By JACKSON BIKO
March 26 2010
Have you ever wondered what happens at a stag party? What it is that your husband- to-be and his friends get up to on the last night before he is finally yours? Well, here it is right from the horse’s mouth.
You can call me Mitch. Of course that’s not my real name; I just like the sound of it. Right now, I’m in a private house somewhere in an upmarket address. It’s a beautiful house; two bathrooms, four bedrooms, a massive living room, a balcony and a garden.
I don’t know who owns this house, what I know, is that it’s goes for Sh25,000 a night. My friends, who have been here several times from the look of things, call it the “house on the hill”.
There are about two dozen men, or more, in the house, scattered all over the living room, out in the verandah and garden.
Everybody is cradling a bottle or a glass of something alcoholic. The music is thumping. At the edge of the room is a long table where drinks are sold by this huge fellow with a goatee that is dyed white.
Or maybe his goatee is naturally white in colour, who knows? I sure won’t walk up to him to find out. It’s heading to 11pm and the air is heavy with anticipation.
The highlight of this evening will be when the girls finally pitch up. The dancers. Jimmy said not less than 15 girls will be in attendance. Jimmy, he who put this shindig together, is one of my good friends.
Of course that is not his real name; I just like the sound of the name. Putting this show together has taken him two weeks of planning; finding the appropriate venue, sourcing for the dancers, the drinks, the deejay and security which comprises of three beefy fellows with chests the size of my refrigerator.
I’m getting married the day after tomorrow, a church wedding with all the bells and whistles that come with it.
I’m a bit giddy at the prospect of walking down the aisle. It’s a big deal to me at 36 years of age. This is it. And being in this private house is my close friends’ idea of a ‘send-away’ gift.
This is a stag party, my stag party. ‘Every guy needs a decent send off; this is a chapter that you have to close.’
They enthused. I don’t know. Maybe it is, most of them are married and perhaps know better, I don’t know what happens when men cross the threshold, so yes, I trust that this has to be done.
My idea of a stag party has always been a slightly dysfunctional party where men get drunk and beautiful women grind themselves on hypnotised men. This is not altogether a horrible idea when I think about it.
I’ve been on scotch for the past hour now and so I’m a bit tipsy, but I’m also getting restless. Let me tell you about my fiancée Sandy (not her real name of course, again, and again, I just love the sound of that name).
She is the sort of girl who practiced celibacy until she was in her mid-twenties; totally middle of the road and totally faithful to some core beliefs that she sometimes confuse even me. She is a sober person, and by that I mean she doesn’t touch alcohol.
Little wonder I’m marrying her. When I took her to visit my parents, my mom called me aside and whispered to me, “If you let this one go, you will never find another.” Three months later we got engaged on a bobbing dingy off the coast of Mombasa.
The girls finally arrive and you can almost feel everyone hold their breaths. Even though the music is blaring, the room is suddenly filled with an inexplicable silence. They rock up in two vans, with heavily tinted windows.
As soon as the vans come to a stop outside the door, they step out in long heels of different colours; black, red, blue, pink, white, purple. A rainbow of heels.
All the men are suitably inebriated now, and almost tired of each other’s company, to express their relief at the new entrants they all clap enthusiastically.
Picture about 13 grown men, clapping wildly and cat-calling as the vans empty of these beautiful, lithe women.
The women, all smiles and not a hair out of place, shuffle into the house in one long file led by their leader, a slightly older woman but who amazingly has a figure of a teenager. The men, dreamily, follow them inside…the story of the Pied Piper comes to mind as I amble in after everyone else.
The girls head upstairs to change. The men gather around in the living room, every one of them wearing broad smiles, eyes reflexively shifting up the staircase.
Each of these guys paid Sh3,000 to be here. I know only half of them, and as the night wears on, more guys will show up at the gate, with Sh3,000 clutched tight in their fist, wanting to get in on the action. I count the number of guys I knew; maybe seven.
The rest are strangers but only in a manner of speaking because everyone seems to know my name, as we sat together earlier, they would walk over and “wish me luck” and perhaps give me a piece of matrimonial advice. I felt like I was going to fight in Iraq.
The music is killed and standing in the middle of room, the leader of the girls - let’s call her Queen Farida, because I like the name - gives a short speech.
“I’m sure you gentlemen have day jobs. This is our day job, only we prefer to do it at night,” she says to a little good natured chuckle around the room.
“I only have one request from you; I need you to respect my girls. You guys have paid for a dance, and that’s what it will be, a dance. Any disrespect will be handled with the seriousness it deserves, but I’m certain it won’t come to that because you all look like gentlemen.”
More chuckles. She talks concisely and eloquently but with a robust authority that lurks underneath her civility.
She then asks the “man of the night” to take his seat. That will be me so I walk and ease myself into a special red chair in the middle of the room.
She then hands me a box of cigars; Cohiba or something. Someone cuts off the end after which she strikes a match for me and I light up. I feel like a King already
The music comes back on. The lights dim. The girls come down, dressed (if that is the right word) in anything from hot pants, dresses to shukas and Erica Badu-like head gear. They all retain those high heels.
The men who have made a circle around me cheer even more wildly. I guess the booze is taking effect. The women start dancing within this circle, cycling me like hounds that have smelled blood.
They sway and sashay to the beat. Their skin glistens in this subdued lighting. Some have that glittering thing that they sprinkle on their faces, and so they look like sketches off a fashion sketchpad. It all looks surreal.
At some point, I get a lap dance. In fact, I get lap dances pretty much from every one of those girls. You would imagine that it gets normal, that once you get one good lap dance you’ve gotten them all.
It doesn’t. Every experience is unique. This goes on for a long pleasurable while. After I’ve danced with - or rather after I’ve been danced on by the ladies, the fun is spread to the rest of the boys. It soon becomes a full blown party; pole dance, dirty dancing, you name it.
Queen Farida keeps a close eye on me like a waitress would, and once in a while she asks me if there is anything else I need, ‘anything at all.’ I can’t think of anything more I would want….of course!
But I can imagine my fiancé’s reaction if she would, at this moment, walk through those doors. The bottom would surely fall off and I’m certain she would promptly faint.
Initially she wasn’t for this idea but her friends convinced her that it was only for this night anyway.
At some point in the night, one of the girls will hold my hand and drag me to the verandah where, surprisingly, she will engage me in a light banter. I say surprising because it’s not every day that you meet a stripper who is keen to talk.
They don’t talk, they dance, that’s their job description. Okay, she doesn’t exactly talk, she more like asks questions. I imagine that Jimmy set this up, to make it seem as casual and real as it can.
Even though I can tell she doesn’t care about my answers, she still asks me questions. She asks about my fiancée, how we met and if I’m nervous about the wedding.
She asks what colour of suit I will be wearing; she asks if I will wear a hat, and when I tell her I won’t, she says she thinks I would look absolutely hot in one. I think about it for exactly three seconds.
She asks all sorts of mundane but amusing questions and I indulge her. She even asks me if my fiancee owns anything kinky, like leather pants.
When I tell her she is a Christian who doesn’t wear leather pants to bed, she laughs for so long and so genuinely, that I’m left a little surprised.
Strangely she finds that amusing. I’m seated on the railing of the verandah cradling my glass of whisky. She stands between my legs. She smells of something citrusy.
My answers to her interrogation are very brief and vague; you will excuse me if I’m reluctant to talk about my fiancée with a woman who stands between my legs dressed in little more than her 4 inch heels.
What do I feel right now, seated here with a scantily-dressed woman standing between my legs, a few hours before I walk the love of my life down the aisle, you might ask?
If you are hoping I will say I feel guilt, I won’t. I would be lying. I don’t feel any guilt at all; I’m totally expunged of it.
There is a slight discomfort though, but above that I feel an excitement and not because this dancer is now resting her hands on my thigh, but an excitement that my life is about to change, that in two days, I will be having a ring around my finger, and that ring will signify a milestone in my life.
In short, I’m thinking of my fiancée in little spurts, but the feelings are not fuelled by guilt but rather by a realisation that I’m on a free fall. Being here, with these well-oiled dancers is not a recipe for guilt.
I feel buffered from guilt by the fact that it’s been approved by her and by some abstract societal rules that allows men one more night of naughtiness. To use an analogy; it’s a bit like amputating a leg, a drastic measure that lends justification to the larger end. A cathartic exercise - if ever there was one.
My best man is here too, just so you know. I hope he is not carrying the ring with him. He, let’s call him Frank, is a very level-headed fellow. He walks out and checks on me once in a while as if to make sure I don’t run off with the dancer.
The evening winds down in a haze. I remember the scene transform into a loud but cheery tableau of hedonism. I remember the dancer who I was chanting with laying a kiss on my cheek and whispering something in my ears (good luck, I think).
I remember Frank leading me to the car, because I was a bit unstable on my feet. I remember Jimmy, holding a glass of brandy, grinning at me proudly through the car window, and someone behind him saying he had lost his duck. Yes, a duck! Like I said, I was on scotch.
Submitted by iddimimi
Posted March 30, 2010 07:43 AM
I'd have slept with each of the 15 chics
Submitted by lilwizzy0
Posted March 29, 2010 06:11 PM
and thats what i call greatness
Submitted by mkenyamahakamani47
Posted March 29, 2010 06:09 PM
tell you what, this i did and action was more than in the list here. give it a shot all, you can sms me the naration...
Submitted by Moshgwa
Posted March 29, 2010 04:00 PM
Don't try this at home!
