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Archive for October 8th, 2010

Kenya’s Kamukunji MP Simon Mbugua to loose his parliamentary seat, says a court official in Nairobi

Posted by African Press International on October 8, 2010

A Nairobi Judge will not step down – will continue to preside over the case according to the Daily Nation

A sitting MP Simon Mbugua will soon have his dreams shattered if one has to go by what a court official has confirmed to API

The judge delivered a ruling on Friday that he will not step down as demanded by the legislator. Justice Fred Ochieng has ordered that the case be heard on a daily basis until it is completed

MP Simon Mbugua be heard daily until it is completed.

In a stern warning, the Judge has ruled that he will not entertain applications that may derail the case. He wants a speedy end to the case.

Quoted by the Nation the Judge said; I see no reason to step down because I have no personal interest with either of the parties,

Justice Ochieng told the court that disqualifying himself would continue to serve the MPs interest.

He made the comments after being accused by the sitting MP Simon Mbugua that he was biased.

The Judge was angered by the accusation by the MP and he remarked; If anyone thinks I have acted in a manner that was inconsistent they will have their opportunity to demonstrate it during the vetting exercise.

All Judicial officers in Kenya are due to undergo a vetting process as stipulated under the new Constitution.

Mr Mbugua wanted the petition stopped. He told the court that all judges and magistrates no longer had the jurisdiction to hear cases before they are vetted as stipulated in the new constitution.

The case will be heard daily from October 25.

Contacted, a judicial officer in the court who we cannot name because he is not allowed to speak to the media has told API that the sitting MP should be prepared for a surprise because his seat will be declared vacant when the hearing is completed. Asked what he based such a statement, he told API that the court had received surprising evidence which in itself alone will overturn the results.

By Chief editor Korir

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Feature story: Former policeman dismissed 18 years ago wants his dues

Posted by African Press International on October 8, 2010

By Dickens Wasonga – Kisumu, Kenya

He punched his way into the Kenya police, gained fame as a disciplined boxer andwas once a member of the renowned chafua chafua, a police boxing team thatproduced famous international boxers.Edward Oketch Odhiambo, once known in boxing circles as nyathi kwach (theleopards son) is a perfect example of how one can fall from grace to grass.
The former police officer whose punches endeared him to senior policemen, hencelanding him a job as a law enforcement officer is now forced to spend the nightsin the cold as a watchman in a bid to eke a living.From a well-paying job, respect from the society which regarded him with awe asafande, nyathi kwach is now a downtrodden member of the society, barelynoticed by anyone.He now has to survive with an Ksh 800 monthly salary which he has to share withhis family.Though he has accepted his fate, Odhiambo is yet to come to terms with themanner in which he was hounded out of the force.
He has no letter terminating his service and has never accessed his savings andcredit cooperative society dues nineteen years since a police signal from histhen Provincial Police Officer ordered him to go and politick with the thendoyen of opposition politics, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga at home.A resident of Nyandiwa sublocation in Siaya Township location, Siaya county,Odhiambo says he was recruited into the police force as a boxer in 1980 after heproved to be a good boxer. He says that his sterling performance while playing for Nairobi Area AmateurBoxing club saw him secure a chance at the Kiganjo Police training College wherehe passed out as a police officer force number 39257. In my boxing career, I was a lightweight boxer where I excelled and waspromoted to the intermediate level before being recruited into the police forceaged twenty years, says Odhiambo.He says that from Kiganjo he was posted to the Nairobi Railways police stationbefore being transferred to the port police station, Kilindini and later toTaita Taveta police station where he met his sacking. Odhiambo has, however, not come to terms with the manner in which he lost hisjob in February 1992. He could not hide his emotions when narrating how the then Coast ProvincialPolice Officer, whom he can only recall as Mr. Cheserem sent him packing fromthe force after twelve years in service. Cheserem merely sacked me through police signals, telling me in Swahili, nendaupige siasa na Jaramogi (go and politick with Jaramogi), and immediately mysalary was stopped to date, the distressed man added. By then, Kenya was ripe for the first ever multiparty elections after threedecades of single party rule, and Jaramogi, the father to Prime Minister RailaOdinga posed a great challenge to the then President Daniel Arap Moi.

