Wednesday, March 31, 2010

ICC clears Ocampo to prosecute the 20 thug masterminds of Kenya's post-election violence

Kenya’s political risk profile may be downgraded in the coming months following the International Criminal Court’s decision to allow its prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo to start investigations into the 2008 post-election violence.

The decision by two judges, and one dissenting, not only gives victims of the post-election violence a chance for justice, but brings Kenya’s politicians, businessmen and activists suspected to have funded and organised the mayhem closer to facing the international court.

The Court was satisfied that "...the information available provides a reasonable basis to believe that crimes against humanity have been committed on Kenyan territory," using heavy reference to the Kenya National Human Rights Commission on the post-election violence and the Waki Commission report.

The decision will add on to the political temperature raised by the ongoing debate on the new Constitution.

The Court also pushed the period of investigation to 2005, a period that saw skirmishes in Mt. Elgon district when a ragtag Sabaot Land Defence army terrorised residents leading to the displacement of more than 60,000 people.

The ICC statement came as debate to amend the draft constitution was marked by bitter disagreements and walk-outs to force a lack of the statutory 145 members required to vote in any of the proposed changes, raising political tension in and around Parliament.

The Pre-Trial Chamber II ruling means that Ocampo will now start official investigations in Kenya, by gathering evidence and witnesses. It is also seen as an important step towards ending Kenya’s persistent culture of impunity blamed for the tribal and land clashes that have left thousands displaced and dead. "The ICC will do its part but the Kenyans will be in the lead," Moreno-Ocampo said in a statement on today, adding that there would be "no impunity for those most responsible. The ICC will work for and with the Kenyans," he said.

But the two developments will amplify the country’s political risks, which will have an impact on the pace and profitability of investments in the country.

Kenya currently has a relatively favourable rating of B on its ability to pay its debts and a "stable" forecast based on the ratings by Standard and Poor’s (S&P). Fitch, another rating agency rates Kenya at a higher level of B+.

The World Investment and Political Risk 2009 survey by Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency, a World Bank agency that promotes foreign direct investment (FDI), shows that Kenya’s political risk profile is perceived as "very high" by foreign investors. Risk analysts say Kenya could have its sovereign credit rating downgraded unless the ruling coalition spoke in one voice.

Downgrading Kenya’s country risk -— that includes economic and political risks — means the country will find it difficult to raise capital from the international market including issuing of the planned sovereign bond, and will be required to pay higher interest rates for money it borrows from international market. Lower rating will also mean foreign investors will be discouraged from putting their money in the country. Insurers will also be required to pay higher reinsurance premiums, especially for political risk covers, a cost that could be passed on to consumers.

It will mean the country misses international financial support that is tied to good governance such the United States Millennium Challenge Account. According to a survey released by Synovate on Tuesday, 76 per cent of CEOs in Kenya view political instability as the biggest risk to businesses. According to Synovate chief executive, Mr George Waititu, the perceived political instability in Kenya is largely caused by the amount of noise in government and deep divisions in the cabinet that has prevented it from meeting regularly to chat the policy path for the country.

The opinion poll shows that perceived political risk in Kenya is on an upward trend, which according to analysts is a result of the inability of political leaders to address the items listed under Agenda four of the national dialogue and reconciliation, key among them the prosecution of suspected perpetrators of the post election violence and the constitution review.

In a court filing earlier in March, the prosecutor said that senior political and business leaders from Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) and President Kibaki’s Party of National Unity (PNU) were “guided by political objectives to retain or gain power”. The filing included a confidential list of 20 names of those “who appear to bear the gravest responsibility” for the crimes.

Mr Moreno-Ocampo has in the past cited figures from Kenyan authorities that 1,220 people were killed, with hundreds of documented rapes and that more than 350,000 people were forcibly displaced in ethnic clashes after the disputed presidential election in December 2007.

The International Criminal Court, established in 2002, is the world’s first permanent court set up to try individuals for genocide, war crimes and other major human rights violations.

World's most expensive mirror

Underneath this amazing mirrored bodywork is a MINI Cooper S. It's a well equipped MINI, granted, but it's so flash that its owners can't get insurance cover.

Ian Grice, a builder from Nottingham, bought the car as a Valentine's gift for his wife Toni. He was so dazzled by it, literally, that he happily paid the £38,000 asking price when it caught his eye in the showroom. Without options, the list price for a MINI Cooper S is £17,000 - meaning the value of the chrome paintjob could be more than the car itself.

But it has caused a massive headache for the couple, because insurance companies won't provide cover, at any cost. Temporary cover was initially provided by the London MINI dealership so it could be driven home by the happy buyers.

Once back in Nottingham, however, they were left with what Ian describes as "the world's most expensive mirror." Talking to The Sun newspaper, he said: "It's a MINI Cooper for crying out loud, not a Ferrari."

The car's shiny paint makes it an obvious target for thieves, though the Association of British Insurers has advised the couple to seek specialist cover. It has warned, however, that they 'should expect to pay a considerable amount'.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Enter Makmende to solve all our problems...

We don’t need President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga any more. Now we have Makmende.

Our crisis of leadership is about to be solved in the most dramatic way. Makmende will force a headless and dysfunctional Cabinet to meet and unite round the proposed constitution, complete with the amendments required to resolve grey areas. Makmende will also knock a few heads in Parliament and summon an all-party meeting that will agree to unanimously support the proposed constitution both in the House and outside when the referendum campaign starts.

The new national hero makes religious leaders who have been issuing all sorts of threats realise that it is a constitution of Kenya at stake and not the constitution of their narrow sectional groupings.

In between, Makmende—fresh from ensuring Kenya’s great performance at the World Cross Country Championships at some place in Poland I can neither spell nor pronounce—will wage war on all the criminals and bandits that have made Kenya a living hell, sending all the baddies into premature retirement and the commissioner of police into disuse.

He will pop over to the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission and the AG's chambers and ensure speedy prosecution and conviction of all the corrupt big fish who have been allowed to operate above the law. After they are safely behind bars, he will throw away the keys and confiscate all their property in Kenya and beyond.

If one Luis Moreno-Ocampo is slow to act on the criminals who committed near-genocide in Kenya after the last elections, have no fear; Makmende is on the case. He will not even have to go through the motions of lengthy investigation and trials. Makmende will simply set himself up a reception desk at the gates of Kamiti Maximum Security Prison and invite all those who funded, organised or killed, burnt and looted to turn themselves in before he loses patience. Within minutes Kamiti will be bursting at the seams.

Makmende will also turn his attentions to other pressing problems, like the state of the economy and the mismanaged parastatals and fix things in a jiffy. He will not only make the President and Prime Minister redundant, but the entire Cabinet, Parliament, the Provincial Administration and the security forces. Things will work like clockwork in Kenya. Highways and railroads will reach every corner of the republic. Electricity and piped water will spread out across the land and will be affordable and reliable. Schools and hospitals offering quality services will sprout on every little hamlet.

The country and the people will prosper in a climate of peace and stability. Even the threats from potential terrorists in Somalia and bandits from across the Sudan and Ethiopian borders will be no more, for none will dare even imagine, encompass or devise any harm on Kenya when Makmende is around. Kenyans will be united as one after Makmende persuades their ethnic leaders to go on leave. Old suspicions, hatred and fears will be cast aside and harmony will reign. We will not be talking about Vision 2030 any more, for we will get there ahead of the clock.

It probably is a reflection of helplessness that a fictional superhero can so capture the imagination of Kenyans.

Makmende may not be the last of the escapist fantasy that allows us all to divert our attentions from Kibaki, Raila, Uhuru Kenyatta, William Ruto and all the other political frauds who have abdicated their leadership roles and threaten again to lead us down the path of death and destruction.

We can forget about the constitution, reforms, Parliament, the grand coalition, or collusion, government, and all the other things that make life such a drag. At one level, Makmende may be an inspiring tale of Kenyan ingenuity and creative use of new media. But the fictional superhero, who has taken Kenyan cyberspace by storm, also fills the giant void we find ourselves in.

In Congo they have ndombolo. We create Makmende to solve all our problems as we amuse ourselves making up the most creative one lines to illustrate his superness. Makmende is not a particularly great music video. The song is pretty forgettable. The character looks rather shabby and ordinary, a far cry from Shaft, Superfly or other heroes of the American black-exploitation movies of the 1970s he’s supposed to be modelled on.

But he has hit us in a big way, and maybe helped us realise that we are ahead of the curve, and must not forever be hostage to the political leaders who hold us down. After all, not even Kibaki and Raila can have a duel with Superman, Spiderman and Batman, combined, with the losers musthaving to wear their underpants on the outside.

