December 29 2008
Barack Obama, trying to enjoy the last semblance of normal life before he becomes US president on January 20, caused a commotion when he took his daughters to a shopping mall in Hawaii.
It made for a surreal scene – the president-elect, daughters Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, and family friends eating at a table at the mall watched by a crowd of onlookers and surrounded by anxious-looking Secret Service agents.
The agents struggled to hold back people trying to get closer to snap pictures of Mr Obama eating a tuna and melted cheese sandwich and the girls enjoying shave ices, a local treat made from finely shaved ice and fruit syrup.
Earlier, as Mr Obama strolled through a mall parking lot, dozens of onlookers swarmed around, snapping pictures and cheering while Secret Service agents tried to keep a protective screen around the soon-to-be first family.
In interviews since his election on November 4, Mr Obama has said he wants to maintain some degree of normal life for his daughters. He has also said he fears becoming isolated and losing touch with the world outside the White House “bubble.”
But such family outings are likely to become rare after he enters office and the already strict security measures that surround him now are intensified.
Mr Obama has kept a low profile since arriving on the Hawaiian island of Oahu for a 12-day holiday with his family on December 20. Apart from two golf outings and daily trips to the gym, he has remained sequestered in his beachfront holiday villa.
Media travelling with him have been barred from approaching the heavily guarded house, whose access road has been blocked. That did not stop one enterprising paparazzi photographer from snapping Obama shirtless on the beach earlier this week.
After exercising at a gym at a nearby Marine Corps base, he made a surprise visit to a waterpark with his daughters and several other children for a dolphin show. It was his first public outing with his family since arriving on the island. His wife Michelle did not accompany them. (Reuters)
Submitted by George Kimathi
Posted December 31, 2008 07:28 PM
Hei fellow Kenyans stop beeing so negative on comments instead come up with ideas and advices to the Governments, who knows they can be implemented!After all what do you gain from your negativity? A fat bank account fame or? Think twice before you type your comments.
Submitted by nzaku
Posted December 31, 2008 03:14 AM
Poor Kenyans. You think Airforce One will land in Kisumu? The man never even attended his grandmother's burial in Hawaii. Why are you wasting money on a runaway instead of improving our roads? Mtangoja sana.
Submitted by kevo3415
Posted December 31, 2008 02:36 AM
When Obama will step in Kenya definitely Kibaki will announce it again as a Holiday(Obama visit Kenya Day)And that day all offices will be closed instantly.All roads to Kogelo au sio watu wangu?
Submitted by wuod_aketch
Posted December 30, 2008 02:27 PM
Is Kisumu airport runway long enough to allow Airforce One to land on it, or have the Chinese, who have been given the contract, made it too short?
Submitted by babumarjan
Posted December 30, 2008 12:37 PM
jkaruga The R does not mean Republican, it means RIGHT as opposed to LEFT. That is where he is positioned in the photo!
Submitted by Isaya Baraza
Posted December 30, 2008 12:05 PM
A Kenyan can be a President in any country he/she feels like. Kenyans are highly rated worldwide.
Submitted by Hillaryio
Posted December 30, 2008 11:10 AM
I am just imagining how things will be when he set his foot in Kenya! "Obama wetu", "Obama damu", "Obama unbwogable",
Wednesday, December 31, 2008
DECEMBER 27, 2008
Six ministers are among 16 Members of Parliament who risk losing their seats on New Year when the Political Parties Act becomes operational.
Water Minister Charity Ngilu, Sports Minister Hellen Sambili and Housing Minister Soita Shitanda top the list of potential casualties of the law that seeks to inject order and discipline in politics — two missing ingredients that gave way to the multiplicity of briefcase parties. Ngilu is the chairperson of Narc, which became a shell after most founder members decamped to ODM, PNU and Narc-Kenya. She is allied to ODM in Parliament. Soita heads New Ford Kenya, and is fighting an injunction that bars the party from conducting elections.
For Sambili, UDM leader Nathaniel Chebelion told The Standard on Sunday that the party had partially complied with the Act and would use the 180 days window provided by temporary registration to put its house in order.
Assistant Ministers Linah Jebii Kilimo (Cooperatives), Wavinya Ndeti (Gender and Sports) and Richard Momoima Onyonka (Foreign Affairs) also risk being locked out by the stringent requirements of the new law that could lead to deregistration of more than 126 of the 168 parties registered under the Societies Act.
The MPs on the chopping board are Walter Nyambati, David Ngugi, John Ngata Kariuki, Cyrus Jirongo, Bonny Khalwale, Robert Monda, Gitobu Imanyara, Francis Baya, David Njuguna and Silas Muteere.
Speaker of National Assembly Kenneth Marende concedes that the new law could force repeat polls if implemented. Citing the confusion caused by clauses on party membership and deregistration of parties, he expressed concern it would be difficult for affected MPs to retain their seats as the Constitution requires lawmakers and councillors to belong to a political party.
Already, the Registrar of Political Parties, Ms Lucy Ndung’u, has served notice that there will be no extension of the December 31 deadline as requested by nearly 160 out of 168 political organisations.
"So far, we have granted application certificates to eight parties. Twenty parties have filed the papers and we are still processing their applications. The parties that have complied met all conditions, including those on representation of women," she says.
ODM Secretary for Legal Affairs Mugambi Imanyara says the ministers and MPs are in a precarious situation as they may no longer be useful to their allies "given Kenya’s politics of exigency."
He, however, does not anticipate application of the law retroactively. He also observed that the risk of the 16 MPs being kicked out is low, citing precedence when the National Development Party was dissolved when it merged with Kanu in 2002. The former NDP MPs were not subjected to by-elections.
The Act is specific on the deregistration of parties that will not have met the requirements that include a head office with a permanent physical and postal addresses, fully functional branch offices, at least 200 members in every province and some governing council positions going to women. However, it is silent on what happens to Members of Parliament and civic leaders if parties that sponsored them cease to exist legally.
It is expected that the number of registered parties will reduce further in June at the expiry of the 180 days the law provides for temporary registration.
If women convince the complaints tribunal, which is yet to be formed, that the registration of their parties was obtained in "a fraudulent manner", parties like PNU and ODM could be deregistered. Ndung’u is in the meantime unconcerned with the unfolding scenario.
"As far as we are concerned, the deadline is still there. We, however, do hope that the remaining parties will file their returns before then," she says.
In addition, says the registrar, Narc-Kenya, Ford Kenya, Party of Independent Candidates of Kenya, Democratic Party, Grand National Union, Safina and Labour Party of Kenya have complied.
However, MPs and councillors affiliated to Chama Cha Uzalendo, Kenda, Ford-Asili, Peoples’ Democratic Party, Narc, National Labour Party, People’s Party of Kenya, Ford-P, Sisi Kwa Sisi and Kaddu could be forced to seek fresh mandate on registered parties. During its national delegates conference at Bomas of Kenya, ODM made two significant changes in its constitution to provide for corporate membership and coalitions.
ON THE CHOPPING BOARD
CONSTITUENCY: MP PARTY
1. MOGOTIO Hellen Sambili UDM
2. MALAVA Soita Shitanda New Ford-K
3. KITUI CENTRAL Charity Ngilu Narc
4. KATHIANI Wavinya Ndeti CCU
5. KITUTU CHACHE Richard Onyonka PDP
6. KITUTU MASABA Walter Nyambati NLP
7. KINANGOP David Ngugi Sisi kwa Sisi
8. KIRINYAGA CENTRAL John Ngata Kariuki Ford-A
9. LUGARI Cyrus Jirongo Kaddu
10. IKOLOMANI Bonny Khalwale New Ford-K
11. NYARIBARI CHACHE Robert Monda Narc
12. CENTRAL IMENTI Gitobu Imanyara CCM
13. GANZE Francis Baya KADU-A
14. LARI David Njuguna PPK
15. NORTH IMENTI Silas Muteere Mazingira
16. MARAKWET EAST Jebii Kilimo Kenda
By OLIVER MATHENGE
December 31 2008
A row over a list of officers to spearhead the transition at the Electoral Commission of Kenya is now threatening to divide the grand coalition government.
The Nation has established that the Prime Minister’s office has written to Mr Francis Muthaura, the head of the civil service, to protest at a list released by the Office of the President on Monday.
The letter signed by Mr Caroli Omondi, the PM’s principal administrative secretary, notes that other than the registrar of political parties, all other ECK staff are barred by the law disbanding the electoral body from having access to the offices and any documentation.
The letter dated December 30, says in part; “It is illegal to allow any former commissioner and/or members of staff to have such access”.
On Monday, the Office of the President issued a memo addressed to the commandant in charge of the security of government buildings to allow 38 officers, among them 31 from the ECK, access to the offices in Nairobi.
The list includes senior officers led by ECK secretary, Mr Suleiman Chege, the registrar of political parties, Ms Lucy Ndungu, IT manager, Mr Ayub Ambira, and legal officer Jemimah Keli.
Sources indicated to the Nation that the PM’s office was unhappy with the transition team since most of the officers were in charge of the core activities of the disputed 2007 presidential polls.
Another concern raised by Mr Odinga’s office is that the drawing up of the transition team was not consultative.
“The major players in government were not involved in the selection of this team and there is a feeling that the Serena mediation team should have been left to do it,” the source said.
According to the letter from the PM’s office, the transition team is to be drawn from the Office of the President, the Office of the Prime Minister, the ministries of Justice, Public Service and Finance and the State Law Office.
It further states that the team will be co-chaired by the permanent secretaries in the Justice Ministry and Prime Minister’s office.
The transition team is to oversee the preservation of ECK assets as well as address all human resource related issues affecting the former commissioners and staff of the defunct electoral body.
The team will also regulate access to the ECK records and office, according to the letter.
Transfer of assets
The team is also expected to receive handing over reports from former ECK personnel and oversee the transfer of assets, liabilities and obligations of the disbanded body to the Interim Independent Electoral Commission.