Even after diligently serving the country as a police officer and a boxer, hewonders why his services and achievements have never been acknowledged by thegovernment. The soft-spoken man now lives a very miserable life and one cannot imagine thathe once worked as a police officer. He looks weak and with one of his eyes now unwell, one cannot know that he was apolice officer until he shows the photographs he took in the police uniform. He wears torn shoes and tattered clothes and when he narrates his sad story, onemay assume that he has a hidden agenda. He can also recall his police force number that is clearly visible on one of thephotographs he took while in official uniform. On the photographs, he looks strong both in his boxing gear and the policeuniform contrary to his current appearance. Tears slowly gushed down his cheeks as he recalled how he spearheaded his teamto victory only to be dismissed later. Actually you can see how the world can sometimes be unfair, after working hardand making great achievements, your efforts can only be recognized by a verbalsacking, he says with much sorrow. Till now he admits that he has never received a dismissal letter from the force. He says that while in the police force, he joined the Kenya Police Sacco butadded that his attempts to acquire his benefits hit a snag. He says his attempts were frustrated by the Sacco officials who were also seniorofficers. He adds that at one point he resorted to using another police officer, Mr.Anthony Bwong Okoth, formerly of the Special branch (now the National SecurityIntelligence Service) section of the police force who was to assist him get thedues.However, Okoth passed on before he could compel the officials to refundOdhiambos shares.
Odhiambo also recalls some of his former allies in the force with whom he wasrecruited from boxing. Most of them are now senior in the police force and live very good lives, hesays. Among those he cited as his fellow staff members then are; Patrick Mont Waweru,Morgan Oduori, Stephen Okumu Vedo, the late Poison John Kamau, the late DavidHarris Ouma, Robert Wangila Napunyi, Ali Athumani Ojuku and Francis Odongo ofYala police post in Gem District. He says he got married to Roseline Akoth Oketch in 1986 and they have beenblessed with seven children and two grand children. He adds that due to lack of school fee his first-born daughter Millicent AkinyiOketch dropped out of school and got married to a peasant in a bid to help thefamily educate her siblings. He, however, says that his daughter has since divorced her husband and he nowhas to take care of the large family. He says that he practices subsistence farming to supplement the monthly salaryhe obtains from the services he provides at a local shop in Siaya town. He works as a night watchman. Some of my friends have blamed me for not making a follow-up on my dues but thefact will always remain that the kind of freedom we enjoy now was never therebefore, he adds. He says that due to the sensitivity of the matter during the KANU regime, he hadto hold his horses but later due to financial constraints, he could not make afollow-up of the funds. Indeed I had lost hope and turned to farming and working as a watchman to earnmy daily bread and feed my family, he says.He also admits that making a follow-up of his shares at the Society seemedstressful, adding that his current earnings cannot sustain his family as well asuse some to make a follow-up of his dues. He has decided to soldier on with his poverty. As you can see, I dont even have money to buy myself good pair of shoes, howcan I travel to Nairobi to make a follow-up of my funds? he says whiledisplaying his torn pair of shoes. He adds that with the assistance of well wishers and the human rightscommission, he can begin pursuing for his dues to improve the living standardsof his family as well as educate his children.

Ends

Edward Oketch Odhiambo’s photos when he was still a police officer and with hisboxing team mates. Also photos showing him today.

Office days for my people and country

Dressed and ready for action for my people and country

In combat gear – Police days serving my people and country proudly

Boxing days while in the Police reprsenting the police and my country

Making a living as a security guard after dismissal from the Police – in suffering

Sad days faces me daily! Where is my dues after dismissal without a dismissal letter?

——————-

Chief editor’s comment:

This is a very sad and touchy story. The government should step in and give the man his pride back so that he regains respect in his community. It is a well-known fact that any person dismissed must get a dismissal letter. In the case above, the former policeman has stated he never got one and we have no reason to doubt that because we know those days and the way things were done at times. Now that the new constitution citing the Bill of Rights, the man should be enabled to get his rights fulfilled. The government should be proud of those who served the country deligently, if that is the case with this former officer.

We have despatched this article BY EMAIL to the Kenya Commissioner of Police HOPING HE CAN ASSIST.