Monday, March 29, 2010

BREAKING NEWS: 10 years for Stern Hu

SHANGHAI - A Chinese court has sentenced Australian Rio Tinto executive Stern Hu to 10 years in prison for corruption and industrial espionage.

Hu and three Chinese staff, who were tried last week in Shanghai, were convicted of accepting bribes totalling about $14 million and stealing trade secrets. Hu, the head of the Anglo-Australian miner's Shanghai office, was sentenced to 10 years in prison. His Chinese colleagues - Wang Yong, Ge Minqiang and Liu Caikui - were given jail terms of 14, eight and seven years, respectively.

Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith described the penalty handed to Hu as "tough".

"Whilst we don't condone bribery in any way, I think the sentence by any measure is harsh," he said. "It's a tough sentence by Australian standards. I'm advised that so far as Chinese sentencing practice is concerned, it is within the ambit or within the range."

In a statement released today, Rio Tinto said it would terminate the employment of the four staff members. "We have been informed of the clear evidence presented in court that showed beyond doubt that the four convicted employees accepted bribes," the company said in a statement. "By doing this, they engaged in deplorable behaviour that is totally at odds with our strong ethical culture. In accordance with our policies, we will terminate their employment."

The judge presiding over the case said the four men had seriously damaged the competitive interests of Chinese steel companies. He said their actions forced Chinese steel companies into an unfavourable position in price negotiations, and this led to the collapse in iron ore price negotiations in 2009.

The four defendants stood quietly throughout the sentencing.

Most of the proceedings of the trial were held behind closed doors and Australian diplomats were excluded from the hearings on the commercial secrets allegations. Foreign reporters were allowed to watch the verdict hearing on closed-circuit television from a separate room.

Mr Smith said he was disappointed the court would not allow Australian officials access to the part of the trial dealing with commercial secrets. "Serious unanswered questions [remain about] that part of the trial and that matter as far as Stern Hu is concerned, but also more generally and more widely the Australian business community and international business community," he said. "I think here China has missed a substantial opportunity. This was an opportunity for China to bring some clarity to the notion of commercial secrets."

Australian Opposition Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Julie Bishop, who expressed surprise at the length of Hu's sentence, said the case would have major implications for Australian businesses operating in China. "This is an issue of great concern to many companies from Australia and also from around the world doing business in China," she said. "The fact that there is very little detail available as to what constitutes a commercial secret and whether one could be in breach of Chinese laws will continue to create uncertainty for those doing business in China."

Dr Malcolm Cook, East-Asia director at the Lowy Institute, said the verdict might make business more cautious about having major sensitive negotiations in China. "The benchmark iron ore negotiations that were in Shanghai last year, at which time Stern Hu was arrested, this year are taking place outside China despite China being the largest buyer," he told Reuters.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd had said the world was watching the trial, which was widely seen as a test of the rule of law in China and sparked concerns about doing business in the world's third-largest economy.

The four had pleaded guilty to taking money, and one had admitted to commercial espionage, but the accused had disputed aspects of the charges, their lawyers said. A prosecutor had recommended that Hu be given a lenient sentence after he apologised to the court and to Rio, saying he took about $870,000 to help childhood friends in need, his lawyer Jin Chunqing said.

The four Rio employees were arrested last July during contentious iron-ore contract talks between top mining companies and the steel industry in China, the world's largest consumer of the raw material. The talks collapsed.

A posting outside the Shanghai courthouse said Tan Yixin, an executive at China's eighth-largest steel mill Shougang Corp who was detained last year after the Rio arrests, would appear in court later. The notice gave no further details about the hearing.

At the three-day trial of the Rio employees, the court heard evidence that millions of yuan in bribes had been stuffed into bags and boxes for the accused, according to state media. Hu took money from small private steel companies, which before the global financial crisis were locked out of buying iron ore from Rio because the mining giant prioritised large state-run steel companies, Mr Jin said.

Wang strongly objected to the bribery allegations, saying he simply borrowed the money from one of China's richest men, Du Shuanghua, the National Business Daily reported.
Mr Du, the former head of Shandong-based Rizhao Iron and Steel group, has contradicted Wang's account, saying he paid the Rio employee millions of dollars for preferential treatment, the newspaper said.

Iraqi children's growth stunted by war, says study

Iraqi children born in the most violent areas are shorter than those born in other parts of the country, UK researchers have found.

The team looked at data from Iraq's central statistics office and said under-fives from these areas were on average 0.8cm (0.3in) shorter.

Low height can be linked to poor diet and sanitation.

The University of London work is being presented at the Royal Economic Society annual conference. The author says the study shows the conflict damaged children's health.

The study analysed the height of children during the the first three years of the war and found that "stunting" was a serious problem among those born in provinces in the south and centre of Iraq which experienced the worst violence. But the data showed that, although these children were shorter than their counterparts from safer areas, they did not necessarily weigh less. The report suggests that the problem was therefore likely to be linked to the quality, rather than quantity, of food. The study also found that the height difference was most pronounced in children's first year of life. It suggests that this could reflect deterioration in the health of the mother while pregnant.

The author, Gabriela Guerrero-Serdan from the department of economics at Royal Holloway, University of London, said: "At first sight, it is easier to see if a child is malnourished by looking at his or her weight, which is often synonymous with hunger. Low height, however, which relates more to protein intake, is not as easy to identify just by looking at a child. Unlike weight, which can be gained at any period of life by eating more food, we cannot necessarily grow more in height after our period of growth has passed.

"The short height of these children is likely to reflect poor quality food intake, and also more disease and diarrhoea. Power failures which affected water supplies and refrigeration are likely to have added to the problem. Early life development and growth are connected and important, because children who are well-nourished are more likely to be healthy, productive and able to learn in the future."

Professor Peter Emery, head of nutrition and dietetics at King's College London, said: "Stunting does not necessarily mean that the quality of the diet is low in terms of protein content. It is more likely to indicate chronically low quantity of food, together with poor sanitation and access to healthcare."

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Did Kenya buy defective military helicopters?

Queries raised over military choppers that have yet to fly.

Did Kenya buy defective helicopters from China?

That is the question being asked by military engineers after it became apparent that eight Chinese choppers delivered to Nairobi in January have not been flown.

The helicopters were bought from a company that has previously supplied planes to Kenya. However, the ministry of Defence said the helicopters had not been grounded but did not explain why they have not taken to the air three months after they were delivered. "We wish to state that so far we do not have any Z-9 helicopters which are grounded," the DoD spokesman Bogita Ongeri said in response to enquiries about the aircraft. But engineers at DoD said the military utility helicopters had never been airborne since they were delivered in January. Sources at DoD said several of the eight helicopters were meant to beef up the VIP fleet that is usually at the disposal of the President, Prime Minister and the Vice-President.

Currently, President Kibaki uses the French-manufactured Puma helicopters that are reconfigured for VIP usage.

As military utility helicopters, the Z-9 have a variety of roles including ground attack, air assault, cargo, reconnaissance and troop transport. They can carry 10 armed soldiers.

Engineers note that while they expected the "new" helicopters to reinforce the VIP fleet, they were disappointed that they had not flown three months after arrival. "For three months we have waited for them to take to the skies but to no avail," a source, who cannot be named as he is not authorised to speak to the media, said. The Harbin Z-9 is a Chinese military utility helicopter licence-built version of the French Eurocopter Dauphin.

The first Z-9 flew in 1981, and was built in China by the Harbin Aircraft Manufacturing Corp from components supplied by Aérospatiale. This is the same French firm that supplied the Puma helicopters still in service for the Kenya Air Force.

The latest armed version, the Z-9WA, was introduced in 2005 and has night attack capabilities with an under-nose low-light TV and infra-red observing and tracking unit. Information on the purchase of the choppers is contained in the latest factsheet of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), which monitors worldwide purchase and transfer of military hardware.

According to SIPRI, the four Z-9WA armed version helicopters were ordered last year by the ministry of Defence and delivered in January. The DoD termed the purchase of the helicopters a prerequisite for readiness on the part of the military. Mr Ongeri said the acquisition of the helicopters is one of a series of steps aimed at modernising the armed forces. "We have an obligation to equip our soldiers with the very best, most modern equipment/systems our nation and budget can provide," he said.

Without revealing how the country procured the aircraft, DoD said contracts in regard to procurement of military equipment the world over take a long time. Last week, SIPRI disclosed that Kenya had spent more than Sh45 billion on military equipment. This was the third largest budgetary military expenditure in Eastern and Southern Africa. African countries that exceeded Kenya’s expenditure were South Africa and Angola.

Last year, DoD was on the spot when it insisted that tanks imported from the Ukraine belonged to Kenya while it was generally assumed the end user was Southern Sudan. The department promised to take journalists on a trip to show the tanks in action but, more than a year since the pledge, nothing has come of it.

