Thursday, January 31, 2008

Rev. Pinkney Persecuted in Berrien County Jail

Rev. Pinkney Punished in Berrien County Jail

Rev. Pinkney is on lock-down for 3 days for shaking hands with a white inmate.

Nothing was said to the white inmate. This is not against Berrien County Jail Rules and Policies. It was racially motivated, just another attack by Berrien County against Rev. Pinkney.

Deputy Hooks went into Pinkney's cell, threw his legal papers all over the bed, and stole his notes and calendar. These contained information about all the incidents in the jail since he's been there.

On Monday the deputy removed a black man from his cell and placed him in the hole, but allowed 2 white men to remain in their cell.

Rev. Pinkney wrote to Sheriff Bailey about this racist move and the very next day he was locked-down.

Racism is out of control in Berrien County.

Please flood with phone calls:

Jail (269) 983-7111 x7231
Gov. Granholm (517) 373-3400 (517) 335-7858
Sheriff Paul Bailey (269) 983-7141
Rep. John Conyers (313) 961-5670

Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Letter to Editor

Butzbaugh confused biblical prophecy with threats


People all over the country are alarmed that the Rev. Edward Pinkney of Benton Harbor has been jailed for quoting Deuteronomy 28 in a newspaper article.

On Dec. 20 Judge Alfred Butzbaugh ruled that the quotation from Moses was inflammatory and threatening and therefore a violation of Rev. Pinkney's probation. Rev. Pinkney is a longtime community leader in the Benton Harbor area and an outspoken opponent of corporate oppression of the poor.

He was convicted earlier this year of voter fraud in a hotly contested trial that many viewed as racially motivated and riddled with constitutional irregularities.

Judge Butzbaugh has made the profound error of confusing Biblical law and prophecy with human threats. Without exception, the role of biblical law and prophecy is to point out the very serious divine consequences for sinful and disobedient behavior.

In his newspaper article, Rev. Pinkney stated that he believes the judge's actions are contrary to God's commandments. He then quotes from Deuteronomy 28: 15-16, 18, 22, and 45 to warn him of the consequences of his actions according to the Word of God.

At no time did Rev. Pinkney state, suggest or imply that he would commit any of these actions.

Indeed, the idea that a human being can cause another to be cursed by God or to be smitten with con sumption, fever and inflammation is a far-fetched and bizarre interpretation.

The Mosaic law and virtually every prophet in the Bible – Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Jonah to name a few – repeatedly predict dire consequences for those who disobey God.

Even Jesus often uses highly inflammatory language and warns us starkly to "repent or perish." The Apostle Paul teaches that we will reap what we sow.

These are profound biblical truths.

To throw someone in jail for simply pointing them out is a fearful assault on the religious rights of every American.

Sandy Perry San Jose, Calif.

Copyright (c)2008 The Herald-Palladium 01/20/2008

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Somali Update: Renewed Resistance Attacks in Capital; Aid Worker Killed; US-backed Forces Retreat

Many killed in Somalia fighting

Thousands of Somalis have been killed or displaced
in the fighting over the past year

Clashes in the Somali capital between Ethiopian-backed interim government forces and opposition fighters have left around 20 dead, including two Ethiopian soldiers, witnesses say.

Mohamud Haji Nur, a tribal elder, said the fighting broke out late on Monday as Somali and Ethiopian troops conducted house searches in Mogadishu's Hiliwa district.

Fighters largely aligned with the defeated Union of Islamic Courts also fired mortars and rocket-propelled grenades at a former pasta factory where the Ethiopians have a military base.

Ethiopians forces responded with artillery shells that struck nearby residential areas, Nur said.

He said his men collected the bodies of 15 civilians.

Mortar attacks

"Some died while fleeing the fighting while others died in their homes when Ethiopian mortars responding to insurgent attacks slammed into their houses," Nur said.

Ali Bashir Ahmed Siyad, another elder, said two Ethiopian soldiers died in the clashes.

Life in a failed state

Separately, the bodies of two young men were retrieved after Monday's clashes in which fighters attacked transitional government forces.

The fighting took place at a junction near the main Bakara market in Mogadishu's south.

The Somali transitional government, formed in Kenya and propped up by Ethiopian forces, has fought a year-long war against Islamic courts fighters.

Kismayo killings

Earlier on Monday, two foreign aid workers and two Somalis were killed by a roadside bomb near the southern port city of Kismayo.

Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF), the medical aid group, said three of the dead were working for the aid agency - a Frenchman, a Kenyan doctor and a Somali driver.

Somalia has not had an effective central government since 1991, and most of the country is controlled by local clan leaders, not Somalia's interim government.

Thousands of Somalis were killed last year in fighting, mostly in Mogadishu.

Source: Agencies

Somalia: UN human rights officer express sorrow over the deaths of the aid workers

Wed. January 30, 2008 01:44 pm.
By Mohamed Abdi Farah

(SomaliNet) Office of the United Nations Resident & Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia Statement from the UN Humanitarian/Resident Coordinator, Mr. Eric Laroche, on the death of MSF-Holland aid workers and Somali journalist in Kismayo.

Yesterday, four people lost their lives in a roadside attack in Kismayo. In one fell blow, when a landmine exploded, hitting a passing humanitarian vehicle, the humanitarian community lost three colleagues from Médecins Sans Frontières-Holland. A member of the Somali media who was on the sidelines of the explosion was also killed.

It is with great sadness that I offer on behalf of the humanitarian community, a message of condolence to the families and co-workers of our slain colleagues. We are all aware of the violent and risky environment that exists in Somalia.

Brave souls such as our departed colleagues Billan, a Somali driver, Damien Lehalle, a French logistician, and Victor Okumu, a Kenyan surgeon, confront those risks on a daily basis to uphold the humanitarian principles, to serve and protect those in need.

Eight media were killed in 2007 making Somalia the second most dangerous place in the world for journalists to work. Hassan Kafi Hared, the Somali journalist who was killed in the explosion, now adds his name to that tragic list.

Ten weeks ago, on the occasion of the death of another aid worker in Somalia, I said that to be an aid worker in Somalia today is to be a hero. It remains one of the most dangerous places to work, where aid workers are the least protected. The same holds true for members of the media who have been frequently targeted, harassed, arrested and killed. These people deserve the utmost protection – not to be the target of a brutal and cowardly attack. Somalia lost four more heroes yesterday.

We must not fail them by losing hope. The ultimate tribute we could pay to their courage and engagement to assist Somali people is to ensure their deaths were not in vain.

The duties they carried out with such commitment – supporting humanitarian assistance, delivering medical care, providing a voice for the Somali story – were to better the lives of all Somali citizens with the hope that one day, their country would become a land of peace and security.

Eric Laroche, UN HC/RC for Somalia
29 January 2008

Somalia government orders military to quit residential areas

Wed. January 30, 2008 10:56 am.
By Mohamed Abdi Farah

(SomaliNet) Somalia's interior minister Muse Nor Amin said on Wednesday that the allied Somali-Ethiopian forces have left some of their key bases inside the capital, Mogadishu by a government order facilitate the displaced people to return to their homes in the city.

Speaking in a press conference in Baidao, the country's southwest city, Mr. Nor has described the withdrawal by the troops as a road map of bringing people's freedom back and ending the military presence in civilian areas.

"As you all know, the troops had made their bases in the city centers and civilian settlements, hence it became important to lift the load on the people. There will never be another terror to the people as a result of military presence inside civilian neighborhoods" he said. Adding "only the police would operate inside the capital to restore peace stability,"

Appealing to the Somali people to work with the police in improving peace, the minister told in his statement the police will do their obligation of protecting the country and its people and the military will help when there is a bigger security threat.

These troops will be taken to military bases far from the people according to the ministry, but the minister has not mentioned any specific camps in the country.

Tens of Thousands of IDPs who had fled Mogadishu for the continuing fighting now live in make shift camps in the southern outskirt of the capital.

This is a supportive measure for Mogadishu residents to return their homes in the withdrawn villages who exhausted staying under the tress outside the capital—watching any development from the new administration, but insurgent's swift dominance of these areas will be another distress to the suffering people.

Sudan in Fresh Bid to Chair African Union


Sudan will seek to head the African Union during the continental body's upcoming summit at its headquarters in Addis Ababa, a Sudanese official said.

Sudan's two previous bids for the AU's rotating presidency have been unsuccessful due to reservations over Khartoum's rights record in the western region of Darfur, but the official said the fighting had subsided.

"It is obviously our turn to chair the AU. The situation in Darfur has improved, so there is no more obstacles to that," said the official, who is a delegate to the three-day summit that kicks off on January 31.

"We'll have discussions among the eastern region countries. If they refuse they'll have to explain why and give us good reasons and to convince us," he added.

However, foreign ministers meeting ahead of the summit have still expressed reservations about Sudan's plans to take over from Ghana, which currently holds the chair that rotates yearly among the AU's 53 members.

"This will not help discussions. This candidature tends to take people aback when the consensus seems to be on Tanzania to succeed Ghana," an AU Commission official told AFP.

Although Sudan has accepted United Nations peacekeepers in Darfur, the mission has faced reticence from the Khartoum government.

The mission, the UN's largest, is set eventually to consist of
20,000 troops and 6,000 police and civilian personnel, but only around 9,000 troops and police are currently in place.

At least 200,000 people have died and more than two million have fled their homes since ethnic minority rebels took up arms against Sudan's Arab-dominated regime in February 2003.

South Africa: "Don't Blame Minister For Home Affairs Mess"

'Don't blame minister for home affairs mess'

Cape Town, South Africa
29 January 2008 04:06

Home Affairs Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has done her best to try to bring order and stability into the chaotic Home Affairs Department, MPs heard on Tuesday.

"The political responsibilities have been exercised boldly, and we are working towards an unqualified audit," Deputy Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba told the National Assembly's home affairs committee.

