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Archive for June 14th, 2009

Uhuru: A politician reborn? Or he is one who delivers a good budget and at the same time eyeing 2012 Presidential elections?

Posted by African Press International on June 14, 2009

By Juma Kwayera

A few weeks ago, Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta appeared unfit for the docket, especially after the gaping Sh10.7 billion error in the Supplementary Budget last month.

Words such as incompetent and gaffe-prone began to frequently describe the minister, who is also a Deputy Prime Minister. It would not be farfetched to say the public was beginning to think of the need for a change of guard at the Treasury, the third in the Kibaki presidency.

First Kibaki-era Finance Minister David Mwiraria left under the shadow of the multi-billion Anglo Leasing scandal in 2006. The second, now Trade Minister Amos Kimunya, resigned over the Sh2.9 billion Grand (now Laico) Regency saga.

But that was then. On Thursday, Uhuru presented a Sh867 billion Budget, the largest ever in Kenya, and changed all that. The financial estimates have been widely acclaimed. For one, no taxes were raised. What is more? Some duties were abolished and others reduced.

Prior to the Budget, Uhuru had been under pressure to shed the image of a goofing minister following a series of gaffes that brought his competence into question. Last month, he presented to the House a Supplementary Budget that had a Sh10.7 billion error, causing a delay of much-needed funds in Government and State departments. The matter had even raised fears of fraud at Treasury. As a result, the Finance minister had come across as incompetent and pliable.

Uhuru was also finding it difficult to remove the perception that he is President Kibakis surrogate and favourite.

In regard to 2012, Uhuru, courtesy of the Budget, has positioned himself not just as a man to watch, but one to watch very keenly. In national and in central Kenya politics, his peers and rivals may have to sharpen their arsenal and reassess their strategies.

The Budget has been touted as one that set the stage for sharing resources equitably with hundreds of millions of shillings sent to the constituencies. For example, each constituency got Sh20 million to build a health centre, Sh10 million to build markets and Sh5 million for drugs, among others. On average, Uhuru may have allocated an additional Sh150 million to each constituency.

MPs support

Politically, this keeps him in good stead with MPs and their foot-thumping and attention during the nearly two hours of the Budget Speech are clear indications that he achieved that. The problems that his predecessor, Mr Kimunya, had with MPs are not about to worry the Gatundu South representative.

In the Budget, Uhuru did not forget the marginalised and the vulnerable pensioners (whose taxable income rose from Sh15,000 a month to Sh25,000) and people with disabilities (who got a Sh200 million fund to borrow interest free, and to whom up to Sh150,000 income a month would be tax free). The youth, women, traders and businesses had something to cheer.

But the issue that has concerned analysts is the political value of the Budget to the Kanu chairman and key PNU politician. It has boosted the minister and propped up his political star that had somehow diminished.

Analysts The Standard on Sunday spoke to agree that Uhuru had acquitted himself well.

Former Kanu MP Billow Kerrow pokes many holes into the Budget and alleges that Uhuru “literary launched his 2012 campaign”. He cites the goodies that went the MPs way and the absence of proposals to tax their pay.

“Even as they shuffled out of the chambers after the speech, some MPs were heard singing Kanu Yajenga Nchi (the independent partys national anthem) clearly elated by the proposals.”

Mr Kerrow has few kind words for the minister. He says it was his maiden speech, “but it was not radical, nor innovative and compelling as expected of a potential president”.

Kerrow, however, acknowledges that Uhuru pulled a few old proposals from the shelves, and cut the image of middle-of-the-road, conformist and please-all Finance minister.

And he concludes: “Uhuru is the average leader, never the astounding nor the baffling one who leaves you agape.”

A confidant of Uhuru, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Finance minister had been treading on slippery political ground and needed to make amends.

Bad press

“To fail after recent bad Press would have amounted to sentencing himself to political obscurity. Failing at Treasury would have been playing to the public perception that he is incompetent and incapable of leading,” he says.

He was reacting to the criticism that the Budget has a populist stunt to hoodwink wananchi into backing him in 2012 if he contests the presidency.

