Monday, August 30, 2010

Raila calls Bashir's invitation "ill advised"

Kenya’s Prime Minister Raila Odinga said it was ill-advised that Sudan’s embattled President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir was invited to participate in the promulgation of Kenya’s constitution last Friday. 

In an exclusive interview with VOA, Prime Minister Odinga said that the Sudanese leader should be held accountable for the crimes committed under his rule. “You know, I’m on record as having said that President Bashir needs to answer for the crimes that were committed under his charge and, if only he has been cleared by the ICC (International Criminal Court), that he should be allowed to attend any, or other, meetings of heads of state. So, my position has not changed at all,” he said.

U.S President Barack Obama expressed disappointment that Kenya hosted Mr. Bashir in defiance of the International Criminal Court arrest warrants issued against him alleging war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. In a statement, Mr. Obama said Kenya’s government “has committed itself to full cooperation with the ICC, and we consider it important that Kenya honour its commitments to the ICC and to international justice, along with all nations that share those responsibilities. In Kenya, and beyond, justice is a critical ingredient for lasting peace.”

Former U.N Secretary General Kofi Annan expressed surprise and joined the international community in questioning President Bashir’s participation in the public celebration of Kenya’s new constitution. Some officials in Kenya’s coalition government also condemned the Sudanese leader’s participation after accusing some within the Kenyan administration of keeping his visit under tight wraps. A group of Kenyans also demonstrated demanding Mr. Bashir’s arrest. Local media reported that some European Union envoys, as well as human rights activists, boycotted the state luncheon following the promulgation of the new constitution to protest President Bashir’s attendance.

Prime Minister Odinga said he was demanding answers from his party’s partner in the unity government adding that they were surprised when Mr. Bashir’s name was mentioned during the ceremony. “I have said we want a proper explanation as to how this was done and why we were not informed that Mr. Bashir was going to come because we are a partner in a coalition and we had agreed on a list of guests who were supposed to be invited to the ceremony and (Mr.) Bashir was not one of them,” Prime Minister Odinga said.

But Foreign Minister, Moses Wetang’ula, was quoted as saying President Bashir was invited alongside other heads of state from neighboring countries “because it was in Kenya’s best interests that Sudan gets lasting peace.”

Prime Minister Odinga said the country would have to apologize to the international community over Mr. Bashir’s invitation and participation. “Over issues like this there must be proper and thorough consultation before anything like this happens. And, we also want an apology made to the international community, particularly ICC, because we are a signatory and party to the Rome Statute,” Prime Minister Odinga said.


Meanwhile, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir held talks with President Kibaki and other visiting heads of state after the promulgation of the new Constitution on Friday. But he declined to join the rest of the guests for a luncheon at State House and instead, headed straight to the airport.

Cabinet ministers said Mr Bashir, a Muslim, excused himself saying he was fasting. Muslims worldwide are observing one month of fasting, Ramadhan.

“They held a round-table sort of meeting, all of them were there, including Museveni, Kagame, Karume and the others,” said one minister.

“He announced he could not join us for lunch because he was fasting,” said a source who declined to be named because of the visit’s controversy.

The details emerged as the government tried to defend its decision to invite the Sudanese leader, who has a warrant of arrest for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity, and on charges of genocide in Sudan’s western province of Darfur.

Kenya, a signatory to the treaty which set up the ICC, is obliged to arrest Mr Bashir. Foreign Affairs assistant minister Richard Onyonka said Kenya invited Mr Bashir and Southern Sudanese President Salva Kiir in the spirit of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement which will culminate in a referendum in that country in January.

The sources said chief mediator Kofi Annan, who has condemned Kenya for hosting Mr Bashir, was not at State House during the heads of state meeting and only joined other dignitaries at the luncheon after the Sudanese leader had left. Bashir arrived and left through Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on Friday morning and signed the visitors’ book for world leaders who come into the country.

On Sunday, a leading political consultant warned that Kenya could suffer dire consequences for the visit. “The consequences are dire because we risk being branded a rogue democracy condoning injustices in Darfur. It will cost us a lot to rebrand Kenya,” said Prof Peter Kagwanja, who heads the Africa Policy Institute.

“My appeal to the international community is to understand Kenya’s predicament of trying to promote regional peace and stability and our commitment to the Rome Statute. The coming of Bashir was part of the engagement by the government to promote regional peace and stability, which is part of our mandate as a regional power, but his invitation brought a collision of two issues, Kenya’s obligation to bring peace in the region and its obligations to the Rome Statute,” he said.

Already, the International Criminal Court has reported Kenya to the UN Security Council. The Security Council is yet to respond to a previous ICC notification that Sudan itself was not cooperating with the court. It is not clear it will do so now and reprimand Kenya.

A source familiar with ICC investigations into the 2008 post-election violence said a senior officer, Mr Emergi Rogogier was in Kenya last week to gauge the government’s commitment to arresting the violence masterminds. It is unlikely he will return a positive verdict after Mr Bashir’s visit.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Happy birthday Kenya!

For the first time, words fail me. So I'll let the pictures speak for themselves. Happy Promulgation day, everyone!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

31 Months and counting: Australia’s racist intervention continues

Indigenous People in the Northern Territory of Australia have struggled for the past 31 months to "roll back" the Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER) legislation, more commonly known as the "intervention," which the government introduced in 2007.

None of the 73 communities it impacted were consulted before NTER was enacted, but more to the point, it was introduced under a false pretense that won't be long forgotten.

When it first went public, the government told us NTER was a result of the Little Children Are Sacred report, which examined in great detail the needs and challenges facing indigenous and non-indigenous children in Australia. The report also suggested there was wide-spread abuse of indigenous children, and offered a set of 97 recommendations on how the health and well-being of all children in Australia could be improved.

However, the reality soon set in: that children---far from being viewed as sacred---were being used as scapegoats for a plan that should have been met with wide-spread revulsion from the government, instead of near-unanimous support.

Emma Murphy, a co-editor for Green Left Weekly, spoke about the reality at the "World at a Crossroads" conference last year in Sydney, Australia. In her presentation, which can be read on the Socialist Voice website, Murphy described the key aggressions the NTER has brought forward:

• Giving the federal government the power to seize land which was granted to Indigenous people in 1976, and convert freehold title into five-year leases.

• Removal of Indigenous peoples’ right to control who enters their land, a right that had been protected through a widely supported permit system.

• Withholding 50% of the welfare payments due to Indigenous people in proscribed areas. The money is granted as store vouchers.
• Widespread bans on consumption of alcohol and pornography.

The legislation further suspended the Racial Discrimination Act (because the intervention was racist); empowered a (non-aggressive) military invasion; barred Community meetings unless an official government appointee was available; shut down several community-based services; allowed for surprise raids; and made health checks mandatory for all indigenous children, to ensure they were not being abused.

Child abuse, remember, was the whole point of the intervention.

Incidentally, 5 months after the legislation was enacted, word came in that they weren't coming across any signs of "rampant" abuse. In fact, they weren't finding any signs whatsoever. About the only thing they did find, according to one article, was "gingivitis."

As for the people themselves, Murphy recalls, "the themes of shame, humiliation and dis-empowerment were constants among the people we spoke to in the NT during our visit last year."

Anger and frustration are also quite common, as numerous community members have shown at protests and gatherings, in various interviews, and videos published on websites like Youtube.

The government has regularly ignored each and every one of their concerns or has otherwise brushed them off as misinformed gibberish.

The Great White Champion Government
The Great White Champion Government of Australia knows what's best.

For the record, this was just as true with Kevin Rudd, as when John Howard was Prime Minister. In fact, despite Kevin Rudd's gentle-sounding voice and pleasant demeanor, there's scarcely a difference between the two. The proof is in the policy, which Murphy explored in her presentation:

In February 2008, Indigenous and non-Indigenous people travelled to Canberra from around Australia - particularly from proscribed areas in the NT - to protest the Intervention and demand it be repealed. But that protest was overshadowed by the historical apology to the Stolen Generations, delivered by Rudd on the opening day of Parliament of the new government, February 13, 2008. It was a beautifully crafted speech promising a new era in race relations in this country. It raised the hopes of quite a few people.
The Rudd government followed up with ratification this year of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. Under Howard, Australia was one of four countries that refused to ratify the Declaration in 2007.

But these symbolic measures sound very hollow to the people who continue to live under the racist policies of the Intervention. While the rhetoric of the Rudd government is different from that of Howard - there are no explicit attacks on "self-determination" - the substance of Aboriginal policy has not changed.

If anything, Rudd has managed to take some of Howard’s attacks further than Howard himself had time to. For example, Labor is now pressuring NT communities to sign their land over to the government as 40- or 99-year leases in return for basic infrastructure funding such as public housing. Some communities have succumbed, but others are standing strong and refusing to sign their land over.

The government plans to extend this bullying tactic and land grab across Australia. In March of this year, it announced that no more public funds were to be released to Aboriginal communities unless they sign their land over to 40-year leases.

The federal government has also talked about extending welfare quarantining into other parts of Australia.

The Rudd government commissioned an inquiry into the Intervention. It heard many moving submissions from Indigenous people talking about how they felt they’d been taken back to the rations days and how the men had been branded pedophiles and child abusers. The inquiry’s report recommended that would have removed the most punitive sections of the Intervention, for example, it said welfare quarantining should be voluntary and only enforced in proven cases of child abuse.

The government has ignored the inquiry, saying that the Intervention has now "stabilized" and will continue until at least 2012.

Murphy goes on to discuss the government's attack on bilingual education and their yearning to drag indigenous communities into the "real economy"---a plan for which, incidentally, was announced on May 20, 2009.

Resistance. Solidarity. Unity.
With the amount of propaganda that Australia's corporate media produces, it has been difficult to get a full and accurate picture of what's happening to our Brothers and Sisters in Australia, "the land of fire".

Rest assured, since day one they have done everything in their power to rally together, support one another, and to resist the social, political, religious, cultural, and economic molestation that is the "intervention."

As a result, several "Aboriginal Rights coalitions have emerged across the country," says Murphy: "We are seeing a cohering of a national leadership the likes of which we've not seen for a few decades."

And many communities on their own are "refusing to sign their land over to the government." Aswell, "the Proscribed Area People’s Alliance has formally taken the government to the United Nations, charging that the Intervention breaks numerous conventions. Amnesty International is pursuing similar avenues." There's also a common "awareness among many Indigenous people that the campaign to end the Intervention must broaden out to win support from the trade unions"---and, of course, among every day Australian's who, if they were informed and given the choice, would not want to support the current govenrment.

After all, they are systematically, undermining the lives of Men, Women, and of course, Children... All because the government is either unwilling or incapable of seeing their own reflection in the tears of the those who only ever just wanted to be left alone.

For more information or to learn how you can help, visit:,,,

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Amending the constitution is one way out; accepting it as it is wiser

