Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A prayer for us all in these times of joy and hunger


To my friends, my enemies, to all those to whom I owe one and those who owe me one, to the broke and the rich, the ordinary, unremarkable people of this country and to the rich and the famous, to all drunks and prostitutes of the Republic of Kenya, to all thieves and murderers, to the august House, which would muzzle the Press, and his Excellency the Presido, who might not allow it, to Dr Bitange Ndemo and Mr Samuel Poghisio, the enemies-in-chief of freedom, to all officers, men and women of the armed forces, those serving abroad and those here at home, just wearing cheap Chinese boots, to intelligence officers, spies, their bosses, and all those who look through keyholes to keep our country safe, to all men and women of goodwill and bad will, the public-spirited, kind ones and the home wreckers, fornicators, adulterers and rapists, to the child murderers, the arsonists, the ethnic chauvinists, to the corruption barons who have stolen our maize and caused untold misery and hunger, to the corrupt politicians of all ages whose activities have undermined the capacity of our military to fight and are gnawing away at the intestines of our economy, to the cowards who cover their asses and never stand for anything, to the men and women of stout heart who stood for the truth and now live in abject poverty, to all the con men who have cheated me this year, to the generous people of this land who helped those who stood in need of help, to those weak-kneed men who are sat on by their wives, the bad wives who sit on their husbands, the good husbands who sit on their wives, the average ones who take turns sitting on each other, the hopeless bastards who father children but do not care for them and the equally hopeless women who fall for their wiles, to the beautiful children of this country to whom we owe a decent future, to the men and women in jail and those who are hired to oppress them, to all policemen, drunk or sober, clever, or as is more common, idiotic, out hunting the bribe or gunning down a thug or some innocent bloke, to all the matatu drivers who make our lives such hell and those of their passengers short, to the fathers of City Hole who have no brains and exist to rob us, to charismatic preachers extorting money from silly housewives and the good pastors who minister to the millions, to Aids patients who are lonely and betrayed by their loved ones, to caring relatives who mind the weak and infirm, to orphans, widows and the happily married, to those who can’t conceive and those who can, to all women of Kenya who have big bottoms and those who have small ones, to the real men of my native land and the metrosexual wimps who change nappies for a living, the beautiful ones and the not-so-beautiful ones, the virtuous and the perverts, to all my beloved countrymen, season’s greetings in the name of the Holy Black Lip.

We’ve had such a lousy year that, Heaven knows, we need a break from our goodness and badness. You know, if I were Alice in Wonderland, I would ask all the bad, bad people to be good people next year so that we can all have an easier time.

But I am not, and they won’t. So we will have to come back, pick up the cudgels and fight on. For some strange reason, the deity in my mother-tongue is referred to as what would translate as the Black Lip.

Let us pray. Let’s throw ourselves on our knees and ask for salvation from our avaricious politicians, murderous neighbours and our lascivious rivals.

A mixed bag
Dear Black Lip, we come to your presence on this important date, a mixed bag of good and bad people. I’d love to be able to say that there ar more good people than bad people, or that the good people are equal to the bad people, but I am a journalist. I can’t.

We all want to be rich without having to work for it, which makes us terrible people, but we also want peace and security for our country. We want fairness and justice, even for the guys who are broke and can’t afford to buy magistrates and cops or the Sh52 posho for Christmas.

There are a thousand things to pray for, but we shall just present the most urgent ones.

First, we’d like to pray for our great leaders, His Excellency the Presido and the other one who has just been elected in a Kanu election, where the result was fixed beforehand. Don’t give them wisdom, it will only encourage them to become wajuaji (know-it-alls). But do give them courage.

For Mr Kibaki to remove his shoe and throw it at the corrupt ones who have stolen our maize.

For Mr Odinga to stamp out the rebellions and small power centres in his party, which will likely render him useless to the country. Give him the courage to grab someone by the neck, put his boot on their backside and throw them out of the party so that he can get on with the business of reform.

Give the killers in the ethnic clashes the courage to face the tribunal — and the consequences of their actions — with calm dignity, and not to wail like women at the prospect of jail.

To General Jeremiah Kianga, the wisdom to buy new trucks and good boots for our soldiers and the courage to send Navy missile boats off the coast of Somalia with orders to shoot first and waterboard the survivors later.

To John Michuki, the wisdom to leave M-Pesa alone.

Enough brains
To all Kenyans, just enough brains to realise that flashy young men with a Kanu past, glib talk and unsubstantiated allegations are not heroes; they are the villains and thieves: we should only elect rich old men who have stolen enough.

Dear Black Lip, this one you must grant us even if you deny us all others:

Let there be food on every table and a present for every child, even if it is a home-made toy, this Christmas Day.

And let all the saints (and perverts) say Amen.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Reactions to the shoe throwing affair...

• "I think we all understand the impulse. I've been throwing my shoes at him for years (whenever he comes on my TV)."

• "Never judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes. Because then he'll be barefoot and you'll be a mile away. At which point, feel free to judge."

• "In actual fact, Bush grabbed a small child and held him up as a shield after the first shoe was hurled."

• "I saw it on TV and thought, now that's poetic justice."

• "Who owns the shoes? I'll pay one million dollars!"

• "I'm not in or near DC, but maybe we could get sympathy shoe-flingings in other places around the world? A lot of people here have greatly appreciated Mr Zaidi's actions."

• "I would like to suggest that we make Bush's last day in office an 'International Throw Your Shoe Day'. Perhaps someone would like to step up and organize a flash mob of shoe throwing outside the White House? Someone with more time on their hands then me?"

• "I went to a Green Day concert in the mid-90s in Toronto and several people threw their shoes onstage. One hit lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong. He played out the rest of the song, pointed to someone in the crowd, and exclaimed 'You! Up on stage right now! You play an instrument?' 'Dude...yeah, drums.' The band shuffled around, sat the guy at the kit, and they all played a song together. Then the footwear-flinging fellow stood up, took a bow, rubbed one of the members on the head, and dove into the crowd. 2 weeks later, Oasis cancelled their Toronto show after about 20 minutes due to flying shoes. They flipped off the crowd and walked offstage.What a complex gesture shoe-throwing is! Maybe I'll give it a try myself. You know, throw a few shoes around, see what sticks."

• "I love it: 'This is a gift from the Iraqis; this is the farewell kiss, you dog!' "

etc etc...

Monday, December 15, 2008

It's protest season in Kenya.


Protests over attempts to muzzle the media, rising food prices and failure by MPs to pay taxes forced the President to cut short his speech during Friday’s Jamhuri Day celebrations.

Four television and radio personalities were among 53 people who were arrested by police in day-long protests in parts of the country.

QFM radio morning show presenter Walter Mong’are popularly known as “Nyambane”, Kiss FM’s Carolyne Mutoko, Larry Asego and Felix Odiwuor Kodhe (Jalang’o) were held by police for more than six hours before they were released.

Mr Mong’are was wrestled to the ground and kicked by senior police officers as he made his way into the stadium dressed in clothes resembling those worn by prisoners to symbolise impending imprisonment of media if a Bill passed by Parliament on Wednesday is signed into law. Those arrested were first held at Langata, Buruburu, Gigiri and Nyayo Stadium police stations. Mr Mong’are and Mr Frederick Odhiambo of Bunge la Mwananchi lobby were moved to Nairobi area police headquarters.