Submitted by chingende
Posted March 29, 2010 12:30 PM
May God have mercy. All these funds spent on these parties when some of our people dont even have food to eat and may be even some of the friends who would like to come to your wedding. even if we did not care about that I would I feel those intending to marry need to take that time to really commit themselves solemnly to the hands of God because marriage is roses with thistiles and the thistiles are sometimes more than the roses so you need divine wisdom to be able to manourver round them
Submitted by rofi
Posted March 29, 2010 09:30 AM
Ati a hen's night, that is so appropriate! They learn how to hen peck and before a year is over, the chickens of bad advice and a utopian relationship come home to roost.
Submitted by watuwangu
Posted March 29, 2010 04:49 AM
This kind of western lifestyle should not be taken up by kenyans.I don't see how someone can be able to avoid going to strip clubs after you get married if you enjoyed such kind of activites because some habits are just difficult to kick such as watching strippers and getting lp dances.this should be done when you area bout to enter a serious relationship
Submitted by mrmujama
Posted March 28, 2010 11:30 PM
i want a stag night badly!
Submitted by surakug
Posted March 28, 2010 10:07 PM
Call me old- fashioned, conservative or all those words you want, coz am not even thirty, but i vowed to myself that if my husband-to- be has such a night with strippers on the night before we get married then am calling the wedding off. Yes i said that...I really wish some wazees would sit the man down and give him some needed advice on how to sustain a home..I really am surprised that women give their men go ahead on these....
Submitted by Lilyen
Posted March 28, 2010 03:22 PM
As a married woman who passed through the 'ritual' called hens night, I'll be the last to judge. Stag nights are not bad. In fact they are a test of how you expect your man to handle such tempting scenarios. Mine went through it, and I had someone recording it all on video (though neither him nor his friends knew). He passed the test. I trust him fully now coz I saw what he endured then. Same stuff happens during hens' nights...
Submitted by lookme
Posted March 28, 2010 03:04 PM
These things were all in our African culture. I think the way to go is go back to our roots and do our own thing rather than aping what wazungus do.
Submitted by saila
Posted March 28, 2010 08:14 AM
what is the writer of this account trying to bring out, is it to strengthen the family of the newly wed??? i doubt, plz write a more moral promoting piece next time. i respect your intention, but good and truth can never be put to vote.
Submitted by mmojawao
Posted March 28, 2010 02:22 AM
Anything founded on such satanic rituals is doomed to fail, no wonder so many divorces, unless a home and family is founded and established on God’s guidance, failure is guaranteed. I hope anyone reading this note and preparing for marriage will never engage themselves in such rituals.
Submitted by NjoyaGitingu
Posted March 28, 2010 12:22 AM
Contrary to the other commentors,i think i really like the idea.It seems enjoyable and as i will be geetting married soon,i will do exactly the same.Atleast its only for one last night!
Submitted by SBW
Posted March 27, 2010 10:15 PM
and someone still wonders why women call off weddings the night before d-day. there is the answer right infront of our eyes...I mean how sad....
Submitted by CCFMC
Posted March 27, 2010 04:58 PM
What a wird way of 'sending off'!Our brothers need to think of better ways than engaging in evil 'parties'.Marriage is suposed to be sacred and only honourable activities should take place before the wedding day.These so called 'stag parties' are not to be done by people who also expect to enter in a Holy place such as a church!Ras2004 is right,i also add that,with this trend,i forsee many marriages breaking up in future,because they lack strong foundation.
Submitted by anyinyo
Posted March 27, 2010 08:38 AM
What an anti-climax! I was expecting more from this interesting account of your last night
Submitted by ras2004
Posted March 27, 2010 12:46 AM
No wonder marriages are failing so quickly. Instead of seeking God's blessings through a night of prayer and fasting we are spending the last night of our single-hood indulging in sexual immorality of all sorts. God can save us but we have to make a choice to be saved.
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
By Jerry Okungu
April 2 2010
As we remember the crucifixion of Jesus Christ this Easter season, a little reflection would be in order for Christians for who this moment throws a lot of challenge. Yes, Christians like I are challenged when we sit back and reflect on what Jesus taught us to be in those three years that he preached in the deserts of Palestine more than two thousand years now.
Although we celebrate the birth of Christ as much as we do his death, these are two events in the history of Christianity that need a remarkable difference in the way we observe them. Just like in our everyday lives, we celebrate the births of our beloved ones with pomp and extravagance. It is our joy that makes us stop at nothing to ensure that the births of our children are memorable each passing year until they outgrow us and even move out of our homes.
However, in the African setting, we have never been known to celebrate death and a violent death at that, with such extravagance as we do with Jesus’ death on the cross. It is a mystery that has baffled many people; believers and non believers alike in the Christian faith.
As the years have passed, Christmas and Easter have become synonymous with extravagance, alcoholism , partying and reckless deaths on our roads. We travel long distances merely to go and waste our resources in unproductive activities with hardly any thought why Jesus Christ died in the first place. Some of us don’t even go to church on such days yet we claim to be believers in Christ.
Therefore as we celebrate this Easter Season in remembrance of the day Jesus Christ died thousands of years ago, let us remember that solemn Last Supper when he gathered his 12 disciples to share his last meal with them. His utterances that evening in the house of one of his humble followers were telling. He broke bread and gave it to his disciples to eat in remembrance of his body that would soon be crucified on the cross. He passed a sip of wine to the 12 disciples letting them know that, that wine was symbolic of his blood that would soon flow on the cross for mankind.
But why then did Jesus choose to die for mankind? Was it mere salvation in order that God may not punish sinners at the end of time? What was it that was so dear to Jesus’ heart that he spent the better part of his three year of his mission preaching to the people of Palestine?
In summary, Jesus preached and stood for two things in life; humility and service to mankind and love for one’s neighbour. In his many sermons and deeds as he traversed the deserts of Palestine, Jesus challenged Judaism in all its forms. He challenged a religion that was more known for its strict adherence to the letter of the law than the welfare of its followers. Because he wanted to revolutionize God’s relations with man, he literally broke some of those Sabbath laws to illustrate that God valued mankind more than the laws he had given them- which the high priests had modified to suit their needs.
If Jesus truly died for mankind in order to cleanse mankind, then the best we can do at this point in time is to look for ways of minimizing the sufferings of our fellow men. Let us take a moment this season to lend a hand to a neighbor in need. Let us take a moment to be like the little children in our innocence and humility; because like children, we will never hold a grudge against one another nor scheme to injure or steal from one another. Let us make it a point to give true love to our neighbors even as we celebrate with our families. Let us remember the less fortunate destitute children in foster homes, street families and IDPs that may still be languishing in camps .
On the political front, let us make this the season of reflection and tone down our rhetoric against things and opponents we do not like. Let the spirit of Easter fill us with the Holy Spirit so that we can see more clearly the direction we should take our constitution. Let us not be blinded by our personal righteousness and fail to see one another’s good deeds.
And as we reflect on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, let us search our souls and see where we have transgressed. If as politicians we have misled our followers, this is the time to repent. If as leaders we have stolen public resources for our personal gains, this is the time to ask for forgiveness. If as leaders , we have connived to tell lies about one another, undermined each other or berated one another in public for personal gain, this is the time to repent our sins. If as pastors, we have stolen church funds or lured young girls and other people’s wives into our dens for illicit sexual desires, now is the time to ask for forgiveness.
By Jerry Okungu
April 1 2010
Is Turkana a part of Kenya or is it not? Do Turkanas have members of Parliament in Nairobi or do they not? Are there a Provincial and District commissioner whose jurisdictions cover this parcel of land occupied by Kenyans known as Turkanas?
When will these 14 and 15 year old girls now turned child soldiers ever go to school and lead normal lives? When it comes to security in Turkana, are civilians allowed to acquire and own sophisticated guns? Who supplies these helpless neglected Kenyans with such powerful weapons as AK 47s?
Citizen TV’s latest revelations on Turkana are something that any sensible leader of this country should be worried about. The knowledge that guns are available easily in the hands of young defenseless girls and widows whose husbands, brothers and sons have died as a result of raids from other communities is proof enough that our security system has failed us in more ways than one.
I sometimes wonder; when was the last time a Minister for Internal Security or even his assistant ever visiting Turkana to assess the security situation? Is the Internal Security Minister even aware that children, girl children at that, are training one another in military combat techniques? Is the Minister aware that once gun culture takes root in any society, violence will become a way of life? Have we learnt nothing from Somalia next door where every person has a right to a gun?
The insecurity situation that has forced Turkana children to leave school and instead practice gun battle is not unique to Turkana alone. More often than not we see on our television screens wailing children and widows in Isiolo, Garissa, Wajir, West Pokot and Moyale after raiders from neighboring countries or communities have caused mayhem leaving death and destruction in their wake.
Yes, quite often we see the same ineffective security personnel, led by their Internal Security Minister campaigning to disarm civilians! How do you disarm civilians without the ability to provide them with security? Isn’t it like asking them to surrender to their slaughterers?
The security of our citizens in this country is something that seriously needs public debate perhaps at the level of the current constitution debate. It is no longer necessary to assume that this government will ensure the security of our borders, citizens and property. If just the other day Southern Sudan soldiers blocked a whole internal Security Minister together with his Immigration counterpart from touring Kenyan soil on our borders with Sudan, is it really realistic to expect protection from our government?
If in recent times, Somali bandits could cross into our territory and kidnap humanitarian workers, nuns and get away with National Security vehicles, are we sure we have the capacity to police our borders? If the Moyale and Marsabit massacres are as regular as seasonal rains while Migingo Island in Kenya is still under Ugandan soldiers molesting Kenyan fishermen, can we say we have a country called Kenya?
These questions that beg for answers make me miss good old Jomo; may his soul rest in internal peace.
I remember in the early 1970s when Idi Amin had just overthrown Obote from power. At that moment his sights were set on Kagera Salient on the border between Uganda and Tanzania. Amin thought that he would overrun Tanzanian Defense Forces and annex Kagera. But before he did that, he thought Kenyan territory would be an easier target considering that Jomo Kenyatta was aging.
Amin therefore announced that he would annex parts of Western Kenya as far in land as Naivasha. It was at that moment that good old Jomo lost it completely. He called one massive rally that sent a clear message to Amin that Kenya would not tolerate any nyoko nyoko from anybody, Idi Amin included. He was emphatic that under no circumstances would Kenya lose even an inch of its territory to any foreign invader.
If Amin was in doubt, there was the Shifta war being waged in Northern Frontier District where successive Somali regimes had supported their ethnic brothers’ war of secession in support for the Greater Somalia Nation.
With that stern warning, Amin’s claim was never heard of again.
The Turkana crisis is disturbing because not only is insecurity an issue there that hardly gets their MPs’ attention apart from occasional questions in Parliament. An issue of this magnitude calls for much more than occasional question and answer sessions in Parliament. It is wrong to have leaders who only wait to react after lives and property have been lost. In this instance, local MPs, the Provincial Administration, the Police and the Internal Security Ministry stand condemned.
No wonder Lake Turkana is drying up with resultant loss of livelihood for Turkanas as Ethiopia builds a hydroelectric dam that will cut off the river that feeds the lake, yet no single MP has protested to the Kenya government for this disaster in the making.
Now the question to ask is this: who will the Turkanas turn to for help if their government cannot protect them?
By Jerry Okungu
April 1 2010
Joseph Kony’s LRA rogue rebels are at it again. If they are not maiming and butchering helpless civilians in Chad, they are ravaging the Congo basin massacring helpless civilians for no apparent reason except perhaps to justify their relevance to their evil minded supporters.
I say evil minded supporters because there is no way an unrecognized rebel group like the Lord’s Resistance Army can survive for over two decades and in possession of sophisticated weapons, military uniforms and other facilities without any clandestine support. Someone somewhere must be benefitting from this rebellion that has outlived its usefulness.
Like I have said before, the continued existence of the LRA in a region ruled by former bush fighters like Joseph Kabila, Yoweri Museveni and Paul Kagame is as perplexing as it is embarrassing. How can such a small army of bandits be allowed to cause havoc from the borders of Sudan through Chad to the vast DRC territories without being flashed out? Aren’t these terrains the same ones that the rebels that overthrew civilian governments in this region used to flash out regimes that terrorized the DRC, Rwanda and Uganda in yesteryears? What has changed so significantly that the combined military operations of four or even five nations cannot pursue Kony's rebels and eliminate them? Where are the sophisticated satellite detectors that can locate human movements in these forests to locate precisely where these criminals are?
The massacres in the DRC tell us one thing; that as Africans, we are on our own. When it comes to conflicts and cases of genocide taking place in this continent, the UN and Western powers will never lose a night’s sleep. However, when Saddam Hussein kills a few Kurds in Iraq, it is international news worthy of a half a million soldiers to just get one man out of power and hang him. Yet, every day thousands of lives must be lost in the DRC, Northern Uganda, Southern Sudan, Darfur, Chad and even Rwanda before the world wakes from its slumber. A million Rwandans had to die in the 1994 genocide before the West realized that there was a problem.
Just like the Rwanda massacres of 1994, when the UN Peace keepers proved in effective and even packed up and left while the genocide was in progress, the number of UN soldiers in the DRC now is insulting if not laughable compared to the vast territory they are supposed to oversee. Why would the United States and its allies keep nearly 500,000 soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan merely to deal with insurgents with all the sophisticated modern day weaponry and fighter jets yet keep less than 4000 soldiers in a country bigger than Europe?
It is true President Joseph Kabila has asked the UN forces to be removed from the Congo territory. In retrospect, nobody can blame him for that decision because their presence there has been more of a hindrance in dealing with rebels than deterrence.
If the UN forces , with all the luxury they are accorded can spend 80% of their time protecting themselves and engaging in illicit mineral trade as has been reported in the past, then it is as well they should leave so that Kabila’s army can know how to deal with insurgents.
The DRC crisis is as intriguing as it is perplexing. It is perplexing the way the African Union seems to have washed its hands off. At the AU summits, there are hardly any meaningful and tangible discussions on Congo that do get out to the media. No one raises the issue with regard to the UN Peace keepers’ performance. It is like Congolese have been told to fend for themselves against all manner of rebels including Joseph Kony’s LRA.
Looked at another way, if a country like the DRC that is so vast and seriously undeveloped becomes ungovernable as it is today, why can’t the AU recommend that the country be divided into smaller states that can easily be policed and governed? Why cling to a territory over which the government in Kinshasa has no jurisdiction? Smaller units, even in the form of federal states would make more sense in the DRC than the current unitary government whose power is hardly felt in the jungles of that vast country.
Which brings me to my last point regarding the DRC; were the founding fathers of the present DRC such as Kasavubu and Moise Tsombe right in demanding their own states such Katanga and Kivu right at independence? Had they foreseen the possibility that once the Belgians left, the largely undeveloped vast territory would pose a challenge to the new regimes? Or were they simply driven by selfish secessionist interests? Looking at what has gone on in the DRC for the last 50 years; perhaps these secessionists were right to demand their territories right from the beginning.
Monday, March 29, 2010
28th March, 2010
By Vision Reporter
A human rights organisation yesterday released a chilling report indicating that the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) killed at least 321 civilians during a previously unreported four-day rampage in northeastern Congo in December.
The rampaging rebels, according to the report by Human Rights Watch, also abducted 250 villagers, including at least 80 children.
The massacre was perpetrated by rebel commanders Binansio Okumu, also known as Binany, and Obol.
The two, the report said, report to Dominic Ongwen who commands the LRA forces in Congo and is among those indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.
“The Makombo massacre is one of the worst ever committed by the LRA in its bloody 23-year history, yet it has gone unreported for months,” said Anneke Van Woudenberg of Human Rights Watch.
The report is based on a fact-finding mission to the massacre area in February. It documents the brutal killings during the well-planned LRA attack from December 14 to 17 in the remote Makombo area of Haute Uele district.
Dressed in military uniforms, the rebels pretended to be Congolese soldiers who had spent months in the forests and asked local people for food and other goods.
They then asked people to carry the goods back to where they had crossed the Uele River, and when the villagers refused, the rebels turned on them.
Survivors of the attack narrated nasty accounts of their ordeal in the hands of the LRA.
They said the vast majority of those killed were adult men who were tied and hacked to death with machetes, or had their skulls crushed with axes and wooden sticks.
The dead also included at least 13 women and 23 children, the youngest a 3-year-old girl who was burned to death. When moving to the next village, the rebels killed more people among those they had abducted.
Anyone who was unable to keep up with the pace of the forced march was ‘left behind’ - a euphemism for being tied up and battered to death with wooden stakes or killed with machetes and axes. Those who refused or tried to escape were also brutally killed.
Many of the children captured by the LRA were forced to kill other children who had disobeyed the LRA’s rules.
In numerous cases documented by Human Rights Watch, children were ordered to surround the victim in a circle and take turns beating the child on the head with a large wooden stick until the child died.
Family members and local authorities later found bodies all along the LRA’s 105-kilometer journey through the Makombo area and the small town of Tapili.
Witnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch said that for weeks after the attack, the area was filled with the stench of death.
Lt. Jeanvier Bahati, a Congolese army commander in the Tapili area, was one of the first to arrive at the massacre site and helped to bury the dead.
“I saw with my own eyes 268 dead bodies, because we buried them - there was no-one else to do it,” he told BBC. The UN peacekeeping mission in Congo had heard rumours that an attack was to be launched around Christmas, and reinforced their troops in the area.
But they were deployed to towns like Dungu and Niangara rather than the remote villages where the killings finally took place.
The UN have some 1,000 peacekeepers in the LRA-affected areas of northeastern Congo, far too few to protect the population adequately given the area’s size.
Instead of sending more troops, the peacekeeping force is considering removing some troops from the northeast by June in the first phase of its total withdrawal next year, as requested by Kinshasa.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
By Jerry Okungu
March 24, 2010
It was on November 30th 2009 when the protocol for the East African Common Market was signed with pomp and high octane political statements. The venue was the all symbolic Arusha International Conference Center that also houses the East African Community. However, four months later and just three months to the commencement day, less and less is being heard about the Common Market in any of the five capitals.
The reasons are easy to understand. Interested parties are still grappling with the impact of full implementation of the Customs Union that came into effect on January 1, 2010 despite protests from some business communities in Uganda and Tanzania. This group wanted the full implementation delayed for another five to ten years as they tried to catch up with their market leader, Kenya. And had it not been for the timely intervention of Presidents Jakaya Kikwete and Yoweri Museveni, East Africans would have made several steps backwards.
The reason the EAC Common Market is not receiving a lot of attention in Kenya and Uganda is easy to understand. Of late there have been too many attention grabbing headlines in Uganda and Kenya.
In Uganda, first we had the Baganda riots that rocked the country after an abortive royal visit of the Kabaka to some of his perceived loyalist regions. That confrontation had far reaching consequences and its effects are still felt in Uganda to this day considering that some of the broadcast stations that belong to the Kingdom are still off air to this day.
Following that riot that put Uganda in the limelight locally and abroad, Uganda has witnessed a series of killings in its university campuses that were not necessarily politically motivated. However, the fact that the National Assembly took time off to debate especially the killing of Kenyan students at Makerere was good reason enough to divert public attention from the more serious issues such as the Common Market.
But the killer news story that rocked Uganda was the fire that gutted the 130 year burial grounds of the kings of Baganda. Seen as the work of deranged arsonists or political opponents of the Baganda kingdom depending on which political divide one was on, it was an act of national tragedy that almost paralleled the bombing of the Kabaka’s palace in 1966 when the then king of Buganda fell out with Prime Minister Milton Obote. With all these bad things happening to Uganda in quick succession, they could be forgiven for relegating the Common Market to the back banners.
On its part, the Kenyan political class has probably not paid much attention to the Common Market since its launch in November last year simply because since 2008 when the Coalition government was formed, the nation has not been at peace with itself.
The accord ushered in many institutional and political challenges that the political leadership is still grappling with two years later. First the electoral commission had to be disbanded and a new one appointed by parliament. Then there was the special tribunal to be set up to try warlords that killed more than a thousand Kenyans in the aftermath of the 2007 elections.
When the leadership failed to set up a local tribunal, the ICC in The Hague took over, a decision that has caused permanent panic and anxiety among the top political leadership.
As The Hague trials have continued to hang on the heads of the political class, other reforms have taken their toll on Kenyans. Chief among them has been the ever unending constitution review which has lasted two decades. And as I write this article, the process has finally entered the National Assembly for debate before it goes to the referendum.
The truth of the matter is that until Kenyans get rid of the referendum in July or August 2010, with the Budget in between around June 2010, very little other business will go on in Kenya. The more reason the Common Market issue may be relegated to the back banners as is the case in Kampala.
Nationally, Kenya is a country in a major political transition. If the constitution is promulgated later this year, we will have a lame duck president and a moribund government because the act will put the country on an election mode for the 2012 battle because as it is, there are no less than ten aspirants that have already declared their interest in the big office.
So what happens as Uganda and Kenya gear up for elections in 2011 and 2012? The onus must fall on Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi to keep the fires of the Common Market burning. Without that fallback position, left to Kenya and Uganda, we will not move with the speed that East Africa needs to realize full economic integration in 2012 or 2015.
By Jerry Okungu
In Nairobi just like in Kampala and Dar es Salaam, if you see people running after a pickpocket, do not run with him. Better still; don’t run in front of the suspect. He may just turn around and shout that you are the thief. And if he does, and members of the public respond, you will surely meet your maker that day.
This mob hysteria is what ends up being branded mob justice. This type of justice is never found in the corridors of justice or at police stations. The mob administers it its own way in its own style. The lynch mob may use rocks, wood or anything they can lay their hands on to inflict maximum pain on the victim. In other circumstances, they may set the victim ablaze by either dousing him in inflammable spirit or even tie an old tyre around the victim’s neck before setting it on fire.
What we in East Africa may never appreciate is that the lynch mobs come in many forms. Whereas the more obvious ones we know may be those that hunt for the village chicken thief, the village witch, the pickpocket that snatches a purse from an unsuspecting lady or a daring street urchin that targets unsuspecting tourists in our urban streets, there are other subtle lynch mobs we may never recognize in our midst.
The more subtle lynch mob are those operatives that go by many names. At times they call themselves human rights activists fighting for all forms of reforms and injustices, at other times championing the cause of the poor and disadvantaged.
In some cases they are the professional whistle blowers who are usually the first to unearth a scam and blow the cover to the rooftops. In almost all the cases where these white collar, savvy and well educated mob are in action, there is always a victim of repute or high standing involved.
In the Kenyan scenario, these scam hunters have made it their business to keep a tab on public servants in influential positions; which is a good and commendable thing. However, over the years, the same high priests of righteousness have never unearthed any scam in the NGO, Civil Society or even in the corporate world that I can remember in recent times. One wonders whether it is harder to detect graft in those other sectors or just that they simply preach water and drink water.
The Civil Society uproar against Kenya’s TJRC Chairman follows a series of similar high profile personalities that have met their wrath in recent years. Offices targeted for public demonstration have included Parliament, the Police Commissioner, Minister for Agriculture, Minister for Finance, Minister for Information and Communication, Minister for Education, the Attorney General and the former Executive Director of Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission among others.
However, high profile graft cases that have not earned the wrath of our high priests of righteousness have included William Ruto’s land case in court, land grabbing in Mau Forest, Grand Regency sale to Libyans by the Treasury, the Triton Oil scam, Ministry of Tourism and KTB cases of graft.
Incidentally, despite mega publicity that Golden Berg and Anglo Leasing attracted in both local and international media, no civil society group has ever demonstrated against such scams. And come to think of it; did our men and women demonstrate against two goons that invaded our country and held us hostage for nearly six months way back in 2006? Do you remember the Artur brothers? Yet they held demonstrations that lasted eight hours when a known violent Muslim cleric from Trinidad was being deported from Kenya!
This week I watched horror as a tale was being narrated on Citizen Television by a young mother that went through an ordeal we would never imagine in our lives.
During the mayhem of the 2007 election violence, the pregnant mother of ten children from Kibera slums started having labor pains. In her courage and amidst all the street violence, she braved the streets and found her way in to Kenyatta National Hospital Maternity Wing. On arrival, doctors determined that her case could not be a normal delivery. A caesarian operation it would be.
However, after the operation, doctors and nurses forgot to stitch her up! And before she knew, blood was all over her with her intestines falling on the ground!
One would like to call it madness, insanity, negligence with murderous intent or anything but one thing I do know; these doctors and nurses at our public institution committed a more deadly crime than anybody that could have stolen everything from me!
It is such acts of murderous proportions that would make me join the CSOs for a street demonstration any day of the week.
Such is the stuff I would imagine our Kenya National Human Rights Commission and Kenya Human Rights Commission zeroing on to see justice done to the most voiceless of the voiceless, not some thugs being shot dead by flying squad on Mombasa Road.
By Jerry Okungu
March 24, 2010
As the debate on the new constitution lasts six days in Parliament before it moves to the next stage, let Kenyans hope that their legislators will come back to their senses and save the august house the kind of parochialism that scuttled the Naivasha and Kabete deals.
Both parties to the coalition government and their supporters would do well to realize that ordinary Kenyans, much as they would want to see a united house on this important matter, never the less, there are basic requirements that must be reflected in the new constitution if the house is keen on seeing the draft ratified by Kenyans at the referendum.
Indeed Kenyans are unanimous that Kenya must remain united as one country under one central government. However, to avoid the pitfalls of a unitary government with an all powerful president or prime minister as we have had for the last 47 years, the constitution must provide for a truly devolved government at three levels with substantive powers.
Kenyans need a federal state with autonomous regional governments to take care of special needs of each region. These regions should have their own assemblies to legislate and pass the necessary laws relevant to their needs. They need to collect taxes and manage their resources to compliment what budget allocations will come from the central government.
Below the regional assembly, Kenya must devolve political, economic and administrative power to the counties to bring services and physical development closer to the people of Kenya. This lower unit will feed into the regional body that will in turn feed into the Central government.
For devolution to function effectively, there are security and administrative duties that need not be controlled by the Central Government even though there will be overall oversight by the organs of the Central Government.
Like in the United States, we need autonomous police divisions, roads department, housing department, health services and school systems run by counties. The beauty of this devolution is that depending on individual county and regional needs and ability to afford, a county or a region can employ more staff to serve its population’s social requirements.
The new constitution must strive to include not only a strong Senate but an Upper House that is superior to the current National Assembly with powers to veto bills passed in the Lower House. It should be the only legislative house vested with powers to impeach and discipline either the President or the Prime Minister depending on which of the two Kenyans will have decided to run the government and the state.
Informed by the fact that for many years, gullible Kenyans have continued to elect untrustworthy leaders who, after being elected, disappear into the city, never heard to articulate their electorate’s needs, coupled with the fact that some have in the past not been able to provide leadership even in easy things like utilization of CDF funds, a recall clause must be included in the new constitution to allow dissatisfied constituencies to recall such MPs in mid-term due to their inability to deliver services.
Such a clause will be good for both the MP and the constituency. The MP will be under pressure to perform as her constituents will be on alert to monitor her performance in Parliament and in the constituency.
The new constitution must as a matter of fact ensure real separation of powers among the three arms of the state. Those Kenyans seeking elective office must forgo the thought of sitting in the Cabinet as part of the Executive.
The present system of appointing elected MPs to the Executive has caused untold problems to the country. Cabinet ministers who have also been constituency representatives have used their national offices to further narrow parochial village interests. The flag has become a symbol of power and a campaign tool for the sitting MP and Cabinet minister against his opponents. It has been like, when one is appointed a minister, that ministry actually becomes a tool o be used for furthering the interests of the constituency.
Appointing the Cabinet from among the qualified technocrats will give the Executive the necessary national outlook it badly needs now. Devoid of village politics, the future Cabinet will unite Kenyans more than the present quarrelsome and divisive Cabinet best known for perfecting ethnic alliances and horse trading on the floor of the house.
Finally, now that we will have a regional government and the counties with their own devolved security and administrative units, the last thing that Kenyans will need is a continuation of the colonial relic called the Provincial Administration.
With the Administration police either abolished or merged with the regular police, there will be no need for a chief, a DO or a Provincial Commissioner. The regional governor and the County CEO will be more responsive to the needs of Kenyans much better than the current oppressive and trigger happy system more known for causing misery in the villages than helping the peasants of Kenya.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
[PHOTO: PETER OCHIENG/STANDARD]
By Vincent Bartoo
When people meet him, they show sympathy by offering him money, mostly hurling coins at him, which he declines to accept.
The well-wishers, puzzled why he should turn down their help in his condition, hardly stop to get to know him, least of all even ask his name.
But, Edwin Kipkogei, 28, an orphan, dismisses this as "misplaced sympathies".
Edwin Kipkogei who was born with just one hand and no legs, manages to do most tasks that able bodied people can do. [PHOTO: PETER OCHIENG/STANDARD]
"I wish some of these people who try to give me small handouts knew I am better off than some of them. But they have categorised me as simply another disabled person requiring pity and assistance," Kipkogei said when we visited him at Kobil village, Keiyo North District.