In reference to the United States constitution, President Barack Obama says: “As we read these documents (constitution), they seem so incredibly right that it’s easy to believe they are the result of natural law if not divine inspiration.”
Some historians have said that in the history of men, there will never be such an assembly of geniuses as those who wrote the US constitution during the constitutional convention of 1787. Initially, certain scholars claimed that these players were driven by ulterior motives.
The desire to form a stronger union out of the weak confederations was questioned. Did they want to ensure that government bills or bonds that they held remained valid under a well-structured federal set-up? Research showed those who signed the final document held far less financial muscle than those who had not.
Profit was not their motive. Mr James Madison, who has been called the Father of the Constitution, was so selfless that his own state of Virginia punished him for his stance both at the convention and during ratification. They ganged up in the Virginia legislature to defeat him in 1788 for a seat in the first US senate.
As our legislators mull the next steps in the constitutional process, they should take a moment to study the lives of such statesmen. Constitutions are written to answer certain complex and intractable issues in society. It is a document that takes so much thinking that it cannot finally just serve the whims of individuals.
President Obama has been so moved by the foresight of the founding fathers as to suspect they had divine inspiration. I doubt it. They were simply selfless. Their foresight and desire for a new order saw them draft the much-acclaimed Federalist Papers. These documents remain the most authoritative source for explaining the meaning of the US constitution and the political set-up it envisaged.
Yet, these players were not infallible. Mr Madison later opposed the Hamilton plan for a national bank, the forerunner to today’s Federal Reserve Bank. He may have been a genius in philosophy and jurisprudence, but he was not a prophetic economist. As if framing, conceptualising and writing a constitution is not hard enough, the process of implementation is the most fraught with dangers.
Power doesn’t concede easily. It becomes worse when the effects of change start to actually bite. Lords of impunity, people not used to answering anything let alone answering to anyone, just won’t take a picnic any time soon. They have started fighting back. They want amendments, and they want them now!
Never mind that the process of amending the constitution is in-built in the constitution itself. Never mind that you don’t have to shout yourself hoarse to start the process. Chapter 16 of the new Constitution addresses itself to the questions on amendment. There are two routes to that end — Parliament initiative or the popular initiative.
The chapter outlines 10 categories of issues that can only be amended through a referendum. For instance, if you want to question the tenet of equity and inclusivity in the sharing of power, then beyond convincing two thirds of both Houses of Parliament, it shall be subjected to a referendum.
In such a referendum, apart from the requirement of a simple majority, at least 20 per cent of registered voters in at least half of the counties must actually have voted. If you choose the route of popular initiative, first collect one million signatures. Secondly, submit them to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission for verification.
Thirdly, the Bill will be forwarded to the county assemblies. If a majority of the county assemblies approve, it shall be introduced to both Houses of Parliament which may pass such a Bill by a simple majority. Even after all these hurdles, if a Bill refers to the previously mentioned sacrosanct issues in 255 (2), it shall still be taken to a referendum.
Mr William Ruto has told us that great minds discuss issues. If that be so, now is the time that he gave us or at least participated in giving us the Kenyan equivalent of the Federalist Papers. Up till now, we have not heard what qualifies for debate about the constitution.
We have seen rallies, semi-educated talk-shows, civic education, pamphleteering, and newspaper punditry. Some of these have been pretty illuminating. Yet, some have been crass stupidity. Take the clerics talking about forceful Islamisation, abortion on demand, and other nonsense. If you leave explaining a constitution to people who don’t read the Bible, their supposed guide, then you are in trouble.

Lt Col Muhoozi sets the record straight

The MP for Pokot, Francis Kiyonga, last week accused the Special Forces Group (which I command) of murdering innocent people in Kosiroi (in Moroto District) and Loro (in Amudat District).

The Sunday Monitor of August 22 even suggested that I had personally led a raid that had allegedly killed 12 innocent Pokot on their way home from a ‘limestone mine’. I wish to categorically state that both allegations are complete fabrications and lies!

First of all, Special Forces Group (SFG) does not conduct operations in Loro. That is not within our ‘area of operations’ (AOR). So there is no way we could have ‘killed innocent people’ in an area where we have no forces. Secondly, SFG does not ‘kill innocent people’. That would be a total negation of the UPDF’s whole approach to warfare. From the inception of this army; in the grasslands of Ngoma, Singo and Bulemeezi, it has been a people’s army. Our ancestor (the NRA) fought one of the very few successful ‘people’s wars’ in contemporary history.

The UPDF is a people’s army! SFG is part of the UPDF, so how on earth do we start murdering innocent people? Our history and beliefs aside, there is also the small issue of the UPDF’s code of conduct (part of the UPDF act of 2005), which stipulates very harsh punishments for offences of the nature that we are being accused of.

The President and Commander-in-Chief, has said on numerous occasions that the UPDF has executed many of its soldiers for capital offences in the past. The UPDF, therefore, does not tolerate ‘murdering innocent people’.

There are very few armies in the world that can measure up. The integrity and honor of the UPDF is beyond reproach.

Incidentally, SFG deployed to Karamoja in response to the directives of the Commander-in-Chief and we shall stay there, supporting the army’s disarmament campaign, until the Commander-in-Chief decides otherwise.

In Karamoja, all the ‘contacts’ (i.e. the fighting) that SFG units have been involved in have been initiated by the rustlers. This means that our soldiers have to be fired upon before responding to any attack. This measure is part of our standard operating procedures (SOPs).

Of course, this means that quite often we lose soldiers in the first few seconds of an engagement (as has happened already in Karamoja), but this is a risk we take in order to ensure that we are actually in contact with the enemy. Whoever shoots at us can be sure of two things. We will respond and we will win the firefight! This is a lesson the LRA learnt in Soroti (in 2003) and the ADF in Bundibugyo (in 2007). So, any would-be attackers best be advised not to try, because it will only end one way.

Therefore, in Karamoja thus far we have not encountered any ‘innocent civilians’ but armed and determined rustlers. Again, the accusation of ‘killing innocent people’ is absurd. Contrary to the viewpoint being pushed by Kiyonga, relations with the Pokot and Tepeth around Mount Moroto have been good. They regularly give our units information on raids that are in the offing, or that have just occurred.

The Minister of State for Karamoja Affairs has already dealt with the political dimensions of Kiyonga’s falsehoods.

I shall not belabour the point, except to say that the people of Karamoja are a lot more sophisticated than Kiyonga seems to think they are. They will easily see through any schemes at tarnishing the President’s good name in Karamoja, by way of deception.

Throwing about my name and trying to give it bad publicity in the hope that because I am a blood relative of Museveni, somehow his reputation will suffer is a dead end. The 3rd Division commander, Brigadier Patrick Kankiriho, has also ably shown that the people who Kiyonga claims were killed by SFG, were rustlers, killed (in disarmament operations) long before SFG got to Karamoja.

One of those who Kiyonga claimed SFG killed (one Lokodet) is apparently alive and well. He is even an LC I chairman, according to Afande Kankiriho.

Finally, abandoning the culture of raiding for cattle and gun violence is a critical necessity, if Karamoja is going to participate in the socio-economic development of the rest of the country. The Karimojong are a great and warlike people, worthy of admiration. There is a lot they can contribute to this country. The UPDF’s disarmament campaign in Karamoja (already a showpiece for the rest of the East African region, where other armed nomadic tribes roam and terrorise each other) should be applauded and supported.

