African Press International (API)

"Daily Online News Channel".

Archive for October, 2012

Nepad launches initiatives for post-conflict reconstruction in Africa

Posted by African Press International on October 31, 2012

By Thomas Ochieng,  API Kenya  


The African Union Commission (AUC) and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Agency are hosting a three-day high-level meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa, to draft a Roadmap for the implementation of the African Solidarity Initiative (ASI) for the mobilization of support for post-conflict reconstruction and development in Africa. The forum which runs from 24 to 26 October is sponsored by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), is chaired by the Former Prime Minister of the Central African Republic, Mr. Anicet Georges Dologuele.


In his welcoming address, the Director of the National Office for the Coordination of Peace Missions in South Africa’s Department of International relations and Cooperation, Ms. N.M Dwabayo, commended the African Union Commission for its tireless efforts towards the implementation of AU decisions, including the organization’s policy on Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Development (PCRD) adopted by African Heads of State in Banjul, Gambia, in June 2006. “Launching the ASI was part of the AU’s endeavor to promote African solidarity and mutual assistance and propel the Continent to a higher level of development and self-confidence, driven by the motto: Africa helping Africa. It is time to turn this motto from a slogan to reality. This Initiative needs to be implemented as soon as yesterday,” Ms. Dwabayo stated.


Speaking on behalf of the Chief Executive Officer of the NEPAD, Dr. Ibrahim Mayaki, the Special Assistant to the NEPAD CEO, Mr. Ibrahim Gourouza, emphasized the need for participants to be precise and concrete in their proposals. Mr. Gourouza emphasised the need for a paradigm shift in Africa’s development philosophy, adding that Africa has everything it needs to pull itself out of poverty: “The ASI is not about charity. It is an initiative grounded in the African social value of solidarity: neighbors helping neighbours.” As the development vehicle of the African Union, he added, NEPAD will work closely with all relevant AUC departments to achieve this goal.

The AU Commissioner for Peace and Security, Amb. Ramtane Lamamra, in his remarks presented on his behalf by the Head of the Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Development Unit in the Department of Peace and Security, Mr. Takwa Suifon, stated that though the ASI is an African Union initiative, its development and implementation requires the collaboration of relevant AU Partners, Regional Economic Communities (RECs), AU Liaison Offices, NEPAD, the African Development Bank (AfDB), UNDP and the entire United Nations family, NGOs, Civil Society Organizations, as well as other regional and sub-regional organizations. He urged participants to come up with a clear, practical, and realistic roadmap.

Participants at the workshop include senior government officials from various African countries, representatives of African and non-African cooperation and development agencies, representatives of various AUC departments, AU Liaison Offices, RECs, bilateral and multilateral Partners, and experts on several African countries emerging from conflict including Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire, Central African Republic, DRC, Sudan and South Sudan.


The African Solidarity Initiative was launched at the 19th African Union Summit, held in Addis Ababa in July 2012, pursuant to a decision by African Heads of State and Government at the 18th AU Summit in January 2012. The initiative aims to mobilize enhanced support within the Continent for post-conflict reconstruction and development in countries emerging from conflict in Africa, with a view to consolidate peace where it has been achieved. The ASI is premised on the fact that despite the progress made towards the achievement of the common objective of a conflict-free Africa, there is a growing need for renewed efforts towards post-conflict reconstruction and peace building, in order to sustain the hope and gains that accrue from the end of violence, in addition to addressing ongoing conflicts and crises.


The workshop, which is expected to propose a Roadmap that formulates key activities for implementation over the next three years and put in motion the groundwork for a major African Solidarity Conference (ASC), ends on Friday.




Posted in AA > News and News analysis | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Misuse of aid funds in Uganda

Posted by African Press International on October 31, 2012

Aid funds that were intended to go towards reconstruction efforts in northern Uganda have been misused. This misuse of funds was discovered by the Office of the Auditor General of Uganda. 


“This amounts to no less than stealing from the impoverished people of northern Uganda who have been subjected to conflict and misrule for years. We have a policy of zero tolerance for corruption and other misuse of funds, and we intend to get to the bottom of this,” said Minister of International Development Heikki Holmås.


A report published by the Office of the Auditor General of Uganda on 19 October 2012 contains strong criticism of the Office of the Prime Minister in Uganda. The criticism concerns the misuse of aid funds intended for the reconstruction of northern Uganda under the Peace, Recovery and Development Plan for Northern Uganda (PRDP).


“We are now carrying out a full investigation into the extent of the fraud. Together with other donor countries, we will make sure that we have all the facts on the table. When we have a more accurate picture of what has happened and how it could have happened, we will decide on an appropriate response. Funds that cannot be accounted for or funds reported as misused must be returned,” said Mr Holmås.


Over the past few years several donors, such as the UK, Norway, Sweden, Ireland and Denmark, have provided a total of NOK 155 million for reconstruction efforts in northern Uganda. Norway has provided NOK 60 million. The report published by the Office of the Auditor General of Uganda indicates widespread irregularities and fraud involving some NOK 75 million. Of this, NOK 27 million of the funding provided by Norway has been misused, according to the report.