Chief editor Korir

—– Original Message —– 

Sent: Friday, October 08, 2010 12:12 PM
Subject: A sad former policeman
The Kenya Commissioner of Police
Dear sir,
We hope you can assist til man. Integrity is important ,as you know, for all officers. With the new mood in teh country sir, we are hopefull you may see to it that this man gets back his respect in his community.

Feature story: Former policeman dismissed 18 years ago wants hisdues

Greetings from me,
Sammy, African Press International


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Kenya: WHY DRAG TRAFFIC POLICE OFFICERS INTO OUR TV SETS? CAN’T BETTER METHODS BE APPLIED?

Posted by African Press International on October 8, 2010

By Dickens Wasonga - Kisumu, Kenya

Agreed. It could be true that corruption is rife within the ranks of thepolice. It might also be correct to say that the police in Kenya still leadsthe pack on matters relating to corruption.
However, as we all know, it takes two to tungo.If our officers are so corrupt,then a section of our society is corrupt too because corruption is a two waytraffic where one party must be willing to offer a bribe and the other alsowilling to receive it.

In both cases the two parties are deemed to be guilty of the vice and shouldtherefore be treated as such. But what do we see happening in realitywhenever such cases present?
The most common scenario is one where the authorities choose to punish only oneparty involved and let the other one to go scot-free. To me, this is selectiveapplication of the law which does not seem to target the long-term objective ofthe government’s resolve to fight and reduce incidences of the vice in ourmidst.
Kenyans who like to catch the latest in the news on their TV sets have of latebeen treated to a really humiliating episodes where some of the officersattached to the traffic department are seen on video footage allegedly takingbribes from the matatu operators along our roads. Depending on how one looks atit, I believe it is so embarrassing to our officers who are seen on thosefootage shamelessly receiving bribes.
On the other hand, it is even more shameful and humiliating experience to thefamilies,friends and relatives of these officers who have to watch their kinsmensubjected to such unfair media trials.
Although such incidences have served to bring out the rot within the force, tosome extent, it has also largely brought to the fore the insensitive nature withwhich we handle and treat suspects especially where those involved are people oflittle means.
One wonders just what exactly does the Kenya Anti corruption Commissiontargets to achieve by this kind of approach to the war against graft. Could itbe that the commission is seeking to get cheap publicity and therefore decidesto use some of the local TV stations to show the public that it is true theyare fighting the vice?
Truth be told , most of us who watched the latest of such clips could not helpbut sympathise with that poor female officer in the footage whose attempts torun away from the rolling cameras became futile.The fear of being seen on TV byall and sundry later that evening was so overwhelming to her that she chose torun but had nowhere to run to.