Without disarmament, we would have 40,000 guns in Karamoja, killing and maiming the Karimojong as well as neighbouring communities. Is that the kind of Uganda we want for ourselves and our children? I think not.

Lt. Col. Muhoozi Kainerugaba is Commander, Special Forces Group, and son to the president and the Minister of State for Karamoja.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Arrest Gideon Moi immediately

Gideon Moi does not speak very good Kalenjin. His Kiswahili is not terribly good either.
During his campaign for re-election as MP, you could tell his chances were dim after television stations showed him repeatedly mispronouncing the name of his constituency as Beringo ya Keti (Baringo Central).
Since he lost his seat, the scion of one of the most significant political families has transformed himself into one of the most bellicose defenders of what he claims are the interests of the community of his birth. He hit a new low last week with his proclamation that the Kalenjin would never surrender Nakuru district, following the endorsement of the new law.
It would be absurd if any single community demanded exclusive control of any of the nation’s major urban centres. The Maasai, for example, have a very strong claim to make on Nairobi. Yet the worst thing about Gideon Moi’s recent utterances is the fact that he knows what he said makes absolutely no sense. Gideon benefited from a thoroughly upper class upbringing. He attended some of Nairobi’s most posh multi-racial, multi-ethnic preparatory schools. He mingles freely with an inner circle of friends of all races and ethnic extractions and plays polo, the game of “kings, idle aristocrats, playboys and the denizens of the upper reaches of (the British elite),” as one newspaper put it.
It is, therefore, mightily dishonest for Gideon to try and carve out a role for himself as an ethnic warlord.
He is no Kalenjin nationalist. He is merely a politician who has concluded that the one way he can advance his career is to appeal to the instincts of the masses by inciting them against “rival communities”. It is an easy thing to do because of the long and complicated history of land allocations in the immediate pre-and post-independence period in the Rift Valley. But Gideon must not get away with such transparently cheap politics. Not in a country that showed itself, in 2008, to be only a trigger away from descending into large-scale violence.
The police must at the very least call him in to explain his utterances and, if a crime is found to have been committed, he must have his day in court. That would be the one way Kenya can show it has any respect for the concept of equality under the law, which must surely lie at the heart of the system of governance in a country that has been congratulating itself for endorsing one of the world’s most modern constitutions.
The worst thing about Gideon’s efforts to cast himself as an ethnic king is the utter lack of subtlety with which he has gone about it. Trade minister Chirau Ali Mwakwere, for example, was probably guilty of hate speech during the recent by-election campaigns.
But he put it in such an oblique and cryptic way he could credibly replay the tape and challenge the viewer to pick him out for hate speech. That is because he was speaking in code. It is still wrong but at least that is a trick used by most politicians. Hillary Clinton, for one, reached out for this tactic when things were going badly in her effort to beat Barack Obama in the race for the Democratic nomination. She said she had the support of “working, hard working Americans”, a group Mr Obama was finding tough to win over. Mrs Clinton was effectively saying she had the support of white Americans while Mr Obama’s base was made up of (lazy) black Americans. Mrs Clinton did not get hauled before a court for hate speech. Americans do not need such mechanisms because they no longer tackle each other with machetes at election time. Instead, she was punished by voters who were appalled by her race-baiting efforts.
Kenyans cannot afford to rest easy and hope for the best. The likes of Gideon must be deterred by the knowledge that there is a legal mechanism that can hold them to account for hate speech.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Siku za mwizi ni kama bamba 20 - Zain drops the A-Bomb on Safaricom

Zain Kenya has surprised the market and thrown a major challenge to mobile phone services leader Safaricom by drastically slashing call charges for its subscribers to other networks.

Bharti Airtel, which now owns Zain, appears keen on breaking the company’s history of tame marketing, and is using the reduction of inter-connectivity rates by the Communications Commission of Kenya to take Safaricom head-on, with the boldest advertising and predatory pricing ever seen in the local industry.

Zain yesterday slashed tariffs on all calls by its prepaid and post-paid Subscribers to other networks to Sh3 per minute, and SMS to Sh1, mocking Safaricom’s slogan "the better option". A line in the adverts, written in Safaricom’s corporate colours, reads: "Going green is not always the better option," and "Going green is not always a great idea." Other players charge between Sh2.50 and Sh5 for SMS services.

"The tariff is not an offer, but a value proposition, which will make mobile services affordable," said Rene Meza, Zain Kenya managing director. "We are leveraging on the economies of scale offered by our new shareholders to offer quality service to our customers," said Meza.

Many Kenyans greeted the news with surprise and joy, and there were long queues at Zain shops in the city centre to confirm the changes. However, observers questioned whether the new rates were sustainable, and said profits across the industry would definitely take a beating. The Zain move anticipated the unveiling by the Communications Commission of Kenya of new interconnection rates.
And it is a bolder face of Zain. The company is keen to end its early association with the more moneyed corporate class — when it was known as KenCell. That history has been its Achilles heel for far too long. But now, with an aggressive owner in charge, the firm is placing all its cards on the table.

According to Zain, the new offer is not a promotion, but permanent. Outgoing Safaricom CEO Michael Joseph had in the past said the company would not engage in price wars with the competition, because they were "unsustainable." Subscribers will now be watching to see what Safaricom, Kenya’s richest and most innovative company, does to counter the threat. They will also be hoping that Telkom and yu follow Zain’s lead, rather than wait for Safaricom’s reaction to its main rival. That would signal a tariff reduction bonanza that could chip away at Safaricom’s call Revenues.

Bharti Airtel, the fifth largest telecommunications firm in the world, recently bought Zain and will be spending Sh24 billion in the next 18 months to re-position itself as a key player in the local scene. The move by Zain followed Monday’s announcement by Communications Commission of Kenya of new interconnection charges, which have been reduced to Sh2.12 from Sh4.72 effective September 1. The reduction is in line with recommendations of a UK-based consultancy firm, Analysys Mason—hired by CCK—which proposed gradual reduction of the rates and eventual scrapping off of the fees by 2014. In 2007, the fees stood at Sh6.4, in 2008 at Sh5.6 and Sh4.72 last year. High interconnection fees have in the past been blamed for expensive across-network calls, as it does not make economic sense to lower call charges below the interconnection fee.

The development officially places Zain ahead of Safaricom, yu (the network owned by Essar Telecom Kenya) and Orange Telkom as the cheapest mobile services provider in the country. Zain’s move is the latest in a continuum of price wars that started late last year, after Essar’s yu brand announced a Sh6 per minute flat voice charge across all networks.

The decision by yu, which targets the mass market, has seen its subscriber numbers pass Orange Telkom in a matter of months despite Yu being the last to enter the Kenyan market. Currently, Orange in its ‘Niaje’ tariff charges Sh4 on calls made within its network and Sh8 to other networks.

Safaricom has an intelligent billing system dubbed Supa Ongea, which calculates call charges based on the location, time and how busy the network is, before charging. It is now the most expensive network to call from or to other networks, despite having reduced its charges for calls to other networks to Sh12.

Experts say Zain’s decision to lower its call rates is just the tip of an impending bruising battle for market share. "It is going to be a long, bruising battle for market share, especially with the rules on competition, number portability and infrastructure sharing coming into place," said Meza.

And with the scaling upwards of its investment plans for Kenya, Zain intends to invest in a superior 3-G network, and 500,000 cell sites to ensure 90 per cent country coverage by year’s end. In addition, Zain will invest in re-engineering its distribution channels by doubling its outlets within the same time span. "We are going for the market leader position, especially now that we have a shareholder with whom we are in sync with," he said.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

An open letter to Canon Peter Karanja


I address you not without substantial angst as one who, at one time, respected your conduct when you worked at the All Saints’ Cathedral.

Matters are not made any easier by the popular hype that the referendum produced no losers and we should embrace each other and move on. I want us to move on, but there are losers. And when you lose a contest, there is a price to pay.

Oft time I have wondered what became of you since you were elevated to the seat of General Secretary of the National Council of Churches of Kenya. Those who have held that office in the recent past carried themselves with honour and humility. While they held strong opinions on key questions of the day, their statements reflected the knowledge that they presided over an organisation with diverse religious affiliates whose stands on matters secular were rarely unanimous. They also acted in a way as to understand their responsibility in nurturing the societal respect and esteem bestowed upon church leaders.

You assumed leadership of the NCCK when the country was trying to pick itself up from the ruins of early 2008. The electoral commission had been disbanded, the voters register had been invalidated, the nation was still trying to establish a footing to heal our collective wounds. In these circumstances, it raised some concern that one of your earliest statements was to call on the President to dissolve Parliament and take the country to an election. Imagine if we had taken you seriously.

A year later, the momentum for reform was clearly gaining ground. The first draft of the new constitution was gaining shape. The Naivasha process was regaining legitimate attention as different groups lobbied for certain content in the new draft. Out of the blues, Canon Karanja, you called a press conference and demanded that we abandon comprehensive reforms and do a minimum reform package to pave way for a new government.

In the run-up to the referendum, you distinguished yourself as the church’s pointman in the ‘No’ campaign; William Ruto’s counterpart from the clergy. You were impressive for the gusto and singularity with which you threw yourself at this crusade. I grant everybody the right to prosecute the course they embrace. Everybody had a right to fight what they believed to be wrong — although many of us wished you never shunned debating with ‘Yes’ proponents the way you did.

But your situation raised some more serious concern to me. As the leader of NCCK, you preside over an organisation which has some member churches that did not oppose the draft constitution.
Indeed, the very church you come from, CPK, was increasingly ambivalent about taking extreme positions for or against the draft. As a nation we were treated to a cacophony of contrasts when your Archbishop was emphasising national unity and tolerance, asking Kenyans to vote with their conscience, while you were most strident in pushing the ‘No’ vote — not without occasional appeal to fictitious provisions in the draft.
On the night of the referendum you reached a new low. As Kenyans held their breath and prayed that the provocative conduct we experienced in 2007 should be shunned, we saw you on television from the vote tallying centre.

You declared that a conspiracy between the IIEC and the ‘Yes’ campaign was rigging elections through electronic fraud. We wanted to share your concern and stop anything that could reverse the integrity of this otherwise very successful exercise, only to learn that your reason for such a serious statement was that you did not know how the technology worked.

The next time your visage was brought to our living rooms, you were demanding an immediate meeting to initiate amendments to the new constitution to suit the agenda of the referendum losers. Canon Karanja, losers never demand anything. The Church has a very challenging period to reflect on what it has visited upon itself. It has a duty to reclaim the hallowed high ground it needs to help reconcile our country.

Such challenges cannot be carried out by persons who fail to see their limitations and the body blows they inflict upon this sanctified institution by their personal conduct.
Your conduct over the recent past may be a matter that remains surmountable within the ACK where you belong.

But considering the proud history of the NCCK as a reconciler of divergent views, as the unifying voice of reason, and as a proud player in the struggles of our national renewal, I have arrived at the very humble opinion that your continued enjoyment of the office of General Secretary to this critical institution has become untenable.
Dr Mukhisa Kituyi was a founding member of the Forum for The Restoration of Democracy  (FORD) and a former minister for Trade and Industry. He is a Director of the Kenya Institute of Governance.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Church leaders lose face with Kenyans

Just as we predicted, church leaders have lost the trust of Kenyans. According to the Synovate post-referendum poll, only 19% of those interviewed said they fully trusted Church leaders, compared to 17% who said they fully trusted politicians.

And it gets worse — 38% said they don’t trust Church leaders at all, a bigger number than the 22% who said they don’t trust politicians at all. But Church leaders dismissed the notion that their credibility had suffered.

Replying to questions from the press in a separate meeting, the National Council of Churches of Kenya said Christians still have enough faith in the clergy. “On whether the Church has lost credibility, we state that those claims are not true,” said Canon Peter Karanja, NCCK general-secretary at the end of a two-day executive committee meeting at Jumuia Conference centre, Limuru.

The cleric, who became the public face of the Church’s campaign against the draft, said the Church retains an important “prophetic role” in the country that cannot be wished away — sentiments echoed by Father Vincent Wambugu, the Kenya Episcopal Conference secretary-general. “The Church is walking tall with no reason to be embarrassed because of its work,” he said. The pollsters, Fr Wambugu added, should find something more important to tell Kenyans rather than going after church leaders. The survey was conducted between August 8 and 9, only days after the referendum, and 1,012 respondents were interviewed countrywide.

Churches campaigned strongly against the new Constitution that was later approved by two-thirds of voters, and continue to object to clauses on abortion and Kadhi courts. The new Constitution retains the Kadhi courts, which are in the current law, and further says that Parliament will make a law specifying the circumstances under which a pregnancy should be terminated.

Mr George Waititu, the managing director of Synovate, attributed the low level of confidence in Church leaders to their stand on the new law, which a majority of Kenyans had earlier perceived as a good document. “Their decline in trust is basically on their stand and actions during the referendum period and not because of spiritual matters,” said Mr Waititu.

The Church, which has taken a neutral stand on various issues, came into the spotlight when it decided to rally against the new law after failing to convince the Committee of Experts and Parliament to change the clauses on abortion and Kadhi courts. Attempts by the government and the Church to engage in dialogue on the two issues collapsed after the latter pulled out, accusing the State of lacking commitment to tackle the matter. Even after the ‘No’ side lost, Church leaders came across as bad losers, showing every intention of carrying forward their campaign.

Mr Waititu said the trust had little to do with their day-to-day guidance on spiritual matters. However, some of the voters were unhappy with what they saw as misinformation peddled by a section of Church leaders on the two clauses. The results further show that three in every 10 Catholics claim not to trust church leaders at all, with the figure being higher among Protestants, at 40%.

To redeem their image, Mr Waititu said, the Church must be seen to be consistent by educating the public that their stand was a moral issue. “They should continuously engage their faithful on the issues they consider contentious,” the official adds. Mr Waititu said the Church might save face and get a major boost if the changes they are pushing are effected.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Profiteers of terrorism other than those labeled “terrorists”

By Kiflu Hussain 

"Like many of my countrymen who tasted the brunt of brutal suppression in the most cynical Machiavellian style rule under Meles Zenawi, I do know that what he touches or where treads will not be peaceful. 
On the contrary, what he does in collusion with the big powers of the world, may turn Somalia into Africa's Lebanon, and Ethiopia into Africa's Syria. So, I am afraid the bombs will go on to wreak much havoc." (Kiflu Hussain, letter to the Editor, New Vision, May 22, 2007)

What's quoted above from my own letter was written while I was a four month novice in Kampala. It was prompted by a high ranking Ugandan officer's remark wherein he belittled the action of the Islamists that consumed five lives who went down as the first Ugandan army casualties deployed in Somalia.

The General dismissed the explosion that killed these soldiers as "a kick of a dying horse." To my utter disappointment, the public which enjoys a free flow of information that is unthinkable in my country Ethiopia didn't react at all over the loss of fellow citizens.

No one seemed to have lost any sleep as to whether these young servicemen died in vain or not. Also, those supposed to be opinion makers by influencing situations for the better simply spouted on the Somali issue by regurgitating what they have been fed by the powers of the "New World Order."

Despite the immense disappointment, I wasn't daunted by this. So, I continued for some time to show the flip side of the coin to the best of my abilities. Accordingly, Daily Monitor graced me with a column by publishing "Is it peace mission or war business?" August 24, 2007, then "The bleeding Horn of Africa" October 1, 2007 to name but a few.

As it became crystal clear that the Government of Uganda has committed itself in Somalia to a point of no return against the backdrop of its indifferent constituents, I gave up belaboring the point. Unfortunately, the intractable problem of the Somali issue itself didn't give up. Rather, on the evening of July 11, 2010, it jostled me with a rude awakening.

On that fateful night, after watching the first half of the football World Cup match for about fifteen minutes, I retired to my bedroom, dead sure that the Dutch team would never make it to the Cup. Around 11; 30 P.M, my cell phone shrilled. It was Arne Doornebal, a Dutch friend of mine who happens to be a freelance journalist based in Uganda. I thought he called to tell me that his national team won the trophy. Instead, he asked me in a somewhat agitated voice "Where're you?"

When I told him that I was asleep in my place at Nakulabye, he said "there's a rumor of a bomb blast—a big one—at the Ethiopian Village. Have you heard about it? Do you know anyone there?"

In my half awake and hazy state, I only grasped two words; Ethiopia and bomb! I replied while coming out of the haze "sure I know many people" whereupon he asked me to get back to him as soon as I got detailed information.

Then, I did the funniest thing; I sent text messages to my folks in Addis Ababa: "hope Zenawi will still be gracious enough not to disable SMS again after debriefing one of his goons who reads this/."

Anyway, the reply I got assured me nothing of the kind happened in the area where my folks live; nor have they heard anything to that effect about other areas. When I relayed this message to Arne, he called again and after making sure that I was wide awake, which I was by that time, told me that the explosion happened right here in Kampala at the Ethiopian Village Restaurant.

That time, I have already abandoned my sweet dream. Thus, I went to the living room and turned on the TV set. UBC was still televising the victory of the Spaniards. The other channels were either playing music or showing movie. However,  the 11 O'clock news on NTV was still on, albeit with no news about the explosion.

Dying to know the truth, I sent SMS to a Ugandan journalist friend of mine, Timothy Kalyegira, who replied immediately with scary breaking news. He informed me that the explosion didn't only take place at the Ethiopian Village but also at a rugby club called Kyadondo which was established to inculcate a culture of rugger-buggers in Uganda according to Charles Onyango-Obbo, a renowned journalist.

As the saying goes that blood is thicker than water, my first concern was for fellow Ethiopians, particularly my friends who are football fans and also frequent the Ethiopian Village where the first bomb went off.

Upon the insistence of these friends, I myself watched the match between Ghana and Australia there enjoying a cold Club under a big tree in front of the big screen. Miraculously that night almost all of them changed venue and watched the finals at Pickles.

The few who were there survived without a scratch.Tragically, however, I learned the next morning that some acquaintances of mine perished in the blast; one from Ethiopia, one from Eritrea.

My wife too learned that two of her Ugandan acquaintances from the Seventh Day Adventist Church she goes to every Saturday lost their lives at the Kyadondo Rugby blast.

Terrorism vis-à-vis Islamic extremism 
Whenever the need arises, I hasten to explain that I know nothing about the religion of Islam despite being born from a Muslim family on the paternal side. My father himself (RIP) was no better than me in spite of the fact that both his parents were devout Muslims. I think his induction into modern education and later his exposure to the outside world through the Ethiopian Air force that took him for further training to the United States and other countries on various missions, combined to make him the most liberal man.

Education in the good old days had that kind of effect on one who goes through it. If not enlightening completely, at least, it was capable of freeing one from parochialism. However, this is not to mean that those who were not educated were less tolerant of other people.

It's not to imply either that those devout Muslims were fanatic to the point of harboring ill will to others of a different faith. In fact, throughout my upbringing in a mixed culture both ethnically and religiously, I witnessed and enjoyed a higher degree of tolerance from my Muslim grandparents than my Orthodox Christian grandparents on the maternal side.

I am proud to say that I saw this peace loving nature on other Ethiopian Muslims too. For this reason, Christians and Muslims coexisted peacefully in Ethiopia for many centuries. I don't think one can tell a different story about other Muslims anywhere in the world.

When one makes a cursory research on history, one is likely to come up with the persecution of Muslims and Jews more than any other sect in this world. In Ethiopia, for instance, Emperor Yohannes IV accompanied his decree for a compulsory baptism to Orthodox Christianity with his infamous epithet: "The sky has no horizon; nor a Muslim any land in his possession."

However, this in no way will diminish the fact that Ethiopia was the first African country whereby followers of Islam sought refuge under the edict of Prophet Mohammed when persecuted in Arabia. Save for periodic minor frictions, perhaps that's the reason Christians and Muslims are able to coexist in perfect harmony.

Of course, some incidents were recorded in history here and there whereby Islam also enjoyed a field day by forcing people to convert. Notable among them was the rise of Ahmed Ibin Ibrahim, aka Gragn/left handed/Mohammed. Gragn rose to power with an Operation code-named Habasha Al-fatwa or conquering Habasha to the will of Allah.

Apart from this exception in Ethiopian history, the official show has always been Christian. With all its unsavory characteristics, it was Derg, the military rule of Mengistu Hailemariam that gave recognition to the religion of Islam by proclaiming Muslim holidays as national holidays. In so doing, Derg effectively stamped out the notion that Ethiopia is an enclave of Christianity thereby introducing genuine secularism.

The history of Islam elsewhere in the world is not that different either. One of the people who were forcibly converted into Catholicism during the Spanish Inquisition was followers of Islam. When one delves into history books, one learns that those who refused to be converted were condemned to be burnt at stake.

Even books supposed to be heretic used to be burned just like Al-Shabab bans people in Somalia from listening to music or watching football in this era of 21st century.

Before venturing my opinion on the reason that caused such a regression into egregious fanaticism, I would like to deal with the brand of terrorism that's linked with Islam.

On October 14, 2008, I saw the interview of an eighteen year old Palestinian girl trained as suicide bomber for Hamas on BBC television. She was married to a young man who was twenty three, also a suicidal Hamas fighter. Because what she said fascinated me to this day, I jotted it down in my diary.

She said "Chances to become a martyr is a gift from God." When asked whether she has any concern for innocent civilians, among them could be women and children, she replied coolly "that's not important because the children would become soldiers when they grow up."

We could easily have dismissed this as a warped mentality of an individual.Yet, the number of individuals who believe or brainwashed like this seem to be on the rise all over the world. Why? Is Islam, the religion to be blamed for such heinous fanaticism?

Ironically, this type of firebrand fanatics for the most part have been educated or trained in the West or have some kind of exposure to the so-called liberal societies.

Even during the cold war, most third world revolutionaries hell bent to change the system in their respective countries by badmouthing American imperialism with a slogan "Yankee go home!" were often the byproducts of Western liberalism. At least, that's how it was in my country.

At any rate, the young and beautiful Palestinian suicide bomber set me to thinking for a long time. And guess what I came across one day while searching on Google?

Prophet Mohammed's quip! Apparently, he said at one time that "The ink of the scholar is more sacred than the blood of the martyr." This profound and insightful utterance not only renounces violent and bloody martyrdom. But also highlights the importance of respect for freedom of thought and expression.


The author is an Ethiopian refugee in Uganda. He can be reached at:

Friday, August 6, 2010

Why did the UN block assault on Al-Shabaab?

A fortnight ago, a development in the post-7/11 situation was reported in the media and appears to have escaped many an eye.

In the wake of the alleged bomb attacks on the Ugandan capital Kampala by the Somali militants, Al-Shabaab, there was expectation that an all-out onslaught would be launched by, or at least encouraged by, the African peacekeeping contingent in Somalia. The AU force there at present is made up entirely of Ugandan and Burundian troops.

The assumption by many analysts was that the number of peacekeeping soldiers would be dramatically stepped up, with more equipment being sent in, and the original mission that required a neutral or defensive peacekeeping military posture would be changed to a more assertive and forward-strike position. In other words, there was to be an all-out, internationally approved assault on Al-Shabaab to punish it for attacking Uganda. However, that has not happened.

The Daily Monitor newspaper reported on July 28, 2010: "The African Union summit yesterday bowed to pressure from the United Nations and turned down a request that it support a change in the mandate of its peacekeeping mission in war-torn Somalia…The Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General to Somalia Augustine Mahiga had on Monday delivered the message to a meeting attended by the presidents of Uganda, Kenya, Somalia, Djibouti, Tanzania, prime minister of Ethiopia and other foreign ministers that there is no need to change the current mandate."

This is strange. Why, with all the international condemnation of Al-Shabaab within hours of the bomb blasts, and the already deeply negative image the militants have in much of the West, would this aggressive new search-and-destroy proposal not be pursued? Al-Shabaab, after all, have claimed responsibility for the bomb blasts, something that ordinarily would have made the case even more compelling for the African troops to move into battle against them.

