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Archive for January, 2013

ODM Party led by Raila Odinga the Kenyan Prime Minister hiding results of the nominations

Posted by African Press International on January 24, 2013

Kenyans are waiting for the ODM nomination results, but the party led by the appointed Elections Board Chairman Franklin Bett seems not to know what to do.

This is making Kenyans worry of the outcome of the final results as is known bribery may lead the way to the issuance of the certificates.

Siaya and Kisumu residence are at war with the Odinga family. They have rejected Oburu Odinga the elder brother of the Prime Minister. Ruth Odinga, who studied in Norway many years ago, the sister of Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who also stayed in Norway as a refugee before becoming Kenya’s Prime minister has been rejected as the Kisumu Governor.



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William Ruto on Hard Talk – BBC

Posted by African Press International on January 24, 2013


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Uhuru Kenyatta talks to Al Jazeera 2013

Posted by African Press International on January 24, 2013


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Kenya: Not ready for women leadership!

Posted by African Press International on January 24, 2013

  • By Patience Nyange, Kenya Garissa women follow proceedings during a women’s forum organized by CMD, Kenya. Garissa women follow proceedings during a women’s forum organized by CMD, Kenya.

This is one of those topics that I am deeply sentimental about.

Talk of women empowerment verses male chauvinism or male domination; whatever you may call it, it really drives up my emotions.

One of the ongoing debates in Kenya today is centered on the realization of the “not more 2/3rd gender rule” set out in the new constitution.

The rule requires that not more than two-thirds of elective seats are held by leaders of the same gender.

This meant that in the next Parliament, there had to be at least 117 women sitting in as Members of Parliament (MP’s). Now, this was music to my ears until things changed.

After a series of back and forth, Kenya’s Attorney General, Githu Muigai who is the Government’s chief legal adviser decided to seek a temporary solution to the stalemate occasioned by this constitutional requirement.However, it had been a source of stalemate with divided groups supporting and opposing the gender rule.

Gender Rule to be implemented progressively

Finally, the Supreme Court ruled that the one-third gender rule cannot apply to the March 4 general elections but will be progressively implemented to be fully realized by August, 2015. Mombasa residents at a public forum on women leadership. Mombasa residents at a public forum on women leadership.

This means that the gender rule will be realized in stages and not immediately after the general elections as we (women) earlier anticipated. This majority ruling was read by Justice Jackton Ojwang while Chief Justice Willy Mutunga gave a dissenting ruling early December, 2012.

The stalemate had generated a contentious debate ahead of the forth-coming general elections with many anticipating a constitutional crisis if the number was not achieved. The AG also sought to find out a different opinion on whether after the first round in a presidential election an unsuccessful candidate or any other person can file a petition to the court challenging the outcome.

The ruling came following a suit filed by several civil society groups including FIDA, Kenya Human Rights Commission, CREW and the Center for Multiparty Democracy (CMD). Other state bodies including the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), the National Gender and Equality Commission and the Commission for Administrative Justice were enjoined as parties to the case since they are State organs.

Many would ask, so what is the debate concerning this provision? Nairobi women leaders at a past workshop on gender rule. (Seated on the far right is Sahara Muhoya of CMD, Kenya.) Nairobi women leaders at a past workshop on gender rule. (Seated on the far right is Sahara Muhoya of CMD, Kenya.)

I feel I know where the problem is, Kenyans do not believe in women leadership and that is why there is a problem achieving this rule. I strongly agree with one David Makali, a long-term serving journalist and political analyst when he said in an interview, “There is a good crop of female presidential candidates, but I am pessimistic about a woman presidency just yet. There are too many forces against them.”

While he has his own doubts concerning female leadership, he does not believe in youth leadership either; “The youth are not reliable and will not be a defining factor in the forthcoming elections. I do not think they can cause much change even if they took office.”

It’s time for Women leadership in Kenya

For a while now, I have convinced myself that it is time we voted for women leadership in Kenya. Probably, this could be the only way we can make a change in this country. However, many think we are still far away from embracing women leadership.In a nut shell, this is what it says, that Kenya is neither ready for a woman president nor any other woman leader for that matter. But why is this case? When will we be ready? What do we need for us to be ready? I have a strong feeling this is a wise change that we all seem to be resisting.

“Surprisingly America is not too there yet, even after over 200 years of independency. We have no single woman who has fought a good fight to bite this course. When will it be, I still do not know.” Remarked Abel Kevogo, a Kenyan who does not believe that Kenya is ready for a woman President.

For Abel and many others in his category, there is a need to change this kind of thinking and see beyond the impossibilities. There are other countries that have had women Presidents and these too, looked beyond his reasoning! Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is the President of Liberia, an African country because Liberia believed in her!” Women from different walks of life pay attention to proceedings on elections at NPC, Valley Road. Women from different walks of life pay attention to proceedings on elections at NPC, Valley Road.

So what makes Kenya different from Liberia? Many blame Kenyan politics and politicians. However, this is how I see it, that male chauvinism dominates our thinking as a country and this is the reason we cannot have our current legislatures support the amendment of the bill concerning the gender rule stalemate. Because of this, we will always remain where we are and keep complaining of all the vices that face us as a nation!

Change is important for this country to move forward! I’m convinced beyond doubt that woman leadership is all we need now!

Change is vital

Albert Einstein said, “Doing the same thing and expecting different results in insanity.” As Kenyans, we are celebrating Kenyan Jubilee; 50 years of independence. For 50 years, we have had male Presidents leading this country, so why can’t we believe that we can usher in a new era with different leadership in all areas, starting with the top boss?

Samuel Macharia, living in Nairobi thinks otherwise.“I don’t think it’s about ones gender, it’s all about leadership. I wouldn’t vote for anyone based on their gender, male or female. There are women who are great leaders not because they are women but because they are leaders. That said, I think the way forward for this nation is for us to recognize the power that the constitution has vested on the people and for us to arise and ensure that all the institutions are functioning as they are expected.”

I am looking forward to seeing what the next general election teaches us. There are myths that need to be broken. Top on this list, is the myth that women cannot make good leaders; they can only be good as deputies. The other myth is that women are their own enemies hence they cannot vote for one another. That women sabotage each other in all areas and that many women who want to take leadership positions in Kenya are divorces and people who do not uphold family values. Women have too much on their plates as home makers hence their attention is divided on so many roles therefore, they cannot take up key responsibilities such as the presidency.

“I find this strange that Kenyans do not believe in women leadership. I could point out all the female leaders that have been around the world until now, this makes it a bit strange that Kenya is not ready for a female leader. I feel that it makes Kenyans seem defensive and old-fashioned, not innovative and not inventive at all which I think is important for a country to improve and develop.” Responded a Norwegian Journalist on my quest to find out her thoughts on women leadership, as Norway is one of those model countries that has managed to ensure that equality prevails in almost all areas of their governance.

Speaking at a public forum in Mombasa, Thureya Hersi, the chairperson for Coast Maendeleo ya Wanawake Organisation, cautioned women against being used to put each other down instead, she encouraged women to support and fight for each other. She said a time had come for women to stand up and support women’s agenda. She warned against what she termed as Primitive Campaigns where women were incited against each other. She emphasized on the need for women to focus on developmental agenda- where women looked beyond the dressing code instead, focusing on policies and not just political parties.

Vyama vya kisiasa havitatuwekea chakula kwa meza yetu.” (Political parties will not put food on our tables).

All we need now is a paradigm shift; to change our thinking and believe that change from the status quo is actually possible.

The writer is a journalist working as a broadcast mentor in Nairobi and a member of Association of Media Women in Kenya, AMWIK.)


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Zimbabwe: Grappling with water shortages

Posted by African Press International on January 24, 2013

Photo: IRIN
Urban Zimbabweans are already grappling with water shortages

JOHANNESBURG, – In spite of the political and financial turmoil that Zimbabwe faces, the country seems to be on the right track in adopting strategies to address the effects of climate change. But these strategies tend to have a strong rural bias, overlooking the fact that almost half of the country now lives in urban areas, according to a joint review of the country’s climate change response by a think tank and leading NGO.

Zimbabwe, like many other African countries, has begun to develop a national framework to respond to climate change, including efforts to identify authorities to process donor funds for mitigating and adapting to climate change, said one of the authors of the review, Shepard Zvigadza of ZERO Regional Environment Organization.

However, as in most other African countries, policymakers and researchers “ignore longstanding urbanization trends and continue to overstate the proportion of Zimbabwe’s population living in rural areas.”

The ruling ZANU-PF party, which has dominated politics in Zimbabwe for decades, has been accused of appeasing their voters, who are largely rural, by developing policies that cater to them while disregarding urban residents.

Taking into account UN statistics, the authors suggested that almost 38 percent of Zimbabwe’s population lives in urban areas, but the number could be as high as 50 percent if national assessments are considered.

Climate change adds to woes

Zimbabwe’s urban transition is a lot more advanced than most countries in Southern Africa, and urban problems such as water scarcity – prompted by sparse rains and a dropping water table – are not getting the attention they deserve, Zvigadza told IRIN in an email.

“Research shows that the water table for boreholes used to be around 30m in the 1990s, but now water can be found around 60m or more below ground. This is true for cities like Bulawayo, whose water sources are various rivers. Such a situation has created long-term water and sanitation challenges, leading to health problems in cities like Chitungwiza and Kadoma,” he added.

Following severe water shortages in Chitungwiza and Kadoma in 2012, outbreaks of typhoid and cholera were recorded. In 2008, the country experienced one of the worst cholera outbreaks recorded anywhere in recent times; the outbreak killed at least 4,000 people and infected 100,000 others.

The country’s socioeconomic problems, combined with the effects of climate change, are likely to aggravate the situation in the coming years.

“It has become obvious that climate change has not been politicized, thus civil society has been working and continues to work with communities without intimidation”

Zvigadza explained that, “obviously, there are some other socioeconomic factors like poor waste management and service delivery that are most likely to be at play, but climate change is going to worsen this situation. For example, in [the] water and sanitation situation, nearby flowing sewer water is more likely to contaminate fresh piped water if there is a broken pipe. Water reticulation infrastructure has now aged and cannot cope with the rising population. This means they can break at any time where there is too much water in the system as a result of flooding.”

Evidence from climate change impact studies shows that Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, is going to experience heavy, frequent and prolonged rainfall leading to flash floods, said Zvigadza.

A broken health infrastructure that cannot cope with the rising urban population is yet another driver of a potential crisis. “The health facilities may fail to cope with this demand, and climate change as an added stressor is most likely to increase this urban population’s vulnerability,” he added.

Adapting to climate change

The government should invest in the health, water and energy sectors to develop infrastructure that can adapt to climate variability, said Zvigadza.

Zimbabwe’s development policies should be related to adaptation, such as promoting water harvesting techniques at the household level. Education on climate change should be initiated at primary schools to create awareness at an early age and help people prepare.

Zvigadza noted that the country “is obviously struggling financially”, but there are “donors who are interested” in supporting the country, which “has advanced in its readiness to receive and use climate funds.”

A number of NGOs and research organizations have begun to emphasize adaptation to climate change in their development projects, particularly in drought-prone rural areas, noted the review. A community-based adaptation project was piloted by the UN Development Programme in Zimbabwe, for example. A growing number of NGOs has also becoming involved in Zimbabwe’s Climate Change Working Group, a leading civil society network.

While civil society has increasingly come under attack in the country for political reasons, Zvigadza said, “it has become obvious that climate change has not been politicized, thus civil society has been working and continues to work with communities without intimidation… Overall, what is only required is the sense of national belonging that is speaking with one non-partisan voice, and this has begun to happen.”





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Posted by African Press International on January 23, 2013

January 19, 2013


WE condemn in strongest term possible the action of a section of politicians in Nyanza particularly what was witnessed during the political parties primaries in Rachuonyo, Siaya, Kisumu among other places where violence was witnessed.


We saw that the nominations done all over the country with all political parties under Cord coalition, Jubilee Coalition and Amani coalition were not free and fare as complains were raised over the credibility of the process but those who agreed also did not direct their complains to the parties flag bearers.

We are asking those in cord coalition who have lost in the process to exonerate Prime Minister Raila Odinga from the blame over the nomination process which has been described as sham in some areas. We also asking various parties elections boards to find an amicable solution to the matter.

We are asking Kenyans to maintain peace during this crucial process as well as during the forth coming General elections on March 4 this year.



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Bill Gates and the Norwegian Prime Minister Stoltenberg in a discussion in Oslo

Posted by African Press International on January 23, 2013

Oslo, the 22nd Janaury 2013.

African Press International: Bill Gates and Prime Minister Stoltenberg. Part 1

African Press International: Bill Gates and Prime Minister Stoltenberg. Part 2:

African Press International: Bill Gates and Prime Minister Stoltenberg. Part 3:


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Fires in the history of Cape Town, South Africa – New year’s day

Posted by African Press International on January 23, 2013

Nearly 10 percent of South African households live in informal settlements

CAPE TOWN, ) – One of the worst informal settlement fires in the history of Cape Town, South Africa, took place on New Year’s Day in the sprawling township of Khayelitsha, laying bare the complexities undermining efforts to end these frequent disasters.

As more people migrate to the country’s towns and cities, new informal settlements regularly spring up unannounced.  The high density of these urban areas, and the flammability of the materials used to build in them, make spontaneous and rapidly spreading conflagrations a constant threat.

At least five people died and over 4,000 more were made homeless in Khayelitsha in the early hours of 1 January when a wall of fire, aided by strong winds, tore through an informal settlement called BM Section. Over a thousand shacks were burned to the ground.

Bongolweth Mpakama, 15, told IRIN he had never seen anything like the ferocity of the blaze that destroyed his family home within minutes. “We didn’t think the fire would come to us, but when it approached, we started to take our possessions out of the shack and put them in a place where they were safe.

“But the fire quickly spread behind us and destroyed the place where we put our things,” he said during an interview at Khayelitsha’s Oliver Tambo Hall, where up to 2,000 victims of the disaster were given emergency shelter.

According to statistics from the City of Cape Town, the disaster brought the number of people made homeless by shack fires between 1 December 2012 and 8 January of this year to nearly 5,200.

The South African government has struggled to keep up with the demand for low-income housing and in cities like Cape Town, many people live in informal settlements for years while they wait for government housing. For newly arrived migrants and the unemployed, shacks are also the only affordable accommodation in urban areas. According to census data, 9 percent of all South African households now live in informal settlements where access to electricity, water and sanitation is poor or non-existent.

Dispute over services

The BM Section fire has highlighted the need for a more holistic approach to the prevention of shack fires that includes better planning of informal settlements and enforcement of legislation that prohibits so-called land invasions, particularly in high fire-risk areas.

Researcher Warren Smit, from the University of Cape Town’s African Centre for Cities programme, says the upgrading of all informal settlements is key to reducing the threat of shack fires, but that those trying to tackle the issue face a web of problems linked to institutional capacity, financial constraints and access to land.

“What makes progress even more difficult is the fact the role players have different perceptions of what the key issues are, and this creates a sense of mistrust between them,” said Smit.

Jared Sacks of community development organization Children of South Africa, which works in Khayelitsha, says that the lower levels of service delivery in poor communities are partly to blame for the continued devastation caused by shack fires. “If a fire takes place in a wealthy area it is tended to immediately, but when it happens in a poor area the emergency services are much slower.

“Khayelitsha residents claim that it took up to two hours for the first fire truck to arrive on scene at BM Section… despite the fact that the local fire station is only one kilometre down the road. A much smaller fire in Camps Bay [a wealthy suburb] on New Year’s Eve was responded to in a matter of minutes,” he told IRIN.

However, Cape Town officials insisted that fire trucks were on the scene at BM Section within half an hour of the fire being reported but that the informal settlement’s high density and random planning prevented them from reaching the worst of the blaze.

JP Smith, a member of Cape Town’s Safety and Security Committee, pointed out that since his party, the Democratic Alliance, secured political power in Cape Town in 2006, large-scale investment had greatly improved the provision of emergency services in the city.

“We have more than doubled the number of firemen from 450 to 980 since 2006, and our fire mortality rate is down from 7.9 per 100,000 in 2006 to 4.3 per 100,000 today. We are doing much better, and the bulk of the gains are in informal settlements,” he told IRIN.

Statistics supplied by Cape Town’s Disaster Risk Management department show the annual death toll from shack fires fell from 131 in 2011 to 80 in 2012.

Preventative approach

Smith said a city task team was now implementing a more preventative approach to shack fires, aimed at making informal settlement communities more resilient. The approach includes fire safety education, training a large number of community reservists in fire fighting, distributing fire extinguishers to households in high-risk areas, and exploring the use of fire retardant paint and other products.

An approach to regulating informal settlements called “re-blocking” will also be used in BM section. Plots for re-building will be assigned in rows with three metres between them to facilitate the delivery of essential services and access for emergency vehicles.

However, this solution will reduce the number of people who can be accommodated in the settlement by at least 20 percent, and residents of BM Section displaced by the fire fear they will be moved to one of the temporary relocation areas on the outskirts of the city, far from public transport and work opportunities.  The approach has also had a limited impact when used in the past, according to Wilfred Solomons, deputy head of Cape Town’s Disaster Management Centre.

Solomons noted that following a devastating fire in Joe Slovo informal settlement in Langa, another Cape Town township, in 2005, city authorities carefully managed the rebuilding of shacks by residents to ensure adequate gaps between them. “This worked well for six months, after which residents gradually started expanding their structures until devastating fires started again,” he said, adding that attempts to police the situation were met with considerable resistance.




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Somalia: Let us talk about women.

Posted by African Press International on January 23, 2013

  • By Farhia Ali Abdi

Gender equality is more than a goal in itself. It is a precondition for meeting the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development and building good governance”.  Kofi Annan                                                                               

Every culture encompasses a broad spectrum of norms, myths and perceptions that people adopt as individuals living within a local region. These practices, stories and points of view are later accepted as social expectation, or social fact within the larger society. These constructions of social and cultural expression vary from one culture to another. In this context, Somali society for example, is structured on clan-based social organs, with male clan leaders wielding greater traditional authority than that of the national government. As a consequence, men have gained almost unlimited control over socio-economic, political and cultural powers within the Somalia state of affairs, and rendering Somali women at a significant disadvantage.

Many Somali men still consider themselves as the head of the family, with the concurrent belief that members of the family, including spouses are nothing but possessions. And although Somali women tend to have an education and more independence than women in other parts of the Muslim world and gender rights have yet to materialize in Somali society. Within this complicated paradox, Somali women do continue to contribute socially, politically and economically to their communities, regions and the country at large. Most of these efforts, however, are done in silence and behind closed doors due to the historically imposed cultural limitations. Their contributions have not yet enhanced the status of women, nor earned them respect in the Somali society. Women are still expected to look after family members while men decide the future of social-economic and political development of the country without women’s input or consensus.

The general discourse in women narrative often assumes that they (women) are one of the most vulnerable, victimized and impacted groups in a society, and this undermines the crucial role of women as actors and equal partner in the decision-making process. In this regard, Somali culture, in particular, has downplayed women’s roles in sociopolitical and economic development, which has subsequently resulted in gender disparity and systematic discrimination against women. A good example is the current selection process on parliamentarians of where Somali women have once again been undermined by the lack of respecting for the stipulated 30% quota.

Exclusion of women from the current political process in Somalia, clearly illustrates disrespect and discrimination against women, and undermines the agreed upon the constitutional principle. It is through such practices that Somali women’s talents, skills and experience continue to go unrecognized, under-valued and under-utilized. Somali society must therefore find alternative polices that will address gender equity issues and increase participation and representation of women at all levels of the decision-making process.  Somali leaders and the international community should not ignore the concepts of gender biases and the influence of dominant cultural practices that renders women at a disadvantage and disables their talents, creativity and their visions for an inclusive, democratic and prosperous society. The already huge and growing number of well-educated and talented women should not be denied equal participation in nation building of their beloved country simply because of their gender. The time is here and now to acknowledge and recognize the talents of Somali women and to genuinely respect their desire to be an equal partner in all walks of life within their particular communities and within leadership roles at all levels of Somali governance.

Historical Contributions:

Women in Somalia have participated in and contributed extensively to the history of the country. Women were instrumental in the struggle for the country’s freedom and independence. As active participants in the Somali Youth League (SYL) movement throughout the 1940s and 1950s, women organized and recruited new members, promoted and raised patriotic awareness, collected funds and membership fees, secured housing and concealed nationalists from authorities.  Many were imprisoned, tortured and killed, as they fought for the Somali flag. These remarkable contributions and struggles of Somali’s women freedom fighters were notably cited by the death of Hawa Osman Taako, who was killed 1948 in a Somali Youth League headquarters.  Notwithstanding such outstanding sacrifices at the forefront during the fight for liberty and freedom of Somalia, women were and continue to be excluded from any meaningful contributions within the political leadership roles.

Thus, there is genuine discontent, among Somali women today; that they are suffering from this problem of exclusion, a problem not of their own making, but that they are forced to endure. Even so, Somali women are and have been the backbone of Somali’s economy and remain as caretakers of family, children, and extended families since the start of the civil war in 1991. Women continue to contribute tirelessly to maintain a sustainable and a viable state in Somalia, including the remittance by Diaspora’s women to alleviate family’s suffering and to the NGOs that are helping refugees inside and outside the country. Somalia without Somali women, therefore, cannot be considered a sustainable society that can strive for sociocultural and political change.  One can argue that, if Somali women knew what worked in wartime, they should know what can work in peace time, and if this is the case, they should be at the forefront in rebuilding their country as advisors, policy makers and peace builders. Indeed, Somali women are not interested in war, but in the peace and security of their families, regions and the country at large. Somali women believe in dialogue as the only method to achieve lasting peace.

The question of gender equality:

Societies, where people feel free to seek and hold their dreams, regardless of their gender, prosper democratically with greater social equality. This does not imply that Somalia in the future with greater gender diversity will be perfect, utopian. However, it might well become an ideal for the region, or at least represent a better option than that of the present and the past eras. As a country, we are in dire need to talk about the elimination of social injustices, including unequal gender participation and discrimination.  We need to talk about Somali women and their place in Somali society.

The recent draft constitution recognizes Somali women’s rights and grants more equal participation in future Somali governments by designating a 30% quota.  The inclusion of women in the constitution is a welcome sign that has ignited excitement and hope among Somali women who are geared to take part in the decision-making process of their country’s affairs.  At the sometime, the inclusion of gender in the constitution has brought to the surface the views of some Somali men who resist the progress of women and who hide behind religion and attitudes from a pre-dated cultural era. Consequently, women’s movement among Somali women has begun today, both inside and outside of the country, as more Somali women are speaking out and taking center stage in the affairs of their country. The issues and concerns over the gender divide, and biases have also came to the surface in every region in Somalia, as witnessed by the recent demonstrations all over the country and the public outcry in which women demand their rights be respected, and that they be allowed to take their rightful place in the socio-political and economic development of the country. It appears that society’s cultural consciousness is awakening and that this emerging social awareness, may lead, hopefully, to a host of other social movements as was the case with the women’s movement during the sixties in the United States and elsewhere in the world.

The way forward:

“Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts, as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, to absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to play on the piano and embroidering bags. It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex.”   Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

Compared to the recent past, Somali women today are well-educated and constitute an ever burgeoning portion of the talent pool available within the country. To not fully utilize Somali women’s talents will hinder the country’s future competitiveness. Regardless of cultural views, gender equality should be every country’s priority. Somalia is no different from any other country on this planet in this respect and must provide the same rights, responsibilities and opportunities to all its citizens. Somalia as a nation, therefore, has a number of cultural attitudes and political perceptions to adapt and adjust for the benefit of all.

The following points are keys to making progress in this regard:

  1. Recognize the effective contributions of Somali women in the country’s leaderships within both public and political organizations.
  1. Approve the right of Somali women to partake in the current and the future Somali government (s) with a guaranteed 30 % quota and consideration given to increasing the quota to narrow the historical gender divide in the country.
  1. Accept Somali women’s involvement in all leadership roles within the Somali government without reference to cultural or gender biases that render ineffective their contributions to the country’s affairs.
  1. Utilize Somali women’s talents more broadly in public office and private enterprise.
  1. Engage in social political and cultural awareness campaigns to promote the effective and potential contributions of Somali women in all aspects of political, social and cultural development of their country.
  1. Treat women’s rights as a shared responsibility of rightful citizens of the land.
  1. Support Somali women in the workplace as equal partners building a safe and vibrant society.
  1. Reconcile religious and cultural attitudes and points of view that limit women’s rights and abilities to effectively contribute in Somali community.
  1. And finally, consider women issues in Somalia as a core human rights concern supported by the government and by international community partners.

Somali women have committed themselves to the nationalist cause both in the past and in the present by raising political consciousness, yet they continue to find themselves outside of the very political institutions they are fighting for and outside the history upon which the country was built. Women have struggled for recognition and equality in all aspects of their lives. Today, Somali women continue to struggle for the basic rights and recognition they deserve.

Today Somalia is, at a critical juncture in terms of achieving recognition for women. Accepting the women’s quota and taking action to increase future participation in government to an even greater extent is a crucial plank in achieving equality for women in the political arena and in other influential leadership positions. My hope is that we all join as strong advocates for the creation of an inclusive government and a country that is free of all discrimination against women.



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A Sudan Development Conference in Germany? Germans Need to Re-Confront Their Past

Posted by African Press International on January 22, 2013

  • By Eric Reeves, Smith College – Northampton, MA -USA

On January 29, 2013 a development conference, designed to promote international investment in Sudan, will be held in Berlin, Germany—sponsored by the German government with very little other European or U.S. support. This lack of support forced cancellation of previously scheduled conferences in Turkey and Norway, and the reasons could hardly be clearer: development aid to a regime—not a country—that is responsible for serial genocide could not be more inappropriate. This is particularly true for Germany, given its grim 20th-century history. Whether we are talking about the Nuba Mountains of the 1990s, Darfur in the early 21st century, civilian destruction in the border regions where most Sudanese oil is located, or the current campaign of civilian annihilation in Blue Nile and again the Nuba Mountains—all have been initiated by the ruling National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime. Ethnically-targeted human destruction has been the signature means by which this ghastly security cabal has retained military and thus economic control of Sudan, formerly including South Sudan.

Put simply, economic development aid and international investment for a regime that has spent profligately on military purchases that have proved essential to genocidal warfare is morally intolerable.

None of this is new, or news, except for the fact of Germany’s hosting the upcoming conference; but this conference comes at a time when Khartoum’s campaign in Blue Nile and the Nuba Mountains continues unabated, with relentless and deliberate aerial bombardment of civilians and civilian agriculture, a murderous ground campaign that kills civilians indiscriminately, and a humanitarian embargo imposed by the regime for a year and a half—and a year following a proposal for relief access proposed by the African Union, the Arab League, and the UN (February 2, 2012). There can be no mistaking the purpose of this embargo, even as there was none during the very similar embargo of the 1990s. Khartoum intends to destroy the Nuba people, “as such” (to deploy a key phrase from the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide). The ambition has been forcefully described by Alex de Waal:

“The counterinsurgency fought by the Government of Sudan against the rebels of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) in the Nuba Mountains of central Sudan during the early 1990s was not only exceptionally violent, but also aimed at depopulating the area of civilians. Not only did the government aim to defeat the SPLA forces but they also intended a wholesale transformation of Nuba society in such a way that its prior identity was destroyed. The campaign was genocidal in intent and at one point, appeared to be on the brink of success…. The war was notable for attacks on civilian targets with forced displacement, rape and killing. The principal instruments of counterinsurgency included locally-recruited militia, the regular army and the air force, under the overall coordination of Military Intelligence….” (“Averting Genocide in the Nuba Mountains,” 2006) (all emphases in all quotations have been added—ER)

Behind the earlier campaign in the Nuba, behind the “oil war” that raged in much of what was then Western Upper Nile beginning in 1997, behind the genocide in Darfur, and behind the current campaign of annihilation in Blue Nile and South Kordofan lies a deep racism and ethnic intolerance that is a mainstay of the Arabist and Islamist ideology of the NIF/NCP. This characterization has been resisted by some, including political scientist Alan Wolfe, would-be historian Mahmood Mamdani, a number of Europeans, and many northern Sudanese, even those who do not support the regime. But the evidence is overwhelming, and it continues to force itself upon us. The German government, in reflecting on the hateful racial ideology of Nazism, would do well to consider this evidence carefully before going forward with a development conference for the Khartoum regime. To be sure, South Sudan has also been invited; but those leading the popular uprising in the Nuba and Blue Nile—the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-North (SPLM/A-N)—have strenuously urged that Germany reconsider. The reasons are not hard to find.

In a strikingly revealing moment in a recent Agence France-Presse dispatch (January 19, 2013) on the courageous assessment mission of Mukesh Kapila and others to Blue Nile and the Nuba, Kapila is reported as noting the content (not atypical) of Sudanese state-controlled radio. The radio phrasing was, indeed, the most immediate occasion for this brief overview:

“In Blue Nile, where Kapila estimates 450,000 people are affected by the conflict, fields and villages have been razed, he said, and the population is described on Sudanese radio as ‘black plastic bags’ that must be cleared out of the area.”


It should be noted that for having the temerity to refer to the Darfur genocide in blunt and unequivocal terms in March 2004, Kapila lost his job as chief UN humanitarian coordinator for all of Sudan. For as Kapila well knew, the same hateful racial/ethnic animus informed the civilian destruction in Darfur. Even if he did not have access to some of the most damning evidence, he had seen plenty and knew full well what motivated the tidal wave of violence against non-Arab/African tribal groups of the region. What he spoke of in such determined fashion in his March 2004 BBC interview was fully born out by later revelations about the ambitions of Khartoum and its Janjaweed militia allies. In their 2005 book Darfur: A Short History of a Long War, de Waal and Julie Flint point to an extraordinary document:

“The ultimate objective in Darfur is spelled out in an August 2004 directive from [Janjaweed paramount leader Musa] Hilal’s headquarters. ‘Change the demography of Darfur and empty it of African tribes.’”

Of course “emptying Darfur of African tribes” could only be accomplished by the most violently destructive means: thousands of villages destroyed, hundreds of thousands of people killed, and millions displaced—these were the means by which a “changed demography” was achieved. And as de Waal and Flint point out, this was no operation merely of the Arab militias, the Janjaweed, that Khartoum had so heavily armed.

“Confirming the control of [Khartoum’s] Military Intelligence over the Darfur file, the directive is addressed to no fewer than three intelligence services—the Intelligence and Security Department, Military Intelligence and National Security, and the ultra-secret Constructive Security,’ or Amn al Ijabi.” (pp. 38 – 39)

The deep ethnic intolerance, indeed hatred implicit in such ambition is revealed continually in contemporaneous accounts of the racial insults that were hurled during village attacks and particularly in the savage campaign of rape, a campaign that continues to this day. Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) courageously reported on the character of rape in 2005, this on the basis of narratives accumulated during extensive clinical experience. One example from a great many:

“We saw five Arab men who came to us and asked where our husbands were. Then they told us that we should have sex with them. We said no. So they beat and raped us. After they abused us, they told us that now we would have Arab babies; and if they would find any Fur [one of the non-Arab or African tribal groups of Darfur], they would rape them again to change the colour of their children.’ (Three women, 25, 30 and 40, October 2004, West Darfur)” (“The Crushing Burden of Rape: Sexual Violence in Darfur,” (Amsterdam, March 8, 2005).

Such examples are all consistent with the use of rape as a broader weapon of war, one that MSF aptly summarizes:

“Tear apart the community, by breaking family and community bonds and by engaging in ethnic cleansing through ‘pollution’ of the blood line. A key motive of the Janjaweed use of rape as a weapon of war appears to be to destroy the non-Arab Darfurian society as a separate ethnic entity. Reports of rapes are replete with statements made by the Janjaweed perpetrators suggesting their intent to make a ‘free baby’ (implying that the non-Arabs are slaves) and to ‘pollute’ the tribal blood line, which is patrilineal in the Darfurian tribes.” (page 18)

For a variety of reasons, rape serves as a means of preventing births on the part of women within the targeted African groups. Those girls and women raped are often socially ostracized, and become much less valued as potential wives; they may be disowned by their families or husbands; violent rape often leads to medical complications that make further child-bearing impossible or much riskier; and rape often carries the threat of disease and infection, including direct threats to the lives of potential mothers. Rape as committed by Khartoum’s military and proxy forces in Darfur is entirely consistent with the genocidal ambitions that have been in evidence since 2003, and contributes significantly to the current genocide by attrition that has succeeded the most intense phase of violent destruction (2003-05). Here we should recall that the 1948 Genocide Convention explicitly identifies as genocidal those acts that “impos[e] measures intended to prevent births within the group.

Tara Gingerich and Jennifer Leaning also report on the racial/ethnic animus in the accounts of rape coming from non-Arab or African women, accounts that make clear the genocidal nature of these assaults:

“It is widely reported that during the attacks, the Janjaweed often berated the women, calling them slaves [abid], telling them that they would now bear a ‘free child,’ and asserting that they (the perpetrators) are wiping out the non-Arabs.” (“The Use of Rape as a Weapon of War in the Conflict in Darfur, Sudan,” page 15)

In April 2008 Human Rights Watch also issued a starkly damning report on rape as a weapon of war.

“Five years into the armed conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region, women and girls living in displaced persons camps, towns, and rural areas remain extremely vulnerable to sexual violence. Sexual violence continues to occur throughout the region, both in the context of continuing attacks on civilians, and during periods of relative calm. Those responsible are usually men from the Sudanese security forces, militias [i.e., Janjaweed], rebel groups, and former rebel groups, who target women and girls predominantly (but not exclusively) from Fur, Zaghawa, Masalit, Berti, Tunjur, and other non-Arab ethnicities.” (“Five Years on: No Justice for Sexual Violence in Darfur,” April 2008)

Ethnic hostilities had become so pervasive by 2008 that it was incumbent on Human Rights Watch to offer the qualification that appears here about the targets of rape. But the adverb “predominantly” should certainly be “overwhelmingly,” if we are to characterize accurately the data available. The following is typical of the vast majority of reported cases:

“In an example from North Darfur, three armed Arab men reportedly raped a Berti woman and her daughter who were out collecting wood. According to the survivors, the men approached on camels and asked what tribe the women belonged to and whether they had seen any other camels roaming the area. The men pointed their weapons at the women and ordered them to follow them to a nearby village, where they took the mother and daughter into an abandoned hut and proceeded to rape them in turns. During the rape, one said, ‘You Bertis are slaves. Go and tell your men to come meet us.’”

A report from Amnesty International offers many other examples:

“‘I was sleeping when the attack on Disa started. I was taken away by the attackers, they were all in uniforms. They took dozens of other girls and made us walk for three hours. During the day we were beaten and they were telling us: “You, the black women, we will exterminate you, you have no god.” At night we were raped several times. The Arabs guarded us with arms and we were not given food for three days.’” (A female refugee from Disa [Masalit village, West Darfur], interviewed by Amnesty International delegates in Goz Amer camp for Sudanese refugees in Chad, May 2004)”

“‘When we tried to escape they shot more children. They raped women; I saw many cases of Janjawid raping women and girls. They are happy when they rape. They sing when they rape and they tell that we are just slaves and that they can do with us how they wish.’ (A., aged 37, from Mukjar told Amnesty International how the Janjawid had raped and humiliated women)” (Amnesty International, “Sudan, Darfur: Rape as a Weapon of War,” July 19, 2004).

How many women and girls have been raped, and continue to be raped? We will never know for many reasons, but we catch a statistical glimpse in an Associated Press dispatch of 2007:

“UN workers say they registered 2,500 rapes in Darfur in 2006, but believe far more went unreported. The real figure is probably thousands a month, said a UN official. Like other UN personnel and aid workers interviewed, the official insisted on speaking anonymously for fear of being expelled by the government.” (Associated Press [Nyala], May 26, 2007)

We may be morally certain that many tens of thousands of girls and women have been raped because of their ethnicity since 2003.

The Predominance of Racial Contempt in the NIF/NCP

President al-Bashir, in declaring (April 2012) that Sudan was essentially at war with South Sudan, revealingly announced that Khartoum’s military ambition was to destroy the “insect government in Juba.” We have heard such language of racial contempt many times from al-Bashir’s regime; in this instance it is difficult not to recall the infamously ubiquitous calls in Rwanda in 1994 for the destruction of Tutsi “cockroaches.”

“Ethnic culling” of those of Southern ethnic (and religious) heritage who have remained in Sudan has begun, although some of the most extreme measures initially proposed have been temporarily suspended (many of these “Southerners” were of course born in Sudan). But there can be little doubt that life for non-Arabs and non-Muslims will become increasingly untenable in Sudan without regime change (see “Ethnic Culling in Sudan,” February 22, 2012, Dissent Magazine).

To be sure, those in the international community given to expediency will always find it easier to profess skepticism about “ethnic cleansing” and genocide occurring in areas to which neither journalists nor human rights monitors have easy access. The U.S. is particularly guilty on this score, especially in the wake of violence that exploded in South Kordofan in early June 2011. In comments of June 16, 2011—eleven days after the killing began in Kadugli, South Kordofan—U.S. special envoy for Sudan Princeton Lyman claimed that the world “doesn’t have enough information on the ground to call the campaign ‘ethnic cleansing.’”

Lyman did precious little to get the necessary “information,” but contemporaneous reports—from civilians speaking with news organizations and to expatriate groups—should have been both chilling and compelling. The highly reliable Sudan Ecumenical Forum declared in outrage that “[other civilians from Kadugli] have fled to the Nuba Mountains, where they are being hunted down like animals by helicopter gunships.” Nuba were being systematically stopped at checkpoints grimly similar to those once seen in Rwanda. One aid worker who had recently escaped from South Kordofan told McClatchy News, “Those [Nuba] coming in are saying, ‘Whenever they see you are a black person, they kill you.’”

Yet another Nuba resident of Kadugli told Agence France-Presse that he had been informed by a member of the paramilitary Popular Defense Forces that they had been provided plenty of weapons and ammunition, and a standing order: “He said that they had clear instructions: just sweep away the rubbish. If you see a Nuba, just clean it up .… He told me he saw two trucks of people with their hands tied and blindfolded, driving out to where diggers were making holes for graves on the edge of town.”

…just sweep away the rubbish. If you see a Nuba, just clean it up.” There could hardly be a greater congruence with the contents of the Sudanese radio description as reported by Kapila.

But it is not merely rhetoric or racial epithets. As a field report from the Enough Project reports on the basis of on-the-ground research in the Blue Nile region (November 1, 2011):

Some Blue Nile residents also reported that government forces were targeting, killing, and raping civilians…. ‘Soldiers with small arms were chasing the civilians. [Asma] said the militias and government forces did not spare children and pregnant women. ‘It’s all because we are black,’ she said.”

“When asked whether the militias or soldiers said anything to the civilians in their pursuit, Asma said the militias were shouting directions at each other, saying, ‘Grab the slaves.’ Her account was corroborated by Kasmero who, when fleeing from the state capital of Damazine, ran through Um Darfa when fighting began. He said after the SAF attacked the town with helicopter gunships and Antonovs, the “janjaweed” and Fellata began to indiscriminately kill civilians. ‘I saw bodies all the way from Damazine to Ethiopia,’ he said. ‘There is no discrimination, the common theme is you are black.’”

The word “slave” here translates the Arabic abid, which does indeed mean slave—and slavery has left a terrible legacy throughout South Sudan, Blue Nile, and South Kordofan. But the word is racially charged, and has many of the same connotations as the hateful English word “nigger.” This utter contempt for the humanity of the people of Blue Nile, for “Africans,” is reflected in the unsurpassable brutality with which children were treated:

“Aziz, who fled from Baw town, told Enough that government militias—who were sent to bring back those who had fled to the mountains nearby—kidnapped and detained some of the displaced women and young girls in a school. ‘At night they had visitors and they did whatever they wanted with them,” he said, referring to SAF soldiers and government militias. Two young girls were killed as a result of being raped by around 30 men, said Ali, who also fled from Baw and spoke to Enough with Aziz.”

The unwillingness to accept such evidence results in truly extraordinary generalizations by part-time Sudan observers. Alan Wolfe, in excoriating the Darfur advocacy community (and me in particular) has asserted thatthe conflict [in Darfur] has never taken the form of Arabs killing Africans and has not been accompanied by the hate speech associated with Rwanda or the former Yugoslavia.” What are we to make of such outrageously false claims? What lies behind them? For of course there are endless reports of, precisely, “Arabs killing Africans [non-Arabs]” and of such “hate speech,” here selected from just one report by Amnesty International (July 18, 2004):

“Omar al Bashir told us that we should kill all the Nubas. There is no place here for the Negroes any more.(Words of a Janjawid fighter, according to a refugee from Kenyu, interviewed by Amnesty International in Chad, May 2004)

“The Tama, a small ethnic group mainly composed of farmers, have been both victims of attacks and accused several times of siding with the Janjawid in the 2003-2004 conflict: ‘Slaves! Nubas! Do you have a god? You, ugly black pretend… We are your god! Your god is Omer al-Bashir.’” [“Nuba” is another racially derogatory epithet commonly used in Darfur—ER]

You blacks, you have spoilt the country! We are here to burn you…We will kill your husbands and sons and we will sleep with you! You will be our wives!” (The words of members of the Janjawid as reported by a group of Masalit women in Goz Amer refugee camp, interviewed by Amnesty International in May 2004)

“M., a 50-year-old woman from Fur Baranga reported: ‘The village was attacked during the night in October 2003, when the Arabs came by cars and on horses. They saidevery black woman must be killed, even the children.”‘”

Sudanese refugees interviewed by Amnesty International in Chad charged that Salamat nomads from Chad and fighters from Mauritania were recruited to fight in Darfur:

“‘What we heard from the Janjawid is that Omer al-Bashir tells the foreigners that they are Arabs and that they should come and live in a country that is ruled by Arabs. That they should not stay where they are ruled by Africans. They say that Sudan is a country for Arabs.’ (M., Sudanese refugee in Chad, interviewed by Amnesty International in May 2004)”

“‘The government gave the Arabs confidence, arms, cars and horses. We cannot go back; there will be no security for African people in Darfur.’ (Sudanese woman interviewed by Amnesty International in Mile refugee camp, Chad, May 2004)”

“M., a Masalit chief of the village of Disa, reported that during attacks in June 2003 by the Janjawid and in July and August by the military, 63 persons were killed, including his daughter. In June the Janjawid reportedly accused the villagers of being ‘traitors to Omer Hassan Al-Bashir.’ [ ] In July the military arrested several persons including Brahim Siddiq, a seven-year-old boy. In June the Janjawid said during the attack: ‘You are complicit with the opponents, you are Blacks, no Black can stay here, and no Black can stay in Sudan.’ Arab women were accompanying the attackers singing songs in praise of the government and encouraging the attackers. The women said:

‘The blood of the Blacks runs like water, we take their goods and we chase them from our area and our cattle will be in their land. The power of al-Bashir belongs to the Arabs and we will kill you until the end, you Blacks, we have killed your God.’ They also insulted the women from the village saying ‘You are gorillas, you are Black, and you are badly dressed.’”

In some ways, the refusal to acknowledge racist language is a perverse measure of how potent such behavior is and how severely it may be judged. Certainly the data available suggest that such power has been very considerable in Darfur: more than 2 million displaced, some 500,000 dead, and millions more at risk. There is a palpable defensiveness in the intemperate commentary that comes my way from some northern Sudanese (typically anonymously), desperate to insist that there is no ethnic dimension to fighting anywhere in greater Sudan. Here we must wonder whom the German government is listening to.

But the evidence, even as reflected in the excerpts very briefly culled here, is unambiguous. The examples run to the thousands if we look at the reports, news accounts, personal stories, and public statements from Khartoum over the past fifteen years and more. And this is to leave aside the inferences to be drawn from the indiscriminate nature of Khartoum’s conduct of war: relentless aerial bombardment with highly inaccurate, retrofitted Antonov aircraft (cargo planes by design), region-wide aid embargoes and relief restrictions (in South Sudan, Darfur, and Blue Nile and South Kordofan, as well as eastern Sudan), and wholesale destruction of villages, footstocks, livestock, and agricultural capacity.

Like the internally displaced persons of Darfur—overwhelmingly from non-Arab/African tribal groups—those who suffer from this deliberately indiscriminate warfare are also virtually all of African ethnicity. This is true whether we are speaking about the tribal groups that make up the Nuba, the Ingessana and other groups in Blue Nile, the Nilotic and Equatorian tribal groups of South Sudan, or the Fur, Massalit, Zaghawa, Tunjur, and others in Darfur.

The mass graves that have been authoritatively established as having been built in the immediate aftermath of the bloodbath that began in Kadugli on June 5, 2011 should also be an indication of the systematic nature of this ethnically-targeted destruction. So, too, should the forceful removal of some 7,000 Nuba civilians from UN protective custody in June 2011. Nineteen months after Khartoum’s security forces (some disguised as Red Crescent workers) removed these people, in violation of international law, they remain unaccounted for—except implicitly in the grim increase in mass gravesites:

“The United Nations said Tuesday it was concerned about the fate of 7,000 Sudanese civilians last seen being forced by authorities to leave the protection of a UN compound in the tense border region between the North and South.” (Associated Press [Geneva], June 28, 2011)

We have heard nothing more about these people—certainly nothing from Germany or the EU countries that found themselves so shocked by what occurred at Srebrenica. These terrible incidents and the weak UN response in Kadugli have already been likened, rightly, to the ghastly failure of the UN at Srebrenica, where some 7,000 Bosnian men and boys were rounded up in July 1995 by Serbian army and paramilitary units under the command of Ratko Mladic—and executed while Dutch peacekeepers looked on helplessly. Why is the comparison between Kadugli and Srebrenica inappropriate, given the similar response of the (Egyptian-dominated) UN force on the ground?

Germany must confront its past in assessing the decision to host Khartoum

Leaders of the Khartoum regime, including al-Bashir, have been indicted by the International Criminal Court on scores of counts of crimes against humanity and genocide. Many more will eventually be indicted, it is clear—and some of these men plan to attend the Berlin conference. The crimes are unspeakable, but Human Rights Watch provides one instance that may suggest something of the nature of the crimes for which the men in Khartoum must answer:

“In a joint operation in the Darfur region of Sudan, [Khartoum] government troops working with Arab militias detained 136 African men whom the militias massacred hours later. [ ] The 136 men, all members of the Fur ethnic group aged between 20 and 60, were rounded up in early March in two separate sweeps in the Garsila and Mugjir areas in Wadi Saleh [south of Zalingei in West Darfur]. They were then taken in army lorries to nearby valleys where they were made to kneel before being killed with a bullet in the back of the neck.” (Human Rights Watch, April 23, 2004)

A lone survivor, left for dead, was able to escape later that night and tell his story to human rights investigators. Human Rights Watch also makes clear that these actions are those of the Khartoum regime, not simply its Arab militia allies (the Janjaweed)—and that there is a clear racial/ethnic animus in the attacks. Having documented dozens of attacks at the time, Human Rights Watch found that “all but two of the attacks against black Africans were carried out in conjunction with government forces.”

Of course on many occasions, there was no discrimination between men and women, girls and boys. The notorious Janjaweed leader Musa Hilal is reported to have overseen this particular attack on African tribespeople in North Darfur:

“In an attack on 27 February [2004] in the Tawilah area of northern Darfur, 30 villages were burned to the ground, over 200 people killed and over 200 girls and women raped—some by up to 14 assailants and in front of their fathers who were later killed. A further 150 women and 200 children were abducted.” (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks, March 22, 2004)

And when even these means of extermination proved insufficient, the regime resorted to a war of attrition against international humanitarian relief efforts in Darfur, expelling in March 2009 thirteen key international nongovernmental aid organizations and shutting down three important Sudanese NGOs. Together they constituted roughly half the overall humanitarian capacity in Darfur; that capacity has never been replaced, and both the reach and capacity of remaining relief organizations has continued to diminish—and expulsions have continued. A mass exodus is a distinct and growing possibility amidst the current extreme violence in all three Darfur states and the climate of total impunity that Khartoum maintains for its militia allies.

Does the German government imagine that this regime has rehabilitated itself? Given what is happening throughout Darfur, Blue Nile, the Nuba Mountains, Abyei, what possible evidence can there be for such change? What grounds are there for believing that development and investment assistance won’t simply provide Khartoum’s génocidaires with a firmer grim on power, power that is in fact slipping away amidst the current economic crisis as popular unrest grows throughout the country?

Why can’t Germany, at the very least, postpone any such conference until full humanitarian access has been secured for the embattled regions of greater Sudan, including Blue Nile, South Kordofan, Darfur, and Abyei? Will the Germans take appropriate note of the fact that Khartoum last year expelled key relief organizations from eastern Sudan on wholly specious charges? And what about the stench of self-interest that attaches to such a conference? German companies are among the very few in Europe that ignore U.S. trade sanctions. Thus, for example, the German engineering group Lahmeyer has just helped to expand a major dam in southeast Sudan on the Blue Nile. Is this conference in the interest of all the people in greater Sudan—or just those with whom Berlin chooses to do business?

Germany of all the countries in Europe should be most wary of accommodating those who would destroy other human beings simply because of their religion or ethnicity. The morally incomprehensible decision to host a development conference for the current regime in Khartoum, under present circumstances, seems a shameful forgetting.



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Kenya: Masquerader as a senior police officer in court

Posted by African Press International on January 22, 2013



The man accused of masquerading as a senior police officer for years will be arraigned afresh in a Naivasha court.

Joshua Karianjahi Waiganjo who is currently detained at Naivasha Court cells will be charged with five counts of obtaining money by pretence from Nairobi.

Waiganjo is expected to appear before Naivasha senior resident magistrate Esther Riany.

According to the charge sheet he will be charged with issuance of several banks cheque knowing that he had insufficient funds in his accounts.





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USA: Unprepared For College

Posted by African Press International on January 22, 2013

“Give it the ol’ college try.”

We’ve all heard it. Whether from a coach, a parent or other authority figure, the phrase is often used as encouragement when one is faced with a seemingly insurmountable task. It instructs us to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and do our best, even in the face of possible, or even likely, defeat. Lately, the phrase seems all too apt as post-secondary students worldwide are dropping out of school at alarming rates. In fact, a recent study found that one in four freshman in the U.S. do not complete their first year of school, despite giving college a try.

It’s possible that high school students simply do not have a realistic idea of what college is actually like. Although 80% of students graduating high school think they are ready for college once they have their diplomas, the reality does not reflect this confidence. If students base their visions of college on the pop culture representation in movies like Van Wilder or Old School, they are in for a shock when their first week of classes results in the expectation that they will complete two personal essays, an analysis of the role abolitionists played in the Civil War and 140 pages of background reading over the weekend. Highly motivated individuals are able to navigate the initial adjustment to college by tweaking their study habits. But many are not up to this challenge. This is not solely an American phenomenon, either; studies suggest that up to half of all college students drop out of college for various reasons before earning a degree. To put it in perspective, China has a 55.8 percent attainment rate, which measures the percentage of students who complete their degrees, compared to Japan’s 53.7 percent; New Zealand’s 47.3 percent; Ireland’s 43.9 percent; and America’s 40 percent.

Of course, it’s possible that many of these students simply don’t see the point of staying in college. With a record 50 percent of young adults unemployed or underemployed (meaning they either have part-time jobs or jobs for which they are overqualified), more American college graduates are living at home with their parents after school than at any time since 1950.

However, despite such discouraging job statistics, it would be unfair to blame the job market for the ill preparedness displayed by many high school graduates. Consider the following:

  • – At the time of graduation, nine in ten American high school graduates cannot identify Afghanistan on a map of Asia
  • – Three in ten cannot find China—the biggest country in the world—on a globe
  • – Roughly half cannot find New York state on a U.S. map

As a result of these and other findings, more than 2.2 million college freshman must take remedial courses that teach high school material during their first year in college in order to catch up with their peers. Taxpayers shell out $5.6 billion for these remedial courses. To put that figure into perspective, if differently allocated, that money could pay for 175,000 students to attend four years of college.

High school achievement aside, some people argue that the point of college is for students to expand their social and mental horizons rather than to scale new academic heights. Still, while strong arguments can be made for the value of experience over formal education, the bachelor’s degree has become the new high school diploma in many professional circles. Even if students don’t end up pursuing a career in the same field as their major, completing a degree signals to prospective employers that students are hard workers who can finish their commitments.

Students who are currently struggling with school should know that there are many resources available, from reaching out to on-campus advisors, joining study groups and taking advantage of technology to help them study more efficiently through online classes. College is hard work, despite its sometimes-hazy portrayal in pop culture. But it doesn’t have to be impossible, provided students prepare themselves socially and academically for the challenge.

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Ex-migrant workers in Libya, holed up in a camp on the Tunisian side of the border.

Posted by African Press International on January 21, 2013

Sheltering those who fled the violence in Libya

ZARZIS,  – Two years after fleeing the civil war in Libya, hundreds of sub-Saharan African and Arab refugees, most of them ex-migrant workers in Libya, are still holed up in a camp on the Tunisian side of the border.

Choucha camp, 5km inside Tunisia, is run by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and at one time had nearly 20,000 residents, around half of them were Bangladeshis who had been working in Libya when the war started and fled to Tunisia on the way home.

Several thousand residents though were from East Africa, and had no wish to return home. In 2011 and 2012 UNHCR processed 3,543 asylum claims in Choucha; of these, 3,009 persons were recognized as refugees.

The camp now has 1,357 residents (1,145 refugees and asylum seekers, plus 212 classed as migrants after their asylum applications were rejected) from 13 different countries – mainly Somalia, Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Chad – and is set to close in June.

Some 890 camp refugees have already been accepted for resettlement by 14 countries (USA and Norway are the leading hosts) as part of a Global Resettlement Solidarity Initiative launched in 2011 and are awaiting their departure date.

But around 400 refugees from the camp, a few of whom now live in nearby towns, have not yet been accepted by any country and are in limbo (in French).

Choucha has seen violent protests by residents waiting for resettlement.

“Security is terrible here, the refugees are not happy”, a young Chadian man who used to live in the camp

When IRIN tried to visit the camp on 11 January, the road from Zarzis to Ben Gardane (the town on the way to Choucha) was blocked.

The Tunisian army was sent to the area in December after a wave of protests relating to the closure of the border with Libya. The Libyan government decided to close the border after receiving complaints that its citizens were being attacked in Tunisia.

According to local authorities and residents, a large part of the cross-border smuggling trade is run from Ben Gardane, which is close to the camp. Basic products, such as milk, are in high demand in Libya and locals say the trafficking of goods from Tunisia is on the rise.

The border was reopened last week but insecurity in the region makes it a difficult place for refugees to live and humanitarian agencies to work. Aid workers say tension is high.

The recent disturbances blocked UNHCR access to the camp for nearly a week at the beginning of January, with only medical teams being allowed in.

Since the camp was set up in 2011, it has seen protests, fires and two cases of refugees arrested for smuggling arms.

A French researcher who recently visited told IRIN the refugees were living in difficult conditions.

“Security is terrible here, the refugees are not happy”, said a young Chadian man who used to live in the camp.

Closing the camp

The challenge UNHCR faces is closing the camp while not abandoning the remaining 400 residents, most of them young male migrants formerly in Libya who fear that if they return they will be accused of having been pro-Gaddafi mercenaries.

Some of those refugees rejected for resettlement will be integrated locally; first, they will receive financial help for moving, and renting flats in urban areas (Zarzis, Ben Gardeme, Medenine), then vocational training will be offered and microcredit for enterprises, according to Elizabeth Eyster, UNHCR’s deputy representative in Tunis.

“We received a big donation [600,000 euros] from the German government to assist with the local settlement of these 400 refugees in Tunisia”, said Eyster

Their legal status in Tunisia, however, will remain uncertain. They will not be able to have formal jobs or receive any welfare benefits.

Youth employment for Tunisians is already an issue, and those with UNHCR refugee status face uncertain rights because of the lack of a national asylum system – something absent in every country in North Africa.

“Our biggest challenge is the legal status now. A new asylum law was drafted, but it requires political will to be approved and implemented by the government,” said Eyster.

The new Tunisian government, elected in December 2011, is drafting the constitution and only recently scheduled presidential and parliamentary elections for June 2013, after two previous postponements.

There is even less provision for camp residents who have not received refugee status – 214 who saw their asylum applications rejected, and 45 whose asylum applications are still being processed.

The European dream

While the chapter on Libyan civil war refugees may be drawing to a close, the challenge of migration and refugee provision remains an issue for the Tunisian government.

Waiting around at Choucha refugee camp

Aid workers say those refugees from Choucha who have not been resettled may try and illegally cross the Mediterranean Sea.

Close to the Italian coast, Tunisia is a traditional gateway for Africans to Europe.

“My destiny was Europe. I thought I was in Italy when we got here in Tunisia,” said Rahel*, a refugee from Eritrea, who lives near Choucha camp in Zarzis.

Rahel was recognized as a refugee by UNHCR in Tunisia, but she does not want to stay in the country. “I’m finding difficulty to find a job here. People are not bad, but I want to keep [going on] my journey and go to Europe. I want to make money there, have a better life and bring my other children there too,” she explained.

“Boat arrivals are a huge challenge. We are setting up a partnership with the Tunisian Red Crescent for a reception centre and screening of people coming to Tunisia,” Mathilde Tiberghien, a protection officer with UNHCR in Zarzis, told IRIN.

In September, a boat with 154 passengers was rescued by the Tunisian coastguard and 50 people claimed they were refugees. “They were hosted in Zarzis and then moved to Medenine. We didn’t want to take them to Choucha because this was supposed to be a transit camp,” said Tiberghien.

*not her real name




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Crackdown on opposition groups

Posted by African Press International on January 21, 2013

KHARTOUM,  – A number of Sudanese opposition party leaders are in custody following the signing of an accord, dubbed the ‘New Dawn Charter’, under whic h they agreed to overthrow the government of President Omar al-Bashir and institute a federal system of government based on democracy, pluralism and the separation of religion and the state.

The charter, signed in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, on 6 January, calls on parties to work together to topple the regime through either “democratic civil peaceful means” or “revolutionary armed struggle”.Among the signatories are major political opposition parties under the banner of the National Consensus Forces, a coalition of armed opposition groups named the Sudan Revolutionary Front, as well as a number of women’s and youth groups.Upon their arrival in Khartoum, five politicians and activists – Jamal Idris, head of the Nasserite Unionist Party; Nasserite Unionist Party member and women’s rights activist Intisar Al-agli; and Democratic Unionist Party members Abdulrrahim Abdullah, Muhammed Zain Ala’abdeen and Hisham Almufti – were arrested. The government described them as “traitors”.

On 14 January in Khartoum, security officers arrested the chairman of the executive bureau of the opposition National Alliance, Abdul Aziz Khalid, for having signed the New Dawn Charter.

Scathing attacks

Government officials have launched scathing attacks on the accord and its signatories, urging clerics to denounce it in their sermons as the work of unbelievers.

While recently addressing a graduation ceremony of the paramilitary Popular Defence Forces, Sudanese presidential assistant and deputy chairman of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) Nafie Ali Nafie said, “The opposition members are traitors for collaborating with rebels to overthrow the regime and for promising a secular system.”

Labelling the agreement a “false dawn”, he said the government was preparing “a decisive move” against those who signed it.

Media outlets in Sudan have also reported that Vice President Al-Haj Adam Yousif has threatened to prevent opposition parties from conducting their political activities unless they reject the charter.

Opening a new Muslim complex in Gezera State, President Bashir said, “We will not allow any political party involved in a work with the rebels groups to practice politics inside the country.”

Since the arrests and proclamations by the government, a number of opposition politicians have distanced themselves from the accord in hopes of escaping the clampdown.

The arrests have been widely criticized by local opposition and human rights groups as unconstitutional and in violation of the right to free speech. The Coalition of Women Politicians said in a statement, “We… strongly condemn the arrest of Intisar Al-agli, head of the coalition, who was arrested in the night in a public street without regard for the sanctity of Sudanese women.”

The group said in a statement that security officers stopped Al-agli’s car and took her to their offices without giving her a reason for the arrest; the organization is demanding her immediate and unconditional release.

“The escalation methods adopted by the National Congress Party… and his [Bashir’s] quest to undermine and abuse the political opposition were the motives to sign the ‘New Dawn Charter’, according to the opposition leaders,” said a statement by the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information. “The arrest of the partisan leaders without a warrant and without pressing specific charges, in addition to arresting them in unknown place, as well as not guaranteeing their natural rights… are serious violations to the adopted international norms in dealing with the detainees.”

A pattern

The ongoing crackdowns follow earlier restrictions on groups critical of the government. Four civil society groups were shut down in December 2012, including the Sudanese Studies Centre, and the Khatim Adlan Centre for Enlightenment and Human Development. In 2011, the government came under heavy criticism following accusations that security officers had sexually assaulted and tortured protestors who had participated in anti-government demonstrations in Khartoum and other Sudanese cities.

The Confederation of Sudanese Civil Society Organizations and the Campaign for the Defence of Freedom of Expression and Publishing called on the Bashir to intervene for the protection of their rights and to repeal all arbitrary decisions and actions taken against them. In a memo titled “Memorandum on Attacks on Civil Society Organisations”, they also called for the removal of all unlawful restrictions on the media, censorship of the press, confiscation of newspapers and harassment of journalists.

Human Rights Watch has also called on Sudan to “allow independent groups to operate freely and conduct peaceful protests”.

“Sudan should reverse its draconian steps against civil society groups, and international actors should publicly condemn such measures,” Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement on 13 January. “The government-led campaign against Sudanese civil society organizations seems designed to stifle diversity, human rights and dialogue on issues of critical importance, rather than to serve any legitimate purpose.”

aei/kr/rz source


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Fake drug war in Nigeria

Posted by African Press International on January 21, 2013

KANO,  – Pharmaceutical drug-sellers in the northern city of Kano are fighting moves by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFD AC) to close their businesses as it tries to clamp down on counterfeit drug sales in Nigeria.

Most of northern Nigeria’s counterfeit drugs are sold in Kano – the commercial hub of the north – and most of those in Sabon Gari market, where drug traders operate without regulation, according to NAFDAC. Kano’s population of 9.2 million also provides a huge market for pharmaceutical drugs.
“Anyone can go and buy any kind of drug without control or a prescription, with most of them fake drugs sold like vegetables,” said Ibrahim Musa, a doctor at Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital.NAFDAC and Kano State health officials have long accused Sabon Gari traders of running a thriving counterfeit drug business, complete with fake drug warehouses. The most common counterfeit drugs are antibiotics and anti-malarials.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has rated the market Africa’s largest source of fake anti-malarial drugs, according to Ahmed Gana, head of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) in Kano, and a member of the Kano Taskforce on Fake and Sub-standard Drugs. A 2008 WHO study put the incidence of fake anti-malarials in sub-Saharan Africa at 64 percent.

On 31 December 2012, following months of eviction threats, NAFDAC raided the market to force out 650 drug traders they claimed were selling fake drugs, calling on them to register with a regulation agency and set up shop outside the market.

Traders fought back. On 10 December 2012 the National Association of Patent and Propriety Medicines (NAPPMED), which represents 5,000 traders, took out a one-week restraining order from the Federal High Court stopping the government from forcing them out. Though this expired on 18 December, NAPPMED claims the judge did not turn up to the hearing so the restraining order still stands.

On 8 January 2013 “we resolved to reopen our shops because of advice from our lawyers,” Hussein Labaran Zakari, Kano State chairman of NAPPMED, told IRIN.

“Although there are unscrupulous traders that engage in the sale of fake drugs… you cannot punish an entire group over the fault of a few bad apples,” Zakari said.

Stronger penalties

Nigerian law stipulates 5-15 years imprisonment and a fine of up to 500,000 naira (US$3,125) for selling counterfeit drugs.

But NAFDAC Director-General Paul Orhii said in June 2012 that the organization was sending a bill to the National Assembly prescribing life sentences for counterfeiters, saying the current penalties were not a strong enough deterrent.

In the last three years 52 counterfeiters have been convicted, and 108 cases are still in court, according to Abubakar Jimoh, spokesperson for NAFDAC. However, none of the 52 prisoners have served more than a five-year term.


The government is gradually making progress against the trade, says Jimoh. In 2001 in Nigeria, the proportion of drugs for sale that were fake was over 40 percent, shrinking to 16.7 percent in 2005 following a relentless push by NAFDAC. Since then, the proportion has incrementally declined, according to Jimoh.

The Kano task force was re-invigorated by the state government in January 2012 and since then has confiscated fake drugs worth $6.25 million.

In 2010 NAFDAC introduced TruScan technology at airports and border posts that can analyse the chemical composition of drugs through the interaction of light and molecular bonds, and conducts unscheduled inspections across markets such as Sabon Gari.

A “Mobile Authentication System” was also recently introduced, whereby consumers can authenticate drugs by sending a text message to NAFDAC, using the code on the packet.


Musa said a recent sharp rise in kidney and liver-related diseases could be linked to fake drug consumption, though there has been no study on the correlation. “Drugs are generally toxic and can do damage to vital body organs if misapplied or abused, even if they are genuine… Taking more of less than the recommended dose can have adverse effects. The situation is worse with fake drugs,” he added.

Resistance can also build up when fake or sub-standard drugs are administered. According to the taskforce chairman Ali Adamu, counterfeit drugs sold may contain one-tenth of the standard constituents “because the traders’ sole purpose is to maximize profits”.

“We recently raided a warehouse where we arrested people filling capsules with maize flour which they sell to the public as antibiotics. We also confiscated vials of chloroquine and analgin [the former used for the treatment of malaria, the latter a painkiller] which turned out to be ordinary water,” said Adamu.

Half of Nigeria’s drugs come from China and India.

Many drug traders travel to China to produce fake drugs, and smuggle them into Nigeria through Niger and Benin. Drug traders also repackage expired drugs sourced from neighbouring countries, to sell on, according to Gana.

The market remains large as fake drugs are comparatively cheap, said Ibrahim Bashir, who runs a pharmacy in Kano. Local drug companies find it hard to compete, with many closing each year, or relocating to the south.

The only sustainable way to stem the illegal trade from abroad is to boost local production, says NAFDAC, which proposed a US$1.25 billion Pharmaceutical Industry Bill to strengthen local drug companies. The move would provide 250,000 jobs, estimates Jimoh.


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