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Archive for April 19th, 2013

President Uhuru Kenyatta unveiled his government structure yesterday – Appointment of Cabinet Secretaries to follow

Posted by African Press International on April 19, 2013

Uhuru Kenyatta takes oath of office as Kenya's fourth president on April 9, 2013. Photo/AFP

Uhuru Kenyatta taking oath of office on the 9th of April 2013  as Kenya’s fourth president.

President Kenyatta yesterday unveiled his government structure reducing the number of ministries from 44 to 18.

To manage the restructuring, the president some was forced to put together some of the ministries that was created by the former government.

During former President Kibaki‘s second term in office, the Grand coalition expanded the number of ministries to create room for cronies and party loyalist as a result of 2007-2008 post election violence. The violence erupted and more that 1000 people were killed when Raila Odinga refused to concede defeat forcing the formation of a coalition that saw him get the premiership under President Kibaki. This time around Raila Odinga did the same – refused to concede and instead went to the Spreme Court in his effort to unseat the New President Uhurur Kenyatta. He lost the petition and Uhuru Kenyatta was sworn in as the Fourth President of  Kenya.

Here is a summary of the Ministries created by the President and his deputy:

Ministries:

  1. Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government.
  2. Ministry of Devolution and Planning.
  3. Defence
  4. Foreign Affairs
  5. Education which will have the Department of Education and Department of Science and Technology
  6. The National Treasury
  7. Health
  8. Transport and Infrastructure which will have the Department of Transport Services and the Department of Infrastructure
  9. Environment, Water and Natural Resource
  10. Land, Housing and Urban Development
  11. Information, Communication and Technology (ICT)
  12. Sports, Culture and the Arts
  13. Labour, Social Security and Services
  14. Energy and Petroleum
  15. Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries under which are the Department of Agriculture, Department of Livestock and Department of Fisheries
  16. Industrialization and Enterprise Development
  17. Commerce and Tourism which has the Department of Commerce and Department of Tourism
  18. Mining

While unveiling the structure, in a press statement, President Uhuru Kenyatta said that the lean government structure of 18 ministries will be effective.

“In exercise of the authority vested in him by the Constitution of Kenya 2010 and in conformity with the expectations of a lean and effective structure, President Kenyatta officially released the list of ministries and state departments that will form the National Executive,” read the statement.

It is reported that under the Presidency, there will be the Executive Office of the President and Deputy President with two ministries that include the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government and the Ministry of Devolution and Planning.

Other ministries include Defence; Foreign Affairs; Education which will have the Department of Education and Department of Science and Technology; The National Treasury; Health; Transport and Infrastructure which will have the Department of Transport Services and the Department of Infrastructure; Environment, Water and Natural Resource; Land and Housing and Urban Development. This structure will also contain the Office of the Department of Justice and Attorney General.

The Kenyans now wait to se who will be named to head the ministries. The Cabinet secretaries will reflect the face of Kenya. Minority groups will be catered for as promised by the prsident during his inauguration.

 

End

 

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US farms supply a bulk of the world’s food aid – Obama wants to end monetizing it aid

Posted by African Press International on April 19, 2013

US farms supply a bulk of the world’s food aid

JOHANNESBURG,  – In a major development, President Barack Obama has proposed an end to the sale of US food aid in developing countries, with options for buying food locally and cash transfers, among other radical reforms to the system. USAID has accounted for more than half of the world’s food aid every year for decades.

The President’s budget, tabled on Wednesday 10 April, ends years of US reliance for food aid on its agriculture surpluses. However, NGOs have been asking for removing the requirement to buy most of the emergency food aid in the US and transporting it on US vehicles to reduce costs and save time.

This has been met with stiff resistance from various interest groups. In a compromise move to ensure the proposals garner much-needed support in Congress and improve efficiency, the Obama administration has proposed allowing around 45 percent of emergency aid to be bought locally, and using the funds for cash transfers or food vouchers. But 55 percent of emergency food aid would still be bought in the US.

Emergency food aid – US$1.4 billion – forms a substantial chunk of the total food aid assistance package of $1.8 billion.

The changes make the food aid system more efficient and flexible, and will help feed four million more people every year, said Rajiv Shah, the administrator of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) in anaddress to a forum at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), webcast live on Wednesday evening.

