Wednesday, November 30, 2005


High hopes for new archbishop.
By Robert Pigott, - BBC Religious Affairs correspondent.

Dr Sentamu has the second highest post in the Church of England. The Church of England has celebrated the appointment of its first black archbishop with a feast of sound and colour at York Minster to inaugurate John Sentamu as Archbishop of York.
What is expected of Ugandan-born Dr Sentamu now he is the Church's second in command? Never before has an archbishop approached his new cathedral with a fanfare to match John Sentamu's - a boat up the River Ouse to the beat of African drums, a walk through the medieval streets of York to the Minster and a service including a Ugandan dance of rejoicing.
No enthronement has echoed to drums and lilting African songs and then ended with the release of doves and balloons.
But never before has the Church of England had a black archbishop, let alone one born in Uganda before exile in Britain and a meteoric rise through the ecclesiastical ranks. Nor, perhaps, one on whom so many hopes have been pinned. The new archbishop has himself acknowledged the church is in a 'trough'.
Even the commission that chose him acknowledged that it was looking for a man who could reconnect the Church of England with England. A secular age has produced a drift away from the Church, both from its pews, and its moral message.
It has become badly divided, especially in the wider Communion over how far it should adapt its values to chime with contemporary life.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


Best in quotes

George Best dies
So George, where did it all go wrong?

The hotel bellboy who delivered champagne to Best's room and found him entertaining a scantily-clad Miss World on a bed covered with his winnings from the casino.

I've stopped drinking, but only while I'm asleep. George Best provides some dark humour about his addiction.

The only thing I have in common with George Best is that we come from the same place, play for the same club and were discovered by the same man - Norman Whiteside.

I think I've found you a genius.The telegram sent to Manchester United by talent scout Bob Bishop, who discovered a 15-year-old Best playing for Cregagh Boys' Club.

I once said Gazza's IQ was less than his shirt number and he asked me: "What's an IQ?"Best on Paul Gascoigne.

I'd give all the Champagne I've ever drunk to be playing alongside him in a big European match at Old Trafford. - Eric Cantona impressed Best.

In 1969 I gave up women and alcohol - it was the worst 20 minutes of my life.
George Best - ever the joker.

I was in for 10 hours and had 40 pints - beating my previous record by 20 minutes.
Best on the blood transfusion after his liver transplant.

He's not George Best, but then again, no-one is.Commentator Clive Tyldesley.

I spent a lot of money on booze, birds and fast cars. The rest I just squandered.
Best on cash.



Egypt's Ahly break world record
By Amr Shaheen BBC Sport, Cairo.

Ahly have not been beaten since June 2004.

African champions Ahly have the best unbeaten run in world club football after their 3-1 league win over Arab Contractors on Sunday. A hat-trick by Mohamed Abu Treka took the Egyptian club to a 55-game record in all competitions, surpassing the 54-game achievements of Brazilian side Santos and Uruguayan club Penarol. Santos achieved their record between November 1960 and October 1963, while Penarol made their mark between 1965 and 1968. Sunday's win also keeps Ahly's perfect winning record in the ten matches of the ongoing Egyptian season.

Ahly, who will be representing Africa at December's World Club Championship, have not been defeated since June 2004, when they were beaten by Arab Contractors in an Egyptian Cup tie.
But the biggest challenge to Ahly's record will be during next month's Fifa World Club Championship in Japan. The Egyptians take on Asian champions Al Ittihad in their opening game. Victory in that 11 December game would set them up for a tough game against South American champions Sao Paolo.


Canada's government is thrown out.

Stephen Harper celebrated after plotting his rival's downfall. Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin's government has been ousted in a no-confidence vote. Canada's three opposition parties united against his Liberal Party, which has been mired in a corruption scandal. Mr Martin will seek the dissolution of parliament on Tuesday, and a date for a general election - thought likely to be 16 or 23 January.
Recent polls suggest Mr Martin's Liberals will take most votes in the election - but will not win a majority. In parliament on Monday evening the opposition voted by 171-133 to bring down Mr Martin's government. "This has been an historic evening," said opposition Conservative leader Stephen Harper. "This is not just the end of a tired directionless scandal-plagued government. It's the start of a bright new future for this great country."
Mr Martin insisted his party would win the election. He said he would visit Governor General Michaelle Jean on Tuesday to ask her to dissolve parliament, after which the election date would be announced.

Monday, November 28, 2005


Actress Winona Ryder was convicted of shoplifting.

More than 3.5 million people have admitted shoplifting in the past five years, according to new research. What do they take? For some it is an addiction, for others a job or a spur-of-the-moment thing, but hundreds of thousands of Brits do it each year. Almost 700,000 people admit shoplifting every year and take £13m worth of goods, according to a survey commissioned by Group 4 Securicor. Each person took an average of £105 worth of goods, with supermarkets regarded as the easiest place for shoplifting by 21% of people, followed by garden and DIY centres. But what do they take?
Professor Martin Gill, director of the University of Leicester Scarman Centre, says what people steal can depend on whether it is for personal use or to sell. Razor blades, air fresheners, batteries, CDs, DVDs, electronic gaming and music equipment and alcohol are cited by offenders as good items to sell on, according to his research. Also cheese, meat and other foodstuffs, all of which can be exchanged for cash very quickly. And while there is no absolute rule, those who steal to sell on are likely to steal much larger quantities of product than those stealing for themselves.
He says the acronym CRAVED is used to explain the product characteristics most likely to influence a thief's decision about what to steal. It stands for concealable, removable, available, valued, enjoyed and disposable. Although the most commonly stolen items are razor blades, the survey suggests that on average the value of the single most expensive item that people have stolen is £35, while 5% of people have stolen items worth more than £50.
Kevin Hawkins, the director general of the British Retail Consortium, says shoplifting remained a serious problem for retailers and society as a whole. "Retail crime has significant demoralising effects on shop owners and their staff, especially as theft is increasingly accompanied byviolence, threats and verbal abuse. Shop theft is frequently a 'gateway' to more serious offences."
BBC Magazine.




Apology over missed Aids target.
By Madeleine Morris BBC News, Johannesburg

Aids has had a particularly devastating effect in Africa. The head of the World Health Organisation's HIV/Aids programme has apologised for its failure to meet a global target for the treatment of HIV. It had aimed to get three million people in poor countries on Aids drugs by the end of this year, but the WHO admits that target will be missed.
Three by Five, as it is known, was the much heralded programme to promote Aids treatment to the poorest of the poor. Begun just two years ago, it was always an ambitious aim. When the WHO announced in June that only one million of the three million people it had hoped to have on drugs were receiving them, it became apparent that the ambition would not be fulfilled.
In an interview with the BBC, the head of the programme, Jim Yong-Kim has said sorry. "All we can do is apologise," he said. "I think we have to just admit we've not done enough and we started way too late." Exactly how many people are on treatment will not be known until early next year. But Dr Kim says despite missing the target, the programme has not been a failure.
"Before Three by Five, there was not an emphasis on saving lives," he said. "Many leaders in the world were saying we just have to forget about this generation of people who are infected, we're really thinking about the next generation. "So something has happened that's extraordinary."
Aids drugs, or anti-retrovirals, greatly improve the quality of life and life expectancy for people infected with HIV, but the most optimistic estimates suggest only one in 10 Africans and one in seven Asians are currently getting the treatment they need. According to UN figures out last week over 40 million people worldwide are now infected with the HIV virus.

Sunday, November 27, 2005


'Several die' in south Iran quake.
A powerful earthquake has hit southern Iran, destroying several villages and killing at least three people and injuring others, according to reports.

The 5.9-magnitude quake struck Qeshm island, home to 120,000 people, and the city of Bandar Abbas, state media said. The governor of Qeshm island told the AFP news agency four villages had been destroyed and three people killed. The quake, which struck at 1353 (1023 GMT), was felt in the neighbouring Gulf states of Oman and the UAE.

Iran sits in a volatile earthquake region, and is regularly struck by damaging quakes. A 6.4-magnitude quake hit the town of Zarand in Kerman province in February, killing hundreds of people and injuring more than 1,400. The ancient city of Bam was destroyed in December 2003 by a 6.7-strength earthquake that killed some 31,000 people.

Saturday, November 26, 2005


Zimbabwe elects its first senate.
The opposition predicted turnout of less than 10%. Voting has been taking place in Zimbabwe for a controversial new upper house of parliament, the Senate. Up to 3.2 million people were eligible to vote for 50 members of the 66-seat Senate. However turnout was reported to have been low across the country. Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai who had called for a boycott dismissed the election as a "non-event".
President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party already controls the lower house, and is expected to dominate the Senate. Counting was due to get under way on Saturday night after the polls closed, with results expected on Monday. Official voter turnout numbers were not immediately available, but observers put the figure at 20%, Reuters news agency reports. Some of the 31 constituencies recorded an estimated turnout of just 12%. In parts of the capital, Harare, there were reportedly larger queues at supermarkets than at nearby polling stations.

