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Archive for November, 2009

Kenya’s PM Raila Odinga says he is ready to sacrifice his job and start baking dougnuts, while Ruto the minister says he is ready to be sacked: Friends parting ways are talking!

Posted by African Press International on November 30, 2009

Now the two Kenyan leaders, Raila the PM who is also the leader of ODM is fighting with his deputy ODM leader and minister for agriculture William Ruto over Mau evictions.

Raila says he is ready to loose his political path and start selling doughnuts in Kibera while Ruto says he is ready for a sack from the government.

Why are the two fighting so hard and yet it is easy to do the honourable thing when gentlemen disagree – resign as the British ministers normally do whenever they disagree. They call it gentlemanly, a thing the Kenyan ministers are not used to, but instead fighting to the bitter end is the answer.

The Mau settlers are suffering while the leaders are heavyweighting and the public cheers to see the winner.

Now some MPs allied to Raila’s deputy leader Mr Ruto are planning a censure motion against the PM. If they get the numbers in parliament, Raila may have to go but then as the National Accord signed that enabled the formation of the government says, early elections may become necessary. Do the MPs want to go for early elections now and leave the high salaries they are comfortably chewing?

By Chief editor Korir

African Press International.

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CAMBODIA: Poachers turn gamekeepers in eco-tourism projects

Posted by African Press International on November 30, 2009

Photo: Brendan Brady/IRIN



A community ranger riding an elephant in Srepok Protected Forest in Cambodia’s eastern Mondulkiri province

MONDULKIRI, – Poaching was a serious business for Chran Thabb – until his tracking skills were put to better use protecting his former prey. He is one of 45 rangers in the remote eastern province of Mondulkiri recruited for a grassroots tourism project that uses employment incentives to encourage environmental conservation.

“Before, whenever I saw an animal in the forest, my first thought was to shoot it,” said Chran, now a guide for treks around Dei Ey village, in a protected forest area in Mondulkiri.

“I don’t do that any more. The animals would become extinct and I want the next generation to see them,” he said.

Because of its forests, mountains and rare wildlife, rugged Mondulkiri has been targeted by the Cambodian government as an area for eco-tourism development, after lobbying by WWF. The wildlife group launched conservation projects more than four years ago in this remote region, which has been likened to Africa’s Serengeti for its abundant wildlife.

WWF has recruited former hunters to put their knowledge of the forest and expert tracking skills to good use. The overall aim is to establish an environment where wildlife can recover after years of hunting, poaching and neglect. Richer wildlife, conservationists hope, will attract tourists – and, in turn, create jobs for local communities.

Most of Mondulkiri’s impoverished population comprises indigenous communities who practise shifting cultivation but also grow cash crops, although this is under threat from deforestation and changing climate patterns, according to a September 2009 report by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Lack of access to education and primary healthcare are key development concerns in Mondulkiri, IOM says, with 59 percent of its population living below the poverty line, according to a 2004 study by the Cambodia Development Resource Institute and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

“In a poor province such as Mondulkiri, eco-tourism offers a long-term alternative livelihood to combat the short-term illegal activities they do now to earn a living,” said Olga van den Pol, head of WWF’s eco-tourism operations in Mondulkiri province.

Wildlife in the area, which is near the border with Vietnam, was severely depleted in the 1970s and 1980s when battling Khmer Rouge and Vietnamese soldiers relied heavily on hunting for survival.

But since the launch of conservation projects, rangers are seeing an increase in wildlife for the first time in years.

Community values

Most people in the area belong to the Phnong ethnic group. Bill Herod, a development worker who works with Phnong youth, said cultural forces should operate in favour of conservation efforts.

“Phnong are more likely to see common ownership of the land, and less likely to want to hunt for wildlife on an individual basis,” he said.

Given Cambodia’s violent past, it is especially important to avoid using violence to deter poaching and instead focus on encouraging livelihoods, conservationists say.

In countries such as Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo, governments have resorted to heavily armed patrols in an attempt to combat poaching. But this method is increasingly being shunned.

“For a poor rural person who wishes to feed their family, no deterrent will be sufficient, but the chances of being killed are far higher,” said James MacGregor, a researcher for the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development. “Guns raise the stakes but don’t combat the poaching necessarily,” he told IRIN.


While those employed by the projects hope their fortunes will improve, the initiatives are no panacea for the area’s poverty.

Krak Sokny, a teacher and farmer in Dei Ey village, doubted the eco-tourism initiatives would reach a sufficient scale to extend benefits to locals not directly involved, but said they would instil an active interest in conservation in villagers.

And while Dei Ey and other areas appear to be on the path to recovery, other lands in the province still face serious threats from speculators and slash-and-burn practices.

Local development workers also say police and well-connected officials continue to traffic wildlife and timber with impunity.

Against these forces, villagers in Mondulkiri’s eco-tourism enclaves are trying to carve out a space for themselves and adventurous tourists.

“I’m hoping there will be more tourists so we can earn money that way and not have to go hunting in the forest,” said Am Pang Deap, who previously made ends meet selling fried bananas in Dei Ey, but now works at a new eco-tourism resort. “People are trying to hunt less and maintain what’s left for tourists.”


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A young child grasps a bowl of food in Myanmar’s Ayeyarwady Delta. Food insecurity has left many families vulnerable

Posted by African Press International on November 30, 2009

MYANMAR: Funding shortfall hits Nargis survivors

Photo: Stacey Winston/ECHO

BANGKOK, – A lack of funding is still posing a serious problem for recovery efforts to help the survivors of Cylone Nargis, the UN says, despite fresh pledges from donors.

At a Post-Nargis and Regional Partnership Conference, held on 25 November in Bangkok, donors pledged more than US$88 million for an appeal for $103 million to cover critical recovery needs part of the earlier Post-Nargis Recovery and Preparedness Plan (PONREPP) released in December 2008 by the Tripartite Core Group, comprising the Myanmar government, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the UN.

The original appeal called for $691 million for a three-year recovery plan from 2009 to 2011.

