Monday, March 31, 2008

Zimbabwe stands 'on a precipice'

HARARE - Zimbabwe is standing on a "precipice" as official results from Saturday's general election start to trickle in, the opposition has said.

Leading Movement for Democratic Change official Tendai Biti says party leader Morgan Tsvangirai has won 60% of the vote, against 30% for Robert Mugabe. Official results show both sides have 19 parliamentary seats so far. Mr Biti says the results are being rigged.

In a scene reminiscent of Kenya's December 27 election when the president's men met their comeuppance, Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa has lost his seat, east of Harare. Public Affairs Minister Chen Chimutengwende has also lost his seat in Mazowe, seen as a stronghold for President Mugabe's Zanu-PF party. Local results have been posted outside most polling stations since Sunday morning.

MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa said his party had won 99 of the 210 parliamentary seats, against 96 for Zanu-PF and 15 for other opposition parties, based on his party's final figures. Biti said the electoral commission was planning to announce that Mugabe had won 52% of the vote - just enough to avoid a run-off. The MDC would not accept these results, he said.

Deputy Information Minister Bright Matonga denied the polls would be rigged and said the president would accept defeat. "We don't expect to lose... It's going to be a very tight contest and if he loses, you have to accept," he said. Matonga also denied rumours that Mugabe had gone to Malaysia or was planning to impose a state of emergency. Riot police have been patrolling the capital, Harare, and other urban areas and residents have been told to stay indoors. A senior Zanu-PF source has intimated that security officials met on Sunday to decide who should tell Mugabe he had lost, with some refusing to take the job. In the southern town of Masvingo, MDC supporters have reportedly stopped celebrating since reports came in that Zanu-PF had won in areas initially believed to have gone to the opposition.

How dumb are the British?

If you thought Americans were dumb, then consider this: a third of Brits don't know Shakespeare wrote plays - and many of them think he was King of England.

A new survey also reveals that 25% didn't realise John Keats was a poet, with some saying his famous Odes were written by Robbie Williams.

The Brits ignorance about famous authors was revealed in a poll of 3,000 people. Interestingly, some 70% have never written a poem to a loved one, though two thirds would like to receive one.

Poet laureate Andrew Motion, 55, said: "Although most people accept that poetry has a vital role in personal as well as national life, these findings show a depressing level of ignorance. "The good news is that 61% said they would like to have poetry play a role in their lives - in which case we hope they might also want to write one."

A cruise firm is offering a seven-night holiday to the writer of the best poem, chosen by Andrew. The framed work will be displayed on board.

Is Safaricom worth Kobole?

As the Safaricom IPO opens this week, two question still haunt Kenyans: Who is Mobitelea? Is the Safaricom IPO, the investment opportunity that comes only once in a lifetime, kosher? All things held constant, Mobitelea stands to reap in excess of Kshs. 10b from this mouth-watering IPO...

Mobitelea Ventures Ltd is a shell company that in 2003 was allowed by Vodafone to acquire a 5% stake in Safaricom, which shares are now worth at least $100m. However, late last year, Vodafone refused a formal request from the PIC to reveal who owns Mobitelea. Mobitelea's shareholding in Safaricom was only revealed in a local newspaper in November 2006. Until then it had been assumed - even by the Kenyan government - that Safaricom remained a 60:40 joint venture between government-owned Telkom and Vodafone.

At the time PIC launched the investigation, it invited Vodafone to a meeting slated for January 30 in Nairobi. The invitation was declined but, in a letter to the committee, Gavin Darby, Vodafone Group's chief executive for the Americas, Africa, China and India, stated that Mobitelea was Vodafone's chosen partner in Kenya. "When Vodafone makes investments in new territories it is not uncommon that it works alongside a partner who typically gives advice on local business practices and protocol and the various challenges associated with investing in a new market. Vodafone would prefer to be in a position to make a comprehensive disclosure but, having taken legal advice, could be in breach of a duty of confidentiality were it to discuss Mobitelea further."

Documents show that Mobitelea was registered in Guernsey on June 18, 1999 - several months after Vodafone had struck a preliminary deal with the Kenyan government. Mobitelea's real owners are hidden behind two nominee firms, Guernsey-registered Mercator Nominees Ltd and Mercator Trustees Ltd. The directors are named as Anson Ltd and Cabot Ltd, based in Anguilla and Antigua. In his letter, Darby said that Mobitelea was allowed to invest in Safaricom "in return for its valued advice". In return for its services, Mobitelea was given $5m in cash and a 5% stake in a company that analysts value at $2bn.

In attempting to untangle Mobitelea's ownership structure, the big question is: Why did the government change its own rules of telecoms privatisation to allow Vodafone to acquire 40% of Safaricom, instead of the 30% limit that had been in place? Without the concession, the Kenyan government's current share of Safaricom would be worth an additional $200m. "This is all very murky. By refusing to cooperate, Vodafone is treating us like children and hindering our pursuit of knowledge," Said Justin Muturi, chairman of the PIC in the 9th Parliament. Mwalimu Mati, a former head of the local chapter of Transparency International, also believes the British authorities should investigate the Mobitelea deal. "At best Mobitelea has been given a bite at the Safaricom cherry ahead of ordinary Kenyans."

Now the bombshell: The government actually did not contravene it's rules on privatisation. Vodafone owns excatly 30% of Safaricom as stipulated by law. As it turns out, Mobitelea's share of the cake is not 5% but a whooping 10%! That contentious 10% of Telkom (K) Ltd shares in Safaricom were irregularly transferred to Mobitelea Ventures without the consent of Treasury and that of the parent ministry according to the Fifteenth Report of the Public Investments Committee on the accounts of State Corporations 2007. The Parliamentary Investments Committee in its report held that “there appears to have been a conspiracy by some officers of Government, Mobitelea Ventures, Vodafone Plc and Telkom board to defraud the public of its shares in Safaricom. Neither the Management of Safaricom nor that of Telkom could produce the written request by Vodafone asking for increase in Vodafone’s’ shares from 30% to 40%. This supposition is further affirmed by the inexplicable disappearance of the records of Vodafone (K) from the Registry of Companies”.

As we all now know, Mobitelea stands for Moi Biwott Telecoms East Africa. And, if you are to believe the PNU, the law does not empower them to stop an IPO in progress. Imagine that! So what does this mean? Even after more than 5 years in the cold, Moi and Biwott are still ripping off Kenyans, aided by none other than the government that assumed power on the promise of "zero tolerance" to corruption. So, whether you like it or not, Moi and Kipyator are walking away with a cool 10b to add on the billions they have collected from the Treasury over the years. So as we all rush to get a piece of this most profitable company in East and Central Africa, let us honestly ask yourselves: Why.

I now leave you with the full text of ODM's Statement on the privatisation of Safaricom:

Few public events in the financial realm have been as eagerly awaited in the history of our country as the forthcoming Safaricom public offering. The company is one of the most successful in our country’s history, thanks to the investments made by Kenyans’ hard-earned tax contributions.

For ODM, the most important dimension of this and all other privatizations of public corporations is to ensure that the ordinary Kenyan is able to compete in the purchase of shares on a level playing field with all other Kenyans and institutions. These public offerings offer Kenyans not only an opportunity to benefit from their small investments the way the well-to-do have always been able to do, their purchase of such shares also gives them a stake in the future of this country’s peace and stability.

ODM last year opposed the sale of Safaricom because it did not meet this cardinal test of providing a level playing field for all Kenyans who wished to participate in the Safaricom share offering, rather than organized business enterprises which stood to reap most of the benefits. To ensure that this level playing field obtains for ordinary Kenyans, ODM believes that exceptional arrangements must be made for a sale as eagerly sought by millions of Kenyans as this one. For example, the requirement that shares need to be purchased only through banks and brokerage houses, which are difficult for most Kenyans to access, needs to be reviewed.

We also believe that the entire offering, and not just a portion as currently envisaged, must be made available for Kenyans.

There are, of course, a host of other important reasons which forced us to oppose the sale. We moved to the High Court of Kenya to seek orders compelling the Government to bring into operation the Privatization Act and to conduct the intended privatization of Safaricom within the provisions of the Act. ODM had the following major concerns with the Safaricom privatization:

• The ownership of shares worth in excess of five billion shillings in Safaricom by MOBITELEA under circumstances that have never been made public and which appear to have been made otherwise than as a “true investment” by the owners of MOBITELEA poses the danger that these “ghost owners” will now be unjustly enriched. The identity of MOBITELEA and its shareholders is still a secret; having been kept hidden by the Government;

• The Privatization Act was enacted in 2005 to regulate all future privatizations. By the time that ODM moved to Court, the Minister for Finance had not published a notice in the Gazette bringing the Act into full force and effect, a period in excess of two years, thereby rendering the legislative authority of Parliament nugatory.

• The Privatization Act requires Parliamentary approval of all privatizations and sets up a Privatization Commission, imposing standards of transparency to protect the public interest which were not being followed in respect of the Safaricom privatization.

• Issues of equity with regard to the distribution of Safaricom shares amongst various income groups, gender and regions of Kenya had not been addressed.

• There was a deliberate attempt by the Government to fast-track the privatization of Safaricom before the General Elections in December 2007 even though the fundamentals, such as the capacity of the Nairobi Stock Exchange to handle the transaction, remained doubtful. The timing just before the Election and the Christmas gift buying period meant there would be a less than robust appetite for the stock among ordinary Kenyans. There was strong suspicion that the speeding up of the process was being caused by considerations other than the public interest.

The court case by ODM was therefore initiated in the public interest: to protect the legislative authority of Parliament, to bring transparency to the privatization of Safaricom, to stop unjust enrichment by a few individuals who appear to have acquired interest in Safaricom vide MOBITELEA, and to demand equity in the distribution of the shares of Safaricom to all segments of Kenyan society.

The High Court declined to grant the orders sought by ODM. ODM then proceeded to the Court of Appeal but its appeal was further denied. ODM’s only interest in pursuing the case was the public interest.

In the meantime, the Minister for Finance, Amos Kimunya, published a Gazette Notice bringing the Privatization Act into full force and effect from January 1, 2008. He then proceeded to appoint a Privatization Commission. All these actions are a direct result of the pressure generated by ODM’s court case.

ODM is keen to ensure that the privatization of Safaricom proceeds as smoothly and as quickly as possible. However, certain fundamental questions in addition to those stated above need to be addressed.

1. The privatization of Safaricom must be in conformity with the provisions of the Privatization Act. The process should therefore be transferred from the docket of the Investment Secretary at the Treasury to the remit of the Privatization Commission, as the law requires.

2. The preparation and submission of a Privatization Strategy to Parliament for public debate is required under the Privatization Act.

3. The issues of equity raised above need to be formally and systematically addressed. Given the recent problems at the Nairobi Stock Exchange, is this the right time to undertake such a major privatization at the Exchange? In any event, concrete measures have to be taken to address the regulatory and structural inefficiencies of the bourse.

4. How was the value of Safaricom shares established?

Theses and numerous other questions that remain unanswered must now be addressed in the interest of transparency on a subject that it is of such immense interest and concern for countless Kenyans. The only prudent approach therefore is to subject the entire privatization process of Safaricom to the requirements of the Privatization Act, as now in force.

Our aim as a party is to encourage and support economic growth with equity and social justice in our country. As such, the sale of Safaricom through the Stock Exchange is a very positive step forward which Kenyans applaud, but we must ensure that the sale is conducted in a way that will benefit the greatest number of them. We should therefore proceed with the offering within the requirements of the Privatization Act, which will of course mean that the share offering needs to be delayed.

Robert Gabriel Mugabe

HARARE - The word is out: The Spar supermarket has bread at only $7 million a loaf. People rush to the shelf duly marked $7 million, but by the time they reach the till with their hyper-inflated Zimbabwean dollars, the price is up to $25 million.

That equals just 62 American cents, more than a teacher makes in a week. "How can we afford to eat that?" a woman exclaims. Customers leave their loaves at the counter and walk out with their brick-sized bundles of bank notes, angry and disconsolate. Daily scenes of struggle with the world's highest inflation are the dark backdrop to an election Saturday in which Robert Mugabe is fighting to prolong his 28-year-old presidency, outpolled by his main opponent and accused of laying elaborate plans to rig the vote.

On 84-year-old Mugabe's watch, the country has collapsed from food exporter to being dependent on international food handouts and money sent home by many of the 5 million people — more than a third of the population — who have fled Zimbabwe. "This election is about survival. ... about empty stomachs and health and education that we are not getting for our families," said Elizabeth Chaibvu, a member of the Feminist Political Education Project. People long cowed into silence by Mugabe's strong-arm methods are speaking openly against their leader, seeing the election as a last hope for the country where inflation is over 100,000 percent a year.

But Mugabe is accused of stacking the decks against his opponents, redistricting voting constituencies, buying votes with gifts such as tractors, and delivering state-subsidized food only to his party supporters. In a joint statement Thursday, the three main opponents to Mugabe said their scrutiny of voters lists showed severe discrepancies that opened the way for vote rigging. "Zimbabweans aren't free to vote for the candidates of their choice," New York-based Human Rights Watch said.

Amnesty International alleged "intimidation, harassment and violence against perceived supporters of opposition candidates, with many in rural regions fearful that there will be retribution after the elections." The election is about more than just Zimbabwe. Many other African leaders, seeking in varying degrees to become democratic and put the days of coups and strongmen behind them, are torn about how to deal with Mugabe.

They cannot ignore Mugabe's past as an icon of resistance to colonial rule, and they applaud when he claims that "The West still negates our sovereignties, by way of control of our resources, in the process making us mere chattels in our own lands." While the West has imposed limited sanctions, African governments have refrained from acting against Mugabe. Instead, led by neighboring South Africa, they have sought to help make the election a success and give Mugabe a measure of respectability.

The fact that this fourth contested presidential election is going ahead, with multiple candidates, is a tribute to Zimbabweans' democratic sinew, epitomized by Mugabe's main opponent, Morgan Tsvangirai. The 55-year-old trade unionist has dealt Mugabe past electoral humiliations, and his battered face was flashed around the world after he was severely beaten by police last year. Also running is Simba Makoni, 58, a former finance minister and member of Mugabe's politburo until he was expelled for daring to challenge the leader. Makoni's defection is a sign of growing dissent within Mugabe's ruling Zimbabwe African National Union party. But while he could take support from Mugabe, Makoni also could divide the opposition vote.

An opinion poll of 1,693 people conducted two weeks ago by the Mass Public Opinion Institute, run by Professor Eldred Masunungure of the University of Zimbabwe, gives Tsvangirai 28 percent of the vote, Mugabe 20 percent and Makoni 9 percent. The poll gave a margin of error of 4 percentage points. The poll is far from definitive, because the remainder refused to answer, were undecided or didn't intend to vote. A defiant Mugabe has vowed that the opposition "never, never, ever" will govern Zimbabwe, but Masunungure says he will have a hard time winning the simple majority needed to avoid a run-off, provided the vote is fair.

According to independent monitors, civil societies and church groups, the electoral roll is riddled with ghost voters, electoral boundaries favor Mugabe's rural power base, and there are too few urban polling stations to handle the expected crush. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission is stacked with former and current military personnel loyal to Mugabe. Police and thugs from the youth wing of Mugabe's party routinely intimidate, arrest and beat opposition party members and supporters.

Tsvangirai told a rally last week that he expects Mugabe to "engage in every trick in the book," and is demanding the Electoral Commission address reports that it printed 9 million ballots for 5.9 million registered voters. In Thursday's joint statement, Tsvangirai and Makoni along with opposition leader Arthur Mutambara predicted wide scale vote rigging, mainly though irregularities in voters lists. The statement said that Mugabe's opponents still had not received full nationwide voters lists that would enable the checking of names of potential voters for any irregullarities. "On the basis of the information to hand, we are satisfied the credibility and integrity of this process is gravely in doubt," Makoni, speaking for the three.

Mugabe's government also is seeking to control what is said about the elections. Most of the 300 international journalists who applied weeks ago for accreditation have had no response, and chief government spokesman George Charamba has warned that those who manage to cover the election from inside Zimbabwe will be under constant surveillance. Western election monitors are barred, and only delegates from "friendly" countries such as Iran, China, Russia and Libya are invited.

Also invited is a delegation from the Southern African Development Community, the bloc that appointed South African President Thabo Mbeki to mediate in Zimbabwe. Mbeki, criticized for a policy of "quiet diplomacy" many see as encouraging Mugabe's intransigence, claims he successfully negotiated an agreement for free and fair elections to be held. Tsvangirai's party rejects "suggestions that our participation in this election is proof of the success of the SADC. It is possibly proof of the failure of that process."

Despite the widely alleged irregularities, the SADC observer mission in Zimbabwe says everything is in place for a free vote.

Mugabe led a guerrilla movement that fought a seven-year war to end white rule in what was then Rhodesia and bring independent Zimbabwe into being in 1980. Then, Mugabe was hailed for his conciliatory attitude to the white minority, the preservation of democratic and legal structures inherited from the British, and the introduction of education and health care for all.

But few have benefited and millions suffer from Mugabe's most ambitious project to reverse the colonial legacy — the often violent seizures of white-owned commercial farms that destroyed the country's agricultural base. Most whites have been driven off their farms along with farm laborers and their families numbering more than 1 million people. Some 5,000 white farmers owned 80 percent of Zimbabwe's best agricultural land at independence — an injustice that Britain promised to remedy by buying land on a willing seller-willing buyer basis. But Britain halted its program, charging most land was going not to landless peasants but to Mugabe's relatives and cronies.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Who is Maj. Gen. James Kazini?

He speaks softly, sports a well kept moustache and maintains a smile most of the time. He smokes Rex Cigarettes and drinks Guinness beer. He loves live band music and is a regular at Club Obligatto in Kampala, where the famous Afrigo Jazz Band plays. He actually owned a brass band called Umoja (unity) at Nateete, a city suburb. He frequently goes out with his wife Phoebe.

In the army circles, the former army commander, Major General James Kazini, is known to be a fearless officer. It is this bold trait that endeared him to the Commander-in-Chief, who ignored incessant complaints about his limited education to consider his zeal and hardwork to allow him handle situations where Uganda’s territorial integrity was threatened.

In March 1998, Kazini was deployed to Western Uganda to command “Operation Mountain Sweep” against the Alliance Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels. Kazini extended the hunt to eastern DR Congo, where under “operation safe haven” he combed the jungles for the rebels. The operation had been okayed as a joint operation with the DRC under the late president Laurent Kabila.

On return to Western Uganda, he continued with “Operation mountain sweep” and oversaw the creation of the Alpine Brigade in the mountain Rwenzori region to fight the terrorist-tagged ADF. Of significance during his command in the Congo were the infamous ‘Kisangani clashes’ between Uganda and it’s hitherto ally, Rwanda. He was later sent to South Sudan for ‘Operation Iron Fist’ to wipe out the LRA, who used bases there to attack the North.

On return from the frontline in Congo, Kazini was accused of plundering resources of the neighbouring country in a UN report.

While government did not accept the UN accusations, Museveni set up a judicial commission of inquiry headed by Justice David Porter to probe the Ugandan officials named in the looting. Among the highlights, Porter accused Kazini of telling repeated lies. For example, when asked why he had disobeyed President Museveni’s orders forbidding him from helping Congolese businesses, Gen. Kazini replied politely: “I did not contradict the President. I was only being flexible, your Lordship.” In February 2005, the Police closed investigations after the DPP recommended that there wasn’t sufficient evidence to prefer criminal charges against Kazini for the alleged plunder.

On June 8, 2003 Kazini handed over the mantle of UPDF command to the then Maj. Gen. Aronda Nyakairima at an emotional function in Bombo Barracks, where he lamented that he had failed to quell the LRA rebellion under his tenure. He had earlier promised to resign if the LRA had not been defeated by December 31, 2002.

Also in 2002, as if dogged by bad omen, the then ethics minister, Miria Matembe, asked Kazini to declare 200 bags of cement and a cow that the Kasese business community had donated to him. The cement was for construction of a hotel in the district, but also an appreciation for helping rid the district of rebels. The then IGG, Jotham Tumwesigye, demanded that Kazini complies as per the Leadership Code. Three years later, in 2005, Kazini delivered two truckloads of the cement to the office of IGG, Justice Faith Mwondha. Mwondha in turn dispatched the cement to the Ministry of Defence in Bombo.

But Kazini’s current woes began in 2002 when Museveni directed the then defence minister, Amama Mbabazi, to investigate Kazini and Brig. Henry Tumukunde, then ISO director general, over creating ghost soldiers in the army pay-roll. A High Command committee chaired by the then Lt. Gen. David Tinyefuza began investigations and at various intervals allowed Kazini to return to Abuja where he was pursuing a course in military science. The Tinye committee recommended Kazini’s trial by the General Court Martial then chaired by Gen. Elly Tumwine. He was yesterday convicted for causing financial loss and acquitted of abuse of office, forgery and uttering false documents.

The conviction could mark the anti-climax of a soldiering career that dates from the 1980s and has spanned over a quarter a century. He has been a recruit, private, commissioned officer, commander and head of a national army; all that a person who joins the military aspires for. We should not forget his stint in the Uganda National Liberation Army. But before his conviction yesterday, early this month a scandal that could remain a dent on his illustrious career erupted.

Kazini was embroiled in a love triangle when he assaulted a Kampala doctor, Robert Kagoda. Kazini accused the doctor, a neighbour to his mistress, Winnie, of having an affair with her. That the case was supposed to be settled out of court could be an indicatior that Kazini knew the labourious road court cases take. He opted for a short cut, but the three years in jail isn’t.

Man set to be a mum

A bearded man sent shockwaves round the world yesterday when he announced: “I’m PREGNANT.” Thomas Beatie, 34, released his astonishing photo showing his swollen belly — and said it felt “incredible” to be a pregnant and revealed that he is due on July 3. And he also disclosed how he was fertilised using donor sperm because his wife Nancy cannot have children.

American Thomas — a transsexual who was actually born female — admitted that his amazing pregnancy would create “legal, political and social unknowns”. But in a real-life echo of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 1994 film Junior, Thomas vowed to carry on living as a man even while his baby bump is growing. He added: “I will be my daughter’s father, and Nancy will be her mother. We will be a family. Thomas is legally a man after undergoing a sex change, even though he kept his female reproductive organs.

He and his wife were desperate to start a family after ten years together, but Nancy, 45, had had a hysterectomy after health problems 20 years ago. So Thomas, who had chest reconstruction surgery and testosterone therapy for his sex change, stopped the hormone injections and his periods returned. A year later, he fell pregnant with twins using donor sperm, but lost the babies after developing life-threatening complications. He then became pregnant again five months ago, and his doctors now expect him to give birth to a healthy baby girl.

Thomas bravely decided to write about his experience in respected US gay magazine The Advocate. He wrote: “How does it feel to be a pregnant man? Incredible. Despite the fact that my belly is growing with a new life inside me, I am stable and confident being the man that I am. To those in the quiet community where we live, we are viewed just as we are — a happy couple deeply in love. Our desire to work hard, buy our first home and start a family was nothing out of the ordinary. That is, until we decided that I would carry our child. I am transgender, legally male, and legally married to Nancy.” Thomas admitted medics, friends and relatives had been shocked by his pregnancy. One doctor ordered him to shave off his beard before referring him to a psychologist.

And Thomas revealed his wife’s family are in for a shock because they have no idea he was born female. He said: “Doctors have discriminated against us, turning us away due to their religious beliefs. “Health care professionals have refused to call me by a male pronoun or recognise Nancy as my wife. Receptionists have laughed at us. Friends and family have been unsupportive; most of Nancy’s family doesn’t even know I’m transgender. The first doctor we approached was a reproductive endocrinologist. He was shocked by our situation and told me to shave my facial hair. A few months and $2,000 later, he told us he would no longer treat us, saying he and his staff felt uncomfortable working with ‘someone like me’.”

Thomas said even his own family had failed to support him after he lost the twins. He revealed: “When my brother found out he said, ‘It’s a good thing that happened. Who knows what kind of monster it would have been.'”

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Court Martial jails former army commander

KAMPALA - Former Army commander, Maj. Gen James Kazini will serve a three years in jail for his role in the ‘ghost soldiers’ scandal.

Kazini was charged alongside Lt. Col Dura Mawa and Capt. Michael Baryaguma, and were sentenced to three years for each crime of causing financial loss, abuse of office, forgery and uttering a false document, all charges being under the Ugandan Penal Code. However, all the sentences will run concurrently.

Maj. Gen. Kazini will be remembered for his role in the DR Congo, where he was accused alongside military top-brass of massive looting by the UN. Kazini was in charge of military operations in DR Congo when Ugandan and Rwandan troops clashed in the north-eastern city of Kisangani in 1999. He was also recently in the news for shooting at a Boda Boda motorcyclist and seriously injuring a Kampala doctor with the butt of his pistol after he caught the doctor red-handed having an affair with his "junior wife".

When she's hot & he's not there's better shot at happiness

Watch a Kenyan "celeb" UNDRESS for food here

He may be a dog, ladies, but he'll keep you happy.

A new study reveals that women who wed men who are uglier than they will have a happier marriage than those with a more attractive mate. In couples where the wife is the hotter one, both parties seem to be content, found a study of 82 newlywed duos in the Journal of Family Psychology. "Both spouses tended to behave more positively when wives were more attractive than their husbands and more negatively when husbands were more attractive than their wives," said the study by UCLA's Benjamin Karney.

Karney also found that it doesn't matter how much better looking the wife is than the husband - just that there is a discrepancy. From Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller to Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony, beautiful women have been marrying less attractive men through the ages. Consider Howard Stern and his fiancée, Beth Ostrosky; Christina Aguilera and her geeky husband, Jordan Bratman, or Sienna Miller's latest fling with homely actor Rhys Ifans.

According to the study, it is evolution that dictates that physical attractiveness of long-term mates is more important to men than to women. Men are looking for a way to carry on their genes and see physical attractiveness as an indicator of strong genetics. "Because physical attractiveness is less important to women, in contrast, relative attractiveness may only affect them through its effect on their husbands," the study says.

New Yorkers seem to agree.

Jesse Turcios, 32, thinks unattractive guys are an asset to their prettier counterparts. "My boyfriend is not so good-looking and I feel secure. It's not nice to say, but it's true," said Turcios, a stunning former bar owner from the Bronx. "He's a hardworking man who has a lot going for him." Ashley Freeman, who is 20 and single, believes going ugly might be her best bet for finding a keeper. "When a woman looks better in a relationship she feels like she has nothing to worry about," Freeman, who lives on Long Island, explained.

One explanation: Men are more motivated to hold on to a pretty wife. "When women who are really beautiful go out with men who aren't so hot, the men try harder so it makes for a better marriage," says psychologist Cooper Lawrence. "The women know that whatever goes wrong in the marriage, the husband is going to do whatever is necessary to keep it together."

Osama a Gunner?

I think we owe it to the "war against terrorism" to take seriously the allegations about Osama bin Laden being an Arsenal fan. The source is Adam Robinson, in a not otherwise overtly funny or satirical new biography of bin Laden, entitled Behind the Mask of Terror, and the story is as follows: that, during the early 1990s, when he was living in London, the man who was later to become the world's most wanted terrorist attended matches at Highbury, in particular during the victorious European Cup-Winners' Cup campaign of the 1993-94 season.

It is further alleged that bin Laden visited the Arsenal club shop and bought a replica shirt for one of his sons. Whether, that night in the club shop, bin Laden also bought a Nigel Winterburn duvet cover and some Arsenal shower gel is not recorded. The crucial assertion is this: that Osama is a Gunner.

Of course, the first half of the Nineties was not a golden era for Arsenal, who were then grinding out their last days under George Graham, a period of strange, almost wilful stagnation for the club during which a significant number of fans came to feel deeply frustrated. It's the sort of situation which, obviously, gets to supporters in different ways. Some don't renew their season tickets; others, such as bin Laden, disappear off to caves and begin plotting to destroy America.

Does the Gunner story stand up? Conspiracy theories flourish in times of war. Some I have spoken to darkly suspect the hand of aggrieved residents of Ashburton Grove, opposed to the development there of Arsenal's new stadium.

The argument goes that, with crucial planning meetings imminent, this is no bad time to be highlighting some of the less desirable aspects of having a Premier League club on your doorstep, such as litter and Osama bin Laden. It's a compelling theory, but not one that holds water. Resistance to the stadium is organised, but does not have the resources to infiltrate an important new biography.

Elsewhere, the news of bin Laden's affiliation has been more openly accepted. The estimable, supporter-run Arsenal website, Arseweb, instantly installed the al-Qa'eda leader in its on-line list of "Celebrity Gunners", where he joins Fidel Castro, Robert Maxwell, "Mad" Frankie Fraser and the Queen Mother.

Editorially, meanwhile, the site sought to reassure the home constituency as follows: "You may shudder at the thought of having rubbed shoulders with the man back then, but Arseweb would like to believe that this makes north London ever so slightly less likely to become a target."

Good point - and worth conveying to the residents of Ashburton Grove. Conversely, the news of bin Laden's allegiance is none too comforting a thought if you happen to be living in Tottenham. One thinks again of the inhabitants of the Welsh village of Tal-y-ban, who, when the American bombing campaign began, had more reason than most to be nervous.

From Arsenal, the official response was predictable: the club moved swiftly to ban bin Laden. "Clearly he wouldn't be welcome at Highbury in the future," a club spokesman said. One understands the decision, on emotional grounds as well as in terms of public relations. At the same time, I wonder whether Arsenal aren't guilty of a failure to think through the broader issue affecting us all here. Unless I'm misreading President Bush and the campaign in Afghanistan, this is not the time to be banning bin Laden from places; it's the time to be enticing him out into the open, where he can be arrested. Right now the world wants bin Laden where it can see him: if that's row 12, seat 43 in the Clock End, then so be it.

What's disappointing is the way the significance of the extremist's Arsenal connection is being ignored completely by the military establishment. It hasn't figured in any of the US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld's media briefings, and nor has General Tommy Franks, in charge of the American ground operation to capture bin Laden, mentioned Arsenal once.

Unless, that is, America is working with the information undercover. I can exclusively reveal that someone purporting to be a journalist from an Italian newspaper contacted the author and Arsenal loyalist Nick Hornby this week to ask him if he had been at the Cup-Winners' Cup quarter-final between Arsenal and Torino on March 15, 1994. Hornby was able to say that, indeed, he had been there - but that he couldn't remember anything about a bloke with a long, black beard. The conversation ended.

Was that really a reporter from Italy? Or was it the CIA, covertly following up all available leads? Only time will tell.

Meanwhile, football could take us to bin Laden in a way that nobody seems to be emphasising. All week, on the television news and in the papers, foreign correspondents have been picking through the pieces of paper found on the floors of al Qa'eda safe houses in Kabul and trying to work out whether they were discarded plans for a weapon of mass destruction or simply the manual for an Afghan washing machine. But was any of them keeping an eye out for programmes from the 93-94 season and back numbers of Four Four Two magazine? I doubt it. And yet we now know these items would provide unignorable indications that the trail was hot.

What we need on the ground is someone who can infiltrate bin Laden's stronghold and then talk to him in the universal language of football. It's a role for British forces if ever there was one. The fact is that bin Laden has spent one of the most extraordinary periods in Arsenal's history sitting in a hole in some rocks, and I think it shows. Last weekend, he told his most recent interviewer: "I love death as you love life. This is what you will never understand." That's very much the George Graham-era Arsenal speaking there.

But extraordinary things have happened in the six years since the world's most wanted man last saw his side. Graham has managed Tottenham. David Seaman has grown a pony-tail. Ray Parlour has played for England. And Tony Adams has become a teetotal pianist.

Were all this communicated to bin Laden, he'd probably suspect a wind-up.

But then, properly briefed, an infiltrator could remind him what Highbury is like for a night game, with the lights and the noise and the smell of fried food and smoke on the cold air, and tempt him to get involved again. It's possible that a football fan could produce what a bunker buster has yet to: the emergence into the light of bin Laden. And then he could be shipped to America and put in prison for ever.

In the meantime, any aspiring bounty hunter could do worse than try to smoke the bastard out with the offer of "two together" for Arsenal against Deportivo in the Champions League. I know where a couple of tickets can be found and for a share of the $25 million bounty offered by the American government for the capture of bin Laden, I might just be persuaded to lead somebody to them.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A new way to expose grand corruption in Kenya

By Mwalimu Mati

At last, an opportunity to pass on some good news has presented itself; for looming on the horizon is the solution to Kenyan anti-corruption activists’ much complained about triple-header problem of the Official Secrets Act, the absence of whistle-blower protection, and having no law to secure a citizen’s right to freedom of information. The good news is that we may not have to wait for the repealing of the Official Secrets Act or enactment of whistle-blower protection and freedom of information law to freely expose grand corruption anymore.

Events are conspiring to ensure that, regardless of whether or not the Kenyan Government gets its act together and enacts new laws, new technological developments will soon condemn the Official Secrets Act to dead letter status and distant memory. It’s exciting to report that the next two months should herald the arrival of the bane of secretive governments, in the name of a new transnational effort to promote ethical leaking on a website -

WikiLeaks.Org combines the wiki platform technology, popularized by the world’s largest online encyclopedia, with a political bent which will be irresistible to freedom advocates the globe over, as it is designed to facilitate untraceable mass document leaking and analysis. The idea has caught fire, with its promoters claiming to have already received close to 1.5 million leaked documents, from all over the world, months before its official launch!

WikiLeaks.Org, run by a global mix-match of cyberspace residents, has an overt idealistic and political mission. To break the cycle of impunity, by penetrating the walls of secrecy erected by governments around the world; and making millions (perhaps billions) of people members of an international network against corruption and injustice. As of the time I last visited the site there were close to 900 people signed up. Clearly this is going to be a popular site.

The site has lofty and, I believe, achievable ambitions of a world free of corruption and repression. Its philosophical justification is plain and immediately relevant to Kenya. At a first level, it dovetails nicely with the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission’s recently launched whistle-blower initiative that implements the Business Keeper Monitoring System (BKMS®) which allows for anonymous and secure corruption reporting on the its website. At another level, WikiLeaks.Org will complement the online activities of Kenyan whistle-blowers including ex-Permanent Secretary for Governance and Ethics, John Githongo, who recently halted the Return-Mwiraria-to-Cabinet campaign in spectacular fashion (Transcript Githongo Mwiraria).

As WikiLeaks.Org’s blurb puts it: “the power of principled leaking to embarrass governments, corporations and institutions is amply demonstrated through recent history. Public scrutiny of otherwise unaccountable and secretive institutions pressures them to act ethically. What official will chance a secret, corrupt transaction when the public is likely to find out? What repressive plan will be carried out when it is revealed to the citizenry, not just of its own country, but the world? When the risks of embarrassment through openness and honesty increase, the tables are turned against conspiracy, corruption, exploitation and oppression. Open government answers injustice rather than causing it. Open government exposes and undoes corruption. Open governance is the most cost effective method of promoting good governance.”

The timely arrival of WikiLeaks.Org coincides with the publication of a new draft policy document on Freedom of Information by the Kenyan Government. The draft policy, which can be read at Freedom of Information Policy, is really the same old public relations exercise one has come to expect from cynical public servants. It is our case that the utility of the GOK Freedom of Information Policy, in the fight against corruption, is dubious.

Although it claims to support the principal that “there is a strong presumption that government action should not be shielded from public view”, the policy lays heavy emphasis on making the case for exemptions on the rights to information it purports to be establishing. For example, its very first annex is a table which describes how other countries limit the right to freedom of information! Without pausing for the irony to sink in, the authors of this policy document then go on to annex the entire Official Secrets Act; and the new Statistics Act, which controversially requires socio-economic researchers to obtain prior approval from a Government board for surveys (including opinion polls) in Kenya. Clearly, whoever is passing this policy off as a step forward in the fight against corruption is being disingenuous.

Unfortunately for us, the Kenyan legal regime remains most unfavourable to public spirited whistle-blowers - the most obvious disincentive being the aforementioned Official Secrets Act. Kenyans should also note that even what is being touted as reform legislation is inadequate. For example, the Witness Protection Act to which President Kibaki gave his assent in December 2006 is criminal witness protection law and not whistle-blower protection legislation. Section 3 defines the meaning of a “witness” for the purposes of the statute as a person who has given or agreed to give evidence, or made a statement to the authorities concerning an offence against Kenyan law would qualify for the protection of the Attorney General. At this point it is clear that it would not apply to a whistle-blower in a private sector corporation. Furthermore it does not cover disclosures to persons outside the government - so for example it could not have protected the late David Munyakei from dismissal because he did not take the Goldenberg papers to the police. Kenyans know what would have happened to him if he did!

Best practice whistle-blower legislation protects whistle-blowers who eventually give evidence in criminal proceedings, as well as persons who make disclosures relating to things that may not necessarily result in criminal proceedings. For example, disclosing to a newspaper that a certain parastatal head has reached retirement but still remains in place, can get the human resources department clerk in a lot of trouble but is in the public interest. The Witness Protection Act would not protect her.

A major purpose of any whistle-blower legislation is to deter punitive actions from being taken (by superiors, organizations or authorities) against those who disclose corruption, illegality and misconduct. Thus, a good law would ensure that you can’t demote, suspend or fire someone for telling the world the truth about an organisation.

Whistle-blower protection should motivate more people to speak out in the public interest (by removing the threat of retribution). As stated above this new law would not have prevented David Munyakei’s harassment because he didn’t make the disclosure to the State, the Kenya Police & law enforcement agencies, or to a court or tribunal.

The good news is that a new frontier has opened in the war for truth and against corruption and the secrecy that cloaks it. A new frontier with enhanced state-citizen accountability; a more open society and certainly a more transparent government. I leave you with the words of Siddhartha Gautama (the Buddha) as reproduced by WikiLeaks.Org: Three things cannot hide for long: the Moon, the Sun and the Truth.

Anatomy of a smear-- Africa-style

By Don Goldberg

Solid reputations take years to be won, but they can be lost virtually overnight. The political landscape is littered with the (figurative) bodies of those who have been implicated but later exonerated in scandal. The same is true in Africa as it is here in the States. And this is precisely what happened to former Nigerian Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who is seeking his nation's presidency (full disclosure: Atiku's Washington-based attorney is a client, and I have provided counsel on his issues. Two of my colleagues have met directly with the Vice President). Mr. Abubakar was implicated in the bribery scandal that led to the indictment of Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA), but on close examination of the evidence it turns out, well, there is no evidence that he was involved at all.

I write about Atiku because he is what should be the model for the United States in choosing allies in difficult parts of the globe. Nigeria is economically vital to this country given its oil resources; yet it is struggling to balance a sizeable Islamic population with the need to be on good terms with the West. Atiku, a Muslim himself, is a friend to the United States, and wants our countries to be friends, too.

A successful businessman-turned-politician, Atiku fought recent corruption in his government, standing against attempts by former President Olusegun Obasanjo to alter Nigeria's constitutionally-mandated term-limits. Although this was an act of political self-sacrifice, putting himself in the crosshairs of President Obasanjo and his supporters, Mr. Abubakar felt it was his duty. His reputation, however, suffered. He ended up a scapegoat for allegations originally aimed at President Obasanjo and others.

According to news reports, United States Congressman William Jefferson allegedly accepted at least $100,000 in bribes to build a relationship between a company employing his former chief of staff and a firm called iGate, which supposedly had the opportunity to provide IT support to Nigeria's government-owned phone company. When the scheme began to fail and money was being lost, Rep. Jefferson and his associates started dropping Atiku's name in an attempt to draw attention away from their actions.

While Rep. Jefferson's trial is forthcoming, Atiku's name has been smeared in the international press; yet, at no time has he been the subject of an investigation by any U.S. law enforcement agency. The reason is because Mr. Abubakar never solicited nor accepted bribes from Rep. Jefferson or his associates. And this is clearly demonstrated by a review of the publicly-available affidavits in the case, which reveal that Rep. Jefferson's statements about him were simply part of an attempt to illicit more bribes from his former chief of staff's employer:

Atiku had no connection to those involved in the bribery scandal, according to affidavits related to the case.

• During a December 2004 conversation with the woman who employed Brett Pfeffer, Rep. Jefferson's chief of staff, Rep. Jefferson told her that President Obasanjo, not Vice President Abubakar, was his point of contact with the Nigerian government.

• In August 2004, Rep. Jefferson introduced Pfeffer's employer, Lori Mody, to the president of the Nigerian company that would serve as iGate's local partner. At no time during the meeting did anyone mention a link between the local partner and Atiku.

• In a March 2005 conversation arranged at the direction of the FBI, Pfeffer met with Mody to attempt to restore the deteriorating iGate deal. In a detailed conversation about how the deal would unfold, Atiku's name was never mentioned, nor were there any veiled references to him. Rep. Jefferson and his associates only used Atiku's name to gain influence, even though they'd never met and had no connection to him.

• In April 2005, Rep. Jefferson mentioned Atiku's name to Mody as a means of creating the notion of his own influence with the Nigerians. Rep. Jefferson knew the deal was falling apart fast and needed a bump to get Mody to act. Rep. Jefferson told Mody that Atiku would arrive in Washington on May 1, 2005. Prolbem, was, that never happened. He had no plans to go to Washington in May and did not.

• In June 2005, Rep. Jefferson had written a formal letter addressed to the Vice President through the Nigerian Embassy in Washington, DC. If Rep. Jefferson had a personal relationship with Vice President Abubakar, going to far as to discuss an illegal business deal involving millions of dollars with him, why the need for formal correspondence through the Embassy of all places?

Atiku was never mentioned in conversations about who should be bribed.

• On May 4, 2005, after not hearing a response from Atiku to the formal letter he solicited or otherwise, Rep. Jefferson told Mody that there was no need to involve the Vice President in the deal.

• On May 12, 2005, Rep. Jefferson met Mody and discussed the need to motivate the president of iGate's Nigerian partner because "he's got a lot of folks to pay off." Atiku's name was not mentioned during the detailed conversation.

When the iGate deal at last crumbled, Rep. Jefferson attempted to extract some final money from Mody and used Atiku as the excuse.

• After long negotiations between Rep. Jefferson and Mody, Rep. Jefferson convinced Mody that he needed $100,000 to bribe the Vice President. The FBI, working with Mody to build a case, gave Mody $100,000 and recorded the serial numbers of the bills as part of basic procedure.

• During an FBI raid of Rep. Jefferson's home, $90,000 of the bills given to him by Mody as the supposed "bribe" for Atiku were found in his freezer. An investigation revealed another $4,800 had been given to a female legislative aide. Eventually, all but a single $100 bill was accounted for.

Ultimately, misperception and falsehoods have marred Atiku's reputation around the world, with very few examining the obvious facts of the case to see that there is no merit to any suggestion of his involvement. Where does someone like Atiku go to get his reputation back?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

US eases travel warning to Kenya

NAIROBI - In a move that could boost the tourism sector that was adversely affected by the post-election violence, the United States has relaxed its travel warning to Kenya.

The US Department of State says the move follows the signing of a power sharing deal between President Mwai Kibaki and ODM leader Raila Odinga that ended weeks of violence in the country. "Threats of political demonstrations and violence have dramatically receded following the widely accepted power-sharing agreement signed on February 29", the statement said. It said it was further reviewing the resumption of US Peace Corps programme through which volunteers travel abroad to work in various fields to help the host country. The programme was suspended in February this year following the skirmishes that erupted after the December 27 polls. The Department however cautions its citizens to be careful and be on the lookout for crime prone areas.

Meanwhile, Kenyans have taken up offers by some hotels of reduced charges to visit the tourist sites in a move that was welcomed by the operators in the tourism industry. Some hotels in Naivasha had to hire tents to accommodate guests following an influx of tourists who celebrated Easter there. Many hotels had special packages for the Easter festivities resulting in more local tourists visiting the town.Hoteliers expressed optimism that the industry was now picking after the adverse effects of post election clashes. Lake Naivasha Country Club General Manager Gomery Kombo said the hotel was fully booked forcing them to refer some guests to other hotels. He said a 20% reduction in rates had brought in more tourists.

Women abuse Police hotlines

KAMPALA - The start of the rainy season has left the Police toll-free hotlines jammed with calls from females demanding for sex. Kampala Extra Police spokesman Simeo Nsubuga said the Easter day long heavy down-pour made the situation worse. “These toll-free lines, 112 for mobile and 999 for landline, are for emergencies but women in desperate need for sex, warmth and love, jam the lines distracting our officers in the control room,” he said during the weekly press briefing at the Central Police Station. “They use very sexy and enticing voices: Officer, it is very cold in the bed. I am alone, I need warmth. My husband is away. Please come.”

Nsubuga, who first talked of the vice last year, added that the calls, which are mostly made in cold weather and in the wee-hours of the morning, block genuine help-seekers. The Police suspect the callers to be prostitutes. “Some drunk people call 999 to be taken home. Can you imagine! They ask to be driven home on a Police patrol car?” Nsubuga warned that such characters would be arrested.

He appealed to the public to call the Police on 0414256366, for quick response in case of emergency.

Uganda "8th most democratic in Africa"

Uganda is one of the 10 most democratic countries in Africa, according to a survey by a Germany research firm.

The German Bertelsmann Foundation Transformation Index put Uganda at number eight out of 38 African countries. The firm analyses the quality of democracy, market economics and political management in 125 developing countries across the world. Areas examined are political participation, the rule of law, stability and democratic institutions, political and social transformation as well as economic performance, competition, currency and price stability, welfare regime and sustainability. “It is beyond dispute that the government has achieved an extensive reconstruction and economic recovery following an almost complete economic collapse,” the report notes. “The government has been relatively successful in liberalising the economy and establishing the basic foundations of a socially integrated market economy.

This has enabled the country to reach fairly satisfactory macroeconomic growth, achieving growth rates between 5 and 6% per year, and to also make notable progress with respect to key social programmes, although genuine and sustainable poverty reduction and structural changes remain rather limited.” As a result, Uganda has received a lot of aid as well as generous debt relief. However, it points out that political analysts tend to reach different verdicts on Uganda from that of the aid agencies and economic observers. “Until recently, analysts have evaluated with some ambivalence Uganda’s political role in a region continuously grappling with armed conflict.”

“On the one hand, Uganda has promoted economic cooperation, particularly in East Africa, but on the other hand, it has been engaged in dubious confrontations with its neighbours such as the DR Congo, Rwanda and Sudan,” the report added. The contradictions, it says, are reflected in the way various external observers characterise the country, which has been praised for its exemplary reforms by some and criticised as an authoritarian political regime by others. On democracy, it said constitutional changes resulting in the lifting of restrictions on political parties represented a step in the right direction.

It, however, points out that the new constitutional and political framework still favours the ruling authorities and does not provide a fair “level playing field” for all political actors. It also notes that Uganda’s military continues to be an influential background factor. Freedom of speech and of the press is tolerated to a fairly large extent, the survey found. “Surprisingly, critical public discussions and statements in the media, including private FM radio stations, are normally the rule of the day, but from time to time massive intimidation campaigns are also carried out by state authorities,” according to the report. “All in all, the political climate is characterised by a carefully balanced fusion of relatively open and independent discussion, on the one hand, and of nevertheless keenly-felt control and sometimes even intimidation on the other.”

The foundation notes that corruption continues to be a major problem in Uganda. “While there have been many investigations into corrupt practices and subsequent dismissals or other actions in proven cases, there is still a widely prevalent perception that, in a lot of other cases, no stern action is taken and corruption is implicitly allowed to continue to a significant extent right up to the highest political levels.” It also notes that politicians and society as a whole have been slow in understanding and considering the value of environmental concerns.

In the rest of southern and eastern Africa, the survey found most countries stagnating in their economic and political growth. “Although many have made significant strides on the road to democracy and a market economy, the vast majority are characterised by very little significant change.” The countries which have progressed more in their political and economic transformation are Mauritius, followed by South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Ghana and Benin. Somalia scores the worst, followed by Eritrea, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In East Africa, Kenya came below Uganda at position 12, followed by Tanzania. Burundi is at position 21, while Rwanda is 27th.

Osama sets eye on Europe

Al-Qaeda renegade Osama bin Laden last week issued fresh threats to the EU, warning of grave consequences following the publication of cartoons mocking the Prophet Mohammed. See the cartoon here

In an audio recording posted on the internet to coincide with the birthday of the Prophet, bin Laden alleged that the drawings—considered offensive by Muslims—were part of a “new crusade” in which Pope Benedict XIV was involved. “Your publication of these drawings—part of a new crusade in which the Pope of the Vatican had a significant role—is a confirmation from you that the war continues,” said the Saudi-born militant leader, ostensibly addressing “those who are wise at the European Union. You are testing Muslims … the answer will be what you shall see, and not what you hear.”

But Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi swiftly rejected bin Laden’s allegations. “These accusations are totally unfounded, but they are not surprising,” he said. “It is natural to think that he (bin Laden) would lump the Vatican and the Pope together with all his perceived enemies.”

More of the cartoons

This was bin Laden’s first message since November 29 2007 when he urged the EU to stop participation in Afghanistan with the US. The message, produced by Al-Qaeda’s media arm As-Sahab in the lunar month which ended on March 8th, carried an animation of a spear piercing through a red map of Europe with blood splashing as its tip penetrates the surface. It also carried what appeared to be an old photograph of bin Laden firing an assault rifle. The message also eerily coincided with America’s 5th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. Michael Scheurer, a former CIA bin Laden tracker, saw the link: “It is not a coincidence that it was released on the day that is observed in the Muslim world as the Prophet’s birthday. It is only ominous when he says ‘don’t listen to our words, watch for our actions’ … that means they are clearly intending to attack Europe.”

Gadaffi ridicules the Bible

KAMPALA - Christian leaders have condemned Libyan President Col. Muammar Gadaffi’s assertion last Wednesday that the Bible is a forgery, and have called for an apology for the remarks they say “ridicule the very foundation of the Christian faith.” A statement from the Church of Uganda called Gadaffi’s remarks “divisive” and “unfortunate”.

A dark cloud hang over the air as Christians celebrated Easter, the holiest festival in their religious calendar when they remember the resurrection of Jesus Christ, with the bulk of sermons condemning Libyan leader Muammar Gadaffi's claims that the Bible is a forgery. The Christian leaders, however, were almost unanimous in their calls for Col. Gadaffi to be forgiven and his claims ignored. And, in a curious prediction, one of them speculated that the Libyan leader "will find difficulties in coming back to Uganda." The condemnations kept alive a wave of criticism in which Christian clerics have described Col. Gadaffi's remarks as divisive.

Col. Gadaffi, who last week visited Uganda to close the Afro-Arab Youth Festival and open the Gadaffi National Mosque on Old Kampala hill, questioned the Bible's authenticity during celebrations to mark the birth of Prophet Muhammad. The maverick colonel has since left Uganda. Archbishop Cyprian Kizito Lwanga, who had already denounced Col. Gadaffi's claims during Good Friday prayers at Nakivubo War Memorial Stadium, the place where Col. Gadaffi had made his claims, asked Christians to forgive and forget. "I ask fellow Christians to forgive Gadaffi like Jesus forgave those people who crucified him on the cross," he said in his sermon to hundreds of Christians that turned out for Easter prayers at Rubaga Cathedral. The prelate told his congregation that Christians should not waste time on Col. Gadaffi's remarks, saying "there are more important issues to talk about". Namirembe Bishop Samuel Balagadde Ssekadde asked the government to give "terms of reference" to foreign dignitaries who are potentially divisive. "We should pray for such people who don't know that in Uganda, we have an Inter-religious Council that unites us regardless of our religious differences. Muslims and Christians live harmoniously without any problem," he said.

In his sermon at Namboole Stadium, Kampala Pentecostal Church's pastor Gary Skinner called on the faithful to shun all forms of sectarianism if they are to promote peace and stability in Uganda. "The remarks Gadaffi made were unfortunate and we rather forgive him, because Islam is an intolerant religion," he said. Another KPC pastor, Chris Komagum, said Col. Gadaffi's intention was to confuse, predicting that the Libyan leader "will find difficulties in coming back to Uganda." Rubaga Miracle Centre Cathedral's pastor Robert Kayanja said: "This man [Gadaffi], who came here and abused our holy book, has made us learn one thing: unity. We have to start seeing ourselves as Christians. Our enemies are organised and they have money." Preaching at his Rubaga-based church, Mr Kayanja said it is time for Christians, who are the majority in Uganda, to find economic emancipation. Christians account for more than 80 per cent of Uganda's 28 million people. "I have made my research in the last three days and discovered that major pork joints are owned by Muslims. They don't physically operate them but they are run by non-Muslims. They are strategic and each shilling counts," Mr Kayanja claimed, his audience chanting in approval.

At Christ the King Church in the city centre, Msgr Paul Ssemwogerere said Col. Gadaffi's claims are a result of an ignorant mind. But the parish priest insisted that "since the Muslim community has already distanced itself from Col. Gadaffi's sentiments, let's forgive him as Christians." Fr James Segul, a visiting reverend from Spain, told the congregation at Our Lady of Africa Church in Mbuya that Christians should resist the use of religion as a divisive tool. "As members of one family, we should promote peace, love and unity throughout the world," Fr. James said, apparently referring to the current fallout from Col. Gadaffi's claims on the authenticity of the Bible. "We ought to exercise respect for one another regardless of our different religious and other ideological affiliations."

In attacking the very basis of Christianity, Col. Gadaffi, a Muslim, argued that someone had deleted the name of Prophet Muhammad from the Bible. But Christian leaders, reacting to the Libyan leader's claims, noted that the Koran, Islam's holy book, was written long after the Bible. "To say that the Bible is a forgery because Prophet Muhammad is not included [is] distorting religious facts," said Dr Kizito Lwanga, preaching on Good Friday at Nakivubo War Memorial Stadium. "The Koran came in 610 AD, long after the Bible [had been written], in 1450 BC. How can we be blamed for not including what was not in existence?"

On the issue of land, Dr Lwanga called for dialogue among all parties that are debating the Land Bill. He condemned character assassination, noting that it is destroying the country. "It is not good to abuse people or even disrespect them. Exchange of abusive words is even more repulsive," he said. The prelate noted that both President Museveni and Kabaka Mutebi have suffered from the resultant acrimony over the proposed land law reforms. "We leaders should be the ones to cure people's wounded hearts in view of a better country," he said.

Friday, March 21, 2008

After watching Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, I'm now convinced the Americans voted the wrong man into White House.

Regardless of how you feel about Al Gore as a politician, this documentary is worth seeing because of the gravity of the issues discussed. Gore proves to be a worthy spokesman and his arguments are clear and concise at the beginning of the film. In other words, you do not need to be a scientist to understand what he is saying about the environment and the consequences of global warming. He is an effective communicator and good at explaining the problem in layperson's terms.

The problem with the film is, ironically, too much of Al Gore himself. Less than halfway through I began to ask myself "Is this a documentary about global warming or about Al Gore?" There is a shift from the message to the messenger; global warming fades into the background while Al moves to the front and center. While a brief personal portrait (family background, political career) could have enhanced the story, in this documentary the focus on Gore dilutes the film's central theme.

Towards the end, Gore's examples become slightly disjointed as he tries to "throw too much into the bag" (eg: overpopulation). I blame this more on the editing of the film than on his live presentations (people have criticized the movie as being "about a slideshow", but seeing the film made me want to attend one of Mr. Gore's presentations in person!). Thankfully, "An Inconvenient Truth" ends on a positive note. That alone makes this documentary recommended viewing.

Sample this gem of poetry: "You look at that river gently flowing by. You notice the leaves rustling with the wind. You hear the birds; you hear the tree frogs. In the distance you hear a cow. You feel the grass. The mud gives a little bit on the river bank. It's quiet; it's peaceful. And all of a sudden, it's a gear shift inside you. And it's like taking a deep breath and going, "Oh yeah, I forgot about this."

On the flip-side of the coin, sample these from Gore's nemesis:

1) "You work three jobs? … Uniquely American, isn't it? I mean, that is fantastic that you're doing that." --to a divorced mother of three, Omaha, Nebraska, Feb. 4, 2005

2) "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job." --to FEMA director Michael Brown, who resigned 10 days later amid criticism over his handling of the Hurricane Katrina debacle, Mobile, Ala., Sept. 2, 2005

3) "See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda." --Greece, N.Y., May 24, 2005

4) "We've got a lot of rebuilding to do. First, we're going to save lives and stabilize the situation. And then we're going to help these communities rebuild. The good news is -- and it's hard for some to see it now -- that out of this chaos is going to come a fantastic Gulf Coast, like it was before. Out of the rubbles of Trent Lott's house -- he's lost his entire house -- there's going to be a fantastic house. And I'm looking forward to sitting on the porch." (Laughter) --touring hurricane damage, Mobile, Ala., Sept. 2, 2005

5) "I think I may need a bathroom break. Is this possible?" --in a note to to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during a U.N. Security Council meeting, September 14, 2005

6) "Because the — all which is on the table begins to address the big cost drivers. For example, how benefits are calculate, for example, is on the table; whether or not benefits rise based upon wage increases or price increases. There's a series of parts of the formula that are being considered. And when you couple that, those different cost drivers, affecting those — changing those with personal accounts, the idea is to get what has been promised more likely to be — or closer delivered to what has been promised. Does that make any sense to you? It's kind of muddled." --explaining his plan to save Social Security, Tampa, Fla., Feb. 4, 2005

7) "I'm going to spend a lot of time on Social Security. I enjoy it. I enjoy taking on the issue. I guess, it's the mother in me." --Washington D.C., April 14, 2005

8) "This notion that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous. And having said that, all options are on the table." --Brussels, Belgium, Feb. 22, 2005

9) "I'm occasionally reading, I want you to know, in the second term." --Washington, D.C., March 16, 2005

10) "It's totally wiped out. ... It's devastating, it's got to be doubly devastating on the ground." --turning to his aides while surveying Hurricane Katrina flood damage from Air Force One, Aug. 31, 2005

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Buganda kings are Luo, says Museveni

KAMPALA - President Yoweri Museveni yesterday put the royal lineage of traditional leaders in Uganda at the forefront of his submissions to a debate on land in Munyonyo - concluding that Buganda, Bunyoro and Tooro kings are largely of Luo origin.

The President was speaking to some 600 delegates attending a conference on Land Conflicts and Mitigation measures in the country. Museveni talked predominantly about the current debate on land in the country that has sparked tribal emotion. At the conference, he chose to lecture delegates about the history of tribal settlements in East Africa, stating that the ancestry of the kings of Buganda, Bunyoro and Tooro is rooted in the Luo dynasty, before sounding a warning to those he said are inciting tribalism as the debate to amend the 1998 Land Act rages. Museveni said the Luo, who are largely settled in northern Uganda and western Kenya, governed the three kingdoms, leaving descendants behind, who today, are the current rulers. "The kings of Bunyoro, Buganda and Tooro are Luos," he said. "It's only in Ankole that we stopped the Luo expansion. How can you have a Bantu name like Oyo, like this young boy (the King of Tooro) and Olimi the king of Bunyoro?" Further drawing a link between the king of Buganda and the Luos, Museveni cited a Luganda word "Wankaaki", which means main gate, one he claims originated from the Luo. "If you ask any Muganda that what is Wankaaki, they will tell you 'Lubiri lwa kabaka' (Kabaka's palace). But we have to excuse them because they don't know history. This is a Luo word," said the President.

Delving into his favourite subject of history, Museveni said the three kingdoms were conquered and ruled by the Luo from 900 to 1500 AD. His historical opinion was corroborated by Makerere University political historian Mwambutsya Ndebesa. "About 600 years ago, the Jo-bito (Luo) attacked the Chwezi dynasty and formed the Babito dynasty whose descendants are Baganda and Banyoro," said Ndebesa, adding that the founder of Buganda kingdom, Kato Kimera, was a descendant of King Rukidi Mpuga of Bunyoro. He said Tooro was formed in 1830 out of Bunyoro kingdom.

In what has now come to characterise the President's speeches on the land question in the country, Museveni took another swipe at Mengo, the seat of Buganda Kingdom, describing officials pushing for the return of the now obscure 9,000sq miles of land, as opportunists. "I normally tune in to CBS (Buganda's radio -Central Broadcasting Service) when I have time. And you hear all this trash. They are just opportunists whose intention is only 'naalira wa?' (What is in it for me?)," he said. Museveni took time off to remind delegates that his administration reinstated traditional and cultural institutions in the country, with the sole aim of reviving lost glory and custom, before concluding that the traditional leaders have failed "and I will oppose them because I am still here."

He described as "absolute rubbish" calls by some people who have been agitating for a north-south divide in the country, saying Uganda is a cohesive nation "and no one should talk about dividing it." And although it would seem Museveni's remarks were a direct response to recent claims by Gulu LC 5 chairman Nobert Mao that northern Uganda was willing to secede from the rest of the country due to uneven distribution of the national cake, it isn't in doubt that the current land debate in the country has driven a sharp wedge in Parliament, just as it has in the public domain.

Only last week, the Coordinator of Security Services in the country, Gen. David Tinyefuza, told Parliament that the army will not hesitate to intervene in settling civil strife in the country, a proclamation that has now been understood as a warning to anyone who stokes tribal hatred over the land debate. Already, Buganda and the central government have locked horns over the proposals which the latter believes will help curb incessant illegal evictions in the country. Mengo insists it will only legitimise land grabbing. Commenting on the land debate, Museveni said "the talk about tribalism and division is absolute nonsense and we shall oppose them."

The conference, organised by Jamii Yakupatanisha, a local NGO and the Makerere University Department of Peace and Conflict Resolution, with the support of the Canadian government, presented a report on the causes of land conflicts in Uganda. According to the report, a copy of which Siasa Duni has seen, unclear land demarcations in northern Uganda and massive evictions in central Uganda are the major causes of land conflicts in the country. The report also concluded, based on a survey carried out between October 2007 and February 2008, that the land question in the country has become a tribal issue. "In the recent months, land has often become a tribal question fuelled by debate by special interests to 'protect tribal land'," the report reads in part. "The current rhetoric demanding that 'other' people (i.e. non-tribesmen/women) keep off 'our' land is sowing the seeds for a continuing and growing politicised conflict."

It is an opinion that was also shared by Lands Minister Daniel Omara Atubo who concurred that the debate on land "has become emotional, sensitive and political." The report recommends, under the customary land tenure system, that the role of elders and traditional elders on land matters be strengthened. It also calls for systematic land demarcation across the country in order to reduce conflicts, especially in northern Uganda.

Kenya's new Dream Team

We have just received the final list of the Kenya's new-look Cabinet, and I must say here at Siasa Duni we're quite impressed at first glance...


1. President - Emillio Mwai wa Kibaki

2. Prime Minister - Eng. Raila Amollo Odinga

3. Vice President - Kalonzo Musyoka

4. Deputy Prime Minister And Minister For Finance -Musalia Mudavadi

5. Deputy Prime Minister And Minister For Internal Security - Kiraitu Murungi

6. Minister For Planning - Amos Kimunya

7. Minister For Justice And Human Rights - James Orengo

8. Minister For Constitutional Affairs - Martha Karua

9. Minister For Roads And Public Works - William Ruto

10. Minister For Co-operative Development - Sam Ongeri

11. Minister For Education for Higher Education - Anyang Nyong'o

12. Minister For Education for Basic Education - John Munyes

13. Minister For Housing - Kabando Wa Kabando

14. Minister For Foreign Affairs - Moses Wetangula

15. Minister For Science And Technology - George Saitoti

16. Minister For Defence - Joseph Nkaisery

17. Minister For Special Programmes - Naomi Shaaban

18. Minister For Local Government - Uhuru Kenyatta

19. Minister For Environment and Natural Resources - Henry Kosgey

20. Minister For Communication, Information And Broadcasting - Joseph Nyagah

21. Minister For Water And Irrigation - Omingo Magara

22. Minister For Livestock - Samuel Poghisio

23. Minister For Trade - Soita Shitanda

24. Minister For Fisheries - Dalmas Otieno

25. Minister For Youth Affairs - Danson Mungatana

26. Minister For Gender Affairs - Mohammed Kuti

27. Minister For Sports - Musa Sirma

28. Minister For Agriculture - Bonny Khalwale

29. Minister For Energy-Mwangi Kiunjuri

30. Minister For Health - Charity Ngilu

31. Minister For Lands-Noah Wekesa

32. Minister For Home Affairs - Chris Okemo

33. Minister For Transport - Chirau Mwakwere

34. Minister For Regional Development - Wilfred Machage

35. Minister For Home Affairs - Najib Balala

36. Minister For Labour - Alfred Khangati

37. Minister For East African Community - Mutula Kilonzo

38. Minister For Public Service - Sally Kosgey

39. Attorney General - Amos Wako

40. Head Of Public Prosecutions - Paul Muite

41. Secretary To The Cabinet And Head Of Civil Service - Prof. Wangari Maathai

Now we all know why Amb. Francis Muthaura was beating his gums last week; he must have got wind of his impending doom, and was exhibiting the kicks of a dying horse. Moving swiftly onwards, this list looks pretty impressive at first glance. But a close look reveals the culprits we would rather do without, chief among them Kiraitu "You can't rape a willing woman" Muringi, Chirau "I was looking for your mother on Koinange Street" Mwakwere and Amos "Smiling" Wako.

We welcome, however, the inclusion of some fresh faces: James Orengo, Mutula Kilonzo, Sally Kosgey and newcomer Alfred Khangati. All in all, I think the job fits the man... in some cases, the woman. Sasa kazi ianze!

George W Bush appreciation week

As George "Dubya" Bush's career as President of the World and Terrorist Chaser-in-Chief comes very near a conclusion, we propose to have a George W Bush appreciation week because let's face it: an idiot in the White House happens only once in a lifetime! Let's look at some of his more memorable Bushisms. Or, more accurately, slip-ups. Enjoy!

1. We need an energy bill that encourages consumption.

2. When Iraq is liberated, you will be treated, tried, and persecuted as a war criminal.

3. Sometimes, Washington is one of these towns where the person - people who think they've got the sharp elbow is the most effective person.

4. I promise you I will listen to what has been said here, even though I wasn't here.

5. I know what I believe. I will continue to articulate what I believe and what I believe - I believe what I believe is right.

6. For every fatal shooting, there were roughly three non-fatal shootings. And, folks, this is unacceptable in America. It's just unacceptable. And we're going to do something about it.

7. It's very important for folks to understand that when there's more trade, there's more commerce.

8. You teach a child to read, and he or her will be able to pass a literacy test.

9. Redefining the role of the United States from enablers to keep the peace to enablers to keep the peace from peacekeepers is going to be an assignment.

10. Natural gas is hemispheric. I like to call it hemispheric in nature because it is a product that we can find in our neighborhoods.

AI miffed at M7's decision

KAMPALA - Amnesty International has voiced its concerns over President Museveni’s deal seeking to avoid the country's obligation to hand over rebel leaders to an international court. Speaking in London last week, President Yoweri Museveni said rebel leaders would be allowed to atone for crimes through a traditional "blood settlement", avoiding prison and judgment by the ICC.

Amnesty International said Museveni's comments cast "serious doubt on whether the government intends to implement provisions in the agreement for the investigation and prosecution of the LRA leaders" wanted by the ICC. “The LRA leaders wanted by the ICC must be immediately arrested and surrendered to the court even if the suspects or Uganda challenged the admissibility of the case in The Hague court,” Amnesty International said in the statement yesterday. It urged Uganda to revise its laws to criminalize genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, torture and extrajudicial executions. It also called for full and effective reparations for the victims.

LRA leader Joseph Kony, who is believed to be hiding in remote eastern DRC together with his four commanders, is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague over crimes against humanity. Government and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels signed an agreement in February on how to deal with war crimes committed during one of Africa's longest-running and most brutal civil wars. But the deal stipulates that the Ugandan government will set up special war crimes courts to handle the gravest crimes, while traditional justice would be used for others. The rebels insist a final peace deal depends on the ICC scrapping war crimes indictments against their four leaders.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill passed

NAIROBI - Members of the 10th Parliament voted to extend today's Parliamentary session beyond 6:30pm, and consequently have passed the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill which now awaits presidential assent to become law. A record 200 MPs unanimously voted the Bill, and there were no incidences of nays or absentees.