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Archive for June 27th, 2013

Remembering Kenya’s history: Field Marshall Dedan Kimathi’s farewell letter written on 17th February 1957

Posted by African Press International on June 27, 2013

The letter below dated 17th February 1957, is said to have been written by the penultimate military commander of Kenya’s pre-independent “ Mau Mau” Movement, the legendary Field Marshall Dedan Kimathi, and is said to have been written one day before Kimathi was executed by the British Colonial Government in Kenya on 18th February 1957. The letter is addressed to one Father Marino of Catholic Mission, P.O. Box 25, Nyeri, Kenya.

The source of the letter is the Kenya National Archives, where a typed copy of the same was on display at the Kenya National Archives Public Gallery in the 1990s, since when it has been brought down. However members of the public can on request, get a typed photocopy of Kimathi’s said below letter at the Kenya National Archives. It remains unclear if the original handwritten copy of Kimathi’s said below letter still exists, and if it still does, in whose possession it is. Contents of Kimathi’s said letter of 17th February 1957 reproduced below verbatim…

           Dedan Kimathi
C/O H.M Prison (i.e. Her Majesty’s Prison)
           17th February 1957

Father Marino
Catholic Mission
P.O. Box 25
Nyeri

Dear Father,

It is about one O’clock night that I have picked up my pencil and paper so that I may remember you and your beloved friends and friends before the time is over.

I am so busy and so happy preparing for heaven tomorrow the 18th February 1957. Only to let you know that Father Whellam came in to see me here in my prison room as soon as he received the information regarding my arrival. He is still a dear kind person as I did not firstly expect. He visits me very often and gives me sufficient encouragement possible. He provided me with important books with more that all have set a burning light throughout my way to paradise, such as :-

1. Students Catholic Doctrine
2. In the likeness of Christ
3. The New Testament
4. How to understand the Mass
5. The appearance of the Virgin at Grotto of Lourdes
6. Prayer book in Kikuyu
7. The Virgin Mary of Fatima
8. The cross of the Rosary etc.

I want to make it ever memorial to you and all that only Father Whellam that came to see me on Christmas day while I had many coming on the other weeks and days. Sorry that they did not remember me during the birth of our Lord and Savior. Pity also that they forgot me during such a merry day.

I have already discussed the matter with him and I am sure that he will inform you all.

Only a question of getting my son to school. He is far from many of your schools, but I trust that something must be done to see that he starts earlier under your care etc.

Do not fail from seeing my mother who is very old and to comfort her even though that she is so much sorrowful.

My wife is here. She is detained at Kamiti Prison and I suggest that she will be released some time. I would like her to be comforted by sisters e.g. Sister Modester, etc. for she too feels lonely. And if by any possibility she can be near the mission as near Mathari so that she may be so close to the sisters and to the church.

I conclude by telling you only to do me favor by getting education to my son.

Farewell to the world and all its belongings, I say and best wishes I say to my friends with whom we shall not meet in this busy world.

Please pass my complements and best wishes to all who read Wathiomo Mukinyu. Remember me too to the Fathers, Brothers and Sisters.

With good hope and best wishes,

I remain dear Father

Yours Loving, and Departing Convert

D. Kimathi

 

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Zimbabwe: Stateless residents gain citizenship ahead of the polls

Posted by African Press International on June 27, 2013

Zimbabweans are expected to go to polls soon

HARARE,  – Standing in a winding queue in downtown Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital, Judith Kapito, 38, cannot hide her excitement: she is waiting to receive a new identity document, one that will offer her rights and opportunities she has long been deprived of.

Kapito was born to Malawian parents who migrated to Zimbabwe – then Southern Rhodesia – in 1960. She lost her citizenship in 2001, when the government’s amendment of the Citizenship Act forced those born of alien parents to renounce their foreign citizenship.

Kapito, who was born in Zimbabwe and registered as a national of the country, had no other citizenship to renounce. She became stateless, and remained so until the country’s new constitution, passed in April 2013, restored her status as a Zimbabwean.

“For 10 years, I had no identity, just a name. I had no country to call mine because the government of Malawi, where my parents came from, did not consider me as its citizen and could not help me in any way.”

