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Archive for September 24th, 2011

The Hague: Big Bell restaurant, with live music was the place for some Kenyans yesterday after ICC proceedings adjourned at 20.00pm

Posted by African Press International on September 24, 2011

It was a beautiful night-out yesterday for some Kenyans who are on a visit to the Hague, together with some of those who are resident in the Netherlands. Most them who attended the proceedings decided to visit a popular Big Bell restaurant where one can sit in a peaceful atmosphere and enjoy listening to live music. The night had a live band from the Philippines yesterday.

Click on the middle to listen to the music!

The restaurant and the live music presented a relaxing atmosphere to all the guests freshening their minds in readiness for the next day’s hearings that was loaded with a lot of hammering of the prosecution by the defence lawyers.

The place had  a lot of good food and drinks as well.

Such a social happening during rough times like it is being experienced when one sits the whole day listening to testimonies by suspected lying and anonymous witnesses helps relax the mind.

African Press International photo: API visited Big Bell in the Hague: Pipas Band: Vocals Zandra, Vocals Marlyn, Keyboard Lite and Drums Sanie

African Press International photo: API visited Big Bell in the Hague: Pipas Band: Vocals Zandra, Vocals Marlyn, Keyboard Lite and Drums Sanie

The workers in the Big Bell were kind and helpful to the guests.

African Press International photo: The workers in the place were very kind and helpful whn API and friends was there..

African Press International photo: The workers in the place were very kind and helpful whn API and friends was there..

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African Press International photo: The workers in the place were very kind and helpful whn API and friends was there..

African Press International photo: The workers in the place were very kind and helpful whn API and friends was there..

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Mr Kenyatta, Mr Muthaura and Mr Ali, together with their delegation from Kenya did not appear at the place. It is believed they used the evening with their defence teams to prepare for the next day’s proceedings – Saturday 09.30 to 15.00. It was not difficult to see that in the court today when they arrived, all of them, in a very combative mood. Lawyers representing Francis Muthaura had the floor to present their case and the combative mood was felt in court thoughout their presentation, sometimes very entertaining to the members of the press, and the public who were present to follow the proceedings..

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combative mood, defence lawyers, peaceful atmosphere, deligation, and international photo.

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ICC Day 4 case 2: A united combative defence team of Muthaura humiliated the prosecution today

Posted by African Press International on September 24, 2011

The court adjourned until monday after having presentations from the defence from 09.30 to 15.00 today (Friday).

During the presentation by Francis Muthaura’s team, the prosecution was hammered into a box, although not nailed completely. The prosecution is not having a good weekend because today Muthaura’s 3 lawyers were very combative.

Mr Khan started it all in the morning, followed by Essa Faal and Kennedy Ogeto.

The defence told the prosecution that they have systemic failures and should be ashamed for bringing to an international court of justice  blatant lies from their anonymous discredited witnesses.

They told the court that Chief Prosecutor Ocampo is a man who does not know what he is saying at any given moment in any given day, adding that the court should have an inquiry on his behaviour in this case. The court was also told that the prosecutor should have been restrained and stopped from masquerading by addressing the media all the time, a behaviour against all rules when he knows that the case is ongoing.

The combative defence team told the court that the prosecutor is a polluter, because he has polluted the chamber with statements from anonymous witnesses who cannot be trusted.

It is clear that the prosecution is feeling the heat. The defence say the prosecution has failed in their job, when they come to the court claiming almost everyone to be a Mungiki. This is because they do not understand the Kenyan people and their traditional values; said the defence lawyers.

The prosecution, according to the defence has been changing tact all the time. In the first place they said that Muthaura conceived a plan to commit crimes and now they have started saying that he adopted the plan. Which is which?; Mr Khan asked

This case is built of lies. Muthaura had no motive to commit crimes, he is not a politician, he is not a member of any political party, therefore there was no reason for him to be a member of any organisation that was to murder people in order to keep PNU in power as alleged.

What has happened in this case, the lawyer said, is that the witnesses have packaged lies, sold it to the prosecution and the prosecution bought it.

The prosecution has a problem now, says the defence, because instead of seeing sense in it all and discontinuing the case, they want a case with flimsy evidence to proceed for the sake of saving face. This is unacceptable and dangerous, counsel Khan thundered in court before handing over the floor to his colleagues, who had no plans to let the prosecutor off the hook. They also hammered the prosecution until the court adjourned at 15.00pm. Muthaura’s witnesses will then take the stand on Monday afternoon when the case resumes.

Dr Nyekorach-Matsanga, a Ugandan who was part of the UN negotiations between Uganda government and Rebel leaders of LRA led by general Kony was also in court to follow the case alongside many Kenyans and others interested in the Kenya case..

When asked why he was present in the court, Matsanga told the media that he has a lot of interest in the Kenya case. He says Kenya is an East African Country whose neighbours should align with and support when the Prosecutor is using flawed investigation to persecute the country’s leaders.

Matsanga told the media that he has researched on the post-election violence in Kenya very well. To support his argument, he distributed a well written booklet full of analysis touching on Nakuru, Naivasha and Molo areas during the post-election violence that left many people dead and some displaced.

African Press International Photo: Dr Nyekorach Matsanga interviewed by a Kenyan TV crew after the proceedings adjourned today.

African Press International Photo: Dr Nyekorach Matsanga interviewed by a Kenyan TV crew after the proceedings adjourned today.

Many Kenyans were also present to give the 3 suspects in the case, Mr Kenyatta, Mr Muthaura and Mr Ali moral support.

A Kenyan makes his point about the case to the Jeff Koinange. He says he is satisfied with the defence’s progress in the case.

African Press International photo: Jeff Koinange of K24TV gives opportunity to a Kenyan to make known his views on the Kenya case.
African Press International photo: Jeff Koinange of K24TV gives opportunity to a Kenyan to make known his views on the Kenya case.

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African Press International Photo: Kalimi M. Mworia - Director International Cooperation and Assistance Division, Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons with Mrs Rose Aiba Muthaga Muthaura and other Kenyans on the background
African Press International Photo: Kalimi M. Mworia – Director International Cooperation and Assistance Division, Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons with Mrs Rose Aiba Muthaga Muthaura and other Kenyans on the background

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African Press International Photo: Kenyans on Day 4 at the ICC to give moral support to Uhuru, Muthaura and Ali
African Press International Photo: Kenyans on Day 4 at the ICC to give moral support to Uhuru, Muthaura and Ali

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African Press International Photo: Kenyans on Day 4 at the ICC to give moral support to Uhuru, Muthaura and Ali
African Press International Photo: Kenyans on Day 4 at the ICC to give moral support to Uhuru, Muthaura and Ali

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African Press International Photo: Kenyans on Day 4 at the ICC to give moral support to Uhuru, Muthaura and Ali
African Press International Photo: Kenyans on Day 4 at the ICC to give moral support to Uhuru, Muthaura and Ali

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African Press International Photo: Kenya Minister Hon. Robinson Njeru Githae with a Kenya embassy official, together with other Kenyans on the background
African Press International Photo: Kenya Minister Hon. Robinson Njeru Githae with a Kenya embassy official, together with other Kenyans on the background
African Press International Photo: Kenyans on Day 4 at the ICC to give moral support to Uhuru, Muthaura and Ali
African Press International Photo: Kenyans on Day 4 at the ICC to give moral support to Uhuru, Muthaura and Ali

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African Press International Photo: Kenyans on Day 4 at the ICC to give moral support to Uhuru, Muthaura and Ali
African Press International Photo: Kenyans on Day 4 at the ICC to give moral support to Uhuru, Muthaura and Ali

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End

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Drought conditions could spell disaster

Posted by African Press International on September 24, 2011

Wheat crop failure, especially for poor rural Afghans, could be disastrous

KABUL,  – The current dry spell sweeping across Afghanistan’s northern, northeastern and western provinces could lead to a large-scale food crisis and the humanitarian community should act quickly to ensure this does not degenerate into a disaster, government and aid officials warn.

“The issue is very serious. Every other year drought or other natural disaster puts millions of people into food insecurity,” Abdul Majeed Qarar, spokesman for the Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock Ministry, said.

According to Oxfam, nearly three million people are facing severe food shortages as a result of drought in 14 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. Eighty percent of the non-irrigated wheat crop, which people rely on for food and income, has been lost.

“Governments need to wake up to the gravity of this crisis and ensure they are ready to respond before the situation gets worse,” Asuntha Charles, head of Oxfam in Afghanistan, said on 20 September. “Delays will just make things harder for families already struggling to cope… People are reducing the amount of food they are eating and selling what little they have. We still have time to stop this becoming a disaster, but only if we act now.”

Earlier this month, the Agriculture Ministry quoted a much lower figure for those affected, but started distributing assistance to 200,000 families in Sheberghan and Jowzjan provinces.

“Drought has caused a significantly lower cereal harvest this year which, according to initial surveys, will affect the lives and livelihoods of 1.3-1.5 million farmers and livestock owners all over the country,” Mohammad Asif Rahimi, minister for agriculture, irrigation and livestock, said.

Pastures in affected areas, according to Oxfam, have been completely destroyed and the price of animal fodder in the market has quadruped forcing people to sell livestock because they cannot feed them and need money to buy food for themselves.

Preliminary assessments

In July, Oxfam conducted a rapid assessment in the provinces of Badakhshan, Daykundi and Kandahar, and found that about 50 percent of pasture land had little or no grass or other vegetation.

A separate rapid assessment in early July by World Vision in the northwestern provinces of Badghis and Ghor found that lack of rain had seriously undermined the livelihoods of farmers and pastoralists, triggered stress and resulted in negative coping mechanisms like selling available food.

“Interventions around the introduction of improved varieties of seeds and livestock, diversification of funding sources and improved irrigation infrastructure are highly recommended to mitigate these recurring problems,” the assessment noted. “These will empower communities and thus reinforce the sustainability and resilience of households’ livelihoods.”

A more detailed assessment is being done by humanitarian actors across Afghanistan, and a clearer picture should emerge soon, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Afghanistan’s average wheat yield on irrigated land ranges from about 2.7 tons per hectare to 3.5, versus only 1.1 tons on rain-fed land. In a normal year, the country produces 4.5 million tons of wheat and imports around one million, according to the Agriculture Ministry. The shortfall of 1.9 million tons of wheat this year means more will either have to be imported or secured from other sources.

''Humanitarian organizations must do a better job of assessing humanitarian needs, of organizing coordinated responses, of telling the Afghan humanitarian story. We also seek a continued commitment from donors to provide adequate support for the needs identified, including those related to the current drought situation''

Crop production across the country fluctuates because of seasonal natural disasters as well as surges of violence and insecurity.

But chronic emergencies, according to the UN humanitarian coordinator for Afghanistan, Michael Keating, could be avoided if addressed in a timely and sustainable way. In most cases, durable solutions such as drilling water holes, reinforcing existing dams or constructing embankments could ensure adverse situations were mitigated in future.

“Reducing the risk of these disasters is… a development issue requiring urgent attention,” Keating said in a speech on World Humanitarian Day.

Conflict – a key factor

But in the face of continuing conflict, it becomes difficult to effectively operate, say observers in Kabul. “Billions of dollars have been sunk into Afghanistan in search of durable long-term solutions, but until the security question is solved, little can be achieved,” an international aid worker told IRIN.

A Food Security Risk Index of 196 countries released on 31 August by Maplecroft, rates Afghanistan number nine. It says the country faces extreme food insecurity and that a major driver of this is conflict and displacement.

Aid workers in Kabul say insecurity has also hindered access to those in need in various provinces of Afghanistan, killed farmers and livestock owners, and disrupted communities that used to be agriculturally productive.

In 2010, 2,777 civilians were killed, a 15 percent increase on 2009. The first six months of this year have been even more deadly, according to the UN Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), with 1,462 civilians killed by mid-July. Some 80 percent of these deaths were attributed to anti-government elements.

“Afghan children, women and men continue to be killed and injured at an alarming rate,” said Staffan de Mistura, special representative of the UN Secretary-General. Improvised explosives and suicide attacks account for nearly half of all the civilian deaths and injuries.

“Even collecting data from some areas can be difficult,” said one NGO field worker in Kabul. “There are places that are so difficult to reach that the only information we get is second or third hand. The situation can be very unpredictable.”


Photo: Jason Gutierrez/IRIN
Insecurity has hindered access to those in need, killed farmers and livestock owners, and disrupted communities, say aid workers (file photo)

New thinking needed

The complexities of the situation call for new thinking on the part of humanitarians, donors and government, observers say. This fact is not lost on the aid community.

“Afghans throughout the northern part of the country are facing a possible humanitarian crisis as they cope with drought conditions that have resulted in a 100 percent failure of the rain-fed crop in many areas,” Keating said on 21 August. “Many households have lost 50 percent of their livestock due to a lack of animal feed and water.”

“Humanitarian organizations must do a better job of assessing humanitarian needs, of organizing coordinated responses, of telling the Afghan humanitarian story,” he added. “We also seek a continued commitment from donors to provide adequate support for the needs identified, including those related to the current drought situation.”

According to NGOs ActionAid, Afghanaid, Concern Worldwide, Oxfam, Tearfund and ZOA Refugee Care, the priority responses should not just focus on immediate humanitarian needs, but also strengthen existing coping mechanisms and build community resilience.

“The international response to this crisis has been slow to get off the ground,” the six NGOs said in a joint statement on 31 August. Planned interventions, they argue, should strengthen existing coping and local market structures – or risk exacerbating dependency on humanitarian aid and undermining local businesses.

“There has been limited support for the introduction of drought-resistant crops, for non-agriculture based livelihoods such as livestock, and for off-farm livelihoods,” the NGOs noted.

Inadequate attention, they argue, had been paid to natural resource management, resulting in a situation whereby in many of the drought-affected areas, river water was available but not being used for irrigation because the necessary systems were not in place.

“Lessons must be learnt,” they added, “if communities are to be assisted not only to recover from this current crisis but to increase their resilience to future shocks and in the long term reduce their dependency on humanitarian aid.”

eo/mp/cb source www.irinnews.org

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Migrants beaten, imprisoned and deported

Posted by African Press International on September 24, 2011

A Somali migrant at Maratane refugee camp in Mozambique

MTWARA,  – Near the coastal town of Mtwara, Tanzania’s border with Mozambique is marked only by the River Ruvuma which is wide and relatively shallow at this point just before it drains into the Indian Ocean. Young men loll in small, wooden boats checking their cell phones and waiting for passengers to ferry across to the other side, but business has been slow in the last two months since groups of migrants desperate to complete a journey that began thousands of kilometres to the north stopped arriving at the river’s banks.

“For the last two or three months we haven’t had big movements like we had between February and April,” said Henry Chacha, an immigration officer from the nearby Kilambo border post. “For the last two or three weeks, we haven’t had any migrants.”

At the height of the activity around Mtwara in early 2011, the migrants – most of them from Ethiopia and Somalia – typically arrived in groups of 100 or more on boats operated by smugglers, usually from the Kenyan port city of Mombasa.

According to one Somali migrant who made the trip, the groups were dropped off near Mtwara, and then found their way to the river delta where they paid the waiting fishermen in money or goods for passage to the other side. From there, they trekked through thick forest for several days before crossing into Mozambique and arriving at Palma, a small coastal town where the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the government’s National Institute for Refugee Assistance (INAR) had set up an informal camp behind the local police station to cater for the migrants’ basic needs before transporting them to Maratane refugee camp in Nampula Province.

For most, Maratane was merely a place to rest, regroup and make contact with their smugglers’ agents who would help them reach their final destination: South Africa – the only country in the region where asylum-seekers and refugees have freedom of movement and the right to work and run businesses rather than being confined to camps.

But around May of this year, the movement of migrants from the Horn of Africa across the River Ruvuma began reversing in direction. According to immigration authorities in Mtwara, groups of migrants, stripped of their belongings and clothing, and many bearing the marks of severe beatings, began appearing near the river.

“We saw them at the delta, naked,” said Hamidu Mkambala, the regional immigration officer for Mtwara. “We gave them food and clothing and then we took them to a court of law and then prison. We don’t have any other shelters for them.”

About 500 Ethiopians and 50 Somalis are now being held at Mtwara prison, while about 600 Ethiopian and 170 Somali migrants are in other prisons around Tanzania.

Harrowing journey

Most of those interviewed at Mtwara prison told similar stories of weeks at sea on overloaded boats that either dropped them off in Mtwara or took them all the way to the north coast of Mozambique. From there they were picked up by police but instead of being transferred to Maratane, they were robbed of their possessions, beaten and then dumped next to (or in) the River Ruvuma.

One young Somali woman recounted a harrowing month-long journey from Mombasa to Mozambique on rough seas. At one point the crew of the boat she was travelling on forced three of her fellow passengers off the over-loaded vessel and into the sea where they were left to drown. When they finally reached Mozambique, the migrants were greeted by locals who “took all they had”.

“A white man came and put us in a mini-bus and took us to another place near a police station,” she continued. “He told the police to take us to the refugee camp but after he left, they beat us and fired bullets over our heads,” she said, crying and showing a badly swollen leg that had not healed two months after one of the policemen struck it with the barrel of his gun.


Photo: Kristy Siegfried/IRIN
Boats used to ferry migrants across the River Ruvuma sit idle

One of the Ethiopian prisoners at Mtwara said four of the men in his group had died after they were beaten so severely by the Mozambican police that they drowned when they were thrown into the River Ruvuma.

Others survived by waiting for a low tide and then forming a human chain to wade to the other side of the river where they were discovered by local villagers.

“They came from nowhere with no clothes,” a woman from one of the villages near the river told IRIN. “They said they came from Mozambique. We fed them and then showed them the way to the immigration office in Kilambo.”

Small border posts like the one at Kilambo are ill-equipped to deal with large groups of naked and hungry migrants, most of whom cannot speak the local language. “We have no budget to feed them,” said Mkambala. “We feed them from our own pockets and give them clothing.”

After a day or two staying in the open outside the immigration office in Kilambo, the migrants were transported to the police station in Mtwara for processing before being taken to court and then to the now overcrowded prison.

Government denial

UNHCR has confirmed the migrants’ accounts and called on the Mozambican government to stop the deportations which contravene the country’s obligations under the UN Convention on Refugees.

However, at a meeting on 16 September convened by local NGO the Mozambican Human Rights League, which also has evidence of abuses against migrants found near the Tanzanian border, representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of the Interior denied that irregular deportations were taking place, while at the same time describing the migrants as a threat to national security.

“It’s a very clear sign that the position of the government is becoming stricter on the issue,” commented Matteo Gillerio, a field officer with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Mozambique who was present at the meeting.

According to Mtwara regional immigration officer Mkambala, a recent meeting between immigration chiefs from Mozambique and Tanzania to discuss the irregular deportations did not end in any agreement, but the situation may have resolved itself, at least temporarily, as smugglers appear to have started circumventing the trouble spot between Palma and Mtwara.

Chacha, the immigration officer at Kilambo (on the Tanzanian side), said no migrants had been seen near the river since July, and Gillerio said the camp in Palma was also currently empty. However, he worried the movement would resume in November with the start of the rainy season which would bring improved conditions at sea and make it more difficult for the Mozambican police to patrol border areas.

“The [refugee] camps in Kenya are filling up,” he pointed out. “I think when they’re in a condition to travel, they will, because they’re not going to find jobs in Kenya.”

Homeward bound?

For the Ethiopians imprisoned in Tanzania, their journey will soon end where it started. An IOM initiative funded by the Japanese government, brought a delegation from Ethiopia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to Tanzania in August to document those being held in prisons and arrange their voluntary return home starting from the end of September.

“All of them told us they want to go back home,” said Ethiopia’s director of Foreign Affairs, Melaku Bedada, who formed part of the delegation. He added that his Ministry would be engaging their Mozambican counterparts in a discussion about the abuses the migrants experienced in that country. “A person has to be treated humanely, even if they’re illegal,” he said.

The fate of the Somali prisoners is less clear. In the absence of a functioning government in Somalia to negotiate their release, members of Dar es Salaam’s local Somali community have been advocating on their behalf. Ahmed Ally, a leader in that community, said that after repeated calls to various relevant agencies and government departments, immigration officers had informed him that the Somalis would be released soon and taken to the Kenyan border. From there, he said, Somali elders have agreed to pay their transport to Nairobi where they will likely find refuge among that city’s sizeable Somali community.

Most of the imprisoned migrants IRIN spoke to declared they would not attempt the journey again.

“If I go home, I will just pray for rain. I won’t come to Mozambique again,” said one young man who left Ethiopia because the drought had made it impossible for him to farm.

But the young Somali woman with the injured leg insisted she did not want to go home. “There is still fighting there,” she said. “I want to go somewhere peaceful… maybe South Africa.”

ks/cb source www.irinnews.org

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