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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

If we're assisting IDPs, we must also assist Ocampo 6

Christmas is a time of giving, and this year, no case is more deserving than the defence of six innocent Kenyans due to face charges of rape, murder, torture and displacement of populations.

Just imagine the fear that grips innocent people when they show up at a local magistrate’s court, then increase it a hundredfold for appearing before three judges in a faraway international court with windows frosted by snow. The country is duty-bound to ensure that the six Kenyans named as suspects by the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court are steeled for a long and rigorous trial lest they start building an inexplicable puddle of cowardice at their feet in the courtroom. Kenya’s image as the home of the brave Maasai warriors would be irrevocably soiled, with obvious ruinous consequences for tourism.
Courage does not come cheap in the face of international persecution. Energy minister Kiraitu Murungi, who holds erudite views about raping women who are already too willing, has great difficulty imagining one of the three suspects violating anybody. He has spend some time researching the cost of finding and retaining the best legal minds to prove the innocence of these six Kenyans. The consolidated cost of securing their freedom through lawyerly arguments is a measly Sh900 million.
These suspects are all poor people who have given their lives to public service and nary a thought to feathering their nests. For example, one of the six men told the BBC that he was worth a mere $10 million (nearly KSh1 billion) five years ago. A KSh150 million legal services bill would turn him into pauper and see him off to River Road, beggar-bowl in hand. Meanwhile, his mother told a local language radio station recently that the man’s father, a former head of state, left the family nearly indigent: “Mzee had no money, but I sold some land to help educate (the children)," she waxed lyrical. "I realised education was the only thing I could give them because with education and hard work, even without wealth, one can succeed.” Were he to squander whatever is left of his little wealth, poverty would easily become a generational curse, with his children having to seek free education in public schools.
The inspired observation by Planning minister Wycliffe Oparanya that “all the people going to The Hague are Kenyans” should tug at every heartstrings because there's a chance that some of the victims 1,133 dead, 650,000 displaced, thousands raped and maimed — might have been Martians.
Yet, Kenya made a KSh29 billion appeal to meet the needs of the displaced. The Government gave KSh0.5 billion in the 2008/09 financial year, and another Sh2.2b in the year after that.
Since all the genuine Internally Displaced Persons have all left the camps and only the pretenders are still hanging around three years later, focus must now shift to the six suspects. The Government must be the biggest giver even this time around. Kenya cannot allow the six suspects to apply to be treated as paupers at The Hague. Every Kenyan should give generously to secure the innocence of these patriots — for it is more blessed to give than to receive.
Since their possible trial is a blemish on the good name of Kenya — being ministers, top civil servants and opinion leaders — it would shame all of us, especially after the promulgation of a new Constitution that says we are sovereign. Therefore, the public purse must be extended to secure their discharge. Their legal defence budget together with travel and accommodation — should come from the Supplementary Budget in February. This expense was unexpected but entirely warranted.
Freed from the encumbrances of fear and financial worry, the six suspects can dazzle the world with their reasoning and logic, pick away at the Rome Statute, and convince the world that Kenya is indeed more than the home of athletics and corruption. Before you know it, all the jobless graduates would have jobs abroad working for governments and multinational corporations.
In dealing with the post-election violence, justice, fairness and balance must be applied to the accused and the victims in equal measure. This means that if you assist the IDPs, you also must assist the accused. So far, IDPs have received Sh6 billion. At just under Sh1 billion, the legal costs of defending the six suspects is a bargain. It is so little that it cannot constitute a scandal even if it was stolen.
Kenyans are used to losing billions of shillings through pilferage. It is better to give away a billion with a clean heart than to have it stolen from public coffers. In the event that the suspects are guilty, the Exchequer can always demand a refund, Anglo-Leasing style.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

BREAKING NEWS: Internal Security minister names Kenya's Drug Lords

George Saitoti has revealed in Parliament that MPs Gidion Mbuvi, William Kabogo, Hassan Joho and Harun Mwau are among the 6 drug lords under investigation for drug trafficking. We'll keep you posted as details become available.
UPDATE: Juja MP William Kabogo (snitch?) tabled documents claiming they contained the names of Simon Mbugua (Kamukunji) and Eugene Wamalwa (Saboti), also believed to be in the dossier in Prof. Saitoti's possession. He added that a wife of a prominent Kenyan was also on the list. Mr Kabogo was categorical that the list he tabled was from the American Embassy. The MPs in the list defended themselves with Mr Kabogo and Mr Joho insisting that those who had mentioned them should also be investigated for "peddling falsehoods". They said they welcomed thorough investigations. Mr Joho demanded unsuccessfully that his name be expunged from the list until investigations are concluded, stating that it was scandalous and meant "to kill others politically". He demanded that the minister undertakes that if he is found innocent, those who named be made to face the full force of the law. 
Meanwhile, we're reliably informed that Sonko is Mwau's illegitimate son and Kabogo is his son-in-law! Can anyone confirm?

Ruto's ICC motion bites the dust

The motion seeking Kenya's withdrawal from the International Criminal Court has been thrown out.

Deputy Speaker Farah Maalim told Parliament yesterday that the motion by Cheplaungu MP Isaac Ruto (left) was inadmissible in its current form. Mr Maalim, while issuing a communication from the Chair, said he could not allow debate on the motion because it was contrary to the law.

"As the constitution enjoins every person to obey and respect the rule of law, a motion calling on the government to disobey, contravene or defy the law is unlawful and unconstitutional,’’ Mr Maalim said. But he said the MP could as well introduce a bill to repeal the International Crimes Act instead of doing so through a motion. “It is the wording thereafter in the motion in purporting to interpret the effect of such repeal and in calling for cessation of links, co-operation and assistance to the International Criminal Court that forthwith render the motion inadmissible,’’ he ruled.

The motion would have been admissible, noted Mr Maalim, had it been amended and limited to calling on Parliament to resolve that “the Government takes immediate action to have the international  Crimes Act repealed". He argued that contrary to the requirements of the motion, there was no way a repeal of the Act would “immediately’’ release Kenya from its obligations under the Rome Statute.  “It cannot, under the terms of the Statute, suspend any links cooperation and assistance to the ICC forthwith,’’ ruled the Speaker.
“The proposed motion is therefore contrary to the law also on this score.’’ Mr Maalim made the ruling after MPs among them Justice minister Mutula Kilonzo, Gichugu MP Martha Karua, Garsen’s Danson Mungatana, Gitobu Imanyara (Imenti Central)  and Dr Boni  Khalwale of Ikolomani  questioned its constitutional validity and sought Mr Maalim’s direction. He shelved it and pledged to give directions Tuesday.

Meanwhile, members of the House Business Committee that draws the agenda of Parliament were divided down the middle on whether to allow the controversial motion for debate, when it was brought before them for placement last Tuesday. Apparently Mr Kilonzo successfully convinced the meeting which was chaired by deputy leader of Government Business, Dr Sally Kosgei, that the motion as drafted was unlawful. However, the following day a special HBC meeting was called and the members present voted to have it debated last Thursday. When it came to the floor Mr Kilonzo called for careful handling of  the motion. “In order for this motion to even see the light of the day, we must find a way of excepting the Rome Statute from the article 2(6) of the Constitution. In seeking the Speaker’s guidance, Mr Mungatana  argued the motion breached provisions of the Constitution and in particular Article 2 that deals with its supremacy.
He described it as a violation of Article 2 (5) that makes the general rules of international law part of  Kenya’s Constitution. Similar observations were also made by Mr Imanyara, Ms Karua and Mr Kilonzo.

UPDATE: MPS approve motion to repeal International Crimes Act and ask the government to withdraw Kenya from the Rome Statute (Wednesday 22nd December, 9:12pm).

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Harry Potter actress beaten by family for dating a non-muslim

A British court has heard a Harry Potter actress was attacked by members of her own family for dating a non-Muslim man.

Afshan Azad, 22, starred as Padma Patil, one of Harry Potter’s classmates, in four of the franchise hit movies made from the books by JK Rowling. The Daily Mail reports that the star’s father, Abul Azad, 54, and brother, Ashraf, 28, allegedly attacked her, called a her 'prostitute' and threatened to kill her after she met with a young Hindu man. Azad reportedly escaped further assault by climbing through a bedroom window. Azad’s brother pleaded guilty to assault, and both her father and brother were found not guilty of making threats to kill.

The court was told Azad, who lives with friends in London, would not attend the Manchester trial voluntarily. She had given a statement to the lawyer representing her father and brother which read: “I dearly love my father and brother. The proceedings have caused me no end of distress and if it goes ahead, it will make things much worse for me.” Azad played a witch of the same age as Harry Potter in the hit franchise, and first appeared in Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire. She also starred in the final instalment, Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows.

