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Archive for July 17th, 2012

Testing new code

Posted by African Press International on July 17, 2012

This just a test of a new code.

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Kenya partners with Morocco to boost tourism

Posted by African Press International on July 17, 2012

By Thomas Ochieng, API Kenya                                         

Kenya and Morocco have entered into joint bilateral cooperation particularly in infrastructural development, trade, tourism and cultural exchange programmes. This initiative was the culmination of a visit to Nairobi by the head of tourism federation of Morocco  Mr.Ali Ghannam. The visit was a follow-up of the visit to Morocco by officials of the Kenya tourism board early this
A country whose school enrollment figures, access to electricity and clean water stagnated at about 50 per cent some eight years ago, has performed beyond expectation with an impressive 90 per cent of its population have access to basic these needs, a successful story indeed worth emulating as African people.
The northern Africa intends to add another accolade to its name by embarking on ambitious goal to attract 20 million tourists by 2020.This is due to huge incentives such as land tourism players are given some in form grant. The investor obliged to develop tourism sites, hotels, restaurants and recreational facilities within agreed times. This is the focus of the new cooperation between Kenya and Morocco, Kenya is set to emulate  the tourism federation of
Morocco in advancing its tourism sector, which to date is the second foreign
exchange earner. 


To herald the new cooperation, the two countries have signed an agreement to
have direct flights from Nairobi to Casablanca beginning 2013. In addition There is an honorary Kenyan consul in Casablanca, Morocco, with a mandate to promote, project and protect the image and interests of Kenya and Kenyans in Morocco in addition to strengthening political, cultural and socioeconomic relations between the two countries.
The northern Africa nation under the leadership of the youthful His Majesty King Mohamed VI heeded to its people’s wishes and conducted a peaceful constitutional reform and conducting an election that was accepted by the populace. This measure forestalled the wind of revolution that swept the North Africa states that refused to heed to the wishes of their citizens.


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Demining by hand – painstakingly slow

Posted by African Press International on July 17, 2012

Demining by hand was “painstakingly slow” (file photo)

ZIGUINCHOR,  – Removing the landmines from villages, farms and plantations of Casamance in southern Senegal has taken several years to get up to speed, but now demining teams may be forced to step down, hampering the country’s ability to reach its Ottawa Treaty goal of eliminating anti-personnel mines by 2016.
Activities started slowly in 2008 and have picked up pace since then. Sixteen villages were re-opened In March 2011, and in mid-June 2012 six more were declared mine-free and ready for habitation.

But hundreds of villages and thousands of hectares of farmland are still mined –  Jean-François Lepetit, Casamance Head of Mission for NGO Handicap International (HI) estimates at least 90 percent of the total mined land is yet to be cleared, most of it in northern Casamance along the Gambian border. 

HI supports the National Centre for Mine Action in Senegal (CNAMS) in the three regions of Casamance: Ziguinchor, Sedhiou and Kolda. HI does the demining while CNAMS oversees and coordinates related activities – mine-risk education, victim assistance, and advocating the abandonment of the use of landmines.

While CNAMS will continue in its oversight role, a new partner – a private South African firm – will take over the demining in terms of the initial contract between HI and its funders, which required two separate firms to do the work. Staff worry mining will slow down over the next year, given the new firm will need to find and train deminers and get to know the terrain and political context.
Mines are still being planted in Sindian, 100km north of the capital, Ziguinchor, where fighting continues between the rebel Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance (MFDC) and the Senegalese military. Parts of the southern border with Guinea-Bissau also remain mined, said Lepetit. A 2006 Canadian-backed study indicated the presence of mines in the southern Kolda region, but demining has not even begun there, noted Anne-Sophie Trujillo, head of HI in Senegal.
In early July 2012 several MFDC rebels were reportedly killed and two Senegalese military were injured in a skirmish with Senegalese forces near the town of Emaye, 40km west of Ziguinchor, according to the Senegal army.
From hand to machine
Demining requires a steep learning curve, as each context is so different. HI, which has demined areas in Bosnia, Chad, Mozambique, Lebanon and now Libya, among other places, said it took two years to train local teams –  team leaders need 18 months of intensive training – and to properly understand the terrain.

