Uganda, Burundi to leave Somalia

By Scott A Morgan

If reports from East Africa are true then it appears that Ethiopia will not be the only nation pulling its forces out of Somalia. As a matter of fact the AU Mission in Somalia may be on the verge of collapse.

What could be the influence that would have both Uganda and Burundi consider pulling their troops out of the country? The two countries currently have just over 2800 peacekeepers in the country. The mission which has been in Somalia for a year has to this date failed to halt the violence that permeates the country.

The Transitional National Government which attempted to unify Somalia under a centralized administration is limited to its power base and seat of parliament at Baidoa and the war ravaged capital of Mogadishu. The rest of the country is either under the control of militias or have some form of autonomy that has not been challenged. The increase in the acts of piracy this year cannot be overlooked either.

The decision by Uganda to remove its peacekeepers should not be a huge surprise to many. A deadline for the LRA to once again sign a peace accord with the government has expired. Since there was an ultimatum in place who knows what actions will be taken? Also there has been a ratcheting of tensions along the border with the DRC. Tutsi rebels have seized several border towns and outposts in recent days. So it is possible that Kampala needs the boots back home.

The situation in Burundi however appears more stable. There have been some crackdowns against the political opposition this year and there are chances that Burundi could be drawn into the various conflicts that appear to on the verge of erupting in the Great Lakes of Africa.

At this time the African Union is asking for the UN to send a Stabilization Force to the Somalia. Twice before, the UN has attempted to restore order in Somalia and both attempts have failed. So will the third time be the charm for the UN? Could it restore a strong central government in Somalia or should this country be broken up? Time will tell which will be the proper policy.
The author publishes Confused Eagle on the Internet and comments on US policy towards Africa. Confused Eagle is available at


Kenyan blog closed after Obama tape saga

A Kenyan blog that claimed to possess a tape of President Barack Obama’s wife disclosing his real place of birth has been shut down by an internet provider.

The man behind API

Sammy Kipterer Korir: The man behind API

The shutdown comes days after the blog’s editor, Mr Sammy Kipterer Korir, told of receiving US$500,000 (Kshs39 million) from a source he did not name. More interesting is that, just before the closure, Korir wrote about his shady past spanning the last 30 years.

African Press International (API) was closed by its host, WordPress, for violating the internet provider’s terms of use. WordPress is among the world’s biggest blogging providers alongside Blogger, LiveJournal and Spaces.

Mr Korir, who fled to Norway in the 1980s, has been writing scandalous internet stories on top Kenyan personalities including ministers and chief executives. Some of the stories turned out to be fake. Korir admitted that he invented stories in order to attract a larger audience to API.

In mid-October, with only a few weeks to the US presidential election, API wrote that Michelle Obama made a telephone call to it through a friend in Nairobi. API says it recorded the conversation.

Michelle allegedly told API of President-elect Barack Obama’s actual parentage and place of birth. At the time, Obama’s opponents were attempting to use his Kenyan ancestry to disqualify him from the presidential election. The United States Constitution specifies that a presidential candidate must be an American citizen born within the US.

Incidentally, Barack Obama’s father happened to come from Kenya just like Korir.

API reported of Michelle criticizing the website for being anti-Obama and therefore anti-black. This statement was used by Obama’s detractors to portray Michelle as anti-white in view of her earlier remarks of “whiteys.”

Opponents of Obama frantically begged API to release tapes of the telephone call. It is said that the Fox News network negotiated with Korir to obtain the audio clips but nothing came out of the talks. Many a time, Korir promised to publish the tapes on API but he kept creating one excuse after another.

As a result of the interest generated by the alleged recordings, the API website received hundreds of thousands of visitors from across the world.

On the eve of the US presidential election, Korir said he would post the tapes to influence voting but it was yet another empty promise. His audience got impatient as the Norwegian media began investigations into his sordid past.

Last week, Korir decided to write about his life explaining how he fled to Norway in 1985 due to a criminal case in Nairobi. Korir was charged with defrauding students by pretending to offer placement in foreign universities. The case against him involved Kshs30,000 (US$400) which was a lot of money in those days.

Korir was back in the news when Kenya broke diplomatic ties with Norway in 1987. Korir called a press conference in Norway to announce the decision, yet he was not a staff of Kenya’s diplomatic mission. The Kenyan government quickly issued a statement disowning Korir.

In the 1990s, Korir worked as a secret agent for the Norwegian government and also as a post office cashier.

Last week, just before API was closed, Korir says he received $500,000 from an unnamed source to expand API into its own internet domain independent of WordPress.

Certainly, the self-declaration by Korir did not do much to enhance his credibility. Instead, he lashed out against Norwegian society for demeaning Africans. He attacked Norway’s journalists for being idle and therefore desperate for news that scandalize immigrants such as himself.

