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Archive for August 1st, 2009

Residents venture out after Nigerian unrest

Posted by African Press International on August 1, 2009

Smoke rises from Maiduguri prison after it was set on fire by members of a local Islamic group in Yobe state July 27, 2009.

Smoke rises from Maiduguri prison after it was set on fire by members of a local Islamic group in Yobe state July 27, 2009. The group which wants a wider adoption of Islamic law across Africa’s most populous nation have burned churches, a police station and a prison and clashed with the security forces in Bauchi, Borno, Kano and Yobe states


Residents ventured onto the streets of the Nigerian city of Maiduguri today after the authorities cleared the bodies of hundreds of victims of days of clashes with a radical Islamic sect.

State government and Health ministry officials finished collecting corpses, some of them swollen after lying in the streets for days, onto open trucks overnight and the security forces withdrew road blocks around the city.

People are outside starting to go about their normal business. The bodies that were littered all over were finally cleared last night, Aliiyu Maikano, northeastern disaster management officer for the Nigerian Red Cross, told Reuters.

Death toll
At least 300 have been killed in states around northern Nigeria during almost a week of rioting by followers of Boko Haram, a militant sect which wants a wider adoption of sharia (Islamic law) across Africas most populous nation.

The authorities are hoping the killing of sect leader Mohammed Yusuf, 39, who was shot dead while in police detention in Maiduguri last Thursday, will bring an end to violence.

I urge everyone to resume their normal lives now that the unfortunate Boko Haram uprising has been crushed, said Ali Modu Sheriff, governor of Borno state, of which Maiduguri is the capital.

The security agencies shall continue house-to-house searches for members of the sect in order to bring them to justice and I urge you all to cooperate with them, he told state radio.

Hundreds of people gathered yesterday to see Yusufs corpse, laid on the ground in front of Maiduguri police headquarters alongside the bodies of other presumed Boko Haram members.

Officials have said Yusuf died in a shoot-out while trying to escape detention but human rights groups have condemned what appeared to have been an execution-style killing.

Number of injured
Maikano said around 100 people were still being treated at two hospitals in Maiduguri for gunshot wounds, machete blows, knife wounds and beatings. Scores more have been discharged.

Thousands of people who fled their homes have also started to return, although the Red Cross was still looking after around 22 families whose houses were destroyed in the unrest.

The uprising began last Sunday when members of the group loosely modelled on the Taliban in Afghanistan and whose name means Western education is sinful were arrested in Bauchi state on suspicion of plotting to attack a police station.

Yusufs supporters, armed with machetes, knives, home-made hunting rifles and petrol bombs, then rioted in several states across northern Nigeria, attacking churches, police stations, prisons and government buildings. (Reuters)

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Preserved head of chief who killed Dutch soldiers returned to Ghana

Posted by African Press International on August 1, 2009

A framed photograph of the preserved head of Nana Baidoo Bonso II, an African chief who killed white intruders on his farm in 1838. Photo/FRANCIS KOKUTSE

A framed photograph of the preserved head of Nana Baidoo Bonso II, an African chief who killed white intruders on his farm in 1838. Photo/FRANCIS KOKUTSE

ByFrancis Kokutse

It reads like the plot to a novel but it is true. An African Chief killed two European intruders on his land and was punished by hanging. His head was cut off and sent across the Atlantic to far-away Holland.

Butfor the work of a daring researcher, the head would still haveremainedin abottle where it has been preserved since then unknown to any of his people.

That has been the story of Nana Baidoo Bonso II, the Ahanta chief from Busua, a small town hidden by coconut trees along the western coast of Ghana in West Africa.

Only a coastal town until now, Busua is located 214 kilometres away from the capital, Accra, and is set to rewrite its history with the arrival of head of Baidoo Bonso IIwho was court martialled and hanged for killing two Dutch soldiers in 1838.

That was long before the British annexed the area and other parts of the country which later became the Gold Coast.

Many historians have never touched on the aspect of the country where our chiefs resisted the arrival of the Europeans long before the British arrived on our coast, said Mr Dominic Arthur, a teacher in Busua.

