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Archive for April, 2011

Police handling of protests often escalates conflict

Posted by African Press International on April 30, 2011

Analysis: Deadly policing

Police handling of protests often escalates conflict

Johannesburg, 29 April 2011 (IRIN) – On 13 April millions of South Africans saw news footage showing a group of police beating an unarmed protester with batons in Meqheleng, a township outside Ficksburg in South Africa’s Free State Province.

Andries Tatane, a community activist and father of two children, was then seen looking down at an apparent rubber bullet wound on his bare chest before collapsing to the ground. He died shortly afterwards.

The incident has sparked widespread public outrage and a national debate about the level of force being used by the South African Police Service (SAPS), particularly in the wake of another fatal shooting of an unarmed woman by an officer outside a Johannesburg police station on 26 April.

A spokesperson for National Police Commissioner General Bheki Cele told a local radio station that the cases should be treated as “isolated incidents”, but many commentators point out that the use of lethal force by the police has risen dramatically in recent years.

Figures from the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD), which is charged with investigating all deaths resulting from police action, show that 568 people were shot dead by the police in 2008/09, more than double the number just three years earlier, and the highest number since the ICD was established in 1997.

“The only thing that was an aberration [in Tatane's killing] was that it was captured on national television,” said Gareth Newham, head of the Crime and Justice Programme at the Institute for Security Studies, a South Africa-based think-tank.

Lack of training

In the apartheid era police routinely used violence to quell protests, but with the transition to democracy in 1994, and the incorporation of various human rights in the constitution, police heavy handedness was discouraged.

Most demonstrations post-1994 were peaceful and many units specializing in public order policing were closed down, with a resultant loss of skills in dealing with protests, Newham said.

In recent years, mounting frustration among the high numbers of black South Africans who continue to live in relative poverty has often erupted in the form of service delivery protests like the one in Meqheleng.

Newham noted that police handling of such protests tended to escalate conflict rather than neutralize it. “They think their job is to squash protest, and anyone taking part is seen as the enemy,” he told IRIN. “Often they fire tear gas and rubber bullets before there’s any real reason to.”

''They think their job is to squash protest, and anyone taking part is seen as the enemy ''

Sam Motseare, chairperson of Meqheleng Concerned Citizens group, of which Tatane was also a member, was among those who witnessed how quickly relations between protesters and police can disintegrate. “On that fateful day there was lots of police – we were shocked there were so many,” he said.

The protesters, whose main complaint was that parts of the township had been without running water for several years, had obtained permission to march and proceeded to the municipal offices without incident. 

“Somebody started throwing stones from the roof of the offices – that’s when things starting getting out of control,” said Motseare, who said the police did not seem to have appropriate training to deal with the situation.

He told IRIN that he heard the police officer in charge give the order to shoot Tatane. “It has broken our trust in the police,” he said. “We’re afraid to call for another march.”

Damaging rhetoric

Newham and others argue that the escalation in the use of force by the SAPS goes beyond the issue of training. Statements by political and SAPS leaders in recent years urging police to make use of their weapons to deal with criminals have been heard by the ranks.

“The subliminal message that has been conveyed to members of the police service… seemed to encourage a gloves-off approach,” said David Bruce, a senior researcher at the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation.

“A lot of police management… believe that excessive force is necessary in order to get the job done, which often means turning a blind eye to how force is used.” South Africa’s high rates of violent crime also mean that many people welcome a tougher stance by the police.

Norman Mampane, spokesman of the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (POPCRU), criticized a decision in April 2010 to introduce military-style ranks to the SAPS, describing it as “the re-militarization of the police service”.

“Communities have a right to march and demonstrate,” he told IRIN. “The police shouldn’t be used to crush the views of protesters and strikers.”

ICD not part of the solution

Within two weeks of Tatane’s death eight police officers were arrested on charges of murder and assault, but Newham said it was more common for the police to evade responsibility.

The alleged shooting and subsequent death of South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU) member Petros Msiza by police during clashes with striking bus workers in Pretoria in March was not captured by cameras and so far no one has been arrested. SAMWU spokesperson Tahir Sema said it was far from the first time union members had experienced violent treatment by police.

“We’ve put together evidence over a number of years,” he told IRIN. “We’ve been calling for some time now for a judicial inquiry, but until we get those in government accepting that levels of police brutality are unacceptable, we won’t be able to ensure that police don’t clamp down on protesters.”

Newham supports SAMWU’s call for an independent judicial inquiry to investigate the patterns and causes of police using excessive force and make policy recommendations, but doubts it will happen.

“It’s often seen as politically dangerous to expose findings about the police service to the public, especially in the run-up to elections,” he said, referring to municipal elections set for 18 May.

Politicians tend to believe it is the ICD’s responsibility to deal with police brutality, but the institution lacks either the capacity or the legal clout to do much more than investigate allegations of misconduct, Newham said. Recommendations for disciplinary action were usually ignored.

Bruce agreed that the ICD had little power to solve the problem. “Their [the ICD] rate of convictions is almost irrelevant,” he told IRIN. “The use of force by police needs to be controlled, and that needs to come from enlightened police leaders.”

ks/he

source www.irinnews.org

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Norway elected to UN Commission on Population and Development

Posted by African Press International on April 30, 2011

Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Jonas Gahr Støre commented, “The Norwegian Government has taken a particular responsibility, both politically and financially, in the efforts to achieve Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5 on reducing child and maternal mortality and improving access to reproductive health services. We therefore look forward to playing an active role in the UN Commission on Population and Development.”

The voting took place in the United Nations Economic and Social Council, with three countries – Norway, Spain and Malta – competing for two places. Following a secret ballot, Spain and Norway both won seats on the Commission.

The UN Commission on Population and Development has a mandate from the UN General Assembly to monitor, review and assess the implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo in 1994.

The Commission plays an important role in setting guidelines for work on sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights. The starting point is that all women and men are entitled to make their own sexual and reproductive decisions, including whether and when they want to have children. This work includes areas such as family planning, antenatal and maternal health services, and protection against sexually transmitted diseases. As a member of the Commission, Norway will also promote sexual rights, both the rights of women and men to make their own sexual decisions and the rights of sexual minorities.

The UN Commission on Population and Development influences the work of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), where Norway is the third largest contributor of core funding.

By the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norway
Duty Press Officer: Date:   April 29 2011

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Unconfirmed reports on 29 April indicated three demonstrators had been shot dead

Posted by African Press International on April 30, 2011

UGANDA: Chaotic “walk-to-work” protests put Kampala in spotlight

An army officer on patrol in Kasangati, on the outskirts of Kampala. Unconfirmed reports on 29 April indicated three demonstrators had been shot dead (file photo)

KAMPALA, 29 April 2011 (IRIN) – After weeks of demonstrations against the rising cost of living in Uganda, the situation in the capital, Kampala, deteriorated on 29 April, with riots breaking out in the city centre in protest at the brutal arrest of an opposition leader a day earlier.

Kizza Besigye was arrested on 28 April – the fifth time he has been intercepted by security forces – for demonstrating against rising prices.

Police officers smashed a window of Besigye’s car and sprayed him in the face with tear gas, temporarily blinding him. He is still recovering in hospital. Witnesses say the opposition leader was surrounded by about 100 supporters at the time of the arrest.

Besigye’s latest arrest comes a day after he was released from a five-day prison stay, where he was being detained on charges of inciting violence.

There has been a steady increase in the level of violence used by security members to deter the “walk-to-work” protests.

Last week, a two-year-old child was shot dead in Masaka, a Kampala suburb, after riots broke out in the southern district.

On 27 April, Gerald Kato, 21, survived surgery to remove a bullet embedded in his head. A week earlier, he had been sent to buy sugar when he was caught in crossfire between the police and demonstrators in Bweyogere, an eastern Kampala suburb.

Kato’s twin brother, Henry Wasswa, expressed anger at the disproportionate levels of violence being deployed across the country.

“The police seem to be targeting everyone,” Wasswa said outside Kato’s hospital room.

At least five people have been killed so far and unconfirmed reports on 29 April indicated three more shot dead.

The government has come out against the levels of violence used against Besigye. Kale Kayihura, Inspector-General of Police, called on security officials to use proportional responses to the threats at hand.


Photo: Vincent Mayanja/IRIN
Opposition leader Kiiza Besigye and his wife Winnie Byanyima

However, after an officer peacefully escorted another opposition leader to his workplace last week and was hailed across the country for his actions, he was suspended from duty.

Call for intervention

In a statement on 29 April, the Kenyan-based International Centre for Policy and Conflict (ICPC) called for urgent intervention to avert the worsening human rights situation in Uganda.

“President Yoweri Museveni is proving profoundly repressive and despotic,” Ndung’u Wainaina, ICPC executive director, said. “He is extremely intolerant of criticism, however constructive. The current events unfolding of heavy-handed rule by President Yoweri Museveni are rabid, appalling and tragic. There is no freedom in Uganda. There are serious violations of freedom of expression and assembly.”

The ICPC said it was calling on the presidents of Tanzania, Kenya, Burundi, and Rwanda, whose countries, together with Uganda, form the East African Community, to “decisively act and ensure that situation is urgently reversed.

“It is against the principles enshrined in the East Africa Community Treaty on democratic tenets and human rights,” the ICPC said. “East Africans cannot afford to sit back while their colleagues across the border are being brutalized. Further, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and UN Human Rights Council should take appropriate action.”

pc/js/mw

source www.irinnews.org

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Syrian protests continue – President Assad stepping down is the demand.

Posted by African Press International on April 29, 2011

The Syrian people are tired of their leaders. The protest has continued for weeks. Despite President Assad’s lifting of the emergency laws in an effort to continue remaining in power, the protestors have refused to heed the leadership and now want him to step down.

The president was desperate two weeks ago. He dismissed the government and formed a new one hoping the protests will stop. It did not. He moved ahead and gave citizenship to the Kurds who had been denied citizenship for many years despite the fact that they were born in the country. This did no help either.

The protests in Libya started after the protestors in Egypt and Tunisia succeeded to unseat their presidents.

Libya is struggling with the same problems, with President Gaddafi and his loyalists battling out with those who want him to step down. The difference in Libya is the fact that NATO is helping anti-Gaddafi to fight Gaddafi government. NATO is bombing Libyan towns on a daily basis.

By Chief editor Korir.

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Prince William and Kate Middleton wedding

Posted by African Press International on April 29, 2011

By Korir, Chief editor (API)

Prince William and Kate Middleton got married today in London. Many people are wishing the couple well and hope the marriage will hold.

The Royal family is known for divorces and this marriage may not be different but there is hope that it may last.

William and Kate have known one another quite long. They have been together ever since they met in University apart from 2007 when they had a break to try new pastures before getting together again.

Prince William in second in line to be King, paving the way for Kate to be Queen.

End

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Uganda’s opposition leader Kizza Besigye’s week of terror

Posted by African Press International on April 29, 2011

President Yoweri Museveni has allowed his security men to discipline his rival Kizza Besigye for having led demonstrations against his government.

According to Museveni, Besigye is inciting the people by asking them to walk to work as a protest against rising food prices. Museveni recently told the international media that the walk-to-work policy by the opposition leader will never bring food to the Ugandan people, instead, it causes more harm to the country.

By Chief editor Korir

Posted in AA > News and News analysis | 1 Comment »

Norway condemns violence against civilians in Syria

Posted by African Press International on April 29, 2011

Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Jonas Gahr Støre commented, “Norway condemns the widespread use of violence and the killing of peaceful protesters in Syria, and urges the regime to put an immediate stop to all violence against civilians.”

Several hundred people are reported to have been killed or injured when the Syrian authorities clamped down on demonstrators in several cities. The protesters have been demanding democratic reforms and President Assad’s resignation.

“President Assad has promised democratic reforms. We urge the Syrian authorities to engage in dialogue with the Syrian people to discuss their legitimate demands and to introduce major political reforms.

“Norway urges the Syrian authorities to respect fundamental human rights, such as freedom of assembly and expression. Given the lack of a clear picture, it is vital that both Syrian and international media are able to report on developments in the country,” said Mr Støre.

Norway is in contact with other countries to discuss how to deal with the situation in Syria within the framework of the UN, particularly the Human Rights Council. Norway also expects organisations like the Arab League to speak out against the use of violence in Syria.

“Those who are responsible for the killing of peaceful protesters in Syria must be brought to justice,” said Mr Støre.

 By the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Duty Press Officer: Date:   April 26 2011

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Water reprieve for Kenya’s capital

Posted by African Press International on April 29, 2011

By Thomas Ochieng (API Kenya)
 
The Athi Water Services Board of Kenya with financial and technical assistance from the French government has embarked on ambitious rehabilitation of water treatment plants, pump stations, sewerage networks and water storage for the capital city of Nairobi.
 
Under the rehabilitation programme which covers Sasumua Dam and its water treatment plant that serves the capital city Nairobi, at a cost of 62 million euros, to repair the damaged spillway that was damaged in 2003 during the El Nio rains constitute one of the biggest reconstructions undertaken by donors in Kenya.
 
The availability of adequate water particularly in the capital city is a prerequisite of the attainment of vision 2030 Kenya’s national development blueprint; Said Hon Charity Ngilu the Kenyan Minister for Water and Irrigation during the official commissioning of the Sasumua Dam and water treatment plant. Noting that Kenya being a water scarce country, the construction of Dams is of paramount importance for the sustainability of the country.
 
With the effect of climate change much more evident than before the preservation of water catchments in the country such as the Mau and Aberdares should be encouraged, taking into cognizance the fact that Kenya’s forest cover has fallen
drastically through the years due to wanton destruction of forests. Hence the need of active community conservation endeavors to mitigate the effect of climate change.
 
The rehabilitation of the Dam which embarked in 2009, brought together Kenyan, French and Chinese water experts in a collaboration that saw the work completed on time and in line with the budgeted plan. This was highlighted and commended by the Sub-Saharan Head of the development division of the French Government AFD Mr. Jean-Marc Gravellini. The investments directed by the French Government towards the water sector in Kenya have had positive results which have been brought forth by joint participation of both states, in shared principles and respect of both parties involved; Said Mr.Gravellini.He added that with successful completion of the Dam in time will open other avenues for such
engagements in future.
 
Ends.

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Members of the Luo ethnic group were forcibly circumcised

Posted by African Press International on April 29, 2011

KENYA: Plea to ICC over forced male circumcision

Photo: IRIN
Members of the Luo ethnic group were forcibly circumcised in the post-election violence following disputed results in 2008 (file photo)

NAIROBI, 25 April 2011 (IRIN) – A global advocacy group for gender-based violence survivors has called on the International Criminal Court to reconsider its refusal to recognize forced male circumcision as a form of sexual violence in a case against alleged organizers of Kenya’s 2007-2008 post-election crisis.

Brigid Inder, executive director of The Hague-based Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice, said the judges’ decision to classify forced male circumcision under “other inhumane acts” was “a misstep” that failed to take into account the element of force and purpose of the crime.

“We don’t agree with the judicial decision; we think it’s a wrong classification,” Inder told IRIN.

Her comments followed allegedly inflammatory statements by leading politicians that have raised concerns among civil society groups in Kenya that the crime could be repeated in the 2012 elections.

In his December 2010 request for summonses for three crimes-against-humanity suspects aligned with President Mwai Kibaki’s Party of National Unity (PNU), ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo provided evidence of at least nine instances of forced male circumcision in the Rift Valley towns of Nakuru and Naivasha. The crime was also reported in Nairobi’s Kibera slum. The violence claimed at least 1,000 lives nationwide and displaced hundreds of thousands between December 2007 and February 2008.

Sexual violence

Ocampo initially moved to charge the crime – targeting the Luo ethnic group, which does not practise male circumcision – under “other forms of sexual violence”, with atrocities such as sexual slavery and forced prostitution. But the pre-trial chamber ruled in March that it should fall under “other inhumane acts”, crimes that cause “great suffering” or “serious injury to body or to mental or physical health”.

The chamber blocked an appeal against that ruling in early April, though Ocampo can raise the issue again in hearings scheduled for September or before the trial chamber if cases against the suspects are allowed to proceed.

Though “other forms of sexual violence” and “other inhumane acts” are both categories of crimes against humanity, Inder said the latter, while acknowledging great suffering and injury, failed to address “the coercive environment” in which forced circumcisions were carried out — typically by mobs armed with knives, machetes or even broken soda bottles.

“In our view, what makes these acts a form of sexual violence is the force and the coercive environment, as well as the intention and purpose of the acts,” she said. “It isn’t simply about the injuries and suffering, although clearly these are also aspects of these crimes. But the forced circumcision of Luo men… has both political and ethnic significance in Kenya and therefore has a specific meaning. In this instance, it was intended as an expression of political and ethnic domination by one group over the other and was intended to diminish the cultural identity of Luo men.”

Instead of placing all the blame with judges, however, Inder said Ocampo had failed to stress these points in his filings, simply stating that the acts are “sexual in nature” without elaborating. She said the onus was now on prosecutors “to argue their facts more effectively”, and she encouraged them to do so in September.

Mob justice

Kevin Omollo, 23, a Kibera resident who was forcibly circumcised the day after poll results were announced, told IRIN the crime should be considered a form of sexual violence, saying he viewed the attack as an attempt to rob him of his “manhood”.

On the morning of 31 December 2007, Omollo joined supporters of Raila Odinga, the Luo politician who was declared the loser in the election and is now Kenya’s prime minister. When the mob was dispersed by police officers, Omollo fled, only to run into a group of the outlawed Mungiki criminal gang.

Unarmed, Omollo was quickly thrown down by his dread-locked assailants, members of the Kikuyu group, who carried guns, clubs and pangas and promptly beat him. Eventually, one removed his pants and sliced off his foreskin with a six-inch kitchen knife.

“The only thing I could feel was the pain in my genitals,” Omollo said. “It was really intense.”

Fellow Odinga supporters then came to rescue him. As he was whisked away he could hear his attackers saying, “How can a kihii [uncircumcised boy] rule the country? How can we have a president who is not circumcised?”


Photo: Manoocher Deghati/IRIN
President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga reach a compromise in April 2008 (file photo)

This rallying cry, which rights groups accused the PNU of openly spreading in the run-up to the 2007 general election, could very well be repeated in 2012 given that Odinga is viewed as an early frontrunner for the presidency, said Mary Njeri Gichuru, executive director of the Coalition on Violence Against Women in Kenya.

Gichuru said it was evidence of the tribalism that was at the base of much of the violence.

“For the many communities that circumcise, not being circumcised is a very abominable thing,” Gichuru said. “That’s why it’s easy for them to abuse others for not circumcising. They believe that if you aren’t circumcised, you can’t be a leader.”

Recent comments by Kenyan politicians have only heightened the anxieties of Gichuru and other observers.

At a February rally, Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenya’s Finance Minister and one of the six suspects targeted by Ocampo, lashed out at Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement for opposing high-level appointments put forward by Kibaki, saying: “They think that Kibaki is their uncircumcised boy? That he does not have his own head to make his own decisions?”

An article on 3 April in a local daily newspaper cited one rally where Mwangi Kiunjuri, the PNU-aligned Assistant Minister for Public Works, said: “Let me tell you, uncircumcised boys are not invited to dowry negotiations because, as you know, boys will always take time to sing their play songs. An uncircumcised boy’s goings is only ended when he faces the knife.”

Judith Okal, a senior programme officer with the Federation of Women Lawyers in Kenya, said in addition to deterring attacks that might be prompted by such statements, a decision by the ICC to classify forced circumcision as sexual violence could raise awareness about the crime and encourage survivors to seek treatment not just for physical injuries but also for psychological trauma.

There is no domestic law that specifically mentions forced male circumcision. Okal said this discouraged survivors from seeking comprehensive treatment, as did the stigma associated with male circumcision among ethnic groups that do not practise it.

“In African culture, we grow up thinking that a man is absolute,” Okal said. “If such a thing were to happen they wouldn’t want that thing discussed.”

rc-b/js/mw

source www.irinnews.org

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Kenya: Tribalism should not guide our nation

Posted by African Press International on April 28, 2011

By Tom Alila

The people of Kenya have followed the recent engagement between Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and an amorphous group that calls itself the Luo Nyanza professional and business caucus with much interest. Whereas inter-communal engagements are to be encouraged and should be the norm, this particular engagement in my view marks a new low point in the political development of this nation.

First of all it was a tacit admission on the part of the finance minister that there has been a deliberate effort to discriminate,
stigmatize and exclude certain regions and communities in this country from enjoying the fruits of development.  The finance minister, who is the crown prince of the old order, appears hell-bent on sustaining this anachronism. A cursory
glance at the profile of staff and holders of plum positions in some of the key institutions under his docket, say KRA, Treasury and Central Bank will reveal he presides over the worst cases of tribal hegemony in public institutions in the whole country.

Indeed it is precisely in response to the exclusive, whimsical, personalized and tribalised abuse of political power by the
executive to reward and punish communities, groups and regions that Kenyans decided to vote for a new constitutional order that would bury the ghost of bad politics once and for all. The new constitution lays out the principles and institutions that will guide the hitherto manipulated allocation of resources and economic investments. The thinking behind this was that no group or region would ever again be held hostage to the whims of individuals in seeking their rightful share of national resources and the needed investments in economic and physical infrastructure.

Secondly, engaging with anything with the prefix Luo, including political charlatans, would appear to be a belated attempt at fashioning some nationalist credentials for the finance minister. Kenyans view this feeble effort against a backdrop of his intolerant and chauvinistic rhetoric, as we have interacted with in the last few months. But such is the incredulity and poverty of thought in some of our leaders that they would want us believe they have undergone some metamorphosis overnight and embraced those who were the objects of their passionate hate only the other day. This is not say that it is an impossibility for a change of heart to take place. Did not Saul, that famous persecutor of Christians, become the famous Paul who is credited with the highest number of chapters in the bible?  Such a change would be most welcome, but more objective indicators would be needed to demonstrate this. A good point to start would with would be to stop tribalism in the financial sector,  for the sake of of all Kenyans.

Kenyans remember that here is a man who inherited a powerful and national KANU political benemoth, with more than 130 MPs from all provinces in 2002, bequeathed him by president Moi. He had squandered this massive political capital in a record five years. By the time he re-joined parliament in 2003, he had just over 60 MPs, losing more than half the MPs he inherited.  By January 2008, he had only 10 MPs, and he had betrayed his partisan inclinations when he abandoned a national KANU party, and rode the dysfunctional GEMA tiger otherwise known as PNU. In the process he gained global infamy as the only official leader of the opposition not to contest national leadership against an incumbent. Lately, we understand that women are excluded ab initio from his politburo of GEMA elders, yet again betraying a deeply chauvinistic bent to his persona. The politics and development of exclusion seem therefore to come so naturally to him. Impatient with functional political institutions and the rule of law and constitutionalism, he continues to toy with some loose amalgam of political opportunists named G7 (7 provinces except Nyanza), whose sole aim is apparently to leave out the Nyanza from the national political and developmental calculus.

Most of the country’s business is done with our regional neighbours, and Kisumu has long merited to be developed into a regional transport and industrial/business hub, given its strategic location. This has not been prioritized. Instead what we have witnessed is the frenzied development of a 10-lane Nairobi-Thika superhighway that is not even the country’s economic artery…this distinction belongs to the Mombasa-Kisumu-Busia/Malaba highway. Similarly, the world’s second largest lake has no hotel comparable to hotels in the Ugandan and Tanzanian side of the lake. Instead, what would be considered as ponds by comparison, such as lakes Naivasha, Elementaita and Nakuru, host a plethora of world-class tourist hotels. The sugar/cotton sectors that do well in Nyanza/western provinces and irrigation schemes in this part of Kenya do not enjoy the clout and policy/financial support that is accorded say dairy, tea, maize, and coffee.

It may yet be asked therefore: What inclusive agenda for Kenyans has Uhuru ever pushed? It should be re-stated for the benefit of Uhuru, that Nyanza, Central, Rift valley, North-eastern, Western, coast, eastern and Nairobi all deserve resources from the government.

The writer is KANU Chairman Ndhiwa

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Rapes, forced marriages, domestic violence and early pregnances remain of grave concern in northeastern Central African Republic

Posted by African Press International on April 28, 2011

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Supporting women’s rights in remote areas

According to NGO reports rapes, forced marriages, domestic violence and early pregnances remain of grave concern in northeastern Central African Republic

NAIROBI, 25 April 2011 (IRIN) – Violations of human rights are on the increase in northeastern Central African Republic (CAR), with aid workers expressing concern for protection of civilians amid renewed clashes between government troops and the Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace (CPJP) rebels – one of the few groups that has not signed a peace agreement with the government.

“Killings, arbitrary arrests, burning and looting of villages, forced disappearances and abductions are frequently reported, in particular in conflict-affected areas in the north and in regions where CPJP and LRA [Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army] are present,” Fornelle Poutou, the secretary-general of the Association of Women Lawyers of Central Africa (AFJC), told IRIN. “People are afraid to [go] to the police because they have no confidence in them, fear repercussions or simply do not know their rights.

“The 12 April attacks in Ndélé, in the Bamingui Bangoran prefecture, displaced hundreds of people. Part of the administration was paralyzed and people live in fear because of lack of security.”

Know your rights

In 2010, the Danish Refugee Council (DRC), with the AFJC, set up a legal aid programme for survivors of gender-based violence (GBV), offering sensitization and awareness training on human rights, particularly for women.

Legal clinics integrated into the strategy of the Ministry of Justice to promote people’s access to justice have been built in several rural areas in the northeastern prefectures of Ouham, Ouham Pende and Bamingui Bangoran, areas that have experienced significant population displacement since they have the highest presence of armed groups.

Alberta Santini, a protection officer for the council in Bangui, the capital, told IRIN: “Promoting a culture respectful of human rights in contexts marked by long-term conflict, lack of knowledge of legal protection tools and negative female archetypes is a great challenge.”

Clinics in Ndélé, Paoua and Batangafo are managed by an AFJC lawyer, with the help of three to four paralegals, all volunteers, familiarizing communities on women’s rights and strengthening their capacity to assert themselves.

Psychosocial support

The team also takes GBV survivors through a series of integrated care systems, including medical care, psychosocial support and eventual social reintegration.

“The great difficulties [stem] from the very nature of the judicial system,” Santini said. “A system that does not properly develop the skills and knowledge of people working in the legal and judicial system, lack of human and material resources to implement it in the remote areas and a generalized lack of confidence of the people in the respect of their rights.”

The clinics provide education, legal consultations, mediation, guidance and support to local populations. However, said one volunteer: “Due to insecurity, people often cannot leave their villages to report violence cases to the CAR army. But with all the complaints of violence and other abuses against the [army] itself, many say they would not report to them anyway even if [they] had to.”

Since their establishment, the clinics have become centres for counselling on female genital mutilation/cutting, early marriages and early pregnancies as well as legal consultation for domestic violence, parental responsibilities towards children, responsibilities to husbands or wives and forced marriage.

Some 5,461 people, 11 paralegals and 55 focal points have been trained and 1,395 people across the country have been sensitized to human rights and protection issues.

In Ndélé, 1,260 people were trained, mostly women, including four paralegals and 20 focal points.

Awareness-raising was also conducted among local authorities, chiefs, imams, community leaders, security forces, staff of international NGOs, and other economic and social groups.

Since December 2010, counselling and mediation sessions have reached about 100 people, according to Santini.

Potou told IRIN: “Through legal clinics, we try to sensitize people to know their rights and refer to [the] justice system. Our biggest success is to see many women visit the clinic and tell us about the violation of human rights and report violence cases or to get advice.

“Because of the presence of armed groups in Ndélé, the population keeps on living in fear of violence and human rights abuses. There is still a lot to do to get people to know their rights and claim them.

“But the government should also do its part to support the knowledge of the legal system and ensure that justice takes its course,” Potou said.

In Bamingui-Bangoran there are no resident judges because of the instability.

“I see behavioural changes in our communities ever since sensitization programmes have started. But we need judges to come here. How can we believe in justice if judges themselves refuse to come to Ndélé?” a beneficiary of the legal clinic asked.

cp-cd/js/mw

source www.irinnews.org

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High food prices – Government urged to correct the situation

Posted by African Press International on April 28, 2011

FOOD: Where to watch prices

Food prices already high will climb more as fuel becomes more expensive

JOHANNESBURG, 25 April 2011 (IRIN) – Against a global background of steadily climbing food prices, IRIN lists a selection of websites that offer some useful insights into how, why and where food is becoming more expensive.

• UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) food price index

This monthly price list consults private sector as well as government sources for prices and export orders. It is officially accepted by countries and used by governments, policy-makers, humanitarian agencies and financial institutions.

In its April edition the index showed that food prices had declined but this was a temporary dip reflecting the crises in North Africa and Japan in March, which delayed cereal purchases.

The FAO food price index includes an average of the trading prices of five essential commodities – cereals, cooking oil, dairy products, meat and sugar. The average value of the export share of each of these commodities between 2000 and 2004 forms the base for making comparisons.

The month-to-month changes in the prices of each of these commodities is shown in graphs based on detailed information on the prices of a broad range of commodities, including 11 kinds of oils, various varieties of rice and kinds of meat.

• FAO Global Food Price Monitor

If you need more details on how global cereal prices are affecting individual countries then consult the FAO Global Food Price Monitor.

Information from markets and FAO offices around the world feed into this information service, which has also created a food price tool. With a few clicks you can access the price of a particular food commodity in any country.

• The World Food Programme (WFP) Market Monitor

If you are a policy maker or a humanitarian aid worker and need to find out how food prices are affecting the purchasing power of people in 63 vulnerable countries, then consult this quarterly bulletin

The April edition, covering the first quarter of 2011, reported that in 44 of the 63 countries monitored, the overall basic food basket had increased more than 10 percent above the 5-year average.

Read more
 EASTERN AFRICA: Consumers, traders feel the burn as prices skyrocket
 UGANDA: As food prices bite, HIV-positive people turn to kitchen gardens
 VIETNAM: Struggling to cope with rising prices
 AFGHANISTAN: Government stockpiling wheat ahead of expected drought
 Biofuels make a comeback as prices rise

In 16 of the countries the cost of the food basket had increased more than 10 percent since the last quarter of 2010, and by more than 20 percent in Ghana, Somalia, Afghanistan, Georgia, and El Salvador.

The market monitor uses information collected by WFP field offices and in the April edition it also examined the impact of fuel prices on essential food commodities. It noted that the highest increases in fuel prices occurred in Ethiopia and Haiti, where fuel subsidies have been scaled back, and in Malawi and Uganda.

• World Bank Food Price Watch

The World Bank has begun producing regular food prices bulletins, using its own food price index based on information drawn from its offices across the world, the FAO food price index, and the US Department of Agriculture, which also regularly produces updates on global supplies of food commodities.

The information is detailed and often contains useful analyses not found on other websites. The current update looks at the projected impact of continued food price increases on poverty.

jk/he

source www.irinnews.org

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Living coniditions in Sabe are extremely difficult

Posted by African Press International on April 28, 2011

BURUNDI: Displaced women in Bujumbura risk HIV rather than hunger

Living coniditions in Sabe are extremely difficult

BUJUMBURA, 26 April 2011 (PlusNews) – Desperate and displaced, some Burundian women will do anything, including have unprotected sex for money, to escape the dreadful living conditions in the Bujumbura suburb of Sabe, where more than 480 families of internally displaced persons (IDPs) have lived for several years.

Burundi has more than 100,000 IDPs as a result of several years of political turmoil; most of the families in Sabe are returnees from neighbouring countries.

“I know cases of parents whose daughters go into town or elsewhere every night to look for money from men who offer big money [for sex],” Ferdianne Bukuru, vice-president of the Sabe IDP site, told IRIN/PlusNews. “Young girls are attracted by wealthy men and are drawn into prostitution as IDPs have no means to survive.”

For many of these girls and women, the fear of HIV is dwarfed by the immediate need for money to buy food and other necessities.

“Do not talk of AIDS… I don’t fear [it]; I would rather get food and die in the future instead of dying hungry today,” said 18-year-old Jacqueline*. “I have been at this site since 1993; nobody has come to help me to improve my life and especially go back to school.”

Madeleine*, 32, feels the same way. “When I came across a man who feeds me and clothes me, I must accept, for food,” she said. “Who can refuse a large sum of money when she is in poverty like this?”

Madeleine said NGOs fighting HIV/AIDS visited the site occasionally, but not enough to have an impact on people’s behaviour. Condom use – perceived to be less profitable than unprotected sex – is not as consistent as it should be.

“Condoms do not allow us to have enough money; if a man offers his money, he insists on intercourse without a condom,” said one 17-year-old student.

Women who do not turn to sex work often wind up becoming second or third wives to the few men in the site who are able to support more than one wife.

“I already understand what HIV is, but I don’t think my force is enough to stand against it,” said Nzeyimana*, a mother of two girls. “These men may have more than three women – as they brandish [currency] notes, no one can resist.”

''Do not talk of AIDS… I don’t fear [it]; I would rather get food and die in the future instead of dying hungry today''

The few organizations working to prevent HIV/AIDS say their work is hampered by poor funding.

“For a long time we had collaborators at this site and its surrounding areas in the fight against AIDS in IDPs sites, but now things have changed. We had targeted IDPs sites in Bujumbura and elsewhere, but we are forced not to work at these sites due to limited resources and logistics,” said Basilisse Ndayisaba, coordinator of the Society of Women Against AIDS-Burundi, one of the largest HIV NGOs in the country. “These IDPs no longer have the advice or training of our staff.”

Ndayisaba said her organization last worked in Sabe in May 2010.

Burundi has an adult HIV prevalence of 3.3 percent; the country’s fight against HIV has been hit with delays in Global Fund grants holding up activities and most recently, the World Bank’s withdrawal of its HIV funding.

dm/kr/mw

source www.irinnews.org

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Kenyatta and the land issue in Kenya

Posted by African Press International on April 27, 2011

By Job Ombati, New England, USA.

Reaching out to Cheptumo and others:

Thank you Cheptumo, Ladies and Gentlemen.

I have read what you guys are talking about, land issue. I too a’m a Kenyan. I know, just like you have all stated,that land use is a big problem in Kenya. As Cheptumo as stated, it is true that Kenyatta was a land grabber as well as Moi and now Kibaki. I was born in Gusiiland, I went to school in Luo Nyanza and I worked in Nanyuki. I speak both Kisii, Luo and Kikuyu. I have traveled in the country from Taita Tavetta to Isiolo.
I know that there are people in Kenya who are homeless because they have no land to call their own and yet,our leaders have thousands of hectors of land that they did not buy or need. These leaders have set a bad precedent. They are bad example to our people. As far as I know, leadership is not about grabbing but a service to both God and man.

Now that we know this, we need to start as Cheptumo said,to seek for new ways of addressing the issue. The Ministries of Lands and Natural resources,planning and Finance should come up with a plan that will solve this problem for good. Every single Kenyan citizen deserves to own a piece of land to call his own. If we do not talk and solve this issue, it will divide our country even more. In 2008, I wrote my first book Kenya the Beloved and in this book, I have addressed these issues in
detail. If you care, you can get a copy of the book. In my book, land issue is problem number one. Tribalism is magnified by lack of land or desire to grab land. Tribalism is enhanced when we seek for jobs, food and other amenities. Tribalism is increased when we seek for those who we know, those who speak or look like we do to get us somewhere.
If anyone seeking for a job would get it,there is no point of searching for your tribesman to hand you the application papers. If every Kenyan would be treated like a Kenyan,given the opportunities equally in employment, education and other services,there would be no problem. Now, there is a problem because we do not treat each other equally as citizens. My view is this,we need to start solving problem number one then two, three, four and for ever. We need to face the problem, talk about it and solve it the best way possible. Therefore, we need to start asking our leaders to put this issue of land on top of their agenda. Today is the time to start, not tomorrow.
That is my take. What is yours?

‘——
The writer, a Kenyan living in the US, is the author of Kenya the Beloved.
You can watch Job Ombati TV Show at you tube by writing: kgu elections 2

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Children for peace

Posted by African Press International on April 27, 2011

COTE D’IVOIRE: Peace offerings in wary Duékoué

Children in Duékoué chanting “we want peace”

DUEKOUE, 26 April 2011 (IRIN) – For the first time since post-election violence hit the cocoa-rich district of Duékoué in western Côte d’Ivoire, Kouadio, a farmer of the Baoulé ethnic group, entered the grounds of the Catholic mission on 22 April, where some 27,000 people, mostly Guéré, have sought refuge.
 
Kouadio has grown cocoa on a Guéré-owned plantation near the village of Toa-Zéo, 5km from central Duékoué, since 1997. “I was afraid to come inside, but today when one of the family members came to meet me at the gate I decided to come in,” he said.
 
Guéré landowners say they have been attacked in recent months by people of the Baoulé, the Mossi (from Burkina Faso) and other ethnic groups who have farmed in the region for decades. Land disputes – occasionally violent, with offences on both sides – are not new in western Côte d’Ivoire.
 
Landowners and growers say the post-election crisis, in which Alassane Ouattara and Laurent Gbagbo both claimed the presidency, raised tensions to a new level, triggering violence in which countless homes were destroyed, tens of thousands of people of various ethnic groups were displaced and an unknown number killed.
 
Gbagbo has broad support among the Guéré; Burkinabé and Baoulé (ethnicity of former president Henri Konan Bédié, who backed Ouattara in a run-off) – whomever they might have voted for – are seen as pro-Ouattara. Guéré say Ouattara’s victory has been an opening for attacks on them in “a settling of scores”.
 
In the 1960s and ‘70s migrant farmers from neighbouring countries and other parts of Côte d’Ivoire came to work on the west’s rich coffee and cocoa plantations owned by native Guéré families.
 
In the landowner-farmer relationship, growers traditionally make symbolic offerings to owners – part of the harvest or gifts on special occasions like wakes, according to a study by the Norwegian Refugee Council and Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre. In what landowners and farmers said could be a sign that the communities might once again co-exist in peace, some Baoulé and Burkinabé growers have come to the Catholic mission to greet landowners, express regret about their displacement and offer them food and money.
 

 
 
 
 

Kouadio said it pained him to know his landowners were living in difficult conditions. “That’s why I came to see them. I plan to come again tomorrow with some food for them. It’s because of the conflict that these landowner families are displaced.”
 
Baoulé and Burkinabé who farm cocoa near Toa-Zéo – one of several villages from which families have fled – told IRIN they wanted landowners to return to the village. “My prayer is that they will all return, and that everyone can live together as before,” Kouadio said.

Doubts
 
Omar*, a Burkinabé who also grows cocoa in Toa-Zéo, has made several visits to the mission to talk with owners about returning. On 21 April he took two Guéré youth to the village to spend the night and report back to other families.
 
“Each village has its own unique situation,” Omar said. “I can only speak of our village of Toa-Zéo. There, the war is over – nothing will happen to our landowners if they return. We don’t care about politics… Never again do we want to see this kind of violence.” He added that it would be important initially for aid groups to help families reinstall in the village.
 
Apparently not everyone is interested in reconciliation. Recent gun and machete attacks in villages near Guiglo, a town 30km southwest of Duékoué, have many displaced people afraid to return home.  A 30-year-old woman in Guiglo showed IRIN deep machete wounds in her head and neck, and said her seven-year-old child was killed in the mid-April attack.
 


Photo: Nancy Palus/IRIN
Child who was wounded in a machete attack near Guiglo

At the Duékoué Catholic mission, landowner Téhé Fié Ernest, who fled his village in December 2010, told IRIN: “Initially when some of the growers on our land wanted to come and meet with us, other farmers rejected the idea, saying reconciliation was out of the question… Naturally, that’s worrying for us.”
 
Cocoa grower Kouadio told IRIN he and others were eager to have Guéré families return to Toa-Zéo, but “I can’t know what all farmers think about all this… the majority at Toa-Zéo say the fighting is over and the owners should come back.”
 
Trust in new authorities
 
Guéré at the Catholic mission said given the recent fighting, and that Ouattara was now in power, they must have assurances that local authorities would support them. Residents of Carréfour, a predominantly Guéré neighbourhood, said an attack on 29 March was carried out by groups allied to pro-Ouattara soldiers, and they could not yet trust the new government’s security forces.
 
Several Guéré expressed worry about traditional hunters called “dozo” – from the north, a Ouattara support base – saying the dozo roamed the bush and attacked people trying to return to their villages.
 
“The new president must tell them to leave us be, to put down their arms, to let us return to our villages so we can resume our lives and our children can go to school,” Richard, a Guéré landowner, told IRIN.
 
Landowner Téhé said harassment of Guéré since pro-Ouattara forces seized the area in late March has lessened slightly in recent weeks. “We are able to move about more freely in central Duékoué than a few weeks ago, and that indicates the authorities are working to bring order,” he said.
 
“Now they must broaden these efforts [to include] our villages and plantations… The new president must show that he has come for all of Côte d’Ivoire’s [more than 60] ethnic groups. He must address the problems in the west immediately, and enforce the law equitably.”
 
Displaced communities at the mission have been holding regular meetings, including with local authorities, to discuss measures to facilitate and secure families’ return to their villages.
 
*not his real name
 
np/he

source www.irinnews.org

Posted in AA > News and News analysis | 1 Comment »

 
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