ECK staff members were barred from their offices countrywide after the government decided to send them on compulsory leave after President Kibaki assented to the Constitutional Amendment Bill last Wednesday.
An interim electoral body is to be put in place to carry on reforms in the country’s electoral system.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
By DANIEL NYASSY
December 29 2008
Coast MPs say they gave document to President and PM six months ago
President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga have not responded to a memorandum of understanding given to them by Coast MPs six months ago, the Coast Parliamentary Group has said.
The group will start demanding for answers to questions they raised to the two leaders from January 2009, CPG assistant chairman Gideon Mung’aro said on Monday.
Mr Mung’aro said CPG did not have any agenda with the Head of State during his current visit to the Coast for the Christmas and New Year holidays.
“We met the President on his arrival at Moi International Airport. We did not have another appointment with him as CPG. We are giving him time to tackle the issues we raised in our June MoU,” said Mr Mung’aro.
Mr Mung’aro was clarifying claims that President Kibaki had locked out Coast MPs at State House, Mombasa, where the legislators traditionally visit him or take delegations whenever he is on holiday.
Among the contentious issues in the MoU are the perpetual land issue at the Coast, a full-fledged Coast university, ownership and management of the Kenya Ports Authority, the human-wildlife conflict and levies from the vibrant tourism sector in the area.
Mr Mung’aro said the Government had shown some positive signals by setting aside more than Sh200 million to re-open the Voi campus which admitted students this year.
“A programme to settle squatters was also launched and is ongoing under the management of Lands minister James Orengo.”
Some money was also set aside for the fencing off of game parks and reserves to confine wild animals, especially in Taita Taveta, Kwale and Malindi districts.
Mr Mung’aro said CPG would hold a special meeting next month to review the agendas raised in the MoU.
DAILY NATION IN NAIROBI & REUTERS IN ACCRA
December 30 2008
Thousands of supporters of opposition candidate John Atta Mills, shouting “Change, change”, besieged Ghana’s electoral commission today as it prepared to announce the result of a close presidential run-off vote.
Local media had predicted a narrow victory for Mills, the candidate of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), over his rival Nana Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) following Sunday’s deciding vote in the West African state.
Armed soldiers and police, backed by water cannon trucks and an armoured personnel carrier, kept the NDC supporters back behind barricades at the commission headquarters in Accra.
The protesters demanded the commission declare Mills the winner.
Provisional results released by the commission, with votes counted from 200 of the country’s 230 constituencies, showed Mr Mills leading with 52.1 per cent against 47.9 per cent for the NPP’s Akufo-Addo.
Police fired shots into the air to disperse Mr Mills’ supporters as they mobbed the commission building.
Akufo-Addo’s NPP, the ruling party of outgoing President John Kufuor, denounced a prediction made by Ghana’s leading private independent broadcaster Joy FM, which had collated certified results from polling stations, that Mills would win.
A victory for Mr Mills and the NDC would end eight years of NPP rule under Kufuor, who is stepping down after serving two consecutive terms, the constitutional limit.
Ghana, the world’s No. 2 cocoa grower, has enjoyed recent growth and stability, becoming a favourite with investors. The country, also a gold producer, will start pumping oil in 2010.
NPP chairman Peter Mac Manu condemned the Joy FM projection as “highly speculative and premature” and said his party would challenge what it considered flawed results from some regions.
There were some reports of violence and disorder in Sunday’s vote.
In a preliminary verdict on Sunday’s elections, an observer mission from the West African regional bloc, Ecowas, described them as “free, peaceful, transparent and credible”. But it said complaints should be challenged peacefully and legally.
In a news conference on Monday, Mr Mills predicted he would win but urged his supporters to stay calm.
Eurasia Group risk consultancy, in a briefing note by Africa analyst Sebastian Spio-Garbrah, called Mill’s lead “tight but insurmountable” and predicted he would be a “narrow electoral winner without a strong governing mandate”.
Analysts say the new president will take over at a time when economic growth is expected to slow as a result of the global downturn. He will have to deal with a growing budget and current account deficit, high inflation and unemployment and falling remittance and aid levels, they say.
By Richard Cohen
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
In what without a doubt is the most astounding op-ed piece of the year, Karl Rove reveals that his friend and former boss, George W. Bush, has read probably hundreds of books over the course of his presidency. One of them was Albert Camus' "The Stranger," with its unforgettable opening lines: "Mother died today. Or perhaps it was yesterday, I don't know." After reading Rove's Wall Street Journal column, it's clear there's much we all don't know.
Bush's choice of the Camus classic is odd on the face of it. It is a novel about estrangement, about an amoral, irreligious man (Meursault) who never shows emotion. It is a book out of my Gauloise-smoking youth, read in the vain pursuit of women of literary bent, and not something I would think an over-60 president would read. Maybe this is what happens when you have to give up jogging.
In his column, Rove says that Bush read 95 books in 2006 alone. In 2007, he read 51 books and as of last week, he had read 40 in 2008. The numbers are precise because Bush challenged Rove to a contest: who could read the most books. Rove always won, but Bush had the ready excuse that he was, as he put it, busy being "Leader of the Free World." This, though, is not an excuse. As Dwight Eisenhower once told me (I'm not making this up), he had more time as president to dabble in painting than he did in retirement. Such is the virtue of The Bubble.
Rove appreciates that he's written a caricature-buster. "In the 35 years I've known George W. Bush, he's always had a book nearby," he writes. "He plays up being a good ol' boy from Midland, Texas, but he was a history major at Yale and graduated from Harvard Business School. You don't make it through either unless you are a reader."
As might be expected, most of Bush's books have been biographies and histories. Biographies are usually about great men who often did the unpopular thing and were later vindicated. As for histories, they are replete with cautionary tales. That might explain how the 1961 classic, Hugh Thomas's "The Spanish Civil War," made it onto this year's presidential reading list. Had Hitler (and Mussolini) been stopped in Spain, much misery would have been avoided. Substitute Iraq for Spain and you have, for the president, some reassuring bedtime reading.
Still, the fact remains that Bush is a prodigious, industrial reader, and this does not conform at all to his critics' idea of who he is. They would prefer seeing him as a dolt, since that, as opposed to policy or ideological differences, is a briefer, more bloggish explanation of what went wrong. Still, in fairness to these critics (see Rove above), Bush himself has encouraged this approach. Aw shucks is an infuriating defense of a policy.
It is awfully late in the day for Rove -- and, presumably, Bush -- to assert the president's intellectual bona fides. Now feeling the hot breath of history, they are dropping the good ol' boy persona and picking up the ol' bifocals one. But the books themselves reveal -- actually, confirm -- something about Bush that maybe Rove did not intend. They are not the reading of a widely read man, but instead the books of a man who seeks -- and sees -- vindication in every page. Bush has always been the captive of fixed ideas. His books just support that.
The list Rove provides is long, but it is narrow. It lacks whole shelves of books on how and why the Iraq war was a mistake, one that metastasized into a debacle. Absent is Rajiv Chandrasekaran's "Imperial Life in the Emerald City," Tom Ricks's "Fiasco," George Packer's "The Assassins' Gate" or, on a related topic, Jane Mayer's "The Dark Side" about "extraordinary rendition" and other riffs on the Constitution. Absent too is Barton Gellman's "Angler," about Dick Cheney, the waterboarder in chief.
Bush read David Halberstam's "The Coldest Winter," which is about the Korean War, but not on the list is Halberstam's "The Best and the Brightest," which is about the Vietnam War. Bush read some novels, but they are mostly pre-movies, plotted not written, and lacking the beauty of worldly cynicism. I recommend Giuseppe di Lampedusa's "The Leopard." Delicious.
My hat is off to Bush for the sheer volume and, often, high quality of his reading. But his books reflect a man who is seeking to learn what he already knows. The caricature of Bush as unread died today -- or was it yesterday? But the reality of the intellectually insulated man endures.
By Alexander Mooney
It's a position that John Quincy Adams once called downright pathetic: that of a former president.
In his post-presidency, George Bush has plans to construct a presidential library and work on his memoirs. After all, the process of relinquishing the most powerful job in the world isn't an easy one, especially given the American public's notoriously fleeting attention span and penchant for paying little heed to once-prominent political figures after they exit the public stage.
As the days dwindle until President Bush joins what Herbert Hoover called the "most exclusive trade union in the world," the unpopular commander in chief recently declared that he's more than ready to forgo the limelight.
Although ex-presidents in Adams' day quickly descended into obscurity after their years in the Oval Office, today the transition away from serving as the leader of the free world is high-profile, potentially very lucrative and, above all, a difficult job in itself.
This is especially true for Bush, historians and political observers say. He not only must oversee the construction of a presidential library and begin writing his memoirs, but he also must grapple with salvaging a legacy mired in the lowest presidential approval ratings in history.
"The first year for every ex-president is really hard," said Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian at Rice University. "You have to raise all this money for your library, you've got to build an organization, you have to write a huge memoir, your papers are in disarray, and you suddenly realize your mistakes because your pace slows down."
Bush has more than a month left in office, but planning for his post-presidential year began more than two years ago. In many ways, the process is in full swing.
Fundraising and planning for his presidential library, to be built on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, is well under way. The president has started interviews with high-profile journalists, by all accounts already trying to define his legacy.
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But as the president is set to begin his stint out of office, the exact path he will take remains unclear.
Bush has expressed interest in writing a memoir and hitting the highly profitable lecture circuit, but experts say both pursuits could pose pitfalls.
Publishers, concerned the president's slumping approval ratings could translate to less-than-stellar book sales, have reportedly been lukewarm about a Bush book deal.
Bush has expressed interest in cataloguing 10 crises he's faced, Brinkley said, but wary publishers are somewhat cold to that idea, perhaps concerned that a public still reeling from the country's financial meltdown might not have an appetite for the president's account of his own difficult times.
Bush, like several of his predecessors, is also likely to embark on the business of making money -- and a lot of it -- off his status as a former occupant of the White House.
The Clintons have made more than $100 million in the eight years since the curtain closed on their White House years, and Bush himself has said that his father earns $50,000 to $75,000 a speech.
To be sure, profiting from their White House years is a staple for modern ex-presidents: Gerald Ford capitalized on his accidental 2½-year presidency by sitting on the board of several major corporations, and Ronald Reagan caused a stir when he netted $2 million for a few brief speeches in Japan in 1989.
But the public's overwhelming disdain for the president may delay a speaking tour and Bush ascent to the corporate boardroom.
"He is a president where people are expecting some kind of repair work," said Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton. "If he just goes on the speaking circuit and focuses his time making huge money, that would only tarnish a presidency that only has a low approval rating."
Instead, Bush is more likely to choose a similar post-presidential path, at least initially, as that of Jimmy Carter, who also left the White House with poor approval ratings, Zelizer said.
Instead of seeking to profit off his years in office, Carter became a globe-trotting humanitarian and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 for his work promoting social and economic justice.
In the process, Carter has rehabilitated his image and transformed a legacy that had seemed unsalvageable three decades ago.
"What Jimmy Carter showed is that you can be very active in your post-presidential years and help improve how people think of you as a leader and a policy maker," Zelizer said.
Bush and his handlers are mapping out this phase of the president's post-White House years. Plans are well under way for a "Freedom Institute" that will aim to promote democracies abroad.
The institute, where Bush is expected to play a significant role, is expected to be unaffiliated with an academic institution. Its members are expected to be analysts whose views are in line with the neoconservative outlook that shaped the president's approach to foreign policy.
"This is going to be Bush vision." Brinkley said of the institute. "Bush has never liked the academics, and this is a nonacademic institute aimed at cutting to the core of things: only pro-democracy foot soldiers who are green-lit by George and Laura Bush are in the mix."
It's under the auspices of this think tank that the president might try to improve his legacy, in hopes that Freedom Institute might reveal virtues in the foreign policy vision that led to the most defining decision of his presidency, the invasion of Iraq.
"This president's low approval rating is overwhelmingly connected to Iraq. It will rise and fall depending what turns out to be the history of that country and that part of the world," said Stephen Hess, a former Eisenhower aide and a scholar at the conservative Brookings Institution. "That really is what his legacy for future historians is all about."
YAHOO NEWS ONLINE
Hurricane Katrina not only pulverized the Gulf Coast in 2005, it knocked the bully pulpit out from under President George W. Bush, according to two former advisers who spoke candidly about the political impact of the government's poor handling of the natural disaster.
"Katrina to me was the tipping point," said Matthew Dowd, Bush's pollster and chief strategist for the 2004 presidential campaign. "The president broke his bond with the public. Once that bond was broken, he no longer had the capacity to talk to the American public. State of the Union addresses? It didn't matter. Legislative initiatives? It didn't matter. P.R.? It didn't matter. Travel? It didn't matter."
Dan Bartlett, former White House communications director and later counselor to the president, said: "Politically, it was the final nail in the coffin."
Their comments are a part of an oral history of the Bush White House that Vanity Fair magazine compiled for its February issue, which hits newsstands in New York and Los Angeles on Wednesday, and nationally on Jan. 6. Vanity Fair published comments by current and former government officials, foreign ministers, campaign strategists and numerous others on topics that included Iraq, the anthrax attacks, the economy and immigration.
Lawrence Wilkerson, top aide and later chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, said that as a new president, Bush was like Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee whom critics said lacked knowledge about foreign affairs. When Bush first came into office, he was surrounded by experienced advisers like Vice President Dick Cheney and Powell, who Wilkerson said ended up playing damage control for the president.
"It allowed everybody to believe that this Sarah Palin-like president — because, let's face it, that's what he was — was going to be protected by this national-security elite, tested in the cauldrons of fire," Wilkerson said, adding that he considered Cheney probably the "most astute, bureaucratic entrepreneur" he'd ever met. "He became vice president well before George Bush picked him," Wilkerson said of Cheney. "And he began to manipulate things from that point on, knowing that he was going to be able to convince this guy to pick him, knowing that he was then going to be able to wade into the vacuums that existed around George Bush — personality vacuum, character vacuum, details vacuum, experience vacuum."
On other topics, David Kuo, who served as deputy director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, disputed the idea that the Bush White House was dominated by religious conservatives and catered to the needs of a religious right voting bloc.
"The reality in the White House is — if you look at the most senior staff — you're seeing people who aren't personally religious and have no particular affection for people who are religious-right leaders," Kuo said.
"In the political affairs shop in particular, you saw a lot of people who just rolled their eyes at ... basically every religious-right leader that was out there, because they just found them annoying and insufferable. These guys were pains in the butt who had to be accommodated."
Monday, December 29, 2008
December 30, 2008
Xinhua and Agencies
Opposition candidate John Atta Mills of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) has a narrow lead in Ghana’s presidential election run-off, leading private broadcaster Joy FM said yesterday. Citing certified returns from polling stations from 205 of the 230 national constituencies that voted on Sunday, Joy FM said Mills had 51.35 percent, against 48.65 percent for Nana Akufo-Addo of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP).
But the race was still close and some of the remaining constituencies to be tallied were NPP strongholds, election experts said. Ghana’s electoral regulations allow the media to announce certified results from constituencies as they are collated. But only the electoral commission can declare final results or the winner.
The commission was expected to release provisional results indicating a trend by midday. Following reported incidents of violence, intimidation and ballot-snatching on Sunday, both competing parties have threatened not to accept results from each other’s political strongholds in the country because of alleged "irregularities".Sunday’s run-off vote in the world’s No. 2 cocoa producer followed an inconclusive December 7 first round in which Akufo-Addo finished just ahead but failed to gain the more than 50 percent of votes needed to win.
Meanwhile, Ghana poll monitors are investigating claims of fraud as partial unofficial results indicate the count from the presidential vote is too close to call. Supporters of Nana Akufo-Addo, of the governing party, and the opposition’s John Atta Mills claim the other side committed vote fraud and intimidation. Mr Akufo-Addo narrowly beat his rival in the first round on 7 December but not by enough to avoid the run-off.
Local media project Mr Atta Mills has a slender lead with most votes counted. According to partial unofficial results, the opposition candidate has some 4.21m votes against 4.04m for Mr Akufo-Addo, from 211 out of a total 230 constituencies, reports privately-owned Joy FM radio.
The final official outcome is expected today. Both men hope to succeed President John Kufuor, who has served two terms. The stakes are high as Ghana has just found oil. The two main political parties - the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the National Democratic Congress (NDC) of Mr Atta Mills - both complained about apparent efforts to rig the vote.
By JASON DEAREN,
Associated Press Writer
Dec 28, 2008
Blagojevich AP SAN FRANCISCO
George Francis, the nation's oldest man, who lived through both world wars, man's first walk on the moon and the election of the first black president, has died. He was 112.
Francis died Saturday of congestive heart failure at a nursing home in Sacramento, his son, Anthony Francis, said Sunday.
"He lived four years in the 19th century, 100 years in the 20th century, and 8 years in the 21st century. We call him the man of three centuries," said the younger Francis, 81.
UCLA gerontologist Dr. Stephen Coles, who maintains a list of the world's oldest people, said Francis lived 112 years and 204 days.
With Francis' death, Walter Breuning of Montana, who is 112 years, 98 days old, becomes the country's oldest living man. At 114, Gertrude Baines of Los Angeles is the nation's oldest living person. The world's oldest person is Maria de Jesus of Portugal, who is 115 years, 109 days old, and the oldest man is Tomoji Tanabe of Japan, who is 113 years, 101 days, Coles said.
Francis, who at his prime barely weighed more than 100 pounds, was born June 6, 1896, in New Orleans. As an African-American in the South, he felt the sting of the Jim Crow-era segregation laws in his early life.
His son said Francis tried to enlist in the U.S. Army during World War I but was turned down because of his stature.
"We always attributed his longevity to his mental and physical toughness," Anthony Francis said.
George Francis quit school after the sixth grade, became an amateur boxer as a young man and later worked as a chauffeur, an auto mechanic and a barber.
He and his wife, Josephine Johnson Francis, had a son and three daughters. Josephine Francis died of cancer in 1964.
Even in his waning days, Francis never lost his passion for politics, his family said. He voted for Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930s and for Barack Obama in 2008.
In an interview with The Associated Press after Obama's victory, Francis, who used a wheelchair, said he felt like jumping up and down.
"He is going to give black men a break in the world, and give them a better opportunity to live and make more money," he said. "For people who say voting doesn't matter, I think that's crazy."
Anthony Francis said his father was devoted to his family and that he attributed his longevity to them.
"He said `My children and my friends, I live off of them,'" he said.
Besides his four children, Francis is survived by 18 grandchildren, 33 great-grandchildren and 16 great-great grandchildren.
December 26 2008
Nothing epitomizes the disillusionment of marriage like the timeless cartoon strip Andy Capp. Andy is a middle-aged man who spends the entire day napping on the sofa while his wife Flo, a disgruntled matronly woman, works from morning to night to pay the bills and support her lazy husband.
When Andy is not napping, he is watching television, enjoying his beloved pint at the local pub, (where he also gets to make passes at the younger women who are more attractive than Flo) getting home in the dead of night much to the chagrin of his wife.
The irony is that Andy pays for his beer using his wife’s hard-earned money. He also has a weakness for gambling and his way of making money is betting on horses, never mind that most of the time, his predictions are normally wrong.
Andy, like many women have been known to complain about their husbands, is far from the romantic man Flo married – when he proposed to her, he went down on his knee.
Years later however, not even regular counseling sessions can persuade him to take out the trash. And in a scene replayed in many homes, Flo has on numerous occasions packed her bags and left for her mother’s house after having a row with her husband.
But Andy is not the only problem in the marriage. Thanks to unflattering clothes and a permanent headscarf which never leaves her head even during those rare occasions when she accompanies Andy to the races or the pub, Flo is no longer a youthful belle.
