NOUVELLES DU KENYA 1999 (en anglais)
Kenyan police have used tear gas, baton charges and water cannon against hundreds of students who were planting trees in one of the country's few remaining virgin forests.
The BBC's Cathy Jenkins: "Police
fired teargas and set about the protestors with batons"
The students had planned to plant 15,000 trees at Karura, on the outskirts of Nairobi, in protest against an officially-sanctioned housing development in the forest.
A throng of protesters, estimated to number up to 2,000, comandeered tractors and even hi-jacked buses to get to the forest.
Some of them armed themselves with stones, arguing they had no choice but to force themselves into the forest, because the government and the police were not open to dialogue.
Cathy Jenkins in Nairobi: "Some students
were beaten and injured."
When a tractor laden with students and stones stormed its way through an outer gate erected by the developers, anti-riot police were waiting.
At least 30 students were severely beaten, according to some reports.
"We were going to Karura forest to plant trees, then the police came and started tear-gassing us and injured some of us very badly," one university student was quoted as saying.
"Their action was very brutal."
Later, the student unrest spread to the city centre, where roads surrounding student accommodation blocks were closed off for several hours.
Cathy Jenkins in Nairobi: "Some students
were beaten and injured."
The BBC Nairobi Correspondent, Cathy Jenkins, says the destruction of trees has caused anger among conservationists.
There is also an outcry over what is seen as corrupt allocation of forest land to supporters of the ruling Kenya African National Union (Kanu) party.
The trees which the students intended to plant had been donated by the Green Belt Movement, an environmental group headed by Wangari Maathai who was severely beaten by police during a similar protest earlier this month.
Ms Maathai has vowed to carry on planting trees as a protest against what she sees as corrupt development.
Last year a senior United Nations official in Kenya said he was extremely concerned about the destruction of the Karura forest, which is near the UN complex in Nairobi.
Kenyan police have clashed with hundreds of students for a third day over proposals for construction on forest land on the outskirts of the capital, Nairobi.
Martin Dawes in Nairobi: "A familiar
display of police ineptness and student violence"
More than 1,000 students boycotted exams and took to the streets, blocking traffic and disrupting businesses.
Neither side was in any mood to compromise
Police used teargas and fired live rounds before charging at hundreds of stone-throwing students who had barricaded the Thika road, a main transport artery leading to the city centre.
The BBC's Nairobi correspondent, Martin Dawes, says the violence was an all too familiar display of police ineptness and student violence, which often means looting and robbery for ordinary Kenyans unlucky enough to come across them.
Journalists from the Reuters news agency saw officers from the feared General Service Unit try in vain to stop their men from brutally beating one student with thick clubs and rifle butts. The student was eventually led away bleeding from a head wound.
A car belonging to the UN was set
The protesters were demanding the release of an unknown number of colleagues arrested after clashes at Karura forest at the weekend.
Witnesses said students overturned and torched a car belonging to the United Nations, which has the headquarters of its environmental protection arm nearby.
Karura, one of Kenya's last remaining virgin forest tracts is an ancient canopied area of woodland. Parts of it have been earmarked for a luxurious housing complex.
Our correspondent says public land in Kenya is frequently allocated for development in a mysterious process that often seems to benefit a clique of well-connected and wealthy individuals.
Schools have had playing-fields taken away; pasture land is suddenly fenced; and, in the case of Karura, virgin forest close to the international headquarters of the UN's Environment Programme has seen widespread felling.
The recent demonstrations are the first time students have joined the fledgling environmental movement in protest against the proposed development.
The Greens say land has been allocated to government supporters with political connections.
KENYA'S refugee camps have turned
into a battle ground where rival Somali and Sudanese ethnic groups fight
over anything from politics to rights of grazing land.
About eleven refugees have been killed in Kakuma and Dadaab camps this year alone.
The latest incident occurred last week when five Sudanese were murdered and more than 200 others seriously wounded in fighting between Dinka and Didinga at Kakuma camp in northwestern Kenya, on the border with Sudan.
The clashes have displaced more than 5,000 people from the two communities.
Unconfirmed reports say the fighting erupted after the killing of a rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) commander, Deng Akwang, a Dinka, in an ambush at Chukudum in Sudan, about 12 kilometres from the Kenya border.
The attack was allegedly carried out by 'bandits' from the Didinga community. More than 300 houses belonging to the Dinkas have also been torched during the fighting, according to Z. Azam, who is in charge of the Kakuma camp.
Kakuma hosts 70,000 refugees from Sudan, Ethiopia and Uganda.
The fighting at Kakuma came only two weeks after six Somalis were killed at Dadaab Refugee Camp Complex in northeastern Kenya, on the border with Somalia, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Nairobi.
The bodies of the six Somalis, four men and two boys aged 15 and 17, were found, on Jan 21, tied to trees, about three kilometres from Dadaab's Hagadera camp, all murdered with gunshot wounds to the chest.
The killings triggered off a series of violence last week, leaving 25 people with knife wounds and 91 thatched huts torched.
Two of the refugees, a man and a woman, who had serious machete stabs, were airlifted to Garissa town, about 50 kilometres from Dadaab, for medical treatment.