Surely ,there must be a more decent way in which officers from KACC can goabout this business of clumping down on the bad apples within the force andstill spare the would be victims all this embarrassment which currently appearsto be the norm.
Do not get me wrong. I am not an advocate of graft. In fact in the past Ihave penned several articles which were published in various news outlets bothlocally and internationally which served to expose graft .
I believe in fairness and feel the same should be extended to our brothers andsisters enlisted in the force. Many a times, they work under very difficultenvironments although that does not mean they must be corrupt. But we all needto consider that these are our daughters and sons. Some of them are our fathersand mothers while others are our spouses. In terms of how suspects aretreated, dignity should at all times be observed and suspects whether senior orjunior, poor or rich be treated equally.
Sometime this year, the police arrested a senior politician from Nyanza forallegedly assaulting a junior policeman at a road block somewhere in Rachuonyo. However the arrest was made so secret that even journalists who got wind of thejuicy story could not be allowed anywhere near the office of the area provincialCID boss where the MP was recording his statement. Even when it was time toarraign him in court, the whole affair was a well-kept secret.
This was not the first or the last time a case involving a suspect viewed assenior and powerful was being treated differently.The arrest would have been afairly different story if a poor little Kenyan was the culprit.
Police officers, just like any other Kenyan deserve to be treated with dignityand respect even when found to be corrupt. Choosing to humiliate them like wehave seen in the recent past will not help reduce the vice but is likely tobring resentment and defiance.
In any case , most of the KACC officers were at one point also in the force andshould treat their colleagues who remained behind with dignity whenapprehending them. My small mind also tells me that all suspects are consideredinnocent until proved otherwise before a competent court of law.
Just because one has been arrested does not mean he or she is guilty of theoffences they are facing. To refresh your memory, a TV footage showing apoliceman chasing and shooting youths who were demonstrating in the streets ofKisumu following the disputed 2007 elections results was once described as thework of fiction by the authorities.
What does that tells you? It means even those ones we are shown of the ‘bribetaking traffic police officers’ too can as well be work of fiction ,whoknows ? That does not mean they are and that is why it is up to the prosecutionside to prove in court that indeed those fellows are guilty.
My question to officers of KACC still remains this – can you guys get a betterway to treat those you arrest while either allegedly soliciting or receivingbribes? Can you do so without having to drag the suspects through the glare ofcameras?
Not long ago a court directed the police to stop conducting investigations infull glare of the media. This was after one Onyancha from Kisii region ofNyanza took the police in a whirlwind visits to crime scenes where heallegedly murdered scores of people, all this time with the press in hotpursuit.
If it was wrong to try Onyancha , himself a suspect who had confessed to havingcommitted the bizarre killings through the media, what makes it right to do thesame thing with these police officers?
The other concern is ,what really become of the drivers and touts who arealways only too willing to part with ”kitu kidogo”? Are they also arrestedalongside the police officers because we also see them dish out bribes to theofficers in the footage? This is still a mystery to many of us who have beencurious to know where and how all this war on graft eventually ends.
I may be wrong here and I stand to be corrected but I am yet to see any of the matatu operators arraign in court for being part of the game. Is this notselective application of the law where only one party is viewed as corrupt whilethe other one who is equally guilty is let to go unpunished? Is this approachyielding good results?
In fact, if you ask any officer attached to the traffic department aboutwhat really happens on our roads they are likely to tell you that even beforethey ask for the bribes,the operators are always only too willing to part withit.
Any honest Kenyan who uses public transport will tell you that in most suchcases even before they are signalled to stop, the touts will always beseen struggling to ask for fifty shillings notes either from his driver or worsestill, from the passengers with the intention to hand it over to the police.
Many also believe that in several instances where the police issue matatuoperators who violate traffic rules with the notice to attend court, theoperators are never keen to go that path. Instead they often opt for the easierway of buying their way and prefers to settle such matters out of court.
To fight corruption effectively, all of us must play our part and be willing tochange our attitude and approach on how we would want the issue dealt with because it is true corruption eats the economic fabric of any nation and must befought at all cost.
Have you ever asked yourself why must us ,Kenyans force ourselves into analready overloaded vehicle for example? Why do we insist in boarding or gettingout of a matatu in areas which are not designated for such things or betterstill, why would you offer a bribe to a police officer even when you know youhave complied with all the regulations. It all boils down to our attitude. Wehave reached a level where many people think nothing is possible without takinga short cut.
Believe it or not , if no one is willing to offer a bribe chances are acts ofcorruption would tremendously reduce not only on our roads but also in manyaspects of our lives as a nation and we must start by teaching our people toknow that corruption does not pay and must not be away of life even as we seekto prosecute graft cases.
Why would we for example be only focusing all our attention and energy onto thepolice while so many graft related cases are awash in many government andprivate institutions throughout the country? A number of such cases are usuallyhighlighted in the media’, complete with facts but rarely do we see themfollowed up and culprits nabbed.
If corruption is such a bad thing, as we all agree, then we must begin to fightthe vice at all levels so that it is not reduced to a war against the small fishwho can not mobilise resources to escape the long arms of the law througheither political and economic influence.
We would like to see many of our powerful members of parliament, PermanentSecretaries, heads of parastatal who are corrupt investigated and prosecuted. That way, justice will be delivered to all and many Kenyans will henceforthbe faithful and more willing to join the in the war against graft.
ENDS.

—————————–

Chief editor’s comment:

I am of the opinion that corrupt officials should be exposed if they take bribes and when they get embarrassed publicly on the TV screens, their colleaguesmay think twice before doing the same. The traffic police have always taken bribes from matatu drivers and it is time they are stopped in any way possible. Catching them red-handed with money taken from people and having them filmed while running away from anti-corruption officials as if they are robbers as shown on TV is remarkable.

I applaud the New Anti-corruption boss on the action taken by his officers in apprehending corrupt officials. We saw the corrupt police arrested. We saw a Nairobi City councillor arrested and we believe many more such public episodes will come. May be soon, a big fish with ministerial position will be arrested in the same way, filmed so that top men and women wielding power understand that the days of open corruption should be no more normal practice for them.

