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Burundi: Cantonment of rebel FNL fighters set to begin

Posted by African Press International on June 19, 2008

Bujumbura (Burundi) – The country’s last active rebel leader, Agathon Rwasa, has declared the end of the armed struggle against the government.

“We want to show the Burundian and international community that we are committed to reaching a lasting peace,” Rwasa said at a ceremony to mark the formal start of the cantonment of his fighters in Rugazi Commune, Bubanza Province, western Burundi, as 150 combatants from his Palipehutu-Forces nationales de libration (FNL) assembled at Rugazi. Others were to assemble at Rukoko in Gihanga Commune.

The launch of the cantonment process was a step that showed the FNL was “committed to moving forward in implementing the ceasefire accord”, he said on 16 June. It was also “a gesture that will, among other things, allow an improvement of security, and people to [perform] their ordinary activities without problems”.

The two locations have been designated by the government as cantonment sites for FNL combatants. However the FNL has said more sites are needed, commensurate with the number combatants, which they say is 15,000. Other sources say they number 3,000.

Without revealing the number of his combatants, Rwasa, who on 30 May returned home from years of exile in Tanzania, said: “What matters is that the war is over.” The number of his fighters that would be reintegrated into other forces, such as Burundi?s army and police, would be discussed with the government, he said.

The launch of the cantonment process was witnessed by members of the Joint Verification and Monitoring Mechanism (JVMM) and the Political Directorate, as well as the ambassadors of Tanzania, France, and the African Union, and representatives of the World Food Programme in Burundi, the European Union, and the Burundian government. Rwasa, who was dressed in military uniform, was welcomed by cheering, dancing FNL combatants. Calling on the government to “withdraw its troops from villages” and confine them to barracks, Rwasa said a show of political will was necessary.

“The cease-fire agreement links both sides,” he said, adding that the FNL had, by assembling its combatants signalled it wanted to join the government.

The leader of the government team in the JVMM, Maj Lazare Nduwayo, hailed the FNL for agreeing to prepare for cantonment. “Joining Assembly zones is very important to us,” he said. “The government, too, wants peace.”

The cantonment of FNL combatants is starting after weeks of talks at the JVMM over implementation of the September 2006 ceasefire accord signed with the government of President Pierre Nkurunziza. A former guerrilla leader, Nkurunziza was elected president in 2005 under an agreement brokered by the African Union and the UN. The FNL refused to be part of that pact, but later signed a separate accord. That deal soon stalled, however, and clashes resumed.

In May, it again attacked the suburbs of Bujumbura, leaving 33 people dead and at least 20,000 displaced. Under intense international pressure, however, the group eventually signed a ceasefire agreement on 25 May with the government, paving the way for Rwasa?s return to Bujumbura.

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API#source.UN Regional Information Networks (IRIN)

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Kenya: Starvation stalks the poor

Posted by African Press International on June 19, 2008

Nairobi (Kenya) – Waiyua Mwongeli, a vegetable vendor in Nairobi?s Kibera slum, is yet to understand why her business is doing so badly.

?No one is buying, including my routine customers,? says the 40-year-old. ?Something is wrong, but I don?t know what.? The previous day, she had to throw away a sack of rotten tomatoes. Her fellow vendors are undergoing the same nightmare.

At home, she cooks less food than before for her children, and sometimes her family of five goes hungry. Like other slum dwellers, she no longer eats enough. Once important dietary staples like meat, beans and sugar have suddenly become luxuries.

The sprawling village, with a population of close to 900,000 people, is among the slums in Kenya that are hardest hit by rising food prices. Most people who live on less than a dollar a day are now struggling to survive and the spikes in food prices mean they must eat less or sometimes not at all. Mwongeli?s case is an example of what experts are referring to as the ?new face of hunger,? a situation in which shops and markets have plenty of food, but not enough customers who can pay for it.

Kenyans first saw food prices rise in the wake of the post-election violence that killed 1,200 people early this year, with at least 350,000 others being displaced from their homes. According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, annual inflation had risen to 31.5 per cent last month from 26.6 per cent in April. This is the steepest increase since the early 1990s, when increased spending in the run-up to the 1992 general election put it at 31 per cent.

The current food crisis amounts to a gross violation of human rights and could fuel a global catastrophe, as many of the world?s poorest countries, particularly those in the import-dependency category, struggle to feed their people, warn international development agencies, including ActionAid. ?It is an outrage that poor people are paying for decades of policy mistakes such as the lack of investment in agriculture and the dismantling of support for smallholder farmers,? says Magdalena Kropiwnicka, policy analyst with ActionAid.

This year, the food import bill for developing countries is expected to rise by 40 per cent; in cases such as Burundi, Eritrea and Haiti the impact is catastrophic because of their high reliance on food and fuel imports as well as high existing levels of undernourishment. Many families in these poor countries are already spending well over three-quarters of their income on food. They are unable to cope as prices continue to rise.

As part of its HungerFree campaign, ActionAid is demanding that governments act decisively to address the food crisis. Decisions must be taken that will allow states to act immediately to fund increased social protection and boost the purchasing power of the poor, provide support for farmers, particularly women, and to boost production through access to seeds, water, credit and other inputs. Decisions on longer-term solutions are equally essential, including the need for investment in small scale sustainable agriculture and strategies to increase access to land for small farmers, especially women.