Committee chairperson Patrick Chauke earlier said: "For the past few years there had been this chaos we had to deal with in the department. We are sick and tired of having to deal with the same problems time and again."

Gigaba, who was presenting the department's 2006/07 annual report to the committee, cited the task team and the turnaround experts brought in by Mapisa-Nqakula as some of the interventions she has made to improve the situation.

Chauke said Gigaba and Mapisa-Nqakula should take more responsibility and account to the committee on many of the department's weaknesses. He said it is unacceptable that the department has been regularly getting qualified audits from the Auditor General.

Gigaba and Mapisa-Nqakula should brief the committee on what they have done to prevent poor financial management at the department, he said.

Gigaba said it would be incorrect to expect the department's political leadership to interfere directly with its management, as that is the responsibility of the director general.

He said current Home Affairs Director General Mavuso Msimang is taking care of many of the managerial issues, including the suspension of chief financial officer Pat Kambule on charges of financial mismanagement.

The political leadership has to allow the disciplinary process to reach its conclusion and "not act like inexperienced hotheads".

Gigaba said he and Mapisa-Nqakula are also concerned about the department's failure to deliver. The department is currently introducing new systems and qualified people are being hired, he added.

"We have also realised that the absence of financial skills and systems had made it easier for corruption to take place," he said.

Briefing the media earlier on Tuesday, Msimang said it is unfair for people to blame him for the current problems in the department, as he has been in the job for less than a year.

He said he is confident that the department will not get another negative audit in the 2007/08 financial year. -- Sapa

PRETORIA 28 January 2008 Sapa


Tributes continue to pour in for SA Democratic Teachers Union deputy secretary general Don Pasquallie who died in a car accident in the Western Cape on Sunday.

In a statement issued on Monday, Education Minister Naledi Pandor expressed her sadness at the 41-year-old's death.

"He was a highly respected unionist and leader, whose career spanned the most important years of transformation in our education system.

"I was fortunate enough to have met and worked with him. I send my sincerest condolences to his family," said Pandor.

Police spokesman Superintendent Billy Jones said the accident
happened on Sarel Cilliers street in Napier.

"Allegedly the driver of a double cab lost control and veered off the road. The vehicle was found lying on its roof with five passengers inside including Pasquallie, his brother and three friends," said Jones.

The SA Communist Party said it had learnt with "great sadness and shock" of Pasquallie's death.

"As a true communist. He had served the trade union movement with dedication and commitment. He was dedicated to the radical transformation of the South African education system and was an ardent and committed fighter for educators' rights," said SACP spokesman Malesela Maleka.

The SACP said it would miss Pasquallie who served on the Western Cape provincial executive committee of the SACP since 1998.

"We will sorely miss the role of Pasquallie in our party structures and programmes in that province.

"We extend our heartfelt condolences to his family, friends and colleagues," said Maleka.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Kenya News Bulletin: Unrest After Opposition MP Shot Dead; US Senate Bill Introduced; Leaders Must Demand Peace, etc.

Riots after ODM MP shot dead

Story by NATION Reporter
Publication Date: 1/29/2008

Riots have erupted in several Nairobi residential neighborhoods following the murder of the Orange Democratic Movement’s Embakasi MP Mugabe Were.

Police and witnesses said that the MP arrived at his Woodley Estate home shortly after midnight and was shot as he waited for his gate to be opened.

A team of ODM legislators led by Raila Odinga are currently meeting at the house and are expected to issue a statement later.

President Kibaki has sent his condolences and appealed for the public not to rush to any conclusions on the MP’s killing until police investigations are completed.

Riots have been reported in Nairobi’s Ngong Road, Kawangware and tension in Kibera and Ayany areas. The three areas are close to the MP’s Woodley Estate house.

Chaos were also reported in Dandora and Kayole in the late legislator’s Embakasi constituency.

Tension heightened after paramilitary police visited the late MP’s home and lobbed teargas at a crowd of mourners before chasing them into the house.

The Kilimani police boss Herbert Khaemba later apologized for the police action: “I apologise for what has happened. I did not instruct the officers to throw teargas into the compound or even enter the compound.”

A guard who was manning Mr Were’s gate said he heard the MP hoot followed shortly by gun shots.

“I climbed over the gate and saw two people holding guns. I screamed for help and it was then that they disappeared,” the guard told journalists. He then looked over and saw the MP lying beside his car.

He said assisted Mr Were’s family to rush the wounded MP to hospital but he was pronounced dead on arrival.

Doctors said that the bullets had caught the victim in the eye and chest.

Police spokesman Eric Kiraithe, who addressed the Press following the shooting, said that they would treat it as murder. He said they had not ruled out political motives.

Mr Kiraithe appealed for any member of the public who might have information that would assist detectives solve the murder to step forward and offer it.

The police spokesman said they would allow any interested parties to either join the police or to conduct parallel investigations in the interest of arresting the culprits.

US senators table Bill on Kenyan crisis

Kenya Daily Nation
Publication Date: 1/29/2008

A Bill has been tabled in the US Senate to discuss the political standoff in Kenya, with a view of giving the States’ position on the crisis.

Initially introduced by Senator Russell Dana ‘Russ’ Feingold from Wisconsin for himself and his colleague John E. Sununu of New Hampshire, the senators want President George W. Bush to declare his stand on the crisis in Kenya.

The senators also say President Bush should support efforts facilitating dialogue.

In addition, the Bill proposes personal sanctions, travel bans and an asset freeze on PNU and ODM leaders and other actors who refuse to engage in meaningful dialogue to end the current crisis.

“The US should review its aid to Kenya for the purpose of restricting all non-essential assistance to Kenya unless all parties are able to establish a peaceful political resolution,” the Bill says.

This Bill is in the first step of the legislative process. In America, Bills first go to committees that deliberate, investigate, and revise them before they go to general debate.

Committee stage

Most Bills never make it out of the committee stage. And sometimes the text of one Bill is incorporated into another.

On January 25, this particular Bill was sent to the foreign relations committee.

Co-sponsors of the Bill include probable presidential contenders Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, whose ancestry is traced to Kenya.

The others are: senators Joseph Biden, Barbara Boxer, Sherrod Brown, Samuel Brownback, Benjamin Cardin, Norm Coleman, Christopher Dodd, Richard Durbin, Charles Hagel, Thomas Harkin, Edward Kennedy, John Kerry, Robert Menéndez and Olympia Snowe.

“There should be a thorough and credible independent audit of election results with the possibility, depending on what is discovered, of a re-count or re-tallying of presidential votes or a re-run of presidential election within a specified time period,” the senators stated.

They also urged an end to restrictions on the media and rights of peaceful assembly.

Learning in Nyanza on its knees

Kenya Daily Nation

Nyanza Province was once famed for its intellectual contribution. This is no longer the case especially now with the raging election-related violence.

The majority of schools in about 10 districts are yet to open for first term. School in most other parts of the country opened three weeks ago.

Last week, the Government ordered that all schools in the affected to open by yesterday.

Provincial commissioner Paul Olando promised to deploy adequate security to the schools.

However, many of the schools, especially in Kisumu Town, were still shut yesterday.

Fresh riots in the morning forced parents, who had earlier taken their children to school, to go back and collect them.

In some schools, children were asked to return home by the schools’ administration as violence erupted in different parts of the town.

This is the third week of the first term in the schools’ calendar.

The provincial director of education, Mr Geoffrey Cherongis, said that only schools in the larger Kisii District, Maseno High School and teacher training colleges had opened.

Examination results

He warned that the political situation in the country could water down the marked improvement in last year’ Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examination results.

Kisumu East District Commissioner Jamleck Baruga confirmed that schools had opened but the teachers fled after the early morning riots.

Speaking by telephone, Mr Baruga said that no security personnel had been deployed to the schools, but it was impossible to keep children in school under the prevailing circumstances.

And the venue of the Form One selection last week turned out to be a session of the headteachers to question the inability of the Government to ensure security so that learning could continue.

The school heads, with the support of the Kenya National Union of Teachers, Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association and Kenya Union of Post-Primary Teachers officials rejected a directive from the Ministry of Education for them to recall students.

The directive to the heads from the ministry, through the provincial director of education Mr Cherongis, was uncompromising: “Reopen schools as soon as possible or face disciplinary action.”

At the moment, more than 500 schools in 10 districts in the province are still shut while learning is slowly resuming in the southern Nyanza districts of Kuria and Gusiiland.

But the union officials have stood their ground, defending their members who are yet to open and at the same time asking them to report to their work stations only when their security is guaranteed.

Said Mr Kepha Ogwi, the Kuppet executive secretary, Nyanza branch: “The lives of our members and their students cannot be compromised under whatever circumstances.”

The Kenya Secondary School Heads Association national vice-chairman, Mr John Awiti, supported these sentiments saying that the education sector was hard hit by the spill-over effects from the political tensions in the country.

“The state of affairs in the country makes silence golden but as teachers we cannot keep quiet. We must stand up to address the problem without putting the lives of our members in jeopardy,” he said.

Lost their lives

The insecurity, occasioned by disputed election results, has left in its wake many teachers and students displaced while others have lost their lives.

Nyanza province has borne the brunt of the violence in which more than 70 people have been killed and about 6,000 from communities originating outside the province displaced in addition to the destruction of Sh3 billion property.

Knut executive secretary Kisumu branch Eliakim Sijenje said learning in Kisumu Town West and East districts was threatened with the displacement of 70 teachers and the municipality recording a figure of 130 teachers.

This is in addition to the yet-to-be established number of students killed or otherwise displaced in the violent protests.

And as the Form One selection kicked off in Maseno School, about 30 kilometres from its traditional venue at Kisumu Polytechnic, the extent of insecurity and fear among teachers was evident.

