Sunday, 30 November 2008

Oyeee! 'New Sudan Yes We Can' because Barack Obama's roots are Sudanese!

Oh what fun. British journalist Andrew Heavens in Khartoum, Sudan has come up with another great story. He is really on the ball these days, working flat out to bring latest news from Sudan:

November 29, 2008 - KHARTOUM (Reuters) report by Andrew Heavens:
Sudanese politicians claimed Barack Obama as one of their own on Saturday as they belatedly celebrated his election as U.S. president, hailing his family roots in their country.

Much has been made of Obama's father's origins in Kenya. But he acknowledged his distant Sudanese roots in his autobiography 'Dreams From My Father'.

"His father came from the Luo (tribe), who are from the Nile. The Luo originally moved from Sudan to Kenya," said Yasir Arman, a senior member of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement, former southern rebels who are now in a coalition government with the north.

Hundreds of SPLM supporters crammed into their headquarters for a belated party marking Obama's victory.

Many held up banners marked 'New Sudan Yes We Can' - a message that merged an SPLM slogan with Obama's rallying cry.

Arman said members were inspired by Obama's election as the United States' first black president.

"It is giving a message to our society that Sudan can do the same, that Sudan can recognize its own diversity," he said.

"We hope he will be able to give more attention to all of Africa, not just Sudan."

The United States has had a troubled relationship with Sudan's Khartoum-based government. It has imposed trade sanctions on Khartoum, included it on its list of state sponsors of terrorism, and accused northern troops and militias of committing genocide in the Darfur conflict.

The south has been exempted from most of the sanctions.

The SPLM fought the north for more than 20 years in a conflict that pitted the Islamist Khartoum government against mainly Christian and animist rebels. The war ended with a 2005 peace agreement.

(Editing by Angus MacSwan)
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US President-Elect Barack Obama

Photo source: Soldier of Africa

(Cross posted today at Sudan Watch)

Monday, 10 November 2008

Election Night with the Obamas (Rob Crilly)

Here's another fascinating story from Rob Crilly in Nairobi, Kenya:
I was one of the few journalists to get an invite to spend election night with the Obama family in their Kogelo home. Put something together for one of the Sundays but it wasn’t used so I thought I’d stick it here
Englishman Rob Crilly, pictured here below, is a freelance journalist writing about Africa for The Times, The Irish Times, The Daily Mail, The Scotsman and The Christian Science Monitor from his base in Nairobi, Kenya. Also, he blogs at From The Frontline

Rob Crilly

Election night in Kogelo

Election Night with the Obamas

By Rob Crilly
Nairobi, Kenya
November 10, 2008

THE piercing shriek of a cheap mobile phone broke through the quiet of the simple African village. The only other sounds were the thrumming of a distant generator and the crackle of cooking fires.

Abongo Malik Obama put the phone to his ear before his face broke into smiles.

“Yes my brother. We are well,” he said, in his booming Kenya voice

Thousands of miles and a world away, Barack Obama had taken time out from the razzmatazz of the most important night of his life to snatch a few words with his Kenyan family.

In Chicago his supporters were queuing at a park where the Obama campaign had booked its victory rally. His advisers were still polishing his speech as the world waited for the polls to close.

But for 10 minutes all Barack wanted to do was chat with his brother and catch up on village news.

“We talked about this and that, about the death of his grandmother in Hawaii,” said Malik, as he prefers to be known, “and we were talking about all the craziness here in Kogelo about the relatives and friends and everyone who had come to visit.

“Then we talked about the campaign. He said it had been fun but now he was just trying to get through the last leg.”

The two men have been close ever since Barack Obama first visited Kenya to learn about his roots in his 20s.

They share the same father, Barack Obama senior, who grew up herding goats in the family homestead in the far west of Kenya.

He left to study in the US after Abongo was born to his first wife, Kezia, who now lives in Berkshire.

In America he met and fell in love with a fellow student, Ann Dunham, Barack Obama’s mother, before walking out on them and eventually returning to Africa.

Now Malik is leading the life Barack would have lived if he had been born in Kenya.

His home is a tin-roofed shack surrounded by mango trees.

In Kogelo, where his 86-year-old grandmother still lives, water is drawn by bucket from a well.

Chickens scratch at the red-rust soil.

Children run barefoot through maize fields to school.

And mains electricity is still five miles away even in the year 2008.

Life here depends on the rains much as it has for centuries.

As the first born to the first born, Abongo heads the extended Obama family.

While his younger half-brother was raising millions of dollars in internet and corporate donations, Abongo was having to scrape together enough cash to entertain more than 100 aunts, uncles, cousins, step-brothers and sisters and assorted friends, local dignitaries and wellwishers who made their way down the rutted, bumpy track to the family home.

Entertaining Kenyan-style means meat - and plenty of it.

“We are Africans. This is what we do. We kill an animal and invite all our friends to visit,” said Malik, 50.

As well as buying a new TV for his guests, he had laid out for four bulls and a dozen or so goats so that bellies would be full each evening.

At the neighbouring school – renamed Senator Barack Obama Kogelo School four years ago – 16 chickens were awaiting their role in the victory feast.

“This is all very expensive,” said Malik, as he plugged the new portable television into a generator. “Everyone expects to be looked after and as the eldest son of the eldest son it is up to me to look after them.

“I’m not making any money out of this.

“But it’s such a special, historic occasion that we have to do it.”

By Tuesday evening, the scattering of huts – some made from mud bricks, others more substantial – was abuzz with excitement.

As night fell, the small clearing turned dark, lit by little more than the glow of stars.

Relatives clustered around two televisions showing CNN’s coverage of election night.

Every appearance of their famous cousin, son or brother brought a huge cheer.

For many, it would have been the first time they had watched television.

As the tropical African day turned to night, and the temperature dropped, people clustered around fires or wrapped themselves in blankets.

A few old men missing teeth gulped the local moonshine, a potent brew made from maize.

Gradually the glow from the TV screen turned blue, as Obama claimed more and more states, keeping out the Republican red.

Eyes drooped and one or two of the older relatives curled up inside the shacks to catch some sleep.

Then, at about seven o’clock in the morning, the party started.

“Barack Obama Junior is president of the world,” screamed one old lady emerging from a gloomy doorway.

It was the signal for an African celebration.

Women whooped with joy while men cheered.

In Chicago laser beams rippled across the sky at Obama’s victory rally.
In Kogelo, his relatives were joining in a tribal dance, feet stomping on the bare earth to cries of: “Obama is coming, clear the way.”

Biosa Obama, the president-elect’s sister in law, said no-one had ever doubted the win.

“We didn’t sleep all night. Now we are just going to party. Barack will be a great president,” she said, her feet tapping out a rhythm as people danced all around her.

Word soon spread. Hundreds of people trooped in from neighbouring villages carrying branches in a show of celebration.

It was left to Malik to reflect on the occasion.

“I feel that this is a great, great, great moment. It means a new era, a new era of thinking about the direction of the world,” he said, his eyes filling with tears and his voice breaking.

If an Obama presidency marks a new dawn for America, it also marks a bright new dawn for the little village of Kogelo where generations of Obamas have herded goats and picked bananas.

Surveyors arrived from the local electricity company even before the celebrations had ended.

It may have taken a president in the family, but the Kenyan Obamas are about to get their own power.

Source: Rob Crilly - African Safari 10/11/08

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Remember the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour

On 2 May, 1915, in the second week of fighting during the Second Battle of Ypres Lieutenant Alexis Helmer was killed by a German artillery shell. He was a friend of the Canadian military doctor Major John McCrae. It is believed that John began the draft for his famous poem 'In Flanders Fields' that evening.

In Flanders Fields

John McCrae
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders Fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders Fields.


The poppy is the recognized symbol of remembrance for war dead. The flower owes its significance to the poem In Flanders Fields, written by Major (later Lieutenant-Colonel) John McCrae, a doctor with the Canadian Army Medical Corps, in the midst of the Second Battle of Ypres, in Belgium, in May 1915.

The poppy references in the first and last stanzas of the most widely read and oft-quoted poem of the war contributed to the flower's status as an emblem of remembrance and a symbol of new growth amidst the devastation of war.

Remembrance Day Poppy

Two minutes of silence at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month because that was the time (in Britain) when the armistice became effective. The two minutes recall World War I and World War II. Before 1945 the silence was for one minute, and today some ceremonies still only have one minute of silence despite this.

In the United Kingdom, although two minutes' silence is observed on November 11 itself, the main observance is on the second Sunday of November, Remembrance Sunday. - Wikipedia
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"The Meaning of God"

By Mahatma K. Gandhi
(Young India, October 11, 1928)

There is an indefinable mysterious Power that pervades everything.

I feel It, though I do not see It.

It is this unseen Power which makes Itself felt and yet defies all proof,
because It is so unlike all that I perceive through my senses.

It transcends the senses....

That informing Power or Spirit is God....

For I can see that in the midst of death life persists, in the midst of untruth, truth persists, in the midst of darkness light persists.

Hence I gather that God is Life, Truth, Light. He is love.

He is supreme good.

But he is no God who merely satisfies the intellect
If He ever does.

God to be God must rule the heart and transform it.
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Gandhi's Peace Prayers

Hindu Peace Prayer
I desire neither earthly kingdom, nor even freedom from birth and death. I desire only the deliverance from grief of all those afflicted by misery. Oh Lord, lead us from the unreal to the real; from darkness to light; from death to immortality. May there be peace in celestial regions. May there be peace on earth. May the waters be appeasing. May herbs be wholesome and may trees and plants bring peace to all. May all beneficent beings bring peace to us. May thy wisdom spread peace all through the world. May all things be a source of peace to all and to me. Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti (Peace, Peace, Peace).

Islamic Peace Prayer
We think of Thee, worship Thee, bow toThee as the Creator of this Universe; we seek refuge in Thee, the Truth, our only support. Thou art the Ruler, the barge in this ocean of endless births and deaths.
In the name of Allah, the beneficient, the merciful. Praise be to the Lord of the Universe who has created us and made us into tribes and nations. Give us wisdom that we may know each other and not despise all things. We shall abide by thy Peace. And, we shall remember the servants of God are those who walk on this earth in humility and, when we address them, we shall say Peace Unto Us All.

Christian Peace Prayer
Blessed are the PEACEMAKERS, for they shall be known as The Children of God. But I say to you: love your enemy, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To those who strike you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from those who take away your cloak, do not withhold your coat as well. Give to everyone who begs from you; and, to those who take away your goods, do not ask them again. And as you wish that others would do unto you, do so unto them as well.

Jewish Peace Prayer
Come let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, that we may walk the paths of the Most High. And we shall beat our swords into ploughshares and our spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation - neither shall they learn war any more. And none shall be afraid, for the mouth of the Lord of Hosts has spoken.

Shinto Peace Prayer
Although the people living across the ocean surrounding us are all our brothers and sisters why, Oh Lord, is there trouble in this world? Why do winds and waves rise in the ocean surrounding us? I earnestly wish the wind will soon blow away all the clouds hanging over the tops of the mountains.

Bahá'í Peace Prayer
Be generous in prosperity and thankful in adversity. Be fair in thy judgement and guarded in thy speech. Be a lamp unto those who walk in darkness and a home to the stranger. Be eyes to the blind and a guiding light unto he feet of the erring. Be a breath of life to the body of humankind, a dew to the soil of the human heart and a fruit upon the tree of humility.
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Further reading

Tuesday, November 14, 2006 - Sudan Watch:
The Anglo-Zulu war - A Lesson Learned?

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Cross posted to Sudan Watch, Congo Watch, Uganda Watch, Ethiopia Watch

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Congratulations President-Elect Obama

World leaders hail the victory of Barack Obama in the US presidential election, as outgoing President George W Bush promises a smooth transition of power


Photo: BBC November 5, 2008: World leaders hail Obama triumph
- - -

Rob Crilly takes the goat

British freelance journalist Rob Crilly writes about Africa for The Times, The Irish Times, The Daily Mail, The Scotsman and The Christian Science Monitor from his base in Nairobi, Kenya. Here are some of his photos from Kenya, posted at his great blog at From The Frontline.

From Rob's blog post November 4, 2008:

Always Take a Goat to the Party

So how do you make friends with the Obama family and ensure access to all the key players in Kenya as their relative vies to become the most powerful man in the world? The answer, of course, is always, always take a goat to the party.

I found John for sale at the side of the road. My driver said he was just what I wanted: Big bellied and large-testicled meant he would make excellent nyama choma (roasted meat). And for 2500 shillings he was something of a bargain.

It goes without saying that Abongo Malik Obama, Obama’s elder half-brother, was delighted. And I’ve got a rather nice feature.

There’s only one thing to take to a Kenyan election victory feast: a goat. Preferably still breathing - “a sign of freshness“ - and with big testicles, apparently the sign of quality breeding.

And so it was that I found myself bouncing along a dirt track towards the ancestral home of the Obamas in a saloon car with the sound of John the goat bleating miserably from the boot.
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The press pack in Kogelo, Kenya

From Rob's blog post November 3, 2008:

Hack Attack

The press pack at Barack Obama’s ancestral home is growing steadily. Today there must have been a good 30 or so hacks assembled for the 11am press conference to hear Abongo Malik Obama (half brother to Barack Obama) say there would be no more press conferences. Fair enough, I suppose. The family has no doubt had enough of the confusion, noise and disruption caused when more than two journalists are assembled in a single place. But I can’t help thinking the last thing anyone wants is a bunch of bored journalists hanging around trying to amuse themselves.
- - -

Obama’s ancestral home in Kogelo, Kenya

From Rob's blog post November 2, 2008:

Change We Can Believe In

There have been a few changes recently in Kogelo, the rural homestead that the Kenyan branch of the Obama family calls home. Four years ago I made my way down a bumpy, rutted dirt track to find Granny Sarah’s little house. I was met by Said, one of her youngest sons (and a half-uncle to Barack Obama), and we spent a couple of hours on her sofas chatting about what might happen if “Barry” won a seat in the Senate. Chickens wandered in and out of the sitting room and neighbours dropped by, wondering why a mzungu was visiting. There was no electricity for miles.

Now you have to get past a six-foot gate and fence guarded around the clock by police. That was the result of burglars a few weeks back, who probably reasoned that the Obamas would have a bit of cash about the place. Mama Sarah has a solar panel for her TV and last week, the Kenyan prime minister Raila Odinga (a Luo tribemate of Obama) dropped by for a “surprise” visit. This week government bulldozers and roadrollers have been brought in to smooth out the dirt track leading to the Obama homestead.

Today’s press conference there was a slightly muted affair. Malik, Obama’s elder half-brother, spoke to only about a dozen or so journalists about plans for the days ahead and the family’s exitement.

There have already been a few changes in Kogelo. And it’s only going to get more hectic from here.
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From Rob's blog post November 4, 2008:

The Only McCain Supporter in Kenya

Basically, this guy gets it if Obama wins. He’s going to be the celebration feast.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Give free rice to hungry people by playing a simple game - Spread the word about hunger

This is my contribution to World Food Day October 16, 2008 - cross posted yesterday at some of my other blogs.

My top tips: Don't waste an inch of food or water. Cook fresh home made meals from scratch. Don't drink unnatural juice. Make and mend. Recycle food, water, paper, metal, glass. Adopt a rescue cat to ensure no mice. Adopt a rescue dog for self protection and healthy exercise. Respect the land, sea and air. Be kind and generous. Try to love all people, animals, insects, flowers, trees and plants. Care about what happens to the thirsty, hungry, homeless, sick, disabled, and elderly. Visit friends in person or write note instead of phoning. Cut down on petrol pollution and plastic waste. Don't drive a distance that you could easily walk, bus or cycle. Take care of the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves. Tithe 10% of your income and see how much more you receive in return.
- - -

Notable Quote

"The best things in life aren't things" - Art Buchwald (Credit: Bloomberg TV)
- - -

On World Food Day - October 16, Spread the word about hunger

Give free rice to hungry people by playing a simple game that increases your knowledge.

World Food Day 16 October

Visit FreeRice,, to translate your right answers into rice for the hungry.

147,750,140 grains of rice donated yesterday. Over 47 billion grains donated to date. Sponsors pay for the donated rice.

Click into and give the right answer in the middle of the page. I reached level 41 with a donation total of 3040 grains. Will do more later.

"Help us mark World Food Day this year as high food prices, dramatic increases in fuel costs, and profound changes in climate conditions have conspired to bring new dimensions of suffering and hardship to the poor, depriving almost one billion people of the food they need to live a healthy life."  - UN

S.O.S. Please email Kenya Watch - 2 years of emails lost

On Wednesday, 15 October 2008, two engineers from British Telecom IT Support were here for a specially ordered appointment to ensure a smooth changeover from my current ISP, Virgin Media, to BT Broadband.

Sadly, it turned into a 3-hour job. The engineer, after deleting the Virgin email address from my PowerBook G4 (Mac OS X 10.3.9) said it had never occurred to him that the contents of my AppleMac drafts email folder would also be deleted, along with the contents of my folders for sent and incoming emails. In their experience, such a thing had never happened before.

Groan. Over the past 3-4 weeks, apart from the 3 hours yesterday, I've spent what seems like a total of 20 hours on the phone to BT, from here to Scotland and India, ever since initial call to BT's broadband sales office.

BT couldn't set me up for broadband for a few weeks resulting in connection to BT dial-up service in the interim - for which I almost got charged £18 for Day One if I hadn't checked tarriff for the 'Pay As You Go' option that BT signed me up to, instead of the 'Anytime' package costing £1 for first month.

Not to mention the ordeal I went though trying to obtain an internet cable for a few weeks of the dial up service. And then the service itself. By the end of Day One, BT dial up Tech Support told me the loss of connection every few minutes was nothing to do with them and blamed my internal modem as being corrupted and broken. Not true, I discovered next day.

Yesterday morning, I awoke feeling gutted, bereft and exhausted over the whole experience. More than one thousand draft items and scores of photos for future blogposts which, despite Apple's best efforts (a further 1-hour ordeal over phone) are no longer recoverable. All gone. Vanished. Forever. Nightmare.

Years of hard work and precious energy wasted. I feel sad at losing so much, just when I was getting back into the swing of things after ten bereavements (including my mother and three longstanding friends) and the toll it took on my health.

Chin up. Worse things happen at sea. I'll endeavour to continue blogging while working on piecing together lost drafts, updating email address in my blogs. re-subscribing to news alerts, etc.

Right now, the thought of having to find all the pieces to put back together again, and recall people's latest email addresses that may or not be in my computer's address book, is too overwhelming.

If you have ever emailed me, no matter how long ago, please email me NOW with copy of last email or just a few words or, better still, photo of your pet, to enable me to save your address safely in a new folder for easy future reference.

My new BT email address is now in the sidebar here at Kenya Watch.

I'm always here, with my cat Ophelia, happy to receive emails that are not spam. It still pains me to be so slow in replying. I fear that taking days, weeks, months, even years (!) to reply puts people off from staying in contact.

Mostly I am sad at losing photos of pets belonging to some of my favourite bloggers. I adore cats and had collected some pretty special photos for a Cat Watch Blog that I'm creating as a place for me to visit when the going gets tough at my watch blogs and I feel disappointed in human beings.

If you know the personality of any cat (or dog, especially if it gets along with cats) and have a photo of the pet, please send it to me so I can create a little story for posting (with your permission and credit/link to you) at the most suitable of my three new blogs (currently under construction) namely: Cat Watch Blog, Heavenly Cats, Pets in Heaven.

Here's looking forward to learning about cats living in different parts of the world. I'm curious to know if cats all over the world have same habits and act in same way, or behave differently from mine here in England. If anyone ever thinks of sending us a greetings, especially over Christmas and New Year, anything for my pet blogs would be cheerfully received and warmly appreciated. I promise to reply with some observations and questions about your pet's charm and character.

Having said all that, I'm bracing myself for the possibility that no-one will take notice of this post although, even during blogging breaks, my network of blogs continue to receive thousands of visitors and page views. I have no idea of how many people read my blogs via a news reader and never visit in person. I don't even know if the feed for my Sudan Watch blog still works. It no longer works in my newsreader, NetNewsWire.

Hey is anybody out there? Please say something!

With love from Ingrid and cat Ophelia, posted by the sea on south west coast of England, UK xx

An edited version of this post will appear in some of my network of blogs, ie: Sudan Watch, Congo Watch, Uganda Watch, Ethiopia Watch, Niger Watch, Egypt Watch, China Tibet Watch, Tehran Watch, Syria Watch, ME/CFS Watch, ME AND OPHELIA.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

BLOG ACTION DAY 2008 - Global Hand-Washing Awareness

From BBC News October 15, 2008 -
Faecal bacteria join the commute:
More than one in four commuters has bacteria from faeces on their hands, an investigation suggests.

Scientists from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine swabbed 409 people at bus and train stations in five major cities in England and Wales.

The further north they went, the more often they found commuters with faecal bacteria on their hands - men in Newcastle were the worst offenders.

Experts stressed the importance of hand hygiene for preventing illness.

The bacteria found suggested people were not washing their hands properly after using the toilet, said the researchers.

Toilet hands

In Newcastle and Liverpool, men were more likely than women to show contamination - 53% of men compared with 30% of women in Newcastle and 36% of men compared with 31% of women in Liverpool.

In the other three cities - London, Cardiff and Birmingham - the women's hands were dirtier.

People who had used the bus had higher rates of hand contamination than those who had used the train.

Manual workers had cleaner hands than other professionals, students, retired people or the unemployed.

Dr Val Curtis, director of the Hygiene Centre at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: "We were flabbergasted by the finding that so many people had faecal bugs on their hands.

"The figures were far higher than we had anticipated, and suggest that there is a real problem with people washing their hands in the UK.

Newcastle - men 53%, women 30%
Liverpool - men 36%, women 31%
Birmingham - men 21%, women 26%
Cardiff - men 15%, women 29%
Euston (London) - men 6%, women 21%

"If any of these people had been suffering from a diarrhoeal disease, the potential for it to be passed around would be greatly increased by their failure to wash their hands after going to the toilet."

Professor Mike Catchpole, director of the Health Protection Agency's Centre for Infections, said: "These results are startling and should be enough to make anyone reach for the soap.

"It is well known that hand washing is one of the most important ways of controlling the spread of infections, especially those that cause diarrhoea and vomiting, colds and flu.

"People should always wash their hands after using the toilet, before eating or handling food, and after handling animals. And remember to cover all cuts and scratches with a waterproof dressing."

Winter vomiting

The HPA's monitoring of infections over recent weeks suggests that cases of norovirus - the winter vomiting bug - are rising and that the annual norovirus season is likely to have begun.

Norovirus is the most common cause of gastrointestinal disease in the UK with peak activity in terms of numbers of cases and outbreaks during the winter months, from October to March.

It has been estimated that between 600,000 and a million people in the UK are affected each year.

Professor Catchpole said: "Norovirus is highly infectious and easily spread in settings where people are in close contact with one another so good hygiene, including frequent handwashing, is really important."

The study was part of the world's first Global Hand-washing Day, dedicated to raising awareness about the importance hand hygiene plays in public health.
Top tip for commuters: wear gloves - and don't forget to wash them!

Join in with October 15 Blog Action Day 2008 Poverty (hat tip Rob Crilly's blog post 15/10/08 from the Frontline: Urban Hunger in Nairobi's Slums)

Monday, 13 October 2008

Kenya and Sudan - The mystery tanks (The Economist)

Oct 9 2008 NAIROBI
From The Economist print edition
Who are the real owners of the tanks nabbed by Somali pirates?

THE publication of the manifest of a Ukrainian ship recently captured by pirates off the coast of Somalia is embarrassing Kenya’s government. It apparently shows that MV Faina’s cargo of 33 T-72 Soviet-era tanks and other weapons was consigned to Kenya’s defence ministry on behalf of the government of south Sudan.

Much will turn on the real meaning of the acronym GOSS, evident as the buyer on the manifest. Most people take this to mean the Government of South Sudan, meaning that the tanks were destined for that region. The Kenyans say it means the Kenyan army’s own General Ordinance Supplies and Security, proving that the tanks were going to Kenya. But that does not necessarily mean they were not going on to south Sudan. Kenya has no history of using Soviet equipment. A Russian source said that the only Russian arms Kenya has bought in recent years have been Kalashnikov rifles for game rangers.

The head of the Kenyan parliament’s defence and foreign relations committee, Adan Keynan, is troubled. He plans to haul Kenya’s defence minister, Yusuf Haji, before his committee, along with the previous one, Njenga Karume, who may have signed off on the shipment. Mr Keynan demands a thorough investigation, including a trip to Ukraine, to save Kenya’s name.

According to reports in Jane’s Defence Weekly and others, another 100 T-72 and T-55 tanks may have been shipped to south Sudan through the Kenyan port of Mombasa in the past year. That raises further questions. Have all suspicious arms shipments reached south Sudan or have some been stockpiled in Kenya? Who paid for them? Kenya’s vice-president, Kalonzo Musyoka, has said the tanks on the Faina are Kenya’s property, since the Kenyan taxpayer paid for them. If true, and the tanks still go through to south Sudan, that would turn Kenya from being the midwife of the peace agreement in Sudan in 2005 into the would-be midwife of an independent and heavily-armed south Sudan, ready to go back to war with Sudan’s Islamist government in Khartoum, should it try to stop the south’s secession after a promised referendum in 2011. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, which monitors arms sales in the region, says the shipment undermines Kenya’s position as a sponsor of an arms-trade treaty for Sudan.

What is clear is that if the Faina ever reaches Mombasa, Kenya will have to take delivery, very publicly, of the T-72s. By mid-week, the ship was still surrounded by American warships and the pirates were still holding out for $20m.

The Sudanese government of President Omar al-Bashir has so far said very little about the tanks. He may be loth to discuss other equally dodgy shipments of higher-quality arms to his own side. Southern politicians have been quite open in their desire to build up a strong army, despite the provisions against rearming contained in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005, in case they have to return to war with the north. The two sides fought in the oil-rich border region of Abyei earlier this year. And southern leaders have been criticised for spending so much of their relatively small direct income, mostly from oil, on arms rather than schools or clinics.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Deployed peacekeeping veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) have significant impairments in health-related quality of life

Nine years ago today, I was struck down with a flu like viral illness from which I never recovered. After the initial six months, my profoundly disabling condition was diagnosed by a Consultant Psychiatrist as a severe form of Post Viral Fatigue Syndrome (PVFS), also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME)/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).

Still, to this day, there is no effective treatment or cure. In my experience, the condition is similar to Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Gulf War Syndrome (GWS).

Over the past nine years my energy level has increased from one half hour to two hours per day. I am still virtually housebound. Last March, I was able to attend my mother's funeral. Next month, I am scheduled to attend a long awaited appointment with a CFS Consultant. Several years ago, I was bedbound for two years.

The following definition of ME is from a paper I wrote with a very dear friend (recently departed, God rest his soul) in March 2003:
Myalgic Encephalomyelitis - ME

Evidenced by muscle pain, with inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, ME has been known for half a century as 'a-typical polio'. The symptoms of extreme lassitude, and the swift onset of exhaustion that characterise the disease, also caused it to be known for many years as 'chronic fatigue syndrome' or CFS. It was only classified by the World Health Organisation of the United Nations as a neurological disorder in 1969.

The disorder is triggered by a virus infection that occurs worldwide in epidemic and pandemic form: seasonally and in selected geographical areas. It affects about 1% of the British population and there is no known cure. While three-quarters of those who become infected do not present advanced symptoms, 25% of ME sufferers are chronically affected with severe illness and pain, causing them to become profoundly disabled and very largely housebound. The condition can last throughout life without remission of any kind.

Doctors and sufferers generally agree that the worst effects of the disease can be 'managed by strict adherence to conservation of energy, reduction of stress and simplification of work: augmented by education, with practical and economic support'.
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We're not lazy nor crazy, tiredness is the least of our problems

This post today, 10 October 2008, here at Kenya Watch, is to help raise awareness of the plight of military personnel suffering from ghastly life-wrecking Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Below are some excerpts taken from Science Daily online. More on this topic at a later date.
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Peacekeepers are exposed to traumatic events which they are helpless to prevent under the United National rules of engagement
While the relationship among Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and physical and mental health impairment is well developed in combat veterans, it is less studied among the deployed peacekeeping veteran population.

Peacekeepers are exposed to traumatic events which they are helpless to prevent under the United National rules of engagement, which state soldiers must show restraint and neutrality. The feeling of being unable to control a situation at the time of trauma is an important risk factor for developing PTSD.
More from (Dec. 15, 2007):
Canada’s peacekeepers suffer similar rates of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD) as combat, war-zone soldiers, according to a London, Ont. research team.

Psychiatrist J. Donald Richardson and his co-investigators also found that PTSD rates and severity were associated with younger age, single marital status and deployment frequency.
Vietnam Combat Linked To Many Diseases 20 Years Later
According to Boscarino, of the 1,399 Vietnam veterans studied, 24 percent (332) were diagnosed with PTSD sometime after military service, and nearly all cases of PTSD in the study resulted from exposure to heavy or very heavy combat in Vietnam.

He said his research and others' suggest that those with PTSD often have altered neuroendocrine and sympathetic nervous systems. Disturbances in these key body systems are the main reason for increases in a broad spectrum of diseases among combat veterans, he said. His research also uncovered abnormal immune functioning and clear medical evidence of coronary artery disease among the veterans studied. Read more at ScienceDaily (Nov. 26, 1997)
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder May Result In Heart Disease
Combat veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) appear to be at higher risk for coronary heart disease (CHD), according to a recent study of 4,462 male U.S. Army veterans.

"We believe that this research suggests a clear, definitive linkage between exposure to severe stress and the onset of coronary heart disease in humans," said Boscarino. Read more at ScienceDaily (Nov. 10, 1999)
PTSD Causes Early Death From Heart Disease, Study Suggests
A new study sheds light on the link between PTSD and heart disease. Vietnam veterans with PTSD suffered higher rates of heart disease death than veterans without PTSD.

The more severe the PTSD diagnosis, the greater the likelihood of death from heart disease, the study showed. Read more at ScienceDaily (July 8, 2008)
Whether combat or peacekeeping, PTSD impacts veterans' well-being
Deployed peacekeeping veterans with PTSD have significant impairments in health-related quality of life according to research by Dr. J. Donald Richardson of The University of Western Ontario and his co-investigators.

The research, published recently in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, found anxiety disorders such as PTSD are associated with impaired emotional well-being, and this applies just as much to peacekeeping veterans as to combat veterans. "This finding is important to clinicians working with the newer generation of veterans, as it stresses the importance of including measures of quality of life when evaluating veterans to better address their rehabilitation needs," says Dr. Richardson. "It is not enough to measure symptom changes with treatment; we need to objectively assess if treatment is improving their quality of life and how they are functioning in their community."

Richardson is a consultant psychiatrist with the Operational Stress Injury Clinic at Parkwood Hospital, part of St. Joseph's Health Care, London and a psychiatry professor with the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry at Western. His team studied 125 male, deployed Canadian Forces peacekeeping veterans who were referred for a psychiatric assessment. The average age of these men was 41, and they averaged 16 years of military service. The most common military theatre in which they served were the Balkan states (Bosnia, Croatia, former Yugoslavia, and Kosovo), with 83 per cent having exposure to combat or a war zone. Read more at ScienceDaily (Oct. 3, 2008)
Post Traumatic Stress Has Tripled Among Combat-exposed Military Personnel
Concerns have been raised about the health impact of military deployment. Studies have estimated as many as 30% of Vietnam War veterans developed post-traumatic stress disorder at some point following the war and, among 1991 Gulf War veterans, as many as 10% were reported to have post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms years after returning from deployment. Read more at ScienceDaily (Jan. 17, 2008)
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I would be interested to hear from anyone affected by above issues. Feel free to email me anytime and forgive me if I am slow to respond. Note, my current email address will cease on November 28, 2008 because I am switching my ISP to British Telecommunications (BT) Broadband.

With love from me and my cat Ophelia xx

[Afterthought: As my network of blogs receives thousands of regular visits from military, health orgs, unis, govts, etc., I have decided to cross post this whole entry at some of Sudan Watch's sister sites: Congo Watch, Uganda Watch, Ethiopia Watch, Niger Watch, Kenya Watch, Russia Watch.]

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

A businessman from Odessa with an Israeli passport is the man behind Russian tanks shipment destined for Govt of South Sudan (GOSS) via Mombasa?

Nina Karpacheva, the ombudswoman for Ukrainian parliament claims that the man behind the Russian tanks deal (the tanks that are still onboard the hijacked Ukrainian ship, MV Faina, off the coast of Somalia - see latest news here below) is Vadim A., a businessman from Odessa with an Israeli passport.

Source: Der Speigel special report Monday, 06 October 2008 - Investigating the Faina - Looking for the Good Guys off the Somali Coast - By Clemens Höges, Uwe Klussmann and Horand Knaup; Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan
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The pirates have lowered the ransom from $20 million to $8 million

Today, Wednesday 08 October 2008, the pirates still hold Ukrainian Faina.

Yesterday, they lowered the ransom from $20 million to $8 million.

According to the freight manifest, Kenya’s government made the contract on behalf of South Sudan. Kenya that has always reiterated that the weapons on board are for its army is just the receiver of cargo.

Source: Kommersant, Wednesday 08 Oct 2008 - Ukrainian Tanks on Faina Destined for S. Sudan
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Photo of freight manifest

Click here for BBC report showing map of Mombasa/Kenya/South Sudan, and photo of the freight manifest proving that the weapons onboard the MV Faina were destined for South Sudan?

Also, note that the BBC's report highlights this quote: "If you want peace you have to prepare for war" - SPLM source.

Source: BBC News report, Tuesday 07 October 2008 - Pirates reveal Sudan's precarious peace - By Amber Henshaw, BBC News, Khartoum
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Sudan's Government of South Sudan (GOSS) or Kenya's General Ordnance Supply and Security (GOSS)?

Yesterday, Tuesday 07 October 2008, Kenya once again denied the shipment was for South Sudan, claiming that its acronym "GOSS" on the freight manifest stood for Kenya's General Ordnance Supply and Security (GOSS) and not Government of South Sudan (GOSS).

See AFP report via, Wednesday 08 Oct 2008 - Kenya denies cargo is for Sudan - excerpt:
Kenya’s foreign minister denied a cargo manifest produced by the BBC was evidence that military hardware seized by Somali pirates last month was destined for southern Sudan.

Moses Wetangula said the initials GOSS, a commonly used acronym for the government of South Sudan, included in the contract number had been misinterpreted, and is in fact a code used by Kenya’s defence ministry.

"I have personally seen the bill of lading that is posted on the BBC website, and it is purely speculative," Wetangula told reporters after a meeting with Somali Foreign Minister Ali Jama Jangeli.

"That is the correct document but it was misinterpreted. The initials shown in that cargo manifest do not in any way show that the military cargo was destined for Southern Sudan," he said.

"This is our cargo, it is purely Kenyan. The initials shown as GOSS are misinterpreted to mean government of South Sudan," Wetangula said.

"I have been advised, and this is the government’s position, that it means General Ordnance Supply and Security. That is a code that is used by our department of defence," he explained.
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Toxic waste and possibly even nuclear waste is being dumped in the ocean off Somalia

Excerpt from Der Speigel's special report Monday, 06 October 2008 - Investigating the Faina - Looking for the Good Guys off the Somali Coast - By Clemens Höges, Uwe Klussmann and Horand Knaup; Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan:
The trail of this special freighter, which has had various names -- the Marabou, the Loverval and the Matina -- can be found in the databases of the International Maritime Organization (IMO). The Ukrainian ship is registered in Belize, but the official owner, a company called Waterlux AG, is registered in Panama. But the IMO lacks even a letterbox address for Waterlux. All it has is the address of a supposed subsidiary in Ukraine called Tomex. Tomex does exist, and its offices are in an elegant building in Odessa, but no one there is willing to discuss the Faina.

All of this secretiveness would be unnecessary if the deal involving the Faina had been normal. However, the excessive caution would make sense if what Nina Karpacheva, the ombudswoman for the Ukrainian parliament, says is true. Karpacheva claims that the man behind the deal is Vadim A., a businessman from Odessa with an Israeli passport, excellent contacts within the government bureaucracy and an unsavory reputation as a juggler of businesses.

Both Karpacheva and Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko are calling for an investigation of the Faina affair. The fact that Tymoshenko has become involved is, perhaps, not surprising. She has long been engaged in political battle with President Viktor Yushchenko, whose supporters in the Ukrainian intelligence service, the SBU, have long lined their pockets by selling off the remains of the former Soviet arsenal throughout the world.

The Faina case could also prove to be an international embarrassment for Ukraine in other ways as well. Russia, its more powerful neighbor, has sent the frigate Neutrashimy ("The Fearless") toward Somalia because Ukraine has no ships suitable for such a mission. If the Russians can free the sailors and restore calm to the Horn of Africa, they will have managed to polish up their image in the wake of their invasion of Georgia, as well as to demonstrate who is in charge at home, in a realm that was once the Soviet Union.

Unscrupulous Dealmakers

The Neutrashimy is likely to face off against thousands of pirates. In addition to Sugule Ali's boats, there are at least four other large groups operating along the Horn of Africa: a band of gangsters called the Somali Marines, a group calling itself the National Volunteer Coastguard, and the Puntland Group and Marka Group.

The pirate gangs can do as they wish along the coast of Somalia, which descended into chaos and civil war after the dictator Siad Barre was overthrown in 1991. Since then, unscrupulous dealmakers from Europe and the rest of the world have taken advantage of the vacuum. Some are dumping toxic waste and possibly even nuclear waste in the ocean off Somalia. Others are illegally exploiting the Somalis' fishing grounds. Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the United Nations Special Envoy for Somalia, calls it "a disaster for Somalia's coast, the environment and the population." In the beginning, angry Somali fishermen wielding Kalashnikovs took matters into their own hands and drove away the foreign fishing boats.

In the process, some of them apparently noticed how easy it was to attack ships, and they soon made a business of it. Using the ransom money, they bought themselves mansions, SUVs, better boats and weapons. But the hijacking and ransacking of ships off the Somali coast could soon come to an end.

Spurred to action by the attack on the Faina, the defense ministers of the EU agreed last Wednesday to a launch a joint military intervention. Under the plan three EU warships, one of them from Germany, will patrol off the coast of Somalia beginning in December. American and Russian ships will likely join them. This concerted response will likely deter many pirates. The Strait of Malacca off the Malaysian coast, once considered extremely dangerous, became virtually pirate-free after a similar alliance was formed and resolute military intervention began.
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Photo Gallery: Somali Pirates Go Overboard

Piracy in the Gulf of Aden: German Shipowner Paid Ransom to Somali Pirates (09/16/2008),1518,578495,00.html

A Pirate Amendment?: Berlin Looks at Ways to Battle Somali Kidnappers (06/26/2008),1518,562204,00.html
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Other related reports

Click here to scroll though Sudan Watch entries re above pirates, starting with most recent on Friday, October 03, 2008, entitled: Arrr! Somali pirate captain aboard hijacked Ukrainian ship says: "Whoever attacks, we will defend ourselves"

Also, see Kenya Watch - Friday, 3 October 2008 - Who really owns the hijacked battle tanks?

[This post was also published at this site's parent blog Sudan Watch]

Friday, 3 October 2008

Who really owns the hijacked battle tanks?

Doubts grew on Wednesday over official claims that the battle tanks hijacked by Somali pirates belonged to Kenya.

The authenticity of shipping documents presented by the Government to prove Kenya's ownership was called into question and investigations showed the cargo might in fact have been destined for South Sudan, as the US Navy has claimed all along.

Impeccable sources in Kenya's military confided that the tanks and other arms including anti-aircraft guns and rocket propelled grenades were going to Mombasa only to be off-loaded and sent on to Juba, the South Sudan capital.

The seizure of the equipment, the source said, had put the Kenya Government in an awkward position because it was seen to be in breach of a UN embargo on sale of arms to Sudan.

Government spokesman Alfred Mutua declined to comment further when contacted on Wednesday, except to state: "There is nothing new, and if anything we will post it on our website."

He added that he had not been given the latest information on the standoff between the pirates and the owners of the Ukrainian ship MV Faina, and refused to revisit the question of ownership of the 33 Russian-made T-72 tanks and other military hardware on board.

Dr Mutua, in an attempt to show the cargo belonged to Kenya, released on Monday evening photocopies of a bill of lading and a letter from the Ukrainian exporter about the seizure.

Efforts to establish the authenticity of the bill and the letter, allegedly received from Ukrainian state-owned arms dealer Ukrinmash appealing to the Kenyan government to "assume indispensable measures" to secure the hijacked ship and its cargo, were unsuccessful.

The only indication that the goods were Kenyan was a reference in the letter allegedly from a Ukrainian firm that quotes four invisible contracts dated between 2006 and 2008.

On the bill of lading, the consignee is indicated as Ministry of Defence and the owner as Waterlux AG. The Waterlux AG website shows that it is the owner of the vessel MV Faina, the hijacked ship.

The Nation sent questions to the Ukrinmash website address but none of them has been answered.

It also emerged that Kenya might have been sucked into an arms stockpiling contest between the Sudanese government in Khartoum and the South Sudan administration based in Juba.

Source: 03 October 2008 report by Dominic Wabala, Citizen Correspondent, Nairobi - Who really owns the hijacked battle tanks?