Archive for August, 2008

UN-backed Forum Examines Role of ICT in Achieving the MDGs

Posted on 25 August 2008. Filed under: ICT, MDGs |

23 August 2007 – Over 1,000 participants from 66 countries have gathered at the United Nations Centre in Addis Ababa to explore how the latest information and communication technology (ICT) can help countries overcome poverty and advance development.

“ICT for Development and Prosperity” is the theme for the three-day World Information Technology Forum which kicked off yesterday in the Ethiopian capital.

The Forum grew out of the 2003 and 2005 World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), which affirmed the importance of bridging the so-called “digital divide” that separates poor communities from affluent ones through their lack of access to such technology. It seeks to help developing countries in particular to use ICT to achieve the set of agreed global anti-poverty targets known as the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

At the Forum’s opening session, Abdoulie Janneh, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), underlined the vital role of the knowledge economy in Africa.

In a message read by Aida Opoku-Mensah, ECA’s Director of ICT, Science and Technology Division, Mr. Janneh stressed that “through globalization new ideas and innovation are spreading faster than ever before and as a result, knowledge-based development is becoming a reality for all countries irrespective of whether they are developed or developing.”

Participants will look at successful and sustainable ICT strategies in developing countries, as well as issues such as human resource development, leapfrogging rural communications and low-cost telecommunication systems and information services for rural communities.

The Forum is organized by the International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP) in cooperation with the ECA, the Ethiopian Government, the Ethiopian ICT Development Agency (EICTDA) and the Ethiopian IT Professional Association (EITPA).

Also in Addis Ababa, a new publication released today highlights the vital role of a strong media and communication environment to a developed and prosperous Africa.

The publication, “Framework for the Development of a Sustainable and Pluralistic Media,” states that achieving the MDGs requires a free and democratic environment in which the media can play an effective role in promoting sustainable development, fighting corruption and promoting good governance, according to a press release issued by ECA.

Date Created: 8/27/2007 6:21:20 AM
Copyright 2007

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WHO & UNEP Join to Combat Environment-Related Disease in Africa

Posted on 25 August 2008. Filed under: Environment, MDGs, Public Health |

First African Inter-Ministerial Conference on Health and Environment

Brazzaville/Nairobi, 22 August 2008 – Diseases caused by environmental change are responsible for too many deaths in Africa.

In 2002 alone, unsafe water, pollution, poor sanitation, inadequate waste disposal, insufficient disease vector control and exposure to chemicals claimed about 2.4 million lives.

In a bid to address this challenge, the First Inter-Ministerial Conference on Health and Environment in Africa will be held in Libreville, Gabon from 26 to 29 August under the slogan “Health security through healthy environments”.

Jointly organized by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and hosted by the Government of Gabon, the conference is expected to attract hundreds of delegates including Health Ministers, Ministers of Environment, high-level experts, academics, policy makers, bilateral & multilateral institutions and non-governmental organisations.

The conference – the first of its kind in Africa – aims to secure political commitment for an integrated approach to policy and the institutional and investment changes required to reduce environmental threats to health.

Angela Cropper, UNEP’s Deputy Executive Director said: “While our knowledge has been increasing about how ecosystems and species and the quality of the environment relate to human health, there is a lag in concerted policy and action to address this relationship. Bringing together Ministers of Environment and Health in this Conference is an opportunity to lay the basis for doing so in and on behalf of the continent of Africa. We need to make sure that this partnership between WHO and UNEP endures and gets stronger, in order for the United Nations System to offer to Africa the quality of technical and policy support which will be needed.”

The Conference will explore the links between health and environment. It intends to build a strategic health and environment alliance that will influence development policies at the macro-economic and sectoral levels, impact on existing investment frameworks and resource allocation, and lead to tangible outcomes in the short and medium terms.

See also:Environmental Change and Infectious Diseases

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High Levels of Stigma Persist in Kenya’s NEP

Posted on 22 August 2008. Filed under: MDGs, Public Health |


Photo: Neil Thomas/IRIN
Young women can’t talk about sex with their elders

IJARA, 21 August 2008 (PlusNews) – For the past ten months, health workers at Ijara District Hospital in Kenya’s North Eastern Province have been caring for two children, aged six and seven, who were abandoned by their father after he discovered he was HIV-positive. Nurses say the children were weak, malnourished and suffering from tuberculosis when they arrived.

“We have been forced to keep these children; all their relatives have declined to take them, although they are now in good health condition and can enjoy life like other kids,” Dr Mohamed Abdikadir Sheikh, Ijara district’s medical officer, told IRIN/PlusNews. “Stigma associated with HIV/AIDS is very, very strong here; it is without any doubt responsible for the plight facing these children.”

Ijara has 130 registered HIV-positive people, giving it the lowest prevalence in the province, but many residents still associate HIV with evil spirits, curses and witchcraft; most people diagnosed with HIV, he added, sought ritual rather than medical treatment.

“The VCT [voluntary HIV counselling and testing] centre in the district remains idle because the local community believe they cannot contract the disease,” Sheikh said. “We need an aggressive awareness campaign in these remote areas.”

In Isiolo, a district in the north of Eastern Province, the Isiolo Youths against AIDS and Poverty (IYAP) said spreading awareness in the community was difficult because of the remoteness of the area, the transient nature of its pastoralist population, and cultural taboos.

“This region is vast … to reach a majority of the youths who are in the remote parts of our region, we need support,” said Amina Abdullahi, an IYAP official. The group was limited to conducting their education and information sessions in town, because they lack the resources to travel beyond it.

Group members said they regularly faced personal physical risk while visiting parts of the region prone to conflicts over scarce water and pasture, and had to be careful who they sent to certain areas, or to a specific clan or ethnic community, for fear of reprisals if they sent someone perceived to be from a rival group.

Openly talking about HIV was also problematic because the largely Muslim population frowned on open discussions of sex and sexuality. “As you can see, we have no picture or poster of a condom here – we cannot take the risk … the landlord cannot allow us to do that,” said Ali Boru, another IYAP official.

Cultural norms also hamper awareness-raising efforts, because most of the HIV educators are young people. “It is impossible for me to talk to an elderly woman about HIV/AIDS, my culture does not allow me to advise or discuss any sexual matter with a woman who is older than me,” Abdullahi said.

North Eastern Province has the country’s lowest HIV prevalence – one percent – but also the lowest literacy rate, another obstacle in the path of HIV education in this remote province.

See also: Kenyan Student’s Suicide Reveals Gaps in HIV Education

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KENYA: The Lure of Dodgy Herbal “cures” for HIV

Posted on 22 August 2008. Filed under: MDGs, Public Health |


Photo: Keishamaza Rukikaire/IRIN
Quacks posing as traditional herbalists have fooled many HIV-positive people

MOMBASA, 21 August 2008 (PlusNews) – People in Kenya’s Coast Province, believed not to be genuine herbalists, are selling concoctions purported to treat HIV and persuading many patients on life-prolonging antiretroviral (ARV) drugs to abandon their medication.

Omari Mwanjama, of the National AIDS Control Council in Coast Province, said people were told the concoctions contained unique ingredients that would boost their immune system and could even cure the disease.

“It is ironic to see people living with HIV/AIDS are being swindled of their money in broad daylight, yet the government was providing them with antiretroviral drugs free of charge.”

He added that patients were sometimes offered free samples as a way of getting them to buy the concoctions, which would later prove to be very expensive. The quacks often claimed their ‘drugs’ were moringa olifera, a herb known for its nutritional and medicinal properties.

“The fact that most of the con-herbalists say they were also once infected by HIV/AIDS but have since recovered after using the concoctions is making them even more popular,” said Raphael Mwachofi, a Mombasa resident whose brother abandoned his ARVs in favour of one such potion.

Mwanjama said the government would need to redouble its efforts to convince people to adhere to their ARV regimen. Coast Province, where many people still lack information about HIV/AIDS, has an HIV prevalence of 7.9 percent, similar to the national average of 7.8 percent.

Stigma made it difficult for the provincial administration to crack down on the culprits, said Benjamin Nzuki, a senior district officer in the area. “You see, nobody infected or affected would want to come out openly, and those using the concoction seem to have made up their minds about [its ability to cure],” he said.

Elizabeth Mwakolo, 32, a mother of four, commented: “Having suffered from the disease for four years now, it feels good to find a drug that is sweet and easy to swallow. Moringa has even made me fatter, and I do believe I’ll soon become negative again.” She paid the equivalent of US$75 for the drug, money she can ill afford.

The government is developing an action plan to regulate the use of traditional medicine and incorporate it in the treatment of major illnesses such as malaria and HIV, but the vast majority of traditional practitioners are unregulated.