For the first time, the exercise was conducted at two different venues in the province in what Mr Cherongis termed “a matter of convenience” to save on time. While 10 districts met at Maseno School, six others carried out the exercise at Kisii High School a day later.

Put a wedge

This was also not taken kindly by the school heads. The Kuppet official was more categorical: “The provincial education office should not attempt to solve the problem by suppressing it. We have always done the exercise jointly so it is only wise that you stop putting a wedge between teachers in Nyanza.”

Further, as Mr Awiti put it, teachers are constantly receiving death threats from vigilantes and politicians against opening the schools. The experience of some of their colleagues has taught them that their lives come before the job, the heads said.

Whereas the provincial administration has given an assurance to the teachers about their security and that of their students while in schools, the teachers are well too aware of the situation to accept the offer.

The Government, through Mr Baruga, announced that all schools in the district should open on January 28 (yesterday) saying that his office was committed to ensuring security in the district.

But Mr Sijenje said that teachers would still not attend to their duties due to the many threats they had received from the residents.

Risked being killed

Mr Sijenje said the teachers risked being killed and the schools set on fire.

“Teachers have not been able to attend schools due to fear of insecurity. The few brave ones have either been chased out of the schools or threatened with arson,” said Mr Sijenje.

Mr Cherongis has in the meantime directed the district education officers and their municipal counterparts to identify all displaced teachers and students to “establish modalities for helping them.”

The problem has been compounded further by the parents’ unwillingness to let their children go to school for fear of attacks on the way.

Three children have so far lost their lives in Kisumu as a result of the stray bullets fired at protesters.

Instead, parents want an assurance from the political leaders that the situation is good for learning to begin, a sentiment shared by Mr Cherongis.

Said Mr Cherongis: “The children and teachers are ready to go back to class but politicians must come down to the villages and talk to them.”

The DC, however, says that he has already ordered the chiefs to address barazas and urge parents to attend so that they could be sensitised on the importance of allowing their children to go to school.

Arrange for counselling

According to Mr Cherongis, the teachers need to arrange for counselling of the students with the assistance of religious leaders and civil society groups when schools eventually open.

This, he says, should be done to help the students cope with the trauma that some of them have experienced.

And as the parallel selection comes to a close, sources have expressed fears that schools in the six districts may be reluctant to admit students from the rest of the province and vice versa.

As it stands now, teachers still shudder at the mention of the term opening and they have decided, with one voice to defy the Ministry of Education directive to go back to class for now.

It is only wise, they say, that the feuding politicians talk to their people to have mercy on education institutions.


Kibaki must come out and preach peace

Kenya Daily Nation
Publication Date: 1/29/2008

Only a day after the horrendous killings in Naivasha, fresh cases of deaths were reported in various parts of the country yesterday, signalling no end in sight for the senseless blood-letting that has pushed Kenya to the ranks of failed states.

What is scaring is that we are now witnessing revenge killings; malevolent acts of deep anger and bitterness, which, if unchecked, may turn this country into one huge boiling cauldron.

Electoral dispute that triggered the current turmoil is fast receding to the back burner as ethnic hatred-cum-chivalry take the centre stage, exposing base instincts and driving the country back to the pre-colonial times.

It is inconceivable how people who have all along lived in harmony, shared resources and common utilities, can turn around and start butchering each other senselessly. Matters are worse when we see youths, some hardly aged 20 years, taking machetes, bows and arrows and other instruments of terror to attack people of different ethnic backgrounds.

None of these acts serve the cause of democracy, which any of the combatants would purport to be fighting for. On the contrary, these are primitive and retrogressive acts that balkanise and annihilate a once united country that is Kenya.

Mount a roadblock

But we are shocked, like everybody else, at the inertia and ineptitude by the Government to control the situation. We noted yesterday, and we repeat today, that there is no way a gang of 50 or more people can spring from some corner, mount a roadblock on the busy Nairobi-Nakuru highway, stop and search vehicles and kill individuals from perceived rival ethnic backgrounds — and get away scot-free. That illustrates that either the security network has collapsed or, there is complicity in the act.

Neither, can armed gangs run amok and attack an estate, set residences on fire and kill about 20 people without security forces getting wind of it and nipping it in the bud.

When police commissioner Hussein Ali chose to speak yesterday, he treated Kenyans to long tales of the tens of case files being investigated and of the 28 to be prosecuted for murder. The message Kenyans wanted to hear was why the police have been unable to contain the violence. Better still, what it was doing to forestall any potential death.

When Security minister George Saitoti visited Naivasha yesterday, he gave directives about beefing up the security in the area, but did not spell out the broad and long-term measures to contain the situation.

Path of peace

The military may have been brought to deal with the turmoil in Nakuru and Naivasha, but what about other areas? In short, what is the Government’s plan in putting the country on the path of peace?

Political leaders across the divide have been issuing statements urging their followers to eschew violence, but, except for a few cases, they have not made practical steps to visit their communities and preach the same message.

Most surprising, President Kibaki, at whom the buck stops, and his rival Raila Odinga, other than that photo-ops session last week, have not taken the message of peace to the doorstep of their followers.

We want to exhort President Kibaki to come out of State House and tackle the unfolding crisis. He cannot keep quiet when the country is burning. We also demand the same of Mr Odinga.

It is unfortunate, in fact depressing, that violence is worsening when mediation team, under former UN boss Kofi Annan, is at work. Nothing poisons the environment for mediation as violence does.

For the citizens, the living words of American rock music icon Elvis Presley are apt: “Animals don’t hate, and we’re supposed to be better than them.”


Entire lot of our leaders should just call it quits

Kenya Daily Nation
Publication Date: 1/28/2008

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Our leaders, the whole lot and caboodle of them, starting with Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga and all their key lieutenants — Kalonzo Musyoka, Musalia Mudavadi, John Michuki, William Ruto, Martha Karua, Henry Kosgey, George Saitoti, Najib Balala, Uhuru Kenyatta, down to all MPs, and probably all past MPs — should accept that they are the cause of Kenya’s descent into anarchy and chaos.

The Japanese have an honourable way for those who fail; accepting responsibility with the ultimate demonstration of remorse and contrition.

Well, I concede it would be asking too much to expect our so-called leaders to stage a collective Hari Kari.

But if they all can at least accept responsibility for the death and destruction visited on this country, perhaps they would be moved to the honourable thing and at least relinquish all leadership positions in order to create room for others, who might try and clear up their mess.

I WATCHED LAST THURSDAY AS MR Kibaki and Mr Odinga posed for the cameras and cheated Kenyans that they were now ready to jointly work for peace. Yet their speeches betrayed the fact that they were reading from different scripts.

The President was more intent on emphasising that he was duly elected. That, I thought, was the bone of contention. And for him, the subject of the discussion is only peace, which will presumably come about when his opponents acknowledge that he won the presidential elections and stop their protests.

Meanwhile, his government will continue to employ the heavy hand of State to quell disturbances.

The stuck record went into discordant mode when Mr Odinga chimed in with his constant mantra about justice first before peace. The translation is that there will be no let up until he gets what he thinks belongs to him that Mr Kibaki has usurped, the presidency.

Hardly had the two chief protagonists finished smiling for the camera before it became clear that the blood-letting was not about to cease.

That the violence did not let up after President Kibaki and Mr Odinga jointly called for peace and publicly committed themselves to the search for a solution to the post-election crisis, is very telling.

It can only mean two things. One is that they were both not sincere, and were just mouthing peace platitudes for mediator Kofi Annan and the rolling cameras, while signalling to their respective supporters that they meant the opposite.

The other is that both are no longer in control of the demons they have unleashed, and their respective flunkies are busy plotting and executing bloodshed in spite of what the leaders may desire.

Are Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga sleeping soundly, at State House and a palatial mansion in the Karen suburbs respectively, as the horrific death toll mounts?

Are their families not continuing with life as usual in the lap of luxury and guaranteed security, while tens of thousands of ordinary Kenyans are left at the mercy of bloodthirsty mobs?

Our leaders have failed us terribly and the only way they can help at this stage would be by dramatic gestures beyond mere handshakes and fake smiles.

If they really cared. If they really want to play a part in pulling this country from the precipice they have led it into, they should resign.

Mr Kibaki should accept that he has failed terribly and relinquish the presidency and all other posts. Mr Odinga should accept that he must take an equal share of the blame for the blood we are witnessing and also take a permanent break from public life.

As the two ride off with shame into retirement, they should be followed by all the other MPs and ex-MPs, who collectively make up the Kenyan leadership, and who collectively must eschew any future pretence to leadership.

So what happens with the vacuum that will be created? We are doing very well in efforts to destroy our country, thank you, under the present political elite.

Part of the problem is that despite the unprecedented pressure from home and abroad, the leaders simply do not see it. In the recent days, I have heard people very high up in the Kibaki government insist that they will hold on to government by hook or by crook.

WHEN NOT DENYING THAT THEY rigged the elections, the are busy trying to justify the rigging. Their favourite argument is that the opposition had planned violence whatever the outcome, so it was better to rig and at least have the instruments of State to counter any attacks.

Well, the instruments of State are pretty impotent as we speak.

The warmongers in the Government have their counterparts on the other side. I feel sick when I hear very senior opposition leaders justify the carnage that their supporters visited on presumed government sympathisers. Out of one side of the mouth, they say peace and out of the other they encourage the attacks as the only weapon that can help them capture power.

I wish the whole lot of them would be locked together in a giant cage and armed with their crude weapons of choice, to settle scores with each other, while the rest of us get on with our lives.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Iraq War Update: US Troops Killed in Mosul; New Offensive Launched; Iran Warning

US troops killed in northern Iraq

Five US soldiers have been killed in a roadside bomb attack in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, the US military has said.

A patrol that was hit in the explosion then came under small arms fire before US and Iraqi forces secured the area, Reuters news agency reports.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki announced the start of a major offensive in Mosul on Friday.

The ethnically mixed city has seen a rise in violence over the last year.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2008/01/28 15:23:59 GMT

Iraq troops prepare for Mosul push

Al-Maliki said Iraqi forces will launch a final offensive against al-Qaeda

Iraqi troop reinforcements are being sent to the northern city of Mosul for an operation against al-Qaeda fighters, security officials have said.

Major-General Riyadh Jalal Tawfiq, commander of military operations in Ninawa province, said on Sunday that the extra Iraqi troops would arrive from Baghdad within hours, without giving figures.

The reinforcements come two days after Nuri al-Maliki, Iraq's prime minister, said that Iraqi forces were preparing for a final offensive against al-Qaeda in Iraq to dislodge them from their last urban stronghold.

US military commanders say the al-Qaeda group has regained power in northern Iraq after being forced out of the western province of Anbar and from around Baghdad last year.

The US military does not have a large presence in Ninawa, of which Mosul is the capital.

It was unclear what role US forces would play in the offensive, which appears to be an Iraqi-led operation.

Deadly bombing

Al-Maliki's announcement of a new offensive against al-Qaeda came after a blast killed 40 people and wounded 220 in Mosul on Wednesday.

The explosion was in an unoccupied building that officials said was being used by al-Qaeda to store weapons and explosives.

Mohammed al-Askari, defence ministry spokesman, said tanks, armoured vehicles and helicopters were being sent to Iraq's third largest city, 390km north of Baghdad, for an offensive that he said would begin "very soon".

"We will provide everything that is needed for a major operation," he said.

Major-General Abdul-Kareem Khalaf, a spokesman for Iraq's interior ministry, said the Mosul push would include 3,000 extra police.

US and Iraqi troops have launched a series of offensives in northern provinces this year targeting al-Qaeda in Iraq.

The US military said last week that al-Qaeda fighters killed 3,870 civilians and wounded almost 18,000 last year, launching 4,500 attacks in Iraq.

Despite frequent violence in northern Iraq, overall attacks across the country have fallen by 60 per cent since last June.

Blackwater Sues Own Lawyers in Death Suit

January 28, 2008 10:17 AM
From The Blotter:

The Legal Times is reporting that Blackwater has filed a $30 million malpractice suit against the law firm of Wiley Rien alleging that the firm made costly errors during the time it represented the security firm in a wrongful death suit that was filed by the family members of four employees who were killed in Fallujah, Iraq.

In one of the most notorious incidents of the war, the bodies of the four men were dragged through the streets of Fallujah and strung up from a bridge.

The lawsuit is ongoing, and Blackwater is now represented by Greenberg Traurig.

Top Iranian commander warns US

Jafari said Iran had the ability to hit US bases in the Gulf with precision

The chief commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guard or Pasdaran has said it is his country's "natural right" to retaliate against any attack by the United States.

However in an interview with Al Jazeera, General Mohammad Ali Jafari sought to reassure Iran's Arab neighbours in the Gulf they would not be targeted in any future conflict.

"We realise that there is worry among neighbouring countries - Muslim countries whose lands host US military stations," Jafari said in an interview broadcast on Saturday.

"However, if the US launches a war against us, and if it uses these stations to attack Iran with missiles, then through the strength and precision of our own missiles, we are capable of targeting only the US military forces who attack us."

The US military has several bases in Arab countries including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Yemen.

Bush options

During a recent tour of the Gulf, George Bush, the US president, said Iran is "the leading state sponsor of terror", and said "all options" against Tehran remain on the table.

Many countries in the Gulf who maintain ties with both Washington and Tehran are nervous about the impact of any military confrontation.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

Zimbabwe News: UN, AU Charter Upheld; Probe in AG Opens; Western Observers Serve Masters

‘Zimbabwe upholds UN, AU charters’

Herald Reporter

ZIMBABWE upholds peace, stability and tranquillity as enshrined in the United Nations and African Union charters, the Minister of Defence, Cde Sydney Sekeramayi, has said.

He said Zimbabwe’s defence policy had always been to adhere to the strictest confines of the legal principles, precepts and normative rules of the domestic legislation and international law.

Cde Sekeramayi said this yesterday while addressing a Joint Command and Staff Course (Number 21) at the Zimbabwe Staff College on the country’s defence policy.

"Zimbabwe pursues a forward-looking, non-aggressive and non-hostile defence policy based on the maintenance of a minimum credible conventional deterrent capability. It does not harbour any aggressive intentions and will not interfere in the internal affairs of any other country, including its neighbours," said Cde Sekeramayi.

"The Zimbabwe Defence Policy prioritises the country’s domestic stability and the prevention of external and internal aggression."

In the interest of non-interference, said Cde Sekeramayi, Zimbabwe champions preventive diplomacy in her interaction with other sovereign states, in the event of crisis.

"To this end, she has always observed the cardinal principle of exhausting diplomatic contacts before disputes erupt into conflicts. On all the occasions that she has had to go to war since 1980, this had to be a last resort option," he said.

The country’s defence policy is a product of interaction between its internal political, economic, social, technological and geographical dynamics with the contextual imperatives arising from external environment.

He said Zimbabwe subscribed to treaties, conventions aimed at arms control and as such does not aspire to develop any weapons of mass destruction.

He said through the assistance associated with the land reform programme, drought relief and disaster management, these activities have helped bring to the fore the defence forces’ direct and strong partnership with the civil community from which they hail.

The Minister also ran through several military activities carried out over the past decade to illustrate the underlying and consistency of the national defence policy.

These included the participation of the defence forces in peace support operations in Mozambique, Somalia, Rwanda, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo under the auspices of the UN, Organisation of African Union (now African Union) and Sadc.

He said, following the peace dividend that followed the demise of apartheid rule, Government was able to pursue prudent policies for the reduction of defence expenditure while redirecting the resources to the social sector.

Probe into AG opens

Court Reporter

THE probe into allegations of inability to discharge duties or misbehaviour against suspended Attorney-General Mr Sobusa Gula-Ndebele opened yesterday behind closed doors.

The tribunal investigating Mr Gula-Ndebele began hearing evidence on the case at the Management Training Bureau in Msasa.

Charges against Mr Gula-Ndebele stem from conduct allegedly contrary to or inconsistent with the duties of a public officer after he allegedly met former NMB deputy managing director James Mushore, who was on the police wanted list.

He was arrested in November last year and subsequently suspended by President Mugabe the following month to pave way for the inquiry.

Cde Mugabe appointed a tribunal to probe Mr Gula-Ndebele.

Mr Gula-Ndebele appeared before the tribunal chaired by High Court judge Justice Chinembiri Bhunu. The other members of the tribunal are Justice Samuel Kudya and Mr Lloyd Mhishi, a lawyer with Dube, Manikai and Hwacha law firm.

After the inquiry, the tribunal will make its recommendations to President Mugabe on whether or not Mr Gula-Ndebele should keep his position as the country’s Attorney-General.

An official from the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs said they had instructions that the case be held in camera before asking this reporter to leave the room where the proceedings were taking place.

However, when the proceedings adjourned at 11:45am, all hell broke loose when Mr Gula-Ndebele, who was clad in a black, suit charged menacingly at Herald photographer Tawanda Mudimu for taking pictures of him.

Mudimu started taking pictures of Mr Gula-Ndebele as he walked down the aisle from the improvised "courtroom". He was flanked by his wife Maureen, who was also elegantly dressed in black apparel.

"Why are you taking pictures?" he asked angrily as he walked past this reporter before he made a U-turn and charged at the photographer, threatening to seize his camera.

"Why are you taking my pictures? You are not supposed to be taking my pictures," fumed Mr Gula-Ndebele."He knows that," he continued, pointing a finger at this reporter and reminded us that "the proceedings were being held in camera".

"Give me that camera, give me that camera," he shouted, stretching his arm and threatening to wrestle the camera from Mudimu’s hands.

He then turned away and walked to his car with his lawyer Advocate Happias Zhou and the instructing attorney, Mr Patrick Nyeperai of Costa and Madzonge Legal Practitioners, alongside.

Deputy Attorney-General in charge of the Civil Division Advocate Prince Machaya is appearing for the State.

Western, sponsored observers there to serve their masters

By Mabasa Sasa

A FEW weeks ago, Justice Minister Cde Patrick Chinamasa indicated that Zimbabwe, like any other democratic country that has nothing to hide, would be inviting international and local observers to the forthcoming harmonised polls set for March 29.

And, like any sovereign and democratic country, Zimbabwe — Cde Chinamasa said — had the right to turn down and accept applications for observer status.

Obviously, the Government has the right to turn away anyone with any preconceived ideas about the electoral process and outcome, just as was done with Pierre

Schori in 2002 and no one should be surprised if they too find themselves declared persona non grata this time around.

And, beyond it being the State’s right to ensure the elected leadership’s legitimacy is not called into question by characters who are themselves questionable and whose agendas are even more questionable, there is an overarching duty to protect the integrity of the nation’s structures and institutions from an insidious regime change agenda.

Election observation by members of the international community is a fairly novel phenomenon, originating in the 1980s and coinciding with Cold War détente and hence irrevocably tied to a need by the West to "guide" democracy in the Developing World.

The idea behind it was basically to prepare the way for the rise of pro-Western politicians in countries that had ties to the former USSR without resorting to primary strikes: The military could always be deployed as a last resort.

Before the 1980s, election observation was mainly the preserve of the United Nations, starting in the Korean peninsula in 1947 and even then the UN was a World War II creation that catered for the geo-political interests of the victorious allies.

Western observers are generally an extension of their home governments’ foreign policies and thus it can never be expected that they will give a verdict that runs contrary to the interests and goals of their motherland.

Every year American institutions such as the National Endowment for Democracy and the Westminster Foundation — the "acceptable" face of the CIA — pump thousands of dollars into NGOs to prime them for elections.

With the majority of NGOs that come as observers getting their funding from such bodies, it is only natural that countries like Zimbabwe will get negative poll appraisals when an incumbent who embodies the triumph of right over might wins an election.

In a nutshell, he who pays the piper calls the tune and in the case of a good many international observers who would like to come to Zimbabwe, the payers of the pipers are in Washington and London.

Perhaps it was after seeing the ridiculous and sometimes downright disdainful manner in which some international observers treat resource-rich and geo-politically strategic Developing World countries that a Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation was passed by the UN in October 2005.

The Declaration on Principles also came with a code of conduct and perhaps now would be the time for Western election observers to familiarise themselves with these documents before they even think of applying to come and cause mayhem in Zimbabwe.

The Declaration rightly notes that international election observation, in an increasingly globalised village where whether we like it or not there is a village bully called the US of A, that has the "potential to enhance the integrity of election processes".

The logic is that the more people who watch, then the less likely there are to be gross irregularities.

Of course, this is a mindset that is derived from the white Anglo-Saxon Protestant’s belief that an African cannot do anything without cheating and must therefore be watched closely.

Western political scientists, dating right back to the times of Athenian democracy, have always believed that the desires of the State are often in conflict with the wishes of the ruled and hence the former is always going to try and cheat the citizenry even in broad daylight.

Perhaps this is something intrinsic to the way governance developed in the West but certainly it does not mean that this is the norm across the globe. Indeed, it is another example of the West universalising the particular and particularising the universal.

Besides, all evidence points to the fact that the Western state is regularly working against the interests of not just its people, but the people of the whole world and hence there is a stronger case for American elections to be observed rather than those in Africa.

So, even from the outset, the idea of sending international observers to Africa when the same are not sent to see George W. Bush’s shenanigans in Florida already indicates that the agenda is not to facilitate the free expression of the will of the people.

The power domiciled in international observers to
lend credibility to an electoral process is what should make Zimbabwe wary of who it invites this March as everyone knows that according to some would be observers any poll won by Zanu-PF could not have been free and fair.

To this end, the UN declaration states: "No one should be allowed to be a member of an international election observer mission unless that person is free from any political, economic or other conflicts of interests that would interfere with conducting observations accurately and impartially and/or drawing conclusions about the character of the election process accurately and impartially."

Furthermore, international election observers "should be prepared to disclose the sources of their funding upon appropriate and reasonable requests".

The declaration goes on to say, "International election observation must be conducted with respect for the sovereignty of the country holding elections and with respect for the human rights of the people of the country.

"International election observation missions must respect the laws of the host country, as well as national authorities, including electoral bodies, and act in a manner that is consistent with respecting and promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms.

"International election observation missions must actively seek co-operation with host country electoral authorities and must not obstruct the election process."

The code of conduct also requires them to "maintain strict political impartiality at all times" and in no way "obstruct election processes".

Palestine Update: PFLP Founder George Habash Dies at 81

Palestinians mourn radical Habash

Palestinian radical leader George Habash has been buried in Jordan after a chaotic church service attended by large crowds of mourners.

The funeral service was interrupted by chants of support for the former PFLP leader using his nickname "al-Hakim".

The coffin was paraded outside the Amman church draped in a Palestinian flag before being taken for burial.

His Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine was active in the armed struggle against Israel from the 1960s.

It was famous for attacks on airliners in the 1970s, including the 1976 hijacking of an Air France airliner to Entebbe, Uganda, which was ended by an Israeli commando raid.

Mr Habash stepped down as leader of the PFLP in 2000, as the group was becoming ever more marginalised by the growing power of Islamist movements like Hamas.

Mr Habash's wife, Hilda, led the procession of mourners who included Nayef Hawatmeh, leader of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and officials from the Fatah faction of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Mustafa Barghouti, the Palestinian MP who stood in the 2005 Palestinian presidential election in an alliance with the PFLP, said Mr Habash had shown "loyalty to the Palestinian cause in a very principled manner".

Hundreds of mourners bore Palestinian and PFLP flags to the Greek Orthodox church in west Amman, as well as large portraits of Mr Habash.

Mr Abbas said in a statement that the frequently harsh critic of Fatah had been an "historic leader", and he ordered flags to be flown at half-mast for three days in the Palestinian territories.

Mr Habash, labelled an arch-terrorist by Israel during the hijackings and guerrilla attacks of the 1970s, justified his actions as a way to highlight the neglected Palestinian cause.

He had been in poor health since resigning the leadership of the PFLP. He died on Saturday in an Amman hospital at the age of 81 after having a heart attack.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2008/01/28 16:18:24 GMT

Obituary: George Habash

By Crispin Thorold
BBC News, Amman

For decades George Habash was one of the most important Palestinian militant leaders.

In 1967 he founded the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) - at one time the most notorious of the many Palestinian factions.

The group and its leader pioneered the tactic of hijacking aeroplanes, to try to achieve political objectives.

For many years the PFLP was very influential within the PLO, second only to Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement.

George Habash was born into a Christian family in Lydda (present-day Lod) in Palestine around 1926. His family fled their home in 1948, when Israel was founded. Soon afterwards George Habash enrolled at the American University of Beirut where he studied medicine.

'Revolutionary violence'

However, from an early age politics was Dr Habash's passion. He was an Arab nationalist and was active in the "Youth of Vengeance" group, which advocated violent attacks on traditional Arab governments.

Inspired by the pan-Arab message of the Egyptian president, Gamal Abdel Nasser, George Habash believed for many years that unity between Arab states could bring about the "liberation of Palestine".

After Israel's resounding victory against Egypt, Syria and Jordan in the Six Day War in 1967, pan-Arabism appeared to have been destroyed.

Soon afterwards George Habash formed the PFLP. The group's inaugural statement said that, "the only language which the enemy understands is that of revolutionary violence".

Within the year the PFLP had delivered on its threat of violence. In July 1968 the group hijacked an El Al aeroplane en route from Rome to Tel Aviv.

A new tactic in the Palestinian "resistance" had been born.


Over the next decade the PFLP would carry out some of the defining attacks of the era. These catapulted the Palestinian cause onto the international news agenda, but did not always generate sympathy for the Palestinians.

Many people in Israel and the West thought that George Habash was a terrorist. For many Palestinians and Arabs he was a patriot.

In September 1970 four Western jets were hijacked by the PFLP. Three of them landed at a Jordanian airstrip - an act that triggered a civil war in the country and led to Dr Habash, and the rest of the Palestinian leadership, fleeing Jordan.

From its new base in Lebanon, and later Syria, the PFLP remained an active militant group.

It was also at the forefront of the internationalization of the tactics of terror. In May 1972 George Habash brought together members of the Irish Republican Army, the Baader Meinhof Group, and the Japanese Red Army for a meeting at a refugee camp in Lebanon.

In the same month members of the PFLP and the Japanese Red Army murdered 26 people at Israel's international airport in Lod.

In 1976 the PFLP and the Baader-Meinhof Gang hijacked an Air France flight bound for Tel Aviv, landing the plane in Entebbe, Uganda. The siege only ended when Israeli commandos stormed the plane.

Opposition to Oslo

George Habash and Yasser Arafat had a long-standing rivalry. The tensions between them are cited as one of the reasons why Dr Habash founded the PFLP.

When Fatah, which was led by Yasser Arafat, attempted to build support for the Palestinian cause amongst Arab states in the 1970s, the PFLP turned to Russia and China.

By the 1990s Yasser Arafat was negotiating with the Israelis.

The PFLP rejected political compromise with Israel and continued to promise to replace it with a secular, democratic Palestinian state.

George Habash was vehemently against the Oslo Accords that were signed by Yasser Arafat and the Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin in1993.

After Oslo Dr Habash refused to go to the Palestinian territories, even though he was given clearance by Israel to travel there for a meeting in 1996. He believed that if he set foot in the territories he would be legitimizing the Oslo process.

By the time George Habash resigned his leadership of the PFLP in April 2000 the group had been marginalised. The secular Marxist militant group was losing ground to radicals of an altogether different type - Islamist groups like Hamas.

After years of fighting for a Palestinian state George Habash died in the Jordanian capital. Shortly after his death his wife said that he had been watching the latest news from Gaza closely.

"While he was suffering, the doctors used to tell him, you are feeling pain with the people of Gaza", Hilda Habash said.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2008/01/27 02:22:17 GMT

Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine

Founded by George Habash after the occupation of the West Bank by Israel in 1967, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) was formed as a resistance movement.

Combining Arab nationalism with Marxist Leninist ideology, the PFLP sees the destruction of Israel as integral to its struggle to remove Western influence from the Middle East.

During the 1970s the group fostered links with militant groups across the world, including the German Baader Meinhof organisation and Japan's Red Army.

Working with other groups, the PFLP pioneered aircraft hijackings as a high-profile means of drawing attention to their movement, most notably with the capture of an Air France plane en route from Paris to Athens in 1976.

The plane was flown to Entebbe in Uganda where, after a stand-off, Israel launched a dramatic commando raid to rescue nearly 100 hostages.

During the 1970s, the PFLP was the second largest faction in the PLO, but pursued a markedly different strategy to Yasser Arafat's dominant Fatah organisation.

While Fatah attempted to build support for the Palestinian cause from Arab countries, the PFLP became disillusioned with what it saw as inertia among Middle Eastern leaders. Instead the PFLP enlisted backing from Russia and China.

After 1978 the group switched the focus of its operations to attacks on Israeli and moderate Arab targets.


But the decline and collapse of the Soviet Union during the late 1980s undermined the PFLP, and the group lost ground to the radical Islamic Hamas movement.
1967: Founded in the West Bank
1968: Hijacks Israeli plane in first major operation
1972: Involved in Tel Aviv airport massacre
1976: Participates in Air France hijacking
1978: Targets Israel and moderate Arabs
1993: Opposes Oslo peace accord
Attempting to bolster its position after the supposed 1993 PLO-Israeli peace accord the PFLP added its weight to a disparate group of Palestinian organisations opposed to the deal.

It boycotted Palestinian elections in 1996, but three years later, the PFLP accepted the formation of the Palestine Authority and sought to join Yasser Arafat's administration.

The succession of Abu Ali Mustafa, who replaced an ailing George Habash in 2000, was seen by many in Israel as heralding a return to the group's radical policies of 1960s, 70s and 80s.

But Mustafa was soon assassinated by Israeli forces in August 2001 - a sign, said some analysts, of how Israel saw the PFLP as a continuing force.

Indeed the group struck back, shooting Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi, leader of a right-wing party, and claiming it as revenge for Mustafa's death.

Israel alleges that Ahmed Saadat, the current leader of the PFLP, ordered Zeevi's assassination.

Mr Saadat was imprisoned by the Palestinian authorities but later seized by Israeli forces and taken to Israel.

Founder George Habash died in January 2008. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas described him as a "historic leader" and announced three days of national mourning.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2008/01/26 23:53:04 GMT

Freddie Scott (1933-2007), the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Singer, Topped the R&B Charts in Early 1967

R&B Singer Freddie Scott Joins the Ancestors at 74

Freddie Scott, singer: born Providence, Rhode Island
24 April 1933; married; died 4 June 2007

In 1963, Freddie Scott cut a demonstration record of "Hey Girl", a new song by Gerry Goffin and Carole King. The intended recipient was the hit-making Chuck Jackson, but he turned the song down. Instead, Goffin and King liked Scott's voice so much that they recorded their own version with him.

Phil Spector heard the results and said, "You've got to put that out. It's a smash." "Hey Girl" was a Top Ten US hit and became a club favourite in the UK, being covered by several beat groups of the time.

Scott was born in Providence, Rhode Island in 1933. In his early teens, he sang with his grandmother's gospel group the Gospel Keys, who performed in the UK in 1946. Freddie Scott studied medicine at the University of Rhode Island but gave it up for singing.

He recorded his first solo single, "Running Home", for the small J&S label in 1956 and a succession of singles for independent labels, including "Baby, You're a Long Time Dead" for Joy.

Scott followed his success with the mesmerising, melancholic "Hey Girl" by having R&B hits with a revival of Ray Charles's "I Got a Woman" and the plaintive "Where Does Love Go?" He made the album Freddie Scott Sings and Sings and Sings (1963), which contained a fine ballad which deserved to be a single, "What Do I See In the Girl", written by Goffin with Jack Keller.

Scott moved to Columbia where the producer Clyde Otis dubbed him "the million-dollar baby" and had him crooning on "One Heartache Too Many" (1964). He did show tunes on the LP Everything I Have Is Yours (1964) and was more soulful on Lonely Man (1965). His final singles for the label were prophetically titled "Don't Let It End This Way" (1965) and "Forget Me If You Can" (1966).

In 1966, he was signed by Bert Berns, the producer, songwriter and owner of Shout Records. Berns, an intensely soulful individual, recorded over 100 takes of "Are You Lonely for Me?" with Scott. It was worth it, as the song topped the R&B charts for four weeks.

Then Scott slowed down Solomon Burke's "Cry to Me" for a chart single and had further success with "Am I Grooving You?" He did well with the album Are You Lonely For Me?, but Berns's death at the end of 1967 meant that he was again on the move.

His only further success was with a soul version of Bob Dylan's "I Shall Be Released" in 1970. Mostly, he wrote advertising jingles and took minor acting roles, appearing in the film of the Harold Robbins book Stiletto in 1969.

Scott's key tracks have frequently been reissued and in 1989 the rap singer Biz Markie used Scott's 1968 single, "(You) Got What I Need" for his own "Just a Friend". In 2001, Scott released his first album of new songs in 30 years, Brand New Man. On the Van Morrison tribute album Vanthology (2003), he performed "Brown-Eyed Man".

Spencer Leigh

South Africa's Electricity Shortages Causes National Emergency, Says Government

CAPE TOWN 25 January 2008 Sapa


The electricity shortage that has caused repeated rolling power cuts across South Africa over the past fortnight is a national emergency, Public Enterprises Minister Alec Erwin declared on Friday.

"It is the view of Cabinet that the unprecedented, unplanned power outages must now be treated as a national electricity emergency that has to be addressed with the urgent, vigorous and co-ordinated actions commensurate with such an emergency situation," he said.

Briefing the media in Pretoria on what steps government planned to take to address the situation, Erwin called on all South Africans to conserve electricity.

His Cabinet colleague, Minerals and Energy Minister Buyelwa Sonjica, announced details of a power conservation programme for the country, which, she said, would provide an immediate "quick hit" solution to reduce the number of so-called rolling blackouts.

Friday's briefing follows a rising tide of public anger over the power cuts - reported to have cost the economy tens of millions of rands in lost productivity - that have disrupted business around the country over the past two weeks.

Erwin told journalists government had got its timing wrong, and its 2004 decision allowing electricity supplier Eskom to only then start building new power stations "was clearly, in hindsight, too late".

"The underlying problem is a very significant rise in demand [for electricity] particularly over the past few years, resulting from an economy working at full capacity... In a sense, we are the victims of our own success," he said.

Peak demand for electricity in South Africa has reached a level not far below Eskom's maximum output, cutting the utility's reserve capacity to eight percent - almost half of what is considered sufficient to ensure a reliable supply.

Sonjica said government planned to introduce electricity quotas to solve the short-term supply problem.

“We have discussed how quotas will be allocated, who will be exempt from the programme, what incentives and penalties will be in place, when it will start and what legislative enablers we need to have in place for the programme to work,” she said.

The immediate need was to bring the electricity supply system back into balance.

"We need to restore a workable reserve margin in order to alleviate strain on the generation assets and the primary energy supply chain," Sonjica said.

A concept proposal submitted to Cabinet includes quota allocations for various electricity users, penalties and cut-offs, quota trading and flexibility.

The programme is designed to achieve the overall savings target of between ten and 15 percent over time.

To have an immediate saving of eight percent, industrial users would have to use 10 percent less, commercial users 15 percent less, hotels, resorts shopping malls and conference centres 20 percent less, large office buildings, government and municipalities 15 percent less, agriculture five percent less, and residences ten percent less.

Penalties would be given for electricity use above the allocated quota and electricity supply to repeat offenders would be cut off.

An incentive scheme is being established for smaller consumers who exceed the savings targets, while large consumers could trade the unused portion of their quota allocations.

Medium to long-term interventions planned by government include restricting the manufacture of incandescent light bulbs to promote the use of energy-saving compact fluorescent light fittings (CFLs).

"It is projected that 800MW could be saved [nationally] by replacing with CFLs," Sonjica said.

Other plans include the installation of one million domestic solar water heaters over the next three years; fitting so-called "smart metering" systems into homes, which will allow Eskom to remotely manage customer load; and, switching to liquified petroleum gas for cooking.

Sonjica told the briefing that high global demand for coal had caused "some shortage" at Eskom's coal-fired power stations, which produce most of its electricity.

Erwin said the utility was "experiencing serious problems with coal quality and stocks", and warned government would not hesitate to intervene in the market to secure strategic reserves for electricity generation.

It would talk with the mining industry on the matter, but "in the absence of a solution, we will have to invoke the emergency powers that we have", he said.

Responding to questions at the briefing, he said electricity tariffs would increase between 14 and 20 percent next year.

JOHANNESBURG 25 January 2008 Sapa


The power cuts which have almost completely halted nationwide gold and platinum mining will have widespread economic effects, economists said on Friday.

Investment Solutions economist Chris Hart said: "I think there is going to be one irony - that to increase electricity capacity will require the importation of generator machines.

"The gold and platinum industries are going to pay for the
importation of that. The mining industry is a key industry."

"From that point of view the cuts seem... almost a disaster, " he said.

On Friday, there was a nationwide shutdown of most of the country's platinum and gold mines because of power cuts.

AngloGold, Gold Fields and Harmony Gold were some of the major companies only operating emergency facilities, after Eskom told them it could not guarantee a power supply on Friday.

Hart also said the rand was likely to weaken even more than it already had.

He said gold and platinum contributed directly to the trade balance.

"Without the products the deficit will widen significantly."

Hart said he suspected foreign investment already had been and would continue to be affected by the power cuts.

South Africa was seen as a mining country and if it could not supply electricity to the industry it was a "poor reflection".

He said the irony was that the power problem appeared not to be about generating capacity but about maintenance issues.

This made the situation "very difficult", he said.

Eskom needed to adopt a "less haphazard approach to power cuts".

Hart also said the way forward for the industry would be to have a great deal of privatisation, rather than relying on a "monopoly supply".

He said while in some ways, the power crisis was a result of the success of South Africa's previous economic growth; "[Now] we can't progress from what we have achieved".

Chief economist for T-sec Mike Schussler said the situation was a "nightmare".

"Tens of millions of rands a day are being lost," he said,

Mines would not be able to get back up to speed immediately.

The effects of the power cuts were now broadening. Not just the mines but their suppliers and retailers would be affected. Schussler said he had not been approached by so many people for economic advice since September 11.

"My brain is fried. Everyone is up in arms," he said.

"People are very very negative. Negativity in its own right will have an impact on the economy.

"Would you invest in a country whose electricity is not secure? As we lose interest so do foreigners."

Schussler said government needed to spend more time on the power issue that "fighting amongst themselves".

"It's time the blame gets laid on the right people," he said.

Black Women's Votes and Presidential Politics

What Black Women's Votes Mean for the Presidential Race

By Elizabeth G. Hines, Women's Media Center
January 26, 2008.

This year, South Carolina has made black women matter. It has made us real.

I've been giving thanks quite a lot this election season: thanks that the field of candidates looks different from ever before; that we who are not white men can believe that our nation has a place for us in its leadership, too. And I've been giving thanks that the advent of this diverse slate of candidates has created just a little space in which we Americans can begin to address, on a national level, the issues of race and gender that have plagued us since our very beginnings as a country. We may not yet be good at talking about those issues, but at least now we're trying.

Today, however, I am here to admit that my greatest measure of thankfulness has recently settled on nothing so predictable, for a black woman, as seeing Clinton and Obama's faces plastered across every newspaper and television screen from here to Tallahassee. No, today I want to give thanks for the state of South Carolina.

That's right, South Carolina. The first state to secede from the Union when that pesky "War of Northern Aggression" became inevitable. Hotbed of slaveholding activities as late as 1860, with 45.8 percent of all white families holding slaves -- the highest rate in the nation. Home to legendary states rights leader and segregationist presidential candidate Strom Thurman. And the last place in the USA where the Confederate flag was allowed to retain its place of so-called honor, flying atop the State House dome until the year 2000 -- 135 years after the abolition of slavery, in case you're counting.

Here's one truth: South Carolina has a history of racialized hatred as deep and as wide as any our nation knows. But here's another: this election cycle, the state of South Carolina has accomplished something absolutely unprecedented. It's managed to do what no other state, politician, activist or entertainer (sorry, Oprah) has yet been able to match on such a grand scale. This year, South Carolina has made black women matter -- at least for the moment. Somehow, South Carolina has made us real.

I got my first glimpse of this new reality on the night of the New Hampshire primaries, when Donna Brazile, former campaign manager for Al Gore and CNN political analyst, pointed the way. South Carolina would be a crucial contest for both these candidates, she suggested, and in that primary, black women would mark the difference between the winner and the loser.

It is not an overstatement that I jumped off my couch at that moment -- I'd never heard any such thing even hinted at on national television, and to hear those words filled me with the kind of excitement you only feel when a deep, deep longing has finally been touched. Because the truth is that, as a woman of color in this country -- whether you're highly educated and economically privileged or a high school dropout fighting to feed your family -- you learn to operate within a certain set of cultural conditions.

You get used to being either utterly abused by the male-dominated media or just as utterly ignored by them. You get used to being sidelined in discussions that inevitably, and falsely, pit sexism against race in a scramble for the bottom of the pile -- because of the challenge that you, in your skin, pose to the lie of this either/or dichotomy. Frankly, you get used to not counting for much.

So to have someone acknowledge, in such a matter of fact way -- and with the nodding assent of her white, male and female peers on set -- that we black women not only have a stake in this primary, but also may be the deciding factor, was an incredible departure from the status quo, whether few who are not us noticed it or not. Nor did the good news end there.

Reporter after reporter did the Mason-Dixon math and concluded that Donna was exactly right: in the Democratic race, black women would be the deciders. And though the main contenders' campaigns might not agree with me, the even better news from my perspective is this: so far, it remains unclear exactly how this important demographic is going to allocate their votes on Election Day.

Why is that good news? Because it means that "black women" have here an opportunity to be seen as the individual voters, with differing values and ideas, that we really are. Leading up to Saturday's primary, no campaign can afford to take the black female vote for granted as they have in decades past. And just as critically, the media must now pay attention to black women making important decisions in an unprecedented way -- on their own terms, as empowered, engaged citizens of this nation -- or risk missing the story. How often can you say you've seen images like that from the news media?

So yes, I am thankful to South Carolina this election season. If that's what it takes to see people with faces like mine taken seriously, even for just this moment, then so be it. For that privilege, I'll whistle Dixie till the cows come home.

Kenya Update: More Killed as Toll Rises; Rival Given Roadmap; Role of Media, etc.

10 burnt alive as toll rises

Story by NATION Team
Publication Date: 1/28/2008

At least 10 people were burnt alive and three others stoned to death as violence sparked by the outcome of the December General Election spread to Naivasha Town.

And in Nakuru, one more person was shot dead by attackers in Ponda Mali in the violence which has taken an ethnic angle. More than 10 people are admitted to the Provincial General Hospital with arrows lodged in their bodies.

This brings to 82 the number of those killed in Nakuru and its environs in the past two days. Other sources put the toll in Nakuru at 100.

Fourteen 14 bodies were Sunday collected from the town and its suburbs. The Nation counted 68 bodies at the local government mortuary from the weekend violence.

The 10 arson victims, mostly women and children, were burnt inside a house at Kabati estate in Naivasha Town. They had locked themselves in the house to escape the violence. Since dawn, marauding youths had taken over the town, barricading roads and terrorising motorists on the main Nairobi-Nakuru highway.

A man was pulled out of an Akamba bus headed for Kisumu and hacked to death in Naivasha. The youths, who demanded that motorists identify themselves, said they were avenging killings of their kinsmen in other parts of Rift Valley.

Uneasy calm

In Uasin Gishu, more houses including a chief’s camp were torched.

An uneasy calm returned to Nakuru Town where 53 people were killed on Friday and Saturday.

The latest killings come as the Kenya Red Cross warned that the humanitarian crisis facing the country was running out of control.

Secretary-general Abbas Gullet said the organisation was facing logistical difficulties in reaching hundreds of needy victims because they could not access some areas where roads have been blocked by marauding gangs.

In Nairobi, former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan met ODM leader Raila Odinga and his team and put in place modalities for negotiations. Mr Annan handed President Kibaki and Mr Odinga the agenda of the peace mission in the country, the terms of reference and asked each of them to quickly name three leaders to the negotiators’ table.

And four Central Kenya MPs accused the Government of failing to deal firmly with those instigating the violence that has since claimed up to 1,000 people with thousands displaced while property worth billions has been destroyed.

Rivals given roadmap to peaceful end

Kenya Daily Nation

Mediation efforts to end the political crisis in which hundreds of people have been killed entered a crucial stage Sunday when President Kibaki and ODM leader Raila Odinga were handed proposals of a roadmap to a peaceful solution.

On Sunday evening, former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan sent the feuding sides documents specifying the terms of reference, the agenda and options of reaching a solution that is agreeable to both sides.

Mr Annan met Mr Odinga and his team at Serena Hotel to inform them of the new stage in the dialogue, having passed on the same message to President Kibaki at State House on Saturday afternoon.

Briefing the Press, ODM Pentagon member Musalia Mudavadi said: “We have met Mr Annan and he has told us that at the end of the day, he would be availing (sic) to us the documents on the principles of engagement, the agenda and the line we will pursue in seeking a solution to the crisis.”

Mr Annan, he said, had also asked each side in the political dispute to name a team of three negotiators and a liaison officer for the key stage of agreeing on the peace deal.

It marked the second score by the mediation team that includes former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa and Mrs Graca Machel — former South African First Lady — in their quest to broker a peaceful deal between President Kibaki and Mr Odinga.

“We believe that the measure of progress seems imminent and we, in ODM, want to ensure that Kenya gets a peaceful solution,” said Mr Mudavadi.

Just three days after flying into the country last Tuesday, Mr Annan succeeded in bringing together President Kibaki and Mr Odinga for talks at Harambee House where they shook hands and appealed for calm and peace in Kenya.

Make hard choices

The terms of reference and the agenda of the negotiations are normally drawn after the facilitators have considered the proposals placed on the table by the sides in the dispute. Input from religious leaders, civil society, opinion leaders and foreign envoys is also considered.

The Annan-led team has kept up with those demands and has met all the parties concerned.

The former UN boss took some time off his busy schedule on Saturday and toured Molo and Cherang’any. He came back and described the situation on the ground as heart-wrenching.

He immediately urged leaders from both sides to be prepared to take hard decisions in order to restore order and stability in the country.

Mr Annan also said the ongoing violence had gone beyond the disputed presidential elections.

A top officer in Annan’s team told the Nation that a number of issues had been presented for consideration, among them the issue of leadership in the country.

President Kibaki and the reconciliation team led by Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka are understood to have, among others, stated that ODM ought to recognise that the Head of State was the duly elected President and that a legitimately constituted Government was in place. They also want ODM leaders, who they accuse of being behind the violence, to publicly condemn the killings and urge their supporters to end the chaos.

The Kibaki team further questioned the failure by their rivals to move to court to challenge the President’s re-election and has proposed to the mediators that only the courts of law can declare that the President was in office illegitimately.

In addition, they have ruled out a power-sharing deal and a rerun of the Presidential elections. On the other hand, ODM have demanded that President Kibaki accept that he lost to Mr Odinga in the elections.

Once that has been achieved, they have proposed that President Kibaki resigns to pave way for a rerun of the presidential elections.

Their last option involves an interim government where they would share power in line with a formula to be determined by each party’s strength in Parliament as they await for fresh elections.

However, Mr Mudavadi said that ODM was ready to make hard decisions that would end the violence that has now assumed new dimensions. “We have stated that we are committed to finding a peaceful solution, which means that we are prepared to make hard decisions,” he said.

However, those hard decisions could be hampered by ODM’s demand that ODM Kenya, whose leader is the VP Musyoka, be excluded from the talks.

ODM secretary-general Anyang’ Nyong’o stated that the negotiations are between PNU and ODM only. “We are negotiating with PNU whose leader is Mwai Kibaki. Kalonzo Musyoka is the head of ODM-K and whatever arrangements he has with PNU, are his own. The election crisis is between ODM and PNU,” he said.

He wants Mr Kibaki to ensure that Mr Musyoka does not get close to the negotiations table with ODM because he has no stake in the dispute.

“Anybody naming a coalition team must confine it to the two parties. We want to negotiate with the principals and not surrogates. Kalonzo must realise that,” he cautioned.

The VP heads the reconciliation team that includes Cabinet ministers Martha Karua, George Saitoti, Moses Wetangula, Samuel Poghisio, Ali Chirau Mwakwere, Attorney General Amos Wako and Mbooni MP Mutula Kilonzo.

By Sunday evening, both sides were sizing each other up as they waited to study the proposed roadmap before appointing their teams to the negotiations table.

Groups urged to end media drives

Kenya Daily Nation

Rival political camps should stop media campaigns trying to justify their positions regarding the December 27 elections, business executives said Sunday
The executives drawn from various institutions and companies said the campaigns were only exacerbating the crisis.

“In fact all campaign materials should be pulled down as part of the healing process. The Electoral Commission of Kenya should equally stop its media campaigns trying to justify its position. This is not adding value to the negotiations,” said Mike Macharia, the Chief Executive Officer of the Kenya Association of Hotel Keepers and Caterers (KAHC).

The business community has now moved away from counting losses to active participation on how to end the crisis, having met the Kofi Annan-led mediators on Sunday to state their position on the way forward.

The business group called for a power sharing arrangement, maintaining that it was the only option President Kibaki and Mr Raila Odinga have to sort out the crisis.

“This power sharing arrangement must be a path to lasting peace, emerge from agreements between PNU and ODM, their respective parties and coalitions. It has to be an agreement that should provide for immediate resettlement of displaced persons,” said the chairman of the Kenya Association of Manufacturers, Steve Smith.

The community also called for a new constitution, truth and reconciliation as well as justice and amnesty processes.

Others at Sunday’s press briefing included Kanja Waruru from the Media Owners Association, Lucy Karume chairperson of KAHC and Samuel Mwaura the CEO of Kenya Private Sector Alliance.

Expressed concern

The others were Vimal Shah the KAM Vice Chairman, Wangui Muchiri CEO of the Nairobi Central Business District Association and Keli Kiilu representing the Informal Sector East African Forum and an advocate of the High Court, Philip Murgor, who was giving them legal advice.

Annan, however, did not share with the group what the two protagonists stand for in the process, and only expressed concern about the violence which continued to claim human lives.

The business leaders condemned the ongoing killings which they say have evolved from the disputed election into criminal acts.

End ban on live news, says group

Story by KENYA DAILY NATION Correspondent

A human rights group Sunday demanded the lifting of the ban on live broadcasting of political events.

Release Political Prisoners said the ban is against the principles and values of human rights, democracy, open governance and the rule of law.

RPP said in a statement that since the ban, Kenyans have suffered as they cannot access timely and accurate information on what is happening around them.

Fuel tension

“As a human rights organisation, we have witnessed a lot of tensions, fears, intimidations and anxiety mixed with state of hopelessness engulfing many parts of the country as media keeps on being banned from having live coverage of the events as they unfurl,” read the statement signed by the group’s executive coordinator Stephen Musau.

The statement added that Kenyans were yearning for the truth, something that cannot be realised with prohibition of live coverage of events.

It further warned that the continued ban would only confirm that the Government is against Kenyans knowing what is going on and has no measures to reunite Kenyans, adding that it would only serve to fuel tension in the country.

EAC market in limbo as Kenya still burns

Kenya Daily Nation

As a post-election crisis continues to grip Kenya, the East African Community may be encumbered from establishing a common market by its target date next year.

Dr Ibrahim Msabaha, the minister for East Africa Cooperation, said on Thursday that Kenya must stabilise before the EAC can continue to make progress in integrating economies.

“No meetings can be planned for now to push the agenda,” Msabaha said. “Instead the region is concentrated on making sure the crisis ends soon.”

The EAC has set June 2009 as the target date for ratifying the Common Market Protocol, with the expectation of launching the common market officially in January 2010.

At a one-day council meeting in Arush on Monday, Mr Msabaha said ministers from member countries demanded regional cooperation in beginning negotiations on the Common Market Protocol on July 1, as scheduled, with the intention of concluding and drafting the protocol by December.

“As we know, the negotiations will cover free movement of people, goods and services,” he said, adding that every member state must address some issues highlighted in its country, not just Kenya.

But analysts say due to the election aftermath in Kenya, the establishment of the common market may be delayed or even fail to form altogether.

When fully formed, the EAC Common Market will be a regional integration bloc that will boast a combined population of 90 million people and a total gross domestic product of more than US$30 billion.


Kibaki and Raila must act to save Kenya

Story by NATION Correspondent

The fresh tidal wave of deaths and violence, mainly witnessed in Nakuru and Naivasha, is clearly pointing to an ominous dimension the political turmoil is taking. At the close of Sunday, at least 72 people had added to the grim statistics of Kenya’s bloodbath.

What we are witnessing is not just raw anger triggered by irregularities in the presidential poll tallying. Even if it was, the crisis has taken a life of its own and there is no knowing how bad it will get. For when armed gangs descend into an estate and hack people to death and get away with it, or when youths surround a monastery hosting displaced people, burn hostels and hold priest and other occupants hostage for hours, then we cannot talk about the rule of law. And not when armed gangs can block the Nairobi-Nakuru highway and cause mayhem in broad daylight as they did Sunday.

Reports from the Rift Valley illustrate one eerie fact, that the Government has lost control of some of this country. The police is overwhelmed and the provincial administration, as we know it, cannot even fathom the depth of the crisis. That the Government had to bring the military to help restore sanity in Nakuru and combine that a dusk to dawn to curfew underlined that things have got out of hand.

The humanitarian tragedy attending to this is not within the scope of Kenyans’ comprehension. Never in our history did we ever imagine that this country would disintegrate and rapidly go to the dogs right under our watch. Such stories were best left to the TV episodes from other parts of the continent.

But all is not lost. We still have time and chance to redeem this country and stem the losses and further bloodshed and misery. This is why we reinforce the strong message mediator Kofi Annan delivered to President Kibaki and ODM leader Raila Odinga; the two must make hard and tough choices. They must quickly agree to resolve the political stalemate by eschewing their hardline positions. What more must happen to convince the two principals at the heart of the poll dispute that the country is collapsing and that they stand to lose everything they are haggling over so fiercely.


Elections alone wont save our institutional problems

Publication Date: 1/28/2008

If you were to ask one of the many women and children living in refugee camps or across the border in Uganda whether the solution to their problem is another election, I will bet anything that their answer will be a resounding “NO”.

Some of them have been quoted saying that no election is worth the rape, pillage, killing and displacement of human beings.

Economists and businesspeople have been quick to estimate the economic losses emanating from the disruption of economic activities after the elections. We are told that the economy has lost more than Sh60 billion in revenue in the last month and that nearly half a million people are now unemployed because of layoffs and losses in various sectors, including tourism, the tea industry and the retail business.

But who is counting the emotional and social cost of loss of life, rape and displacement? While our male leaders are fighting it out for the top position in the country, our women and children are shedding tears of blood.

WOMEN AND CHILDREN COMPRISE the majority of refugees and internally displaced people because while men fight it out with pangas, bows and arrows and guns, women run for safety to protect their children.

Kenyan women and children are bearing psychological scars that will take years, if not generations, to heal. Rape and defilement are becoming rampant both inside and outside the camps.

Many women and children are too tired, too weak and too scared to report these cases, which means that an upsurge in deadly diseases, such as HIV/Aids is a real possibility. Trauma experienced by these women and their children is likely to affect their emotional state for years to come.

Children in some parts of the country are no longer going to school, which means we are creating another generation of disgruntled unemployed youth.

Meanwhile, our male leaders are treating the whole affair like a football match, in which they are the main strikers who will make their team win. The international mediators are seen as referees who, in the case of a draw, will issue them with extra time or a penalty shootout.

But what we are witnessing is not a football match. Extra time gained through prolonged mediation could mean more loss of life and rape of innocent victims.

Like the displaced woman in Rift Valley, who told a reporter she would not bother voting again because she was sick of moving every time there was an election, I am sick of voting in people who don’t care if I live or die once they acquire the coveted presidency, and who don’t say a word to reassure me that they are doing everything in their power to restore peace in the country.

Kenyans don’t need another election – not under the current political dispensation anyway.

As John Githongo (former Ethics permanent secretary) rightly pointed out in a recent interview with the BBC, whoever is declared president will not have a comfortable job because he will have to accept that his presidency was acquired at the expense of hundreds of lives.

Who would want to rule over a country that is in mourning? How can a president declare himself victorious when he knows that his victory was gained through the blood and tears of innocent people?

More importantly, what is the point of such a victory if the presidency is acquired in an environment where there are no constitutional provisions in place to ensure that the victor will not abuse his powers, and will not perpetuate past injustices?

If you ask me, our priority as a nation is not to elect a new president, but to change the constitution so that when elections are next held, whoever wins will not be able to abuse the powers bestowed on him, and will have to act in the interests of all Kenyans, not just the interests of a small elite belonging to his ethnic group.

THE REFERENDUM IN 2005 CLEARLY showed that Kenyans want a significant – not a cosmetic – change in the constitution.

They want land reforms, they want equitable distribution of resources, they want a say in the way the country is governed. Why do we not use the next few months to pass the constitution through Parliament and to make significant changes in our archaic laws and institutions?

As Father Gabriel Dolan, a priest based in Mombasa, so aptly pointed out in Nation, the only viable and realistic option right now is to “endorse a power-sharing transitional government, whose chief mandate would be to complete the constitutional review within 18 months and pave the way for elections”.

We cannot have elections in a situation where injustice and inequity are entrenched in our laws, in our institutions and in our constitution.

Only when the laws, the institutions and the constitution provide for fairness and justice can another election have any meaning.

Ms Warah is an editor with the UN. The views expressed here are her own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations.