Friday, September 30, 2005

Kenya Riots.

Stand-off at Kenya's parliament. Arguments over the constitution have led to riots. Policemen have surrounded parliament in Kenya's capital, Nairobi, wanting to arrest two MPs holed up inside. The two men are accused of sparking a brawl between rival supporters on Wednesday, which police broke up. Several violent incidents have been reported in tense campaigning ahead of a referendum on a new constitution.

International donors have condemned the violence between the two rival camps and called for a campaign free from violence and intimidation. The wanted men, Reuben Ndolo and David Mwenje, are members of President Mwai Kibaki's ruling Narc coalition opposed to the new draft constitution. Police want to talk to them in connection with violence at a meeting on Wednesday convened by Deputy Minister Maina Kamanda to drum up support for the proposed constitution. "I have no regrets," Mr Mwenje told the BBC's Focus on Africa from within parliament. "It was an illegal meeting."

On Wednesday, diplomats from 25 countries said in a joint statement that they wanted to see a campaign "not marred by violence or its incitement, physical intimidation or financial manipulation". They also urged that members of government and government officials "refrain from any inappropriate use of public resources for political purposes". Opponents of the draft want a new constitution to curb presidential powers.

President Kibaki's government is leading the "Yes" campaign under the symbol of a banana, while the opposition and a party within the ruling coalition have teamed up to campaign against with their symbol of an orange. If the new constitution is approved on 21 November, it would be the first major overhaul of Kenya's constitution since independence from Britain in 1963. Critics of the draft say it fails to establish a strong prime minister's post, which they say would prevent the president abusing his powers.

Instead, the premier is appointed and can be dismissed by the president. Earlier on Thursday, two Kenyan journalists were charged by police over an article a magistrate said was "likely to cause fear and alarm to the public". The opinion piece about Kenya's draft constitution was called "Coups in Africa do not occur out of nothing". Sunday Times Managing Editor Onyango Omollo and Staff Writer David Ochami pleaded innocent.
BBC News Report.



Thursday, September 29, 2005

Human Rights Arrest

Warrant issued for ex-Chad leader.

Hissene Habre's regime is accused of murders and torture. Belgium has issued an international arrest warrant for the former President of Chad, Hissene Habre, charging him with atrocities while in office. Mr Habre, who led Chad from 1982 to 1990, now lives in exile in Senegal. The warrant relates to the activities of his intelligence service, which is accused of arbitrary arrests, mass murder and systematic torture. It was issued under Belgian law, which allows prosecutions for crimes against humanity wherever they were committed.

Belgium has also made an official extradition request for Mr Habre to the authorities in Senegal. Mr Habre, 63, ruled the former French colony of Chad for eight years until deposed by the current leader, President Idriss Deby. Human rights groups accuse Mr Habre's regime of some 40,000 executions and the torture of 200,000 people.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Hitting the Jackpot Twice!

New American's dream lottery win. Kenyan immigrant Moses Bittok received an unexpected reward for becoming a United States citizen on Friday when he became a millionaire on the same day. After being sworn in as an American citizen after waiting for 16 years, he popped in to a store to check a lottery ticket and discovered he had won.

"It's almost like you adopted a country and then they netted you $1.8 million," the 40-year-old told a news conference. "It doesn't happen anywhere - I guess only in America," he added.

The good news came straight after he had taken his oath of US citizenship. He said his wife, Leonora, screamed upon learning the news, but he added: "Somehow, I am calm".

Mr Bittok took his oath at the Federal Building in Des Moines, Iowa, on Friday. Afterwards, he and his wife stopped at a petrol station to check the winning numbers in the Iowa lottery draw on 21 September, which he had entered.
Speaking at a news conference, Mr Bittock said the money would not change him and his wife, who is a nurse. Apart from spending money on doing up their house in Iowa, Moses and his wife will help their family back home in Kenya, whom they still have not told about their good fortune.

Mr Bittock, who works at a correctional institute, says he will also put aside money to educate the couple's four-year-old daughter.