There was very good support and excellent response from the donors there was a good acknowledgement of the recognition of the need, said Bishow Parajuli, the UN Resident Representative and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar.

However, what must be underlined is that the $103 million is only for needs identified until July 2010, and moreover this need doesnt include many other critical elements, he told IRIN.

Nargis struck Myanmar in May 2008, killing at least 140,000 people and affecting another 2.4 million, mostly in the Ayeyarwady and Yangon divisions. Damage was estimated at more than $4 billion.

Recovery threatened

Thierry Delbreuve, head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Myanmar, said there had been a sharp drop in contributions to recovery activities in the Ayeyarwady Delta.

Pledges were made this year but very little has trickled down so far, he told IRIN, adding that there was also a need for funding for general humanitarian assistance outside the delta in areas such as Chin state and the border regions.

Photo: Contributor/IRIN
Shelter remains a key challenge for many Nargis survivors

Before the 25 November announcement, only $120 million of the $691 million had been committed, with $64 million received, according to the UN.

Parajuli warned that a lack of funding would stop recovery activities.

It is a big challenge, he said. Several NGOs and UN agencies have started cutting down staff because of a lack of funding. If there is no new funding, some of the critical activities could be stopped.

With money just trickling in for the PONREPP, the TCG decided in October to launch an appeal for the $103 million to address critical gaps in education, health, livelihoods, shelter, and water, sanitation and hygiene until July 2010.

The money will be used to provide 17,800 new houses, 40 new schools and 16 cyclone shelters, as well as livelihood programmes, water and sanitation facilities, education facilities and health services, ASEAN said.

Delbreuve said support for the restoration of livelihoods was crucial, with indebtedness growing among survivors who had borrowed money to rebuild their homes. However, he said shelter was the most important need identified for now.

Only 10,000 individual shelters delivered by humanitarian agencies can be considered truly durable with cyclone-resistant features, Delbreuve told IRIN.

There is still an overall gap of 178,000 households that require urgent shelter assistance and have been waiting for support from the humanitarian community for over a year, he said.


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Cutting PM Raila Odinga’s wings will not be good for the common Kenyan but will only serve to protect the rich: Mau: Rift Valley MPs plot vote against Raila

Posted by African Press International on November 30, 2009

Why do some MPs want to destroy the PM? Is the PM touching their wealth and causing them to revolt or are the MPs are really genuine that they are fighting for the poor Kenyans? (API)

Prime Minister Raila Odinga (centre) with ministers Henry Kosgey, William Ruto and Anyang Nyongo after the ODM retreat at Simba Lodge  in Naivasha on Saturday. Photo/STEPHEN MUDIARI

Prime Minister Raila Odinga (centre) with ministers Henry Kosgey, William Ruto and Anyang Nyongo after a past ODM retreat in Naivasha. Mr Ruto is seen as part of a new ethnic political alliance. Photo/FILE



Its going to be a Christmas of political intrigue, as MPs on Sunday stepped up the war of words over the conservation of Mau forest and deal-making ahead of an election which is still three years away.

In the Rift Valley, a group of MPs appeared to be canvassing support to bring a confidence against Prime Minister Raila Odinga, allegedly because of allowing the inhumane treatment of evictees and dictatorial leadership.

Odingas critics

A grouping of Mr Odingas critics appeared to take shape last week, when more than 50 MPs, among them Cabinet ministers, attended a fundraiser called by Agriculture Minister William Ruto, to collect money for evicted families.

On Sunday, Mr Odinga, who has accused those criticising him of being rich landowners exploiting the poor for their own benefit, stuck to his guns, saying he is willing to pay any political price in the fight to conserve the Mau.

Raila is here today but will not be there tomorrow. We have to cater for the future generation. The removal of settlers from Mau will continue even if it will make me go home. I am ready to come and sell mandazi (doughnuts) in Kibera. I will remain firm, he told a rally in his constituency.

In Rift Valley, MPs promised to bring a confidence motion against Mr Odinga in the next 14 days. Konoin MP Julius Kones said consultations between three leading political parties were at an advanced stage for Parliament to be asked to declare it had no confidence in the Prime Minister.

Dr Kones said MPs dissatisfied with the premiers leadership will present National Assembly Speaker Kenneth Marende with a notice of the confidence motion in two weeks. He claimed that Kenyans were not happy with the manner in which the premier had handled the eviction of the Mau squatters and the only remedy to clip his wings was the vote of no confidence to serve as a lesson to other would be heartless leaders in future. Being removed

It is absurd that Mr Odinga is happy to see squatters being removed from their farms without compensation or being resettled yet it had been agreed in the Cabinet and Parliament that either of the options had to be fulfilled before the evictions were carried out, Dr Kones insisted.

Mr Odinga, however, asked his critics to stop threatening that Rift Valley voters will not elect him again. The evictees voted for him, Mr Odinga said, and not those now claiming to be representing their rights. Those shedding crocodile tears didnt get the votes from them. I am not inhuman. Yes, they voted for me but they must leave the forest, he said.

If you have a problem with Raila, just say it. We promised to bring changes to this country and the position is still the same. We said let the work start now, he said.

The tension between sections of the Rift Valley political elite, whose political support was instrumental to the PMs electoral success, have been simmering since early last year, after Cabinet appointments were announced. Some MPs were not happy with the way the positions were distributed.

The PM has supported punishment for those who took part in the election violence, a position that some Rift Valley politicians view with suspicion. Their province was the worst affected by the violence. A section of local leaders and businessmen will likely face justice over their alleged role in masterminding and funding the slaughter of hundreds of innocent Kenyans.

But it is over the Mau that latent discontent has boiled over into open rebellion. The government has encouraged the first lot of squatters, who have no documents or claim to the land, to leave. The next phase, however, is likely to target those with title deeds, said to have been illegally obtained.