Also, she rarely has a kind word for her husband, even when she’s having an internal dialogue and doesn’t raise a finger even when her mother is rude to Andy. Once in a while, she even clobbers him when he is late coming home.
We can afford to laugh at these two characters, especially because, even after all this bickering, they still fondly refer to each other as ‘pet’.
Think about it though, were we to replace these cartoon characters with real life people, it wouldn’t be so funny because their marriage is an apt representation of many Kenyan marriages, maybe even yours.
Many couples find that their relationship begins to take on a different shape as soon as the honeymoon is over. The man, who was used to seeing his wife looking immaculate all the time, has to get used to waking up to a bleary-eyed stranger with wild-looking hair every morning.
During courtship, he found this sweet and would tousle her hair while teasing her gently, probably because he knew that in a few minutes, she would transform herself into the flawless beauty she became after whipping up some magic with her make-up.
But there is something about marriage that makes women get complacent, too content that they stop paying attention to their looks. After two or three years of marriage, most women stop making an effort to look good for their man like they did during courtship.
After all, what’s the point of wearing mascara and lipstick if you’re going to spend the entire weekend at home?
A few years later and two children down the line, the slender waist that used to fascinate the man endlessly no longer exists. In its place are ‘love handles’ which do not feel as nice to hold.
The meals that she used to lovingly prepare are replaced by the bland ones the maid puts together. She is no longer willing to serve the man because she is either not home or is too tired to get up from the sofa.
In some households, the bossy, know-it-all mother-in-law makes an entrance and can make the situation worse if either partner is reluctant to intervene.
The conversation the once loving couple enjoyed also changes. With school fees, homework and bills to talk about, the laughter and the easy banter that they once shared is no longer existent, the activities you enjoyed doing together forgotten in the midst of a harried life.
As for the man, he is no longer the thoughtful chap who surprised you with presents “just because.” That day he placed a ring on your finger is also the last one he lifted a finger in the kitchen, yet when he was courting you, he would insist that you watch television as he prepared lunch.
But it is not only women who ‘let themselves go’. Many men, too, stop paying attention to their looks once they get married.
As his wife’s waist disappears, he begins to develop a pot belly and is quite at home with it since he has often heard it said that a pot belly in a man denotes affluence and speaks to the world about his success. But what does his wife think?
He also becomes averse to helping around the house and finds it difficult to pick up after himself, leaving everything to his wife or the maid, never mind the fact that she, too, works from morning to evening.
Such behavior puts women off and is a major source of discontent in many marriages. If pressed about it, most women will confess to doing housework half-heartedly all the while cursing their husbands for not making an effort to help.
With the year coming to an end, this is probably the best time to start cultivating a new beginning if you are dissatisfied with your marriage.
To help you out, we interviewed a cross-section of married men and women and asked them to tell us how they wanted to see their spouses change and what they wanted them to do differently come the new year.
Forget about the so called best-selling books by foreign authors or a session at a counselor’s couch – this is bound to be more helpful to your marriage since it came from the horse’s mouth.
What men want
A popular joke goes like this: a man placed an advert in the classified pages of a newspaper which: ‘Wife wanted’. The next day, he received a hundred letters. They all said the same thing – ‘You can have mine.’
Though a man who is frustrated with his wife wouldn’t go as far as giving her out to any willing taker, it doesn’t mean that he hasn’t questioned whether he made the right choice marrying her in the first place.
However, judging from the responses we got from the men we talked to, men also care about their marriages and would want them to last. This is how they want their women to change:
1. Stop nagging
Judging from the frequency with which this one kept coming up, men get irritated when they are interrogated about every little thing they do. They say that women are obsessive about details, even the ones that don’t really matter – like what their husbands talked about when they met with their friends or expecting minute by minute details of what transpired during the day.
They understand that communication in a relationship is important, but they want you to be satisfied when they choose to give an overview of events because it means that the details aren’t important. They also resent being reminded to do something. Request them once and when you do, allow them to do it at their own time.
2. Avoid the double standards
Why should you expect men to be open about money when you’re secretive with yours? Apparently, this is a major source of antagonism in many marriages. A couple of men said that their wives were dishonest regarding the amount of money they had yet they expected their husbands to declare all they had to the last penny.
One man revealed that just a few months ago, he found out that his wife had a secret bank account. Because of this little secret, their marriage is on the brink of disintegrating. “She obviously doesn’t trust me. What else is she keeping from me?” the 42-year-old father of two wonders. If you want men to be forthright with you regarding money, let him know about your chamas as well.
3. Girlfriends are a thorn
While men have no problem with their wives spending time with their friends; they feel that some are a bad influence to their marriage. One man said that his wife frequently stayed out late with friends, sometimes arriving after 10pm after their children had already gone to bed.
Another confessed that it bothers him when his wife overstays at a neighbour’s house. “Does it mean that she finds this neighbour more interesting than I am?” James, the 32-year-old teacher wonders.
The men also want you to know that even though there is nothing wrong with you having a girls’ night out once in a while, it is insensitive to make a habit of it. They also want you to stop comparing your friends’ husbands with him, saying that it only makes him feel belittled especially if you’re criticizing him.
4. We love our children but…
A number of men resented the amount of time their wives lavished on their children. They appreciate that children need to be looked after, but they also want to know that they too matter in your life. “Ever since we got our first child, my wife behaves as if I don’t exist anymore, yet our son is about to celebrate his second birthday. He only has to throw a tantrum for her to leave everything else and attend to him,” Michael, a 34-year-old account laments. The men are feeling neglected and want you to create some time for them.
5. Take an interest in our work
Most men want their wives to be more interested in their jobs and be involved in investment plans for the future. They felt that their wives assume this is their duty and are therefore reluctant to offer ideas or take an active role in making them become a reality.
They want you to know that they would appreciate it if you showed an interest in how they invest the money you make together. One man feared how his wife would cope were something to happen to him because she has no idea how their businesses run.
6. We miss the good-old days
If you thought women were the only ones who miss the long forgotten courtship days, you’re wrong. Men too would want to revive the spark that characterized the dating phase. They feel that women become complacent after a few years of marriage especially where grooming and body image is concerned. Please start paying attention to how you dress and watch your weight.
They also want you to be more interested in sex and not wait for them to initiate it all the time. It also wouldn’t hurt if you became more affectionate, smiled more often and laughed at his silly jokes.
7. Don’t sulk
Men are human – they can’t read minds. Most men said sulking irritates them immensely. If they do something that offends you, let them know. Bottling up anger or ill-feelings will not do you or your relationship any good.
What women want
1. Cut the booze
Coming home stinking of alcohol and expecting your wife to cuddle and act all-loving is unrealistic. They want the men to know that it is not only a complete turn-off, but a bad example for the children.
They also hate it when you regularly come home late at night or in the wee hours of the morning because it robs them of the time they should be spending with you.
2. Help out at home
They may not voice it, but they would appreciate it if you did more around the house, including picking up after yourself. One woman felt that her husband behaved as if their two children did not belong to him, and did not bother to help them with their homework, find out how they were performing at school and did not attend school open days.
Another woman, Susan, a 36-year-old telephone operator said that her husband treated their home “like a hotel.” “He only comes home to eat and sleep. I wish he would spend more time at home because this way, we would get to do more things together.”
3. Appreciate us
Women, especially those who have been married for a couple of years, feel that their husbands don’t appreciate them as they should. Most women said that the men stopped being thoughtful or caring after marriage.
They no longer bought them presents and rarely went out of their way to do things for them. Women want to feel loved and valued, just like you made them feel when you were courting them. They also want to be complimented. Make an effort to notice when they have a new hairstyle or a new dress. It makes them feel you care.
5. Learn to listen
Sometimes women just want to vent, so kindly switch off the television and give her a few minutes of your undivided attention because it gives them a sense of satisfaction. It also tells them that you really care.
6. Be more responsible
Some women felt that their husbands still behaved liked little boys especially when it came to financial matters. One woman felt that her husband, a manager at his place of work, was too liberal with his money. “Whenever we go for an outing with friends, he offers to foot the bill most of time yet the understanding is that everyone should contribute.”
Karen, the 40-year-old business woman says that this is a major bone of contention in their marriage, since she feels that they should be saving most of the money that they spend entertaining friends.
So as we begin the new year next week, if you recognize yourself in any of the above situations, make an effort to improve your relationship by changing whatever you may be doing that your spouse doesn’t like.
December 27 2008
From the imposing three-storey building in suburban Top View Estate, one has a panoramic view of Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital.
A first-time visitor to this palatial home could be excused for thinking he is at the White House — the residence of America’s president — or a UN headquarters.
Complete with a well manicured garden, splashing fountain, stone lions and two latest models of Mercedes Benz in the garage, the residence of Haile Gebrselassie, the famed Ethiopian long-distance runner, conjures up images of paradise.
But always the gentleman, Gebrselassie is rather modest about it.
Asked why he chose to have this architectural wonder for a home, he says: “I wanted to lead a good life.”
Designed by Getaneh Retta, the top Ethiopian architect, it took three years to build and set Gebrselassie some $1.5 million (Sh112 million) back.
But the cost is probably nothing compared to the architectural genius, style, decor, landscape and the interiors that went into it.
The front door opens to the sight of beauty you would only associate with a sports museum.
There are glass cabinets filled with jerseys, medals, trophies and shoes that the athletics legend has worn and won since becoming a running sensation more than a decade ago.
“It is my wife Alem who came up with the idea of the glass cabinets,” said Gebrselassie, pointing at one of the medals.
Emperor Haile Selassie stares blankly from a photograph on the wall.
“No! I am not related to Haile Selassie. I only admire and love him,” says Gebrselassie.
I had the privilege of being among Gebrselassie’s guests on December 13. Others invited to the palatial home were officials of the Great Ethiopian Run, an annual race held every November, a UK journalist and Pauline Korikwiang, a budding Kenyan runner and a former 2006 World Junior Champion in Fukuoka, Japan.