“One bright spot in all of this is that the misuse of funds was revealed by Uganda’s own audit institution. Norway has supported the development of the Office of the Auditor General of Uganda for many years. This case shows how important this cooperation is. It is vital to have a national audit institution that is effective and can uncover irregularities and misuse of public funds. I am pleased that the Office of the Auditor General of Norway is to continue its cooperation with the Office of the Auditor General of Uganda,” said Mr Holmås.


Funding provided by Norway for the reconstruction of northern Uganda was ceased in 2011 and general budget support for Uganda halted in 2010. The reasons for the withdrawal of funding were both Uganda’s failure to adequately follow up cases of corruption and Norway’s desire to focus its efforts on areas where Norway has comparative advantages, such as energy, climate change and gender equality.



source mfa.norway

Posted in AA > News and News analysis | Leave a Comment »

ODM aspirant killed in Kisumu

Posted by African Press International on October 31, 2012

By Maurice Alal, reporting from Kisumu, Kenya

Kisumu City in Nyanza Region of Kenya has become a no-go-zone following the death of Kisumu Town East Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party Chairman Shem Kwega, who is also an aspirant for the newly created Kisumu Central Constituency.

Kwega who is also a prominent businessman in Kisumu was shot together with his wife Rose Kwega by two armed thugs within the Central Business District (CBD) at around 10am.

The deceased and wife were rushed to Aga- Khan Hospital where he was later pronounced dead by Chief Executive Officer, Dr Nadim Mawji.  The doctor said the wife was in a stable condition and doctors were doing all they could to save her life.

It is reported that the deceased was shot on the head and on his chest, before the gang turned on his wife shooting her  on her chest. The thugs who are said to have used AK47 riffles fled in a car from the nearby car-wash. The car was later abandoned by the thugs at Nyamasaria estate.

Kwega, who owns a number of petrol stations within the city, was robbed of unknown amount of cash which he was going to bank before the ambush took place.

The news of his death spread like bushfire within the City and its environs, prompting angry residents to storm the Kisumu Police offices demanding explanation to the killings which they say is now rampant in the region.

This comes barely a week after three people including doctor from Kenya Institute of Research, a student and a security guard was murdered in a cold blood before the thugs stole unknown amount of cash from the doctor and the church where the security officer was manning.

It is the rise of insecurity that prompted the area residents to engage police in a running battle forcing the police to use tear gas canisters to disperse the angry crowd who vowed not to surrender until the security situation in Kisumu and its environs is addressed.

The incident has so far paralyzed business and transport activities in the city leaving travellers stranded.

For the last three months, carjacking has become rampant in Kisumu City.

This has made the police to be on the receiving end of the blame due to their laxity in ensuring security is beeped up. However, Nyanza Provincial Police Officer, Joseph Oletito said investigation to the killings was underway, hoping the suspects will be netted soon.

He urged the residents to maintain peace. But this was not taken lightly by angry residents who demand immediate transfers of various police bosses such as OCPD, OCS among others.




Posted in AA > News and News analysis | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Election season dating

Posted by African Press International on October 30, 2012




Posted in AA > News and News analysis | Leave a Comment »

Staying up-to-date on Hurricane Sandy

Posted by African Press International on October 30, 2012

This morning, the President convened a video-teleconference in the White House Situation Room with his team to receive the latest update on Hurricane Sandy, and federal efforts underway to support response activities in several states. Overnight, at the requests of the Governors, the President approved major disaster declarations for the states of New Jersey and New York, making additional federal support for state and local efforts available, as well as direct federal assistance to affected individuals in declared counties.
During the briefing the President expressed his concern for those affected by the storm, as well as the heroic first responders who are selflessly putting themselves in harm’s way to protect members of their communities.

President Barack Obama receives an update from officials via teleconference on the ongoing response to Hurricane Sandy, in the Situation Room of the White House, Oct. 30, 2012. Pictured, from left, are: John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism; Tony Blinken, National Security Advisor to the Vice President; David Agnew, Director for Intergovernmental Affairs; Alyssa Mastromonaco, Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations; and Chief of Staff Jack Lew. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama receives an update from officials via teleconference on the ongoing response to Hurricane Sandy, in the Situation Room of the White House, Oct. 30, 2012. Pictured, from left, are: John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism; Tony Blinken, National Security Advisor to the Vice President; David Agnew, Director for Intergovernmental Affairs; Alyssa Mastromonaco, Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations; and Chief of Staff Jack Lew. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Today’s Schedule
All times are Eastern Daylight Time (EDT).
10:05 AM: The President receives the Presidential Daily Briefing

Posted in AA > News and News analysis | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Southeast Asia wasting food

Posted by African Press International on October 30, 2012

Crop losses to rise as population climbs

BANGKOK,  – Food losses in Asia due to disasters or poor storage, packing and delivery are set to worsen, and governments are ill-prepared to stem the wastage, according experts recently convened by the Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies in Singapore.
Possible solutions include redistributing edible wasted food to people; turning it into energy and agriculture inputs; and developing new technology to separate food waste from other rubbish. Policymakers need to take a “total supply chain approach” or else risk breaking Southeast Asia’s fragile food system, said the experts.
“It is likely that the region wastes approximately 33 percent of food, but accurate estimates are not available due to a dearth of quantitative information.”
Increasing urbanization means food will tend to travel farther, something that could exacerbate the food waste problem. Governments need to better fund the tracking of food waste (especially fish, vegetables and rice), they said.