Since President Kibaki took office late in December 2002, Kenya has continually looked to China and Eastern Europe countries for its arms and military hardware. In 2006, Kenya bought an estimated 400 troop-carrying vehicles from China in a deal that sparked questions from other suppliers. A year later, Kenya bought 32 armoured personnel carriers from China. Earlier, the country had received Y-12 military utility planes from the same country.

Queries over the state of the Chinese choppers came as Siasa Duni learned that the much-awaited Jordanian fighter jets that cost taxpayers Sh1.6 billion are expected in the country next month. Meanwhile, DoD has said it is in negotiations with the Spanish firm awarded the tender to build a warship for the Kenya Navy in May 2003. Mr Ongeri said DoD has entered into arbitration with the ship manufacturers, Astilleros Gondan, and the company awarded the deal, Euromarine Industries.

The Defence and Foreign Relations Committee chaired by the then Laikipia West MP, Mr G.G. Kariuki, had in 2007 asked the government to hire independent experts to evaluate the naval ship’s works and services done as a basis for working out payments to the shadowy Euromarine Industries. "Other options the government may consider include nullifying existing contracts and renegotiating new terms and entering into new well thought-out agreements with a clear exit strategy to safeguard public funds," the report says.

The committee recommended that those who deliberately make the government enter into irregular and lop-sided procurement contracts where Kenya stands to lose money, image and international standing should be dealt with firmly. The committee urged the government to bear in mind the need to protect public funds in whatever action it takes on the naval ship contract. Although DoD declined to state how much money had been paid to Euromarine Industries, independent sources put the figure at Sh2.3 billion.

Euromarine Industries is reported to be demanding a staggering Sh1.8 billion for same ship.

The naval ship deal is among the 18 dodgy contracts that the government either terminated or suspended after the Anglo Leasing and Finance scandal blew up. Euromarine Industries was awarded the contract to construct the ship for a staggering Sh4.1 billion (Euros 51,997,000). The firm is said to have proposed a medium term financial package that was to ease the budgetary burden on the government.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The pride of East Africa

Amid the hullabaloo surrounding Jose Mourinho’s return to Chelsea on Tuesday last week, there was one player at Stamford Bridge who also has claims to be a 'special one'.

The moment may have gone unnoticed in London but not in Nairobi, where McDonald Mariga’s mum was blowing, yes, a vuvuzela, as her son became the first Kenya - and the first East African - to play in the Champions League.

Matilda Mariga, whose husband Noah is a former Kenya international, was at home in their apartment (paid for by the Inter Milan player) as 15-20 friends and neighbours squeezed in to watch one of the building’s few satellite TVs.

And just five minutes from time, they were all jumping around when Mariga, 22, finally made his appearnace as a substitute for the excellent Wesley Sneijder. "People are so excited here. On Tuesday, fans were rushing to watch the match as if they were Inter fans and every day now, you see Inter’s news in our papers even though English football is far more popular," said John Nene, a Nairobi-based sports reporter for the BBC. "Mariga’s mum can’t wait to meet Mourinho - she thinks he’s a great coach - and she’s heading to Milan soon."

Matilda and Noah, a winger who banged in the goals for the Harambee Stars in the 70s and 80s, are understandably excited to see their son become the first Kenyan playing in one of Europe’s top leagues.

There is also huge interest in neighbouring, and equally football-mad, Uganda because real hopes exist that a player from Africa’s footballing eastern backwaters can spearhead a change, which one former Kenya coach - contrary to conventional wisdom - believes is possible. "There are many Marigas in Kenya," says Jacob ‘Ghost’ Mulee. "We were just waiting for someone to break the ice and show we can be known for something other than running."

When you talk about Kenyan sports stars, athletes like Kip Keino, John Ngugi and Paul Tergat understandably hog the limelight. But Mariga is breaking the ice, and doing so in spectacular style, having joined Inter from Parma in a four-year deal after work permit complications prevented a move to mega-rich Manchester City.

So impressive were the tall midfielder’s displays for a yo-yo’ing Parma side that he was also linked with City’s neighbours Manchester United and AC Milan before signing for Inter. "Mariga’s a very interesting player," said president Massimo Moratti. "He’s young and can do very well. It’s the best thing that could have happened to us in the winter transfer market."

So, just who is Mariga?

Well, after playing for some of Kenya’s top sides while in his mid-teens, he made it to Parma via Sweden, where he shone for Helsingborgs - despite winter training in sub-zero temperatures.

By all accounts, he’s incredibly down-to-earth and humble, a contrast to his fellow Africans at Inter, Samuel Eto’o and Sulley Muntari - but his shyness turns to steely single-mindedness on the field.

Like many Africans signed by European clubs, the names of Michael Essien, Mahamadou Diarra, Yaya Toure and John Mikel Obi immediately spring to mind, Mariga is a defensive midfielder. He was reportedly bought to replace Patrick Vieira, the Senegal-born French international, and certainly shares Vieira’s physique at 6ft 2ins tall. But if he is to start regularly for Inter, he must force his way into a midfield containing Sneijder, Esteban Cambiasso, Sulley Muntari, Thiago Motta and Dejan Stankovic.

Mariga is a competent tackler, has a good engine and covers plenty of ground with his long lolloping stride, but when I saw him in the flesh six months ago, playing for Kenya as they lost a World Cup qualifier in Mozambique, he looked a bit raw. "Even though he’s at Inter, I still think he’s got a bit of a way to go," says Finland’s English manager Stuart Baxter, who coached Mariga at Helsingborgs. "I do see similarities with Vieira because ‘Macca’ has a very powerful game, looks marvellous when moving forward with the ball, is difficult to knock off the ball and for a big lad he has both good passing and balance. But he’s got to decide whether he wants to be a box-to-box player like Vieira or whether to focus on breaking up the play so that he can knock Cambiasso out of the side."

Either way, he’s in the right place, being guided by Mourinho and backed by his team-mates, and having warmed the bench throughout the first leg against Chelsea in the San Siro, he was delighted to get his chance as Inter completed a 3-1 aggregate victory in London. "What began as a dream has become reality. This is the world’s biggest club competition and making a Champions League debut against a top side like Chelsea is wonderful - I really enjoyed myself," Mariga told Kenyan media. "I was a bit nervous about being the new boy in the squad, but everyone made me feel at home. This is just a starting point - all I think about is doing better in each game and hoping to get more playing minutes."

The whole of East Africa also hopes he does, with Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper stating: "Mariga... somehow manages to bring hope to many a person in a land brimming with talent but bedevilled with greed - the latter always thwarting the former."

If that sounds negative, it’s because it’s impossible to overstate the depths of underachievement from this oft-ignored corner of African football - one which seldom hits the headlines. No East African nation has ever contested a World Cup, only three countries have travelled to the biennial Africa Cup of Nations in the last 18 years - and in nearly a half-century, only two East African sides have ever won a CAF club title.

In addition, Kenyan football has chronic administrative issues - with two bodies claiming to run the game - and is cash-strapped. But Ghost believes Mariga’s success could be the catalyst for change - and an increasing number of scouts are now being drawn to Kenya. “When he nearly joined Man City, parents were telling their kids to play football and now he’s turning out for Inter that interest is doubling," he said. "Kenyans are beginning to realise that you can make a living through football, and Mariga is inspiring many to play in Europe - as there’s now the belief that if he can make it, then others can surely follow.” (BBC Online)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Government of Uganda: Don't blame M7 for deaths

KAMPALA - The government has defended President Museveni over the fatal gunfire on Wednesday at Kasubi tombs, saying rowdy Buganda subjects who pelted soldiers with stones provoked the shooting.

However, a Buganda minister said Mr Museveni decided to tour the mausoleum, destroyed by fire on Tuesday, against the kingdom’s advice.

In a rejoinder, information minister Kabakumba Masiko said on Thursday night that the President does not require permission to visit Kasubi tombs. "Whereas some former Buganda kings are buried there, the Kasubi site is national heritage and international treasure gazetted by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation," she said.

In the wake of Tuesday’s mysterious fire that engulfed the Muzibu Azaala Mpanga mausoleum housing the remains of the fallen kings, thousands of subjects have been flocking to 'mourn' the destruction of the royal tombs. Many of the agitated youths on Wednesday pelted the President’s advance security team with stones, injuring several and provoking them to shoot in “self-defense”, Defence Spokesman Lt. Col. Felix Kulayigye said.

Buganda Information/Cabinet Affairs Minister Charles Mayiga said the President ignored the kingdom’s advice to suspend his impromptu visit to the royal tombs before Kabaka Ronald Mutebi. "We strongly condemn the excessive force which was used by the army resulting into the loss of lives of innocent people," he said. "In the Ganda culture, it’s the mourners who are supposed to receive visitors who come to say sorry and not the opposite. The deployment of the army at the tombs was not necessary because this was a mourning moment.”

Mr John Nagenda, the president’s senior advisor on media, said those criticising Mr Museveni over the Wednesday visit are forgetting "so soon who restored the kingdom." The NRM government restored Buganda Kingdom and the Kabakaship in 1993 to the delight of the Baganda, 27 years after late President Milton Obote’s Uganda People’s Congress government abolished all kingdoms in the country following a fallout with Mengo.

"He (Mr Museveni) went to pay his respect at Kasubi tombs and I don’t see anything wrong with that," Mr Nagenda said. "The President of our country can go anywhere at any time and this kind of suspicion is wrong."

The government, through the Uganda Media Centre, announced on Wednesday that three of seven people shot at Kasubi had died while one was already discharged from Mulago Hopsital. According to Mr Dick Kasolo, the Kabaka’s press secretary, Buganda Katikkiro John Baptist Walusimbi and the Kabaka were supposed to tour the ruined Kasubi tombs at midday on Wednesday but Mr Museveni’s sudden arrival interrupted the royal schedule.

Several of the Buganda subjects on Wednesday booed the President and used reed-pole barricades to prevent him from accessing the graves of the fallen kings. "The encouragement of the gathering to be rowdy borders on hooliganism and isn’t right," Ms Masiko said. "The priority now is to find out what exactly caused the fire outbreak."

Earlier, President Museveni said of the inferno: "I don’t know but I am a bit suspicious whether there was no deliberate act [to torch the burial place] because the people who stay here said they saw fire from behind there."

Buganda and the central government have had strained relations on issues relating to politics, land and power. Last September the government stopped the Kabaka from visiting Kayunga sparking riots that left 27 people dead. The Kabaka had been scheduled to preside over the youth day celebrations but was stopped on grounds that the government could not guarantee his security while in Kayunga.

The President last year said the Kabaka had refused to answer his calls for a period of over two years.

A message from your friendly neighbourhood anti-corruption commission

Ok Kenyans... Let's make this money! Looks like this old chap is still on the loose. I doubt if anything will come out of it though. - Siasa Duni


The person whose photograph appears on the left is implicated in the ongoing investigations into the Anglo-Leasing affair and security-related contracts. The person has evaded investigators from the Kenya Anti-Corruptions Commission who want to question him on his involvement in these contracts. His brother Deepak Kamani had reported to the Commission on 12th and 13th May, 2008.

The Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission is therefore offering a reward of Kshs. 100,000/= to any person who will provide information leading to the location and subsequent questioning of Rashmi Chamanlal Kamani by investigators from the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission.

All information received will be treated in utmost confidence.

Contact the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission on:

Telephone number: +254 2717318/310722 Ext. 155
Email address:
or in person at Integrity Centre Valley/Milimani Road junction
P.O. Box 61130-00200

Posted on Saturday, September 01, 2007

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Nyiha's BFF spills the beans!

Jane Nyiha, the Kenyan Student at Kampala International University (KIU) who stabbed her lover David Musunga Ivita to death last Wednesday, has been charged with murder, and remanded to the notorious Luzira prison. Her best friend, Faith Mwanje, spills the beans on the star-crossed couple, revealing that they have been feuding over "offside romps" for the last four months. It’s a tragic tale of betrayal where a loving woman who, after massive sex exploitation, is battered and raped by her ruthless boyfriend; a disturbing story of rows, sex and lies...

"At first they were a hot couple who attracted the envy of every student. They used to walk hand-in-hand, enjoy kisses at campus and even went out quite often. They romped like there was no tomorrow, and wild screams would be heard a mile away from their room. The lovers even introduced each other to their parents in Kikuyu, Kenya, and pledged to tie the knot after school.

However, things started falling apart about four months ago over suspected cheating. David started accusing Jane of cheating on him when she started going out with other men. The worst came when they bitterly fought at Punchline club in Kabalagala after David caught her kissing another man.

Since then, he started warning her of 'being buried in a septic tank' if she did not check her conduct. As a friend, I advised Jane to throw in the towel for fear of her being murdered. Jane later quietly told David that she was no longer 'interested' but he kept pressing on. 'I'm fed up with this man but he can not leave me. Maybe he wants to leave me when I am dead,' she told me.

Last week Jane was having a good time with a new catch during a movie night at Punchline. A pal smoked her out and quietly sent a text message to David, telling him his girl was getting lovey-dovey with a mysterious hunk. A no-nonsense David later telephoned her and inquired about her whereabouts. But the sharp girl deceived him, saying she was at her friend’s place.

An enraged David came around with three other Kenyan guys and ended up beating up Jane, breaking her nose and gravely injuring the boyfriend. The matter was reported to police but David was not arrested. Since then, their relationship started falling apart, and counter threats of 'I'll kill you' started flying around. But because of earlier 'introductions', it then became difficult for David to 'divorce' Jane over the sex rumours.

But matters worsened when Jane started falling in love with her lecturer, prompting David to attempt poisoning her. He laced juice with poison and served her, but she rejected it. She survived death by a whisker.

When friends asked David why he wanted to end his girl’s life, he said the babe was slowly falling in love with a lecturer, moreover a Ugandan. He said he had spent a lot of money on the girl, on top of introducing her to his parents as his wife-to-be and could not afford to leave her. He swore to either kill her or himself. It was a matter of time. When I heard on Wednesday that David had been slain, I felt hurt, but not surprised."

Meanwhile, sources at Kabalagala Police station have said Nyiha told detectives that she stabbed her lover because he tried to rape her. "This man wanted to force me into sex. He came late and I told him to go back where he had spent the night, but he refused. When he returned in the morning, he tried to rape me," she said in a statement. "He was smelling of booze and his socks were full of ‘carbon’. He was very aggressive as he tried to enter me. I picked a knife and stabbed him in self-defence,” she added.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

BREAKING NEWS: M7 blocked from Kasubi, 3 shot

MENGO, KAMPALA - Chaos has engulfed Kasubi after the military opened fire when a crowd of people briefly blocked President Yoweri Museveni from accessing the site.

The military opened fire that lasted at least five minutes to disperse rioters who had placed logs in the road leading up to the cultural site, classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, that went up in flames on Tuesday night. At least three people have been shot and injured and immediately carried away by the military. A man, whose identity has not yet been revealed, has been arrested at the tombs with a pistol. The man, in civilian clothes, was led away from the tombs by the military. It is not clear whether he had used the pistol.

Meanwhile, the Buganda cabinet is set to convene early today in a special meeting to forge the way forward following the destruction of the kingdom’s historic site.

The main building housing the mausoleums of four former Buganda kings (Kabakas) was completely burnt down in just a few minutes in a fire that started at around 8.30pm. The kingdom’s Deputy Information minister, Medard Sseggona, said, "We are convening an urgent cabinet meeting to discuss the way forward. It’s too sad that we have lost such valuable property as the kingdom. We will also set up independent investigations as a kingdom." Other dignitaries that have visited the scene include the Buganda kingdom's attorney general, Apollo Makubuya, and David Mpanga, the kingdom’s research minister.

It has also been reported that Peter Sematimba, the Rubaga division chairman was beaten up and denied access to the site this morning. Pastor Peter Sematimba, NRM's flambuoyant LC3 chairman of Rubaga Division, is a Kampala businessman and radio entrepreneur-cum-evangelist, and is best remembered for performing a "Michael Jackson obscene dance" last year at Sabrina's Pub, a popular hangout in downtown Kampala.

Sematimba, who went to the tombs to join in the reconstruction effort following last night’s fire, was blocked from entry by a large group of young men. They accused Sematimba, a member of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM), of anti-Buganda sentiments and threw stones and bricks at him, warning of severe consequences should he should dare enter the premises. Consequently, he fled into Kasubi Church of Uganda, which is located just outside the gate to the tombs. The mob also roughed up beat up Mama Fina, the chairperson of the traditional medicine practitioners association, Uganda ne Eddagala Lyayo.

Meanwhile, hundreds of people continue to throng the site in search of answers to what caused the fire. Buganda loyalists, who have been camped at the site since Tuesday night, have been singing the Buganda anthem in a mournful, sorrowful mood.

The cause of the fire is not yet known.

See the Royal Kasubi Tombs inferno in pictures.

The historic Kasubi Tombs last night went up in flames, engulfing the main building housing the mausoleums of four former Buganda Kabakas.

Hundreds of Kingdom subjects, some prostrating, crying and screaming, gathered in front of the embers. The grass-thatched hut was completely destroyed within minutes, leaving the skeletal brick wall. The burial grounds, revered by the Baganda, are 128 years old.

