Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Today's stories - Wed 6/18/2008

Forgotten Kenyan conflict exposed

Medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has exposed torture and appalling levels of sexual violence in a conflict in western Kenya.

It says people there are caught up in fighting which it claims is being ignored by the international community.

A major military operation to neutralise a militia group called the Sabaot Land Defence Force (SLDF) has left thousands of civilians trapped.

The militia took up arms over a land allocation scheme it considers unfair.

MSF says there are victims of "indiscriminate violence" on both sides.

But Western Provincial Commissioner Abdul Mwasera told the BBC's Focus on Africa that accusations that the security forces had used excessive force were unfounded.

I saw men beaten on their genitals, and their testicles pulled out
Male witness

The SLDF says it is fighting for ancestral land in the fertile Mount Elgon region belonging to the Sabaot community, but has been accused of killing members of rival ethnic groups.

Correspondents say much of the chaos witnessed in Kenya after the country's presidential election in December was sparked by long-running disputes over land.

The MSF report paints a picture of a civilian population caught between a heavy-handed military - accused of extra judicial killings - and a vicious militia, the SLDF, the BBC's Karen Allen reports from Nairobi.

One woman cited in the report described how the militia took five people a day to the mountains and killed them.
"If they targeted a home, they took every member of that family, irrespective of age and sex," she said.

The militia extorted fines from people who were drunk, chopping their ears off if they had no money and killing them if they resisted, she added.

"One of my brothers-in-law tried to resist one day and his head was chopped off and his body was thrown into a pit latrine," she was quoted as saying.

The report also sets out testimonies of men, suspected to have been militia members, being subjected to torture and appalling levels of sexual violence at the hands of the police and the military.

"I saw men beaten on their genitals, and their testicles pulled out," said one man who had been taken to a screening centre Kapkota.

"The military told us to confess we had guns, otherwise the torture would continue," he said.

MSF has also condemned the cramped conditions in which suspects are held during pre-trial detention, and warned that the violent response of the military is simply making things worse for an already traumatised civilian population.

Mr Mwasera said his own interviews had found that people in Mount Elgon supported what the military was doing.

He also said that it was the government's responsibility to care for those civilians displaced by the violence and that they had been offered food and ongoing assistance.

Story from BBC
Published: 2008/06/17 16:05:21 GMT© BBC MMVIII

MPs seek Sh650m for new expenses

Publication Date: 6/18/2008

MPs are asking for Sh656.7 million more than they received last year to cater for live coverage of parliamentary proceedings and a new redesigned debating chamber, among others.

It is part of a Sh7.2 billion Budget for Parliament, in which MPs are also asking for money for a new four-wheel-drive vehicle and chase car for the Speaker, foreign and local travel allowances, a
pension scheme for former MPs and an official house for the Clerk of the National Assembly, Mr Patrick Gichohi.

Since 2001, MPs have presented their own Budget, separate from the national one read by the
Finance Minister.

Speaker’s car
The House has traditionally and speedily approved the budget without amendment.

According to estimates, Sh35 million has been set aside to buy new cars, including a new Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) for the Speaker, Mr Kenneth Marende.

The money will also be used to buy a chase car for the Speaker, a new addition to Parliament’s budget.

Mr Marende will be the latest among top Government officers to enjoy the services of a chase car, after President Kibaki, Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka and Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

Others who have such privileges include Deputy PMs Musalia Mudavadi and Uhuru Kenyatta, Police Commissioner Hussein Ali, Chief of General Staff Gen Jeremiah Kianga and Chief Justice Evan Gicheru.

Mr Marende’s SUV will be in addition to his official Mercedes limousine.

Parliament’s debating chamber is scheduled for redesign and refurbishment at Sh360 million. The job had been budgeted to cost Sh800 million, but former Speaker Francis ole Kaparo overruled it, arguing that the figure was exaggerated.

The chamber is supposed to be redesigned to a horse-shoe shape, similar to the US
congress debating chambers.

The House has also budgeted for Sh185 million to buy broadcast equipment to allow live coverage of proceedings.
Radio broadcasts will be introduced first, followed by TV transmissions.

MPs’ stand
Mr Kimunya said live broadcasts would have been introduced by the time MPs debate the proposed law that will make them pay taxes on their allowances “for people to know the stand taken by their MPs”.

The Clerk will get a new official residence to be bought at Sh50 million. A similar house was bought for the Speaker several years ago.

MPs have also budgeted for Sh256 million for their foreign travels between now and end of June next year. They have also set aside Sh95 million as membership
fees, dues and subscription for international organisations.

The Speaker will also benefit from an additional Sh8 million to buy furniture for his official residence and some equipment for the catering department.

Parliament has also budgeted Sh2.5 million to add to the allocation given by the National Aids Control Council for HIV/Aids awareness and purchase of ARVs for “the critically ill in parliament”.

The House has also set aside Sh200 million to pay duty for MPs’ duty free cars. Previously no tax was paid for the cars but the system was changed to provide for an allocation from the Treasury to pay the
Kenya Revenue Authority.

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