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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Kenya to introduce new taxes to cover wage increase for Doctors, Teachers

(Bloomberg) – Kenya’s government said it will introduce new taxes and cut spending to cover the cost of a 25.5 billion-shilling ($300 million) wage increase that ended a strike by state teachers, lecturers and doctors.

The measures will raise 40 billion shillings, ensuring that the additional expenditure for the salaries and other unspecified costs is “fully covered,” Finance Minister Robinson Githae told reporters today in Nairobi, the capital.

Teachers at Kenyan state schools began a strike on Sept. 3 to demand a 300 percent wage increase and returned to work on Sept. 24 after reaching a deal with the government, according to the Kenya National Union of Teachers. Lecturers called off a one-week strike on Sept. 19 after being awarded a 33 percent pay rise, the Nairobi-based Daily Nation reported on Sept. 20.

Kenyan doctors yesterday called off a month-long strike after the government agreed to meet their demands, Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union Chairman Victor Ngani said on a broadcast by Nairobi-based Kenya Television Network.

The tax measures announced by Githae today include raising 4.5 billion shillings from a 10 percent excise duty on cash transactions using mobile-phone money-transfer systems such as Safaricom Ltd. (SAFCOM)’s M-PESA product. The government will also receive 14 billion shillings from the African Union for its role in supporting a peacekeeping force in Somalia, as well as 10 billion shillings from surpluses held by industry regulators, he said.

Regulators

The agencies include the Communications Commission of Kenya, the Capital Markets Authority, the Insurance Regulatory Authority, the Retirement Benefits Authority and the Central Bank of Kenya, Githae said.

The teachers’ pay hike will raise an additional 5 billion shillings from increased income tax while expenditure cuts will save the government 12.5 billion shillings, he said.

Kenya, where Tullow Oil Plc (TLW) said in March it’s discovered oil, is also studying a capital-gains tax for the mining, oil, gas and other natural-resources industries, Githae said, without providing more details. He also didn’t specify what spending cuts are planned.

Growth in Kenya, East Africa’s biggest economy, slowed to 3.3 percent in the second quarter from 3.4 percent in the previous three-month period as record interest rates stifled lending.

Monetary policy will remain “tight” in order to curb inflation, Githae said, without elaborating. Inflation slowed for a 10th consecutive month in September to 5.3 percent.


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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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