Sunday, May 27, 2012



Associated Press

It's 10 a.m., and the 2-year-old is still waiting for breakfast. Aliou Seyni Diallo collapses to his knees in tears and plops his forehead down on the dirt outside his family's hut.

Soon he is wailing inconsolably and writhing on his back in the sand. A neighbor spots him, picks him up easily by one arm, and gives him a little uncooked millet in a metal bowl. The toddler shovels it into his mouth with sticky fingers coated in tears and grime. The crying stops, for the moment.

Each day is now a struggle for the women of this parched village in north Senegal to keep hungry children at bay, as they search desperately for food. Aliou's mother can only recall one time in her life when it was worse — and that was more than 20 years ago.

"I start a fire, put a pot of water on it and tell the children I am in the middle of preparing something," Maryam Sy, 37 and a mother of nine, says in a raspy voice. "In reality, I have nothing."

Here are the two most alarming things about Aliou's story: He lives in the richest country in the Sahel, and the worst is yet to come.

More than 1 million children under 5 in this wide, arid swath of Africa below the Sahara are now at risk of a food shortage so severe that it threatens their lives, UNICEF estimates. In Senegal, which is relatively stable and prosperous, malnutrition among children in the north has already surpassed 14 percent, just shy of the World Health Organization threshold for an emergency.

Hunger in this region is a lurking predator that never quite leaves, and comes back every year to pick off the weakest. Even in a non-crisis year, some 300,000 children die from lack of food across western and central Africa. All it takes is a drought and a failed harvest, and those who are now barely living on one meal a day will starve.

Since late 2011, aid groups have been sounding the alarm about how drought is once again devastating communities where children live perilously close to the edge. But not enough donations have come in.

The situation is worst in Niger, Chad and Mali, where political chaos has forced hundreds of thousands to seek refuge in places where people don't have enough to eat themselves. But in a worrisome sign, this time the crisis also threatens 20,000 children in northern Senegal — little rag dolls with just enough energy to bury their faces in their mothers' dresses.

"If you don't get certain nutrients, your brain is damaged and you can never recover," said Martin Dawes, West Africa spokesman for the U.N. children's agency. "You are then obviously far more vulnerable to a reduction in your food bowl turning into acute and severe malnutrition."
Already the signs of damage are there.

Aliou's 3-year-old sister Fatimata and 8-year-old sister Kadja have orangish hair growing in at the roots — a telltale sign of the protein deficiency that comes from eating just one bowl of porridge a day. The girls are neatly dressed, but their clavicles poke through their tops like hangers.

Haby, their 4-year-old sister, has streaks of orangish-blonde hair that frame her face, almost as blonde as the Cinderella cartoon character printed on her dusty T-shirt. Her mother worriedly smooths down the wisps around her braids. She does not know the culprit is lack of protein; she wonders if it's something in the water.

The U.N. World Food Programme serves lunch at school, but the Diallo sisters don't go. Their parents can't afford the school supplies.
It's noon in Goudoude Diobe, where women traditionally spend hours stewing the midday meal. But there is no smell of cooking vegetables or spices, no clanging of multiple pots — only the sound of roosters crowing and children crying.

Down a dusty trail, Samba Bayla's sister-in-law is starting to cook the only meal of the day for a family of 10, usually eaten around 2 p.m. She displays a small bowl of uncooked millet and another bowl with just a few small dried fish that altogether would fit inside a pair of clasped hands.
The knobby-kneed children crowd inside a building where the water's boiling, despite the scalding heat and heavy smoke. The midday temperatures here soar to 109 degrees Fahrenheit (43 degrees Celsius), and it's been a month since the restless children last ate meat, at a neighbor's wedding.

"The situation is difficult but there is nothing we can do," says Bayla. "We tell them just a few hours more."

It's not supposed to be this way in Senegal, a country of more than 12 million people where sushi bars dot the seaside capital. Still, most Senegalese live in rural areas, their lives and livelihoods beholden to the right recipe of rain.

Here in the northeast region of Matam, the drought couldn't have come at a worse time. The country is already battling high food prices. And because of the global economic downturn, fewer Senegalese in this region have family members working abroad and sending money back home.

When the rains here came late this year, they were sporadic at best. Crops failed, and the extra food stored for emergencies has been eaten. The next planting season is still months away.

Bayla grew millet and sorghum, while his wife sometimes made 1,000 francs ($2) selling incense. But grain production was down 36 percent over last year across Senegal. And those who want to buy millet after their own crops failed are paying 27 percent more compared to 2011.

"You are faced basically with households that have less of a harvest compared to what they usually have, and they are facing higher prices on the market," said Ingeborg Maria Breuer, Senegal's representative and country director for the U.N. World Food Programme.

On the dusty sand roads that lead to remote villages, goats stand on their hind legs to eat the only vegetation in sight — thorny acacia trees.

The lucky villagers have relatives working in the capital of Dakar, or abroad in Europe. But even work there is harder to find; a job may only last a few months, so the amount trickling back to these rural communities has decreased considerably.

In better times, there was a vegetable garden in Goudoude Diobe, with cabbage and eggplants for a community of nearly 1,300 people. Families grew enough millet, sorghum and corn to feed the village and its 250 children.

Now most here, even the breast-feeding mothers, eat only a bowl of rice once a day. If they are lucky, it is cooked with oil.
What should have been dinnertime already has passed, and now Kadja Dembel Ba calculates that she needs to keep her children busy for at least two more hours.
Today she was lucky. She walked several hours to lug some rice back from the nearby town to her village, Fass, for her seven children.

But as she looks at her 3-year-old son Yaya Feyni, she knows it's not enough. While other boys play outside, he lies on a bed behind his mother, listless and pale. Yaya has always been small compared to his brothers, she says, and now he is sick and won't eat anything.
She tends to him while her 1-year-old son squirms in her lap, as her 5- and 7-year-olds hover nearby.

The family already has sold a cow to buy medicine for her husband, who is sick with a stomach ailment and cannot work. The drugs set the family back some 4,000 francs ($8) — which could have bought them 10 kilograms of rice.

The stress of finding enough food for Kadja Dembel Ba's children seems unending. And by the time this lean season ends in a few months, there will be one more to feed, she says as she touches her pregnant belly.

On good days, the children in Fass will play with their friends until dark in the dusty village. Their stomachs, though, have not forgotten that no dinner was served.
It will be another restless night inside the family's thatched hut. Some of the children cannot sleep, Ba says. They are just too hungry.

Back in Goudoude Diobe, the wailing toddler's mother hopes for a few hours of peace before the night. Tomorrow, there will be no breakfast. There will be only the prayer she says every morning, asking God to help her family and her neighbors.
So far, it has not been answered.

Krista Larson can be reached at



Posted Saturday, May 26 2012 at 18:12
The cost of running the coming General Election is no doubt an issue of great public interest.

That is why the budget presented to Parliament by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) elicited a volley of discussion, some factual but some incorrect, if not outright sensational.

There is a need for some explanation and contextualisation of issues, lest the power of passion, which often overwhelms reason, weaves illusory reality from threads of perception.

Were such misconceptions to rule, at stake would be the trust and integrity of the entire electoral process and system the country has painstakingly built over the last five years.

But this is not to say the operations and decisions of the electoral body should not be put to public scrutiny. We are a public institution that runs one of the biggest budgets and a critical mandate.

We have received lots of support, both financial and technical, from the government and donors. We are open to good ideas because they make us relook at our strategies.

The Sh31.5 billion budget we presented for the 2012/13 fiscal year caters for electoral operations – voter registration, voter education, national polls and the diaspora and security.

The sum also includes capital investments such as ICT equipment and vehicles but excludes the Sh5.4 billion the Commission had earlier factored for a presidential run-off and the Sh484 million (certainly not Sh1.8 billion as alleged in a section of the media) is for an array of legal expenses and fees for petitions.

The IEBC made a downward review by excluding the two items on the understanding that the Treasury would provide the funds in the event of a run-off and that petition fees, which can only be arrived at after cases from General Election have been heard and determined, would come from the 2013/14 budget.

But what raises the cost of elections in Kenya? What has changed to warrant a relatively higher expenditure? First, Kenya is emerging from a conflict brought about by elections.

The Independent Review Commission (Kriegler Commission) identified, among others, two key shortcomings in the 2007 General Election which contributed to the explosive political climate: a “materially defective” voter register with probably 1.2 million dead voters and serious delays in tallying, recording, transcribing and transmission of results.

IEBC and its predecessor, IIEC, invested in technology to address these shortcomings. Electronic voter registration was successfully tested in 18 constituencies and the constitutional referendum.

The electronic voter transmission system, which has been acknowledged to give polls results fast, is a solution that has raised public expectations and there is no way IEBC can stop using it.

A critical element of an election process, which unfortunately malfunctioned in 2007, is the narrowing of the time-gap between when counting is over and when outcomes become public knowledge.