In the wake of the Sept. 2001 terror attacks on the United States, all forces and much western opinion moved to and eventually endorsed an immediate regime-changing attack on the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. If it can be argued that the United States and other western nations were reluctant to commit their troops to Mogadishu, it is Ugandan, Burundian and those from another African country that would have borne the brunt of the fighting, with no western soldier at risk. And it is not as if the UN Security Council's western nations—United States, Britain and France—wished to support a combat posture but were frustrated by a veto from Russia or China.

If the United Nations—the main sponsor of the Somali peacekeeping mission AMISOM—found "no need to change the current mandate", does this suggest that the United Nations does not regard Al-Shabaab's threat as increasing, even after its self-professed role in the Kampala attacks?

Or might the teams of foreign investigators that descended on Uganda in the days following the attacks have found no evidence that Al-Shabaab carried out the attacks, as has been speculated by some analysts?

What else can explain this?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Kenya 2.0 - now improved, with Power Foam

 The attainment of freedom in many cases resulted merely in the change in colors, from white to black faces without ending exploitation and injustices and above all without the betterment of the life of the masses. - J.K. Nyerere, 1967.

This is Kenya’s moment to chart a new course, to try and correct the all the things that went wrong and lead us to the hatred and carnage of 2007/08.

I can list a lot of things that I would like to see corrected, but I would like to point to one issue that I take to heart. The education system. This is just wrong. As Nyerere said, we just inherited a colonial state and Kenyanised it at face value but left everything else intact.

Kenya's education system is designed to create armies of obedient workers to supply the ruling class with labour. Because this is so deliberate, you will rarely see a Kenyan Ruler (not leader) educate their children here. Having a meal the other day at cafe in downtown Nairobi, I couldn't help but notice how young, obedient and diligent the staff were. They were all dressed in blue half sweaters and white shirts with blue trouser/skirts - all so uniformly and subdued. This brought the point home for me. It clicked - this is what our education system has made all of us to be. In turn the society has accepted this as their fate, especially if you are employed.

But how about the suffering majority, who are in the informal sector. This is the force that really drives Kenya. Equity bank says that they managed to transact over 400 million shillings within the first few weeks of M-Kesho. Now tell me if this does not demonstrate the immense power of the informal sector. But the system does not favour them. Instead it favors the rulers and their commercial interests.

The jua kali market in Kamukunji has been that way ever since I started using that route in the late 70s, being driven to school or church, in a KBS, Ford Nguruwe, Manyanga (in that order). These guys do big business but the whole Kenyan economy is not wired up to their favour, so they continue to produce brilliant pieces that are snapped up by clever middlemen who in turn supply the malls. Mr Jua Kali is left to complain that he would like his GOVERNMENT to build a bigger shade to shield him for the hot sun.

This obvious disparity in wealth creation is what led to the hostility and hatred. This obvious feeling that some guys have it better than us. This situation is akin to forced labour and I really hope that Atwoli has woken up and smelt the coffee, because he has his work cut out in looking after the interests of workers in Kenya.

I want to see a Kenya where I am only limited by my laxity and nothing more. Where hard work, creativity, intelligence, talent and individual effort is recognized and rewarded.

Naomi Campbell's gift of ‘dirty-looking stones’

Supermodel Naomi Campbell told a war crimes court on Thursday she that had received a gift of “dirty-looking stones” she assumed was from Liberia’s Charles Taylor after a 1997 dinner hosted by Nelson Mandela.

“When I was sleeping I had a knock at my door and I opened my door and two men were there and gave me a pouch and said: ‘A gift for you’,” the model told the court, dressed in a classical, beige two-piece with a knee-length skirt. Her long, straightened hair was swept back in a stylish bun, and she wore a sparkling, choker necklace. Campbell said she left the pouch next to her bed, went back to bed and opened it the next morning. “I saw a few stones in there. Very small, dirty-looking stones,” she said, adding “there was no explanation, no note”. The model told judges she “would not have guessed right away” that the contents of the pouch, “dirty-looking pebbles”, were diamonds. “I am used to seeing diamonds shiny and in a box, you know.”

At breakfast that morning, Ms Campbell said she told her then modelling agent Carole White and actress Mia Farrow about the gift. “One of the two said that is obviously Charles Taylor and I said: ‘Yes, I guess it was’.”

Prosecutors of the Special Court for Sierra Leone have called Campbell, 40, to the stand in a bid to disprove the former Liberian president’s claim that he never possessed rough diamonds. They say that Taylor, 62, had men deliver at least one so-called “blood diamond” to Campbell’s room after the two met at a celebrity dinner hosted by Mandela, then South African president. Taylor allegedly took the diamonds to South Africa “to sell ... or exchange them for weapons”. Accused of seeking to “take political and physical control of Sierra Leone in order to exploit its abundant natural resources ... diamonds”, Mr Taylor has denied the claims.

Ms Campbell said she gave the stones to a friend, an official of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, “to do something with”. “I didn’t want to keep them,” she said, adding there were “maybe three, two or three,” stones in the pouch. She added she never saw Taylor again and never confronted him about the gift, which she said she had not found strange. “I get gifts given to me all the time, at all hours of the night,” she told the court, adding that “it is quite normal for me to receive gifts.” Citing concerns for her security, the supermodel won a court order barring journalists from photographing or filming her arrival and departure from the courthouse.

Ms White and Ms Farrow, who both attended Mandela’s dinner, are to testify about the gift next Monday. Mr Taylor’s lead defence lawyer Courtenay Griffiths has argued that Campbell’s evidence is “entirely based on conjecture”, stressing in court filings that Ms Campbell has previously denied publicly ever receiving a diamond or diamonds from Taylor. Ms Campbell initially refused to testify, prompting the court to subpoena her. A subpoena is a legal measure used to gain testimony from an unwilling witness on the threat of a fine or imprisonment. Blood diamonds, like the one he allegedly gave to supermodel Naomi Campbell, are at the heart of the trial of Taylor in the Special Court for Sierra Leone.

Taylor, was the president of Liberia from 1997 to 2003. He is accused of arming neighbouring Sierra Leone’s Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels in exchange for “blood diamonds” — so called for being mined in rebel-held regions of Africa and sold to fund warfare. The prosecution claims that Taylor wanted “to take political and physical control of Sierra Leone in order to exploit its abundant natural resources ... diamonds”.