Although there are few avenues to test the efficacy of these remedies, an estimated 80 percent of Kenyans use traditional healers either exclusively or in conjunction with Western medicine.

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Kenya’s Post Poll Violence: Africa’s Elders Seize a Leading Role

Posted on 16 August 2008. Filed under: Governance, Insecurity, Politics, Refugees/ IDPs |

In January, one of Africa’s most stable democracies was violently ripping itself apart. How was it saved? In a four-part special report, the key players tell what happened.

In January, one of Africa’s most stable democracies was violently ripping itself apart. How was it saved? In a special report, the key players tell what happened. In Eldoret, Kenya, the town most riven by violence earlier this year, local leaders in May discuss their differences. Chief mediator Kofi Annan is shown here on Jan. 22.

REBUILDING AFTER VIOLENCE: In January, one of Africa’s most stable democracies was violently ripping itself apart. How was it saved? In a special report, the key players tell what happened. In Eldoret, Kenya, the town most riven by violence earlier this year, local leaders in May discuss their differences. Chief mediator Kofi Annan is shown here on Jan. 22.

By Scott Baldauf | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
NAIROBI, KENYA – Kenya’s peace talks have barely begun. But the atmosphere in the Orchid Room of the Serena Hotel is already toxic.

“You stole the election,” shouts William Ruto, a fiery, big-framed politician.

“We didn’t steal it,” shoots back the Kenyan government’s negotiating team leader, Martha Karua. She’s the Margaret Thatcher, the “Iron Lady,” of Kenyan politics. She’s not giving an inch.

In fact, Ms. Karua will be the most intractable of those seated at the table over the coming days and weeks. “We won it fair and square.” says Karua.

But there’s another African woman present, an authority figure beyond reproach, who brusquely cuts Karua off: “If that is the case, then why the violence?”

Graça Machel, the wife of former South African president Nelson Mandela, presses the point home. “Why the swearing-in ceremony at the State House at night? You have to acknowledge that you have a problem.”

A problem, indeed.

One of Africa’s most stable democracies was ripping itself apart. In the month following Kenya’s closely contested presidential elections, more than 700 people had died in the ethnic-political conflict. The media were starting to compare the spreading violence to the genocide that occurred in Rwanda in 1994.

Just days before the peace talks began, Ms. Machel had personally visited camps for refugees of the violence in the Rift Valley, where a church had been deliberately torched with some 30 women and children inside. After hearing one grandmother’s tale of tragedy, Machel and the woman hugged and cried, their foreheads touching.

So, when Machel addresses all the Kenyan negotiators on Jan. 29, her voice now rising with emotion, the room falls silent.

“Your country is bleeding,” she tells them. “You need to act.”

• • •

In the next five weeks, led by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and a team of African statesmen and women, known as The Panel of Eminent African Personalities, they achieve what few thought was possible: a cessation of fighting and a power-sharing deal to put Kenya back together again.

Machel’s presence, along with Mr. Annan, and former Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa, would provide important ballast. Machel and Annan are part of The Elders, a dozen experienced leaders from around the world, set up in 2007 by Mr. Mandela and others to address global problems.

At a time when Kenya’s angry “young turks” were whipping up the emotions that fed violence, these African elders had the calming influence of a stern grandparent, in front of whom one doesn’t misbehave.

“I came in at a time when there was so much mistrust,” recalls Annan in an interview later. “The two blocks had dug in. One felt they had won the elections fair and square, the other maintained ‘you stole it.’ ”

“With that sort of attitude, getting them to come together, and getting them to begin to think of coming together, and … thinking in terms that we are all Kenyans and we are one Kenya, and we need to work together to put it back together, was not an easy task,” he says with a large dose of understatement.

Today, five months later, an uneasy alliance is holding. Even Annan predicted it would take at least a year to get a fully operational government of national unity, especially given the ugly underlying issues of class, ethnicity, and wealth which had set off the crisis. But the fact that Kenya has a government at all shows that international pressure and African-led mediation can work, say experts.

To understand how peace came to Kenya, the Monitor conducted interviews with many of the key Kenyan players on both mediation teams, along with the African statesmen who steered it toward success. This story is based on their memories of the events inside the negotiation room, along with Monitor reporting of the violence that continued to brew outside – a daily reminder to everyone in Kenya of the potential costs of failure.

By the time Annan and his team arrived on Jan. 22, it was not clear how much of Kenya would be left to save. Starting on Saturday evening Dec. 29, when President Mwai Kibaki was declared victor by the Electoral Commission of Kenya and sworn into office an hour later, violence had spread swiftly across areas where the opposition’s support was strongest.

Hardest hit was the Rift Valley, the country’s breadbasket, where people of all ethnicities came to farm the lands that the white British colonialists had treasured. The violence was brutal, ethnic, and personal. Young men – urged on by inflammatory FM radio stations broadcasting in the Kalenjin language – rampaged from village to village, carrying iron rods, machetes, axes, and even bows with poisoned arrows. Their targets were members of the dominant Kikuyu tribe, President Kibaki’s ethnic group. Some were given warnings to leave, others were slaughtered in their homes – or in their church.

A gang of youths set ablaze the Kenya Assemblies of God Pentecostal Church in Eldoret on Jan. 1. At least 30 people were inside, taking shelter from the tribal clashes. Kenya’s leading newspaper, the Daily Nation, reported that the country is on “the verge of a complete meltdown.”

Over the next three weeks the death toll would rise to 650.

Annan’s arrival doesn’t stop the violence right away. But the lifelong diplomat wastes little time. Within two days, he convinces the two sides to negotiate with each other with no preconditions. On the evening of Jan. 24, on national TV, millions of Kenyans see the two opponents, President Kibaki and Raila Odinga, shaking hands and sipping tea.

Over the next two days, as Kibaki and Mr. Odinga assemble their mediation teams, Annan and his team hop into Kenyan military helicopters and tour the Rift Valley’s worst affected areas to assess the humanitarian needs. A spasm of violence over the weekend – including 60 murders and the assassination of a newly elected ODM legislator Melitus Mugabe Were – prompts Annan to send the mediators home to calm their grieving communities.

• • •

For his part, Mr. Odinga, the opposition leader, chooses a team of four fiery politicians, led by William Ruto. Only one among them, James Orengo, is an attorney, but the other three represent a cross section of the opposition movement’s main power bases, mostly from the Rift Valley. While the ODM party had been confrontational on the streets, in the mediation board room, they would show a more professional side, referring to their counterparts as “my learned friend” or “the honorable gentleman.”

President Kibaki, on the other hand, loads his team with lawyers, chief among them his justice minister, Martha Karua. His team would defend the election results based on the Constitution, the rule of law.

The members of each team know their opponents intimately. The relations between these two sides are so entangled that one member of the president’s team, Mutula Kilonzo, would take time out from the peace talks to argue a civil case in court for one of the opposition team members, Sally Kosgei.

Together, these eight men and women were Kenya’s brightest and most ambitious. And over the next five weeks, their debates on arcane points of constitutional law would form the sophisticated counterpoint to the images of vicious street fighting that were redefining Kenya in the eyes of world.

This article has been republished with permission from the on-line edition of the Christian Science Monitor

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Danger: The African Elephant Under Siege from Poachers!

Posted on 16 August 2008. Filed under: Wildlife |

Massacre of the giants: Once hunted to near extinction, Africa’s elephants slowly pulled back from the brink

But the end of a ban on ivory slaves – backed by Britain – has launched a savage new bloodbath by ruthless poachers

By Sue Reid
Last updated at 10:54 PM on 15th August 2008

With the poisoned tip of a metal arrow piercing her right leg, a pregnant elephant stumbles miles through the African bush towards her death.

After two days of agony she falls to the red earth, while her killers, following on bicycles and carrying butchering knives, wait for the end to come.

In the darkness of a Kenyan night, the four poachers watch as she first loses her unborn calf in a spontaneous miscarriage provoked by the poison in her body.

Poachers launched a new attack on the African elephant after the end of a ban on ivory sales

Under threat: Poachers launched a new attack on the African elephant after the end of a ban on ivory sales

An hour later, after the 35-year- old elephant dies, they move in – hacking off her face to steal the two precious ivory tusks which will make them rich for years.

Soon, they hope, the tusks will have been smuggled out of Africa and be on their way to a factory in Beijing, to be carved into jewellery and chopsticks.

Just a few weeks ago, though, these poachers were caught. James Ekiru, the head ranger at Rukinga Wildlife Sanctuary (which is in sight of Mount Kilimanjaro and two hours’ drive from the port of Mombassa), says: ‘We followed their tracks, and 24 hours after they killed this mother elephant, we found them with the tusks lying on the ground.

