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Archive for August, 2013

Loosing all hope – a wish to commit suicide

Posted by African Press International on August 31, 2013

– When Uganda resident  Rose Lamwaka had two sons abducted by the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) 10 years ago she felt she had lost all hope. “I w as feeling a lot of pain, I was feeling like committing suicide,” says the 51-year-old widow with seven grandchildren.

Last week, Lamwaka joined hundreds from the northern district of Lamwo to remember their abducted children, still missing from the decades-long civil war between the LRA and the government. More than 200 family members with relatives still unaccounted for read the names of their lost ones in a ceremony of prayer and song.

Northern Uganda was the epicentre of a legacy of violence, and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) says the number of people abducted since the war started in the late 1980s ranges between 52,000 and 75,000. Though Uganda has been free from LRA attacks since 2006, and a number of former child soldiers have returned, the ICRC estimates thousands remain missing from the north as a result of the conflict.

“Because there is no official figure of those missing, we had to extrapolate on what we found here,” said Camilla Matteucci, ICRC protection coordinator. “And our projection is that at least 10,000 people are still missing in northern Uganda.”

Left behind

The commemoration in Uganda not only acknowledged those still missing but also marked the end of a four-month community counselling pilot programme for more than 200 affected family members of the abducted in Lamwo District. As that project initially targeted only one sub-county, it used those affected families as a baseline to extrapolate the total number that have gone missing across the northern region.

According to Beatrice Ocaya, the local women’s councillor in Lamwo, the ceremony was an important step in recognizing the ongoing support needed by families torn apart by the LRA conflict.

“There is no longer war, but some parents are ever crying,” she said.

ICRC says relatives left behind have been silently suffering with ambiguous loss, and the isolation that breeds has far-reaching social and economic impacts on populations still recovering from conflict.

“They don’t know if the person is alive or dead, if they’re still with the armed group, which also puts a stigma on the family, and therefore it’s hard for them to deal with the community at large,” Matteucci said.

For Lamwaka, the group brought her relief, and support from her community. “Other people are really understanding, they sympathize and care,” she told IRIN.

A global loss

To mark the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances on 30 August, the ICRC has released a handbook to call for a broader global response to the families of those missing in conflict and natural disasters. The handbook draws on more than 10 years of similar ICRC projects, from the Balkans, to Nepal and Timor-Leste – all countries where thousands have gone missing with families left behind to bear the burden – and provides an understanding of what families of missing persons go through. It also acts as a practical guide for local “accompaniers” from the community, trained by ICRC to counsel peer support groups to be able to share experiences and coping mechanisms.

“Every year, hundreds of thousands of people are separated from loved ones in such situations,” said Marianne Pecassou, head of the ICRC team dealing with missing persons, in a statement. “The families will tell you that what they need more than anything else is to find out what happened to the person who vanished. Unfortunately, in too many cases, that question may never be resolved. But they also have other needs that go far beyond this.”

According to ICRC, during the conflicts in Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo, they received more than 34,000 tracing requests from families searching for answers.

Legal issues such as inheritance and property rights, the financial stress of searching for the lost while supporting a household, as well as the psychological trauma of loss have devastated communities already scarred by conflict.

According to Milena Osorio, ICRC’s mental health and psychosocial support adviser, psychological needs such as emotional isolation, feelings of guilt, anger, depression or trauma, and tensions among family members or with members of their communities are common.

“The families of missing people frequently find themselves grappling with uncertainty. Most societies have religious or cultural rituals to deal with death,” said Ms Osorio in the statement, “but there is very little to help the families of missing persons.”

In May, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged member states to join an international treaty aimed at “eliminating enforced disappearances and stop impunity for this scourge”.

pc/kr/cb source



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Halting fight against impunity

Posted by African Press International on August 31, 2013

– Since 2012, in an unprecedented effort in the country, top security officials in Guinea have been indicted for alleged crimes against civilians. But t he indictments have yet to lead to trials or, in most cases, even arrests.

Guinea has seen a string of judicial firsts that sparked hope the country could finally chip away at impunity, including military officials long seen as untouchable being called before a court of law. But they have retained their posts; Col Claude Pivi remains head of presidential security; Lt Col Moussa Tiégboro Camara continues in his role as director of the national anti-drug-trafficking agency; and Sékou Resco Camara is still the Conakry governor.

“Every time there’s news of another indictment, [someone on the outside] might think, ‘Ah, things are progressing well there’, but that’s not the case,” said Thierno Madjou Sow, long-time human rights activist and head of the Guinean Human Rights Organisation. “Things get started then just stop. Look at Tiégboro, Pivi, and Resco – all still in their government positions.”

Pivi and Tiégboro Camara are among eight people indicted to date over the 28 September 2009 stadium attack, in which, according to an international inquiry, soldiers killed, raped, or injured hundreds of people. One gendarme has been arrested and detained on charges of rape in that case. Resco Camara has been indicted for alleged involvement in the torture of civilians by gendarmes in 2010.

Sow and other human rights advocates are quick to say the indictments themselves are significant considering the history of impunity among Guinea’s leadership. But the process must continue, they say.

“These indictments do carry some weight. People see that a top military official can be called before a judge – that reassures them,” said Hamidou Barry, a Guinean lawyer and the coordinator of the judges investigating stadium attack. “The problem is everything stops there. Guinea’s judges are not free and independent.”

Doubts about judiciary

The stadium case – the latest but perhaps the most spectacular in a string of military abuses against civilians – is in preliminary examination at the International Criminal Court (ICC), which says the prosecutor has a responsibility to intervene if it becomes clear that national authorities are “unwilling or unable to genuinely carry out the proceedings”.

But given what they see as a stalled process, survivors say they wonder what it would take for the ICC to find the Guinean authorities unwilling.

“The international community must understand once and for all that Guinea’s judiciary is not ready to carry this out,” said Asmaou Diallo, head of the  Association of Victims, Relatives and Friends of 28 September (AVIPA), which assists survivors of the attack and other human rights abuses.

“The victims are here, the assailants are here,” she said. “It’s possible to hold trials. But the authorities can’t. They don’t dare. And I don’t know at what level things are blocked. Meanwhile as long as impunity reigns in Guinea, the country cannot move forward.”

Survivors and human rights activists in Guinea say coming out more forcefully against impunity exposes them to threats and intimidation by the accused and their supporters. But many say it is worth it.

“Sure, there is a risk. But I think it’s time Guinea’s human rights community assume that risk,” said Mamady Mansare, a journalist who was injured during the stadium attack. “Survivors must denounce the authorities’ unwillingness to arrest suspects and proceed with this.”

Tamar Thiam, who was injured in the stadium attack and fled Guinea after she was threatened for speaking out, said Guineans must push for more pressure to be brought on the government. “We must raise our voices to show the international community that the authorities lack either the means or the will to bring perpetrators to justice,” she told IRIN. “If this drags on for too long, the witnesses will be dead, the assailants will be dead. What good would a trial do then?”

“This case is in the judges’ hands,” said government spokesman Albert Damantang Camara. “The government has never obstructed their work. To date, several high-level officers have been indicted, and the procedure is following its course with absolutely no interference from the government.”

Cautious optimism

International justice experts say, while things are moving slowly in Guinea, there has been progress. The ICC Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) says the indictment of officials in the stadium massacre “is a serious indication that they will be brought to account” and the office expects a trial will take place.

“The competent national authorities have initiated proceedings, as it is their primary responsibility to do,” the OTP told IRIN. “The OTP will continue to encourage their efforts as long as we assess they go in the right direction.”

“The international community must understand once and for all that Guinea’s judiciary is not ready to carry this out.”

Florent Geel, Africa desk director with the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), says these cases must not be allowed to drag on for decades, but that considering Guinea’s past, the indictment of top military officials within a few years of the alleged crimes is remarkable.

“Guinea’s history is 40 to 50 years of impunity, so it’s difficult from one day to the next make the justice system function normally,” Geel told IRIN. “It’s not easy. It’s slow. It’s complicated, but little by little there are positive moves.”

Rights expert Sow said since independence in 1958, Guinea’s judiciary has been side-lined by the executive. Geel said he is confident there will be trials in the stadium attack and the 2010 torture case by the end of 2014.

FIDH has called for the suspension of indicted officials, particularly the head of presidential security. “Clearly the accused are innocent until proven guilty. We must respect this principle,” Geel said. “But given Pivi’s position and the seriousness of the indictment, we think it is reasonable to demand his suspension pending further judicial proceedings.”

The ICC prosecutor’s office acknowledges that seeing those charged remain in power is a blow to survivors. “The fact that two indicted officials [in the 28 September case] have retained their post in government is undoubtedly shocking and frustrating for the victims,” the OTP said. “It is, however, insufficient for the office to determine that the proceedings are not being conducted with the intent to bring to justice the persons bearing responsibility for the crimes committed.”

So far in Guinea, “complementarity is working”, the prosecutor’s office told IRIN, referring to the principle that sees the ICC stepping in only as a last resort, when national jurisdictions fail to address crimes.

FIDH’s Geel said it would be best if Guinea’s judiciary were to work. “The goal of international justice is to push the national judiciary to prosecute. Otherwise what would ever be changed in the fight against impunity in the country?”

For the four-year commemoration of the stadium massacre, survivors and families of victims hope to hold a rally at the venue of the attack. The past three Septembers, the government denied authorization to do so, said AVIPA’s Diallo, whose son was killed in the crackdown.

“We hope this year we can at least go to the stadium and place flowers for our dead and missing.”

np/ob/rz source



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Management of the country’s fishing stocks is seen as a crucial component of the country’s long-term food security

Posted by African Press International on August 31, 2013

TAMPOLOVE,  – Thin government regulation of Madagascar’s fisheries industry has disguised a steady and unsustainable rise in the sector’s production over the past two decades, which threatens both the long-term survival of key marine species and the livelihoods of fishing-dependent coastal communities, according to local conservation groups.

The coastline of the world’s fourth largest island is about 4,800km, providing it with an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of more than 1.2 million square kilometres, but the government has no capacity to patrol, police or monitor its vast maritime asset.

According to a 2011 study led by researchers from Canada’s University of British Columbia, in collaboration with Blue Ventures, a Madagascar-based conservation organization, fish catches in the country were double the official documented tally, with much of it caught by unregulated artisanal fishermen or foreign-registered fishing vessels.

Management of the country’s fishing stocks is seen as a crucial component of the country’s long-term food security, given the high risks associated with relying exclusively on agriculture. Subsistence farming of the staple rice is the predominant practice of Madagascar’s donor-dependent economy, but insecurity, poor infrastructure, and natural disasters such as cyclones and locust infestations are all handicapping agrarian development. More than three-quarters of the country’s population – about 20 million people – live on less than US$1 a day, according to government figures.

Madagascar has the world’s 28th longest coastline, which the government is hugely under-equipped to police. “The country has three monitoring vessels and nine speedboats to protect its waters from illegal fishing boats and monitor domestic fisheries,” said Frederic Le Manach, lead author of the study from the University of British Columbia, in a 2011 report of the Sea Around Us Project.


Foreign fishing fleets from Europe and Asia are placing additional pressure on Madagascar’s fisheries; their annual seafood catch of nearly 80,000 tons – almost the same amount local fishermen catch – exacerbates the impact of overfishing at the local level, according the University of British Colombia’s research.

More than 70,000 Malagasy live along the arid southwest coast, known for some of the largest coral reef systems in the western Indian Ocean. For many, including the Vezo, a group of Malagasy coastal people, fishing is a crucial source of income.

The majority of villagers are “gleaners” foraging at low tide for octopus, primarily, but also for snails and sea cucumbers, from the shallow-lying reefs. Octopus is the most lucrative catch as it is one of the largest export commodities from the southwest, according to Blue Ventures.

Before 2002, only villages in the proximity of the port city Toliara exploited octopus for commercial export. But increasing demand has led to an expansion of the trade along the southwest coast, leading to a decrease in catch.

“Octopus fishing is our way of life. It is a Vezo job. It is like going to school; we have always learnt this and done this. We cannot survive without this work,” said Honorine, a local octopus gleaner and member of the Velondriake Association, a community organization that works to protect the marine environment. The association has a 24 village membership in the Andavadoaka region.

Temporary closures

Blue Ventures, working with community organizations like the Velondriake Association, has tried to stem the decline of octopus by introducing, in 2004, temporary closures of fishing areas.

This strategy gives octopus stocks a chance to recover, and more than 50 communities along 400km of coastline have since adopted the practice, termed “marine protected areas” (MPAs).

Donah Angelo Gilbert, a marine conservationist and aquaculture technician for Blue Ventures, says that the MPAs were initially resisted by villagers.

“They make a living from the sea, so explaining to them that they had to stop fishing in certain areas was tricky. But they had already seen their fish stocks declining and that they needed to protect the sea in order to survive; they realized they had no alternative if they wanted their children to be able to have a future at sea,” Gilbert told IRIN.

Honorine lives in Tampolove, a village of 600 people, with one school and no hospital, where fishing is the lifeblood of the community. She recognizes the impact MPAs have had.

“When we started the reserves, our lives became better. We have experienced an increase in octopus catch and an increase in the individual size of octopus.”


The MPA model has kick-started government action; it has “guided national fisheries policy, leading to two new national laws in Madagascar introducing minimum octopus catch sizes and annual closure periods to protect spawning stock,” said Alasdair Harris, the founder of Blue Ventures. The maritime sector remains under-regulated, however.

The temporary closures are not a panacea for Madagascar’s overfishing problem, but with little government legislation on fishing practices to date, co-management – as collaborations among local communities, conservation organizations and governments are known – could offer a path forward.

A recent study of 42 tropical reef systems in five countries found that such arrangements helped both protect fish stocks and meet the needs of local communities.

ct/cc/go/oa/rz/ source



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M23 fighting the DRC is one of the 30 armed groups in the country’s east.

Posted by African Press International on August 30, 2013

M23, currently fighting the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) army and UN forces near the North Kivu cap ital of Goma, is just one of more than 30 armed groups in the country’s east, all of which – through casualties or desertions – need to constantly replenish their ranks. Any previous affiliations to militias is not a barrier for recruitment.

After a year spent serving in the DRC-based Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), Céléstin Kabeya*, a 19-year-old former combatant, fears returning home. He says he will only be forcibly recruited – again – into one of the three militias at large in the area.

Kabeya told IRIN that he had been forced to join the FDLR in 2012 after a patrol passed through his family farm in the North Kivu territory of Rutshuru.

“They first asked me to help them carry water, and then asked for directions. I showed them the way, and then they told me not to go back. They did not give me any military training. They just gave me a sub-machine gun,” he explained.

He said he was one of seven Congolese in the FDLR unit of about 50 combatants – the majority exiled Rwandans – four of whom were child soldiers. Without a salary, they survived by “looting only.”

“I worry about going home. I am afraid to go back, as there are three [armed] groups there. I will just be recruited by force again. I am thinking about maybe trying to find a relative in Goma to live with,” Kabeya said. The groups operating in his home area are the FDLR, Forces de Défense Congolaise (FDC) and Alliance of Patriots for a Free and Sovereign Congo (APCLS).

Caught in a cycle

Joining a succession of different militias, or being “recycled” into other armed groups, is not uncommon in North and South Kivu provinces.

Rufin Kapiamba*, a 21-year-old former combatant, said he voluntarily joined the Nduma Defence of Congo (NDC/Sheka) to seek revenge against the FDLR, after witnessing its members decapitate his uncle near the North Kivu town of Pinga. He became part of a 52-strong detachment, of which a third were children.

He said Sheka Ntaberi, the group’s leader, first enlisted in the FDLR and then created his own militia. At first the two armed groups co-existed in an area replete with mineral wealth, but the alliance broke down over control of the natural resources.

“When we captured FDLR [combatants], we would kill them by cutting their heads off. I was afraid to do that. The kids shot them with a gun”

“When we captured FDLR [combatants], we would kill them by cutting their heads off. I was afraid to do that. The kids shot them with a gun. They were not ready to cut their heads off,” Kapiamba said.

He tried and failed to desert four times. “My two friends were killed [in an escape attempt],” he said, tugging open his loose-fitting shirt to reveal the scar from a bullet wound just below his collarbone.

Kapiamba ended up being captured by the APCLS during skirmishes over the control of a gold mine. Because of his first-hand knowledge of NDC/Sheka, he was absorbed into the militia as an intelligence officer – probably saving his life. After a month, he escaped, fleeing more than 30km to Kitchanga, where he handed himself over to the UN Stabilization Mission in DRC (MONUSCO).

He is now being demobilized at MONUSCO’s Disarmament, Demobilization, Reintegration, Repatriation and Resettlement (DDRRR) transit centre in Goma.

Yet Kapiamba’s options for civilian life are limited. He wants to complete the last two years of secondary school and says he will live with his sister in Goma, yet all he possesses are the civilian clothes he is wearing.

During his time with the armed groups, Kapiamba was paid US$15 to $20 every few months. His duties included manning checkpoints, imposing “taxes” on people travelling to markets – demanding either 200 Congolese francs ($0.21) or foodstuffs – which was funnelled to the armed groups’ leadership. He will be fortunate to have any income as a civilian.

Demobilization and integration

For nearly a decade, large-scale disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) programmes were operated in DRC, starting in 2002 with the UN Community Disarmament and Resettlement (CDR) programme in the Ituri region. Such programmes assisted former combatants in their transition to civilian life by providing cash or in-kind payments, such as bicycles or skills training. Tens of thousands or more passed through the national DDR programme.

Another strategy involved integrating former rebels into the security services. The National Commission for DDR was established in 2003, and the following year, after 10 armed groups signed a peace agreement, “it was estimated 330,000 combatants were eligible,” for the transition programme to civilian livelihoods according to an April report by the Small Arms Survey (SAS).

The programme was expanded to 22 more armed groups after the signing of another round of peace agreements in 2008. But “despite the increased number of armed groups eligible for DDR, fewer combatants participated in the government-led DDR programmes than anticipated,” said the SAS report. “This is because the DRC government opted to directly integrate these 22 armed groups (or roughly 20,000 combatants) into the national army and police.”

The national DDR programme ended in September 2011.

“Imperative that a new DDR programme is conceived and implemented… and offer alternative opportunities to rejoin civilian life”

Both processes, DDR and integration into FARDC, have had mixed results, according to analysts. But with the recent implementation of an aggressive UN mandate to “neutralize” all armed groups in the Kivus, there could soon be thousands of combatants exiting rebel ranks – either through defeat or defection – without any real alternatives for livelihoods.

Federico Borello, of the US Senate subcommittee on African Relations, said at a briefing in April that it was “imperative that a new DDR programme is conceived and implemented… and offer alternative opportunities to rejoin civilian life, such as road construction projects or other work opportunities.”

Those opting for integration into the FARDC “should be trained and then deployed into army units throughout the country; they should not remain in units operating in their former area of operation as an armed group,” he said.

In the past such proposals to remove armed group’s from their areas of operation had met fierce resistance, as they deprived former militias from continuing their rent seeking operations, even if they are formally members of the FARDC.

Such an integration initiative, Borello said, should also ensure “those responsible for serious [human rights] abuses are not integrated into the army but instead arrested and brought to justice.”

Integration losing lustre

The integration strategy has been viewed as far from favourable, but even so, the Mai-Mai group Yakutumba is on the cusp of being integrated into the FARDC, according a recent report by the Rift Valley Institute (RVI).

“The one-sided focus on the military integration of rebel groups has failed,” the report said, and it does not address “the issue of impunity for rebel leaders suspected of having committed serious crimes.” 

A Goma-based analyst, who declined to be named, said the experience of integrating the Congrès National pour la Défense du Peuple (CNDP), an allegedly Rwandan-back armed group, had tainted the government’s view of integration.

A 23 March 2009 peace accord signed with CNDP resulted in the group’s integration into the FARDC, but in 2012, former CNDP members said the government had reneged on the deal by failing to provide them agreed-upon military ranks and not paying salaries. The dispute paved the way for the emergence of the M23 militia, named for the 2009 peace deal.

“The DRC [government] does not want integration of armed groups into the army. The international community is pushing for it, but the Congolese don’t want it,” the analyst told IRIN.

The Goma analyst said the aim of integration was to dismantle an armed group’s command structure, but Kinshasa’s haste was greeted with suspicion by the former CNDP military hierarchy. “It would have been best to be gradual. Do it subtly. Send a few [CNDP officers] abroad for training, redeploy some to [the capital] Kinshasa. Do something like that.”

In fact, integration in DRC has seen entire armed groups housed within a single FARDC unit. In such cases, the issuing of FARDC uniforms to former rebels becomes, essentially, camouflage for the lack of government authority.

Instability for security

For Rwanda, the alleged sponsors of M23, having a proxy force a “phone call away” allows them to destabilize the region, the Goma analyst said, which it does “every time the situation improves [in the Kivus].”

Stability in the Kivus was seen as a greater threat to Rwanda’s security than instability, as the latter allowed Rwanda to exert influence in the region, the analyst said.

“The FARDC control the area, but if they [armed groups] come again, I will run as a civilian”

The Kivus’ cycle of violence has left countless young people vulnerable to militia recruitment – both voluntary and involuntary – and to subsequent revolving-door membership in a series of other armed groups.

One 22-year-old former combatant, who declined to be identified, said he joined an armed group voluntarily after witnessing the rape of his sister and mother by CNDP-aligned Mai-Mai combatants. He went on to spend four years serving in armed groups ¬- first the FDLR and then Nyatura, an ethnic Hutu militia. He now has a plan to escape being “recycled” into yet another armed group.

“I am going back to Nyamilima [in North Kivu] to help my mother on the farm,” he told IRIN. “The FARDC control the area, but if they [armed groups] come again, I will run as a civilian.”





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My journey in back home to Somalia after almost two decades in Kenya

Posted by African Press International on August 30, 2013

MOGADISHU,  – My journey back to Somalia, my home country, was a dream and a choice I always wanted to achieve. I wanted to live on the soil of my ancestors away from the congested refugee ca mps of Dadaab and far from the tall buildings of Nairobi that hosted me temporarily and offered me an opportunity to be a citizen in a second home where I grew up and studied peacefully. 
After almost two decades in Kenya, I finally decided to return to the country of my origin after getting an exciting opportunity to work with the Ministry of Education in order to bring hope to the next generation and give back my skills and knowledge to my community.

I arrived at Aden Ade International Airport in Mogadishu on 26 July, a Friday morning. Almost all the passengers in the plane I was travelling in were Somalis, mostly returning from abroad. The small airport and its facilities were very busy and chaotic. It was far from international standards – with all the signs of the wreckage of war and unfinished reconstruction under way.

I was driven by a colleague in a taxi through many checkpoints with heavily armed guards comprised of AMISOM [African Union Mission in Somalia] and Somali troops. We drove along the airport road, one of the city’s most dangerous, with heavily armed security personnel at frequent road blocks.

There was a high security alert. I was extremely scared and could not believe my eyes. I thought they were clearing up the aftermath of a fight in the city, but little did I know that this was the order of the day in Mogadishu.

That day was unique in particular because it was the 17th day of Ramadan, a day on which every year [militants] are known to carry out deadly attacks to commemorate one of the Islamic holy wars that took place on this day in history.

We turned onto another highway that was also very scary for newcomers like me, but normal for local residents. It is Maka Al-Mukarama road, known for nearly non-stop hooting vehicles – mainly small shuttle buses with overloaded passengers, some hanging onto the doors and windows while the conductor clings to the rear side as he shouts for more passengers.

“Stay calm, this is normal”

This road is also one of the busiest roads in Mogadishu; it directly connects State House and the airport. The traffic is hectic and it is controlled by traffic police, military and administration police. Gunshots, I was told, are used as “traffic lights” to disperse jams and as warning shots.

Surprised at my anxiety and restlessness, the driver said: “My friend, stay calm, this is normal.” I smiled to respond positively but did not say a word. I was speechless until we reached Taleh residential area.

This area was relatively calm. Residents were busy with their daily activities during the Ramadan fast.

I stayed indoors on advice from family and friends in Kenya. I was told to minimize my movement in the city and avoid crowded areas. However, I felt very insecure even inside my room because I was traumatized by the deafening sound of gunshots outside. I hear gunshots all day, like I hear the call to prayer, and it makes me sick.

I could not understand why there are all these gunshots in the streets. Then I recall the guys I saw along the airport road and the other young men in government uniforms hanging onto the sides of vehicles speeding up Maka Al Mukarama road all with firearms pointing at the pedestrians and other passing vehicles, their fingers on the trigger.

The following day was another unpleasant experience. The Turkish embassy was attacked. I could hear the blast not far from where I was staying. The thought of going back to Kenya came to my mind but it eventually faded away later that night when the commotion ended and I saw the story on TV.

Meanwhile, the locals are fully engaged in their day-to-day activities, indifferent to what is happening around them. Besides the gunshots, explosions and chaos, there are parallel constructions, business transactions and celebrations on the eve of the Eid festival after Ramadan.

Toy guns

One of the most striking things I saw at this time were all types of big toy guns displayed in the shops for children to play with during the Eid celebrations [marking the end of Ramadan]. On the actual Eid day, I saw children smartly dressed happily enjoying the day but with huge toy guns hanging on their shoulders, shooting one another typically as though they were on a battlefield. When you see the toy guns you will never understand… I was really disappointed how these innocent children are being brought up with such destructive weapons.

Is it because their parents are ignorant? What message does it portray? How will the fresh minds of these children be affected? What does it symbolize? I think we lost two generations already and the third one is growing in a world of lawlessness and ignorance. We have to do something about this and educate today’s parents and youth to save Somalia’s next generations.

Reporting for work

I reported to work the following week. I met new friends. The environment, the people and the job were all fresh and awesome. I felt very fortunate when I sat at a desk where the flag of Somalia flies right beside the computer, a reminder of my identity.

I was motivated to be part of a young, passionate team mostly from the diaspora who came to work with the Ministry of Education. We are specifically designated to work on a unique programme that was independently run by the Ministry, unlike other partner-led projects.

This was a project dubbed “Aada Dugsiyada” (Go to School Initiative) aimed at getting one million children into free and quality public schools by 2016. All the schools in the country are privately run so the challenge of starting the first free public schools after more than two decades of war lay ahead of us.

However, the feedback from all the people – including stakeholders, donors, local media and authorities – is overwhelmingly positive.

Running a whole government ministry that has not been functioning for over 20 years is a nightmare, and requires huge support both financially and in terms of dedicated professional human resources.

Standing firm

I did not understand what “failed state” really meant until I reached Mogadishu. To be honest, I only thought the term was used just to describe how much our country was damaged, but the true picture dawned on me when I explored the capital, where all government institutions are managed.

All the concerted efforts that were made to rebuild this country were focused on primarily handling the security, which still remains a stumbling block, thus leaving the gap for all other vital areas that a fully functioning nation with its dynamic society needs.

But, interestingly, how do you describe those people who have been courageously living in the midst of all these clashes, the devastation, droughts, famine and atrocious terror situations for decades and counting – yet have been standing firm to keep going with privately run business institutions, booming markets, private schools, social and economic development, while those in diaspora have been supporting them financially doing odd jobs in odd hours and facing the challenge of detention, discrimination and death for the same course.

I was really moved when I saw how the old Somali currency is being utilized in Mogadishu. In any business transaction, no one rejects the torn, ragged and spoilt ones because they fully know that there is no replacement or functioning central bank that regulates the money, so they are happy to keep going with what they have and make their lives easy.

I am, therefore, pleased to say that the Somali community to which I belong is exceptionally resilient, productive, hardworking, courageous, intelligent and determined. These are people who can reach beyond measurable heights in the 21st century if only our own political leaders and their foreign stakeholders act honestly in all their endeavours to stabilize Somalia for a better tomorrow.

mh/cb source



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Kenya: Human Rights group plans to petition the Inspector General of Police over the conduct of an army officer

Posted by African Press International on August 29, 2013


A lobby group in Bungoma”centre for human rights”led by its chairman Philip Wekesa have threatened to petition the Inspector General of police and Kenya military disciplinary committee over the conduct of an army officer based in Mariakani.

This resurfaces a week after API exposed a story highlighting the plagues of a traumatized Bungoma housewife was undergoing after the army officer demolished her house and later justice became her enemy.

The group claimed that the officer has used his rank to oil senior officers both in military and police force after he was accused of palatial demolition/arson against his wife.

James Machasio a corpral at Mariakani camp was accused on April 9th 2012 vide OB No.18/9/4/2012 against demolition and arson.

According to charge sheets seen at Webuye police station,Mr.Machasio was to be arraigned in court of law to act as a deterrence to other public officers who defiles their crown of power.

It is said that the officer collaborated with his senior military officers to defy the order as stated earlier in the charge sheet.

A police officer at webuye police station who spoke to this writer on condition of anonymity said that they were intimidated by officer Machasio if they dare to institute any criminal proceedings against him.Another officer said that the army boss had his brother at the force who was a close friend to several commanders in Kenya and no action could be taken against him.

In a rejoinder a human rights activists who wished not be named for fear of security has also threatened to move to the officer of director of public prosecutions to have the case reviewed in order to have justice granted to the traumatized woman.



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Nigeria’s preparedness tested – Lessons learned

Posted by African Press International on August 29, 2013

LAGOS,  – Heavy rains have unleashed floods in parts of Nigeria, testing the country’s emergency preparedness one year after its worst flooding in decades.

Some 35,000 people have been affected, most of them in five states, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The 2012 floods affected around 7 million people.

According to Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Authority (NEMA), this year’s floods have displaced some 600 people and caused one fatality in the northern Kano State, and about 20 bodies were unearthed at a cemetery in the state’s Yan Kaba area. In Katsina State, also in the north, 55 farms were inundated by heavy rains.

NEMA spokesman Ibrahim Farinloye said early warning and rapid relocation of communities helped prevent greater loss of lives.

Forty communities in flood-prone areas in southeastern Benue State have been relocated by authorities, who have also urged people in other vulnerable areas to move. Farinloye said the Borno, Adamawa and Taraba states in the northeast were flashpoints.

“We have been able to contain any adverse humanitarian effects. All the affected states have been able to respond adequately. So far the response has been positive, but we cannot say we have a perfect system,” Farinloye told IRIN.

“The southern states, especially the coastal states, are at risk. We are not only looking at the states [predicted to experience flooding]. We are working on all the states, and all the areas that need [assistance] will be covered by NEMA,” he said.

The flooding has thus far been containable and has occurred only in localities that have seen similar flooding in the past.

More rains than 2012

This year’s flood-hit states are still recovering from last year’s flooding, which was Nigeria’s worst in more than 40 years.

The Nigerian meteorological department has predicted more rains this year than in 2012.

“Last year they [authorities] took us to a camp, but after the water subsided, they just let us go,” said Niger Delta University student Victor Losaride. “I’m worried about what will happen this year. If it [floods] again, I don’t know what will happen … I hope there won’t be flooding this year.”

Kabiru Usama Bakare, who lives in the northern Jos region, said he received little government assistance when he was displaced by the 2012 floods. He also says no flood preparations are being undertaken in his locality.

“I lost my wife and five children to the floods last year. I lost my entire family. I’m still trying to build my house all by myself,” he told IRIN. “We have not seen any work going here in anticipation of the flood. People are already moving out of the area so as not to be caught unawares.”

Lessons learned

The Nigerian Red Cross (NRC) said it had improved its emergency response with lessons learned from last year’s disaster. Spokesman Nwankpa O. Nwankpa told IRIN that NRC had trained 22,000 volunteers across the country and stocked warehouses with relief items.

“Most people who suffered in 2012 was because they did not know what to do during flooding. We have educated and trained them on what do to,” he said. “Everybody in Nigeria has better awareness of flooding than last year.”

Farinloye said NEMA has urged dam management officials to lower water levels early enough to minimize flooding risks.

“They shouldn’t wait until the level of the water has got to the level of [breaching the dams] before they release the water. We told them to release it on a gradual basis once it goes beyond the normal level,” he said.

Communities along the river banks have been relocated to higher ground, said Farinloye, explaining that flood-prone communities have been trained and provided with basic equipment to aid quick evacuation.

ni/ob/rz source



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What we need is schools, water, and a flour mill

Posted by African Press International on August 29, 2013

TADJOU (TISSI DISTRICT),  – The southeastern Chad border district of Tissi has seen an influx of people fleeing violence in neighbouring western Sudan, among them Chadian nationals who had either migrated there for work or fled earlier violence, and new refugees from Sudan’s Darfur area. 
Mahamat Haroun Dahab’s family (his wife and four children) are among those from eastern Chad who left the country seven years ago during the conflict there, for Darfur. They recently returned to their Tissi village of Tadjou, after fleeing inter-communal violence. Dahab and his wife told IRIN their story.

[Dahab:] “I have been here for three months. I arrived in May when the Misseriya and Salamat [ethnic groups; the latter lives on both sides of the border] started fighting in Um Dhukun [Darfur]. I am not sure what they were fighting over. Around us there were people who were killed and injured.

“The journey from Sudan to the Chad border was by donkey. Then, once we were on the Chadian side, IOM [the International Organization for Migration] brought us here [to Tadjou village].

“We just packed what we had and sought safety; we did not have time to prepare ourselves.

“Here we are doing some farming, mainly of sorghum. Back in Um Dhukun I used to slaughter some sheep. I worked as a butcher. But I have always been a farmer.

“The land I had here before I fled is where I am planting my crops now; during the fighting this area was deserted and my land and house remained intact.

“None of my children have been to school. They are young and I don’t have enough money to register them.

“But I have no intention of going back to Darfur. Here, I can practice farming; there [in Um Dhukun] we had to buy things from the market.

“What we really need here is schools, a flour mill and water.

[Dahab’s wife – she did not give her name:] “We decided to leave [Um Dhukun] when our belongings, such as our [mobile] phones and livestock, started being taken by force by the Arabs.

“We are OK living here [in Tadjou] as we just go to the farm and come back.

“But the children really need schooling and some clothes. What we really want is schools.

“Myself, I have never been to school. I learned to speak Arabic because people around me speak it; but I can’t write anything or read. A person who doesn’t go to school can’t read Arabic.”

aw/cb  source



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International Criminal Court: Situations and cases

Posted by African Press International on August 28, 2013

18 cases in 8 situations have been brought before the International Criminal Court.

Pursuant to the Rome Statute, the Prosecutor can initiate an investigation on the basis of a referral from any State Party or from the United Nations Security Council. In addition, the Prosecutor can initiate investigations proprio motu on the basis of information on crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court received from individuals or organisations (“communications”).

To date, four States Parties to the Rome Statute – Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic and Mali – have referred situations occurring on their territories to the Court. In addition, the Security Council has referred the situation in Darfur, Sudan, and the situation in Libya – both non-States Parties. After a thorough analysis of available information, the Prosecutor has opened and is conducting investigations in all of the above-mentioned situations.

On 31 March 2010, Pre-Trial Chamber II granted the Prosecution authorisation to open an investigation proprio motu in the situation of Kenya. In addition, on 3 October 2011, Pre-Trial Chamber III granted the Prosecutor’s request for authorisation to open investigations proprio motu into the situation in Côte d’Ivoire.

Situation in Uganda 

The case The Prosecutor v. Joseph Kony, Vincent Otti, Okot Odhiambo and Dominic Ongwen is currently being heard before Pre-Trial Chamber II. In this case, five warrants of arrest have been issued against [the] five top members of the Lords Resistance Army (LRA).

Following the confirmation of the death of Mr Lukwiya, the proceedings against him have been terminated. The four remaining suspects are still at large.

Situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo 

In this situation, five cases have been brought before the relevant Chambers: The Prosecutor v. Thomas Lubanga DyiloThe Prosecutor v. Bosco NtagandaThe Prosecutor v. Germain KatangaThe Prosecutor v. Mathieu Ngudjolo ChuiThe Prosecutor v. Callixte Mbarushimana; and The Prosecutor v. Sylvestre Mudacumura. Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, Germain Katanga and Bosco Ntaganda are currently in the custody of the ICC. Sylvestre Mudacumura remains at large.

Trial Chamber I convicted Mr Lubanga Dyilo on 14 March 2012. The trial in this case,The Prosecutor v. Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, had started on 26 January 2009. On 10 July 2012, he was sentenced to a total period of 14 years of imprisonment. The time he spent in the ICC’s custody will be deducted from this total sentence.  On 7 August 2012, Trial Chamber I issued a decision on the principles and the process to be implemented for reparations to victims in the case. All three decisions are currently subject to appeal.

The trial in the case of The Prosecutor v. Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui started on 24 November 2009. Closing statements in the case were heard from 15 to 23 May 2012. On 21 November 2012, Trial Chamber II decided to sever the charges against Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui and Germain Katanga. On 18 December 2012, Trial Chamber II acquitted Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui of the charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity and ordered his immediate release. On 21 December 2012, Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui was released from custody. The Office of the Prosecutor has appealed the verdict.

The verdict regarding German Katanga will be delivered at a later stage.

The confirmation of charges hearing in the case The Prosecutor v. Callixte Mbarushimana took place from 16 to 21 September 2011. On 16 December 2011, Pre-Trial Chamber I decided by Majority to decline to confirm the charges against Mr Mbarushimana.  Mr Mbarushimana was released from the ICC’s custody on 23 December 2011, upon the completion of the necessary arrangements, as ordered by Pre-Trial Chamber I.

On 22 March 2013, Bosco Ntaganda surrendered himself voluntarily and is now in the ICC’s custody. His initial appearance hearing took place before  Pre-Trial Chamber II on 26 March 2013. The confirmation of charges hearing in the case is scheduled to start on 10 February 2014.

Situation in Darfur, Sudan 

There are five cases in the situation in Darfur, Sudan: The Prosecutor v. Ahmad Muhammad Harun (”Ahmad Harun”) and Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-Al-Rahman (“Ali Kushayb”)The Prosecutor v. Omar Hassan Ahmad Al BashirThe Prosecutor v. Bahar Idriss Abu GardaThe Prosecutor v. Abdallah Banda Abakaer Nourain and Saleh Mohammed Jerbo Jamus; and The Prosecutor v. Abdel Raheem Muhammad Hussein.

Warrants of arrest have been issued by Pre-Trial Chamber I for Messrs Harun, Kushayb, Al Bashir and Hussein. The four suspects remain at large.

A summons to appear was issued for Mr Abu Garda, who appeared voluntarily before the Chamber on 18 May 2009. After the hearing of confirmation of charges, on February 2010, Pre-Trial Chamber I declined to confirm the charges. Mr Abu Garda is not in the custody of the ICC.

Two other summonses to appear were issued for Mr Banda and Mr Jerbo who appeared voluntarily on 17 June 2010; the confirmation of charges hearing took place on 8 December 2010. On 7 March 2011, Pre- Trial Chamber I unanimously decided to confirm the charges of war crimes brought by the ICC’s Prosecutor against Mr Banda and Mr Jerbo, and committed them to trial. The trial in the case The Prosecutor v. Abdallah Banda Abakaer Nourain and Saleh Mohammed Jerbo Jamus is scheduled to start on 5 May 2014.

Situation in the Central African Republic 

The situation was referred to the Court by the Government of the Central African Republic in December 2004. The Prosecutor opened an investigation in May 2007. In the only case in this situation, The Prosecutor v. Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, Pre-Trial Chamber II confirmed, on 15 June 2009, two charges of crimes against humanity and three charges of war crimes, and committed the accused to trial before Trial Chamber III. The trial started on 22 November 2010.

Situation in the Republic of Kenya 

On 31 March 2010, Pre-Trial Chamber II granted the Prosecutor’s request to open an investigation proprio motu in the situation in Kenya, State Party since 2005. Following summonses to appear issued on 8 March 2011, six Kenyan citizens voluntarily appeared before Pre-Trial Chamber II on 7 and 8 April 2011. The confirmation of charges hearing in the case The Prosecutor v. William Samoei Ruto and Joshua Arap Sang were held from 1 to 8 September 2011. The confirmation of charges hearing in the case The Prosecutor v. Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta took place from 21 September to 5 October 2011. On 23 January 2012, the judges declined to confirm the charges against Henry Kiprono Kosgey and Mohammed Hussein Ali. Pre-Trial Chamber II confirmed the charges against William Samoei Ruto, Joshua Arap Sang, Francis Kirimi Muthaura and Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta and committed them to trial. On 18 March 2013, the charges against Francis Kirimi Muthaura were withdrawn. The trial of William Samoei Ruto and Joshua Arap is scheduled to start on 10 September 2013 and the trial of Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta is scheduled to start on 12 November 2013.

Situation in Libya 

On 26 February 2011, the United Nations Security Council decided unanimously to refer the situation in Libya since 15 February 2011 to the ICC Prosecutor. On 3 March 2011, the ICC Prosecutor announced his decision to open an investigation in the situation in Libya, which was assigned by the Presidency to Pre-Trial Chamber I. On 27 June 2011, Pre-Trial Chamber I issued three warrants of arrest respectively for Muammar Mohammed Abu Minyar Gaddafi, Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi and Abdullah Al-Senussi for crimes against humanity (murder and persecution) allegedly committed across Libya from 15 until at least 28 February 2011, through the State apparatus and Security Forces. On 22 November 2011, Pre-Trial Chamber I formally terminated the case against Muammar Gaddafi due to his death. The two other suspects are not in the custody of the Court. On 31 May 2013, Pre-Trial Chamber I rejected Libya’s challenge to the admissibility of the case against Saif Al Islam Gaddafi and reminded Libya of its obligation to surrender the suspect to the Court.

Situation in Côte d’Ivoire 

Côte d’Ivoire, which is not party to the Rome Statute, had accepted the jurisdictionof the ICC on 18 April 2003; more recently, and on both 14 December 2010 and 3 May 2011, the Presidency of Côte d’Ivoire reconfirmed the country’s acceptance of this jurisdiction. On 3 October 2011, Pre-Trial Chamber III granted the Prosecutor’s request for authorisation to open investigations proprio motu into the situation in Côte d’Ivoire with respect to alleged crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court, committed since 28 November 2010, as well as with regard to crimes that may be committed in the future in the context of this situation. On 22 February 2012, Pre-Trial Chamber III decided to expand its authorisation for the investigation in Côte d’Ivoire to include crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court allegedly committed between 19 September 2002 and 28 November 2010.

On 23 November 2011, Pre-Trial Chamber III issued a warrant of arrest under seal in the case The Prosecutor v. Laurent Gbagbo for four counts of crimes against humanity. The arrest warrant against Mr Gbagbo was unsealed on 30 November 2011, when the suspect was transferred to the ICC detention centre at The Hague, by the Ivorian authorities. On 5 December 2011, Pre-Trial Chamber III held an initial appearance hearing. The confirmation of charges hearing took place between 19 and 28 February 2013. On 3 June 2013, Pre-Trial Chamber I adjourned the hearing on the confirmation of charges and requested the Prosecutor to consider providing further evidence or conducting further investigation with respect to the charges presented against Laurent Gbagbo.

On 22 November 2012, Pre-Trial Chamber I decided to unseal a warrant of arrest issued initially on 29 February 2012 against Simone Gbagbo​ for four counts of crimes against humanity allegedly committed in the territory of Côte d’Ivoire between 16 December 2010 and 12 April 2011. Mrs. Gbagbo is not in the custody of the Court.