How else would an electoral management body achieve this without the helping hand of technology?

The Sh3 billion slated for biometric voter registration (BVR) and electronic voter identification poll book will ensure that only those who registered will vote in person while eliminating the disenfranchising of voters through vote buying (a voter will still vote even without a voters’ card).

The BVR system is a one-off investment and the equipment will be reused in subsequent elections.

Secondly, the General Election has grown in number and area. The ballot has now expanded from three elective posts to six (president, MP, governor, women’s representative, senator and county assembly representative).This increases costs for ballot boxes, ballot papers, personnel, etc. Since the polls are to be undertaken in a single day, there is a need for more polling stations because, unlike in the past, the voter will take more time to vote.

Polling stations will, therefore, be increased from 23,000 to 45,000. Thirdly, there will be 290 constituencies, up from 210.

The Commission has to conduct a fresh voter registration targeting 18 million voters. It would have been easier and cheaper just to update a voters’ register as is the case in a normal electoral cycle.

To expect IEBC to accomplish a mind-boggling election with a mean budget is to call for lots of dangerous compromises. What happens if training of polling officials is not adequate or a scanty voter education programme is put out?

What happens when materials delay or results cannot be relayed on time? What happens when security officers or transporters in remote and difficult terrain go on a go-slow because they feel the “Treasury approved” rates are not commensurate with the hardships they endure?

The Commission is awake to the fact that Kenya, and the world, is going through economic hardships. The Commission prudently uses public funds and is accountable like any other public-funded institution.

Even when provisions are made for legal fees for petitions, it does not imply that elections will in any way be bungled so as to merit the financial allocations. The aspiration is to get the best in less than the budget.

An electoral process is largely guided by law, where decisions and actions produce more definite choices and less “creative options”. But, despite this limiting nature, the IEBC strives to achieve a reasonable budget and to give value for taxpayers’ money.

The Commission will continue to invest in both the process and the people handling elections. We will take austerity measures but only to the extent that this does not compromise the integrity of the polls.

Ahmed Issack Hassan is the chairman of IEBC

Friday, May 25, 2012



By Jerry Okungu
Nairobi, Kenya
May 23, 2012

Kenya’s brand new election body wants to spend Ksh 41 billion to conduct its next elections. In other currencies, this would be the equivalent of US $ 500 million. Compared to how much other countries spend on their elections, none comes closer to Kenya. We now pride ourselves as the country that can burn a half a billion dollars just to elect our political leaders.

Let me tell you what Kenyans can do with this money. Were someone to distribute this money among Kenyans, each one of us would get at least Ksh 1000.

As we plan to lavishly spend on the coming elections, we are begging Japan to lend us Ks 29 billion to build a 20km road linking Mombasa and South Coast. We are negotiating with donors to fund a Ksh 60 billion water project at the Coast. We are negotiating a Ksh 34 billion for the Nairobi Urban Road project as we also negotiate another Ksh 37 billion with the World Bank to build a power connector with the Ethiopian power supply.

You can see from the above that we are not short of what to spend our billions on.
A detailed look at the breakdown of this immoral budget reveals that this Commission is hell bent on recruiting 350,000 election officials and 100,000 security officers to man the one day elections. These numbers alone beat even the total Kenya government public service employment statistics. At the moment, Kenya employs about 220,000 civil servants and 70,000 Police officers.

Supplement this with about 220,000 teachers and you have a total of 510,000 work force that Kenya manages in three key public sector departments. The question to ask is this: Does the IEBC in its current structure have the capacity to manage a work force of 450,000 efficiently and effectively?
Managing a workforce of this number of people even if it was for just one day would require no less than 1000 administrators if the institutions such as the Teachers Service Commission, the police force or civil service are anything to go by.

It therefore means that what Kenya’s election commission is not telling is that it will need additional 1000 administrative staff on top of what it has budgeted for.

Leaving an unwieldy headcount alone, how will the commission pay all these people in real time assuming that the government gave it the $ 500 million it is demanding? Will it accomplish what the Ministry of Planning with a bigger workforce failed to do during the 2009 census? If the 340,000 election officials are not paid on time, will this affect the elections’ real time results?

The Electoral Commission has spelt out budget lines that will eat up this amount of money. Lined up are fresh voter registration, a possible presidential run-off, the purchase of a biometric equipment and electronic poll books.

Also budgeted for are 45,000 polling stations, 335, 000 tallying centers in 290 constituencies, 47 counties and 47 Diaspora centers.

The question to ask is this: Why do we need 335,000 tallying centers and 45,000 polling stations when our elections are likely to be electronic? The Commission has a responsibility to explain spending billions buying electronic equipment to make voting efficient while at the same time want to tally votes in 335,000 tallying centers. Why can’t it relay results from the 45,000 polling stations directly to the main election hub in Nairobi?

But perhaps the biggest stinker in this budget is to include Ksh 1.8 billion as lawyers’ fees arising from expected election petitions. Surely are the coming elections going to be so flawed beyond recognition? Is the IBEC preparing the country for the worst? Suppose IEBC hired lawyers, probably ten lawyers at Ksh 1million a month for the duration of the petitions, wouldn’t it be cheaper than to set aside nearly two billion shillings in anticipation?

It is indeed important to remember that Kenyans need a credible election to wipe out the bad memories of the 2007 fiasco. It is also true that Isaak Hassan and his team mean well for the country. However, all they need to remember is that Kenya is a poor country with numerous challenges. As such, any budget prepared by an independent body that depends on public finance must be such that the public does not detect any wastage or uncalled for extravagance.

All that the IEBC needs is to hire the services of an expert in budgeting to clean up the budget, shed off the excess fat that attracts negative criticism from the public and parliament and come up with a realistic budget that Kenyans can identify with. If this does not happen, the good will that the IEBC has enjoyed among Kenyans will soon dissipate with disastrous results for the young organization. Once that good will is gone, it will take a long time in coming back.

The IEBC must remember that most Kenyans are uncomfortable with its decision to hold the next elections in March 2013 when in fact many Kenyans expected elections in August 2012. The longer the elections are delayed the more problems may emerge for the electoral body because there will be election fatigue among the electorate considering that some aspirants have been on the road campaigning since October 2010.

Yes, we need a credible election this time round and we need it within the budget this country can afford. It is the type of best practice we should be proud to share with our neighbors in the region.



By Charles Kofi Fekpe (ACCA, CFE)

I got an email a few days ago from someone I didn’t know, a young man from a west African country. To me, I considered him half successful when he said in his email “I am a young graduate and I want to start my own bakery instead of chasing non-existent jobs”. His email was asking me for business advice on what to consider in starting his own business. I was touched, not only because he recognized existing frustration in joining the nine to five rat race, but because of the realization that if he got good advice, he “could” be on his way to building a good business for himself. Good, unbiased and practical advice is what I gave him.

There is no doubt, many more graduates like him. Some may never visit my website to send me an email nor read my book “Diamonds in Eden”, but chances are that they still need the kind of advice I gave my new friend. The purpose of this article is to give some very simple guide, on venturing into your own business. It’s called Entrepreneurship. It may not be as fully comprehensive as a text book but at least I trust it is practical enough to yield results.

For many school graduates in mother Africa, entrepreneurship (or starting a new business) may not be something we are familiar with. That’s fine. It’s mainly to do with the cultures we were raised in – although it isn’t helping us in this era. We were mainly made to understand that studying hard, getting good academic grades and eventually getting a good job was the way to succeed. And that’s the limitation. So in the event that we didn’t have good education or we had one but couldn’t land a good job, then it becomes clear, we’ve missed our success in life. The sad sad truth is this – neither our educational nor cultural systems give us the preparation or the boldness to venture into unknown territories in the event we don’t find “the perfect job”. It’s alright. Now is the time to face realities and move forward with your life. It’s your life.

Let me spill a few truths to help you put into perspective the absolute NEED for you to start considering starting your own business. Firstly, inflation and unemployment is always going to be around and 99.99% of employees never decide what rewards they are paid for the use of their intellects and energy. As a business owner however, you keep everything earned from your efforts both mental and physical. Secondly, if you are thinking about flying abroad to Europe and the Americas, after graduating, then think again – the economies of these western countries are getting tighter and they really are NOT too excited having to accept more immigrants because their national resources are shrinking. Thirdly, if you think you want to do another course or study for another degree, that’s a good thing but hear this too – employers need to make money, so they are not looking for intellectual kingpins with many degrees; they are looking for people who have the drive and innovative attitude to effect positive change to their profit margins – and there are people like that with not so many degrees or qualifications. Lastly and this is an excellent reason – you can start your own business whilst being employed or whilst still in school. Don’t be lied to. You see, in the past, it used to be those who had a lot of money make more money. I don’t dispute the fact that money is very important in starting any business but in today’s world – real money is the knowledge, the idea, or the solution you have, that can affect the lives of people positively.

