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Archive for August 7th, 2009

Implement reform or face action, says Mrs Clinton

Posted by African Press International on August 7, 2009

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton bids bye at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Thursday. She left for South Africa. [PHOTO: BONIFACE OKENDO/STANDARD]

By David Ohito

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stood where President Barack Obama spoke three years ago, as junior Senator from Illinois, and repeated his words he is a son of Kenya prepared to help.

Paying tribute to Kenya, in Obamas words, as his ancestral homeland, Mrs Clinton said whatever he asked of Kenya, the US President meant well.

Her speech opened a new chapter in Kenya-US relations, revolving around what they share President Obama as well as its historical ties. It appeared the US is keener on exploiting this to win Kenya to her side and push through its interests, especially in governance and human rights.

Like on Wednesday when she delivered Obamas message for end to corruption, impunity and call for a local tribunal for post-election violence suspects, she laced her warning to Kenya with the special connection from her Presidents ancestry.

She concluded her visit before flying out to South Africa, then to five other African states, with a stern message: Kenya must try post-election violence suspects and implement reforms or risk action from the US.

She was explicit the US would take action targeting anti-reform individuals and those who perpetrated violence. “Whatever road that is taken it must lead to the reforms that are necessary,” she said.

“President Barack Obama takes the relationship with Kenya very seriously and very personally, and he wants to see the reform agenda go forward and he does not believe it can go forward unless people are brought to account,” she advised.

US and Britain have a list of prominent Kenyans, including ministers, who would not be allowed entry because of their actions.

Once again her one-hour dialogue with Kenyas youth and civil society, organised by KTN and CNN, was anchored on to Obamas message, “We want be your partner, not patron.”

Asked what she made of Prime Minister Raila Odingas caution on Tuesday, Africa does not need lectures on management of her affairs from foreigners, she responded: “Well, I had a good conversation with him (Raila) and I told him I was carrying a message of a son of Kenya Barack Obama, the future of Kenya is up to Kenyans.”

Mrs Clinton started her talk at the dialogue moderated by Fareed Zakaria of CNN and Beatrice Marshall of KTN, with a greeting that was received with cheers and applause by her audience: “Let me begin with greetings and good wishes from President Obama to the people of his ancestral homeland.”

Later in her speech, in which Kenya-Obama-US connection featured, she would say: “I do not think we would be friends for 50 years if we did not have a special relationship with Kenya.”

She walked the delicate line of nudging Kenya on the path to fast and comprehensive reforms and change of style of governance, while at the same time guarding against sounding condescending and intrusive.

She went to her pocket, retrieved a folded piece of paper and read out the last paragraph of Obamas speech at the University of Nairobis Taifa Hall, venue of yesterdays session, in August 28, 2006: “In todays Kenya a Kenya already more open and less repressive than in my fathers day it is that courage that will bring the reform so many of you so desperately want and deserve. I wish all of you luck in finding this courage in the days and months to come, and I want you to know that as your ally, your friend, and your brother, I will be there to help in any way I can. Thank you.”

On Wednesday she said of Obama, even as she chided Kenyas handling of post-election violence and human rights issues: “He is very proud of his Kenyan ancestry. You hear him talk about it all the time. He talks about his fathers life; he talks about his grandmother; and he talks about his relatives who are here. I dont know if any of you came to his inauguration, but 10 per cent of the crowd was from Kenya and probably 80 per cent of them were related to him.”

Reflective tone

Because of the hilarity of her style and yet serious and reflective tone, she stole the show and when she finished, the hall roared with calls for extension of the question-and-answer session.

It rekindled the three powerful paragraphs from her speech the previous day: “Nobody can reform the country from outside, it takes the people of the country and particularly the role the civil society and the private sector played in trying to deal with the aftermath of the elections. We can encourage, we can lecture, we can offer assistance, we can highlight good practices, but it has to be done by the people of Kenya.”