Of the $1.4 billion for emergency assistance, $1.1 billion will be provided to International Disaster Assistance (IDA) for emergency food response in times of crises, which could be ongoing.

The 2014 budget also creates a new Emergency Food Assistance Contingency Fund worth US$75 million – roughly five percent of the total emergency food aid allocation of $1.4 billion – allowing USAID to provide emergency food assistance for “unexpected and urgent food needs worldwide”. It will also have various aid options – cash assistance, purchasing food locally, or food vouchers – according to details posted on the USAID website.

The remainder of the funds goes towards development assistance to address chronic food insecurity.

Shah said existing food aid restrictions denied the US government the flexibility to provide cash transfers that could have prevented Somali children from slipping into severe malnutrition. “Inefficiency was inexcusable“ in the country’s efforts to “accomplish something so profound [as helping people in need],” he noted.

Various studies – from the US Government Accountability Office (GAO), an independent investigative arm of Congress, to Cornell University – have pointed out that millions of US taxpayers’ dollars are wasted because of inefficiencies in the existing food aid system.

“There is no doubt that some advocates of reform would have wished to omit the guarantee of 55 percent of the 2014 budget still going to commodities purchased in the US”

There have been several attempts to fix the system. The George Bush administration, pushed by former USAID administrator Andrew Natsios, called for similar reformsbut failed to get the necessary support in Congress.

Reforms have usually faced tough opposition from a lobby referred to as the “iron triangle”, comprising agribusiness, the shipping sector, and some development organizations and NGOs, but food aid experts, NGOs and think-tanks, who have all welcomed the Obama administration’s efforts, are more optimistic this time.

The problems

There are two major flaws in the US food aid system. One is monetization, in which US agricultural commodities are donated to NGOs and development organizations, who then sell these in countries that need assistance to raise the money for their programmes.

This practice has prevailed since the beginning of food aid, which was based on the idea of providing surplus produce as gifts. Almost all major donors have now given up this practice because selling gifts of maize, wheat or other staples in developing countries often distorted local markets, and surpluses to gift are much smaller than before for various reasons, including shrinking production.

But the US has kept up with the practice. In 2007, US charity CARE was the first to turn down the monetized approach. The US has also been under pressure from the World Trade Organization (WTO) to end this trade-distorting form of development aid, which now comes to an end with Obama’s proposal.

The other flaw is a policy called the Agricultural Cargo Preference (ACP), which requires that 75 percent of US food aid be shipped on privately owned, US registered vessels, even if they do not offer the most competitive rates. Some of these costs are reimbursed by the Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration, but ultimately the US taxpayer foots the entire bill.

This policy affects the shipping sector of the “iron triangle”, and any efforts to change it have met with stiff resistance. In 2010, a study led by Christopher Barrett, a food aid expert at Cornell University showed that US taxpayers spent about $140 million per year to ship food aid to global destinations on US vessels – money that could have been used to feed more people.

The Obama administration has not called for the end of this policy entirely, but has reduced the percentage of food aid that has to be bought in the US and shipped on US vessels to 55 percent of the total requested $1.4 billion for emergency food assistance.

“I imagine that trying to garner political support, or at least neutralizing opposition, is part of the reason for some of the proposals such as retaining over half of the 2014 budget going to US commodity purchases,” said Daniel Maxwell, a food aid expert at Tufts University, who wrote about the “iron triangle” in the 2005 book, Food Aid After Fifty Years: Recasting Its Role, co-authored with Barrett.

Maxwell described the proposals as “a huge step” in a positive direction. “It finally puts to rest the wasteful and sometimes harmful practice of monetization. It highlights the speed and cost effectiveness of local and regional purchase of food, and it emphasizes flexible and evidence-based approaches to food assistance.”

He told IRIN, “There is no doubt that some advocates of reform would have wished to omit the guarantee of 55 percent of the 2014 budget still going to commodities purchased in the US, and… [have been disappointed] that the role of cash transfers isn’t highlighted more in the proposed changes… But the administration is clearly committed to a long-term course of reform.”