Situation in Mali


On 16 January 2013, the Office of the Prosecutor opened an investigation into alleged crimes committed on the territory of Mali since January 2012.

The situation in Mali was referred to the Court by the Government of Mali on 13 July 2012. After conducting a preliminary examination of the situation, including an assessment of admissibility of potential cases, the OTP determined that there was a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation.

The situation in Mali is assigned to Pre-Trial Chamber II.

The OTP is currently conducting preliminary examinations in a number of situations including AfghanistanGeorgiaGuineaColombiaHondurasKorea and Nigeria.

Submitting Information

To submit information about alleged crimes, please write to:

International Criminal Court
Office of the Prosecutor
Post Office Box 19519
2500 CM The Hague
The Netherlands.

Or email:,

Or send information by facsimile to: +31 70 515 8555.


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The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has also set up ideas labs to stimulate new approaches. Labs are currently at work in Denmark, Kosovo, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

Posted by African Press International on August 28, 2013

African Press International (API)

DAKAR,  – Difficulty reaching conflict- or disaster-hit communities slows down aid delivery, hampers assessment and can lead to groups in remote areas being left out of the aid equa tion altogether. But new technology, while not a panacea, is helping to remove access barriers.

Aid agencies are increasingly seeking innovative solutions to old challenges. For example, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has teamed up with technology firm Spigit to launch “UNHCR Ideas”, an ideas lab where staff, refugees, academics and partners can brainstorm and crowd-source solutions to common problems. Their first challenge is improving access to information and services for urban refugees; the winning idea will be piloted in 2014.

Olivier DelaRue, UNHCR head of innovations, said: “We hope this project will give a voice primarily to refugees, because the solutions are very often with them. What we are trying to achieve is a higher degree of empowerment, a higher…

View original post 1,005 more words

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Kenya: Bungoma medics oppose the appointment of county medical boss

Posted by African Press International on August 28, 2013


Bungoma district hospital is facing a deluge of challenges as its staff threaten to oppose the move to have hospital medic superintendent Dr.Egesa Mulianga to hold two positions in the government.
The latest move to have the said medic to a position of county medical superintendent as well as Bungoma district hospital superintendent has brought the renown medic under spotlight with a section of the staff going for the throat of country medical director Dr.Kimani over what they term as rampant nepotism.
How can a person hold two government posts?is it not the money that exchanged hands?claimed a staff who wished not to be named.”We have many people who fit for one of his posts in our county,why Dr.Egesa alone?added another staff.
Sources well-versed with the on goings who spoke to this writer lamented about poor management Dr.Egesa has spearheaded in the last years where he subjected workers to poor working conditions.
A staffer who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the Media said that the medical officer wants to control funds of the hospital a move that has necessitated his rejection by other medics.
The source revealed that the Country medical director Dr.Kimani was given “his cut” by the controversial Dr.Egesa, two directors in the county who were involved in the illegal appointment without involving other professions which has led to the present stalemate.
But as the standoff between junior medics and Bungoma county barons over the appointment , it is emerging that the man at the centre of the storm who spearheaded the unpopular move is just not another doctor from Nairobi Dr.Kimani who is also a close friend and associate of Bungoma district hospital medical superintendent Dr.Egesa for whom they were classmates.
Multiple sources at Bungoma hospital speak of a facility which has been hijacked by individual private interests particularly by medical superintendent, Board Members and well-connected junior staffers like who seem to do things with impunity and at the detriment of the hospitals’ very survival. Employees are now pleading for the Ministry of medical services, to step in and resolve the stalemate.
As controversy boils, workers have vowed to down their tools if the opposed medic will have to hold two posts as had alleged.”The doctor was overheard saying that he will use his position to settle scores among his professional nemesis that has been opposing his appointment” claimed another source who sought anonymity for fear of security. When called for comments,Dr.Egesa cell phone his went on unanswered.



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Kenya’s First Lady on her visit to China roots for women empowerment

Posted by African Press International on August 28, 2013

First Lady Mrs Margaret Kenyatta is welcomed by the President of the All China Women’s Federation Mrs. Shen Yueyue who also the Vice President of the National People’s Congresss to the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China.

First Lady Margaret Kenyatta has urged Kenya and China to take concrete steps to protect women and children’s interests.

She urged various organizations championing the rights of women and children in China and Kenya to start exchange programmes to enable women to gain from diverse experiences.

She was speaking at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China when she paid a courtesy call on the President of All-China Women’s Federation (ACWF), Mrs. Shen Yue Yue. Mrs Shen is also the Vice-President of the National People’s Congress (NPC).

“Women leaders must focus on issues that affect their members at the grassroots so that they can help them build a prosperous society,” the First Lady said.

She invited Chinese women leaders to visit Kenya’s tourist attractions such as the annual Wildebeest Migration in Maasai Mara, that is renowned globally.

Mrs. Shen said though women in China are still facing daunting challenges, they had made progress in various fields.

She highlighted women enrollment in both Primary and secondary level education that stood at 90% while that of university level stood at 46%.

She added that China and Kenya are celebrating their 50th year of bilateral cooperation which gives the two countries a chance to review the progress made so far and reflect on future challenges.

She called on the two countries to strengthen their cooperation in the cultural, educational, women empowerment, health, environmental protection and business areas.


source. statehousewebsite.

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Kenya: Conquering visual impairment

Posted by African Press International on August 27, 2013


When you thought that being blind defines you,then meet Mr. Chrispinus  Waswa a  teacher at Mbakalo Friends Secondary school in Bungoma North District who has conquered his visual impairment.

Mr.Waswa,36,succumbed to blindness at a tender age but has stood out in his teaching profession by helping many of his students pass with  sterling colours..

But a single day that doomed his visualness, while practicing for a school tournament in standard five, was hit by the ball on his right eye which lost sight immediately and unfortunately it also affected the left eye and was taken to Kakamega General  hospital for operation.

Worse of it,was discovered that his condition was a permanent agony hence he had to be transferred to a special school so as to further his education using the special Braille machines.

He says that it was the most trying time in his life as he came from a humble background and his parents could not afford to take him to a special school forcing him to stay at home as they looked for well wishers to fund his education.

After  years,Mr.Waswa got sponsorship through the ministry of education which bought him the Braille machines as well as trained one of the teachers at his former Namamuka primary school to teach him as he went back to standard five.

Suprisngly, he turned up to be a very bright pupil and by topping in  class a position he maintained up to the KCPE examination where he scored 476 marks out of 700.

He secured a Form one chance at  Bungoma high school and sat for his KCSE exam in 2000 and managed a direct entry to the university with a grade B. He however ventured  into  teaching course by specialising in Kiswahili and History subjects.

After he  graduated in 2006 and soon the uphill task of job hunting was a thing to engage  as he had to dance the tune of job seeking.

I however he managed to secure a chance at Bungoma high school where I  taught for some short period of time before the Teachers Service Commission advertised for a vacancy at Mbakalo Friends Secondary school and i was confirmed.

To Mr.Waswa,it was miraculously as among the fifteen applicants who showed up he was the only one who qualified and has been a teacher at the school since the year 2010 and thanked the school principal Habil Malika for providing a conducive environment for him.

“My  colleagues are  supportive and also the students are very comfortable with me”said Waswa. Apart from teaching he has been delegated with other responsibilities of being the teacher in charge of drama as well as the head of Kiswahili as a subject saying he enjoyed being in company of his students.

His advice to  people living with disabilities is that they should not to be demoralized by their condition but rather work hard towards achieving the best for themselves as his own is a true testimony that anything is possible with determination.

Married with three children and has also been able to purchase land for himself as well as constructing a house for his mother back at home something he says could not have been possible if he could have allowed his condition to overcome his ability.


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Kenya: Jigger increase reported in Teso Constituency

Posted by African Press International on August 27, 2013

 Residents from Okuleu area of Teso North Constituency in Busia County have raised concern over the rampant  increase of jiggers menace in the area.

Several elderly persons have so far died due to jigger infestation and the latest case is of a 70 year old granny who died at the Kocholya Teso District Hospital.

The late Ann Asitei succumbed to Jigger infestation before  she was rushed by the neighbors to the hospital after the problem had persisted.

Led by Martin Isara, the locals appealed to the County government to move in with haste and rescue them from Jiggers menace which they said is disturbing them and their families.

“The drugs that are being distributed by community health workers are not effective and we urge the County government to provide us with jigger solution,” said Isara adding that many elderly persons are falling prey of jiggers.

Apart from the elderly persons who are very susceptible to the problem, School going children notably nursery and primary school pupils are entirely affected.

The issue is posing a danger in education sector in the district as such children cannot walk to school hence miss a lot in schools. The schools mostly affected are Kamolo, Amoni, Totokakile and Ikapolok where jiggers have invaded the children and hamper their learning.

Many NGO’s have moved in to curb the infection but according to Villagers the problem is still persisting since the jiggers have invaded a vast area.

The locals are calling upon Busia County leaders to find a long lasting solution to the problem that is slowly killing people and affecting the education sector.


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Technology can help reach disaster-hit communities

Posted by African Press International on August 27, 2013

Technology can help reach disaster-hit communities

DAKAR,  – Difficulty reaching conflict- or disaster-hit communities slows down aid delivery, hampers assessment and can lead to groups in remote areas being left out of the aid equation altogether. But new technology, while not a panacea, is helping to remove access barriers.

Aid agencies are increasingly seeking innovative solutions to old challenges. For example, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has teamed up with technology firm Spigit to launch “UNHCR Ideas”, an ideas lab where staff, refugees, academics and partners can brainstorm and crowd-source solutions to common problems. Their first challenge is improving access to information and services for urban refugees; the winning idea will be piloted in 2014.

Olivier DelaRue, UNHCR head of innovations, said: “We hope this project will give a voice primarily to refugees, because the solutions are very often with them. What we are trying to achieve is a higher degree of empowerment, a higher degree of self-reliance, in order to increase dignity.”

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has also set up ideas labs to stimulate new approaches. Labs are currently at work in Denmark, Kosovo, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

Below, IRIN explores five access innovations being piloted by aid agencies.

Digital school in a box

UNICEF is piloting a digital school-in-a-box project in Uganda. Sixty schools, each with between 100 and 200 children, have received a pack containing a solar-powered laptop with internet connectivity, a projector, a speaker and a document camera. The idea is to connect rural schools to wider learning networks and tools. The equipment can also be used to link remote communities to health resources, emergency information and entertainment.

UNICEF currently procures the equipment from different suppliers, but says it is seeking to have the kits manufactured in Uganda. Finding low-cost, high-quality equipment and training community members on maintenance are keys to the success of the project, the agency says.

Mobile phones to assess food insecurity

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) uses a process called Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping (VAM) to gather accurate data about how many people are food insecure, who and where they are, and how their situation came about. In the past, much VAM information was collected through on-the-ground, face-to-face interviews, but these can be slow, expensive and at times impractical, particularly in remote communities or when access is hampered by natural disasters, poor roads or violence.

WFP is now piloting a mobile VAM (mVAM) project to survey communities via SMS polls, which ask people simple questions about food availability and meal patterns to gather key data about the levels of food insecurity.

“With barely any roads, or seriously damaged ones, collecting data on food security and monitoring the situation is a real logistical challenge. [mVAM] has the potential to be a quicker and more cost-effective way of gathering data, allowing us to us to assist faster those people who need our emergency supplies most,” said Koffi Akakpo, head of WFP’s VAM unit in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where a pilot of this programme was conducted in January. The plan is to extend the pilot to other locations in DRC and also to try it in Somalia.

The agency has secured funding from the Humanitarian Innovation Foundation (HIF), a grant facility of the Enhancing Learning and Research for Humanitarian Assistance (ELRHA) programme, which supports organizations and individuals developing innovative and scalable solutions for humanitarian challenges.

Mobile phone apps to trace missing children

Reuniting children with their families in the aftermath of a natural disaster or conflict, known as Family Tracing and Reunification (FTR), has long involved hand-written lists, which can be a slow and inefficient process. Now UNICEF is trying a RapidFTR system, which uses an open-source mobile phone application that was conceived from a master’s thesis and brought to reality by ThoughtWorks, an IT consulting firm.

Unaccompanied children are logged and photographed, and their details instantly uploaded to a central database that can be shared with other UN agencies and NGOs. Parents can then consult the database to see if their missing children have been registered and, if so, to find their whereabouts.

Kim Scriven, a manager at HIF, which is also funding this project, said: “This is replacing what was previously done on paper with printed photographs and photocopied lists. That used to take weeks, or even months to centralize, but now it is done instantaneously using mobile phones and the internet.”

RapidFTR uses the kinds of security measures employed by mobile banking programmes to ensure that sensitive data about vulnerable children, especially photographs, are only accessible by authorized users.

A pilot of this project is currently being carried out by the Uganda Red Cross and Save the Children in the Nyakabande transit centre and Rwamwanja refugee camp in eastern Uganda, where many displaced people from DRC have sought refuge.

3D printing to create spare parts

Officially known as “rapid prototyping”, 3D printing sounds like the stuff of science fiction, but in fact it offers real and potentially sustainable solutions for communities in the developing world and those affected by disasters.

In 3D printing, a three-dimensional model of an object is scanned and digitally stored, then shared, downloaded and printed out, one thin layer of material – usually plastic – at a time.

This is giving remote communities unprecedented access to things like irrigation pipes, agricultural tools, water pumps, wind turbine blades and health aids, all items that previously would have had to be imported at great time and expense.

William Hoyle, CEO of techfortrade, a UK-based charity that aims to find technological solutions to trade and development challenges, told IRIN: “Printer costs are coming down, mobile phones are the new computer and internet access is widening, so the opportunities are endless.

“Many developing companies struggle to source spare parts for machinery, but the idea that you just make a spare part by downloading a file and printing it out really changes everything,” he said.

Hoyle said techfortrade was in talks with a company in India to recycle plastic to make filament, for use in a 3D-printing project to make farm tools. “Waste plastic is everywhere, and if you can put it to good use then that is environmentally sustainable as well.”

In May, global experts and innovators met in Trieste, Italy, at an event hosted by the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics to discuss how low-cost 3D printing could be used for science, education and sustainable development.

Pooling malnutrition information

A number of organizations, including Save the Children UK, WFP and Concern Worldwide, are using the Minimum Reporting Package (MRP), a monitoring and reporting tool that allows organizations to collect and pool standardized data on emergency Supplementary Feeding Programmes (SFPs), which treat moderate severe malnutrition.

MRP not only allows aid and humanitarian agencies to better monitor the effectiveness of emergency SFPs, it also allows them to quickly deliver standardized information to donors and governments in times of crisis.

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