“The US cannot resolve the problems of Kenya. As a government with many interests and particularly interests in the well being and the future of Kenya, we can take a position as we have from time to time, that is the pretext of democracy, we can impose sanctions but we dont think that is appropriate at this current situation,” she added on Wednesday.

Mrs Clinton called for reforms in the Judiciary, police, electoral, civil service, and a new constitution for Kenya before 2012 General Election.

Mrs Clinton said: “But certainly, trying to bring to justice some of those who acted violently and preventing them from believing that they can act with impunity is critical to Kenya. Its important to President Obama.”

“Act expeditiously to set up a means to hold people responsible for post-election violence accountable,” she told President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga. She also urged the two to show political will and leadership.

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Posted by African Press International on August 7, 2009

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton places a wreath at the Bomb Blast Memorial Park on Thursday. The park stands at the site of the US embassy that was attacked by terrorists on August 7, 1998. She later addressed a public forum at the University of Nairobi. Photo/STEPHEN MUDIARI

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton places a wreath at the Bomb Blast Memorial Park on Thursday. The park stands at the site of the US embassy that was attacked by terrorists on August 7, 1998. She later addressed a public forum at the University of Nairobi. Photo/STEPHEN MUDIARI


In Summary

  • Blanket action wont apply as civil society and NGOs will get aid, says top diplomat

The United States plans to impose sanctions on individual Kenyans who have been implicated in corruption to help end the vice and fight impunity, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Thursday.

Speaking at the University of Nairobi during an open forum, Mrs Clinton said blanket sanction would not apply as President Obamas administration would continue to give aid to the civil society and non-govenmental organisation.

She, at the same time, insisted that US would not interfere with the running of Kenyas coalition government.

Apart from piling pressure on the coalition government, Mrs Clinton said there was very little the US could do to influence the political situation.

The US cannot solve Kenyas problems we cannot dictate to you how to run this government. It is not up to Kenyans, she said
While responding to questions from the audience, Ms Clinton avoided direct reprimands to the coalition government, instead, pledging to help the civil society to change the regime.

She seemed to have bought into the governments decision to go for the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission, despite calls by many Kenyans to press for the fight against impunity.

But even though the US is not a signatory to the Rome Statute that formed the International Criminal Court (ICC), she told Kenya not to allow the post-election violence matter to get out of hand.

Fighting impunity is like a rite of passage… the only road forward.

Mrs Clinton said the call for accountability was much harder to implement than the police and judicial reforms proposed by the government.

However, as she conceded Americas near-helplessness, Mrs Clinton urged the civil society to keep pushing for reforms.

I work for a President who believes in hope, she said.

One participant, Mr Joshua Nyamori, had asked the US Secretary of State about her impression of the political will regarding the implementation of the reform agenda.

There are people within the leadership who understand the necessity of these reforms. Whether theyll be successful or not is still up in the air, she replied.

But, Mrs Clinton avoided mentioning names, perhaps understanding the political impact such a move could have on the fragile coalition arrangement.

Terming Kenya as a very political country where everybody has a political opinion, Mrs Clinton asked those in the civil society to join politics and try to change the system from within.

Her call against corruption in government continued, though this time she asked the youths to use new platforms like Twitter and Facebook to protest against corruption, as opposed to the often bloody street demonstrations.

The open forum that lasted 90 minutes was moderated by journalists Fareed Zakaria (News Week columnist) and Beatrice Marshal (KTN).

Meanwhile, Mrs Clinton said the US would impose sanctions on the countries funding terrorist organisations in Somalia.

She termed as a tragedy, the many refugees holed up in camps in Northern Kenya and Nairobi.

There is a lot that Kenyans have to worry about, she said.

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TANZANIA: Global Fund uncovers flaws in malaria drug management

Posted by African Press International on August 7, 2009

Photo: Sarah Mace/IRIN
Drugs in storage: A routine audit by the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has found that almost US$1 million worth of anti-malaria drugs are missing or have expired in Tanzania’s medical warehouses (file photo)

NAIROBI, – Almost US$1 million worth of anti-malaria drugs are missing or have expired in Tanzania’s medical warehouses, an audit by the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has found.

The routine audit, whose findings were published in June, revealed that Artemisinin combination therapy (ACT) drugs worth $819,000 are missing and another $130,000 have expired, highlighting problems with internal control mechanisms and raising the possibility of serious fraud.

In addition, glitches in the procurement process led to an oversupply and the consequent expiry of ACTs – which have a relatively short shelf-life – in warehouses around the country.

“The Global Fund is very concerned about drugs intended to save lives being unaccounted for or expiring before they reach the people who need them,” Andrew Hurst, Global Fund spokesman, told IRIN.

Hurst stressed that contrary to media reports, the Global Fund had not threatened to withdraw funding from Tanzania as a result of the audit’s findings. It has asked the Tanzanian office of international audit firm PricewaterhouseCoopers to investigate.

The audit covered Global Fund programmes being implemented by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, the Prime Ministers Office, the African Medical and Research Foundation and the Tanzania Commission for AIDS. Audit tests and programme visits were carried out in eight districts in January and February.

According to Tanzania’s The Citizen Newspaper, the Ministry of Health has said it is reviewing the audit report and the concerns raised would be addressed. Health Minister David Mwakyusa also said the ministry was collecting returns from all regions in order to establish a more comprehensive picture.

Photo: Global Fund
Global Fund to fight HIV/AIDS Malaria and Tuberculosis logo

The audit blamed deficiencies in a computerized stock-management system used by Tanzania’s Medical Stores Department for some of the problems – for instance, some warehouse staff were creating unauthorized stock adjustments in the system to write off stolen items.

“Given the volume of procurements of medicines and health supplies under the grants, a well-functioning inventory control and management system is necessary to establish tracking and accounting for procurement, storage and distribution of medicines and other health products in the entire supply chain,” the report found.

“Tanzania is managing huge drug distribution programmes, and logistics can be incredibly difficult to manage, especially when using sophisticated software systems,” Hurst said. “Certainly there is a need for better management of the system.”

Despite the failings raised by the report, Hurst pointed out that the Tanzanian ARV programme was, on the whole, a successful one. The Global Fund has committed $820 million to support programmes to fight HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria in Tanzania; by the end of February, $384 million of this had been disbursed.

“There is no question that the Global Fund’s money has been put to good use in Tanzania,” he said.


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KENYA: Pigeon peas, the new maize?

Posted by African Press International on August 7, 2009

Photo: C.L. Ramjohn/Wikimedia
Pigeon peas are a high protein dietary staple

MBEERE SOUTH, – Faced with increasingly unreliable rains, farmers in Kenya’s eastern district of Mbeere South have started growing drought-tolerant crops to meet their food and subsistence needs instead of the staple maize.

“The rains have become [scarce]… This is the fourth year we have had insufficient rain,” Harrieta Nyaga, a farmer from the Rwika area, told IRIN. “We expected rains in March, but they came in January. People got confused, some planted, some did not… the crop was affected.”

Nyaga, a mother of four, said she had planted 0.8ha of maize but was unsure whether she would harvest more than two 90kg bags. “Normally, I get up to 20 bags,” she added.

Declining maize yields, due to climate variability and high fertilizer costs, have caused maize prices to soar. The cost of a bag has doubled to about 2,000 shillings (US$25) in the area.

Four new drought-tolerant pigeon pea varieties are being piloted in Mbeere, and specialists say the crop is hardy and can grow in a range of environments and cropping systems.

The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) is providing farmers with free seeds.

“They select the preferred varieties and sizes,” said Richard Jones, ICRISAT Eastern and Southern Africa assistant director. The selection is based on maturity times, plant height, stem thickness, amount of leaves, susceptibility to disease, cooking times and soil types.

Representatives from 30 farmers groups have been selected to pilot the project. Across Kenya, pigeon peas are being grown on about 196,261 ha of land, according to ICRISAT. Malawi, Uganda, Mozambique and Tanzania grow considerable quantities too.