Barrett said the tabled proposal had been watered down “from the informal proposal that was floated discretely a month or so ago and elicited intense opposition from vested agribusiness and shipping interests, as well as a few NGOs”. The earlier proposal called for doing away with procuring food aid in the US only. “But that’s the political reality”, and even this proposal will face “stiff opposition”. He added, “Congressional lawmakers from both parties are indicating openness to this proposal and most of the major NGOs are strongly supporting these proposals.”

Ben Grossman-Cohen, of Oxfam America, speaking on behalf of several NGOs and think-tanks in the US who have lauded Obama’s efforts, noted that “This budget goes farther than previous reform proposals have… [and] common sense changes that get taxpayers more bang for their buck will be hard for legislators to overlook.”

Republican Congressman Vin Weber backed that view in the CSIS discussion that followed Shah’s address on Wednesday evening, saying that “budget tightness”, where even Obama has agreed to take a pay cut to show solidarity with other government officials, will force everyone to consider the reforms seriously.

Republican Congressman Ed Royce, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Democrat Eliot Engel, the Committee’s Ranking Member, issued a joint statement supporting the reforms.

jk/he source http://www.irinnews.org

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Claiming abuse during forced removal from Europe – where are the protectors of human rights?

Posted by African Press International on April 19, 2013

By Kristy Siegfried 

Handcuff injuries sustained during an attempted forced removal from the UK

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Allegations of assault during forced removals
  • EU monitoring systems vary widely
  • UK lacks monitoring, policy on appropriate level of restraint
  • Returnees struggle to lodge complaints

JOHANNESBURG,  – Cases of excessive force being used to remove rejected asylum seekers have been documented in a number of European countries. But with the financial crisis eroding sympathy and tolerance for asylum seekers, there has been little public or political support for measures that would provide more humane approaches to removing those reluctant to accept an asylum rejection.

According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the forced removal of failed asylum seekers “should be undertaken in a humane manner, with full respect for human rights and dignity, and that force, should it be necessary, [should] be proportional and undertaken in a manner consistent with human rights law”.

directive on common standards and procedures for returning irregularly staying migrants, adopted by the European Parliament in 2008, included a provision requiring that member states implement an effective system for monitoring forced returns. According to a study funded by the European Commission, by 2011, the majority of European Union countries had such a system or were in the process of implementing one.

But the systems vary widely between countries, both in terms of who does the monitoring and what they monitor.

Inconsistent oversight

For example, in the Netherlands – where incidents of excessive force being used on deportees are rare, according to the Dutch Refugee Council – an independent commission oversees the entire forced return process and guidelines are in place for the allowed use of force.

In France, monitoring only occurs during the pre-return stage or if a return attempt “fails”, either because of a last-minute legal intervention or because the pilot or crew on a commercial flight refuse to take the returnee. In the latter case, the returnee is sent back to a detention centre where one of five NGOs contracted by the home affairs ministry has a presence.

Christophe Harrison, from one of the NGOs, France Terre d’Asile, told IRIN that these returnees regularly report excessive use of force by police escorts during attempted removals, but that it was difficult to know the real extent of the problem because “either they are effectively removed to their [home] country or they physically oppose their removal and are then often brought before a criminal judge, who usually condemns them to two to three months in prison.”

Lack of independent oversight is of particular concern when returns are conducted on charter flights carrying only deportees and their guards. Frontex, the EU’s joint-border agency, has made increasing use of charter flights to remove rejected asylum seekers from several different European countries.

“With the charter flights, the level of restraint is even higher than on the commercial flights, but there are no witnesses,” said Lisa Matthews, from the UK-based National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns.

Behind closed doors

In the UK, which carried out over 40,000 forced removals and voluntary returns in 2012, civil society and the media have been reporting for years on the excessive use of force by private security guards contracted by the UK Border Agency (UKBA). A 2008 report by two UK-based NGOs – Medical Justice and the National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns – and the law firm Birnberg Peirce & Partners documented nearly 300 cases of alleged assault during forced removals from the UK between 2004 and 2008. However, the UK opted out of the EU returns directive and has no monitoring system in place.

In 2010, Jimmy Mubenga, an Angolan asylum seeker who had lived in the UK with his family for 16 years, died while being restrained by guards during his removal. Witnesses on the flight said they heard Mubenga complaining that he could not breathe, but in July 2012 the Crown Prosecution Service ruled that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute the guards or their employer, G4S, a global security group.