Witnesses said the blaze started around 8.30pm. One woman, Lydia Nabambulide, said she heard "a loud explosion" behind the tombs, just before the fire began. She said, "I saw a white box wrapped in something like bark cloth and it looked strange." A white pickup truck with no registration numbers, reportedly emerged from the tombs shortly after the fire broke out, Mr Andrew Jjuko said, quoting Boda-boda riders who were at the scene.

Other reports suggested that a fleeing man shot in the air to scare away the riders in his pursuit. Mr Charles Peter Mayiga, the Buganda information minister, said they were puzzled by the mysterious fire outbreak and "it is a dark moment for the kingdom". "We don’t know what is really going on in the kingdom," he said.

Earlier, an agitated crowd chased away Police fire fighters who pulled up to quell the fire around 9.20pm. Security operatives, who surrounded the tombs, shot several times in the air to force back a charged mass of people that advanced towards the firemen. A light shower did nothing to tame the flames.

Buganda Katikkiro, John Baptist Walusimbi, arrived shortly after 10pm and looked distraught as he inspected the extent of damage to the Muzibu Azaala Mpanga.

He was quickly surrounded by his subjects, many prostrating in the wet soil. They burst into singing the Buganda anthem as one of them sounded the kingdom’s big drum to mobilise more of the subjects.

The cause of the fire is yet to be established, said police spokeswoman Judith Nabakooba. Mr Musa Sevume, suspecting arson, said, "Buganda is here and it will stay. Buganda is more than just the tombs. We will replace them." Another kingdom subject, who only identified himself as Jacob, said amid sobs that the tombs are "part of us and they should at least leave history alone."

The Kasubi tombs, situated four kilometers west of Kampala city, is a Unesco certified World Heritage site that brings in millions of shillings to Buganda kingdom by way of tourism.

The Kabakas buried at the tombs include:

Muteesa I (1835-1884)

Basamula Mwanga II (1867-1903)

Daudi Chwa II (1896-1939)

Sir Fredrick Walugembe Muteesa II (1924-1969)

Fatal shooting of 2 Kenyans sparks riots at Makerere

KAMPALA - Makerere University students yesterday rioted after two of their colleagues were shot dead at a hostel in the main campus.

The shooting on Monday night took place amidst disagreements between supporters of a Kenyan guild presidential candidate, John Kamau, one of two Kenyans in the guild race, and the NRM candidate, John Teira.

Ignatius Nyongesa, 24, and Brian Amoga, 21, both Kenyans, died when a security guard shot them in the chest at point-blank range. Amoga was in his first year studying law, while Nyongesa was a third-year student of commerce, with only two months to complete his course.

The incident occurred at 10.30pm at God is Able Hostel, situated in Makerere Kikoni, just on the edge of the main university campus. Eyewitnesses said Richard Hafasha, a private security guard, fired one bullet which passed through Nyongesa’s chest and hit Amoga who was behind him. The bullet also hit a Ugandan student, Amon Mugezi, and finally lodged in his neck. Mugezi is a third-year law student.

The bodies lay in a pool of blood for about an hour until other students in the hostel mobilised funds and hired a car to take them to Mulago Hospital. Mugezi is still in critical condition at the hospital’s intensive care unit.

Before the tragic incident, the nine guild presidential contenders had campaigned at a rally at Nsibirwa Hall in the university’s main campus. When the rally ended at 7:00pm, the contestants walked through various hostels seeking votes.

John Teira, the NRM candidate, camped in God is Able Hostel with dozens of his campaigning agents. They spent hours in the hostel, witnesses said. As the group prepared to leave, they were confronted in the compound by Nyongesa, who is believed to have belonged to Kamau's camp. He reportedly tried to hit Teira with a bench when the group rejected his calls to leave the hostel. A brief commotion ensued, which, according to eyewitnesses, compelled the guard to fire the bullet that fatally hit the three students.

After the shooting, the security guard surrendered himself at Old Kampala Police station. He was later transferred to Wandegeya Police Station as investigations continue, according to Police spokesperson Judith Nabakooba. Residents at the hostel said although the guard was not a regular drunkard, he was "very violent and harsh with students". "He used to lock the gate at 9.00pm. Whenever you returned beyond that, he would not open. He would instead abuse and threaten to shoot you," a student said. She added that whenever lectures ended late, they were forced to climb over the gate.

The shooting sparked a demonstration, dominated by Kenyan students. The students smashed the hostel’s glass windows and by midday the vicinity, which was under tight guard, had been vacated. Carrying placards that urged the Government to probe the killings, the students marched from Kikoni through Sir Apollo Kaggwa Road to the main campus.

Julius Caesar Tusingwire, the officer in charge of Makerere Police Station, had earlier convinced the demonstrators not to turn violent. However, after an hour, more students joined in and the march became rowdy. Protesters tore up books of fellow students who seemed reluctant to join the demonstration. Reports indicate that about 10 male students entered the Faculty of Social Sciences and pulled down a woman’s trousers, threatening to rape her for not taking part in the protest.

The rioters also broke pay-phone booths in front of the same faculty and took off with dozens of air time cards. They attempted to enter the main administration building where the vice-chancellor sits, but Tusingwire ordered his Police officers to keep them at bay. They then burnt some trunks near Nkrumah Hall, from where they invaded the university main library and ordered its closure.

At around 10.00am, a group attacked the carpenters at Wandegeya Kubbiri roundabout and took off with a coffin, claiming they wanted to bury their colleagues in the university’s Freedom Square. However, the Police overpowered them and took the coffin back. Running battles then ensued between the Police and the students, with the rioters pelting Police officers with stones. Anti-riot Police, however, came in later and fired teargas, dispersing the crowd.

At around midday, some regrouped on Sir Apollo Kaggwa Road and the murram road leading to Kikoni, the scene of the murder. They blocked both roads with rocks and tree branches, forcing back drivers from Bwaise as business around Kikoni came to a standstill. Boda-boda riders had to pay money to pass at the road blocks. The roads remained blocked for about an hour, until the anti-riot Police came in and fired teargas. Offices at the university remain closed.

Anti-riot and regular Police constables stood watch over the campus as detectives in plain clothes monitored the hostels. An anti-terrorism Police squad monitored Wandegeya and the university. Top Police officers camped at the university to try and calm down the students. They included the deputy Police director in charge of operations, Grace Turyagumanawe, political commissar Asan Kasingye and Kampala south Police chief Moses Kafeero.

Prof. Tickodri Togboa, the university deputy vice-chancellor, said they were considering disarming all guards at the hostels and start engaging the Police to ensure security.

John Nzuve, the education attaché at the Kenyan High Commission, later visited the university. He said the High Commission would cooperate with the bereaved families to transport the bodies to Kenya for burial. The incident takes place barely a week after a Kenyan student at Kampala International University stabbed her Kenyan lover to death.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission as a tool for settling polical scores

Only in Kenya can the war against corruption be reduced to a juvenile shouting match between factions in government.

It is not about fighting corruption, but about everyone conceding they are corrupt, then trying to justify themselves by saying the other fellow is more corrupt. The other absurdity is the numerous anti-corruption and oversight agencies that litter the corridors of power forgetting their key mandates and willingly allowing themselves to be used as pawns in the "you are also corrupt" finger-pointing games.

Watching Parliament live on TV last week, I was rather impressed with the heartfelt statement by Deputy Prime Minister and Local Government minister Musalia Mudavadi in trying to clear his name over the very grave cemetery land scandal devised and executed by his ministry in conjunction with the City Council of Nairobi and the Ministry of Finance. Some of it was the usual "it wasn’t me", "I didn't know" and "political enemies out to finish me" variety. That is standard fare from any official accused of corruption. But then Mr Mudavadi did also illustrate quite persuasively how the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission sought to besmirch his name by distributing an incomplete and probably half-baked report based on mere rumour and supposition.

It would seem that the report was deliberately leaked to the media either by KACC or by one of the recipients of the incomplete report, the Office of the President. The other recipient was Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who it is presumed would not have been interested in leaking the report, seeing as he was in Mr Mudavadi’s corner in this fight.

If indeed the KACC is leaking suspect documents merely to besmirch ODM leaders, that is a severe indictment on an agency that has the peculiar record of never securing a single important conviction in the war against graft.

That particular war has been as phony as the KACC leadership, and an urgent investigation is required to establish whether the agency has been embedded into the propaganda war directed by the PNU machinery at the Office of the President machinery.

In an environment where even newspapers in a government office can be stamped Top Secret, leaks are essential to news gathering and the publication of stories exposing corruption in high places. KACC, therefore, must not besmirch the honourable action of leakage.

If the issue is a partisan approach in the war against corruption, then Mr Odinga might have started the ball rolling with his abortive suspension of Agriculture minister William Ruto and Education minister Sam Ongeri over unproven allegations. For the record, many Kenyans believe that the two should have gone home. President Kibaki has himself stated publicly that any minister facing credible suspicion will have to step aside.

To that extent, Mr Odinga might easily have been implementing the Kibaki policy in trying to suspend Mr Ruto and Prof Ongeri.

The problem is that he was seen to be targeting ministers only from the other side of the political divide. This gave his foes every excuse to leak the audit report, that had been conveniently "sat on", that fingered key officials in the PM's office on the same maize scandal on which Mr Ruto was being nailed.

Note, however, that Mr Odinga never presumed to sack Mr Ruto and Prof Ongeri. He only wanted them out of the way while investigations were completed, and if given a clean bill of health, he explained, they could resume their jobs.

A very good policy, I must say. And if the need to take political responsibility applies to Mr Ruto and Prof Ongeri, as it should, then there is no reason why it should not apply to Mr Mudavadi.

However when it comes to his key ODM ally and party deputy, Mr Odinga suddenly backtracks on his own doctrine and instead becomes Mr Mudavadi’s advocate. Now we are seeing a full-scale war where rival arms of government are busy fishing out evidence of corruption by key figures on the other side.

This frenzy is not grounded on morality, but is merely a cheap political war. If the KACC has been drawn into the battle, it will not be long before the Auditor-General, the Attorney-General, the Efficiency Monitoring Unit, the Inspectorate of State and even the police and the security intelligence are all reduced to political propaganda foot soldiers.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Beckham's World Cup dream is over

David Beckham's World Cup hopes, and possibly his England career, are over after he ruptured his Achilles tendon playing for Milanon Sunday.

Beckham was getting ready to kick a ball unchallenged during Milan's 1-0 Serie A win over Chievo when he suddenly pulled up and signalled to the bench despite second-placed Milan having used all their substitutes. Beckham told the San Siro bench "It's broken, it's broken" as he came off. Team-mates said he was in tears in the dressing room. Club doctor Jean-Pierre Meerseman confirmed the injury, saying: "The World Cup is finished for David Beckham."

Meerseman will travel to Finland with Beckham on Monday where he will see specialist Sakari Orava for surgery. Orava said such an injury would take at least three months to recover from, and longer to achieve optimal performance. "To start kicking and playing football about three months," he said. "For maximal performances and maximum kicks and jumps, maybe it takes one month more; three to four months before one is able to do light playing. It's a total tear of the Achilles tendon. If there is any weakness then... a graft can be taken from the calf and put over the injury site to make it stronger. This kind of procedure is planned." That scenario would rule him out of the World Cup in South Africa. England play their first game against the USA in Rustenburg on June 12.

"When the Achilles tendon goes you feel it straight away," Milan coach Leonardo said after his side moved one point behind stuttering leaders Internazionale with 10 games left. "The injury to David is upsetting. This injury lets me enjoy the win less."

England are well-covered on the right wing with Theo Walcott, Shaun Wright-Phillips and James Milner among the players able to play there. Tottenham Hotspur's Aaron Lennon is currently injured.

Beckham, a former captain who played at the 1998, 2002 and 2006 World Cups, is England's most capped outfield player with 115 appearances. He suffered a broken metatarsal in his foot in 2002 and was not fully fit for the 2002 World Cup, when England went out in the quarter-finals.

Milan, bidding for their first scudetto since 2004, will also miss his crossing ability although he has been far less effective in this loan spell compared to his first stint at the San Siro last year. A dejected-looking Beckham, who left the San Siro on crutches to applause and kisses from club officials, was due to return to his parent club Los Angeles Galaxy after the World Cup. He gave no comment to reporters.


Simama Kenya and PDM: A winding journey to nowhere

Ha, PDM … who knows this thing? I have even forgotten what the initials stand for. Somebody should tell the PNU honchos that the change of name has absolutely no impact with anybody. It basically elicited a bored yawn everywhere. I simply went back to my sleep.

When I later woke up, I was seeing on TV a story about some former TV girl who had made her own makeover and joined what I am told is some cultish sect.

The particulars might be different but, to me, both her and PNU came across very alike: Confused. Rudderless. And out of touch with reality.

Let me give the PNU some unsolicited advice. I know they are paying some high-priced consultants who advised them on this makeover. Mine is for free. I’ll put it simply: PNU, you are going nowhere. Why?

To start with, the party has no structures, no form, no nothing. At the same time, it is getting too much disparate advice from all manner of esoteric “experts’’. These are not politicians. They are something else. It is a problem ODM shares.

But at least with them, they have one unnerring focus. Call it power or whatever. They coyly put it that they are onto a “journey” which was “interrupted” in 2007.

PNU will continue holding tête-à-têtes, seeking a magical formula, for God knows when. The chaps who run the Naivasha lodge where our politicians love to meet should be advised to keep their conference hall open for this party for some lengthy period.

Why, may I ask, is everybody who is somebody in PNU interested in being president? Can they ask themselves that? I know of only two names who have a realistic chance of making it, but I won’t say who.

The Democratic Party, the dormant party Mwai Kibaki dumped long ago, suddenly has become very vocal.

They want “consultations” before unity is discussed. So do many other little parties. Maybe PNU should just call a baraza at Uhuru Park to poll pedestrians on what they think.

Quite frankly, PNU has become an amusement park. But it’s not very funny when some fairly powerful figures who want to come across as serious end up looking comical when they try to promote a shell called PDM, or whaveter it is.

The comedy keeps getting richer. Tony Gachoka, the Raila Odinga aide-turned-Jimmy Kibaki aide, is joined Ford-Kenya last week Tuesday. At the same time, I hear Simama Kenya has applied to become a political party. Can you imagine starting to chant Jimmy Kibaki for President, or is it for the Othaya parliamentary seat? Please.

Talking of the Kibaki Junior, the PNU would be wise to give a very wide berth to his father when it comes to organising themselves. History has shown that he is totally inept at political party management.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Church abuse scandal reaches pope's brother

VATICAN CITY – Church abuse scandals in Germany have reached the older brother of Pope Benedict XVI and are creeping ever closer to the pontiff himself.

While there has been no suggestion of wrongdoing by Benedict, the launch of an inquiry by German Catholic officials after his brother admitted he slapped children years ago is stirring Vatican fears of a major crisis for the papacy.

Benedict, 82, was archbishop of Munich from 1977 to 1982 when he was brought to the Vatican to head the body responsible for investigating abuse cases. During that time, he came under criticism for decreeing that even the most serious abuse cases must first be investigated internally. Since then, Benedict has taken a strong stand against abuse by clerics in the Roman Catholic Church. Just weeks before he became pope, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger caused a stir when he denounced "filth" in the church and among priests — a condemnation taken as a reference to clerical sex abuse. German church officials said on Wednesday they will examine what — if anything — Benedict knew about abuse during his time as Munich archbishop.

"We do not know if the pope knew about the abuse cases at the time," church spokesman Karl Juesten told The Associated Press. He said the church "assumes" Benedict knew nothing of such cases, but that current Munich Archbishop Reinhard Marx will be "certainly investigating these questions." Juesten, the liaison between Roman Catholic bishops and the German government, said the German Bishops Conference had asked parishes and church institutions in the country to examine all allegations of the sexual and physical abuse.

Separately, the Regensburg Diocese told AP it will investigate allegations of physical and sexual abuse that have swirled around a renowned choir led by the Benedict's brother, the Rev. Georg Ratzinger. So far, the sex abuse allegations predate Georg Ratzinger's term as choir director. Vatican officials have been unable to hide their alarm about the possible implications for the papacy. "There is certainly the suspicion that there are some out there out to damage the church and the pope," said a Vatican official, speaking anonymously because of the sensitivity of the matter.

The Vatican has spoken up several times in recent days to defend the church as having acted "promptly and decisively" regarding the German abuse scandal. But it also noted that problems of sex abuse spread across society and are not limited to the Roman Catholic Church.

When Benedict became pope in 2005, the Vatican was reeling from a massive sex abuse scandal in the U.S. church. The new pope promised a policy of zero tolerance as he went on to apologize and pray with some of the victims while traveling in the United States and Australia. The pope has been working on a letter to be read to Catholics in Ireland, where a government report detailed decades of physical and sexual abuse in church-run schools. The letter is expected to be released shortly. The pope held his weekly public audience on Wednesday but made no mention of the sex abuse scandal.

The pope's brother says in a newspaper interview that he slapped pupils across the face after he took over a renowned German boys' choir in the 1960s. He also says he was aware of allegations of physical abuse at an elementary school linked to the choir, but did nothing about it.