''The violence seems to be the result of inter-clan tension. There seems to be some quarrel over grazing rights,'' said UNHCR spokesman Peter Kessler.
Aid workers say the fighting at Dadaab pits the Sheikal against Auliyahaan, both of them sub-clans of the larger Darod clan.
Dadaab camp, consists of Ifo, Dagahaley and Hagadera. All the three camps cover a total area of 50 square kilometers, and are within a 18 kilometer radius of Dadaab town, with a combined total refugee population of some 110,000 people mainly from Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan and Uganda. Kenya shelters a total of 188,000 refugees.
Kenya was first hit by a massive influx of refugees from Somalia, Ethiopia and Sudan at the beginning of 1991.
As a result of the violence at Kakuma and Dadaab, UNHCR has reduced movements in the region, while refugee leaders and other local elders have been working with the police and aid agencies to restore security.
Moses Ndung'u, a top Kenyan administrator at Garissa, said the atrocities at Dadaab were committed by Somali 'bandits', who had crossed from Somalia. Dadaab camp is only 50 kilometers from the Somali border. Five people have been held by the police and are helping with investigations.
''Security still remains a major problem in the region,'' says a recent UNHCR report, which warns that ''bandits attacks on refugees within the vicinity of the three Dadaab camps have increased'' especially on women and girls and on UNHCR vehicles.
''Sexual violence against women and girls is a major concern for all of us working to assist Kenya's refugees,'' said Yvette Stevens, UNHCR Representative in Kenya, when donating four Toyota Land Cruiser vehicles, valued at 4.7 million Kenya shillings to help bolster security in the region, recently.
One US Dollar is equal to 60 Kenya shillings.
Stevens regretted that budget cuts in her organisation had forced them to cut back on planned thorn-bush fencing around the camps, leaving many refugees at risk.
UNHCR has provided 27 police vehicles to patrol camps to enhance security. The agency also has installed radio network for the police, linking Dadaab with Garissa and Liboi.
Garissa is the provincial headquarters of the strife-torn region while Liboi is the main town at the borders of Kenya and Somalia where most bandits are suspected to come from.
Le Kenya risque des pénuries alimentaires
Plusieurs régions du
Kenya sont toujours sèches et la survie des
populations comme du cheptel va y dépendre des longues pluies de
mars à juillet. Les foyers paysans ont épuisé les moyens auxquels ils
recourent traditionnellement pour survivre aux mauvaises récoltes successives.
"Les riverains des lacs n'auront pas assez pour se nourrir au cas où la
faiblesse des précipitations perdurerait pendant toute la saison des pluies, dans
la mesure ou la dernière récolte était déjà inférieure de 20 pour cent à la normale",
a mis en garde le dernier bulletin d'information
de février du "Famine Early Warning System" (FEWS - Système d'alerte
préventive de la famine). Sur la base d'une enquête menée en janvier
par le FEWS, le PAM et les autorités kenyanes, le bulletin prévoit que la
production alimentaire nationale de juillet 1998 à juin 1999 va
s'élever à 3,1 millions de tonnes, contre une consommation estimée à 2,9
millions de tonnes.
"Les choses se présentent mal. Entre 30 et 60 pour cent de la
population des provinces de l'Est, du Nord-Est, de Nyanza, de la Côte et dans
certaines régions de la province Centrale ont besoin d'aide
Nous faisons tout ce que nous pouvons en matière de distribution,
mais il faut que d'autres organisations s'y mettent aussi", a fait savoir ce
lundi à IRIN le Secrétaire permanent kenyan chargé des secours et de la
réhabilitation, Joshua Matui. La FAO évalue actuellement les besoins à
l'importation à 147 000 tonnes, et à 95 000 tonnes l'aide alimentaire
requise pour 1998/99.
Reports from northern Kenya say the death toll from fighting following a cattle-rustling raid in theTurkana district last week has now risen steeply.
A local bishop who's visited the area, Stephen Kewasis, told the BBC about one hundred people were now known to have died.
He said bodies were still being found in the bush.
Earlier the police put the death toll at thirty-six.
Mr Kewasis said many of the dead were women, children and the elderly but he said they also included fighters from both the Turkana and Pokot tribes.
Insecurity and economic problems have had a devastating impact on tourism in several African countries.
One of the worst affected is Kenya, where tourism is down by at least 60%.
Masai: A tribe in flux
This massive loss of foreign exchange has led to a financial crisis in the Kenya Wildlife Service, responsible for safeguarding game sanctuaries.
Beneath trees that spread their branches
above Amboseli game lodge, you can have a buffet dinner and watch wildebeest
skittishly approach the floodlit waterhole.
But it is best to keep your own eyes on the bread rolls because the lodge has a resident colony of vervet monkeys.
These rather beautiful creatures, from one to two feet high, are partial to the baking chef's output.
Vervets leap across the tables snatching what they can.
It was only when I got back to Nairobi and was talking casually to a baboon expert that alarm bells rang.
"Those monkeys are more than just an amusing pest," she said. "Some of them may be infected with monkey B virus, a sort of precursor to HIV. If they bite or scratch you, it's fatal. You'll be dead in a matter of weeks."