It is obvious that Korir has made a lifetime career jumping from one self-created mess to another. He has somehow managed to wiggle himself out of trouble in the past. This time, however, Korir may have landed into more trouble than he imagined.

Kenyan blog in Obama row

An internet news blog operated by a Kenyan journalist has sparked huge controversy over Senator Barack Obama’s actual place of birth.

The controversial webpage

The controversial webpage

The blog has posted a transcript of what it claims was a telephone call by Sen. Obama’s wife, Michelle, accusing the website of spreading rumours by what she called, “American bloggers and other racist media outlets in their efforts to damage a black man’s name.

The Obama campaign has dismissed the interview as fake but the website, African Press International (API) has stood by its story, promising to release an audio of the conversation.

API is based in Norway and edited by a Mr. Korir. API has denied any intentions of malice towards the Obama campaign.

The alleged transcript has attracted wide readership, especially among Obama’s opponents who see it as proof that the Democratic presidential candidate has something to hide as far as his birth origins are concerned. Anti-Obama campaigners view the alleged remarks by Michelle Obama as proof that she is biased against whites.

Our take on the interview? Its hard to tell just who is telling the truth. Click here to read the story for yourself >>

Moi Day Special: Kenya’s second president

On the occasion of Moi Day, the Nairobi Chronicle recalls milestones of the Moi presidency. For better and for worse, Moi’s 24 year presidency will influence Kenyans for a long time to come.


Daniel arap Moi. Picture by CNN.

Daniel arap Moi. Picture by CNN.

Whereas Mzee Jomo Kenyatta was a transitional leader, managing change from colonialism to African majority rule, Moi got into power when Kenya had become a truly African state. With time, Moi’s actions and policies came to resemble those of neighboring states from which Kenya had distinguished itself with its relatively sophisticated socio-economic and political structures.

Moi’s presidency was a contradiction of sorts: on one hand he craved the awe which Jomo Kenyatta got from the public. On the other hand, he wanted to be different from Kenyatta, by being more in touch with the average man in the village.

When he assumed the reigns of government, Moi started traveling in a Volkswagen Kombi, raising eyebrows. As it was argued, such types of conveyance are for ordinary folk, not for a President. However, Moi was determined to get his people. The Kombi was the only vehicle which could grapple with the country’s difficult terrain – dusty roads, hairpin bends, precarious cliffs, unbeaten tracks.

One time, while on his way from Kisumu to Nakuru, Moi expressed the wish to use a short-cut from Sondu through Sigowet to Kericho town. His aides condemned the route as impassable. “Are there people living in the area where this road passes?” he asked and declared he had to tackle the road, passable or otherwise.

After ascending to the presidency on 14th October 1978, Moi pledged to maintain the stability that Kenya had enjoyed since independence. He sought to assure apprehensive citizens, investors and diplomats that he would follow the footsteps of Mzee Kenyatta. But it soon became clear that Moi had his own ideas for the country. Whereas Kenyatta practiced a hands-off style of leadership, Moi preferred hands-on management. He famously said, “Those who want to lead the country must wait their turn … I am the President and every minister must sing like a parrot to my tune.”

While emphasizing national unity, Moi laid great emphasis on the need for dynamism in a globalizing world. Moi can be credited for introducing changes that would have been virtually impossible under the Kenyatta era. Moi’s critics say his initiatives were expensive experiments culminating in failure. However, Moi’s critics are mostly Kenyattaists and had they been in power, the country would have petrified in stagnation. The fact that some of Moi’s programmes did not succeed could be attributed to sabotage by Kenyatta loyalists inherited by Moi’s administration.

As president, Moi’s first decision was to release political detainees from the Kenyatta era. These were politicians, academics, university students and journalists detained for criticizing Kenyatta’s government. Several of them had been in detention so long that they were in a critical condition requiring advanced medical treatment.

During Kenyatta’s presidency, the civil service, security forces and state corporations came to be dominated by members of Kenyatta’s tribe, the Kikuyu. This was not a deliberate policy on Kenyatta’s part but a product of historical circumstances that placed the Kikuyu at an advantage in work skills and entrepreneurial ability. Moi set about creating ethnic balance in government organs by appointing more people from other communities. Eventually, Moi’s Kalenjin tribe dominated the civil service and this evoked resentment among other Kenyans.

Unlike Kenyatta’s appointees, Moi’s tribesmen had little training for their new jobs. Matters were worsened by Moi’s tendency of picking individuals from lowly positions, transforming them into overnight power brokers and later dumping them when they became too big-headed for their own usefulness. Because of this, Moi had neither permanent friends nor permanent enemies. He was loyal to nobody but himself – a true Machiavellian characteristic.