50 senators elected on constituency basis
Six senators appointed by president
10 traditional chiefs

"It doesn't benefit us. Voting for what? For some people to get money and enjoy their lives while we are starving here?" one motorist in a fuel queue said. A spokesman for Mr Tsvangirai said the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader predicted a turnout of less than 10%. "As far as Mr Tsvangirai is concerned this a non-event and it goes against national sentiments. The people in this country deserve better," William Bango said. Mr Tsvangirai had been determined to boycott the elections. But rivals in his party had argued that participation was key to challenging Zanu-PF. They fielded 26 candidates for the election. Observers say that divisions within the party are unlikely to be healed and that the MDC is now on its deathbed.
The Senate will comprise 50 elected senators, six senators appointed by the president, and 10 traditional chiefs. The government says a two-chamber parliament will strengthen democracy.
But opponents say it is an opportunity for Mr Mugabe to distribute more jobs to his loyal supporters. The annual cost of the Senate has been put at $60m, according to the government.
Many Zimbabweans suffering acute shortages of food and fuel have questioned the "huge costs" of financing an election and a new chamber.
The BBC's Peter Biles in Johannesburg says voters have become deeply disillusioned with the government and with the MDC's inability to become an effective opposition. The last elections were eight months ago when voters chose a new parliament. Shortly after, the constitution was amended to create an upper house to the current one-chamber parliament.




Kenya disqualified from Cecafa Cup.
By Eric Odanga BBC Sport, Nairobi.

Cecafa secretary-general Musonye says Kenya must stay away. East and Central Africa's football ruling body, Cecafa, has disqualified Kenya from the 2005 Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup in Kigali, Rwanda. This follows a boycott by the Harambee Stars who refused to travel on Friday for the tournament until outstanding allowances are paid. The decision to disqualify Kenya was taken at the General Assembly meeting of the organisation on Saturday.
Nicholas Musonye, the Cecafa secretary-general, told BBC Sport that the Kenya Football Federation, KFF has been fined US$2,000 for the no show in Kigali. It had earlier been suggested that the Kenyans be suspended for two years from the competition for their actions.
According to Musonye, the Cecafa General Assembly has initially wanted the KFF to also repay US$15,000 being to cost incurred by the tournament's sponsor to purchase 35 air tickets for the team. "It is too late and Harambee Stars should not bother coming to Kigali because the fixtures have already been changed," Musonye added. As a Kenyan himself, Musonye termed Kenyan team's decision not to travel to Kigali as the "highest sabotage." "What else did they need if a chance to win the prize money was not enough motivation?" he added.
Reacting to Kenya's disqualification, Commissioner for Sports Gordon Oluoch said that Cecafa had taken a rash decision. "Cecafa relied on rumours to lock out the Harambee Stars. It was only yesterday that the team walked out." "Who told them Kenya could not raise a team? This was purely an internal matter?" he added.
Earlier, the government had ordered the national football team, the Harambee Stars to travel to Kigali for the tournament. Commissioner for Sports Gordon Oluoch told BBC Sport that the government had purchased plane tickets for the team to leave for Kigali on Monday afternoon.
Apart from Kenya's disqualification, Cecafa also re-dedicated the region's commitment to developing youth football. "Our aim is to get a team from this region to qualify for the 2010 World Cup and we will also support any country which bids for the 2012 African Cup of Nations, "the final communiqué said.
It also added that the Cecafa region will also encourage member countries to bid for the 2009 Under-19 or Under-17 African youth championships.

Friday, November 25, 2005


Refugees battle to get legal in SA.

A report by Human Rights Watch says South African officials cannot cope with the numbers of refugees coming into the country, with the result that thousands spend years in a twilight legal status. The BBC's Justin Pearce spoke to some asylum seekers in Johannesburg.
Noel was asked to pay a bribe to get his asylum seeker's permit.Noel Maluka says he decided to leave the Democratic Republic of Congo after he was stabbed in the face by Congolese security forces - losing the sight in his left eye during the assault. He says he was attacked in April during an anti-government demonstration in Kinshasa by his party, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS).
A relative paid for him to fly to South Africa, where he hoped to gain refugee status on the grounds of political persecution. When he went to the Pretoria office of Home Affairs - the government department that deals with immigration - a man he describes as "security" demanded a payment of R200 ($30) to be allowed in to have his application processed. He didn't have the money. After receiving some money from relatives back in Kinshasa, he decided instead to try another office.
"I went to Durban - there it was free, even if you had to spend the night outside the office." The Durban office also offered the services of a translator, something that was absent in Pretoria - like many asylum seekers in South Africa, Mr Maluka does not speak English. Mr Maluka now has to travel the 600km to Durban every time he needs to renew his permit. This is usually once every two months, though other asylum seekers say they have had their permits renewed sometimes for three months and sometimes only for one month.
"Who are we to tell them what to do?" says another Congolese asylum seeker, who gave her name as Mamie. "If they want to, they can give you only five days or a week." On one occasion when she went to renew her permit, Mamie says she once spent a week sleeping outside the Home Affairs office in Johannesburg to try to get to the front of the queue


Toxic leak reaches Chinese city.

The authorities have been ferrying in water by tankers. A huge swathe of toxic water has reached the north-eastern Chinese city of Harbin after drifting down the river which is the city's main water source. Massive amounts of the chemical benzene were released by a blast 11 days ago at a plant in Jilin, about 380km (230 miles) further up the Songhua river.
Authorities shut off water supplies to Harbin's 3.8m residents two days ago. There is plenty of bottled water, wells are being dug and supplies are being driven in, says a BBC correspondent. More than 16,000 tonnes of water are also being brought in by road, the Chinese state news agency Xinhua says - though this is less than Harbin's residents normally use in a day. At water collection points, people are queuing up with plastic buckets, basins, kettles and bottles.

13 November Explosion at petrochemical plant, Jilin city
21 Nov Water to Harbin city cut off; local government cites mains maintenance
22 Nov State media say water could have been contaminated after the blast
23 Nov Authorities admit very high levels of benzene have been found in the water.

Fifteen hospitals have been placed on stand-by to cope with possible poisoning victims. Some schools and businesses have closed and flights out of the city are sold out. "Everyone wants to leave Harbin and it is very difficult to buy tickets," a factory manager told Reuters. It is possible that people upstream would not have known anything was wrong with the water, our correspondent says, raising concerns that farmers and other residents may have been using it as normal. Reports on Thursday said the contaminated body of water had levels of benzene more than 30 times higher than was considered safe.

Colourless, highly flammable liquid distilled from petroleum
Used as a cleaning agent, solvent, in dyes and paints
Lethal to humans exposed to it in high levels
Chronic exposure leads to progressive degeneration of bone marrow and leukaemia

China's environmental watchdog had found levels in the river 108 times the safe limit on Wednesday. The 80km (50 mile) contaminated stretch of water reached Harbin at about 0300 local time on Thursday (1900 GMT Wednesday), the government said. It was expected to take 40 hours to pass. "After it passes... we will have to make efforts to disinfect the water," Shi Zhongxin, director of the city's water bureau, said on state television. He did not give any details.
Neighbouring Russia was urgently seeking information from China on the spill. A state of emergency will take effect in Russia's eastern Khabarovsk region, about 700km (435 miles) downriver from Harbin, on Friday, amid fears of possible contamination of the Amur river, officials from the emergency ministry say. They said it would affect Khabarovsk on 30 November-1 December.
However, the Chinese authorities played down the threat to Russia, saying it would take longer than that to affect the country. "It will be about 14 days before the polluted current flows into the Heilong river [the Chinese name for the Amur]," Zhang Lijun, the State Environmental Protection Administration's deputy director, told reporters.
"It is weakening and the level of impact will further decrease," he said.

Thursday, November 24, 2005


Zimbabwe officials' assets frozen.

President Mugabe has been censured by the US since 2003. The United States has widened sanctions against Robert Mugabe's government in Zimbabwe, freezing the assets of 128 people and 33 institutions. US President George W Bush issued an executive order targeting those "hindering democratic reform in Zimbabwe", including Mr Mugabe himself. Mr Bush had already issued sanctions against Mr Mugabe and 76 other officials two years ago. He said deteriorating conditions in Zimbabwe had forced him to act again.
The White House said suppression of opposition groups, free media and the judiciary had prompted the measures. In a letter to congressional leaders, President Bush said the opposition and civil society in Zimbabwe remained suppressed.
"Zimbabwe's parliamentary elections in March 2005 were not free or fair," he wrote. "Recent demolitions of low-income housing and informal markets have caused 700,000 people to lose their homes, jobs or both. Additional measures are required to promote democratic change." The new additions to the censured list will be banned from business dealings with US citizens.
Under the new order, US treasury secretaries and the state department will now be allowed to add to the list without a presidential order.
"This action is not aimed at the people of Zimbabwe but rather at those most responsible for their plight," said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


Brazil's police 'execute thousands'
By Angus Stickler BBC News, Rio de Janeiro.