Posted in AA > News and News analysis | Leave a Comment »

Earthquake drill for 30,000 schools

Posted by African Press International on October 30, 2012

Millions of children will take part

DHAKA, – Millions of children across Bangladesh took part in a nationwide earthquake drill on 13-14 October.
Over 30,000 schools conducted the drills under the government’s Comprehensive Disaster Management Programme (CDMP) funded by the UN Development Programme; to coincide with the International Day of Disaster Risk Reduction (13 October).
“This is to ensure discipline in case a major earthquake strikes,” Kamal Abdul Naser Chowdhury, secretary of the Ministry of Education (MoE), told IRIN. “Discipline is important during any emergency.” The drills – the largest in the country’s history, and covering both primary and secondary schools – aim to better prepare students in the event of a real disaster.
The drills will prepare students to save themselves, as well as act as volunteers to help others in the event of an actual quake, Chowdhury said.
Of the schools carrying out the drills, 480 are in the capital, Dhaka, which is deemed ill-prepared for earthquakes due to lack of awareness and unplanned urbanization. Drills for schools in Dhaka was held on 14 October.
With a population of more than 15 million, Dhaka ranks among the 20 most vulnerable cities in terms of earthquakes in the world today, with a major fault line less than 60km from the city, says the World Bank.
A strong earthquake could take a major toll in densely populated, low-lying Bangladesh, which is prone to natural disasters, including cyclones, floods and landslides, say experts.
Bangladesh is surrounded by regions of high seismicity and is exposed to a high risk of a moderate-to-strong quake.
According to a seismic zoning map by the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, 43 percent of the country is rated high risk, 41 percent moderate risk and 16 percent low risk.
Almost 1,200 of Dhaka’s 2,700 schools are highly vulnerable to a moderate earthquake. Schools in cities like Chittagong and Sylhet and in the north are also vulnerable, according to a CDMP study.
MoE’s Chowdhury said the drills would create “a real time scenario” in schools from which the students could learn how to protect themselves in the event of a real earthquake. “This campaign… is going to have a major impact on our disaster preparedness.”



Posted in AA > News and News analysis | Leave a Comment »

Mobile phone: Can it help in disaster preparedness

Posted by African Press International on October 30, 2012

About 83 million Filipinos own a mobile phone

MANILA,  – The Philippine government has launched a mobile phone application which can provide real-time information on rainfall and flooding to the general public.
The Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards (NOAH), which aims to provide information about bad weather and thus mitigate disasters such as floods, typhoons and landslides, launched its website in July, and now a free mobile phone application has been added.
“When it comes to getting and accessing information, there is nothing more ubiquitous than the mobile phone,” Raymund Liboro, Department of Science and Technology project director for NOAH, told IRIN.
Using sensors, rain gauges, and weather monitoring systems installed by the government in various parts of the country, the application will provide information on rainfall probability over the next 1-4 hours in 200 sites, real-time information on water levels, and an overview of which areas are affected by rain and humidity.
“While this information is already available on the NOAH website, the mobile app accelerates the speed by which users can access this information,” Liboro said.
A 2011 World Bank study showed that 80 percent of Filipino households have a mobile phone, making the application convenient and accessible.
The NOAH mobile application will initially be available only for Android smartphones. However, its sharing options will allow users to share information across different social media.
“Users can access Tweets sent out by PAGASA (Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services) [the Philippines weather bureau] as text messages to any mobile phone,” Liboro explained.
Future enhancements include incorporating a flood forecasting system. “This will really help us give advance warning to residents of flood-prone areas [and] if there is a need to evacuate,” said Vic Malano, acting deputy administrator of PAGASA.
According to the Asian Disaster Preparedness Center, the Philippines – with its typhoons, floods, droughts, volcanoes, earthquakes and landslides, and home to over 100 million people – is the most disaster prone country in the world.
In August, floods in Manila affected an estimated half a million people who had to be evacuated to temporary shelters.



Posted in AA > News and News analysis | Leave a Comment »

Locusts on the move, a threat to northwest Africa

Posted by African Press International on October 29, 2012

Desert locusts likely to invade northwestern Africa

DAKAR,  – Swarms of desert locusts are likely to migrate to Algeria, Libya, Mauritania and Morocco in the coming weeks from West Africa and the Sahel region, says the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which urges the four countries to prepare for pest control.

Clouds of adult locusts are developing in Chad and are about to form in Mali and Niger after plentiful rains during the June-September rainy season favoured the breeding of two generations of locusts and increased their population 250 times.
When they migrate to northwestern African countries, they are “expected to arrive in areas where there has been recent rainfall and with green vegetation… there could be impacts on associated livelihoods,” Keith Cressman, FAO’s senior locust forecasting officer, told IRIN.
Prevailing winds and past trends make it likely that the swarms, once formed, will fly to Algeria, Libya, southern Morocco and northwestern Mauritania, he said in a statement on 23 October.
The insects initially migrated to northern Mali and Niger in June from Algeria and Libya. Insecurity in northern Mali, a region overran by Islamist rebels, has made assessments difficult. In Chad, ground teams began spraying the insects in October, and Niger, where pest control teams have to be accompanied by the military, has recently begun spraying.
“The control operations are reducing locust numbers and infestations in both Niger and Chad. This will in turn reduce the scale of migration, but migration is still expected to occur since it is difficult to find and control all locust infestations in the large expanses of northern Niger and Chad,” Cressman said.
Swarms of tens of millions of locusts can fly up to 150km a day with the wind. Female locusts can lay 300 eggs in their lifetime and an adult desert locust can eat food about its own weight every day (around two grams). A very small swarm eats the same amount of food in one day as about 35,000 people, says FAO.
In 2004 swarms of locusts up to 20km long and 5km wide devastated pastures, crops and vegetation across the Sahel from Dakar, the capital of Senegal on the Atlantic coast, to N’djamena, the capital of Chad, half a continent away.


