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Haile Gebrselassie’s running career may be over

(Runner’s World) — While Sunday’s Fukuoka Marathon gave us a new champion, Joseph Gitau of Kenya, whose 2:06:58 was a personal best by nearly 15 minutes, and added two more names, Mo Trafeh and Ryan Vail, to the list of sub-2:12 Americans, the race may best be remembered for adding to the mountain of evidence that Haile Gebrselassie’s status as a threat in major international marathons has ended.

Gitau is a product of the Japanese corporate running system, representing a company called JFE Steel. His roots in Japan are deep; he attended high school in Hiroshima. As the IAAF reports, he ran from 30-K to 35-K in 14:54 and from 35K- to 40-K in 14:41 to seal his victory over Hiroyuki Horibata of Japan, who clocked 2:08:24. Henryk Szost of Poland was third in 2:08:42.

Gebrselassie is a former world record holder with a best of 2:03:59 but his most recent marathon performance was a fourth-place 2:08:47 in February. As David Monti of Race Results Weekly pointed out yesterday, Gebrselassie’s last five marathons have consisted of dropping out three times, that 2:08 earlier this year and one withdrawal before race day.

Officially, the Ethiopian turns 40 in April, though there are suspicions he’s considerably older. He made a pre-race statement that he was capable of 2:05 or 2:06 in Fukuoka if the conditions were right, but perhaps it was his condition that wasn’t. He dropped out after 32-K on Sunday, and later tweeted, “I could not lift my left leg properly anymore and I had to stop. My training went well and I had no indication of this.” He added, “I felt good and easy during the race; the pace was fine. After 25-K, my left upper leg started slowly to cramp up.” Gebrselassie assured his followers, “I will check out the problem and run another marathon, since I feel in good shape.” Perhaps, but the dropouts and disappointments are coming in bunches now.

Martin Mathathi, a Kenyan with a 58:56 half-marathon best, hoped to run under 2:07 and contend for the Fukuoka crown in his marathon debut, but he was out of the race after 38-K, reportedly in part because his final long training run had not gone well and had caused a crisis of confidence.

Mo Trafeh, who ran with the leaders early at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in January before dropping out, took seventh in Fukuoka in 2:11:41, with Ryan Vail just behind in 2:11:45. Vail then tweeted that he was “sore and tired, but headed to Vietnam and Cambodia for a much needed break.”

Three athletes coached in Oregon by Jerry Schumacher, all of whom had planned to do the November 4 New York City Marathon before its cancellation, made it to Fukuoka. Tim Nelson was 12th in 2:14:09, but his teammates Simon Bairu and Brent Vaughn did not finish. Vaughn had also dropped out of the Olympic Trials Marathon in his debut at the distance.


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10,000 Eritreans kidnapped for ransom in Egypt (BBC)

(BBC) — An Eritrean man who says he will be killed by an Egyptian trafficking gang in Sinai unless a $25,000 ransom is paid within days has spoken to the Today programme’s Mike Thomson.

Mike was given a mobile number to reach 22-year-old Philemon Semere by an Eritrean pastor who knows his family and has been in direct contact with the kidnappers himself. Pastor Mulugeta Mengsteab had earlier contacted the captive Philemon and checked that he was happy to do the interview.

Philemon began by telling Mike, who made it clear that he was calling from the BBC, that he had been held for four months and been treated very brutally.

“I have not enough food, I have not enough water,” he explained. “I’ve been hit by sticks and burnt by fire with electricity. Daily, burnt by fire and hit by sticks. My body is burning.”

Throughout the interview background noises were very audible and it seemed clear that the phone conversation was being conducted on a speaker phone.

Half way through the conversation a man, who said he was in charge of those holding Philemon, butted into the conversation and confirmed that the family will have to pay $25,000 if they want to see him alive again, adding “if he don’t give any money I must kill Philemon here.”

Over the last few years an estimated 10,000, mainly Eritrean, refugees have been kidnapped by people traffickers, largely based in Egypt’s Sinai region. Most disappear on the way to seek a better life in Israel.

During what is often months of captivity the captives are beaten and tortured and their families asked to pay ransoms as high as $40,000 for their release. Those who don’t pay are killed. As many as 2,000 are thought to have died in this way.

Since carrying out the interview with Philemon the BBC has contacted the Egyptian authorities and alerted them to his situation. We have also spoken to charities who have taken up his case including Christian Solidarity Worldwide who first drew attention to his story. The BBC have also spoken to a member of Philemone’s family who have said they are willing for his case to be publicised and for the interview with him to be broadcast.

It is impossible, from so far away, to verify Philemon’s case. But Christian Solidarity Worldwide, and other non-governmental organisations who have studied the kidnap trade, say it bears all the hallmarks of what is now an awful but thriving business in the Sinai region.

Convinced that his family does not have the money to meet the kidnapper’s demands, Philemon is clearly becoming desperate as their deadline nears: “Please help. Please help me Mike. I haven’t enough money, they will kill me. Please help me.”


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Ethiopian regime’s Nile dam project becomes regional sore point

By E.G. Woldegebriel

ADDIS ABABA – Ethiopia’s government has begun construction of a 6,000 megawatt (MW) hydroelectric dam on the Blue Nile river, a move that has been greeted enthusiastically by many Ethiopians but that is causing concern in the downstream nations of Sudan and Egypt.

The project, which is scheduled to take six and a half years to complete, is being managed by the state-owned power utility company, Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation (EEPCo). The dam is being built about 900 km (560 miles) north-east of the capital, Addis Ababa, and just 40 km (25 miles) from the Sudanese border.

Ethiopia’s government hopes to capitalize on the energy potential of a river that is revered by the Ethiopian population but that until now has not been significantly exploited to feed the country’s growing need for electric power.

Ethiopia is the source of the Blue Nile, and its territory contributes up to 86 percent of the river’s water. The Blue Nile in turn is responsible for more than half of the water in the Nile, the world’s longest river system. The other main source, the White Nile, originates on the Ugandan side of Lake Victoria.

The new project is not the first dam to be constructed on tributaries of the Nile in Ethiopia. Three smaller projects with a combined capacity of about 760 MW have already been completed, and EEPCo is seeking financing for a 278 MW dam on another tributary, the Chemoga-Yeda River. But the planned Grand Renaissance Dam (GRD) dwarfs these projects in scale and cost.

The 6,000 MW dam will be built by Italian construction company Salini Costruttori, which received the construction contract in late 2010, while electromechanical work is being done by a local company, Metal and Engineering Corporation.

Ethiopia has been dubbed “the water tower of east Africa” because of its numerous river and lake systems. The Nile is an emblematic part of the country, immortalized in poems and songs and even on coins and bank notes. But its potential for hydroelectric power has until now gone largely unused.

For many Ethiopians, the new planned dam is not only about lighting their houses and providing power for businesses and to export, but it also holds a symbolic significance, a way of looking forward from memories of famine and conflict.

WORRIED NEIGHBORS

Despite its popularity among Ethiopia’s population, the dam project has caused consternation in neighboring Sudan as well as in Egypt, both downstream countries that rely upon the Nile for almost all their water and fear the dam will cause a reduction in water available to them.

The new dam will eventually create a lake containing more than 60 billion cubic metres of water, twice as much as Lake Tana, Ethiopia’s largest body of water.

There are also concerns about the potential environmental impact of the dam, although the scale of opposition has been smaller than that provoked by the Gibe III dam. Gibe III has provoked opposition from groups concerned about the drying up of Kenya’s Turkana Lake, the world’s largest desert lake, which is fed by the Gibe river, and the possible displacement of tribal people in Ethiopia and Kenya.

Gossaye Mengiste, an official of the ministry of water and energy, which oversees EEPCo, said he believed the environmental impact of the project would be minimal and that because the area around the dam is sparsely inhabited, no mass relocation of people would be necessary.

“The dam will lessen evaporation in downstream areas in Sudan and Egypt, as well as (providing) a reduced risk of flooding and siltation which the Aswan dam in Egypt is particularly affected by,” Mengiste said.

Ethiopia has periodically had tense relationships with Egypt and Sudan, countries which rely heavily upon the Nile for water and agriculture. Concerns about the effects of an Ethiopian dam upon water levels in the Egyptian Nile date back to the late 1970s, when then-president Anwar Sadat reacted angrily to Ethiopia’s announcement of a plan for a dam on the Blue Nile.

Recent articles in Ethiopian newspapers, referring to documents leaked to Wikileaks, have suggested that Egypt might be preparing contingency plans to sabotage the dam with air strikes if it is built.

Magdy Amr, Egypt’s assistant foreign minister for Nile Basin state affairs, dismissed the reports, pointing out that the files in question date back to 2010, before construction of the new dam was even announced. Egypt has about $2 billion in business investments in Ethiopia.

Abdelrahman Sirelkhatim, Sudan’s ambassador to Ethiopia, firmly dismissed Ethiopian fears that his country is conspiring with its northern neighbour to damage the dam, widely known by its initials, GRD.

“I don’t know how we can threaten the GRD when we are trying to contribute financially to build the dam, and our engineers are contributing technically,” Abdelrahman said.

Despite broad public support in Ethiopia for the GRD, the government still faces the challenge of securing enough financing to cover the $4.8 billion cost of the project. The money is meant to come from within Ethiopia, and the government is selling five-year treasury bonds, but a recent report by the International Monetary Fund warns that the dam could be a great burden on the country’s economy, costing as much as 10 percent of the country’s estimated GDP in 2012-13.

The fund said Ethiopian authorities have acknowledged that raising domestic financing for the flagship project for the country is a challenge, but the government emphasises that the GRD is a high priority and that other projects may be postponed if necessary in order to ensure its completion.

E.G. Woldegebriel is a journalist based in Addis Ababa with an interest in environmental issues.


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Ethiopian go’vt drafted a new labour agreement with UAE

DUBAI (The National) — The Ethiopian government has finished drafting a new labour agreement designed to protect the rights of its citizens who move to the UAE for jobs as domestic workers.

The agreement – to be handed to the UAE Embassy in Addis Ababa – will stipulate a minimum wage, mandatory insurance and outline workers’ rights.

It could also remove within three months a ban on Ethiopians migrating to the UAE for such jobs.

“We are ready to communicate with the UAE,” said Mesganu Arga Moach, the Ethiopian consul general in Dubai. “We are working on the legal structuring. It will be given to the UAE this month.”

In July, Addis Ababa banned domestic workers from applying to work in the UAE until an agreement was drawn up between the two countries to protect them from abusive recruiters and sponsors.

The UAE Embassy in Ethiopia said it was aware the agreement was in its final stages. “We are still waiting to receive it,” said the ambassador, Dr Yousif Eisa Hassan Alsabri. “It is still with the ministry of foreign affairs in Ethiopia.”

He said it would be signed and ratified “some weeks” after it was received but did not give an exact time frame.

The Ethiopian consulate in Dubai said it introduced the temporary freeze on workers moving to the UAE after receiving “five to 10” reports of abuse and unpaid salaries each day.

In August, at the consulate’s request, the UAE stopped issuing visas for domestic and blue-collar workers to Ethiopian nationals.

There have been several recent cases of attempted suicide among Ethiopian maids in the UAE, and a court case is taking place in Abu Dhabi involving an Emirati sponsor accused of torturing her maid to death for “laziness”.

The victim was allegedly whipped and tied up with electrical wire, had boiling water poured over her and pepper rubbed in her eyes. She died after burns became infected.

“It is a very disturbing and sad case,” said Mr Moach. “We want to avoid these kind of things. We are getting a lot of support from the UAE prosecutors. The issue is about abusive sponsors, agencies and individuals, which is why we want to make sure there is a system to protect their rights. Abuse cannot be avoided but with a system, we know they can reach us.

“Ethiopian maids can come back in two to three months time with their rights protected, proper salary and insurance. There will be a minimum salary and insurance will be obligatory. We have checked with other countries for reference. Many have similar problems.”

Mr Moach added that the Ethiopian government had examined the requirements of other countries that send workers to the UAE but will implement a salary scale best suited to its citizens. Training for domestic workers will be an integral part of the system.

“We are preparing the groundwork now,” added Mr Moach. “We will be giving training to domestic workers before coming to the UAE.

“The skills training will inform them of their rights, the nature of the work in the UAE, how to contact missions and everything related.”