‘They were starting to butcher her meat – cutting it into kilo pieces. We arrested two of them, but two more got away. They were local men.

‘We suspect the elephant was killed “to order”, and that her tusks would have been smuggled to China.

James Ekiru is on the frontline of a new and brutal war over Africa’s elephants.

Today, the fight has caught public imagination following a controversial decision last month by an international committee – which includes British representatives – to lift a strict ban on the sale of ivory.

Kenyan Wildlife Service handle illegal elephant tusks seized in a town on the border with Ethiopia

Kenyan Wildlife Service handle illegal elephant tusks seized in a town on the border with Ethiopia

The Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in Geneva ruled that for the first time in nearly 20 years, China should be allowed to buy 108 tonnes of ivory stockpiled in South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe – countries where elephant numbers are rising so fast in some areas that they are officially culled.

The decision has provoked fury. Many conservationists and 148 British MPs have opposed the decision, saying the sale to China will be a death sentence for elephants, because it will ignite the widespread illegal poaching of ivory.

Critics argue that the lifting of the ban will make it impossible to tell whether tusks have come from an official stockpile or have been supplied by poachers.

So what does the future hold for Africa’s elephant population? Thirty years ago, there were a million elephants in Africa.

But in the 1980s, poaching took its toll – and over a period of nine years half of Africa’s elephants were slaughtered for their tusks.

Even Kenya, which goes to great lengths to protect its elephants, lost huge numbers to poachers. In 1979, there were 130,000 roaming the bush of this East African nation.

A decade later, numbers had dropped to 16,000.

At the height of the crisis, in 1989, CITES agreed a worldwide moratorium on ivory sales. Almost immediately, an end was brought to the trade – both legal and illegal – in tusks.

An ivory sculptor from the Ivory coast carves elephant tusks to make jewelry and ornaments

Prehistoric custom: An ivory sculptor from the Ivory coast carves elephant tusks to make jewelry and ornaments

In Britain and Western Europe, the use of ivory became taboo, and it was no longer considered acceptable to have a piece of jewellery made from a tusk.

As a direct result of the CITES agreement, elephant numbers recovered. Today, there are an estimated 400,000 across the African continent.

Predictably, though, the shortage of ivory meant that prices crept up and poaching has returned with a vengeance.

At the heart of the problem is China’s insatiable craving for tusks.

With 1.2 billion people, it is the biggest consumer of ivory, and over the course of four centuries has enthusiastically traded in African elephant tusks. (Asian elephants’ ivory is not as desirable because it is too brittle for fine carvings).

It is a tradition for every Chinese citizen to have an ivory seal to print their name (it means their signatures do not change

over the years); every home has ivory chopsticks, and hundreds of gift shops are devoted to selling ivory figurines and jewellery.

With no legal ivory available after the international ban, an illicit market started to thrive. Black market prices have risen by 73 per cent over the past two years.

The rewards are huge. Dubbed ‘white gold’ in Africa, ivory is sold illegally at up to £40 per kilogram, and prices can reach ten times that amount once smuggled to Chinese factories for carving.

Every dead elephant can yield ten kilograms of ivory – worth £4,000.

In Africa, where corruption is endemic and poverty never-ending, the sums are a fortune and can change people’s lives.

Indeed, according to Interpol, tusks are so valuable that Somali warlords send soldiers over the border into Kenya to kill elephants for tusks – and use the proceeds to buy guns.

The ivory-for-arms trade is booming in every conflict-riddled nation of Africa.

Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe regime is exploiting the crisis, too. According to newspapers in Harare, the government sold £850,000 of the country’s ivory stocks illegally as part-payment for a shipment of ammunition and grenades from China.

”]Bones of a dead African elephant caught up in the Ivory Wars [from the BBC2 series called Ivory Wars]Whatever the precise truth, the catastrophe is growing. Experts at America’s Conservation Biology Centre in Washington DC estimate that 240 tons of ivory are smuggled out of Africa every year – which must mean the deaths of 24,000 of the world’s largest land mammal.

Winnie Kiiru, the Kenyan wildlife consultant for international animal conservation charity the Born Free Foundation, which successfully campaigned for the 1989 trade ban in tusks, said this week: ‘There are not enough elephants on the globe to satisfy China’s market for ivory.

‘They do not care if they get it legally or illegally. They just want it now.’

The decision by CITES to allow the ivory sale to China follows unrelenting pressure from South Africa, Botswana and Namibia – countries where the majority of Africa’s elephants live.

They believe they should benefit financially from their elephant herds, and that they deserve to be rewarded for their treasure troves of ivory which have either been confiscated from poachers or collected from carcasses of elephants which died naturally or have been culled since the 1989 ban.

On the other hand, other African countries, which have lost almost all their elephants to poachers, are deeply opposed to the trade.

While Kenya now has 30,000 elephants, in some of the poorest African countries, elephants can be counted on the fingers of a careless sawmill worker.

Senegal, which a decade ago had 20,000, can find only two.

In the enormous spaces of Sierre Leone and Liberia, they have just a few hundred apiece.

Throughout all of Western Africa there are only 7,500 elephants – a miserable total that is once again falling fast as poaching takes hold.

It is the same story in Central Africa.

Patrick Omondi, senior assistant director of the Kenyan Wildlife Service, says: ‘The CITES decision last month was wrong. The elephant is in for a very tough time.

‘In some parts of our continent, the elephant will disappear. This official sale of ivory to China will provide a smokescreen for the evil elephant killers who trade illegally in tusks.’

Others are still more vocal. Dame Daphne Sheldrick, the conservationist who runs a home for Kenya’s orphan elephants (many have lost their parents to poachers) outside Nairobi, said: ‘The decision to sanction the legal sale of ivory to China has potentially signed the death warrant for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of wild elephants.

‘Britain’s support means that Prime Minister Gordon Brown has the blood of hundreds of elephants on his hands. By this deed he will succeed in upsetting the British people – most of whom care deeply about elephants.

‘All who trade or buy ivory have cost an elephant its life, and that of its dependent young.’

So can Africa’s elephants survive? Perhaps no organisation can predict the answer more accurately than the Kenya Wildlife Service, which was set up in 1990 to manage and protect the country’s animals, birds and plants.

It controls 32 national parks and has 400 rangers armed with the most modern Russian-bought Kalashnikov rifles.

The Kenya Wildlife Service says the decision to sell ivory to China is already encouraging a poaching free-for-all.

In the past six months, 41 elephants have been killed in their national parks, compared with 50 in a normal year.

The animals have been shot with rifles, snared and, increasingly, killed with bows and arrows laced with sap from the acokanthera tree – an African shrub dubbed ‘the bushman’s poison’.

The sap contains a toxin deadly to humans and animals, and the arrow technique is preferred to guns because rangers cannot hear them.

Since June, nearly 100 poachers of elephants have been arrested in Kenya.

According to Dickson Lesimirdana, assistant director of the KWS Wildlife Protection Unit: ‘There has been an increase in poaching on Kenya’s borders, where it is easier to smuggle ivory out of the country.’

Most of the arrests are linked to the ivory trade with China.

Nowhere is this more obvious than at Kenya’s main international Jomo Kenyatta airport on the outskirts of the capital Nairobi. Earlier this year, just before the contentious decision to approve the sale of ivory, a Chinese woman was found trying to take four tusks out of the country in three suitcases.

‘She was middle-aged, but had managed to get the heavy cases with an enormous 46 kilograms of elephant ivory to the airport,’ explains Robert Muasya, the KWS head of security.

‘Suspicion was aroused when she went through the security gates hoping to take a flight to China. Our sniffer dogs working at the airport were called in immediately.’

A week later, three more Chinese nationals were discovered trying the same trick at the airport’s international departure gates.

They were arrested trying to smuggle 36 pieces of carved ivory.

They are thought to have been using Kenya as a staging post, bringing in the figurines, bracelets, blank name seals and jewellery from other parts of Africa and hoping to take them on to China.

In Tsavo East, Kenya’s biggest wildlife park, which is the size of Wales, the fight against poaching is at its fiercest.

Rangers protecting elephants there have been killed by poachers.

Senior warden Yussuf Adan says a 56-year-old local farmer was recently arrested with 46 kilos of raw ivory tusks that he was offering for sale.

The arrest followed a ‘sting’ set up by the wildlife service. An officer successfully trapped the man after disguising himself in Arab robes and pretending to be a trader from Mombassa sending ivory to China.

A fortnight ago, a local court sentenced the farmer to four years in prison.

Yussuf explains why poaching has become so rampant: ‘The money the farmer would have got for the ivory is enough to feed his family for five years.

‘But we need elephants for everyone in Kenya. They give us a tourist trade. By protecting them, we deter the poachers and protect all our wildlife.’

Nearby is a locked store room containing ivory that has been collected by rangers.

Each tusk is dated in indelible ink and itemised over ten closely printed pages on Yussuf ‘s desk.

The collection weighs 5,000 kilograms – worth almost £2 million if ever sold on the world market.

But the Kenyan government says that ivory should never be traded, and rejects the argument used by some economists that if all African countries sold their stockpiles, the market price for ivory would collapse and poaching would disappear.

The official policy is supported head ranger James Ekiru’s British boss, Rob Dodson, a former public schoolboy who came out to Africa on his gap year 20 years ago, fell in love with the continent and stayed.

The 80,000-acre Rukinga sanctuary, adjoining the Tsavo park and home to more than 1,500 elephants, has lost four beasts in four months to poachers. Only two had been taken in the previous five years.

Rob is a committed conservationist and believes China’s greed is jeopardising Africa’s elephants.

‘If you kill their national treasure, the panda, you get executed,’ he says with an ironic laugh. ‘How can a country that protects its own wildlife so strictly care so little about our animals in Africa?’

* To make a donation to the Born Free Foundation’s work providing rangers to fight elephant poaching, go to http://www.bornfree.org.uk or call the hotline on 0870 777 4321.

Republished from the Daily Mail

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Food Reserves Set to Plummet in Central Province

Posted on 15 August 2008. Filed under: Food Security |


Photo: Waweru Mugo/IRIN
Ruth Wangechi examines her failed maize crop in Thung’ari village, Nyeri

NYERI, 13 August 2008 (IRIN) – Poor rains and the presence of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Central Kenya, a traditionally food-secure region, have stretched available resources with government and humanitarian officials predicting a sharp drop in food reserves.

“This year has not been normal because of the internally displaced persons who took refuge in the province and also due to unfavourable climatic conditions that adversely affected our food crops,” Japhter Rugut, the Central Province commissioner, told IRIN.

Rugut said the province, with an estimated population of 4.2 million, had hosted 70,000 IDPs during the post-election crisis, overstretching available food resources.

He said the proportion of harvested food stored, rather than consumed immediately, would probably be less than half the usual amount.

“Our projection for this year is that we are likely to require nearly double the relief food rations…150,000 bags of maize and 60,000 bags of beans to see us through,” he said.

The worst-affected areas in the province include the districts of Nyeri North, Maragua and Thika, according to the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS). The weather in these areas was cold and dry with very few days of scanty rainfall.

“Some of these areas have to make do with relief [food] until the next crop,” Martin Muteru, KRCS Central Region Relief Field Officer, told IRIN.

“Indeed there is need for an EMOP [Emergency Operation] assessment to help identify the actual needs on the ground,” Muteru said, adding that the prices of flour, cooking oil, among other essential food items, had risen beyond the reach of “the common man”.

According to a June-July Crop Situation Report for Nyeri North, the food situation was fairly poor in all the areas due to poor weather conditions.

“The short rains [maize] crop has been harvested. Yields were low and expected to drop by 75 per cent… [bean] yields are very low and are expected to drop by over 90 per cent,” said the report.

A farmer in Thung’ari Village in Nyeri North, Ruth Wangechi, said her entire maize crop had failed and she was relying on government aid to feed her four children.

Like most small scale farmers in the province, Wangechi only plants staple food crops such as maize. In some areas, the maize crop has been affected by frost, maize streak and the stalk borer.


Photo: Ann Weru/IRIN
Poor rains and the presence of IDPs in Central Kenya, a traditionally food-secure region, have stretched available resources, with officials predicting a sharp drop in food reserves

“Currently 60 percent of the farming households are depending on the markets for their food items,” George Mwai, the Nyeri South District Agricultural Officer, said.

The low production per unit area is attributable to rising soil infertility aggravated by little application of fertilisers, Mwai said in a Food and Crop Situation Report for June to July 2008.

“Farm input prices, especially fertilisers have also risen dramatically [in price] and with the long rains planting season being over, many farmers reduced on the rates or completely avoided their usage and this will greatly hamper food security this year,” he said in the report.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, there were at least 823,000 farming households in the province, each with an average farm size of 0.7 hectares in 2007.

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Boosting Biofuels Without Compromising Food Security

Posted on 15 August 2008. Filed under: Food Security |


Photo: Julius Mwelu/IRIN
The Jatropha’s deceitfully luscious yellow fruit are poisonous; however, these glossy black seeds have an oil content of 37 percent

NAIROBI, 13 August 2008 (IRIN) – The oil-rich seed of a poisonous shrub that thrives in arid climates with poor soil lies at the heart of plans by Kenya to reduce its dependence on imported fossil fuels without threatening food security.

“We are definitely focusing on the jatropha plant for oil production,” Faith Odongo of the Ministry of Energy told IRIN.

In May 2008, the ministry unveiled a five-year strategy to develop the bio-diesel industry to “enable more Kenyans to enjoy and derive comfort from the supply of bio-diesel for agricultural production, employment creation, rural-urban balance and blending in the motor vehicle industry”.

The strategy includes detailed proposals for the cultivation of the jatropha curcas shrub as well as the processing of its seeds, also known as Barbados nuts or Physic nuts, and the distribution of the resulting bio-diesel for transport and power generation.

Odongo said the key objectives of the government strategy included the diversification of rural energy sources by promoting the replacement of kerosene -commonly used for domestic use – by bio-diesel.

She said the outlook was “positive” and that pilot cultivation projects in various parts of the country had been encouraging. “Research trials in Mpeketoni, Lamu [a coastal town] where there is no power [have shown] people using the little oil they got from the seeds to light their lamps.”

Odongo said the oil extracted from the seeds could be used in community managed bio-diesel electricity generators.

The government predicts that as a result of biofuel development, by 2012, Kenya’s imports of diesel will have fallen by five percent and the proportion of Kenyans who use kerosene for lighting will have dropped from three-quarters to half of the total population.

Cultivation of jatropha in arid areas brings another benefit, according to the strategy paper – the improvement of the existing forest cover would help counter “the effect of deforestation and degradation as well as serving as carbon sink”.

The strategy adds: “The use of marginal land ensures that the high potential areas are not converted to energy production areas and therefore it guards against competition between biofuels and food production.”

Setting up the Kenya Biodiesel Association, which brings together all the stakeholders in the sector, is also part of the strategy, as a “one-stop shop” to coordinate the industry’s various sectors.

In recent years, various organisations and individual farmers have been experimenting with jatropha production.

Elijah Ndogo, a coffee farm manager in Ruiru, central Kenya, has planted six hectares with jatropha.

“We use a lot of diesel in the factory, sometimes we pollute the environment, we were looking for an alternative to cut costs,” he told IRIN.

It has been an educational experience for Ndogo, who initially expected near-miraculous results from his new crop, but now realises he has to wait another three years before his plant reaches maturity and will produce enough seeds for oil extraction. “We thought it would reach full maturity after two years,” he said.


Photo: Julius Mwelu/IRIN
Jatropha has the potential for improving the household income amongst the rural poor of the developing world.

“It is too cold here, the rate of growth is lower, the results will be belated,” he said, adding that he had also lost some of the seedlings to cutworms and millipedes in 2007.

The prices of seeds have also gone up, he said: “In 2006, a kilo seeds went for 1000 shillings (US$15), today half a kilo of seeds goes for 3000 shillings ($46), it’s very expensive.”

According to Miyuki Liyama, an economist with the International Center for Research in Agroforestry (ICRAF), when farmers began planting jatropha in 2006, “they did not have enough scientific knowledge and they did not know the agronomy of jatropha”.

She also said the government would have to do more to make its strategy viable. “There is no ready market for biofuel in Kenya yet,” she said.

According to media reports, this hasn’t stopped a Japan-based company, Biwako Bio-Laboratory Inc, from announcing a 10-year, US$19.4 million commercial bio-diesel project using jatropha seeds grown over an eventual 100,000 ha of land.

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New Report Identifies Gender Inequality as a Barrier to Kenya’s Development

Posted on 12 August 2008. Filed under: Affirmative Action, Development |

New Institute of Economic Affairs report identifies gender inequality as a barrier to Kenya’s development

The Institute of Economic Affairs’ (IEA) latest report on the socio-economic status of women in Kenya says women have made minimal strides in their quest to bridge the inequality gap. However, this state of affairs is not blamed solely on women but on the prevailing political system. The report titled Profile of Women’s Socio-Economic Status in Kenya shows low education levels among women in comparison to men. On primary school participation, the overall enrolment rate of boys is higher than that of their female counterparts, but North Eastern Province still lags far behind compared to the other provinces in Kenya by recording the lowest figures for girls’ enrolment in school. The figure stands at 27.6% followed by Nairobi recording a percentage of 40.1%.