A spokesperson with the UKBA said that members of Independent Monitoring Boards, which monitor the welfare of prisoners and immigration detainees, had observed a number of charter flights as part of a pilot exercise in 2012, but that “decisions have yet to be made about arrangements for this type of monitoring”.

Little has changed since Mubenga’s death, said Emma Mlotshwa of Medical Justice, which sends independent doctors to immigration detention centres to record injuries resulting from the allleged use of excessive force. “The death of Mubenga, we thought, would have some effect, but it hasn’t. It’s still something that’s happening pretty much behind closed doors,” she told IRIN.

The most common injuries Medical Justice’s doctors see are those related to the use of handcuffs, Mlotshwa said, but fractured bones and injuries consistent with the victim having his or her head pushed down between the knees – an unauthorized method of restraint that can result in suffocation – have also been documented.

“They held me in a position whereby I couldn’t move because I was handcuffed, and then started punching me all over my face and body”

Marius Betondi, an asylum seeker from Cameroon, said he was so badly beaten by guards working for the contractor Tascor (previously called Reliance) during a removal attempt in January 2013 that he needs reconstructive surgery to his face and has blurred vision in his left eye.

He told IRIN over the phone from the UK that he had put up no resistance before the assault began.

“They [the guards] took me to the back of the aircraft and put a big red curtain around me so passengers would not be able to see me. They held me in a position whereby I couldn’t move because I was handcuffed, and then started punching me all over my face and body. I started bleeding terribly, and I was screaming, crying, asking for help. They continued for about 30 minutes, then I went unconscious. When I regained consciousness, they continued punching me.”

Betondi was eventually taken off the plane and returned to an immigration detention facility, where the manager informed the police. A police investigation is ongoing, which is rare in such cases, Mlotshwa said.

The UKBA is also investigating Betondi’s allegations, according to its spokesperson, who said that “physical intervention… is only used as a last resort or to enforce removal where the person concerned is non-compliant.”

Mubenga’s death has focused attention on UKBA’s lack of a detailed, publically available policy on what level of physical intervention is appropriate on an aircraft.

“When we looked at what was available publicly, it was striking that there was nothing relating to aeroplanes,” said Emma Norton, a lawyer with Liberty, a UK-based human rights NGO, adding that policy was clearly designed for use with potentially violent prisoners rather than failed asylum seekers. She noted that private security guards carrying out removals often receive only five days of control-and-restraint training, which does not include techniques for use on an aircraft.

Liberty’s request for a judicial review of the restraint policy was rejected last month when it emerged that the Home Office was reviewing the policy and had contracted the National Offender Management Service to design a “bespoke” training package for UKBA and its private contractors. The UKBA spokesperson could not say when the new training guidelines would be implemented.

Ineffective complaints system

Most cases of excessive use of force come to light only when the removal fails. Even then, many victims do not have the opportunity to make a complaint. “When people are injured and the removal fails, removal directions may be sent again very quickly, before there’s time to get medical evidence, and while they are still weak from their injuries,” alleged Mlotshwa, of Medical Justice.

She said the complaints system in the UK is ineffective and lacks independence, as investigations are carried out by the Professional Standards Unit, a department of the Home Office. “Detainees are often not interviewed, CCTV footage goes missing, and injuries are often not photographed.”

UKBA’s spokesperson said “we take all complaints very seriously and ensure they’re investigated thoroughly and in a timely manner”, but Liberty’s Norton said none of the complaints her organization has assisted with have been upheld. For those who are successfully returned to their home countries, the obstacles are even greater.

Caroline Muchuma, from the Refugee Law Project (RLP) in Uganda, which provides legal and psycho-social assistance to deportees, said, “The vast majority of our clients report having been abused prior to or during deportation,” but many do not want to lodge a formal complaint or are unable to do so.

Some fear imprisonment and go into hiding after being returned; they may receive medical treatment only long after the fact, making documenting evidence of their injuries problematic.

Muchuma said RLP is still in discussions about how best to help clients who want to pursue legal redress. “There are questions about jurisdiction that need to be determined, among others.”

She added, “The use of excessive force is across the board, but many of our clients are from the UK.” RLP has compiled a report documenting abuses by escorts and plans to send it to the UKBA.

ks/he/rz

source http://www.irinnews.org

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