Moi’s most serious challenge was the coup attempt of 1st August 1982. The poorly planned coup attempt by junior officers of the Kenya Airforce was crushed by Army and paramilitary units within a matter of hours. However the coup is said to have awakened Moi to the risks of power and from that day onwards, he took on a higher measure of political self-preservation. After the coup attempt, the security forces were purged of Kenyattaists who were replaced by Moi loyalists. In subsequent elections, politicians whose allegiance was doubtful lost their seats through political machinations engineered by the President’s henchmen.

Between 1982 and the early 1990s, Moi was determined to keep a tab on the opposition and resorted to tactics varying from detention without trial, torture, electronic surveillance, intimidation and outright thuggery. There has never been any direct evidence personally linking Moi with any of these acts and its possible he was misinformed about threats to his administration.

Moi’s political maneuvres provoked a backlash against the ruling Kenya African National Union (KANU). Moi, eager to strengthen the party, had talked Parliament into enacting a constitutional amendment that made KANU the only legal political party. By the late 1980s there were demands for reintroducing multiparty democracy from the growing ranks of politicians seeking alternative avenues for contesting political office. Demands for multipartyism, coupled with pent-up frustration with Moi, led to riots in Kenya’s major towns in July 1990.

The riots were crushed; several dozen people lost their lives. International financiers and Western nations pressurized Moi to open up the political frontiers. Monetary assistance was scaled down – a devastating blow for a government that had 30% of its budget financed from foreign assistance. The international media went on a feeding frenzy and described Moi as a typical African dictator. In December 1991, Moi asked Parliament to amend the constitution and legalize opposition parties for the first time in ten years.

It would be another ten years before opposition parties could win power but only because Moi was no longer a candidate in the 2002 elections. Moi was unbeatable because his opponents often underestimated his intelligence by virtue of his rural-poor origins and heavily accented English.

Among the reasons Moi gave for opposing multipartyism was incitement to ethnic nationalism. Soon after the opposition was legalized, tribal clashes erupted in the Rift Valley and persist to this day. The clashes were sparked by Cabinet Ministers who declared the Rift Valley – Moi’s home province – out of bounds to the opposition. Ethnic groups thought to be sympathetic to the opposition were attacked by Moi’s Kalenjin tribe, houses burnt and farms forcefully occupied. The clashes caused major economic losses as property was destroyed, trading activities disrupted and agricultural production ruined.

Upon the re-introduction of multipartyism in 1992 until the close of his presidency in 2003, Moi stopped being development conscious. Moi devoted his time and energies exclusively to politics because of legalized competition for his job. Political intrigues intensified as politicians sought presidential patronage – and the cash that went with it. Financial scandals became routine in Moi’s government throughout the 1990s as his cronies devised means of acquiring wealth in the shortest possible time.

Moi turned state functions into full time campaign rallies and these were held, not only on weekends, but at anytime during the week. Cabinet ministers and members of parliament, eager to win the favor of the president, tagged along wherever he went. The result: possibly one of the longest Presidential motorcades of an African president. A typical motorcade accompanying Moi consisted of at least 50 limousines with cabinet ministers, heads of state corporations, security chiefs and several diplomats.

Among the notable successes of the Moi presidency was reform of the education system. By the early 1980s, a Canadian educationist said that education should stop producing white-collar graduates. The educationist said the future of labor was one of uncertainty, making it necessary to equip graduates with practical skills that are easily transferable across different work environments. Despite criticism, Moi went ahead and implemented the recommendations.

School children were introduced to home science, business education, agriculture, arts, crafts and music. In high schools, students were taught power mechanics, electricity, accounting, metal work, carpentry, social ethics and sex education. Today, education experts acknowledge the wisdom of imparting practical skills on children, in a world where retraining and career shifts has become the accepted norm.

During Moi’s presidency, thousands of schools sprang up across the country while four additional public universities were built to create a skilled work force.

Regardless of what is said about Daniel arap Moi, the former teacher, legislator, cabinet minister, President and Member of Parliament has left his mark not only on Kenyans but also in international affairs. He initiated peace efforts across Africa most of which were successful. These include Namibia’s independence, Uganda’s civil war negotiations that began the Yoweri Museveni era and the Southern Sudan peace process. Moi’s advice was greatly sought by world leaders such as US President Ronald Reagan, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Chancellor Helmut Kohl of West Germany.

Moi’s presidency began in 1978 with a promise to follow the footsteps of Mzee Jomo Kenyatta. It can be said that Moi fulfilled his ambition of becoming a defining standard. “President Moi has made his own footprints in the sands of time,” said Mrs Thatcher.