Let’s start from here. I understand that starting a business can be a very daunting thing to think about let alone venture into. The weight of it can be so stressful for some people that they wouldn’t even dare dream about it. Others will think about it for a few days, weeks, months and then forget all about it. They may revisit it some time again in the future or just sit back until someone else produces the same product or service; then you hear them complain “Ah I thought about that idea first”. I went through the same phase, so be rest assured, its normal. However, if you are serious about being successful, then you should go ahead and start a business. In fact you can. Take a look around you; you don’t have to look far to see some very successful entrepreneurs. Some you know, some you don’t. If you think about it further, you just might realize that your condition now, is a hundred times better than theirs when they started in business and yet they made it in the end – that should be an inspiration to you too. You can make it; you can have a successful business – if only you are willing to start. If you say you can, then you will and you are right. If you say to yourself you cannot; then you are right too – you won’t succeed.

So how do you start? Well, we are all different people and so we may not all start in the same way, but let me share a few ways a real business can be born:
1. You could start by expanding an idea for a service or product that you have identified is of need but that is currently not available. You could invent a product or a service
2. You could consider providing a service based on your qualification and/or experience. This is just like cutting out an employer and providing the same services directly to clients which you would have provided if you were employed anyway
3. You could develop an idea from a problem you are trying to find a personal solution to. It’s called “scratching your own itch”. Most good business started this way. Thomas Edison was tired of the dark and in trying to solve it, he invented the electric bulb. Think about a product or service you are always unhappy about. Chances are that you are not the only one unhappy with it, but the question is, can you find a solution? If you could, you may have just found yourself a business
4. Another way to consider starting a business would be to look around you; there may be everyday products or services that you can re-invent by changing the way it is produced, the way it is delivered or presented or packaged. For example in the past, drinks used to be delivered in bottles until someone came up with the idea of paper packs. The food market for example in Africa has huge potential for how food is delivered or packaged, and so are many other things. Beads for example that used to be only worn by the elderly in African society are becoming fashionable as part of earrings, bracelets etc. – simply by re-presenting them differently
5. Another consideration will be to buy into a Franchise – these are already established and well known businesses that you feel will be welcome in an area but are not yet established there. You could buy the right to operate such a business in a chosen area. Advertently it involves a big upfront cost and you can’t run such businesses with your own systems. Things have to be done as specified by the franchisor, but at least you don’t have to market yourself too much considering it is an already established brand.
6. Finally, in the kind of technological world we are in now, you could set up an internet business. The easiest form of this is to sell on the internet – and it could be anything. From intellectual assets or experiences which could be turned into online books or videos and placed on the net for people to buy without any physical engagement or merely selling products from your country that you believe the rest of the world needs.

The list above is certainly far from exhaustive (and neither is this article) but the idea is to set you on a path to trying your hands at something. It will be worth it, believe you me. Once you start, and realize the excitement of actually doing something for the first time. You’ll gain inspiration no one else can give you.

Once you have established exactly what it is you want to do, here is a list of few things you should consider before going live as a business. Before I list them, let me say this – You don’t need to start off immediately as a registered company located in a storey building with employees etc. If you can manage it, start from home – that’s where many businesses have started. It really doesn’t matter. Someday, the business itself will decide and have money enough to pay for where it wants to be located. You can start considering the following things:

• What’s the name you want to be called and what do you really want your business to stand for. Write it down in one sentence of not more than 10 words. Not more.
• The product or services will you be offering and how will they be delivered or packaged to customers.
• List in detail all the things you'll need to make the business work;
• I suggest you try and specialize in two or three things. A lot of people try to do too many things at once and in the end, their business is never well known for any particular thing. Years down the line you want your business to be well known for something. What will it be?
• Identify logistical and other business-related problems you are likely to encounter and start thinking about possible solutions; let your imagination run wild here
• Start developing innovative (new) marketing strategies or ideas that you'll employ to sell your products or services. Ask yourself, how do people in your proposed business currently sell their products or services – ask now, is there a way you can sell it better? You don’t have to follow the crowd.
• Start thinking about how you will fund the entire project. Who will support you? Is all the money ready immediately? Will it be ready in stages? Family is always a good place to start, because at least you wouldn’t have to pay interest. Some may be willing to give you the start-up money for a share in the business. It may be worth it so, negotiate it.
• Consider who are the likely competitors in the industry you will operate in. What are they doing now? Can you match and go past their competition? How do you intend to do it?
• Now, think about worst case scenarios - as many as you can think of and start asking yourself how you'll deal with them. Will they (if it happened) end the business? Or there are ways around them.
• Lie back, relax, and imagine to yourself what the average day in the life of your business looks like; now consider what a week will look like, then a month. Did you notice any gaps that need thinking about?
• How will you get your products or services to your potential customers? Yes HOW?
• How much do you think you will be making from your business per day, per week, per month, per year? How much will you be spending? Be conservative and don’t forget there is inflation – do you think you could be making a profit in the long run?

It’s not all going to be rosy and anyone who tells you it will is setting you up to be miserable along the way:

1. You’ll make some mistakes and encounter some failures – see this as a learning opportunity. Ask yourself what you've learnt from such an experience that you will not repeat in the future. There’s always a lesson to learn. Only when you do not learn from such mistakes does it become a failure.

2. Your own business involves work. You can’t afford to be lazy. Some people think (very wrongly) that once you own your own business, you wouldn’t need to wake up at 7am in the morning anymore. It’s untrue. If you own your business, you will be waking at 6am instead. Until your business is established and smoothly running, you can’t afford to play lazy. If you are willing to be disciplined enough to go to work for someone, you should be disciplined enough to work for yourself.

3. In addition to the above, don’t throw away your intellect. You have been to school, you have acquired knowledge – don’t throw it all away simply because you are not someone else’s employee. Understand that you did not go to school for someone; you went to school for you. So when you start your own business, apply the knowledge you have acquired to your business; it is not waste. The truth is, if you don’t have your own business, you will use the same intellect to make money for someone else, so what’s stopping you for using it to make your own money?

4. Finally, be disciplined with your money. It’s your money, but do remember, if it isn’t managed well, you will surely fail. Save as much as you make. A good rule is to give 10% of your earnings out to charity or as tithe if you are Christian. The business is not just physical, it’s spiritual too. Invest with the future in mind. If it is feasible buy Assets that tend to appreciate in value; get some good advice, invest in land, buy stocks, re-invest in the business... do all that but DON’T just spend it.

Most people, when they think about success, think money. That’s just part of it. I am not saying money is NOT a good reason to have a business but think about it – How would you feel, seeing your business idea come to life, people are using your products, what used to be a small idea in your mind has become a household name. Think about the people your business could employ and the fact that you could actually be inspiring someone to also make a difference to their own life. Think about the respect, the financial freedom and security in not having to think about redundancies and being sacked from work. Think about the legacy you’ll leave your children. You will not only leave them a business but most likely a name to be proud of. Think about all of that and more that could happen by just starting and persevering in running a successful business.

As I said from the start, this article may not have been as exhaustive as a whole book would, but I trust that I have been able to put you on a good path to starting your own business. I am certain with some enthusiasm, good practical advice along the way and a desire to succeed you should also in your own way, turn what may simply be an idea into a successful business.



By Guy Azriel, CNN
May 25, 2012

African immigrants drive a car with windows shattered by Israeli protesters in Tel Aviv Wednesday.

Protesters smashed windows and attacked foreign workers during the protest
Netanyahu condemned the attacks and said he'd fight illegal immigration "responsibly"
Knesset speaker blasts members who took part in the demonstration

Jerusalem (CNN)
A racially charged demonstration against the Israeli government's handling of immigration from Africa turned violent Wednesday night as protesters attacked foreign workers, shattered car windows and vandalized a shop owned by a Sudanese migrant.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said 17 men were arrested in the event and brought to a Tel Aviv court Thursday morning. They are charged with attacking residents and Israeli police and damaging property.

The demonstrators carried signs with the slogans "Infiltrators get out of our houses" and "Tel Aviv -- a refugee camp." They were accompanied by three members of the Knesset, Israel's parliament.

Miri Regev, a Knesset member from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party, referred to illegal immigrants as "a cancer in our society" and promised to do anything possible to send them back to their home countries.

But Netanyahu denounced the attacks in a special statement Thursday.
"The problem of infiltrators must be resolved, and we will resolve it," he said. "We will complete the construction of the security fence in several months and soon will start the process of sending the migrants back to their home countries.

"Yet, I would like to stress that the expressions and acts that we have viewed last night are unacceptable," he continued. "We will solve the problem and will do so responsibly."
And Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin criticized the members who took part in the march, saying politicians must help restrain public anger and come up with solutions rather than fan racially-charged flames.

"We must not be dragged into incitement and the language used by anti-Semites against Jewish people," Rivlin said.

