Thursday, March 13, 2008

Today's headlines - Thurs 3/13/2008

Three articles from BBC
followed by other links

Kenya MPs try to fast-track bills - BBC
Tues 3/11/2008

Kenya's parliament is seeking to speed up the process of passing legislation to bring into force a deal designed to end post-election violence.

A parliamentary committee requested that the bills be discussed within five days, instead of the usual 14 days.

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga signed the agreement last month.

It provides for Mr Odinga to be the prime minister, as well as creating posts for two deputy premier ministers.
But parties have clashed over how much authority Mr Odinga will actually have.

House Speaker Kenneth Marende is expected to make a decision on whether to fast-track the process tomorrow, meaning the bills could be passed as early as next week.

Meanwhile, military forces have been accused of using excessive force in a crackdown on the Sabaot Land Defence Forces (SLDF) in the Mt Elgon region, near the border with Uganda.

The MP for Mt Elgon, Fred Kapondi, told the BBC that the military operation is targeting innocent civilians.

"The kind of approach that has been adopted is wrong. It is not intended to harm the criminals but it is intended to harm the ordinary citizens," Mr Kapondi said.

The SLDF militia says it is fighting for ancestral land belonging to the Sabaot community and has been linked to local politicians.

Mr Kapondi said that while reports say the militia hide-outs are in caves in the Mt Elgon forest, the army offensive was being conducted in inhabited areas.

The MP said he had received reports of civilian casualties.

According to military sources, about 1,000 ground forces are involved in the operation, using heavy artillery and helicopter gunships to comb the area.

The SLDF was blamed for the killing of 12 people last week.

Peace deal
President Kibaki claimed victory in presidential elections on 27 December, but Mr Odinga said the vote was rigged.

The ethnic violence that broke out following the poll left at least 1,500 people dead.

An estimated 600,000 others were forced to flee their homes.

When President Kibaki opened parliament on Thursday, he said that last month's deal would lay the foundations for peace and stability.

There are four bills awaiting discussion:

  1. The national accord and reconciliation bill, which sets out the details of the power-sharing deal
  2. The constitutional amendment bill, which makes the necessary changes to the country's constitution
  3. A bill establishing a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to address the recent violence and longer-term injustices
  4. An ethnic relations bill aimed at promoting tribal tolerance in Kenya.
Power dispute
The government has said that President Kibaki will appoint the cabinet, and that the prime minister will work to an agenda set by the president.

But Mr Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement has insisted that appointments will be made by both men.

In a sign of continuing tensions, the ODM criticised a statement made on Monday by the head of the civil service, Francis Muthaura, outlining the structure of the coalition.

The ODM said the statement was "causing alarm" and "could pose a threat to the accord".

ODM spokesman Salim Lone said discussions over the prime minister's exact role and the distribution of cabinet seats were ongoing.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2008/03/11 16:33:01 GMT© BBC MMVIII

Power-sharing: conflict or compromise? - BBC
Mon 3/10/2008

By Stephanie Holmes BBC News

Kenya's parliament is preparing to usher in a power-sharing agreement, brokered to bring to an end to months of ethnic violence sparked by December's disputed election.

But with the country still reeling from the political bloodshed - which displaced some 600,000 people and left at least 1,500 dead - can President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga simply now govern side by side?

Under a deal reached in late February, Mr Odinga will become prime minister -a position that is yet to be formally created - in a narrowly split parliament.

But other key issues - about the exact division of power between prime minister and president, as well as how the different ministries will be shared among two parties with differing political agendas - have yet to be thrashed out.

'Secure cocoon'
Power-sharing will not solve a conflict, says Michael Kerr, of the London School of Economics (LSE), rather it will provide a way of managing and regulating it.

"The institutions themselves will not fix your problem. Like a plaster will not fix a broken bone."

When we were unhappy with compromise, Mr Mandela would say: 'Yes, but what is the alternative? The alternative is that you are going to inherit... a pile of ruins'
Frene Ginwala, South Africa's former parliamentary speaker

Critics of power-sharing say such deals fail to address the reasons behind conflicts and actually entrench political, ethnic or group divisions, rather than resolve them.

Mr Kerr does not agree: "Those divisions are already there. What power-sharing does is it recognises those divisions and institutionalises them.

"A cynic, or realist, might say you have the continuation of war by diplomacy in politics, which is a common historical theme."

Vasu Gounden, the founder of Accord - the African Centre for Constructive Resolution of Disputes - says power-sharing will only work where certain fundamental conditions, including socio-economic stability, are already in place.

"Power-sharing in Kenya will not be easy because there has already been a fracturing within society," he said from Durban.

"Both parties are very equally matched and know their strengths and they have come through a process of extreme conflict."

Struggle for the centre
He cites Burundi - where a power-sharing government was set up in 2001 - as an example of the challenges faced by governing with a such an agreement.

"When you find that political parties are operating on the basis of positions and power - not politics and ideology - then there is a very protracted and deep struggle for power at the centre.

"Parties find it very difficult to reach consensus and it becomes a continuous struggle that can lead to paralysis of governance."

In Burundi, he points out, continued conflict within government prevented any legislation being agreed for eight months.

In South Africa, as the country made the transition to multi-party democracy with its first free multiracial elections in 1994, political violence between supporters of the Inkatha Freedom Party and the African National Congress claimed thousands of lives.

The ANC's Frene Ginwala, speaker of parliament between 1994 and 2004, remembers that after such violence, a power-sharing deal was the only way forward.

Of course there is an awful lot of personal antagonism and difficulty; there is an awful lot of grief and memory from the conflict
Michael Kerr, LSE

"Very often, when we were unhappy with compromise, Mr Mandela would say: 'Yes, but what is the alternative? The alternative is that you are going to inherit, you are going to rule over, a pile of ruins'," she said.

With Kenya's political violence estimated to have cost the country some $1bn in damage to the economy as well as ruining its image as a haven of stability within the continent, Mr Kibaki and Mr Odinga may well have come to a similar conclusion.

Falling out
"The experience of violence, the threat of ethnic violence would probably bolster the political will of both sides," Ms Ginwala said.

She is at pains to emphasise that though they may have traded barbs this time around, the two men were once political allies.

Mr Odinga's support was vital in getting President Mwai Kibaki elected in 2002. But after he later failed to follow through on a promised power-sharing government with Mr Odinga, the two fell out.

"We mustn't forget that they fought the [2002] election together, as part of the coalition. I hope this is what they will hark back to, rather than the last few years when they disagreed so much," she said.

Difficult personal relationships with people at the opposite side of the political divide are one of the challenges of making a power-sharing government work, says Mr Kerr.

'Battlefield struggle'
"Of course there is an awful lot of personal antagonism and difficulty; there is an awful lot of grief and memory from the conflict.

"Many of the participants involved in Northern Ireland at the moment, many would see them as being either the main participants in, or provocateurs of, a lot of that violence," he said.

In Kenya too, international observers accused political leaders of fomenting the ethnic tensions between their supporters' base.

But he insists that power-sharing in Northern Ireland provides an "incremental approach to dealing with long-term divisions within society," allowing memories of violence to fade, albeit slowly.

Accord's Mr Gounden says that building a strong relationship between the two men at the top of the political pyramid in Kenya will be key to ensuring consensus lower down.

Yet he underlines that conflict is at the very heart of all political relationships - within Africa and beyond.

"I don't think there is anything different in Africa, it is just that the economic situation on the continent and the literacy levels might be different, so the struggles turn out to be not just a boardroom struggle for power, but a battlefield struggle for power also."

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2008/03/10 15:07:25 GMT© BBC MMVIII

Kenyans ill in 'toxic waste' leak - BBC
Thurs 3/13/2008

Hundreds of people near the Kenyan port of Mombasa say they have become ill after a consignment of leaking chemical containers was dumped nearby.

Witnesses told the BBC the containers were abandoned at Kipevu near the port about a month ago by a truck driver who had noticed liquid seeping out.

The containers have traces of nitric acid, an environmental official says.

A BBC reporter in Mombasa says two women living in a Kipevu slum have complained of having miscarriages.

Other slum residents have also complained of breathing difficulties, stomach upsets and chest pains.

I had gone to relieve myself in the toilet, while there but was hit by a strong fume Kibibi, slum resident who miscarried
The BBC's Odhiambo Joseph says he also experienced breathing difficulties and a stomach upset after visiting the area.

He says a yellow liquid and noxious fumes have been escaping from the two 20-foot containers.

The National Environmental Management Authority (Nema) says it has brought in tonnes of sand and other agents to try to neutralise the spill.

Nassir Rashid, the director of environment at the Mombasa Municipal Council (MMC), says samples of the chemicals have been sent to the government chemist for identification.

But he says the chemicals are extremely toxic and more than 1,500 villagers have been treated for various illnesses caused by the chemicals.

Morris Otieno from Nema said an operation to neutralise the chemicals has been successful, but our reporter says the effects are still being felt and one container is still leaking.

The chemical cargo was on its way from Mombasa port to a mining company in western Uganda when it was dumped.

The MMC has ordered the company to appear in court to answer charges of environmental pollution, our correspondent says.

The company says an agent in Mombasa is dealing with the case.

The chemicals are also said to be destroying property, corroding the metal sheets used to build houses and melting anything made of plastic.

According to residents in the slum - known as Kalahari Village - the acid seems to have entered the latrine systems.

Kibibi, whose house was near the chemical spill, alleges she miscarried as a result.

"It was a three-month-old pregnancy. I had gone to relieve myself in the toilet, while there but was hit by a strong fume," she told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

"I quickly gathered myself up an
d ran back towards my room but I could not manage - I fell down and I started bleeding immediately."

Residents say their livestock has also been affected and some of the animals have died.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2008/03/13 11:16:47 GMT© BBC MMVIII

Daily Nation

MPs unite to start the healing process MPs put their factional differences aside in Parliament Wednesday to unite the country ahead of debate on Bills necessary for the formation of a coalition Government. ...

Rights abuse acute during crisis: US Human rights violations in Kenya became acute in the aftermath of the December 27 election, the US State Department indicates in a report is...

Grabbed files contain poll results Files snatched from the Electoral Commission of Kenya at a hotel in Kilifi contain last year’s presidential election results, the Nation has...

Nation - Politics Headlines:

Rift Valley leaders not targeted, says AG Rift Valley Province leaders are not being targeted by police over the recent post-election violence, the Attorney-General has said. ...

MP in court over stirring up violence Naivasha Member of Parliament John Mututho Wednesday appeared in a Nairobi court facing charges of incitement. ...

Address ills or risk civilian coup, MPs told A Cabinet minister has raised a red flag on the political class: Respond to public needs or risk irrelevance. ...

MPs united in search for lasting peace Leaders across the political divide Wednesday began putting the country on a reconciliatory, peaceful and progressive path. ...

NGO calls for peace ministry The Government was Wednesday urged to establish a ministry of Peace-building and Conflict Resolution to oversee all processes leading to sus...

Ignore rash talk, says US envoy The US Wednesday asked Kenyans to listen only to President Kibaki and ODM leader Raila Odinga regarding the new political system. ...

PNU in Sh82 million debt row Party of National Unity employees are now expressing their frustration over failure by the coalition party to pay them their salaries amount...

Google News: Kenya

Kenya: Between Principle And Peace, Washington - 3 hours ago
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Is this about 'jobs for the boys' or national healing? Daily Nation
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Challenge to Odinga role threatens Kenya pact Financial Times
The Associated Press - Reuters
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A war of bows and arrows in the heart of Kenya's crisis
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61 Kenyan militia members held
News24, South Africa - 3 hours ago
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Kenya: Will Peace Stand the Test?, Washington - 14 hours ago
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Kenya: Kibaki Tells Displaced People to Go Back Home, Washington - 14 hours ago
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