Spur inquiry

What makes this story interesting is that apart from chiefs of the Asante Empire who were known to have fought the British in many wars in the days before the Gold Coast, not much is known about chiefs who fought other Europeans before that era. This is likely to spur more inquiry into the countrys past history.

The rest of West Africa may have similar hidden history. There is a local song in neighbouring Benin Republic which translates that Kpende has been taken away by the White man and has not yet returned so let us pray for him.

Folklore claims that Kpende was a notorious chief who gave much trouble to the White men who arrived on the coast of Dahomey which is modern day Benin Republic.

Mr Kwadwo Boateng, an assistant director of the Foreign ministry said Baidoo Bonso II was enthroned during the era of the Dutch colonial occupation of the coast of Guinea, including the Western Region of present day Ghana.

After the trial and the execution of Baidoo Bonso II in June 1838, Boateng said, the severed head wastaken to Holland where it eventually ended up in the Leiden University Centre for Medical Research near the Hague.

Mr Boateng added: The issue of Baidoo Bonso IIs headcame to light when a Dutch historian Arthur Japin raised it during former President John Kufuors official visit to the Netherlands in October last year.

After hearing the story of the head, the former President instructed the Ghana Embassy to negotiate to secure the release and the return ofthe head.

After much negotiation the Dutch government finally allowed the release andthe head was finally returned to Ghana on July 24. It has since been kept at the 37 Military Hospital in Accra.

Otumfuo Baidoo Bonso XV, who is a direct descendant of the late king, told the Nation that, Ahanta Traditional Council made of chiefs in the area have decided to honour the late chief by preserving the headfor some time before deciding on the form of burial which would be a national affair.

As a mark of respect, the chiefs have decided not to hold this years Kundum festival which was due next month, Baidoo Bonso XV added.

The festival, according, to history started in the 17th century, and is used to thank the gods for abundance harvest but it has a religious side to it.

We use the occasion to offer sacrifices to our dead ancestors and it is a form of communicating between the living and the dead. That is why we want to wait till we have buried Nana (Baidoo Bonso II) before we celebrate the next festival, Nana Baidoo Bonso XV said.

There could have been many of our chiefs who suffered the fate of Nana Baidoo Bonso II but, there has been no record to show. We have heard of stories of people sent out of the land by European traders on the coast at the time, there should be work on which people were taken away for what reason, Mr Arthur said.

In the lone street of Busua, there seems to be some renewed pride among the people. Aba Tawiah, a farmer who does not to understand the import of the return of the head is, however excited that Nana Baidoo Bonso IIs head has come back.

She said, Nana has proved to be a powerful person, they came, took his head away but he has refused to remain with the white man and that is why he has asked to be brought back.

Even though officials of the ministry of culture and chieftaincy affairs told the Nation that we only facilitated the return of the head to the family, it does look that the Ahanta chiefs want to involve the government to plan whatever fitting burial that the late chiefs head is to be given.

We are not just celebrating the return of the dead chiefs head, we are celebrating a brave warrior who for several years had remained unsung and it is for that matter that we want to turn it into a national affair, Nana Baidoo Bonso XV added.

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How coup bid exposed the softer side of Moi

Posted by African Press International on August 1, 2009

Retired president Daniel arap Moi addresses a past public gathering. Photo/FILE

Retired president Daniel arap Moi addresses a past public gathering. Photo/FILE


In Summary

  • Former presidents biggest concern was for women and the children

The coup attempt occurred exactly 27 years ago today(Saturday), but a former Nakuru youth leader recalls every tense moment.

Mr Francis Karanja alias Mkombozi, then 35, was the Nakuru District Kanu youth leader and was among the first people to go to Mr Mois house on that fateful morning.

Speaking to Saturday Nation this week, Mr Karanja says on August 1, he got up at5am at his Kiamunyi home, 15 minutes drive from Mr Mois home, and switched on the radio … only to hear the shock announcement.

I heard broadcaster Leonard Mambo Mbotela, acting on instructions of the coup leaders who had seized the national broadcasting station, calling on police to behave like civilians while people were warned to stay indoors, he recalled.