However, the writer of the above story is entitled to his opinion and we do not censure.

Chief editor Korir

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Corruption has contributed to drug stock-outs as drugs are diverted to the black market

Posted by African Press International on October 8, 2010

ZIMBABWE: HIV patients forced to pay up or go without

 


Photo:UNAIDS

HARARE, 5 October 2010 (PlusNews) – Rampant corruption in the provision of life-prolonging antiretroviral (ARV) drugs and other HIV services is threatening Zimbabwe’s national AIDS response according to a recently released report by a local human rights group.

Commissioned by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) in March 2010, thereport– Corruption Burns Universal Access to Treatment – found that 73 percent of HIV-positive respondents had been asked to pay bribes by health workers. Most of those unwilling or unable to pay were turned away or given inadequate services.

Nurses at government hospitals and clinics were identified as the chief culprits, but support staff, including nurse aides and administrative personnel, were also implicated; doctors were rarely involved.

The findings were based on interviews with 1,024 people living with HIV in the provinces of Masvingo, Harare, Bulawayo and Manicaland. Most of the respondents lived in urban areas and 89 percent had a family income of less than US$100 a month.

Of the 747 respondents who had been asked for bribes, 57 percent were trying to access drugs, mainly ARVs; 24 percent needed diagnostic services; and 19 percent were asked for money to be enrolled in HIV programmes. The authors noted that the long waiting lists for enrolment at many hospitals drove desperate patients to pay bribes as high as $100.

HIV patients were often asked to pay for services that were supposed to be free; sometimes they were told that certain drugs were unavailable or that diagnostic equipment was broken until they paid a bribe, after which the equipment was declared functional and the service was given.

About a third of the respondents who were asked for bribes refused to pay them, mainly because of poverty; as a consequence, 63 percent were denied the service and had to pay for drugs or diagnostic tests in the private sector, or on the black market, or go without.

“The research findings reinforced the view that corruption in healthcare discourages treatment, testing, and other health-seeking behaviour,” the researchers concluded.

“In these circumstances, the general attitude has been observed to shift towards resentment and resignation by [people living with HIV], who then give up on accessing essential medicines and diagnostic services.”

Callfor action

Martha Tholanah, an HIV/AIDS activist and member of the Zimbabwe Network of Positive Women, said the report shed light on a problem that HIV-positive Zimbabweans had been experiencing for “quite some time”.

She told IRIN/PlusNews that there was a need for a system that would electronically record when patients collected their ARV medication. “This will weed out corrupt elements among health workers, and among people living with HIV.”

''If treatment is made conditional on corrupt practices, it could well be that the lives of those who cannot afford to pay bribes will be endangered''

The programme manager of the HIV/AIDS, Human Rights and Law Project at ZLHR, Tinashe Mundawarara, said: “The danger of these practices is that they create disincentives to invest in public health.” He added that health workers were engaging in corrupt activities partly to subsidise their low salaries, but this should not be an excuse for government not to take action.

The report called for the government, civil society and Zimbabwe’s Anti-Corruption Commission to take urgent measures to curb corruption in the health sector.

“If treatment is made conditional on corrupt practices, it could well be that the lives of those who cannot afford to pay bribes will be endangered,” the authors noted, adding that the issue was even more pressing in Zimbabwe which has an estimated adult HIV prevalence of 14 percent.

Health minister Dr Henry Madzorera told IRIN/PlusNews he could not comment until his ministry’s own investigations had confirmed any reports of corruption. “As a matter of policy our ministry will look into this matter thoroughly, and we urge members of the public to assist us by reporting to the police any corruption.”

st/ks/he source.irinnews

 

 

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Homophobia is widespread in Kenya, so most gay men live in the shadows

Posted by African Press International on October 8, 2010

KENYA: Religious outrage over minister’s support of gay rights

 


Photo:Obinna Anyadike/IRIN

NAIROBI, 6 October 2010 (PlusNews) – A Kenyan cabinet minister who called for greater acceptance of gays by society has been accused of promoting ‘un-African’ acts and asked to resign.

Special Programmes Minister Esther Murugi recommended more tolerance towards men who have sex with men (MSM) at a national symposium on “most-at-risk populations” in the coastal city of Mombasa last week.