The diplomatic mission is also working on ways to include existing workers in the agreement. “This is one of the issues we are negotiating and have to see how they can be incorporated into the system,” said Mr Moach.

Ethiopia will open an embassy in the capital soon to ensure “full diplomatic representation”.

More than 100,000 Ethiopians live in the UAE. Before the ban, it was estimated up to 300 a day were arriving in the Emirates to work as housemaids, security guards and in other blue-collar jobs.


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Djibouti government freed journalist Houssein Ahmed Farah

(RSF) – 20 November 2012 – Reporters Without Borders is relieved to learn that the journalist Houssein Ahmed Farah was finally released on 18 November after being held without trial for more than three months.

“Farah has finally been let out of jail thanks to the determination of his lawyer, Zakaria Abdillahi, who submitted a weekly release request that was unsuccessful until this week, when it was granted,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.

“While it is a relief to know he is no longer in prison, his release is conditional and he is still under judicial control. We call for the withdrawal of all the charges against him. We continue to be worried by the way the judicial authorities are handling his case. We are also disturbed by the attempts to intimidate his lawyer.”

A reporter for La Voix de Djibouti, an exile news website, Farah was arrested on 8 August and had been held since 11 August in the capital’s Gabode prison despite his poor health and the lack of evidence for any of the charges against him.

He is accused of evading judicial control and distributing “forged” voter cards on behalf of a political party dissolved by presidential decree.


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Museveni launches Kampala-Entebbe express road construction

(New Vision) – President Yoweri Museveni has commissioned work on the Kampala-Entebbe Expressway, a four-lane dual carriage toll road linking Kampala to Entebbe Airport.

Museveni Wednesday officially launched the works at a ground-breaking ceremony at Kyengera, off the Kampala-Masaka road.

Museveni hailed the Chinese Government for supporting the construction of the highway through a $350m concessional loan from China EXIM Bank.

The loan is repayable over a 40-year period, at a 2% annual interest while the Government contributes sh324b, in addition to $40m (about sh103b) to compensate land owners living along the route of the proposed highway.

The 51-km highway will also connect to Munyonyo, a prominent Kampala suburb, located on the shores of Lake Victoria.

According to the plan, the road will have 15 overpass bridges, 15 underpass bridges, two swampy crossing bridges and three interchanges at Busega, Kajjansi and Abayita Ababiri along Entebbe road.

The contract was awarded to China Communication Construction Company, which also constructed the Soroti-Lira Road.

According to the executive of the Uganda National Roads Authority, Peter Ssebanakitta, the first 6km of the road have been handed over to the contractor to start work. Compensation of residents affected by the construction is underway, with 250 people so far paid.

Museveni hailed China for not tying its loan to conditionalities, unlike some donor countries, whose support he said was bent on creating subservience instead of independence.

“Chinese support is not like a poor man’s support. If a poor man gives you a cock, he will always remind you about it, and expect you to thank him all the time,” Museveni said.

He urged Ugandans to emulate the discipline and patriotism of the Chinese, which he said had catapulted it from a third world nation in the 1950s to a super power.

“Ugandans should learn from Chinese people. They are organised and when government tells them to do something, they do it. They do not waste time in useless arguments like here, where there are so many political parties and bad behaviour, especially among leaders,” Museveni said.

“In their country, if you are caught stealing, they shoot you dead. If we did that here, we would have fewer thieves,” the President said.

Museveni blasted the Busiro East MP, Medard Ssegona, for asking the Government to return the properties of Buganda Kingdom. He advised Ssegona to focus on uniting the people for development, instead of peddling demands based on ethnic differences. Ssegona had earlier asked the President to ensure that the Government returns the property and pay all rent arrears owed to the Buganda Kingdom.

“Your Excellency, we are grateful for the return of Buganda Kingdom, but please fulfill the rest of our demands. We still demand for federo and we know discussions are ongoing,” Segona remarked.

“In the meantime, at least return our land and pay all rent on it in full,” he added.

In his response, Museveni said: “You cannot come here to lecture me on the Kabaka. I knew him and I know where I found him, and I don’t want to be lectured on that.

“The NRM united all people regardless of their ethnic or religious background. That is what has helped us to prosper. Instead of tightening that bolt, you are loosening it. Besides, if we were not there, the Kabaka would perhaps not have returned.

“I would still have come here and commissioned this project, with or without an area MP. I didn’t expect to find him here anyway, because the presence of an MP was not necessary. It is even my first time to see him in this area,” Museveni said.


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Three arrested over Eastleigh bombing

NAIROBI, KENYA (Standard Digital) – Police are holding three Kenyans over the bombing on Sunday of a minibus that claimed 10 lives in the business hub of Eastleigh in Nairobi.

The three are alleged to have been behind the delivery of the improvised explosive device that ripped apart the minibus and tore into its 40 passengers.

Police have also warned Kenyans that the suspects’ accomplices are planning more deadly attacks in the city.

Nairobi Area police boss Moses Ombati said detectives charged with monitoring terrorist activities say the group planned to attack supermarkets, churches, markets and other social places.

He also appeared to echo a view expressed by the Internal Security Minister Katoo Ole Metito that there could be a political hand in the attacks that have rocked the country.

On Thursday, the Cabinet chaired by President Kibaki condemned the spate of attacks by suspected terrorists.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga also condemned the Eastleigh incident and warned that the Government would not allow terrorism take root in the country. “All necessary steps should be taken to fight against forces that are out to create insecurity in the country,” said a Cabinet statement released after the meeting.

“As a Government we will not abdicate our responsibility to provide security to people and their property,” said Raila.

The PM made the remarks in Eastleigh where he had gone to console those affected by the bombing of the minibus in which people also lost property worth millions of shillings.

Raila who arrived in the country today after a weeklong official visit to Malaysia and Korea also lashed out at the attacks against members of the Somali community that followed the bombing of the minibus.

He appealed to all Kenyan communities to live peacefully together, saying they should enjoy equal rights irrespective of their ethnicity. He said, “Our diversity is should be our source of strength and not weakness.”

The Prime Minister especially called for religious tolerance among people of different faiths saying terrorism transcended religion, race, and tribe. He said criminals must be treated as individuals not as members of a tribe by apportioning blame to their tribes.

The killing shocked many Kenyans leading to inter-ethnic violence, looting and damage of property worth millions of shillings.

Many youth arrested following the violence were held in police stations until Wednesday, when a Kibera court released them.

“We have to exercise caution all the time because the gangs are here and planning attacks even as police also try to tame them,” said Ombati.

Trained for terror

He said they arrested more than 80 suspects for rioting following the bombing of the bus on Sunday. The suspects have since been charged before court and released on bond.

Ombati said the explosive used in the Eastleigh attack was assembled in a house in Majengo.

He said the three men in custody had been coached and recruited into a terror cell.

Ombati said three main planners and mentors of the Eastleigh attack are at large, but police are pursuing them.

He revealed that the attackers were using a motorbike on the material day before one of them boarded the bus and abandoned the explosive inside.

The matatu was headed for Kariobangi and had picked up 25 passengers from Eastleigh when the explosion went off near St Teresa’s area.

Ombati said investigations have shown the attackers trailed the matatu on a motorbike up to the point where their accomplice alighted and later detonated it using a remote device.

“These people assemble the bombs in houses and are known to Kenyans. We urge Kenyans to be cautious and cooperate with the security agencies in efforts to tame the terrorism.”

He also urged matatu operators to take measures and always screen passengers for weapons before they board. Ombati made a similar appeal to learning institutions and other social areas to take measures to deter terror attacks.

“The terrorists are spending days and nights planning to attack us and the public in general. We must take measures to address the problem because it is here with us for now.”

The Sunday explosion sparked protests in the area with some residents targeting the Somali community accusing them of harbouring terrorists.

Businesses were affected in the busy larger Eastleigh area for two days as police battled with criminal gangs that looted and robbed homes, business and pedestrians.


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Sudan’s ex-spy chief Salah Gosh arrested in connection with sabotage attempt

Khartoum (Reuters) – Sudan arrested its former spy chief and other senior military and security officers on Thursday after foiling what officials said was a plot to incite chaos and target leaders in this oil-producing African state.

Witnesses told Reuters they saw army tanks and armoured vehicles moving down a main street in the centre of Khartoum around midnight, but life in the city was normal during the day with shops in the centre bustling with customers.

Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has kept up a 23-year hold on power, even as a series of uprisings troubled the country’s poor border areas, including the conflict-torn region of Darfur.

But Sudan has been stuck in economic crisis since the south – the source of most of its known oil-reserves – declared independence last year under the terms of a peace deal.

High prices for food have added to widespread public anger over losing the south and have emboldened opposition activists to call for protests. Analysts say the crisis has also exacerbated divisions in the government and squeezed the patronage system they say Bashir has relied on.

Unrest over price rises and food and fuel shortages has preceded coups in Sudan in the past.

Salah Gosh, former head of Sudan’s powerful intelligence and security agency, was arrested with 12 others on suspicion of “inciting chaos”, “targeting” some leaders and spreading rumours about Bashir’s health, the information minister told reporters.

Bashir, 68, has undergone throat surgery twice since the summer. Officials insist he is in good health.

“A lot of evidence was gathered showing there is a movement aiming to incite chaos, target some leaders and undermine the country’s stability,” the minister, Ahmed Belal Osman, said.

“The situation is now totally stable,” he added, naming Gosh, and another arrested officer, Wad Ibrahim, a prominent Islamist in the army.

Some Islamists inside the army and the ruling National Congress Party have said that Bashir and other senior leaders have abandoned the religious values of the 1989 coup and have concentrated decision-making in the hands of a few people.

Some also feel Bashir has been too soft on South Sudan, which temporarily wrong-footed the Sudanese army by seizing a major oilfield during border fighting in April – a shock to many officers.

Harry Verhoeven, an Oxford University researcher who has studied Sudan extensively, said the arrests’ timing suggested the incident was connected to a conference of Sudan’s Islamic Movement last weekend that illustrated these tensions.

The Islamic Movement is a part of Sudan’s ruling establishment that counts many of the country’s most powerful politicians as members.

Analysts say reform-minded members of the group were unhappy with the new secretary-general elected at the conference.

The arrest of Gosh – who is not seen as overly close with the Islamists – may have been a signal to the reformists that authorities would not tolerate serious dissent, Verhoeven said.

“I think the key question is what the reformists do. Do they form a new party? Do they stay quiet?” he added.

Officials have cited a plot but have stopped short of saying this constituted a coup attempt.

Witnesses said they saw military vehicles on a major street that runs alongside the city’s airport overnight.

“We saw something unusual in Khartoum… four armoured vehicles and two tanks on Abeid Khatim Street heading in the direction of downtown,” one witness said, asking not to be named.

Security at the defence ministry, intelligence headquarters and other buildings associated with military and security authorities appeared normal, a Reuters witness in the city said.

Sudan has been plagued by political conflicts and crises for most of its history since independence from Britain in 1956.

Decades of civil war between the north and south culminated with South Sudan’s independence in July last year under a 2005 peace deal.

Tensions in both nations and between the two states have been high since then. The two countries accused one another of incursions in disputed border zones on Wednesday, a setback to recent security and border deals.

Small demonstrations against cuts in fuel subsidies and other austerity measures broke out across Sudan in June but petered out after a security crackdown and the start of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadaan.

Gosh was once among Sudan’s most influential officials. As chief of the National Intelligence and Security Service, he headed what is one of the country’s most powerful institutions alongside the army.

Bashir removed Gosh as spy chief in 2009, replacing him with the current head Mohammed Atta al-Moula. Officials did not explain the decision to sack Gosh at the time, but Khartoum political circles widely speculated the former chief was suspected of plotting against Bashir.

A leaked US diplomatic cable from 2008 quoted a government official as saying Gosh had mused about the possibility an International Criminal Court arrest warrant for Bashir could lead some to try to replace the president.

“Conspiracy and plotting is like breathing in Sudan,” the cable noted.

Gosh had been appointed presidential adviser on security affairs, but was also removed from that position last year.

Western rights groups have accused Gosh of complicity in abuses in the country’s Darfur region, which has endured a nearly decade-old insurgency.

But while the ICC has issued arrest warrants for Bashir and other officials on charges of war crimes in Darfur, Gosh has never been indicted.

