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Archive for January 2nd, 2012

Kenya 2012: could there be tension again soon if neither the president nor the deputy hails from the big tribes?

Posted by African Press International on January 2, 2012

Lesiamito Malino John

<Lesiamito Malino John, Parliamentary Candidate for Samburu East Constituency (Kenya elections 2012).

(A quote From my manifesto: “SE -Samburu East requires an MP with a reform agenda and liberator for its constituents beyond “Headline politics”. As an MP, I shall take politics back to the basics. The basic of politics is to improve the lives of the people by empowering them. Therefore everything I shall do in politics will be directly or indirectly linked to empowering the people of SE or the country i.e. statements I make, policies I defend as well as projects I initiate.” click here to Read the manifesto

With the new constitution and the fast approaching 2012 general elections, Kenyans are pregnant with expectations and hope for good lives. However, looking critically at the political scene, nothing much is bound to change. This is despite the fact that the elections would be conducted under the new constitution.

Looking at the leading presidential contestants for 2012, one gets an eerie feeling that it is pitch dark at the end of the tunnel. This is because the usual culprits are at it again, fashioning themselves as messiahs yet they are devil incarnates. They have failed before and have no chance of succeeding in future.

Before the 2007 elections, the three top contestants for presidency namely Mwai Kibaki, Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka gave Kenyans hope for good life if any of them ascended to the top seat. This was in form of their beautiful and well crafted manifestos. Today the three hold key positions in the coalition government as president, prime minister and vice president respectively yet nothing tangible has happened in the country.

One wonders why the three leaders have not been able to consolidate their 2007 manifestos to better the lives of Kenyans if they had their interest at heart. Kenyans have been treated to an endless political circus driven by malice and selfishness as the coalition partners pull in different directions.

Often times, Raila and Kalonzo’s differences have played out in the public over petty issues like protocol leaving the two with egg all over their faces. When the ODM party led by Raila decided to join the PNU to form a coalition government after the bungled 2007 elections, Kenyans heaved a heavy sigh of relief, crossed their fingers and hoped for the best. Our hopes were hinged on the three leaders working together for the good of the common man.

However the opposite is true and it is safe to say the three have been a shame and a big letdown. Our hopes have been shattered beyond. When Kenyans saw the two archrivals Kibaki and Raila smiling on national TVs after the signing the national accord and reconciliation act negotiated by the former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, we believed an honest truce had been achieved.

With Kalonzo having sneaked in and strategically perched at the PNU wing, Raila reluctantly agreed to join this awkward political bed. It was at this point that heavy doses of mistrust were planted. It was a forced marriage of circumstances since the country was ablaze.

The two coalition partners started viewing each other with contemptuous and suspicious eyes. Their rivalry went a notch higher and plans were hatched to outsmart each other. The tragedy is the coalition partners have allowed their myopic henchmen and sycophants to think for them. This is why we must find out when the rains started beating us. And here is the reason. Our politics are defined by the ‘big community syndrome’. We must discard the sickening idea that only big tribes should produce leaders for this country.

Trouble is when leaders from these so called big tribes assume the high office, they immediately become captives of their tribes. Members of that particular community develop a ‘feel good attitude’ and operate with an air of arrogance simply because ‘our man is the president’

The president becomes a hostage whose ransom is to dish out plum appointments and other favours to their cronies and members of their community. Because they have ‘arrived’ these appointees soon master the art of impunity and their appetite to loot public coffers goes into overdrive, knowing full well that they are untouchables since their man is on top of things.

That is the tragedy that has befallen our three men. They have failed to genuinely fight corruption, address the runaway unemployment and crime while the economy is in shambles.
Worse, almost four years since the infamous Post Election Violence, we still have IDPs languishing in camps who have to bear the indignity of eating cats since the government has completely forsaken them.

The coalition mandarins are only waiting for the right time to start spewing verbal onslaught from roof tops accusing each other of the problems that have faced this country for the last five years. It is even sadder when Kenyans become gullible and believe these lies lock, stock and barrel.
Yet the key presidential aspirants are all members of the big tribes. Even when coalitions are being negotiated, they coalesce around these tribes such that Elmolos, Turkanas Ogieks, Samburus and other small tribes are completely eclipsed.

Some political dimwits who take pride in their tribal numbers have even had the audacity to urge their communities to vote for one of their own because it is their time to loot and eat. It is a sad affair indeed.

Kenyans are now sick and tired of such leaders. This is why the country needs a complete paradigm shift, a departure from the old order of things. WhatKenyaneeds is a leader who will not ride on his/her community’s numbers to win votes.

To experience servant leadership, Kenyans must vote for a president from a minority tribe. Such a leader is more likely to have the interest of all Kenyans at heart because he or she won’t have many mouths to feed from his community.

Leaders from such communities should stand out, stop wallowing in self pity of their dwindling numbers and rescue this country from the greedy hyenas masquerading as latter day reformers.

As long as they are not tainted, Kenyans would vote for such a president irrespective of their marginalized community. That is the redemption we need as a country.
Banking our hopes and future in leaders from big tribes would only sink us deeper into disillusionment and hopelessness. For more, about the need for change, click here


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Everyone in Libya armed to the teeth: People are desperate to see something done about militias

Posted by African Press International on January 2, 2012

Analysis: Libya’s long road to disarmament

Libyan rebels have taken it upon themselves to provide security on the streets in the absence of a national army or police force

MISRATA/TRIPOLI/DUBAI,  – Mistrust of Libya’s interim administration is likely to deter tens of thousands of revolutionary fighters from complying with a massive new demobilization plan, according to analysts and former rebels.

“There is no full trust in the government,” said Adel AbdElmajid Zoubi, 28, who fought in the coastal town of Misrata, besieged for months by troops loyal to former leader Muammar Gaddafi. He spoke to IRIN on 27 December, having just returned from a protest demanding the government cleanse public institutions of remnants of the old regime.

He said he was disappointed the new government did not appear to prioritize revolutionaries and said he would not hand over his weapons until after elections – currently scheduled for June 2012 – and the creation from near-scratch of a new national army, in the wake of the demise of Gaddafi’s military machine.

“The reason people are hanging on is that they see their weapons as the guarantors of the revolution,” said Human Rights Watch (HRW) emergencies director Peter Bouckaert, who was in and out of Libya during the nine-month war. “They want to see the fruits of their revolution before they’re going to give up their weapons.”

On 25 December, the government announced a long-awaited plan to start re-integrating members of hundreds – if not thousands – of disparate militias which fought to displace Gaddafi, many of whom have retained their weapons since the fighting ended in October.

According to Ahmed Safar, undersecretary of the interim Labour Ministry, the hope is to integrate 75,000 fighters during 2012 – in a three-phase programme which will see a third joining the army, a third joining the police force and a third joining the regular labour force.

The government estimates there are 120,000 armed men who need to be demobilized. Almost every Libyan family has a stockpile of weapons in its home.

Members of militias – each with diverging loyalties to individual commanders, different cities or different religious agendas – have clashed with each other in recent months, killing several people and feeding fears that Libya could slide back into conflict.

Security vacuum

At a sleepy checkpoint at the southern entry to Misrata, where fighters see themselves as heroes of the revolution, a handful of former rebels sit under a brightly coloured tent drinking tea, their AK-47s resting beside them. They complain the government has not paid them enough for their services.

“I have kids and a house,” said Ahmed Abdelqadar, 24. “Two hundred dinars a month

''People are desperate to see something done about militias''

 [US$159] is not enough.”

Zoubi said revolutionaries had not received “a single cent” from the government or the militia leadership in more than a month.

“The money is there, but they don’t spend it on us,” said another fighter. “They prioritize the injured and the martyrs’ families, which is normal.”

Most of the fighters who had jobs or studies to return to have done so, but they still serve in their militias for a day or so a week. Those who do not have alternatives remain in the militias full-time, often unpaid.

Asked why they did not just leave, Abdelqadar answered: “If everyone left, there would be no one to guard the streets. We’d lose what we fought for.”

His words echo a common belief among many of the engineers, doctors and teachers-turned rebels who had never carried weapons before the war. This was not a war of hardened fighters, but rather young boys in flip flops and jean jackets who were thrown off their feet the first time they used a rocket-propelled grenade. They themselves are worried about the proliferation of weapons in their country, but believe they have a crucial role to play until a national force can ensure security.

In a recent report, the International Crisis Group (ICG) said fighters were likely to insist on keeping their weapons and militia structures until the elections.

“To try to force a different outcome would be to play with fire, and with poor odds,” the report said.

But it is a bit of a catch-22, according to Jason Pack, a researcher of Libyan history at Cambridge University who also spent time in Libya during the war.

“[The militias say] ‘We can’t give up control because the national authorities can’t do it on their own. But the national authorities won’t be able to consolidate security as long as the militias are running around.”

Government programme

Under the new programme, registration of fighters could begin as soon as January, the Labour Ministry’s Safar said, followed by the profiling of registrants, including a psycho-social assessment and identification of post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as a determination of skills and capacity.

Photo: Heba Aly/IRIN
Adel AbdElmajid Zoubi, a 28-year-old engineer-turned rebel, at a checkpoint in Misrata

The plan calls for those interested in the security services to receive basic training and for others to have their skills matched to needs in the civilian labour market, with the possibility of additional training abroad and job placements upon return to Libya. The relevant ministries have submitted proposed budgets and plans to the Prime Minister’s Office for approval

“It sounds nice, but it’s all on paper only,” said a skeptical Zoubi.

Safar said a government survey showed that many of the revolutionaries were leaning towards joining the police, but IRIN interviews with fighters suggested the opposite: many of them had no interest in being integrated into the security services. One Misrata militia which surveyed its members found that only three in 100 wanted to join the army.

Leadership and transparency

Analysts say the National Transitional Council (NTC), the self-appointed political body which emerged from the revolution and appointed the interim government, lacks strong leadership. It is in a “state of relative paralysis” when it comes to making important decisions, HRW’s Bouckaert said, and does not have a strong hold over the fighters in the country.

“When the rebels come into town, the [police] move to the side,” said one international security analyst. “They’re little kids sitting in the corner while the adults do their thing.”

The national army has no formal leadership as the NTC has yet to announce a chief of staff. Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, Muammar’s once fugitive son, remains in the custody of a militia in the western mountain town of Zintan and not in the custody of the national government. The main airport remains under the control of a Zintani militia commander, Mokhtar al-Akhdar.

“If the government has good people to secure the airport, then we will hand it over and go home,” he told the New York Times. “But they cannot even control the border with Tunisia. If we give the government the airport, they will destroy it.”

According to the ICG report, “Libya’s long tradition of local government reinforced this resistance to and suspicion of central authority.”

While some militias from Misrata have very publicly pulled out of Tripoli, the 20 December deadline imposed by police and residents for foreign militia to leave the capital was largely ignored.

Many Libyans also complain of a lack of transparency in the NTC. Until now, it is not entirely clear who sits on the Council, whose meetings HRW’s Bouckaert described as “completely opaque.”

“Until that changes, it is impossible to have a real demobilization,” he said.

Ticking time bomb?

But the government says it cannot afford to wait until it has complete credibility to start working on demobilization.

“People are desperate to see something done about militias,” Safar told IRIN. “Yes, there are issues of transparency… but the vast majority of people that we have been speaking to understand the difficulties under which this government is operating… People want to see us get our hands on things more and more to move on.”

Other critics say that despite the appointment of a revolutionary from Zintan as the interim defence minister, the government has failed to properly consult the revolutionaries as it makes its decisions – a challenging task given the vastness of military formations.

“There are ad-hoc consultations,” said one senior UN official in Tripoli. “But there is no systematic way of incorporating the revolutionaries in the decision-making process.”

In recent days, the numbers of weapons and military vehicles on the streets of Tripoli have decreased significantly, and signs reading “The weapons helped us. Don’t let them hurt us” are common. But the clock is ticking.

With so many weapons floating around, June’s elections could be dangerous.

And already, frustration is mounting, with near-daily demonstrations, protesting among other things against the lack of transparency and rebel representation in government. At one such protest in the eastern town of Benghazi, the country’s interim leaders came under gunfire, according to AFP.

Some drunken armed men roam around the streets harassing women or shooting guns in the air. As one resident put it, “anyone who wears fatigues and carries a gun calls himself a revolutionary.” Others engage in vigilante justice.

Dangerous minority

In the back of Mohammed’s* car sits a set of army fatigues. When he leaves his day job – distributing food to displaced people – he sometimes throws them on to go out with the “Misrata boys” on raids to capture people who fought with Gaddafi and are still in hiding.

His companions – members of a militia from Misrata – act independently, based on information they receive from neighbours or confessions from detainees, without any specific orders, but under the understanding that there is a “general order” to arrest any members of the fifth column.

The outfit gives Mohammed a thrill and his armed buddies often storm houses “like you see in the movies”, kicking in doors and pushing women and children out of the way to get to the wanted people. The latter sometimes return fire, leading to exchanges of gunfire on residential streets.

“The vast majority of these militias are not blood-thirsty gunmen,” Bouckaert said. “[But] it’s the small minority of either power hungry or criminal militias that can destabilize the country.”

That being said, the overall absence of chaos and level of self-organization has been surprising – even to Libyans – given how recently the country came out of war and how little government presence there has been.

“I’ve worked in 23 conflict zones,” said Brian McQuinn, a PhD candidate at the University of Oxford’s Centre for Anthropology and Mind, who has spent months in Misrata interviewing militias. “I’ve never seen militias as disciplined as these ones.”

Photo: Heba Aly/IRIN
The coastal city of Misrata is often jokingly referred to as a “republic” because of the heavily secured checkpoints, where revolutionaries control entry into and exit out of the city

In the back office of the camp for the Ard al-Rigal brigade in Misrata, binders line the bookcases and stacks of paper clutter the desks. While revolutionaries play table football into the late hours of the night, the brigade’s administrative leader, Ali Mousa, flips through the files of its members – mostly university-educated – complete with blood type, ID and health certificate. Every weapon and vehicle belonging to the militia is registered on a list and stamped by the local military council.

Even during the days of the fighting, decisions within the militias were taken by consensus, rather than orders from above.

“From the outside, it looks like chaos, but there is this underlying structure to it,” the researcher, McQuinn, told IRIN. “When you have a bunch of doctors, engineers and teachers as fighters, they don’t follow orders blindly.”

City states

But if, for the most part, the militias have not been as big a security threat as they could have been, the real problem, analysts say, is longer term. In the three months between the liberation of Tripoli and the creation of a cabinet, militias consolidated power and became entrenched to the point that they now offer services like other regional militant groups Hezbollah and Hamas, including running hospitals.

At the western entrance to Misrata from the main coastal highway, cars line up before an archway made from stacked shipping containers. Armed men wave through some drivers and check the IDs of others. This is one of a series of militia-controlled and coordinated checkpoints that have earned the city nickname “Republic of Misrata” – for its order and some say autocratic nature.

Many now see Libya as a country where identity is shaped more than ever by city of residence and wartime allegiance rather than wider national affiliation.

“If you don’t take steps to build national institutions, these local militia and councils will be difficult to govern later on because they will develop their own identity and start solving their problems at the local levels,” the UN official in Tripoli said. “The longer it takes you to deal with the issue of the revolutionaries, the longer they stay in power. You create new centres of power that will not be easy for them to give up.”

*not his real name

ha/am/cb source

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Peace remains fragile amid abuses and killings in Ivory Coast despite former president Gbagbo being locked up at ICC

Posted by African Press International on January 2, 2012

COTE D’IVOIRE: Former pro-Ouattara rebels still need reining in

President Alassane Ouattara

ABIDJAN,  – Eight months after President Allassane Ouattara assumed office at the end of a prolonged civil conflict, peace remains fragile amid abuses and killings by former rebel fighters who once provided him support.

Ten civilians were killed and about 15 wounded this month in fighting between the former rebels, which now form part of the national army, and civilians in Vavoua, west-central Cote d’Ivoire, and in Sikensi in the south.

In a statement on 29 December, the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) called on the government to stop the violence. “UNOCI encourages the Ivorian authorities to implement the tough measures they announced and to strengthen discipline” within the Republican Forces of Côte d’Ivoire (FRCI), UNOCI spokesman Hamadoun Touré said.

He said UNOCI remained concerned about the “numerous violations of human rights attributed to FRCI in several parts of the country which have led to the reactions by residents of the affected communities.” He cited cases of arbitrary arrest and illegal detention in Abidjan, the commercial capital.

Adding to this, Ivoirian Human Rights League President René Legré said: “We note that despite the promises to ensure security, there has been no progress. People are still armed.”

He said the unrestrained behaviour by FRCI soldiers was beginning to anger the public, which would defend itself.

“We fear that the day will come when people will no longer respect the army,” he added.

Following the Vavoua incident, Ouattara ordered the soldiers to return to barracks but they refused.

In Abidjan, the former fighters have swapped their uniforms for civilian clothes, while keeping their guns and still occupying some police stations. This was true in the Ouattara party stronghold of Abobo, a commune 8.7km northwest of Abidjan.

Gendarmes and police have been deployed to the country’s interior, but unarmed, and they have had to work under the authority of the warlords who settled in those areas when other pro-Ouattara forces advanced on the south from the north in March.

“State impotence”

“We do not know whom to trust in these circumstances,” said Kady Kouyaté, a health worker in the western town of Gagnoa. “Those who have been training to provide security do not have the tools. Meanwhile, those who have weapons, rather than reassuring us, have become our tormentors.”

She said over a two-month period armed people in military uniform had attacked her and colleagues.

Describing the government’s response to the insecurity as “state impotence”, Legré said many soldiers in villages and towns which his team had inspected appeared to be taking orders from outside the official military structure. Moreover, he quoted solders as saying that since the government was not paying them salaries, they would pay themselves by abusing the public.

“When they face an obstacle, they do not hesitate to use their guns,” Legré added. He said ex-rebel combatants within the military should be quickly identified and disarmed since they were unfit to bear arms.

However, Diarrassouba Lamine, president of the Convention of Free Associations and Organizations of Civil Society in Côte d’Ivoire, said more extensive measures were need.

“You have to identify the causes of the clashes and think about the army generals. Because there may still be areas of tension wherever the army goes, the ongoing peace process could take a hit,” Diarrassouba said.

aa/oss/cb source

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