Essentially, world leaders must finance these solutions with bold and serious commitments to increase aid to agriculture, debt relief and trade reforms that will benefit poor import-dependent countries, added Ms Kropiwnicka.

The World Bank, in its report, Global Economic Prospects for 2008 indicates that food prices have risen by 75 per cent since 2000. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, 37 countries are facing a crisis and require external assistance ? 21 of them in Africa, 10 in Asia, five in Latin America and one in Europe.

In 2007, the world?s grains harvest ? 2.1 billion tonnes ? was a new record, 5 per cent more than the previous year. However, only 1.01 billion tonnes of the harvest is likely to be used to feed people. An important proportion will be used to feed animals ?760 million tonnes ? and around 100 million tonnes will be used to produce biofuels. Although there is enough food for everyone, recently there has been a substantial increase in the demand for cereals, led by a growing food demand in Asia as well as demand for biofuels, bringing global reserves to their lowest level in 25 years.

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API#source.East African (Kenya) by Philip Ngunjiri

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Africa at large: Food crisis menaces gains (opinion)

Posted by African Press International on June 19, 2008

The factors behind the global food crisis may be complex, but its effect is simple in its brutality. The worst affected countries are those that need to import agricultural produce, and the hardest hit people are those who spend the largest proportion of their incomes on food.

It is therefore the poorest people in the poorest countries who are feeling the brunt of this catastrophe. The Food and Agriculture Organisation notes that 21 of the 37 counties worst affected by high food prices are in Africa.

Yesterday , the Africa Progress Panel produced its inaugural report on the state of Africa, assessing the state of the continent?s development and identifying the challenges that threaten progress. Chaired by Kofi Annan and including statesmen, development experts and high-profile campaigners, the panel was established to focus world leaders on their commitments to Africa.

The report calls for immediate steps to tackle the food crisis. The food supply must be increased by increasing financial assistance to the governments of affected countries and aid agencies. All countries must make every effort to increase the quantity of food on international markets, so that the World Food Programme, relief organisations and individual governments are able to buy food.

If the scale of the emergency is not acknowledged, or the response is delayed, we will see an increase in hunger and malnutrition. The cost of food will not only be gauged in the wheat or rice price, but also in the rising number of infant and child deaths across Africa.

What gives this call to action added resonance is the fact that Africa has in the past few years been making real, tangible progress. Gross domestic product per capita across Africa has risen steadily since 1994. On the most recent International Monetary Fund estimates, the rate of growth reached 6,6% last year, exceeding the Middle East and Latin America. The number of people living in poverty has levelled off in the past few years, and Africa?s poverty rate has declined almost six percentage points since 2000. There have also been significant improvements in health and education, with infant and child mortality declining in many parts of Africa.

These hard fought gains are now at risk. The panel?s report shows the food crisis threatens to destroy years, if not decades, of economic progress in Africa, as 100-million people could be pushed back into absolute poverty. For me, this is where the real tragedy lies. The very people who have fought against the odds, harnessed their talents to better their lives, and dared hope their children would continue the journey, could see their efforts reduced to nothing.

The panel is thus calling for more than immediate outside aid to alleviate problems of high food prices. As Africans, we must take responsibility for the fundamental, structural problems with agricultural productivity on our continent. With the lowest use of fertilisers in the world, average grain yield in Africa is less than one ton a hectare, equivalent to just 25% of the global average. Our population has increased, yet African agricultural yields have stagnated since the early 1960s.

We must therefore raise agricultural productivity and increase food output. This includes reforming outdated policies and investing in key inputs such as fertiliser, improved seeds, effective management of water and new crop varieties, and linking farmers to markets via investments in basic infrastructure. In short, Africa needs a green revolution.

If the challenge seems daunting, there is some comfort in knowing the expertise and the experience exist. With appropriate technology and support, for example, Malawi has gone from experiencing serious food shortages to becoming both self-reliant and a net exporter of food. The key is to build on this success and replicate it.

It is no coincidence the Africa Progress Panel has published its report just ahead of the European Council summit in Brussels and a few weeks ahead of the Group of Eight (G-8) summit in Hokkaido, Japan. Our report shows G-8 commitments to double assistance to Africa by 2010 ? agreed at Gleneagles in 2005 ? are badly off track. With a shortfall of $40bn in aid, G-8 states must urgently address the deficits against their targets, set clear delivery timetables and increase transparency to improve aid quality. The crisis has put a clear premium on the G-8 delivering its original pledges.

I am conscious that on numerous occasions in the past few decades, it has been said that Africa is at a crossroads. If we agree the continent has demonstrated real progress in the past decade, and we acknowledge that the food crisis threatens to reverse much of this, then we are ? once again ? at a defining moment. European and G-8 leaders should be in no doubt when they gather in Brussels and Hokkaido that they face a very real test of leadership. Millions of people across the world are demanding that they deliver.

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API”Source.Business Day (South Africa) by Graca Machel

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Nigeria: Archbishop criticises government

Posted by African Press International on June 19, 2008

Archbishop of the Metropolitan See of Lagos, Anthony Cardinal Okogie, yesterday passed a damning verdict on the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-led Federal Government.

Okogie, who was disturbed by the state of the nation, declared that the PDP, which has ruled the country since 1999, has proved that it lacks the solutions to Nigeria’s multifarious problems. At a press conference to mark his 72nd birthday, Okogie also put the President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua government on the scale. He attributed its non-performance after one-year in office to lack of vision on how to lead the nation to the economic prosperity and political stability.

He described Yar’Adua as a leader who only “clears and fails to build” on public structures and institutions. Yar’Adua’s problem, he said, was made worse by the presence of incompetent ministers in his cabinet.

Okogie therefore asked the President to overhaul his cabinet by sacking the “dead woods” in the Federal Executive Council.

“From the look of things, it is glaringly clear that the Federal Government has no compass with which to direct and lead the nation aright. The Presidency has not given us the needed leadership since the military returned power to the civilians in 1999. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-controlled Federal Government has not given Nigeria a focused and purposeful leadership. It has been ‘grab, grab’, flamboyance, committing atrocities and bribing its way through the National Assembly to impose its will on the electorate. In short, it has been an administration full of personal aggrandisement, corruption and greed!

“To be a good leader, you must clear and build. Yar’Adua has been clearing and not building, that is where he is lacking. This is probably because he is not getting support from the ministers. He should knock out ministers that are not performing,” he said.

“The seven-point agenda of President Yar’ Adua is already being called to question and described by many as lack of initiative to solve what is on his own agenda. When they are viewed along with performing governors like Babatunde Fashola (SAN) of Lagos State, one would not hesitate to rate him (Yar’Adua) “low and slow. Without any equivocation, Yar’Adua’s scorecard is zero on all his seven-point agenda, because of his failure in his first trumpeted priority, which is power and energy! And he is yet to embark on the others,” he stated.

Okogie said that Nigerian politicians and government officials lacked vision and direction to put the nation on the path of growth. Turning to the legislature, he said: “Our present National Assembly gave us hope of ‘oversight’ functions. Some of their elections are being nullified by the tribunals. How we wish that the tribunals have the power to jail those found guilty! This would have helped a great deal in curbing those who wanted power to enrich themselves.”

He believes that the crime-fighting machinery of the Federal Government is faulty and urged the EFCC and ICPC to scrutinise petitions and reports before arresting and prosecuting suspects.

Okogie praised the judiciary for being the hope of the electorate by serving as a check to the excesses and recklessness of the PDP. He nevertheless enjoined the judiciary “to watch and scrutinise with eagle eyes any petition brought before it so as to continue to stand the test of time. The judiciary must be mindful of the bad eggs within its rank; these should be flushed out to let credibility be its hallmark”. Okogie charged the press to be extra-vigilant and be investigative in their practice by moving away from the traditional roles of informing, educating and entertaining the public.

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API#Source.The Guardian (Nigeria) by Gbenga Salau

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Chad: AU condemns rebel assault

Posted by African Press International on June 19, 2008

Amid raging hostilities near the north-eastern town of Biltine, some 750 kilometres (470 miles) from the capital N’djamena, the African Union (AU) has condemned the rebel offensive, even as the government in N’djamena dismissed the insurgents’ threats to take the capital as nothing more than a “stunt.”

“The African Union is particularly concerned by the resumption since June 11 of clashes between rebel Chad groups and the Chad army in the eastern Chad,” the Pan-African body said in a statement. “These new developments seriously endanger current efforts aiming to revive the process of dialogue in Chad and to promote peace and stability in the region,” it added. The statement followed the seizure by Chadian rebels on Sunday of a second town, Am Dam, as they headed west towards their stated objective, the capital.

Chadian authorities confirmed that Am Dam had fallen to the rebels but said the move was not significant. “The rebels are effectively in Am Dam but it’s a locality where there is neither a garrison nor troops deployed,” said a Chadian military source on Sunday.

Chad’s Minister of Communications, Mahamat Hissene, said the government was still in control of the situation. “We are serene. The army is deploying its plan,” Agence France Presse (AFP) quoted the minister as saying.

Am Dam was taken by the rebels “without much resistance” from government forces, said their spokesman — a day after they also briefly occupied Goz Beida, closer to the Sudan border.

“Our objective is not to take towns but to clear obstacles on the road to N’djamena,” Ali Gueddei, the spokesman for the National Alliance grouping of rebel factions, said. “We are not occupying them. Our objective is Ndjamena,” he added.

France, meanwhile, said it did not intend to intervene. The former colonial power “has not intervened and will not intervene,” said French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner on Sunday, adding that the claims about the rebels’ progress towards the capital had been denied by EUFOR forces.

Mahamat Nouri, who leads the National Alliance uniting several rebel factions, however, said that their forces were still on the move and that the capital remained their ultimate objective. Nouri refused to set a date on the attempt to topple Chad’s President Idriss Deby Itno, saying only it would be “in the short term.”

Fighting near Goz Beida on Saturday saw Irish members of the European Union force (EUFOR) protecting Sudanese refugees exchange fire with unidentified gunmen. There were no apparent casualties. There are nearly 80,000 displaced Chadians and some 36,000 refugees from neighbouring Sudan’s war-battered Darfur region living in camps around Goz Beida. Staff with German and Italian aid agencies in the area said that their supplies had been pillaged, with vehicles stolen and a garage set ablaze in the attacks Saturday night.

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API#Source.The Guardian (Nigeria)

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Congo DRC: Rebel leader refuses to hand over ICC indicted deputy.

Posted by African Press International on June 19, 2008

Masisi (North Kivu Province, Congo DRC): Renegade Congolese general Laurent Nkunda, leader of National Congress for the Defence of the People, CNDP, has told IWPR that he won?t hand over his chief of staff, Bosco Ntaganda, despite an International Criminal Court, ICC, warrant for his arrest.

?The extradition of Congolese to the International Criminal Court is an indignity,? said Nkunda. ?I wish Ntaganda could be judged in Ituri rather than The Hague.? Nkunda spoke to IWPR at a farm in Kirolirwe, about 60 kilometres west of Goma, one of several of his homes in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC. There is ?no chance [I will] hand over Bosco Ntaganda to ICC?, he said.

Nkunda said he was not sure of the precise crimes that Ntaganda has been charged with, and questioned the adequacy of the ICC?s investigation. ?I request the ICC to furnish us [with] evidence on the involvement of [Ntaganda] in the crimes in Ituri,? said Nkunda. ?I?m waiting for an ICC delegation here for that purpose.?

Nkunda said that before he would cooperate with the ICC with his chief of staff, he would need to verify the accuracy of the evidence again Ntaganda. ?I personally have to verify [the] evidence in Ituri and not in The Hague,? he said.

An international arrest warrant was issued against Ntaganda by the ICC in April 2008 for crimes he allegedly committed between 2002 and 2003 in Ituri. Four others from the region have been arrested on ICC warrants ? only Ntaganda remains at large. Despite the indictments and an on-going investigation by the ICC in eastern DRC, little has changed and it appears no efforts are being made to arrest Ntaganda.

Nkunda and his CNDP, a political and military organisation which controls a large area in North Kivu, meanwhile, have on the whole cooperated with a wide-ranging peace agreement among militias that was signed in January in Goma, the capital of North Kivu. Although units of Nkunda?s army have reportedly clashed with Rwandese Hutu militia fighters of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, FDLR, who also operate in the region.

Ntaganga is currently in command of Nkunda?s troops, a position he has held for two years. Ntaganda is known to be in the area, but Nkunda did not reveal his exact location. Nkunda believes that his commander has been unfairly selected for prosecution, even though many others, including some high-ranking government officials, have also been implicated in atrocities committed in the region and not been charged. ?Those who committed crimes in Ituri are in power,? he said.

Nkunda explained that in 2003, Ntaganda was deputy commander of the Union of Congolese Patriots, UPC, a militia headed by Thomas Lubanga, who currently faces a trial at the ICC. At the time, Ntaganda took orders from General Floribert Kisembo, who was Lubanga?s chief of staff. Kisemba is now a top commander of the DRC army in Maniema province.

?The arrest warrant should target authorities in the government and the army before involving Bosco Ntaganda,? said Louis Hamuli, a political representative of Nkunda?s organisation. ?People should know that those who committed killings in Ituri are well [known]. Most of them were appointed [to] high positions.?

Nkunda insists that Ntaganda is a ?small fish? and argues that as he?s ?neither a partner of the Rome Statute nor a member of the ICC?, he has no obligation to cooperate.

But the ICC spokesman in the DRC, Paul Madidi, said Nkunda should cooperate. ?If the CNDP thinks that Ntaganda did not commit any crime, it has to hand him over to ICC. This court will give Bosco Ntaganda an opportunity to defend himself or with the help of a lawyer who will be provided to him,? Madidi told IWPR.

According to the Rome Statute, the government is obligated to cooperate with the ICC in the arrest of presumed criminals. Although the DRC has arrested ICC suspects in the past, this appears unlikely to happen with Ntaganda, however, because he is in the area firmly controlled by Nkunda.

United Nations forces in the area, MONUC, however, have expressed willingness to help. But the threat of UN involvement in the arrest does not concern officials in the CNDP.

?MONUC has attacked us [along with] the governmental forces [before],? said a CNDP officer, who preferred not to give his name. ?If (MONUC) dares arrest [Ntaganda], it will [face] us.?

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API#Source.Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), by Jacques Kahorha

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Mozambique: Miners face discrimination

Posted by African Press International on June 19, 2008

Maputo (Mozambique) – The bulk of Mozambican miners working in SA and who are HIV-positive are not protected by law against discrimination, a representative of a Mozambican employers’ association against Aids said in an interview on Monday.

Irene Afonso, communications officer of the Mozambican Employers’Association against Aids, said the situation had resulted in a lot of Mozambican miners who were infected with the HIV virus to be discriminated against by their employers.

“There is an agreement between the governments of Mozambique and SA, signed in 1988, on the contracting of the workers but in the clauses it does not mention issues regarding the health of the miners,” she told Sapa in an interview on the margins of a four day national Aids conference in Maputo.

Afonso said while miners were contracted to work on the mines for periods of up to 12 months before they could go on a month long leave period, there was no legal instrument in their contract to facilitate the visit of their wives of partners.

“It is during this period that miners engage in promiscuous relationships, putting them at risk of getting infected with HIV,” she said.

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API#Source.South African Press Association (Sapa)

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South Africa: ?State is dragging its feet?

Posted by African Press International on June 19, 2008

The intended reintegration of foreign nationals into the communities ? which was supposed to be concluded within a month ? might not happen soon.

A study conducted by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) to investigate the underlying causes of the attacks has found that the government has failed to engage with communities about their grievances.
The report says the attacks should have been predicted because of the country?s long track record in using violence as a means of protest.

?Every time there are protests in the communities violence is used,? the report says. ?It has become a disease.? ?If government does not engage with the sentiment expressed by ordinary residents that foreign nationals should leave the country, the risk is that these feelings of alienation between the government and South African citizens will deepen and the possibility of successful reintegration … will be diminished.?

The government had given displaced foreign nationals two months to reintegrate into their communities or return to their countries following the xenophobic attacks a month ago.

The role of the government, immigrant influx , the impact of migrants on gender dynamics, the pace of housing policy, the politics of economic livelihoods and the competition for resources are identified as being critical to the emergence of tensions.

The HSRC has invited Social Development Minister Zola Skweyiya to receive the report.

He said: ?We did not do enough in educating the masses about the help we received from African countries during the apartheid era. ?History should not be treated as a minority in schools. Children should be taught about who they are and where they come from and about other countries.?

The HSRC recommends that a national summit on foreign nationals and immigrants be held, that local community forums on migration be formed, that an audit of RDP houses and the development of policies be conducted, that there should be border control and that the government must deal with corruption at the Department of Home Affairs, local government and the South African Police Service.

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API#Source.The Sowetan (South Africa)

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South Africa: Crime wave amid soaring petrol prices

Posted by African Press International on June 19, 2008

Petrol stations are seeing an increase in theft due to skyrocketing fuel prices, and in many instances stolen licence plates are being used, says Peter Noke, director of the SA Petroleum Industry Association.

Loading up on petrol and fleeing the station without paying has soared in the past couple of months. Perpetrators have made it more difficult for authorities to take criminal action because they are using undocumented or stolen licence plates when refilling their fuel tanks.

According to Noke, a petrol station in Pretoria had R 2 570 worth of fuel stolen on Wednesday. Beeld reported the crime and included a picture of the thief, sparking a series of responses from previously robbed petrol stations. Noke said an Engen petrol station employee recognised the thief’s picture as that of a man who had stolen fuel from his business in April.

A car without licence plates had pulled into a Groenkloof, Pretoria, station in April and parked at the last pump. The driver had asked the petrol attendant to fill tanks in the back of his car while he filled his own vehicle. The thief had then told the attendant to get him oil, but when the attendant returned the car was gone.

Noke says stories like these are becoming more and more common. “Fuel prices are at an all-time high. People are doing everything they can to survive. Tricking petrol stations is just another way to combat the high prices. It’s something that petrol stations and the police need to work on together.”

Authorities advise petrol stations to be wary of cars without licence plates. They also caution drivers to keep a keen eye on their own plates; thieves can easily escape undetected under the guise of someone else’s licence plate number.
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API#Source.Cape Argus (South Africa). by Chelsea Laun

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Uganda: Police should protect, not impede liberties (opinion)

Posted by African Press International on June 19, 2008

The recent Constitutional Court ruling on the role of the police force in organised public assemblies and demonstrations has attracted mixed reactions and varying interpretations from the public.

Various interested parties have made differing interpretations presumably to suit their competing agendas. Sections of the society have the misconception that the court ruling generally rendered the broad functions and role of the police in maintaining public order and peace redundant. As a result, both the public and the leadership of the police force are at loggerheads over whether the police have any role left in policing public assemblies and peaceful demonstrations.

This misunderstanding can also best explain the events of last week when opposition members of Parliament walked out of the Budget presentation session in protest of police brutality.

The MPs? action was justifiable given the manner in which highhanded police officers bundled two female legislators in a very indecent manner. From press reports and television images, surely the police officers involved in the fracas with the MPs acted unprofessionally. The Constitution Court specifically examined the powers of the police under section 32 (2) of the Police Act which hitherto, allowed the Inspector General of Police to prohibit (stop) the convening of public assembly or processions.

The petitioner in the case expressed worry that the police was becoming increasingly partisan by blocking the political activities of political opposition parties. The petitioners argued that the unfettered discretion on the part of the police contravened the freedoms of equality, expression , movement and assembly. On the other hand, the Attorney General argued that the police powers as provided for under Article 212 of the Constitution read together with Article 43 allowed for restrictions on the enjoyment of fundamental rights and freedoms in public interest.

Court rejected the AG?s arguments because Article 20 of the Constitution provides that fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual are inherent and not granted by the State. And that the rights and freedoms of the individual and groups shall be respected, upheld and promoted by all organs and agencies of the government and by all persons.

The court noted that for the police to evoke Article 43 to limit individual freedoms, the grounds for such limitations must be sufficiently important and they should not be arbitrary, unfair or based on irrational considerations. The court also noted that a society, especially a democratic one, should be able to tolerate a good deal of annoyance or disorder so as to encourage the greatest possible freedom of expression , particularly political expression.

So, did the Constitutional Court ruling bar the police from exercising their duties to maintain order at public rallies and during demonstrations? No. In fact, the court noted that the right to a peaceful protest is not absolute. The police have a wide range of powers to control and restrict the actions of protesters.

But the court stated that the police?s powers should not be exercised in an unaccountable and discriminatory manner. In a nutshell, the meaning of the ruling is that the police?s powers should be regulatory but not prohibitive. This same notion is captured in international legal instruments that govern civil policing. In a democracy, the police should serve to protect and not impede civil liberties.

The police should work to create an enabling environment where civil liberties can be realised. Use of excessive force to a degree that police officers can attempt to ?lift? a female MP?s skirt is deplorable. However, the police-MPs fracas also exposed the lopsidedness of our Parliament in dealing with the problem of brutality of our armed forces. Parliament should not wait for their own to suffer the excesses of the police and other related abuses by the State before it acts. The last thing Ugandans want to see is a violent police force.

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API#Source.The Monitor (Uganda) by Moses SSerwanga

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More questions than answers on the marine cable project

Posted by African Press International on June 18, 2008

Story by JAINDI KISERO

TREASURY PS JOSEPH KINYUA has directed that the process of choosing the select group of private sector players to partner with the Government in the ownership of the multi-million shilling East African Sub Marine System Project (Teams Ltd) be handled by the Privatisation Commission under the chairmanship of a respected academic, Prof Peter Kimuyu.

Teams Ltd is an initiative of the Government and Etisalat of the United Arab Emirates, in which the parties have agreed to build the first undersea fibre optic cable between Mombasa and Fujaira in the Emirates.

Some 11 private sector players were recently selected to own shares in the company, under what the Government is presenting as a private-public partnership deal.

These circumstances have kicked up an intense war between the major telecommunications companies over the ownership of Teams Ltd, with companies left out of the lucrative deal claiming that the process of privatising the company had not been conducted transparently.

Literally, all the major telecommunications companies in this country are lobbying to get a piece of the action, counting on the fact that the value of the company will rise astronomically once the project goes into commercial operation next year.

There have been suspicions that well-connected operatives have lobbied to ensure their cronies get a share of the family silver on the cheap.

So, preponderant have been the claims and counterclaims surrounding the deal that the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission officials last month jumped into the fray by launching investigations into the manner in which the privatisation process was handled.

KACC is also interrogating the circumstances under which market regulator, the Communications Commission of Kenya was made to issue a $60 million guarantee to enable the construction and laying of the cable to commence.

I gather that the Office of the Prime minister also recently summoned Ministry of Information and Communications officials to ask question about the privatisation of the project.

In my own view, Mr Kinyua deserves congratulations for directing that the responsibility of managing the privatisation of Teams Ltd be transferred to the Privatisation Commission.

The commission is better placed to investigate some of the allegations surrounding the deal because, as opposed to the institutions handling privatisation currently, this body is bound by law to apply stricter rules of transparency and disclosure when overseeing a privatisation projects.

Prof Kimuyus team should investigate and determine is the following. First, is there substance to the claim that the procurement of the 11 private sector players in Teams Ltd was done irregularly?

WERE ALL THE PLAYERS IN THE TELEcommunications industry given an equal chance, and on what basis were the companies selected?

Second, considering that the billions of shillings the Government has so far spent on the project, including the $60 million guarantee by the CCK which more or less covers the cost of completing the cables construction, wouldnt public interest be served better if the sale of shares in the company to private sector players was delayed until the cable comes to commercial operations next year?

Third, what can be done to ensure that the Government reaps maximum shareholder value from the investment it has put into the project?

I say so because billions of shillings in public resources have had to be sunk into the project , including the millions that went into paying for the feasibility studies.

The marine survey alone was done at the cost of $2.7 million. The Government paid millions of shillings to Standard Chartered Bank, the financial arranger, and for the initial down-payment to the contractor.

In contrast, the 11 selected companies have so far only signed escrow agreements committing them to pay 5 per cent of the money they intend to put into the company.

According to the arrangement, the next stage will be for the companies to sign a shareholders agreement with the Government committing them to pay the full amount of the shares they have been allocated.

And, once they pay, the arrangement is that the Government will be relieved of its pro rata part of the financial obligations to the project.

The Ministry of Information and Communications say the project has been modelled as a unique public private partnership where the government is facilitating the private sector to enable them to provide cheap bandwidth to the fast-growing information and telecommunications sector.

The ministry insists that the 11 companies will bear the greater part of the financial burden of the construction.

Yet, whichever way one looks at it, this is a project that reached financial closure long before these companies committed a cent.

Right now, if some problem was to occur, it is the Government that would have to bear the risk.

Prof Kimuyu must make sure that another Mobitelea does not happen under his watch.

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API.SOURCE.NATION.KE

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Escalating violence in Somalia causes civilians to loose their lives

Posted by African Press International on June 18, 2008

By: Yusuf Haji Hussein, API staff writer in Mogadishu, Somalia.

Mogadishu-Somalia (API); Five people were killed and many morewere injured in heavy battle between Ethiopian and government troops combined against the insurgent forces in a separate area in Mogadishuon Tuesday night, residents confirm to API.

Opposition warriors have opened fire and motor shellson the Ethiopian and government base solders at Afoloransa junction Wardeglay district. Both sides were heard exchanging fire.

It was a scary night, because the light of the bullets have been seen, old women and a children died after the moto shells landed on the neighbouring houses. Five were wounded; according to an observer Mohamed Omar who narrated the story to API last night.

Three people are said to have been killed in a separate incident at Menada building of Suka Holaha district in north Mogadishu, with three being wounded. All are said to hbe civilians.

These conflicts which escalated in Mogadishu come after U.N-brokered peace talks between TFG leaders and the opposition Alliance based in Asmara. The parties agreed on a cease fire in Djibouti conference on 9 June which now seems to have no effect.

Somalia slipped into anarchy after the overthrow of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991, resulting inclan based fightingin all Somali regions.

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African Press International – api

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Kenya: Famine forces clansmen in Baringo to eat wild fruits

Posted by African Press International on June 18, 2008

<By Leo Odera Omolo

More than 45,000 people living in Silale and Kositei villages in the newly created Baringo East district are starving to deathas persistent lack of rainfall continues to hit the area.

Reports emerging from the area says that many families have been surviving on wild fruits which are also hard to find. Children, elderly people and women are the most affected.

A resident of Kabarnet told this writer that the situation is so pathetic with unconfirmed reports of several casualities..

A recent KTN report shocked Kenyans when men, women and children were seen by viewers in wild chase of rats and mouse in the thick bushes for their meal, signifying the high degree of hunger facing the communities in the region.

Fears persist that many parts of Kenya would soon follow suit, though the government recently announced that it was importing 3 million bags of maize from a foreign source. The Minister for Agriculture William Ruto had assured the nation that there was nothing to worry.

In some regions of Kenya, especially the tradition maize growing areas had experienced total crop failure owing to the scarcity of rain. Maize is the food the majority of Kenyan communities depend on. Its market price has gone up by nearly 80 per cent. In some places, 2kg of either maize or maize flour is costing close to Kshs 100/- which is unaffordable to many poor rural families.

Regions like Trans-Nzoia, Trans-Mara, Uasin Gishu, Bungoma, Molo, Migori, Kuria, Nandi, Kericho had experienced crop failure due to the unpredictability of the weather. The post-election chaos early this year has largely contributed to the on-going state of famine in the country. In some places, tribal skirmishes had forced maize farmers out of their farms. They fled while abandoning their maize in the field, which was eventually harvested by thugs and goons..

Still heeling from the aftermath of post election violence, residents of the agriculturally richNorth Rift had high expectation on this years budget, which was read in parliament by the Finance Minister Amos Kimunya last week. To save them from the sky rocketing food prices.

Trans-Nzoia and Uasin Gishu districts are the bread basket of Kenya, But there is hardly enough grain for sale to the famine stricken members of the public.

Even worse still, post election violence in January and February had led to more families going hungry because no meaningful farming activities took place during the political upheaval.

In Burnt Forest areas within the Uasin Gishu district, looting, arson and wholesale destruction of plantations rendered the economic life virtually desfunctional.

Kenyan farmers were also expecting some money to be allocated towards buying their farm produce when they harvest later this year. Measures to cushion them from drought should also be tailored into finance Minister Kimunya,s budget last week{2008/2009}. Kenyan farmers are anxious lots. They have many problems and they have been waiting for the government to provide the solution in this years budget.. But according to the agriculture minister Ruto very little was given to the Ministry

Following the post election chaos early this, farmers, particularly those living in the maize producing regions in the North Rift were expecting this years budget to subsidise when they harvest later in the year..

The subsidies should have come during the planting season of the main staple food, but we still need them to plant the short-term crops, said one farmer in Eldoret Town. Mr. John Cheruiyot of Sergoi said that the production of maize and wheat would suffer this year as most farmers were unable to afford fertilizers whose prices sky rockted from Kshs. 1.650/- to kshs 4,000/ for a bag of 50 kg.

A recent survey conducted in Baringo East revealed a grave situation one of human being competing for wild fruits with domestic animals, especially goats and donkeys.

At a village called Kositei in Chemelinget Division, school chidren have been forced to forfeit their studies and abandoned learning in schools as they accompany their parents to the hilltop and forests to look for wild fruits traditionally known as Sirichon in the bushes.

This fruit is pounded before being boiled in three different stages to remove the bitter taste and to make it soft. The boiling takes at least 24 hoursif the fruits were still fresh, but sometime boiled for two days when they are dry.

According to the locals, food especially the common ugali {kimiet} that is favorite meal almost every household in the country is now increasingly becoming a rare commodity and a rare thing as some residents said they last tested the precious meal some six months ago, and have only been surviving on wild fruits., t

.

One 75 year old resident and a widow reported that her husbandsuccumbed to death three weeks ago as his thin body could not survive for another day after going without food for more than two weeks. The incident could not be confirmed immediately. The widow Mrs Chebeteltes Lochab a mother of eight said her own chances of survival were also slim because she cannot climb up the trees for harvesting the wild fruit due to her age coupled with a broken arm

Suffering of many people in Baringo East is evidenced as emaciated children emerged from one of the hats. Locals are really staring at starvation in the face.

One civic leader Clr Daniel Tumsis said the problem is getting worse day by day and several people have died in Kositei Ward. We have a record of seven people in the bushes because they are so weak that their relatives have abandoned them behind as families scampered for the wild in search of the now scarce fruits.

The civic leader said several attempts to get any assistance in the form of relief food from the government have been fruitless as they only give empty promises. He alleged that the government has neglected them and wondered who to turn to next.

A recent visit to Chemelinget shopping centre which has the new district headquarters, essential commodities were very expensive as unscrupulous traders take the advantage of the worsening situation. A kilo of maize flour goes for 100shillings, so expensive that onlya few families can manage to raise.

Many families in the area have been forced to flee their homes and migrate and were seen settling along Kotidoe River, the only available water source in the area. We were tired of trekking for a long distances looking for water said Chepurai Longolesia, adding that we came to live near the river because we use a lot of water in cooking wild fruits.We used to walk for more than 20 kilometres to fetch water..

The civic leaders reported that it has been very difficult for the villagers as livestock auction they depended on were closed due to quarantine in the area following the outbreak of peste petit rumantes disease three months ago.

One person alleged that the last time they saw an Assistant minister and the MP for the area Osman Kamama was when he was serving as the Minister for Public Service shortly before he was relegated to an Assistant minister position in the Ministry of education in the grand coalition government.

In the neighbouring Baringo North district the situation is the same and so is west Pokot. The acute shortage of food has also spread into Turkana district, and in other districts in Western, and Nyanza provinces where close to 100,000 people are facing hunger.

Ends

leooderaomolo@yahoo.com.

——————–

API

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Tanzanian band takes on Europe

Posted by African Press International on June 18, 2008

You have been sent news by msema (msemakweli2007@yahoo.com) that appeared on www.bizcommunity.com.

Comment: Good news for east african dance music

The Ngoma Africa band, a Tanzanian band based in Germany has released a new single CD Apache Wacha Pombe, which means, Apache stop over drinking alcohol. And by all accounts, it’s a hit in Europe!

This danceable song composed by bandleader Ebrahim Makunja aka Ras Makunja “bwana kichwa ngumu is about a poor man called “Apache” who spends all his meagre income in alcohol instead of taking care of his sweet family.

The song reminds people like Apache to invest in the education of their children so that they can build a better future. It reminds them that they have to think of their families instead of wasting their money entertaining friends with drinks.

On this new hit, Ras Makunja sings together with Soloist Christian Bakotessa aka Chris B.

Apache is said to be already dominating many radio stations in Europe and some radio in East Africa with their style of music, which the reckon is a fusion of Tanzanian “Bongo Dance” with East African rumba.

The have also maintained the tradition of singing in Swahili.

Listen on http://www.myspace.com/thengomaafrica

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API

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Obama magic

Posted by African Press International on June 18, 2008

Publisher: Korir, africanpress@getmial.no

<Story by Harrison Mwirigi Ikunda

THERE have been stories doing in the media on the good effects Obama victory in the Democratic race and if he wins in the US presidential election this year could have on Africa. First, let his victory not be seen purely on race harmony and care giving basis. It would first and foremost be good to US as a country. After the two terms presidency of George W. Bush and the Republican presidency a break is quite necessary.

Secondly, and due to the same reasons advanced above, the victory would be good to the entire world. During the George W. Bush’s leadership the world has not become safer despite his hawkish and rough style of readership. A leader with a larger and superb soft skills combined with the same force is apparently necessary. This is where Barrack Obama fits the bill.

Thirdly a relatively younger blood would engineer some radical reforms as opposed to the kleptomaniac conservative style which has a good reservoir in John McCain and Hillary Clinton. Looked closely, there is no much difference between John McCain and Hillary Clinton. They are two sides of the same coin.

Clinton reluctance to drop out of the democratic race when it has been apparent that her candidature for the main race is not viable at this juncture is borne out of various factors. Among them is that first all along up to when nominations began she looked the favourite. Secondly, having been a first lady she could not fathom that a neophyte of Barrack Obama type could outshine her. Thirdly, her husband having been a popular former president she reasoned that this granted her automatic success. Fourthly, she thought that the race factor would greatly derail Obama. Fifthly, it all seems that her former husband Bill Clinton failure to openly and strongly support his Vice- president Al Gore during the 2000 presidential campaign was a strategic move for the VP to fail so as not to derail the chance for his wife who was strategically getting the New York Senate seat en-route to bid for the presidency. Who said that it is only in Africa where power is too sweet to imagine leaving it!

Obama starts the race as the favourite to clinch the US presidency this year. Another term for republicans would leave the world very probably worse with raging insecurity and highly inflamed hatred passions. Obama presents a new face, a new generation, new ideas, a new America and hope to many young people who are tempted to lead wasteful life. Here is somebody who is out to prove that America is still the land of opportunity and that America is not bereft of ideas and that the world can be changed for the better.

However he has too many hurdles to overcome and not least the issue to do with race and class. Let it not be forgotten that even though many analyst take such dim views of George W. Bush presidency, he won two terms successfully in as much as the first was won controversially. Additionally Bush legacy is not all about failure. Let it not be forgotten that it is Bush who appointed the first black as his first secretary of state. It is Bush who during the second term appointed another black as secretary of state. It is Bush who has been pushing dictators in the world especially in Africa and Asia to the wall. It is Bush who though many thought he would forgot poor regions of the world such as Africa who has proven different and actively engaged Africans to sort some of their perennial problems. Bush failure is largely viewed in terms of the Iraq mis-adventure, the never ending conflicts in Middle East, American economy doldrums, his handling of hurricane Katrina, global warming crisis among others. But has not failed entirely as some would want us to believe.

A warning shot to Africa though. Obama may be good for Africa but first and foremost he is an American and America is at his heart. He is unlikely to jeopardize American interests in pursuit to sort others. The pint is that he has the right frame of mind and brings in flesh paradigm shift in American politics. He has the drive, intellect and energy to make America a better, friendlier and liked state. The upshot is that he represents change!

——————–

API

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