Gebrselassie is Korikwiang’s mentor under the G4S 4teen, a sports programme that supports a group of young aspiring athletes around the world.
Gebrselassie, a G4S global ambassador, mentors each athlete to achieve their sporting goal. Everyone appeared amazed as our host guided us on a tour around the home, carefully looking at every feature, from the well-decorated granite floor to the chandeliers.
“This is my first time here. I had only heard about Haile’s house and how fabulous it is! Everybody I have met has always said their dream is to come to Haile’s house, and this is a dream come true for me,” said Daria Zebrowska, who works with a charity in Addis Ababa.
Her friend Elaine Boyd craned her neck to see some drawings of cattle on a balcony. It was the Scot’s first time, too, at the celebrated residence.
“I am overwhelmed by Haile’s hospitality. He is quite friendly and welcoming,” Boyd remarked. The house is decorated like the set of a TV soap opera with paintings on the walls.
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A 42-inch flat screen dominates one of the lounges filled with black leather sofa sets. The three lounges resemble the blue, red and green rooms at the White House.
Right by the door, a three legged grand piano stands with a photo of one of his three children perched on top.
A red carpet covers the shiny granite floor and snakes up the stairway to the indoor balcony. The indoor balcony has two sets of chairs.
A shield, two spears, a sword and three old shotguns are glued to the wall, diagonal to the indoor balcony.
In the reception area, jolly Gebrselassie smiles broadly as he serves drinks to his guests. His wife Alem helped to set up the buffet table in the dining room as their children played in the garden.
Wearing a light blue sports jacket, white track trousers and sports shoes, the host moved around ensuring that his guests were having a good time.
A chat with Gebrselassie revealed that the hospitality industry is his other passion.
The runner, who owns 10 buildings in Addis Ababa, said a five-star hotel he is building should be complete mid next year. The four-storey hotel on an expansive land will be named Haile Hotel.
“The hotel is situated in Awassa area. Many tourists who have gone there have complained of lack of a hotel. Therefore, I looked around and found land next to a beautiful lake,” he said.
Korikwiang, the Kenyan girl who was visiting his mentor, said she was inspired by Gebrselassie’s lifestyle as well.
“I am happy to come to his house today. This is not only an opportunity for me but a privilege. Not many athletes can lead this life,” said Korikwiang, who only recently relocated to Nairobi from her village in West Pokot.
With earnings from running, Korikwiang is already building a stone-walled house.
This was the third time Korikwiang and Gebrselassie were meeting under the G4S 4teen programme.
Earlier in the morning that day, the 19-year-old runner and her mentor had trained together at Entoto Mountain, about 13 km east of Addis Ababa’s central business district.
Every day Gebrselassie wakes up at 5 a.m. to make it in time for the morning training session at Entoto Mountains where he runs for at least two hours before he drives back home for a shower.
He reports to his HaileAlem business premises by 9 a.m. and works until 2 p.m. when he heads to the gym for the second training session.
Though his business has grown by leaps and bounds, from real estate to motor trade, he says his training schedule comes first and that he plans to run for the next 20 years.
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“One of the mistakes athletes make is to plan for retirement. You should not plan to retire like some athletes do, after this or that Olympic games, yet their careers are promising,” he said. “I don’t put a date; it comes by its own, next year or even tomorrow.”
Gebrselassie, who has broken 26 records, says he trains seven days in a week and goes to church once in a month. Sunday is a normal working day for him.
The big question that has always been on the lips of his fans is what kind of a life he leads. He denies claims that he is a vegetarian and says injera, a large spongy pancake made of teff flour, is his favourite.
Away from the glare of the track and the podium, he occasionally spares time for his family at home and often has a moment to play the piano.
The medal which he won in the 2000 Sydney Olympics is the one he cherishes most. He has also safely stored the first Adidas sports shoes that he was given by his brother in 1989 in one of the cabinets.
“The 2000 Sydney Olympic medal, between Paul Tergat and I, is my favourite. It looks like Paul won that race; we were too close to each other. He was in top shape, the only thing is that it was not his day,” he said amid roaring laughter.
“Paul later beat me in one of the marathons in London.”
He says he has enormous respect for Tergat and the perception of a cold relationship between Kenyan long-distance runners and their Ethiopian counterparts due to their rivalries on the track is a misconception.
Ethiopians and Kenyans
“Ethiopians need Kenyans and Kenyans need Ethiopians. Without them, I cannot just hold the position I do in athletics. This is sport, if someone thinks I hate Kenyans, or Kenyans hate Ethiopians, that’s wrong,” he said as his cell phone buzzed to life.
In this year’s Beijing Olympic games, Gebrselassie managed position six in the 10,000 metres and pulled out of the marathon citing high pollution level, which he said was likely to worsen his asthmatic condition.
“I went to Beijing in February and saw how the weather looked like. It was more of a mess, and I thought it was difficult to run there due to my asthma problem. I am all right now; for the last four years, my doctors have been treating me,” he said.
All this time guests sat on various seats stationed in the three lounges. The flash of the camera was continuous across the room as guest after guest posed for a photo with the revered celebrity.
It is around 4 p.m. and most of the guests have started to leave. Gebrselassie has to dash to the gym. He climbs upstairs and comes back with a bag hanging from his shoulder.
“It was great meeting you,” he says as he opens the door to his car. He has to prepare for the Dubai race next month.
Submitted by Dkimanzi
Posted December 27, 2008
I hope that this guy keeps it up and invests wisely. Don't do like the old school Kenyan runners who squandered everything and ended up broke when they retired. Thanks Nation! put up more of these type of articles.
December 27 2008
Barring an Obama-type upset where a young, relatively unknown candidate will emerge from obscurity to win the presidency, one of these leaders will be Kenya’s next President. Citizens aged below 35 years are at least 60 per cent of the population. They were largely locked out of the top brass in the recent party elections. Will the millions of young voters use their ballot power to tip the scales in 2012?
The possibility that Kenya will have a youthful President at the next election appears more uncertain with the line-up that has filed papers at the office of the Registrar of Political Parties.
Barring an Obama-type upset, where a leader will emerge from obscurity to capture the imagination of a majority of voters in a break from tradition, the shape of things to come will be directed by seven personalities, who are party leaders.
Most of the top leaders who have been unveiled by their political parties as potential presidential candidates in the next General Election have declared that the country was ready for a young president.
Inspired by the election of 47-year-old Barack Obama as the US President last month, the politicians, who are now chairpersons or deputy leaders of their parties, argue that it is time Kenyans embraced a generational change and voted into office a young person.
The leaders cite the high number of MPs below the age of 40 who won their seats in the last General Election as a sign of changing times. They suggested that voters could settle for a leader who is young, arguing that Mr Daniel arap Moi was 54 years when he took over power. But just how young is young?
Those who have so far staked a claim to the presidency are Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka, and Deputy Prime ministers Uhuru Kenyatta and Musalia Mudavadi. Others are Cabinet ministers Martha Karua, George Saitoti and William Ruto.
They are likely to run for high office themselves or marshall support for other candidates as the race shapes up and dependent on the character the new constitution assumes.
Igembe South MP Mithika Linturi introduced a motion seeking to set the presidential age limit at 65 years.
Backers of the motion, mainly youthful MPs supporting the formation of the grand opposition in Parliament, argue that old politicians are responsible for the ills facing the country.
Mr Odinga has repeatedly said that he favours a parliamentary system of government with a PM who holds executive powers.
He also favours devolution of power to the regions. On the other hand, some MPs allied to Mr Musyoka appear to favour a system where executive power remains with the President who is voted through a universal suffrage system.
Mr Odinga, who will be 67 years in 2012, last week retained his seat as the ODM party leader and is expected to vie for the presidency for the third time.
In the last elections, he put up a spirited campaign for State House on an ODM ticket, but saw his hopes fade with the disputed presidential election result. The Electoral Commission of Kenya declared Mr Kibaki the winner, sparking a wave of violence that was only brought to an end by the intervention of the international community through former UN secretary general Kofi Annan.
Mr Musyoka, Mr Mudavadi, Ms Karua and Mr Ruto said the youth were the majority voters and were not tied down by factors of tribalism, class and regions.
While describing young presidents as inspirational, Mr Musyoka argued that the ideas and policies of an individual candidate were the best determinants of a leader.
“There are young presidents who are very inspirational worldwide just as there are old presidents who are very successful. What Kenyans require is a servant leader who will demystify State House by pursuing policies that connect directly with the ordinary person,” he told the Sunday Nation on the phone.
The VP, who will be 59 in 2012, said he was proud of the historic achievements of Mr Obama, who is set to be sworn into office as the first black US President on January 20, 2009.
The ODM Kenya leader is expected to take a second stab at the highest political office in the land in the next polls. In the last elections, he was third after Mr Kibaki and Mr Odinga.
Mr Mudavadi, the Local Government minister, said the election of Mr Obama had inspired a lot of youthful politicians who were ready to join the fray and fight for the presidency.
The deputy PM said Kenya had in the past elected young leaders. He was referring to former President Moi who became Head of State at 54 years in 1978.
“The election of Barack Obama has definitely given a lot of inspiration to youthful politicians and voters. I can see them (voters) going for a youthful person. They would want to have a president they can readily relate with,” said the Sabatia MP, who will be 52 years in 2012.
Mr Mudavadi, who was Mr Odinga’s running mate in the 2007 elections, was recently elected ODM deputy party leader and is expected to go for the presidency in 2012.
“There are lots of expectations along that line. If Obama performs well as president, this will definitely encourage youthful leadership. This is an issue that we must not lose sight of,” he said.
Prof Saitoti, who will be 67 years in 2012, thinks the youth cannot be ignored because they are expected to play a huge role in the next elections. PNU, he added, will offer them an opportunity to play their role.
Ms Karua said youthful leaders were taking over power the world over and argued that Kenyan voters had shown they were ready to influence generational change in political leadership.
“Kenya is changing with the rest of the world and now it is the young generation that is calling the shots. The next president is expected to be a youthful person. I expect Kenya’s next president to be much younger,” she said.
The Narc Kenya chairperson, who has declared her interest in the presidency and will be 55 in 2012, said that even 24-year-olds were now being elected as MPs.
“I entered Parliament at the age of 35 years when it was dominated by octogenarians but, today, we have MPs who are as young as 24 years,” she said.
Mr Ruto, the Agriculture minister, said Kenya was ripe for a young president because a majority of the population was below 45 years and it was such a leader who could identify with their needs. He said that the last General Election was a preamble to what will happen in the 2012 elections.
“In 2012, the youth will not only come out to vote, but to vote for one of their own,” the minister said.
The election of Obama, he said, had shown that it was possible to break away with the traditional prejudices of ethnicity, religion and colour.
The Eldoret North MP, who will be 46 years in 2012 and was last week elected the ODM deputy party leader, said the influence of money on politics was fast losing relevance.
‘‘The last elections are a clear example that you can bribe voters but they will vote for whoever they have decided, to vote for,” he said.
Also expected to run are Mr Kenyatta, the Kanu chairman, who will be 51 years in 2012. Former Kenya National Commission on Human Rights chairman Maina Kiai also believes Kenya was ready for a young president, citing Mr Obama’s election as US president.
Submitted by wuod_aketch
Posted December 29, 2008 02:11 PM
Maybe our problem big is that we like being sycophants and adore being dominated by a bwana mkubwa or a mzungu. The other reason is that we do not seem to understand that we belong to a nation called Kenya which we should build together and not just exploit and plunder.
Submitted by Hillaryio
Posted December 29, 2008 10:10 AM
Obama did NOT win the US elections because of his age. He won because of his broad agenda, which resonated well with what the US needs right now. The problem in Kenya is not with the old politicians, the real problem is to do with the old politics of self-centrism. Again we are in love with the idea of Obama but we are not in love with his ideas.
Submitted by jamesnmusyoka
Posted December 29, 2008 05:12 AM
There are just no proper leaders in kenya. The above individuals should not even be on the some page with obama. Orengo and Ngilu are the only true leaders in our land. They fight for justice and for the people, but sad to say that kenyan politics is not about its people.
Submitted by musembij
Posted December 29, 2008 03:23 AM
What we need in this country are systems that work, systems that are accountable to the people, and systems that respect and uphold the rule of law. The age of the president or the MP is not the issue. Have the young MPs fared any better? Obama was not elected on account of his age, but on account of his vision for America.
Submitted by Jangerboy
Posted December 29, 2008 01:52 AM
In fact the older leaders over 75 years of age should step aside for more youthful ones to take leadership positions! They can however be consulted for advice and act as mentors to younger generation leaders.
Submitted by bahatibob
Posted December 29, 2008 01:35 AM
In my opinion young should be 40-50,or even less than that if Kenya is to undergo a radical change. Obama was born when Kibaki was already in the cabinet,and Kibaki is still in the cabinet 46 years later? What is wrong with the Kenyan system?
Submitted by njengah
Posted December 28, 2008 11:25 PM
I don't see any leaders in the group mentioned in this article. All I see is tribal hawks who are more concerned with the plight of their tribe and pocket, rather than the plight of our great nation. We have youthful leadership all over the country. The difference is that they don't get any media coverage. Obama won partly because of positive media coverage, and mostly because of a positive message of hope. Kenyan media will only cover you when you are either stealing public funds or calling for tribal warfare!!
Submitted by tenge
Posted December 28, 2008 11:19 PM
You can rule out Kalonzo Musyoka. No one of sound mind will ever vote for him. Besides he know nothing about politics. He has been used by different regimes for different reasons.
Submitted by firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted December 28, 2008 01:22 PM
I think Raphael Tuju should run. Good record. No tribalism. No corruption scandals. No involvement in electoral fraud. No involvement in electoral violence. Independently successful before coming into politics and genuinely young. Which other serious contender can claim all that?
Submitted by yesuwangu
Posted December 28, 2008 11:45 AM
If all those candidates vie for the post of president its obvious that the most unpopular l from the most populace community might be the next president.Kenyans will still vote on ethnic lines, the system of elections must be changed in the next constitution review.The post should also be rotational from province to province to discourage only one or two communities producing the president.therefor Rift valley and central must not be allowed to participate in the election of president.and Nyansa and central must not be allowed in the Prime minister post
Submitted by nationeye
Posted December 28, 2008 11:32 AM
aaahaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!! am perturbed here, just what do we call youth.... can someone tip me. I hope we are not calling 50 to 67 youth, are we?
Submitted by GitaaNyasani
Posted December 28, 2008 04:19 AM
Kenyan politics has come full circle.It is truly a case of Kenyans trying to fit a square peg into a round hole for a long 45 years. It doesn't work and it won't work. Solution, Kenyans must find a round peg for the round hole, radical change in leadership. God bless Kenya.
Submitted by ndiranguh
Posted December 28, 2008 03:23 AM
my fellow kenyans, who amoung the top pictured is not tinted by Ethinc Cleansing Blood,Goldenberg fraud,Muingiki,Kanu and the horrible elections last year. how clean or dirty are these dudes. Tribalism,regions and bloody money will play a big role in the next elections. we kenyans forget too fast. follow our history and one will see how stuffed up we are as a people. one has to know their history to know where we are heading.developed by 2030? thats a drain dream with the current bunch.
Submitted by ochieng76
Posted December 28, 2008 01:06 AM
What its important is not a young president or anexperienced president but an effective president.What is important in Kenya is a president who respects the rule of law and who is ready to reduce the draconian laws which is hurting kenyans.
Submitted by wanmt
Posted December 28, 2008 12:57 AM
US is a developed democracy and has a workable and relatively good legal framework and a foolproof enforcement system. US is a good model for Kenya but the Kenyan press should avoid comparing US with Kenya. US is no march for Kenya. It is a superpower democracy. Kenya needs to do reforms in a smart manner and mentor the youth into responsible leadership instead of telling them that they are leaders of tomorrow which incidentally never comes in Kenya. Obama is a true democrat compared to Kenyan leaders who panick whenever they face competition.
Submitted by kenmare69
Posted December 28, 2008 12:11 AM
Mr. Obama wasn’t elected president by dint of his age. His brand of political philosophy, which so strongly resonates with the American public now, is what sailed him through. Using age as a prime criterion to elect our next president will be just be as bad as making that determination based on tribe. While it may be unproductive to elect a decrepit person, we ought to realize that, Stupid is stupid. It knows no age or ethnic barriers. Instead of crowding our search for leadership with all the steaming hype about age, how about focusing on quality rather than chronology?
Submitted by wsnjau
Posted December 27, 2008 11:52 PM
Talk of age is a good pastime. Not anything more!
By BILLY MUIRURI
December 27 2008
"How can he address other presidents as if he owns the world?" Chavez wonders about Bush
The president robustly threw a bold stare at the audience, paused and with their full attention on his next statement, he blurted out: “ and address other presidents as if he The devil came here yesterday! And it smells of sulphur till today... How can he address other presidents as if he owns the world?”
"Shoe thrower courageous!"
That was President Hugo Chavez of oil-rich Venezuela addressing the UN General Assembly on just who he thought US President George Walker Bush is. Bush had addressed the same meeting the day before.
Chavez wasn’t through. He stunned delegates again when he acknowledged that he had “a warm relationship” with former president Bill Clinton. But on Bush, he bellowed: “With this cowboy, you can’t even talk… he even stole the elections.”
Chavez, whose country is the fourth largest exporter of oil to the US, is just one of the people who have never agreed with Bush on anything.
At one time, he blamed the UN for being an “arm of the US” and even proposed to offer Caracas, the Venezuelan capital, to be its headquarters as “the way it (UN) is, there is no way to save it (from US influence).”
Definitely the most powerful man alive, Bush has stepped on the toes of many presidents, especially from oil-rich countries.
In the process, he has earned so many enemies that even a fortnight ago, his retinue of security agents had never imagined that the president’s enemies could include journalists.
A fortnight ago, he ducked two shoes hurled at him by an enraged Iraq journalist, Muntadar al-Zaidi of Al-Baghdadiya TV, who called him “dog”, during a press conference alongside Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki.
Again, Chavez was the first and only international leader to publicly paised the journalist’s attack. “What courage!” he said of Zaidi’s onslaught. Though he said it was “very funny”, he added that “the action was courageous and acting for the Iraq people.”
Bush is the man Iraqis blame for all misery they are suffering since the US invaded the country five years ago.
Early this month, he regreted having waged a war in Iraq and said it was the most unfortunate event in his eight-year rule.
Perceived to be overbearing and egoistic, he has come in conflict with several world leaders, especially those who think Western powers should not interfere with their own internal affairs.
He attacked Iraq in 2003, accusing strong man Saddam Hussein of making chemical and biological weapons and of having links with the al Qaeda terrorist network.
He was so keen to “distort” intelligence reports to justify the attack that he is said to have ignored a plea by Saddam that he could go to exile if compensated with $1 (Sh80) billion.
“Saddam won’t change. Time has come to get rid of him. That’s the way it is,” he had said after a meeting in Texas with then Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar where the offer plea was presented.
And in a televised address to Americans in March, 2003, Bush urged the Iraq military not to defend their commander-in-chief.
“Do not fight for a dying regime. Saddam is not worth your own life,” he added, “This man (Saddam) is insane. He is a dangerous man. We should force him out now.”
In 2002, he had expressed hatred for Saddam in the Senate and tried to justify war against him, “ After all, this is the guy who tried to kill my father.” Bush Senior, who helped to drive Iraq forces out of Kuwait in 1990, was targeted during a visit to Kuwait during Bill Clinton’s tenure.Former Cuban strongman Fidel Castro also had very little respect for Bush. He was more vicious against the man he said had fooled some people all the time, and all people part of the time but could never fool all the people all the time
Castro was enraged when Bush declared: “Long live free Cuba”, after Castro transferred power to his brother Raul.
A frail Castro said from his hospital bed: “ I can’t imagine such words from the mouth of a whole US president, a whole 139 years later.”
Cuba gained independence from Spain in 1878. When Bush said in 2004 that Cuba was a growing sex tourist destination, Castro wrote a letter to him accusing the US of playing the Holy God nation while it had a more thriving sexual and human trafficking industry.
December 28 2008
ACCRA, Sunday (Reuters)
Ghanaians voted on Sunday in a deciding run-off to choose a president for Africa's newest emerging oil producer, in an election many hope can salvage the continent's battered democratic credentials.
In the capital Accra and across the West African state, which is the world's No. 2 cocoa grower, queues formed outside schools and other public building where polling stations were operating, guarded by armed soldiers and police.
The presidential contest pits Nana Akufo-Addo, of the previously ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP), against the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC)'s John Atta Mills, after neither managed an outright win in the Dec. 7 first round.
Both are foreign-trained lawyers, both 64 and both have pledged to maintain the stability and economic growth of recent years which have made the former British Gold Coast colony a favourite of investors on a turbulent continent.
The Ghana ballot, whose first round vote was praised as fair and orderly by observers, follows setbacks to constitutional democracy in Africa this year posed by flawed elections in Kenya and Zimbabwe and military coups in Mauritania and Guinea.
Judith Asem, a 62-year-old retired public servant, brought a kitchen stool to sit on as she waited in line to vote at the Kaneshie Zone Four polling station in Accra.
"I have done my bit, but I want to ensure a brighter future for my grandchildren and my great grandchildren. I will be voting for change towards a better Ghana," she said.
Around 12.4 million Ghanaians, out of a population of 23 million, are registered to vote to choose a successor to President John Kufuor, who is stepping down after two terms, the constitutional limit for remaining in office.
The campaign for the run-off had been spiced with heated rhetoric and the NDC had protested to electoral officials about "irregularities". The authorities deployed extra troops and police to guarantee security in the second round.
"We still have confidence in the goodwill of Ghanaians that they will not do anything to dent the credibility and the image of Ghana as a beacon in West Africa," Deputy Police Superintendent Kwesi Ofori told Reuters.
Turnout could be decisive
In the close-fought first round, Akufo-Addo finished first with just over 49 percent, more than one percentage point ahead of Mills, but he failed to gain the more than 50 percent of votes required to carry the ballot.
Analysts say the presidential election could go either way.
Voter turnout, at nearly 70 percent in the first round, could be key to deciding a winner. A higher turnout would favour the NPP's Akufo-Addo, while a lower turnout -- traditional in second rounds -- could boost the chances of the NDC's Mills.
The vote comes as Ghana, which is also the continent's second largest gold producer, is preparing to start producing oil in commercial quantities from late 2010.
Analysts see possible downside risks in the outcome from Sunday's vote, which follows the NPP losing its majority in parliament in the legislative elections held on Dec. 7.
"Either way, the next president of Ghana -- whether from the NPP or the NDC -- is likely to face a hostile and acrimonious parliament that his party won't be able to easily control," Sebastian Spio-Garbrah, Africa analyst of the Eurasia Group risk consultancy, wrote in a recent briefing note.Two of the national assembly's 230 seats still need to be declared by the electoral commission, which is handling outstanding constituency disputes, and the parliament now appears split -- with the NDC holding 114 seats and the NPP 108.
December 29 2008
Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf resigned on Monday and blamed the international community for failing to support the interim government in the Horn of Africa nation.
Yusuf told parliament that speaker Sheikh Aden Madobe would take over his duties and left for the airport. It was not clear where he was going.
"As I promised when you elected me on October 14, 2004, I would stand down if I failed to fulfil my duty, I have decided to return the responsibility you gave me," Yusuf said.
"Most of the country was not in our hands and we had nothing to give our soldiers. The international community has also failed to help us," Yusuf told legislators in Baidoa, Somalia's seat of parliament.
The president of Somalia's fractured, Western-backed government had become increasingly unpopular at home and abroad and was blamed by Washington, Europe and African neighbours for stalling a UN-hosted peace process.
Diplomats in the region are likely to welcome Yusuf's decision. They have said it would provide an opportunity to form a new, broad-based government in Somalia and get the peace process back on track.
Some analysts, however, fear it could open a potentially violent period of political limbo, with feuding camps reviving clan militias in a power struggle -- at the same time an Islamist insurgency is camped on the outskirts of the capital.
Soldiers from neighbouring Ethiopia have been propping up the government for the past two years, but there only some 3,000 soldiers left and Addis Ababa says they will leave soon.
The insurgency already controls most of southern Somalia outside the capital Mogadishu and Baidoa and analysts expect them to seize the rest when the Ethiopian troops pack up.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
THE SUNDAY TIMES
Published:Dec 15, 2008
Zuma mouthed platitudes about Zimbabwe and Aids
A year after Polokwane, the ANC still needs a leader
IN THE run-up to the ANC’s Polokwane conference last December, public intellectual Xolela Mangcu memorably wrote of the ANC: “It is like a group of people going over a cliff with their eyes wide open. It is just absolutely amazing. Surreal is more like it.”
Cope born on day Mbeki axed
Probably the best example of this destructive sheep-like behaviour was the resolution by the organisation — parroted frequently and loudly by the party’s leadership — to get rid of the elite crime-fighting unit the Scorpions and to incorporate its members into the SAPS.
It is now exactly a year since Polokwane — and Mangcu’s words still ring very true of the ANC.
I was to be invited to a Foreign Correspondents’ Association dinner two weeks ago. The main speaker was Jacob Zuma, leader of the ANC and widely seen as the next president of the country.
The association brings together the correspondents of all the major news outlets of the world posted to South Africa and the region. In the room were correspondents from the BBC, the Economist, CNN, the Financial Times and others representing media organisations in France, Angola and Sweden. In a nutshell: in that room was a crowd that shapes the world’s view of South Africa.
Now, many say that the international press sensationalises; that it is only interested in blood and gore. All of which might be true. But the fact remains that, for whatever reason, the individuals in that room needed to be impressed, and impressed hugely.
As I sat in that room all I could think was that Jacob Zuma, on the basis of his speech, is not the best man for the job.
I sat there and watched and listened to the man throwing away a golden chance to show that those who fear or loathe him — for whatever reason — are wrong.
He had a chance to charm, and he underwhelmed. He had a chance to speak straight and he was evasive.
Zuma gave a prepared speech that said nothing about anything. He mouthed platitudes about Zimbabwe and Aids and finished off by saying that he felt for the people of India over the Mumbai attacks.
Zuma was asked seven questions about Zimbabwe, including one by a World Bank employee who demanded a straight, yes or no answer. He evaded all of them and not a single person in the room can say what his stance on that country’s terrible situation is.
The truth is that a leader such as Zuma could have used that platform to say something meaningful about the crisis in Zimbabwe.
Instead, Zuma spoke as though the tyrant Robert Mugabe and the oft-detained and tortured Morgan Tsvangirai are exactly the same.
What was the point of kicking out Thabo Mbeki if you are going to continue to push exactly the same misguided policies?
Zuma failed even to point out the terrible effects of the Zimbabwe crisis on South Africa — xenophobia, cholera, and the impact on social services.
And then CNN’s Nkepile Mabuse asked him if he did not feel he should take some responsibility for the more than 300000 people who — according to Harvard University researchers — died because the Mbeki government failed to provide them with anti-retroviral drugs.
A smiling Zuma said he knew nothing about the Harvard report.
Incredible. He must be the only leader in this country who does not know about this report. It was on the front page of every respectable newspaper in the country.
The report has huge implications for Zuma: he was in charge of government’s response to the pandemic between 2001 and 2005 — when these 330000 people died.
And he doesn’t know about the study? The mind boggles. What else does Zuma know nothing about?
Those who sat with Zuma at the main table said he was charming and open. They were impressed by him, and I have to say that these are people who impress me.
So what went wrong? There is absolutely no point in being brave and charming in private, while coming across as shifty and spineless in public. It is a bit like winking at a potential lover in the dark. They won’t see your gesture.
In the run-up to the 2009 election, those ANC members who possess the faculty for self-examination should ask themselves whether it is still prudent to have Zuma leading their party and our country. On the basis of his performance this past year, many would argue that it is time for the ANC to open its eyes and find a new leader.
THE SUNDAY TIMES
JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA
Spit & Polish
Published:Dec 20, 2008
I’m sick of hearing the same old yadda yadda yadda coming out of our politicians’ mouths — let’s hope Santa drops off some real new beginnings
Are your halls decked with boughs of holly yet? Is your gay apparel freshly laundered and devoid of price tags, so that you can hit the Yuletide party scene like a — well, I was going to say “bomb”, but post-Mumbai and considering the rest of the world’s woes, that might be too close to home — if you can still afford to own a home, that is.
This fabled “season to be merry” is having a hard time shaking off the recent memories of collapsing financial institutions, massacres in luxurious hotels and letters from banks that say “we want your house back”.
Against that dismal backdrop, here’s what I want for Christmas, and top of that list is change. I don’t ever want to vote for Thabo Mbeki or any of his cronies again because they’re way too close to the cash and they cluster around all the functional escape routes with an eager watchfulness that does not make me feel entirely safe.
At Polokwane, Mbeki folded like a paper doll that was left out in the rain. Any attempt at making a comeback from a soggy heap of errors is not going to win my vote if, indeed, he even makes a move to return to political office.
Mbeki should take his legacy, his website and whatever portable property he can carry, and head for those foreign lands in which he spent so much of his presidency, flying on a commercial SAA flight, for which (I hope) he paid full price. That’s always assuming that after Maria Ramos skidded so deftly out of the corporate danger zone, SAA will keep flying at all.
Still pursuing my theme of change as the perfect Christmas gift, I’m not so keen on voting for Jacob Zuma and his cronies either. Even as I write that sentence, I am aware that simply saying those words aloud in certain parts of the country might ensure that I never vote again.
Zuma is going to great lengths to say the right things in the right places to the right people, which is great. If he had already been saying them 10 years ago, I would have been more convinced, and if his message were not so precisely tailored to his audience, it would seem a bit more spontaneous.
His masterful control of the media reminds me of how the “Ou Krokodil”, PW Botha, was able to engage his core audience with a lively mix of traditional rhetoric, promises that would never be kept and references to the past.
From Botha the rhetoric drew from the “laager”, the Boer War and Afrikaner supremacy. From Zuma it is all drawn from his imprisonment, his tribal identity and his militant liberation struggle.
Botha and Zuma may look like opposites, but remember that the opposite sides of a single coin may look very different, but they are actually made of the same stuff and they produce the same result.
That’s the problem with the supposed division between the African National Congress and the Congress of the People — you can hardly tell the difference. Comrade Terror has said little to reassure me that he has any new ideas or that he has groomed any new people who have ample intellectual resources and a vision broad enough to implement them.
Helen Zille and the DA have perhaps the freshest and most dynamic focus on change, but they are in the minority, and a minority opposition, no matter how forward- looking and dynamic it is, the best it can hope to do is to expose and scale down excess and error in the ruling party. But that’s not the same as being a leader.
So what I want for a Christmas is a South African Barack Obama, a man of wit and status whose skin colour counts for a lot, but his values and his personal charisma count for a great deal more. He must be eloquent, but also smart enough to handle the nitty-gritty details, like understanding the power of the Internet as a political tool, something our politicians have never done. Mbeki’s weekly newsletter is about as far as they have ever got with that concept.
So if anyone has seen the change I have described, even if it is your own, let me know, so that I can at least come and look at it because another year of hearing the same faces saying the same things to the same lawyers, and spending the same vast amounts of our money to secure their power-base at our expense, will be enough for me to start looking for my own “umshini- wam”. And in Joburg these days, they are not so hard to find.
Comments: (8)View Latest
balstrome said at Dec 21 2008 5:19AM
What we need in this country is a dedicated, open minded discussion forumn, where everyone, who wants to, can comment without fear of being restricted in anyway.
Let the racists, moderates, and others, all mix their world views, and lets see what we get out of the pot. Comment with no police force in place.
If your views are able to change peoples opinions, then let it happen.
jlopean said at Dec 21 2008 9:37AM
Its a good wish i will give you that!
i agree COPE and the ANC are very similar it seems (Cope with the advantage though primarily because the ANC have questionable leaders). However, its the promise of competition that excites me, the prospect that perhaps the politicians will have to put some more meat in their promises and become more delivery oriented.
let us hope and pray..
donorfatigued said at Dec 21 2008 10:41AM
The only value to COPE (now that we see that their principles are flexible in accepting the likes of Boesak the criminal into their ranks) is that they can reduce the majority held by the ANC.
If the reduction in parliamentary majority is sufficent, then we will see new dynamics in politics.
Moving away from the obscenity of a 65% majority in parliament such as we have endured these many years is a good first step in creating competitive and accountable politics in SA.
Rantwa said at Dec 22 2008 9:03AM
SA's Obama is on the way. When he gets here it wont be business as usual however. And he's going to demand quite a lot from you whites. The days of going to watch cricket rather nation build will come to an end, for one thing. During those days you might wish for a Thabo Mbeki all over again. And so it goes.
JhbBoykie said at Dec 22 2008 10:18AM
Barry, I am stunned by the fact that an intelligent person like you can fall for a charlatan like Obongo!
Am I correct in assuming that, not unlike Terracota Patta, you also "creamed your jeans" on the day he was elected as the new POTUS?
I think you should rather stick to what you're good (in fact, great) at: show business!
pickedlast said at Dec 22 2008 10:43AM
Rantwa said at Dec 22 2008 9:03AM
A South African "Barack Obama" wouldn't expect anything from whites, he would expected everything from South Africans.
You see that is the difference a person like Obama doesn't see a Black America or white America he just sees America! That is what is needed in S.A. a person who doesn't care about race, tribe or what they need to get because of the struggle.
We need some one who wants everyone, not just the poor, not just the rich , not just white, not just blacks to prosper but everyone.
And the only way to do that is to allow people themselves to prosper! So hold onto your hate, to your prejudice because if/when an Obama hits our shores you my friend will be left speechless.
Thinkfirst said at Dec 22 2008 11:14AM
Rantwa said at Dec 22 2008 9:03AM
Maybe you could explain what the likes of you have done for this country? I would love to engage you in debate if you are to it?
LennyHicks said at Dec 22 2008 7:30PM
How do you remedy the fact that in SA the electorate is largely uneducated, poor and ignorant of the plague that is the ANC leadership?
Civil society in SA is a scary minority compared to the masses most vulnerable to the propaganda of a populist regime.
Zuma knows this.
“Politics is the skillful use of blunt instruments…” as was once said.
So as much as we all scream bloody murder… it’s like throwing ice cubes at an oncoming tank. However I suppose hearing those who feel the same scream “F#*k off!!!!” at top of their voices does add some satisfaction.
THE SUNDAY TIMES
JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA
BAY Mondli Makhanya
Published:Dec 20, 2008
Little did the little man realise: a plan in the head is no plan at all, but an idea
There once lived a man in a land not far from here. A little man. A very little man, actually, just above midget height.
While growing up — if growing is the right word — various people told him he was very clever. And as he inched upwards ever so slightly, he believed that he was not only the cleverest little man in the land, but the cleverest person in the whole world. So clever, in fact, that he often tried to look down on tall people.
So the little man set about solving all the world’s problems.
First, he said, I will determine the link between viruses and syndromes. Never mind the fact that real scientists had long worked this out. The little man went into his little laboratory (what other people call the Internet) and endeavoured to solve this big problem.
As the people of his land died in their tens of thousands, he stayed in his virtual laboratory till ungodly hours of the morning, hypothesising about the epidemiology of pandemics. “Do not treat anyone until I, the great scientist, have finished my research,” he told the medicine men.
People died. There was wailing in the graveyards. The orphan population grew.
And the little man persisted until he could persist no more.
Let me try my hand at economics, he thought. The currency of my country has suffered at the hands of treacherous markets. Surely, there must be some reason other than the often irrational ways of the markets. There just has to be a conspiracy somewhere. So he got together some useful idiots to investigate this global conspiracy to sabotage his country’s currency. But the useful idiots could not find anything other than the normal stuff that affects currencies.
So off to other pursuits then, said our little man. “I will invent a thing called quiet diplomacy,” he whispered to himself between puffs of whatever he used to put in his pipe.
This is how it will work: if a dictator buggers his people, speak to him nicely. Lick his fingers, his toes, his eyebrows. Tickle his underarm, the sole of his foot and his palm. Stroke his cheeks, his belly and back. Serenade him. Whisper sweet nothings in his ear. Wink knowingly at him.
And then only will the dictator get the message that nobody likes what he is doing.
And so the little man tickled, stroked and licked the body parts of a certain dictator. The dictator discovered new erogenous zones and begged the little man to continue.
The little man started enjoying this as much as the dictator — and the mating game continued for years. People died. Children were orphaned. A country collapsed.
The little man found more pursuits to fill up his time. A little man must always have big tasks, remember. So the little man decided to solve crimes.
The only problem was that he did not believe there was such a thing as crime. It was all in the imagination of these 46 million strange people with whom he was forced to share a country.
If there was crime in the land, how come he could not see it from his house on the hill? Why could he not see these hideous deeds from his jet?
So he got someone who knew how crime worked to help him understand it so that he could solve it. The knowledgeable man was a large policeman, who shopped with the Cosa Nostra, gambled with the Yakuza and ate prawns with assorted cartels.
The wise ways of little men.
Meanwhile, there were other things on his little hands. A little man must always have big problems on his shoulders, remember.
Why do I not sort out Africa, he thought to himself. I know it’s quite a big place, but who else but me could do it? I am the cleverest little man of them all, am I not?
So the little man got his little fingers working on his little computer. Voila! A document called the New Partnership for Africa’s Development popped out.
“Once this plan is complete,” the little man told everyone, “there will be no wars, no famine, no hunger and no disease in Africa.”
Alas, the wars continued, famine persisted and disease spread.
Little did the little man realise that a plan in the head is no plan at all. It is but an idea. Time was running out and the little man had achieved nothing with his cleverness.
He decided to add more minutes, more hours, more days, more weeks, more months and more years to the time he had to complete his big tasks.
He stood atop a hill and bellowed to the people with whom he shared the land: “You cannot do without me. I offer my large brain and my little frame to you for many more years,” he said.
“No, please go!” came the reply from the 46 million people of his land.
Then emerged a man from a valley with a gully on his head, who badly wanted to live in the house on the hill where the little man lived.
The man from the valley with the gully on his head gathered his troops and they stormed the big house on the hill.
The little man fled to a hamlet, where he was to sulk for evermore.
That should have been the happy ending.
Except that the man with the valley had his own bizarre ideas.
Young children were getting more hanky-panky than him and he did not like this at all. “Send them to hill-side camps,” he shouted to his troops.
School kids were playing truant and getting less education than himself, and he could not countenance the thought of being outclassed in illiteracy.
Send then to bush camps, he commanded.
Common criminals were getting the same rights as him. It was clearly wrong for people accused of crimes other than fraud and corruption to be presumed innocent before a trial.
Scrap all those rights, the valley man said.
Policemen were wearing light shoes that enabled them to run after robbers.
This is wrong, he said. They must get heavy boots that the criminals should hear thudding from afar.
And so on and so on.
The people of the land, who had been excited that the ousting of the little man would bring better days, despaired.
But in their despair they found time for joy and happiness. They found hope in each other. Hope that their future did not reside in the hands of these deficient individuals. A better tomorrow lay in their own hands.
So they danced in the streets, cavorted in their yards and splashed about in the seas, rivers and lakes. They shared their meat and drink with the less fortunate.
And wished each other Merry Christmas and happy holidays.
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