In Mombasa, journalists covering the celebrations had tape strapped around the mouth as a way of protesting the law allowing a government-appointed commission to determine broadcast content, and giving the Minister for Internal Security powers to raid media houses. Ms Mutoko was arrested as she arrived at Nyayo Stadium dressed in a black T-Shirt with the inscription “No Tax, No Tax utado? (What will you do)?”.

Presidential security officers descended on Mr Odhiambo after he shot up from his sit and started shouting. He was sitting about 10 metres behind the President and it is not clear how he got entry into the VIP dais. President Kibaki who presided over the ceremony was forced to cut short his speech after Mr Odhiambo caused a stir.

The Head of State had just started giving his off the cuff speech in Kiswahili when Mr Odhiambo suddenly started shouting. Shortly before the incident, an angry President who had apparently been appalled by heckles and shouts of ‘njaa, njaa tunaka chakula na MPs walipe ushuru’, (hunger, hunger, we want food and MPs must pay taxes) had said: “Wapigane wale wanataka kupigana.” (Let those who want to fight do so). The President had made the remarks after a section of the crowd shouted at him when he started giving his Kiswahili speech. However, the crowd was silent when he was delivering his Jamhuri Day message to the Nation in English.

At the dais, the VIPs appeared shocked by Mr Odhiambo’s protest. Those who sat near him had started to walk away. Others watched in horror as the security agents wrestled him covering his mouth while struggling to eject him from area. The President, First Lady, Lucy, Prime minister Raila Odinga and Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka immediately left the podium with other VIPs in tow.

A similar incident had taken place during the entertainments when comedian Walter Mong’are attempted to access the podium. But the security forces swiftly arrested him and led him away. Even before the ceremony to mark the 45 years of independence had started, the mood at the Nyayo National Stadium was gloomy as police had arrested several members of the civil society. They were seized before they entered the venue since they had earlier issued a warning that they would lead the crowd in protesting against raising costs of food prices. They also wanted the crowd to stage demonstration to protest move by Members of Parliament not to pay taxes.

President Kibaki got a lukewarm response from the crowd as he waved around the stadium on his ceremonial Land Rover. A few people responded “we are hungry” to Mr Odinga’s greetings. He told the crowd that prices of maize flour will be reduced next week. Mr Musyoka had encountered the same fate.

However, there was silence throughout President Kibaki’s main speech where he dealt mainly on the Government’s plans to address the current food shortage. He said that the country must come up with policies that cushion the poor against the growing economic crisis. And he noted that though the global financial crisis had its origin in the West, it had serious implications on the country’s economy and well-being of Kenyans. The high cost of living in the country has generated a lot of concern and outrage from wananchi with prices of basic commodities rising beyond the reach of most Kenyans. “We are also putting in place measures to increase food production and ensure sustained national food security,” said President Kibaki. The President also sent a warning to businesses that are pushing prices upwards at the expense of the poor. He said that the Government had a duty to protect the right of Kenyans to meet their food requirements without impediments.

However, despite his pro-poor policy pronouncements, President Kibaki did not address the issue of taxation of constitutional office holders that has caused an outcry. The recently passed Communications Bill that gives the State too much control on the running of the country’s media did not feature in the President’s speech. But he touched on the high cost of energy, noting that the Energy Regulatory Commission will engage stake holders in the sector with a view to implementing limited regulation of oil prices so that the local fuel costs reflect international movement in energy costs.

The President noted that the country would only achieve an economic growth rate of 4.5 per cent as compared to seven per cent the previous year due to the serious challenges arising from the current global financial instability and high prices of food and fuel. “The challenges facing the global economy underscore the need for us to carefully manage available resources to safeguard the investments we have made, especially in infrastructure and human development,” he added. President Kibaki had a good message for smallholder farmers. The Government, he said had purchased more than 100,000 tonnes of fertiliser. This would reduce prices of the commodity by one third.

Besides, the Government will also provide the farmers with affordable certified seeds.

And from January, the Head of State announced that the Government will provide tuition subsidies for students in youth polytechnics to boost enrolment and ease the burden on parents.

Kibaki booed off podium at Independence Day celebrations


Kenya's President Mwai Kibaki was heckled and forced to end his independence day speech after a crowd booed him when a protester was arrested.
The man was dragged away from the stands of Nairobi's Nyayo Stadium by security agents after trying to hand the president a protest note. Police say more than 20 other people were arrested over the protests. They were angry at the refusal of MPs to pay tax and a new media bill, which critics say will gag the press. Protestors including civil rights activists and journalists, wore black T-shirts with slogans printed on them. Thousands of people who attended Kenya's 45th Independence Day celebrations on Friday shouted in protest against rising food prices. Police spokesman Eric Kiraithe said the activists were arrested for trying to disrupt a national day.

Human rights activist Philo Ikonya said that the protest was to show the country's leaders that Kenyans have had enough. "Every day something is happening that is just showing insensitivity on the part of the leaders so there is general discontent," she said. A section of the crowd carried red cards and lifted them up when President Kibaki started speaking, she said.

The protestors slammed the new media bill passed by parliament on Wednesday, which gives the state power to raid media houses and control broadcast content. The new media bill has sparked outrage with newspapers carrying
 screaming headlines condemning the new law. Radio and television stations have also devoted plenty of airtime to the campaign, urging the president to reject the bill. Ms Ikonya said the activists had planned to peacefully join in the Independence Day celebrations and register their discontent through the messages printed on their clothing. Walter Mong'are, a popular radio comedian, dressed in an outfit resembling prison garb, was also forcibly removed from the stadium by security officers. Footage of the officers gagging the activists and roughing them up was broadcast live on television stations which were covering the celebrations. Many Kenyans are upset about the cost of the power-sharing government set up to end post-election violence earlier this year. The cabinet of 40 ministers and 52 assistant ministers is the biggest in Kenya's history.

Mr Speaker, your members have lost their marbles


My MP, Mr Gitobu Imanyara was in the chair when Parliament passed a law to gag me, destroy my employer and hand over this beautiful land to the Mugabes who sit in the House.

I am not very conversant with Mr Imanyara’s politics today, but he is a man whose strength of conviction I have a lot of respect for. Let me tell you the whole story.

When I was a student, I gravitated, naturally, to the left. I used to hang around Mr Imanyara’s chambers at Tumaini House, doing odd writing and editing jobs and occasionally seeing from a distance the most radioactive dissidents of the day: Mr Paul Muite, Mr Raila Odinga, Mwalimu Mukaru Ng’ang’a, Dr Richard Leakey, Dr Gibson Kamau Kuria and so on.

Many years later when Dr Leakey was wheel-chaired into the House, a white man in a black man’s parliament, as a nominated MP for Safina, I was so proud I could have cried.

Anyway, one Friday, when I went to inform Mr Imanyara that I would not be hanging around any more because I was going to the Nation on attachment, he made me a deal. He offered me a job on the Nairobi Law Monthly, as its editor no less, and on a very generous salary.

I was a little taken aback and very flattered. First, I was all of 25 years and secondly, I was not a lawyer. I took the job, and I have never regretted because Mr Imanyara taught me many things they don’t teach you in journalism school.

He was a very impressive guy, Mr Imanyara. Like most dissidents in those days, the Moi regime had put him and his family through hell.

He had been detained without detention and tortured. But he still fought on — in the courts and with his pen — relentlessly. I remember when multiparty activists were arrested and sent to their home districts for trial, I and many university students flocked to the courts to offer moral support.

As he was bundled out of court, Mr Imanyara, defiantly flashed the two-finger salute which I thought was very brave at a time when Kanu politicians were urging their supporters to cut off the fingers of anyone who did not wag the Kanu sign.

At the Nairobi Law Monthly, the product was often mopped up in the streets by government agents. At one time, they invaded and vandalised the printing press, so few would touch us. We used to print it secretly. Many times Mr Imanyara had a tail.

In the midst of all these efforts to disorganise him, he never let up. I had been trained that a journalist’s first responsibility was to be circumspect, that a reporter in jail was of no use to his paper. At the Nairobi Law Monthly, that was not really a concern.

Mr Imanyara would write a particularly hostile editorial, or choose a particularly belligerent article and my cautious editorial instincts would kick in.

“Mutuma, they are wrong,” he would say with absolute certainty. And I learnt that the purpose of a journalist is to fight wrong, no matter the consequences.

Our offices were a point of call for Kenyans seeking justice. We took up campaigns that other organisations had given up on, for MPs who had been barred from contesting and old ladies who had been conned of their property.

We listened to and wrote up the stories of people no one else would listen to. I learnt that the purpose of journalism was to speak on behalf the weak.

I learnt that the most important thing about a human being is his rights and his dignity and that these things were the essence of life, that there can be no life without them. That a human being without his rights is not human, he is dehumanised.

There was something at the Nairobi Law Monthly which imparted an indelible ideology of human rights activism to all those young people who passed through.

Mutuma Rutere went on to become a human rights scholar and now works for the Kenya Human Rights Commission, David Makali is practising and campaigning for media rights, others work for various international rights organisations.

So I thought that it was quite ironical that this icon of the human rights movement chaired the session of the House which passed a law that the entire journalism fraternity, to which he has more of a claim than any other member of that House, regards as a violation of its rights and those of other Kenyans.

I think Mr Imanyara would have no respect for me as a journalist and as a man if I did not express myself plainly and honestly about this law.

I think it is a bad law, written by fools. I think it violates civil liberties using the oldest excuses in the history of dictatorship, obscenity and national security.

I am therefore going to fight it.

I think Parliament has lost its marbles. It has been taken over by transient interests and corruption, it is largely uncritical of the motives and intentions of the people who have control of its agenda and it is more concerned with the welfare of individual members rather than those of the nation.

This whole thing is being driven by people who have not felt the sting of a violated right, people who were teaching theory at a safe campus when others were feeling the bite of tear gas.

It is a stupid law because it pretends to assume that the government will act in good faith, politicians never act in good faith. Politicians always act in self interest.

There are some people in government who assume that there is an unlimited amount of money in the Treasury. They also assume that money rains on the Treasury from the clouds above.

These same people think they have a natural right to power and that when they oppress other Kenyans that somehow is “good” oppression because their intentions are allegedly “noble”. It isn’t: All oppression exists for one reason: to be fought and resisted.

If the MPs now attempting to oppress us are themselves oppressed, I will be the first to run to their defence.

That’s my job.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

President Khama castigates Tawana

President Ian Khama has castigated Botswana's representative in Big Brother Africa III, Tawana Lebani, for her "insatiable appetite for sex".

Khama said Tawana has disgraced the country. "O digile leina larona le flaga yarona. (She has the disgraced us as a nation), he said during World AIDS Day commemorations in Selebi-Phikwe. He added that Tawana had let the country down and her actions are detrimental to a country fighting a high HIV prevalence rate.Tawana received widespread criticism for her lurid and brazen sexual acts with two housemates from Angola and Zimbabwe.She later declared her love for sex, which was met with further derision, attracting a barrage of criticism from the rest of the continent, with some questioning Botswana's morals.

Khama urged the nation to re-energise and strengthen efforts to fight HIV/AIDS. He said it was appropriate that this year's World AIDS Day commemorations were held in Selebi-Phikwe and the Bobirwa Sub District as they have a high prevalence rate. Khama said there is an urgent need for behaviour change to stop further infections in Selebi-Phikwe and Bobirwa. "I challenge these districts to do all in their power to provide leadership in behavioural change and lower the current infection rates," he said. He challenged people to change their behaviour in order to prevent new infections.The President said despite the nation spending P1.4 billion in 2007 on the pandemic, no amount of money can compensate for the need for greater commitment.

He said the government will continue to vary strategies in the battle against the scourge in order to strengthen response. "It is against this backdrop (as one of the strategies) that I take a firm and clear position against alcohol consumption in this country," Khama said. He added that people who drink heavily are at a higher risk of engaging in unprotected sex than those who drink less. He asserted that risky behaviour is the main cause of the spread of the virus. "Therefore, it would be irresponsible for us to fold our arms and watch as many of our beloved ones go to their graves prematurely," Khama said. He stated that there is need to adopt HIV prevention strategies that integrate alcohol and substance abuse into the national response.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Boyz II Men cancel Kampala concert

American R&B stars and four time Grammy Award winners Boyz II Men won’t be performing in Kampala tomorrow as widely expected.
One of their members, the silky smooth voiced Shawn Patrick Stockman is reportedly sick. Boyz II Men were supposed to perform in a concert dubbed "Biggest Concert Ever" tomorrow at the Lugogo Cricket Oval. Alongside the iconic trio, ballad crooner Joe and Jamaican heavyweights Tanto Metro & Devonte and Tanya Stephens were also scheduled to perform. Halima Namakula, the No-End Entertainment boss, revealed that Shawn had lost his voice after performing under severe winter conditions in the United States.

“These guys perform live, they are not like most Ugandan musicians who perform with back-up music like your average Bebe Cool or Bobi Wine. And when their vocal cords are not working properly, they cannot put up a good show,” Halima said. She apologised before adding that foreign musicians take their health very seriously and won’t perform when they are not 100%. “Trust me, these guys are so delicate. If it was a Ugandan artist, he would still have performed despite the illness,” a clearly crestfallen Halima added. “Yes, Boyz II Men are big and well known artists, and most people bought tickets because of them, but wait a minute; Joe is equally big and when you add Tanya Stephens, Tanto Metro and Devonte to the equation, you still get a great show,” said Hemdee, Halima’s son and CEO of No End Entertainment.

MPs as a national security threat

I do not know who I should be angry at regarding this matter of taxes. Is it the MPs who do not want to pay taxes or government which robs its people through pervasive and high taxes?

Folks, this, put simply, is my creed: I believe in low taxation or in cutting taxes. I believe, good people, that you should have more of the money you earn in your pocket than give it to that alimentary canal called government. I believe in government bending over backwards to reduce poverty and making life bearable, and people waking up believing the day will be good and tomorrow better. I believe in government being tough on crime and the causes of crime.

I believe in government rewarding the people who work hard and who play by the rules as they strive to create wealth and make Kenya a better place for the coming generations. I believe an MP should speak up, stand up and stick up for the ordinary folks who want to make this our country a better place to live in. The MP should mobilise these people towards creating wealth and ensuring that they are not unfairly taxed by the local authorities and or government. I believe that government must not be a burden to the people, but rather a creator of the right atmosphere in which people can create wealth, have the wealth protected while ensuring that the wealthy do not use their wealth to oppress the less endowed.

It is to these laws that I turn for the realisation of these beliefs and, of course, it is to Parliament I look for these laws that will ensure fairness and fair play and reason for us to believe in a better tomorrow. Naturally, I am deeply suspicious of government. Government will look under my bed to find something to tax, and yet government has absolutely no idea the aches of head, heart and mind I go through to earn that money. Naturally, I would want to keep as much of the money I earn as possible, but despite my politics and anathema for pay slip-prying government, I know I must pay tax. Would this be different if I were an MP? I will tell you this straight; I am an increasingly sensitive person. At a time when the price of maize flour is Sh120; at time when the electricity bill has tripled; at a time when City Hall has doubled parking fees; at a time when the water bills are going up and at a time when the President has declared there will be pay increase for workers, people need their MPs to stand up, speak up and stick up for them.

You do not speak up, stand up and stick up for suffering people by declaring that as an MP you will not pay tax.

You do not stand up, speak and stick up for tax-burdened citizens by arm-twisting and blackmailing government into exempting you from paying tax.

Among other things, Kenyans are taxed heavily so that the government may raise revenue to give them services, to meet its obligations to the people. Kenyans are taxed heavily in order that MPs may drive the luxury cars that they do and maintain them. Kenyans are taxed heavily in order that MPs may have loans for houses, be paid constituency allowances, travelling allowances, sitting allowances, entertainment allowances, name them.

It is, may I submit, obscene for people who cause us to be taxed this heavily to exempt themselves from paying tax!

Parliament is peopled by increasingly insensitive MPs. You do not refuse to pay taxes at a time when the people who pay taxes so that you may be honourable and happy are worried stiff about the looming global economic crunch and fear for their jobs and businesses. House Speaker Kenneth Marende buttressed this view when he unapologetically said that those MPs who are offering to pay taxes were doing so out of philanthropy. The Speaker, himself the face of Parliament, put the boot in.

But this time round, MPs may rue the day they exempted themselves from paying tax. I listen to radio. I watch television, I read the print and online newspapers. I also listen to what they call in the Arab world The Street. People stop me and ask me questions. I will tell you this, good people: Kenyans are angry. They are angry with MPs; the same people they elected only 11 months ago. Their mantra is simple - who do we turn to in our hour of need when the people’s watchmen have turned against us?

What happens when the people lose confidence in their elected representatives this early in the life of the Tenth Parliament? Until the House regains this confidence, civil society may use this as an opportunity to regain its lost lustre. Agitation against Parliament will be on the cards as was the case early in the last decade when the Sixth Parliament, the most weak-kneed the country has ever had, was the butt of jokes and derision. Important matters affecting the country were not discussed in Parliament, but in the streets.

Until and unless the Tenth Parliament fights to win over the Kenyan people again, the perception will be entrenched that Parliament is a do-nothing-for-the-people institution peopled by do-everything-for-ourselves MPs. Until and unless the Tenth Parliament levels up with the Kenyan people on the matter of taxes and on the issues of reducing poverty and helping make Kenya a better place for posterity, MPs will come across as people who sought to go to the House to enrich themselves.

Now I know I am angry with Parliament and not this bloated and unwieldy government.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Kibaki shuffles the army

President Kibaki has made far reaching changes to the Kenya Armed Forces.

He has appointed Lieutenant General J K Tuwei Army Commander to replace Lieutenant General A S K Njoroge, who moves to the ministry of Foreign Affairs as an Ambassador. Until his appointment, Tuwei was the Commandant National Defence College.

The President also picked Major General N Mwaniki as Deputy Army Commander. Before his appointment he was a Staff Officer at Defence Headquarters. Lieutenant General J M Mutwii has been appointed Commandant National Defence College to take over from Lieutenant General J K Tuwei. Brigadier M O Oyugi has been promoted to Major General and appointed General Officer Commanding (GOC) Eastern Command. He replaces Major General J Kasaon who moves to National Defence College as Directing Staff. Major General P J Opiyo takes over as Assistant Chief of General Staff (ACGS) in charge of Operations, Planning, Doctrine and Training at Defence Headquarters. Major General E M Sasia is appointed Assistant Chief of General Staff (ACGS) in Charge of Personnel and Logistics at Defence Headquarters. He was Directing Staff at the National Defence College.

2 weeks to go

The rush to pass a law on the tribunal to try post-election violence suspects is on as the Government is left with only 14 days to sign the Bill.

Members of a Cabinet committee seeking ways to implement the recommendations of the Waki Commission met in Nairobi on Wednesday and announced that they were eager to speed up the law that will create a local tribunal before the December 17 deadline set out in the Waki Report on post-election violence. To beat the tight deadline, the sitting hours of Parliament will be extended to ensure that laws are passed on how to implement both the Waki and Kriegler reports.

The two laws will have to be passed by next Thursday as MPs are scheduled to take a Christmas break on December 18. The Kriegler report was compiled after investigations into last December presidential election results which ODM disputed. The committee working on the implementation of the Waki report met under the chairmanship of Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi who said the team will finalise the law by Tuesday and present it to the Cabinet for approval. Other members of the committee are Cabinet ministers Martha Karua, James Orengo, Moses Wetang’ula, Sally Kosgei, Sam Ongeri, William Ruto and Mutula Kilonzo — all members of the Serena negotiating team.According to the Waki timetable, after December 17, the Government will have 45 days within which to set up the local tribunal. This includes the appointment of the three judges in each of the tribunals two chambers; the naming of a prosecutor and setting up a secretariat for the tribunal.

After this, the tribunal must start work within the next 30 days, meaning that it must be sitting by March 1 next year. If this does not happen, a list of 11 suspects believed to have organised or funded the violence will be handed to the International Criminal Court in the Hague. The names of six Cabinet ministers and five MPs are contained in an envelope that was handed over to former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, who mediated talks to end the two months of post-election violence in which 1,133 people were killed and over 300,000 displaced from their homes.

The draft law being proposed to set up the tribunal has been criticised by two MPs, some lawyers and NGO activists. They claim that under the law, the President could still use his powers to grant amnesty to those convicted by the local tribunal. They also claim that there is no safeguard against the Attorney-General using his powers to take over prosecution of cases from the tribunal and terminating them.

The group was reacting to the proposed law which recommends that, those found guilty of organising the violence be jailed for life and be barred from ever holding public office. Sources said the Cabinet committee studied the draft law that would guide the workings of the tribunal, specifically looking at the rights of the suspects and duties of investigators and the prosecutor. Crimes like murder, destruction of property, rape and incitement will have timelines while reform in the police force and merger between the force and the Administration Police will be continuous. They also agreed to streamline the work of the tribunal staff so that their roles don’t conflict with each other. Once the sub-committee agrees on an implementation formula, it will present the draft law to the Cabinet, which will then forward it to Parliament before it goes on recess on December 18.

The committee deliberated at length on the issue of placing suspects under custody during investigations but decided against the move. However, once investigations are completed and suspects are under prosecution by the tribunal they will be placed under police custody. Suspects appearing before the International Criminal Court are normally detained during the hearing of their cases. Besides the six Cabinet ministers and five MPs, there are some public servants said to be in the Waki list of suspects for their acts of commission and omissions at the height of the violence.

During a press briefing, Mr Mudavadi said: “We have made substantial progress on how to proceed on the Waki report. We have another meeting scheduled for Tuesday where we believe we will be able to finalise and report back to Cabinet on the way forward.” The deputy PM said that although it was not an easy process, he was confident the talks will be successfully concluded by Tuesday. The local tribunal could only be in place if MPs agree to pass the law which was being scrutinised by a group of lawyers and a Cabinet sub-committee.

Mr Mudavadi also said the team had fine-tuned the recommendations on the implementation of Kriegler report that proposes an overhaul of the Electoral Commission of Kenya. He said Ms Karua “is going to ensure the Bill is published immediately so that it is ready for discussion by Parliament next week.” The Bill proposes to replace ECK with an Interim Independent Electoral Commission. Apparently the Government started printing the Bill on Wednesday.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Tanzania is proving to be a liability in East African integration


It is time members of the East African Community called Tanzania’s bluff. Our southern neighbour has become a veritable impediment to integration and progress in the region.

Everytime a useful proposal is put forward, it throws a spanner in the works. Kenya, Uganda and the two candidate-members of the Community, Rwanda and Burundi, should simply shrug Tanzania off and forge ahead.

The latest Tanzanian objection is the proposal to allow the use of identity cards when crossing borders instead of the requirement for passports, which relatively few ordinary East Africans have anyway. The effect of the Tanzanian veto is to limit the movement of people about, who in most cases are traders going back and forth. It is difficult to see the logic of Dar es Salaam’s objection. At this rate, the dream of federation by 2013 will remain dead as long as Tanzania is allowed to dictate terms.

Tanzania has for many years been consumed by a large deceit of thinking it is more important than it actually is. Basically, it still lives in a time warp where it is forever harping on its old credentials of being a linchpin of the liberation struggles of southern Africa.

Without doubt this was a historically important role. But the world of today is being shaped not by re-living the progressive glories of the 60s but by learning to adapt to fast-changing economic trends of today.

Regional prosperity depends on the exchange of skills that free movement of peoples and investment across borders allows.

Tanzania is dirt poor, its economy a fraction of Kenya’s. Further, it lacks the dynamism and skills to drive its economy forward at the pace of its neighbours. Even tiny Rwanda has a better capacity than can be said of Tanzania. The latter’s prickly sense of wanting to be alone is sadly misguided. Regional prosperity depends on the exchange of skills that free movement of peoples and investment across borders allows.

It is myopic to think Kenyans who venture into Tanzania are only going to take away Tanzanian jobs and opportunities. They are bringing skills, money and enterprise which they cross-pollinate in Tanzania.

It is also wrong to fear that Kenya’s more developed economy is a threat to Tanzania’s and thus should be kept at bay. That argument flies in the face of all known precedents. Mexico knows the immense benefits it reaps from the North America Free Trade Association (NAFTA) even though its economy can nowhere be compared with the United States’ or Canada’s. Likewise countries like Slovakia or Croatia would not have been clamouring to join the European Union to be in the company of more advanced members like France and Germany.

But the cost-benefit ratio in such situations favours the poorer members.

Of the leaders of the East Africa Community, President Yoweri Museveni is by far the most far-sighted on this question of integration, He is surely right in urging those countries for the idea to go ahead on their own and cast off the laggards. One country cannot and should not be allowed to hold the process of integration hostage. Another leader who is emerging as a real visionary is Rwanda’s President, Mr Paul Kagame. He has already okayed the abolition of work permits for Kenyan professionals going to work there. Kenya too, has agreed on a similar waiver for Rwandan job-seekers.

Kenyans who have been in Tanzania know the great difficulties of getting a local work permit. Working without one in that country is a highly perilous game, as the infamous deportations of Kenyans from there that were carried with utmost malice routinely attest. Tanzania greatly likes to be recognised for her ‘internationalist’ policies, with her leaders spending more time strutting the world than they do in their own country, though the facts show they are quite parochial.

Tanzania's greatly confused posture comes out in its obsession to belong to the Southern African Development Community (SADC). There is probably less of an economic rationale for this fling than there is a political one. Nothing gladdens Tanzania’s heart than to be seen to be close to South Africa.

But things have surely changed since the days of the liberation struggle. Other than a broadly progressive political outlook, the two countries have very little in common.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Deccan Mujahideen claim responsibility for Mumbai slaughter

MUMBAI, India – Teams of gunmen stormed luxury hotels, a popular restaurant, a crowded train station and a Jewish group's headquarters in India's financial capital, killing at least 101 people, taking Westerners hostage and leaving parts of the city under siege Thursday, police said. A group of suspected Muslim militants claimed responsibility.

Police and gunmen were exchanging occasional gunfire at two luxury hotels and dozens of people were believed held hostage or trapped in besieged buildings. Pradeep Indulkar, a senior official at the Maharashtra state Home Ministry said 101 people were killed and 287 injured. Officials said at least eight militants had also been killed since the overnight attacks that targeted at least 10 separate sites began around 9:30 p.m.

Gunmen also seized the Mumbai headquarters of the ultra-orthodox Jewish outreach group Chabad Lubavitch, the New York-based group said. Indian commandos surrounded the building in the morning, and media reports said gunfire was heard from the building. Police loudspeakers declared a curfew around Mumbai's landmark Taj Mahal hotel, and black-clad commandos ran into the building as fresh gunshots rang out from the area, apparently the beginning of an assault on gunmen who had taken hostages in the hotel. Ambulances were seen driving up to the entrance to the hotel and journalists were made to move even further back from the area. Soldiers outside the hotel said forces were moving slowly, from room to room, looking for gunmen and traps.

A series of explosions had rocked the Taj Mahal just after midnight. Screams were heard and black smoke billowed from the century-old edifice on Mumbai's waterfront. Firefighters sprayed water at the blaze and plucked people from balconies with extension ladders. By dawn, the fire was still burning. At the upscale Oberoi hotel soldiers could be seen on the roof of neighboring buildings. A banner hung out of one window read "save us." No one could be seen inside the room from the road. The attackers specifically targeted Britons and Americans at the hotels and restaurant, witnesses said.

Alex Chamberlain, a British citizen who was dining at the Oberoi, told Sky News television that a gunman ushered 30 to 40 people from the restaurant into a stairway and, speaking in Hindi or Urdu, ordered everyone to put up their hands. "They were talking about British and Americans specifically. There was an Italian guy, who, you know, they said: 'Where are you from?" and he said he's from Italy and they said 'fine' and they left him alone. And I thought: 'Fine, they're going to shoot me if they ask me anything — and thank God they didn't," he said. Chamberlain said he managed to slip away as the patrons were forced to walk up stairs, but he thought much of the group was being held hostage. The motive for the onslaught was not immediately clear, but Mumbai has frequently been targeted in terrorist attacks blamed on Islamic extremists, including a series of bombings in July 2006 that killed 187 people.

Mumbai, on the western coast of India overlooking the Arabian Sea, is home to splendid Victorian architecture built during the British Raj and is one of the most populated cities in the world with some 20 million crammed into shantytowns, high rises and crumbling mansions. The Taj Mahal hotel, filled with Oriental carpets, Indian artifacts and alabaster ceilings, overlooks the fabled Gateway of India that commemorated the visit of King George V and Queen Mary.

A spokesman for the Lubavitch movement in New York, Rabbi Zalman Shmotkin, said attackers "stormed the Chabad house" in Mumbai. "It seems that the terrorists commandeered a police vehicle which allowed them easy access to the area of the Chabad house and threw a grenade at a gas pump nearby, blowing it up," he said, citing a variety of sources. He said he did not know the status of occupants of the house, which serves as an educational center and a synagogue.

Early Thursday, state home secretary Bipin Shrimali said four suspects had been killed in two incidents in Mumbai when they tried to flee in cars, and Roy said four more gunmen were killed at the Taj Mahal. State Home Minister R.R. Patil said nine more were arrested. They declined to provide any further details. "We're going to catch them dead or alive," Patil told reporters. "An attack on Mumbai is an attack on the rest of the country."

The attackers specifically targeted Britons and Americans.

An Indian media report said a previously unknown group calling itself the Deccan Mujahideen had claimed responsibility for the attacks in e-mails to several media outlets. There was no way to verify that claim.

The state government ordered schools and colleges and the Bombay Stock Exchange closed Thursday. Police reported hostages being held at the Taj Mahal and Oberoi hotels, two of the best-known upscale destinations in this crowded but wealthy city.

Gunmen who burst into the Taj "were targeting foreigners. They kept shouting: 'Who has U.S. or U.K. passports?'" said Ashok Patel, a British citizen who fled from the hotel. Authorities believed up to 15 foreigners were hostages at the Taj Mahal hotel, said Anees Ahmed, a top state official. It was also unclear where the hostages were in the Taj Mahal, which is divided into an older wing, which was in flames, and a modern tower that was not on fire. 

State Department spokesman Robert Wood said U.S. officials were not aware of any American casualties, but were still checking. He said he could not address reports that Westerners might be among the hostages. "We condemn these attacks and the loss of innocent life," White House spokesman Tony Fratto said.

Officials at Bombay Hospital, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a Japanese man had died there and nine Europeans had been admitted, three of them in critical condition with gunshots. All had come from the Taj Mahal, the officials said.

At least three top Indian police officers — including the chief of the anti-terror squad — were among those killed, said Roy.

Blood smeared the floor of the Chhatrapati Shivaji rail station, where attackers sprayed bullets into the crowded terminal. Nasim Inam's hands shook when he spoke of seeing four attackers gunning down commuters as they walked to catch late trains home. "They wore black T-shirts and blue jeans. They were carrying big guns," said Inam. "They just fired randomly at people and then ran away. In seconds, people fell to the ground."

Other gunmen attacked Leopold's restaurant, a landmark popular with foreigners, and the police headquarters in southern Mumbai, the area where most of the attacks took place. The restaurant was riddled with bullet holes and there was blood on the floor and shoes left by fleeing customers. Gunmen also attacked Cama and Albless Hospital and G.T. Hospital, though it was not immediately clear if anyone was killed.

Early Thursday, several European lawmakers were among people who barricaded themselves inside the Taj, a century-old seaside hotel complex and one of the city's best-known destinations. "I was in the main lobby and there was all of a sudden a lot of firing outside," said Sajjad Karim, part of a delegation of European lawmakers visiting Mumbai ahead of a European Union-India summit. As he turned to get away, "all of a sudden another gunmen appeared in front of us, carrying machine gun-type weapons. And he just started firing at us ... I just turned and ran in the opposite direction," he told The Associated Press over his mobile phone. Hours later, Karim remained holed up in a hotel restaurant, unsure if it was safe to come out.

India has been wracked by bomb attacks the past three years, which police blame on Muslim militants intent on destabilizing this largely Hindu country. Nearly 700 people have died. Since May a militant group calling itself the Indian Mujahideen has taken credit for a string of blasts that killed more than 130 people. The most recent was in September, when explosions struck a park and crowded shopping areas in the capital, New Delhi, killing 21 people and wounding about 100.

Relations between Hindus, who make up more than 80 percent of India's 1 billion population, and Muslims, who make up about 14 percent, have sporadically erupted into bouts of sectarian violence since British-ruled India was split into independent India and Pakistan in 1947.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Force Mugabe out, says Botswana

Botswana has urged Zimbabwe's neighbours to squeeze President Robert Mugabe out of power to end the political and economic crisis.

In the toughest language yet from a state in the region, Botswana's foreign minister, Phandu Skelemani, called on the 15-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) to confront Mugabe. He said Mugabe would not last if Zimbabwe's neighbours closed their borders and completely isolated him. "If no petrol went in for a week, he can't last," Skelemani told the BBC's HARDtalk programme, broadcast on Wednesday.

SADC has failed to persuade Mugabe and the opposition to implement an outline power-sharing deal signed in September, widely seen as the best hope for Zimbabwe's ruined economy. At new talks that began on Tuesday, Zimbabwe's opposition vowed to resist any compromise that would leave it sidelined in a unity government with Mugabe's ZANU-PF party.

Botswana's president, Ian Khama, has emerged as one of Mugabe's harshest critics in Africa.

Negotiators from ZANU-PF, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and a breakaway MDC faction were hoping to reach a breakthrough in talks with mediator Thabo Mbeki in South Africa on a draft constitutional amendment. The amendment would allow a new government to be formed under the power-sharing deal with MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai as prime minister, but the parties are still arguing over the wording and about who should control which ministries. Skelemani expressed little confidence in mediation, saying SADC should "own up" and admit it had failed, and that it was time for strong action.

Botswana's president, Ian Khama, has emerged as one of Mugabe's harshest critics in Africa. Mugabe's government has accused Khama of interference and said his call for fresh elections was an "act of extreme provocation". Zambia has also been highly critical of Mugabe.

Skelemani said Botswana would be willing to shelter Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the main opposition MDC -- a position that is likely to anger Mugabe, in power since 1980. "Anybody who comes to Botswana saying that they fear for their life, from their own country, we would not chase them away because, if we did, what do we want to happen? For them to be killed first? And then do what?" Skelemani said.

In a report issued by his Atlanta-based Carter Center, former U.S. president Jimmy Carter accused Mugabe of refusing to share real power with the opposition and said Zimbabwe might become a failed state if he did not change course. "Now, after almost three decades of governmental corruption, mismanagement and oppression, Zimbabwe has become a basket case, an embarrassment to the region and a focus of international concern and condemnation," the Nobel laureate said. "When it is impossible to pay the army and the enormous civil service, the result may be a resort to internecine violence in what could become a failed state, similar to Somalia."

Carter, former U.N. secretary general Kofi Annan and human rights activist Graca Machel, part of a group called the Elders, were barred from entering Zimbabwe last weekend on a humanitarian visit. Mugabe's government denied them visas, saying the visit was unnecessary.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

How not to treat my African relatives and other stories


As a man of deep religious faith blah blah blah, I know I should be forgiving and what-not. But, try as I might, I never could forgive poor or rude service. Never. I may not make a scene, but I will never be back.

That is why I have been thinking about my insurance broker and a respectable insurance company that have been treating me, a well-paying customer, like dog droppings. But my own experience is trumped by that of a close and influential relative who travelled to Cape Town in the past week on South African Airways...

My relative had made the usual mistake of buying a budget ticket, the cheap ones which are non-transferable, can’t change travel date and you are stuck at the rear of the livestock section, where the seats still have ashtrays and retain the aroma of rotten tobacco.

IF YOU ARE EXPECTING, YOU HAVE TO keep tucking your pregnancy safely away from people rushing to the toilet next door. And when they open the door after their ablutions, something reaches out from the belly of the plane and grabs you by the throat and attempts to squeeze the dinner out of your gut. Having dinner in that section is a great test of character. Budget tickets are cheap because the only worse way to travel is on a mule with your nose stuck up its backside. The relative’s return journey on SAA Flight 182 of November 18 has been the subject of significant outrage and fair amount of mirth too.

Here is my relative’s story of woe. On that flight out of Oliver Tambo, there was no space in the overhead compartments for her cabin luggage which, in true African tradition, was no cabin baggage at all but a bag of respectable proportions and, more crucially, weight. But since her flight from Cape Town had been delayed and the captain was eager to get under way, a kindly hostess offered to stow it away somewhere and give it back later, in the interest of keeping time. She witnessed ,with horror, an hostess snatch the cell phone off a passenger and switch it off by force, even though the plane was still sitting on the tarmac.

On landing, she asked an hostess to please fetch her bag. “BEG!” screamed the hostess, “WHAT BEG!” Upon which the relative calmly explained (she claimed) the circumstances of surrendering her, eh, beg. “YOU DON’T JUST COME HERE AND SAY: MY BEG!” hollered the hostess who was now very angry.

My poor relative was helped by somebody else to reclaim her ‘‘beg’’ but even as she left the aircraft, the crazy hostess was shouting to whoever would listen about MY BEG. At the baggage claim it was quickly established that her luggage, all four begs, were not on that flight. She joined a crowd of angry travellers at the airline’s busy lost baggage counter. You did not collect your baggage sticker when you checked in your luggage, they were informed, so it was offloaded. The whole thing is your fault. But, we can deliver the baggage to your doorstep tomorrow if you leave your contacts.

Their country might be rich, they may claim not to be part of Africa, but their civil war experience, compared to the “real” Africa, is nothing.

The baggage sticker is normally stuck to your ticket or passport and in all these years of suffering at airports, I have never heard of a traveller having to request for it.

My livid relative could not understand why the South Africans were spoiling for Third World War.

Their country might be rich, they may claim not to be part of Africa, but their civil war experience, compared to the “real” Africa, is nothing. I have assured the relative that I have done thorough journalistic investigation into this atrocity, including calling in favours at the Kenya Airports Authority, the Civil Aviation Authority, the narcotics police and the Military Intelligence Corps and the Salvation Army (that’s a really army, right?).

In actual fact I just talked to the staff and it was immediately quite clear that SAA are using a small aircraft to service the Nairobi-Johannesburg route. The small plane can’t handle their generous baggage allowance of 30 kg when the flight is full, so I suspect they are not loading the baggage of the last passengers to check in.

Which would have been fine with me if they didn’t go pissing off innocent relatives.

We need to bring up to speed our cousins from down south, since they are new to the community of Africans, how we treat each other. I travelled with a group of men from a neighbouring region who sat, kicked off their shoes and ordered “Johnnie Walker”.

They had the smelliest socks I have ever sat next to. A pretty and friendly hostess plied them with “Johnnie Walker” the whole journey. Like good Africans, they didn’t become violent on getting drunk, they were kissing each other’s ears and giving high fives.

Kenya Airways always infuriates me because of their delayed flights. But I love the way they treat their passengers. Every time I promise it will be my last, then I go and have some horrid experience in some airline, such as being served fish by force, then I come back quickly.

THE ETHIOPIANS ARE A STRANGE RACE. But there is one thing you can never fault them for: their treatment of fellow Africans puts the rest of us to shame. It is the only country in the world, with the exception of our neighbours, where your being African is all the visa you need. They are not rich, they are quarrelsome and they have an interesting view of press freedom and democracy. But I respect them.

I don’t think my relative has the same feelings about the ‘‘beg’’ people.


The African Union should send an army to have an argument with Congolese warlord Laurent Nkunda. It should also be made clear to nations with territorial ambitions that there will be no South Sudanese solution for the Banyamulenge. A nation does not lose its right to self-determination just because its president is a fool.

The Congolese have demonstrated, like we all have at some point, a singular lack of capacity to govern themselves. That does not give anybody the right to go into their country and steal their diamonds.

US Ambassador & Michael Jordan's mother in Sh 1.2B land-grabbing attempt

US Ambassador Michael Ranneberger and Deloris Jordan, the mother of Michael Jordan, want land worth Sh1.2 billion (around US$ 20m) bequeathed to the Nairobi City Council by the colonial government allocated to a private organisation for a hospital project.

While it is not clear what interest the US Embassy has in the project, Mr Ranneberger wrote to President Kibaki on September 18, 2008 requesting that the land measuring 5.96 acres in the State House neighbourhood be allocated to the Nairobi Women’s Hospital. The letter was written a month after Dr Sam Thenya of the hospital and Mrs Jordan had paid a courtesy call on President Kibaki at his Harambee House office on August 19 to press for the land. The letter from Mr Ranneberger mentions the strategic location of the land, the benefits that would accrue to Kenyans from the hospital, and the funds Mrs Jordan would contribute to the project.

Mrs Jordan has made numerous trips to Nairobi, including one that began last Sunday, in pursuit of the land and a new 250-bed capacity hospital for victims of gender violence. But unknown to the two Americans and Dr Thenya, the coveted land is in the process of being gazetted as a national monument because of its historic significance and the architecture of the buildings on it. Sources who attended the Harambee House meeting intimated that President Kibaki did not commit himself to allocating the land, known as Lady Northey, to Dr Thenya and Mrs Jordan. The President is reported to have asked Nairobi Women’s Hospital and Mrs Jordan to look for land elsewhere.

Sources said the organisation had been offered land in Embakasi near City Cabanas restaurant as well as another plot opposite the Pumwani Maternity Hospital in Eastleigh, Nairobi. Neither offer has been acted on. Dr Thenya claims that a directive was given to the Head of Civil Service and Secretary to the Cabinet, Francis Muthaura, to allocate them the prime property. Among those present, he claims, were the minister for Health, Prof Anyang’ Nyong’o, and his counterpart in Internal Security, Prof George Saitoti. “The President directed that we should be given land at this meeting,” Dr Thenya said.

However, his statement has been dismissed by the Permanent Secretary for Lands, Dorothy Angote, who said the land in question is public land which was bequeathed to the Nairobi City Council in perpetuity. “It can’t be allocated as it was a gift to the public with specific instructions on its use,” Ms Angote said. She added that a decision had been taken by an inter-ministerial committee, which included Dr Thenya, in regard to the Nairobi Women’s Hospital. “Nairobi Women’s Hospital understands the position taken and options available to them,” the PS said. She ruled out the allocation of Lady Northey to the organisation, noting that “even in the United States, public land cannot be allocated for private use.”

While the Nairobi Women’s Hospital offers medical services to victims of gender violence, especially those sexually molested, it has faced criticism from a section of Kenyans for allegedly turning away deserving patients. The hospital has been accused of seeking publicity for handling high-profile cases but of referring lesser-known victims to Kenyatta National Hospital. The 57-bed capacity hospital in the Hurlingham area is a private maternity and women’s health facility that charges Sh28,000 for a normal delivery and up to Sh65,000 for a Caesarean delivery.

A search mounted by the hospital for the title deed to the land hit a brick wall when City Council officials said it was missing.

At City Hall, the City Medical Officer of Health, Dr Nguku, also ruled out the allocation of the land to Dr Thenya’s organisation. He said the land in question was occupied by a dental clinic and a nursery school run by the City Council. “In fact, the two institutions are about to be gazetted as national monuments,” Dr Nguku said.

Dr Mzalendo Kibunjia, director for museums, sites and monuments at The National Museums of Kenya, said the land had already been gazetted as a monument. “I have already signed a notice to the minister for National Heritage to gazette the land and its buildings as a national monument,” Dr Kibunjia said.

The land is named after the wife of Edward Northey, governor of Kenya between 1919 and 1920 when it was a British protectorate. The city MoH said the council had entered into a memorandum of understanding with the Nairobi Women’s Hospital to put up a hospital to cater for gender violence victims. The two-year MoU lapsed last month. The MoH denied that the council had ever agreed to have the hospital constructed on the Lady Northey land as claimed by Dr Thenya. But despite the resistance to the Nairobi Women’s Hospital’s request, Dr Thenya went ahead and organised a high-profile ground-breaking ceremony for the hospital last year.

Among those who attended the ceremony, which was led by then Vice-President Moody Awori, were Mrs Jordan and the then Mayor of Nairobi, Mr Dick Wathika. But just days later, City Council employees removed the signs indicating that construction was about to start. A search mounted by the hospital for the title deed to the land hit a brick wall when City Council officials said it was missing. While the Permanent Secretary for Local Government said in February 2008 that the title deed was with the ministry of Health, this claim was dismissed by Dr Hezron Nyangito, who was the PS for the ministry two months later.

Dr Thenya claims that the plan to have the hospital put up a facility on the Lady Northey land was approved by the full council of the NCC in December 2005. “In October 2006, we signed an MoU with the mayor, the town clerk and the then minister for Local Government, Mr Musikari Kombo,” he said.

The land in question was bequeathed to the Nairobi City Council in 1959 by Lady Northey. Her will states that “the land and buildings shall only be used for purposes of a children’s home and orphanage.”

Monday, November 24, 2008

C-Breezy wins 3, Kanye bags 2

LOS ANGELES – Chris Brown was the big winner, but it was Kanye West's night at the American Music Awards.

Instead of his typical tantrum — a trend West started four years ago when he lost the favourite new artist prize — the rapper claimed two trophies on Sunday and called on his colleagues to up their game. "It's our responsibility as musicians to keep pushing each other," West said. "We will be the new Beatles, the new (Jimi) Hendrix. I want to be Elvis."

West was named favorite male rap/hip-hop artist and his CD, "Graduation," won favorite rap/hip-hop album.

Brown took the night's top honors — artist of the year — as well as favorite male artist in both the pop/rock and soul/R&B categories.

"I was shocked," the 19-year-old crooner said backstage. "I'm so thankful and grateful. I thought Coldplay should have won the award, but I'll take it."

Brown's gal pal, Rihanna — who wore chains and a leather corset to perform her love ballad, "Rehab" — was named favorite female artist in both the pop/rock and soul/R&B categories. Alicia Keys was another double winner: Her CD, "As I Am," was both pop/rock and soul/R&B album winner.

The American Music Awards traditionally centers on its performances, and Sunday was no exception. The show featured high-energy sets from Miley Cyrus, Ne-Yo and Beyonce, though a pair of lackluster medleys opened the program at the Nokia Theatre. Christina Aguilera channeled Madonna and the New Kids on the Block channeled an earlier version of themselves as each sang their latest singles and greatest hits.

Pink's new track, "Sober," was awkwardly introduced by slurring rocker Scott Weiland, formerly of the Stone Temple Pilots. Also performing were The Jonas Brothers, the Pussycat Dolls, Coldplay and Annie Lennox, who won the Award of Merit.

"I never thought I would live to see the day that I could be 53 years old standing on a stage," Lennox said as she accepted the trophy from Justin Timberlake. "It's been an incredible journey. Music: my friend, my accompaniment through life."

Other winners included Brad Paisley for favorite country artist, Taylor Swift for favorite female country act, and Rascal Flatts for favorite country favorite band, duo or group.

"I didn't really think that I had a chance at winning," Swift confessed backstage. "I thought, yes, it's good to be nominated, but I honestly didn't think I was going to win this award. I can't believe that I did. I can't believe that the fans did that for me. Everybody on MySpace, they're the reason I am holding this award right now."

Fans chose the night's winners through online votes.

Catch the 36th Annual American Music Awards tonight on MNet at 8:30 PM (CAT)

Who killed Juvénal Habyarimana?

By Austin Ejiet

A decade and a half after the event, the world is no closer to knowing who masterminded and /or carried out the assassination of former Rwandese president, Juvénal Habyarimana.

The president’s jet was shot down a few kilometers from the country’s international airport as it prepared to land. The president and his team had been on a peace mission in Tanzania to try and broker an end to the war between his MRND government and the RPF exile forces that had invaded the country from the North. On board the ill-fated presidential jet was the president of the republic of Burundi who had hitched a lift back home from the same peace conference. Also killed were a number of French and Belgian nationals some of whom had constituted the crew.

Two theories have been postulated as to the identity of the assassins. The most persistent theory is that an RPF hit squad somehow sneaked deep into enemy controlled territory, shot down the aircraft, and somehow managed to sneak out again unspotted. Supporters of this position argue that the RPF wanted to shorten the war by cutting off the head of the proverbial snake. The second argument that the RPF has maintained ever since is that president Habyarimana was probably assassinated by hard-line elements from his own army who thought that it was a mistake to try and make peace with the RPF in the first instance, and that he was making too many concessions.

A common mistake made by commentators ever since is to conclude that spectacular assassination is what caused the subsequent genocide that took an estimated 800,000 (perhaps one million) lives.

A common mistake made by commentators ever since is to conclude that spectacular assassination is what caused the subsequent genocide that took an estimated 800,000 (perhaps one million) lives. In point of fact the genocide had been planned almost as soon as the RPF crossed the border from Uganda from October of 1990. A systematic campaign had encouraged Hutu extremists to prepare for an Armageddon of sorts by equipping themselves with the weapons for the day of reckoning. The downing of the presidential jet merely provided an emotive and lusty spark for the orgy of murder which lasted all of the 100 days.

The French government, spurred on by the “findings” of a judge, has gone on to identity the assassins who downed the plane, killing French citizens in the process, and to issue international arrest warrants for their apprehension and prosecution. All are very commendable. Nobody should get away with murder under any circumstances.

To this end a Rwandese presidential aide, Lt. Col. Rose Kanyange Kabuye, has been arrested in Germany and extradited to France where she has been charged with murder–the murder of French nationals–and released on bail. I dare say most readers will remember the comic maxim that informed the equality ethics of George Orwell’s Animal Farm: “All Animals Are Equal, But Some Animals Are More Equal than Others”. Yes, some French and Belgian nationals perished as a result of this drastic act. But what has happened to the estimated 800,000 or 1 million who were exterminated with astonishing brutality and cruelty?

In the mid 1970’s a White British teacher trainer then based at the National Teachers College, Kyambogo, Kampala, one Dennis Cecil Hills, wrote and published a book about president Idi Amin’s government, titled The White Pumpkin. In the book he had described the president as a village tyrant with a keen peasant wit. Somebody picked on that phrase and told the president that some “Zionist” and “Imperialist” had insulted him. The author was arrested, tried by a military tribunal, and sentenced to die by firing squad.

You should have been there to witness the concerted efforts to save Dennis Cecil Hills. The global diplomacy set into motion by the impending killing of this one man was mind –boggling. Britain sent no less a person than foreign secretary James Callaghan to plead the author’s cause. Even the Pope made rare representations to the Kampala government to save Mr. Hills. Which is what finally happened? Everybody was happy. But I remember wondering why nobody had raised a finger regarding the nightly slaughter of Ugandans of black complexion.

Who killed Habyarimana? It is more accurate to ask: who killed the French crew of Habyarimana’s jet and the eleven Belgian servicemen who blundered onto the scene of the crash. The million Rwandese who died in the subsequent genocide? Who cares! Some animals are more equal than others.