The processing of documents at the Registrar General’s office has been slow, but Kapito remains upbeat. “I am happy that there is now… a new constitution that brings back my citizenship, and I see so many opportunities ahead of me,” she told IRIN.

“For 10 years, I had no identity, just a name”

Once she acquires her new passport, Kapito plans to become an informal trader, buying hairdressing chemicals from Botswana for resale in Zimbabwe.

“My citizenship was taken away at a time when things were bad in Zimbabwe, and it was difficult to make ends meet. I could not cross the border, not even to Malawi, which was supposed to be my country, and thus could not make money as other traders were doing,” she said.

Myriad challenges

In 2000, an economic and political crisis began when the government of President Robert Mugabe forced out thousands of white commercial farmers to resettle black Zimbabweans, leading to the displacement of former farm workers, massive unemployment levels and acute shortages of basic commodities. The move also forced millions of people to migrate and others to rely on cross-border trade to earn a living or access food.

Kapito’s statelessness followed soon after. The 2001 amendment prohibited dual citizenship; people who had migrated to Zimbabwe had to renounce their natural citizenship before they could acquire a Zimbabwean one. Kapito did not have the details, such as the name of her Malawian village head, needed to acquire a Malawian passport from the embassy in Harare, which she could then renounce.

Since then, the challenges have been myriad. An unemployed widow with three school-going children, she has been struggling to get a court directive to inherit and sell an old truck that her late husband left behind because she could not obtain a marriage certificate; both she and her husband were considered foreigners who could not legally marry in Zimbabwe.

Kapito is among thousands of migrants and their descendants to face such difficulties.

Her neighbour, Duncan Sapangwa, 30, whose parents also migrated from Malawi, hopes that restoration of his Zimbabwean citizenship will help him open a bank account for his small carpentry business.

“Banks always turned my applications for a loan down because they said I was an alien who could run away from Zimbabwe any time. I have no doubt that my business would have grown if I had access to a loan,” Sapangwa told IRIN.

The Harare municipality also refused to put him on the city’s housing waiting list, he said, because of his “alien” status.

“I have many relatives who used to work on white farms but were chased away by the new owners. The government said they could not be resettled under the land reform programme because they were foreigners, and they ended up as beggars on the streets. Since we are now citizens once again, we hope the future will be better,” he added.

Thousands stateless

According to the Harare-based Research and Advocacy Unit’s December 2008 report, A Right or Privilege: Access to Identity and Citizenship in Zimbabwe, the law prohibiting dual citizenship left thousands stateless, most of them young people.

Photo: IRIN
Zimbabwean traders crossing into Zambia over the Kariba Dam border

“Among the most affected are young generations of Zimbabweans whose grandparents migrated from Malawi, Mozambique, and Zambia” for a variety of reasons, including war, famine and unemployment back at home, said the report.

Thabani Mpofu, spokesperson of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiCZ), told IRIN it was difficult to establish the exact numbers of those considered aliens living in Zimbabwe as no formal study has been conducted, but he said the figure could run to “several hundreds of thousands”.

The acting president of the Zimbabwe Chamber of Informal Economy Associations, Lucia Masekesa, accused the government of having been insensitive towards migrants and their families.

“The political leadership in this country failed to consider the plight caused by taking the so-called aliens’ citizenship away… Nothing was done to cushion them,” she told IRIN.

Voting rights

Once Kapito and Sapangwa receive proof of citizenship, they will be able to exercise the rights due any other citizen of Zimbabwe, including, crucially, the ability to vote in the impending general elections.

Kapito was prevented from voting in the 2000 general elections because of widespread political violence against perceived opponents of the government. Afterwards, considered an alien, she was unable to vote in the 2002 presidential election or the 2005 and 2008 parliamentary polls.

Mugabe, who has been in power for more than three decades, set 31 July 2013 as the next election date. This decision was met with an outcry from the opposition, who pointed out that amendments to electoral laws were still being debated and that the voter registration exercise needed more time. The South African Development Community has since intervened, asking Mugabe to extend the date to 14 August.

Whatever the date, Kapito says she is happy she will finally be able to cast her vote.