The former spy chief is also described by historians and analysts as a key interlocutor with US officials when Sudan was co-operating with the United States by providing information on al-Qaeda in the years after the September 11 attacks.


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Congo M23 rebel leader in Uganda for crisis talks

(CNN) — The political leader of a rebel group in the Democratic Republic of Congo flew to Uganda Thursday for talks with that country’s president, two days after his group took over a key city in the eastern part of the DRC.

M23 leader Jean-Marie Runiga Lugerero was summoned to Kampala by President Yoweri Museveni, who is hosting a conference of regional leaders Saturday aimed at ending the crisis in the DRC, according to an M23 source close to Lugerero.

Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila and President Paul Kagame of Rwanda are also in Kampala for the International Conference for the Great Lakes Region, which is set to start there Saturday.

The M23 rebel movement gained control of Goma earlier this week and then announced that it plans to “liberate” the entire country.

Fierce fighting erupted Thursday in Sake, a city west of Goma that M23 rebels captured Wednesday. Sake is strategic since it is a gateway to Bukavu, the capital of South Kivu.

Residents were seen streaming out of Sake seeking safety as government forces and other militia groups fought to halt the rebel advance.

Those who remained in Goma Thursday had no water, electricity or gas service, and no way out by land or water.

Oxfam, which is monitoring humanitarian conditions in the area, warned Thursday that the fall of Goma to the rebels creates “a very real risk of complete collapse of state authority and the humanitarian crisis reaching new depths.”

It estimates 120,000 people are in urgent need of help, with many sleeping in the open or in schools and other buildings without humanitarian aid.

“People are living in chaotic conditions,” Tariq Riebl, Oxfam’s humanitarian coordinator, said. “There are real fears that cholera and other fatal water-borne diseases could spread, as shortages of power and water in Goma have left thousands of people with no choice but to get water straight from Lake Kivu.”

An M23 spokesman said Tuesday that the capture of Goma, the culmination of several days of heavy fighting against government forces, was just the beginning.

“We will push on to Bukavu, then Kisangani, and finally take Kinshasa and overthrow the government,” Lt. Col. Vianney Kazarama said to enthusiastic cheers from a crowd of several hundred at Goma’s stadium, according to a Congolese reporter there.

Kazarama said that once the rebels overthrow the government, they will call for elections.

Kinshasa, the country’s capital, lies nearly 1,000 miles west of Goma, the capital of North Kivu province.

The eastern part of the DRC, which includes Goma, has been embroiled in violence since 1994, when Hutu forces crossed the border from Rwanda fearing reprisals following the genocide in that country.

The M23 group was named for the peace deal of March 23, 2009, which they accuse the government of violating. The soldiers, mostly Tutsis, became part of the national army through that accord. However, they broke away from the Congolese army in April, complaining they weren’t being promoted as promised, and because of a lack of pay and poor conditions.

Tens of thousands of Congolese, already displaced by previous rounds of fighting in the volatile region, have fled camps around the edges of Goma, according to UNICEF and the medical charity Doctors Without Borders.


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VayuGrid Signs MoU for biofuel park in Ethiopia

BANGALORE (Business Line) – VayuGrid, a biofuel supply chain company based in Bangalore, has signed a memorandum of understanding to create a biofuel cluster for its VayuSap — high-yield Pongamia — in Ethiopia.

The company said the cluster will create a $2.5-million biofuel investment opportunity and is part of a larger government plan to develop a biofuel park in Ethiopia. Starting with a 2,000 acre, the long-term goal is to create a cluster of 100,000 acres under a collaborative model.

The biofuel park is a critical step to reduce the country’s commitment of 87 per cent of free cash on imported crude while at the same time creating local job opportunities and an ecosystem of value-added businesses.

Ethiopia was chosen strategically based on the economics and agriculture. Its large land bank of arid and unproductive land lends itself perfectly to creating a green energy supply base for local and global markets.

Phase 1 is a 2,000-acre footprint under a collaborative model involving the participation of a local partner bringing in land and labour, investors putting the capital and VayuGrid providing the IP and downstream contracts, thereby creating a sustainable and replicable business model.

“VayuGrid is bringing together local and global businesses that are dependent on crude and looking for ways to hedge against currency fluctuations while ensuring a predictable supply of green energy,” said Doug Peterson, CEO, VayuGrid.

“Our biofuel clusters ensure a sustainable biofuel supply for downstream markets and high returns for governments, land owners and investors,” he added.


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Kenya is set to have its fifth fiber optic cable

NAIROBI, Kenya (CapitalFM) – Plans to land a fifth undersea fibre optic cable in Kenya are underway, a move that would see the country more than quadruple its current bandwidth capacity.
Information Permanent Secretary Bitange Ndemo said increased uptake of the existing cable capacity will only multiply once the country goes into 4G in the near future.
Although the PS did not give specific timelines, he revealed that a firm from the Middle East is in talks with the government to begin the procurement process.
“We would have 15 terabytes once the fifth cable lands,” Ndemo said on the sidelines of a national ICT conference in Nairobi.
At the moment Kenya has four undersea cables including EASSy, TEAMS, SEACOM, and LION-2, which hold more than 2.8 terabytes of bandwidth.
The cables also service all of Kenya’s neighbouring countries and provide over 5,261,919 Mbps international connectivity.
Initially, Kenya relied on satellite access; however bandwidth and issues surrounding the cost of Internet served as obstacles to growth in web access.
According to the latest sector statistics by the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) 17.38 million people in the country had access to the Internet as of December last year, marking a penetration rate of 44.12 percent.
Ndemo said the government plans to construct two Tier 4 data centres at the proposed technopolis, Konza City.
So far Kenya has two data centres including the National Data Center and the Kenya Data Networks Data Center. To solidify the country’s foothold in the region as an ICT hub, the government is expected to roll out the National ICT Master Plan this month.
The plan seeks to set up Kenya as a leader in ICT investment and innovation by the year 2017.
It is projected that by 2017, the ICT Industry would contribute an estimated $2 billion (25 percent of GDP), create 500 ICT companies, and bring in 50,000 jobs.
Priority areas in the plan include health and education followed by agriculture and retail/wholesale trade.


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GE to construct two wind power projects in Kenya

Nairobi (allAfrica)— Global infrastructure development giant General Electric Company (GE) last week announced a grand plan of investing some $100 million towards power generation in Kenya over the next one year.

The funding will go towards the construction of two wind power projects to boost generation to the national grid.

The two projects to be constructed in Kenya Rift Valley town of Kinangop will have the capacity to general about 150 Megawatts in what will be a major boost to Kenya current generation deficit.

According to GE President in charge of Africa Mr. Jay Ireland, the company is currently engaging the Kenyan government in negotiations over the required Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) before the project takes off the ground. The government is being represented by the national power distributor Kenya Power.

“Our negotiations with Kenya Power are at a very advanced stage and the groundbreaking could come as early as the beginning of next year. The negotiations are centering on the requisite PPA,” said Ireland.

The project is all goes according to schedule could be complete by close of next year, according to the Mr. Ireland.

The success of the first project according to Ireland will inform the company’s projection of putting up other projects with a goal of producing some 1,000 Megawatts over the next two years.

Other investment opportunities being eyed by the multinational include the railway sector where the African President said the company will working in conjunction with the Rift Valley Railways (RVR).

Our engagement with RVR is towards building the requisite capacity to provide high class locomotives among other things. This is one area we have a lot of specialty in as a company through the GE Transportation arm,” he said.

GE is also involved in projects in other sectors among them health, water, aviation in partnership with the government and other entities.

The increased investments in Kenya follow a meeting the multinational had with the Kenyan government in 2010 and spearheaded by Prime Minister Raila Odinga on how the company could employ its experience to help solve Kenya’s infrastructure challenges.

GE currently operates in 35 countries in Africa. They include, Angola, Congo, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, and Tanzania among others.


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Biometric Voter Registration exercise kicks off

NAIROBI (VOA) — Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki has officially launched a nationwide voter registration campaign for the March 4 general elections. The 30-day process begins as the country faces security challenges and the growing fear of election-related violence.

Kenya’s electoral commission has kicked off a nationwide voter registration drive. The exercise aims to register more than 18 million voters within 30 days.

The chairman of the Independent Electoral Boundaries Commission (IEBC), Isaac Hassan, said at a launch ceremony in Nairobi his commission is ready to carry out the task.

“We appeal to Kenyans and all our partners to support us through this critical process,” said Hassan. “Please help us mobilize Kenyans to come out in large numbers and register. Let them not wait for the last day or the last week to start piling up on the register. We have got 30 days these officers will be there every morning, every day, Sundays and public holidays. Please avail yourself and get yourself registered.”

Voters will register for the March election using a Biometric Voter Register system that uses fingerprints and facial features to uniquely identify each voter.

Hassan says one key feature of the system is the ability to detect if a voter has tried to register more than once. He says this one way of guaranteeing a credible voter register.

The electoral body also faces security challenges in Coast Province, where a secessionist group has threatened to disrupt the registration process.

According to the chairman of the IEBC, the first incident of violence targeting the process took place early Monday.

“We know the security challenges we have especially in the country,” he said. “This morning I was just informed that we had an incident in Matuga. A center there was disrupt[ed], but the police moved in very quickly and security was restored.”

During the launch, President Mwai Kibaki assured the commission and Kenyans of their security. He also warned civilians against obstructing the work of security officers or endangering their lives.

Kenya’s last general elections in 2007 were marred by post-election violence in which more than 1,000 people were killed.

Government officials say this time, mechanisms are in place to prevent a repeat of the fighting.


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Britain suspends budget aid to Uganda over corruption allegations

(Aljazeera) – Britain has suspended all financial aid to Uganda over a corruption scandal in which millions in donor funds were allegedly embezzled in the office of the prime minister, Amama Mbabazi.

Britain’s international development department, or DFID, said in a statement on Friday that it was suspending development assistance immediately “as a result of initial evidence” from an ongoing audit.

Britain planned to give £27m (about $42m) to the East African country this year.

Justine Greening, international development minister, said payments worth £11.1m ($17.6m) that were due before
the end of the financial year had been halted.

“Unless the government of Uganda can show that UK taxpayers’ money is going towards helping the poorest people lift themselves out of poverty, this aid will remain frozen,” the international development ministry said.

“We will expect repayment and administrative and criminal sanctions.”

Inquiry sought

Britain, Denmark, Ireland and Norway had already suspended aid to the office of the prime minister following claims that staff funnelled 10m euros ($12.7m) from an aid programme into private accounts.

Mbabazi has expressed shock over the scandal, saying it must be investigated. However, some politicians have called for an inquiry into his role in the scam.

Uganda’s auditor general reported last month that money intended to help develop areas devastated by the war against the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels had been stolen.

The report, released last month, said that the funds were lost through widespread fraud and embezzlement, with a network of officials perpetrating a scam in which some of the money was deposited into the private accounts of individuals.

The report documented numerous cases of forgery to justify fictitious expenses, and an accountant has since been
taken to court over the scam.

A dozen Ugandan officials have been suspended pending investigations.


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Mo Ibrahim Foundation picks no winner for African leadership

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — It’s the biggest cash prize available to former leaders of African countries, and no one was worthy this year – again.

The Mo Ibrahim Foundation announced Monday that it will not award its $5 million prize that recognizes democratically elected African leaders who excel in office and – critically – leave when they are supposed to. The prize committee said it reviewed several former leaders but decided that none met the award criteria. The group did not reveal who was considered. Any African leader who left office in the last three years was eligible.

Africa on the whole is making political and economic progress but some of the more than 50 countries on the continent are still ruled by men who stay in office for decades. And some leaders who have stepped down from power over the past three years had blemished records.

Mo Ibrahim, a British mobile phone magnate who was born in Sudan, insisted in an interview that he was not disappointed that no winner emerged.

“Not at all. This is a prize for exceptional leadership, and we don’t need to go through the motions to just find anybody,” he told The Associated Press by telephone. “We have a wonderful prize committee which comprises some wonderful men and women, and they set really high standards.”

The cash prize has been awarded three times in its six-year history. Former Cape Verde President Pedro Verona Pires won last year. In 2008 Festus Mogae of Botswana won; In 2007 it was Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique. No award was given in 2009 and 2010.