Posted in AA > News and News analysis | 1 Comment »

Considering needs of women: Information is important for preventing and coping with disasters

Posted by African Press International on October 29, 2012

Information is important for preventing and coping with disasters

NAIROBI,  – Better management of disaster risk requires paying more attention to those directly affected, especially women, according to experts.
“At the community level, we also need good practices, not policies… How do we enhance people-centred early warning systems? We also need the engagement of the local population,” said Pedro Basabe, the head of the UN International Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) regional office for Africa.
Basabe was speaking at a media event to mark International Disaster Risk Reduction Day; this year’s theme is “Women and Girls – the [in]Visible Force of Resilience”.
While women contribute to making their communities more disaster-resilient through activities such as better land use and food storage, their efforts often go unrecognized because they are frequently excluded from planning processes.
“In order to enhance adaptability to environmental change and raise coping capacities in the event of a disaster, the people affected have to be comprehensively integrated into the political decision-making processes at community and national level[s], with equal participation of women being ensured. This also applies to the coordination and allocation of disaster relief,” states the 2012 World Risk Report.
Recognizing vulnerabilities
Women form one of the most vulnerable populations segments during disasters; recognizing their vulnerabilities and working to address them is key. In conflict situations, for example, women often bear the brunt of the violence.
“We realize that women have a big role in family and national affairs; they should take a lead role [in risk reduction] because when disasters strike they suffer the most,” said Lt Col (Rtd) Jeremiah Njagi, the deputy director of Kenya’s National Disaster Operations Centre (NDOC).
“In Nairobi, when fires strike – mainly at night – the sufferers are mainly women and children, as the men are often out of the house. We need to teach them [women] the mitigation factors,” he said. “Wanjiru [a woman’s name], goes out, locks the children in the house, yet the stove is on and she does not inform the neighbours, then a fire breaks out.”
Fires are common in Nairobi slum areas. These and other recurrent, often preventable, man-made disasters have been attributed to impunity for dangerous behaviours and late reaction to early warning messages.
Common disasters in Kenya include droughts, floods, sporadic ethno-political violence and outbreaks of disease.
Policy needed
Political commitment, comprehensive disaster planning and coordination mechanisms are also important to reduce risk, according to UNISDR’s Basabe.
Kenya has yet to finalize a disaster management policy – a framework that would help it set up a central body  to coordinate all institutions in activities of prevention and mitigation. “We are almost coming up with a disaster management policy… It is now between the cabinet and parliament,” said NDOC’s Njagi.
NDOC was formed in 1998, after the 1997 El Niño rains, to monitor and coordinate the response to disasters nationally. Its operations have, however, been hampered by the absence of the policy.
At present, NDOC manages disasters under different laws, such as the Nairobi City Council’s bylaws, the Traffic Act and others, Njagi said. “The disaster management policy will be a common policy [document] to address all disasters to harmonize all these laws.”
The policy would also clearly spell out roles and enable better resource mobilization.
“When these disasters come right now, it is only the government and well-wishers who come to assist,” he said. “Disasters, when they strike, they leave you running to save lives, and they cost a lot of money.”
The reduction of disasters is both a moral imperative and an economic necessity, says the World Risk Report, noting that “not only do large-scale disasters cause immense human suffering, they also create massive costs for the economy. Within next to no time, they can wipe out years of progress in development.”
The provision of sufficient information is important for preventing and coping with disasters, adds the report. “For this reason, governments ought to systematically make risk assessments, establish threat potentials, compile contingency plans and calculate the costs of possible disasters ex ante… All this information ought to be provided to the public free of charge.”



Posted in AA > News and News analysis | Leave a Comment »

Humanitarian challenges

Posted by African Press International on October 29, 2012

On 5 August 2012, the Bahr Azoum wadi (river) burst its banks, flooding several IDP and refugee sites around the town of Koukou, Eastern Chad

NAIROBI,  – The number of flood-affected people in Chad has risen to 700,000, up from 445,000 in September, according to humanitarian agencies, which also report the loss or damage of 255,720 hectares of cropland, 94,211 houses and 1,015 schools. Some 70,000 people have been displaced by the flooding, one of several challenges to the country’s humanitarian situation.   The areas worst affected by the floods include the regions of Moyen Chari, Tanjile, the two Logones, the two Mayo Kebbis and Salamat, according to a 15 October update by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). At least 16 of the country’s 22 regions have been affected, with 20 deaths recorded.