“Depending on rainfall availability, one can harvest 750kg per 0.5ha,” said Jones. The new varieties mature in about 120 days while the traditional varieties flower at the end of the long rains, growing to maturity from October to August.

“These new varieties are very elastic. Because they mature quicker, one gets a harvest even with just the short rains [October-December]… if there is more rain [the long rains] one gets a second rattoon [crop],” he said.

“Old varieties will not give you a crop until after the long rains [April-June]. If the long rains fail, then there is no harvest.”

Nyaga said the uptake of the new varieties would be higher if pesticides were provided during the first planting. “The pesticides are very costly for a first-time farmer,” she said.

About 20 percent of the farmers in Eastern Kenya have adopted new pigeon pea varieties

Nutrition value

Pigeon peas are a high protein dietary staple providing 20 to 22 percent of the protein where it is grown extensively (India, Myanmar, Nepal, China, and south-eastern Africa).

Besides its de-hulled split peas, its immature green seeds and pods are also used as a vegetable.

“We have been experiencing a lot of hunger and the first harvest really helped my family. I did not have to look for beans to mix with the maize to make githeri [a maize and bean stew],” John Ngari, a farmer in Mbita area said. “I am now trying to move my wife away from growing maize. We can sell some of the pigeon peas and buy maize instead.”

Crushed dry pigeon pea seeds are also fed to animals, while the green leaves are quality fodder. The dry stems are used for fuel.

Bonus crop

According to Jones of ICRISAT, the pigeon pea is a bonus crop, which can be grown alongside early maturing cereals while acting as a nitrogen fixer.

“I have not had to add manure or fertilizer like I would have for maize,” said Carol Maringa, a farmer in Gachoka, adding that it was also not labour-intensive. She planned to increase her pigeon pea production.

“Even when I combine the cost of ploughing, seeds, weeding and spraying, I am still able to make a good profit,” Samuel Mulinge Kyalo, 45, a farmer from Riakanau said.

According to Fred Njeru, Gachoka Division crops officer, food production in the division has fallen: “Now a big number of people are getting famine relief food and this is not sustainable.”

The hardest-hit localities, he said, are selling their livestock and burning charcoal to meet their food requirements.

“We are encouraging farmers to adopt drought-tolerant crops, but this will take time,” he said. “In the long term, farmers should plant drought-tolerant crops to not only meet their food requirements but also to get more income.”

According to Jones of ICRISAT, there is a need to scale up planting of drought-tolerant crops.

In Eastern Kenya, about 20 percent of the farmers have adopted the new pigeon pea varieties, which have been developed using conventional breeding.

Already, there has been about 80 percent uptake in the eastern Makueni District. “Often, information does not move well,” Jones noted. “It is like lighting a fire, it burns, then it goes out; you have to keep lighting many smaller fires.”


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NIGERIA: Displaced go home as calm settles over Maiduguri

Posted by African Press International on August 7, 2009

Photo: ReliefWeb
Map of cities in northeast affected by clashes in late July 2009

KANO, – Most of the 4,000 Maiduguri residents in Borno state, northeastern Nigeria who fled last weeks violence to shelter in military and police barracks on the outskirts of town, have now returned home, according to the Nigerian Red Cross (NRC).

“Most of the IDPs [internally displaced people] have left the camps save for those whose homes were either burnt or looted after they had fled during the violence,” Adamu Abubakar, head of the Nigerian Red Cross in neighbouring Bauchi state, told IRIN.

Up to 4,000 residents of Maiduguri fled violence that broke out on 27 July between Nigerian security forces and the Boko Haram radical Islamic group, killing 780 people, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Some 161 people still remain in military barracks on the outskirts of Maiduguri, as their homes were destroyed, burnt down or heavily looted during the violence, Ibrahim Aliyu, ICRC field officer in northern Nigeria told IRIN. “We are still looking after them and talking with the Borno state authorities to assist them in rebuilding their homes,” he said.

Hundreds of corpses that filled Maiduguris streets several days ago have now been buried in three mass graves by the Borno state Environmental Planning and Protection Agency, said Muhammad Zanna Barma, with the Red Cross in Borno state.

Dozens of bodies were piled up in Maiduguri University Teaching Hospital on Sunday 2 August before they were transported in government trucks for mass burial, Rabiu Goni, who lives nearby the hospital, told IRIN.

Photo: Aminu Abubakar/IRIN
Recurring violence: a man examines his burnt-down house following clashes in Bauchi state, February 2009

Markets, shops, banks and other businesses that remained closed during the violence have re-opened, selling food and basic items.

Residents are now trying to carry on with their lives. “I’m no longer the prisoner I was last week when I could neither leave my home nor get food to eat apart from bread and water. I’m happy I no longer live in fear of imminent death with machine gun and mortar shelling all around me,” 28- year-old Hafsatu Maina told IRIN from Maiduguri.

But some displaced residents heading home from Maimalari barracks told IRIN they fear what they will find when they arrive. Bukar Mato, 48, who fled with his wife and five children, lived in Bayan Quarters neighbourhood where the most intense fighting took place.

It was a miracle we came out unscathed. I dont know what has happened to my home now. I shudder at the possibility that it has been destroyed. It took me all my life to build that houseIt will be a real disaster if I have lost it, he told IRIN.


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Posted by African Press International on August 7, 2009

Photo: Allan Gichigi/IRIN
A mother holds her malnourished child in Dadaab (file photo): Immediate priorities in Dadaab are in health, water and sanitation

NAIROBI, 6 August 2009 (IRIN) – The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is to support livelihood and environmental protection programmes for local Kenyan communities in Dadaab, says a senior UN official.

The Dagahaley, Hagadera and Ifo camps in Dadaab comprise the largest refugee site in the world. As of 5 July, the site hosted an estimated 284,306 refugees, mainly from Somalia. This number was triple the designated capacity.

“We have witnessed in the recent months arrivals [in] the region [of] 5,000 per month, creating a situation that is extremely dramatic,” the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antnio Guterres, said.

“In the meetings I had with the local communities, we presented our programme of investment and support to the local community,” he said. “UNHCR by itself has mobilised US$6 million especially in areas related to environmental degradation and livelihoods of the Kenyan local communities in Fafi and Lagadera.”

Relations between refugees and the surrounding host population often sour with increasing insecurity and environmental degradation being blamed on the refugee influx, aid workers say.

Dadaab, some 90km from the Kenya-Somalia border, has seen a large number of asylum-seekers fleeing years of conflict in Somalia.

Guterres said there was a need to adequately screen people coming into Dadaab to improve safety for the refugees and locals, and to address Kenya’s security concerns.

“UNHCR is preparing a comprehensive strategy for decongestion, rehabilitation and security in Dadaab,” he said, adding that immediate priorities were in health, water and sanitation.

A measles outbreak was reported in Hagadera camp in July. Earlier, a cholera outbreak had been reported.

In a briefing note, UNHCR said the inability to provide adequate shelter for refugees had exposed them to exploitation by their hosts. For example, cases of sexual- and gender-based violence reported this year had increased by 30 percent.

To decongest Dadaab, UNHCR plans to move some refugees to Kakuma in the northwest, along the border with Sudan, and hopes to secure additional land in Dadaab. Kakuma already hosts some 45,017 refugees and has inadequate shelter.

Photo: UNHCR
UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antnio Guterres said there was a need to adequately screen people coming into Dadaab to improve safety for the refugees and locals

The first group of 12,900 refugees from Dadaab is expected to go to Kakuma – about 1,000km away – before the rainy season. “As soon as the minimum logistic and reception conditions are established, the movement to Kakuma can start,” Guterres said.

The meteorological department in Kenya has predicted el-Nio rains that could hinder refugee movements.

The Dadaab programme, including funds for local communities and the upgrading of the present refugee sites as well as new site infrastructure, is estimated to require $92 million.

“The host community is struggling especially with the high food prices and drought,” Kellie Leeson, the International Rescue Committee director for Kenya, told IRIN recently.

Leeson said the camps were not officially demarcated and some of the long-term refugees had purchased livestock, fuelling tensions over pasture and water.

“The challenge [in Dadaab] is so big that it needs a combination of solutions,” Guterres said. “It has been possible until now to provide the minimum but a lot of upgrading of humanitarian systems needs to be done.”


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PAKISTAN: Aid work hard hit by insecurity

Posted by African Press International on August 7, 2009

Photo: Kamila Hyat/IRIN
Vulnerable women and children suffer most when NGOs pull out

MANSEHRA, – Ayesha Bibi, 30, has no idea how she can help her daughter, who suffers paralysis in her legs. “An organization was helping us. They had doctors who were teaching my child to walk and giving us medicines,” she told IRIN.

She would bring the three-year-old from her village, some 25km away from the town of Mansehra in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), to visit doctors from an NGO in Peshawar, provincial capital of NWFP.

Bibi does not know the name of the organization, which has now closed its office in Mansehra. Pakistan has a literacy rate of 37 percent for females, according to official figures.

“Their staff was kind and they were helping us,” she said. Now she does not know where to go for assistance.

The fact that international humanitarian organizations, NGOs and even government-run bodies have been forced to scale down or suspend activities across Pakistan because of the increasing security threat has affected many people, although the effect has not been quantified.

Since February 2008, when the offices of the UK-based PLAN International were attacked in Mansehra, leaving four staff members dead, dozens of NGOs across NWFP have stopped operating.

“The sense of threat is very real,” Musarrat Hillai, vice-chairman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), told IRIN.

“The dangers have grown because nothing was done in the past to penalize those making the threats,” IA Rehman, the secretary-general of HRCP, said.

The attacks on NGOs and NGO activists have continued. In April, a female employee of the government-backed National Rural Support Programme (NRSP) was killed in the NWFP town of Hattian by Taliban militants who accused the NGO of “spreading obscenity”.

“Generally speaking this means they talk about family planning or women’s rights,” another female employee of the organization, who requested anonymity, told IRIN.

There are no indications of an improvement in the situation. Recently, the National Commission for Justice and Peace, an NGO backed by the Roman Catholic Church, said it had received threats for helping refugees from Swat.

Escalating insecurity

The problem seems to be growing. On 31 July, Farhan Haq, associate spokesman for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, acknowledged that the UN had had to scale back its operations in agricultural projects and women’s welfare in Balochistan.

Asked about threats from the Balochistan Liberation United Front, the nationalist group which earlier this year kidnapped the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) head of operations, John Solecki, Haq said the UN took all threats against its staff very seriously and was looking into this particular case.

A local news agency has quoted a purported spokesman for the group, Shahak Baloch, as saying UN officials would be targeted as promises made for Solecki’s release had not been kept. A voluntary repatriation centre for Afghan refugees in the area was closed down, according to UNHCR.

The withdrawal of the UN does not bode well for the province’s impoverished people. The same holds true for other areas of Pakistan. “People have suffered, especially women, since NGOs began pulling out. It has meant less awareness, less enlightenment and there has also been a loss of jobs,” Mahbano Shahid, an activist formerly employed with an NGO in Mansehra, told IRIN.

According to a report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) issued on 31 July, “the overall security situation in Pakistan remains unstable and volatile”.

Improvised explosive devices followed by attacks on military, police and civilians are the main security concerns in NWFP, the report said.

The NWFP government has promised “maximum effort” to improve security. “We are doing all we can,” NWFP Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain told IRIN.

However, it seems inevitable that it will take time before international organizations and local NGOs can operate safely in many parts of the country – and it is ordinary people, like Ayesha Bibi – who pay the heaviest price.


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