Still, Arnold Sululu, a member of parliament and of the parliamentary committee on home affairs and defence, warned that it was too early for many to celebrate the restoration of their citizenship.

“Many people of migrant origin are facing problems getting new identity documents and passport[s], and it may be a while before normalcy returns,” he said.

fm/jk/rz source http://www.irinnews.org

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Sectarian violence triggers Sunni-Alawi segregation

Posted by African Press International on June 27, 2013

Before the conflict, many Syrian towns and villages were home to a mix of religious sects. This is beginning to change

HIGHLIGHTS

  • People moving away from mixed areas
  • Alawis fear reprisals
  • Foreign fighters contribute to sectarian polarization
  • Segregation could have lasting impact for years to come

DUBAI,  – A few months ago, when rebel fighters of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) pushed further into the suburbs of Damascus, Modar* started noticing rapid changes in his home city.

“We used to have mixed neighbourhoods, but not any more,” he told IRIN.

Modar, a student, lives in Yarmouk, a Sunni-majority district, home to Syria’s largest Palestinian refugee camp, which the FSA first entered this spring and has since come to control.

“There were some Alawis here, but they are gone now,” said Modar. “They left for the coast or to specific areas in Damascus like Mezze 86 or Ish al Warwar.” Both are districts almost exclusively inhabited by Alawis on the hillside in the western outskirts near the presidential palace.

The violence in Syria has triggered an increasing internal migration in the areas affected by the conflict, mirroring broader divisions in society, residents and activists in different cities said.

“Where there is fighting, there is segregation,” said Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma and author of the widely read blog Syria Comment. “Particularly in Damascus, the Alawis have no doubt moved into the Alawi neighbourhoods.”

Sectarian tensions have been on the rise since the beginning of the conflict as the Sunni majority forms the backbone of an opposition trying to overthrow the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, who belongs to the Alawi minority. The sect, a branch of Shiite Islam originating from the mountainous area near the coastline, also fills the ranks of the regime’s security apparatus.

Analysts warn that it is difficult to ascertain the extent to which war crimes and human rights violations, including forced displacement, are driven by sectarianism. Many of the motivations remain simply political or military. But the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria has noted increasingly sectarian overtones to the conflict. And a string of sectarian massacres has accelerated the segregation, driving Sunnis and Alawis apart.

In early May, regime forces were accused of two mass killings which left more than 200 people dead in Baniyas, a Sunni-majority town bordering predominantly Alawi areas in western Syria, and in the nearby Sunni village of Bayda. The attacks followed a pattern of previous killings, fuelling suspicions that the regime is trying to drive Sunnis out of the area in preparation for a breakaway Alawi state.

The opposition has also been accused of sectarian violence. In early June, rebels allegedly killed at least 30 people in a raid on the Shiite village Hatla in Deir-ez-Zor Governorate, scorching houses and decrying Shiite “dogs” and “apostates”.

Both sides have positioned bases within their respective supportive communities, the Commission said in its latest report released this month. Both sides have also been accused of forcibly displacing members of the opposite sect from areas they control.

More than two years into the conflict, at least 4.25 million people are internally displaced within the country. Their motivations for fleeing – which range from general violence to lack of basic services – are often hard to track.

Modar, the student, said some Alawi residents left Yarmouk because they felt generally unsafe due to the nearby fighting.

“Others were threatened after the FSA moved in. Somebody knocked on their door or left a note saying: You are not welcome any more.”

In Damascus, some Christians and Druze, belonging to an offshoot of Shia Islam that incorporates mystical and other beliefs, have also been encouraged by friends and family to move to Suweida, where they would be safer among their “co-religionists” (though some have refused, on principle).

But not all migration follows sectarian fault lines.

“There is an interesting counter-movement,” Landis said. Many Sunnis have fled to Alawi-dominated cities that have been less affected by the violence, like Lattakia or even Qadmous, deep in the Alawi mountains, introducing a new heterogeneity in some parts of the Alawi heartland.

“The picture is in some ways contradictory,” he said. “There is ethnic cleansing in some places, while in others, there is more mixing than before. People are terrified of each other, but they are still coexisting.”