John Githongo is a former adviser to Kenya President Mwai Kibaki on ethics and governance who resigned and then exposed hundreds of millions of dollars in government corruption. Githongo said it is “absolutely no surprise whatsoever” that the $5 million award was not handed out this year.

“It does indeed award people for things they are supposed to be doing, but it helps highlight the fact that for too long leaders have not been doing what they are supposed to be doing. It shines the light on the reality in a very stark way,” he said. “I don’t think Mo Ibrahim is going to be spending much money on this in his lifetime. We are a generation away” from good leaders.

Ibrahim says he believes the award has helped increase conversations about positive leadership in Africa instead of talk about the continent’s murderous or corrupt leaders.

“We wanted to bring the issues of governance and leadership to the center of the table, for the issues to be discussed by African society and African leadership,” Ibrahim said, adding later: “Bad stories make news. That brings an unintended bias in the media coverage, and that is not helpful for the casual listener.”

Many people around the world know about African leaders like Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, who has clung to power for more than 30 years, Ibrahim said.

“But nobody knows the good guys. The prize is to bring forward a picture of the good side of Africa,” he said.

The Ibrahim Index of African Governance, released Monday, found that governance in Africa has improved since 2000, especially in the health and gender sectors. But the index found that many of the continent’s regional powerhouses – Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa – have experienced poor governance since 2006.

Earlier this month Ibrahim’s foundation said it would give a $1 million grant to anti-apartheid hero Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa for “speaking truth to power.” When the one-off award was announced, the foundation said Tutu “is and has throughout his life been one of Africa’s great voices for justice, freedom, democracy and responsible, responsive government.”


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Somali pirates free Greek-owned ship after $2.3 million ransom is paid

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — A Liberian-flagged Greek-owned ship and its crew of 21 Filipinos who were held hostage by pirates for eight months have been released following the payment of a $2.3 million ransom, a Somali pirate said Friday.

Bile Hussein, a pirate based in Garacad in the semi-autonomous Puntland region of Somalia, said the brigands initially wanted to be paid $9 million after they captured the bulk carrier MV Free Goddess. Months of negotiations led to the lowering of the ransom and they released the ship on Thursday, Bile said.

The ship’s owners, Free Bulkers SA, did not comment about the ransom payment claims but they confirmed that ship had been released and that all the 21 Filipino crew are well.

They said the ship was seized on Feb. 7, 2012 in the Arabian Sea carrying a consignment of steel coils from the Black Sea but they did not specify the destination or source of the cargo.

The Company didn’t want to specify exactly what day the Liberian-flagged ship was released, “as she’s still in dangerous waters.”

Hijackings by Somali pirates have significantly reduced in the last couple of years because many ships now carry armed guards and there is an international naval armada that carries out onshore raids. In 2010, pirates seized 47 vessels, so far this year they’ve taken five, a decrease that could signify that the scourge is ending, though experts say it is too early to declare victory.

Pirates still hold six ships and 156 crew members. At the height of Somali piracy, pirates held more than 30 ships and 600 hostages at a time.

The overwhelming majority of hostages have been sailors on merchant ships, though European families have also been seized while traveling in the dangerous coastal waters. Four Americans were killed in February 2011 when the pirates who boarded their ship apparently became trigger-happy because of nearby U.S. warships.

For the pirates, the risks of being arrested, killed or lost at sea are overshadowed by the potential for huge payouts. Ransoms for large ships in recent years have averaged close to $5 million. The largest reported ransom was $11 million for the Greek oil tanker MV Irene SL last year.

The ransoms are often air-dropped down to hijacked ships.

Somalia has been mired in conflict since longtime dictator Siad Barre was overthrown by warlords in 1991 who then turned on each other.

Somalia’s inland conflict has helped piracy flourish on the waters off the horn of Africa.


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Annan urges Kenya to ensure free and fair 2013 general election

(African Elections) – Former United Nations Secretary General Dr. Kofi Annan Thursday concluded his four-day trip to Kenya with a raft of recommendations on how to ensure the country goes through the 2013 general election peacefully.

Exuding confidence that the polls will be fair owing to the transformative reforms the country has so far achieved, the chair of Eminent African Personalities said the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission – IEBC would need ample support from all the three arms of government and the general public to execute a free and fair process.

Dr. Annan said the electoral commission can only succeed in the enormous task ahead if all government institutions and Kenyans in general commit themselves to owning the process.

He expressed concern over an upsurge of violence in parts of the country in the run to the next General Election terming it a threat to the nation recovering from the effects of 2007/2008 post election violence.

Annan cited reorganization of militia groups and incitement by a section of politicians as conflict indicators that should not be tolerated at such a critical period.

Speaking in Nairobi, Annan called on politicians to watch over their language as Kenya gears up for elections.

He also urged religious leaders and the media to play a pro-active role towards curbing instances of violence by ensuring a credible election and engaging in cohesion and reconciliation efforts.

The panel of African Eminent Personalities chair said the unfinished work of passing pieces of legislations necessary for a fair process such as the gender rule should be expedited to avoid last minute crisis.

Concerning the presidential bid of ICC suspects Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, the panel opined that it is upon the Kenyan courts to determine whether they should vie.

The panel undertook to make more frequent visits in the run up to elections to oversee a fair process.

The chief mediator concluded his mission, with one piece of advice; “Watch your tongues”.

Dr. Annan Wednesday dismissed calls by a section of members of parliament allied to Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta that he should meet all the presidential candidates.

On Wednesday he met House Speaker Kenneth Marende at Parliament buildings saying his mission was to meet the two coalition principals as they were the chief implementers of the four critical reform agenda as envisaged in the National Accord.

He said he met the PM in his capacity as one of the principals of the coalition government and not as a presidential candidate.

Annan and former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa arrived in the country Monday for a four day visit in their capacities as members of the African Union Panel of Eminent African Personalities.

Their visit aimed at giving support and encouragement to the Kenyan people and the country’s institutions as Kenya prepares for the March 2013 General Election and an important government transition.

Dr. Annan said the IEBC can only succeed if all government institutions and Kenyans commit themselves to owning the electoral process.


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Brazil’s Embraer delivers its 900th jetliner to Kenya Airways

(Airlines and Destinations) – Embraer has delivered its 900th E-Jet, an Embraer 190 for Kenya Airways, in a ceremony held at the company’s headquarters in São Jose dos Campos, Brazil.

“The delivery of the 900th E-Jet is a great achievement for Embraer, and we are very pleased to deliver this aircraft to Kenya Airways, one of Africa’s leading airlines, only eight years after the first E-Jets entered revenue service in 2004,” said Paulo Cesar Silva, president, Commercial Aviation for Embraer.

“E-Jets were the first aircraft to change traditional thinking about 70-to-120-seat aircraft and revolutionizing (sic) regional transportation by bringing more connectivity or frequencies to passengers, providing more flexibility to their traveling plans while improving the airlines´ operational efficiency,” Silva added.

Today, Embraer E-Jets are in service with more than 60 airlines from 40 countries. Different E-Jet customers use any one of four different types of business models – mainline, low-cost carriers, regional airlines and, most recently, a scheduled tour operator.

The aircraft routinely fly long sectors over water and operate at some of the world’s most challenging airfields, such as London City airport. The family also offers onboard entertainment systems, live satellite TV and radio, in-seat power ports and Wi-Fi connectivity to E-Jet passengers.

“It is a real honor for Kenya Airways to be part of this highlight in Embraer’s history, by receiving the 900th E-Jet,” said Dr. Titus Naikuni, CEO of Kenya Airways. “The E190 is a versatile aircraft suited to our growth ambitions on the African continent.”

Added Naikuni: “Given its mid-range capabilities, it ably supports our plans to fly new routes and increase frequencies on existing ones. It affords our passengers excellent cabin comfort while enhancing operating efficiency. This new acquisition brings the airline closer to our vision of flying to every capital in Africa in the next few years.”

Kenya Airways configures its Embraer 190 jets in a dual-class cabin lay-out which offers 96 seats, 12 in business class and 84 in economy. The aircraft feature individual screens for every seat, with in-flight entertainment on demand.

The milestone 900th E-Jet joins Kenya Airways’ existing fleet of 12 Embraer E-Jets, five of which are Embraer 170s and seven of which are Embraer 190s. The airline operates the aircraft from its hub at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

Kenya Airways has seven more Embraer 190s on order, with a delivery planned for each month between now and February 2013.

The carrier currently has a fleet of 38 aircraft and flies to 54 destinations in Africa, Europe, the Middle East and the Far East. For more information on Kenya Airways, visit http://www.kenya-airways.com.

In the third quarter of 2012, Embraer delivered 27 jets to the commercial aviation market and 13 to executive aviation customers. Deliveries to the end of September total 83 commercial and 46 executive jets, seven more than for the same period of 2011.


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Annan dismissed calls to meet presidential candidates

(Africa Review) – The chairman of the African Union Panel of Eminent Persons, Mr Kofi Annan, has rebuffed calls from a section of Kenya MPs that he should meet all presidential aspirants.

He said his mission in the country was to audit the national healing and track implementation of the National Accord and the new Constitution.

Speaking at Nairobi’s Parliament Buildings, Mr Annan, who was accompanied by former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa, said his panel was in Kenya to meet the two principals – President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, the Speaker and the Chief Justice.

“We did not come to see the presidential candidates,” Mr Annan told journalists at the news conference in the Speaker’s office.

He added that “he was not sure” that the “presidential candidates had been determined”.

“The panel notes that a group of parliamentarians have addressed a Press conference in Parliament suggesting that the panel organises additional meetings during its visit to Kenya. The panel would like to reiterate that the purpose of its visit on this occasion is to review progress on the implementation of the Constitution and electoral preparedness,” said Mr Annan in a statement issued after the meeting with the Speaker, Mr Kenneth Marende.

The MPs had asked Mr Annan and his team to meet deputy prime Ministers Musalia Mudavadi and Uhuru Kenyatta, plus Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka and other presidential candidates.

He said the itinerary of the panel was to meet the team in the dialogue and the “agencies central to the full implementation of the Constitution and Kenya’s preparations for elections”.

Mr Annan also questioned the progress of Parliament in approving the law that will set in motion the constitutional requirement that two-thirds of all public officers, both elected and appointed, are not from the same gender.


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Norwegian diplomat expelled in spying case

(BBC) – Sudan has expelled a Norwegian diplomat from the country in a tit-for-tat row over spying allegations.

The move was a response to Norway’s expulsion on Tuesday of a Sudanese diplomat working in Oslo.

He was suspected of spying on Sudanese refugees in Norway. Neither diplomat has been identified.

Most European countries shun President Omar al-Bashir, who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court, accused of alleged war crimes.

In a statement, Sudan’s foreign ministry said it had summoned the Norwegian ambassador to inform him of the expulsion.

“The foreign ministry told the Norwegian ambassador it hoped the incident would not harm bilateral ties,” the statement said.

Norway’s intelligence agency announced on Tuesday the arrest of a 38-year-old Sudanese immigrant they said had been secretly collecting information on Sudanese refugees and passing it on to the Sudanese diplomat.

The Sudanese ambassador denied the allegations of spying in an interview with Norway’s national broadcaster NRK.


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Kenya President Mwai Kibaki vetoes parliament bonus

NAIROBI (Capital FM) — President Mwai Kibaki has declined to assent to the amended Finance Bill (2012) that was passed by Parliament on Thursday October 4, 2012.

The amendment awarded parliamentarians a severance pay of Sh9.3 million each.

The pay award would have cost the taxpayer a total of Sh2.1 billion.

“The president objected to the amendment on the grounds that it was first unconstitutional, and secondly untenable in the prevailing economic circumstances in the country,” a statement from State House said.

The president said that coming shortly after the increment of salaries for teachers and doctors, the severance pay for parliamentarians would lead to an unsustainable wage bill at a time when the country requires massive resources to implement the new constitution and meet other competing demands in the economy.

In the meantime, the Head of State has assented to the amendment in the electoral laws extending the period to January 4, 2013 during which Members of Parliament should have chosen the political party on which to seek nomination and contest a political seat in the forthcoming general elections.

The president’s decision came hours after demonstrators marched in the Kenyan capital over the lawmakers’ move.

Analysts said a worker earning the national minimum wage would have to work for 61 years in order to earn the amount the MPs have voted to pay themselves.

“It is totally ridiculous for the MPs to award themselves such an amount of money,” said Morris Odhiambo, who helped organise the demonstration.