With references from Lee Njiru’s article: “The Making of a President.” Kenya Times, December 11, 1997

The fall of Thabo Mbeki

Many within the African National Congress (ANC) believed that Thabo Mbeki was an inveterate plotter, and they had the scars to prove it. Now he has been made to pay the price.

The former South African president’s alleged role in plotting against Mr Jacob Zuma, his former deputy, was the last straw.

While serving as deputy president under Nelson Mandela, it was Mr Mbeki who chaired the key committee that negotiated the controversial $5bn (£2.7bn) deal to modernize the country’s defence force.

Read more on Thabo Mbeki from the Famous people news magazine >>

Kenya – Uganda Railway: A short history

The Kenya – Uganda Railway was built by the Imperial British East Africa company back in the 1890s. Construction of the line began at the Kilindini Harbour in Mombasa in 1895. Around 1900, the line arrived at the present site of the city of Nairobi. Indeed, Nairobi owes its existence to railway engineers who drained a vast swamp, thus enabing the construction of permanent buildings. Indian labourers began commercial activities to cater for railway crews and colonial administrators. The railway arrived at Port Florence (Kisumu) around 1901.

Eventually, the British Government took over the territories of Kenya and Uganda from the Imperial British East Africa Company. In 1920, Kenya became a colony of the Crown under direct administration of the Colonial Office in London.

The railway was expanded from Eldoret to Kampala, bypassing the use of ships on Lake Victoria from Kisumu. Additional branch lines were built from Nakuru to Nyahururu, from Nakuru to Rongai and from Konza to Magadi. The invasion of Ethiopia by Italy during World War 2 forced the British to build a railway from Nairobi to Nanyuki in order to supply its forces. British troops forced the Italians out of Ethiopia and restored Emperor Haile Selassie to his throne.

After independence in the early 1960s, railway and port operations in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania were administered by a single body: the East African Railways and Harbours. The break up of the East African Community in 1977 marked the beginning of the end for the region’s railway system. Each of the three East African countries took up running its own system. In Kenya, railway and port operations were split between two state-owned corporations: Kenya Railways and Kenya Ports Authority. The railway became starved of funds.

In Uganda, civil war between 1979 and 1986 paralyzed railway transport which is yet to recover to this day.

Raila attacks African presidents

Political leadership in Africa is typified more by grotesque examples than by positive role models, said Kenyan Prime Minister, Raila Odinga, during his trip to the United Kingdom.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga in traditional dress

Prime Minister Raila Odinga in traditional dress

Raila also criticized the African Union for welcoming Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe to its summit in Egypt. “The African Union singularly failed in condemning the sham elections in Zimbabwe … You only have to look at the credentials of some of its leaders and know what binds most of them together,” said Raila in remarks likely to distance him from the continent’s leadership.

During his speech at Chatham House, Raila paid tribute to former South African President, Nelson Mandela, Sir Seretse Khama of Botswana and the late Leopold Senghor of Senegal. He described them as positive role models for Africa. The three former African leaders are famous for willingly resigning from power.

According to a press release from the Prime Minister’s office, Raila is heading a delegation comprising government officials and private sector representatives that is in London for an investment conference. The conference aims at promoting Kenya. During the trip, Raila met British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown at No. 10 Downing Street.

Raila had harsh words for African leaders: “Mugabe’s victory was accepted by the world’s longest serving President, Omar Bongo of Gabon, with a strange logic. ‘He was elected, he took an oath, and he is with us, so he is President.”

Analysts say that Raila was disappointed by the lack of support he got from the rest of Africa during Kenya’s election crisis early this year. Raila believes he won the 2007 elections and that President Mwai Kibaki robbed him of victory. Majority of African leaders quietly supported Kibaki and a few, such as Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni, went ahead and recognized Kibaki’s victory.

The East African weekly reported that during initial mediation following the election crisis, President John Kufuor of Ghana told Raila that he was lucky that Kibaki was willing to talk. Kufuor’s remarks made Raila and the ODM party to reject his involvement.

On Zimbabwe, Raila says that ongoing negotiations should recognize MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai as the legitimate winner. However, Zimbabwe did not necessarily have to copy the Kenyan model of a grand coalition government.

In recent weeks, the Zimbabwe government has dismissed Raila’s opinions, saying that Raila has, “blood on his hands.” Violence between Raila supporters and those of President Kibaki left close to a thousand Kenyans dead and half a million displaced. Protests over election results turned into ethnic clashes.

In his London speech, Raila said that Africans should stop blaming the past. “It is pointless for some to look back to yesterday’s colonial period. Most of our people are too young to have known anything except our own independence.”

“Africans may be poor and getting poorer, but Africa is not poor. It has all the resources – human, natural and mineral – it needs for its development, but these have been exploited over the years to support other economies.”