Kipkogei was born in 1982, without both legs and an undeveloped right hand. His only full limb is the left hand.We found him tending his tree nursery, which he weeds easily with one hand before cutting grass for his cow.It was amazing to watch him do, with one hand, all the tasks able bodied people can do. Despite his disability and growing under the care of relatives, Kipkogei has overcome many odds to improve from his condition.
He went through primary education at Kobil Special School in Keiyo North and scored 476 marks out of a possible 600 to join St Patrick’s High School Iten.
At St Patrick’s, Kipkogei attained ‘B’ grade that enabled him to join Moi University’s School of Business and Economics.
Although he had wanted to study law, he nonetheless graduated in 2006 with a degree in Business and Economics, Finance and Banking option."It was not easy, it was a daily struggle that I went through before I got my degree. I have only God and my sponsors to thank for my achievement," he said.
When he joined secondary school, Kipkogei said, his classmates were supportive, always pushing his wheelchair, donated by the Assumption Sisters of the Eldoret Catholic Church who also paid his fees."They would also help me with chores like washing my clothes and getting food for me from the dining hall. They made me feel accepted," he said.
The biggest test to his resolve to seek education, however, came when the Assumption Sisters offered to pay his university fees. "The first and second years of university were a torment. I almost quit, but I persevered. Everybody at university was too busy, socially and academically, and having little time for people like me," he said.
Felt lonely "Students showed off their latest fashions, had boyfriends and girlfriends, went to parties out of the institution, things I couldn’t do. I felt very lonely for the first time in my life," he said.
Kipkogei said Moi University’s administration building added to his woes as it lacked ramps for equal access by people with disabilities.
Added Kipkogei: "Because of the hostile environment, my performance in the first and second years was not very good. I, however, tried to make up for them in third and fourth years".He managed a Second Class lower division.
He says, however, he was a motivational factor at the university as most students were amazed to see him use one hand to scribble notes, do assignments, including browsing the Internet, eat, wash his clothes, make his bed and other tasks..
For his internship, the university deployed him to several departments where he carried out budgetary controls, compiled salaries and attended to employee claims.
However, though he feels he is a success story, Kipkogei is disappointed that three years since he graduated, he is yet to land a job even after making several applications to the Public Service Commission, banks and other financial institutions. "Our society is not fair. Look at me, after struggling and reaching where I am, no one can even offer me a job commensurate with my skills," he said.
He says many times he is called for interviews but, when the interviewers see him, they lose interest in him."I can tell from their attitude that they don’t want to employ a person like me, I wish they knew what I can offer," he says.
Kipkogei has no kind words for local politicians whom he accuses of ignoring him.
Still waiting. "One Member of Parliament was informed of my case last year during a function here. He told the gathering he was aware of my situation and he would do something about it. One year down the line, he is still looking into my case," he said.
Kipkogei wonders why the MP cannot even employ him at the local Constituency Development Fund (CDF) office due to his financial management skills.
"I would want to be independent. That is why I worked so hard to get my degree. I do not want to be anybody’s burden," he added.
Kenya's Parliament building. PHOTO/ HEZRON NJOROGE
By BERNARD NAMUNANE and OLIVER MATHENGE
Posted Tuesday, March 23 2010
A repeat of the 2005 referendum may play out as ODM and PNU take opposing sides
Kenyans face the prospect of another contested referendum as MPs started debate on the draft constitution without consensus.
Torn apart by competing political interests, the two partners in the coalition government — the Orange Democratic Movement and the Party of National Unity — retreated to separate meetings to lay strategies for debate.
None has the numbers in the House to push through amendments to the draft and it looks increasingly likely that the document will be passed without any changes.
Those opposed to certain clauses in the draft could resort to campaigning against it. A similar contested referendum in 2005 created conditions for the violence during the election in 2007 in which more than 1,000 people were killed and half a million evicted from their homes.
On Tuesday, President Kibaki met a core team of ministers and advisers at Harambee House, while Prime Minister Raila Odinga held a Parliamentary Group meeting at Orange House. The differences between the two parties are believed not to be about issues of law per se, but a jostling for political advantage.
Disagreements centre on the chapters on devolution, transitional clauses, land ownership and ethnicity which might decide the fate of the draft during the referendum.
Debate on the draft got under way in the afternoon when Parliamentary Select Committee chairman Mohamed Abdikadir moved the motion. Mr Mohamed, his deputy Ababu Namwamba and former Constitutional Affairs minister Martha Karua asked the House to pass it.
But Roads assistant minister Wilfred Machage said he would only support the draft if a new clause guaranteeing minority rights was included.
Failed to agree
On Monday evening it began to emerge that an informal meeting of MPs, popularly known as the Speaker’s Kamukunji, scheduled for Tuesday morning would not take place after all as MPs failed to agree on the amendments during their four-day retreat at the Kenya Institute of Administration (KIA).
President Kibaki and Mr Odinga were to attend the meeting, National Assembly Speaker Kenneth Marende had informed MPs at KIA.
However, on Tuesday, the President met PNU coalition core team which included deputy PM Uhuru Kenyatta (Kanu boss) and Cabinet ministers George Saitoti (PNU chairman) and Kiraitu Murungi (secretary general). Present also during the three-hour meeting were his advisers Kivutha Kibwana and PNU consultant Peter Kagwanja.
At stake were issues of devolution and representation, and some sources said they resolved to support a two-tier government (national and county levels). However, the sources said, they declared their readiness to have the counties increased from the current 47 to 80.
The same sources claimed that it was agreed that any move to create a three-tier government would be opposed since it was costly and the public had vetoed it.
At the Orange House, the opposite was agreed. ODM MPs said they would seek to amend the draft to increase the levels of devolution from two to three.
Party secretary general Anyang’ Nyong’o said they would lobby MPs to attain the required numbers (145) to pass the amendment.
“We want to emphasise that ODM upholds its manifesto and will move an amendment to the draft to have in place three levels of government—national, regional and county,” he said.
The three-tier government will be made up of 25 regional governments and between 74 and 80 counties.
On Tuesday, Justice minister Mutula Kilonzo attributed the KIA deadlock to “a strange behaviour” of MPs and tribalism. He also blamed PNU and ODM for the failure to agree and said: “I can live with the draft as it is.”
After failing to strike a deal at KIA and the subsequent cancellation of the Speaker’s Kamukunji that could have resulted in a common position on clauses that need to be amended, MPs are now debating the CoE draft under strict House rules.
For any amendment, the movers would have to garner a 65 per cent vote (145 MPs) to push through the changes — a tall order in the deeply divided House.
However, if the lobbying fails, they are likely to pass the draft in its current form and wait for it at the referendum where reports have indicated that plans for a No and Yes campaigns are taking shape.
This is because the Constitution of Kenya Review Act does not provide for MPs to reject the draft in its entirety.
Said assistant minister Peter Munya: “If we fail to make any amendments to the draft, we will leave it to the public to decide. You should not be surprised to see No and Yes campaigns happening.”
Assistant minister Aden Duale said the draft had to reflect the wishes of the people and any decision to deny them their right would be opposed.
“I support a constitution that takes care of the interests of my people and if it doesn’t, then they will vote against it. A constitution is about allaying fears of communities that have suffered for long,” he said.
If MPs pass the draft, it would be taken to the Attorney General for drafting and thereafter the referendum where Kenyans will give their verdict.
The referendum is scheduled for July.
Additional reporting by Alphonce Shiundu
Submitted by Jolly77
Posted March 24, 2010 11:19 AM
If there is no agreement this time, Kenya will be a laughter to the International community and on top, I could imagine that some aid to Kenya might be cut off due to suspicion that Kenya tries to block certain rights to women.
Submitted by Mbirime
Posted March 24, 2010 11:03 AM
Well, neither PNU nor ODM has the numbers in the house to amend the draft, but we know who has the numbers out of the house. So, bring it guys. Tukutanie tepe!
Submitted by wanjohij
Posted March 24, 2010 10:28 AM
I see right at the end of the tunnel why because of the following comment by Hon. martha Karua "If you make an oppressive law tomorrow you will be the oppressed… the Constitution must be made devoid of partisan interests. Let us pass a constitution that even our worst enemies would be comfortable with… we have two choices, to vote for status quo or vote for change," Probably its the time we have a woman in the state house, keep it up Martha!!
Submitted by krugutt
Posted March 24, 2010 09:56 AM
There are technical and operational issues in the proposed constitution that must be amended if this is expected to pass at the referendum. One of the most contentious sections is that of land and national land commission (NLC) including the highly controversial sections like “parliament will legislate the minimum and maximum acreage”, and NLC will be in-charge of land management and administration. Just as we know, “security is to Israel as land is to Kenya”, the land section of the constitution will not pass the referendum if it is not amended in parliament. NLC, cannot-operate-without-a-strong-parliament-oversight! Devolution-is-another-sensitive-section-that-must-receive-a-broad-acceptance-in-and-outside-parliament-to-pass-at-the-referendum.
Submitted by azizochieng
Posted March 24, 2010 09:52 AM
Hey guys, lets start campaigning to pass the constitution as prepared by COE. Its far much better than what we have currently. I'm not convinced about the changes ODM or PNU are after, our best chance is the COE document. What do you say?
Submitted by rgachau
Posted March 24, 2010 09:39 AM
Its simple now its all politics not what we want as the people
Submitted by kifarunyati
Posted March 24, 2010 08:59 AM
Leaders or Mutilators ? MPs should be reasonable enough and refund the money they used in Naivasha and KIA. Their contribution to the new constitution is totally negative and majority will not make it again to Paliament. COE please continue.
Submitted by mworiamwenda
Posted March 24, 2010 08:18 AM
Let the MPS pass the proposed constitution the way it is. Amendments can be made later. We cannot keep debating changes to be made in the constitution forever.
Submitted by musyokaj
Posted March 24, 2010 07:44 AM
What PNU is saying is they can live with the draft as it is. I agree with them 100%. ODM boxed into a corner, your opponents have accepted everything you wanted and you are left looking like a rained on lion. Wake up people. Be Kenyan not ODM or PNU
Submitted by jokaseda
Posted March 24, 2010 06:33 AM
We wrote and repeated the word to all Kenyans. The Bill is perfect as drafted by the CoE.We are not interested in a boulted government. We can't afford it. VOTE YES FOR THIS CONSTITUTION. Resist a few PNU members who want to push in their personal interests. Please Hon.Raila and ODM, stand firm for the will of the masses and we will be in Kenya to vote "YES" followed by victory in 2012.
Submitted by jaykenya
Posted March 24, 2010 03:34 AM
Vote yes for the COE document, it's better than any deals done in the dark!
Submitted by Tjgathi
Posted March 24, 2010 01:23 AM
There is nothing wrong with disgreements. Thats the way of all democracies. People voice their concerns to enlighten the public with the aim of winning them over. Then they vote and the winner takes it all. I think we have gone through the hardest part now. Huraaaaaa.
Submitted by mza
Posted March 24, 2010 01:14 AM
Is there anything 'developmental' in these drafts? Do Kenyans not realise ours is a third world country? Whoever or whichever way we share resources, many will still lack. Let's stop barking the wrong tree!
Submitted by swala nyeti
Posted March 24, 2010 01:00 AM
The Legislature is a true mirror of the Kenyan plebiscite. Decietful to the core.
Submitted by atuara
Posted March 24, 2010 12:44 AM
At this juncture when the new constitution discussion, enters its final stretch, before it becomes the law of the land, it is very important for the parliamentarians(people's legal representatives) to remember that most of the words contained in this document are in most cases from their logical,thoughtful, intelligent and at times genius long deliberations. So, that being the case the honorable members, should not feel obligated to change what is before tthem in the next few days. They must know they will down in history as a bunch of great leaders of Kenya.
Submitted by wanmt
Posted March 24, 2010 12:39 AM
MPs seem never to learn from past mistakes. Hitory is bound to repeat itself but we hope the divisive element witnessed in the last referendum will not resurface. Kenya currently needs peace, unity and stability more than anything else!
Submitted by Osoregeorge
Posted March 24, 2010 12:35 AM
PNU has woken up from the dream that they had Ruto and hsi R/Valley MPs in their docket,See how things can change over night.They are the ones who insisted on polishing the document before its taken to Parliament,ODM had said they were to support it the way it was.Now that ODM has put their thot on the table,PNU is ready to pass it as it is.why do they want to make it their document?
Submitted by christmas80
Posted March 24, 2010 12:21 AM
i wish it was not supposed to pass thru there, they have nothing to offer. please just take it for the referedum. these guys are power hungry nothing else sory for that
Submitted by waraqi
Posted March 24, 2010 12:21 AM
Whoever came up with the idea of CoE did Kenyans a lot of good. That was the most brilliant idea. You can see how MPs are always thirsty for their own personal interests. CoE did their work within the stipulated time with no bickering at all.
Submitted by MichaOlga
Posted March 23, 2010 11:56 PM
Never ceases to amaze how divided they are about anything that involves the good of Kenyans but united in everything that benefits themselves. Amazing!
Submitted by adou
Posted March 23, 2010 11:40 PM
The COE constitution is far better than the current colonial constitution, PASS THIS THING as it is
Submitted by vicman
Posted March 23, 2010 11:39 PM
Kenyans if they did not reach a consensus behind closed doors dont expect anything from them.Now its their time to play to the gallery and cameras.Headline grabbing.Its only Domo Domo.The COE are the winners.
Submitted by Tomytom
Posted March 23, 2010 11:30 PM
The 'men' from space. They behave like they are seing the constitution document for the first time in their lives.
Tuesday, 23rd March, 2010
By Opiyo and Oloya
NEW VISION, KAMPALA
THE burning of Kasubi Tombs was an act of sheer wickedness. I don’t doubt for a minute that arson was behind it. But what really got my blood boiling to the brim was the charade of concern that poured only after this historic cultural heritage site was reduced to ashes. Suddenly, politicians discovered how important the tombs were yet its ongoing maintenance had been left to UNESCO to fund!
The preservation of our cultural heritage should never be taken that lightly. The Kasubi Tombs where past kings of Buganda are laid to rest should have been funded properly in order to secure it against accidental fires, arson and other calamities thereby preserving its unique architecture and irreplaceable one-of-a-kind royal artifacts. That some of these royal artifacts survived the fire is credit to the quick thinking of people who worked feverishly to secure them.
The rebuilding of the Kasubi Tombs must invest in fire-proof technology where rare items can be safely displayed. There also must be a plan to guard against future fires and thefts. Most importantly, the new plan must include adequate security for the site—you cannot leave such an important cultural monument to the whims of criminals. But, even as we show our absolute outrage over the burning of the Kasubi Tombs, we must also feel angry at the lack of leadership in preserving other national treasures that link us with our past.
Many cultural and heritage sites throughout Uganda need serious funding for restoration, preservation and general maintenance.
Here is an incomplete and random list of historical, cultural and heritage sites that need our immediate attention. In Bunyoro, for instance, we have the royal tombs at Mparo. In Toro, there are the Karambi Tombs where Toro kings are buried. In Buganda, there is Namugongo Martyrs Shrine, and Naggalabi Buddo coronation site for crowning the kings of Buganda. In Teso, the Nyero Rock Paintings near Kumi is the only known Stone Age rock painting in Africa. Not far are the lesser known Mukongoro caves.
In Amuru, the Guruguru caves where Lamogi leaders sought refuge when they defied British colonial imposition of unreasonable gun control laws in 1911-12, and Patiko Fort established by Samuel Baker are neglected.
I am confident my readers can name many other sites that link Ugandans to their rich and diverse history, culture and heritage. Now, I have not even started talking about preserving our living heritage that so many take for granted. Traditional customs and cultures need to be preserved especially our many and varied beautiful languages. According to UNESCO, close to 6,000 languages worldwide are either doomed or on the verge of disappearing in the very foreseeable future. Do you know the Tepeth language? Do you know anyone who speaks it? Tepeth also known as Soo is spoken mostly by elders in Karamoja, but many young people do not speak the language anymore and it is on the verge of disappearing altogether.
There are many Ugandan languages in the same category. Using modern technology, these languages must be preserved so that long after we are gone, they will remain available to future generations.
Other living heritage requiring preservation includes the traditional dances, music and music instruments, traditional dresses, and traditional cultural ceremonies. The beautiful traditional cultural dances from the various Uganda ethnicities must be nurtured and preserved.
You may not think about these as worthy of preservation, but then you have not heard the story of the American Crow Indians. The Crow, a proud warrior culture, gave up their beautiful Sun Dance, used as prayer to prepare for battle, around 1875. They felt they had no more use for it since they were now confined by the American government on reserves. More than half a century later, the Crow wanted to reintroduce their Sun Dance. The problem was that no living Crow at the time knew how to dance the Sun Dance anymore. Lucky for the Crow, though, their traditional enemy, the Shoshone Indians had copied and preserved the Sun Dance from the Crow with the hope of becoming just as powerful as the Crow. Crow elders had to go borrow the idea of the Sun Dance from the Shoshone. True story.
I like the suggestion from DP President Norbert Mao who called for the creation of a national heritage fund to which ordinary people can donate and designate funds toward the preservation of our heritage. But I would go further and say that the Government must make the preservation of culture and heritage a priority by strengthening the Ministry of Culture and Community Development with a new mandate with matching funds specifically designated for preserving our heritage.
However, if the ministry is not capable of doing the job, then create a whole new ministry, and call it the Ministry of Heritage. I hate the idea of a more bloated government, but the issue of preserving our heritage is such an important and urgent matter it requires a new approach and fresh thinking, not the same tired logic that says let our cultures take care of themselves.
In the meantime, the destruction of the spiritual and cultural site that is Kasubi Tombs has diminished our rich history as Ugandans. How else can we move forward, if we do not have our past?
President Obama signed the bill into law in the East Room of the White House after addressing an audience that included lawmakers who supported the measure.
By Scott Wilson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
His replies of "Thank you, thank you" were barely audible over the applause, whistles and shouts that filled the East Room on Tuesday, and when the noise finally faded, President Obama nodded to history in summing up the moment and the celebration unfolding before him.
"Today, after almost a century of trying; today, after over a year of debate; today, after all the votes have been tallied -- health insurance reform becomes law in the United States of America," he said. "Today."
Minutes later, sitting at a small desk surrounded by congressional leaders and some of the Americans whose problems he highlighted in speeches, Obama turned the most contentious bill in recent memory into law with his left-handed signature. He used 22 pens to do so, adding what his Democratic supporters say is another strand in a widening social safety net designed to protect those living in the world's wealthiest society.
Rich with symbolism and ceremony, the White House event provided clues about how the administration plans to sell the measure to a skeptical public: as a moral necessity of historic proportion. Obama told his audience of allies that "we are not a nation that scales back its aspirations." But his central challenge remains convincing an anxious nation that it can afford to help all, even at a time of rising debt, high unemployment and two distant wars.
In a 10-minute speech interrupted more than 20 times by ovations, Obama suggested that those Republicans and Democrats who opposed the measure sit now on the wrong side of history. But Republicans have promised to defeat his argument at the ballot box in November and take back those swing-district seats that Obama's once-towering popularity turned Democratic in 2008.
Such concerns went unmentioned at Tuesday's jubilant celebration. Among longtime Washington politicians in attendance, especially those who were part of failed health-care reform efforts in the past, the ceremony inspired a sense of awe.
That list included Vice President Biden, who introduced Obama, then leaned toward him amid a storm of applause and slipped into excited profanity. "This," Biden whispered, louder than he thought, "is a big [expletive] deal."
Pomp and ceremony
Signing ceremonies are just that -- ceremonies -- and presidents have used them over the years for various purposes.
White House advisers have made it clear since a closely divided House passed the bill Sunday night that Obama is more gratified by the success of the health-care overhaul than by winning the presidency. A president often criticized for being long on ambition and short on accomplishment has now achieved something that eluded his predecessors, five of whom he cited by name in his speech.
He said he was signing the bill for them; for his mother, "who argued with insurance companies even as she battled cancer in her final days"; and for several Americans whose illnesses and problems with the health-care system he has described in his more populist speeches.
In staging such a high-profile event, the Obama administration was helping to make health-care reform something for Democrats to run on in the midterm elections this fall, despite the fact that a majority of the electorate opposes it, according to opinion polls conducted before the vote. Rarely, if ever, have such events been as raucous as the ceremony-turned-political rally that rocked the ornate East Room for just over half an hour.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt chose the smaller Cabinet Room in August 1935 to sign legislation creating the Social Security system. He used 20 pens during a ceremony attended by 30 people, most of them members of Congress central to the bill's passage. Newspaper reporters were not invited.
In July 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson flew to Independence, Mo., to sign the Medicare bill alongside a frail Harry S. Truman, who two decades earlier had become the first president to propose the idea. The low-key event was held in the Truman presidential library.
On Tuesday, by contrast, Obama invited every lawmaker who voted for the bill, requiring two events to address all those who wanted to take part after a forecast of rain moved the ceremony from the South Lawn. After the East Room event, Obama and Biden delivered similar remarks to a larger audience in the Interior Department auditorium.
"Everything has the potential these days of being a big event, and if you don't take advantage of it, there's a little bit of a sense of 'What's wrong with you?' " said Stephen Hess, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. "It's there to be taken advantage of, which, of course, is the way a White House staff looks at anything."
Bad feelings forgotten
Obama has seen his popularity slide over his year-long push for health-care reform, which Republican critics say has come at the expense of an effective job-creation agenda. His own party split over the scope and cost of the legislation, and the messy process revived a traditional distrust between the House and the Senate, which must still approve a set of House amendments.
But Obama brought them all into one room, where they snapped photographs of one another in front of the podium and touched the desk where the president signed the thick bill. Political enemies became friends again.
Liberal Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) mingled among colleagues, at one point leaning over to shake hands with Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), the antiabortion lawmaker who nearly scuttled the bill. After a few seconds of conversation, Stupak tilted his head back and let out a loud laugh, the months of friction forgotten for a moment.
The 15-foot-tall wooden doors behind the podium slid open around 11:30 a.m., offering a glimpse down a long, column-lined corridor of a portrait of President Bill Clinton on a distant wall. Obama and Biden, each in a navy-blue suit, white shirt and navy-blue tie, entered to applause and chants of "Fired up, ready to go!" from lawmakers, some of whom had questioned the president's commitment, tactics and policy goals over the past year.
In his speech, Obama thanked the lawmakers for their "historic leadership and uncommon courage" during a year of fierce opposition, acknowledging that they had "taken their lumps during this difficult debate."
"Yes, we did," shouted Rep. Gary L. Ackerman (D-N.Y.), drawing laughter from his colleagues with his play on Obama's campaign slogan.
"Our children and our grandchildren, they're going to grow up knowing that a man named Barack Obama put the final girder in the framework for a social network in this country to provide the single most important element of what people need -- and that is access to good health," Biden said in a brief introduction that included the word "history" or "historic" a dozen times.
In the audience was the sister of Natoma Canfield, an Ohio woman and cancer patient who chose her house over health insurance and is now in the hospital wondering how she will pay the bills. Also there was Vicki Kennedy, the widow of Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), a man who for decades worked in the Senate for universal health care.
And so was 11-year-old Marcelas Owens, whose mother died, Obama said, because she was not insured and so could not afford treatment. In a dress shirt, vest and tie, Owens, at the same height as the seated president, leaned over the desk from Obama's right to watch him sign the bill.
A minute or so later, Obama lifted the last of the pens from the desk.
"We are done," he said.
Research editor Alice Crites contributed to this report.
GOSS President Salva Kiir on the left, Sudanese President Omar El Bashir below right
From Elise Keppler,
International Justice Program,
Human Rights Watch
March 21, 2010 –
Political repression and other rights violations ahead of the April general elections in Sudan threaten prospects for a free, fair, and credible vote, Human Rights Watch said today.
Human Rights Watch research missions to Sudan from November 2009 to March 2010 found that both the Government of National Unity and the Government of South Sudan are violating rights and restricting freedoms critical to a fair poll, including freedoms of expression and of assembly.
“Conditions in Sudan are not yet conducive for a free, fair, and credible election,” said Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Unless there’s a dramatic improvement in the situation it’s unlikely that the Sudanese people will be able to vote freely for leaders of their choice.”
Human Rights Watch found that Sudanese authorities throughout the country were failing to uphold standards agreed with the African Union in March, which are based on the African Union Declaration on the Principles Governing Democratic Elections in Africa and the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance. Major areas of concern include restrictions on freedom of assembly and expression, freedom of the press, and equal access to the media. Human Rights Watch previously documented similar concerns during voter registration in November and December 2009.
In northern Sudan, the national government continues to arrest and detain activists and opposition party members, break up public gatherings, prevent public meetings, and to control the state-owned media – all significant obstacles to free, fair, and credible elections.
In one serious incident on March 14, two armed men in plainclothes abducted Abdallah Mahadi Badawi, an 18-year-old activist with the group Girfina (“We Are Fed Up”) in Khartoum, beat him severely, and interrogated him about Girfina’s activities. The group has been promoting participation in the elections and speaking out against the ruling National Congress Party, and its members have been arrested on several occasions. Badawi told Human Rights Watch that he believes the men were working for the national security service.
“They used sticks and pipes to beat me on my back and they put a pistol to my head and pretended to shoot it,” he told Human Rights Watch. His attackers forced him to sign a promise that he would not participate in political activities and that he would report to them on the group’s activities, before releasing him on the same day.
Human Rights Watch also found government repression against the media in Khartoum. While print press has enjoyed more freedom in recent months in Sudan, the Press Council, a government regulatory body, summoned two editors in March regarding articles critical of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.
In addition, Human Rights Watch found that political parties do not have equal access to media. Although state-owned media have allocated free airtime to all parties’ candidates under the rules of the National Elections Commission’s media committee, radio and TV outlets in Khartoum heavily focus their regular programming on the ruling party.
In the embattled western region of Darfur, where government and rebel forces have clashed in recent weeks around Jebel Mara, continued insecurity will be an obstacle to holding free and fair elections. Large areas of Darfur remain inaccessible to election officials and candidates, and insecurity caused by banditry and ongoing conflict has restricted candidates’ freedom of movement. In at least two cases in March, opposition party candidates were shot at and robbed.
Al-Bashir is running for reelection while failing to respond to the warrant for his arrest for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Darfur issued by the International Criminal Court in March 2009.
“President al-Bashir is a fugitive from justice,” Gagnon said. “He should be in The Hague answering to charges of heinous crimes committed in Darfur, not flouting Khartoum’s obligations to cooperate with the International Criminal Court.”
In Southern Sudan, although incidents of arbitrary arrest and detention decreased after the voter registration period in November and December, Human Rights Watch documented several incidents of intimidation, arbitrary arrests and detention, and physical assault and torture of members of political parties opposed to the ruling Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement (SPLM) by security forces during the nomination and campaigning period from January to March 2010.
In one incident, on February 18, security officials arrested three members of the opposition party, SPLM-DC – Denis Aywork Yor, Priyjwok Akol Ajawin, and Amjad Angelo Marino – at Juba airport, took them to a nearby military detention center, and questioned them separately for several hours about their political party activities. The men spent the night at the detention center before military officials transferred them to a police station, where they were later released without charge.
Human Rights Watch also found that the media environment in South Sudan has deteriorated significantly in recent weeks. For example, on March 3, armed security officials stormed the offices of Bakhita FM, a community-based radio station run by the Catholic Church, and Liberty FM, a private radio station, and arrested the two directors at the stations. The incident occurred after Liberty FM aired an interview with the campaign manager of an independent political candidate in Juba.
“They threatened to shut down our station, confiscate our equipment and bring me before the law if I aired a similar political program,” the director of Liberty FM told Human Rights Watch. Police also threatened the director of Bakhita FM and warned her not to air political programs but focus on religious programs instead.
“For a free, fair, and credible election, it is essential that all journalists and media organizations are allowed to operate freely,” Gagnon said. “They should be able to do their work without official interference.”
Human Rights Watch called on the national and southern Sudanese governments to take urgent steps to uphold and enforce key civil and political rights in the remaining period before the April 11 polls. Human Rights Watch also urged international election observers – currently in the process of deploying around Sudan – to monitor and report on the wider human rights context in which the elections will occur.
Sudan is scheduled to hold general elections, its first in 25 years to be held in both north and south, from April 11 to 18. The elections are a milestone in the implementation of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement that brought an end to Sudan’s long civil war.
Voters will cast ballots for the president of Sudan, the National Assembly, president of the government of Southern Sudan, Southern Sudan Legislative Assembly, and governors and assemblies for the 25 states of Sudan. (Southern Kordofan state, on the north-south border, will hold only national-level elections.) In the north, voters will cast eight separate ballots, and in the south, voters will cast 12 separate ballots. To date, a total of 26 political parties, including the two ruling parties – the National Congress Party (NCP) and the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement (SPLM) – have adopted the Sudan Electoral Code of Conduct prepared by the African Union High Level Panel on Sudan. The code commits the parties to common principles for free and fair elections.
Under the code, parties undertake to abide by electoral laws, promote a fair electoral contest, and to refrain from all forms of violence and obstruction of other contestants. The code says parties in government must also ensure that they do not use their access to official resources, including the state media, to obtain unfair electoral advantage for themselves or any other parties or to obstruct other parties. The code is designed to complement Sudan’s national electoral laws and the work of the Sudanese government National Election Commission (NEC).
Harassment, Arrests, and Detention of Political Activists in Northern Sudan
The national government continues to target political activists, creating a climate of fear for those who challenge the NCP. In addition to the arrests of activists from Girfina, Human Rights Watch remains concerned about the continued harassment and detention of Darfuri student activists.
Four students from the United Popular Front, a student group affiliated with the Abdel Wahid faction of the Sudan Liberation Army that has publicly supported the International Criminal Court (ICC) arrest warrant for Al-Bashir, have been held in detention without charge since April 2009. Other members of their group, released in February 2010, told Human Rights Watch that national security officials abducted them in Khartoum, blindfolded them, and beat them severely with plastic pipes and sticks in detention. The students bore physical marks that were consistent with their mistreatment. They reported that security officials told them, “If you are from Darfur you will never get out,” and later threatened to kill them if they did not sign papers stating they would no longer engage in any political activities upon their release.
While incidents of harassment, arrest, and detention of opposition party members appear to have decreased since the voter registration period, members of the Popular Congress Party, led by Hassan al-Turabi, told Human Rights Watch that national security officials prevented them from holding meetings and rallies on at least 10 occasions in recent months in Darfur, and detained one of their members in South Darfur for seven days for failing to obtain permission to hold meetings in February. In March, authorities detained members in Khartoum for several hours for campaigning without permission in a residential area where soldiers live.
Ongoing restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly in Northern Sudan
Restrictions infringing on the rights to freedom of expression persist in Northern Sudan. In December, authorities removed an article on Darfur from Sudani newspaper written by columnist Haj Warrag, formerly president of the board of opposition paper Ajras al-Hurriya. In March, the government press council summoned and interrogated editors of two opposition papers, Rai el-Shaab and Ajras al-Hurriya, regarding articles critical of al-Bashir, including one editorial published on March 7 entitled “The candidate al-Bashir… candidate as a martyr, do you accept?” criticizing a public statement by the president that he is “a martyr” because he is wanted by the International Criminal Court.
The acting editor of Ajras, Faiz al-Sheik al-Silaik, told Human Rights Watch that council members challenged him about the assertion that al-Bashir had admitted to 10,000 deaths in Darfur and criticized him for publishing another article about the fact that he was summoned by the council.
Human Rights Watch researchers also found restrictions violating the right to freedom of peaceful assembly. The NEC rules on campaigning, published in February 2010, require 72-hour notification by political parties to “relevant authorities” for meetings in their own offices and require parties to obtain 72-hour advance permission for holding meetings in public places. The authorities have applied the rules inconsistently. In some locations opposition parties have held public events without waiting for permission, while in others government authorities have required permission. On March 15, police in Sinnar prevented a candidate with an opposition party from speaking publicly on grounds that he did not have required permission.
The government continues to break up peaceful gatherings that, while not directly related to the elections, effectively stifle public expression on matters of national importance. On March 12, for example, pro-NCP hospital staff and security personnel broke up a demonstration of more than 1,000 doctors gathered at a doctors’ residence in south Khartoum to protest low pay and poor conditions. Eyewitnesses told Human Rights Watch that about 30 pro-government demonstrators arrived at the residence chanting slogans and threatening the doctors’ lives, while police and national security stood by.
Government authorities have also restricted the activities of Sudanese civil society groups conducting election-related activities. In February in South Darfur, security officials refused permission for a local organization to hold a peace-building seminar and arrested the coordinator of an international organization and detained him for three days after finding books on Sudanese identity they said were illegal. On December 16, security authorities prevented two civil society organizations from holding an event on voter education in Kosti, White Nile. They searched the premises, confiscated educational materials and equipment, and arrested a member of the group, Sudanese Human Rights Monitor.
Unequal Access to the Media in Northern Sudan
Political parties do not appear to have equal access to the state-owned broadcast media. During campaigning season, the state-owned media allocates two spots of 20 minutes per day to presidential candidates. The NEC’s media committee, which oversees the use of media by political parties for their campaigns, regulates this air time but does not regulate the stations’ normal programming or ensure that it does not cover campaigning activities. In Khartoum, the majority of the normal programming focuses on activities of officials from the ruling NCP that could be considered campaigning.
Opposition party members have suspended their participation in the media committee on grounds that it is dominated by the NCP and does not ensure them equal access to air time. The SPLM presidential candidate, Yasser Arman, declined to use the state-owned media on grounds that it is dominated by the NCP and allocates far more time to al-Bashir and other NCP candidates.
The NEC has also censored the content of opposition campaign speeches on the radio. For example, in early March, a state-owned radio station, Radio Omdurman, refused to air a 20-minute pre-recorded radio speech by Umma presidential candidate Sadiq al Mahdi. The speech, part of his allotted airtime under NEC rules, touched on politically sensitive topics including Darfur, the International Criminal Court, and the 2011 referendum. The NEC’s media committee called it “incitement” and criticized it for referencing three executions carried out in 1991.
Political Repression and Lack of Political Tolerance in Southern Sudan
Incidents of harassment and arbitrary arrests and detentions significantly increased during the voter registration period in November 2009. While these abuses have since decreased, Human Rights Watch found that an atmosphere of political repression persists and that security officials continue to subject opposition members to harassment and arbitrary arrests and detention.
In one incident on March 2, in Juba, military police harassed and detained the driver and campaign agent of Alfred Gore, an independent candidate running for governor of Central Equatoria state, as they drove supporters back from a political event. The two were released the following day without charge.
On February 28, security officials arrested two SPLM-DC members as they drove from Khartoum to Northern Bahr al-Ghazal with campaign materials for the party. An official from SPLM-DC told Human Rights Watch that they were detained without charge at a military detention center in Aweil, Northern Bahr el Ghazal. The two remain in detention.
The SPLM-DC told Human Rights Watch that its members carrying the party’s campaign materials faced frequent harassment from the police and other security officials, and that security officials often confiscated their campaign materials.
In January, security forces in Raja, Northern Bahr el Ghazal arrested three candidates from the Southern Sudan Democratic Forum. The party’s head, Dr. Martin Elia, told Human Rights Watch that security forces beat and arrested the three and kept them in a detention center for several weeks. The three were released without charge and were unable to submit their application papers for nominations because the nomination dates for candidates had expired.
Suppression of the media in Southern Sudan
Human Rights Watch documented a significant chilling of the media environment in Southern Sudan. Police and security officials have threatened and arrested several journalists who attempt to report on sensitive political issues.
During the last week of February, soldiers from the Sudanese Peoples’ Liberation Army reportedly picked up and detained Lonya Banak, a station manager working for Internews radio station in Leer County, Unity State, after his station hosted a radio debate in which a caller criticized the Government of South Sudan’s delivery of public services. The soldiers repeatedly beat and kicked Banak at the station before they took him to Leer prison, where he was subjected to further beatings and detained for five days. He was hospitalized for two days after his release.
In January, security agents reportedly arrested Cyrocco Mayom, a journalist for the Juba Post, and beat him for three days. Mayom was accused of helping a journalist from Northern Sudan, whom the security agents accused of being a spy.
According to the Agency for Independent Media in South Sudan, several other journalists have been harassed, arrested, and detained in Eastern Equatorial state for reporting on sensitive issues. For example, in mid-January, security officials arrested and detained a journalist for one week in Torit, because of an article on corruption he had written for the Juba Post several months before.
Although NEC’s media committee is not yet fully operational in the South, the Ministry of Information has played a significant role in trying to force the broadcast media to self-censor the political content of their programs. The directors of Liberty FM and Bakhita FM told Human Rights Watch that they had been individually summoned to the Ministry of Information, and given oral directives that all radio stations in South Sudan would be required to pre-record all political debates and interviews with political figures and edit them to remove any segments viewed to be inflammatory or insulting to the government.
The International Criminal Court’s Arrest Warrant for Omar alBashir:
Pursuant to the ICC’s arrest warrant for atrocities committed in Darfur, al-Bashir should be answering to the charges against him at the ICC in The Hague. Notably, there is precedent of candidates running for election while cooperating with international courts on charges of serious crimes: Ramush Haradinaj was on trial for war crimes at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia while running in elections in Kosovo.
To the Government of National Unity and the Government of South Sudan:
* Respect the rights to freedom of expression, association, and assembly enshrined in the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, the African Union Declaration on the Principles Governing Democratic Elections in Africa, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;
* End arbitrary arrest and detention, torture, and ill-treatment of political party members, civil society activists, journalists, and students;
* Fully enforce the Sudan Electoral Code of Conduct and ensure all allegations of violence and intimidation are investigated and accused persons are promptly tried in accordance with international fair trial standards;
* Respect freedom of the press, including the right of the media to publish on all matters of concern, including issues deemed politically sensitive such as the conflict in Darfur, the ICC, the elections, and the referendum on South Sudan;
* Ensure equal access to public media for all political parties; state-owned media should limit coverage of ruling party activities that can be interpreted as campaigning during ordinary broadcast hours;
* Allow all electoral observers to move freely throughout the country and monitor all stages of the process.
To International Election Monitors:
* Monitor and publicly report on the political and human rights context in which the elections are taking place before and after the vote, and extensively consult with local civil society and all political parties
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