An inter-ministerial committee, overseeing the conservation of the forest, has endorsed the eviction of this second lot. Many powerful politicians in the Rift Valley are believed to own hundreds of acres under this phase. The 400-hectare Mau Forest, parts of which have been destroyed, is the countrys most important water source. Its destruction has caused the drying up lakes such as Lake Nakuru and threatens important national assets such as the Maasai Mara Game Reserve.

But speaking to supporters in Kibera, his constituency, Mr Odinga said Mau was not only a national but international issue and that he was fighting for its restoration in the interest of future generations. More than 60,000 ha of the forest had been illegally given to individuals in the Moi regime, he said, adding that because of the ensuing deforestation many rivers originating from Mau were now drying up.

Parliament can vote, by simple majority, to declare that it has no confidence in a minister. In the past, ministers, such as former Finance minister Amos Kimunya, who have lost such a vote have been compelled to resign. MPs can also pass a similar motion against a president. If such a motion is passed, then the government falls and the country goes to election.

There has been some debate around what the constitutional position would be if MPs pass a motion of no confidence in the PM, since the National Accord, under which the office was created, does not seem to have anticipated such an eventuality. Speaking at a harambee (fundraising) for the construction of classrooms at Embomos secondary school in his constituency, Dr Kones said an MP from outside the Rift Valley will move the motion, so that Agriculture minister William Ruto will not be accused of engineering it. Cherengany MP Joseph Kutuny said MPs will censure Mr Odinga if the evictees are not compensated.

Simple majority

He, however, said they were waiting to see if the government keeps its promise to provide humanitarian assistance to the evictees before deciding whether to move against Mr Odinga. Unlike the impeachment of the President, we will only require a simple majority to remove the PM, Mr Kutuny said.

Speaking in Mombasa, the Speaker denied that a confidence motion against Mr Odinga had been filed. I have not received any document from MPs of no confidence in the PM and I will take required procedures once I receive it since it is their right if they feel to do so, said Mr Marende, adding that he is neutral.

Speaking on Sunday, Kuresoi MP Zakayo Cheruiyot claimed the confidence motion had overwhelming support from MPs, unhappy with the inhumane eviction of Mau squatters. He said the motion will be tabled by Mr Kutuny. MPs Kambi Kazungu and Dhado Godana said they will not support the motion if it is taken to Parliament.

I have already received calls from certain MPs asking me if I will support it but I told them they are doing so because of their personal interests, said Mr Godana. On Sunday, Mr Odinga hit out at leaders building regional alliances, possibly in reference to the much talked about grouping of Rift Valley, Eastern and Central province politicians.

We cannot develop if divided on tribal lines. You cannot say you can only work with certain tribes. This is cheap politics. Kenya will only be taken to greater heights by democrats. Kibera represents the face of Kenya. All communities are here. If I wanted to represent the Luo I would have vied in Kisumu or Bondo, he said.

He pointed the damage caused by the destruction of Mau, especially the drying of Lake Nakuru, the low water levels in Sondu River and risk of flooding in low-lying coastal areas. The removal of settlers in the Mau will continue, he vowed, and the next phase will be those with title deeds and who will be paid compensation.

Reports by Lucas Barasa, Geoffrey Rono and Anthony Kitimo

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Obama charmed his way to the Presidency and now woman Salahi charms her way to Obama’s White House dinner!: Obama’s Guest Who’s Coming to Dinner? How secure is the President? Many questions arise.

Posted by African Press International on November 29, 2009

//Hopefully, Mrs Salahi will not charm her way to Obama’s party in Oslo on the 10th of December when he travels there to receive the Nobel Peace Prize… Let her try but we think the Norwegian police will be watching her every move…. until after Obama’s 2 day Oslo visit.


Sunday, Nov. 29, 2009, 8:12 a.m. EST, Fox and Friends TV News produced a photo from 2005, which includes Barack Obama centered in a small group including the Salahi couple who have been accused of being strangers who were “uninvited” guests at the recent Obama White House Dinner. It seems the suppositions I had posted earlier were, in fact, valid. Thank God — and the late Paul Harvey for “the rest of the story,” which is not over yet. Stay tuned! ~Rev. L. Dowell, Voice Ink News Commentary


By Rev. Lainie Dowell

Where is Paul Harvey when you need him? It appears the Obama Administration has given the nation another oops moment. But, we cannot help it, if former President George W. Bush made his eight-year tenure in the Office look so easy that every fool thought they could do a better job. Enter the DEMs’ favorite and most highly favored son, Barack Hussein Obama, Jr.

Any time you have almost the entire nation and the global community whispering in your ear telling you “Yes (you) can,” you are bound to begin believing yourself to be invincible and pretty near indestructible and that everything you place your hands to do will turn to gold. Somehow, accolades can become your worst enemy, if you are not settled and grounded in self and truth.

This latest gaff of the reportedly “uninvited White House guests” slipping by the White House staff and security presents for us yet one more moment of levity from the administration’s heavy-handed, ongoing push of various legislative bills towards Obama to be signed into law, such as “Hate Crime,” “Free Choice,” “Abortion,” “Same Sex Marriage,” “Cap and Trade,” and many more to come but against the majority of the people’s will. I am still laughing every time I see the photo flashed on the TV screen showing Michaele Salahi and her husband, Tareq, posing with noted political dignitaries and journalists like they belong. And, no doubt they do. After all, they were introduced and presented to Obama for the well-circulated photo session. Just look at that wide grin on Obama’s face! (Forgive me if I forego the usual blonde jokes)

How could anybody feel so comfortable coming in off the street and getting close enough to Vice President Joe Biden, place her hand on his chest, turn to the cameras, and smile? Where was Dr. Jill? Wouldn’t you think somebody would stop short of snapping that picture and tell Michaele Salahi that is a “no no?” But, that’s the picture that really cracks me up every time I see it!! The look on Biden’s face is priceless and he appears to be enjoying every moment for all the world to see. How “stately!”

The Guest Who Has the White House Invitation – Or Not?!

Somebody is not telling the truth! And the way the Obama White House has been vacillating since he took office on January 20, 2009, I suppose it would be very difficult to determine who is and who is not being truthful about the situation. I mean — the Salahi’s even came dressed up in formal attire, and her bright red dress just screams, “I have arrived!” Who wouldn’t take notice of them and wonder who these people are and what is their role in society? Apparently, somebody in attendance must have known who they were. Apparently, somebody must have said, “They’re o.k. They’re with me! Let ’em through.” But, really! I don’t understand what all the excitement is about because, when the Obamas’ State Dinner was announced publicly, didn’t we hear Obama state he was holding it outside in tents instead of inside the White House, because he wanted the American people to be able to get in??? So, what’s the problem? Who knew??

The Indian Prime Minister White House Guest and His Wife, Who?!

Even though Obama started out his sojourn in the White House with scheduled “Happy Hours” and socials for the news media and entertainers to come mingle and wine and dine with him and other guests, this particular scheduled event was touted as being the very first White House State Dinner. Never mind that the puzzled public couldn’t figure out why the White House would have as their first state guests, dignitaries from India instead of from one of America’s more notable allies. And, now, we may never know unless we search the small print in the back of newspapers or hear news reports on some very late night, obscure news station in order to know that the Guest of Honor for the night was Manmohan Singh, Indian Prime Minister, and his wife.

For the most part, the supposedly “uninvited” Salahi’s drove that political story right off the front pages of news periodicals all across the nation. And there they stand the talk of the town! (are we laughing yet?) To be sure, the White House security and many government agencies don’t think this is the least bit funny. Nevertheless, the Obamas’ beloved staff have reportedly denied knowing whether the Salahi’s had received invites even while the Salahi’s maintain that they did. And they have engaged an attorney spokesperson to defend them even as calls go forth from TV news pundits to make an example of them and even put them in jail. WHAT??!!

If the Salahi’s Can’t Dine With the Obama’s Then Who Can?

News reports state the Salahi’s showed up for that prestigious event in a long limo and with photogs trailing close behind to record every last moment. Archival articles found in the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal give a pretty good background on the now infamous couple. Therefore, it is even more puzzling to me why White House security must not have even taken time to go on the internet and find out who any of the invited guests are. The government has access to the latest technology, think tanks, and proverbial records of “Who’s Who” everywhere in the world. Therefore, I find it difficult to believe the government is now publicly whining about a couple of billionaires coming to “crash” the White House dinner which was held OUTSIDE! How ridiculous is that?!

Tareq Salahi is almost 40 years old. He is a young man who lives in Hume, Virginia, with his family and owns a world renown winery called, “OASIS.” Hume, Virginia, is also reportedly the homeland of Fox TV’s journalist, Britt Hume. And, with neighbors like that, how bad could the Salahi’s be? Furthermore, while news pundits are on TV yelling about the Salahi’s having filed lawsuits in the Virginia courthouse, they fail to add those suits have been ongoing for years and that hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake for them. That’s nothing to sneeze at.

The Salahi’s may have actually done the Obamas’ and the nation a favor by identifying a real flaw in the Obama administration’s loosely and flippant attitude. On the one hand, the Obamas’ are complaining and sending out armed police and FBI agents and CIA agents to threaten and intimidate citizens, if they speak out and tell the truth about Barack Obama. And, on the other hand, Barack and Michelle Obama are apt to be found out on the town seated amongst a crowd of people, such as during their recent visit with family members to watch a basketball game coached by his brother-in-law, Michelle’s brother. How fearful could they be for their lives, when Obama was seated down front and up close and not encased inside of any bulletproof enclosure while he was enjoying that basketball game? Where was the security detail?

Could it be that Obama’s security detail is feeling frustrated by their attempts to keep up with their job to protect him, when he is determined to have it his way or have them hit the highway? Could the White House security detail be subjected to the same overbearing as the American public?

My mind cannot grasp how those two “guests” from that well-known Virginia family could have escaped the Obama radar along the path to the party. But I cannot overlook the fact that Tareq’s father is reportedly from Israel and is Palestinian. And, it just so happens that Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, has the same background as Tareq, in that his father is also from Israel and is Palestinian. Tareq is known to be a jet setting polo player who is well-known to the international set, especially in the Middle East. But, so, too, are Rahm and Obama known to be jet setters. And, to date, when we look back over the documented record, it is easy to surmise that, if RahmBO knows anybody on the political, fundraising, party circuit, then its a sure bet that Obama would at least have a passing acquaintance at some time or another throughout all of these years of them knowing one another.

Stay tuned. The late Paul Harvey is probably putting together “the rest of the story” right now, because all of this supposition is just the beginning.

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Doubting Thomasses: US says Sudan’s 2010 elections in doubt

Posted by African Press International on November 29, 2009

US President Barack Obama (right) meets with Sudan Special Envoy General Scott Gration in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington March 30, 2009. The State Department said it saw little movement on issues such as voter registration and border delineation between Khartoum and the semi-autonomous South. Photo/ REUTERS

US President Barack Obama (right) meets with Sudan Special Envoy General Scott Gration in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington March 30, 2009. The State Department said it saw little movement on issues such as voter registration and border delineation between Khartoum and the semi-autonomous South. Photo/ REUTERS




Sudan may be unable to hold credible elections in coming months because the ruling party and opposition cannot agree on ground rules for the polls, the US State Department said on Friday.

At the end of a trip to Sudan by President Barack Obama’s special envoy Scott Gration, the State Department said it saw little movement on issues such as voter registration and border delineation between Khartoum and the semi-autonomous South — endangering plans for national elections in April 2010 and a referendum on southern succession in 2011.

“Without immediate resolution of these disputes, we are concerned about the chances for conducting credible elections and referenda,” it said in a statement.

“Unfortunately, the parties have not yet demonstrated the political will necessary to achieve resolution on these difficult and sensitive issues.”

Gration’s trip to Sudan was his first since Washington announced in October it would keep economic sanctions on Sudan but would also offer Khartoum new incentives to end violence in Darfur and the South.

The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), former southern rebels who are now junior partners in the governing coalition under the terms of a 2005 peace deal, have accused the North of stalling on a democratic transformation and undermining plans for free elections.

The SPLM and other parties said on Wednesday they would delay a decision on whether to boycott April’s elections in part due to a week-long extension of the voter registration period.

The strains have raised fears the north-south civil war — fueled by issues including religion, ethnicity, oil and ideology between mostly Christian southern rebels and the Islamist Khartoum government — could reignite.

Gration visited voter registration centres and urged people to sign up for the polls “as it is the only way for the Sudanese people to maintain their right to participate in the national elections in April 2010,” the statement said.

He also visited Darfur, where the United Nations says more than 2 million people were driven from their homes and some 300,000 people died in a crisis that saw non-Arab militias take up arms against the central government. Khartoum puts the death toll at 10,000.

Gration’s meetings concentrated on the security situation along the Chad-Sudan border, with the State Department noting lawlessness and banditry were heightening tensions yet again.

“Addressing these ongoing security concerns is crucial for achieving a lasting peace in Darfur,” the statement said.

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The Buganda Kingdom should be appreciative of President Museveni: He restored the Kingdom – But now Buganda kingdom rejects new Uganda land law

Posted by African Press International on November 29, 2009

The Buganda kingdom has rejected a new land law passed after heated debate in Ugandas parliament. Buganda Prime Minister John Baptist Walusimbi said the kingdom would continue to campaign against the law, saying it would remain idle.

The kingdom feels the new law encroaches on the kings territory. Buganda is the largest of Ugandas four ancient kingdoms. It has long campaigned for the restoration of some of the kings traditional powers.

Tension is high between the Buganda kingdom and the government of President Yoweri Museveni. Supporters of Buganda King Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II in September rioted in the capital Kampala after police blocked the king from making a controversial visit.

The land law was passed by a majority of 112 to 55. Three ruling party MPs, all from Buganda, voted against the bill. Seven MPs walked out during the parliamentary debate, according to the New Vision newspaper.

The BBCs Joshua Mmali in the capital Kampala says the king currently has absolute jurisdiction over land within the kingdom. The new law gives tenants more rights to resist eviction by landlords.

Landlords need a court order to evict tenants and must notify them before selling their land. Some analysts welcome the new law as a way of modernising Ugandas system of land tenure, but others see it as a political move ahead of elections due in 2011.

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LIBERIA: Breaking breastfeeding myths > Nutritonists must target grandmothers to change breastfeeding practices

Posted by African Press International on November 29, 2009

Photo: Anna Jefferys/IRIN

MONROVIA, 27 November 2009 (IRIN) – My first kid died because I breastfed him after my husband had had an affair, Tina Kollie, mother of a seven-month-old in the Liberian capital, Monrovia, told IRIN. She has not breastfed any children since. [If I breastfeed], whenever my husband has an affair my child gets sick.

Rebecca Carter in the Buzzi Quarter neighbourhood said she stopped breastfeeding after a few months because she could not have sexual intercourse while breastfeeding the semen will mix with breast milk, she said, making it toxic for the child.

I didnt want my husband to go with other women so I could not breastfeed, she told IRIN. I had to be available for him.

UNICEF estimates that just 35 percent of Liberian mothers practice exclusive breastfeeding; a survey by NGO Action contre la Faim (ACF) in Monrovia estimated 44 percent in 2008.

ACF staff regularly hear widespread beliefs about breastfeeding perils: It is dangerous to breastfeed while pregnant as it could weaken the unborn infant; women should not breastfeed if a previous child has died while breastfeeding; and breastfeeding over time is dangerous as breast milk can mix with blood.

Instead Kollie, Carter and dozens of other women IRIN spoke to, feed their babies mainly rice and water.

The World Health Organization and UNICEF recommend feeding newborns only breast milk for the first six months to reduce vulnerability life-threatening diseases or malnutrition. Aid agencies in Liberia are trying to re-frame breastfeeding andinfant nutrition as a health issue.

Working with communities on breastfeeding is a long, drawn-out job, because malnutrition is often not seen as a sickness, but is associated with witchcraft-like beliefs, ACF Liberia head, Massimo Stella, told IRIN.

UNICEF nutrition specialist Kinday Samba agreed, saying aid agencies have to support the Health Ministry over the long term to bolster exclusive breastfeeding. We wont see huge changes immediately.

Men, grandmothers key

The UN Childrens Fund (UNICEF), Catholic Relief Services (CRS), ACF and others are encouraging women to exclusively breastfeed their babies up to at least six months.

Dispelling breastfeeding myths is not the key to changing womens behavior, ACFs Stella said; all staff can do is inform communities of the benefits of breastfeeding and trigger discussion, he said.

Women who have already changed their feeding practices can show that it is not dangerous, encouraging others to attempt change, ACFs care practices manager, Audrey Gibeaux, told IRIN.

ACF must also target men and grandmothers in the discussion, she said.

I always try to encourage men to come, as they have so much decision-making power in Liberian householdsand grandmothers must be present as the knowledge they pass down is considered very valuable.

Liberia has one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in West Africa and grandmothers often care for babies.

All fronts

Breastfeeding messages must be spread through every channel to be effective, UNICEF’s Samba said, citing radio, posters, community groups and clinic visits as examples.

UNICEF is developing messages to be disseminated on all of these fronts, she said.

Stella agreed: We found the prevention activities are more effective if they take place simultaneously at country level, community level and school level.

Monitoring the impact of these efforts is not easy, Stella said. Immediate evidence of the links among increased knowledge, behavior change and improved health cannot all be measured in medical or statistical terms.

A UNICEF-supported infant feeding practices survey is due out in late 2009, while ACF will carry out a study of its activities impact in February 2010.

More red peppers, more breastfeeding

One village where knowledge has translated to behavior change among some families is Gbarnga-ta, 15km outside of Gbarnga in Bong County, where according to NGO Caritas a third of under-five children are undernourished.

Caritas, supported by CRS, has been working with residents to improve agricultural productivity and infant feeding practices.

Before, women and men thought having sex while still breastfeeding was dangerous, resident Helena Sharif told IRIN.

It was partly the success of the agricultural activities that made villagers more receptive to the NGOs breastfeeding messages, giving them traction, say villagers.

Residents are now producing surplus aubergines and red hot peppers which they sell to nearby villages, giving them money to pay school fees, said Sharif.

Helenas husband Tony Sharif is relieved. We dont worry so much about [having sex while breastfeeding] now. We do it. Things are much better than they were, he said, prompting laughter and nods from fellow villagers.

While intensive efforts may work, some aid experts are skeptical that behavior change can be effective on a mass scale.

Its very difficult to change peoples behavior, said European Commission humanitarian aid department (ECHO) representative in Liberia Koen Henckaerts.

Im skeptical that you can [do so] in the short term or on a mass scale. It takes a long time, and it is related to wider, entrenched issues such as poverty.


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Things on a standstill as Norway awaits the arrival of the Black Messiah President Barack Obama on the 10th of december

Posted by African Press International on November 28, 2009

He will be in Norway to be paid for his intentions to bring peace to the world. That is impossible to be realised because Obama is now doubling his efforts in the war we all witness in Afghanistan.

Norway is in high gear to foot the bill when the messiah comes visiting the country on the 10th of december to get what he really does not deserve as yet, the Nobel Peace Prize. We think he was simply given the award in order to lure him to visit Norway. By visiting the tiny country in the north, the world media will be there and that is what Norway likes to see so that they are not forgotten by the International community. The Norwegian politicians love attention and will do everything possible to get it, even giving grants to countries around the world in their efforts to be recognised on the world stage. One wonders what Norway would do if they did not have oil to sell and using the proceeds to lure the world to recognise its existence.

In Oslo at the moment, people are being searched in order to eliminate any threat to the messiah – Obama. People who run businesses in central business district of Oslo , the city centre, will be screened and vetted before they are alllowed to open their businesses on the 10th, and the 11th of december – the two days the messiah is expected to technically own the streets of Oslo.

With his wife Michelle Obama, without their two children, the messiah will take over Oslo city. And for what? They say because he wants to bring peace to the world. What a mistake! Do you give a man or a woman a gift because he or she plans to bring peace?

Let us take an example of a woman who wants to get a baby. It is like giving an award to a woman who says I want to get pregnant next year. First, one must wait and see the woman pregnant and wait and see the baby then award the bearer.

The Nobel Peace Prize has lost value after this latest function where one is awarded the prize – using the award to encourage for results that may never come. The intention of the Prize by Mr Nobel was to award achievement not intention to achieve.

By Chief Editor Korir

African Press International.

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Posted by African Press International on November 28, 2009

Nigerian Vice President Goodluck Jonathan said today he had spoken to President Umaru YarAdua, who is receiving medical treatment in Saudi Arabia, and that the president was in good health.

We spoke yesterday and even this morning … He asked me to convey his personal greetings to all Nigerians, Mr Jonathan said during celebrations to mark a Muslim holiday.

Let me assure Nigerians that the president is okay. We spoke before he left this country and we have been speaking … I assure you that Mr President is healthy, he said.

President YarAdua is being treated in the Saudi Red Sea port of Jeddah for acute pericarditis an inflammation of the membrane surrounding the heart that can restrict normal beating but is responding well to treatment, his spokesman said on Thursday.

Pericarditis usually lasts one to three weeks, but is treatable with drugs or, in extreme cases, surgery.

About 20 percent of pericarditis patients have a recurrence within months, according to the American Heart Association.

Mr Jonathan is the acting President.

According to Nigerias constitution, the Presidents duties are carried out by the Vice President once the Head of State writes a declaration to the heads of the Senate and House of Representatives that he is going on leave or otherwise unable to carry out his official functions. (Reuters)

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AFRICA: Home-based care as effective as clinical care – Home visits help patients save on costly transport to clinics

Posted by African Press International on November 28, 2009

Photo: IRIN

NAIROBI, – A new Ugandan study adds to a growing body of evidence that providing home-based antiretroviral (ARV) care in low-income settings can be as effective as facility-based interventions.

The study, run by The AIDS Support Organisation (TASO), a national NGO, recorded the progress of 859 patients receiving home-based care in the district of Jinja in southeastern Uganda, and 594 receiving care at clinics in the town of Jinja, from Feb 2005 till Jan 2009.

“In terms of patient survival, patient retention and virological failure [an increase in viral load after taking ARVs], the patients in both arms of the study had very similar results,” lead author Dr Shabbar Jaffar, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine’s department of epidemiology and population health, told IRIN/PlusNews.

In home-based care, 16 percent of patients had virological failure, compared with 17 percent in facility care; 11 percent of patients in both arms of the study died during the course of the research; one percent of patients receiving home care were lost to follow-up, and two percent of those receiving clinical care.

“We also found that for patients, the cost of home-based care was significantly lower because they did not have to make as many clinic visits. Costs incurred by the healthcare service were also slightly less for home-based care, but not by much,” Jaffar said. Overall, the median cost of a clinic visit was US$230, about 13 percent of the reported monthly cash income for men, and 20 percent for women.


Trained field officers on motorcycles visited patients in the home-care group every month to deliver drugs and provide adherence support; patients in the facility-based group obtained drugs from the clinic each month and had routine reviews with a medical officer and counsellor every three months.

“The main significance of this study is that it shows that programmes can successfully roll out care, using non-clinical workers,” Jaffar said. “The need to rely on clinical staff is not as great as previously thought.”

According to the UN World Health Organization, Uganda has only one doctor for every 22,000 patients, and an overall health worker deficit of up to 80 percent. Other African countries are not much better off: Tanzania has just 2.3 doctors per 100,000 people, while Malawi has 1.1 doctors for a similar population.

“Systems like South Africa’s, where HIV service delivery is so highly medicalized, are not necessary, and can in fact inhibit wider access to these vital services,” Jaffar noted.

Several southern African countries – Malawi, Mozambique, Lesotho – have allowed nurses to initiate and manage ARVs, but South Africa, where the doctor-patient ratio is better than many African countries – 69.2 doctors for every 100,000 people – still largely relies on doctors to manage HIV treatment.

Experts estimate that if this country is to reach its target of providing ARV coverage to 80 percent of people in urgent need of the drugs,it would have to more than double the number of people currently starting treatment annually.

Uganda’s home-based care research programme also allowed health workers to provide HIV counselling and testing to other family members, which would not have been possible in the clinical setting, where a patient is usually seen alone. Jaffar said the additional services were very well received.

“Another thing we thought we might find was stigma; we had been warned that we would find that homes that were visited by these workers would be stigmatized by the community, but this is not what happened at all,” he said. “In the Ugandan case, TASO had a good relationship with the community prior to our arrival; in a different setting, stigma could be an issue.”

A need for training

The field officers used in the study had degree qualifications or college diplomas, and received four weeks of intensive training at the start of the study, with subsequent yearly refresher courses in the principles of ARV therapy and adherence support.

A recent Ugandan study found that many clinical officers, nurses and midwives were prescribing ARVs without sufficient training.

“Rolling out home-based care would mean providing staff with training and support mechanisms; effectively you are creating a new cadre of health worker, one that is easy to get hold of, easy to train and easy to retain,” Jaffar said.

The researchers are exploring the possibility of expanding the same model of home-based care to other chronic health conditions such as tuberculosis and cardiovascular disease.


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GLOBAL: Poor scorecards on AIDS responses for women: HIV is the leading cause of death in women of reproductive age

Posted by African Press International on November 28, 2009

Photo: UNAIDS/P.Virot

JOHANNESBURG, – That women and girls are particularly vulnerable to HIV and AIDS is well established, but a new report reveals how little we know about what countries are doing, or not doing, to address their vulnerability.

The Scorecard on Women, released on 23 November by non-profit organization AIDS Accountability International (AAI), assessed responses to the specific needs of women in the context of the AIDS epidemic, and the extent to which governments are meeting their commitment to report on those responses.

In 2001, UN member states unanimously adopted the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS, which included specific targets for prioritizing women in AIDS responses. However, the Scorecard finds that three-quarters of countries are failing to report basic information on HIV services for women and girls.

Globally, HIV is the leading cause of death in women of reproductive age. The 2009 AIDS Epidemic Update, released by UNAIDS this week, noted that women accounted for approximately 60 percent of new HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa – the region worst-hit by the pandemic – with girls and young women at particularly high risk.

In the nine southern African countries most affected by HIV, prevalence among young women aged 1524 years was about three times higher than among men of the same age.

“Women’s vulnerability to HIV in sub-Saharan Africa stems not only from their greater physiological susceptibility to heterosexual transmission, but also to the severe social, legal and economic disadvantages they often confront,” the UNAIDS report pointed out.

The Scorecard on Women rates countries on their reporting of six key elements in an AIDS response tuned to the needs of women, including the collection of HIV data specific to women; progress in ensuring that women have equal access to HIV services; and the impact of national responses on reducing infections among women and facilitating their access to treatment.

An overall score reflects the extent of data provided on each element: countries reporting on all six are characterized as “responsive”; those reporting on only some are described as “aware”; those failing to acknowledge women’s particular vulnerabilities to HIV infection are “unfocused”.

Countries with the highest HIV burdens were doing the best job of reporting data detailing their female-centred AIDS efforts, with 67 percent earning the “responsive” rating.

However, the authors noted that a high score for reporting did not necessarily reflect good performance in delivering HIV services for women. Relatively good reporting by South Africa, for example, contrasted with a poor record in improving the maternal mortality of HIV-positive women, or curbing high rates of violence against women.

There was also a disturbing lack of data on the situation of young girls, and what countries were doing to address their particular vulnerabilities. “Because of the almost total lack of data … this is a scorecard on women, and not on women and girls,” they commented.

Dean Peacock, co-director of Sonke Gender Justice, a South African-based NGO that was among several organizations providing input to the Scorecard, welcomed the effort to hold countries more accountable in implementing their HIV/AIDS commitments to women.

“There’s been widespread recognition that gender inequality is a contributor to HIV and AIDS, and lots of rhetorical commitments made, but very uneven follow-through,” Peacock told IRIN/PlusNews.

He said the Scorecard would provide advocacy groups with useful leverage when pushing countries to reach the UN Millennium Development Goals and other internationally agreed AIDS targets.

Elizabeth Mataka, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on AIDS in Africa, commented: “Women matter, and it is time all governments acted on their commitments to protect women and girls from HIV/AIDS.”


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AFGHANISTAN: “The most dangerous place to be born”

Posted by African Press International on November 28, 2009

Photo: Noorullah Stanikzai/IRIN
Shah Bibi says at nights her children cry from cold

KABUL, – The onset of winter means freezing nights, cold-related diseases and more problems for the children at an informal settlement of internally displaced people (IDPs) in the western outskirts of Kabul city.

They lack access to adequate food, shelter, healthcare, safe drinking water and sanitation, education, and are vulnerable to forced labour, sexual exploitation and many other problems, Paola Retaggi, the coordinator of a Child Rights Consortium (CRC) led by Switzerlands Terre des Hommes in Kabul, told IRIN.

Many IDP children either beg or work on the streets while some fall prey to the insurgents who have been accused by the UN of using children for military purposes.

“Afghanistan today is without a doubt the most dangerous place to be born,” Daniel Toole, regional director of the UN Childrens Fund (UNICEF) for South Asia, was quoted in the media as saying on 19 November.

About a quarter of Afghan children die before their fifth birthday (257 per 1,000) mostly from preventable diseases such as pneumonia and diarrhoea, according to UNICEF. The country also has some of the worst child malnourishment, stunting, underweight and vitamin deficiency figures in the world.