Water is desperately needed
That chilling vignette says a lot about Kenya today.
It would not take much to warn tourists to stay well away from the vervets - which despite their cuteness have a confrontational style.
But no one bothers, and these potentially lethal creatures have the run of the game lodge.
They are often the first to welcome - if that's the right word - tired tourist parties offloaded from cruise ships in Mombasa six hours drive away, for a quick safari within sight of Mount Kilimanjaro.
Masai land grabbed
In spring, the end of the dry season, Amboseli is at its most parched.
The game park gets its name from a Masai word meaning "dusty plains".
By all accounts, it was pretty dry when British explorers journeyed through here in the 19th century.
At that time the slave trade was
flourishing, although Arab slavers conducting their horrible business from
equatorial Sudan down to Zanzibar always skirted Amboseli because of the
warlike Masai tribes.
To become a warrior a Masai had to prove himself by killing a lion with a spear.
But the colonial British stopped that custom - more to safeguard the lions than the Masai.
And the British grabbed the choicest half of the Masai tribal lands, handing it over to white settlers.
Old and new
But these days the Masai are in flux, struggling to adjust to Kenya's money-driven imperatives.
The centuries of pastoralism, with
the Masai surviving on the milk and blood of their cattle, are drawing
to a close.
At least 30% of Masai children are going to school - unheard of even 20 years ago.
Their parents still wear little red togas and hang jewellery from their sculpted ears. But more of them are turning to crop farming because that is where there is money to be made.
Kenya's post-independence government, now stuck in a quagmire of corruption, has been no more altruistic to the Masai than the British.
It has failed to honour promises
of water supplies and a share of tourist revenue.
Their homes in Masai land are under threat
So the Masai are torn between demanding their rights and bowing to the inevitable, because in Kenya today a particularly harsh version of "every man for himself" has become the social norm.
Amboseli game park was their ancestral land until they were pressured into handing over 150 square miles in the mid-1970s.
Since then a soaring birth rate has
seen the Masai multiply.
They have started building electrified fences around their remaining land to protect themselves from elephants and predators.
But that has put further pressure on the wildlife because there are fewer waterholes, and the old migration routes of species like the elephants have been blocked.
At some stage, hard decisions are going to have to be made by Kenya's wildlife directors about the burgeoning elephant population.
There are 1,000 elephants crowded
into Amboseli - partly the result of an elephant baby boom.
That was put down to the plentiful rains delivered a year ago by the El Nino weather phenomenon.
Overall, the dilemma is a familiar one - the crunch between human aspirations and wildlife in a place where there is not enough land and water. There is no simple solution.
Tourism dries up
Perhaps those of us from European countries should remember we killed off all our own dangerous wild animals centuries ago.
If wildlife disappears, so will tourists
While the Masai suffer hard times and the economic outlook is grim, tourism has collapsed because of Kenya's reputation for violence and political tension.
That means there is no revenue to finance Amboseli and the other 27 game parks.
In the short-term, the long rains are overdue and what is sorely needed is for Nature to be bountiful.
If she obliges, water would fall in the vast dusty zone that surrounds the game park - and that would relieve the elephant congestion. Maybe tourists will start trickling back, too.
To banish depression, I climbed Observation
Hill at 6.30 in the morning.
The snow glints on Kilimanjaro's summit 20 miles away, dominating a vista that inspired Hemingway to write the Green Hills of Africa.
Despite mankind's worst efforts, Amboseli retains its magic.
Kenya is to step up security measures on its borders to stop instability in neighbouring countries spilling onto its territory.
Announcing the move at the opening of parliament, President Daniel arap Moi said the government had taken steps to increase the budget resources available; security personnel had also been instructed to track down criminals and bring them to justice and it was the duty of citizens to report those acting suspiciously.
President Moi did not identify any particular country as a source of instability in Kenya, but correspondents say the government has in the past blamed increased violent crime on the easy availability of firearms smuggled in from conflicts in Somalia, Uganda and the Great Lakes region. On other issues, Mr Moi conceded that economic reforms had led to a short-term worsening in poverty and unemployment and urged parliament to take action to cushion farmers against the worst effects of change.
Kenya Seeks To Eradicate Poverty
Kenya Seeks To Eradicate Poverty
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) _ Margaret Kariri is one of the estimated
13.2 million Kenyans who survive on less than a half dollar a day.
The 30-year-old woman, whose grubby 2-year-old daughter, Naomi,
begs in front of Nairobi's shining new mosque, has not heard of the
latest government plan to eradicate poverty.
``No, I don't know about it,'' Kariri said. ``But anyway, such a
plan does not concern us. What concerns us is food.''
Since independence in 1963, the eradication of poverty has
figured as a goal in every government five-year development plan.
But the number of poor people in Kenya keeps growing. Today,
just under half Kenya's 29 million people live below a poverty line
set at 30 Kenyan shillings a day, or about 50 cents.
