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Archive for August 7th, 2013

Kenya: A Senior Criminal Investigation Officer murdered

Posted by African Press International on August 7, 2013


Bungoma county residents have send their condolences to the family of the late former Kitui District criminal investigation officer Zebedeo Maina who was last week murdered under unclear circumstances.

The police officer who was shot while in an  operation  to rescue an abducted child could have been a carefully crafted death trap.

It is alleged that Maina was shot from behind by another group as he reached for his firearm to confront his assailants, sparking speculation that yet another gang was waiting for him.

Maina once headed the Kwekwe unit, formed in 2008’ during the purge on Mungiki. The unit was renamed Eagle Squad in an attempt to shake off its tainted image after an international uproar over extra-judicial killings.

Maina whi has been transferred from Bungoma to Kitui few months ago has raised an uproar over his mysterious death.According to Bungoma residents Maina had tamed crime and had earlier credited officer full of commitment to offer his services to locals.

He had killed reknown criminals in Bungoma south district,residents eulogised him as commitment officer,friendly to people and respected officers.

They have however urged the government to swiftly investigate and bring those behind in book.


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Malians and international Aid

Posted by African Press International on August 7, 2013

BAMAKO,  – There is little discernible economic infrastructure on the 635km drive from Mali’s capital, Bamako, to the central town of Mopti, except for speed bumps and checkpoints wher e local vendors congregate to target vehicles as they slow. Rusted signs and faded banners from international donors dot the scrubland, advertising development projects either long abandoned or never undertaken.

It is difficult to reconcile the poverty and dysfunction in Mali with the pre-conflict and pre-coup narrative of development success espoused by multilateral organizations and international NGOs alike. Right up until the ouster of President Amadou Toumani Touré in March 2012, the West African state was a darling of the aid community, lauded for having strung together multiple successful democratic transitions since 1991.

But the data tell a different story.

At best, aid to Mali has been ineffective from an economic or institutional development perspective, enabling corruption, undermining the government’s will and ability to raise revenue through productive means or taxation, and insulating it from accountability to the population, according to analysts and observers. At worst, these conditions directly led to the conflict in the north and political crisis in Bamako.

Money for nothing

Mali is one of the poorest countries in sub-Saharan Africa, ranking 182 out of 186 on the 2012 Human Development Index (HDI), 34 out of the 45 countries in sub-Saharan Africa in terms of 2012 GDP purchasing power parity (PPP) per capita, and has a negative real GDP growth rate.

As such, the country is heavily dependent on foreign aid, with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) estimating in 2008 that donors provided 60 to 80 percent of Mali’s special investment budget.

Though the country did achieve substantial GDP growth rates after the 1990s, the failure of that growth to improve the quality of life of most Malians suggests that it was most likely due to currency devaluation and gold exports rather than real economic production, said a working paper of the United Nations University-World Institute for Development Economics Research.

Further, anecdotal evidence suggests that aid has become something of a self-perpetuating system in Mali, generating employment while the dollars are turned on, but failing to create the conditions for sustainable economic growth, poverty reduction or institutional development.

“When the NGOs left, we were hit twice,” said a youth advocate in Mopti, speaking of the retreat of donors after the 2012 coup. “Of course the aid projects were important, but the unemployment effects were worse – up to 30 percent of youth worked for humanitarian organizations.”

These economic conditions cannot be attributed to the coup leaders, the separatist Tuareg rebels or Islamist militias; the country has languished at the bottom of the development pile since long before the 2012 coup and even before the HDI was first published in 1990.

Crisis of confidence

Mali has fared little better in terms of its political and public sector institutional development.

From 2003 to 2011, the country consistently ranked as mediocre in popular perceptions of public sector integrity, and in any given year was worse than at least half of the rest of sub-Saharan Africa. Tellingly, the single largest increase in public confidence, a 21.4 percent improvement, came after the 2012 coup.

Further, for every election cycle from 1992 to 2007, Mali largely trailed its Sahel neighbours in voter turnout for both parliamentary and presidential contests.

According to a February 2013 Malian opinion poll, the two most frequently cited perceived causes of the country’s various crises were “lack of patriotism among leaders” and “weakness of the state” (31 percent and 16 percent, respectively); a full 76 percent of respondents were unable to name their political representatives.

Aid and accountability

Channelling aid through the government of a country that suffers from endemic corruption at all levels perverts the state’s incentive structure, say analysts. It removes the need for the government to be externally accountable to its outside investors, in this case donors who knowingly participated in corruption. It also internally eliminates the need for the public sector to develop basic governing institutions, which represent the “vital link of accountability between state and citizen,” according to aid expert and author Jonathan Glennie. Without this accountability, citizens are removed from the political process and elites are free to extract and expropriate from the state with abandon, creating the conditions for state failure and conflict.

One local manifestation of this lack of accountability and oversight is the diversion of aid resources. According to Mahmoud Cheibani, a teacher at a Timbuktu secondary school, “we are poor not because of a lack of aid, we are poor because aid does not reach the targeted populations.”

“We are poor not because of a lack of aid, we are poor because aid does not reach the targeted populations.”

The situation is particularly problematic in the north.

According to the head of a local Malian NGO that operated in the north throughout the crisis and the Islamist occupation: “In Timbuktu, the president of the Haut Conseil Islamique [High Islamic Council] takes the biggest cut; in Gao it is the mayor; in Kidal it is the Intallah) family [Ifoghas Tuareg tribal leaders].”

Aid and conflict

At the sub-national and sub-regional level, there have been situations in which aid money has clearly fuelled ethnic conflict in Mali.

One prominent example was an ill-fated UN Development Programme project after the 1990s rebellion, where millions of dollars intended for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants were given disproportionately to one ethnic group, the Ifoghas Tuaregs, and directly used to buy loyalty and consolidate power at the expense of their ethnic rivals, the Imghad Tuaregs.

Tracing a causal relationship between aid and conflict at a macro scale is more difficult, but several rigorous studies have confirmed this anecdotal evidence from Mali.

The argument is that aid drives conflict in countries that suffer from a low degree of institutional development and a high degree of unchecked executive power, instigating competition for “rents” – non-tax revenues – among elites. This is Mali in a nutshell: disproportionate executive power, bolstered by foreign aid that is channelled primarily through that branch of government at the expense of other institutions, widening the gap between citizenry and leadership and driving competition for the money.

Taken together, these data suggest that Mali’s problems are rooted in its institutions and further corroborate what some scholars have already asserted: the coup, Tuareg rebellion, al-Qaeda penetration and corruption of the state were all symptoms of the same basic institutional dysfunction. Nothing has fundamentally changed to address the deficiencies in accountability and oversight, yet over US$4 billion of development aid is poised to come online at the conclusion of the current political transition.

At such a critical transition point in Mali’s development, prospective donors would do well to examine new models and priorities for ensuring the effectiveness, sustainability and value of development projects.

Certainly not all aid is counterproductive, and this data by no means implicates all humanitarian relief efforts. Emergency disaster response by multilateral organizations and local and international NGOs was critical to mitigating the 2011-2012 Sahel food crisis, for example. But developing strong Malian institutions capable of taking the lead on such a response would ultimately be the most effective and sustainable path to prosperity.


fm/ew/ob/rz source

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Tents have long played an essential role

Posted by African Press International on August 7, 2013

 – Tents have long played an essential role in the emergency phase of humanitarian responses to refugee influxes. They are relatively light and cheap, and they can be stockpi led, flown in and erected in a short timeframe. But as anyone who has slept in one can attest, tents also have major shortcomings – they provide minimal protection from climatic extremes, offer little space or comfort, and deteriorate quickly.

The average stay in a refugee camp is now 12 years, but at the beginning of a refugee crisis there is no way of knowing how soon refugees will be able to return home, and host governments are wary of shelters that suggest permanence. This presents a conundrum for the humanitarian sector, which has been trying for years to come up with a shelter that ticks off all the necessary boxes, including logistical concerns such as cost and ease of transport and assembly, as well as cultural, environmental and political considerations that vary from one country and refugee context to another.“There is no one solution to [refugee] shelter; there’s no single tent or shelter that can answer all the needs,” said Tom Corsellis, who is the president and co-founder of the Geneva-based Shelter Centre and a pioneer in the field of developing shelter solutions for disasters and displacement.

While there has been no shortage of alternative refugee shelter designs, few have made it to the field-testing stage, and even fewer have had the financial and institutional backing to be brought to market.

It is not surprising then, that the launch of a prototype shelter resulting from a partnership between the IKEA Foundation, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the Refugee Housing Unit (RHU), a subsidiary of the non-profit Swedish Industrial Design Foundation, has been met with intense interest.

Housing kit

The collaboration brings together UNHCR’s long experience in and access to the refugee sector, with the Swedish furnishing giant’s funding and management support and RHU’s design and manufacturing expertise. The result resembles a large garden shed; RHU project manager Johan Karlsson describes it as a modular design consisting of a light-weight steel frame onto which polymer panels can be attached to form vertical walls and a pitched roof. Karlsson explained that in an emergency situation, the steel frames could be distributed separately and used with plastic sheeting or locally available materials.

“One great challenge is the assembly. Basically it’s like an IKEA product, but it’s quite complex”

“It was very much a requirement from UNHCR that we start with a self-supporting frame that other materials could be added on to,” Karlsson told IRIN. “The panels would come into place when you have protracted situations and you know there’s a great chance the refugees will be staying for a longer period of time and you’re not allowed to build anything more permanent.”

The “full kit” also includes a shade net to reflect the sun during the day and to retain heat at night and a solar panel that provides the shelter with power. While the panels last up to three years, the steel frame can last for 10, if correctly assembled. This is an important caveat, according to Karlsson, and something that is about to be assessed as the prototype begins six months of field testing at Dollo Ado refugee camp in Ethiopia and at sites in northern Iraq and Lebanon.

“One great challenge is the assembly. Basically it’s like an IKEA product, but it’s quite complex. The idea is that we’ll provide training to a group of beneficiaries and then they’ll build the other houses… The ultimate goal is that a refugee family can do it themselves,” Karlsson said.

Using local materials, skill

Although the prototype has undergone extensive technical testing in Holland, it remains to be seen how the design will be received by refugees themselves. Karlsson anticipates that, following the field testing, modifications will have to be made before the shelter is ready for market.

The next step will be to find a company or companies willing to finance the shelter’s production and to secure sizeable orders from UNHCR or other agencies involved in the provision of temporary shelters. For now, the cost of the full kit comes in at around US$1,000, with the steel frame alone costing about $250.

“It is cost effective, especially if you just start with the frame and upgrade with local materials,” said Karlsson. “Even if you ship in the full kit, this will last three years, and a tent will only last for six months to one year” and then have to be replaced.

Corsellis of the Shelter Centre said that in every refugee shelter operation, the goal is to build shelters using traditional designs and methods, using local materials, local skills and local tools in order to contribute to the local economy and minimize potential tensions with host communities.

“The only reason we ever use tents is if the refugee influx is so high or access to local materials is so poor that we’re unable to use them. When we do have to use tentage, it’s to buy time to be able to use local skills and resources, [but] the length of time existing tentage lasts for is often not long enough to return there and offer better shelter. The cost of those tents, as they degrade, is lost completely,” Corsellis said.

The Shelter Centre has developed its own shelter prototype, with support from the UK and US governments. It also makes use of a metal frame in a rectangular plan, but without the semi-rigid panels. The frame could be flown in, together with a fly-sheet and covering liner, and eventually the shelter could be upgraded with mud or timber walls and corrugated iron roofing.

“This additional generation of shelters [is] far more suitable for winterization,” said Corsellis, adding that the shelters would also fare better in environments such as Dadaab in northern Kenya, the largest refugee complex in the world, where high winds and intense sun shorten a tent’s lifespan.


An initiative by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and UNHCR to use a technology called Interlocking Stabilised Soil Blocks (ISSB) to build more durable shelters for refugees at Dadaab, many of whom have lived there for decades, was stopped by the Kenyan government in 2012 because it was viewed as too permanent.

In the context of such political sensitivities, shelters such the IKEA and Shelter Centre prototypes – which could be taken down, moved or even taken with refugees when they return home for use while they rebuild permanent shelters – have obvious benefits.

Corsellis emphasized that tents or tent-like shelters are used for only a small proportion of refugees – about 10 percent of the total 10.4 million refugees of concern to UNHCR at the beginning of 2012. The majority of refugees make use of other options, such as staying with host families, renting in urban areas or self-settling in rural areas.

“We need to broaden our vocabulary of shelter options, and this IKEA prototype is a positive direction. And hopefully the final result will be a range of different options, understanding that any stockpiled shelter should be used for only a small percentage of people affected by conflicts and disasters, as part of humanitarian operations,” he said.

Endks/rz source


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