As of 13 October, about 18,800 displaced people from Walia District  were seeking refuge at two sites on the outskirts of N’djamena, according to a report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Assistance needed

“These are the worst floods that N’djamena has seen since 1962. About 30,000 people have been forced to leave their homes in parts of the city flooded by the Logone and Chari rivers. Thankfully, it looks like the water levels are slowly going back down, but people will need help to rebuild their lives and repair their houses, schools, hygiene facilities and wells,” Pierre Péron, a public information officer at the OCHA office in N’djamena, told IRIN.   The current flooding, which started in August, has damaged infrastructure, crops and homes, according to the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).   “Over the last two months, the rains have continued steadily while the authorities and humanitarian agencies provided emergency relief to the most affected,” said IFRC’s 21 October emergency appeal to help 30,800 people in Mayo Kebbi Est and N’djamena. The organization is requesting 775,716 Swiss francs (US$ 832,265) to cover assistance over a six-month period, with the main needs including emergency health services, clean water, sanitation and hygiene promotion activities, as well as basic household items and protection.

A UN Central Emergency Response Fund grant has also just been approved for $3 million to respond to flooding in the south, according to OCHA’s Peron.   As of 15 October, over three million had been affected by flooding in the West and Central Africa region, according to a situation report by the OCHA.     Food insecurity   The flooding in Chad follows a period of high food insecurity in Chad’s Sahelian belt. In Bahr-el-Ghazal, Guéra, Kanem, Ouaddai and Sila regions, food insecurity rates increased from 45 percent in December 2011 to 48 percent in June 2012, according to the UN World Food Programme’s October global food security update.   The number of children being newly admitted for the treatment of severe acute malnutrition, a deadly condition, in Chad’s Sahelian region has been high compared to previous years, according to UNICEF. In 2010, some 59,260 new admissions were recorded; in 2011 that number was 69,936, and from January to August 2012 it was 98,664.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) continues to admit new patients to its emergency feeding programme in eastern Chad, according to an update. At present, more than 1,000 children are being treated in MSF’s emergency feeding programme in the eastern Biltine District.

“Since April, more than 500 severely malnourished children requiring intensive care have been admitted to MSF’s nutrition ward in Biltine District hospital. The team hopes the number of admissions will decrease as the harvest comes in and the annual ‘hunger season’ comes to an end,” the update states.

MSF will continue its emergency nutrition programme there until early December.


Chad is also grappling with the growing threat of desert locusts.

“Immature swarms are currently forming in northeast Chad [adjacent to Darfur, Sudan] near Fada and further west,” Keith Cressman, the senior locust forecasting officer with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), told IRIN. “So far, damage has been reported to pastures and subsistence crops, both important to livelihoods of herders and farmers, respectively.”

“The desert locust threat should continue to be monitored in Chad, Niger, Mali and Mauritania. A potential threat to crops in 2013 exists should locust numbers multiply,” he added.

On 23 October, FAO issued a new locust warning for northwest Africa alerting Algeria, Libya, Mauritania and Morocco to prepare for the likely arrival of locust swarms from the Sahel.

“Any locust infestations that can be found and treated now will decrease the scale of migration from the Sahel to northwest Africa and also reduce the threat to crops in the Sahel that are about to be harvested,” said Cressman.



Posted in AA > News and News analysis | Leave a Comment »

Thousands of people remain displaced

Posted by African Press International on October 28, 2012

Thousands of people remain displaced
High hopes for real peace
Economic dividends and challenges
The devil is in the detail
Residents need more information

COTABATO CITY,  – The recent signing of an interim peace agreement between the Philippine government and the country’s largest Muslim insurgent group is fraught with uncertainty, say analysts. “I think we should temper our enthusiasm,” Julkipli Wadi, dean of the Institute of Islamic Studies at the state-run University of the Philippines, who has closely followed the insurgency, told IRIN.
“The main task ahead remains gargantuan, and we have yet to see whether both sides are up to the task.”
An estimated 150,000 people have died in one of the region’s longest-running insurgencies, which has left the southern mineral-rich island of Mindanao mired in poverty.
Nearly three million people have been forced to flee their homes since 2000, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) reported, of which 22,000 remain displaced today.
In 2008, more than 700,000 people were displaced after fighting broke out when a peace agreement, which gave the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) control over more than 700 areas in the south they considered their ancestral domain, was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
New peace plan
On 15 October, for the first time since the rebellion began in the early 1970s, MILF chief Murad Ebrahim and his top aides travelled to Manila to sign the “Peace Framework Agreement” in a historic, red carpet ceremony.
The deal, reached after 15 years of talks and often amid deadly clashes, outlines broad, initial plans to create an autonomous region within Mindanao by the end of 2016 to be called Bangsamoro.
Bangsamoro will replace an existing five-province region known as the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) established in 1990, which the government has since described as a “failed experiment”: It failed to improve the lot of the region’s 4.5 million Muslims.
Under the new agreement, the region will have tax-raising powers, and will receive a share of profits from Mindanao’s rich natural resources, while Manila will retain control over defence, and monetary and foreign policy.