He says he drove to Mr Mois house, where security had been beefed up.

Security personnel let me in as I was a frequent visitor, he said.

I found Mr Moi standing in the lobby, wearing a beige raincoat.

The President, according to him, was in a pensive mood but was calm and composed. He said Mr Moi asked him who could be behind the coup.

I remember telling him that the plotters must have planned it in Nairobi and not Nakuru and that they were not Kikuyu as I would have heard about it, he said.

Mr Karanja said Mr Mois main concern was the fate of children and women, who he said would be exposed to untold suffering while the plotters indulged in drink and food.

Fearing the situation could turn volatile, Mr Karanja volunteered to fetch 400 Kanu youth wingers to protect him but Mr Moi assured him that the situation was under control.

The former Kanu youth leader believes those behind the coup attempt did not have a genuine cause as Mr Moi, only four years in power, could not be accused of mismanaging the countrys affairs.

He also believes that had the President not been a compassionate man, many would have been killed but loyal forces were ordered to avoid unnecessary loss of life.

Rebel soldiers

Nairobi University students had poured into the city streets in support of the coup. The coup was plotted by rebel soldiers mainly from the Kenya Air force led by Senior Private Hezekiah Ochuka, who was later convicted and hanged at Kamiti Prison.

But in a surprise turn of events four years later, Mr Karanjawas to be imprisoned at Kamiti on allegations that he was a member of the clandestine Mwakenya movement.

At Kamiti, he met the coup plotters and became friends with some of them and learnt that a counter coup had been planned if the main one had succeeded.

Mr Karanja has written a book titled Kenya in the eye of a Patriotic Kenyan.

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Kenya steps up drive to lock out al Shabaab from region

Posted by African Press International on August 1, 2009

A man pulls a donkey-cart carrying his belongings past an African Union Mission to Somalia armoured personnel carrier on patrol in the capital Mogadishu on Friday.

A man pulls a donkey-cart carrying his belongings past an African Union Mission to Somalia armoured personnel carrier on patrol in the capital Mogadishu on Friday. Photo/REUTERS


Kenya has stepped up efforts to close the ideological border with Somalia in a campaign aimed at ensuring the youth in the vast North Eastern Province are not lured to join al Shabaab, the Islamist group in Somalia.

The al Shabaab, believed to have links with al Qaeda, is said to have been recruiting the youth in the region in a bid to annex the province and also subject it to the sharia law.

According to the North Eastern Province Parliamentary Group, al Shabaab has been using Islamic religion as a bait to lure the youth into joining the group which has wreaked havoc in Somalia and threatened regional security.

It has also capitalised on the nature of its organisation a movement by the youth to entice the young men of the region.

Secretary to the Parliamentary Group Abdikadir Mohammed yesterday told the Sunday Nation the role of the civic education programme was to delink activities of al Shabaab from the religion.

We want our youth to get it clearly that al Shabaab does not have anything to do with Islamic religion and that they should not be involved in the war in Somalia, he said.

But even besides religion, the group has targeted the youth since the way of life in the region is not different from that in Somalia.

Mr Mohammed said key among the teachings that are being conducted was the fact that the unrest witnessed in Somalia was a political and not religious battle.
The civic education trainers are conducting their sessions in mosques, madrasas and other social gatherings.

Ten young men from each district have been selected to join hands with local councillors and spiritual leaders to speak to communities in the region on the issues of peace, terrorism and religion.
This kind of education will only be effective if the youth are involved at every stage in the programmes, said Mr Mohammed.
But a major challenge facing the programme and the eventual crash of the terror group in North Eastern Province is that residents along the porous Somalia-Kenya border come from the same clan.

This, the PG said, will make it hard to differentiate who belongs to al Shabaab and who does not.

The PG noted the provincial administration and the police had also been asked to participate in the campaign.
Although our greatest fear is that the political turmoil in the troubled Somalia may spill over to the province, we have taken the civic education as a proactive measure, said Mr Mohammed.
Earlier this year, the al Shabaab abducted two Italian nuns from the border area, sending Kenyas top security men into discussions on how to stop the incursions.
The country is also said to have been marshalling troops in the northern region to secure its border with the war-torn Somalia since then.