Georg Ratzinger, 86, said in a newspaper interview published on Tuesday that he slapped pupils as punishment after he took over the Regensburger Domspatzen boys choir in the 1964. He also said he was aware of allegations of physical abuse at an elementary school linked to the choir but did nothing about it. The slapping of students and other forms of corporal punishment were common in Catholic schools in Germany and other countries in that era. Such punishment was later banned. The Regensburg Diocese has reported two cases of sexual abuse at the choir, stemming from 1958 and 1959. And across Germany, more than 170 students have claimed they were sexually abused at several Catholic high schools.

Ratzinger has repeatedly said the sexual abuse allegations date from before his tenure as choir director. Asked in the interview on Tuesday whether he knew of them, Ratzinger insisted he was not aware of the problem. "These things were never discussed," Ratzinger told Tuesday's Passauer Neue Presse German daily. "The problem of sexual abuse that has now come to light was never spoken of."

Jakob Schoetz, a spokesman for the Regensburg Diocese, told AP that the diocese is appointing an independent investigator — an attorney — to examine allegations of physical and sexual abuse at the choir. "The independent lawyer will thoroughly go through all existing legal papers, all court decisions and any information available," Schoetz said. "We expect to publish first results within the next two weeks."

Franz Wittenbrink, 61, who sang in the Regensburger Domspatzen choir from 1958 to 1967, said he was physically abused on a regular basis by the priests at its boarding school. "Severe beatings were normal, but Ratzinger did not belong to the group of more sadistic abusers," Wittenbrink said in a phone interview with the AP from Hamburg. "But I do accuse him of covering up the abuses."

Wittenbrink said all boys suffered some physical abuse but a "selected group" of students was also abused sexually. Another former choir boy at Domspatzen told the Bild daily that he and other boys were sexually abused by teachers at the choir's boarding school in the 1950s. Manfred von Hove was quoted as saying he "finally wants to have answers and find out who was responsible for the cover-up at the time." He said he planned to sue the Regensburg Diocese for compensation.

Rudolf Neumaier, a student from 1981 to 1982 at the Etterzhausen elementary school in Pielenhofen — considered a feeder school for the choir — told the AP he was slapped there, witnessed corporal punishment of other boys, and saw then-director Johann Meier hit an 8-year-old boy with a chair. Neumaier, who went on to join the Domspatzen choir in Regensburg in 1982, stressed he did not witness or hear about any abuse at the choir boarding school itself. But he said he personally told choir director Georg Ratzinger about the violence at the elementary school and Ratzinger did nothing about it. "He chose not to listen," Neumaier said. Ratzinger said on Tuesday that boys had told him about being mistreated at the Etterzhausen school but he did not understand how bad it was.

Criticism of the Catholic church has been heavy in Germany, whose relations with the Vatican had already been jolted last year when Benedict lifted the excommunication of an ultraconservative British bishop who denied the Holocaust. The Vatican moved to defuse criticism after German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said on Monday that a Vatican secrecy rule has played a role in a "wall of silence" surrounding sexual abuse of children.

What the hell was wrong with that white lady at the Oscars?

If you watched the Oscars on Sunday, I'm sure you were just as shocked as I was at the 'Kanye moment' when Music by Prudence producer Elinor Burkett interrupted Short Film winner Roger Ross Williams’ Oscar acceptance speech. Williams directed and produced the film, about a disabled Zimbabwean musician, but barely got any words out before he was interrupted by Elinor Burkett, another producer of the film.

In a post-speech interview with Salon Burkett explained the pair had a disagreement over the "direction of the film" and that she was late to the podium because Williams’ mother used a cane to keep her from the stage...

BURKETT: What happened was [Williams] and I had a bad difference over the direction of the film that resulted in a lawsuit that has settled amicably out of court. But there have been all these events around the Oscars, and I wasn’t invited to any of them. And he’s not speaking to me. So we weren’t even able to discuss ahead of the time who would be the one person allowed to speak if we won. And then, as I’m sure you saw, when we won, he raced up there to accept the award. And his mother took her cane and blocked me. So I couldn’t get up there very fast.

BURKETT: The movie was my idea. I live in Zimbabwe. Roger had never even heard of Zimbabwe before I told him about this. And you know, I felt my role in this has been denigrated again and again, and it wasn’t going to happen this time.

Williams disagreed with Burkett’s version of events:

WILLIAMS: Only one person is allowed to accept the award. I was the director, and she was removed from the project nearly a year ago, but she was able to still qualify as a producer on the project, and be an official nominee. But she was very angry — she actually removed herself from the project – because she wanted more creative control.

WILLIAMS: I just expected her to stand there. I had a speech prepared.

She claims she found the movie’s story, that she brought it to you.

WILLIAMS: No, not at all. The truth is that she saw the band perform [in Zimbabwe], and told me about that, and then I opened up a dialogue with the [King George VI School & Centre for Children with Physical Disabilities] school and went on my own – which you would’ve heard about in my speech — and spent $6,000 going to Africa shooting myself. And when people expressed interest in the film, I asked her to come on board. And then I regretted that decision. Then she sued.

Did your mother try and block her with her cane?

WILLIAMS: My mother got up to hug me. And my mother is 87 years old. She was excited. What are people saying about it?

They’re saying it looked like she pulled a Kanye.

WILLIAMS: She did! She pulled a Kanye. And it’s a shame, because this is such positive, happy film.

Bill Gates no longer world's richest

Microsoft boss Bill Gates is no longer the world's richest man, despite growing $13billion richer last year. >> Who is?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

You've heard of pillow talk...

A man in South Korea has married the love of his life and she may be the perfect partner – soft, cuddly, quiet and free from arguments. The main difference between this love affair and a regular one is 28-year-old Lee Jin-gyu's new wife is made from material, a pillow, to be precise.

Lee fell in love with the body pillow, which has a printed image of Fate Testarossa, a character in an anime series. The UK Metro reports a friend of Lee said when he goes out to eat, the pillow goes with him. "It gets its own seat and its own meal," the friend said. "He is completely obsessed with this pillow and takes it everywhere. They go out to the park or the funfair where it will go on all the rides with him."

Love gone bad in Kampala

KAMPALA - A Kenyan student at Kampala International University (KIU) is held at Kabalagala Police station for allegedly stabbing her boyfriend to death. Jane Nyiha, a second-year student of bachelor of public administration, is accused of stabbing David Musunga Ivita in the throat, causing him to bleed to death.

She was yesterday picked from her room in Kansanga, a Kampala suburb, where she allegedly committed the crime at around 11:00am. The Police also recovered a knife which she is suspected to have used.

Musunga, also from Kenya, was a third-year student pursuing a bachelor’s degree in mass communication. He was due to sit his final exams in April and graduate in September. Almost 80% of KIU students are Kenyans.

Musunga died during examination at the university clinic where he had been rushed. The two, who had been staying in the same room, were described as long-time lovers by their landlord, John Male. "They have been friendly and calm since they rented my house in 2008. Although the boy would drink, he was generally very cool," he said.

Neighbours reported that trouble started yesterday morning when Musunga returned home drunk at 4:00am. Nyiha declined to open the door for him. The landlord narrated that Musunga spent almost an hour knocking at the door, but his girlfriend only peeped through the window, laughed and ordered him out of her sight. Musunga slept at the house of a friend, David Mwenda, who is also a Kenyan. When he returned to his room at 11:00am, a brief quarrel ensued between the two, a neighbour said. "We heard the boy groaning and wondered what had happened."

When some neighbours went to check, they said they were shocked to find the boy in a pool of blood. His girlfriend reportedly dashed to a boda-boda stage to rush the victim to the university clinic where he died on arrival. The body now lies in Nsambya Hospital.

For several hours, Police detectives cordoned off the scene of the crime. They broke the padlock of the deceased’s room and picked blood-stained bed sheets, photographs and a knife among other exhibits.

Students who knew Nyiha said she was a born-again Christian and not quarrelsome. They described the deceased as a quiet, intelligent youth. Kansanga residents complained that many of the foreign students at the university’s main campus are rowdy and indisciplined. "They drink a lot, sparking off conflicts. I often receive complaints from landlords and residents concerning the improper behaviour of Kenyan students," the LC1 chairperson, Francis Sseguya, said. He called for collaboration between the Police, the community and university authorities to guarantee security in the area.

Muhammad Ndaula, the university vice-chancellor, regretted the incident, but defended the Kenyan students. The incident is just the latest in a series of murder cases involving students over love and alcohol.