For the moment, Landis said, Alawis are still renting apartments to displaced Sunnis living in predominantly Alawi areas along the coast.

But the Sunnis’ presence could become precarious if Alawis feel threatened. For example, “if Islamist militias penetrate into this area, things could change fast for the [displaced families] because the [Alawis] will see them as a danger,” he said.

Fear of “Genocide”

According to residents and activists from both communities, fear of retribution is rising among Alawis, who make up around 12 percent of the population. The regime has been relying heavily on the support of militia death squads known as Shabiha which are mainly recruited from the Alawi sect. In December UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide Adama Dieng warned of a growing risk that civilian communities, including Alawite and other minorities perceived to be associated with the government, could be subject to large-scale reprisal attacks.

“There is a fear of genocide,” said Rami*, an Alawi student from the coastal town Baniyas, now living in Damascus, and one of the few Alawis supporting the opposition. As a result, the community keeps retreating further, he said, even leaving their strongholds in the capital. “Thousands of families left Mezze 86 and went back to the coast. My relatives left, too.”

Residents in Zarzour, a predominantly Sunni village with a small Shia population in Idlib Governorate, told Human Rights Watch that their Shia neighbours had fled because they feared retaliation by opposition forces because, in their opinion, the local Shias had been supportive of government forces.

In the Ghab plain in Western Syria, an area dotted with Sunni and Alawi villages stretching between the city of Hama and the coast, FSA units and regime troops have been fighting for control. The region has witnessed displacement on both sides, said Majid*, a local Sunni activist. “Sunnis are leaving because they are scared. All regime supporters are armed now, and they fight along with the army.”

The Alawi community has been increasingly militarized, according to media reports, as the regime has stepped up the recruitment of fighters from the minority sect.

“When clashes break out near their villages, the men stay behind,” said Majid, “but they usually send away their families to safer areas further west.”

The rising number of sectarian tit-for-tat killings and kidnappings has also been spurring the flight of residents from heterogeneous regions.

“People are now separated from each other,” said Majid. “We are unfortunately on the road to sectarian war.”

Elizabeth O’Bagy, a political analyst at the Institute for the Study of War in Washington who has repeatedly travelled to Syria, says the scale of sectarian displacement generally reflects the level of fighting in each individual area. The most prominent places, she said, are pockets of Aleppo and the Ghab area in Hama Governorate, “where sectarian displacement is happening systematically… People are purposely moving away from mixed areas, isolating themselves within their own community.”

Standstill

In Homs, which has been subjected to a devastating army siege since last year and is one of the areas most affected by the conflict, the interaction between Sunnis and Alawis has come to a complete standstill, residents said.

“We used to go shopping in their districts,” said a local Sunni activist who goes by the nickname Abu Emad. “I used to have Alawi girlfriends.”

Before the conflict started, there were four mixed suburbs, he said, all of which are now under government control and heavily guarded by Shabiha. Now, most Sunnis have left these areas, either because they were expelled by force, or because they were too scared to stay, he and others said.

“A mixed city like Homs has virtually lost its capacity to normalize relations between different communities,” said Peter Harling, Middle East analyst at the International Crisis Group (ICG). “The social fabric of the city has been broken, and it will be very difficult to reconcile the various groups.”

Aid workers and analysts warn that this type of segregation could affect the region for years to come.

“Frankly speaking, I don’t think we’ll ever be able to coexist with the Alawis again,” Abu Emad said. “I personally don’t want them to live in Syria any more.”

Overlapping motives

However, Harling and others caution against overstating the extent of sectarian-motivated displacement, as motives often overlap, with safety and accessibility generally playing a more important role than religious affiliation.

“The areas that have produced most refugees, the ones that have encountered the most extensive violence, are predominantly Sunni,” he said. “And the majority of people go to areas which are most safe and convenient.”


The composition of the Iraqi capital Baghdad in 2003, before the US invasion, and in 2007, after nearly two years of sectarian violence

Still, the increasingly sectarian nature of displacement in Syria has raised the spectre of the 2006-7 violence in Iraq, where sectarian strife resulted in what some called “ethnic cleansing”, as Sunni and Shiite militias killed thousands of members of the rival community and drove hundreds of thousands from their homes – leaving a demographic legacy until this day.

