African Press International (API)

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Archive for June 19th, 2009

Posted by African Press International on June 19, 2009

Disposing the dead on shallow ground will invite wild animals to dick up and chew the remains. The city council must get a place far from the national park or fence the cemetery with electricity that will turn away the animals. The new mayor says he is not involved in the scandal that rocks City Hall. He seems to play innocently when asking questions as if he does not understand that people these days are clever to read between the lines. He should be ousted if he does not explain the whereabouts of the missing cash. (API)

By Morton Saulo

Many African communities used to dispose bodies in bushes or on paths of wild animals to be eaten by scavengers.

If Nairobi City Council will have its way, it appears set to return city residents to that archaic method of disposing their dead.

The council is in the final phase of buying a desolate, 120-acre piece of land in the new Kathiani District to replace the Langata cemetery, which is fully used.

Forsaken stretch

But the new site is a forsaken stretch of rocky ground in the middle of nowhere, between Embakasi and Ngurunga.

The new burial ground for Nairobi, which the council has pushed through despite opposition by several senior officers, will give bereaved families the impression of throwing away bodies of their loved ones.

A visit by The Standard team ended in a rocky piece of land on black cotton soil, which senior officers at the council say is against preferred standards of a communal graveyard.

The distance from Nairobis central business district to the new site is 46kms by our cars odometer count.

Part of the distance, 10kms after turning off at Kitengela, is a stretch of rough, loose gravel road that would test the endurance of mourners heading for the final solemn ceremony.

From the plot, only few homes can be seen from afar to one side, nearer Kitengela.

The western border of the cemetery site overlooks the Nairobi National Park far yonder, from where wild animals can be seen grazing.

Zebras, buffaloes and antelopes roam into the cemetery plot, especially in the evenings.

Neighbours say predators like hyenas, jackals and lions are known to stray there at night.

But the most unsuitable factor for the site, which was confirmed when the council called for tendering, is that hard rock runs barely three feet below ground.

Unsuitable earth

The rock preceded by black cotton soil, is said by experts at the Ministry of Lands to be the most unsuitable earth for interring the dead.

“Black cotton soil is not stable, it moves depending on weather conditions and gets water-logged for long periods. We only recommend red soil for cemeteries,” said an official at the Ministry of Lands.

Those burying their dead at the new location would have to leave them very close to the ground and there is no telling what the carnivorous animals could do.

Documents in our possession show the council has finally paid for the new plot and only official commissioning is awaited.

But controversy surrounds the details of purchase.

Two different costs, one indicating Sh110 million and another Sh283 million are shown according to the documents.

Top city council and Ministry of Lands officials were involved in the transaction.

Forged documents

Lands Ministry Deputy Commissioner of Lands AM Ivuti said the purchase was concluded without involving officials from the ministry.

Mr Ivuti declared the valuation document forged.

“We wrote to the Director of Legal Affairs at City Hall to contact us to facilitate inspection of the land, but the same is still outstanding as there has been no response since,” he says.

The man who sold the plot, Mr Henry Musyoki, says he was not paid all the money owed to him.

“I was paid only 107 million. I have documents to prove that forged documents were filed and people there (City Council) pocketed the balance of the money,” Musyoki says.

Sources from the council say high handedness and the quest to keep off professionals from the city planning department in the acquisition of the new cemetery led to the approval of the tender.

“During the technical committee meetings officers from the planning department were roped in at the last minute and very little detail was revealed to them, forcing some of us to reject the whole tendering process,” the source said.

The source added that the evaluating committee had short-listed five plots in Konza, Kangundo Road, Isinya, Kitengela and Magadi, but none of the sites qualified for a cemetery. None of them attained the required six-foot deep red soil.

Sensitive matter

A letter in our possession signed by the Deputy Director of Planning Tom Odongo and his assistant John Barreh says in part: “At the end of phase one of evaluation none of the five sites met the suitability criteria for land for cemetery use. This is a sensitive matter needed to be carefully handled to the conclusion of evaluation of the tender, but if ever evaluation was done, we were not represented.”

When questioned about his perceived involvement in the scandal, Nairobi Mayor Geoffrey Majiwa retorted: “Which scandal? Who was paid that money and who received it?

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Kenya to allow absentee voting – Kenyans living abroad can soon influence elections back home

Posted by African Press International on June 19, 2009

Kenyans abroad will be able to vote from their host countries in the next election, Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka has said.

Speaking to Kenyans in Germany where he is attending the International Berlin Prayer Breakfast, Mr Musyoka said Kenya will amend laws to allow their citizens abroad to vote while away.

The VP also told them that the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank of Kenya were working out the modalities to facilitate cheaper money transfer from Kenyans overseas to the country.

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Obama’s land and the love for scandals in high place

Posted by African Press International on June 19, 2009

Silent Scandals
Nancy Morgan
June 19, 2009

Most Americans love a good scandal. Schadenfreude, the taking of pleasure from the misfortunes of others, is a basic element of human nature. Granted, not the prettiest, but nonetheless, there is something deeply satisfying about seeing the mighty brought low, the arrogant humbled and the wrongdoer getting his just dessert. A reminder to us all that misfortune is not ours alone.
Mainstream media obliges and indulges this base emotion, as ever more ‘news’ concentrates on he said, she said imbroglios. Ratings soar as the latest Palin/Letterman twist is breathlessly reported. Internet news providers join in by posting the most lurid and shocking aberrations of the unlucky few who had the misfortune to get caught in what the media decides is a ‘scandal’.
Oddly enough, despite the guaranteed ratings that accompany most scandals, the media is choosing to ignore what many consider major scandals – or would consider major scandals if they were actually reported. But they’re not. The media, working in tandem with liberals, oops, progressives, now decide which scandals get coverage, raising the question, ‘Is it still a scandal if its not reported?’ Inquiring minds want to know.
In just the last month, an unusual number of what were formerly regarded as scandals went unnoticed and largely unreported by the old media, to wit:
Obama recently fired an Inspector General of Americorps, giving him one hour to resign or be fired. This, in direct contradiction to legislation Obama co-sponsored as Senator, requiring 30 day notice and an explanation. Obama, after railing at Fox News for their audacity in pointing this out, declared that he didn’t fire Gerald Walpin because he was investigating a friend and contributor of Obama. No, he was firing him because the Inspector General was ‘confused and disoriented’.
Needless to say, if Obama took the time to personally fire everyone who was ‘confused and disoriented’, he’d start with his own press secretary and then go on to, well, I digress.
Despite the numerous and ongoing media stories regarding former President Bush’s perfectly legal firing of US attorneys years ago, the media, with a handful of exceptions, has decided not to report that Obama’s firing of Gerald Walpin was not an isolated incident. Two other IGs have been dismissed in the past two weeks. The media has ignored this alarming trend, focusing instead on Donald Trump’s firing of Miss California. Moving on…
Monica Conyers, the wife of longtime Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) received a letter Tuesday indicating a pending indictment from federal authorities on corruption-related charges. Yawn. Good thing it wasn’t Newt Gingrich’s wife.
News briefly surfaced that Senator Dick Durbin, after a closed door meeting with the Federal Reserve right before the economic crash, quickly cashed out his stock holdings, raising the question of insider trading. A question which will most likely go unanswered. Martha Stewart must be fuming.
A report detailing how UN workers are actually stealing food from the starving people for whom it was intended and selling it on the black market was merely a blip on the radar. The UN said it had no idea that the food wasn’t getting to the starving people of Somalia until shown pictures of UN-packaged goods on sale. Yawn.
Likewise a report detailing about $55 billion worth of fraud to date in the handling of the so-called stimulus funds went virtually unreported. Billions of our tax dollars, down a black hole. A non-event.
And remember ‘Cold Cash’ Jefferson? The Democrat caught with a cool $90,000 in his freezer? He’s currently on trial. The media has chosen not to cover the story. Moving on…
What about Barney Frank? He blasted President Obama yesterday over a controversial anti-gay marriage court filing and is calling on the commander in chief to explain himself. Something Barney has yet to do when the rare reporter dares to question him about his role in promoting Fannie Mae, to the detriment of thousands of shareholders. (Or his earlier scandal, when it surfaced that his town home was being used as a gay cathouse by his boyfriend of the moment.)

When’s the last time you heard about the ACORN scandal? This organization, a recipient of our tax dollars, is under investigation for voter fraud. The media reporting to date would lead one to believe that its all the fault of a few rogue employees, despite evidence to the contrary, which was reported only by Fox News.

House Democrats just crushed a GOP amendment to cut funding to this scandalous organization. At the same time, they halted a GOP amendment to investigate Speaker Pelosi’s claim that the CIA lied to her. Don’t bother looking for this on the nightly news.

The list goes on. Sen. Ronald Burris, caught on tape in a lie regarding his new Senate seat. Likewise down the memory hole are Charlie Rangel’s tax ‘misstatements’, Harry Ried’s questionable land deal, and Obama’s questionable land deal. Democrats, all.

Oh, and let’s not forget all the questions, unreported by the media, regarding why Obama has refused to release his birth certificate. Or his college transcripts.

Here’s another scandal. A huge scandal that affects each and every one of us. The media’s selective reporting, and non-reporting, that has resulted in many Americans actually believing that the GOP is the party of scandal, the party of the ethically challenged. I find this scandalous. But then, I’m just an average American in flyover country, one of the peons the media is supposed to keep informed.

The real scandal is: Its not a scandal if a Democrat does it, if it involves a progressive cause, or if the media decides not to report it. This effectively denies every American the right to enough information to make an informed decision. Yawn.

Nancy Morgan is a columnist and news editor for
She lives in South Carolina

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Congo DRC: Militias decry Kivu amnesty law

Posted by African Press International on June 19, 2009

The Hague (Holland)/Kinshasa (DRC) – A new amnesty law for combatants in the bloody eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC, has a number of serious shortcomings and will not solve the long-term problems of the region, rights advocates say.

Some beneficiaries of the law also say it does not go far enough and without political power sharing and better security, the region could revert to war.

In early May, Congolese president Joseph Kabila signed a law forgiving combatants for war-connected violence in both North and South Kivu committed between June 2003 and May 7, 2009, when the law took effect. It excludes genocide and other international crimes against humanity and war crimes and is restricted to the Kivu provinces.

The law could encourage the culture of impunity already present in the region, said the International Center for Transitional Justice, ICTJ, an international non-governmental organisation, with offices in Kinshasa, capital of DRC.

Considering the limits of Congolese justice and the culture of impunity, the new law risks functioning like a general amnesty for all crimes committed by any Congolese pretending to have acted in the framework of war and insurrection in the Kivus, said an ICTJ statement.

In addition, Mirna Adjami, ICTJ chief of mission in Kinshasa, said the amnesty should have been accompanied by other measures. Societies that just came out of an armed conflict or authoritarian regimes are faced with massive human rights violations [that cannot be ignored], she said.

And in such cases, amnesty laws should be adopted along with other measures of transitional justice encouraging the search for truth, institutional reforms and reparations, in order to effectively promote peace and reconciliation.

The new law is the latest attempt to bring about peace that has eluded the region despite a widely praised yet ineffective peace agreement signed in January 2008 in Goma, the eastern capital of North Kivu, by the government and more than 20 militia groups.

We believe that this law is establishing the impunity of perpetrators of grave human rights violations, said lawyer Nicole Mwaka, general director of Carrefour des femmes et des familles, an NGO working in DRC.

Rights activists in other parts of the country have complained about the geographical limits of the bill. I believe that a significant step was made with this amnesty but unfortunately, it applied only to the east of the country, said Angelo Mayambula, director of the Chain of Solidarity, a church group in the Bas-Congo province of western DRC.

The law should have been voted on in a national referendum, said Deogracias Vale, of Socipo, a civil society group in Oriental province of DRC. Otherwise, it leaves other troubled regions mired in a permanent cycle of violence, he said.

The area most in need of amnesty is the Ituri region of the Oriental province, said Jean-Pierre Ngabu, a member of parliament from Ituri. We wanted to see this law being extended to Ituri, Ngabu said. Crimes committed by the armed groups in Ituri are not different from the ones in Kivu, but Kivu militias have [received] special treatment by being granted amnesty.

Ngabu said he feared that because of the law, militia leaders such as Bosco Ntaganda, who is currently in the Kivus but has been linked to crimes in the Ituri region and is wanted by the International Criminal Court, ICC, for war crimes, could go free.

Bosco Ntaganda committed crimes in Ituri and is free in the North Kivu. He is even wanted by the ICC, Ngabu said.
But because he is a North Kivu native, he could be protected by the new law, he said. If he were an Ituri native, the government might have already handed him over.

By excluding the Ituri region from the amnesty law, the areas community leaders have little to offer when asking armed groups to surrender, he said. We are short of arguments today to convince those other residual groups to drop their weapons and join the national army or civil life, Ngabu said.

Despite being the beneficiaries of an amnesty, however, some Kivu militia leaders say it is not enough. They want a power-sharing arrangement and active protection of their villages by the national army.

Without that, the groups say that they may be forced to return to war.

We are integrating our soldiers in the national army, but there are also political leaders who were leading those armies, said Askofu Bikoyi Mukongo, political coordinator of Mai-Mai Kifufua, a former North Kivu armed group. We are requesting the government to integrate us into the management of the country, Mukongo said, which he believed could be done without an election.

Everybody who is working in the government was not elected. There are ministers, people who are working in the local, provincial and national public institutions without being elected by the people. We can also be integrated in the same way, he said.

Even if power could be shared, the armed groups of Kivu would need to have the means to protect their villages, he said, because the Rwandan militia the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, FDLR, has been active since the start of year.

Some Mai-Mai soldiers have delayed their integration into the national army to protect their relatives, Mukongo said.
As the governmental soldiers could not defend our people, we requested our men to come back to defend our villages. The situation is quiet now, he said.

If the Mai-Mai are to demobilise, Mukongo said, the government must put a stop to the FDLR in the region. If nothing is done, he warned, the Mai-Mai will take matters into their own hands

If the government does not end the attacks of FDLR, we will mobilise all the Mai-Mai all over the country so that we can defend our villages, Mukongo said.

* Jacques Kahorha and Dsir-Isral Kazadi are IWPR-trained journalists.

source.Institute of War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), by Jacques Kahorha and Dsir-Isral Kazadi*

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MOZAMBIQUE: Civil servants hard hit by HIV/AIDS – Stigma remains a major problem

Posted by African Press International on June 19, 2009

Photo: Allan Gichigi/IRIN
Stigma remains a major problem

BEIRA, – Nearly 20 percent of Mozambique’s civil servants are HIV positive, but given that several government ministries lack reliable data, this number could even be higher, a study has warned.

According to a Demographic Impact Study by the government, around 19.2 percent of 167,420 public employees were found to be HIV positive, which is higher than the national prevalence rate of 16 percent.

Moreover, Clia Matavele, national coordinator of the Ministry of Public Employment’s Nucleus for the Fight against HIV/AIDS, believes some public employees are not revealing their HIV-positive status, and so were not detected by the Demographic Impact Study, which collected data from the health facilities where they receive care.

To reduce HIV infection among public employees, the Ministry of Public Employment, in partnership with the National Council for the Fight against HIV/AIDS and the Ministry of Health, is designing a strategy for prevention, counselling, testing, treatment and anti-discrimination.

Matavele said one of the biggest obstacles to fighting the disease was the stigma attached to it, because many HIV-positive employees “do not publicly admit their status out of fear that they might be discriminated against by their colleagues.”

Good intentions

Manecas Chambiro*, 42, a professor at Samora Moiss Machel Pre-University School in Beira, in Sofala Province, central Mozambique, said he had been on antiretroviral (ARV) treatment since early 2008; if he hadn’t received psychological support from the school administration and his family, he would have committed suicide as a result of the discrimination he experienced from his work colleagues.

“My colleagues ignore me; they don’t talk to me anymore. Whenever I come across them in the halls, chatting, they break up their circle and each one goes his own way,” said Chambiro.

“Stigma and discrimination are a serious matter in the school where I teach … to get away from that environment, I thought about requesting a transfer.”

Matavele stressed that the government would not tolerate stigma and discrimination against people living with the virus. “In the state institutions, the stigma is an interpersonal and not an institutional issue. No employee has ever lost his or her job for being HIV positive.”

*not his real name

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GLOBAL: Promising new drug to treat TB – An estimated 500,000 people globally were diagnosed with MDR-TB in 2007

Posted by African Press International on June 19, 2009

Photo: Siegfried/IRIN
An estimated 500,000 people globally were diagnosed with MDR-TB in 2007

JOHANNESBURG, – For the first time in nearly half a century, the world may be on the verge of adding a new drug to its arsenal against tuberculosis (TB) one that would not only drastically improve the treatment of TB and its multidrug-resistant strains, but also shorten it.

Adding a new drug, TMC207 to standard multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) treatment regimens dramatically cuts the period from when patients start treatment to their sputum testing negative for TB, according to a study published in the June issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, in the US. The drug is being developed bypharmaceutical research company, Tibotec.

After two months, almost 50 percent of MDR-TB patients on the drug had sputum samples that tested negative for TB, compared to about 10 percent of the study’s placebo group. The new antibiotic, TMC207, targets the bacteria’s energy-producing enzyme, killing it off.

As a bonus, the drug has proven relatively easy to stomach in more ways than one, with potential dosing as low as three times a week a factor that bodes well for treatment adherence.

“Currently, TB requires six months of treatment … if strains become resistant to first-line drugs, patients require the use of second-line drugs, which are expensive and require two years of treatment, usually,” said the study’s co-author, Dr Alexander Pym, chief special scientist at the TB research unit of the South African Medical Research Council (MRC).

''New drugs are exciting, especially for people with drug-resistant TB but South Africa [still] needs to fix its TB and HIV health care provision''

“As a complete new class of antibiotic, it can be active against both TB and MRD-TB; the bugs have never seen [this drug] before; they haven’t had opportunities to develop resistance.”

But it remains to be seen whether it is a complete cure, what other drugs it must be combined with and whether it is completely safe.

TMC207 can also be stored at room temperature, cutting out the need for the costly refrigeration systems that are sometimes unavailable in developing countries, which bear the brunt of the world’s TB burden.

Dr David Clark, CEO of the Aurum Institute, an independent health research institute in Johannesburg, South Africa, said the study – and the drug technologies produced by it – represented a breakthrough in TB treatment. The Aurum Institute runs one of the largest studies in TB preventative treatment in South Africa.

In 2007, an estimated 500,000 people globally were diagnosed with MDR-TB, but less than one percent received sufficient treatment, according to the latest Global TB Control report by the World Health Organization.

Although 13 percent of patients in the trial were HIV-positive, those on antiretroviral (ARV) treatment were excluded from this phase to allow doctors to isolate TMC207’s effects without possible drug interactions between it and ARVs. However, the MRC’s Pym said studies to look at the effectiveness of TMC207 in patients on ARVs were in the pipeline.

Dr Francois Venter, of the South African HIV Clinicians Society, told IRIN/PlusNews that despite the good news, TB remained a multifaceted problem:
“New drugs are exciting, especially for people with drug-resistant TB, but South Africa … [still] needs to fix its TB and HIV health care provision.”


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