Photo: Jason Gutierrez/IRIN
A Christian paramilitary group in Mindanao

Muslim Sharia law will also apply, but only to Muslims and only in relation to civil cases. Criminal cases will be dealt with by normal courts.
Cautious optimism
The agreement has met with cautious optimism from foreign donors led by the UN, the European Union, the USA and Japan, as well as business groups that have long wanted to invest in the southern region with its untapped agricultural and mineral resources. Many believe the region could transform the Philippine economy.
According to the World Bank, more than 30 percent of the country’s 100 million inhabitants live below the poverty line. At the same time, a 2012 book entitled Breakout Nations describes the Philippines as the fifth richest country in the world in terms of natural resources, with the planet’s largest nickel, third largest gold, and fifth largest copper reserves – much of them in the south.
As for the agreement itself, analysts say “the devil is in the detail”. It envisages the setting up of a 15-member Transition Commission (seven from the government and eight from MILF) in mid-November which would tackle specific details over the following months.
Once drawn up, the agreement would be passed to Congress for approval and eventually voted on in a plebiscite in Bangsamoro. So far, no deadlines have been set.
Potential obstacles
Meanwhile, a breakaway faction of a few hundred men called the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) which carried out attacks prior to the announcement of the 15 October agreement – could still sabotage the deal, as could armed groups such as Abu Sayif and former fighters of the Moro National Liberation Front (a precursor to the MILF).
“The question would be, `how do you sustain a new political entity when you have groups with arms who feel sidelined’,” said Wadi of the University of the Philippines. “President Benigno Aquino, who steps down in four years, must also ensure that the succeeding government would follow through.”
Disarmament could also prove tricky.
Mohagher Iqbal, MILF’s chief negotiator, said the toughest negotiations would be over the disarmament of the rebels themselves: many had known nothing but warfare most of their adult lives.

Photo: Jason Gutierrez/IRIN
A young MILF fighter at a rebel camp

“We are used to fighting. We are not used to governance,” he said, even as he acknowledged MILF leaders were committed to ending the insurgency by peaceful means. “We know the limited capacity of our people, but our determination will be able to help us.”
He noted, however, that the deal was the first sign that “we are moving to normalcy.”
Explaining the deal
Analysts agree the road ahead will be “complex and complicated”. The region is inhabited by 13 ethno-linguistic groups and as many as 30 indigenous groups in a population of more than 25 million, of which around 4.5 million are Muslim, and 1.2 Lumads (the original inhabitants of Mindanao). The rest of the population are mostly Christian migrant settlers from Luzon and the Visayas islands to the north.
Rebel and government officials have yet to fully explain the agreement to those most affected, including families forced to abandon their homes years ago.
Chief government negotiator Marvic Leonen said the Transition Commission would be conducting consultations in the affected areas to better understand what people want.
“Our only hope is this will lead to a silencing of the guns,” said Samsiyah Buayan, 33, who heads a “transition shelter” in the town of Datu Piang housing 95 families.
“We still cannot return to our homes, and our men risk their lives visiting our farms every day to try and plant. We remain fearful of attacks.”
She said she and her seven siblings left their village at the height of the fighting in 2008, which left one of her uncles dead and her father paralysed after he had a stroke.
“It has been a hard life for us. A government promise of new houses and a relocation site has not yet been delivered,” she said, adding: “Maybe it is fair to say we are skeptical about this new deal.”



Posted in AA > News and News analysis | Leave a Comment »

Zanzibar’s stability threatened by Islamist riots

Posted by African Press International on October 28, 2012

One police officer died in the October riots

ZANZIBAR CITY,  – The Tanzanian archipelago of Zanzibar has experienced three anti-government protests so far this year; the latest, in mid-October, saw one police officer killed, roads blocked and shops closed across the capital, Zanzibar City.
The group behind the demonstrations, Uamsho (the Association for Islamic Mobilization and Propagation), has plastered messages across the capital agitating for the archipelago’s independence. One such message, “if the coat doesn’t fit, take it off”, refers to disbanding the United Republic of Tanzania, which was born out of the 1964 union of Zanzibar and the mainland area of Tanganyika.
The most recent unrest began when Uamsho supporters claimed their leader, Sheik Farid Hadi, had been abducted by government forces – a charge the police denied. Posts on Uamsho’s Facebook page threatened attacks against Christians if Hadi was not released; he resurfaced on 16 October, three days after his disappearance.
Established as an Islamic NGO in 2001, Uamsho has since grown radicalized, gaining popularity among disappointed supporters of the largest opposition party, Civic United Front, which formed a government of national unity with Tanzania’s ruling party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), in 2010.
Uamsho was also involved in two other protests earlier in the year.
The Tanzanian government has taken a strong stand against the riots. “The government will not tolerate some few individuals threatening other people or using religion to disrupt the peace and harmony which the country has enjoyed over the past 50 years,” said Emmanuel Nchimbi, the Minister for Home Affairs, at a recent news conference.
Analysts say the violence is fuelled by unemployment and lack of education among young people; youth unemployment in Zanzibar stands at about 20 percent.
“The youth are a time bomb. We have many unemployed, uneducated young people. They are easy to motivate into action, and they don’t fully understand what they are doing. This is why at least 70 percent of the rioters were young men, many of them under 20 years old,” said social scientist Khamis Said, a researcher of social issues in Zanzibar. “Torching of bars, churches and government property, stealing of crosses – this is all against Islam, but the youth are uneducated.”