Museveni's phobia of "Jaluos" explained

President Museveni has been secretly worrying that Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga was supporting his political opponents and building a secret Luo power alliance in the region, leaked US diplomatic cables show.

Ms Kathleen FitzGibbon, the former political affairs officer at the US Mission in Kampala, detailed the President’s phobia in a June 29, 2009 dispatch to Washington, made public by whistleblower Wikileaks website. The publication of the cables comes only a few days after Mr Odinga visited Uganda for talks with President Museveni – and then drew criticism from the opposition after he accompanied Mr Museveni to the campaign trail.

The leaked cables provide progress updates on a regional anti-LRA rebel offensive in the Democratic Republic of Congo led by Uganda, but raises official uneasiness about bonding of Luo communities across the region. The cables reveal that UPDF Spokesman Lt. Col. Felix Kulayigye told Ms FitzGibbon last June that “Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga may be making common cause with the Acholi opposition in Uganda and Diaspora elements in Nairobi to advocate on behalf of LRA leader Joseph Kony”. It adds: “Kulayigye said the government suspects Odinga of supporting the Ugandan opposition because President Museveni supported Kenyan President Kibaki during the Kenyan elections.”

The Defence and Military spokesman confirmed to Uganda's Daily Monitor newspaper last night that he did discuss the subject captured in the cable but said the reporting by the diplomat had “a spin”. He said their talk centred on a letter written by former LRA negotiator, Mr Ayena Odongo, in which he “requested the Rt. Honourable Raila Odinga to intercede on their behalf to US President Obama”. Lt. Col. Kulayigye said: “Whether the Prime Minister wrote the letter or not, I don’t know.” However, the cable suggests the Kenyan leader notified Mr Obama requesting the US stops its operations against the LRA.

Mr Odinga, an ethnic Luo, reportedly is attempting to unite the Luo-speaking communities of western Kenyan, south Sudan and northern Uganda, Mr FitzGibbon noted, without giving reason for the rallying call.
The cable singles out the fact that most Ugandan MPs from Acholi sub-region, who are of Luo origin, are members of the opposition. Mr Museveni and the top brass in his government are mainly from Bantu-speaking tribes. It is further reported that Ugandan government sources alleged that Mr Odinga met with South Sudan President, Gen. Salva Kiir, and his vice Dr Riek Machar with a similar request to push forward the Luo agenda. The diplomat, however, said the embassy did not know how Gen. Kiir responded.

"Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga may be making common cause with the Acholi opposition in Uganda and Diaspora elements in Nairobi to advocate on behalf of LRA leader Joseph Kony”. It adds: “Kulayigye said the government suspects Odinga of supporting the Ugandan opposition because President Museveni supported Kenyan President Kibaki during the Kenyan elections.

Relations between Mr Museveni and Mr Odinga were tested in late 2007/early 2008 when the Ugandan leader became the first and only President in the region to congratulate President Mwai Kibaki after the Kenyan leader was hurriedly sworn-in amidst allegations of electoral fraud. Hundreds of Kenyans were killed in the post-election violence that ensued and although Mr Odinga joined government in a power-sharing deal, many in his camp believed that Mr Museveni’s decision had strengthened Mr Kibaki’s hand. Widely-reported claims that Uganda deployed troops across the border in support of Mr Kibaki have never been independently verified. State House Entebbe last night said even if the mood of mistrust captured in the US diplomatic cables was true; things have since changed for the better.

“What is important is that President Museveni is working very well with Prime Minister Odinga and other Kenyan leaders. We should not be diverted by [foreign] interests,” said Presidential Spokesman Mirundi Tamale. “Politics changes and things in it are determined by the prevailing interests,” he said, describing Mr Odinga as “serious, calculative contender” for Kenya’s leadership.

In Nairobi, Mr Odinga’s spokesman, Mr Dennis Onyango, reportedly said the Prime Minister would not respond to “every line that rolls out of Wikileaks. That is the essence of freedom of expression.”
With Raila expected to run for President in 2012 after Mr Kibaki retires, analysts say it is in the best interests of both leaders to make up, hence last week’s visit from Raila.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Kibaki shocker as Ocampo names The Hague 6

President Mwai Kibaki has made it clear that he does not plan to take any action against government officials named by ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo as suspected masterminds of the post election violence.

In a statement sent from State House on this afternoon, the Head of State said calls for action against those named were “prejudicial, pre-emptive and against the rules of natural justice.”

“They cannot be judged as guilty until the charges are confirmed by the court,” the President said.

He pointed out that those mentioned had not yet been fully investigated as the pre-trial process in The Hague had only begun and should therefore not be condemned. President Kibaki repeated the government's commitment to establish a local judicial mechanism to try those behind the post election violence. "As a nation we must also focus on the need for national healing and reconciliation. This is paramount as we move forward on the path of national peace and unity."

Those in the list of six unveiled by Mr Ocampo include Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Uhuru Kenyatta, suspended Higher Education Minister William Ruto and Industrialisation Minister Henry Kosgey.

The others are Head of the Civil Service Ambassador Francis Muthaura and former Police Commissioner Major General (Rtd) Mohammed Hussein Ali as well as KASS FM radio presenter Joshua arap Sang.

On Monday the Cabinet held an unusual meeting and agreed to form a local tribunal to try perpetrators of the post election violence.

However, the decision was criticised by Kenyans especially members of the civil society who said establishing a local tribunal would not deter the ICC process since it was dealing with high level perpetrators.

Mr Ocampo said Kenya was free to investigate other perpetrators if it so wishes but vowed to continue pursuing his list of six.

Earlier on Wednesday, Members of Parliament initiated a process for Kenya to pull out from the Rome Statute and block ICC from investigating the 2008 post election violence.

Chepalungu MP Isaac Ruto moved a Motion that seeks to bar Mr Ocampo from prosecuting suspected masterminds of the violence and allow for a local judicial process.

Even if Kenya withdraws from the Rome Statute, ICC cannot stop its process.

BREAKING NEWS: Ocampo's 6

1. William Ruto, MP, Eldoret North, suspended Minister of Higher Education.
2. Uhuru Kenyatta, Deputy Prime Minister & Minister of Finance, MP, Gatundu South, former First Son.

3. Henry Kosgey, Minister of Industrialization, MP, Tinderet.

4. Amb. Francis Muthaura, Head of Public Service and Secretary to the Cabinet

5. Joshua arap Sang, Senior Editor, KASS FM.

6. Maj. Gen. Hussein Ali, former Police Commissioner.


BREAKING NEWS: Security tightened as Kenya awaits Ocampo's announcement

NAIROBI - Police have tightened around Nairobi just hours before key suspects in the 2007 post election violence are named by the International Criminal Court.

While urging the public to remain calm after the names are revealed at The Hague, Police Commissioner Mathew Iteere said heavy deployment had been made in areas that were worst affected by the chaos. “Concerns have been made from several quarters that this event will ignite violence in some parts. We assure the public that we have made adequate security arrangements in all areas of the country to forestall any eventuality,” he said. The police chief alluded to intelligence reports saying “criminal elements planned to take the opportunity to break the law". He warned that his officers would deal with perpetrators “firmly and swiftly".

Politicians were also asked to handle the outcome of The Hague announcement in the interest of security, stability and rule of law in the country.

Notices warning of planned demonstrations was sent to provincial police commands and other formations of the police last week. The reports mention the Rift Valley as a hot spot, but commanders across the country had been ordered to be on the lookout. The briefs further warn in the event demonstrators turn rowdy, officers should be restrained from confronting them with live ammunition.

Intelligence officers, police sources said, have for months been gathering information covertly in areas that were hit by the violence with the aim of establishing if there are threats of fresh violence. At the same time, Provincial Security and Intelligence Committees were asked to seek politicians, who would turn reach out to their supporters and advise them against causing chaos.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Kenya 2.0 - Judgement Day

At exactly 2 o’clock tomorrow, International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo will make the announcement that a vast majority of Kenyans expect will change their country forever.

A notice on the ICC website said that the press conference where he is expected to announce the names of his six suspects will not be held at 5pm as earlier announced. It is expected he will make public his two cases on the post-election violence including the names of six suspects, which he will file before the judges on the same day. Court officials last week issued a statement saying that Mr Moreno-Ocampo would make “an important announcement” about the Kenyan case and which will be streamed live to Internet users.

The announcement came as officials confirmed on Saturday night that Mr Moreno-Ocampo would go ahead with his decision to name suspects behind the 2007/8 post-election violence on Wednesday, ignoring spirited attempts to halt the process. The development will represent the most dramatic attempt to tackle an entrenched culture of political violence cited as one of the greatest threats to stability in Kenya. No senior figures have ever been held to account for cyclical waves of violence that have cost the country thousands of lives in the last three decades. An ICC official said a series of applications lawyers have attempted to file at The Hague would not affect the process, adding that the case was in the hands of the prosecutor, and it was up to him to decide whether to halt the process before Wednesday. Lawyers for the suspects, he said, would have an opportunity to present their case to ICC judges after the case proceeds to the pre-trial chamber.

The naming of the suspects – who include top coalition leaders, businessmen and security chiefs – will be a development of historical significance. It is expected to trigger changes in the Cabinet within the next few weeks because serving public officers are expected to come under intense pressure to step down. Political realignments are also likely to follow, and some diplomats say there is a risk of low grade violence in some parts of the country. Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) commissioner Hassan Omar said the start of the prosecution process holds the potential to tackle impunity by demonstrating that senior government officials can be held to account for their conduct. “Those who have tried to politicise this process have done a great injustice to the victims. The perpetrators have shown they have no remorse for the crimes committed, for the numerous children killed, mothers raped and countless others displaced.
Getting justice for these victims will help the nation move forward. Those who are threatening violence will also be dealt with by the ICC process because the politics of fear is on the same side of the coin as impunity,” Mr Omar said.

Speculation about the identity of the suspects has intensified with some sources at The Hague saying Kenyans might be surprised to learn the identities of “one or two of those included or omitted”. Another source of uncertainty is the likely reaction of some of the militia that remain loyal to the perpetrators. In a nation that is trying to consolidate the delicate peace deal that ended the 2007/8 standoff, some have warned of a fresh outbreak of violence. Outgoing European Union ambassador Eric van der Linden told Reuters he was confident Kenya’s political leadership would not allow the country to slide back into a state of widespread violence. But he said occasional flare-ups could not be ruled out. “We don’t expect violence when Mr Ocampo names names. There may perhaps be some very local reactions of discontent, possibly in the Rift Valley and perhaps in the Central province,” he said. A US embassy note to American citizens said they did not expect the ICC announcement to provoke an aggressive reaction. “However, the announcement may increase political tensions and tension can turn to violence with little or no warning,” the message said. Surveys show a solid majority of Kenyans – 68 per cent at the last poll – support ICC action. Those figures reflect widespread public frustration over the failure of Kenyan institutions, especially the Attorney-General’s office, to pursue prosecution of high-level suspects behind electoral violence. No one was held to account for the attacks leading up to the 1992 General Election that began with a wave of forced displacements three years earlier. The violent displacement of residents from Mombasa’s Likoni area in August 1997 also went unpunished. Both episodes were seen to have been sponsored by the State.

Political scientist Dr Tom Wolf, who consults for research firm Synovate, says there would be a new opinion poll in the next few weeks to gauge public reaction to the naming of the so-called Ocampo Six. “It will be important to track public opinion because we will only begin to know the actual content of the prosecutor’s case once the actual names are presented. Although Ocampo describes his work as entirely a judicial process, for Kenyans it is also a highly political one especially when viewed through the lens of its potential impact. And it is also a social one on how Kenyans view each other and live with each other. For survey researchers and other analysts it will be important to pay close attention to how Kenyans are reacting.” The Kenya case was referred to The Hague by chief mediator Kofi Annan after local authorities failed to establish a special tribunal to try the suspects.

Monday, December 13, 2010

What the U.S. thinks of M7 - WikiLeaks

President Museveni yesterday denied reports that he was scared of an assassination plot by Col. Muammar Gaddafi on a day that more leaked cables showed that US diplomats believe the country is going backwards under his rule, despite making significant gains earlier.

In yet another revelation, America’s top envoy to Uganda wrote to Washington late last year warning that President Museveni’s tenure in office was gradually “eroding Uganda’s status as an African success story.” Ambassador Jerry Lanier made the comments in one of four confidential memos made public yesterday by whistleblower website, WikiLeaks. The US envoy also passed an indictment on the prospect of alternative leadership from Uganda’s opposition, describing the parties as “fractured, politically immature and greatly outnumbered in Parliament.”

“They control no government ministries, and are not skillful using either the press or protest, their primary political tools,” he wrote.

The leaked diplomatic cables, published yesterday by The Guardian newspaper, reveal Mr Lanier’s discussions on human rights abuse, war crimes and corruption. Writing on October 19, 2009, ahead of a crucial visit by US Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson to Kampala, Mr Lanier noted that although Uganda had become a confidant and outspoken regional leader under President Museveni, the NRM leader’s “autocratic tendencies” were threatening to move the country in reverse gear.

“The President’s autocratic tendencies, as well as Uganda’s pervasive corruption, sharpening ethnic divisions and explosive population growth, have eroding [sic] Uganda’s status as an African success story,” wrote Mr Lanier. The US envoy noted, however, that holding “a credible and peaceful” election in February 2011 could “restore Uganda’s image” but failing to do so “could lead to domestic political violence and regional instability”.

Mr Lanier’s private observations were made less than two months after he arrived to his new posting in Uganda with authorities in Kampala describing him as a “very good” choice. With a diplomatic career spanning some 26 years, Mr Lanier replaced Amb. Steven Browning who left Uganda in July 2009. In the cable to Mr Carson, Mr Lanier also referred to the September riots and the killing of several civilians who were protesting a decision by the government to block Kabaka Ronald Mutebi from travelling to Kayunga and expressed criticism of President Museveni’s NRM government before concluding that “press reports and anecdotal evidence suggest the President is increasingly isolated and unaware of the depth of resentment both within the NRM and among society as a whole”.

“Then NRM’s near total accumulation of power has led to poor governance, corruption, and rising ethnic tensions, a combination that threatens Ugandan ‘democracy and stability,” he noted. The government yesterday moved to dismiss the contents of the leaked cables. In a separate cable, however, US concerns about possible war crimes committed by the UPDF in its fight against rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army with the aid of US supplied intelligence are revealed. Mr Lanier curiously wrote that he had in fact warned Uganda to let the US know in advance when the UPDF intended to commit war crimes using American intelligence.

In the December 16 memo, Amb. Lanier reported to Washington that Defence Minister Crispus Kiyonga had verbally assured him that US intelligence was being used “in compliance with Ugandan law and the law of armed conflict. This pledge includes the principles of proportionality, distinction and humane treatment of captured combatants.” But just a day later, Mr Lanier authored another memo revealing US concerns over alleged human rights abuse, citing the case of an LRA colonel who had been killed eight years ago, at a time when the Rome Statute, the instrument that created the International Criminal Court of which Uganda is a signatory, had come into effect. He reported that Col. Peter Oloya, who had been jailed in Gulu had been shot on the orders of then UPDF northern Uganda intelligence coordinator Col. Charles Otema, now a brigadier, on July 1, 2002.

“I dismiss those statements with the contempt they deserve,” said UPDF spokesman Lt. Col. Felix Kulayigye, reacting to Ambassador Lanier’s memo. “It is erroneous for anyone to claim that Uganda got US intelligence in 2002. The Americans only offered us intelligence for Operation Lightning Thunder in 2008.” Discussing the Oloya killing, Lt. Col. Kulayigye said the LRA rebel was shot as he tried to escape from jail.
“Brig. Otema isn’t stupid to call for someone and then have him killed,” he said.

“That individual was under detention and tried to ran away and was shot. Ambassador Lanier was not in Uganda at the time of this incident.”

Kenya's cabinet most corrupt in Africa - ambassador Ranneberger

Kenya’s Cabinet is the most corrupt in Africa, according to the latest exposé by whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks.

Newly-released cables say US diplomats believe nearly all members of Kenya’s cabinet are on the take.
They quote Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission director Patrick Lumumba saying he “is convinced that there is hardly a single minister in the country’s bloated, 42-member cabinet, that doesn’t use their position to line their own pockets”. And American officials are scathing in their assessment of Attorney-General Amos Wako and former Kacc director Aaron Ringera, whom they claim have used their offices to frustrate prosecution of senior government officials. Cabinet minister Henry Kosgey is included on the list of top officials the US wants removed from government.

They cite corruption-related investigations currently under way against him and his past record as a public official. They also claim some reports have linked him to post-election violence. “Kosgey’s diverse corruption activities over decades have negatively impacted US foreign assistance goals in a number of ways. His continuing ownership of illegally transferred forest lands, part of the greater Mau Forest which comprises Kenya’s largest water catchment area, has contributed to ethnic conflict over land ownership in the Rift Valley, and has also contributed to deforestation and resulting drought and hunger that currently plagues Kenya. Donors, including the United States, have had to provide billions of dollars in emergency food aid to Kenya over the last four years of chronic drought,” the cables state.

The latest batch of cables was released by German newspaper Der Spiegel, one of five publications given the package of cables containing up to 250,000 dispatches sent from US embassies around the world. The US embassy in Nairobi appears to have focused on investigation of high-level corruption in recent years. The cables paint a positive profile of the new KACC chief, who has won praise for the way he has set about pursuing top officials suspected of crimes. Foreign minister Moses Wetang’ula, permanent secretary Thuita Mwangi and Nairobi mayor Geophrey Majiwa were recently forced out of office due to corruption allegations. US ambassador Michael Ranneberger reported that he was impressed by Prof Lumumba’s first few weeks in office. But he charged that Mr Wako remained a major obstacle to reform, a statement he has made publicly in the past.

In a report compiled in September 2009, the US envoy charged that “Wako is largely responsible for the fact that no politician has ever been seriously taken to task for graft-related activities. Wako was originally appointed to the position by President Moi, but he held onto his office due to his excellent relationship with the country’s current president, Mwai Kibaki. And he shouldn’t expect much in the way of favours from the US,” says the report in Der Spiegel. Mr Ranneberger outlines a number of reasons why the US decided to ban Mr Wako from America. “The Embassy strongly believes Mr Amos Wako has engaged in and benefited from public corruption in his capacity as Attorney General for the past 18 years by interference with judicial and other public processes.”

The US accuses Mr Wako of sabotaging efforts to pursue justice for the victims of the unrest that afflicted Kenya in early 2008. According to a US dispatch on the matter: “One can find an Attorney General who has successfully maintained an almost perfect record of non-prosecution. He accomplishes this through the most complex of smoke and mirrors tactics, seeking to appear to desire prosecution while all along doing his utmost to protect the political elites.”

The fallout from the release of the cables continued yesterday as more ministers took up the subject. Internal Security minister Prof George Saitoti, who is also the acting Foreign minister, on Saturday said Kenya should not worry about the leaked cables since many other countries had been mentioned as well. “This is propaganda but we are not the only ones,” he said. Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta said the Americans were threatened by China’s rising influence. “The Chinese have provided funds for roads, hospitals and other projects but the complainants have nothing to show in this regard,” he said. Defence minister Yusuf Haji dismissed accusations that the defence council was populated by members of Mr Kibaki’s Kikuyu community. “Mambo ya huyu balozi ni ya sokoni na ya upuuzi (This is mere market gossip). I am the chairman of the defence council, Joseph Nkaissery is a member, David Musila is a member and the head of the army (Jeremiah Kianga) is a Kamba,” he said.

Despite the heated reaction from the Cabinet, Prime Minister and President, the release of the cables is likely to cement Kenya’s reputation as one of the most corrupt countries in the region. The Der Spiegel report says corrupt “government (officials) often trigger famines and instigate unrest, which then must be mitigated with Western aid money. As such, diplomats have drawn up a list of the worst offenders. Fifteen high-ranking Kenyan officials have been banned from entering the US. “During the 24 years that Daniel arap Moi was president of Kenya, between 1978 and 2002, the entire body politic was gripped by a system of personal enrichment and corruption. Despite the fact that dozens of investigative commissions have thrown light on hundreds of cases of corruption, not a single minister has ever been convicted.” The report accuses Mr Ringera of working with KACC officials to entrench “a system that works to discourage investigation, minimise the likelihood of prosecution, and throw out court cases that appear to have a chance of taking down senior government officials.”

“Like the Attorney General, Ringera can claim a perfect record of not investigating and convicting a single Kenyan government official. This is a remarkable tally in a country that is consistently ranked among the most corrupt in the world.”

In a teleconference conversation with reporters yesterday Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson downplayed the WikiLeaks revelations. He likened the contents of cables between US embassies in Africa and the State Department, to a married couple discussing a “mother-in-law or father-in-law, both of whom you love dearly. But you may in fact have some disagreements about the suits that they wear or the shoes that they put on in the morning”. He characterised the documents downloaded from US government computer systems as “stolen mail” that should not be relayed. Mr Carson, a former US ambassador in Nairobi, acknowledged that “embassies carry on candid, sensitive discussions with Washington and Washington officials.”

Friday, December 10, 2010

Cancer of clinging to power is spreading across Africa

It is amazing how the Ivorian elections have played out. It looks like Laurent Gbagbo, the supposedly defeated president, borrowed a script from Kenya’s 2007 elections with a blend of Zimbabwean cocktail.

Now Allasane Ouattara, the opposition leader who was declared the winner, must contend with guards from the United Nations holed up in some hotel, hoping Gbagbo will soon see sense, concede defeat and vacate the presidential palace for the rightful winner.

This latest African election fiasco speaks volumes about African rulers who feel uncomfortable leaving office by any other means other than death in office or being ousted from power by military might. They have put a low premium on democratic electoral process as a civilised way of changing regimes. This grand coalition mania that is slowly creeping in our political culture was actually invented, manufactured and patented in Nairobi Kenya; thanks to the efforts of the African Union, Kofi Annan and the United Nations.

Now the cancer is spreading across Africa. On December 27, 2007, President Mwai Kibaki did not win an election but was sworn in three days later at a controversial State House ceremony that was conducted under the cover of darkness. Not a single head of state was invited to the ceremony as had been customary in the past. In a matter of hours, Kibaki named his first cabinet of 17 ministers then barricaded himself at State House as post-election mayhem consumed many parts of the country.

In the latest case, Gbagbo refuses to accept defeat in the Ivorian elections. The sitting president chooses to go to court to overturn the country’s electoral body’s results, international observers’ verdict and the United Nations’ conclusion that had indicated that Allasane Ouattara the opposition candidate had beaten Gbagbo by a very wide margin.

Amidst all this confusion and stand-off, Gbagbo decides to be sworn in immediately at the Presidential Palace, the equivalent of our State House. Soon after, he names his cabinet as the winner is sill holed up in a hotel under heavy international security. In the Kenyan situation, much as no contender went to court to nullify the elections that were obviously disputed following delays in announcing the results, the Electoral Commission was finally forced into announcing the results later by the president’s men and women the in power.

Just minutes following this announcement, Kibaki was hurriedly sworn in at State House late in the evening. When the international community realised that Kenyans would not accept this blatant theft of their rights lying down, and as the masses started unleashing mayhem in most parts of the country including disrupting road and rail transport to East and Central Africa, did the East African Community, the AU and the rest of the world realise that Kenya had reached its tipping point with its election thefts.

Strangely for Kenya, the announced election results were neither accepted nor condemned by the international community. They opted for the third option and chose to bring the PNU and ODM to the table to negotiate power sharing! The reason they did this was because probably they knew that the Electoral Commission had mismanaged the process beyond recognition such that it was impossible to know who the real winner was.

This theory was confirmed months later by the Kriegler Commission when it concluded that it was impossible to know who won or lost Kenya’s 2007 elections.

However, the lingering question is why the international community chose to negotiate power sharing between the two main opponents when it could have easily forced a re-run between Kibaki and Raila Odinga. But again, considering the violent mood in the country at the time, another election might just have aggravated the already volatile situation. We may recall that soon after Kenya went through with the Grand Coalition government that finally included the third confirmed loser, Kalonzo Musyoka, another coalition government was in the offing in Zimbabwe where Mugabe’s ruling party had grown wild after apparently losing to his opponent Morgan Tsvangirai.

Rather than accept defeat, Mugabe refused to leave office and chose to form his government despite international condemnation that included more sanctions. Sooner rather than later, the AU- supported southern African states led by South Africa negotiated a Kofi Annan type of coalition government that forced Mugabe to share power with his erstwhile opponent in the government.

If Gbagbo stays put in his presidential palace despite international condemnation; if he refuses to listen the voice the US President, the UN Secretary General, the European Union, the AU and the ECOWAS, then the international community will be left with only two choices; either to use force and eject him from power or negotiate a power sharing deal similar to Kenya and Zimbabwe.

Knowing how the international community thinks, another war in Ivory Coast would not make economic sense. They would definitely opt for the Kenyan template and accept Gbagbo as the Ivorian president for another five years despite having lost an election.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Museveni feared plot by Gaddafi to kill him - WikiLeaks

President Museveni told the US government that he feared long time ally and Libyan leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi would shoot down his plane as he travelled over international airspace.
The damning revelation is contained in one of two classified memos on Uganda in which the private observations of top American diplomats are made public by controversial whistleblower website, WikiLeaks.

Mr Museveni’s fears of a possible assassination were expressed to America’s former top Ambassador on Africa Jendayi Frazer at a meeting on June 13, 2008. According to the classified memo, President Museveni reported to the US that he feared Col. Gaddafi would eliminate him because he had opposed the Libyan leader’s push for the creation of a United States of Africa.

“President Museveni said Libyan President Qadhafi ‘is a problem’ for the continent and is pushing for the creation of a ‘United States of Africa’ to be governed by one president,” Ms Frazer is quoted in the classified memo which was first published in The Guardian newspaper in the UK yesterday. Mr Museveni told Ms Frazer that he thought Col. Gaddafi’s plan was “neither feasible nor desirable”, a matter which seemed to anger the Libyan leader.

“Museveni noted that tensions with Qadhafi are growing as a result, and he worries that Qadhafi will attack his plane while flying over international airspace,” Ms Frazer said.

The memo went on to say Mr Museveni asked the US government to provide additional air radar information whenever he flies over international waters. The memo documents private conversations between Mr Museveni and Ms Frazer, then US assistant secretary of state for Africa, when the NRM leader was attending the graduation ceremony of his son, Lt. Col. Muhoozi Kainerugaba, in Kansas. Barely seven months after that meeting, Mr Museveni purchased a new luxury Gulf Stream V presidential jet at a cost of Shs88.2 billion and replaced his old Gulfstream IV jet. The new jet, said to be outfitted with enhanced anti-terror capabilities, was reported the only one of its kind known to be owned by anybody else on the continent. In the leaked memos, Mr Museveni spoke about his frustrations with the DRC leader Joseph Kabila—who he described as “not serious” and “not capable”, in joining forces with Uganda to launch a military offensive against the LRA rebels who were then encamped in the Garamba Forest.

In December 2008, six months after the Frazer conversation, the UPDF, with aid of logistical support from the US government launched an offensive against the LRA in Congo, driving the rebel outfit to the Central African Republic. But there have been mixed reactions over the success or failures of Operation Lightning Thunder, with reports awash about the deaths of several hundred Congolese civilians.

In one of the leaked memos, President Museveni is shown speaking indifferently about Zimbabwe leader Robert Mugabe. Mr Museveni suggested that Mr Mugabe was a disgrace to his fellow liberation leaders and told of how the Zimbabwe leader is unwilling to take calls from most African leaders because they are not his age-mates. Mr Museveni told Ms Frazer that “Zimbabwe’s faltering economy and Mr Mugabe’s poor understanding of the private sector were at the root of Zimbabwe’s political problems”, the memo stated.

View cable 09KAMPALA1197, UGANDA: SCENESETTER FOR VISIT OF ASSISTANT here . Other UGANDA cables can be found here.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

El Massacre at Camp Nou

Barcelona routed Real Madrid 5–0 in El Clasico at the Camp Nou in Barcelona on Monday in the most highly anticipated match of the European football season to date.

Both teams are arguably the two best in Europe at the moment and were in great form coming into the encounter. Both sides have easily qualified for the Champions League knockout stages.

Domestically in their most recent matches, Barcelona annihilated Almeria 8–0 and Real Madrid comprehensively defeated Athletic Bilbao 5–1 so the scene was set for a classic in the El Clasico.

But it was all Barcelona, who produced an incredible display of inspiring football throughout the match and simply blew away the visitors from Madrid.

It only took 10 minutes for Barcelona to get on the board with Xavi Hernandez scoring from an Andres Iniesta through ball. After some Real Madrid pressure, Barcelona made it 2–0 in the 17th minute with David Villa placing the ball in the six-yard box. Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas should have dealt with it but didn’t, and Pedro had an easy finish. The first half settled down and Real Madrid did produce some chances, most notably a Cristiano Ronaldo free kick just going wide of the post.

The second half commenced with Real Madrid's manager Jose Mourinho substituting Mesut Ozil, who failed to make any impact in the first half, with Lassana Diarra. The change provided Real with a extra man in midfield in hopes of stopping Messi whilst trying to creating some chances on the break with the likes of Ronaldo and Angel Di Maria waiting up front. The change had no effect. Barcelona continued where they left off with beautiful ball possession, playing their very entertaining brand of fluent football—a marvel to watch.

Shortly before the hour mark, Barcelona made it 3–0 with a beautifully placed pass by Messi, in-between Real's defenders Pepe and Ricardo Carvalho. Stiker David Villa beat the offside trap and slammed the ball in the net in textbook fashion. Minutes later Messi and Villa linked up again with the latter outpacing the defense before he calmly slipping the ball through Casillas's legs to make it 4–0.

To add insult to injury, Barcelona made it 5–0 in injury time with substitution Jeffren Suarez chipping the ball into the net. To add to the humiliation, Sergio Ramos received his marching orders after a vicious tackle on Messi and shoving his Spain teammate Carles Puyol. The frustration for Real Madrid had been mounting and the game produced no less than 12 yellow cards and one red card.

Mourinho was quoted on goal.com after the match as saying, “Humiliated? No. It's easy to deal with this loss, we just weren't good enough. One team played very good and one team very bad.” The last time Mourinho met Barcelona at the Camp Nou was in last year’s Champions League as coach of Inter Milan. He successfully defeated the Catalans 1–0 by virtually suffocating Barcelona defensively.

Barcelona now moves into La Liga's top spot with 34 points ahead of Real Madrid who remain in second place on 32 points. Trailing a further five points back of Real is Villarreal on 27 points. La Liga's Round 14 clashes will see Real Madrid back at home at the Bernabeu Stadium to pick up the pieces as they face Valencia whilst Barcelona travels to Osasuna.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Woman Utters Line Never Previously Recorded In A Police Report

Meet Melissa Lee Williams. The West Virginia woman, 41, is facing assault and weapons charges after allegedly waving a knife at two men who declined her demands to engage in sexual conduct at a motor inn.

The October 22 incident is detailed in an amusing/gross Jackson County Sheriff’s Department report excerpted here.

According to investigators, Williams--who lives four doors down from her estranged husband at the 77 Motor Inn--showed up at his door and asked Danny Williams and another man to “eat my pussy.” At this point, Williams, pictured in the mug shot at left, “commenced to undress herself,” reported Deputy Ross Mellinger.

While Danny Williams “declined said invitation,” the other man, Adam Watson, told cops that he “agreed to perform at her request.” However, as Watson approached Williams, “he became overwhelmed by horrible vaginal odor emitting from Melissa Williams.” Watson, understandably, “declined to proceed any further.”

This is when Melissa Williams allegedly “produced a lock-back folding knife,” opened it, and pointed the weapon at her estranged husband. She then reportedly uttered a line never before memorialized in a police report: “Somebody is going to eat my pussy or I’m going to cut your fucking throat.”

When Deputy Mellinger arrived on the scene he observed Williams--who, like the two men, appeared to be intoxicated--nude from the waist down. After pocketing a knife that was on the coffee table in front of Williams, Mellinger arrested her for domestic assault and brandishing a deadly weapon.

Williams, who was released from jail after posting $3000 bond, is next due in Jackson County Magistrate Court on February 16.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

One wife for two brothers

Kundar Singh Pundir, left, and his brother Amar, right, share Indira Devi, centre, as their wife.

Amar and Kundan Singh Pundir are brothers. Younger brother Amar breaks rocks in a mine for a living. Kundan farms their small piece of inherited land. They live in a beautiful but remote hillside village in the clouds of Himachal Pradesh, India.

Both aged in their 40's, the two brothers have lived together nearly their whole lives. They are poor and share just about everything: Their home, their work and a wife. "See we have a tradition from the beginning to have a family of five to 10 people. Two brothers and one wife." Kundan says.

They practice what is known as fraternal polyandry -- where the brothers of one family marry the same woman. Why? Tradition and economics.

Life is hard here. The village is precariously perched on the side of a very steep hill about 6,000ft up. Most of the villagers survive off tiny plots of cropland. In this difficult terrain there isn't enough land to go around. So, instead of finding separate wives and splitting up their inherited property, the brothers marry the same woman and keep their land together.

Wife Indira Devi says life with two husbands isn't easy. "We fight a lot."

But like any married couple they fight mostly over mundane stuff, except there are three spouses instead of two. "Usually it's about chores, why didn't you do this? Why didn't you do that?" she says. But one thing they agreed on was the need to have children; They have three. So how does a married trio deal with sex?

"We make shifts, change shifts and sleep on alternate days. We have to make shifts otherwise it won't work," Kundan says. "To run our families we have to do this, overcome the hurdles as well and then we have to control our hearts from feeling too much," Amar adds.

To outsiders their arrangement may seem odd, but in the village of about 200 it is the norm.

Typically the marriages are arranged and women have two husbands. But some wives have three or four depending on how many brothers there are in a family. Polyandry is illegal in India but socially acceptable here. No one from the government seems to bother the villagers about the law. "It's been going on for ages. My sister in law has two husbands, my mother in law also has two husbands," Indira says.

And as to the question of which husband is the biological father of the children -- the Pundir's don't know and don't care. "For me everyone is the same, my mother and my fathers are the same. My mother and my fathers are like God to me," 17-year old daughter Sunita Singh Pundir says. Even as modern society arrives in this ancient village through satellite dishes and mobile phones, the Pundirs say they want their age-old tradition to continue with their children. "Absolutely," eldest son Sohna says.

He and his younger brother have already discussed it and will marry the same woman.

Daughter Sunita isn't so sure.

"I would like one husband," she says.

But when asked if she will marry for love or tradition, Sunita's answer makes it clear the tradition of marrying more than one man will continue with the next generation. "I will never leave our tradition even if I have to forgo love. I will never spoil my parents' reputation and my brothers.'"

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Misplaced assumptions about 2011 campaigns

By Timothy Kalyegira

Kampala - One of the key players in the election campaign ahead of the 2011 Ugandan general election is the news media. The media shapes the views and the choices of the average voter almost to the same degree as the candidates themselves, and so it helps to examine how the media is assessing the campaigns.

The Ugandan media is caught up in a contradiction that it cannot explain. On one hand, when making their marketing presentations to prospective advertisers, the mainstream newspapers, radio and television stations claim that their readership, listenership and viewership is constantly growing, or is at least large enough for corporate advertisers to reach a fairly large audience. Similarly, many commentators in these same media often claim that President Yoweri Museveni and the ruling NRM party are still popular in Uganda, and are likely to win the 2011 general election.

In recent weeks, the foremost commentator on this sudden and purported surge in Museveni’s support is Andrew Mwenda, Managing Editor of The Independent news magazine, in his various appearances such as on Capital FM’s Big Breakfast Show of Thursday November 18, and WBS TV’s Issues At Hand talk show on Tuesday November 16 with Daily Monitor Managing Editor Daniel Kalinaki.

Speaking last year, Mr Mwenda claimed that The Independent, March 11, 2009 edition that carried the cover story titled “First Family rule in Uganda: How Museveni’s ‘clan’ runs the government”, sold so well in western Uganda that the magazine had to order several additional print runs to meet the high demand.

If this is true, what would readers in western Uganda have made of that report that portrayed Uganda as essentially being run, and in the hands of, a tiny clique all from or related to the Museveni family?

Are we to believe that ordinary human beings in western Uganda, whether for the mixed motives of jealousy or anger at injustice and nepotism, could have read that report explaining that most national resources and important offices are held by one family and that this somehow did not change their perception of Museveni? If we were to take a look at Ugandan media reports and analyses, an average of one out of every three national news stories centre around scandals - corruption, abuse of office, nepotism, disappearance of public funds, lack of accountability, widespread poverty among the population, the abundance of pot holes in Kampala’s roads, the absence of medicine in Ugandan hospitals and the poor standards in Uganda’s schools.
This is the staple news diet from the government-owned New Vision and UBC TV and radio network, to the Daily Monitor, the Independent, The Observer, the Weekly Mail, Bukedde, NTV, WBS TV, NBS TV, Radio One, KFM, Sanyu FM, Radio Simba, CBS FM, Radio West, Voice of Toro, Power FM, TOP Radio and the hundreds of other stations in Uganda.

So if, as the media claims, they are doing well with readership, listenership and viewership and the overwhelming majority of their news stories and talk show topics are about the dire condition of life for the ordinary people in Uganda, how is it that these same commentators can claim that Museveni is still popular or as Mwenda goes on to claim, even rising in popularity?

If this were true, we would then have to arrive at two irreconcilable and illogical conclusions. The first conclusion would have to be that the media exaggerates its audience and readership size. It would only mean that very few Ugandans read newspapers, magazines and listen to radio or watch TV because if they did, the endless barrage of news about jiggers, pot holes, slums, power cuts, corruption and hospitals without basic drugs would have changed their view of Museveni by now.

The second conclusion would have to be that if, on the other hand, the media is right and President Museveni for some inexplicable reason continues to enjoy high support all over Uganda in spite of the wretched conditions that Ugandans in both the rural areas and urban areas live in, then Ugandans are a quite stupid people who can consume all this news highlighting their suffering but somehow continue to support the government responsible for this unprecedented abuse of power and public resources. In other words, either the media is stating the truth about its large readership and print circulation but Ugandans are uniquely stupid in that they get daily news about their miserable conditions and still support Museveni, or the media is not being honest about their true audience statistics and rankings. Only one of these two conclusions can be true, but both cannot logically make sense.

On Saturday November 13, 2010, NTV aired a news report sampling the political views of ordinary people in Mawokota in Mpigi District and in Mubende District in what are widely assumed to be the areas of Museveni supporters. (Museveni’s former Principal Private Secretary and long-time aide Amelia Kyambadde is contesting for a parliamentary seat in Mawokota). The NTV feature spoke to people it termed “grazers” and others it called “cultivators”. Most grazers (that is, cattle keepers) expressed satisfaction with the NRM government and supported another five-year term for Museveni. The “cultivators” (or farmers) on the other hand, were angry with the political and economic situation in Uganda and badly wanted change. Now, if we were to go by this NTV news feature as a micro glimpse into the sentiments of the wider grazers and cultivators, if all the grazers and all the cultivators in Uganda were to vote, who would be the majority? And what does that widely divergent view of Museveni by the “grazers” and the “cultivators” tell us?

The other area is in the habit by the media of making projections based on the 2006 general election. Their argument is that “In 2006, Museveni got XX percent of the vote in Teso, while Besigye got YY votes”. This tendency to quote the official 2006 results ignores the glaring fact that all seven Supreme Court judges who ruled on the conduct of that election recognised that rigging and violence had taken place. It therefore makes no sense to base projections for 2011 and an analysis of 2006 on fraudulent results that were themselves the subject of such serious reservations.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Red wine packed with antidiabetes compounds

Red wine is a potent source of antidiabetic compounds – but they might not get past your gut. The finding is sure to enliven the ongoing debate over the drink's health benefits.

Alois Jungbauer and colleagues at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna, Austria, tested 10 reds and two whites to find out how strongly the wines bound to a protein called PPAR-gamma, which is targeted by the antidiabetic drug rosiglitazone. (This drug is marketed under the brand name Avandia). PPAR-gamma is a type of protein called a receptor. Among other things, it regulates the uptake of glucose in fat cells. Rosiglitazone targets PPAR-gamma in fat cells to make them more sensitive to insulin and improve the uptake of glucose. It is used as a treatment for type 2 diabetes, a condition where people either do not make enough insulin to keep their body's glucose levels down, or become resistant to normal insulin levels.

Several studies have shown that moderate consumption of red wine can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. So Jungbauer and colleagues determined the wines' binding affinity for PPAR-gamma and compared the results with the effects of rosiglitazone. They found that the white wines had low binding affinities, but all the reds bound readily: the tendency of 100 millilitres of red wine – about half a glass – to bind to PPAR-gamma is up to four times as strong as the same tendency in the daily dose of rosiglitazone.

"It's incredible. It's a really high activity," says Jungbauer. "At first we were worried it was an artefact, but then we identified the compounds responsible in the wine." The flavonoid epicatechin gallate – which is also present in green tea – had the highest binding affinity, followed by the polyphenol ellagic acid, which comes from the oak barrels the wine is kept in. The researchers think that some of the antidiabetic activity of red wine could be due to these compounds activating PPAR-gamma.

But Jungbauer warns that these compounds don't make red wine a magic bullet. The compounds in a glass of wine may have other antidiabetic effects and in any case, not all of the compounds will be absorbed and available to the body to use. "Wine also contains ethanol, which will add to your calories," he says. Véronique Cheynier, research director at the department of oenology at the University of Montpellier 1, France, says that most polyphenols do not pass through the digestive tract unchanged and may not be absorbed at all.

The next step for Jungbauer and his team will be to measure the metabolic effects of the wine compounds on healthy people. Jungbauer stresses that moderate consumption is the key to health benefits from wine. "It is important to limit the intake of wine. Obesity is one of the major problems of our society," he says.
Paras Mishra of the University of Louisville, Kentucky, who was not involved in the study, warns that drinking too much wine "could be bad even in diabetes".

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Ligale team grossly miscalculated

BY KABANDO wa KABANDO

The Interim Independent Boundary Review Commission (IIBRC) tried to manipulate population statistics as per the 2009 Kenya Population and Housing Census released by Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) on August 31, 2010, to fit into a political matrix.

A close scrutiny of the proposed additional 80 constituencies reveals some bias, some of which look too obvious and deliberate.  Indeed, blatant.

In Western Province, the most observable one is with regard to creating three additional constituencies in Vihiga County where small constituencies such as Vihiga and Sabatia are proposed for split.

Vihiga constituency, where Andrew Ligale the Chairman of IIBRC lost in ODM primaries in the 2007 General Election, has only a population of 91,616 which deviate from the population quota of 133,139 by 66 percent.  Secondly, in the same county of Vihiga, why split Sabatia constituency with a total population of 129,678 into two and yet it fall short the population quota? The two constituencies are also not so big geographically as Vihiga is only 90 square kilometres while Sabatia is only 110 square kilometres.

In the same province, populous constituencies such as Lugari with 292,151, and area of 568 square kilometres, Webuye (230,253) and area of 404 square kilometres and Kanduyi (229,701) and 318.5 square kilometres were left out. The chairman, Mr Ligale should explain to Kenyans why part of his team made such a decision.

In Eastern Province, particularly Kitui County, why the IIBRC has proposed to split Kitui Central constituency with a population of 175,633 and an area in square kilometres of 1,028.3 is any body's guess. In this county, the constituency that should have been given first priority is Mwingi North which has a population of 204,932 and covers a land mass of 5,777.8 square kilometres.

Still in lower Eastern, nobody knows why populous constituencies such as Kangundo with a population of 219,103 and Makueni (243,219) were not considered for curving out new constituencies and in particular Makueni with a land mass of 2,010.1 square kilometres.

In Central Eastern region particularly in Meru Country, nobody knows why the IIBRC did not consider for split a constituency like Ntonyiri with a population of 229,871 and a land mass of 1,313.8 square kilometres and yet constituencies with less than 200,000 population such as Alego (187,243), Kisumu Town West (139,933), Rangwe (194,408), Emuhaya (185,069), Migori (191,248), Tinderet (199,514) have been proposed for creation of new constituencies. Moreover, none of the aforementioned constituencies has bigger land mass than Ntonyiri.

Kaloleni constituency of Kilifi County in Coast Province seems to have suffered the same fate as Ntonyiri. The constituency has a total population of 252,924 and an area of 892.1 square kilometres. In fact, Kaloleni constituency is the largest rural constituency in terms of population that is not proposed for split.

While in Kwale County, Kinango constituency with a population of 209,560, and an area 4,011.7 square kilometres   has not been proposed for a split.
In Central Province at least, Ol Kalou constituency in Nyandarua County should have been proposed for split as it has a total of 215,925 people and covering an area of 1,108.1 square kilometres. According to the Ligale team, only Kiambu County deserves additional constituencies.

It is not clear why the IIBRC did not consider caving new constituencies in Kericho and Bomet counties. At least Bomet with a population of 233,271, Belgut (202,591), and Kipkelion (206,590) should have been considered for split.

Other notable cases are for example why should IIBRC create two more constituencies in Langata, and Kasarani whereby the latter's population is more than the former by 170,436. Langata has a population of 355,188 while Kasarani has 525,624.

Still in the City of Nairobi, Dagoretti constituency has a population of 329,577 and it not among the constituencies earmarked for split and yet Westlands, with a population of 247,102 has been proposed for a split into two. Another question... why create two additional constituencies in Langata which has almost the same population size with Dagoretti and leave the latter intact?

Furthermore, Eldoret North Constituency has 391,655 people, more than that of Prime Minister Right Hon Raila Odinga's Langata, only one constituency is being curved out of it and same applies to Kisauni constituency in Mombasa Country has a population of 405,930.

One thing is clear; any constituency in parts of Nyanza and parts of Western with over 200,000 people has been proposed for split which is not the case for other regions particularly in Eastern, Central, Coast, Kipsigis, and Bukusuland. 

While some constituencies such as Emuhaya, Vihiga, Sabatia, Alego, Kisumu Town West, Rangwe and Migori have less than 200,000 yet they are proposed for split. In essence, any constituency in parts of Nyanza with over 185,000 has been proposed for a split. If Bomachoge, which is in Kisii County with a population of 200,729, was in those other parts for Nyanza, it would have been considered for a split.

In terms of counties, Vihiga is the county with the largest number of constituencies compared to its population as it has seven and a total population of 554,622 while Bomet has three with slightly more population of 585,072. Machakos County with over one million people has seven constituencies compared with Kisumu with less a million people but with eight constituencies.

Although the IIBRC can vainly claim that it used population quota to delimitate the proposed 80 constituencies, it seems there was an invisible hand which influenced creation of additional constituencies in some regions which do not deserve given their population sizes and land mass. Since the IIBRC is an independent body, it should not be seen to  leaning towards any political divide. Already, its proposal has sparked emotive reactions from Members of Parliament from Coast, Central and Eastern provinces and this tended to divide the country right in the middle.

Another critical issue emerging from the above analysis is that since there is no fairness in the distribution of the proposed new 80 constituencies across all the counties, this should not be viewed as partisan or ethnic affair. All regions, particularly Eastern, Coast, Bukusuland, Nairobi, Gusiiland and some parts of Rift Valley were treated unfairly by the Ligale team.

Gone are the days of gerrymandering. Gone are the days when the despotic split-and-control Kanu regime would create electoral units for its charlatans and sycophants.

If we make a mistake at this stage in delimitation of electoral areas, this will haunt us for the next eight-12 years as Section 89 (2) of the New Constitutions stipulates that names and boundaries of constituencies and wards shall be reviewed at an interval of not less than eight years but not more than twelve years.

Andrew Ligale and his cahoots are in breach of the constitution. Specifically, Ligale has violated Chapter 6 (73) of Katiba. By claiming he "consulted" the Prime Minister for approval to execute his mandate, he had not demonstrated respect for the people of Kenya, has not brought honour to the nation or to his office. He has openly failed to promote confidence in the integrity of the office. Therefore, he is posturing to "rule" the people of Kenya!

Chapter 7 (88) of Katiba bars a member of a Governing body of a political party from being appointed to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission. In retrospect, Parliament made a huge mistake to allow Ligale as Chairman of the ODM Council of Elders to chair such a historic task.

We should have perhaps picked young non-old regime-braided professional. Isn't it a shame that Ligale's work can't measure to that of his sons - Issack Hassan and Mohammed Abdikadir who have executed their responsibilities with unique, shining exemplary dignity and diligence, in the Electoral Commission and the Constitutional Select Committee respectively. Viva young professionals!

The IIBRC should be surcharged for waste of public resources, and for subverting the letter and spirit of the Katiba. Now we know why Ligale has been defiant to the instructions of Constitutional and Justice Affairs Minister. Ligale's actions undermine national cohesion. The Impunity of yesteryears must be fought, crashed, trashed. Boldly, we  must terminate the old ways.

The writer is an assistant minister for Youth and Sports Affairs and MP for Mukurweini.  He co-authored this article with Kinango MP Gonzi Rai.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

History repeats itself

A political philosopher ordained once that those who do not study history are condemned to repeat it — the second time much more tragically.

Thus the cast of last week’s alfresco production of The Return of the Messiah probably did not know that they were repeating verbatim repeaters of very recent history — almost episode by episode. Just before the 1992 General Election, a very angry man called Kenneth Matiba — the newfound minion of a large ethnic community — travelled to a European capital for treatment for what was believed to be a mental condition. Just before the 2012 General Election, a very angry man called William Ruto — the newfound political darling of a large tribe — travelled to a European capital for “treatment” for what was believed to be a mental condition (really a life-and-death worry occasioned by a certain international prosecution project). After recuperation in the British metropolis of London, the Kikuyu messiah made a triumphal entry into Nairobi.

The welcome at the airport by his Kikuyu supporters was so overwhelming that Matiba must have felt that the realisation of his dream for State House was just around the corner. After a semblance of “recuperation” in the Dutch metropolis of The Hague, the Kalenjin messiah made a triumphal entry into Nairobi. The throng of Kalenjin acolytes who welcomed him at the airport was so great that Ruto must have chortled in his joy that his dream for State House had come true.

And if you visit any public “hansard” — for example, the clippings library of any daily newspaper — you may marvel that the words uttered by this year’s tribal messiah were practically identical to those uttered by the tribal messiah of 1992 — a veritable jeremiad, a frightening deluge of oracles. Like Palestine’s own 2,000 years ago, the latter-day messiah pledged everlasting fire for those who opposed his own coming new “Kingdom” but vowed ever-flowing milk and honey for those who would rally round the banner of salvation. As the hymn says, Christ is captain of the mighty throng. Had Matiba been a little more patient in the multi-ethnic opposition led by Jaramogi Odinga and himself, the opposition would easily have defeated the Moi regime in the 1992 presidential polls. Odinga would then have taken over as President. But, two years later,  he would have died. Matiba himself would have romped home almost unopposed.

Had Ruto remained a little more faithful to the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), led by another Odinga — Jaramogi’s own scion (with Ruto himself among the top Pentagon members) — it would be a foregone conclusion. The ODM candidate would be seen as invincible come 2012. Odinga would be the next President. But his tenure would be timed. But, during the ODM incumbency, things would have been arranged to ensure Ruto was the most likely successor.

But — as in 1992— “vaulting ambition” had, by 2010, become so overmastering that it gave no chance at all to predictive wisdom of this kind. Personal appetite for power had banished long-term strategy for good. The question seems to be: if — by its numerical magic — my tribe will take me to State House tomorrow, why should I wait for five years? But, even in Kikuyuland, Matiba soon faced an unexpected problem (to prove how dangerous it is to put all your eggs in one tribal basket). The sudden candidacy of Mwai Kibaki, an equally weighty Kikuyu, soon terribly vitiated Matiba’s efforts. In the inevitable realignments of the coming months, how can our “Kalenjin Matiba” prevent the emergence — as if from the blue sky — of a “Kalenjin Kibaki” to alter the political equation beyond rescue?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Glenn Beck accuses George Soros of stirring up Kenyan poll chaos

Glenn Beck, a rabid talk-radio host known for his hostility toward President Obama, told his legions of listeners last Thursday that a leading contributor to Mr Obama’s Democratic Party had “interfered in Kenya in 2007 in the elections”.

Beck further accused George Soros of having “played a role in creating complete chaos” in Kenya. He pointed his audience to an article on his website that charges Soros and his foundation, the Open Society Institute, with having “destabilised and overturned governments in several countries”. According to the article, Soros’ institute followed a detailed strategy that resulted in a regime change in Yugoslavia in 2000, Georgia in 2003 and Ukraine in 2004.

“Compelling evidence indicates that Soros may have employed a similar strategy in Kenya, but with far more gruesome results,” writes the article’s author, conservative activist Richard Poe, who has co-written a book claiming that 1960s-era activists have conspired with Soros to take control of Obama’s Democratic Party and steer it toward radical goals.

The attack launched by Beck and Poe is the latest in which opponents of Obama use associations with Kenya to directly or indirectly discredit the president. A recent book claims, for example, that the United States is being governed in accordance with the “anti-colonialist” views of Obama’s Kenyan father. A set of Obama-haters known as “birthers” have meanwhile repeatedly claimed, without evidence, that he was born in Kenya and is thus barred by the US Constitution from serving as president. The alleged effort to subvert Kenya’s government is said to have been orchestrated by Soros’ Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa, established in Nairobi in 2004. Binaifer Nowrojee, the Initiative’s director, says “our work is to promote open society, democratic governance, human rights and free speech”. She added that the foundation “did not have any role in the violence”.

Beck has been broadcasting a series of attacks on Soros in the past week. A US-based Jewish civil rights group responded with outrage to one of Beck’s diatribes that described Soros as “a Jewish boy helping send the Jews to death camps”. In reality, Soros, 80, fled the communist takeover of his native Hungary in the 1940s. He emigrated to the US in 1956 and went on to make billions of dollars as a Wall Street investment wizard. He has given away much of his fortune to organisations that support democracy.

Beck is a fervent supporter of the Tea Party groups that have opposed almost all of Obama’s initiatives, and has accused the president of being “a racist,” saying Obama has “a deep-seated hatred for white people”.

William Ruto's fool's errand

It has been argued before that Eldoret North MP William Ruto is a gunslinger. He plays to win. Ruthless, cunning, and charismatic, the precocious legislator has the ego of an ostrich and the courage of a lion. Opponents underestimate him at their own peril.

But, for the first time in his meteoric political career, Mr Ruto faces extinction.

His legal troubles are legion. Multiple Kenyan courts are baying for his blood. Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the dreaded crusader at the International Criminal Court, is methodically closing in on him. Mr Ruto, the David who slew former President Daniel arap Moi, the Goliath of the Rift Valley, is on the ropes. That’s why he ran to Mr Moreno-Ocampo at The Hague. I have four theories why Mr Ruto took himself to the lion’s den at The Hague:

The first, and to lawyers the most obvious, is that Mr Ruto must believe that he is in serious legal jeopardy. No defence lawyer worth his salt would advise his client to “volunteer” evidence to a prosecutor unless he knew the gravity of the case. Forget all the nonsense about the ground rules under which Mr Ruto “spoke with” ICC prosecutors and investigators. Legally, Mr Ruto stood to gain nothing – zero – by meeting with the ICC. In contrast, Mr Ruto’s visit must have been a bonanza for the ICC. Mr Ruto should fire the lawyers for giving him such deadly advice.

Here’s the rub. The ICC had all the advantages over Mr Ruto.

The cold and alien Dutch city must have been discomfiting to him. The ICC building, with its multiple layers of security, must have been intimidating. Add to these a battery of prosecutors and investigators whose job is to build a case against him. It’s true that Mr Ruto’s lead counsel, Dr Kithure Kindiki, is an able lawyer. Even so, Dr Kindiki and Mr Katwa Kigen, his assisting counsel, must have felt outmanned and outgunned. Besides, neither Mr Ruto, nor his lawyers, knows what evidence Mr Moreno-Ocampo has against him. I imagine that ICC officials must have been raining blow after blow on Mr Ruto.

My second theory is that Mr Ruto sought to implicate others, most notably President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, in the post-election atrocities. If so, this is a bizarre and fruitless legal strategy. I suppose Mr Ruto sang like a canary before Mr Moreno-Ocampo. But I seriously doubt that Mr Ruto would tell Mr Moreno-Ocampo anything that he does not already know about the two principals. This would make him a perpetrator-witness subject to indictment. He could strike a plea bargain for ratting others out, but only after indictment. But this would not spare him jail time if found guilty.

My third theory is that Mr Ruto wanted to spook his political opponents at home and the ICC officials by seizing the initiative. He wanted to catch his political enemies and the ICC flat-footed. Again, this is a mistaken strategy. The ICC process is not a political charade. The ICC cannot be spooked by a target.
If anything, Mr Ruto gave the ICC, and by extension Kenyans and all observers at large, invaluable information just by showing up. ICC officials were able to study him up close and personal, dissecting his every move, demeanour, credibility, and language. They now know more about him than he does of them. It’s puerile for Mr Ruto to try and spook his opponents at home. The case will be decided at The Hague, not Kenya.

My fourth and last theory is that Mr Ruto sought to portray himself as a conquering hero who is being persecuted. This plays to the gallery at home, especially in his Rift Valley backyard. This has won him sympathy in certain quarters. It’s a kind of a daredevil mentality.

But it also smacks of desperation. Mr Ruto may believe that the ICC guillotine is about to fall on him. If so, why not fire the first shot? By voluntarily showing up, he hopes to avoid an arrest if indicted.

But he may also know that the two principals will gladly hand him over to the ICC if he is indicted. Why not take matters into his own hands? We can be sure of one thing: those being sought by the ICC will be very keen to learn as much as possible about Mr Ruto’s (mis)adventure at The Hague. To them, the most valuable lawyers in the country now are Dr Kindiki and Mr Kigen. The possible targets will want to know whether Mr Ruto’s visit to the ICC was helpful to his case.

It is on the basis of this information that they will decide whether to follow suit, and voluntarily visit The Hague. My crystal ball tells me that it’s unlikely they will do so. Not unless they can see clear, demonstrable benefits for Mr Ruto’s sojourn. Of course we don’t know whether or not Mr Ruto will be indicted, much less what an ICC verdict would be. But we know this: by going to The Hague, and appearing to cut a deal for himself, Mr Ruto has irrevocably severed certain political bridges. His future in ODM is virtually over. His divorce with Mr Odinga is all but final. So perhaps are any links he may have nurtured with PNU. From now on, the country will have a “Ruto political death-watch” – meaning whether or when the ICC will indict him.