Several Christian and Muslim religious leaders, including the Federation of Evangelical and Indigenous Christian Churches of Kenya, have called for Murugi’s resignation and threatened street protests if she is not fired immediately.

“She cannot say people who are engaging in crime and spoiling our children have rights,” said Sheikh Mohamed Dor, a Member of Parliament and religious preacher. “We are waiting for when she will be fired from her post.”

Religious leaders in Kenya have often used their considerable influence to sway public opinion. While religious groups have contributed significantly to the care of people living with HIV, their frequent opposition to providing HIV services to MSM, and the promotion of condom use, has led to clashes with national HIV policy.

Dr Nicholas Muraguri, head of the country’s National AIDS and Sexually transmitted infections Control Programme (NASCOP), defended Murugi’s stance. “This is one group that accounts for the spread of HIV in the country in a big way because they have been largely ignored,” he told IRIN/PlusNews. “Accepting that they exist and providing services such as HIV prevention and care to them openly is the only option.”

MSM, sex workers and injecting drug users are among the groups most at risk of HIV infection in Kenya. The latest national AIDS Indicator Survey attributed 15 percent of new HIV infections to MSM, and they are widely thought to be a bridge for HIV transmission to the general population as many also have female partners.

''What critics don’t understand is that the person closest to them could be falling in the same group they are loudly condemning''

“What critics don’t understand is that the person closest to them could be falling in the same group they are loudly condemning,” Muraguri commented.

The government plans to incorporate MSM into the country’s HIV programme after anational survey of the high-risk group, due to start in December 2010, has been completed.

Kenya’s recently promulgated constitution does not specifically mention homosexuality, but the penal code makes “carnal acts against the order of nature” punishable by up to 14 years in prison.

The latest strategic plan for HIV/AIDS recognizes the “difficult legal issues” in trying to provide healthcare directly to groups like MSM, and notes that there is a need to come up with policies that will make it easier for them to access services.

Derrick*, a male sex worker in the capital, Nairobi, said the sort of condemnation directed at the minister was what convinced people like him to remain in the shadows.

“Just imagine – if a minister can be condemned like that, then what would happen to an ordinary citizen like me?” he said. “They would just stone you to death.”

ko/kr/ks/he source.irinnews

 

 

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The US is conducting counterinsurgency training across the Sahel

Posted by African Press International on October 8, 2010

Analysis: Fresh approach needed to quell terrorism threat in the Sahel

Photo:US DoD
The US is conducting counterinsurgency training across the Sahel

BAMAKO, 7 October 2010 (IRIN) – More joint intelligence-gathering, a crackdown on organized crime and a coordinated approach to kidnapping demands are needed to tackle Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghrebs (AQIM) growing power, say analysts.

Though the southern Sahelian branches of AQIM are estimated to have only 400-800 members, growing organized crime and commercial networks have increased their financial and political muscle, says Alain Antil, head of the sub-Saharan Africa programme at the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI).

Not much systematic information-exchange goes on between affected Sahelian countries and it is not timely or coordinated, said Antil. You cannot fight AQIM with national policies you need at least minimum cooperation between neighbours though this cooperation is improving, we have not yet seen positive returns from it.

Context

Some call AQIM a hybrid terrorist organization that is as concerned with contraband trafficking and ransom demands, as it is with the global Al Qaeda cause.

In 2003AQIM split off from the Salafist Group of Call and Combat (GSPC), which since 1996 had been attacking government, military and sometimes civilian targets in Algeria, aiming to overthrow the secular military regime and establish a theocracy based on Islamic law.

The shift to represent Al Qaeda becoming a local group with global objectives as academicStephen Harmon put it – led the group to shift its activities from armed assaults, to more terror-oriented operations such as bombings and kidnappings; while its rhetoric centred more on anti-Western government proclamations and global Jihad, than regime change in Algeria. The US invasion of Iraq provided an ideal recruiting tool for Al Qaeda from north Africa to Iraq, says Harmon.

Commercial versus ideological goals

Nasser Weddady, civil rights outreach director at the American Islamic Congress, says at the national level, AQIM wishes to establish an Islamic Emirate in the northern Azaouade region of Mali, eventually expanding this into Mauritania.