Photo: Aino Tanhua/IRIN
Uamsho is seeking full independence for Zanzibar

He added that a proposed new national constitution would go some way towards clarifying Zanzibar’s place within the union.
The chairman of Uamsho’s board of trustees, Abdulrahim Salim, says the organization is looking for peaceful ways to gain full independence for Zanzibar. He denied Uamsho wants Zanzibar to be an Islamic state.
Former chairman of the Zanzibar House of Representatives Ali Mzee Ali says the islands must remain peaceful to sustain their economy. “Tourism is a major contributor in our budget, and it is dependent on peace,” he said.
“We are part of the East African Community, and if one part is not stable, it will of course affect all the other members,” he added.
Emboldening others
Abdullahi B Halakhe, a Horn of Africa analyst with the think tank International Crisis Group, says Tanzania’s reputation as one of the region’s more stable countries will be at risk if it fails to deal with ongoing problems both in Zanzibar and on the mainland. Protests also broke out in Dar es Salaam in mid-October following the arrest of influential Muslim cleric Sheikh Issa Ponda; those protests are thought to be unrelated to Uamsho.
“Tanzania is always held up as a golden standard by which the other African nations are judged. Despite having a hundred ethnic groups, the country has enjoyed long and uninterrupted peace. But [with] the impending transitional election, where for the first time the ruling party – CCM – is facing a serious challenge, combined with the discontent from Zanzibar… we are witnessing unease,” he told IRIN via email.
He added that organizations like Uamsho could inspire similar groups in the region: “The threat of Zanzibar leaving the union will have huge implications that will transcend Tanzania. Secessionist movements like the MRC [Mombasa Republican Council] will obviously be emboldened.”
The MRC is a group based in Mombasa that is calling for the secession of the Kenyan coast area.
Halakhe warns that the central government in Tanzania must handle the Uamsho matter carefully to prevent tensions from escalating.
“The centre needs to appreciate issues raised by the predominantly Muslim coastal Swahili population are genuine, and cannot be wished away lightly,” he said. “As such, the central government… needs to be seen to be trying to address these issues in good faith. Any attempt to gloss over the issue could be counter-productive.”
Said says that unless the government opens communication channels with Uamsho, the unrest will continue: “We need to have more dialogue between the different parties. If this is not done, we can expect more riots,” he said.



Posted in AA > News and News analysis | Leave a Comment »

Stations ill-prepared for earthquakes

Posted by African Press International on October 28, 2012

Radio can play a key role if there is an earthquake

KATHMANDU,  – Radio stations in Nepal, critical sources of emergency information, are ill-prepared to withstand or operate in the event of an earthquakes, experts warn.
“If there is an earthquake now, radio broadcasters would be vulnerable given that they are stationed in earthquake-vulnerable buildings,” Man Thapa, programme manager of the UN Development Programme’s comprehensive disaster risk management programme, told IRIN.
According to the Association of the Community Radio Broadcasters Nepal (ACORAB), there are 350 radio stations across the Himalayan nation, with 36 in the capital Kathmandu alone, a city located in one of the most seismically active zones in the world.
The majority in buildings are not earthquake resistant. Although there have been no specific studies on radio stations’ structural vulnerabilities, most experts agree that the situation is fragile.
With over 44 percent of the population illiterate, according to government’s Nepali Living Standards Survey (2010-2011), radio remains the most powerful information medium for the majority of Nepal’s 29 million inhabitants.
“The role of radio becomes crucial because during an earthquake, people want information first more than anything, and they look to the radio as the best means of communication,” said Ganesh Kumar Jimee, programe manager of disaster preparedness and response for the National Society for Earthquake Technology-Nepal (NSET), a local NGO.
Over 90 percent of the population owns a radio set and tunes into the radio stations across the country, according to a 2012 study (not available online) by Ujyaalo 90 Network.
Ujyaalo has the largest community radio network, with an audience of half million in the capital and 15 million across the country. It’s also the only radio station located in an earthquake-resistant building, and it is planning a series of earthquake preparedness trainings for its reporters.
“Very few radio stations will perhaps withstand an earthquake of a large scale. We are worried about them as most don’t even have back-up plans in case of damage to their own infrastructure,” Ujyaalo head Gopal Guragain noted.
There is urgent need for contingency planning, such as finding alternatives locations to immediately operate radio broadcasts in case of damages to the main station, he explained.