The demonstrators, waving placards with messages such as “MPs are thieves” and “greedy hyenas,” marched through central Nairobi to Parliament.

“We want them to know that the public mood is against this unjustified increment,” said Robert Alai, another of the organisers.

Kenyan lawmakers are already some of the best paid on the continent, with a tax-free monthly salary of some $13,000.

“It is totally ridiculous for the MPs to award themselves such an amount of money,” said Morris Odhiambo, who helped organise the demonstration.

Each of the 222 members and the speaker would get $110,800 (85,700 euro) as a sendoff package at the end of their current term.

“How come our teachers had to strike for three weeks to get a salary hike, yet within a single sitting the MPs could easily increase their remuneration,” Odhiambo said. “So where is the Sh2 billion going to come from?”

Rights groups, including Transparency International and the Kenya Human Rights Commission, said in a joint statement the move was “extremely disturbing” and broke constitutional rules.

The statement called on Kenyans to let lawmakers “know that they are not willing to foot the cost of their greed.”


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Suspects in Darfur peacekeeper killings arrested

KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Sudanese authorities have arrested suspects in an attack that killed four U.N. peacekeepers last week in the strife-torn western Darfur region, state media said on Tuesday.

UNAMID, the world’s largest peacekeeping mission, was deployed by the United Nations and the African Union in the arid western territory after fierce fighting in 2003 which forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes.

Violence in Darfur, where mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms against the government in Khartoum, has ebbed from its peak in 2003-4, but international efforts to broker peace have failed to end the conflict.

Last week, unidentified gunmen ambushed Nigerian peacekeepers near the western town of El Geneina, killing four soldiers and wounding eight, according to UNAMID.

“Suspects involved in the killing of (U.N.) soldiers have been detained,” Sudanese government radio said in a text message sent to mobile phones. It gave no further details.

The U.S. State Department said it was “appalled” by the attack.

A total of 42 peacekeepers have been killed since UNAMID was set up, according to the force.

The International Criminal Court has issued arrest warrants for Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and other officials to face charges of masterminding atrocities in the region where Sudanese troops and allied Arab militias have sought to crush the rebellion.

Estimates of the death toll vary widely.

Sudan’s government signed a Qatar-sponsored peace deal with an umbrella organization of smaller rebel groups last year, but the major factions refused to join.


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Ethiopia frees 75 Eritrean war prisoners

(AFP) – Ethiopia has released 75 Eritrean prisoners of war captured in March during a cross border attack on a military base, officials said on Tuesday.

“The government of Ethiopia believes it is proper to release these captive soldiers of Eritrea and let them go where they want,” government spokesman Bereket Simon told AFP.

Addis Ababa attacked the Eritrean base in retaliation for the killing of five tourists in Ethiopia’s Afar region it blamed on its arch-rival, although an Ethiopian rebel group claimed responsibility and Asmara rejected the claim.

The soldiers were handed over to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on Sunday, Bereket said.

“Ethiopia doesn’t have any interest to keep them here,” he said, but added the move does not signal a change in the icy relationship between the two long-time foes.

“The Eritrean government is adamant and has refused to discuss issues of common concern and there are no actual discussions taking place,” he said.

Eritrea won independence from Ethiopia in 1993 after a 30-year struggle, but they returned to war in a bloody 1998-2000 border conflict which left at least 70 000 dead.

The two countries remain at odds over the flashpoint town of Badme, awarded to Eritrea by a UN-backed boundary commission but still controlled by Addis Ababa.

Seven of the released prisoners applied for political asylum in Ethiopia, Bereket said, adding that they were free to stay if they wanted.

Tensions flared in January when two Germans, two Austrians and one Hungarian were killed in the attack on the slopes of Ethiopia’s famed Erta Ale volcano in the desolate Afar border region.

Eritrea denied involvement in the incident and did not retaliate after Ethiopia attacked their military base.

The Ethiopian-based Afar Revolutionary Democratic Unity Front (ARDUF) rebels, fighting a low-level insurgency against “political marginalisation” by Addis Ababa, claimed responsibility. They said they have no ties to Asmara.


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Sudan to reopen all border crossings with South Sudan

(CNN) — Despite periodic violence and continued unresolved issues, Sudan’s president on Sunday authorized the reopening of all border crossings with South Sudan, state news reported.

President Omar al-Bashir ordered the reopening of all passages — by land, water and air — between his African nation and its newly independent neighbor South Sudan, the official Sudan News Agency (SUNA) reported.

The president met Sunday with Foreign Minister Ali Ahmad Karti and Mutrif Sadiq, Sudan’s recently appointed ambassador to South Sudan, to ask his help in carrying out the directives and make normalizing relations between the two countries a priority.

Sadiq said after the meeting that he had been instructed by the president “to work together with the concerned authorities” to reopen the borders, SUNA reported.
Supermodel returns to South Sudan

Sudan was embroiled in a bloody two-decade civil war that ended with a peace agreement in 2005. A referendum six years later led to South Sudan’s secession, which became official in July 2011.

The two nations, however, have remained at odds since then on a number of hot-button issues. Their leaders have faced international pressure, from the likes of the United Nations and the African Union, to resolve their disputes and come to a lasting agreement.

They made some headway toward that end late last month — though the deal they reached failed to address a number of disputes.

During talks in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, al-Bashir and South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir agreed to resume oil exports and set up a demilitarized zone, as well as principles related to border demarcation. Yet they could not reach a deal on the status of Abyei, a disputed region claimed by both countries, which has been a contentious issue since the South declared independence on July 9 of last year.

The partial agreement was applauded by, among others, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and U.S. President Barack Obama.

Sudan and South Sudan have been under increasing pressure from the African Union and Security Council to resolve the matter peacefully.

In April, Sudan and South Sudan slipped close to all-out war with a series of tit-for-tat air raids and ground attacks that prompted the African Union and Security Council to push the two sides to act.

Still, the recent political progress has not stopped violence in the region.

Last week, four peacekeepers with the African Union-United Nations Mission in Sudan’s Darfur region were killed and eight injured in an ambush by unidentified attackers.

UNAMID Force Commander and officer-in-charge Lt. Gen. Patrick Nyamvumba condemned what he called a “criminal attack,” demanding Sudan’s government “bring the perpetrators to justice.”


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Somali rebels ban Islamic Aid Organization

(BBC) – Islamist militants in Somalia have banned one of the last foreign aid agencies still working in areas under their control.

Al-Shabab says the UK-based Islamic Relief was covertly working on behalf of other aid groups already banned, including the UN World Food Programme.

Islamic Relief says it has yet to be officially informed of the decision.

Some 1.3 million people in need of food, clean water and health care may be put at risk, the group says.

‘Persistent warnings’

Al-Shabab accused western charities of exaggerating the scale of last year’s drought and passing information to foreign governments – charges the aid agencies denied.

The militants say they revoked Islamic relief’s permit to work because it “has repeatedly failed, despite the persistent warnings, to comply with the operational guidelines”.

“Islamic Relief was also found to be covertly extending the operations of banned organisations, particularly WFP,” it posted on its Twitter account.

The UN’s WFP has had no access to areas controlled by al-Shabab since January 2010 while the International Committee of the Red Cross was expelled earlier this year.

Islamic Relief has been working in Somalia since 2006.

“None of our programmes in Somalia is funded by the World Food Programme,” the group’s regional director for east Africa, Iftikhar Shaheen, said in a statement.

“If this decision is confirmed, it could put many lives at risk, jeopardising our work providing food, water, sanitation, health care and support for income generation to 1.3 million people in Somalia,” the statement added.

Somalia was hard hit last year by one of the worst droughts to affect east Africa.

Last month, al-Shabab withdrew from the southern town of Kismayo, its last major stronghold, after an attack by African Union forces.

But the group’s fighters are still active in many rural areas of central and southern Somalia – and continues to carry out suicide bombings and other attacks in cities not under its control.


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5 dead, 23 wounded in rare Sudan rebel strike on state capital

(BBC) – Five people have been killed and 23 wounded in an attack by rebels in the capital of Sudan’s South Kordofan state, government radio says.

State media reported shelling in Kadugli, near the southern border, and blamed a rebel group suspected of planning to overthrow the government.

The SPLM-North admitted to the attack but denied any civilian casualties.

Rebels have been fighting in South Kordofan since last year but the state capital has been largely peaceful.

South Sudan, which seceded in 2011, denies backing the rebels.

Precautionary measures

A spokesman for the SPLM-N claimed responsibility for the attack. He said his men were on the outskirts of Kadugli, but that they were “not targeting the people” but the military.

“We have to fight back and of course to carry out our objective of removing the government,” the rebels’ spokesman, Arnu Ngutulu Lodi, told Reuters.

A government Radio Omdurman broadcast did not say whether the casualties were civilian or military.

Earlier, the Sudanese army spokesman said the SPLM-North had “tried to get inside Kadugli town and they shelled an area 6 km [four miles] east of Kadugli.” He reported one fatality at the time.

The United Nations said their humanitarian staff in the area had been moved to a nearby peacekeeping base “as a precautionary measure”.

“To our knowledge there were five mortar shells that landed in and around the town” of Kadugli, Damian Rance of the UN’s Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told AFP.

Another UN worker said the shelling began at 1140 local time (0840 GMT) and lasted just over half an hour. He said one or two shells landed inside the Unicef compound but did not explode.

The fighting in South Kordofan has been one of the major issues dividing Sudan and its southern neighbour over the past year.

The two countries’ leaders recently signed a partial peace deal aimed at reducing tensions.

The rebels in South Kordofan fought with the south against the Khartoum government for two decades but after South Sudan’s independence, they found themselves still in Sudan.

Many of the rebel fighters are from the Nuba ethnic group and Sudan has previously denied accusations by human rights activists that its forces have targeted civilian members of the community during the conflict.


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15 killed after military plane crash in Sudan

(Reuters) – A Sudanese military plane carrying personnel and equipment to the strife-torn Darfur region crashed near the capital Khartoum on Sunday killing 15 people on board, the army said.

The plane’s engine stopped working and the pilot was trying to make an emergency landing when it went down about 40km (25 miles) southwest of the Khartoum suburb of Omdurman, state news agency SUNA reported.

The Antonov 12 transport plane was travelling to El Fasher in northern Darfur, military spokesman Al-Sawarmi Khalid said.

Thirteen people initially died and nine were injured in the crash, all of them military personnel, he added. Two of the injured later died of their wounds, SUNA reported.

There have been several crashes in Sudan in recent years, where years of U.S. sanctions have made it difficult for airlines to get spare parts for their fleets. Antonov aircraft are Russian built however and not subject to sanctions.

The plane belonged to Azza Air, the state-linked Sudanese Media Centre reported. An Azza cargo plane leased by Sudan Airways crashed in the United Arab Emirates in 2009.

In August, 32 people including a government minister died when a plane taking them to an Islamic festival crashed in a southern border state. State media blamed that accident on bad weather.

A military helicopter crashed in the country’s North Kordofan state in December because of a technical failure, killing six crew members, the military said at the time.

The armed forces has formed a committee to investigate “the reasons for the recurrence of Antonov aircraft accidents”, SUNA said.

Government forces have been battling an insurgency in Darfur since rebels took up arms in 2003, accusing Khartoum of neglecting the remote region.


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Kenya Airways resumes flight schedule

(The New Times) – Kenya Airways resumed normal operations yesterday, bringing to an end a weekend strike by pilots which had left many passengers stranded.

The pilots had earlier withdrawn their “goodwill” with the management of the airline, citing a misunderstanding on on-going Collective Bargain Agreement negotiations with their union and management.

Asked to explain, Kenya Airways said in a statement that “Goodwill” is when pilots are voluntarily available to work for certain hours during off time but within legal limits as approved by the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA).

The situation caused major delays at airports, including Kigali, where the airline operates daily flights.

“Due to the shortage of pilots in the country, Kenya Airways has traditionally negotiated an agreement with KALPA that requires its members to be voluntarily available to work for certain hours during off time, which is known as goodwill, but within legal limits approved by the KCAA.

“The standoff has been caused by a misinterpretation of the rules on working procedures leading to the current disagreement between the Union and Kenya Airways management,” reads a statement from the regional giants.

KALPA is the Kenya Airlines Pilots Association.