Rio's police are heavily armed in many areas of the city.
Hundreds, possibly thousands of people are shot by police every year in Brazil, a BBC investigation has found. The authorities say it is mainly criminals caught in military-style raids on drug gangs but according to a former senior official, new evidence suggests that many of the shootings are cold-blooded executions conducted by the police.
Former police ombudsman Professor Julita Lemgruber has told BBC World Service's Assignment programme that, in the state of Rio alone, the police killed 983 people last year. The figure is similar for Sao Paulo.
"The federal government should be challenging the various state governments in Brazil about the hundreds of people that the police kill in this country," she says.
As a former ombudsman, Professor Lemgruber was responsible for investigating the police as part of a previous crack down on corruption.
In the past five years, the number of fatal police shootings has more than doubled. Based on her experience as a government official, Professor Lemgruber says she believes the police are free to act with impunity.
It's all premeditated - very cold-blooded and calculated
Former military policeman"You couldn't really investigate complaints because you knew there was this curtain of silence that was always present," she says.
She adds that she had personally dealt with cases in which summary executions had happened.
The authorities in Rio dismiss these allegations. They say most people killed by the police are criminals, shot in military-style raids.
But in the spring of this year events took a sinister turn when, on 31 March, two men entered a bar and started shooting, not once or twice, but again and again. Most of the victims were shot at close range - in the chest and in the head.
In all, 29 people were shot dead, apparently not by members of a criminal drug gang - but by off-duty police officers.
A former military policeman, Gordinho (not his real name), says executions by police death squads are common.
"Everyone knows the police here in Rio de Janeiro... nearly all of them abuse their authority," he says.

Most people killed by police are criminals caught up in raids, officials say"When you get excited you feel you are the law... The shooting cases you hear about, most of them are executions.
"It's all premeditated - very cold-blooded and calculated."
After the killings in March, Marcello Itagebah, Secretary of State for Public Security and the man ultimately responsible for policing in Rio, promised to take a "meat cleaver" to police corruption. Following the investigation, 11 police officers were arrested.
"That shows to the people that we can conduct a very good investigation and that we can arrest police officers that committed crime," he said.
"We already have arrested more than 500 police officers, and we have expelled about 200 since last February. That is a job that has to be done every day."
But executions by death squads appear to be a traditional feature of Rio policing. While the authorities no longer give them official backing, evidence from the city morgues suggests they continue.
"Around 60% of the bodies of people that were killed by the police had more than six shots," explains Professor Lemgruber.
"Most of them [were shot] in the head and in the back - mostly executions."
Brazil is a deeply religious nation. Leaders of the Catholic Church have spoken out against corruption in politics and in the police force.
And among the congregations in the favelas, there is growing anger. They are determined to fight for change.
"You see children playing in the streets, and the people all happy - but when the cops come here - pop pop pop - some people are killed," says one resident, Paolo Cesar.
"They kill everybody. They got bad cops - bad cops."
Another resident insists that "we are fighting really hard for justice because the guilty people have to pay".
The crucial test now for Brazil's politicians is whether they have the will and ability to overturn a longstanding and lethal police culture of justice by bullet.




Priscilla: The story of an African slave.
By Leslie Goffe BBC News, New York.

Using a rare and unbroken document trail, scholars have succeeded in tracing a 10-year old girl from her kidnap in Sierra Leone 249 years ago to her life on the plantation in the United States where she was taken, forced into slavery, and re-named Priscilla.
Thomalind Polite travelled to Sierra Leone, where her ancestor was kidnapped. Most amazing of all though, researchers have identified one of Priscilla's modern day descendants, great-great-great-great-great granddaughter, Thomalind Martin Polite, 31, who lives in South Carolina, not far from the plantation where her ancestor was a slave.
Priscilla's extraordinary story is featured in a major exhibition currently showing at the New York Historical Society, Finding Priscilla's Children: The Roots and Branches of Slavery, which can be seen until 5 March, 2006.
Earlier this year, Priscilla's descendant, Thomalind, a speech therapist, made an extraordinary "homecoming" journey to Sierra Leone at the invitation of that country's government. She met President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah and other top national leaders, and was given an African name in a moving seaside ceremony.
Sierra Leone's most popular music group wrote a song in Ms Polite's honour: "Rush with the message, go tell it to the people, open the gates, Priscilla's coming home."


Kenya's entire cabinet dismissed.

To help illiterate voters, the campaigns used fruit symbols. Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki has dismissed his entire cabinet and deputy ministers after voters rejected a draft constitution in a referendum. Mr Kibaki said he would announce a new line-up of ministers in two weeks.
The result is seen as a protest against Mr Kibaki, and there is speculation it might lead to a parting of ways with with ministers opposed to the draft. Campaigners celebrating the "No" vote have asked their opponents to join them in drafting a fresh constitution. "Please come and join the rest of the nation in rebuilding a new Kenya," the so-called "orange" anti-constitution campaign said in a statement.
The result is a blow for Mr Kibaki, who led the "banana" campaign for a "Yes". The president has made no reference to discussions on a new draft. Opposition campaign leaders called for a cross-party effort to draft a new constitution "now that the people of Kenya have decisively spoken, and in the spirit of genuine reconciliation".


British Poet William Blake, On This day,
published "Songs of Innocence" in 1789!

The "NO" team Wins in Kenya!

Kenyan leader accepts poll defeat.

To help illiterate voters, the "No" team used oranges and bananas meant "Yes"Kenya's President Mwai Kibaki has conceded defeat in a crucial vote on a new constitution.
"My government will respect the will of the people," he said, looking sombre, in a live television address.
The BBC's Adam Mynott says the result is a huge setback for Mr Kibaki who led the "Yes" campaign. Many used the poll to protest at Mr Kibaki's leadership.
Crowds of people have been celebrating the result on the streets of the capital, Nairobi.
"No, no, no," they shouted, some wearing orange - the colour of the "No" campaign.
"We were voting to show our frustrations, we were rebelling against the government's empty promises," one of the crowd, Yonah Opiyo, 23, told Reuters news agency.
No: 3,548,477 (57%)
Yes: 2,532,918 (43%)
Turnout: 54%
206/210 constituencies declared
Source: ECK
Tough questions for Kibaki
Have Your Say
"I would like to congratulate all of you for participating peacefully in this historic occasion," Mr Kibaki said. "This is a big step in the democracy of our nation."
Prominent "No" campaigner, Roads Minister Raila Odinga, said: "These are historic days for our country."
Opposition leader Uhuru Kenyatta praised Kenyans for rejecting "the monster of legalized dictatorship".
With just four out of 210 constituencies still to return their results, the "No" campaign has an unassailable lead of almost 1m votes.
The latest figures released by the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) show 3,548,477 (57%) voted "No" while 2,532,918 (43%) backed the draft.
ECK chairman Samuel Kivuitu confirmed that the constitution had been rejected.
Cabinet split
Mr Kibaki's cabinet was split over the constitution, with seven ministers joining with the opposition, urging voters to reject the draft.
Prime minister - works to the president
Bans foreign land ownership
Land commission formed - individuals can no longer distribute land
Christian and other religious courts set up; Muslim courts already exist
Regional parties banned
Elections for local officials
Same-sex marriages banned
Women get equal rights to inherit property
Abortion outlawed - unless permitted by parliament
Vote in pictures Correspondents say a cabinet reshuffle is likely and manoeuvring will increase ahead of general elections due in 2007.
The key issue in the constitution was the introduction of the post of a prime minister.
The president had argued that the constitution - the first since Kenya's independence in 1963 - would be a modernising measure.
But opponents accused him of breaking promises to devolve some of his powers to a new post of prime minister. They argued this would reduce corruption by ending the era of rule by "Big men".
The government has been criticised by donors, who say corruption has continued despite Mr Kibaki's promises to stamp it out.
Colourful campaign
The BBC's Adam Mynott says the returns have shown Kenyans voting according to tribal affiliations - evidence of how the referendum campaign has split the nation along ethnic lines.
The Central Province, home to many of Mr Kibaki's Kikuyu community, was the only one to back the draft - by 92%.
Areas inhabited by Mr Odinga's Luo and the Kalenjin of ex-President Daniel arap Moi overwhelmingly voted "No".
The "Yes" team used the banana symbol, while an orange represented the "No" campaign.
The fruits were chosen by Kenya's electoral commission as non-party political symbols and to aid illiterate voters.
The new constitution would have introduced the post of a prime minister and provide greater rights for women, devolution and land reform.



Fuel crisis disrupts Air Zimbabwe.

President Mugabe regularly uses Air Zimbabwe flights. Flights on Zimbabwe's national airline are not yet back to normal, a day after all its seven aircraft were grounded when the airline ran out of fuel. The authorities said services resumed after a shipment of fuel arrived, but some domestic services were still not operating on Tuesday.
A foreign exchange crisis has led to a severe fuel shortage in Zimbabwe. State media said hundreds of passengers were stranded, and airline officials had been suspended from their jobs. Air Zimbabwe has suffered cancellations in the past, but Monday was the first time the airline was forced to ground all its planes.
Fuel for motor vehicles has long been in short supply. Motorists have to contend with long fuel queues, and petrol trades on the black market at premium prices. The state-owned Herald newspaper said Air Zimbabwe's board had suspended chief executive Tendai Mahachi and company secretary Tendai Mujuru "pending investigations into serious disruptions of the national airliner's operations and services".
Air Zimbabwe serves the country's main cities and tourist centres as well as southern African destinations, and long-haul routes to London, China, Singapore and Dubai. "All planes have been grounded because there is no adequate foreign currency to buy fuel and flights have been suspended until further notice," an Air Zimbabwe official told Reuters news agency on Tuesday morning.

Monday, November 21, 2005


Kenya draft offers land shake-up.
With Kenyans about to vote in a referendum on a new draft constitution, the BBC's Waihenya Kabiru looks at what the proposal has to say on the contentious issue of land.

Kenya's rival communities have often clashed over land. Kenyan officials would no longer be able to dish out land to cronies if the new draft constitution is approved in the 21 November referendum.
The constitution, if passed, would also bar foreigners from owning land, and reduce the term for which foreigners can lease land.
Supporters of the proposed new constitution say it deals comprehensively with the land issue, while opponents worry it may lead to people losing their land.
The issue of land has been an emotive and sometimes volatile issue in Kenya since independence in 1963, and has dominated political campaigns.
Kenya's Attorney General, Amos Wako, unveiling the proposed new constitution nearly three months ago, said he had captured all the proposals presented by various groups in the document he had drafted.
That document, commonly referred to as the Wako draft, includes six pages on land and property issues, classifying land as either public, private or community.
The proposed constitution backs radical land reforms, including the formation of a land commission, as well as allowing women to inherit land.
It also says the land commission would take steps to redress human rights abuses on matters of land.
It would be unfair on the Maasai who have preserved their land for generations to share it out with the rest of Kenyans
MP Joseph Nkaissery
Kenya's fruity referendum campaign Lawyer Fred Ojiambo says the formation of a land commission is one of the positive aspects in the draft.
''This land commission takes away the issue of land from the powers of individuals such as the president or the commissioner of lands, and this means they can no longer dish out public land to gain favours,'' he adds.
Lands Minister Amos Kimunya - who supports the proposed constitution - says it addresses land injustices imposed on Kenyans by the colonial government.
He says foreigners would no longer be able to own land, and would only be given leases to do specific activities on the farms; long leases of nearly 1,000 years granted to foreigners will be reduced to 99 years.
Several ranches in the Rift Valley are owned by white settlers and their descendants, and they are the subject of bitter disputes with locals who want the land to revert to them.
The minister adds that the government will use this new provision to sort out the issue of absentee landlords on the coast who do not utilise their land, and make claim to only it by virtue of holding title deeds.
In areas such as Laikipia in central Rift Valley, people who hold long leases issued by the colonial government would have those reviewed and the land could revert to the state.
This has led to fears that individuals who own land may lose it to the government as it redistributes it to the landless and squatters.
Nomads' fears
Opponents of the proposed constitution, who include the nomadic Maasai, are particularly alarmed by the legal provision in the proposed constitution which gives the land commission powers to seize idle land and distribute it to the landless and to squatters.
Joseph Nkaissery, a Maasai MP from the governing Narc coalition, is worried that Maasai communal land may be targeted for seizure.

The Maasai are campaigning for their land to be returned''It would be unfair on the Maasai who have preserved their land for generations to share it out with the rest of Kenyans,'' he says.
The draft law also proposes the establishment of a human rights commission, which would among other things resettle victims of ethnic clashes in the country who lost their land more than a decade ago.
Koigi wa Wamwere, a Narc legislator from the Rift Valley and a vocal critic of the government for failing to resettle the victims, says this new provision would see thousands of victims of ethnic clashes resettled back to their farms.
During the first two multi-party elections in 1992 and 1997, nearly 2,000 people were killed in parts of the Rift Valley and Western provinces in politically motivated ethnic clashes.
A judicial commission of inquiry into the clashes which was appointed by the government of retired President Daniel arap Moi, recommended that all the victims be resettled.
For supporters of rival political groups on the proposed constitution, votes will be won or lost depending on the referendum depending on how people interpret the provisions of the draft law on land issues.
Communities in the vast Rift Valley worried about their land are expected to vote against the draft.

BBC NEWS REPORT BY Waihenye Kabiru.


Zambia declares a food disaster.

Maize stocks are low across southern Africa. Zambia's President Levy Mwanawasa has declared a national disaster and appealed for international food aid.
More than one million Zambians face severe food shortages due to drought. Last week, Zambia appealed for $18m in aid to deal with the food crisis.
Zambia is one of six countries across southern Africa facing a food crisis. The UN says some 12m people in the region need food aid.
Malawi is worst hit. It declared a national disaster last month.
Zambian MPs passed a resolution urging the government to declare a national disaster last week.
Some four million people need aid in Zimbabwe, along with hundreds of thousands in Lesotho, Mozambique and Swaziland, according to the World Food Programme.


Mugabe reveals uranium power plan.
Robert Mugabe has been ostracised by many world leaders. Deposits of uranium have been unearthed in Zimbabwe, the country's President Robert Mugabe has said. Mr Mugabe said Zimbabwe would use the uranium to boost its energy supplies, but would not pursue nuclear weapons. Zimbabwe has a chronic energy shortage, blamed on a lack of foreign currency for spare parts, and imports power from several neighbouring countries. It also has close ties with Iran and North Korea, two states in the spotlight for their nuclear policies.

Zimbabwe state television carried reports of Mr Mugabe's comments, without giving details of where any uranium has been discovered. There have been no previous reports of uranium deposits existing in the country. "We recently discovered uranium which is used for many purposes, including electricity generation," Mr Mugabe said.

"Uranium also makes nuclear bombs such as those which were used to massacre the Japanese at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. That was sad indeed. "But we will not use it to make bombs but to generate electricity," he added. "The discovery of uranium will go a long way in further enhancing the government rural electrification programme." Zimbabwe has two main power stations - one thermal and one hydro-electric, but has failed to produce enough domestic power in recent years.

It imports electricity from Mozambique, DR Congo and South Africa to meet its needs.



Sunday, November 20, 2005

Final Plea in Kenyan Elections

Kenya leader issues pre-vote plea.

"Reject violence and selfishness," President Kibaki said.
Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki has issued a final plea for voters to avoid violence in Monday's key referendum on a new constitution. Mr Kibaki said voters should not waste an "historic chance" and urged them to vote to adopt the document. Campaigning has been violent since Mr Kibaki published the draft document in July with controversial changes.
It proposes more power for the president, whereas opponents want power shared with an elected prime minister. Final mass rallies of the Yes and No camps in the Kenyan capital Nairobi on Saturday passed off without the violence many feared. Nine people have died in campaigning in recent weeks.
When we go to cast ballots we shall be making a major decision that will change the lives of this and future generations saidPresident Mwai Kibaki. In a televised address President Kibaki urged people to back the draft constitution, which if accepted will be the first time the basic law has been re-written for 40 years.
The BBC's East Africa correspondent, Karen Allen, says his opponents are angry they were not allowed to put their point on television too. Our correspondent also says there has been a last-minute hitch at the booths, with some polling clerks threatening to go on strike unless they are paid 10 times the agreed amount for helping to count the votes.
Mr Kibaki and religious leaders have both appealed for calm. "Let us reject violence and selfishness which could destroy our country's unity," Mr Kibaki said. "It is our duty to ensure we conduct this vote in peace." Polling stations open at 0700 local time (0400 GMT) and close at 1700.
The No camp held the bigger of two rallies on SaturdayVotes will be counted at the polling stations and initial results are expected later the same day. Mr Kibaki is leading the Yes campaign under the symbol of a banana, while the opposition camp is using an orange. The symbols were chosen by Kenya's electoral commission to aid illiterate voters.
The No camp drew about 30,000 to Saturday's final rally and the Yes camp 12,000, according to Reuters. Presidential ally Norman Nyagah accused the No camp of wanting to foment unrest to thwart government efforts to get the charter endorsed. But No campaigner, the roads minister Raila Odinga, accused constitution supporters of planning to incite people so that they could rig the vote.
The president has promised a new constitution since 2002 but the drafting process has seen many delays. Opponents say his final draft reneged on previous promises. The No camp on Sunday warned the 11.6m registered voters to be wary of intimidation and ballot stuffing. The government said such fears were baseless. About 19,000 local observers and some 150 diplomats will monitor the vote.



Saturday, November 19, 2005

S P I E S !!!

SA to work with Zimbabwe's spies.

Minister Ronnie Kasrils apologised for questions about Zimbabwe's human rights record. South African and Zimbabwe have signed an agreement to increase co-operation on defence and security matters.
The two neighbours undertook to share security information and to co-operate in enforcing immigration laws. After the signing, South Africa's intelligence minister scolded a journalist who raised questions about Zimbabwe's record on human rights. Details of the deal were not released but Zimbabwe's secret police is accused of torturing opposition activists. South Africa is a key player in attempts to negotiate an end to Zimbabwe's political crisis.
President Thabo Mbeki has been criticised at home and abroad for not putting more pressure on President Robert Mugabe's government to end abuses. "This week's historic meeting further consolidates a long-standing socio-political and economic relationship between our two countries," South African Intelligence Minister Ronnie Kasrils said at the signing of the agreement in Cape Town on Thursday.
After the signing, a journalist asked Mr Kasrils how South Africa, with a "good human rights track record", could sign agreements with Zimbabwe, which had a "poor human rights record".
Mr Kasrils apologised to his Zimbabwean counterpart, Didymus Mutasa, for the question. "We have very strong ties with our neighbour and we are indebted to our neighbour for achieving freedom and liberty," Mr Kasrils said. Mr Mutasa suggested praying for the journalist. "Lord forgive him for he does not know what he is saying," Mr Mutasa said.
Numerous activists from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change have said they have been detained and assaulted by Zimbabwe's secret police - the Central Intelligence Organisation. Thursday's agreement also provides for South Africa pilots and instructors to be trained in Zimbabwe.
Also on Thursday, Zimbabwean and international human rights groups called on the African Union to speak out against human rights abuses in Zimbabwe. "The silence of African leaders on Zimbabwe represents a failure to honour their commitments to the human rights of ordinary Africans," said a statement from a human rights coalition that includes Amnesty International, Zimbabwe's Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions and Zimbabwe Lawyers or Human Rights.
"Hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans have seen their homes demolished. Now desperate, displaced and homeless people are being denied the aid they so badly need - and forced evictions and demolitions continue to take place."
The UN says 700,000 people were affected by a Zimbabwe government clampdown on illegal housing and trading earlier this year.





Cathy Buckle's Letter From Zimbabwe.

I have One Bar !

Saturday 19th November 2005

Dear Family and Friends,

I was at a small local function this week when a father stepped forward and addressed the gathering about the dire needs of an institutional home for mentally handicapped people. He told of how the institution had always been massively subsidised by farmers and businessmen. Farmers who would just arrive with sacks of vegetables, potatoes, meat and fruit. Businesses which gave bedding, furniture or cash donations to help with plumbing, maintenance and upkeep. In the last six years as the majority of farmers have been forced off their properties and as more and more businesses have closed in our shrinking economy, it has become almost impossible for specialist institutions to keep going.
At the end of his short appeal for help, there was clapping and encouragement from the audience and the man returned to his seat. As he did so the electricity went off in yet another power cut but before the candles had even been found, people were coming forward in the dark. One after another they passed over handfulls of cash and others gave bottles of brandy and vodka to be used as prizes in a raffle. Someone suggested the bottles be auctioned and amid cheering and applause an auctioneer was nominated and the bottles of spirit came under the hammer. There was nothing at all special about these bottles, they were the cheapest locally made spirits with unknown brand names which sell for around a hundred and fifty thousand dollars.The bidding for the first bottle began at a hundred thousand and with much laughter, taunting and insults it rose to two, three, six, eight hundred thousand dollars. "One Bar" shouted the auctioneer, "I have one bar" which is the latest Zimbabwean slang for one million dollars.This became two bars, and then three bars. At last the bidding was done and the sale made.The hammer went down in the candle light, the applause was defeaning and a desperately struggling home for mentally handicapped people was given a small reprieve.
Not long after the impromptu auction, talk turned to the ludicrous situation these days where the banks are short of big denomination notes. In a country with galloping inflation, presently at 411 percent, none of us ever seem to have enough money. A businessman told how he'd been short of 30 million in cash to pay his small work force. The bank said that at such short notice they could only provide it in one thousand dollar notes. Can you imagine drawing 30 million dollars in one thousand dollar notes? Later that night with a large sheet of paper, a calculator and kitchen scale I worked out what this entailed. Thirty thousand bank notes, three thousand paper clips and 30 elastic bands make up thirty million dollars. This large pile of paper weighs a staggering 45 kilograms and when the businessman got to the bank to collect his money, they had to loan him a tin trunk and two security guards to carry it. And what can you buy for thirty million dollars in Zimbabwe this week: twelve hundred loaves of bread or 90 frozen chickens or a drum and a half of petrol on the black market. It has all become very much like living in the land of Alice in Wonderland but the people are still the friendliest, kindest and most generous people in the world.
Until next week, love cathy

Friday, November 18, 2005





Thursday, November 17, 2005


Anger in Kenya over Thai zoo menu
By Adam Mynott BBC News, Nairobi,

Kenyan officials say the plans now needs to be rethought. There has been a furious reaction in Kenya to news that a zoo in northern Thailand will offer the meat of African game animals at its restaurant.

The zoo in Chiang Mai is being sent more than 100 wild animals and birds trapped in Kenya - including zebras, flamingoes, hippos and hyenas. This had already led to protests from animal lovers and others. The news that the zoo plans to serve lion, buffalo, elephant and giraffe meat has caused further controversy. Project director Plod Prasop Suraswadi said VIP guests would have the privilege of tasting an exotic menu, including lion meat from Africa.

The Kenya Wildlife Service, which has been involved in the plans to export the animals and birds, had previously said that none of the species being sent to Thailand were endangered.

It has now announced that in the light of the new information, the plans need to be rethought.
The zoo in Chiang Mai is due to open officially on 1 January next year.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

My visit to China

I am really extremely confused in my thoughts about China, i.e. how it was in the past(horrific). Its historical past and buildings and temples, or on how it is trying to come to terms with this new century, if on the very slow side of progress.Yet it is not a poor country really, but there is a great deal of an existence living so to speak. I found a lot of happy friendly people, and also a lot of sullen hard unhappy people. So many new buildings, so many derelict buildings.

The driving was an experience in itself. I sometimes had to close my eyes in case I saw someone getting knocked over, or we were going to crash into a car on our side; in front of us; or on our left hand side. It seemed that traffic lights were there just to light up the day. The police tried to direct the traffic and it appeared that no one paid any attention to them either. People, cars, bicyles, buses, trucks vans you name it, they all seemed to go where ever they wanted. There was no road rage, and everyone seemed fairly polite and allowed who ever and what ever to move in front of them from either side, slowing up their travel. There were even bikes and cars going up on the wrong side of the roads. In the country where farmers had the corn cobs, and the corn on the road to dry, cars even avoided going over them.
Things that was missing which gave no problems were the lack of dogs or children around.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


Uganda police shoot rioter dead.

Police in Uganda have shot dead at least one rioter on the second day of protests over the arrest of opposition leader Kizza Besigye. As police fired bullets and tear gas, charges of rape and treason were read out to Dr Besigye in the High Court. The protesters believe the charges are designed to stop him challenging the president in elections next year. The BBC's Will Ross in Kampala says there is a growing concern about the political climate in Uganda. This has nothing to do with partisan politics Major General Kale KayihuraPolice chief
Earlier this year, the UK and other donors withheld some aid to Uganda after the constitution was amended to allow President Yoweri Museveni to run for a third term. His National Resistance Movement is meeting this week and is expected to endorse Mr Museveni as its presidential candidate.
Our correspondent says some of the protesters became violent - burning and looting - while battling police and soldiers. The man shot dead was allegedly trying to steal goods. Just a few hundred metres from the riots, Dr Besigye was charged with treason along with 22 other alleged rebels.

Used to be Museveni's doctor
March 2001: Ran against Museveni
August 2001: Went into exile
Oct 2005: Returned home
Nov 2005: Charged with treason, rape

The courthouse was packed with onlookers, including several diplomats. Dr Besigye's case was referred to the High Court, where his lawyers are expected to ask for bail. In a national address, Mr Museveni said the case was a chance for Dr Besigye to prove his innocence "if he is innocent". Police chief Major General Kale Kayihura vehemently denied that the charges were designed to stop Dr Besigye contesting the elections. "That is absolute rubbish. This has nothing to do with partisan politics," he told the BBC's Network Africa programme. Dr Besigye returned from four years of exile last month to huge crowds of cheering supporters.
If found guilty of treason, he and 22 co-accused could face the death penalty. Dr Besigye has previously denied allegations that he is linked to rebel groups. The rape charge dates from an incident in 1997, allegedly involving the daughter of a friend. Geoffrey Ekanya, an MP for Dr Besigye's Forum for Democratic Change, told Reuters news agency that the international community should put pressure on Uganda's government. "Museveni has spent billions on his international image. Now they are seeing the nakedness of the emperor." His wife and former MP Winnie Byanyima dismissed the charges as "laughable". "Besigye is, in my view is, a political prisoner. I demand that he be released unconditionally and immediately. The government would be responsible for anything that happens to him," she told the AFP news agency.
United States-based pressure group Human Rights Watch has urged the courts to grant Dr Besigye bail to show the arrest is not "politically motivated". "If the government denies him bail, it will reinforce the perception that it has pressed capital charges against him to prevent him from campaigning for president," said Jemera Rone, HRW's Uganda researcher.
Maj Kayihura insisted that the People's Redemption Army, a rebel group allegedly based in the lawless eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, does exist even though it has never staged any attacks. He said that new allegations linking Dr Besigye to the brutal Lord's Resistance Army which operates in northern Uganda came from ex-rebels, who said he had sought an alliance to topple the government. Once Mr Museveni's doctor, Dr Besigye ran against the president in 2001 before fleeing after the elections, saying his life was in danger.

Monday, November 14, 2005


Weah's MPs issue boycott threat.

George Weah supporters took to the streets on Friday. The 18 MPs from Liberian football star George Weah's party have threatened to boycott parliament over claims of election fraud. Mr Weah claims he was cheated in last week's presidential run-off, which Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf seemingly won. Mr Weah's CDC is the best represented party in parliament after the first polls since the end of a 14-year war.
Over the weekend, seven powerful African leaders hailed Liberia's election as free and fair. The 15 members of the House of Representatives and three Senators from the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) say they will refuse to take their seats "if the massive electoral fraud is not addressed adequately". CDC activists were again gathering at the party headquarters to protest at the alleged poll fraud.
The BBC's Jonathan Paye-Layleh in Monrovia says riot police backed up by UN troops are out in force at the headquarters of the National Elections Commission (NEC). On Friday, a protest march ended in violence, with stones thrown at UN peacekeepers, who responded with teargas. Mr Weah has appealed for his supporters to remain calm while his complaints are investigated. He has called for a re-run.

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf: 59.4%
George Weah: 40.6%
From 97% of polling stations
Source: NEC

With almost all the votes from Thursday's run-off election counted, Ms Johnson-Sirleaf has an insurmountable lead. She is expected to be named president when official results are announced soon - making her the first woman to be elected president anywhere in Africa. The new parliament is fragmented, with representatives of 11 parties, along with 10 independents. Mrs Johnson-Sirleaf's Unity Party has eight Representatives and three senators.
The leaders of Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana, Senegal, Ethiopia and Algeria as well as the chairman of the African Union commission issued a statement during a meeting in Abuja on Sunday. They described the vote as "peaceful, transparent, free and fair," AFP news agency reported. Anyone who disagreed with the vote outcome should "use constitutional and legal means to address any grievances," they added. International observers say the election was broadly free and fair. The West African regional group Ecowas has urged the losers to accept the result with dignity and grace.


Malawi army to protect food aid.

Mr Mutharika says his enemies are trying to discredit him. Malawi's President Bingu wa Mutharika has warned anyone planning to loot food aid that convoys are being protected by soldiers with orders to shoot. He said he knew of aid convoys which had been ambushed. "These soldiers may shoot you... so don't accuse my government of abusing human rights if they shoot you," he told a rally.
Malawi is the worst hit of six countries in southern Africa facing serious food shortages. Mr Mutharika said his government had uncovered a plot by his detractors to ambush trucks ferrying maize so that they could accuse him of failing to contain the food crisis. Government and aid agencies say up to 5 million Malawians - nearly half the population - will need urgent food aid until the next harvest in April next year. The government set aside 5 billion kwacha (about $50m) in the 2005/06 national budget to buy 300,000 metric tons of maize from South Africa.
Tired and hungry Malawians often have to queue for days to get food An additional 144,000 metric tons of maize is still needed.Long dry spells at the height of the rainy season, which cut Malawi's production of its staple food maize by 24%, are blamed for the food crisis. Malawi requires 2.1 million metric tons of maize to feed the population of 12 million people. The United Nations' World Food Programme (WFP) recently launched an $88m appeal for Malawi but only $28m has been received so far.
Mr Mutharika said the imported maize has started arriving but "some rich thieves" are stealing it. He gave an example of a truck that left the capital, Lilongwe, with 35 metric tons of maize heading for the central district of Dedza some 80 kilometres away. It was ambushed and all the maize was looted. "I have names of such rich thieves but I will not name them," he said. Mutharika is facing a political crisis where a united front of opposition parties have ganged up to impeach him for alleged corruption and committing high constitutional crimes.



Sunday, November 13, 2005

Cathy Buckle's Letter From Zimbabwe

Saturday 12th November 2005.
Heart Sore With Shame.

Dear Family and Friends,

Wearing a little red paper poppy on my shirt this second week of November has been something I've done ever since I can remember. I was disappointed this Friday to see just a dozen or so scrappy paper poppies lying in the bottom of the cardboard box two days before Armistice Sunday. At first I thought that this international day of remembrance must have become the latest casualty in Zimbabwe's determination to cut itself off from the rest of the world. I was wrong. The reason there are no poppies this year is because 20 000 little red paper flowers sent from the UK have been impounded by Zimbabwe's department of customs. Apparently even scraps of red paper used for charitable purposes and to remember the end of World War One, are not exempt from our government's desperate attempts to raise money. Customs want 53 million dollars to release the poppies and so, those of us lucky enough to find them, are wearing crumpled poppies left over from last year and I wear my tatty one with outrage but also with pride.
It has been altogether a very shocking week in Zimbabwe and trying to keep track of the events has been very difficult due to almost no coverage by state media. ZBC TV, whose motto is "When it happens we will be there, " have obviously been in other places this week but even so, bit by bit, one way or another, the real news does eventually get out. This week the MDC Mayor of Chitungwiza was detained by police. Six University of Zimbabwe student leaders were arrested for trying to embark on a demonstration about deplorable conditions on campus.
Tuesday's country wide demonstrations by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions and the National Constitutional Assembly left all their combined leaders arrested and between 120 and 200 others who had been brave enough to take to the streets with them. Also this week came the shocking news that airfares have been increased by 1600% and for anyone planning on visiting their families in South Africa this Christmas, a return ticket will cost 34 million dollars. Each return ticket to the UK now costs 140 million dollars and this is crushing news for hundreds of thousands of Zimbabwean families which are split up across continents. With an average teacher taking home less than 10 million dollars a month, there is no hope at all that even professionals will be able to be united with their families this year.
I will end this week with the good and the bad news. The good news is that the rains have started and in Marondera we have had 104 mm (4 inches) in five days. The bad news is that what little wheat there is this year is sitting out there in the fields getting wet. The wheat is not being harvested because of chronic diesel shortages that have persisted since the March elections. I came across these shocking figures this week which say it all for Zimbabwe's so called agricultural revolution in the last five years. In 2001 Zimbabwe produced 360 000 tons of wheat; in 2002 we produced 280 000 tons; in 2003 the figure dropped to 150 000 tons and in 2004 a paltry 80 000 tons was grown . And this years figure ......its not in yet because its still sitting out there in the rain. And this one simple little agricultural blunder joins the others to explain why we are hungry, tired, broke and away from our families.
Until next week, love cathy.

Saturday, November 12, 2005


Supporters cheer Zuma at court.
By Justin Pearce BBC News website, Durban.

Protesters urged the judges to be impartial. The show of unity that the ANC leadership has been attempting over the last few weeks went up in smoke in the morning. The smoke came from a T-shirt bearing the face of President Thabo Mbeki - and the people who burnt it outside the Durban magistrate's court were waving the flag of Mr Mbeki's own party, the ANC. The T-shirt burners were among 1,000 or so supporters of former deputy president Jacob Zuma, who at that moment was inside the court while his lawyers wrangled with the prosecution over legal technicalities surrounding the corruption charges that he faces.

The demonstration had begun on an unseasonably miserable evening on Monday, and the apartheid-era tower block of the court seemed even less inviting than normal. At sunset, there was just a small group of people trying to put up a marquee. But by 2030 local time, the buses had started rolling in - and the passengers soon began to make the streets their own.

Zuma is fighting for his political life. All felt that Mr Zuma had had a bad deal so far, even if their loyalty to the ANC made them stop short of condemning the government outright. "The only way for him to prove his innocence is by going on trial - but the process has been unfair to him, his family and his supporters," said a man who had travelled more than 300km to get to the protest.


Gabon leader's move angers exiles.

Bongo has ruled Gabon since 1967. A decision by Africa's longest-serving leader to seek another seven years in power has been criticised. President Omar Bongo, who came to power in 1967, said at the weekend that he had "listened to the people" and would seek another term in December's poll. The 69-year-old's government recently told opposition leaders they would lose their passports if they left Gabon.
A group of exiles, called Bongo Must Leave, says Gabon's people have had enough of his authoritarian rule. "We are against the whole system, which Mr Bongo represents. We want to clean it all up," leader Serge Besac told the BBC's Network Africa by telephone from Washington.
The 69-year-old president launched a crackdown after complaints by an opposition leader that the electoral register for December's presidential poll had been inflated. He was also said to be angered by a protest organised outside the United Nations last month, staged as he was addressing a summit.
The government in Gabon has made changes to the constitution which would allow President Bongo to run for office as many times as he wishes.



Friday, November 11, 2005


Is this a new era for African women?

Liberians will expect much of whoever is elected into office. Following Liberia's presidential run-off on Tuesday former banker Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has taken a strong lead in the polls. If Mrs Johnson-Sirleaf does win she will be Africa's first elected female leader.

Last year Joyce Mujuru became Zimbabwe's vice-president and earlier this year South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki chose Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka to be his deputy - both the holders of the highest political office held by a woman in their countries.




Angry South African passengers burn trains.

South African commuter trains typically carry about 1,000 passengers. Rail passengers angry at service delays torched at least 26 train carriages near Johannesburg on Wednesday evening.
Carriages were burnt at three different locations south of the city, causing 200m rand ($30m) worth of damage.
The arson followed service delays reportedly caused by technical faults. A shortage of trains has now caused services on one route to be suspended. It was the second time in a week that trains have been torched because of poor services.
On Tuesday, passengers burnt four coaches after service delays apparently caused by the theft of electric cables. Trains are used by many poor working South Africans who cannot afford cars.
Thandi Mlangeni, spokewoman for rail company Metrorail, said a signal fault at Midway in southern Johannesburg had brought trains to a halt. "Passengers started getting off the train and burning it," she said.
The disruption had a knock-on effect, leading to delays in the Kliptown and Nancefield regions of Soweto, where passengers also then began to torch trains. Wednesday's arson left Metrorail with no trains to run from Midway, in southern Johannesburg, to the town of Vereeniging, Ms Mlangeni said. Commuters have been asked to use alternative means of transport.
The Star newspaper reports that minibus taxi drivers were charging up to four times the regular fare to commuters stranded on Wednesday evening. Metrorail trains provide an important link for commuters between central Johannesburg, Soweto, and other residential areas further south. Each train typically carries about 1,000 passengers.

Thursday, November 10, 2005



Snippets harvested from the week's news, chopped, sliced and diced for your weekend convenience.

1. In Guy Fawkes's day, those who persistently refused to attend Protestant services were fined £20 a month - the annual salary of a school teacher.
2. Margaret Thatcher "stamped her feet" in anger at the prospect of German reunification, according to Helmut Kohl's memoirs.
More details
3. The first traffic cones were used in building Preston bypass in the late 1950s, replacing red lantern paraffin burners.
4. Britons buy about one million pumpkins for Halloween, 99% of which are used for lanterns rather than for eating.
More details
5. Albania is retiring its Soviet MiG aircraft, which have killed 35 Albanians, but not a single enemy.
6. The French translation of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince has an extra 120 pages as it is a less concise language than English.
7. Bailiffs cannot evict on Sundays, bank holidays, Christmas Day or Good Friday.
More details
8. Strictly Come Dancing judge Bruno Tonioli was once a backing dancer for Bananarama in the band's heyday.
9. You can dial the emergency services with 112 as well as 999.
More details
10. Cabinet ministers who have been sacked, resigned or lost their seats collect an £18,000 golden goodbye (and those who leave twice get the payment again).
More details
[Sources, where stories are not linked: 1. BBC History magazine, November issue. 3: Times, 1 November. 5: Yahoo News, 1 November. 6: Sunday Telegraph, 30 October. 8: It Takes Two, BBC Two.]


Wednesday, November 09, 2005




South Africa gags whites-only radio.

Critics of Orania accuse them of living in the past. South Africa's all-white enclave town of Orania has lost its radio station. The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) said Radio Klub100 had been shut down after broadcasting without a licence. Icasa official Lydia de Souza also said the station had been broadcasting racist material.

Orania was established in the early 1990s by white South Africans who wanted to keep a racially exclusive community after the end of apartheid. "Our monitors were of the view that it was a racist-based station and very right wing," Ms de Souza, senior manager of broadcast licensing, monitoring and compliance at Icasa, told Reuters.

Icasa says however that it was the lack of a licence, rather than the content of its broadcasts, that prompted the closure of the station and the confiscation of its equipment. The founders of Orania took over a disused settlement in the semi-arid Northern Cape, hoping to make it the core of a Volksstaat (Afrikaner people's state).

Doubts have been cast over Orania's future as an independent community since the government declared its intention to include the all-white town into a larger municipal district, as part of a nationwide plan to restructure local government.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


Zimbabwe union activists detained.

The protesters were loaded into police trucks in Harare.At least 80 Zimbabwean trade union protesters have been detained by riot police in Harare. The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions says their leader and secretary general were amongst those held in the capital. This follows the late night arrests on Monday of three union officials in the second city Bulawayo. The country-wide protests were called by the ZCTU "to remind government and employers that workers are hungry, angry and tired".

Local journalist Brian Hungwe in Harare told the BBC that there is a heavy police presence on the streets and the atmosphere is tense. The riot police armed with batons blocked the demonstrators from moving along the streets and begun herding them into trucks, he says. ZCTU spokesman Thabitha Khumalo said as many as 200 workers, including ZCTU President Lovemore Matombo and Secretary General Wellington Chibele were arrested in Harare while marching to present demands to minister of labour. Other reports suggested a lower figure. The union, which represents 30 worker organisations with a million members, says that life for the worker had never been poorer, with mass unemployment and inflation currently at nearly 360%.

Before his arrest, Mr Chibele told the BBC's Network Africa programme that "workers can not take it anymore" and they were calling for:

A living wage,
A reduction of income tax from 40% to a maximum of 30%,
The availability of anti-retroviral drugs for those with HIV and Aids,
And a halt to the influx of cheap goods from Asian coutries.

Those trade unionist picked up in Bulawayo include a leading union official in Bulawayo, Reason Ngwenya, regional vice-chairman Dzavamwe Shambari and a regional officer, Percy Mcijo, Mr Khumalo said. Meanwhile, Lovemore Madhuku, chairman of a pro-democracy coalition, handed himself over to police on Tuesday morning. He had been tipped off and spent the night away from home, but later turned himself in to the police.

Members of his National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) marched in Harare on Saturday calling for a new constitution. Under tough security laws, the police must give permission for all demonstrations and protests by groups not allied to the ruling Zanu-PF party are rarely authorised.



Monday, November 07, 2005


Tergat wins thrilling NY marathon.

Tergat claimed only his second major marathon victory. Paul Tergat held off the challenge of defending champion Hendrick Ramaala to win the New York Marathon in the closest finish in the race's history. The Kenyan's winning time was two hours nine minutes, 29.9 seconds, one third of a second ahead of Ramaala, who fell to the ground after crossing the line. Meb Keflizighi came third as the 24-year wait for an American winner in the race continued.
Jelena Prokopcuka beat Susan Chepkemei and Derartu Tulu in the women's race. With four miles to go, the women's race looked like a straight battle between Chepkemei and Tulu, with Prokopcuka having fallen off the pace. But as the race entered Central Park the Latvian caught up with the leaders and her increased momentum coincided with Chepkemei running out of energy. With half a mile to go, Prokopcuka broke clear, condemning Chepkemei to a second successive runner-up spot in the race.
Britain's Alice Braham, a former junior track star, scored a creditable 22nd place. A BBC producer, she was an amateur entry to New York having debuted in the marathon in London with a time of 2:45. The elite runner's department saw her time and invited her to join the professional race and Braham clocked 2:46:47.
Britain's Jon Brown finished ninth in the men's event for his eighth top-10 finish in a major marathon, but John Mayock's debut at the distance was not a happy one as the 35-year-old retired from the race at the 30-kilometre mark.
Ramaala said he hoped to get his own back on Tergat next year in London. "I was beaten by a big champion. I'd love to race Paul again. I know he is running in London and I think Gebre (Haile Gebrselassie) will be there too so I want to be there for sure." Tergat also had the date etched in his mind when he was asked about his future plans, saying: "I don't know where my next race but I know I will run the London marathon."

New York marathon men's result:

1 Paul Tergat (Ken) 2hr 09min 29.9 sec2 Hendrick Ramaala (RSA) 2:09:313 Meb Keflezighi (USA) 2:09:564 Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot (Ken) 2:11:015 Abdihakim Abdiramam (USA) 2:11:24

New York marathon women's result:

1 Elena Prokopcuka (Lat) 2hr 24min 41 sec2 Susan Chepkemei (Ken) 2:24:55 3 Derartu Tulu (Eth) 2:25:21 4 Salina Kosgei (Ken) 2:25:30 5 Bruna Genovese (It) 2:27:15


Zimbabwe 'will summon' US envoy.

Mr Dell blamed food shortages on corruption. Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe is expected to summon the United States ambassador to explain recent critical remarks about the Zimbabwe government. State media in Zimbabwe report that Ambassador Christopher Dell is to be summoned this week. They quote government sources as saying that Mr Dell has meddled in Zimbabwe's internal affairs. Last week, Mr Dell said the Zimbabwe government was responsible for the country's current food crisis.
By encouraging people to place the blame of the country's economic collapse squarely on the shoulders of the government, Dell was calling for the people on Zimbabwe to rebel - The Sunday Mail
The Sunday Mail quoted "impeccable sources" in the foreign affairs ministry as saying the government had "had enough" of Mr Dell's "undiplomatic behaviour" and would want him "to explain why he is meddling in the internal affairs of Zimbabwe". On Monday, the state-run daily the Herald went further, suggesting that Mr Dell "risks being expelled for his continued meddling in the internal affairs of Zimbabwe".
The Sunday Mail's comment page accused Mr Dell of "sowing seeds of anarchy and encouraging an uprising". "By encouraging people to place the blame of the country's economic collapse squarely on the shoulders of the government and ignore the Western sanctions factor, Dell was calling for the people on Zimbabwe to rebel," the newspaper said.
During a lecture in the eastern Zimbabwean city of Mutare last week, Mr Dell said corruption was to blame for food shortages. The government blames Zimbabwe's economic problems on sanctions. The Sunday Mail also referred to an incident last month, when Mr Dell was detained by presidential guards after walking into a restricted area near the presidential residence.
Relations between the US and Zimbabwe have soured in recent years, with Washington accusing Mr Mugabe's government of rigging elections and abusing human rights. The UN says up to three million people in Zimbabwe need food aid, and has criticised Zimbabwe for refusing aid.





Saturday, November 05, 2005

Cathy's letter from Zimbabwe

Dear Family and Friends,

These days, with all of the dreadful hardships that we have to cope with in order to survive in Zimbabwe, it is very difficult to be positive. I wish I could write and say that we were about to have free and fair elections or that banned newspapers, radio and TV stations had been allowed to re-open or even that the MDC had stopped tearing itself apart and had resolved its internal problems. I can't say any of those things soI look more to the day to day situation for something positive to focus on. I wish that I could say that at last fuel was available or that prices had stopped going up or even that we had regular, clean and safe water coming out of our taps. I can't say any of those things at the moment either but I can tell you that Zimbabwe in November is a spectacular country. Young men and women are graduating from our senior schools and their poise, enthusiasm, determination and love of Zimbabwe is exemplary. Listening to and watching these future leaders of our country makes me know, without a doubt, that there will be change in our land and it will be a change for the better. Whilst all around us is gloom and doom, Zimbabwe in November is a very beautiful place and when there is little else to hold onto, the seasonal changes also give strength and hope for better times.Every day, as the rainy season draws closer, the sky gets darker and heavier and the temperatures take you to melting point. The trees are glorious in these last hot days before the rain: Msasas coming into pod,Acacias covered in new leaf, Jacarandas bathed in hot purple flowers and Flamboyant trees, almost too beautiful for words, draped in spectacular red flowers. In our towns many of the streets and avenues are lined with Bauhinia trees, alternately pink and white flowering and now covered in long curling pods. The Bougainvillea's planted on the outskirts of many of our towns years ago, are also in full flower at the moment, covered in great cascading streams of gold, white and purple blooms. The birds at this time of year are a delight too; paradise flycatchers showing off their long orange breeding tails, nightjars calling for mates and trailing exquisite white breeding pennants and orange-eyed glossy starlings patrolling sunburnt, termite infested lawns. Some evenings as the flying ants stream out of dry dusty holes in the ground, it is just breathtaking watching birds arrive from all directions, swooping and swerving, gorging on the fat, buttery insects. The European migrants have started arriving too with swifts and swallows regularly visible. It does not bear thinking what will happen if bird flu arrives here where experts are few and far between, travel nearly impossible due to fuel shortages and where people are so hungry they will be hard pushed not to eat dead birds if they find them.And this week in Marondera there is a feeling of blessed relief. Because the MDC in Marondera did not nominate candidates for the approaching Senate elections, we will not have voting here and are spectating from the sidelines. For a rare change we are not being harassed and intimated and forced to attend rallies and meetings. We are not being visited by large chested women wearing clothes decorated with the President's face. Women who bang on our gates, write our names down in their little exercise books and scare us into giving donations for ruling party rallies. Our streets are quiet these evenings, we greet neighbours and strangers happily and the talk is of growing food and of rain. This time, thankfully, our town is spared from election madness, spared from the indignity of trying so hard, risking so much and then having to watch the manipulation afterwards. There is much to be thankful for this November. Until nextweek, with love, cathy

Copyright cathy buckle 5th November 2005. "African Tears" and "Beyond Tears" areavailable from:

Friday, November 04, 2005

Liberia's Election Candidate.

Profile: Liberia's 'Iron Lady' .
Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, 66, fondly called the "Iron Lady" by her supporters, is bidding to become Africa's first elected female head of state in Liberia's presidential run-off on 8 November. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf pledges to end corruptionDuring the election campaign, the diminutive grandmother figure was often dwarfed by her party officials and bodyguards but over a political career spanning almost 30 years she has earned her steely nickname.
She was imprisoned in the 1980s for criticising the military regime of Samuel Doe and then backed Charles Taylor's rebellion before falling out with him and being charged with treason after he became president. She twice went into exile to escape her legal problems with the governments of the day. One veteran of Liberia's political scene said Mrs Sirleaf's nickname comes from her iron will and determination. "It would have been much easier for her to quit politics and sit at home like others have done but she has never given up," he said.
In the first round of voting, she came second with 20% of the vote, against 28% for the man she will face in the run-off - former football star George Weah. Her supporters say she has two advantages over Mr Weah - she is better educated and is a woman. Mrs Sirleaf has held a string of international financial positions, from minister of finance in the late 1970s to Africa director at the United Nations Development Programme. So, the argument goes, who better to rebuild Liberia's shattered economy?
Only a man can be strong enough to deal with all the ex-combatants. Liberia just isn't ready to have a woman leader yet Many educated Liberians - and members of the old elite descended from freed American slaves - are likely to give Mrs Sirleaf their backing. Women and some gender-sensitive men in the city are also quick to blame men for wrecking the country. "We need a woman to put things right," said one waitress.
Mrs Sirleaf says she wants to become president in order "to bring motherly sensitivity and emotion to the presidency" as a way of healing the wounds of war. But some in rural areas, where male-dominated traditions remain strong, are less likely to back a woman. Even one well-educated man said: "Only a man can be strong enough to deal with all the ex-combatants. Liberia just isn't ready to have a woman leader yet." In 1997, she came a distant second to Charles Taylor.
Some are also reluctant to back her because of her previous support for Mr Taylor - currently facing 17 charges of war crimes for his alleged ties to rebels in neighbouring Sierra Leone. After spending a generation in politics, she comes with considerable baggage and has stepped on many important toes in her time. She constantly stresses her commitment to the fight against corruption and after returning from exile, she served as head of the Governance Reform Commission set up as part of the deal to end Liberia's civil war in 2003. She resigned that post to contest the presidency, criticising the transitional government's inability to fight corruption. She also promises to "revisit the land tenure system" in order to remove a potential source of dispute between Liberia's rival ethnic groups. At present, much of Liberia's land is controlled by local chiefs.
Mrs Sirleaf, a divorcee whose ex-husband died a few years ago, is the mother of four sons and has six grandchildren.




Why do Kenyans dominate marathons?

Paul Tergat set the marathon world record in Berlin in 2003. It was set at 2:04:55

The New York City marathon takes place in America on Sunday 6 November. Amongst the favourites to win the race are two Kenyans, Paul Tergat and Martin Lel. Tergat is the world record holder for the distance while Lel, who won in London this April, also triumphed in New York in 2003.

Yet Kenyan successes are not just restricted to the world's major cities but to marathons all over the planet. This year alone, Kenyans have won at least 30 marathons as far afield as Mumbai, Beijing, Nagano, Toronto, Chicago and many European cities. In fact, 35 of the globe's top 50 road runners are Kenyan according to rankings by athletics' governing body, the IAAF.

Thursday, November 03, 2005


Eyewitness: 'I couldn't help them'
Abnetget (not his real name), 35, an Ethiopian office worker told the BBC News website how he was caught up in the second day of violence that has erupted between police and protestors in the capital city Addis Ababa.

Hundreds were wounded in the violence I walked to my office this morning despite feeling frightened by yesterday's violence.
It seemed that things were returning to normal but when I arrived at work I saw that there was a large police presence across the road.
There were more than 100 police - federal and normal - along the side of the roadway on the way to the airport.
The officers and soldiers were well-dressed and all held machine guns.
I guess that there were so many of them for security reasons - back-up in case things got out of control.
Only a few of us had come into the office. The building was empty compared to normal.
We stood around looking out of the windows on the seventh floor.
The Bole Road Highway was deserted apart from a few private cars.
I called some friends who work in the centre of town and they advised me to go home as soon as possible.
They said that there was a lot of gunfire near them, that people were throwing stones and in turn they were being fired on.
Something surprises me about all of this because I do not believe that the opposition is to blame.
The masses are responding to the government. The people as a whole.
You hear that it is the youngsters taking part. Yes they are, of course, but there are also others. Even the elderly.
I took my friends advice to head home.
I tried to catch a taxi. There were none available and so I decided to walk.
There was a lot of people around when my colleagues and I started to move.
Everything seems okay but then things started to change after 20 minutes, in the central area of Addis.
I can't explain what happened.
Abnetget believes that bullets should not be the response to thrown stones
There were stones on the road and so I am sure that that is what provoked the police.
Gunshots were ringing out and everyone was panicking.
Chaos took over.
We would run a bit then stop and turn round. The police assume that you have a gun if you keep running and so to avoid being shot you have to run a little, walk a little, checking over your shoulder.
There was lots of firing, a lot.
Throwing stones is not a good idea but no matter what, in my opinion, bullets should not be the response to stones.
A bullet came very close to us. I do not know exactly who fired it.
I kept running with the others while the soldiers chased us, shooting towards the running mass.
I was not in control of myself - my wife is five-months pregnant and all I knew is that I had to get home to check that she was alright.
Just on my right side a women was gunned down. She was an elderly well-dressed woman. Then there were other girls behind me.


Jailed for Eating Lunch !

Algerians jailed for eating lunch.

Muslims break their fast at dusk during Ramadan. An Algerian court has sent four men to jail for eating lunch in a restaurant during the holy month of Ramadan. During this period,practising Muslims are meant to observe a fast between the hours of dawn and dusk. The three offenders were picked up in the town of Bejaia, some 260km east of Algiers and were found guilty of conspicuous contempt of religion.
The restaurant manager was given six months in prison. The others were sentenced to three months each. The BBC's Mohammed Areski Himeur in Algiers says this is the first time in Algeria that anyone has actually been tried and condemned for not observing the fast during Ramadan. One of their lawyers argued that his clients did not show any public contempt of religion, since they were eating in a restaurant. "Had these people been eating outdoors, then there would have been public contempt, but that was not the case," the lawyer said.
Other clients eating in the same restaurant at the same time were not arrested, the lawyer added. A petition has been circulated in the region to ask for the immediate release of the men.
Meanwhile, a newspaper denounced the case as a form of inquisition by the state. Just before Ramadan started last month, security agents had warned bar and restaurant managers in Kabylia, not to serve food or drinks in day time during the holy month, saying that offenders would be brought to justice.