At independence, the country's gross domestic product averaged
$101 a person, the Central Bank of Kenya says. Economic output rose
steadily until 1980, when per capita GDP peaked at $426. Since
then, during the reign of President Daniel arap Moi, per capita GDP
has fallen to $280 as roads, factories and other infrastructure
have been allowed to decay.
``If they wanted to end poverty, they would have done it a long
time ago,'' said Catherine Njeri, a 37-year-old mother of five who
sat on the sidewalk next to Kariri. ``If they give us jobs, they
wouldn't see us here.''
Njeri's 3-year-old daughter, Milka, and Naomi eyed approaching
pedestrians, stuck out their hands and cried, ``Shilling,
Frustrated by the failure to implement previous plans meant to
tackle the poverty that forces people off their tiny plots of land
and into inhospitable cities, Kenyans have serious doubts whether
the ambitious 16-year plan unveiled in March by Moi will ever
``Kenyans are only too aware that their government is better at
coming up with wonderful documents and absolutely awful at
implementing them,'' the independent newspaper Daily Nation said in
Moi presented the plan just before a United Nations regional
meeting in Nairobi called to discuss progress toward achieving the
goals set at the 1995 World Summit for Social Development. One was
the eradication of poverty.
As always, the effectiveness of the government's anti-poverty
plan is tied to outside aid.
``If donor partners agree to assist the National Poverty
Eradication Plan and its implementation and to make 20 percent of
the aid flow available for basic social services delivery, this
would generate a further $40 million of resources per annum,'' the
99-page document said.
``Documents cannot eradicate poverty,'' opposition legislator
Mukhisa Kituyi said of Moi's plan. ``We cannot eradicate poverty,
but we have the capacity to stop its progress.''
A World Bank official, Christine Cornelius, said poverty levels
in Kenya will continue to rise as long as money does not go where
it will do the most good _ into social services for Kenyan
Kenyans are painfully aware corruption contributes to their
Most Kenyans have little faith in Moi's vows to fight
corruption. Since 1991, the International Monetary Fund has been
pushing Kenya to deal with the graft that permeates all levels of
In August 1997 the IMF suspended a $220 million loan to pressure
the government to become more efficient, but nothing was done, and
the loan has not been reinstated.
Sweden, however, after cutting development aid in half because
of Kenya's endemic corruption, is now looking to increase it,
particularly for projects aimed at fighting poverty, Swedish
diplomat Kaj Persson said.
But Danish Ambassador Klaus Dahlgaard fears Moi's new plan will
end up ``shelved alongside the muck of corruption.''
For Nairobi businessman Peter Wamai, the answer is simple: ``If
they are serious in eradicating poverty, they should start by
returning the money that has been stolen.''
Kenya's Sugar Industry Struggling
BUNGOMA, Kenya (AP) _ In the rolling hills of western Kenya,
sugar cane grows almost like a weed _ and is nearly as worthless.
Corruption, mismanagement and competition from cheap foreign
sugar have battered Kenya's once vibrant sugar industry and left
many of the country's cane farmers struggling for survival.
Eluid Wabubwa Nyaranga's 5-acre plot in Bungoma, was once green
with fresh cane, a crop that earned him a healthy $4,500 a year.
But he ripped up the fields after the Nzoia sugar refinery refused
to pay the $1,500 it owed him for a shipment of cane in 1995, he
Nyaranga now toils as a subsistence farmer, struggling to feed
his 15 children and two wives on the potato and maize he now grows.
``It is very difficult. I am just surviving,'' he said.
The government, which owns Kenya's sugar refineries, is trying
to rescue an industry that an estimated 1.5 million Kenyans rely on
for their livelihoods.
It has put high tariffs on imported sugar, pledged to privatize
some of the better-run refineries and brought in foreign firms to
run mills that were run into the ground by unqualified government
cronies who had been installed as managers.
``We can see some light at the end of the tunnel,'' said Francis
Chahonyo, managing director of the Kenya Sugar Authority, which
regulates the industry.
Some analysts are more pessimistic about saving an industry that
produced enough sugar to feed all of Kenya 20 years ago, but now
barely meets half local demand, which was estimated at 716,455 tons
``It will take us time to overcome the culture of corruption, to
overcome the culture of inefficiency,'' said Dan Ojijo, director of
the Resource Management and Policy Analysis Institute.
The government's revival program hit an early snag when the
Pakistani managers hired to clean up one sugar mill were chased off
by workers and farmers wary of outsiders.
An American firm, F.G. Schaefer International of Baton Rouge,
La., had more success in trying to clean up the rusty remnants of
the Nzoia refinery.
When the new managers came in December, they found a factory
nearly falling apart from neglect. They found poorly paid workers
demanding bribes to harvest cane. They found a company $160 million
in debt, some of it owed to impoverished farmers and suppliers.
``We've had a very unfortunate history,'' said Peter Du Boulay,
Nzoia's new general manager. ``The whole scenario is one of poor
management, because the potential is here.''
Simply by demanding that freshly cut cane be brought to the
factory before it dries out and loses its sugar content, Du Boulay
has made Nzoia almost 25 percent more efficient.
He said there are plans to pay off some of its debts to farmers
and suppliers and hopes to raise wages so factory workers will be
less susceptible to bribes.
``Unless you're fair and equitable, you'll never get this place
running right,'' he said.
No matter how well-run it becomes, Nzoia and the 26,000 peasant
farmers who supply it with cane may never be able to compete with
the efficiency of foreign producers like Brazil, where sugar is
grown on huge, fully mechanized plantations.
``It would be very difficult for Kenya to switch to that system,
because you would create massive unemployment, throwing these
people off their farms, and obviously the government would be
courting widescale unrest,'' said Arthur Stevenson, a sugar analyst
with Prudential Securities in New York.
The government has repeatedly raised tariffs in an effort to
keep the cheap foreign sugar out, but industry analysts estimate
nearly half the sugar imported into Kenya evades taxes.
Chahonyo insists all imported sugar is currently being taxed and
denies the existence of corruption in the industry.
But in Bungoma, about 20 miles from the border with Uganda,
farmers talk of having to bribe Nzoia workers to cut their cane.
Even with the bribes, the cane was often left unharvested for
years after it had ripened, losing much of its sugar content and
taking up space that farmers could have used to plant other
harvests, Nyaranga said as he walked from his family's two small
mud huts to his meager field.
But Nyaranga believes Nzoia's new managers will change that, pay
off its debt to him and operate honestly.
So he is optimistic about his latest crop: a green field of
Kenyan riot police have fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of people protesting outside parliament in the capital, Nairobi.
Louise Tunbridge: "Journalists saw
a number of protestors beaten mercilessly"
The demonstration took place as politicians met to discuss the budget.
The violence erupted when mounted
police tried to move protesters who were sitting on a road singing hymns.
Other security forces then charged the crowd with sticks and truncheons.
The protest began with hymn singing and ended in violence
Correspondents say many of the protesters were brutally beaten, including the presbyterian minister, Timothy Njoya.
Reports say the demonstrators then began hurling stones at police, who responded by firing water-cannon and tear gas from armoured vehicles.
Correspondents say the protesters began to run away when tear gas was fired and sought refuge in the nearby Roman Catholic cathedral.
The protest was organised by church
leaders angered by the slow pace of constitutional reform.
Inside the National Assembly, opposition members of parliament interrupted the budget speech to complain about the police action and several marched out to join the protesters.
MORE than 35 000 farmers in Kenya have threatened to boycott growing tea if the government of President Daniel arap Moi refuses to include their input in new legislation being discussed in parliament.
They say the new policy document, dubbed the Tea Amendment Bill, should be withdrawn from parliament until farmers have made their contribution.
Speaking to journalists in the capital Nairobi this week, the Kenya Union of Small-Scale Tea Owners (Kussto) said farmers have no right, under the Bill, and can be sentenced up to 10 years for uprooting their tea.
The Bill also stipulates that if a tea plantation is deemed of low quality by authorities, the farmer may be given 72 hours to uproot the trees, or risk prosecution.
"The legislation is too colonial. How can it be passed as law in a country as independent as ours?" asks Maina Njuguna, a Kussto official.
The farmers have demanded that the
state-run Kenya Tea Development Authority, which regulates tea production,
processing and sale, be disbanded for "undermining and underpaying" farmers.
In a statement, signed by the union's 25 officials, the farmers claim that the KTDA has "taken advantage of our ignorance to manipulate and underpay us".
"The tea farmer doesn't know who sells his or her tea, how much it is sold for, or where the money goes. The farmer accepts any percentages given him or her by KTDA," claims Kussto chairman Kariuki Mwaganu.
Tea growing was a lucrative occupation in the 1980s, until the decline in world market prices which prompted the government to enact legislation to prevent uprooting plantations when prices go down.
Despite the low prices, tea remains Kenya's major cash crop, accounting for more than US$500-million, comparable only to coffee, which raked in $182-million in 1998.
Last year alone, Kenya produced some 294-million kilograms of tea leaves.
Small-scale farmers, who produce 67% of Kenya's quality tea, used by big companies to blend their tea, complain that they see little benefit from growing the crop.
Farmers earn a paltry six shillings
(US$1=73s), compared with the current 106,8-shillings per kilogram in the
international market. As a result, they are demanding 12 shillings per
The farmers are also demanding total payment of their proceeds every six months, and not in "percentages" as is the case now. "Last year tea growers were paid only 25 % of what they sold," says Katingina. "In 1999 May, they were paid 30%."
Failure to meet these demands will, they warn, result in a countrywide farmers' boycott starting July 2.
The problems have further been compounded by the excessive taxation and levies, high input costs, lack of production credit, low returns, poor roads and lack of vehicles to transport the tea leaves to the factory.
Mwaganu says: "Farmers are sometimes
forced to wait by the roadsides overnight or even for days for factory
vans to pick up the leaves for processing, and by the time the leaves reach
the factories, they have already lost their quality."
Patrick Katingima, a member of a farmers' co-operative union in Machakos, eastern Kenya, agrees. "Farmers face severe transport problems. Sometimes they use ox-carts or wheelbarrows to transport the leaves to the factory."
Tea growers are not the only farmers complaining about government's agricultural policy.