Elephant Poaching.

Europe is 'fuelling ivory trade'
By Zoe Murphy BBC News.

Recently crafted ivory jewellery can be found with relative ease in Paris. Europe's thriving ivory retail market is threatening an increase in elephant poaching, conservationists have warned. More than 27,000 ivory products were found on sale in five major European countries where investigators went: the UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain.

Global conservation groups Care for the Wild and Save the Elephants say an active ivory market spurs poachers on.
Elephant populations in Africa were halved in the 1980s, after more than 500,000 animals were slaughtered.Although the ivory trade has shrunk in Europe since the 1989 ban passed by the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites), the groups' investigators found a worrying number of artefacts on sale. Barbara Maas, Care for the Wild German and UK markets now rival East Asian giants such as China and Japan, they claim. Their report also warned that all ivory, even if legally sourced, contributed to the slaughter of elephants. Care for the Wild's chief executive, Barbara Maas, said the trade in Europe was predominantly in old ivory.

"Although technically legal, we mustn't forget that every item represents a dead elephant."

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


Zimbabwe reveals IMF cash source.

Zimbabwe paid the IMF with cash from sales of cotton and tobacco. Zimbabwe has revealed how it financed a surprise $120m (£68m) payment that defused a long-standing row with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Central bank Governor Gideon Gono said the cash was earned from exports and foreign exchange purchases.
Zimbabwe was threatened with expulsion from the IMF unless it paid off interest from a $4.5bn loan.

The sudden payment - at a time when the economy is in crisis - raised questions about how the money had been sourced. Zimbabwe still owes the IMF $175m, but it has been given another six months to settle its debts.



Trip to China

I have to admit that I am still extremely tired after my trip to China. I seem to be very jet lagged indeed. I can be fine for quite some time, and then suddenly it hits me and I can hardly keep my eyes open. I wake during the night - I am wide awake and it is very dark outside, so I try to get back to sleep. It took me 8 days to re-adjust on my return from the USA, and it is now passed that mile stone, so I hope it wont be too long before I feel back to normal. This trip to China has been just so exciting with so much to see, do and taking part in the workshops we had was great fun. Our Winter actvities have all started up here now, so Summer is over - just wish I was not so tired.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Cathy Buckle

I wonder how many of us have missed reading Cathy Buckle's letters since her last one at the beginning of September.
Is it is a case of "Out of Sight out of Mind" ? I had been away when she wrote her last one, so was only able to post that one, telling us that she would be stopping her weekly letter for a while, when I got back a few days ago.
Seems strange to me, but I feel something is missing in my life - I miss her weekly contact...........

Are You Alive?


Friday, September 23, 2005

Farm Land in S.Africa.

S African white farm to be seized.

South Africa's landless have been calling for swifter land reformSouth Africa says it will for the first time force a white farmer to sell his land under a redistribution plan. The decision was announced by the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights, set up to return to black people land lost under apartheid.

An official said talks to agree on a price for the farm had failed and the farmer has vowed to challenge the move. South Africa's government says it wants to hand over about a third of white-owned farm land by 2014. The commission on Thursday said an expropriation notice would be served on Hannes Visser, the owner of a cattle and crop farm in North West province. The government offered to buy the 500-hectare (1,250-acre) farm for $275,000 but Mr Visser said it was worth almost twice as much.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Cathy's letter from Zimbabwe

Dear Family and Friends,
It was cause for great sadness to watch Zanu PF MP's clapping, dancing and singing in Zimbabwe's parliament this week after the announcement that their two thirds majority had secured the latest amendments to our country's constitution. The rights of individual Zimbabweans are being systematically stripped away and for this the ruling party cheer - as if the country was theirs alone, for all time. The latest amendments allow government to withdraw passports from people whose travel is deemed to be against the national interest. A 65 member Senate is to be re introducedeven though the economy is shrinking and Ministers say that 90% of their annual budgets are needed for wages and allowances.The constitutional amendments also forbid citizens whose land was seized by Zanu PF from having their grievances heard in court. The Minister of Justice, being interviewed by a South African television programme,insisted that this latest prohibition on seeking legal recourse was aimed at white skinned Zimbabweans only. The wording of the constitutional amendment however, does not mention skin colour at all, so one can only wonder how long it will be before this same provision is used against other out of favour Zimbabwean farmers. However, according to the propaganda, this was the end, once and for all, of white farmers and for this "achievement" Zanu PF MP's and even the Vice President, danced in the aisles of parliament.One after another a string of "analysts", "commentators" and "experts" have been paraded on state owned TV to praise the constitutional amendments. None have questioned why there was not a referendum or if this is what 11.6 million Zimbabweans really want. The government says that this now brings "finality" to five years of land seizures and that all agricultural land belongs to the state.Most ordinary Zimbabweans have got absolutely no idea what is going on on the farms anymore and they are not alone in their confusion. Every season the government announces they are conducting an "audit" of who is on which farm as if they don't know themselves. They say they are investigating why production continues to fall monstrously short of national requirements.The few commercial farmers still left operating after five years of utter mayhem are permanently sea sick as the orders from officials change literally by the week - get off your farm, stay on it, give up half of the farm, have an unwritten lease but give us the title deeds, oops we changed our minds and want it all, put your crop in we'll protect you, get out by tomorrow, this is our farm and our crop. And so Zanu PF MP's might be dancing in the aisles and congratulating themselves but it doesn't actually change a thing. People are tired, hungry and destitute, inflation is soaring and it is as uncertain as ever on the farms. Just weeks away from the main planting season there is little sign that anything is about to change anytime soon - regardless of the constitutional changes or the skin colour of the Zimbabwean out there on the farm. I am going to take a break from this letter for a few weeks but please keep watching and caring about Zimbabwe and until next time, thanks for reading, with love,cathy.
Copyright cathy buckle 3rd September 2005http://africantears.netfirms.comMy books "African Tears" and "Beyond Tears" are available

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

My Trip to China

I have just returned from China, on a Cultural Exchange Trip through my T'ai Chi class.It is taking me quite some time to take in all that I did, saw, ate and visited whilst I was there.
First thing one notices is that China is HUGE. We flew into Beijing airport and we were all collected and taken to an hotel, where we stayed for 5 nights. Our hotel was spotless, our room had everything one could possible need, and once one mastered the art of eating with chop sticks, there was always enough food to feed an army at meal times.The weather was hot and rather humid, so we had a great deal of mist, dust particles and pollution about. Beijing is well spread out, has to be with 14 million people living there! One does not get the feeling of being closed in by skyscrapers, as there are not that many of them just now.
There is a continual buzz night and day as the roads which are massive expressways with traffic in one direction 6 lanes wide. There are still a large number of cyclists and everyone dodges everyone else with the help of their hooters on the inner roads, where one literally takes ones life in ones hands just trying to cross a road at the traffic lights, and the occasional traffic attendant making things even worse!!! You see no one really pays any attention to road signs, lights or anything else for that matter, but they just veave their way through the traffic even going over the central dividing line and into on coming traffic, before everyone has to swerve to let them in. Not to mention of course people crossing on foot and all the bikes going up the road the wrong way as well. One really does need eyes in the back of ones head to drive there. We were assured that there was a very hard indeed Driving Test needed to be passed to be let loose on the roads. Beats me how they have a population problem! The Chinese people seem very friendly and although we could not talk and be understood by language, sign language worked pretty well all the same. I had thought all signs would be in Chinese, but quite a number also had English as well ( I think!) I will come back with more thoughts soon.............

Thursday, September 01, 2005


Why is the IMF thinking of expelling Zimbabwe?

Robert Mugabe has sought assistance from China. The IMF is taking action because Zimbabwe has not paid interest on the money it has borrowed. The country has suffered five years in which its economy has shrunk, millions have been forced out of work, inflation has soared and the currency has tumbled. It has been ostracised by both the IMF and donors countries after an election in 2000, which many observers charged was rigged, and since it instituted a policy of seizing land owned by white farmers for redistribution to the black majority.
The seizures meant much of the agriculture sector, the country's biggest export earner, has withered away. In the midst of that, it is hardly surprising that the $295m it owes the International Monetary Fund in interest on loans taken out over the previous decades has till recently gone unpaid - although $120m was in fact repaid at the end of August. In total, the country is carrying debts of some $4.5bn. The IMF is prepared to keep Zimbabwe in the fold - but at the cost of stringent economic conditions, such as limits on spending, which the government of President Robert Mugabe refuses to consider.
Mr Mugabe blames his country's problems on interference from Western countries - in particular the UK, from whom it gained independence in 1980. But if donors are staying away anyway, what difference would an expulsion make?
The role of the IMF is to give short-term loans to countries in economic difficulties. Approval by the IMF is also seen as a signal by private lenders that it is safe to lend to that country. So getting kicked out of the IMF would effectively mean Zimbabwe was ostracised by the international economic community. That would make it more difficult for anyone wanting to do business with, or in, Zimbabwe to get loans.
In addition, the assumption has to be that whatever the current situation in Zimbabwe, it will one day want to return to seeking loans or even selling government bonds to raise money for public spending. Basic foodstuffs are sometimes in short supply. Expulsion from the IMF would mean much higher interest rates, much more stringent conditions - and therefore quite possibly a much longer haul back from Zimbabwe's current parlous economic state.
Just how serious a situation is Zimbabwe in?
One index of the gravity of Zimbabwe's predicament is its shrinking population. A census in 2002 suggested that as many as a quarter of its population, or up to 4 million people, have fled to neighbouring countries or headed for the UK, Europe or the USA. Some believe they face political persecution for supporting the main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
But others are simply desperate to find work to support their families. More than 70% of the Zimbabwean workforce is classed as unemployed. Inflation is currently running at more than 250% a year, while the cost of living - according to the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe - has tripled since the start of 2005. And while five years ago the official exchange rate was 55 Zimbabwean dollars to the US dollar, today it has plummeted to more than 24,000. The black market rate is about twice that. Key to the problem, economists say, is that both industry and agriculture have been devastated over the past half-decade - meaning a drastic shortage of goods both for domestic use and for export. Without exports, the country cannot raise foreign currency to buy fuel, import food to feed an estimated 4 million people suffering malnutrition, Oddly, through all of this the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange has soared - not least because speculation has been one of the few ways to make money.
Agricultural production has plummeted.
But during much of August there was no trading on the exchange, after the government threatened a 10% withholding tax on share deals and a rule change which would have forced pension funds to put much of their assets into government bonds rather than equities.
So what can Zimbabwe do?
The most concrete step came on 1 September, when Finance Minister Gideon Gono said the government had repaid $120m to the IMF as a sign of its sincerity about the arrears. The money, he said, had been raised from exporters and holders of overseas assets. But many observers doubt this would be possible, with South Africa's Business Day paper saying it might come from undeclared foreign exchange reserves - if true, hardly a situation likely to please the IMF.
Others have speculated that China may have come up with the cash. In July, President Mugabe travelled to Beijing to seek help. China has become a key trading partner when other countries have stayed away, and Chinese firms and individuals have now taken over many businesses and properties in Zimbabwe. Despite warm words, President Mugabe apparently came away empty-handed, but it is possible that a deal could have been struck.
Foreign exchange is needed to replenish fuel supplies.
Alternatively, there is South Africa, which is currently discussing a possible loan which would both provide working capital for the government in Harare and stave off the IMF expulsion. Media reports initially suggested US$1bn, but a more likely figure is thought to be US$200-500m. Still, South Africa has indicated that it, too, would require changes in economic policy to boost production and get inflation and the decline in the currency under control - conditions which Zimbabwean ministers say they refuse to accept.