Lawyer Kamotho Waiganjo says Uhuru the man may appear easy to decipher, but his political aspirations are not as clear. He has kept his intentions off public discourse, leaving his backroom support team to preach his gospel subterraneously.

He, however, says a blip of the man was easy to discern after the Sh10.7 billion errors saga: “He retreated quickly when he realised he had unwisely taken the high horse and eventually obtained the support of a broad political spectrum when the matter came to the floor of the House.”

Waiganjo also points out that his handling of the Budget, with extensive consultations and ensuring he does not pick a fight with MPs, reveals some political slyness that could earn him well if he seeks higher political office.

But the lawyer has advice for the minister: “His erstwhile predecessors (at Treasury) all started with massive goodwill, but Treasury is an unyielding god that swallows its best children. And an injury acquired at Treasury takes a long time to heal.”

Nominated MP and Ford-Kenya Chairman Musikari Kombo praised Uhuru for a job well done: “The minister has actually overhauled the Constitution. We are no longer going to have an overbearing and intrusive Executive. Pilferage in the use of public resources will be minimised.”

Trade Assistant Minister Omingo Magara said the Budget was designed to achieve two things: Support purchasing power and increase revenue collection.

“Higher taxes do not necessarily result in increased revenue. We had reached saturation point to the extent that consumption of basic necessities had begun to decline as the purchasing power diminished in relation to rising taxes. The minister was alive to this and the Budget is intended to trigger higher circulation of money,” Magara says.

Parliamentary Budget Committee member Martin Ogindo said the philosophy of the Budget centred on tax administration.

“Our major handicap has been prudent tax administration through stringent financial management. What the minister did was to distribute resources regionally to stimulate economic activity at the grassroots. It is a major departure from the past when the Executives hand was seen in every decision Treasury made,” says Ogindo, the Rangwe MP.

source.standard.ke

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Why the male species fears marriage

Posted by African Press International on June 14, 2009

By Tony M

Last weekend, I told you about a wedding I attended in Thika that fully and finally opened my eyes to the fact that I really, really dont like weddings.

“There but for the grace of Ogot goes I.” I always sigh whenever some trapped chap goes “I do”, Its like watching a hanging, when you were also involved in the robbery but miraculously did not get caught.

What follows after weddings? A short honeymoon, then the honey goes to the moon and what you are left with is marriage; where I now hear women like Milly G beat the night-lights out of you.

What many men fear about matrimony, however, is not that the sweet but large lass they married will physically assault them every time they arrive home in the wee hours and demand she makes chapos and sukuma wiki.

The first fear about marriage for single men is, will this work out?

I remember many past relationships where Ive thought the woman was of marriageable material. There was a Betty who eventually got married and settled with three children, Carol with whom we sang at least six Christmas carols, and of course the pretty lady who left me to get a baby with somebody because of my fear of procreation.

Striking the right pot

The question then arises if one has had three or more serious relationships that ended, one way or the other, either amicably, nastily or sadly, what makes one think they have now found the pot of gold that rests at rainbows end?

And then there is that other (ir)rational fear many men have: What if after marrying one person, the next day at the honeymoon resort they find that long sought soulmate? It is like buying a shamba, then the next month, a greener pasture over your new fence crops up for sale, and it is perfect for crop growing and sheep rearing.

Nothing worse than heeding Beyonces advice and putting a ring on it, only to discover the perfect match next March, 10 months after you married someone not as fitting on May 30 2009.

For men like me, however, the key thing we fear the most is the change of lifestyle.

On a typical Saturday, for example, it is wonderful to wake up, read the papers (all the time cursing Milly G upstairs) and then look forward to important stuff like the FA Cup final at Hooters all afternoon followed by an all night long bout with the bottle, that leaves men with hangovers that make the Battle of Stalingrad look like a Russian picnic.

When you are married, you just cannot do things like that without getting lots of flake on the home front.

Marriage is not called a partnership for nothing. Like a business, decisions have to be joint, and the bachelor days of doing things ones own way are truly well and over and that just does not cut the ice with many otherwise nice guys.

Every man wants to be the king of his castle, and master of both his time and pocket.

Once you get married, your destiny is in your wifes purse, and you are no longer the captain of your own ship.

Crunch in marriage

Last, and it must be said, there are very many men who fear marriage because of one thing children! Unless one is as barren as the Sahara or shoots blanks like a policeman in Kiganjo jaza-ing pengo, it is like the old English rhyme first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby, in a little pram.

And therein lies the crunch!

While bad wives can be gotten rid of, one way or the other, children are like diamonds precious and for forever. Also, they are expensive. Very expensive.

I hear when they are one to three or something, you have to keep rushing them to clinics for all sorts of jabs and inspections against infections.

Schools are also another large expense. Primary can be free, but not high school, especially if you have a daft child who cannot tell his millions from billions, and imagines the KCSE questions were typed in error so cannot answer any. And we have not talked about college yet.

When a man is childless, the world is a wilderness and you are king of the savannah.

After a child, unless you are an irresponsible dolt, you no longer own your own life not even the free oxygen.

So while someday there may be a lad called Sasha or a lass called Sally-Malia, that day is nowhere near.

As for marriage, I think of it as a lifelong stunt on the Fear Factor.

source.standard.ke

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Muammar Gaddafi: Al-Qathafi Makes Historical Visit to Italy to educate the West

Posted by African Press International on June 14, 2009

Gaddafi in Italy
Photo: The Leader of the Revolution Muammar Al-Qathafi (R) is greeted by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi upon his arrival for his first visit to Italy, at Ciampino airport. Italy rolled out the red carpet Wednesday for Al-Qathafi, who said he has “turned the page on the past”.

The Leader of the Revolution Muammar Al-Qathafi praised Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi describing him as the “iron man” for his courage to undertake a historical, dangerous decision to apologize on behalf of the Italian state for the colonization of Libya and the acceptance of the compensation principle.

Forty years ago, Al-Qathafi vowed not to visit Italy until it recognized its past and apologized to the Libyan people whose half of themperished as a result of Italian occupation that lasted from 1911 until 1943. But that Italy has apologized, he made a historical visit that will help strengthen bilateral relations for decades to come.

Gaddafi said the Libyan people have highly appreciated these Italian actions “even though such compensation can never make up for the extermination, torture, displacement of the Libya people and the destruction of its homeland.”

He said “the decision by my friend Berlusconi’s government and Italy is only a symbol that they apologize for the past and condemn colonialism and fascism what they committed against the Libyan people.”

The compensation is a symbol for turning the page of the past as currently both Italy and Libya condemn colonialism and fascism, he added. Now both In international relations, what is vital is the moral rather than the material aspect (cents and dollars) of actions that matters. “The issue is the principal and mutual understanding, recognizing and condemnation of anything that is wrong as well as the assurance that we will not commit such wrongs again,” Gaddafi stressed.

It was this understanding that led the signing of the Libyan-Italian Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation in Benghazi on the30th ofAugust 2008.

Al-Qathafi said as a sign of a new era in the relations between Rome and Tripoli is the reception by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and the Italian people of the son of Omar Al-Mukhtar to Rome with him along with another delegation of the sons and grandsons of Libyan resistance hero who died or exiled defending their homeland against Italian colonialism.

“This is a historical day, thanks to my friend Berlusconi who laid the corner stone for the new era,” he added. Earlier Wednesday after meeting President Giorgio Napolitano, Al-Qathafi said: “The page on the past has been turned and a new page of friendship has opened.”

Berlusconi said he had a “true and profound friendship” with the Libyan leader, whom he described as a wise man of the world.

In a demonstration that the wounds of Italy’s occupation still run deep, Al-Qathafi arrived for his first visit to Italy wearing a black-and-white photo pinned to his military uniform of Omar Al-Mukhtar, the Libyan resistance fighter during the colonial era who was hanged by the Fascist military government in Tripoli. The picture showed Al-Mukhtar in chains at the time of his arrest in 1931.

Al-Qathafi told journalists the photo symbolized the tragedy of Italy’s 1911-1941 occupation in the same way Christians wear a cross to mark the tragedy of Christ’s death.

“It is a tragedy symbolized by the cross, and this is a tragedy symbolized by the photo,” Al-Qathafi told a press conference with Premier Silvio Berlusconi.

Meanwhile, a number of agreements that lead to further economic, political, educational and cultural agreements were signed in Rome during the visit.

Speaking to the Italian Senate, the Chairman of the African Union used an official visit to Italy on Thursday to speak out against terrorism and blast US foreign policy, comparing the country to Osama bin Laden.

He said he was against terrorism but that one must “understand the reasons of this pernicious phenomenon.”

“What’s the difference between the U.S. airstrikes on our homes and bin Laden’s actions?” he asked the Italian lawmakers, pointing out that while bin Laden is an outlaw, the United States is a country that should honor international law.

In 1986, Former US administration under President Ronald Reagan had ordered air strikes on Tripoli and Benghazi.

Stressing that he condemned terrorism, al-Qaida and bin Laden, Gaddafi told the Italian lawmakers that being intentionally provocative “in order to try and understand acts of terrorism.”

He also urged the international community to make efforts to understand the reasons that motivate terrorists, and called for dialogue with terrorists, saying: “One must talk to the devil, if it brings about a solution.”

Al-Qathafi also denounced US policy in Iraq, saying this was responsible for turning the country into an active battlefield for al-Qaeda militants.

“Iraq was a fortress against terrorism. Al-Qaeda was simply unable to get there under Saddam Hussein. Today, thanks to the United States, it is an open arena for al-Qaeda,” the leader said.

Gadhafi said he would ask the G-8 to reimburse Africa for decades of Western colonization

source.tripolipost

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A flurry all-girls-night in

Posted by African Press International on June 14, 2009

We are of the opinion that such get-together is good but one must be careful because all-night gossiping may easily cause divorce engineered by those who are present and have terrible lives with their husbands. They will gossip alot in an effort to break those who are stable and ensure they too loose out by disrespecting their spouses. (API)
By Tricia Wanjala
There is nothing like a slumber party to rekindle your teenage years. I finally hosted one after too long! You could sense the excitement from the moment the girls started walking in, with their favourite pillows, little overnight bags, vanity cases, pyjamas and fluffy slippers. Old school soul was blasting from the system and we knew that dancing would be a must.

But before any of the festivities began, we piled into the kitchen to charge our batteries, knowing it was going to be a long night. Next to stuffing our faces on the evenings agenda, we naturally included the other essential ingredient of a successful slumber party. You guessed right pampering. We did the whole kit and caboodle, you name it. Sheila got a texturizer, Mukami a wash and set while pedicures and manicures were going around, even avocado and yoghurt facemasks and a fashion make-over to boot! Not to be outdone, my little Sweet Pea was running around wearing a huge pearl necklace, occasionally stopping to point up at whoever was in the make-up seat and say, “toto?” She was not far off, seeing the lengths we go to in order to look more youthful.

Intense girl talk

The mood was relaxed and giggly as we caught up, and gradually the conversations became more intense, as each of the ladies opened up, contemplating the ups and downs of life and love. A married guy friend of ours recently remarked: “There is something I truly admire about women. You have this ability to carry on six different conversations at once and each one knows exactly what the other is talking about. If you do that to us men you leave us way back there, lost in the woods!” It made me laugh because isnt that exactly what we do in a group?
We simultaneously talk about anything and everything, with each one interjecting and interrupting, but no one skips a beat. After solving the problems of the world, we piled onto the assorted mattresses, sleeping bags and sofas. Where is the fun of a slumber party if you do not all crash in the same room and talk until the sun comes up? The radio was still playing in the background, at which point the soppy newlywed among us, who had been whining about missing her husband, cried, “Michael Jackson! That was my wedding song!!” Just as she was about to let out another peep, as if on cue, all of us pummelled her with our pillows. Wiping tears of laughter we pilled back into our sleeping accommodations, although sleep was NOT something we were about to get much of.

I am not sure at what point I finally dosed off, but when I got up early this morning to make brunch, I had this big cheesy grin on my face, recalling last nights jokes. I also thought about how such gatherings are to me part and parcel of being a girl. Women the world over all have an innate need to get together on occasion and talk about lifes vicissitudes.

Picture the colourfully dressed fisher-women of Gabon chattering away by the ocean while they fillet and clean their catch, or the exotic doe-eyed Berbers laughing at the market through their buibuis at snippets of shared gossip. Think of the fur-clad Inuit women bonding in their Arctic igloos, their animated conversations mirroring those of our pretty Samburu ladies, stringing their beads. This free, universal talk-therapy is all a part of the bond built into our exclusive, cherished sorority of womanhood.

source.standard.ke

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N. Korea issues new nuke threats – refuses to listen to the US

Posted by African Press International on June 14, 2009

US UN Ambassador
US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice, speaks about the Security Council’s passage of a resolution expanding sanctions on North Korea, as White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs listens at the White House in Washington on Friday. Photo/REUTERS
ByREUTERS

North Korea said today it would start a uranium enrichment programme and vowed to weaponise all of its plutonium in response to UN punishment for its nuclear test.

Pyongyang also threatened military action if the United States and its allies tried to isolate it. The Security Council approved a resolution yesterday which banned all weapons exports from North Korea and most arms imports into the state. It authorised UN member states to inspect North Korean sea, air and land cargo, requiring them to seize and destroy goods shipped that violate the sanctions.

Well take firm military action if the United States and its allies try to isolate us, KCNA news agency quoted an unnamed Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying in a statement. He also said the North would start a programme to enrich uranium for a light-water reactor.

Experts said the North does not have the technology or the resources to build one of the costly reactors but may use the programme as cover to enrich uranium for weapons. The spokesman added that the North would weaponise all plutonium and weve reprocessed more than one-third of our spent nuclear fuel rods.

North Korea responded to UN punishment for an April rocket launch, widely seen as a disguised long-range missile test, by saying it had restarted its plant the separates plutonium from spent fuel rods and threatening to test fire an intercontinental ballistic missile.

North Koreas Soviet-era Yongbyon nuclear plant was being taken apart under a now-stalled disarmament-for-aid deal among Pyongyang and five regional powers. The spent fuel rods cooling at Yongbyon can produce up to one more bombs worth of fissile material, experts said.

The United States has long suspected North Korea, which has ample supplies of natural uranium, of having a programme to enrich uranium for weapons, which would give it a second path toward producing atomic weapons. Impoverished North Korea for years has used its military threat to squeeze concessions out of regional powers willing to pay Pyongyang for taking steps that decrease regional risks.

Studies have shown that UN sanctions imposed on North Korea for missile testing and its only prior nuclear test in 2006 had almost no impact, while its meagre trade actually increased due to lax enforcement of those measures.

The success of financial sanctions depends heavily on how far China and the United States are willing to go to pressure North Korea, said Jeong Hyung-gon, a research fellow at the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy.

The isolated countrys $2 billion annual trade with neighbouring China, equal to about 10 per cent of the Norths annual GDP, is its most important economic relationship. Beijing has wanted to avoid any measures that could cause the Norths economy to collapse and lead to chaos on its border.

Two senior diplomats negotiating the resolution told Reuters on condition of anonymity the Chinese had never really clarified whether they intended to implement the new sanctions resolution. Chinas UN ambassador Zhang Yesui said the resolution showed the firm opposition of the international community to North Koreas nuclear ambitions, but he urged countries to exercise caution when inspecting North Korean cargo.

A senior South Korean official said that North Korea may possibly respond to UN punishment with another nuclear test and maybe more missiles. They will never, never give up their nuclear weapons, said the official who asked not to be named due to the sensitive subject matter.