In 2007, a Kenyan student, Duncan Njogu Kamore, was expelled from Busoga University for stabbing a colleague, Paul Mogaka, after they fought over a girl. In October 2008, 17-year-old Tadeo Bukye, an S4 student of Mpanga SS in Fort Portal, was stabbed to death by a jealous girlfriend at a school party. Last year in September, Phiona Mutamba, a student of Makerere University Business School, was stabbed by her boyfriend, also a student at the same school, before he committed suicide at Workers House in the centre of Kampala

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Don't mix state and religion - a commentary on the "emergence" of Kadhi Courts in Kenya's New Law

By Pete Ondeng and Peter Waiyaki

The public discourse on whether or not the Kadhi Courts should be included in the constitution has been wrongly interpreted by many to be a Christian vs Muslim affair. The often uninformed rhetoric by hard liners on both sides of the argument adds an unnecessary and potentially explosive element to the already charged political atmosphere.

The issue here is not about religion, but about the constitution. The move to change the current constitution springs from an acknowledgement by most people that there are wrongs in the document that need to be made right. There are some basic rights, for instance, that the original constitution did not address, and which need to be enshrined in the new document. Similarly, there were some provisions that were included by those who negotiated the Lancaster House document that no longer hold water and need to be scrapped.

The Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) retreat in Naivasha, which was expected by many to degenerate into an ODM vs PNU muscle-flexing contest, pleasantly surprised the nation by reaching consensus on almost all of the so-called contentious issues. In regard to the Kadhi Courts, however, the PSC missed the point and actually went astray. Curiously, the draft constitution that emerged from that retreat omitted a simple but critical phrase that had appeared in all the many draft constitutions that have been produced since the first one in 2002. All previous versions of the Draft Constitution have consistently stated categorically that "State and religion will be separate, there will be no state religion and that all religions will be treated equally." These provisions have now been removed, leaving only that "There Will Be No State Religion." Most people are not aware that this small but significant change was made in Naivasha.

Why was this phrase removed, and what would be the significance of its absence in the constitution? The only logical conclusion would be that the new constitution does not acknowledge all religions as equal.

The Constitution enunciates equality for all citizens. Further it provides that nobody shall be discriminated against by reason of their religion, among other things. Unfortunately, the Kadhi courts are themselves an institutionalization of inequality. They seek to favour one religion over others by creating and protecting and providing for state funding of a purely religious system of dispute resolution.

One of the central arguments from those who advocate for Kadhi courts to be included in the constitution is that the courts have been in the constitution since independence. This is very true. The courts did not accidentally end up in the constitution but were a part of the negotiations between Jomo Kenyatta and the Sultan of Zanzibar, which led to the 10 mile coastal strip being incorporated into the Republic of Kenya at independence.

However, these historical reasons and context no longer apply. What was then a concession to a small part of the country and a very small part of the population has now become a demand and a right applicable to the whole country. Excluding the Kadhi courts from the new constitution would not in any way hinder the rights of Muslims to worship Allah or to establish courts and other mechanism of dispute resolution. The role of the Kadhi as a religious office will remain intact, organized and funded by the Muslim community, in the same way as other religions will be required to fund their own activities.

The only effect of not including the courts in the constitution would be that, like for all other religions, there would be no funding using tax payers money, and the offices for Kadhis would be recognized rightly as religious offices, and not government office. Most importantly, the draft constitution that will soon be presented to Kenyans for a referendum must include the important clause removed by the PSC: That all religions will be treated equally.

Pete Ondeng is a development economist & author of Africa’s Moment; Peter Waiyaki is an advocate of the High Court of Kenya

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Will 'Hurt Locker' Controversy Affect Its Oscar Chances?

With a rash of critics attacking the film's portrayal of the military, some experts wonder if the backlash was orchestrated...

Weeks before the 2009 Academy Awards, news broke that two of the child actors in awards-season darling "Slumdog Millionaire" were still living in squalor and had allegedly not been fairly compensated for their work on the worldwide blockbuster. It was an inflammatory story that dominated entertainment headlines and dogged the film's producers up until "Slumdog" took home eight Oscars, including Best Picture, in late February.

A year later, the same narrative seems to be repeating itself with the Iraq war drama "The Hurt Locker." Following a string of key awards-season wins — from the Directors Guild of America to the BAFTAs to the Broadcast Film Critics — the film finds itself under assault from a rash of critics, including in the Los Angeles Times and The New York Times, highlighting purported inaccuracies. It's an assault some fear could affect the movie's chances of winning big on Oscar night.

" 'The Hurt Locker' tries to articulate that experience [of modern warfare], but those of us who have served in the military couldn't help but be distracted by a litany of inaccuracies that reveal not only a lack of research, but ultimately respect for the American military," Paul Rieckhoff wrote in a Newsweek piece that seemed to touch off the backlash.

Are we seeing the Swiftboating of an important film or valid criticism from those with direct experience of events being played out on the big screen? Is all this an orchestrated conspiracy or merely showbiz as usual?

"It's like clockwork every year," Dave Karger of Entertainment Weekly told MTV News. "It's almost comical at this point. Whatever is perceived as the front-runner, people try to tear it down. I am not saying this is a coordinated attack by any group of people. I think it's the instinctive reaction of people in Hollywood."

Not everyone deeply engaged in Oscar prognostication views the "Hurt Locker" controversy as arising purely from the momentum of the media cycle. "It's obviously coordinated," Jeff Wells of Hollywood Elsewhere told MTV News. "These things don't happen at the last minute on their own."

You can call it a conspiracy or simply the result of news outlets latching on to a timely story, yet the salient question at this point is not how the controversy originated but if it will negatively impact "Hurt Locker" on Sunday during the ceremony.

Wells said any issue about the portrayal of the military being unrealistic should not sway many voters. "For anyone to say that was a defining impact on their view is very young, kind of naive or not very bright," he said.

Still, the Best Picture race is a close one at this point, with "Hurt Locker" battling against "Avatar," and neither film can afford to dismiss the importance of grabbing every last vote. "Last year, 'Slumdog' was so far out in front, no other movie was going to win anyway," Karger said. "This year, because it is so close, I think 'The Hurt Locker' could very well lose. And I would hate that that might be because of any negative campaigning."

And then there are those who have been criticizing "The Hurt Locker" not because of any campaign, but because they view the portrayal of servicemen as inaccurate and unfair. John Nolte, the editor of conservative entertainment site Big Hollywood, who has been writing about the film since before its release last summer, takes specific issue with the movie's main character (played by Jeremy Renner). "He's driven by an addiction," Nolte told MTV News. "He's sort of a post-traumatic-stress candidate, as opposed to a heroic, noble character, which you've seen soldiers bring up in the form of [criticizing] his recklessness, his disregard for the rules and the fact that he practically gets one of his own men killed."

Such criticism aside, and even allowing for the possibility of a backlash conspiracy, Nolte argues that any sort of warfare-based condemnation will ring hollow when it comes time for Academy voters to cast their ballots. "I just can't imagine that being anti-military or anti-American would hurt 'The Hurt Locker' with a left-wing Hollywood," he said. "If it was an orchestrated campaign, the best way to hurt the film would be to call it a John Wayne, flag-waving, jingoistic film."

So what does all this mean come Sunday night? Will the announcement of "Avatar" or "The Hurt Locker" as the Best Picture winner put to rest this hullabaloo? Or will the controversy join the many others — from "Slumdog" to complaints about the treatment of a spinal-cord patient in "Million Dollar Baby" to allegations that the real-life star of "A Beautiful Mind" was an anti-Semite — as part of Oscar lore? And will we be spinning the same narrative in 2011?

David Poland of Movie City News has a feeling we might. "There's never a conspiracy, but you can put something in the water," he told MTV News. "I feel like the media feels a need to cover it. There are positive stories. There are negative stories. It's standard operating bullsh--. It's not special. It is not brutal. It's the just the way it is."

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Is there such a thing as hangover-free booze?

The dreaded morning-after feeling could be a thing of the past after scientists in Korea came up with a technique that allows drinkers to avoid a hangover.

A team of researchers in South Korea added extra oxygen to drinks and found that the body was then able to metabolise the booze quicker and eliminate the alcohol quicker - cutting down the after effects.

Healthy humans were given 240ml and 360ml drinks containing 19.5% alcohol by volume - all with different amounts of oxygen added. The results, documented in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, showed those who consumed the more highly oxygenated drinks recovered quicker and saw their blood alcohol levels return to normal more speedily.

Researchers In-hwan Baek, Byung-yo Lee and Kwang-il Kwon of Chungnam National University's College of Pharmacy concluded: "Elevated dissolved oxygen concentrations in alcoholic drinks accelerate the metabolism and elimination of alcohol. "Thus, enhanced dissolved oxygen concentrations in alcohol may have a role to play in reducing alcohol-related side effects and accidents."

The only down-side the boffins found was that the process also reduced the amount of time drinkers were actually drunk for.

A Korean drinks company is now launching an oxygenated "soju" drink called O2 Lin - a drink that "helps clarify your brain, energises your body cells, and maintains healthy and resilient skin".