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Archive for October 9th, 2012

Kenya politics: Ruto’s URP to get new significant members from Kisumu

Posted by African Press International on October 9, 2012

By Jeff Otieno reporting from Nairobi

The National Alliance Party, TNA is set to receive a huge blow following exlusive reports that its Nyanza vocal coordinator Hesbon Omollo is set to join resilient William Ruto led URP.

Omollo is expected to lead over twenty powerful delegation of ODM aspirants aspiring for various seats fearing flawed nomination process. “Its a pity that TNA operations are managed by youths who cannot engage aspirants willing to join the party; Omollo said. He singled out Ndhiwa by-election as an example where the said youths hand-picked a candidate who could not talk in “English. “Allegations that the party seems to be sympathetic to the emerging gangs who have wrecked havoc in Ksm and its environs is also a concern to Omollo. “We can’t be at the mercy of these heartless hooligans and the party leadership seems cagey, he quipped.

Omollos move appears to be a well orchestrated game plan by Ruto brigade to fill the void left by his ailing Nyanza coordinator George Ayugi who was attacked by gangs in Kisumu in the night two months ago. Ayugi is to be flown overseas for special treatment, according to impeccable sources within Rutos circles.

Omollo just like Ayugi is known for his combative nature and mobilisation skills ingredients required in a region still believed to be in the commanding grip of Raila led ODM.




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Where to go from here? Displaced Rohingya living “worse than animals”

Posted by African Press International on October 9, 2012

Where to go from here?

CHIANG MAI,  – Nearly 75,000 people living in temporary camps and shelters following inter-communal conflict in Myanmar’s Rakhine State in June face deteriorating living conditions, say local aid workers and residents.

“Right now [the displaced] are facing health problems from diarrhoea, fevers and colds. A lot of [them] are living together in small spaces,” said Mohammad Nawsim, secretary of the Rohingya Human Rights Association (RHRA) based in Bangkok. “Their condition is worse than animals.”

As of 25 September, the government estimated some 72,000 from the (mainly Muslim) Rohingya ethnic group and almost 3,000 people from the (mainly Buddhist) Rakhine ethnic group are displaced. They are staying in 40 camps and temporary sites in Sittwe and Kyauktaw townships, from where they are still able to access schools and work.

Immediately after the outbreak of violence in June, aid agencies visited areas in four affected townships and identified sanitation and clean water as major needs. At the time, only about 30 percent of the surveyed displaced persons had access to clean water, while six out of 10 people did not have any way to store it even if they secured some.

A number of camps had only one latrine serving 100 persons. Little has changed in recent months said Nawsim, noting that young and elderly Rohingya in the temporary camps along the road leading west out Sittwe (capital of Rakhine State as well as Sittwe township) are falling ill due to fetid living conditions.

Long-simmering ethnic and religious tensions between Rakhine State’s majority population from the Rakhine ethnic group and its minority Rohingya population erupted in early June after the alleged rape and murder of a Buddhist woman by a group of Rohingya.


Meanwhile, Rohingya both in the camps and villages have reported arbitrary arrests and detention, said Nawsim, citing frequent phone calls with those in and around camps and shelters for the displaced.

“They send me messages and then I call them back but it’s still very dangerous for them to have mobile phones because the soldiers will search them often. They used Bangladesh mobile phones. The phone only works for a while so when I get on the phone they will give me all details such as how many people are missing and which villages they come from.”

Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division based in Bangkok, told IRIN the displaced are “effectively restricted to camps by both the security forces and by the violent attacks they fear from the Rakhine [community].”

Most Muslims have shuttered their former businesses and left Sittwe after the authorities ordered their departure, said Chris Lewa, director of the Arakan Project, an advocacy organization for the Rohingya.

While supplies and relief are getting into the camps, delivery is still hampered, she added.

Based on her visits to the displaced in Sittwe with the NGO Refugees International at the end of September, she said: “Many of the staff of the NGOs are local workers and are afraid to go to the Muslim camps – not so much that they are afraid to be attacked by Muslims in the camps, but they are mostly afraid that if the Rakhine Buddhists see that they are assisting the Muslims, they will be attacked by their own community.”

According to a 4 September report from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, “humanitarian partners remain concerned that access is still limited to some affected areas and townships outside of Sittwe,” which includes aid groups working with Rohingya before the most recent bloodshed which have now been forced to discontinue their services.

International aid workers report being unable to get travel authorization to work in affected northern townships in Rakhine State, including Maungdaw, which borders on Bangladesh and where almost 500 homes were burnt down in the violence.

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have fled persecution in Myanmar over the past three decades, the vast majority to Bangladesh in the 1990s.

International aid efforts

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Myanmar’s President Thein Sein discussed how to address the root causes of inter-communal tensions in Rakhine State, including through development efforts, on 29 September at the recent UN General Assembly meeting in New York. The president said the government would address the needs. 

The Burmese government signed a memorandum of understanding with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in mid-August to facilitate OIC partner organizations’ humanitarian assistance to displaced Rohingya. The head of international relief and development of Qatar Red Crescent Society, Khaled Diab, told IRIN his chapter will carry out relief work estimated at US$1.5 million among displaced Rohingya over the next six months – and possibly longer depending on funding – in health, shelter, water and sanitation.

A multi-agency Rakhine Response Plan estimates it will take some $32.5 million to cover basic emergency needs until the end of the year for an estimated 80,000 displaced.

“Most people in the camps believe they will never be able to go back to the town, even though the government says the camps are only temporary,” Arakan Project’s Lewa said.

Aid groups working in Rakhine State are meeting in Myanmar’s capital – most recently on 22-23 September – to review longer-term issues of relief, rehabilitation and rule of law in the state.

According to the UN database which records international humanitarian aid, the Financial Tracking Service, and not-yet-recorded recent donor announcements, some $11 million has been pledged or contributed to humanitarian assistance in Rakhine State this year.



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Kenya: Concern Worldwide Organization praised for Developing Education

Posted by African Press International on October 9, 2012 Maurice Alal reporting from Kisumu.Kenya Maurice Alal reporting from Kisumu.Kenya

By MAURICE ALAL reporting from Kisumu Kenya

Concern Worldwide, a charitable organization has been praised for funding development of essential facilities in primary schools in Migori and Ndhiwa districts of Nyanza region.

The Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) supports the building of classrooms and equipping them with furniture, VIP toilets and changing room for girls, water supplies, health services to children and training of teachers.

It has so far assisted over 58 primary schools at a cost of Shs. 18 million, including Giribe Integrated Primary Schools among others in the region.

The projects which included rehabilitation of classrooms, construction of VIP toilets and installation of water tanks are meant to address some of the challenges that the most vulnerable children are experiencing in schools.

Concern Worldwide also targets schools in the marginalized areas that bear high poverty index. The area District Education Officer (DEO), Joseph Olepardia, hailed the NGO for striving to promote quality learning for the pupils in Migori County.

“Kudos for the sacrifice in giving the disadvantaged children access to improved learning conditions,” the DEO told the representatives, for the two new classrooms and 5 VIP toilets it put up at Giribe Integrated Primary School where the handing over ceremony was being held.

Speaking during the handing over ceremony of the projects, Country Director of the Concern Worldwide, Anne O’Mahony said infrastructure improvement will impact positively on the most vulnerable children in Migori and Ndhiwa districts as well as Nyanza region.

“Concern is a non-governmental , international humanitarian organization dedicated to the reduction of suffering and working towards the ultimate elimination of extreme poverty in the world’s poorest countries,” said O’Mahony.

The director revealed that the organization have been involved in schools infrastructure improvement projects in hundreds of schools since 2004.
“In 2010, we moved to Migori and Ndhiwa districts and we have since constructed 21 door VIP toilets, installed over 16 water tanks, constructed numerous classrooms and rehabilitated 26,” she said.

O’Mahony further said Concern also engage the communities to participate, dialogue and address poor education outcomes in their districts.  She said the involvement of communities has enabled the residents to appreciate developments and embrace child protection initiatives.

The organization has so far managed to train 208 teachers on curriculum delivery, social support, monitoring and evaluation, 78 teachers and School Management Committees (SMCs) have been trained on child protection, 132 SMCs and head teachers have been taught on resource mobilization and management.

A total of 100 facilitators have also been enlightened on children rights and approximately 15,000 community members have been sensitized on child protection through community engagement in a bid to improve child education especially girls.

O’Mahony revealed that the infrastructure development is done in collaboration with the area residents that oversee the implementation of the projects while local community mobilized resources such as sand, ballast and unskilled labour as part of cost sharing arrangement.

The Concern director praised Nyanza communities for their involvement in mobilizing the local available resources and labour which she said contributed to the success of the projects implementation.


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Intercepted smuggler boats are taken to the port in Mytilene

Posted by African Press International on October 9, 2012

Intercepted smuggler boats are taken to the port in Mytilene

MYTILENE,  – Just as Greece appears to have successfully stemmed the flood of undocumented migrants crossing the land border with Turkey, a new influx of migrants and asylum seekers has started arriving on its eastern Aegean islands.

European border agency Frontex estimates the islands have been receiving about 200 migrants per week since the August launch of an operation that deployed an additional 2,000 police officers to the Greek-Turkish border. “There is some displacement effect,” said Frontex press officer Ewa Moncure, who added that a smaller number of migrants was also attempting to reach Europe via Bulgaria.

Although Greek territories, the islands are just a few kilometres from the Turkish coast, and are reachable in the right weather conditions by smugglers in even flimsy inflatable boats. The route, however, is much more perilous than a land crossing and has already resulted in fatalities. During just one incident in September, involving a boat that struck underwater rocks and sank just off the Turkish coast, 61 migrants died, including 31 children.

Authorities overwhelmed

The new wave of sea arrivals is creating a headache for local authorities, who have been instructed by their superiors in Athens to detain all the migrants but have little capacity to do so.

The government has announced plans to open reception centres for migrants on the islands of Chios, Samos, Lesvos and Rhodes, but for now police station cells are overflowing, and some of the migrants are sleeping in parks and port areas, waiting for the police to issue them a deportation order that gives them seven days to leave the country.

“This document does not really provide them with a legal status, but without it, they can’t buy a ferry ticket to the mainland,” explained Ioanna Kotsioni, an Athens-based migration expert with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), who recently visited three of the islands to assess detention conditions.

Photo: Kristy Siegfried/IRIN
Syrian refugees are detained by police in Skalochori

“For now, there’s no vulnerability screening or proper reception facilities,” said Kotsioni. “Medically speaking, there are no services and the cells are overcrowded. Families with children are usually prioritised for release, but the general line is that everyone is detained, in some cases for a month or more.”

Lesvos, the largest of the islands, has received between 400 and 500 migrants in the last two months, many of them Syrians, but also Afghans and other nationalities, according to Antonios Safiadelis of the Lesvos Coast Guard. Safiadelis is the local coordinator of Operation Poseidon 2012, a joint effort by the Hellenic Coast Guard and Frontex to respond to the new trend in sea arrivals.

Safiadelis said most boats containing migrants were apprehended at sea. Those still in Turkish waters are encouraged to turn around, while those already in Greek waters are brought to the port in Mytilene, Lesvos’ main town, where they are fingerprinted and registered before undergoing a basic health check and being turned over to the police.

Tensions mounting

But not all of the boats are intercepted. On a recent night, a rubber dinghy bearing 23 Syrian refugees came ashore on Lesvos’ north coast. The driver sped away, and it was not until the following morning that the arrivals discovered they were in Greece.

“We thought he’d take us to Italy,” said 23-year-old Emmad Saeed*, who had risked the journey with his parents, two younger brothers and large extended family, to escape aerial bombardments in his village in north-eastern Syria by President Bashar Al-Assad’s regime.

Saeed was well aware that Greece’s severe economic crisis had made the country less than welcoming to migrants and asylum seekers. “Greece can’t offer us anything so we’ll go from here, but how we don’t know,” he told IRIN.

Emmad Saeed, “I know I’m not going to die, and that is a relief”

Photo: Kristy Siegfried/IRIN
In the sleepy village of Skalochori on the Greek island of Lesvos, a group of 23 Syrian refugees are eating a hurried meal of donated fish and bread before a police van arrives to detain them.

Over the past two months, several islands in this area of the Aegean have been receiving boatloads of migrants, many of them Syrians fleeing the armed conflict in their country.

After a five-hour hike, Saeed and his family reached the village of Skalochori, where they rested for a few hours and ate a meal organized by the local priest while waiting for a police van to carry them to the police station in nearby Kalloni.

With a budget of only 5.50 euros per day to feed each migrant, the police are relying on donations from locals to supplement meals and provide other necessities. But sympathy for the migrants is starting to wear thin, said Konstantina Sklavou, a consultant with local NGO Synparxi, which is organizing donations and advocating for the establishment of more appropriate reception facilities.

“If the numbers keep increasing, the minority who are hostile may grow, especially if there is no proper way to receive them,” she said, adding that the extreme-right political party Golden Dawn, which has grown in popularity during the financial crisis by exploiting anti-migrant sentiment, is about to open a local branch on Lesvos. So far, only one apparently racist attack has occurred – against two Afghan migrants who declined to press charges – but Sklavou fears the presence of Golden Dawn could aggravate the situation.

A return to old ways

For Lesvos and the other Aegean islands, the influx of migrants is not new; it has only restarted after a hiatus of nearly three years. Until the end of 2009, the sea route was favoured by smugglers, and detention centres were in operation on Lesvos, Samos and Chios Islands. According to Kotsioni of MSF, the dramatic shift from the Aegean route to Greece’s land border with Turkey at the beginning of 2010 coincided with the conclusion of a de-mining programme in the area.

Groups like MSF and Synparxi do not want to see the old detention centres re-opened. Conditions at the Pagani Detention Centre in Lesvos were so poor that human rights groups successfully lobbied for it to be closed down in November 2009. “There should be dignified reception facilities that take care of vulnerable groups and screen for persons in need of international protection,” said Kotsioni.

No one is sure if the flow of migrants to the islands will continue. Much depends on what happens in Evros, where the ramped-up border police presence has just been extended for a further two months. And as winter approaches, the Aegean will become more difficult to navigate.

“By November, we will have rough seas, and if they hit a rock and fall in, most [of the migrants] don’t know how to swim,” said Safiadelis of the Coast Guard.

*Not his real name




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