Half the countrys estimated 25 million population is below 15 but millions of Afghan children are deprived of their basic rights and are vulnerable to different forms of violence, aid agencies say.

Internally displaced children suffer the most among all other children, said Retaggi of the CRC.

More than 262,000 people are displaced in different parts of Afghanistan, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). Conflict, natural disasters, poverty and communal tensions are among the major factors.

Little help

Between 2002 and 2005 more than one million people were internally displaced in Afghanistan, according to aid agencies. Most IDPs were accommodated in camps in Kandahar, Helmand and Herat provinces where UN agencies delivered essential aid.

Photo: Noorullah Stanikzai/IRIN
Aid agencies say IDP children lack access to adequate food, healthcare, education and protection

The UN-backed assistance programme ended in March 2006 and the IDPs were encouraged to return home in a bid to prevent a protracted emergency.

Many IDPs resettled in their original areas mostly in the northern provinces but tens of thousands have remained in camps, saying it is still unsafe for them to move back.

The ongoing conflict and recurrent natural disasters have added to the number of displaced families in the country over the past few years.

However, the UN and government have opposed the establishment of new IDP camps, particularly for conflict-affected families, and little sustainable aid has been provided to them.

Refugees are assisted and protected by UNHCR but no agency has a clear mandate to assist IDPs, said CRCs Retaggi, adding that IDP children were particularly deprived of protection and assistance.

What we fail to do [for] these children now will with no doubt reflect on the future of the entire country in a couple of years, Hansjorg Kretschmer, head of the European Commission Delegation to Afghanistan, told a press conference on 22 November in Kabul.


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In Brief: Markets critical to food security in Sahel

Posted by African Press International on November 28, 2009

Photo: Nicholas Reader/IRIN
A woman pounds millet in a Niger village (file photo)

DAKAR, 27 November 2009 (IRIN) – Some communities in the Sahel region could face extreme food insecurity after erratic rains this year deeply cut cereal production particularly of the staple millet, food security experts say.

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network, FEWSNET, in a 25 November alert says 2009 millet production in Burkina Faso, central Chad, northeastern Mali, Niger and northern Nigeria is likely to be 30 percent below average.

Total production for the region should be near average given surpluses in some areas, but how cereals flow through grain markets will be critical. Experts say rain is just one of many factors affecting whether Sahelian families find enough to eat; local markets play a pivotal role.

If food flows relatively freely from surplus to deficit areas, availability in affected areas will be sufficient to meet needs, FEWSNET says. Access to food markets, however, will be constrained by high prices and reduced incomes.

If governments restrict cereal flows, poor farmers in Niger, Chad and northeastern Mali could face reduced availability, high prices and locally extreme food insecurity, the alert says. Every effort should be made to encourage the free movement of cereals across borders.


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INDONESIA: Focus on earthquake preparedness, not prediction

Posted by African Press International on November 28, 2009

Photo: Jefri Aries/IRIN
The remains of a mosque following the 30 September earthquake in West Sumatra (file photo)


JAKARTA, – Predicting earthquakes is an inexact science which is why disaster preparedness remains key to saving lives, scientists say.

Experts have forecast that a long undersea faultline along Indonesia’s Sumatra Island is due to produce a powerful and devastating earthquake in the next few decades.

Sections of the fault, called the Sunda megathrust, have ruptured a number of times over the past decade, causing several earthquakes in the region.

A major earthquake could trigger a tsunami that could result in casualties and damage equal to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, writes Kerry Sieh, a scientist at the Earth Observatory of Singapore, in an article made available to IRIN.

To those living in harm’s way [on] the coasts of western Sumatra, it should be useful to know that the next great earthquake and tsunami are likely to occur within the next few decades, well within the lifetimes of children and young adults living there now, the article states.

A magnitude 7.9 earthquake that devastated West Sumatra province and killed more than 1,100 people on 30 September originated near that faultline, according to experts.

We don’t know when such a great earthquake will happen. It could be tomorrow, next year or the next five years, said Fauzi, head of the Earthquake Center at the Meteorology and Geophysics Agency in Jakarta, who like many Indonesians only uses one name.

It will be much more beneficial if we focus on preparedness. Earthquakes don’t kill, but collapsed buildings do, he told IRIN.

Fauzi said between 1991 and 2009, Indonesia was hit by 43 major earthquakes, 15 of which generated tsunamis. The 30 September quake in West Sumatra resulted in a tsunami, though it was very small, he said.

Predicting earthquakes is also a sensitive issue in Indonesia and false rumours could create panic, Fauzi warned. When scientists say an earthquake with a magnitude of 8.8 is likely to occur based on scientific findings, people refuse to go to school or work and SMS relatives, he said. The public talks about tomorrow, while scientists talk about years.


Wahyu Triyoso, a geologist with the Bandung Institute of Technology, said the magnitude of an earthquake correlates with the size of the fault.

If we could measure the amount of slip precisely, probably we could make rough estimates and we can make necessary preparations, he told IRIN. Forecasting means little if we don’t know the fault size, the dimension, length and width.

Triyoso said even though knowledge of a potential earthquake was useful for scientists, it would be hard to communicate to the general public.

Photo: Jefri Aries/IRIN
Earthquake preparedness is key, say experts (file photo)

If we say a certain place is dangerous and the public panic, it could become a social disaster, he said. So at the moment, preparedness is the best course of action, he said.

In West Sumatra, an NGO called the Tsunami Alert Community (Kogami) has been working to instil a culture of preparedness among the population since 2005.

Kogami has been providing training on disaster preparedness in schools and communities in the provincial capital Padang, teaching them what to do should an earthquake and a tsunami hit.

The group has mapped out evacuation routes, with high-risk areas zoned red, while low-risk areas are zoned yellow.

It is introducing similar programmes in other districts in cooperation with other NGOs.

Many people [live] in fear because they have received little information about earthquakes and what to do when a disaster happens, said Patra Rina Dewi, Kogami’s executive director.

We know we live in an earthquake zone and our job is to equip people with necessary knowledge, she said.


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