Saturday, 30 January 2010

Kenya - Land disputes at the root of African wars

Land disputes at the root of African wars

A selection of the African continent's fights over land that have turned into violent, conflict, or threaten to.

From The Christian Science Monitor
By Jina Moore Correspondent, 30 January 2010
Land battles that sparked African conflicts

Western Sudan (Darfur) In the 1970s, the government eliminated the country's native administration – a quasi-government and colonial holdover of traditional elders – and rejected traditional land rights, depriving Darfur's pastoralists of access to grazing lands. When famine exacerbated disputes about land in the 1980s, violence broke out. Land grievances were never resolved, and in 2003, a rebel movement made up in part of disenfranchised former landholders revolted against the Sudanese government, which retaliated by arming bands of camel herders known as janjaweed to repress the rebellion – and promising them hefty tracts of the land, emptied in the course of the violence the militia unleashed.

The Democratic Republic of Congo Often called Africa's most deadly conflict, violence in parts of the northeast started over grazing cows in1999, when Hema herders evicted Lendu farmers after purchasing their land. Eviction grievances led both tribes to pick up weapons. As violence spread, the value of other mineral-rich lands contributed to the chaos in which 5 million people have died.

Ethiopia and Eritrea A 1998 dispute over the dusty border town of Badme turned into all-out war, with 80,000 deaths in two years. The town became the flash point of an older argument over the border between the two countries. Both sides saw Badme as a symbol of their real economic concern: power over the port of Assab, the Red Sea trade gateway. Despite international court rulings, the countries consider the border dispute unresolved – and their presidents often rally support by threatening to resume the fight.

Kenya Many indigenous tribes lost rights to traditional lands when the British privatized land holdings. When Joseph Kenyatta, the first postcolonial president, sought land redistribution, he gave the most fertile to his Kikuyu tribe. In a later backlash, many Kikuyu were pushed off their pastures. This created ethnic land grievances that have inspired violence during Kenya's elections since the 1990s, most recently after President Mwai Kabaki, a Kikuyu, was accused of stuffing ballot boxes in 2007.

Rwanda The 1994 genocide may have been catalyzed as much by land scarcity as by ethnic tension. Africa's most densely populated country found itself nearly without enough land to make farmers trust that they and their children could support themselves. Though the slaughter of minority Tutsis was also ethnically motivated, land fears played no small part in the violence.

Zimbabwe Land grievances helped fuel the 12-year war that led to independence in 1979. But recent violence stems from land reform efforts. In the name of economic fairness, President Robert Mugabe seized white farms and turned them over to blacks, primarily government officials who knew little about farming. As a result, agricultural production plummeted, food became scarce, and inflation spiked. Mugabe held power in a 2008 election only with violent intimidation of Zimbabweans.

Combustible land disputes that could erupt in conflict

Burundi The past decade brought the return of more than a half-million refugees who'd fled violence that began with independence in 1963. Many found their homes occupied – and because laws give ownership to anyone who has peacefully occupied land for at least 30 years, many refugees lost their homes and livelihoods. Experts fear the grievance could spark renewed conflict.

South Africa At the 1994 transition to democracy, the government planned to redistribute 30 percent of white-owned farms to blacks within 20 years. Transfers are behind schedule, and more than half have failed. After an outbreak of racial violence last year, observers fear the status quo – with expectations so high, progress so slow, and livelihoods at stake – is combustible.

Southern Sudan The 2005 peace agreement that ended a 20-year fight for the south didn't resolve tensions between the nation's two land systems. Private property reform implemented in the north was rejected in the south, which continues to use traditional rules. Danger of a potential clash between parallel systems is amplified by what's at stake: The south is oil-rich.

Uganda After 20 years of violence in the north, peace is bringing people home – and disputes are erupting over who owns property. Eighty percent of Ugandans have property claims based on the traditional land system, but a generation of conflict has weakened the traditional authority, of elders to resolve disputes or enforce land rules. As the government steps in to fill the power vacuum, experts fear a backlash.

Zambia White farmers forced off land in neighboring countries, found fertile soils here, and were initially welcomed by the government (five years ago). The tone changed as some immigrant farmers agitated locals by putting down roots on traditional lands. New arrivals, especially those fleeing Zimbabwe, are closely scrutinized. Observers fear deepening tensions.

Related Stories

US suspends $7m Kenya aid over graft

From AFP - ‎26 January 2010:‎
(NAIROBI) — The United States has suspended a seven-million-dollar programme for Kenya's education ministry over a massive corruption scandal, Washington's ambassador Michael Ranneberger said Tuesday.

The move by Kenya's largest single aid partner came a month after Britain froze funding for the ministry of education over the disappearance of 1.3 million dollars.

"The United States government has suspended a planned five-year, seven-million-dollar capacity-building programme for the ministry of education that was scheduled to begin in 2010," Ranneberger said in a speech to the American Chamber of Commerce in Nairobi.

He added that the suspension would be effective "until there is a credible, independent audit and full accountability."

"Those culpable for the fraud should not merely be sacked; they should be prosecuted and put behind bars," Ranneberger said.

The ambassador generally expressed disappointment with pervasive graft in the country and the lack of accountability over the deadly violence that erupted following the disputed December 2007 polls.

"There is no more glaring example that impunity is alive and well in Kenya than the fact that two years after the events there has been no accountability for the over 1,000 lives lost and 350,000 people displaced," Ranneberger said.

"Those who organised, financed, and perpetrated the violence must be brought to justice, preferably through a local tribunal, but through international investigation and prosecution in the absence of a credible local tribunal."

The governing coalition formed in 2008 with the election's rival camps has been criticised at home and abroad for stalling key reforms recommended by internationally-backed post-violence commissions.

US suspends Kenya school funding

BBC News - ‎Jan 26, 2010‎
The US has suspended $7m of funding for free primary schools in Kenya until fraud allegations are investigated, the US ambassador in Nairobi has said. ...

National Survey Shows Kenyan Internet Market Heading Towards 'Critical Mass'

National Survey Shows Kenyan Internet Market Heading Towards 'Critical Mass'
From Angola Press, Saturday, 30 January 2010:
(London) - The latest national survey from market research company Synovate shows Kenya's Internet market is growing fast and on the basis of this growth will soon reach "critical mass". The growth in users is coming from both urban and rural areas and is predominantly amongst the young and well educated.

The total sample for this random survey was 1,500 people, with 500 of those in a boost sample from across the major districts of Kenya. Therefore the coverage is nationally representative of adults 15 and above and has a sampling margin of error of + or - 3%. It makes comparisons with a similar survey it carried out in 2007.

On the basis of this sample, Synovate estimates that there are now 3.5 million Internet users in Kenya. However, daily Internet use has grown from 2% of the respondents in 2007 to 5% in 2009 and weekly use from 5% to 12% over the same period. The daily use figure is
the crucial one as it shows users who are finding that that they cannot do without Internet services.

If the weekly Internet use is broken down on an urban vs rural basis, urban use grew from 22% of respondents in 2007 to 30% in 2009. Rural use grew from 4% to 9% over the same period. These results confirm a lot of anecdotal evidence that has been reaching us about young people using the Government's new Internet centres and cyber cafes in rural areas.

The lower income groups recorded a much more fast paced growth in internet access.

However Internet penetration within middle class and below is still very low, making it the group with the highest growth potential. And following the expected drop in Internet costs LSM 4-10s should provide the highest growth in usage. At least half the non-users across all social categories said they would be interested in using the Internet if they had access.

In terms of age, 50% of the respondents using Internet were aged 15-34 with 21% in the 18-24 age bracket. The upcoming generation of Kenyans will be regular users of the Internet and it will form as much part of their lives as mobile phones. Over 56% of the Internet using respondents were college or University educated. Therefore those countries with better education levels in Africa will show markedly higher Internet penetration levels.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Pass this on: Missing Persons Registry - Haitian Earthquake January 2010

Copy of message today on Twitter from Ushahidi's Erik Hersman:
Pass this on. Missing persons registry for #haiti is
about 4 hours ago from twhirl
Further reading

Patrick Meier's report at Ushahidi's blog, 13 January 2010: Our Efforts in Response to Haiti’s Earthquake - We’ve launched

Ethan Zuckerman's blog post at My Heart's in Accra, 13 January 2010: Following the Haitian earthquake online

Thursday, 7 January 2010

China pledges $7m (£4.4m) for Kenya infrastructure

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi says it is important to build up Africa's infrastructure. In November, China's government said it would offer Africa $10bn (£6.3bn) in concessional loans over the next three years.

China pledges funds for Kenya infrastructure
From BBC News 08:13 GMT, Thursday, 7 January 2010:
China says it will give a $7m (£4.4m) grant to help fund infrastructure development projects in Kenya.

The announcement came at the start of the Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi's latest Africa tour.

His schedule includes visits to Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Algeria, Morocco and Saudi Arabia.

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki said China has offered to help develop a second port at Lamu which will be connected to Ethiopia, Southern Sudan and Rwanda.

Correspondents said this would provide a route to export Chinese oil from Southern Sudan.

China will also help upgrade a railroad linking Kenya's Mombasa port and the Ugandan capital, said a statement from President Mwai Kibaki's office.

"For Africa to further take off, it is very important to build up the infrastructure so that African countries can conduct intra-regional trade on a massive scale," Mr Yang told reporters.

In November, China's government said it would offer Africa $10bn (£6.3bn) in concessional loans over the next three years.