Earlier in the year, a top police official was quoted as saying al Shabaab had officially communicated to the government that they would stop at nothing, including armed conflict, to invade the province and make it part of their country and rule it using their religious laws.

But Nairobi has dared the Somali militiamen to seize any part of Kenya and face military action.

Kenya is a sovereign country. We have the capacity and the ability to stave off any incursions, Foreign Affairs assistant minister Richard Onyonka said.

Mr Onyonka said the government would do anything to protect its territory and such threats would not deter Kenya from ensuring that the Somali Transitional Federal Government is successful in achieving its agenda.

The current campaign was first started by the Kenyas Vice-President Kalonzo two weeks ago accompanied by Internal Security minister George Saitoti, Mohamed Elmi (Northern Kenya minister), several assistant ministers and other MPs from the region.

Emphasising on the importance of peace and security in national development, the VP called on the youth from the region to resist any attempts to involve them in the Somali crisis.

He noted there has been concern over the growing activities of al Shabaab near the Kenyan border, especially with claims that the militant group was recruiting youth in northern Kenya and also in Nairobis Eastleigh.

Islamic way
According to Mr Aden Keynan, MP for Wajir West, the fact that the Islamic way of life in Somalia was not different from that in North Eastern, the youth could easily be confused and join al Shabaab.

Leaders in the region have therefore taken a common position on the matter, and this what we are telling our young people, said Mr Keynan.

Kenyas President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga have in past discussed the escalation of the Somalia crisis and called for a meeting of the national security committee.

They blamed the Somali insurgents for the increase in illegal weapons in Kenya.

Kenyas Air Force is reported to be on standby call as the security situation in Mogadishu deteriorates amid fighting between the Sheikh Sharif-led government and al Shabaab.

Somalias government, which controls little more than a few blocks of Mogadishu, has already declared a state of emergency and has appealed for foreign intervention to end the crisis.

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‘Whip me if you dare’ says Lubna Hussein, Sudan’s defiant trouser woman

Posted by African Press International on August 1, 2009

Lubna Hussein, the Sudanese woman who is daring Islamic judges to have her whipped for the “crime” of wearing trousers, has given a defiant interview to the Telegraph.

By Talal Osman in Khartoum and Nick Meo
In court on Tuesday Mrs Hussein will dare judges to have her flogged.

In court on Tuesday Mrs Hussein will dare judges to have her flogged. Photo: TALAL OSMAN
In court on Tuesday Mrs Hussein will dare judges to have her flogged.

In court on Tuesday Mrs Hussein will dare judges to have her flogged. Photo: TALAL OSMAN

As the morality police crowded around her table in a Khartoum restaurant, leering at her to see what she was wearing, Lubna Hussein had no idea she was about to become the best-known woman in Sudan.

She had arrived at the Kawkab Elsharq Hall on a Friday night to book a cousin’s wedding party, and while she waited she watched an Egyptian singer and sipped a coke.

She left less than an hour later under arrest as a “trouser girl” – humiliated in front of hundreds of people, then beaten around the head in a police van before being hauled before a court to face a likely sentence of 40 lashes for the “sin” of not wearing traditional Islamic dress.

The officials who tried to humiliate her expected her to beg for mercy, as most of their victims do.

Instead she turned the tables on them and in court on Tuesday Mrs Hussein will dare judges to have her flogged, as she makes a brave stand for women’s rights in one of Africa’s most conservative nations.

She has become an overnight heroine for thousands of women in Africa and the Middle East, who are flooding her inbox with supportive emails. To the men who feel threatened by her she is an enemy of public morals, to be denounced in the letters pages of newspapers and in mosques.

As she recounted her ordeal in Khartoum yesterday Mrs Hussein, a widow in her late thirties who works as a journalist and United Nations’ press officer, managed cheerfully to crack jokes – despite the real prospect that in a couple of days she will be flogged with a camel-hair whip in a public courtyard where anyone who chooses may watch the spectacle.