The migrants and security problems in the Sinai Peninsula has prompted Israel to step up construction of a steel fence that will run the 260-kilometer (162-mile) border with Egypt.
An estimated 60,000 Africans have crossed illegally into Israel thorough its southern border with Egypt in recent years -- about 700 a week, according to Israeli police. Tensions between local residents of Tel Aviv's working class neighborhoods and illegal African immigrants have seen new highs this month following a couple of highly publicized cases in which Sudanese migrants were arrested on charges of sexual assault against young Israeli women.

Sigal Rosen, a spokeswoman for a hotline for migrant workers, says she can't understand the demonstrators' actions -- "but I certainly understand their hysteria."
"Objectively, they are right," Rosen said. "The load on the infrastructures is intolerable, and the city does nothing to improve their condition."

But Rosen blames a government that refuses to legalize their status and allow them to work freely across the country.

"The only way to prevent these immigrants from coming here is by physically shooting at them as they cross the border, as is done by the Egyptians," she said. "It is clear to me that Israel would not do such a thing and therefore nothing would prevent them from continuing to arrive. Even imprisonment is better than what they experience in their home country."



Posted Thursday, May 24 2012 at 20:00

In this very Kenya, which has 70,000 cops and APs, there are 5,700 officers in uniform who are being used as drivers, part-time waiters (they carry the plate at hotel buffets), shelf de-stackers (they push the trolley while the boss shops) and general handymen in the homes of the ‘‘high and mighty’’.

Yet others are accessories of men with delicate egos; they pack their cars as bodyguards and storm out when the vehicles come to a stop, in a comical re-enactment of presidential security.

If I give you the names of the people who have been provided with police bodyguards, you will laugh until you wet your pants. As a matter of fact, the public is more in danger of them than the other way round.

And those are the lucky ones. I am almost certain that there are officers who are treated like servants in big homesteads.

I don’t think it is beyond the realm of possibility that others are regarded as playthings and sex toys because some in our indisciplined elite might not see the difference between “family” and official duties.

Why do you take a young person to a quasi-military college, train them to shoot straight and not to faint at the smell of death, school them to apprehend, prosecute or shoot thugs, then you force them to spend their professional lives as the handbag-carriers of graceless dowagers or the ego props of parastatal ne’er-do-wells?

I always tell young police officers when they arrest and harass me for minor reasons, such as false claims of speeding, that I am possibly their only friend in the whole wide world.

Because I know what they do and what the country has given them to do it with.

They get nine months in Kiganjo, a rifle and little else before they are loosed on the world of vicious, bloodthirsty gangs, car-jackers, rapists, thieves, violent politicians planning large scale evil and, of course, the sweet allure of easy money.

What keeps them going is a determination not to go back to the smoky hut where they came from empty-handed, or to go to bed on a glass of water ever again. Some might also feel the need to protect the public, to put the baddies in prison.

Kenya has no right to demand quality policing; it does not pay for quality policing.

It gives the force peanuts and expects them to work miracles. And even the little there is is wasted, sometimes by the police themselves, such as when they use their best vehicles to drive the bosses around.

The thoughtlessness of our elite is that such that a person who lives amidst the shrubbery of a quiet compound in Lavington, where crime can be dealt with by a dog, private guard or a good padlock, takes two police officers to guard his otherwise secure home at the expense of the poorer Kenyan living in Kayole or Komarock, where having an officer nearby is a matter of life and death.

The same thoughtlessness is seen in MPs’ cutting the budget of the National Security Intelligence Service by Sh2.8 billion and denying the spy chief, Maj-General Michael Gichangi, the opportunity to defend the budget.

Why? Not because the spooks are profligate, or haven’t met the MPs’ expectations, or haven’t done their job. No, in revenge for Gen Gichangi not honouring a summons.

We have troops in a hostile country. How many politicians do you hear encouraging them and thanking them for their service to their country? You are more likely to hear a litany of second-guessing and whining about how expensive the war effort is.

But the clincher is the shameless political butt-licking of the Mombasa Republican Council. MRC, a bunch of ignorant villagers like you and me, but possibly with the encouragement of treasonous big names, are proposing something that goes against our very essence, a betrayal of the suffering of our people for the last century, a sick perversion of our hopes for the future.

The MRC wants Kenyans to give up on the only thing they have: Kenya.
I have no doubt that those guys have genuine complaints. Who doesn’t?

But their proposal to dismember the republic is ignorant, does not solve the problem and is likely to create more problems, not just for the rest of us, but especially for the poor people of the Coast.

And politicians are falling over themselves to mollycoddle, appease and con these guys.

It’s people like those who give Kenya a bad name.


Photo: African National Congress supporters sing and dance outside the High Court in Johannesburg, South Africa on Thursday as President Jacob Zuma's lawyers sought an order banning the display of a now-defaced painting of the president. Credit: Themba Hadebe / Associated Press

South African president's lawyer weeps in court case over painting

May 24, 2012
New York Times
South Africa

A white man's painting of a black president, genitals exposed, slashed open an ugly racial divide in South Africa this week, leading to death threats against the artist, calls for the boycott of a newspaper, vandalism of the artwork and the temporary closure of a gallery.

The issue grew more heated Thursday when President Jacob Zuma's lawyer broke down and wept after tough questioning from a white High Court judge during a hearing on Zuma's efforts to have the painting permanently banned from public display.

Attorney Gcina Malindi cried when questioned by Judge Neels Claasen about why the painting should be seen as racist and offensive to black South Africans. The court immediately adjourned and later ordered the media not to broadcast images of the lawyer weeping.

Malindi was an activist in the struggle against apartheid and was jailed for treason in the 1980s. He later told journalists he broke down because the trial brought back bitter memories.

"I was just overcome by emotions, and there is a history to it as a former activist," he said, according to the newspaper City Press. "As an advocate, we are supposed to be trained not to be emotional when we appear in court."

Brett Murray's painting, "The Spear," was part of an exhibition called "Hail to the Thief II," a blunt critique charging that the ruling African National Congress was corrupt and had abandoned its socialist ideals. Zuma has called the artwork personally offensive, and ANC Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe, who was in court for Thursday's hearing, has termed it racist.

Many black South Africans were uneasy with the confrontational imagery of the painting, with some mounting arguments that African culture respected elders, hence the display was offensive and insensitive. Others argued it recalled brutal apartheid searches, which often saw black males stripped naked.

But their opponents in a fierce public debate contended that Zuma -- who once had sex with an HIV-positive family friend half his age without using a condom but was acquitted of her rape accusation -- has laid himself bare to such parodies.

"Zuma's [image] is of a man whose concentration is on sex and political self-preservation. He has done more to provide fodder for racist stereotypes than any black South African has done," South African columnist Justice Malala wrote in the British newspaper the Guardian on Wednesday, dismissing arguments about African cultural sensibilities.

As debate raged, the work was vandalized Tuesday at the Goodman Gallery, a leading Johannesburg art space, by two men in swift succession -- one white, one black -- who claimed they didn't know one another. The gallery closed its doors temporarily and moved the painting.

Nonetheless, Zuma and the ANC broadened their legal action from an effort against the gallery and City Press, which posted the image on its website, to ensure the painting was not displayed anywhere in public. ANC has called for a boycott of the newspaper.

Though the ANC has argued the painting is an affront to Zuma's dignity as president, Judge Claasen said the law offered no protection for the dignity of either presidency or the party, and the case could only weigh any offense to Zuma personally.

The court must balance this against the strong protection offered in the South African Constitution for freedom of artistic expression.

Claasen asked Malindi if the ANC would be in court opposing the painting if it had shown apartheid-era President F.W. de Klerk. "What evidence is there that this is a colonial attack on the black cultures of this country?" he asked.

"There have been heavy suggestions that only the educated understand art and it is beyond the comprehension of people who don't belong to this group," Malindi responded. He argued that the court should take into account how the painting would be perceived by many black South Africans who were denied an education under apartheid.

"I implore the court and those who convey messages to consider the diversity of South Africa. There is a super-class of people who believe that things should be seen in their eyes," Malindi said, before he broke down.

Claasen said three black artists had submitted that the painting wasn't racist. "This is black against black," he told the court.

Robyn Dixon

Thursday, May 24, 2012



Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe chats with former South African President Nelson Mandela at a Steve Biko memorial ceremony in Cape Town in 2002. Biko, a leader of the Black Consciousness movement, died after being beaten by members of Apartheid’s police force. Photo/AFP


Posted Friday, May 25 2012 at 00:00
In Nigeria, one lifetime is hardly enough to crack a nut. Nothing perhaps demonstrates this better than the life story of the literary giant Chinua Achebe.

Short of renting an army and leading a coup d’état to change the system in Nigeria, Achebe is using the barrel of his pen at the age of 82.

Next to the Boko Haram terror, the commonest national anxiety at the moment, underscored by discourses in the academia and polity, is Achebe’s upcoming book with the ominous title, There Was A Country: A personal History of Biafra.

A few days ago, Achebe’s first novel and magnum opus, Things Fall Apart was named one of the “fifty most influential books of the last 50 years” alongside Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses, Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude.

Things Fall Apart, the most widely read book in modern African literature, has been translated to over 50 languages.

Across Africa, practically no child goes through secondary school without reading this classic.

It is standard reading. The book’s central protagonist, Okonkwo, is as familiar on the continent as maize meal is to the peasantry.

Given his phenomenal following, the old man from Ogidi in Eastern Nigeria has always been someone to watch, beginning with Nigeria’s first military dictatorship in 1966.

A few years back, Achebe hit the notoriety list of the Nigerian government by rejecting a national honour from President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Last year the master storyteller, confined to a wheelchair after a road accident in 1990 that left him paralysed from the waist down, did it all over again.

For a second time he rejected the same national honour from another President — the incumbent Goodluck Jonathan.

Nothing has changed in Nigeria, the writer insisted, to merit any national celebration.

Spurned and dazed by the old man’s stance, in January 2012 the Nigerian government sabotaged an international conference and lecture series designed to honour Professor Achebe.

The University of Nigeria International Conference/Chinua Achebe Annual Lectures had to be postponed after the Jonathan administration suddenly withdrew its pledged financial support and participation.

Too cash-strapped to fund a conference of that magnitude; the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN), where Achebe used to teach, suffered the embarrassment of writing apologies to diplomats as well as visiting scholars from across the world.

The author had rejected the honour in a three-sentence letter.

The political attraction to the Achebe brand should be no mystery. Once the era of military dictatorship came to a close, it goes without saying that Nigerian political overlords would hanker for the endorsement of the world-famous writer. Proffering state honours is one way of attracting his endorsement.

Writers and political critics alike trace the new wave of anxiety over Achebe’s upcoming book to a watershed in Nigeria’s history and the role of Achebe in the re-engineering of the Nigerian soul.

If Achebe had gained worldwide attention for Things Fall Apart in the late 1950s; No Longer At Ease in 1960; Arrow of God in 1964; his fourth work, A Man of the People published in 1966 was able to hit the bull’s eye with an accurate prediction of volatile political events that were to come.

In A Man of the People, Achebe depicts the perilous adventure of an archetypal Nigerian politician, the wheeler-dealing, the corruption and a mindless orgy that is terminated by a coup d’état staged by young idealistic military officers.

The fictional coup mentioned in Achebe’s book became a reality on January 15, 1966 when Nigeria had the first military coup led by Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu, a firebrand soldier from Okpanam, a little town less than 13 kilometres from Achebe’s homestead in Ogidi.

That the book was released just nine days after the first coup earned Achebe the sobriquet “Prophet”; though political elements and military officers from the north of the country insisted that the fictional and real coups were too much of a coincidence, accusing the writer of being part of the putsch.

Given the university credentials of the coup leaders; including Major Victor Banjo and Major Emmanuel Ifeajuna, many political observers concluded that the coup plotters had acted under a strong influence, perhaps unwittingly provided by an angry writer.

Whatever inspired the coup would lead to a counter coup by northern military officers in July of the same year, a trajectory in political turmoil that saw the killings of Achebe’s Igbo kinsmen in the north of the country, the declaration of the Republic of Biafra by secessionist leader Chukwuemeka Odumuegwu Ojukwu and a 30-month civil war that claimed close to three million lives.

During the Biafran war Achebe served as a Biafran diplomat. He travelled to different countries giving voice to the plight of the Igbos, particularly protesting the use of food as weapon by the Nigerian government to starve Biafran children and women.

He wrote articles for newspapers and magazines about the Biafran struggle and camped in Enugu, the capital of Biafra where he founded the Citadel Press with the poet Christopher Okigbo. Okigbo enlisted in the war and died fighting on the side of Biafra.

Last Sunday at the Life House in Lagos, the writers’ community gathered for a heritage reading in honour of Christopher Okigbo.

Inevitably, Achebe’s upcoming book sneaked into discussions. The fraternity recalled that There Was A Country would not be Achebe’s first book on the civil war.

In 1973, three years after the Biafran war, Achebe had published a collection of poems titled Christmas In Biafra.

The work is a reflection during a period of great social and psychological disturbances across Nigeria.

Until that publication the front line novelist was not known to be a poet. The collection has sections such as Poems About War, Poems Not About War and Gods, Men and Others.

In 1983, Achebe published a book titled The Trouble With Nigeria, that attempted to challenge the complacency of Nigerians, urging the citizenry to reject old habits which inhibited their fatherland from becoming a modern and attractive state.

In the book Achebe professes that the only trouble with Nigeria is the failure of leadership, maintaining that with good leaders Nigeria could resolve its inherent problems such as tribalism; lack of patriotism; social injustice and the cult of mediocrity; indiscipline; and corruption.

The book contains sections on: Where the Problem Lies; Tribalism; False Image of Ourselves; Leadership, Nigerian Style; Patriotism; Social Injustice and the Cult of Mediocrity; Indiscipline; Corruption; The Igbo Problem, and; The Example of Aminu Kano.

The book, he writes, is a call to ordinary citizens to do more; in fact a couched invitation to revolution.

Playing the agent provocateur, Achebe questioned the On Unity and Faith motto on the Nigerian coat of arms.
He asks: unity in what? Faith in what? The book pointed out that it is easy to be united in disorder and corruption

Needless to add Nigeria experienced yet another coup after the publication of the book, though a belated one in December 1993 sweeping aside the monumentally corrupt civilian government of President Shehu Shagari.

Speaking on Achebe’s upcoming book Odia Ofeimun, poet and playwright and author of The Poet Lied and Nigeria The Beautiful, said that since the book is about the civil war, he expects the aged Achebe to produce a trademark work that will be provocative and haunting.

However, Ofeimun who in his early twenties served as private secretary to one of Nigeria’s founding fathers and Premier of the Western Region, Obafemi Awolowo, expects Achebe in the upcoming book to do a better job given that some of the things mentioned in The Trouble With Nigeria, in his view, are not in sync with the facts.

Ofeimun, former President of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) said: “I have problems with The Trouble With Nigeria. Achebe is too important in our history to have any inaccuracies in his book. I felt very bad about his grasp about some of the things that happened during the war, one of them being the roles and motives of Aminu Kanu to whom he bestowed a radical identity when in fact Aminu Kanu was pushing a regional agenda of the North; for all we know There Was A Country: A personal History of Biafra, might be the old man’s last major work; so I expect that this time around, minute details in our political history are properly placed in their correct places.”

The greatness of Achebe as a novelist is that he relays a unique idiom of everyday Africa – through Igbo eyes – unparalleled by any other living writer.

His mastery of proverbs and folkore of his people is unmatched, which makes his novels so evocative.

It is a mark of Achebe the writer that whatever angle literary critics take on his upcoming book, it will not dent his towering reputation.

The Biafra story has been a compelling theme to many Nigerian writers since the civil war ended in 1970.

Oddly, Achebe has steered clear of this intense subject despite being a key participant in those tragic events.

There was a Country ends his silence on this subject. And that is why this book is so anxiously anticipated, more so in his own country.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012



By Jerry Okungu
Nairobi, Kenya
May 18, 2012

It is yet another season of the usual AU ritual in Addis Ababa. Once more our honorable heads of state are soon meeting in Malawi to consider their relationship with the much maligned international criminal court at The Hague.

Informed sources intimate that the Council of Ministers have the ICC as an item to be discussed and pass their recommendations for action by the full plenary of the AU heads of state summit.

With disgruntled member states such as Kenya and Sudan and backed by rogue states such as Zimbabwe and a few strong men with no good record of governance, chances of passing a resolution to pull out of the ICC en masse is not a far-fetched idea. This action will be music to the ears of Omar El Bashir, Bob Mugabe and Mwai Kibaki of Kenya.

Though President Kibaki is not a candidate for The Hague court, he has some of his most trusted and close confidantes charged in that court with crimes against humanity arising from the political violence that rocked Kenya in 2008. As it is, President Kibaki has used every trick in the book to get the cases transferred to Kenya with very little success.

With earlier shuttle diplomacy trips to African countries and the UN coming a cropper, several petitions have been lodged with the ICC to get it disqualify itself from hearing the two cases. One by one, these appeals have all failed, culminating in the trials of the four out of six suspects being confirmed.

The last such attempt was to get the EALA parliament to hurriedly debate and pass a motion agitating for the transfer of those cases to the East African Court of Justice. A week later a special summit of the EAC heads of state discussed the EALA motion and appeared to support the idea.

Hardly two weeks later, two developments took place at The Hague. First came the bad news that the appeal by the two accused to make an oral presentation against being tried at The Hague was denied. The court ruled that it had enough evidence to make a decision on the matter without having the accused appearing in person.

A day later, another terse statement came from The Hague ruling out any possibility of having Kenyan cases transferred to Arusha or any other court for that matter. And by that last development, it would appear like the door had been shut on the case.

The Sudan case is different. Omar El Bashir is accused of crimes against humanity based on the Darfur genocide carried out before 2009. He is accused of using his armed forces and Jangaweed militia to exterminate the black natives of Darfur purely on account of their ethnicity.

Bashir is not the only person indicted by the ICC. Some of his generals also stand accused. Bashir should have been tried by now but since 2009, he has continued to defy summons from the ICC. He has since been issued with a warrant of arrest. This development has made it impossible for him to travel outside Africa and even in the continent; his movements have been restricted to a few friendly countries. He can today not travel to Kenya, Malawi and South Africa. In Kenya, a local court has issued a warrant of arrest should he step on Kenyan soil.

It beats logic why the AU should be obsessed with criminal cases at the ICC when there are a myriad problems facing Africa. Here is a war going on between the same Bashir and his former Vice President Salva Kiir over oil fields in the South. That war is already sending thousands of refugees flocking into Kenya and Uganda. And with that renewed war, there already thousands of lives senselessly being lost; mainly helpless villagers with no air cover. Why can’t the AU spend its energies stopping this conflict?

The other nagging problem is the Joseph Kony riddle. Right now we have at least 100 American Special Forces tracking Kony in the forests of Central Africa and the DRC. Why can’t the AU spend its resources tracking down Kony and stop him from killing poor peasants in the forests of Central Africa?

As the AU meets this time, the war in Somalia is yet to be won despite the AMISOM support from the United Nations. AU member states are perennially constrained to contribute meaningful troops and resources to resolve the Somali crisis yet they find time to spend millions of scarce dollars every so often to attend summits with no tangible results for the continent.

As this summit gets under way, there is renewed conflict in DRC Congo sending thousands of refugees into Rwanda. Yet DRC, just like Somalia and South Sudan is a bona fide member of the AU. Don’t these war-torn countries deserve the full attention of the AU?

The world will only respect the decisions of the African body if it starts reigning in on its errant members, got rid of its many wars, fed its own people and decisively dealt with its many avoidable disasters. More importantly, if it started dealing conclusively with institutionalized corruption and kleptocracy in its ranks.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012



By Charles Kofi Fekpe
United Kingdom

Trends are powerful. They are just like sea waves. If you swim in the same direction as the waves, you will get ashore quickly and with minimal damage. If you swim against the waves…. I will leave that to your imagination

In the 1980s and 1990s when the information age started, those that saw the trend early and rode their businesses on the trends prospered a great deal and those that sat down and said to themselves, we’ll change later….. well, most of them have either collapsed or become “beggar-companies”.

My hope with that in this article, is to introduce you to some ideas that have become strong business trends. Some you may already have heard but didn’t really understand, others may be new to you. In all, I’ll be talking very briefly on 6 of them. This is NOT a detailed university lecture, it is simply an introduction to these business concepts. My greatest hope is that you will be able to take one or more of these trends away, investigate it further and begin to ask yourself, how it may help improve your business and add a few more zeros to your profit line.

Thirty or so years ago, businesses that succeeded were those that had secret information that nobody else had and also the resources to do something with such information. In other words, thirty years ago, information was the competitive advantage for the companies that succeeded. When the internet became a communication Revolution, one of the things it did was to make information readily available. Eventually, there was so much information available that it became very cheap and no more a competitive advantage to have just information.

The next step was to do something with that information, which is what we call Knowledge. Little by little organisations that were able to use such information to their advantage became more successful. This is how we moved from the information age, to the knowledge age. Then eventually the internet made knowledge readily available. In other words; apart from making information available, it also made available knowledge on how to use that information. As a result neither Information nor Knowledge was a competitive asset anymore. They both became very cheap and very available.

The next step in this evolution of the world economy was “Innovation”. In Order words, businesses that can now turn the available information, and knowledge into “new ideas” had a greater opportunity to become more successful. I have a construction engineer friend who was sharing with me a month ago how their company was now able to produce concrete that was less heavy, stronger and less expensive. Now that is innovation and we can all see how good it sounds to their profit margin. The information they needed was not new, the technical knowhow was not new either. All they really did was to think about how to do things in a different and new way.

Innovation is really not the same as invention. An invention is coming up with something that has never been done before – that’s invention – it involves new information and new knowledge. Innovation is more like using the information and knowhow that you have to generate new ideas. The keyword is ideas. Innovation means generating new ideas always and not only when your company starts facing competition. Innovation means generating new ideas before anybody else does.

Innovation is generating ideas that add value to your company in the short run and long run. Innovation means getting everybody in your organisation to come up with new ideas, not just the people at the top. And finally, innovation is the process of generating ideas about an organisation’s products and its internal processes. So in effect innovation is finding new and better ideas on how to run your organisation, new and better ideas about how to make your products, new and better ideas on new products, and new and better ideas about making your customers satisfied. Innovation simply equals successful ideas.

The second business trend I want to bring to your attention is “Social Media”. And without doubt I can imagine some faces have lit up with the expression “Ahahh! Facebook”(I hope you also bought your Facebook shares). With the rise of information, came about a problem. You see, before the information age, you needed people (human beings) to be in the picture for you to get access to information. And if you think about knowledge being the way in which information was used, you’ll realise also that in the past, every business needed real people to teach them how information could be used.

In the past also, you needed a customer to be physically present in order to transact a business. With the information and knowledge age happening through the internet, business became more and more divorced from people. After so many years of the information age, the world has realized that human beings are indeed social animals and then …knock! Knock! Knock! Enters Mr Social media.

Social media is simply an attempt to re-connect people who were divorced during the information and knowledge booms. It’s a way of adding back the “human factor” to the already booming information and knowledge age – Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook was one of the pioneers in adding a human and social dimension to the information age – and this is a typical example of innovation. The information he used wasn’t new, the internet technology was not new, the people who use Facebook were also not new to using the internet – the truth is he just had an innovative idea on how to connect all three components.

Social Media age has meant that whereas in the past we only had access to information everywhere, now, we have access to people everywhere. So you have platforms such as Facebook, blogs, Twitter, Linkedin, Skype etc. and they all give you access to people everywhere.
For businesses, this is a brilliant opportunity – In the past, if you were physically located in say Kenya, it meant you were very restricted from finding potential customers in say Ghana and Namibia, unless you had a physical office in Namibia or Ghana or you placed an expensive advert in their national newspapers and Televisions and Radio. These days you can make yourself available on Social Media sites, and customers themselves will find you.

Every business undisputedly thrives on people. The more people you can reach means the more customers you can find, and the more customers you can find means the more money in your…. I’ll leave that to your imagination. The point I am trying to make here is that if your business can make itself available in the social media, it provides an opportunity for customers and potential customers to relate to you in a way that makes them feel part of a society.

Social Media, undoubtedly is changing the face of business – it is an opportunity for businesses to meet with their customers every day, where they want to be met – think about the advantage it brings. Averagely every Facebook or Twitter user logs unto their account at the least twice a week – try imagining physically meeting with all your clients and potential clients at least twice each week at a fraction of the current cost. Now, think about the advantage your business has if your customers start seeing you as part of their own social family. Think carefully about it.

The whole idea about marketing is that it is meant to tell your customers what you have to offer, for how much, where, when and how. Currently, marketing by most African businesses broadly falls in two categories – carry out a marketing analysis and then put out an advert hoping that it will entice customers to buy your products and services OR you put out a promotion so that customers win prizes for buying products or services.

Today, we can safely call these methods traditional methods of marketing. Two of the biggest shortfalls of these methods of marketing are that (1) It’s a one way road – you offer something to the customer and the customer either buys it or leaves it. There is no opportunity for the customer to offer you anything, even if it is for free (2) these traditional methods of marketing fail to recognize the fact that customers change all the time, their desires change, their tastes change, they are always changing but the question is, does your marketing change at the same pace as your customers.

Interactive marketing as the name suggest is marketing alright – except that you give your customers and yourself an opportunity to relate and interact with each other, more frequently. And as a business, your greatest ally in achieving this is Social Media. Its interesting how this works – Social media, because it is now available on the internet, mobile phones, televisions etc gives you an opportunity to market yourself to customers and potential customers in a way that they can connect with you, discuss with you and feel a part of your company, your product and your services – now this is true marketing.

It is the kind of marketing that makes customers see your company and products and services as people that they can relate to. And the good thing about it is that you can reach them everywhere, not only through the traditional TV or radio or billboards. Today, you can reach them even when they are at work or on holiday.

An advantage of Social marketing is this – when your customers start feeling that they are being heard, if they feel they are a part of your organisation and more than just your customers, they may even start giving you innovative ideas, which if you listen and develop into a product or service, these same customers will turn around and buy. That’s how the term crowd-sourcing came about. It really is the ability of an organisation to interact with its customers in order to find new ideas.

Crowd sourcing comes in different forms – I have seen companies that have idea submission sites where their customers submit ideas on what the new products should be and some of those ideas have become successful products that the customers are proud to buy – why? Because it was their idea in the first place and they are proud of it. Other crowd-sourcing approaches have involved customers submitting ideas and other customers voting on what the best idea is.

The good thing about all of this is that you don’t have to physically meet your customers in order to market to them effectively or strengthen their loyalty. I am not saying your company necessarily has to be on Twitter or Facebook or Linked in or any other social network. No. That’s a choice for you to make – But at least I can tell you that a lot of organisations I know are benefitting from it.

The former CEO of Xerox Anne Mulcahy once said that in today’s business world you either partner with someone or you perish without anyone – and she is right! How do I know? Because I am married, and sometimes I still can’t figure out if the marriage is a takeover, a merger or an acquisition – but I am excited there is a working partnership. Almost every business in Africa wants to grow. The shareholders, the directors, the employees all want the organisation to grow. They may all have different reasons for wanting such a growth but the bottom line is they all want the growth.
Every business grows by either increasing its share in the existing market or finding its way into new markets. There are many ways of achieving these but traditionally, there are only two ways. 1) by building the growth. This is the hard method where everybody in the company has to work very very hard to grow the company internally. No 2) is to buy the growth – through a merger or an acquisition. Even though Mergers and Acquisitions appear to be the easiest option – there is a hard truth, two hard truths in fact.

he first hard truth is that when you acquire or merge with another company, you don’t only take on its good side; you also take on the cancer infected parts too. The second hard truth is that mergers and acquisitions take very long, they are exhausting, and the integration process can go well or wrong but the biggest truths of all is that over the years, it has become overwhelmingly accepted that mergers and acquisitions generally don’t work.

Now, lets welcome “Strategic Alliance”. Others choose to call it “Strategic Partnership”. Whichever way you choose to call it, it is the route which allows you to enjoy all the benefits of a merger or an acquisition without the related troubles and failures. As businesses, you need to realise that you don’t have what it takes to satisfy every single need of your customers. It is impossible.

A Strategic Alliance is a very simple agreement between two parties to pool resources together to achieve a specific goal. I remember some years back whilst in a firm called Pannell Kerr Forster, we engaged in a strategic Partnership with Deloitte and Touche (also another firm) to carry out a job for the National Bank – my firm presented me as a specialist in Internal and Accounting Controls whilst Deloitte presented a specialist in Banking Operations. Now this is a strategic alliance between two complimentary firms – but it gets wider than that.

It is possible too for an organisation to have strategic alliances with customers, or with its suppliers, or even with its competitors or with Academic and research institutions and last but not the least, with government. The beauty about strategic alliance is this – you don’t have to get involved with the other party’s entire organisation – just the part that is of interest to you. Japan’s mobile internet market is dominated by an alliance between a company called NTT and another called DoCoMo and together they own 50% of Japan’s mobile internet market. So for example in a marketing alliance two parties can come together and share each others customer database with the result that both can sell to each other’s customer – the benefit is that the number of customers you can both reach now increases and you didn’t have to work hard to win those customers.

Monday, May 21, 2012



May 21 2012

Ten years ago, when the treaty creating the International Criminal Court took effect, the prospect of holding heads of state and powerful warlords to account for mass slaughter seemed like science fiction.

Today the signs carried by Syrian protesters demanding “Assad to The Hague” are powerful testimony that the court is making its presence felt.

But as the I.C.C.’s influence grows, its promise of impartial justice for the world’s worst crimes is at risk of being undercut by international politics.

The I.C.C. has committed its share of missteps. Some are performance problems of its own making. At the same time, it runs the toxic risk of appearing to be used to advance the political objectives of powerful states.

For a court with a mandate to investigate and prosecute genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, the political stakes are inherently high. Its current suspects include two heads of state, a former vice president, a defense minister, a state governor and rebel commanders. The court is also authorized to charge suspects during ongoing armed conflicts, a power that some argue can make it an obstacle to peace.

But the United Nations Security Council’s authority to empower the I.C.C. to look into atrocities in countries that have not become members has significantly increased the risk of political taint, because judicial legitimacy depends on independence from government interference.

The council’s role, which helps to extend the court’s writ to mass crime scenes where it would otherwise be barred, is granted by the I.C.C.’s statute. Nonetheless, the court’s problems are compounded by the dominance of the council’s five permanent members. Three of these — the United States, Russia and China — have not joined the court. Through their nonratification and veto power, they have insulated themselves from the I.C.C.

They have also shielded the leaders of certain “client states.” While the Security Council has referred Sudan for the situation in Darfur to the I.C.C., Syria embodies this “above the law” status. President Bashar al-Assad is effectively immune from I.C.C. prosecution on account of Russia’s protection.

The list of Security Council-guaranteed “accountability-free zones” extends further. It includes Sri Lanka, Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

The use of this shielding power affects the global terrain on which the I.C.C. works, scarring it with an ugly unevenness where the same law does not apply to all. Some leaders literally get away with systematic murder, and this undercuts the court’s credibility.

Strong supporters of accountability, in righteous rejection of the obvious double standard, vent their frustration at the court.

Leaders of repressive governments, at the instigation of states like Sudan, cynically denounce political bias when what they really fear is the growing reach of the rule of law. These countries often talk about the importance of national trials, but most often they don’t prosecute at all. When they do, it is frequently in a seriously flawed court.

The political unevenness is also exacerbated by some powerful states that sometimes champion justice, initiate Security Council referrals, then drop the court like a hot rock when the political circumstances change.

In looking over this flawed terrain, committed proponents of justice need to draw attention to the double standard, along with shortcomings at the court, and work to correct them.

At the same time, neither justice nor victim is served by making the perfect the enemy of the good. Denying justice to those who have suffered unspeakable crimes in Darfur would provide no comfort to victims in Gaza who are denied access to the I.C.C.
Some short-term steps could minimize the offensive double standard.

First, the 121 countries that have ratified the I.C.C. treaty — nearly two-thirds of the U.N. General Assembly — need to put pressure on others to join the club. Further moves toward universality might shame more of the diminishing circle of holdouts into joining. Additional ratifications would also mean less impunity all around.

Second, countries that care deeply about justice should press the Security Council to end the hypocrisy and to make I.C.C. referrals based on the severity of crimes — and not on the allegiances of the perpetrators. This would raise the political cost of a veto at the Security Council.
Third, countries need to use their domestic laws to prosecute those on their territory who may be responsible for serious crimes committed elsewhere.

Unprecedented headway has been made in limiting the impunity long associated with the most serious international crimes.

But the changes at stake are nothing less than tectonic. Evening out the playing field for accountability won’t be easy, but bringing credible justice to the world depends on it.
Richard Dicker is the director of Human Rights Watch’s International Justice Program.

Sunday, May 20, 2012



By Prof. Anyang' Nyong'o
Minister for Medical Services
Government of Kenya
May 20 2012

Over the last two weeks, the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) has dominated the news headlines. Along with it has been the parent Ministry of Medical Services which I head.

At the center of this controversy has been the insurance cover for civil servants, the disciplined forces and the police which the Ministry of Public Service contracted the Fund to implement from the beginning of this year. It has been alleged that this scheme has been mismanaged and possibilities of fraud may exist.

Some time last year, the Cabinet approved a program whereby this insurance cover was to be implemented by private sector insurance firms. When the Ministry of Public Service floated the tender, however, the private insurance firms declined to offer services, stating that the amount of money offered for a cover of a family of four was too low for them.

The government's offer was 2850 shillings while private sector players wanted between 6000 to 15000 shillings. The government was therefore left with NHIF as the only other alternative. Discussions then ensued between the Ministry of Public Service and the Fund on how best this scheme could be rolled out. These discussions started in December last year.

About Christmas time last year, the Ministry of Public Service informed the Fund that the scheme had to begin by the first of January since time was of the essence. Doing all it's best the Fund complied. The scheme was hence implemented under great hurry, and it was bound to run into administrative and managerial problems just like the cost-sharing scheme, initiated in our health facilities in 1989, went through such teething problems of implementation until 1991.

In the contract between the Ministry of Public Service and the Fund, it was agreed that the Fund would contract health care service providers to provide out-patient treatment to the government personnel at the rate of 2850 shillings as mentioned above. This would be done on a capitation basis.

The word "capitation" has led to a lot of misunderstanding in the media and among the public in general. It is actually very simple. It simply means that a health provision firm, like Meridian, is given money ahead of time for a fixed period of time to provide out-patient care for a fixed number of the NHIF clients, i.e. the civil servants. Most people undercover their medical expenses with insurance firms in this way.

For example, when you go to buy milk in a super market, you pay for the milk first before you drink it. When you go to buy shoes at a Bata shop, you pay for the shoes first before you wear them. When you travel to London, you pay for the ticket first before you arrive in London a day or so later.