North Korea has raised tension in the region in the past months by test-firing missiles, restarting a plant to produce arms-grade plutonium and holding the May 25 nuclear test, which put it closer to having a working nuclear bomb.

source.nation.ke

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Chavez and Ortega chide Obama over Latin American policy – failing to deliver on his promise to make a new start in ties with Latin America

Posted by African Press International on June 14, 2009

Reuters

The presidents of Venezuela and Nicaragua, both fierce critics of US policy, yesterday accused President Barack Obama of failing to deliver on his promise to make a new start in ties with Latin America.

Venezuelas Hugo Chavez and Nicaraguas Daniel Ortega, both staunch allies of Cubas communist leadership, made the criticism while attending a summit in St. Kitts and Nevis of the Venezuelan-backed energy alliance PetroCaribe.

Mr Chavez, who told Obama at a Summit of the Americas in Trinidad in April I want to be your friend, said the new US president was not making good on his public commitment to change the way Washington deals with Latin America.

Obama should carry out what he said, but its not happening, Mr Chavez told reporters after the summit concluded.
The Venezuelan president, whose oil-exporting country remains a leading energy supplier to the United States, was a virulent critic of what he called the imperialist policies of Obamas predecessor George W. Bush.

Its the same old empire. Lets hope that Obama has the courage, the capacity and the support to dismantle that empire, Mr Chavez said. He also rejected US allegations that his government was limiting freedom of expression by pursuing media critics, calling this view a great cynicism.

Earlier, Nicaraguas leftist leader, Ortega, accused Obamas administration of being stuck in the past in its policies toward his country and Cuba. Nicaragua and Cuba belong to the 18-nation PetroCaribe alliance created by Mr Chavez in 2005 that groups OPEC member Venezuela with oil-importing Caribbean and Central America states, allowing them to buy Venezuelan oil on easier terms.

While most PetroCaribe leaders present used the one-day meeting in St. Kitts to praise Venezuelas oil support for the economic and social development of their countries, Mr Ortega made a point of attacking US strategy in Latin America.

He said Obama, despite displaying good intentions, appeared to be repeating hostile policies established by predecessors like Bush and Ronald Reagan toward regional governments Washington disapproved of, including Nicaragua and Cuba. He criticized the United States for cancelling more than $60 million in assistance to Nicaragua this week.

source.nation.ke

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Posted by African Press International on June 14, 2009

Raila to GenevaPrime Minister Raila Odinga addresses the media in Nairobi. Photo/REUTERS

ByLUCAS BARASa

Prime Minister Raila Odinga will meet top UN officials in Geneva this week on a visit in which Kenyas human rights record and the controversy over indicting and trying masterminds of the post-election violence will feature prominently.

Mr Odinga is also expected to meet former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and brief him on Kenyas efforts to form a special tribunal to try post-election violence suspects.

Last Thursday, Mr Annan said Kenyan leaders had until the end of August to set up a local tribunal or he would forward the the list of suspects contained in the Waki Report to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Mr Annans position was backed by US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson, who said President Barack Obamas administration believes those responsible for the deaths of more than 1,000 Kenyans and displacement of 600,000 others should be punished.

The government had originally been given until March to form the tribunal or see the names of key individuals suspected to be behind the chaos handed over to the ICC. But attempts to form the special court were thwarted by Parliament.

On Saturday, Salim Lone, an adviser to Mr Odinga, confirmed that the PM was expected to meet Mr Annan.

They will certainly meet, Mr Lone told the Sunday Nation from Geneva.

He said Mr Annan was in Ghana but was expected back in Geneva tomorrow, the same day that Mr Odinga would be arriving in the Swiss city.

He also confirmed that Mr Odinga, who is slated to attend a three-day conference in Geneva, would hold talks with UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.

The PM, for sure, will discuss with the High Commissioner for Human Rights the breakthrough the coalition government had last week when both parties in Geneva were able to come up with a common position on Prof Philip Alstons report on extrajudicial killings, Mr Lone said.

Ms Pillay, a South African judge, commended the wisdom and dignity with which ODM and PNU delegates were able to reach a common stand in the last minute.

source.nation.ke

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