Her interview with The Sunday Telegraph was her first with a Western newspaper.

“Flogging is a terrible thing very painful and a humiliation for the victim,” she said. “But I am not afraid of being flogged. I will not back down.

“I want to stand up for the rights of women, and now the eyes of the world are on this case I have a chance to draw attention to the plight of women in Sudan.”

She could easily have escaped punishment by simply claiming immunity as a UN worker, as she is entitled to under Sudanese law. Instead, she is resigning from the UN to the confusion of judges who last Wednesday adjourned the case because they did not know what to do with her.

“When I was in court I felt like a revolutionary standing before the judges,” she said, her eyes blazing with pride. “I felt as if I was representing all the women of Sudan.”

Like many other women in the capital, Mrs Hussein fell foul of Sudan’s Public Order Police, hated groups of young puritans employed by the government to crack down on illegal drinkers of alcohol and women who, in their view, are insufficiently demure.

Despite their claims of moral superiority, they have a reputation for dishonesty and for demanding sexual favours from women they arrest.

Mrs Hussein was one of 14 women arrested at the Kawkab Elsharq Hall, a popular meeting place for the capital’s intellectuals and journalists, who bring their families. Most of them were detained for wearing trousers. The police had difficulty seeing what Mrs Hussein was wearing under her loose, flowing Sudanese clothes. She was wearing green trousers, not the jeans that she said she sometimes wears, and wore a headscarf, as usual.

“They were very rude,” she said. “A girl at a table near mine was told to stand up and told to take a few steps and then turn around, in a very humiliating way. She was let off when they ‘discovered’ she was not wearing trousers.”

After her arrest, on the way to a police station, she tried to calm the younger girls.

“All the girls were forced to crouch on the floor of the pick-up with all the policemen sitting on the sides,” she said. “They were all very terrified and crying hysterically, except me as I had been arrested before during university days by the security services.

“So I began to try to calm the girls, telling them this wasn’t very serious. The response of the policeman was to snatch my mobile phone, and he hit me hard on the head with his open hand.

“On the way I felt so humiliated and downtrodden. In my mind was the thought that we were only treated like this because we were females.”

Christian women visiting from the south of Sudan were among the 10 women who admitted their error and were summarily flogged with 10 lashes each. But Mrs Hussein declined to admit her guilt and insisted on her right to go before a judge.

While waiting for her first court appearance, she said she was surprised to find herself held in a single cramped detention cell with other prisoners of both sexes. “How Islamic is that?” she asked. “This should not happen under Sharia.”

Mrs Hussein is a long-standing critic of Sudan’s government, headed by President Omar al-Bashir, the first head of state to face an international arrest warrant for war crimes. Sudan has been accused of committing atrocities in the Darfur region.

Before her arrest she had written several articles criticising the regime, although she believes she was picked at random by the morality police.

The regime has often caused international revulsion for religious extremism. In 2007 British teacher Gillian Gibbons was briefly imprisoned for calling the classroom teddy bear Mohammed.

The government is dominated by Islamists, although only the northern part of the nation is Muslim. Young women are frequently harassed and arrested by the regime’s morality police.

Mrs Hussein said: “The acts of this regime have no connection with the real Islam, which would not allow the hitting of women for the clothes they are wearing and in fact would punish anyone who slanders a woman.

“These laws were made by this current regime which uses it to humiliate the people and especially women. These tyrants are here to distort the real image of Islam.”

She was released from custody after her first court appearance last week, since when she has appeared on Sudanese television and radio to argue her case – which has made headlines around the world.

She is not only in trouble with police and judges. A day after her court appearance she was threatened by a motorcyclist, who did not remove his helmet. He told her that she would end up like an Egyptian woman who was murdered in a notorious recent case.

Since then she has not slept at home, moving between the houses of relatives. She believes her mobile telephone has been listened to by the security services using scanners.

But she has pledged to keep up her fight. “I hope the situation of women improves in Sudan. Whatever happens I will continue to fight for women’s rights.”

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