Only a month ago, some 3 000 rice farmers abandoned their farms and refused to deliver paddy to the National Irrigation Board, protesting unfair prices. The boycott has caused a rice shortage countrywide.
The production of maize, the country's staple food, too, has gone down from 33-million bags to 30-million bags per annum, as more farmers abandon the cereal for more lucrative cash crops like coffee.
Maize farmers complain they are being
forced to sell their produce locally instead of selling it outside the
country where, prices are more competitive.
Kenya's agriculture minister, Musalia Mudavadi, has admitted the need for a review of the current agricultural policy, which, he says, has lost relevance with liberalisation of markets.
"The government needs to waive duty on fertilisers and farm inputs to make them affordable to farmers, and improve production," he says.
The Kenyan government says it is likely that Ethiopian rebels from the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) took part in a massacre in the north-east of the country last year.
The minister for internal security, Marsden Madoka, said the OLF may have fought alongside Borana tribesmen during an attack by armed raiders on ethnic Somali cattle owners.
His comments came as the Kenyan government published its findings into the so-called Bagalla massacre last October.
He said 124 people died and about 8,000 cattle were slaughtered when ethnic clashes broke out in the remote region between Wajir and Moyale.
Survivors blame Oromos
Bodies of the victims had been found in 46 graves, he said.
The fighting was sparked when Degodia tribesmen allowed their cattle to graze on Borana land without asking permission.
Survivors of the attack blamed Kenyans and Oromos from neighbouring Ethiopia.
However, at the time the government denied that OLF rebels were operating inside Kenya.
Major Madoka said the OLF issue needed to be addressed as it had the potential to disrupt peace in the region.
He said the Borana had been harbouring
OLF fighters and that guns were flowing into north-eastern Kenya from Ethiopia,
Somalia and Sudan.
Louise Tunbridge in Nairobi, says that, since the massacre, the border region has been a virtual battle zone with Ethiopian troops crossing into Kenya in pursuit of the rebels.
The tribunal set up to investigate ethnic violence in Kenya has closed - amid doubts that it will bring the perpetrators to justice.
Louise Tunbridge talks to the victims who await justice
The Akiwumi Commission of Inquiry, which began collecting evidence a year ago, is expected to publish its report within days.
But victims of the violence say the commission neglected evidence which implicated members of the government in inciting the killings.
Hundreds of people were killed, and tens of thousands of people displaced, particularly in Rift Valley Province in the early l990s.
Further clashes, on the eve of the elections in 1997, left more than 1,000 people dead and thousands homeless, and affected Kenya's tourism industry.
Video evidence 'ignored'
The commission heard evidence from 331 witnesses, but rejected the testimony of many more, saying the evidence it had already gathered was enough.
The chairman of the organisation representing the displaced people, Francis Gitari, told the BBC he believed crucial videotaped evidence had deliberately been left out.
"There are cases where senior cabinet ministers are implicated in inciting those who came and killed," he said.
Mr Gitari said he would go to the
International Court of Justice if necessary, to secure the victims' right
to be heard.
Representatives of those who suffered in the violence took the commission to a Kenyan court, attempting to force the commission to hear their evidence.
But the judge rejected their case,
ruling that the commission had not acted improperly in refusing to hear
the additional testimony.
A member of the victims' legal team accused the commission of rejecting "compelling evidence".
He described the commission as a "public relations exercise by the government" which would never establish the true causes of the violence.
The Akiwumi Commission has attracted criticism ever since its inception.
When President Daniel arap Moi created
the commission last year, his opponents charged that it came six years
too late - and was nothing more than an attempt by the government to fend
off independent investigations into alleged state involvement in the violence.
Last year it was reported that a parliamentary commission made up of MPs from the ruling Kenya African National Union (Kanu) had produced a report that implicated powerful politicians - but that this report was never made public.
Kenyan police have fired rubber bullets at demonstrators taking part in a transport strike in the capital, Nairobi.
According to KTN television, the protesters had blocked roads and stoned vehicles and buses on the first day of a strike called by private minibus owners.
The strike by operators of the minibuses - which are known as matatus - paralysed transport in many parts of the city and on roads to rural areas.
They are striking against government moves to increase regulation in the transport sector.
Under the proposed regulations, the matatu owners would have their routes allocated by a state Transport Licensing Board and bus terminals would be manned by local government agents.
Currently, the matatu owners themselves
assign the routes and terminals are staffed by young touts who hustle for
Many of the touts fear they will lose their jobs.
The matatu protest coincided with a large rally called by opposition groups at the Kamukunji meeting grounds in the capital.
The rally is part of an ongoing campaign aimed at pressurising President Moi to appoint a broad-based commission to review the country's constitution.
Mr Moi said last month that parliament was Kenya's law-making body and it alone should review the consitution.
The Kenyan Minister for Agriculture, Musalia Mudavadi, has warned that the country is likely to suffer severe shortfalls in food production due to lack of rainfall.
Mr Mudavadi told parliament the wheat harvest was likely to be only half as big as normal while the amount of maize grown would fall by about one sixth.
Mr Mudavadi blamed the shortfall in the harvest on the La Nina weather system and warned that it would lead to pressure on food prices. Earlier, international aid agencies launched a multi-million dollar appeal to avert a threatened famine in Somalia, where rains have failed for the sixth consecutive growing season.
The drug menace has now reached Kenya. Huge areas of forest lands have been cleared and planted with bhang (cannabis sativa) and the plantations are protected by guards armed with bows and arrows. Barrack Otieno tells the story.
Vast forest areas of Mount Kenya and other parts of the country have been cleared and planted with bhang while government officers are prevented from taking action. So says Kenya's former vice-president now the Democratic Party opposition leader, Mwai Kibaki.
Kibaki's warning came soon after the head of the Anglican Church in Kenya, Dr. David Gitari, disclosed that the former commissioner of police, Shadrack Kiruki, a "born again" Christian, had been hounded out of office by drug barons because he was threatening to put them out of business.
Kiruki had reportedly been relieved of his job late in 1996 for failure to control the policemen who had at one time emptied their magazines into demonstrating Kenyatta University students. Now it appears that his campaign against drugs also led to his downfall.
The spread of drugs among students is unquestionable. Experts say that a whole generation has been destroyed by the drug scourge, while traffickers have targeted schools where widespread bhang smoking is established.
Following the protests by Gitari and Kibaki, police have embarked on some half-hearted efforts to combat the menace and large bhang plantations across the country have been uprooted and destroyed, with the growers being arrested and charged in court.
Kenya has also become a major staging point for international drug traffickers while domestic consumption has escalated in recent times, according to a recent international narcotics control report.
Between April and November 1998, 87 acres of bhang were destroyed. At the same time forest guards and police were put on red alert, but the Kenya police high command has conceded that maintaining surveillance on the vast Mount Kenya forest is most difficult. The Central Province police chief, James Munyua, admits that there is widespread bhang cultivation in his area. Widespread cultivation now meets both domestic and export demand.
A large quantity of bhang, with street value estimated at Shs600m, was intercepted at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, early in 1998. Another haul with a street value of Shs100m was intercepted at Lamu, in the Coast Province. In 1996 the largest ever haul weighing 20-tonnes and valued at Shs2bn was intercepted in Kwale.
The money to be made in drug trafficking is alluring and worth taking risks. Police are often bribed to look the other way: last October policemen from Ramisi Police Station at the Coast intercepted a vehicle transporting a huge hoard of hashish. The contraband had been off-loaded from a freighter docked on the notorious Bodo creek, not a designated entry or customs point.
The suspect was arrested and taken to the Mswambweni Police Station where he was charged with drug trafficking and being in possession of banned goods. But before he was produced in court, he was released and his vehicle and the drugs disappeared! The police later explained that he had produced documents proving he had paid customs duty. How could customs duty be paid on hashish? The truth was that he had paid the police handsomely.
Kenya and indeed Tanzania are highly vulnerable to trafficking because of their long coastlines which are difficult to police and the use of private aircraft landing on small airstrips all over the country.
The US State Department has expressed concern about the drugs menace in Kenya and attributed it to chronic corruption in the public sector which has been the biggest impediment in the fight against trafficking.
Kenya has, nonetheless, established a high powered inter-ministerial committee under the chairmanship of the Solicitor-General, Justice Aaron Ringera, to combat the menace. In 1994 it enacted the tough Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Control Act which punishes drug traffickers with heavy fines of up to Shs1m or life imprisonment or both on conviction.
Despite these tough measures, Kenya remains a major transit point for drug traffickers. An Organisation of African Unity (OAU) Experts Group meeting in Nairobi in March to discuss "Drug Control in Africa" was told that many countries including Kenya continue to be used as transit states for heroin, cocaine and cannabis. There have been large seizures of cannabis resin of Pakistani origin in Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya.
Consequently the East African Criminal Investigation Department (CID) directors, Noah arap Too (Kenya), Chris Bakiza (Uganda) and Rajab Adadi (Tanzania) held a top level meeting in Nyeri last February to exchange information and intelligence. But can they win the battle against the drug pushers?
Hard choices for Moi Juin99
President Daniel arap Moi's re-appointment
of Prof. George Saitoti, his vice for nine years, after a 15-month gap
threatens to split the ruling party, Kenya National African Union (KANU)
and the country right down the middle. Barrack Otieno tells why.
The reappointment of George Saitoti, after 15 months without a vice-president, has elicited sharp reaction from various communities who expected Moi would favour them. The Luhyas who had supported Moi since pre-independence days had expected their son, the Agriculture Minister, Wycliffe Musalia Mudavadi, to get the job. They had met the weekend before to anoint Mudavadi as their man. Now they are so enraged that they have threatened to review their position within KANU, claiming that their support has not been adequately reciprocated.
Equally angry are the Abagusii community of former finance minister, Simeon Nyachae, who charge that Moi demoted Nyachae and then waited for him to resign so that the road would be clear to reappoint Saitoti. Over the Easter holidays, the Abagusii held a series of meetings at which they denounced Saitoti's reappointment and promised to join forces with the Kambas of Eastern Province, who also felt cheated.
Now Nyachae has promised to join forces with the opposition parties against the government. The Kambas had placed their hopes on the Minister for Education and Human Resources, Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka.
Others who claimed to have been promised the number two spot include Foreign Minister, Dr. Godana Bonaya and the Luo leader of the National Development Party of Kenya (NDP), Amolo Raila Odinga, who had pinned his hopes on Moi by deserting the opposition after the last elections.
By re-appointing the man he demoted 15 months before, Moi in one fell swoop out-manoeuvred James Orengo, the Ford Kenya Member of Parliament for Ugenya, who had planned to introduce a motion to censure Moi for failing to appoint a vice president in accordance with the constitution. Moi also silenced his critics, especially the opposition parties, churches and civil society like the Law Society of Kenya and the non-governmental organisations that had threatened to sue him in the High Court.
Orengo's motion of censure would have failed anyway because the combined forces of KANU, Ford Kenya and NDP far out-number the opposition MPs.
Both NDP led by Raila, second son of the country's first vice-president, late Jaramogi Oginga Odinga and Ford Kenya led by "Kijana" Wamalwa are co-operating with KANU. Their support for the party during the no-confidence motion helped the government survive. The NDP is now derisively described as Kanu faction in Nyanza.
Saitoti's re-appoitment enhances the chances of the faction called KANU-B fronted by the Kanu secretary Joseph Kamotho, (Trade Minister), Nicholas Biwott (East Africa and Regional Co-operation Minister) and Saitoti (National Planning and Development Minister) who form a powerful triumvirate. But though he is only a heart-beat from the presidency, Saitoti may have a long time to wait.
Following the breakdown of the constitutional review process, Kanu, supported by NDP and Ford Kenya is reported to be hatching a plot to present a motion extending the life of parliament for another two years for the constitutional review process to be completed. That would add another two years to Moi's present term and then there would be election delays which could extend Moi's rule for yet another five years after 2003.
Moi himself says he is ready to "go home" but his cronies, majority of whom are talented scoundrels and political left-overs, dread life without him and want him to stay in power until he dies.
Under Kenya's present constitution, the 74-year-old Moi, in power since 1978, is due to step down in 2002 after his fifth term as president.
KANU leaders shot themselves in the foot when they sabotaged the constitutional review because a new constitution would have allowed the leader whose party wins the polls to continue in office. But the new constitutional proposals seek to have a president with reduced, more or less ceremonial powers, with a new strong prime minister.
But Moi, the self-professed grandmaster of Kenya's political chessboard and master puppeteer, has reverted to type - identify, develop, use and dump - a policy he has perfected to an art. He first dropped Saitoti from the vice-presidency to show he had no confidence in him. But when the politicians started becoming restive over the issue, he gave them back Saitoti.
Saitoti is a centre figure in the multi-billion shilling Goldenberg scandal, the country's biggest fraud case since independence in 1963. As finance minister, he sanctioned an export compensation scheme under which businessman Kamlesh Pattni allegedly received more than $100 million for non-existent gold and diamond exports. The World Bank and the IMF have been pressing for the prosecution and imprisonment of all those involved in the $1bn (KShs 68bn) scam.
Saitoti has always strenuously denied any wrongdoing saying he acted with the full knowledge of the cabinet. But this could be his Achilles heel. His reappointment came when the Goldenberg scandal was back in the news with the full trial of Pattni (NA May p31). Evidence in court is expected to tear Saitoti's reputation to shreds prejudicing his chance to succeed to the presidency.
Already the NDP Member of Parliament for Mbita, Gerald Otieno Kajwang, has filed a no-confidence motion claiming Saitoti is unfit to be vice-president because of his involvement in the Goldenberg scandal. The motion may succeed following reports that many Kanu, NDP and Ford Kenya MPs support it.
Malaria Kills 1,000 in Kenya
Malaria Kills 1,000 in Kenya
KISII, Kenya (AP) _ A malaria outbreak in western Kenya has
killed at least 1,000 people in the past three months, President
Daniel arap Moi said Monday.
Moi visited the hard-hit Kisii district, 155 miles west of
Nairobi, to pay his condolences to relatives of the dead. He also
went to the government-run Kisii hospital where the sick lay two to
a bed or on floors.
``I have been saddened by the high rate at which the malaria
epidemic has killed people in this area,'' Moi said. ``My
government has deployed medical personnel from Kenya army barracks
to reinforce the medical personnel at Kisii to combat this
Last year, an outbreak of malaria killed more than 340 people in
the region in two weeks. This year, some 90,000 people have been
Malaria is a parasite transmitted into the bloodstream by
mosquitoes. It kills white blood cells, causing anemia. Symptoms
include high fever and chills.
Much of Kenya's rural and poverty-stricken population cannot
afford preventive measures or adequate health care. The government
has been accused of failing to respond to the outbreak. Most
hospitals and clinics have no drugs for malaria.
Moi blamed health officials for the high mortality rate.
``If the health management moved in time and educated people on
the need to prevent malaria, this large number would not have died
of this disease,'' the president said.
Doctors from two international agencies, the World Health
Organization and Doctors Without Borders, are now at Kisii hospital
working to help curb the malaria outbreak.
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