had it rebuilt and it was from there that they administered the colony and later turned it into the seat of government for the British Gold Coast.

Initially, the castle was used to facilitate trade in timber and gold but it later became the point for the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade until its abolishment.

It has since become a historical site and many Africans from the Diaspora visit the castle to see where their great-grand parents passed through to America.

Ghanaians have been buoyed with the visit yet not much sign is around the capital to suggest that any preparation is taking place. It is the people of Cape Coast who seem to be concerned with how to keep the municipality in shape for the Obamas visit.

The Mfantseman municipal chief executive, Mr Henry Kweku Hayfron, has called for a massive clean-up exercise to prepare the municipality for President Obamas visit to the Cape Coast Castle. Accordingly, he has appealed to owners of undeveloped plots, especially in communities along the Accra/Cape Coast highway, to clear them of weed before the visit.

He told the Ghana News Agency that my immediate attention is how to improve sanitation in the municipality, especially at Mankessim, a commercial centre before the visit.

Mr Hayfron said the US President may not use the road but it is possible some members of his entourage may use it and the possibility of some of them making a stop-over at Mankessim cannot be ruled out.

As the country waits, expectations in the streets have risen. Accra taxi driver Solomon Antwi told the Nation: l would not work on the day that President Obama is due to arrive because l want to be part of history to welcome the first Black President of the United States.

source.The Nation (Kenya), by Francis Kokutse

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Nigeria: This boiling Niger-Delta (opinion)

Posted by African Press International on June 8, 2009

Lagos (Nigeria) – Once more the uneasy truce between MEND and the Joint Task Force on the Niger-Delta has finally fractured and the combatants are once more engaged in all out hostilities.

The JTF on what looks like a revenge mission has been on the offensive, taking out the militias wherever they can be found.

Having lost a few of its men to the firepower of the militias in recent times, the JTF and, perhaps, the Federal Government, is determined to put a permanent end to the lawless activities of the many militias in the region. The administration’s own argument is that no responsible government can sit back and watch lawless groups hold it to ransom. Good talk.

It must not be forgotten also that no responsible government should sit back and watch an important part of it, a veritable cash cow as the Niger-Delta, impoverished into nothingness.

In the ongoing battle, it no longer looks safe to be member of a militia. Militia leaders who were until recently folk heroes in their various communities have gone under cover. The JTF has like the recently victorious government in Sri Lanka been boasting of its exploits.

Reports from the Delta are showing mounting casualty rates and suddenly human beings and their communities that are reduced to rubble have become mere statistics. MEND is giving no quarter either. Nor is it slack in the propaganda war.

There are grounds, however, to believe that the genuineness of the armed struggle in the Niger-Delta has been diluted by the uncoordinated activities of the various groups claiming to be fighting for the good of the region. It is not enough for MEND or other members of the better known militias in the Delta to reject responsibility for the activities of these groups. Their manner of operation follows the pattern set by MEND. It is either MEND finds a way to rein in the groups or it changes its mode of operation.

Which is not to say that MEND is wholly justified in its armed approach. One is only saying that if it chooses to engage the Federal Government or the oil companies with force, it should be clear that it is in full control of the entire Niger-Delta, and that there are no other stray groups operating outside its control in the same area. But that has not been the case. What is immediately obvious is the indiscriminate use of kidnapping and hostage taking for mainly monetary reasons.

Not just oil companies and their workers but other innocent members of the communities have fallen victims of kidnappers, and for reasons wholly unconnected with the struggle going on for a fairer deal for the Niger-Delta within the Nigerian state.

This cannot continue if any meaningful resolution is to be found to the problem of the Niger-Delta. The struggles both for superiority and personal interests of the militia leaders have seen many of them turning their weapons on one another in their bid to become millionaires.

And indeed many of them are millionaires many times over while the region is not the least better. Government officials, not to mention so-called leaders of the Niger-Delta and the oil multinationals operating in the place have in their different styles found ways to fish in the troubled waters of the region.

In the end, it is the ordinary people in whose name everyone claims to be fighting that are left to bear the brunt of the violence. They are losing their homes and means of sustenance and there is yet no end in sight for their problems.

The Federal Government would want the world to know that it has done a lot to address the problem of the Delta. It has its NDDC that was established to address the concerns of the Niger-Delta. There is also a Federal Ministry set up exclusively for the Niger-Delta even while the region continues to enjoy past palliatives of previous struggles. But government’s best is not good enough in the estimation of Niger-Deltans.

They want more and are determined to fight for it which seems to be costing government quite a lot. According to it, it loses well over N8 billion daily to the crisis.

The problem with this kind of talk is that nobody seems to remember to tell us how much government makes from the Niger-Delta in times of relative peace. Money which if well used would go a long way to address the needs of the people now taking to armed struggle.

Yet it must be said for the government that it wants to be seen as not unresponsive to the needs of the Niger-Delta. It may therefore be in order for MEND and other armed fighters of the Niger-Delta to begin to reconsider their approach if only to allow for more time to see the effects of the steps so far taken by Abuja.

As it is, the people in whose name both the militias and the Federal Government claim to be working have very little to be happy about. Time for caution before the real people take up their own struggle.

source.Vanguard (Nigeria), by Rotimi Fasan

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