AQIM sees both countries as a means to recruit new members and as a base from which destabilize the Mauritanian state and army in order to gain a foothold against Western governments, he told IRIN.

But the group runs few training camps and few maddrassas set up from which to recruit, says Harmon in a recent paper: From GSPC to AQIM: The Evolution of an Algerian Islamist Terrorist Group into an Al-Qaida affiliate.’

And its political aims are vague, says Antil: The groups political messages are not very clear they talk of a fight against western countries, and leaders but tend to stop there, and do not specify what kind of regime they might put in place were they do attain power.

Some recruitment does take place. Richard Barrett, , a member of the UN Security Council Committee monitoring Al-Qaeda, estimates half of one AQIM branch others say 70 percent – comes from Mauritania, which he says is partly due to a growing pool of disaffected, unemployed youths in towns, drawn to the possibility either of an ideological fight, or commercial gain and prestige.

While AQIM has made inroads into the social fabric in the Azaouad region of Mali, marrying into Tuareg tribes, not all believe the goal is national political ascension. Such social intermixing could however, explain why the Malian military has not yet been attacked, says Weddady.

A diplomat who asked to remain unnamed, told IRIN the relatively tolerant, moderate form of Islam practiced by Tuaregs in northern Mali largely inoculates them from joining a radical Jihadi cause.

Tuareg groups in Mali are more likely to interface with AQIM on a commercial basis says Antil given both groups are implicated insmuggling goods – mainly cigarettes, cocaine, heroin and to an extent small arms as well as people across the largely unmonitored Sahara.

It is these actions that are weakening already-fragile states says Antil, and that risk corrupting officials in power. Terrorists are just one of the operators of trafficking in these regions there are many others too and they protect their interests by developing circles close to power, he told IRIN.

AQIM turns profits from trafficking, as well as from an increasingly lucrative kidnapping trade, into weapons and training, says Barrett. Weddady estimates AQIM has netted EU 50 million (US$69 million) through ransom payments since its inception; while Barrett, a member of the UN Security Council Committee monitoring Al-Qaeda, estimates millions of Euros have been paid to release hostages in recent years.


Photo:OCHA VMU

In mid-September, AQIM took hostage five French nationals, a Togolese and a Madagascan, from northern Niger, and is believed to be holding them in northern Mali.

Clamping down

Tackling AQIM from commercial and security angles rather than seeking a political solution, is where the most impact will be found, says Mehdi Taje, a researcher at NGO, the Sahel and West Africa Club.

IFRIs Antil believes trafficking is the priority: To fight trafficking should be the priority of all priorities. It is a much stronger threat than terrorism in the Sahel. Yes, terrorist activities can have a huge impact with the attacks that take place, but these do not necessarily erode the foundations of these states in the same way organized crime can.

Sahelian countries concerned about increasing lawlessness have told the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) that criminal justice reform, anti-corruption laws, better border management and small arms trade controls are their priorities.

On the commercial front, Barrett says freezing bank accounts of individual AQIM members, as recommended by the UN Security Council Sanctions Committee monitoring Al-Qaeda, can have some impact.

On the security side, coordinated, regional intelligence-gathering on terrorist and criminal networks needs to be stepped up across the Sahel, stressed all interviewees.

While individual countries such as Algeria have strong intelligence mechanisms, it does not necessarily share this information with its neighbours.

Intelligence-sharing has been hampered by long-standing regional rivalries in the past, with discord between Mauritania and Algeria, Algeria and Mali, and Morocco and Algeria. But cooperation is improving: a joint military base was set up by Algeria, Mali, Mauritania and Niger in Tamanrasset, Algeria in April 2010; army chiefs from the four governments met to discuss a joint response to AQIM last week, followed by a meeting of intelligence chiefs on 30 September.

Algeria must share the lessons it has learned from fighting the GSPC over the past 14 years, says Weddady They have the intelligence, the hardware and the experience there has to be a mechanism that involves them in this fight.

And Mali must be convinced to step up its game, he said. Mali has weak capacity to secure its northern region and only recently emerged from a Tuareg rebellion, making it reluctant to take any action that could stir up anger in the north.

International partners

The French and US governments should continue low-level, low-profile support to the Malian and Mauritanian militaries, says Weddady. Air support, serious training on a large scale and logistical and electronic intelligence-sharing mechanisms need to be part of international support.