Training for journalists in a post-earthquake environment is needed

“Although our building may not be 100 percent earthquake-proof, our back-up plan helps us to immediately revive our broadcast in case of serious damage.”
In the event of a major earthquake, plans are now in place to use their basement and ground floor, where a back-up transmitter and antennae have been installed and a diesel-powered generator is on standby.
Other broadcasters have yet to implement such planning, according to ACORAB.
“There are lots of possibilities, but nothing has been initiated by most radio stations, especially on how to keep their equipment secure and [how to ensure] the safety of their own reporters,” said ACORAB executive director Rabindra Bhattarai.
While much needs to be done, Bhattarai concedes most stations don’t have the resources to implement any changes.
Moreover, journalists have yet to be properly trained in how to report in a post-earthquake environment.
Following a magnitude 6.9 earthquake that struck northeastern India, Nepal and Tibet in September 2011, fear mongering was a major problem. Rumours quickly spread that the quake was simply a prelude to a much larger seismic event like the one predicted for the country’s densely populated Kathmandu Valley
In Kathmandu, 270km west of the quake’s epicentre, buildings were evacuated and traffic came to a standstill.
“At the time, broadcasters could have played a very important role in calming people with a radio message that this was only a rumour spread across social networking websites and through SMS,” he said, describing the incident as a major wake-up call for radio stations to be better prepared.
NSET hopes that radio stations will start their own preparedness and contingency plans and that they will work together to develop their own standard operating procedures about messages to be delivered in pre- and post-earthquake situations.
Currently, a total of 20 radio stations are broadcasting public service announcements 10 times a day, with support from NSET, about earthquake safety tips and preparedness.
“If the system doesn’t survive, how will radio broadcasters serve the community during an earthquake disaster? This is something they have to think about very seriously,” Pitamber Aryal, director of the Nepal Red Cross Society disaster department said.
According to the NRCS, an earthquake measuring 7 to 8 on the Richter scale in Nepal’s Kandmandu Valley could kill up to 50,000 people, injure 100,000 and destroy 60 percent of buildings, leaving 900,000 homeless.



Posted in AA > News and News analysis | Leave a Comment »

Why Kenyans Should Be Mad, Very Mad Indeed

Posted by African Press International on October 27, 2012

Saturday, October 13, 2012 – 00:00 — BY MWENDA NJOKA

Kenyans have some very good reasons to be mad. Very, very mad indeed. Why, you ask? Well, let us put it this way: if our leaders are not safe to travel the land and address rallies in any part of the country, who then is safe?

About a fortnight ago, Fisheries minister and MP for Magarini, Amason Jeffah Kingi was addressing a rally in Mtwapa area in the outskirts of the generally peaceful coastal city of Mombasa when machete-wielding youth stormed and started slashing everyone at the dais.

This was a completely new phenomenon in the spate of violence that has rocked some parts of the country in recent times. No wonder then that the minister and his bodyguards were caught completely unawares by the specter of violence.

Several people, including the minister’s loyal bodyguard were killed in the machete mayhem. The matter of Amason Kingi attack caught public attention for a few days and then we moved on to other “more interesting” news and issues.

And then a few days later our slumber was interrupted by yet another VIP attack. This time around it was the self-styled Boss, the Makueni MP John Harun Mwau who found himself on the receiving end.

Mwau had gone to attend a political rally in Makueni when, ostensibly out of the blues, a group of hostile youth descended on him baying for his blood.

Mwau was saved by quick action by his bodyguard-cum-aide John Ngugi who jumped in front of the irate youth to shield Mwau from their physical attacks.

So, why should Kenyans be livid, you ask?  Because attacks on political leaders in broad daylight by some crazed youth is something alien to our socio-political culture.

It is something that should make us very concerned and very scared. Something that should get us thinking long and deep, more so when such attacks happen at a time when we are just about to go into what is billed to be a most competitive general election in eons.

My grouse here is that we, as a country, don’t seem to be as concerned over these two incidents as we ought to be. Is it that we are treating these two incidents as isolated happenings that have no bearing to future insecurity? If that is the case, then we are in a state of self-denial.

And that is exactly where the problem lies. Any assumption that the attacks on Cabinet minister Amason Jeffah Kingi and legislator John Harun Mwau were mere isolated incidents of random acts violence is the national equivalent of an ostrich that buries its head in the sand when it sees danger approaching on the assumption that if it does not see the danger, then the danger will not see it too.

Such an ostrich often finds itself becoming dinner for a hungry lioness and her cubs. But on the other hand, had the ostrich clearly recognised the danger ahead and defined ways and means  of dealing with it—whether flight or flight approach—then chances are that the ostrich would have lived to see another day.

As a country, we find ourselves in the ostrich situation in regard to the recent attacks on political leaders. The danger here is that when a security threat incident of such magnitude takes place and the culprits appear to have been let scot-free, whether by design or default, it sends the wrong kind of message.

It is tantamount to telling people with grievances against political leaders (and such people are myriad) in all parts of the country that they should feel free to engage in self-help (Swahili equivalent in this regard is kuchukulia sheria mkononi mwako) against the leaders they dislike and nothing will happen to you!

That is not the kind of message a country, or a government for that matter, wants to send to her citizens more so just a few months before a critical general election.

That is why Kenyans ought to be outraged by the attacks on political leaders and demand quick and decisive action by the government.

It does not matter that you do not like a certain leader, but at the end of the day he or she has as much right to security as your favourite leader.

If we make lethargy and indecisiveness the hallmark reactions to attacks on our leaders perhaps because those to whom the attacks were directed at are not our favourite politicians or do not belong to our political parties, then we are setting a very dangerous precedent.

Yesterday the target may have been Fisheries minister Amason Kingi; today it is former assistant minister John Harun Mwau, who will be the target of violence tomorrow?

There is no knowing when and where such violence will end if given a chance to take root. There is a very dangerous genie in the bottle of violence. If we fail to completely place back the cork on the bottle by decisively dealing with proponents and financiers of violence—no matter what positions they hold in society—then we will have only ourselves as a country to blame when we are unable to put the genie back in the bottle.


———————— The Star of Kenya ————–


Posted in AA > News and News analysis | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

%d bloggers like this: