Kenya Police chief moved

President Mwai Kibaki yesterday removed Major General Mohammed Hussein Ali from the top command of the Kenya Police. In his place, Kibaki appointed Mathew Iteere in a move likely to be seen as favouring the Mt Kenya bloc.

The move has evoked mixed feelings in Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s ODM party. On one hand, Raila and ODM are happy with Ali’s exit. They believe that Ali’s defence of Kibaki’s controversial election victory back in 2007 helped Kibaki retain the presidency when international mediation resulted in the current coalition government. For this reason, Raila has continually been insisting that Ali be fired as part of “police reforms.”

On the other hand, Ali’s replacement is from the Meru tribe – an ethnic group that has traditionally voted with President Kibaki’s Kikuyu ethnic group. Many in ODM see the President’s move as a consolidation of  Mt Kenya’s dominance of powerful state positions.

Maj Gen Ali is now the new Postmaster General. More reactions are likely to follow in coming days. You can read more here:

Change of guard in Kenya’s police force (Daily Nation)

How Ali’s fate was sealed (The Standard)

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‘Economist’ magazine insults Africans

There is outrage over reports published by the UK-based ‘Economist’ magazine, where Africans are depicted as backward and equal to animals.

A child in Africa. Some people see her as a threat.

A child in Africa. Some people see her as a threat.

Two weeks ago, the ‘Economist’ published a series of Special Reports on Africa’s population. The reports express panic that there will be mass starvation, worsening poverty and civil unrest unless Africa sorts out its population “problem.” However, the authors of the article – specifically David E. Bloom – revealed their true fears over Africa’s population growth.

“… in 1950 there were two Europeans for every African; by 2050, on present trends, there will be two Africans for every European….”

According to critics of Western-driven family planning efforts, the prospects of Africans exceeding the population of Caucasians is the cause for all the concern about Africa’s growing population. David Bloom’s statement of Africans exceeding the number of Europeans by 2050 is clear evidence of a racist agenda.

The article equates African women to donkeys: “Their duties barely advance them above a donkey: childbearing and rearing, working in the fields, fetching water from the crocodile-infested river, sweeping faeces from the straw huts …”

Anyone with a fair understanding of Africa will know that people are proud of caring for their homes. It is true that a grass thatch house cannot be compared with an apartment in London but Africans are proud of what they own.

In a particularly patronistic attitude adopted by Bloom in his article, the ‘Economist’ sarcastically compliments African families that have adopted a modern lifestyle: “An emergent African middle class is taking out mortgages and moving into newly built flats … two children is what they want.”

It is sad that the Economist can let Bloom and his ilk get away with such racist-driven comments, more than 50 years after the official end of racism against Africans. It is even more controversial coming in the year when the first black man became President of the United States, and who still has a large extended family in Africa.

By publishing population control propaganda, the Economist has displayed extreme insensitivity and contempt for Africans. But then, this is not unusual for a magazine that promotes homosexuality as indicators of “liberalism,” “tolerance,” and “diversity.” Thank God Africa does not practice homosexuality at a scale acceptable to The Economist’s publishers.

You can read the controversial article by clicking here >>

Grave shortcomings in US Africa operations

by Scott A Morgan

While most advocates of African issues and observers were focused on other things such as the visit to Africa by Secretary Clinton and the Comprehensive Policy Review towards Sudan, an internal investigation of the State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs had very interesting revelations.

Assistant Secretary Johnnie Carson: Current head of the Bureau of African Affairs

Assistant Secretary Johnnie Carson: Current head of the Bureau of African Affairs

What did this report reveal about what the Bureau that will shape the next likely test in US foreign policy?

The Bureau of African Affairs is underfunded, facing staffing shortfalls, burdened with demands and has a public diplomacy program that in the words of the report is “failed.” There are questions regarding the priorities of long term planning. Despite these shortcomings the report by the State Department’s Inspector-General praised the work of the Bureau.

The evaluation into the Bureau took place between April 20th and June 9th of this year. It should be noted that Johnnie Carson who was nominated by President Obama to this post assumed this position while review was underway. Before Mr. Carson took over, Philip Carter III was the acting Undersecretary. The review saw that the time under the stewardship of Mr. Carter as a time of “renewal”. The report sees Mr. Carson as a strong leader for this position.

Some of the lowlights revealed in this report were that several US Embassies have significant morale, staffing and leadership issues. There was also a lack of communication from the regional desks to the front office and disinterest in all posts except those that deal with crisis situations. All in all, this does not bode well for the Secretary of State but could adversely affect decisions made by the President as well.

The lack of foresight in planning affects several aspects of US policy in Africa. One glaring example was in food aid. Quoting the report, “The United States feeds Africa, it is not focusing as it should on helping Africans feed themselves.”

Another example was in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The US provides funds to programs that focus more on medication than on preventing the spread of this deadly disease. Little, if any, resources were allocated for education and combating HIV/AIDS.

Another point of controversy is AFRICOM. This newest command of the US military was resented by members of the Bureau. More often than not, the reason was that the military was getting more money allocated to it then their State Department Counterparts. For example, a military information support team dealing with Somalia received $600,000 while the State Department got $30,000. It should be noted that the military has resources that State either dreams about or resents. The Inspector-General also suggested that the Peacekeeping Training and Support Programs be transferred to AFRICOM if the funding does not increase.

The Inspector-General’s report found that AGOA (Africa Growth and Opportunity Act) has had marginal success due to several factors including poor infrastructure, lack of credit and not meeting the goals imposed by Washington. It also found that within the Bureau, Somalia is the hot button issue but militia activities are a rising concern as well in the US.

This report is both good news and bad news for the Administration. Africa has high hopes and expectations from President Barack Obama. The military Command is better funded for some missions. Morale at the State Department is low but the job is increasingly become more and more crucial on a daily basis.

Nothing improves morale like having some successes. Clearly the State Department needs some when it comes to Africa.

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The author comments on US policy towards Africa and publishes Confused Eagle on the Internet.
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No mercy for rights abusers

As ordinary soldiers and police are arrested for crimes committed 30 years ago, it is becoming clear that there will be no mercy for abusers of human rights. This has clear implications for Kenya’s security forces who are blamed for the disappearances of thousands of people since 2006.

Former police driver, Bernard Kiriinya, seen here in this video grab from a testimony he made to the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights.

Former police driver, Bernard Kiriinya, seen here in this video grab from a testimony he made to the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights.

According to the BBC, a judge in Chile has issued arrest warrants for 129 people for allegedly helping to purge critics of former ruler General Augusto Pinochet. They are accused of taking part in killings and disappearances of dozens of leftists and opposition activists mostly in the 1970s.

The suspects – the largest group so far to face arrest warrants – all worked for the secret police agency, Dina. Many of those named in the arrest warrants are former low-ranking officers who were previously excluded from prosecution for Gen Pinochet’s human rights abuses.

Thousands of activists were killed or disappeared during the 1973-1990 rule of Gen Pinochet, who died in 2006 while awaiting trial.

The arrest warrants cited various Dina operations to track down Pinochet’s opponents, such as Operation Condor – a long-running campaign launched in the mid-1970s to hunt down and kill left-wingers. Condor was a continent-wide operation, also backed by the rulers of Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay.

These are good news for human rights activists in Kenya, who have for long condemned Kenya Police and security forces tactics of abducting people, torturing, then making them ‘disappear.’ It just proves that, someday, the perpetrators of human rights abuses will have to account for their deeds.

There is ample evidence linking the Kenyan government to human rights abuses. United Nations Special Rapporteur Philip Alston released a report early this year accusing the police of human rights violations, including killing people without following due process. The Kenyan National Human Rights Commission,  itself a State body, has implicated police officers and their commanders in heinous crimes against humanity.

By far the worst evidence comes from a former police officer who confessed to participating in what can only be described as an orgy of butchering human beings.

Bernard Kiriinya, a former driver in a police death squad, told the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights that police officers abducted people from homes, roadsides and restaurants. The victims were taken to isolated locations where they were shot dead and the bodies chopped into pieces.

The bodies of the victims were deliberately disfigured with rungus and pangas to conceal their identity. This explains why hundreds of people are listed as missing even though their bodies may be lying in mortuaries across the country.

To what extent was the police command involved? Kiriinya said that Police Commissioner Mohammed Hussein Ali and senior commanders were fully briefed on the activities of police death squads. Officers who were involved in killings regularly received cash payments ranging from Kshs 2,000 (US$25) to Kshs15,000 ($187) for each successful “assignment.”

Police officers outside of the death squads were not spared either. At one time, a Constable hiked a lift in a police Land Rover that was ferrying four Mungiki suspects to Murang’a. On arrival, the four suspects were ordered to get out and lie on their bellies where afterwards they were shot. The innocent constable was also killed in order to conceal the executions.

Unfortunately, Bernard Kiriinya is no longer available to produce further evidence. He was shot and killed in Nairobi soon after his testimony. The gunmen have never been caught. However, the tapes he left behind prove that truth will always defeat evil. Read more of his testimony by clicking here.

The events in Chile, coupled with an increasingly assertive International Criminal Court, means that violations of human rights can never be forgotten. It may take ten years, perhaps twenty years, or maybe even thirty years, but justice will sooner or later catch up with the guilty parties.

Raila foes lick wounds after by-election losses

Opponents of Prime Minister Raila Odinga are now engaged in a blame game after losing two constituencies where by-elections were held in the past week. Raila now feels vindicated in his earlier claims that he can ignore disgruntled legislators and work directly with voters.

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Raila was in an ecstatic mood over the weekend after his ODM party won the Bomachoge and Shinyalu by-elections. The victory came despite intensive campaigning by Raila’s opponents, many of whom are in the same ODM party as Raila. In a political scenario that can only happen in Kenya, ODM officials were campaigning for rival parties in a bid to prove who is bigger or more influential in ODM.

It goes without saying that Agriculture Minister William Ruto, who of late does not see eye-to-eye with Raila, was secretly hoping that the official ODM candidates would fail. Several other ODM legislators who have fallen out with Raila openly campaigned for candidates running on other political parties. These include Omingo Magara, Isaac Ruto and Joshua Kutuny.

In Western Province, the Kenyan African Democratic Development Union (KADDU) of Cyrus Jirongo suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of the ODM candidate. So resounding was ODM’s victory in Shinyalu that Jirongo admitted that his campaign machinery made fatal mistakes that cost his party victory. Jirongo told Citizen Radio that the KADDU candidate, Daniel Khamasi, was not a favourite among youthful voters. Khamasi is a former area MP.

President Mwai Kibaki’s PNU party was so hopelessly disjointed that its presence was hardly felt during campaigns. Appearances by Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka and party leader George Saitoti could not salvage the situation. PNU’s campaign was riddled by wrangling and a total lack of co-ordination. Party members are beginning to question the leadership credentials of Saitoti, who is planning to vie for Kenya’s presidency in 2012.

Still in Western Province, Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi was also ecstatic after ODM’s victory in Shinyalu. This was because the by-elections had been billed as a battle between Mudavadi and Jirongo. Both men are vying for the political control of Western Province. While Mudavadi was born into luxury in the family of the late Moses Mudavadi, Jirongo is largely a self made man who rose to prominence as the head of a KANU campaign outfit in 1992. Jirongo was spotted by former President Daniel arap Moi and appointed to head the Youth for KANU 92 with William Ruto as his deputy. Youth for KANU 92 had access to unlimited cash whose source remains a mystery.

Over the past decade, Jirongo has tried to become political pointman for the Luhya tribe that dominates Western Province. The role of community spokesman was previously played by the late Moses Mudavadi (Musalia’s father) then the late Masinde Muliro and late Michael Kijana Wamalwa. Jirongo is highly contemptuous of Mudavadi who is regarded as a reluctant politician waiting to be given power on a silver platter. Jirongo feels that he has worked hard to get where he is and sees Mudavadi as a spoilt brat unworthy of leadership. This explains why Jirongo is so eager to prove that he can influence voting patterns in Western at the expense of Mudavadi. However, Jirongo’s backing in Shinyalu for former legislator Daniel Khamasi was, by his own admission, a mistake.

That is not to say that the ODM candidate and Mudavadi were exceptionally popular with voters. Shinyalu voted overwhelmingly for ODM and Raila in 2007 and the by-election victory could simply have been a continuation of the trend. Any other person running on the ODM platform had a good chance of winning the seat.

In Bomachoge, voters may have wanted to vote ODM as a means of rectifying what they see as a mistake they made in 2007. The larger Kisii region was perhaps the only part of Kenya where almost all major political parties fared well. The Kisii were split between supporting Kibaki and Raila. After the elections, the Kisii people were violently attacked by their Luo and Kalenjin neighbours for not supporting Raila. This time, the Kisii were eager to show solidarity with their ethnic neighbours by electing an ODM, pro-Raila candidate.

With the by-elections now a closed chapter, the rival camps in ODM are assessing the lessons from that experience and gearing up for the next battle. Raila is unlikely to change his mode of operation and will want to continue working directly with voters. He sees the by-election victory as proof that he and ODM remain popular at the grassroots. The likes of William Ruto, Cyrus Jirongo, Omingo Magara and Joshua Kutuny will also be analyzing their actions. They should learn to present a more united front in future and to choose a viable candidate capable of connecting with voters.

In coming days, Parliament will begin debate on the enactment of a Special Tribunal to prosecute persons responsible for post election violence in 2008. This is likely to be the next phase of the war between Raila and his opponents. It promises to be a brutal showdown where those working against Raila will be eager to make up for their losses in the Bomachoge and Shinyalu by elections. Jirongo has said that he will work to ensure that the Special Tribunal bill flops. “The perpetrators of post election violence must be taken to The Hague,” says Jirongo.

As political contests continue, issues affecting the day-to-day lives of Kenyans have been shunted to the periphery.

Has census really succeeded?

The government has expressed satisfaction with the conduct of this year’s census but many households remain uncounted a week after the census began.

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Kenyan National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) Director, Anthony Kilele, has said that most households were counted by Saturday the 29th of August. The census began on Monday the 24th and is due to officially end on the 31st.

However, by Saturday, many households in Nairobi were yet to see a census officer. Other city residents have found their doors with census markings yet they were not counted, leading to credible fears that census officials may be cooking up statistics.

Fears of faking census data were first raised by COTU Secretary General Francis Atwoli in the middle of the week. Three days after the census began, Atwoli reported that majority of people had not been counted and that it would be impossible to clear the backlog within the allocated time. Kilele has since dismissed the fears saying that there will be no extension after the August 31st deadline.

Fears of manipulating census results have all to do with the perversive ethnic characteristics of Kenya’s politics. The bigger an ethnic group, the greater the influence of politicians from that ethnic group. With the government allocating development funds at constituency level, politicians would prefer a higher population in order to demand a greater share of the development budget.

The ongoing review of constituency boundaries by the Andrew Ligale Commission will place intensified scrutiny on the census results. Parts of Kenya with higher population densities will demand more constituencies, districts and even provinces. Just like the 2007 elections, the census has become an ethnic do-or-die affair.

Corruption has marred the exercise, right from the recruitment and training of census staff. It is said that majority of those recruited for the census are either connected to powerful personalities or paid bribes to get the jobs. In most rural constituencies, unemployed youths protested after census jobs were given to school teachers. The youth were left wondering why civil servants were competing for temporary jobs with the unemployed who, in some cases, were their own children!

Cattle invade Nairobi National Park

A KWS warden has admitted that the numbers of cattle in the Nairobi National Park has reached record levels. Many die in the park due to walking hundreds of kilometres in search of grazing.

Cattle in the Nairobi National Park.

Cattle in the Nairobi National Park.

In a meeting this weekend with the warden of Nairobi National Park Mr. Michael Wanjau, other government officials as well as residents of the area, it was revealed that tens of thousands of cattle are grazing in the Nairobi National Park as a result of the ongoing devastating drought.

Some dead and dying cattle are being butchered on the roadsides which poses a horrific public health situation.

Click here to get details of this story and view more photos >>

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Picture from the Wild About Africa blog

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