The US government has stepped up its engagement in recent years through AFRICOM, which aims to deploy troops to trouble spots as needed; train counterinsurgency and contraband interception units; and implement State Department development objectives; its Trans-Sahara Counter-Terrorism Initiative, to help governments better ward off terrorist threats; and through Operation Flintlock, an annual counter-terrorism exercise to prepare militaries for potential threats.

Some question whether the terror threat posed by AQIM was sufficient to warrant the funding and deployment of these initiatives, or whether the US exaggerated the seriousness of the threat to justify deeper involvement in the Sahel. African security analyst Daniel Volman says this interest is tied to opening new fronts on the global war on terror and gaining access to Africas energy supplies.

A Sahel analyst who asked to remain unnamed told IRIN: The US does not want a large military footprint in the Sahel, contrary to the many rumours spread in the press.

Stop ransom payments

Unless Western governments stop shelling out hefty ransom payments to rescue their kidnapped citizens, any efforts to reduce AQIMs reach will be marginalized, says Weddady. Time and time again the kidnappers are rewarded governments must never negotiate. In 2005 we were looking at 10 to 15 people getting killed; now, the numbers are just increasing It is a moral dilemma but these incidents should not get in the way of governments looking at the bigger picture.

Barrett did not take a stance on ransom payments, but did tell IRIN There is more we can do to sensitize people as to the negative consequences of payments to these groupsthe Security Council can discuss these issues with member states and find out where the consensus lies.

If not contained regionally, the AQIM threat could spread, he warns. There are possibilities to recruit from Niger, and to link up withBoko Haram [Nigerian militant Islamist group] in Nigeria there is a risk that AQIM could slip down into Senegal, Burkina Faso and Guinea-Bissau if they are squeezed up north.

Nobody in the Mauritanian or Malian ministries of interior, defence or information was available to speak to IRIN.

aj/sd/mw source.irinnews

 

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KISUMU MAYOR BLAMES HIS CHIEF OFFICERS FOR LACK OF OFFICIAL DUMPSITE.

Posted by African Press International on October 8, 2010

By DICKSON ODHIAMBO.

KISUMU-Kenya

05 -10-2010.


CONTROVERSY surrounding the issue of Kisumu City to have an official dumpsite has taken a new twist when the Municipality Mayor largely blamed the executive wing of the council for not making fruitful effort.

Kisumu Mayor Sam Okello said the rate at which the current dumpsite near Moi Stadium is growing is worrying and wholly blamed the executive arm of the council for not doing its work as far as the maintenance of the dumpsite is concerned.

Addressing the press at the current dumpsite near Moi Stadium, Mayor Okello said the public outcry to remove it from there has been a genuine case and it was high time the concerned parties at the council get fully involved and addressed it.

The visibly angry mayor said there is no supervision at the dump site and this has made those who dispose the waste from the city to do so even near the main road.

I have tried to solve this matter internally on several occasions but no action is being taken and I term this as a total failure by the executive wing of the council for not doing its work adequately as far as this issue is concerned, the Mayor said.

The mayor even threatened to write to the Ministry Of Local Authority so as to take action against those chief officers who are non-performing at the council.

But reacting to the mayors sentiment, Town Engineer John Mazuri who was present during the brief meeting at the dumpsite said the council has no enough equipment to help in maintaining the current dumpsite.

He added that his department has been forced to hire a shovel on a daily basis at a cost of about sh. 10,000 to help do the work at the dumpsite.

The Municipality Director of Environment Thomas Sweta said plans are already underway to re-allocate the dumpsite to Kisumu west District in a land which the council has identified.

He said they are only waiting for a license from the National Environmental Management Authority {NEMA} so as to jumpstart the project.

He also said the challenge of inadequate equipment to manage and maintain the current dumpsite is still to be tackled.

Kisumu City has no official dumpsite and currently the council is using a land near Moi Stadium to dispose the waste from the city.

The issue of when the Council will have an official dumpsite took a center stage when President Mwai Kibaki visited the lake side city in July this year when he drummed up support for the new constitution at Moi Stadium when a section of the crowd attending the rally told the president to his face that the stench from the garbage near stadium is unbearable and something needs to be done.

The President did not comment on the matter.

ENDS:

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