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Archive for June 16th, 2009

ERITREA: Water on their minds – Water for daily use is pumped out of wells by diesel-powered generators

Posted by African Press International on June 16, 2009

Photo: Jaspreet Kindra/IRIN
The fog collector in Gahtelai

ASMARA, – Doran Ali Osman, administrator of Rahaita, one of the most southerly villages on Eritrea’s Red Sea coast, zips up his jacket as the wind tugs at his clothes. He has water on his mind. The villagers, who depend on fish, crops and livestock farming to earn a living, have to cope with less and less rainfall.

The village lies about 90km south of Assab, capital of Eritrea’s Southern Red Sea Region, in one of the hottest places on earth, where temperatures soar beyond 40 degrees Celsius.

Water for daily use is pumped out of wells by diesel-powered generators, but Eritrea imports all its fuel, making diesel an expensive option. A few years ago the government helped the village set up a solar-powered generator, “But there are days when the clouds cover the sun,” said Osman.

More help is at hand. Rahaita is one of seven villages in the region covered by the Eritrea Wind Energy Application pilot project – funded by the Global Environment Facility and the UN Development Programme – and will be electrified by the end of 2009.

A rapid assessment of water sources by the government’s Water Resource Department found that 58 percent of households in rural areas have access to safe drinking water.

Climate change projections by the Eritrean government are less than cheerful: temperatures could soar by more than 4 degrees Celsius by 2050, shrinking precious sources of water such as boreholes and run-off – excess water from rain or other sources flowing over the land; droughts are expected to become longer and more intense.

Rainfall is inadequate and underground resources are declining, the UN Children’s fund (UNICEF) reported in 2003. “The water in some of our groundwater holes has also become salty,” said Osman. Almost 70 percent of the semi-arid land is affected by drought, including the highlands, which usually enjoy higher rainfall.

The food and fuel price hike in 2008 jolted the government and the people – the World Bank listed Eritrea, which also imports at least 40 percent of its food requirements in a good harvest year, among the countries worst affected by the crisis.

The International Monetary Fund said more than eight percent of gross domestic product (GDP) was spent on food and fuel in 2008, and the price of some staple grains rose fourfold in 2008.

“The villagers realize we have to start growing food, which is why we need the water,” said Osman. They are planning communal gardens to grow and sell vegetables to supplement incomes.

Water is everything

“Water is everything to us,” said Mogos Weldeyohannes, Director General of the Department of Environment. “We spend more than half our budget on conserving water.” This could not be verified, as data are hard to come by in a country still recovering from a 30-year war of independence and later border conflicts with Ethiopia.

“[We] faced one ofthe worst droughts since independence [in 1993] last year [2008]. Crops failed. We are determined that rainwater has to be harvested to be used,” he said.

Eritrea has built scores of small dams in the past three decades and is planning 200 more, as well as diversion structures to harvest and store water, according to an aid agency document.

Urban areas have begun to feel the impact; people in the capital, Asmara, now only have running water on three days out of every ten. “We all have had to invest in tanks and many, many buckets to store water,” one resident told IRIN.

Gahtelai, a village in the highlands in the Northern Red Sea Region, is harvesting water from fog: “fog collectors”, flat rectangular nets supported by a post on either side, are arranged perpendicular to the direction of the wind.

“The collection surface is a fine mesh net made from a nylon material,” said Heruy Asgodom, head of Eritrea’s agriculture department. “The water collects on the net … [and runs down into] a trough or gutter at the bottom of the panel.” About 14 litres to 20 litres of water per square metre are harvested every day and fed into a reservoir to irrigate vegetable gardens.

More villages near the coast could soon be exploiting the fog coming in from the sea. “We have to think of every way to collect water,” said a villager.


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AFRICA: Children speak up for right to survive – One quarter of all under-five deaths in sub-Saharan Africa occur within the first month of life

Posted by African Press International on June 16, 2009

Photo: Nancy Palus/IRIN
One quarter of all under-five deaths in sub-Saharan Africa occur within the first month of life

DAKAR, – Thousands of children are participating in activities across Africa advocating for governments to boost child survival in commemoration of the Day of the African Child. Celebrated on 16 June, this is the same day hundreds of black school children were killed in Soweto, South Africa in 1976 protests for better education.

Half of the worlds under-five deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa, according to a recent report by UN Childrens Fund (UNICEF) and Save the Children.

In West Africa, the Ministry of Gender in Liberia helped bus 1,000 children to the countrys northwest Lofa county to celebrate. We are here to tell leaders that we have a right to live, Donelle Kokeh, 15, one of the participants told IRIN.

Unknown numbers of children were drafted to fight in Liberias civil war which spanned 14 years until 2003. For some child survivors, thetransition to civilian life is on-going.

Every day should be African Child Day, said Kokeh, a leader in the national childrens parliament, which includes 30 youths. Children should be respected every day. But today is set aside especially to honour those who have died.

In an effort to improve access to health care and slash neonatal deaths, Liberias government suspended health care fees in 2007. The recent UNICEF-Save the Children report named Liberia as one of the few sub-Saharan African countries on target to meet its child health goal by 2015. Under-five deaths have reduced significantly in recent years, according to 2007 government data.

One in seven children in sub-Saharan Africa dies before he or she reaches age five, with 43 percent dying in Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria and Ethiopia,according to UNICEF.

At the African Union headquarter in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 17 students from Aster Bette Firkir primary school performed their self-authored song, Children of Africa, whose lyrics began: Children must not suffer by the matter [because of] others; they are dying, they are crying, so lets go to wipe their eyes.

''…Although children want to talk about their abuse, no one wants to hear them…''

Most African countries are not at a highly [developed] stage so the majority [of countries] are not taking care of their children, one of the performers, Dawit Tseniha, 13, told IRIN.

Tseniha and his classmates also performed a play on child trafficking.

Although children want to talk about their abuse, no one wants to hear them, Tseniha added. In most African countries, children are not accepted very well with their ideas. When they talk about their problems, they are not heard.

When asked about his professional goals, Tseniha told IRIN he wants to become a lawyer. Maybe if I am a lawyer, I can help children get proper judgment.


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Posted by African Press International on June 16, 2009

Photo: Charles Akena/IRIN
Lilly Atong

GULU, – Lilly Atong, 26, was first abducted by Lords Resistance Army (LRA) rebels from Amuru district in northern Uganda in 1991 when she was 10 years old. She was made a wife of the LRA leader Joseph Kony but escaped in 2005. However, during the Juba peace talks in 2006 she met Kony to persuade him to release other women and children, only to be held captive again in Garamba National Park, where the rebels were hiding. She managed to escape a second time and is now living in a rehabilitation centre in the northern Ugandan town of Gulu.

I was going to school when the rebels abducted eight of us in 1991.

I was given to one of the commanders called Abucingu. He took us to Southern Sudan, where we found many rebels in Nisitu, one of their main camps. Kony then took me and two other girls. He said we would work in his home helping his other wives.

Later in 1996 Kony told me I was his wife. I feared he would kill me if I refused. I was not ready to be a wife at that young age and it was difficult and painful. I cried but there was no way out.

I had my first child in January 1997 and he named the baby George Bush. In 1999 I had another baby with him.

In 2005 we came back to Uganda, I had another baby and life was hard. There was no food and the army [Ugandan Peoples Defence Forces, UPDF] was always following the group.

One day the rebels were ambushed. Their commander decided to release women with children. I had two children; my elder son Bush had remained in Sudan with Kony. We reached a nearby UPDF detachment.

I came back home but there was no work. Luckily, a woman called Els de Temmerman came to my assistance and took my children to school in 2005. I was finally settling down and forgetting the bush memories but in 2006 I heard my name being read on the radio; Kony wanted to see me and his other women. The Juba peace talks had just begun.

I didnt want to go but after several pleas from people who told me to go and persuade Kony to release children and women, I agreed. We were 22, including leaders from Gulu, Kitgum and Pader districts.

We stayed for a week but when it was time to leave, Kony told me I was not going back to Uganda. He ordered two of his escorts to shoot me if I tried to escape.

I insisted I was not staying but Kony became so furious. I told him I was ready to remain if he was willing to release other children and women but he said he would kill me if I defied him again.

The following day Kony moved me to another LRA camp deeper in the forest. Here were 10 other women of Konys and many young children. I found my child Bush; he had grown big.

The camp was heavily guarded by LRA soldiers because it was one of the main bases.

But during Operation Lightning Thunder [in December 2008 ] I escaped and am happy I am finally home but I do not know what to do now. My brothers are angry with me because I delivered another child with Kony while in the bush.

They said I should not have gone and they are not ready to keep me and my children. I do not know where to begin after leaving GUSCO [Gulu Support the Children Organisation] rehabilitation centre.

I pray somebody or an organization will help train me in tailoring so that I can raise some money. Before going back to Congo, I was selling vegetables in the market in Gulu but now all is gone, I need something to help start a new life.

I dont know what will happen if Else stops providing school support to my children; maybe I will go back to the village.


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Posted by African Press International on June 16, 2009

Photo: Etonam Ahianyo/IRIN
French development aid will target agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa (file photo)

DAKAR, – French NGOs welcome the governments decision to launch a strategy to aid developing countries but say the government needs to go much further if it is to live up to its pledge of making aid more transparent and predictable.

Under the new strategy 14 countries in sub-Saharan Africa most former French colonies will receive 60 percent of Frances total development aid focusing on five sectors: health, education, climate change, agriculture and economic growth.

The government has reiterated promises made in 2004 to devote 0.7 percent of the national budget to humanitarian and development aid by 2015, up from the current 0.34 percent, Didier Le Bret, head of French government development cooperation, told IRIN.

An inter-ministerial committee for international cooperation and development (CICID) announced the strategy on 5 June; it was the first time the committee has assembled since President Jacques Chirac left office in 2007.

French development aid has until now lacked transparency and predictability, Luc Lamprire, director-general of NGO Oxfam France-Agir, said in a communiqu. If the decisions taken by the French government are put in place, French aid could become more effective and more predictable for recipient countries.

The decision to target 60 percent of aid to sub-Saharan Africa and to concentrate on five sectors is good news, which will put France in line with commitments it has already signed up to, he added.

Le Bret told IRIN: This is the first time we have concentrated on a limited number of countries so we can really target our support by helping boost agriculture [and] economic growth and helping economies adapt to climate change all at the same time.This is particularly important given the impact of the global economic crisis on so many sub-Saharan African countries.

Aidrecipients targeted byFrance as of 2010
Burkina Faso
Central African Republic
Democratic Republic of Congo

Unanswered questions

But aid campaigners say many questions remain unanswered. The news is better late than never, Oxfam France-Agirs head of advocacy Sbastien Fourmy told IRIN. Butthe government is not being clear on what kind of aid it is giving, how much of it is going where, and what is behind its decision-making.

Le Bret says the support will come through a mixture of loans, debt relief and grants. But Oxfam France-Agir is calling for more detail, including the full amount of the aid package and how much of the aid will be targeted to debt relief, to refugees living in France, and foreigners studying in France, all of which are included under French aid declarations.

We need to know what is in the overall [aid] envelope. Sixty percent of what will go to sub-Saharan Africa?Asked Fourmy. How much of this aid will be spent directly on sub-Saharan Africa?

While the strategy will outline increased aid targets for the region, NGO health coalition Action for Global Health says France has a long way to go: French spending on health in developing countries in 2007 was outstripped by the amount it spent on foreign students studying in France.

Le Bret says the government will start producing annual reports outlining aid targets and actual goals reached in a bid to be more transparent.

We understand we have an obligation to be open with our aid commitments and explicit about our results so outsiders can evaluate what we are doing, he told IRIN.

France has joined the International Aid Transparency Initiative, launched in the Ghana capital Accra in 2008 to improve donor information-sharing about aid commitments.

In 2008 France was the worlds fourth-largest development aid donor after the United States, Germany and Great Britain.


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The trial of persons accused of trying to overthrow the Ethiopian government

Posted by African Press International on June 16, 2009

ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA The 32 defendants who are accused by
Ethiopia’s tribal junta of plotting to assassinate government
officials appeared at the Lideta district court in Addis Ababa, the
same kangaroo courtroom where Teddy Afro’s sham trial was conducted.

General Asaminew Tsige, one of the accused, asked the judge why
himself and four other people were held in solitary confinement in

He said that their human rights are being abused and asked the court
to the measure. The judge said that it wasnt a court matter but
rather an administration matter.

Also apart from five defendants all the 27 others dont have a
legal representation. The court today agreed to have them represented
by two lawyers, despite unwillingness from one of the three judges,
and an aggressive opposition from the prosecution.

Once two of the three judge made the decision, 15 minutes were given
for the lawyers to consult their clients.

Strangely enough, two cameras were rolling at the time close enough
to record the voices of the defendants and their lawyers, clearly
violating their privacy.

After less than five minutes of consultation between the lawyers and
their clients, one police officer who was guarding the prisoners
protested to the judges. He told the judges that there was no reason
why the defendants needed to be allocated time to speak to the

Surprised by the outburst from the officer, one of the judges told
him off, telling him that it was the defendants’ constitutional right,
then adding: if you dont allow this in court, what is it like in

The officer kept quiet, and the crowd cheered and clapped. To which
the pro-government judged told off the crowd for showing its emotions.
That is a kangaroo court in action.

The other interesting part in the hearing this morning is that the
defense lawyer of Berhanu Negas cousin Getu Worku asked for a
private doctor to inspect her client. She added that the report would
be kept as evidence.

Reuters managed to speak to several family members who said their
loved ones were tortured. One of them had to be hospitalized after an
injury to his penis due to the torture. Col. Biraa might have
performed her specialty on him. She is a sadistic Woyanne intelligence
officer whom Meles assigns to get any information out of suspected
military officers.

The judges denied access to a private doctor, saying that the prison
doctor should be enough.

The lawyer for Ato Tsige Habtemariam, the 80-year-old father of
Ginbot 7 Secretary General, tried to get bail for his client. It was
not denied, as the judges admitted that the health of the man and his
age made it a special case, despite strong opposition from the
prosecution. The prosecutor said that once freed Ato Tsige could be in
touch with Ginbot 7 (his son in particular).

Next hearing is Friday, June 26.

Out of the 32 who appeared in court today, 14 are military military

Representatives from the Germany and American embassies
were present at the hearing.

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