There are, however, a few exceptions: when you eat in a restaurant, you get the service first and then you pay for it; when you go for a hair cut in a saloon, a similar experience occurs. God, likewise, is very generous: he gives you life and then you answer for your deeds on earth after you have enjoyed the life.

But health insurance, like many other insurance arrangements, is very interesting. If you pay 2850 shillings to cover your family for a year and your family does not fall sick during that year, do you claim your money back? Of course you don't! The insurance company simply asks you to pay again the next year if you want to continue to be covered.

There is a risk therefore that both parties to this insurance contract take. The company runs the risk of paying more money than the amount you paid should you fall sick and be covered for more than the premium you paid. You also run the risk of not getting any service if you don't fall sick.

The controversy at the center of this particular civil servants insurance scheme is because an impression has been created that the service providers were supposed to be reimbursed on a case by case basis. Not at all. The contract did not say that. We need therefore to ask ourselves whether NHIF has implemented the contract as was envisaged.

Another misunderstanding is that the service providers were supposed to offer services to civil servants at all their facilities, whether already existing or still under construction. This is also not the case. The civil servants were supposed to choose where they preferred to be treated. The service providers were to give NHIF a list of all their licensed facilities where services were available. Was this really done and are the beneficiaries happy with the arrangement?

Again a lot of misunderstanding arose from the very beginning regarding whether civil servants could or could not change the out-patient facilities from time to time in accordance with their convenience. Both the Fund and the service providers sought to clarify this to the clients and this information has been availed to the media so that the public can be enlightened from facts rather than from fiction.

What needs to be made quite clear is that each service provider was to be given a lump sum of money to cover a lump number of clients agreed ahead of time between the Fund and the service providers.

Any over payment by the NHIF or any false claims by the service providers would, of course, constitute offense. These are the issues that the Caretaker Board will have to look into and clarify to Kenyans.

As the minister in charge of policy guidelines to all state corporations under me, I have sought during the short period of implementing the scheme to ensure that it succeeds since our goal is to give all Kenyans comprehensive social health cover. The Fund has sought to address these issues of implementation as they arose.

Both my Permanent Secretary and the Director of Medical Services sit on the Board of the NHIF, and both have been diligent in attending Board meetings. Since the DMS is the Registrar of the Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board which licenses health practitioners and facilities, I believe he has done his best to guide the Board in terms of quality assurance among the service providers for this scheme.

I have been extremely disturbed by allegations that I influenced the choice of service providers. This could not have happened since I was not at the Ministry at that time. In any case, procurement procedures in government are now very clear and there are competent government institutions that should oversee these procedures in every ministry.

Let it be noted that at the time the Ministry of Public Service brought in the NHIF to implement this scheme, I was away in the US for my health review. By the time I came back on 6th of January, 2012, the scheme had already been rolled out. My colleague Hon. Dalmas Otieno, Minister for Public Service was then acting as Minister for Medical Services and did a good job running both dockets at that time. I supported his initiative and took over where he left on my return.

In William Shakespeare's play "Julius Caesar", the ordinary citizens of Rome got very angry when their ruler, Julius Caesar, was assassinated by some conspirators. They therefore organized to move around in town looking for the assassins so as to deal with them. When they met a man called Cina, they asked him whether he had any notion who the assassins were. He denied but the mob insisted that he had to be in the know otherwise he had no reason to be walking about in town at that hour of the night. On protesting that he was only a poet he could not be associated with assassins, the mob decided to lynch him for his bad verses anyway.

in like manner, I have seen sections of the press calling for my resignation because I must have aided and abetted wrong doings at the Fund over this scheme whatever the facts show. Some have even gone as far as saying that time has come "to deal with me anyway" due to other positions I hold in public life. I would not like to face the fate of Cina the poet; it is neither just nor fair.

Finally I would like to appeal to Kenyans to understand that this civil servants scheme is different from the normal health insurance cover that NHIF has been giving since 1966 for in-patient care for all contributors. That scheme continues separately from this particular one. Its membership, according to the current Economic Survey, has increased tremendously over the last two years. Meaning that Kenyans are becoming more aware of its advantages. Makurueini Constituency leads all constituencies in the number of residents rolled as contributors to the NHIF.

Over the last three years, we have been working on giving contributors both in- patient and out- patient health cover. This requires increasing the rates which were last revised 20 years ago. As soon as we can end the controversy over these revisions, the rest of Kenyans will get the kind of cover the civil servants are now getting.

Members of Parliament know how urgently we need a universal health care coverage in this country. We have carried out A Strategic Management Audit by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and Delloitte which has shown that NHIF can role out such a service while undertaking certain management reforms to-day.

The feed back that we get is that civil servants are very happy with this scheme. They would like all problems sorted out so that Kenyans can all move together towards universal health coverage. END

Thursday, May 10, 2012



By Jerry Okungu
Nairobi, Kenya
May 9, 2012

It has been one hell of a week; a week of high stakes and drama. All manner of hecklers and publicity seekers have been on the prowl craving for attention. They have used all manner of antics and theatrics to get noticed. Some of them with dubious character and background have certainly found an avenue to claim prime time spots on our local media, not because they had anything constructive to tell us but rather they managed to malign and vilify their opponents in the loudest voice they could master.

Take the case of the Mudavadi – Raila brick bats that started at the weekend; what was that all about? How come people who until a few weeks ago were the best of buddies could be so vicious all of a sudden? Much as the worst of the invectives did not come from the principal protagonists, their spokesmen and strategists played into one another’s hands and came out with eggs on their faces in equal measure. In the end they equally portrayed their principals in bad light.

Can we see better manners, more civilized and constructive exchanges in the near future among all presidential aspirants and their handlers? I guess so but I cannot promise you anything. This is Kenya where the politics of ideas and ideologies are in short supply. Our short-cut to fame and vote harvesting has never been on the platform of ideas or party manifestos because we have only one manifesto for all our forty plus political parties. They all want to fight corruption, build schools, roads, bridges, hospitals, houses, create jobs, upgrade slums and care for children and widows and of course grow the economy!

In this kind of scenario, it is easier to go for the jugular and mudsling your opponent as much as you can until the public cannot recognize the original human being.

However, there is a danger in exposing the skeletons in our neighbor’s closet. Chances are the law of velocity will most likely apply. And as they say, for every action, there is likely to be an equal and opposite reaction.
This principle in political terms is supported by the adage that says that those who live in glass houses should be weary of throwing stones at people who pass because a barrage of stones is likely to shatter their walls.

Kenya in the last 20 years has seen a litany of mega scandals most which have yet to be resolved. If you look at the Golden Berg, Anglo Leasing, Triton, Maize, Water, De La Rue, Grand Regency, Japan Embassy, Mau Forest, the recent National Housing Corporation, KPA appointments, Mavoko Cemetery, Free Primary Education Fund, KAA land scandal, the perennial NSSF litany of scandals, not to mention the NHIF saga; you can be sure that 98% of political leadership and top civil servants have been caught in crossfire or entangled in the web one way or another.

It is therefore more sensible to concentrate on what one’s presidency will do to the people of Kenya once elected rather than competing to vilify one another. This should be the modus operandi; the doctrine of restraint that should guide presidential candidates, their spokesmen and think tanks.

A good strategist should strive to floor his opponents on a platform of ideas, logical presentation and charisma while at the same time working hard to woo his opponent’s relatives, friends and family members. However, if you abuse and embarrass your opponent, chances are; you will alienate his relatives, friends and even clan and tribe. In such a situation you have lost substantial votes and reaped resentment.

The NHIF drama was even more disgusting this week to say the least. It had all the makings of high stakes political intrigue, backstabbing, bribery and brinkmanship. It also for the umpteenth time displayed to us the uglier side of a dysfunctional government where law, order, procedure and decency have been thrown through the window.

For how else can you explain the behavior of a chairman of a government corporation walking into the boardroom and single handedly announces to board members that he has sacked the CEO of the organization in disregard of the laid down procedure and protocols?

When you see a chairman of a public corporation and his deputy fighting over chairs and TV cameras in front of journalists, you have proof that both of them are not fit to be leaders.

When you see a junior minister calling a press conference to malign his boss in the boss’s absence, you know that all is lost. It is the lowest one can fall.
When you see a head of the civil service unprocedurally sacking the entire board and CEO of a government corporation, you know the law of the jungle has set in.

Any decent and functioning government all over the world must have the laid down procedures of hiring and firing civil servants and more importantly of investigating economic crimes, theft by servant and graft. It cannot be everybody’s job.

More so public servants should never be fired through the press. They deserve to have it in writing why you are firing them. Bosses are not gods to do as they wish with their employees. The people we love to sack have families and friends who care for them no matter how much we hate them or relish unleashing excessive powers on them.

Let us manage our politics and affairs of our nation like civilized and responsible men and women of this country.