Secondary school data on the other hand shows that the rate of women’s enrolment is much lower. This is based on the fact that the female students face the challenges of early marriage and some parents prefer to educate their sons over daughters. The trend continues into institutions of higher learning where again the number of female students at university level is much lower than their male counterparts and their preference is for the arts courses. The situation depicts the low progression of female students across education levels.

In the labour force, women constitute 30% of the overall wage employment. The highest percentage is recorded in the education sector (45%) while the lowest is in the building and construction industry (7%), manufacturing 18%, electricity and water 18%. More women tend to venture into the small micro enterprises (SMEs). Although women operate 54% of the total enterprises in the country where they dominate wholesale and retail businesses, rural manufacturing and urban agriculture sectors. Men are well represented in such sectors as urban manufacturing, transport, financial and social services. It is also pointed out in the report that, representation of both men and women in decision making processes is critical for effective implementation of policies that affect the general population. However a negligible proportion of women are represented in senior and middle level policy formulation and implementation processes.

In the judicial system, women are represented in the lower cadres among district and resident magistrates. Out of the 15 Appeal Judges, there is only one female among them. The report also says that the legal structures enacted face the risk of failing to materialize because of lack of budgetary allocations. Other challenges include the delay of debates before parliament and the long legislation processes. Further, the report says that the government and other stakeholders in the health sector have implemented various initiatives targeted at improving the health of women who in essence, are more vulnerable than men to infections. Interventions include constituency HIV/AIDS fund, national insurance fund, funding for malaria, TB programs and other health related expenditures.

The same report identifies the challenges of dealing with domestic violence as being more to do with attitudinal or cultural perceptions than policy. While it may be argued that the key issue related to persistence of gender violence is the rate of economic dependence of women on men, it is also worth noting that due to cultural reasons even economically independent women persevere and therefore allow the vice of domestic violence to persist. Domestic violence has locks out potential and opportunities for women who cannot develop themselves because they are afraid of their husbands’ attitude and reactions.

Enhancing gender equality is critical for any country’s development. Despite the fact that the women represent 51% of the Kenyan population, their representation in post primary education, wage employment, enterprise ownership and decision making process is limited, they are also adversely affected by such factors as traditional and social practices, poverty and domestic violence among other challenges. Improving women’s profile in all sectors and reducing gender disparities will not only benefit women but also men, children, the poor and rich as well. This will also enhance women’s empowerment and contribute to sustainable economic growth, reduce poverty and social injustices. The national budget could also be tailored to address gender issues in order to reduce gender inequalities.

http://www.awcfs.org/content/view/464/103/

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Give Women Land Rights and Make Poverty History

Posted on 12 August 2008. Filed under: Affirmative Action, Poverty |

The recent statement by the Minister for Lands, Hon. James Orengo that the National Land Policy is ready for cabinet deliberation and final approval is something that is overdue.  But for the majority of Kenyan women who wallow in poverty and are destitute, the announcement has generated a lot of excitement as they have for a long time been culturally prohibited from inheriting this critical factor of production and source of wealth. This is because the Land Policy recognizes gender equity as a principle.

Such a provision is what women have been advocating for, for donkey years. Because with it, our society can begin to start seeing women not as bystanders and passive actors, but those who can contribute immensely to economic growth by owning and controlling how this important asset is used.  An asset that will determine whether they will remain submerged in poverty or excel in life. This was eloquently put by South African activist, Maureen Mnisi, that “the struggle for rights to land is bigger than the struggle to alleviate poverty.”  Indeed, no one group understands this better than women, who are reputed to produce at least 80 percent of Kenya’s food and with at least 90 percent of their labour being channeled towards food production and processing.

But because they do not own land, they are never beneficiaries of their sweat. Their men are instead the real winners: they walk to the bank, pick the money, and take-off for holiday with their mistresses. Indeed, the fact that it is very difficult, if not downright impossible, to put a finger on precise data on how women are affected by lack of land ownership. That is why the proposed draft on Land Policy is welcomed. Secondly, this policy is vital because it addresses the linkages between HIV/AIDS and poverty and land ownership.

I know there have been a lot of cultural barriers around women and land ownership in Kenya. This is not withstanding that a lot of discussions have taken place on issues around women and land tenure. The experience from the past, especially during the 2005 referendum proved how emotional and culturally sensitive these issues can be, and sent a message to women that the struggle will not be easy. The policy might be in law, but in practice, they will have to go an extra mile. Some of the arguments made during the referendum included: How can a woman inherit land at her birth place; at her matrimonial home; why would a married woman think of having her own piece of land when her husband has not approved it.

Since women’s rights to land is either through marriage or through a male relative, this makes them virtually invisible when it comes to benefits, services and earnings from land. They are also absent from the statistics that would make a difference in planning. Like in the rest of Africa, even where laws have been put in place allowing women to own land, customary practices at times dictates that ownership, making relatives often subvert the official policy. But I believe that, if the Land Policy becomes a reality, we should not give it narrow interpretation.

As proposed within the draft, there should be what I would call: “Land laws menu,” that will raise critical questions such as “How would you like yours done Ma’am?  It is going to be joint ownership, co-ownership; consent from both partners when one of them sells land; or the right to be present when your man buys land. If the Land Policy is in place, can we then start thinking about alternative  forms of land tenure that cater for the realities we are trying to address as a nation. But for Kenya, it should be recognized that discussions around food security, sustainable development and achieving vision 2030 does not make any sense if the question of land rights is not addressed comprehensively. They are the managers of the land; and custodians of indigenous knowledge that ensures sustainable management of our environment. They work the land, know precisely what to plant; and how their families are to be fed throughout the year.

Every time a government fails to take into account women’s knowledge and experiences in land and agriculture, we condemn the earth.  Putting women at the centre of land rights is the first step towards sustainable development and alleviating poverty and the Kenyan women will be waiting with bated breath on the outcome of the cabinet’s decision on the draft Land Policy Bill.

http://www.awcfs.org/content/view/468/1/

*The African Woman and Child Features Service (AWC) is a Nairobi-based media organisation
with an African regional outlook
.

AWC has been active in training journalists and other media practitioners as well as NGOs in the region in the area of gender, media and development. It has assisted in the production of training manuals for organisations, gender mainstreaming policies and content for media houses and training women on how to access and effectively use the media for development.

*The writer is the Executive Director of AWC Features

This article was also published in the Saturday Standard on July 26 2008.

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Enforcement of the Sexual Offences Act in Kenya

Posted on 12 August 2008. Filed under: Affirmative Action, Governance |

INTRODUCTION

Is the criminal justice system in Kenya well equipped to protect women from gender-based violence? This a critical question because in July this year, the Sexual Offences Act (SOA) is celebrating two years of existence having came into force on 21 July 2006. It has been lauded as an evolutionally piece of legislation that provides for the prevention and protection of all persons from harmful and unlawful sexual acts. It expanded the definition of rape to comply with jurisprudence that is evolving from the international arena and introduces new crimes that did not exist in the previous legal framework.

The Office of the Attorney General has formulated a Reference Manual [1] that expounds the Act as well as setting standards and recommendations on best practices to various key service providers. The target is not only the police investigator and prosecutor, but also medical practitioners, civil society, gender activists and general consumers of criminal justice services. If used well, the manual can become an important tool in achieving the objectives set out in the preamble of the Act as well as sensitizing communities through outreach programs.

This discussion paper is going to examine the shortcomings encountered by women who seek redress within the criminal justice sector as well as making recommendations to counter them. The right to development, to peace, and to justice cannot be overemphasized [2]. Violence against women denies women peace of mind, bodily integrity, and a sense of development, curtailing their contribution to development.

INADEQUACIES WITHIN THE NATIONAL LEGAL FRAMEWORK

According to international practice, it is the duty of states to promote and protect human rights at the national level. In its 85th Plenary Meeting held on 20th December 1993, the General Assembly of the United Nations passed the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women. It encourages governments to take steps to ensure that women are protected from all forms of violence be it of physical, sexual psychological nature. Among specific acts of violence delineated in the declaration are sexual offences, battering, marital rape, FGM, dowry related violence etc. Kenya has a legal framework that purports to comply with the above declaration and other related instruments. Unfortunately, it has failed to go the full mile and criminalize all the offences envisioned in the Declaration.

I think it is correct to say that there appears to be subtle discriminations within our legal framework that blatantly refuses to recognize that all women, no matter marital status, are equal before the law and should therefore get equal treatment and protection. The status quo is that marital status and cultural relativism are being used to deny a certain section of the women constituency a sip from the communal calabash of justice. There is no justification for the continued failure to criminalize domestic violence and marital rape. Our sisters from the SADC countries seem to be steps ahead in this thrust and heave for the ultimate price that is equality in justice. Already, six countries; Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, and Tanzania have taken the cue from international organizations and agreements and passed legislation that criminalizes marital rape.

The truth is that rape is rape, is rape; whatever name may precede it. Pamela Mhlanga observed that, “Rape in all its forms can be a matter of life and death and causes untold trauma on survivors and in some cases social ostracizition including permanent scars, aside from destroying the essence of their life [3].”

PRACTICAL PROBLEMS ENCOUNTERED WHILE ACCESSING PROTECTION UNDER THE SEXUAL OFFENCES ACT

Even for those women who have a ‘legitimate’ right not to be raped; (because their experience of rape fall under the legislative mandate) their road to legal redress is not smooth sailing. Apart from the high cost of accessing justice, ignorance and technicality of the court process, they risk falling foul to rogue police officers who may take advantage of their vulnerability to extract the ‘extra pound’ of flesh before they receive services. It is unfortunate that although section 24 of SOA prohibits law enforcement officers extracting sexual favors from people who seek their services, there is no enforcing and monitoring mechanism in place to ensure compliance.

Women who seek services at the police station have get sexually attacked; harassed or simply forced to give bribes in order to receive services. Take the case on Sarah, a woman who had complained against her estranged husband for assault. Every time the case came for hearing it got adjourned. When she made inquiries from the prosecutor, she learnt that the magistrate was waiting to be ‘seen’. The prosecutor asked for her mobile number and she began to receive very seductive messages from the trial magistrate. He wanted to have sexual relations with her and at one time told her that her case would not ‘go’ anywhere unless she complies.

Although the matter was referred to police for investigations, nothing happened. They alerted the rogue magistrate who stopped sending the offensive messages. They also claimed that they did not have the technical know-how to extract the previous messages from Sarah’s phone. In the end, the matter fizzled to oblivion after the case got transferred to another court. The trial magistrate later got disciplined by getting a transfer to a remote area, where it is feared, he may be continuing his wayward ways against defenseless, disempowered and ignorant women.

At the worst, a woman who is a victim of violence also risks being victimized under section 38 of the SOA which criminalizes the offence of making false allegations. Many police investigators and prosecutors are categorical that they would not hesitate to charge complainants in sexual offences case if the trial magistrate failed to place an accused on his defense. To them failure of a prosecution case at this stage showed that the complainant had given false allegations. The police need to be disabused from this hackneyed interpretation of section 38. They should know that a criminal prosecution can flounder for other reasons. Sometimes a crucial witness such as a doctor can fail to appear in court and exhibits can get misplaced.

Another problem facing women in Kenya in their quest for justice is lack of specialization and sensitization of police investigators and prosecutors. Police prosecutors carry out most prosecutions before subordinate courts where most sexual offences are prosecuted. State counsels who are trained lawyers handle the more serious crimes like murder and treason in High court. Many factors contribute to the high rate of acquittals in sexual offences. In a system where access to justice is based on dichotomies of whether one is rich or poor, man or woman, health or sick; with the first variable almost always getting the upper hand, women are bound to suffer. This makes nonsense the doctrine of equality and non-discrimination in justice, which is the cornerstone of international, regional and national jurisprudence.

Also heavy work loads on the part of prosecutors lead to shoddy prosecutions. In a day, a prosecutor may handle 25 cases, so he is not able to give focused attention on any particular case. Logistics deny him research facilities, which put him at a disadvantage when compared with sharp defense lawyers who have all the time and facilities to prepare for their cases. There is no opportunity for holding pre-trial interviews with witnesses or even visiting the scene of crime in preparation for the hearing. Most prosecutors’ offices are one room affairs tucked in a corner of the court premises and sometimes it is shared between two to five prosecutors. This makes it impossible to comply with the good practices recommended to services providers in cases of violence against women [4].

DORMANT ‘WHITE ELEPHANT’ PROVISIONS

It is laudable that the Attorney General has appointed a multi-sectoral task force that is now in the process of developing a National Policy Framework to guide in the implementation and enforcement of the SOA. Once the policy is formulated, the Attorney General will have complied with the provisions of section 46 of the Sexual Offences Act. Unfortunately, there are many sections existing in our current legal framework, which are not yet operational for lack of regulations to make them effective. Designated officers who are mandated to formulate rules and guidance to trigger their operation have failed to do their duty.

I have in mind section 39 of SOA, which places the onus of keeping a register and a data bank of convicted sexual offenders on the registrar of the high court. Section 47 likewise gives the implementing minister power to prescribe regulations on what is to be contained in this data bank. I am not sure such regulations have been formulated so far. Perhaps they will be included in the National Policy Framework.

Another glaring example is section 329 (A) which was introduced by a 2003 amendment of the Criminal Procedure Code. The Chief Justice is required to make rules and regulations to guide the manner in which Victim Impact Statements can be received and their use by courts. Such statements are intended to guide the court in its exercise of sentencing discretion as well as assessing damages that can be ordered against convicted accused person. Attempts by prosecutors to produce such statements in spousal battering cases get rejected because courts are of the opinion that ground rules have not been legally defined.

THE PROBLEM WITH CIVIL SOCIETY, NGOS AND GENDER ACTIVISTS

Agitators for equality and justice among the justice system are ignorant about the law, the legal process and the court procedure. Many members of civil society do not appear to know that the office of the Attorney General can help in cases where victims feel they have been short charged by first line service providers. A good example is a recommendation appearing in COVAW report entitled; ‘In pursuit of justice’, Recommendation Number 5.3.2 advices women to seek other supportive mechanisms ‘be they social or legal from the civil society or other higher ranks within the provincial administration.’ Should they feel that the services they are getting are wanting’

How is an ignorant and non-legal person to know that a service is wanting if no parameters are defined to show them what to expect? Secondly, which specific ‘high’ rank officers should these women approach at the provincial level? Would it not have been better if the report had identified some particular officers within the provincial administration who can be approached for help? One such officer should ideally be the state counsel who ideally monitors the administration of justice within a province or even district. Gender activists need to do more in monitoring the quality of services that victims of violence receive from service providers. My experience with most civil societies is that they come into the scene when it is too late. Even when they do, they concentrate on raising their public profile through postulating to the media and international press at the expense of seeking real justice for the victim.

Many do not take the trouble to observe and monitor the case through the various criminal justice stages. Perhaps it due to lack of knowledge about procedure and processes applied in court of law or even lack of sufficient funding that is the culprit here. Where a gender activist in not well versed in legal procedures, it would be advisable to get a trained lawyer or even a paralegal who can ‘watch legal brief’ during the day to day hearing of the case in order to protect the interests of the victim. This effort would force the magistrate and prosecutor to be on best professional behavior because they are ‘aware’ that they are being watched. It minimizes opportunities for mischief, which would favor the accused defendant.

There is more to case monitoring than just appearing from the blues after an accused has been acquitted for lack of sufficient evidence and threatening magistrates to hold demonstrations to protest release of dangerous criminals. Apart from this, gender activists need to familiarize themselves with post trial process. They should know the ground rules for appeals and the role of Attorney General in criminal appeals. Appeal is a creature of statute and the A-G can only appeal on grounds of law not facts.

CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS

It is evident that the office of the Attorney General has taken the initiative to initiate a national policy framework that will aid justice consumers access justice. Until the task force completes it work, it is not possible to know what practice tools will be developed. Apart from making the policy framework, it is recommended that a gender unit be established in the department of public prosecution. Its work should be to monitor how cases that are brought under the Act are dealt with through the various stages of our criminal justice system.

One of the greatest bottlenecks facing research in Kenya is lack of information on court cases. There is no established mechanisms for addressing existing bottlenecks because there is not data to go by.

Other suggestions are as follows.

– To win the war against violence against women, we must first have a paradigm
shift in our service delivery system.
– We must make our services consumer friendly and sensitive.
– Gender focal points manned by specialized officers should be available in all
police stations.
– Gender mainstreaming within the police department should be taken seriously,
so that more women get appointed as prosecutors and officers commanding
stations (OCS).
– Model One-stop centers ought to be introduced at select police stations,
preferably in every province.
– Community outreach programs during chiefs barazas so that women and
communities at large can be sensitized about VAW.
– Human rights training for women’s groups and service providers should be given.
– Training of paralegals within society and encouraging volunteering by key
community leaders can effectively protect women
– Monitoring of out come of criminal cases in court should be done as a matter of
routine by the A-G.
– Simple guidance manuals that can aid consumers of justice in understanding
court process so that they can adequately represent their interests.
– Which brings me to my final recommendation: we must have an oversight body
to police the police and other service providers in order to stop the impunity with
which violence against women is treated.

*Ann Nyambura Kithaka is a Judicial System Monitor in the Legal and Judicial
System Support Division (LJSSD), United Nations Mission Mission in Liberia
(UNMIL)

* Please send comments to: editor@pambazuka.org or
comment online at: http://www.pambazuka.org/

Notes:

1. The Reference Manual on the Sexual Offences Act, 2006 for Prosecutors which
a product of joint collaboration between the Office of the Attorney General, in
particular the Department of Public Prosecutions and Women in Law and
Development in Africa (WILDAF).
2. Koffi Annan; in Larger Freedom 2005 available at http://www.un.org
3. An article entitled ‘South Africa: Justice for survivors of marital rape, how far
has SADC come?’ by Pamela Mhlanga – reported in http://www.pambazuka.org/ and 16
days of activism against gender violence
4. http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/egm/vaw-gp- 2005/doc/finaldoc/goodpractices.pdf

http://www.pambazuka.org/en/category/comment/49923

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What We Are Doing About Climate Change

Posted on 7 August 2008. Filed under: Environment |


Photo: UN Library
Years of poorly regulated emissions have made the earth warmer

JOHANNESBURG, 5 August 2008 (IRIN) – In developing countries, where survival is often a daily struggle, people cannot afford to wait for their government to bail them out. Many are living in the grip of climate change, coping with frequent droughts, heavy flooding, intense cyclones and other extreme weather events, and have found ways to adapt:

– In Bangladesh, women farmers faced with frequent floods are building ‘floating gardens’ — hyacinth rafts on which to grow vegetables in flood-prone areas.

– In Sri Lanka, farmers are experimenting with rice varieties that can cope with less water and higher levels of salinity in the water.

– In Malawi, some small-scale farmers dependent on rain-fed agriculture have begun planting faster maturing maize to cope with more frequent droughts.

But, on a global scale governments continue to be deadlocked on the issue of reducing the emission of dangerous greenhouse gases, such as water vapour, carbon dioxide, ozone and methane, which are making the earth warmer. According to the UN World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), the decade from 1998 to 2007 was the warmest on record.

The IPCC is formed

Governments began to sit up and take notice of the environment more than 30 years ago, in 1972 in Stockholm, where the decision to set up the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) was taken.

Seven years later, the first World Climate Conference, organised by WMO, noted the impact of man’s activities on earth and called for global cooperation to explore the future of the earth’s climate.

UNEP, WMO and the International Council for Science, a non-governmental organisation (NGO), called a meeting in 1985 to discuss an “Assessment of the Role of Carbon Dioxide and of Other Greenhouse Gases in Climate Variations and Associated Impacts”.

The conference concluded that “as a result of the increasing greenhouse gases it is now believed that in the first half of the next century [the 21st] a rise in global mean temperature could occur which is greater than in any man’s history.”

In 1987 the WMO’s 10th Congress recognised the need for a scientific assessment of the impact of greenhouse gases on the environment, as well the socio-economic implications. WMO and UNEP coordinated an intergovernmental mechanism for drawing up these assessments, and realised that besides the scientific investigations, strategies to help countries and the world respond to the crisis would also be needed.

A year later the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was set up, comprising three working groups to look at the science, the environmental and socio-economic impacts, and the response.

The UNFCCC

The findings of the first IPCC Assessment Report in 1990 played a decisive role in the formulation of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), adopted at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

This Convention was the first global attempt to tackle climate change. It recognised that the climate system is a shared resource whose stability can be affected by industrial and other emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. The Convention, which enjoys near universal membership, with 192 countries having ratified it, came into effect in 1994.

The 192 Parties to the Convention are divided into groups:

Annex I countries are industrialised countries – the 24 original Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) members, the European Union, and 14 countries with economies in transition. (Croatia, Liechtenstein, Monaco and Slovenia joined Annex 1 in 1997, and the Czech Republic and Slovakia replaced Czechoslovakia.)

Annex II countries have a special obligation to provide financial resources and facilitate technology transfer to developing countries; they include the 24 original OECD members plus the European Union.

Non-Annex I countries have ratified or acceded to the UNFCCC but are not included in Annex I of the Convention.

A number of institutions, set up under the Convention, facilitate and monitor its implementation. These include the Subsidiary Body on Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), the Subsidiary Body on Implementation (SBI) and a financial mechanism, entrusted to the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

Kyoto Protocol

While the UNFCCC encouraged members to stabilise the emission of greenhouse gases, the Kyoto Protocol committed them to do so.

The Protocol sets binding targets for 37 industrialised countries and the European community – called the Annex-B parties – for lowering greenhouse gas emissions, which must be reduced during the five-year period from 2008 to 2012 by an average of five percent below the levels in 1990.

The Protocol was adopted in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997 and came into force in 2005. It has been ratified by 180 countries so far.

The agreement recognises that developed countries are principally responsible for the current high levels of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere as a result of more than 150 years of industrial activity, and places a heavier burden on them under the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities.”

Tools for reducing emissions

The protocol provides three tools to help the developed countries reach their targets:

– international emissions trading between countries with targets

– joint implementation of emissions-reducing projects

– the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).

This mechanism allows industrialised countries to earn and trade emissions credits by implementing projects in other developed countries or developing countries, and put the credits towards meeting their targets.

Non-Annex I countries do not have legally binding targets to reduce or limit their greenhouse gas emissions during the first commitment period.

The fight

The first commitment phase of the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012, and countries have begun talks to negotiate the reduction targets for the next phase. But the process has been deadlocked, as the United States, often identified as one of the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases, has yet to ratify the protocol.

The US has objected because the protocol excluded China and India, two of the world’s fastest growing economies and among the world’s biggest polluters, from making mandatory commitments to cut.

The world has until the climate change summit in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December 2009, when a new post-2012 agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions is expected to be approved, to implement the current agreed cuts.

None of the leading industrialised nations is on target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions enough to avoid the threshold level for unacceptable risk of catastrophic climate change, according to several environmental NGOs.

The IPCC has suggested cuts of between 25 and 40 percent by 2020 to avoid a 2°Celsius increase in global temperature, which is expected to destroy 30 to 40 percent of all known species, generate bigger, fiercer and more frequent heat waves and droughts, and more intense weather events like floods and cyclones.

Most scientists, including members of the IPCC, have suggested that some developing countries should agree to take on cuts by 2020, and that all countries should take on cuts by 2050.

The big developing countries, such as China, India, South Africa and Brazil, have said they are willing to take on mandatory 50 percent cuts in emissions by 2050, if the rich countries agree at least to take on 25 to 40 percent cuts in emissions below 1990 levels by 2020.

Adaptation, technology transfer and financing

Developing countries require international assistance to support adaptation, including funding, technology transfer and insurance, as well as resources to reduce the risk of disasters and raise the resilience of communities to increasingly extreme events.

The Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF), controlled by the GEF, is one of two funds set up by UNFCCC to help these countries adapt to global warming.


Photo: Shamsuddin Ahmed/IRIN
People in developing countries are learning to adapt

The Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF) finances projects related to capacity building, technology transfer and mitigation, and helps countries highly dependent on income from fossil fuels to diversify, but the UN Development Programme’s annual development report in 2007 noted that little of this money had actually been delivered to the developing countries.

The UNFCCC has pinned its hopes on an Adaptation Fund, set up under the Kyoto Protocol, to support adaptation to climate change in developing nations. It is financed by a 2 percent levy on the value of credits resulting from emission reduction projects under the CDM.

The UNFCCC estimates that the fund will raise up to $300 million a year by 2030, depending on the level of demand in the carbon market. However, development agency Oxfam has pointed out that Ethiopia’s immediate climate adaptation needs alone will amount to US$800 million.

Sources:
Sixteen years of Scientific Assessment…(IPCC)
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
The UN Human Development Report 2007/2008

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NASA Data Show African Droughts Linked To Warmer Indian Ocean

Posted on 7 August 2008. Filed under: Environment |

A new study, co-funded by NASA, has identified a link between a warming Indian Ocean and less rainfall in eastern and southern Africa. Computer models and observations show a decline in rainfall, with implications for the region’s food security.

Rainfall in eastern Africa during the rainy season, which runs from March through May, has declined about 15 percent since the 1980s, according to records from ground stations and satellites.

NASA

Sea surface temperatures and land vegetation over the Indian Ocean are seen below in a visualization created with data from 1994 to 2005 from the Pathfinder satellite dataset. Credit: NASA

Statistical analyses show that this decline is due to irregularities in the transport of moisture between the ocean and land, brought about by rising Indian Ocean temperatures, according to research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

This interdisciplinary study was organized to support U.S. Agency for International Development’s Famine Early Warning Systems Network.

“The last 10 to 15 years have seen particularly dangerous declines in rainfall in sensitive ecosystems in East Africa, such as Somalia and eastern Ethiopia,” said Molly Brown of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., a co-author of the study. “We wanted to know if the trend would continue or if it would start getting wetter.”

To find out, the team analyzed historical seasonal rainfall data over the Indian Ocean and the eastern seaboard of Africa from 1950 to 2005. The NASA Global Precipitation Climatology Project’s rainfall dataset provided a series of data covering both the land and the oceans. They found that declines in rainfall in Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe were linked to increases in rainfall over the ocean.

The team used computer models that describe the atmosphere and historical climate data to identify and validate the source of this link. Lead author Chris Funk of the University of California, Santa Barbara, and colleagues showed that the movement of moisture onshore was disrupted by increased rainfall over the ocean.

Funk and colleagues used a computer model from the National Center for Atmospheric Research to confirm their findings. The combination of evidence from models and historical data strongly suggest that human-caused warming of the Indian Ocean leads to an increase of rainfall over the ocean, which in turn adds energy to the atmosphere.

Models showed that indeed, the added energy could create a weather pattern that reduces the flow of moisture onshore and bring dry air down over the African continent, reducing rainfall.

Next, the team investigated whether or not the decline in rainfall over eastern Africa would continue. Under guidance from researchers at USGS, which co-funded the study, the team looked at 11 climate models to simulate rainfall changes in the future. Ten of the 11 models agreed that though 2050, rainfall over the Indian Ocean would continue to increase — depriving Africa’s eastern seaboard of rainfall.

“We can be quite certain that the decline in rainfall has been substantial and will continue to be,” Funk said. “This 15 percent decrease every 20-25 years is likely to continue.”

The trend toward dryer rainy seasons in eastern and southern Africa directly impacts agricultural productivity.

To evaluate how potential future rainfall scenarios and shifts in agriculture could affect undernourishment, the team came up with a “food-balance indicator” model. The model considers factors such as growing-season rainfall, fertilizer, seed use, crop area and population to estimate the number of undernourished people a region can anticipate.

Continuing along a “business as usual” scenario — with current trends in declining rainfall and agricultural capacity continuing as it is currently to 2030, the team found that the number of undernourished people will increase by more than 50 percent in eastern Africa.

Still, the food-balance indicator also showed that in the face of a continuation of the current downward trend in rainfall, even modest increases in agricultural capacity could reduce the number of undernourished people by 40 percent.

“A strong commitment to agricultural development by both African nations and the international community could lead fairly quickly to a more food-secure Africa,” Funk said.

by Kathryn Hansen
Huntsville AL (SPX) Aug 07, 2008
TERRADAILY

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Dial M for Cash

Posted on 5 August 2008. Filed under: Development, Economy, MDGs, Microfinance |


Photo: Anne Ejakait/Concern Worldwide
Mobile phones are increasingly being used in delivering aid

NAIROBI, 4 August 2008 (IRIN) – Hard-pressed to find efficient ways of delivering aid, humanitarian agencies are turning to new technologies.

One such innovation involves mobile phones to send cash. One such project was piloted in Baringo North and Pokot East Districts of Kenya’s Rift Valley Province during post-election violence this year.

“They [local residents] were exposed to cattle rustling after security was withdrawn to deal with the post-election violence,” said Anne O’Mahony, Kenya country director for the NGO Concern Worldwide. “There were also high levels of poverty in the area after the conflict.”

The target beneficiaries selected by the community from among the most vulnerable, were women who would receive fortnightly cash transfers of KSh320 (US$4.70) per household member via short message service (SMS).

The service used a mobile cash transfer service, known as M-Pesa (mobile money), which is a joint venture between multinational giant Vodafone and Kenya’s largest mobile phone company and Vodafone affiliate Safaricom, and allows cash to be sent over the Safaricom network.

Safaricom set up Concern as a corporate user to allow for bulk transfers to the targeted beneficiaries. Normally, M-Pesa is designed for one-on-one cash transfers with a maximum transfer limit of 35,000 shillings (about $583) per transaction.

However, most potential beneficiaries were illiterate or did not have the identification documents required to collect the cash. The targeted households were, therefore, clustered into groups of about 10. Members would nominate one literate person as leader to collect the money on behalf of the group, O’Mahony said.

Market access

Of the 571 targeted households, 225 (39 percent) owned a phone. Concern provided 45 handsets to enable the clusters to share one handset between them, along with 60 solar chargers.

At the same time, Safaricom organised agents from the nearest towns of Iten or Eldoret to travel to the local Kinyach police station, which was selected as the money distribution point. The Safaricom agents were available to disperse the cash on local market days.

“This system enabled the beneficiaries to get easy access to the cash and they could buy necessary food immediately,” O’Mahony said. The cash was supposed to meet at least 50 percent of household food requirements.


Photo: Anne Ejakait/Concern Worldwide
Residents upon receipt of their money at the Kinyach Police post.

“We thought the best way of getting effective aid to these people was cash,” she said. “If the markets work, there is no point in us buying goods, taking them to the area and distributing them – we might not get the type of goods required right and there are also issues to do with trucking food … Cash made much more sense.”

In the past, O’Mahony added, Concern had bought food in Eldoret town but found it was 18 percent cheaper to give people money to buy what they needed.

“These people are mobile so they can go wherever they can get cheap food and the mobiles reduced their isolation,” she said. “If there is money the food will come … merchants will come. People suffer because they can’t buy.”

Panuel Luker, one of the beneficiaries, said the wider availability of mobile phones had also improved communication in another way: they were useful for warnings about cattle rustling.

O’Mahony said there were plans to scale up the project to reach at least 16,200 vulnerable families, depending on funding.

In future, the ratio of mobiles to families would also be increased, along with the development of a way to deal with lost SIM cards. “We found that one mobile phone per large group of people is not enough, we will need to get more phones,” she said.

Costs

“Most of the projects that have used the mobile-phone technology have been small in scale and preliminary probably due the high costs of developing and deploying mobile technologies,” according to a 2008 report by the UN Foundation–Vodafone Group Foundation Partnership, titled ‘Wireless Technology for Social Change: Trends in NGO Mobile Use’.

An evaluation of the Concern project, however, found that M-Pesa was better than food distributions, “provided the difference between wholesale and retail prices is within a certain range, local food markets are actually functioning and that the cash transfer programme is long enough to justify the costs of the equipment (phones, chargers etc.)”.

Qualitative evidence indicated that about 70 percent of the transfer was spent on food, with the remainder going on transport and other non-food essentials.

According to the evaluation, inflation and early warning data on food prices should be considered when deciding on cash transfer values as food prices rose during the Kenya pilot programme.

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Breast is Best, Even for Mothers with HIV

Posted on 5 August 2008. Filed under: MDGs, Public Health |


Photo: Julius Mwelu/IRIN
The WHO recommends breastfeeding for the first six months of a child’s life

NAIROBI, 4 August 2008 (PlusNews) – The risk of an HIV-positive mother infecting her child through breastfeeding can be significantly reduced by antiretroviral treatment (ART), say health officials in Kenya.

“HIV-positive mothers on ART lower the risk of transmission through breastfeeding from 20 [percent] to five percent,” said Linda Beyer, an official in charge of Nutrition and HIV/AIDS at the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

In developing countries the nutritional and other health benefits of breastfeeding over formula feeding have generally been thought to outweigh the risks of HIV infection. Recent clinical trials have found that putting nursing HIV-positive mothers on ART can suppress viral load and minimise the chances of transmission.

“Breastfeeding for the first six months of a child’s life reduces up to 13 percent of under-five deaths,” Beyer said at the start of World Breastfeeding Week on 1 August.

According to the World Health Organisation, every year 10 million children younger than five die worldwide, often as a result of malnutrition.

Beyer said that promoting breastfeeding was vital to achieving the Millennium Development Goal of a two-thirds reduction in childhood mortality rates by 2015.

Terry Wefwafwa, an official in Kenya’s ministry of health, said her department was already providing ART to breastfeeding HIV-positive mothers through its prevention of mother-to-child transmission [PMTCT] programme. “They are available at all health facilities for the women at no cost,” she told IRIN/PlusNews.

HIV-positive mothers should stop breastfeeding their babies after six months and introduce other foods, Wefwafwa said. She also warned that there was a risk of infection if other foods and liquids were mixed with breast milk before the baby was six months old.

The world breast week campaign will be used as a platform to sensitise the public to the importance of breastfeeding.

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    A blog created to cover environmental and political information in Kenya with a view to promoting POVERTY ALLEVIATION through creating awareness of the Millennium Development Goals

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