Tuesday, November 30, 2010

El Massacre at Camp Nou

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 29, 2010

Woman Utters Line Never Previously Recorded In A Police Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 25, 2010

One wife for two brothers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daughter Sunita isn't so sure.

"I would like one husband," she says.

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

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Misplaced assumptions about 2011 campaigns

By Timothy Kalyegira

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 22, 2010

Red wine packed with antidiabetes compounds

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Ligale team grossly miscalculated


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

History repeats itself

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 15, 2010

Glenn Beck accuses George Soros of stirring up Kenyan poll chaos

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

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

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

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

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

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

William Ruto's fool's errand

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 12, 2010

Man of the moment

Two-thirds of Kenyans approve the anti-graft agency’s renewed zeal in targeting top level corruption in government.

The new approach has endeared the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission to the public, with its approval rating rising almost six-fold from 12 per cent in December last year to 69 per cent last month. “In many accounts, the new leadership of the KACC has been lauded locally and internationally for the attempts to deliver on its mandate. Placing attention on the ‘big fish’ has been doubtlessly critical to the recorded popularity,” says the Synovate Pan Africa opinion poll conducted between October 24 and 30.

Anti-corruption agency director PLO Lumumba recently said they were investigating four Cabinet ministers and no less than 45 heads of parastatals. He made the announcement a few days after his investigators picked Nairobi mayor Geophrey Majiwa from his house. The mayor was later charged in court over the Sh283 million graves land scandal. He has since stepped aside as mayor. The detectives have also quizzed Industrialisation minister Henry Kosgey over 3,000 cars impounded at Mombasa port by the Kenya Revenue Authority. The minister is accused of irregularly clearing the cars imported by second-hand vehicle dealers. The commission is also reportedly investigating alleged corruption in the Water ministry, which has sparked accusation and counter-accusations between minister Charity Ngilu and his former assistant Mwangi Kiunjuri.

But the number of Kenyans confident of a better economic future, following the enactment of the new Constitution, has declined from 77 per cent in August to 54 per cent, with those who feel their economic conditions are likely to be worse in the next 12 months rising from 10 per cent in August to 21 per cent in October. “Most probably, Kenyans are now more realistic than euphoric on their economic expectations,” said Synovate managing director George Waititu. Finance minister Uhuru Kenyatta has said the cost of effecting the new laws could hit the Sh17 billion mark by 2012. Ministries and government departments may have to make “severe cutbacks” to make room in the Budget, he said, adding that Treasury had earmarked Sh5 billion for the reforms in the fiscal year 2011/12. The amount exceeds the Sh3.4 billion already approved by the Cabinet for the fiscal year 2010/11.

On the performance of institutions and senior public officials, the media takes the top prize with a rating of 83 per cent, followed by President Kibaki (81 per cent), Speaker Kenneth Marende (78 per cent), Prime Minister Raila Odinga (77 per cent), KACC (69 per cent) and Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka (63 per cent).

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Corruption in the military denying youths from poor families jobs

The day after recruits reported for training last week, top military officials called a press conference to assure the public of the transparency that had gone into the month-long exercise.

However, Siasa Duni can now reveal the behind-the-scenes underhand dealings and short-changing that go on at the Recruit Training School in Eldoret. This has seen prospective recruits from poor backgrounds — with a huge burden on their shoulders back home — lose the slots they worked so hard for to the children of the rich, whose parents part with huge amounts of cash to secure them the much sought military jobs.
The case of Ms Gladys Chepkechei Tarus, who successfully passed a recruitment test in Baringo Central District, only to be turned away at the training school is just the tip of the iceberg.
On the eve of the recruitment, the Department of Defence headquarters warned the public against paying bribes to secure slots in the military. In his media briefing, vice Chief of the General Staff, Lieutenant-General Julius Karangi, said the public had lost Sh19.3 million since January last year through bribes-for-jobs scams. But information on the ground indicated that the figure could be higher than what was disclosed by Lt-Gen Karangi.
Some of the military officials at Moi Barracks in Eldoret, where the Recruit Training School is based, were quick to point out the ugly scenes both during the actual recruitment in the districts and during the admission of qualifying candidates to the training school. And one of the officers implicated top serving military officers and their retired counterparts.
“Retired officers collect money from the public, promising them slots in the military,” said the officer, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisals from his seniors in the military. He said most of the culprits were retired majors from the forces. “Those serving at the highest level in the military also have their relatives and friends who are given service numbers even before the recruitment starts,” he added. “The military is one of the most corrupt departments in Kenya. There are many shady deals going on behind the scenes,” said another officer.
The media exposé of Ms Tarus’ tribulations has seen some military officers from the training school summoned to headquarters. Their fate is yet to be determined. A military officer attached to the training school alleged that Ms Tarus was replaced by a person who parted with Sh300,000. He said it was “tradition” at the school to use flimsy grounds to turn away some recruits. A senior officer at the training school allegedly took advantage of the death of Major Joseph Masaku — the recruiting officer in Baringo region who died in a road accident — and the absence of a medical officer to replace Ms Tarus.
According to Ms Tarus, a group of military officers questioned her for more than eight hours, asking her to tell them who she knew in government. They then took advantage of her innocence and humble background to dismiss her on allegations that she was pregnant.
And since military operations are normally secretive with the public, including anti-graft watchdogs kept in the dark “for security reasons”, it has been difficult to ascertain high-level corruption in the military. At a recruitment centre in Western Province, a 24-year-old man whose father sold half-an-acre to secure him a place in the army was disappointed after he was turned away. The father said his son never made it even after he had parted with Sh80,000. “Instead, my son was replaced by another man who had parted with Sh200,000,” said the man who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.
Major (rtd) John Seii agrees that military recruitment is marred by high level corruption. Mr Seii, who joined the military in the early ‘70s and retired in the ‘90s, says there used to be no corruption in the early years. “Corruption in the military was first witnessed in early ‘90s,” said Mr Seii, who is also the chairperson of the Kalenjin Council of Elders. He called on the Department of Defence to move with speed and establish who replaced the service number that had been given to Ms Tarus. 
Mr Seii condemned defence spokesman Bogita Ongeri, who said that Ms Tarus’s fate had been sealed as the military only relies on its doctors. And on Tuesday, the parliamentary Committee on Equal Opportunities joined human rights groups in calling for the readmission of Ms Tarus to the training school. The MPs said they would summon Defence minister Yusuf Haji if the woman was not readmitted.
Ms Tarus’s mother, Salina Tarus, is calling on the government to intervene and ensure that her daughter gets the job. Speaking at her home in Kabarbarma in Ng’etmoi Location of Baringo Central constituency, she said she had lots of hopes after her daughter landed the job during the recruitment at Kabarnet on October 8. “Following the death of her father in 2000, I have been having a lot of difficulty educating my eight children and I had hoped that she will help me,” said the 40-year-old widow.
She said that she had an outstanding fee balance of Sh49,000 at Timboiwyo Secondary School, where one of her daughters - Jane Jepkosgei - cleared Form Four last year, and scored a mean grade of B plain. The mother added that her son, who is a Sacho High School student, was at home for lack of school fees.