Regional dimension

Syria has not reached that level yet, but more than 90,000 people have died and the conflict has taken on regional dimensions, reinforcing a broader Sunni-Shiite power struggle that is increasingly drawing in the neighbouring countries.

While Sunni fighters from all over the Middle East, often with an Islamist background, have been flocking to Syria to join the rebels, members of the Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah are now openly fighting alongside regime forces.

“The presence of foreign fighters on both sides contributes to the sectarian polarization,” said O’Bagy. “Unfortunately I do see the risk of Syria going down the path of Iraq. Every time I go to Syria, the sectarian hatred has gotten worse.”

In Baniyas, home to twin massacres in May, fear and distrust is mounting on both sides of the sectarian divide. Previously a lively city where the communities coexisted peacefully, Baniyas is now split into a northern half mainly inhabited by Alawis, and a southern half where Sunnis are concentrating, Alawi and Sunni sources said.

Sunni residents and activists say they feel vulnerable in the coastal town, especially after the massacres. The city is heavily guarded by security forces and Shabiha, while the rebels have almost no presence.

“We are afraid of them. They will probably kill us in the future,” said Rania*, a Sunni resident of Baniyas who recently moved from the city to a neighbouring country.

Mustafa Muhannad*, a local Sunni activist, estimates that 10-20 Sunni families have fled Baniyas since the massacres for fear of further sectarian violence. At the same time, he has seen Alawis stream into the city, both displaced families from other regions as well as fighters coming as reinforcement.

“They are achieving what they want,” he said, in reference to the government, “the displacement of all Sunnis from the city.”

Still, according to Rami, the Alawi student, a few thousand displaced Sunni Muslims have moved into the Alawi districts of Baniyas, his home town.

“The relationship between the locals and the displaced is not good,” he said. “There is a lot of distrust, but so far there has not been any open aggression.”

But even in their heartland on the coast, most members of his sect feel threatened, says Bassel, an Alawi resident.

“Many people consider emigrating to Europe or Lebanon because they are scared of what might happen to them after the regime falls.”

*not a real name

gk/ha/cb source http://www.irinnews.org

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Female-headed households’s Bleak future

Posted by African Press International on June 27, 2013

Women need more support to stand on their own

COLOMBO,  – Four years after the end of a 26-year civil war and with donor assistance dwindling, tens of thousands of female-headed households in northern Sri Lanka face a difficult future, though many are developing innovative coping strategies.

“There is little evidence that the unique vulnerabilities faced by female-headed households are being considered in the government’s policies,” said Raksha Vasudevan, author of a just published report on female-headed households in the north.

“Although they may benefit eventually from the reconstruction of infrastructure and the opening of economic trade activities with the south, for now, it is mostly men who have accessed income-generating opportunities from these developments.”

Researchers and humanitarians working with female-headed households, estimated at over 40,000 by the Centre for Women & Development (CWD) in Jaffna, say the north’s patriarchal social structure, and an economy and reconstruction effort that favours males, have deepened their vulnerabilities.

“The research found that these vulnerabilities [of female-headed households] were simultaneously exacerbated by, and contributed to, psycho-social trauma and an ongoing fear of an unknown future,” the report said. The precarious economic situation also made these women targets of sexual abuseand exploitation. “With many still lacking homes with locking doors, they felt very exposed to attack at any moment,” the author said.

Women whose husbands or partners were killed in the war say they are still struggling to make ends meet, while some continue to spend what meagre resources they have to locate their missing loved ones.

Seetha Kurubakaran, from the town of Paranthan in Kilinochchi District, said she had tried to seek work in various fields – from construction to the civil service (as a clerk) – but without success. All the jobs she sought went to men.

“I don’t want anyone to favour me, but my situation is such that I need a job. I need to feed my family,” the mother of two, said.

Out of desperation she took up sewing dresses at home, but her monthly income is less than US$40. “I live [on] handouts, money my distant relatives living abroad send me,” she said.

Her concern is that her family’s generosity – and ability – to help her is being depleted.

There are no official statistics on unemployment rates in the north, but researchers and analysts believe it could be 10-20 percent, if not higher. Under-employment, where people earn less than a dollar a day, is also believed to be as high as 30 percent.

Ajith Nivard Cabraal, the governor of the Central Bank, told IRIN that since the war ended, the government had invested $3-4 billion in the north, with multimillion dollar construction contracts awarded to build back from almost nothing in some parts.

“Even from a low [reconstruction] base the 20 percent growth rate is impressive,” he said.

However, most of the large infrastructure development projects are centred on the main A9 highway that runs through the middle of Northern Province; employment opportunities are rare elsewhere. And whether near or far from the highway, these projects offer women few jobs.

A woman running her own shop in the north

Discrimination 

Meanwhile, many women are trying to do something about their situation in what the report described as “an impressive sign of their resilience”.

“Through a variety of strategies that they employ in their everyday lives, these women endure, contest and resist the structures of domination imposed upon them. These strategies include creating innovative livelihood opportunities for themselves, accessing alternative support sources, tapping into family networks/kinship structures, various community praxes of solidarity and resistance, and finding ways to normalize both the extraordinary circumstances in which they live and the uncertainties they face,” said the study.

“During the war and even before that the practice of women breadwinners was very rare,” said CWD head Saroja Sivachandran. “Even the limited job market still functions on that assumption.”

“They are clearly discriminated against in hiring for most jobs, even though they are willing to work in non-traditional roles, and also face more difficulties than men in accessing credit,” Vasudevan said.

Rupavanthi Ketheeswaran, the top government official in Kilinochchi District, agreed the situation was difficult for women, but said the authorities were working to ease their economic plight. “We will always go that extra step to help out in getting loans and other assistance to these women,” she said, citing special preference on self-employment schemes, seed assistance for home gardens and the distribution of cattle.

However, such schemes should be far more wide-spread if they are to provide women with the sense of purpose and control over their daily lives they now need, said Sivachandaran.

“Female headed households should be recognized as a special needs group at the highest policy-making level,” she added.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam fought against the government from 1983 to 2009 for an independent Tamil homeland in northern Sri Lanka.

ap/ds/cb source http://www.irinnews.org

 

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Kenya: Parliamentatian Serut calls for the transfer of all education officials accusing them of not improving education standards in his region

Posted by African Press International on June 27, 2013

  • By Godfrey Wamalwa,Bungoma,26/6/2013

An Mp  has called on the ministry of Education to transfer all education officials in the region for failing to improve the education standards.

Mount Elgon legislator  John. Serut claimed all education officers who have over-stayed for over three years both in Cheptais and Mt. Elgon districts should be transferred saying they are of no value to the area residents evidenced by dismal performance both in KCPE and KCSE exams last year.

Speaking in Kapsokwony town in Mt. Elgon district where he accused Cheptais DEO Jacob Wanyama and his Mt. Elgon counterpart Pius Ng’oma and Zonal education officers for failing to deliver on their mandate to improve the ailing education standards in Mt. Elgon region.

He noted that the  government should move the officers and deploy competent officers .

Serut added that it was a shame that Mt. Elgon hit headlines in the media negatively after over 17 girls at Chepukurkur Primary school in Cheptais were impregnated because of what he termed as insensitive and negligence on the part of the education officers.

“This is total shame, in this era and age over 17 girls from one school being impregnated when we have education officers, this officers should not be spared, the government should take stern action on them for sleeping on their jobs when hungry men are sexually molesting under age school girls,” he said.

“Tthe teenage pregnancies in Chepkurkur primary school in Cheptais district was as a result of a dis-connect between the education officials and school managers with the perpetrators taking advantage of the situation to molest innocent school girls”he added.

Mr. Serut noted that education standards in the region cannot be compromised by people who are mandated to manage the sector while appealing to Bungoma County TSC Director in charge of teacher development Mrs. Angelica Ouya and his counterpart in charge of the ministry of Education Mr. Daniel Mosibei to walk the talk including cracking the whip in order to address challenges affecting the education sector in Mt. Elgon.

Further, he blamed Mt. Elgon DEO Pius Ng’oma for failing to disburse bursty funds to needy students in the region.

 

Ends

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