In 2010 the organization discovered that their hand-held metal detectors could not detect a Belgian mine used in at least five locales and turned to mining by hand – a “painstakingly slow” process, said Trujillo. In 2011 they bought a US$440,000 “demining bulldozer,” which can cover 200 times as much ground in a day, does not require lengthy soil preparation, and is safer for the operator. “Now, when you look at cost-efficiency, it’s really working,” Trujillo said. “It is the very worst moment for us to leave [Casamance].” 
Senegal is a signatory of the Ottawa Treaty – the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction – and has been given an extension until 2016 to eradicate landmines, with further funding from the European Union and others.
The European Union Senegal delegation head, Dominque Dellicour, sounded positive about reaching the 2016 deadline, while pushing the government to put forward its own funding at the village-opening ceremony in June, which was also attended by Foreign Minister Alioune Badara Cissé, and Head of CNAMS, Papa Oumar Ndiaye, who called the occasion a “landmark” in mine action activities.
But Trujillo is not convinced. “With one team working at a time, demining will not finish by 2016,” she told IRIN. The director of CNAMS, the Senegalese government, peace-building NGOs such as SOS Casamance, and many residents want HI to stay, but “no one can find the money”, said Lepetit.
HI will still rehabilitate the land and villages even if others are doing the demining. “We have a duty to the people of Casamance… we have earned their confidence in this unstable region,” said Trujillo. HI will continue its peace building and development work in the area, giving psycho-social support to mine survivors and villagers, providing water and sanitation to schools and villages, mine education in schools, and supporting women affected by domestic violence, said Trujillo.
Parties to the conflict committed to stop using mines in the 2004 peace agreement, but have not adhered to this. MFDC rebels have largely supported demining in areas other than near their (mainly northern) bases.
“A new life is beginning”
Diédhiou Ibrahima, president of the rural community of Adéane, one of the newly cleared villages east of Ziguinchor, can finally go back to working his fields and his children will once again attend school. ”Here we are in a school and the area cleared is just metres from the school – access has been forbidden for years… This means so much to us.”
Diamé Fatou, a mother and resident of Gonoumé, told IRIN: “For years, we dared not fetch dead wood or pick fruit. Every year, hundreds of tons of fruit rot in the bush while we live in abject poverty. It’s really as if a new life is beginning for us.”
Mines have seriously slowed down socio-economic development in the region, limiting access to farmland and cashew cultivation, and diminishing trade with neighbouring countries, Foreign Affairs Minister Cissé told the audience at the June ceremony. ”Anti-personnel mines are indiscriminately destructive weapons and can render permanent trauma among people whose daily lives risk physical danger,” he said.
Mines were first laid by MFDC rebels and the Senegalese army in 1990 as part of 30-year armed conflict that has kept parts of southern Senegal volatile. Since then, mines have killed more than 800 civilian and military people in Casamance, and displaced tens of thousands.


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Traffickers: Preying on desperate job seekers in Lesotho

Posted by African Press International on July 17, 2012

Linda and Mahleki were trafficked by a woman they knew from their village

QUTHING, 28 June 2012 (IRIN) – At the age of 15 and with no money for school shoes or a uniform, Linda* was forced to accept that her education was over and it was time to look for a job. In Lesotho’s southern Quthing District, where she lived, it is accepted wisdom that finding a job means crossing the border into South Africa, which completely surrounds this mountainous kingdom of 1.8 million people and dwarfs its tiny economy.

Linda’s own mother made the move five years ago and never returned. “I don’t know where she is,” said Linda, whose sister also lives in South Africa.

In May 2011, Linda was approached by a woman she knew from her village who had a business about 50km across the border in the town of Sterkspruit. “She invited me to come and stay with her and work for her as a shop assistant,” recalled Linda.

She did not question why she and her new employer had to cross a freezing river to enter South Africa instead of using the nearest border post, and for the first three months she was treated well enough and received a small salary. But when her employer abruptly left, putting a relative in charge of the shop, no more pay was forthcoming and Linda embarked on a relationship with the night watchman. By the time her sister arrived in December to bring her home, she was pregnant.

“I feel so sorry and angry,” said the girl, now eight-months pregnant and living with her ailing grandmother.

Four months after recruiting Linda, her employer returned to the village and met Mahleki*, another 15-year-old school dropout and orphan. This time she offered to help the girl attend school in South Africa.