In the statement the Kenya Airways CEO, Titus Naikuni , noted that: “With the goodwill reinstated by KALPA, we are now working expeditiously to ensure normal services resume and expect all scheduled flights today to be crewed for operations.”

“Kenya Airways will continue to operate its flights, we are doing our best to ensure a smooth provision of services and we apologize for any delays,” he added.

Kenya Airways operates about 10 flights per week between Kigali and Nairobi.


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Somali president names political newcomer as prime minister

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — Somalia’s president has appointed a new prime minister, a businessman who worked as a government economist in the 1980s.

Abdi Farah Shirdon was named prime minister on Saturday. President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said he appointed Shirdon in part because of his academic background.

Shirdon said he would form a “quality” Cabinet that will not tolerate corruption. He said the government he forms will move past the disputes Somali political leaders have engaged in previously.

Shirdon studied economics at Somalia National University in the 1970s. He served as an economist in the ministries of finance and agriculture in the 1980s. Shirdon is married to a Somali member of parliament.

Shirdon left Somalia in 1991, when the last fully functioning government collapsed. He relocated to Kenya.


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French hostage in Somalia pleads for release on video

(FRANCE 24) – Three years after he was abducted in Somalia, French secret agent Denis Allex made a rare video appearance pleading with French President François Hollande for his release. Little is known about one of France’s murkiest hostage situations.

Looking pale and gaunt after three years of captivity, a French secret agent who was abducted in 2009 by Islamist militants in Somalia issued an emotional plea to French President François Hollande to secure his release, in a videotaped statement posted on jihadist forums this week.

The slickly produced video clip titled “Message to François Hollande” features a bearded Denis Allex reading out a statement in his native French. The four-minute video also offers English subtitles.

“I record this message, which I direct to you personally in the month of July 2012, three years after my abduction, three years away from my family, my wife and my children; three years of solitude,” reads the English transcript of his statement.

A graphic credit at the end of the video features the imprint “Al-Kataib”– the media arm of the Somali al Shabaab Islamist movement – and is dated August 2012.

But the four-minute clip was only released Thursday by SITE, a US-based private service that monitors extremist websites.

The video was apparently shot to coincide with Hollande’s assumption of the French presidency following his May 2012 election victory over then-president Nicolas Sarkozy.

It is not clear why the tape took so long to surface.

When questioned by FRANCE 24, a French Foreign Ministry spokesman declined to comment on whether French intelligence was aware of the existence of the video over the past few months.

“In these situations, which are particularly complex, we must be very discreet in the interest of our hostages, and in the interest of Denis Allex,” said French Foreign Ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot.

Speaking Friday at a press conference in Paris, Lalliot said the video was in the process of authentication and he stressed that the French government was doing its best to secure the release of the captured Frenchman.

According to Adam Raisman, a senior analyst at SITE, there’s often a time lag between production and release dates of jihadist media messages.

“Al Shabaab often produces media that it’s not able to release as soon as it would like,” said Raisman in a phone interview with FRANCE 24. “Some audio messages can be posted immediately, but video messages can take longer. Dates marked on videos are also difficult to ascertain.”

A murky case of captivity

It’s just one of many details that have been difficult to confirm in a shadowy case that, more than three years later, continues to generate more questions than answers.

French authorities – including France’s external intelligence agency the DGSE (Directorate-General for External Security) – have been tight-lipped about the issue.

In a country where hostages – such as the French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt – can become household names with giant banners draped on public buildings demanding their release, Allex’s captivity has generated little public attention.

Even his captors – the group al Shabaab, linked to al Qaeda and a particularly prolific communicator on jihadist forums – have been relatively silent about their French hostage.

“There have been only two videos of Denis Allex since he was captured,” said Raisman. “One video was released in June 2010 and the second one was released on Thursday. Between those dates, there have been no communiqués, no messages about him.”

A suspicious escape

The circumstances surrounding Allex’s capture have been also been murky.

Allex – along with another French secret agent, Marc Aubriere – was seized on July 14, 2009 from a hotel in the Somali capital of Mogadishu.

At that time, the two men were identified as security consultants posing as journalists. The pair was purportedly in Somalia to train troops from the UN-backed interim government, which was then battling al Shabaab and other Islamist rebels.

The two were believed to have been separated during a gun battle between al Shabaab and another Islamist group, Hizbul Islam.

A month later, Aubriere got away from his Hizbul Islam captors. In an interview with the BBC’s Somali service, Aubriere said he managed to slip out at midnight while the guards were asleep.

But many Somalis found it hard to believe Aubriere’s version of events – including the assertion that he walked through a dangerous city like Mogadishu unharmed and unnoticed for five hours.

French officials, however, categorically denied that any ransom was paid for Aubriere’s release.

Not a favourable time for negotiations

In the statement released Thursday, Allex said he hoped Hollande’s “handling of my case will be different from that of President Sarkozy and his government,” before blaming his detention on France’s policies toward Islam.

“The door to negotiations are still open if you are sincere and honest,” said Allex. “It is your duty towards me, since I was taken hostage whilst working for France.”

But according to Roland Marchal, a leading Somalia expert at the Paris-based CNRS (Centre national de la recherche scientifique) it’s a particularly difficult time to try and secure the release of al Shabaab captives.

“Al Shabaab have lost ground, their organization has weakened. The frontline is moving and communication channels are tricky,” said Marchal. “All this means the climate is not very favourable for negotiations.”

Over the past few weeks, al Shabaab has been steadily losing ground since it was forced out of Mogadishu in August 2011.

Last month, a reconstituted Somali Army – assisted by African Union troops – captured the key southern Somali port city of Kismayu. The loss of Kismayu port is a major blow to al Shabaab militants, depriving them of revenue from taxing local businesses and shipping interactions.

Experts believe the loss of territory could lead al Shabaab to conduct low-level yet deadly attacks such as suicide bombings in Mogadishu. Under such circumstances, the fates of al Shabaab hostages are particularly fragile.

In his latest video message to Hollande, Allex warned that he feared for his life.

“Mr. President, I am still alive but for how long? That depends on you, for if you do not reach an agreement for my release then I am afraid this will be the last message you receive from me,” he said.


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Uganda free from deadly Ebola virus

(CBSNews) – Uganda has declared itself free of Ebola, the World Health Organization announced Thursday.

The last confirmed case of the disease that causes a potentially deadly hemorrhagic fever was on August 3 and was discharged from the hospital 21 days later. A total of 24 cases were reported, including 17 deaths, the WHO said in a statement.

“WHO does not recommend that any travel or trade restrictions be applied to the Uganda with respect to this event,” said health officials.

The Ebola virus causes Ebola hemorrhagic fever (Ebola HF), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms include fever, headache, joint and muscle aches, sore throat, and weakness, followed by diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach pain. Rashes, red eyes, hiccups and internal and external bleeding are also symptoms that are sometimes presented.

In July an outbreak of Ebola virus tied to a funeral began to infect residents of the African nation. The first victim of the Ebola outbreak was a 3-month-old girl and of the 65 people who attended her funeral, 15 later contracted the deadly disease. At least 11 people who attended the funeral died from Ebola, according to previous reports.

Health officials declared the outbreak under control in August after creating an “Ebola contact list’ to isolate 176 people who had contact with people infected with Ebola.

Once the maximum incubation period for Ebola was met by the last infected patient, officials at Uganda’s Ministry of Health declared the outbreak over.

An unrelated Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo may have infected up to 108 people, killing 31. The outbreak was blamed on tainted bushmeat that local villagers hunted.

The WHO has yet to declare that outbreak over.


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Uganda Starts New Education Programme dubbed, ‘Skilling Uganda’

(New Vision) – Uganda has unveiled a new education programme dubbed, ‘Skilling Uganda’ meant to introduce short courses for school leavers at Primary Seven, Senior Four and Six, school dropouts and graduates.

These courses will lead to the award of certificates recognised by the Government and other countries. It will also give learners an opportunity to go through a parallel education programme to that of formal education, meaning learners under ‘Skilling Uganda’ can also be awarded certificates, diplomas, or bachelors’ and masters’ degrees.

This implies that one can become a mechanic, agriculturalist, florist, fashion designer, machinist, architect, chef, veterinerian, soil scientist or a technician without necessarily going through the formal education system. The programme was launched on Tuesday by President Yoweri Museveni at Jinja Vocational Training Institute.

The education minister, Jessica Alupo, confirmed that there will be a special examination body to assess whoever will be attending these short courses. Learners will be assessed on what they can do, other than what they can recall as it is for most examinations under formal education. It will cost the Government about sh2trillion in a period of 10 years to have the new system of education implemented. Almost 41,927 students will be admitted in various institutions by 2016/2017.

This will be an alternative to be reliance on formal education for one to get official internationally recognised certificates.

The new education system will be for short courses, individualised, practical and flexible, compared to the current long-term, credential-based, full-time and rigidly structured system.

“All Senior Four leavers and those who dropped out will be enrolled at various levels in the new skills development system of education. Graduates will also be accommodated,” the education ministry’s permanent secretary, Francis-Xavier Lubanga, said.

He said the move is aimed at making sure that most Ugandans attain skills meant for the country’s development.

There has always been a negative perception about business, technical and vocational education and training plus low funding; a move that will change with the new system.

The Government plans to hire temporary assessors to examine leaners under the revised system of education, build and renovate more institutions all over the country as well as hire more staff for its effective implementation. Currently, the Government has already identified and developed 61 occupational profiles and training packages, basing on what the job market requires and the quantity of graduates. Meanwhile, the Government plans to establish a Skills Development Fund to co-ordinate the public, private and informal sector in strengthening the new education system.

‘Skilling Uganda’ is meant to reduce unemployment and increase entrepreneurship in the country. Youth unemployment has been increasing over the years.

In 2005/6, 7.8% of the youth were unemployed and the figure had gone up to 10.1% by 2009/2010. Skilling of Ugandans is expected to bridge the gap of youth unemployment.

The Uganda business, technical and vocational system is relevant to economic growth. This is because it equips Ugandans with the right set of skills to make a living through self-employment and enables companies to compete in domestic, regional and international markets.

The deputy principal, Lugogo Vocational Training Institute, Olam Omita, says ‘Skilling Uganda’ is, “The way forward if we want Uganda to grow.”

“The public should join us and promote it because the majority of our people do not know what vocational training is. I wish the Government had made it compulsory after, say Senior Four, for a year before one continues with formal education,” he added.

Mauda Rutaremwa, the principal of Rukingiri Technical Institute, said the Government has made a giant leap forward. Hiram Mwalye Musungu, who heads Kibatsi Technical Institute, said it is a positive development because the formal education institutions could absorb all the country’s young people. David Iga of Kisubi Technical Institute, however, says there is nothing new about the programme.


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South Sudan rejects any more talks on Abyei and vowed to discuss the fate of Heglig/Panthou

Juba/Khartoum (Sudan Tribune)— South Sudan said it would not hold further talks with Sudan on the disputed area of Abyei and vowed to discuss the fate of Heglig/Panthou in a bid to calm the growing discontent over the outcome of Addis Ababa talks.

The two countries’ presidents, Omer Al-Bashir and Salva Kiir, on 27 September, have sealed a package of cooperation agreements in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, on oil, freedom of movement, trade and security on their common borders.

The agreements provided for creation of a temporary buffer zone between the perceived borderlines while the two parties will continue to discuss on Abyei referendum and their permanent borders as they failed to reach an agreement over the disputed areas including 14 Miles.

In a speech broadcast by South Sudan Television during a meeting of the Jakany Youth leadership council at Nyakuron Culture Centre on Monday evening in Juba, South Sudan chief negotiator Pagan Amum announced that his delegation would hold no further talks on Abyei with Sudan.

“The issue of Abyei is a finished case. There will be no more discussions. On our side as the government, we accepted the proposal by the mediators. President Salva Kiir Mayardit never hesitated but Sudan refused it”, Pagan Amum, he said.

“As of now, there are only two issues. The issue of border demarcation and the issue of claimed and contested areas. These will be discussed in the next round of talks. We will engage Sudanese delegation so that we reach final agreement,” Amum said.

He underscored that Heglig/Panthou had not been conceded to Sudan and it is one of the issues which the two sides would discuss in the next round of negotiation.

“Panthou [Heglig] is one of the claimed and contested areas whose status has not been resolved. If we cannot reach an agreement, we will go for arbitration,” Amum said.

The two countries are expected to resume discussions over remaining issues within a month to finalise negotiations before mediation team submit a report to the African Union Peace and Security Council.

On Abyei, the two countries said committed to implement a protocol providing to hold a referendum to determine if the disputed area will remain in Sudan or join the new independent state of South Sudan.

However, the two parties failed to agree on the participation of the Misseriya pastoralists. While Juba says only Misseriya who resident permanently can vote, Khartoum raise the historical right of the nomads who claim the ownership of the area before the Ngok Dinka.

The mediation recently made a proposal supporting the position of South Sudanese government on the eligibility of Misseriya and called to hold a referendum in October2013. The proposition also asks Juba to give 20% of Abyei oil revenue to the South Kordofan state of Sudan to develop the area where the pastoralists remain during the rest of the year.

Juba immediately accepted the mediation’s proposal and as expected Khartoum rejected it and reiterated its adherence to a previous plan the mediation proposed in November 2010 calling to divide the region if Juba rejects the participation of the nomads who reside for 185 days during the year.

SOUTH SUDAN PARLIAMENT TO ENDORSE THE AGREEMENTS

Lawmakers in the South Sudan’s national legislature are recalled from their recess to reconvene and ratify the Addis Ababa’s agreement with Sudan as opposition against the agreement gains momentum.

The MPs were supposed to remain on recess for three months from last month but because of the urgency of the situation they are asked to report themselves to Juba and convene an urgent sitting in order to ratify the agreement.

Members of the national legislature have also publicly expressed their dissatisfaction with the agreement, particularly on the borders and relationship between the two central banks of Sudan and South Sudan.

The governor of Northern Bahr el Ghazal state, Paul Malong Awan, was the first senior official to publicly express his opposition to the creation of the buffer zone which annexes 14 Miles to Sudan from his state.

Malong publicly announced in Juba on Saturday that he will make sure that the border agreement is not implemented in his presence.

The governor was echoed by a number of chiefs and intellectuals from the state who also described it a bad deal.

SUDAN REFUSES PAGAN STATEMENTS ON HEGLIG

In Khartoum the deals also are received with dissatisfaction by the Misseriya and Reizagat of 14 Miles. Also a far-right party, the Just Peace Forum (JPF) seeks to capitalize on the discontent.

JPF’s daily newspaper Al-Intibaha was the only one to publish Pagan’s statements on Heglig to support its positions hostile to any rapprochement with South Sudan.

The National Congress Party (NCP) quickly rejected Pagan’s statements on Heglig saying that no further region would be added to the list of disputed areas in the talks between the two countries.

Head of NCP organisation sector Hamed Sidiq said that the talks will only concern five disputed areas agreed by the two parties and Heglig will not be among it.

He went further to reaffirm that any other statements are “worthless and baseless”.

The African mediation did not accept to include Heglig in the list of disputed areas when the two parties started the talks under Resolution 2046.


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Four Nigerian peacekeepers killed, 8 wounded in West Darfur ambush

KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Four Nigerian peacekeepers were killed and eight wounded in an ambush in Sudan’s western Darfur region, the international peacekeeper force UNAMID said on Wednesday.

“They were killed last night some 2 km (1.2 miles) from our regional headquarters in El Geneina. They came under fire from all sides,” a spokesman for UNAMID said.

UNAMID, the world’s largest peacekeeping mission, was deployed by the United Nations and the African Union in the arid western territory after fierce fighting in 2003 which forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes.

A total of 42 peacekeepers have been killed since UNAMID was set up, according to the force.

Violence in Darfur, where mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms against the government in Khartoum, has ebbed from a 2003-04 peak but international efforts to broker peace have failed to end the conflict.

The International Criminal Court has issued arrest warrants for Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and other officials to face charges of masterminding atrocities in the region where Sudanese troops and allied Arab militias have sought to crush the rebellion.

Estimates of the death count vary widely.

Sudan’s government signed a Qatar-sponsored peace deal with an umbrella organization of smaller rebel groups last year, but the major factions refused to join.


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South Sudan security forces abusing civilians

JUBA (Reuters) – South Sudan’s security forces are shooting, torturing and raping civilians in the country’s east, rights group Amnesty International said on Wednesday, urging the government and United Nations to do more to stop the abuses.

The army (SPLA) did not respond to numerous phone calls but has previously played down accusations its soldiers have attacked civilians during a disarmament campaign in Jonglei state, saying there have only been isolated violations.

Soldiers and police have been fanning out across Jonglei – home to a huge, largely unexplored oil field – to try and collect thousands of weapons left over from decades of civil war that are now fuelling tribal clashes and a growing rebellion.

The impoverished country, which declared independence from Sudan in July 2011 under a peace agreement, is still struggling to contain ethnic and political tensions across its vast territory.

Amnesty said it had evidence civilians, including children as young as 18 months, had been tortured and abused during the disarmament campaign.

Security forces had looted property and destroyed crops, the group said, adding it had received “credible reports of rape and attempted rape by SPLA forces”.

“Far from bringing security to the region, the SPLA and the police auxiliary forces have committed shocking human rights violations and the authorities are doing very little to stop the abuse,” Amnesty International’s Africa Director, Audrey Gaughran, said in the statement.

The group said the United Nations mission in the country should do more to protect civilians and “(deploy) peacekeepers in areas where there is significant potential for violations by the SPLA”.

Insurgents led by former theology student David Yau Yau have clashed with the army in Jonglei in recent weeks, forcing aid agencies to evacuate international staff from the area.

Yau Yau has been fighting the government since 2010, accusing it of corruption. An announcement on a short-wave radio station linked to his group recently said he was also fighting to defend civilians against army abuses carried out during the disarmament push.

On Sunday, the SPLA repelled a attack by Yau Yau’s forces on the town of Likuangole, killing 31 rebels, Pibor county commissioner Joshua Konyi told Reuters by telephone.

There was no immediate comment from Yau Yau’s forces.

Insecurity in Jonglei has already forced medical aid charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) to suspend work in the towns of Likuangole and Gumuruk over the last six weeks.


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Kenya’s doctors strike to protest the dilapidated state of public health care

NAIROBI, KENYA (AFP) — Doctors in Kenya’s public hospitals on Wednesday spent their 17th day on strike to protest the dilapidated state of public health care. Emergency rooms in some of Kenya’s public hospitals frequently don’t have gloves or medicine, and power outages sometimes force doctors to use the light from their phones to complete a procedure.

Kenya’s government fired 1,000 of the 2,000 striking doctors last week despite a shortfall of skilled medical practitioners. The government had promised to implement reforms in health care last year after doctors walked off the job and held protests.

At least two patients have died due to lack of treatment since the strike started, union officials say, but the government claims health facilities are coping well without the striking workers.

Attempts to hold talks this week with officials from the Ministry for Medical Services failed, prompting the doctors to flood social media with tell-all stories about deplorable conditions in public hospitals.

“Tuberculosis patients meant to be isolated yet they are sharing beds in the corridors meant for walking which have been converted to wards,” Dr. Stanely Aruyaru said in a Twitter posting.

“It is a pity for someone to survive an accident but die in hospital because there is no blood, no Intensive Care Unit, no cervical collar, no splints and now no doctor,” said Dr. Allan Kochi from the Nyeri provincial hospital in the Central Kenya. Dr. Nelly Bosire, the union representative, confirmed that the postings were authentic.

Dr. Fredrick Oluga, told The Associated Press how in mid-August he was called in to help remove the placenta from a woman that was stuck after she had just given birth. Oluga said that that when he arrived there was no electricity at the Vihiga district hospital in western Kenya and the standby generator did not have fuel. And the hospital did not have gynecological gloves for the procedure, he said.

“The patient was bleeding profusely and I had to act quickly so the nurse pointed light from her phone for me to conduct the procedure,” Oluga said. He said twice this year he had to use light from a mobile phone and that such incidents are fairly common across the country.

Health care has been in a deplorable state in Kenya for a long time, but the country’s poor — and many in Kenya — think the state of health care is the norm, said Bosire, the Nairobi branch chairwoman of the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacist and Dentist Union.

Bosire said middle class and rich Kenyans do not realize the problems in public health facilities until they are forced to seek treatment there when treatment in private hospitals becomes too expensive. Public hospitals charge far less than private hospitals, where politicians and top government officials seek treatment, Bosire said.

The two top health officials in the country, Medical Services Minister Anyang Nyongo, who fired the striking doctors and has refused to negotiate with the union, and the Minister for Public Health Beth Mugo, spent months in the U.S. for cancer treatment last year at the taxpayers’ expense, Bosire said.

“We have specialists in this country to treat such cases, though inadequate in number. We just lack the facilities,” she said.

Doctors want the government to spend more money on health care, including hiring more workers. International advocacy groups have repeatedly criticized Kenya for not investing enough in health care. The World Health Organization says Kenya and several other countries in Africa have not met a pledge made in 2000 to increase their health budgets to 15 percent of their national budgets by 2010. Kenya, East Africa’s biggest economy has set aside 6 percent of the total budget. Rwanda, by comparison, allocates 18 percent of the total budget to health care, Bosire said.

Kenya has one doctor for every 6,250 people. The World Health Organization’s recommended ratio is one doctor for 100 people.

Mwalimu Mati, an anti-corruption crusader, says the health care funding shortfall is caused in part by non-essential government spending, like international and domestic travel by government officials. Kenya recently inaugurated a newly refurbished parliament chamber where each of 350 seats cost $3,000.

Bosire said 32 babies less than a month old die in Kenya each day because of a lack of incubators to keep them warm.

“If I must stay on the street to get the infrastructure I need to save life,” said Bosire, “then I’d rather be on the streets, rather than certifying deaths in hospitals.”


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Ethiopia: Kenya power line ready

NAIROBI, KENYA (Business Week)— The African Development Fund will finance a multibillion electricity highway project between Kenya and Ethiopia to the tune of $348 million.

The line will see Kenya achieve its plan of connecting an additional 870,000 households to the national grid by 2018. The government has laid down a plan to ensure that a total of 1,400,000 additional households are wired by 2022.

The board of the continental bank gave a green light to the deal, signaling the beginning of one of Africa’s most ambitious electricity projects connecting two countries.

The African Development Bank has been increasingly involved in multibillion infrastructure projects in Kenya among them the now complete Thika Super-highway which is a multilane highway and the first of its kind in East Africa.

The project will see the construction of a 1,068 kilometres high-voltage DC 500 kV transmission line connecting Kenya and Ethiopia. It is slated for commissioning in mid-November next year.

Once complete, the project will have a power transfer capacity of up to 2,000 MW with mini-stations at Wolyatta in Ethiopia and Suswa in Kenya.

Other financing partners in the project include the World Bank, the French Development Agency (AFD) and the governments of Kenya and Ethiopia

“The financing of this project further underscores our position as the biggest infrastructure funding partner for Eastern Africa. We are committed to partnering with African governments and other development agencies to make the infrastructure dream true,” said Gabriel Negatu, African Development Bank’s Regional Director for East Africa.

Kenya is facing a sharp electricity deficit due to its overreliance on the Seven Folks Dam for countrywide supply. The situation has seen the government through the ministry of energy source for additional power from Independent Power Producers at seriously inflated costs. The country has in the recent past pumped huge capital into energy projects with keen emphasis on renewable sources such as wind and solar.

Ethiopia on the other hand enjoys a comfortable surplus of electricity and the connection with Kenya will see the country earn handsome returns by selling the excess power to the other un deserved East African countries through Kenya.

The long term plan according to the Kenyan Ministry of Energy Officials is to connect the grid all the way to the Southern African Power Pool in what will create electricity supply stability in the region.

“We want to connect East Africa and the Southern Power Poll with our eyes set on a connection all the way to Egypt. This is the only way we can ensure adequate electricity supply on the continent,” said Kiraitu Murungi, Kenya’s Minister for Energy.


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Thousands displaced after heavy rains in Beletweyne

BELETWEYNE/NAIROBI (IRIN) – Several people have been killed and thousands displaced after heavy rains in central Somalia’s Hiiraan Region caused the Shabelle River to burst its banks.

The worst affected areas are around the town of Beletweyne, the provincial headquarters of Hiiraan.

“Flooding in Beletweyne took place late at night between 27 and 28 September… While flooding along the river wateris not uncommon at this time of year, the amount of rainfall over such a short period could not have been anticipated. There was 188mm of rain overnight,” Russell Geekie, head of public information for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, told IRIN in an email.

The night’s 188mm of rain is equivalent to the area’s yearly average rainfall.

“We estimate that 3,500 families have been displaced from Beletweyne town… A number of people have been killed in the flooding,” he added. Fatality estimates range from six to over 20.

Government officials in the area have urged aid agencies to assist the population, expressing concern about the possibility of waterborne diseases if help is not forthcoming.

“We are homeless and, worst of all, do not have food to eat and let alone medical care, so we are requesting the agencies to come and help us,” said Asha Elmi, a resident of Beletweyne whose home was destroyed by the floods.

Humanitarian response ready

According to OCHA’s Geekie, the main humanitarian needs include temporary shelter, latrines, fresh water and food.

“While we were caught off guard by the severity of the rain last week, we had been planning for anticipated flooding. Humanitarians had set up a flood task force,” he said. “With funding from the Common Humanitarian Fund, UNICEF and local NGOs had prepositioned supplies in regional hubs, including water, chlorine and aquatabs [water purification tablets], which a local NGO is already distributing. We anticipate that we will be able to meet people’s other basic needs in coming days and weeks.”

The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) has also been in the area, distributing food and moving flood victims to higher ground.

Further floods expected

Geekie warned that the ‘Deyr’ rains, the short rains that typically fall between October and December, have only just begun, and that there is risk of further flooding and suffering.

“While this is expected to have an overall positive impact on the humanitarian situation in Somalia by contributing to an expected above-average harvest, the short-term consequences that we are witnessing are very serious,” he added. “According to the Somalia Water and Land Information Management (SWALIM)… the rains will have the potential to bring suffering to hundreds of thousands of people living around the Shabelle and Juba rivers. Floods will likely destroy crops, delay the harvest, and contribute to outbreaks of malaria and other waterborne diseases.”

SWALIM, which is managed by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, is working to alert communities about possible floods and how to mitigate their consequences. Mitigating measures include closing intentional breaches in riverbanks, which are used to irrigate crops.

The service has also warned of possible flooding in other areas of the country, including the town of Jowhar – 90km north of the capital, Mogadishu – where the river level is at “full crest”, and other riverine towns in the Lower Shabelle Region and in central and northeastern areas of the country.

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]


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Egypt’s Citadel Capital expresses interest in Uganda’s proposed $2.5 billion oil refinery project

NAIROBI (Reuters) – Egypt’s Citadel Capital could be an investor in Uganda’s proposed $2.5 billion oil refinery project, the Egyptian private equity firm’s managing director said.

Uganda, east Africa’s third-largest economy, has said it intends to build a refinery once it starts producing crude oil, and it recently raised its estimated oil reserves to 3.5 billion barrels from 2.5 billion barrels.

Citadel secured $3.7 billion in financing for an Egyptian petroleum refinery project in June, and the firm’s managing director Karim Sadek said the company is now looking at refining potential deals in sub-Saharan Africa, including Uganda.

“Yes, we would be interested,” Sadek told Reuters in Nairobi, where he addressed a business club. “We know very well what’s happening on the Ugandan oil side and we’ve had discussions before.”

He said Citadel never invests in projects without a local partner, and he would not be drawn on the size of the investment the private equity group might make since the refinery plans are still in their infancy.

Uganda has outlined plans to build a refinery in Hoima, about 220 km west of its capital Kampala, and in July the government said it was aiming to take up to a 40 percent stake in the plant with a private investor acquiring the remaining 60 percent. ID:nL6E8IK55Y]

Uganda says it wants a facility with a maximum output of 120,000 barrels per day before production can commence, and that it intends to develop the project in phases, starting with a refining capacity of 20,000 barrels.

However, UK oil and gas explorer Tullow Oil, which operates in Uganda and would have its own output refined there, sees a plant with capacity of 60,000 as more viable to attract investors.

Sadek, who is confident the two sides will reach a compromise, said a major impetus behind Uganda’s desire to develop its own refining capabilities is an inadequate transport infrastructure.

Uganda currently imports all its fuel, and its policy to become self sufficient was given added urgency by extreme shortages suffered when transport routes from the Indian Ocean were blocked during post-election violence in Kenya in 2008.

Citadel, which has $9.5 billion in investments across Middle East and Africa, is already present in Uganda as the majority owner of Rift Valley Railways (RVR), the track operator of the Kenya-Uganda railway line, which stretches 930km from the Indian Ocean port of Mombasa to Kampala.

Sadek said RVR hopes to start refurbishing a northern branch of Uganda’s railways which has been derelict for more than 25 years and passes around 90km from the South Sudanese border, compared with currently useable lines nearly 500km from the main crossing into South Sudan.

“(The refurbishment is) a game changer for transport efficiencies for South Sudan because today South Sudan either trucks all the way from Mombasa or from the end of the rail, wherever that is,” he said.

“It will have a huge impact on costs of everything.”


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Somalia Deploys Government Soldiers in Captured Former al-Qaeda Stronghold

(Bloomberg) – Somalia deployed government soldiers in the center of the port city of Kismayo, three days after African Union forces captured the stronghold of al-Qaeda-backed Islamist militants, an eyewitness said.

“Armed government forces together with armored vehicles have been seen in the city,” Ibrahim Abdi Sheikh, a businessman in Kismayo, said in a phone interview today. General Ismail Sahardiid, the general commander of Somali forces in the southern Juba region, didn’t answer his mobile phone when called for comment today.

African forces seized Kismayo on Sept. 28 in what Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki said marked a turning point in the war against Islamist militants who have been seeking the ouster of Somalia’s United Nations-backed government since at least 2006. Kenyan forces entered Somalia last year following attacks on tourists and aid workers in Kenya and are now fighting under an African Union mandate.

Kismayo was a strategic target because it’s been a key supply route for al-Shabaab, an affiliate of al-Qaeda, and a source of taxes the group collects, according to the UN. Income from Somali ports has generated as much as $50 million a year for al-Shabaab from illegal trading, the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia said in a report last year.

African Union forces haven’t been deployed in Kismayo yet, Colonel Ali Hamud Aden, a spokesman for the African Union Mission in Somalia, said by phone today from Mogadishu.


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Kenya tobacco firms lobby against WHO

NAIROBI, Kenya (CapitalFM)– The Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) held a meeting last week to facilitate a national position on the need to have policies that recognise both national laws and other multi-lateral obligations.

The need to have sound policies that support the public sector’s commitment to multi-lateral trade engagements is needed to avoid the creation of unbalanced laws, whose consequences could have unintended negative consequences.

The forum brought together different stakeholders from both the public sector and tobacco industry to discuss the direct impact of implementation of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) framework convention on tobacco control (FCTC) in the region.

KAM Chief Executive Officer Betty Maina said that the health objectives of the WHO FCTC can be achieved through balanced, pragmatic, science and evidence-based policies that are consultative and widely-canvassed.

“Positions and legislation adopted by regional member states should fulfill obligations in terms of trade and health without infringing the rights of the other sector,” she said.

“The challenge the sector faces today is that the developments taking place at the WHO – FCTC have been challenged at the World Trade Organization (WTO) as directly impacting on trade and violate member states commitments under the WTO,” she said.

Maina added that the implementation of FCTC has neither been guided by local policy and legislative frameworks nor aligned to binding obligations under regional and multilateral trade agreements.

“Some of the FCTC proposals include discriminatory measures targeting price and taxation of tobacco products, measures aiming at the elimination of tobacco leaf production through introduction of alternative crops and product ingredients regulation,” she explained.

She told the meeting that the tobacco industry continues to play a key role in generating government revenue and job creation and that any development towards controlling its activities must be sensible and administered according to individual country laws.

“Other than tax revenues, tobacco growing represents an important economic activity in Kenya,” she emphasised.

“It cuts across the tobacco leaf processing and agro-processing industries in terms of source of employment and income,” she added.

In East Africa, Kenya leads the way with 40,000 contracted farmers.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation says that seven percent of Kenya’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) comes from tobacco growing, which translates to Sh5.54 billion ($65 million) in exports.

Uganda has some 75,000 farmers under contract while Tanzania has a high of 95,000 farmers growing tobacco.

In both cases, tobacco contributes five percent of the respective countries’ GDP.

“The tobacco farmers have largely been left out of the conversation on the push to migrate them from growing tobacco to other cash crops,” Maina explained.

“There has also not been sufficient research or impact assessment on the proposed alternatives,” she added.

Although FCTC has been pushing for a gradual migration of farmers from tobacco as a cash crop, KAM fears that such a plan will increase the poverty levels among the regions growing the crop.

Such an idea, would adversely impact more than 1.5 million tobacco farmers in other East African Communities and Common Markets for Eastern and Southern Africa countries like Malawi, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Uganda and Tanzania.

“We feel that the long term goal should be aimed at restoring and entrenching good agricultural practices like crop rotation and environmental sustainability,” Maina explained.


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Ethiopia plans to lease land to foreign investors despite human rights concerns

ADDIS ABABA: In a move that already has Ethiopia’s activist community on edge, the government has announced it will lease land to developers and investors despite widespread concerns over human rights abuses of rural citizens in the country.

On Friday, the government announced it would lease 100,000 hectares of land to local and international investors.

But activists told Bikyamasr.com that “much of this land was taken illegally and there have been reports of violence and murder in rural areas over land and the government.”

The Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture said details on the leases will be provided in the upcoming budget.

The ministry indicated that it had prepared large fertile tracts of land in Gambella, Benshangul-Gumuz, Oromia and Amhara states to be offered to investors.

Already, a large number of foreign investors are competing for the government’s favor in various agro industries in the country, mainly Indian and Saudi investors.

The move, however, comes on the heels of reports of forced removal of farmers and villagers from areas by local and international human rights groups.

The government maintains that the land to be offered to investors is “free from any abuse.”

This past week, Ethiopia’s Anuak indigenous people filed a complaint with the World Bank Inspection Panel that puts blame on the World Bank and the Ethiopian government for human rights abuses over its “forced villagization” program in the country.

According to the complaint, the indigenous population is claiming the World Bank-financed and administered Protection of Basic Services Project (PBS) had resulted in the direct contribution to the government’s forcing of resident to establish villages

“Villagization plans have been implemented by Ethiopian public servants, who are paid through the World Bank-financed project,” reported Bank Information Center.

PBS has provided $1.4 billion in budget support for basic services to the government of Ethiopia since 2006, according to the World Bank.

But the indigenous population said that the program was supposed to be on a volunteer basis only and they have accused the government, with the World Bank’s knowledge of using force and violence to force citizens into the villagization.

There have also been reports of violence including rape and torture in military custody and extra-judicial killing.

“Ethiopia’s villagization plan sees people in four other regions of Ethiopia being resettled as well. In total, the project calls for the resettlement of approximately 1.5 million people by 2013,” the report stated.

While not directly linked in this complaint, the United Kingdom could also face a lawsuit over its role in aid to Ethiopia after a farmer alleged human rights abuses as a result of one of its programs.

According to a BBC report, the farmer, Mr. O, is accusing the British government of responsibility in his eviction and beating as well as having witnessed rapes as part of a “villagization” scheme put forward by the UK government.

Human rights activists Rita Desalgna told Bikyamasr.com in Addis Ababa that the farmer’s accusations have been reportedly corroborated by other residents in the area.

“We have heard and talked to a number of individuals who have reported rape and other violent actions as a result of this program, but it is still unclear if the British government is responsible for the actions of their Ethiopian partners,” she said.

The BBC report said that the farmer’s lawyers say the program “receives funding from the UK Department for International Development (Dfid).”

However, Dfid denied the accusations, saying it does not fund “any commune projects” in the country.

UK aid to Ethiopia is among the East African country’s largest, with the foreign ministry reporting having sent $61 million for the country’s drought problems in the past decade.

“The UK government has been extremely positive in its efforts to assist Ethiopia so I would be surprised if they had any knowledge of the violence and evictions,” added Desalgna.

But the married farmer, a father of 6, told his lawyers from London’s Leigh Day and Co that his family was forced off their land in November 2011 after soldiers from the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) came to the area for the eviction.

His lawyers said he claimed that “several men were beaten, women were raped and some people disappeared” during the resettlement.


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