“I didn’t really believe her,” said Mahleki, “but my brother forced me to go because he couldn’t look after me.”

After another river crossing, Mahleki was put on a bus to Rustenberg, a mining town in the country’s North West Province, and then taken to a tavern where she worked from 7am until midnight for the next seven months. In return she received two meals a day and a one-off payment of R350 ($42) to buy clothes.

In April of this year Maggie Monongoaha, a member of the Lesotho Mounted Police Service’s Child and Gender Protection Unit (CGPU) who happened to live in the same village as Mahleki and Linda, made a phone call to their recruiter demanding she send Mahleki home. The woman complied but remained in Rustenberg where she faces no legal charges.

What happened to Linda and Mahleki is not unusual in Lesotho but until recently, it is unlikely that anyone in their community or even local authorities would have identified them as victims of human trafficking, which the UN’s 2000 Palermo Protocol defines as: “the recruitment, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception… for the purpose of exploitation”.

Human trafficking survey

In 2010, the Ministry of Home Affairs together with the UN Development Programme (UNDP) commissioned a rapid assessment of human trafficking in Lesotho to try to gauge the magnitude of the problem. The findings did not provide much in the way of hard data, but did highlight some of the conditions that have made the country particularly vulnerable to trafficking both internally from rural to urban areas and transnationally. These include Lesotho’s high levels of poverty and unemployment, the large number of children orphaned by HIV/AIDS, and its porous borders and long tradition of migration to South Africa which began with Basotho men going to work in the mines.

The report noted that men, women and children are trafficked not only for sexual exploitation, but also for forced labour on farms, for cattle herding, construction work and domestic work.

In January 2011, the Lesotho government passed anti-trafficking legislation under pressure from the USA, an important donor which had placed Lesotho on its Tier 2 Watch List for countries not showing sufficient progress in combating human trafficking.

“It’s common knowledge that it was rushed through,” said Sonya Martinez, director of the Beautiful Dream Society (BDS), a faith-based US NGO which runs a shelter and transition programme for victims of human trafficking in Maseru, the capital. “The move to pass the law was very good, but training and infrastructure are lacking.”

Although the CPGU has been tasked with investigating trafficking cases, no budget has been allocated and training of its officers has so far been limited to Maseru. Of 40 cases reported in 2011, only one conviction was made under the new law and the offender was later released from a 15-year prison sentence after successfully appealing the verdict.

The recently released US State Department’s 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report notes that the government has yet to complete a national action plan on human trafficking which would guide implementation of the new law, and that NGOs are the sole providers of protective services to victims.

NGO helps victims

Since opening its shelter in April 2011, BDS has helped 21 trafficking victims with trauma counselling, skills training and legal assistance, about half of them Basotho nationals and the rest Ethiopians, Zimbabweans and one Chinese. Martinez noted that the foreign victims were often more visible and tended to be perceived as more serious than the cases involving locals. “I believe there are many more local cases,” she said, adding that orphans and young people with a history of abuse or who were the sole breadwinners for their family were particularly vulnerable.

Martinez said the greatest barrier to prosecuting more traffickers is the lack of resources for the CPGU to travel to South Africa to investigate suspected cases and bring victims home. “Often nothing ever happens to the perpetrators in South Africa,” she told IRIN. “We’ve helped out with funding for rescues on a couple of occasions; the government hasn’t budgeted any funds for this.”

Senior Superintendent and Head of the CGPU Mamojela Letsie said her unit relied on a good working relationship with the South African Police Service for tip-offs which had resulted in the rescue of several men from Quthing who were promised jobs in a factory but ended up “sold” to remote cattle posts.

However, a CPGU officer based in Mohale’s Hoek, about 50km north of Quthing, said that although his office sometimes received reports of locals promised employment in South Africa who ended up being exploited, it was difficult for them to follow up.

“For us at district level, it’s not yet clear how we can investigate cross-border cases,” he said.

At the level of prevention and awareness-raising, both the CPGU and the Ministry of Home Affairs are conducting campaigns in areas identified as high risk. NGOs including BDS, Lesotho Save the Children and World Vision are also targeting schoolchildren, border officials and radio listeners with information about the threat of human trafficking.

But Letsie admitted that most Basotho still do not know what human trafficking is. “Once people know, we think there’ll be many more cases,” she said.

*not their real names



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